The month between my birthday, at the end of June, and my son’s birthday, a precise thirty days later, is full of memories:
The fourth of July company picnic we attended before my son and his twin sister were born. I wore my brand new Lucille Ball maternity outfit — white capris and a red plaid shirt — but I felt neither summery nor excited. Pregnant with twins, I was already larger at six months than I’d been at full term with my older daughter. I felt tired, my feet were swollen and sore. I sat through most of the picnic while my husband chased our daughter, chatting with coworkers, meeting their kids. Already, I found myself counting the months until the babies would be born that November.
Next, a visit to Disneyland, a week or so later. My daughter is three with a pixie haircut, blue checked jumper and shy smile as she poses with Ariel in her green grotto. The day is hot, July in Southern California hot, and I realize how foolish this trip is. I can barely walk, let alone push the stroller. Later I will hear someone say, “If you want to go into labor, head to Disneyland,” and I can feel how true this is. Between the heat and the lines and the crowds, I am not the super human pregnant mother I think I should be.
Later in July. A business meeting. My client sees that I am pregnant. I’m in a dressy red shirt, lipstick to match. “I’m having twins,” I say. “They’re due in November.”
“There’s the end of your career,” she says.
I sip my decaf and quietly put up my feet. “Let’s hope not,” I say.
Years later, these memories are as clear to me as the afternoon in July that I went into labor, four months before my due date. Time has dimmed the images somewhat, but not as much as I might like. I can picture a Thursday at the park when I asked another mother if she’d had contractions in her second pregnancy, and how soon they’d started, just as I can see myself Sunday morning, lying on the bed with my daughter, my favorite denim maternity blouse tight across my belly. In between, a steak dinner with friends at a restaurant; just before, a Friday afternoon when I knew something was “wrong” but not what, or why.
My babies weren’t supposed to come in July. The summer days between June 30 — my birthday — and July 30 — my son’s, were not meant to be layered deep in memory and regret.
Shortly after my twins arrived, I packed a box of those favorite maternity clothes, the capris, the checked shirt, the denim tunic. Unlike that box of clothes, I have not been able to put away the memories.
The lives of special needs mamas are ripe with anniversaries, moments that arrive each year with the same, loaded meanings. Sometimes it’s the anniversary of a diagnosis, or a hospitalization, or a surgery. Each of these anniversaries brings with it a torturous reliving. “Remember what the doctor said? This baby will never go to her high school prom.” Or, I’m sorry, I did all I could. He will not be able to see. Sometimes an anniversary can strike suddenly, cruelly — perhaps we forgot the date and yet as we write a check or make an appointment, we remember. Oh yes, November 21, the day my twins were meant to be born.
And sometimes, we crawl slowly toward the day, knowing full well just how hard it will be, how much pain will be extracted.
This past year a friend of mine remarked that she could see how I would never be able to celebrate my son’s birthday, seeing as it is also the day of my daughter’s birth as well. It’s true that every year, during this month, I find myself poised between then and now, before and after. There is never any going back, only getting through. Every summer, I count the days until July 30 and beyond, until the moment the memories rest for another year.