Her Bad Birthday: A Love Song

November 14, 2007

I don’t like to write posts that purport to be letters to my child, to be read in the future. I have written them, a few of them, but always with a sense of unease. Unease at sharing thoughts that I would present to my child as a private gift – as something that I mean to pass from my heart to hers – with an audience. Of course, everything that I write here is meant, someday, to be given to her, shared with her – to help her to understand me, and my journey as her mother, a little better, and to help her, perhaps, to understand herself a little better, to know a little bit of who she was in the hours and days and weeks and months that will always remain beyond the reach of her memory. So the form of the letter is tempting, because it allows me the pretense of speaking directly to her, of reaching through time – of imagining a reach through time – to share my voice, this voice, the voice of her mother in the time of her extreme youth, with her.

Still, I’m not going to write a letter to her today. Today is her birthday, but I’m not going to write her a letter. I’m not going to write her a letter because the letter that I would write today would be entirely self-indulgent (though aren’t they all?). It would be all about me, and it would be all apology and hand-wringing. It would be about my anxieties, these days, that I am being a truly terrible mother, that I have not been nearly as attentive and involved as I should be, that the ongoing distraction of nausea and other sickness and the whatnots and wherefores of day-to-day life have gotten in the way of mothering and that I feel guilty for having done so much of my loving and caring for her from arm’s length, from the corner of the room, from my prone position on the couch or the bed or the floor, issued forth only in whispers and weak hugs.

It would be about feeling guilty, and anxious, that these days are slipping by and I cannot participate fully in them. That I cannot participate fully in her. That these are the last days – the last weeks, the last months – that she and I have as mother and only child, mother and only daughter, that we have as a duo, as a pair. Next year our family will have grown, gods willing, and she will be one of two. No longer my only child, the only child of my heart.

I know, I know: I will love her no less when her sibling comes; my heart will expand and the love of two will be infinitely bigger than I could ever imagine. But still: I lay awake, sometimes, at night, in the quiet, and although I do not cry, I can feel my heart constrict and a pressing damp at the corner of my eyes as I think, this will all change. It will all be different. We will no longer be two, she and I, me and she. I will no longer be able to say, I love you most of all, you are my very dearest child and the best and brightest light of my heart. She will no longer be one. She will be one of two.

She will be no less special for that, no less loved. She will, I think, be more special, more loved. I’m not sure why or how, but I imagine that the expansion of our family means an expansion of love that spreads in all directions and reaches beyond all depths and heights. It will all be more. But it will all be different.

So I want her to know this, on her second birthday, on her last birthday as an only child: that I feel this impending change, deeply, and that – for all of the immeasurable joy that lays before us – this time, this time of us, this first time, this first experience of what it means to hold my heart outside of my self and cling to the throbbing mess of it will be held deeply and tightly in the place where my dearest memories are held. That she will always be my first.

That I love her, deeply, desperately, even – especially – in those moments when I can barely hold my head up, even – especially – when it seems that I am lost in my own miseries and distractions. That there is not and will never be another her, and that I will always be grateful, beyond grateful, to God and nature and the universe for the miracle that is her.

Happy birthday, baby girl, big girl, my girl. Happy birthday.

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    { 65 comments }

    Niksmom November 15, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    What a beautiful tribute to your special relationship with WB. I hope the day was wonderful.

    pnutsmama November 15, 2007 at 4:12 pm

    i just wanted to thank you for putting into words what i have been feeling and panicking about so much since finding out that we too are expecting #2…

    i’m crying b/c all of it is true, and as much as i expect the love to multiply, i still can’t help freaking out over knowing that she’ll only be an only for a little while longer. and of course as much as we want her to have a sibling (or two), there really is something about us as a twosome right now that i know will never be replicated with the next one, and just how very different it will all be come summertime, how much i’ll miss it being “just us”- how it will effect her, how i always want to shield her from hurting.

    then i spend time beating myself up over what all that negative energy could imply for the future of this new baby, how awful i’d feel if something were to happen, how we really know she’ll love having a sibling through the years- ugh, sometimes these hormones are just too much already.

    thanks for this beautiful beautiful post, and for giving me a really good cry when i needed it. happiest birthday to you both. thank you.

    Don Mills Diva November 15, 2007 at 11:49 pm

    What a beautiful post. Happy birthday to your beautiful girl.

    Gry November 16, 2007 at 3:38 am

    Dude.. Way to turn the faucet on for me today.

    Hope she had a good one :)

    Mommato2 November 16, 2007 at 8:56 pm

    That was beautiful….Happy Birthday to your sweet sweet girl.

    the new girl November 16, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    I feel the same way about the letters.

    Great, great pics HBM.

    mrs. mustard November 17, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    I absolutely agree about letters to our children. They are always so sappy and apologetic, as though we wish we could be better mothers.
    Well, damnit, we are the best mothers for our own children, and I think what you posted here, along with those awesomely cute photos, say it best.

    Mom101 November 17, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    Oh this is so lovely. And I feel this bittersweet pang in reading words that I might have written (less eloquently) only 6 months ago.

    Sometimes one of two is greater than one of one.

    You’ll see.

    iheartchocolate November 17, 2007 at 11:09 pm

    I want to share with you a few things.

    This is beautifully written.

    This feeling, this guilt or being there, but not really present right now, will most definately pass. You probably won’t even remember it.

    When your second arrives, there will be a period of confusion in the house as the order returns and conforms to another human you also adore, now there.
    Once this period has passed, you will barely remember it.

    My daughter was 14 months when Drew was born in March. I was so desperately ill with pregnancy, I literally missed probably 6 months of intimate involvement with her play. I was barely there for the bare necessities. The time wore on and eventually faded from my memory. It was VERY difficult though, I did feel insanely guilty. Once Drew was born, she had nothing to do with me for 2 weeks. I eventually was able to take care of both with ease. Now, she is nearly 2 and he is 9 months, it couldn’t be better. They love each other and I love being their mother.

    iheartchocolate November 17, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    I am sorry how disjointed that all sounded, I have had some wine. :)

    Her Bad Mother November 17, 2007 at 11:24 pm

    Not disjointed – lovely.

    MommyK November 18, 2007 at 1:05 am

    Before I had my second child, I grieved for the relationship with my first that would never be the same once the baby was born. I feared that I would be so involved with my daughter that my son would get pushed to the side. Not exactly ignored, but how would I be able to give my undivided attention to my first born when a needy baby came into the household?

    As it turned out, I was worried about the wrong things. The baby slept plenty and I had more than enough time with my son. *He* was the needy one, so much that some days I felt like if I didn’t have to feed my daughter, she wouldn’t have been held that day. She spent much more time strapped into a swing or a bouncy seat than her brother ever did, and I will always wonder what it would have been like to have endless hours to just hold my daughter and stroke her hair and talk to her. Hours that I didn’t have because she was my second baby and life was so much more chaotic.

    She will be one on Thanksgiving Day, and the past year has been filled with more joy and more self doubt than I could ever have predicted. We’re a family with two children now and while it’s different than being a family with one child, it’s been worth every single moment. Watching my older child be a big brother is AMAZING and seeing my baby respond to her brother makes my heart sing.

    You’ll see. There will always be things you will wonder about, things you wish could have been different. Just enjoy the last days you have as a parent of one and get ready for a wild, fantastic ride.

    Karen MEG November 22, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    Oh, I can’t believe I missed this wonderful post! Can you tell I just started working from home and am terribly disorganized, and missing a lot of my favourite blogs?
    Happy belated birthday to Wonderbaby, and happy celebration to you HBM. You are so right, there is nothing quite as special as your first baby. She will know that; she won’t forget that.
    My girlie is demanding for sure, and it makes me feel all sorts of guilty when it seems that her wishes take precedent over her big brother’s. But he returns every smile, hug and kiss with such fervor that I know he is very aware that there’s a special place in my heart for him. Just as there’s a special place in his heart for his little sister.

    Candace November 22, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    I know how you feel, as I felt that exact same way. I came across this poem and it brought me such comfort and joy. I hope you enjoy it

    Loving Two

    I walk along holding your 2-year-old hand, basking in the glow of our magical relationship. Suddenly I feel a kick from within, as if to remind me that our time alone is limited. And I wonder: how could I ever love another child as I love you?

    Then he is born, and I watch you. I watch the pain you feel at having to share me as you’ve never shared me before.

    I hear you telling me in your own way, Please love only me. And I hear myself telling you in mine, I can’t, knowing, in fact, that I never can again.

    You cry. I cry with you. I almost see our new baby as an intruder on the precious relationship we once shared. A relationship we can never quite have again.

    But then, barely noticing, I find myself attached to that new being, and feeling almost guilty. I’m afraid to let you see me enjoying him as though I am betraying you.

    But then I notice your resentment change, first to curiosity, then to protectiveness, finally to genuine affection.

    More days pass, and we are settling into a new routine. The memory of days with just the two of us is fading fast.

    But something else is replacing those wonderful times we shared, just we two. There are new times only now, we are three. I watch the love between you grow, the way you look at each other, touch each other.

    I watch how he adores you as I have for so long. I see how excited you are by each of his new accomplishments. And I begin to realize that I haven’t taken something from you, I’ve given something to you. I notice that I am no longer afraid to share my love openly with both of you. I find that my love for each of you is as different as you are, but equally strong. And my question is finally answered, to my amazement. Yes, I can love another child as much as I love you only differently.

    And although I realize that you may have to share my time, I now know you’ll never share my love. Theres enough of that for both of you, you each have your own supply.

    I love you both. And I thank you both for blessing my life.”Author Unknown

    Laura McIntyre November 28, 2007 at 6:54 am

    I feel the same about writting letters on the blog, Happy Birthday to your baby

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