October 9, 2010

Baby Birthdays

DD and SI eating their first cake

A little over a week ago, my darling daughters celebrated their first birthday.  I threw them a big party- the biggest we've had since M finished his chemotherapy.  The girls behaved beautifully, our friends and family seemed to have a really lovely time... all in all it was a fabulous party.

The girls seemed to know that it was an important time.  During the week that included their birthday, DD learned to walk, SI started making animal noises, they both cut new teeth, and caught their first really nasty colds.

I had thought that when they turned a year old, I would mellow out a little bit.  I thought I'd relax about toys in their cribs, about blankets they want to sleep with, and about them staying safe and asleep in their cribs through the night. 
SI and DD opening their present from Mommy and Daddy

I hadn't counted on the inexhaustible potential of the internet to make me worry and essentially freak out in every way.  I learned just after their birthday that a dear friend of mine lost her niece.  She was eleven months old, and died of SIDS.  I found out through my friend's journal, and it has tormented me.

I can't even begin to describe the emotions that I've been running through.  I had it in my head that if my girls made it to their first birthday, that was sort of... it.  They would be done being babies, they would be safe.  They would start walking, begin talking in complete sentences, and I could rest assured that from then on they would grow up peacefully.  I somehow got it into my brain that when they were a year old, the whole phase of constantly worrying that I was going to open their bedroom door in the morning and find them dead was OVER.  Only little babies die of SIDS, not toddlers... right?

DD on Daddy's shoulders
My heart has been breaking for my friends' cousin.  To lose a child... I can't even begin to understand the kind of pain that family must be going through.  I know how much I loved my children one month ago.  I was already planning their big party, inviting their grandparents and aunts and uncles and everyone who loves them.  To have lost one of my girls a month ago, just one month from that huge landmark birthday... it's too horrible to contemplate.  It was such a shock to my system- to my mommy mentality that had just been glowing about how big and strong and smart my kids were.  Wasn't that little girl also big and strong and smart?  Wasn't she also learning to walk and talk, to play more complicated games with her parents and give less slobbery kisses and pick out favorite toys and foods?

Aren't all of our kids big and strong and smart?  It isn't until the child starts to really assert their independence, pursue their own interests, and generally disagree with their parents on who they ought to be that they stop seeming like a perfect angel.  They're perfect potential, a tiny vessel of love and learning and joy.  Having a baby- not birthing, but having a baby- is a truly spiritual experience.  You get to watch a human being created from nothing- from a blank slate to an entire person.  And you can see how some things are your doing, how they learn skills that you've taught them, how they have your crooked smile, or your wonky little toes.  And then some things are entirely their own.  Somehow magically a part of this amazing person that was never there before.

I had thought that after their first birthday, I would rest more easily.  Instead I find myself checking their room as often as I did when they first got here, making sure that they're still breathing peacefully.  I quietly try to roll them back onto their backs in their sleep, which is an entirely fruitless endeavor.  I make sure the air is circulating, that I can hear them shift in their sleep through the baby monitor.  I think the whole time about my friend's cousin, and her daughter.  And in the morning when I see their beautiful faces so happy to see me, I want to weep with relief, and with sorrow for everyone who's discovered that they'll never see those smiling faces again.

SI playing with Poppa
In the past year, I've been truly blessed to watch two new people grow into wonderful little girls.  People who love to play, to read, to learn new things.  I've done my best to love them the same, to treat them the same, and to raise them into what I think are good little people.  And they haven't hardly needed my guidance in that.  But they are two completely different people.  They have their own ideas about themselves, about me and their daddy, and about each other.  My expectations about them have been met and exceeded and proven completely off.  And I end every day amazed that I have them in my life, grateful that they are here and they are so good, and sad that another incredible day has been lost, never to be revisited again.

One year and eight days ago, I woke up in the wee hours of the morning certain that my water had broken, and discovered to my horror that the bed was soaking in blood.  Seven hours and an emergency c-section later, I was holding the two most wonderful people I have ever known in my arms.  And they were perfect.  Tiny, tiny, perfect people.

It's been a one year and eight days now, and I haven't fallen out of love with them.  I still look at them and wonder, "Is that my smile?  Are those my eyebrows?"  I still wonder what each little action means- does SI's love for the little keyboard mean she'll be a musician?  Does DD's love of books and reading mean she'll be a scholar?  Are they learning to walk soon enough?  Should I worry that SI loves chocolate ice cream so much?

I get the feeling that this is just the state of being a mother.  Constant worry, constant joy and pride, and constant disbelief.  Constant disbelief that there are people in your life you can love so much.

Happy birthday, my beautiful little angels.  Happy first birthday.
October 1, 2009

1 comment:

  1. I know it's nearly impossible not to be, but please don't be scared for your daughters, Lea. We don't know why R died. She shouldn't have died. Medically, something rare and strange went wrong. There were minor health problems that somehow resulted in this, even though they shouldn't have. But it WAS incredibly rare and strange. Please remember that. Please don't worry. Just continue to celebrate every wonderful day of their lives, as you already do.



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