December 1, 2013
Valentina was tiny when Sweetheart returned home with her. I didn’t put the timetable together and hadn’t known that she was born about 6 weeks premature. I hadn’t figured that Sweetheart could have possibly gotten pregnant the first night we ever slept together, but that’s probably what happened. Based on the time table. Valentina wasn’t born in a hospital so it’s amazing she even survived. Part of me resents Sweetheart for that, it was careless. I mean being all natural and alternative is one thing, but medical science has evolved for a reason. Back before we had hospitals and knew about births, many women died in child birth. Many babies were stillborn, or died if they were breech, or died if they were premature. Valentina was cared for on the reservation where Sweetheart gave birth. She was incubated in a sweat lodge and healed and brought to a healthy weight through ointments and rituals and diligent breast feeding. It is amazing she survived as long as she did.
I don’t even know how Sweetheart got here from Arizona with the baby. I don’t know if she took a bus, or got a ride, or hitchhiked. I’m sure she didn’t take a plane. But she got here, with no warning, and it shocked me, but I took on the role of a father to the best of my abilities. I had a plan in place to make my life good, to be responsible, to go back to school, to man up in many ways. I wanted to prove myself to Emma and show her I could be the man she deserves. I wanted to conquer my addictions and become stronger than the consuming cravings for drugs and alcohol, and I was doing a good job. I was headed in the right direction.
Then Valentina arrived and I had to adjust and reshape my plans. I still maintained my ambitions, but included fatherhood in the mix. I think I was doing a pretty damn good job too. I was a good father. I changed her diapers, fed her once Sweetheart began to express her milk, I held her, talked to her, sung to her, read to her, played the harmonica for her, took her to parks. I tried to be even better. I think that’s what most good parents probably do, because nobody’s perfect. They recognize when they should do something differently, or if there is more they can do, and how to do things better. I was on that path. I was trying to be the best father I could possibly be. And in the short time of her existence, I was getting better.
Friday night was a normal night. We were all asleep. Sweetheart was in my room and Valentina was in the bassinette, still small enough to be in a bassinette. I was on the couch and Pete was in his room. It was about 1am. I woke up. I think it was a time that Valentina would typically wake for a feeding or a diaper change. She wasn’t sleeping through the night yet. I’ve been told that breast fed babies seldom do early on. People would say that we should mix some formula in with the breast milk before bed so her belly would be filled and she’d sleep through the night. But Sweetheart didn’t like that idea, and I agreed with her. Also, since she wore cloth diapers, that would mean she’d likely be wet through the night, and then she’d get a rash. I didn’t mind waking with the baby, whenever she woke, no matter how many times, and neither did Sweetheart.
But it was 1am and Valentina didn’t wake, though I did. I got up and went into my room to check on her. She was cold. She was grey. I shouted “Oh my God Sweetheart wake up call 911!” Then I pulled Valentina from the bassinette, layed her on the floor and tried to do CPR. I was giving her rescue breaths and using my two fingers. Sweetheart called but then told me to stop because Valentina would be brain dead if I brought her back. I told her to fucking back off. She said she wanted her to live but that was no way to live, she was a free spirit now, let her go. She was crying hysterically. Pete came in and saw what was going on and held Sweetheart while I continued with CPR. She still wasn’t breathing and I almost threw up when I heard the crack of her little ribs.
I don’t know how long this went on before the EMT’s and police arrived. They did what they could do and brought her to the hospital, but she was pronounced dead. Cause of death believed to be SIDS. They said that SIDS is a greater risk with premies.
We went home after holding Valentina for a little while. I didn’t want to let her go. I didn’t want to leave her. I felt the hugest swell of pain and grief I’ve ever felt, it overtook me and stunted me, immobilized me, made me a zombie. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t cry, I could barely move, and I had no idea what anyone was saying anymore.
We got home and Sweetheart cried in Pete’s arms for a while before she finally went to bed. I was glad for Pete because I wasn’t able to comfort her in any way. If Pete wasn’t there, I’m sure I’d have pulled myself together for Sweetheart, but it was good I didn’t have to. I did take Sweetheart to bed, tuck her in, ran my fingers through her hair and along her face, then kissed her head. As the father, I resented her, though it wasn’t her fault. As a person separating myself from her, I felt compassion for her. I figured it must be harder on her than me. She carried that baby and gave birth to her. She had the immense bonding through breastfeeding. And even though I had my own issues with her, it had nothing to do with Valentina. Sweetheart was a good mom and she loved her. With the pain I was feeling, I couldn’t imagine what Sweetheart must have been going through.
Maybe she’s stronger than me, because I just couldn’t handle it. I went back out and sat on the couch with Pete. He said, “how are you doing?” I said nothing but all I could think in my head was I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t stay there. I couldn’t leave the house. I no longer felt safe inside of myself. I thought if I stayed I might kill myself. I thought if I left I would just kick the shit out of some random person, the first guy who’d look at me the wrong way. I felt trapped and I didn’t know how to get out, but I knew I was dangerous.
Finally I said to Pete, “I need to go to the hospital. Right now.” So he took to the Emergency Room for a psych evaluation.