With rice still stuck to the sides of my thickly sprayed chignon updo, I was already pining for the days to come.
While our wedding guests did the Electric Slide, I had visions dancing under that updo of how the next chapter of my life would unfold. Blessed with the smooth wedding day all brides hope for, I now set my sights on a smooth journey to motherhood. And I fully expected it would follow with little casualty (except for perhaps a purse or two, I was warned, during those first car ride-induced morning sickness episodes) and no tears (except for the joyous ones I was told I would shed when I heard my babe’s first cry).
I remember being shocked when I wasn’t yet pregnant on our one-month wedding anniversary. Confused as to what could have possibly gone wrong, I sat, curled into a ball next to a trashcan each month tossing one “pregnancy test one-liner” — as I unlovingly called them — after another on top of tear-stained Kleenex. Minor obstacle morphed into frustration, which led to expensive fertility treatments and then, finally, success as we awaited the emergence of the bundle of joy I had always dreamed of.
Immediately following my C-section, however, I was wheeled onto an elevator and into my new life, as I watched the nurse push the button for the surgical recovery floor — not the maternity floor. Bordered by patients recovering from appendectomies and hip replacements, I covered my face with my thin white hospital bed sheet and mourned the loss of the child that lived right beneath my heart for nine months. The child that I loved and so desperately wanted. Recognizing that I didn’t belong on the maternity floor or the surgical recovery floor, I cried out that I belonged on some space between floors. I bemusedly stared around my room at floral arrangements with cards that read “With Sympathy” where the words “It’s a Girl” should have stood. As I was discharged, I quickly learned my feelings of not “fitting in” would transcend the hospital. A few short words were sometimes the only ones that my muddled mind could find:
I was a mother yesterday. What the hell am I today?
Returning home, I bumped into the backs of furniture and commented that the whole of my life felt foreign. As if it weren’t hard enough that I had to live within the war-torn post-pregnant body, post-tragedy, I realized it wasn’t just my J. Crew khakis that didn’t fit anymore. Relationships felt inauthentic and strange. Entrenched in grief, I embarked on a proverbial spiritual witch-hunt to find out who I was and to make sense of my place in this new world.
Always an avid reader, I thought I would find myself in books. I rummaged through piles and stacks of novels and self-help texts galore looking for something that I just couldn’t seem to find. Coming up as empty as my insides felt, I eventually stumbled upon the fact that writing could help. So I picked up a pen and I wrote in my journal. Then I wrote some more. Because it felt good. And sure enough, without even realizing that I was doing so, I ended up penning the book that my soul yearned for. By diving into the painful paradox that my daughter wasn’t going to be there to teach, I became the student, learning about the sacred dance of life and loss.