Lullaby for Breen
Our wee man Breen is home.
Breen came home October 15th, and is now two months a meadowlark Armstrong. Home with all of us.
We’ve been working on developing our home care for Breen, who remains on 24 hr oxygen support. There are tubes everywhere. We trip and get frustrated. Breen often wakes through the night crying with gas discomfort or because his nasal cannulas popped out of his nose. We lose sleep and walk around like zombies. (It’s hard to let a baby “cry it out” if they desat when they take our their cannulas)
There are many beeps and boops from feeds tanks and pulse oximeters. Each one with an impressive repertoire of melodies that alert us to various things.
And it’s infinitely better than the NICU. Life at home with our incredible and complicated boy is difficult, and it’s the most incredible thing in the world.
Nora is brilliant and full of life. She attends grandpa school four times a week, which has been a godsend to Erin and I.
Our home is on a well, and for the past few weeks our water pressure had been dwindling. We tried replacing the home filter and resetting the pressure tank, but nothing was working. We called our well guy and he suspected that there was a hole in the main pipe that was leaking water back into the well. He was slammed and couldn’t come up to fix it for a week or so.
The water pressure got worse. If you flushed a toilet, you had to wait a few minutes to even attempt to wash your hands. Good luck to you if you ran the dishwasher or washing machine, that was a good thirty minute water hiatus. Running a bath for either kid took 10 minutes. Showers were comical, huddled up next to the shower faucet, collecting handfuls of water to splash on your body.
Then it got even worse, and even those cat baths seemed like a luxury. I called the well guy again as a damsel in distress. Well guy came over, pulled the pipe and discovered a pencil sized hole. Plenty big enough to lower our pressure. He tested the pump and called to say that it was worn out, likely from having to pump so much to make up for the hole. Rough news certainly, but he fixed everything in an afternoon and we were back in water, sweet sweet water.
You don’t realize how much you love running water until it starts to slip away.
As we get further into December, a gauntlet of anniversary lurk: Erin’s water broke on December 29th. She celebrated her birthday in the hospital. She was in the hospital until they kicked us out on January 6th (yeah, that January 6th). Back to the hospital on January 21st as Erin started getting contractions. An awful week. Breen is born on January 27th and what follows is a terrifying night.
Erin and I ground. We breathe. We cry. We will try to work our way through this gauntlet.
Just before Erin’s water broke, we were blissful, cruising towards a baby boy in the summer. It was all perfect, baby Breen would join us after the end of the semester.
Our vision of a family of four dwindled to a trickle. It all seemed so impossible. Our son faded from us. Slipping away.
After 8 and a half months in the NICU, Breen came home. That first month home was Erin and I trying to rebuild some kind of NICU at home. Recently, we’ve been trying to make it feel like a home.
Our home has tripping tubes and beeps. Our home has baby cries that break the night. Our home has constant milk math as we build every bottle. Our home has our son. Our home is complete. Flowing and sweet.
While in the NICU, Breen started off on the oscillating ventilator. It made a constant 16th note like rhythm as it pumped small puffs of oxygen into our fragile boy’s lungs. It also emitted a hum, this constant drone that enveloped the room.
I began singing a simple melody to Breen to the rhythm and tone of the oscillator. This simple melody just stayed with me, and I kept singing it to him throughout the months. Recently I embarked on a project through a grant from the Idaho Commission on the Arts where I produce a series of remote collaboration videos. The first one was an orchestrated arrangement of that melody, Lullaby for Breen, featuring some very talented friends and Breen’s incredibly mother Erin on bass clarinet.
The video was just released the other day, and we invite you to listen in.
Our boy is difficult. Our boy is home.
Nora Poetry Corner:
Nora jumping around to make Breen laugh:
Nora (singing): Jump, jump, jump-a-romy! Jump, jump, jump-a-romy!
Nora: Jump, jum- That’s a nice fart Breeny! (singing) Jump, jump, jump-a-romy! Jump, jump, jump-a-romy
Nora and Breen playing
Nora: Daddy, Breen and I are laughing because we’re playing a game called, tag, go away. Tag, go away.
Dad: *peeks around the corner* “That sounds like a fun game!”
Nora: *looks up at me with a serious face* “But it’s not for Dads”