The night before you were born, I couldn’t sleep. I laid in the hospital a ball of nerves—a million questions running through my mind. What would you look like? Were you a boy or a girl? What would we name you? Would you have ten fingers? Ten toes?
The night before you should have turned five, I couldn’t sleep. I cried in the shower until no sound came out. I laid in bed, the all-too-familiar aching in my arms returning. A million unanswerable questions ran through my mind. How could this have happened? Will grief season ever get any easier? How do I make it through this month without letting your siblings know how absolutely, devastatingly broken I feel?
Today I should be sneaking into your room to sing you Happy Birthday and wake you with a surprise. We should have a party planned for you when you return from school, because as a “big girl” now, you’d be going to Kindergarten, or, maybe I would have kept you home to spend the day celebrating together. Instead I am wondering how to make it through this day without you here.
I am wondering how to keep your siblings from noticing my swollen eyes, my tears and heartbreak, because they are so little and impressionable and they deserve all of me all of the time. I don’t want them to know they’ve never had that. I don’t want them to know that before they were born, a large part of me died. I can’t bear the thought that they might look at me and see the brokenness.
Today I should be planning your party but instead I am trying to find a way, some way, to mark this day in a way that feels worthy of you. If the weather cooperates we will head to the beach and release some lanterns, but it’s a poor substitute for the joy we would feel watching you blow out your own candles, marking another glorious year here with us.
I wish I could be that loss mom who only recalls the blessings you brought into this world. In years past I have focused on your love and light on your birthday post, knowing that there are twenty-seven more days in grief season to go to recall the pain, but the reality is that the hurt of missing you on this birthday hit me with such a wave last night that I don’t know how to do this gracefully.
I don’t know how to find the beauty in the pain when the memories of all you were put through in your short time on this earth are still fresh. Just as I felt five years ago, I don’t know how any of this could happen. I don’t know how our reality could possibly be that you are not here with us.
Today marks the first of twenty eight days, your whole life, that I got to touch you, but it wasn't holding you in my arms, it was putting my hand in your isolette. Today marks the day that I watched a tiny baby become a little warrior. Today is the first of a limited number of times that I got to look into your knowing eyes wishing for more for you. It should mark the day we became parents, it should have been one of the happiest days of our lives, but in reality today marks the second most painful and traumatic day of my life—a close rival in emotion to the day we said goodbye. Today marks the day that we were utterly, and completely blindsided by the cruelty that is cancer.
I know where you are your birthday is Happy. I know you are free of pain and surrounded by those loved ones who have gone before us, and I pray you feel a level of warmth and security that is the opposite of the suffocating emotions that I am feeling down here in this broken world. I just can’t seem to convince myself to be happy about facing yet another birthday without you here.