I called my mother on the day that my daughter turned one year old. Decades prior, my mother had given birth as well, on the same date.
“Happy birth day,” I said to my mom.
“Happy birthday,” she replied.
“No, mom, happy birth day. Birthing day.”
My mom laughed. We had a moment. Even if it was over the phone.
I’ve always had a thing about birthdays, but it wasn’t until I was a mom myself that I really understood the miracle of bringing a new life into the world. To the person for whom we celebrate the day, the day is really about marking time, but for those of us who were around on the actual birth day, each year this birthday takes on so much more meaning. I see and feel that meaning now that I am a mom.
Just one year ago, there I was, calling our emergency “babysitter,” a family friend, to watch our older daughter as we prepared to go to the hospital. As the doula rubbed on my back and I tried to scarf down some tapioca pudding in between contractions, I kinda knew what was in store for me, as I had done it before, but…you never know.
I remember waking up the day before, one Saturday morning, with contractions. As a rabbi, I was supposed to officiate as a student became a bar mitzvah that day, but naturally, someone else was on-call. After I woke up and the contractions subsided, I decided to head to services anyway. Hell, if my water broke or something, right on the bimah (the stage), well then…we’d just deal with it.
But that didn’t happen. My contractions went away, just for the duration of the service, then started up again after I went home. I gave birth early the next morning. Even though I was five days past my due date, sometimes things happen right on time.
On my baby’s birthday, I will always be connected to my mother and all the other mothers who experience the miracle of birth. Somehow, I don’t remember that pain. I know it was bad, but can’t really describe it in hindsight. That’s because when I look into my baby’s eyes and when she nestles into the space under my chin, I thank God for the miracle she is and I know that whatever I went through was…nothing, nothing at all. In those moments when my baby cuddles with me, my heart is so full and nothing else matters.
Happy birth day, Mom.
Happy birthing day to me.
And happy birthday to my baby.