She slept through it all.
Ten years ago, I ate a pound of tortilla chips dredged in hot salsa, chased it with Mexican combo dinner #6, washed all of that down with sweet tea, and then walked a mile around our neighborhood park. Four hours later, I was having my first baby. She was delivered in part by a friend from college who was training a new nurse, who would end up buying our house.
But wait! There’s more!
Ava Elizabeth was born on June 10th and went home, the color of a Georgia peach, on June 12th. We pulled into the driveway to discover neighbors in our yard, eager to see the interior of our house, which had been flooded when a drain on the hillside became clogged with debris following a violent rainstorm. Only the bottom level of the house was damaged, but the laundry room floor was beneath several inches of muddy water. Maternity clothes, which were borrowed, floated on top. The washer and dryer were ruined. The phone lines were ruined. The walls were ruined. The carpet was ruined. The furniture was ruined. Everything seemed ruined.
It had to get better. It just had to.
But, it didn’t.
A week later, more rains drenched Charleston, and the same drain (which didn’t belong to us or the city) clogged again. The basement, newly bleached and recently stripped of everything down to the car in the garage, would undergo another soaking. My husband climbed the hill to clear the drain, but the force of the water snapped his shovel in half, sending the wooden handle to the road. I was certain he had died…a drowning…possibly a heart attack..maybe a stabbing…possibly a beating. I just knew he was gone.
With hormones raging, I called 911. I informed (correction: screamed) that my husband had been overtaken by rapid waters. I yelled for him, but he didn’t respond. I couldn’t hike the hill to check on him because I had just given birth to a baby girl — with jaundice. She was by the window, by the way, wearing only a diaper…
First the police pulled in, then the rescue squad, and then the longest firetruck in the fleet. BIG JOHN, I think they called it. Superheroes jumped out of their vehicles in black hats and rain gear. They pounded on the door to check on us and to find out where my husband was last seen. I pointed to the hillside behind our deck. I cried. I shook. I hyperventilated.
A paramedic sat with me as the others tackled the waterfall. Getting to the top was still nearly impossible, so they started shouting for Mike. “CAN YOU HEAR US?” a fireman bellowed through a bullhorn. “MIKE! ANSWER IF YOU CAN HEAR US!”
When the skies cleared, a confused voice could be heard from the top of the ridge. “Hello?” Mike replied. He was alive!
“ARE YOU OKAY, SIR?” asked the fireman.
“I’m fine!” he yelled back.
“WE THINK YOU SHOULD COME DOWN, SIR. YOUR WIFE IS VERY UPSET!”
Mike obeyed and slid down the hill with the bottom half of his shovel, which then resembled a trowel.
“Is she all right?” Mike asked, breathless, cold and extremely wet.
“She’s fine, but she’s worried about you,” answered the fireman.
Mike informed the Superheroes that he had broken his shovel trying to dig out the stopped-up drain, but his wife had lost her damned mind.
A news crew had filed in behind the string of emergency vehicles.
“She wasn’t in danger, but she was scared,” a paramedic told the reporter. “We sent mother and baby to the neighbor’s house across the street so she wouldn’t be alone.”
But, mother and baby had to return home because the neighbor had pneumonia. It really wasn’t a good time.
That evening, as I sat on the couch because I wasn’t allowed to get up or even think about making a telephone call, I noticed that Ava couldn’t open her right eye. An infection had set in, which I feared would render her as blind as Stevie Wonder. Mike phoned our new pediatrician. Medication was called in for Ava. Rest for Mama. A bottle for Daddy. Doctor’s orders.
The next morning, June temperatures swept through the house and roasted all of us like baked potatoes. Ava’s chest, stomach, arms and legs were covered in red bumps. I broke into a familiar hysteria, calling the pediatrician again to beg for an appointment. She worked us in within the hour and diagnosed our new baby with a heat rash that would go away once I took the winter pajamas off her. After that, we replaced the central cooling unit at a cost that could have sent our next daughter to an Ivy League school of choice.
Once the house was dry (and cool), and the weather crisp (and calm), we sold our home (to the labor nurse) and the first memories that went with it. A decade later, this beautiful little lady with blonde hair, healthy blue eyes, deep dimples, long legs and even longer feet, represents everything motherhood has to offer. With her love of Harry Styles and the British band, One Direction; for reading and writing; for all things formal and proper; she is so lovely. And it has been wonderful.
Happy birthday, Ava.
Click on the Harry Styles hyperlink for a very special birthday message to Ava.