Back in the summer, I got to write about the birth of my oldest son, but time got away from me before I could write about the birth of my baby, Finn. The two experiences were like different lives. As I wrote before, the eight and a half months of the first were the happiest period of my life; I got to be home and a part of the pregnancy through each trimester. When Collin was born, we already knew each other and bonded immediately. It was magical.
With Finn, my marriage was already failing. We had grown apart as individuals and were no longer happy as a couple. This was also during the time period when inflation was skyrocketing, despite claims by the mistake from Texas that the economy was doing fine. Insurance premiums had doubled; energy prices were out of control; a loaf of bread had gone from $.75 to $1.33, like all groceries; the real estate bubble was bulging beyond anything the market could bear. I was a full-time Assistant Professor of English for a private college and had to work weekends delivering pizza in Pigeon Forge just to survive. On a good week, I worked seventy hours and had enough money left over to buy premium baby food. We weren’t living extravagantly either, as I so often hear the right try to spin. We had a modest apartment in an average neighborhood, a sensible family sedan, and the basic necessities. Our one luxury was a nice TV, and while we probably should’ve sent it back, looking back, it was a small oasis of pleasure in an otherwise dreadful circumstance.
During the first trimester, my ex-wife developed terrible morning sickness. That’s truly a misnomer because it lasted from the time she woke until late in the evening. Most days, she was so sick she could barely crawl out of bed. For three months, I woke at about 6:30 with the toddler, cooked breakfast, dressed him, did laundry, and chased him around the living room. Around noon, I left for work. If I was at the college, I worked until about 10:00 PM, came home, helped get Collin to bed, tidied up the apartment, and passed out around midnight. If I had worked in the Forge, I drove an hour to work, ran up and down hotel stairs for ten to twelve hours, cleaned the store, prepped dough, drove an hour home, and passed out completely exhausted at about 2:00 AM. I did that seven days a week for over twelve weeks. Nothing in my life really compares, not even graduate school on an assistantship.
As an aside, during this time, a couple of the higher-ups at the private college noticed that my performance had slipped slightly. Not much, mind you, but I did do a sub-par job in a couple of courses. Despite the fact that I had been required to take on extra courses to cover for two adjuncts who had to resign suddenly, these higher-ups decided that rather than find out why my performance was below normal, they should smack my nose and reprimand me for not pulling my weight. Anyone who knows my Irish temper would probably expect that I would have erupted on the two bitter, man-hating hags, but I kept my cool and simply withdrew from the college community. From that moment forward, I did stop pulling my weight. I served my students, taught my classes, and went home. I refused to attend meetings, refused to participate in important business, and stopped responding to emails. I had given them seven years of excellence and was rewarded with a ridiculous reprimand, so I began searching for a new career as far from education as I could get.
Around April, the morning sickness subsided, and I was able to bridle back from eighteen hours every day to a paltry ten. Seeing a sliver of free time, I did what any writer would in that circumstance: I finished my second book. Thinking about it now, I’m not sure how I mustered up the energy to write that spring and summer, but in my heart, I knew that if I didn’t get it completed then, I never would. Other writers, artists, and musicians understand why I poured what little energy I had into the book, but she never could. She resented me for sitting down at the computer when I got home from work instead of coming to bed, unable to see that the hope of one day seeing a return from the books was the one glimmer of goodness in my career. Just as the TV was her oasis, Red Sky at Dawn was mine.
A friend of mine, a fellow writer from Virginia, listened to me vent about my frustration with education and convinced me to give the insurance business a try, so through the summer I planned on finishing out the last year of my contract, leaving the pizza place, and becoming an insurance salesperson. It was a good plan. My classes with the college were at night, so I could work through the day at the new job, build up a clientele, and still draw a regular paycheck from the school while waiting for commissions to roll in. The plan itself was solid.
Our due date with Finn was mid-September, but she began having blood pressure issues, so the doctor decided to induce Tuesday morning after Labor Day. I turned in my notice with the pizza place, worked Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in the Forge, and then spent Labor Day with my family. Tuesday morning, we got up around 4:00 AM, left Collin with her mother, and drove to the hospital to deliver our second baby. The tension between us was palpable. I had worked so many hours and had been absent from home so much that we had become strangers who barely liked each other. I felt no connection to Finn because I had barely gotten to sing to him or read him stories like I had Collin, and I felt pretty guilty about it. It wasn’t my fault; circumstances far beyond my control had caused it, but I felt like I had somehow let him down.
The delivery was pretty nondescript. Our doctor administered the Pitocin, the contractions started, she dilated, and around 5:00 PM he was born. Unlike the 26 grueling hours of labor with Collin, this delivery was straightforward and drama-free. We watched a few DVDs on my laptop, tried to have small-talk, and bickered. The only real drama concerned my class that night. Both of the people who had agreed to cover it for me backed out at the last minute, so there was no one to start the night. Our hospital was five minutes from the campus and ten minutes from our apartment. Our plan had always been for me to pick up her mother and Collin soon after the delivery, so once I had been assured by the nurses that both she and the baby were fine and in no danger, I left the hospital at about 5:45, drove to the college, passed out quizzes, told the class to leave when they were finished, drove home, and hurried back to the hospital. I was back in the room by 6:30, but she was angry that I had taken the time to go to my class. To this day, that bothers me. I had tried to get someone to cover for me, but both of the people who had agreed to do it left me no time to find a replacement. I don’t feel like I did anything wrong by taking fifteen minutes to take care of my responsibility to my class.
That’s my memory of Finn’s birth. He’s an amazing child: very bright, incredibly sweet, and truly special in a way that anyone who’s around him notices right away. One of my biggest regrets is that I haven’t gotten to be more a part of his life. I love him, and we have a solid relationship, but he has spent more of his life away from me than with me. One day, I hope to rectify that, and I hope that as he gets older he understands that I love him every bit as much as I love Collin.
That’s all I can say for now. My heart can’t go any further tonight.