Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Fatherhood part 10

N. is almost 17 months old, and he's almost always a barrel of fun. He hasn't changed dramatically since I last posted, still likes throwing balls, reading books, loves playing in the park, enjoys going on walks. He's been going to the park a lot recently as it's gotten warmer, and really enjoys exploring things there. Likes to point out birds, dogs, and planes. He recently figured out how to climb onto the couch and two of the chairs, and he practices going up stairs whenever he gets the chance (obviously sometimes it's not safe/practical). I can't tell if he's doing more crying to achieve results or show he's unhappy, or just that we now know that he's pretty aware of what he's doing, so I think that he's using his crying to get what he wants-not that he's necessarily sad or in pain.

I wanted to write about how having a child has made me more sensitive to certain things. I'm sure that this has been said a million times, but I notice that I am much more emotional/tuned-in when I hear a story (usually on the radio or in a podcast) about the parent-child relationship. Sometimes these will be about losing a child, or a child going through a sickness or something like that. Before N. was born I certainly recognized the emotional pull of reports, stories like this, but I really feel it now.

This is likely normal and completely to be expected, I've just noticed a few times recently, and sometimes it even surprises me how much I'll react to certain reports or stories. I also know that I've certainly become more aware of the innocence and resulting need to protect young children. It's not that I didn't feel this way before, but I feel it more strongly and more intensely now.

Something which I didn't think about as much before, but more now as well, is that in many ways, supporting young children means supporting their parents. Supporting the parents is something that is (for some reason) unpopular among some in our society, among some politicians, but it is crystal clear to me that supporting and caring for young children means supporting the parents. It's too bad we don't do more to support parents of children from birth to kindergarten, and we're worse off as a country for not doing so.

Another thing I've been thinking about is how much more I appreciate all that my parents have done for me. I ought to tell them that more often. Part of me thinks that one of the reasons that an adult's parents are eager for grandchildren is so that their child/children will see the amount of work and sacrifice it takes to raise a child. I know that getting to see your family extended to another generation, getting to interact with a beautiful little baby but not have to change too many diapers or deal with the tantrums are some much grander motivations, but a part of me already knows that N. may never understand the feelings that Livia and I have for him until/if he ever has a child of his own.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Fatherhood, part 9

N is over 16 months and learning and developing wonderfully! He is completely obsessed with balls, but also enjoys stacking blocks, the big ones and the small ones. He really enjoys going to the park, which we've been doing much more often now that spring weather is mostly here. He is understanding more and more of what we say and he's making new sounds pretty consistently, and stringing more and more sounds together at times.

Ball, bird, and airplane are his most common words, and things he always points out. He says "si" in Spanish, not always appropriately, but no doubt he'll figure it out soon. He's getting much better at not crying for very long, if at all, after he falls. He can identify eye, nose, mouth, and ears in Spanish and English, and very much enjoys poking our faces endlessly, so long and we announce each part as he pokes it. He's a pretty cheery and happy guy in general, obviously has his moods, and gets pretty ornery and demanding if nap time gets pushed back or we keep him up too long after his normal bed time (20:00/20:15). He is definitely developing his independence though, and certainly enjoys walking away from us when he can, although he'll usually stop and look back to see if we're paying attention. Although sometimes he will just go off and explore.

Sometimes he's a great eater, and almost all the food goes into his mouth and he doesn't misbehave at all. Other times he refuses it and sometimes it gets thrown on the floor. He really enjoys cheese, bananas, pears, pasta, sweet potatoes, kiwi, and avocado. Livia continues to do an astounding, marvelous job of feeding him a variety of healthy foods. She puts more effort into giving him a good diet than I would, much more effort. Not that I wouldn't try to give him healthy food; it's just that Livia really likes cooking and trying new things, and she has so much love and concern for N's health, that she whips up amazing things almost every day for him. We have recently stopped heating his milk up every time he has it, still occasionally. He still likes it, but just drinks it much, much more slowly.

The books of the last few weeks have been The Little Blue Truck Leads the Way, Very Hungry Caterpillar, Chicka Chicka ABC, One, Two, Three (Boynton), this big picture book of 100 words, and Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb. There are plenty of others I've read him, but those seem to be the recent favorites, although he certainly changes his favorites, those have been the most frequent ones of late.

I should write more, but if I put off posting this, it probably won't get done for a while. N is such a joy to have, tonight before I put him to bed I was just holding him, as he looked at the map on his wall, getting excited about the birds, the plane, the soccer ball, and other things. He's just so beautiful, it's so exciting and emotional to watch him grow and learn. I've said it again and again, but it's a feeling I've never had before. I'm sure it's a mix of nostalgia, pride, hope, anticipation, selfishness, and so many other things, some good, some not so good, all mixed up, but it really is something different. He's just so darn adorable, innocent, cute.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Fatherhood, part 8

Recently I was talking to some friends, who are also new parents, their son was born three months after N. As I was sharing some of the things that N. likes to do, skills he's developing, my friend Hannah recommended that I write them down. So, I'm going to do that. Livia and I have not been great about keeping written records of everything N. does as he develops. She does take a lot of pictures and videos, which I really appreciate, and we do talk a lot on whatsapp about what he's doing and what's happened in his life (which is all archived) so we definitely have lots of records. Maybe we should've bought and filled out a baby book, but, well, it didn't happen. Livia did make an amazing faux-chalk board poster for his first birthday with many of his favorite things on it, which was super fun and cute.

N. is 14 months old and half way to his 15th month. His personality has really been developing recently, and while he certainly isn't talking or even close, we can have much more significant interactions. He is understanding lots of things, which is super fun to see. When we tell him it's time to eat, he walks over to his high chair, when I tell him it's time to change his diaper, he walks with me to his room, Livia has taught him to touch his mouth when she asks where it is, he makes a "mmm" sound when we ask him what sound a cow makes, and he's very good about bringing things to us if we point and ask him to. He's also recently started putting lint or other things he finds on the carpet into the trash can, and just the other day grabbed a onesie that I didn't quite throw into the laundry basket and put it in the laundry basket.

Over the past month or so, he has completely changed his attitude towards books. For a long time, he would almost escape when I would read to him, at best he'd pay attention for a page or two and then would crawl away. But recently, he has started to love books. The first books he was really into were Baby Faces and Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes. He still likes them, but he's moved on to other books as well. He's continued to like Moo, Baa, La La La, which was always one he seemed to like. Recently he's been really enjoying Where is Baby's Belly Button and Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?. We'll play when I get home from work, and two, three, four months ago, I would chase him around, tickle him, play hide and go seek, and that would keep him entertained. Now, he'll go and grab a book, bring it to me, make his whining sound, and if I don't sit down to read quickly enough, he'll start poking me with it. He also likes to repeat books, and if I ask to read it again, he'll make a sound that sure sounds a lot like "again." He has no problem reading the same book three, four, five times in a row.  It's awesome, because I hope he'll become a great reader, and it's fun to share so many books with him and see him engaged and knowing that his little brain is moving a million miles a minute to try and learn everything.

He also loves balls, enjoys throwing them, rolling them, and playing fetch. He can amuse himself for some time just pouring his balls out of one basket into another, then into another block and back to the original basket. He's developed a pretty good throw, which has come back to bite us-in that he also throws blocks and other toys, that probably don't need to go flying around the apartment, but we'll let him have some fun.

The last thing I'll mention is that he loves being ambulatory. He is quite the proficient walker these days, and loves exploring. The other day at Trader Joe's he was doing circles around one of the smaller isles, as he had been fussing a bunch, so I got him down. Livia kept on shopping and I just followed N. around as he wandered through the aisle. We had the same experience the other day at another store, he seemed to always want to go the opposite way that Livia and I were trying to go. He is a bit shy and clingy when he first is in a new place, but soon after, he's walking around wherever he can, exploring his world!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Fatherhood, part 7

I haven't posted in forever. No big excuses, but we have been busy, at times. Since the last time I have posted we have moved out of my parents' house, N. has grown four teeth, turned a year old, and started walking. I've started a new job, we received the shipment of all our stuff from Guayaquil, and with that, we've moved into an apartment in Arlington, VA. Livia and I celebrated a year of marriage.

Needless to say, much has happened in N.'s life, and in mine. He took a trip down to Guayaquil with Livia, and got to spend some quality time with his family there. He went to St. Louis with us for a wedding, and took a road trip to Indianapolis for Thanksgiving at my sister and brother-in-law's place. I wish that I would've blogged in the past eight months, because things happen fast. Well, they don't seem so fast when they happen, but now looking back it's like, whoa things have been happening fast.

One thing that is for sure, kids are definitely a big negative for the 'happy hour' industry. I'm in a different situation than when I last lived in the DC area, now married and a father. When I lived here before I was constantly hitting up happy hours, going to movies, some plays, joined a running club, and was always looking to fill my nights. Now, even if there are things going on, I tend to still look to fill my nights with playing with N. We have been able to get together, or host some of my friends from when I lived here before, so that's been very nice.

We've also tried to get out and see things around town, visiting lots of museums, and making frequent trips to the National Mall. That's been harder the past two months, as I don't like cold weather and Livia abhors it.

As I mentioned before, looking back, so many things have happened over the past eight months in N's life. On Christmas, or the day after, Livia and I looked through all the photos and videos we've taken of N over the past year, and wow, he has changed so much.

Thinking through all of his changes, a few things stand out. One is meal time, which has gone from him throwing almost everything on the floor and playing with his food to a very orderly experience (usually). He has a voracious appetite and over the past month or so has gotten great at putting almost all the food in his mouth. We have a sheet that we put underneath his high chair, and we used to have to shake and dump it every meal, and now we'll go days without picking it up. He has also gotten better about eating broccoli and toast, which early on  the things that he wouldn't eat at all, and would throw every piece on the floor. He's a pro with his sippy cup and when he gets his little cup of Cheerios for a snack, he leaves just crumbs in the cup.

Honestly, I don't remember what stage of movement he was in back in May when I last posted, but he is now walking about like a champion. He seemed to have moved through the stages of walking incredibly quickly. He now can walk for 20, 30 or maybe more steps without falling, and can bend over, pick things up all while standing.

He's more vocal every day, and definitely understands things we say. He uses all sorts of different sounds to indicate different things. It has been wondrous to watch him grow and learn.

I wish I would've written more, and will try to do it more often, because wow is he changing quickly.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Fatherhood, part 6

N. turned five months old last week and he has really been coming along quite well. He gets more and more observant by the day. When we have him at the table he will swivel his head around to see who is talking. He enjoys some books more than others (based on the illustrations I think) and he does a good job of paying attention when I read him books-but that's probably because I use the book to block his vision of anything else. He's rolling over with ease now, although he doesn't do it too often. He's giving us coos, cackles, and lots of smiles when he's happy, and he'll almost always return a smile. Tummy time has completely changed and is now an almost completely positive experience.

Tummy time is something which we could've done better at from the beginning. I want to say they recommend 15 minutes of tummy time per day once they're a few weeks old, but I don't remember exactly. Because babies should sleep on their backs, and that's how you almost always hold a newborn, it's important to get them on their stomachs to develop those muscles and reflexes. In N.'s case, he hated it. Totally hated it. At the beginning they can't hold up their head long enough to switch sides, so you use a blanket or pillow to support them. But he hated it, he'd look around for five seconds and start crying. Bit by bit he got better, as he was able to turn his head, then support himself. Well, as of a few days ago, N. loves tummy time. He can totally support himself using his arms, and can still stay up while he uses one arm to grab a toy and shake it about or move it around. He seems to enjoy this new perspective of looking at the world, and given some toys on his play-mat or a blanket, he'll chill for 15 or 20 minutes without needing too much help or care from us. It has been cool to see him stay calm in what used to be torture. And yes, never once did I think I'd be writing about tummy time. I hadn't even heard of it until after N. was born.

Even more exciting is that N. is eating food! At the four month check-up the doctor said we could get started with baby food whenever we wanted, as he was already doing a fairly good job of supporting his head. So we started about two weeks ago, and the first few days were pretty messy, but he's really getting the hang of it. According to the doctor, their stomachs are still small and just getting used to all these new foods, so there's very little caloric or nutritional value in the food. It's just to get them used to eating from a spoon and to the tastes. We started N. on carrots, and then, in order, peas, bananas, green beans, sweet potatoes, and apples. Yesterday and today he's eating squash. I did a tiny bit of reading about what to start them with, and it is not essential to start with the traditional rice cereal, and even recommended to start with vegetables then fruits, so they'll get used to and hopefully like those flavors (plus rice cereal has lots of sugar-so you don't want them getting too used to that). We were lucky, as he really took to eating from a spoon, and does a pretty good job of keeping the food inside his mouth.

It really is fun and interesting to watch as his brain, eyes, and ears get better and better at recognizing sights and sounds. When you start to think about it, the world, or even just his grandparents' house in Iowa, has so, so many things to learn and identify and understand. That little brain of his has got to be turning a mile a minute. He's not crawling yet, so we haven't started chasing him around and worrying about everything he can grab. I'm sure my parents hope we're out of the house before that happens.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Fatherhood, part 5

Well, N. has turned four months old and is well on his way to five. He is doing wonderfully, it's amazing how much fun it is to see him grow and make progress, bit by bit. Yesterday was his first day trying out baby food...things are happening. My last post just got me through the first three weeks of life, but N. is now 20 weeks old. Lots has happened.

One highlight is the smile. The books, blogs, articles, and friends were all totally right about this one. Just about when you are completely drained from the frequent wakings at night, the constant crying, and Livia was certainly emotionally and physically drained from the constant, fussy, unproductive feedings, he smiled. It is amazing. He's now started to chuckle a bit too, and one night last week when I was telling a story at the dinner table he really got into it and strung together a pretty hearty laugh. We've figured out how to kiss and tickle his belly to almost guarantee a laugh. It is so delightful. He's just so darn cute, and then you realize you can make him happy, it's a truly great feeling.

The sleeping troubles come and go, which is frustrating, and there are still some tense moments at two or three in the morning. What is very telling is that both of the baby/infant books I have, plus the few websites I've checked out review the many different sleep training methods/concepts. They may recommend one or two, but they make sure to review four or five different methods, and make a disclaimer that no method is clearly better than another. It's clear that there is no consensus about what makes babies wake up at night in their first few months of life. Nor is there consensus about the best way to get them to not keep waking up, nor about how to get them to back to sleep once they wake up. So we've been doing our best to talk it over, guess at what may be causing the problems and to agree on a strategy to get N. to stay asleep. There is close to consensus on the bedtime routine, and Livia has been doing a wonderful job at that since N. was six weeks old.

Diaper changes do get much easier and much less frequent, which has been a nice relief. He's down to about one dirty diaper per day, and is much more calm during most diaper changes. They are also less frequent, maybe five or six a day (which is half of what was happening the first two months). We still put the diaper rash cream on for most changes, but that has essentially ceased to exist. Livia has got N. into a loose routine, so in general a lot of things have calmed down. He is wonderful on walks, and as it's much nicer now we've been getting him out for walks pretty frequently. N. slept well for the past two nights, so that's probably a huge part of the reason I say things are calm. It really does dramatically affect everything when he does or doesn't sleep well.

One more thing I wanted to mention was that having N. is truly an extraordinary experience. I'm not going to lie, I was often the type of person who was not too enthused to have kids in the restaurants, stores, or other public venues. I was not afraid to complain about somebody's annoying, crying kids. That has totally changed, well, at least for N. Having your own kid totally changes the picture. I wish I could better explain it, and it's not like I don't get annoyed with his crying, but it's just different. I'm so excited for all the things he's going to do. It's so exciting just to see him grab a toy, or shake a rattle, or touch my face, or, honestly, do anything. He's so cute and innocent and defenseless, but yet gets so excited and full of smiles-just by seeing my face or hearing my voice. It is a lot of responsibility, no doubt, but it also kind of feels like Livia and I won an amazing prize-because he's ours, he's going to learn from us and (hopefully) look up to us. So the next time I see a kid throw a cup on the ground at a restaurant, I'll probably roll my eyes, but I'll also know that the parents might be just so, so excited, because that was the first time their daughter picked something up and threw it!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Fatherhood, part 4: the first three weeks

Rough. The first two weeks were rough. They were also amazing, especially because we were able to introduce N. to my sister and her husband and my brother and his wife, and all of us were together for Christmas. But, N. didn't seem to figure out how to eat for the first two weeks, and that was rough.

I've brought up a few times about how calves (baby cow version) can stand up minutes or hours after they're born. But human babies can do almost nothing when they are born. They are totally defenseless,which is actually quite cute. It seems crazy to me that babies don't even really know how to eat when they're born. They'll just suck on the end of the nipple and get like no milk, just totally chill. You have to force the breast into their mouth and guide them along as they try to eat.

All babies lose weight after they're born. Normally, breast milk doesn't come in for a day or two until after the baby is born, and sometimes longer. They suck out colostrum for the first day or two, then get going on the milk. They expect about 10% weight loss before checking out of the hospital (c-sections), and at ours said they keep babies there if they lose more than 12%. N. lost 11% or so. We went in for his first pediatric appointment the next day, he had lost another little bit of weight. Normally by day 4 or 5 they should be gaining more weight. So we set up a lactation appointment (we had already seen the specialist at the hospital). We went down a day or two later, and he was exactly where he had been-so no weight gain. So the lactation consultant gave us some suggestions and tips and set up another visit in about a week.

During this time N. is crying a lot, not producing the poop filled diapers that he should have been, and not sleeping more than 90 minutes straight at night. Let me say right now, I don't know how single moms do it. I don't know how moms who have to go back to work do it. Being a single mom must be so, so incredibly difficult. I can't imagine. It must be so hard for people to do this if they have to get up and go to work in the morning, we are truly blessed that we both had nothing to do but help N. and we had my parents to help cook, clean, etc. as well.

This was a super stressful time. Livia felt guilty and sad that N. wasn't gaining weight, even though she was doing every single thing that the breastfeeding articles and the lactation consultants said. I felt bad because I couldn't do anything about it, and when I'd make suggestions or try to think through it with Livia she'd often feel hurt or think I was disappointed in her. And N. was waking up screaming every 90 minutes to 2 hours all night. We seriously didn't know what to do. It was rough. Getting in a fight with the woman you love at 3 in the morning while she's holding a crying baby: they don't seem to show that in the commercials. But that was my reality.

We go back for the second consultation, he's 15 days old now, and should be back to birth weight. He was 7 lbs 3 oz when born, and he weighed in, again, at 6 lbs 6/7 oz. Pretty much the same as when he checked out of the hospital. The lactation lady gives us more strict, and very clear instructions. We ramp up his supplementary formula, and Livia is instructed to pump a fair amount-to get the milk flowing. He always does breast first, but then gets pumped milk and formula in the bottle. We went back 3 days before Christmas, and he'd gained like 3 ounces in 3 days; they said we were on the right track. It was a relief to not have to go back right after Christmas, or when my siblings and their spouses were here. Two weeks later he had passed his birth weight and was doing well. We stuck with the plan for probably another 3 weeks after that. He's been cute and healthy since. But, man did we spend a lot of time washing and sterilizing bottles those first six weeks.

Later the lactation consultant, and two pediatricians all agree that what likely happened was a vicious cycle. Initially, N. wasn't sucking very well-so he took very little milk. Livia's body was likely ready to produce a lot of milk, but as the demand from N. was low, it lowered its production. Because he wasn't getting much milk, he continued to not suck very well, or very long (he would stay latched on to the breast, but just do weak, cursory sucking). So her body wouldn't produce more milk. Getting a good electronic pump, and pumping often, sent the signal to Livia's body to produce more milk, thus giving N. more to suck on and helping him learn how to suck well. Now that I think about it, I was wrong: babies can cry, poop, and pee immediately upon birth, and with no teaching necessary. You'd think we'd evolved to eat too, I mean cows can WALK!

If possible, get the electronic pump. The day they instructed Livia to pump I went and got a hand pump. I wasn't just going to jump right into buying a $150-$200 electric breast pump. The hand pump was worthless. So it took a few days, but I found out our insurance would cover it and a pharmacy that sold breast pumps and was in-network, and it was day and night.

After Christmas we did feel a lot better, he started to fill out his clothes and get noticeably chubbier. A big relief for all of us. But the lack of weight gain really was the main emotion/stress driver for the first three weeks. We had a photo session when he was 12 or 13 days old, it went really well, the pictures were incredible. We got urinated a lot those first three weeks, eventually settling on a wash cloth over the penis strategy that works very well. So well that sometimes he'll urinate and we won't even notice-which usually means that the part the wash cloth didn't soak up has rolled down onto the changing pad or his onesie. But, still better than urine all over wherever you may be changing him and my hands, arms, face.

It was a crazy time. Not a lot of sleep, a lot of crying. We were honestly still in a bit of shock that he was here. Lots of stress. But lucky to have family helping us, and for me to be on paid leave. Very lucky.