Suburban Butch Dad Report: 11 years ago today….

I woke up at about 1:20 am this morning and lay awake for a while thinking about what was going on 11 years ago at that moment.  I was on an operating table, numb from the tits down, my arms outstretched and bound.  And, no, it wasn’t a super kinky medical scene.  My daughter was about to emerge from my body, alien-style, rather than through the opening created for that purpose.

I was only 31 weeks pregnant, my body hadn’t even considered going into labor.  I was having an emergency c-section because I’d die otherwise.  There wasn’t any time to wait and see if I’d improve:  pre-eclampsia, or gestational hyper-tension, has one cure — giving birth.  And I had an extra bundle of life-threatening symptoms, called HELLP syndrome, which meant my liver was failing, I was becoming rapidly more anemic and my platelet count was dropping.  So ready or not, it was time for my daughter to come into the world.  They had to do it before my platelet count dropped so low I couldn’t clot. Or my liver failed, or .. well, there was basically no waiting.

Prior to that moment, I’d been on bed-rest, which I considered about as pleasurable as teeth pulling without anesthesia.  My wife and I were prepared for me to be on my back for as many weeks as it took to keep the baby gestating.  As it happened, I was on bed rest for about 4 days, as my condition rapidly worsened.  I had blood taken and tested a couple of times after the initial diagnosis, and those tests led my midwife to reduce her prediction from weeks to maybe a week, or slightly more.  My body was not handling late pregnancy well at all.

This all started Wednesday, and by Sunday, I felt horrible.  I had band-pain under my ribs that initially felt like a back ache.  My midwife suggested I try soaking in the tub, we were both hoping this was my body’s reaction to the bedrest.  Instead, the pain increased, and I had a hard time breathing — as if it weren’t already hard enough with an entire human being plus living space taking up most of my torso.  I started feeling nauseous, did I have the flu?  My wife had been sick the day before, throwing up and feeling miserable.   Upon hearing that I was close to puking, my midwife told us to get to the hospital, that she’d meet us there.

I threw up at the check in desk, into a garbage can.  I was hustled into a wheel chair and taken to maternity, where I was hooked up to monitors, given magnesium sulfate.  Blood tests showed that my indicators had all worsened a lot more since the test on Friday.  Our midwife told us that we’d be parents in a matter of days, rather than weeks.  We went to our local hospital sometime after 4 pm and I was in an ambulance heading to Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center a few hours later.

This part of the experience is blurry for me.  The mag sulfate acted like alcohol on my brain, making it hard to keep track of the passage of time, sequence of events, or people I met and talked to — basically, it was a partial black-out.   What I do recall is that we were completely unprepared for this acceleration of events.  It was more than 2 months before my due date, we hadn’t packed a hospital bag, we didn’t have our address book (this is well before we had cell phones) and we were certainly not prepared to suddenly be out of town.  After getting to the hospital, my wife called our best friend to bring her up to date and to request she go by our house and pick up a few things.  Best Friend and my parents were at the hospital by 11 pm.  Hospital staff was still doing tests and tracking my condition.  My brand new OB doc showed up and requested an ultrasound to see how our baby was doing.  That’s when we found out she was much smaller than she should have been at 31 weeks, about half the normal size in fact.   Based on that and the fact that my blood test results kept coming back with worse and worse numbers, we were told we’d become parents in just  a couple of hours.

At 1 am, I was in surgery, spinal block administered and abdomen iodined.  As my surgery began, a small group (2-3) nurses gathered in one corner of the room with a small plastic box on wheels.  I realized, slowly through my drugged fogginess, that they were there for my baby.  My baby had her own staff of specialists already.

At 1:34 am, Mrs. Kyle and I welcomed our daughter into the world.  Well, by welcomed, I mean, we breathed a sigh of relief as soon as we heard her voice, crying in that classic just-born way.   The baby team took charge and was about to whisk her off to the NICU when I asked to see her.   I knew I couldn’t hold her, but I needed to see her face at least.  And that’s what I got, a glimpse of her face, held up inside the plastic box, from across the room.  A Tiny little face, all wrinkled and red, but definitely alive.

My wife went with the baby, I went to the recovery room.  After about 20 minutes, my wife rejoined me and told me about the baby and all the things going on to take care of her.  She was tiny-tiny, only 2 lbs 3 ozs and 14 inches long.  She was being hooked up to all kinds of monitors and machines but she was breathing on her own.

I got to see her again, briefly.  I got to see the Spawn again, once all the numbness had passed — I was cursing my left foot because it took so long.  They wheeled me up in my gurney, and I shifted over on my side so I could peer at her through the thick plastic of the isolette.  She looked like a little alien, all skin and bones, wrinkled and wizened.  In fact, she looked a lot like my Dad.  The only muscle she had on her tiny body was in her calves.. and I can attest to her use of those muscles to kick me with.

I was in the hospital for 4 days, the Spawn was in the NICU for 3 weeks and in the nursery at Olympia for another 3 weeks.  I gave birth on a Monday and the following Monday, I was back at work part-time.  There was no sense staying home, I didn’t have a baby to take care of and gush over.  When we finally brought her home, she weighed 3 lbs and 14 ozs, still tiny but very healthy.  She never had any of the big scary health issues a lot of preemies have, being able t0 breath on her own from the start and surprised her nurses and doctors at every turn with the progress she made.  She was early, and tiny, but a fighter and full of personality from the start.


Here she is at 41 hours old, getting a little bit of skin time with me.  She could only be out of her isolette for small amounts of time a day.  She was so little, with her knees tucked up, she fit right into my cleavage.  She looked like a little kangaroo baby, not wanting to be out of her pouch.

Happy birthday to my Elder Spawn, who is now a very big girl, a beautiful daughter and a wonderful older sister.  You bring so much joy, and also challenge, to my life, which is as it should be.  Thank you for being so amazing.



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11 Responses to Suburban Butch Dad Report: 11 years ago today….

  1. Roxy says:

    I am so thankful to your wife, your midwife, and all the doctors and nurses who kept you safe and helped you bring a beautiful girl into the world. You are both so precious to me – thank you for being strong enough to make it through.

    I did get a lot of help, and I needed it. It was one of those times in my life when I found out how strong — or maybe stubborn — I am, it never really felt real that either of us wouldn’t make it (though my mom was sure one of us would die and was very stressed out about it).

    I’m glad I made it, too, not just for my daughter and my family, but so I could meet you and experience this very glorious part of my life — K

  2. pixie says:

    Happy Birthday Elder Spawn!!!! and congrats to you …. I am sure I can say for everyone, we are thankful that it was a successful and beautiful moment for you and your family!

    thank you, Pixie, I’m glad to be here too — K

  3. Coy Pink says:

    Happy anniversary of your daughter’s birth! What an amazing story. I’m so very glad it had a happy ending.

  4. Elias says:

    AWWWW!!!! Such a cute little spawn. I was an early baby as well, I weighed 1.3 pounds (600 gram) at birth. My mother told me that I used to pull her earrings and piercings when I wanted attention from her.

    This was an adorable story, and I’m glad for you getting to lead such a happy life with your wonderful wife, Rox, and your kids.

    I know I never will be able to, since one of the requisites to legally change one’s gender in my country is to be castrated. They surgically remove all reproductory organs (ovaries, womb, etc)

    Wow.. you were a very small baby, I’m very surprised/happy for you that you didn’t suffer too much for being so small. There was another little guy at the NICU who was just about that size and he was not doing well. Even though pregnancy wouldn’t be an option for you, there are other ways to become a parent, and if not a parent, there are lots of ways to be a positive influence in kids lives — K

  5. Happy Birthday to her! Our son was born at 28 weeks – 2lbs, 5oz and 15 inches long. He was in the NICU for 6.5 weeks and came home weighing 3lbs, 12oz. The only trouble he had was retinopathy of prematurity and started wearing glasses at 18 months. He will be 13 next month! 🙂

    Wow.. three weeks earlier but sounds like our two were of similar size, stayed at the hospital for a similar amount of time and came home almost the same weight.. I remember getting lots of reactions from people when I went out in public with her.. people were shocked/surprised/overwhelmed by how tiny she was, did you get that with your wee guy? — K

  6. Wow…talk about kindred spirits! Although my spawn just turned 10 in September, he too was born at week 31 (by one day) due to my pre-eclampsia. I’d had gestational diabetes as well so he was sugared up and a hefty 4 lbs. 14 oz. for such an early bird. I remember the mag sulfate well, as I was on it for 6 days in the hospital prior to my emergency c-section. Always felt like my eyes would take a few extra minutes to catch up with my head. I have the same photos of me and my then partner with our little guy getting skin time. Amazing how they’ve grown up to be big, strong, smart kids, eh? So happy you lived to tell about your experience and celebrate all the more for your miracle every year!

    Thank you and I’m very happy for you and your spawn as well. People have asked how we got through the stress and fear and unknowns and the answer is “what else could we do?” I had no idea we had such similar pregnancies. Do you ever feel bitter/pissed off about not getting the more traditional birth experience? — K

  7. Isobel says:

    Happy birthday elder spawn, don’t forget to make a wish 🙂

  8. Ha! Are you kidding? I had this beautiful birth plan. I had written it all out in my lamaze class and my OB bought into it even though we were at a traditional hospital and I didn’t have a midwife. Naked, squatting birth, friends, music, low lights, no monitors, etc. etc. etc. During the six days that I lasted at the hospital before my C-section, all of the nurses would come in my room and say (as I’m hooked up to every monitor possible and not allowed to get up unless I had to pee), “Oh honey, we read your birth plan. We’re SO sorry!” All I had left to give him was to breast feed and I tried and tried while he was in NICU. I had lactation consultants…the works. No go. Then one morning a nurse called and excitedly told me that he had taken a bottle overnight and would probably be off gavage. I was SO upset! Once he was home I tried again every time he was hungry and pumped so much I wound up in the hospital again with a huge breast abscess and a staff infection. Eleven days on IV antibiotics and my guy only 4 weeks old. Finally, three months later, I picked him up and he suddenly latched on and drank for all he was worth. Life seemed to click then and we kept it up until he was 11 months old. So yeah, very bitter/pissed indeed!

    yep, my plan wasn’t that elaborate or detailed, but it did involve me squeezing her out. As for breastfeeding, I tried for months and in the meantime pumped and built up a large supply in the freezer. Our probably was that she was so tiny and my areola and boob were so huge, she couldn’t physically do the latch. She finally figured out latching just before I had to go back to work that summer. So not much breastfeeding for us, but she did get breastmilk mixed with formula all the way to 9 months. — K

  9. …er…that would be “staph.” I just woke up. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

  10. Firebolt says:

    A very happy birthday to your Elder spawn, albeit belated. This was an amazing story. I am thankful that both of you are here today, and so swell! Much love. xx

  11. Pingback: The season for anniversaries | Butchtastic

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