Monthly Archives: May 2014

Dad, Reloaded


My life is over, again.

As of 10:36 yesterday morning, I am now the father of a gorgeous, tiny, precious, unbelievable baby girl.  It’s amazing and exhilarating and exhausting, it’s wonderful and terrifying and overwhelming and… well, you get the idea.

Childbirth is one of those things that’s just impossible to describe to somebody who hasn’t lived through it, like an artist trying to describe to a blind man what blue looks like, like an addict trying to explain to a non-user what the first hit of a designer drug is like, like a man trying to explain to a woman what it’s like to pee standing up, like a woman trying to explain to a man why the toilet seat must be lifted and replaced when the man uses it. (Really?  All that work?  Come on.)  If you’ve been through it, you know exactly what I mean without my having to say a thing; if you haven’t, no pithy words I could summon could adequately communicate all the feels.

But that won’t stop me from trying.

Here, then, is what it’s like to be a dad when your wife is having a Caesarian section.

Our daughter’s birth was scheduled for us (how twenty-first century) by doctors who apparently know a thing or two.  None of the fuss over going into labor, having her water break in the back of a cab, no contractions and heavily practiced deep breathing exercises.  We showed up to the hospital at 8, suited up — me in sterile hospital blues, she in a robe which for reasons I don’t fully understand does not close in the back — and waited while a parade of nurses, orderlies and doctors marched through the room, hooking my wife up to this, asking her about that, sampling her fluids and sticking her with sharp things.  The man’s job during all this is to wear a sympathetic face and communicate love to his wife (or the mother of his child).

Game Face.

Game Face.

At 10, the last leg of the parade swept through and carried my wife away with it to an OR, and me to another smaller prep room, this one with sinks and single-serving scrub brushes and non-slip mats on the floor, actually not entirely unlike the dish-washing areas of many restaurants I’ve worked in.  Another processional of doctors and nurses filed through intermittently, scrubbing in and then pushing the door open with their butt and walking in backwards.  I was alone in there for about twenty minutes while they prepped my wife, and that was the point at which the mind really began turning somersaults.

Up until that point, I had not been separated from my wife, so no matter what was going on, no matter what needles were being shoved in her arm or what plastic bands slapped around her wrist, we could always catch each other’s eye with a things-are-okay-I’m-right-here sort of look.  Now, she’s in another room about to be sliced open and I’m cooling my jets on a stool next to a dish sink.  So here the scenarios start to play out.

What if something goes wrong?  What if a nurse carrying a tray of surgical tools trips and she catches a scissors in the eye?  What if the baby comes out missing a finger or a hand?  Will she ever live a normal life?  What if the baby is ugly?  Will I be given the chance to trade it in for a better model?  What if I pass out?  Will they laugh at me and draw a bunch of penises on my forehead?

Then the real serious scenarios start to play out.

What if the anesthesiologist was drunk last night and the epidural goes awry and my wife is paralyzed from the waist down?  What if they nick an artery and my wife bleeds out and I have to raise these two kids by myself?  What if the baby comes out stillborn?

And I start to hyperventilate.

See, modern medicine is magic, but childbirth is one of those things that they can only clean up so much.  There’s no doubt that complications in childbirth are much fewer and farther between than they used to be, and the odds of something significant going wrong during a birth are low enough to make me feel silly when the scenarios begin to unfold like parallel universes in my head.  But at the end of the day, it’s still a living thing clawing toward the light while another living thing squeezes the first one forcibly out of its body cavity.  It ain’t exactly like ripping off a bandaid.  Then there’s the Caesarian section, in which doctors slice open said body cavity, pull out the living thing and assorted viscera, and then stuff the blood and guts back inside and stitch the whole thing up like they’re Chinese sweatshop workers slapping together a pair of Nikes.

So I go into the OR and find my wife paralyzed and restrained, tied down like Gulliver to a great table covered with sheets to shield her and me from seeing the really gruesome bits.  A nurse digs my wife’s hand out from under a swathing of towels and bubble wrap and we clutch at each other’s fingers for reassurance, and I see what I am pretty sure are some of my same fears — certainly similar ones — reflected back in her eyes.

There’s no standing on ceremony, though, and immediately the antiseptic smell of singed flesh fills the room while tubes which run to — there is no other word for them — buckets on the floor below the table fill with reddish, yellowish fluid.  A lot of it.  I try not to look.  I squeeze my wife’s hand again.

“Here she comes, dad.”

What, already?  I get gently shoved past the divide where I see the backs of a lot of scrubs and my wife’s pregnant belly — laid open — they push on it like a deflating volleyball and out she pops: tiny, wriggling. purple, howling, beautiful, mine.  I fight to breathe around the tightness in my chest.  I squeeze my wife’s hand and tell her she did wonderfully, then turn my back on her like she’s a customer who’s paid up and scurry to the little one’s side.  I’m suddenly self-conscious about pointing the camera at her privates.

Then wife and I are separated again — we are escorted through a labyrinth of holding rooms and processing points.  I sign things, baby gets poked and measured, and when we meet mom again it’s like a calm sea after a storm.  There isn’t much to say, it’s just us and our daughter and a love swelling like an inflating hot-air balloon.

With our son, things were different.  He was born with a serious trauma, rushed across town in an ambulance, and separated from his mother for three days before spending twenty-six days in the NICU at Children’s Hospital.  Seeing him for the first time — for both the wife and myself — was a bolt of lightning, laying us flat and burning that feeling of protectiveness and connection into our souls.  Our daughter’s arrival on this earth was almost anticlimactic.  No trauma, no separation, no nerve-wracking month-long hospital stays.  We may go home tomorrow.  She didn’t hit us like lightning, but like a slow-acting nerve agent released into a crowded subway.  We just sat in the room with her for hours while she worked her magic on us.

From the time they first wheeled my wife into the OR to the time our daughter was with us was less than an hour.  Her delivery was scary, but now begins the really frightening part — raising another human when I’m barely capable of keeping myself above water.  Luckily my wife is a lot smarter than I am, and she looks like she has a plan, so I will be following her lead.

Long story short, she has all her fingers and toes and all the necessary parts to qualify as human, so we will probably end up keeping her.  If my contributions here slow down in the near future, blame it on her.  I know I will.  To paraphrase Johnathan Coulton, she’s ruined everything — in the nicest way.

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Baby Loading…


A long day today.  Too long by half.  Lots of stress, lots of nerves, lots of pain, lots of things.

Certainly I’m one who has been known to overstate things, perhaps to say too much when enough has already been said.  I won’t be doing that today.  Not because I don’t have things to say.  I do.  Great blunderous gushings.  Whimsical musings on the nature of life, the universe, and everything.  You know, the usual.

But today I’m a dad (again), and I’m too sleep-deprived and physically and emotionally exhausted to let words get in the way, so I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Moments after landing on Planet Earth.

Moments after landing on Planet Earth.

Not particularly impressed with the world as she's found it.

Not particularly impressed with the world as she’s found it.

Saying hi to mom for the first time.

Saying hi to mom for the first time.

Lots more to say tomorrow.


Milestones, or Reflections on Staying Up Past Bedtime On A School Night


Milestones.

Milestones to the left of me, milestones to the right of me, milestones keep falling on my head.

Shall I count the ways?

The novel is at almost 80%, which means it’s time to start wrapping this thing up like a bad christmas present.  I think the pieces are in place, and despite the twists and turns this thing has taken me on, I can still have the ending that I pictured when I set out on the journey, which is a pretty cool feeling.  Like leaving on a road trip that ends in Seattle and traveling through Arizona instead of Wyoming, but that means I got to see the Grand Canyon along the way, which is something I’ve always wanted to see, so there’s that.  So a pinpoint of light is stabbing through the veil, and like a cartographer’s compass, it’s guiding me home.  A tractor beam pulling me in.  A magnet drawing me toward the finish, as Andre Agassi put it.

One day left in my first year as a high school teacher.  Teaching is a journey in its own right, but considering this is where I saw myself when I started down this road, it’s quite a feeling being here.  Don’t get me wrong, my time in middle school was instructive, but kids at that age are just not a good match for me; I swear I felt myself regressing every day, and I think if I’d spent a few more years teaching at that level, my voice would have undropped and I would have entered reverse puberty, which is totally a real thing that I absolutely did not just this minute invent for the sake of a stupid joke.  Totally.  In seriousness, seeing the seniors I taught this year graduate was a sobering moment that really brings some sense of accomplishment and fulfillment to my career, and the fact that I can even call my job a career is a testament to my wife who pushed me onto this road in the first place.  So, thanks, honey.

Also, one day left in my life as a parent of one.  It’s a rather metropolitan scenario, scheduling the birth of your child, but science does what science must do, and for reasons that probably don’t concern anybody who doesn’t know my wife and I personally, we had a c-section last time and thus must have a c-section this time, and that means we get to pick the day on which Sprout the Second is born.  Assuming she makes it that far, which, as long as she makes it through tomorrow, she has.  I never thought I would be ready to be a father of one, but it turns out not to be nearly so bad as I feared, so the fact that I feel completely unprepared to be a father of two does not daunt me nearly so much.  That said, I know full well that thinking I’m in any way ready for what’s to come is an error of hubristic proportions (yeah, hubristic is a word I just made up, I consider myself a writer now, deal with it).  Sidenote: my writing is going to be completely blown up for likely the rest of the week, if not the rest of my life.  My apologies in advance.

One hundred follows.  If trends continue, I should meet and pass that before the week is out, assuming all my writing doesn’t go over the cliff (which it may well do).  This baffles and astonishes me, because while I like to pretend that I have things to say and an interesting way in which to say them, actually having proof that there are folks out there willing to read my brain droppings (thanks George Carlin) on a regular basis is still a bit of a shock to the system.  I owe a lot of those follows to Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction challenges, but I know that some of you out there have discovered me through my unprompted posts about the bizarre and wonderful act of writing, the bizarre and wonderful act of running, and the bizarre and wonderful act of parenting.  However you ended up with your eyeballs processing my wordy bits, thanks for taking the time out.  Knowing I have an audience, no matter how big or small, is a tremendous motivator on those days when I feel like I can’t possibly complete this thing I’ve now nearly finished doing.  However, for the record, you’ll have nobody to blame but yourselves if and when I actually publish this thing.

What else can I say?  It’s way past my bedtime and it’s a rather big day ahead, my last day as a teacher this (academic) year, and my wife will be getting a healthy dose of poking and prodding in preparation for the Lexi landing on Thursday.  That calls for a drink.

Just kidding, I already had a drink, as my punctuation and rambling in this post will attest.  Happy Tuesday.

 


Why Servers Hate Me (Even Though I’m Not a Jerk)


I get it.

If you live long enough, things start to repeat.  The soundtrack loops, the plotlines and scandals in your life and the lives of those around you begin to sound disconcertingly familiar, and from one moment to the next you find yourself in situations saying, “Oh, sharknado, THAT’S what was going on.”

Having kids is like that, only doubled and viewed through a magnifying glass.

I used to be so judgmental of people with kids.  Oh, how I hated them.  Inconsiderate, self-absorbed people, hauling their litter of rugrats around to make noise and throw tantrums and stomp and throw trash and toys and food while the rest of us are, I dunno, shopping, or trying to enjoy a meal, or generally to partake in any activity that adults partake in without the involvement of toddlers. Continue reading


Shorn


If my typical weekend short story is Flash Fiction, you could call this one Lightning Fiction.  Chuck’s latest challenge is the 100 Word Story.  If you read this site at all, you know that I have a tendency not to scrimp on my words, so saying a lot with a little is a stretch for me.   (For comparison, my introduction is longer than the story itself, at about 180 words).  Nonetheless, I like what I’ve come up with.

Maybe I’ve got hair on the brain.  Mine is fleeing my face as fast as its follicles will carry it; my wife just got hers cut.  Add to that the (unrelated) fact that with our first child we went through a lengthy hospital stay and our second will be arriving any day here… I couldn’t shake off these things clinging to my brain.  If you’re curious, this is not autobiographical, though my wife and I were certainly adjacent to a lot of stories like this one.

At any rate, here are 100 words exactly, title not included.  Don’t read them all in one place.

 

Shorn

Mackenzie disappeared into the treatment wing, escorted by a perky nurse whose name Eloise had immediately forgotten.  Philip offered all the support he could: a sympathetic grimace and a dutiful squeeze of her hand.  She made for the parking lot, not bothering to wipe the tears from her eyes.

**

In the salon, Eloise sat down in the chair and told her stylist what she wanted.

“You’re sure?”

All Eloise could think of were Mackenzie’s frightened eyes, her sobs as the clumps of hair had fallen out.  She bit her lip, nodded, and smiled as the clippers buzzed to life.


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