I like it when New Year’s Day is on a Sunday. In addition to getting a new year and month, you get a new week. Everything that wants a fresh start can have one.
When I told people I was starting a blog, I said I would write about:
Husbandhood. (NOT husbandry.)
Work (when feasible).
…and then just whatever randomness comes to mind.
What I had anticipated, for my first blog post, was that I would very briefly touch on all of those subjects. For fatherhood, I was going to talk about the fact that my baby was due on January 26th, and any of you who start to follow my blog would get to see the process of becoming a father from my perspective.
As it turned out, you won’t get to see that process here… because the baby was born 33 days early.
My wife, Ann, developed pre-eclampsia, and it became imperative that a C-section take place. So, at 9:21 am on December 24th, Ann and I became parents of a beautiful 4 lb 12 oz, 17 inch baby girl. We named her Sage.
Since I don’t have any way of knowing who is going to end up reading my blog (I like to envision this blog as eventually reaching readers that I don’t personally know, who will be intrigued enough by my eventual blogging genius that they’ll have to read the archives), I feel I should expand a little bit on our journey to this point.
Ann and I have been married for over thirteen years. For ten years, I prayed, daily, for the chance to be a father.
Ann and I reached the point where we assumed that we were unable to get pregnant. We didn’t know whether any biological issue was with me or with her, and we didn’t care; we never got tested for infertility issues. Instead, we started pursuing an adoption. From early in our relationship, we had discussed adoption as something we wanted to do, regardless of whether or not we had biologically related children — so a few years ago we signed up with an adoption agency. The way this agency works, prospective adoptive parents create scrapbooks of their lives and submit them. Birth mothers, once they have decided to pursue an adoption plan, eventually select adoptive parents from these scrapbooks. (There are more steps and criteria, but that’s an accurate and sufficient summary.)
We weren’t selected.
Maybe we would have been, eventually, but once we learned that we were expecting a child biologically, we put all adoption plans on pause. It had been over a year and a half of constant waiting. Although we felt that we were well-qualified parents, we just hadn’t caught enough attention from birth mothers.
Understandably, we were ecstatic once we realized that there was a child on its way into our life. We weathered brief medical scares and mounting impatience, and we chose to wait to find out the gender of the baby, much to the chagrin of many of our friends.
Then, we learned that we’d be delivering early. We were scared and excited and overwhelmed and probably a million other emotions all at once.
Today was Sage’s eighth day in the NICU. Early on, she had some “respiratory distress,” which meant putting her on a nasal CPAP machine. That went away within a couple of days. She had high bilirubin levels, which meant slight jaundice, but nothing serious, and those levels have tapered off and even started declining. She was hypercalcimic, but that has also resolved. The only remaining problem is her eating. Like many babies her age, she is not finishing a bottle on her own. She gets tired trying to eat.
This means that although we have our baby, we do not have our baby at home. This is difficult, but we know that it’s better to have her get completely ready to come home and then STAY home instead of getting her home earlier than she can safely manage and returning to the hospital.
…Looking back at what I’ve written, I’m already sure that this is not how I planned on my blog starting. It seems… clinical, somehow. Detached. It feels like I’m writing a summary of someone else’s life.
Let me try to say things with a little more personal touch.
I’M A DADDY!!!
I want her home. I want her home so bad, and I can’t make it go any faster. They’ve explained that for her to go home, she doesn’t need to reach any particular weight or number of days old, but she needs to consistently finish her food on her own for two or three days instead of having some of it sent through her NG (naso-gastric?) tube. She had reached 18 mL out of 30, and then they bumped her up to 38 mL (now she gets 40, although I’m not sure if she was officially moved to that or if that’s just what the nurses are pouring for her). These days, she’s usually finishing more than half of her food before it just becomes too much work for her. I think the most she’s ever done is about 75% of her food.
We see progress every day, but it couldn’t possibly go fast enough for me. She’s eight days old, and I already feel time slipping away. I dread returning to work (I plan on taking four weeks off) not because I don’t like my job, but because it means that I get less time with her.
In the NICU, your cell phones are off. There are no televisions. You can’t eat or drink (nursing mothers can have water) without leaving the NICU, and coming back in involves thorough handwashing and a security badge check-in, and it’s just a hassle, so you stay in there as much as you can.
It sounds like a low-key casino, with constant beeping and chiming of alarms — most so mild and frequent that after a few days you hardly notice them, but some more urgent, which always makes my soul go completely silent in anticipatory dread.
The nurses are wonderful; every single one of them deserves a raise, and possibly a medal from Congress, or an ambassadorship to a tropical island when they retire. They’ve taken pictures, they update us when we call, and they reassure us when things aren’t going quite as we expect.
And because of that — the lack of an outside world and the quiet competence of the staff — I realized today that the NICU was not only the best place for my daughter, but it might even be the best place for me to get to start my career as a father.
I get to hold my perfect little daughter in my arms and watch her sleep, without a football game in front of me, without a phone ringing, without a dog barking to go outside. I get to spend hours with her and with Ann, talking quietly and sometimes singing gently. I get to be sure that if she does anything out of the ordinary, there are people around us for whom it is not unusual, and who can help me learn what I need to know to take care of her.
The other night, I passed a lady in the hallway of the hospital. She was on her phone, talking about a NICU patient that she had visited. He needed a lot of help to breathe; he wasn’t eating at all on his own; and the tiny little NG tube (that Sage also has) was actually causing him to choke.
I don’t wish any of that on anyone, but it definitely helped me put into perspective the minor problems that Sage has to overcome. She’s her mother’s daughter — she’ll fight. I have no doubt about that. And while she does, I’ll just get to enjoy the feeling of seeing her bright eyes gazing around at this strange world curiously and then locking on me for a moment before she relaxes, melting softly into my arms as she falls into a contented slumber.
I have never felt so strong as when she sighs in her sleep and wiggles up against my chest.
My New Year’s resolution is also the resolution I plan to make every month, every week, every day, every waking hour. My resolution is to be the kind of dad that makes his wife proud, that makes his parents proud, and that makes his daughter’s complete trust in him absolutely, unequivocally justified.