This is the day you came into the world. A day to celebrate you. But it doesn't just belong to you. There is a flip side to every birthday that belongs to a mother - the story of the months and then the hours leading to the moment you arrived. This day, while yours from here into the future, stands still for her, indelibly etched, unforgettable.Do you know your story? Growing up we don't tend to dwell on these things. But motherhood gives a unique perspective, like an opaque mirror; her on one side, you on the other.
In the lead up to the birth of my little sister's baby boy, I was thinking about this a lot. How every baby is carried differently, each pregnancy with its own quirks - a craving for bananas and toasted cheese sandwiches, debilitating nausea, carrying high, carrying low, carrying wide, back ache, head ache, no sleep, a sleep pillow, new marks on your body, the sudden appearance of veins just below the surface of your skin, the fluttering of something tiny but definite deep within. No matter what, you are altered, outside and in, forever.
This Facebook memory post with its little pep talk popped up in my feed recently, reminding me that seven years ago, four months into my first pregnancy, the hormones in my body went crazy. I was diagnosed with a rare breast disease which caused several large benign tumors to grow my breasts to a shocking (there is really no other word for it) size I bra within two months. After several medical opinions, it was decided the safest option was to perform a double mastectomy.I have not written about this before and it seems to just roll off my tongue now, like having major surgery when my unborn baby's life was at risk was nothing. At the time, I was white-knuckle, next level, frightened. It was all fine in the end. My little one was perfectly happy, true to the hardy, capable child that he is today. I came out of surgery 5kg lighter with wonky temporary fillers that did their job until my body had a second bout of crazy, six weeks after my baby was born, trying to produce milk when I had no breast tissue left. I was rushed back into hospital with mastitis. I remember being in tears as the anesthetists prepared me pre-op. It's one thing to schedule a large procedure and mentally prepare. It's another thing entirely to be told you're in danger of blood poisoning and you need to have the temporary implants removed and replaced immediately. All I could think about was the chance that I wouldn't come out. You hear those stories. Sometimes, unthinkably, they happen to your best friends.
I came out. I need to pay credit to my surgeons here. It's a worn cliche but no one fully appreciates the incredible work of doctors until the day it is you or a loved one on an operating table. I will always be in their debt. For two weeks after, I couldn't pick up my baby boy because of the stitches and drains. I needed someone to put him in my arms to feed him. I had to wear a portable intravenous antibiotic pack which a community nurse came to change several times each week. My husband had already used his parental leave in the first fortnight, so I relied on family and friends for help during the day. There was simply no choice but to get through it, and we did.
It's all quite fuzzy now, like something I might read about someone else. That's the upside of time; the getting there fades. So much thought and debate goes on about the way babies are birthed these days. The fact that my baby was delivered by emergency Caesarian was the very least of my worries. I was simply overwhelmed to have him.
Compared to the first, my second pregnancy and birth were businesslike. My younger son was booked in for a Caesarian because he was looking like another big baby, and the date just happened to be on our fourth wedding anniversary. I had committed months ago to a wedding cake and 80 caramel slices the same day, which I duly dropped off that morning, and then we drove to the hospital to have a baby, as you do. Yes, it was a bit like a transaction, but afterwards, holding my wrapped bundle, I felt just as emotional as I did with my first because it is an incredible feat to carry and birth your baby, no matter how they arrive.
These are my stories. All mothers have them and we carry them close.So with each birthday my boys have, when I see their little faces bursting with excitement at presents and parties and cake, I remember how they came into the world and I feel their bubbly joy reflected in my own, along with a tremendous wave of pride and a mother's private thanks. This day is their day, but it will always be partly mine too.