The Trepidation of Turning One


It only happens once in a child’s life. The great first birthday. There’s something about ‘one’ that gets us parents in a fervor. Turning one isn’t just the first real birthday we can celebrate with a party, it’s also the milestone that says, ‘You did it! You kept your kid alive for one whole year!’ You may have been flailing blindly in the dark for those first twelve months, but after this milestone you’re a real parent. You made it through that hazy forest of sleep-deprived and intuition-blind months.

first birthday

Or at least, that’s how it feels to me. I speak from the foothills as I stare up the one-year-old mountainside. My child is still only nine months, yet the knowledge that in only a handful of weeks he’ll be turning one fills me with both trepidation and triumph. Somehow it feels like he couldn’t possibly be one, he couldn’t possibly have been alive a whole year. How? I was just pregnant! He was just peeling open his eyes for the first time! Only yesterday did he need my help to hold his head up!

The thing about the first birthday is, let’s be honest, it’s not about the baby. This first year is about celebrating you. You gave all of yourself, more than you even knew you could give, and here you are on the other side. I look at my son and I see this perfect little human who I’ve been quietly shaping. Even when it’s four in the morning, even when I’m so exhausted I can barely move, even when he’s sobbing and I feel like I was clearly never meant for this mom gig. There has been a lot of doubt in the last nine months, but like anything, as time passed, I became more comfortable. Thinking about him turning one makes me realize that I’ve started to get the hang of this. One is no longer unthinkable, it’s inevitable.

Still, the trepidation remains. I’m feeling an overwhelming sense of expectation for this first birthday. I am no crafter, or cooker, or really anything that one might associate with a traditional stay-at-home-mom. Yet, with this milestone looming, I suddenly feel this pressure to bake a cake, make icing from scratch, and shape it into some arbitrary animal that I’ve decided is his current ‘favorite.’

No one is telling me to do this, it’s all coming from inside. Somehow the first birthday feels like my time to show the world what sort of mother I am. I want to be a Pinterest-worthy mom, I want to prove that I can throw a party with the best of them. This first, real celebration where we invite people over, maybe give him sugar for the first time, put him in a little outfit, and blow up balloons. I want to look back and see the pictures and know I did an amazing job. I want proof that I came through in this huge way on this huge day.

I realize this is irrational, and I’m fairly certain if I attempt to bake something it will end in smoke alarms and recriminations, but the desire is still there. Even though it may not be for him exactly, I want my baby to look back when he’s grown and think his mom didn’t miss a beat. starting on his first birthday.

Am I alone in this? Do other parents out there feel the mounting pressure of the big ‘o-n-e-?’  


  1. I definitely felt the pressure to create a special
    “One” memory for myself and the grandparents with my first son. And then when it was all over I felt that sad slump you get after vacation or the day after your wedding. It was all over way too fast and I felt like I didnt enjoy it enough. Hoping to enjoy it more with baby #2 and get less wrapped up in the production.

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