Thursday, June 18, 2015

Remember The Fathers

My husband and I live in San Diego, where he is a pediatric resident at the Naval Medical Center. I stay at home with our brood, and have a degree in Educational Sciences, with an emphasis in Science. Together, we have five children— two biological, two in the process of adoption from foster care, and one foster child. Of our permanent four, three were born prematurely. Our biological son, Caleb, was born at 39 weeks, while our biological daughter, Charlotte, at 23 weeks, our soon-to-be-legally-adopted son, Pierce, at 34 weeks, and our soon-to-be-legally-adopted daughter, Olive, at 33 weeks. Charlotte and Pierce are both trached and use ventilators while they sleep, g-tubes while they eat, and smiles while they melt your heart. Since the soon-to-be-legally-adopted kids are not “officially” ours yet (in paperwork only) I’m speaking only about our experiences around our biological daughter.

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Peter had been away, working at the Naval Hospital in Virginia in the weeks leading up to our daughter’s delivery. (Ironically, he was working one of his last OB/GYN rotations of medical school, dealing with the medical emergencies of pregnant women, while I sat in appointment after appointment, trying to hold on to our own pregnancy.) The night he drove home, we ventured out for a short dinner, and in the parking lot of the restaurant, my water broke, and our lives changed forever. That night is hazy in my mind, splotchy moments that I can remember clearly, and completely blank hours that I have never recalled.

But I remember Peter.

I remember him sitting to the left of me, staring at the wall, as I changed into the hospital gown in the triage room. I remember his look, the fact that he knew what was happening before anyone told him. I remember him days later, as I called him from my hospital room, telling him that the time was up, and it looked like she had to be delivered that day. I remember his church clothes, his dress shirt hanging out of the paper scrubs they give fathers prepping for a c-section.

I remember the Sunday afternoons, months and months of them, when he pulled up the rocking chair and waited for nurses to help him hold his baby in the NICU. I remember him planning his outfits so he could transition to Kangaroo Care most easily. I remember him holding her, with his eyes closed, willing her lungs to grow, and her brain to function. I remember the long conversations with the Neonatologists, looking over X-rays and labs.

I remember him bringing her home. I remember the doctor appointments he attended, and the ones he didn’t, because he was busy being a medical provider for other families. I remember the hours he spent arranging her transportation to San Diego.

I remember the nights he slept in the hospital, sleeping in the chair-bed reserved for parents of patients. I remember the questions he asked as a father, not as a medical resident. I remember the desperation, the joy, the fear, and the questions in his eyes.

I remember so much.

People often forget about Peter. They remember to ask me, “How are you doing? How are you holding up?” They remember Charlotte, “How is our little Princess today? What’s the latest with her medical status?”

But Peter is often forgotten.

It’s easy to forget that she has his eyes, and it’s easy to forget that her determination to succeed is 100% her father. It’s easy to forget that he knows exactly which creases to tickle, and that her hand slides into his with ease. It’s easy to forget that when Charlotte is sedated for yet another test or surgery or procedure, she has a father who worries. It’s easy to forget that when she wakes up, she has a dad who sighs with relief.

It’s easy, but it’s wrong.

Peter is not the parent I am. We have different priorities and goals in our parenting, and we don’t always see eye to eye. But I would be wrong if I didn’t shout from the corners of the internet that he’s exactly the father my children need him to be.

That’s an incredible privilege, and I know that. I recognize that many, many mothers are raising their babies on their own. I hope, though, that in recognizing the tireless hours so many mothers put in, we can also take time to remember that many fathers also log those hours, and often do so at risk of being forgotten.

I’m far from perfect, and I often have to remember to remember.

But when I do, oh, the memories I have.

photo by Nina Siebert of Blackbird Ink Photography

(Thank you, Amanda, for so eloquently putting into words how many of us are feeling leading up to Father's Day. -Jessi)
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