Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 2001: The Month Before The Baby Arrived

(Mom, Clb, Paul, Anne Berryhill, the cake I couldn't eat, Sept 18th 2001, Alexander's baby shower)

In early September of 2001 I was very pregnant. I had moved back in with Paul (we'd split up 1999-2000, then re-engaged our marriage but had continued living apart, he here in Encinitas and me in West Los Angeles)and I had quit my girl-friday job at Lookout Management/Vapor Records.

I decided I was simply too pregnant to be.. say, picking up and delivering shoes to Lookout client Neil Young or fetching David Crosby from the airport or fielding calls from any number of living legends. So I said my goodbye's and loaded the Corolla station-wagon and moved back down to San Diego County.

As normal, 2001 was a hot September and I spent a lot of time walking and hanging out at our local beach, Moonlight. The city had recently retrieved a bunch of sand from some other locale, and it had dumped and spread the new dirty looking brown stuff all over the popular beach. Most locals weren't very happy with it. Along with the new sand came a bunch of sting rays and so everyone was having to shuffle step through the waves.

I wasn't swimming. It was a red tide that fall, where the waves look dirt brown by day and at night glow with the bioluminescence of millions of phytoplankton, algae. Lovely and compelling by night. But too toxic for a pregnant lady to swim in. Paul and I took many walks down to our beach that month.

I had to walk actually, doctors orders. But I was pretty ambitious about it, marching up and down the steep stairs on the beach bluff called Stone Steps (120 stairs in all). A recent medical test made my obstetrician think I might have gestational diabetes. The fear was I would have too large of a baby. In fact, Grandma Berryhill had two sons that were over 13 pounds, she definitely had gestational diabetes. I was a border line case.

At any rate, I had to cut all the sweets out of my diet, eat one piece of bread a day, stick with the fruits veggies and meat diet and then prick my finger and test my blood sugar three times a day. So if I walked after I ate, you see, it would bring my blood sugar down and I would fare well on the tests. So I did a lot of walking.

Paul and I lived in the same apartment building I live in now with our 9 year old son and the neighbors loved the idea of a child on the way. Checking in often on how the pregnancy was progressing and helping us get the landlord to give us new paint and carpet.

The apartment was clean and ready for a kid. But I didn't have the proper baby-care tools. So my girlfriend Patricia Michal's held a baby shower for us, on the weekend of September 8th or 9th. Lots of friends showed up, mostly friends without kids I might note, and Paul and I came home with a car load of stuff, the usual stuff, and I piled it all in the living room, ready to process another day. Also, I knew in a week my family, the Berryhill cousins, were gonna have their own shower for us at their place in Laguna, so I'd wait and see what we had after that.

Paul had been seeing a therapist since our separation, and now with a baby coming he was inspired to work on unfinished business with his kids from his first marriage, their mother being, Sachiko. He invited both sons, now adults, to visit us one at a time and participate in a series of therapy sessions with him, a place where they could lay out some of their truths and feelings about having Paul Williams as a father.

It was a good thing for Paul. He'd always had trouble controlling his anger, (the brain injury didn't help), and he was doing a lot of good work on finding ways to handle his feelings and look at who he'd been to others in his life, how he'd effected the ones he loved. It was a promising time.

We were involved in a Buddhist study group at that time. We'd both been studying the Buddha's philosophies via a Vietnamese monk named Thich Naht Hahn (who'd been nominated for a Nobel Peace prize by Martin Luther King) . Nhat Hahn had a monastery in east county we'd visit sometimes and the monks would visit our San Diego study group. After a night of reading and discussion the head monk came and sat with me and Paul and talked to us about the importance of bringing mindful peace to the home we'd be bringing the baby into. He was a pretty amazing person, with both a child like quality and a heavy intelligence vibe at once. I felt a strong connection with this monk, sadly he passed away, from diabetes, the same day our son was born. I always felt they'd passed one another with purpose, through the ether's, on their ways from heaven to earth.

This was our life in the month before our son, Alexander was born.

One morning Paul woke me up a little early, he was a bit rattled. His second wife Donna Grace called to tell us that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers in New York. Apparently she didn't know too much about it because Paul didn't have anything more to tell me about it and I pictured it in my minds eye as a private plane. And there was no TV to tune into, I haven't had a TV in my house since, 1991, actually the last broadcasting TV I had was when I lived in New York City.

That morning I had an appointment with my doctors office. Because my obstetrician was so concerned about me having gestational diabetes they were putting me through a series of "stress tests" which boiled down to strapping on a belt contraption and blasting the fetus with some crazy loud blips and seeing if it moved around(no wonder my son is sound sensitive now)...

On my way to the doctor, a half hours drive, I listened to the LA news station I usually tuned into, 1070AM...and was shocked to hear that it had been a commercial passenger plane that had hit the tower. By the time I got into the doctors office they had the TV's on and going full blast. I was in line, checking in when the second plane hit the other tower. The room had a mutual gasp and we all knew it was a planned thing. It was awful seeing all that go down, and I'm just sitting there waiting to be called in and then I'm supposed to take a stress test?

I listened to the rest of the events unfold on the car radio on my way home and I made a decision. I was pretty upset, who wasn't. I decided to not take in the news for the rest of the month. No hunting for pictures on the computer, no tv at friends homes..only enough radio to know whether the cataclysm's were coming west. I didn't want Alexander's last few weeks in the womb to be filled with stress hormones. I still think I made the right decision.

It's ten years later. All the pictures I didn't see, the famous photos I missed I'm allowing myself to see now. And Alexander went with friends to a 911 memorial in San Diego today. On the way home he asked his friends mother, " Who flew the planes into the buildings" She said, " The people that planned the attacks" He said, "You mean they planned it and did it knowing they too would die?" "Yep, she said, noticing how incredulous he was looking." Alexander: "But how could someone plan their own death?" ...

Alexander was born October 16, 2001, six pounds seven ounces, and despite the doctors fear of a large rotund baby brought on by gestational diabetes, I had one of the slimmer babies born that day.

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