July 8, 2011

1st Birthday, Army Style

"How about a comfortable outfit to wear on the plane?" I ask my husband. 

He frowns at me and shakes his head. "That kinda sucks." He says back with a smirk.

I sigh. I am out of ideas and so is he.

We are trying to figure out what to get our daughter for her first birthday. We don't want to jip her, but we also don't want to buy a bunch of stuff just to have it packed up 2 weeks later, not to be seen for a month or more. We aren't having a party since we are going to Disney World the week after her birthday. So what should we do?

I plan on making a cute little cake for her to smash her sweet, chubby little hands into. I plan on getting her the "It's Your Birthday" book by Dr. Seuss. I plan on writing a beautiful little note to her on the inside. But what else? What else? It is a dilemma I am surely not the first to have encountered. Our baby girl is turning 1, and we don't want to buy her anything because it means that we will either have to pack it up, carry it on the plane, or put it in our luggage. So the question remains, what should we do for this milestone birthday?

As bad as I feel about not being able to celebrate our baby's birthday the way we would like, she has a better deal than our son did. At least our baby girl has her daddy home to see her first birthday. Our son celebrated his first birthday while his daddy was in Iraq on a 15 month deployment. My husband left just 6 hours after our son was born, and returned 15 months later. He missed it all. I made a HumVee cake in honor of my absent husband, and took as many pictures as I could, but he did. He missed it all. The first roll, the first crawl, the first smile, the first steps, the first words. . .

My husband has been present for the majority of our daughter's first year and with her first birthday approaching he said something that nearly tore my heart in two. It's something I've been thinking and feeling for 4 years. It's something I've been wanting my husband to realize and recognize for 4 years. . .

"I can't believe I missed all of this with N." He said while he stared in amazement as the baby waddled across the living room floor. She just started walking and is taking very deliberate, very cautious steps. My husband remained quiet, not looking at me as his words hung between us.

I couldn't speak. Tears stung my eyes and I willed them, with every ounce of my being, not to spill over onto my face. I've been waiting for my husband to see our son, just for a moment, as the tiny and vulnerable infant he was, as opposed to the walking, talking, independent toddler he came home to. I know that my husband would have a deeper appreciation and greater patience for our son had he witnessed the amazing journey our baby boy took in that first year. FINALLY he sees. Finally he SEES. As much as my husband loves our son, he finally sees that our baby boy grew that first year without his father. He sees how much that baby needed him too. Finally he understands exactly how much he missed.

I couldn't stop it. One tear slid down my cheek. I wiped it away quickly, but not quickly enough. He saw me. I looked up at my beautiful husband. Our eyes met, and we both just knew. Nothing more needed to be said.

So with the first birthday of our baby girl, our little family will grow. Not in people, but in love and understanding. Thanks to our baby girl, that missing year for father and son is no longer lost. Thanks to our baby girl, my son's daddy finally is able to see what once was, have a greater appreciation for what is done, and for the beautiful child he's become.

This July 20 as we celebrate the birth of our baby girl, my husband will revisit the first birthday of our baby boy. I know that as we blow out the # 1 candle, as our daughter smashes her tiny fists into her first cake, my husband will also be seeing his son. He will revisit those pictures I sent to him in Iraq, and he will imagine what it was like to be there for N too. We will laugh, we will smile, we will love, we are whole.

Happy 1st birthday my babies.


  1. That's beautiful :).

    And I wanted to tell you that our son - our second child - has only gotten balloons from us on his birthdays. He'll be 4 at the end of this month. We've been moving during his birthday two out of his three previous birthdays and this was the only gift we could find that provided pleasure in the moment, wasn't missed when we left it behind, and wasn't expensive. He's never felt gypped or as though we love him less because of this. So no matter how small the gift ir celebration, your daughter will still be able to look back at the pictures from her first birthday and know she was loved.

  2. Thanks Heather! That makes me feel a little better! Birthdays have always been a huge celebration for my family, but we've been having to tone it down a lot due to our lifestyle. And you're right. My kids know we love them!

  3. Your writing is so beautiful Steph. So powerful.