Reflecting on Loss: How Do You Celebrate a “Non-Birthday?”

Robin Marty

I wasn't supposed to be writing this today. No, today I'm supposed to be doing something else. Giving birth.

I wasn’t supposed to be writing this today. No, today I’m supposed to be doing something else.

Giving birth.

But no one is going to be bringing me cards or flowers, or tiny stuffed animals.  In fact, I doubt anyone will mention my miscarriage at eleven weeks, or the fact that today would have been my due date at all.  Many won’t remember, and those who do likely wouldn’t know what to say.  There aren’t a lot of words available other than “I’m sorry for your loss.”  Hallmark doesn’t appear to make “non-birth of your baby” sympathy cards.

But almost every should-have-been mother likely has her estimated due date etched into her memory.  It’s a day we dread and in some ways look forward to — it’s as if the loss isn’t truly over until we make it past the day we should have given birth.

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I have an added blessing to get me through this day — being newly pregnant makes it a little easier to cope today.  Many of the women I share this milestone with during the month of May have this crutch as well, although we all know that a new pregnancy doesn’t replace the child we lost.  And others, sadly, are still struggling, both to get through our former due month and to conceive again.

I’m still not sure if I want to remind everyone what today was, and because of that, I am not sure if I will do anything to commemorate a day of what should have been joy, but instead is sadness.  I’ve asked other women, who have been supporting me through this loss, what they did or intend to do, and whether they did it alone or not.

D, a woman from Canada who would have been due last week, had an added burden, a due date that was on the same day as her wedding anniversary.  “I reminded my husband earlier, and he acknowledged it in our anniversary card,” she told me.

“I was by myself that day until he came home early. We did not really discuss it. Prior to him coming home I had actually had some quiet time to myself to think about the loss, the future, the fact that I thought I would be pregant again by my estimated due date.”

“The previous month had been very hard. I literaly became obsessed with trying to conceive. I actually geared up to ovulate, then didn’t and ovulated 5 days later than usual. I just had to be pregnant that cycle so I could beat my estimated due date.”

“Of course it didn’t work out and I knew I had to take a step back and calm down, not obsess so much and try to take it as it comes. I felt better this month. When date came I was OK, I had my moment, I relaxed in a nice warm bath and read, ironically, a book about lawyers who were fighting for a 16 year old girl whose baby was so sick it would likely not survive birth, for her to have the right to abort without her parents’ consent, in order for her to save her chance for future babies. It was a weird book to read at that time.”

“I feel more peaceful this month, perhaps because I am finally past my estimated due date and moving forward without the stress of ‘must be pregnant before it arrives.'”

Having an due date that already had some significance wasn’t just a problem for D, but also for H, a nurse from England who experienced a harrowing second trimester loss after early labor. She will be facing her own estimated due date later this week.

My collegue’s birthday is Saturday and at the time we were all excited that the due date was the same as her birthday,” H explained.  “Now it’s a living nightmare and reminder. I can’t attend her party as I will be a mess. I don’t even want to talk about her birthday because, well, you know.”

 “My other collegue had her baby the same week as my loss, and reaching my estimated due date means I have to come to terms with the fact that even if I get pregnant now, her baby will be a year old before I get a baby. And it will be well over a year since I gave birth.”

“The closer it gets, the worse I am feeling,” H admitted. “My husband asks me ‘What’s wrong with you?’ and I think to myself ‘What the fuck do you think is wrong with me?!!!!’   He forgets the due date, and I’m sure he’ll forget I want to say ‘birthday’ but it’s a non-birthday, really.”

J, from Australia, will be learning on her due date whether her latest cycle of IVF was successful or not. “It’s either going to be really easy or really, really hard,” she shared. J is trying to prepare for a day that she can reflect, but her husband and a busy schedule makes that difficult. “My husband keeps forgetting and trying to book things in on that weekend. It doesn’t matter how often I tell him. It’s like he wipes it from his memory as soon as I’ve said it.”

And T, a mom from Missouri who recently had her second late loss in a row due to preterm labor, has learned a lesson about herself from her previous experience with getting through a due date, and has scaled back her emotional commitments for the day in order to not overwhelm herself too much.

“When I lost my first, I decided if I didnt have a new baby on the way that I would take a trip, so we went to Galviston Island, Texas. We wound up at Moody Gardens, which was fun. That day we went to the Titanic exhibit that was there at the time. That was a mistake, it was so sad, I couldn’t hold back the tears and I was nowhere near ready to heal.”

“So when I lost my little girl, I was prepared not to allow myself to get to that point.  Over the last two years it’s taken a lot out of me, and I really just dont have it in me to let it get me too far down. I spent the day reading and doing normal stuff this time, and I didnt break down.”

Acting as if the day were normal was less sad for T, but not necessarily less lonely.  “I felt my husband was ignorant, because even though he knew what the day meant, as I reminded him the night before, he couldnt even acknowlege her existance or say ‘I wish she was here’ or anything. He didnt even mention Bella.”

I don’t expect today to be easy by any means, regardless of what I choose to do or how I choose to acknowledge it.  But, however hard it is, I know that at least the day will pass, and I will hopefully never have to get through the day I should have been giving birth again.  Instead, I can full concentrate on my new pregnancy and the wonderful people I am already so lucky to have in my family.

In fact, I may plant some seedlings today.  I would like to honor my loss by helping something new grow, too.

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