Sunday, July 27, 2008

Fathers day article from Parentwise

This was the second year that Kim from Parentwise magazine had me back for a fathers day article. I really like writing for this magazine because it challenges me in a whole different way. I don't just get to crank out my usually inappropriateness. :) I also try to tackle something a bit more meaningful that might connect with someone. Anyway, here is what I wrote for the June issue:

It was six and a half years ago I became a father. My wife and I were ready; we had discussed it at great length considering it took time and a team of scientific experts to get pregnant. We read all the parenting literature available. We were level headed adults who felt everything falling into place.

Then the baby came… November 26th, 2001, a day early. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but my wife knew something wasn’t “right”. An early Dr. visit turned into an emergency C-section. We almost lost our little girl. Had we waited another day, we would have most likely would have. The surgery saved her and brought into this world a perfect little girl. Within a few days were home and starting our new life as young, proud, optimistic parents. After about 4-5 days our daughter started crying, kept crying and seemed as if it was never going to stop. The crying started on November 30th at about 6pm and lasted until August of 2002, about nine months! We had given birth to a colicky monster. I don’t think anyone can fully grasp the intensity of colic unless they have lived it. We looked for every solution on earth. Our doctors had no answers; they would just calm us down and tell us it will pass. We bought ever gimmick known to man to help; gas drops, special blankets, clothing, swings, mood cd’s, special lighting, and even a vibration machine that attached to the springs of her crib. Driving helped somewhat. We spent the better half of the year just “driving”.

During this time I was on my first year of an exciting radio job in Dallas. My co-workers had no idea we were falling apart at home. It seemed out of line and selfish to tell anyone, including friends, what was going on. My wife and I could slowly see each other unraveling. Everything became a fog with the lack of sleep. My wife and I were as worried about each other, as much as the baby, but we would both faked being “o.k.” I wanted so badly to let my wife sleep through just one night, but she was determined to breast feed the first year, but was only able to pump far enough ahead so that I could cover one feeding, occasionally. My wife, a person who has always had every single aspect of her life in order, was starting to look very, very scared. She knew the difficulties I was having at work and would try to let me sleep from midnight til 4:30am. I recall her on several occasions waking me up at 4:15 and asking me if she could just sleep for 15 minutes before I left. We hardly recognized each other. She was barely able to eat enough because she was always walking in circles, comforting the baby. My diet had gone to hell out of convenience. Translation; I was porking out, she was withering away. We were desperate, tired, confused and going insane. One thing that we understood was why there are so many stories of shaken babies in the news. We weren’t ever going to hurt her, but we understood that temporary insanity truly does exist. I remember one of my friends calling from Austin, the baby was wailing and I said to him “Don’t EVER have sex with a woman… EVER.” Then I held the phone up the crying. Throughout my life I have always been able to find humor in just about any situation. This was the last time I would be funny for awhile.

As my wife and I slip into pure lunacy, I came home with the news I had just been fired. I was offered my job back in Austin. I packed a suitcase and moved into a LaQuinta in SW Austin. A hotel was no place for a crying baby and two barking dogs. My wife stayed behind in Dallas to show the house to realtors. I would spend the day trying to get my job back to normal and the evenings trying to talk my wife off the ledge. I needed to get them to Austin a.s.a.p. I found a house that was just “o.k.” and offered full asking price. I offered the woman more if she could be out in a week. The day we walked into our new house we wanted to cry because it was such a project, there was almost no way we could move into it. We now had a crying baby, two dogs and house full of workers every day.

At about nine months the crying stopped. For the first time, we felt like we could venture out of the house and re-acclimate ourselves to society. Slowly, and I mean SLOWLY, we started to realize everything was going to be o.k. We hadn’t given birth to Satan’s child after all. Our daughter is six and a half now and an amazing well adjusted child. We felt guilty for so long because of all of the tension and worry she had to pick up from us. It took us years to shake it. This made us realize just how vulnerable our mental health is and what people can take for granted. We didn’t go “over the edge” but we got an awful damn good look over it.

Whenever we meet someone who tells us that they have or have had a baby with colic, I feel an instant connection. If they are going through it right then, I want to hug them and cry with them. Others won’t understand like we do. I would take in a complete stranger’s baby for one night if it meant then could get ONE nights sleep.

The closest I have ever come to killing another person was a “know it all” guy who explained to me that “Colic is a western culture problem and that if you just do the right thing, the problem doesn’t exist.” I considered killing this guy. Doing hard time and getting some rest didn’t seem so bad. My wife and I shared years later that we secretly wished for an illness or injury to hospitalize us during those nine months, just so we could get some sleep.

I know all parents feel like their child is “special”. Very few “special” children almost KILL their parents. We survived! We have grown stronger. I feel like seeing our daughter happy is twice as rewarding because of what we went through. Parenthood is an amazing thing. I don’t know if I would change a thing if I had to do it all over again. I like the way our little girl turned out and maybe the crying had something to do with it. We’re different too. I think we have more understanding and empathy for others. When we talk to new parents and ask if the baby is sleeping, we are genuinely happy when you say yes. It’s not just meaningless chit chat. If they say no, our hearts go out to them in a way that’s immeasurable.


Anonymous said...

Great article JB - monica

Wencked said...

Great article!

I am a few weeks out from giving birth to my 2nd. Everyone asks, are you ready? does your son know about his little brother?

I can only say we have tried to prepare...our son and ourselves...but like your article pointed out, it can be hard and so unpredictible. I can only vaguely remember the sleepless nights with him. He is so much fun right now, you forget how hard it was those first weeks and months.

Kim said...

Oh JB, I feel for you. Our daughter was born in June '01 and she was the same way. I actually had some post-partum depression to go along with it. So we were all a mess.

The ONLY thing that worked was switching her formula. We put her on that expensive Nutramigen or "liquid gold" as they like to call it. It stunk, but it was worth every penny.

I educated myself for baby #2 and nursed for almost 13 months. No crying. Just smiles. I almost had to pinch myself that I had such a normal, happy baby. I prepared for the worst though.

Denise said...

Oh, how I can relate to a colicky baby! Mine cried non-stop and only slept for an hour and a half at a time until 9 months old. I also secretly wished for some mysterious illness so I could be hospitalized and my husband would come to realize the full extent of our son's evilness. I felt like the walking dead that entire first year. But, he's 9 now and we can look back and laugh (kind of).

Kim said...

I have a 12 week-old son, and after reading your article I feel a sense of hope that "this too shall pass." I feel so much guilt that he will somehow turn out unhappy because of all the stressful energy in the house. I have shouted terrible things to my husband while holding my son in my arms. :( It was such a relief to hear that you and your wife shared the same fear, and yet Raleigh has turned out to be a happy child. I will cling to that hope during the crying spells! Thank you so much for sharing your story. You have no idea how much it helped me. Also, I'm sooo glad you guys are back from vacation. You keep me company in those early a.m. hours.