The intellectual equivalent of a ham sandwich.

Posts tagged ‘parenthood’

Month 14 Or, The Chit Chat Kid

Here we find ourselves (we meaning me, myself and I) a few days into month 14 and lo and behold, the mighty munchkin continues to delight. I have found it weird that this is my comparison point – but here it is. It’s like a new relationship when you’re dating someone, except the shine has not really rubbed off. There are times that I think, ‘oh I’m tired … I wish I could just do nothing all day long’ but the little fella continues to pass along a steady diet of love and happiness, with bouts of sleeplessness and irritability.

What’s that rambling nonsense? Is that coffee-fueled jabber? Sure. Yes. But also that’s month 14. Ka-chow.

Month 14 seemed big. They’ve all been big, but this one felt like a number of mental things clicked for the little guy that have been so exciting to see.

This is a month 15 story, and I’m sorry to steal your thunder 15, but this feels representative of month 14. My wife and I went over to the kiddo’s ‘school’ for Halloween the other day and when I walked in the room my wife informed me excitedly, ‘he knows how to say high five!’ And yes, sure enough, our son would excitedly say high five, and/or hold up his tiny little adorable hand and then if you high fived he would say ‘high five.’ Do you know just how STRANGE it is to have someone who you spend tons of time with, who you adore endlessly, and who is only capable of about 10 words surprise you with a new word/phrase? It’s odd, and delightful. Also, his ‘high five’ is really more of a ‘ha fa’ but he knows what’s up.

The month started off with a new streak of independence which we had yet to see, and it showed up consistently at mealtime causing us some consternation until we figured it out. The kiddo had a sudden interest in taking a much more active role in feeding himself, and it showed up as rejecting old fan favorites and being a little tyrant at the table until it clicked. We figured it out one day with blueberries. We had cut a number in half because he has some personal revolt against chewing and will swallow down large chunks of food with a pained look on his face as the food goes down, then quickly reach out and repeat the whole painful process. But no, I don’t want those blueberry halves. We tried this, that, and the other thing but what finally worked, and worked very well, was holding the container out to him. He pounced on it and would grab tiny adorable handfuls and throw them in his mouth, chewing his little meaningless chews and swallowing painfully. But hey, he was eating. Phew. The same trend showed up in other foods … string cheese was no longer cut up, he got the whole stick. Bananas likewise are now served in about 3 or 4 big chunks instead of little bite sized pieces. It makes mealtime easier all in all, but it took a bit to figure out this new desire.

I don’t know when this happened exactly, it was before month 14, but I think I’ve yet to mention it so I’ll do so now. Another word in the kid’s small but growing list is book. It’s really just a b noise, but he knows what it means because he’ll pick up a book, hold it in the air, and say, ‘buh … buh … buh.’ He’ll look at you while doing this, which means please read me this book, dear mother or father. And if you’re busy cleaning up or doing something else you’ll eventually hear his little persistent noise, look up, and see him patiently waiting while repeating ‘buh’ over and over. It is almost incomprehensibly adorable. Naturally, you plop down near him and he’ll excitedly crawl right up to you with the book and then become overjoyed when you open up the book to start reading. He especially loves The Pout Pout Fish. One funny part about this is that you have an almost 0% chance of actually reading the book. He loves turning pages and will aggressively turn the pages on you as you attempt to read, skipping large chunks of the book with his fat-fingered page turning. Generally The Pout Pout Fish is reduced to about 20 words, scattered across various pages. One morning I did manage to read about 50% of Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb about 10 times. That was a very exciting morning. Dum ditty dum ditty dum ditty dum.

The words we’ve got going now, perhaps mostly in the order of appearance: dog, dad, mom, ball, bye, book, banana, airplane, car, high five, outside. Airplanes get a reaction even when we’re inside the house. He’ll hear one, point to the sky and say, ‘ah-pane.’

The word car seemed to arrive instantly, and boy was it an exciting walk when that word first appeared. We have, as one might expect in a suburban neighborhood, a lot of cars. And you know who delighted in pointing out every car? Our little wordsmith. Something between a ‘cat’ and a ‘gah’ and a happy point at car, after car, after car, after car. Sometimes a pause to wave at a car driving by as I would wave (it feels weird to point to random neighbors cars as they drive by so I try to wave to make it not seem like I’m being ominous or threatening).

The language front has been amazing this past month, which has been wonderful to witness.

Now on to the physicality. The kiddo is still not walking, which is completely fine, but boy do I dislike it when people say, ‘he’s not walking yet?’ or any variation on that. This does nothing for us, or the person saying it, so … why say it? That said, we have had a lot of fun physical developments.

He climbed down the stairs backwards for the first time during this month, and just like when he learned to climb up them he went from never having done it to expert in seemingly no time at all. Initially he wanted to crawl down things face forward, which would lead to me flipping him around and trying to pull him down backwards to show him. He didn’t like that and would try and squirm away from me till one day – boom. I get it. And away he went. That day he climbed up the stairs over and over just to get the chance to then climb down them. My wife said he would occasionally crawl up one or two steps then point at the top of the stairs so she would carry him up so that he could climb down again. Crafty, lazy, stair descending monster.

The next big happening was my wife’s first night away from the little guy since his time in the NICU. She took a short trip to hang out with a friend for the weekend so the little guy and I had some nice adventures of our own – a museum, swim lessons, a Halloween thing and some typical errands. It was a great weekend with the little guy, made all the better by the fact that sleep changed this month and became somewhat reliably good. He’d still wake up one or two times a night, but a quick visit to hand him his pacifier and re-sing the putdown song or letting him cry for 2 or 3 minutes usually did the trick to get him back into a solid sleep. The difference that makes is huge, and made the weekend (and this last month in general) much easier on the parental side. I can’t overstate what a big difference solid, predictable sleep makes. As I write this he’s napping (and, ironically, his first nap was oddly short today so we’ll see how this one goes).

During that weekend the mornings were spent the same way my wife spends them … wake up, play for a bit, breakfast, play for a bit, then a walk, playing and an-time. The walk pretty much always involves a stop off at the nearby park where he loves the swings and these little spinny type toys. It’s like a little dome you sit in and someone else spins it. It’s hysterical to watch his little eyes when he gets stopped because they bounce around as he tries to come back from the dizziness. But he loves it. Because as soon as things quit spinning for him and his eyes can focus, he begins to rock back and forth, his hands still holding on, waiting for you to start spinning him again. But oh … when you leave … that’s his least favorite part. And if you dare walk by the playground casually without stopping? He’s not a fan of that either. Usually my trick is to find some other thing to point out to distract him – oh look, an airplane!, or oooh a neighbor’s dog! Thankfully distractions exist in spades.

Ok friends, gut check. Even I am sick of writing this down. But you know who might not be sick of reading this a ways down the road from now? My son-loving future self. So, here’s to you, pal.

This month also featured … clapping! I know this is typically something kids conquer much earlier but we never clapped at home, so I think this is something he likely picked up from daycare. I don’t have too much to say about that, it was just fun to see him clap. I think sometimes he claps because he enjoys the act of clapping, and other times it’s because something happened that he liked (generally food-related).

This one may be silly, but I was pretty enthused in the moment. The kiddo and I were at the nearby playground, which has the play area’s ground comprised of small pebbles. The kiddo loves to grab handfuls of small things and then he pulls his arm back so his hand is at his side, near his waist, and then he drops whatever it is (mulch, pebbles, sand, whatever). He was doing this over and over when I got his attention and showed him what I like to do at the beach – grab a handful (pebbles instead of sand), and then slowly open my hand and let it drain out between my fingers. I did this over and over and then lo and behold, he switched from his method to mimicking what I was doing! Amazing! He only did it a few times before he decided he liked his game more … but it was the first time I’d seen him see me doing something and then so quickly mimic it.

And speaking of learning things … We went to a pumpkin patch one weekend and the kiddo went down a slide. This was the first time I’d seen him kind of scoot his body forward to get into a spot where he’d actually start to slide down. This was very fun to see but it showed up again later at his swim lessons when he squirmed/scooted his little body from the side of the pool, where I’d placed him, toward me in the water. It was fun watching his tiny little self sort of trust fall into me from the side of the pool, excitedly reaching out and grinning as he’d come at me.

Last but certainly not least, and another late blooming thing – peek-a-boo! This month the kiddo really fell in love with that, and it’s been hysterical to watch. He is terrible at it. He’ll cover one eye with his hand and stare at you with the other. But with an object like a towel or pillow he’s great, he’ll hide behind it and then we ask where he is excitedly and boom, he reveals he’s been there all along. Boy, aren’t mom and dad stupid for not knowing I was right here? One adorable and sad daycare pickup was when I showed up and he had clearly just been crying, but I walked in the door and he’s sitting with tears on his face, his tired little eyes, and boom, he throws his hands up to immediately begin a peek-a-boo game with old pop. Heartbreaking and sweet.

Anywho … that’s 14. I may have to revisit how I do these because boy, even I’m bored at this moment.

If you’ve stuck with me, you really ought to get a life.

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12 Months, or Words, Cupcakes, Kids and Giggles

First of all, I’d highly recommend the song Hands Down by The Greeting Committee. I’m listening to that while writing this.

12 months. ONE YEAR OLD. I said that a number of times to my son after his first birthday / on his first birthday. My little one year old. It’s crazy. It’s been said many, many times by many people smarter than I … but it really is crazy how time both flies and crawls. He’s a year and a week as of my writing this, and already his birthday feels like such a long time ago. (Though part of that is a very good and adventuresome weekend my wife and I have had which we are pretty pleased with ourselves about. Several walks, a 5 mile hike, a trip to the pool, a picnic … the kiddo has gotten a lot of fun this weekend.)

This month, inspired by not wanting to take the time to organize my thoughts, I’ll just be rambling like a lonely man who desperately needs some friends and then someone shows me the slightest bit of interest and I talk their ears off. In other words, your standard blog post. Shouting my drivel into the void.

The kiddo has a vast vocabulary of … an unknown number of words. I really thought it would be easier to identify when he figured out a new word but I suppose my skeptical nature makes it tough. He has a handful of consonants he’s gotten down – b, d, m … so when he figures out the word for dog, which is, ‘dah!!!’ and then later he maybe knows the word for dad, which is, ‘dah!’ (dogs are far more exciting) and then sometimes he just crawls around saying his noises indiscriminately it is quite difficult to tell the difference between an intentional labeling dad as ‘dah!’ vs looking at a block, or a grape, or the toilet and saying ‘dah!’ Are all of us ‘dah!’ or none of us, or what? SPEAK, CHILD!

But we KNOW he knows the word for dog. He is now VERY HAPPY to see dogs when we go out on a walk (we have a dog at home who inspires less excitement … she only gets a few excited ‘dah!!!’ a day). We also feel confident he knows the word for ball, and the word for dad. Bye is a maybe. But you know what?, who knows.

I have described before the kiddo and I having a game where we chase each other around … like a hide and seek meetings chasing kind of thing? I don’t know. Anyway, that has continued to be a favorite and my wife got to experience him initiating the game which she was thrilled by. The kiddo was playing in the family room when he popped his little head out behind the couch and then ducked away. He popped his head out again and my wife thought, ‘!!!’ (yes, that’s a thought you can have) and she instantly went to the ground to crawl away. He came out from behind the couch, cackling and happy as can be to have a play partner.

This month involved a lot of thinking and planning and birthday party-ing. We went to Phoenix to see family and have a joint kiddo and dad birthday party. This was a bit earlier than either of our birthdays, but we were going to be around family so you might as well go for it. The kiddo’s cousins were there, running around and playing which is a new spot of fascination for him. He has taken to really enjoying seeing kids playing. I like to imagine he is marveling at how they are small like him (bigger of course, but not grown up size) and yet they can MOVE, they can RUN and JUMP and PLAY and he just loves seeing this. But, again, who knows what is going on inside that tiny head of his. My mother-in-law sent an article to my wife and I talking about how brain scans on a baby indicate the same areas of the brain firing that those on LSD have. So … your baby is living in a world where everything is trippy. Kinda makes sense. All these benevolent giants who speak in some gibberish language and get randomly so excited about who knows what. It’s got to be strange.

Back to the party. The party in Arizona was good … and educational as far as the party my wife and I threw him back home. The kiddo is SOCIAL, he really likes waving at people and smiling at them and being, basically, a big old flirt with anyone who will pay attention to him (someone says hi, he waves after maybe a 30 second delay, and then he smiles at them and sort of hides by digging his head into my should while he continues to wave and glancing at them … I gotta tell you, it’s effective, but I don’t know if it would’ve worked for me during my dating days … people would’ve found me mentally deficient). But his sociableness takes a back seat when there are a LOT of people around. Thankfully he did great with a crowd of cousins and family running around. Although I got feedback from my mom and sister than I am too quick to take the kiddo back from others. It’s a fair criticism, they’re right, and I will try to do better … I guess. I do like breaks from the kid, but I also enjoy interacting with him quite a bit. My wife or I sing to him before putting him down for sleep, and one of my made up lyrics to the tune of Somewhere Over the Rainbow is something like, “I never want to be apart … mostly.”

The kid did the cupcake smash … somewhat. I had him in the Bjorne because a lot of people singing to him and staring at him had him a bit off … That was a good lesson learned for his next birthday party. I wanted to watch him eat the cupcake! Thankfully, at the party at home he was seated and I got to take in his cupcake delight. It was entertaining because he is normally a VERY distractible eater, but with that cupcake he stayed focus from bite one to the last bite. He flipped the cupcake over and then ate till he reached the frosting, and then it was a second wave of enjoyment. Oh that sweet, sweet frosting. People staring, people laughing, people gabbing all around him? Who cares. CUPCAKE. He ate pretty much the whole thing … which is a pretty decent portion for a little guy.

The birthday stuff also inspired a thought from me: this child has WAY TOO MUCH STUFF. I am starting to have more worries about him being spoiled, catered to too much, things like that. Of course, I say that and I will go to a store and see a toy and think, ‘ooh! I want to get this for him!’ And when he cries out you can bet I’m there in a heartbeat. I will have to train myself (which is not something I expected) on not buying stuff for him, and letting him feel frustrated or sad or whatever. Especially with him getting older these will be important things for me to do. Oh, self-growth, you again? I thought I ditched you at the fork in the road. The birthday stuff ALSO made me think – we need to set a budget up front for any and all gift times (eg Christmas and birthday) or my wife and I will happily go overboard. Heck, I’d buy him Legos right this instant (and kindly play with them to keep them from getting rusty …).

We ate out at a restaurant for the first time where we ALSO ordered for him. That was very exciting and also, it turns out, a short-lived phase. We went from, ‘oh this will be so fun to eat out with him!’ to ‘maybe we should just stick to picnic lunches so he can crawl around like a maniac and shout at random trees.’ It’s unpredictable if he’ll be focused on food or frustrated by the confines of a high chair. But it was fun during those few weeks, and thankfully burritos are very transportable so the picnic life will be a good one.

Now for a smattering of adorable things.

The kiddo and old pops are signed up for a ‘parent and me’ swim class (yes, it’s parent and me, not mommy and me you old-world sexist … nah, mommy and me is what comes to my mind too). Anyway, to prep for the class the kiddo and I went to the local pool and had a GOOD time! I was very happy because the last time we tried the pool we had a decidedly BAD time. Crying, fussing, looking around in fear. Not fun. But this time he was happy to take in all the sights, sounds, and all the kids running around and playing. He also waves at EVERYBODY. Lifeguard walks by? Give a wave. Other kid? Wave. Parent? Wave. Me? Wave. Thankfully the lifeguards are sweet and got into it, waving back at him every time they passed. Swim lessons, here we come!

The kiddo has also seemed to realize he can reach up for things? I mean … I’m not quite sure what this is, but something has changed. He would stand up before and reach for things, but there is a sudden new love of stretching and reaching up. If I am holding him in the family room he will reach up for the fan as though it’s JUST. RIGHT. THERE. I think the poor kid doesn’t quite have depth perception mastered. Either that or he’s a real dreamer.

I have been reading the same bedtime book whenever I put him down for a while now. Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site. I’m a big fan of it. In the book there are occasional sounds, like a (sigh) or a (yawn). One sound I had not done for a long time, it’s one vehicle dumping rocks on a heap. (Cruuuuuunch.) I decided one night to add this in and my sound effect for this is pretty similar to a sound he and I have made back and forth occasionally. I did the (Cruuuuuunch) noise and he turned to me, all snuggled up in his sleep sack on my lap, and he grinned from behind his pacifier and returned a (Cruuuuuunch). I smiled but kept reading. He was unperturbed. (Cruuuuuunch.) I kept reading. (Cruuuuunch.) Finally I turned to him and returned with a similar (Cruuuuuuunch.) Again a big old grin and we just made the noise back and forth a few times before I went back to my attempt at a soothing, sleep-inducing voice reading goodnight to a bunch of trucks. But the next few times I read the book I was treated to a (Cruuuuuunch) conversation which I dearly loved.

Ok, how to describe this one. Wiggling your finger over your lips while you make a noise to get an even funnier noise? Yeah, that. He’s into that now. I’d like to think I introduced this to him, but he may have figured it out on his own. He has waving down like a champ (though sometimes with a 2 minute delay) but to turn that waving hand to your mouth to make a funny sound? Revolutionary! But boy does he love doing that right now. We have whole conversations of this sound, back and forth, and sometimes we try to get strangers involved too. It’s a good time.

The kiddo has also gotten faster at getting down. It’s more of an on-purpose fall than a sloooooowly, sloooooowly squat back down kind of affair. This is really helpful for him when we play our chasing game.

Last but certainly not least (especially since I got it on video) is a new way to make him laugh! The kiddo, wife and I were driving to a store to wander when he was getting fussy in the backseat with me. (See how I spoil him? We are doing less companion in the backseat driving intentionally these days.) I decided a great bit of entertainment would be if I pretended to eat a toy, and then coughed it up. Hysterical, right!? Chomp, chomp, chomp, the toy was gone! This got a little grin from the kiddo. And then, cough … cough cough … pop, here’s the toy! AND WOAH! Some giggles! Amazing, fantastic, soul-rebuilding giggles! (It’s a daily battle between reading about Trump and interacting with my son. One destroys the soul, one rebuilds it.) Soon I realized … he doesn’t care about my fake eating or spitting the toy back up … he just LOVES the fake cough! It’s hysterical to him! And thus was born many a time of fake coughing. Though I’ll admit, it isn’t nearly the hit anymore. Tastes change. Humor is ever evolutionary.

Phew. We’ve done it. Another rambly post finished.

By the time I post this he’ll probably be well into the 13th month, and I’m not sure yet if I’ll continue a monthly update or not, but I think I’d like to. I started reading a book last night about the second year of life, which will hopefully help me to mold my little human into someone who grows up to be a happy, healthy, functional big human. That’s the dream, anyway.

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Happy birthday, kiddo.

August 2018 Haiku

August 1 (Wednesday)
Kiddo’s fav teachers
Leaving daycare (new pursuits)
But … But … But … My son!

August 2 (Thursday)
Day before a trip
Whiplash from frequent watch checks
Woah! It’s … 8 am.

August 3 (Friday)
Phoenix, here we are!
And the heat’s not all that bad
… in shade … in a pool

August 4 (Saturday)
Cupcakes and fam time
Early birthday for kiddo
(Oh, and for dad, too)

August 5 (Sunday)
My son and my dad
Squawked/screeched/babbled back and forth
Talking politics?

August 6 (Monday)
Flying home today
Kid slept on me the whole flight
Woke up in dad sweat

#gross #SoMuchBellySweat

August 7 (Tuesday)
Alarm set for 5 …
Wake up early! Go jog! And …
Nah. Re-set for 6.

August 8 (Wednesday)
Kid’s poor little cough
Cough. Hack. Cough. Chew some. Swallow.
Ah. Adorable.

August 9 (Thursday)
Recreate the bug
Toughest step in fixing bugs
*Think customer thoughts*

August 10 (Friday)
Watched woman swimming
We had same pace – she looked CALM!
… Perhaps … form matters …

August 11 (Saturday)
Cousins kids birthday
Kids playing … Adults chilling …
That’ll be so nice!

August 12 (Sunday)
Scheels with the kiddo
Animatronic Lincoln
CAPTIVATED him

August 13 (Monday)
IT! IS! OFFICIAL!
The boy knows at least one word!
But. It’s ‘dog,’ not dad.

August 14 (Tuesday)
Birthday gift for kid
A tiny bike looking thing
Small. Cute. Just like him.

August 15 (Wednesday)
You hear ‘Canada’
You think nice, friendly. Add ‘goose’?
Wrong move. Game over.

August 16 (Thursday)
Amazing finding
Fake coughing cracks the kid up
*Fake coughing ensues*

August 17 (Friday)
Eye doc for the kid
They have such fancy gadgets!
Dug the tech display

August 18 (Saturday)
Kid and I to pool
Tons of noise, kids splashing him …
And yet it went well!

#ThingsThatExciteMeTheseDays

August 19 (Sunday)
Hanging kayak rack
Let’s dance, old neglected foe!
… Annnnnnd I hung it wrong

August 20 (Monday)
To balance the day
Wife and son got me donuts
Monday … Neutralized!!

August 21 (Tuesday)
Water aerobics
Class if all elderly folks
Cracking dirty jokes

August 22 (Wednesday)
Unhappy sleeper
Put kid next to me in bed
Slept great after that

#flattered #tired #LearnToSleepPlease

August 23 (Thursday)
Saw a hummingbird!
Or as God likes to call them
Nature’s crack/cocaine

August 24 (Friday)
FRIDAY! Heck yeah, man!
Can’t wait to go out and … Nah.
I’m beat. When’s bedtime?

August 25 (Saturday)
Grandparents arrive
They come bearing birthday gifts,
Hugs, kisses, and awwwws

August 26 (Sunday)
Kid’s birthday party
A distractible eater*
*Cupcake exception

August 27 (Monday)
Took the day off work
Hanging with wife, kid, wife’s folks
Soaking up the day

August 28 (Tuesday)
Met to get feedback
Enjoyed learning why I failed …
Kudos, reviewer!

August 29 (Wednesday)
Speech about taxes
Taxes!? What was I thinking?
Ambitious self? FOOL!

August 30 (Thursday)
Open house today
“Please join our Toastmasters club!”
Exclaimed to … no guests.

August 31 (Friday)
Picnic with wife, kid
Hope mac & cheese covered clothes
Work appropriate

Month 9 or Crawlington Station

Month 9 started off with a bang. The kiddo, wife and I headed to a pediatric urgent care to see what he had going on. He had a fever which drugs managed to keep from going up, but it was still there. And, in case you don’t know, babies can run higher fevers than adults. Their little bodies can really cook.

Urgent care took a while, but the news came back as positive – he’s got a fever, keep an eye on those ears for a possible ear infection, and he doesn’t have the flu. We said okie done, and headed on home.

When we got home my wife fed him, he yakked it all up which was unusual .. but then he seemed ok. The day continues, he manages to eat just fine. And then we hit bedtime … Before bed he definitely had a high fever, we had waited on drugs till right before bed so he would be able to get a good chunk of sleep. Unfortunately, his little oven body does not do well with food. It seemed like when he had a very high fever whatever food went in would come right back out. He ate dinner from dear old mom, returned it immediately to the sender and then I hung out with him while he was just in a diaper. His poor little self was tired, cuddly, and full of woes.

Eventually I got him re-prepped for bed and he went down ok.

Around 11pm or midnight he woke up crying and my wife went to feed him and I think we were maybe able to give more drugs at that point. Going in was a mild case of heartbreaking. Normally on the changing pad he is full of life and energy but his poor, dehydrated little sick body was lifeless. He looked up at us sadly, extra pale, hardly moving, and he hadn’t peed despite it having been four hours (which is a crazy long stretch). My wife fed him and thankfully it went ok, but after she put him down I think I was up another hour or two randomly going in to check on him. It was just awful to see him so sick.

The next day my wife and I took him to his doc and he did in fact have an ear infection. We got drugs and he began on that course. Phew. Solution in hand, right? Eh.

He was to have four millimeters of drugs twice a day, which sounds like nothing but four mL can be an annoying amount for a baby to swallow if they hate it. Which he did. That night he had about half the dose then vomited. The next morning, Tuesday, we tried a new routine which involved giving him one mL, then pausing, dancing around, toys and clapping to distract him. (He LOVES clapping … though he can’t do it yet, but he’ll happily put his hands on yours while you clap.) Fantastic. Tuesday evening I was driving home from work, updating my sister, feeling good about everything, open the door and … there’s my wife, holding our sweet baby, both of them covered in vomit. Crap.

After getting cleaned up my wife manages to call and get a new prescription, this one is only a one mL dose each time (phew) AND the kiddo seems to like it.

He was out of daycare both Tuesday and Wednesday that week, which was a hit for my wife especially, and I worked weird hours to compensate.

The first … one, or two, or three weeks of month 9 were weird with daycare. The sickness continued which meant both my wife and I (mostly my wife though) shifting work around to take care of the kiddo.

Another challenging experience was our first travel. My wife got a call on a Wednesday that her grandma was doing very poorly, quite suddenly. We are fortunate enough to both have jobs where we are able to drop things and go, which we did. Wednesday late afternoon we were on a flight to Minnesota to say goodbye. My wife’s dad’s side had gathered to lean on each other and say goodbye to someone who was a friend of every one of her grandkids. Which in my mind is a rare thing, and it was always amazing to see her and her grandkids interact and throw jeers at each other. I don’t have enough eloquence to really give someone their due, suffice to say I’m going to miss her, and I hardly knew her.

My wife’s cousin had managed to make the visit as easy as possible for us as far as baby logistics, getting a car seat and pack n play for us. The travel was not as bad as we feared it would be, our son mostly slept on both flights, although he had definitely come down with something (again). On the flight home the cabin pressure had changed a lot, and that with what we found out on Monday was a double ear infection (ho boy!) led to a sudden crying wake up. The guy directly in front of me, a classic manspreader (homeboy would stretch his hands up, then put them down on the back of his seat … aka inches from my face), looked back at my wife while the kiddo was crying and she stared at him, he then offered, ‘… you want some water?’ What?

Now, as per usual, I have rambled on and on about the unfortunate things and am going to give too little time and space to the fun developments. But here we go.

This month we got the beginnings of the B sound, all the way up to some classic babble. It’s now common to wake up to ‘bah bah bah bah … bah bah.’ It is wonderful to hear him chatter. He also will clamp his lips tight in an almost frowning face … seemingly really focused on that next bah sound. He looks shockingly like Mitch McConnell when making this face. While I disagree with his politics, and his integrity, and find him physically unattractive … I do think that my baby is adorable when making the Mitch face.

Another short-lived phase that was fun … And excuse me for not knowing a better way to describe this. The kiddo would stick out his tongue, then uh … sorta make a fart noise with his mouth. I would do this back and we’d both giggle. This lasted about two days but oh, what a glorious two days of comedy.

The REAL focus of this month was crawling. You go in to pick him up from a nap? He’s in the classic crawl position (on hands and knees, sorta rocking). Funnily enough, he did best with crawling when you put him down sitting … and then he would choose to crawl. If you put him down on his hands and knees he usually got upset pretty quickly.

But try, and try, and try he did. It was exciting to see the progress, although it seemed like he was on the same stage for a long time. One day he managed to go from accidentally crawling backwards to moving forwards … this was by: 1, a sort of Army crawl; 2, being in the crawl position and then suddenly lunging forward like a belly dive to get to the object of his desire; 3, having a dog. Oh how he loves the dog. She is his perpetual target of crawling. Unfortunately they don’t get along the best … The kiddo grabs with a purpose, and then pulls … Go figure, the dog isn’t a fan of having her hair pulled out. But, she has to deal with it, so uh … sorry pooch. I pet her gently on her face while the kid menaces her neck fur. It’s a real treat for the dog. Like some sort of weird massage. One day I went to work with him doing his usual crawling – one bit of forward progress, then laying down or fussing or getting distracted by … God knows what. And then I come home and he can ACTUALLY crawl. Like, there’s that thing four feet away and he would crawl, and crawl, and crawl till he got there. Weirdly enough, it reminds me of watching a robot with AI try to learn how to move. The limbs all seem to pause and think with great intention, and then they jerkily move forward. Sometimes a leg randomly kicks backwards while he crawls (picture an action movie with someone climbing up a ladder, and a bad guy in hot pursuit, so the person randomly kicks downward to knock the bad guy away … it’s like that).

Oh and my wife was delighted by the kiddo going from four naps a day to three. He’s been a slow go kid on the sleep front. We hear friends talk about sleeping through the night and question when that will happen for us. When the kiddo is not doing well, as happened a lot this month, he sometimes ends up sleeping between us on the bed. It reduces sleep, but I love hearing his sleepy coos and he is a huge fan of noses (much to the pain of noses) so he will reach out and squeeze your nose. One night when he slept in bed with us he kept sliding over to me, squishing about 20% of his body under mine … I would move away, not wanting to crush him, and he would just follow. Eventually I ended up waking up on the very edge of the bed, his tiny loud-breathing self smooshed up against me. I was flattered, happy, and sleepy. What a thing.

Ok. That’s enough rambling. Til next month.

Great Sexpectations

The only catchy thing about this post is the title. Here is my alternate title: Laundry, Gender-Based Household Chore Expectations, and Other Such Trifling Concerns.

A while ago I read a blog post (I can’t find it or I’d link to it) where a woman talked about her husband would do things to ‘help around the house’ and then she was frustrated with herself for feeling like he was ‘helping around the house’ while when she did the same things she was just doing what needed to be done.

Did that run-on sentence thoroughly obfuscate my point?

Let’s try again. When a fella does laundry, wow, what a good husband helping with the laundry. When a woman does laundry, well, yeah, she did laundry, what else is new?

 

 

See the double standard?

I’m reminded of this every time I go out with the kiddo (don’t get me wrong, I love the awww cute baby! comments). But I feel like I might garner more than my wife because you know, low dad expectations).

And I definitely am a culprit and guilty of applauding myself when I shouldn’t be applauded. Today my wife felt incredibly ill in the morning, I woke up with the kiddo at 5:30 am (hello, pre-dawn day, great to see you again) and then I unloaded the dishwasher and did loads of laundry. I didn’t think anything of doing these things because of … bum, budda bummmmm! … chastising myself internally! Hooray! Before reading that post I would ‘help’ around the house by doing laundry and think, ‘man what a stellar husband I am.’ Post-blog-post I would think, ‘why am I applauding myself for helping to care for my wife and I’s home? Do I say, “hey self, top notch job of feeding yourself!” No, because I know there are certain things you just take care of.’

Fellas, ladies, don’t fall victim of silly sexpectations. (Get it!? Like sex as in gender and … ahhh man, I’m too clever.) Fellas, the only thing you don’t have is the built-in potential food source, so get cracking you lazy bums.

(But, I’ll be honest, it’s awesome my wife breastfeeds for a lot of reasons … these days reason number 1 is I get more sleep. Also, you know, benefits for the child and all that.)

Month Six, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Short Nap

That title is a ruse. I would love it if the kid would take a longer nap. But let’s forego the details for the moment and get a little reflective.

My wife and I were talking about sleep. (remember month 5’s theme? Sleep? Well, that has continued on to month 6.) Our initial strategy with nighttime sleep was to do a modification of put him down awake, pick him up as soon as he cried, comfort him, put him down awake, repeat till he slept. That had started out and we thought ‘ok! We get to hang out after we put him down!’ but it wasn’t really improving. That is, every night it seemed like he really only went to sleep after all his cries were out.

At the recommendation of a friend, we read (the relevant chapters of) the happy sleeper. This book calls for the ‘sleep wave’ which is all about predictability and stability. You have a routine that you follow precisely for naps and nighttime (different routines for the two) and you lay the kiddo down awake. When he or she cries, you go in after five minutes of crying and you say this particular phrase (ours is, “Have a good sleep. I’ll be right outside. I love you.”) then you leave the room without providing physical comfort. The idea is that your child knows you exist, and that by this age (we started this when he was about 5.5 months) they don’t think you have up and ceased to exist when you’re out of sight. The child is left to their own devices for self-soothing. Our son had become a whiz at finding his hand and sucking on it (strangely, his typical fingers are the middle and ring fingers).

The approach worked surprisingly well. But wait, it’s reflective time.

In last month’s blog I mentioned saying that I wanted to baby my son because … he’s a baby. But it struck me, later on, that my mom’s saying over and over that her children will always be her babies could prove true for myself as well. Pain and discomfort are good things – they are really educational. I’m glad I struggled at times in school, I’m glad I had my heart broken, I’m glad I lost at many, many things. And yet, it’s a struggle to knowingly allow my son to feel discomfort or pain. And then I bounce right back, come on, self, he’s just crying a little bit while going to sleep! Anyway, it was a moment of wonder realizing that I will likely forever feel his pain as though it is my own.

My wife and I have a system where, if the kiddo wakes up in the middle of the night and struggles to go back to sleep, one of us tends to him while the other stays in bed. We have a white noise machine in our room for just such an occasion. But occasionally, if the white noise isn’t loud or he has an especially upset cry, you still hear him. And then you lay in bed, not sleeping and not helping anything. It made me think of my mom, wondering if she did this same thing while her children were grown, after, say, one of her kid’s experienced a heartbreak. Somewhere my child is in pain.

Those aren’t particularly deep thoughts – but they were interesting to me. Suddenly I was generation-less, just a person in a line of parents and children, where each person has felt love and heartbreak for others.

/End reflection!

Back to the sleep thing. The first night the kiddo protested, of course, but it took hold and he slept 11 hours with only one wakeup to eat. Holy pleasant night of sleep Batman. That was incredible. Before that he was waking up 1-3 times a night, sometimes to eat, other times just … I don’t know. Because why not?

The next night he slept THROUGH THE NIGHT! MY GOD.

But, that day was rough on the kiddo and dear old mom and dad. Up to that point I would walk him around or dance in the Bjorn to get him to sleep. This meant sometimes two hours of constant dancing and moving in the Bjorn. Trust me when I tell you this is really uncomfortable and tiring. BUT! He was a happy kiddo. Tough to get to sleep, yes, but happy. That day he was a not happy kiddo. He began to recognize the sleep routine and he would start crying, and crying.

Our nap routine is simple – change his diaper, put him in a sleep sack, pick him up and sing to him while you/he holds on to his ‘lovie’ (Harry Elefante) and then you put him down. The last nap of the day I was putting him down and he started crying from go. Oof. It was heartbreaking. Putting him down on the changing pad the face immediately turned to a look of devastation and there was no coming back. When it came time to sing to him peacefully to soothe his little soul before putting him down? Forget it. I was crying and singing (quite a sight). I sang all of about 10 seconds because no words were coming.

The nap, not surprisingly, did not go well. It involved a lot of the going in to check every 5 minutes.

But … here’s the bright spot. For the most part the night sleep turned tremendous. Suddenly we were able to wake up feeling somewhat rested. Hurrah!

***

I’ll be honest … I started writing this about two weeks ago, so now he is about 6.5 months old (so grown up) and already month 6 feels so far away. As is typical of this past half year, it’s hard to remember last week’s woes because this week’s woes are all important. Two of the last three nights he has struggled to fall asleep, and we hadn’t experienced that since we started down this road, pretty much one month ago today. It is disheartening, and a little confusing. But hopefully things will be back on track soon enough.

Also, about the title. That’s a lie. I have not embraced the short nap. It is what he does, and that’s that … But we have done a number of car rides to create a 1 – 1.5 hour nap. A great joy of mine is taking the kiddo out to some shop or area to have strangers ooh and ahh and tell me how cute he is, and then buy some junk food, then cruise and listen to the radio while eating said junk food. Oh yessir.

***

Random thoughts, you say? Sure.

  • Sometimes when I blow my nose in front of my son I feel guilty. Like he is looking at me thinking, ‘oh if only I could do that.’ Imagine sneezing and then just sitting there … not having the ability to blow your nose. Torturous.
  • My wife and I have not been posting pictures on Facebook or any social media for a number of reasons. But, like probably every parent, I feel the world is being deprived of cute baby pictures. The other day a coworker stopped by my cube and said, ‘any new pictures?’ then glanced quickly at the ones I have hung up and said, ‘nope’ and walked away. Smart move, dude, because I was about to bust out my phone and put you through a three hour photo sharing session.

    IMG_20180318_103149350

    The spinny-thing has some sort of bug type creature on it.

  • We have a toy with a little wheel-type device with pictures on it. Sometime in this month he began to realize he could spin this. My wife likes to say he is looking through his rolodex. Spin, spin, stop, stare (we comment, ‘oh Bob, haven’t talked to him in ages, hmmm should I call Bob?’), aggressively spin (‘eh, Bob’s a loser’), slowly rotate, stop, stare (‘oh Jean, wonder how -‘), spin (‘FORGET JEAN!’).

***

Ok, note to self. Do month 7 on THAT day. I swear, last week is already a blur.

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.

‘Leaving?’

‘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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