Friday, December 9, 2011

It's always been a happy birthday


Max is turning nine tomorrow, which is hard to believe. In some ways, it feels like the years have zoomed by. In some ways, it feels like I have been through several lifetimes.

I haven't been dwelling on Max's birth day itself and what happened afterward because I have moved past the trauma. Well, mostly I have. But I no longer get sad around this time of year, like I used to when he was very young.

1st birthday

What I couldn't understand back in Max's first years was that no matter what challenges the future held, I had a beautiful child who was genuinely and truly happy. Max smiled at me in his third month, and he has been grinning abundantly ever since.

2nd birthday

He wasn't the least bit depressed about what had happened to him. Max just knew to be happy, to try his best to do things, to enjoy life and all the chocolate pudding and ice-cream it had to offer.

3rd birthday

Just like Max, I had a big learning curve ahead of me. Because I wasn't thinking about the blessing of Max's happiness. No, I was thinking about gross-motor skills and fine-motor skills and oral-motor skills and all of the stuff that challenged him. Mostly, I worried.

4th birthday

Sometimes, at birthday parties, I'd look at other children happily running around or eating their cake, doing their typical-kid things. And I'd look at Max, happily doing his own thing, and I could only see what he wasn't doing.

5th birthday

I didn't appreciate his joy. There was a time when I'd go to Max's class at school with birthday treats and I'd get all choked up when the teacher, aides and I sang "Happy Birthday To You." I couldn't accept that Max was in a school for kids with special needs. I wasn't feeling the happy in the birthday.

6th birthday

As Max got older, though, the sadness receded. I thought less about Max's challenges and focused more on his progress and what he was able to do. I learned to stop projecting my ideas of bliss onto him. I grew to understood that, no matter what, this child had a good life.


His birthdays became a truly happy occasion for all of us.


Today, I went to Max's school with ice-cream cups that had Cars 2 stickers on top. Max was utterly and totally out of his head with happiness. Me, I couldn't stop beaming. We both went around and gave the other kids high-fives and discussed chocolate vs. vanilla ice-cream and generally had a great time.


Max has never been the least bit bliss-challenged. All of his birthdays have been happy.

And for that, on the eve of his ninth birthday, I am very grateful.

31 comments:

  1. I needed this sooo much. Thank you for the reminder and the hope that it will get better as the years pass.

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  2. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAX!!!! I HOPE THAT YOU GET ALL THE CARS 2 and ICE CREAM CAKE YOU WANT!:) YOU ARE THE GREATEST BOY EVER!!! I STILL LOVE YOUR PURPLE MAX AND BLUE C SONG IT MAKES ME SMILE EVERY TIME!

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  3. Happy Birthday Max! Thank you and your mom for sharing your birthdays with us. You make me smile every time I see your bright eyes and big smile in a photo. Much happiness to you...

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  4. You almost perfectly described my progression through the years with Sarah Kate, who will turn nine on the 27th. She's a happy child and has never cared about her limitations as much as I have - or, more specifically, how I used to.

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  5. Happy Birthday Max. You have the most amazing smile that even in that first photo of your first birthday, you looked absolutely gorgeous. What a smile. And a nice thick head of hair. I want your hair Max.

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  6. Happy 9th Birthday, Max! 9 is my favorite number because my birthday is on March 9 (and I was born in 1979) and when I was your age I rode on bus #9 to school!

    Have a wonderful, blissful, purple-filled day my friend Max! I think of you a lot (like, every time I see something Cars 2 related or the color purple) and wish you the best year ever!

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  7. Happy Birthday Max! Ellen I want to thank you. My son was born in April 2009. He has PVL and we were told more than likely he would have CP. We immediately started reading blogs by parents of children with CP. Reading your blog really has helped us make sure we take the time to just enjoy him and not just focus on early interventions.

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  8. BW aka Barbara from BostonDecember 9, 2011 at 7:04 PM

    Thanks for sharing your joy in Max and Sabrina, Ellen. Great photos - too cute!

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  9. love seeing all the great birthday photos.

    happy, happy birthday max!

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  10. I love seeing baby pictures of Max. He's the cutest baby!

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  11. Happy Birthday Max! Hope you had an amazingly wonderful, purplicious day!

    Lauri

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  12. Wooohoo! Happy birthday Max :) Hope you have an awesome, awesome day and a very cool year ahead :)

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  13. He is such a cute and happy guy. Happy birthday!

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  14. Happy birthday to Max!

    We work hard to appreciate the positive and celebrate the joy, rather than dwell on the can'ts, too :)

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  15. Happy 9th Birthday to Max! Thanks for a great post, and all the tears on a Saturday afternoon. I have a 2.5 year old with Spina Bifida, and lately I have been consumed by all the NOT's and find myself slipping into worries and differences and huge panics about the future. I am trying to be conscious of being "in the moment" and just enjoying all my of my daughter's abundant happiness. Thanks for the reminder that I'm not the only person who faces these things...and that you can enjoy the things worth enjoying.

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  16. Great pictures of Max through the years. I'm glad Max knows how to celebrate--we can all learn a thing or two from him!

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  17. Happy birthday Max. Thanks Ellen for taking us through yor years with him. Like we say around here, I can feel you.

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  18. Beautifully said! And an important reminder for all of us who feel those twinges of regret on birthdays or other events. Happiest Birthday to Max! You are a gift to all of us.

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  19. I loved this, Ellen. As Andi said, you've mirrored my progression over the years with my now ten-year-old son. It took me several years to realize the pattern of weepiness around his birthday. I likened it to PTSD, due to the unexpected delivery at 26 weeks. I don't cry anymore either, now!

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  20. happy birthday, max!

    thank you so much for posting this.

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  21. Happy Birthday, Max! Your smile brightens my days and your bliss inspires everyone who reads this blog!
    As your Mama says you "have a (very) good life" . And your joy changes the world in ways you'll never know.
    ENJOY your purple chocolate celebration! We're all rejoicing with you!

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  22. Great stuff, I am jealous that you are so organized with the pictures by age! And they are all lovely!
    Mazel Tov!

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  23. Happy, happy birthday Maxipoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  24. Happy Birthday to Max! And thanks for this post. It's a great reminder that we need to enjoy the children we have, and not mourn their differences.

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  25. Happy Belated Birthday Max and Ellen you shouldn't beat yourself up for how you felt in the past at least you got over your state of mourning my parents are still stuck there almost 21 years later.

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  26. I'm in tears after reading this post and I'm not entirely sure I can articulate the "why." Maybe it's because we're creeping up on birthday #1 and there are still so many unknowns with our son. Maybe I'm a little concerned that I'll never be 100% able to live in the moment, free from thoughts of "if only...". I'm choosing to believe that I'll get there, Lord willing. In the meantime, thanks for sharing your experiences and candid thoughts and feelings along the way.

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  27. You've nearly perfectly described my emotional maturity ever since she was born. I no longer get depressed that she has very mild CP, I've come to accept that. Rapidly I'm getting past the pain I felt the first 1 week when she was in the NICU. Amelia is 4 months old now.

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Thanks for sharing!