This morning as I drove to the hospital I thought for the very first time “Yay, I’m going to see my son Charlie where he happens to be living now!” Despite my endless gratitude for the incredible life-saving expertise of the staff of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, I admit that for the past 19 days every time I would spot the rising towers of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in the distance I would feel a dread in the pit of my stomach as if I were approaching my imprisoned loved one in the castle of the Wicked Witch of the West. Today I just felt glad to be going there and grateful that he was getting such exquisite care.
I had a particularly tough week emotionally which finally propelled me to reach out for some additional help. I’m seeing a new therapist on Monday and a doctor on Thursday to discuss the possibility of some temporary meds. I’ve never taken any anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications in my life but every professional I’ve spoken to has strongly agreed that this might be a good time to consider it. Maybe I shouldn’t announce that publicly. Will this kill any chance I might have to run for high office? (That’s a 1972-era McGovern/Eagleton joke that no one under 50 will understand!) It’s funny—there are days when I feel like this is all way too private to write about and other days where I feel compelled to do so—going through these difficult events is certainly nothing to be ashamed of.
Speaking of brain chemistries and disclosure, I alluded a few posts ago to Kendall being back in the hospital. She has encouraged me to come clean that she was in the mental health facility at Cedars. She had a very hard time after her initial release four days after delivering the twins. Between the the powerful meds they pumped into her to try to stop the contractions (none of which worked), the heavy dose of steroids they gave her to help develop the babies’ lungs (the steroids needed 48 hours to work but the babies came 45 minutes later), the grief over losing our son Oliver and the anxiety about Charlie’s condition, the hormones coursing through her system, the drugs given her during the emergency surgery, and many other factors, she ended up having her first manic episode in many years. Although Kendall had gone through several undiagnosed manic episodes in her twenties, this was the first time she was hospitalized and she faced her worst fear with amazing strength and courage. She spent nine days in the hospital and is now doing great work in the outpatient program. Kendall wanted me to mention what happened in order to give encouragement to people in similar circumstances who may be reading this and to urge them to get the help they need no matter how difficult it seems at the time. That’s the lesson I’ve finally learned for myself even though I don’t have a diagnosable condition like Kendall’s bipolar disease.
It’s fantastic having Kendall back at home and we’re starting to develop our new routines in our new post-trauma lives. I can’t wait to get back to work and have more and more moments of normalcy. It’s hard to believe that Charlie will be three weeks old on Monday. Our big meeting with the doctors this week went well. They don’t candy coat a thing in the NICU, which is as it should be, but we were thrilled to hear that Charlie’s chances of survival at this point are excellent. He’s recovering from his surgery and God-willing will have no other such incidents to put extra stress on his developing systems. We met with the neurologist who has been monitoring his brain bleeds and he again explained the range of possible disabilities that Charlie may be facing but they just don’t know yet what will happen. As his main doctor said, “sometimes the babies forget to read the textbooks to see how they’re supposed to behave.”
Kendall and I remain grateful for every kind word and act of compassion. An amazing woman that I only know through blogging (who lost her own son earlier this year and had spent a lot of time in the NICU) started a site to facilitate our neighbors’ offers to bring us meals two to three times a week. That has been so helpful. I’ve been reading every comment and email I’ve received but I admit I haven’t yet been able to crack the pile of cards we’ve received in the mail (Kendall has and I will) so for now please accept my thanks here and know that we so appreciate every single thought and prayer aimed in our direction.
Some people have asked about Charlie’s Hebrew name and that’s coming very soon (Oliver's, too), even though it won’t be accompanied by a bris just yet. Our rabbi will be coming with us to the NICU this week to officiate over that.
I have been so completely out of it for the past three weeks that I am in danger of losing my credentials as a crazy pop culture blogger who can write endless posts about everything from Julie Newmar to “The Waltons.” But don't worry (or maybe you should worry!), I’ll be back at it. For the first time in memory I have no idea what movies are out except for the new “Star Trek” which I’m dying to see. And I swear, as God is my witness, Charlie was doing the Vulcan salute with his little fingers when I saw him earlier which was based on the hand gesture used by the Jewish kohanim priests in ancient times.
Live long and prosper, kid!