31 weeks ago, on Father’s Day 2015, I rode my bike to CVS. For two weeks, I’d had a really obnoxious cramp in my lower abdomen. I thought I had an ovarian cyst because it was sharp and stabby. But the doctor didn’t find anything wrong and sent me home.

I made the trip to CVS every couple of weeks usually, to purchase a home pregnancy test. It was just a formality for me, to the point that when I took the test, I typically just set it aside and would glance at it later in confirmation that things were normal. Normal for me, anyway.

But this time, before I could even fully lift the test back up, something was off. It was positive. Extremely positive. And like most people with an unplanned pregnancy, I started to pace around frantically, trying to catch my breath, before calling my boyfriend. Then I took another test. And another. A real Hollywood cliche, but it’s grounded in so much reality.

We walked around the neighborhood like zombies for an hour. It felt like a nightmare. Not because I hate children or because I don’t love Joel. My brain just couldn’t comprehend the amount of responsibility.

The baby changed things. It changed me. It changed my relationship. And it grew. And as it grew, I grew inside. I bonded with it. I ate a lot of kale suddenly. I sang songs like “Hey Jude” to it even though I know fetuses that small can’t hear. Some days, I felt like a whole bright world awaited me. Other days, it felt like it was just me and baby versus the world.

Then I found out that one baby was actually two. And I felt disconnected again. I felt ashamed for feeling disconnected. It’s hard feeling like you spent time bonding with one person only to find out that all along, you were actually bonding with two people. It felt weird knowing there was another member audience to my singing. It felt weird knowing the different foods I craved… that maybe each one was triggered by a different baby.

And when the doctor said the words, “high risk,” it terrified me. Then came abdominal pain I’ve never felt before. Pain I’m sure is not even half as bad as labor pain, that caused me to double over, lose my breath, and not be able to stand. And the babies were gone.

I had to take a week off of my job to recover from the loss. I didn’t know back then what all that sedentary navel-gazing would do to me. Like the twins changed me, their loss changed me. And my reaction to the loss was nothing like my boyfriend’s reaction to the loss. And that changed the dynamic between us as well. Seeing happy families made me cry. Hearing people complain about their young children annoyed me because I felt like they had lost sight of what they had. I felt lost.

And worse, I felt no finality. When you are pregnant, you get a due date. My original due date was February 23, 2016. Because they were twins, the due date was actually more like around 36 weeks, since twins are typically born premature, so January 23, 2016. But twins vary greatly in when they decide to come. Anywhere from 32 weeks to a normal full-term. It was impossible to have the feeling of “this is when they’d have been born. I can let go.”

Shortly after I found out I was pregnant, I began a cross-stitch piece, not knowing how epic it would be, of the Overworld map of World 1 in Super Mario Brothers 3. After the loss, I continued. Somewhere around November, I knew, even though I was nowhere near finished with it, that whenever I finished this map is when they would have been born. It was a pregnancy-length piece.

And sure enough, I finished it on January 24, 2016, 1 day past 36 weeks. And not that the piece dictated where my grief ended, but I looked up from the piece and realized I’m in a better place now than I was before.

For months, I was angry. I thought my grief would be channeled through sadness. Instead it came through in anger. I was angry at everything in my life. I was angry with Joel. I was angry with where I was living. I was angry with my job. I was angry with myself. Nothing could make me happy because I wasn’t even willing to give it the chance to do so. I was defensively preventing myself from moving forward with my life.

And then, through some magic grace in the universe, a calm surged up and embraced me. And I was able to breathe again. I still get angry. But I’m a little less so now.

And strangely, the map from start to finish… it works. There were a lot of hills. And hammer brothers. And invincibility stars. And mushrooms. And Koopas. And magic flutes. And three lives at the very start. And I lost a couple along the way, but I somehow made it to the end of World 1.