7/29/2005

Wednesday, 11PM

7/26/2005

Like Father, Like Son

Like Father, Like Son

7/25/2005

Baby on the Beach

It was a fantastic weekend in the Millar house. Sam made his first trip to the Grove on Saturday, which was pretty great. We used up one of our gift cards and bought him a cool little bucket hat for his upcoming beach trip. He behaved himself the whole time and we even managed to run a few other errands without a breakdown from the backseat.

Sam at the Grove
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Then Saturday night, Alissa and I had an actual DATE. Our incredible babysitter Karen, came over to watch Sam while we went to dinner at Luna Park. For two whole hours we drank wine, ate real food without taking turns watching the baby, and engaged in conversation that didn't revolve around breast feeding or nipple confusion. It was heaven.

Why is this woman smiling? Date night!
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On Sunday we met up with our friends Max and Carmela and their 7 week old daughter Alexa. They live out in Malibu, and the six of us hit the beach for a day in the sun. Sam screamed the whole way out there, but miraculously once we got to the beach, he slept like an angel. We had time to play in the ocean, go kayacking, and just lay around in the sun. It was pretty great, and it gave us a much-needed dose of confidence about taking Sam out in public. Of course, as soon as we got him home he had one of his patented meltdowns, but it all seemed pretty minor in the grand scheme of things.

Daddy Max & Alexa at the beach
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Sam & Alexa on their first date
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The babe & the beach
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7/22/2005

Yes, we are shamelessly in love with our child.

But you already knew that. Otherwise, why would you be here?

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Today We're All Smiling

First let me say that I did not pay or otherwise coerce my incredible wife into writing the things she did in the previous post. The truth is that she's the one that deserves a medal and an all-expense paid vacation to the spa of her choice. Alissa has been incredible from day 1. As I was reading yet another "how to" parenting book last night I realised that the wonderful woman I live with bears no resemblance to the physically disabled, emotionally fragile new mothers I keep hearing about. In fact, she not only looks as good as she did the day we were married, but she's still the lighter half of the two of us emotionally, pulling me out of my slumps of self-doubt with a smile and reminding me daily that these tough times won't last forever. I may be able to cook up a few decent dinners every now and then, but that pales in comparison to he job she's done as Sam's mommy.

Now that we've set the record straight, I'm proud to annouce that Sam officially smiled at us this morning. Not once, but three seperate times! And we're almost 100% sure that it wasn't because he'd just taken the Browns to the Pooperbowl, so to speak. I was too caught up in the joy and amazement of the moment to take a picture, but I'll definitely try and capture one soon. I never thought that something so small could have such incredible emotional power. But the second my little boy looked up and me and smiled, I sincerely felt my heart melt. It wasn't the first time, and I'm sure it won't be the last. But I know I'm never going to get tired of it.

7/20/2005

a guest writer's ode to kyle

hello sportsfans, friends, and family. as you might be noticing, there are no capital letters in these sentences. that's because you are reading alissa instead of kyle right now. and because i don't type the 'real' way, and i write in a hurry a lot of the time, i have developed the habit of using all lower case letters in my e-mails - to the point that caps look funny to me now. so for future reference, that's how you will know which of us you are reading here.

i've had the beginning of blogs floating around in my head for months. but because kyle is such a good writer, and because the blog is so imbued with his voice, i have been shy about adding my own thoughts until today. but tonight, as i sat at the dinner table with kyle, i decided that i wanted to let his readers know how amazing kyle has been as we have adjusted to this new exhausting, exhilarating phase of our life together. i will never be able to do him justice here, but i want to try. for starters, i want to thank kyle for writing this blog and for using it to keep our friends and family so close to us during this time. i miss our family and friends (especially the out-of-towners) a lot right now, but have been so busy learning to breast-feed and recovering from sam's birth that i have not been able to reach out to everyone as often as i might like. it's been a comfort to me that kyle has been keeping you all updated with his thoughts and with our pictures here. you get kyle's funny, frustrated, and touching accounts of our life here, but the things kyle will never tell you are the many amazing ways he is picking up the slack at home, the ways he is making the effort to have face-time with sam every morning and night, and the ways he is supporting me as i learn how to be a mom.

as most of you who know me will agree, i am not a natural cook. i wish i were. my mother is one of the best cooks i have ever met. and my father has even begun to get in on the action in the last few years. even my brother is a good cook by now. he routinely calls my mother to ask for tips on cooking things that i only order in restaurants. i'm afraid i just didn't get those genes. i am most comfortable cooking things that have less than three ingredients in them. my fanciest dish is taco salad, which requires me to cut up numerous ingredients but actually cook only the meat. i try, but i am not inspired. in the weeks since sam's birth, kyle has become a super-chef. he grills amazing marinated steaks, pork, and chicken breasts. he makes seasoned rice and steamed veggies. he has even created beautiful desserts from the things people have kindly brought to us in the last weeks. he makes sure that least in the evenings i sit down, eat a full meal, and relax. most of the time he won't even let me do the dishes.

kyle is also incredibly supportive of me in other big and small ways as i worry over whether sam is getting enough milk from my breasts, whether i am fulfilling his needs as well as i can, whether i will ever feel that my hormones have gone back to normal. kyle rubs my back, he kisses me, he whispers in the night that i am doing a good job with sam. and he makes jokes to remind me not to take everything so seriously. i cannot imagine doing this without him, and i am grateful for each word, look, and touch that lets me know i have a teammate.

kyle is also developing a routine with sam. even when he is tired and on his way to or from a full day of work, he makes sure to spend time with sam every morning and every evening. he rocks sam when he cries, he talks to him, he changes diapers, he gives sam kisses, and he makes up silly songs for him, putting new words to the tunes of his favorite rock songs. he takes sam for stroller rides some mornings so i can take a shower, and plays with him after work so i can do whatever else i didn't get to all day. i know there have been moments when it has frustrated kyle that he doesn't have a breast - that he cannot give sam the automatic calm or comfort that i sometimes can just by feeding him. but he perseveres, trusting that every time he talks to sam or holds him or sings to him that it will pay off as sam grows. he is building a relationship with sam even though sam cannot respond much yet. and watching sam rest his blond head on near kyle's, watching kyle fall sleep rocking sam late at night, or hearing kyle's silly sam songs coming from the bedroom, are some of my favorite moments of the day. that's when i know that no matter how tired we are, no matter how strung out we might feel some days, and no matter how much sam cries, we are building a family, brick by brick and moment by moment. kyle is parenting in the same way he does everything else in his life - with passion and with his full attention. i feel incredibly lucky to be here with him.

The Many Faces of Sam

Click on the photo below for a slideshow of Sam's latest.

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7/19/2005

Colic, nipple confusion, and a few other words I never dreamed I'd know the definition of.

One of the things we've tried to prepare ourselves for since the beginning has been the crying. Babies cry. It's what they do when they're not eating, sleeping or pooping. At least that's what we told ourselves over and over when we got Sam home and he couldn't spend a waking minute without wailing, if he wasn't doing one of the "Big Three." Our friends and family all told us he was perfectly normal, but after a week we were starting to lose our sanity. So when we took Sam in for his 2 week check-up, it was a relief to hear that he was colicky. I guess colic is every parent's nightmare. But as far as I'm concerned, it's just nice to know we're not crazy. We've gotten some great suggestions about how we can help combat the crying, and so far they've helped a little. He has his good days and his bad days, and by extension, so do we. In fact, we'd been sailing along on a string of relatively cry-free days when all of a sudden, things took a turn for the worse.

It all started when we decided that I'd begin giving Sam a bottle once a day. Alissa wanted to start pumping, but we were waiting for a part to come in the mail, so in the meantime, I went ahead and gave Sam a bottle of formula last week. (You may remember the description of the infamous spitting-up incident from my blog posting a few days ago) At first things were fine. Sam didn't seem to have any trouble switching between the bottle and the breast. We even let our friend Maggie give him a bottle on Sunday when she came over to baby-sit him for a few hours. Then suddenly last night, he wouldn't breast feed. He was clearly hungry, but he just wouldn't latch on. We realized right away that Sam had developed "nipple confusion." Shocking as it was to think that the fruit of my loins could have any trouble distinguishing between the boob and the bottle, there we were at midnight with a very hungry, very cranky baby. Alissa was understandably upset, though I tried my best to soothe her and take Sam off her hands when I could. Needless to say, it was a long night. This morning Sam seemed a little better, and did feed well. So we hope that this was a temporary setback. In the meantime, we're reading up on how we can avoid this in the future and talking to our pediatrician about alternatives since we had planned on continuing to give him an occasional bottle, both so I could feed him and so we can have a babysitter once a week. We'll see how it goes. Hopefully the little guy will recover and return to his normal, colicky self.

God help us.

7/15/2005

Sam's 1st Friend

This afternoon we visited out friends Shane and Sandra, whose little boy Emmett was born on Sunday. Sandra delivered 100% naturally and was in labor for just 3 hours. Boy, was Alissa jealous! They're all doing great and he's adorable. We've really enjoyed having such close friends going through all the same things we've been experiencing these last 9 months. And we know now that we're all parents it will only get better. It was actually pretty funny sitting in their living room today comparing notes on strollers and breast pumps. Only a year ago we'd have been sitting in the same spot deciding which restaurant to go to for dinner of which bottle of wine to open next. Ah, how life does change!


Emmett Showers, Sam's 1st Friend

Fathers & Sons

Why God Invented Take Out

Several of our friends have told us to take advantage of the fact that Sam is still "portable" (not walking) by getting out as often as we can while he's still little. So for the last week, we've tried to make at least one foray a day, mostly small trips around the neighborhood. It's been slow going most of the time, but it's also given us a lot of confidence. It sounds strange to say, but after almost a week in the hospital, just walking a few blocks feels like a marathon. And I'm not even the one who had the C-section!

At any rate, last night we decided to really push the envelope and go out to dinner. With the baby. To a real restaurant, with menus and everything. We settled on PF Chang's, since it's a place we both like, it's close, and we figured if Sam decides to throw a fit, we can always get the food to go and make a hasty retreat. So after a fairly trying day we fed the little one, changed his diaper, cleaned ourselves up, and loaded up the car for the 10 minute trip. Sam, sensing the importance of the occasion, decided to behave himself all the way to the end of our block. And then, as if to accentuate the futility of our effort, he unleashed one of his finest meltdowns yet. I'm talking Defcon 5+. We managed another few blocks, trying to put a brave face on the situation. But eventually we both knew it was take-out time. So I called ahead and the food was waiting when we got there. By the time I got back to the car of course, Sam was fast asleep.

Perhaps we'll wait a few more weeks before attempting that again. Or maybe next time, we'll do the smart thing and hire a babysitter. I will say this much though, we're definitely learning something new every day. Even if it's mostly just how much we have to learn about being parents.

7/13/2005

Caution: Contents Under Pressure

Since before Sam was born, Alissa and I have been committed to breast feeding for a variety of reasons. Not only is it cheaper than formula, but it's also convenient and hopefully, will help keep our little guy healthier. The only downside we've found is that since Alissa's not pumping yet, I haven't had a chance to bottle feed Sam. We'd gotten tons of conflicting reports from parents about the "right" age to start bottle feeding, but one consistency seemed to be that you don't want to wait too long to start. So yesterday when Sam was having a rough time of it and Alissa was on her last nerve, we decided to see if he'd take a bottle. Since we've already thrown most of our child-rearing plans out the window (including the whole natural birth thing) we figured, what the heck. And since we already had a can of formula in the cabinet, courtesy of Emfamil's relentless direct marketing campaign, it didn't even cost us anything.

We prepped a bottle and when Sam was ready for lunch, I sat down to give it a whirl. As it turned out, he took to it like a duck to water, happily guzzling down 4 oz. in a flash. When he was finished he even had the same glazed-over "milk drunk" look he gets from breast feeding. I was so proud! Then, right after this picture was taken, things took a sudden turn for the worse.

Daddy's 1st Feeding

Despite Enfamil's claim that their formula is "clinically proven to reduce spit up by more than 40%," for the 2nd day in a row I was the proud recipient of a warm shower of my son's bodily fluids. But the projectile milk vomiting paled in comparison to the poop and pee explosion of the previous night. So all I could do was just laugh, and wipe the milk off of Sam as he sat there with a shocked look on his face. Which come to think of it, kind of looked like this...

Just lookin' around

"Hey, don't look at me. This was your bright idea!"

7/11/2005

The Calm Before the Storm

Yesterday Sam was inconsolable. I'd gone out for a ride in the morning and by the time I got home Alissa was a nervous wreck. And for the rest of the day we tried in vein to calm the little guy down. So it was quite a shock when we woke up this morning at 8AM and realized that Sam had just slept through the entire night, for 8 hours straight! Soon though, our excitement gave way to fear. Sam had slept for the longest interrupted period of his young life. Now, who knew what he was capable of. Three hours of wailing? Four? As well rested as he was, he might just set a new personal best. We held our breath for the first few hours, but by lunchtime it looked like he might actually sleep the day away. Giddy with excitement, we planned an afternoon getaway. (Yes mom, we took the baby with us!) Alissa wanted to get out and take a stroll, so we packed up the car and headed for Venice. Sam was an angel the entire time, and for two glorious hours, we strolled on the beach without a care in the world. Of course we were both just waiting for the screaming to start, but miraculously, it never did. We walked on the pier, and when people passing by smiled and remarked at what a sweet baby we had, we didn't make any effort to correct them. Instead, we acted as if this was the way he'd always been. As if the 14 hours of hell we'd endured the day before was just a bad dream. He was even quiet for the car ride home and by the time we walked back in the door, I'd almost forgotten what his crying sounded like.

We opened a bottle of wine, and I started getting dinner ready. Then we agreed that just before we ate, we'd bathe Sam and feed him. Since surely he'd go right back to sleep afterwards. He was the perfect child, he had been transformed. I was ready to call CAA and hire an agent. My child was going to be a star! Then we undressed him, and cooed at him while he slept, innocent and naked in my arms. We laughed at the funny faces he made in his sleep, the way his little limbs moved unconsciously. We carried him softly to the bathroom, and ran the water for his bath. I looked down one last time at the little body in my arms, and felt my heart melt.

The next thing I felt was a warm, gooey substance oozing between my fingers. Sam smiled sweetly, looked up at me with wide, innocent eyes, then let out the loudest, most violent fart I've ever heard. That was accompanied in short order by projectile pooping, the color and consistency of Grey Poupon (how appropriate!) which ended up looking like a Jackson Pollock painting all over my shirt. I didn't even have time to react, and if I had, it was either drop the baby or take it like a man.

After Alissa and I had collected ourselves and managed to stop laughing, I pulled off my shirt and got back to the business at hand. Sam apparently had other plans because as soon as I made a move to put his little head under the running water, he turned on his own faucet. And I was the lucky recipient of a little golden shower. All I could do was just look at Alissa and laugh. Hard. We did finally manage to get both of us clean. Though Sam never recovered the state of grace he'd been in all day. And actually, I didn't mind. I haven't laughed so hard in years, and I never, ever thought that something so gross, could be so funny.

So far, parenthood has been every bit as hard as I'd been told. And Easier. And funnier. And that was just one day.

New Pictures

Since I'm off of work this week to play daddy, I figured I might as well post some new pictures. Just so I've got something to show for my efforts, so to speak.

Click on the adorable photo for a slide show.

snoozin' with dad



Sam is doing great, in fact I'm going to tempt fate by revealing that last night he actually slept through the night. 8 hours. Non-stop. And now that I've bragged about it, I'm sure he won't repeat that feat until he's twelve.

7/09/2005

Wild Kingdom

About a week ago (in the halcyon, pre-baby era) Alissa and my mother-in-law Sheila were sitting in our living room when they heard a scratching sound coming from behind the wall. They told me about it when I got home from work and we all decided it must be a mouse or at worst, one of the rats we'd occasionally seen scrurrying along the top of the fence outside our window. I made a mental note to speak with our landlord Suzanne about it. Then Sam arrived and the noise of a small animal making it's home inside one of our walls suddenly seemed very minor in comparison to the sounds of a week-old child making his home inside our house.

That was until last night.

It was about 9PM and Alissa was trying to get Sam settled for bed. Suddenly, it sounded like there was a rat the size of a German Shepard trapped inside the walls of our living room. We listened in horror as whatever it was, made it way up the inside of the wall, over the window casing, and down the other side. Then a few minutes later, I heard a scraping sound coming from the front porch. A week or so earlier, I'd noticed that our landlord had replaced a chicken-wire grate to our crawlspace with a large piece of slate, and braced it with two heavy flowerpots. I assumed at the time that she was trying to keep the rats that were living in the garden from getting in. But when I heard the scraping noise I realized that something was pushing on the slate from beneath our dining room window, trying to get out.

I ran to get my video camera, turned out the porch lights and tiptoed out the front door to position myself behind a plant with a view of the grate. For a few minutes nothing happened, but then it moved again, very slowly. A chill ran up my spine as I realized that the grate must weigh about 20 lbs, and the two flowers pots weighed about 10 lbs. each. Whatever was pushing them out of the way was BIG.

Suddenly, I saw a little furry fingers curling around the edge of the slate and I knew who the perpetrator was. But just to make sure, I waited until there was a pause in the action and then moved the grate aside myself. I ran back inside and grabbed a piece of lunchmeat out of the fridge. Then in my best Marlon Perkins imitation, I laid out a small trail of thinly sliced honey glazed, low fat turkey. The beast took the bait immediately. Within seconds, out from under our house came the biggest raccoon I have ever soon. It had to have weighed 40 lbs. Seriously. I was in shock. I stood there videotaping him as he snacked on my lunchmeat, pausing occasionally to cock his ears at the sounds of our son screaming inside. Then a second raccoon emerged to join his friend. This one was smaller, but it was still bigger than our poodle. We should have been charging these guys rent!

Rocky 1
Rocky 2
Rocky & Friend

I ran inside breathless to tell Alissa what I'd found. She'd apparently been waging her own struggle against a small animal. When I found her, she was sitting on the bathroom floor, in the dark, holding the hairdryer up to our son's ear. (Something about soothing "white noise.") I opened my mouth to tell her of the daring feat of camerawork I'd just pulled off in the wild outside our front door, but one look at her face and I knew she'd fought the tougher battle. So I scooped up little Sam and gave her a well-deserved break. Sam eventually fell asleep, and during the night, the Raccoons decamped for more comfortable accommodations. And as the sun rose over Casa Sherbourne, all was right with the world.

7/07/2005

The Crying Game

There's a risque t-shirt boutique online called T-Shirt Hell that sells t-shirts with slogans that would probably get you arrested if you wore them in public in most Midwestern states. They also carry a selection of baby t's that in a previous life, I found downright hilarious. Now that I'm a parent, I'm seriously considering buying several of them, because they're absolutely dead-on. At the moment I can't decide between "Daddy Drinks Because I Cry" or "I Shit My Pants And All I got Was This Lousy T-Shirt."

After two days of relative peace, Sam has definitely "awakened." Though I'm not sure if it's Sam that's awakened, or if our child has been possessed by the demons of some long-dead family relative with an axe to grind. But judging from the volume and duration of his crying today, I'm leaning towards a supernatural cause.

As a person who until very recently had zero tolerance for the crying and wailing of other people's children, especially on airplanes, this has all been quite an adjustment. Sam has definitely recovered from his traumatic birth to make his auditory mark upon the world. If I were more superstitious I'd consider this all some kind of wicked karma, but my wife and the authors of several widely read child care books assure me that this is all normal. In fact, the few times that we have been out in public with Sam, it's been quite comforting when people who are obviously parents look at Sam, then look at us, and say something like, "it does get better, I promise." It's nice to know that we're not the first parents to go through this whole child-raising thing.

To that end, Alissa's mother is leaving us tomorrow, which means that we're officially alone with our little boy. While I'm looking forward to finally having some one-on-one time with the little guy, the idea of doing all this without any experts around to bail us out is a little daunting. Our parents have been incredible throughout the entire process. And at times, I think they had it worse than we did. When things got scary during the birth, at least Alissa and I had the ability to press the call button and ask a nurse for an update. Our parents had to sit out in the lobby for hours at a time, wondering what was going on behind the closed doors, relying entirely on my increasingly alarmed and sleep-deprived reports from the front lines. And after the birth, they were incredible. They brought us food, watched our dog, kept the family updated on our progess, cooked, cleaned and generally picked up the slack. They gave us support, let us cry on their shoulders and had the strength to watch us struggle with all of this, and the wisdom to let us figure us out on our own. So since I know you'll be reading this soon; Mom, Dad, Sheila & David, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Despite my occasional comments & actions to the contrary, we could not have done this with out you.

Which all brings me back to the here and now. As I type this, I suddenly realize that there's something missing. It seems oddly quiet in the house. And then it hits me... Sam is asleep. And I'm sure that when I walk into our bedroom and see the peaceful look on his beautiful little face, I won't remember any of the crying and fussing he did all day. And I think that maybe that's the heart of being a parent. No matter what your children may do to make you crazy, at the end of the day you still love them more than life itself. Because somewhere deep down you'll never forget the way you felt when you looked at them first the first time, and knew that they were yours forever.

7/05/2005

Home at Last!!!

Yesterday we finally left the hospital after 6 days. After a VERY rocky start, it was nice to be able to relax and lean on the incredible staff there for support. Though by the end, we were more than ready to get home. Sam wasn't crazy about his first car ride, but once we got him in and settled him down, he seemed perfectly happy in his new surroundings. We celebrated our return with a home cooked meal and a nice bottle of wine we'd been saving for the occasion. My mom and dad are still here, as is Alissa's mom. It's also been great to have family around to help out and watch Sam for a few minutes here and there so we can get a few things done.

Leaving the Hospital

Home at last!

All in all, Sam's 1st 24 hours back at Case Sherbourne were awesome. He discovered his bouncy chair, which he LOVES. He also continued to eat like a champ and is continuing to gain back the weight he lost after birth. Last night he broke his own record by sleeping for 6 hours with only one little break for a feed, giving mommy & daddy a much needed rest. And this morning he took his first stroller ride with Daddy, to Starbucks.


Bouncy Chair #1
Bouncy Chair #2
Bouncy Chair #3

Today we're planning on continuing to get to know our little man. It's been amazing to watch his personality emerge and his features reveal themselves. And of course, not a second goes by that I'm not completely blown away by the fact that he's really here. At this point, the outside world and all the worries that come with it, seem very far away.

7/03/2005

Our Birth Story

Well, we did it. Or rather, Alissa did it. I played a minor supporting role in what was quite an epic adventure. Not to spoil the ending, but since we're still in the hospital and I don't know how long I've got until baby has to feed again or one of the nurses stops by to poke & prod my wife, I'll at least get the basic facts out of the way before I go into the gory details.

Samual Alexander Millar was born at 4:42PM on June 30th, 2005. His weight at birth was 7 lbs. 15 oz. and he was 19.5" long. And from his first breath, he changed our lives forever.

Now, let's flash back to Tuesday morning, when Dr. Cohen told us that we were headed to the hospital to be induced...

Sam's 1st Home!

We arrived at Cedars Sinai at 11PM on Tuesday, and Alissa was admitted into the Labor & Delivery unit. After about an hour in the Triage unit, we were shown to a small windowless room that would be our home for the next 18 hours. The first order of business was to give Alissa a Prostaglandin, which would soften her cervix and make it easier for them to induce her for labor. The medicine is on a shoestring and the string is inserted into the cervix and has to stay there for 12 hours to be absorbed. So we spent Tuesday night hanging out, pretending to sleep and nervously anticipating the rest of the journey. It wasn't exactly how we'd planned to begin things, but we were still optimistic.

Our doctor arrived Wednesday at about noon to check Alissa's progress and announce that apparently the prostaglandin had been a big, fat waste of time because Alissa wasn't dilated at all and was still only 70% effaced. Wonderful. So she decided that it was time to start Alissa on Pitosin, to try and get the contractions going. For those of you playing along at home, you'll remember that once upon a time, we'd decided that we were going to have a natural childbirth, free from any pain relief or other drugs. In that scenario, Pitosin was the one thing we’d really wanted to avoid, other than an epidural (this is called foreshadowing, by the way). But in order to be induced, they either have to break your waters (which they couldn't do because Alissa wasn't dilated) or give you Pitosin to start the contractions. We didn't exactly have a choice in the matter.

So at 1PM, they started the Pitosin and hooked Alissa up to a monitor to watch the baby's heart rate and measure the contractions. For the next 7 hours, we watched and waited. The contractions were coming, but they were sporadic and generally not strong enough to indicate that Alissa was going to go into active labor on her own. We were growing more depressed by the minute as we watched our plans for a natural childbirth fade away, knowing that the longer it took, the more likely it was that the doctors would take increasingly drastic measures to get Alissa into labor. And spending 18 hours in a dark, windowless, depressing room didn't exactly help matters either. Neither did the fact that we'd watched the Labor & Delivery Unit fill up and empty twice since we'd been there. and there's nothing more depressing than watching a bunch of pregnant ladies come in, give birth and leave while you labor away getting nowhere. At any rate, by 8PM we were at our wit's end. Thankfully Nurse Wendy who we'd befriended during the night shift the previous evening, came by and saved the day. She pulled rank to get us moved into a huge labor & delivery room, with floor to ceiling windows and a view of the Hollywood Hills. We arrived in our new room right at sunset, and both of us were cheered up just by the sight of sun and sky. It wouldn't last for long though, because the doctors had more tricks up their sleeves.

After we got settled, they checked Alissa again, to see how much progress we'd made. The answer? Zero. Alissa still hadn't dilated at all. They called the doctor and she prescribed a fun little item called a Foley Balloon, which is inserted into the cervix to MANUALLY dilate women in Alissa's condition. It sounded harmless enough and even our nurses told us that it would only take a minute or two to get it in and that it would fall out on it's own a few minutes after that. What they failed to mention was that the cervix needed to be at least 1cm dilated to properly insert the balloon. And Alissa wasn't there yet. What followed can only be described as one of the most upsetting things I've ever had the displeasure of witnessing, at least until the following afternoon. Alissa, still unmedicated and determined to give birth naturally, was basically tortured, while they inserted the balloon. The procedure took about 10 minutes and she writhed in agony the entire time. There was nothing I could do except hold her tightly and tell her it would all be OK. While in the back of my mind I was wondering what had happened to all our plans for this baby's birth.

Once the balloon was inserted, they cranked up the Pitosin, to really get things going. The contractions were booming now, and Alissa was in terrible pain the whole time. We called in our Doula, Stacey Bergin, about 10PM and the look on her face when she saw Alissa told me everything I needed to know. We'd hoped for so long that we'd be able to do this naturally, on our own terms. We'd taken classes, read books, scoured the Internet and talked to dozens of people. But now all our plans had been tossed out the window. It was a really emotional couple of hours, as we came to terms with the fact that things just weren't going to go they way we thought they would. And we had no way of knowing, that was just the beginning. At midnight, Alissa had suffered enough. After 24 hours in the hospital and 48 hours without sleep, we were both emotional and physical wrecks. We talked it over with Stacey, and decided to get Alissa an Epidural. The anesthesiologist came in and worked his magic, and in ten minutes Alissa was feeling no pain. We turned out the lights and decided to get a few hours of sleep, and hope that all the drugs would do their thing.

At 6AM on Thursday morning, they came in to check Alissa again. The Pitosin and the Foley Balloon had done the trick, because she was now dilated to 3cm. That was the good news. The bad news was that during the exam, Sam had what they call a “deceleration” which means that his heart slowed down and was dangerously close to stopping. This apparently happens when the uterus contracts rapidly or for prolonged periods of time, which is an occasional side affect of taking Pitosin. It’s basically like giving the baby a bear hug; after awhile, he can’t breathe. As this was happening, we listened in horror as his heart rate slowed down and then suddenly the room was filled with nurses and doctors, scurrying to help. They immediately removed the Foley Balloon and gave Alissa a shot that would relax her uterus so that the baby could breathe again. It took about six minutes for the drug to take affect, but eventually his heartbeat returned to normal. Suffice it to say that we were pretty shaken up at that point, especially since no one had told us that this could happen. And the calm, unfeeling way that the nurses and doctors reacted was also really unsettling. I know that they have to remain detached to do their jobs, but somehow the idea that my son might stop breathing and die this close to his birth, made me want to grab them all by the collar and scream. I tried my best to get a straight answer and an explanation for what it had happened, but all they could tell me was “ sometimes women with sensitive uteruses have strong reactions to these kinds of drugs.”

By mid-morning, things calmed down from all the earlier excitement. Dr. Cohen stopped by again to check on Alissa and to reassure us that we were having a baby that day, one way or another. This was a nice way of telling us that if Alissa didn’t go into active labor on her own, a cesarean section was the only other option. Still, we help out hope that the Pitosin would move things along, that sam wouln’t have any more “decelerations” and that soon, we’d be on our way. But by 3PM, Alissa was still only 3cm dilated. Dr. Cohen came by and gave us an ultimatum, either Alissa got to at least 4cm by 4PM, or we were headed to the operating room. The next hour was pretty surreal. I climbed into bed with Alissa and held her. We didn’t say much, but I’m sure we were both thinking the same things. We’d been in the hospital for so long, and she’d suffered so much, that it just seemed that the best thing to do was get it all over with, as quickly as possible. So when 4PM rolled around and it turned out that she was still at 3cm, I was secretly relived that we’d be able to see our Son soon. Once the doctor had made the decision, things started happening really quickly. They prepped Alissa for surgery and I was issued a set of scrubs to wear in the O.R. They went over the procedure with us and reassured Alissa that it would all be over in a flash and that she wouldn’t feel a thing. They even allowed us to bring a CD of our own music, to listen to during the birth. Minutes later they wheeled her in, asking me to wait outside for just a few seconds while they got her prepped. From the other side of the door I paced nervously, anxious to see my child and finally get Alissa through it all. Then I suddenly heard shouting, and the doctor saying “the baby is crashing, we have to get him out NOW! MOVE!!!” He was having another, much more severe deceleration. His little heart was stopping.

Needless to say, I completely freaked out. I stood there alone, listening to the operating team on the other side of the door spring into action. There were sounds of feet shuffling and of instruments being rushed into position. I later learned that Alissa, strapped to the operating table and scared to death, was desperately asking them to let me into the room, only to be told that there wasn’t time. I was nearly in tears when the door flew open, and a masked nurse grabbed my arm and pulled me into the room. My head was spinning as she pushed me down into a chair at Alissa’s head. I squeezed her hand and tried to look calm as I listened to the doctors working on the other wide of the curtain that blocked our view of what was happening. Literally within seconds they had cut her open and were getting the baby out. Before I could wrap my head around what they were doing to my wife, one of the technicians grabbed my elbow and said to me, “ stand up and look, you don’t want to miss this!” My knees wobbled and I stood up to peer over the curtain. My son’s head was just being pulled out of my wife’s belly. Her organs were laid out on her chest, and there was blood everywhere. Completely in shock, I watched the doctors pull Sam’s little body out, and immediately rush him to a table behind me. He was bluish grey, and he wasn’t moving. I sat back down and stared at Alissa, trying to look brave as she asked me how he looked. “He’s fine, he’s beautiful,” I replied. Then I craned my neck to try and get a glimpse of them working on his little body. A team of doctors and specialists surrounded him, and I could see through the space between them that they were pumping oxygen into him, and sticking tubes into his lungs to suction out the liquid. The quiet was awful as we waited for a cry, a scream, anything that would let us know that our son was alive. In fact, the only sound we could hear was the music from the CD we’d asked them to play. The song was “All I want is You,” by U2.

finally!

I desperately asked the doctors to tell us how he was, and finally someone replied, “ we don’t know yet, just be calm.” Definitely not the words that panicked parents want to hear in that situation. But slowly, his color started coming back and I heard someone say that his breathing was coming back as well. I felt like I was watching an episode of ER, except that it was my life and this was all terrifyingly real. A few minutes later, another doctor came over to tell us that Sam was breathing on his own, and looked like he was going to make it, but that they had to take him to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit right away because he had fluid in his lungs. Alissa and I burst into tears and held each other, thankful to finally see our son, but scared to death that he still might not be OK. I slowly stood up as they led me over to the table where he lay, and looked at my son for the first time. His eyes were closed, but they’d cleaned him up enough for me to see how adorable he was. He looked so incredibly innocent laying there, fighting for his life, and reaching out for someone to hold him. The doctors asked me if I wanted to cut his umbilical cord, and handed me a pair of surgical scissors. I quickly cut it and they wrapped him up to take him away. Before they put him into an incubator, I asked them to bring him over to Alissa, who was till strapped to the table getting sewn up. They rested him on her shoulder and she cried while I took a quick picture. Then they put him into his little incubator and told me to follow them as they rushed him up to Intensive Care. Alissa, who been incredible throughout the entire ordeal, told me to go with him, and that she’d see me in a few minutes. I let go of her hand, and turned to go.

Alissa holds Sam for the first time

Upstairs, they whisked Sam into the NICU, and I looked at amazement at all the babies being cared for. There must have been 50 infants of all shapes and sizes, all with different types of medical issues, some clearly much more serious than Sam’s. They found a space for him, and the surgical team turned him over to the nurses. I watched and listened as they told me what was wrong and how they hoped to treat him. As I knew, his heart had slowed down and almost stopped. The doctors believed that when Alissa had received the big dose of anesthesia that she needed for the surgery, her uterus had contracted forcefully, and wouldn’t relax. On top of that, Sam had aspirated a good deal of muconium, which is basically baby poop. When babies are stressed out in the womb, and particularly when they are past their due dates, sometimes they poop. Sam had obviously been under a good deal of stress, and in the process of being born, he’d swallowed a bunch of the stuff. According to the nurses, that could mean that he’d catch pneumonia, or have a lung infection, or worse. Or his little body could reabsorb the muconium, and everything would be fine. Though at the time, that didn’t seem very likely. So I said goodbye to my son, and left him in their care, so I could go tell my wife what had happened.

Boy in the bubble

Downstairs, Alissa was recovering from her surgery. She was groggy and nauseous, so I tried to be optimistic when I described what the nurses had told me. Still, I couldn’t disguise my concern. I kissed her cheek and went out to tell the family waiting in the lobby the news. Everyone took it in stride, happy to hear that Sam had finally been born, but obviously concerned that he wasn’t out of the woods. I went back inside to sit with Alissa, and wait for more news.

A few hours later they finally moved us to a real room, where we could get some much-needed sleep and wait for Sam. We said goodbye to our parents and turned out the lights. That night I dreamed that I’d returned to the NICU to get Sam, but that when I got there his little incubator was empty and no one knew where he was. I woke up to the sound of a knock at the door and realized it was morning.

We opened the door to find the “other” Dr. Cohen, our pediatrician. He greeted us with a smile, and said that he’d just been upstairs to see Sam. He told us that although he still had a little fluid in his lungs, most of it had been reabsorbed by his body during the night. He also said that he’d tested negative for any infections, but that they were giving him some antibiotics as a precautionary measure. I was fighting back tears when he told us that Sam had been discharged from the NICU and was being brought down to the nursery. We were free to go and see him. We thanked him and rushed to get ready. I asked the nurses for a wheelchair for Alissa and we went over to the other wing of the hospital to find out little boy. When we entered the nursery, several of the people who been in the OR for his birth were there, and they all smiled. They showed us into the room where he was sleeping, and suddenly we realized that the worst day of our lives had been followed by the best day of our lives. It was hard to believe that we were going to be able to hold him after all we’d been though, but the nurses told us to go ahead and pick up our son. Alissa lifted his little body up, I hugged them both, and the two of us cried. It had been a VERY long journey, but it was finally over. Sam had made it, and we were never going to let him go.

LOVE

7/01/2005

Sam is Here!!!

We're still holed up in the hospital, enjoying our first day with our new little boy. But I wanted to get some more photos of the baby out for those of you who are interested.

Click on the photo below to see more.

You worked so hard for this

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