Growing up, birthdays always turned into some sort of sad memorial for the birth mother I never knew. I guess it was the realization of never having known her that turned a festive day into a full-blown day of mourning. On birthdays, If I focused long enough, I could imagine her eyes peering out at me from some unknown corner of the planet, or maybe I thought she was looking down upon me from the heavens. I always wondered if she thought of the baby girl she had left in that cold downtown hospital patrolled by nuns regimenting young unwed mothers while viciously guarding tiny newborns. “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to” remained my birthday theme song for many years.

I remember my sweet 16, which was the same age of my mother when she had me. My sweet father had planned a surprise party for me; there were bowed gifts, sprinkled cupcakes, and friends and family waiting for me at home. But I was nowhere in sight.

Somewhere between algebra class and the bus stop, I had plunged straight into a dark abyss of despair and self-pity and wallowed in it. They found me lying in a neighbor’s backyard; face down in the dirt, eyes stained with black mascara, and a stomach full of pink Boone’s Farm. Oh, I was in trouble– deep, dark trouble. I knew from that day forward, my salvation hinged upon finding her.

It took me 15 years–15 more stinking birthdays to do it– but I prevailed.

The day I met my birth mother was the day that void within me closed forever. Today, birthdays are as they should be: celebrations of life. Yes, another birthday is approaching, and I’m free from the fear that I will jump into an abyss of my own making. I’m happily awaiting my birthday, and my next, and my next… I cannot wait to hear my family, including my birth mother, wish me another year of happiness.

My only regret now is never having said “I’m sorry” to my dear old dad for being such an unruly teenager! Sorry, Daddy.