Having a child with a disability that is discovered at birth is . . . . to have a conflicted birthday. That day is the day your whole world changed. That day is the day that you found out that the child you expected would never arrive. That day is the day you grieved your heart out. To be expected to celebrate on that day (especially only one, two, or three years later), brings out an odd assortment of emotions.
There is gratitude that your child survived whatever medical issues that the diagnosis brought with it. There is relief that you survived the emotional trauma of it all. There is joy in the child and the milestones that he labored many times harder than others to achieve. There is hope for the future. Then there is the reality that that is THE day that rocked your world.
Gradually, beautifully, mercifully, though, that day becomes a true celebration. As my son has entered his teens, it is the day he looks forward to most throughout the year. He begins this forward-looking the next day following the birthday (after we have wrung out every possible cause for indulgence). “Next year, for my birthday lunch . . . .”, he will begin. And I just laugh out loud.
We do milk those birthdays for all they are worth, and sometimes the milking is for me. I decide that we all have reason to celebrate—that the sting of sadness is gone, that God has given me a gift I could not have dreamed up to save my poor little life, and that rejoicing in another year with this precious guy is indeed a privilege. His outlook is beautiful and so worth imitating. Yes, it was a hard day (and then some!), and those tears are saved in a divine bottle. But now, the birthday has become an occasion to revel in the wonder of his growth . . . and mine. Now I say to the birthday – BRING IT!