In February, Scott shot a video of me surfing with a baby we didn’t know was Avalon and we took a camper van out to the desert with Basia, Phil, Manny and Christine to shoot bb guns and swing hula hoops after dark.
In March I wrote down some questions for our unborn baby and drew a tutorial for how to duck-dive while pregnant. Scott got a surprise for his birthday and my mom got a taxidermy squirrel for hers.
Easter and combo swells and Dave visiting from North Carolina and building a nursery and the death of Maureen. I wrote her a letter I ended up reading at her wake. It took place in an Irish bar. It was humid inside and loud and sad. If I hadn’t been seven months pregnant I would have been drunk, instead I had to drive and pick up Baja Fresh on the way home. If Maureen had been there she would have been drunk too. Maybe heaven is like a really good buzz anyways. I wrote Sprout another letter and turned 30 six days after Maureen died. She had been at all of my birthdays since I was five. It absolutely poured rain for only the second time that year. Maybe that was her way of attending.
We finished expanding the backyard and then my blog friend Kari came over. Dave sent me a video of a guy who smoked his friend’s bones out of a pipe after he died. I just laughed, because why not?
We took my mom’s advice and did a baby moon at the Glorietta Bay Inn in Coronado where we swam, took a baby class and got photobombed by a Quinceañera. We also put the finishing touches on the garage-tuned-beach-baby-nursery and I ran into some wise old ladies at the gym before I wrote one last letter to “Sprout” before I met him or her.
Avalon visited Catalina and her namesake harbor Avalon. I got some sweet and helpful advice about nursing from people who kindly read this blog and got back to surfing for the first time since Avalon was born.
I got some good waves in September and so did Avalon. The other week I was emailing with my friend Michelle when I told her that even though it sounded kind of pessimistic, that things can always get worse. I realized this one day in September. I took Avalon to the lactation consultant since she had been eating for shorter periods of time. I expected that I was being overly cautious and predictably anxious. I expected that Laura, the lactation consultant I had gotten to know well, was going to tell me that Avalon was getting plenty to eat and was doing just fine. Instead, before we left Avalon became inconsolable and would not eat. When we arrived at the appointment the same thing happened again. She screamed while I tried to feed her and refused to eat. I had to take her to an emergency appointment with an on-call pediatrician to get medication and further instruction. Perhaps I might even have to re-consider exclusive breastfeeding. “That’s it”, I thought on the way home, “September 16th, 2015 is the worst day ever.” Then my mom called to tell me my sister had cancer. The idea of maybe having to feed my baby some formula suddenly seemed like more of a blessing than anything else. After that my perspective about everything changed.
We visited San Francisco. Our first trip as a family (that almost ended before it started)! I also visited Petsmart instead of the aquarium to save money. The intermingling of joy and pain in life became so apparent to me as I watched Avalon grow all the while knowing my mother’s own baby, my baby sister, had something growing inside of her that was trying to kill her.
Maddie started chemo November 9th. I started putting thoughts down in a creatively titled Word Document called “My Book”. Anne Lamott says that writing a novel is like driving through the fog: you can only see about as far as the headlights, but that’s enough.
I felt then that, that was all the advice I needed for writing and for life. Just before Thanksgiving I wrote about how Avalon suddenly felt so much more human somehow, and less and less like someone who once fit inside of me. I started to write about how some part of me felt broken forever after she was born, but now I feel put back together and stronger than ever, kind of like a tree whose roots found water even deeper.
In the spirit of Christmas, I wrote about thankfulness and ungratefulness. I also talked about why this Christmas was my favorite and what it was like to celebrate Avalon’s first. On Christmas Eve dinner we were talking about how Avalon was really the only good thing about 2015 and my Grandma, who lost her partner, my Grandpa, just before the start of the year, pointed out how this year was lucky because it was a miracle that they found Maddie’s cancer at all.
One night when Avalon was pretty new and I was in the midst of trying to understand if I had postpartum depression, Scott worked late. I missed him every hour of it, but I kind of got this feeling, as I tucked myself into bed at the end, like: yes, I can do hard things! And just now as I’m thinking back on that moment, I’m realizing that, that’s sort of been the theme of this whole year.
There were flat tires on the freeway after nights with only four hours of sleep. There were days of labor and hours of childbirth. There was cancer. There were funerals. There were big waves and bad waves and some of the best waves I’ve ever ridden. There was remodeling a garage and making it into a nursery for a baby. There was taking everything out of that nursery and putting it all back again because we didn’t insulate it properly. There was crying; so much crying. There were first smiles, first times rolling over, first times sitting up, first times eating food. There was becoming a mother: all at once and forever. And there was surviving it all and being stronger for whatever is next.