I know that a first birthday party has everything to do with me and literally nothing to do with a baby that will have no recollection of the banners, birthday cake, and coordinating plastic forks.
I know rushing around picking up the balloons and locating the birthday outfit has everything to do with my needing to satisfy the desire to commemorate making it through the sleepless nights and constant second-guessing that is motherhood.
I know all of this. But let’s face it–the first birthday is a huge milestone for many of us moms. Now, in the midst of a global pandemic, I have no idea what my baby’s upcoming first birthday will even look like. And I have to admit: I’m struggling with that truth.
A Day Worth Celebrating
My husband and I went through a decade of fertility treatments before we had our first daughter and when she turned one, we invited everyone we knew. As I flitted around refilling the taco meat and cheese trays and making sure there were enough spoons for the condiments, I swore I was never going to do this again. But I mean, we went through so much — we needed this party to show good things can come out of madness.
My second baby was born five weeks early, and I spent eleven days in the hospital. I’ve walked through the fire of infertility and preeclampsia for both my kids. I remembered my vow that I wasn’t going to go all out on a first birthday again, but then again, I knew everything we had been through again was worth making a big deal over. You only turn one once, right?
Regardless of my mixed feelings, COVID hit and with it, my plans for an all-out birthday celebration were even more muddled. As both my daughters’ birthdays started rapidly approaching and I knew I was going to have to revisit what I envisioned birthday celebrations to be.
A Different Kind of Birthday Party
As much as I had planned on being OK with a toned-down birthday complete with my oldest’s decoration choices, (I’m looking at you, PJ Masks) a crowd-worthy simple meal, and a local Costco cake, I’ve realized just how much of our normal we’ve lost.
Scrolling through social media as my friends gave socially-distant birthday parties, I saw the drive-by waving with decorated cars and pictured the awkwardness of trying to attempt it on our dead-end street. My immediate family won’t be able to gather together because we have just many people for it to feel comfortable.
The truth is, facing the loss of what could have been makes me want to stomp my feet with the unfairness. That’s right, COVID is making my four-year-old more emotionally stable than me.
And I know, I know: my baby’s not going to remember this. Years from now, we’ll look back on her birthday and remember we did it “COVID-style.” But right now, I’m grieving that milestone I feel cheated out of because this is the last of the first birthdays.
"I’m grieving that milestone I feel cheated out of because this is the last of the first birthdays."
Even though there’s nowhere to place blame, I feel anger that I don’t even know what to plan for. It’s small, this problem I’m having, in the grand scheme of things, but as a mom, I am learning to give myself permission to realize my emotions matter too. I’m working on letting myself grieve these things, along with everything else going on in the world. I can still protect my family, but it’s all right to really want a normal freaking first birthday party for my baby.
I don’t know what the next few months will look like, but I do know one thing: whatever my daughter’s first birthday ends up looking like, it will still be special. It may not be what I planned for, but if this year has taught us anything, it’s that we are really good at making the best of our new normal.