Archive for May, 2010
Today marks 9 years Janelle and I have been together and 4 years that we have been married.
There are many things I could say about our relationship, all of them cheesy, but all of them true.
Janelle and I have done a lot of preparing. We read books, we follow a diet (sure, it was mandated, but still), our nursery has been prepped for weeks, we’ve cleaned the house, we’ve stocked up on snacks and prepared meals to freeze, we take walks and do exercises, we are interviewing pediatricians and day cares and we just straight up won’t be ready.
The arrival of the baby is simply too big an event to really wrap our minds around. How do you prepare for never having your life be the same? How do you prepare for becoming a different person? How can you anticipate every priority you have being rearranged and redirected through another lens?
It doesn’t help that the baby remains pretty abstracted. I’ve seen the ultrasounds, I’ve felt the kicking, I’ve even been able to startle the baby awake a couple of times by talking to the belly. I still can’t really visualize the baby. A big part of that is the baby’s position: upside-down. Baby’s are so malleable that the kids is wrapped into a tight circle, head pointed at the ground. We have to approximate the position of the kid based on what we think is making protuberances on Janelle’s belly. Is it a foot? A fist? Knee? Elbow? And the ultrasounds are basically the worst photos you will ever see. They’re essentially interchangeable with shots meant to prove the existence of UFOs.
Also, I’ve gotten used to the belly. It may be because Janelle gained just about all of her weight and size in her belly, but I can forget from time to time that it’s there. It’s not that I forget we have a baby on the way, but sometimes she’ll turn around and I’ll have a brief moment of “What the heck is going on there?” The belly has become a part of the house and a part of our general life and it’s going to be odd when it is gone. It won’t particularly matter that I will have seen the baby come out of it, I’ll still be surprised when it’s gone.
Janelle and I now exist in the bizarre realm of “any day now”. I continue to get asked if I’m excited, or if Janelle is excited. This is how I explain it:
Imagine that you are told that in about 40 weeks, you will go through an ordeal. That ordeal will range anywhere from pretty uncomfortable to a literal benchmark by which all other extremely painful things are measured. It will last anywhere from 8 to 48 hours, most likely. Your reward for this effort will be a prize. You cannot know what it looks like. You cannot know if it will work right. In fact, you might break it during the process of receiving it. You can’t trade it for a working model.
So, excited is maybe the wrong word. I would say anxious. I’m excited for the baby, I’m anxious for the birth.
How do I deal with being anxious? I get shit done. I make lists, I finish those things, I cross them off, I stand and nod appreciatively at my work. Lists are reassuring to me. It’s nice to see a neatly encapsulated grouping of specific steps that will lead to success. Lists related to babies, though, are hard to find. I’ve read over 1,000 pages about raising children at this point, and not once have I seen any information about what you’ll need to prepare. I know we have that information, as we are ready, but it was something hunted down from that most nebulous of resources: das internetten.
Here are some lists. Finish them early. Trust me. Most of the tasks you do to prepare for a baby are as much so that you can accommodate the child as they are so you can ensure your own sanity in the first few months before your baby realizes that it is, in fact a tiny human and not a thrashing bundle of unterminated synapse connections.
Things to Do Around Your Home
- Prep some frozen meals (or buy some)
- Pick up clutter (mostly think about making sure all your major walkways are clear—it would not be fun to trip while carrying a baby)
- Prep a nursery – this should be the cleanest and most organized room you have, it will make all the many baby chores easier and faster
Things You Will Want to Buy – The Essentials
- Baby Mattress
- Breastpump (depending on if you will be breastfeeding or not)
- Swaddling Cloth
- Changing Pad
- Car Seat
- Baby-friendly soaps/shampoos
Things You Need to Remember
- Raising a baby is a shared job. You’ll both be happier. If, by chance, you are rocking it solo recruit whatever help you can.
- Pay attention to one another. Babies are adorable, but your partner is in it for the long haul with you, and really your goal with a kid is to equip them to go off on their own one day.
- Pay attention to yourself. Do not neglect your own leisure.
- Babies, at least for the first 3-4 months, have no frikkin’ idea what’s happening to them. You may think your baby is a genius already, but their eyes and ears and limbs just plain don’t work right yet. Don’t take anything they do personally, as they don’t mean it because they have no perception of what they are doing.
- It’s really hard to mess up raising a baby. Raising a kid? Well, that’s easier. But to mess up raising a baby you basically have to be a sociopath as it would involve a very active chain of neglectful actions. So… relax. You can handle it. Unless you are a sociopath, and then you have bigger fish to fry.
I may amend this post a bit more… but I consider these items to be the core essential things you’ll need to survive. The rest is window dressing and may make you feel more at ease, but at least with all this you won’t crash and burn.
Ways Babies are like Rockstars
- Primary mode of transportation is essentially crowdsurfing (credit on this one, and post inspiration from the incomparable Mike Phirman)
- It’s best to keep them away from both narcotics and sharp objects
- Very real chance they will choke on their own vomit
- Never more than a couple hours from having breasts in their face
- Their wailing draws a crowd
- Have an entourage
- Surrounded by people who can’t really understand what they’re saying, but desperately want to please them
- Tendency to urinate in inconvenient locations
- Don’t need to show ID to get in anywhere
- Popularity is frequently totally independent from discernible talent
- The opening act can be pretty painful
- Encore performances depend pretty heavily on how well the crowd responds to the first set
Addenda! Now with bonus awesome suggestions from friends!
I’m not entirely sure how regular my posting will be for the next couple of weeks. Both because I’ve become pretty busy/tired, but also because I feel like I’m not going to have tons of insight to add until after the big day, which is now something like 18 days away.
My main source of exhaustion is work, actually, and not the impending infant. Part of the master plan for me here at work is that I need to be training up my three subordinates to be able to handle some of my more company-wide tasks and create a general infrastructure that will allow requests that would normally require my input to be routed to various locations that can provide solutions in my stead.
May 1, I started to let those tasks be handled by the techs in my group. The idea was that I would be largely sitting on my laurels, waiting for requests for clarification. What happened was that the hole in my schedule was immediately flooded by new tasks, and I’ve ended up with just as much work, if not more, than when I was just handling everything all myself. This leads to two simultaneous concerns you would expect to be mutually exclusive: Will work implode without me? Will work learn that it can get along just fine without me?
I think this is an overlooked stress in conversations about pregnant couples. This may be due to the overwhelming focus on the mother in literature about pregnancy and birth and the gender roles everyone tends to assume, but that feels exceedingly out of date to me. In a breastfeeding class Janelle and I attended with something like 15 different mothers, 14 raised their hands to indicate that they would be returning to work after their baby was born. The notion of Dad as a sole provider is a fairly outmoded paradigm now and it’s nice to have that bit of stress as a temporary thing (there will be a period where Janelle’s still off work full-time and income from her will be lessened)—but it doesn’t feel like the subject gets much treatment at all in the available literature.
The chance of anyone being fired simply because they are taking time off to spend with their child is reasonably isolated, and if the case was that clear-cut, there are plenty of chances for legal recourse. More likely, though, is that the workplace will change and morph while you are gone and perhaps your cog doesn’t fit so well in the machine anymore. Making that scenario all the more tragic is the fact that, in all likelihood, you were the person who prepared your workplace for life without you. Succeeding at that venture runs the risk of proving you can be done without, but failing at it doesn’t necessarily imply you are indispensable; it means you didn’t plan well.
When you have people working under you, the problem is intensified. When you are gone, they need to report somewhere still, and so you appoint a second. Suppose that individual has a different view than you do about how your employees perform? Or what if your employees begin to see that figure as more of an authority than you? Synapses can be formed that bypass your involvement.
I’m not too worried about Janelle’s job, despite the fact that she will be away from work for months longer than I will be. As soon as she went on leave, they hired a temp to cover her work. That, to me, seems to be best case scenario. It’s an immediate acknowledgment from her employers that they cannot be without her for that long. That fact is so much true that they are paying to sub in an inferior version of her just to keep things on pace. Plus, her workplace has made a show of showering her with accolades a couple of times now.
On the outside, I’m not terribly worried about my job either. But when I dig deeper, I’m less sure. I’ve been here a long time, and I’ve laid a few foundations for things while I’ve been here, but life has been moving fast lately. I’m teaching underlings how to do the things that I do on a day-to-day basis. I’m prepping the world for my absence. At the same time, we’re introducing new systems and changing the way we did something for the last decade every week or two. The topology could be very different here when I return. Plus, rewards and accolades don’t really exist around here. My boss is so busy he never pays attention to what I’m doing (which is its own form of a compliment), but by and large that also means that my own sense of my success is just that: my own sense.
What’s my advice for handling this scenario? I plan on popping in and out of my job more than perhaps I had initially intended to after the baby arrives. Originally, I had planned on being away for a solid month, but that’s been pared down. At this point, I’m figuring that for two weeks, the length of a healthy vacation that many employees will take from time to time, I’ll be offline. I can be reached, but only via text message (phone calls are no good, as I don’t care to be fielding calls from random vendors calling my office line while I’m at home). After that, I’ll begin to work from home or pull half days a few days a week. The plan is to appear just enough to be a bit of a wild-card and a bit of a savior. Maybe there will be less slacking off if surprise visits will happen… and maybe there will be less than total independence if I appear in the nick of time to answer a tricky question.
If you really want to cover your bases, though, it doesn’t hurt to shop a resume around while Mom handles feeding the kid for a bit.
I’m learning a bit more about myself as I get closer to being a Dad. It’s not that the approach of fatherhood is causing me to mature or reach inward and uncover spiritual truths. I’m learning that I don’t wind down well.
This post will dovetail with another that I had gotten 3/4 of the way through when I thought this idea up. I’ll post that companion piece tomorrow to make up for the fact that I just straight up have not felt like posting on time this week.
My schedule at work has been winding down (that’s only half true, it’s more the case that the type of tasks I’m undertaking have changed—my days remain full, just paced differently). Since really Janelle could pop at any point between June 4 and, well, now, I’ve been trying to shift my normal responsibilities around to my co-workers in anticipation of my leaving. The tasks I’m handing off are the ones that cannot wait, the standard day-to-day tasks that help overall business roll along at the office. The tasks I’ve found myself with instead are the more research-heavy, investigative tasks that require their time to be measured in hours, rather than minutes or seconds. I’m not really handling the transition as well as I’d hoped.
I had in my mind that I would train everyone else on my tasks and then kick back at work for a couple week and put out fires. There would be Hulu to watch and Kongregate.com games to sample. I’d make some phone calls and take off early when I had the time. I was expecting Shangri-la. I didn’t count on my brain. Stupid brain, I’ll get you one day.
Instead, it’s looking like I’m more like a shark. I need to keep moving to operate at capacity. If I slow down, I get lethargic. Relaxing isn’t so much a recharge as it is a trough.
Apparently I’ve become so wired for fast action and crisis response in the workplace that trying to actively avoid the tasks that would require that kind of reaction seems to be putting me in some manner of withdrawal. I find myself sitting at work and shuffling things around. I have tasks, but they are leisurely. No one is breathing down my neck about them, and they produce no immediately discernible result as feedback. And when I try to move to a distraction to occupy my time I find myself feeling guilty about it, knowing that I’m just putting off another task.
That feeling extends to the house. Even if Janelle and I are clearly in relaxation mode and she’s watching TV while I poke around on the computer I can’t stop myself from looking up every few minutes and asking if she’s doing okay and if she’d like to be doing anything else. Or if we need to tackle some task to get ready for the baby. I can feel myself being antsy and, again, a bit guilty that I’m not busy crossing something off a to-do list.
It seems I’m the geekiest kind of adrenaline junky.
Probably good news I have to take care of a baby pretty soon.
We are officially starting the final lap.
Today marks 36 weeks of pregnancy and, unless our doctor changes the stated plan on us this afternoon, we are at most 4 weeks from having a baby. Yowzers.
We had our last major ultrasound yesterday and I am pleased to report that the baby is right on track in terms of size. 55th percentile by size/weight. The baby weighs in at just over six pounds right now. During the last month of pregnancy, babies gain most of their weight, putting on between 1/4 and 1/2 pound each week. Average weight for a baby is around 7.5 pounds, so our kid should be right on target for being pretty darn regular in terms of size and weight.
This is great news for a few reasons. Firstly, it means that all of Janelle’s hard work to monitor and regulate her diet has paid off. It’s a very clear demonstration that healthy living yields healthy results. It would have been a major bummer if in spite of all her hard work, we had a baby that was measuring in as oversized. Second, it means that we’re in better shape for being able to have the natural birth that we’re aiming for. Of course, this is by no means a guarantee, but it is a good start.
Calling it the home stretch isn’t just a colloquialism. The baby has always been a mover. Janelle gets smacked around a great deal at pretty much any time that the baby is awake. Now, though, the baby is doing a lot of stretching. There are fewer smacks and more sustained pushing. The clock is ticking.
And for another milestone, today is Janelle’s last day at work before her family leave begins. That’s going to be a weird feeling for the both of us. I know we’ll be doing plenty of work, but we’re neither of us accustomed to not being busy, so it will be a bizarre feeling to be actively taking on the role of not working.
Without further ado, some weird-ass ultrasound pictures of baby nose and baby lips.
I did not intend for a post entitled “The Fear” to have the page ID #666, but there you go.
I’m beginning to become afraid about the birth. I’m not afraid for Janelle and I’m not afraid for the baby, not in terms of health. I’m afraid that things are not going to go as we have planned and I will feel impotent in the process. Our friends have stressed to us the need to adapt and adjust to the fluid process of birth and to remain focused on the end goal: a healthy mother and healthy baby. However, I think I need to have a little more from the whole thing to feel comfortable about it.
I’m rehashing old ground, but not everyone’s been playing along since the first round. Janelle and I are trying for an entirely natural birth as long as complications and safety concerns do not overrule this. Mothers are told to be rigidly vigilant about what enters their body for nine months of gestation and then expected to throw caution to the wind and rock out with painkillers on the final day of the process. They are also becoming more and more easily directed into procedures like the C-section, now the most common surgical procedure performed on women and largely accepted to be something extraneous in the vast majority of cases. A C-section is relatively safe and relatively easy for both mother and baby (though, there are actual, measurable physiological benefits for a baby going through a vaginal birth). But while the procedure is seen as something casual, it is major surgery. And, something mothers are not told, the first C-section might be a piece of cake, but every subsequent delivery via C-section becomes more dangerous for the mother. As we’re not planning on this being the only kid, this is a concern. Turns out, your body doesn’t like to have big holes cut in it. Who knew?
Do I think that every mother should abstain from painkillers and skip the C-section? No. But it’s not what we want and it’s very, very likely we won’t really get much say in the matter.
This Thursday will be a bit of a moment of truth for Janelle and I. We have our final ultrasound, and the baby’s size will be approximated. Based on findings there, we’ll learn how long the doctors are going to be willing to let Janelle incubate the baby. Will they let her go to term? A week earlier? Based on that timeline we’ll be able to figure out when we should start trying to induce Janelle naturally.
If we can get a perfect storm—Janelle is given time enough that labor induces naturally, we are able to let her labor progress far enough at home that we’re not at the hospital very long before second stage labor (pushing) begins, and her second stage proceeds without complication—then we’re set. However, if we miss that then the artificial induction process basically guarantees that we need to take all our plans for the baby, things we have spent months and months researching and practicing and preparing for, and throw them out the window. Pitocin to induce means contractions come fast and hard, at a pace that most mothers cannot handle without painkillers. Painkillers slow the process of labor and contractions, and more pitocin is needed. Rinse. Repeat. Once this process has gone on long enough, doctors will claim a failure to process and start talking C-section.
It’s a view both pessimistic and realistic. After all, studies have shown that there are spikes in C-sections at 4:00pm and 10:00pm. Yup. Quittin’ time.
What concerns me about all of that is of course the pain that it means Janelle will need to be enduring while I hang out and try not to feel too much like I’m glad it’s not me, but more than that I’m worried that I won’t have fought hard enough for what we wanted. I’m not a fan of conflict, even with people who are subordinate to me. So the notion of going toe-to-toe with an MD is pretty daunting to me. If they tell me that something needs to happen and confirm to me that they feel it is the best course of action, am I going to be able to fight them on it? Is it obnoxious of me to even think that I should be challenging the choice of a medical professional? Personal rights dictate that I am, but I wonder how far I can push that envelope before it affects the quality of care we receive. Sure, sure, Hippocratic Oath and all, but medical care is as much a customer service industry as working the register at Blockbuster is and there comes a point where you’re just not going to take someone as seriously as you began.
This is starting to feel like my first test of fatherhood and I can anticipate the flavor of bitter failure. I don’t care to add the birth of my first child to the list of things I look back on with both nostalgia and shame.