|By: Ed Martinelli|
|Jon, the Original E-male, has found himself overwhelmed by work and family (although I personally suspect something to do with the NBA Conference finals and Championships series) and blew the mighty breast pump horn for assistance from another member of the Testosterone Brigade. In his stead, Ive stepped forward to explain the rare (only through simple #s) and often confusing view of the E-male. After initial formulations, it has seemed appropriate to split my exploration of the particularly male experience into two parts. Pre-delivery, delivery, and immediate post-delivery covered in this issue; while the NICU stay, transition to and final home experience will be covered next issue.|
Thinking back to the time a year ago, when our NICU stay was ever-present, ever- mindful, and ever-fearful, I was reminded of a quote by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the wife of Charles Lindbergh, and who, I suspect, felt similar to many of us as their child was kidnapped and eventually killed. She once wrote, "My life cannot implement in action the demands of all to whom my heart responds." While Im certain that this observation has implications for both genders, I will confine my remarks to how it seems to have effected me, and I suppose most other men. My only supports for this view are conversations with my wife and some limited discussions with other fathers, and the days and nights of reminiscing about our experience.
"...All to whom my heart responds" seems to sum up, for me, the differences I perceive between male and female perspectives. On the morning my wife Laurel woke me up worried about her bleeding, I suspect her greatest fear was for our unborn child. That was a worry that was only compounded by my concern for Laurels health. When the OB/GYN told us about the dire nature of Laurels pregnancy, I cried with Laurel not only for our childs upcoming ordeal but also for her, and for myself. Once Laurel was placed on the helicopter for Birmingham, AL, I was very worried for her. I knew she hated to fly and that if the baby was born midway, both lives could be in jeopardy. I was also worried about our then 18 month-old daughter. What about my classes and students and work? What would driving up to take care of our daughter do to my parents, especially when they had the memory of three stillborn children of their own?
As we spent the four days in the high risk area of the hospital, I thought about all of these folks and more. The division of concern was overwhelming. I wanted Laurel to be comfortable, and so would "run" home the two hours each way to be sure she had clothes, music, pillows, pictures, and anything else that would make her feel "nested". As the doctors discussed with us their concerns and the potential outcomes, I was often seen by both staff and family as the one best suited (if only because of being unmedicated) to make difficult choices. How do I explain to my wife that if she could hold this baby in, that its chances of survival rose, yet take into account her delicate physical and emotional health? I remember vividly the ultrasound that announced our childs gender. A boy! But if he were a she, better odds at survival they told me. How desperately I wanted to "be there" for him, yet understand Laurels dilemma. I struggled with how to encourage Laurel to hang on emotionally as she "tried" to keep our son inside, and yet I saw the emotional impact it was having on her. The life of your child or the sanity of your partner is no easy choice.
Michael Hynan has written about the terror, grief, impotence, and anger of high-risk parenthood. (Hynan, 1991) In my situation, I was terrified to go to sleep those days for fear of missing the birth. Afraid to eat. Afraid not to eat or sleep and make a poor decision. Afraid to stay and afraid to go.
I remember the hurt of watching my wife ten feet from me be surrounded by strangers as our child was brought into a world his lungs were unprepared for. I had been holding her hand when our daughter was born, and now there was no room at her bedside. I watched as someone ran out with a bloody hand-towel, that only as they passed I recognized as my son. Now the dilemma really hit. Where do I go? Who needs me most? To whom does my heart respond? Where is my life to be implemented? I suspect that it was different for Laurel. She was interested in how our son was doing. And so I hurried from site to site, getting pictures for us and others, groping for the slightest morsel of information. There never was a single best place.
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