Archive for April, 2010

The Moments

April 29, 2010

Seven weeks in, and things are still completely surreal. Tonight, I found myself in the middle of one of those moments that I imagined myself having with her and remembering for the rest of my life. Like those stories you hear your parents or adults in your life tell you; you have no recollection of it happening, but they can retell it as if it happened the night before. As a person you have those moments anyway–moments that for reasons unknown, always stand out in your mind. I’ve had these moments as a father already, but the random, everyday moments that I know will stick with me forever come at unspecific intervals. Tonight I was the most certain that I was in the middle of one of those moments.

When I was asked prior to Blanche’s birth what I was most looking forward to, it was hard for me to imagine. How do you know? How did I know what things would feel the most powerful or rewarding, or through which activities we’d find the strongest connection? People want specifics, and are annoyed equally by the ‘Everything!’ and ‘I don’t know!’ answers. So when asked, I fell back on one of the things I am passionate about, and one of the few things that I have very specific childhood memories of: music.  

I would tell them I was excited to sing to Blanche, to dance with her, to play her the music most meaningful to me. To help her understand music, its history, its importance in culture. How euphoric a song can make you feel, how rhythm unlocks your body, how a melody makes you tingle. I learned these things when I was growing up, listening to Beethoven, Prince, the Beatles, Schubert, the Replacements. And though I don’t remember the moments, I hear an Elvis Costello song, or a Mozart overture, and know that I have known that piece since before I had memories.

Certainly Blanche won’t remember tonight, and maybe she won’t remember how she stared into my eyes as we danced in the kitchen, to Yeasayer, OK Go, the New Pornographers and the rest of the music of the moment. Perhaps she won’t hear The National on the radio fifteen years from now and think, ‘Where have I heard that song before?’

I’m not counting on tonight being a major moment in her life. But it was in mine. I felt a real connection tonight; something I could communicate to my daughter as important and fulfilling. A moment where nothing else in the world existed, only her tiny body in my arms, in my kitchen, swaying and singing along with the radio.

I know I’ll be singing to and dancing with her for many years. Years and years from now, when she’s grown up, and expecting her first child, maybe I’ll tell her about tonight’s singing and dancing. Perhaps tonight’s moment will remain forever as one of the clearest and most special of my time with her. Maybe I’ll play her some of the songs I sang to her, some of the bands we swayed to. Maybe one melody will trigger a hidden memory, like they did for me. It’s chilling to even imagine.

Baby Time II

April 27, 2010

I’m realizing that I’ve begun to lose my sense of time. I find myself asking ‘was it last night that Blanche was up puking?’ or mistakenly telling Kristie I’d already given her a bottle that night. I’ve determined that, while I’m only up for a half an hour during the night, the toll it takes on my body is much greater. It’s not the same as waking up a half hour earlier, or going to bed a half hour later. This is much different. And it’s exponential, so by Friday I’m a thousand times more tired than I was Monday.

What dad? Me? Making you tired?

It doesn’t help that work has been increasingly tiring, with a larger class and a very pregnant co-worker. Sometimes it does feel a bit overwhelming. Waking up tired, spending nine hours watching two dozen 3-year olds, surviving rush hour traffic and coming home to a worn out mom who hasn’t had time to wash bottles or find time for herself. I try to tackle the day-to-day chores promptly, but it’s hard not to feel like I’m neglecting my wife and child a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I want nothing more than to spend time with my budding family, but there are some things that simply need to get done every day. I have a hard time putting those things out of my mind. By eight o’clock, I’m exhausted, and depending on the seriousness of the night’s tasks, incredibly hungry.

So this led Kristie and I to debate which is more tiring: taking care of a baby all day or working a full, energy-sapping day? At this point, Kristie has been able to sleep in a few hours later than I, but she sleeps much worse than I do. I wake up for big cries and shrieks, but Blanche is right next to Kristie and Kristie is so tuned in to the baby’s every move. She wakes up frequently. So I get less sleep, but it’s of much higher quality. Let’s start the scorecard.

Sleep: EVEN

I spend my day changing diapers, herding children on the playground, wiping up spilled milk, repeatedly having my patience tested, getting talked back at, changing more diapers–this is getting me worked up. My days are draining.

Kristie’s day consists of breastfeeding, trying to find time to put the baby down and shower, trying to find time to eat meals, pumping breast milk, breastfeeding, changing diapers, rocking, swaddling and snuggling. I imagine it seems like a never-ending one-thing-after-another kind of day.

Day stress: EVEN

This could be an entire post, and I risk reaching complete exhaustion a day or two early if I really expounded. It’s not worth the risk.

Both our lives are tiring at this point. We’re always catching up. It’s something we’re getting used to and likely won’t change for a while. But, being a dad is still the best thing in the world, and I don’t mind using her as Diet Coke justification.

Awake Baby Pros and Cons

April 21, 2010

Blanche is now six weeks old, and is more awake than ever. It took her a few weeks before she really opened her eyes for any extended period of time at all. The next couple weeks we could count on her being awake during the evening, with peak hours between 7 and 9. Now, she scatters periods of awake activity throughout the day, and really likes to stay up at night. Even more, she now likes to be awake while eating in the middle of the night, as opposed to the first month, when she didn’t pause her snoozing for a bottle break.

She's Awake! Kristie is not.

Without question, having her awake more often is much more fun for me. But there are some drawbacks, which we’re still getting used to. Let’s break it all down.

Pro: She smiles! And you must admit, this girl, with her eyes open and that for-whatever-reason smile, is pretty adorable.

Con: She cries! And I must admit, this dad, with his quirky soothing ideas and that help-me tone of voice, is pretty lost.

Pro: We get to see how she reacts to different environments and baby items that, clogging our entire house, had gone virtually unused for the first month. For example: she LOVES the Baby Bjorn, tolerates tummy time on her bear blanket, and hasn’t yet bonded with the Bumbo chair.

Con: She spits out or slaps away her pacifier at random, and this is apparently the worst tragedy in the world. The problem is, she doesn’t understand that her flailing arms are the cause of this tragedy. I find myself re-plugging that thing all day.

Pros: Looking into her eyes, believing that in those brief moments where hers connect with yours that she actually is looking at you, and not just the space in front of her face. Watching her jump and twitch to scary noises. Seeing her get better every day at holding her head up or grasping with her hands. Forcing her to watch baseball. Bouncing, dancing and singing with her.

Cons: Just about nothing else! She did puke a bit last night, but I can’t necessarily blame that on being awake. I, in fact, was sleeping. It’s really not much of a contest; Awake Blanche is far superior to Asleep Blanche.

Five Week Reflections

April 13, 2010

So I’ve been at this fatherhood thing for about five weeks now, and am getting pretty used to the routines. I’m working on mastering cooking with one arm, and am gradually figuring out positions I can sit with her without my legs falling asleep, curled under me as I watch the newest biggest sporting event or reality show. Both Kristie and I have given up the bedroom rocking chair for mid-night feedings in favor of the bed…I have gotten pretty good at giving her a bottle in sleeping position. She doesn’t seem to mind sharing my pillow. Though I don’t see her during the day, and haven’t had many responsibilities (Kristie does NOT like giving her up), I’m confident in my bathing, feeding and swaddling skills at this point.

So what’s new with Blanche? She’s starting to wake up more and more; for the first month we got to see her eyes only for a couple hours in the evening. Now she spends much of her day gazing, and we imagine that her stares are into our eyes and not just fixated on a random, unfocused spot. The things she loves more than anything else are to wave her arms and suck on anything that approaches her mouth. Often times her waving limbs dislodge the pacifier that fulfilled the latter need. She’s been much more vocal in the last ten days, but rarely goes on for more than a couple minutes. Usually, the fixes are easy–a tight swaddle, a new position, something to suck on, a clean diaper. Typical baby comforts. If none of those work, mom takes her.

She is now holding her head up with good regularity. It still wobbles a bit, but she seems to enjoy being able to look out and up, instead of being forced to look down at her slumped body. She’s still so tiny, though, so I thought it would be fun to see what she looked like in her Bumbo chair. She did great! But didn’t love it.

Her belly, in comparison to the rest of her, is HUGE. We knew this when she was still on the inside; her stomach measured much larger than the rest of her body. It’s especially evident when you change her. Her legs are tiny, and her belly seemingly explodes in all directions at the top of her diaper. It’s very strange when you imagine how a grown person might look with that body type, but probably shouldn’t shock me that much. Her organs have to go somewhere, and we must not forget that for the first year at my preschool, all the kids called me “Big Belly.”

So what have been the best things about being a dad? What have been the hardest? The most surprising? Very hard to say; hate to disappoint. I love the faces she makes. I love it when she grunts and moans, lets out a little toot, then sighs audibly. I love how she stiffens her limbs when you hold her out. I love seeing friends and family meet her for the first time. I love how cautiously everyone passes her around. I love the cuddle time I get with her on my pillow at the end of the night. I love the way she squints and scrunches her face when Atlas licks her.

The hardest things are less tangible. I sometimes feel like I should love and appreciate her more, and do feel guilty at times when I’m not jumping out of my chair to hold her. She is the most precious thing in our lives, and how dare I not want to spend every waking second with her in my arms! I’m trying to give myself a break. Truthfully, other than being beautiful and irreplaceable, she is not yet capable of giving me genuine love or appreciation. I can’t wait for that day, when I know she knows, needs and loves me. I know that day is drawing near: she undoubtedly knows our voices, our touch, and soon she’ll be able to communicate that to us. Or maybe it’s my inability to interpret what communication she’s already giving. Either way, it’s difficult–not because I’m frustrated at her–she’s a baby! Frustrating because of the anticipation of a stronger two-way love.

Happy One Month Birthday Blanche!

April 10, 2010

You deserve a high five!

 Cannot believe I have been a dad for an entire month. I’m guessing this is what I’ll be saying at every benchmark of fatherhood.

Baby Time, Happy Due Date, Easter

April 5, 2010

If it hadn’t hit me already, it did Saturday: I am no longer living on my time, I am living on Blanche’s time. Let’s say you want to go to the mall and scour the Old Navy shelves for some $5 polos. And let’s suppose you would go straight from the mall to your hometown and its Easter feasts. Pre-Blanche, we’d pack a light bag, grab Atlas and go. Things played out a little differently on Saturday.

Has Blanche eaten? Better feed her before we go. How’s her diaper? Pooped through the onesie. Have we packed everything we need? Don’t forget the stroller. It took us five tries before we successfully left the house, and we still managed to forget something. I’m already freaking out about the ten-day West Coast vacation we have scheduled in August. Babies simply can’t pack lightly.

They also, as I learned Saturday, take the Mall of America at a slightly different pace. This is one of my least favorite places to be period, and pushing a stroller through the crowds makes it no less frustrating. Have you ever waited for an elevator there? Bring a magazine. By the end of the afternoon, I was an expert at balancing our stroller on the escalators. No more waiting five minutes to get plowed over by over-zealous elevator fiends. Some people are cutthroat.

Meanwhile, Saturday was Blanche’s due date! I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to celebrate or not. Just a note.

Here are a couple shots from Blanche’s first Easter. (Last year we were told at every holiday and landmark that it would be “our last one before parenthood!” I hated that. This year I’m betting I’ll hear a ton of “Oh, your first _______ as a parent!” Equal amount of hatred.)

Cozying up to Uncle Erik

Dad's family