Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dad: Observations of a New Father

We’re a little over five weeks into parenthood. Things are drastically different from what I thought they’d be. We’re having fun. We’re sleeping. I’ve only been peed on twice.

I’m still waiting on things to melt down like all the naysayers kept telling me they would. Susan lets us feel like competent parents. She’s a GREAT baby and, not to rub it in anyone’s face, we got lucky with this one.

Being a parent is an incredible thing and takes a lot of sacrifices. We’ve already seen that, but we know right now it’s not too bad since her biggest needs are food and sleep. Still, I thought I’d offer a few thoughts, observations and confessions from the first few weeks.

Susan doesn’t do a whole lot, but she’s a whole lot of fun.
At this point, she mostly eats, sleeps, poops, burps, cries and flails. That’s six things. Watching her do any of those things, except crying, is infinitely more entertaining than watching TV, reading books, playing video games or whatever else used to take up our free time.She learned how to roll over last week, so I guess technically she’s got seven things.

Speaking of free time, there’s a lot less of it to go around now.
Here’s the routine: Susan eats, Susan plays, Susan sleeps. There is some pooping and peeing in there somewhere, but that’s the basics. Once she falls asleep (which she does VERY well, thank God), MJ and I have about two hours of interrupted US time. We try to squeeze as much fun crap as we can into those two hours because we now have less time to ourselves. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s an adjustment. Time with Susan is very fun, but I now see why my parents made sure I was in bed by 8 p.m.

It’ll be all over you. Get over it. You don’t get in the front seat at Splash Mountain without knowing you’re gonna get wet.

And you WILL get shit on.

When your baby cries in public, people stare at you. We were in Barnes & Noble the other day just browsing, and Susan started to fuss. I took her to the bathroom to change her, but that only made it worse. The fuss turned into a cry, and the cry turned into wailing. Everyone in the store (not exaggerating one bit) stopped what they were doing and stared. This is a book store, mind you, so the decibel level on a normal day is only slightly louder than two butterflies making love. MJ and I had become separated, and I had Susan in her stroller at the very back of the store. Feeling the collective eye daggers of what felt like 10,000 disgruntled shoppers stabbing me in the face, my first instinct was to flee. I channeled Speed Racer and zipped through the aisles dodging people and Nook salesmen until I reached the exit. Freedom at last? Not quite. Being outside only meant that her cries had that much more room to travel, and everyone who had previously been enjoying a nice leisurely day at the mall got an earful of Susan’s best (worst) crying. Then (and I’m convinced this was Susan’s doing), it started to rain. That’s when I realized that maybe she just wanted to be held, so I picked her up and she stopped crying immediately. A lady told me good job. See, parenting isn’t that hard. 

I had this exact look on my face that day.

I feel bad for my dog.
Admittedly, we shower way too much attention on our dog, so we probably set him up for this. We got Oscar when he was a puppy before we got married. We’ve had him for over four years now, and he was basically our only child until Susan arrived. Now instead of tugging his rope, taking him on walks or just sitting around and looking at him (one of our favorite things), we’re taking care of Susan. He’s great with her, but (and this is probably 100% projecting on my part) I feel like he’s bummed out that we’re not playing with him as much as we used. It’s in his eyes. Yeah, he’s a dog, but he’s my FIRST dog and I love him. On the bright side, it won’t be long before Susan starts paying him all kinds of unwanted attention, so he’d better enjoy NOT having his tail pulled while he can.

I hope Susan likes sports.
Even if she doesn’t have an athletic bone in her body, I hope Susan enjoys sports. She doesn’t have to play anything, but as long as she sits down with me every now and then to watch a baseball game, I’ll be very happy. I can’t wait to teach her about the circle change, play action fakes and the 2-3 zone. I wholly plan on learning how to pirouette, plie, sip tea, and play Barbies, so it’ll be an even trade. 

Susan, the first rule of baseball is never put the go-ahead run on base.
The second rule is never pull for this guy.

Advice is great...when you ask for it.
There is so much out there about how to raise your baby. Books are helpful. Too many books is not helpful. Asking parents what they did is helpful. Getting told what you SHOULD do is not helpful. All babies are different. What worked for one kid may not work for the next, so don’t be offended if we politely nod our heads and smile when you tell us the best way to put our baby to sleep.

Also, feel free to nod and smile at us when we’re doing the same thing to you.

Like poop (see above), but worse. You know when it’s coming. You hear it shoot out of her tiny esophagus, and there’s a slight pause before you feel it. It’s just long enough to think, “Oh, it’s probably just a burp right!? A wet burp! Yeah, that’s all! Don’t you feel better now Sus--” and then you have warm goop oozing down your chest and a crying baby. Thus...

All parents are nodding in agreement right now.

You’re a lot more dexterous than you think. You won’t believe the ways you have to contort your body to accomplish various tasks when you’re a parent. When you’re feeding your kid, you have one hand behind her head and the other holding onto the bottle. Ok, so we’ve got that covered, but what happens when the burp cloth falls on the floor? What about when your dog brings you a rope to tug? Now your nose itches. Also a bird just flew in the house and is using your hair as a nest.

Solution: Use your chin to hold the bottle in place while you use your newly-freed hand to pick up the burp cloth. Grab your dog’s rope with your toes and tug away. Wipe your nose on your shoulder. As for the bird, wait until the bottle is over and make an appointment with your hair stylist tomorrow.

The point is, as a new parent you learn how to multitask REALLY fast. You have 10 fingers and 10 toes, and you’ll use them all.

This man was probably an excellent father.

I’m in trouble. Because I’m already wrapped around my daughter’s tiny finger. All she has to do is look me in eye and I turn into a mushy pile of goo. I don’t know what I’ll do when she starts talking and hugging me.

I worry.
Once you're in charge of keeping a baby alive, you start to worry about things you never even thought about in the past. What if Susan gets sick? What if she has trouble making friends? How do I teach her how to read and do math? What if her first boyfriend has a face tattoo and a Harley?

Hey dad, I'd like you to meet Snake. He's a senior!

My baby is cuter than your baby.
I’m sure you feel the same way about your kid. We’ll just agree to disagree.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mom: The First Month

I can't believe Susan is already one month old.   She has already changed and grown so much! She had her one month visit today.  She weighs 11 pounds and is 22 inches long.  This puts her in the 96th percentile.  I have been trying to think of what I wanted to share with everyone so that those of you who have not done this or are thinking about doing it can learn a little. And those of you who have done it can chuckle at our ups and downs.

Susan at 1 month!  So Big!!

I guess the first thing I will mention is that I knew that having a baby would really change our life. That seems self-explanatory, but let me explain what I mean.  Those of you who know me well know that I am a very scheduled, organized, detailed person (some people might label it "OCD," but I don't like to put labels on things).  Laura Beth and Robbie, my two best friends from law school, will tell you how I used to plan my days in law school by the hour and put the post-it in my planner and pretty much follow it all day.  Robbie can tell you about how when we studied together for the Bar, I created a very detailed weekly study schedule separated by the week day and a separate weekend schedule (We passed by the way).  And I am still a big scheduler at work too.  It is just how I roll.

  How I rolled through Law School:

  Study Schedule – Monday June 1 – Sunday, July 25

  Monday – Thursday Bar Review Schedule
  ???? – 8:00 – Individual morning routines
  8:00 – 9:30 – Read today’s outlines/materials for Barbri Lecture
  9:30 – 1:00 – Barbri Lectures
  1:00 – 2:00 – Lunch Break
  2:00 – 4:30 – Create flashcards/summarize today’s lecture notes
  4:30 – 5:00 – Break
  5:00 – 7:00 – Practice MBE Questions and Essay Questions
  7:00 – 8:00 – Review previous substantive material
  8:00 - ???? – Home for Dinner and Relaxation

So during the pregnancy, I tried to prepare myself for how I would need to add flexibility to my life after Susan came. And I will say that I have done a pretty good job.  The first week and half was kind of all over the place.  I was healing, going through mood swings, and Susan was worrying the crap out of us.  Why?  Well, because all she wanted to do was sleep.  This is pretty standard for newborns in the first week.  They take about a week or two to "wake up."  And for those of you who don't know, newborns lose weight within the first few days.  So while she was born at 8 pounds 14 oz, she weighed 8 pounds 8 oz when we left the hospital.  So we spent that first week or so waking up her 30 minutes before her bottle.  "Waking her up" is a nice way of saying what felt like baby torture.  We would change her diaper, take her clothes off, and start rubbing her down with a cold wash cloth to get her to rise and shine.  Then we would battle for 35 to 40 minutes to get her to take 2 ounces.  However, this all passed after she woke up.

We also switched pediatricians.  It took her two weeks to gain back to her birth weight.  In the first week and half, our pediatrician kept making us come in every other day for weight checks.  Susan was only maintaining her weight, not gaining.  At the last one, on a Wednesday, they decided to switch her formula to a higher calorie formula.  Now, Susan has been doing great on her Enfamil Premium Newborn.  No constipation, no spit ups, etc.  It was just difficult to get her to eat because it was difficult to keep her awake!  The doctor wanted us to try Enfamil Enfacare.  We did four feedings with it.  The first one, with Chris, she spit up at the end of the bottle.  The formula was really thick and creamy.  It looked like a milkshake.  Anyway, the next feeding, she basically projectile vomited everything she had just consumed and let out the worst cry we had ever heard.  This happened during both middle of the night feedings as well.  Well, after the second time in the middle of the night, I had enough.  We had gone from a kid who didn't spit up at all to one who wasn't getting enough because she kept throwing it up!  And I was pissed at the pediatrician for stressing us out so much about her weight, switching formulas, and not giving us enough time to try different things.  Because by this time, we were on our third type of bottle.

Good formula to start with.  If she had been constipated or anything, we would have tried Enfamil Gentlease.  We knew better than to start with Similac because for generations, babies on my side of the family have not found Similac to be agreeable.

We had started with the Tommee Tippee bottle.  She didn't really like that nipple.  Then we tried the Avent bottles.  She liked those a little better but not a lot.  So then we tried the basic EvenFlo, which is what she used at the hospital.  EvenFlo is the most basic bottle.  No bells or whistles.  She loved it.  It was her bottle.  But it took us a week and half to figure this out.  So the next morning, after all the spit ups, I called a new pediatrician and set up a new appointment for that day.  I also put her back on her regular formula, and thankfully it didn't mess up her system too much. We went to see the new doctor, explained everything and the doctor said it sounded like she was just starting to wake up.  (She had finally taken a few 3.5 and 4 oz bottles).  The doctor asked us to come back on Monday for another weight check.  We did, and she had gained 7 oz!  We were back to her birth weight and on track with the feedings.


And after this, the girl woke up and was HUNGRY!  That weekend, she had her first five ounce bottle.  At 2.5 weeks she had her first 6 oz bottle.  Now she has somewhere between 4 and 6.5 at every feeding.  She is having six bottles a day, with only one in the middle of the night.

I have mentioned feedings, but not sleeping.  Well, from the very beginning, she has been sleeping in her Rock and Play Sleeper.  We have two of them, one downstairs for the day and one upstairs in the guest room for night.  We decided early on to take turns every other night sleeping with her. This means that every other night, one of us gets a full night of uninterrupted sleep while the other one sleeps upstairs with Susan taking care of the midnight feedings.  Well, last week when she started having bigger bottles, she started sleeping 4 and 5 hours at a stretch.  We didn't want her to learn to sleep through the night in the Rock and Play and then have to start all over when it was time to go to the crib.

Cannot recommend this enough!  If you are having a baby, buy one!  Buy two! They have come out with more deluxe models too. Seriously - check it out.  You will not find a baby product that receives better reviews.

So we have done two things.  First, last week, we started swaddling her in the Halo Sleep Sack (while still sleeping in the Rock and Play).  Then, on Friday, we bought Secrets of the Baby Whisperer.  This introduced us to E.A.S.Y. and made us feel brave enough to put her in the crib.  On Sunday afternoon, when it was time for her nap, we swaddled her in the Sleep Sack and put her in the crib.  AND SHE WENT TO SLEEP!  We could not believe it.  She had gone from sleeping elevated in the Rock and Play to sleeping flat on her back without any trouble!  And that night, she slept in the crib all night.  It was an adjustment for me, because instead of her being next to me in the guest room, I was listening to the monitor.  But she has taken all naps and bedtimes in her crib or pack and play (which is in our room) since Sunday.

Asleep in her crib!  Like a big girl!

She has also been on the E.A.S.Y. routine since Sunday.  I would highly recommend Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg to all moms and dads, and to read it before the baby is born and probably again after.  I wish I had read it while I was pregnant.  Anyway, I read it Sunday and Monday.  In the book, the parents learn about family-centered parenting.  It is a way to have a balanced lifestyle, so that the baby doesn't control everything and the baby gets some kind of structure, and at the same time, helping parents adjust to this new lifestyle.  So Tracy created a flexible routine for all babies - Eat, Activity, Sleep, You Time (parents time).  It's called E.A.S.Y. because it really is easy!  It is not a schedule, but rather, an easy routine so that the baby always knows what to expect next.  So while every day may not be exactly the same, patterns will emerge.  Susan has taken to the routine like a champ.  After she eats, we talk to her, sing with her, do tummy time and back time.

Side Note:  Tummy time is really important for babies.  A lot of parents complain that their infants hate tummy time but 9 times out of 10, it is because the parents waited too long to start tummy time.  If the baby doesn't start tummy time until she is five weeks old, of course she will hate it.  She has spent five weeks playing and sleeping on her back.  Being on her tummy is totally different.  We started doing tummy time with Susan when she was four days old.  It lasted about 7 minutes before she started fussing, but she turned her head three times.  Now we do tummy time almost four times a day and she is already trying to roll over, lifting her head and trying to push up.

Okay back to E.A.S.Y.  She is usually awake for about an hour to an hour a half (except for the middle of the night) from the time she wakes up to when she goes back to sleep.  And Activity includes diaper changes, clothes changes and after the evening bottle, bath time.  And while she sleeps in her crib or pack and play, Chris and I get to take time for us.  For example, I am able to work out and get dressed during her morning nap.  This is usually her shortest nap, and after the next cycle, she sleeps a little longer and I am able to eat lunch, watch TV, blog, etc.  At night, we can eat dinner and hang out together.  And taking her places is easy because she usually sleeps in the car seat or just looks around at everything.  So going places doesn't affect the routine at all.  It has been great!  It lets Susan know what is coming next, and helps her learn to sleep without relying on the bottle or being rocked for an hour, etc.  The book also helped us learn Susan's cues.  We already knew what her cry sounded like when she was hungry (its the only time she cries without stopping).  But it also helped us figure out what her overtired/tired cry sounded like, what her overstimulated cry sounded like, etc.  And the cries sound a lot different.  We also learned the three stages of sleep and what to look for.  Now we know when its time to go to her room and put her in the Sleep Sack.  And we don't wait until she is sound asleep to lay her down either.  She is always still drifting in and out when we put her down.  We felt like semi-competent parents before this book, but now we not only feel competent but actually confident as well.  And I LOVE having her on a routine.  It is not a strict schedule but it gives us order to our day while still being flexible.  Which is definitely something my organized, somewhat OCD self can get on board with.

Must read for new parents.
 And I don't think we have much longer before she is sleeping through the night.  I have a feeling it will come within the next month or so.  And we are both REALLY looking forward to that!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Mom: The Birth

Well, she finally came!  Thank you all for your prayers and kind words.  She is absolutely AMAZING.  I cannot imagine our life without her now that she is a part of it.  And truly, I forgot how semi-miserable (okay, let's face it -- pregnancy is not my favorite thing) the previous nine months were as soon as they put her in my arms.

So I went into labor around 9 p.m. on March 18.  Actually that entire weekend, I had a feeling she was coming soon because there were a lot of indicators.  Some of them are gross so I won't share them, but suffice it to say, I was getting my hopes up.  So when I laid down at 9 and felt the first uncomfortable contraction, I tried not to get too excited.  I laid there for about thirty minutes, and the contractions didn't stop.  So I decided to wake up Chris, and he whipped out the contraction timer app that he had downloaded onto his iPhone.  FYI for those of you who don't know, just like everything else, there are some awesome pregnancy and baby apps.  We used the Full Term app as our contraction timer.  Anyway, we timed them for an hour.  They were coming every 2-3 minutes and lasting about 60-75 seconds.  They didn't go away and they got more uncomfortable.  By 10:30, I was having to really breathe through them so I called the hospital.  I spoke to the on-call doctor who said that I could either come in and be monitored or start drinking water and see if they stopped (that's supposed to calm down false labor).  I knew I wasn't dehydrated because I had been drinking 12 glasses of water every day since The Great Fall.  So I told her we were coming in.

Yeah that's not gonna help.
 And yes, I then took a shower.  I didn't know when my next shower would be, plus, in case this was the real thing, I wanted to look cute for the pictures.  At this point, I still was not sure this was the real thing but I was hopeful.  Moving around didn't stop the contractions and I had to stop, breathe and concentrate every time I had one.  After I finished getting dressed (I did not curl my hair; I opted for the straightener to save time), Chris put Oscar up and we left the house.  It was a little after midnight.  We got to the hospital at 12:30.  On the way, I had my first "Um this really hurts and is not just uncomfortable" contraction.

After registration, they took us to a labor and delivery room.  I was put on the monitor, and the contractions were definitely painful.  And unless you have ever had one, there is no frame of reference for one.  They start as period cramps.  They are in the lower abdomen.  And then they start to HURT.  And there really isn't any way to describe the pain.  So I was breathing through them while they monitored how Susan was handling the contractions.  Then the nurse checked me and I was 2 cm! TWO CM!? COME ON.  I just knew I had to be further along than that.  I had been one cm about three days before, but still.  They made me walk around for an hour, so Chris and I walked the halls of the labor and delivery floor.  Me in my hospital gown, pausing and swaying and holding onto Chris every three minutes as the contractions got more painful.  An hour later we were back in the room.  By this time it was 3 am   Chris went to get some water, and I had a contraction and then felt this trickle run down my leg.  I knew I had either just peed myself or my water was breaking, so I buzzed the nurse.  The nurse and doctor came to check on me.  The doctor checked me again and said I was now dilated to 4 cm!  I was officially in labor!  She broke my water the rest of the way, and I requested my epidural.  I was hoping to wait until 5 cm, but no way.  The contractions were really painful at this point and I was not waiting any longer.  HA - little did I know I was going to be waiting another hour.

We called our parents and told them the news that I was officially in labor.  We decided a while ago not to call them until we knew I was staying because I didn't want anyone to make a trip for a false alarm.  After the doctor officially declared me to be in labor, they had to do a bunch of stuff before I could get my epidural.  I had to get hooked up to a drip, blood was drawn and then there was a lot of waiting.  And lying in a bed, writhing in pain every three minutes is not fun.

Now, I want to take a second to say something about the pro-epidural v. anti-epidural debate.  There is a saying that there are no awards given to those women who give birth naturally, aka without an epidural.  WELL THERE SHOULD BE.  An epidural was definitely the right choice for me and I pray that I am able to have one with my second child.  But a serious "YOU GO GIRL" to all women who have done it without one.  I really admire you.  Do I think it's a little foolish?  Sure.  Because let me tell you, after I got mine, I was a different person!  I was able to sleep and rest.  I could still feel the pressure of the contraction, but there was zero pain.  It was AWESOME.  So congrats to those of you who did it without, but since I ended up pushing for 3.5 hours and was in labor for 19, I am so thankful I had one.

They have trophies for 21-year-old boys who play football,
but not for moms who do this au naturel.
After the epidural, my parents arrived and came to visit for a little bit.  I was really in good shape.  The doctor came to check me again and I was still only 4 cm!  Ugh.  So they decided to start me on the lowest dose of pitocin to get things going.  About an hour later, they upped it a little.  Then, thirty minutes later, at 10 a.m. I was fully dilated.  And I could also kind of feel her.  But I didn't feel the urge to push, and my nurse could tell.

SIDE BAR - My nurse was amazing.  She encouraged me the entire time and made the entire long day a lot better.  Since I didn't feel the urge to push, they decided to let the contractions move her down a little bit on their own.  So at noon, she came back and said we were going to start pushing at 12:30 p.m.  When she left, Chris and I tried to predict when Susan would be born.  Both of us guessed around 12:45 p.m.  HA - I wish.

Right on schedule, I started pushing at 12:30.  Three hours and 14 minutes later, Susan Louise Cook finally came out, cord around her neck and that right hand right next to her head (that is what made it so hard to get her out).  Now initially, I didn't want to see anything and I didn't want Chris to look either.  But since he was holding my leg, he really couldn't help but look.  And hearing him encourage me during the pushes and telling me what he could see really did help.  And then, the nurse brought in a mirror to help me see what I was actually pushing.  And while it was all kinds of nasty (sorry, but seeing your HooHa like that is not beautiful), it did help me become a much more effective pusher.

In the end, when I was close, Dr. Avery came in.  She said I would have to have an episiotomy.  I won't go into great detail as to what that is, exactly (those of you who don't know can look it up).  Basically, she had to cut a little to expand my opening due to what turned out to be Susan's hand slowing things down.  Thanks to the epidural, I didn't feel it.  When her head came out, I had to stop pushing so they could clear out all the gunk and unwrap the cord around her neck.  One more push and she was out!  Finally!  And she cried immediately.  My first thought was how beautiful she was and then how big she was!  Chris cut the cord and then I felt another contraction, and delivered the placenta.  It was over! They placed her on my chest and started cleaning her up.  Chris held my hand and we laughed and cried.  I know its cheesy but it was a beautiful moment.  Then they took her over to the baby section of the room to clean her up, and the doctor began stitching me up.  Chris stayed with Susan and took pictures.  When they announced her weight, a healthy 8 pounds 14.2 oz (only two ounces shy of 9 pounds), everyone was impressed.

8 pounds, 14.2 ounces!

About thirty minutes later, we let our parents in to meet her.  They were all worried about me (pushing for nearly 3.5 hours is a pretty amazing accomplishment) but I assured them I was fine.  And I will brag a little here - NO HEMORRHOIDS!  I just knew I was going to get them after all that pushing.  Something like 75 percent of pregnant women get them.  Some get them during pregnancy but most get them as a result of pushing.  Well, I didn't!  I am pretty proud of that accomplishment.

Anyway, they all marveled at Susan while I held her and the nurse took a picture of us.  About an hour later, we were wheeled to the post-partum room.  And that was it.  That was how Susan Louise Cook came into this world.  I had planned to blog a little about these first few weeks and I will later this week.  But I needed to share my version of the birth before I did.  As a final note, I'll add that Chris was an amazing birth coach, partner, friend and husband throughout the entire 19 hours.