We’ve had a tough run of late. Three weeks ago, pneumonia started making its way through our house. Everyone was affected. Many of us twice. During a two-week span, we endured ten doctors appointments. Oh. And one trip to the ER on a Sunday. Since the doctor’s office wasn’t open, we spoke with a nurse over the phone and she suggested we go the better-safe-than-sorry route.
By this past Tuesday, I thought we were through the worst of it. Until I got the call from Caroline. She was crying.
She was with Grand Finale at the doctor’s for his two-month checkup. It was well timed because earlier that day, he seemed to be congested (again). He was also making a strange, even scary noise.
The appointment didn’t go well. Reflux had combined with his congestion to render quite a few scary moments whenever he tried to clear his little throat: moments of breathlessness. Moments that turned purple. The doctor said that Grand Finale needed to go to the hospital. Immediately. In an ambulance.
So we made arrangements for our kids and I headed straight to the pediatrician’s office. And though I knew the mode of transportation before I arrived, actually seeing the ambulance waiting for my tiny infant son was quite the unsettling codifier. We were dealing with some serious stuff.
The longest story short is this: Grand Finale’s fine. He was ultimately diagnosed with bronchiolitis. As suspected, that, combined with developing reflux, created his scary noise. We got home late Friday afternoon, which meant that he ended up staying in the hospital for three nights and four days.
And during that time, I learned the following five things:
1. An infant seat strapped to an ambulance gurney is a dreadful sight: As was the little fella sitting in that infant seat. He looked so… small. And scared.
2. Our little guy is tough: Caroline and I watched helplessly as our son was poked more times than a pin cushion. They drew blood. The got urine (via a catheter). They even gave him a spinal tap. And don’t even get me started on the IV port that took 45 minutes to execute thanks to his tiny little veins. They finally found one on the top of his head that was up for the task. Sure, he got teary a coupla times. But not as often as his concerned parents.
3. Dads get no respect: Caroline and I platooned, each taking alternate stints in the hospital. I was with Grand Finale all day Thursday and spent that night with him, as well. And that afternoon, he was feeling awful — fussing like he’s never fussed before. I tended to him virtually nonstop from 4:30 in the afternoon until 9:30 at night.
His body was reacting to the new formula which the reflux had necessitated or so I gathered from his gas which could best be described as legendary. And I’m pretty sure that’s where the fussing stemmed from — an upset stomach thanks to his entire diet being switched in a moment’s notice. But at least one of the nurses seemed to believe the fussing was because Daddy was left in charge. Or so I gathered when said nurse walked in, saw the commotion, then said, “Oh, I know the drill, Dad. I’ll come back when Mama’s here.”
Let’s take those one at a time, shall we? I know the drill likely translates to Baby’s always fuss when dopey Daddy’s in charge. And I’ll come back when Mama’s here likely translates to Mama will have the baby all calmed down which will make it easier for me to do my job, so I’ll just come back then.
My reply: “We’ll see you tomorrow, then. Around noon. And, by the way, do you or one of the other broads out there know a good joint that’ll deliver? Or, better yet, maybe one of the dames brought some leftovers from home. Whaddya say, doll? Run out there and see what you can dig up, y’hear? Papa’s hungry and the game’s about to start,” I concluded before playfully slapping her ass.
Okay, that’s bullshit. All I really said were the first two sentences.
4. We received excellent care: Antiquated gender-role assignments notwithstanding, the hospital staff took excellent care of us. They were incredibly attentive, knowledgeable and courteous. Sensitive, too, to how the episode affected Caroline and me. Everyone there made us feel better and we’re indebted to them for that. Huge props. Heartfelt thanks.
5. Perspective: When the triplets were born, Caroline and I talked a lot about “finding our new normal.” Now that Grand Finale’s on the scene, “finding our new normal” has once again become a topic. After all, whenever you deal in extremes, you have to find a new place to call normal.
During Grand Finale’s spinal tap, I obsessed over “new normals,” and hoped and prayed I wouldn’t have to find any on account of something tragic. We were lucky. Everything was fine.
But many people aren’t so lucky. And the new normal they’re asked to find is much more taxing than the new normal five healthy children have led us to. And our time at the hospital reminded me just that.
May I never forget it.
Image: CJ Sorg via Creative Commons