I've never been a light sleeper, but becoming a parent has changed that almost completely. The time before we hired the sleep consultant for Olivia had me constantly restless and wondering when she would stir next. Once we got her sleep trained, I then had to work through hearing phantom cries and having to check in on her until I eventually trusted that she was able to sleep alone through the night. Nowadays my sleep is disrupted by only a small number of things: occasional late night wake-ups by Olivia from coughing, bad dreams and noise from the late-night toddler advice program she does for NPR, or the chainsaw that my wife uses at her new night job as a lumberjack. In the almost 15 years we've been married, I don't think I've ever heard her snore this much. At least she looks good in flannel and her beard is filled in enough that it doesn't scratch me when we kiss.
One recent Friday night I woke up to the sounds of Olivia coughing for a prolonged period of time. I shot up, noted the time (3 a.m.) and looked over to see if Jodi had heard it too. She looked back at me through the mesh shield protecting her face, pointed to the headphones covering her ears, mouthed "Can't hear" and got back to fulfilling her lumber quota for that evening. I went out into our hallway and waited to see if Olivia would go back to sleep, at the same time wondering when the remnants of this cough would be gone for good. I hadn't heard anything for a few minutes and decided to head back to bed, but then I remembered that there was an episode of 'Ax-Men' being taped in there, so I decided to bunk on our living room couch and hopefully get some rest. About an hour or so later I awoke again to the sound of coughing, only this time it was followed up by Olivia singing the ABC song, Jodi checking in on her and my wondering what the next song on her playlist was going to be. The coughing came back again at 5 a.m., and that's when I decided I needed to do something to help her (and me) get any sleep.
I prepped a bottle, thinking that she could use something cool to soothe her throat after all this coughing, and went in. I picked her up from the crib, offered the bottle and sat holding her in the chair we have in her room. My plan was to try and soothe her to sleep while also keeping her upright, in case there was any kind of post-nasal drainage going on. After enough milk (I know milk is probably the last thing she needed to drink here, but sue me it was early and I was tired) she nuzzled into my shoulder to try and get some rest. Then she changed that position. Then she twisted, turned and repositioned over and over again. The idea of my getting any further sleep went out the window, so I just sat back and decided to let my chest and lap be used as a practice area for my daughter's gymnastics floor routine. I swear at one point I looked over and saw a burly, moustachio'd man cheering her on, but perhaps I was only hallucinating from lack of sleep.
At about 7:30 I woke up from a short nap to a sore neck and the sight of Olivia's sweet smile and big, blue eyes staring back at me. This is a moment I will remember for the rest of my life, for a few reasons. First, because lately I'm the last person she wants to see when she wakes up in the morning, so this was a welcome change. Her usual responses when I go in to wake her up are to either growl at me and push my hands away or to simply ask, "Where mama go?" Second, because this was one of the few father/daughter moments I've had so far where I felt connected to my child, and I was reminded that I loved her unconditionally and would do anything for her. Lastly, because I had to explain to her that those were, in fact, not pillows.
I prepped Olivia for the day and we headed into the living room to have breakfast and play with some toys. Jodi emerged from our bedroom an hour later, covered in sawdust, and asked how everyone was doing. I explained to her the events from that night, omitting my Bela Karolyi hallucination, and asked if she could watch baby girl for a while so I could nap. I got the ok, bundled myself under the covers and tried to clear my head to get some peaceful rest.
90 minutes later the dream I was having where Kate Upton and I were involved in a hot and heavy discussion about whether DC could ever catch up to Marvel in terms of superhero movies was disrupted by my beautiful bride. "I don't want to scare you, but I'm having chest pain, tingling in my arms and I'm about to call an ambulance to come get me." The last time Jodi woke me up in this fashion was when she was going into labor, and I reacted the same way: mild panic mixed with confusion and concern for my wife's well being. I threw on clothes and grilled her for more details while my mind raced through our options and wondered how William Shatner would narrate this whole ordeal. We don't have family near us, so leaving Olivia with someone was out of the question at such short notice. Did we call a car and all 3 of us go? Did Olivia and I follow behind the ambulance on our own? Did the hospital have a playground, episodes of Sesame Street playing on a loop and an endless supply of apple juice and goldsfish crackers to keep baby girl satisfied for however long we were going to be there?
Jodi didn't want to wait for a car, so she called 911. After she hung up, we discussed things further and decided that I would to stay home with Olivia until I heard back from Jodi at the hospital. It wasn't my first choice, and I hated the thought of her having to ride in an ambulance and sit in an E.R. all by herself, but we had few options available to us. Plus there's barely anything for an adult to do while passing the time at a hospital, so bringing a toddler along just didn't seem like a good idea. As we heard the sirens off in the distance I wondered whether we should even let Olivia see strange men enter our apartment, hook Jodi up to who knows what and potentially put her on a stretcher. Would she freak out and cry? Would she demand to be held by Jodi? Would she grow to have a strange attraction to EMS workers later in life? Would she develop a Nicholas Cage-like cadence and want to drive an ambulance for a living?
Jodi felt stable enough to meet them in the hallway and eventually went down into the ambulance with them. I watched from our window, wondering what they were going to find and praying that she was going to be ok, all while Olivia kept asking over and over again, "Where mama go?" The only thing I could do was try to remain calm, explain that her mama went bye-bye for a while and wait anxiously for Jodi to send me any bit of information. My phone, which was glued to my hand and at the ready, buzzed and chimed a minute later with a text: "vitals are ok and they're taking me to the nearest hospital." I breathed a small sigh of relief and hoped that the doctors at the hospital would find the same thing and send her home quickly.
I threw on an episode of Sesame Street to keep Olivia preoccupied while I stared at the wall and my mind raced with worry and doubt. What was causing my wife to feel this way? Was she actually having a heart attack? Was her rheumatoid arthritis doing something to cause this? Was she having a panic attack thinking about the intense, 6 minute long tracking shot in the episode of True Detective that we recently watched? Did we make the wrong call with letting Jodi go it alone so we wouldn't have to deal with any toddler issues at the hospital? What if she couldn't contact me at all and I'm left worrying even more about what was happening? I had to trust what we had decided upon in the heat of the moment and figure things out further once I heard from her.
Thankfully I heard back about 20 minutes later: the doctors found that her vitals were still stable, her EKG checked out fine and it was definitely NOT a heart attack. I breathed another sigh of relief and read her next text: "They're going to do a round of blood tests now, then another in...6 hours." I was overjoyed that my wife was going to be ok, but bummed that she would be spending the bulk of her day in a hospital E.R. trying to pass the time. We texted back and forth for a bit, and even though I kept asking if she wanted us to come be there with her she said she was ok. Her spirits were high, the phone on her battery was low and the television near her, which had no sound, was showing a program which consisted of nothing but adorable puppies frolicking. Thank you, Animal Planet, for being there to comfort my wife and take her mind off of things while I could not be there to do so.
While I could breathe a little easier knowing that my wife was mostly ok, I couldn't help but think about how unprepared I was for a situation like this. It wasn't just that we had no plan of action if an emergency came up, but also that I had ZERO idea about the state of our health insurance and how it would cover this. Sure, I knew that we were covered under what's offered at Jodi's job, but to what degree I could not say. What does it cover for ambulance rides? Emergency hospital visits? What if, god forbid, one of us dies suddenly? What the hell is our life insurance like? Why haven't we gotten off our asses and written wills? Who would get all of my video games and comic books if something happened to me? Would Olivia appreciate and cherish them, or sell them off to buy more Lego Duplo blocks? The uncertainty was TOO MUCH TO HANDLE.
As a child, teenager and college student, I relied on my parents to have things like health insurance taken care of because I had zero clue what they were about. These were adult things that I could rely on someone else to worry about while I focused on more important stuff like homework, a girlfriend and figuring out how to pull off the finishing moves in a game of Mortal Kombat. My wife and I got married young, and once again I relied on someone else (her) to handle those "adult" things because they weren't on my radar. The problem now is that not only am I an adult (I know, I know...technically I've been one for quite a while now) but I'm also a parent responsible for another life and her wellbeing both during and after my time on this planet. What, did I not mention that at some point I'll be relocating to Mars? Don't worry, I'll leave a forwarding address in case you need to get ahold of me. Just no junk mail, please.
In the end, both of Jodi's blood tests came back negative and she was released from the hospital without incident. She spoke to her rheumatologist about it, and there's a good chance that some of the cartilage in her chest became inflamed and caused the issue. The problem with RA is that this inflammation can be random, so while it has gone away it could return to that area or move somewhere else completely and cause a whole new problem. This event was a wakeup call for me to get my shit together and start thinking about these so-called "adult" things because they are important and necessary for me and my family, and it's up to me (us, really) to understand and take care of them. I recently went to a 401K meeting at my job where a representative from Fidelity told us that, "It's up to you to control your financial future, because no one else is out there doing it for you." Truer words could not be spoken, and it really made me feel like I needed to get a grasp on that part of my life as well. He closed the meeting with this statement: "Think about how much time you spend planning a 2 week vacation for yourself. Now, think about how much time you've spent planning a 20 year retirement for yourself." If you need me, I'll be over in the corner hyperventilating about my future.