Ten Things About the Color Blue

Winter BabyThis morning Lit Hub published a personal essay I wrote that they titled “Writing and Confronting Terror in the Form of a Color: Theodore Wheeler’s Notes on Blue.” (I’d titled it the much pithier and more mysterious “Ten Things About the Color Blue,” but I digress.) The essay delves into the many ways I’ve tried writing about creating art while being a parent and, in particular, trying to work through the trauma we experienced when our second daughter turned blue in the delivery room shortly after being born.

In the years since, I’ve written several short stories, a novel, and now an essay that uses the color blue as a leitmotif. There’s some discussion about the real life stuff that is behind my new novel In Our Other Lives, but mostly it focuses on the healing process and why this became such an obsession for me.

Read it on Lit Hub today!

An hour after my second daughter was born, she turned blue in my arms.

The first time it happened I didn’t say anything. Her skin tinted bluish, just a little, but she pinkened right away and that was all fine. She was healthy and large, we were happy. Minutes later, my wife holding her this time, her skin blued again and my stomach sank. “Do you see that?” I asked my wife. “Does she look a little blue?” But Cee was apparently breathing; her chest rising and falling. “Should we ask a nurse?”

When the nurse answered our call, she immediately slapped a button on the wall that announced a code blue over the entire floor. Cee was snatched from our arms by a dozen doctors and nurses and taken to an incubator across the hall. Although her chest was rising, Cee was not taking enough oxygen to stay alive. In less than an hour she would be moved downstairs to the neonatal intensive care unit, then would undergo a spinal tap to make sure she didn’t have meningitis. There were alarms that chimed when her oxygen levels dipped too low, something that happened over and over her first hours. There were a lot of things that happened over the next four days, too many to mention. We stayed in the NICU until her lungs cleared and we could take her home. And then she was fine. After she learned, Cee has never forgotten how to breathe.

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