Friday, December 30, 2011
What have we learned so far? Very little, I'm sure. Unfortunately there is so much conflicting information about babies that it's quite staggering to a new parent. The main rule to live by seems to be that "every baby is different." One book tells you it's OK to let them cry, then the other one reams you out for even thinking of such a thing. But when you've been trying to calm a two week old who hasn't slept for more than 20 minutes in the past 5 hours AND she won't latch on because she's too tired, your desperate hope is that the trick your friend told you about fashioning a tinfoil hat for the baby and playing polka lullabies will work for your baby just as it did hers.
The baby has gone from feeding for an hour and sleeping for 2-3 to feeding for 15-20 minute spurts and fussing for 2-3 hours. She'll get fussy, try latching on and then get cranky and flail her little arms around while singing her siren baby song. She looks tired, she's got slower movements and probably could not pass a sobriety test if she was pulled over. She just won't go to sleep! I've explained to her numerous times how she should relish the amount of sleep she can get right now. How when she gets older sleep will not be as easy to obtain, and people often take pills and dream of purple butterflies to get the desired result. Alas, my logic does not work on her. Perhaps when she's older someone like Dora or Barney can convey this better than I can.
She spits pacifiers out like they were chewing tobacco. Swaddling only annoys her because she needs her arms free to flail about and clean the shell casings we've set out for her to earn some extra money. Holding her and swaying about or doing the "parent dance" barely works, and it makes me look like a hopeless Heisman trophy runner-up who has no coordination. I even tried singing to her in my croaky voice, and not even my best renditions of Beatles tunes can soothe her.
Time and again we've been told that this period will pass. Parents who are veterans of the war on fussiness and gas have assured us that we will get a reprieve, and that this is the easy stuff. We want to believe them, and we know they're right, but it's hard to keep that frame of mind when your baby hasn't slept consistently for the past few days and it seems like she hates you for bringing her into this world. Yet there we are every night trying to soothe her and let her know that we're here for her. Due to the fact that we're breast feeding, many of the soothing sessions have been carried out by my wife (she is the best!), and I am so thankful for her hard work and dedication. I do my best to keep diapers changed, swaddles bundled (no arms!) and her mind and body nourished. I can only hope I'm doing as much for my ladies as my wife is doing in her role as a mother.
We've been lucky enough to have our families and some really awesome friends help us out since we've gotten home from the hospital. They've shown their support with gifts, visits, cards wishing us well and some fantastic food that needs little preparation. I cannot thank them enough for their support, and I hope we can pay them back properly once the shell shock of the baby being here has finally worn off. I can't wait until the baby is a bit older and (fingers crossed) past the fussy stage so we can take her out for visits and show her the world she's now a part of. I'm also looking forward to seeing the world through her eyes and learning with and from her. It's tough right now, but I know it's going to be worth it.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
An incoming contraction made my head a little clearer. Checking the contraction timer she had going on her phone showed me that she had only 4 minutes between this one and the last. I hadn’t yet timed out how quickly it would take us to get to the hospital by taxi, but I knew it took over an hour and a half by train. Unless we wanted a train conductor or homeless person to deliver this baby, we needed to get a taxi, and fast.
The taxi showed up in about 10 minutes, however the driver hadn’t been informed that my wife was currently in labor. He floored it and asked us to vouch for him if a cop pulled him over for speeding. He then proceeded to predict the sex of our baby (we wanted to wait), and say a prayer for us out loud. We were so caught up in the moment that he had to remind us to say ‘amen’ once he was done. We’re not religious by any means, but who are we to stop this guy from praying for us to reach our destination safely while he barrels down the road at 70 mph. The only thing missing was music from the Blues Brothers soundtrack.
Our driver got us there safe and sound in record time. He ran about 3 or 4 red lights, never got pulled over, and only stopped once to jump out at a red light to ask the driver in front of us to move out of our way. We hit the hospital door running, got checked in and ushered off to our delivery room. We got settled in, met the staff members who would be helping us that day, and one of the doctors from the practice we were going to stopped by to check on my wife. I’ve not met many people who can have as much energy and enthusiasm at 6 o’clock in the morning like this guy. He checked my wife’s dilation (4 & ½ cm) and told us we were on our way. He left the room by saying, “If you hear any crying coming from under that sheet, give me a call.”
About an hour and numerous contractions later, my wife decided it was time for an epidural. She had wanted a natural delivery and was hoping to that some of the pain distraction techniques we’d learned would be enough, but she had finally had enough. I’d been told that contractions rival the pain of passing a kidney stone (which I’ve done a few times in my life), so I could relate to her level of pain. Unlike contractions, however, the kidney stone pain did not come back every couple of minutes over the course of 12 hours. People will say a lot of things while they’re in pain, so we set up a code word (Canasta!) that she used to ensure me that she was serious about needing the epidural. We did that because I thought her saying, “Give me the motherfucking epidural!!!” just wasn’t clear enough for me.
So they hooked her up, she got the icy, peppermint patty sensations and eventually those contractions went from “Holy shit!” to “I can handle this.” So, what happened next? We waited. And then we waited some more. Then ‘Ghostbusters’ was on Comedy Central, so we watched that. We checked our Facebook and Twitter feeds (a LOT), texted status updates (apparently everyone wanted to know how much we were waiting) and I tried to make my wife as comfortable as possible. But honestly, how can do you that when there’s nothing on daytime television?
After 11 hours of waiting, the time had come for my wife to start pushing. It was my job to cheer her on, dab her face with a cold compress and to not be afraid of the animalistic noises she was making. She pushed for 3 cycles of 10 seconds, and 45 minutes later doctor told me to look over at the crowning of the baby. I can’t remember what I said, but I believe it was something along the lines of “Holy shit.” I looked over at my wife and told myself to remember this moment. This would be the last time where it was ‘just the two of us.’ The 9 month wait was about to be over.
She pushed. I cried. She smiled. I got tingly in my face and hands. We kissed. I know it’s basic biology, but what happened is pretty incredible. Welcome to the world, baby girl.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
(I’m getting better with my Daily News/NY Post-esque sensationalistic titles, don’t you think?)
2 weeks ago my wife and I had another ultrasound for the kid. This was the 20 week biggie (although it was really more like 21), where they take a lot of measurements and can even tell you the sex of the child if you want (we don’t). So after they checked the tires, changed the oil and cleaned her windshield, the doctor told us that my wife’s fluid level was a bit low. She has to change one of her meds and come back in two weeks for a follow up. Good news mixed with a little worry, but hopefully nothing major.
A few days later I get a call from my step-father, checking in and making sure everything is going ok. He’s a great guy, and I genuinely enjoy talking with him. It’s a nice contrast talking to him versus my mom, who isn’t very personable and likes to keep things basic and superficial. You know how it goes, the mom who asks how you’re doing but really wants to tell you how bad things are for her. You get the chance to say some things, but it feels like what you say just isn’t heard. With my step-dad it’s like talking to someone who’s generally interested in what you have to say, and you have a good back and forth with him.
Pre-baby we were likely to talk to each other once every few months, and that only varied if there was a holiday, birthday or some other special event. That’s changed to some degree now that the baby is on the way. I looked at this as a chance to maybe get a little deeper than talking about the weather, a chance to bond over her experiences being a parent and mine in becoming one. There’s been a tiny bit of that, but things are going back to the way they were in terms of frequency. The last time I had spoken with her was probably a few weeks prior to this ultrasound.
A couple days after talking to my step-father I get an email from my mom: “Where are the new pictures of my grandchild?????” No “hello.” No “How are you doing?” Not even a “How’s the weather out there?” If she had asked that last one, I wouldn’t have even questioned this email. Things are fine! A bit breezy, but… However, I got pretty pissed about the fact that she couldn’t even fake interest in how we were doing. She just needed to see those pics. Little was written, but a lot was said in my mind. So I sent her the pictures stating, by the way, that my wife and I were fine. I got a response saying, “I know. I spoke to your father.”
This pretty much set me off. How could she not even fake interest in our well-being? I didn’t get a response that claimed she was absentminded about us due to her excitement over her grandchild. I got a response that said, “I heard about you from someone else, so I don’t need to bother asking myself.” I know it was only a couple of days in between the call with my step-father and her email, but c’mon! Sadly, I have to even wonder why I got worked up over this, because it’s really par for the course. I guess I just had a little hope that things might go differently now that the kid is on the way.
Over the next day or two, New York started getting a little worried about Irene making her way through town. The news channels were warning of her arrival, and telling us what to do in order to prepare. A number of people I spoke to at my job told me of how their parents called to see if they were ok. Some even had their parents saying to hop on the next available flight and just wait for things to die down here. All I could say was, “I haven’t heard anything from my family.” My wife’s parents called and emailed, making sure we had supplies and that our apartment would be ok. Even though I expected to hear from them, it was really great to hear of their concern for our safety. It felt good to know people were worried about me. I felt loved.
Then on Saturday morning, the day before Irene was supposed to hit us, I got a text. I was at the gym when I heard the familiar tone. I looked at my phone and couldn’t believe my eyes. My real father, the guy whose DNA I share, wanted to make sure we were ok and prepared. I hadn’t spoken to him in 2 years, and about 15 years prior to that. He has his own family, 2 kids in college and a business to run. Yet he cared enough to check in on us. It took me by surprise, for sure. But damn it felt good. I even ended up calling and talking to him for a while. And just like with my step-father, it was a real conversation. He gave me some tips on hurricane prep, and I caught him up to speed with our end. I still have lots of questions about what happened with his marriage to my mother, and he’s willing to share his memories with me in time. I think I’m ready to hear about it. We’ll see.
Later that night, around 8 or so, my mom finally calls. It’s a brief conversation, mainly because I’m pretty short with her. I want to think there was concern in her voice, I want to think that she was worried for us. I’m sure she was, but it was veiled in questions about what we were doing to prepare and what the news was saying. She wanted me to keep her posted, I told her we might lose power and I’d have to conserve my battery. Her response was reiterating that I should keep her posted.
In the end, we made it through Irene with power and very little damage to our block. A few trees down here and there, but mostly just leaves and branches in the streets and sidewalks. We got lucky, and I’m thankful for that. I’m also thankful for the opportunity to learn how to prepare for something like this. I would never have thought to freeze water in Tupperware and use it to keep our refrigerated food cold if the power went out. It was nice to work together with my wife to make sure we had supplies and were prepared as much as we could be.
The other thing I learned from this experience is how differently I would have acted towards my own child if this happened to them. I want to keep tabs on them until the day I die. If I hear that there’s going to be a stampede of hamsters in his/her town, I’m going to call and email and make sure they’re ok and ready to kick some hamster butt. Or just stay safely out of the way, whichever they choose to do. I don’t want a strained relationship, I don’t want my child to not want to talk to me or have me in their life. So in a way I’m thankful for how my mom has been. At first I was upset and frustrated, but that changed to introspection and the desire to be a better parent. I guess that circle of life shit is actually pretty true. You try to give your kid what you didn’t have, learn from your parent’s mistakes and try not to mess the kid up too much. Here’s hoping I can do even a bit of that.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
We got married right out of college, mostly because we were infatuated with each other, but also because of the timing. We were planning on moving to Japan to teach English as a second language, and we knew if we waited too long we'd lose touch with a lot of our friends. College creates incredibly strong bonds with people, but life directly after you graduate can be frustrating, demanding and may force you to move on in many ways. Seriously, who wants to find a real job and become and adult after you've just spent 4 years at the best summer camp, I mean learning institution, ever?
So we moved to Japan and had one of the best life experiences we've ever...experienced? Had? You get the point. I'll save the details for another post, however it is a time we cherish to this day and we hope to visit again in the future. The important part is, my new wife and I were living on our own, and in a foreign country! Talk about jumping into the deep end right away. But when you're young, fearless and taking it on together, it seems like anything is possible. Ok, it helped that there was a McDonald's right down the street. And that the menu was in English, and the people who worked there tried really hard to practice their English on us. What were we supposed to do, not talk back? Plus, McDonald's in another country is actually good. Trust me.
Moving back to the States was a challenge. We had no home, no jobs and we were in culture shock after living in a country where a large soft drink was meant for two people, not one. So we took what we could find and just started winging it. Neither of us had a clue what we wanted to do with our lives when we were in college, so that didn't really give us much direction. We were also inexperienced at living on our own, paying bills regularly and living like a married couple. Japan was kind of like a long working vacation, but now we were forced to get serious and get on with our lives.
After a few year-long stints at various companies, we settled down for a while in my wife's hometown. My wife got a job working at the same company her father was at, and I quickly jumped ship from the retail gig I had and joined her. Picture this: you wake up and see your wife, get ready for work together while griping about having to go there, drive to work together, pass each other in the building you both work in, take lunch together and complain about work, go back to work, drive home while complaining about work and then spend the rest of the night avoiding each other because you've done nothing but see each other all day! Wow that's a long sentence.
We spent lots of time together, but not necessarily "together." When the only thing you really have to bond over is how much you like or dislike a co-worker, that should send up a signal flare that things need a-fixin.' We didn't really see this, and it drove a wedge between us. So what is the most logical course of action to try and remedy a problem such as this? Therapy? Wait, I know, move to New York City!
Our life in Japan made us realize that we needed something bigger than the Midwestern lives we grew up with. 2 shopping malls and a road containing nothing but chain restaurants just wouldn't cut it. Luckily for us a good friend (and her then boyfriend) were moving out of their apartment on the UWS and they offered the lease to us. We jumped at the opportunity, packed up a U-Haul and headed East (insert Beverly Hillbillies type reference here).
But what of this divide you spoke of? Is it still dividin' like a divide does? After we got settled in NY, we took a good look at the state of our marriage and realized we needed to do something to fix things. Actually, it wasn't until we were both in solo therapy that we realized this. So off we went, getting all therapeutic up in this. And where do we stand now? Well, she's still a foot shorter than me, but our marriage is doing much, much better. We're able to recognize problems and patterns more consistently, and more importantly, talk about them! Who knew that the biggest part of being married is communication?
So what's the point? Why did I just ramble about our problems when I could have been reminiscing about all the good things we had these past 12 years. I don't know. Wait, yes I do. We're still together and stronger than we've ever been. We've done things that many people will never do in their entire lives, and we've also grown as a couple and as individuals. These past 12 years have been filled with many ups and downs. I can't say that I wouldn't want to change some things, but all those things have shaped us into who we are today. And looking back, I can't imagine spending those times with anyone other than the person whose face I wake up to every morning.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
I get that there are a lot of things I can't experience during the pregnancy, and I totally respect and admire my wife for what she has to go through in order to bring our child into the world. Biological law declares that I have a 9 month waiting period after "registering" for a child permit, so I can't begin bonding with him/her until then. And while my wife doesn't feel anything at week 16 (4 months in non-pregnant speak), she will eventually begin to experience the baby moving, kicking and redecorating her uterus. The bond and love she will have for our child will take shape much sooner than mine will, and I have to play catch up once the due date arrives.
This is our first pregnancy, and neither of us had any experience with babies growing up or in our adult lives until now. Yet the popular belief is that my wife will excel at parenting while I lag behind. Many commercials and TV shows predict that I'll be aloof and unfamiliar with what our child "really needs," while my wife will show up at the height of my mischief or mistake with the correct product or thing to do to save our child from my stupidity. Apparently there is some higher form of parenting osmosis that goes on during pregnancy and delivery that gives my wife a PhD in baby care. Perhaps I should start looking for night classes at a local community college to gain some basic competency.
To be honest, I don't think either of us are ready for what's about to happen. Sure we have some ideas, but we won't know until the baby is here and we get our hands dirty (literally). Up to this point, we've only had to take care of each other and two dogs. We haven't really had to do the kind of nurturing involved with being a parent, and we might suck at it. Does it scare me? More than you could imagine. I don't think it will be easy, and it will test us in new ways. But I'm confident that we can do this together. It took both of us to create this thing, and it will take us both to care for and guide it as it grows.
So what should I be doing while our bun is baking in the oven? According to this list I should do things like honor her mood changes, not ask her to "hold it," not expose her to bright light or feed her after midnight (I added those last two). I already do most of those things, but I'm so happy that someone made a list for me to keep handy when I forget them! Or maybe I should take the simple advice of the guy below. He seems to know what he's talking about, although he's a guy, so shouldn't we question his authority on this subject?
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
My hope is that my wife and I will create an atmosphere where our child will want to talk to us freely about things. I will do my best to not cringe when an awful truth comes out. I will try hard to not react quickly when I hear something that I don't agree with or can't believe my child would say. It's easy for me to sit here and say this without years of parenting experience behind me, as I'm sure veterans would laugh at my naivety. But I think my lack of having an open dialogue with my parents has made me see how important such a thing can be. And honestly, I should have written 'mother' rather than 'parents' there. Look at that, I totally went against something I just told you I wanted to have with my kid. I'm going to go sit in the corner for 5 minutes and think about what I did.
First, some backstory. My mother has been divorced twice and married three times. She has been the one constant parent in my life, so it's only natural that I would be more open to talking to her about things. She divorced my biological father when I was young (around 10), and married my first stepfather (Chuck) pretty quickly after. Chuck and I didn't get along very well, but he came along close to when I hit puberty and I didn't get along with most people then, so go figure. He and my younger brother hit it off well, having a similar knack for taking things apart and annoying me. So I naturally moved closer under the wing/apron of my mother, who was there to listen to me agonize over all the woes about my budding adolescence. If I needed to talk about girls, she was there. If I needed to complain about my brother, she was there. If I needed to talk about how awesome 80's rap was, she was there too.
One day, things changed. I don't remember the conversation, but I remember being in the car with her talking about something. A response she gave to me using something I had divulged to her earlier was used in a way to get a dig on me. I had let her in on some kind of secret or private thought, something most likely trivial if I were to find out what it is now, but it was a moment of clarity for me. This moment in time made me realize that sharing things with my mother would only allow her to use those things against me at some point.
The funny thing is, I don't know why I didn't see this coming sooner. Looking back on the family get togethers we had, this type of shit happened ALL THE TIME. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas our grandparents and uncle would come over and there would be a non-stop barrage of digs thrown at any and everyone. Sometimes they were playful, other times they brought up subjects that you thought were off limits to other family members. Somehow I never realized this was going on until I moved out of the house and made annual holiday visits. My wife and I would sit there uncomfortably while digs were hurled across the table like mashed potatoes in the food fight scene of 'Animal House.' Everyone traded barbs while I looked at my wife in astonishment and tried to chew my dinner as quickly as possible.
So is that what it means to be loved in my family? Is throwing some resentful dig a way of showing how much we care about each other? I've certainly used this on my friends and my wife on numerous occasions. I used to say that I let you know that I liked you when I did something like that. What a nice guy I was. Care for a nice compliment about how you look? Nooooooo. I'm going to tell you that you looked a lot worse the last time I saw you. What an asinine way of doing things. Excuse me while I hide behind sarcasm and resentment to avoid telling you how I really feel. It's only been through therapy (and lots of co-pays) that I've come to realize that this happens and that I'm just as guilty as my family members. Thankfully I can now recognize that I'm doing it and try to correct myself when I slip.
Ever since we told my family that we're going to have a baby, the lines of communication have been opened much wider than before. The phone calls that used to come only on holidays, birthdays and deaths in the family have turned into almost weekly status updates and real conversations. My mother used to call and quickly ask me how I was, followed by her updates and a check of the weather in our respective areas. It's like we were anchoring a newscast rather than having a conversation. "That's the weather in New York state. Reporting live from Brooklyn I'm Chris. Back to my Mom in studio and a look at who won the game last night." Now we're talking about how my wife is handling the pregnancy, ultrasound results and even a bit about parenting strategies. It's going to take some getting used to, but I like the direction we're headed in.
You know who I have to thank for getting us to this point? Our unborn child. That little lemon-sized (he/she has grown since my last post) little wonder has made it possible to have some type of connection with my mother again. Our relationship has been strained for some time now, and it's nice to see things changing for the better. I'm not entirely comfortable with it yet, because I've grown accustomed to our abbreviated annual calls. But I know that it is nice to see some of the ice between us melting away, and I hope that we can gradually get to a better place in our relationship. Until she makes a dig at my child, and then it's on like Donkey Kong.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
That's a picture of a plum. I've never eaten one before, nor do I have any intentions of trying one. I've never met one on the street, but I'm sure they are quite nice once you get to know them. This image, however, is something that I can't get out of my head this week. This is due to the fact that the above plum is the same size as my unborn child. Right now my wife has a little baby plum nestled in her womb, leeching away at the nutrients she's taking in every day. Normally I wouldn't want another organism doing this to my wife, but I suppose I'll make an exception this time around.
I have to admit, it's absolutely blowing my mind most days. It's been doing that ever since we found out this past Easter. We got home that night from a trip to Washington, D.C., she peed on a stick, and 3 minutes later the game had changed. We knew it was true, but she still peed on another stick the following morning (I think she likes peeing on sticks, but you didn't hear that from me). Same result. That glowing + is etched into your brain forever, whether you like it or not. Ever since then I've been excited, worried, freaked out and a bunch of other emotions I don't normally feel on a regular basis.
I'm reading a book to prepare myself. I'd like to read more of them, but I'm a slow reader and fact heavy books have a way of boring me. We've watched 2 documentaries on childbirth, a National Geographic special on the first year of child development, and as many episodes of NBC's 'Parenthood' as we can stand. The problem I'm having is that I can't stop thinking about the future issues we'll have to deal with: driving, sex, arguments, school, etc. I have this knack of distancing myself from present issues by over-analyzing and critically thinking about ones that haven't even happened yet. It's easier that way, because I can plan out which emotions I might feel, what words I would choose to say. Present tense problems put me on the spot, make me try to feel in the moment, speak off the cuff. So in my head, our child's toddler through teen years are already being played out like a grandmaster plays out future moves in chess. I guess this means that if it's a boy I should name him Kasparov or Fischer.
This week has been a mix of high and low for me, as we hit the 12th week and decided it was time to tell the world. It was great getting congratulated by friends and co-workers, hearing them share stories if they had their own children and just feeling that appreciation of more humanity being brought into the world. It's funny how people who can't stand kids will still congratulate you and talk about it. Sometimes it feels more genuine coming from them than from someone who does want kids but doesn't have them yet. Sometimes you even get resentment from people who thought they would have them before you. Trust me, I wasn't trying to compete with you on who would procreate first. I was just happy I was in the running and taking one for the team by having sex all the time. Poor me.
The low end of this week came from exactly the same place: telling more people about the news. The reality of the situation grew exponentially. It was no longer our secret to cherish and share together. The little winks and nudges we would give to each other when someone talked about kids, or if we saw a child and thought about what ours would look and act like. I feel like I've put myself under the microscope to be judged on an entirely different level. People who know me or work with me can now take that knowledge and apply it to how they think I'll be as a father. I know I can't worry myself over such things, but one's mind does have a tend to wander.
Some people mentioned that having a baby means I finally have to become an adult. You're the parent now, the adult of the household. I'd like to think of myself as more of a person who's starting a new phase in life. It's taken me a long time to realize that life is more a work in progress than a destination you work hard to reach. Parenthood for me, right now in this moment, is another way of shaping who I am. Perhaps it's ignorance, or denial, but I right now I just feel a little older, somewhat wiser and nervously excited about the future.