I was eight and a half months pregnant, and things with Apollo had not improved much. Now, it was less about the friction between us, and more about the growing distance—even children get tired of picking a fight at some point. So now, we mostly stayed silent.
But time went on, despite our problems, and unbirthed babies do not tend to work around the tensions of the outside world. They do what they want, outer consequences be damned.
And baby decided they wanted to be born early.
With Apollo, the birth lasted a fair while. I spent a good amount of time in labor before I decided it was worth it to head to the hospital; and, even then, it was around five hours of cramping and contraction pain before the doctors told me it was time to push.
But baby? Baby wanted out right now. Right damn now.
When I had realized that things were progressing quickly, I called Taryn up, so she could drive me to the hospital and be there for the birth. I figured that she would be a good, solid presence—she was good at that slow kind of love, and she had a sort of tenderness about her.
That tenderness did not hold up to pressure and crisis. It dissipated like mist into the empty night, and left her wailing out on the sidewalk, unable to even step through the hospital doors. So I went in alone.
There wasn’t a lot that could sway me away from a person, Janelle. But an inability to deal with crisis, that kind of hysteria… it just wasn’t attractive. And it suggested a penchant for drama, which I wasn’t into at all. Remember, Janelle, fun. Life Lesson #7: Don’t put up with drama. It’s unnecessary and serves no good purpose—it’s just a way that weak-minded people choose to entertain themselves.
There are so many better forms of entertainment.
I, quite opposite to Taryn, was feeling just fine. I mean, don’t get me wrong—I was stressed as hell. Especially since it seemed that, with every step I took, my contractions were getting stronger. I was almost worried that baby would drop out on its head, right there in the hallway. But it wasn’t a panicked sort of stressed—a “what the hell am I doing, how do I survive this” stressed. And it wasn’t an existential sort of stressed—no “this is going to change my whole life” kind of thoughts this time around. I already had Apollo. And, yes, it appeared that I had thoroughly screwed something up with him, but so what? He was a good kid. He did his homework. He didn’t skin cats in the backyard.
I wasn’t worried about baby’s future, or mine.
I was stressed that Taryn might hyperventilate herself into fainting on the front steps of the hospital.
And I was stressed that the baby might literally fall out of me.
But, even then? I was surrounded by a hospital full of doctors, all who would have been able to make sure that baby was okay and breathing and not concussed from their sudden descent and impact with the floor.
Medicine was hella advanced.
So, the point, Janelle?
Mindy had delivered Apollo too, and I distinctly remember both hating her and loving her. For the exact same reason, as it happens. She kept up a constant dialogue. The whole time she delivered Apollo, she was a nonstop string of words. At the time, I found it aggravating, because she was delivering a constant stream of platitudes and calming clichés. But, in retrospect, that was nice to hear. The first time you give birth (and the following times, really), it’s nice to know that the doctor is confident enough in their work to reassure you every step of the way.
About halfway through the birth of baby, however… she stopped talking.
Worry. Stress. Worry stress. Worrystressworrystressworrystress.
So many worries.
I still distinctly remembered when Apollo was a baby—all the charges that quickly amassed on my credit card, all the numerous items that were required to take care of a baby. I remembered how uncertain I was that I would be able to pay for it all, how near I came to selling half the contents of my house and my grandmothers’ belongings.
Sure, I was better at selling things now. Business at the lingerie store was booming. But was I good enough to take care of three children?
I would have to be.
I would have to be.
When I was pregnant with Apollo, the focus had been entirely on him—how he would change my life, how I would change his. What would happen, how I would manage. Every moment of my pregnancy with him was focused inward, on his little body—the nausea he caused me, the sudden urge to pee he gave me by playing kickball with my organs. So, when he came out of me, I was already expecting to be devoted to him. I wasn’t expecting the strength of love that I felt, but I was anticipating the feeling of attachment—I’d felt attached to him for nine months, after all.
But with baby—babies—the pregnancy was all external, made more so by my focus on trying to fix my relationship with Apollo. And, you know, the pregnancy hormones driving my need for funtimes wild. I wasn’t attached to them within the womb. My world wasn’t revolving around them yet.
But the moment I held you, Janelle.
Once again, my entire universe seized, contorted, wrapped itself tightly around you. You and your brothers became my loci, the center of my existence. Did I have other pursuits? Other desires? Other requirements for happiness? Sure. But you were, and would forever be, at the core of my being.
I don’t know how I had ever imagined it any other way.
I named you Janelle, after my grandmother Jane, because you looked like a portrait, like a poem, like my heart had spun you out of perfection and placed you in the world just for me.
I named your brother Hari, in the same vein as Apollo: strong and swift and fierce, like a lion, in the hopes that they, and you all, would grow up in a pack, in a pride. And with pride.
I didn’t want to put you down, there in that hospital room. I wanted to hold onto you forever.
But your brother was waiting for me at home. And he was still my universe, too.
I had anticipated the resistance from Apollo. We’d spent so long dancing around each other now, skirting each other’s boundaries, that I had never expected it to change once the babies were born. But his curiosity would be strong—he was my little Prodigy, so interested in the world and the way it worked.
I didn’t expect him to run away from the babies once he saw them, refuse to enter the room again.
I wrapped him in a fierce hug, unsure of just how to express how wrong he was.
Just then, one of the babies started to cry. I don’t remember if it was you or your brother, Janelle, but damn you and him for your or his timing.
It wasn’t quick. I gave the crying baby their bottle, and set them off to sleep. But just as they were going down, the other one of you started to scream, and it was like playing ping pong with myself—once I set one of you down, the other was screaming. For food, for attention, for a diaper change. Until it was well into the night—the morning, really—and I could do nothing more than fall asleep.
It didn’t mean that Apollo still wasn’t my life, my love, my everything.
I just meant that my life, my love, and my everything had to wait until morning.