And then there was vagina

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When people asked if we were going to find out the sex of our second child, I would answer with “Sarah decided she wants it to be a surprise, which means I have to let it be a surprise too,” or some other blame-it-on-the-wife variation. I acted spiteful, as if the future of civilization depended on her foolish decision to not utilize everything that modern sci-medicine has to offer. I would have loved to have little sound-waves bouncing off the life form within Sarah’s belly, then to be represented in a digital image on the monitor. I wanted to know if the baby would have an inny or an outie, and it should have been my right to find out.

The complete truth, however, was that I was content with the decision. At the end of the day, the mantra was “healthy baby, healthy baby, healthy baby.

Three months ago, Sarah and I went to the hospital to have a baby, via scheduled c-section. It was a surreal experience when compared to the mood of Tyler’s birth. We were relaxed and ready. We filled out paperwork, we joked, we spoke with the nurses. They told us what to expect, when to expect it, and the general plan for the morning. Tyler was asleep at home in the care of his Aunt, while we calmly prepared for the next major chapter of our lives.

Now, this is the part where a person would say that they were freaking the f*** out inside. That they were acting strong for their spouse. That they were in a near panic at the impending financial strains, the journey into the unknown, and everything else in life that comes with having another poop-machine.

But your friendly neighborhood Irrational Dad was content with it all. I’ll admit that my fingernails were all chewed to a mutilated mess, but that could have been for any number of reasons.

Soon, they took my wife away to be prepped for surgery. I took the time to update my Facebook status.

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After I put the mask, gloves, and gown on, they let me in the room. I sat next to Sarah as she lie on the table, and grasped her hand. I asked her if she was ready to have a baby, and she started crying.

“Are you okay?”

“This just isn’t how I wanted to do this. On a surgery table. I just wish I could have tried to have this baby naturally.”

We talked for a few minutes about the circumstances while the doctors finished their prep. I told her to that we will control what we can control, and deal with everything else. I reminded her that we were finally going to meet our new little one in just a few more minutes. We smiled and kissed each other.

The anesthesiologist tapped my shoulder and asked if I wanted to see what the doctors were doing. With Tyler’s birth, I was so petrified at the thought of my wife being bifurcated that I didn’t dare look. Curiosity cured my fear on this day. I looked to see them placing rubber rings, or gaskets, or something in the incision to hold her open. She explained what they were doing, and was a conduit of information for this strange world my brain was processing. Somewhere, I heard someone say something. I’m fairly certain it was our mid-wife.

“Remember, they do not know the sex of the baby.”

A few voices quietly spoke at once.

“They don’t know the sex?”

“It’s a surprise?”

“They didn’t find out?”

Suddenly, I felt proud of Sarah’s decision to not find out. Although I protested, I was a part of the unique few that laugh in the face of modern sci-medicine. I flipped the bird to the ultrasound machine. I stuck it to the medicine man!

The anesthesiologist asked, “Are you ready? They put the last ring (maybe she said gasket) in; just a couple more seconds.”

Just a moment later, I saw my baby’s head. It was time. Right in front of my face was a new life. A beautiful precious little life. An instant later, the body was free and the doctor held my baby up.

The doctor proudly, loudly, and confidently said “Call it, dad.”

My eyes exploded in a flood of tears. I looked to Sarah and told her, “It’s a girl. She’s beautiful.”

“A girl?? We have a girl?”

Sarah cried… a lot.

So did I.

I cut the cord, more as a symbolic gesture than of an actual life saving measure, and held my baby girl. As we waited for mom to recover, I told her about all the people that will love her. I told her about her amazing big brother, and I warned her against “making eyes” at any of her big brother’s friends. We talked for an hour or so, just dad and daughter, about anything I could think of. She didn’t understand a damned thing, of course, and was likely wondering where the nearest boob was for her to suck on. Nonetheless, it was during this time that I discovered that my love didn’t divide between her and Tyler, it multiplied.

So here I am, preparing to raise a girl in the most perfect way possible. I have to find a balance between naive and someone that boys say “has daddy issues”. And I wonder… will I be that dad? The one who is conveniently cleaning his guns when his daughter brings a boy home? The dad that gives the uncomfortably strong handshake to her prom date and talks about respect? Will I be the “you are out of your MIND if you think you’re going out dressed up like that, now get your hind end upstairs and put some clothes on” dad?

Check, check, and check.

It Started with a Text Message

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Tunnel vision, in medical terms, is the loss of peripheral vision with retention of central vision, resulting in a constricted circular tunnel-like field of vision. In layman’s terms, something has drawn your focus and you see nothing else. When you hit a patch of ice, sending your car on an intersecting path with a telephone pole, you don’t see the field or the cows or the barn. You only see the immovable object that will shortly send you and your family to the hospital. That is tunnel vision.

On a very recent afternoon, I walked out of a business meeting feeling very well about it. As I retreived my phone to turn the ringers on again, I looked first to the icons on the screen. One missed call and two text messages. The missed call was from Sarah. Of course, I thought nothing of it. I usually talk with her and/or Tyler a few times a day. Mostly because Sarah needs to tell me a funny story about our little man, or she’s taking dinner requests (yeah, she’s that awesome, even though I usually leave it up to her judgment), or because Tyler misses his daddy and wants to say “hi.” I pressed the left convenience key on the phone to open up my messages. I didn’t remember stopping in the middle of the parking lot, unable to visually process anything except the first text message. I do remember my next breath because it burned when my diaphragm hitched.

911. Please call.

I’ve always told Sarah to send me a text message if there was ever an emergency. It seems that text messages and emails always come through my phone, even when I have no cell signal. If I miss a phone call while I’m in an area with no service, I’ll never know you called unless you leave a voicemail. And even then, the voicemail notification doesn’t show up until I’ve been in a service area for a while. A text message sits on the airwaves for up to three days, waiting for the phone to turn on or enter a service area. So, I explained to Sarah that with all the driving I do to sometimes very rural areas, a text mesage is the most reliable way to reach me, especially in an emergency. I also never answer the phone when I’m in front of a customer, but I do glance at the screen when messages come in. Just. In. Case.

And here I was, three hours from home, looking at a text message that I’ve never seen before. My initial reaction was one of confusion. Pure confusion.

And then, fear.

I pressed and held the “S” button on my phone, the screen read “Calling Sarah… Connected.” My earpiece beeped twice, signalling that it was connected, via bluetooth, to my phone, and then began ringing in my ear. I viewed the second text message as my earpiece rang a second time.

She picked up before the third ring. I inquired almost before Sarah could finish saying “hello.”

After the last few months of cold and dreary weather, the 40ºf (4ºc) temperature this particular afternoon felt very nice. Sarah, Tyler, and Delilah all walked to the park to play in the mild weather. Some previous park-goers left a basketball there. While playing with this basketball, Tyler fell hard, and face-first, on the concrete. He began screaming before even attempting to raise his head. Sarah ran to Tyler as he lifted his head.

“Joe, there was blood everywhere.”

She carried him to the stroller in a run, remaining calm on the exterior, for Tyler. Internally, every other bad feeling and emotion swirled violently. Tyler continued to scream while blood flowed down his face. Sarah opened her water bottle and poured it on his face, hoping to both see the wound and gauge its severity. His nose and uper lip were were lacerated. She watched his upper lip inflate as more blood flowed from inside Tyler’s mouth. Delilah thought she was in trouble when Sarah yelled at her to “come,” and was slow and hesitant in returning. Very quickly, she leashed Delilah and buckled Tyler in his stroller. The trek home was paced somewhere between a speedwalk and a jog. She very desperately wanted to break into a full run, but that would allow the panic overtake the control she was barely able to keep a grasp onto. Knowing she was completely helpless for the moment, Sarah could do nothing more than mentally run through scenarios and options, and tell Tyler that he would be okay.

Sarah finished her story as I drove. They were presently snuggling together on the couch, watching Bolt, while Sarah held an ice pack to Tyler’s mouth. The bleeding was under control shortly after they arrived home. Tyler cut the inside of his lip really bad, but not stitches-worthy. His nose and the area under was also scraped and cut. All that in addition to a very swollen lip made a very sad sight. I pushed and pulled on his teeth when I got home that evening, to make sure he didn’t knock them loose. Tyler pointed to his lip (as if I wouldn’t have noticed it otherwise) and said “ouch.”

The next morning, I deleted the two texts.

911. Please call
Nevermind. I think we’re ok.

Daddy’s Gonna Get It (ear updates)

Tyler’s ear surgery was yesterday at 6:45a. I won’t detail the conversation Sarah and I had regarding the audacity of an outpatient surgery center being open before eight in the morning, but we sure weren’t saying nice things about needing to get up and around WITH A BABY so early. 

We got there just a few minutes early. The receptionist had to keep her distance because she was pregnant and the smell of coffee makes her puke. To reward ourselves for getting up and around so early, Sarah and I treated ourselves to some Starbucks (read: insanely overpriced normal coffee with a million calories). With the coffee cups sitting on the counter, the receptionist took off like she owed us money. Very shortly after, we were called into the pre-op area. I wish I had brought my camera, because Tyler looked freakin’ adorable in his hospital gown. Without an ounce of shyness (or respect for other people’s space) Tyler crawled into the room next to ours – where there was another couple with a baby waiting for the same procedure – and started playing with toys that were not his.

We met the anesthesiologist (my WPM dropped to around 2 while trying to type that word), who explained to us that they would be putting a mask on Tyler so that he would breathe in some type of gas mixture. He would quickly fall asleep and would not need any IVs. A very nice nurse came to take Tyler away at 7:30. We went back to the waiting room and tried to pass the time by reading a book (Sarah) and getting caught up on work emails (me). Sarah read two pages and I sent 3 emails when the doctor came out to tell us that they were done and that Tyler was in recovery, in the process of waking up.

”Done? Already?”

”Yes,” the doctor said. He continued to tell us that his left ear looked good and that his right ear had a lot of “goop” in it. They cleaned both ears out before putting the tubes in. He also told us that Tyler took to the anesthesia very well. I can’t say I fully understand what that means or why he told us, but I couldn’t help but to be proud. Tyler, if you ever read this, good job on your gas induced loss of consciousness; we couldn’t be prouder of the fact that the gas did exactly what it was supposed to do to you. In the doctor’s defense, he did clarify a bit by saying that he was just looking around (i.e. not being a hell-spawn child who thrashes around and fights off the gas mask) and then closed his eyes when they put the mask over his mouth.

A few minutes later, we were called back to see Tyler in the recovery room. Sarah didn’t even have to ask which room it was because she could hear his cries. It took me a couple extra seconds to single his cry out from the other – very few – noises in the hall. Sarah cuddled him up and breastfed him. Poor Tyler had little muscle control and couldn’t lift his head up. I’ve read online that babies tend to be fussy and grumpy after coming out of anesthesia, and Tyler was no exception. I suspect that it has less to do with pain and confusion, and more to do with being really upset that his brain couldn’t make his muscles operate correctly. The little guy’s head just kept flopping backwards and Sarah had to use her hands to pick it back up.

By 8:15, we were on our way home. Tyler stopped crying as soon as the car started moving. He cried for just a bit longer when we got home. I had to get into the office to start work (I decided to work from home this day). Sarah fed Tyler breakfast and very shortly thereafter he was in a fantastic mood. He was a little wobbly on his feet for a bit, but quickly got that under control. Here’s a video of him later that afternoon.

Everything I read says that it’ll be "like having a brand new baby" and, while I can’t completely agree with that statement, there certainly is a level of truth to it. Today, Tyler is walking exponentially better than he was just yesterday. He’s walking in circles, room to room, and even trying to make an attempt at running. He has been in a great mood as well. He’s generally a very happy baby, so it’s hard for me to gauge if there’s a difference.

Periosteum? I barely knew ‘im.


Tyler likes to crawl. I would assume this is the case because it’s the only skill set he has in regards to mobility right now. Until he learns the finer details of bipedalism – balance comes to mind – I am forced to get down to “his level” when we play together.

A couple weeks ago, while on the floor and playing with Tyler, a mischievous little smile danced across his face. Luckily, those looks don’t instill fear in me. Yet. I’m sure the day will come where I’ll find myself in fear of what he had planned or already done. For now though, I had time to register mild curiosity before Tyler charged across the floor and bonked me in the head with his own. I am really not sure who was more amused over the event between the two of us. I said “BONK” while he laughed. Then he gave me that look again. Tyler rocked forward and thumped me again.

”BONK”, I gleefully reported back.

I backed away a few feet, hunkered down on all fours and echoed Tyler’s sly smile. His smile grew larger with each thump, thump, thump of his hands as they marched across the floor towards me.

BONK.

”BONK.”

We played this spin of “cat and mouse” that Tyler developed for about six or seven more BONKs. The light splashed across Tyler’s face just right and I noticed around ten red marks on his forehead. I checked the mirror to see that I had a similar pattern of marks on my forehead. For fear of giving Tyler brain damage, or him doing the same to me, I had to halt the game for the evening. We’ve played this game a few more times – actually, just about every day since the first – and he’s been BONKing me harder and harder each time. Thankfully, I can stop short of saying that it’s painful, but the boy definitely likes to BONK.

A few days ago, I was videotaping some of Tyler’s activities (which I’ll share very soon) when he saw the camcorder on the tripod. Just as I released the camcorder from it, Tyler grabbed the tripod, pulled it over, and BONKed himself real good in the head. Good enough to make him cry. I believe his tears were alligator tears and while I’m sure he was shocked, there’s no way it hurt him based on how hard he had previously been BONKing me in the head.

Yesterday, we were all sitting on the couch. I can sometimes get quite animated when I tell stories to people. I was telling Sarah something about Tyler and stood up while doing all sorts of hand motions to better emphasize my point. Tyler was sitting on the couch, facing the back of it and grabbed for Sarah’s phone. In the split second that we both had our attention diverted, he leaned back. Since he was facing the wrong way, he had nothing to lean back against, aside from air. Unfortunately for everyone involved, air can be displaced quite easily and provides little to no resistance. Imagine a scuba diver who just falls backwards off a boat into the water. Except the water is a floor, the scuba diver is an eight month old baby, and the boat is a couch that is a few feet above sea level. The sound of his head BONKing on the floor stopped my heart cold.

When Tyler hits his head, or gets smacked in the face by Delilah’s tail, a few things happen. First, I try to evaluate the situation and decide whether the incident would likely hurt an eight month old baby or not. Then, I purposely blank my face and look at him indifferently. If he starts crying and I’ve decided that it probably did hurt him, I pick him up and comfort him. If he cries and I’ve decided that – without a doubt – it did not hurt, I tell him, “That didn’t hurt baby boy.” If I’ve decided that it did hurt but he doesn’t cry, I modify my standards for Tyler’s pain threshold, and pretend nothing happened.

I was absolutely certain that this hurt Tyler.

In the times that I’ve observed Tyler with his fake tears and with his real tears, I’ve found that I can judge when he is legitimately hurt about 95% of the time. If he just starts yelling and crying, he’s probably faking it. He did not just yell and cry this time. He did the other thing; the thing that tells me he is really hurt.

It starts with no sound at all. First, he draws his lower lip up and pushes the corners down, into an open-mouthed frown. Then he pushes his bottom lip out into the common “pout” look. After this, he will then take a few hitching breathes while he opens and closes his mouth, ever so slightly, in time with the hitches. At this point, the cries will begin. That pouty face is the signal that he isn’t faking. I know that he’ll soon realize the power behind the pouty look, but I can definitely use it to my advantage for the time being.

Bumps, thumps, bonks, cracks, smacks. All this and no worse for the wear. This parenting this isn’t so bad.

Suck On This – Part II

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When Tyler wakes up in the wee hours between sunset and sunrise (you know the hours. Before parenthood, these would be the hours that you would just be stumbling towards bed, sometimes in a slightly inebriated stupor. These would be the hours that we now cherish as quiet, sleepy time), Sarah takes care of him nine times out of ten. It would be more accurate to say 99 times out of a hundred, but who’s keeping track?

Sometimes, he needs nursies. Other times, he just wakes up and can’t go back to sleep until someone picks his pacifier off the floor and gives it back to him. That cursed (please pronounce it “curs-ed”, not “cursd”, because that’s how I’m saying it as I type it out) pacifier. When Tyler was born, I told EVERYONE that I would rather give Tyler a pacifier than have him be a thumbsucker. My reasoning? Well, because I can take away a pacifier. I can’t take away Tyler’s thumbs. If I could go back and talk to the Joe of seven months ago, I’d slap the white off my own face.

I never considered the flipside of such a scenario. When Tyler falls asleep, his pacifier falls out of his mouth, and ALWAYS drops off his crib to the floor. Upon waking up and realizing his pacifier is not within reach, he will gently call for his parents to come and rectify the situation. If we do not oblige within half a second, he cranks the volume up to 11 until we do so. Many a time have we walked into Tyler’s room to see him reaching through the slats of his crib, looking at us as if to say “What? I tried getting it myself before asking for help.”

Normally, this doesn’t really bother me. Sure, it’s a tad frustrating and a bit of a nuisance, but when I go up there to plug his mouth, it’s usually between 3 or 5 in the afternoon. In the middle of the night, Sarah gets up and tends to him. When a couple sleep in the same bed, the wife will grow accustomed to the husband’s alarm clock going off every morning. Eventually, she won’t even hear it anymore. I can’t exactly say that I don’t hear Tyler yelling, but I hear it in a deep part of my head, and it takes a while to wake me.

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Well, Monday morning, almost simultaneous to my alarm going off, Sarah cried out in pain next to me. We’re both unsure of what exactly happened. She either pulled a muscle in her neck, pinched a nerve, or “something” that would cause severe pain to shoot down her neck and shoulders. Pain so intense that she was sure that she was going to vomit, and actually had to rush – well, as much as a person in that kind of pain can rush – downstairs to the bathroom. After a few moments, it was obvious that she was in no condition to care for Tyler. Feeding him and playing with him would already be quite a chore for her. Picking him up and moving him back to an area where we could keep an eye on him after he crawled into another room and started pounding on Delilah’s crate would be quite another.

We managed to get through the day unscathed, with daddy at the caretaking helm. Sarah and Tyler have their daily routines, and I’m sure I did some things differently, but like I said, all came out fine. He’s still got ten fingers and ten toes, and I’m still breathing, so we won’t talk about the new bruise that is forming next to his right ear.

Tyler was definitely tired when we put him to bed. A few hours later, we heard him crying. I went up to his room to find him sitting upright, just crying. It was a comical sight, and I did laugh. As a matter of fact, I laughed again when I “drew the picture” for Sarah. It wasn’t a big deal, because I hadn’t gone to bed yet. I was simply hanging out, downstairs, watching TV or cruising the information superhighway, I can’t remember which.

Later that night (*cough* one thirty in the morning *cough*), I found my dreams being infiltrated by a strange noise. It almost sounded like…

Screaming? Crying? Is that a baby crying?

“Gimme a break”, I grumbled as I flung the covers off myself. Promptly, I discovered that our house is cold at night! I don’t mean the cold where I need to put on a pair of socks. I’m talking about the cold where I should be wearing a snow suit, over three or four layers of pajamas and shirts, and have all that stuffed with those warm-packs that hunters take with them in sub-zero temperatures. We have one of those smart, energy efficient thermostats. At night, it drops down to 62ºf (17ºc) and I’m here to tell you that the piece of junk is defective. It was cold enough to make a polar bear migrate south. Sarah said that she had just finished breastfeeding Tyler, so he probably just needed his paci. That was fine with me, because I wanted to get under the snuggly covers again as quickly as possible.

“Of course he does”, I thought, as I quickly walked as quietly as I could, or quietly walked as quickly as I could, “Why couldn’t he just be a thumb sucker?”

I walked into his room to see him standing up in his crib, pacifier in mouth, crying. I kept thinking, “I have to be awake in four hours. I have to give a two hour presentation today. And he’s crying just because he doesn’t want to sleep?” *sigh*

I put him back to bed and tucked him in. After listening to him cry for another fifteen minutes, I went back in there to give him his paci that somehow managed to drop to the floor. I swear he must be pulling it out of his mouth and throwing it, just to get a rise out of us. He went to sleep for the rest of the night shortly after that.

Why is it that I get exactly what I wish for when it turns out to be exactly what I don’t want. He shows no interest at all in his thumbs. I’ve changed my mind! I want him to give up the paci and discover his thumbs. I wonder if it would be acceptable to fashion a rubber band on the pacifier, so I could wrap it around his head to keep it in his mouth. Like a doctor’s facemask.