Thursday, August 27, 2009

Records, CDs, Ipods, and Child Development

Olive welcomed a new cousin this past weekend. Adorable. My parents now have had three grandchildren born within a year to go along with their four year old granddaughter. The three new additions were all born close enough that they will likely be in the same grade. They could play each other in sports, they’ll all go to college the same year, and they’ll all get their license around the same time. In a few years, you won’t be able to tell which one is older than the other.

But right now they couldn’t be more different.

The oldest is about 10 months old. Olive is almost 5 months old. And the new little one isn’t even a week old. Right now she is a motionless, eating, crying, blob of cuteness. Seeing my new little niece wrapped up like a burrito in the white, blue, and pink striped blankets,a nd seeing her parents trying to figure out diapers and clothes and a floppy neck brought back a lot of memories. Less then five months ago, that was my daughter, and that was me and my wife. Olive couldn’t smile, didn’t look at us, couldn’t summon the strength or manage the coordination to grab a rattle. She slept for most of the day and pooped or peed what seemed like every 15 minutes. It took almost an hour to nurse her and if you gave her a bottle it was only 2-3 ounces. You couldn’t pick her up or move her without sliding a gentle hand underneath her head and cradling her like an overfilled water balloon.

Now? She stares you down; won’t take her eyes off you, even from across the room. She can make noises when she is excited or happy or sad that don’t have any resemblance to crying. She rolls over and even pushes herself forward when on stomach. You can’t give her a kiss on the forehead without running the risk that she’ll grab a clump of your hair. She sucks down eight ounce bottles and it takes 15 or 20 minutes to nurse her. She smiles when someone she knows comes in a room. She bears almost no resemblance to her newborn cousin or that person she was not too long ago. I almost can’t remember what it was like.

Her older cousin, however, can stand up. He crawls around the floor like a bat out of hell. He laughs out loud. He not only eats solid food, but sits up in his high chair and grabs at little yogurt bits and biscuits. He is playing with toys that Olive can’t even get her little hand around. And the size of him. He just seems so much bigger and more stable. You can toss him in the air and tickle him and roll around with him. I simply can’t imagine Olive that way. How will she become that baby?

But it will happen. In a few months she will be crawling. Soon after, walking. And I’ll look back and not be able to remember the time when she couldn’t do either.

As a parent, it is easy to miss the day-to-day development. Sure, you notice when they first roll over or when they crack the first smile. But when did rolling over become routine? When did I start seeing that smile so much that I started taking it for granted? She’ll spend a half hour on her tummy playing with a toy, but not too long ago she would scream the second we put her down. When did that change and how come I didn’t notice.

It is like music. If you are around my age you probably grew up a lot of records in your house. Then you moved to tapes. But do you remember the first time you noticed there wasn’t a record player in your house? I remember distinctly the Christmas my brothers and I got our first CDs – Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, and Genesis were all involved – but how in the world did I amass a notebook full of CDs in only a few short years. When did it become the standard? I went to college in a car without a tape player and a CD holder on my visor. Now? Everything is on an ipod. I remember getting my first ipod, but I can’t remember when decided that CDs really didn’t belong in my car anymore. How did I go from mix-tapes to mix-cds to shuffle on my ipod so fast?

When you have a kid you remember certain moments and certain events. But day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, things move so quickly that you just can’t keep up. But now Olive has a pair of cousins that will act as bookends. I can remind myself of the things that I have a hard time remembering, and prepare myself for moments that I won’t want to forget.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Child is Born...(Part Two)

So when we last left off, my wife had just received her epidural and things were going swimmingly. We were told Leanne would dilate by about a centimeter an hour. Since she was at about 3 cm when we started the pitocin, we figured that the baby would be flying out by about 7-10 PM at the latest. But one thing you can only plan on one thing during child birth: that you can never plan on anything.

But we did have a few hours of tranquility. I remember I was able to watch some of the Red Sox home opener. A few of my friends texted me to say that if the baby was born then the middle name would have to be Ortiz or Pedroia. But soon, the excitement would start. Really, neither me or my wife remember too much from the next few hours. They were calm, uneventful, and a little bit surreal. We were in the middle of labor, but nothing was, well, happening. The stillness did not last long.

First, my wife’s nausea started to come back. The epidural didn’t seem to be working as well as it once did, and her back was starting to hurt. One side effect of not being able to feel the lower half of your body is that you tend to be put in some really uncomfortable positions without realizing how uncomfortable they are. Eventually, other parts of your body that you can feel start to hurt. Also, even though you can’t feel it, your body is being put through a wringer. My wife started to ask for a bucket again. She would push the button on the bed to raise her back up, puke, and then put the bed back down. Five minutes later the bed comes back up, I run over with the bucket, she pukes, bed goes back down. Five minutes later…we were actually starting to get into a pretty good rhythm.

For the uninitiated, the epidural is not just a shot, but it is a teeny-tiny tube that is put into the back. The tube is then attached to a pump that automatically administers anesthesia. Very cool. Except that the tube went from my wife’s back, up over the top of the bed, and into the small portable pump on a shelf behind the bed. Meanwhile the puking keeps going and my wife keeps raising and lowering the back of the bed. One time, she raised it a little too far and the pump was pulled off the shelf and crashed to the ground. Not good. We hit the button that is supposed to manually administer extra drugs. No worky. Not good.

We paged a nurse. Unfortunately, the quiet labor and delivery ward that was so quiet and peaceful and full of unripe cervixes the night before, was now full of ripe cervixes and women pushing out babies left and right. While earlier in the morning we were able chat with our nurse about the weather or her grandchildren or the Red Sox, now the nurse was rushing in sweating and tearing off gloves. She hurriedly tried to fix the pump. Not working. She called in another nurse who also tried to figure it out. The conversation went something like this:
-Well, did you prime the doo-hickey.
-Yeah, but don’t I put the bag in first.
-You need a new bag?
-Don’t I?
-Well, I’m used to the other model.
-I know, me too. Do I press this button?
None of this was instilling confidence in my wife who could swear she was starting ot get feeling back in part of her leg. The nurses decided to get the anesthesiologist to put humpty-dumpty back together again, except that he was in the middle of putting someone down for a C-section and might be a while. Not good.

While all this was happening, it was decided that our baby had turned over inside the uterus and was therefore “sunny-side up.” The prime positioning for giving birth is to have the baby facing towards the mother’s back, letting the narrowest part of the head enter the birth canal. Sunny-side up babies are facing the mother’s front, letting the widest part of the head enter first. Trust me, you want don’t want words like “wide head” or “big” or “large” associated with your child birth. Have a baby facing front can also cause a considerable amount of back pain. You really want to do everything you can to get the baby facing back. At this point, if a woman was going through birth without drugs, the nurse or mid-wife would have the mother get up and move, try a few different position, maybe do some wiggling to try and turn the baby. But my wife can’t feel the lower half of her body, so all that is out. So the 55-year-old, 100 pound nurse decides to roll my wife on to her side and prop her leg up onto a table and a few pillows in an attempt to rotate the baby.
-Would you like some help, I ask?
-Nope, I got this.
Really, nurses are amazing people with thankless jobs. A limp leg is not the easiest thing to toss around, especially when that region does not exactly smell like roses at the time, but she just jumped in and did it.

Luckily, my wife’s nausea subsided. The anesthesiologist arrived sooner than we expected and gave my wife and epic dose of drugs. Pump repaired. Babies were delivered in rooms around us and then L&D ward calmed down. I got a cot delivered and made it up and we both tried to get a nap.

Our nurse for the night, let’s call her Suzy since I can’t remember her name, came in to introduce herself. Suzy looked like she just graduated from high school and weighed approximately 80 pounds if she had a couple handfuls of change in her pocket. Great, I thought. Biggest moment of my life and we have a rookie stuck on the night shift guiding us. My first impression could not have been more wrong. Suzy continued to prop Leanne’s leg up on the table and pillows. She took the time to answer all of our questions and make Leanne feel as comfortable as someone in her situation and position (physical and mental) can. She told us at about 10:00 PM that things were progressing, but that Leanne wouldn’t be ready to push for at least a few hours. She adjusted the pitocin to help hold off my wife’s nausea. She let us know that we should get a few hours sleep and that she would check on us at about 1:00 AM. Amazingly, we both managed to fall asleep.

The room is full of beeps and pings and is never fully dark. Any sleep you are able to get in a Labor and Delivery room isn’t restful sleep for a number of reasons. I remember being woken up by the light coming into the room as Suzy opened the door at around 1:00 AM. She examined my wife and told us some good news. The head was “right there.” All the contractions had basically pushed baby into launch position. All that there was left to do was push. Let’s get going!
-Well, the doctor is asleep, so I think we’ll just let you labor down for a little while and then we’ll see where you are at 2:00.
Right. Okay. Another hour to wait and “labor down” – which I guess means, let the baby travel down the birth canal at its own, slow, painful, don’t-want-to-wake-the-doctor, pace. But we did just that we waited.

Then the doctor comes in. The thing about OB/GYN’s is that they are surgeons. They cut people open and deliver life. So my guess is that regular birth is kind of boring to them. They are used to climbing Everest and most people only expect them to climb a hill. But it is necessary to have them there, and her presence signaled to us that we were ready to go. She gave my wife a quick exam and then said,
-Yup, I think we are ready to start pushing.
Suzy looked over at me as she was grabbing my wife’s right leg.
-Okay, so you grab her left leg and we are both going to pull them up to her chest when the doctor says push, okay?
Timeout. I kind expected to be up in the bleachers for this part. If I hold her leg like you are asking, I am putting myself right there on the field. I mean, I am on the front lines. Everything is right there.
-Ready? Grab the leg, we are going to push.
Leanne. Suzy. The doctor. They were all in there. Fully committed to their jobs. So this is a little message to all the guys who expect to be in the no-splash zone during the actual delivery – prepare yourself.

My wife pushed. They got her an oxygen mask to put over her mouth while she rested between contractions. After a minute you would here the doctor say, “Okay, let’s get ready” and we would all man our battle stations and my wife would bear down. We could see the head. You thought the end was so close, but you forget that when you see a little bit of the head, that there is a lot more head behind it. Time went by and things started to get a little strange. The nurse and doctor started to look at each other in-between contractions as if there was something they both wanted to say, but couldn’t out loud. The doctor told us about the possibility of using a vacuum to help out. They started to make my wife roll on to her side in between contractions and they were losing the heartbeat for a few seconds after each big push. When you see your nurse moving the monitor around looking for a heartbeat and saying “Come on, come back. Come back.” It tends to make you a little uneasy. But then I started to notice more people coming into the room. Another nurse started to prepare the warming table. Another one brought in some instruments for the doctor. The doctor looked at the nurse and said,
-Well, looks like I should go get dressed.
This confused me initially. She was already wearing scrubs and gloves, did she need to put on a tux? Was I underdressed for my daughter’s arrival. She then put on a paper gown, more gloves, booties, and facemask with a clear plastic shield covering her eyes. I looked at her, apparently preparing for Shamu’s performance at Sea World, and then back at myself, in slippers, pajama pants and a t-shirt. I was only about two feet away from where she was sitting. I started to franticly look around for a plastic bag or a hockey helmet. Nothing to be found.

At 3:45 AM the doc looked at my wife and said,
-This baby WILL be born by 4:00 AM. You hear me? That is your deadline.
She looked over to me and said.
-Look, there is a possibility that the cord is wrapped around your daughter’s neck. If that is the case I am going to have to cut it myself and take her straight over to the table. But if not, would you like to cut the cord?
I hadn’t really thought of it, and really, all I wanted was for my daughter to come out healthy.

And then it happened.

3:59 AM. One minute before the deadline.

One big push and the head came out. The next and her body slipped out. I remember thinking, “that thing is huge!” It is embarrassing, but my first thought was one of admiration for the physical feet of giving birth. Babies, though they look small when you hold them, do not look small immediately after being squeezed through a vagina.

Sure enough, the cord was wrapped and they grabbed her and took her away. I kissed my wife. I went over to the table to see my daughter. I will steal a line from author Roddy Doyle – when I saw her for the first time I finally knew I had lungs, because there was no air in them. My wife was crying. I was stunned into submission. It is every bit the moment you imagine or remember it to be.

Except for the doctor stitching up your wife’s vagina --- still can’t get that image out of my head.

A nurse looked at me and said:
-Would you like to cut the cord?
She held out a pair of scissors. I looked down.
-No, I’m all set.
The cord had obviously been cut and clamped already. She wasn’t asking me to cut the cord, she was asking me to trim it. And why in the world would I want to do that? But then the scissors were in my hand, so I trimmed. My wife remembers watching this interaction and laughing.

Then we held her. Close. We took pictures. We smiled. We laughed. She cried. We touched her nose and called her by name for the first time. We looked at each other.
-This is our baby, we said.
-We are parents, we said.
All the fear and confusion and pain and exhaustion from the last two hours, two days, nine months, just disappeared into the ether like vapor. Gone. Replaced only with a new kind of happiness that we had never felt. We had no idea what we were in for. What do we do now?

We introduced ourselves to our baby.
This is mommy.
This is daddy.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A child is born...

Fair warning: This post will include mention of various bodily fluids, needles, tubes, vacuums possibly being attached to heads, and hospital food. I will paraphrase my brother who, after the birth of his first kid, said: If everyone knew prior to pregnancy what child birth actually involved, the human race would have died off thousands of years ago. Read at your own risk.

This is the story of the birth of my daughter.

March 30th: the due date. The day came and went as any does. My wife, Leanne, had yet to feel any contractions and was handling pregnancy quite well. She was still going to the gym almost every day and working out, usually eliciting frightened stares from the person on the elliptical next to her. She had been having trouble sleeping for about a month, but other than that, she felt great. Everything was telling us that our baby was in for an extended stay.

The next day we had a Doctor’s appointment. When we set the appointment a month prior, we laughed that we would never be there. It was after the due date! We are on a schedule here! Ha. At the appointment the doctor set a date for induction, about a week later. We had a finish line.

But for some reason, my wife really didn’t want to be induced. She spent the next few days searching for various home remedies to induce pregnancy. Exercise, sex, evening primrose oil, pressure points, massage, castor oil, spicy food, Italian food, Thai food, long walks after dinner. In the real world, doctors really don’t know why labor starts. They know what hormone triggers labor, but don’t really know why that hormone is delivered at one time rather than another. (If you are a medical researcher, get on this.) So really, you can eat trays of eggplant parm, squeeze your thumb joint all day and walk from here to Timbuktu, but probably doesn’t make much of a difference. A few days after our due date and my wife had yet to feel a contraction or have any signs of labor. Then one day, probably Saturday, April 4th, we were walking around a museum at Harvard when my wife lost her mucus plug. Yup, I just said mucus plug. And provided a link to learn MORE about said plug. Don’t say I didn’t give you fair warning, either, cause it is right there in the first line. This was exciting at the time, until we went and googled mucus plug and found (after quickly skirting by a bunch of really nasty pictures) that once you lose your mucus plug you can give birth in hours or in weeks. With no other signs of labor, we were starting to think weeks.

Then on Monday night we are sitting watching television. It had been a normal day. Leanne and I both went to work. Leanne even went for the gym. Almost a week past our due date, we were just trying to avoid thinking how we weren’t in labor yet. But Leanne started to get a little concerned about, well, leaking. Leaking can be normal, especially after losing your plug. Heck, pregnant women pee themselves. Leanne had been leaking a little fluid since the incident in the museum. But it was a small amount. This was a little more. So we decided to it was probably best to call the doctor. This was the first time we had to call the doctor for anything, and it was already almost 9:00 PM, so we debated for a while. We also knew what they were going to say, come in and we will see if your water has broken. In the back of our mind, we knew that calling meant we were admitting that were really having a baby. It was really happening.

Sure enough, they asked us to go to the hospital, and told us to bring our things in case we had to stay. So I went and got the bag that had been packed for at least two weeks.

-Do you have ipod?
-Clothes for the baby?
-Holy shit, we are having a baby.

The labor and delivery wing was like a ghost town. I expected commotion, screaming women, someone yelling for boiling water and newspaper -- something more exciting than five nurses sitting around talking and one doctor looking like she was checking her facebook status. Needless to say, they got us into a room and started testing the fluid.

-Well, it is amniotic fluid, the doctor said. When did your water break?
-Ummm, well. Not sure. Could have been Saturday.
-Saturday? Okay, well, we normally like to deliver babies about 24-48 hours after your water breaks. So this could have been an hour ago or it could have been almost 60 hours ago. So we are going to induce you.

Now, we already had an induction scheduled for Wednesday, but hearing those words was like being drop-kicked in the face by reality. But, induction is not a quick process. Leanne’s body was not really ready to give birth. She was only dilated about a centimeter. Again, for the dad’s out there who don’t have a uterus or a cervix. Think of the uterus as a big, muscular balloon. The cervix is the opening to the balloon. It needs to open to 10cm to get the baby out. So a single centimeter wasn’t going to help. So first, they needed to administer a drug that would cause cervical ripening. Easily one of the more disgusting phrases used during the birth process. The drug would take about 12 hours to work. Since it was 10:00 PM they would put us in a room and then check on us in the morning.

They gave Leanne and Ambien to help her sleep. They gave me an easy chair. Apparently, labor and delivery was quiet because there was cervical ripening going on all over the place. The rooms were filled with women and their husbands sleeping while waiting for perfect ripeness. Therefore, they were out of cots. So I had an unrestful night sleeping on a chair, the floor, a different chair, on the 2 inches of free space next to my wife, the floor again, then back to the easy chair.

The next morning brought mixed results. The ripening agent apparently had helped, but it hadn’t done a lot. But the good news was that we were on the right path. So we had a choice. We could spend another 12 hours waiting and seeing if things kept progressing, or we could just start pumping Leanne full of piticon and get the show on the road. Now, we weren’t all that happy for Leanne to have pitocin, which is basically an artificial version of the hormone that triggers contractions. You see, pitocin makes contractions longer and stronger and makes them come quicker than natural contractions. There are some that think it is pretty bad stuff, for mom and baby. If we could have planned our birth, Leanne would have gone into labor on her own, but since her water had broken at some indeterminate length of time ago, we thought it best to move things along. So at about noon, after a quick shower and a bite to eat, on came the pitocin drip. Ladies and gentleman, start your engines.

It all started our great. We relaxed. We started watching a movie on a laptop. A few minutes later, my wife turns to me and says excitedly:
-Hey, I feel something. I think it is a contraction.
It is the first on she had felt and we were both excited. We smiled. Hugged. I stared at the little Richter scale that they had hooked up to her belly and was dazzled by the little bump that appeared. We soon found out was the wrong reaction to have. If we have a second baby, the reaction will be more like this: NOOOOOO!!!!!!

Sure enough, the next contraction was a little more pronounced.
-Oh yeah, definitely having contractions now, my wife would say.
Suddenly, neither of us were paying attention to the movie. The nurse came in to check and we still smiled and said everything was going fine. Leanne started to move around a little bit. We tried to remember all the things we learned in our childbirth class. She stood up and walked around. Twirled her hips around. She sat on a balance ball. I rubbed her back. The contractions started to get more intense. What was a little bump on the contraction Richter scale was now turning into a jagged mountain. Leanne stopped moving around and got into bed. First on her back and then onto her side. Soon, she asked for a bucket. The pain was too much and she started throwing up. It is at this point that every male in the United States would have pumped himself full of every drug known to man.

My wife had every intention of getting an epidural, but she wanted to see how far she could go. This is mainly because once you have the epidural, you are confined to bed and my wife’s version of hell is sitting still for eternity. So the more time she could spend on her feet, the better. But the pain had already downed her. She was curled up in fetal position, couldn't talk, and didn't want anyone to touch her. A nurse came in and finally whispered to her, like a dealer peddling drugs,
-You know, honey. You don’t have to do this. We can make this all go away.
My wife just nodded and said, in a low voice,
Twenty minutes later, at about two in the afternoon, the doctor arrived to give my wife the epidural. I had to leave the room, because apparently, they trust husbands in the delivery room when a baby is being born, but we wouldn’t want any distractions when a needle is involved.

So I went to the lobby, got some caffeine, made some phone calls. I thought of ways that I would comfort my wife when I got back. Hold her hand. Get her a cool washcloth for her forehead. Tell her how great she is doing. Maybe feed her some ice chips. The toughest woman I know was going through a rough patch, and I needed to be there for her.

Really, the drugs took care of that.

I came back up to labor and delivery and slowly walked in the room, where my wife was sitting up in bed…laughing. She looked at me.
-Hey! I can’t feel anything! This thing is awesome!
I looked over at the Richter scale monitor
-Leanne, you are having a gigantic contraction right now. You can’t feel that?
-What? Right now? No! Nothing! Can’t feel a thing! (Laugh. Chuckle. Guffaw)
She then called her mom to tell her excitedly that she was having a contraction.
-Yeah, right now. I know, can't feel a thing. No, I can tell cause there is a monitor attached to me that is going crazy. This stuff is great!
Looking back, had we known that we had about 14 hours ahead of us, that probably wouldn’t be the reaction either.

(As this is turning out to be the longest blog post ever…check back tomorrow for the thrilling conclusion. SPOILER ALERT: A baby is born)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

That Guy

So being a parent is wonderful. Great. Amazing. Life changing. But there are obviously things that I don’t like about it. But they are the things you don’t think about. The poop, the sleeping, the not sleeping, the screaming, the teething. All that you can prepare for. Mainly, I didn’t expect that I would become that guy. I am that guy. You know, that guy who tells you that being a parent is wonderful. Great. Amazing. Life Changing. Which immediately causes all non-parents to dry-heave. I’m now that guy that gushes about his daughter on Facebook. This likely causes several people who may or may not have liked me in high school to de-friend me. I’m that guy that stares smokers down if they are within 15 feet of my baby. I'm that guy that spends a Saturday afternoon picking up breast pump shields for his wife. I’m that guy with a picture of his kid as a background on his phone. I’m that guy that has to turn down a friend's offer to go for drinks because I want, not need, to go home and see my daughter. I’m that guy you honk at because I’m not taking a left hand turn in an intersection when I really could have made it if I had floored it but I didn’t go because I have a baby in the car godamnit and I’m not taking that kind of risk! I mean, come on, I’m blogging about my life as a father. Trust me, I want to punch myself in the face sometimes.

But this is what happens. I look at the world differently now, there is now way around it. There is an episode of 30 Rock where Liz tries to hang with the guys. They tell her they are all going out to a strip club and she yells, “Yeah, Let’s go see some naked moms and daughters.” I see the entire world like Liz Lemon now. Every woman is a possible future for my daughter. So strip clubs and friends of Rick Pitino take on whole new meanings for me.

My reality has changed. My house is now an obstacle. I look at every object in my house and need to consider the possibility that it will somehow end up in my daughter’s mouth --- because right now, anything she can get her hands on is meant to be tasted. It makes it especially hard that she is no longer a motionless blob. Olive has just started to roll over and grab at things. She can shimmy her way slowly towards things. I know that soon she will be crawling, walking, and, yes, falling. She will be able to reach for things I never thought about her reaching. The other day while changing her she reached out and grabbed a dirty diaper I had placed next to the changing table while I put the clean one on. In the past four months I have probably done this 483 times. But now she can reach that dirty diaper and now she wants to taste that dirty diaper. I must now protect her from that.

Yes, becoming a parent is wonderful. Great. Amazing. Life changing. Seeing your baby smile, or laugh, or really do anything at all can make you feel like your heart is pumping twice as fast as normal. But you have to be prepared for the side-effects. You will become that guy. No one wants to become that person they have made fun of for years. Every parent thinks they are going to be different and cool, and some succeed. But then most of us see our reflection in a store window as we push the stroller by with the car seat in it with four different toys hanging from the handle. And then you know that you are that guy. And you can’t imagine anything different.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sometimes You Have to Feed the Crazy -- Part Two

Yep, this is what we have come too. It is all the rage on the news – Google lists 165 news stories on it, but since it has been on The View, harbinger of all things crazy, I’m sure it will get more attention. It has also been on every silly “Mommy Blog” known to man. I’m a “Daddy Blogger”—huge distinction. So, here it goes. Ladies and Gentleman, there is now a doll that mimics breastfeeding. Not only does it mimic the eating process, but it comes with a special strap-on nursing halter top that allows little girls to mimic the feeding process. The halter top has two pink daisies on it that substitute for nipples. Wow.

Okay, I’m sure there are going to be people who say, “Well, breastfeeding is better for babies so why do we encourage little girls to feed their dolls with bottles.” I don’t know, the same reason we don’t have Barbies that have a menstrual cycle? True, breastfeeding is natural and toddlers with younger brothers or sisters learn about it at a very young age, but they learn about it by watching mommy do it. Why do we need little girls pretending to do this? I mean, it took my wife a while to learn to breastfeed and I’m pretty sure she knew the basic function for a while.

This has caused quite a bit of debate, actually. Some have said this over-sexualizes our young girls, others say it is perfectly natural. Another daddy blogger was apparently chastised so much that he had to issue an apology! I understand why the breastfeeding community can get defensive when people criticize the practice, primarily because most of the criticism is ignorant and demeaning. But this is a doll! A child’s toy! We don't need our little girls (or boys, I mean, anyone can strap on the magic feeding halter, and boys do have nipples, right?) pretending to do everything that mommy does. Also, why do we need a special doll to do this. If you your daughter makes the decision to breats rather than bottle feed her doll -- can't she just pretend to do it without the special bra? Call me crazy, but for some reason the idea of my daughter someday strapping on a crazy fake bra and feeding her doll with a fake flower-shaped, pink nipple just freaks me out. But after a doll that gets a temperature, a stuffy nose, and poops and pees, there was nowhere else to go but up.

Also, I predict that this becomes a hot joke gift for expectant dads at baby showers. In fact, I might get one right now.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Playing Doctor

So Olive had her fourth doctor’s appointment yesterday. We were looking forward to two big events (only a parent considers a routine Doctor’s appointment a “big event” – sometimes I want to punch myself in the face) at this appointment. One, Olive would be getting weighted and measured and we were hoping that she would finally break double digits. She was exactly 9 pounds at her 2-month appointment. Yes, she is skinny. We know. Been through this. Two, Olive was going to get her second round of vaccinations.

The doctor is both a routine experience and an exciting one. The first time you go is usually within a week of the baby being born or a few days after leaving the hospital. At this point, you have no idea what you are doing and are eager to ask a professional questions like; Is she really supposed to poop this often? Is her poop really supposed to look like this? How do I know that she is eating enough? Do I really need to watch her ALL the time? Things like that. Really, if everything is moving along normally, it is just an introduction with you and the Doctor. You then meet again at one month, where you basically ask the same exact questions. At each appointment the baby gets weighed and measured. They write the results in a little blue book that you need to keep track of and take to each appointment. You will inevitable misplace this blue book and have to run around looking for it, just knowing you are going to be late for the appointment. Really, a little blue book? We can't put this on the interweb or something yet?

The two month appointment is a biggy, cause it is the time when the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends getting the first dose of a lot of vaccinations. At two months, Olive got three injections and one orally administered vaccination. Needless to say this is quite unpleasant for the child and the parent. It is however, in a lab rat kind of way, a little fascinating to watch your child’s reaction to being pricked with a needle for the first time. Now, hear me out. As adults, or even as children, when we go in to get a shot, we know what is coming. There is going to be a prick, and a little pain. We can try to distract ourselves, but we know it will pinch. Olive, however, has no idea what she is in for. So the needle goes in, and she doesn’t really react for a beat or two. Then her face transforms from confused, to shocked, to really really sad. She really couldn’t prepare herself because she has never felt that before.

Now, my wife and I have decided to follow the AAFP and AAP recommended schedule of vaccinations. This is not a decision without some controversy. There are intelligent, well-meaning, and passionate opinions on both sides of this issue (see here, here, and here for some fairly interesting takes on the controversy). But we have come down on one side. We think that vaccinating our daughter, and doing it on the recommended schedule is the correct decision for our family. The AAFP, the AAP, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approve the schedule we are on, and they do so for a reason. These are some pretty nasty diseases that we are trying to prevent here. I mean, the measles really suck. Rotovirus is a leading cause of childhood death in developing countries. That is not to say that some of the reported side effects aren't shocking as well. The medical community can and has gotten things terrible wrong in the past...we are hedging our bets that they get this one right. I’m sure each parent has to make their own decision, and as along as it is an informed one, I can not argue with it. Being a parent requires you to make lots of decisions like this.

So, that brings us to the four month appointment. Olive weighed in at 11 pounds, 8 ounces. And I fed her a hefty, 6 ounce bottle about 45 minutes before that weigh in. She is, shall we say, petite. But she has gained 2.5 pounds since her two month appointment and is steadily following the little 10th percentile line on the weight chart and about the 75th percentile line on the length chart. If that holds, I think she is going to be about 5’10” and 65 pounds as an adult. Being light as a feather may have some advantages though. Less weight to move around. Our doctor said that Olive is “quite mature.” She is sleeping well. Taking naps. Rolling over. Holding her head up well. And supporting her weight on her legs. She is even pushing herself forward a bit when she is on her tummy. She is a genius. As soon as they name a site for the 2028 Olympics, I’m booking a hotel room.

She took the second round of vaccinations like a champ. She didn’t enjoy it, of course, but after a few screams she was in mommy’s arms and had calmed down. She even smiled and played with me when we got home. So all in all, not a bad little day playing doctor. Now we have two more months to lose our little blue book, prepare Olive for another round of needles, and fatten her up.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Planet Has a Fever! Stop Having Babies!

Thanks for ruining our planet, Olive! A new study by statisticians at Oregon State University (those of the Beavers and not the Ducks), that I first saw in the New York Times, concludes that:
“the carbon legacy and greenhouse gas impact of an extra child is almost 20 times more important than some of the other environmentally sensitive practices people might employ their entire lives – things like driving a high mileage car, recycling, or using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs.”
(Note to self: never let Al Gore babysit).

Not sure how I am supposed to take this. I mean, my daughter wears recycling onsies -- isn't that enough! My wife and I do frequently debate the pros and cons of having more children. We talk about lots of things and sometimes we do discuss the micro resources (family budget, time, draw on our own hopes and dreams, etc) and macro resources (impact to the world at large) required for another child. I also know and respect people who choose not to have children for good and varied reasons. But I am pretty sure that the carbon footprint of a child is going to swing the pendulum one way or another for me.

Really, there isn’t much new in this study. I mean, simple math tells you that more people equals more resources consumed. But it is interesting in some respects. For example, one of the reasons that having a child makes such an impact on the environment is the likelihood of that child having children and so on and so forth – and where that child is born makes a huge difference. A child born in the United States is the Hummer of the world in terms of environmental impact. This is partially due to how much Americans consume day-to-day and also because we tend to live longer than someone in, say, China. In fact, the study claims that:
“ the average long-term carbon impact of a child born in the U.S. – along with all of its descendants – is more than 160 times the impact of a child born in Bangladesh.”
Which begs the question: is moving your children to Bangladesh the best thing you can do for the environment?

This study has my mind churning though with all sorts of Swift-ian thoughts: Maybe we should allow fewer people into the US since the average American’s environmental impact is so high? Maybe we should encourage the human race to let itself die off by not having children? Maybe we should call people who have more than two babies “irresponsible” and use abortion and contraception to limit growth?

Even me, the cloth-diapering, air-drying, public-transportation-loving, backyard-organic-gardening, environmentally-conscious hippie that I am has come to the conclusion, after only four months of fatherhood, that my daughter rocks way more than global warming sucks. No apologies there. I think I’ll stick with her and try some other ways to reduce my impact.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Car Seat Madness

Five ways to make baby cry:

1. Do not feed baby
2. Do not let baby sleep
3. Allow baby fall off couch on to head
4. Steal candy from baby (not there yet, but heard it will happen)
5. Strap baby in car seat and drive over 1000 miles.

I have only been at the fathering thing for about four months, but I know those five things to be true. I was just able to confirm the last one this past week. My wife and I decided to take a “vacation” up to her hometown in northern Maine to visit with family. For perspective, my wife’s family lives further north than most of the Canadian population. This was not a stay-cation.

Traveling long distances over land (or by air or sea, I assume) with a baby requires quite a bit of planning. We tried our best to be in the car only during her nap times, and not make any of the rides more than 2.5 hours. We had to find some comfortable places to stop so she could be fed and changed and entertained by an actual human being. (Quick note to the Starbucks in Bangor, ME: I know it is summer and people like air-conditioned locations, but can you try to move the thermostat off of the Arctic setting? Polar bears would have been chilly in that place, never-the-less a woman with a boob hanging out and a baby wearing a sleeveless onesie). Since the ride usually totals us about 8 hours, we also had to split it up over two days. This meant that Olive (okay, I’ll start using her name now) not only had to endure four days of driving in a seven day span, but she also slept in three different locations. You might add “Spend every night in a different city and introduce her to several new people a day” as a way to make your baby cry. One way to make daddy cry is to force him to take down or put up the Chico Lullaby Playard nine times. If pissing off dads were cool, this thing would be Miles Davis. Quite possibly the Worst. Product. Ever. I remember in late March, when I spent about 90 minutes first putting it together, that I hoped and prayed that I never needed to travel with it. It served Olive well over these four months – she slept in it for the first 10 weeks of her life – but I should note that the playard was stationary during that time. The trouble begins when you try to fold and compact this behemoth. Only eight uncooperative and hidden push-buttons, four locking joints, one weird locking handle device not accessible unless you remove a piece of the playard, and four unwieldy wheels/sharp plastic feet later you have yourself a mobile plastic brick! They should rename it the Chico Playard of Frustration, or the Chico Plastic Piece of Poop. Several times over the course of the week the lack of lighter fluid and a match were the only things keeping me from sending that thing straight to hell. But I didn’t because then Olive seems to sleep well in it and I wasn’t quite ready to stuff her in the drawer of the Hampton Inn to sleep.

It was a long trip, and I’m sure that Olive is happy to be back in her own home and her own familiar, non-folding crib. But she took all the traveling like a champ. She slept most of the time we were driving and we were able to stop in Freeport, Bangor, Camden, and York, Maine to feed her and play with her. Only once did we have to feed her in a parking lot – even then it was one with a view of a coastal lighthouse. Not once did she freak out that we were in a strange place or that a place was too hot or too cold or too bright or too dark. She did cry during the last forty minutes of our trip – but by that point, we couldn’t blame her. The vacation itself hardly could have been better. Olive got to go to her first fair, where she saw her first sheep, cow, rabbit, and alpaca. She saw her first tractor and her first harness race – a big first in any child’s life. She hung out with two of her cousins that she doesn’t get to see nearly enough and lay in the grass in her grandmother’s garden across from a field of blossoming potato plants.

It wasn’t easy to strap her into that car seat every day and watch her make a face as if she was saying “seriously? This again? You know I’m going to freak out, right?” But for our own sanity, you sometimes need to get away. Cause not only is it nice to see family and breath in the salt air of the Maine Coast or watch the sun set over the rolling potato fields in Aroostook County, but it is nice to know that despite the evil playard, and the bags of diapers, and hours in the car, and long minutes of frozen breastfeeding in a starbucks, you really can get out and travel with a baby. Even if it does make them cry.

What's the Skinny

My baby is skinny. She is not scary, Lindsey Lohan skinny or anything, but she isn’t what you expect a 4 month old to look like. When making introductions to friends and family, her size is usually one of the first three things that come up. Normally it is a polite comment: Oh, she is a little peanut! Look at those little legs! She is so mini!

At first my wife and I were a little sensitive about it. But so far, everything is developing just fine. She is on the growth chart, she is just near the bottom. She is growing in length normally, gaining weight, and hitting all of her developmental milestones. She is just skinny.

So I don’t know why it bothered me so much when this past weekend a woman held a door for us as we wheeled our stroller into a store and then turned to her husband and said, in shocked tone, “Wow, that is a skinny baby!” I didn’t hear her say it, but my wife, who was trailing behind, said that the woman didn’t try to lower her voice or whisper.

Yes, I know my daughter is skinny. An 11-12 pound (she hasn’t been weighed in about two months so this is a guess) four-month-old is not the chubby, rolly-polly baby we are used to seeing. I know this. That being said, I don’t think it is the place of a perfect stranger to make a comment about it behind my back. If I had an overweight child walking behind me, would the woman have said, “Wow, that kid is overweight.” What if I had an ugly dog, would she have made a comment? For some reason people may think that because the baby can’t understand you, anything you say is fine. But I can hear you! I wanted to seek the woman out and walk behind her making comments on her appearance. “Nice mom jeans. Wow, letting yourself go there a little, huh? Time for another jelly donut.” But I am better than that. I decided to bash her on the internet instead.

Later in the day my wife and I were eating an ice cream cone and a woman came over to see the contents of our car seat. She oohed and awwed, and told us how cute and then said, “what a beautiful little petite baby.” I smiled and thanked her. I know she was thinking, “wow, that is a skinny baby.” But she held back. Baby’s come in all shapes and sizes, some are plump, some not. Some have rolls, some have a single roll. I’m sure my daughter is going to turn out to be an average sized adult. She is just taking a different route there.