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?)