I mailed out Christmas cards today. With Pudge on my hip, I stuffed the mailbox full of cards. Actual, real cards, with pictures of the girls on them. I felt like such a grown up in the moment.

You’re not a grown up until you mail out holiday cards, apparently.

But when I got to the bottom of the stack, the envelopes changed. Instead of creamy white, they were rainbow colored. They weren’t Christmas cards, they were birthday invitations. The time has come to send out invitations for Pudge’s first birthday.

Like the OCD freak that I am, when I could not find the right cards I wanted, I made them. Spent an evening printing off cards, cutting them out, and then filling them out. I bought stamps to decorate the envelopes with. Friends joked that I had gone full on Pinterest, and I have. Templates for decorations sit on my desktop, waiting to be printed out. Catalogs are marked with toys for her birthday list. I have the order for cupcakes and sandwiches and fruit trays all picked out, and ready to order.

But the moment I put those invitations in the mailbox, my feelings changed.

Her first birthday. My last first birthday.

This is the last time I will plan a first birthday, celebrating that magical year of baby. This is the last time I will get a flower printed dress out of the closet, make sure it is clean, press the wrinkles out, and order a bow to match it.

This is the last time a 1 will sit on a cake, ready for little fingers to smash into it.

This great big year of firsts, is coming to a close.

For a moment, I stood there in the wind and sunshine, staring at the last invitation. And then, feeling self-conscious, and rather sentimental, I stuffed it in the mailbox, and ran my errands.

It wasn’t until later, when naptime came, when a little head was laying on my shoulder, and I could hear her sucking on her pacifier, that I started to feel it. I know this ache, this deep in your heart pain. It is the pain of saying goodbye. The last of the baby stage is slipping through my fingers, Pudge is walking, drinking out of a sippy cup, switching to milk, eating table foods. She is babbling and playing.

The tiny newborn we brought home, who looked just like her big sister, who shared the same measurements at birth, who spent the first two weeks of her life sleeping on my chest in the sunshine to ward off jaundice… She is gone. In her place is a happy, pudgy, round happy almost-toddler. Who smiles and giggles and blow bubbles and holds her arms up after you tell her she scored a touchdown.

The quote about parenting, the longest days but the shortest years, used to tick me off. Don’t people understand how frustrating that is when you are day 4 of no shower, you haven’t sleep longer than 4 hours at a stretch in months, when you are exhausted from the endless piles of tiny clothes and socks to be washed? But it is so true.

These are the shortest years I have lived, the baby years. They flew by with Sprout, and this one has done the same with Pudge.

Those invitations? They’re to a birthday party. But they’re to a party where I will say goodbye to the last first year. Pudge will do what her sister has done, cut the apron strings. I will do what I have done every year with Sprout, rock Pudge to sleep the night before her birthday, letting the memories wash over me, and crying.

I call the girls my lion cubs. This party means my baby, my littlest cub, is growing up on me. I am not prepared for it.