MENOMONIE, Wis. (WEAU/NBC News) - An area mother, commemorating the death of her would-be four-year-old daughter, was unexpectedly rushed to the hospital the same day, but what was discovered by doctors was a shock she didn't see coming.
Menomonie mother Aleece Geist was preparing to host a memorial for her daughter on Aug. 4, 2013, a date she will never forget.
It’s the date her first daughter, Zentaviah Jean Marie West, came into her life but not for very long.
“She passed away on January 3, 2014,” said Geist showing pictures of Zen. “These are New Year's, so just right before. She was just a happy little girl.”
Her death, so soon after celebrating New Year’s, was one nobody expected.
Through tears, Geist recalled, “We had her in the emergency room that night and she had an ear infection and we went home thinking everything would be fine, and she just didn't wake up the next day.”
Now each year family and friends gather to commemorate her short life by lighting and releasing lanterns at an area park.
Geist said it’s the one time a year she lets herself focus on nothing but the memories of her daughter. “I remember the first time she laughed. She was taking a bath and it was just out of nowhere.”
However, on what would have been Zen's golden birthday this year, Geist was experiencing physical pain, along with the emotional.
She explained, “I didn't realize it at first actually but the pain was familiar to me.”
What happened next changed the meaning of Aug. 4 for the family forever.
Around 5p.m. Geist arrived at Mayo Clinic Health System in Menomonie.
After a lot of back and forth to find out just what was wrong, one hour and forty-five minutes later she held in her arms a 6-pound 7-ounce miracle, who arrived just 15 minutes before her big sister's memorial was set to start.
“For Mira to come that day, on her own, I don't have words,” said Geist.
Named Mira, short for Miracle, she was a surprise to both mom and dad, Cassidy Rector.
“One of the doctors asked me if I was the father and I said, “I didn't know it but yeah, I'm the dad!”
Despite the whirlwind birth Rector acted as many dads do!
“I was freaking out” recalled Rector. “I don't know what to do, what can I do? The only thing I knew what to do is I just grabbed Aleese's hand.”
The family quickly moved from a memorial in the park to a celebration in the delivery room.
“A little bit of happiness for the sadness,” Geist said tearing up while looking at Mira.
Now the date will be remembered by Geist as a day of grief, a day of joy, but most of all a day of love for both girls.
“It's just amazing that she has a sister to share that celebration with,” added Geist.
For those wondering just how Geist didn't know she was pregnant, she said Mira was just so calm she never felt a kick!
Although Geist does say looking back she now knows where her craving for pickles came from.
Geist also said she couldn't prepare for Mira because she didn't know she was pregnant but the generosity of the community has provided nearly everything she and her family need.
However, the family does have a YouCaring page set up for those looking to donate.
See more: WEAU.com