Monday, October 26, 2015
What I learned from sleeping in the hospital with my 19 month old.
(This might be long, but bear with me.)
I have always been a sound sleeper. Very sound. Something in my body is wired to sleep when I get horizontal. In college, a dorm-mate suggested not to hang out in your bed. It is for sleeping, only. That way when you get into bed your body associates that environment with sleep and you will go to sleep quicker and sleep more soundly. My co-parental unit is very skeptic of this theory and routinely calls B.S. Who cares; it works for me.
A couple days ago my littlest one came down with a runny nose. Not too surprising living with the up and down, left and right weather swings we get in New England. Yesterday she woke up wheezy with labored breathing. And not like her breathing was giving birth to another breath. Like her breaths were shallow, both in and out and she developed a cough that wasn't helping anything. This day was Sunday and we were heading to church. We all got into the building and sat in a pew in the back, as to not disturb too many (three kids tends to do that every now and then). Her breathing and coughing were too much for us to handle so I volunteered to take her home (my wife was teaching and it's kind of hard to teach Sunday School from home with a sick child.).
After our semi-regular visit to church (hey, we go when we can. We're a busy family. Get off my back!) we prepare for our next event: the annual pumpkin carving party a group of our friends have been having long before we all had kids. Usually it's a smorgasbord of soups and appetizers and adult beverages (there are less if these than the old days) and pumpkins and a rocking-good time. Lately the kids have been asking very sternly for very intricate designs to be carved into their gourds of choice. I don't know about you, but getting a stencil to stick to a pumpkin and then carve said pumpkin in a way that resembles the stencil is no easy task. Usually I go free-hand and end up with a more traditional Jack-O-Lantern. This year I tackled a stencil-carve. Or tried to.
So before we head to the pumpkin dismemberment ritual, I decided that someone should skip the party (my wife) and stay home with the sick child. There will be at least eight kids all anxiously watching (i.e. Playing outside/in the other room) for their parents labor over the finest detail one can possibly put on a pumpkin so a sick kid wouldn't be all that welcome. And the parents take pumpkin carving very seriously. This is our children's pumpkins, we're talking about. Their whole lives depend on how a ceremonial squash looks for a week before it starts to rot on our front steps.
So I go to the party, toting two kids, two rather large pumpkins (that I had to purchase on the way because not one of the five we had on our stoop were not big enough to carve), buffalo chicken dip, and a cooler of veggies and varieties of a beverage called beer. Perhaps you've hear of it. It's quite yummy and I think it will really catch on.
We take our spot at the table; each kid cleaning out the "guts" of their pumpkins (or I am while the girls eat snacks and do kid things). First up is the ballerina stencil. It has some pretty tight lines and is going to require reinforcement (toothpicks, for the untrained carver). After about half an hour or so, I lost track of time, (I think my eyes went blurry for a while) I think I've done a pretty good job and the oldest agrees. One down. Next up the middle child's pumpkin. She says she wants a flower. A daisy? A tulip? A rose? A chrysanthemum? Bird of paradise? Venus fly trap?
"A tulip. That's what I want." Thank goodness. Easy. I can pull that off. Free hand a tulip, stem, a few leaves. Carve it out as one piece. Give pumpkin flower to one of the kids as a token of my love (girls love flowers!) and wallah. Best. Dad. In. The. World.
My two creations
The whole gang's artwork (minus one, I think)
Then I get brought back from the parenting high by the news that the last two members of the clan are headed our way. It seems the little one has been coughing a lot and our friend, who is a nurse practitioner at the pediatrician's office wants to hear the cough and wheeziness first hand (And I don't mean her impression of Mrs. Jefferson); the iPhone video isn't the best quality for diagnosing a toddler. After the roadside exam, it is agreed upon to take a trip to the emergency department. Six hours, four nebulizer treatments, a round of steroids, a bunch of full strength juice (crack to a kid who rarely has juice cut with water, let alone high test) some bad, stale graham crackers, three botched IV attempts (because 19 month old's love to be pricked with needles. Repeatedly.), four hours past bedtime and a slew of loud "neighbors" coughing, hacking, scolding little boys for not sitting still snd getting into things, and one mother not believing the doctor's treatment and calling her pediatrician, we finally get admitted. Finally some piece and quiet. My wife went home somewhere between hour four and hour five. She has to work the next day. It broke her heart to go, but I reassured her I can take care of it. I only have been doing this for three years. Just another flower to be carved.
We get settled in our new digs, each have a sandwich (finally, food of substance for the child. And I get to eat, too) and get settled to bed. Yes a bed. A real bed. It's a hospital bed. It sure as hell beats the last "bed" I slept on in the hospital. (All dads know the joys of sleeping on that sorry excuse for a bed in your wife's room after your she gives birth to your child. I'm not even sure you can legally call that a bed) And it's only midnight. Perfectly acceptable bedtime for a 19 month old.
Surprisingly she settled pretty quick for being somewhere strange, in a strange bed, with metal bars like a caged animal, (parental observation. I'm sure she didn't feel that way) but she must have been exhausted. I know I was.
We both woke up to a coughing/crying fit a few times. Now recent studies have shown I do not wake for darn near anything. I'm pretty sure a bomb can go off and I'll sleep through the whole thing. It's not my fault (see second paragraph above). But this time, this night I was on top of my game. I was up, comforting back to sleep, shushing, coddling, the whole nine yards. My wife can't believe that I, in fact, woke up with the baby. Now I know this sounds like it's not a big deal, but for a dead-sleeper it is. And when you sleep next to a light sleeper, you don't ever have to get up, unless you get the elbow of death at three a.m. But it was just me. I was that elbow. Or the coughing was. Either way it is not the ideal way to wake up.
So here's what I learned from sleeping in the hospital with my 19 month old:
I learned I can wake up in the middle of the night if I have to.
I learned I am a good father for helping my child through this ordeal.
I learned I am a good husband for stepping up when my wife can't.
I learned sometimes hospitals aren't the most efficient at time management. (To their defense, we weren't the only ones there and I understand that, but an hour wait for transport up four floors is redonk).
I learned nurses on the children's floors of hospitals are awesome and I thank them for that. Even at midnight.
I learned life sucks, but you make the best of it.
I learned my kid is amazing. Always having the go-getting, get out of my way attitude, even when she's not 100%.
I learned this dad thing is hard. This dad thing is easy. This dad thing is amazing. I recommend it to anyone. (I understand it might be a little difficult for the ladies, with the gender thing and all, but y'all are smart and resourceful. I'm confident you can figure it out.)