Archive for July, 2010

Sticker Shock

Joshua had his first vaccinations today. The vaccination schedule for a baby begins immediately in the hospital. I believe he had his first shots his first night here on Earth. The second stage won’t occur until the two month pediatrician check-up, and then again at the four-month check-up.

The actual vaccinations consisted of 3 shots (2 in one thigh, 1 in the other) and a bit of medicine administered orally. All things considered, the visit went well. Joshua choked and spluttered a bit with the oral vaccination, since the liquid is thick, though it is sweet so he won’t fight it too hard. For the shots on his legs… well… there was crying. But the crying wasn’t bad. Well, not for me anyway.

A couple important things came to light for me with this particular crying session. For one, I knew why he was crying. This is super rare. Without a doubt, I know he was upset because he was in pain, and being able to readily identify and understand the source of Joshua’s crying did worlds for helping me empathize with him. Normally when he cries I’m so focused on figuring out what the problem is and helping him stop that I never really pause to feel too bad for him. He’s a baby and babies cry. This is sort of a mantra I hear repeated by almost every parent I’ve spoken to. But today I was able to actually connect with his crying and understand it. I didn’t shift into fix-it mode, I shifted into pure Dad and felt bad for the little guy. I could feel how sad he was, watching his super-pouty lip and quivering lower jaw.

Perhaps more importantly, once the shots were done, I picked him up to cuddle him and almost immediately he stopped crying. Granted, the crying has been returning on and off all day now, but he was upset and when Daddy picked him up for comfort, he was comforted. This is also a new thing. Typically when Joshua is crying not only are we totally confused by him… but he tends to just keep crying. Our best assessment of his well-being is that when he’s crying he’s either tired or trying to poop or pass gas. Those aren’t necessarily things you can deal with by simply being present and trying to give off little invisible pulses of caring.

So, Joshua getting shots was bad, but maybe not so bad.

But let’s deal with the elephant in the room right now. Should you get vaccinations for your baby? Yes. This is another point where I’m not going to be diplomatic like the books. Get your child vaccinated. If we’re buddies and you’re in the “vaccinations are bad for my baby!” camp, let’s just have that be something we never talk about, because I want to be friends with you.

As for my thoughts on the issue… beyond the fact that there is no medical study that links vaccinations with disorders like autism, there is real, concrete risk to your child if they are not vaccinated. Many diseases we vaccinate for are more or less dead in the United States. But much as many of us here may want it to be, the world is more than the United States. The world has some of those diseases still, and they’re nasty.

But, let’s for arguments sake say that a vaccination could trigger something like autism in your child. A disease could trigger something like death or paralysis in your child. Would you prefer a child who is socially/emotionally challenged to one that will never walk again? Will you carry your caution to other areas in your child’s life? Maybe they’ll never drive a car because they could get into an accident. Maybe they never eat a french fry because it could contribute to heart disease. Maybe they’ll never watch an action movie because, despite studies to the contrary, watching violence will make them a serial killer.

If you believe in avoiding vaccination for your child, at what point do you stop protecting your child from potential, tenuously linked dangers for their actions? And even if you believe that link is solid, the incident rate for a vaccination to induce autism in your child would be so low as to be practically nothing. Lower, say, than your child just naturally becoming autistic. Lower than the chance of your child having any number of very bad, maybe fatal things happening to them.

For me it’s a matter of weighing options. There’s a very, very low chance that a vaccination will harm Joshua in any number of ways. An unvaccinated Joshua exposed to polio will get polio. Polio is bad. Case closed.

But again, let’s just say that enough has been said about this topic and agree to disagree if that’s the case, because this is a disagreement that touches on fundamental ways in which we view the world.


Confidence Game

I have been slow to update the blog. Considering that for months and months I had been on a steady 3-posts-a-week schedule, the trickle I have managed to produce in the last two months is that much more noticeable.

Certainly I am busy. I’ve outlined fairly well I think how much time caring for a baby can eat up. But more than that I’ve gotten lazy. Rather than taking my free time and using it for productive avenues like chores or writing or even something enriching like reading more, I find myself playing Flash games and watching TV. Granted, for a guy who wants to write movies and/or TV shows, watching movies or TV is never truly wasted time, but still. Doing “research” for screenwriters is a very slippery slope.

I can work around those things, though. Joshua has gotten older and is a bit more “manageable” now. By which I mean he’s apt to sleep for longer stretches because he’s big enough to not need to eat quite as much these days. And laziness is conquered by just nagging myself enough. A daily task list reminder to write for 30 minutes should do it. The real crusher is confidence.

The older Joshua gets and the more confident I feel in our ability to care for him, the less confident I feel about my ability to advise others regarding childcare. Maybe this is the real reason why most baby books are discussing tips and techniques for babies that are older, around the four month mark. I’m in the trenches here, mortar shells exploding in the hazy skies above me. Who am I to tell the poor sap next to me that next time he goes over the top he should really work on his running form? We’re down here to get a job done, and who really cares how we get there?

I can see the heads of my readers who are parents nodding away in my mind’s eye. I know, I know. You could have told me. Thanks for humoring me while I was wide-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Raising a newborn feels more and more like a game of MacGuyver. Janelle and I are working to keep Joshua happy with whatever we happen to have at hand. And that’s what every parent does in the end. Advice from someone telling you how to hold your child, or the proper ways to feed are almost certain to be useless in your case, at least in part. After hundreds of pages of reading and hours of discussing and receiving advice from friends and family, I can’t say for certain that any information has been of real use to me outside of “Sometimes they’re just going to cry, and it’s really hard to listen to it and not really be able to help.”

The methods we’ve used for Joshua feel so home-brewed and the troubles we have with him are so much a part of his personality as they are of ours that the situation here is its own little spit-up and poop snowflake.

I’m sure I’ll get to a point where I can regain a bit of confidence in my ability to share useful info, but it’s tricky to track down those items that are both universally applicable and specific enough to be useful.

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The Hajj

There was a time that I would marvel at the number of women at the mall with their babies. I wanted to be able to write “number of people”, but it seemed silly to be so P.C. It’s mothers 99% of the time. At the University Town Center (UTC) in La Jolla, an outdoor mall like most in San Diego, it would seem that every other person I saw had a child in a stroller or carrier of some sort. Once Janelle and I passed our two dozenth mother and child, we would inevitably be forced to comment on the phenomenon to one another, no matter how many times we’d seen it before.

We get it now, though. We have joined the pilgrimage. You, too, will feel the lure of the mall once you have a baby, if you have not already.

Getting out of the house becomes imperative with a baby. It’s something you take for granted in your normal day-to-day routine. After all, 40 hours a week you’re at work and that’s probably not at home. And even if you’re at home, you have the freedom to leave whenever you’d like and that freedom makes a world of difference. When your day doesn’t really have a start or finish, but instead is a 3 to 4 hour cycle of feeding a baby, entertaining a baby, listening to a baby cry and trying to get a baby to sleep, being able to apply small variants to that routine becomes a very big deal.

Walking around the block is a fine distraction, but it’s not particularly varied. Unless you’re in a particularly exciting neighborhood, the biggest thrill on your walk (other than the event itself) is going to be spotting the next bit of dog poop on the sidewalk to dodge. For Janelle and I there isn’t so much a desire to get out of the house as there is a realization that it is an imperative that we do so for our own good. Our lives have become caring for Joshua and while that is a noble pursuit, some perspective granted by the outside world is necessary.

At, as of this writing, seven weeks of age, Joshua is too young for any extended outing that doesn’t really involve heading over to another house and then hanging out there. Movies are a laughable proposition. Restaurants are the kind of thing we would be too self-conscious about. The mall is really the perfect spot for new parents.

Interestingly (or not… maybe you hate this post already), while I think malls are perfect, a standalone retail establishment wouldn’t be something I would think about for an outing. For an errand? Sure. But not an outing. Time for me is really just a countdown to when Joshua will begin crying next. I focus a lot of energy on trying to come up with ways to lengthen that countdown. The phrasing there seems depressing, but parsed another way, it just means I’m focused on making my kid happy. But since the clock is always ticking, it’s important for me to have outings in a place where a meltdown can be dealt with.

If out in public, I don’t think I could stroll around with a shrieking baby and be nonchalant about it. We have Joshua on enough of a routine that we know his cues if only by their timing relative to his last outburst. So if we’re out and he’s crying, the chances are high that it’s not something we can do much of anything about. If we found ourselves in a store, I would feel that the only thing to do would be to make our way to the exit and leave. It doesn’t matter that no one around us is likely to care. I’ve been walking around for many years, and don’t ever recall taking note of crying infants. Even toddlers with tantrums I more frequently just felt bad for the parent having to deal with the child. I rarely end up feeling that the parent is somehow delinquent.

But at a mall? The exit is everywhere. Who is to say that I’m not quickly hustling through the mall with the stroller to attend to my child’s needs in a more private fashion that the middle of the mall would allow? Really, I’m walking my child around because that’s basically what it will take to calm him down: stroller vibrations. The scope of the mall allows for the freedom to move around and flee various locations without having to cut short the outing.

White noise is an added benefit of an indoor mall, as well. I had never really noticed just how much reverb and echo you get inside an indoor mall. It’s enough help make a nice little sound cocoon around a sleeping baby… or to mask the noise of a crying baby.

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On Tone

It has been brought up to me that the blog is not filled with sunshine and rainbows and hope for a better tomorrow in reference to raising a child. There is a good reason for this.

Most immediately, this is because I’m not out to chronicle my experience as a father and Joshua’s early days as a matter for posterity. That will be a fallout effect, but the literally hundreds of photos and little videos we have taken of him will likely form a more vibrant remembrance of the good times. (Though, once he’s old enough to talk, I plan on purchasing a Moleskine or something equally fancy to carry with me everywhere. My mother took lots of notes about amusing things I did and said and it remains a comedy goldmine to this day)

What I’m here doing is providing a sort of advice column/commiseration station. Parenting is not easy and I know it gives me comfort to talk to a friend who is also a new parent and hear that they had the same experiences I’ve had. If was to talk to them and hear nothing but cooing and fawning, I know my first assumption would be that I’m doing something wrong. No one really needs to read an advice column on the awesome stuff. Posts with titles like “Babies are Cute” and content consisting of “They totally are, right? I know.” don’t have much cache to them. Yes, yes, I’m exaggerating, but it makes my points SO much easier to drive home.

All I’m saying is the very nature of offering advice presupposes that the foundation of things is a problem that needs to be solved or worked around. So, I write about the problems that I think I can offer some insight on.

It does leave things somewhat lopsided. Let me assure you, when this little dude is old enough, our days are going to be filled with high fives and telling one another how awesome we are. Because, let’s be honest, we’re going to be pretty god damn awesome.


Survivor’s Guilt

It’s a peculiar feeling to return back to the real world when your partner cannot. It would be odder still if Janelle had opted to be a stay-at-home Mom, but that’s probably matter for its own post entirely.

Last week I started going back in to work part time. I’m only going in three days a week for four hours each day (the other two days I keep the same schedule from home), but it’s twelve hours a week that I find myself feeling reasonably guilty about. Everything parenting started out as a tag-team effort. Diaper changes were two-person jobs. Clothes changes. Nap times. Baths. Feeding. We’re now starting go through the natural differentiation process where we’ll trade back and forth or (especially for something like feeding) it becomes the domain of one parent over the other.

Now that we’ve each gotten the hang of the basics of raising Joshua, there’s no real reason for each of us to take part in every activity. This has, in turn, led to more opportunism from both Janelle and I. She’s feeding him! Time to type something. Michael’s trying to put him down for a nap. To the showers! She’s changing his diaper. Quickly, make lunch!

However, returning to work gives me a bit of a golden ticket. Three days a week, I’m gone for about five hours. And because I need to be awake enough to be useful for work, I get to sleep through the night while Janelle attends to Joshua’s feedings. This means that the scale of baby work is dipping heavily towards Janelle at this point.

It’s difficult to avoid feeling like I’m slacking off around the house… but I’m working on convincing myself that I’m not being entirely fair to myself. Janelle is lucky enough to be able to take a truly obscene length of time off from work as part of her maternity leave, but that time doesn’t come with full pay. I’m lucky enough to have an obscene amount of sick and vacation time used up. I could probably match her leave time with my own, but that’s not a great idea.

As nice as it would be to take a couple of months off work to stay home and help Janelle and care for Joshua, the practical thing to do is to suck it up and get back in the office. First, it’s important to have as much income as we can manage because we need to both be anticipating increased expenses, and also increasing savings for the little man’s education. Second, when Janelle heads back into work, she’s going to be tapped out on time off, so having a stockpile of days off on my schedule is a good call. Once Joshua hits daycare, I imagine the likelihood of illnesses will increase exponentially.

Now, there’s a very real chance that if you are feeling like a slacker as a parent, then you are, in fact, a slacker. But if you feel bad about it, chances are you’re just being hard on yourself. Not all parenting involves actually holding the baby and bouncing him up and down. Parenting is feeding him and burping him and changing him and putting him to bed, but it’s also helping pay for baby supplies and running the errands that need to be run and making sure that if the little guy gets a fever in November that you can be home to take care of him without having to forfeit some salary.

And it’s okay to enjoy getting out of the house. It’s not as if Janelle doesn’t like hanging out with the baby, anyway. I mean, he’s a cute baby.

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