Sunday, March 1, 2009


Today is my birthday, along with my twin sister and my nephew - I remember the day he was born at about 23 weeks gestation. He is eight now and his birthday is definitely worth celebrating. He made it against very definite and difficult odds. That is when you're thankful for modern medicine. It does save lives.

Growing up, I hated having my birthday on a Sunday because it meant going to church - a definite non-birthday activity. We went to mass last night so I don't have to go to church this morning. Anyways going to mass has a different feeling than going to church as a PK. Fridays and Saturdays were the best days to have a birthday and weekdays were okay. I remember starting standardized testing on my birthday in sixth grade.

My husband and I have argued about whether you should celebrate your birthday on the actual day or just on the closest weekend. My opinion is that you should have your birthday celebration on your birthday because it's about celebrating that magical moment of birth - a moment only really experienced by you and your mother (unless of course she was knocked out/asleep for your birth) and less about celebrating you and your life. When my first daughter was born, I felt like I could almost hear the angels sing. I think that is the moment we're celebrating. My husband agrees with that part and that your solar return (astrology - when your sun returns to the same point in your chart that it was in when you were born) is also important but that the celebration is just an administrative/organizing detail that is less important and can happen whenever. I can see his point. I wouldn't necessarily have a group party with friends, etc on my actual birthday if it wasn't convenient. But I think it's important to have the family party on the actual day.

I mentioned the part about being knocked out for your birth because I'm reading "The Birth House" by Ami McKay. In the book, a doctor comes to the area and opens a maternity house or birthing center and his method is to knock out the mother (so she doesn't have to feel any pain), do an episiotomy, and pull the baby out with forceps. I think that deprives the mother of that magical moment of birth - leaving her disoriented and detached. Though there are times when it is medically necessary to do a c-section with or without general anesthesia, it's a different kind of magic for that kind of birth because everybody lives. A hundred years ago, if a mother had that kind of medical emergency, either the mother or the baby would die. But if it's not medically necessary, you lose the magical moment.

I was imagining my own birth this morning. I'm number four out of five and my mother didn't know for sure whether she was having twins or not. I was born first. So I imagine a pause and waiting before my sister was born. The doctor broke her water and she was breech and had the cord around her neck so he had to reach up and unwrap it. But I had paved the way and she was born only four minutes after I was. After giving birth myself, that is a short amount of time for pushing a baby out! We were also relatively small so we were checked out and wrapped up before my mom held both of us. Then she was the crazy mother who was trying to nurse twins - something she did succeed at though she says she felt like all she did was eat and nurse. But that was thirty one years ago.


  1. Happy Birthday Gretchen! Hope it was fun and not sicky sicky sicky like it is at our house. I wish you much sleep for your coming year... lots and lots of good rem sleep.


  2. Happy belated birthday! I tried to comment on this the other day, but you know about that. Stupid firefox.

    I like having big birthday parties on a day that isn't their actual birthday, and then small family moments on their birthday proper. It's an intimate day, full of big emotions, so it's easier for me to share just a weekend day with others, and then share those moments with the girls. :)

    I wish I had asked my mom about my birth before she passed away. The bits of it htat I get from my dad are all trauma and gore, but I remember my mom telling us our birth stories as kids - I wish I had listened more.