The Would-Have-Been-Birthday

Jaxson’s due date was November 20. And by the time that rolled around, he was already 4 months old.

Last year, the time surrounding Jaxson’s due date pissed me off. I was angry that I did not get to experience a third trimester. I was mad that I missed out on baby showers and nesting before the baby came. I regretted that I did not know what it was like to be hugely, uncomfortably pregnant. I was disappointed when I packed up my maternity clothes after Jax was born and realized that most of them still had the tags. I was mad that my son had to live in the hospital for 3 months before he got to come home. I was mad and sad and guilty that he had to fight so damn hard to live. It was not a happy occasion.

Some preemie families celebrate their preemie’s actual birthday as well as what I like to call their “would-have-been-birthday” or their birthday if they would have been born on their due date. I don’t understand this. I mean, how often are babies born on their actual due dates anyway? Do “normal” families celebrate the due date of a child who was born 4 days later? Or earlier? I don’t know…but I don’t think so?

For me, this “would-have-been-birthday” isn’t really something to be celebrated anyway.

For me, it’s just a reminder of what Jax has had to endure in the last 16 months. Living in the NICU all alone for 93 days. 120 doctor, specialist, and therapy appointments since he’s been home. Six surgeries and general anesthesia three times. Early Intervention. So much poking and prodding and evaluating and sometimes, judging.

I can see it in stranger’s eyes when they say “oh – he’s 16 months old? Then he must be walking in circles around you and talking your ear off!” Oh. I say, “Well…no, he doesn’t walk or talk yet.” And every time I wonder if I should have lied and said he was 12 months old instead. Would they understand then? And in that split second, I decide if I’m going to explain about adjusted age versus actual age. And if I’m going to take the next 10 minutes to reveal Jaxson’s story. Most of the time I just say “He was born really early, so he has some time to catch up.” (Read more about actual age and an adjusted age.)

This year, I’m less angry and more sad. I have a hard time sometimes giving Jax that extra time to catch up. I want him so badly to be a 16 month old little boy who plays with his cousins all winter long and walks and talks. I want him to be a little boy who does not recognize his doctor. I want him to be a boy who spends more time playing with his friends than he does in therapy. I’m sad that this is Jax’s story.

I’m sad because we should be celebrating Jax’s first birthday today. But we aren’t.

(But Jax could care less! And I guess that’s all that matters, right?)


Author: Andrea M

Oh man, what an adventure! I went into labor unexpectedly when I was 23w3d pregnant. Jaxson was born weighing 1 lb 8 oz. A tiny little peanut, but boy was he feisty. He still is! We love it now, but we probably won't when he is a teenager. I write about our journey and all other things that come with it, including a brain tumor. We look forward to "meeting" you - come hang out with us...we're pretty cool.

8 thoughts on “The Would-Have-Been-Birthday”

  1. I gave birth to twin boys at 25 weeks in September. The whole missing my 3rd trimester thing is something that really gets me down. I was placed on hospital bed rest at 21 weeks and not knowing how long I’d be out of the office they created a temp position. She’s there until the end of December and is hugely pregnant right now (she’s due in January). So now that I’m back to work (so I can take off more time when they boys come home), I get to share a close space with someone who is in her 3rd trimester. I try not to dwell on it, but it seems insanely cruel to me.
    Also, with twins my due date was sort of arbitrary anyway so I wasn’t really attached to it. I spent my pregnancy saying things like, “Well, 40 weeks would be January 1st, but with twins . . .”


    1. Oh Amber – that sucks! I’m sure it’s so difficult to be constantly reminded of what you did not have. Sounds like you have a great company to work for, though – it’s great that they kept your position available to you. I worked while Jax was in the hospital, too, so I could save up my time off for when he came home. Congrats on your twins! Will you tell me more about them?


  2. This is another reason why I believe age should start at conception versus delivery date like they do in other countries. I don’t know you or Jax but have been following your blog and it is so wonderful to see how far Jax has come!! God Bless!


    1. I didn’t know that – thanks for sharing! Interesting and it makes sense to start age at conception. Thanks for commenting and for being with us on our journey. 🙂


  3. Another great post! What-ifs suck, I think as parents whether we have healthy children or not we are constantly asking “what-if”. I think its great that Jaxson does know his doctors, it’s easier then having him afraid of them. It does suck he knows them so well 😦 Jaxson has come so far. He is adorable and after seeing him Friday my heart melted when he smiled, his whole body smiled! 🙂 Yes he has some catching up to do but your doing an amazing job making sure he gets the help, continuing to teach him, nuture him and most importantly love him. It does get tiring running from one appointment to another, but in the end watching him grow and leap over each obstacle is proof your doing something right. And then theres that smile and giggle. I hope for one amazing all over head to toe smile from your little boy for you everyday.


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