Summer Solstice

6.21.07: Thoughts on the first day of summer


Last summer was hard.

Summer, 2006, kicked off with a Memorial Day weekend trip to the emergency room, after I'd started hemorrhaging blood. Earlier that same morning, my mother had called from Ohio with the news that my dear sister-in-law, Debbie, and my brother, Joey, were on their way to the hospital. Debbie was in labor'—about to deliver their first-born son. I told Will the happy news during our own unexpected ride to the hospital, and mentioned my fear that I would forever remember our nephew's birthday as the day that we lost our own baby.

As it turns out, our baby was alive and well. But Joey and Debbie went through an ordeal that no parent should ever have to endure. Their son, Ben, suffered a stroke, and was having multiple seizures, multiple times a day. The doctors couldn't seem to explain what was going on. No one could really say whether or not Ben would be OK. From 700 miles away, Will and I waited for news, and worried. Unable to be there, we could only imagine the hell that Joey and Debbie were going through as they kept a round-the-clock vigil over their baby in the NICU.

The day of Ben's birth, I laid on our couch in Boston and cried. I was worried. About Joey and Debbie. About their baby. About our own baby. It was like a giant black cloud had suddenly settled over our entire family. The fact that bad things can and do happen had really hit home.

For the rest of the summer, everything felt unsettled. I couldn't stop wrestling with all the what-if's. Unable to do anything else, my feelings of helplessness manifested in completely neurotic nesting. I compiled To-Do lists and presented them to Will each weekend. My oldest brother, John, came to visit and was promptly handed a paint brush. I made sure that every single baby item we needed was in place months before our due date. I was downright compulsive about creating an inviting, safe space for the baby I somehow knew, in my bones, was destined to come home from the hospital in our arms. And when he arrived, I wanted things to feel...settled.

A couple weeks after Ben's birth, Joey and Debbie were finally able to take him home from the hospital, with lingering questions about his well-being that only time would answer. This past Memorial Day weekend, my family celebrated his first birthday. He is a happy, healthy, one-year-old, basking in the presence of his doting parents.

Coming full circle

Summer, 2007, has been a long time coming. It's here. Officially. Today. And I am vowing to enjoy it. This summer, things are going to be different. I am ripping up the To-Do lists. We're hitting the beaches, going to the playground, spending time with our friends. I have big plans to lie on a blanket in the grass and watch the clouds drift by.

In that vein, I planned a Father's Day picnic at the beach last weekend to celebrate Will. The weather couldn't have been more perfect. But just as we set up our umbrella, laid down our towels, and sunblocked our babies, the biggest, blackest cloud floated directly over us, in an otherwise clear blue sky. We huddled under our umbrella as the sky opened up in a sudden, humid torrent of thunder, rain, and lightning. We tried to make the most of it, but eventually ended up packing up our stuff and heading home, hot and cranky. That night, when I called to wish my brother a Happy Father's Day, Debbie asked: "Did you guys have a good day?" "Not really," I moaned. "Did you?" "Not really," she sighed. And we both burst out laughing. Back in Ohio, Debbie was the one kicking off summer from the couch. Pregnant for the second time, she recently had complications that will keep her on bedrest for the remaining four months of her pregnancy.

It's as if we've come full-circle. And that's why, as I worry about my beautiful sister-in-law and her baby-to-be, I know that everything will be OK. That the clouds will eventually part. That she will bring her baby home from the hospital in her arms.

And now, because I can, I am making the most of these summer days. I took Julia and Charlie to the playground on a beautiful, breezy afternoon. As Charlie dozed in the stroller and Julia climbed into a swing, she asked: "Mama, will you push me as high as the wind?!" I pushed with all my might. And as I followed the arch of her body flying skyward, I noticed that there wasn't a cloud in sight. Julia leaned into the next push, tilting her head back and pointing her toes toward the trees, laughing. And as she sailed away from me, I felt the unmistakable rush of the wind at our backs.

Join's Managing Editor Dana Rousmaniere each week as she chronicles life with a new baby.

Read the next entry: 7.2.07: My Green Thumb