We’ll always share the same birthday, right?
Yes, Little Mae. Always.
This exchange of words happens every so often but increases in frequency and intensity as the month of June approaches. While I try to forget that another number will be added to my age, my youngest child hurries the days along, eagerly anticipating adding to hers.
My eighth, and final, child was born on my birthday. She is eager to share that information with anyone who cares to know. She adds, I was my mom’s BEST birthday gift, to her version. I often add, I don’t even get my own birthday, to mine. I share that part out of earshot, mostly. She really is a sweet gift.
I tried to birth her two days before my birthday. I actually thought she was coming then. Please let her be born while I am still 36! Numbers and I have this crazy relationship, whether they appear on a scale or a calendar.
I labored and stalled and spent the night in the hospital where she would be born, an hour away from home. When it was clear that things were not moving along and that even drugs were not helping, there were choices to make. Since her due date had not yet arrived, I chose to go home and wait it out, albeit tearfully and reluctantly.
I sent my husband ahead with our hospital things, while following at a distance, calling it my walk of shame. No expectant mother wants to be sent home from the hospital without a babe in arms, belly still uncomfortably crammed full of life.
“False alarm, Sweetie?” The nurse on the elevator commented. If only she knew. I knew enough about myself to keep my mouth shut and half nod as tears welled up in my eyes. This is the story I often share with younger moms struggling through similar circumstances as their due date approaches.
I was sent home from the hospital after a night of stalled labor, with my eighth child still unborn! Babies have their own timeline. They come when they are ready.
The ride home found me tearfully angry that this baby was NEVER coming, yet grateful that she was still alive. Months earlier, her cousin who should have been born only a day or two before her, who should have been a newborn that very day, was born too soon, too small, too quiet. His mommy went home with empty arms and empty belly.
We miss him always.
When real labor grabbed me the following night, I knew this was it, and that no matter what, a baby was exiting my body somehow. The ride to the hospital was intense, the birth was intense, and the feelings were intense as the early morning hours of my birthday, June 7, became our birthday.
It took me awhile to receive this as the gift that it was and is. For a long time, sharing a birthday with my youngest was another thing in the list of confirmations that it was okay to be finished childbearing. Some of you will read that sentence and scratch your head in puzzlement. Others will totally get it .
We are all profoundly wounded souls.
Lately, my perspective has changed. I have come to see how having a little girl exactly my age at any given point in time in my life is a unique blessing. It really is a gift. In my mind, looking back at my stories, I feel so big. In them I am so old.
I wasn’t. I was small and young. Just like she is small and young. Second grade was seven, turning eight at the end. It was friendships and thoughtless comments and plenty of sass. It was reading and drawing and playing dolls. It was good grades without trying, and old-fashioned day complete with a bonnet, and wanting to be a teacher when I grew up.
Looking at my eighth child and her role in my and our family’s story, I feel grateful for the gift of her. We are different in that I am the oldest of seven children, and she is the youngest of eight. We are similar in that June 7 is our special day, and that she will walk behind me by exactly 37 years.
Some gifts need time to grow on you. Mine will always grow with me.
Julie McClay lives in Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley with her high school sweetheart (and husband of 24 years) and 5 of their 8 children. She is learning that while it can be painful to face the past honestly while living in the moment and looking towards the future, it can be healing and lead to the hope of a brighter future. She digs through these thoughts and feelings here.