Dark Day.

I may still decide to bore you with my many, many words on how I decided to go back to work outside the home, but there is something more pressing I need to write about at the moment, and it is my dread of tomorrow.

My new job is at my old company, where I worked until Simone was born—or, more precisely, until my maternity leave ran out a bit over half way through her NICU stay. You probably remember that I didn’t go back because Simone’s pulmonologist was firm on the point of no day care for the first two years, but honestly I couldn’t have brought myself to leave Simone then anyway, especially when I had a choice. Before maternity leave I’d been on short-term disability thanks to bedrest, and before that was my actual last day in the office—a half-day, actually. Six years ago tomorrow, January 14th, 2008.

A lot of things are different now. For one thing, the company acquired another company and changed its name, and there has been some significant rebranding. I am in the same department I was in before, but that department has undergone dramatic changes itself. I am on the same floor I was on before but at the opposite end, and there’s been a remodel—the color scheme is different, as is the carpet; the offices are much, much smaller and everything looks a bit sleeker. It’s different now, it is, but it feels, in many ways and in many places, the same. I park within a spot or two of where I parked six years ago, I get coffee from the same machine in the same location as I did back then, I use the same bathrooms and climb the same stairs and I even eat the same thing for breakfast from the same cafeteria. Sometimes when I walk across the skyway to refill my cup I feel eerily unmoored in time, because I have walked across that same skyway so very many times in the past.

On my last day, six years ago tomorrow, I shut down my computer around lunch and left for a routine prenatal appointment, twenty-two weeks and two days pregnant with twins. I thought I would be back the next morning. Instead, I didn’t return for two months, and when I did it was on a Saturday, so that I wouldn’t have to see anyone, and Scott and I hurriedly deposited the contents of my office into garbage bags—hurriedly because afterwards we were going to the hospital, where our daughter lived, and where we’d spent most of our time since January, and would until mid-May.

Look, I don’t mean to be maudlin or overdramatic about this. I’m not going to kneel in front of the Xerox and keen. Being back doesn’t upset me, in general; if anything, familiarity has made the transition to working outside the home again much easier. There have been a few awkward moments—I saw someone I worked with before who inquired after my children, asking how many I had now. I said two, and he said “Oh, it was twins, right?” and then I had to say Well yes, a boy and a girl, but my son died. But my daughter is fine! I have another one now, too! Most people, though, who were here back when I was, remember what happened. They look visibly relieved when I show them a picture of Simone, or mention that she is in Kindergarten. Some have read my book, or saw articles about the book in the local papers, but mostly the subject doesn’t come up.

Still, when I found out that my start date was a week into January, I had a wild, stupid moment when I considered asking to start two weeks later, say around the 20th. January 14th, you see, is my Dark Day. The 11th isn’t so hot either—it’s probably the last time Ames was alive, and possibly the night he died—but except for the furious kicking the relevant events of the 11th are speculative, and all happened in the evening, after work, so there is no parallelism to contend with. And anyway the 14th is always the worst, because it was the worst. It was an unimaginably horrible day, a horror. I usually commemorate it now by ruminating on all the ways I am possibly to blame, and all the ways things could possibly have gone differently. And I wonder about him.

In an unexpected and late-breaking twist, tomorrow I will again shut down my computer around lunch and leave for an appointment–more specifically, to take Simone to the pediatrician, located exactly one floor above the perinatologist’s office where I had my appointment six years ago. I’ll even park in the same ramp. I suppose this is good, in a way: it underscores the fact that I have been lucky, that I have a lovely, healthy daughter, the same daughter whose future, six years ago, was so precarious.

Simone asked me this past week whether Ames was “an ‘Early Bird,’ too.” I don’t know where she heard that phrase—I think her teacher (also the mother of a preemie) may have used it. (“I was an Early Bird,” Simone will say confidingly.) Anyhow, she asked if Ames had been an Early Bird, and I told her not really, because he had died before he was born. She knows this, but something about the phrasing struck her, and she repeated it incredulously: He died before he was born?
“I didn’t know that could happen,” she said. I nodded.

And I suppose that is what I am dreading about tomorrow, in a nutshell. I did know that could happen. I did. But the way I knew it before January 14th of 2008 and the way I knew it after are a world apart. I am dreading sitting at my desk, remembering sitting at a desk some yards away, stupidly, luckily unaware of what had already happened, and I am dreading the walk to my car remembering that other, last walk to my car, before everything changed forever.


  1. A'Dell says:

    My day is February 23rd, and even though Claire’s twin was so much smaller (just 7 or 8 weeks), and even though I tried to forget about the whole thing and focus on the good parts, it still stings to look at her on that day every year and wonder what might have been.

    xoxo, friend. Lots of love today and tomorrow and all of the other days that come.

  2. Bon says:

    i have a place like that. i had a crappy part-time job up four flights of stairs in the oldest building on campus and i spent three months working there and hustling for other part-time teaching and then one day i was on my way to work and noticed spotting…and then i was airlifted and on bedrest and in a NICU and then…just home. alone. without job or baby. and years later with children safely at daycare i got another job on the same campus and i didn’t even notice it was the same time of year until i happened to get sent over to one of those offices and the stair climb and the April light coming in the windows sent me straight to the washroom stall where i rocked myself because it was so vivid, almost as if i had met that other “Before” me heading down the stairs for the very last time.

    your words suddenly brought it back. i have never said it aloud before. i may never again…no need. but i will be thinking about you tomorrow.

  3. Jane says:

    No words of wisdom, no platitudes of god’s mysterious plan. Just know that you travel a path that many others have traveled, and that might make your day a little less lonely.

  4. I am sure there is a specific form of PTSD for this horrible kind of loss and all the events surrounding it, which would, of course, be triggered by the day, the place, all the mundane events that led up to it being marked in time as the most horrific event.

    Congratulations on your job, on liking it, on having some degree of familiarity with it. It’s a feat, really, something I hope to do for myself as I approach the 4 yr anniversary of leaving my job and my career.

  5. Ann says:

    Work is not a great place for catharsis but I hope that in some way you have time tomorrow to feel what it is you’re feeling. The world should meet us on our Dark Days wherever we are or need to be. All my best to you, Alexa.

  6. Amelie says:

    That last part is so true. I did know this could happen. I did know people can lose their babies in mid-pregnancy. And yet the way I know it now is so different.
    I’ll be thinking of you tomorrow, and of Simone and Ames.

  7. HereWeGoAJen says:

    I will be thinking of all of you tomorrow.

    My day is always Saint Patrick’s Day because it is the last day I thought Luke was still alive. I threw a party for my moms club and I went to bed without cleaning up first which I never do. And then I ended up going straight to the doctor the next day and then being admitted directly into the hospital. When I came home days later with no baby, all the party stuff was still spread out all over the house. I crawled around on my hands and knees (I had lost so much blood at delivery that I couldn’t stand up for long) cleaning up because I couldn’t take that stuff being in my house anymore.

  8. Sarah says:

    1. I am going to be 22 weeks and two days pregnant tomorrow, and reading this while feeling little kicks from my son was incredibly eerie.

    2. I think you are very brave, and a wonderful writer. I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through, but I hope that getting through tomorrow will be cathartic and possibly even a “skyway” of sorts.

  9. Marie Green says:

    I didn’t remember that tomorrow is your dark day, but I was telling friends at dinner that tomorrow is my niece’s 2nd bday as well as the 1yr anniversary of my BIL getting a new liver and kidney. Now I’m struck by reading this, this same day means such different things to people I care about. I’ll be sending you all of my love, Alexa. Xo.

  10. StacieT says:

    I’ve typed and erased ten times already. Sigh. I wish I had something profound to say, but of course my words are lacking. The Dark Days bring an ache that fills the soul and floods our minds with the “what ifs.” Sending extra love your way. I’ll be thinking of you tomorrow.

  11. Mert says:

    I’m so sorry. Your writing lately has been so happy and light-hearted, and it’s easy (for me) to forget the rough times that came before. But I will be thinking of you today. I hope your work day goes well. And maybe that’s the best that can be expected out of this dark day. Take care of yourself.

  12. zarqa says:

    Goodness, the things seared into our minds forever. I remember, late afternoon, at work, having a brownie and orange juice to get my boy to move and then the stairs I took to my car, the heaviness I felt, with him still not moving. Afterwards, I went back to that same place of work and worked with the same people for a few years while we were trying again. So everyone knew and no one knew what to say (except one colleague who said exactly the right thing and will, therefore, be a person I love forever). And they all knew when I had my girl three years later, alive, healthy, but without her older brother. She’s now 6 and we told her about her brother just this year when we went to visit him at his grave site. And she had a similar reaction of “I didn’t know that could happen”. And many questions afterwards, which I actually welcomed, because it gave me a chance to talk about my son in a way that was laced with child-like wonder instead of adult pain and grief.
    I wish you peace.

  13. K says:

    Every year leading up to Iris’ birth date, I feel a little bit like a sucker. Something about looking back and knowing I had no earthly clue that life could be so bad and so hard and so earth shattering–all within minutes. That I had no idea.

    I can imagine the eeriness of your daily setting juxtaposed against what was back in 2008. There are certain places–two restaurants and a coffee shop–that I just don’t simply go to because I went to them while pregnant with Iris and Noah. I just…don’t.

    I think you and your heart are strong and weathered.

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