It was my turn to go to the hospital first today, so after I ate breakfast I grabbed several of the Disney themed children’s books from the play room before I took off for the hospital.When I reached the nurse’s station, the nurse saw what I was carrying and made a comment.
“If you’re going to read those to TJ, then you won’t be able to touch him afterward.”
“What if I wash my hands after I finish reading to him?Or better yet, do you have UV lights that I can use to disinfect the books?”
“We’ve been experimenting with UV light in the NICU, but to disinfect the books you’d have to do it to every page.I think it would be easier if you just used the UV light to disinfect your hands, front and back, after you finish reading to him.”
“Ok, I can do that too.”
“And it would probably be best to disinfect the book covers as well, so they don’t contaminate anything else they might come into contact with.”
“That’s fine, as long as I can take them in and read to TJ.”
“Why do you have so many books?”
“I thought maybe I could leave them somewhere, so I didn’t have to remember to bring them in each time I come here.”
“It would probably be easier if you just talked to him.”
“I know, but it’s hard to think of things to say to someone that young, so this will allow him to hear my voice as I read to him.”
“Ok, then let’s make this work.”
I spent the entire time reading to TJ, and on the way out I stopped to thank the nurse that I’d first spoken to about this.
“Thank you for helping me to solve this problem.”
“You’re welcome, and since you want to leave the books, I’ll have an aide use the UV light to sanitize each book, page by page.”
“That would be great and then maybe you could find a place to store them for me.”
“Yes, I can do that. I’ll find a place where you can pick them up after you wash up when you come in each time.”
“That sounds great.”
I handed her the books and left the hospital, and as soon as I arrived home, Dion was ready to leave and take his turn.I handed him the key to the SUV, gave him a kiss, and told him to take it easy, and then I went to see what was for lunch.
“We had hamburgers,” Ryan said when he saw me in the kitchen.“Do you want me to fix one for you?”
“Yes, thank you.That would be great.”
“Do you want French Fries too?”
“If it’s not too much trouble.”
“Nah, I’ll just toss those in the oven first, cuz they take longer.”
“Ok, then I’ll go say hello to the other boys while you’re doing that.Do you know where they are?”
“Yeah, the younger ones headed out to the tree house and Benny and Joshie went upstairs.”
“I don’t know why I asked, because I should have known where the younger boys would be.” I smirked as I left the kitchen.
After going out and checking in with the younger group, I went upstairs to say hello to Benny and Joshie.I also told them that I’d teach them how to do the laundry after I finished eating lunch, and then I headed downstairs again.
“You’re doing a fantastic job.This hamburger is nice and juicy,” I told Ryan.
“Thanks, but it’s just like you taught me.”
Benny and Joshie had come down to join me by the time I finished my meal, so I spent some time showing them how to sort the clothes first.I also instructed them about the various settings on each of the machines and explained when to use them, and then I had them put in the first load.I told them to call me when it was done so I could come out to see how they were doing with the next load.
After I finished doing that, I went out to the kitchen again and Ryan offered to help me when I was ready to prepare dinner.I told him I wouldn’t be doing that for a couple of hours, so he went to spend some time with Owen while I did a few other things, and this included checking up on Benny and Joshie.
By the time Ryan returned home, I was ready to start preparing dinner.I was planning on having Chicken Parmesan and mashed potatoes tonight and agreed to teach him how to do those things.We started with the potatoes first and I told him we were going to boil them with the skins on.
“Aren’t you gonna peel them?”
“We’ll do that after they’ve come to a boil.”
“Why not do it first?”
“It’s for two reasons.First, if you boil them with the skins on then you don’t lose the nutrients in the water, and second, they’re easier to peel afterward.”
“Oh, ok.I didn’t know that.”
After putting that pan on the stove, I started showing Ryan how we were going to prepare the chicken breasts.Since there are so many of us, he was able to watch me work on a couple of them first, and then I gave him a chance to do a couple on his own while I watched.Once he knew what he was doing, we did the rest of them together.
Shortly after we put those in the oven, the potatoes came to a boil. I drained the water from the pan first, and then ran cold water over the potatoes so they wouldn’t be too hot to handle.Then, we removed the skins and cut the potatoes into quarters before we mashed them.
“We’re going to use the hand potato mashers to do this,” I explained.
“Can’t we just use the mixer?”
“No, because using the mixer tends to give the mashed potatoes a gummy texture, so it’s better to mash them by hand.We’ll also use lots of butter and some warm milk in order to make them nice and creamy.”
“Should we add salt and pepper to them too?”
“We’ll do that for the bowl of potatoes for you boys, but your grandfathers are trying to limit their salt intake, so we won’t add anything to the bowl of potatoes for the grown ups.We’ll let them season the mashed potatoes to suit their own tastes.”
We also fixed sliced carrots as the vegetable, and I showed him how to steam them, once again so they didn’t lose any nutritional value.The others arrived home just as we were finishing up, so I asked Dion to call the boys in to wash up.When they were done and took their seats at the table, Ryan and I carried the food in and set the various items down before we sat down to join them.
“Ryan helped me with this tonight,” I announced as we were eating.
“Good job.It tastes great,” said Brandon first.
“Yeah, this is good,” chimed in Benny and Joshie, and soon the others were telling him the same thing.
While we were eating, Brandon asked Benny and Joshie what they thought about doing the laundry.
“It’s not too bad,” answered Benny.
“Yeah, and when school starts we should be able to do our homework in between the loads,” confirmed Joshie.
Brandon merely flashed them a satisfied smile, and then he turned toward me.“I’ll help clean up tonight so you can spend some time with your hubby.I’m sure you didn’t get to do much of that today, since you were taking turns spending time with TJ.”
“It’s true, we haven’t seen much of each other so far, but are you sure you want to do this?”
“Yes, you’ve done enough.”
Since I was free, Dion and I went to the living room, sat down, and got comfortable, and then Dion looked at me and spoke.
“When I first got to the hospital, one of the nurses was changing TJ, so I watched her as she handled him.During that time, I realized that if I was careful I could give TJ a hug, instead of just touching his hand and arm.After the nurse left, I reached into the incubator and placed my arm across his back and put my hand against his side, and gave him a little squeeze.It felt really nice.”
“I’m impressed, so maybe I’ll try doing that next time.”
“You should, because it’s a more intimate gesture and it made me feel closer to him.It was similar to what we did with the other boys when they were younger.I’m not sure, but I think TJ began to respond to it as well.”
“I think I felt him give a little sigh when I did it, but that might have just been my imagination.”
“Possibly, but I’m definitely going to try it tomorrow.”
“You should, because it was amazing how much closer I felt to TJ by carrying out that simple gesture.I think TJ felt the difference too, but it’s as far as I’m willing to go for now.”
“Why?Do you think he’s ready for us to do more?”
“I’m not sure, but when I asked the nurse if he was still going through withdrawal, she gave me a confusing and slightly contradictory response.She said he’d basically finished going through withdrawal before we first came to see him, although he continued to run a higher than normal temperature and still had runny stools.That’s why they were still giving him fluids through the IV to keep him hydrated and to supply him with the medications he still needed.”
“Does it mean he might come home sooner or not?”
“Probably not, because they still want to get his weight up first, but we might be able to start holding him in a week or two if he gains a few more ounces.”
“That’s encouraging, but a few more ounces aren’t going to have much of an effect.He’s still going to be tiny.”
“Yes, I know, and it’s why I said I wasn’t sure if I was ready to do more than just giving him a hug for now.”
“Ah, I’m beginning to understand what you mean.”
“The nurse said we both should start holding him as soon as possible, though, because skin-to-skin contact will be essential to his emotional development.Not only that, but holding him will be better than just giving him an occasional hug.She said he would feel our bare arms wrapped around his back when we held him, and his head would be touching ours, and that got me thinking about doing it, but he’s just so damn little.”
“I know, but you’ve already taken the first step by hugging him.”
“Yeah, and maybe you’re right, so I’ll keep thinking about doing it.”
“You know, Joshie’s birthday is in September and Wyatt’s is in October, so maybe we should start talking to them and planning ahead.”
“Yes, it will be August in a couple more days and school will be starting three weeks after that, so maybe we should talk to them now.This fall is going to be a very busy time for us, so we should do whatever we can to get some of these things taken care of now, before we get too busy.”
“Ok, let’s talk to Joshie this weekend and then we can talk to Wyatt the weekend after that.”
“Fine, and it sounds good to me.”
We ended our conversation when Danny arrived home, and then we spent some time chatting with him while Brandon was fixing his food.We left when the younger boys came inside to spend some time with Danny before getting ready for bed.
The next couple of days went pretty much the same, except that Dion and I took turns as to when we went to see TJ. Brandon arrived home a little later on Thursday, so Dion and I asked if anything was wrong.
“No, I just went over to Kevin’s pharmacy to pick up Xander’s medicine and got chatting with Kevin and Jeff. Jeff wanted to know how everyone was doing.”
“Damn, I always forget about Jeff,” Dion stated.
“I do as well.We should invite him to either Dad’s birthday party or to our Labor Day celebration,” I suggested.
“How about both?” offered Dion.
“That’s a great idea and I’ll make sure to tell Kevin about it the next time I stop there, so we don’t forget,” agreed Brandon, and then he called Xander out to the kitchen.
“I just picked up this medicine for you to take.You’ll do this every day before dinner and you’ll have to drink a half-glass of water with it.”
“Can’t I just drink enough to swallow the pill?” he asked in shock. “Drinkin’ that much water will make me pee more.”
“It might, but it’s what’s required.It says so on the label.Just keep drinking until it’s all gone and eventually these pills will make it so you don’t go so often.”
Brandon then handed him the pill and the half-full glass of water, and then he watched as Xander took the pill and drank the water.After Xander left, we all agreed to keep an eye on him for the rest of the night to see if there were any problems.
We didn’t notice any of the side effects that Danny had mentioned, which was a good start.Brandon said he would check with Xander over the following days to see if he was having any accidents or other difficulties.If Xander was, he’d inform Danny so he could determine if they needed to adjust the dosage.
On Friday evening when we called the boys in to eat, I noticed that Xander tripped and nearly fell, so I pulled him aside.
“Are you having some sort of difficulty?”
“Nah, it’s just that one of my shoes kinda stuck to the floor and made me lose my balance.”
“Are you sure that’s all it was?”
“Yeah, it just made me stumble a bit.”
Since he hadn’t fallen, I let it go for now, but I watched as he headed into the dining room and sat down.
When Danny arrived home later, Dion and I joined him at the table while he was waiting for Brandon to finish heating up the food.
“I’m not sure if this is a problem, but Xander nearly fell earlier when he was heading to the table to eat.I asked him if he was having difficulty and he told me the sole of his athletic shoe merely stuck to the floor momentarily and caused him to lose his balance.”
“That sounds innocent enough and I hope that’s all it was, so let’s just keep an eye on him.Brandon and you two should be able to do that over the weekend and hopefully he won’t have any other problems.Just let me know if you notice any other incidents.”
“We will,” Dion and I agreed,
On Saturday morning, Elliot and Ian agreed to watch the boys in the morning so Dion and I could go in to visit TJ together.It turned out to be a fairly normal visit and similar to our visits during the week, except we were both there this time.We took turns either singing or reading to TJ, and I think we kept the entire NICU entertained.
When we returned home, we discovered that Ryan had already fixed lunch for everyone, so we thanked him and sat down to eat with the others.After we finished the meal, we asked Joshie to go out on the front porch with us so we could chat.
“Did I do something wrong?” he asked while looking concerned.
“No, not at all,” I replied.“We just thought we’d take the opportunity to talk to you about your upcoming birthday.”
“But that’s more than a month away!”
“Yes, it is,” replied Dion, “so we’ll have plenty of time to plan for it.Do you want to have a party so you can invite some of your friends?”
“If I do, can I have it without you guys hanging around?”
“Absolutely not!” stated Dion adamantly.
“Come on.I’m going to be in high school this year.”
“And that’s what worries us.”
“It’s because we imagine you’ll want the party to be co-ed, and you and your friends might want to have booze and sex at the party.”
“I already have sex.”
“It doesn’t mean your friends do, and I don’t want to create any problems by allowing them to drink alcohol or have sex at a party we sponsored.”
“Don’t you trust me?”
“Yes, we do.We just don’t know if we can trust your friends,” I responded.
“Then trust me not to let that happen.”
“I’d like to, but I’m sure you’ll be having fun and won’t be able to keep an eye on what each of the others is doing.We’re afraid of what they might try to get away with and don’t think we can take that chance.”
“That sucks.Then let’s just have the family party.”
“Are you sure?” I asked.“You can still have a party with your friends.”
“No, I can’t, because you won’t let me have the kind of party that won’t make me look like a little kid or get my friends to make fun of me.”
“If they’re your friends then they shouldn’t make fun of you.”
“Trust me, that won’t stop them.”
“Joshie, do you drink beer or other types of booze when you’re not at home?” demanded Dion.
“No, but I know a few of my friends do sometimes.”
“And if you have a party like you want, then they’d either do it behind your back or con you and Benny into doing it with them.”
“Come on, you know us better than that.”
“And I also know what peer pressure can do.It often causes people to do things they wouldn’t otherwise consider.”
“Then the family party will be fine,” he mumbled and didn’t look happy about it.
“That’s your choice.Just think about what presents you might want and then give us a few ideas about what we can get you.You probably won’t get everything you want, but we’ll try to get you some of those items.”
Dion and I went to see TJ after we chatted with Joshie and basically did the same things as before.After we talked to TJ for a brief time, Dion sang him a lullaby and I recited a nursery rhyme when Dion was done.We were hoping TJ would begin to associate these activities with us as we continued to bond.
When we returned home, the younger boys were out in the tree house again, and when Joshie and Benny walked by we noticed that Joshie still didn’t look happy.Rather than focusing on him, we opted to watch Xander when the younger group came inside and we didn’t notice any other incidents.Brandon said he hadn’t noticed anything either and even watched out a window to make sure he wasn’t having problems climbing up the ladder to get to the tree house or while he was up there.When we were chatting with the boys later, we asked them how their day went and if anyone was having any problems, and they all said they were doing fine, so we took that as a good sign.
Shortly after we woke up on Sunday, we asked Brandon if he would be able to handle all of the boys at church, and his only concern was about fitting everyone into the SUV.That’s when Noah offered to help out, if we’d let him take our SUV.He said that way there would be enough room for everyone, including Becky and Revin, so we eventually agreed.Once that had been settled, Dion and I headed to the hospital to spend time with TJ.
We felt a little guilty about missing church, but we thought God would understand that we were using the time to visit our son.We both gave TJ a little hug when we first got there, and then we did the same things as the previous day.Just before we left, however, the nurse came in and asked a question.
“I hate to bother you, but I’m ready to take TJ out of the incubator so I can weigh him.I apologize for the interruption and you can spend more time with him after I’m done.”
“No, it’s perfectly all right, because we were just getting ready to leave,” I replied.“We’d love to stick around, though, so we can see how much weight he’s gained.”
“That will be fine.”
Once she picked him up, she carried him over to the digital infant scale and laid him down.The scale had a slightly curved top, with the sides upturned to keep him from rolling out, and we waited for her to tell us the results.
“Three pounds two ounces (1.42 kg),” she announced.
“Isn’t that what he weighed at birth?” Dion asked as she was placing TJ back in the incubator.
She looked at his chart and jotted down the weight before answering.“Yes, that means he’s up two ounces since you first came to see him, and that’s an encouraging sign.”
“That’s true, but it also means he has a lot more to gain before we can take him home.”
We both gave TJ another hug before we left, and then we drove over to the diner to see if the others were still there or if they’d finished eating already and had gone home.We were pleased when we saw both SUVs in the parking lot, so we stopped and went inside to join everyone else.
“We just ordered,” offered Brandon when he saw us, “so I’ll flag the server and have her add what you want to our tab.”
He didn’t need to signal to her, though, because she was already on her way over to the table.She must have noticed us when we walked in.
“I was wondering if you were going to make it,” she said as she approached the table.“They told me you guys were at the hospital with your new son, and Josh and Jake are on a trip.”
“They are, but they should be returning sometime today.Maybe they’ll be home by the time we get back.”
We then told her what we wanted and she went to place our order.Before long she was bringing the others their meals, and then ours arrived a couple of minutes later.
“So, how was TJ?” asked Brandon.
“He’s gained two ounces, so he’s back up to his birth weight.”
“That’s a good sign.”
“Yes, it is, but he still has a long way to go.”
“When will TJ be comin’ home?” asked Wyatt.
“It will be several more weeks and probably won’t happen before you boys go back to school.”
“It may suck for you, but he needs the time to grow and get better.”
Dad and Pop’s car wasn’t at the house when we got there, so they obviously weren’t home yet.When we went inside and after we’d changed, I watched as Joshie put another load of laundry in the washing machine.When that load was done, I checked the setting he used on the dryer before he started it.I also called Benny to put the next load into the washing machine, and then we waited for both machines to finish.
When the buzzer went off, I headed out to see how Joshie was doing as he folded the clothes, in order to make sure he wasn’t being careless.Whenever I didn’t like the way he was doing something, I would do it over so he could see what I wanted, and then I’d undo it so he could try again.I believe he thought I was just going to do it for him and leave it at that, so he wasn’t happy when I made him do it over.
It was just before dinner when we heard a car pull into the driveway, so we looked out the window to see who’d arrived.We immediately noticed it was Danny arriving home from work.
“You’re home earlier than usual tonight,” said Brandon as he greeted his hubby.
“Yes, it was a little easier today, but I also wanted to get home in time to welcome Dad and Pop back.”
“They’re not here yet.”
“That’s ok.I’m sure they’ll get here soon.”
He then went to wash up, and it was shortly after he returned when we heard another car outside.When we looked out the window, we saw it was Dad and Pop this time, so we told the boys to go out and help them carry their suitcases inside, along with whatever else they might have with them.Once they came into the house, we all went to the foyer to greet them.
“How was your trip?” asked Brandon.
“It was good, but tiring,” answered Pop.
“What did you do there?” queried Noah.
“We’ll tell you all about it tomorrow, but we just want to eat, shower, and go to bed as soon as possible.”
“I can appreciate that,” responded Danny.
“Yes, and it’s not a problem, because dinner is just about ready,” I said.“Go wash up and we’ll have it on the table by the time you get back.”
When they came out to join us, we all sat down to eat, and then Dad and Pop asked us about how things went while they were gone.We filled them in as best we could about the main points of our week, including how TJ was doing, and then they disappeared into their bedroom when the meal was over.
The rest of the evening was fairly uneventful and most of us sat around talking and relaxing, while the younger group headed out to the tree house again.We let them stay out there for a couple more hours, and then we called them in to shower and get ready for bed.Once they were all tucked in, the rest of us decided to turn in as well.