Dear mama,

You did it! You survived your first year and your baby is growing just like everyone said he would, too fast. You probably have a lot of big feelings today, and that’s OK.

You’ve probably spent some time over the last few weeks looking through the 10,000 pictures in your camera roll, dating all the way back to a year ago. It’s amazing, isn’t it? How fast they grow? How much they change?

How time stands still yet flies through your fingertips at the same time?

The beginning was such a blur. There was self-doubt and maybe some tears. OK, there were a lot of tears. But as you scrolled through the photos, maybe you noticed it wasn’t just the baby growing and changing as the weeks ticked by, but you were too.

A year ago, the 12-month sized baby clothes hanging in the nursery probably seemed outrageously big, and your pre-baby jeans seemed outrageously small. But now that tiny baby fills out those 12-month pajamas with little room to spare. Your jeans may still be small, but that’s OK. Really, mama, it is.

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Maybe you feel like you just barely survived the last 12 months. Maybe you’re finally getting your postpartum depression under control. Or maybe you’re still working through some trauma from your birth story or the early weeks.

Maybe, you, mama, are still a work in progress. We all are, aren’t we?

You look at your baby now, almost a toddler. That alone is enough to make you weep. A TODDLER? How did that happen? Maybe he’s crawling, walking, or a combo of both. You wonder how he used to need you to feed them every three hours around the clock. There were feedings and burpings and spit up and blowouts. Round and round you went on the foggy, new-mom carousel, wondering if you’d ever see the day that tiny baby could hold his own bottle, or feed himself dinner and not need you at 12, 3, and 6 a.m.

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But here you are, your baby is now a lot more self-sufficient and you inhale him when he cuddles up and needs you. Because truth is, he just doesn’t need you as much as he did a year ago. He’s always on the move, exploring, learning. Not just lying on your chest as you lie pinned on the sofa. He’s doing everything he’s supposed to do, and everything you taught him.

The work you have done this year may seem small. It may seem like you barely got anything done at all, it may seem like a blur.

But know, mama, some of the most important work of your life happened this year.

You learned things no book could teach and trusted instincts you didn’t know you had. Mama, you’ve never worked harder.

You may have stayed up too late planning the perfect first birthday party for your little one, scouring the internet for all the adorable party hats and decor to perfectly fit your theme. Maybe you even went a little overboard. Who cares. Your baby’s first birthday is reason to celebrate, so celebrate it how you wish.

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But on your baby’s birthday, with all the balloons and big feelings, all the strolls down memory lane and birthday cake, don’t forget to celebrate you, too. Mama, what you have done in this past 365 days is worthy of its own smash cake, and maybe even some champagne.

So, mama, cheers to you.

Previously published on the author’s blog

Brittney Freeman

Brittney is a military spouse, self proclaimed honest mom, and author of her blog