“It’s almost my bud-day comin’ up!”
Our toddler is three this week.
How big a miracle is that?
That his long, stringy, 99% muscle body used to be a fat little burrito with some rice slipping out the bottom of the wrap.
That he used to run into everything… corners, floors, stairs, people, his own feet. And now he takes a running leap to launch from the couch to the bean-bag chair and back again without even a grunt.
That the fastest way to get him to stop what he’s doing and come R U N N I N G is to simply start the sentence, “Behbeh, can you help me [insert any chore].”
That we waited almost 2.5 years to get to talk to him (!) because he was way more focused on learning to run than learning to string words together.
And now he regularly surprises me with observations, phrases, and punch lines he’s learning from us and a few select TV shows (“Bluey” on Disney + is a new favorite. An Australian dog family. You’rE welcome).
But for all these miracles, the biggest change for me is that this will be the first of his four birthdays (his day of birth, 1, and 2) that I’m not dreading.
Unfortunately, dread, grief, and loss was a big part of my birth story. And for the past few years, a little bit of it has crept back in on the reminder of the day.
Birth trauma is a real thing. Even if you get a beautiful, healthy baby out of it. And I’m no longer surprised when, within a few minutes of speaking honestly, many moms I talk to are still working through some of the painful feelings that came with their bundles of joy.
A few examples:
I don’t have any pleased and proud birth photos to share, with mom looking sweaty and tired and glowing. (I can be happy for people and also jealous of those photos — trust me.) Mine have low lights, fake smiles, and medical equipment.
And the first days and weeks were just as dark. The ratio of sweat, tears, and blood to baby laughs and relieved sighs is really depressing to look back on. In fact, I frequently don’t. There are still days when I get that photo reminder of “Where you were two years ago!!” and I race to close out of the app before a bad memory takes me too far away from where we are now.
But we got through it. Humans are magicians at persevering, moms especially. We had a lot going for us then, and we have a lot going for us now. But grief takes some time to work through, absorb, heal from.
I’m glad I have the photos. I think they’ll get easier to look at as the years go on. And that way I know I have a way to see how beautiful and perfect this little boy was/is in hindsight. Because, wow. He’s so beautiful.
So, the biggest gift I am giving my little man on his third birthday is forgiving myself for those early days of grief.
Want to know something weird? It’s uncomfortable to admit this. But it was hard to look him in the eyes in the first year of his life. I felt so ashamed and broken by what my birth was like, and how I turned out to be as a mother.
But time and therapy, another baby, and a gentle and hopeful husband has healed so much of that. I know more of who I am now, and why I am the way I am, and – most importantly – that all those things are OK. I also know exactly what I am capable of giving this little boy: absolutely everything.
I am completely and utterly delighted by everything about him. I love him more than I love myself. I love how we really are more than any birth story that could have been. And I don’t have to hold anything back in the smiles we share today.