Friday, July 10, 2009

There And Back Again

Connor's curled up asleep right now around our little dictating tape recorder; through the little speaker I can just hear his Daddy's voice reading chapters of The Hobbit. Jeremy made those tapes for Connor during the last months of my pregnancy. We knew well before Connor was born that he would have some medical issues, and I had to move back to Dallas when I was seven months pregnant to be close to the hospital I would deliver in, as the doctors were concerned that Connor would come early. Jeremy had to stay in College Station where his job was: about three and a half hours away. He would drive up on the weekends to see me, but he wanted to make sure that the baby recognized his voice, so he made these tapes and had me hold them up to my belly each night before bed. He chose to read a book he vividly remembers his own father reading out loud when he was young.

After Connor was born, the little dictating tape recorder took up a permanent position in the corner of our son's incubator. He was probably in incredible amounts of pain the first few weeks due to a kidney swollen hugely out of proportion to his little body and multiple surgeries. Every little noise or touch sent him into a screaming frenzy and caused his oxygen levels to plummet. The only thing that seemed to calm him down when we weren't there was listening to the tapes of his Daddy that I'd played for him each night for the last three months of my pregnancy. The nurses kept them running constantly when visiting hours were over. In the picture I've posted he's about five weeks old, and you can see his faithful tape recorder up in the corner of his bed.

We used the tapes again when Jeremy had to leave for training; Connor was only about three weeks old and wouldn't be reunited with his father for more than brief visits until nearly six months later. Each time I lay him down in his crib for sleep I'd put his tapes on. It got to where I had the first five chapters of The Hobbit just about memorized, I'd heard them so often.

The first few nights after Jer deployed Connor had a really hard time sleeping. Things got especially bad after we returned from Texas; he started waking up and crying three or four times a night. Nothing seemed to help. Finally I remembered those old tapes, pulled one out of the back of his drawer, and popped it in our faithful little dictating tape recorder-- still bearing the label from the hospital where he spent his first five and a half weeks of life. He was asleep within five minutes, his body curled around the tape recorder as if to make sure he caught every word. Now it's firmly ensconced in the place of honor, and he won't go to sleep without it.

I included one of Connor's books in the care package I sent him a couple of days ago, and he left for Afghanistan with a dictating tape recorder and several little tapes tucked into his pack. Hopefully he'll send us back some new stories to listen to, as I've played the others so many times they're starting to get scratchy and I'm worried they won't last through this deployment.

I'm so glad that we have them, though-- they bring Connor (and me) a little bit of comfort, and will help him remember the sound of his Daddy's voice until Jer is back home.



Julia O'C said...

Woke up kind of grumpy, and now I'm kind of weepy. Beautiful post, Jess.

Colleen said...

That's so awesome..I'm sure he loves hearing his Dad's voice. Connor was such a cute little peanut.

skeybunny said...

It is a beautiful post, and I'm so glad you have those tapes...for Connor and for you.

The little tape recorder brings back memories for me too. We had one that Jeremy and I read stories to Evan on when he was staying the NICU. Because we lived a couple hours away from the hospital, there were 2-3 day stretches where we wouldn't see Evan. But he had the tapes--we, and his NICU nurses, noticed he really calmed down when the tapes were played. Don't ask me why when we knew Evan had a syndrome where 85% of the affected individuals have some level of hearing loss we thought he was in the 15% with "good hearing" (can you say "denial"), but we did. So it was somewhat of a shock to us when we found out Evan was pretty much what lay people refer to as "stone deaf." There was absolutely no way he was hearing our little tinny voices coming out of that tape recorder, even with the volume at full blast. It was very convincing to parents who desperately wanted to be convinced...

Connor's Mom said...

Well, even if he wasn't hearing your voices, he might have been feeling the vibrations through the bed! Mattresses are pretty good conductors of that sort of thing-- who knows?

Blog Directory