Daycare

When you have a baby, you forget about things. Mostly, you forget about your sophisticated and oh so important television watching regime. Your DVR surpasses to a billion percent compacity simply because you’d rather watch your kid and make sure she’s 1. Breathing. 2. Breathing effortlessly. (The NICU really does a number on you.) You also forget about things. You forget that things that you should figure out ahead of time. Namely, the daycare situation. It was a given that we would keep her home throughout the RSV flu season which was to end in April or May. When you have a few months before sending your kid to live with strangers weekly, you forget that you’re on the waiting list to one daycare. One. Then life starts pushing you around and you get a call from that one daycare telling you that any chance of an open spot is highly unlikely. And then they shut their door in your face. But before that, they did give you a recommendation of a place we should inquire about. “It’s a great place, blah, blah, blah” SHUT. This was not good news. That next week would be the start of us taking turns being off work until we found a place. The stress was thick.

We called the place to set up a tour that day which was a Friday. We go tour a daycare center at 5:30pm on a Friday. That’s good and bad. Good because you see the place at the most hectic time. Bad because that’s a lot of kidsinoneplace. For me. We talked with the owner and teachers and they instantly fell for our baby because she decided to bring the smile machine. I was hoping it would help secure a spot.

The owner went to grab the waiting list for newborns and the list was gone. Turns out, the other owner had taken the list home with her because she was going to be calling on the waiting list for new kiddos. We were filling out paperwork when we hear “there’s a spot open?” We started watching her like a hawk. Less paperwork, more hawk.

I couldn’t get the checkbook out fast enough. We paid for our first and last week. We walked out extremely relieved and thankful. And terrified. We realized much like her entrance into the world, we weren’t ready. Our baby was going to start daycare that next Monday.

I knew Monday would be difficult. You could see it on both of our faces. But not on our baby’s face. From the second we arrived to the room and even as we were walking out, her smile could not be big enough. It didn’t seem fair. She’s in there giggling and we’re doing dead man walking back to our cars. Dejected.

One good thing is that they will text you pics throughout the day. We both knew she likes to smile but we did not know she likes to laugh. On video. For strangers. Laughing.

It’s a process of getting through these initial steps of letting some control go. The whole thing about it all going by so fast is dead on fact. She JUST learned to grab at things. She JUST learned to roll over. Now she’s laughing.

But she’s happy. A very happy baby. And that will never get old. For us or for our new trusted strangers.

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6 months

We are closing in on 6 months with this kid. Just a few days away. Crazy. To bring a 28 week old baby into the world, 6 months is a pretty big sigh of relief moment. I wanted to write a lot about these first months of her life. I wanted to.

Here’s the thing: every time I would start to write, I was reminded of how it all began. It would bring be back to that place. How nervous and anxious we both were. How with every step forward she took in the hospital, we were waiting for that setback to come. And it never did.

For some reason, with this 6 month marker, I finally feel okay to take a deep breath and smile when she’s grinning at me ear to ear. To not panic when she’s tired and has seemingly placed her finger in her eyeball. I can shorten the number of times I go in to make sure her belly is moving up and done as she breathes but something feels me I’ll still do that for many many years. I get to continue to watch her learn new things like rolling over twice in a row and then when she has an audience of three, acts like she’s never even heard of rolling over in her life and bawls her eyes out. I’m loving the fact that the day my wife went back to work, she started sleeping through the night. How she really isn’t happy in her swing as much since she now loves to reach for things. Or how attaching a small mirror to the top of her floor play mat will allow her to smile at herself and coo for over an hour at a time.

And at the same time, while we are completely basking in this child’s glow, we still feel the stories of little ones we hear and read about in the NICU. I believe that once you’ve experienced it, you never want to again…but your heart is forever changed. All those fighting babies. And to be completely honest, I’ve struggled with this. I’ve struggled with thinking why our baby was in the hospital for over 6 weeks and never had a setback. What made her the lucky one when so many others simply don’t make it out of the hospital. It will make you resent yourself when you question those kinds of things. And I still haven’t come to terms with a definite answer. But you won’t find a more thankful father. You won’t find a father who wants the absolute best for his baby. She has completely changed many outlooks on life for me. I see it every morning that I pick her up to change her and she won’t stop grinning.

So, 6 months in. Can you imagine how I’ll be when she turns one?

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Dear Baby Girl

The talk has already started about the day your mom and I will get to use this whole experience against you. There’s been talk of “sending you back to the isolette” when you’re bad. And how we never missed a day while you were in the NICU. I think that one will be saved for when you think you’re too old to hold my hand.

Actually, the more I think about what I can use against you when you’re older, the more I smile because then I’ll know you will have made it through this uncertain time. That fills my heart and soul to the top.

We can’t wait to take you home. You will be absolutely adored and not just by us. You will gain two furry things just waiting to get their paws on you. My guess is that Lyla will become your amazing protector. Millie will be your partner in crime but will always leave the scene of that crime to let you take the fall. Watch out for that.

I keep wrestling with the fact that you were early and not ready, yet you keep showing me daily just how ready you really are. This was exactly the time that was placed upon you to arrive in this world. You continue to calm my fears. You show your spirit every single day. My favorite days are those where we find out how feisty you had been. It’s amazing after 5 weeks just how much strength and determination you’ve already shown us.

You’re already the fighter I’ve always wanted to be.

We will be putting you in the car soon and taking you to your new home with your own room. Just promise me that you will keep the projectile everything to a minimum. Or save it for your mom. Our little secret, okay?

I love you my sweet little fighter. You’ve already changed my life toward a direction I never thought was possible. I can’t wait to see and experience what you have in store for us. I’m blessed beyond everything for the opportunity to become your dad.

*thank you to all that read this short glimpse into our lives. We have been blessed with amazing families and fantastic friends who love us and our daughter. We would be in a very different place without all of you.

NICU

I really didn’t know much about the NICU before September 5th. All I knew was that they try to keep babies alive so when mine began her life in one, my heart started hurting from the very beginning.

I never thought I would think of the NICU as a second home. No one does, I think. One thing is clear: I don’t know how they do what they do. Basically it’s like trusting a parachute that you didn’t pack yourself. You trust that when you need it, that chute knows what to do and open. You trust that when a red light starts flashing or when the respirator numbers are failing, they know what to do. You have to put all your trust in them simply because you don’t know what to do. I can’t emphasis that enough. Scary is one way to describe it.

Helpless is another.

One good thing about your new second home is that you begin to know routines. You see familiar faces. You know when to move out of the way and when to ask questions. The best thing is you learn what all those beeps mean so you don’t have a panic attack when a feeding cycle has completed.

Walking down the NICU hallway daily is always good and bad. To the left and the right you see many rooms with isolettes and families surrounding them. You see smiles and joy. A new mom rejuvenated with a positive day her baby had. You also see the opposite. You see the broken spirit of a family that is having to watch their baby become hooked up to a new and scary monitor. It’s tough to focus only on your child when there are so many others in the same boat as you, just looking to stay above water. Which I think is a good thing. Compassion and empathy are good things to have.

That’s why you smile at everyone. You watch your wife grab the hand of the mother in tears who just found out her baby will need a spinal tap.

Sometimes I wonder if caring for the baby is easier for the nurses than enduring the parents. They are having to interact with people who for the most part, are at their worst. I believe that takes a special kind of patience.

Each day I drive up to the hospital. I ride up to the 5th floor. I wash my hands up to my elbows. Each day I have a small panic attack fearing that when I walk into the room, a team of nurses and doctors are huddled around our baby, trying to keep her alive. Each time though, I’ve walked in and she’s laying there. Perfectly snug and content. It’s my prayer everyday.

We still have some time left at the NICU before we get to take her home. While we are biting at the bit to do that, we understand that where she’s at right now, is where she needs to be. Our time is coming. Now it’s her time with Callie, Liz, Sheri, Jen, Sarah, Whitney, Emily, Samantha, Mary, Laney, Nicole, Bonnie, Brooke and so many more who are tending to our daughter around the clock. I’m so thankful for their knowledge and expertise.

I’m grateful that they all are my daughter’s parachute.

Next: Dear Baby Girl

September 6th and Everything After

The first night was pretty rough. Our room was on the 6th floor and the NICU was directly below us on the 5th but could have well been in Omaha. It was tough to sleep. In fact, I managed almost an hour that night. Mostly due to what happened the day before but also due to the “recliner” I had to sleep in. Never had I been more jealous of Court’s hospital bed than during those first 6 nights. After that first week, I found a new respect for the word exhaustion.

The next day I decided I should go home for a bit. I was still in my work clothes and dress shoes. I needed a shower. Some normal clothes. Make sure the dogs were okay. Basically, take a breath. I was driving home and turned on my iPod. The first song that came has this beginning verse:

You called me out upon the waters. The great unknown, where feet may fail.”

I lost it. The whole previous day I felt out of my body and it came to a head in that moment. It was different in the room with her, friends and family. A lot easier to show strength. It was the first time to drive away from my wife and baby and become alone. This was the first time I allowed myself to think about what happened and just let it be without anyone there holding me up or telling me it will be okay. It dropped me like a stone. But the amazing thing in letting all that out was that it also brought me to a moment of thankfulness because I realize that this whole situation could have been so much worse.

Seeing our baby for the first time together was the best time. Now there’s only so much you can do when your kid is in an isolette, hooked up to a ventilator and multiple wires. You do what you can as new parents. You stare at her perfect nose. Her tiny fingernails. The way her legs continue to kick. You don’t see the tape that is holding the tube that’s going down her throat, helping her breathe. Or the tiny IV in her arm. You tune out all the different beeps even when each individual one scares the hell out of you. You focus on the tiny grip attached to your pinky finger. And you say a prayer that each day will get better.

I feel closer with my wife now. Both of our lives have changed drastically. But I have found that holding her hand feels stronger. Watching her cup the baby’s head and feet so that she feels safe in her artificial environment. That’s just her doing what she can as a mom. Right now. There’s a big sense of pride in knowing just how lucky I am that she’s the one I’m experiencing this scary thing with. She’s just as terrified as I am, yet shows strength in ways that are truly amazing.

Our days for the next several weeks will consist of daily drives to the hospital. Not a day has been missed and won’t be until she comes home. And the days are getting easier. She has made many positive strides medically that indicate in time, she will be just fine. In these situations, nothing is a guarantee but we have yet had a day where it looks insurmountable. Take one positive and climb on top until the next positive comes along. I’ve learned that it’s the only way to think. Any other way will simply break you.

Next: NICU

Delivery

I remember walking into the OR, completely oblivious to anyone or anything. I saw people standing but they didn’t look like people. More like people you see in dreams. Faceless people or people you can see but are blurry. I had to walk to Court from her feet to her head to get past the curtain to see her face. I didn’t see much, just the top of her stomach that seemed like it was flapping in the breeze. They really should think about a different strategic path for fathers to take for c-sections.

I got to her head and I could immediately tell she was just a bit loopy. I could also look in her eyes and see the fear. I could see how quickly this has all happened for her and how uncertain she was feeling. It was difficult to fight back emotion, and let me tell you this: A runny nose and a surgical mask do not mix at all. It’s gross. No, for real.

We talked for a bit and tried to keep conversation as normal as possible. I’m not sure how normal we felt. It wasn’t like I’m asking her, “So when you’re done here, you want to go get a pizza?”. I remember Court telling my welling eyes that it would be okay when I heard the surgeon say, “We’re ready.” They transfer our girl directly behind me to another table where a team of more doctors do what they do.

Courtney starts telling me to turn around and look at her. My eyes were stuck on my wife. I physically couldn’t turn around. I was terrified to find out anything bad. All I knew was that she’s twelve weeks early. I wasn’t sure what a 28 week baby looks like and having to relay something bad back to her, I was not prepared for or even thought about.

I started with small glances like I was testing the water temperature in a pool. Ten fingers. Ten toes. Two eyes. Ears. Check, check, check , and check. The doctor asked me if I wanted to take a picture. I stood up and turned to find this tiny, tiny baby there with eyes wide open. Not crying, she was just there staring. I took a couple of pictures, one more good stare and sat back down.

Court asked me how she looked. I showed her the pictures and we cried. She demanded that I go with our baby when it was time. We had a small back and forth about that but of course I agreed to go with the baby. The doctor said that she would hold the baby up to Court’s face for a few seconds before leaving. For almost three seconds, Court was face to face with our daughter. Then they were gone.

Next thing I know, I’m in an elevator with our baby and a team of doctors but without my wife. It just didn’t feel like we just had a baby. The fact that she didn’t get to hold her kept racing in my mind.

After watching them get the baby in the room and all set up for various monitors, they had me go out in the waiting room. Evidently I nodded okay and found myself back out in the waiting area. This is where I’m bombarded with everyone asking about the name. Turns out, when Court was wheeled through to go to her room, she told everyone that I would announce the name. I smiled because she knew I wouldn’t without her and she got herself off the hook with the questions. Then it turned from the name to wanting pictures. Just so you know, Trying to forward pictures to everyone is not high on the list for a five minute old dad who’s baby is on one floor and wife on another.

All I wanted was to get to my wife and make sure she’s okay. We needed to be together. To make this as normal as any early delivery can be I guess.

After I had some time with Court back in the room, we had everyone come in for a moment to announce the name. It felt bittersweet. We waited nine, strike that, six months to reveal her name and yet we weren’t going to get to enjoy that moment of introduction ( cue The Lion King music). We missed out on me cutting the cord. Court holding her for the first time after delivery. I never felt her kick while in her stomach. Things like that. Bittersweet.

But I knew that the moment where it will be the three of us will be coming soon. Probably with monitors and wires but that doesn’t matter. It’s my family.

Mine.

And with all we didn’t get to do or experience, we closed out this intense September 5th day in the best possible way. We switched from just us to being parents of this super tiny person that will bring us moments we haven’t even begun to imagine.

Next: September 6th And Everything After

High Risk

We walked out of the building to the car and had a small moment of just staring at each other. She’s trying to hold it together for me as I am for her. We called our moms and shared the news. They both were going to come up. We also called our closest friend and she dropped everything and headed up as well.

We got checked in and got to the room. She changed and was hooked up to some monitors. They had trouble finding the heartbeat. We could hear it if the nurse was pressing on the monitor against her stomach. It was silent when she let go. That’s a lot of swelling. I sat on the couch not trying to move as if that would help with the situation. It’s all I could come up with at the time. Don’t move a muscle.

Soon the high risk ultrasound tech came in to do her thing. She wasn’t finding much movement. The image was also unclear due to the fact that the amniotic fluid was low. She kept a pretty calm demeanor and basically said that she would show these to the high risk doctor. Well that doesn’t sound good. That sounds like the doctor is about to come in and deliver bad news. If only I could become more still.

Our doctor calls literally right before she’s heading out for vacation to inform us that the tests she’s seen do not look good and that a c-section is being scheduled for Saturday. She tells Court this. Of course, Court starts crying and I get on the phone. The doctor explains everything to me, except the “c-section on Saturday” part. I get off the phone not as terrified until my wife shares that extra bit of information. Now I can’t keep still to save my life.

Our moms and best friend arrive and we get to share the good news. Sometimes people surprise you with how strong they can show themselves to be. Especially those who I know were just as terrified as we were. She knows who she is and it’s what we needed. I can’t thank her enough.

The high risk doctor came in with a very matter of fact approach. She explains that she simply doesn’t like what she sees in the ultrasound and in Court with her blood pressure and swelling. Not necessarily with swelling in general but how fast the swelling has come on. We found out that there is absolutely no amniotic fluid protecting the baby. The placenta was deteriorating, limiting the nutrition for the baby. She also explains that the baby hasn’t been growing for two weeks. She was slowly dying. It was at this moment when the doctor said, “So we are going to go get her now.”

Now.

Then the reality of the moment hits me when the doctor explained that the baby “Has a much better chance out here than in there.”

My mind starts racing. ‘I haven’t called work yet. What about the dogs? Do I get to be with her in the operating room? What time is it? She’s too early. I’m about to be a dad? Really, what time is it?’

One thing that was funny was the conversation Court had with one of the nurses. Court went on about how we weren’t ready; that we didn’t have the furniture yet. Or clothes, or bottles, etc. She expected to have this kid and be home that night. The nurse assured her, “Honey, she will be here for quite some time and she has everything she needs right here.”

“Oh, right.”

Soon after hearing that the delivery was just around the corner, a team of what seemed like thirty (five or six) came in and was getting her ready for surgery. They toss me my paper scrubs and let me know that once they are done they are taking her down, with or without me. Meaning, “get your paper clothes on now.”

They finished and gave us a moment in the room before we made our way to the OR. Those that were in the room all grabbed hands and her mom said a small prayer. I remember my prayer vividly. All I kept saying was the word please. Over and over.

As she was wheeled away through the waiting area, we saw many friends and family already there ready to support us. It’s a memory I’ll always have.

I had to wait back a bit before I was allowed back to be with Court. Tears mixed with nervous laughter mixed with sheer terror filled me for 20 minutes. More than that, this was the first time since picking her up at 11:20 that morning that I wasn’t with my wife.

Maybe the toughest thing to write about with this whole story might be what my next thought process was: What if something happens to Court? This is life and we all know how it’s not fair and how it can sometimes care less about what we want. It was a thought that terrified me. One minute she’s here, then she’s not. I tried not dwelling on it but it’s difficult not to. I remember saying to myself, “I just got her. Please.”

Thankfully, we all know she was fine and made it through. It doesn’t make that fear any less significant. I now need to remind her that she can’t hold that moment against me for leverage in the future.

Those 20 minutes felt like 20 years as well as 20 seconds. A surgical nurse walks out and asks, “Are you ready?” It’s a good thing I nodded yes because I’m pretty sure my face said, “You’re either insane or drunk”.

Up Next: Delivery

Appointment

Ready or not…

Our daughter was born 12 weeks early at 1 pound 15 ounces.

I’ve had burgers bigger than that.

I’m not sure how this post as a whole will come together. I’ve decided to write it in parts. I’m not sure of the pace or structure. I’m only sure of the intent. I hope you stick it out with me.

I’ve been to every doctor appointment since finding out we were expecting. I just felt I needed to be there. In those appointments, I’ve gotten to be in the room for an awkward Pap smear. Awkward (for me) conversation involving stretching and comfortable positions for the next 9 months. Ahem. For some reason though, I didn’t think I would go to appointment #7. We were at the point where there wasn’t much going on. It became a “check vitals, doctor asking about diet and pain, I’ll see you in two weeks” kind of thing. Pretty standard procedure. I left for work on September 5th, telling her I would probably skip this one. She agreed and said it was no big deal. No ultrasound, she understood.

The appointment was at 11:30am and around 10am I texted her and told her that I had decided to go. No real reason other than I had gone to all of them. I kind of liked the streak and the bonus points. In appointments past, I would pick her up since she works really close to the hospital. I asked her if we could just meet at the hospital this time, that I needed to get back to a busy work day. She agreed. I was on my way around 11am and texted her again, telling her I’ve decided to pick her up. Again, it’s what we do.

We get to the appointment and our nurse is the best. She’s funny, always making us laugh. A great personality that always made visits enjoyable. Court needed to go to the bathroom and did as I went and sat down in the room. She came in and we talked about nothing. Everything was normal like it had been many times before. Then it became not so normal until it became terrifying.

About ten minutes later our nurse walks in and in the calmest voice, which was very unusual for her, said, “I don’t want to alarm you, but we may be checking you into the hospital right now.”

Ton of bricks for two please?

The nurse explained that this is being done right now so that they can get her blood pressure back under control so that preeclampsia won’t become a big factor.

My wife immediately starts blaming herself. Crying. Going through the whole “I should have done this, I’ve should have done that” thing. All I’m thinking is 28 weeks. 28 weeks.

Our nurse leaves and the doctor comes in. She’s pretty much a no nonsense kind of doctor. Fast forwarding just a bit when my wife was needing to stay a few extra days in the hospital due to her blood pressure, our doctor literally said, “well, your body just needs to get its shit together.” Who doesn’t love that doctor? Anyway, she comes in and basically says we need to get to the hospital and get Court on a monitor, get her blood pressure back to normal so that we won’t have to deliver this baby this weekend.

I don’t think I processed what she said. All I knew was that we were at 28 weeks. I wasn’t hearing what was being said. I had a Champ Kind moment.

“No…It’s the pancake breakfast. We do it every month.”

I just kept thinking it was impossible. We still have 12 weeks left. We will go and get her blood pressure down, see an ultrasound to show that the baby is hanging out all healthy and will be home that night.

One interesting fact. Our doctor set this particular appointment up a week early because she was going on vacation the afternoon of the 5th. We weren’t even suppose to be there for that appointment. This normal appointment where I wasn’t going to pick her up or even show up for.

Now we are checking into the hospital for a possible emergency delivery. And a pair of the widest eyes ever known to man.

Next post: High Risk

The Most Clinical Announcement Ever

With this cake in front of us…

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and roughly 60 sets of staring eyes, we cut into this thing and both were shocked. Then things took a turn to awkward when I had a nervous, weird moment of clarity and clinical discovery and proclaimed to the audience that we were in fact having a vagina.

I don’t know why I said it either.

So yeah, our girl is coming and I’m already scared for our bank account with the way Court has been eyeing baby clothes. And the fact that I’m closer than I’ve ever been with buying a shotgun. I figure it’s never too early to perfect my “get off my lawn” pose. A shotgun should do it.

Which Kind Do You Want?

Short post.

We find out on tomorrow if we will have a little pee-pee or not. Well, not technically. We are actually having one of those reveal parties on Saturday. The kind were you open big box of balloons or cut a cake to see the color representing the sex. We are doing cake because balloons aren’t as delicious.

Having a boy or girl doesn’t mean all that much. At first it was girl. Then it switched to a boy in the past couple weeks or so. Not sure why. Then I thought why be choosy? They will both probably poop on my arm or pee on my face at least once. Then the fact of whether or not they have a pee-pee doesn’t mean a whole lot.

I want the one with less poop. Is there a test for that?