April 7, 2010
My Real Birthday
Children. First they consume you. Then they destroy you.
This isn’t a perfect quote from the excellent play “God of Carnage” that I got to see in New York City a week ago Saturday, but you get the gist. I can’t remember the exact wording because I was laughing too hard, but this is pretty close. Why, might you ask, was I even in NYC in the first place, shamelessly (and gleefully) ignoring my children? Because the travesty of a holiday that had occurred just ten days prior on my actual birthday necessitated a do-over, so this year I have deemed March 27th as my “real” birthday (by the way, I’m 43, out and proud).
Birthdays are serious business to me. After my parents separated when I was nine, the holy day quickly extended itself into the entire month of March, because I knew how to work that whole guilt/divorce thing. There was the celebration of my actual birthday, and then subsequent fetes at each grandparent’s house, then, of course, the culmination of the celebration of moi which ended with the mandatory sleepover/pizza/Ouija board extravaganza. Although I shared the month with two of my grandparents and an aunt, they were just bit players in my birthday world. I, of course, was the star.
I kept the tradition going into adulthood because it reminded me of my childhood, and because it was an excuse to treat myself well in multiple ways. It’s something I think we as women forget to do too often for ourselves, and God knows we need to, whether we have a disabled child or not. I even continued the thirty-one days of glory after I had Justin, because if there was ever a time I needed a little fun, it was after having given birth to that little boy. Honestly, from then on, I should have made it my birthday year.
For the most part Justin has been respectful of the ritual, particularly on the exact day in March in which I officially inch closer to death. He has generally slept well the night before, chosen not to become ill on my special day, and overall, has acquitted himself well. He gets that I brought him into the world, and he owes me, well, everything.
Somehow, my other child missed the memo.
When I found out I was pregnant naturally with Zachary, which was rather surprising since my other child took up residence in my womb only after marinating in a test tube for three days, I was thrilled. After all the miscarriages and years of infertility, I had given my husband a deadline if he didn’t want to pay for a kid. He had to knock me up by June of my 39th year, because I don’t do babies after 40. It’s not that I have a problem with older moms. If you feel it’s in your best interests to push one out at 65, go for it, you have my blessing. It’s just that after all the fertility drugs, needles and surgeries my ovaries were begging me to “just say no”, and I had to respect what they’d gone through. I left conception up to Jeff.
My husband loves nothing more than a bargain, and indeed, the man came though. I quickly figured out that, like many men, he had left the job until the last-minute, which meant my second child was due exactly on my fortieth birthday. This, of course, would not do.
I wasn’t too worried however, as Justin was a planned C-section, and I was determined to continue the tradition. My firstborn was a ridiculously huge fetus, I was a fairly ridiculously tiny woman, and he was so far ensconced up my uterus my ob said he might qualify for Canadian citizenship. If I wanted him out before he turned eighteen, they had to cut. I figured we’d do the same for #2, which because C-sections are planned, gave me a little leeway to control things. Yes, I’d have to share my MONTH, but not my DAY. I could live with that.
Unfortunately, although we had picked out a lovely date in early March where nobody we loathed had been born, nor anybody we liked had died, my son decided to make an even earlier debut. I’ve been told neither I nor the baby had any control over when my water broke, but still, I think he was pissed. He wanted to steal my thunder.
And he’s been doing it ever since.
On my 40th birthday, when he was five weeks old, he decided it would be great fun to spike a 103 fever and land himself in the hospital for a week with strep. Believe me, nothing puts a damper on your birthday more than watching your son get a spinal tap.
He cut me some slack for 41, but last year he gave me bronchitis, while he himself recovered just in time to watch me hack and heave over my birthday cake. I am confident he was greatly amused.
This year was the final (I hope) coup de grace. I was worried about the other one, as a trace of green snot had made its appearance in Justin’s nose just 24 hours before the holy day, and as my husband was leaving for DC that morning I knew if he missed school, I was screwed. Justin rallied however, and I got cocky. I made it to Barnes and Noble for an hour (even got my favorite chair!), had a lovely lunch with one of my dearest friends, and felt triumphant. The curse was broken. This, in fact, was truly the Me Decade.
Alas, my triumph was short-lived. When Zach awoke from his nap he greeted me with a cough that conjured up Sammy the Seal, and I was immediately aware my youngest had contracted croup. ON. MY. BIRTHDAY.
Fortunately my youngest son’s pediatrician has insanely late hours on Mondays, and I was able to bundle him up (in pouring rain, OF COURSE!), get him to the ped, drop off the scrip that would hopefully prevent us from a repeat of last year’s croup (where due to my son’s burst lung capillaries I looked like an extra in Carrie), get him drugged, and contemplate the taking of my own mind-altering substances before Two and a Half Men started. At least I salvaged something.
Clearly, this was an unacceptable attempt at celebrating the day my mother foisted me upon the world, and as soon as everyone (including me) was stable, I planned a do-over. This year, my birthday was on March 27th. It involved only two hours with my children (balance people, balance), two meals I didn’t have to create or dispense with, a play that made me forget about autism and made me laugh, and perhaps most importantly, two five dollar hurricanes with extra maraschino cherries.
It’s the little things.