Butterscotch Moment 92: Raising Arizona
Posted on January 8, 2015
“Son, you got a panty on your head.” — H.I.
Barrett often finds some reason to quote that line or some other random line from “Raising Arizona.” It’s one of his favorite movies and during our first 5 years of marriage, he made me watch it all the time. Still to this day I feel like I personally know cop-turned-babynapper Edwina “Ed” McDunnough (a/k/a Holly Hunter) and ex-convenience store robber H.I. McDonnough (a/k/a when Nicolas Cage was cool).
You might even say that, at the time, Barrett and I had a few things in common with Ed and H.I.
There we were in our mid-thirties, in love, both had great jobs, traveled whenever we wanted, watched movies on a whim, and enjoyed a glass of good wine and slow dancing in the evenings. …Okay, so we had the mid-thirties and in love part in common.
But then something happened.
“We figured there was too much happiness here for just the two of us, so we figured the next logical step was to have us a critter.” — H.I.
My connection to Ed became even stronger when I didn’t get pregnant overnight. As Barrett would sometimes joke before getting punched, “Edwina’s insides were a rocky place where my seed could find no purchase.” — H.I.
I completely understood the urge to steal away one of the newsworthy quintuplets. Really. ‘”They have more than they can handle, anyway.” — Ed.
Sitting in a Paris hotel room on my 5th wedding anniversary, something didn’t feel right. It had to be the steak tartare with raw eggs. Or was it? Fortunately, I accidentally packed a pregnancy test instead of my toothbrush.
I was pregnant.
I read the books, made my birth plan, chose a playlist for my delivery (mostly 80s hair bands), and was coached by all my mommy friends on the details. Plus, I closed million dollar deals, stood toe to toe with the best trial lawyers in the United States, and testified regularly in front of the most intimidating of judges. A baby? Come on. This was going to be a piece of cake.
But, “[s]ometimes it’s a hard world for small things.” — H.I.
For the first three weeks neither the baby nor I slept, ate or stopped crying.
We also didn’t bond.
I was a mess. I smelled like sour milk and throw up. It wasn’t odd for me to think, “Hmm…I didn’t see anyone important today. I’ll just wear these same clothes tomorrow.”
When I went for one of my post-delivery check-ups, my doctor must have sensed my mood change.
“Do you ever get the feeling that there’s something… Powerful pressing down on you?” — H.I.
“Excuse me?” I asked. “Did you say something?”
“Nooooo,” Dr. Hayes said, looking at me crossways. “You know it’s alright if you don’t feel instant happiness. 75-80% of new mothers have some mild depression during the first 6 weeks. And 10-20% have severe depression.”
“That’s interesting,” I replied quickly. “Speaking of interesting, I had UPS, FedEx, and the Postal Service show up at my house today at the same time. Awkward!”
She continued unfazed. “The sudden drop in estrogen, progesterone, endorphins, and thyroid levels does crazy things to your body and mind.”
I was too proud and embarrassed for her to get anything out of me.
So it got worse.
“Now, [for this next part] y’all without sin can cast the first stone.”— H.I.
It was 3 am and I’d sent Barrett upstairs to get some sleep. In a soupy mixture of sleep deprivation fog and immense guilt, I sat in the rocking chair and stared at the screaming baby. “I’m not supposed to be a mother.” The baby cried. I imagined Barrett with another woman—an energetic 27-year-old in a yellow dress smiling down at the baby, happy to be a mom. The baby cried. I practiced the phone call to my parents. The baby cried. I mentally packed my bags—picking out the most versatile clothes for my new life in California. The baby cried. “I should at least leave Barrett a note.” The baby cried. “No, I’ll just email him.” The baby cried.
“God, please help me!” I prayed.
The baby cried. I closed my eyes. The baby cried. I braced myself against the weight and unrelenting tide of shame. The baby stopped crying. I looked down.
Right then, she looked at me. Her eyes were large, pure and sparkled with warmth. I stared in disbelief. She flashed a brief, but unmistakable smile.
Whether my hormones suddenly righted themselves, I don’t know. Whether that smile was spontaneous or due to gas and drowsiness, I don’t know. But something hit me.
Like a thunderbolt, it hit me. My love for Micah hit me violently. It was so powerful and so intense I felt like my chest cracked open and my soul spilled out upon her. I held her tight and met my true self.
There was nothing left to do but thank God, squeeze my Micah Rose, and sob like Holly Hunter.
“I love you so much. I love you so much.”
That night I had a dream. I dreamt I was as light as the ether- a floating spirit visiting things to come. The shades and shadows of the people in my life rassled their way their way into my slumber. . . .But still I hadn’t dreamt nothin’ about me and Ed, until the end. And this was cloudier, because it was years, years away. But I saw an old couple bein’ visited by their children and all their grandchildren too. The old couple weren’t screwed up, and neither were their kids or their grandkids. And it seemed real. It seemed like us. And it seemed like, well… our home. If not Arizona, then a land not too far away, where all parents are strong and wise and capable and all the children are happy and beloved. I don’t know. Maybe it was . . .[Texas].”— H.I.