The day I gave birth to my son wasn’t all hearts and flowers. It’s actually taken me many years to untangle the emotions of that day and the ones that followed. No matter how much you plan for having offspring, you cannot imagine what it will feel like until the day arrives and you’re living it. It was so hard, harder than I could have possibly foreseen.
But I’ll tell you right now: one of the best decisions I made in the first year of his life was throwing myself a party on his birthday.
I hated being pregnant. I hated not knowing what was coming, and I hated the attention, too. A few weeks before I gave birth, I was in a business meeting with a sales partner I’d worked with for years. Like everybody else, he brought the topic of conversation around to my burgeoning belly. He said, “You can read all the pregnancy books you want, listen to all the advice, and take all the classes. But as soon as that baby comes, you forget everything.” Of course I nodded politely and carried on, but I didn’t love hearing it. In another meeting, a man I’d never even met before was talking about parenting and then pointed at me and said, “Jamie, you’ll understand this soon.”
I couldn’t resist: I looked him dead in the eye and asked, “What do you mean?” And when he replied, “Well, aren’t you pregnant?” I told him: “Nope,” and watched him turn the darkest shade of red I’ve ever seen on a human being, before I finally admitted that I was kidding.
When my son was delivered, on his birth day, something happened. I did not know at the time, but when he entered my world, part of me left. It was as though part of myself stayed in that hospital room, while a different version of me was wheeled onto the postpartum ward. What followed over the next 48 hours can only be described as a traumatic experience. I shed layers of myself while dealing with a demoralizing battle with breastfeeding, a raging bladder infection, and insomnia. I felt transformed from a badass, opinionated ladyboss to somebody diminished and unrecognizable.
Once home from the hospital, things went from bad to worse. I battled more insomnia, panic attacks, and anorexia. The baby was just that: a baby. Not my son to cuddle and coo at, but a baby that required countless things to stay alive. And the idea that I had to do those things felt insurmountable. The idea that I would do this forever was incomprehensible.
I looked back longingly at my chic New York City lifestyle before delivering this child into the world and wondered how I could have let that go. While my well-meaning family suggested I just had a standard case of the “baby blues,” my therapist insisted this was something much bigger. She diagnosed me with a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder. And while 1 in 5 women in the US will experience this, I’d never heard those words laced together previously.
My whole maternity leave was spent in an out-patient program for other women struggling with motherhood. Five days a week, I walked a mile to the facility with my son in tow and received intensive counseling and group therapy. Among other things, the program was working to restitch the tear in my soul. But recovery is not a straight line, and some days were better than others. And some days were the darkest I’ve ever seen. I reached my lowest point outside of a Duane Reade in midtown, as I stared at the oncoming traffic and considered whether any of me should be here at all. I chose to stay.
Six months after my son’s birthday, the pieces of me I left in the hospital found their way back together. I recognized myself again in my career, back at the gym, over a glass of wine, and in the simplest laughter. I found my son too, and I fell in love with him. I looked forward to seeing him after work, I wanted to play with him and feed him, and I wanted to be a mom.
But as we approached his first birthday, and considered planning a party, the memories of our journey to get here played in my mind. I had an epiphany: This random day in July was not just my son’s birthday — it was also my birth-day, the day I literally gave birth. And I did a lot of work to make it happen, arguably all of the work. From the pregnancy to the push to learning how to be Mom and Me.
So I chose to celebrate my birth-date. I booked a bar, I put down a credit card, and invited all of my friends and family. I dressed up for drinks. My denim skirt was short, my shirt was cropped, and my body felt familiar again. The bar was deliciously loud with alternative 90s music, laughter, and that clink glasses make when they hit tabletops. Every person to greet me set off a chain reaction of memories spent together. The variety of people there meant a spectrum of memories from the me I used to be, to who I was becoming. This day was less about “aw how cute is he?” and more about “I found the new me.”
And I know I’m not alone. I personally know moms that are still looking for themselves following giving birth, and I see the anonymous posts online. I see you. Dance again, write again, go back to work, don’t work, have a girls night, go on that date. Do you. I invite you to consider celebrating your birth-day(s) this year. That was the day you created life, and now it’s time to celebrate yours. Happy Birthday to you.
Jamie Silver is mom to a 5 year old boy and 2 year old girl. While she currently resides in New Jersey, she considers New York City the one that got away ever since she relocated during the pandemic. She is passionate about her advertising career and helping other moms overcome the hurdles of momhood.