The Parenting Puzzle

5 May

We here in the Pickle Jar are pretty quick learners. We like to think we weren’t at all jaded on what parenting would entail, though many people would probably like to argue that. We realized there would be little sleep. We understood that babies cry. We knew that knowing what exactly to do for the aforementioned crying baby is not always easy to pinpoint (though it is usually either a dirty diaper or hungry tummy..). We got it. Parenting wouldn’t be a walk in the park but we were prepared.

Then we got slapped in the face with a nice dose of reality. In parenting, you aren’t prepared for anything. And that’s a fact. Just when you think you have something figured out, you don’t. Don’t kid yourself. And anyone who talks like they are the world’s best parents… stay away from them. They must have robot children.

It took the Mrs and I exactly 2 hours with a baby in our home to realize we had no freaking clue what we were doing. We had done all the care for Nolan while we were in the NICU. We have had babies in our arms before. We had done it. We knew what we were doing! But in those first 24 hours we were just sure we were going to kill this poor person whose well-being lay solely on our shoulders. I am sure we are not the only parents that experienced this feeling in the history of the world. People if  you want to try to define “overwhelming”, start and end with bringing a baby home. I swear.

What was most traumatic was not the lack of sleep, that actually hasn’t been bad. It was the feedings. Let me back up a little bit. Premature children have  premature everything. It is not that they were just born before their “due date”. No, these babies are truly not supposed to see the light of day and they are pissed that they had to leave the warm and cozy womb early. They make you pay for it. From the lungs not being all developed to the entire neurological system being immature, these babies are just… premature! However these babies also bear one other, very important, quality: resiliency. These little guys and gals are fighters from day one, because they have to be. So while Josie and I watched, for 6 weeks, as our baby made leaps and bounds of progress we couldn’t help to be thrilled. And as he gained weight and a personality we couldn’t help but think of him more in the realm of “full-term” babies. That is when WWB kicked in. WWB is a term used by NICU nurses apparently around the nation… it stands for Wimpy White Boys. Girls, they rock at life (**BROWNIE POINTS!!). They do. And when a girl is premature, she just catches on quickly. African-American babies don’t seem to have any issues either. Indian babies? Yeah they figure it out. But for whatever reason, if you are male, middle-class, and white… the world is literally out to get you from DAY ONE. With all of the new processes that a baby is expected to take care of once it exits the uterus, white boys have the most trouble figuring it out. From a simple impulse to make the heart contract, to sucking/breathing/swallowing life for a WWB is just rough. Now as a completely unbiased father let me assure you that Nolan was a rock star. He passed milestones with ease, his favorite being gaining weight. Dude is a chunk!! But there is one, little, tiny issue that Baby Nolan hasn’t quite gotten over.. it’s his WWB coming through. He just cannot seem to get his suck/swallow/breathe coordination down pat.
Now forward to the day we brought him into our home, finally. Nolan had gone days without even the slightest issue taking a bottle. He was eating more than expected. He was being a rock star. Then we bring him home and what does he do? He chokes on every. single. bottle. For the first 24 hours neither Mrs Pickle nor I could feed our child without choking him up. Ok, so what’s the big deal, right? So he coughs and sputters a little, big deal dude get over it. No you don’t understand. When a preemie chokes, coughs, and sputters? They shut down. Their brain says, “Ok, that’s enough for me, goodbye.”.  So when every 3-4 hours you make your baby boy check out of life, turn blue (or white), and become despondent… there is nothing that can prepare a parent to deal with that. So what do you do? Do you just take him back to the NICU after a grueling 6 weeks? Ha! Yeah right.

As any parent will tell you, and I can say as a 7 week veteran, you improvise. You figure it out. You solve the puzzle. And that is exactly what we did. We tried different feeding positions, more burps, less burps, more milk in the nipple, less milk in the nipple… we tried it all. Every combination was tested, every option was exhausted, and you know what? We figured it out. Nolan has done fantastic in the past week after that first initial scare, taking bottles and not scaring his parents. We figured out where one piece of the puzzle went. But as soon as you “figure it out” in flies another piece of the puzzle to figure out. That is both the joy and agony of parenting. It is one massive, 100,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. And you don’t have the box; you have no clue how to put it together. You just trudge on, and put the pieces where you think they go. As I write this, Baby Nolan may throw us a wrench and decide that the feeding piece we so carefully laid into position is actually in the wrong place. And that is ok. We’ll try something else and find a new place for it to go.

In the past 7 weeks we’ve learned a lot. We’ve figure out what bradychardia is, we’ve tried a multitude of bottles, we’ve seen our baby in an incubator, we’ve driven away from the hospital for 40 straight nights with an empty back seat. It hasn’t been easy, it hasn’t all been fun. But it has been so worth it. Every single time I see his perfect face, or hold him, or hear him crying I couldn’t be more thankful that he made me a parent. And suddenly… the puzzle? It doesn’t seem so daunting after all.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: