I'd had a nagging feeling for the last week that I was forgetting something, or there was something I wanted to remember, but as it's not exactly unusual for me to be forgetting things, I didn't really think a whole lot about it. Life's been busy to put it mildly, and I've mostly been just thinking and living one day at a time. Yesterday a friend of mine posted on Facebook to her baby, that s/he should hurry up if s/he wanted his/her own birthday month, as two older siblings already have March birthdays. I know I received a text at 12:50 a.m. that her baby girl had been born, but I don't know yet if that happened before or after midnight.
This morning I spent a couple of hours at my friend Sue's house, with Lukas, Helen, and Elisabeth. Although Helen did start getting a bit wild towards the end, throwing Lego people around and so on, it was pretty much a very relaxed, peaceful morning which I enjoyed very much. I tried to feel a bit bad about not missing Katie in the slightest, since Katie not being there was the main reason it was so peaceful, but wasn't that successful. She's out all day today with Papa (my husband, to the internet friends who might read this and think I mean a grandfather!), to give her some one-on-one time, and to give me a break.
On the way home from Sue's, I suddenly remembered what it was that I had been forgetting. Last Thursday was the birthday of our actual fourth child, our third son, our only child with a February birthday. If he'd been born at term, he'd be six and a half years old now. Having been born six months premature, however, the day of his birth was also the last time we saw him. Every year until this one, I had remembered his birthday, but we've of course never "celebrated" it. Every year on his due-date I remember him, and many times in between. But I forgot his birthday this year.
He's one of three of our children who have never talked back to me. He's never cried all night, never spit up on me, never gotten into trouble of any kind. No issues with sibling rivalry, no teasing or shouting or jumping on me too early in the morning. (Well, he did wake me up that one time early in the morning, about an hour before he was born.) I never had to baby-proof for him or rush him to the emergency room. He'll never struggle to read or agonize over career choices. He'll never worry me with his choice of friends or his late-night activities. And most people would say I never got to know him, so how could I possibly miss him. I only held him in my hands once, for about ten minutes, and I don't even have a photo of him. But even though that was seven years ago, and I forgot his birthday this year , I will never, ever forget what he looked like. Or that he's my son.
I have six living children, not one of whom, not even the current bearer of the-most-difficult-child award, I would trade for any of my missing children, or anything else in the world. It really messes with my mind to know that if we had any one of the three we lost, we wouldn't have at least one or two of the others we do have. I wouldn't trade any one of the children I have for any of the other ones I have, either. They're six totally unique individuals, fascinating little people who have made me cry but have also made me laugh. I want to keep all of them. And at the same time, know that it's not mine to decide, any more than I had any say in the lives of the three that I didn't get to keep on earth. Mostly, I love them to pieces. Watching Elisabeth crawl right now while I type this is as amazing to me as it was watching my first baby crawl. Listening to Helen experiment with new vocabulary and new sentence structure blows my mind as much as it ever did with her older siblings. It doesn't get old. I can hardly stand up straight under the awesomeness of what's been entrusted to me.
My friend gave birth to her ninth child last night, although most people think she's her eighth. I also have nine children, even though you can only see six. And I love all of them.