Birthdays and Birth Days

When I was little, birthdays were filled with cake, gifts, and excitement. Days crossed off of calendars, years broken into quarters in anticipation of getting older; experiencing a birthday was magical. Each added year opened new doors, new possibilities. Birthdays were brimming with novelty.

Then, somewhere in the awkward gap between 18 and 21, when you’re not quite an adult but not quite a child, the luster began to fade from birthdays. They weren’t as exciting or so feverishly anticipated. They were nice days but nothing like the celebratory events of childhood.

When I became a mother, when I birthed my own children, I saw birthdays from an entirely new vantage point. Sure, there was the drama of labor and delivery, and — yes — there were the pains of healing, but it was the gravity of the day, the reverberating impact of each child’s birth day that was finally clear to me. The changes each child brought to my life and to me were astounding.

The love one feels as a mother is unparalleled. One simply cannot fathom such a level of devotion and awe until one is a mother. Each child’s birth day allowed me to experience that tidal wave of terrifyingly powerful love over again. My heart had developed a seemingly superhuman power of filling beyond capacity with love, time and time again.

As the anniversary of these birth days circled around, I processed my children’s growth with a mixture of gratitude, anxiety, and mourning. I was blessed to have healthy, happy, thriving children. I was anxious about the future, as uncertainty is unsettling even when the path is beautiful. I was mournful because with each added year, with each developmental milestone, my children stepped further from me and deeper into the outside world.

Now, as a mother, I experience my own birthday differently. Instead of feeling the childhood excitement of self-celebration, I feel a sense of gracious reflection and thankfulness. It is only now that I understand that what is my birthday to me is the anniversary of my own mother’s first birth day… the day that changed her life and self, just as #1’s birth day forever changed me.

Happy birth day, Mom!

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