The childbirth class: Dan willingly signed on to all the classes I signed us up for- just about every one the hospital offered. Often he'd be working late and I'd bring something for him to eat when he arrived. Boston Market one time I remember. "You have some too..." he said as he tried to eat quickly while we sat in the circle of pregnant couples listening to the doula who taught there describe the birthing process. Then we'd get up and practice some of the techniques we were learning as if we were in labor. We'd head out into the hall and I'd sit on the birthing ball while you massaged my neck or back and told me I was doing a great job. It was nothing like real labor...nothing. Sometimes afterwards, I'd have to take the train back to Brooklyn alone, because you would have to go back to the office and work- even at 9 pm. I hated those times.
At the last class we watched a corny movie showing various women giving birth- all to a soundtrack with heavy drums and with the words, "I am opening up in sweet surrender to my beautiful baby..." We laughed singing that song later at home.
Anyway, we somehow bonded with one couple more than any others. They radiated intelligence and warmth- she had a PhD in English- something I'd always toyed with. Dan had just gotten his first gig playing with Regina at a concert in Williamsburg which they wanted to attend, but it ended up pouring that night. I stood behind the stage eight months pregnant taking photos of you under multi-colored lanterns, but the violinist you'd gotten had big pink hair that kept getting in my way. Myself and D. went to lunch in Brooklyn a few days before she gave birth. We were both scheduled to use the same birthing center but both wound up missing the option by hours as we both delivered slightly more than seven days past our due date. When we met for that lunch, I remember how funny it was that we both had a bag with us and it contained the same thing: a crib mattress cover. We were on the exact same nesting schedule.
After she gave birth- about a week earlier than me- I remember receiving her announcement email to the rest of the class at a time when I was starting to get really anxious to give birth. "At the end of it all, will be your baby," she wrote. I cried reading those words. They knew they were to have a girl, while we thought we were having a boy but hadn't wanted to find out.
Well, we both had little girls, and we were excited to introduce them, but instead we were forced out of our apartment by the bed bug infestation and it was never to be. Dan ran into D. one time on Madison Avenue, but that was pretty much the extent of our contact once the girls were born.
Though everything I remember from the first few days/weeks after the phone call of your death is in shards - I do remember D. calling me in tears, telling me that her husband wasn't sure she should call, but that she just had to...I was grateful.
And I remember her face at the wake and funeral, and I think even the burial though I can't be sure.
They have since left Brooklyn as well and bought a home in Westchester and are expecting their second child- a boy. With sensitivity, she told me to expect this over email before our play date today.
So, our little girls had a tea party today and we each got to meet them for the first time. Amidst picking up toys and making lunches, we talked about all that has happened in the two years since we sat in a childbirth class together at St. Lukes in Manhattan. I was struck and touched by how well she had read you Dan- only from those classes. And so I wanted to know if she'd written a letter/email for the memorial I'm eventually putting together for Audrey. Turns out she had...and it is beautiful. And here it is:
July 13, 2010
How much happens in the first two years of life! The magical years that your father was with you, thinking of you even when he was away. Working away from home to be the kind of person who inspires you, and perhaps, to be successful in ways that would be a comfort to you.
The devastating effect of his sudden departure on you and your mother would, we imagine, break his heart. But we also imagine that he would have wanted for you to grow up to pursue passions, develop talents. All of this entails risk, although only very rarely misfortune of the magnitude that your family now suffers.
We imagine your father asking your mother all about you. Gazing at photos of you from hours ago, from the day you were born, from last month. And as we knew him: delightedly sharing with D. in a chance meeting on Madison Avenue a video of you. For your father, two years was a lifetime: yours.
We intuit these things not because we are parents of a girl born only days before you, in the same hospital, but because we knew Dan. The only man in our birthing class who seemed already fully a father, so enamored and engaged and transformed was he by your burgeoning presence. His talking to you in her belly, your mother let on happily, was beginning to interfere with her rest.
In the last weeks of pregnancy, Julia was your home: a thoughtful and beautiful place, like the spaces about which she lovingly blogged. Your father admired openly your mother’s strength and wisdom, apparent before tragedy had altered her life. He would be proud but not surprised by the powerful clarity that has broken from her like lightening or sunlight in the dark days since his death.
Going forward we imagine your mother’s arms as walls supporting you, her sound mind the roof above your head, the memories of your father as doors to all that you will accomplish and create (yes! you will form letters, you will fall in love).
You, Audrey, have been, for your parents, a view to the intimate, a portal to the infinite. You are the window that your mother will crack when tragedy weighs on her so heavily that she gasps for air, into which she will gaze to see your father. Every day you provide the vitality and light that your father bequeathed to you.
With love and deep sympathy,