The original of this account is on the webpage of a San Diego wedding photographer
Worst days of our lives
Man. Thinking over the last two days is so unbelievably exhausting. So painful. And, without trying to sound overly dramatic, so incredibly traumatic.
People always describe watching your child in pain — when you can’t do anything to help — as the worst thing to experience as a parent. Well we got a very real glimpse of that. A couple days ago, Clive got circumcised…
Disclaimer: This always starts wild debates from the anti-snip crowd, so let me try and stop you before you jump on me by saying that I know that penises don’t fall off if they aren’t circumcised. [Strawman argument.
The circumcision went flawless. Clive was more upset about the temperature of the room than he was having his little weener cut up :) He actually didn’t even flinch or blink when they did the cutting! Everything was great. And even after the painkiller wore off, he still showed no signs of pain. That was until his 3rd or 4th diaper change. Just thinking back to that makes me… I can’t even describe the emotion. Rage isn’t right because I wasn’t upset at anyone. Let’s just say “not good” — but in a very serious way. Out of nowhere, Clive started screaming and convulsing. It wouldn’t stop. It was nothing like his cries when he got his shots. Nothing like when he came out of the womb. Nothing like anything he’d done yet. It was a deep cry — totally from pain. It was evident through his entire body. We changed his diaper and found what we thought might be the problem. When the diaper came off, it had stuck to his little penis. We think it almost ripped off, if that makes sense — causing severe discomfort and pain. The other diapers didn’t stick, so we really didn’t know what happened this time.
As time went on, it only got worse. After an hour, his body was beet red and his hair (and body) was wet from sweating — all from the pain. Lindsay was evidently traumatized — but totally staying with Clive through it. I managed to keep cool on the outside, but it was taking a bigger toll on me than I could have imagined. You always hear about people dealing with watching their children go through pain — but I never imagined it would be that painful for me. I think my most painful experience would probably be the couple of kidney stones I’ve had. I remember thinking that I would sign on the dotted line without a second thought, trading his pain for a solid week of kidney stone pain, if only it were possible.
At this point, Lindsay is just constantly fighting back the tears (and, for the most part, losing the battle). After some 20 solid minutes of screaming, convulsing, and sweating, Clive would get maybe one minute of relief by nursing with Lindsay — and that circle would just repeat itself. I wanted to take Clive and let Lindsay go take a bath so she could just have a break from the screaming — but we knew that there was no comfort alternative for Clive like nursing was. There was no way I could have left him so that I could have a moment of relief — and Lindsay, in total agony, still felt the exact same way. I think many women would have (understandably) required a break just so they wouldn’t melt down. I think Lindsay preferred to meltdown with Clive instead of leave him even for a moment.
I just can’t state enough how painful it was seeing my tiny, little son screaming. Seeing his body jolt back and forth — clearly in real pain. We called the doctor and were told we could give him a good dose of tylenol for youngsters. We did that. And by now, I was prepping his diapers with vaseline before Lindsay would bring him in. I’m not a real crier on the outside — but when I would shut the door and get Clive’s diaper ready, alone for a brief moment, I would have to take a deep breath and put real effort into not breaking down.
As the night went on, the heavy doses of vaseline seemed to kick in. An hour and a half went by without a peep. We were so unbelievably relieved for our baby boy to have a moment of peace — but at the same time we were terrified that the next diaper change might bring about the same thing all over again. Now we know that the problem was his penis sticking to the 3rd diaper, but at the time we weren’t sure if that was it or if he was simply having a harder healing time — and that we would simply have to wait it out. Just having to accept that our son would be going through this over the next couple days with little help from us. We were hoping and praying so badly that the latter wouldn’t be the case.
The next diaper change came up. Terrified doesn’t even describe it. I kid you not I would have paid almost any amount of money for the guarantee that my son wouldn’t have to go through what he had just gone through all afternoon. [Not circumcising is free.] We both had to work together in order to make sure he remained as comfortable as possible. The change went well, considering how bad it was earlier, at least. Within a few minutes of changing, he was still breathing a bit heavy and having that come down from being in pain sort of cry. However, it was night and day from before. He’d gone over an hour without pain, got changed, and within probably fifteen minutes was no longer screaming or crying. With each diaper change through the night, it just got easier and easier on him.
Around 4am, Lindsay and I just looked at each other and realized something that we couldn’t have ever known before. That all the money in the world can’t buy the peace, happiness, and unbelievable contentment that a child so freely brings when he (or she) is safe, healthy, and not in pain. All night I had been thinking off and on about parents who’s children are going through much worse. My heart broke for them like it never had before. I had a tiny glimpse into their lives — and my heart just broke for them.
Clive is doing much better with the pain now — but the experience is still visible on him. He was much, much needier all day Thursday. Constantly yearning to be held. Suckling for hours but not getting much milk (so just nursing for the comfort of it). Lindsay is feeling so much better — but definitely is still unsettled. We both believe he’s fine now — but that fear of something happening to Clive to make him go back to what he was experiencing? It’s still there. Even if it’s irrationally there, it’s there.
[Pictures of the baby sleeping appear here.]
So today we have a new outlook on our son. Even more than we did before, we are just so incredibly thankful for his pain free moments. So grateful as we watch him sleep peacefully. So happy that, aside from this painful hiccup, our son is healthy and safe. And as much as we felt we loved our baby boy before, I think we were both shocked — and almost scared — about how much we really love him. How much either of us would do anything for him at the drop of a hat. Loving someone that much can be quite terrifying if you let the nagging fears of what COULD happen to them haunt you. We’re going to do our best to ignore the fear that comes with loving someone this much — and instead pay attention to the fun that exists with loving your child :)
p.s. I just want to be clear that this was NOT a normal byproduct of circumcision. [And he knows that how?] This was user error at it’s best (or worst, I should say). We either made the mistake by not putting enough vaseline on or some sort of freak accident happened with that third diaper to cause an abnormal amount of bleeding (which led to clotting with the diaper and, finally, sticking and being ripped apart). [A diaper causes bleeding?]
UPDATE: Clive is doing great. Ever since we began putting on more vaseline that first night after that third diaper where he stuck to it (now putting vaseline in the diaper AND on his little penis), he’s not stuck to the diaper in the slightest. This has led to him sleeping and eating normally with no more abnormal crying :) So we had about 4 rough, terrible hours — and then relative smooth sailing from there. So had we not made the vaseline mistake, he would have been fine the entire time. Frustrating that we could have done something to stop the whole thing from ever happening [...or done nothing, which would certainly have stopped the whole thing from ever happening...], but just so thankful that he’s so much better and that we didn’t have to deal with what we were dealing with for several days (like we were afraid might be the case if it was just a normal reaction to circumcision).
[Comments follow, full of sympathy. Comments questioning the decision to circumcise were not printed until days or weeks later.]