Throughout my life, most especially as a child, I’ve reveled in having a birthday that lands smack in the middle of summer. My birthday almost always fell on a gorgeously golden summer day, and was always paired with season-perfect sides of watermelon, lobster, cake and ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream.

As a kiddo I always celebrated at the beach. Coupled with surroundings of close friends, family, and cards riddled with inside jokes, these have certainly been a few of my favorite things as years and cake candles have accrued.

Technically speaking, I did nothing to earn this day. My mother did.

I’ve enjoyed the ice cream and the beach and the gorgeous golden summer days of celebrating along the way, but my birthday really is my mother’s own badge of honor.

Ask her, and she’ll tell you: the story of my birth was a dramatic one she’s shared several times for years, riddled with close calls and bad calls.

So by the time I delivered my own first born, I was really immune to all the hair-raising birth stories other well-meaning mothers were compelled to share with me throughout my first pregnancy.

But I almost never had a first pregnancy.

For years, my husband and I were told by the docs not to count on it.

The day we’d always longed for was, it seemed, resorted to nothing but a hopeful, far-fetched birthday candle wish on one of those lobster and ice cream summer-filled days.

I never had to consult with perplexed medical teams to achieve my own birthday.

I was never promised a birthday, for it only to be taken from me inexplicably.

So this is what sets birthdays apart from another day of celebration for me.

Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day was a seemingly unattainable day of celebration in which I never thought I’d be able to take part.

A day not counted in candles but tiger stripe stretch marks.

A day not spent unwrapping gifts but swaddling babies during all hours of the night.

Where wishes weren’t made upon candles, but a genie – Diaper Genie – was called to action every few hours.

My husband and I had been so optimistic despite our unexpected prognosis, even to the point of buying a larger house with more bedrooms with our fingers crossed.

My first Mother’s Day filled me with the joy I thought I’d never experience, when in 2011, our first boy babe was born after many dark years spent traveling to another state at 4 a.m. for blood draws that baffled specialists before reporting for work back home at 8 a.m. many days.

In 2014, our second boy was born, filling me with an even greater happiness in parts of my heart I never knew existed, than I ever thought possible.

In 2015, we lost one. Miscarriage was by far the strangest experience of my life, packing my inner thoughts with equal parts anger, confusion, and what-could-I-have-done-to-fix-it thoughts. It forced me to call my faith and multiple so-called unshattering beliefs into question.

We were assured by well-meaning loved ones that we still had two healthy baby boys, which we knew to be true. But it didn’t quite remove that bewildering, downright weird experience, to say the least.

But that which surprised me even more was the discovery that so many women I knew well had experienced the same.

Many sources cite that one in four women experience miscarriage, and that one-in-10 battle infertility. That’s an alarmingly high rate, yet both designations carry such stigma.

And so this is likely why people just don’t talk about it.

Had I not shared our story with the women I spoke to, I would never have known they too had undergone similar experiences along the delicate pregnancy journey. Neither miscarriage nor infertility discriminate, and the women who’d confided in me their own harrowing experiences came from varying walks of life. Most fortunately did have successful pregnancies and healthy children at some point.

And I am due with my own third amigo at summer’s end.

But I’m still haunted.

Like a black mark on some sort of imaginary record, the history follows me. 

During these prenatal appointments, I’ve been asked by nurses, “How many children do you have?…. How many pregnancies have you had?” 

There is a difference. And it is common.

I don’t dwell on the what-could-have-beens any longer, but the experience has certainly taught me to never take the gift of motherhood for granted.

My birthday may be my mama’s achievement. But Mother’s Day? I’m proud to have earned that one. Because there was a time – a very, very long time – in which I never thought it would come.
Children truly are a mind-blowing gift that continues to unwrap before our eyes.

Now that I’m onto baby number three, people often ask me why I’m still called ‘The Rookie Mama.’

I believe that every day in motherhood is rife with rookie moments, no matter your child’s age.
Every moment is unscripted, every child a momentous teaching moment in which we mothers, according to Elizabeth Stone, must learn to allow our hearts to forever walk outside our bodies. 

And it’s absolutely profound.

There truly is nothing like it. I am forever grateful for these years, albeit fleeting, in which I get to play a role and shape little lives, as many, many other mothers do, as our foremothers did before us.

So happy Mother’s Day to all mamas and mama-figures. 

Thank you for shaping us and inspiring us.

We hope you know how much you all mean to us.

— Michelle Cote is the creative director of the Journal Tribune and a nationally-syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at [email protected]

Comments are not available on this story.