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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.

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Due to the nature of what I do for a living, I see a lot of strange, funny, normal, and sad things. As I’m sure we all do. In my case, it’s not uncommon for me to work around confused, sick, or dying people. It hurts me deep within my soul to look into the eyes of a person, who will likely not make it through the next couple of days, and wish them the best. On three occasions, I’ve seen, and worked in very close proximity to, a person that has recently deceased. It envelops me in a hollow sadness to see a person with whom life and consciousness has left.

Up until five weeks ago, that had been the worst that I’d seen in my job.

Recently, one of my peers asked if I could spare a day to help him with a project at one of his hospitals. We had a very productive day, and an all-around good day. As we were wrapping up and getting ready to leave for a late lunch, we were informed that one of the products we had yet to find was located. We found a nurse who led us down the twisting and turning hallways into the pediatric unit and to the room we needed to go into. She peeked her head into the room and asked if we could come in for two or three minutes. In a moment, she opened the door for us to enter.

The patient was a six or seven year old boy. He was sitting, shirtless and pants-less in a chair, wearing only white briefs. Six or more rubber tubes, roughly the diameter of a drinking straw, were inserted into his chest. At least a couple of the tubes were filled with blood. The other tubes were clear, either empty or filled with a clear liquid. He labored to breathe and looked tired. So very tired. His dad sat directly across from him and told him that everything was okay and that we were there to work on something else; not him. At that statement, a lump formed high in my throat.

As we worked, the boy let out a cough. I glanced up to look at him. I didn’t intend to; it was more instinct than desire or intent. He was staring very deliberately at his dad, trying not to cry from the pain that the single cough caused him. I closed my eyes for a moment and looked away before opening them again. As we finished, we wished the boy a fast recovery. I found it extremely difficult to get the words out. The dad thanked us, looked at his son and said “He’s the strongest little man I’ve ever known.” His voice wavered as he said the words.

We left the room and made our way back through the hallways, neither of us speaking. I simply couldn’t find the strength to say anything, for fear that I’d crumble into an emotional mess. As a dad, I see nearly everything through a different set of eyes than I did before. That day, I saw a son trying to be strong and brave for his dad. And I saw a very proud dad… trying to do the same for his son.

I sincerely hope that the little boy recovered. I’m sure he did, and I’m sure he’s running around spreading chaos like every other little kid out there. I’d also like to think that, in some strange six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon way, this post makes its way to that dad. I want to thank him for being the best dad he could be to that little boy, especially in his time of need. And more than anything else in the world, I pray that I’m never in that situation.

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Tyler had to have emergency brain surgery. Everything happened so suddenly that the only thing I remember clearly was being in the recovery room.

I remember holding Sarah’s hand, and looking down on a son that didn’t recognize us. The uncertainty of us ever leading a "normal" life again tightened in my chest and made my heart ache. When Tyler tried looking around the room, his head didn’t turn, but rolled instead. Looking to his right, we could see where the doctor cut his freshly shaven scalp. The doctor cut a flap the size of a quarter that was now held shut with a number of staples. The area showed the beginnings of bruising. Currently, it had a yellow/green tint to it that would blossom to purple in another day or two.

Tyler rolled to the side. Whether he did this to stand up or just to roll over, we’re not sure because the side panel of the pediatric stretcher was lowered, and Tyler rolled off the stretcher and to the hard, faux wood floor.

He didn’t even cry when he made his sudden, and forceful, contact with the maple-colored laminate. I rushed around the stretcher to pick Tyler up, while Sarah screamed for help.

I thought, "Please God, don’t let it be his head that hit the floor. Please God. Please, please, please please please."

All my wild thoughts were realized when I looked at the site of his surgery. Blood flowed freely from the area where the staples had failed to do their sole duty. I cried out in shock and horror, holding Tyler’s limp body and refusing to believe the worst of all parental fears.

I could faintly hear the monitoring system calling for assistance to our room. I screamed until my throat felt like it would rip itself open. Tightly holding Tyler against me, with people and machines rushing into the room, I heard a baby’s cry.

I woke with a start to the sound of my alarm clock and Tyler crying in his room. The severity off all my emotions faded immediately, but their presence persisted. I turned my alarm off, walked into Tyler’s room and to the baby who had awakened without his pacifier. Under any other circumstances, I would give him a paci, lay him down, and tell him to finish his nigh nighs. After an "I love you" and a kiss on the forehead, I would leave and shut the door behind me.

But this was not "any other circumstances." I pulled Tyler out of his crib and hugged him as tightly as I felt I safely could.

"Thanks for saving me from that one, bud. I love you to the moon and back… Now, hows about you finish your nigh nighs?"

Vivid dreams like that scare the crap outta me, because they stick with you all day. They are like the tiny paper cut on your finger; it hurts just enough to make you remember it’s there. If you keep your mind busy with tasks, you forget about it. But, as soon as your mind has time to wander, you feel the dull throb of a tiny heartbeat in your finger again.

When I was younger, my two worst (recurring) dreams involved me being chased by Frankenstein’s monster (which I will incorrectly refer to simply as Frankenstein here). In one, I was running through my elementary school, down never ending corridors, while a hundred foot tall Frankenstein destroyed the hallways behind me with his footsteps. Running, running, running, I could never get out of the school or away from the giant Frankenstein. In the other, I was running from a more humanly sized Frankenstein in my backyard. In this version, I couldn’t scream, I could only run in circles around the fenced in yard, and I could only run as if my legs weighed a thousand pounds. Each.

The dream I had last night was scarier than both of those combined tenfold, and I pray I never have that dream again. I’ll take on a giant Frankenstein any every day of the week for the rest of my life before I’d hold the lifeless body of my own son… even if it was only a dream.

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Do you mind if I do a non-Tyler, non-parenthood post today?

I had to fly to Nashville, TN on Tuesday. With the work that I do, I don’t necessarily have co-workers. I work alone 99% of the time. So do all the other reps around the country. So, our region has quarterly meetings where we all get together, go over numbers, and hang out. This quarterly meeting was in Tennessee. All in all, it was a good time.

I get there Tuesday around 11am. After getting hotel rooms figured out (what a FUBAR situation that was), we all had lunch. Pulled pork, grilled chicken, beans, coleslaw, potato salad, and some type of apple dessert. Yum yum. After lunch, we had a couple meetings, then a friendly competition. I threw the competition. I feel bad in hindsight. I didn’t want to win, but I also didn’t want to lose. We placed dead last because of my sand-bagging. Whoops! Then we had one-on-one meetings with our managers to go over our individual numbers/performance.

Once this was out of the way, we headed to our rooms, changed into casual clothing and waited for dinner time. A few of us went to the Applebees that was in the hotel. I had one drink. This was at 5:30pm.

At 6p, we all hopped in taxis and drove to a restaurant called “The Aquarium”. Obviously, it was a seafood restaurant. I’m not a fan of seafood. Sometimes, Sarah makes telapia which I find quite tasty. Aside from that, I steer clear of seafood. I just don’t like it. I decided that I was going to take a chance this day though. Whenever I find myself at a seafood restaurant, I get chicken, or a salad. This day, I got the Sirloin and Shrimp dinner (sometimes called a surf-n-turf).

The appetizers came out first. I couldn’t even begin to name what all was there. I had bruschetta bread with some type of crab/cheese dip. Man it was good! When the food came out, I ate my Sirloin because it was delicious! I only ate about 4 shrimp though, because I just don’t find it as tasty. I had 2 drinks at the restaurant.

I should mention that my “drinks” are Captain Morgan & Coke, with a splash of grenadine (for a cherry coke taste).

After “The Aquarium” we all head over to Dave & Busters. I’d never heard of Dave & Busters before. So, if you’re like me, you need an explanation. Dave & Busters is an arcade for adults. They’ve got a ton of arcade games (video games, racing games, crane games, skiball, etc), but in a bar setting. I had 3 drinks here. I spent most of the night playing Daytona USA with 7 other guys. It turned out to be more of a demolition derby than actual racing, but it was a great time.

We left around 11p, because we used up all the credits that our managers gave us. The plan was to head back to the hotel. Those of us that wanted to crash could head up to their rooms, the rest would head back to Applebees.

The taxi ride (mini-van with about 5 of us in each taxi) is about 10 minutes long. On the way back to the hotel, my right cheek started itching. I didn’t think anything of it. About the time that we’re pulling up to the hotel, I rub my palm along my cheek and notice that it feels bumpy. When we got out of the cab and into the lobby of the hotel, I ask one of the guys if my face looks funny. His facial expression said enough, but he must not have realized that because, in addition to the look of horror on his face, he says, “HOLY S**T!!”

What followed was a bunch of pointing and commenting by the rest of my taxi-mates.

Physically, I felt fine. I had a slight buzz going. I only had 6 drinks over the course of 6 hours, so I was doing just fine. On the advice of my manager, I got two Benadryl pills from the front desk and took them. Aside from my less than appealing appearance, and some itching, I felt great, so I went to Applebees. I only had water while here. About 10 minutes in, the itching was much, much worse. And I noticed that there was some swelling at the corners of my mouth. The word “hospital” was mentioned a few times. Sometimes to my face, other times as part of another conversation (about me) that I wasn’t involved in. One of the people there was scared to be near me. Another guy said my face looked like a tomato, but covered in bumps.

I decided to check out the damage. A look of sheer terror washed over my face when I looked in the mirror. I only wish I would have had the presence of thought to have a camera nearby. My face was COVERED in bumps, and completely red. My neck was also covered. COVERED! I didn’t check below the waist, because I didn’t want to drop my trousers in front of a mirror in a hotel bathroom. I did lift my shirt though. My back was rather nasty and riddled with bumps, and my front side had about 10 or so. My face and neck were the worst though. There were some bumps on my arms as well.

My manager, and the manager of our sister region met me just outside of the bathroom. I’d never had anything like this happen to be before, so I was open to suggestions. They both said “hospital”. I still felt pretty good, so we (me and my manager) decided against calling an ambulance, and opted for a taxi instead. We went to the local hospital’s Emergency department. I filled out the information and waited. As I’m sitting in the waiting room, I noticed that I was starting to have difficulty swallowing. I immediately concentrated on my breathing and noticed it was a little raspy and wasn’t as easy to do anymore.

I mentioned to the very nice lady at the desk that my throat was starting to swell a bit. Within about, oh, 2 seconds, I was being taken to Emergency. A guy comes in with some pills and needles. We tell him that I’d already taken 25mg of Benedryl beforehand. He says “Well, you’re about to get some more then.” He gives me a Prednisone pill, and 2 Pepcid (because the Prednisone is hard on the stomach). He is then having a conversation with my manager about the stretchers at the hospital (we work for the company that makes them). I’m listening, but not really participating, because I’m not feeling so hot. Suddenly, and without warning, the guy (without ever even taking his eyes off my manager) stabs the needle into my shoulder.

It’s hard to explain the feeling. It wasn’t pain, exactly, but it sure as heck wasn’t peaches and lollipops either. It felt like someone punched me real good in the arm. Then, a crampy feeling started moving its way down my arm, all the way to my finger tips. It was extremely uncomfortable. Within seconds, I was a zombie. At one point, I am certain that I was sleeping with my eyes open. But the itching disappeared within about 1 second of getting the shot. The swelling in my throat and lips was gone within seconds as well. The bumps stuck around for a bit, but were noticeably better. I couldn’t walk straight when I stood up, and found myself wondering if it was dangerous to have had 6 alcoholic drinks, then following that up with a bunch of make-you-drowsy Benedryl.

Thinks were pretty fuzzy after that. I don’t know how much longer we were at the hospital. I know we got back to the hotel around 2:40am. My manager told me that I didn’t need to be at the first couple meetings and to just sleep in. I couldn’t tell you why I set the alarm on my phone anyway.

I got to my room, and my key wouldn’t work. I had to stand outside of the room, catatonic, for about 10 minutes, waiting for security to let me in. The last thing I remember was taking my shoes off. After that, everything was black. I was dog tired, but feeling great otherwise at 7am, when the alarm went off. I made it to the meetings just fine.

Before Tuesday, I had no known allergies. I still don’t know for sure what it was that triggered that reaction in me. My guess would be the crab dip stuff. From what I hear, shellfish is a common allergy for people to have, and crab is a shellfish. So… maybe. I’d only had crab one other time in my life. Sarah had some at Red Lobster, and I tried a bite. Nothing happened at the time, so… I just don’t know.

I played it off at the time, but once I felt the swelling in my throat, I was scared. Genuinely scared. I can 100% guarantee you that I will never touch seafood again (except for Sarah’s tilapia).

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