The Color of Babies Pt. 1

 

This is a work of fiction inspired by the painting ‘Flaming June’ by Sir Frederic Leighton. (Fyi – that painting is a bit NSFW)

  

 

 

Sonia looked down at baby Manu.

He is so cute. My little son. His perfect, chubby little toes. Those rubber band wrists. Is it okay to want to eat him?

When she looked at him, she forgot lack of sleep, forgot helplessness, forgot lack of time. When she looked at him, everything in the world settled into its right place.

She leaned down to touch his squishy cheek and felt her lower back seize up again. Ugh. She was so tired. She felt like her very blood was tired. Like the breath that came out of her mouth was tired. All tired. Every kind of tired.

Three months since Manu was born and the thought of the next few years made her want to curl up and die. It also made her want to weep with gratitude. Such extreme feelings still, the hormones were still hanging around.

 

Sonia remembered the days she was pregnant. They had been so happy. Reading pregnancy books, laughing over weird birthing videos, taking way too many ‘bump’ selfies. Even their sex had improved. Manoj had bought her a sheer nightie in flaming orange. Gossamer thin material that seemed to blaze around her.  And then, Manoj had painted the baby’s crib the same flaming orange. All their friends had asked – why orange? Why not blue or pink? Manoj would wink at them and say, ‘It’s the color of more babies.’ All that was gone now. No winking, no smiling, and no color at all.

 

Manoj loved the baby. She knew that. When Manu was born, Manoj was crying and laughing and looking at her as if she had performed a miracle. (And she had, make no mistake.) He had been so excited that he had gotten the date wrong on the birth certificate.

 

 

He had come home with the birth certificate, so full of pride and joy. It was the first day back from the hospital and she had been trying to get Manu to nurse. But it just wasn’t happening and she was desperate. The baby was crying of hunger and she was crying with frustration.

My baby will starve because of me, she thought. And she had been so relieved when she heard Manoj coming in. He came bouncing in waving the certificate in her face. Sonia looked at him and cried harder.

“I can’t get him to feed! I don’t know what to do!”

“I’m sure he’ll latch on when he’s ready. Look at his brand new certificate!! He’s official! WE’RE official!”

“Did you hear what I said? He’s crying of hunger and I can’t feed him!”

“I’m sure he’s not crying of hunger. Always so dramatic, Sunu,” Manoj smiled.

“Don’t treat me like an idiot. I know why he’s crying. Do you know how long I’ve been trying to do this? All you had to do was get a piece of paper!”

She yanked it out of his hand and looked at it.

“Manoj, the date isn’t right! Can’t you even do one thing right? And then you come here and tell me how to behave… Go away, Manoj. If you can’t help, just get out.”

And she flung the paper at him.

He backed out of the room, stunned, the certificate hanging limp from his hand.

 

 

That was the beginning. Sometimes it was her and sometimes it was him. Someone was always snapping. Just last night, they had had the worst fight. Even worse for the fact that it was conducted in frantic, harsh whispers because they didn’t dare wake the baby.

Manoj had, shockingly, asked when they might consider sex again. He had said it casually, with an awkward smile. And she had suddenly realised that Manoj was afraid of her. He was afraid she would explode. And he was right…

“Manoj, you know how the past three months have been. How could you even ask such a question?”

The atmosphere changed suddenly. He wasn’t smiling anymore.

“Sunu, how can you ask me that question? I know the last 3 months have been tough for you. But what about me? Do you even know I still exist in this house? I love Manu, you know I do. But you haven’t looked at me properly since he was born. You never talk to me. You talk at me. You want me to get things. You want me to be quiet. And then you want me to go away.

“I am trying to do this with you. But it’s like you’re part of an exclusive club for which I have to earn some secret membership. But you won’t even tell me how to earn this privileged spot. You want me to jump through hoops that don’t exist. You gave birth. I get that. But we’re a unit. No, we were a unit. Now, I don’t exist.”

“What the hell are you talking about?! You want me to think of YOU? When you’re sitting in your blessed AC office, eating at the right times and working in all that QUIET, I have a baby who won’t stop crying! Who takes an hour to feed! He sleeps in stretches of 20 minutes and then wakes up hungry. He takes hours to eat, but poops ALL the time! I haven’t thought of me in three months and you want me to think of you?”

“This is exactly what I’m talking about, Sunu. I’m ready to help. You want to hire help? We’ll do it! But you don’t want to. You want to do everything your damn self. And then you cry and complain and behave like I don’t exist.”

“He’s my son! I should take care of him! Why can’t you understand what that means to me? I’m his mother! If I can’t take care of him, then who can? You think someone else can do better than me?”

“I don’t understand you anymore. You don’t want me. You don’t need me. You’re wrapped up in being a victim. Fine, go ahead. Be a baby martyr.”

Sonia felt close to tears again. How was she expected to put up a good fight when she hadn’t slept?

“I do need you, Manoj. It’s just… I can’t do this now… I don’t know how…”

“Well, it’s about time you figured it out.”

 

 

To be continued…

 

Photos by Daniel Reche and Juan Pablo Arenas from Pexels

Monday, December 10, 2018 0 0

How I Saved My Marriage

This blog post originally appeared on Richard Paul Evan’s website www.richardpaulevans.com

 

(Dedicated to my sweetheart.)

My oldest daughter, Jenna, recently said to me, “My greatest fear as a child was that you and mom would get divorced. Then, when I was twelve, I decided that you fought so much that maybe it would be better if you did.” Then she added with a smile. “I’m glad you guys figured things out.”

For years my wife Keri and I struggled. Looking back, I’m not exactly sure what initially drew us together, but our personalities didn’t quite match up. And the longer we were married the more extreme the differences seemed. Encountering “fame and fortune” didn’t make our marriage any easier. In fact, it exacerbated our problems. The tension between us got so bad that going out on book tour became a relief, though it seems we always paid for it on re-entry. Our fighting became so constant that it was difficult to even imagine a peaceful relationship. We became perpetually defensive, building emotional fortresses around our hearts. We were on the edge of divorce and more than once we discussed it.

I was on book tour when things came to a head. We had just had another big fight on the phone and Keri had hung up on me. I was alone and lonely, frustrated and angry. I had reached my limit. That’s when I turned to God. Or turned on God. I don’t know if you could call it prayer–maybe shouting at God isn’t prayer, maybe it is–but whatever I was engaged in I’ll never forget it. I was standing in the shower of the Buckhead, Atlanta Ritz-Carlton yelling at God that marriage was wrong and I couldn’t do it anymore. As much as I hated the idea of divorce, the pain of being together was just too much. I was also confused. I couldn’t figure out why marriage with Keri was so hard. Deep down I knew that Keri was a good person. And I was a good person. So why couldn’t we get along? Why had I married someone so different than me? Why wouldn’t she change?

Finally, hoarse and broken, I sat down in the shower and began to cry. In the depths of my despair powerful inspiration came to me. You can’t change her, Rick. You can only change yourself. At that moment I began to pray. If I can’t change her, God, then change me. I prayed late into the night. I prayed the next day on the flight home. I prayed as I walked in the door to a cold wife who barely even acknowledged me. That night, as we lay in our bed, inches from each other yet miles apart, the inspiration came. I knew what I had to do.

 The next morning I rolled over in bed next to Keri and asked, “How can I make your day better?”

Keri looked at me angrily. “What?”

“How can I make your day better?”

“You can’t,” she said. “Why are you asking that?”

“Because I mean it,” I said. “I just want to know what I can do to make your day better.”

She looked at me cynically. “You want to do something? Go clean the kitchen.”

She likely expected me to get mad. Instead I just nodded. “Okay.” I got up and cleaned the kitchen.

The next day I asked the same thing. “What can I do to make your day better?”

Her eyes narrowed. “Clean the garage.”

I took a deep breath. I already had a busy day and I knew she had made the request in spite. I was tempted to blow up at her. Instead I said, “Okay.” I got up and for the next two hours cleaned the garage. Keri wasn’t sure what to think.

The next morning came. “What can I do to make your day better?”

“Nothing!” she said. “You can’t do anything. Please stop saying that.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “But I can’t. I made a commitment to myself. What can I do to make your day better?”

“Why are you doing this?”

“Because I care about you,” I said. “And our marriage.”

The next morning I asked again. And the next. And the next. Then, during the second week, a miracle occurred. As I asked the question Keri’s eyes welled up with tears. Then she broke down crying. When she could speak she said, “Please stop asking me that. You’re not the problem. I am. I’m hard to live with. I don’t know why you stay with me.”

I gently lifted her chin until she was looking in my eyes. “It’s because I love you,” I said. “What can I do to make your day better?”

“I should be asking you that.”

“You should,” I said. “But not now. Right now, I need to be the change. You need to know how much you mean to me.”

She put her head against my chest. “I’m sorry I’ve been so mean.”

“I love you,” I said.

“I love you,” she replied.

“What can I do to make your day better?”

She looked at me sweetly. “Can we maybe just spend some time together?”

I smiled. “I’d like that.”

I continued asking for more than a month. And things did change. The fighting stopped. Then Keri began asking, “What do you need from me? How can I be a better wife?”

The walls between us fell. We began having meaningful discussions on what we wanted from life and how we could make each other happier. No, we didn’t solve all our problems. I can’t even say that we never fought again. But the nature of our fights changed. Not only were they becoming more and more rare, they lacked the energy they’d once had. We’d deprived them of oxygen. We just didn’t have it in us to hurt each other anymore.

Keri and I have now been married for more than thirty years. I not only love my wife, I like her. I like being with her. I crave her. I need her. Many of our differences have become strengths and the others don’t really matter. We’ve learned how to take care of each other and, more importantly, we’ve gained the desire to do so.

Marriage is hard. But so is parenthood and keeping fit and writing books and everything else important and worthwhile in my life. To have a partner in life is a remarkable gift. I’ve also learned that the institution of marriage can help heal us of our most unlovable parts. And we all have unlovable parts.

Through time I’ve learned that our experience was an illustration of a much larger lesson about marriage. The question everyone in a committed relationship should ask their significant other is, “What can I do to make your life better?” That is love. Romance novels (and I’ve written a few) are all about desire and happily-ever-after, but happily-ever-after doesn’t come from desire–at least not the kind portrayed in most pulp romances. Real love is not to desire a person, but to truly desire their happiness–sometimes, even, at the expense of our own happiness. Real love is not to make another person a carbon copy of one’s self. It is to expand our own capabilities of tolerance and caring, to actively seek another’s well being. All else is simply a charade of self-interest.

I’m not saying that what happened to Keri and me will work for everyone. I’m not even claiming that all marriages should be saved. But for me, I am incredibly grateful for the inspiration that came to me that day so long ago. I’m grateful that my family is still intact and that I still have my wife, my best friend, in bed next to me when I wake in the morning. And I’m grateful that even now, decades later, every now and then, one of us will still roll over and say, “What can I do to make your day better.” Being on either side of that question is something worth waking up for.

 

 

(This is a wonderful story of how a marriage was saved. However, please note that all opinions of the author are not endorsed by Marriage Possible.)

 

Photos from StockSnap:

J4C1WJDMMU by Michal Jarmoluk

2S9UCLX4CZ and 9L2LKLMWKZ by Brodie Vissers

Monday, December 11, 2017 0 0