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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    flutter November 14, 2007 at 12:29 am

    Happy birthday, little, special one

    Liz November 14, 2007 at 2:15 am

    (ohmygod i’m totally bawling now)

    happy birthday wonderGIRL. and happy birth day to her wonderMAMA.

    Lady M November 14, 2007 at 2:41 am

    Happy Birthday, and congrats to the whole Wonderfamily!

    I hope you start to feel better soon. I actually had a healthy day today, so fingers crossed for tomorrow.

    Lisa November 14, 2007 at 3:28 am

    Happy birthday, beautiful little girl.

    nomotherearth November 14, 2007 at 4:05 am

    Happy, happy birthday!

    I know exactly how you feel because I felt that way alot near the end of my pregnancy. Now that the Little Guy is out, and he takes so much attention and focus, I still feel bad. Still feel like I’m not paying enough attention to the Boy. I only hope the Boy knows that I had the Little Guy in part BECAUSE I love the Boy so much.

    modmom November 14, 2007 at 4:44 am

    congratulations on your baby in your tummy + your little girl’s birthday!
    get well soon!

    Veronica November 14, 2007 at 5:42 am

    Happy Happy Birthday little one!

    kgirl November 14, 2007 at 6:53 am

    Happy birthday to you both.
    My friend is warning me to brace myself against the tide of emotion – love, guilt, amazement, whatever – that will be directed towards Bee once the baby arrives.

    motherbumper November 14, 2007 at 8:05 am

    happy happy birthday Miss WB

    something blue November 14, 2007 at 8:20 am

    Happy second Birthday to your beauty. I hope that you feel well enough to give her big hugs today.

    Emily November 14, 2007 at 8:20 am

    To both you and NoMotherEarth,

    Sometimes, when the second one is tiny, you will feel you are giving more to the baby and loving the baby more. You will feel your connection to your first loosening and weakening. You will feel distant from your demanding older child and just want to focus on the baby. You will feel guilty.

    As the baby gets a little older, you will worry that you have irreparably damaged your beautiful relationship with your first born. Nothing seems right between you anymore, perhaps.

    I tell you this so that, when it happens, you will remember these words I send you from the other side. By the time the baby is a year old, you will have a new, stronger, more intense relationship with your first born than you could ever have imagined. Out of the guilt and the doubts will grow a beautiful relationship, in part what you had before but in part grown from together loving that baby.

    I want you to know this. No one told me how hard it would feel, that my baby would seem to be slipping away. I wish I had been prepared, but I also wish I had known how amazing our relationship would be by the time his little brother was one. I want you to know that what feels like stretching and tearing is actually growing pains. You are not destroying what you had together — you are deepening and strengthening it.

    How’s that for going on and on…?

    daysgoby November 14, 2007 at 8:26 am

    C –
    She’ll always be your sunshine.

    Happy Birthday to your lovely girl!

    Jezer November 14, 2007 at 8:41 am

    Feliz cumpleaños, Wonder Girl!

    Badness Jones November 14, 2007 at 9:04 am

    Happy Birthday Wonder Girl! Beautiful post Her Bad Mother. Now where did I put, sniff, those damn kleenex, sniff…?

    Anonymous November 14, 2007 at 9:33 am

    Put your guilty feelings away, the greatest gift you could give your Wonderbaby is a sibling. One day when you are gone, Wonderbaby will have someone to remember Mom with.

    Happy *Birth*day, HBM

    Brittani November 14, 2007 at 9:35 am

    What a beautiful post! Happy birthday to your little one!

    Kyla November 14, 2007 at 9:48 am

    Happy birthday, WonderBaby. (Are we moving to WonderGirl now?)

    This was beautiful, Catherine. This is exactly how it feels…that flux time when the time of One is ending, but not quite gone.

    Naomi (Urban Mummy) November 14, 2007 at 10:24 am

    Emily said it better then I ever could. I know exactly how you are feeling, because I felt the same way before The Baby was born. It was accentuated for me by the fact that I am an only child, and have no real comprehension of siblings. I worried, like you, how it would affect my baby, the big boy.

    Now that The Baby is 1, it is so different. My older son and I have a bond stronger then ever. ANd he has a bond with his brother that I can only watch in amazement.

    You aren’t taking her mother away. You are giving her more people to love, and to love her.

    Happy birthday to your little one!

    b*babbler November 14, 2007 at 10:46 am

    Happy birthday, wonderbaby.

    Happy birth day, wondermama.

    My wish for you both is health and happiness, so that you may enjoy this last time together, just the two of you.

    Avalon November 14, 2007 at 11:27 am

    Happy, happy birthday Wonderbaby! May you have decades more joy to share.

    CMP November 14, 2007 at 11:27 am

    i understand and live what it is to have one’s heart expand enough to love more than one child. practice your breathing now, your eating, your digesting, your crying, because the size of your growing heart will pale in comparison to the expansion of your beautiful belly and you will wonder how there is possibly room for anything else inside of you.

    Heather November 14, 2007 at 11:36 am

    No matter how many people tell you that everything will be fine and that your love expands, etc, you will still feel guilty…until baby arrives and you see for yourself.

    It’s wonderful to have more than one child. So wonderful, in fact, that I’m having a third!

    Happy Birthday Wondergirl!

    Anonymous November 14, 2007 at 11:57 am

    beutifully heart-wrenchingly put HBM.i remember the angst of wondering how could i love another as much as the one before…but the heart has an amazing capacity for love it grows and blooms and expands to allow even more love.when i was pregnant with #3 and my breasts were making milk my body produced its own blue-veined heart shaped tatoo on my right breast which remained until a couple of months ago.she that babe is now 7 and has a 3 year old sister…LAVANDULA

    Mac and Cheese November 14, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    You’re making me cry. Happy Birthday Wonderbaby. It only gets better from here.

    cmp November 14, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    “wait a minute. strike that. reverse it.” (in reference to my comment above.) i clearly have not had enough coffee today.

    gingajoy November 14, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    happy birthday wondah-bebe!!!
    (and congrats on selling your house, C. ORRsome!)

    AnotherMomCreation November 14, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    That was a wonderful sentiment to your daughter.

    Happy Birthday to your little one.

    kittenpie November 14, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    Well, you may not be a sobbing mess, but now I am… So lovely, and so true. I agree that love multiplies, not divides, but I also hate that when I tell Pumpkinpie I love her the most, I know that if I get my way, that won’t always be something I can say honestly, and I won’t say it dishonestly, and I’d hate for her to notice me not saying it any longer. But she will never be less special, and neither will your WonderBaby. And she is a Wonder, truly.

    Phoenix November 14, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    Happy 2nd birthday WonderBaby.

    Bon November 14, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    happy birthday to your beautiful girl.

    i lie awake wondering about change too. but mine has never truly been my one and only, never my first, and thus it’s weirdly easier to believe that we are simply growing, rather than losing something that is, nonetheless, infinitely precious.

    Lawyer Mama November 14, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    Aww, happy birthday!

    FishyGirl November 14, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    Happy Precious Wonderful Birthday, Wonder Girl, from the entire FishFamily, who think you are just lovely, and are witnesses to just how much your mama loves you.

    Beck November 14, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    Every mother I’ve known has worried about this during her second pregnancy – but I’ve not known a single woman to worry about it AFTER her second pregnancy, really. There’s more then enough love, magically enough.
    Happy birthday to your big girl.

    Heather B. November 14, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    That was incredibly sweet. They will BOTH be very lucky to have you has a mother.

    Leah November 14, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    I love posts like these because, as a not-yet-mother but first-born child and daughter, I understand a little of what it was like for my own mother to have loved me so singularly, so desperately, especially in the months up to my baby brother’s birth. Thanks, C, and Happy Birthday, wonderful Wonderbaby!

    Jozet at Halushki November 14, 2007 at 6:18 pm

    Happy birthday, sweet child!

    Happy birthday, beautiful Mommy!

    No words of wisdom from me.

    You have wisdom to spare for all of us.

    Mrs. Chicky November 14, 2007 at 7:10 pm

    In those dark hours I cry. I know exactly what place you’re coming from.

    Happy Birthday, Wonderbaby. Stop growing so fast and let mama catch up.

    Glennia November 14, 2007 at 7:25 pm

    Happy Birthday, precious girl. Beautiful tribute.

    mothergoosemouse November 14, 2007 at 9:26 pm

    Different – you’re right on.

    Happy birthday to WonderBaby, and congratulations to you and Her Bad Father.

    slouching mom November 14, 2007 at 9:27 pm

    how could she be two?

    and yet — she’s all that and more.

    happy birthday, lovely girl.

    red pen mama November 14, 2007 at 9:56 pm

    Happy birthday, Wonderbaby! Next year, you will be Wonder Big Sis.

    Congrats, HBM. This is a gorgeous post. And I know exactly how you feel, having been in my second tri-mester with Bun when Monkey turned two.

    And although I am a big fat lurker on your site, I tagged you for a meme. I know that things are a little rough in your world, so I understand if it’s not right at the top of your to-do list!

    Here, just in case you have the energy.


    LD November 14, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    What a heartbreakingly beautiful post. You put so many of my own fears about having another child into better words than I could ever find.

    Belinda November 14, 2007 at 11:57 pm

    This is so beautiful, and may just possibly be the first time I’ve read a post concerning the addition of a second child without feeling that gnawing self-pity that I can’t have one. Thank you.

    kellypea November 15, 2007 at 12:13 am

    That was lovely. I wrote to my youngest (who is now 15) in a journal — mostly about what he was learning to do, what his interests were, and how he was changing. I wrote for eight years, and he knows I have the book, but I haven’t given it to him to read yet. I think moms like you who have places like this to put down your thoughts and love are very fortunate, and that your children will appreciate what you’ve saved for them. They grow up so very, very fast. Happy Birthday to your little one.

    moosh in indy. November 15, 2007 at 1:03 am

    One of the biggest reasons I’m so wary about getting pregnant again, not only will I be worthless to society, I will be worthless to my first born during our last few months as “us”.
    Glad I’m not alone.

    creative-type dad November 15, 2007 at 2:00 am

    Very nice…

    Happy birthday little one

    auto parts mom November 15, 2007 at 3:25 am

    First, I want to greet the birthday girl… Happy Birthday & God Bless…

    I don’t know yet the feeling of having a second baby. But what I do know is it will be a different story to tell.

    Christina November 15, 2007 at 8:19 am

    Happy birthday, WB!

    I had so many of those same fears when pregnant with Mira. I’m only 6 months in now, but I can tell you that yes, your heart does grow in all directions.

    I was an only child, so I don’t have any reference to say what it’s like to have a sibling. You have a sister though, right? Did you ever feel less loved by your parents because you weren’t the only one? I doubt it, and I know the same will hold true for WB.

    Her Bad Mother November 15, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    Oh, Christina – such an interesting question. Because no, I never felt truly less loved, but I did – at times – feel compromised in that love. I would never have wished to be an only child, but there were times that my mother’s concern for my sister came at the expense of concern for me, and I felt it keenly.

    Her Bad Mother November 15, 2007 at 12:42 pm

    God – now that I’ve said that – it doesn’t change anything of course. There were moments of feeling less loved – how many times did I scream ‘you love her more!’, in anger? Too many – but I still wouldn’t change anything. Having a sister was a great gift.

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