January 31, 2006

On Our Own... Gulp

The First Week

I think the first thing we learned about newborns is that they are terribly unphotogenic. Taking after me, it seemed impossible to get a good picture of him. The fact that he was sleeping 23 hours a day didn't help, but aside from that, the puffy eyes, jaundiced skin, and temporary facial scarring from the trip through the birth canal didn't help.

A whopping 42 hours after his birth, the hospital decided that Damian and Hoang were healthy enough to go home. Wow. On the one hand, Hoang was getting antsy and was ready to go. On the other, we didn't know what the heck to do with the boy on our own... But we needed to learn, right? Before leaving the care of the hospital, Damian still had some work to do. He got circumcised by our pediatrician while I slept at home 15 minutes away - though I think I still heard his screams. Actually, that's not true as he was the beneficiary of the "penile block," a new procedure that fully blocks out the pain. My friend KO witnessed the procedure on his son and reported that his little guy didn't even flinch and didn't even need to be held down as per the olden days. Good. Damian also had to pass the hearing test, as he failed miserably the first time the day before. When your child fails the hearing test, the oh-so-lovely audiologist gives you a crappy green pamphlet explaining how to raise a deaf child. There are also such heartwarming statistics as, "Failing the first test means there is a 25% change of complete hearing loss." Great.

I arrived at the hospital around 10 AM and just before entering Hoang's room encountered a big pink sign on the door: "Do Not Enter! Hearing test in progress." So I stood in the hallway patiently. And stood some more. 10 minutes, 20 minutes... I began pacing, as a nurse told me upon arrival, "It'll only be a couple minutes." Hmmm, my mind raced, are we prepared to deal with a deaf child? He's already going to learn two languages, but is he equipped to learn three (English, Vietnamese, AND sign)? I suck at languages - how would I learn sign? I finally had enough and barged into the room - I figured Hoang would want me there for this. I sat next to her in bed, held her hand, and stroked her head. The nervousness and fear were plainly evident on our faces as we silently watched the goofy lady jam electrodes on our son's head and ears. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the tester lady said, "I sorry. You see, he move and when he move I start over. I cannot get a reading, he do not pass."

So wait, what did that mean?! I asked the lady with a shaky voice and she nonchalantly said, "Oh, he pass left ear already, just not pass right ear." Oh, I see... Didn't you think it would have been nice to tell us that half an hour ago?! She claimed she did (yeah, right) and went on to explain that it's not that he failed the test, just that she wasn't able to get a "clean" test completed because Damian simply wouldn't stay still. Phew... I thought. She would try again later.

Perceived problem number two was his confusion as to how he should eat. Hoang was determined to breast feed, but Damian was determined to sleep. Time and time again he would begin to latch on and then immediately conk out in her arms. The wonderful lactation consultant checked in a couple times and offered up some hints and tips, which seemed to help a little bit. C'mon, kid... You need to hear and you need to eat!

A third issue was that his color went from "Pink" on the first night to "P/sl J" by the second day. That meant, "Pink/slight jaundice." Okay, I knew jaundice was a very common issue, especially amongst early kids like ours, and apparently runs in the in-laws' family. This one, I could deal with. His blood was tested and it was determined that his bilirubin counts weren't high enough to keep him in the hospital. This probably also contributed to his low body temperature as well and would clear itself up soon enough. Damian received a demonstration sponge bath (during which a nursing student refused to touch him... Um, sister, I think you better learn how to handle newborns if you want to get anywhere in your chosen field) and was returned to the room.

At this point, I was getting sick of the hospital Au Bon Pain food and crappy television. I had now seen three episodes of "The View" and "Dr. Phil" and was about to go mad. How anyone watches that garbage is beyond me - absolutely dreadful. But Damian still had to learn how to eat and hear. The audiologist reappeared again and finally caught us at a good time. She hooked him up again and went through the motions - again for far too long for our comfort. Finally, after another eternity, Damian passed and we let out a sigh of relief. The lactation lady appeared again and determined that Damian was becoming a good little sucker and gave us her blessing as well.

So... That was it! We were told we could go home and begin our new life as a little family. Wow. Just like that. My rational nature kept assuring me that we'd be fine - humans had been doing this for millennia. Ours was a healthy baby and Hoang was doing great; we'd be fine. After nearly leaving the hospital without filling out the birth certificate information, Hoang was wheelchaired down to the parking garage, Damian was snapped into the infant seat, and I cautiously made my way through Hartford to our house. Luckily, there was no traffic and the sun was shining brightly so the trip was wonderfully uneventful.

Once inside our house, which was dog-free, we laid him down and watched TV. Yup - what, did you want some grand epiphany from me? In fact, over the next several days, we watched a LOT of TV. And Damian slept. And slept. And slept. Sure, he ate every 3 or 4 hours, and we changed him regularly, but that was pretty much it. Oh sure, I know I'll read this paragraph in a couple months and laugh at myself. But this is all I know at this point; and it's pretty easy going. His color turned more yellow those first few days, and he lost 10 ounces since birth. Our pediatrician figured this would happen, so he scheduled a visit that first Saturday morning.

He wasn't too concerned and simply told us to stick him in the sunlight and top off each feeding with an ounce or two of formula to flush his system of the excess bilirubin. Two days later, on Monday 1/30, we took him back and learned that he had gained a full half pound and his color was looking better by the day. I was so proud... He'll be fat little baby before we know it. He was also feeding much better, but his sleeping patterns were becoming more fitful and disturbing. The boy never seemed to chill; always flailing his arms all about and making all sorts of very loud baby noises. Hoang and I were sleeping in shifts and were holding up very well, I thought. Hoang's parents visited several times and brought us gigantor meals each time. Seriously, it got to be a bit ridiculous when she brought over the 4th feast in a row. She apparently has a never-ending supply of Tupperware, that's for sure. (Though, after she brought over a full 2 pounds of broccoli, I learned how to make a delicious cream of broccoli soup, so that didn't go to waste.) It's not always the sheer quantities of food she brings, it's the complete randomness of it that gets me. In addition to the main platters, she'd bring 3 mangoes one night, 6 croissants the next. A box of frozen chicken patties with a can of chickpeas. 2 salmon filets and a cucumber. You just never know... But I love her for it all. Her meals certainly saved us time, energy, and money that first week.

The Chinese New Year passed (half a turkey, a couple pounds of rice stuffing, some noodle/tofu concoction, some seafood/veggie dish, spring rolls, giant BJ's salad for 20, half a gallon of shark fin soup, etc) and a few more visitors trickled into our house. All in all, it was a quiet first week and we survived it very well, I think. Everyone's generosity and kindness was much appreciated and we can only hope to repay y'all in kind some day.

Damian: A Character Study:

Check out Week Two

Damian Home
Every Week in Pictures
Besetting Vice Home
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