once upon a time, well over a decade ago, my father told me could have pizza delivered for dinner.  this was an occasion more rare than a total eclipse, with a father so notoriously spendthrift that he regularly washed and reused paper towels.  he posed just one caveat- i had to call and order it.

my love of pizza warred with my abject fear of calling and talking to a stranger.  it seemed insurmountable.  a whole thing.  what do i say?  do i just start off with the order, or wait for them to ask me questions?  do i tell them my address first?  what if they ask me questions i can't answer?  what if i sound stupid over the phone?  i will definitely sound stupid.

papa stood there with his credit card in hand, waiting for me to dial.  i think he knew that my palms were sweating with the anxiety of having to do something unfamiliar.  it was a test, and i failed.

i don't want pizza, i lied.

i still feel that wave of panic sometimes, despite rapidly approaching my thirties and having constructed a career out of taking on the unfamiliar tasks.  racked with self-doubt and imposter syndrome, i muddle through the day buoyed only by google search and dumb luck.  fake it til you make it.   i have made it.  i am a full grown woman who pays quarterly estimated taxes to the irs, cooks well-balanced meals from scratch, and constructs my entire library of breakroom small talk in response to the ubiquitous question: how's your son doing?

my son is a smooth nine months old today.  he has finally been on the outside for nearly as long as he spent squishing my bladder on the inside.  how did this happen?  how many hundreds of times have i fought down that familiar wave of panic over this past year of my life?  the anxiety of anticipating that my whole life would change, the shock of knowing we could never go back, the overwhelming realization that there was no definitively correct textbook way to nurture this tiny 7 lb pile of flubber in my hands, the paralyzing fear of having to constantly learn and continuously adapt in new methods, new habits, new normal.  how will i ever figure out breastfeeding?  how will i ever succeed at sleep training?  how will i ever navigate daycare?  how will i ever do a good enough job for this bright-eyed little guy?

you just...do it.  there's no syllabus for this, no predictable learning curve or pace.  you do what you have to and you rise to the occasions because there's no alternative to growth.  i can't put the phone down, i can't pretend i don't want the pizza.  i lean hard on my family and harder on my husband, and the two of us learn these skills and routines until they become muscle memory.  there's no comprehensive enough guide to this, but the time has flown by in the way that everyone said it would.  slowly at first, so fucking slowly.  so slowly that i still remember every pen stroke of every date on every label of every breastmilk storage bottle.  eight labels a day, etching a tally in my prison cell.  just get through august 12th.  just get through august 13th.  and now it's may and time has rushed by in a blur, with only tinybeans photos and scattered memories as mileposts through this whirlwind.  he has been in daycare forever, right?  was there ever a time when he couldn't crawl?

james feels more like a real kid than a baby these days.  he's discerningly affectionate- he knows me, he actually knows my face and voice.  he makes a beeline for my legs, those little hands and knees scooting with astonishing speed across floors and toys and dogs in his singular haste to reach his mama.  but he still loves ian best, to nobody's surprise.  we coach his incessant babbling with shameless motive, prompting aav-a?  aa-va?  i hope fervently that his first word will be in mongolian, though i know it'll probably be food!   my dude can eat.  it is astonishing.  

you can tell that he's full, but he just keeps eating until someone takes it away, his daycare teacher marvels.  

same, i tell her.  

i read all the articles and blog entries about how to introduce foods, and all the gleaned knowledge promptly fell out of my idiotic brain.  purees and pouches only satiated him for a couple of months, then he rapidly took to inhaling anything we place in front of him.  he eats exactly what we eat, with the addition of some special pastries and treats my mother cooks lovingly just for him.  he has four whole teeth now, and never lets us forget it.  he prefers to use his unwieldy little fists, though he still opens his mouth obediently when confronted with a spoon.  but his absolute favorite method of eating involves enlisting jean-luc or momo to lick his food in between his own bites.  

babies; gross.