The intellectual equivalent of a ham sandwich.

Posts tagged ‘baby’

Is the Fog Beginning to Lift?

The kiddo is approaching 3 months of life, so it’s time for an update from the rambling, scrambling, tired, wired, and foggy brain of dear old pops. Aka, me.

My sister had told me about a book she read that mentioned that the first 3 months of life are almost like a fourth trimester, where they are so dependent on you that you’d almost think ‘why didn’t you keep cooking?’ Although, the physical ramifications of that would be dire. With that in mind, my wife and I thought, ‘so what’s that mean for us?’ With him being almost 2 months early, does that mean a 5 month long ‘fourth trimester?’

One positive note is that him being early really throws off any thought of tracking him against the ‘normal’ milestones. From a book I have read some of (note to self: get back to that after this post) it has information like, ‘at this age, you can expect your baby to be doing … you can be delighted if your baby is doing … and you can be over the moon if your baby is doing …’ But with preemies, you go based on the ‘adjusted age’ or how many days old he/she is after their due date. Our kiddo is almost 3 months old real age, alost 1 month old adjusted age. This has resulted in a hodgepodge of behavior that is sometimes older than his adjusted age, sometimes not. And when you combine that with the fact that every baby is different anyway it almost makes you think it’s pointless to try and track and compare every little thing. Pft. Like that’ll happen. What else will I do with my time but to be equal doses of proud and afraid?

I have been on the receiving and giving end of this – the instant calm. It feels like such a compliment when the kiddo is fussy, angry, crying, upset, you name it … and then I take over holding him and a calm washes over him. That’s pretty wonderful. To be fair, I think it’s often a change of scenery that does the trick for him, so I really shouldn’t take that much pleasure in it. But it’s great. (And when I hand him over and he calms … well fine, I didn’t want to calm you anyway!)

There is a distinct baby clothes market for those who have yet to change or dress an upset baby. My wife and I bought into this market before his arrival, and I think clothing manufacturer’s know what they’re doing. That outfit that is absurdly cute? Probably impossible to put on or take off without your child making you think he or she is going through a hellish torture session only Dante could dream up. There are outfits that are enjoyable, and not tortuous, and each parent probably has their own preference (learned after a few weeks) for what type they prefer.

Lately he has begun to give occasional ‘social smiles.’ For those of you not in the baby know, it’s like this. There is the ‘gassy’ smile (that’s what people say, no one knows why babies occasionally smile) that can happen right away (I think?) but it’s not a conscious choice. AND, the smile is not a full face smile, it’s more like the mouth just moves … you don’t see it around their eyes. Later, the baby might experience something, or look at you, and give a ‘social smile’ which is an ACTUAL, I CHOSE THIS SMILE FOR YOU kind of smile. It’s magical. My parents were in town recently and Sunday morning I got up with him at 6 am, I picked him up and he gave me a big smile for I don’t know how long. 30 seconds? A minute? It was long enough that my wife was able to get back from the bathroom and see too. It was magical. And then, last week on Wednesday, I got home from work, picked up the kiddo from my wife and BOOM, he gave me a little smile. I don’t know what it is to be addicted to drugs, but I can’t wait for my next dose of a little smile.

Speaking of random rewards, the kid can be like a video game. You just grind, and grind, change diaper, feed, dance, change diaper, ask him why why why are you still crying what is wronnnnnng?, dance, attempt to feed, get an angry look, dance more, pace, wrap him up tigheter, dance, finally feed, burp, dance, etc. And randomly in the mix of all that you may see a little smile, a glimmer of hope, and you think YES, more of that! Video games are designed to give random rewards, with random weights to how big a reward it is, and as you play more the rewards are spaced out more so you just keep grinding, and grinding … But, you know, instead of a new fictional gun or armor it’s a smile. From my son. Which is pretty glorious.

Those random rewards are the rays of light through the fog that is being tired, being wary, and being tested by the tiny screaming controller of your life. Nature, well done. A baby’s cry is a whip cracking motivator that’ll spring you into action. Or, if the cries continue, sometimes lead you to put the kiddo down, take off your hoody (he’s a toaster) take a deep breath, and pick him back up to try again.

Wish us luck.

Sincerely,
A Dad Who Thinks He Has Original Thoughts But Countless Centuries Have Thought Variations of the Same Thing

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Easy Praise

This post is a little counter-intuitive, because I’m going to give people reasons to not to say nice things to me, but I think it’s worth saying.

I think, in my very short journey into fatherhood, it’s easier to be called a great dad than it is to be called a great mom. By easier I mean much, much easier. Like the bar is set so low a snail could walk over it. And, unfortunately, I think that’s because of the general expectations that people have for moms and dads. Moms are expected to do … everything, and likely with a full heart and a smile, and dads are expected to help mom take a load off once every 3 weeks or so. I don’t know the exact science, but it’s in there somewhere.

My wife and I are following the traditional route, she is home on maternity leave for a long while, and I am back at work. This means, by the time I get home every day, she will have been full time b for 8+ hours, while I worked on code. In case you didn’t know, code is much more predictable than a baby. I get frustrated when I can’t solve a problem at work (because I always feel like I should know better and be able to solve whatever it is) … and a baby is somewhat similar in a way.

Hear me out. The baby and computer can both give less than ideal messages that something is wrong (cryptic error messages for one, crying so intense it consumes their whole body for the other) … but you know what? I think cryptic error messages are ok compared to crying. Most anything is ok compared to crying.

I get home from a lovely day of work or a long day and if the kiddo is up and unhappy, I’ll dance around with him. Easy peasy. He typically has an unhappy stretch somewhere between or inclusive of 7 pm to 11 pm. Usually he can be calmed pretty well, but you have to be in constant motion. I am consistently logging 3+ miles just in the house, and the majority of that is pacing/dancing from the kitchen to the family room and back. And again. And again. It’s not always pleasant, but it’s not too bad. The only really unpleasant times are when he is inconsolable and so very upset. That is tough. It’s draining to try to keep the monster happy when he is fussy for God knows what reason … And my wife has just had a long day of doing just that.

But you wouldn’t believe how people hear or see that I come home from work, take over to give my wife a break, and then folks offer up lauds generally reserved for those curing cancer.

Was I not involved in the creation of this kiddo? I know my wife, and mom’s in general, are genetically tied to the baby in a way the dad never can be or never will be … But to let that be the justification for being hands off or not trying to contribute as much as possible?

Consider, the next time you want to throw out a kudos, would you be throwing the same kudos if you saw a mom doing this thing? Or is it applause worthy simply because it’s dad?

Really. Pause. Take a moment, and think about it.

Got to go, the kid and wife have both been crying the whole time I’ve been writing this. Just kidding. You hope.

Baby Board

Jim Francis was furious, the numbers that Dave Standton had reported looked bad. Very bad. The board’s care team was glancing amongst themselves, looking nervous. This was going to be a long meeting.

Thus far, the board meeting had proceeded without much chaos, but the horizon looked worrisome.

Standing up next to report on new products for the coming quarter, to hopefully reverse the tragedy that is the projected numbers for this quarter, was Jill Hargrove. Jill looked around the room, eyes unable to focus on anything, one eye going over there, now making direct eye contact, then quickly darting to stare at the lights in the room … a slight smile appeared on Jill’s face before disappearing and she began.

It was bad. There were no noteworthy new products, like Apple, the company was in a rut of marketing new versions of the same thing. But, unlike Apple, their customers tended to notice and be angry.

Jim’s forehead crinkled, his eyes narrowed, and then, there it was, his mouth opened wide and a loud, heart-wrenching scream pierced the room. A care team member jumped up and tried to get a pacifier into Jim’s mouth but he was too late, he was deep in the throws of his crying. Two other care team members came and, together, the three of them picked up Jim and rocked him until he calmed enough to get the pacifier. Calmed, he was put back into his leather office chair, and with the room quieted Jill continued while Jim sucked angrily on his pacifier, his eyes seemed shooting fire around the room.

This was no ordinary board of directors. Each of the directors, while intelligent, capable, and fully grown, also had the peculiar habit of acting like a newborn.

With one crisis down, another began, as Jill stopped speaking and began shaking her head vigorously side-to-side, mouth opening and closing as her arms began to flail about. Her thrashing was erratic, terrifying, and building momentum. Thankfully, one of her arms accidentally smacked into her head and she plopped back down into her chair while sucking on her knuckles. The care team was one step ahead this time, and they deftly plopped a bottle into Jill’s mouth while gently sliding her knuckles out of the way.

The meeting was, as far as these go, pretty productive. They had lasted seventeen minutes.

The care team moved Jim and Jill out of the room, wheeling them back to their offices. Dave stayed behind, he had fallen asleep. There was another meeting starting soon, but who could possibly wake him up to make that next meeting?, he looked so adorable.

September Haiku

September 1 (Friday)
Wife’s discharge delayed
She spiked a fever, which means
The party goes on

September 2 (Saturday)
Heading home today!
But leaving without our guy
Leads to some shed tears

September 3 (Sunday)
Wife’s folks leave today
Time to find our new normal
(Trying not to drown)

September 4 (Monday)
Labor Day today
My bad joke loving self hoped
He was born today

September 5 (Tuesday)
Drive wife to NICU
Go to work, drive wife back home,
Go to NICU, sleep

September 6 (Wednesday)
4 pm coffee?
Don’t mind if I do! Wait … Wait …
IT’S 9 AM?!?! … Uggggghhhhh

September 7 (Thursday)
Wife’s breathing is off
Call doc: ‘you need the ER’
Long stay but all’s well

September 8 (Friday)
Sleeping at NICU
Machine noises, baby sounds
And chatty nurses

September 9 (Saturday)
Some sleep here each night
How. How? How how how? … Hu … How?
My brain is broken

September 10 (Sunday)
Making some pals here
Who knew: NICU parents lounge
Where the cool kids are

September 11 (Monday)
Wife’s driving again!
This gives me more time each day
Which means more cuddles

September 12 (Tuesday)
NICU sleep plan changed
Leave to head home feeling bad
Exhaustion or guilt?

September 13 (Wednesday)
Mom and sis flew in!
So you guys want dinner, or …
First stop, duh, meet him

September 14 (Thursday)
Boss and boss’s boss
Both being real supportive
Tears, stay in your ducts!

September 15 (Friday)
Stayed up late tonight
Chatting with my mom and sis
A breath of fresh air

September 16 (Saturday)
Awful night for me
Feeding him alarms sound
His heart rate dropped LOW

September 17 (Sunday)
Doc says we *can* leave
But I can’t leave this afraid
I’m scared to feed him

September 18 (Monday)
Huge sigh of relief!
Night with the kiddo went well!!
We’re taking him home!!!

September 19 (Tuesday)
First doctor’s visit!
(Not counting three weeks of rounds)
(And some specialists)

September 20 (Wednesday)
Paternity leave
During the day – all is great
At night – hellish fear

September 21 (Thursday)
Went to new friends house!
Some fellow NICU parents
Commiserate and laugh

September 22 (Friday)
Jekyll and Hyde deal
By day – a little angel
By night – a hell spawn

September 23 (Saturday)
Before: kid pics dull,
Why send so many pictures?
Now: I understand

September 24 (Sunday)
Football, nap, repeat?
Football, baby, nap, repeat.
Big routine changes

September 25 (Monday)
The house is all love
Cooing over the baby
And chats ’bout his poop

September 26 (Tuesday)
Sleep deprivation,
And being away from work:
Time has no meaning

September 27 (Wednesday)
Doctor’s appointment
Losing weight in the worst way
Via his foreskin

September 28 (Thursday)
Holy crap – fall’s here!
Went out for a walk and saw
Leaves have changed colors

September 29 (Friday)
Strolling through Target
Should I buy LEGOs for him?
Him! Not me! … I swear?

September 30 (Saturday)
When your teams aren’t good
Cherish 2 and 0 days
Go Army and Stangs!

The Kiddo – Part III – Chez NICU

It was the night before our little guy might get to come home, and it was my turn to sleep at the NICU. The night needed to go well, nothing to reset his count to go home, or we would be there another five days. Our son had already checked a number of boxes at this point, three weeks in, and the last one we needed was to go five days without an ‘event.’

An ‘event’ is any of a number of things, but the common theme is that his heart rate or breathing deviate from an allowable range for a certain amount of time. His heart rate was constantly monitored and needed to be between 80 and 200, babies have hummingbird like hearts apparently, and if his heart rate dropped below 80 for a few seconds that was ok. If it dropped for an extended period, that would count as an event. If his heart rate dropped and his color turned blueish, indicating a lack of oxygen, then that would much more quickly count as an event.

Our son, and all preterm babies, do not have the ability to regulate their own heart rate and breathing like a full term baby does. Our nurses had informed us, over and over, that we should expect that if he makes progress with eating, he would likely take a step back with breathing. This proved to be true, because our son was on and off oxygen during his stay there.

***

When my wife woke up, a few long hours after her c-section, we headed straight to our son’s room. Room 19. We got to his room and our primary nurse … well, our son’s primary nurse (who we got to see a number of times over the next few weeks) was telling us about how he was doing and going over some suggestions. She stressed that this our child and we can do what we want, BUT … they recommend this.

We learned the great news about my wife getting to hold him, and while she was sharing details on how he was doing and my wife seeing him for the first time, and seeing him there with all these tiny cords coming off him … The tears started flowing.

I’ll tell you, I don’t normally cry terribly often, so I think I’ve met my quota for the next couple years. Sleep deprivation, other people I love undergoing so much stress, and fatherhood – apparently those can make you cry a lot.

My crying felt very funny, because the tears just streamed down without me making a sound, so my wife looked over at me and smiled. I think she was a little surprised, amused, and touched.

It was her turn for the tears when she got to hold the little critter. Those two with their competing cords were quite the sight. My wife, still on an IV, still getting regular doses of drugs, recovering from surgery and all that, and the kiddo, with a number of monitors. A jumble of cords and love and tears.

***

I had gone home, showered, packed some clothes for the next day (our hopeful departure day), and then headed back to the hospital for what I hoped would be my last night there. My wife and I had not been the marathon parents that some others were – sleeping there every single night. Heck no. I don’t know how some people do that. My wife and I knew that the more time we were there the better, but we also knew that staying at the hospital 24/7 was an absolute drain. The whole experience has given me a few first parental lessons, one of which is that it’s all about choosing the least wrong answer. 

Can I stay at the hospital? Yes. Is it better for him? Yes. Is it worse for me to a point that the lack of sleep will sap any energy I have after work, so that the time I spend with him is less good for him? Yes. Lack of sleep vs time with him – what’s the least wrong answer? And, every new parent lacks sleep … is sleeping at the NICU really that much worse than it would be at home?

When I got back to the hospital the night shift nurse had arrived, all of them worked 7 – 7 shifts. It was one I was not overly fond of, which was rare. The thing that drove me nuts with this nurse was that she was fond of dropping a goodbye guilt bomb. A few of the nurses did this, though I’m confident it was unintentional.

‘Leaving?’

‘Yeah I need to eat some dinner.’ (This conversation happening at 9:30 pm, which is a late late dinner in my book.)

‘Coming back later?’

‘No, I need to get some sleep.’ (As I’m laying him back in his crib.)

‘Oh ok, that’s good for you to do … I bet he’ll start crying as soon as you leave, they just know whenever their parents leave.’

Even typing that I have to take a calming breath. Why? Why, nurses, why?

One other small dose of bad news – I forgot to pack shorts to sleep in! Gah. Sleeping in jeans it is.

***

His cords, oh his cords.

There was one cord that wrapped around his tiny little foot which measured his oxygen.

There was one cord that stuck to his chest with a little sticky thing which measured his heart rate.

There was one cord that stuck to his chest which measured his respiratory rate.

There was another cord that stuck to his chest, and come to think of it, I have no idea what it was for.

There was the tube that went through his nose and into his belly. There were tiny numbers on it, and you could see 20 right around his nostrils. That meant it went 20 cm down into his belly. Blech.

An IV that went through his belly button, to give him some special stuff. This was nuts. Every evening they’d analyze how every baby was doing, and then a big hospital in Denver would make each child’s own particular IV bag recipe and ship it up. Technology!

And last, but not least, was the cannula for his oxygen.

***

Having been there for a while I felt good and confident when it came time for his ‘cares.’ 

Every three hours our son had his ‘cares.’ Every child there has these. And if you were so inclined, you could learn how to do these things and do them yourself.

The cares involved the following:

  • Move the pulsox, for reading his oxygen level, from one foot to the other
  • Take his temperature under his armpit (he always hated this, which the nurses said is true for just about all babies)
  • Change his diaper
    • Later this involved applying a cream for a diaper rash
  • Prep his food
    • Twice a day he gets a vitamin which smells awful and has iron in it, which is important for him … we mix that in with 15 or so ml of food
    • With every meal he gets his milk ‘fortified’ which is a powder we add that adds calories
      • A typical serving of 70 ml of breast milk is 20 calories, with the fortifying we are doing he is getting 24 calories
      • An unfortunate side effect of that stuff is it makes his poop more liquid, which increases the odds of diaper rash (see above)

Because we were so close to our departure date, I did all of this, including the food prep. Up until the last few days, the nurse on duty had always done his food prep, but the ability to prep his food and give him vitamins twice a day were checkboxes we needed to have met in order to take him home.

For his 9ish pm feeding I got to work. He was no longer on an ‘every 3 hour’ cares schedule but instead doing ‘on demand feeding’ (another checkbox where he needed to show he ate a sufficient amount by his own demand).

The nurse moved him from the crib into my arms, and I thought happily how much more easily I navigated moving his tiny body around now compared to just a few weeks ago. His size was no longer terrifying but adorable, and I could lift him up with some ease higher on my chest when he inevitably sank down due to his squirmy style. The only reason I asked a nurse to move him into my arms instead of me doing myself is because the cords were a bear to navigate.

I fixed a burp cloth around his face, turned him on his side to feed him side-lying style (this slows the flow of food and makes eating easier), and pop goes the bottle into his mouth.

***

During his approximately three week tenure at the NICU he had made a ton of progress with food. The first week plus he ate via gavage, the lovely tube shoved down his nose.

The first few days his meal size increased at every feeding. They wanted him to gain weight, and when he reached a certain weight the IV would be removed. The additional support from the IV would no longer be needed. I remember that milestone, walking over to the room around 9 pm and watching the nurse deftly remove that. Every subtraction of a medical piece of equipment from the room felt like a graduation.

But with the increased food came spitting up. No big deal, right? All babies spit up. Except … he was eating through a tube in his nose, which meant no air bubbles, so spitting up in his case was not because of the traditional reason. To counter this, the nurses suggested we try to hold him during and after eating, plop him on your chest and let gravity help the food go down and stay down.

At first he was fed over the course of thirty minutes, and then you would hold him for thirty minutes. The nurses, neonatal nurse practitioner and doctor decided to increase the time for feeding from thirty minutes to forty-five, and then a full hour.

With the hour-long feeding, between his cares, feeding, holding him, and putting him back, you’d take an hour and a half plus of every three hours helping him.

On his 9th day there he took his first bottle. This was a big milestone because the ability to eat on his own was obviously pretty vital for getting him home. The bottle feedings increased as time went on. At first, one or two a day was a lot, the effort it took might tire him out to the point that he would sleep through his next feeding.

He rarely cried at first, he just slept. And slept. And if he wanted to sleep through a diaper change and eat through his tube, you have at it kiddo. I remember saying, and I am already starting to eat these words, that I looked forward to the day when I would hear a loud, healthy cry from him. In the NICU, if you heard a loud cry, my theory was that kid was heading home soon.

It probably seems counter intuitive, but sometimes the best thing we could do for him was let him be. If picking him up and holding him would disturb his rest at all, and he was conked out, then it was ideal to leave him sleeping. I drove over before work one morning, around 6 am, only to learn that for that particular care time he was sleeping soundly. Having woken up for work an hour earlier just to hold him, and then be told that, it was not my favorite start to a day.

***

With the 9ish pm feeding done, I did my well-earned skin-to-skin and then plopped the kiddo down to sleep for the night (well, the next two hours). His gavage tube was gone, that was taken out when ad lib feeding was decided, he was all bottle or breast at this point. 

I headed to the bathroom to brush my teeth, set up the little bed in his room, and turned on the TV. One of the Batman movies was on! Look out world!

After a bit of TV I decided to go lights out.

He woke me up about an hour and a half later, Mr. Grumbles doing his thing. I went to look for the nurse but she must have been in another kiddo’s room, so I ended up running into Josh, the joke-cracking nurse from my son’s birth night. I did an impression of the grumbles like doing an impression of a car making certain sounds for a mechanic, and I asked Josh if he could take a look and let me know if he thought it was hunger or just noises … Josh popped his head in, looked for a few seconds and said, ‘based on his eyes, I’d say he has 30 minutes til he wants to eat.’

Josh was spot on. Josh has mythical status for me, people.

Thirty minutes of semi-sleep later, it was cares time, and bing bang bong we were onto the food. The nurse asked if I wanted the lights on, and I said it was ok to keep the room dark. In my mind, this would help keep him sleepy. Silly me, the boy has no concept of when he should be sleepy.

I had learned a few tricks from the staff to help the kiddo finish his bottle. And finishing his bottle was an objective, because in these last 12 hours of our stay (fingers crossed) he needed to eat a sufficient amount or our departure would be delayed. To extend his desire to eat I would burp him, unwrap him from his swaddle, have him hang out on the pillow on my lap, and while this wasn’t something someone told me to do, I would also ramble to him incessantly (surprise, surprise, given the length of this blog post).

I had also learned some of my son’s habits. He often would wolf down the majority of the food, and then doze on and off while nipping at the last little bit. After the 9 pm feeding he had spit up a little on me, so this time I let him dictate the pace more, which meant more of his napping/eating. 

This turned out to be a mistake. 

A beeping noise filled the room, which was not unusual. The beeping indicated that one of the vitals being monitored was outside of an acceptable range, and I think there was a subtle difference in tones to indicate what was wrong, but I was always too alarmed to notice at the time. This wasn’t terribly unusual, though. A number of times his heart rate had dropped below 80 while eating, which was completely normal. Generally it would go off for a few seconds, and then his heart rate would resume. It was something I always hated and made me feel like I was doing something wrong, but I had come to accept it.

The beeping continued, I began to worry about the idea of this being considered an event, but I still assumed he’d bounce back right away. I started on the next bag of tricks – get him upset to get his heart rate and breathing going. I started trying to sit him up when the beeping took on a more worrisome tone.

I hit the call button to have a nurse come help, the new tone had taken me from ok to very worried. What had I done? Why was something so off? We’re so close to leaving!

My nurse for the night must have been busy because another nurse came in. She told me to take the bottle out of his mouth, and the beeping stopped almost immediately. Then, my nurse came in. She and the other nurse had a quick conversation about this. My nurse was a big fan of my sons, and I surmised that she didn’t think much of this … the other nurse said, ‘but I had to intervene.’ She clearly thought this was a bad event, and I had made a big mistake by not taking the bottle out myself. With the dark room I wasn’t able to watch the color of his lips to see if they turned blue, and that likely would’ve been my cue to remove the bottle. 

The amount of time it has taken to read this does not do a good job of conveying how quickly all of this happened. I would think, from the first beep to the intervention, it was 10-15 seconds.

I can’t describe very well how upset or angry I was with myself, or how devastated I felt. It really felt like I had harmed my son in some powerful way, and along with that I had likely delayed departure which would pain my wife. The nurses reminded me that during a feeding, the heart rate can drop, that’s totally normal, the important thing is to watch and respond … But I hadn’t responded, I had just frozen. I liked to think of myself as being good at reacting quickly in situations, but instead I just froze. 

My wife had insisted that I call if anything went wrong that night, I paced for a while, asked the nurse if that counted as an event and she told me they would make that decision in the morning. I called my wife, she told me not to blame myself, and then I went to sleep angry and crying.

***

Our NICU stay was great, in the grand scheme of things. Our son would occasionally take a step back, like being put back on oxygen occasionally, but in general it seemed like almost every day he was taking a step forward.

They had told us before he was born, and then the first few weeks, to expect to go home on his due date. And if we went home earlier, all the better. About a week before he was scheduled to go home, my wife heard a surprising announcement at rounds.

Rounds happened every day, usually from around 11 am to 1 pm, and they involved the doctor, the neonatal nurse practitioner, your child’s nurse, and usually two or three other people who were … I don’t know what.

The doctor mentioned the idea of discharge. This was the first time someone had said that. My wife called me excitedly at work and passed on the great news.

***

The nurse came in for the 2 or 3 am feeding and asked, suggested that I skip this one and keep sleeping. I took her up on the idea.

I was too scared to think of feeding him again at that moment anyway. I stayed laying down, blankets over me, listening to someone else take care of my son because I felt incapable. It wasn’t my best night of sleep.

***

The NICU stay also had lots of outside work distractions – my wife’s folks visiting, my mom and sister visiting, and we made pals with another couple with a kiddo there. In fact, we’ve hung out in a post NICU world a couple times. It’s fun being around people without beeping and such a sterile environment. Like, I don’t know, regular people!

It was while my mom and sister were visiting that we learned the shocking news about his earlier than anticipated departure date. This involved a number of extra steps to prove that we were ready.

We had already taken the infant CPR class, but we also needed him to pass the ‘room air challenge’ which is where he is off oxygen for 40 minutes in the room. During that time, his oxygen can’t dip below a certain rate. The idea with this test is that, at home, he could remove the cannula and we might not notice for up to 40 minutes before we would be able to fix it.

In addition, he passed the ‘car seat challenge,’ which is where he sits in his car seat for 90 minutes while being monitored. The purpose of that test was to show that he could handle a drive home.

***

I fed the little guy for the 5 or 6 am feeding, and while I was nervous, it worked out ok. Light had started to appear outside, and we had lots of lights on inside the room this time. He ate, I didn’t push him to keep eating once he started looking like he was dozing, and back he went to sleep. In fact, he likely went to sleep mildly hungry because I was so quick to pull the bottle away.

I slept a bit more before my wife arrived.

Our nurse that day was our primary, the same nurse we had the very first day. She asked me, ‘are you feeling gun shy about going home?’ Yes. Yes yes yes. I told her what happened, and then she told us we could still go home that day, if we wanted. 

Because the event had occurred during a feeding, it wasn’t going to officially count as an event. To me, that felt wrong. What if we were home and I didn’t notice? I didn’t think to take out his bottle, what if I made that mistake again, or any of a number of other mistakes? I know all parents make mistakes, but the mistake I had made felt like a life-threatening one.

We agreed that it would be a good idea to spend the day there instead of checking out that morning. Then, that afternoon, we would reassess.

During rounds we talked to the doctor about what happened and she echoed that we could go home. She paid us a nice compliment, saying that we were clearly good parents, were there frequently, spent a lot of time with our son, and frankly, she wouldn’t let everyone go home after that. But, she said, they have reason to keep him if we wanted another night for our own mental health.

That afternoon, I went home, slept, showered, and decided that I needed to stay with him at the NICU again. I needed to have a night go smoothly, to not mess up, to have nothing go wrong, and I’d feel ok bringing him home and being able to feed him at any hour of the day.

At our primary nurses’s suggestion my wife and I went out to dinner together, our last ‘just us’ meal for a while, and it was a great idea. Refreshed, somewhat, I headed back to the hospital. And this time, phew, I remembered to pack sleep shorts.

***

I will echo a sentiment from an earlier post – which is that the whole experience at the hospital was great. We interacted with a lot of people, under intense stress, and I liked nearly everyone, and disliked only one or two people. For me, those are incredible statistics.

But, one thing that drove me nuts was occasional inconsistent messaging from nurses. These guys knew a ton, and among that knowledge base they had opinions … and yet, everything was presented as a concrete fact.

The second day our son was there, he was grilling under lights for jaundice, and based on something I had been told by one nurse I thought the best thing for him was to stay away. Low volume, low stimulation were best for him – that was a fact. Preemie babies can’t handle the traditional get passed around touched and patted and all that kind of experience. He was never in an enclosed cage which prevented touching, but you weren’t supposed to stroke him, instead lay a firm but gentle hand on him and keep it there. Informational material the hospital had also stressed the idea of low volume. You wanted to keep that kid sleeping, because that’s what he would be doing in the womb. Sleep, eat, let the brain grow.

On day three, I went by his room and a specialist came and talked to me. Something she said made me think I was staying away too much, and she responded with a compliment, telling me she thought I had a very calming voice (why, thank you) and that our son was used to my wife and I talking so we should feel free to hang out in there as much as we want. The more, the better. And as far as touching him goes, even if it’s a little upsetting, skin-to-skin helps him learn to regulate his heart rate and breathing by listening to his mom or pop.

Some nurses were more conservative and wanted our kiddo to be more hands off, others were more aggressive and thought every meal he should be held. It was confusing, but understandable … There is science in the NICU, but there’s also artistry in trying to determine what each unique child needs.

***

For his first feeding after my wife and I had dinner, around 9 pm, I settled in and began to feed him. I had given myself a small pep talk, reminding myself that for days and days I had fed him many times and nothing had gone wrong. No beeping, no worries, just a happy little hungry monster. The thing last night was an anomaly, and I learned my lesson to never go on auto-pilot when it came to him. 

Suddenly, a beeping noise. My first thought was overwhelming sadness and ‘not again.’ This time I wasn’t feeding him, he was on my shoulder and I had just started burping him. I moved him around and began burping him more aggressively – make him upset and his heart rate and oxygen will be fine.

The beeping continued.

I started rubbing his feet hard, one of the nurses had said this could be a good way to get him to cry. Instead the beeping got louder.

I hit the nurse call button.

I was shaking, and terrified, and switching between aggressive foot rubbing and burping. If anything he looked red, what could be wrong? I was angry at myself, how could I be messing up every time I feed him? Why can’t I get any of this right any more?

The nurse for the night must have been busy, because another nurse ran in (the one who removed his IV). Shortly after her arrival my nurse arrived and the two conferred, looked at all of the information, and agreed that the machine had read things wrong.

Apparently the pulsox was reading things wrong, and then my aggressive foot rubbing only served to make the machine think things were awful. 

The nurses left and I continued to shake a little, taking a few deep breaths and holding back … you guessed it, tears.

I typed out and deleted a couple of texts to my wife that were just profanity, before letting her know what happened. 

That experience, and the experience from the night before, were two of the most terrifying moments of my life. And one of them was a fluke! I’m not going to take the time to make a list of the worst moments in my life, but I can tell you with confidence that this was number one on the list, with the night prior being number two. What fun, eh?

***

The whole experience was extremely educational. Not only for childcare basics, but for some good reminders about life.

Parenthood may be about making the least wrong decision.

Parenthood may be a constant reminder that the best laid plans can go awry.

Parenthood will require an unwavering level of paying attention, which I know I’ll slip up on because it’s human nature, but hopefully I’ll be on more than off.

Parenthood is a scary mother f-er.

***

Tomorrow I go back to work, paternity leave has flown by. The little guy is off oxygen (he came home on ‘a whiff’ and boy was lugging that tank around annoying). He is a social butterfly in the middle of the night, but that’s ok, he still manages to be adorable far more than he is a terror.

The Kiddo – Part II – Game Day

Saturday

Thursday my wife had woken up and vomited, which we were worried might mean an infection … but after some investigation and talking with nurses and doctors, we figured it might be a side-effect of one or some of the many medications she was on. Sure enough, a nurse we liked looked it up and several medications said a common side effect was dizziness.

Friday night we went to bed and all I hoped was Saturday she would wake up feeling slightly more human.

I had begun to think, as great as it is for the little guy to continue to cook … at what cost? It felt like every day under this duress and discomfort was taking a few months off her life.

And whadya know, I got my wish … Sort of.

She did wake up feeling better. Score one point. She also woke up and informed me that she had started feeling pretty regular contractions starting at 2 am. Ah. Minus five points. When a nurse came by for the morning check-in, we showed her the log my wife had started when contractions were happening.

I was still hoping that these would subside, some contractions are no big deal. Regular contractions, especially those that gain strength, those are a different story. We wanted to make it to Friday! It’s only Saturday!

But my wife’s body knew better – it finally felt marginally normal, which meant it had the strength for the big show.

***

The contractions continued, and as my wife had told me during one of the childbirth classes, contractions equal DO NOT TOUCH. She wanted to try and go deep within her mind and find some inner calm while the body did its thing. Fair enough.

As they gained in strength, we again talked to the nurses and they decided to move us. Back to the birthing center we went.

My wife’s mom arrived and the three of us formed an odd party.

My wife, on the labor bed, going into her mind with a clear grimace painted on her face once every X times per hour. My wife’s mom, sitting on a chair, watching shows on her iPad, and talking to her husband to determine if he should go ahead and fly out. Myself, reading a book, glancing up to see my wife in growing pain and discomfort, then glancing back down to finish the paragraph. Sounds cold and whatever the antonym for reassuring is, doesn’t it? But hey, the wife wants what she wants.

***

I grabbed lunch.

My wife’s mom ran an errand for us.

My wife laid in bed, retreating into herself, then coming back and chit chatting with us.

All the while, a Law & Order marathon played on the TV.

BUM. BUM.

***

The doc working that day was busy, surgery after surgery. Finally, she found some time in early or mid-afternoon to stop by and check on the Mrs.

One complication with my wife having broken her water a week-plus prior is that the doc doing the good old ‘let me stick my hand up there to check out the sitch’ check was a little more cautiously viewed. Because the water had broken, one barrier to infection was down, which meant that anytime a foreign item was introduced (i.e. the doc’s aggressive hand) it could increase the risk of an infection. But, with the way the contractions were going, it was time to get a read on the cervix.

cervicaldilationThis chart is a common sight – the size scale. I don’t know how many bagels I ate while staying at the hospital during this time. I often missed the window where people were making good stuff, so I would settle for a bagel. Odd to look at that chart and think that’s what we were shooting for. By we I mean her.

The doc never-so-lovingly shoved her hand in and let us know, ‘who wants Oreos!?’ (Nah, she said you’re 4cm.)

My wife had been in pain during the contractions, but the pain during the cervix check was excruciating. This rattled her much more than anything else had, and it made her question her ability to do this without drugs.

***

The afternoon continued. Contractions. Reading. Watching. Bad guys hearing puns while detectives and lawyers accused one wrong person after another until finally finding the REAL bad guy.

Due to the pain of the cervical check, my wife decided to enlist some help – laughing gas.

This was the lowest level of drug support you could get. You would hold it up to your face and take breaths from the mask when you wanted (e.g. during contractions) and then lower it and breathe room air. After a few breaths of room air the laughing gas would no longer be in your system. Easy peasy.

My wife was in the bathroom when the doc came back, and I grimaced expectantly. My wife came out of the bathroom and quickly plugged into the gas. It had been doing its job wonderfully at ‘taking the edge off’ with the contractions, but would it pass this test?

Nope. Nope nope nope. The pain was still very present. And, unfortunately, she was only 4.5cm and a solid hour or two had passed. Not the progress we wanted.

***

The contractions were showing up on the monitor, but the doc began to wonder aloud to us about the idea of an internal monitor. Guh. This would be some sort of medical instrument that gets shoved up in there to more accurately measure the strength of the contractions.

(Dear son, be glad you’re not a lady.)

The doc did one more check, this time with my wife gulping down the laughing gas like a runner pausing at the top of a hill, and still bad results – not much more dilation, still incredible pain.

The doc made a call at this point – there is indeed a uterine infection. We are now on a timeline for this baby coming out, and if it doesn’t happen within that time frame, he’s coming out by c-section. The risk of him getting infected by the uterine infection made this an easy call for our doc. Pitocin was called for to speed things up.

My wife, with some frustration, called for more backup. An epidural. The cervical check pains were too much.

***

The anesthesiologist seemed nice, but when you’ve just shoved a needle into my wife’s back, and you’re controling a numbing agent going into her body, and then you’re at your little machine and you say, ‘oh crap!’ … you know … that just doesn’t do much for me.

But, thankfully, it appeared that nothing was actually wrong, because the epidural was doing its thing. The numbness was taking over.

Contractions, pitocin, epidural, uterine infection, all the ingredients for a great party.

Our main nurse brought in a blanket for me and I laid down. At this point, it was maybe 10 pm.

***

I woke up to a lot of medical jargon being said (this was a recurring theme during the stay there). It’s very confusing. One of the doctors we talked to, who was great, said that whenever a doc comes and spews out a bunch of information, you’re likely to retain 30% of that. Therefore, it’s great to have two people in the room, and hopefully each retains a different 30%, and then you’ve got 60%, and that’s not bad. She said this with a hint of humor.

The doctor came in for another cervical check (still hurt), and then decided to insert the internal contraction monitoring device. But wait … it just … (dear God the look of pain on my wife’s face) won’t … (so much pain) … insert.

Oh, and look at all that blood on the doc’s gloved hands. Is that right? Should there be blood?

The doc made another announcement – abruption! Wait, the exclamation point is misleading. How do you denote ‘not good.’ Like, not good on top of the other not goods? Anyway, it was not good.

***

Once a doctor calls out for a c-section that needs to happen pronto, it REALLY HAPPENS PRONTO. I think it was 1:58 am or so that she called it, and we heard our little pal crying at 2:10 am.

Those 12 minutes included going from that room to the OR, putting me in a bunny suit, cutting my wife’s belly open, taking her guts out, taking a baby out, and saying, ‘hey dad, want a picture?’ (Woof. What a sight.)

***

From there things happened at a confusing pace.

I was asked if I wanted to come over to see the kiddo, so I said sure. I left my wife’s face (they had a curtain that started at her neck, which blocked our view of the gut-opening) and went to a corner of the OR where there was a team of 5-6 people surrounding my son. He was crying, which was glorious to hear and brought a few tears to my wife’s smiling face, but the presence of so many people was alarming.

He continued to cry out a few times, which always prompted one of the NICU people, the only male (Josh, who I later met under more normal circumstances) cracked jokes and would say, ‘oh! tell me! tell me!’ They sucked a bunch of fluid out of his lungs and then, at some point, I guess decided he was looking a little blue because they put a tiny oxygen mask over his mouth.

From there we wheeled out of the room, stopping briefly to let my wife glimpse her son from the operating table, and then we were walking to the NICU. The charge nurse was with us and saying … some stuff. God knows what. I think she told me a few times he was doing great, but if he was doing so great, why do we have so many people and we can’t hold him? Great for 33 weeks, I suppose.

Once in the NICU, they took him straight to his room, which we came to know well over the coming weeks. Josh continued to crack jokes, which was the only sign that everything was not awful. Someone who was apparently more in charge walked me out of the room and repeated that everything was great, and then she said that I would need to put on some surgical clothes if I wanted to stick around because they’d be doing ‘blah, blah, blah …’ (medical confusion). The charge nurse asked if I wanted a glass of ice water, which I assumed meant I looked pretty pale and shaky. The woman talking to me seemed to indicate it might make sense for me to check on my recovering wife instead of staring at people putting in a gavage tube and whatever else they did.

***

The Mrs. was sitting in a post-op room, looking much less pregnant, and wiped out. She was shivering, which they said is common and can be from the surgery and from the anesthesia.

She would need to stay in that room for an hour to make sure the i’s were dotted and t’s crossed. I excused myself to let my wife’s folks know how she was doing, and also to get a snack because I began to feel a bit woozy. I guess all of the excitement and nerves had  gotten to me. I grabbed two cookies (got my cookies after all), a thing of milk, and I walked to find a chair with no one around, really hoping I wouldn’t pass out because I figured if I passed out in a hospital I’d wake up with an IV in me and that is a bit of a nightmare situation for me (I’m no good with needles). I ate a cookie, cried a bit, ate another cookie, and sat worrying about my wife and son.

***

My wife and I were told, when she left the post-op room, that we’d able to swing by the NICU to see the kiddo, but unfortunately he was still undergoing … whatever it was they were doing. Sure, he’s doing great, but why’s that taking so long?

Back in our room, my wife’s folks were waiting, and my wife and I tried to doze off. We would go see the kiddo when he was ready for us.

This plan was derailed by some violent shivering/shaking my wife was doing. She asked a nurse who responded, honestly, that it normally wears off by now. Huh. Helpful. Later we realized it was probably the infection that amplified the shakes. Speaking of later realizations – that’s also what made the cervical checks so agonizing.

What fun, eh?

With my wife looking like a wreck, and the kiddo’s whatever it was taking longer than expected, my wife’s folks decided to leave for a while … I think after I said they should leave. It’s a bit of a blur. The night/day was called. 24 hours after contractions started, and after many hours of labor, an emergency c-section and a lot of pain later, we needed rest, and all we could do was hope our son was ok.

 

Crib Assembly

A number of years ago for Christmas I bought my mom a book, The Hypochondriac’s Guide to Life. And Death. It’s a humorous book that jokingly attempts to so overwhelm the reader with rare and deadly diseases that you can’t help but give up on your hypochondria.

My mom is not actually a hypochondriac at all, but she is one for her children. When I was 21 I was about 6’3 and let’s say 150-160 pounds … in case that doesn’t help – TALL AND SKINNY. I was debating the idea of signing up for a marathon class at college to help me prep for a marathon. Why not, right? My mom had recently seen a Sunday night news program talking about a tall, skinny, in shape young man who died suddenly and unexpectedly while training for a marathon. It was an incredibly rare heart condition that is generally only seen in skinny and tall fellas. Motivated by this, my mom made an appointment for me to get an EKG to check on my heart.

FullSizeRender(1)Having just opened up a box containing the pieces that will be used to assemble a (dear God please let it be safe and sturdy) crib, I am beginning to see the foundations of her hypochondria by proxy.

WARNING. IF YOU ARE WEARING A BAGGY T-SHIRT OR OUT-OF-FASHION SHORTS WHILE ASSEMBLING THIS CRIB, THIS MAY BE A HAZARD.

I think there is a warning for everything in the instructions. It’s comical until you reflect and realize what led to every single additional warning, and then it is gut-wrenching. Louis C.K.’s edgy don’t-touch-that-topic style approach to humor has nothing on crib assembly instructions.

The crazy thing is, even acknowledging this makes me fearful. What have you done to me, unborn child?

P.S. This may be the only product I will have ever registered for, since they send safety alerts. For once in my life, I’ll be rooting for spam instead of a real email.

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