I have always loved birthdays. The coolest part about mine is I share it with my big brother. We are three years apart, but born on the exact same day. When we were younger, I loved it, and I’m pretty sure he hated it. We had joint birthday parties until it was unbearable for him to share his day with his baby sister. Then, we moved onto separate (but EQUAL, am I right?) celebrations that usually involved sleepovers, two different types of cake, and a squabble of who actually got to have their party on the big day. As we get older, I feel so lucky to always have an excuse to celebrate my birthday with one of my favorite people. We always made a big deal about birthdays, because it was a double celebration.
Once I became a parent, I was determined to pass the love of birthdays on to my children. So, maybe we don’t achieve Pinterest Level Parties, but I usually make a big deal about my children’s big day. The idea that birthdays are important and need to be celebrated is imbedded into my persona.
Middle-Aged Mom Birthdays
As my age creeps up, I’ll admit that that the allure of my own birthday has waned a bit. I am decidedly middle aged, which kinda blows. Going out for a few drinks requires at least 48 hours of recovery. Then, IT happened. We crash landed into the world of pediatric cancer. All of a sudden, birthdays became reminders of what we were missing in “the real world.” We spent Hannah’s 3rd and 4th birthday in the hospital during her neuroblastoma treatment. She was in the hospital for my 35th birthday, so sick from chemotherapy that her central line burst during a platelet infusion, which meant she had an emergency, dangerous surgery on the eve of my birthday. I was a mess, and so bitter about how unfair it all was. Instead of celebrating it up big, my husband took over the hospital gig, I spent the night away from the hospital without my family, alone. It is one of the most desolate days from Hannah’s treatment that I remember. I always had such rosy colored glasses about birthdays; they were about celebrating and being happy and enjoying the day. I had never thought that birthdays can become reminders about what we’ve lost, or what we could potentially lose. My own birthday has become a shadow behind Hannah’s, as I agonize about the fact that each of her birthdays is a hard earned milestone, and never guaranteed. It’s almost like a midlife crisis. It doesn’t involve the purchase of a flashy vehicle or the chasing the need to feel young, but rather to pray that my children experience being old. My motherhood midlife crisis, all wrapped up in a birthday bow. So, celebrating a middle age mom birthday can kind of blow.
However, I turned 36 last year, and it was a good day.
I spent it with the people I love most. I tried to focus on my “regular” mid-life crisis: my motorcycle (and how much I enjoy it!) We are creeping toward another birthday for Hannah, and that feels amazing. And, for me, I found a way to heal at least a bit from the crisis that was hanging over me. I got myself a tattoo for my birthday. It’s not a super flashy car or some amazing trip, but it gave me a sense of permanency. It also allowed me to experience some pain that wasn’t related to watching my daughter suffer. It was freeing, and a beautiful tribute to my daughter’s warrior spirit. And my own strength as well. Happy Birthday to me.