Milestones and the dates on which they occur embed in our memories, whether we want them to or not. My grandpa’s been gone for 20 years but January 30 will never pass without it being his birthday. Although I’m no longer married, the Fourth of July hasn’t stopped being my wedding anniversary and the day after Christmas will always take me back almost ten years to the last time I was pregnant.
The post-Christmas good news came after years of trying, unexplained infertility, and several miscarriages. As much as I love Christmas to this day, it’s impossible not to remember the year when all I wanted was for Christmas to be over. So I could know.
When I finally got my Christmas wish, every day was a milestone. My painful past told me I didn’t dare think in terms of nine months. Instead, I focused on weeks, days, moments. Five days, then eight days, and lab numbers were improving. Breathe. Four weeks, then six weeks, and I was still pregnant. Exhale. Tired moments, giddy moments, all wrapped in gratitude for the now. No longer, “I wish I could get pregnant.” Not yet, “I’m going to have two babies!” Rather, “I am pregnant now.” Rejoicing and not taking for granted even the simplest of things, I reveled in every symptom I was able to reach. Have to pee three times a night? Thank you Jesus! Weird dreams, super-power smelling skills and crying over cat food commercials? Praise God!
I couldn’t afford to get ahead of myself because “ahead of myself” was not only uncertain, it was improbable. However, there was one thing I couldn’t help but think about.
My due date.
I remember an involuntary giggle escaping when I learned that my due date was Labor Day. Oh, the irony, after struggling so long. I would have my own labor day, small L, near the national holiday, big L.
A couple of weeks later, the thought of a holiday dimmed dramatically when two babies became one. Weeks later still, the future date all but disappeared when the remaining heartbeat wasn’t as fast as it should be and at just shy of 12 weeks, there was only darkness when the heartbeat was gone forever.
My small L labor day never happened but the irony remained and it revisits me every September, an unwelcome and gloomy guest.
This year, in an effort to mold what for most is a three-day last hurrah of summer into something other than sad, I set out to purposely celebrate someone else’s similar due date. First, I had to be honest with myself because I wasn’t entirely sure I could do it. More honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it. I had to ask God for bucketloads of grace, in order to set aside my own crud. The lingering moments of bitterness and envy and anger that I thought I was done with. None of which I’m proud of but all of which God continues to erode and, mercifully, forgive.
Since I enjoy what I consider “digital doodling” I set out to compile biblical truths for my friend to focus on, after she confessed feeling anxious about labor. I admit that I still stay away from certain areas of scripture, at least in much detail. Sarai? Rebekah? Rachel? Hannah? Yeah, yeah, I know the stories, let’s move along.
I can’t say that the process of creating a small gift for my friend washed away the significance of the holiday for me. But as I sought out scripture to encourage her, I learned that I didn’t need to eliminate the sadness of my connection to it in order to appreciate God’s blessings upon her. I could hold both my own disappointment and another’s hope at the same time. Because God holds both my sorrow and her joy at the same time, also.
Allowing myself space to continue to lament makes it possible to also rejoice with another. Perhaps this is Baby Christian 101 but in the context of everything that Labor Day means to me, it’s a hint of a breakthrough and a chance to pray for someone I care about, the sincerest of God’s blessings for her labor day.