Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Arrival of a Mighty Warrior

That particular Friday in September was not just any routine Friday. I left work early that day. My wife, Renee, and daughter, Brianna, had long planned in advance the details of this particular weekend. They made sure that bags were packed with all the essentials. My younger son, Caleb, elected to recuse himself from this particular excursion to “hold down the fort” and look after the cats. This was DEFINITELY NOT your everyday family getaway. On this particular Friday in September, we were driving Brianna to the hospital. Brianna was in full term pregnancy and going to a birthing unit to induce labor. Again, this was not a vacation. Still, to say that we were going on a trip would only prove to be a tremendous understatement.

Brianna, Renee, and I arrived at the hospital and got things somewhat settled in the birthing room. Other family members arrived including my older daughter, Shayna, and my older son, Tom. Along with Tom and Shayna was Tom’s fiancée, Christy, and my son in-law, Mike. Brianna’s boyfriend, Jamie, also arrived to await the arrival of his son. We all sat and socialized for a while. Soon, the subject came up regarding projections for the baby’s arrival. It wasn’t long before we started recording everyone’s projections on a whiteboard that was mounted to the wall. For those of you whom have never experienced a labor induction (i.e. mothers, fathers, and other family/friends), I should explain one of the first things I learned from this experience. I arrived at the hospital on that Friday afternoon thinking I would be holding my grandson early the following Saturday morning. My expectation would prove to be one of ignorance and inexperience as, one by one, names and projection times were erased from the whiteboard. Tom and Mike left to go home during some of this early wait period. Christy and Shayna would remain behind to keep Brianna company and assist with the labor coaching (once that moment arrived).

Friday night soon led to early Saturday morning hours. I would routinely get up and walk around. I have sleep apnea and require a CPAP machine to sleep. I won’t go into much detail other than to say that, without the machine, I usually forgo any attempt to sleep. This is partly because the resulting snoring is horrendous to anyone within a mile of me. This is also due to the fact the effects of attempting to sleep without the machine would likely leaving me feel worse (and less alert) that to just stay awake. Besides that, I truly didn’t want to risk missing anything. Aside from dosing myself with caffeine using sodas and coffee, I would get up and walk around. I would wind up getting more chances to do such walking than I had anticipated. The hospital staff would routinely come to check on Brianna. Part of these visits would involve an exam for which Brianna would naturally prefer some privacy. Each time this took place, Brianna would politely ask me to step out.

As the Saturday hours passed, Brianna had been given some medication to help induce the labor process. The hospital staff began using words and phrases such as “soon” and “getting closer” to the point where it seemed almost scripted. I had long been past the point of when I expected to be holding my grandchild. As frustrating as that was for me, I tried to empathize with Brianna as well as I knew how. She had not really slept much at all since arriving at the hospital. It was becoming clear that this fatigue, combined with the extreme discomfort that goes with labor induction, was taking its toll on Brianna. She was becoming the stereotypical demonically possessed woman in labor. Let’s just say there is a reason that pea soup is not served on a labor floor of a hospital.

As we all got into late Saturday evening, the cycle continued. I’d sit and talk to whomever was awake. Occasionally, Brianna would stir (or growl) haven’t still not truly slept since her arrival. Only two projections remained on the whiteboard. At any given point, one of us would bend down to Brianna’s belly begging this child to please hurry up. Several times over the past 30 some odd hours at this point, mothers in other rooms could be heard screaming with labor pains. Each time I heard these screams, I pictured a grandfather that was closer to his moment than I was. It seemed unfair. I WANTED MY TURN! I was sick of hearing “Soon”. We had to post a notice on Facebook asking that people please wait for us to post an update as the inquiries of “Is the baby there yet?” was really upsetting Brianna. We were all getting a bit frayed at the ends.

It was upon the arrival of Mary Jane. Mary Jane was an overnight nurse assigned to Brianna. As we had all done for previous staff, we asked Mary Jane for her projections for the birth. Mary Jane said she wasn’t certain the baby would arrive by the time her shift ended at 7:00 AM Sunday morning. As frustrating as that was to hear, I was actually relieved to get a more realistic projection other than “gettin’ closer”. In addition, Mary Jane brought a pot of coffee into the room with cups, sugar, and creamers for everyone. She kept us supplied throughout the night. Best of all, Brianna was getting to a point in her labor pains where she could get some medicine to help her rest. Brianna got a heavy duty epidural painkiller and FINALLY was able to get in SOME productive sleep after more than 30 hours. As Brianna began to get some rest, we all began to relax a bit more.

The cycle continued but we could see some light at the end of the tunnel. We had now gone into Sunday morning. Many times, I would get up to walk around. I would go back to the room to sit down with a cup of coffee only to have Brianna politely ask me to step out for another exam. The little bit of sleep was proving helpful for Brianna. The epidural elephant tranquilizer was really taking the edge off of her contractions. When Brianna woke up from her brief nap, she actually apologized for her earlier behavior to everyone. Yup, that medicine was doing a good job.

As morning staff came in, Mary Jane’s predictions had proven correct. Her shift had ended and no baby. It was soon afterward that Brianna, though heavily medicated, informed everyone that she was ready to push. The midwife came in and prepared to deliver. Renee and Jamie stood at each side of Brianna at the head of the bed; each holding one of Brianna’s hands. Shayna and Christy stood next to Renee and Jamie respectively. Their job was to hold up Brianna’s legs during the delivery. My job was much simpler – stand back and shut up. I was expecting a screaming banshee as I had heard from other mothers throughout this ordeal. That didn’t happen as the epidural medication only required Brianna to take deep cleansing breaths each time she pushed. I kept my post and watched eagerly as the baby’s arrival got closer and closer.

I decided to step in from the sidelines when the doctor said she saw crowning (the baby’s head was visible). I stood on the other side of Christy as I watched Taelor-James Robert Schaller make his debut into the world. Soon enough, Taelor was out, pink, and crying. The doctor asked if anyone wanted to cut the umbilical cord. I switched places with Jamie as every father short experience this with the birth of their child. I held Brianna’s hand and things progressed forward as they transferred Taelor to a baby table in the same room.

It was somewhere around this point that things had apparently gone awry. Taelor, who was just seconds ago, pink and crying was suddenly not either of these. As Brianna was continuing the afterbirth phase of delivery, I heard one of the doctors standing over Taelor use the word “resuscitate”. I heard this word and softly said “What?”. Apparently, the phrase “What?” perked up several sets of ears. Jamie immediately moved over to where Taelor was laying. Seemingly out of nowhere, a cadre of doctors and nurses sprang into the room. I could barely see Taelor between an array of stethoscopes, people, and a bag pushing oxygen into his body.

Brianna began to pick up on the fact that something had suddenly gone wrong with Taelor – VERY WRONG. You could see Brianna’s face instantly change. She was no longer letting out deep cleansing breaths. She was crying as she overheard the team of doctors and nurses work to revive Taelor. As the team began their efforts, Taelor began to respond and get his color back. Unfortunately, Brianna could not see any of this because all the people in the room were (unintentionally) blocking her view of Taelor. Brianna was now sobbing uncontrollably in Renee’s arms. Jamie stood and watched, horrified, and the staff continued working on Taelor.

This was easily the most traumatizing event I have ever experienced. I stood there. I was unable to help Taelor and had to rely on medical staff to do their jobs. I was unable to console Brianna who knew something was wrong but could not see that her son was actually improving.I had never before felt so powerless and weak as a father. Daddies fix things. Daddies make it better. I was unable to do either.  Brianna began to scream: “LET ME SEE TAELOR!  I WANT TO HOLD TAELOR!’ I told Brianna that she would get to hold her baby but she had to let the medical team do their thing and take care of him. I promised her that Taelor was getting his color back and was breathing. One of the doctors who was resuscitated came over to reassure Brianna as well: “He’s pinking up and breathing really well”.

Brianna’s delivery was now complete and the medical rescue cadre who came to rescue Taelor left almost as quickly as they arrived. The neonatal doctor told us Taelor would have to be observed in a neonatal intensive care unit due to the fact that he stopped breathing after birth. The doctor told us we had just a few short to hold him and then they would have to take him. So five of all took turns holding Taelor in the space of less than 10 minutes. We were all relieved to finally hold this baby but still numb from what had just happened. As I held my new grandson, barely able to contain my emotion, I kissed his forehead and said: “If you scare your Momma like that again. You are GROUNDED!”

The NICU staff then took Taelor for observation. We would later find out he came in at 7 lbs. 12 oz and was 20.75 inches long. We would also find out that, after going to the NICU, Taelor began experiencing seizures. Taelor would spend 12 more days in the hospital before he could come home. During his post partum stay I dubbed him – Taelor, The Mighty Warrior. It would truly prove to be a fitting title as he is now home and is as right as rain.

As I have had time to reflect on the entrance of Taelor – The Mighty Warrior into the world. I realized how blessed we all were in the situation. I have had more than one friend who would endure the trauma of a miscarriage or stillbirth. God chose not to have us endure such an experience. Brianna got to bring Taelor home (eventually). I cannot imagine the pain my friends experienced given what transpired with Taelor. All I can do is be grateful for the blessing of a grandchild and hope I never have to experience such a blessing in the same fashion ever again.

Now, if you’ll pardon me, I’m going to kiss my grandson…because I can.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

My Daughter’s Wedding Vol. II: Boutonniere, Boutonniere, Boutonniere

The day had finally come. It was Shayna and Michael’s wedding day. At this point, it seemed like all we had to do was put on our fancy clothes and show up. I say that it seemed that way because it wasn’t just some snap-your-fingers-and-VOILA-it happens process. First, there was the issue with my formal Scottish kilt. Donning this gear was an interesting experience to say the least. I spent some time searching for some instructions on on the Internet and found a very informative video. I was initially a bit thrown by the instructions telling me to first put on my socks and shoes. [Note: I KNOW they are called kilt hose but let’s not get into that again]. Once I did this, then I had to deal with the kilt, chain, and sporran. This was quite a production. It probably took me a good hour to get the outfit on and be satisfied with the results. I would imagine if you ask any girl I ever dated (or married), they would describe my experience in two words: poetic justice.

Once I was dressed, I decided to walk  up and down the hallway for a few minutes. This was really a test to be sure that everything stayed where it was supposed to be. Once this test was successful, my pace became more of a strut (I did NOT prance). Being a guy, I even found myself quoting Mel Gibson from Braveheart. It was at this point that my younger son, Caleb, walked into the hallway dressed in a very nice suit and tie. Caleb sized me up and said: “Nice outfit, Kilt Boy.” This was one of several reminders that each of my four children are now actually young adults. It was now time for Caleb and me to make our way to the wedding site – Highland Park.

Once Caleb and I arrived at the park, we met up with Michael (the groom) and the other groomsman which included my older son, Tom. We were one fine looking bunch if I do say so myself. Michael told me that there were corsages and boutonnieres for everyone in the wedding party. Caleb, Michael, and the groomsmen donned their boutonnieres and adjourned to the area of the park where the wedding was being held. I remained behind at the party house where the reception was being held (also in Highland Park). I donned my boutonniere and greeted folks as they arrived. If they were a guest, I directed them to the wedding site. If they were in the wedding party, I gave them the applicable floral decoration. This involved a lot of waiting and pacing. As I paced, my boutonniere kept falling off. I must have fastened that stupid flower on like eight times. Some extended family arrived and took a picture of me in my formal kilt. I soon thereafter shared that picture on my Facebook wall. As I greeted more guests, I noticed that someone had commented on my picture. It was my niece commenting that I “look a lot like Grandma”. I understand that my niece was sincerely trying to compliment me. I did, however, let her know that a man in a kilt does not wish to be told how much he looks like his mother.

My routine continued onward….pace..drop boutonniere…re-fasten boutonniere. Maybe I am typing this just because I love saying the word boutonniere. Still, it IS what happened. Ladies from the bridal party began to arrive. This included my younger daughter, Brianna, who couldn’t resist complimenting me on my dress and my corsage. I was getting too nervous to retort at this point. It was shortly after this point that Shayna (the bride) arrived. All I can say is that she was just too beautiful for words. My wife had also arrived (looking amazing). Tom’s fiancée, Christy, also arrived with her mother. It is at this point that I must acknowledge and thank Christy for the wonderful job she did on everyone’s hair (after insisting she would only be doing the bride’s hair).

The ladies all congregated in the reception hall chattering about I don’t know what. I resumed my nervous pace in the foyer. Once again, my boutonniere fell off my vest. I decided it was time to seek some help on the matter. I turned around and saw Christy and asked if she could re-fasten my boutonniere. Christy also felt the need to outsource this solution by summoning her mother – Jean. Jean remedied my problem quite nicely. I don’t know HOW she did it but that sucker was STAYING on my vest. THANK YOU, JEAN! Once again, my pace became more of a strut (still no prancing). Once again, it was time for the next phase.

I walked with Shayna and the rest of the bridal party through an area of Highland Park called the Poet’s Garden. This allowed us to along a nice path to the wedding site without being seen by the wedding guests (or the groom). As we made it toward the end of the pathway, we began to pair up and form our proper places in line. It was at this point that two things happened. First, the world around me seemed to be suddenly running in slow motion. Secondly, I seemed to lose the ability to do the simplest thing without instructions. It was only Shayna’s voice that seemed to keep me on course and in reality.

Shayna and I were soon the last ones left to make our way to the wedding site. Again, I needed Shayna to guide me through the simplest tasks. “Fix my dress, please, Daddy.” What do you need me to do? “Just straighten out the hem so it isn’t crumpled.” OK, when do we know when to start walking up? “When they play Here Comes The Bride,  we start walking.” My heart and mind were racing but everything else was still in slow motion. I was more nervous than Lindsay Lohan’s driving instructor. I was bracing myself for the worst. What if I trip? What if I step on Shayna’s dress? Shayna and I walked forward as the music played. People stood as we walked closer and closer to the altar. We had made it. Shayna did a wonderful job leading the way and was kind enough to make it look like i was the one leading.

Luis, also a member of the family, was the minister for this wonderful event. He asked in his cheerful but thunderous bass voice: WHO GIVES THIS WOMAN TO BE MARRIED? It was at this point where everything seemed to play at normal speed again. I proudly replied: I DO! I kissed Shayna on the cheek and placed her hand in Michael’s hand. I then whispered to Michael: You kept the payments up, son. She’s all yours.

I stood next to my wife and the ceremony continued. My baby had finally become a bride.After the ceremony, we all posed for hundreds of photos. We even let the wedding photographer get a few shots. We made our way to the reception. On top of all the wonderful things I experienced to that point, I got to dance with my wife and both of my daughters. My body was in Highland Park. My heart was on Cloud Nine.

Once I got home, I changed out of my formal kilt outfit. As I was getting ready to put the outfit away, I noticed that I had forgotten to remove something. It was the one thing that, for hours, I was happily able to take for granted. I reached for the vest and happily removed the boutonniere. With this last action, a very happy, important day was over.