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Monday, July 12, 2010

ALC Grand

(Week 4, day 5)
  A couple of weeks ago I took my daughter clothes shopping. Staci, her mother and I went to get her some much needed summer clothes. It started out innocent enough, we looked at shorts, we looked at dresses and we looked at a few shirts as well. Then without warning it all went south. My wife decided that it was finally time, after years of her being my baby girl who I carried from the car to the house when she was sleeping, who I tucked into bed each night and who I still see as that 4-year-old who I helped dress in her uniform and take her to her very first day of pre-school, that it was time to get her a bra. Devastation, heartbreak, agony, sorrow, pain. These are but a few of the first feelings that I felt. I fought it. I tried to argue my point. I tried to plead my case. I tried to hide the bra. Ok I did hide the bra but I denied it all the way back to the store with my wife shooting daggers at me with her eyes. Here I am with a brand new baby boy and what I thought was my already baby girl. I was wrong. Time is passing and his birth I guess was a signal that she was no longer my baby but is a big sister. And as much as I am loath to admit it, big sisters need bras.
  On the other side of the child coin my Aiden is doing well. What surprises me the most at this point is how much he has already developed a personality. It's been a month and he knows what he likes, he really knows what he doesn't like, he has comfortable positions (his stomach), he smiles, he fights (way more than he should) and he can communicate. He's a little man. Luckily we're getting a house because he's already used to his own digs so I don't know what he'd do if he had to share. I wonder sometimes if he's getting used to all the beeps and that go on in his room. Tanisha compares it to a casino with all the bells and dings and even a few dongs. When I was growing up I needed an air purifier next to my bed. It hummed, and to this day I sleep so much more comfortably with a fan on. I wonder if we're going to have to move to Vegas for him to sleep once he comes out of the hospital.
  Today I tried to imagine him coming home from the hospital. I couldn't. Something was blocking me from that and I'm not sure what it was. I'm so used to him where he is now I had a hard time picturing him home. I have before. Usually when the thought comes up I have no problem seeing him without any wires or tubes sticking in and out of him, but today I couldn't. I guess it was just because I'm getting so used to the situation he's in at the moment. It's part of a coping mechanism. I'm not sure what you've heard, but time does NOT fly when your child is in the NICU. It drags. Considerably. So in order to cope with what's happening I have to limit my thoughts of the future because then I long for it more and it makes me impatient. I can't afford impatience. One of the first thing the doctors and nurses tell you is that it's going to take a lot of patience to get through this. So I guess because of that I was unable to picture him home.
  What I CAN picture is what he's going to look like. Oh yeah, my son looks like ME. I didn't think he'd have much looks this early because I know he's got so much developing to do, but he has features and many of those features come from me. My wife is getting upset. She says she wanted at least something to come from her. I know he'll have some similar looks that he gets from her but right now he's not giving her much confidence. Not only does he look like me, he's already acting like me. I put my arm over my head sometimes (picture coming below). It's something I got from my father. Usually I do it when I'm sitting down relaxing, but as you'll see that's not the only time I do it. One of my wife's new things is to take pictures of me when I'm sleeping. With her pumping breast milk every 3 hours she has a hard time sleeping through the night, so when she sees a position she has taken to snapping pictures. Well one evening she snapped a picture of me she thought was funny. A couple of days later we took a picture of Aiden sleeping. If you look very closely you may see some resemblance:

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I always wanted to know what it would be like to be black

(Week 2, day 7)
  Of all the things that are going on with my son (he's in the NICU, his lungs aren't fully developed, he can't always digest food, he's on a ventilator) it seems the most hot topic of discussion as family is gathered around his incubator is what color he will be. Personally I don't think he'll be dark but I think he won't be white either. I'm going with a medium brown color. According to some he is starting to resemble me. I'm not so sure about that but what I do know is he has mannerisms like I do already. One of my favorite things is when he rests his arm over his head. Not only do I do that, but my father does it also. Apparently this is a trait we're passing on. He also sleeps with his mouth open. I sleep with my mouth open. My wife thinks this is the most hilarious thing. I admit it feels so good to look at a little version of me. I smile when I think of him being his own person, but still doing some of the things I do.
  Unfortunately it's not all smiles. I have to apologize here to anyone who reads this blog that I have not been writing for the past 2 weeks. I know I've been here before, but this time it feels a lot different. I'm tired. I'm stressed out. It's hard to talk about let alone write about. I want to thank my step mother for inspiring me to write today. She is a writer and has written a blog following a difficult experience she went through. I was reading an article she wrote and in it she talked about being painfully honest in your writing. While I haven't lied about anything I have put in here since writing, I have not always told the entire story. I've held back some thoughts for many reasons, but recently I've held back a lot because I don't want to stress out my wife any more than she already is. The truth is I'm scared. I'm moody often because I can crack a joke or talk to someone but my thoughts always quickly come back to my son. I don't want to see him in the NICU. I want him home with me. When I go to bed in order to calm myself down I close my eyes and imagine he's lying next to me. I see him looking at me and smiling. I'm able to hold him. Last night I dreamed that he was talking to me. He asked me what he was going to be like when he grew up. I told him how strong he would be. I told him he would be intelligent and good looking. I told him he'd be a great baseball player and he would be big. I woke up crying. Right now of course he can't talk to me, and I only get to talk to him through plastic covering. I want to cry a lot but usually I don't. I don't want Tanisha to think I'm scared or that I don't have full confidence that Aiden will be anything but healthy and strong when he leaves the hospital. I do believe that with certainty, but sometimes I still just want to cry. I want to let out all of the emotions from the past month. It seems like we've been through so much that we're at the end of a long trial, but in actuality it's just the beginning. This doesn't discourage me, it just feels weird that this is actually happening. It seems almost like I'm playing a role in a play of a man who is going through this situation, but then there are times when it truly hits me that this is my life, not someone else's.
  I get tired. Mostly from lack of sleep but also from having to answer the same questions all day every day. I get asked, emailed, texted and Facebooked all day the same exact questions. "How's your baby doing? How's your wife?" Yesterday 2 people at work I don't even know asked me and today someone who I had no idea knew what was going on asked me. It's starting to drive me crazy. What do they expect? Do they want me to say everything is great? Do they expect me to actually tell them everything that's going on? I've come up with a standard answer but I don't like it because it doesn't really do my son justice, but it gets me out of the conversation which right now I need that more. I'm so appreciative that people are concerned, and believe me everyone who asks is genuinely concerned. I love that because you can see they care. I'm just tired of the same thing over and over. I guess I'm ungrateful, but I don't feel ungrateful. I feel annoyed. And sad. I love my son.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

First breath

(Week1, Day 6)
  What a week this has been! My son is almost one week old and it seems like a month. Maybe two. I can't imagine me coming out of this without more gray hairs. I'm going to have to try Just For Men to see if they have my color. So far in the last 6 days Aiden was born, put on a oscillator (ventilator), put on medicine for his blood pressure, put on antibiotics, put on a sedative, given blood, given caffeine, had a test for bacteria, had several x-rays, had a head ultrasound, taken off the oscillator, taken off the blood pressure medicine, taken off the sedative, had a hole in his heart close (by itself), had an extra air pocket in his lung taken out (by the doctors), taken his first breaths on his own, forgotten to breath, remembered to breath again, fed his mother's milk for the first time and had my wedding ring around his foot. What have YOU done this week?
  Aiden breathing on his own is a huge deal. The longer premature babies are kept on an oscillator the more damage that can be done to their lungs. It's usually not permanent damage but for a baby as fragile as he is any damage is bad regardless of how long it lasts. They tried to take him off yesterday but his heart rate dropped significantly so they aborted. Today Tanisha and I were in the room with him and he handled it like a champ. It may be that he has to go back on the oscillator again to breath for him, but any time off is good time for his lungs. After they finished I was writing down a couple of milestones he's reached already. I wrote down, "Took his first breath by himself." Then I started crying. It's crazy that my son taking a breath on his own is a milestone and it hit me hard. I'm not sad, just overwhelmed. I'm so happy actually. My boy is strong. He continues to have good days and do things to surprise the doctors. They took a culture of his blood and expected bacteria to grow which would show if he had an infection. It didn't, and they were very surprised. Not me. He has defied expectations from the day he was born crying, why should he stop now?
  I got to hold him for the first time today also. That was very exciting. They turn him over every few hours to keep him from having sore spots so I got to help turn him on his belly. It was magical. 6 days into his life and I finally get to hold my son in my hands. I didn't want to let him go.
  In other news, I'm worried about my daughter. She's been staying with her cousins and having a ball, but I don't like being away from her this much and I'm worried what she thinks about us spending so much time with Aiden and not her. We've explained why he needs us here so badly, but she's 9. In her mind she needs us just as much. We've been taking time every day now to be with her but it's just not the same. I will make sure she's with me all day on father's day, however I'd bet I'm more worried about it than she is. The great thing about Staci is she is so good at adapting to her situation. It's what makes her so strong. I think Aiden picked that up from her. I'm so proud of them both, what more could a father of the year ask for?


Monday, June 14, 2010

I don't care what it is just give it to me!

(Week 1, day 1 retro blog)
  June 10th, 2010. I went to work while my wife was in considerable pain. I know that sounds horrible and harsh, but the truth is we need to continue earning a living and my job is 2 miles away from the hospital. My mom was with her so I knew I'd get contacted if something was going on. I have little idea what the trainer was talking about in the first hour and ten minutes I was there, but at 9:10 a.m. when I got the first text from my mom, focus was all out the window. I jumped when I saw her name pop up, but it was just a text saying my wife was in pain but ok. We talked back and forth a few minutes and I was left with the thought that the doctors were giving Tanisha medicine to calm her uterus and stop the contractions. Then 31 minutes later at 9:41 a.m. I got another text from my mom. "She wants you here, the mag(nesium) hasn't started working yet." And it never did. I rushed to the hospital to be by my wife. Now I haven't written on this blog for a few days because it has been a whirlwind since Aiden was born. During that time I thought about what I would write and how much I would include. Then I remembered at the very beginning of this blog I promised I would tell the truth. Well, here it is. As soon as I left the building on my way to the car I started crying. Ok, not crying but bawling. Like a baby. I lost it. I hadn't really lost it since this whole situation started. Sure I cried a few times but never like this. I was crying and babbling something while pulling out of the parking lot, "Oh God please don't let anything happen to my wife or my baby!" At least I think that's what I said. Nobody was there so I could have actually said, "Oh God please give me a ham and cheese sandwich!" I just don't remember, but the first one sounds right so we'll go with that. I was half out of my mind but I had the presence to drive slowly, no time for car wrecks today.
  I let it all out because I knew when I walked in that door I had to look like the coolest man on the planet. The moment I panicked my wife would lose it. I got it together as I was walking through the hospital. I came in the room and immediately went to my wife. Her contractions had started coming closer and closer. Our baby coming was becoming a reality. I went to her bedside and held her hand. I gently stroked her cheek and looked at her, encouraging her how great she was and how everything would be fine.
  "DON'T TOUCH ME!" Was her response. I jumped back. Ok, I can be compliant. Whatever you want. She was in horrible pain so I just stood around waiting instead of trying to console her. Obviously now was not the time. She didn't want me, her mom, my mom or anything but to get rid of that pain. Finally the anesthesiologist came in. Now I need to digress a moment here. Throughout her entire stay at the hospital my wife had something strapped to her belly that was supposed to show if she was having contractions. It didn't work. It never worked the entire time, however the nurses didn't seem to believe these were contractions because the monitor wasn't picking them up. Finally the nurse on duty, Michelle (one of my wife's favorite nurses not only because she was good and kind, but because she was the ONLY nurse with warm hands) said that this wasn't like the usual Tanisha when she was in pain and called for the anesthesiologist, Julie. I know I don't usually use names but Julie is SO much easier to type than anesthesiologist. Anyway, Julie came in because it was time for the epidural. However the last piece of information Julie had was that Tanisha was 3 cm dilated (that was Monday). Since nobody really thought Aiden was coming, and they were scared to check because nobody wanted to break her water, we were still going by the 3 cm. Tanisha said several times, "He's coming! I feel him coming!" but as wonderful as our nurses and doctors were, they still fall prey to the attitude of "I'm the expert" so they didn't believe her. Well this is significant because when Julie put in the epidural, it was too late and nobody knew it. So guess what people? My wife had that boy without ANY pain meds. It's not like they didn't try. The nurse asked about another medication while we were waiting for the epidural that didn't work to kick in. The nurse explained what the new medication was because they have to do that before they put something into a pregnant woman. She needs the choice to say yes or no, you understand. My wife responded with, "I don't care what it is just give it to me!" They did, but that didn't work either.
  Finally our doctor, the geneticist we visited to make sure Aiden didn't have certain genetic issues, who is also a high risk pregnancy specialist came in. She checked for Tanisha's cervix to see how far along she was. She never made it because her fingers ran smack dab into my son's head. "I feel a head. This baby is coming" she said matter-of-factly. She calmly called for the delivery team, then started humming. I don't know what she was humming, but it brought a perfect calm into the room. Then my wife's water broke. She kept humming. I think without that Tanisha would not have been able to hang on long enough for the delivery team. But she did. In they rushed with all of the necessary equipment in tow. The doctor went over to Tanisha to give her instructions. She had to wait, the NICU team wasn't quite ready yet. My wife wanted to push so bad. "Not yet sweety, just a little more time," the doctor said calmly. Then not so calmly she yelled to the NICU team, "Are we ready?" Not yet. At this point I was already back at my wife's side at her request. We held hands. Now was the time to encourage. "Just a little bit longer. You're so wonderful baby. Just one more minute, don't push yet!" Then, finally it was time. The doctor told her to push. She did. 4 times. Four pushes to change our lives, and at 11:58 a.m. I saw this small, purple, perfect body slide out of my wife. There he was. Ready or not my son was here. My heart skipped a beat. The doctor cleared his mouth and throat. He cried. My son was crying. I was overjoyed. I have thought and dreamed about hearing my son cry for weeks. If he can cry, he has lungs. He can breath. He can live. The NICU team took him and immediately put him on oxygen. They had to get a tube down his through. The nurse-practitioner tried once, but it didn't go. Stubborn like his mom. I was so scared. I went over by them to watch the process and shout updates to Tanisha. I was so scared, but I kept a smile on my face. I kept looking at my wife smiling, giving her the thumbs up. I don't know if she saw the fear in my face, but I felt it. Please God, get that tube in there. Then one of the nurses told us he was taking breaths on his own. "My son is amazing," I thought. I could still hear him crying, ever so faintly. It was music. It was a melodious symphony in my ears. I could have listened to it all day. They tried 2 more times, and finally the tube went down. The NICU team transferred him to the incubator and whisked him away. They had to take him upstairs to stabilize him, but at that point I just knew he was going to live. The fear was gone, replaced by faith. My son was born, he was alive, he breathed, he cried, and he was going to be ok.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Miracle Baby

(Week 24, Day 3)
  I don't even really know where to begin. I will start with the facts as I try to gather my thoughts. I thought taking last night would help with that, but I guess the only cure for this writer's block is to write and let it flow out. My son, Aiden Lucas Cohen was born on June 10, 2010 at 11:58 a.m. His official birth size was 1 lb 9 oz and 12.25 inches. He is currently in the NICU and while the nurses keep telling us he's sick, he is holding up better than any of them imagined he could. They are all calling him a miracle baby. There is a lot to still go through and we still have to take this each day, but we feel very good about where our son is right now. He will get better and come home to us.
  This is still very unreal to me. When I started this blog I fully expected to be discussing the slow but steady development of my son and wife (and of course myself, the Father of the Year) for about 8 months. Then life threw a Sandy Koufax curve ball at me. For the last 2 1/2 weeks I lived my life, albeit in a hospital room. I tried to continue blogging, continue interacting with friends and family and just continue living. However, all I could think about for those 18 days, every single minute of those 18 days, was that I wanted my son to live. I just wanted to see him in real life alive. Was that too much to ask? I didn't think it was a selfish or unfair request. Now that he is alive, now that I got exactly what I asked God for, I can't stop thinking how happy I am. I cannot believe it. My son is here and he's alive. The nurse last night entered all of his data into a system and found that developmentally he is equivalent to a 28-week-old baby. Of course the first thing Tanisha says is, "I told you the conception date was off!" She admits however that it couldn't possibly be more than a week off. MAYBE even two, but certainly not a whole month. As big as she was, there was a reason for that. The 76th, 85th and 96th percentile numbers were more important than we realized. The conception argument was more relevant that we realized, but ultimately not important because when he was ready to come, he was coming and nothing could stop him.
  I love my son. I love my wife for being stronger than I could have ever been, stronger than I could have ever asked her to be and as perfectly strong as her son needed her to be. Sometimes I cry (like now for instance) when I think about it all. It's so far from over, but it could have been over a long time ago. It's not. He's alive. He's fighting like a Cohen man should. He's my boy. I love you Aiden. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going up to see my miracle baby.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


(Week 23, Day 6)
  Today Tanisha was experiencing a lot of pain in her abdomen. The doctor thought it would be a good time to do an ultrasound (it was originally supposed to be 2 days later) and see what was going on. When they started looking in there, the first thing they noticed was that Aiden's head was down. This is huge news because it means he is not breach and if he comes any time soon she wont need a C-section. Then they looked at him to see how everything was doing and checked to see if there was enough amniotic fluid. There was. Then they looked at her cervix. Not only was in no longer fully dilated, but it went down to 3 centimeters! When we first came in she was 5.  Lastly, they were able to see how big he was. At 23 weeks and 6 days, my son is 1 pound 12 ounces. Our doctor told us in order for them to have a reasonable chance at doing anything if he were born right now Aiden would have to be in the 90th percentile for babies his age. If you remember a few weeks ago he was in the 76th percentile. Then the last ultrasound he was in the 85th percentile. Now at 1 pound 12 ounces he's in the 96th percentile! If you think about it, that means my son is one of the biggest babies EVER! For his age. And he's been growing at an amazingly consistent accelerated pace. We are very excited to say the least. We have been praying so much, we are so glad that even if he comes earlier than we want, he's got as good of a chance of survival as he can possibly have. Thank God for that.
  The day didn't start off this good, though. This morning as I said my wife was having pains. While we were waiting for the nurse I got into the bed with her so I could hold and comfort her as best I could. I mentioned the Trendelenburg position last post, but I didn't write about it (I told you my mind is going). A long time ago some doctor named, you guessed it, Trendelenburg figured that if you make the bed so it can tilt back with your head down and feet up it can help take pressure off the abdomen. This can be helpful for abdominal surgeries and, of course, babies trying to cheat by coming early into the world. So when she gets the pains in her stomach we put her in the Trendelenburg. This morning when I got into the bed with her, she was in that position. I had been wanting to see what it was like so this was a perfect opportunity for a little research. At first it was not a problem. Then after a few short moments, my head started swimming. So I tried to combat this effect by raising my head up. Yeah that worked for about one minute until my neck started getting sore. I put my head back down and tried to relax. I mean, she'd been in and out of this position since she got here, how hard could it be? I was soon to find out. Pretty soon my neck started hurting. It felt like my body was coming down on top of me and the pressure was in my neck. Not to worry, that didn't last long. No, my back was soon very willing to share that burden. The next thing I knew my head, neck and back were hurting and it felt like I had shrunk 6 inches as my body collapsed onto itself. I have a new found respect for my wife. I've been telling her how great she's been doing holding it together for the sake of our son. That was the understatement of the year. All I know is, as my son grows if he ever decides he wants to give his mother a hard time, he's going to get an EARFUL from me about what she went through to bring him in this world.
 As I spend almost my entire life in its current incarnation in a hospital with my wife, I have found that we have some really and truly wonderful friends and family members. It's times like these when you know who really loves you and I can say for sure our family really loves us. I cannot imagine going through this without the many many people who have been here to spend time with us, support us, talk to us, pray for us and, most importantly cook for us. We have the best support system in the world, there's no question. Even the nurses comment on it. Thank you to all my family and friends who have gone out of their way for us. We love you all.
  Ok I have more to say but I ALWAYS get complaints when my blogs are "too long" so in the interest of my readership, I'll sign off for now. This is the Father of the Year saying, this is the Father of the Year saying "Good night."

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Trendelenburg position

(Week 23, day 4)
  It's hard to type about the situation we're in right now. I'm very stressed and so is my wife. We have faith that our child will be ok and we're in great hands, but you just can't stop the mind from wandering. Add on top of that trouble sleeping (both of us) and it's even harder to stay stress free. Sometimes I just think about how close my baby is to being born. As much as we need him to stay in the womb as long as possible, it's so difficult not to picture him coming into this world. I can't wait to see him. I want to hold him, but when I picture him in my mind usually it's in the NICU, not in a crib. It's hard to erase those images. I'm already in love with my baby and I haven't met him yet. It's weird because I feel like I know him, and it's even weirder because I feel like he knows me too. We're going to be friends, I already know it.
  Going to work is still very difficult. My stomach is tight every time I go there and it doesn't loosen until I'm back "home" at the hospital with Tanisha. I've already had to leave early twice because we had false alarms, but it's never an option for me to stay because what if he does start to come and I'm at work? I would feel horrible.
  There are some great things coming out of this situation, though. I don't want anyone to think we're sitting around the hospital moping because that's far from the truth. We're spending a lot of quality time with our family. Also I have been able to take a good step back and look at my life. I've been able to put things into pretty good focus about what I should be doing vs. what I've been doing. I can see my future so clear sometimes, and then fear grips me and I can't see two feet in front of my face. It's hard to balance that, but I think we are doing a great job. The absolute best thing to come out of this is my wife and my relationship has strengthened a lot. I love her now in a different way I didn't know existed. I love you baby girl.
  The absolute worst thing to come out of this so far is my brain has developed a mind of its own. Maybe I have a positronic brain like in I Robot and it's turning on me, eventually leading to my demise. Or maybe I just need to sleep more. Either way I almost killed my brother twice yesterday (sorry Russ!) while we were driving. I gave him the keys to the car like I had been drinking, and for those of you who know how my brother drives, you know that's a big deal. Just kidding Russ...sort of.