New media, and new dads

I still have the operating room scrubs, folded and tucked away in the back of the closet. They’re green with a white drawstring on the pants, washed and dried and most days anymore I don’t give them a second thought.

They were a size too big for me.

For whatever reason, though, that shirt-and-pants set is the image that came to me this morning, thinking about the Toomey family of Hanover, who had their quadruplets yesterday.

Plenty of other things jump to mind, too, when I think back over the local family’s journey, and the way in which we tried to chronicle it. Most recently, that meant trying to get information while Heather Toomey was giving birth this weekend at York Hospital.

There’s an interesting question – if you’ll pardon the bad pun – of how hard to push for news in such a situation.

It also bears discussion how, in this case, social media (again) came to the rescue.

And then there are those scrubs. I took them out today and they’re sitting on the table next to the computer.

Boy, that brings back a whole other story.

 

The Evening Sun first learned about the Toomeys through correspondent Cubby Conrad, a friend of Heather Toomey who realized a local woman pregnant with quads – perhaps the first set ever to call Hanover home – was a big deal. Cubby wrote the first part of a story, and I visited Heather in the hospital on March 1, to add the finishing touches.

Hanover reacted as it always does – with emails and calls and questions about how to help.

Arrangements were made, donations came in and people followed the news. Heather remained in the hospital. Time passed.

Saturday afternoon rolled around, and when I got into the office I had a message from a friend’s mom, a local woman who’d been following Heather’s Facebook page, “Toomey Quad Squad.”

The babies are coming now, she said.

Greg Toomey, new father to quadruplets, is shown here with one of his daughters. You never forget your time in that room.

For us the question became how to confirm and then spread that information, without interfering or overstepping our bounds as a newspaper. The last thing anyone needs at that point is an overzealous reporter.

The hospital immediately said “no,” citing privacy issues. Patient information isn’t handed out willy-nilly, especially in the maternity ward.

Still, everyone wanted to know.

And the question of how to get information to so many friends following on Facebook was answered quickly enough – on Facebook.

Jessica Heiner, Heather’s sister, was following our online thread from the hospital. Soon she was posting updates there from her phone.

“Heather had the babies.”

“One baby is breathing on her own. “

“Everyone’s OK.”

We watched that drama unfold together, all of us refreshing the Facebook thread Saturday afternoon and evening. And I imagine there were more than a few hugs and cheers across the Hanover area.

It’s been said here before but bears repeating: the power of social media lies in bringing us together, faster. Hours later, Jessica slipped away to call me and we spoke briefly about the day.

This March 1 file photo shows Greg and Heather Toomey at York Hospital. Heather gave birth to the couple's quadruplets on Saturday.

The written story that followed was almost an afterthought.

It missed, in short, everything.

But I wouldn’t have expected anything different. Because there’s no real way to write such things from a distance.

Grandparents boasting to solemn doctors, and a smiling, 3-year-old big sister.

A new mother drained and pale and wedged up on pillows in a wrinkled gown, aglow.

And Dad, quiet and confused and content to solve the little problems as they come. More ice chips, maybe?

It’s that last image, I guess, which I’m left with. It’s what had me digging in the back of my closet this morning, pulling out clothes I hadn’t worn since 2007.

Those emerald green, ill-fitting scrubs are what I had on – what I fumbled into hopping on one foot – when my wife was rushed to the operating room five years ago next month for an emergency Cesarean section. I don’t really remember how I got there.

I remember holding her hand, though, while they cut.

And I remember the words spoken from behind blue masks, and bright lights above, and blood and questions and machines beeping and the crack of my little silver camera, as it clattered across the hard floor.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered.

Sometime later there was an unseen gasp, and a tiny cry from tiny lungs. They held her up then, so I could see her.

I still have no idea how long the whole thing took. I do recall, though, that I never cried.

It occurs to me now maybe I was supposed to.

But really, that’s a lot to take in.

Let’s just say I don’t blame Heather’s husband, Greg, for not saying too much through this whole thing. I know that look in his eyes: part worry, part wonder.

But five years after the fact for me, I would offer this, unsolicited, to a father of four new babies:

My wife and daughter came through it all just fine, no worse for wear, presumably, in spite of my bumbling.

And while four kids will be tough, Hanover is here to help, already offering everything from diapers to locals willing to change them.

And better perspective? Some understanding?

Those, it seems, come in time. Like when a little girl tells you, unasked, that she loves you. Or when she draws you a picture, then signs her name in crooked crayon. When she cries over a boo-boo, and your tears finally come.

No, the oversize scrubs you’re given in one harried moment won’t necessarily fit quite right, dad.

But with enough shared bowls of ice cream, and a few chocolate-chip cookies split in half before a quiet bedtime story, you find you grow into them.

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