December 31, 2010

A premature day

Life throws things at you sometimes for which you can't possibly prepare. And, it can happen so entirely fast and surreal, you can't help but question the reality of it all.

Up until 11:30 yesterday morning, my wife's pregnancy had been across the board normal and successful, with the obvious exception of her carrying a twin boy and girl. Nothing out of the ordinary had presented itself, with the only notable occurrence being her difficulty urinating during the last couple days.

After eating lunch at a nearby pizza place yesterday, however, she felt some pressure deep in her abdomen, and 20 minutes later, at Best Buy, she could barely make her way through the aisles. We realized only later she was experiencing contractions.

We went home, where she tried to get comfortable in bed, but within ten minutes we had my wife's mother over to watch our 15-month-old boy, while my wife and I loaded into the car and went to the hospital.

Doctors initially suspected a urinary tract infection (UTI), which isn't uncommon and explained most of her symptoms, but an initial exam revealed amnionic fluid discharge, which was followed in quick order by a vaginal exam that revealed her cervix was at five centimeters dilation. This was at about 3:30 p.m.

We had gone from a totally normal and enjoyable day to an impending C-section in less than five hours. Doctors tried to slow the labor using magnesium and to prepare the babies for delivery by introducing steroids, in an attempt to jumpstart the babies' lungs.

At this point, we had seen more doctors and nurses than I thought could possibly all work for the Mayo Clinic health care system.

My mind coped with such rapid-fire developments in a curious fashion. When I thought it was UTI, I was actually making jokes like "I can't believe I'm rooting for UTI." Ten minutes later, I found myself practically begging a doctor for some way to stop my wife's labor.

Thirty minutes after that, listening to another doctor tell us a C-section was imminent and our 23-week old babies had very little chance to survive, I was both extremely angry and inconsolably sad. An hour or so after that, asking a hospital Chaplain to baptize our babies before they were transported to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), I was beside myself with grief.

Thrown into the minutiae of all the big developments were other developments that came complete with their own unique sets of emotional musical chairs. An example: seeing the twins' final ultrasound before my wife went in for surgery; they were still kicking at each other, as if nothing was remotely wrong. I actually smiled, albeit sadly. I couldn't believe the human mind was capable of such on-the-fly coping mechanisms.

The C-section birth brought about a bit of an epiphany. After hearing a doctor present a prognosis that could have entailed only 20 precious minutes with our twins during which to say "good-bye," I couldn't bring myself to record the C-section, as I had done with my first child just 15 months ago. When the second child was removed, and I caught the briefest flicker of a grimace, I regretted my decision immediately.

It could be debated whether, in that brief instant, the line between gestational life and death became considerably more blurred to me. I don't know. All I do know is, after all the day's emotional roller coasters and surreal turn of events, I couldn't believe I was stupid enough not to catch my little boy's first grimace out of the womb on video. So, when I was invited in to see my babies shortly after they had been somewhat stabilized, I went in determined to capture as much video as I could, and I did.

I don't think I will ever--no matter how much writing I do between now and the life hereafter--be able to adequately convey the range of emotions, both grave and great, I experienced while the hospital Chaplain baptized my babies, using just the tinyest droplets of water, and with the utmost care and gentleness. I honestly can't recall how I was able to stay standing. The memory will bring me to tears for as long as I can imagine, I'm sure.

I was actually on the phone with my wife's friend, providing an update, when I saw my precious little twins loaded into the nearby elevator en route to the NICU. When next I saw them, they were resting in their own incubator.

I can't really convey the unfairness I felt and feel. Not for me, but for the babies. Up until the moment they were removed from the womb, they were rock star babies. They were as healthy as any 23-week developing babies could expect to be. They hadn't done anything wrong. They just were, and they were beautiful, and they were suddenly being required to pull off something nearly impossible. That's not fair to expect of most adults, let alone a human being no bigger than a television remote control.

Obviously, I haven't written this on the fly over fifteen minutes. This has been an ongoing, piecemeal memoir spanning many, many hours. In that time, our little girl has remained stable, but we were just informed Finn Patrick's lungs are no longer responding well, and things look quite dire.

I love my babies. It's astonishing I can have so much affection for such tiny humans I just met 36 hours ago. I can't tell you how many tears I've shed over the last two days, and we're looking at almost four more months of this roller-coaster if the babies are up for such a drawn out fight.

I wrote all this because I don't want the details to fade with time, and they always do, in subtle ways, often to numb the pain here and there.

I don't wish this pain or fear on anyone. It hurts so bad. So unfathomably bad.

Upates to follow as developments unfold, and I can stand to write about them.

UPDATE: I should note, I obviously don't sleep well but, when I do, I sleep best with a premie diaper clutched to my chest.

UPDATE: My wife is the rock when we're with the babies. She holds their hands and strokes their heads, talking and singing to them, while I stand by mostly with tears streaming off my nose. When we're back in our room, she's the one crying and I'm the composed one. I'm not sure what to read into that dynamic.

UPDATE: Jan. 1, 2011, 5:15 a.m. -- Picked up some Motrin for my wife at Super America. Clerk told me to "keep my head up." I must look worse than I thought.

UPDATE: Jan. 1, 2011, 10:26 a.m. -- My wife and I thought seeing our 15-month-old for the first time since the ordeal began would help our mental state. Turns out, the 15-month-old behaved far worse than his brother and sister have behaved in the last two days.

UPDATE: Finn Patrick Rhodes d. Jan. 1, 2011. 7:46 p.m.

UPDATE: Jan. 2, 2010. Zoey continues to be strong. Funeral arrangements being made for Finn. Never realized how many balls you have to keep in the air during times like this. Plus, you have to remember to shower.

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December 30, 2010

Too soon

Zoey Lynn Rhodes b. Dec. 30, 2010, 5:22 p.m. 1 lb. 5 oz.

Finn Patrick Rhodes b. Dec. 30, 2010, 5:24 p.m. 1 lb. 8 oz.

We love them both so much, no matter what.

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December 26, 2010


When it comes to inescapable earworm advertisements that stay in your head forever, it's hard to imagine one more effective than the J.G. Wentworth structured settlement/annuity jingles. My God, man:


Not that I have a structured settlement or an annuity, but if I DID have a structured settlement/annuity, I'm fairly certain I'd be compelled by sheer force of that freakin' earworm to call JG Wentworth and ask to speak to an opera singer about getting an advance on my structured settlement/annuity.

Now THAT'S effective advertising. Annoying as hell, but effective.

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December 25, 2010

Christmas Cowboy

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December 22, 2010

Making Ocks in the Fort

When I was a lad, back in my pre-potty training phase--right around last week--I adopted the curious practice of sequestering myself in enclosed or otherwise secluded locations, where I would then grunt furiously and proceed to fill my diaper.

My parents referred to this process as "making ocks in my fort." I never learned the etymology of the word "ock," but in retrospect I'm guessing it represented the grunting noise I made whilst sequestered in the aforementioned "forts."

My choice of fort varied, but if my parents noticed me stacking couch cushions in such a way as to eventually serve as "walls," they knew it would only be a matter of minutes before a certain signature smell would waft to their noses like Indian smoke signals.

My forts were also seasonal. When the hydrangea bush in the front yard had adequate foliage come spring, I was comfortable sneaking behind its protection, where I'd then commence intense grunting.

About a month or two ago, my wife and I noticed our infant/toddler--or toddfant--had begun to exhibit the same "ocks in his fort" behavior I'd perfected over thirty years ago. He just started disappearing, and then reappearing a few minutes later, trailing a hot odor requiring immediate attention.

Of course, there have been some advances in "ocks in the fort" technology since I practiced the art some three decades ago. For example, my parents bought their grandson a "Thomas the Tank Engine" collapsible play house for Christmas, and our boy immediately started using the structure as a sort of Port-O-Potty. We set it up, he crawled inside, and we could almost see plumes of train engine "smoke" radiating towards our olfactory nerves.

The train engine fort concerns me somewhat, because I fear it impedes the kind of imagination I called upon in my day to build my own forts. Who knows? We could be crushing a bright future as an architect or carpenter by giving him a ready-made fort, rather than allowing him to explore his own "ock fort" creative process.

Then again, it's kind of nice not to have to put all the couch cushions back in place after every one of the boy's bowel movements because, man, that would be a lot of work.

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December 16, 2010

Tis The Season

Well, it's the Christmas season once again. And, let's be honest, retail-shopping-wise, it's been the Christmas season since about the first week of September.

It's actually even worse than that for me, because one of my son's favorite songs is "Up On the Housetop," so it's basically been Christmas in my head since LAST Christmas. It's a horrifying mental Mobius strip of holiday cheer each and every night before bedtime.

This Christmas marks the third holiday season in a row during which we've been living under the burdensome reality that is the Great Recession. It's hard to believe it's been three years since the American public was asked to swallow such ridiculous nonsense as "Too Big To Fail," yet here we are.

You'd be forgiven for not realizing we're still in the Great Recession if you've seen any holiday television advertisements, which seem to exist in an alternative universe where cash thunderstorms and gold flake hurricanes are regular phenomenons, although I'm fully aware such advertisements are in no way a new development.

For example, when I was growing up--in the 1980s, during another recession--I remember seeing holiday advertisements that featured brand new automobiles, adorned with big red bows, parked in driveways or front yards. The scene would then pan to an ecstatic family standing in the doorway, looking out at their new vehicle, while the father looked proudly over his shrieking brood. The father seemed genuinely unconcerned about anything resembling monthly payments, tax, title and license, or repo men.

Fast forward to the modern era, where similar advertisements are still a reality. However, I know this Great Recession is much worse than the recession of my youth, because the advertisements have increased in ridiculousness.

Yes, there are still automobiles bedecked with big red bows, but this year I've noticed they're not bound by the traditional driveways and front yards. No, this year, with unemployment hovering around 10 percent, advertising geniuses have decided brand new vehicles should--defying all rules of common sense and logic--be parked in the living room next to the Christmas tree.

I'll pause for a moment to let that sink in.

That's right. Despite an economic atmosphere in which such an oxymoronic term as "jobless benefits" can actually exist, automobile advertisers want us to believe a brand new vehicle, parked in THE LIVING ROOM, is an ideal gift to shoot for this year.

To be honest, I think I'm mostly upset because I spent a good two hours trying to figure out how I could possibly maneuver a vehicle into my living room, only to conclude I'd require an extremely large catapult and an unrealistically forgiving house insurance plan.

The ideal Christmas season just gets harder and harder to obtain each year.

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December 15, 2010

Robot Dance

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December 12, 2010

Baby steps

I love how Nick Coleman's Twitter account profile says he's a "blogger." Remember his many melt downs about how amateur and reckless bloggers were? Welcome to 2004, Nick.

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December 08, 2010

Bubble Boy

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December 01, 2010

A Thicker Style, Even


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