Second (number): Constituting number two in a sequence; coming after the first in time or order
It was Summer’s second birthday earlier this month, but it’s taken me a while to sit and blog about it, as we’ve been away on holiday.
This year, I decided I couldn’t bear/brave/face another year at home. Childless on my own birthday is one thing, still childless on Summer’s is another. Two years later, this isn’t where I thought we’d be, but Costa Rica wasn’t either. It’s a country we’d never even considered going, which is why when we were there, I couldn’t help but attribute the best bits to Summer. We wouldn’t be there, without her having been here, so everything good there, came from her… or so my brain reasoned.
One friend perhaps didn’t grasp the upcoming date and the reason for running away: “what an exciting holiday! You will most certainly have a memorable trip”, but another (never afraid to mention the elephant in the room) summed it up beautifully: “I was going to ask what you were doing for Summer’s birthday, and I see that you have gone to the Summer!” – if hearts could smile, that’s what mine’s doing.
Approaching Summer’s 2nd birthday was challenging though (not least because I started my period, the moment we arrived at our hotel in Costa Rica – the final slither of hope, gone), but (unlike my menstrual cycle!) I decided I wouldn’t “advertise” her birthday to friends and family, this time.
Last year, I sent 50 invitations which you can see here, outlining how we would like to celebrate our girl each year, so this year was the first of many: the nervous wait to see if anyone would remember alongside us. But in the run up, I got a bit upset; a few people asked “are we celebrating Summer’s birthday again this year?” I thought the invitation was quite clear, but I refrained from my gut reaction to reply “will we celebrate your child’s birthday this year? Do I ever forget to send them a card or present?”. For Summer’s birthday, we don’t want either of those, we ‘just’ want/need you to think of her and send a photo of you enjoying a summer’s day.
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
There are a few perfectly fitting lines in the sonnet above, not least the final two, and that’s what The First Day of Summer is all about – for a fleeting time, giving life to Summer.
So a huge thank you, to everyone that joined us in remembering Summer on her second birthday. Old friends and new, near and far. It was so lovely to see how many people were thinking of Summer and we really appreciated all of your photos for Summer’s second birthday. Each of them made us smile. Pictures of the sun shining, ice lollies, beach days, birthday parties, plants growing, flowers blooming, cards made, candles lit, yummy food and cakes eaten. Most of the beautifully creative and thoughtful photos mentioned can be seen via Instagram here and all of the photos sent to us will be made into a scrapbook for Summer, so thank you again, to everyone who contributed. Photos came in from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Guernsey, the USA (New York, Texas and Kansas), Tanzania, Dubai and South Korea! It really did lift us up during the day, seeing all the photos pour in. I like to think that Summer having been here, if only for a short time, has done some good. If it’s as simple as making people stop to see or create some summer joy, then that’s something. A small, happy legacy. She died, yes. But first, she lived.
I still haven’t decided how I feel about being away for Summer’s birthday. There was a lot of guilt. We were busy and very distracted (during the day we had a short internal flight, just 8 passengers, and I kept thinking that the plane might crash, to go full circle, to finish the job on the 9th March. I wouldn’t have minded that, there’s something quite poetic about it. Alas, it wasn’t to be, which is actually a relief this time, given the other 6 passengers!). Travelling from one part of Costa Rica to another, checking out and checking in, I felt that I hadn’t given Summer as much undivided time, as I would have liked that day. But I can see the benefits in that too. Distracted is good, distracted is less sad (genuinely, it wasn’t until my head hit the pillow, that I had my first thought of “maybe this time next year…” before trying to shush it out of existence). I don’t know what we’ll do for her birthday next year: I know that I can’t go to work like it’s a normal day, but equally, I can’t sit at home again either. I know it shouldn’t matter though, as I carry her differently now. Like when we were on a birdwatch on holiday and the guide said “that’s the Summer Tanager, can you hear her? I can’t see her! Where is she? Listen”. I just smiled. I knew we wouldn’t see her that day, but I do still hear her.
Last year, I think Summer sent us a sign on her birthday, you can read about it again here. This year, I felt I received another.
It had just gone 6.37pm in Costa Rica, I had set an alarm and so knew that it was past midnight in the UK – i.e. it was already Summer’s birthday. We always thought she was born at 12.37am, but when Summer arrived (somewhat unexpectedly), there was a lot of faffing going on in the hospital around me, but I’m not sure the exact time for monitoring her was ever right. It definitely wasn’t precise, it was more James recalling a time.
When my alarm went off at 12.37am (UK time) in Costa Rica, I did something strange. I got up and went to the bathroom and started faffing. I looked in the mirror and picked up some tweezers – I don’t know why! I had set this alarm, wanting to know it was Summer’s exact birthday, but when the time came, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t even do the obvious thing, which would have been turning to James to say “it’s Summer’s birthday”. I just went to the bathroom, knowing it was her birthday. Realising how absurd the situation was, I looked in the mirror and said in my head “I know! This is a weird thing to do on your exact two year birthday. I know I’m not at home, but send me a sign today, ok?” And then, not a minute later, there was a short power cut. The lights flashed off and on again twice, in quick succession. This had not happened the whole time we’d been there and didn’t happen again after either. I looked at the time and it was 12.45am GMT. I am now convinced that she was born at 12.45am, the time of this new sign. James thinks it’s a coincidence. But when I told a friend what had happened, she reminded me, that we also had lights flashing immediately after Summer was born. Thinking about it some more, I also recalled that Summer had actually been born in the hospital bathroom (very few people know this).
So I went to the bathroom…
Muscle memory? Probably.
A sign? Most definitely.
N.B. I’m aware that the tone of this blog varies. I intended to write a wholly upbeat blog to mark my gratitude, to all who participated in Summer’s day, but this blog misses the mark in places. At first I thought it’s because of my critical, pessimistic nature. In truth, it likely mirrors what was – in reality –a bittersweet day. Nevertheless, thank you all, for carrying me through.
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