I have spent most of my life believing that everything happens for a reason, though not ever really applying it to my life in a way that made any difference. It has only been in the last few years that I have started to awake from a deep sleep.
Today, I want to unload some feelings that are very heavy and I have carried them around for a long, long time and I have never written about it or tried to tell it any detail. It’s time….
I was twenty-two when I met your mother. She was exciting and unlike anyone I had ever known. I was smitten with her from the first time I saw her and as I got to know her, as a friend. I gradually fell in love with her. In time, she and I were together but the situation soon became very complicated.
She awoke with a painful case of the shingles one morning. She asked me to drive her to the hospital because she was in so much pain. We went and she was eventually taken back to be seen. I sat in the waiting room for many hours, wondering what in the world was wrong that she needed to be there for so long. Eventually a guy came out from the back and told me, “She’s a little upset and hasn’t wanted to come out to see you…but she’ll be out soon, okay?”
My first thought was that something was seriously wrong and I was, of course, worried. He didn’t tell me what was going on. Eventually she came out and said, “Let’s go.” It wasn’t until we were outside, in that beat-up old VW Bus that had taken us on many excursions already, including the most amazing New Year’s Eve. As she put the key in the ignition, she didn’t look at me and blurted out, “I’m pregnant.” Then she just sat there, waiting for my response. I was not quite twenty-three years of age – just a little older than you are now – and I have no idea why I reacted the way I did … but I always saw you as a blessing. All I could do was smile.
Your mother said to me, “Are you shitting me? You’re HAPPY aren’t you??” At this point I started to laugh out loud.
I remember how I played with my shoe laces and didn’t really look at her, because I was summoning something up from deep inside me when I asked her a serious of questions. “Do you ever see yourself with another man?”
“Then this might be your last chance to have a child. Do you want this baby?”
With tears in her eyes and a frog in her throat, “Yes.”
“Then it looks like we’re having a baby?”
It turned-out that when she had moved in with me, she had already been one month pregnant. The months that followed were strange, mad, somewhat insane and more beautiful than any other days of my life…
I was in love with your mom and nothing about her being pregnant changed that. In fact, I thought she was even more beautiful and I admired her strength and courage, as a woman. As her body changed, there were days that she was horrified at the things she saw going on in the mirror. Still, she had the same warped sense of humor then that she does now and I am sure that you grew-up with. For example, there was the time she screamed from the shower, “Dawn…DAWN! Come here!” I raced into the bathroom thinking something was wrong. No…she just wanted to show me that she could squirt me with breast milk from the shower. I told you it was warped. It sent me running from the bathroom, squealing in disgust, as she could be heard laughing through-out the apartment.
We conquered the beach all summer long, as her belly grew large. Once, while she floated on an inner tube and I floated along with her treading water, we found ourselves having drifted quite far out. In a very calm voice, your mother said to me, “Now…I do not want you to panic. I grew-up along the beach, so I am used to this … but I want you to very slowly look to your left and STOP splashing.” I looked and to my absolute horror, there was a shark circling us that was about six feet long. This Illinois farm girl was about to get up and walk like Jesus on the water. “Do you want to get up here on the inner tube with me?”
“Hell no. I’ll flip you out of it and then we’ll both be shark bait!”
“Well, then why don’t you just float up underneath the inner tube and we’ll let the tide take us in?” I did as she told me. We floated along for what seemed like forever. By the time we got halfway back to shore there were two – another smaller shark had joined in on the fun. I was never so glad to get my feet on terra firma! Your mother sauntered along like it was just another day, well … at the beach. You had no choice to grow-up strong.
As the weeks passed by, we would lay in the floor of my apartment and I would lay my head on her stomach and talk to you. I could lay my hand on her stomach and you would move to wherever I rested my palm and kick and kick. You earned the nickname of “Thumper” before your name was chosen.
So many times, she would come to my door upset and just frustrated. I’d pull her in and calm her down. We would lay for hours and listen to music and talk. We talked about life, music, and most of all we talked about you. We talked about where you would go to school and we wondered what you would be like. We had hopes for you, as all parents do. At some point, your mom began working on a birth plan. She wrote and rewrote. She added, deleted and prepared a plan that would need to be bound because it was so detailed. I loved her spirit and admired her ability to take charge of any situation – even if it meant telling a doctor how to do their job. To this day, I probably find it to be one of her most endearing qualities … her fighting spirit. Your mother was never one to ‘go with the flow’ when she had other ideas. I’m guessing you probably know that by now?
When the day finally came for you to enter the world, we were all at the hospital. I never left your mom’s side for the entire twenty-three hours that she was in labor. The delivery was not easy on her and I cried for her pain many times. She refused to bring you into the world while she was on pain meds. She was bound and determined that you would be born naturally. Eighteen hours in, the doctor had other ideas. Eventually, she relented to the epidural because it was that or a C-section.
When your head crowned, I could see your little dark curls. You had a head full of hair already! asked your father, “Jim, she has your hair. Wanna see?”
His response was comical. He very somberly stated, “Some things are better left to women.”
The doctor asked me if I wanted to cut the cord and I was going to but at the last second she asked your mother to not push. I was shoulder to shoulder with the doctor at this point and I could see the reason. The cord was around your little neck, not once but twice. Once again, you were proving that you were already going to be doing things your way. The doctor prepared and apologized to me that she needed to act quickly. Your mother was told to push one last time and the doctor pulled you by the shoulders, slipped her thumb under that cord and unwound it twice, pulled you free and laid you on top of your mother’s belly … all in less than two seconds.
I was mesmerized instantly. A little china doll. That was all I could think. Your little eyes opened and you looked in my direction, probably because you recognized my voice when I cried, “She’s beautiful.” I think we were all in tears. Your mother was busy counting toes and fingers. Your father looked as though he was going to pass-out. I remember your mom saying, “Hello there … hello, Amelia.”
The months that followed were some of the most wonderful days of my life. When I looked at you, I saw your mother. You always had her eyes, from the moment you opened them the first time. You were part of her and I always saw you as just another part of her that I loved. There was a rocking chair that your mom had found when she was pregnant. I had spent hours fixing it up, painting it and putting a new cushion on it so that there was a way to rock you when you were born. I learned two things about you in the hours that you and I spent alone. The first, you loved music and I could always sing to you and calm you. We had two special songs. I sang “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” to you and we had a special song from Cinderella that I would sing sometimes. Some of my favorite memories are of you laying your head on my shoulder and falling asleep. You were such a good baby.
When you were about five months old, I started carting you around the house in a Snuggli and you came with me to do laundry, mow the yard, mop the floor and vacuum. You and I road the city bus to go shopping at the mall to buy a surprise for your mom. We went to the park and fed ducks. You mother and I took you to the beach and you would sit in a little pool of water that she would rake the sand out of so the waves would keep you filled-up. You would sit and play for hours. That little unruly curl on top of your head would blow in the breeze and we would sit and watch you and just enjoy watching you discover your world.
There were rough mornings when you were up all night. We would stagger to the kitchen and wait for the coffee maker. It was a Melita. I remember that coffee maker well because she was obsessed with how good it was and I often had to listen to her wax poetic about the absolute genius of a cone shaped filter. I remember being out of milk and creamer once, so we tried formula. You are not a ‘real’ parent until you have tried infant formula in your coffee. In case you are wondering – not good.
Your mother had never changed a diaper in her life and neither had your father. Sometimes, it took two people … like the time I heard the shriek from the bedroom. I walked in to find your mom shaking her head and saying, “There is no baby wipe in the world that is gonna handle this!” We decided to have one carry you, with diaper hanging, and just run to the bathroom, where one of us held you and the other hosed you off. It worked out just fine and from what I understand, you got used to things being a little like ‘the path less chosen’ your whole life? That’s good!
When I left St Pete, it was for a whole lot of reasons and the one thing I am sure of is that it wasn’t because of you. If there is one thing that I could tell you, it would be that you were never far from my thoughts in the last twenty years. I prayed for your safety and for your happiness. I haven’t held a baby in all these years that my heart didn’t ache for you and those days when I was so happy. To this day, I remember exactly how you smelled after a bath.
Many times I have searched the internet for your name, just to see how you were doing and if you were okay. I never would try to interfere with your life because you really never knew me, yet you have always been very much a part of me. I left a little of my soul in St Pete and I am so glad that I found your mother and she and I talk again. It has been an emotional roller coaster ride for me though … so many bitter sweet memories, feelings of jealousy for all the things I missed and knowing that it had to be the way that it was. Your mom beams with pride that I can literally feel over the phone. I hear about your accomplishments and stories about your childhood. While it is a hard pill to swallow for me, knowing that I wasn’t there, I find myself also very proud of you and also of your mother. She has changed a lot for the better. I think that was you. So I can’t do anything about the last twenty years, but I can do so much about tomorrow and I make my choices today. Just know that I never really left you behind because you BOTH always had my heart; it was with you both each and every day. That is all I really want you to know.