*Miscarriage and infant loss trigger warning
I hate my birthday.
There… I said it.
It’s an odd relief to just say exactly how I feel about this one specific day that comes every February.
For so long I didn’t feel free to express my birthday lament because it seems so juvenile, or worse… emotionally immature. *Gasp* All I need to tell myself is “that’s so emotionally immature” and I immediately go into this frantic mental tailspin that sounds something like “OH MY GOSH I NEED TO FIX MYSELF NOW!!!”
But really, there is no self help book, pep talk, or inspiring podcast to fix my head when it comes to my birthday.
I just hate my birthday.
But let’s not leave this alone, because I actually think there is some encouragement here in this weird topic for so many of you reading right now and questioning my… ah hem… emotional stability.
WHY do I hate my birthday (this is where you might begin to see yourself in my birthday mania…)? I only recently became aware of the reasons: dreams and disappointments.
This past New Year’s Eve I listened to friends expressing their heartache about leaving behind the year 2015… the year that their babies were born and also went to Heaven. The pain takes a person to the very edge of what is even humanly bearable. Maybe even beyond. These dear mothers all spoke of the anguish of leaving the year that their baby lived in and it feels like time is forcing them to leave their babies behind and move into the new year. Incredibly painful and a huge disappointment in life.
Another friend talked about how hard New Year’s is when he feels like he didn’t accomplish many good things in the previous year. When a new year should feel like a fresh start, for some it’s just a difficult reminder of failure.
So many people experience Valentine’s Day depression. We try to pretend like the day doesn’t mean anything, but it still does.
Anniversaries that should be a celebration of love and a life lived together can be miserable when the day doesn’t feel happy for any variety of reasons.
Christmas time is a season of depression for so many. We expect December to be full of love, happiness, family, and celebration. As usual, our expectations and being faced with our life disappointments lead us into holiday blues.
Now you might be understanding a little better why I hate my birthday. I don’t experience the common blues associated with other special days… my birthday is the day.
My birthdays as a child and teenagers were wonderful, magical, fun days. My parents were absolutely amazing at making those days special and memorable. But as an adult… well, birthdays are just way less fun! I’ll admit that I’ve spent several birthdays in bed crying most of the day.
My worst birthday was my 32nd. Just a few months before that day I had miscarried my second child. My miscarriage experience was extremely traumatic for so many reasons. Unfortunately my 32nd birthday fell on a Wednesday. My husband was a youth pastor and our youth night was every Wednesday. In the church world it is incredibly difficult for a pastor to take a Sunday or Wednesday off. Like, VERY difficult. Even if you can get everything covered by other leadership so you can be away, you just feel the disapproving eyes of everyone on you. You also know that this will mean no family vacation this year because you’re only allowed to miss 2 Wednesdays or Sundays a year. Since we lived far from our families, we needed those few and precious days off to be able to visit them. (Maybe some day I’ll be brave enough to tell you our story of ditching ministry life… be prepared to be offended because I can tell you we are so much happier now… gasp!)
So that terrible Wednesday found me home alone with my daughter all day. My husband was very sweet and left a card and flowers for me to find when I woke up (on Wednesdays he would be out the door by 7am and not home until 10pm). The depression was immediate. I opened my eyes that morning and my body flooded with sadness.
A sweet friend called me to wish me “Happy Birthday” and asked how I was doing. My voice cracked as I said “not good.” With sincere concern she asked why and all I could say was “my birthday is always the day I seem to reflect on the year before. Today I have nothing but sadness to reflect on.”
Dear friends, I have to tell you that I was a completely broken person at this point in my life. Just a few months before this birthday I had delivered my miscarried baby in my toilet at home and flushed his little body down the toilet in a panic. Within a week I was in the hospital with a serious infection. I have never felt so much physical and emotional pain. Every inch of me inside and out was in utter agony. Still, two years later I mourn the loss. Even as I write this my screen is blurred through my tears.
So yes, that birthday was excruciatingly painful.
Since my husband had to be at the church all day, I took my two year old daughter to the Olive Garden with me for dinner. She sang happy birthday to me in her sweet baby girl voice as I cried.
When I was finally able to see my husband later that night, he whisked me off to our “home town” (it’s not really our home town, but the one place the two of us had truly felt connected to in our married lives together) of Carlisle, PA to stay for two sweet and restful nights. On the trip there he handed me my computer and I watched the most life giving 30 minute video ever. He had secretly contacted probably everyone I had ever known and asked them to send an encouraging video message to me. He made put them all together. There were definitely a lot of tears as I was shown so much love over and over by the most dear people in the world.
Gosh I love that man.
I still hate my birthday. Admitting this to my friends and family has changed the game. Now, I don’t pretend. I don’t build up expectations in my mind that it will be a happy day. I face the sad feelings head on and I CHOOSE to do things that day that I enjoy.
Friends, when you allow yourself the gift of awareness that certain days will be hard, you can empower yourself to choose your path on that day.
CHOOSE to embrace your sadness. You do not have to pretend to be happy when you’re mourning.
CHOOSE to make plans for an enjoyable day. YOU know what YOU need. Make it happen for yourself. Plan a fun trip to take during those days you know will be hard. Schedule a massage. Go out for breakfast (on my birthday I chose to eat all THREE meals out!). Buy tickets to a movie or show. Call your friends and invite them to do something fun to celebrate with you (warn them that it’s an emotional day for you). Take a walk in nature. Sleep. Just plan to do exactly what you want to do on that day. Here is the key: don’t allow yourself to have the expectation that someone else will make the day happy for you. Take the reigns and make the plans yourself.
CHOOSE to express how you feel. This is not asking for pity or expressing a weird need for attention; it’s being real.
Friends, do you have a certain day every year that is hard for you? Now it’s your turn to talk (comment section below).