A father’s expectations

So I asked Daddy N recently, “Was it what you expected?”

 

His response: “Easier, actually – not as bad as I thought – the awkwardness of “what do I do?” isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I tell you what I didn’t expect was the germs. I mean I knew that babies got germs – that they were little disease vectors, and were often sick, but I didn’t realize I’d get everything she brought home full blown! I  thought… they were, you know,  “little baby germs” – that babies have no defenses so they get all the little germs that come along – ones that we could withstand. You know,  already have defenses for.”

 

“little baby germs” – ha ha ha

 

We return to our hacking coughs and lead brick sinuses now….thanks WCB.

Life Lessons from Toddlers – #24

A co-worker and I were chatting about how evidently some of our customers and collegues have not yet learned  (or generalized) the issue WCB is currently learning:

Toddler Life Lesson #24: Sometimes the physical world simply does not work the way you want it too.

  • You cannot pull your fist with a toy in it through the chair back slots.
  • You cannot stand up under your 18′ high activity center
  • You cannot fit your round little self through the slot between the bookcase and the ottoman (and thus escape to the rest of the house).
  • Going head first off the couch means your head hits the floor first – with emphasis. Gravity works.

And thus applied to the modern workplace: You cannot have high resolution, large sized video on the web with a fast download time.  Sorry – one or the other, but not both.

Interestingly – both WCB and the adults protest in the same way.  They keep trying to make it work their way while whining and protesting a lot.  Also interestingly, I react in the same way: annoyance, amusement, and a certain lack of concern.  Eventually, everyone has to learn that physics is a bitch. (WCB seems to be picking it up pretty quickly – wonder how I get through to the collegues?)

Mommy’s brain goes “wonk”

Mommy brains totally work different.  They add 2+200 and get, “212 degrees – omigod that’s boiling, she burnt, call 911, ahhhhhhh!” (no, that’s not supposed to make sense…)

I lost my child this weekend.   My 9 month old, wonderfully precious child, was not anywhere I could find her for about 15 minutes.  Someone had ‘borrowed her’ for the afternoon and did not return at the appointed time.  And couldn’t be reached by cell phone. Or texting.  And wasn’t at the place they said they would be (I drove there and checked).

My brain, usually so reliable in a crisis, decided freaking out was worth about 25% of its time.  (The other 75% was doing the deal-with-crisis thing pretty well – given the assumption that there actually was a crisis at all). This bizzarre new mommy brain remembered every single child abduction story I had ever heard or read and seriously considered that Auntie (yes, the lady who held my hand during my cesarean) had totally flipped her lid and absconded off to somewhere raise my child as her own. As I was driving to check for them at the park, I was actually spending some portion of my brain time trying to determine how one started an Amber alert – just in case.

Interestingly, I never considered the fact that she/they might be injured – at the hospital, lying by the side of the road, etc.  Nope – brain went straight to “she’s been stolen” – at least the freaking out mommy brain part. The sane, calm, functional, human part of my brain assumed that there was a reasonable explanation, and WCB was just fine, having a good time with Auntie somewhere…and when I found them I was going to give Auntie WHAT-FOR!

WCB was fine. Is fine.  She had gotten fussy at the picnic and Auntie had taken her to her nearby home (as someplace quiet) in order to nap and have a bottle. She had put her cell phone on vibrate during a movie the evening before and forgot.  Then she had passed out with WCB on the couch and so missed the “Oh, bring her back about 3:30-4ish,” check-in/return time.  I didn’t even think of checking at Auntie’s home. Evidently I needed the other 25% of my brain to think of looking for her at her own house. (Why no – why would I check at her home? She’s off to the wilds of Mexico somewhere with my baby – ahhhhhHHHHhhhhh!)

Auntie called me as soon as she woke up.  She heartily apologized.  I cried while driving to her house ( I had very carefully stayed calm until that point) and had mostly pulled myself together by the time I knocked on her door.    When I got there and saw WCB  – she looked at me like I was mommy.  Just ordinary everyday mommy, as in: “No big deal – just napping, mom – what?” Auntie took one look at my tear-streaked face and apologized some more. 

MAN, will this stick in my memory.   Previously, I’ve nervously, but successfully left her at home with babysitters, left her at daycare, and left her at her grandparents. This was the first time someone other than a dad “took my child to an event.” (and I did fret about Daddy N taking her to visit his mom’s church). One of the first things I said to Auntie after the apologies and explanations were over was, “Next time, we will both double-check your phone and make a very specific check-in time.”  ’cause yes, there will be a next time.  Yes I overreacted.  My child was with someone trustworthy and safe, and she was sleeping for goodness sake. Geez – mommy brain! (rolls eyes)

Then again, I suspect my reaction was also appropriate.  As a loving mom, I’m supposed to freak out when I can’t find my child. It shows my brain is programmed right. (Think Rose is Rose as Momma Bear.)

So anyway – I saw Wall-E this weekend with both dads while my child was, ahem, sleeping, ahem, with Auntie.  (Oh yeah, that’s right – the guilt of going off to have a good time while someone STOLE my child also managed to cram itself in during the freaking out.)  Pretty good movie.  I cried.  (Watch out for SUBTLE underlying messages ‘tho.)

Things to do today: Kiss your child(ren) and give them a hug – despite their protests.  Thank them for not being lost.

What “Fatherhood” Means to Me

Hi there – I’m Uncle L, your guest blogger for today.  You may remember me from the “No more dead babies” post and “I Had to Threaten to Take Her Child Away To Get Her to Shower” or such comment threads as “Newborns Can Fart Louder Than They Can Cry.”  With no children of my own, I have enjoyed vicariously participating in OLM’s pregnancy, birth, and parenting, but this was to be a different experience. I was recently my privileged to be a full-time loaner dad for 12 days.  

Fatherhood means stopping once every three hours to nurse, even if the van does not need fuel.

One Lucky Mommy and I went to a week-long medieval re-enactment with her eight-month-old daughter, sans support units.  To whit:  her spouses and mine stayed home.   We traveled over 700 miles with a partially weaned infant, stopping once every three hours to nurse.  Overall, it added only about two hours to the voyage, making it about a 14 hour drive.  No screaming.

The no screaming part was actually not a surprise, as WCB and I have also done an 11 hour drive before, and OLM and I have learned that WCB is a Travelin’ Baby.  She will cheerfully amuse herself for hours, strapped into a car seat.  And she’s taught her mother to play “fetch.”  She tosses her toys off of the car seat and under the bench seat of the van, and her mother fetches them for her.  Is she bored or upset?  Move her stroller 2 feet and she’ll settle right down.  As long as she’s moving to someplace new, she’s happy.  But when they’re setting up camp, there’s not much moving around your grown-ups can do for you.

Fatherhood means erecting the 15’ by 25’ medieval pavilion by yourself, because Mommy has more important things to deal with.  

If you’ve never pitched a medieval pavilion, it’s a little hard to appreciate the experience.  It’s kind of like wrestling with a giant intelligent bedspread that goes from ignoring you to obstinately fleeing you with no warning, while trying to make horseshoes without an anvil.  Take a large piece of canvas.  Put it on a pole.  Spread it out.  Have you got a tent?  NO!  You’ve got a sail.  Nevermind. It wasn’t really that hard, but I hadn’t realized how much help I was getting with that project until I got NONE.

Fatherhood means intimate knowledge of pathogens. 

WCB is one of the cutest disease vectors I’ve ever seen.  She slobbers on everything and insists on cramming her gooey fingers in your mouth.  And she’d brought along something exotic on vacation.  A little something I call the “daycare special.”  I have no idea what it was, but it involved a sore throat, sneezing, and enough congestion to choke a whale.  Oh, and staying power. It’s been 21 days and I’m STILL trying to get rid of the last of it.

Fatherhood means that the ENTIRE world is sharp, hot, unstable, caustic, or toxic. 

No kidding.  Toddlerhood is a continual voyage of discovery.  The entire world is made up of dangerous stuff to put in your mouth.  (Although I don’t understand OLM’s problem with prairie grass.  Prairie grass isn’t toxic.)  Two things I don’t understand:  how toddlers survive to teen-hood, and why parents don’t drop dead from exhaustion.  It’s not the work, it’s the stress.

[OLM really felt that this post ended on too much of a downer note, and bugged me for days to revisit it.  She asked: “Are there no upsides to fatherhood?”

I responded with – “Well, remember that my experience with full-time fatherhood was only 12 days long, and I suspect that most of the rewards are long term.” But I can add the following…]

Fatherhood means having the entire room light up and become Technicolor when she smiles.

Fatherhood means seeing the unbelievable coolness of life, when you see it through the eyes of someone discovering it for the first time.

Fatherhood means watching her toddle around, pick stuff up, fall down, look up, smile at you, and then getting the impulse to pick up a spear and check the neighborhood for cave bears and saber tooth tigers.  Just in case we missed any the first time.  ‘Cause that’s not the sort of thing you leave to chance.

 

To sum up, then, fatherhood means a giant pile of responsibility. 

 A knowledge that someone who cannot “do” for themselves is depending on you utterly.  There’s no tangible reward; she’s too young to understand that her needs are being met, and won’t remember anyway.  You meet the responsibility because it’s necessary and you’re the guy that’s there.

[Which made you a very fine father-substitute, thank you! OLM]

Let the Bells Ring Out!

Whoot Whoot!  WCB is a BONA FIDE toddler as of yesterday (July 11, 2008). 

When I dropped her off at day care yesterday, she showed off her wobbly, hesitant one-step-then-fall-down skills to her teacher.

When I picked her up 6 hours later, she could actually toddle, with pauses, 5-6 feet (across a small room). Before she went to bed, she walked 4 steps quickly & with confidence. (Still no bending her knees yet.)

Just to review, the time line for this gross motor genius was:

  • in 1st 2 weeks – likes pressure/pats on soles of her feet (creates smiles)
  • roughly 1 mo – takes weight on her feet when held vertically, likes bouncies on her feet
  • 2mo 3 wks – can be pulled up to sitting position with head mostly held up (assists in process)
  • 3 mo – can be pulled up to sitting with head up & then to standing with most of her weight on her feet
  • 3 mo 2 wks – startles mom by pulling straight up to her feet with no pause for sitting (loves to do this ove the next 3 months)
  • 4 mo 2 wks – lifts head and torso when on belly, rolls over regularly front to back
  • 5 mo 2 wks – remains sitting up without support (can’t sit up on her own)
  • 6 mo – can stand – with assistance for balance only, can get into sitting position on her own
  • 7 mo – cruising, hesitantly and with some falling, can get to hands and knees and rock
  • 8 mo – cruising confidently with wiiide stretches to reach toys or new supports, crawls 1-2 “steps”
  • 8 mo 1 wk – stands on own for 3-5 seconds, some crawling, can bend down and pick up toy
  • 8 mo 2 wks – stands on own for 5-7 seconds, takes first hesitant step, crawling smoother
  • 8 mo, 3 wks – regularly standing while chewing on toy 5-10 secs, crawling with confidence
  • 9 mo, 3 days – taking 2-3 small hesitant steps, crawls while pushing toy
  • 9 mo, 1 wk – toddling!

No words yet, ‘tho, and we’re still on step one foods roughly twice a day…but by GOSH we’re locomotin’!

Pray for us. (Whichever god or gods you like – wait, not Loki ‘tho…)

I can’t really imagine…

There are things you simply can’t even connect to without having gone through the newborn parenting process.   Now that I’ve lived through the first 6 months, I can’t imagine trying to have a baby on your own as a single parent, much less a single working parent, and especially not a single working parent at a low paying job with no family support nearby.  At a gut level – the thought of doing so seems totally insurmountable, now.  Whereas before – it was simply another option, hard, I knew, but an option.

 

WCB has 3 parents in home, 2 grandparents, her special auntie & uncle, and I have at least a half dozen good in-town friends who went out of their way to be supportive during the first months – and who I can still count on when out being medieval.  She also has a doting long distance grandma who has come down to “babysit/visit” several times already, and plans to do more. And I STILL feel like I could have used more support in the first 3 months, and could use an extra pair of hands even now!

 

 

BTW – single working moms with no support system must use formula.  Unless they have a live in supportive realtive (or a PILE of money to hire a 24-7 nanny) AND a very understanding job.  On demand breastfeeding in the first 3 months simply cannot work along with a typical minimum wage job like retail or heaven forbid – waitressing.  Just can’t.

Heart-wrenching Guest Post

[Today we have a guest post from Uncle L on a topic about which he feels strongly.  I find this piece wonderfully written and am pleased to share it, especially if it saves even one life. ]

No more dead babies.

I have had the most hideous experience of my life, albeit second hand.

My wife is an emergency room nurse in a research/teaching hospital that has the only Level I Trauma Center within 150 miles. 

In case you’re not interested in reading the whole Wikipedia link, the staff at a Level I Trauma Center can make your steak dinner go “moo” again unless you ordered it well done.  It’s a point of pride that if you’re alive when you come in their door, odds are good you’re going to be alive when you go out of it.  They’re really, really good at what they do, and they have enormous resources to call upon.  They’ve got the machine that goes “ping.”  They’ve got the machine that goes “puh-whump.”  (Actually, they’ve got about eight of those.) They’ve got machines that go buzz, fwee, and even “wham.”  (That one sucks.)  And medicine.  Good Lord! They’ve got chemicals that can make you throw stuff up, or keep it down.  They can make you poop on demand or not poop for a week.  There’s stuff that can make a charging rhino take a nap right now or keep him awake until he gets bored.

What they cannot do, is raise the dead.

Not too terribly long ago, my wife and I went to a medieval re-enactment as part-time parents to a beautiful, charming four month old baby girl.  WCB was utterly delightful.  She laughed, she played, and she drooled on everything.  She charmed everybody she met and is clearly going to be a gorgeous genius when she grows up.  The good news is that WCB is still brilliant, gorgeous, delightful, and drooling on everything.  The bad news follows.

After ten days of bonding with healthy, active, brilliant, beautiful WCB, my wife went home to her job in the Emergency Department of a Level I Trauma Center.  I stayed at the re-enactment.  About thirty hours later, I checked my messages and discovered that my cell phone had gone berserk.  A half-dozen messages from the wife asking if WCB was ok.  I’d also had three missed voice calls.  Before I could check messages, the phone rang again.  It was the wife, and she was almost hysterical.  (Emergency Nurses are never hysterical.  This was bad.)

“Tell me the baby’s ok.”

“All right.  The baby’s ok.  She’s outside, with her mother, currently covering a blanket with drool.  What’s wrong?”

“We had a baby die today.”

It had been a normal shift with all of its normal crises.  College students with alcohol poisoning, chainsaws operated without adequate training or safety equipment, and, of course, jet-ski’s operated without helmets leading to unnecessary brain damage due to collision.  Then they got word that the ambulance crew was bringing in a four year old boy who was unresponsive and cyanotic.  The well-oiled machine sprang into action, and my wife’s team drew the patient.

When the doors from the ambulance bay flew open, it was clear that something was wrong.  The EMT’s looked grim.  And the bundle on the gurney was too small.  Somebody had made an error in translating the data somewhere. This child was not four years old, he was four months old.  Later checking of the records would reveal that he was exactly one day older than WCB.  He was beautiful, well-formed, and came from a loving family.  He’d clearly been well-nourished, well taken care of, and was developing normally.

But his mother had been breast-feeding for four months.  And the father was trying to give her a break. He had taken the infant for the afternoon and, in lying down for a nap, rolled over onto the baby in his sleep, and suffocated him.

The team did everything.  There was no thought of sparing expense or saving resources.  They poked, they prodded.  They medicated, they “pu-whumped” and they “pinged.”  Many of them are parents, and this is the ultimate nightmare.  It’s beyond imagining.

But he was just gone.  He’d been wrapped in a blanket, so he was still warm.  But he was gone.  And there was no bringing him back.

The Chief Resident had the hard job.  He had to go out into the family waiting area and tell the loving father that he had killed his child.  There was no way around it.  He couldn’t make the cause of death anything other than an accidental smothering.

My wife volunteered for the second hardest job.  She gave him his last bath.  She took all of the needles that had come too late out.  She washed off the adhesives that had failed to hold him to life, and dressed him back in his little onesie.  Then she wrapped him up.

Did you know that they don’t make body bags for infants?  Infants have to be cared for in the old way. With a winding sheet.  Some folks call them a shroud.   Her collegues were going to tie up the little bundle to keep the winding sheet from coming off, and the stress made her a little sharp with them.  “He’s a child, not a delivery package.”  She tucked the winding sheet in, and picked him in her own two hands.  No gurney.  No utility tray.  Her hands.  She tucked the paperwork in her pocked and walked him downstairs herself.

He was still warm.  She carried him on her shoulder, like his parents had that morning, and patted his little back down the elevator and all the way down that long, dimly lit corridor.   It’s very quiet down there.  No one goes there unless they work there, or have specific business there.  She stroked his head through the winding sheet and told him that everything was going to be ok.  She got the paperwork to the morgue technician, and gently placed him on the stainless steel drawer where last of the heat from his body would eventually bleed out.

I think that’s the only time my wife has ever lied to a child.  Because it’s not going to be okay.  Nothing is going to ever be ok again.  Somewhere there is a mother who is going to have to forgive her husband for killing her child if she is to keep her family together.  There is a father who will forever live with the fact that, accident or not, he made the choices that killed his child.  The doctor who was unable to report anything other than the truth: in an accidental smothering, a loving parent killed his baby boy.  The rest of the trauma team, who are not accustomed to losing the important fights, will live forever with their failure. 

That sounds harsh, doesn’t it?  I don’t think they failed, but they do.  Emergency Medical personnel are kind of funny.  They look like they are made of tungsten carbide, or spring steel.  When you go there, they are brisk and efficient.  They smile at you as they work.  They bring devices, supplies, and equipment and attach them to you with great confidence.  They tell you they’ve seen worse, and they probably have.  All of that is for the purpose of convincing you that they can fix anything.  Because if you believe you are going to be ok, you are far more likely to have a positive outcome than if you  think you aren’t going to make it.  Underneath that, they’re running.  They’re angry or scared, depending on the circumstances.  They may all be adrenaline addicts, but they could fill that with bungee-jumping or motocross racing if they wanted to. They chose this line of work because they want to help people.  And they have ended up where their day job is nothing less than hand-to-hand combat with the Angel of Death himself.  And they don’t like to lose.

And then there’s me, who has to hold a sad and angry lady in the night.  Please do not make my wife carry any more very, very small bundles down that long, dim hallway. 

Don’t co-sleep.

[Note #1: Just since March 2008, Auntie’s ER has had *another* accidental smothering by a loving, co-sleeping father. Another team drew that child – so she didn’t have to carry that one. But their opinions on co-sleeping with infants in the same bed as adults are cemented. ]

[Note #2:  At 9 months, WCB still often co-sleeps with her mom in the “little bed” for part of the night , and I am very clear on all the arguments/reasons for and against this practice. We are working VERY hard to cease doing so, in part because of Auntie and Uncle L’s experiences.  WCB has never co-slept in the big bed with either dad, however. And I think we’ve been very lucky.]