I just want to go back ONE minute. A lousy 60 seconds. About the time it takes to select the right IG filter or perfect your status.
Just take me back. To before.
Your dad and I were watching a sleazy Netflix show. He had wine. I couldn’t finish dessert. Your brother, actually asleep at a decent hour.
I was so, so very happy.
Something hurt. Cramping where it shouldn’t be. Dread; down to the very pit of me. I kept my eyes on the TV. I prayed. Right after I choked on a mess of profanities.
But I sat up. I made myself stand. I turned around. I looked down.
Red. On our cheap Ikea couch. Not much. But enough.
I didn’t say a word as I left the living room and climbed the stairs. I didn’t run. I didn’t want to rush it. I walked slowly. Too slow. Then even slower. Because I wanted to stay in the before a little while longer. Holding on to you.
I got to the toilet. Pants hit the ground. I sat.
And that was the last time I was in the before with you.
This is where I live now. After you.
After, I realized I was going to need more toilet paper and a pad. A change of panties. My light pink shorts, ruined. I threw them away. I hated them.
After, I walked downstairs. Your dad was still in the before. I wish I could have left him there.
After, he ran to me. “We don’t know what this means! Everything could be fine. Don’t panic, please.”
After, he reached for my hand. And I let it fall.
After, he typed, “bleeding during early pregnancy” on my computer. Because I couldn’t.
After, I read everything. Especially the parts you shouldn’t. Then I got up once more, went to the bathroom.
Red. Still. Only more.
After, I called the number. It was for a midwife in Amsterdam. They told me what was likely happening. They told me they were there if I needed anything. If they told me more, I don’t remember. The language barrier only slightly to blame.
After crying. After screaming. After convincing myself the bleeding had lessened and that everything would somehow be okay. I went to bed.
After, I couldn’t sleep. I walked into my son’s room. I watched him. There was just enough moonlight. Thank you.
After, I woke up the next day. The pain a bit higher. Just reaching the heart.
After, everything was still red. I called the midwife again. She made the appointment for me.
After, I dropped your brother off at school. And I walked there alone. To the clinic. I took this picture. Nov. 7, 2014. To remember. Like I could forget.
After, I walked through the door. They told me to strip completely. I worried about all the blood. They didn’t.
After, they said you were gone. They left me on the table. I cried for 7097835 years. I got up.
After, I went have coffee. My first in weeks. And cake. Carrot.
After, I eventually let my tears cripple me. I didn’t leave the couch or touch my son. I decided to write to my family. I couldn’t call them. They hadn’t even known about you. We wanted to surprise them at Thanksgiving. I wish I had told them about you immediately. I wish I had told the world about you. When there was still a reason to celebrate.
After, I bled for 14 days.
After, a week or so, my friend lost her baby at full term. Another received terminal news. I didn’t know if I had the right to grieve for you. I didn’t want to compare my heartache to theirs. I didn’t want any of this.
After, your grandmother, called. She wanted to come spend Christmas in Amsterdam with us. My first real smile. Plans; I got to make them. Hope; I got to have it.
After, December arrived and the fog lifted a bit. We decided to live again. Explore. Travel. Switzerland, first. Italy, for Christmas. Seemed like legit places to heal.
After, we celebrated Christmas. I covered the tree in angels. And roses. The two things that will always remind me of you. We had the perfect day. Family came stay with us. They gave up their Louisiana Christmas for our European one. They did that for you.
After, three nights in Italy, we boarded a plane. I was sick. Blamed the wine. Because your mama drinks like a beast.
After, I stayed sick until New Years Eve. And when your dad tried to cook a roast, I decided it was time to go to the store. I picked up a miracle.
After two minutes, I checked the test. It was December 31, 2014. The day I found out about your sister.
After, the following 9 months were filled with gratitude, anxiety, distrust, the kind of crazy laugh you get when you are hysterical, and an abundance of ginger-flavored crap. Evelyn Rose Brownlee joined our world on August 28, 2015. I have no doubt in my mind that you were there. Saw me through the entire pregnancy and birth abroad. Supplied strength and faith when both of mine were lacking. Reminded me that even though I was an ocean away from my family and friends, I was never really alone.
Now, I get to sit and watch your brother and sister fight over purple play-doh and the last banana (I’m totally lying, it’s an Oreo). They are the most gorgeous light in my world. And they will never be lonely. Because they have each other. Because of you.
LONG AFTER, years from now, we will meet again. And I will hold you tighter. Put a rose in your hair. We’ll dance without shoes or a beat.
After all, I am your mama. And you are the prettiest part of my story.