Today is my son’s first birthday.
For a first-time mother, that seems like a strange thing to say. With each passing year, our own age shows that we are getting older. That we have more experiences and more life behind us than the year before. Then we have children, and we have one more number to count our lives by. One more life that gives us more to love and more to learn from. Another life that will fill each year with memories and milestones.
But this past year has been different. So different than I ever imagined the first year of my first child’s life would be.
The intricate, gray pattern of grief is woven with pieces of joy that sometimes catch the light and shine a little brighter. Joy at the fact that I do have a son, and that he made us a family. And that our love for him will never go away. There is so much joy to be had by knowing that he is ours forever. But there is also so much sadness at that fact that we only physically got him for a short amount of time.
Our celebrations today are laced with sadness. We have a cake for the two of us, but no little cake to be smashed. There are no gifts, no balloons, no bright-eyed baby confused by all the commotion. Just myself, my husband, and our empty home. We ordered sky blue flowers for ourselves that happily remind us of our boy. They also remind us of the flowers that adorned his grave the day we buried him. Bright, beautiful, and delicate, but a sad symbol of what should be here. Of who should be here.
This past year was filled with many milestones and feats, but not the kind we had anticipated. There were no first smiles, the discovering of toes, no recognition that he could finally hold his own head up. No crawling, no first steps, no gurgles of words. No hugs or kisses from his grandparents or uncles or aunts. No late nights and early mornings with our dark-haired, happy baby. Instead, we have had twelve months of working through our grief, and trying to find a way to maintain even a sliver of our optimism. We’ve made many trips to the cemetery, spent countless hours crying, and have purchased many items in remembrance of our boy that we hoped would help fill the hole in our hearts.
We’ve passed over many “one-year” marks in the last year. The day we found out we were pregnant, our first ultrasound, the day we found out he was a boy, the week we put the nursery together, the days we started to worry, and the afternoon we found out we’d lost him. As each of those days came and went, we remembered them with great intensity, and a great sadness. Today will be the same. At 8:51 am, we will relive that final push. We will relive the doctor placing a still baby on my chest. We will relive all the tears we shed that morning as we held and loved our sweet boy. And we will relive having to say goodbye.
October 27, 2016 was the very best and very worst day of our lives. We became a family. We went from two to three, and added another little name to make memories with. We speak his name often, and remember him constantly. Even though he is not here, he is very much alive in our hearts.
Today is a day of sadness, but also a day of joy. One year of life without our boy, but also one year with him. One whole year that we would trade only to have him here with us.
Happy birthday, Carter. We miss you so much, and we love you so much more.