Last night, as I snuggled in next to Ryder as he read aloud his bedtime story, I studied him carefully, looking for signs of the little boy who graced our lives nearly a decade ago. What happened to me reading to him!? How did his feet get bigger than mine? When did that chipmunk-cheeked toddler turn into a lanky, handsome boy?

And if that much drastic change has happened with him over these past nine years, I thought, just think of the changes in me. I was so lost when he arrived. Sometimes, I still feel bad about the ways depression and PTSD made me so distant and foggy when we were supposed to be bonding. That first year of his life was such a blur, as it is for so many new parents. There is nothing that can prepare us for the physical and emotional highs and lows of those early days. And then, in the blink of an eye, baby’s first birthday arrives with balloons, an adorable face full of cake and loved ones gathering to celebrate the guest of honor. It goes. so. fast.

I will never forget Ryder’s first birthday party, in our old bungalow in south Minneapolis, a crowd of friends and family squished into our tiny dining room. As our friend Sita walked through the front door, her first instinct was not to find the birthday boy, but to reach out to me. Already a seasoned mama of three, she embraced me and said, “You did it! You made it! Happy first birthday, mama!” and I nearly broke down in tears.

New mamas {and papas, too} do deserve and need a pat on the back {better yet, a big embrace} for the huge life shifts they’ve been through. It’s monumental. Life-changing. I’m not sure why it took me this long, but I finally designed a card to honor this milestone. Because every new mama needs a friend like Sita to recognize her triumphant journey.