A Glass Cage Of Emotion

It's a boy!!

Today has been an emotionally exhausting day for me.  For Mama, it has been emotionally and physically exhausting.  For our new little boy, Jamie Christopher, it has been a struggle.  He is still in the NICU and while we hope for the best, we know that the medical team prepared for the worst.  We trust he is in good hands.  We have no choice and we have been reassured that all is being done for his well-being. They have been continually updating us on his progress. 

Today started like any other.  Except that we were going to the hospital to meet our 3rd son.  We did not know the sex and I have been bombarded with requests, wishes and even an underhanded “you deserve a girl!” We drove to the hospital and stopped off for a few drinks for Dad.  No, not alcoholic, just something for me as I knew that when Mama was allowed, she would be catered to with drinks.  That’s where it all started. 

I had an apple juice, chocolate milk and an orange Gatorade.  I started with the chocolate milk only to find that it tasted like Gatorade.  Brutal, the expiration date was over a month ago.  Not a good start.  Next, I moved on to the Gatorade which now for some reason tasted like spoiled chocolate milk. 

Delivery was on time, only delayed by maybe a half hour.  They escorted my wife away in the flesh-colored sleigh on wheels and I was told that someone would be back to get me. 

Since our first 2 boys were born by C-section, we had somewhat of an idea to expect with little Jamie.  The Love of My Life was in for a lot of pain and there was nothing I could do about it.  I scrubbed up and was brought in to sit by my wife’s head while they worked to get our new baby out as safely as possible.  This was a familiar seat.  It was not a long process, but it seemed like an eternity as the tugging and prodding, poking that was being done to My Dearest.  The wait was made to be even longer as we were so eager to meet our little one and find out if we had to buy a bunch of pink junk to accommodate or if the baby of our family would dress for the next 18 years in his older brothers’ clothes. 

During this surreal event, I looked around and counted 15 people in the room.  I reassured my Wife and held her hand which was stretched out on a plank and put my other hand on her forehead.  I told her that she was doing great and that she was a trooper.  Basically the same reassurance I’ll give my kids when they inevitably start little league in a few years.  Not that I was insincere.  Quite the opposite.  I just know that this stress for me is nothing compared to what Mom’s dealing with today. Hopefully by time little league rolls around, the stresses, difficulties, pains of today will have faded for her and our new addition. 

I counted again and found 17 people in the room.  19 if you include us, add Jamie, get 20.  I looked around and knowing this is a teaching hospital, I looked at arms crossed.  No snickering or anything inappropriate, but I got very flush and felt my own breath against my face, given I was wearing a mask.  The hair net was a new sensation too.  I don’t recall getting or even feeling sick with my first two but with comparison in time allotted I just started to over think.  My wife looked more at ease than she did with Andy and was looking at me for reassurance.  I told the nurse that I was feeling flush as the last thing I wanted to do was get sick in there. 

Having my only nourishment as a gulp of month-old chocolate milk with a Gatorade chaser, coupled with an empty stomach, I just could not be in there.  I felt my arm was very tired from holding it outstretched to be able to hold her hand.  All of that and over thinking made me have to leave.  I left a few minutes after I saw little Jamie born.  I was really scared for his well-being.  He didn’t cry right away and when he was finally brought into light, I saw this was no girl and told her calmly that we did not have to reinvest in Dora the Explorer or trade in on our Cars and Cars 2 stock. 

So now I’m just outside the door, I was told to sit on the edge of a linen pail as it was close by and I guess the nurse is prepared for a patriarchal collapse.  I was nowhere near the need for smelling salts and I knew that.  Since I told them of my empty diet that day, they brought me graham crackers and grape juice.  I was ready to go back in.  They erred on the side of caution and would not let me back in.  I was kicking myself.  I wasn’t there to cut the umbilical cord like I was with the other two and I couldn’t reassure My Better Half that I was fine and apologize to her for not being there to hold her hand and talk to her.  She did not care, but that didn’t change that I wanted to be there for support or that I needed her to support me. 

The demeanor of all the hospital staff was primarily friendly which is what you would expect.  However, in North Carolina compared to Florida, there are heavy accents to deal with at every turn.  Some were pleasant, some annoying and all would address her as baby.  We were told a few times that the Doctor performing the procedure was great but everyone that describes her qualifies their compliment basically with (putting it nicely) don’t get on her bad side.  Surprisingly I didn’t hear it, but when we first moved here, we were told –How do you say F— you in southern? Answer: Bless your heart!

Poor little man!

Back to delivery.  They wheeled our newborn out of the room and I was asked if I had a camera.  I got it ready and took the only picture I have before NICU.  It took only seconds but they made me feel that I was causing problems given their destination.  By all means, run me down for the sake of our baby. 

I wanted to go back in again to talk to my wife and again, apologize, but when I started to proceed in, I was told I needed the mask and hair net.  I was stopped and told the doctor would not allow my admittance into the room. In our downtime in the recovery room, we discussed that and my loving spouse told me that there was a point where something important was dropped and everyone remaining in the room, probably 10 at the time was looking on the floor for some dropped instrument. 

Meanwhile, I was sent back to the room where she was prepped for surgery.  Now very empty without the hospital bed, I remained with a cell phone and confusion to boot.  What seemed to take an eternity, was now passing so quickly. 

So my only available outlet seemed to be my phone for texting and calling folks. First, I called all the important people, family.  Sent multiple texts to text-familiar family members and then went to groups of lists.  I didn’t think the news of the NICU was such urgency as their first contact with me after the delivery was to tell me that after an hour, everything was fine and he was returned to the transitional nursery.  

That was good news to me, to us.  But within a few minutes, we were told that his breathing had not regulated and had to be returned to the NICU.  I was given about a half hour before I could go see him. 

I was unprepared for what I was about to witness.  Any of you that have gone through this know what I’m talking about.  We knew that Jamie was good size, if he were to go full term he might have been 12 pounds.  Jamie Butterball.  But the issue of him arriving (not yet in our arms) early was and is very serious.  But his size bodes well for us.

Big Boy

After checking in and washing up, certifying that I did not have a cough, pneumonia, flu, swine flu, bird flu or theraflu, I was allowed in.  Jamie was in an incubator, where he has been laying for all of this time in the NICU.

I walked in and saw him in his little glass cage, wires and devices hooked up all over and it was just really overwhelming when I compared to peaking in to see healthy AJ and Andy on their big days.  I’ve seen him a handful of times now and I think what makes it worse is that he has a breathing tube down his throat.  He’s got a ton of hair and I have not seen his eyes open more than a few millimeters yet.  We continue to get improving good news about the fluids in his lungs and his capacity to breathe on his own is getting better.  That’s how we see it anyway.  That’s the only way it can be. 

I asked Mama if this is something that we should be letting people know.  She said yes.  Not that I felt it shouldn’t be shared, I guess I just wanted it to be really temporary. He’s in a new environment and it’s scary enough when he sees me without hissing, clicking beeping machines to boot.  The tubes and wires are frightening but the way the tape sticks to him, his arms, his face and tiny legs makes it worse.  We both just want to move on, to start feeding, flash cards and cultivate his immediate love for Woody and Buzz. 

So I posted about his condition.  As much as I like to bash it, Facebook was an important tool today.  We may look at birthdays and anniversaries as forced compliments on Facebook, well I do anyway.  It was comforting to be able to share that much of my life even though these are small bursts of congratulations, thoughts, prayers, blessings they are all important in understanding.  For example, a friend told me that her little girl spent 4 weeks in the NICU.  I can’t imagine, but now she has beautiful healthy daughter.  I know, just saw pictures on Facebook.  Thanks Cyndi!!  So now, we look forward to every little improvement and hope for the best.  Even though his brothers may say bless his heart, whether they know it or not, (like it or not, say it or not) they’re going to get to see their new best friend real soon.  1:52am, I’m going right now to see him, cuz I can!

"I'm stuck in a glass cage of emotion"

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2 Responses to A Glass Cage Of Emotion

  1. Cyndi says:

    Ken,
    What a moving story. You are a very talented writer! I’m hoping today has brought you some peace and answers. If you have any questions about NICU life, I’m here to help! In a few months this will be a figment of your imagination. It’s hard seeing your little one with wires and tubes, I know that. I’ll be reading updates!
    Cyndi

  2. Pingback: The Big Year | NC Dads

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