the birthday boy, part 1

My baby is six.

Hi there, six year old.

He turned six on October 15, with all of the fanfare and excitement and sugar a six year old can handle. Our house is now overrun with pokemon cards, science experiments, and camping supplies. And the baby I held six years ago… well, he’s observing fly legs under the lens of his new microscope, and outgrowing shoes by the second. He is my first positive preganancy test, my first Mother’s Day, and my first walker, talker, first day of school-er. And now he’s my first big boy. Before I get all dramatic, I realize kids don’t generally stop growing at age 6. He’s got plenty of years to hang around and make his presence very known. But if the first six flew by this quickly, I’m pretty sure I’ll be moving him into a college dorm tomorrow.

Excuse me. I need to go weep.

I’m back.

When Boone, my newly minted six year old, was two and a half, we encountered a busy season in our life. In early May, Jason and I learned we were having another baby. In early June, we learned that baby had no heartbeat. Later in June, we bought a new house and moved. Jason started a new job. We adjusted to a new life. I had another positive pregnancy test. Boone turned three.

Let me pause for a moment and remind you that I love birthdays. I love my birthday. I love my kid’s birthdays. I love working around a theme, buying crazy overpriced decorations, ordering cupcakes (I love cooking, but hi, I’m not a baker), and generally being a fool about the birthday. It’s your special day! It’s your special month if you choose to take the month (I do)! 

Let me pause for another moment and say that from the second I saw that third positive pregnancy test before Boone turned three, I was in a panic. We had lost the child associated with the previous pregnancy very unexpectedly. I was burned. I was cautious. I lived each day in a constant state of worry, wondering if walking up the stairs too quickly would negatively affect my delicate state. 

(BREAK FOR PSA: It won’t. Nothing you can do can cause a miscarriage. Remember this, please. Thanks.)

When I planned for Boone’s third birthday party, though — I forgot those worries. We were doing a Toy Story theme, and if you’ll remember that I LOVE DISNEY, you’ll know this was right up my alley. I bought “toy” props for a photo booth. I made a backdrop of the iconic Toy Story clouds (I cut those clouds by hand). I drafted a menu with cutesy themed names, printed pictures that looked like they came right from the movie, and dressed Boone in a DIY (but impressive, if I say so myself) Woody costume. I was ready to forget about my worries, for just a day, and celebrate the birthday boy.

I logged onto facebook the morning of Boone’s birthday, prepared to post an obligatory “IT’S MY BABY’S BIRTHDAY!!!” status update. What I wasn’t prepared for were the many posts about October 15 being Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.

My one day to not worry became consumed by thoughts of loss. I wanted to celebrate my three year old. I wanted to think, for a day, that maybe this pregnancy wouldn’t end badly. I wanted peace. I wanted joy. I felt sucker punched.

For a moment, I felt like unfriending anyone who shared the Pregnancy Loss post. This was MY day! Ok, Boone’s day, but I was the one doing everything! Then I felt like putting up a post of my own, denouncing the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day and letting everyone know that it was BOONE’S BIRTHDAY. MOURN ELSEWHERE.

(Can I point out that I wasn’t exactly in my right mind? And that I didn’t actually do those things? And that now that I think I am in my right mind, I feel bad about having those thoughts?)

I’ll be honest that I did not quickly find the peace I longed for on that first October 15 post-miscarriage. I didn’t want pregnancy loss to have its own day. I wanted everyone to know that it’s just normal and common. I wanted people to know you don’t have to keep your losses quiet until one day (that happened to be my healthy and alive son’s birthday). 

But then I remembered… like we all eventually remember… that we all handle grief in different ways. That some people won’t reach out and share their tragedies until it is socially acceptable. That those who haven’t experienced the loss of a pregnancy or an infant won’t have this issue on their radar until a handful of their facebook friends post a similar picture about being “1 in 4 who will experience pregnancy loss.” 

And I realized that Boone’s special day wasn’t tarnished by the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. Boone was my redemption, the light at the end of the tunnel that was the mourning of the miscarriage. I saw similar posts when Boone turned six, but I didn’t feel attacked. I didn’t want to unfriend or lash out. I wanted to be a voice for my own miscarriage and let others be a voice for their own, whenever they were comfortable doing so. 

Mamas — if this is you — if you’ve experienced a loss, talk about it. Do it on your own time. Honor the child you lost by giving that child a legacy. Let your family, your friends, or total strangers on the internet know that your child was wanted, loved, grieved. And for the children you have on earth? Let nothing distract you from the joy that celebrates another year of their life. 

Maybe someday we won’t need a specific day for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness. But until then, I’m ok to share it with my firstborn. 

the but

I’m doing something a little differently this week, so bear with me, will you?

If you’re thinking about running a race in July with bangs in your face, don’t do that thing. (Here to help.)

A month or so after I had the miscarriage, I needed to take back some control. I had been a distance runner prior to that pregnancy, and although I had read countless studies calling running in pregnancy “safe,” I had “played it extra safe” last time and totally abstained. Of course, that didn’t matter, in the end. Anyway, I decided to start training for a half marathon. I started running through my depression, looking for peace, looking for strength. I found at least a small amount of both. After I finished my 12 mile run, the longest run before the big race, I had a funny feeling. Not a bad feeling, just a funny feeling. This feeling would be explained a few days later when a pregnancy test gave me a surprise: pregnant.

I panicked.

I’d been running! So much! I had a race in two weeks! I called my OB office immediately, and in a rush of words and breath, said something like “I had a miscarriage three months ago and I’m pregnant again and I run a lot and I have a half marathon and WHAT DO I DO?!” The poor phone nurse must have taken pity on me, because I received a call from my OB a couple of hours later. I don’t remember the conversation word for word, but I remember this:

“Jennie. You didn’t cause the miscarriage before. Running this race or not won’t cause another now. I don’t mean to be blunt, but — if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen, and you can’t really help it.”

These words joined words from my mom, who read to me from the Bible, from the third chapter of Daniel, the night before the race I had ultimately decided to run. This chapter tells the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, three Jewish men who stood by their faith and refused to worship the Idol King Nebuchadnezzar created. Despite his official command that everyone worship this idol, the three men refused, and were sentenced to be burned alive in a fire. Upon hearing this, they replied:

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.
Daniel 3:17,18

But even if he does not – this became my mantra while I ran that race two and a half years ago. We pray for answers, we pray for miracles, not because God will fix everything, but because we believe He can. But even if He does not – we are still protected in other ways, we are still loved.

Hello, tiny running buddy. You slowed me down, but it’s OK.

Ev was the tiny jumble of cells that ran with me during that half marathon. He remained safe that day, and everyday that has followed. And since that time, “but if not” has becoming my parental rallying cry. I cannot control every aspect of my children’s lives. I pray daily and nightly for their safety, but I simply cannot predict the future. Despite my best efforts, I can’t know if they will one day be the subject of a national news article with the word “tragedy” in the title. I pray they won’t, but we know that we live in a world where this happens to the children of some. I have complete faith that God can protect my children from all harm, and I know I will always protect them to the best of my ability, but, ultimately, “if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen, and you can’t really help it.”

This is, of course, a broad generalization, but in parenting? I kind of like it. If you are a parent who struggles with anxiety, hear this: do your best. Trust God. Realize you aren’t in control. Realize sometimes bad things happen.

Sometimes they are miscarriages or broken bones, sometimes they are hurt feelings or overwhelming stress. Sometimes they are mornings you wake up late, pray “please God, let us get to the bus stop on time!” and you don’t get to the bus stop on time, but it isn’t because God couldn’t slow time for you. He chose not to; maybe you needed a few extra minutes in the car with your kiddo that day.

Mamas, I pray for you. I want to pray prayers that simply state “keep ____ and her family from all harm,” BUT… I don’t. I pray God will keep you strong in faith no matter what fires come your way. If you could pray the same for me, I’d appreciate it.