14 July

Birthdays in Gilead

I used to believe in birthdays
The celebrations, the joy, the moments of nostalgia
Who doesn’t smile when they think back
On childhood parties, pool party gatherings, swing sets, and Carvel cakes?

A time to celebrate
A time to contemplate
And think of the future
A time to reflect,
Examine the now.
A time to mourn
For all we have lost.
A time to be grateful
For all we have in this world.

The year 2020 changed this for me.
The year of the pandemic.
George Floyd.
Black Lives Matter.
An election year. Of course it is.
Wildfires. Yes, the world is literally on fire, from Australia to California.
This is my year of absolute hell.

Churchill famously said, If you’re going through hell, keep going.
But I’m not sure I have the strength I need for these flames.
I’m not grateful.
I’m not celebrating.
I am angry. so very angry.

January of 2020
It was my husband’s birthday.
We didn’t get to celebrate.
Instead, I lost our first child
Felt contractions just as his mother had done on that same day decades before
Only this day around the sun was different.
Writhing in agony.
Only 10 weeks in.
So much blood. Pain for weeks.
No birth to celebrate.
This is how our year started.
A day marked with both life and death of those closest to me.

We can try again.
We can do this.

George Floyd.
Black Lives Matter.
Riots in New York City.
Riots in Philadelphia.
Looting everywhere.
No toilet paper anywhere.
Quarantine. Don’t leave your house. Stay at home.
Everyone must wear a mask. Where’s Muriel Rukeyser?
1984. Gilead. What day of the week is it? Where are we, really?
Night sweats and Nightmares.
I wake up crying for months.
My stomach is larger now, but it is empty. I hate looking in mirrors.
Through my tears, I tell myself, we’ll get through this.

And we do.
And we try again.

July 14th.
Bastille Day.
My grandfather’s birthday.
He may no longer be on this earth, but this is his day.
I didn’t get to celebrate. There was no unification.
Perhaps it was a day to commemorate
the revolt
Of methotrexate
Ending my ectopic.
Where are you stuck, my little embryo?
I can feel you.
But the methotrexate spreads
Preventing your growth.
Breaks you down.
Or is it me?
Instead of celebrating, here I am again.
Dreams deferred.
How could my guardian angel have allowed this to happen
On his day of all days?
Another birthday to celebrate. Another loss to mourn.

Today is my birthday.
I took the day off from work.
A day to unwind; try to celebrate something.
Hopeful for some joy or positivity.
But the first thing I saw was blood.
Of course – it’s 2020.
Today was my first cycle
Following the methotrexate.
A reminder of what we still don’t have.
I knew this would happen soon enough
But why did it have to be today, on my birthday?
How much longer will I be on this hamster wheel?
my birthday in 2020 –
Of course the first thing I see is blood.

I should be grateful for a new cycle.
a new chance. a new revolution.
Instead I just see red and cry.

Birthdays in 2020
Not quite like those childhood parties.
This is what birthdays are like when you live in Gilead.


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