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Three’s a Crowd (Part 2)

9 Apr

Author’s Note: It has taken me a lot, and I mean a lot, to write this post. It literally has been the bottleneck for all posts to the blog; knowing that I have to finish this story has backlogged all future stories. I hope it is worth the wait. If you would like to read Part One, click here

Monday October 3, 2016 started out quite normal. We had a long awaited meeting scheduled with our newest little addition to the family – Elise Ann Dill. Had we relied on past history, she shouldn’t have made it to be an October baby. She was expected to make her appearance near the same time as her brothers did, 8 weeks early by gestation and 4 weeks prior to this day. Yet there we were, up at 5:00 AM and ready to head over to the hospital and begin the scheduled C-Section process. We were nervous, excited, and – if I am honest – ready for this to be over.

As I detailed before in the first installment, Ms Elise should never have had a scheduled C-Section appointment to be born. She truthfully shouldn’t even have been created. And while the first part of this story detailed the emotions we felt after finding out we indeed were starting a little family circus, let me take a moment to explain how our attitude had shifted over 7 months. What started as fear and (truthfully) anger had melted into hope and excitement. A girl! First of all, how neat is that? After experiencing two rambunctious boys we would now get to know the joys of having a little girl in the house. But beyond that the fear had morphed to acknowledgement. As we journeyed through a third uncomfortable and challenging pregnancy both Jos and I couldn’t help but sit back and acknowledge how incredible this story is. Just when you think that you have your life planned out, God gently chimes in, “Not quite yet…”. Sure, kids are created every day against all odds, but this just went deeper. God knew how difficult our pregnancies had been, he KNEW how much frustration, worry, and angst the deliveries had caused so why would he put us through this again? We had to admit that God’s plan is always better than our own. And while we were no where near ready to tackle the responsibilities of a third kid, we slowly began to enjoy and anticipate what this little girl was destine to do with her life. The fact that we were selected literally against the odds to grow and support her through her journey was incredibly heavy and undeniably exciting.

So we sat in the car on the 20-minute drive and talked about how the day might go. E had made it to a critical 36-week mark which allowed us the ability to deliver at our “home” hospital, and also introduced possibilities we hadn’t experienced before. We had a great chance of holding this baby in the operating room – alright! We might even get to spend the first night together, the 3 of us, in a regular hospital room instead of apart in different hospitals area codes apart. What was that even like?? She shouldn’t even require a NICU stay which would be ground breaking for us. We had tossed scenarios around in our minds and settled on worst case: They might have to take Elise into the NICU just to check and make sure she is ok, but we would get to see her back with Josie as soon as that evening, potentially even while the Mrs was still in recovery. This was going to be a cake walk.

The first few hours of the morning went great, and aside from the slight contractions that she had been experiencing for a full month there was no signs of actual labor. Everything was setting up just as the doctor had designed. Vital signs were stable, both for mom and baby. Even anesthesiology was in the room early! That literally never happens we were told. (Turns out, that guy might have been an angel.) We were ready for our 9:15 AM delivery. And then things suddenly changed.

“OOOHhhhfff”, Josie grunted. “What was that!?“, she asked. I immediately assumed a contraction had picked up so I walked over to the monitor. Nothing. I looked back at my wife and the look of pain in her eyes was severe. Any husband knows the different levels of pain their wife can endure, especially after child birth, and I knew that whatever she was experiencing was a pretty intense pain. I asked her to describe it, she said “IT HURTS”. I decided to not ask anymore questions. I looked back at the machine monitoring muscle contractions… still nothing. Well this is all helpful I thought to myself. After just a simple minute that felt like an eon Jos decided to call the nurse. It was 9:04 AM, just 11 minutes pre-operation. The nurse came in and she literally started wheeling Josie out of the room immediately while saying, “Well, they’re either ready for you in OR or they’re going to be ready for you”. Josie’s doctor came in at that same moment as well and asked a couple benign questions before saying. “Well – I will scrub in and see you in OR!”. It got a lot intense in a little amount of time.

Let me side-step briefly. The most frightening ~7 minutes of my life have been spent in a white hallway at our local hospital, 15 ft away from an automatic door controlling entry to the operating room. Twice I have sat in a blue chair as doctors and nurses rush past me into a room that I know holds my wife and baby and I have had nothing to do except plead and pray to God. And wait. I have buckets of empathy toward every dad who has had to do that same routine. It causes visions of the worst possible outcomes a man can imagine to flash behind his eyes. I cried each time, once with Trevor and then again that day with Elise. And then the nurse came out: “Joel? Come on, Josie wants you”.

“I’ve got blood in the belly!”, I hear the doctor say just moments after I sit down on a stool near my wife. My heart hit my gut.

Here’s what happened. That intense pain that she felt just 15 excruciating long minutes ago? That was an organ inside of her body breaking. More specifically, do you remember the T-cut incision I mentioned in Part One? Elise had busted through that delicate scar and was causing a world of commotion. First, Josie was now internally bleeding. Second, Elise was having sensations of birth…except that she was still very much stuck inside her mother. She took her first breath – a lungful of her mother’s blood instead of beautiful oxygen as her instincts would’ve liked. Not a great start to life in the real world. It was approximately 9:21 AM.

Elise Ann Dill was officially born on October 3, 2016 @ 9:29 AM. Well, more accurately that is the time we all decided it was after the medical team and myself had gotten back to the NICU and one of the nurses noticed an official time hadn’t been called. You better believe that OR was hectic from 9:21 AM on. See, Elise wasn’t exactly “alive” when they


Elise, meeting Mom and ready for transport. How can you not believe in love at first sight?!

pulled her from her mother’s abdomen so it’s hard to argue an exact time of birth. Her 1-minute APGAR was a 1, which is borderline dead. Her 10-minute APGAR was still just a 5, which leans toward or can indicate brain damage. Normally babies rebound more quickly from a low initial APGAR score, up to a full 10 by the 10-minute mark. Not Elise. The blood in her umbilical cord at birth was so acidic they feared she had been without sweet oxygen for too long. Josie had some internal bleeding but thankfully they were able to suck it all out within minutes and control the bleeding. The doctor said at the end of the day she bled about the same amount she would’ve in a normal C-Section delivery. The cold truth is that had we not already been at a hospital, mere minutes away from a scheduled operation, with anesthesiology already in the OR prepping for Josie (remember I said the guy must’ve been an angel!)… neither my wife nor our baby girl would be here today. If Josie would’ve been at home with the boys on a normal day there is almost no way she could’ve rounded up someone to watch them, gotten to the hospital, and still survived. Elise for sure wouldn’t have survived.


God had a plan. We learned that over 7 long months of working through a pregnancy we had done everything to prevent from happening. And then we learned it again in 25 minutes at a hospital where everything worked out so perfectly that not only did our new baby girl survive near death – but she was set up to thrive. The quick action taken by our doctor to deliver Elise and then again by the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner to send E down to Denver and to Children’s Hospital for further screening was crucial. I have played out nightmares in my mind where the doctor disregards Josie’s pain and says, “Ah you can wait until the 9:15 scheduled operation, can’t you?”. I’ve wondered what might have happened had the NICU team not gotten Elise stabilized, prepped, and transferred into a world class facility within 6 hours of being born. But thank God I don’t have to actually live those scenarios out. Because tonight I have a beautiful wife, fully recovered, (she was released from the hospital the next day at noon – 27 hours post-operation!) and a beautiful 6-month old baby girl who has stolen all of our hearts.

Thank God for his plan.



Three’s a Crowd (Part 1)

5 Jan

By now anyone who knows the Pickle Jar knows that we are a crazy, fun, chaotic family of five. Three beautiful children tag along with us wherever we journey, no matter what we do to shed them off our trail. If they were investigative agents… well they wouldn’t be very good at covert operations but by God they stick to you like bloodhounds on a scent. What most people do not realize is that being a family of five was not our plan. I can say that most people don’t realize this fact with confidence due to the comments we get when we are out with our crew. It ranges from the blunt “Why would you have 3 kids under 4 years old?” to the more subtle “Ohhh you guys are busy!” and everything in between. Be warned: I am about to lay a story flat out on the table. If you believe in TMI you must not have kids or you’ve somehow managed to keep them from eating their boogers, their brother’s boogers, or feeding their brother their own boogers.

To refresh my three kind readers, pregnancy is not a friend of the Pickle Jar. And as much as the Mrs. enjoys being pregnant (let me emphasize that she doesn’t) the deliveries are even more non-enjoyable. In each of our boys births there was something that went awry, mostly surrounding the fact that they were each born 8-weeks early. During Trevor’s delivery we went from potentially transferring both mom and baby to a larger hospital, to talk of a life-flight ride, to an emergent c-section surgery to reach our baby whose heartbeat could not be found en utero and included a special incision during the surgery that forever compromised the ability of the Mrs. to grow babies. Top that off with an hour-long transfer of Trev to the nearest Children’s Hospital while leaving Josie in recovery, and we had no warm and fuzzies feelings left over about delivering babies.

It is said that given some amount of time you forget the pain and trouble of a delivery and it allows you to open up to the idea of more children. We didn’t even give that a chance – three months after our second preemie baby was born I surgically altered my body to eliminate the possibility of having more children. From our perspective we had played the lottery and won big with two, (literal) million-dollar babies who were happy and healthy and kept us always on our toes. We had fought through intense adversity to get these little boys home and no worse for the wear. It felt more like roulette to entertain the thought of more kids. And so we settled in to life as a family of four. Four. Family of four.

Anybody out there like statistics and odds? Me too. Let’s digress and take a minute to play with numbers. We were told that the odds of a successfully tested vasectomy failing after the second “all clear” test is somewhere near 1:100,000 – particular to the methodology the doctor used.
The odds of you being bitten by a snake/venomous creature is 1:83,930. The odds of you dating a supermodel – 1:88,000. Odds of striking it rich on Antique Roadshow – 1:60,000. Odds that you will be audited by the IRS – 1:175. What does this all mean? You have a greater shot of being bit by a venomous creature, dating a supermodel, striking it rich, and have almost a 10x time risk of being audited by the IRS than that certain medical procedure failing. To be blunt, you have more of a risk of a condom failing and you have far greater risk of a tubal ligation yielding a pregnancy. There…it’s all on the table.

For those of you keeping score at home, we have a scorecard full of difficult pregnancies, preemie babies, prolonged NICU stays, and one tested permanent prophylactic. So it isn’t a far leap to imagine the shock and surprise we had coming to us that random Friday night in March 2016. The Mrs. had been feeling a little odd and one evening as we were headed home she dropped a bomb in the car – “Do you think I am pregnant?”. My answer was pretty adamant: No, no I do not, no that’s not possible, no way Jose. In any case we dropped by the grocery store for one of those magical sticks and 15 minutes later we had our unexpected answer – we would be a family of five. The emotions we went thru that night were insane. Everything from hints of joy to overwhelming fear raced through our minds. At one point as I was innocently putting away groceries in the pantry, the Mrs. stops in her tracks and bluntly says, “Do you have the strongest motherf-ing sperm in the universe???”. I thankfully had no answer.
We were not prepared and not ready to have another baby. We were still, as my wife puts it, “getting punched in the face” by our two crazy boys. A third kid? What, how, why…We had given away most of our baby toys, gotten rid of almost everything that had been outgrown. What just happened!?
The night we found out and the next couple of months were taxing on both Josie and myself emotionally and physically. Oh, and this reminds me to clue you in to another reason we were not planning on having another child:
That extra incision I mentioned a little while ago? In the operating room they referred to it as a T-cut, or a perpendicular cut in the uterus that (surprise) looks like a T. At this point in our story we could dive into hoop stress and how a transverse incision effects the integrity of the uterus and it’s ability to grow a baby to term, but I’ll spare you. The point is that this little incision meant this pregnancy – like the two before it – was going to be a wild ride.

to be continued…


This One Was Tough

30 Jun

Being a parent has taught me to view events from a completely different perspective then I ever did before. Today I was faced with some tragic news, a high school friend had passed over the weekend. While we weren’t the closest of friends, we were friends nonetheless and I’d like to think he’d agree. I can’t begin to imagine what he had to go through over the past month that drove him to this point, and while I often thought of reaching out to him I never did, mostly because we hadn’t really talked in the past few years… What an awful excuse.
Beyond the loss though I feel a deeper pain. Again, parenting had broadened my lens, and now I am not only heartbroken for his close friends. No it is his parents that keep popping into my mind. Because when faced with a stark reality, with the fact that a son was lost, I cannot fathom how I would react if I lost Nolan.
I’ve lost friends before, some closer than others, but all hurt. I lost a very close friend right after high school, someone who I golfed with all through school and who knew sports inside and out. I still find myself wishing I could text him when I see some sports oddity. But for whatever reason this one hurts more and I am admittedly one of the most removed people from the tragedy. I keep looking into the backseat at the little turd of a boy who is growing up and relying on me and the Mrs entirely… When you pour your heart into something for just a couple of years and feel like I do, how do you accept the loss after 25+ years? I pray for those who were closest.
I told one of my best friends that I loved him today as we signed off of our phone conversation. We’d been discussing our lost friend, and he had made a point about not waiting to say something because the chance may not come again. They are wise words, something easily taken for granted.
Don’t be afraid to love those who matter in your life, and definitely do not be afraid to tell them how you feel. And as a man and Dad, don’t be ashamed to show that emotion around your child(ren). It is important for all of us to know that we have support — maybe from the most unlikely sources — in this crazy race we run.
This loss stings, but it will help me hold my son a little tighter tonight. I mourn for anyone who cannot do the same.


He. Is. Here.

17 Mar

He came. It’s all I can think about; all I want to think about. I got a call while at happy hour Thursday afternoon saying she was going to the hospital just to make sure a little hiccup was “ok”. 9 hours later he was here. He is here. It’s amazing to feel this much love — so quickly.


It will be a tough road for him as he was only 32 weeks along. But he is a fighter. He showed us that much by consistently punching Mrs Pickle in the ribs. And screaming at the nurses for removing him from his temporary home. He is already strong, that much is obvious.

Nolan Wayne…. welcome to the world!! 

I cannot wait to teach you everything I know.

That’s My Boy

4 Mar

This last weekend we were able to come home from the hospital — what a relief! Two weeks of hospital anything is more than enough. This last weekend we were also treated to lots and lots of family who came to visit the Mrs. which is always a fun time. Hectic, sure. But it is also so nice to have so much support. We truly are blessed!!

Let me just start by saying our nephew is ridiculous. In fact, all day today we’ve been following his trail around our house. Starting in the basement, where the dog bed became his seat on the couch while watching Wipeout, to my change jar dumped out in the bedroom (and maybe down the heat register?) and anything you can imagine in between — that 3-year old left his mark. We love it. No really, we love it! Granted, having a quarter roll of toilet paper with associated surprise left in the guest toilet was almost a little more than I had planned for a Monday night, but we still love it. Even tonight before she fell asleep the Mrs. and I joked about all we have to look forward to.

The kid is always full of energy, and often the Mrs and I wonder if our baby boy will behave similarly. I mean, boys are boys and boys will be boys so what really could be different!? I wish I could find my nickels from my change jar for every time I heard the girls say, “He’s all boy!” this weekend. I often thought to myself, “That’s my boy!” — and yes I know, he’s not my boy. I say it more in the vein of the great actor Will Ferrell; think “BLUE! YOU’RE MY BOY BLUE!!!” from the instant classic film Old School.

What made me say something like that? How bout when he wiped his greasy hands on his jeans to take a fresh chocolate chip cookie from his mom. Or when he sumo-body slammed Mrs. Pickle’s egg crate matttress pad from the hospital. Then he got up and finished the unresponsive piece of foam off with a beaut of an elbow drop.
Now what are some things that will make me say “That’s my boy!” with my future son? How bout this list for starters:
Wearing a baseball cap.
Throwing a ball, any ball, hard.
Flirting with the pretty girls.
Catching fish.
Shooting a gun.
Climbing a tree.
Making something on wheels go fast.
Respecting his elders, and women.
Working in the garage.

Make no mistake, this isn’t a list of expectations. It’s more just a short list of memories, times that I remember of my childhood and things that I relate to being a man. Because at the end of every day he’ll always be my boy and for that, no matter what he does, I’ll always be grateful.

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