My baby turns one today. As I posted several weeks ago, an anniversary triggers sense-memories about what was happening last year at this time. During the last week or so, I could feel the heaviness of the last days of my pregnancy, the worry about labor and our families’ transition into having a baby, the excitement about meeting my new little one. Everest and I talked yesterday about our labor day and what a brave, amazing boy he was. We remembered how, as soon as Asher was born, I said, “Go get Everest.” Everest ran up the stairs and asked, “Can I tell his name now?” We smiled and said yes. And in a loud, clear voice, he announced our baby’s name for the first time: “Asher Osian Phoenix Finn.” Then he got his special tape and spread long pieces across the bannister “to protect Asher so he doesn’t fall through.” It was his first protective act as a big brother, an instinct that would be repeated many times over the next year.
Today we celebrate our baby’s first major milestone. We sing “Happy Birthday” and shower him with kisses and handmade cards. As always, I wonder how indigenous people or cultures that are more connected to meaningful rituals celebrate a first birthday. I think about how our traditional song – Happy Birthday – speaks to our culture’s need to focus exclusively on the happy side of a transition. What if the birthday isn’t a happy day? And what about honoring the range of feelings that arise on a birthday: the nostalgia as we look back over the past year, the loss as we acknowledge that one year is already gone and my baby will never be a baby again, the gratitude that he completed his first year and is a healthy and thriving little boy. Of course we celebrate him, but today, here, we also make room for the range of emotions that accompany a transition.
For, as I talked about in yesterday’s video blog, his transition is also our transition. As he was born on April 14th, 2009, so Everest was born as a big brother and my husband I were born as parents of two sons. Everest’s life as an only child ended on this day one year ago. And as much joy and connection that Asher has brought to Everest’s life, he’s also brought the immense challenge of having to learn how to share his parents’ time and attention. I’ve always tried to make room for Everest’s ambivalent feelings towards his brother, and today is no different.
And what of Asher’s feelings about turning one? Obviously he’s not cognitively capable of articulating what he feels today, but if our bodies remember the transition, I imagine he must remember somatically as well. One of my great mentors, the renowned Jungian analyst Marion Woodman, theorizes that “individuals tend to repeat the patterns of their own actual birth every time life requires them to move onto a new level. As they entered the world, so they continue to re-enter at each new spiral of growth.” Asher entered the world quickly, easily, guided into the birth tub by the hands of his father with wise women, including his grandma, all around. The first sensations he felt were the warm water, then my chest. The first sounds he heard were his big brother announcing his name. The first taste of life was my milk. It seems like a good way to enter the world, a positive template that I hope will be unconsciously remembered and followed as he walks through life’s transitions.
Despite myself, I say: “Happy Birthday, my little angel. May you walk through life guided by your Daddy, protected by your big brother, taught by your grandmother, and nourished by your Mommy. May you allow the warm waters of life to support you as you pass through the transitions that will grow you into the man you are meant to be.”