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I move slowly through the world now. I used to rush all the time. Always on the go ready for next next next. Busy at work, busy with friends, I was always looking forward to whatever it was that was happening tomorrow or next week or next month. Throughout Lu’s pregnancy I had my gaze focused on the end result, on having our child in our arms and the whole rest of our lives to get started, finally.
I’ve always enjoyed my birthday, but when we lost Silas an edge appeared in that day and I felt a deep slice every year as it rolled around. I still feel that today. Silas should be here too and I have to fight to hold back the what-if’s and what-should’s. That path is so painful I simply cannot tread down it too far. How different this day and our lives and the world would have been. There is only what there is, though, and so here I am ready to embrace the happiness I have.
Woke up to a tiny laughing face.
Last year he was still potential for me, and I was terrified of hoping to much. As my birthday slipped by with Lu only a few months along I tried to exude a calm confidence I couldn’t quite believe. Nothing could be certain and true until I held him in my arms and heard his scream and felt his breath and saw the living, vital force in his eyes.
This morning Zeph was all there, loud and squirming and full of life. My son to teach and help grow. Lu brought him in bright and early and when he saw me he broke into smile and started laughing. Him knowing who I am, that I’m his dad, I’m the guy that will always love him more than anything he could possibly imagine is everything I’ve wanted and more than I dared hoped for. Time to get up and get at and enjoy this day with him to the fullest.
I try to be the quietest person that ever lived when I get back home late from work and everyone is asleep. My foot placed perfectly with every careful step, but the utensil drawer is a disaster. The drag of a knife as I slide it out. The metal tinkle of fork tines in the night. The fundamental vibration as I ease it closed. I catch and pause my breath, listening. Still asleep, still asleep. But then the plate too hard, too hard! on the counter and the stove as I slip in the leftovers, it is the clanging crazy of a dumptruck or ancient elevator. There’s no way I can pull this off.
He sleeps on, though, somehow.
Just like right now, with Phish on at a good volume, he swings in the swing with his beautiful little melon head tipped onto his shoulder and mouth slightly open in the bliss of sleep, he rocks and rolls.
Oh shit, abrupt stop to music! Disaster is imminent!
Zeph is here with us every day. Every day he’s a baby and he has to do it the entire time. After all, there’s no relief from being a baby. You can’t crawl, can’t walk, can’t talk, can’t do anything but smile, study, gurgle and cry. Lots of crying, but not as much as some, I’m told. And so much laughter. I had no idea a three month old child could have a sense of humor.
I’m still in shock that there is a baby in our home. Our baby. Our place. And he laughs, all the time. When mommy comes home. When I come back in the room after being gone for a few minutes. When the blue elephant rotates into view as the Endlessly Small, Small World jingles from the mobile.
I wake up humming it and find myself drumming the tune on my steering wheel as I drive and drive my mind moving in so many ways to figure out how to behave in this whole new World. It’s a small one alright. He’s heavy and solid but easy to lift and when I’m rocking him to sleep again and again the entire World fits in his face.
The bottomless pit that lived in my stomach has a bottom after all. But this doesn’t feel like a bounce, this new journey into actual parenthood. I’m not passing the same sights on this path that I plummeted past on the way down. A threshold instead, perhaps. I fell so far down that I passed right through the bottom and started falling back up the other side.
The happiness I feel right now is sickening to others I’m sure. It’s that goopy, silly, happy joy that just makes me want to puke, except now it’s me. Frankly, I’m embarrassed to feel this good when I felt so awful for so long. It’s like a betrayal to that former self, to Silas, to how much we have lost and what could have should have would have been if we lived in a World where shit like our shit didn’t happen. But I can’t help it, I’m fucking ecstatic right now.
I thought I was going to be this happy, content, loving father to my son so long ago that I had given up expecting anything to turn out the way I wanted. What I wanted didn’t matter, clearly, so I had to be happy enough with whatever scraps I could salvage for three long years. And now suddenly I’m at a feast of awesomeness and I don’t have the stomach to fit everything in all at once. I’m taking it in moment by moment, and Zeph is all about the moment so it feels like we’re on the right path, together.
I love rocking him to sleep with Harry Hood and Graceland on the stereo. He melts me with his infrared smiles and atomic laughter. Not just giggles, these. Laughter. Fucking laughter from my 3 month old son because he likes making us laugh. That’s insanity, yet I see it every day. And he screams like he is being strung up by his toes when he’s hungry and the boob is not forthcoming as rapidly as he’d like. He’s got this one little shriek that cuts through any sound in the world. It probably hits the moon if he aims it right. And as sad and demanding and upset as he is when he fires it off, all we can do is laugh and look at each other and wonder how is he here? Where has he been? How can we be this happy when so recently and for so long, we were so, so sad?
Now, everything has changed once again. From nap nanny to playmat to tummy time to the carseat and a drive to grandma and grandpa’s house, it is go go go. We languished in grief for so long that it feels like I’m moving at lightspeed now, just trying to keep up. And the vortex hasn’t vanished, it just changed in an instant from darkness and chaos to velocity and light.
I can’t stop kissing him and I can’t wait to watch him grow.
Zeph is asleep on my chest, lightly stirring and breathing and sighing as my heart melts within.
I have to stop and read that again a million times.
But he doesn’t last in that position long. If I’m not standing up swaying and lightly bouncing, I’m not doing it right. Too quickly he’s fussing and I have to hand him back to Lu. She’s on 24 hour feeding patrol. And he’s a thirsty guy, just like his dad.
His dad. Me. Finally. We did it and it’s the first thing I can believe in so many years. Silas is my son, but I never got to be his dad, no matter what people say. And feeling that way for so long, as something I couldn’t be and didn’t have and wasn’t able to do, it feels shocking to apply that label to myself right now. Shocking but perfect. Shocking but right. For the first time in my life the chaos and correctness and beautiful, brilliant danger exactly matches what I want.
The first time we were home together, the three of us, it was like a vortex swirling out from Zephyr rearranging my mind, my soul, the physical reality around us. Immediately I had to start pushing furniture around and go through boxes of clothes and gifts and random objects of babynessas as Lu lay on the couch with our son at her breast directing my efforts. It was fucking glorious.
This is his house too, now.
12 days into our new lives together and the grandparents are freaking out. Our friends are suddenly lighter and elated. We are wrapped up in his quiet, alert gaze when he feels like being chill and amazed by the lungs and breath and voice as he screams into the night as all babies do when they are alive and want everyone to know it.
We are beyond thrilled to introduce our son Zephyr Rigel Gallagher.
He was born at 8:15am this morning via planned c-section. He weighs in at 6lbs 13oz and is 19.5 inches tall (long?)
Lu was amazing throughout the surgery, our doctor and nurses have been incredible, and the grandparents are swooning over their brand new grandson.
I feel happy and calm in a way I have not felt in years. It is like my heart is finally unclenched from the fist it has been twisted into since we lost Silas.
She’s calmly asleep in bed, I’m on the couch wide awake and waiting.
I have to breathe. It is all I can do. I can’t help her or him or Silas or the past. I am in stasis, hovering, hoping. I have to breathe.
Struck dumb. Silenced. I can’t… There’s no way to…. Just… us.
Lu grows larger by the moment with our second son inside her and everything I want is right there next to me, within her, and I can do is wait. The wait has been…
I have to breathe. In through my nose in calm inhalations, out through my lips. Like we were taught in the birthing class last time. Now I’m the one who needs it but it doesn’t seem to take.
Give me everything that comes next. I am…It is simply impossible to describe how finely wrought are the molecules of my soul, down to the edge, the breathless, bitter, blazing edge of hope and of fear.
My nervous system is firing spasmodically whenever I think of what is coming next, exactly next.
Friday we drive to the hospital together and avoid all obstacles, hand keys to valet, hand future to doctors, wait, hope, focus, hold hands, wait, hope, focus, beg. Hope… wait… swallow my fear and lay back into the couch as I breathe and wait, again.
I’m used to the lies by now. They are common and easy to say. I say them for the sake of other people, but also for myself. I have to lie so that I’m not always the guy that sucks the air out of a room, even if that room is the entire outdoors on a glorious fall day at the farmer’s market and someone has questions about me, about my life, about how I’m doing. There is no point in ruining every idle conversation and friendly chatter with truth about my dead son Silas.
The day after he died I thought Lu was next and me right behind her. On days two through five I was certain of it. At the time I talked a lot about how we couldn’t let this loss destroy us and poison us and tear us apart but they were words mostly, words I spit out into the World hoping I could make them true. I had no confidence at all but no one knew.
Dare I write? Dare I start down this path again with Lu’s second pregnancy?
I’ve had the urge to go back and read what I wrote about each of the stages of her carrying Silas, but frankly, I’m scared. I’m scared of the innocence and naivety in my writing from that time. I’m scared of being confident and cocksure that everything is going to go perfectly this time. I’m scared of reading that confidence in my past posts now knowing how wrong I was.
I’ve considered putting this blog to rest altogether, and let it stand as is, as a testament to Silas’s brief time with us. Instead I could start a new one to chronicle these next nine months.
I’ve also entertained the idea that I shouldn’t write at all this time. That perhaps the words themselves were the jinx that took him from us, and how dare I risk that again?
But I hate being afraid, and I don’t believe this blog was a jinx in any way.
I also hate it when I tell people Lu is pregnant and they say “Oh how exciting, you’re going to be a father!”
I want to correct them and tell them NO, I *might* become a father. It could happen. I hope more than anything that I do become a father. But for now I’m just a potential-father. A Maybe-Dad. A hopefully-father-to-be, if the Universe allows it. If genetics and nature line up just-so. If we are as lucky this time as we were unluckly last.
For the last 3 nights I’ve barely slept. My stomach was bloated and roiling and my mind could not find the path to quiet slumber. Once I hit 4:30am and I was still awake, again, the knowledge that I was fucked for tomorrow made it even harder to still my thoughts and drift away. Even pointless tv couldn’t shut me down. Finally at 6am pure exhaustion took over and I slept for a few hours, but when I had to get up for work I was in slow-mo, and that stayed all day.
So much of our focus was just getting to this point. Yet, it took so long, it felt like it was never going to happen. I had to train my brain to think only of right now, of this, of here. Now we are ‘expecting’ and I am terrified of expectations. The stress and fear mixed with hope and love has me in knots. In order to stay sane I’ve taught myself to be happy enough with whatever was right in front of me. So that’s exactly what I’m going to keep on doing.
Today Lu is pregnant. A tiny, beautiful heart beats within her. Her boobs are bodacious and her skin has an amazing glow. She’s been tired and off to bed early and I’m trying to make her take it as easy as I can, but she’s not one for slowing down for anything. Today she woke up and felt like she might be getting a little cold, but that could just be her body reacting to the pregnancy. After all, that happened last time, I checked.