5.09.2016

the day after

Mother's Day in 2014 shared the day with my father's birthday. The days often overlapped and that made me sad growing up, knowing the joy that my father's birth must have brought his mother wound up being surpassed by her untimely early death that left him a child without a mother. It was like some circle of utmost joy and mother-child love and sadness and life and all of that, and so I usually prioritized my father's birthday over Mother's Day. In 2014, Mother's Day also shared the day with a dance competition my sister was competing in and that trumped any other celebration. Ethan wasn't three years old yet and so I spent the latter half of the day without him, my hugely pregnant belly shoved into auditorium chairs listening to the shrill shriek of dance moms in the crowd as my stomach rolled. Kicks, punches, the incessant need to pee forcing me to squeeze past twenty overtly caffeinated moms in bedazzled studio jackets. There were food trucks and I had a s'mores Italian Ice with graham cracker pieces crumbled on the top. My sister placed at the bottom as all authentic hip-hop performance pieces will place when judged by accomplished ballerinas and then she begged us to go for pancakes. It was late, I insisted. I have a doctor's appointment in the morning, I argued. Like I said, my sister's hobbies and interests trumped anyone else's celebration and so I checked in with my husband and Ethan through text (they were both in bed) and accompanied my family to IHOP. I had a water and a waffle. My stomach was upset from the snow cone. I had a sugar headache. I also had three bites of my sister's sundae because I was pregnant and there was chocolate, damn it, so much chocolate.

The next morning was my doctor's appointment. This aggravated me. It was hard having to wake up Ethan to drop him at my mother's house and then get myself to the perinatologist for my routine monitoring. I had preeclampsia with Ethan and so as a precaution, my doctor ordered me weekly routine ultrasounds from my second trimester onward. I had two more to pass before they could ease up on me and let me finish out my last weeks of pregnancy like a normal person. The ultrasound technician was quiet and thorough. This aggravated me, too. I was hungry and I just wanted to pick up Ethan because we had plans later that afternoon with a friend. I was worried my mother was feeding him sugary breakfast cereals and chocolate milk and the entirety of our day would crash to pieces. The technician finished and then I was dressing, wiping the globs of goo from my belly. And then a doctor walked in. Not my doctor, but a different one who had seen my scans in passing. "Can you just lay down for one more minute?" She had a gentle face, a nice face, but I knew. "Is it her heart?" I screamed this into the darkness and I'm not even sure what prompted me to think it.

Five minutes later, my world would come crashing down on me as I sat alone in a doctor's office. The cardiologist referral came next, I'm sure of it, but I don't remember much else except for the world ending. I'm still not sure how it all resumed.

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I still believe, after all that I went through, that diagnosis day was harder than birth. Medical professionals spoke of my beloved daughter in the past tense, with I'm so sorry remarks and hand squeezes as her little feet kicked at my insides. Soon, her movements would slow. Eventually, they would stop. In just a couple of weeks, I would be giving birth to my daughter who never even got to take a breath. But diagnosis day will always haunt me the most, even more than choosing her urn while she wiggled inside of my body.

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The day after Mother's Day was a rebirth. Well, it was more like a descent. A descent into a hell that I could not climb out of but Ethan needed me to and so I tried until my fingernails were worn down to the quick and every muscle in my body ached.

Two years later and this Day After is being spent just like this, right now, and I am unable to form the words. In a few short weeks, I should be celebrating my eldest daughter's 2nd birthday but she will not be turning 2. I am hanging onto this little one for balance. As I stare down at this sweet face, I know that this will be the Day After were the ascension begins. There is renewal in her life, her existence. She has given us so much of ourselves back.

I think her big sister would have loved her just as much as we all do.

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