Archives for October 2009

No More Milk for the Wookie

No, we’re not cutting you two off from milk. But unfortunately, Lucas, it turns out that you may have an allergy to a protein in cow’s milk. We started seeing blood in your stool recently and took you to the pediatrician. Apparently, it is not uncommon in Scandinavians or those who eat lots of dairy. Momma falls into the latter category.

So with me being vegetarian, and Momma cutting out Dairy, our diets are going to be a bit restricted for the next couple of months. The worst part is all of that Ben & Jerry’s ice cream that we have in the freezer. It now falls to me to eat it all so that Momma is no longer tormented by it. There are numerous sacrifices one makes for those one loves… this one is quite manageable.

Lucas, you are also picking up a nickname: Wookie. In order to understand why, you have to be familiar with the noises that Chewbacca makes (listen here to Chewbacca), and then compare them to the noises that you make (listen here).

When I was growing up, my mom either called me by my name, else got my name mixed up with my brother. But Dad had nicknames for each of us. I was Monkey, and my brother was Stinker. Many are the times that I remember my brother complaining “I want to be monkey!!” But dad kept our names as the were until I can’t even remember when. By the time we were adults our nicknames had worn off, but they remained part of our identity as children.

Now, Momma and I had enough trouble coming up with your real names because we had to agree. Nicknames, on the other hand, are far more flexible. They may change over time, and it may turn out that each of us have our own pet names for each of you.

For a while, Lucas, you have been “Captain Mellow” and Anna has been “Miss Fussy,” on account of your overall demeanor. Anna, you have also been “The Guzzler,” on account of how you can drink a bottle of milk in half the time that it takes her to pump it.

And so, dear Lucas, on account of the variety of vocalizations that you are experimenting with, for the time being, I christen you “Wookie.”

My Darling Anna

My Darling Anna –

You are asleep on my lap at the moment, having just eaten for the evening. Of the two of you, you are definitely the louder and more fussy, and yet I don’t actually experience your demands as grating or painful the way I used to with stranger’s children from across the room. Rather, you are simply more vocal about getting your wants and needs tended to.

And once satisfied, you look up at me with the softest and most loving eyes and smile imaginable. You are blessed with a beautiful head of blond hair, blue eyes, and soft lashes so long as to almost create a breeze when you bat your baby eyes. But for the moment, as I stare at you in blissful sleep, as you approach your fourth month of life in this world, I am utterly and absolutely amazed at the magnitude of love that you have brought into my life.

When I am calm and still, and take time to breathe, to stare, to appreciate, to wonder, to feel, to sense, and literally to bask in the love that you are to me, I begin to cry. these are not tears of sadness, nor even of joy, but rather, tears that well up from an overwhelming sense of fullness and purpose in my heart to tend to you — to your upbringing, your well being, your education, and your care.

From where I sit at this very moment, it is hard to imagine a position of greater responsibility, honor, or joy. You are my baby girl, Anna, and I love you with all my heart.

Tiny Fingers

You two have both discovered your hands in the past few weeks. It’s fun to watch as you stare at them with fascination and wonder as you try to figure them out. The good news is that you are learning to grab things. The bad news is that you are grabbing everything. That includes my hair when I hold you close, and my cloths as I go to lay you down. While you are not yet strong enough to hold your own weight, you are strong enough that putting you down, such as to change your diaper, turns into a mini wrestling match. And what you lack in size and strength, you make up for in speed, flexibility, and wiggles.

I also find that we have to keep your nails trimmed more, lest those tiny little fingers dig their way into my arm, hand, fingers, or face with the ferocity of young talons on a bird of prey.

So as you learn to work your hands, then it is also time for us as parents to start using ours more and to begin learning sign language for babies.

If only but a fraction…

My Dear Children –

I am continually amazed at the depth of education that you are providing to me. This past night, one of you woke up at 1 AM, the other at 3 AM, then the first again at 5 AM. So in one sense, I was tired and perhaps a bit cranky. But after changing your diapers and holding you in my arms, all of that melted away and I was left with such an overwhelming sense of peace, calm, and love.

Then it occurred to me:

  • How different would our world be if we could all feel towards each other even just a fraction of the love that parents must feel for their children?

  • What would it take to extend the boundaries of our caring, concern, and compassion, even if only a little bit?

I often find myself looking at you, wondering what kind of man or woman you will grow up to be. Surprisingly, I also find myself looking at my coworkers or even complete strangers, and wondering who they were as children and infants. In so doing, seeing people as former children, I find it easier to look at them with an open heart and understanding.

That is the lesson you taught me this past evening, and for that I am grateful.

Round Two

This morning, Lucas, you were doing quite well by all accounts, and I was told that we could expect to be discharged this afternoon. Then, you got a little cranky during your morning feeding, and I noticed a pronounced clicking sound from within your chest. I could hear it with my unaided ear, and feel it through my arms. The nurse listened, but it did not repeat. I stuck to my guns, it repeated, and she knew what I meant. So she escalated to the next level up the nursing chain.

This same procedure repeated many times. Each time the new person was brought in, you were fine, but I persisted. Various explanations were given (air bubble, it will go away; a common occurrence with the pericardium, it will go away; phlegm in the chest, no big deal), but none were satisfactory. I suggested that perhaps it was crepitus (bone grinding), but that was dismissed for a more benign explanation. When you were calm, nothing happened. But when you cried, it was unmistakable. So by the 3rd level up, the medical folks started poking you a bit harder to get a better diagnosis. When the surgeon came in for an assessment the second time, this time with the poking, he was able to make a final diagnosis: “Sternal dehesience.” That means that the stitches in your breastbone were not holding, and bone was grinding… crepitus.

“So, do you watch a lot of ER, or do you have some medical background?”
“I used to be an EMT, but more importantly, I’m now a Mom! That makes me the chief advocate for my child’s well being.”

The good news is that they know what it is, and that it is “simple” to fix. The bad news is that they will be operating again. They have to open the outer incision that was healing so well, and put in stronger stitches underneath in the sternum. Your heart will be left alone this time, but it’s still another trip to the OR with anesthesia and related recovery. So whereas we were earlier looking at bringing you home this afternoon, now we’re looking at some time on Saturday.

I have requested that the prayer team remain fully engaged.

A Sense of Family

For the almost nine years that Momma and I have been married, plus the time we spent dating, we have been a couple. When we brought the dog into the mix, in some ways that was our immediate “family.” Then came the two of you, and all of the sudden we are a family in the more traditional sense of the word. It took a bit of getting used to, this notion that we were now parents, and you, of course, are our children.

These past few days as Momma and I trade off which one of us is in the hospital with Lucas, and which one stays home with Anna, have brought my sense of family into sharper focus, largely because we are temporarily separated. I have a desire that we all be together. I am aware that it is difficult to be with you all at the same time, and it is in that awareness that I gain appreciation for the fact that we ARE in fact a family. Family is not just a matter of logistics with parents and one or more children under a roof. It is an absolutely amazing bond of love that has formed, a profound sense of responsibility and caring, and a deep recognition that there is this new entity – family – which is far more than any one of us or even all of us put together.

Post-surgery

Well, Lucas, you made it through surgery without any complications. We gave you your last breast milk at 1:15 in the morning, and I got you to the hospital by 6:15. By 7am, the anesthesiologist took you away, and sometime around 10:30 I got a page indicating that the heart-lung bypass was in place. By around 11:15, they were done, and slowly taking you off of the anesthesia over the next few hours.

Momma came down shortly past noon, and we both got to see you again in the ICU. It was so good to see your little face again, my dear child. That was true even though you looked like something from a horror-movie. You had no fewer than 10 tubes and wires coming off of you in various places from the tip of you head to the bottom of your foot. Really… we’re talking about a mass of scary stuff here.

There are two different suction tubes where the air goes through some device that has the air bubbling through water first. It works almost like a bong, except that the nurse says a bong is probably far more pleasant — not that she actually knows, of course. And you, my child, are not allowed to look up that word on the Internet until you are 21.

Many years ago, my mom (your Grandma) went to Israel with a friend of hers. When she came back, she had bought this very oddly shaped vase with metal straws all over it, which she said was a souvenir. I asked her what it was, and she told me “It’s an Israeli water pipe.”

Maaahhhuum!” I extolled. “You bought a BONG!”

“I did not! It’s a water pipe! And besides, how do you even know what a bong is?”

“I don’t have to have used one to know what it is, mother. And you bought a bong!” She started giggling like she was embarrassed, feigning ignorance, but she most definitely knew what it was.

OK, so let’s scratch that whole description of the bubble-o-tron all together. Instead, let’s just say that it sounds like an aquarium. Its purpose is to make sure that the suction stays roughly constant. I suppose that’s important, because some of the tubes into you are pushing things in, like oxygen, medications, or fluids, and others are sucking things out like urine, draining blood, or snot (also known as LM, or “Lucas mucous”).

Sometime around 3pm, they tried extubating you. That means they take out the tube that feeds oxygen into your lungs to see if you will start breathing entirely on your own yet. It was not a pretty sight. You started squirming something fierce, even through your restraints, and you turned a very dark red all over your body. Sure, there were three medical professionals right next to you, but it was still scary. They told me that the squirming is actually a good thing… that they want you to be fighting to breathe so that when the tube is out, you breathe on your own. Well, sure, but in the mean time, it’s hard enough to look at my beloved with all of these tubes, let alone seeing you struggle like that.

It turns out that you are not quite ready to have the tube out, so they left it place and you calmed back down shortly thereafter.

Sometime around 4:30 pm, they tried again and you were breathing OK, with only a nasal cannula to make sure your O2 levels were kept high. When you’re older, be sure to ask your uncle Darron about the custom breather he made that is a cross between a cannula and a snorkel, called a Snorkula. He used it to make sure he got enough O2 when he went paragliding over 14,000’ in the sky.

Around 8:30 pm, we tried feeding you, but you wanted nothing to do with eating just yet, despite having gone without food for nearly 18 hours. You were getting sugars and electrolytes intravenously (Gatorade), but no fats or proteins. Hopefully, you will start eating a bit in the next couple of hours.

In the mean time, I am exhausted, Momma just got back after having gotten dinner, a shower, and some overnight gear. She’s going to watch you for the night, while I go back home to take care of your sister, Anna, who has been under the watchful eyes of your grandparents most of the day.

Be well, my dear boy. You are loved beyond measure.

Heart Surgery

Lucas, my beloved, you are drastically increasing my capacity for love and for pain at the same time. A few posts back, I wrote about our worry that you and Anna both had Carnitine Update Deficiency. Well, that turned out to be nothing, since it appears to only be in Momma.

But now, my little boy is scheduled for open heart surgery this coming Tuesday to repair a rare heart condition. Basically, you have an extra chamber in you heart, or an extra set of valves, depending on what you look at. We’ve actually known about it since you were only a couple of weeks old, but surgery is safer on larger children, so we had to wait for you to get over 10 pounds before the Dr.’s could do anything about it.

I look at you and your sister and see two perfect little human beings with your whole life ahead of you, nothing but potential, and the epitome of love and joy. I look at your now smiling faces and listen to your gentle coo-ing and cannot fathom there being anything wrong with you.

Recently, you got large enough to schedule surgery. Just last Friday, Momma and I spend all day in the hospital, meeting with the surgeon, a nurse, an anesthesiologist, and a lab technician for the blood draws. Then we went to the pharmacy to get some baby antibiotics and we have to bathe you nightly in a special soap.

The point is that your surgery is becoming very real, and it’s still days away. And as it gets more real to me, it becomes all the more scary. The surgeon explained that for maybe 45 minutes, your heart will be stopped and you’ll be on a bypass pump. they will be opening up your heart to work on it with sharp knives. They will be removing one spare part, and putting in another somewhere else to address a small ASD (Arterial-septal defect). They will put you back together and jump start your heart again.

So while you will have a full contingent of medical staff and the latest equipment, your Momma and I will be waiting outside, trying to remember to breathe, and there is no way that we can possibly hold our breath that long.

I have a group of people that I go to school with (Yes, Umi still goes to school), and this morning I shared with them my level of love, concern, and worry for you. Even though it does nothing for your health (or mine, for that matter), I simply had to share with my peers where my head and heart were that morning — for they were with you.

What I saw in response was an outpouring of love and empathy from my peers for me, and for you, whom they only know through the love of you that I have shared. I was in tears, my beloved, merely describing the pain in my heart for your well being. When I looked up, half of them were in tears too.

And then, for reasons that I have yet to fully understand, one of my peers spoke to me in private to share a photo of his granddaughter. I looked at the tattered corners of the photo as he described being there at the moment of her birth. And I collapsed to the ground in a bawling heap of tears as he shared that he was there at the moment of her death.

Literally, I became completely incapacitated by even the remote possibility of something so grave befalling you. Whereas I had been worried before, I was now in abject pain in my heart with the somber thought that he brought to the surface.

I had thought I knew what love is through the joy I discovered with your Momma, and indeed I have. The depth of love, caring, concern, compassion, and commitment that I feel for you, my children, however, shows me that the heart is a far, far larger instrument of love than I had imagined.

Come this Tuesday, you are going to be just fine. You are going to sail through surgery with flying colors and nary a complication. you are going to heal rapidly and completely. This is more than a possibility that I am creating. It is something I am committed to bringing into fruition as a declaration upon which fulfillment is inevitable. I am taking a stand on this one, dear Lucas. You are going to be fine, and you are surrounded by a universe of love committed to making that so.