How’s everyone doing? I’ve been busy with work, as we try to readjust from “out and about” to mostly just in. We’ve got an article called 250+ Creative Ways to Keep Your Family Sane During the COVID-19 Crisis and another called Surprise! You’re Homeschooling. Here are some tips. Instead of an update on how we’re coping at home, I thought I’d offer up a distraction in the form of an old story that you may have heard, but I don’t think I’ve shared it here. At least, I couldn’t find it.
Here’s M and me just days out of the hospital in the hotel room where we were staying before we closed on our new house. Please note that my right eye still has burst blood vessels from pushing.
And now, the story.
When baby girl M was finally released from the NICU, she moved in with Cute W and me, into the hotel room cum studio apartment that was our temporary home while we waited to complete a relocation. M and I remained cloistered in our room, rarely leaving the bed, watching Little House on the Prairie on TBS and awaiting daddy’s return or occasionally receiving family members. Our window looked out onto a parking lot that sizzled through an early heatwave, and coarse plaid curtains sheltered us from the sun and parking hotel guests. But when the sun tipped out of range I’d drag the curtains to the side for the admittedly dismal view, gazing out from my glider as M plugged away at my boobs, each swollen to roughly the size of her head.
On the third night “home” in the hotel, we had slept a record stretch from 10:30 pm until 2 am when a fire alarm sounded. This was actually the second time I’d heard the hotel fire alarm: the first time it had occurred during one of my relaxation trances in preparation for upcoming labor. I had been so disoriented as I jolted out of my blossoming-flower meditations that I briefly believed that the alarm system had been implanted within my brain. I suppose that the hotel wanted to ensure that everyone actually awoke and exited the facility, for fear of vengeful relatives who would sue them in cases of incineration. During that first alarm, I remember squatting outside (for, I’d been assured, squatting would be a terribly effective skill for the impending delivery) and being grateful that my child was safely in utero where her sweet little eardrums would not burst.
So when I heard this alarm the second time, some primal instinct caused me to leap from our bed and sweep M up from where she slept so peacefully between us on top of a standard-sized bed pillow in clear violation of current SIDS recommendations. Yes: apparently the only way to get her to sleep for any length of time was by holding her or laying her on the pillow, princess-style. So we’d already thrown the parenting warnings out in despair, so intense was our need for sleep after just ten days of parenting.
An instant after I leaped out of bed, Cute W woke to see me clutching the baby in a manner which he was certain would induce coma and/or paralysis. “By the skull,” he declares to this day whenever the tale is told. M uttered a brief scream, then fell immediately back to sleep. Ignoring the hellish assault of sound from all sides, a half-awake Cute W frantically grabbed me by the shoulders and urged me to calm down!
But no! Flinging my head from side to side, half-crazed in my attempt to escape his clutches, I lurched away from Cute W. I was certain that, in spite of her shocking ability to sleep through it, the pulsing noise that filled the room would somehow damage M’s ears for good. I could almost feel my own brain matter softening from the thrusting sound waves. I ran out the door, down a long hallway, and out into the parking lot with her clutched to me. I finally paused mid-parking lot and stood there, panting.
A few minutes later, Cute W joined us. He had been taking stock of our most essential worldly possessions and setting them near the room’s opened window so that, if this were an actual fire, he could hopefully salvage some of them. He’d also put on some clothes. When he caught up with me, he asked again if I was injured, if I had injured the baby, if M was simply asleep or actually unconscious. After careful examination of M’s sleeping form, we pronounced her unscathed.
Meanwhile other disgruntled guests had stumbled outside, muttering in small clusters and gripping their arms in what was the normal reaction of those who still have some dignity when they are under dressed in public. At which point, Cute W and I thought to look at me. It turns out, I was still in my postpartum sleepwear.
Can you remember what you were wearing the third night home from the hospital? I do. I was wearing a pair of vast purple cotton old-lady underpants and a man’s ribbed tank undershirt. But also, I’d rolled the shirt up to my armpits to allow myself to leak milk with abandon on the hotel towels. In my panic to get out, to save my baby, to clutch her to me, it hadn’t even occurred to me to pull the shirt back down until that moment.
My sweet, good husband, took a look at me and said, “Um, I’m going to go get you some pants.”