A few years ago I was having a deep conversation with a friend of mine over coffee. She pulled out a folded letter from her purse and said, “Read this”.
I started reading and I asked, “Who is this from?” She said, “Jane” – her mother.
My friend had told Jane, “Something you can do for me is to tell me about the day I was born. Tell me about my father and write it down.”
Jane produced an account of my friend’s birth-day that I was very touched by. It was a story my friend had never known. The letter detailed what the weather was like, the song that was playing on the radio on the way to the hospital, that her father was there and that he insisted on the best for what was happening at that moment. It was a beautiful account that filled in unanswered questions for my friend.
I was so moved by the letter that my friend received from “Jane”, that I asked my parents to do the same thing for me. I had heard many versions of my birth-day over the years but I also wanted it in writing.
I am the product of teenage parents, who loved each other, had sort of a shotgun wedding, statistically shouldn’t have made it, but have been married for 41 years.
I had asked for the letters as a birthday present but they both e-mailed me their memories within a day. Both accounts made me laugh and cry. The letters to me had details that I had never heard before.
Some of mom’s memories:
We got to the hospital and they took me away. Back then, mothers giving birth didn’t get to have anyone with them, just the hospital staff. In my case, since it was a Catholic Hospital, the nurses were nuns, wearing white habits. They were very stern and efficient, but not as I recall, very warm. I was terrified and when a hard pain hit as they were getting me prepared, I tried to jump out of the bed…
Being so young, and no experience with babies, I never thought babies looked like anybody—that they just looked like babies—little pieces of dough. But here was this beautiful little red face, black hair brushed down all slick, the most striking feature being the full bottom lip poked out looking just like your Daddy!
Some of daddy’s memories:
I was so worried about your mother having a baby and what we were going to do with the baby once it came. I was scared to death! I was also determined that everything would be ok and that I would somehow be a responsible parent…
A nurse picked you up and nodded indicating that you were my baby. I had never seen a newborn before. You looked really weird to me. Your face was all red and scrunched up and I could see your heart beat on the left front side of your head. I remember asking someone if you were ok and them replying that you were beautiful.
Having this in writing from my parents is such a wonderful, priceless gift. I cannot imagine that boys would have the same appreciation for it unless the timing was right. For sons I think I would save it until they had their own children. For daughters, I think the gift would be appreciated anytime. Writing a birth-day letter could be something that would inspire them to do the same thing for their children and perhaps it would become a family tradition. Even if your children are adopted, there is still the day that you saw them and held them for the first time.
Here’s the thing… if you decide to do this for your children and you physically experienced the pain of having them, I would wait until all of that wears off. I wrote mine shortly after I had my son. The recollection is more about how big he was (10 lbs), how hungry I was (because I hadn’t had room to keep food down), how bad I wanted a Dr. Pepper, and really nothing about the fact of how cute he was to me with his daddy’s cleft chin and my bottom lip.