The Curveball, Part I: August in July

The first in a six-part series chronicling the birth of Michelle and Dennis Teravainen’s second child, August, who was born with Down’s syndrome.

[In Part 1, The Teravainens head to the hospital for a planned c-section. They don't yet know that their son will be born with Down's syndrome.]

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We’re blogging to you live on the eve and morning of Baby T 2.0’s arrival.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

6:00 p.m. I am painting Greta’s bedroom door and touching up the kitchen. The wife is folding laundry because she is obsessed with washing clothes in Dreft these past couple days. If you’re not looking, she’ll take the socks off your feet to complete a full load of whites. I’m still in denial that a baby is coming tomorrow. By the way, I think I’ve got a corneal abrasion after a mishap at Lowe’s loading a box onto the cash register’s conveyor belt. Long story. Bottom line is it feels like there’s a pebble stuck in my eyelid. Sweet.

7:00 p.m. Nana took Greta for the weekend, so the wife and I are heading out for a quiet dinner date. We head to a tapas restaurant not too far from our place. Glass of Spanish red for the wife. She’s having a contraction. Chopin chilled straight up with olives for me. My eye hurts. Are we really having a baby tomorrow?

8:00 p.m. We hammer back some delicious grub: scallops, mussels, beef tenderloin, green beans with garlic and almonds, and empanadas. Great stuff. Yes, I’d love a glass of what she’s drinking. We have a 6 a.m. appointment for the c-section. Let’s have dessert. It may be a while before we have dinner without bibs, sippy cups, bottles, or burp cloths.

9:30 p.m. Back at the house. Mad dash by mama to finish packing. We check out “Deadliest Catch” on the DVR. I try to write but I’m too tired. I’ll try again tomorrow.

11:00 p.m. Finally, we turn out the lights for our 5 a.m. wake up. I’m so happy to be in bed. This might be the last time we snooze peacefully for the next several months. Mama announces that she’s having more contractions as I drift off to sleep. I’m uninterested and tired.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

12:30 a.m. The wife is having more contractions, which she decides to tell me after waking me up. I roll over.

1:30 a.m. The wife is still contracting. Thanks for the update.

2:30 a.m. The wife continues to contract. What do you want me to do about it?

3:30 a.m. You guessed it. Contractions. I’m really annoyed.

4:30 a.m. Okay, let’s just get out of bed because clearly the wife is not going to let me sleep. Why? Because she can’t sleep. Naturally, I should suffer too, she reasons.

5:47 a.m. We arrive at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. Contractions are five minutes apart. We check in.

6:30 a.m. Michelle’s first measurement. Drum roll please. 4-5 centimeters. Whoa. I guess she is in labor. Glad to know that our son is prompt. How did he know he was going to arrive today?

6:45 a.m. The original C-section was scheduled for 8 a.m., so the wife’s doctor may not be on time to deliver Baby T. She begins to cry. Don’t mess with a laboring pregnant lady.

7:00 a.m. Phew. Our doctor made it early so we can get started! The wife is whisked off to have her spinal. I am left alone with my booties, jumpsuit, mask, and cap. I hated this part with Greta. I’m hating this part with 2.0. No other nurses or parents in waiting. I’m by myself.

7:15 a.m. I Wish they had ESPN in here—or a sports page.

7:30 a.m. Finally!  A nurse comes in to get me. They are ready for me. I have the camera in hand.

7:32 a.m. I sit next to Michelle’s head. I am avoiding looking beyond the curtain for fear of passing out.

7:45 a.m. The doctors, nurses, and Teravainens are all chatting as if we’re in a coffee shop sipping lattes and exchanging light-hearted small talk—except the wife’s insides are exposed to the world to see. I’m trying not to let on that I’m freaking out inside. The doctors occasionally tug and pull at her belly, which I witness in a shadowy silhouette I wish I could not see.

7:50 a.m. The wife and I squeeze our hands together in anticipation. They say he’s almost here.

7:55 a.m. We hear a squawk, finally! And, we’ve got a dong. “It’s a boy!” they announce officially. “What’s his name?” they ask next.

We happily reply, “AUGUST THOMAS TERAVAINEN!”

Thus, we give you: August in July.

—Dennis Teravainen

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About Dennis Teravainen

Dennis lives in Easton with his wife and two children where they boss him around and deprive him of sleep. He proudly does not own a minivan. His blog is available here.

Comments

  1. While I will not comment on Dennis’ relationship with “the wife,” since she likely read and approved this post, I will give some unsolicited advice to any “good men” reading this entry…

    It’s not wise to refer to your partner, your friend, your lover, your support, the mother of your children, your wife, as a piece of burdensome, nameless property. The wife?! Seriously?

    I was really looking forward to this series, but am pretty sure that the cavalier attitude which shines through this post will keep me from coming back for more.

  2. Ali, relax and take “a joke”. I look forward to reading more about this families adventure into the unknown, and hope that the parents can keep there humor with them as they no doubt embark on what has to be one of the scariest time in a parents life.

  3. UH-OH….the scrotum choppers are on this already…..Jeez……Ali, if there is one in your life, The Husband must be one miserable SOB. If The Husband isn’t miserable, he’s definitely been stripped of his sense of humor, ability to take things lightly and of course he’s regularly the submissive bottom.

    Dennis, very well done. I look forward to checking in.

    -JMG
    AEKDB

  4. I know this couple in real life and I can assure you they are very happy and have a really wonderful relationship, full of laughter and love. I lam a huge fan of Dennis’ blog, as well as his wife!, and am so excited for him to be on this site!

  5. Ali, I am glad that you read the article and I hope you continue to read the ones to come. I also applaud you for not holding back your opinion.

    The nickname for my wife as “the wife” is – believe it or not – a running joke between us that she is some kind of a stereotypical nag. If and when you read any future posts, picture me saying “the wife” with an exagerrated eye roll followed by Michelle giving me a playful jab in the side immediately after. She’s the reason that I write. As long as she gets me, I’m not worried about offending anyone else.

    I’m sorry the humor was lost on you. No hard feelings here at all. I hope you still come back.

  6. Dennis,

    I’m afraid your humor was lost on me as well. Or, perhaps the better way to put it is, your humor seemed totally out of context. It’s my impression that this website is a forum for men to talk honestly about issues that guys typically gloss over with beers and wings and Sportscenter. Problem is, your whole post struck me as glibly poking fun at the real emotions, fears, hopes, exhaustion, excitement, concerns for your wife, concerns for your unborn son/daughter, and so on that a guy really experiences in the weeks, days, hours leading up to his child’s birth. Instead, we got:

    Okay, let’s just get out of bed because clearly the wife is not going to let me sleep. Why? Because she can’t sleep. Naturally, I should suffer too, she reasons.

    In a different setting, on your blog perhaps, or with a lot more context, I might smile at this. On this website, where I’m reading about the idea of aspiring to a better sort of manhood, I don’t.

    I can tell from your above comment that you are, in fact, a thoughtful dad and writer. I hope that this shines through in the coming posts. As a recent newcomer to the dad club, I know just how emotionally turbulent the days before and after your child’s birth are, and I admire your courage in agreeing to honestly explore it in a public forum like this. Please do.

  7. Dennis, thanks for the response.

    As someone who has many nicknames for my significant other, I can completely understand the inside jokes that create these ridiculous references. I think I was reacting to “the wife” because of the overall tone of the entry. Perhaps with more context before the first blog post or personal familiarity with your relationship (as the others who commented seem to have), I would have understood the affection and humor. Clearly after this commentary, in my house I will be known as Scrotum Chopper and my husband as Miserable SOB. @Jake, please look for his blog: My Dominant Life as a Submissive Bottom, you could probably learn a few things.

    On a serious note and why I tuned in to this column…I have worked with families and children with special needs for years. It is the joy of my life. I know that there is an incredible adventure that lies before you. I hope that you will explore the complexities, emotions, challenges and opportunities that all children, but especially a child with special needs, bring to your family using this forum. Regardless of the wife, the husband, or the good men project, I wish your son (and family) love, courage, energy, acceptance and celebration in the years to come.

  8. Dennis,
    I found your article amusing and heartfelt. I can understand why some ladyboys may have trouble understanding your approach and attitude in your writings. Their disconnect lies in the conflict of their mismatched undercarriages and their overly-sensitive, fragile psyches. This is the reason they want to talk a little more about their feelings, listen to Barry Mannilow a little louder, and wear the wife’s panties a little longer. Have patience, my gentle, soft-headed little friend. Soon you will understand where the writer is coming from.
    Keep up the great work, Dennis.

    – Fatrick

  9. Pat,

    One of the more cowardly things you can do in a debate is attack the other person rather than respond to his or her point. You call someone a homo rather than listen to why they believe they have the right to marry their partner. You call someone a pussy tree hugger rather than listen to why they believe we should address environmental degradation.

    This sort of thing is easier to do and all the more absurd in an anonymous forum like this, where you can project whatever stereotypes or insults you want onto someone you don’t know the slightest thing about, just to prove your point. The truth is, you have no idea if I could kick the shit out of you in a fight. You have no idea if I could drink you under the table. You have no idea if I could dunk over your head or make you look foolish on an IQ test. (If I had to put money on each, I would put it on me, but that’s beside the point).

    The point is, rather than call me a ladyboy (which I’m not) or someone with a fragile psyche (which I don’t have), you should reply to what I’m saying. That might look something like this:

    Step 1: address me, rather than your buddy Dennis

    Step 2: Say you found the article amusing and heartfelt. Then explain why. Give an example. Or just say, you know what Dennis, if someone doesn’t get your sense of humor, that’s their loss. I thought this was lighthearted but in being so set the stage for some of the more serious topics you’re gonna address in the posts to come.

    Step 3: Leave it at that. As tempting as it may be to slander someone you don’t know, take the high road, realizing that whatever insults you dish out reflect a hell of a lot more about you than they do about the unknown person you’re applying them to.

    Dennis, the whole reason I commented on your post in the first place was not to attack you as a person (I have no interest in doing that), but rather to point out that to a member of the general public, someone who doesn’t know you or your wife or your situation, the jocular tone and easy humor in your story come across as standing in the place of genuine reflection and honesty. Seeing as this is a six part series and that I’m genuinely interested in your story and the insights you’re willing to share, I hope you will take that to heart.

  10. I gotta tell you – and I speak as a mother whose child live in neonatal intensive care for 3 months as a surgical patient – that you lost me with “the wife.”

    I was truly interested in what I assumed would be the first post, which in my editorial opinion, should begin with your learning of the disorder. Will I tune in for the rest? I’m not sure. I am not finished wincing at your decision – not your private practice – but your decision to use the phrase “the wife” in a public forum without the added benefit of somehow explaining the sweet, consensual use of the phrase in your house.

    P.S. A corneal abrasian is not sweet, like a bothersome pebble. It is a brain searing, shout inducing pain that propels one into the ER begging for the numbing drops and lands one on pain meds for days with a bandaged eye and, by my count, 15 more years of corneal “erosions” that are also neither sweet nor short-lived.

    The editors would be well served to right this ship before it sinks into unsalvageable parody.

  11. Sean and Laura, sorry I didn’t see your comments until tonight. By way of background, I’ve been blogging for almost two years with an admittedly small following. During that time, the readers (if they didn’t know me already) became familiar with me and my family through weekly postings that varied from absurd to serious. We’ll ultimately disclose the website after the six selected articles are posted here. I hope you take a look back at that time and peruse.

    When I first read this magazine very recently, I thought it was really interesting. I reached out and inquired if the editors might be interested in my last few writings. It wasn’t my decision to post this article first but I understand we had to start somewhere.

    In retrospect, perhaps some more background would have been helpful to the people reading about me for the first time. At the time I wrote “August in July,” I was really run down from working on the house we just bought and had moved into just two weeks prior. I wrote the post almost entirely tongue in cheek in a tone that complained of my wife’s complaining regarding the labor, which is ludicrous because I am confident that she was experiencing 1000 times more pain than my fatigue.

    Without the opportunity to read my prior postings, of course I can see how you might think I was serious. For example, when our daughter was born in 2008, I complained about a hand cramp that I experienced while holding my wife’s leg as she was pushing. I blogged a running diary at that time, too. To keep with the tradition of a diary and complaining without just cause, I wrote what you read. I thought the comparison was funny and self-deprecating.

    In any event, this “Part I” is effective to the extent it serves as a snapshot of my mindset in the day before and morning of the delivery. I was not prepared for anything but the same experience we had when our daughter was born. My son’s diagnosis blindsided me in a way that was incomprehensible to me in those initial moments. My mindset changed instantly. I think – assuming you decide to continue – that you will agree my entire tone changes.

    Hopefully, any future readers seeing this article for the first time can hold off on any conclusions until the next post. Again, no hard feelings. I didn’t anticipate how seriously – rightly, wrongly, or in the middle – readers would approach this first article. Regardless, I hope the first timers come back for more. If you are still unimpressed, that’s okay too.

    (As for a corneal abrasion, I had one about 8 years ago. I went to Mass Eye & Ear, received the prescription eye drops, and literally hid in the dark for the next few days. Again, I was joking – albeit about something only marginally funny.)

  12. Maryse Vaillancourt-Prescott says:

    May God continue to guide,strengthen and protect you and your family….You guys are so blessed with 2 wonderful children in your life….Enjoy everyday together….Maryse

  13. That is one handsome baby!

    I love that your first part of six is the night before the delivery. Just about all of us who have a fabulous son or daughter with Down syndrome were mainstream civilians right up to the moment of diagnosis.

    It thrilled me that some folks are fired up enough to complain about your reference to The Wife. Families who include an individual with Down syndrome are rather sensitive about terms that are often bandied about in otherwise polite conversation. We hope that you all will sign the End The R-Word pledge. I don’t really like the word, special, either. It would be much better if we could substitue fabulous, wonderful, and outstanding. Then we could expect a fabulous education in a wonderful classroom with outstanding education staff. But I digress.

    Perhaps we should discuss the difference between being a Good Man and being a Perfect Man, or even a Better Man. I still remember the chill I felt when my son started telling me ‘that’s better’ when he had previously declared ‘that’s perfect!’ I asked him to say “that’s good” instead of ‘that’s better’ but he did not understand. As it turned out, he had a substitute aide in his mainstream classroom who brought the habit of saying ‘that’s better’ from a segregated special education classroom. When I asked her to use the phrase ‘that’s good’ instead of ‘that’s better’ she said she could not see the difference, but agreed just because I asked. Within a week, my son started saying ‘that’s perfect’ again. That was such a relief!

    So I think there are many men who are good men who do not need to be better men, but good men do have strong opportunities to become better men. Bad men can become better men over time but still not be good men. I believe that good men can use disrespectful or sarcastic language and still be counted as good men, but expect good men to respond as our writer here has responded.

    Over the years as I have observed responses to objections to the use of the R-word, I have discovered that I consider both men and women to be bad eggs who defend their right to free speech or argue that the R-word can be used in some situations without it being foul. So, I understand that others may be so especially sensitive to other terms that they would rather not associate with or continue discussions with anyone who has offended them. In my case, since I am an advocate for my son who was born with Down syndrome, I do not have the luxury of cutting off communication with anyone who defends the use of the R-word. And so many of my neighbors, friends and family have used it, we would certainly be an isolated family if this were the rule rather than the exception.

    In the case of this series, I believe the tone and the language used serves to set the stage for the next five parts of the series. Hearing a diagnosis like Down syndrome strips most people of their sense of humor, sarcasm, or ability to tease anyone. The diagnosis is a bit of a shock to the system, too real a reality, too much unknown all at once.

    Nothing makes love so fierce or sweet than newborns presenting themselves so dramatically ~ I’m here, I have an extra chromosome, deal with it. It’s not a foreign chromosome, it’s an extra #21 like the original two; just a small part of who this child is; a diagnosis that puts a focus on his differences instead of whatever fantasies or expectations we had for him. All our other kids will show us they are unique over time; babies diagnosed in their first hours or days overwhelm us with their differences all at once. Or what we think we know about their differences.

    It’s good that Dennis and Michelle have the relationship and sense of humor suggested by the first installment of this series. August and his older sister Greta will know how to push their buttons for the rest of their lives. They will get in trouble for their senses of humor, too. And in twenty years or so, may be blogging about their early life and current lives with their hopelessly old school parents. Young people with Down syndrome like my son seem all to have a wicked sense of humor. I know that he has been a great ‘bad influence’ on his older sister, too. And vice versa. I have no doubt that if my son were writing a series like this, he would use a phrase like “my future ex-wife.” But he is a good man, too.

    I hope those offended by Part One will come back for the rest. I predict that it’s going to be quite a ride.

    Best wishes!

    And congratulations on the birth of your fabulous son.

  14. Dennis,

    What you say makes a lot of sense. As you start to fill in the larger picture here, I think the editors did a big disservice to you, not in choosing this as the first post—I like the idea of illuminating just how upbeat and tongue in cheek you felt leading up to your second kid’s birth—but in failing to provide adequate context for where you’re coming from. A paragraph intro from you setting the stage would have done worlds to explain what some of us readers have gotten all fired up about, only to have you delve into the comments and make some sense of them.

    I will come back for the next post and withhold judgment until then. Thanks for being big enough to wade into the always treacherous world of online commenting.

    Sean

  15. Raylene Dickinson says:

    I loved the installment. I am looking forward to the next one.

  16. BTDT, sort of. But that was 11 years ago.
    http://home.earthlink.net/~wrblack/

  17. Whoa, people! Hello! Lighthearted humor! Take a deep breath before commenting!

    This was a great post–spoken by a “the wife,” who’s had 3 C sections, one of which gave us a daughter with Down Syndrome, which we didn’t know @ ahead of time. I’m anexious to read the rest.

  18. Such a handsome lad must have a beautiful big sister ~ looking forward to the second article in the series and hoping for another wonderful picture. Congratulations.

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