Are You Breathing? - A Dad Chronicle
(This post comes from a time of writing just after our twins were born, it's been a little bit since then, but the principles stay current)
It's 2 in the morning and I'm watching 'Shaun of the Dead' while my girls are sleeping in front of me.
It's a hilarious movie. A must watch.
Laying on the couch in my living room I recall the situation that brought me to watching a Zombie Comedy in the middle of the night with subtitles on(so mommy can sleep peacefully in the other room).
Near the end of our stay at the NiCU, Awnna and I were monitoring the progress of the girls and calculating the chances of us getting to bring the two of them home at the same time. That was the ideal plan anyway. Since Awnna wasn't yet allowed to drive and neither of us fancied having to leave the other alone. Once at home with one while the other of us went to visit the hospital for the other.
Well, wouldn't you know it that's pretty much exactly how it panned itself out? On a Sunday afternoon, we were told by the hospital that Jovi was to be discharged that evening.
Things were about to get very real.
You see, the NiCU, while scary at the beginning; near the end, becomes a big sense of safety. Nurses are watching your babies 24/7 with monitors and medicine and crash teams seconds away. Once the baby comes home it's all on you and it is infinitely frightening. The lives of our daughters are now completely in our hands.
I was actually warned of this exact feeling. One of the biggest inspirations in preparing for kids was my supervisor at work at the time. Daily he'd stop by my cubicle and field questions as well as offer up great advice and remind me continually of the crazy life I was about to be in for. Scaring me with hilarious posts about loaded diapers and sleepless nights. Real preparation there.
Anyway, early on he comes to me and says a phrase that sticks with me.
"The first night home is the scariest. Realizing that that little life is totally your responsibility now" (paraphrased)
So we buckle tiny little Jovi up and get rolled down to the car. Awnna and I are excited and also equally scared and sad. We're taking our baby home. But only one of them is coming with us.
We get home and our first thought is, as I'm sure it was with many of you with kids, and to those who will have kids.
"What do I do with this baby now?"
We managed :)
Right around 10pm that night, we decided to turn in. Jovi was settling in nicely after the nickel tour of her home and a good feeding and burping. We had a bassinet set up in the room and laid her down, Awnna and I half content with 3/4 of our family.
Literally 30 seconds later we hear a sound that would terrorize any first night parent. In the pitch black of the room, we hear a massive throw up sound followed by the sound of a choking cough. Awnna and I scramble up in a panic.
We crowd Jovi and get her up. She's stopped the coughing and choking. She's pink and ok, looking around like. "What's up mom and dad?"
Her bassinet is covered in throw up.
Seriously how does that much throw up come out of a baby?
Hearts pounding, Awnna and I decide to make a move out to the couch with Jovi in one of the matching sleeper/rockers we bought for afternoon naps. They keep a baby in an inclined position. Jovi went down and fell right back to sleep.
Mom and dad, however, did not.
Numerous forums, comedians, movies and friends all harken about the first few nights with a newborn being spent constantly checking in their breathing. Looking closely for the chest to rise and fall. Putting the compact under the nose to see the steam. Tickling them to see them stir.
Imagine having to do that twice over. Sleep is a precious memory.
As luck would have it Cora got discharged the very next day. Awnna stayed home with Jovi while I buckled up tiny Cora and got wheeled down to my car.
Seriously, they wheeled me down in a wheelchair. I was fully capable of walking. I was capable of carrying the car seat with Cora in it. I was capable of walking and carrying the seat at the same time. But no, they literally forced me into the wheelchair and rolled me through the hospital to the front door. It's policy or something. It's was weird.
That night. Too afraid to sleep, Awnna and I kept the girls together in the living room watching them breathe and snubbing our noses at sleep just to make sure our babies are okay.
We'd taken to going at it in shifts, Awnna and I. 5 hour blocks of sleep apiece while the other one watches the girls in the living room; feeding them, changing them. Holding the compact up to the noses.
We ended up revisiting the bassinets again. They'd gotten older and stronger and we'd gotten braver and missed sleeping in the same bed together. It was time for us to stop being such a huge worry-wart.
So I'm sure you're thinking "Great story Aaron, but what's this got to do with God and being a dad, like you usually do?"
Well, I dunno. I suppose there are a few things we can see in this. God doesn't choose to leave us or forsake us. Much like Awnna and I to these girls. Our Father doesn't sleep in his relentless pursuit of us.
God is a breather. His act of love for us always is breathing life into our lungs. God, as any good father, is checking to see if we are breathing. Physically and spiritually. The rise and fall of your spirit are as important as the rise and fall of my baby's chest. The in and the out.
There's a teacher I once heard explain that in Hebrew, God's name is spelled something like this.
We would pronounce it Yaweah in English, but it wasn't pronounced that way by the Hebrews. In truth, the closest approximation of how that name is pronounced is akin to the sound of breathing.
The sound of breathing is as to speak the name of God.
In the creation poem, when God breathed life into Adam, Adam breathed out the name of God. When you wake up in the morning, and draw in a deep breath and exhale to start the day, God's name begins it all.
Believer, Athiest, Agnostic, Heretic, it doesn't matter. If you're breathing, you are speaking the name of God and to stop means only one thing. Death. If you stop speaking His name, you stop breathing. If you stop breathing, you stop existing.
So as I lay here on the couch, a muted movie playing in the background, I watch my baby girls speaking the name of God with every single in and out of air that fills and leaves their little lungs and it reminds me that God is a part of everything. He's given purpose to everyone and everything. His plans, though shrouded, are perfect. He only wants us to take it one day, one breath at a time.
And to the parents out there...
Whatever you're doing for your kids, young or old. However, you are doing it. Whether it be staying up all hours, or putting in more hours at work. Maybe it's taking the time to work on homework with them, put a puzzle together, read, sing, do some tummy time. Talk to your kid, be present, you're doing a great job.
This can be a thankless experience, I'm finding. But the thanks comes in small beautiful rewards that make take a bit of looking to find, but they're there. Mom, dad, single parent, grandparent, you are doing amazing! I, for one am inspired by you. Being a parent is no mean feat. Keep your head up and taking those baby steps forward.
And to the parents to be, or newly christened parents like us. We've been told it gets easier. Some of it already has, some of it we hope to see. Either way, we are parents now. These beautiful lives are looking to us. To feed, and clothe them. To wash and hold them. And above all that love them. If you're doing that...
I applaud you.