Penelope’s First Day Home:
Seth insisted on carrying everything into the house. He looked more like some lumbering luggage monster than a new dad, but maybe this is how new dads are supposed to look. He fumbled with the lock on the apartment for a minute before the door swung open. He dumped the bags at the doorway and turned towards me, smiling.
“M’ladies,” he said, gesturing grandly for us to come inside.
I smiled and rolled my eyes. I looked down at Penelope, sleeping in her carrier. It was the only thing he let me carry and I think it was more for her safety than anything.
I set her on the couch and started unbuckling her from the carrier. She made a soft coo and wiggled a bit, but didn’t wake up. I could feel Seth looking over my shoulder. I glanced back. A huge smile was spread across his face. He reached over and stroked her cheek gently with the back of his finger.
“We did good. Huh, Jen?” He murmured.
I shrugged. “I did good. You did great.”
He chuckled at this. “Me? Last I remember, I didn’t squeeze a seven-pound human out of my body.”
“Maybe not, but you’ve been taking care of me while I had that seven-pound human. I know I haven’t always been easy to deal with during the pregnancy, and I just want you to know I appreciate everything you’ve done,” I explained. I reached over and stroked her small hand gently. “This is all because of you. I couldn’t have done it without you. Literally and figuratively.”
He placed a small kiss on the top of my head. His hand squeezed my shoulder. We both stared at Penelope, sleeping peacefully. Our sweet, little angel. We were truly blessed.
Penny’s Fourteenth Day Home:
“Hello, hello!” Seth cried, coming through the door. “How are my two favorite girls today?”
I smiled as I patted Penny on the back. She let out a small burp. I adjusted her so she was cradled in my arms.
“Well, she sounds good, but I could use a nap.”
“Say no more,” he said, grabbing her from me. “Seth Nelson reporting for Daddy-duty! Come on, Penny. While Mommy sleeps, let’s watch some monster trucks!”
He pumped his fist in the air playfully and made a sound like a roaring crowd. Penny giggled and swung her little arm as best she could to match Seth’s fist. His smile grew wider and he looked at me with sparkling eyes.
“Jen, did you see?! She can fist pump!”
I laughed and pushed myself up from the couch. “Oh, joy. You two keep your rally to a reasonable level, please.”
“You got it,” he whispered, pumping his fist an exaggeratedly small amount.
I went over and kissed his cheek. I leaned down and kissed hers too. She smiled and grabbed my hair with her tiny hands. She didn’t pull hard. Instead, it was more like she was trying to keep me in place. Seth gently untangled my hair from her fingers.
“No, no, Miss Penny. Mommy’s going to sleep. You can play later.”
“There’s some milk in a bottle on the counter. If you need more, then there’s some in the fridge. She needs to eat at four, and-”
“Don’t worry,” he said soothingly. “I know where everything is. You get some rest. I’ll grab you for dinner if you’re not up by then.”
I sighed. “Sorry. Isn’t it crazy? I’ve needed a break for hours, but as soon as I get one, I can’t stand to leave her.”
He nudged me playfully. “I’m sure I’ll feel the same when you wake up and take over again. Love you, Jen.”
“Love you too, Seth. And you Penny.”
I kissed her at least a dozen times before finally giving in and heading for the bedroom. As I closed the door I peeked out one last time. Seth was lifting Penny into the air. She giggled again. Seth lowered her and shushed her gently. I couldn’t hear what he whispered to her, but I’m sure it was about staying quiet for me. Such a good man. A good father. What did I ever do to deserve him?
Penny’s Twenty-first Day Home:
I fumbled with the grocery bags in my arms as I searched for my keys. I was impatient about finding them. I wanted to be home already. I missed my Penny. I wished she could have come with me.
I sighed in frustration. As I did, a small cloud of chilled air appeared. I shook my head at the sight. No, it was too cold. She was better off at home, where she was safe and warm. Besides, Seth was there to play with her. I’m sure that had to be more fun than sitting in a cart while Mommy picked through tomatoes.
I finally unlocked the front door and went in. Seth was sitting on the couch with a beer in his hand. He smiled and nodded in my direction before turning back to the TV. I glanced around.
“Shhh,” he shushed me quickly.
He paused and listened carefully. After a minute he let out a small sigh of relief and motioned for me to come closer. I set the groceries on the kitchen counter and walked over.
“I put her down for a nap a while ago,” he whispered. “She’s been sleeping really good today. I haven’t heard a peep in over an hour.”
“An hour? This late? Seth, she won’t sleep tonight,” I sighed.
“I promise, Daddy’s on night shift tonight if that happens,” he reassured me.
I smiled and pushed his head playfully. “You better be. Now, Mommy has to be the evil monster and go wake her up.”
He mouthed the word “sorry” to me. I rolled my eyes. I didn’t really mind much. Yes, she might be a little troublesome tonight, but I knew how much Seth must have needed a break if he put her down this late. She was getting to that “fussy” newborn stage. Things were a little hard on both of us. After all, it was only an hour.
I walked into the bedroom. Sure enough, she was silent in her crib. I walked over and looked down at her sleeping face. The room was dark, but I could see her well enough. She seemed so peaceful. I really hated waking her when she was like this. I sighed and turned on the bedside lamp.
“Penny, time to-”
I stopped mid-sentence. Something about her seemed off. I reached down and stroked her head. I gasped and moved my hand to her chest quickly.
“Seth! Seth!” I cried, frantically.
I heard his footsteps pound down the hallway. He burst through the door, eyes full of confusion and worry.
“What? What’s wrong?!”
“Call 911! She isn’t breathing!”
I looked down at her again, hoping I was somehow wrong. But I wasn’t. Her chest was still, her lips were blue.
[What should have been] Penny’s Thirty-first Day Home:
The roaring sounds of monster trucks blared from the living room. I couldn’t take it anymore. I got up and stomped my way down the hall.
“Will you turn that off?” I asked angrily.
Seth didn’t even look my way. He stared at the TV and took another swig of his beer. It was like I was a ghost, unseen and unheard. Anger boiled up inside of me. I stormed over to the wall and ripped the cord from the socket.
“What the fuck, Jen?!” He cried, jumping up.
“What the fuck? What the fuck?!” I repeated indignantly. “Do you really have to ask me that?! I have begged, and begged, and begged for you not to turn that crap on anymore! I’m sick of begging. Now, I’m turning it off.”
“Well, sorry I’d rather sit out here and watch TV than lie in bed being miserable all day like you,” he snapped.
“Miserable?” I scoffed and shook my head. “Right. You’re absolutely right. I mean, my daughter just died. No biggie. What reason could I possibly have for being miserable?”
He flinched as I said the word daughter. His eyes were a mixture of rage and pain. His grip tightened around the bottle he was holding. He pointed at me sternly.
“Don’t. Okay, Jen? Just fucking don’t.”
I knew he was hurting. I did. I knew that he was hurting just as badly as I was, and I knew that he was having just as hard a time dealing with it. But none of that mattered to me right now. As I saw that beer bottle in his hand, anger was the only emotion I could possess.
“I can’t believe you’re still drinking after what happened to her.”
I could barely whisper the words. That didn’t matter though. He heard me loud and clear. A blank expression filled his face.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean.” His voice was devoid of all emotion.
“Maybe if you’d been watching her like you were supposed to be, then she would still be alive. But no. You wanted to watch TV and drink beer instead.”
It was like a switch flipped inside of him. He hurled the bottle at the wall. I flinched at the shattering sound. His face was red with anger.
“One beer!” He roared. “One hour! That was all it was. Just one hour to have a break and breathe for a moment! Did I bitch whenever you needed a nap? Or set her down to do housework? No! No one could have predicted this, Jen. No one! So don’t you dare stand there and try to act like this is all my fault!”
I knew he was right. I really did. SIDS. That’s what the doctors said. Such a horrible word. Every parent's worst nightmare. The demon that sneaks in while your back is turned and steals everything you love away from you in a matter of moments. It wasn’t Seth’s fault. Deep down, I knew that. But that horrible demon wasn’t here anymore, and my shattered heart needed someone to blame.
“How long was she not breathing, Seth? Huh?” I asked, my voice was trembling. “If you had just watched her, you would have seen. You would have noticed. Maybe we could have gotten her to the hospital in time. But you didn’t. And now… she’s dead.”
He stared at me in silence for a long time. Finally, he walked away without a word and went to the bedroom. The door slammed behind him. As it did, I sunk to the floor.
I looked around the room. So many memories had formed here in such a short time. So many bitter, miserable memories. My eyes landed on something shiny next to my foot. It was a piece of glass. The bottle he’d thrown earlier. I turned to look at it. Beer suds still slid down the wall. They pooled on the floor around the dark, brown glass. Shattered, just like my world.