Lightning strikes

img_0143The work ethic was strong in me then, like the Force. It was a Monday for our checkup on Dawn’s pregnancy. I decided not to go into work, to make breakfast and enjoy time with just the two of us, before the appointment. For reasons I don’t remember when we got there they said it’s time, go home, pack your bags and come back. We lay in the hospital room that night with the sounds of the machines, some images on monitors. There was no sleep that night: any good sleep was behind us, at that point. Dawn wanted it natural, in the water. They had birthing tubs but there was something with the legality where you couldn’t technically deliver in the tub, there was a workaround. I leaned over her massaging her back as she pushed and my back hurt like hell too, but no one cared. Right then my role was defined, as was hers. It was a girl, we named her Elizabeth, Lily for short. Lily wasn’t breathing right and Dawn was hemorrhaging, blood and color draining out of her. When we got to the car someone had broken into it and there was glass on the baby car seat but they let us borrow a vacuum to suck out the small pieces. They stole my briefcase and Dawn’s backpack with our ID and SSN (Dawn was on unemployment, left the paperwork in her bag). We had to get the locks changed. We were deeply paranoid, suffering from sleep debt. A large black woman at the halfway house down the street was putting handwritten notes in our mailbox with Pagan symbols claiming her kids were in our basement and she wanted to see them. We called the police and had her dealt with. She was hanging around the back of the house by the alley, looking in our windows.

A few days later I went to the store for the first time and fell in love with it. I walked up and down the aisles picking up things and looking at the labels. I realized I needed to get out. The reality of our new life was urgent, unmistakable. Even Dawn’s cat knew it, the order had changed. We couldn’t give a damn about the cat and then its kidneys went out and they said we could like manually drain it in the bathtub with a dialysis bag (along with diaper-changing and breast-feeding) and we said no way, and had her put down. Then the mice turned up, the rats: literally coming in through the basement behind the refrigerator into the nursery for the milk scents in the crib. I found the turds in the closet one day and stared at them, unbelieving. Dawn’s dad got sick, real sick, and we took him to the hospital. Dawn started smoking again, on the front stoop. We were onto our second by then, Charlotte. Christmas came and went and we put up a tree in her dad’s hospital room but no one felt like celebrating. We put our house on the market that summer and then the economy crashed a month later and we decided to stay at Dawn’s mom’s house through the winter. Couldn’t stand the idea of moving to the suburbs, never considered it. The following summer I took a sabbatical and we moved to Germany for three months. Charlotte was still in diapers.

Some mornings I’ll lie in bed while Lily’s downstairs getting ready for school, just listening to the sounds she makes eating her cereal or opening and closing the pantry doors in the kitchen, the refrigerator. So many sounds. She mentioned it a few times tonight at dinner, her birthday’s coming up in five days, and while we’re excited you can tell there’s a shift; it’s not the same. Maybe we’re all just tired and getting a bit older. I do my damnedest to remember what I can from that night, though: the beeps from the machines in the room, the news “it’s a girl,” you hear if you’re lucky in life maybe once, maybe twice.

Categories: parenting

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12 replies

  1. There are all sorts of ways we can try to hold on to those memories. Writing them down, videos, pictures, sharing stories until they are hardwired into us. It’s odd, I can remember so many details of the birth of my first, of how I felt through all of it. With my second, eh, not so much. There are other things that I remember with him – it was more procedural than emotional, if that makes any sense. By writing these pieces you’re doing something to retain the memories. Kudos to you. Another blogging friend does something similar. Unfortunately, when my kids were young, I didn’t write like I do know, so there are very few written memories from those years. It’s all about what I’ve retained in my head — which becomes hazier and hazier with each year.

    But you’re right — there does come a time when you strain a little less to keep hold of these things. When I come across friends or others who have young children, I wish I could change places with them. I’d go back, do it differently. Live within the moment a lot more than I did the first time around and come up with a better way to hold on to the memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you connected with that Mark, thanks for reading and such a thoughtful comment here. I like the notion “more procedural than emotional.” I can vector off the memory thing forever it seems. But it’s an odd exercise to really go in to a big memory like that and see what you retain. So little actually…and then I combine and confuse memories between our first and second. The photo I used for this I mistook from the birth of our first but it was our second. Birthdays should be special days. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The sweet, harried fleeting life of parenthood.
    “But no one cared” made me chuckle.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds like things were pretty bad for a while there … in a good way.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I had no idea. How did you rise above it all? My bride and I high-tailed it for the suburbs as soon as daughter #1 was born. My apartment on Avenue B was no place for a little girl. I couldn’t stand the thought of the roaches.


    • No we gladly would have stayed in the city. We identified like that. But I do have a memory and scene of a woman in our back alley leaning against a fence and peeing on it, leaving that darkened stain, and that scene prompted me to think we should get the fuck out of Dodge, here.


  5. interesting thing, – our memories. edited out, tossed aside, or held onto for dear life by my our minds and our hearts at their whim, it seems.


  6. Very well played out memory in this narration. The good and bad, it forms such a part of life as we look back!

    Liked by 1 person

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