A Cake Too Early

I still don't know what to do about a cake.

watercolor a single slice of strawberry cake with one birthday candle
Image created via Midjourney

My 4th grader’s son had a school fundraiser with a local bakery. We could order mini bundt cakes, to be picked up on February 10th. Being so close to Valentine’s Day, we ordered five cakes for the five people in our family.

Then yesterday, my husband asked, “What should we do for The Day?” At first, I didn’t know what he meant, but then he said, “You know… her birthday.” He never likes to say Iris’s name out loud, but her birthday is on February 13th. Six years since she died.

I immediately replied, “Well, we should get a cake” since that’s what we’ve done for birthdays in the past. Then I realized that we already had cakes coming… but the timing would be off. The bundt cakes likely wouldn’t remain fresh from February 10th to February 13th.

So, now what? More cake? On top of Valentine’s Day treats? And Superbowl weekend, when we usually have a bunch of junk food in the house?

It feels like her birthday is amidst “too much going on” this year.

Couple that with the fact that it’s now been six years. Fewer people reach out and tell me that they’re thinking of me on that day. I get it – no one keeps track of birthdays like that. I didn’t bring it up with my therapist… I don’t know why. And I’ve been physically isolated from my support group because of the pandemic.

On top of that, I’ve changed jobs. I started a new job on February 15th last year – right after her birthday. This year, I’m in a new job again. It’s hard to navigate because no one knows. Because I’d been at my previous job for so many years, everyone knew. I could just say, “Iris’s birthday is this week” and people understood. But pregnancy loss isn’t something that comes up naturally. And anyone who hasn’t experienced intense grief doesn’t know how hard Those Dates can be.

Yesterday, I was driving to pick up Autumn from preschool and started crying in the car. Nelle’s death was a shock, but I knew something was wrong with my pregnancy a few weeks prior. Iris’s death was completely unexpected and it flattened me. I was transported back to that moment in the doctor’s office when I was told that she had no heartbeat, and later, when I had to ask, “What are my options?” In other words, “How does this dead baby leave my body when I’m in the second trimester?”

I still don’t know what to do about a cake. A cake won’t feel special since we already had cake.

I’ve struggled with birthdays in the past. I usually wait for some idea to hit me, some way to acknowledge the day. I have a few days yet, so I’m hoping that idea will come to me.

Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

Edna St. Vincent Millay