March 8, 2013 will be a day that I will never forget for as long as I live because I didn’t know if my daughter would survive the day.
As parents, we can’t escape SSPM (Scared Shitless Parenting Moments). Editor’s Note: I wish I could take credit for the acronym, but it came from one of my Mommy friends. For example, you feel your heart racing when Little Johnny turns blue as he chokes on a piece of food. You run around the mall like a raving lunatic searching for Little Suzy when she disappeared from your sight while you were shopping. SSPM can last for ten seconds, ten minutes, or ten hours, but you know when it happens to you.
Let’s be clear on something: I’m not talking about Little Johnny having the sniffles or Little Suzy breaking her arm at the playground. Those situations suck and they’re heartbreaking to witness, but we all know that they’ll survive. I’m talking about moments when you have no idea whether your kid is going to live or die.
It took me 25.5 months on the job as a dad, but I finally had my SSPM on Friday March 8, 2013. I’ll give you the high level overview of the timeline here.
On Thursday March 7, I flew home to California from the east coast after attending a business meeting. Unlike most people, it’s virtually impossible for me to sleep on planes, so it was a miserable 5.5 hours for me and all I could think about was getting home to my bed and seeing my wife and daughter again. When I finally made it home, it was so great to see my ladies – but something didn’t seem right about my daughter (I guess a “father’s intuition” exists after all). In any case, I read her customary bedtime story, sang her bedtime song and put her to sleep. Shortly afterwards, exhaustion overcame me and I passed out in bed.
Around 2:30 AM, I heard Little DDW making strange noises so I went into her room to check on her. She was clearly distressed and I noticed that she vomited in her bed. I wasn’t too concerned because kids are known to puke every now and then – so I cleaned her up and put her in bed with us. She fell asleep quickly, but 15 minutes later she started violently coughing and she vomited again.
This was strange. She fell asleep again, but MDW and I stayed awake to discuss a few things.
– What did she eat for dinner?
– Does she have a fever?
– Is this an allergic reaction?
While this was going on, Little DDW started coughing violently and this time she started crying. She rolled over on her side and coughed up/vomited something that wasn’t the same milky color as the previous versions. Once we turned on the lights we noticed it was blood.
I tried to hold her up, but she became limp.
I tried to talk to her, but she was unresponsive and drifted in and out of consciousness.
Welcome to my SSPM.
It was 3:30 AM and to make things even more “perfect,” this all happened on one of the three nights during the year that it was pouring rain in Los Angeles. Since my pregnant wife couldn’t move quickly enough for me, I scooped Little DDW up in her vomit-covered pajamas and rushed to her to the Emergency Room and told MDW to meet me there.
As I navigated down the wet roads I could hear my daughter whimpering in the backseat, “Daddy, help…daddy, help.”
My heart was completely broken, I felt helpless, and as ridiculous as it may sound to many of you – I felt like an utter failure as a father. Regardless, I had to pull myself together for the sake of my baby girl.
When I arrived to the Emergency Room holding a limp toddler covered in her own bloody vomit, I thought I was living a nightmare. Is my baby going to die? Am I overreacting to what is probably a very minor issue? I just didn’t know.
I’m not going to provide you with a minute-by-minute breakdown of the 10 hours we spent in the ER. All I’ll say is that my poor daughter was poked and prodded from 4:00 AM to 2:00 PM and it was absolutely horrible to witness. The end result is that she burst a blood vessel in her upper respiratory tract due to excessive coughing and that’s what caused all of this.
At the time of this posting, she’s still not 100% (cough and congestion is still present) – but overall she’s going to be fine and all is right in my world.
I learned a lot during my first SSPM and I’ll share them with you now.
#1 – You never know how strong you can be until being strong is your only option. With an extremely hormonal and emotional pregnant wife and a sick daughter, I had to be the rock they needed to get through this. I smiled when I felt like crying, and I said everything would be OK when I had no damn clue if everything would be OK. Trust me, the tears starting flowing once I actually knew everything would be OK, but until that point – there was no time for me to cry.
#2 – It’s never a good idea to be an asshole. It’s an even worse idea to be an asshole to the medical professionals responsible for ensuring you and/or your loved ones walk out of the hospital instead of being carted out of it. I was shocked by how many people in my particular ER didn’t follow this simple rule.
#3 – It was extremely annoying to receive props from doctors/nurses for being such a great dad for bringing my daughter to the Emergency Room. What kind of dude wouldn’t do this for his kids? Editor’s Note: The question is rhetorical. I know these deadbeats exist. We have to demand more from dads if being with a sick child is considered an “act of greatness.” Hell, I’d take your kid to the Emergency Room if he/she needed help, and I know many of you would do the same thing for me. As I’ve mentioned before, the bar must be raised.
#4 – This one may sound strange to some of you, but I documented every moment of that horrific hospital visit. Even before I became a dad, I would listen to parents say, “Wow, I can’t even remember what Little Johnny was like when he was two years old,” and I didn’t want that to happen for me. When my daughter gets older, I want to revisit every memorable moment of her childhood – the good and the not-so-good, because they grow up so damn fast. I already documented this event in her baby book and I know she’ll enjoy looking at it when she’s a teenager. Either that or we’ll have a blast showing her baby book to her High School friends just to embarrass the hell out of her.
#5 – People complain a lot, and I hope you’re one of those people who will take time to curb any unnecessary complaining. Hell yes, our kids are annoying, bratty, rude, and downright mean at times, but can we imagine our lives without them? Venting about our kids is cool. Whining and complaining about our kids is not cool. My brilliant twin brother wrote about the differences between venting and complaining here, and I highly suggest all of you read it.
#6 – Even though our ER visit had a happy ending, I want to recognize the fact that many do not. Unfortunately, children tragically die in Emergency Rooms all over the world, and my heart goes out to anyone who lost a child. I cannot imagine the heartache and I will not insult any of you by pretending to know what it’s like.
#7 – Celebrate life, daily. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just do it.
#8 – If you’re slacking on a life goal of any kind, get on it. You never know when it will be your time (or a loved one’s time) to go. A year from now you’re going to wish you started today.
#9– Kids are tougher than we give them credit for. As I curled up next to her in a cramped hospital bed, Little DDW wagged her finger at me as if to say, “Stop worrying, daddy! I got this!” Of course she was right. Children are ridiculously resilient.
#10 – I’m in awe of the outpouring of love. I have RDW (Readers Doin’ Work) who’ve known and loved me since I was in Elementary School, and I have others who may have just stumbled upon my blog in the past week or so. Either way, I’m humbled by the emails, texts, calls, and in-person visits I’ve received lately. Yes, there’s some evil in this world, but you guys remind me that there are way more great people than bad. I wish I could hug and thank all of you in person.
Even though it seems a hell of a lot longer, I’ve only been at this blogging thing for a little over 8 months – and those of you who have followed me from the beginning know me pretty well at this point. I’m not Superman, I’m not Mr. Perfect, and I’m not the Dad of the Year. I’m just a dude doing his best to keep my kid alive and happy by adding as much value as I can to her life. At the end of the day, isn’t that what we’re all trying to do?
I love you baby girl, and I’m so thankful that I can keep Doin’ Work for you.