Six years ago at this time I was in a hospital room with my husband waiting for our second child to be born. Truthfully, "waiting" doesn't seem to be the right word.....it conjures up a peaceful-type scecario. Giving birth to Alyssa was faaaar from peaceful. I remember wondering what the doctors and nurses could do, short of kill me, to make it all stop. And then she was born. It was fast (relatively speaking) and furious. And then I was alone in the room for a long time.
When Luke was born I had time to admire him with Joe for a few minutes before they took him away to weigh him and clean him up. With Alyssa, I did not even see her, they whisked her away, and then everyone was gone. Everyone. I really didn't think much about it at the time until nurses started coming in and saying "don't worry, everything is fine" which of course made me think "what do you mean, everything is fine"?... So then I was worried. After what I think was over an hour, Joe came back in the room, and soon after that Alyssa did too. She seemed fine and being completely exhausted I didn't focus on what happened during that time until much later. Weeks and months later I would ask Joe what exactly went on during that time and he always got a particular look on his face. The most I ever got out of him was that Alyssa was having trouble breathing and they were trying to clear the fluid from her lungs. But it went on for a long time. There are literally no topics that I can think of that I had trouble getting information out of Joe about. I asked a gazillion questions and he answered all of them. We talked about everything. But this topic was different for some reason and he said very, very little. I could never put my finger on why this topic of conversation felt different or what he might not be telling me. I just will never know.
On this day when Alyssa was born, my heart aches so deeply. For me, Luke and Alyssa's birthdays at a very basic level are 100% about Joe and I. They were born from our love and after 9 months, we were together, bringing them into the world. I feel so desperately sad Joe is not here to see his daughter turn 6. It all hurts. I am envious of parents who watch their kids blow out their candles with nothing but happiness in their hearts. For me there is happiness, yes, and a feeling of gratefulness, yes, but always, always mixed with deep sadness- just below the surface- of what is missing.
I don't know exactly what happened in that room when they took Alyssa away. Only her daddy knows and surely would remember if he were here. He spent her first hour alive with her, as her only parent watching over her.
Alyssa's birthday has been on my mind in another way for quite some time. Ironically, it makes me think of Luke. He had just turned 6 when I sat in front of him and told him that his daddy died. Alyssa's birthday makes me feel so aware of where she is in her childhood developmentally, and where Luke was. She's just a little girl. Luke was just a little boy. What awful news to get as a child. What an understatement. No way to process what they've just been told. No way to make sense of how it will change their lives. No way to even know what they have lost.
We had Alyssa's party and gifts and festivities yesterday. In her mind her birthday is pretty much over, a done deal. But today is truly the day. This morning as she was sitting at the island waiting for her toast, I walked to her and looked at her sweet face for a minute and then said "Happy Birthday". A smile came over her face as she was reminded that today is indeed her "real" special day. After another minute of looking at her I said "I love you". To her it was a fleeting special quiet moment between her and I, and then the rest of the day goes on. For me, something else.