When I woke up the following morning, I went downstairs and found Dad and Pop taking their suitcases out to the car.
“Would you like me to fix breakfast for you before you leave?”
“No, we’ve decided to stop and pick up a couple of breakfast sandwiches and coffee somewhere along the way,” answered Dad.
“Are you sure?I wouldn’t mind making something for you.”
“We felt a stop about halfway there would be a good break and we’ll change drivers after we eat,” added Pop.
“Ok, just drive safely and call when you get there.”
“Yes, Mom, we will,” teased Pop.
“Why have you been calling both Brandon and me Mom?You did that to Brandon last night as well.”
“It’s because you two worry like a couple of old mother hens.”He hesitated before he spoke again.“I can see how you might interpret my comment differently now, but I assure you there wasn’t any offense intended behind what I said.”
“That’s ok.I’ll admit that Brandon and I both seem to take on the motherly roles in our marriages.”
“You are both very nurturing and that’s admirable.However, I guess I’ll have to watch how I say things from now on.”
“No, it’s ok and we still love you.”
After they took off, I made a pot of coffee before Dion, Danny, and Brandon came down to join me, and then we had breakfast together before Danny and Brandon left for the health center.
“Damn, I forgot that Brandon worked a half day on Saturday,” I said, “so we’ll have to wait and go to the hospital during the afternoon visiting hours in order to see TJ.”
“That’s fine and we’ll just have to control our curiosity about him for a little while longer,” stated Dion.
When the boys came downstairs a short time later, Wyatt looked surprised to see us.
“I thought you was gonna go visit TJ.”
“We are, but we’ll have to wait until Uncle Brandon gets here, because we don’t want to leave you boys alone.We’ll go to see TJ this afternoon instead.”
“Can’t Noah or Elliot watch us?”
“Yes, they probably could, but they haven’t come downstairs yet, so we haven’t been able to ask them.We’d like to do that first so we can make sure they don’t have other plans and are willing to do this for us.”
“Ok, so do you want me to go wake them up?”
“No, we’ll wait and ask them when they come downstairs.”
While we were waiting for that to happen, the younger boys talked Ryan into making French toast this morning, along with sausage links, and while they were eating Elliot and Ian also came downstairs.
“Poppy wants to know if you’ll watch us so he and Daddy can go to the hospital to see TJ,” blurted out Wyatt as soon as they reached the table.
“Good morning to you too,” grumbled Elliot.
“I’m sorry he’s so impatient,” I apologized.“Take your time to wake up and eat first, and then we’ll talk about this later.”
“No, it’s ok.We can stay with them if you want to go to the hospital.”
“Are you sure?I feel you kind of got bum rushed into doing this.”
“I’m not sure what that means, but it’s ok.Ian and I don’t plan on going anywhere until this afternoon.”
“Bum rushed means getting forced into doing something against your will, but if you don’t mind, this will really help us.”
“Nah, we don’t mind and it’s fine.”
“Ok.I’m not sure how long we’ll be there, but we intend to be back before lunch.”
“Take your time.We’ll take good care of the rugrats until you get back.”
“Hey, we’re not rats,” protested Hayden.
“It’s just an expression that refers to young kids.It doesn’t mean you’re actually rats,” replied Ian, and this seemed to placate Hayden.
“Thank you for doing this and we’ll go change now, because we really want to spend some time with TJ,” confirmed Dion.“We want to let him know there are people who care about him and can’t wait to bring him home.”
“I know, and I think it’s great you’re doing this, so get going,” urged Elliot.
Dion and I hurried upstairs to change, and then we took off for the hospital.I think we were both a bundle of nerves as Dion drove us there, because we were wondering what TJ was going to look like and what the nurses would have to tell us about him.When Dion pulled into the visitor parking lot, he’d barely shut off the engine before both of us hurriedly opened our doors, hopped out, and started walking, almost jogging, toward the main entrance.I guess you could say we were both more than a little eager to get to the neonatal ICU.
Danny had told us how to get there, so we didn’t have to make any stops along the way until we reached the NICU nurses’ station and announced who we were.
“We’d like to spend some time with our new son,” Dion told the nurse.
“We were informed that you’d be coming by and I think it’s great that you’re doing this.The little guy has had a rough time already and I’m sure he’s going to have a few problems to deal with as he’s growing up, so it’s nice to know you two will be there to help him deal with those situations.”
“We’ll do our best,” I concurred.“Our brother is Dr. Daniel Currie and he’s warned us about the potential problems, but how bad do you think they’ll be?”
“We’re not sure.At first, we weren’t certain if his mother had been taking the OxyContin throughout her pregnancy, or if she was able to stop once she found out she was going to have a baby.When checking her medical records, we discovered she originally got hooked on the drug when she had severe back pains after an accident.We were just hoping that she’d either cut back or got off of them completely before she gave birth.”
“So, did that happen?” asked Dion.
“No, the toxicology report from her autopsy showed that the level of the drug in her system was still very high.”
“Does it mean he’s going to have all those problems then?”
“We’re not sure how severe his problems will be and which ones he’ll have to deal with, but he had a rough time going through withdrawal the first few weeks.”
“What do you mean?”
“During the first 72 hours, he ran a very high fever that we had trouble breaking, his body trembled incessantly, and he had a terrible rash.He also had severe diarrhea and suffered a couple of seizures, and he cried incessantly.It was a very high-pitched cry that disturbed the other babies in the NICU.Hearing the pain in those fitful wails made my heart break for him.”
“So, is he better now?” I asked.
“The fever is under control and he hasn’t had a seizure for a couple of weeks now.I’m sure that was due to the agony of withdrawal, but he doesn’t cry nearly as often now.His skin is still blotchy, another side-effect of addiction, but we’re convinced that will clear up eventually.”
“We’re both glad to hear that, but we’re prepared to deal with any problems he might still experience.”
“It’s wonderful that you feel this way.God surely has a special place in heaven for people like you.You’ll have to take a few precautions before you go in to see him, though, because we want to protect the little guy as much as we can, so follow me.”
She then took us to an area where we were told to remove any watches or bracelets from our wrists, wash our hands and arms up to the elbows, and then we were given gowns and masks to wear.Once we were ready, she led us out to the incubator.
“We’re going to call him TJ,” I blurted out when we first saw him.
“Then I’ll make a sticker with his name on it and place it on the incubator.The nursing staff will be thrilled that they’ll be able to use his name while taking care for him.”She then bent down and whispered something to our son.“Little TJ Currie, these are your daddies and they’re going to spend some time with you.Just don’t be too rough on them.”
“He’s so small,” gasped Dion.“We could probably use the shoebox I just got my new pair of Sketchers in as his crib.”
“Yes, he is much smaller than a normal newborn,” she agreed.
“How much does he weigh?”
“He weighed 3 pounds 2 ounces (1.42 kg) at birth, but then he lost a bit of weight as he fought through the worst part of withdrawal and it fell to 2 pounds 8 ounces (1.13 kg).He’s gained some of it back and currently weighs an even 3 pounds (1.36 kg), but he still has a way to go.”
“Damn, I weighed 7 pounds 2 ounces (3.23 kg) when I was born,” I stated.
“And I weighed 6 pounds 7 ounces (2.92 kg),” added Dion, “and Joshie and Wyatt weighed about the same.”
“Yes, but I suspect you were all full term and TJ was a couple months short of that.”
“Damn!We’ve raised two sons already, and we’ve handled babies before, but TJ is so tiny that I’m not sure if I have the confidence to pick him up,” continued Dion.“He looks so fragile that I’m worried I’ll harm him or he might break.”
“Don’t worry, because that won’t happen if you’re careful.He should be closer to normal size and weight by the time he’s ready to go home.”
“When might that be?” I followed.
“We’ll want him to weigh between 4 to 5 pounds (1.81 to 2.27 kg) before he’s discharged, preferably at the upper end of that range, so it will be a while yet.”
“Damn, that means it will probably be weeks before we can take him home,” muttered Dion.
“In a way that might be a good thing, though,” I reasoned.“We might feel more comfortable holding him when he weighs a little more.”
“I’m sure you’ll find a way to manage when you eventually get a chance to hold your son,” countered the nurse, “as long as you’re careful and don’t dislodge the IV tube.”
“What IV tube?” I asked.“I saw the IV stand next to the incubator, but I didn’t notice any tubes hooked to his body, other than the one in his nose that I presume is there to provide oxygen.”
“The IV tube enters the incubator on the other side and runs under his cap, since we had to use a vein in his scalp.”
“Why in the hell would you do that?” asked Dion in a louder than normal voice.
“We’d typically use a vein in the baby’s hand or foot, but TJ’s veins are so tiny that we couldn’t use them.The veins in the scalp are larger and easier to work with and that’s what we use in difficult situations.”
“What’s in the IV?” I wanted to know.
“It contains fluids, nutrients, antibiotics, and the medications to help lessen the severity of his withdrawal symptoms.”
“Damn, that’s a lot of different things in the IV and it makes me even more hesitant about holding him,” added Dion.
“Don’t worry, you’ll do fine when the time comes, and when that happens one of the nurses will be happy to stay with you and explain everything you’ll need to know in order to keep him safe.In the meantime, however, you’ll be able to reach inside the openings in the incubator and give him a little hug if you want, just not too hard.”
“Is it also permissible for me to take photos of him?” I asked. “I hope so, because our other sons want to see him as well?”
“Yes, but wait and do it when you’re getting ready to leave, otherwise you’ll have to wash up again before you touch him.”
“Ok.Thank you for your help.”
As she stated, there were two openings in the incubator on each side that we could reach through to touch TJ.We stayed away from the far side of the incubator, because of the IV, and even though TJ appeared to be sleeping, we decided to do this.I reached through the opening nearest his head and stroked his hand and arm, while Dion reached through the other opening and started to massage his leg and foot.
“Hello, little TJ.I’m your poppy,” I began.I wasn’t sure if he could hear me, since I thought he was sleeping, but I was positive he wouldn’t understand what I was saying, even if he was awake.“The guy touching your foot is your daddy, and we wanted to say hello and let you know we love you and can’t wait to take you home with us.”
I kept my voice low, soft, sweet, and steady to assure him that I cared about him, and then Dion did the same thing.
“Yes, we love you very much and we can’t wait to take you home to meet your brothers, but that won’t happen for a while yet.You’ll have to get stronger first, and then we’ll be able to take you home to meet the rest of the family.”
We continued to stroke his limbs, and even though the nurse had told us we could hug him without picking him up, we were reluctant to do it just yet.As embarrassing as this might sound, we were intimidated by our tiny son, because he looked so fragile lying in the incubator.
TJ was wearing a disposable diaper and had a stocking cap on his head, and as mentioned earlier, there was a tube taped to his nose. He also had a small device taped to his chest, which we assumed was there to monitor his vital signs, and there was a plastic hospital identification tag wrapped around his leg. Dion avoided touching that, though, because he was afraid he might cause it to cut into TJ’s delicate skin, but we both continued our contact with his hand and foot while we talked to him in the sweetest voices possible.
At one point, TJ opened his eyes, but we weren’t sure if he could actually see us, since we weren’t sure if his eyes could focus yet.However, it was an indication that he was acknowledging our voices and gentle touches, and that pleased us immensely, so we continued.
Dion and I changed positions at one point, so Dion could touch his arm and hand while I stroked his leg and foot, and we totally lost track of how much time was passing by.It didn’t even dawn on us until a nurse came in carrying a diaper and a bottle.
“I’m sorry to disturb you, but it’s that time,” she announced.
“Oh, yeah, and that’s fine, because we should be going anyway,” I replied.
“You don’t have to leave and can even help to feed him, if you’d like.”
“No, we’re not ready to do that yet, and we have to get home to our other sons,” responded Dion.“Speaking of them, I thought those two were small when I first held them, but TJ is even smaller, and his tiny size has us both a little unnerved and intimidated.”
“You’ll get over that,” she said, and we could tell she was smiling under her mask.
“We just want to take a few photos of him before we leave, so we can show them to our other sons.”
“You can do that before I get started then,” she agreed, so I reached under the gown I was wearing and retrieved my phone.I then took a short video of TJ, along with several snapshots of him, and then I bent down and spoke.
“We’ll be back a little later, TJ, and we both want you to know we love you.”
“Yes, we do,” added Dion, “so rest up and we’ll be back to see you in a couple of hours.”
Dion and I then walked back to the preparation area and removed our gowns and masks.We then left the NICU, but not before thanking the nursing staff.When we got to the car and were in our seats, we just sat there for a few minutes and collected our thoughts.
“It seemed as if he knew we were there and was reacting to us,” said Dion before he started the car.
“Yes, he opened his eyes while we were talking to him, but I’m not sure if he was responding to our voices or the fact that we were touching him.”
“I’m not sure what he was reacting to either, but it seemed that he knew we were there, because he opened his eyes again when we stopped doing those things.”
“That’s right; he did it while I was taking the video of him.It seemed as if he knew our voices were different than the nurses’ voices, and possibly our touches were different too, and he seemed to miss them when we stopped.”
We rode home mostly in silence as we considered the impact of our first visit, and as soon as we pulled into the driveway, Wyatt came bolting out of the door to greet us.
“What’s he like?” he squealed.
“Settle down and we’ll tell you and the others all about him and show you the photos I took, but give us a chance to get in the house first,” replied Dion.
Wyatt slowly turned around and walked ahead of us, and when we entered the house the others came charging into the foyer and gathered around us, all asking their own questions.
“Let’s go to the living room to do this,” I urged, “and we’ll show each of you the photos and the video we took of TJ.Sit on the floor and I’ll hold my phone out so each of you can see them.”
As we were doing this, the various photos elicited a bunch of comments.
“He looks really tiny,” said Wyatt.
“That’s because he was born early,” I replied.
“What’s the tube in his nose for?” asked Xander.
“It’s to help him breathe by giving him oxygen,” answered Dion.
“And what do they got taped to his chest?” followed Hayden.
“That’s a device to monitor his heart and breathing,” I replied.
“Does he have any hair on his head?” asked Hunter.
“We’re not sure, because he had that cap on his head the entire time we were there,” said Dion.
The mention of his head, however, reminded us about the IV, but since the tube wasn’t visible, we decided not to tell the boys about it.We continued to answer their questions, though, as we showed them the photos, and then we let them see the video.
“He opened his eyes,” gasped Tristan.
“Yes, he did that a few times,” I concurred.
“Oh, I thought he’d be sleepin’ all the time,” continued Tristan.
“He sleeps a lot, but there were times when he was awake,” replied Dion.“When he opened his eyes this time, he seemed to be reacting to the fact that we’d temporarily stopped talking and touching him.”
“He’s sooo cute,” said Ryan.
“Was I that tiny when you first saw me?” asked Joshie.
“No, because you were born at nine months, not seven months like TJ,” answered Dion.
We continued to answer their questions until Brandon arrived home, and then Dion and I offered to take him to the dining room, so we could give him a private showing of the photos and video.
“Would you rather wait so you can clean up and change first?” I asked.
“No, I’ll do that afterward, because I’m curious to see what TJ looks like.”
He had a few questions as well, but not nearly as many as the boys, and then he went upstairs to clean up before he ate lunch with us.As soon as we were done, he offered to watch the boys so we could go back to the hospital, so Dion and I thanked him and gratefully took advantage of his offer.
This visit was basically the same as the first one and we used the time to let TJ know he was loved and wanted.It almost seemed as if he was becoming used to us already, although we weren’t sure if that was possible, but it was a pleasant thought, nonetheless.
When we arrived home this time, we didn’t get the same frenzied welcome, except Holly asked to speak with us.We thought she wanted to talk to us about TJ, but she had something else on her mind.
“I didn’t know Grandpa Josh and Grandpa Jake weren’t going to be here tomorrow for my party,” she began.“If I’d known that, I wouldn’t have let you talk me into putting it off for so long.”
“I didn’t know it either,” I answered.“I assumed they’d be leaving late on Sunday or early on Monday, but it seems they wanted to take advantage of spending as much time as possible with Shannon and Nick.”
“Couldn’t they have gone a little later, so they could’ve been here for my party?”
“They purchased their tickets far in advance and might have had to wait until Tuesday to fly out if they tried to change them at such a late date.I’m sure the weekend flights to Atlanta are all booked up with people on vacation, and Monday is a travel day for businessmen, so they didn’t want to take the chance that those flights might be booked up as well.They left their present for you with me, though.”
“I wasn’t worried about the present, but I would have liked to have them here,”
“I know they would have liked to be here as well, but it just didn’t work out.”
“Ok, I guess I’ll survive.”
“I’m sure you will.Is Brittany coming?”
“Yes, she said she’d be here too.”
“Ok.We’re going to have a cookout and some of the other family members will be here as well.”
“Oh, ok.That sounds good.”
The rest of the day went fairly normally, and when we sent the boys upstairs to get ready for bed, Xander chose to shower and sleep with Hunter this time.Shortly after Danny, Brandon, Dion, and I said goodnight to them, Dad called to let us know that they’d arrived safely and were enjoying their time with Shannon and Nick.He also said that Shannon and Nick had a lot planned for them to do over the next few days, so we told them to have a good time and we’d see them again in a week.
And now, it’s off to bed for us as we look forward to seeing TJ again tomorrow.