Yesterday I had to leave work about an hour early to pick up my son Jack from KinderCare: He had a temperature of 103. I knew that because he was still playful, still eating, and not showing any other signs of distress, this would be a “give him fever reducer” solution and not a “take him to the doctor” kind of thing.
But still, there’s something about knowing your child is not well that is undeniably unnerving; the thought that saving your child is not immediately up to you.
Sure, I can protect him from certain things. Admittedly, perhaps I’m overprotective: I won’t let the little guy watch TV or even drink juice. (Yeah, I one of those kind of parents!)
I’ve tried to imagine what I would do if something ever happened to him. How would I psychologically deal with that? Would I be the kind of dad that literally loses his mind if he lost his son? I want to believe that my son will outlive me. It’s both morbid and realistic to think about these dark situations, but occasionally, when I catch myself off guard, I do.
However, the world is full of parents who literally have had to lose their child, including Ruthe and Michael Rosen, whose 14-year old daughter, Karla, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.
But they decided to turn their pain into purpose.
They transformed Karla’s courage and solid optimism into a legacy of community service when they founded The Let It Be Foundation. It’s a nonprofit organization that helps families with children who have been diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses.
The Let It Be Foundation provides services including opportunities for family recreation, housekeeping, grocery shopping and meals, and help in meeting the needs of the child’s siblings. This assistance enables the children and their families to maintain a sense of normalcy at home as they battle the most serious illnesses. So far, The Let It Be Foundation has brought comfort, hope, and joy to families throughout Southern California, and is now in the process of expanding its presence nationwide.
To pass on the meaningful lessons she learned from living with Karla’s cancer, Ruthe also wrote Never Give Up: How to Find Hope and Purpose in Adversity (Cypress House, Sept. 2011), a brave story of faith, hope, and joy in the face of the unimaginable. The book follows Karla’s cancer journey and her unwavering optimism, inspiring readers to turn pain into purpose. Proceeds will benefit families served by The Let It Be Foundation.
Maybe somewhat surprisingly, I am a proud Country music fan- though I’m ultimately a Dave Matthews Band/Guster/John Mayer/Bruce Springsteen/Tom Petty kind of guy.
In the past few weeks, in the midst of leaving our lives behind in Nashville and entering uncertainty and a current status of “in between jobs” in Alabama, not having much to do but constantly search for jobs and take care of our baby, the lyrics to a Country song by Andy Griggs from 1999 keep coming to my mind: “I promise you now, you won’t ever be lonely.”
Though the song is obviously written from the perspective of a man in love with a woman, looking forward to spending the rest of his life with her, the lyrics now speak to me in a different way:
“You’re safe from the world wrapped in my arms and I’ll never let go. Baby, here’s where it starts and I promise you now you won’t ever be lonely. Here’s a shoulder you can cry on and a love you can rely on. For as long as I live
there will always be a place you belong.”
But while the words to this song obviously make perfect sense in the perspective of me speaking to my child, they actually are more relevant to me in this mindset: I won’t ever be lonely. Not just him. But I won’t ever be lonely.
I am better able to understand now why there are so many pregnant teenagers and why MTV’s 16 and Pregnant is such a popular show- because so many kids today are lonely.
(I am under the crazy notion that a good number of pregnant teens and extremely young parents are not getting pregnant simply because of the careless lack of birth control, but instead because they subconsciously want to be have a baby in a attempt to be loved by someone.)
So many daughters have never been told by their fathers that they are beautiful. So many sons have never heard their father tell them “I’m proud of you”. Having a baby definitely changes the lonely factor in many ways. Even if the 19 year-old father who works for minimum wage at the oil change place bales on her soon after the baby is born- at least that young mother will always have someone depending on her.
Granted, I haven’t been lonely in a long time. But I can easily remember it. It can be painful; literally. Last week I watched a National Geographic documentary on solitary confinement where I learned that loneliness is processed in the same part of the brain as pain. I can easily remember being 20 years old, feeling lost, out of place, an unmatched. I wondered for the next five years if I would be like the actor who played Mr. Belvedere, who never married or had children his whole life. But at age 25, my wife and I met each other and those heavy and desperate thoughts of loneliness haven’t entered my mind in over four years.
Now at age 29, I am the opposite of lonely. I have a wonderful wife and a beautiful and hilarious baby son that I will always matter to. And I have a feeling that the older our son Jack gets, the more attention and energy of mine that he will require. At least until he reaches 7th grade and gets too cool for me.
Last week, my wife started suffering from leg cramps due to the pregnancy. About every other day, I wake up to her crying out in sharp pain and moving around in the bed. Though I should know better by now, in my “just awoken from a dream where I am exploring underground caves in canoes with people I haven’t seen since 3rd grade” state-of-mind, still mostly asleep and only technically awake, I always assume the worst- that she is scared because she saw that someone has broken into the house, so I now I need to pull out the closest weapon available to play Dexter or Chuck Norris.
But no, it’s another leg cramp. And what can I really do? Sympathize (which is easy to do) and start massaging her calves. No matter which one I start with, it’s always the wrong one. Murphy’s Law. And I typically start massaging too hard, then too soft, then by the time I get it right, time has ran its course and the Charlie Horse has trotted away.
Baby Jack will basically be the size of a papaya until Week 25.
Eat more bananas for potassium. Drink more water. Keep salt by the bed to lick. Elevate the legs. Avoid standing flat footed. She’s trying it all. And still, the leg cramps still happen.
Ultimately, she’s pregnant and leg cramps are part of the deal. They will probably be replaced by another annoying inconvenience. And what will I do? What can I do? Be there.
What The Bump says about Baby Jack this week:
Watch what you say — baby is now able to hear outside noise from down in the womb. Studies show that baby finds gentle music and your own voice most soothing. Nipples are starting to sprout, and that little face is fully formed. And, baby’s starting to settle into sleep cycles, snoozing about 12 to 14 hours a day. It shouldn’t be hard to figure out when — just pay attention to those kicks as they start and stop.
For the past several weeks, my wife has been toying with the idea of “going natural” for the birth. In other words, no pain medication. And I’ve been impressed just by her willingness, because I know if it were up to the men of the world to continue the human population by giving birth instead of women, the human population would have died off thousands of years ago.
I had been seeing The Business of Being Born keep popping up on my Netflix as a recommended title that I would enjoy. Then recently, a writer friend (http://www.meetmissjones.com/) also told me I should see it after she read about our disappointment with our first two appointments at a standard hospital. (Of course, we ended up switching to midwives and are so happy, though I had no idea what a midwife really even was when we first met with them.)
So last night we watched the documentary, The Business of Being Born, directed by Ricki Lake and produced by Abby Epstein (yes, they are both Jewish). I went into it thinking it would be a tiring movie telling how much money is made off of strollers, cribs, daycare, etc.
Instead, it is a one-sided film about the importance of the long-lost tradition of natural births. And we loved it!
I took notes:
-Induced labor increases the chances of C-Section by 50%
-In Japan and Europe, 70% of births are delivered by a midwife. In the US, only 8%
-The US has the 2nd worst newborn death rate in the developed world
-The US has one of the highest maternal mortality rates among all industrialized countries
-Since 1996 the C-Section rate in the US has risen 46%; In 2005, it was one out of every 3 American births
While there are obviously certain situations where a C-Section is absolutely necessary (like the baby being “breach”), it is a major surgery that has become the new norm.
Interestingly, in the movie, a group of young doctors are asked how many live births they have witnessed. Basically, none of them had.
And to me, that’s scary. That it’s easier, less time consuming, and more profitable to induce labor and perform a C-Section that it is to let the baby born naturally.
In the documentary they explain how the peak times for American babies being born is at 4pm and 10pm, the times at the end of the work shifts so that doctors can go home.
For me, the desire to have a natural birth all comes down to observing the downward spiral of having a baby in a hospital, with a doctor, the American way:
The mother is given Pitocin, to induce labor. Which causes longer, more intense contractions and cuts off oxygen to the baby, putting both the mother and the baby at risk, as well as potentially causing birth defects (even ADHD or Autism in the child later on, though not enough evidence can back this yet, but I won’t be surprised when it can).
So inducing labor increases the chances of having a C-Section by 50%, which puts both mother and child at greater risk. And the epidural slows down the birthing process- which in addition to the Pitocin, is another drug that may also affect the health of the baby.
Until last night, I had never witnessed a live human birth. But now I’ve seen at least four or five. All of them natural.
It’s pretty interesting to watch. I didn’t think it was gross, and I’m not artistic enough off a person to go on and on about how beautiful it was. It just seemed natural and normal. Like watching someone poop. But a baby came out instead.
The Business of Being Born does contain a large amount of nudity, as most of the mothers are nude while giving birth. But we were so intrigued by watching the births, that it didn’t register, “hey, this is porn”. It was just a woman giving birth. The documentary is not rated, because if it was, it may have to be rated NC-17. But to that I say, What Movie Rating Does Real Life Get?
One of the major reasons I now support natural birth (and denounce induced labor by a doctor, with certain exceptions) is the fact that in a hospital, the mother lays down flat on a bed. Common sense tells us that gravity will naturally help pull the baby out. Plus the fact that by having the mother lay down flat, it gives the baby less room to come out.
I also learned that when a baby is born naturally, “a love cocktail of hormones” is released by the mother, causing a unique bond to occur between the mother and the child.
This is where we’re headed. This is what we will attempt. A natural birth overseen by midwives. Yet just down the hall from an M.D. in case something goes wrong.