Slowing Down: On the birth of my daughter… or … A softer side of the horror writer

What’s News?

The Imaginings e-book is on sale for the month of September for only .99!  Click here for more information.

What does the future hold?

Next Friday, I’m doing another list.  I’ve had great response to “My Own Works Cited List: 10 books that have inspired me” (if you haven’t commented with your own faves, I hope you do that next) so next Friday, I’m going to talk about “10 movies that scared the bejeezus out of me.”

But without further ado…

Click here for the 10/2010 issue

Unfortunately, I am still waiting on publisher permission to use an excerpt from Kyle Bishop’s book, however, inspired by horror writer Mac Campbell’s touchingly heartfelt post, I’ve decided to finally post the short (just over 500 words) nonfiction piece of mine that was accepted by The Sun literary magazine last October for their Reader’s Write section, entitled Slowing Down: On the birth of my daughter.

Similar to Friday Flash, The Sun give a monthly theme (i.e.- Slowing Down), but there is no word limit… except that which is imposed upon you by the editor.  I understand the cutting choices they made with my piece, but since this is my blog, I’m publishing it in its entirety here.  Almost a year after its publication, it felt like a good reminder for me this week.

Okay, NOW without further ado…

Slowing Down: On the birth of my daughter

They say that when you have a baby, everything changes.  Of course, “they” say quite a few things that turn out to be a bunch of crap.  Like that the worst thing about having a baby is not knowing why they cry.  I would say that the worst thing about having a baby is knowing why they cry and not being able to do anything about it.  You watch your little girl under those lights, crying because she can’t be held, crying because she doesn’t want foam goggles covering her eyes, crying because there is a needle in her arm.

At this point, all you want is for time to speed up, for time to solve this problem, but at this point time slows down for the worse.  You’re aware of every minute that passes, watching the clock until they run the diagnostics again, and while it can’t happen soon enough, at the same time you’re afraid of what they will tell you.

But time eventually caught up, and the doctors let us go home.  And then time slowed down for the better.  “They” say that everything gets hectic, and in a way, it does.  Even though I had the first two weeks of my daughter’s life off from work, I slept less and moved more than I have in any two weeks of my life.  I would just sit down before standing up again, just fall asleep before waking again, just change one diaper when another was needed (often before I could even get the first new one on).

But in all this craziness, when I took a moment to look at her, time slowed almost to a stop, and I didn’t want to be anywhere else.  The planet could’ve come crumbling down outside our walls, but inside, the world was suspended in that moment when she looked back, finding my eyes and focusing.  Telling me to slow down and remember this moment.

Because life speeds up from here.  It’s a mathematical certainty.  As we grow older, every year is less and less of a percentage of our overall life so far, and so we live the illusion of time speeding up.  But for this moment, I try to remember to slow down.

It’s hard.  I’m so used to moving through a problem or situation, figuring the optimal solution and moving on to the next scenario, but I have to slow down because this is not something that my multitasking brain can figure out within a week.

I think about the future, that book I need to finish and get back to my editor, the lawn that needs to be planted, the deck to be finished.  All these things that I know will make life better for my baby girl.  All these things that make me want to hurry up and get them done.

But without saying a word, without moving from her spot in the bassinette, my baby girl stops me.  And she reminds me that there will be time, time for all of that and more.  But for now, I just need to slow down.  Take this moment for what it is and not worry so much about the future.

18 months later and she still has that effect... And yeah, that's a KISS t-shirt.

What do I want from you?

Well, besides any comments you may have on this piece, I would hope you would check out The Sun magazine.

Support The Sun

It’s an amazing (and thankfully non-pretentious) literary magazine.  It’s how I keep my finger on the pulse of the literary side of the writing world.  Subscriptions aren’t super cheap, but they don’t use any advertising.

From their site:

The Sun is an independent, ad-free monthly magazine that for more than thirty years has used words and photographs to invoke the splendor and heartache of being human.”

And don’t forget to check back next week for “10 movies that scared the bejeezus out of me.”

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24 responses to “Slowing Down: On the birth of my daughter… or … A softer side of the horror writer

  1. This reminds me of so many things I went through with my three kids, teenagers now, and the experience only gets better. My greatest accomplishment in life has been taking advantage of my time with my kids. Thanks for the great article, Paul.

    • Thanks Heather. Glad you liked it. I actually have one teenage stepdaughter as well as my toddler (we have quite the span in our house), so that has been interesting to almost be seeing the future (I know, each child is different, but you know what I mean). Thanks again.

  2. What a great post – yet again – Paul! I love theme-oriented publications, because it’s fascinating to see how different people with different experiences, perspectives, and lives interpret common elements into utterly unique pieces…

    I don’t have children of my own yet – altho the husband-to-be and I are talking… – but am acquiring two step-kids along with said husband in October, and already I get some sense of what parents mean when they talk about time stopping when you are so in the moment with a child’s attention. Thanks for sharing this – and for being the kind of dad who teaches his daughter about the important things in life. Like KISS. 🙂

    Oh – and I cannot WAIT to see what movies scare the bejeesus out of you. Because I don’t imagine you scare easily, I probably won’t see/have seen many, though… (teehee)

    • Thanks Jill. Yeah, I really like the Sun, and though it isn’t necessarily through the whole issue (which includes interviews, fiction, non-fiction, etc…), you can usually pick up on a thread common to most of the issue. A great magazine.

      Stepkids, eh? What ages? That is a whole other topic. I met my wife when her daughter was 10 (so now I have an 18 year old and 18 month old. Quite the span). I always joke that I didn’t have 10 years to be prepared to have a 10 year old daughter 🙂

      And the “scaring the bejeezus” will be something of a misnomer. I think they are just pretty good, old-fashioned (but not all old) horror movies. And I really like the phrase “scare the bejeezus.” Thanks for stopping by. Hope you have a good weekend.

  3. I remember reading this piece when you first submitted it to the magazine. I was touched by the tenderness. I was running around so much when Kiri was little that I misses so much. The few times I slowed down and enjoyed the moment are precious memories. Now I have a granddaughter and I intend to savor every second.

    • Thanks, Kodi. I think my wife might say some of the same things as you. Glad you’re both getting another opportunity to savor those moments. And even better for you because you can hand the baby back to Kiri when you want 🙂

  4. Great, heartfelt piece. You really captured the essence of whats important. I have two daughters, one grown and the other is pretty much grown. The time goes so fast and its the memories that make it easier to sped through time toward the brick wall at the end.

    • Erik, thanks for the response. As you might’ve seen, I have a stepdaughter who is almost 18, but I didn’t meet her until she was 10, so it’s been interesting to see the beginning years of a daughter’s life. Time does indeed go fast, especially in our business of trying to “get there” with our writing careers, and especially in this new world of publishing. So this was a good reminder that I need to remember to enjoy today and not worry so much about tomorrow. It usually takes care of itself. Thanks again. Hope you have a good weekend.

  5. Between the 9/11 pictures all over the TV and this touching peice, I am boohooing a little. Very nice peice. A good reminder. I am very interested in The Sun now–will have to check it out further. And I just LOVE the word bejeezus in general:)

    • Thanks, Mary Ruth. And sorry for the sadder side of things. Yes, the Sun is great. It’s one of the few magazines that I can read from cover to cover. They usually have some sort of specials on subscriptions if you are interested… or one of those inserts that always falls out of the magazines. Just let me know.

      And yeah, “bejeezus” is a great word.

  6. Yup, that first moment when your kid’s eyes focus and he/she says ‘agoo!’
    Fine piece, Paul. The Sun was lucky to have it.
    Life before kids; life after kids. The difference is so simple and yet freakin impossible to understand if don’t have kids. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
    PS. That picture is wonderful. Makes me sad I never had a daughter.

    • Thanks Mac. Good comments. To be honest, my wife and I had some difficulties when we were trying to conceive, making me wonder if it was actually meant to be and if we should seek other routes. And it was my older brother who really pushed me along when he basically said you don’t want to pass up being a father. So yes, something I couldn’t understand before, but I’m starting to get it now.

      Thanks again. Hope my shout-out will drive some of my readers (if they don’t already know you) over to your blog. Have a good weekend.

  7. Interesting comment from Mary Ruth (Hi, Mary Ruth!) because I am sitting at our kitchen table all teary after watching 9/11 remembrances and reading “Slowing Down” for the third or fourth time. I need to remember to “take this moment for what it is worth and not worry so much about the future.” Thanks for the reminder, Paul. I am looking out at the mountains with the sun shining (sort of) and I appreciate it.

    • Yes, this was a good reminder for me, too. Had a bunch of things that needed to be done Saturday and just had to stop to go out for a walk with Jennifer and Aspen.

  8. Great post. It gets so easy to get caught up in our work and forget about what really matters (though sometimes our work does matter, too). This reminded me of the need to slow down and appreciate the other things in life, especially when life is so chaotic around you. Oh, and looking forward to the movie post!

    • Jonathan, thanks for your comments. I agree. Work is definitely important, and I want to continue to advance my writing career for the sake of my family. But I think the old adage is that very few people on their death bed say that the one thing that they wished was that they had worked more.

      And looking forward to the movie one, as well. I’m sure there will be some debate (hopefully), but it should be fun.

  9. Wonderful post Paul, as a father I can certainly see some of myself in that piece. My daughter is now six (AND A HALF) but I vividly remember when she was 1 and we had to take her to the emergency room. Those f’ers tortured her for no reason (later that hospital was involved in a scandal for doing too many unnecessary tests). To this day when I think of the look she gave us when we were holding her down it sends chills down my spine.

    http://www.ManOfLaBook.com

    • Thanks for the comment. I can’t imagine your scenario. When our daughter was in the hospital, we actually had a nurse practically joking about how many times they had to try to find a vein for the I.V. I almost punched the guy.

      Glad to hear that it sounds like everything went okay with your daughter, as well. Oh, and the “AND A HALF” is funny. I’m guessing that’s what she would say. Thanks for stopping by.

  10. Having been right there (or at least nearby) at the birth of my own children and my grandchildren makes me a second generation of experiencing the most tender of moments. How lucky I am to have witnessed new life come into this world.

    That someone who identifies himself to be a horror writer can put out such a heart warming piece as this comes as no surprise to me. Aside from my relationship to you, I also believe that the challenge of writing horror demands the best and most creative of writers. When I go back and re-read pieces like “White Men Can’t…” in this blog or your children’s book “Hardy” ( yet to be released) I know this to be true.

    • I appreciate the sentiments. Although, I’ll say that it’s a mystery to me how people can write literary fiction, stories about real people doing real things (and I have great respect for those writers). My brain just doesn’t work that way. I’ve had literary writers read my nonfiction stuff and say that’s what I should be doing, but I just don’t think I have that kind of talent.

      Thanks for the comments and vote of confidence.

  11. I think you touched the heart of every parent with this one. At least the ones who aren’t creeps. No more rewarding job in the world.

    • Thanks, Michelle. Glad you liked it. It has been (and continues to be) amazing. And this piece serves as a good reminder of what’s really important in the day-to-day of life.

  12. Pingback: End of the World Stories We Hate to Love, Part 1 (The Bible through Y2K) | Paul D. Dail

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