Time really does fly.
They’ll be grown before you know it.
They grow like weeds.
Admittedly, I let these so called anecdotes flow in one ear and out the other. Only to discover now, nine months into parenthood, that everyone was right. Monet and I blinked our eyes, got a few intermittent nights of sleep, and woke up to Ariel scoot-crawling across the floor.
Another day or two, and both Ariel and Jaslyn were throwing out “Dada” and “Mama” left and right. David, while not quite mobile yet, is so big and solid that he’s no longer on the premature growth chart, and the girls aren’t far behind!
That said, we apologize for the 3PIPs being off the radar for the past few months. We got lost in the new parent shuffle and when I say time has flown, I mean that we’ve been moving at light speed since Christmas. It’s a little more complicated to keep the blog updated compared to Facebook and other social media platforms, but we nonetheless appreciate everyone keeping us in your thoughts, prayers, and bookmark list. Even now as I sneak a few minutes to get this post out, I’m holding Jaslyn while I type, Monet is giving David a nebulizer treatment, Ariel is pitching a fit because she’s tired of the activity walker, I probably should have flipped over the steak cooking in the kitchen about ten minutes ago, our dog Lebron went to bed early on a baby strike, and I’m the only actually watching the episode of Yo Gabba Gabba!(which is actually starting to grow on me. SAD!).
It’s been an incredibly challenging, busy, and action packed first nine months. It’s almost unreal to even consider that we’re closing in on one year so quickly. But we wouldn’t have been able to make it this far, let alone maintain the slightest bit of our sanity, without an outpouring of support from our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and our amazing family. Especially our awesome family!Thank you for checking in on us. We’ll be sure to keep the site update more frequently.
I mean just…wow.
Part of me wants to say, “Yeah, we get it now. This parenting gig is the real deal.” But the realization that we’re not even a full month into this immediately slaps some sense back into me and keeps my mouth shut.
I could prose on and on about all the metaphorical life lessons that come to mind throughout the day when diapers are full, bellies are empty, you’re running on fumes and it’s not even 9 AM. For those familiar with the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control), am I alone in feeling that most of those fruits aren't quite in season when it’s time for the 3AM feeding?
But then they suddenly stop screaming bloody murder and wobble their head over to lock eyes with you in the dim light of the early morning. And there’s this moment. A serene, peaceful, uncapturable moment. A quiet connection that embodies the thread from which life is intricately woven together connecting us all across time and space. A tiny frozen fragment of a moment, in the dead of the morning air while everyone around you for miles is deep in sleep, you revel in the fact that in your arms right now you are holding the very physical manifestation of your dreams and prayers. In this twilight, as you stare at one another, your souls intertwine in a manner that is wholly indescribable. Lost deep in each other’s eyes, the two of you just simply exist; you in theirs and they in yours.
Then they fart in your hand, and just like that you're snapped back to reality.
Maybe it’s just gas, you think. Perhaps it’s poo, you ponder. I mean, it smells like poop, so it must be right, you ask yourself. Do I really want to unzip the sleeper and undo 13 snap buttons on the onesie just to check and risk waking them up further? Do I try to play it off and pretend like none of this happened and leave it for my wife to discover?
I've got to go to work in 2 hours.
Keep praying for us!!!
Or 49 days.
Regardless of how you break it down, it was time for David to come home. It’s 2:30 AM and I’m being kept awake by a plethora of constant beeps, blips, and whistles of a thousand monitors. By now, I recognize them all by heart. A chime for an empty feeding tube notification, intermittent beeps for a dip in SpO2, and high pitched alarms for bradychardia (heart rates that dip below 60 BPM). You’d be amazed at what you pick up standing on the sidelines. So much in fact, that I’ve taken to providing incident reports on the other babies in David’s room when the nurses return from their lunch breaks. I may or may not have an honorary male nurse badge. Just saying.
As most of you already know, Ariel and Jaslyn have been home for several days now, while David was left behind, waiting for the green light. What we didn't initially disclose to everyone, was that shortly after birth David was affected by an intestinal issue that would require him to stop feeding for two weeks. As a result, he would have to relearn how to feed, how to take a bottle, and how to digest food all over again. While his sisters gained weight and mastered their bottle feeding, David - born heavier and larger than his sisters - fell behind.
And so here we are, at 49 days with David refusing to sleep on my chest and battling the hiccups. His discharge was delayed yet again after we initially believed that he would be going home on today (Friday, 9/30). Disappointed? Absolutely. But also encouraged. And content. And thankful.
Encouraged because what’s one more day when we've already conquered 49? I’m content, because there’s scarce a thing more valuable in this world than the health of your child. Thankful, that the hospital was not in a rush to push him out, leaving his mother and I to deal with these issues on our own.
Just yesterday, David and I watched on as one of his neighbors, almost half his size, was discharged to leave. While being much smaller physically than David, his vital signs were exceptional and he passed every exit test that the hospital placed him through. Before leaving, I prayed with the mother and the grandmother over our sons, for protection against this world that they will soon inherit and for continued good health. I would be lying if I said that a piece of my heart didn’t break at seeing that son leave before mine. But what’s another day, right?
Later that day, I returned to find the vacant spot in the room filled. Another day and another young life. We had new neighbors. As I stepped in, the pale hue of UV lights washed over the room and over my thoughts. This new baby was undergoing treatment to stave off jaundice, just like David did shortly after being born, 49 days ago. I had the pleasure of meeting his beautiful family, a friendly couple with older children. Over the course of the next 24 hours his dad and I (we’re now “Baby Bros”) traded stories and jokes. It might seem like a trivial thing, but that kind of friendship and kind interaction between parents in the long nights and mornings at the NICU is medicine for the soul. Our conversations kept my mind off the time as hours flew by and we still had not heard anything regarding David’s discharge. And he and his family were the first ones that I celebrated with when I finally got the doctor’s call and discharge notes.
We were so excited that I couldn’t stop for a moment and take the moment in fully while scrambling to leave the hospital as quickly as possible. But looking back now, 24 hours later, we couldn’t be more blessed. Healthy babies, loving nurses, attentive doctors, new friends; everyone that we encountered with over the past 2 months have played a part in this story that we’ll never forget. But I would be completely remiss if this chapter wasn’t closed off right.
Not so simply put, Thank you. To every loving nurse, every befriended mother and father, every caring physician, every praying member of the maintenance and cafeteria staff, and to every smiling greeter/security guard that recognized us day after day after day. Thank you for being a part of this story. You have our gratitude and gratefulness as we hope that you will one day see these words of appreciation. Thank you for each playing a part in helping us turn the page on this chapter .
Or 50 days later.
The Triplets are coming! The Triplets are coming!!
Like Christmas in September, we simply could not wait any longer for the day when we could unwrap and unplug our precious angels to take them home. Ariel Moriah surprised us all by being discharged first, this past Monday, 9/19. It was a rough couple of nights in the Payne household, with Mommy and Daddy both trying to go sleep just as the sun was coming up.
Jaslyn Monet was later discharged on Thursday, 9/23, and she wasted no time keeping her parents on their toes. A couple of bottles and soiled diapers later and her Daddy snuck away just enough to get this newsletter out!
The best news is, is that our trio is finally expected to be fully reunited on Sunday, when David L Payne IV makes his way back home to ensure that they'll be no more rest for the weary. We have tons of great new pictures, all of which you can view at A Peek at the Paynes.
See you soon!
Note: We cannot thank you all enough for the well wishes, blessings, prayers, and continued support of our family’s blog. It’s been a hectic two weeks following the birth of the trips’ on 8/12/16, and we’re still trying to catch up (i.e. sleep). Please bear with us, as we endeavor to keep the site updated on a more consistent basis.
The First 48
The plan was simple. Leave the office shortly after noon for a quick check up on the babies. We’d get a few “attaboys” from the Doctor for doing such a great job and wait patiently for his staff to complete the requisite paperwork, admitting us back into the hospital for the home stretch of this pregnancy.
As of Thursday, 8/11/16, we’d eclipsed 30 weeks, the 4th major timeline goal set by our specialist. While keeping the babies in utero for as long as possible would have been ideal, we were well aware that birthing multiples meant expecting the unexpected and planning for the unknown. Months prior, we began monitoring and adjusting Monet’s schedule as much as possible as her school year wound down, with the emphasis on transitioning from the 1st to 2nd trimesters sans incident. After getting through a few rough patches (where I unsuccessfully tried to force Monet into a pseudo bed rest campaign) we shifted priorities towards making it beyond 24 weeks. Through our research, we knew that infants born at 24 weeks or earlier show a markedly less survival rate than those born beyond, and so we trudged on with faith and caution as our travelling companions. Soon, that objective was completed and we raced towards our next checkpoint. Her belly continued to swell as we marked progress by small miracles; Monet feeling the constant movement of the triplets, discovering the times of day when they were most active, and seeing small flickers of movements beneath her skin. They were slowly, and surely, beginning to outgrow the only home that they have ever known.
If you recall, Monet was placed on hospital bed rest as the 25th week wound down; a conservative move to ensure that we progressed to 28 weeks. And so, with new hurdles on the horizon, we adjusted. Friends and family helped keep Monet’s spirits afloat during the week while I spent each weekend, Friday – Sunday, by her side. This approach worked so well that we were released shortly thereafter, to bed rest at home for weeks 28 – 29, with a follow-up on the 30th week to (most likely) be readmitted back to the hospital for the remainder of the pregnancy.
And so there we were in our specialist’s office, on the 30th week, receiving kudos and “attaboys” for how well the babies were doing. So well in fact, said our Doctor, that we were being sent home for more bed rest for the next couple of weeks, with a follow-up appointment in a week or two.
My heart dropped.
My face followed suit.
Now, those who know me are well aware of my inability to hide emotions on my face. My thoughts and true feelings are sometimes (i.e. ALWAYS) visible and, as such, I stay as far away from Poker as possible. Involuntarily, my face scrunched into contortion somewhere between confusion, disgust, and disbelief. I promise, Gary Coleman would have been proud of my non-verbals. And while what happened next may seem to be a little too perfect, I promise to you that I am not embellishing…
Our specialist looked over his glasses as we stared each other down for a few achingly long moments. His steely gaze hardened by years of practice and my...whatever it was I had on my face, stood at a stalemate. In the right corner, a highly respected and recommended dual board certified physician in Maternal-Fetal and OB/GYN with over 40 years of practicing experience. And in this corner, a stumpy, bald guy with 5 years of medical viewership to his credit (3 seasons of SCRUBS and 2 steamy seasons of GREY’s ANATOMY). Clearly at an impasse, his right hand signaled defeat as he made the first move! Maybe he was intrigued. Maybe he was curious to hear whatever foolishness I was clearly holding at bay. Regardless, he slowly took off his glasses and replied, “I take it from your look that you aren’t comfortable with that course of action.”
Here was my chance! I dove in headfirst to plead my case. I talked about how well we had done staying the course of the last few months, meeting each timeline goal. I spoke about how Monet responded extremely well to the bed rest at the hospital. I voiced concerns over living an hour away and having to utilize major roadways just to get to the hospital. How, if she did go into labor, the resulting C section would separate our family, as Monet would have to stay at whichever hospital we would manage to make it to while the babies would be transported to Orlando! I pulled out and reached for everything in my bag of tricks to drive home how much I felt that returning to the hospital was not only a good idea, but the best idea. In my innermost being, truly, I believed that this was the right move and the only move at this time.
And he listened. Our doctor listened patiently and earnestly while this rambling fool of a husband squawked on and on. He allowed me to cite reason after reason and unsubstantiated point after point. He entertained my inelegant conjecture, fueled only by paper thin “what ifs” and “maybes”. But he listened. And, all jokes aside, it took a special man to do so. We could, literally, talk about all of his professional credentials for days on end. We could wax poetically on and on about how his confidence, success, and years of study would render my input obsolete. But what made our doctor unique, was that he actually took the time to listen. Regardless of how unfounded, uneducated, or ill-informed my opinions may have been; He cared enough to listen. And, after carefully reviewing his notes, he agreed to readmit us into the hospital. No less than two hours later, Monet placed her feet up in the hospital bed and finally took a rest.
And 30 minutes later after that, her contractions began.
David, Ariel and Jaslyn born Friday, August 12th at 1:31, 1:32, and 1:33pm.
I remember darting out into oncoming traffic.
There were five of us in the car, myself and four friends from high school. Based on how fast I drove to the stadium, we were undoubtedly on our way to the best football game of our lives. This “Soul Bowl” was definitely not one to be missed and we were already teetering on the precipice of being more than fashionably late. And so, with five little black boys squished together shoulder to shoulder in my white Ford station wagon, we careened down the streets of Ft. Lauderdale.
The years have robbed my memories of why we were running so late that night, but the only thing standing between us and the opening kickoff, was a left turn into oncoming traffic. I distinctly recall not wanting to risk it, thinking it was too aggressive of a move for an old station wagon to handle. I remember being goaded on by my friends to stop being scared and just take it. And I remember when I’d heard enough and slammed my foot downward, propelling us headlong into traffic.
We never did see where the police came from, but they saw everything. Red and blue lights washed over my car in night air, accusing us with every intermittent flash.
I, in youthful naivete, proceeded to pull over immediately; into the dark section of an unused parking lot between the road and the stadium. No street lights. No stadium lights. No cameras. And so, five little black boys shoulder to shoulder in my station wagon, sat in the dark and waited as the two police officers approached.
Agitation and discontent were exchanged by us all, because now we’d surely be late thanks to me. And quickly, anger gave way to jokes because, after all, it was my car, my responsibility, and it would be my ticket. But someone, and I still don’t remember who, had the presence of mind to cut through all of the nonsense, reminding us to be calm and relaxed for the police. We rolled down both of the windows and proceeded to answer the officers’ questions as halogen lights darted back and forth inside the car looking for anything that could escalate this traffic stop into something greater. One of my friends, in particular, was beyond amused at this whole scene. He started laughing with a light chuckle, but it didn't end there. The more he tried to hold in his laughter, the more impossible the task seemed. You could literally hear him resisting the urge to burst into laughter out loud. I continued answering questions with flashlights blinding my eyes, but the commotion in the back seat drew too much attention from the officer on the driver’s side. Both the officer and I turned our attention to the back seat to see what was going on, only to see my friend now leaning forward with his chest to his knees and his arms not visible.
I, saw a friend doubling over in laughter. Unfortunately, I can't speak for what the officer saw from his perspective.
“SHOW ME YOUR HANDS! SHOW ME YOUR HANDS!” the officer screamed. As my eyes adjusted to no longer being focused on the flashlight, I saw just how little time that we had to react, if we had even considered the possibility of doing so. The officer’s firearm was drawn and aimed at my three friends in the back seat. My friend was now perched upright, his back flat against the seat and his hands in the air.
All the laughing had stopped.
I can tell you that no one in my car that night had ever been in trouble with the law before or since then. I can tell you that four of us graduated in the top 10% of our class. I can also tell you our friend who caught the giggles that night went on to serve his country with distinction as a military officer and graduate of West Point. But, consider for a moment, how differently our ordeal could have ended if just one more poor decision had been made that evening? Imagine how vastly different things could have transpired, if this took place in 2016 and not in 1999.
I don’t have any answers for what is plaguing our society now and neither will I offer opinions. I am a middle aged black man in the United States whose breath still quickens and hands tighten whenever I see an officer on the road. And despite having family members, in-laws, fraternity brothers, and friends who have all chosen careers in law enforcement, that tension never eases. I strive every day to live in a way that both observes and respects the laws of the country in which I abide. But always, without fail, there exists a small void in my innermost being. A void filled with the stories handed down from generation to generation. Cautionary tales of Boogeymen who lurk about our cities and streets looking for reasons to harass ethnic boys just for being minorities. This "Talk”, is always there. It sticks with you, never leaving your conscious mind and perpetually fueling our fears, paranoia, and awareness.
This “Talk” is a unique conversation between parents and young minority children (primarily boys), wherein specific instructions are given on what to do and how to respond when interacting with officers of the law. The specific details vary by region, familial experience, and demographic. The point, however, is always the same. You’re young, you’re a minority, you’re a target. This “Talk” may not be right. It may not be wrong. But it is real and it’s happening in households across America, especially given the events of the last few years. As a young man growing up in South Florida, my "Talk" referenced the horrors of harassment, receiving tickets, or wrongful detainment or imprisonment. But today...our young men see, hear and watch bodies fall lifelessly to the ground. They see an outcome of death stemming from innocuous everyday interactions. And as a result, their breath quickens. Their hands tightly grip the steering wheel. They too, come to realize that the "Talk" is indeed real.
There are so many questions. So many unanswered questions. And there are so many bodies. So many, many lives ended prematurely. As Monet and I await the arrival of our three miracles, I am wrought with terror thinking of the world that they're inheriting. My heart aches wondering how much and for how long they can be insulated from the reality that’s threatening to swallow our country up with each passing day, every passing incident, and all of the lives needlessly taken.
As I sit here, I cannot shake the beautiful smiles and bright, eager eyes of my three nephews. I think of their laughter, their joy, their innocence; and the day that it will all be taken from them when they hear the "Talk" for the first time. I think of my godson, knowing that someday all too soon, he will have to brave the same streets that his father and I did growing up. I ache to know whether our son and daughters will be afforded with the opportunity to walk away from mistakes as the five of us did that night, or if their first mistake be their lasting legacy? If they choose to serve their community as members of law enforcement, will they too have to fear the same community that they’re protecting? How soon and at what age should we sit them down to "Talk”; do we risk waiting until they’re older? Can we risk not having the discussion at all?
“We need to do something now. I would not suggest continuing on like this, as doing nothing will lead to bigger problems in the future. I have another patient of mine who did not listen. Her condition worsened and by the time she acted to do anything, she contracted Cervical Cancer. I know you think everything is ok now, but if you continue doing nothing, you’ll very likely develop cancer in that region as well. “
Monet and I had been married a little over 3 years at this point. We began infertility options with a couple of unsuccessful runs while still in Charlotte. After relocating to Florida one of our good friends placed us into contact with a Holistic practitioner and we began treatments there 1-2 times per month, travelling 2-3 hours to South Florida for 1 hr sessions. Aaannnddd after about a year or so of this, we found ourselves in the office of a highly recommended fertility specialist, just to see what our treatment options may be.
“You do understand that you’re risking cancer, correct?”
Here we were. Weary from the last couple of years of no’s, not quites, and almosts. Confident from the positive strides we achieved with our holistic treatments and hopeful that her body would test as ready to begin treatments. And here, where this highly recommended specialist was telling my tired, exhausted, and emotionally fragile wife that our decision to try the holistic approach to regulating her cycles was going to result in her developing cancer.
“Hell No.”, was all that I could muster out right after I slammed the driver’s side door shut.
“I don’t like him. I don’t appreciate the way that he spoke to you. I don’t appreciate scare tactics…”, I explained to Monet. “No. Absolutely not. We’re not doing this and we’re not doing it with him.”
I didn’t care who he was, what he could do, and who he did what for. My gut, my innermost being, my very spirit, stood in opposition to this man. I refused to proceed under a premise of fear and certainly not under his guidance. We came into the office as two, college educated professionals exposed and vulnerable, in need of a specialist care for what is often a very private and very embarrassing ordeal that can stretch on and on for years. And you sit there in our first meeting and tell my wife that she’s going to get cancer? Suffice to say we prepared ourselves to travel down another year of our holistic journey.
Monet looked at me across the room, her shoulders slightly sunken from the weight of another year without results. There wouldn’t be a debate this time. No questioning. No hopeful second or third alternatives. Almost a full year of being consistently on the run had taken its toll her. On us.
“I’m just…I’m just tired. Tired of driving. Tired of making you drive. Tired of all these trips and all these treatments. I’m just ready to try again. If we’re not ready by now then we’ll just figure it out. But I can’t do this anymore.”
She was, of course, suggesting that we stop our holistic treatments again and revisit the fertility clinic with Dr. YouGonGetCancer. I’d love to say that I pulled up my big bad manly husband britches and responded with a guttural sound of agreement. Or that, in this crucial moment, I opened my mouth and shared a timely and encouraging word from the Lord, Amazon Prime delivered from heaven to my lips. Truth be told, I think I only managed to get out an “Ok”. Because I was exhausted, too.
Imagine just running. Not in a race. Not in a 5K or on a treadmill. Just outside, feet hitting the pavement type running. There’s no clock, no competition, no finish line. Just running, that’s it. Can you feel the pressure of not knowing where you’re going or when you’ll get there? Does your chest tighten at the reality that there's no end in sight or the crushing fear that there might not even be an end at all? How do you rationalize continuing to run? How do you motivate yourself to keep doing what is clearly not yielding results; when all this damn running hasn’t led you anywhere that you haven’t already been? How do you find the strength to keep putting on a positive and supportive face, so your partner won’t see you slowly drowning under each rising tide of despair?
And so here we were, in the office of the highly recommended fertility specialist. Just to see what our treatment options may be. Exactly one year later.
Only this time, our conversation didn’t revolve around cancer. There was no judgment or “I knew you’d be back” comments. He spoke to Monet with care and compassion, taking the time to explain what procedures he might suggest based upon our background and records. There were smiles and a few jokes. There were firm handshakes. And for the first time in a while, there was hope.
I had an amazing 35th birthday. Monet completely spoiled me with my presents, my family drove into town for a dinner, and we finally made good on our promise to get this darn website off the ground. One point of contention with the blog that I was not looking forward to was returning back to Facebook, as I’ve not been very active over the last few years. But seeing all of the birthday wishes and truly happy responses to the babies’ announcement made me realize just how much of a hermit that I’d become. Yes, its only a few letters scrawled out that takes most people less than 5 seconds to write (and somewhere along the way “HBD” became a thing), but the point is that people do take the five seconds to acknowledge you. And I’d forgotten just how amazing that can feel. Even better, was seeing Monet beam with happiness over all the well wishes and congratulations posts from friends and old classmates. Her smile and excitement was easily the best gift this year… but my Amazon Echo is a close second.
Against my better judgment I took two days off this week and, finally with some free time, began looking back over the last few years. How we took on Abraham-like faith to pick up and move from our dream city in Charlotte, NC. How we cut the cord on both of our dream jobs and flung ourselves upon the waves of fate, choosing faith over comfort. How I still can’t reconcile how we were able to afford anything after the move and through the first year of being in our home. How we both came down and planted the roots that are now growing into a family of five. We also decided to stop over to the visit the office of the highly recommended fertility specialist, which is only fitting because it’s where this journey really picked up speed after Monet had the strength, vision, and wisdom to lead us back there.
I’ve been honest with our family and closest friends about our first experience there. And I’ve also taken responsibility for the fact that the real problem with our first visit was me. Our doctor wasn’t a fear mongering bad guy. He wasn’t using scare tactics to secure patients. He was direct, he was blunt, and he cared enough to pour straight talk with no chaser in our cup three years ago. It was my spirit and mind that wasn’t receptive to anything that was shared that day and I’ll never know us walking away the first time was part of God’s plan or if I was simply just being difficult and obstinate. What I do know for a fact is that our highly recommended fertility specialist and his staff are a group of wonderful, kind, and caring people. I know that when I placed my arrogance aside and we became their patients, there wasn’t a thing in this world that his entire office would not do for us. We were so spoiled that it felt like were his only patients. And this was months before we even knew that we were pregnant! It hurts to admit that I failed to see all of this during our first visit. To know that I failed in being open minded enough to give these professionals a chance to do what they are so very good at. To know, in my heart, that I was too blind and haughty discern that he wasn’t speaking cancer into our lives but was only using someone else’s testimony to educate and advise us.
This man, and his staff, absolutely beamed from ear to ear when we walked in today. He hung on every word that Monet said. He lingered in the office to talk even longer than we expected and made us commit to seeing them one more time prior to delivery and again once the babies are here.
Driving home it reminded me of the importance of maturation. The essentiality of time’s passing. And, yes, seedtime and harvest. A harvest requires the confluence of 3 items; the seed, the soil, and the time. Seeds and soil vary and some seeds do better with certain types of soil. But in all cases, nothing grows without time. These past three years have felt like a lifetime and whirlwind all at the same time. With a spirit of humility I am so thankful that the blessings that are raining down now didn’t occur back then. I am thankful, most of all, for the passing of time. Would it have been too much back then? Would we have even been ready? Would I have been ready? Nevertheless we’re ready now, or, at least much more than we were before. Everything, has its place and time. Even during the dark days, when you’re staring out on the field of your life waiting for signs of growth but the soil hasn’t moved an inch. Don’t give in to despair. Don’t give up on hope. Don’t abandon faith. If you take nothing from this post, know that even though you may not see anything, time is passing. And each passing moment brings you that much closer to your harvest.
Sitting at a red light the other day on my way home from work, I found myself contemplating the nature of transitioning. How simply and effortlessly you can transition out of one stage and into another at the blink of an eye. The even flow of life can lull us to sleep and peace at times, distracting from the realization that circumstances can and are apt to change suddenly, violently, and often.
How, at some point, Monet and I will travel to the hospital as a couple and return back home as a family. How 85 mph and the left lane of the I-95 seems normal, but in a few months 75 mph on the right sounds like a much better idea.
This past Father’s Day, I woke up to several unread texts and calls. Friends and family that were kept in the loop about our triplets sent over congratulations and well wishes. And while it should be a simple enough gesture to understand, I could not help shaking just how incongruous it all felt.
I’m used to picking up Father’s day cards much too late and struggling to get them out in the mail just in the nick of time. I’m accustomed to ordering last second gifts on Amazon and relying on Prime delivery to get them to their destination to mask my procrastination. And now, just like that, I’m part of the fraternity now. Cards and emails at my desk, presents on our front door, packages in the mail. Well wishers around almost every corner and that sudden bewilderment when I’m just about to correct someone who says “Happy Father’s Day”, only to realize that, yup, I am some little ones’ pappy. And while I certainly don’t mean to sound ungrateful, as a fairly private and unassuming person, it definitely took a minute to get accustomed to the attention.
There’s a car commercial where a young couple is leaving the hospital with their (one!) baby. The voiceover talks about how, just a few hours ago, they were “Jeff and Susan”. Now, after being kicked out of the hospital, they’re suddenly “Mom and Dad”. Mild hilarity ensues, as the dad drives super slow and shows off the cars features by trying to be super protective driving his new family home. This is literally what came to my mind every single time that I heard, “Happy Father’s day” this week.
I think I mentioned it before, where it was a little unnerving to realize that all the universal knowledge, wisdom, and secrets of all of my paternal ancestors wasn’t immediately downloaded into my cerebellum upon finding out that we were pregnant ( I’m sure I read somewhere that was supposed to happen). But the truth is, I’m ok with the fact that there’s no (official) father’s manual. It means that these paternal instincts are not digitally downloaded to new fathers. It means that the men and fathers before me had to figure it out too. And I can follow and borrow from their examples because I know and trust that they were forged by trial and error. It means that I don’t have to be flawless or perfect, or all-knowing. It means that I really can do this, because it’s already been done before.
I remember when we first found out about our pregnancy. I happened to have the day off when the blood test results came back. After driving over and telling Monet in person, we called our parents and then agreed to hold off until we had more news to share. Less than 45 minutes later, my phone lit up with texts and emails of congratulations. But I was too busy to be excited.
I was livid.
If I’m being honest, I felt this was too early to share and we were too ill-informed at this stage to begin announcements. My god sister, ever the encouraging wordsmith, was one of those few people that Monet reached out to first. After getting a slew of congratulatory texts, I reached out to her first in an effort to reel Monet in. I just wanted to keep Monet from shouting from the rooftops until we were further along. She lovingly responded, in classic fashion.
“How dare you. How DARE
you.” I was speechless with confusion. “She has prayed, you have prayed, you both
have prayed for this moment for years.
And now, when her day has arrived, you want her to keep quiet? The woman at the well was not quiet. The woman with the issue of blood wasn’t quiet. Mary wasn’t quiet. But you’re asking her to keep this to yourselves? How dare you.”
And she was right. It stung in the most personal and embarrassing way, but I realized just how spot on her opinion. We had
prayed for this. We had
held out our faith for this. We did
believe without evidence that this would be possible. And here I was telling the people to keep it down right after the walls of Jericho fell.
Chastisement aside, things progressed fairly well after that afternoon and in the coming weeks. We came to decide who we would tell and when, especially after input from our doctor. Following a few of disagreements, we came to a common accord about who would be included in our circle told at our jobs in an attempt to afford Monet with as much rest as possible and prep my employer for any extended absences needed on my behalf in the coming months. I even confined her to the house the weekend before our first follow-up appointment and placed her on “bed rest” to make sure that everything went well on that upcoming Monday.
And here it was. Monday. Time to check up on our quads and get Oprah or Steve Harvey on the phone to discuss the format of our new TV show. This time, I’d be prepared for all of the clicking this time around.
Our first sonogram showed one fetus on the left uterus with two more prominent ones on the right. We found out later that the source of all the clicks during our first visit was a barely visible fourth fetus hiding in the background on the right. Now, two weeks later, we were looking at a sonogram trying to find our fourth child, because we only saw three on screen. My heart sank with guilt, because deep inside, I had buried a fear that something like could occur.
As a man of faith, I neither hide my belief from others nor do I, honestly speaking, openly profess it as often as I should. I speak to and pray to God often. Occasionally I’ll receive confirmation back that my messages were received. Two recent occurrences confirm my trust in these exchanges. The first, was my only dream depicting Monet with an uncovered, bare pregnant belly complete with an outie belly button. This was a few days before the results of the blood test and the only time that I dreamt or imagined Monet physically pregnant. After that dream I woke up knowing without a doubt that we would be parents and soon. The second was about a week before our present appointment, where I prayed and felt the strong urge to read Daniel 3:24 in my bible. 24Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”
Confused, I continued. 25He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
I was absolutely terrified. Why? Years of studying the bible led me to know that the fourth person viewed in the pit was Jesus, sent to protect Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego. But I also know that despite four people being seen in the fiery pit, only three would emerge. What was that supposed to mean in relation to my children? I was petrified and literally shut the bible and rebuked what my eyes had seen. I didn’t share the events of that afternoon with anyone and now I sat with my wife and the very same doctor that initially located 4 children. I was the only one not completely taken aback by the news.
Let me be clear. I don’t know exactly what it meant or even if it meant anything at all. Pregnancies are fickle, fragile miracles whose success depends upon a wildly variant multiplicity of factors and variables. My faith and our faith, has not wavered at any point in the pregnancy and remains unshaken. Monet and I believed unequivocally that God’s will would be done. Even when our doctor advised us (as the state of Florida required of him) that selective termination options were available due to the high risk nature of our multiple pregnancy, our belief stayed strong. We held firm to our position that we would not entertain the idea of choosing which children would be gifted life and would stand strong in the faith that, again, the Lord’s will would be done. And now, here, something had been done,
as three children appeared where there were previously four.
Holding onto my last thread of sanity, I struggled against plunging into the depths of despair, guilt, what for’s, and why’s. Uncontrollable thoughts drowned out everything else in the room and obscured my hearing. truthfully, I don’t recall anything else that was said or discussed until a muffled thumping caught my attention, snapping me back awake. One of our children called out to to us. One of my babies spoke to me. Her heartbeat floating in the air, the pulsing sound of her heartbeat swam through the tension and fear and uncertainty that cluttered my mind. The chords of her life, her very existence, pierced my ears and flooded my heart. And soon, another uniquely woven monochromatic masterpiece played through the tiny speakers in the dark room as I heard our second child’s heartbeat pulsing away; strong and rhythmic, dancing to its own cadence. The life song of our children joined the grand orchestra of life as their hearts pumped and beat and thumped along.
One little Shadrach. One little Meshach. And one little Abednego.