Looking at the month-to-view spread in my planner the other day I had an uncomfortable feeling.
The spead is full of appointments, and reminders. The usual stuff.
There is a box for a particular day I haven’t written anything in. It bothered me: the day is Saturday February 20. Hugo’s second birthday.
Or, the second anniversary of Hugo’s birth, because he is not here to celebrate it.
I thought about why the blank box bothered me. Was I a bad mother for not recording a note of my son’s birthday? No, of course not. The things I note in my planner are things I need to make sure I don’t forget.
February 20 is a date that is forever etched in my memory. I shall never forget. I do not need a reminder in my planner.
And in any event, what would I write? “Hugo’s birthday! 2!” as if he was here to celebrate it as a toddler might – with a party involving family and friends, balloons, presents, cake?
No. That hurts too much.
Hugo’s second birthday is another milestone. All the ‘firsts’ were experienced last year – the first Christmas, his first birthday, the first anniversary of his death. Parents who have trodden this path before us have said that the firsts are the worst. Not that the anniversaries that come after are easier, but the knowledge previous milestones have been survived is helpful, as it was last Christmas.
I have also been wondering what to do to mark Hugo’s second birthday. For his first birthday, his daddy and I set about raising money in his memory – and far exceeded our intial target. I came up with a hair-brained idea to see if #HugosLegacy could trend on Twitter – and it did. In the evening, we went out with a few friends. I was moved to tears by the support and the outpouring of love we received that day.
What do you do after that? It’s not about ‘trumping’ how we celebrated Hugo’s first birthday – that was a very special day indeed. While I know people still remember Hugo and think about him, I still hold the fear that people might be less inclined to get involved because things ebb away over time. After all, there is no impossibly cute two-year-old to celebrate with, to cuddle, to giggle with.
There is also the memory of the state I was in the day before Hugo’s first birthday. The memories of the night before came flooding back: in my room on the high dependency maternity ward at the hospital in unspeakable agony. The pain in my gastric region unbearable.
On the eve of Hugo’s first birthday, I think those flashbacks were the first time the severity of my illness dawned on me. The pain in my gastric area was not heartburn, but my liver on the verge of failure.
I can also remember tormenting myself that for those last few days of my pregnancy, those three days I spent in hospital before Hugo was born, I was not savouring the precious last few days of my pregnancy.
With a common-sense head on I know that I was so seriously ill thinking straight was impossible. At that time I also had no idea how seriously ill I was or how grave the situation was, not to mention believing everyone was being melodramatic and that everything would be ok.
So without that knowledge how could I have been in the mindset of appreciating the last days of my pregnancy?
These are the thoughts that go around my head, especially approaching a significant event. I miss Hugo every day, I live with the impact and effects of the trauma every day, but these milestones amplify the emotions.
I have marked the 20 February with a star. Of course. For my Hugo. The day needs no further explanation for me in my planner.
So I approach the milestone of Hugo’s second birthday day by day, trying to tell myself that whatever I feel (whether positive or negative/good or bad) is acceptable. Trying to remember what I have already survived. Trying to acknowledge that while it is not okay, it will be okay.
And finding a way to live with the uncomfortable feelings that, in some way, permeate every day.
The uncomfortable feeling that is motherhood in grief: motherhood, reimagined.