Updated: Jun 24, 2020
| This is the 473rd story of Our Life Logs |
Even now I’m still stunned when I think of the way it all went so fantastically to hell in front of my eyes. And then, what it took to bring me back to earth.
I come from a small town in the South (USA). I was raised poor, the eldest of four that my momma had at home. I watched her struggle to keep the lights on my whole life, and it impressed upon me the importance of being a woman who didn’t need to rely on anyone, especially a man.
By the late 1990s, I was nearing 18 and I couldn’t handle the drama associated with being in my mother’s household any longer—what, with the revolving door policy on her crummy boyfriends and her ever-growing hatred of everything I was because it was everything she wasn’t. She had a seventh-grade education. She wasn’t going to do much more than exactly as she was doing at the moment. I had just won a poetry competition, and the prize was a $3,000 community college scholarship. Come hell or high water, I wasn’t going to be my momma. If I was going to live, then I was going to be happy. If I was going to love, then I was going to love well.
Tyler and I met in 1999. When I met him, I was working as an AP Specialist by day, and bartending in a topless club by night. At work, a bar called The Beer Tub, I first saw that Ty was really working the room simply by being some Southern version of Adonis. He was an amazing change to my routine of job-one, followed by job-two, all concluded by an exhausted sleep. Always the center of attention. Always the life of the party.
I never had any aspirations of being a wife or mother. Neither seemed like they would be a good fit for me. I was somewhat of a gypsy and still to this day I find it hard to establish roots that may last any longer than the winter freeze. But after meeting Ty, something about him spoke to me, and as hard as I tried to tell myself that I had not, I had fallen completely in love with him in the first five minutes of knowing him.
It scared me, you know. I had always known the giving could only be as deep as the taking. But, the more I got to know him, I found that he was beautiful inside and out. He and I were beautiful together. He was my Ken Doll. Blond-hair and blue-eyed from Florida, we really did turn heads.
Two years later, we were pregnant. There was so much love in my life that I was only getting to know. Still, I was terrified. In the fear of what I could lose, I vowed to never be my mother. I was still working 65 hours a week because, no matter what, I would never tolerate, settle, or compromise so that a bill would be paid.
I worked like that until the seventh month of my pregnancy. By that point, I was tired. Tired of being the breadwinner while Ty drifted from a week at this job, to a month at the next, always unable to find the drive to commit himself to earn a paycheck that would ease some of my stress. I had lost sight of the Ken Doll I fell in love with not so long before. I had forgotten how much he meant to me, but with the weight of exhaustion, I felt that there was nothing left for me to give.
November 30, 2001. Taylor was born at one o’clock in the afternoon. She was perfect. No, really, perfect. Her APGAR was a 10. She wasn’t funny looking or red and wrinkly. Already a little beauty queen, and already she knew it. Ty cried when he held her. I wish I had thought less about how tired I was and more about how beautiful they were. I wish I had lived every minute like it was the only one I would ever share with them. I would have done things so much differently. I swear to God, I would have.
February 19, 2002. I had just returned to work a few weeks prior, which was a monstrous feat because I so wanted to stay home and lay with my little family and just enjoy the day together. Instead, barely pulled-together, I kept trudging off to be the breadwinner. I kept living under my assumed identity, Debbie Downer.
That morning, I watched how my sweet baby lay there on the bed beside her father. Her eyes followed me as I darted around my bedroom, cursing myself for not doing laundry the night before to ensure that I, in my post-baby-extra-15 pounds, would have something for work that I could actually button and zip. I was going to be late again.
I should have just called my boss right then and said the baby was warm or that the car wouldn’t start—anything—but I didn’t. I threw on my one forgiving pair of jeans and one of my husband’s sweatshirts. I covered my four-day unwashed hair with a beanie and drug my ass into the office.
I had not been in my office a full hour when my private line rang. I picked up, and Matt, our friend who was surfing our couch at the moment, said something I didn’t quite understand. He repeated, “Are you sitting down?” and my heart iced over immediately. I said, “Which one, Mattie?” He said, “the baby.”
Everyone was suddenly in my office, trying to make sense of what was happening. Janet, HR, and my “office-mother,” drove me to the Emergency Room while I begged God for mercy that he would not take my baby.
They put us in this room, this little enclosed waiting room with the chaplain and several EMTs. Before I knew it, my mother and then Ty’s mother were there. I don’t know who called them. The tiny room started to suffocate me. I knew that Ty was just holding it together for me, but all of his fear was visible, which terrified me. He had watched our friend Matt give her CPR, then the medics. In his heart, he knew. He just couldn’t bear to tell me.
SIDS is the “we have no idea what happened” death. SIDS had crept into my home and stolen my 10-week-old daughter and left a broken, shattered mess of what was once a beautiful love story.
We reached the room where they had officially pronounced her. The nurses asked me if I wanted to hold her, and when I tried to hug her to me, they said “Oh, be careful!! Watch the tube!” I hadn’t realized there was a tube for air in her throat, so I just gave her back to the nurse.
I remember making her promise me that she would change her diaper. She had a wet diaper, and my daughter had never sat in a wet diaper. I must have told her 10 times, “Please, please don’t let her sit like that……please change her diaper.”
The next few days were a blur. I remember going to the funeral home, and we entered this room of tiny caskets. Little doll-sized caskets. I remember thinking I was going to pass out. I leaned on Tyler, and we signed some paperwork. His brother was driving us home, and I just kept repeating “this is the worst day ever.” Tyler just sobbed.
The rain came down for days. It was as if the entire population of Heaven wept for my baby. We sat in the second row at her funeral. The place had people lined out the door. I left in the middle to vomit.
Then, we were out at her grave. Just a few of us, it was still pouring. They had already buried her; my loved ones wouldn’t let me outside until it was over with. I went to my knees in the dirt. They were telling me, “no, Ape, no, you can’t.” I guess I tried to take her back.
Later that night, I remember telling Tyler, “We could just take this bottle of Xanax and be back with her.” He told me that we couldn’t, that she would be upset with us.
A day or two later, my girl, Stacey, came with our friend Amie who was dying of cancer. They cleaned my house, but what they were really doing was removing Taylor’s things so that I didn’t run into them while doing the dishes and laundry. They were trying to save my sanity, and I love them so much for that.
My boss and his wife came with food and money. They tried to take care of everything, but I couldn’t remember what I had taken care of, or I just didn’t care. People came and went. People continued to live. I felt like I had died with my baby.
A year later, Ty and I married. We said it was to salvage the month, to take February from the worst pit of despair to something worth living through. But then, all the love I felt for him was buried under the sadness I felt when I looked at him and saw our baby.
As badly as we wanted to make it, we couldn’t. We lasted another four years and, I’m ashamed to say, I was a horrible wife and a terrible, angry woman to him. Looking back now, so many years later, I wish I would have turned to him instead of against him. I would do anything to go back, to fix what we were, and save the love we genuinely felt for one another.
It’s funny. What saves us isn’t always what we expect.
In 2007, about a year after my divorce, I began to rescue animals. Although I had always been an animal lover, and even Tyler and I had adopted several rescue dogs during our marriage, but this was the first dog I’d rescued on my own. I found my first rescue, on a tow chain, horribly emaciated at a foreclosed property. When I went to him, that dog loaded up with me without any funny business. Truly, that was a miracle. I named him SuperPup. From then on, SuperPup would have followed me into the bowels of hell if I asked him to and never batted a single eye about it.
SuperPup was not just my protector, but he had an uncanny effect on other animals and could calm any dog within minutes. He was the gorgeous smoke-gray pitbull that first started going with me to rescue other distressed pitbulls from dogfight scenarios.
Somehow, I found that although I would never be enough to save my daughter, for a dog that was standing with a foot in the grave, I was enough to save them. Not every dog. Pitbulls, specifically. I love what is perceived as unlovable. I love the truly damaged. In my heart, I know it’s because they speak to me. In my dogs, I find a fellow spook. We’re only missing the rattling chains.
SuperPup never left my side until the day he passed in 2015. It broke my heart when he left me. I miss that big smoke grey boy something serious when I think about him, but I keep going.
I would love to tell you that I have taken some lesson that could only have come from this hardship and made a functional, triumphant life of a phoenix from it. I haven’t. My heart yearns for my sweet Taylor with every passing second. But what is there to do? I save animals, I continue to wake up each morning, and I have learned to share small pieces of my heart. That has to be enough.
In memory of my daughter, Taylor Rae.
11-30-2001 to 2-19-2002.
You were everything I ever got right.
This is the story of April Hawkins
After a childhood of learning to get by on her own, April found the greatest relationship in her newborn daughter. Unfortunately, her baby’s sudden death threw April into depression and despair. While her heart is not fully whole, April found purpose again in saving rescue dogs. Currently, April lives and works in Tampa Bay, and has spent the last 15 years trying to change the reputation of the bully dog breeds, and has dedicated her time and resources to saving these beautiful dogs from dog fighting and the horrible people that fight them. She intends to focus on obtaining a 501c for her work with pit bulls, as she has begun non-verbal command training with them to assist with people suffering from PTSD, as she suffers the debilitating effects of the disorder. She hopes to eventually be able to non-verbal command train her rescues to be of service to military veterans with PTSD related complications.
She currently lives with 5 rescue dogs, and they all believe the world revolves around them. In addition to her advice column, she has several short stories published, as well as poetry and informational articles in the field of engineering. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. April also published as Ms. Macon is a freelance writer of short stories, and radio and television commercials. In addition, she writes an advice column, “Ask A Bitchface”, with over 20k followers and 3M reads. https://askabitchface.substack.com/
This story first touched our hearts on December 20, 2019.
| Writer: April Hawkins | Editor: Colleen Walker |