In a few days it will be August, Aidan’s birthday month. As I mentioned when it was Mother’s Day, all major occasions are anxiety provoking, but none more so than Aidan’s birthday.
I remember for his second birthday I went all out, planning his party three months in advance, making sure every detail was absolutely perfect. Yet with each passing year my fortitude has waned. Each year is one step closer to the day I will lose my boy and I find myself willing him just to make it to the next milestone, like a mother cheering her son from the sidelines through the last metres of a marathon. Except now, my throat is hoarse from all the cheering and I can see that he is stumbling at the finish line.
It was this week five years ago that I learnt that Aidan’s life would be a battle. I was 24 weeks pregnant, lying alone in a hospital birthing suite, the cries of women giving birth all around me, when the doctor informed me that there was only a slim chance my baby would survive as there was limited to blood flow to his tiny little body. Anthony and I knew then, even with the doctors best efforts, Aidan would be coming early and would be burdened with all the complications of prematurity. His future was uncertain. We decided to name him before he was born, choosing Aidan because it meant little fiery one, hoping the fire within would give him strength to keep fighting. He has certainly lived up to his name.
As the weeks draw closer to his fifth birthday, I feel myself slowly getting sucked into the black hole of depression. Having suffered from depression for almost 20 years now, I recognise the signs and I fight it now harder than ever. I battle with myself, telling the inner me to be grateful that I have him and pushing myself to get exciting about his birthday but the black hole just keeps reaching up and pulling me down. Now every time I look at him, all I can hear are the words, “he’s going to die soon” and I’m drowning in them. I’m desperately trying to remember all his little features – the way his eyelids flutter when he’s asleep, the sound of his voice calling out my name, the little pout he gets when he doesn’t want to do what he’s told.
“It’s just a day,” I try and tell myself over and over again as I lay awake at night, terrified. Asleep in his room, there is a little boy so excited about his birthday, a little boy who has been practicing blowing out his candles, and all I can think about is myself. I feel immensely guilty and entirely self-indulgent for feeling the way I do. Yet I also know enough to be kind to myself, to know that depression is the bad guy, not me, and that, as with each year, the next 3 weeks will be a major struggle. Perhaps this year, I will break free from my anxiety or maybe I will just learn to accept that this is part of my grieving process – part and parcel of life with a terminally ill child.