Bittersweet Birthdays

Tomorrow my baby turns ten.

Like any Mom, I love watching my children grow and become these amazing little people.  And like any Mom, I also just want them to stay little forever.

However, unlike some (most?) Moms, I actually get sad on my son’s birthday.

Birthdays for the past few years with Brian have felt bittersweet to me.

Tomorrow morning he’ll come down the stairs to find his favorite breakfast foods and his family ready to celebrate him turning ten.  There will be a present and candles in the french toast.  We’ll sing to him.  We’ll ask him how old he is.  He’ll reply, “Old are you?”.  We’ll ask again and show him ten fingers and he’ll happily say, “TEN!”.  He’ll rip into his birthday breakfast present (it’s a penguin exhibit for his Playmobil zoo- don’t tell him!).  And immediately run upstairs to add it to the zoo that is now taking up about half of his bedroom.

His smile and his excitement will keep me smiling for the rest of the day.

Then that night after our pizza dinner, he’ll cuddle up with me on the couch like he does every night.  He’ll suck his thumb and I’ll run my fingers through his hair and my mind will ramble.


Happy Baby Brian

I’ll remember the moment I first held him in my arms.  My mind will go through all of his first milestones, remembering what a happy baby he was.  Remembering how he would engage with his brother and laugh at him all the time.  I’ll remember him running down the hallway when he was just nine months old with that mischievous look in his eyes.  I’ll remember how he blew everyone away with learning signs before his first birthday and how he would have ten-minute long “jabbering” conversations with his grandfather.

I’ll remember when he started to slip away from me.  When the head banging started, the tantrums started, the language and eye contact disappeared.  I’ll remember how isolated I felt when I couldn’t bring him out anywhere.  I’ll remember getting the diagnosis.

I’ll think about all of the battles and paths we’ve taken since then.  Different treatments, therapies, supplements, doctors.  I’ll remember the trip to Texas that really turned Brian’s regression around and got him to come back into our world.

I’ll remember each time he made us proud by saying a new word, tolerating a change in routine, learning a new self help skill, slept through the night, showing empathy to his brother.  Every little thing he does makes us proud.

I’ll be thinking about him being ten.  I’ll be comparing him to Corbin when he turned ten.  I’ll be thinking that each year that he gets older the gap between him and his typical peers widens.   Another year gone that we can’t get back. I’ll be wondering if another year will go by without him gaining conversational language.   I’ll be thinking that it is only 8 more years until I’ll most likely be signing the paperwork to be his legal guardian for the rest of his life.  I’ll be questioning what his life will look like as an adult, I have no way of knowing.  Will he live with us?  Will he want to live in a group home?  Will he have gained enough skill that he could actually live on his own?

And mostly I’ll be wondering, Is he happy?  Am I doing everything I can?  Is he as happy as he can be?

These aren’t all things I want to think about on my son’s birthday, but they’ll pop up.

And then he’ll take his thumb out of his mouth and whisper, “Mom”, as he rubs my cheeks, like he does right before he falls asleep.  My ten year old boy will have fallen asleep in my arms for another night.  My perfect, amazing, sweet ten year old boy.

Heather Nelson

About Heather Nelson

Heather resides in Rockland where she is busy juggling life as a newlywed, a mom to two boys (one of which who has autism), a part time job in direct sales, and a full-time job as a pediatric occupational therapy assistant. She has a love for live music, karaoke, and cheering on the underdogs.