Regular blog readers will know, Elin's birthday is an occasion of mixed emotion for me if ever there was one. A complete double edged sword of joy and heartache. So in a nutshell by not having the party this year I'm hoping to avoid a dollop of anxiety that usually accompanies the day. On the face of it, we're tired. Elin's birthday is always the first weekend of the Summer hols. Anyone working in a school will know how manic the last week of term always is and trying to plan a party/BBQ for forty plus people during this week can be quite stressful. Not to mention the constant worrying about the weather, what with our house being the size of a postage stamp, rain would literally stop play. We've not been too unlucky in the past, but a downpour literally would grind things to a halt. Last year it basically did and poor visiting family had to attempt to towel dry the Frozen bouncy castle- deffo not ideal. Neither was Paul cracking two of his ribs on said bouncy castle whilst messing about with other equally irresponsible adults (Ha! You know who you are!!) and spending the evening in A&E. To cap it all Elin hasn't been 'right' for the past two years (does the huge influx of visitors confuse her too much we wonder?) thus making the point of a party for her debatable. So the decision not to hold one this year was, initially, a fairly easy one and one on which we both agreed. That was the decision our heads made. Our hearts made the same decision, but for different reasons:
The day Elin was born was both the best and worst day of my life. This is a juxtaposition that rarely a Mummy will find themselves in. I know I need not go over it again- it's all there in the previous six years of blog archives and I credit you with the empathy to understand. Seven years ago next Wednesday, my life ended and my baby died. But a new, different daughter gasped to life on a ventilator in an ICU unit a stones throw from us, her heartbroken parents and so she was re-born and so was life as we knew it. A miracle. A reprise, from God knows where. Another chance and the best moment of my life. But as reality slowly dawned for what this meant for my perfectly beautiful girl, also, of course, the worst moments of my life ensued. Because I wasn't ready to lose the child (and the life) I thought I was having and I wasn't ready to process the idea of the child the doctors knew Elin would become (after all what Mummy would be when all you can really focus on is whether your child will continue to take each breath).
So Elin's birthday takes me back to those moments each year, the joy, the pain, the ecstasy, the disbelief.....I have no words to adequately describe it in truth. It seems dramatic to say our lives were altered unequivocally in those short minutes surrounding her birth but it's difficult to quantify it any other way. Her birthday each year is an amazing triumph, a moment we feared we may never see, a true celebration . But it also acts as a stark reminder of what could have been. Not only that but it brings back memories, still so vivid, of the sheer horror of what happened when she silently slid into the world the colour of marble and we knew in our hearts in an instant nothing would ever quite be the same again- before we could possibly have truly known. Someone suffering from PTSD once told me it's like being in a car crash and re-visiting the scene each year and re-living it bit by bit. Yes. It is. no fond memories of happy phone calls and gifts and balloons and home-coming for us. Just pain, distilled and agonising. This is quite something to bear each year and it never really gets easier. When Elin was little, the parties were appropriate- everyone has parties' for tots and we all accept the celebration is mainly for the adults as invariably the child has no idea what a birthday is- but will enjoy looking at the photo's in the future and will gradually, maybe two or three years down the line start understanding what a party is. For me, I watch how Elin year in, year out will never get past the baby stage. She doesn't know it's her birthday (and Im not suggesting that she doesn't know something special is happening, but I have to be honest with myself here) . She will never look back at the photo's fondly in the future (though we will). Her lovely little friends are growing up. They jump on the bouncy castle, they chat and make people laugh and splash in the paddling pool. They eat the cake. They play with the toys in the party bags I made. All whilst Elin gazes mutely on and sits on laps getting stressed and dystonic and can't do any of it. At her own birthday party. Even though she is no longer a 'tot' and hasn't been for many a year. And I watch it all, so grateful for the love people have for her and the fact that they have come, in some cases from all over the country, my heart swelling with pride and happiness whilst simultaneously shattering into a million broken pieces with an ache that literally stops me in my tracks.
And I feel, of course like the worst Mum ever (nobody does guilt like me). I feel like I'm letting Elin down somehow and that I'm not showing my gratitude to the people I care most about in the world for their support. Elin's birthday has been a wonderful reminder in the past at just how much she is cherished by all our family and friends and how everyone realises the magnitude of her reaching another birthday happy and well. But I just didn't know if I could do it again this year. So we're not. Desperately hoping that nobody is offended, that everybody understands. We're not, of course, ignoring the birthday- are you mad? We're choosing instead to have a small tea party on Wednesday (the day of her actual birthday) for family and there WILL be an amazing cake as usual of course. This seems like a good compromise. But Elin's birthday doesn't feel like a time we should be putting undue pressure on ourselves and if life with Elin has taught me anything at all, it's go with your gut. This year, my gut says no birthday bonanza. Next year could be totally different- absence makes the heart grow fonder after all! My gut and I will keep you informed.
Thank you for understanding.
Birthday party's past......