Tag Archives: Birth

The Heroic

But truly, women are amazing. Think about it this way: a woman can grow a baby inside her body. Then a woman can deliver the baby through her body. Then, by some miracle, a woman can feed a baby with her body. When you compare that to the male’s contribution to life, it’s kind of embarrassing, really.
-Jim Gaffigan

As long as I’ve known my wife, Amber, her passion has been singing. “Passion” almost doesn’t seem like a strong enough word. It’s been her dream to sing since she was in grade school. She’s followed the rainbow from Ohio to Missouri, Phoenix and back again. She’s invested thousands of dollars and hours into her pursuit. It’s a longing so strong that she prays about it every day…it sometimes even wakes her up at night. Before I ever met my wife, I heard her music…and her dream has never been unreachable. She is AMAZING. So, you can imagine my surprise when, a couple months ago, she came to me one day with a revelation.

“I feel like I should give up my music.”

She explained that she wanted to see change in Cailyn more than anything else, and that her pursuit of singing had occupied a space in her life that she felt led to sacrifice for the love of her daughter. In the weeks since she made this commitment, I’ve seen more positive change in Cailyn than in the prior year…and I’ve seen more joy in Amber.

The word “hero” is thrown around a lot, these days. The term took on a new meaning for me, when I returned home a few days ago. I grabbed the mail, walked into the house and saw Amber patiently working with Cailyn on her tracing. There was food cooking on the stove and Dalton was going wild around her. There were chalk drawings outside, she had cut the lawn, cleaned the house, and the laundry was in the final stages. Just then, I looked over at the bills in my hand and realized that I couldn’t remember the last time I’d written a check. If a “hero” is defined by a person, who gives up their life for another, then I am certain I married one.

She isn’t alone. It takes a hero to commit 31 years out of the prime of her life to selflessly and gracefully raise four strong-willed and often ungrateful children. It takes a hero to battle the day-to-day stress of restaurant ownership, knowing that the demands at home will never allow her to “punch out.” Heroes commit to their children, sometimes working multiple shifts to provide when the father walks out. Heroes decide to keep, love, and protect their unborn child…even when the doctor discovers birth defects. A hero carries their baby with care for nine months, knowing that she’ll have to give it up to someone else, so it can have a better life. It requires a hero to cope with, let alone thrive in, a home with a child who has special needs.

A few days after we took Cailyn home, I called my mom. The conversation went something like this:

“Mom, you did a lot of things wrong with me, but you were just a KID. I only now realize that you had absolutely NO idea what you were doing, but I can see that every decision you made was with my best interest at heart, because you loved me. I guess it’s life’s greatest injustice that we never understand how much our parents love us until we’re out of the house with our own. I can only hope that Cailyn understands these things and makes this same call to me, someday.”

There are millions of strong, capable, and talented women with dreams. So many of them have sacrificed youth, ambition, and personal freedom to guide new life through an unforgiving world…and, quite frankly, to perform feats that leave their husbands in pure awe.

Though their personal passions and dreams never fade, they are surpassed by a love that overwhelms self; A bond that is developed during overnight feedings, wiping butts and runny noses, kissing boo boos, breaking fevers, driving to events, waiting up all night; One that could only be formed by having another human living INSIDE of you for nine months…a love that defies the explanation of man, because it is unique to mothers.

When you compare that to the male’s contribution to life, it’s kind of embarrassing, really.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Season of Change (Part 7)

In late April of 2011, I was in the middle of a huge job transition that had me traveling all over the country. For this particular trip, I flew back from Houston to Findlay on April 28th. At about 4:00 PM, I walked in the door and plopped down on the couch. Amber and Cailyn were sleeping, so I decided to get on the computer. I was only on for a few minutes before Amber got up and came into the living room.

“Honey, my water just broke.”

Our lives would never be the same after Dalton came on the early morning hours of April 29th. His biggest immediate impact within the context of “Cailyn’s Story” was as the cherry on top of a mountain of changes to her routine.

Structure and consistency had been the bonds tenuously holding everything together through Cailyn’s therapy. Children with Autism thrive on routine, because even small changes can overwhelm them with new senses and apprehensions. We found that, in order to teach Cailyn new things, we needed to keep everything else consistent. Otherwise, the wheels fell off the cart.

Apparently, my absence had already strained her to an extent. Then, while we were in the hospital her grandma and grandpa Buena watched her. Time with grandparents means fun, eating out, watching videos, and basically having your way. There is a universal rule about no crying on a grandma’s watch. There is also no structure, no discipline, and no therapy.

On the morning of April 30th, I hadn’t slept much. Amber was feeling bad and we just had a newborn baby. I decided to unwind by taking a shower in my own house for the first time in over a week. Cailyn had really acted out at the hospital the previous night, so I decided that I’d do some therapy with her while I was there.

Things were different from the start. Even some of the skills she had mastered now brought out tears. We usually introduced these easy tasks early to give her confidence, or to calm her down between more difficult activities. Now, she wouldn’t even clap or wave. She was rebelling.

She became increasingly upset and violent. She’d scream and bite herself when I asked her to sit and wait and hit herself in the face or bang her head against the table when I tried to get her to imitate an action. For a nonverbal child, this was her way to express that she missed me, while I was gone. I had been the source of all these uncomfortable changes and she wasn’t about to let me just waltz back in and try to take control.

As we got into the second hour of therapy, we were both exhausted. She was failing every trial while physically harming herself and emotionally destroying me in the process. I think she knew I was on the ropes. The next bite and subsequent scream was blood curdling. I couldn’t take it anymore.

“Cailyn!” I yelled, as I held her arms to her side. “Arms down! Do not bite!”

I bent down and put my hands to the sides of her eyes, tunneling them straight to mine. I knew she didn’t understand, but I needed her to be engaged in my monologue.

“Look at my eyes, Cailyn. I know this is hard and I know you are mad at me. We just have to get through this.” I was breaking down at the end and we went from eye contact, straight into me holding her. She was sniffling a lot and began to move her head down. I thought she was going to wipe her nose on my shirt (this happens a lot and I’m way past caring). Instead she lunged and bit straight into my chest. I literally jumped up, in a complete state of shock. I lifted my shirt and saw I was bleeding.

Not much else was said between her and I, as we took the short trip back to the hospital. I began winding down side streets, hoping that a little extra time would wipe that transparent look from my face. I was absolutely overwhelmed by the thought that this was our first morning with two children and that I may have just tasted the beginning of our new life.

I’m not really big into verbal discussions with God. It just isn’t my nature. On this day, I made an exception. I was too upset to be profound. I just remember repeating the same phrase over and over, at varying volumes to ensure He had my speakers at the proper level.

I walked back into the hospital room with Cailyn and turned to Amber. My eyes met hers and started to water, immediately. I could only muster the composure to whisper my phrase of the day, before turning into the restroom to get away from the crowd in the room.

“I can’t handle this anymore.”

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You Do All Things Well (Part 5)

Many of you reading are absolutely shocked to see how far this story has gone without Amber playing a prominent role. The most simplistic explanation I can give is that Amber was in denial. She still seemed convinced that this would all just correct itself. At that time, we didn’t talk much about how we were feeling, even to each other. It’s for that reason I can’t exactly say what wars waged in her mind.

If you haven’t noticed, women are different from men. I won’t even attempt to explain women. I’d have a better chance of developing a cure for Autism while riding on the back of a dinosaur I cloned. One thing I do understand is that birthing a child comes with a different emotional attachment. Something that creates an endless capacity for sacrifice and heightens empathetic responses. As hard as this all hit me, Amber was even more deeply affected. It had knocked her out.


On the early afternoon of February 10th, 2009, we had reached a crisis point. Amber had been pushing for well over an hour, but time stood still as I watched my wife and daughter’s life reduced to numbers and blips on a computer screen. Amber’s blood pressure was dangerously low. Cailyn’s heart rate spiked and then dropped to abnormally low levels. Amber began to lose consciousness. She kept falling asleep and had to be slapped in the face to wake up and push. She just kept whispering between her chattering teeth “I’m cold.”

Behind me, the doctor asked the nurse to prepare for an emergency Caesarean. The doctor told me that she only had a few more pushes. Never one for theatrics or motivational tactics, I summoned my best “game face.”

“Amber, wake up. I know you are tired and cold, but this will all be over in a few minutes. Can you give me another push?” I asked
She simply nodded.

The next push was all she could muster and it left her crying, yet struggling to keep her eyes open. “I can’t.” She cried. “I’m cold.”

I amped it up a notch. “Amber, you CAN do this. You only have a couple pushes and it will be all over. I want to hold my daughter after the next push, okay?”
“Okay” she said as she weakly nodded back.

Amber pushed so hard that she couldn’t sustain it. She let out a breath in the middle of the contraction and screamed. “Alright” the doctor said “We might be able to do this, but it’s going to take a really good push. Can you get her to give us one?”

I remember glancing over at the vitals of my two girls, hearing the alarms, and being scared out of my mind. I patted Amber’s cheek to get her to wake up, put my hand up to the side of her face and wiped her hair out of her eye. “Honey. You have one time to make this happen. Cailyn’s going through a lot, right now. She needs you to give her the hardest push you can. Can you do it? Can you give one more for Cailyn?”

The doctor interrupted “Ready…Push!”

This time, Amber closed her eyes and summoned every ounce of energy in her. I’ve never seen such determination. The doctor had the vacuum and was working as we all coached “Go, Amber! You’ve got it!”. Finally, I heard her lose her breath and scream, again. Only this time, it was followed by a baby’s cry.

We had music playing in the background throughout labor. I’ll never forget the song that was on as Cailyn entered this world.

“You Do All Things Well”

None of us were prepared for the complications of childbirth or of raising an Autistic child. We were just scared kids throwing things at the wall and hoping they’d stick. As I’d later find out, Cailyn had her cord wrapped around her neck three times. Amber shouldn’t have been able to get her out on that push.

I should have known. Amber hits the hardest when she’s told that she “can’t.” A two year old with Autism and a husband at the end of his rope were about to find out just how hard.


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