I’ve been writing all these letters to Owen over during his first year, talking about what he does and what he’s learned. But when I thought about it, there is so much I learned too. I thought it only fitting that I put it in the form of a letter…only to myself.

Dear Molly,

Congratulations! You have made it through your first year of motherhood. It’s been quite the journey. You’ve come a long way from the delivery room, that’s for sure. Becoming a parent has taught you a lot. About life, about yourself…about bodily functions. Never before would you have cared so much about them, let alone the bodily funtions of someone other than yourself. But you DO.

You have learned patience. To breathe, to take a step back, to realize that “this too shall pass”. To appreciate the quiet moments as much as the loud ones, because they are all fleeting.

You have learned to pause — to look into your child’s eyes and take a mental picture of the wrinkles in his forehead, the dimple on his chin and how long his lashes are. Next time you look at them, they will be similar, yet different. He will get bigger every day, and somehow with you knowing it, he is a toddler with words and demands and the best personality in the world.

You have learned that you can survive on very little sleep. Some days you don’t think you will make it. You will cry; you will be crabby. But you will get up, start the day, and do it all over again. And just when you think you can’t take it anymore, when sleep deprivation threatens to convert you in not just a zombie, but an irrational, crazed zombie, the baby will grant you a reprieve and sleep through the night. At least for a few weeks.

You have learned a new language. Parent-ese. You’ve become fluent so quickly you will wonder why you can’t remember exactly how to conjugate verbs in French after years of classes, yet could teach a course in Parent-ese after just one year. Parent-ese ranges from discussions on things like breast pumps and sleep regressions, to deciphering seemingly incoherent babble. Even when no one else understands, you know exactly what your child wants when he yells out “Wah-Bah!” (For the record, he wants a waffle.)

You have discovered a strength you didn’t know existed. It will start before he entered the world. You have experienced physical pain — gut-wrenching physical pain — and channeled that energy into a force only a woman could posses. You used that force to push a child out of your body and then? Then you had to heal from it — both physically, and emotionally. You were bruised and battered, but you came out unscathed and even after all that, you will forget what it was like just enough to want to do it all over again.

You learned that love has no limits; that the heart can grow to accommodate more than you ever thought possible. You have discovered a new level of love for your husband watching him as a father. Your relationship has grown, changed, together. When you look at him now, you will see so much more than you ever have before.

You have learned the fine art of stain removal. From diaper blow-outs to ground-in strawberries, you are a laundry pro.

You have found that your body is amazing. That it can grow a child, push him into the world, then feed him with your chest. You will watch it change, shrink, shift, over time. You have decided to accept what it has become — almost the same, yet slightly…different. It’s no longer just a vessel, it is now a life raft for your little boy.

Molly, you have learned that this life is a special one. You are a very lucky woman, you know that? Here’s to the next year, the next lesson.