Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Finally Home!

OK, so I haven't blogged in a while. The last six months have held some of the worse experiences of my life. The last two months have tested me in ways I never imagined, but in the end, I am so glad to have Peter that I would go through it all again if I had to.

Peter has done well though out his short four month life. Everything that was asked of him he did well from breathing to enduring tests and even an eye surgery. In the last month, as the time for him to come home drew nearer, the stress level seemed to grow exponentially. Things stopped being clear cut. It used to be that everything was measured and had a prescribed treatment, but then it turned into a free- for-all on opinions about how to raise a baby. One nurse would tell me I need to breastfeed because it would protect him and prevent illness. The very next day a nurse would say we need to give him formula because he isn't growing fast enough. One specialist would say don't ever give him a bottle because then he won't breastfeed and he really should breastfeed. Instead he should begin a tiny cup. Then a doctor would meet with me as though I was being difficult because giving him a bottle would help him get off the feeding tube faster. One nurse would write a feeding plan for when I should feed him then the next day I am told that I will over tire him by following that plan. I would call the hospital at night and be told Peter was settled and fine. The next I would be told that he was screaming and I need to try to spend more time at the hospital. Finally I was asked to stay at the hospital over night. I was excited because I thought that some consistency would occur. None did. Finally after weeks of staying at the hospital on and off and try every feeding method and technique under the sun, we were allowed to take Peter home.

Peter came home on March 13th. We have a machine in our apartment that pulls oxygen out of the air and sends it to Peter via a plastic tube that has prongs that stick in Peter's nose. We also have five oxygen tanks. One is a back-up to replace the machine if we were ever to loose power or if the machine broke. The other four are to use when we go out with Peter. They are about the size of a fire extinguisher and fit in a book bag. This constant leash attached to Peter it not as bad as the staff seemed to thing we would be worried that it was. The they were constantly trying to reassure us when we were just thrilled to get Peter home no matter what it involved. Peter seems to be more annoyed at the oxygen than we are. He constantly pulls the prongs out of his nose. The staff gave us various types of tape to try to hold it in place, but with Peter's determination the tape just served to pull his hair and get the prong stuck in odd positions. We have stopped using the tape and just adjust the tube to fit around his head snugly. We continue to place the prongs back into his nose the same zillion times a day we were doing before.

Peter also has an apnea monitor that we can use when ever we like. It has a probe that tapes to Peter's chest and alarms if Peter ever stops breathing. The nurses said we don't have to use it, but most moms use it all the time at first. I found it to be a horrible waste of machinery. First of all, to actually get the probe to stick to Peter you have to use a type of tape that peels Peter's skin if you try to remove it without drenching it in lotion first. Even though this industrial strength tape sticks to Peter wonderfully, it doesn't stick to the probe. Instead of giving us peace of mind, the dumb thing would get stuck to Peter's shirt, go off, and scare us to death at random times in the middle of the night. Eventually we just put the device away.

Other than those two devices, Peter has multivitamins and iron supplements he takes once a day. He is mostly breastfed with a bottle of prescription preemie formula once a day that has extra calories to help him grow faster. He also has about two doctor's appointments or check-ups each week.

Even with all this extra stuff, Peter is a pretty normal baby. He development is supposed to follow his gestational age (which would make him one week old developmentally), but in reality, he tends to fall somewhere in the middle of his birth age and his gestational age. Another words, he acts like a typical 2 month old baby. He cries, feeds, plays, and interacts with us completely normally. For this we are very grateful. It is so much fun to see him interact with the world and I love dressing him, bathing him, talking to him, and just holding him. The tiredness of feeding him multiple times a night is just physical. The tiredness that came from worrying about him has pretty much gone away.

Peter still has to be continually tested until he is off the oxygen. He will also have a hernia surgery in a month or so. He isn't quite normal and that has given him a unique personality. He is our little miracle and I look forward to everyday with him.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Beginning of an Era

Peter comes home tomorrow. Lara and I are both agreed that this is going to make our lives immeasurably easier. We've been parents now for 3 1/2 months (longer, I realize, if you count from conception). Still, it feels momentous. From now on, "we" means three of us. I think Lara is more in that groove than I am: she has been at the hospital with Peter far more regularly than I have in the last two months. In the last two weeks, she's spent more nights at the hospital than at home. This much time alone has enabled me to consider our situation, and my dedication to this family, more closely. It's also enabled me to watch some movies Lara doesn't like.

In the last month (it's been a month since I posted last), I celebrated my 30th birthday. This seems like it should be more important. I mean, the 10's digit changed. That's big time. At numerically significant moments like this we humans have a sacred tradition of overreacting. When I turned 10, it was a big deal because I was a whole decade old. Turning 20 was more important to me than 21 because it meant I was no longer a teenager and I wasn't planning on going out and getting drunk. Often, people who have grown up with an unreasonably young concept of where "old" starts get depressed at 30, possibly because they can't think of any other reason it's important when it seems like it should be ("OH NO! I'm THIRTY. I'm soooo oooooold!" - at which point I would like to poke this person in the eye). I've never really felt like "old" started until somewhere around 60, and even then it wasn't "old" as in past the point of usefulness, but "old" as in some parts don't work the way they used to. For me, "old" has never been something to dread, it is simply something that is, and it's only necessarily something that is on the outside. I feel sorry for people who get old on the inside.

Even so, 30 felt significant to me, I think, because it sounds like the point at which full adulthood, along with the associated furrowed brow and weight gain, truly begins. But you know, I still can't really identify with that overly serious worldview that seems to be part of what most people mean by "grow up." If adulthood is anything other than 90% play, I can do without it. I like smiling, running and jumping, playing games, laughing, teasing, and making faces. I still chew bubble gum in order to blow bubbles. I still tend to like cartoons better than anything else. Ice cream is the nectar of the gods. Sure, I fall victim to worry, especially recently. The most tragic thing about worry is how it blinds me to the wonder of the moment. Recently in prayer, I have been frequently feeling the impulse to look around me in child-like wonder. Look! Realize that you're in Edinburgh! Look at the buildings, the roads, the walls and fields. Feel the crisp air and breathe it in! Listen to the sounds! Smell the ... hops (yeah, for those of you who come to visit, Edinburgh has a pretty distinct smell that comes from local breweries). Okay, don't smell the hops, but you're alive, in Scotland, with a wonderful church, getting your PhD, together with your wife, and you have a son who shouldn't have survived the first night! Worry and anxiety, which it sometimes feels is the demeanor expected by small-minded individuals who take themselves way too seriously, shut all that out.

The feeling of significance, of entry into adulthood, may also be exaggerated because this was my first birthday in which I am a parent (which sounds like it should be antonymous with invisible). But the immutably young part of me, the Toys R Us kid, sees that what I've gained with Peter is a new playmate, somebody who will eventually find all my gags fresh and funny (for a while, at least), somebody who will like puns and what I call time bomb jokes (the kind that I throw into a conversation not expecting anyone to get it until later; they're really more for my own amusement). So what is so inherently significant about 30? Absolutely nothing. As I've noted elsewhere, if our numbering system was not based on tens (but on, say, powers of 12, like the Sumerians, or powers of 16, as in hexadecimal numbering in computer engineering), this birthday wouldn't be even have the illusion of significance. What is significant is that here I am at 30, embarking on a totally new journey to a destination I cannot see and have never seen (dangerously overused metaphors acknowledged), and I could not be more optimistic about our lives only getting better and better. God is driving the current and I'm along for the ride. Tomorrow, truly, is the beginning of a new era.