I was dreading that day, the day my handsome birth son turned 1. Looking back, the anxiety that had been building up to that day was far worse than the actual day itself. It wasn’t that he was turning 1. It was all the memories and feelings that were flooding back that I thought I’d never have to feel again. What got me through it, though, was allowing myself to feel every single detail of the day he was born and letting the tears flow. I let myself feel the sadness, the anger, the hurt. There were so many tears I thought I’d never stop, but those tears dried, and a smile had crept upon my face. At that moment, I found myself at peace. It was the first time I had felt so at peace since the moment I found out I was pregnant. It was the first time I really, truly let myself feel.
1. Don’t be afraid to take a personal day.
Keeping busy can certainly help to keep our mind off of things. Instead of spending the day working and putting on a brave face, take a personal day. Surround yourself with people you choose to be around and doing the things that you choose to do.
2. Do something for yourself.
Go get a pedicure, go buy those new shoes, go take a walk around your favorite park, treat yourself to your favorite restaurant. Find something that puts a smile on your face, and go do it!
3. Indulge in your favorite dessert!
A cupcake, a doughnut, a package of your favorite cookies. Whatever the sweet is that makes your mouth water, go get it for yourself. While you’re at it, stick a candle in it and sing Happy Birthday. Remember, this day not only honors your birth child, but honors you as well. The day you brought a perfect little human into the world.
4. Relive the moments leading up to your child’s birth, and let the tears fall.
This will be one of the hardest things to do, but the feeling of relief that washes over you as you do a play-by-play and cry is quite honestly one of the greatest feelings ever. Hands down, this is what got me through. I was trying so hard to forget. I was trying so hard to shove the emotions deep down for fear of the pain that came with them. Truth be told, that was causing more pain and heartache than just allowing myself to feel. Look at all of the pictures you have. Any maternity photos, photos from the hospital, any mementos you may have. The first step towards healing is feeling. I was induced nine days past my due date. I remember tossing and turning all night, so ready for the aches and pains to go away but not ready for my little boy to no longer be in my belly. I remember every detail from crying when my alarm went off that Wednesday morning to the burger I ate with tears streaming down my face after leaving the hospital–details I didn’t want to think about but felt so good releasing. Feel it. Feel it all and let the tears flow.
5. Make a list of the positives.
Now that you’ve had a good cry session, focus on the positive. It is so hard to look past the pain, the sadness, and the what ifs that we forget to take a step back and look at all the positive that has come from it. My birth son has absolutely incredible parents, who were ready and patiently waiting for him to come and complete their family. My family and I are so blessed to still be a part of his life. Make a list and keep it tucked away or even display it on your mirror as a daily reminder.
6. Contact them.
If you’re able to, give them a phone call. Send them an email. Mail your little one a package. Perhaps you can spend the afternoon together. Don’t be afraid to reach out, but know and respect any boundaries.
7. Start a charm bracelet, a collage, a quilt
A birth mom friend of mine told me how she had started a charm bracelet in honor of her birth daughter. Each year she finds a charm that represents what is going on in her birth daughter’s life around her birthday. I fell in love with this idea. He had started walking around his birthday this year, so I started my bracelet off with a baby shoe charm. Perhaps you are into photography. Take a picture of whatever it is that reminds you of your birth child, and create a photo album just for you. The beauty of this is how creative and unique you can get in honor of you and your birth child’s special day.
Practice self-care, letting yourself feel, and honoring yourself and your birth child each and year-round, not just their their birthday. This is what can help get you through the darker days and into the sunshine. If you can make it through the year of firsts, you can surely accomplish anything.