Today is my oldest daughter's third birthday. We celebrated with friends, family, and cupcakes last Saturday, and she'll be off to daycare with treats to share with all her friends there by the time this message posts. My J is gorgeous, lively, full of words and songs and dance. She loves church, candles, LMFAO, her family and friends, and life with a passion that amazes me. My heart is so full with the gift of mothering her that sometimes I actually get all mushy and cry about it. In private mostly, but also sometimes when I tell her the story about how she became my daughter and I became her mommy. She will pat my arm and say "it's okay mommy. it's okay." And I will tell her that it's more than okay - it's so, so wonderful that mommy gets a little teary. My three year old then makes a sound that she learned from me. It's something like "mmmMmm" and I say it when I think she's talking nonsense but want to play along. Touché, my darling.
Those really are super happy tears. But there is, for me, a dissonance about the day she was born. Probably because while the day my first child was born was a definitive day in my life it was also a pretty heartbreaking day. On J's birth day I was completely unaware of sweet, new, particular her and instead was saying tearful goodbyes to someone else's child, a baby that we had for a while expected to parent. I ended up surviving that disappointment, and learning through it that being disappointed didn't change the ethic I had developed around how we would build our family. In an odd way I am proud of what happened in our world on the day J was born, and how the twosome of Andrew and I responded to it.
But J's birthday, while it is mine to celebrate with her as she grows isn't a day that belongs to me and my baby J. It's a day that belongs to J and her first mother, who I am certain cried her share of tears as she said goodbye to a child three years ago today. Her loss that day dwarfs my own.
I don't mean to sound melancholy or ungrateful. I imagine that as J grows and we build family memories around the celebration of her birth the memory of the wilderness that I experienced the first two weeks of her life, before I knew she was here, will fade. But in some ways I hope it doesn't. I loved that small baby in a way that I couldn't begin to understand from the moment I held her in my arms. My joy in that moment will never come undone from my sadness of the weeks before, or successfully disconnect from the loss that J and Z experienced when they lost each other. This is an appropriate tension. I want to be honest, and being honest means that J's birthday will never be uncomplicated gladness for me, and it may not stay that way for her. We didn't know it, J and I, but we were together in loneliness her first two weeks of life - she a small baby in a care home waiting for a family and us in our sadness surrounded by baby things, waiting for her.
It's weird, because it sort of hurts, but I don't mind thinking about all that happened starting today, three years ago. I love to remember it. I love to remember it all.