While your child’s birthday is hard enough in its own way, others’ birthdays, anniversaries, wedding or other celebratory moments might be uniquely difficult as well. Close friends and family members who were involved in the adoption process, whether in a positive or negative fashion, may provide you with strange emotions on their most celebratory day. Why? And what can you do about it? And do I have an example? Of course.
My brother’s birthday is my own particularly hard for me. Frankly, it has almost nothing to do with my brother other than he happened to be born in the month of April. I was living away from home during his birthday that year and was trying, in vain, to reach him via phone to wish him a happy day and year. I kept getting the answering machine. I ended up breaking down in tears; inconsolable, body-drenching tears. Munchkin’s birth father entered the room, asked what was going on, assessed the situation and replied that I was so emotional because I was having my monthly cycle.
Except that I wasn’t.
It wasn’t until that day, my brother’s birthday, that I stopped to think that I might be pregnant. I had been having some symptoms like fatigue and wonky nausea but, having not been pregnant prior to that point nor understanding my own fertility signs, it never crossed my mind until it was pointed out that I should be on my period. I didn’t take the test for a few more days but my brother’s birthday will forever be associated with that moment in my life; the moment I began to realize or accept that I had a “crisis” pregnancy on my hands.
Does that mean I don’t celebrate my brother’s birthday? Not at all! I enjoy offering him gifts, cards that make fun of him for being young and watching him enjoy his special day. Does that mean that the thoughts of that life-changing realization don’t cross my mind at all? Not at all. At some point in time during that twenty-four hour period, I am transported back in time to relive that conversation and that gut-sinking moment. Do I let my brother in on my reflection, nostalgia and inner grief? Not at all. It is not his fault that I got pregnant nor is it his fault (by coercion or anything!) that Munchkin was placed for adoption. He was a young and innocent bystander during this time.
Yet, another hard day for me happens to be my parents’ anniversary. Why? The Munchkin was born on that day in December, forever associating her birth and loss with their marriage. Is it harder for me not to show my inner grief on that day or at a celebration for that day (as we’re never together on that day, it seems)? Yes, a bit. Even though I have forgiven my parents for what we now know to be as a huge communication problem, those issues will forever be associated with the loss of my daughter. It’s hard enough to celebrate her birthday and their anniversary while not realizing what one means to the other.
So how is one to get through these kinds of days? The days that you want to celebrate with those you love but your caught in some strange time warp of memory flashbacks. For this particular predicament, I don’t have a list of grand ideas. It’s hard. I even find it difficult to send out my parents’ card on time. But I do. Because I’m learning, as I go, that their anniversary is a separate event from the Munchkin’s birth, just like my brother’s birthday was not the cause of my unplanned pregnancy or the eventual placement of my child. Learning to separate these events lets me help those that I love celebrate their days without my dark cloud of doom hanging over us all. I have my moments of quiet loss in private. While I am usually one to tout not hiding how you really feel, in these specific instances, these individuals and their celebratory days did not directly cause my grief and the loss of my daughter. It’s a hard, hard thing for me to put my own emotion aside but I do it so that they may create good memories… so they don’t have to look back on a birthday or anniversary in 200x and think, “Gee, Jenna really screwed that one up for me.”
Others may have a different approach to dealing with similar days. I’d be willing to bet my readers would benefit from hearing those approaches so feel free to share. Again, don’t think that my approach to this topic is the only way to make it through these kinds of events and days. We all do the best that we can with what we have at the time.
For more on surviving birthdays, read: