July 8, 2009 by 8junebugs
Thirty-two years ago today, a then-unlikely thing happened. I was born.
Carrying babies to term was not something at which my mom excelled–I learned later that this wasn’t at all uncommon. When my cousin Rob was born, the November before my birth, my mother was dilated about as much as his mother was, so the story goes. That was about a month after I was conceived.
(I dated a boy in college who was born roughly the day I was conceived. I was less well-matched with him than with the boy who was born six days after I was.)
After a dismal history–three miscarriages by then, to my knowledge–a doctor new to the area decided to sew Mom’s cervix shut until I was viable. I don’t know who told him to try that…I don’t know if it was normal. But it’s the reason I’m here.
Birthdays are hard for me. The reasons are mixed and fading, but mainly it’s that I’ve had some crappy ones. I’ve had some fantastic ones, too–friends and boyfriends have thrown surprise parties, I’ve been treated to excellent meals, I’ve received lovely and thoughtful gifts…and yet the painful ones always stand out more, don’t they?
It doesn’t help that I don’t like being the center of attention. I don’t mind being a storyteller or making people laugh in small groups, but I really hate parties all about me.
The thing is, Mom did the birthdays. We always had a family party and tried to have a friends party when we were kids–sucks to be a kid with a summer birthday, though. You never get to bring in cupcakes, and there’s always one friend who spends every July in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, or something.
But Mom made birthdays special, especially after Grand died. As she often did, she went above and beyond what was expected, and usually beyond what she could do.
When I turned 30, she gave me a lovely set of pearls. I didn’t want a gift, but she wanted to do Something Big.
Last year, I was in Vermont for the week of the 4th and my birthday. Mom set up a surprise dinner at my favorite Middlebury restaurant. I felt like it was selfish to go up to Vermont and have my dying mother throw me a birthday party, but I think that may have been exactly what she wanted most. I didn’t want a fuss, but fussing about birthdays and other parties is what Mom did. I think she enjoyed it…even if not, it was critical to who she was.
She was doing chemo by then, I think, and was hoping the margaritas wouldn’t taste like metal. She’d shaved her head. I remember thinking she looked younger and more glamorous than she had in a long time that week in skinny jeans, a Wild Mountain Thyme shirt, and the turquoise-and-sequins hat I’d sent up.
She called it her “go to meetin'” hat.
Birthdays are hard for me, anyway, and this year has been the hardest. I wasn’t looking forward to it, I didn’t prepare for it, and I handled it only moderately well. I tried to stay busy and ignore it–it’s only 32–but I wasn’t raised to ignore birthdays.
It’s not the same. It never will be.
She wanted desperately to be my mom, and she worked really, really hard to make it happen. Today is harder for me than Mother’s Day was…she wasn’t always very good at being a mom, so I didn’t have the expected response to that day. She was really good at birthdays, though, whether you wanted her to be or not.
Being our mom was what she wanted more than anything else. And on our birthdays, we knew how important it was, how thankful she was, and how happy she was that we made it. Out of six pregnancies, two of us grew up, and she was fiercely proud of every year.
So, happy anniversary of becoming a mom, Mom. I miss you.