Abrielle’s birth: My thoughts and reflections

Yup. So I’m a dad now.

The last several days have been a blur…and quite surreal. We just completed our first day of being at home at the apartment with Abrielle. We are tired, but we are happy.

So now, since I am a brand new dad, I get to throw some thoughts at you.

 

When I was looking forward to Abrielle’s birth…I was asking questions of people whose parenting styles and philosophies were ones that I wanted to emulate. The biggest key points that I took to heart (because they were taught to me by parents I wanted to imitate) were: Don’t listen to anyone who gives you a “one-size-fits-all” strategy. Sure, that was a basic 101 teaching, but it was important. Since different children have different personalities, different approaches are required.

But, as I got closer and closer…I came to this conclusion (and I want to see if it holds up). A Christ-like father is nothing more than a Christ-like person who happens to have kids. When I hear bad stories of fathers, it doesn’t seem like the person’s vices as a father appear out of nowhere…their vices as a father come from their vices as a person. Do laid back men become over-controlling fathers? Do responsible men become irresponsible fathers? Do peaceful men bring an environment of strife to their household?

So where I ended up was here…the good news is that being a good father is simple. Not easy, but simple. Continue pursuing Jesus. Continue letting God form me into a Christlike person. Continue this three-steps-forward-two-steps-back-three-steps-forward process of spiritual formation. I don’t need a special strategy…I need to learn to listen to what God tells me through Scripture and Spirit.

Because again…all the fathers who seem like Christlike fathers to me seem to also be Christlike people. If I see them being nice to fun people, but mean to annoying people, then they will be mean to their kids when their kids get annoying. But the ones who can be nice to annoying people…they can be nice to crying, complaining children. They can be nice to struggling, defiant teenagers. And when the child leaves the house, a good mark is left. That doesn’t mean that it guarantees that they will follow God (because it doesn’t), but even if they don’t follow God, they will respect their family’s faith. And if they do end up following God, then those roots in that family environment strengthens their own faith.

 

How my thoughts have changed, now that I am an official dad

I still have that theory. A Christ-like dad is just a Christ-like person with kids. However, when I got to spend time just looking at Abrielle on the NICU table, my thoughts changed. Well, maybe not changed…maybe redirected. I stopped caring about what kind of dad I would be, and I started caring about Abrielle.

See, before this, although Abrielle was being formed within Sarah’s womb, I hadn’t met or seen her yet. I knew nothing of her personality. So, everything I pictured about Abrielle came from my imagination. What would she look like? What would she act like? As for myself, however, I didn’t have to use my imagination to think of what I would be like. I didn’t know Abrielle, but I knew myself. As a result, I often thought about how I could be a good dad to Abrielle.

However, now that I have met Abrielle, I am way excited to get to know her. To learn about her. I am enjoying the newborn phase, but excited for when she learns how to talk. For when she learns how to explore. For when she meets my friends and actually recognizes them. The thought of “How am I going to be a good, Christ-like dad?” has taken a back seat in my mind. I am too excited about Abrielle. I’m not looking at her thinking “I am her dad!!!” I am looking at her thinking, “She is my daughter!!!” See the difference?

 

My shot against those condescending people…

Another thought that I have…Sarah and I have both shared, for a while now, an annoyance for those people who constantly speak condescendingly towards the less experienced. “Just you wait…” “Oh, you think life is tough now? Wait until you have kids…” “You have these theories, Carson? All your theories are going to go right out the window when your kid becomes a teenager.” (By the way, they say that before they even hear my theories.)

A lot of people said these same kind of things about marriage. The “just you wait, you don’t know how hard it is until you experience this and that and yada yada…” (the hidden implication is “you don’t know how hard it is, but I do, so bow to my glorious experience and wisdom.”) Okay, maybe I am getting a little carried away. I digress.
But really. Perhaps I am wrong, but let me state my opinion: I don’t think this helps. Perhaps it is intended to help spur people to step up to the responsibility level required to be a parent, before becoming a parent. But what I find interesting is that these “warnings” are not what prepared me to wake up at 5:15 AM just to make sure Abrielle was fed by myself or Sarah. The fact that I really cared about Abrielle is what motivated me, not the “warnings.”

 

Well, Carson, of course. You’re a new parent. You’re excited. You probably took your wife on more dates when you were a newlywed, too. That’s very possible. Except for the dates thing. We went on way more dates our second and third year of marriage. We were very much less likely to leave the house our first year of marriage, if you know what I mean. But I am getting off topic now.

Sure, it’s possible that I am simply thinking that because I am excited. But I remember dreading the thought of working more than 30 hours a week. Once I got married and had financial goals, suddenly the fact that I loved Sarah motivated me to consistently (keyword) do what I had always dreaded doing. This same love got somebody who basically “got by” in middle school and high school to suddenly take 55 credits in one year of college in order to graduate on time. I didn’t sit down and resolve to be more responsible. It just happened (which I think is evidence of God’s ability to form and empower someone who can’t form and empower themselves).

 

And as other evidence to bring to the case, my Dad says it was the same way for him. Changing anybody else’s diaper was disgusting. Changing Dawnine’s diaper, or Tara’s diaper, or my diaper was easy for him because our happiness was his motivation. He cared about us, and that care drove him on.

So I do not think “preparing for the responsibility of being a parent” gets it done. Again, just my opinion, although I am speaking it strongly. I do not think “just you waits” help prepare us for the responsibility. Something about us, partly programmed into our minds and partly imparted to us by Spirit, helps us step up to the task.

 

For some reason, as I understand it, God doesn’t seem to like giving us what we need before we need it. He REALLY seems to like giving us what we need when we need it. So my prayer, half request yet half claiming-a-promise, is that God gives me whatever I need as a parent. Whether I need power, responsibility, discipline, courage, love, whatever, I ask and I also believe that God will provide it.

 

God, thanks for loaning us Abrielle. Now show us what to do with her.

Abrielle’s birth: Part 3 (Up to now…now meaning 2:13 PM on Monday)

So I head back down to NICU after Sarah gets her painkillers and starts taking a nap. I bring the laptop with me, because if Abrielle is sleeping, I don’t want to wake her up (that’s when brain cells are developing quickly!!!). So I type most of that previous post during that time.

However, Abrielle wakes up! So my time down there turned out to be 10% typing and 90% holding Abrielle.

So I will put my thoughts and reflections in better detail but here’s a freebie…the fact that I am a father and that I have a daughter feels so unreal to me. I am predicting that it will feel real when we actually take Abrielle home to our apartment. However, certain moments make it feel more real. One of them is when Abrielle cries, and she keeps crying for the doctor, and she keeps crying for the nurses…but she stops crying when I pick her up. That…well…that is pretty freakin cool.

Anyway, back to the story. I hold Abrielle for a while. She sleeps, then she wakes up and looks around for a while. Then she sleeps, then she wakes up (We got a few good eyes open pics on my phone, and yes, we have facebooked them).

Eventually, Sarah comes down after her rest because she misses Abrielle. Sarah and her mom both ask about what’s keeping her on the IV, and the doctor tells them that her blood sugar was stable, but they wanted to make sure it stayed stable. However, Sarah and her mom noticed a difficulty…the sugar water from the IV was, perhaps, making it so that Abrielle was not hungry. Therefore, Abrielle was not breast feeding as much as she needed to. So they talk to the doctor and communicate their strong desire…we want Abrielle off the IV and out of the NICU. The doctor looks a little offset (later on, we determined from what we heard that he was one of those brilliant doctors with bad bedside manner), but he mentions that we will start to ween her off of the sugar water IV, and then we will get some blood for lab work at 7:00 PM. If all goes well, we can take her up to our room after that. Doctor will let us know by 9:00 PM.

 

So we all go up to Sarah’s room on the fourth floor (Sarah’s room, but my couch). Sarah is very upset for a few reasons.

1. She didn’t trust that the doctor was going to start weaning Abrielle off of the pain meds.

2. Sarah is recovering quickly, so she is probably going to be discharged from the hospital the next day. But what if Sarah is discharged and Abrielle is not? Sarah doesn’t want to go home without her daughter and have to come visit…but the couch down in the NICU is nowhere near comfortable enough for her to sleep on while she waits.

3. She thought the doctor looked at her like an idiot when she asked to get Abrielle off the IV (again, looking back, we think that he was a smart doctor who was unskilled with bedside manner).

4. Oh, let’s not forget the post-partum hormone dump.

So after being up there with Sarah, she and I felt that the best thing to make her feel comfortable was for me to stay down there with Abrielle.

 

Now, if you all know me, I am not one to get mad at people. I like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. But yes, seeing my wife cry, I was ready to be a little defensive with the doctor. I was ready to be a little defensive with the doctor until…the doctor walks by holding his daughter’s hand (I would estimate 6 to 8 years old). Her dad says “Here, this is one of the babies I am taking care of.” Her daughter looks at Abrielle, at me, and then she looks back to her dad, smiles at him, bounces up and down in childlike excitement (what was she excited about? I think she was just excited to be with her dad). After that, they walk around the NICU, with her asking curious questions about everyone and everything.

It’s kinda hard to dislike the doctor when you watch his own daughter love him so much. Anyway, moving on with the story…

At this point, Sarah’s mom comes down and switches with me. I head up to Sarah to update her…they are weaning Abrielle off the IV fluid. We need to make sure she keeps breastfeeding because we want her out of there.

Well, God heard our prayer, because Sarah stopped producing colostrum and started producing tons of milk (This usually happens 3 to 5 days after birth, but for Sarah, it apparently took 1 ½ days!). Abrielle passed all lab tests on bloodwork, and Sarah’s mom and I got to accompany Abrielle from NICU to our room. I couldn’t carry her, because she had to be in one of those plastic cribs, but I did get to escort her. I looked at Abrielle (because Abrielle’s eyes were open, and she’s starting to make good eye contact!), but Abrielle did not look at me. She seemed really, really focused on something else, but I couldn’t see what. She was looking through the plastic at something…

…oh. She was looking at her own reflection. Fascinated.

Anyway, we got Abrielle up at our room that night at 9:00 PM, got her checked for hearing and other diseases (Abrielle is a freaking warrior during those PKU tests. She doesn’t even cry when she gets the heel prick), and for the first time, we got to spend that night together as a family of three. Sarah got the first turn of waking up, but Abrielle didn’t eat that much. I took the second turn, feeding Abrielle from the milk-syringe (the nurses taught us how to make milk drip down a finger. So basically, I learned to trick Abrielle into thinking my finger was a nipple, and she drank almost two syringes full of milk. The remainder of milk ended up on my pant leg…and that wasn’t really that upsetting. Thus, Abrielle is now milk-drunk and falls right back to sleep, and I get to sleep a few more hours.

When I wake up at 10:15 AM or so, the nurse has been talking with Sarah for a little while, getting her fully checked out. So I wake up, start cleaning up the room and packing up, and then I go down, move the car, but bring up the car seat. Another nurse who has the reputation of the “car seat specialist” shows me about three to four things that I did totally wrong with the car seat, but then we all go down to the car, load up, and get on the road.

This leads us to where we are now. We have a bunch of bags of stuff to put in their right places. Sarah fed Abrielle, but now she is in bed getting some much-needed rest. She keeps wanting to stay awake and stay with Abrielle, but fortunately, her mom is forcing her to go get some rest to recover. Right now, my mother-in-law, Abrielle’s grandmother, is sleeping with her first granddaughter on her chest in a “froggie” position. Abrielle looks really comfortable. As for me, I am typing. Gamefly sent a new game in the mail…Tomb Raider: Underworld (I always enjoyed Tomb Raider games), but now that I am a new dad…will I get to play it soon? Will I get to play it in a week? Who knows?

So today is Monday. I have today, tomorrow, and Wednesday off work to get situated, make sure that Sarah is taken care of as she continues her recovery, and also to get used to being a new dad. I will be back in action at the taekwondo school on Thursday, so I’ll see all you taekwondo people then. I am looking forward to teaching again (most all the nurses and doctors have caught me getting kicking cravings out in the hall…that’s how you know I’m ready to come back on Thursday)…but I am also very glad to have these days off, as I’m sure you understand. But I’m a dad now, so that means classes will be tougher, because I’m tougher now. (Or at least, that’s what I tell myself)

 

That’s the story up to now, and from this point on, it’s life as usual. Well, the new usual.

 

Next post, I will give you my “reflections” and thoughts on the whole experience. This part was just wrapping up the story.

We interrupt this blog series to bring you: Abrielle! (part 1)

I was having a wonderful time blogging about a sensitive topic, but although I am looking forward to continuing the series, it is going to be on hold for either a day or a few days. Most of you probably know why. I am distracted by something else.

 

Our firstborn (don’t say “firstborn” in front of Sarah…it reminds her that we ARE planning on doing this again, and this is not the time to remind her of that), Abrielle Barbara Clews, was born Friday, July 20th, at 11:25 P.M. via C-section. We don’t get her in our arms yet…she is currently down in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) being monitored.

Now, we have been richly blessed by people bringing us meals and also deeply touched by all the prayers, the well wishes, the congratulations, and everything. We are happy to be connected to so many people who care about us, whether through church, taekwondo, family, school, or growing up together.

However, with this blessing comes the curse…the curse of retelling the same story over and over again (not a bad curse to have, really). Thus, this post will…

A)     Give you all the information you wanted to know about Abrielle’s birth, why she is in the NICU…

B)     Give you most all the information about Sarah, and…

C)     You get a glimpse into the thoughts of a new parent.

And I get to tell it in two parts!

 

The Abrielle Story up to now

So as many of you know, Sarah always wanted a home birth. If you want the reasons, you should ask her…my policy is best stated as “whoever has to push the human being out of the vagina gets my full support on whatever decision she chooses.” So, after an all-day beach trip with our church’s youth group on Sunday, she woke me up at about 2:00 A.M. Monday morning. No, her water didn’t break, but her mucus plug had started coming out, which typically (not always) means “It’s on in 24 to 48 hours.”

The home phase

So Monday, we started to get everything extra ready.

Tuesday, we were timing contractions. Nope…not close enough yet.

Wednesday, after texting our midwife, we officially decided “Yup, we are now in early labor.” Which can last from hours to days. So we called our midwife, and we called Sarah’s mom. They came down and got to live with us from that point on.

Let me back up for a second…our original midwife actually got sick with something pretty contagious…so much to Sarah’s sadness, she wasn’t going to be able to make it for the birth. The assistant she had called in to help would now be THE midwife on the scene, as well as having Sarah’s mom (who is a retired midwife). At first, Sarah was cautious…she had felt comfortable with her midwife so a last-second switch wasn’t something she was excited about. This assistant, well, she had only known her for about two weeks. But Angie (the assistant who became the full-on midwife) was totally perfect for the task.

Thursday, we were in active labor all day.

Friday, we continued active labor all day, hoping to move into “transition” (where the cervix finishes dialating from 8 cm to 10 cm). However, Angie noticed something. She had been constantly checking Abrielle’s heartbeat, but for about four hours, there were some big spikes. This would mean either one or two things. One: Baby gets stressed out at contractions, and that’s not good. Two: Baby has an infection of some sort, and that’s not good. So on Friday, she let us know the situation, what it could mean, and the options we had. So reluctantly, we packed up to go to the place we didn’t want to go…the hospital.

The hospital phase

So we showed up at the hospital at about 6:00. They put needles in Sarah’s hand for an IV…I basically curled up in a corner, cringed, and sucked my thumb (okay, maybe not quite like that but still, I hate needles). Yes, I know that she was the one getting poked, not me, what am I whining about, but still. I will cover that later, when I talk about my thoughts throughout this whole thing.

So we find out: Abrielle is face up. That sucks for Sarah (it means it’s gonna hurt even more)…but as for Abrielle, she’s not affected by that. But we are also noticing that whenever Sarah has a contraction, Abrielle’s heart rate is dropping. Weaker contractions, well, she’s fine. Stronger contractions, not so much. Another problem at this point is that Sarah is so burned out from such a long labor that her contractions just aren’t moving things forward.

By the way…over the years, I learned that Sarah would be concerned (from hearing stories) of being bullied into a c-section when it’s not necessary. So, before even showing up to the hospital, I was prepared to be the one to “state our conditions” to the doctors. So we communicate this to the doctors…we want to avoid a c-section by whatever means necessary, unless we REALLY needed to. We don’t want her taken away…we want immediate skin-to-skin contact. The doctors did a great job of explaining that we would not do the c-section unless TOTALLY necessary, but if it went that direction, we would talk about it. Also, I have learned that they are pretty good about making sure that skin-to-skin happens quickly (I have been told that Salem Hospital and Silverton Hospitals are great places to have babies).

But back to Sarah…when offered pain-killers, Sarah chooses phentanyl (sp?), in order to survive  the contractions that pitocin would instigate (regular contractions are bad enough. Pitocin contractions are worse). She doesn’t want to use the epidural. However…the pain is still too much, and Abrielle really doesn’t like the pitocin contractions. So Sarah takes the epidural…and Abrielle still doesn’t like the contractions.

So, the doctor comes in…states the situation and communicates clearly that she doesn’t like recommending this…but the c-section is the way to go. Mom (who has seen different doctors abuse the c-section just because things aren’t going fast enough), supports this. So Sarah chooses the c-section.

Within minutes, I get to play dress up in scrubs or whatever those clothes are called, and I get to go hang out with Sarah on the other side of the “veil” (because nobody ever wants to look down and watch their own surgery. Shortly after I get there, they start the procedure. Abrielle is out within minutes…but I don’t hear her crying or anything.

Apparently, a few things were wrong that were quickly fixed. One: Abrielle apparently doesn’t want to breath. In fact, she has maconium (baby’s first fecal matter, tar-like poop) in her mouth, and if she breathes she could get it in her lungs. They get the maconium our and they use a device to help her breathe. Two: Her “APGAR” (is that right?) score is very low. It’s like a 1 out of 10. So she is kinda responsive, but not much. Three: Some type of gas in the umbilical cord indicated that there might be some problem. I don’t remember the details on that one.

From the birth on…

After she comes out, they take her away for a little to get the meconium out and get her breathing. We don’t hear much for a little bit…the nurse next to us is looking over the veil and giving us a play-by-play. However, Sarah (who is out of it because of pain meds) and I hear in the distance a baby’s cry. First time hearing Abrielle.

After a few minutes wait, they bring our baby, swaddled up in a blanket with a little hat. For the first time ever, I do not have to use my “imagination” to picture Abrielle…I actually see my actual daughter in front of me for the first time. They hand her to me, I hand the nurse the camera, and the three of us get our first family picture together. After that, Sarah gets to give Abrielle a quick kiss on the forehead, but that’s all that Sarah is going to get for the next few hours.

After this, I get to follow the nurse (who also happens to be the mom of one of our taekwondo students, one of our black belts! So I’ve known her for years) to the NICU. I get to carry Abrielle, and I get to be there for the first hour or two. Sarah has to be taken to the recovery room. So I am going back and forth between hanging out with Abrielle and making sure she’s okay, to hanging out with Sarah. Fortunately, Abrielle’s grandma (Sarah’s mom) gets to come in and hang out with Abrielle. They get Abrielle all hooked in to vital monitors and they put in an IV (I hate needles. My 1 day old daughter is by far tougher than I am). They prick her foot to test her blood sugar levels.

After these two hours, Sarah finally gets to come meet Abrielle for longer than 10 seconds. She gets skin-to-skin and she gets to attempt breast feeding. Abrielle, like most babies, struggled her first breast feeding experience. However, she gets to smell mom and figure out where the food comes out.

Over the next 24 hours (leading up to now), we learn a few things. One, our daughter has no infection. Thumbs up. Two…she is breathing normally now, and we can tell because she develops a strong cry. She can be loud. Three…her blood sugar is low…but with an IV and some colostrum provided by my wife (Abrielle’s second breast feeding session was AWESOME), she now has a high blood sugar level.

They are continuing to monitor to make sure everything stays normal. But other than that, Abrielle is safe and sound.

 

You know, it only makes sense because Sarah and I both spent our beginnings in the NICU as well. So it’s like a family trait.