The Day That Should Be Hers

I woke this morning, crying.

abstract watercolor illustration f a single slice of birthday cake on a plate
Image created via Midjourney

The day crept up.  Stealth-like.  Amid fatigue, snow days, and household winter illnesses, I looked at the calendar and realized that it was February 12th.  The day that we found out that Iris had no heartbeat.  After 14 hours of labor, she was born on February 13th at 7:42 am.

About two weeks ago, Ger wondered if we should go out to dinner or something as a family to celebrate her birthday.  Yes.  I would like that.  But now he has pneumonia and is on bedrest so that is out.

The day got to me yesterday and by the end of the day I was done.  My support group for bereaved parents was scheduled to meet in the evening, so I told Ger I was going.  That I needed to go.  I tucked in Autumn.  I told the big kids that I was going to SHARE and that since Daddy was sick, that they needed to tuck themselves in.  I told them that Iris's birthday was the next day so I wanted to go and be with other parents.  Sweet, sensitive Theo became teary-eyed when I mentioned his sister's name.

The roads were covered with a wintery mix and slick.  As I drove home hours later, after the meeting had ended, I thought about how her day was going to pass by.  If Ger had been sick, and it was the birthday of one of my living children, we would still find a way to celebrate the special day.  But because she is not here, it was going to just... be.  We could do a belated outing, sure.  Not the same.  The day — her actual birthday — is the one that brings heavy emotions.

I realized that I had been paying little attention to the roads.  My vehicle was practically gliding, unassisted over the thin layer of ice.  The snow was practically sideways with a force of wind behind it.  My head was beginning to hurt.

I woke this morning, crying.  I didn't want to get out of bed.  But I had to drag myself downstairs and get three kids ready for the day.  As I drove Autumn to day care, I kept trying to come up with a way to recognize her birthday.  Finally, I decided to swing by Trader Joe's.  I had seen little Valentine's Day cakes.  At the time I thought "we don't need more chocolate" but it would make a perfect birthday cake.

I played out the scene in my head.  The friendly cashier would say "What a great choice for Valentine's Day!"  I would respond "Actually, it is for my daughter's birthday today."  "Oh that's so nice!  How old?"  "She was stillborn on this day, three years ago."  I would give a little smile.  I could say those words, for my baby girl.

Of course, things never play out the way I have rehearsed.  The cashier barely looked at me.  Rang up the cake and gave me a quick "howisyourday" to which I mumbled a response of "fine."  Put the small cake on the passenger side seat and drove home.  I felt a tightening in my chest, like I have felt in the past when my heart hurts so much.

I'm sorry, baby girl.  I'm sorry this isn't the day that I wanted for you.  I did manage to put away work and anything else pressing and pause to sit and write this.  Tonight will be your cake.  Tears and deep breaths.