Handsome, ain't he?
Daddy's Lil' Helper
Grandpa, Anna and I have been splitting shifts with Frankie for the past week. Grandpa comes by in the morning, Anna takes the early evening, and I cover the swing shift. Frankie is an angel for his Grandpa, and until last night, his mom has been blessed with mostly good behavior. Seems the boy has reserved his loudest, fiercest tantrums for the wee hours. I had to teach this evening, so Anna switched shifts with me last night so I could get some sleep. When I got up this morning, she was bleary-eyed and frazzled. Tonight, I discovered the magic of the Fisher Price Nature's Touch Cradle Swing. It's probably a little too early to be saying this, but at this point, it seems like a frickin' godsend. Still, I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
Angus meets Frankie, 8/22
I'm happy to report that the first official meeting between Frankie and Angus (aka, "bad kitty") went off without a hitch. While I wouldn't call Angus' reception warm, the fact that he fell asleep in such close proximity is hopefully a sign that some kind of peaceful coexistence is possible.
Grandpa & Frankie, 8/21
But for a trip or two back to Houston to take care of the pool and check on mom, my dad, Frankie's namesake, has been in Austin since Anna first went into the hospital at the end of June. He's been an amazing source of support throughout this whole ordeal, but never more so than now. He's been coming over to sit with Frankie while Anna and I catch up on sleep, staying until 2 or 3 in the morning. He's changing diapers, giving Frankie bottles, and generally keeping us sane and making this transition smoother than we thought possible. I'd say we owe him big time, but when you see him with his grandson, you get the feeling this debt's already been repaid.
He's a fucking GENIUS, man!
I'm pleased to report that Frankie survived the first 24 hours in our exclusive custody. In fact, it was a lot rougher on us than it was on him. Anna and I slept in two or three hour shifts, I think. The night is a blur. I feel like what it must be like inside the mind of Dennis Hopper's expatriate journalist from Apocalypse Now, amped out of my gourd on megadoses of fear and awe. I sleep in fitful bursts, awakened by the slightest murmer from the co-sleeper. Frankie has decided to bless me with exclusive rights to his shitty diapers, somehow managing to crap only during my shifts. We tried to maintain a strict feeding schedule for the first couple of hours, but it's quickly devolved into an ad lib, on-demand enterprise, and Frankie's calling the shots. His appetite is the last thing anyone needs to worry about. However, having just typed that sentence, I was interrupted for a ten-minute discussion about our joint inability to recall the exact times and frequency of today's feedings, the long and short of which was Anna's conclusion that he's not eating enough. So what do I know? Seems to me everything's going pretty good, but at this point, I'd be hard pressed to pass a competency hearing, so my opinion is probably not to be trusted. This picture was taken ten minutes ago, and having Frankie on the couch next to me is making the task of writing pretty damn difficult. All I want to do is stare at him, even when he's sleeping. If his captivating spell doesn't wear off shortly, finishing my dissertation is going to be much harder than I'd imagined.
Frankie at Home, 8/19
Rooming In with Frankie, 8/18
NOT "Supreme Comfort"
Rooming in with Frankie, 8/18
The Great Escape
Monday we found out Frankie would be coming home in 7 to 10 days, barring any significant apnea episodes between now and then. Tuesday we learned that the earlier estimate had been whittled down to a firm 5 days: Frankie would be coming home Saturday. When Dr. Blunt came around to talk to us about the good news, I assumed he was primarily there to remind us that all of this could be scuttled by a single, twenty second pause in Frankie's breathing. Virtually all premature babies suffer these momentary lapses, due in large part to inadequate development of their nervous systems. But that comes with time, and almost all preemies quickly outgrow the syndrome known as Apnea of Prematurity. Truthfully, it has been the least worrisome obstacle impeding our escape from the NICU. I've imagined all manner of complications related to the fistula and atresia repairs. I've dreaded the prospect of having to suction stomach acid from Frankie's nose and throat if he suffers from severe reflux. I feared that eating would become torture, and that he'd be in the NICU for months trying to put on enough weight to come home. Even when it became apparent that these worries weren't going to materialize, I had a host of ancillary fears queued up in the wings of my overactive imagination. What if Frankie contracted RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) which, according to the March of Dimes, "is highly infectious and almost all babies get it," and can be fatal if contracted by a preemie? It seemed perfectly reasonable to fear viruses, and staph infections, and the innumerable communicable diseases otherwise-healthy babies are invariably exposed to in open bays like the NICU. What I didn't worry about was apnea of prematurity. Frankie had gone about a week between episodes, and I'd assumed he'd just outgrown the problem. Turns out that wasn't the case. So, when Dr. Blunt stopped by, I naturally assumed it was to inform us that we could be on perpetual hold if Frankie continues to stop breathing every now and again. Not so. Seems there's a loophole in the apnea clause of the NICU discharge policy. As Dr. Blunt put it, "If Frankie keeps this up, we'll send him home on a monitor." After he left, Jill reassured us that it wasn't going to come to that.
So, that was Tuesday. The plan was for Anna and I to "room in" with Frankie on Friday night, apparently so the nurses can make sure we won't kill the boy when they release him into our care. That gave us Wednesday and Thursday to get the house ready for Frankie's arrival. As of Wednesday morning, I still had a front door to stain, a back yard to mow, and enough sweeping and dusting to keep me busy for a couple of days. None of this was made any easier by the unfortunate, embarrassing injury I sustained while loading Frankie's deceptively heavy car seat/stroller combo into the stationwagon. Unfortunate because the timing was tragically perfect, what with Frankie scheduled to arrive within a week and my foisting chores just getting started. Embarrassing because I'd thrown out my back, the archetypal fatherhood injury. Everything about me has begun to reek of paternity. I hobbled my way through Wednesday with Anna running circles around me. We'd both begun to seriously doubt the likelihood that I'd finish the door by Friday morning. Any plans for the backyard were long since abandoned. But we got up early on Thursday, which seemed to bode well. And I think there was a damn good chance I'd have finished that door by dinner time, if not for an unforeseen change of schedule.
Jennifer, Frankie's primary nurse, called us Thursday morning to tell us he'd had another apnea episode Wednesday night. Anna hung up the phone and said, "He's coming home tomorrow." Since Frankie would be sent home with a monitor, there was no reason to keep him in the NICU any longer. So, we "roomed in" last night, and Frankie came home this morning. He's lying in his co-sleeper next to Anna, both of them trying to catch up on lost sleep.
I mentioned a couple of days ago that Anna and I are growing increasingly impatient. We're ready for Frankie to come home. My cousin, Shelee, says what we've all been thinking:
"Can I ask a dumb question? Why can't he go home? He's over 5lbs. I'm showing my ignorance here, but I thought the surgery corrected all the other issues. He's eating, and obviously liking it. Am I being dense? He's doing all these new tricks to show those people that he has overstayed his welcome there, and is more than willing to go home! He is just so damned cute!"
The missing NG tube was the first thing we noticed when we walked into the NICU on Monday. Jennifer explained that Frankie had pulled it out during the night, but that he hadn't required a gavage feeding in more than 24 hours, so they decided to leave it out for the time being. Then she told us the really good news: barring some kind of major setback, Frankie would be going home in 7 to 10 days. "He had an apnea episode last night, and he can't go home within a week of it, but if there aren't others between now and then, he could be home by the beginning of next week." The news was too good to be true, and I knew in my heart that it wouldn't work out like that. Apnea episodes are ambiguous events. Frankie often suffers brief bouts of apnea, most of which are associated with nippling a bottle. Since coming off caffeine a couple of weeks ago, he's only had a couple of apnea episodes while sleeping. The night before last, one of the night nurses recorded such an episode on Frankie's chart, pushing his earliest release date back to next Monday. Some overly conscientious nurse was going to report another one between now and then, and Anna and I are bound to be disappointed more than once before Frankie pulls off an episode-free week. I was glad to have my optimistic opinions about his progress confirmed, but I knew it was a pipedream.
This morning, we walked into the NICU to find Frankie resting comfortably in a plastic bassinet. He'd outgrown his ambient warmer, having held his temperature above 97.6 degrees for more than a day. Then we saw Jill, bubblier than usual. She said she had great news, and beckoned Anna to sit. "Frankie's going home on Saturday." There were no qualifiers. It was not a ballpark figure. It was even sooner than the 7-to-10-day estimate Jennifer had given us the day before. Jill explained that the apnea episode recorded a couple of nights ago wasn't actually an episode. "It wasn't 20 seconds," rolling her eyes as she said it. "It doesn't qualify as an 'episode'." The doctor rounding this morning said it was about time to get Frankie out of here, and Jill reminded him about the apnea episode. He looked at Frankie's chart and realized it was exactly what I'd suspected: the misdiagnosis of an overzealous nurse. "So, the plan is to send him home on Saturday. Can you room in Friday night?" Anna and I were stunned. Saturday is 37 gestational weeks and a day, nearly three weeks ahead of schedule. Have I mentioned how much ass my son kicks?
Now, the obligatory qualification. There are still a few things that could derail this train. If Frankie has an actual episode of apnea, the clock starts again. If he stops taking his bottle, the NG tube goes back in and we start all over. The good news is that nobody expects these things to happen. As cautious as these folks are, they wouldn't get our hopes up if they weren't fairly certain about their timetables. Whether or not he's actually home by Saturday, we're celebrating the fact that his progress is incredible enough that it's even a possibility.
Friday evening, during the 6:30-7:30 shift change, Anna and I attended a NICU parents' support group, convened by one of the Child Life Specialists, partially at our behest. Okay, more than partially. We pulled her aside one afternoon and asked about NICU support services, or the lack thereof. During our brief stay at Seton Main immediately after Frankie was born, I familiarized myself with the hospital's NICU, naively assuming I'd be spending a good deal of time there over the next couple of months. One of the first things I noticed was the ubiquitously posted flyer advertising a support group for parents with babies in the NICU. There was a photocopy of the flyer in the elevator, one on the corkboard near the Nurses' Station in the Labor & Delivery Unit, and several more along the way to the NICU on the 8th floor. I must have seen it dozens of times before Frankie arrived, but it wasn't until afterward that I finally gave it a second thought. When I did, a shiver of dread ran through me. I've never been a fan of support groups; not because I've actually participated in one, but because I haven't. The words conjure a collage of stereotypical images: the hopeless meanderings of the inmates in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest; the pathetic collections of similarly afflicted individuals come together to display their suffering for the vampiric pleasure of Edward Norton's anonymous narrator in Fight Club; the comically tragic clientelle of TV's Dr. Bob Newhart. Even the oddly heroic recovering addicts from David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest harbored suspicions about the utility of the group hug. The point is that I freely admit my opinion of support groups rests upon a purely fictional foundation. As I contemplated the ubiquitous invitation, this is the image that filled my mind. Thanks, but really, no. Shortly after arriving at the NICU in Brackenridge, my thoughts on the subject changed, and one of the first things I noticed was the absence of similar flyers in the hallways around the unit. So, we asked the Child Life Specialist about it, and the short version of the story is that we ended up with this - the first monthly meeting of a support group for parents of NICU babies.
This is the first time in my life that I've endured an ordeal of such magnitude that it actually made me long for the comfort of similarly afflicted individuals. The night we arrived at Brackenridge, I met two couples in the hallway outside the NICU. I haven't seen one of the couples since, but the other has been here slightly longer than us, and their daughter is still a month and a half away from being ready to go home. The husband and I exchange updates regularly. He and his wife introduced themselves to me as I was heading back to Seton Main after getting Frankie settled that first night. They told me about their daughter, introduced me to the couple I haven't seen since, and generally made me feel not quite so alone in my misery. After a week in the NICU, as the emotional rollercoaster began to slow down, I really began to appreciate the comfort I'd found in solidarity with other parents. We were really beyond the point of needing a support group when we suggested it to the Child Life Specialist. It was more of a benevolent gesture, something we thought others might find comforting. We've met several of the families of Frankie's baymates, and discovered that there is indeed strength in numbers. We've all found ourselves in a place we didn't really know existed, and certainly never expected to be. None of us were prepared for this; we're all winging it. And it helps to compare notes. One couple told us they'd had an awful nurse, and had subsequently requested that she not care for their son again. That story emboldened us to take similar action against Hazel. We suggested a parents' support group because we figured it would be a good opportunity to share information, if nothing else. That's what we had in mind.
We were the last of the parents to arrive at the support group meeting Thursday afternoon. We joined the Child Life Specialist, a hospital chaplain, and three mothers, two of whom were accompanied by their own mothers. We were immediately struck by the age difference between ourselves and these other parents. Two of them couldn't have been older than 18, and the third told us she was 20. We'd noticed that the NICU parents seemed to cluster in two age groups, but this was our first time to really interact with our younger counterparts. There was no exchange of information. We did not discuss our problems with particular nurses, or concerns about the care our babies were receiving. There were ice cream sundaes and materials for scrapbooking, and everyone seemed pretty content with those options. I watched the minutes tick away before an hour passed and we made our polite escape. It was not what I'd expected, and I suddenly understood why there hadn't been a NICU parents' support group meeting for several months.
Okay, so that's probably a little unfair. I'm sure there are lots of reasons folks shy away from support groups like this. It might have been a simple matter of irresolvable scheduling conflicts. From 6:30 to 7:30 in the evening, the nurses and support staff in the NICU change shifts. Parents and other visitors are kicked out of the NICU while the day nurses turn their patients over to their counterparts on the nightshift. It's the only opportunity some folks have to eat dinner, or just catch a breath after a long day at their baby's bedside. And it's not like there was a lot of advance notice, so some folks might have already had other plans. Or maybe they just took the flyer more seriously than I did. I mean, it did say there would be sundaes and scrapbooking. None of the support groups in Fight Club had sundaes and scrapbooking, a fact I hadn't considered beforehand. Whatever the reason, attendance at the support group was sparse, and our generational cluster was severely underrepresented.
Maybe that's it. I mean, I didn't even try to start a conversation about any of the topics I'd imagined our "support group" would discuss, primarily because I couldn't wrap my mind around the idea that these gals were actually parents. I can't imagine these two little girls being mothers. Their own mothers aren't helping. One of these mother-daughter couples has been parked across from us in Bay 3 for the better part of a week. When the doctors introduced themselves to the couple on their baby's first day in the NICU, Grandma asked them, "Is this my daughter's fault." I thought I must have heard her incorrectly, as did one of the doctors. She repeated the question, adding, "I mean, did she do something to make him like this." I try to maintain the appearance that I'm not eavesdropping as I eavesdrop on these conversations, but I couldn't resist the urge to see the doctor's reaction. He was astonished by the question, and immediately replied, "Oh no! This isn't her fault. No. Of course not. And you can't..." He cut his admonishment short. "This is not her fault." Since that initial encounter, I've heard Grandma repeat the question at least a half dozen times. I look at her teenage daughter and try to imagine what it would be like to be in her position. I'm 35 and still feel like it's a little too soon to be doing this. I can't imagine what it would be like to have a baby at 16 or 17, when I was young and stupid enough to think I could. I imagine what it must feel like to have your mother continually express doubts about your fitness to be a mother. So, before we were formally introduced during the "support group," I already had some pretty strong preconceptions about those two. I hadn't seen the other mother-daughter couple before now, but they confirmed my impression that these kids are too young to be having babies. Grandma was disappointed that she hadn't brought her scrapbooking materials. "I have lots of scrapbooking stuff, but she didn't tell me I needed to bring them." The Child Life Specialists assured her that it wasn't a problem. There were plenty of scrapbooking materials here, all at her disposal. "But she should have told me." The daughter objected, obviously trying to ignore her mother, but no longer able to restrain herself.
"I did too tell you."
"No, you didn't."
"Yes, I did."
"No, you didn't." Then, addressing this to the Child Life Specialist, "See how she is?" Then, to her daughter, "You're a liar."
Well, fuck you, mom. The daughter didn't say this, of course, but I almost did. This was the exact moment at which I realized I had nothing to contribute to this "support group," and that if I wasn't going to eat a sundae or make a scrapbook, I was in for a long hour. And it was. Interminably slow. I fended off small talk and smiled politely and watched the minutes tick off the clock. The four young mothers in the room may share the common experience of having a baby in the NICU, but as far as I could tell, they come from two entirely different planets. I had no idea how to bridge the distance between us. Fortunately, I hadn't really come to the meeting seeking support, and these new mothers seemed perfectly content with sundaes and scrapbooking.
out walkin' after midnight
Sometimes, on nights like this, after Anna has finished her ten o’clock pumping and crawled into bed for three hours of sleep, I walk around in the backyard, thinking about how ready I am for Frankie to come home. After about a week, I stopped trying to go to bed with Anna at ten thirty. Up until that point, I’d lie awake for more than an hour, more or less still for the first thirty minutes, but growing increasingly restless as I reluctantly drifted toward sleep. Whatever comfort she might have derived from my company was more than offset by the involuntary disturbances of my fitful pre-slumber. So, now I stay awake and walk around the yard, thinking about Frankie. Anna and I are very appreciative of the fine care he’s receiving in the NICU, but we’re both growing impatient. I know D-Day’s still three-and-a-half weeks away, but Frankie seems determined to earn an early release. He’s up to 5.2 pounds, doing a much better job of maintaining his body temperature, and yesterday was his best yet as far as the nippling protocol is concerned. He was obviously showing off for his Grandma Judy, who was up for a brief visit, and to retrieve Grandpa Frank. Still, his performance was hardly out of character. He’s growing stronger every day, so much so that it’s getting harder to recall why exactly it is we can’t take him with us when we leave. I’ve obviously abandoned any pretense of not getting my hopes up.
Thursday was Frankie’s One Month birthday. Anna made cupcakes for the nurses and staff in the NICU. They were extremely appreciative, and even more impressed that Anna could find the time or energy to bake cupcakes – from scratch, no less. Last week she made them a pear cobbler. I’m pretty much in awe myself. But we wanted to do something to celebrate, so we brought cupcakes to the NICU and had a great dinner with Grandpa Frank and Aunt Kristin. And it was all totally bizarre, and in no way compensated for not being able to just sit at home with our boy, but it still made us both feel a little bit better. And we know he’ll be home before his Two Month birthday, and that’s comforting.
Friday marked Frankie’s 36th gestational week, a more significant event than his One Month birthday in terms of development, but we didn’t bring anything for the nurses. At 36 weeks, a baby born without Frankie’s esophageal defect wouldn’t even require a stay in the NICU, being considered pretty much full-term. Even with his difficulties, our doctors and nurses frequently remind us that Frankie is looking and acting like any other 36-week-old baby born at 32 weeks. Hearing that would make us a whole lot happier if we didn’t have to watch one of those other 36-week-old babies get discharged every other day. I don’t mean to sound bitter or resentful. We’re just ready for it to be our turn.
Grandma Judy flew into town Friday night, and she and Grandpa Frank went straight from the airport to the hospital so she could give Frankie his midnight bottle. I knew this even before I talked to them Saturday morning, because they signed into the NICU visitor log at shortly past 11pm the night before. On Saturday, they were back up to the hospital shortly after Anna and I left around 2pm, and they stayed with Frankie while Anna and I got ready to go to his Godparents’ wedding reception. Sarah and Scott were married in Florida a couple of month ago, but their reception Friday night was an opportunity for all of us who couldn’t be there to celebrate with them. It was also the first time since this whole ordeal began that we were doing anything more social than a movie at the Alamo (a one-time event). And we were certainly conflicted, feeling slightly guilty for having fun while Frankie lay in the hospital, but it helped knowing that Grandma and Grandpa were with him. And taking a break from the party to walk three blocks down Red River to the hospital for Anna’s 10pm pumping session seemed more than sufficient penance. In spite of the interruption, it was a great party, and hanging out with friends was exactly what we needed.
Grandma and Grandpa headed back to Houston Sunday afternoon, and Anna and I are already missing my dad. He’s been here for all but a couple of days since the beginning of July, and we’d be lost without him. He’s done everything from feeding Frankie bottles late at night to waiting at our house for the DirectTV repair guy while we were at the hospital. He’ll be missed, even if only for a couple of days.
I can hear the alarm clock. It’s 2:15am, which means Anna’s up for another pumping session. And I’m almost tired enough to fall asleep.
Frankie in the NICU, 8/9
Frankie in the NICU, 8/10
With fingers crossed
I've been hesitant to post details of Frankie's progress, fearing that I'll jinx it. When he first began the nippling protocol, he was only able to take a few milliliters of milk every third or fourth feeding, and then only with a serious expenditure of energy. The first day we put him on the bottle, he actually lost 3 grams, which seemed like a serious step backward. Our primary nurse, Jennifer, gently explained that Frankie needed sleep more than anything else, a subtle hint that Anna and I shouldn't push him too hard, or expect too much. "This process can be slow, but he'll get it." We weren't reassured, and went home that night feeling more than a little discouraged - not because Frankie wasn't catching on fast enough, but because we realized that our constant presence by his side was detrimental to him. That's a hard bit of information to process, but we did, and for the next several days restrained ourselves as best we could, cutting back on our time at the hospital and trying not to let our mutal frustration drive us both insane. It wasn't easy, but we managed. And as Jennifer predicted, our restraint turned out to be just the thing Frankie needed.
Over the past few days, Frankie has cleared some fairly steep hurdles. He's taking full feedings several times a day, and has actually started breastfeeding. Yesterday, he didn't need to be gavaged until his 9pm feeding. And he continues to gain weight, weighing in at a whopping 4 pounds, 9 ounces. When the neonatologists stopped by his bedside yesterday, they were more than a little impressed by his progress. Dr. Hyde asked us when his due date was, and we told him September 9th. He looked stunned. "Well, I think it's safe to say you'll have him home by then." As he and Dr. Prabhu walked away, I saw him give his colleague a wide-eyed look and say, "September 9th!?" He seemed genuinely surprised, as if Frankie was well ahead of schedule. At the risk of getting my hopes up, I'm taking that as a good sign.
Home Sweet Home, 8/6
The NICU, 8/6
Frankie's first bath, 8/7
Frankie in the NICU, 8/7
Medieval Torture Device
Dad & Frankie in the NICU, 8/7
Frankie's first bath, 8/7
Frankie's first bath, 8/7
Mom & Frankie in the NICU, 8/7
Suck it up, Lamott
In her national bestseller, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year, novelist/recovered addict/single mom Anne Lamott describes the painful indignity of pumping breastmilk:
"Have I mentioned how much I hate expressing milk? I do it nearly every day so there will be bottles of milk on hand for whoever comes by to take care of Sam, but I hate the fucking breast pump. It's the ultimate bovine humiliation, and it hurts, the suction is so strong. You feel plugged into a medieval milking machine that turns your little gumdrop nipples into purple slugs with the texture of rhinoceros hide."
Having never been hooked up to one of these infernal machines, I can't personally attest to the accuracy of Lamott's description. However, watching Anna suffer through the process these past three weeks leads me to believe Lamott is on to something, at least insofar as she goes. Humiliating? Sure. Painful? Absolutely. But going through this torturous ordeal "nearly every day"? Please. Cry me a fucking river. Anna hooks her boobs to the insatiable sucking machine at least every three hours. That's right - a minimum of eight times a day, every day, for the past three weeks. She hasn't slept through the night since she first went in to the hospital at the end of June, but now the interruptions are literally clockwork. So, add exhaustion - bone-deep, soul-crushing, mind-bending exhaustion - to Lamott's list of complaints. If that's not bad enough, there's the heartbreaking loneliness. For Anna, the breast pump isn't an occasional inconvenience, but a constant reminder of what she's missing. Every time she hitches herself to the machine, she's reminded of her son, lying alone in the hospital. And all of this is compounded by the difficulty of producing milk in the absence of a flesh-and-blood baby to stimulate hormonal triggers. If I was in Anna's shoes, I don't know that I'd be strong enough to endure it. I certainly wouldn't blame her if she threw in the towel, but I don't think that thought's ever even crossed her mind. And for that, I'm in awe.
Point of Clarification
I'd just like everyone to know that there's no need to talk me down from the ledge. Not that I don't appreciate all of the concern and kind words of encouragement (especially yours, Yuri - the dirt's rubbed on and I'm ready to play ball), but things here are not nearly as bleak as I perhaps made them out to be. The real point of yesterday's post was that I needed to temper my optimism so that Anna wouldn't feel quite so alone in her darker moments. I thought that if I could present an image of unshakable confidence I could buoy Anna's spirits. It's the classic masculine pose, the socially-sanctioned stereotype of the Good Father. I would be her rock, and she could count on me for support no matter how bleak things seemed. But as I probably should've been smart enough to figure out beforehand, it doesn't work like that. There's only so much boundless optimism one can take before you begin to feel like there must be something wrong with you for feeling otherwise. Sure, it's good to be supportive, and hopeful, but Anna also needs to know that she's not crazy for feeling the way she does. Yeah, it's good to be strong, but a little vulnerability is what makes us human. It also gives Anna an occasional opportunity to be strong for me, which is something she needs as much, if not more than, my unwavering support. So really, don't worry about me. I'm still very optimistic, and Frankie continues to do better than expected. And Anna's not nearly as fragile as I've made her out to be. In fact, she's doing amazingly well considering everything she's going through at the moment. I couldn't be prouder, or more in love.
Dave, Anna or Danna?
Over the past few days, the task of blogging has become increasingly difficult. At first, I thought it was because Frankie's progress has been so steady that there's really nothing new to report. In reality, the problem is my unwavering optimism. I've been trying to sustain a positive tone in spite of my feelings of concern, resentment, and helplessness. I figured that if I remained upbeat I could somehow boost Anna's spirits and ameliorate her feelings of depression. But it doesn't work like that. Instead of easing her burdens, my constant reassurances have left her feeling alone in her anguish. She was feeling down the other night, and I asked her what was wrong. She snapped back, "What do you think? I'm exhausted, my baby's in the hospital, and my boobs hurt. And I'm tired of being reassured. I don't feel lucky. I hate this whole situation." The words were hard, but undeniably true. I realized that my perpetually hopeful, look-on-the-bright-side reactions to every bump in the road have become tiresome and grating. My facade of strength was having the opposite of intended consequences. Instead of being a source of support for Anna, it has become a wall between us.
The problem with this particular realization is that it's not as easily resolved as it might seem. The truth is, boundless optimism has kept me mentally and emotionally afloat for these past many weeks. I've been hesitant to admit that it's as much for my own sake as for Anna's. Still, I understand that a balance must be struck, so I'm going to dispense with the stiff-upper-lip heroics and allow myself some moments of vulnerability, doubt and frustration. Lord knows I have more than a few, and more frequently than I care to admit. If nothing else, it'll let Anna know that she's not alone, nor is she crazy for feeling the way that she does. Because this does suck, and no matter how lucky we've been, the truly lucky folks have beautiful, full-term babies, remaining blissfully ignorant of the goings on in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.