Tomorrow* is Finley’s first birthday. One year old, I mean really, it shouldn’t sneak up on you. I hear it time and again, “She’s a year? So soon? Whew, that went fast.” I find solace in knowing that it hasn’t just been me, as if others being shocked means that I didn’t check out and miss it. Yet I am stunned, how could I have let the first year of my last baby go so fast. How?

She is it. Three and done. No trying for a boy, no maybe just one more. She is it. Fin.

fin- (Latin: end, last, limit, boundary, border).
ad finem; ad fin. To the end. Ad finem fidelis. Faithful to the end. Ad finem spero. I hope to the last. ad finem ultimum. To the final end.

A few months ago we moved her crib and the big girl beds into our old room, so insistent was Fin that she be allowed to sleep with her gang. She’s asleep in her crib right now, the dark curls of her ponytail poking through the rails. Her body is turned toward her sisters. Sunlight is streaming in her window, the broad swath of sunlight filling her bed like a blanket. I don’t say this for literary effect, I say this because it doesn’t surprise me that even the sun wants to be near her. Finley is infectious. You don’t look at Finley so much as you experience her.

I remember fighting through the thick haze of last-minute drugs as they laid her in my arms. She was perfect, exactly the sort of perfect that makes the “last baby” decision right and absolutely wrong. Her fingers pressed against me, her feet digging into my body. I was so fiercely glad to have her outside of me where I could see her and smell her, but another part of me wanted her back inside of me. Not to be shared. Not to be lost. Not to ever stop being my baby.

Now, here I am watching the clock as the minutes of the last day of her first year whiz by. I am older and more obligated- preschool, kindergarten, work, life- and yet for all my worries, I have rediscovered so much. I have allowed myself to be a mom with a baby.

Just this morning holding a cell phone to her ear with one hand, she nestled against my body, her face buried decadently in my skin as she nursed and traced familiar circles on my side. I had stopped getting ready, dropped what I was doing at the computer and just sat. Her eyes locked with mine, the circles she traced pulsed firm then soft as her lids drooped. I smiled and she sighed. One.

She is one and, in my heart, we will always be one. I am relearning the excruciating balance of laying claim and letting go. The paths her sister’s carved upon me in the years before her, have become as much her own as theirs. My Finley, my last baby who has often times felt like my first for all the magic, wonder and hope that have sprung.

I worship your fearlessness and your joy. I adore your curls and treasure your snarls. You are what each of us hoped for, what we needed, but far more importantly you are exactly you.

Happy Birthday Finley.