Anyone who has experienced tragedy can relate to you the exact moment their life divided into two distinct pieces. Before and After. The second they knew their lives would never be the same again. My moment was looking at that ultrasound machine - and seeing absolute stillness. All the times before, there was shifting and moving. There was a pulsating heartbeat. My moment was at 3:45pm, February 25, 2013, when I realized the life I was nurturing inside me was gone. That moment is the complete and absolute severing of my life into two very jagged and separate parts. Everything up to that moment was my Before. Everything since then is my After.
It is as if a heavy, black curtain has descended upon the stage between acts. The grieving period is - for lack of a better word - an intermission of sorts. Act I is over. While the audience is getting snacks and chatting with each other, the stage hands are feverishly rearranging the set. Moving this over here - that over there. It's hard work, and not everything fits together the way it should, but the next act is coming and they need to be ready. The audience is expecting the show to go on. And it will. But, in Act II, everything is different. The set has been changed. The actors wear different costumes. While Act I has the light and airy feel of innocence, optimism, and new beginnings, Act II is darker, harsher, and more reserved.
I can never return to my Act I. I am not the same person I was before that moment. I will never be that person again. I am forever changed. Not necessarily for better or worse, but different all the same. Mike used to tell me I lived in my own bubble, where I knew of the "dangers" of the world, but I didn't pay any attention to them. He's right. I knew of horrible things happening to people, but I never thought for an instant they would happen to me. But something did. And my bubble burst. I can never get that bubble back.
I can never go back to who I was Before - to the life I led Before. I mourn the loss of that life almost as much as I mourn the loss of Kenley.
I lost an innocence I can never get back. There's a certain excitement that accompanies preparing for a new baby, especially a first baby. Everything is fresh. You have a sense of tingling anticipation, of butterflies. You blissfully imagine the life you will have with your baby - and you find true happiness in preparing for it. You never imagine anything to go wrong. You never dream you will be wheeled out of the hospital empty handed and brokenhearted. That innocence died with Kenley, as did the life I would have led with her.
So, now I scurry behind the black curtain. Reorganizing, rearranging, reconstructing. Trying to make some sense of this mess. I know the curtain will soon rise, and my Act II will begin, whether I am ready or not. The show will go on, and it will go on without my daughter. Mike and I will say our lines, sing our songs, and perform our dances with a new perspective. The perspective that can only be seen through the eyes of loss.
Now, here's the thing about Act II. Even though Act II is a little sadder, a little wiser, and a little less "pie in the sky", Act II has something Act I doesn't have. A grand finale. The show-stopping musical number that encompasses all the elements of the play. Every emotion, every event, every character comes full circle. The dancing is frenzied and complicated. The singing is loud and interwoven with melody. Loose ends are tied. Resolution is reached. When the curtain drops on Act II, the audience leaps to their feet, applauding and whistling. "What a show!" they say. "What a show!"
Once my Act II begins, I will be a little more timid with life. I will not be as wide eyed and unaware. But, I promise you, once I gain my footing, I will give one heck of a show. And the grand finale to this part of my life will be nothing like you've ever seen.