Happy Birthday, Son

At 6am, Anna began having terrible stomach pains. She told me she might just be constipated, and that sounded like a good enough reason to me, but we called in the nurse anyway. She asked Anna a series of questions, the answers to which all pointed to her pain being related to contractions. I held firm with the constipation theory. "Did you have a good bowel movement yesterday?" I was trying to be helpful, and hoping the time had not arrived. By 6:30, the constipation theory was pretty much blown out of the water. The contractions were about 6 minutes apart, lasting for almost a minute. By 7am, they were 4 minutes apart, slightly over a minute each. By 8, they were three minutes apart, a minute long, and the doctor decided he'd seen enough. "It's birthday time." I called my dad while the nurses prepped Anna, then changed into surgical gear as they wheeled her out of the room. At 8:20, they led me into the operating room where the doctors were already busy at work. Anna was conscious, and in better spirits than I expected. Our doctor du jour, Paul "Buzz" Bushart, was joking with the nurses, and with me, which Anna and I both found reassuring and relaxing. At 8:40, the nurse announced the arrival of Franklin Duke Breshears. I won't even attempt to put into words what I felt at that moment. They whisked Frankie from the room, and I stroked Anna's hair and told her how much I loved her. A nurse poked her head back in and told me I could see my son. I followed her to a room across the hall, and saw my boy for the first time. Again, there aren't words for this feeling. I returned to the operating room as the doctors finished the surgery. After a few minutes, they rolled Frankie in to meet his mom. Anna turned her head and fought her way through the chemical haze, reaching up through a small circular hole in Frankie's plexiglass encasement to touch his tiny hand. It was the most beautiful moment of my life.

I followed Frankie and the nurses out of the operating room and up to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I watched them weigh him (3 pounds, 10 ounces), measure him (42 cm long), and check his extremities (10 fingers, 10 toes, 1 penis). Then, I touched him. I held the palm of one hand against his head, and rested the other against his chest. He cried, drawing in deep gulps of air, his skin turning darker shades of pink. After a few minutes, I left him to see how Anna was doing. I arrived in time to see her wheeled out of surgery into the recovery room. I left her to rest, and began making phone calls.

Shortly after 10, I got a call from the NICU doctor. He wanted to meet with us immediately. I knew from the way he stressed that word that something was wrong. I caught him in the hallway outside of the recovery room, and told him I wanted to know what was going on before we talked to Anna. He was very matter-of-fact: Frankie has esophageal atresia and tracheo-esophageal fistula. I didn't know what the words meant, but I got the gist of his message: Frankie required surgery, and he needed to be transferred to another hospital. Fuck. That's the only thought I could manage. Just fuck. After all we'd been through, I actually thought we were in the clear. We both entered the recovery room, and he told Anna what he'd told me, in slightly more detail. I choked back tears, trying my damnedest to maintain a strong facade, thinking that would somehow soften the blow. I told her everything would be alright, but the doctor kept emphasizing the seriousness of the situation. He wasn't helping, or apparently didn't understand the game plan. No matter. Anna took the news better than I expected, and I assured her that I'd take care of everything. Then I left her to sleep, went out to the parking garage, locked myself in the car, and cried. I came back into the hospital ten minutes later, helped my dad and sister pack up the room and move across the hall to Anna's new post-partum room, and steadied myself for the hardest day of my life.

I'll skip ahead. It's almost 11pm now, and I'm back in the post-partum room with Anna. I've spent most of the afternoon and evening with Frankie. My mom and dad showed up at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Brackenridge around 6:30pm, and I left them there just after 9. The surgeon who'll perform Frankie's operation explained it to me in great detail, and I felt a little more reassured. Then I met some of the other folks who have kids in that unit. One baby has been in for 81 days. He's smaller than Frankie. Another couple told me they've yet to hold their baby, who was born two weeks ago but wasn't due until the end of October. Another couple told me their baby was born three months early, and that the doctors still don't know if she'll leave. I know we're not out of the woods yet, but even in the midst of what I considered to be crushing news, I'm constantly reminded of just how lucky we really are.

For all of you who've been sending thoughts and prayers for Anna, I'm hoping you'll redouble those efforts and send all you can to young Frankie, who'll undergo a very tricky procedure tomorrow at 2pm. I'll let you all know how it goes as soon as I can.


Blogger homegrown tomato said...

As someone who had a premie eight months ago my heart goes out to you. I'm sure people have told you that 3 pounds 10 ounces is a great size (my son was 3 lbs 9oz), and I'm sure people are telling you that he'll be fine, but that doesn't make it easier. There are a million things I could tell you about my experience, but I remember how annoyed I soon became at listening to other peoples "and everything turned out just fine" stories. I hope you and your family can feel the prayers and good vibes my family is sending you from the east coast. I am sure you will be amazed at how you keep putting one foot in front of the other. My little boy is raising a drooly Cheerio to your sweet little one.

6:51 AM  
Blogger dirtyweekender said...

Tell Anna no migrane is going to keep me from sending out the good thoughts to baby Frankie.

Love to the Breshears X's 3

7:37 AM  
Anonymous Kate O said...

Congratulations to you both on the birth of your son!! He is beautiful!

FYI, you've never met me but I'm Anna's cousin Patrick's wife. Our second son was not a preemie but was born critically ill, spent months in the PICU, surgeries, etc... so our hearts go out to go in this difficult time. I know Frankie will amaze you with his resiliency. You are all in our thoughts and prayers.

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Ron Greene said...

Just when you think the day is going to be the same old thing....Life affirmed. We are excited to join Franklin in this life together and we wish anna, david and franklin much love and happiness.

Ron Z and Svetlana

6:43 PM  

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