The first night in the hospital was a crazy flash of images. After the quick birth there was so much left to do. They poked and prodded Penny hour after hour. It was torture for me. I know they were just making sure she was alive and well but hearing her scream was like tiny little daggers in my heart and being the Dad is kind of a drag while staying there. It felt weird to leave and take Robin to the kennel but it also felt good to be needed to do something.
From pretty much the get go the nurses were kind of rude to me. At first I didn't mind because Rachel was in labor and she was the star of the show. I wasn't even on the marquee and that is totally okay with me. I did what I was supposed to. I held Rachel's hand when she needed me, I made sure she had ice water, and I got out of the way when I was barked at. I don't really even remember speaking for the first few hours of Penny's outside life. I was fine not holding her, I was fine rushing to get Rachel whatever she needed, but I was not okay with being told that "It's easy for the dad" and "It's easy for you to sleep after the birth since you didn't do anything". There were a few nurses that flat out ignored me. Even when Rachel was dozing and they needed answers to questions. It was just weird but let me explain how I felt while at the hospital.
Let me start by saying I hate hospitals. I'm not alone in this, I know, but I really hate them. They just give me such a terrible feeling the pit of my stomach. The birthing center in Bellingham is not really like a hospital since it's just for babies so that made me feel better. I have a hard time falling asleep at home so I knew that it was going to be pretty much impossible there. I was okay with that but I didn't realize how crazy it would make me. For me the hospital felt like a cage. I needed to be near Rachel and Penny so leaving wasn't an option but with the nurses coming in all the time and checking on everything, changing diapers, and making sure Rachel was doing okay kind of took everything away from me. All I could do is lay on that supremely uncomfortable day bed and try and fight off insomnia.
I'm the type of person who putters when they can't sleep. I've noticed in the past few years that when I can't sleep I will get up and just touch things. I know that might sound weird and that's because it is. I really will just walk around the house and pick stuff up and put it back down or move something from one table to the other or dig through a bin of old power cables. I just need to be doing something menial to tired my mind out. So being in the hospital was pure unadulterated torture. I couldn't DO anything. I've never felt so helpless in my entire life. I felt like myspace in 2016, unnecessary. It was all made so much worse since I was fighting off a massive head cold and trying not to drip it on my hands and then on to Penny. I kept wondering if this was how all the other fathers in the rooms adjacent to ours felt.
I just wanted to go home, to bring all three of us home. The night we got back was one of the best nights of my life. We got to bring her home and lay on the couch. It was nice to not have a nurse walk in every hour, turn on all the lights, make Penny cry and then leave the room. I was just so constantly jarring. I've never appreciated a home as much as I do now. Even being drained and tired doesn't have the same affect when you can walk into the kitchen open the refrigerator repeatedly for no god damn reason.
After a week of Rachel and I both having terrible head colds and restless nights; it finally happened. Rachel came home on Wednesday determined to get Penny out of her. She drank about a gallon of raspberry leaf tea, walked Robin more times than he rightly needed to, and bounced for hours on the giant ball. She was laughing and smiling as she bounced. It was adorable, she said Penny was moving with her and it felt like she was dancing inside of her. Rachel turned and looked at me with tears in her eyes and said "I love her so much already". I smiled back and carried on with our evening. We had dinner and gave up on Penny coming. We were laying in bed and I asked Rachel if Penny was ever going to come and got up and left the room to get a glass of orange juice. As I stood in the kitchen pouring I hear Rachel scream my name repeatedly in a panic. I run back into the bedroom and she is standing there looking shocked. "My water just broke and it's everywhere..." we both laughed and realized that after about 3 months of planning we were not even close to being ready. It was 10:15 pm.
We called the doctor and were instructed to go to the hospital. We were 90% sure they would send us home since Rachel wasn't having any regular contractions. After signing in and being directed to triage, our first nurse informed us, in about 2 seconds of looking at Rachel, that we would be staying. It was kind of a blur after that. They showed us to our room, Rachel changed into her gown and they started taking her vitals. After about an hour they informed us that her contractions were about a minute apart but she wasn't really feeling them. We were both shocked. We were both so tired and excited but had no idea what we were were supposed to do. Our main nurse, Wendi, was a amazing. She made us laugh and gushed all over how cute Rachel and I were being. We just kept singing and saying "I love you" constantly. We both laid there and watched Food Network until Rachel started to feel her contractions. It was about 12:30am.
As the contractions got worse Rachel decided it was time to kill the pain. They gave her a pain killer that only dulls the pain of contractions for about an hour but it was long enough for Rachel to take a bath and sleep for half an hour. When she woke up she was in so much pain. She asked Wendi if she could get the epidural. Wendi called the doctor but it would take an hour before anything could happen. Rachel fought through the pain for an hour and half until the doctor finally arrived. She was a brisk woman who wasn't all that friendly. She examined Rachel and said "Well I am touching your baby's head..." Rachel looked at me and started crying. "No epidural?" she screamed. The doctor said "It's too late dear, it's time to start pushing". I thought Rachel was going to get up off that bed and punch this woman. It was 3:30 am.
Rachel pushed and screamed. Screamed so more. Screamed so loud it was scary. Her birthing playlist was blaring in the background and every new song that came on had me singing and keeping Rachel in the moment. I will say this for the rest of my life but Rachel is by far the strongest person I have ever met. She did all of this natural, no drugs, and in exactly a half hour. During the last push Rachel screamed "I'm done" and went to get up off the table it was hurting so bad. Wendi looked at her and "it's not us it's your baby, one more push and she's here!" Rachel leaned back and pushed one last time. At 4:02am Penny was laying on Rachel's chest and we heard her cry for the first time. We were both in tears, I had been crying for about a half hour, but this was the moment we had been waiting for.
Penny was healthy. She was here and she was beautiful. I had heard that some men don't bond with their child right away but this wasn't true for me at all. I was longing to hold her to feel her skin to smell her. Rachel held her for an hour before I was able to get my chance but when she was laying in my arms every fear I ever had melted away. She popped one of her eyes open and lazily gazed around I know she doesn't know who I am yet but I could feel her searching for me. It was one of the most amazing moment of my life.
Rachel gave me something so special and together we are home and happy and in love more than ever before. I love Rachel and Penny so much it hurts. I can't wait to watch her grow and it's going to be my goal to get her to laugh before Rachel does. Thank you to everyone who has shown us love and support, it means more to us than you'll ever know. I can't wait for everyone to get to meet her and fall in love like we have.
As a writer my brain has been spinning wildly at the thought of having a child. What stories do I write down for her. What should I write so that we she is old enough I can read it to her. Should I wait and ask her to write it with me? Should I create a whole world just for here to peer into and fall in love with. Should I make her a knight or a princess? An alien or human? Monster or Angel? There are so many options, so many words. They are all there waiting for me to grab and place and craft into something just for her. This is just a short poem about her name that I threw together while trying not to fall asleep on this wonderfully calm Sunday. I hope you enjoy it because I love her name and I will probably write hundreds of poems about it in the years to come.
Protector of my progeny, daughter of proof that life can be pleasant
Eclectic energy envelopes me when earnest eyes look forward.
Nearest to Nephilim that newborns need to be.
Everleasting essence of eden made of elegance.
Longing not for language of lost lectures of love.
Only you the ongoing onslaught of October shall open.
Plan for patience and probable package of parental parallels.
Early exits, an easy escape into your familial entourage.
Rachel and I differ in a lot of ways. I really love overly sad stories and movies. The book I wrote and love more than anything else I have ever written is very sad. The reason it's sad is mostly because it's true and raw. It has a lot of things in it that happened to me and the way the characters fall in love and the heartbreak that comes after comes from my heart.
I turned to Rachel the other day and asked her "when do you think we should tell Penny about death?" She responded with when she's old enough to understand. I felt kind of weird about it. Rachel had to talk me into getting a dog because when my lost dog died it wrecked me. He also died on the same weekend that one of my aunts did. I have stood graveside way too many times in my life. One of them, the death of my best friend and brother, still hurts me. I will have to carry his death with my forever but that's okay, that's just what happens when someone close to you dies. What really hurts is that he will never get to meet Penny. Uncle Eric was something I have thought about since I was a kid.
I think having a dysfunctional family kind of made want to have a family of my own. So I could do everything different but include parts of my old life that were still a good thing. After Eric died that dream kind of did too. I didn't want to bring a child into the world and have them feel the pang of death. It's too hard.
"If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one." A quote from the movie Spotlight. Rachel and I trudged our way through this movie with open eyes and sad hearts. I don't want to get into the judicial and religious sides of this movie but I do want to talk about what kind of fears it stirred inside me. I grew up in a large extended family and the things that happened to and in front of me growing up are masterfully crafted nightmares.
First off, for those who don't know me, let me give you a little background. When I was little I was repeatedly molested and it left scars that I will probably never escape from. It has constantly haunted me and caused so much pain in my life and it also played a hand in my marriage crumbling. I can't blame it all on that, but the more I read and digest about the subject, the more I came to terms with how it was controlling me. I fought against it and as of right now I'm in the best place I have ever been with it but I still struggle with a lot of things. Mostly it hurts the ones I love. It's hard for me to be touched or cuddled, I can't really explain it but there is a uncomfortable twinge all over my body that makes me want to rip the skin from my bones. It's not fun and most of the time I feel guilty for my body acting against me. I just wish there was an easier way to push past it. I read an article about a lawyer sewing someone because of molestation and he coined the phrase "Soul Murder" and since I read that I have never been able to think of it as anything else.
These fears are only compounded when I think about raising a child. I know in my heart that I will never allow my child to enter a situation where they will be able to be hurt like I was, but I also know that I can't control every situation. When she goes to school and is in daycare I won't be able to be there and that destroys me. What happened to me was not 100% my parents' fault but a lot of lies in who they left me with and how it was handled afterwards. Ignoring the issue doesn't help anything. Pretending it didn't happen doesn't help your child. Punishing for acting out isn't always the right choice. These are things I have learned from how they did it. I need to be open and ask questions and make sure I vet every person who is possibly EVER going to come in contact with my daughter... That might be taking a bit too far but the fear inside me says it's not even close to enough.
Another thing that scares me is that I will pass this kind of fear down to her. I'm already crazy protective when it comes to the people that I love and I can't even begin to imagine what that will look like when it comes to Penny. I"m just afraid that all of my bad habits will transfer to her. I know that I can be a know it all to the point of frustration and sometimes I'm a bit of a bastard. I know these things about myself. I know that this is part of the balance that keeps me above water. I found that being honest and open with myself and others has made it easier for me to deal with things. That sometimes comes with a little bit of anger when I know I'm right but people around me still do things wrong. I also understand that right and wrong are subjective and that I am just being a jerk sometimes. I don't need anyone to point that out, if you think "maybe he doesn't know" I do, I just don't care. The events in my life have made me into this pessimistic over-protective wreck. I just hope that Penny will understand me and that we can connect on that level. I just hope she doesn't see me as baggage like I do my parents.
I love my father to death and there is a special place in my heart(and hell) for my mother. A lot of people say they wouldn't be who they are today without their parents. The only things inside of me that I attribute to my parents are bad things. The good parts of me I had to create on my own and I am thankful that I didn't turn out like them, I just really freaking hope that with that knowledge I can give Penny the encouragement, security, and love that I didn't get.
I have thought about this a lot since it happened. There is nothing to compare the feeling to. Leading up to our first ultrasound I had no idea what to expect. All I had ever seen were movie depictions of it. Squirting the cold gel on the stomach, people being overly excited, usually in a well lit room with a quirky tech who knows way too much information. So when the real event happened I was entering uncharted territory.
The first few month of the pregnancy flew by without us even knowing. Soon enough we were sitting in the waiting room trying not to show how nervous we both were. We just sat there not making eye contact while I tried to make Rachel laugh, something I'm very good at, but it seemed like something was looming above us. Like some giant monster just waiting to give us bad news. Soon our name was called and we walked down a really long hallway and into a dimly lit room with the chair of destiny right in the middle. The movies got a lot wrong, the gel was warm, the room was dark, and our tech told us very little information but what did happen was amazing.
I had Rachel's hand held tightly in mine and when our child first appeared on the screen I think I had an out of body experience. I don't remember what the tech said. Rachel about crushed my hand but I'm pretty sure I was squeezing just as hard. On the black and white screen was the healthy heartbeat of our child. It was about the size of a peanut but to me it was like looking into the eyes of the universe. It was captivating and raw and I felt like I never wanted to look at anything else again. Our tech told us our child was healthy and there were no problems to note. She printed us off little pictures of our "baby" and we were sent on our way. Once we reached the parking lot we hugged like you see in cheesy romantic comedies, for probably longer than is warranted. It was real, the baby was real, and after that it was hard to think about anything else.
The time between the first ultrasound and second felt like years. We both didn't really care what the sex would be and we picked out names already so it wasn't going to be hard in that way, but it was still scary. I think this part of having a child is silly. It doesn't matter what the sex is but there are so many things to think about. Most of them sexist in ways but it doesn't fight the reality that men and woman are different and when things happen I feel like since, I was a boy, relating to one would be easier and I think, to a point, all people feel this way. Relating to the child in the way you felt when you grew up, no matter how that was. I was pretty firm in this for a long time but one day I had a dream. I was playing in a giant sandbox with a beautiful blond little girl. She was handing me tools for building a castle, she kept smiling at me like she didn't have a worry in the world. Through the whole dream I knew she was my daughter and for that moment I didn't have worries either. I was a changed man and a daughter was all I wanted.
Back in the waiting room again a new set of emotions were displayed on our faces. We had done this before but this time was more important. We know it was healthy so our only thoughts were on the sex. While we were waiting a woman burst through the doors from the exam room area crying loudly and was visibly distraught. Rachel and I sat still and watched her wait for the elevator not knowing what to say or do. Soon she was gone and it was our turn to walk the long hallway again. The woman's pain was fresh in our minds but it was soon washed away when the computer monitor displayed our child again. It was moving all around and it's heartbeat was insane. Of course the baby was pinching it's legs together so we couldn't see what was between those tiny legs. The tech went on with the whole exam and came back to that at the end.
After fighting to get the baby in the right position, it couldn't just be easy, the tech looked at us and said "if you look right here, at these three lines, this is how we tell it's a girl". My mind went blank and tears rolled down my face. I have never been so happy in my entire life. I was looking at my child, my girl, my Penelope Snow. She was real, we were having a daughter..
When I was growing up all anyone ever told me was to not have unprotected sex because you will get pregnant. They even showed us a terrifying movie in "Health" class about how scary giving birth is. I think there was some stuff about STDs and what not but all I can remember is that child tearing apart that woman's vagina. It still kind of still haunts me...
A few years ago Rachel and I decided to have a child. We talked about it and we agreed that we were both ready. We were in love, we were not getting any younger, and kids were both really important to us. We are adults so we decided to take the "lets just see what happens" route. She went off birth control and we rolled the dice. I'm going to tell you something that no one else will. Making a child doesn't happen overnight. Maybe when you're 16 and in the backseat of your parents car there is some kind of magic that happens(science), but other than that it's not easy. At all. We tried for about a year before Rachel had a miscarriage. This was the first lesson I learned about having a child, sometimes it's heartbreaking and terrible. Rachel didn't want to tell me about it and I understand why, I'm sure it's harder on her than me. When something like that happens to a woman she blames herself since she is the oven the bun is supposed to be cooking in. It left us both in a weird place.
We took a break from worrying about if we were going to have a child. We grew closer as friends and lovers. Rachel took about a 100 pregnancy tests. Our professional lives were swinging out of control and there was a lot of sadness surrounding our household. We fought like we always do in the good and bad ways, we bought one of the best and most frustrating dogs you could ever find, and everything was just...okay. The hardest part of all this was that Rachel did not have a period for most of our two year struggle. Something was wrong but we didn't know what. She went to the doctor to get a pregnancy test, that they never actually ran, and walked off with a shiny new prescription for a drug called Metformin. This drug was supposed to right her system, and help just in case she was becoming diabetic, but all it did was ruin weeks of her life. It made her unbelievably nauseous and made it so she was unable to eat. They told her to take it for a month but there was no way that was going to happen. It was hurting way more than it was helping. So we stopped.
Life was going in a weird way. I was working a job that was sucking the soul right out of me and Rachel was trying her hardest to not worry about not being able to make a baby. I went through a three month hiring process just to get turned down, just to be offered the job later, we went to Disneyland and had an awesome time and almost a month later Rachel would text me in the morning saying that she had a surprise for me. The year 2016 had a lot of surprises. Somehow I immediately knew she was pregnant. After talking to her on the phone she explained that all 4 of the pregnancy tests she took said we were going to have a kid. February 19th 2016 was the day I found out I was going to be a father. There was a burst of excitement and panic that made its way through every inch of my body. For a few moments I felt like I was floating. I was in shock but in the best way I could have ever dreamed. It's a feeling I will never forget but it would be topped.
If you asked Rachel what the most frustrating part of this story is she would say that she was pregnant before we went to Disneyland and before they prescribed her the Metformin. That if that incompetent nurse at the doctors office had actually ran the test we would have known about a month earlier... She really loves telling that story.
We spent two years trying, failing, blaming ourselves, not talking, talking, crying, and finally making it real but someone it still didn't feel real. It also didn't feel real when we got the real pregnancy test from the doctors office, and it remained to feel real until we were sitting in that weird dark room staring a computer screen.
Next time the Ultrasound.
Father's Day was almost a week ago and it left me feeling a mixture of excited and terrified. Excited because in about 3 months I will be the proud owner of my very own, living, breathing, and squishy human being. This excites me to no end. I find myself smiling, almost daily, when I think about what her little face is going to look like, what her voice might sound like, and how much of myself I will see in her. At the same time all of those same things scare the living shit out of me...
I haven't, exactly, had the best life, some of it my own fault, but a lot of it has to do with the universe having an vendetta against me. Maybe I am paying for something I did in a past life or something I will have done in the future. Who the hell knows how the construct of time really works? Since my life wasn't great, I know that I now have the tools to try and make my daughters life a little easier. The scary part is that I can't protect her from that bastard universe. She will still grow up in a dying society surrounded by violence and hate. I won't be able to shield her from bigotry and ignorance. We will be bringing her into this world in the same year that Donald Trump might become the POTUS. Let that sink for a second... There are not a lot of things scarier than that.
I've been addicted to the Broadway musical Hamilton in the normal kind of way. When I find something I like I consume it religiously. The story in this musical is beyond inspiring. A man who had a terrible childhood pulled himself out of it with his writing ability and drive. He came to New York and eventually helped us become the free nation we have today. Lin-Miranda Manuel, the writer and main actor, word's swirl around inside my head infecting, redirecting, and constantly inspecting every facet of my brain. They inspire me to reach higher, smile more, and make sure that I always know where I stand. But even in that I find myself coming across some hurdles.
The biggest being where do I stand? I stand for human rights, gun control, and the ability to remain free to make choices in a sweepingly darker world; but what does that all culminate to? Where do I look for my soon-to-be child? What can I do to make this world a better and safer place? I can shout from the rooftops or post online but what real change can one man really accomplish? If I really listen to the words from Hamilton, I would have to say "a whole hell of a lot". But that America was young, it was small and it had yet to be a internally cancerous black hole. The process of how our nation chooses anything is so badly broken that even if I wanted to join the political realm I would be stopped by not having enough money and a million other things. So how do I affect change in my personal life and build a better world without having the power behind me to do so?
A simple and honest answer: I don't know. I do plan to explore this idea and grow with the help from my friends and experiences. I need to remember that my job doesn't define me, money doesn't make me, and that having fun shouldn't be a goal it should be a reality.
I hope to keep these posts coming every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday for the foreseeable future. I want to share the experiences leading up to and after the birth of my first child.
Hamilton playlist via Spotify.