My OB-GYN diagnosed me with severe preeclampsia on December 18th, nearly seven weeks before my daughter was due. I thought it was a joke. At the time, my laptop was open and propped on my thighs so I could continue preparing for a work meeting. The nurse tightened the blood pressure cuff around my arm, then reinforced what the doctor had been telling me: I wasn’t going to be discharged from the hospital.
“Well, as long as my daughter and Jesus don’t have the same birthday, I can come to terms with this,” I said.
Maybe he was as sleep deprived as me because he laughed until it became awkward.
Two days later, my daughter was born, weighing in at a healthy six pounds, four-ounces—except she wasn’t eating. The effects of the medicine I was given to lower my blood pressure seemed to steal away her appetite. She was admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit. For the next four days, my husband and I drove back and forth to bring breast milk to the NICU and be near her.
On December 24th, we got to bring her home—an unexpected gift for our entire extended family. I grabbed a Santa onesie, flicked on the Christmas tree lights, and snapped a picture of my baby girl under the tree with our other presents. I also recognized that her birthday might get lost during the yearly holiday madness, because mine certainly has.
Holi-birthdays run in my family like an inherited genetic trait. My husband, my sister, and our dog share the same birthday. My eldest daughter and my sister-in-law share the same birthday. My mom, grandmother, and great aunt were all born on St. Patrick's Day (my mom developed a strong distaste for anything green or four-leaf related, understandably.) My first cousin and I are Thanksgiving babies. While it may sound lovely to celebrate during a time when the family is together, the truth is, it’s awful. When I was eight, no one showed up for my birthday party. It happened again when I was 11 and again for my sweet sixteen party.
Have a Holiday Baby in your family? Here are a few simple ways to make them feel special:
Choose a different day for the celebration. I became very fond of the movie theater as a kid (Mulan is my girl) because it was my go-to hideout after no one showed up for my birthday party. As a child, I resented Thanksgiving; I didn’t understand that my friends didn’t come to my party because they were out of town. On some Thanksgiving holidays, my parents would have a birthday cake as dessert, but even that concession was inconsistent.
I wanted something better for my daughter. We celebrate her special day a few weeks before or after Christmas. If her half-birthday wasn’t so close to her sister's birthday, we would probably have chosen the warmer months so she and all of her friends can enjoy an outdoor party in the sunshine.
Wait to Decorate the Tree. If your holiday baby falls early in December, consider waiting until after their special day before decorating the Christmas tree. In this way, the birthday celebration isn’t secondary to a holiday—even one as special as Christmas.
Wait to put the presents out. It’s really easy to grab the sparkly gingerbread wrapping when the house seems to be overflowing with it—but don’t do it. I wrap my daughter’s gifts with birthday paper. In a pinch, I’ve used newspaper or flipped wrapping paper over to its smooth, cream-colored side. It’s also essential to wait until the birthday celebration has passed before placing gifts under the tree. These are small details but significant ones that help a child to feel valued during the holiday madness.
As my daughter grows older, I’ll ask her what she would like to do to create a special birthday. If you have a holi-birthday babies in your family, I hope these suggestions reinforce how important, worthy, and loved they are.