Archive for the 'Baby flashback' Category

Milk-chunk vomit

January 4, 2011

Andrew Hicks

My family has been fortunate enough to be in good health in our journey thus far. The ankle break incident was my first time as an overnight hospital inpatient since I was a newborn. Before that, I had two in-and-out admissions for stitches on accidental cuts, and I broke a metatarsal in my foot when I was 10. No disabilities, no congenital conditions, no allergies, none of that.*

My wife Tiffany has had basically the same clean track record. She had an ovary removed in 2003 after years of unsuccessful attempts with her first husband to get pregnant** again. And my kids have fared well so far — Silas has had a couple cry-all-night episodes where whatever was bothering him quickly went away, and Sarah has been healthy and happy aside from contracting RSV*** from one of the other daycare babies when she was 2 months old.

So it was a surprise to me to have Sarah bound into my room and wake me up at 3:30 this morning with wet hair and a new sleeper on. I’d only been in bed for about an hour, just long enough to enter that stage of REM sleep where “Shiny Happy People” starts playing in your head.

Tiffany told me Sarah had woken her up screaming, and when she went into Sarah’s room, Sarah and the bed were covered in congealed milk-chunk vomit. If you’ve ever accidentally left a half-consumed baby bottle in the car for a week, then opened the top and dumped out the contents, you can visualize the consistency. If you’ve ever handled uncooked cubes of tofu, your mental picture is even more three-dimensional.

Sarah, for being sick, was one happy little girl. She wanted to read books, play with toys and jump up and down on the bed. I wanted her to lay down next to me and fall asleep so I could go back to being a shiny, happy, unconscious person. I got her back into her own bed pretty quickly, but minutes later, followed the unpleasant noise into her room and found she’d puke-soiled her second outfit and batch of clean sheets with more tofu-milk chunks.

We were up another couple hours after that time, and there was more throwing up and dry heaving. She wasn’t holding down water or ice chips. Tiffany took off a half-day from work, and there were fleeting moments, maybe up to an hour, were everybody got some sleep. It was the first time Sarah slept in bed between mommy and daddy, which was super cute and sweet, etc. but isn’t a habit I want her to get into.

Sarah shows signs of being better now. And the upswing of this is, with the lack of rest from last night, she’ll most likely go to bed early and sleep the length of a waking day. Give dad a little break. It’s also, as a layparent, assuring to see her symptoms get better, not worse. The general health of my family and myself is something I mostly take for granted as a given, but the occasional brief reminder pops up to make me give thanks for the basics.

*Okay, I am known to chronically reach for the easy joke, but I’m turning that experience into a positive by authoring a cautionary children’s book called Andrew and the Low-Hanging Fruit.

**The missing ingredient from that equation? My single-ovary-shattering super sperm.

***Previously, as a church kid, I’d only known the letters RSV to signify the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. You know, the one that changed “Jesus wept” to “Jesus sniffled and cried a lil’ bit.”


Sarah and Grandma Ginny greet newborn Silas in the hospital.

Sarah’s birth day

November 3, 2010

Andrew Hicks

November 3, 2008
7:57 am

I’m standing in scrubs at the doorway of a hospital room. My mom and in-laws are in a family waiting area across the hall. About a half-hour ago, one of the nurses told me she’d be back for me in five minutes. The commotion of several pairs of feet starts to rattle up the hallway. I stick out my head just in time to seeĀ a handful of hospital techs and nurses dart by, and I overhear enough to know they’re scurrying to the room where my wife is under spinal anesthesia.

A nurse stops and addresses me: “Dad? You ready?”

It’s one of the first times I’ve been called dad. It sounds foreign. I follow the nurse, who assures me everything is going great so far, down the hall and into a service corridor. She makes sure my Michael Jackson face mask is in place and pushes the button that swings open the double doors to the surgery room.

I step inside. Bright lights overwhelm my vision. I hear the gentle hissing and beeping of machines. I hear the organized chaos of team communication between doctors, nurses and a slightly creepy anesthesiologist with a clipped German accent. The nurse directs me to a stool on wheels. I slide into place next to my beautiful wife, whose caged eyes flash from overwhelmed and pensive to surprisingly calm and cognizant. She takes my hand as I remark how crazy this all is.

Her face, looking over at me with a faint smile, fades into hospital gown-covered shoulders and an abrupt blue sheet-curtain. Beyond the curtain, the Caesarian is well underway. Tiffany asks, “Baby cry? Hear a baby cry?” I tell her not yet, they’re still getting her out. German Anesthesiologist tells Tiffany she “vill feel a lot of press-shaw.” The doctor and the nurses start to calmly repeat the same mantra, “A lot of pressure, a lot of pressure,” as if these are the time-tested magic words that will bring forth baby.

I tell my wife I love her. She tells me the same, then asks about the baby cry again. I think of it as a delirious response to the spinal block, but she’ll later tell me it was the one thing she was focused on. She’d had worries about bad reactions to anesthesia and Sarah being stillborn. She knew if she heard the baby cry, everything would be fine.

Someone announces that they see a head. The curtain is blocking all the action. I look into the reflecting glass of a medical cabinet on the wall to my left. There, I can see the flurry of movement by well-trained hands, then the silhouette of a tiny body being lifted from its mother’s womb. A quiet, quick second passes, then… we hear the baby cry. A stuttering, hesitant billy goat bleat that soon escalates into a full-blown, hyperventilating wail.

“Baby’s crying?” Tiffany asks me. Yes, I tell her happily, choking back tears. The baby’s crying. A voice on the other side of the curtain announces that it’s a girl. Another voice announces the time — 8:06 am. I squeeze my wife’s hand and brush her left cheek. I’m also in charge of making sure her drool gets collected in the maroon plastic kidney-shaped bedpan. Side effect of heavy anesthesia, the drool.

“You might wanna get your camera out there, dad,” says the head nurse, a lady whose name I’ll soon find out is Victoria. Over the next few hours, she’ll embody the patient but wizened stance of someone who spends most of her work week giving basic parenting advice to people who mainly don’t know what they’re doing and don’t listen. Victoria kind of reminds me of an infant caretaker version of Michael Caine’s character in The Cider House Rules, minus the abortions and ether addiction.

I feel overtaken by emotion but somewhat numb at the same time, like I’m watching something happen to somebody else. I snap photos of the cleanup, the weighing, the measuring and the fingerprinting. I take mental note of the vital stats: 8 pounds, 1 ounce; 22 1/2 inches long.

Victoria asks if we have a name picked out. I tell her Sarah Grace. She indicates that she approves. All this time, my wife’s midsection is opened up behind me, and I try to avert my eyes. I’m just too curious, though, and I take a couple long stares at her exposed organs and intestines. A year and a half ago, I’d never met even this woman whose insides are all mangled from giving birth to my baby. This is intimacy.

Newborn Sarah has stopped baby-crying by the time she’s in her first diaper, wrapped in a hospital blanket and deposited in her mommy’s arms. German Anesthesiologist obliges us with a photo of mom, dad and baby. I get the camera back and frame mom and baby. A notice comes on the display screen, telling me the batteries are as good as dead. I have no backup Energizers in the pockets of my scrubs.

Nurse Victoria shoots me a look of death when she realizes baby’s first photo shoot has come to an abrupt, premature end thanks to dad’s inadequate planning. Eight minutes into fatherhood, and I’ve already earned a permanent slot on Vickie’s extensive shit list.

We get back to the hospital room, and Sarah — already taking her first nap — gets passed around to three grandparents. I change batteries in the camera, and along with everyone else, I take as many pictures as possible. Then I excuse myself to call my dad and a few close friends, wandering up and down the hospital hallways while I spread the news.

My mom finds me minutes later. Tells me I should get back to the hospital room because Tiffany’s about to breastfeed Sarah for the first time. It’s just me, her and our new baby in the room. Sarah latches right on, a true natural.

Now, I come from a small, reclusive family. I only have one brother, two years younger than I am. I didn’t grow up around babies, and I never really planned on having my own. Older couples I befriended would always tell me I’d change my mind when I met the right woman, and I shrugged it off until I did in fact meet my perfect counterpart.

We were barely boyfriend and girlfriend when Tiffany and I took her best friend’s 2 1/2 year old to Six Flags with us one afternoon. Watching Tiffany act so tender, patient and maternal with a cute little girl changed my mind in an instant. I knew she was the only possible mother for the children I never thought I’d have.

That said, on Day One, I hold my baby like she’s a glass grenade that will self-destruct with any contact or movement. I’m still a week away from changing my first diaper. I’m about a year from feeling like I remotely know what I’m doing as a dad. But when I collapse on the couch in our hospital room, with an hours-old Sarah sleeping on my chest, I feel an overwhelming, proprietary love I didn’t know was inside me. This newborn girl has changed me in an instant.

I love you with all my heart, Sarah. Happy second birthday, sweetie pie.