First Moments as a Father

“I’m just going to take a seat.”

If you are in the medical field, never make these the first words a patient hears out of your mouth. Especially if the patient is a new parent.

I tend to be a bit anxious about most things that I encounter on a daily basis (okay, okay… extremely anxious about all things). Yet, the day that my son was born, I like to think I kept things together relatively well.

The hospital admitted us at midnight on March 16th. I thought that our son would be arriving shortly when we got into our room.

I was wrong.

My wife lasted about 5 hours before she got an epidural. Meanwhile, I fumbled around trying to be helpful but feeling completely helpless. I will forever be in awe of my wife’s strength and toughness throughout the birth of our son.

We knew when my wife’s water broke that there was meconium in the uterus. This can cause complication at birth if the baby inhales it. The nurse admitting us explained that we would have Neonatal Intensive-Care Unit nurses present when the baby was born as a precaution. This news was simultaneously unsettling and comforting, somehow.

After a long day of waiting for contractions to progress, the time came for my wife to start pushing.

“Do you feel ready to push?” the nurse asks.

“I can try.”

This is happening.

It’s an odd feeling. This human, that I have felt kicking through my wife’s stomach is just going to show up. It is this person that I love eternally and, yet, I am completely indifferent to.

It’s like only seeing pictures of the ocean. It is just the big blue parts on the map until you stand on the sandy shores and realize how vast it truly is. You can understand that it is salt water but, salt water takes on a new meaning when you have tasted it while swimming in the waves so long they desiccate your lips. You can see the waves of the ocean but, you cannot appreciate their unyielding power until you have swum in them.

For nine months, my wife swam in the ocean. Feeling every kick and hiccup over the course of the day.

I just looked at pictures trying to imagine what it would truly be like.

As we approached the big moment, I noticed on the monitor that my eyes had been glued to all day that our son’s heart rate would drop at each push. The doctor’s mood shifted as she became more concentrated on the task of bringing our son into the world.

Finally, with an assist from a vacuum, I saw my son pulled into the world.

In one, quick motion the doctor cut the umbilical cord and handed him to an awaiting NICU nurse.

I was supposed to cut the co… He isn’t breathing.

This is not what I had envisioned for my son’s first moments. The nurses take him to the bassinet warmer.

My son is a blue/grey color. I focus on the nurses faces trying to get a sense of what is happening.

“Come on buddy, you can do it” one of them coos.

“Let it out, come on…” says another.

They lift his hands and let go. They fall limp at his sides.

Please cry, please, cry.

“What is happening?” my wife asks muffled through an oxygen mask.

“I… everything thing is fine… they are…”

I scan the room, looking for answers when I make eye contact with a nurse who notices the panic on my face. She approaches with a smile and some of the kindest eyes I have ever seen. As she makes her way over, I hear the greatest sound I have ever heard in my entire life (well, maybe it is a tie for the greatest sound with the entire Hamilton soundtrack which was playing while he was born). My son is crying. Weak but crying none the less.

“They are working to suction his airway to help him breathe,” says the nurse, “he is crying now, which is a great sign but we will want to get him down to the NICU as soon as possible.”

Sweet relief.

“Dad…”

I’m a dad. She is talking to me.

“Do you want to get a camera ready? We are going to bring him over to mom.”

I grab my camera and get ready.

In the birthing classes that we took a couple months ago, they took a great deal of time to talk about the “Golden Hour.” The hour immediately following the birth when the baby gets skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeds for the first time. This beautiful time that we would get to spend with the new addition to our family.

We will not get that. We will get, roughly, thirty seconds.

“Okay, we need to take him now. Dad, you can come with if you’d like.”

I look to my wife as she nods at me.

I jog down the hall after the nurses into the dimly lit NICU with incubators full of tiny babies. They weigh him.

“Nine pounds, three ounces.”

My wife is a hero.

I watch my son’s chest rapidly expand and retract as the nurses work to stick leads on his body and secure a CPAP machine across his face. The nurses let me know that he is doing fine but his respiratory rate is about double what they want it to be. They are concerned with the possibility of infection because of the meconium and want to start antibiotics. They tell me now would be a good time to go give my wife an update.

I head back to our room and tell my wife what I know. After I give her the update, I bring my mother-in-law down to the NICU to see the baby.

His breathing has slowed down a bit but he is still working hard to breath. This is my first chance to touch him and talk to him. He follows me with his eyes.

I am not a stranger. He knows who I am. I fall in love.

A nurse, with a stern looking face, comes to talk to me. She tells me that they have sent blood cultures to the lab to check for infection but they need to start the antibiotics. They are having a hard time getting a vein so the need to go through his belly button. She tells me that I shouldn’t be here for that. I agree. She tells me that she will come to our room with an update in about five minutes.

I am sitting in the chair next to my wife’s hospital bed. Anxious because five minutes has turned into twenty. There is a quick knock as the door opens and the nurse practitioner enters the room.

“I’m just going to take a seat.”

She slowly walks across the room to the couch, sits, and lets out a sigh.

“We don’t always get to know why babies aren’t born healthy and happy. Obviously, you both could see that Jude was not doing well from the get-go…”

He’s dead.

“He had a lot of trouble breathing right away and he just wasn’t responding the way that we like new babies to respond. We got him on the CPAP as soon as we could….”

My son is dead. I was just with him. He was alive and alert. Now he is dead.

“We sent blood cultures down to the lab to test for infection but, sometimes we just don’t get to know why babies aren’t healthy and happy when they are born. We did consider airlifting him to another hospital but we decided against that. Now, this isn’t due to anything that you did wrong during the pregnancy and it isn’t anything that the doctor or nurses did wrong during the birth.”

(This is completely true)

She pauses. My heart is beating so hard, I fear that I am going to faint.

I can’t cry. I can’t react. I need to take care of my wife. I get to cry later. I don’t get to cry now. Now I need to take care of my wife.

“With all that being said… your son is fine.”

You fucking bitch. What is wrong with you?

She continues on talking but I hear none of it. I want her to leave. I want her out of our room.

“Any questions?”

“No.” My wife and I say simultaneously.

As she leaves, we both break down into tears. It is awful.

“Did you think he was dead?” my wife asks.

“I knew he was dead” I say.

Shortly after, we move to our postpartum room. This is my wife’s first chance to see our son since the thirty seconds that he spent on her chest.

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He has stabilized. His respiratory rate is slowing and he is in good shape despite what the grim reaper of a nurse lead us to believe.

I want to be clear, I do not think that the nurse that convinced me that my son was dead is a bad nurse. I believe she did a great job taking care of my son in the first minutes of his life. I also believe that she was careless (or maybe she is a sadist that took pleasure in seeing our faces turn white) in the way that she approached the situation and that is something that I cannot forgive.

The rest of our hospital stay was amazing. I could not have asked for my son to have more attentive and competent nurses at his side around the clock.

Less than 48 hours later, we were in our car on our way home. Sleet pelted the windshield as we drove toward our new life filled with all kinds of days.

Full of happiness and optimism (and a lot of fear), I drove my family home being sure to go no faster than five miles an hour under the speed limit. On our way to creating great memories and stories. While our first scary story faded in the rear view mirror along with the nurse and her terrible bedside manner.

Cheers.

 

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Unsolicited Advice

When I was engaged my least favorite part was the unsolicited advice and terrible jokes.

“Your life will be over the minute you get married.”

“You will never have freedom again.”

“Just remember… happy wife, happy life.”

“Happiest day of my life is when I got divorced.”

On and on it went with these bits of wisdom from people I wouldn’t consult with on what type of toilet paper to use.

These people think they are being funny and creative.

Wrong.

They think they are dropping golden pieces of wisdom that will help make a happy relationship.

Nope.

If you are one of these people, stop. Don’t do it. If people want relationship advice from you, they will ask. And, if they don’t ask? Well, there is probably a reason that they aren’t asking you…

I get it, it is a bit of hazing as you enter a new club that so many before have joined. But, it is akin to pulling up next to someone at a stop light and saying, “I see you’ve got a car there. Let me tell ya, if you want it to keep running, you should be sure to put gas in it.”

After getting married, all that stopped, it was such a relief. The reprieve was short-lived as a new group of personal life invaders appeared.

“Soooo, when are you going to have children?!”

Guess what? Whether a couple is going to have children is none of your business.

If you do this, stop. Don’t do it.

This is as inappropriate as asking someone, “what do you and your spouse like sexually? Please, be as descriptive and specific as possible.”

Maybe they aren’t ready. We are in the 21st century and people do not always procreate immediately.

Maybe they are trying but are having trouble that is putting stress on their relationship that you couldn’t possibly understand.

Maybe they never want to have kids and don’t want to see the stupid, confused look on your face when they tell you this.

Slowly, this tide of people does retreat back to sea (with the marriage advice dopes) as people start to assume that you just won’t have kids for some reason or another. Which they love just as much. Why? Because then they tell other people on your behalf that you are not having children.

Seriously, I thought the personal life invaders had left but, alas, I was sorely mistaken. I have encountered what seems to be the worst yet.

Pregnancy, birth and parenting advice givers.

I get it you have had one child or more and now you are an expert. You have the wisdom to impart that I must hear lest my child peril due to my lack of knowledge. You have come to my aid in the nick of time, Super Douche.

I’ll take my chances but… thanks.

“Has your wife been really moody and eating weird things? Because my wife was a total bitch when she was pregnant.”

Well, what a lovely way to talk about the mother of your child. While she was going through one of the most difficult life experiences that a human can encounter, your thought was “what a bitch?”

What is the endgame here? You want me to tell you that my wife is not in the best of moods and that will somehow make you feel better?

“You don’t understand how expensive children are.”

There is no way you can escape this comment. It is always stated as if it is the biggest revelation in the history of mankind.

It isn’t.

Obviously, children are expensive. Thank you for being the John Madden of my life stating the obvious. Thank you for stating this and not following up with any helpful advice or tips on how to reduce costs. You have either learned none, or, you are a sadist that is looking forward to watching parents fail financially. Which is it?

And, finally, we come full circle back to the moron that was giving imparting wisdom before marriage. He has since had a child and would like you to know…

“Your life will be over the minute your baby is born.”

“Live it up now because once you have a kid, you’ll never have fun again.”

How terrible is your life? These are the same people that long for the days of high school when they felt like the popular kids.

I didn’t make the decision to have a child without considering what life would be like afterward. Of course, I will have less time to go out to bars and do the things I have done for the past decade. I will now have a human life that is depending on me to be responsible and make sound decisions…

Oh dear god, what have I done?

Unlike these people, I am happiest when spending time with my wife and now there will be a child that is joining us. I can’t think of anything that I would want more than that.

So, what’s the point?

The point is: mind your business when you encounter people in any of these stages of their life. What is coming next is exciting and terrifying for them. They do not need your weak attempts at humor and life advice.

Stop telling people horror stories because you are insecure about your perceived failures or shortcomings as a spouse and/or parent.

However, if you must give your unsolicited advice. Talk about the good stuff.

Talk about how amazing it is to start a life with someone that you are crazy about.

Because it is amazing.

Talk about how wonderful the time spent as a couple without kids is.

Because it is wonderful.

Talk about what an unbelievable blessing it is to have a child.

Because it is…. well, I don’t know about this part yet. But, I believe it will be. Even though the personal life invaders have tried to convince me otherwise.

I have decided these people are the same as the people that give a one-star product review on Amazon because they couldn’t figure out how to correctly put the batteries in their new label maker.

I want my own experience with being a parent. It will be nothing like yours. I am going to make a million mistakes that other people will roll their eyes at.

That is my decision. It has nothing to do with you. Soon, you will move on to the next expecting parent within arms reach and “help” them.

I guess we will meet again when you need to fill me in on the proper way to retire and die…

Until then.

Cheers.

 

 

 

Movie Review: Joy

I have been accused on the iKnowBadeaux podcast of only reviewing movies that I enjoy but, my feelings about Joy are mixed.

Let’s start with the good.

This movie is a must-see solely due to Jennifer Lawrence‘s performance. She plays Joy Mangano the inventor of the Miracle Mop and brings forth complexities of the character that no other actor would have been able to. One can’t help but be amazed at the Lawrence’s ability to elevate characters and entire movies with her emotional performances.

She delivers, once again, a “Best Female Actor” worthy performance.

Unfortunately, the movie could not keep up with her performance.

Director, David O. Russell‘s screenplay is the same that we have seen from him with Silver Linings Playbook and American HustleIt has become old hat and has lost all of its charms. The same steady cam, continuous shots that were once artistic and innovative have become boring and predictable.

The story itself leaves much to be desired, feeling disjointed and rushed at times while also moving at a snail’s pace at others.

Robert DeNiro returns as basically the same character he played in Silver Linings Playbook and it is hard to tell if his performance was lackluster or if the screenplay just didn’t lend itself to allowing a better performance. Throughout the movie relationship dynamics are glossed over making it challenging, at times, to understand why people are behaving the way that they are towards one another.

What can’t be denied is Russell’s ability to pull amazing performances from his actors. It is this quality that will keep audiences coming back to the box office for his movie.

Bradley Cooper turns in a great performance with a limited supporting role as Neil Walker a QVC executive. Lawrence and Cooper’s chemistry cannot be denied, in their limited screen time together, they are able to do what so much of the movie isn’t able to… make you forget that it is another David O. Russel movie. It doesn’t seem like they are repetitive characters participating in the same witty banter that captivated audiences in Silver Linings Playbook. 

This is a testament to David O. Russel’s directing. He is what my wife calls, an actors director. This movie is clear evidence of that.

Bottom line, see it (love it?) for Jennifer Lawrence and her amazing acting chops. But don’t be surprised when you feel like the movie as a whole was a let down when the credits roll.

 

 

No You’re Not

“No you’re not…”

In a flash, my life changed. An entire new list of worries and responsibilities appeared as if out of thin air. The countdown has started. I finally will be forced to become an adult.

My wife is pregnant. Oh my god, my wife is pregnant. 

While it was a surprise, it wasn’t completely a surprise. We had been “trying”. I knew quite well that this would happen sooner than later. But, I thought it would be later.

I just don’t know if I’m ready.

To be clear, it’s not that I didn’t know if I was ready to be a father. I am (well, as much as can be).

As I stood in my kitchen holding my wife moments after she told me the big news, a flood of memories clouded my brain.

The realization hit me like a freight train.

I don’t want to say goodbye to this way of life. Continue reading

Happy New Years?

I am sick of saying “Happy New Year.”

Why is this something that we feel compelled to say to one another?

It is an empty gesture. We are all saying it to each other because it is the methadone to ween us off of saying Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays.

Nobody says “Happy New Year” after January first.

Why?

Because it is meaningless. When does the year stop being new? January second? So, you are just a prick who is hoping that I make it home with out getting killed by a drunk driver but nothing more? I mean, thanks for not wanting me to die and all but…

While we are at it. Let’s talk about how shitty New Years Eve is.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not want it to be removed as a national holiday (day off) but, all of this Happy New Year stuff makes people think that New Years Eve should be a special and cathartic night of reflection and hope.

I am not saying that it can’t be.

But…

Most of the time it isn’t. Most of the time we are left feeling like we are missing out.

The reason for this is simple.

We spend all day in anticipation. Planning our night. Drinking, dancing, having fun.

All of this alone should make the evening special. But, too often, it doesn’t.

We spend all night watching the clock, asking “how long until midnight?”

We spend all night watching a re-run of something that has already happened, pretending that it is actually live.

We watch celebrities tell us what they are looking forward to in their amazing live’s in the upcoming year which makes us feel shitty about the fact that the next big thing we are looking forward to is the new season of Game of Thrones.

We watch terrible, lip-synced musical performances and flip the channel for this year’s Red Bull stunt (which is always underwhelming because turns out they use professionals that know their physics better than your average redneck with a dirt bike).

We drink way too much, too fast, and realize too late that we need to pace ourselves if we plan to make it to midnight.

“Ten minutes left!”

The anticipation grows. As we stare at the glass of champagne in our hand that could be cheap or expensive because we can’t tell the difference and think anyone who thinks they can is full of shit.

“Five minutes!”

The saliva starts to pool in our mouths as we hope we can make it at least a couple of hours into the new year without throwing up due to intoxication (we are a little old for that aren’t we?).

We gather around as the ball with an absurd number of crystals begins its’ descent to the bottom of the pole on which it sits.

Now is when we take a little time to think about the year and plan what we are going to do different in the year ahead (but won’t). We count our blessings and feel optimistic (for once) about the direction things are heading.

“Ten, nine, eight…”(etcetera, etcetera).

If we are lucky, someone special is along side of us waiting for the strike of midnight for the traditional kiss. Worrying along with us about how long the kiss should be.

How long is everybody else going to kiss for? Is it going to be just a simple kiss or one of the French persuasion? I don’t want to be the first one done kissing because it will be weird watching everyone else kiss… but I don’t want to be last either because it will be weird for everybody else… Oh shit, time to kiss…

“Happy New Year!” is shouted in unison.

Next comes the song that we all recognize but only know the first couple of lines. You know the “auld sang line” one. We don’t know what it means but the tune is so catchy.

For the record, it is Auld Lang Syne and it means: times long past.

Yes, after we toast and wish each other a happy new year, we play a song that is reminiscing about times long past. It’s a big “never mind!” to the fact the calendar just turned over to a new year yet again.

What’s next?

Nothing. Nothing is next. We all just got the payout and it was less than thrilling. New Years Eve is Christmas Eve with no payout. Well, except for when we throw up like a slot machine paying out a jackpot.

We spend the first day of the new year hungover, cursing champagne and wishing that we had the foresight to buy food that would cure said hangover since every store is closed.

We don’t feel good enough to start that new exercise regimen.

We’ll start that tomorrow… we’ve got all year!

Our brains are too foggy to learn that new thing that we always have wanted to do.

If we’re going to learn something new we should at least start out mentally sharp.

We want to spend more time with our family in the new year, but we are way too hungover to head over to our parent’s house.

We wouldn’t be pleasant with this hangover anyways and getting off the couch is not happening.

We want to drink less in the new year.

Off to a great start! We are definitely not drinking today… But, a Bloody Mary may not be such a bad idea…

Ultimately, we know that it is that moment of reflection and hope that keeps us coming back. The feeling, even if it is just for a moment, of unadulterated optimism before we are jarred by the dramatic snap back to reality.

And, in 358 days we will adjust our e-mail valedictions and we will force a smile as we say to every friend, acquaintance and stranger we see…

“Happy New Year”

Cheers.