Monday, March 14, 2011


I just turned 38 years old on March 10th and I will be celebrating my daughter turning 6 on March 15th. In just a few short weeks, my son will turn 8 on April 13th and then my husband will turn 40 on May 1st. A lot of birthdays packed into just a few months (not to mention all the other birthdays in the family).

Birthdays-It really got me thinking. I have never really liked my own birthday. I have never enjoyed the spotlight being on me (unless I am teaching and then, bring on the spotlight-I love to teach), but really, I hate being the center of attention. Growing up, the thought of a room full of people looking at me and singing was pretty terrifying. I really did not want a lot of people looking at me. When I turned 16, my parents threw me a surprise party. They got together with my siblings and all my church youth group/school friends and surprised me. I was mortified. Every picture of me at that event shows my entire face and neck a beautiful blotchy red. STOP LOOKING AT ME! I did get a pretty string of fresh water pearls. I still have them.

When I was in college, I got all my clothes stolen from my locker while I was at swim practice. I had to run back to my dorm from they gym with one of those little, tiny gym-issue towels wrapped (not really) around me in my suit. And, that day in March the weather was more like a lion than a lamb (cold!). I was mad that my clothes got stolen-yes. But, I was more mad that they stole my favorite rugby shirt (It was the 90's we were all wearing rugby shirts) and the t-shirt I bought after hiking from the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the top-all by myself-in one day!

The following year, I had to have my tonsils removed just 2 days before my 21st birthday. No partying took place on my 21st that year.

I never really liked my birthday.

When my son was born in 2003 the entire concept of the birthday changed. BIRTHDAY-it all made sense. What an amazing thing a birthday is. It is the day when you and your mother meet for the first time. It is the day that you receive the most amazing gift you could ever receive from your mother-LIFE. It is the day that your mother probably worked the hardest and will NEVER forget. I got it. The day my son was born (well, the two day period it became) was one of the most amazing days of my entire life. I remember being so amazed that not only had I survived the prior 9 months (If you knew me while I was pregnant, you were probably amazed I survived). But, it was the day I felt the most powerful. I am woman-HEAR ME ROAR. I grew a being inside of me and on that day, I pushed him out and listened to him take his first breath, make his first sound and was the only thing that could sooth him from his crying. I knew immediately upon giving birth that I wanted to do that again. Yeah, the 9 months were crappy. I puked EVERY SINGLE DAY. I had stretch marks, I had hemorrhoids, I had tears in places I won't mention, I had burst blood vessels in my face, my bladder was a wreck. But, holy crap. I had a baby. It was then that I realized that birthdays are the most amazing day-not in the life of the baby, child, kid... They are the most amazing day in the life of the mother.

When my daughter was born 6 years ago, it was a very different kind of experience. First, I knew exactly what I was in for, and I was really not looking forward to the pain. But, I was ready to meet my child-especially since the gender was a surprise to everyone. But, just 9 short months before I gave birth to my second child, I lost my own mother. I won't lie. It was a bittersweet day. It was the day that BIRTHDAY really became unbelievably burned in my head as an amazing day. The day that I was born was the day my mother got to meet me for the first time. It was the day that the two of us shared what was unlike any other day. My birthday, March 10th, 1973, was the day that my mother's life changed. It was the day she felt powerful. It was the day she first heard me cry. It was the day she had imagined for nine months. It was the day that she and I became mother and daughter.

Five days before my own daughter was born, I spent my very first birthday without my mother. It was the saddest day of my life. The day she died, very sad. The funeral day, very sad. What would have been my parent's 38th wedding anniversary, very sad. Thanksgiving, Christmas... all very sad. But, I never felt more alone than the first time I celebrated my own birthday without my mother. What did it feel like? It felt like I could not breathe, I could not see. It felt like something had been torn from me. I felt that something was absolutely, positively wrong. Of course, on the outside, all you could see was a woman who was 9 months pregnant. I was a woman with a loving husband, family and a 23 month old, amazing boy. But, I was a woman-totally and completely lost.

My own birthday was missing the star performer. The person who made it all happen-was gone-Forever. It was the day that I realized that birthdays are the most amazing days of any person's life-it is the day that you and your mother become, well, you and your mother. It is a day that your mother will never forget.

Five days later, I met my baby girl and named her after my own mother. I cried. I was happy-absolutely. But, of course, something was missing.

I get birthdays. I really do. It ain't about the kid. I will tell you that. Have a party but remember the woman who made it all possible.

I think that each year, birthdays should celebrate the mother. Give that woman a party-For God's sake-she deserves it.

April 13, 2003.

March 15, 2005

me and my mom. Not on my birthday. 1995 Columbia SC.


Cindy J said...

I was so touched by this, Julie. Thank you for sharing and for offering a good reminder about the side of birthdays we don't usually think about. And the value of the parents who gave us life. :)

Judy said...

You made me cry, Julie. God bless you and all mothers everywhere!

Cristina Tofan said...

Julie, you made me cry with this post! You really did. I cannot imagine the loneliness that I will feel when my own mother passes away. Kids' birthdays should indeed be about the mother.

Patti S. said...

Julie, your story was so touching. Seeing you grow up from afar and knowing what a special person your mom was makes this so relevant. You gave a special meaning to birthdays.

luvminniemouse said...

Thank you for sharing this!! My Mom's 1st birthday is coming up (April 20) without my Grandmother, who passed away April 22 (2 days after her birthday last year). I miss my Grandmother like you wouldn't believe, but I can't even imagine what my Mom will be going through.

Sheila Mc said...

Beautifully written! Julie, you should write more often. From experience, never quite the same when your Mom is gone - but we must pull from the strength our Moms instilled in us and be the best Mothers we can be - & you are!! I thank God for the priviledge of Motherhood.

foxtwin said...

God bless Mommies.