By Frank Lowe
Originally published on Advocate.com June 12 2014 12:00 PM ET
June 9, 2009: I was lying on my couch in the middle of the day, depressed. We had moved across the country from Chicago to Connecticut a year and a half earlier and hadn’t made any real connections yet. We had to start completely over with the adoption process we began in Chicago, and it felt like we were never going to get our child. On this day, we had been on the official adoption list in Connecticut for six weeks. Then I received a phone call that would forever change my life. It was our adoption counselor telling us that we had been selected as adoptive parents.
June 11, 2009: We met the birth mother, a young girl who was shy at first but clearly wise beyond her years. It was at a small diner on the side of the highway, and I had never been more nervous in my life. The meeting went great, and we left excited and scared because her due date was approaching within the next couple of weeks. We were also afraid she might change her mind.
June 18, 2009: She didn’t change her mind, and our beautiful son, Briggs, was born at 10:30 p.m. It was a long day of labor and a very educational, eye-opening experience for us. We were extremely fortunate that his birth mother wanted us to be in the room to witness his birth. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a smooth birth, and he was considered a rough start. She was crowning for a very long time, and as a result he wasn’t breathing when he came out. They rushed him away and we spent the night sleepless and nervous abouy his health. There were countless talks with doctors and nurses, and no one could give us a solid answer as to whether or not he would be OK.
June 19, 2009: The nurses came into our room and said he was doing better and that we could feed him! Overjoyed, we went into the nursery and were able to hold and feed our son for the first time. I can remember every second of that moment, and all of the feelings I was feeling are comparable to a high. It was the proudest moment of my existence. He would spend the rest of the day with us at the hospital, and the nurses began teaching us how to care for him. We had a tearful goodbye with the birth mother and she filled in his birth certificate with our names as his parents. It was all very overwhelming.
June 20, 2009: Still at the hospital, we were told he was jaundiced. This is very common with babies, and it just means that he had an excess of bilirubin in his blood. He would need light treatment at the hospital to cure him within a week. It didn’t really faze us, and we knew it was something he would get through fine. This day was full of firsts. First bath, first nap together, and first poop. We actually slept well that night, feeling elated to be new fathers.
Father’s Day – June 21, 2009: I woke up at 7 a.m. in the room, all by myself. I assumed my husband was out with Briggs, perhaps in the nursery talking to other parents. I was so happy to be a new dad in time for Father’s Day! My phone was exploding with messages, and I only had time to read a couple. The nurse realized I was awake and came in to get me. And then she told me the worst thing I had ever heard in my life: “In the early hours of the morning, your son starting having seizures and is intensive care right now.” It was heartbreaking and surreal. I asked where he was, threw on some clothes, and rushed to him. My spouse was in there, and he looked pale as a ghost. Briggs was on a large exam table hooked up to many machines and was still having periodic seizures. I will never forget the image of him shaking uncontrollably and staring at me directly in the eyes, even though he couldn’t technically see yet. He had a look of panic on his face, and seeing that on a newborn infant was traumatizing. I’ve never felt so helpless. My son was sick and needed help. All morning we had to make decisions, and eventually he had to be moved to a NICU (newborn intensive care unit) at another hospital. My spouse and I could barely talk to each other. Briggs seemed so perfectly healthy besides the jaundice. We confirmed with the adoption agency that there wasn’t a history of drinking or drugs with the birth mother (there wasn’t). Apparently this was a result of his rough start. The lack of breathing caused a shortage of oxygen to his brain and caused him to have the seizures.
We didn’t know whether or not he was going to make it.
We spent the remainder of the day at the NIC, and couldn’t get a straight answer out of anyone when asking if he was going to be OK. He had to get awful tests, such as a spinal tap, and all we could do was sit there and be there for him in our best capacity. I cried so much that I was dehydrated and started dry heaving. It was hell on earth.
At one point, I took a moment’s break and looked at my phone. I saw a million Father’s Day messages that felt like daggers to my heart. We spent the night unclear as to what his fate was going to be, and his seizures didn’t stop.
June 22–June 27, 2009: It was a terrible week, but things did turn around. Both my spouse and I were running on zero sleep, and while the seizures slowed down, there was still uncertainty. His jaundice cleared up considerably, so that was about the only good news. Toward the end of the week we were told that the seizure medication was working and he would be able to come home with us! We would have to give him this medicine for a few months and have a nurse come check on him every few days. Nothing in the world felt better than bringing him home and seeing him sleep in his crib for the first time.
Over the next few months, the seizures stopped completely, thanks to his medication. He slept more than other babies, but his waking moments were precious. Eventually he came off of the seizure medication and since then has not experienced any. He has not shown any real developmental delays, save a slight speech delay. He is excelling in school and is performing exactly as he should. One day I will sit down with him and tell him all about what happened the week after he was born. Until then, I’ve put that awful Father’s Day into a mental drawer and shut it. I thank you for listening to my story and am happy to get it out and share it with all of you.
FRANK LOWE is The Advocate’s parenting writer. Follow Frank on Twitter @GayAtHomeDad and on Instagram at gayathomedad.