Parenthood: A World of Pleasure and Pain (and Prayer)
Last week Dean was suffering some pain and discomfort, as it turns out he had a molar pushing through in the back of his mouth. In addition to the pain in the mouth there are a handful of other side effects correlated with this occurrence; sometimes fever,diarrhea, loss of appetite, and inability to chew food if you have an appetite. Dean was uncomfortable. He could not eat and had trouble sleeping. In the night he woke several times. I rushed to his aid. His shirt was covered with a mixture of saliva and tears, he cried inconsolably. As I tried to pull him close to comfort him, he pushed me away. No words or actions could break his tears. The Children's Motrin had been given to him before he went to bed, so he could not get any more medicine until morning.
When things like this happen I do my best to help Dean (or Grant), but more importantly I try to put it all in perspective. When Dean was an infant he cried a good deal, if I recall he cried for the first three months nonstop. Everyone but the doctors said he had colic. Putting a name to it made no difference, he was in pain, and it was hard to contend with. When we were going through this period with our first child for the most part I did not sweat it. Firstly, it was my first child and I had nothing to compare it to, so I thought that Dean's behavior was par for the course. But more predominant was the fact that my baby's tears and discomfort were slight in comparison to the other problems that a newborn may face. Lisa and I would be out to dinner and we would see a family with an autistic child, or a child with severe retardation....I would say a quick prayer for the family of that child and a quick thanks for the health of our family; after that I would say to Lisa, "so our baby cries."
This morning I called a friend of mine to see if he was back from his overseas adventures as a documentary film maker. He was back, but he had no time to chat. He was knee deep in a letter to a close friend whose baby is suffering severe brain damage from complications during the birth. His details were slight. The whole story effected me profoundly. Sadness overwhelmed me. I again gave thanks to the health and fitness of my family, for relatively easy births, healthy infancy, and for healthy futures. When I got back to the office I felt a need to contact this friend of a friend. He is my friend as well, but I by no means ever knew him well. On our infrequent encounters I always felt that he had a warm spirit, and I always found a special closeness to him. To contact him I went to his website to get his info. On his website I found a posting of the details of delivery and the complications. I wept openly at my computer station. Never for a second ashamed that I a 6'4" of 235 pounds could be caught crying at my desk. I am not ashamed of my emotions or how I responded to the news/information.
I called; no answer; so I left a message. Then I opted for the written word; rather than sending an email I chose to send him a note via the US Mail. When I went for something to write on I found a birth announcement for my second son Grant. A debate raced through my head about the appropriateness of this being used to send as my message. The message was coming from a father and a friend, and I thought that if the message was from the heart that there would be no misunderstanding of my intentions.
No need for me to recount the words I shared with this man and his family. The message was no more than a few paragraphs, yet it took two postcards to cover my point. I cried big round tear drops as I wrote, I was careful not to let those big salty tears drop and drench the postcard. Then I took a walk to the post office to mail the letters. After going to the post office I grabbed a piece of fruit at the corner hot dog stand when asked how I was doing I shared this sad news with the man who operates the stand. He is also a father and immediately shared my sorrow, he offered to pray for this baby and its family. I too prayed.
Now, don't get me wrong. I am not religious. Perhaps a tad spiritual, but not religious in the least. For years I had a pact with god, I would not go into his house and he did not come into mine (okay that is a joke, every time I say it I fear a lightning bolt is going to shoot through the clear blue skies and strike me dead on the spot.) But as I got older and wiser I came to feel that there has to be something other than this world. Or at least something to hope for like a dollar lotto ticket and all the dreams it holds, or prayer (if there is a god) is a cheap form of insurance. Then as a father to be I found myself praying more and more often, never going to church, not even ever considering it, but praying. Prayning, praying not just for my wife to have a happy and healthy pregnancy, but praying and giving thanks. Giving thanks for the birds and the flowers, and for creating the woods for me to walk my dogs and ride my bike. It is all very odd and very confusing.
Oh, and I definitely thanked god for giving man the power of free thought and creativity.