"The days are long, but the years are short."
Never has a quote more accurately described the first year of parenthood.
I first became acutely aware of time during pregnancy, it seemed to pass excruciatingly slowly. They say that time appears to slow down particularly when you're looking forward to something and I just couldn't wait to meet our baby. I bought a calendar, hung it up on the wall and crossed off the days with a big, black marker.
Since then, it feels like someone has pressed fast forward on my life. In just over a month's time, I'll have a one-year-old. My baby won't be a baby anymore but a toddler. When on earth did that happen? I'm not sure I'm ready!
The end of a year is always a time for reflection. But this year has been more remarkable than any which have passed before. It's crazy how something can be the most incredible, joyous, happy time in your life while simultaneously being full of challenges. Life as you know it undergoes such a seismic shift from the moment that little person comes into your world.
It really does feel like only yesterday that our beautiful son Ezra was born. I remember it all vividly. Awoken in the middle of the night with what I thought was indigestion. Very quickly it became apparent it wasn't last night's curry, but our boy beginning to make his entrance. We spent 12 hours at home before the pain became too much and we hightailed it hospital.
The birth itself was quick and smooth. I feel so lucky to be able to say that. Tears of joy ran down my face as I held my sweet boy for the first time. With a beautiful rush of happy hormones running through my body, my husband Carl by my side and Ezra in my arms - they were the most wondrous moments of my life. But hurriedly, the midwife took our little man away and my world stopped spinning. The room went awfully quiet as everyone huddled around him.
My heart dropped and I just knew something wasn't right. I remember yelling 'I just want my baby to be okay'. Ezra was taken to the Special Care Nursery, where he spent the first four days of his life. He had fluid on his lungs and was breathing erratically which meant he needed some extra help.
Going back to our room that night without our baby was absolutely excruciating. But he was where he needed to be and we're forever grateful to all the incredible people who took such good care of him. Seeing your baby hooked up to IVs, feeding tubes, high flow oxygen and monitors is extraordinarily confronting and awful.
My heart absolutely goes out to the families who spend months in that situation. I can't even imagine how hard that must be. After a long and tough few days, we were given the all clear to take Ezra back to our room. Wheeling his little trolley down the hospital hallways to our room and then having him sleep beside us brought indescribable joy. Our little guy was healthy and finally where he was meant to be. It wasn't long before we strapped him into his car seat and took him home.
As I'm sure many parents would attest, those first few months are a sleepless blur where you're trying to figure everything out. Are they hungry? Are they tired? Or are they just crying because they're a baby and that's what babies do? The days do seem to stretch on forever because you're awake for many more hours of them. It's sleep deprivation on a whole new scale and I spent years working in breakfast TV with a 3.30am alarm.
Then I closed my eyes for just a second or two and suddenly, my precious boy is almost 11-months-old. I seem to see newborns everywhere I go these days. They look so fragile and little and it feels like only moments ago that that was my Ezra. I can't even look back at photos of him without tears pricking my eyes. How was he ever so tiny?
A month in an adult's life is often unremarkable but in a baby's life so much changes. So to my beautiful boy, here's a look back on your first 10.
It doesn't feel all that long ago that you'd get that sweet startle reflex every time we laid you down. And we'll always remember how you used to have a big, long stretch after every feed. In those hazy first few months feeding used to take half an hour and that was just for one side.
Your dad and I remember clearly the first time you smiled. You were 5 weeks old and laying next to us on the bed when we both looked down and saw a little smile sweep across your face. We looked at each other knowing this was a special moment we'd remember forever.
It didn't take long before we figured out just how ticklish you are. Whenever we tickle you, you break into uncontrollable laughter. You love to laugh and you think your mum and dad are so funny. (let's see how long that lasts!)
My goodness we adored your cute gummy smile, you loved flashing those gums to everyone you met. Then bang on the day you turned six months old, two tiny, little teeth popped into the bottom gum and now there are eight of them! You are the smiliest, happiest boy in the world and every night I come home from work I'm greeted by the widest, brightest, toothy grin and it makes my heart sing.
Also at six months, you took off. You crawled away in a worm like style and commando crawling is still your preferred mode of transport. Your first meal was pumpkin puree but it mainly ended up all over your face and now you're obsessed with corn on the cob, just like your mumma.
You've always been such a calm, content, easy going little dude. But I'm loving your energetic, determined and independent side that's really starting to emerge now.
It's so much fun playing games with you, throwing you up in the air and going for swims.
You love to babble away to us. Pulling yourself up to stand is currently your favourite trick and you do it ALL the time.
Sometimes I wish I could hit pause at all these different stages of your life but very soon I'd want to hit play again because there is so much I'm looking forward to. Your first words, your first steps, your first day at school. It goes on.
We love you so much we could burst. You are a delight and the best thing that's ever happened to us. So my beautiful baby boy, we are soaking up every second we have with you and every single thing about you.
Even though you normally settle yourself to sleep, some evenings lately you've fallen asleep in my arms. I watch your face in the half light, taking in your baby soft skin. I wait for your breathing to slow, mouth to fall open and listen as you let out a big sigh. Then a smile flickers across your face and I wonder what you're dreaming about. I hold you close and breathe you in.
As Jessica Scott said "We get 18 delicious summers with our children. This is one of your 18. If that's not perspective, I don't know what is."
So, I'm making a concerted effort to be as present and in the moment as possible.
Because very soon, at the end of a summer not all that far away - you might not need me as much anymore. I'll drop you at high school and maybe you'll ask me to drop you around the corner and I won't get a kiss goodbye.
Ezra, here's to a summer of laughter and family fun. Of swimming in the water and watching you dip your head under before you emerge beaming with pride. I can't wait to watch you eat blueberries, mangoes and sand in equal measure. And I'm going to smother you in cuddles and kisses because I can.
They say time speeds up especially when we're busy and having fun. And that's life as a parent. It's insanely hectic but full of joy.
So yes, the days are long! (but they are so worth it) And the years are short (so I'm doing my best to make the most of every moment)
Natalia Cooper is a reporter for Sydney's 6pm edition of Nine News