Letter to Camille: Happy First Birthday!

Happy Birthday, sweet girl! Right now you are sleeping hard after a big, fun day. Can you believe you are one year old? I can’t. This time one year ago we were just beginning to get acquainted. You weren’t even 2 hours old.
Tonight, at the exact one year anniversary of the moment of your birth (7:29!), I held you in my arms as we did a little dance around the Mexican restaurant, while your Daddy, Nana, and Granddaddy sang Happy Birthday to you. And I thought about that moment. That really, really big moment when you began to cry for the first time. This moment:
Look how little you were! And angry! The moment you arrived, I was struck by an insatiable desire to be a good mother to you. The type of mother you deserve. But the path isn’t always clear, and especially in those early days, I didn’t have a clue what to do.
But over the past year, you’re not the only one who has grown. I’ve grown. You’re Daddy has grown. We’ve grown together, and enjoy a very close bond. You have always been sweet, and you have always been precious, but every day you become even more FUN!
I love how you are really interacting with and responding to us. You recently began giving us kisses, and it is adorable! I can say, “Camille, can Mommy have a kiss?” And you’ll pucker your little lips and give a big, “SMACK!” I knew you understood the word “kiss,” but tonight you took it a step further. We were in the car on our way to the restaurant and I turned around in my seat to look at you. “I love you, Camille,” I said. And you gave me a huge kiss. I wondered if it was just coincidence, so I waited a moment, then said it again. You rewarded me with another smooch. How cute are you? Every time you communicate like that with us, I just feel even more connected to you.
Another cute thing you’ve begun to do is “talk” on your telephone. You have a red plastic phone and if I hand it to you and say, “Hello?” you’ll put it up to your ear like you’re listening. Every time you do this I laugh and squeal and carry on, and so you’ve begun doing it more and more often – occasionally without prompting. The other day we were eating dinner, and you grabbed a handful of banana and held it up against your ear as if it were a telephone. We didn’t want to encourage you, but we couldn’t help but laugh and laugh.
Last night I was getting video as we played in your room, and you performed both “tricks” for me. I don’t want to treat you like a trained puppy dog, but it is just so cute when you play along. And in all fairness, we didn’t deliberately teach you to make the kissing noise or to talk on the phone. But once you did them on your own, we certainly didn’t discourage you.
During the first part of the video, you were quite excited because I’d turned the camera on us and turned the viewfinder around so you could see yourself. Who wouldn’t be enchanted by your image?

Your big birthday party is scheduled for Saturday, but today we celebrated with a little party at baby school. This morning, we sent you to daycare in one of our favorite dresses, and put a bow in your hair (now that I mention it, that bow didn’t make it home. Wonder which kid swallowed it?)
Nana and Granddaddy made it to town just in time! I made mini cupcakes for your class, with no icing because the school doesn’t allow it. But your cupcake was covered in strawberry icing (because your Mama and Daddy were there to approve) and with sprinkles, because you were wearing the special birthday girl crown which means you get special treats!
When I first sat the cupcake in front of you, you stared at it like you weren’t sure what to do. Then, before any of the babies around you could snatch it away, you shoved the whole thing in your mouth all at once.
When you finally pulled your hand away, cupcake frosting was smeared all over your nose. I think the other babies were jealous.
Nana and Granddaddy took you to the mall for a while, then we all met back at the house to open presents.
You loved all your gifts, especially the cool new piano from Nana and Granddaddy.
You’ve experienced a couple of big milestones this last month. Saturday, Grammie was the one who discovered you had your first tooth. When she swore she saw one of your pearly whites, I told her it was probably just a reflection. I’d tricked myself many times into thinking I’d seen a tooth, only to realize it was just the light shining off your gums in just the right way. But once I stuck my finger in your mouth, it was pretty clear – that was a sharp little tooth! I just couldn’t believe you hadn’t fussed or complained more. That was another reason I assumed your tooth was a figment of Grammie’s imagination, because you just weren’t cranky. But apparently, you decided getting a tooth was OK. No reason to freak out.
The tooth has just broken the surface, and hasn’t emerged quite enough for me to get a picture yet, but I’ll have my camera ready when it does.
The other milestone is a really, really big one. It’s one I’ve been scared to write about for fear of jinxing the whole thing. I just knocked on wood, in the hopes of sparing us from a regression.
You go to sleep all by yourself. Without a fuss.
There. I said it.
A couple of months ago, you would routinely fall asleep during your evening bottle. Then you’d stay awake to drink, but would let me rock you to sleep. Then, you’d stay awake in the rocking chair, but fall asleep when I stroked your cheek in your crib. Then, you stayed awake for that too, and I was out of ideas.
So for a long time, your Daddy and I lived by the 5-minute rule. I’d feed you, rock you, and stroke your cheek, and if you still weren’t asleep, I’d walk out. You would start SCREAMING! You’d stand up in your crib and shake the bars like a rabid animal. We’d look at the clock. Five minutes later, your Daddy would go into your room and scoop you up, rock you, and put you back in the crib once you calmed down. Often, you’d go right to sleep because your fussing had made you sleepy. But if you didn’t go to sleep, he’d walk out and let you scream for another 5 minutes.
It’s never easy to hear you cry, but I figured 5 minutes wouldn’t kill any of us.
A couple of weeks ago, when we were visiting Allen and Missy, our 5-minute interval routine stretched on for more than an hour. You were in a new place with new, exciting people, and you didn’t want to miss anything. You finally wore yourself out with all the crying.
Saturday night, your Daddy and I braced ourselves for more of the same. We each took a turn, but after your second crying fit, your Daddy laid you in the crib and walked out of the rooom. “Is she asleep?” I asked as he came down the stairs.
“No. Wide awake,” he answered.
We both waited for the renewed screaming. But it never came. Instead, the wonderful realization began to dawn: you fell asleep. On your own.
I wondered if it would be a momentary victory. Maybe once we got home, you’d cry again the moment we headed toward the door. But instead, you’ve gone to sleep by yourself every single night since then. And naptime too. Our bedtime routine used to take a half hour or more sometimes. Now, I just sing you one song, kiss your forehead, place you in your crib, and walk out. I don’t even have to step around the creaky spots in the hardwoods, because I don’t have to sneak away. You watch me leave, then you sleep. IT’S GLORIOUS!
Oh sweet girl, I have enjoyed reflecting back on your birth today. I read my old blog entries, looked at old pictures of you, and relived those moments over and over. But I’ve also been looking forward too. I wish there were some way I could express to you how wonderful you are, how much happiness you bring to my life, and how thankful I am for the last year. You are an inextricable part of my soul, and I can’t wait for another year of adventures with you and your Daddy.