published November 2021
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Scroll below for snippets of Damn the Ponytail!
“You have to come home. Now. And by home, I mean the hospital. The doctors said I can’t leave.” from Land, Wash, Takeoff, Land, Drive
“Hi. Brittany’s in labor.” Sobbing. “Hi. Brittany’s in labor.” Sobbing. The calls get easier, like watching myself deliver the same lines in a movie over and over again. But the reality sets in – my wife is in labor way too early. from Phone Calls to Loved Ones
She is gorgeous. Pregnant. Gorgeous. Stressed. Gorgeous. “What’s wrong?” I ask. from How We Got Here
“Timmy,” I say, “It’s Matt.” I tell him the story. I fight back tears and take a breath. He says nothing for a minute, and I assume he’s processing it and trying to find words to ease my worry. “Who gave you permission to take days off?” “What?” from Virtual Throat Punch
They leave. The room is quiet except for the fetal heart monitor’s beeping. Brittany falls to sleep in her bed. I sit on the opposite bed and write a letter to my en route daughter. The room darkens. My eyes close and my many thoughts slide into my dreams. from Hospital Room Easter Dinner
My cries behind this mask are silent. Tears fall into the paper and spread moisture from my nose to my mouth. The door creaks open again. “Matt?” “Yes?” “You can come inside.” from Outside the O.R.
Brittany sobs as our baby Liliana’s head touches her own, forehead-to-forehead. “Look at all that hair!” she says. from 4:15
The beeps, chimes, and dings blast out from the various monitors that surround each baby. They’re set up like the spaceship in Alien – crude in build, sophisticated in technology. from Welcome to the N.I.C.U.
“Pick it up and open it out,” says Autumn. I stare at the teeny poop catcher. “That’s really a diaper?” “It is.” from That’s a Diaper
On. Don’t say something stupid. Off. Don’t say something stupid. On. God, please keep me from being an idiot. “You know,” I say, “it’s pretty quiet in here without a…” You’ve got to be shitting me. Stop! from Going Home Alone
“It’s almost touch time. And good news. You can kangaroo her.” “Brittany told me this afternoon. She was ecstatic on the phone. That’s why I came straight from the airport even though it’s almost 3am. Didn’t want to wait until tomorrow morning.” from Holding You (Kangaroo)
The challenge seems simple – drink 15 ounces of milk in a sitting. That’s less than a shot at the bar. But it’s not so simple for Lil. The bottle dwarfs her like everything else and sprawls from her mouth to her belly button. from First Bottle
One-month birthdays are joyous celebrations. You see the pictures online – the still alien-looking baby leaning against a teddy bear. Parents high-five their survival skills. They’ve not slept in 30-days, but they haven’t broken the kid. Everything is different for us. from One Month
We sit at a table alongside another couple who’s hoping to bring home their preemie, too. A coach stands over us and plops two dolls on the tabletop. “These are your kids,” she says. “By the end of the hour, you’ll be able to save your actual baby’s life, should you need to… I hold the doll in my hands and tuck it into my chest like a football. from Passing Tests
We strap Lil into her car seat. She’s wrapped in a warm onesie and a teeny beanie, keeping her temperature up. She looks like a doll. The seat swallows her making her barely visible. from Going Home Together
Brittany’s pregnancy with Lainey is high-risk from the beginning. Go into labor 10-weeks early one time and doctors treat you differently. So, Brittany spends more time at the OB than she does with me. from A Pistol from the Start
“Something’s wrong,” says Brittany. “She got up and left. That’s never happened before.” “Everything is fine,” I say. I have no idea what’s happening, but I have no idea about most things. The doctor and tech walk back in together. She sits in her chair and works the wand over Brittany’s belly again. The doctor hunches over, staring at the screen. “There,” says the tech. from A Whatta?
Sitting in our SUV and scrolling through my phone, I call my parents individually. They’re working. Then I call my sisters. Then my brother. Once again – like when Brittany went into the hospital early with Lil – my eyes fill with tears each call. But this time it’s slightly different. I don’t want to lose my wife. from Phone Calls to Family … Again
Brittany and I sit in the kitchen at our table and read through a stack of papers. The delivery doctors asked us to fill these out and return them. The papers document our answer to a life altering question – who lives and who dies? Do we prefer to save the baby and let Brittany, my love, my wife, the mother of our three-year-old, die? from Choice
But every night, while Brittany and Lil cuddle on the couch, I shower and wash off the smiley veneer. I am happy. But I am terrified. My world could change at any moment. The water hits my head, runs down my face, and washes down the drain. The showers heavy spray mutes my cries. from Shower Cry
The plan was simple. The high-risk delivery doctors, the oncologist, the anesthesiologist, the urological surgeon, all scheduled. They even reserved enough blood bags to transfuse a person three times. from Hemorrhage
Once more Brittany disappears into the packed OR and I sit out in the long, green hall. Alone and quiet except for the faint beeping coming from behind the heavy OR door. My whole life, everything I care about and love, now in the hands of a medical army. from She’s a Whopper
“What’s her level? We’re putting her back together and I don’t want her feeling anything.” The doctor stares at me. “What’s her level?” I stare back. “I have no clue.” from I’m an Anesiesiologist
Brittany lie in her bed. We’ve got this. We’ve been here before and this is nothing different. It will be tough with Lil at home, but we know the drill. Lots of alarms, lots of worry. But we’ll be fine. from We Got This N.I.C.U Thing
I pull my index finger from inside her hand and touch her new wound. Less than a quarter of an inch. from Tiny Slice
Lainey was born five days ago. Today we get to hold her for the first time. Yes, we’d been through this with Lil. Yes, this wait should have been easier. But I can’t wait to cradle her teeny body in my forearms and whisper in her ear that I’ll never let any- thing bad happen to her. from Five-Day Wait
We’re empty handed. Other families get to return home together – baby and mom. Our family’s not complete… once again. from Empty Handed Again
Tonight, I’ve brought over the entire Peter Rabbit boxed set. The plan is to read a few and just sit. We’ve been doing this almost every night. She lies there while I share my thoughts. It’s a one-way relationship but I know she’ll make up for it when she’s older. from Dirty Peter Rabbit
We drive to the hospital, Lil buckled in the back in her car seat next to the empty car seat. Soon they’ll be sitting back there together, talking to each other. They’ll laugh between phrases of kid blabber. Brittany and I will laugh at their laughter but have no idea what they’re saying. from Lil Meet Lainey