The intellectual equivalent of a ham sandwich.

Posts tagged ‘baby’

The Carousel of New Parenthood

I’m casting side glances toward my son in his swing, full of fear and dare I say hope? No. Because I have no hope. The theme, dear future self, of month 5 (by which I mean starting at 4 and ending when he turned 5 months) … is sleep.

Sleep. What do you talk about when both parents are awake at 3:23 am? Sleep. You talk about his sleep. You ask, ‘when did you last feed him?’ And the mrs. responds, ‘like 10 minutes ago …’ then you sigh and get up to dance the kiddo back to sleep and she says, ‘wait! No! I haven’t fed him since midnight.’ Then if you weren’t so sleep you’d smile, but instead you just plop back into bed and thank the good Lord for the fact that only women have a milk supply.

(And now he is glancing at me. I just looked up and I saw his little eyes staring right at me. Oh dear.)

It has been a huge month in terms of sleep development for us. Here’s the rundown, as far as I remember.


We hadn’t been anxious to do any ‘sleep training’ because his poor stomach had been a nightmare. But with that a little more under control we decided to start making progress on the sleep front.

First up, we started putting him down for naps in his swing. Prior to this his naps were on one of us. Cozy? You bet. Productivity inhibiting? Most certainly. Helpful for his ability to sleep without a warm body and a heartbeat to listen to? Perhaps not. This effort started on a weekend and at first resulted in quick wake ups. He’d be put gently, oh so so gently, into the swing and I’d sit down glance at my wife and smile and then a look of terror would cross her eyes followed quickly by a smile. The kiddos eyes were open, and he was grinning at seeing dear mama.

But in a short order, before the end of the weekend, he took a nap in the swing for over an hour. OVER AN HOUR! Do you know how long it had been since both my wife and I had been able to just be still at the same time? It was glorious.

From there we took an adventurous next step – naps in his own room! Well, friends, it felt like freedom (after it took hold). Such freedom.

But then it stopped. The progress vanished like that. My wife began holding him for naps again but no, that won’t do either. If you wanted him to nap for more than thirty minutes you needed to do more than just hold him – you also need to walk around bouncing gently. I have done this a few times (yesterday I danced gently for 2 hours while holding him in the bjorne). Great nap, painful shoulders. My wife found a blog post from a woman who experienced the same thing. We had so many things in common it was great to read – especially since she mentioned the nap woes were temporary.

Our son, and the fellow bloggers kiddo, were going through a big development jump. Suddenly way more chatty and tons of extra movement. This blogger talked about how the kiddo was so invested in being awake because there is so much to experience! Well, how can we fault our smily, quick to be fussy, overly tired, chatty, kick-punch champ baby for wanting to be awake when his parents are just so fun?

There really is comfort in seeing others having gone through the same pain, talked about it, and mentioned that it ended.


At night he was still inclined to need a lot of effort to get a nap in, but his bedtime routine was great … mom would feed him, I’d walk around holding him while humming and he’d pass out after some period of ‘hey dad! Let’s hang out! Hey dad? Hey dad! Hey dad! … Dad. Dad? … zzzzzz’

(Another live update – after ten minutes of intense, creepy staring he knocked back out for fifteen minutes. And then I heard a little noise and sure enough, we have eyes. I’m now intently staring at my computer. Meanwhile my wife is texting me from the basement wondering when the coast is clear for her to use the bathroom. The tiny tyrant rules all.)

Fast forward to about a week ago and my wife wants us to take a next step in the nighttime sleep department. It’s wise, and the right thing to do, but I don’t want to rock the boat. But what is parenthood (in my limited experience) if not a series of never-ending opportunities to feel comfortable for a moment only to realize this is exactly when things are needing to change?

The plan was to put the boy in bed at night … while he was still awake! Revolutionary! This is a modification of a plan we read about online where you would put the kiddo down drowsy but awake, he/she would begin to cry, you wait a minute, pick the kiddo up, put them down as soon as they stop crying. My wife was all for this. I responded, “he’s a BABY! Let’s do BABY STEPS!” (This made her wonder if she is going to be the one to punish the kiddo because I’m a softie. I think we will both have our areas.)

I had been cheating (unknowingly) and laying him down asleep. In my mind, ‘very drowsy’ is what he was after being asleep for a few minutes. Honest! This is how it would go in my mind – he falls asleep, you put him down, the movement wakes him up, he glances around, thinks ‘eh I’ll cry later’ and then boom he’s out. We did our first actual putting him down awake last night and it took a while, but after many pick-up put-downs he finally honked out for real. We celebrated by eating ice cream in bed. It was glorious.


Oh yeah and other stuff happened this month, too. He is grabbing stuff much better with his hands (reaching out to grab things). He is finally getting a better head of hair (not yet at birth level but close). He GIGGLED! MY GOD. How could I have forgotten that? Ok, sure, no one else would recognize this as a giggle … it’s a whisper of a giggle. Instead of a big grin you get a big grin and a … gurgle? Some happy guttural noise? How do you describe it? Anyway, it is my new motivating factor in life. One day he made this noise while sitting on my belly when I sat up making funny noises. This meant I ended up doing sit-ups for giggles. How weird is that?

140910083846_1_900x600Speaking of sit-ups – the child is making me fitter, I think. He’s the only workout I get, and my arms have benefited from his maybe 15 pound body.

Another fan favorite is ‘tree sloth’ mode. I have my arm under his belly, his legs on either side, his arms randomly pulling at my wrist, and he gnaws on my finger like a champ. It is essentially the world’s most adorable curl. I like to pretend that I am diseased and he is just some form of flesh eating bacteria that is growing on me. (My wife is perpetually delighted by my charm.)


As my wife said recently, ‘the pool of love is deep and intense.’ It has been a month of struggles and triumphs (as every month has been). Thus the title – parenthood truly is a carousel ride of ups and downs, and often, somehow, a smile throughout the ups and downs.

Ok well this blog post is so long no one except me will ever read it.

(And for completeness. He has been asleep for an hour! Thank the fickle God of Naps and Greying of the Hairs. Is this the sign of him re-embracing naps, or a random gift to toy with my heart? Time will tell.)


4 Months and Counting

Hey there sports fans. Time has passed and the kiddo has continued to grow.

This last month was an interesting one with highlights including: bloody stool, multiple doctor trips, and a new diet for my wife. The adventures!

We have come to learn that the kiddo has some food intolerances, and as a breastfed baby that unfortunately means a less fun diet for my wife. At first she cut out dairy (cow’s milk) which is the most common cause of digestion woes for babies. This helped his poop (Lordy Lordy, the amount of talk about poop is truly surprising … it is such a common topic). BUT, the poop was still strange AND, on top of that, it still showed blood one time.

Based on what my wife read (and later confirmed by two docs) dairy is culprit number 1, soy is number 2. And soy, in case you are like me and unaware, is in just about everything. And it goes by a number of names, so good luck weeding it out at first pass.

That’s a lot of rambling on about diet and poop and such. Let me (too late, self) sum up.

Food intake was rough, which led to an unhappy belly, which led to an unhappy kiddo. This led to an overtaxed mom and dad. Overall status: unpleasant.


That’s not my baby, he is apparently a baby for sale from Amazon.

The change in his diet has taken him from running the show, to us keeping pace a little. Another great helping in keeping pace is a little chair. Now you can eat breakfast while he happily stares at … you, or these little plastic smiling faces.

And, side note, smiles. They are wonderful, and magical, and make you feel like the most special person ever. And then … and then your child spends minutes smiling at a tiny, plastic, yellow smiley face. And you thing, ‘hey … dude …’ I enjoy anytime he smiles, it just makes me laugh that I work hard for them and I am tied with a yellow, smiling, plastic face.

What else from my meandering mind grab bag?

Oh yeah, sleep. The sleep is still not so good, and my wife and I are beginning to feel a little … guilty? Worried? Nervous? about the fact that we have yet to instill any real sleep rules. But our rationale is his stomach just recently began to be well enough that he’s calm more often and less crazy to lull to sleep. Although as I type this my wife is in the rocking chair and he is just staring at her when he should be asleep. So … that’s good.

Part of my posting this is for myself, so that I’ll remember things. Unfortunately the main thing this seems to be conveying is that I have lost all ability to organize thoughts in a cohesive or pleasant to read manner.

Sorry about that, future self.

Ok, I’m done with this. My wife bought me some LEGOs for Christmas and it’s go time.

Is the Fog Beginning to Lift?

The kiddo is approaching 3 months of life, so it’s time for an update from the rambling, scrambling, tired, wired, and foggy brain of dear old pops. Aka, me.

My sister had told me about a book she read that mentioned that the first 3 months of life are almost like a fourth trimester, where they are so dependent on you that you’d almost think ‘why didn’t you keep cooking?’ Although, the physical ramifications of that would be dire. With that in mind, my wife and I thought, ‘so what’s that mean for us?’ With him being almost 2 months early, does that mean a 5 month long ‘fourth trimester?’

One positive note is that him being early really throws off any thought of tracking him against the ‘normal’ milestones. From a book I have read some of (note to self: get back to that after this post) it has information like, ‘at this age, you can expect your baby to be doing … you can be delighted if your baby is doing … and you can be over the moon if your baby is doing …’ But with preemies, you go based on the ‘adjusted age’ or how many days old he/she is after their due date. Our kiddo is almost 3 months old real age, alost 1 month old adjusted age. This has resulted in a hodgepodge of behavior that is sometimes older than his adjusted age, sometimes not. And when you combine that with the fact that every baby is different anyway it almost makes you think it’s pointless to try and track and compare every little thing. Pft. Like that’ll happen. What else will I do with my time but to be equal doses of proud and afraid?

I have been on the receiving and giving end of this – the instant calm. It feels like such a compliment when the kiddo is fussy, angry, crying, upset, you name it … and then I take over holding him and a calm washes over him. That’s pretty wonderful. To be fair, I think it’s often a change of scenery that does the trick for him, so I really shouldn’t take that much pleasure in it. But it’s great. (And when I hand him over and he calms … well fine, I didn’t want to calm you anyway!)

There is a distinct baby clothes market for those who have yet to change or dress an upset baby. My wife and I bought into this market before his arrival, and I think clothing manufacturer’s know what they’re doing. That outfit that is absurdly cute? Probably impossible to put on or take off without your child making you think he or she is going through a hellish torture session only Dante could dream up. There are outfits that are enjoyable, and not tortuous, and each parent probably has their own preference (learned after a few weeks) for what type they prefer.

Lately he has begun to give occasional ‘social smiles.’ For those of you not in the baby know, it’s like this. There is the ‘gassy’ smile (that’s what people say, no one knows why babies occasionally smile) that can happen right away (I think?) but it’s not a conscious choice. AND, the smile is not a full face smile, it’s more like the mouth just moves … you don’t see it around their eyes. Later, the baby might experience something, or look at you, and give a ‘social smile’ which is an ACTUAL, I CHOSE THIS SMILE FOR YOU kind of smile. It’s magical. My parents were in town recently and Sunday morning I got up with him at 6 am, I picked him up and he gave me a big smile for I don’t know how long. 30 seconds? A minute? It was long enough that my wife was able to get back from the bathroom and see too. It was magical. And then, last week on Wednesday, I got home from work, picked up the kiddo from my wife and BOOM, he gave me a little smile. I don’t know what it is to be addicted to drugs, but I can’t wait for my next dose of a little smile.

Speaking of random rewards, the kid can be like a video game. You just grind, and grind, change diaper, feed, dance, change diaper, ask him why why why are you still crying what is wronnnnnng?, dance, attempt to feed, get an angry look, dance more, pace, wrap him up tigheter, dance, finally feed, burp, dance, etc. And randomly in the mix of all that you may see a little smile, a glimmer of hope, and you think YES, more of that! Video games are designed to give random rewards, with random weights to how big a reward it is, and as you play more the rewards are spaced out more so you just keep grinding, and grinding … But, you know, instead of a new fictional gun or armor it’s a smile. From my son. Which is pretty glorious.

Those random rewards are the rays of light through the fog that is being tired, being wary, and being tested by the tiny screaming controller of your life. Nature, well done. A baby’s cry is a whip cracking motivator that’ll spring you into action. Or, if the cries continue, sometimes lead you to put the kiddo down, take off your hoody (he’s a toaster) take a deep breath, and pick him back up to try again.

Wish us luck.

A Dad Who Thinks He Has Original Thoughts But Countless Centuries Have Thought Variations of the Same Thing

Easy Praise

This post is a little counter-intuitive, because I’m going to give people reasons to not to say nice things to me, but I think it’s worth saying.

I think, in my very short journey into fatherhood, it’s easier to be called a great dad than it is to be called a great mom. By easier I mean much, much easier. Like the bar is set so low a snail could walk over it. And, unfortunately, I think that’s because of the general expectations that people have for moms and dads. Moms are expected to do … everything, and likely with a full heart and a smile, and dads are expected to help mom take a load off once every 3 weeks or so. I don’t know the exact science, but it’s in there somewhere.

My wife and I are following the traditional route, she is home on maternity leave for a long while, and I am back at work. This means, by the time I get home every day, she will have been full time b for 8+ hours, while I worked on code. In case you didn’t know, code is much more predictable than a baby. I get frustrated when I can’t solve a problem at work (because I always feel like I should know better and be able to solve whatever it is) … and a baby is somewhat similar in a way.

Hear me out. The baby and computer can both give less than ideal messages that something is wrong (cryptic error messages for one, crying so intense it consumes their whole body for the other) … but you know what? I think cryptic error messages are ok compared to crying. Most anything is ok compared to crying.

I get home from a lovely day of work or a long day and if the kiddo is up and unhappy, I’ll dance around with him. Easy peasy. He typically has an unhappy stretch somewhere between or inclusive of 7 pm to 11 pm. Usually he can be calmed pretty well, but you have to be in constant motion. I am consistently logging 3+ miles just in the house, and the majority of that is pacing/dancing from the kitchen to the family room and back. And again. And again. It’s not always pleasant, but it’s not too bad. The only really unpleasant times are when he is inconsolable and so very upset. That is tough. It’s draining to try to keep the monster happy when he is fussy for God knows what reason … And my wife has just had a long day of doing just that.

But you wouldn’t believe how people hear or see that I come home from work, take over to give my wife a break, and then folks offer up lauds generally reserved for those curing cancer.

Was I not involved in the creation of this kiddo? I know my wife, and mom’s in general, are genetically tied to the baby in a way the dad never can be or never will be … But to let that be the justification for being hands off or not trying to contribute as much as possible?

Consider, the next time you want to throw out a kudos, would you be throwing the same kudos if you saw a mom doing this thing? Or is it applause worthy simply because it’s dad?

Really. Pause. Take a moment, and think about it.

Got to go, the kid and wife have both been crying the whole time I’ve been writing this. Just kidding. You hope.

Baby Board

Jim Francis was furious, the numbers that Dave Standton had reported looked bad. Very bad. The board’s care team was glancing amongst themselves, looking nervous. This was going to be a long meeting.

Thus far, the board meeting had proceeded without much chaos, but the horizon looked worrisome.

Standing up next to report on new products for the coming quarter, to hopefully reverse the tragedy that is the projected numbers for this quarter, was Jill Hargrove. Jill looked around the room, eyes unable to focus on anything, one eye going over there, now making direct eye contact, then quickly darting to stare at the lights in the room … a slight smile appeared on Jill’s face before disappearing and she began.

It was bad. There were no noteworthy new products, like Apple, the company was in a rut of marketing new versions of the same thing. But, unlike Apple, their customers tended to notice and be angry.

Jim’s forehead crinkled, his eyes narrowed, and then, there it was, his mouth opened wide and a loud, heart-wrenching scream pierced the room. A care team member jumped up and tried to get a pacifier into Jim’s mouth but he was too late, he was deep in the throws of his crying. Two other care team members came and, together, the three of them picked up Jim and rocked him until he calmed enough to get the pacifier. Calmed, he was put back into his leather office chair, and with the room quieted Jill continued while Jim sucked angrily on his pacifier, his eyes seemed shooting fire around the room.

This was no ordinary board of directors. Each of the directors, while intelligent, capable, and fully grown, also had the peculiar habit of acting like a newborn.

With one crisis down, another began, as Jill stopped speaking and began shaking her head vigorously side-to-side, mouth opening and closing as her arms began to flail about. Her thrashing was erratic, terrifying, and building momentum. Thankfully, one of her arms accidentally smacked into her head and she plopped back down into her chair while sucking on her knuckles. The care team was one step ahead this time, and they deftly plopped a bottle into Jill’s mouth while gently sliding her knuckles out of the way.

The meeting was, as far as these go, pretty productive. They had lasted seventeen minutes.

The care team moved Jim and Jill out of the room, wheeling them back to their offices. Dave stayed behind, he had fallen asleep. There was another meeting starting soon, but who could possibly wake him up to make that next meeting?, he looked so adorable.

September Haiku

September 1 (Friday)
Wife’s discharge delayed
She spiked a fever, which means
The party goes on

September 2 (Saturday)
Heading home today!
But leaving without our guy
Leads to some shed tears

September 3 (Sunday)
Wife’s folks leave today
Time to find our new normal
(Trying not to drown)

September 4 (Monday)
Labor Day today
My bad joke loving self hoped
He was born today

September 5 (Tuesday)
Drive wife to NICU
Go to work, drive wife back home,
Go to NICU, sleep

September 6 (Wednesday)
4 pm coffee?
Don’t mind if I do! Wait … Wait …
IT’S 9 AM?!?! … Uggggghhhhh

September 7 (Thursday)
Wife’s breathing is off
Call doc: ‘you need the ER’
Long stay but all’s well

September 8 (Friday)
Sleeping at NICU
Machine noises, baby sounds
And chatty nurses

September 9 (Saturday)
Some sleep here each night
How. How? How how how? … Hu … How?
My brain is broken

September 10 (Sunday)
Making some pals here
Who knew: NICU parents lounge
Where the cool kids are

September 11 (Monday)
Wife’s driving again!
This gives me more time each day
Which means more cuddles

September 12 (Tuesday)
NICU sleep plan changed
Leave to head home feeling bad
Exhaustion or guilt?

September 13 (Wednesday)
Mom and sis flew in!
So you guys want dinner, or …
First stop, duh, meet him

September 14 (Thursday)
Boss and boss’s boss
Both being real supportive
Tears, stay in your ducts!

September 15 (Friday)
Stayed up late tonight
Chatting with my mom and sis
A breath of fresh air

September 16 (Saturday)
Awful night for me
Feeding him alarms sound
His heart rate dropped LOW

September 17 (Sunday)
Doc says we *can* leave
But I can’t leave this afraid
I’m scared to feed him

September 18 (Monday)
Huge sigh of relief!
Night with the kiddo went well!!
We’re taking him home!!!

September 19 (Tuesday)
First doctor’s visit!
(Not counting three weeks of rounds)
(And some specialists)

September 20 (Wednesday)
Paternity leave
During the day – all is great
At night – hellish fear

September 21 (Thursday)
Went to new friends house!
Some fellow NICU parents
Commiserate and laugh

September 22 (Friday)
Jekyll and Hyde deal
By day – a little angel
By night – a hell spawn

September 23 (Saturday)
Before: kid pics dull,
Why send so many pictures?
Now: I understand

September 24 (Sunday)
Football, nap, repeat?
Football, baby, nap, repeat.
Big routine changes

September 25 (Monday)
The house is all love
Cooing over the baby
And chats ’bout his poop

September 26 (Tuesday)
Sleep deprivation,
And being away from work:
Time has no meaning

September 27 (Wednesday)
Doctor’s appointment
Losing weight in the worst way
Via his foreskin

September 28 (Thursday)
Holy crap – fall’s here!
Went out for a walk and saw
Leaves have changed colors

September 29 (Friday)
Strolling through Target
Should I buy LEGOs for him?
Him! Not me! … I swear?

September 30 (Saturday)
When your teams aren’t good
Cherish 2 and 0 days
Go Army and Stangs!

The Kiddo – Part III – Chez NICU

It was the night before our little guy might get to come home, and it was my turn to sleep at the NICU. The night needed to go well, nothing to reset his count to go home, or we would be there another five days. Our son had already checked a number of boxes at this point, three weeks in, and the last one we needed was to go five days without an ‘event.’

An ‘event’ is any of a number of things, but the common theme is that his heart rate or breathing deviate from an allowable range for a certain amount of time. His heart rate was constantly monitored and needed to be between 80 and 200, babies have hummingbird like hearts apparently, and if his heart rate dropped below 80 for a few seconds that was ok. If it dropped for an extended period, that would count as an event. If his heart rate dropped and his color turned blueish, indicating a lack of oxygen, then that would much more quickly count as an event.

Our son, and all preterm babies, do not have the ability to regulate their own heart rate and breathing like a full term baby does. Our nurses had informed us, over and over, that we should expect that if he makes progress with eating, he would likely take a step back with breathing. This proved to be true, because our son was on and off oxygen during his stay there.


When my wife woke up, a few long hours after her c-section, we headed straight to our son’s room. Room 19. We got to his room and our primary nurse … well, our son’s primary nurse (who we got to see a number of times over the next few weeks) was telling us about how he was doing and going over some suggestions. She stressed that this our child and we can do what we want, BUT … they recommend this.

We learned the great news about my wife getting to hold him, and while she was sharing details on how he was doing and my wife seeing him for the first time, and seeing him there with all these tiny cords coming off him … The tears started flowing.

I’ll tell you, I don’t normally cry terribly often, so I think I’ve met my quota for the next couple years. Sleep deprivation, other people I love undergoing so much stress, and fatherhood – apparently those can make you cry a lot.

My crying felt very funny, because the tears just streamed down without me making a sound, so my wife looked over at me and smiled. I think she was a little surprised, amused, and touched.

It was her turn for the tears when she got to hold the little critter. Those two with their competing cords were quite the sight. My wife, still on an IV, still getting regular doses of drugs, recovering from surgery and all that, and the kiddo, with a number of monitors. A jumble of cords and love and tears.


I had gone home, showered, packed some clothes for the next day (our hopeful departure day), and then headed back to the hospital for what I hoped would be my last night there. My wife and I had not been the marathon parents that some others were – sleeping there every single night. Heck no. I don’t know how some people do that. My wife and I knew that the more time we were there the better, but we also knew that staying at the hospital 24/7 was an absolute drain. The whole experience has given me a few first parental lessons, one of which is that it’s all about choosing the least wrong answer. 

Can I stay at the hospital? Yes. Is it better for him? Yes. Is it worse for me to a point that the lack of sleep will sap any energy I have after work, so that the time I spend with him is less good for him? Yes. Lack of sleep vs time with him – what’s the least wrong answer? And, every new parent lacks sleep … is sleeping at the NICU really that much worse than it would be at home?

When I got back to the hospital the night shift nurse had arrived, all of them worked 7 – 7 shifts. It was one I was not overly fond of, which was rare. The thing that drove me nuts with this nurse was that she was fond of dropping a goodbye guilt bomb. A few of the nurses did this, though I’m confident it was unintentional.


‘Yeah I need to eat some dinner.’ (This conversation happening at 9:30 pm, which is a late late dinner in my book.)

‘Coming back later?’

‘No, I need to get some sleep.’ (As I’m laying him back in his crib.)

‘Oh ok, that’s good for you to do … I bet he’ll start crying as soon as you leave, they just know whenever their parents leave.’

Even typing that I have to take a calming breath. Why? Why, nurses, why?

One other small dose of bad news – I forgot to pack shorts to sleep in! Gah. Sleeping in jeans it is.


His cords, oh his cords.

There was one cord that wrapped around his tiny little foot which measured his oxygen.

There was one cord that stuck to his chest with a little sticky thing which measured his heart rate.

There was one cord that stuck to his chest which measured his respiratory rate.

There was another cord that stuck to his chest, and come to think of it, I have no idea what it was for.

There was the tube that went through his nose and into his belly. There were tiny numbers on it, and you could see 20 right around his nostrils. That meant it went 20 cm down into his belly. Blech.

An IV that went through his belly button, to give him some special stuff. This was nuts. Every evening they’d analyze how every baby was doing, and then a big hospital in Denver would make each child’s own particular IV bag recipe and ship it up. Technology!

And last, but not least, was the cannula for his oxygen.


Having been there for a while I felt good and confident when it came time for his ‘cares.’ 

Every three hours our son had his ‘cares.’ Every child there has these. And if you were so inclined, you could learn how to do these things and do them yourself.

The cares involved the following:

  • Move the pulsox, for reading his oxygen level, from one foot to the other
  • Take his temperature under his armpit (he always hated this, which the nurses said is true for just about all babies)
  • Change his diaper
    • Later this involved applying a cream for a diaper rash
  • Prep his food
    • Twice a day he gets a vitamin which smells awful and has iron in it, which is important for him … we mix that in with 15 or so ml of food
    • With every meal he gets his milk ‘fortified’ which is a powder we add that adds calories
      • A typical serving of 70 ml of breast milk is 20 calories, with the fortifying we are doing he is getting 24 calories
      • An unfortunate side effect of that stuff is it makes his poop more liquid, which increases the odds of diaper rash (see above)

Because we were so close to our departure date, I did all of this, including the food prep. Up until the last few days, the nurse on duty had always done his food prep, but the ability to prep his food and give him vitamins twice a day were checkboxes we needed to have met in order to take him home.

For his 9ish pm feeding I got to work. He was no longer on an ‘every 3 hour’ cares schedule but instead doing ‘on demand feeding’ (another checkbox where he needed to show he ate a sufficient amount by his own demand).

The nurse moved him from the crib into my arms, and I thought happily how much more easily I navigated moving his tiny body around now compared to just a few weeks ago. His size was no longer terrifying but adorable, and I could lift him up with some ease higher on my chest when he inevitably sank down due to his squirmy style. The only reason I asked a nurse to move him into my arms instead of me doing myself is because the cords were a bear to navigate.

I fixed a burp cloth around his face, turned him on his side to feed him side-lying style (this slows the flow of food and makes eating easier), and pop goes the bottle into his mouth.


During his approximately three week tenure at the NICU he had made a ton of progress with food. The first week plus he ate via gavage, the lovely tube shoved down his nose.

The first few days his meal size increased at every feeding. They wanted him to gain weight, and when he reached a certain weight the IV would be removed. The additional support from the IV would no longer be needed. I remember that milestone, walking over to the room around 9 pm and watching the nurse deftly remove that. Every subtraction of a medical piece of equipment from the room felt like a graduation.

But with the increased food came spitting up. No big deal, right? All babies spit up. Except … he was eating through a tube in his nose, which meant no air bubbles, so spitting up in his case was not because of the traditional reason. To counter this, the nurses suggested we try to hold him during and after eating, plop him on your chest and let gravity help the food go down and stay down.

At first he was fed over the course of thirty minutes, and then you would hold him for thirty minutes. The nurses, neonatal nurse practitioner and doctor decided to increase the time for feeding from thirty minutes to forty-five, and then a full hour.

With the hour-long feeding, between his cares, feeding, holding him, and putting him back, you’d take an hour and a half plus of every three hours helping him.

On his 9th day there he took his first bottle. This was a big milestone because the ability to eat on his own was obviously pretty vital for getting him home. The bottle feedings increased as time went on. At first, one or two a day was a lot, the effort it took might tire him out to the point that he would sleep through his next feeding.

He rarely cried at first, he just slept. And slept. And if he wanted to sleep through a diaper change and eat through his tube, you have at it kiddo. I remember saying, and I am already starting to eat these words, that I looked forward to the day when I would hear a loud, healthy cry from him. In the NICU, if you heard a loud cry, my theory was that kid was heading home soon.

It probably seems counter intuitive, but sometimes the best thing we could do for him was let him be. If picking him up and holding him would disturb his rest at all, and he was conked out, then it was ideal to leave him sleeping. I drove over before work one morning, around 6 am, only to learn that for that particular care time he was sleeping soundly. Having woken up for work an hour earlier just to hold him, and then be told that, it was not my favorite start to a day.


With the 9ish pm feeding done, I did my well-earned skin-to-skin and then plopped the kiddo down to sleep for the night (well, the next two hours). His gavage tube was gone, that was taken out when ad lib feeding was decided, he was all bottle or breast at this point. 

I headed to the bathroom to brush my teeth, set up the little bed in his room, and turned on the TV. One of the Batman movies was on! Look out world!

After a bit of TV I decided to go lights out.

He woke me up about an hour and a half later, Mr. Grumbles doing his thing. I went to look for the nurse but she must have been in another kiddo’s room, so I ended up running into Josh, the joke-cracking nurse from my son’s birth night. I did an impression of the grumbles like doing an impression of a car making certain sounds for a mechanic, and I asked Josh if he could take a look and let me know if he thought it was hunger or just noises … Josh popped his head in, looked for a few seconds and said, ‘based on his eyes, I’d say he has 30 minutes til he wants to eat.’

Josh was spot on. Josh has mythical status for me, people.

Thirty minutes of semi-sleep later, it was cares time, and bing bang bong we were onto the food. The nurse asked if I wanted the lights on, and I said it was ok to keep the room dark. In my mind, this would help keep him sleepy. Silly me, the boy has no concept of when he should be sleepy.

I had learned a few tricks from the staff to help the kiddo finish his bottle. And finishing his bottle was an objective, because in these last 12 hours of our stay (fingers crossed) he needed to eat a sufficient amount or our departure would be delayed. To extend his desire to eat I would burp him, unwrap him from his swaddle, have him hang out on the pillow on my lap, and while this wasn’t something someone told me to do, I would also ramble to him incessantly (surprise, surprise, given the length of this blog post).

I had also learned some of my son’s habits. He often would wolf down the majority of the food, and then doze on and off while nipping at the last little bit. After the 9 pm feeding he had spit up a little on me, so this time I let him dictate the pace more, which meant more of his napping/eating. 

This turned out to be a mistake. 

A beeping noise filled the room, which was not unusual. The beeping indicated that one of the vitals being monitored was outside of an acceptable range, and I think there was a subtle difference in tones to indicate what was wrong, but I was always too alarmed to notice at the time. This wasn’t terribly unusual, though. A number of times his heart rate had dropped below 80 while eating, which was completely normal. Generally it would go off for a few seconds, and then his heart rate would resume. It was something I always hated and made me feel like I was doing something wrong, but I had come to accept it.

The beeping continued, I began to worry about the idea of this being considered an event, but I still assumed he’d bounce back right away. I started on the next bag of tricks – get him upset to get his heart rate and breathing going. I started trying to sit him up when the beeping took on a more worrisome tone.

I hit the call button to have a nurse come help, the new tone had taken me from ok to very worried. What had I done? Why was something so off? We’re so close to leaving!

My nurse for the night must have been busy because another nurse came in. She told me to take the bottle out of his mouth, and the beeping stopped almost immediately. Then, my nurse came in. She and the other nurse had a quick conversation about this. My nurse was a big fan of my sons, and I surmised that she didn’t think much of this … the other nurse said, ‘but I had to intervene.’ She clearly thought this was a bad event, and I had made a big mistake by not taking the bottle out myself. With the dark room I wasn’t able to watch the color of his lips to see if they turned blue, and that likely would’ve been my cue to remove the bottle. 

The amount of time it has taken to read this does not do a good job of conveying how quickly all of this happened. I would think, from the first beep to the intervention, it was 10-15 seconds.

I can’t describe very well how upset or angry I was with myself, or how devastated I felt. It really felt like I had harmed my son in some powerful way, and along with that I had likely delayed departure which would pain my wife. The nurses reminded me that during a feeding, the heart rate can drop, that’s totally normal, the important thing is to watch and respond … But I hadn’t responded, I had just frozen. I liked to think of myself as being good at reacting quickly in situations, but instead I just froze. 

My wife had insisted that I call if anything went wrong that night, I paced for a while, asked the nurse if that counted as an event and she told me they would make that decision in the morning. I called my wife, she told me not to blame myself, and then I went to sleep angry and crying.


Our NICU stay was great, in the grand scheme of things. Our son would occasionally take a step back, like being put back on oxygen occasionally, but in general it seemed like almost every day he was taking a step forward.

They had told us before he was born, and then the first few weeks, to expect to go home on his due date. And if we went home earlier, all the better. About a week before he was scheduled to go home, my wife heard a surprising announcement at rounds.

Rounds happened every day, usually from around 11 am to 1 pm, and they involved the doctor, the neonatal nurse practitioner, your child’s nurse, and usually two or three other people who were … I don’t know what.

The doctor mentioned the idea of discharge. This was the first time someone had said that. My wife called me excitedly at work and passed on the great news.


The nurse came in for the 2 or 3 am feeding and asked, suggested that I skip this one and keep sleeping. I took her up on the idea.

I was too scared to think of feeding him again at that moment anyway. I stayed laying down, blankets over me, listening to someone else take care of my son because I felt incapable. It wasn’t my best night of sleep.


The NICU stay also had lots of outside work distractions – my wife’s folks visiting, my mom and sister visiting, and we made pals with another couple with a kiddo there. In fact, we’ve hung out in a post NICU world a couple times. It’s fun being around people without beeping and such a sterile environment. Like, I don’t know, regular people!

It was while my mom and sister were visiting that we learned the shocking news about his earlier than anticipated departure date. This involved a number of extra steps to prove that we were ready.

We had already taken the infant CPR class, but we also needed him to pass the ‘room air challenge’ which is where he is off oxygen for 40 minutes in the room. During that time, his oxygen can’t dip below a certain rate. The idea with this test is that, at home, he could remove the cannula and we might not notice for up to 40 minutes before we would be able to fix it.

In addition, he passed the ‘car seat challenge,’ which is where he sits in his car seat for 90 minutes while being monitored. The purpose of that test was to show that he could handle a drive home.


I fed the little guy for the 5 or 6 am feeding, and while I was nervous, it worked out ok. Light had started to appear outside, and we had lots of lights on inside the room this time. He ate, I didn’t push him to keep eating once he started looking like he was dozing, and back he went to sleep. In fact, he likely went to sleep mildly hungry because I was so quick to pull the bottle away.

I slept a bit more before my wife arrived.

Our nurse that day was our primary, the same nurse we had the very first day. She asked me, ‘are you feeling gun shy about going home?’ Yes. Yes yes yes. I told her what happened, and then she told us we could still go home that day, if we wanted. 

Because the event had occurred during a feeding, it wasn’t going to officially count as an event. To me, that felt wrong. What if we were home and I didn’t notice? I didn’t think to take out his bottle, what if I made that mistake again, or any of a number of other mistakes? I know all parents make mistakes, but the mistake I had made felt like a life-threatening one.

We agreed that it would be a good idea to spend the day there instead of checking out that morning. Then, that afternoon, we would reassess.

During rounds we talked to the doctor about what happened and she echoed that we could go home. She paid us a nice compliment, saying that we were clearly good parents, were there frequently, spent a lot of time with our son, and frankly, she wouldn’t let everyone go home after that. But, she said, they have reason to keep him if we wanted another night for our own mental health.

That afternoon, I went home, slept, showered, and decided that I needed to stay with him at the NICU again. I needed to have a night go smoothly, to not mess up, to have nothing go wrong, and I’d feel ok bringing him home and being able to feed him at any hour of the day.

At our primary nurses’s suggestion my wife and I went out to dinner together, our last ‘just us’ meal for a while, and it was a great idea. Refreshed, somewhat, I headed back to the hospital. And this time, phew, I remembered to pack sleep shorts.


I will echo a sentiment from an earlier post – which is that the whole experience at the hospital was great. We interacted with a lot of people, under intense stress, and I liked nearly everyone, and disliked only one or two people. For me, those are incredible statistics.

But, one thing that drove me nuts was occasional inconsistent messaging from nurses. These guys knew a ton, and among that knowledge base they had opinions … and yet, everything was presented as a concrete fact.

The second day our son was there, he was grilling under lights for jaundice, and based on something I had been told by one nurse I thought the best thing for him was to stay away. Low volume, low stimulation were best for him – that was a fact. Preemie babies can’t handle the traditional get passed around touched and patted and all that kind of experience. He was never in an enclosed cage which prevented touching, but you weren’t supposed to stroke him, instead lay a firm but gentle hand on him and keep it there. Informational material the hospital had also stressed the idea of low volume. You wanted to keep that kid sleeping, because that’s what he would be doing in the womb. Sleep, eat, let the brain grow.

On day three, I went by his room and a specialist came and talked to me. Something she said made me think I was staying away too much, and she responded with a compliment, telling me she thought I had a very calming voice (why, thank you) and that our son was used to my wife and I talking so we should feel free to hang out in there as much as we want. The more, the better. And as far as touching him goes, even if it’s a little upsetting, skin-to-skin helps him learn to regulate his heart rate and breathing by listening to his mom or pop.

Some nurses were more conservative and wanted our kiddo to be more hands off, others were more aggressive and thought every meal he should be held. It was confusing, but understandable … There is science in the NICU, but there’s also artistry in trying to determine what each unique child needs.


For his first feeding after my wife and I had dinner, around 9 pm, I settled in and began to feed him. I had given myself a small pep talk, reminding myself that for days and days I had fed him many times and nothing had gone wrong. No beeping, no worries, just a happy little hungry monster. The thing last night was an anomaly, and I learned my lesson to never go on auto-pilot when it came to him. 

Suddenly, a beeping noise. My first thought was overwhelming sadness and ‘not again.’ This time I wasn’t feeding him, he was on my shoulder and I had just started burping him. I moved him around and began burping him more aggressively – make him upset and his heart rate and oxygen will be fine.

The beeping continued.

I started rubbing his feet hard, one of the nurses had said this could be a good way to get him to cry. Instead the beeping got louder.

I hit the nurse call button.

I was shaking, and terrified, and switching between aggressive foot rubbing and burping. If anything he looked red, what could be wrong? I was angry at myself, how could I be messing up every time I feed him? Why can’t I get any of this right any more?

The nurse for the night must have been busy, because another nurse ran in (the one who removed his IV). Shortly after her arrival my nurse arrived and the two conferred, looked at all of the information, and agreed that the machine had read things wrong.

Apparently the pulsox was reading things wrong, and then my aggressive foot rubbing only served to make the machine think things were awful. 

The nurses left and I continued to shake a little, taking a few deep breaths and holding back … you guessed it, tears.

I typed out and deleted a couple of texts to my wife that were just profanity, before letting her know what happened. 

That experience, and the experience from the night before, were two of the most terrifying moments of my life. And one of them was a fluke! I’m not going to take the time to make a list of the worst moments in my life, but I can tell you with confidence that this was number one on the list, with the night prior being number two. What fun, eh?


The whole experience was extremely educational. Not only for childcare basics, but for some good reminders about life.

Parenthood may be about making the least wrong decision.

Parenthood may be a constant reminder that the best laid plans can go awry.

Parenthood will require an unwavering level of paying attention, which I know I’ll slip up on because it’s human nature, but hopefully I’ll be on more than off.

Parenthood is a scary mother f-er.


Tomorrow I go back to work, paternity leave has flown by. The little guy is off oxygen (he came home on ‘a whiff’ and boy was lugging that tank around annoying). He is a social butterfly in the middle of the night, but that’s ok, he still manages to be adorable far more than he is a terror.

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