The Strange and Wonderful Creature had a birthday this week. Ten years
We hadn't slept much the night before. Tracy had a scheduled
inducement early in the morning, and that appointment kept us awake
better than Xander ever would. We played Scrabble, talked, prepared,
re-checked all our luggage, the car seat, gas in the car...anything.
We left early to get to the hospital. As we left the apartment we
were living in, we bumped into our next-door neighbors who we didn't see
much of. The man said, "So, what's new with you guys?"
Sometimes the comedy gods are giving, I turned and pointed at
Tracy, who was obviously pregnant, and said, "Eh, nothing much." They
congratulated us, talked happily, helped me load the car with the
suitcases, CD player, whatever else.
We got to the hospital. We had been told to be there at, I think,
7:30 AM. No later. I suppose they may have held the threat of making
Tracy wait another month if we were late - don't really recall. Of
course, when we got there, we had to wait for quite some time and had to
refill all the paperwork we had done before for a pre-check in, to save
us all the time we then used to refill in everything again as we waited.
We finally got a room, got settled in. When they hooked Tracy up to
the monitor, it turns out she had started labor at some point. Gotta say
this - these doctors knew timing. She got in bed, hooked up to monitors,
tubes, what have you.
I practiced looking calm and staying out of the way. Best training
We had mixed up some CDs to play while we waited for our son. I
asked where I could plug up the CD player, and a nurse said, "Oh
anywhere. Unplug something." Um? Ma'am, we're getting ready for our
first child in a completely all new experience for us - I'm not
unplugging ANYTHING without your express permission, the okay of the
attending doctor, and if it's not too much trouble, a signed statement
from the CEO.
I needed more practice at looking calm.
Time went on. Tracy's family and mine came in the room, kept us
company. One of the nieces really enjoyed watching the monitor and
telling Tracy when she was having a contractions. I'm not sure Tracy
needed the confirmation, but it was awfully cute. For me, anyway.
It started to get more serious and most people were ushered out of
the room. Pushing in earnest commenced. I did my part, holding her
hand, telling her she was doing fine, all that stuff you find yourself
relegated to here.
Xander had decided to start his life of making ours interesting and
wouldn't move. We could see his hair, but that was all he deigned to
show us. So Tracy was scheduled for a C-section. They wheeled her out
to get her there, I went to update everyone what was going on, came back
to the empty room. While I was gone, they had dropped off the George
Clooney ER Halloween disguise package of surgical scrubs.
I soon discovered it was very difficult to put on scrubs by yourself
if you've never done it before. Requiring double-jointedness and a third
arm for the ties in the back was the least of my problems - I had a time
figuring out how to put the hairnet on and the mask and leave enough room
for my glasses without them slipping off the green cloth over my nose.
And then once I had reached a cautious victory there, my breath would
steam up my glasses, making me blind and badly dressed.
Then I had to wait. And wait. And wait some more. I did a casual,
nonchalant stroll out of the room now and again to let me people see me
and know that here was dad, just waiting for the call. Here I am. Over
here. Don't know what good I'll be, but here I am to do it.
They came for me in what seemed to be a little over twelve hours and
pulled me to surgery, the nurse kindly and roughly adjusting my
mismatched and badly done clothes into some semblance of correct and
functional. As we entered the room he pulled me back by my mask to fix
it, an awkward motion on all our parts, but I could see again, so all to
the good. Otherwise there was a chance I would have tried to comfort a
machine instead of my wife.
They sat me by her, we talked, I resisting making jokes for the most
part. They operated on her, and after a short time (after all the long
times we had had), Xander was born.
He didn't cry. Tracy mentioned that. "I can't hear him," she said.
I walked over to where they had placed him.
They were working on him pretty frantically. I stood as out of the
way as I could, watched them, went back and told my wife he was fine,
they were getting him ready and testing his breathing, that was why she
couldn't hear him.
He had swallowed some of the mucus in the birth canal before, and
they had to clear it out of his mouth, which was why he didn't cry. But
he didn't cry much in the hospital anyway. At one point they had to slap
his feet over and over to get a reaction, and he balled up his first, and
one of his new nieces asked if he was going to hit the nurse.
Knowing him as I do now, probably not. Maybe.
Because of the C-section and his troubles, we stayed for a few days.
The first room they were going to move Tracy to was a shared one, with a
younger woman who had her first baby and, apparently, a WHOLE LOT of
friends to share the news with. The nurses had grown to like Tracy and
me, Tracy because she's Tracy and they were impressed with the music CD's
she had mixed, me because I stayed out of the way and did what I was
told. Husband training came in useful. They could see Tracy was tired,
and elected to move her to a ward room with only one other woman in there
where she could get more rest. But because of that, I couldn't stay
overnight with her. Her mom stayed over, I was allowed in once or twice
to check on her, and I ended up finding a dark spot in the Delivery
Waiting room and catnapping as much as I could, waking up now and again
to go see my son through the window. He was hooked to a machine to
monitor him and slept a lot. Unlike today, both machine and slumber.
The next night we were moved to a private room and Xander got to
spend some time with us. I had my first experience changing a diaper.
Extra wet wipes, guys. MANY of them.
Tracy was exhausted and Xander was unhappy, so I stood up and walked
with him up and down the room, singing to him "Bad Day" by Fuel, over and
over. "Had a bad day again/She said you would not understand/Slammed the
door and said I'm Sorry, I/Had a bad day again." Up and down, over and
It was a busy first week. Xander wouldn't gain weight, so we were
placed on a two hour feeding schedule. This is exhausting for everyone.
Start at midnight, feed the child for, say, fifteen minutes. Calm him
down, calm us down, go to sleep for, say, hour and a half. Wake up.
Wake the child up. Calm him down. Feed him. What took fifteen is now
forty-five. Get him back to sleep - one hour. Try to go back to sleep
ourselves - twenty minutes. Wake up in forty, lather rinse repeat. I
don't remember too much those days, except Tracy tells me I talked in my
sleep VERY EMPHATICALLY about Harvey Birdman, and Cartoon Network ran a
surreal cartoon about a crocodile in a hot air balloon who flew to France
really early in the 'why-am-I-still-awake' morning. "Monsieur Le
Crocodile!" became a shorthand for us. I was so groggy and
sleep-deprived that when I went out to buy supplies I bought the wrong
size bottle nipples, too big, Kid took one sip and nearly drowned. I
don't think he's forgiven me yet.
Ten years ago. He has changed, and changed us, in so many ways.
In a few ways, and only in a sorta-kinda way, some things haven't
changed. We still have to guess at a lot of what he means when he tries
to talk to us. We still stay up late many nights, waking up every few
hours to check on him. We still watch cartoons.
But - just yesterday he woke up in an awful humor. I'm fighting
yet another bug - just call me Typhoid Brian - and I was trying to sleep
in, but he was so mad he woke me up. I went back to check on them,
Tracy had checked him for fever, nothing. He was jumping and yelling and
pretty much in what could be called a bad mood if you like
understatement. I finally got him to calm down and said, "Look, Buddy,
if you can't tell or show us what's wrong I've gotta assume this is a bad
mood from little sleep and can't help."
He stopped jumping, took my hand, and pressed it to his head.
Happy birthday to us.