Next, the staff weighed and measured him (8lbs. 6.6oz, 20.5”), and I fed him some infant formula. The drugs that Emily was given during her seizure would take 24 hours to clear her system, so we couldn’t exclusively breastfeed right away like we had planned. Plus, she would still be fully sedated for a couple hours to allow her body to recuperate.
You’ll remember the notes that Emily typed on my phone from her version of the story. She had woken up in the ICU, confused and in pain, and her head was foggy. After her third or fourth time asking why she had a seizure - and me starting to wonder if she had suffered some permanent damage - she finally understood that she had suffered eclampsia. Her first sight of our baby boy was of a photograph on my phone. I can’t imagine how strange that must have felt.
(A brief aside: I’ve always wondered this and now I have the answer... Yes, it is possible to know that your own baby isn’t cute. Enzo looked like an evil Mr. Magoo in his first photo. His eyes were squinty and beady at the same time, he had no hair on the top of his head, and his hands were claw-like and too big for his body. Thankfully that all passed and he has now claimed his rightful title as the cutest baby in the world.)
Emily and Enzo finally met face-to-face at 1:30 AM, three and a half hours after birth, and shared a few short and sweet naps together. Sue and I took turns sitting by their side that night while the other one slept in another room, a couple hours at a time, until the morning.
Emily’s condition slowly improved and some time that morning, the breathing tube was removed from her throat. Throughout that first day we had our families stop by for some visits and Emily was rolled from ICU up to Obstetrics for further observation, and finally to our private room just in time for night.
That room would end up being our home for nearly three days (which felt like 10), as the nurses and doctors kept a close eye on Emily’s blood pressure and Enzo’s weight. The room had plenty of sunlight, and the staff were caring and helpful. There, we learned how to swaddle Enzo properly, how to calm him down and squeeze in a workout at the same time by doing squats, how to begin feeding him the right way, and pretty much the entire hospital menu rotation. We also learned how many great friends we have, with many of them coming to visit while we were still there.
For Emily, it was a longer road to recovery than most new mothers get to travel. This is far from an exhaustive list because the details are really not my story to tell, but I will try to give you just an idea of what Emily went through during that time. There were blood tests several times daily and blood pressure checks every couple hours. For the first day, she couldn’t walk, swollen and in pain from head to toe, some parts quite severe. Eating was a challenge because her arms were badly bruised from the blood tests and IVs. Improper latching was causing breast pain (Enzo was a lazy eater for the first few weeks), and all this was on top of the usual painful parts of childbirth recovery, exacerbated by the use of forceps. Mentally, we worked together to piece together the memories Emily had of her labour, and she struggled to come to terms with missing out on the experience she was most looking forward to: those first moments with our new baby.
It was hard work for Emily, and I was amazed by her strength and perseverance. She was determined to get Enzo breastfeeding as soon as she could (it’s not as easy as you think, guys), and to build the relationship with him that we thought would just appear when he did. And just as I was there to support her, she never failed to reciprocate, asking frequently how I was doing, whether I needed a rest, and how I was coping with the trauma of watching her stop breathing on the delivery table. Many fathers in similar situations end up with panic attacks and other symptoms of PTSD, we were told. Thankfully, after retelling the story to friends and family enough times to fully understand how I feel about it, I am OK.
So what’s happened with Enzo since late-August?
Well, Enzo is now six months old. He is a matchstick - taller than 99% of babies his age and skinnier than a majority too, with a pretty big head. He likes to pull himself up to a standing position if you offer him your hands, and he’ll even do a little bit of walking (or dancing - it’s hard to tell) if you keep holding on. He’s learning to inch across the floor like a worm and we fear he will soon be crawling around to show us what needs to be baby-proofed. He loves when mommy reads him stories and he still hates going to sleep (the first few months were pretty painful - lots of crying and screaming), but he’s getting better at it.
He’s starting to eat some solid foods which makes for great mealtime entertainment, and he’s smiling and happy for most of every day. He loves going for walks, even in the cold, and his giggles are intoxicating. I make sure to tickle his neck with my face every single day because I just can’t get enough of them.
The most frequent comment about Enzo from strangers is, “he’s so alert/attentive!” A pharmacist we recently visited said she felt like he was listening in on her advice to mommy and judging whether or not she could be trusted. That’s my boy!