I was watching her videos and looking at her pictures over and over. Like I did in my downtime every night at work. I was still in awe of being a new mom. I was smitten with her and I adored being a mom. Cherish’s mommy. I envisioned our lives together, how I planned to move to the Ft. Myers area for bigger, more affordable houses. I thought of how her voice would sound when she was older, how much fun I would have teaching her how to go potty, ride a bike, or tie her shoes. I started to call to check on things, but I remembered my husband’s words: “You don’t have to call every two hours, I have to get some rest for work. Our daughter is fine in my care, stop worrying so much. We will both be here when you get home.” He had told me that every night for four months. I just wanted to check in and make sure everything was OK, but he was right, he was her father, he’d been doing a fine job so far, and it was time I stopped worrying so much.
I felt my milk letting down, so I knew it must have been 5 o’clock in the morning because that’s the time she ate. I knew I had to pump before I got my patient up and ready for school. I closed my phone and stood up when a call came in from my husband. I answered before the first ring was completed. I don’t remember if I said hello. I just remember his shaky voice say, “Cherish is not breathing.”
I woke up on the floor of my client’s home. I thought “God please tell me I passed out and had a nightmare.” Just then I felt an icy chill take over my body as I glanced over at my phone that I had obviously dropped and it was laying face up with the light from it dimming: “Missed call from hubby,” it read, before the screen turned black.
I sprang to my feet and ran to knock on my patient's mom's door. I know I stumbled across words before saying, “He said she’s not breathing!”
I heard her yell out, “GO!”
I ran as fast as I could out the door. I got to my jeep when I realized I didn’t have my keys. My house was only about five miles away and I strongly considered just running home on foot but my better judgement kicked in so I ran back inside and grabbed my purse and phone. I sped home purposely breaking the speed limit and not braking once hoping that an officer would follow me. I was praying, pleading, begging, and bargaining with God to let everything be OK. A sort of calm did descend over me as I thought I may have been overreacting. I thought maybe I didn’t hear my husband correctly, or maybe he made a mistake.
I busted through the door of my apartment and followed the labored sound of his voice on the phone with 9-1-1. I saw him on his knees performing CPR on my baby. Her body was still as he pushed on her chest and mucus oozed from her nostrils and mouth.
Spinning, I ran outside. I looked up towards the sky. I remembered I was standing in the same spot I was standing in 13 months prior when I looked up and noticed a thin cloud in the shape of what looked like an embryo, just before I took the test that confirmed I was pregnant. I gazed into the heavens for an answer and in that moment rage touched me as I glared into the sky.
I felt an overwhelming feeling of pity and sadness in return. I was disgusted with the God I thought I knew as I uttered, “How could you?” It was as if God looked down on me in that moment in remorse. I shook off the connection. Just then emergency personnel was pulling in the sirens were so loud I lost my senses.
“Where’s the emergency?” someone asked. I pointed to every door before pointing them to my apartment. I followed the last person in and into my bedroom and watched as they scrambled about franticly. One guy asked me, “How long has she been gone?”
To which I replied, “What?!"
He stuttered seemingly annoyed, anxious, and overwhelmed: “Unresponsive,” he corrected himself.
“I don’t know. I just got here,” I told him.
There were a few more moments of mayhem as people shoved themselves into our tiny room. Eventually, someone asked me to please have a seat in the living room with my husband who was already sitting there.
I held my breath and prayed fiercely like I had never prayed before in my life. “Don’t give him the right to take my baby.” I begged over and over and over again. I was referring to the Devil. I was always taught that it was the Devil who was the originator of sin and death, not God. So I pleaded that God not allow this King of Demons to take my firstborn and only child.
A tall, skinny, pale young man came out, his face was sunken in and beet-red. He looked frightened and he said something that my brain didn’t register. It wasn’t until I heard the deep groan from my husband that I began to cry out. The pain was like nothing I had ever felt before. I was repeating, “this is not real, this is not real,” “no, no, no,” “this is not real.” My husband was pacing around begging them to use the defibrillator on her. He kept saying that would bring her back. I was still crying and I was pinching myself trying to wake up from this night terror.
There was an officer, heavy set, who stood by the TV. He had what looked like a smirk on his face. He was saying, “It's real and there was nothing you could have done about it.”
Suddenly, I felt as though he was behind all of this, so I said, “You did this didn’t you, you smug, murdering pig!” I was yelling crazy stuff and being belligerent. I started to charge the officer and ask for his gun. Two officers picked me up and began carrying me to my friend’s house. I was flailing out of control and yanking at the holster for the officer's gun. With every want in my being I needed them to shoot me dead.
I heard my husband’s pathetic, hopeless voice say, “they gon' lock you up.” The last thing I wanted was to be locked up, and away from my child who might still be alive. Miracles happen all the time, right? I wouldn’t know for sure until I saw her again.
The officers shoved me into my friend's apartment and threw me onto her sofa and left. I got up and banged on the door like I didn’t know how to open it and I heard my friend say, “I’m so sorry, Tera.” Sorry for what was what I wanted to ask her.
“None of this is real!" I fell back on her sofa and cried with her arms wrapped around me. Then a social worker came in and tried to be nice. “Oh so they sent suicide watch huh?” I asked her. “They must wanna see how long it will take for me to kill everybody and then myself.” She would say it was going to be OK, and I would tell her that unless she could talk to God and ask Him to bring her back right now then nothing was OK. I kept asking where my baby was and why I couldn’t see her. What were they doing to her I kept asking.
“Collecting evidence,” she said. (Collecting evidence for what?) “After a child dies we have to collect evidence.”
Hours passed like days and eventually I was joined by my brother and sister. My brother was angry and talking about the kingdom where death would be no more. He was repeating that it was all Satan’s doing. My sister was silent and only seemed to be in disbelief. I felt like I had let them down in some way. I apologized to them for their pain. More hours passed and we were sent to the police station. I was drug and alcohol tested, and questioned with a recording device present. I just wanted to get that part over with because I knew they had to do their job.
After all the formalities were done I again begged to see my baby. They said they don’t normally let people see the body.
“The body,” my whole world, my entire universe, my existence, my every happiness was now being referred to as, “The body.”
They informed me that I could not touch or kiss her, or else it would alter the evidence. I had no intention on obeying them, I just had to get in to see her. I told them whatever they wanted to hear, so that they would let me see her.
The doors to the medical examiner’s office came open and there she lay: My Cherish. A smile spread across my face because she was just so beautiful. I held onto the love and happinesses I had always gleaned from just one look at her. She looked just like she did when she was sleeping. Her arms were stretched out over her head like she was reaching. Her face was still and calm. She was sound asleep. She was beautiful. I watched her and watched her like I had always done while she slept. I was waiting for her chest to rise even a little. I told her I loved her, and I wanted to say more but… I fell to my knees and boiling hot tears sprung from me.
The pain was worse than it was before; it was crippling. I could not walk on my own. I was debilitated by the pain. Every breath I tried to take was excruciating. Everything hurt. It was like I was drowning in a river of molten lava. My bone marrow escaped and surrounded my heart, circled around it, and hardened to stop its beating. My lungs begged with every cell in my body to escape and fill her up instead. I crawled into the agony and died there.