I think when tragedy strikes, your mind has a way of protecting you from going over the edge. There are days where I cannot believe I am putting one foot in front of the other. How am I going to work? How am I eating? How am I even having conversations with people? If you could read my mind, you would be amazed by these things as well. The images and thoughts that cross my mind on an hourly, sometimes minute-by-minute basis are thoughts I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I picture dropping Nash off at daycare that day, the huge smile he gave me as I walked away. I picture Nash on that gurney while strangers did CPR on him. I think about him suffering, wondering if he was waiting for me to rescue him. I think about choices I made that ultimately may have led to his death. Yet my mind doesn’t let me dwell there, I touch it and then set it down. For some reason, some days are harder than others. Sometimes for no reason at all, your mind just lets you go there. To dive in and not only touch it, but embrace the depths of the loss you are going through. Other days it’s a trigger. One of my triggers are birthdays. I have explained before the guilt someone goes through after the loss of a child. I would compare it to survivor’s guilt. Why am I here and he is not? Why do I get a birthday and he doesn’t? My birthday was particularly hard. It’s the day I came into this world, a day I should celebrate. I don’t see a reason to celebrate. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish I was gone and he was here. As I got ready for work the morning of my birthday, I looked at my Timehop on Facebook. When Nash was born, Todd was adamant that I didn’t go crazy posting pictures everyday. He said, “People don’t want their newsfeed to be continuous pictures of our baby.” I found a way around it though…I would just send the pictures to Becca and she would post them. I had seen people post things on Facebook with their Timehop app. I thought about how cool it would be to see what I was doing with Nash a year ago. I must have taken my husband literally, because I haven’t had any pictures or posts from a year ago until the morning of my birthday. There was a picture of me holding Nash and the post said, “Thank you everyone for the birthday wishes! Snuggling with my baby boy who has a belly ache has been tough, poor thing. Nowhere else I would rather spend my birthday though. It’s going to be hard to top this past year, its been my favorite so far, but I have a feeling this year may just top it!!!” As I read those lines, so many things hit me. 1. It is true there is no place I would rather be on my birthday than snuggling with Nash. 2. It had been my favorite year of my life to that point. 3. I knew the following year would be even better. I had plans. Plans I thought were written in stone, promised even. 4. It made me sad to think of how absolutely complete and happy I was then. It’s something I don’t recognize in myself anymore. As I got to work, my mind went to last year and all that was wonderful and innocent. Before life robbed me of any and all security. Before it had taken my favorite thing in this world. Before I knew what real pain was. My phone and Facebook started blowing up with happy birthday messages. It made me smile. Then the guilt sunk in. Why am I smiling, my baby is dead? Why should I have even one moment of happiness when he can’t? I went to the upstairs part of our office, hid in the bathroom and sobbed uncontrollably. I have learned that once you start down this road, there is no going back. I started thinking about my life and if I would ever know true happiness again…and did I even want it to? I thought about Nash and how unfair it is that he is gone. I thought about the one thing I wanted for my birthday but I know I can’t have…him. I started texting Todd and Becca from the bathroom, contemplating how to get out of the office without anyone seeing me. If there had been a window, I would have found some way to climb out of it. Luckily our office manager happened to be upstairs. I let her know I just couldn’t get through the day. She took care of it for me and found a sub to finish my shift. I started to worry about things I’m sure most people wouldn’t think would be crossing my mind at a moment like that. I was worried about my new boss thinking he hired a basket case, even though I knew if anyone would be compassionate about it, it would be him. It still scared me to leave work like that, and how it may look. As I reached my car, I tried to breathe and not throw myself into some sort of full-blown panic attack. I grabbed my phone and texted my boss to tell him that I was sorry and was having a rough day and would be better tomorrow. He texted back, “No worries at all.” As I pulled out of the parking lot, I couldn’t catch my breath. I started hiccup crying and wailng if you want to know the truth. I kept telling myself to breathe and not get too upset as I placed my hand on my belly. I couldn’t stop though. I had myself too worked up, and before I knew it I did the unthinkable and threw up on myself. Then I really started to have a chat with myself to calm down. If I was making myself sick, I was sure it wasn’t good for the baby. I didn’t need to catapult this already bad day into an even worse day. I know far too well that just when you think it can’t get any worse, it can. I couldn’t wait to get home. I just needed to be around Nash’s things. I started stripping off my puke-filled clothes as soon as I walked in the door. As I walked upstairs, I glanced at Nash’s nursery and then grabbed Nash bear and curled up in bed. I just wanted to sleep until the day was over. I couldn’t sleep though. My mind raced with thoughts I didn’t want to have. Todd texted and called to make sure I was okay. The birthday wishes kept coming in, and I just lay there praying for sleep and an end to my thoughts. I don’t know why, but my thoughts started going to my mother. The one who hasn’t spoken to me since Nash’s funeral. I didn’t expect a birthday call from her. She didn’t send gifts to her grandchildren for Christmas this year like she normally does, and my brother and sister didn’t get calls on their birthdays either. That’s not what upset me. What upset me is that for whatever reason she feels wronged and justified in not talking to her children anymore. She is so caught up in her own pity party that she can’t see what she is losing. What makes it even sadder is that she doesn’t care. She would rather be right. I know she could easily grow old and die without ever speaking to us again, and she would be completely convinced she had no other choice and was doing what was best for her. Like I have said before, I’m not close to my mother so not receiving a call didn’t break my heart. What bothered me is that she could throw away her children like garbage without a second thought, yet all of her children grew to be adults. Here I am missing my child and wishing for one more day, and he was taken from me. It’s just not fair! Right when I was thinking this, Todd texted me to tell me that his parents wanted us all over for dinner to celebrate my birthday as well as my brother-in-law Jeremy’s birthday. I asked Todd, “Tonight?!” He said, “Yes.” I said, “What if I don’t want to go?” and he said, “Just get some rest and we will see how you feel later.” My husband’s family is big on birthdays. It’s always been strange for me because to them this is the one “holiday” that is only yours and they go above and beyond in the celebrating department. Birthdays and Christmas go hand-in-hand in his family. That’s why I am happy to share my birthday with Jeremy. Both of us didn’t celebrate birthdays growing up, at least not like they do. We both are awkward and uncomfortable about it. To be honest, I think that my in-laws enjoy this. They get to spoil us and watch us squirm. Since Jeremy has been in the family, I have had an ally in all of the over-the-top celebrations my in-laws throw. To them it is normal, and to us it’s insane. A good insane though. Something we have to get used to because they are not going to stop, and let’s face it, it’s not the worst thing you can be put through. This birthday in particular I didn’t want to celebrate. I didn’t want cake and ice cream or people singing the birthday song to me. It’s a celebration, and a big one. I didn’t feel like celebrating that I’m on this earth one more year and my son is not. I didn’t want to break down crying in front of my nieces. I didn’t want to pretend I was okay. To tell you the truth, I didn’t have the energy to pretend anyway. I just thought it would be better to stay home. Todd really wanted me to try. He never pressures me when I’m feeling down, so I knew it could only mean one thing…they had something big planned. I tried to pull myself together, and as Todd and I headed towards his parents’ house he asked, “Why is this day harder for you than others?” I thought about it for a couple minutes and the tears just started pouring. I was getting myself all worked up again. As I tried to explain, my words were cut in half by hiccups, coughing and breaths I was trying to take. I think he instantly wished he wouldn’t have asked. I went on and on about how much I miss Nash, how I don’t want to celebrate anything, how unfair it all is. How much my mother lacks in the mothering department yet she managed to have four children that grew to be adults, three of which she could care less about. That I would give anything for my baby to be here but he is not, yet someone like her has three children here and alive and she ignores them! Todd was silent. We were just about to pull into his parents’ house, and I asked him what he was thinking. He said, “I’m just thinking about it all now.” Great, I thought, now I have brought him down too. As we pulled into the driveway, I turned on the overhead light and looked in the mirror. No way could I hide this swollen face and bloodshot eyes. I started to cry some more and looked at Todd and said, “I’m fat and ugly!” He just looked at me, smiled and said, “I think you’re beautiful.” As we walked in, it was a mixture of happy birthdays and hugs, but also faces of recognition that today was not a good day for me. Every time my nieces would try and sing the birthday song, my overprotective sister-in-law Becca would yell, “Not today!” They would just look at her and say, “You’re no fun.” Our friends Natalie and Justin were there, too. I immediately retreated to the bathroom. I’m really getting to know the ins and outs of all my family and friends’ bathrooms. To me they are safe rooms. I could probably write a whole blog on bathrooms alone, I spend so much time in them. I sat there trying to pull it together. When I finally felt I had gained some form of composure, I sat at the table with everyone. It was chaotic like it always is. Kids screaming and playing while the adults talk. As much as it wouldn’t seem to be a helpful environment, it was. I can sit there and almost be lost in all the madness and go unnoticed if I wanted. Before long, I found myself chiming in on the conversation. Todd would occasionally come up behind me to give me a kiss or ask if I was okay. God, I love him. The kids were so excited to have me open my gift. Before I knew it, they were dragging me to the living room. As I read the card, I saw Natalie and Justin went in on it, too. I knew to prepare myself that this was going to be an expensive gift. As I opened it, I cried. I write all my posts for my blog on my phone. I’m the last person on this earth who doesn’t own a computer and here it was. A laptop, touchscreen and perfect. I had to fight back tears. I yelled at them for spending too much money and Becca piped up, “It’s really a gift for all of us. We don’t want you to quit writing!” That drew a laugh from everyone. Although still numb from the day, I was smiling. Looking around at my family and knowing how much Todd and I are loved, that they would take our pain away in a second if they could. That if spending hundreds of dollars was the only way they could guarantee a smile, they would do it without a second thought. Earlier this month, Todd’s mom had found Nash’s favorite toy. The toy that hung from his car seat. He was just able to start pulling it down without a problem before he died. Todd had literally torn the house apart one night looking for it. He was so upset that I almost went and bought an identical one and was going to place it in the house where he would find it and act surprised. We hadn’t been to their house until my birthday and knew we would grab it then. Todd plopped the toy and two blankets she had also found on my lap. I immediately started crying and pulling the toy so it would make the noise. I brought it to my face to smell. As I sat there talking with everyone, I noticed Todd had taken it from me and was holding it to his chest. I knew how much it meant to him to have it. As we hugged everyone goodbye and headed to our cars, I couldn’t help but notice I was feeling better. I was glad I came. As much as I want to do this alone sometimes, I have to admit it helps to have people to lean on. Todd and I are lucky we are never lacking in that department. So, here I am, 35 years old sitting in my favorite spot, what I like to call the Nash nook. Writing my first blog post from my new laptop. Writing about my little angel who is no longer here, pregnant with my second child. As I sit here staring out the window, I can only hope I feel even an ounce of the happiness I felt when Nash was here. Even if my happiness will always be tainted from the loss of him, it’s nice knowing I have people to lean on to pick up the pieces and tape them back together the the best they can.