June 8, 2022

The First Week in June

I feel like my brain is broken. I’ve probably thought about how to write this for two months, but I can’t get it to sound right or write how it is in my head. I know from therapy and experience that this is certainly post traumatic stress disorder.

It mostly comes in waves these days, multiple times a day. I can look at Remy doing something simple as rolling his toy tractor across the floor, or giggling when he sees Mortie and Stanley and instantly be transported back to two years ago this week when all of that seemed.. tenuous.

Before I go any further, I should note I feel so grateful - we’ve got a great, healthy, robust kid who will be two on Friday. He’s amazing. Handsome, bursting with personality an has an incredible sense of humor. But there’s just a lot that this week has brought to me in the past two years.

About a month ago, Remy tripped and split his head open on an end table. Despite the amount of blood, and initial crying out of shock, he was fine and acting like himself. Ali was at her first day of work at a new job and my Mom was watching him at her house where I work out of. We took him to immediate care.

As I watched the doctor sew him up, I cried. I held his right foot down and my mom held his left. The nurses kept his arms down to their sides in a pillow case.

Then, from my perspective, I could see his teeth. He had almost all of them in the top row. It was amazing that he had teeth. It started to calm me down.

To watch him here, less than a month short of two years since he was born. Crying, with teeth, living. It brought me back to when I saw him in an incubator for the for the first time as they wheeled him from delivery to the NICU.

I can’t hear the chorus of “Rise Up” by Andra Day without the blood feeling like it’s draining from my body. They played it over the loudspeakers it at the hospital Remy was at whenever a COVID patient went home. It certainly was a sweet sentiment, and a true triumph for sure, especially in those early months prior to the vaccine. It's just sonic wallpaper for me at the most intense moment of my life. It’s the gauzy sound from the hallway in Ali’s hospital room for eight nights. We didn’t know what it was in the first place, but we just kept *hearing it*. Meanwhile, we had a baby down the hall in the NICU fighting for every inch. It almost felt perverse in some way. I would hear it I was scrubbing in to go see him for every one of those 75 days.

With some distance now and experience with my volunteering, I’ve learned about other NICU experiences, but I’m left wondering what to do with those feelings the firework fizzles out and the gunpowder drifts away in the sky.

I’ve never learned how to connect the dots of having a kid who is doing so well health wise and to somehow match that with his violent and traumatic beginning. I really cannot relate to the sleepless nights of being a new parent at home. We had sleepless nights not knowing how he was doing overnight in the NICU, and then again, when he finally came home like any other newborn. Or to stick to an already established feeding schedule. What I do know, though, is to have a baby home finally after two and a half months and then ten days later need to take that same baby back in for surgery where they’ll be put under.

Neither of us knows of going down this whole road for nine months and then have the journey feel complete and new. I’m not complaining - truly - I just feel like that’s lost. I have a very hard time with that. I think I try to compensate with that by trying to cliffnotes the story with the addendum ‘BUT HE’S GOOD!” so often now. I want to talk about the journey. But it doesn’t always feel right.

What’s most difficult its that the outcome we have had is good. I carry this with me every day, and I don’t know why. I love being a father. I really do. But I feel like this specific becoming a parent burnt something in my nerves and receptors.

For the longest time I could not handle loud noise or intense music. I am certainly more fearful. I am deeply a homebody. I’d much rather be to myself than I used to be, and I don’t find it as easy to share or be open anymore.

I know I’ll get there, I know as he starts to be able to converse with us a little more I’ll learn from his perspective and maybe this experience wont be so insular. The intensity of these feelings will start to fade and I’ll look at these days between now and June 10 as ones that were some of the hardest and scariest in my wife’s life and mine and they’ll be even more reason to celebrate. I know this. I just know I’m not quite there yet.