I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I don’t really like making a big deal out of my birthday. My inlaws, because they didn’t even know me until I was well into my 30s, assume it’s because I don’t like to celebrate the fact that I’m another year older. Since my birthday happens to fall on Earth Day they like to call me up and wish me a happy Earth Day. But the truth is my reluctance to make a big deal on the anniversary that marks the day I was born has absolutely nothing to do with my age. I’m 45 and have no problem saying that out loud. No, I don’t have a big celebration for entirely different reasons.
I didn’t always want to pass up the chance to celebrate my birthday. As a kid it was, like most other kids, a day I looked forward to. It meant a birthday party or maybe a sleepover. It meant cake and presents and all the awesome things that come with having a birthday. So, given the fact that my change of heart over birthday celebrations came when I was an adult I can see why people might assume it has something to do with not wanting to acknowledge that I’m another year older. But it’s not.
I have had two mothers, sort of, in my life. There is the mother that I actually called mother. The one that adopted me and raised me. The one that baked me the birthday cakes and threw me the parties. The one that bought me birthday presents and wrapped them and watched with delight as I opened them. Then there is the mother that, at 18 years old, made the decision to give me up for adoption. A decision that I assume was a difficult one, or maybe, given the time, she wasn’t even really given a choice at all. So, yes, I had two mothers.
Yes, had. I haven’t seen or spoken to my mom (the one I called mom) for over eight years now except for brief contact that can’t be avoided at things like weddings and funerals. She has met my now seven year old daughter once, when she was about 6 weeks old. I won’t get into the whole sad story here of what went wrong there. If you are so inclined you can read about it here. Long story short – it was a toxic relationship that took me years to get free of but in the end it had to be done.
Then there is my other mother. I admit, that 20 years ago when I found her, and reached out to her, that her decision to completely ignore my existence really stung. And it took me a long time to let that go. But, for the most part, I did. Maybe not entirely, but the important thing is that even if it does still hurt a bit to think about that rejection, I understand better now. I’m older and just get things better now than I did when I was 20. I am also a mom now myself. I can’t tell you why she continues to pretend I don’t exist but she has her reasons and she’s allowed to have them. I don’t know her story.
So, now we are getting down to nitty gritty of why I don’t make a big deal out of my birthday. Because I have two mothers, two fathers, two brothers, one half brother and two half sisters and out of those nine people one of them, my baby brother, might call or text me on my birthday. Now, to be fair, my half siblings have only known they have an older sister for a few years and I’ve only met them (well two of them) once. And I honestly don’t know if my biological father even knows I exist. But it’s not about me being upset about who does or doesn’t call me on my birthday. It’s not about blame. It’s just quite simply a day that makes me a little sad. A day where I think about my family, and especially my mothers, and wonder if they are thinking about me. Do they ever consider, even for a split second, calling me, or maybe putting a card in the mail, or is it just another day in April for them?
This is why my birthdays are low key. I don’t completely ignore the day. That wouldn’t be fair to my own daughter. She loves celebrating birthdays and she would be so sad if she couldn’t celebrate mine. So yes we have a small celebration. A nice dinner, a cake that my daughter and husband usually put together, a present or two. And it’s perfectly sweet and lovely and exactly what I want from a birthday. And if you happen to see me on my birthday don’t be afraid to say Happy Birthday. It will make me smile.