The misadventures of a first time father

Tag Archives: Spouse Support

Despite leaving TV news behind me some months back, I made a brief return to television recently.

I had the absolute pleasure recently of appearing on the mid-morning program, “Mass Appeal” to talk about some of the lessons learned during my first year of fatherhood.

Unfortunately, WordPress does not allow me to embed the video from their site, so I’ll provide you with a direct link instead, should you want to check out the on-air clip:

http://www.wwlp.com/mass-appeal/surviving-the-first-year-as-a-dad

(UPDATE: I’ve just learned some months later, that this page and video are regrettably no longer online, or at least not at this time)

The experience was nothing short of a delight. First, hosts Ashley and Seth were incredibly nice, welcoming, and utterly professional. They made every guest there that day feel right at home and, this is the thing that really does it, they did so not only pleasantly, but so genuinely as well.

Why is this such a big deal, you may ask? Because, believe me, in the world of television, finding personalities that are genuine and not put on for either the audience or guests in the building can be a rare thing sometimes. These guys were the real deal as were their wonderful crew behind the scenes. I couldn’t believe how many people, resources, and building space was dedicated to this one show. You could see the commitment and it was awesome.

Secondly, my appearance on the show meant a visit to Western Massachusetts, one of my favorite places.

Other guests that day included a chef who owned a food cart and was baking some pie for the holidays, Boy Scouts about the annual popcorn drive, a man who showed how to make inexpensive table settings from something as simple as a necktie, and female veterans who were getting makeovers. Quite an eclectic mix, but boy, what a fun show.

I’ve included a few photos from the morning, as well as the video, if you care to watch. I think it went pretty well, and I was over the moon that they’d like to have me back at some point.

With Mass Appeal hosts Ashley and Seth.

With Mass Appeal hosts Ashley and Seth.

Turning ties into festive napkin holders and place settings.

Turning ties into festive napkin holders and place settings.

Ashley and Seth shoot a promo for Mass Appeal

Ashley and Seth shoot a promo for Mass Appeal

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Pigeon HospitalIt all happened a week ago today.

I don’t think Meg or I have ever had moments as terrifying as the ones we experienced last week. I don’t know how more bluntly I could put it other than, we thought our little man had left us.

For me, it was Friday night and I had left work. Meg was picking up the little guy that day so that I could head roughly 40 minutes out of town to a convention where I was set to spend most of the weekend promoting my comic book series. I got about halfway to my destination when I got a phone call from my mom.

“Get to the ER now,” she said.

My son had a seizure when Meg was picking him up.

I turned the car around and raced to the ER as fast as I could, behind every slow vehicle you could imagine, turning seconds into agonizing hours. When I arrived, I raced through the ER, the sense of fear eating away at me in those moments being absolutely inexplicable.

I was crippled the moment I walked into the ER and saw Meg holding our little man in her arms, unresponsive, his eyes rolled back, IVs and breathing tubes hooked up to him. Things seemed utterly bleak.

I looked into Meg’s red, crying eyes and knew we both were thinking the same thing – we thought we had lost him.

Before I had arrived but while in the hospital, he had a second seizure. The first time, he had a fever, they determined, the second time he had not, thus causing some questions and confusion amid the doctors. All sorts of tests were performed – bloodwork, urine, spinal tap (for meningitis) and a cat-scan.

Fortunately, all came back clear.

Then, at some point in the night, after test and test, tears and tears, and every terrible thought running through my head, it happened. When he came to and started responding, looking at us and for the first time he smiled again, well, you could’ve cut off all my limbs and I would have still been smiling to the heavens. He was awake.

The doctor decided to admit him and Meg and I spent the night alongside our little man in the hospital. Late into the night, he started showing signs of eye contact again, causing us to finally breathe once more. When he was spunky enough to start pulling the oxygen tube out of his nose because it obviously annoyed him, we were hopeful that our little monkey was coming back to us.

Throughout the night, the hospital staff checked in, even as he slept, monitoring his temperature, making sure he was getting what he needed in the IV, etc. The next morning, he was up and after a little bit of breakfast, was playing and giggling again, even if his fever was still bouncing up and down a bit and providing some concern.

What the doctors think happened is that he caught a virus. The virus caused the fever to hit quickly and to suddenly spike that afternoon, causing the first seizure.

Gerald and GroverI made a trip home in the night and returned with some familiar friends for our guy – Gerald the Elephant, and Pigeon, hoping that having a familiar face might help him feel more comfortable. In the morning, Gerald and Pigeon made a new friend – Grover, who joined us from the hospital gift shop on my trip down there for something of comfort, and to find Meg a magazine to read. My parents showed up at one point, bringing with them a talking Daniel Tiger doll that once he was awake, the little guy played with again and again in the cage-like crib set up in the hospital room. It’s set up so that they can’t get out in the night, but looks as though they’re an animal in the zoo.

We’ve always called him our little Superboy, and when he started feeling like himself again, that super-strength was in full force. They had that IV strapped into his arm but good, with an almost cast-like casing on his arm to keep it in. That didn’t stop him, though. When he was uncomfortable, he just reached and ripped that thing clear out of his arm the next day, causing a few nurses and attendants to come running to stop the bleeding he caused. Him? He was just so darn proud of himself. Me? I had to laugh. Our guy was on the mend, that much was clear.

When the hospital pediatrician came around the following morning, he said that we could go home. However, as I’m sure anyone who’s been in a hospital knows, discharge never happens right away. So in the hours between when the doctor said we could go home and when it came time to actually go, the fever had gone back up again. This then led to a myriad of paranoid thoughts about what to do. The doctor had already signed off on the discharge, so while we were told  we could stay if we want, the insurance company may not cover it because he signed off on the discharge earlier in the day. The hospital said to call the insurance company, which, wouldn’t you know, was not open on weekends and said to leave a message for them to get back to us on the next business day.

After a lot of back and forth, we decided we would just go home. We felt that if he was acting normal again, we could at least be there with him 24/7, be able to administer his medicine without the need of waiting for a nurse or attendant or doctor to come in amid other rounds they need to make. And he just might feel more comfortable back at home.

Environment may very well play a role in how our minds work when it comes to health, because it seemed as though he perked right up when he got around his familiar environment, his kitties, and his toys again. The fever was still there, but they prescribed medicine for that. Ah, there was the rub, though. A quick trip by me to get the medications led to me going to three pharmacies, all closed by 7:30 on a Saturday night. Hannaford, closed. Rite Aid, closed. Even Wal-Mart (despite my not liking Wal-Mart…I was desperate at that point), all closed. I was at my wits’ end. I called Walgreens. There was one 20-25 minutes away, but I’d make the drive. Closed. I told them we had just gotten out of the hospital and I needed this medicine for my child, asking if they could please recommend SOMEPLACE to get it.

Fortunately, there was a local pharmacy that was open, and open until 10 p.m. I put my foot to the pedal and drove 25 minutes to that pharmacy and got it filled, along with some other items needed – including A+D Cream for the poor little guy’s heiney. All that temperature taking left him very, very sore. I also bought an ear thermometer so we could hopefully give his little bum a rest.

Luckily for us, Meg’s sister came by and lent a hand while I was out on this hour and a half long journey for medicine.

In the end, it turned out I ran myself ragged for nothing. That prescription the hospital pediatrician gave us? Turned out if was for child’s ibuprofen to treat the fever. All that time, I could have just picked it up over the counter.

My mind was in an utter fog, so I’m not surprised that these little things alluded me in the midst of panic.

Gerald HospitalThat night, we slept in the little guy’s room, alongside his crib. We broke out a sleeping bag and laid it out, threw a few blankets down and set the alarm so we would make sure to get up at the right times and give him his medicine for the fever and monitor his temperature (something made a lot easier in the middle of the night with that ear thermometer). We did this two nights in a row, and saw his pediatrician the following Monday, who said it all appeared to be viral.

After the first few days home from work to monitor the little guy, my wife has now caught the virus and is fighting it off herself. We’re pounding the vitamin C (orange juice as well as powdered C inside water), and some Elderberry (great for the immune system) on top of the usual soup and tea.

It’s hard to be a week out and not think back to the horrors of seven days ago. I could sit here and worry about a million and one things. Yes, I know that I’ve always been slightly paranoid and a worry-wart before this. I know that I’m going to be very much airing on the side of caution even more than normal because of this. And yes, my mind keeps bouncing back to the words of the doctor telling us that now that this has happened once, he’s at high-risk for it happening again until he’s about five years old.

But I’ll try very hard not to. I know we all will. His fever has since subsided, and with the exception of a croupy-like bark that we’re working on, similar to what he had last February, he is playing and laughing and smiling and just being our little guy again.

And it’s absolutely wonderful.

I don’t care what superstitions anyone has about Friday the 13th. It was the day he was born and as of last week, it was the day he came back to us. It’s the luckiest day in the world to us.


© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporationBefore our son was born, my wife and I were very active in community theatre.

Heck, that’s even how we met, both cast in the same show many, many moons ago. We were both, whether separately or together, in usually two shows a year, but devoting a lot of our time to the theatre where we met in other ways – working on sets for other shows, helping directors with auditions, clean-up days. We both even served on the theatre board in different capacities over the course of several years as well.

I have seen that place in so many ways – as a refuge for those in need of a place to fit in, a historical heritage carried on by one successive generation after the next, a source of frustration (mostly during some of my time on the theatre board, which at times felt like a second job with the amount of time spent there), and as a social hub.

Most of all, though, it was a tradition, a sense of history. The particular theatre where my wife and I met was formed in the 1920s and has continuously put on multiple shows a year ever since. To walk through its rooms, hand-made posters dating back almost a century hanging on its walls, you can’t help but feel a sense of history as you stand there. When I would see a poster from a show Meg and I were in I’d think, ‘we’re a part of that history now.’ It’s a pretty darn neat thing.

We were actually in rehearsals for a show the night Meg found out she was pregnant. I came home to find her unique method of letting the cat out of the bag (notes with clues, tied to the collars of our actual cats) and we didn’t have much time before having to race out of the house to rehearsals for Arsenic and Old Lace, this completely new world of impending parenthood freshly dropped into our brains.

We had spent the better part of our lives on stage in some role or another, be it at that theatre or elsewhere. Soon after we found out we were expecting, though, we realized, this was not going to work as-is. So, as much as we loved it, we decided it was time to dim the lights on our theatre participation, at least until the little guy is old enough to come with us, or heck, possibly join us on stage if he wants.

It wasn’t easy. When something has been such a large part of your life, it’s hard to suddenly not have a show to be rehearsing for or not go to those monthly meetings and see everyone. At first it was weird, now it’s become even weirder to think about trying to get back into it at some point.

A lot of people will ask us “are you doing any theatre?” or “are you coming back to the theatre anytime soon?”

The real answer is, we don’t know. I’m sure we’d have fun. It’s in our blood. Heck, it seems to be in our little guy’s blood even at the age of one. Who knows, maybe we’ll get him up on stage one day and we’ll be a family of performers.

It’s one of those things, though, that I think only time will tell. I mean, come on, all theatre people, deep in their hearts, no matter how much they say they’re done, are just waiting for that right script or show for the “comeback performance.”

In the meantime, my stock answer for people is always “well, he’s our big production at the moment.”


declarationWhile cleaning my desk in our home office, I came across an interesting little item.

When a baby enters the picture, so much of your focus goes into what it takes to be good parents, that it can be easy to forget about what it takes to be good spouses.

Upon our return from our honeymoon a few years ago, my wife and I  grabbed breakfast at a greasy little diner. There, we looked back on the road trip through Vermont in the fall we had just completed to celebrate our marriage and looked to the road that lie ahead.

It was at that moment that we decided to grab hold of those fresh-off-a-wedding-and-honeymoon emotions and make a little reminder for the rest of our lives.

With that, we grabbed a napkin and scrawled down the following, and much like our forefathers jotting down the framework of our soon to be country, we created in those moments our “Declaration of a Happy Marriage”…

10/13/2010

*When it’s time to have kids, take them into our lifestyle, not create a new lifestyle for them.

*Keep eating healthy

*Be happy for what we have, but no excuses not to dream.

*Get out of ruts

*Have friends over.

*Take the time for date nights.

*Appreciate one another.

*When we fight, remember our vows.

*Do/say something kind every day.

*Help with and/or support each other’s dreams and attempts at achieving them.


One of the things about the hospital that we’re registered at to have the baby is the multitude of “extra” educational offerings they provide. For the past six weeks or so, my wife, Meg, and I have been attending Childbirth Classes at the hospital one night a week, where we’ve learned all about the process of child birth, contractions, etc. Made up of roughly 20 or so other couples, it provided us with the opportunity to take yet another “extra” that we attended this past weekend – Breastfeeding Class.

We’re both very big advocates of breastfeeding our “soon to be,” and I admit, the class made me even moreso, if that’s possible. I know some people will tout how far science has come, but by my humble estimations, there’s only so much that science can replicate in baby formula, and certain things that can only be found in breast milk. These unique characteristics include immunities, anti-allergens and all kinds of other great nutrition that they can’t get elsewhere. So, I’m all for it.

We’ve had people in the family who have had some trouble with breast feeding, and that gave Meg a sense of caution – one of the reasons she wanted to make sure we attended the class. I didn’t mind, as I really want to make it work.

Of course, that’s said as the relationship-half that isn’t going to actually be having a child sucking on its chest, so perhaps I’m out of place with my enthusiasm.

While I found the class informative, it also was a bit daunting. Between the video that shows you all the problems that may arise for you to troubleshoot, to the intense “lactation specialist,” it can feel a little stressful and could easily push some people off of the whole concept all together.

That is the slippery slope, I think. Here’s why…

One of the things they press upon you in this breastfeeding education is that a child has to latch on and breastfeed within the first two hours of their birth. It’s crucial. Introducing a bottle at any point in the first few weeks can kill the entire process of breastfeeding.

But when a mother is feeling scared, and a specialist, nurse, whomever, is so intense that they enhance those fears, it can often lead to some difficulties for both mother and child. It’s pretty detrimental to what a lactation specialist is trying to accomplish in the first place, wouldn’t you think? So the key is calm. Calm. Calm. Calm.

That’s where I, as the spouse, realize my place. I can not offer the physical nutrients that the child needs, but what I can offer is support to Meg, and to the baby as we head into this venture together. Yes. All three of us. The baby may be latching on, but we’re a family, and we’ll get through it all together, even this.

As I sat in the breastfeeding class, I could not help but notice that I was one of only a few spouses that were in attendance. What’s more, directly across from us at another table was a woman who was very eager to try this when her baby is born, and next to her was her spouse or boyfriend, who at first was sleeping during the class (very blatantly), and then got up and left, leaving her on her own until class had ended.

I felt terrible for her. Here we are, learning how important support of the spouse is to a mother who is trying to breastfeed, and this guy can’t even sit through a class with her. I just felt bad.

So, husbands to be, I say to you this – don’t brush off the idea of breastfeeding, and don’t be so quick to hand over a bottle if they haven’t latched on right away. Stick it out, it can happen, and you can help – simply by being there, being supportive, and being the partner that you’re significant other needs you to be, for her sake and the sake of your baby.



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