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.
21 replies on “Anniversaries”
Thank you for another beautiful, inspiring post. I hope you have a happy rest-of-the-summer, filled with the ordinary anniversaries of childhood, like popsicles and sprinklers and the smell of suntan lotion. I hope it for me, too.
I too am plagued by anniversaries, just as you say, small personal ones that are of no interest to anyone else, but we are all united by our humanity.
Happy Birthday(s) Vicki, which are always bittersweet — I remember the twins’ birthdays full well since they came so close to Imogen’s…
with love and always respect,
Oh Vicki, but do they ever fully rest? I can still recite the dates of all of the times Nik was transferred to Children’s in Oakland (we were in Walnut Creek for his birth) the dates of each surgery, each medical milestone, even each little outfit. Like Evan perhaps, Nik wore doll clothes at first he was so tiny. It never really leaves me, but I am adding new memories and anniversaries…the day Nik first sat up on his own, the day he started school. It adds up to a rich, lustrous tapestry. I imagine Evan’s and yours is equally rich and beautiful.
Vicki, another beautiful, poignant piece. Thank you again for saying the tough things and giving us a glimpse of your world.
this moved me and hit deeply, Vicki…i have my own month of anniversaries, of blithe normality and then a slow, calendar-pocking collapse, and it is always a strange period to walk through. it’s peopled with ghosts of myself, and so memories of a life before are more vivid and yet more jarring than they are at other times of the year. i imagine that your walk through this month, bookmarked as it is by your own birthday and then the twins, must be painful and poignant and strange, alive with all the inbetween.
thinking of you.
This post really touched home for me. I too have these “Anniversaries”. Although they still bring pain, each year seems to get a little easier. They also remind me of how far we’ve come since my daughter’s birth. Thank you for sharing your beautiful words.
What a beautiful piece. Time and memory are so tricky. I remember as a young musician learning about “muscle memory” — the concept of your muscles remembering how to play a piece if you practice it enough times. when this happens you don’t read music or even think — your body, your “muscle memory” just takes over and you play the piece. I think that when we go through emotional experiences that change us our bodies hold on to exactly what was happening and can transport us back to where we were without having to think about it. It just happens.
Vicky, I am awestruck by every aspect of your piece on anniversaries, as I, too, have just celebrated a date of monumental importance. After two decades of quietly moving through the month of July, I shared my own “On This Special Occasion” piece with all of the members of my family – to remind them that my daughter Baby Kim was born and died 20 years ago. The response (mostly silence) has been enlightening. I hold fast to those few minutes when I held her tight, and realize the power of love and strength that comes from acknowledging that she was and is here with me. I am who I am, in part, because of her presence in my soul.
Sending warm thoughts to you and your family in this special time of year.
Mary from Mass.
The anniversary of my first son’s stillbirth is two days after my second son’s birth, we brought my second child home from the hospital that day…so it will always be a day of sadness and joy intermingled. Its not always easy for me to be light hearted at that time of the year but we do celebrate both of my children’s birthdays though in very different ways. I hope this time of year has passed peacefully for you this year and that next year the anniversaries will be a little gentler to you.
So so true. As always I’m amazed at the power of your writing. Thank you.
I just found your page and know that I have LOTS of reading to do. I am new to the “special needs mom club.” My daughter Brooklyn was diagnosed this May with Rett Syndrome, just one week after her second birthday. I am just adjusting to creating new hopes and dreams for her and our family. I thank you for your amazing writing, you are an inspiration!
My Husband thinks I’m crazy to have such random dates burned into my memory. I take comfort in knowing that I’m not alone!
On the up side, while September and October are difficult months for me remembering when Jenelle was first diagnosed with seizures, I now have new anniversaries to celebrate – two years since her last hospitalization, one year since she started sitting up, etc.
Anniversaries are bittersweet and unavoidable, but each year it gets a little less painful!
Another compelling and insightful essay. Thank you for sharing this and showing us the vivid moments of this time period.
Although there’s no photo, I can see you clearly.
Hope you’re well.
This really hit home for me. My first child was stillborn. Instead of coming too early like your twins, she came too late. Those days that took Novemember into December nearly 7 years ago are burned deeply into my brain… this is the day she should have been born, this is the day we last saw the doctor, this is the day when she kicked and tumbled with such force (was it then that she died? was she suffering as my husband and I smiled and watched my belly dance, oblivious to the grief that we were walking toward, a mere 24 hours ahead of us…). December 14th. I can’t do anything on that day except remember every moment.
And my soul moves miles closer to yours.
In spite of everything, I hope something nice happened on your birthday this year and I wish Evan a happy birthday, too.
Whenever a health care provider asks me for my daughter’s health history, they are always surprised that I can remember all those dates: when I went on bed rest, when I was admitted to the hospital (not the same as her birthdate), her date of diagnosis, first day with hearing aids … I remember the exact dates. I joke with other special needs moms that I can remember the hour and minute, too. They know what I mean.
I recently spoke with a mom whose daughter was just diagnosed with a comparable hearing loss to my daughter. It felt good to reach back a couple of years to the mom I was then, and say it’s going to be okay.
Again all I can say is WOW… I know about the anniversary dates. I try to look at them as the “past” but find myself learning that they are just as much my future. I have the future that my past gave me…Thank you for again putting words to the feelings I feel many times. My friends with “typical” kids try but can never really “feel” the same. They can only try because they love me and my family. Yet still they do not “know exactly” the complexities of an “anniversary”. Thank you again.
Peace Be With You
Kim and Miss T
so beautiful and moving. i am thinking of you as the 30th approaches, thinking of your son, thinking of the daughter that won’t celebrate beside her siblings and her parents. oh my friend, you write so well.
I know that today has lots of emotions for you and your family. I wanted to let you know that you have been in my thoughts all afternoon. I seem to be forgetting anniversaries lately. And yet I remember so much about that week 7 years ago.
I just wanted to take a moment to tell you how lucky I feel to have you in my life. I’m so grateful for how honest, loyal, real, insightful and funny you are. Much love,