My son, J, was born on July 14th. And right now it’s ten days until his birthday. My emotions always run high around this time of the year. And as you can imagine, the Georgia heat does not help. I’ve been fortunate in that my son’s adoptive parents are always happy to include me in the birthday plans. This year we are going out to a park. He’s turning 4. I’m still amazed every year at how much older he’s getting. Still seems like it was only yesterday that he was a tiny baby in my arms at the hospital. But that was a long time ago now. Much has happened.
He’s learned how to roll over. He’s learned how to smile. He’s learned how to crawl. He’s learned how to talk. He’s learned how to walk. He’s learned how to run. He’s figured out how to work both of his parents’ smart phones. He’s learned how to work YouTube. He figures out how things work at a blistering pace. He’s started making up stories and telling them to his parents. He’s started playing practical jokes on his parents that are hilarious and wonderful. This list is not necessarily in order or really complete. But they are the things I typically think of when his birthday rolls around.
Every year at his birthday I start counting up how long it’s been. And I also start counting up just how much that I’ve missed. I try not to think about this at a constant rate, as you can imagine. But when his birthday hits, I often can’t help myself.
His birthday is also an emotional journey that I take myself on once a year. His first birthday was handled in a rather low key way. I was moving from one city to another and it was actually taking me closer to him. They were delighted about that since it meant that visits would be easier. They were going out to a cabin for their summer vacation and would be there for his actual birthday. So we met a week earlier. We got together at a restaurant and had a lovely couple of hours together.
On his second birthday, I was invited out to their house. This would be the first time I would meet my son’s grandparents. It was also the first time I met his aunt and a few assorted friends of theirs. I was introduced as J’s birthmother to everyone. My identity was not something they felt needed to be hidden. And all the extended family and friends were welcoming and happy to see me there. I laughed as he played with his new birthday toys. And I got to see the house and environment that he’s growing up in. I have to say, it’s a great one.
On his third birthday, I was now invited out to his maternal grandparent’s house in the country near the cities where we live. Once again, my identity was shielded from no one. I met more friends and some kids his age that he plays with on a regular basis. I laughed with everyone at all the funny things he did. I delighted in his enthusiasm over books. And we all had a great time.
His birthday has become a yearly sojourn back in time for me. Every year when I leave, it feels like watching him go away from the hospital once again. Every year I find I am amazed at how big he’s gotten and how old he is. Don’t worry; I do see him more than once a year. But it’s still a shocker every time I see him, especially when it’s his birthday. I guess I expect to see him back to the tiny nearly 8 pound baby that I gave birth to on July 14th of 2010. But that’s been nearly four years ago now.
As birthmothers, I often think we live in a weird kind of dichotomy. We are a part of our children’s lives, and yet not. We are part of the family, and yet we aren’t. We get to watch our children grow up, but we miss so many things in between the visits that we have. It is better than never knowing, but knowing is its own kind of pain. We only get to see our children at certain points in time. And, at least for me, on his birthday, I’m always counting back through time to all the times that I’ve seen him right back to the very first time I saw him when he was born. I live in a virtual time warp when I see my son. And maybe one day that won’t happen anymore. But this is what happens now.
How do you all handle your child’s birthday? Do you see them? If you don’t, do you have a yearly ritual? I know this time is worse for me than Christmas. So I know how many of you feel. I hope all of you who are going through this right now, very soon from now, or even several months from now, get through it with friends and family and laughter and tears and all the support that you need.