It's officially September, which means we're smack-dab in the middle of birthday season.
Ruby hit 5 in August and her jeans are all high-waters overnight. I find her throughout the day with one of her front teeth gripped between her thumb and pointer - so sure she'll be losing a tooth any day now.
Silas is inching toward 3, so I'm contemplating whether or not I'll stop referring to him as a baby. "You're such a good baby!" "Are you a happy baby? A nice baby?" I can't help myself. I'm making up for lost time, here. We've stretched out his baby-ness for as long as we can, but three might be pushing it. Then again, he is small for his age...
My kids' birthdays do something to me. They twist me up, tenderize me. It's normal to get a little fogged up and nostalgic, to allow your mind to wander back to that first time you locked eyes with your child, to summon a mental imagine of them with a baby faux-hawk or arms with rolls that you could lose your spare change in, or even that houdini pacifier. For me, it goes beyond memory lane and rib-crushing hugs. There's a certain sadness stirred into the cupcakes and the gratitude and the miles-wide joy.
I don't just remember the first time I laid eyes on my daughter, I remember standing helpless at the bedside of her beautiful, courageous birth mom as she hurt and cried and sweated and fought my daughter into this world, single-handedly making it infinitely more beautiful.
I remember the first time Silas called me Mommy then I flip the memory over to find an image of his foster mom - the one he knew as Oma - stitched to the backside.
I think of Calvin, a first-grader now with the banged up shins and toothless grin to prove it and I can almost hear his first mama doing the math, too.
My memories of my children are tied thin but strong to the life they lived before we entered it. Those months are a part of them, the very start of them.
So while we blow out candles, I whisper in a prayer for her, or her, or her. I will her to know that her baby is healthy and well. I pray that she has peace. I celebrate a little extra and pretend later that night, when the house is quiet, that I can pass some of the extra on to her.
Before God created my family in this magical, grace-filled way, I had no idea of the unique gift of a birth family. I could never have imagined the way that I would be gripped with love for them. I wouldn't have guessed that they would lend clarity to my faith.
We carry them with us every day. We carry them nearer still on the anniversaries of days when they loved in ways that most can't understand. It's an honor to stir a bit of their loss back into our gain. It's inadequate and, truthfully, they probably don't receive all of the telepathic messages I send from my kitchen sink.
But maybe they feel it, just a little. Maybe the love that brought us together keeps us together.