Thursday, 16 August 2012

MCA, Nurse Grim and the BM from Hell

Hey, Owen.

Adam Yauch died the other day. “MCA”. One-third of the Beastie Boys. You’ll have to Google them son, or think it into your enhanced reality glasses, or whatever people do to look up stuff when you are old enough to read this… Actually, forget it -- just ask me and I’ll rap Paul Revere for you. The Beasties were pioneers who helped make rap accessible to middle class white boys like me.  Icons of my youth, they spat the soundtrack for most of my important milestones growing up.

So, it’s sad that MCA is no longer with us. He was a talented artist and philanthropist.
He was only 47 when he died after losing his battle with cancer (screw you, cancer).

When I first heard the news my first thought was, “Man, that sucks. What a loss.”  My second thought was, “Crap. I’m old”.

I know... your dad can be a bit self-centred.

In my defense, I was already feeling old when I heard the sad news about MCA. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror the other day and actually did a double-take – graying hair, wrinkles, bags under my eyes. Christ, is that me?!?! I have come to accept feeling tired and hungover most of the time, but looking it, too, is another unexpected and unwelcome twist to this whole parenting thing.  If anything, I thought having a kid would make me feel younger. After all, the world of parenting an infant is all "Jolly-Jumpers" and "Bumbos" and "playing peek-a-boo"…

Yeah, well… your Jolly Jumper is where I stick you when my old-guy arms are too weak to hold you anymore, and your Bumbo is where you go when I need to lay my head down on the kitchen table for a few minutes. And I pulled a hamstring playing peek-a-boo with you the other day. Pulled a hammy. Playing peek-a-boo. Your mom suggested I warm-up first next time. Warm-up. To play peek-a-boo.


Feeling old at 39 is a drag, but luckily the overall awesomeness of hanging out with you balances things out. Now that summer has arrived I can pop you in your Chariot and we can ride downtown to see mom at lunch. We can go for a run in the afternoon (I run, you snooze). I can bounce you on my knee while we dig some lunchtime polka music at “Arts in the Park”. I don’t take it for granted for a second that I get to do these things; They’re a great tonic for my general weariness and make it possible to get through each day without having to medicate myself with the Irish whiskey murmuring to me from the liquor cabinet (in lilting, Gaelic tones… like a delicious, delicious siren song).

It’s a fine balance though, Owen. The sleep thing continues to be a huge challenge. Things have improved; you go to sleep OK at the beginning of the night but you can’t seem to get over that 4 am hump. Luckily we can turn to the experts. Let’s see, Weissbluth says, “If baby’s waking up early you need to put him to bed earlier”. Check. Ferber says, “If baby is waking up early you need to put him to bed later.”  Yeah. Thanks, fellas.

Not having a good sleep for months and months takes its toll and affects everything else in my life in subtle and not-so subtle ways. I feel like I’m getting by each day, but there’s nothing left in the tank. There’s no physical or emotional reserve. So when some other, unexpected, challenge comes along it can really kick our collective asses.

For example…  we started renovating the hell out of our house this summer (I know, “Good call, dad.”) Then your mom got sick with a cold. Then I got even sicker with a cold. Then your sleeping took a turn for the worse again. If we were already just scraping by each day, suddenly we felt like we couldn’t even reach anything to scrape at. I was once again having to go in and see you many times a night, and because we’re determined to see this sleep training thing through I have to steel my resolve each time to leave you there in your crib even though you’re crying like crazy to just be picked up and comorted. It…really…sucks. I feel like my heart dies a little bit each time I have to turn my back on you and leave you there. It’s even harder on your mom who has to fight a few million years of evolution to not pick you up.

During this latest setback, whenever we went in you kept curling your feet up to your chest and grabbing onto them like you do when you want to play. My response was always to gently push your feet down, get mildly annoyed and suggest that you go to sleep so daddy doesn’t develop a drinking problem. This went on for a very long week or two when your mom and I had this conversation:

 “Say, uh… when was the last time Owen pooped?”

“I dunno. Come to think of it I haven’t changed any poops in awhile.”

“Neither have I. Like in a week. Crap. Is it possible he’s constipated?”

A quick Google search (like, first hit quick) confirmed that when babies start solid food like you did recently, some get so constipated that they can’t sleep at night and will curl their feet up to their chest to try and relieve the pain.

At this point, that caustically sarcastic voice in my head pipes up, “And the parent of the year goes to…” accompanied by a slow clap. Shut-up, head.

Luckily, Google also suggested a way to fix the situation so baby can sleep. It involved a Q-tip, some Vaseline, and a mild breach of trust…but it worked! Things started moving a little and you had a pretty good sleep.

Trouble was, the next day we were still dealing with a logjam. A call to the ol’ family doc revealed he was working Emergency at WGH that afternoon, so I bundled you up and headed over. Mom met us there. We were both feeling pretty self-conscious for showing-up at Emerg with a poop-related baby non-emergency, but we were willing to do it if it meant we could help you feel better…and possibly relieve our guilt over not helping you sooner….and possibly allow us to get more sleep…but MOSTLY to help you feel better (honest).

The grim-faced nurse with the Eastern European accent who admitted us did little to relieve our sheepishness.

“You brought your baby in because you think he’s constipated. What makes you think this?” she asks, brow furrowed.

Mom explains the symptoms and concludes with our definitive proof, “…so we Q-tipped him and that got things moving.”

The furrows on Nurse Grim’s brow deepen dramatically with this information. I swoop in to salvage any lingering parental credibility we have with her;

“Uh… we read about it on the Internet.” It comes out like a question.

I could have sworn I caught you rolling your eyes, son.

Despite Nurse Grim’s hesitation regarding which button to push under her desk – the green one that opened the sliding door into the doctor area, or the red one that hot links to Child Services so they could come and save you from us – we eventually walked out of the hospital 45 minutes later carrying a prescription for glycerin suppositories and a healthy dose of humility.

After dropping mom off at work and swinging by the drug store we were back home and  still faced with a gridlock. Initially I figured I would wait for mom to deploy the suppository, but your little grunts and cries were letting me know you weren’t exactly enjoying yourself, so I figured there was no point in prolonging your discomfort. 

At this point it occurs to me that I don’t really know what a “suppository” is but the instructions on the package told me just what was to be inserted where and how long to expect to wait for some action (15 minutes to an hour).

 “Oh….OH! Ohhhhkay. Maybe we should wait for mom after all, hey?” but your only response was to cry a bit harder and I knew I couldn’t leave you in pain when there was something I could possibly do about it.

“O.K, Turtle, we can do this.”

I unwrapped the suppository and paused. How far up do I push this thing? How hard do I push? Will it hurt him? What will happen to it once it’s in there? I had so many questions… and they were all answered in way less than “15 minutes to an hour”.

It was more like .07 seconds because that thing was only about a centimeter up when the dam broke in a big way. Full reverse.

Panic. Confusion. At least one of us was screaming. Due to the sheer force there was actually a propulsive effect on your little body, which was fortunate because as the available space on the change table filled-up you were propelled away from it until your head was basically hanging off the end where I held it in one hand while the other hand frantically mopped with toilet paper… desperately…uselessly. Sort-of like trying to mop up an overturned cement mixer with a wet nap. The whole time I was bawling, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! It’ll stop soon! It’ll stop soon! Oh god, please let it stop soon!”

And... eventually... it did.

Afterwards we lay on the sofa together. The house was quiet. On our backs, we stared wide-eyed up at ceiling. “That got weird, hey? Yeah. That got weird.”

On the up side, your constipation problem was licked and I now have a great story to tell your first girlfriend when you bring her over for supper.

In memory of MCA. Rest in peace.

                                               I want to say a little something that's long overdue
                                              The disrespect to women has got to be through
                                              To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends
                                              I want to offer my love and respect to the end

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