Pressure

My eyes popped open and focused on the ceiling fan overhead. Even in a dark room, I woke up fully in an instant, a feat rarely accomplished those days. I closed my eyes again, staying as still as possible while my left hand blindly fumbled around the nightstand for my Zofran prescription. As the medicine dissolved in my mouth, its strawberry taste bringing the smallest of reprieves, I focused on my husband’s quiet breathing and our bulldog’s loud snores. After a deep breath of my own, I finally rolled over and glanced at my phone. First, I noticed the time—6:00am, a full hour before my scheduled alarm. Then I noticed a text notification with the news I had been expecting, but dreading.

I felt David shift behind me. His arm hooked over my waist and pulled me close as he pressed his face into the back of my neck. “Happy Anniversary sweetheart,” he whispered drowsily.

“She died,” was my short reply. “I need to get to the office.”

I stood in the shower mentally going over the day ahead. I thought of the statement I needed to send and the calls I would have to make. All the while I tried to force my nausea away; I simply had no time to feel sick. God, in his merciful goodness, somehow understood. It was the only day in the first half of my pregnancy I did not throw up.

Earlier that week, I sat with my boss for what I knew was the final time. I thanked her for everything she had given me and her shining example of faith, for the chance to achieve my dream job, for being more than just my boss, but a mentor as well. I told her I loved her and wished she could meet the little baby swishing around inside of me.

I squeezed her hand and left to finish my job—to take care of her one last time the best way I knew how. Billy Joel kept me company at my desk that summer evening as I carefully crafted a press release and prepared a biography filled with her earthly accomplishments.

His music seemed the natural choice that morning as well, his complex lyrics ushering me through my early morning commute as I drove closer to the most important day of my career.

A small smile crossed my lips when “Uptown Girl” came on, as it always does, and I pictured biking around UC Davis with it blaring in my iPod headphones.

The perfect ballad for singing out loud, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” helped steady the quiver in my voice.

You have to learn to pace yourself

Pressure

You’re just like everybody else

Pressure

My hand reached for the skip button. I was under enough pressure; I didn’t need Billy Joel to serenade me with it. But something about the frantic melody met me in the strange in-between I found myself, personally grieving yet ready to take on a task that required little to no emotion be shown.

A calm settled over my shaking body. “Pressure” would be my anthem for the day.

My hand diverted instead to the volume, turning the music up loud enough to drown out the buzzing of my phone. Reporters were already calling.

As the morning wore on, the hums of my office became a soundtrack of its own. Quiet tears and words of comfort shared between co-workers drifted in as I worked overtime to maintain my composure with pushy reporters. The angry mutterings of our legal consultant as he overheard my conversations became my lifeline. He said everything I wished I could while I stuck to calmly confirming details.

“Please refer to the statement from this morning.”

“No, the family will not be giving any interviews.”

Then a reporter called simply to say sorry. I cried for the first and last time that day.

Mid-afternoon, I slipped from my office and met David in his car. We had previously scheduled our 12-week ultrasound; it was supposed to be a fun way to spend our anniversary. Determined not to think of the outing as an inconvenience, I silenced my phone in the lobby of the doctor’s office and buried it deep in my purse. In the middle of death, I spent a blissful half an hour focused on new life as I held my husband’s hand and watched our tiny girl wiggle on the screen.

Back in the real world, I fished my phone out of my purse. Ten missed calls and even more new, unread emails.

Pressure.

I turned to David as he pulled out of the parking lot.

“Can I make a music request?”

This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in this series “Playlist”.