"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away." – Maya Angelou
March 12, 2007
I woke to the sounds of a pitiful cry coming from the crib in the corner of my crowded room. My two-month-old daughter was apparently awake and determined to let me know it. I hurriedly threw the blanket off and stumbled out of bed, not wanting Lizzie to wake Charlie and Sue in the next room.
"Hush, pretty girl," I cooed softly. "Momma's right here." I gave her the pacifier that had dropped out while she slept and picked her up carefully, immediately realizing the reason she was crying so insistently. "Let's get you a new diaper, huh?"
I cuddled her to me in one hand as I grabbed a fresh diaper, wipes, and the changing pad from the shelf, along with a new onesie from the drawer of my dresser. Setting everything but the baby down, I climbed up on the bed, carefully laying Lizzie down on the padded vinyl, and started in on the task of cleaning her up. She'd quit crying when I'd given her the pacifier, leaving the room in silence, aside from the sound of the tape from her diaper and my coos.
Once she was clean and dressed, I disposed of the diaper in the diaper genie beside my bed and then grabbed the hand sanitizer, pumping out a bit and rubbing it into my skin before picking Lizzie up again. "Let's go downstairs, and Momma will fix your bottle, okay, sweetheart?"
I made my way downstairs—I was much more careful to not trip over my own two feet now that I had to carry a baby everywhere—and set her in the bouncer on the kitchen table. Once she was settled, I grabbed the formula from the refrigerator and a clean bottle from the cabinet. When it was filled and the extra formula was back in the fridge, I popped it into a saucepan of water, turned on the burner, and set about making coffee.
I'd tried to nurse when Lizzie was born, but after the first month, I realized I simply wasn't enjoying it as much as I'd been told I would. I'd had problems getting her to latch on properly and trying to get us into a comfortable position, and it had caused us both a lot of stress. Charlie had suggested switching to formula so he or Sue could feed her when I needed a break or he got the urge. I'd been so grateful for the suggestion, and several times over the last month, I'd taken him up on the offer so I could continue to sleep. Now I could relax when I fed her—a far cry from the frustration I'd felt before. She and I were both happier than we'd been every time she'd had to nurse that first month.
When the warmer beeped softly to signal the bottle was ready, I turned it off, tested it on my wrist, and then picked up my daughter, sitting back in my seat at the table to feed her. That's where we were twenty minutes later when my dad came shuffling into the kitchen, wearing jeans, a flannel shirt, and socks.
"Morning, Bells," he said, patting my shoulder. "And morning to you, baby girl." He leaned down and gave Lizzie a quick kiss on the top of her head as she ate. "Did she sleep okay?"
I smiled, nodding. "Yeah, she only woke up once around two o'clock for a bottle."
"That's good," Charlie said gruffly. "About every four hours. That's not too bad. Want some breakfast?"
My stomach growled loudly, and he laughed. "Guess that's a yes."
"Yeah, thanks," I said, chuckling softly so as to not disturb the baby, who was sucking greedily at the almost-empty bottle.
"Toast and eggs okay?" he asked, head buried in the fridge.
"That's fine." Looking up at the clock, which read just after six thirty in the morning, I asked, "What are you doing up so early?"
He turned away from the fridge and looked at me, his arms full of butter, eggs, a jar of grape jelly, and the jug of milk. "You still planning on going out later?"
I nodded slowly. I'd asked him a few days before if he could watch Lizzie for a few hours today because I had something I needed to do and I knew Sue was going to be helping out at the school on the reservation. He'd looked like he wanted to ask me what my plans were, but rather than give in to that curiosity, he'd just said it wouldn't be a problem. There were advantages to being the chief—one of which was the ability to take off a few hours when needed.
"I thought I'd go in early and put a few hours in before you need me back to watch Elizabeth. What time do you need me?"
"Thanks, Dad," I said, smiling softly. "I should only be gone a few hours. Whenever is fine."
Charlie nodded once, and then we were quiet as he made breakfast and I burped a now sleepy Lizzie. As soon as she let out a quiet gas bubble, she yawned and her eyes began to close.
"I'm gonna go put her back upstairs, and then I'll be back down," I told him, leaving the room after his grunt of acknowledgment.
We ate in silence, listening to the sleepy little baby noises coming through the monitor. We'd never been big talkers, having preferred to eat and not talk for as long as I could remember—certainly since I'd moved to Forks just over two years ago. It wasn't usually an uncomfortable silence, though. We were both just rather reserved. So when Charlie spoke, it startled me, and I nearly knocked over my glass of milk as I was reaching for it.
"So where ya going today?" he asked, trying hard to sound casual.
How did I tell him I was going out to one of the places that meant the most to me in the world? How did I explain why it was an important place?
"I, uh..." I stuttered, trying to come up with the words. "Just a place I went to with a friend that I haven't been to in a while." A year, to be exact, I thought, but Charlie didn't need to know that.
He looked at me suspiciously, but when I didn't offer up any more information, he shrugged. "Okay, well, I'll be home before lunch."
I smiled, thanking him silently for not pushing, and then stood to gather our dishes. "I've got these. Thanks for breakfast."
He grunted in response and then padded out to the entry way. He popped his head back in a couple of minutes later, tugging on his jacket. I handed him a travel mug of coffee I'd made for him, and he took it, sipping gratefully. "Thanks, Bells. See you in a few."
"We'll be here," I said, my eyes flickering to the baby monitor on the table.
"I'll bring home lunch, and you can go out after?" he offered.
"That'd be great, thanks."
He nodded and then turned to leave.
Checking the clock once I heard the door click closed, I thought, Six hours and counting...