Dear social media friend,
That picture of you of Facebook, smiling and exhausted, holding your damp new offspring carefully swaddled in those blue and pink hospital blankets. I’m not going to like it.
Nothing personal, it’s just that those photos bring back some bad memories, memories of my daughter’s first year, the hardest year of my life. Just the sight of those striped blankets makes me go cold inside.
Of course, every new baby comes with challenges, but you and you baby will probably (hopefully) not endure EEGs, speech therapists, feeding tubes, daily injections and two long stays at Children’s Hospital. All while watching every milestone, every special event you are supposed to look forward to and celebrate, pass by without the slightest effect on your child.
Except one. Her first smile, right on schedule. I enjoyed those smiles for a few weeks, but then came steroid injections for seizures and the side effects were so awful that she stopped smiling for three months.
So I won’t be liking that first picture, or any of the ones that follow–the cute questions and sassy retorts that my daughter can think but can’t say. The soccer pictures, dance recitals, the evidence of budding musical talent. Or those first day of school pictures in which your kid stands on her own two feet, carries her own backpack.
If your child go to school with my daughter, she might be one of those rare gems who can actually figure out a way to relate to her. More likely, you child might say hello to her in the hallway, but will mostly ignore her. And I won’t expect you to call me up with a playdate suggestion or a birthday party invitation, because that is also a rare occurrence.
So yeah, I’m jealous and bitter. But also, I have to admit I feel a little superior, too. See, we got through that year, and we’ve been through other hard times, too. And we have our joys and our triumphs. But they aren’t the typical joys of family life. Ours feel hard-won, miraculous. Like turning to catch a stunning view in the middle of a climb to the top of Mt. Everest.
Like anyone who faces a difficult task, I can be very focused, very self-centered. I don’t resent your happy kid pictures; I just won’t be liking them, or leaving enthusiastic comments or smiley faced emoticons. Because they seem to have so little to do with me.
I know that Facebook presents a limited view of your life. That you face struggles, too–challenges and griefs that I may never understand. But that just increases the distance I feel from your experience. From way up here, you and your family appear to be frolicking in the basecamp, while my daughter and I cling to a ledge, trembling and exhilarated, wondering if the next step will take us a little closer to our goals, or send us plummeting down.