“Your uterus is no longer a safe place for these babies,” he said to me.
And with that statement, we were quickly sent to the hospital. It was February 4, 2013. I had a round of steroids, settled in for a few day stay in ante-partum, and waited and prayed that all would be well when we delivered a few days later.
A little after midnight (on February 5) my nurse came in and said “is today your birthday?”
She saw my age change on the monitor at midnight and realized that not only were we about to celebrate the arrival of our twins, but I was celebrating a big day as well. It was my 30th birthday.
A few hours later, labor started on its own, and it became apparent that delivering them sooner rather than later was a better choice.
The twins turn six today. I turn thirty-six today. Every year in the two weeks leading up to their birthday I’m super reflective (and slightly emotional). My Timehop reminds me of the baby shower I had a little over a week before their birth (they came so early we never got their room fully set-up). I start thinking about the ultrasound I had ten days before their birth that signaled things had changed with one twin. They were due in April. They came in February. And as surprised as we were to find out we were having twins, we were just as surprised by their arrival two months early.
I’ve been thinking this year about how our birthdays tend to be only about us. We think about celebrating the life of the person born that day. We buy gifts. We have parties. We have cake and ice cream. We celebrate life. And we should. I love my kids’ birthdays! So do they!
But this year I’ve also been thinking about how the day of my kids’ births is also forever connected to me. It’s the day they exited my body. It’s the day my pregnancy ended and life with them outside the womb began. Because I am their mom, their birthdays are forever etched in my mind. The day we celebrate them is the day I also remember what it took to get them safely here. And because my births range from the emergent to the traumatic, it’s the day that carries a lot of sadness and fear for me. Though with each passing year the sadness and fear continues to grow more into thankfulness and gratitude for God’s gift of life. Birthdays remind me every year that I came into parenthood thinking it would be one way and was quickly shown just how fragile life actually is. All innocence and illusion of control was gone with the birth of our twins (and actually with our first miscarriage two years prior to that).
It’s a term that is wrapped up in celebration and joy, but behind every birthday is a birth mother. A woman who through much toil, fear, pain, and maybe even trauma brought you into the world on the day you celebrate. Birthdays can be hard for many reasons for a momma. Maybe your child was adopted and you were not present for her birth. You don’t have fond memories to share of her arrival because you didn’t even know she existed yet. Birthdays are hard. Maybe your child was quickly taken from you because of complications, so all you remember is your anxiety and fear when you think about his birthday. Birthdays are hard. Maybe you were so sick and exhausted, so you can’t remember her birth. Birthdays are hard.
For our family, it’s the day we celebrate life, but it’s also the day we remember that death was also crouching at the door. Nearly every birthday, I stare at my children and marvel that they are here. I marvel that I am here. And rejoice, knowing that life is such a precious gift.
When we talk about motherhood, we often talk about sacrifice. The sleepless nights, body changes, dying to self, and all the other things that parenthood strips you of as you usher another human into the world. But I think another thing it takes from you is innocence. When you taste the fragility of life, the world seems like a scarier place. Of course, it’s always been scary, but we often live under the illusion of control until something strips that from us. For me, it was pregnancy, loss, infertility, and birth that took my perceived control away. Celebrations (like birthdays) are often laced with pain. It brings new meaning to the words “through death we get life.” We die to our innocence, comfort, and ease so our children can live. We lay our lives down in countless ways so they get life, even if it means we carry sad memories with us to every birthday party.
It’s taken a long time for me to figure out why I feel so much angst around birthdays. I get so excited to celebrate the boys, and nothing brings me more joy than seeing their own excitement about their birthdays. But I always remember what it took to get them here. And I’ll never forget what it sounds like to hear a premature baby struggle to breathe. Or what it feels like to watch their hearts stop and need to be re-stimulated. Or what it feels like to hold two three-pound babies close to your chest. That’s a happy feeling, friends. There is joy mixed with sadness. There is happiness mixed with fear. All the sad birthday memories are reminders of how desperately broke this world is, and how much we need the better, perfect world that is promised to us who are in Christ. And all the happy birthday memories are reminders that God gives us good gifts, even in the scariest of times.
I’m not as emotional this year. I’m mostly just thankful. We’ve had these boys for six whole years and we’ve loved every minute of it. Sure, the innocence is gone. But they lived. They are here. They are thriving. They are little pieces of my heart walking around outside my body.
And they are the best birthday gifts I’ve ever received.