I apologize up front for any of my steady readers. It has been nearly a month since I actually wrote something of my own instead of just sharing a post I came across. We have made the transition out of the NICU and back home as a complete family. Along with that huge transition, I also went back to work and immediately had to complete 10 online courses, and every aspect medical readiness they could hit me with. Let’s just leave it at my time has been prioritized lately, and writing has taken a back burner. I can’t promise that the tempo will necessarily get better in the coming months, but I will try to at least hop on here and sputter out some form of a post from time to time. But, if I don’t, well, hopefully the following paragraphs will help to enlighten you as to why.
That’s how much my son weighed when he was taken from my wife’s womb. A tiny, shriveled thing that upon seeing him, you would think that his chances for survival would be none. He was a fighter from the first moment that the operating room lights shown upon him; punching a fist out of the incision before the doctors were ready to remove him. We often joked during his NICU stay that he was going to be walking out of there when he got discharged. Such a small beginning, made such a huge impact across the entire nation, if not globe. He has changed so many people’s lives that the repercussions are immeasurable.
Not even 2lbs.
When you imagine a singular thing that could change your life in such a way, you imagine it being slightly heavier or at least larger than that. Most sledgehammers are at least 5lbs. An average pistol at least makes it to the 2lbs mark. But despite his diminutive size, he (to steal a line from pop music) came in like a wrecking ball. Crashing into so many different worlds and smashing down walls everywhere.
We started with my wife working steadily, and my daughter in a solid routine at home. I, at the time, was attending a leadership school in Georgia to further my career. My wife had plans to finish her bachelors degree and further her career as well. I had plans to attend the military mountaineering course and assault climbers course, as well as take over the sniper section after my return from Georgia. My daughter, well… she planned to play at the park I’m sure and to climb all over everything she possibly could. And that was our life. Of course, like everyone else in the world, we had every intent that our little bun in the oven would make it to 40 weeks of gestation. Little did we know that he had other plans.
If you read any of my previous posts, you’d know already that it was a scramble for me to get back to Alaska from Georgia and that I did in fact miss his birth despite my efforts. What I may not have touched on is that the military allowed me to take medical custody of my son and made the hospital my appointed place of duty. This came with no more oversight than a text message asking how things were going every couple weeks, and a visit from our Family Readiness Group Leader, who just happened to be an Air National Guard Major. And that was more than enough of dealing with work than I wanted at the time, though visits from Major Nicole became less about seeing her rank and more about how great of a person she was. All in all, between prepping for my course, missing a field op, going to the course, and then taking care of my son in the NICU, I was away from my position from early May until late October. About a week or two shy of half a year. Obviously, leaving in a state of limbo in the first place, then having a 6 month period of holding changes up is never anyone’s idea of a good time. Though I will say there has been a lot more understanding and zero animosity towards the whole thing, to which I am grateful for.
My daughter hadn’t turned two yet, and by the NICU rules, we weren’t allowed to take her to the room where my son was at. As you can imagine this posed a difficult situation on how we would go about taking care of both children when one of us would have had to stay out of the NICU with our daughter at all times. Luckily, our families came through for us and we were able to send her to stay with (alternatively) both sets of grandparents for the summer. Grandparents that had thought their days of changing diapers were over long ago. Grandparents that thought they were settling into a boring retirement only months before. Grandparents that thought wrong. Soon they were chasing our little spitfire all over the place and dealing with toddler tantrums. Climbing on playgrounds like they hadn’t since my wife and I were young. Having more fun with a 5 gallon bucket of water than they ever imagined possible. And catching frogs at the whim of a cute little girl that would barely hold them herself.
Being in the military and moving further and further away from our families doesn’t give them much opportunity to interact with our daughter (and now our son as well). Extended family gets even less interaction. During this time she was able to bounce from family function to family function and people were able to meet this amazing little girl that we had brought into the world, some for the first time ever. She was polite and sweet to everyone she met and many of our family members fell in love with her along the way. My dad made mention that he often received compliments about what a good girl she was and how well mannered. All of these people, family and otherwise, were all effected by getting to meet our wonderful daughter, which wouldn’t have happened without our one and a half pound son.
We (I) regularly frequented a local taco stand before all of this happened. It was ran by two guys, one a former bartender and the other was prior service Army. I brought in tons of business for these guys by making it a routine to go grab some tacos before hitting the rock wall. Usually anyone climbing with me would show up for tacos as well and were immediately hooked. I was such a frequent customer that they knew me by name and knew my order (and that’s why I like local businesses). So when they heard about the situation I was in, they started a fund for my family to help us get through our hard time. A substantial amount was donated by the community and it drummed up business for the duo as well, having one of their earliest sell-out days yet. All of these people were made aware of our little miracle child that day, some to the point that they were willing to help out a complete stranger in a charitable manner. To anyone reading this that participated that day, my family thanks you for your support and the kindness you have shown.
During our stay in the NICU, we interacted with A LOT of hospital staff. Nurses, techs, social workers, doctors, nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, dietitians, and more all had to see our son. I don’t think their were any that didn’t fall in love with our son. Around the NICU he was referred to as a little rock star. Apparently, he was one of the most sought after babies to have to the point that two of the nurses had an argument over who’s day it was to have him. Long after he ceased to be seen by the nurse practitioners, they were still following his progress, simply because they loved him so much. Other patients from the NICU even fell in love with him, and despite their own hardships would come to his room to see how he was doing. We even befriended an Alaskan Native girl that had a daughter in the NICU and now have a friendship that reaches to a place you can’t even drive to. We have friendships that now span the entirety of Alaska, which would be like saying the entire midwest of the lower 48 states, all because of 1LB and 8OZ.
We even set up a page where people could follow our son’s progress. We have over 1000 people that follow it. We have had numerous messages about how we have given others hope in their difficult situation, and how some people never realized that babies could be that small and survive. How we have given them so much awareness to multiple issues surrounding premature babies. We even had people we didn’t know band together to take on a group of individuals that were against circumcision that thought they would grand stand on my son’s page (by the way, there’s still an open invitation to any intactivists that would like to come express their ignorant view and hurtful comments towards parents to me in person instead of hiding behind a computer. Fuck you very thoroughly, intactivists). All of these 1000 plus people, most of which we don’t know, all effected by 1LB, 8OZ.
And finally, I come back around to our lives. Namely the professional side of our lives. My wife has since put in notice to her job. We can’t afford to chance our daughter being in day care and bringing a bug home to our son. We don’t want to risk an in-home nanny doing the same as well. She loves working. It gives her a sense of pride and individuality. Why go through nursing school to not use it? I support her working, but in this case, I have to support her decision to not work. Fortunately, her place of business was understanding of her needing to leave and even invited her back the other day for a going away party. She has made some good friends of her coworkers, and she will miss them. Hell, I might even miss a few of them. They have and will all be effected by 1LB and 8OZ.
As my son needs medical attention and appointments that can not be covered in the area where we reside, I will be submitting my paperwork for a compassionate reassignment this week. It has already been discussed with my command and they are on board with it, given the situation. Though that leaves a hole in our unit that was unexpected. There was much anticipation about the ideas and intent I had for the sniper section, not only from my unit, but adjacent units as well. My previous subordinates, as well as the potential ones I would have taken over were not happy about the news that I would be leaving and filling neither spot, though they understood why it needed to happen. Hopefully, within this next week I will find out where my next duty station may be. We have a wishlist, though, if you have ever dealt with the Army, they like to make their own plans that often don’t match up with anything you had planned. So we will see. But to all of the friends and military family I have made during my time here, you as well have been effected by one pound and eight ounces of a lovable baby boy.
Stay hidden; stay safe.