Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Campbell's Journey Home

So, I have a kid now.  Like, a real life baby.  Another mouth in The Cabana that wants food, another person in this place that will have (or has already) his own personality and thoughts and opinions.  He is upstairs with his mommy, having a late night snack as babies are wont to do sometimes.

Its an amazing thing, really.  For the entire pregnancy, we had no clue of the gender of the baby... was it Lorelei?  Was it Campbell?  Thankfully, we found out early it wasn't both at the same time... but on Thursday, December 1st, at 437p, we found out it was Campbell Isaiah.  And now, I can't imagine a daughter--I can't imagine not having Campbell here in our lives.

But he didn't come home immediately... and neither did The Lovely Steph Leann.  So for your sake, because many of you have asked, and for my own sake, so a decade from now I can recall how it all happened, here's Campbell's journey from birth to The Cabana.

So, hundreds of you read the running diary on the day he was born.  Dr. Babysnatcher snatches him out and they plunk him down on the table to do all their doctory things.   As I said, childbirth was supposedly this beautiful and magical experience and such, but for me, it was just weird.  I wasn't queasy, or it didn't freak me out, it was just... well, weird.  And after the baby was yanked out, Dr. Babysnatcher... okay, you ever been to Panera Bread?  You know how you rake all the extra food and such off of the plate and into the garbage, and it goes into a big pile?  That was kind of what it looked like--the doc was just pulling out all the extra junk.  Weird.

Also, did you know that The Lovely Steph Leann had TWO epidurals?  So, she had decided to go unmedicated for delivery for a variety of reasons, but once admitted to the hospital the day before--turns out she had something called pre-eclempsia, which has high blood pressure and protein in the urine as symptoms--the odds of unmedicated delivery was very slim.

About halfway through the day, after the doc told her that going natural would be very hard and very bad for her because of blood pressure issues, she finally relented and allowed the epidurals.  Of course, I have to step out when the Epidurally Doc comes in, and I learn later that because of her being swollen practically all over, including her back, the epidural given only numbed half of her body.  She was still feeling contractions on the other half--so they had to stick her two more times to get it to work.

The Lovely Steph Leann is known as a sleeper.  Always has been.  So here is my impression of her during birth:

Push push push push ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ what?  I'm awake... push?  ok, push push push push push ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ huh?  push again?  ok, push push push push push pusZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Yup, she fell asleep in-between contractions while pushing.  The nurse looked at me and asked with surprise, "Is she snoring?" and I smiled and said, "Yup.  That would be The Lovely Steph Leann."

So, you know the rest--baby out, mommy in a daze, and daddy given a pair of scissors to cut the cord.

"So here I am, warm, fed, taking a nap... and I'm evicted from my womb
with a view.  Its cold, I'm stark naked, I got fluid and blood in my eyes,
I'm hungry and some dude in a Jedi sweatshirt is coming at my food
supply line with a pair of scissors.  What the fool, man?!"
Let me just say this about that cord thing... for me, it was kind of pointless.  I guess I can put on my Hurricane Rhett Dead Inside pants and say it.  Didn't see the point.  Campbell was already cut from mommy, and all I did was cut the excess from his tummy while he lay in the crib, screaming his fool head off.  I think I was supposed to bond with him, and in truth, I found it distracting because that cord was hard to cut and I was trying to not amputate his little leg off with the scissors.  It would have been different were I to cut him free from mommy, but it was more of a symbol than anything else.  Maybe its just me.

The next 24 hours were a blur.  The Lovely Steph Leann and I were both flat out exhausted, yet almost too exhilarated to rest.  We had already agreed to let Campbell go to the nursery overnight, being brought back to our room only to nurse.  We had a few visitors that night, including Hurricane Rhett and Amarylis By Mornin' (up from san antone), The Rays--both St'ray and C'ray--Bro-in-law Tyler and his Boo Brynn and a few other folks.  My buddy Tebershaw came up and helped me install the carseat base, and our friends The Stampers checked on us daily.

Remember, since Camp decided it would be a good idea to show up, oh, you know, 17 days early, we were still in the old women's center at the hospital, and as (mis)luck would have it, we were in the smallest room on the floor.  The room ended up being quite cramped for a little while.  The Brookwood New Women's Center opened on December 2nd.  The day after Campbell popped out... so on Friday, they wheeled us over to the new building... we were the final patients to be moved, and we were the first (and for a brief few hours, the only) patients on the 6th floor.

The 6th floor is considered the "High Risk" ward, and we could thank The Lovely Steph Leann's roller coaster blood pressure for that honor.  Not that any of the nurses will remember those little nuggets of trivia, or even us for that matter, by now, but its worth mentioning.

A proud Wookiee, proud of the new Ewok in
the tribe.
The second and third nights both brought in a more visitors, like my best mate Wookiee, who came in a sat a while with us, held Campbell, and joined me for dinner.  DeLisa and DeNick also stopped by with their own son, DeGeorge, plus some more family, and of course, Big Daddy Ron (the pops in law) and Mama Ruthless (the mom in law) were there alot.  The Lovely Steph Leann had a blood pressure cuff attached to her arm for the better part of three days or so, inflating and deflating every 10 to 15 minutes.  All day.  All night.  Sucks to be her.

I do have to tell you that the hospital cafeteria food wasn't that bad.  We had several coupons for food, which I happily used over and over--though it was titled "Complimentary Meal Voucher", and in fine print said, "Not  To Exceed $5", which would buy you a parfait and half a co-cola.   Their corn dogs were delish, though.

Now, the trick was actually getting to the cafeteria.  When in the old building, in Labor & Delivery, it wasn't a very long.  The cafe is on the ground floor, so it was a quick walk over.  In the new building, however?  Well, as I learned by leaving a trail of bread crumbs... you take the elevator to the 3rd Floor, which will let you out at the nurses station.  Take a right, go around the atrium and enter the hallway into the old building.  Follow that hall about 150 feet until you come to the nurses station (you'll pass an old lady in Room 3334, usually eating, usually lonely and also another door with four folders on it, labeled Shannon, Dawn, Pam and something else).  Take a right at that nurses station and walk probably another 250 feet down to Elevator A.  Go to the G floor, and the cafe will be right there.  Yep, that's a walk.

Up until this point, its routine.  Campbell has been spending a bit of his time in the blue lights of the nursery because he's got a touch of jaundice, but no big whoop, right?  The Lovely Steph Leann is doing better, and my fold out chair bed is brand spankin' new, and actually pretty comfy.  For whatever reason, the cable TV in the room had no CBS channel, so I didn't get to watch a single down of the SEC Championship game, but it was a blowout, so no big whoop, right?

Smashcut to about 4am Sunday morning.

Though I have slept decently well in the hospital, save for when I tried to move an inch in the old building's chair-bed, I still do that half-awake-can-hear-whats-happening-but-it-doesn't-register thing.  You know what I mean, like when you can understand a conversation or a situation, but the depth or gravity of said convo or situation doesn't really sink in because you are half asleep.

So, once, in college, I had stayed up all night for work, and gotten to bed around 7am the next morning, a Saturday.  I was zonked out completely, though not enough to sleep through the phone ringing.  I answered with a bleary, "heh... he... hello...?" and on the other end was buddy and frat brother Scotty Wilkes, who said, "Hey man, listen, my car won't start.  I have to be at work in like, an hour... I really need a lift, or maybe if I could borrow your car..."  Now, I'm someone who has had car trouble after car trouble all of my life, so my natural response should have been, "Dude, yeah, let me wake up, I'll be right over..." or at least "sure, take my car, just don't wreck."  Instead, I mumbled something about how tired I was, and I wasn't getting up and hung up.  When I woke up a few hours later, I immediately realized what I had done, and called Scotty back.  He ended up calling our friend Spivey, who took him.  Spivey also chastised me for not being willing to help. Deserved.

It was this type of vague recognition that I had when the nurses brought Campbell in around 4am, and then told the already awake The Lovely Steph Leann that he was being admitted to the NICU.  I heard the nurses describe Campbell's jaundice, and how it wasn't getting any better, but also that he had something called "retraction", which is a respiratory issue.  The Lovely Steph Leann got to hold him for a minute, and then they took him, placed him in a crib and wheeled him out.

I drifted back to sleep.

At 6am, she nudged me awake.  I turned over and saw her there, bloodshot and puffy eyes, and she whispered, "Campbell's in the NICU."  I shrugged and simply said, "I know.  I heard."  I sat up and excused myself to the restroom.  When I came out, The Lovely Steph Leann was laying back on her bed, snuffly and a little teary.  I sat on the edge of the bed and held her hand.  "The Lovely Steph Leann... its going to be okay.  I know it is."

She attempted a smile, failed, and then let it fall to a whimper, as she softly said, "I know its probably going to be fine... but all I could think of was Mason."  Mason was the child of Steph's cousin Seth and his wife Cherie, and was only a few months old when God called him home.  I smiled and said, "Well... maybe this is God's way of telling us to stop the complaining about not having time to get everything ready... He's giving us a few more days."

She replied, still softly, "I don't care.  I don't care about the house.  I don't care if anything is ready or never gets cleaned.  I want Campbell to be okay, and come home."  She had a few tears trickle down, and confided that she'd been awake for two hours and had been crying for much of it.  "Seriously?" I said, and I leaned on the reclined bed, put my arm around her and let her weep a little on my shoulder.  "The Lovely Steph Leann, you should never have to cry alone.  Never.  You should have woken me."

We rested there for a few minutes in silence, as the sun slowly rose and daylight began to lighten the room.  After a while, we got our showers, got ourselves gussied up and prepared for the day.  I sent out a few texts, first to my best friend/work wife Melanie, with the simple words, "Campbell in NICU".  She immediately texted back, "Can I come see y'all?"  And within 30 minutes, she met us in the 4th floor lobby, with cookies.  And Melanie, The Lovely Steph Leann and I scrubbed up in the big hand sink and made our way to see Campbell.

Poor kid. He was one cord in the back of the neck away from being a part of The Matrix.  Under the blue lights,in a crib, in the NICU.  Brookwood's new center has a new NICU, and instead of a row of cribs and incubators, each newborn has his or her own room, each with privacy curtains over the doorways that can be opened or pulled closed, each with a recliner for sitting and/or nursing, each with a couch for sitting and/or sleeping.  Its a great set up, and the digs are exemplary... only, the reason you'd need them is not a reason you'd want.  Only daddy (that's me) and mommy (that's The Lovely Steph Leann) are allowed to touch Campbell--we could open the little incubator door and put our hand on him, stroke his back or his hair, or touch his hands--but nobody else could do so.

So there we were.  My two favorite chicks, standing over a crib with my newly appointed favorite kid in the whole world.  It was hard.  Yes, he was in there for some cautionary respiratory issues, yes it was a common jaundice issue, yes he would be fine.  But it was still hard.   This was... is... my child.  Less than four days old, and he's already strapped up with wires and probes and IVs and junk.

Over the course of the day, we made several trips down to the NICU, talked a few times on the phone to friends like JustFish and Ryan Sherman and answered numerous texts from friends and family and such.  The support was absolutely overwhelming.

Dr. Babysnatcher came in that afternoon and checked up on The Lovely Steph Leann, determining that her blood pressure had been a roller coaster, and she was still too up and down to go home just yet.  With permission, I headed home that evening to get some rest, to return Monday morning... I did get a call from my Mama (no, not the dead one, the other one... okay, so my biological mom who... you see, its my "real" mother, not to say the mom who died wasn't my mother but... um... you know, we'll get to that later...)

Anyway, she called me late Sunday night and said, "Hey, I'm coming to see my grandson."  Now, I would love to see her, but I understand this is a long drive--she lives in Andalusia, about 3 hours away--so I tell her my concerns. She basically gives me the pshw and says she will be up in the morning around 7am.  That's good, gives me a little time to catch some sleep.

And of course, the phone rings the next morning with Jan saying, "Hey, I'm 15 miles outside of Birmingham, how do I get to your house?"  Drowsy, feeling like I just went to bed a mere few hours before, I mumble something about how to get to 459, then 280 and how I'll meet her in the Chick-fil-a parking lot in about 20 minutes.  I focus just enough to notice its still pretty dark outside, and as I begin to wonder why its so dark at 705 in the morning, I realize its actually 503am.

She visited for a mere three hours, just enough to see me, see The Lovely Steph Leann and visit with Campbell in the NICU, even though she couldn't hold him. By mid-morning she was leaving, having to work that night at her job... she said to me as she was leaving, "I am glad I came down.  I couldn't stay long, but every second was worth the drive."

Love you, Mama

I drove her back to The Cabana and back to her car, and she was one her way, and I zipped upstairs for a much needed sleep extension... finally, I got up and showered, and after a quick breakfast at Burger King, and a quick stop at Starbucks to see Melanie, the team and grab a hot chocolate, I raced back to the NICU... only to find not much of a change in Campbell's condition.

This was my view for about 45 minutes while I held
my son.
And so it stayed like that for Monday.  The Lovely Steph Leann and I made some frequent trips down to the NICU from our room, but also tried to get a little rest.  Dr. Babysnatcher gave her one more night in the hospital, with blood pressure issues, but let us know it was likely the final evening, saying, "At some point, we have to risk you going home with medication to control your BP issue."

Monday night I slept at home again, having to be at work Tuesday morning early... after work, I again went to the hospital to visit Campbell and The Lovely Steph Leann.  Around 5pm, they released her, though Camp still had a few more days.

Seems to be its customary to keep newborns in the NICU for 72 hours once admitted, which meant that a Sunday admittance would mean a stay through Tuesday night minimum.  Also, they told us that they wanted him to spend at least 48 hours out of the incubator and into a crib, which meant that every day in the incubator kept us at least 2 days from bringing him home.

The Lovely Steph Leann and I drove away from Brookwood Tuesday night, mostly in silence.  Our child was left behind.  We wanted to bring him home and we couldn't, and we couldn't do anything about it.  Quite a helpless feeling.

On Wednesday, I went to work while The Lovely Steph Leann slept in a little, getting some much needed rest.  I made the decision to not visit the hospital on this day, mostly because I just wanted a break.  I'm not someone who can just go and... well, sit.  And sit.  And sit.  Yes, I loved seeing Campbell, and yes I enjoyed being with him, whispering encouragement to him, but really, there's only so much I could even do.  Plus, Mama Ruthless and The Lovely Steph Leann were up there most of the day, so I just came home after work and relaxed.

The good news, however, was that Campbell was moved from the NICU to the nursery... he still remained under the bili-lights for his jaundice, but things were quickly improving.  Thursday he spent all day in the nursery, under the lights, but also out from the lights where The Lovely Steph Leann could nurse and where Mommy and Daddy (and GiGi--that being Ruth, the grandmother) could hold him some too.

Our last few minutes in the hospital.  Five minutes
after this pic was taken, Campbell was loaded
into a car seat, preparing to come home.
Finally, Friday, we got the word that yes, he was being discharged.  Brookwood requires all parents to (a) watch this video on infant CPR... (b) to watch this how-to video on putting your kid in a car seat.... and (c) to actually be shown on your own car seat how it works and how your kid goes in it.  During the first two tasks, I did a double duty of watching the video and nudging The Lovely Steph Leann awake as she drifted every few minutes.

And the moment was upon us.  The doc came in, talked with us for a few minutes about Campbell, how he was doing, a few minor things to watch for, he shook both of our hands, wished us well and he was off.  And Campbell Isaiah was ours for the taking.  And The Lovely Steph Leann and her mom being of the same ilk, they took approximately 4,378 pictures as we were leaving the hospital, another 811 pics as we went to her parents home for a quick bite and then another 1,980 pics as I was walking in the door with Campbell in the car seat.

He's home.

In the days since, its been a little different.  God has definitely given a gift of adaptation to The Lovely Steph Leann, as she's gone from her enjoyment of about 10 to 12 hours of sleep per day to, in the first few days, 4 to 6, and a few weeks later, maybe 6 to 8, but all broken up into 2 and 3 hour chunks, if she's lucky.

Aunt Melanie holding Campbell
We've had a few people drop off food--thanks to The Hitchcocks, The Fishers and The Shermans--and a big thanks to work wife/best friend Melanie and her family for providing a delicious Middle Eastern themed meal the Sunday after Campbell came home.  Melanie stopped by with the food and was the first non-family to hold Campbell outside of the hospital, and as far as our home goes, still the only non-family a few weeks later.  Oh, she's family, who am I kidding.

Another big thanks to The Rays, The Shaws, The Stampers, The Barnetts, The Wookiees, Amy Harris, my pal Mikey, Jeff McG, Tommy Mac, Lil' Sister Ashley and (now) Lil' Brother Brandon, DeNick & DeLisa (with DeGeorge) and anyone else I might be forgetting for their calls, texts, visits and so on.  Your help, love and support has meant the world to us.  (and if I am forgetting anyone, I do apologize.  I do have a 20 day old here...).  And of course, a huge thanks to The Lovely Steph Leann's mom, who has been hugely supportive and helpful not only to her, but also to me, as I've been able to sleep some before I go to work.

Anyway, I won't be one of those dads who do nothing but post pics of their kids online, unless its worth a look.  And I'll keep blogging about love, pride and deep fried chicken and the like, I'll just be a little busier now, that's all.

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