It was July 2010 and the line on the pee stick was faint. I hardly even believed K when she showed me, my eyes squinting and focusing, trying to find the line that meant we were having a second child. But there it was, all fuzzy and gray as I held the stick in front of the window.
We embraced near the toilet and exchanged a few excited words. We imagined the little pin point embryo taking shape inside her, the cells multiplying to form the tissue and organs that would become our second little tike.
All it took was that line. We were in. The colossal ball of anticipation began rolling down a mountain that was forty weeks tall. We walked out of the bathroom with eyebrows raised and a lightness to our steps. I could feel my heart expanding, making room for another child to fall madly in love with. We were going to be a family of four. Stella was going to be a big sister. April 2011 couldn’t come soon enough.
And then we thought and talked about that little person every single day. We followed it’s progress week by week, looking at pictures of how big it was, reading about what new development was happening inside K’s growing belly. We guessed the sex, our guts always playing games with our minds. It’s a boy. I think it’s another girl. No, it’s gonna be a boy. Back and forth we went on it’s gender, just because it’s so damn fun to think about.
We sat in front of a screen at twenty weeks and saw it for the first time. It swooshed and turned and flipped while our doctor probed and pushed until coming to the conclusion that we both guessed at different times along the way. Our little baby was a girl. A girl. We held hands and smiled to one another as our doctor continued to look things over. Stella was going to be a big sister. The colossal ball of anticipation became even larger, if it’s possible, as it rolled past twenty weeks, halfway down the mountain.
The naming of this SHE immediately followed our appointment and the conversation went on for months. We started in on the car ride home. Do you still like Margot? I asked Kari. I think so, she said. I think so.
Prepping Stella for this new sibling was an easy task. Before K’s belly was even noticeable, Stella was already elated. When we told her she was having a sister, just like mommy and daddy had, she grew even more excited. And when K’s belly began protruding farther and farther out, Stella talked about it every day. Momma’s belly have baby, she would say. She would usually follow this up with a joke that was funny even after the 100th time. I HAVE BABY TOO, she would yell as she pulled up her shirt. DADDY HAVE BABY TOO! Her older sister responsibilities began when we told her the baby’s name. Margot? she asked. Margot! she yelled. Almost every day she would gently rub and kiss K's belly and talk to her little sister. Her engagement with the whole process was something we talked about every day because it seemed so astonishing.
As it is for most, pregnancy is not easy with K, as I wrote about in some detail at thirty-two weeks: Her ribs hurt this time around. They feel as if they have been kicked, on repeat, for several months straight. The only nice part about aching ribs is that it steers the pain away from her back, which has methodically worsened with each new pound that adds itself to her chest, legs and belly. When she's not shifting uncomfortably in bed due to muscle soreness and joint pain, she is getting up, on average, six times to pee at night. She is inevitably tired for most of the day, as universal a sensation as there is for a woman with child. Her emotions swell and contract on a weekly basis, depending on the hormonal shifts that tinker and toy with her mood and eating habits and outlook on life, as if she needed something else to push her over the edge. There is also energy inefficient Stella to contend with this time, the little tike that can go from sunrise to sunset without taking a breather, blowing energy on running and talking and getting dirty and always asking us for "two more minutes" to play before nap or bedtime. And all of this while miraculously carrying a little fetus that is developing on auto-pilot just below the surface, whom she shares nutrients and oxygen with through a small, life allowing cord, a feat so primal and beautiful it's hard to even conceive.
And there was everything else. Getting our closet ready for her arrival. Ordering those tiny little diapers and bringing back out the baby clothes and planning for the arrival of our families. We spent more time with Stella as our family of three would soon be no longer. We ate out more, took longer walks, wrestled and loved and cherished as deeply as we could. It’s the end of an era, we kept saying to one another.
We knew what the final push in labor and delivery would mean. The single greatest moment of my life had been seeing Stella’s body emerge from K. The rush of love in that moment practically barreled me over. The pure joy, the sheer ecstasy of that first moment is almost too profound and mysterious for words. As the great ball of anticipation charged past thirty-six weeks, this moment was all we could think about. What will she look like? What will labor be like? Will she be big and long like Stella? Will she have lots of hair? It simply goes without saying. We couldn’t wait to meet her. We couldn’t wait to introduce her to Stella. We couldn’t wait to introduce her to our family and our friends. We couldn’t wait to introduce to her arranged best friend Lyla, who was due to make her own entrance just a few weeks before Margot. We couldn’t wait to dump the copious amounts of love on her that we had been storing up since first seeing the fuzzy line.
By the time the ball of anticipation plowed through thirty-seven weeks, it was all there was. It felt as though we had been holding our breath for her arrival for so long that we couldn’t wait to exhale again as we held our little girl. When people asked if Stella was my only one, I would tell them she wouldn’t be my only one for long. Our baby is coming, our baby is coming. I wanted to shout it out Paul Revere style everywhere I went.
And then, right at the very very very end, just as the anticipation was nearing climax and after all of the deep longing and build up and growing love and physical hardship and everything else that went into those nine and a half months, Margot died.