Reflections on Immediate Fatherhood (or: “By Golly, I’m a Dad!”)

 

100% posed/staged. Still freakin' precious.
100% posed/staged. Still freakin’ precious.

Conrad Nightstorm Won Bailey was born last Tuesday just before noon.

We call him Stormy.

His projected due date was May 10.

The docs decided it would be best to induce May 3 due to some health concerns for mother and baby.

The morning of the 25th, my wife, Jenny, and I went in for her weekly morning appointment to measure her amniotic fluids, Stormy’s heartbeat, etc. Ever since she had the flu a few weeks back her blood pressure had been slightly elevated. Her baseline is ridiculously low (compared to mine, anyway) so “slightly elevated” actually means “normal” for others. My dear wife is extraordinary in so many ways.

Anyway, there’s been a running fear of preeclampsia. Jenn never exhibited any other symptoms except for her slightly elevated BP, so we never worried. However, there was something different about that morning.

After the appointment, we drove home and I was getting ready to suit up for work. Jenn got a call from her OBGYN and then another from the lady who helps her at her weekly appointments. It was recommended she go into the hospital for observation. We were told it could only be a couple hours or much more, depending on what they’d find.

One pee and one blood test later, findings urged the docs to decide to proceed with induction.

Stormy was coming a week earlier than planned and two full weeks earlier than initially projected – I’ve since learned that’s fairly common among mothers in my varying social circles.

We were moved from the triage level to the maternity ward. Jenn and I each texted our respective friends and families that we should be expecting a new Bailey within 24 hours or so.

Now, not trying to get too far into the weeds here, but pregnancy, birth, etc – holy shit, it’s a messy, traumatic business.

A woman’s body goes through many, many changes as it prepares to deliver a baby. Over the millennia, as women have given birth to propagate our species, the smarties in scrubs have been able to document and analyze birth activity so well that they basically know what’s going to be happening each week leading up to term.

So, since Jenny wasn’t experiencing anything but Higgs-Boson contractions up to that point, her cervix had only dilated a little bit. The docs were going to need to try and manually jimmy that hatch open so the fetal soul who would be our son could escape his amniotic prison.

They used a, uh…balloon. Not the kind you get at a circus or the State Fair, but you know; one of those medical balloon thingies. Maybe it had a smiley face on it, I’ll never know.

The experts predicted it’d take all night for it to do its job. It took only a few hours, well before midnight Monday.

And so the IV drip of…not Percocet…whatever the induction drug is; that began. And then the REAL contractions started coming and it was killing me watching Jenn in such pain.

She’s also had a lingering cough since her bout with the flu a while back and during the last few weeks of pregnancy had developed this crazy itch which the nurses said would be cured by delivery (not DiGiorno, sadly (pregnancy pizza party with pizzazz!).

Close to midnight she called in the epidural and before too long she was sitting pretty as ever, with a ghastly needle deftly jammed into her spine dripping in sweet, sweet painkilling medication. She and I both were finally able to get a little bit of sleep when the faulty epi-alarm wasn’t going off.

Before we knew it morning had broken and so had her water, some time during the night.

At 0900 it was decided it was time to start pushing, and it actually started about 5 after.

Dawn, our nurse, assigned me the task of counting Jenn through the contractions. Since she was numb from the waist down, they needed to monitor the contractions on some birth computer thing. Not too long into the process Jenn could begin to feel the pressure of the contraptions (ed. note: Contractions…there were no contraptions to speak of.) – not the pain, but the pressure, which, ironically, could be painful to a point in and of itself.

With each contraction I held on tightly to Jenn’s hand and counted like a motherfucker. We had music playing from her phone – a Mozart-inspired list she had found. After looping a few times I recommended The Piano Guys. She had forgotten about them – she wanted soothing music…so I pulled up a couple of their albums on my phone and started playing them.

Before we knew it, Stormy’s hairy little head was visible just within the…uh…flaps? He wasn’t crowning quite yet, but the docs would part something down there and say, “He’s a hairy little guy!” or something to that effect.

More pushing, more counting and breathing, more Piano Guys starting to loop, and then Dawn suggested the Rocky soundtrack. Jenn said it’d be fine (she had more important things to worry about than the soundtrack of her delivery (again, not DiGiorno; sigh)) and so I quickly spun up The Rocky Story album and Eye of the Tiger kicked in.

Stormy didn’t.

After coursing through that song, There’s No Easy Way Out and Hearts On Fire, I was hoping he’d come out to the tune of Gonna Fly Now.

Li’l sucker took his sweet time getting out though.

One or two album loops later, though, he finally emerged to the tune of motherfuckin’ EYE OF THE TIGER. Damn straight! Winning!

But damn…oh my Jesus…first seeing his hoary cranium crown…THAT was weird…and it slowly, slowly emerging…I was back by Jenn’s side so I didn’t get…everything (and I’m okay with that). But wow. With every push session, with every sequence of counting that eventually turned into just, “Holy cow, babe! You got this! You got this! Holy shit, he’s coming! YOU’VE GOT THISSSSSS!!!”

And then…out he came, into this broken, sad, but still functioning world. As hairy as a model and as loud as a banshee. I seriously thought I was watching an alien autopsy, first impression.

But no…it was our son.

Stormy had arrived.

And I’m tearing up like a little baby myself as I type these very words.

He’s our little miracle.

Why, with all the other couples out there, should we have a fully functioning human baby with no grave or ill concerns?

And yet his breathing was a little labored and grunty, as one of the nurses put it. His air sacs were having a little trouble developing, but dang, he could wail.

I cut the cord, they cleaned him up and gave him to Jenny.

I’ll never forget how that precious little soul cried from the shock of transitioning from somewhere so safe, warm, and secure as my wife’s womb to this cruel, yet wonderful realm of existence we call earth.

His chin quivered with the intensity of each declaration of, “I’M HERE AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON, BUT LET’S GET ON WITH IT ALREADY!!”

A week and some change later he still quivers that chin when he’s getting real.

He…that seven pound little human…he has changed everything.

The first couple of nights were the worst.

The whole feeding thing; why is he crying?; oh my god, did I just kill him? All this and much, much more was running through our heads – still is to a point.

They – whoever they are (some who know, some who don’t) – said everything would change.

But geez. I mean, wow.

Sleep? Yeah, when you can – when he is and when you’re not paranoid about whether or not SIDS will take him.

Did you read my last post? How it’s all poignant and trying to sound enlightened and whatnot? Bruh – it’s…it contains truth, but when you defenestrate the textbook – so to speak – and are suddenly hands-on with a precious little fussy, waily, dude who farts like a man and pees like a sprinkler at all hours…it’s different.

I don’t want to say it all goes out the window, per se. A lot of it does, but not everything.

The core knowings versus the pervasive feelings.

The main thing that keeps us alive is that we know neither of us are in this alone. Stormy is both our responsibility.

And what helps cement that is putting each other’s needs above that of our newborn.

That’s not to say I’m advocating any kind of neglect or anything; but let the kid wail just a second longer so you can give your spouse an extra squeeze or kiss and let her know everything will be fine.

A few weeks back, I can’t remember who the guest was, but whoever he was on Pete Holmes’ You Made It Weird podcast (I think it was Tom Papa or Adam Conover), when Pete asks him the greatest lesson you’ve learned from family, the guest’s answer is:

“Kiss your wife before you kiss your kids.”

I’ve taken that to ever-lovin’ heart.

I think I’ve missed it only once, but otherwise whenever I return from running errands, I make it a point to hug and kiss my good lovin’ mama before acknowledging our firstborn. He can’t comprehend anything yet; it’s fine and once he can I’ll adapt accordingly to help him preserve his own self-worth. Just don’t mess with mom and dad, kid. We’re your secure relationship. Mess with that you’re only screwing yourself.

…geez…they’re all blending together.

After the weekend, I think, one night I was about 20 hours deep with only 2-3 hours of sleep powering me and I found myself thinking nefarious things when Stormy was fussing during his myriad diaper changes: kicking the bandage off his recovering weenie; squirming away from the diaper; pulling himself away from the diaper; just being a real grade-A a-hole.

Now, don’t get me wrong: rationally I know the poor little guy is just acting on instinct and I have little clue as to how I’m affecting him, what he’s feeling on the inside (turns out a fair amount of gas pain, poor kid), and how that all mishmashes up within causing him such apparent turmoil.

But when you’re running on fumes and your emotions are raw, rationality has no place in such circumstances.

Thing is, I’m blessed/cursed with such self-awareness that I knew exactly what was happening, but I didn’t have the energy to act on it, save from actually acting on the frustration and annoyance consuming me.

Bless her dear sweet heart, Jenn could see I was cranky and told me to take five…hours. I crashed and she watched dear li’l Nightstorm.

Shoot…even now, I can still feel his wee li’l head snuggling up under my chin when I’m burping him and my crusty heart goes all aflutter. I can feel him grasping, hear him crying, me trying to reassure and soothe him with words and noises that the paste I’m dabbing on his wee heinie is for his own good; that alcohol wipes around his wormwoody umbilical cord remnant are to help him and that it really isn’t a big deal, but like I said…he can literally barely comprehend shit itself.

And then my graceful, gracious wife nearly lost her cool with our precious bundle of potential menace today. I told her to take five and she finally did.

And like, this is great; we’re both really seeing each other pull through for each other in what feels like impossible binds. When she allows me some extra sleep or vice versa, upon waking from that sleep we’re so grateful that we express it in such a way we’re reduced to tears.

I like to think that such visceral reactions to what should be common displays of affection and love mean we’re all three going to make it; and how.

Then again, with love, displays are never common; if it’s true.

At this point we’re just starting to find our groove.

Tonight a handful of her closest friends who happen to also be mothers are visiting.

I drove out to my dayjob office to pick up a couple things and to take the time to catch up on my writing/blogging.

Ha! Silly me thought that while I’m on paternity leave I’d have time to work on The Golem’s Curse. Turns out, it’s looking like I’m not going to make the deadline for the contest for MyRodeReel2016.

This year I’m transitioning out of the Navy, into the Air Guard, into school with the post-9/11 GI Bill, editing a film I shot in February, trying to kickstart my local commercial production business, and support my wife and now-child.

Doable, but not easy at all.

But definitely worth it.

 

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