Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Master of The House

Well, I can cross one more thing off that "to-do" list:
Get a Master's Degree.
I guess technically I won't 'graduate' until next month, but it's all over except the paperwork.  I turned in my thesis last week, and now I wait for everything to be official.

Woo hoo!  At last, the long hours of reading scholarly journals and tweaking my APA citations is past. I'm so glad I've done all of that, it's finally cleared the way for...what was that, again?

At least so far, the biggest change I've experienced by finishing this degree program is that I'm not entirely sure what I should do with my spare time (not that I always used that time to study or write before, mind you, I just knew I should be doing that).  So two years and thousands of dollars later, I can say that I have precisely one extra (impending) piece of vellum to show for it.  Oh, and working about 30 less hours a week.  And one article that hasn't been picked up for publication.  And many more years of paying student loans.

Don't get me wrong - I really enjoyed the degree program I just completed.  I was definitely challenged in ways that my undergrad music education lacked, and I have undoubtedly emerged a better teacher because of what I just did.  There's real value in that.  And I might be able to use this new academic credential to land some work in higher ed...maybe.  It may prove to be just another step on the way to one MORE piece of vellum, a few MORE years of student loan debt...but we're not thinking about that part just yet.  Right now, it's nice to have the degree, and it's very good to have had the philosophical, intellectual, and critical experiences of Boston University to shape me into a better music educator.

In the end, though, being at home so much more than being in a classroom does sort of attenuate those feelings of usefulness and excitement to teach.  I just spent two years and over $25K on a degree, and I'm a stay-at-home dad?  If someone else told me they were in that scenario, I might judge them.

As you can see, I have mixed feelings.  That's true about a great many things these days, so I guess it's fitting.  In practical terms, though, finishing this degree means I need to create more structure in my life, now that one element of structure has been removed.  Stay tuned for how that's going.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

How to Make Your Baby Cheaper


Since I'm still neck-deep in thesis writing, Tori's made a guest post about what she does best (well, one of many things she does best): make money work better.



So, while I don’t have any interest in starting a second blog for our family, I told Tim that I would like to share ways that we had a baby without spending a ton of money. This helped to make it possible for Tim to work part-time and for me to take part of my maternity leave unpaid. Tim is by far the better writer, so be glad that he is sharing his thoughts most of the time. So before I add a few more run-on sentences and overuse words like “really” and smiley faces, a list of ways to save $ when you start a family:

  1. Start early. Once you know that you are pregnant, start planning. As is often the case, saving money will take time. The more time you have, the more flexibility you will have to bargain shop and make things yourself. The first step should be to decide what matters most to you. Maybe you really want a Coach diaper bag, a nice jogging strollera modern looking Pottery Barn crib or some nice video baby monitors. Similar to wedding planning, you need to decide what you want to spend on and where you are willing to be thrifty. If you are cheap like me, this is more about deciding what you need to have new and what you are willing to use second hand. The only things I required new were a car seat (for safety reasons) and a breast pump (gross).
  2. Review health insurance & maternity leave policy. Make sure during your open enrollment that you have the best insurance plan for a hospital stay and if you can, fund an FSA or HSA to be able to pay the difference. Just as a frame of reference, we had a pretty normal, two-day hospital experience and before insurance the bill was around $15k. This doesn’t include the 12 or so doctor’s appointments I went to during my pregnancy (ultrasound = xrays in cost). Also look into your maternity leave policy. I haven’t taken a long vacation since 2010 so that I would have about a month of vacation leave saved up after my 6 weeks of paid sick leave.
  3. Talk to other moms. More experienced people will tell you what they actually needed and used with their babies. They also may be able to give you these things if they no longer need them. I got most of my maternity clothes, a crib, a lot of Fiona’s clothes, baby gates, toys and some disposable diapers this way. This is free and in many cases doing families a favor because they don’t have all of this junk collecting dust in their house anymore.
  4. Free crib (thanks Teri!)
  5. Register. I found it helpful to go ahead and set up a registry early. That way you realize all of the things you will need, research the brands and types you prefer and can be on the lookout for sales and secondhand items. I ended up taking a lot of things off of my registry before I even had a shower planned. If you want to save your family money too, register on Amazon. It is the cheapest place to buy most things and you get free shipping on any purchases over $25. They also have a much larger variety of items than Target or Babysrus offer.
  6. Go to church yard sales. Churches usually have nurseries, preschools and in our case, just a lot of children. Church yard sales are a great place to buy baby things, especially the ones you aren’t sure will get a lot of use. We got a humidifier ($3), a Moby wrap ($5), a high chair ($5), a jogging stroller ($25) and a variety of clothing and books this way.  
  7. Repurpose furniture. Rather than buying nursery specific furniture, use dressers that you already own for your baby’s clothing and as a changing table. We got a nice set of dressers on craigslist for free and Tim stained them gray this summer. That way Fiona or one of our other children can use them for her entire life rather than replacing baby furniture in two years.
  8. Dresser/changing table
  9. DIY. In this era of etsy and pinterest, it is pretty easy to find some creative ideas with exact instructions on how to recreate these items for yourself. While that may up the pressure to have a theme party and a beautiful nursery, it also makes it pretty cheap to decorate. Tim & I made all of the decorations for our nursery. I also had several friends who offered to make artwork or even paint a mural, so if you aren’t crafty, you may have a friend who would be happy to give you something decorative in lieu of a shower gift. Same thing applies if you are good at knitting, sewing, etc.
  10. art by tori
  11. Breastfeed if you can. Formula is expensive. You can save as much as $3,000 a year in formula, plus decreased healthcare costs for baby and mother.
  12. Use cloth diapers if you are willing. Diapers are expensive and though cloth diapers are also expensive, they are reusable – and you can put them on your registry! I was pleasantly surprised that both Target and Babysrus had the Bumgenius diapers we were planning to use. You will save over $1000 if you use cloth diapers.
  13. BumGenius diapers that we use
  14. Don’t buy (full price) stuff before your showers. While the little clothes are tempting to purchase, resist the urge. You will be surprised by the generosity of family, friends and coworkers and you may end up with gift cards that you can use to buy registry items you still need.
  15. Fiona had more clothes than I do before she was born.
  16. Don’t buy many clothes for future seasons.  That cute 6-month summer bathing suit you bought isn’t going to be very useful when your chubby baby wears 12 month clothing by May. If you do buy clothes for the future, try to stick with onesies, one-piece pajamas, etc. that could be worn no matter what the season.
  17. Resell things. You may think that a baby bjorn is going to be the perfect way to carry your baby around while doing housework, but your baby may disagree. If you find that your baby hates the carrier, bottles, or bouncy seat that you bought, resell it on Ebay or Craigslist.
  18. Avoid pink & blue. If you want to have more kids, buy gender neutral things, especially the big ticket items. Our car seat and pack-n-play are grey, our nursery is green, our crib is white.

A few other things I'm planning to do in the future to save money include: 
  • Putting money into a daycare FSA so money spent on childcare is pretax. (Dominion has a program where you can put up to $2500 a year into this account. Check with your employer.)
  • Making my own baby food
  • Buy clothes at consignment stores. It is so easy to find baby clothes new with tags!


There are lots of other ways to save money, these are just a things few that we did. I would love to hear other ideas in the comments. I'm pretty sure that our kids will be glad they wore second hand clothes if it means that we can spend more time with them and maybe even pay for college. Also, for the record, babies only need food, warm clothing and a lot of love. They will never notice the rest of this crap. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Finding a Voice

I didn't start this blog with the intent of making a chronicle of what my daughter is up to all the time.  It has more or less been that, partially because a huge part of what I do and think about necessarily has her at the center these days, and partially because writing this blog has served a practical function, and I don't have to recount what's new in Fiona's life as often when I see people - they just say, "I've been reading your blog," and we can skip all that.  So that's good.  But I'm still kind of missing the point of starting to write in this space, giving myself a voice without parameters.

Looking back at the posts I've done, it seems like I don't know what sort of voice I want to use here.  Sometimes I'm writing in hopes of sharing some profound wisdom or emotional thing.  Sometimes it's been from the "Man's Guide to Baby Raisin'" with all the blunt description that goes along with it, and every now and then I seemed to delve into the spiritual, or realize I was going to talk about my experience and not the baby all the time, so I mentioned music or teaching.

In a way, that jumble sort of makes sense, though, because I am all of those things.  Those voices, though disparate, are all authentic and make up how I view the world.  The good thing about a blog is that you don't need to use a consistent writing style.  Hell, you don't even have to spell things righte or talk good.  It's something I like and hate about the medium, and the fact that I'm exercising such flexibility in writing is probably going to limit me from ever having much of a following, should I ever start seeking that out.  Though apparently, you can stay at home and make some good money with a well-trafficked blog....

This space has also taken a back seat lately, because it doesn't have due dates, degrees, or loan payments included in the keystrokes.  I'm in the final weeks of writing my master's thesis, and until that's over, it really takes precedence over, well, a lot of things.  So I'll be back after Dec. 10 in more regular fashion, most likely.

In unrelated news, if you're a Richmonder and like beer, Hardywood Park Brewery has a gingerbread stout for the holiday season that tastes like Christmas - Beer Advocate magazine gave it 100/100.  Go get some.


Cheers.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Crib-Dwelling, the Northern Lights, and Transition Mode

All of a sudden, the crib isn't as terrible a place as it used to be.  This schedule thing, while it's not exactly a magic cure-all, has been pretty successful for getting everyone some sleep in their own beds at night, and for that, some credit needs to go to the genius of a lighted mobile:



Like the Northern Lights over an Alaskan glacier, these softly glowing and swaying orbs of cartoon animal mystique are a breathtaking and awe-inspiring sight for our beholder.  Turn it on, and she can go from restless shouting to immediate, wide-eyed stillness, and the shouting and screaming turns into little pre-verbal cooing as she talks to her glowing little friends dancing above her head.

And, it has a remote, so you can restart it without being seen.

The whole babies and mobiles pairing is not news to anyone, I know, but I never really appreciated it until we set hers up this past week.  And I have to say, I don't only appreciate its utility...I kind of want one myself.  Seeing it calmly float in the dark bedroom, gently turning on and off as the spheres shift up and down, it really does create a calming aura.  I understand the appeal.

Tori says we can put it over our bed when Fiona outgrows interest if I want to.

Mobile-makers: if you stumble upon this post for some reason, here are things I want that this does not deliver:

  • An A/C power cord.  Nobody has C batteries, and I'm sure they don't last too long.
  • With a constant power supply, I'd like an adjustable time-out, like my computer screen offers.  It doesn't stay on long enough, and I can tell that mine just went off because my child is screaming.  Be right back....
  • The ability play music other than tinkly little lullaby crap all the time.  I just have it on mute, and play music from the ipod next to the crib.  But you should include an audio input, or wifi connection to play music from your computer.
I'd pay a few bucks more for that.  But really, the important part - the magical glowing - is spot on.





In other news, this is Tori's last week at home.  Tuesdays and Thursdays are gonna be Dad and Baby.  Work days are still a bit tenuous...need to figure out a long-term solution that better accommodates my voice students (and by accommodates, I mean, still makes it worth my while to have someone watching her and I actually make a little money).  Stay tuned, this is just getting good.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

She'll be a little sore...

Babies go to the doctor a whole lot.  Makes sense - they're quickly growing and developing, and it's good to keep tabs on all that.  Fiona had her 2-month appointment on Monday, and she looked great by all measures, so that's good.  The thing that made the visit worth mentioning was that she got FIVE vaccines that day, and that's even with us opting to postpone the hepatitis B, so it could have been six.

Don't ask me what they were, because I don't remember most of them.  One was in liquid form, but the other four were done two apiece in each leg.

I found a new job I don't want: pediatric lab technician.  All you do all day is make children scream.

I took my unsuspecting daughter into the lab (unsuspecting only because she hasn't learned enough about social awareness yet to know that when other children are screaming and crying, things might go poorly for her, as well), and held her while she was stuck and stung by four needles.  Of course it was ugly, but I knew ahead of time it would not be a fun trip, and I figured I could handle it just fine.  I mean, most nights that I'm up with her, she screams at me for a while before sleeping - it would likely be a lot like that.

We took her home, and she wasn't herself all day.  She slept a good bit, but whenever she woke up, her legs hurt, and it pissed her off.  But she'd start kicking her legs, probably making it worse, and subsequently got more angry, confused, and upset.  It was a terrible cycle...but again, not unexpected, right?

I guess my reaction was really the only unexpected part.  It was really hard to see her in pain, especially being so young and unable to understand what's going on.  She has begun to develop more specific cry sounds, and the one for pain/confusion she used Monday was awful.  I know she needed the shots, but man it's going to be terrible when she needs more.





In other news, the whole "impending storm" thing about being on a schedule?  Kind of like Hurricane Sandy.  I know it's awful for other people, but we largely missed any real damage from it (at least so far).  We're already starting to get longer sleep spans at night - go scheduling!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Gathering Storm

This might get ugly, at least for a while.  Today, we're starting Fiona on a schedule.

**DISCLAIMER**
In case I've never told you this in person, or you haven't read it before, I know you already know everything about child-rearing, and I will likely ask for your advice on things sometimes.  I also know that there are a great many differing opinions when it comes to babies and schedules.

This is not one of those times where I'm soliciting advice.  You probably did this differently than we are, and it probably worked out great.  If there's one thing I've gathered from hearing the plurality of parenting advice out there, it's that as long as you pay attention to the needs of your kid, whatever approach you use will likely work just fine.


So the idea, in brief, is that life will work in 3-hour increments, starting when Fiona wakes up in the morning:

  • Get changed as soon as time starts, to help wake up.  
    • This bears much resemblance to my dad's wake-up method when I was in school, which was to turn on the lights and pull my covers off, so I know it works.
  • Eat.
  • Stay awake until midway through the 3-hour cycle.  
    • This could be tricky, but we're trying to do stimulating things right after eating - dancing around with music, tactile stuff, anything engaging.
  • Ramp that down as you hit the 1.5 hour mark, then it's nap time for the second half of the cycle.
    • This is tricky, too.  How do you make a baby sleep if they're not tired?  Especially one like ours who does NOT sleep in a crib yet?  In this first 3-hour cycle, the wrap did the trick.  We hope that, given a couple of cycles, she'll start getting tired when it's time to get tired.

There are two major snags in this plan: eating and sleeping (which are two of the three or so things Fiona does in life).  Right now, they happen whenever she wants.  Delays in either result in a pissed off baby, usually pretty quickly.  So for this to work, there will inevitably be times in the coming days where she gets really mad at us for things like putting her in a crib, or not giving her more to eat 45 minutes after she just ate.  The "rules" are not set in stone, of course, but we'll try to stick to it as best we can.

So knowing that this could get ugly for a couple days, we're going for it.  Hopefully the payoff will be a baby sleeping through the night soon!


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Magic of a Photo Shoot

In general, I don't like paying someone else to do something that I could do (or learn to do) myself, provided there's not too much risk of bodily harm, excessive damage to property, or huge drains on my money or time.  For most of my life, I've felt that way about paying a photographer.

The only time I'd paid someone to take my picture was at my wedding, and I tried to get Tori to agree to have one of my aspiring photographer friends in college do it on the cheap.  No dice.  We paid lots of money, and got nice photos...fine.

Well now many of those aspiring college friends have their own successful businesses, and don't work on the cheap anymore.  And now that we have a baby, Tori really wanted to do a photo shoot with her as a little one.  Though we just bought and are learning to use our own DSLR camera, I agreed to hire our friend Ali, knowing that she does take MUCH better pictures than either of us can, and that way we can both be in them.  Really, those were the only two things I could think of to justify paying someone to take our pictures.

First of all, check out Ali's work on her website: Alisandra Photography.  She's awesome.

Both of my assumptions were true, but a tripod can let us all be in the picture, too.  The reason you should hire Ali for a photo shoot like that is the atmosphere she created in order to get those pictures, and the details you would never think to pay attention to.

Ali lived at our house for a few weeks when we first bought it, while doing an internship in town.  In my mind, that means she knows how to drive there (in actuality, I ended up texting her my address).  In reality, it meant she knew how the house has good natural light in the morning, and wanted to make sure we shot early in the day.

I always hold Fiona with my left arm.  Doing the opposite is like brushing your teeth with the other hand.  But in this picture, Ali had me switch Fiona's direction, to get better light on her face:

Tori and I had a few ideas of photos we wanted to try, like laying on an open book:

What you don't know is, Fiona was not a peaceful little lovely angel for this whole book session.  Books are not soft and fluffy, like everything else in a baby's life, and she wasn't pleased about being on one.  But Ali masterfully captured the milliseconds of pleasant peaceful little angel, and made that look easy.

And laying on the piano while I play:

This was my favorite part of the morning.  They put her up on top just right, and she thankfully stayed asleep.  Ali draped the blanket to create a better shot, and just had me start playing.  I started out playing what was in front of me, but ended up improvising on hymn tunes, with the faint 'click' of a camera shutter punctuating the music.  She adjusted, she changed angles and lenses, and Fiona and I were in our moment, unaware.  That room is NOT that bright, but she knew how to make the best of the light from the window.  And when she was done, she didn't just announce that she had what she needed, she just stopped shooting, and let me finish the tune I was on, knowing that you can't leave the phrase unfinished.


She did other great things too - accommodated two well-behaved but excited dogs, stopped and let us feed Fiona before doing the last bit, and encouraged us to actually talk to each other, smile, move as we would if we weren't being photographed.  No real posing here, no "turn your head a little more, look up, hands just so" kind of crap, and the pictures show it.  And none of this even mentions all the time editing and sending a great finished product.

So I stand corrected.  It's totally worth paying a good photographer -thanks Ali!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

In Appreciation of Nursing Mothers

Last night was the first time I've done any overnight feeding for the baby.  The bottle thing has been working out just fine, but since milk production sleeps for no woman, Tori has been getting up for all the overnight eating sessions.

I usually defer to Tori for the nightly plan of who's getting baby duty first, but lately she's just been doing most of the night time stuff, and I'll get up around 5:30 or 6:00...not a bad gig, really, and not all that different from when I used to teach so far from home, except that instead of driving 70 miles, I make coffee and drink it from a mug without a lid (one of my favorite simple pleasures in life).

Last night, though, I did my usual deference, and she said it would be most helpful if she could make us a bottle and go to bed, let me do one round of feeding, and then swap out the next time.  So we went for it.  Fiona and I went to sleep on the couch, baby-on-chest, around 10:30, and woke up to eat again around 1:00am.


Man, that sucks.


I don't gain full alertness quickly when I wake up.  Incidentally, that appears to be a trait I passed on, as evidenced by the myriad strange faces, sounds, hand positions, and stretches Fiona does when she wakes up:


I'd prepared for this, though, and tried to simplify the process by having the bottle right next to us.  It turned out it's not so easy.

1) Reposition self and baby. Use pillow to prop baby in case you fall asleep again.
2) Insert bottle.
3) Watch baby flail arms, hitting self in face repeatedly.  Try to block arms from knocking bottle out of mouth.
4) Baby gets pissed when bottle gets knocked out by baby's own doing.
5) Change baby when she starts falling asleep, but hasn't eaten enough yet.
6) Rinse (in milk, because baby is both drooling and mashing on the end of the bottle), repeat.


This whole process took about 30 minutes, though it felt like eternity.  I'd just gotten deep enough into sleep that it was really hard to get back out, and kept dropping the bottle.  When I changed her, I mis-snapped most of her outfit, leaving a foot dangling out and the top half open (not that I ever realized this; Tori saw and laughed at me when we changed the guard).


Anyway, through all of this I realized two things:

1) Tori has been doing this several times a night since Fiona was born.  That makes her much more awesome than I am, and than I realized.  She doesn't even miss snaps at night.

From what I hear, even when babies start sleeping all night, nursing moms still often get up to pump in the middle of the night.  I suppose that comes without the flailing and all, but it's still breaking up your sleep.  Now that I've done it once, my hat's off to you.  I'll probably keep doing it, but the second realization I had was:

2) We need her to sleep all the way through the night, and soon!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Just The Two of Us

We made it!  All day with dad and daughter.

I wanted to write about it, and figured there'd be great blog post fodder from a day by ourselves, but I think I'm encouraged by how little there is to write home about.  We had bottles at the ready, and made out just fine.  There are some highlights, though...


I didn't get up with lots of time before Tori left, and she was getting ready anyway, so I didn't get dressed for the day til we were alone.  Fiona had fallen asleep, so I thought I'd try putting her in her crib long enough to throw some jeans on and maybe brush my teeth...but when I put her down, she just laid there.  Opportunity doesn't knock often, and my hair was a hot mess (it's longer than I've had it before, I have to start noticing at some point)...so inspiration struck.

I slid the crib right into the bathroom doorway, where I could lean out of the shower and check on her.  But she just laid there sleeping, for maybe the third time ever.  She woke up and started crying as I was fastening my belt afterwards...perfect timing to start a great day.




We made a trip to church for a meeting, went to school and did some paperwork I forgot to do the day before, stopped at the bank, and did everything without any major incident.  I took a break and fed her in a computer lab at school, and changed her in the music room office, as well as in the back seat of the car, but it all worked out just fine.

I got relatively little "done," but that's par for the course, and more importantly, I had a good time toting a baby around, and Tori got to get out of the house.  It was good training for when she goes back to work.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dad

I originally intended this blog to be more focused on my experience as a father/musician/teacher, but it's quickly shifted all of its attention onto my daughter.  I guess that's a fair model of how life has been for the last five weeks, but it's still useful for me, and hopefully insightful for you, to take stock of my own goings-on:

I've barely even brought it up, but I did end up finding a new high school choral job, but it's part-time.  For now, that's working, because I can stay up until 2am on a weeknight and still be able to function when my work day is smaller...we'll see what happens long term.  I may have a post or two just about my school, because while it's a small job, it's an incredible place to teach, and I love what I get to do there.

I only work three days a week, and not full ones at that.  So when we talked about my career path for the fall, I wanted to maintain connections and involvement in the local music scene, keeping myself sharp, staying in others' minds to get gigs, etc.  So I have quite a lot going on, musically speaking:

  • Giving private voice lessons out of our house (looking for a couple more students if you know someone!)
  • singing with James River Singers, an auditioned chamber choir
  • forming a Richmond area a cappella group
  • finishing a Master's degree in Music Education
  • singing in the Faculty Lounge Lizards, a band made of my school's staff
  • playing music at my church
  • taking infrequent performing opportunities at local churches

My youngest student.






Has fatherhood changed me? Sure, but I don't think I know many of the ways yet.  I can say it's given me both a newfound capacity for love, and a greater awareness of my selfishness. Sometimes I can't make her calm and satisfied, and while she hopefully won't writhe and scream continuously about it when she's a teenager, that is probably a permanent limitation of fatherhood.  The good thing about it, especially now, is that it reminds me that I can't do this alone.  Tori and I are flawed, have limits to our patience, experience, and abilities, and we need to know that God loves Fiona, too, and ultimately will provide for her needs, whether through us or not.  So that's cool.


I'm also a lot less emotionally stable.  I attribute at least part of this to our weird sleep patterns.  I've cried watching a movie, and even a movie trailer.  Fairly mundane setbacks will send me into about 30 minutes of utter despair before I realize that life has, in fact, gone on.  Basically, I'm either on top of the world, or life is not worth living, most of the time, and usually several of each in a given day.

This trailer gets me every time...it's been my favorite book since 7th grade, can't wait to see the new film version!



This post took 3 days to write, because you can't do anything with a baby.  More on that in my next one, should it ever get written.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

On Bottles

I don't like milk.


My oldest memory of milk is from when I was 4 years old at day-care with my first friend, Kyle.  I hated milk and he hated applesauce, and one day those were the two offerings at snack time.  We each sat defiantly at our place after everyone left, refusing to submit ourselves to the torture in that little bathroom cup (only years later did it occur to me that we could have secretly switched our cups, and everyone would have gone away happy).  Later, when mom used to make me drink milk, I'd come up with an excuse to go to the bathroom, conveniently bring my glass, and pour it in the toilet (that slick move worked exactly three times).  Anyway, milk is gross.

No milk will ever be "our" milk.
I think it's really cool that Tori's body just manufactures nourishment for our baby, but I wish she could somehow make bread boogers, or peanut butter earwax, or something other than milk.  Up until yesterday, though, I was removed from that part of life, so it was fine.  Like cleaning out a cloth diaper, though, I knew it was in my future, and now, the day has come.  As a result of my experience last night and today, I offer you...


Feeding Babies Breast Milk from a Bottle: Tips for Beginners:


  • Don't watch your lady pump the milk.  This is another example of a female body part you'll want fonder memories of.
  • Since it's milk, you have to refrigerate it.  But babies usually drink it warm, so you need to warm it up...so far, so good.  But here's the kicker: apparently you CAN'T MICROWAVE IT.  No idea why, but it seems really important.
    • My method right now is, microwave a coffee cup with water in it, then float the bottle in the hot water.  There must be a more efficient way.  I bet they make a bottle-warmer.
  • Have some kind of rag at the ready, this gets messy, immediately.
  • Bottles deliver the goods faster than boobs do, so I found it useful to only let her suck on it for a second or two, take it away til she swallowed, and then do it again.  Maybe it takes longer, but it seemed less likely that she'd erupt milk all over me.
  • Don't get rid of that rag too quickly - more of that crap might come up after she's done eating, even if she burped.  And it's worse when it comes back up, trust me.

Overall, I didn't really love my experience.  BUT we were successful.  And today, the bottle allowed Tori to be away from the baby and fully-clothed for a whole four hours!  So the utility of my new ability is worth the discomfort, kind of how I feel about flying.

We're gearing up for next week, when she's planning to be away for the whole day.  You can bet there'll be something to write home about from that day.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

One Month!

Fiona is one month old today!










There's two more pounds and another inch-and-a-half of her to love.  I would say, "that was fast," but this past month has been a bit of a timeless blur.  I've told people that our weird sleep patterns have an effect really similar to jet lag, and Tori describes it like Groundhog Day.
Fiona is a little less hairy than the groundhog; Tori is a little more so than Bill Murray.  The idea is the same.


One thing I've learned about having a baby is that people stop saying hello to you.

"Baby!"
"Oh, Fiona's here!"
"Look at her!"

These are some examples of the words that have replaced more traditional greetings, such as "hi."




On the whole, though, I really like parenthood so far.  It's still bizarre that we are responsible for a little human life, but that task is kind of easy, really.  For those of you who, like me before Labor Day, had no real experience with tiny babies, let me clear things up for you.  If an infant needs something, it will come from this list:

-Sleep
-Food
-Clean clothes/diaper

The end.  Oh, and they can't hold their heads up, so you have to do that.  But really, that's all.  Can't go anywhere, can't mess with stuff, can't backtalk, they sleep 18+ hours a day, and don't even eat real food.  Give them a bath every couple of days.  There, that's my lesson on the first month.

Up until the last few days, she pretty much did not cry unless the above list was out of balance.  Now she's a bit testy...I think sometimes babies just get pissed off, like other people.




Tori and I can watch her make awesomely grotesque faces when she wakes up, make endless commentary about her gigantic farts, narrate what we assume to be her inner monologue, and mimic her weird hand positions for hours.  And we fully realize that you, dear reader, don't give a crap about any of it, so we try our best not to fill conversations with descriptions of those mundane joys of our life.  Those are joys that are relevant ONLY to the parents of a given kid.  I might make a weird face montage one day and post it on here to embarrass her later in life and to entertain you, but only if it's actually funny.

                  
Really cute, but not funny. You don't care about the caption I might invent for this, and you don't need to see the seven other pictures taken within 2 minutes of this one.


It's awesome watching Tori being a great mom.  She's a real pro.  Being a father has changed me, I know, but I want to take a little more time to reflect on that, and it'll be the subject of another post.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Lies That Target Told Me

I first saw this a few weeks ago when I made a Target trip for my wife, and a nursing bra was on the list.  That really should have been its own post, because it was a pretty iconic event: man goes to the store 30 minutes before closing to buy a nursing bra, the little pads that keep milk from soaking through to everything on earth, baby wipes, etc, with no woman or baby along for the ride.  But I digress.

If you're unfamiliar with just what a nursing bra is, as I was, here's the idea:  the front has this quick release hook system going on, instead of being sewn into the straps and whatnot.  Just pop the hook, and you've got easy access to feed that baby.  




So here's the picture above the nursing bras at Target:

                            

Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm sorry if this is a disappointment or otherwise comes as news to you.  But if you look like that, you do not require a nursing bra.  Look at those abs.  They did not recently have a child not-so-hidden behind and around them.  Stretch marks?  What stretch marks?  She's well-rested, made up, hair done, tanned, and from the "come hither" stare in her eyes, she's about to give a little peep show, not breastfeed.

I've thought about this ridiculous picture enough times that tonight, when I went to Target, I made a special trip to the nursing bra section just to get this picture.  It's not only ridiculous, it's wrong.

I love my wife, and I think she is beautiful.  I also know that 3 1/2 weeks after giving birth is probably not going to be the best-looking or best-feeling time of her life.  AND THAT IS OK.  See, she doesn't have to be tanned and toned, made up and trimmed, ready to shoot me a seductive, smoldering glance at all times.  But Target, and nearly any other place she's likely to see a picture of a woman, wants her to believe she does.  And they want me to believe that's what I should expect.

This woman is beautiful.  And false.  She's not nursing, and she's photoshopped into perfection in a studio.  This woman does not exist in real life, and I hate that our culture wants my wife, my daughter, you, and me, to believe that she is real and should be what we strive for or expect.




This post could easily turn into a tirade on sexism and objectification of women in popular culture, but who needs that?  Know that I know, and know that you know.  And I hope that any new moms that see this image at Target can laugh at its ridiculousness, instead of cry because you don't look like her.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Some Baby Things That Are Awesome, Part II

Now that I have a baby, I can add another thing or two to this list.

First of all, I want to confirm that the rainbow glow worm sack thing is, in fact, awesome.  Now to the new product reviews (I should look for some ad money here...)

THIS LARGE PIECE OF BLACK CLOTH (MOBY WRAP)


I've seen this before a few times in public, and thought people looked pretty stupid - though not nearly so silly as when they're wearing this thing.  Even so, I judged people for using them.  "Not gonna use a stroller right now?  How about carry your baby, you lazy parent?"


Why would you ever need this?



 Because even little babies are heavy as crap in about 10 minutes, that's why.  Or maybe you might want to do, I dunno, anything else other than hold your baby every now and then.

Enter the Moby Wrap (though the name isn't quite as stupid as many other baby products, I prefer to simply call it "the wrap" in practice).  While the tag says it's made of cotton, it's actually made of magical baby-pass-out cloth, because that's what it does, immediately.  Baby's pissed?  In the wrap she goes, and we're done!

It's 5 1/2 yards of thick fabric, maybe 2 feet wide.  That's it.  But just as a true Drummond can turn six yards of plaid into a glorious display of clan identity and genital freedom, this thing gets swung over a shoulder here, crossed over a chest there, tied off at the waist, and voila!  Your baby slides into a holding sack that is awesome.
Aye, now there's a Drummond!  Now if only we could carry the wee lass in that tartan.....
              
I'm wearing a sleeping Fiona right now.  Why?  Because I can type a ton faster with two hands.  Because I can refill my drink.  And pee.  Because she loves being against my chest anyway.  I might even use it in public.  Maybe.

Target sells this thing for about $45, presumably because it actually is made of magical baby-pass-out cloth, as I suspected, and not cotton.  I got mine, brand new with stickers and the like, at a yard sale for $10.  Another reason why it's awesome.




HOODED TOWELS
I have been jealous of babies for years about hooded towels, but until now, it's all been speculation.  They seemed like a good idea, but man, they are a GREAT idea.

So one thing I learned about babies is that they don't regulate their body temperature too well at first, so when you bathe them they get really pissed about it because (a) you can't immerse them in water until that nasty umbilical cord stump falls off, so (b) they're cold as balls because you made them wet.

Enter the hooded towel.  A totally enveloped baby is a happier baby, and the hood helps keep them warmer until you dry them off better and get ready for some skin-to-skin warming time.  This has been some of my best time with Fiona, because Tori has bathed her (and subsequently pissed her off) every time, but I've been ready to snuggle her up close and get her warm again.  Daddy saves the day, and hooded towel gets honorable mention.

I don't really need to be telling you about them, because I have this:
Yep, that's Fiona expertly swaddled in a hooded Tigger towel.  Everything about this is good.  They need to make adult sized ones, though, because I am still a bit jealous.




And even though he's already made the blog twice, he deserves a spot on this list:
THE JABBERWOCK


Oh, you know, she's just in uffish thought.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

What I Learned Today:

Do not switch to cloth diapers when your child is too small for her legs to fill the leg holes completely.





I've been pooped on twice today.  The first time, I'd just gotten home, and, excited to see my little girl awake, picked her up and set her in my lap, in time for her to DESTROY her diaper, and both of our clothes.  It was awesome.  Bath time all around, and since the umbilical cord stump came off earlier today, Tori decided that post-bath was a perfect time to break out the cloth diapers.

You may already know that this was nearly the only thing I've been afraid of as a parent.  I'm sure you can imagine my enthusiastic agreement.


"It goes all the way up past her belly button, she's not gonna blow it out," she said.

"See how many sizes you can adjust it to?  We can make it really tiny," she said.

"It'll be fine," she said.





Then, she left.





Within 10 minutes, I heard the rumble, and felt an all-too-familiar warmth on my arm.



It was only when changing her into another cloth diaper that I noticed the problem: while I could indeed get the waist as tight as I like, the leg holes were a bit too roomy, even on the smallest snaps.  We all know what happens next.  So baby is back in the disposables.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Reclaiming Fatherhood, or Some Other Equally Impressive Title Regarding an Unrealistically Complex Issue for a Blog Post

One of the ways my pride manifests itself is a strong desire never to let anyone point out a shortcoming or mistake without having already pointed it out myself.  If I dressed in a hurry, and put on a brown belt with my black shoes, I'll make sure to point it out to you, so that you have no opportunity to ridicule me first, and so that you won't leave questioning my ability to dress myself.  That's a dumb example, but a true one, and it happens at all levels of importance in my life.  So the unnecessarily long post title is a continuation of that defense mechanism - of course, it's ridiculous to think that in a single blog post, I can identify exactly what's wrong with our collective idea of manhood and offer a solution.  I want to point that absurdity out before you think it, and maybe even diffuse the situation with a bit of humor so that I don't come off as overly defensive. So now that we're all on the same page, let's continue.  I start you with this:

First of all, this is funny.  But it's funny for the same reason that Seinfeld was so funny: because it's satirizing what we have grown to collectively accept to be true.  This is what men do...manly things.  But we also recognize (at least many of us do) that you don't have to constantly be taming wild beasts, eating red meat, and shooting things to be a "man."  We still look up to the figure caricatured in the MANtage, but we don't think he's all that realistic.  This is the man we've begun to think of as more "real:"


Modern Family's Phil Dunphy is the latest iteration of the inept father figure we've come to know and laugh at, from Al Bundy, to Homer Simpson, to Peter Griffin.  Over the last few decades, it seems like our culture has accepted the idea that the father is the comic relief in the family, while mothers run the household.

Phil Dunphy is subservient to Claire, who is the responsible one.  He comes up with stupid ideas that she has to re-ground in reality.  She does all the parenting, while he focuses on trying (and failing) to be cool to his children.  He shares a tight bond with his equally-strange son, who serves as his comic relief co-star, but he doesn't have the faintest hints of understanding either of his daughters.  A large part of his time and energy at home is devoted to trying to cover up or clean up a problem he created.  He loves his wife and children, and aside from making frequent passes at his father-in-law's attractive Colombian wife, he's fiercely loyal to his family.  In almost every other way, though, he is a total failure when it comes to displaying the marks of manliness and fatherhood.  And we eat it up!  In my almost absurdly busy life, Modern Family is the only show I make sure to catch every week.  So it is the Seinfeld principle at work again?  Do we believe that the world (at least the suburban middle-class American version of it) is filled with Phil Dunphy?

I don't have any degrees to back up my claims, but it seems logical to me that our own fathers often serve as the first (and maybe most deeply rooted) model of fatherhood.  As a Christian, my ideal for manhood and fatherhood is taken from the Bible (for example, this) and from the teachings of the Church.  A man is meant to lead his wife and his family in practical matters, as well as leading them spiritually.  That does NOT mean I have to make more money than Tori, make all the decisions myself, or that she's somehow less than me.  Anyone who knows her knows that she's not any of those things.  But you get a sense of what I'm talking about here.  And none of it is present in the Phil Dunphys of popular culture.  It's not just Phil - be on the lookout this fall as Christmas commercials ramp up - you'll see a whole host of un-engaged, inept fathers bumbling their way across your screen.

I write this tirade now, not because I've just noticed how men are emasculated or falsely masculine-ized in our culture - I've pointed this out to young men for several years, and will likely continue all my life.  I bring it up, because I'm writing this with a 2-week-old baby sleeping in my lap, and I want her to have a model of fatherhood that is better than that.  Fiona will need a dad who understands her, who leads her and instructs her, tells her no and means it, protects her, screens her dates, helps with her homework, prays with and for her, and who loves her.  I want it to start now.

I'm also writing this during our first time alone together - Tori is out to lunch with a friend.  She asked me, almost hesitantly, if I felt OK with her by myself for an hour or two, and I jumped on the opportunity.  I know guys who went months before facing their first few hours alone with their baby, and went into it with trepidation and uncertainty, but I didn't want to be that guy.

Phil Dunphy would have made a disaster of this morning.  The baby would have started screaming as soon as mom left, and he would have come up with all sorts of charmingly ineffective ways to placate her.  He would have wanted to surprise his wife by cleaning the house while she's away, and ended up instead spilling his coffee on the baby and knocking down a shelf or something.  And it would be up to Claire to swoop in and fix it, first scolding him for holding the baby upside down, while she takes her in one arm and cleans up the mess with another.  While they'd make up by the end of the episode, and she would see the good will in his debacle and love him for it, Phil would have proven that he's incapable of handling any of this alone.

I've also realized this: the mark of a life well-lived is almost never in any sort of heroic acts.  I don't need to clean the house and potty train Fiona in a day in order to show that I'm a good dad.  The mark of a life well-lived is found in doing the mundane, every-day things well, and with purpose.  So we're sitting here, not learning to talk, but sleeping peacefully, with the occasional lap around the house for a coffee refill or to quell a spell of fussing.  And if she screams, or blows out a diaper, I can handle it without Tori needing to swoop in.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Midnight Musings

Since it's actually a bit past midnight, today Fiona is officially two weeks old.  She's still awesome.  Eats, sleeps, and poops like a champ (traded in the marmite poop for bright orange, liquidy poop.  weird, but also doesn't really smell....I promise that's the last description of her poop on this blog unless it's actually funny).  She doesn't cry all that much, and while we started with her eating every 2-3 hours or so, she's already stretching the sleep sessions out to as much as 4.5 hours sometimes.  She's doing great.

One thing she's not really down with yet, is sleeping without being held.  Not her jam.  What that means for us is, sleeping any kind of normal hours has become a thing of nostalgia.  I find myself squeezing in naps at 5 or 6pm, and staying up until 2am on school nights.  It's kind of like continuous jet lag, without the being on vacation part.

Last time I was up this late on the regular was college, where there were a bunch of other people up this late, too.  There was a fairly accessible supply of mischief to get into, and bonds were formed over late night adventures.  Well now, there's only one other person around, and she's pretty short on ideas for late night hijinks.  And words.  So I have to seek alternatives.  Like this:
Beware the Jabberwock, my daughter - the jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
That would be the Jabberwock.  And that would be Fiona, around 1am, galumphing happily underneath her manxome foe.  Why?  Because it's funny.  And this is my idea of conditioning - I love Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky," and want Fiona to love it, too.  So my scheme includes acquiring this terrifying stuffed creature, and having her interact with it from a very young age.  Maybe he will end up as her favorite stuffed animal.  He'll certainly be the only one capable of whiffling.  She'll want to hear the poem as a bedtime story. I imagine Jabberwock at tea parties, or sleepovers.  "Why Jabberwock, what lovely eyes of flame you have!"

See, this is why I say it's a weird experience.

Other late-night inspirations have been slightly more useful - one may even turn into an article I try to publish in a music journal.  But mostly, these late nights have been more like the Jabberwock photo shoot, or watching soccer matches I'd missed, because I don't have the attention span to do anything mentally taxing.

Really though, so far parenthood has been pretty easy.  Working part-time has really helped that, to be sure, but all things considered, this ain't half bad.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

L&D and Everything After, Conclusion

I guess this could have just been called "Everything After."  If I kept up the same level of detail from here out, I'd not only lose readership and my own interest in typing it, I'd also never catch up to the present day.  So here's the highlights version.

At 8lbs, 10oz, and 21.5in, Fiona Mae Drummond was the biggest newborn in the hospital.  She was also the best looking.  Newborns look a lot like aliens most of the time, and can come with such attractive qualities as cone heads, baby acne, scaly or flaky skin, blotches, beady eyes, and myriad other generally weird-looking traits.  Fiona has none of those - she is a babe in the making.

The rosy cheeks are from eating - she takes it seriously.

They keep babies and moms for 48 hours after delivery as standard protocol.  Fiona had some extra tests to make sure she didn't get any infections from the long labor (all good), so she got pulled out of bed at 1am both nights to get stuck with things.  I learned that they draw blood from babies' feet.

We had a regular parade of visitors, though many of them were repeat customers (parents mostly).  Fiona was a gracious hostess in her hospital room, allowing most anyone to hold her and flash cameras in her face with minimal grimacing.
Well, maybe a little grimacing.  But look at that tight blanket burrito...nice work!


With everything going on, I didn't pay attention to my school's calendar (yes, I have a school!  More on that in another post), and showed up to teach on the wrong day.  Oops.

In the hospital, you're not allowed to go anywhere out of your room while holding your baby.  She had to go in this clear aquarium-looking bed thing with wheels.  When mothers are discharged, they must leave in a wheelchair.  This is perhaps the strangest part.  Not only can I walk with my baby wherever I please immediately after leaving the hospital, Tori got up from her wheelchair when we got to the car, leaned in, and strapped Fiona into the car seat herself.  The irony.  Anyway.

I'd also like to let it be known that I changed Fiona's first two diapers (no, they are not the only two I've done.  I change many diapers).  I also learned that newborn poop looks like the blackest, most foul evil ever to emerge from anyone's butt hole.  In a bizarre mode of cognitive dissonance, it is both sterile and odorless.  I kid you not.  No smell.  And tar-like, so it's kind of concentrated in one spot.  Really, it looks like marmite, this nasty tar-like substance Brits and Aussies eat on toast.  The marmite poop goes away after two days or so, and now I kind of miss it.


Gross.

So we've been home several days now, and each one is different.  She has no routine, other than eating, sleeping, and pooping.  She doesn't know what she likes best, so when she's upset it's hard to know what will help.  One day she's nice and placid and seems content.  The next, she is either passed out asleep, or screaming.

We like the passed out asleep.  We wish it would happen at night sometime.
She is ALWAYS hungry.  She's supposed to eat every 2-3 hours right now, which is already pretty crazy, considering that it takes 30 minutes or more to do a whole feeding session.  But not long after, she starts doing what the doctor called "rooting," and which we've come to call the "little bird face," which means she's looking for something to suck on.  Sometimes it's her own hand.  Sometimes it's your arm.  Tori has a hickey on her chin, where a hungry Little Bird got too close and latched on.  No one had to teach this one how to breastfeed - she definitely has the mechanics down (not so sure she knows when to use her skills though).

Little Bird Face.  She's about to latch on to my collar bone.

So we're parents.  We don't sleep much at all.  We have a hard time remembering things like where we parked the car.  We laugh at stupid stuff like how loud and often my little girl farts, and we drive to nowhere at 1am, hoping it will make her stop screaming.  We're struck a dozen times a day at how effing cute she is, and are so thankful that God gave us this screaming, pooping, tiny Little Bird.

And that, my friends, is the story of how she got here.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

L&D and Everything After, Part III

So it's been a LONG 24 hours since Tori's water broke.  I am aching, stumbling around from exhaustion and stress, hungry, and my hands are shaky from the excess of coffee that's kept me awake. But respite has finally come in the form of powerful medication delivered into my wife's spine.  It's as weird looking at it sounds, and it made her pretty much numb from the waist down.  The angelic creature that was our nurse, having carefully supported us all the way through this ordeal, kindly helped me when I couldn't figure out how to convert the chair in the room into a fold-out bed.  She really made a world of difference that night - thanks, Skye.  We both settled in for a solid 3 hours of sleep.

Tori reminded me of another lovely detail that happened just before the epidural - I guess I'd blocked it out because it was terrible.  She asked for some lesser pain medicine, to see if we could take the edge off of these contractions, but not do an epidural.  So they gave her demerol, a fairly potent synthetic opioid drug, in her IV.  Not only did it not take her pain away, it made her throw up, almost immediately.  If you know my wife, you may know how she'll do

We were awoken at 7:30, just before shift change, so the doctor could check Tori's progress again.  After her seven hours of misery, she'd barely progressed, and was at just 20% dilation at 3am.  But by 7:30 she made it to 50% - a huge milestone, and the beginning of "active labor!"  I wasn't awake enough at the time to recognize the irony of "active" labor arriving in her sleep, while all the squatting, standing, back-rubbing, chair-rocking, moaning awfulness was not considered "active."  Anyway, what that meant was, we were getting somewhere, and were now likely to be getting there faster.  Great news!

I went out to tell everyone, because despite making multiple beds at our house (5 miles away) for family to stay in, they stayed in the waiting room chairs all night.  Dad did go to the house eventually...only to sleep on the couch.  So they were very excited, and my parents and I ate breakfast with a side of hope and optimism.

A little after 10:00, the new doctor on duty came in to check her out again.  She got down in front of Tori and started to laugh.  "Well, I don't need to talk in centimeters - I can see hair.  Let's deliver a baby!"  Tori had no idea.  This is the weirdest part to me - I guess it means she had some pretty powerful drugs.  I know we didn't want to use them, and some of you women reading this had natural births.  But you weren't there, and can't know how awful it was.  That night, God's mercy was truly manifested in a chemical being dripped into my wife's spine.  And being able to relax, her body was able to do its work, and the baby was all but out.

It was REALLY strange to see the top of a head sticking out of my wife.  But I didn't have time to contemplate it.  Nurses were quickly called in, and we cut in line in front of a c-section next door.

I think the pushing part is the worst part of labor for a great many women.  I've heard of pushing for multiple hours on end.  Thankfully, for Tori, this could not have been easier.  She pushed for under five minutes - literally three big pushes, and Fiona was out!

If you've never seen this happen, it's an incredible thing.  This little girl, who spent nearly 10 months as a lump inside a belly, is now out in the world.  She has never breathed before, but she starts.  She has never pooped, but that happened within 5 minutes, too.  She's never seen the world, never touched anyone.  It all just happens.  It's awesome.

It's also weird and gross and kind of unsettling.  I have much fonder memories of my wife's ladyparts than delivery, I'll tell you.  And while it's awesome that the baby is out and all humanoid, she's also grey.  Not just because she's covered in grey stuff, which is nasty, but her skin is grey for a few minutes.  She's wet, slimy, discolored, and the cord sticking out of her belly is kind of off-putting at first, too.  I cut it.  But it hangs on for days, and at first I was afraid to touch it.

All that grossness was vastly outweighed by how grateful we both were that she was out, and both mom and baby were safe and healthy.  And when I got to hold her in those first minutes, I cried several times.  I loved spending the first few minutes holding her all wrapped up, just whispering to her all the things I've wanted to say for months.  This was worth the terrible night, and more.

Friday, September 7, 2012

L&D and Everything After, Part II

4:00pm Sunday, we've just checked into the hospital.  Not much happening just yet, so I started to read, distract Tori, and wander in and out to update and entertain my family, who was camped out in the waiting room.  You have to ring a bell and get buzzed into the hall every time you go out, so that happened a few dozen times that night, but after the first time or two, they knew who I was and I didn't have to announce my presence anymore.

Contractions weren't happening with any regularity, and it had been over 12 hours since water-breakage, and they wanted it going to reduce infection risk.  So they gave her pitocin, a synthetic version of the hormone that induces contractions, and we went to work.  That is, after the fifth person trying to stick the IV in gave up and called the anesthesiologist to do it, finally making it happen.  And when they came, they came HARD, and pretty frequently.  And that's when this turned into one of the more awful experiences I've had.

Before you get all indignant and contraction-nazi on me, dear child-bearing reader, I fully realize that this night was far worse for my wife than it was for me.  But the fact that someone else was having a worse time than I was doesn't mean it wasn't awful, so save it - guys don't get to express this part of labor very often.

In this contraction stage, there's no pushing to do, nothing that the woman is supposed to do, per se, so the goal is to relax, breathe through it, and allow it to happen.  In between contractions, the goal is to relax as much as possible, save up some energy for when you really do need to do some work.  So my role in this is to try and help her relax.  Except she's in terrible, and ever-increasing, pain, with ever-decreasing intervals between it.  We spent about seven straight hours doing really powerful contractions, with two minutes or so in between them.  Remember that day in practice in high school when the coach made you do sprints, and didn't give you much recovery time in between?  When you get to the 3rd or 4th one, it starts to really suck.  Then do that for seven hours.  That's what I had to witness, and was powerless to stop.  My only job was to put pressure on her back, because that helped ease the pain.

So we're talking about doing this well past 3am.  Remember, we've both been up since 4am the previous morning.  I'm horrendously tired, and time is CRAWLING.  My back and neck really hurt, but I'm not in a situation where I'm allowed to talk about pain.  I'm hungry, and feel like I need to sneak food because my wife isn't allowed to eat.  I'm not allowed to sleep, I need to be there for support.  And on top of my discomfort, I am watching the woman I love suffer for HOURS, with no way to fix it.  Everything about this sucks.

3am, time to check on progress. Despite all that pain and contraction, there's barely anything happening.  She was about 10% of the way dilated when we checked in, and at 3am, had only made it to about 20%.  Tori decided she had to make a change, and we called for an epidural.

While they are inserting an epidural into your wife's spine, do NOT take that opportunity to google "epidural."  I did, and it was a big mistake.  I won't go into details, but it did not bring me the comfort it eventually brought her, I'll tell you.

The upswing of it was, by 4:30am, we finally got to sleep for a few precious hours, and Tori was not in pain anymore.

Stay tuned for Part III!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

L&D and Everything After, Part I

I'm sitting on the couch with a lovely sleeping Fiona Mae in my lap.  This is awesome.  Over the next few days, I'll relate (in not-too-great-and-nasty detail) how we got to this point.  Someone told me that a key to getting people to read your blog is posting shorter, and more frequently.  So we'll start with the beginning, and instead of focusing on the medical details, or giving you weird uncomfortable pictures, I'll focus on what I learned or how I reacted.  Because this is my blog, after all.

Fiona was born on a Monday morning.  The Thursday before that, Tori started to feel contractions in the night, and I thought we'd be getting an early baby.  Apparently feeling contractions does not mean you're in labor.  Apparently you can have many parts of "labor" happen, without being in labor.  We spent the weekend pretty much just waiting around for more.  Sunday morning at about 3:45am, Tori's water broke.  It's weird and your wife becomes leaky.  But apparently that doesn't mean you're in labor, either.  Even if both have happened together.

Movies with pregnant women in them have never taught me any of this, so I spent several confused days this weekend.  In the movies, the way to initiate labor is to go out to a nice dinner or some other place where amniotic fluid does not belong, and then the woman's water will break in a gush of activity (that you never actually see), signaling that she is immediately in a fairly advanced stage of labor, and the baby is imminent.

This is false.  But I digress.

So, back to 4am.  I got up with Tori, because at any time, we might be headed to the hospital, I was sure.  I got all cleaning-happy, taking out the trash, doing the dishes, folding clothes, I even started organizing the garage.  Bags in the car, floors vacuumed, 8:30am rolls around, and we start the sit-around game.  Luckily there were several Premier League matches to be seen.  Lots of texts/calls from mothers.  Waiting.  Noon.  2:00.  Three soccer games.  Eventually we called the doctor to get her opinion, and she said we should come to the hospital - once the water breaks, the seal is broken and there's a chance of infection that only will increase as time goes on.

So, we checked in at about 4:00pm Sunday, and started the next phase.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Some Baby Things That Are Awesome (Part I?)

First of all, I'm almost never a fan of people's blogs about their baby.  Not because I dislike those people, or even their baby, but because of the baby-language, and inherent "sweetness" of everything that is said, pictured, and described.  When mine comes in a few weeks, I might change all of this, but in the meantime, I don't really love it.

But blogger-moms, it's not your fault.  I blame the baby product industry, primarily.  If you dare, walk into a baby store.  Everything will be some form of pastel color, with soft-focus pictures of beautiful women who didn't gain an ounce of baby weight, cooing over their beautiful child, who's enjoying some toy or foam baby seat enormously.  The music is as soft-focus as the package photography, and it's easy to imagine a world where you take your baby home to a magical, soft-focus place where pleasant sounds and textures put baby and parent at ease.

Folks, that's called a spa, and it'll cost you $60/hour for that kind of ease.  I don't have a child yet, but I do have some baby stuff.  And some of it is pretty cool.  Allow me to plug a few items, without the soft-focus photos and peaceful baby-ness.

THIS RAINBOW GLOW WORM-ESQUE KNIT SACK THING
 This is tight.  One of Tori's relatives knit it, along with some matching sock/shoe things and a hat.  When Tori brought it home from her baby shower, she was kind of hesitant, not too excited about it, but she was missing the awesome-ness.  If you have friends or relatives who knit, get them to make this, it looks easy.  It's basically a bag to put your child in.  She'll be warm and snug, since it tapers at the end.  But most importantly, she'll look awesome doing it, and might love Alice in Wonderland a bit sooner in life.  I will proudly tote my child around in a glow worm sack.  Maybe with the hat on.  And sunglasses.  She's gonna be cooler than me already.


 How far down the rabbit hole do you want to go, little girl?



THIS FROG
This frog is a humidifier.  As an undergrad voice major, it was in vogue to wear a scarf when the temperature dropped below 80 degrees, and have a humidifier in your bedroom.  You know, to make up for the fact that you just screamed for 3 hours at a football game, or vomited half the morning after your big night.  I guess with all that screaming to do, it's important for babies to look after their vocal health, too, so humidifier it is.  This one was $2 at a yard sale, and looks way cooler than normal ones.  


 THIS BABY MONITOR
What's so cool about a baby monitor?  They have ones that do a video feed, how can this one be better?  Because this baby monitor doesn't look all pastel baby dreamland, it looks like it belongs to a Stormtrooper.  And since you can talk, not just listen, from the rechargeable units, when baby is older and turns into cool little kid, these baby monitors will turn into walkie-talkies.  Video feed THAT.

A great example of soft-light baby advert love.  Apparently if I use these monitors, my baby will love me better, tell jokes, and match my pajamas.

These are the monitors you're looking for.
 THIS MICROWAVE BOTTLE CLEANING THING
I don't like washing dishes.  This is tight, because I can rinse bottles out, and toss them in here.  Put it in the microwave for 2 minutes, and they are clean.  Otherwise, I could see my baby getting sick, and tracing it back to my half-assed bottle cleaning job the week before.  Disregard the smiley packaging.


 THIS SHARK BATH MITT
I don't use a bath mitt, personally.  But I also have pretty dextrous appendages, with good fine motor skills.  So I assume bath mitts are a normal part of washing your baby.  Makes sense - when the baby makes some awkward move and falls face-first in the water, you can save her without dropping your wash cloth.  But this one is better, because it's a shark, and therefore fun to play with, as well.  I like the teeth especially.  Until someone buys me the stuffed Jabberwock from my Amazon wish list, this wins the "best personality of a cloth baby item" award in our house.