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.

IMG_2609

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.

 

Earitating

OK, I had to take a break yesterday due to a hangover from trying to keep up with my parents on Saturday night. My dad’s Manhattans, while delicious, can really put a guy out of commission. Hopefully, Saturday’s story wasn’t too much and you have come back to read a little more, don’t give up on me yet! This has to at least be some good ammunition to talk about how self involved I must be to think you all want to read about things that have happened to me or what I think about anything. So, whatever your reason, I do appreciate that you are here reading again.

Today we will go a little farther back in the past and look at one of the many ridiculous things that happened to me as a child… I was a very injury prone and clumsy kid. This was probably due to the fact that I grew like a giant the first 13 years of my life and then just stopped growing, literally. I still have a pair of Doc Marten boots that I wore in 7th grade and they fit. So, I was a chubby, freckle faced, giant, awkward kid. Despite this, I was actually very coordinated so I had that… This is not to say that I had a bad childhood by any means, it was quite the opposite. But I am trying to paint a picture because it will add to the humor of what is to follow today and what I will write in the future. I had a BIG set of buck teeth as well. Oh, one last thing, I was a panzy, a wuss, a mommas boy (take a minute to gather yourself from the shock of learning this).

Summer 1995. I was 10 and on my way into 5th grade. If I remember correctly I was like 5’2″ and 120lbs, I was a big boy… I looked like Robin Williams in that movie “Jack” compared to everyone else that was my age (a little less hair on my arms and knuckles). Anyways, it was a summer day like any other, riding my Huffy candy red 10 speed all over the neighborhood with my friends. I most likely had a kool-aid stained mustache and a chocolate stain somewhere on my shirt.

There was a group of us at a neighbor’s house 2 down from my own, just hanging out in the driveway, probably shooting some hoops and listening to KCLD on a little boom box (most likely listening to TLC’s “Waterfalls”). What happened next is one of those things that I swear only happens to me. I am minding my own business and just being a kid when some sort of fly, flies directly in my ear like that’s where it lives.

Now, I don’t know if any of you have ever had a living fly inside your ear before… but at the time it was the most horrible thing that had ever happened. Because, shortly after this little friend entered my ear it seemed as though he wanted out immediately. It was buzzing and flapping its wings about every 10 seconds. Now, I would be interested to talk to the people today who witnessed what happened next to hear their perspective, but I only have my experience so I will try to interpret what they were seeing…


As soon as the bug hit my ear, my automatic response was to throw a palm strike to the outside of my ear as hard as I could. The looks on all of the kids faces was that of confusion, but they quickly thought I was just messing around. 10 seconds later, bzzzzz! It was like an electric shock to my ear drum quickly followed by, wham! Another sharp palm strike to the side of my head. Now, everyone was laughing at me (uh oh). That all too familiar lump was forming in my throat and my eyes were starting to well up due to the mixture of embarrassment and pain I was experiencing. I was determined not to cry in front of them. Bzzzz! Wham! I sprinted to my bike, hopped on and started peddling as fast as I could as the tears started to stream down my face. Bzzzz!

Since I was riding my bike and couldn’t see clearly due to the tears, I decided that I shouldn’t attempt a palm strike. By the way, I didn’t try to pick it out of my ear because I was convinced that it would burrow deeper into my head and the palm strikes were meant to kill the bug so this could not happen (seemed logical at the time). Since I couldn’t throw a palm strike now that I was on my bike, I started doing the next logical thing… yelling at the bug inside my ear. “Stop! Please, stop!” I screamed. I don’t know if my friends witnessed this part, I was not quiet so I am assuming they at least heard part of it as I rode away. Let’s examine briefly what they saw…

Out of no where, I start hitting myself in the head as hard as I can with no explanation. I run to my bike and start peddling away as fast as I can, again, no explanation. Then, I start screaming at myself through the tears as I ride away. Imagine what they must have been thinking. I have thought about this numerous times and I think the most logical thing they could have come up with was that I was pooping my pants. We were only 10, so it’s not as if they were thinking I was having some sort of mental break or that the for some reason “Waterfalls” sent me into some “Rainman”, hot water baby moment. And, they probably assumed I was yelling at my bowels over which I had lost control of suddenly…

Anyway, luckily I was only a minute from my house. I dismounted my bike on the move and sent it flying out of control into the yard as I went running up the front steps screaming for my mom. Bzzz! Wham! Bzzz! Wham!

At this point I was convinced the vile bug inside my head was determined to get to my brain. Now, only my mom would be able to describe what the scene was as I came in hitting myself in the head repeatedly trying to get out exactly what the problem was. “There’s (gasp, gasp), a (gasp, gasp), bug in my ear!” I said. Bzzz! Wham!

We got into the car quickly and were off to the clinic to see my dad to have the bug removed from my ear. Bzzz! Wham! I’m sure it was quite the sight for other people driving through Brainerd to see this hysterical chubby kid hitting himself in the side of the head while his mother was pleading to him to stop bludgeoning himself in the head.

We finally get to the clinic after what seemed like an eternity. The buzzing was now happening less frequently, which I feared the bug had mad through my ear and was on the verge of entering my brain. I sat down and as my dad looked in my ear he found…. nothing. Huh? Nothing was in my ear. I thought, how is this possible? What happened to the fly? To this day, I have no recollection of feeling the fly exit or when exactly the buzzing stopped. Since then, I have had a couple of close calls with bugs landing on or running into my ear with out actually, uh, entering me. Every time it has happened I have felt the flood of panic and I like to think that I would be more calm and try pull the bug out with my finger, but it would probably end up like, Bzzz! Wham! as I start to cry.