Dowlan and I married in March of 2003 and took exactly five weeks to get pregnant with Melody, despite swallowing those little pills every morning at 7 a.m. before heading out the door to work.
By Halloween, I was 7 months pregnant and wore a black dress with a pumpkin (still on the vine) over my belly. Thanksgiving, I was 8 months pregnant and the turkey got fried at our house for the first time that year. And on Christmas Eve, I hit exactly 9 months pregnant.
The weekend prior, my parents, aunt and brother's family had come up to have a little celebration with big meals, presents and all that. It was fun, but not quite right. Home for Christmas means caroling through the neighborhood I grew up in, the stockings I made in the 8th grade hanging over the fireplace in the room with the grand piano and 9 foot Christmas tree. Being in our little house, so far from being settled in, with just the two of us just seemed so wrong.
On Christmas Eve, we went to candlelight service at our church and that part was fantastic. The singing was beautiful around me and I joined in as much as I could, unable to get a deep breath. During a reading I reflected on the idea that, while I may be uncomfortable and huge, at least I don't have to go anywhere on a donkey. I pondered that in my heart, pondered the baby in my belly and thought about Mary for the first time.
It felt too weird to go home and dear friends invited us over, so we went and watched their kids do their Christmas Eve traditions. My favorite was the neighbor who, every year, drinks until you can smell the Christmas spirits on him, dresses up as Santa and goes to visit his neighbors.
We had plans to go to another family's house the next day, but it still just felt so weird to go sleep home and sleep on the couch, the only place I could sleep those days. It was Christmas Eve and I realize that there was absolutely nothing to surprise me in the morning. Anything I was getting, I had got. Anything in my stocking, I had bought. It had all been done a few days before and there was nothing left.
I don't remember if I shared any of these thoughts with Dowlan before drifting off, but I was pretty bummed about the whole thing as I snuggled into my blankets for the night. Around two in the morning, I remember hearing the door slam shut, the engine start and the sounds of Dowlan backing out of the driveway.
Being the extremely rational extremely pregnant extremely hormonal extremely sleepy and lonely woman that I was at that moment, I began sobbing. All I could think of was that he had left me and the baby on Christmas Eve and was never, ever coming back. I have no idea why I thought this, just that I was devastated. I cried myself back to sleep.
The next morning, when I awoke, the two small stockings on the entertainment center were full. Dowlan had left to find things to fill them after realizing last-moment that they would be empty come morning. Giving his timing, however, he had found only Exxon to be open and so I had the best stocking stuffers a convenience store could offer: chocolate, some veggie chips, a piece of suspiciously old fruit, beef jerky and a lime green stuffed bear that, while ugly beyond description, is hanging on our tree this very day.
What a guy.