Birthday Blues and Blessings
Can Birthdays continue to be special no matter one’s age? Or do they cease to be a cause to celebrate in a certain decade? Perhaps only special when reaching a milestone year? I remember years ago being told by someone I thought thought of me as family that she had no reason to note her birthday anymore, she had children after all. I understood the subtext, that I was silly to still want to have my birthday mean something. As if I wasn’t already little in physical stature, I felt even more belittled. ‘Tis true that I’m not married nor have children yet I still hope my Birthday to be special. While I may cringe at the increasing number every October, nonetheless I do look forward to each October 22nd. There is another reason why I want to celebrate…as more of a diversionary tactic. If I don’t have anything to look forward to, then I’ll look back and ask questions that I’ll likely never receive answers to.
Because of surgeries gone awry over the past 9 years, I am no longer independently mobile. But I would definitely make sure to be helped get up and into my current mode of transportation, a wheelchair, to celebrate. If no reason, then I would certainly stretch out on my comfy bed which is much easier and not as painful. Then I would think all the thoughts that I’d rather not and wonder if they remember what this day is. Do they remember me this day … do they remember October 22nd, 1967…do the man and woman who left me at the hospital remember… questions I have asked every year since I was fully aware that there was another couple responsible for my being born…questions I’ll always have, especially every time the 10th month comes around. Do the Cosmos know? If they are still living, do they wonder if I am, too?
All the above doesn’t mean I haven’t had great birthdays with the family that chose me and in the years since growing up. But it is hard to separate the conflicting thoughts and memories in my head. Two weeks ago while watching Hoda Kotb and filling-in-for-the-on- maternity-leave Jenna Bush Hager Maria Shriver on (the only hour I watch) Today Show I felt uncomfortable pangs as the discussion turned to the importance of skin to skin touch between a newborn and a parent. Any other season or month this topic would not have unnerved me. New questions coming upon my birthday. A few days later a friend shared her daughter recently trained to become a surrogate “rocker” for babies born to perhaps drug addicted women who are unable to be there themselves. From Erickson’s Stages of Development and innumerable research we all understand that babies need cradling, snuggling, nesting just as animals of varying species do …a primal need for all living creatures.
So was the 6 lbs. 6 oz. misshapen newborn ever held skin to skin by the biological mother on her breast? Did somebody hold my face up to their face, cheek to cheek? Was there ever a kiss on the forehead or on my nose that first day, that first week, the next two months until I was transferred to Blythedale Children’s Hospital? I’ll probably never know.
To avoid these painful perennial questions, “the birthday blues,” I need to celebrate so I can end the day having blessings to be thankful for. Mom and Dad never considered the day they brought me home as a special occasion. My Birthday was the date to celebrate. Mom planned several parties while growing up …treasure hunts, sleepovers included. Three months before he died in 2015, Dad treated me to a Birthday dinner while he was up in New York from Panama…the last time I’d see him in person.
The first time I heard Dennis James read the poem “Heaven’s Very Special Child” on the United Cerebral Palsy Telethon decades ago, tears trickled down my cheeks. All the stanzas are meaningful but these excerpts especially resonated then and now still:
“A meeting was held quite far from Earth!
It’s time again for another birth.
Said the Angels to the LORD above,
This Special Child will need much love
Please LORD, find the parents who
Will do a special job for you.
And soon they’ll know the privilege given
In caring for their gift from Heaven.
Their precious charge, so meek and mild,
Is HEAVEN’S VERY SPECIAL CHILD.”
If indeed there is a Master Plan, then Doris and Bill Mariano were chosen to be my parents despite an initial misplaced delivery.
And for my 50th in 2017, I celebrated big, having planned for a shindig for nearly a year. I knew I needed to do that for myself. Yes, even if some may scoff that birthdays are not important, I disagree. I will always want my birthday to be special, to remind myself that I was one Heaven’s very special child. While at 52 I still haven’t figured it all out I have to believe that I’m here for a reason… and so I will continue to celebrate every year because every year that I am here must mean something.