Why We Celebrate EVERYTHING

family beachBy Hilary Bilbrey

“So, you should prepare yourself. You may not make it through delivery.”

My middle child turns 14 in two days. This time of year, I always come back to this moment. The moment the doctor told me that I would likely not live to see my child. Now, in retrospect, we should have gotten a second opinion, but we didn’t know that at the time. I tend to be a big emotion person. My middle school choir teacher, Mr. Oman, once told me that my highs are so much higher than others, but my lows are so much lower. It’s the way God made me and just is. Knowing that, I brought my husband, Mr. Never Overreacts, into the room and asked the doctor to repeat it. He did. So, we went home and planned my funeral, like down to the hymns. I ended up going into labor early, the only actual issue with my whole delivery, mind you, and they whisked our baby boy away to a hospital 30 minutes away so he could get the help he needed to breathe properly.

The next moment of truth came. I asked to talk to the pediatrician and through tears asked, “Is it a matter of if I see my son or when?” His face crumpled and he immediately hugged me. “Oh my gosh, when, honey, when.” The next few days passed in a blur, and finally we were able to bring our beautiful baby boy home. Unfortunately, the worst was not over.

A couple weeks later, our oldest son, 18 months old at the time, had a scalding accident. I had returned to an empty house and received a frantic phone call that my family was in the emergency room. I don’t remember how I got there. I do remember that the firefighters from town were already there, lending a hand in any way they could, one of the many reasons I admire them so. What followed was a chaotic parade of doctors, nurses, police officers, all punctuated by the cries of our little guy. I do not remember much from that time, but I remember every single “hurts, Mama” he uttered. I rode in the ambulance with him for two hours, down to the burn center in Madison, Wisconsin. To this day, I don’t know all the details, but Jeff and I were asked to leave his room when we first got there as he was crashing because of an overdose of pain meds. My brain literally could not process what was going on.

A month in ICU passed excruciatingly. It was weeks before we could touch our sweet toddler’s skin without having gloves on…until you’ve gone without being able to touch your child skin to skin, you don’t know how incredibly meaningful it is. There were some very frightening and painful moments at the hospital; to be honest, selfishly, I rarely talk about it because it hurts to remember. Luckily, Breck was too young and was medicated enough that these times are not a part of his conscious memory…a true blessing. He had one set of skin grafts there, followed by compression socks and years of burn clinic and another set of grafts. We were so very fortunate; not only did he survive, his burns healed better than expected and he has never had to have another set of grafts. We owe so much to the staff at University of Wisconsin, truly. In fact, just a few nights ago, Breck stood on stage with his teammates at his basketball banquet and was recognized as a scholar athlete. Such an incredibly proud moment that went beyond the court and the classroom.

You’d think that everything just went back to normal after that, wouldn’t you? But it didn’t. What followed was years of self-doubt, guilt, frustration, anger mixed with gratitude, joy and pride. Looking back now, I can see moments where I was fighting to feel worthy again…and not gracefully, I might add. I think as a parent, when something happens to your kids, it sets your whole world on a trajectory that can be unpredictable and scary. The perfect world you thought would be…is no longer. For those who have lost children, I can’t even begin to imagine your pain and how you make sense of the world after.

So, that leads me to today. A few days before we celebrate the 14th birthday of my one-of-a-kind, Jake. We celebrate all the time…some might even say over-celebrate. Why? Because you don’t know. We don’t know. It can all change in a moment, and seeing the beauty, celebrating the little things and being joyous over things going right…somehow it makes all the “what if’s” seem a little less scary. We hope you find reasons to celebrate today and know we will be celebrating right along with you.

Live Inspired! 


  1. You are amazing! What an inspiring story! I knew we were kindred spirits from the start! Looking forward to getting to know you better!

    • You are so kind! Kindred spirits are my favorite! Thank you for taking the time to explore our family mission. Very glad to be on this new journey with you!

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