I had noticed a slight decrease in his activity level towards the end of the pregnancy, but I thought this decrease was normal since he was probably running out of room to move. As it turned out, though, this was not the case. It was because, for what was probably a few weeks, he had been under distress, caused by a tear in the placenta, which slowly bled, which robbed him of pretty much every nutrient he was entitled to, which made his hemoglobin drop to barely measurable levels, which made him tired. Really, really tired. And really, really pale. Pale like he was a 100% caucasian baby and didn't even any Asian in his genetics.
The good news is that since this was our first baby, we didn't know to be freaked out. We thought that a perfectly silent, pale newborn being whisked away to the NICU was just a precaution. Yeah, he was kind of small and a little on the quiet side, but he did pee all over a nurse while he was being weighed, so we figured the whisking was just a precaution. That is, until my doctor looked at Doug and said "Follow them to the NICU" and when he didn't take a step toward the door within .4 seconds, she yelled "NOW! Go with them them NOW!"
That freaked us out a little bit.
And now, instead of being cliche and sharing some bad news after the good news, I'll just share more good news: he only spent one day in the NICU, was never on anything other than a standard monitor that measured heart rate and body temperature, nursed like a pro (despite his lethargy) and came home on time. His hemoglobin levels recovered over the next couple weeks and ever since then, he has had plenty of energy.
I sometimes wonder why it is that we were so fortunate and why we were given such a happy ending to our fetal distress story. And then I look at my kid that is now taller than me and think: We were fortunate because he is an exceptional person.
- Once, in elementary school, he memorized the first 100 digits of pi. For the fun of it.
- He has created animated, interactive games using nothing but Powerpoint. For the fun of it.
- He doesn't ask for name brand clothes, and only wears them because I make him.
- He freaks out a little bit if he goes a full day without eating fruit.
- I'm pretty sure he would freak out a lot bit if he got anything other than an A in school, but I don't know this for sure since that hasn't happened yet.
- One time, in second grade, there was a boy named John. John annoyed Zach more than any other boy in class. Sure enough, Zach had to spend one month having his desk right next to John's. During one particularly annoying moment, Zach said something sarcastic to John, knowing that it would go right over his head and sure enough, John gave Zach a look of bewilderment. Zach simply said "Yeah, that's what I thought." The teacher, however, had been watching the whole ordeal and, as she later told me, had to bury her face in her Diet Coke can in order to keep the kids from seeing her laugh.
- He mutters an occasional swear word, but I really don't mind since he always uses it in the correct context and never swears in front of his sister.
- He has a freakishly sensitive sense of smell and hates the smell of cigarette smoke so much that I know I will never have to worry about him wasting his money on cartons of Marlboro's. Not even menthols.
- He is a kind, generous, patient, empathetic and proud big brother 73% of the time. No, not 100% of the time, or even 85%. But 73% is a hell of a lot better than 25%.
- He is kind of, um, how should I put this...thin. Like, people have asked me if I am worried about him thin. But he is never self-conscious about it, loves his skinny arms and is always willing to pull on swimtrunks and jump in the pool. He does, however, double-check that the drawstring is tied in a tight knot.
- He rarely complains about dinner, as long as I remember not to make it too cheesy, saucy, gooey or slimy. In other words, he's not a big fan of cheese, but does happily embrace the phrase "on the side."
- He knows when he screws up and after his initial defensive reaction, always appears later and apologizes. Which, after ten additional minutes of lecturing and pointing out why he was wrong and I was right, I happily accept.
- He loves board games and will happily teach, play and even occasionally lose to his little sister.
A few nights ago Doug and I were headed home from the bar and from the moment I got in the car I had been thinking about the piece of pizza I was going to inhale the second I walked in the house because I knew there would be leftovers in the fridge, but unfortunately Zach picked that night to have a brain fart and failed to put the leftover pizza in the refrigerator. So even though all I found was a few rotting, orangeish, stinky, grease-soaked slices that had been sitting on the counter for six hours, I still think my oldest kid is pretty okay.
And I hope he has a great 14th birthday.
But holy shit did I want that piece of pizza.