Archive for August, 2011

Crawling: How Daddy Survives

At some point in a baby’s first year, crawling develops. Parents are delighted and overjoyed that their little one is growing fast and developing before their eyes. Underneath the joy and pride, however, is the bane of any parent’s sanity. With crawling comes this thing called independence, and the kid thinks he’s entitled to go wherever he damn well pleases. I was ready for tantrums, hypervigilance around the house and repeated trips to “trouble spots” all around my home. The good news: I survived the first month. The bad news: many more months stand before me.

Mason began crawling a few weeks ago. Big news! No longer are Mommy and Daddy the sole transporters of his cute little behind. Mason hadn’t made it easy on us either. He made it clear he wanted to move well before he was capable of doing so. He’d lay in one place and scream and scream and scream until one of us brought him to where he wanted to go. Once he learned (finally) to roll onto his stomach…he couldn’t figure out how to go the other way. Scream, scream, scream. I’d say that’s when the annoying repetition began. The process went about like this:

  • Mason flips to stomach, cries.
  • Daddy flips him back, smiles.
  • Ten seconds.
  • Wails.
  • Daddy flips.
  • Smiles.
  • Thirteen seconds.
  • Wails…
  • (continue ad nauseum)
With crawling, it goes more like this:
  • Mason crawls to bathroom (his favorite trouble spot)
  • Mommy/Daddy grabs him, brings him back to living room
  • Mason smiles, hauls ass back to bathroom
  • Grab, return.
  • Smile, haul ass.
  • Mommy/Daddy get smart and close bathroom door
  • Screams of anger.
  • Daddy contemplates leaping from the roof into raspberry bushes.
  • (continue ad nauseum)

Then there are the marks. Body marks. Our once perfect son’s skin has been pocked and scraped from his learning to crawl. First there was “The Phelps Maneuver.” Picture the butterfly stroke you see in the olympics, only use it to drag yourself across the floor. His chest suffered from that one, but he did score a gold medal for the floor stroke. Nowadays, Mason’s poor little feet are torn up and dry because he still drags them sometimes. Usually they don’t seem to bother him, but they look so painful, you just wish he would get up and walk already…then you remember what a pain in the ass crawling is and wonder what pain-inflicting self-harm walking will bring you to contemplate.

Looking back, I’m wondering how I survived these first few weeks of crawling. I know that toys can (but not always) play a pivotal role in distracting little movers. We have this “bumpy ball.” It’s like one of those dog balls that never pops, and when you squeeze it, it expands in comical ways. Mason digs the bumpy ball. More often than not, if you throw it in his direction, he’ll follow it wherever it goes. Oh, and one of our cats, Genkins, is an ample deterrent. Mason loves to chase him because Genkins is the dumb-ass out of our cats…he waits until he’s about to be grabbed before finally scurrying off. Genkins has learned that jumping to higher ground works…for now. We’re trying to teach Mason to “do nice” to the cats…only time will tell…

Anyway, there are ways to deal with crawling, and I know it’s only going to get worse as walking (and falling) becomes a reality. Mason is learning to explore his world, and learning boundaries and limits comes with the territory at this stage. Unfortunate as it may be for my blood pressure, it’s par for the course. I can only hope he forgives me when he reads this years from now…Sorry, little buddy, I just don’t think you need to explore toilets and the contents of “the hygiene drawer” at this point. I still love you though! 🙂


Worry, Worry, Worry…

This was another “father-to-be lesson” based on some early observations of my first weeks as a father. In retrospect, some of my worries were legitimate, some not. Every parent worries, this was my take on it…

You’re a father now! You’ve been through the entertaining delivery, and your new baby is pink, hopefully healthy and everyone is delighted…except you. You’re sitting there wondering if the crib at home is assembled correctly.  Did we buy enough diapers? What if he gets sick? What if I drop her? I wipe him which way?!

Worry. Concern. Paranoia. This is fatherhood. From this day forward, you will never stop worrying about something. Even the most irrational, ridiculous, practically impossible scenarios enter your head. “What if Mason somehow rolls out of his bouncer, squirms over to the outlet, drools on his finger and sticks it in the wall outlet?!” Mason was about 2 months old when this strange worry hit me. Your worries may involve everything from falls to poisoned food to alien abduction. This is all natural. It’s now your job to worry all the time. Worry is nature’s way of saying “I love you so much, it drives me nuts.”

For some, a primary concern will be finances. How to pay for the diapers, formula, clothes, doctor’s appointments, etc.? Thoughts of 90-hour work weeks between three jobs flood your brain. These thoughts are compounded by a lack of sleep, thanks to your newborn’s feeding schedule (which was specifically designed with no regard for parental sanity). It may be necessary to pick up extra hours via another job, selling unneeded items, writing a blog (!), etc. Whatever you need to do to make it work, you’ll gladly do it…because as I’ve mentioned time and time again, it’s not about you, it’s about your little one.

Safety. This is another big concern, and the most common cause of paternal paranoia. While there is no need to duct tape your child into the crib at night, or illegally acquire FBI security reports to ensure homeland safety, steps can be taken to ensure your home is as safe is as possible. Your local baby product store can be helpful in recommending the right products for your family, based upon where you live and how your home is set up. Unfortunately, your baby will have an incident sooner or later. Bumped heads and skinned knees are just part of learning to crawl, walk and play. It’s OK to worry about these things, but don’t overdo it. Children pick up very quickly on parental behaviors and patterns. If I took Mason to the emergency room every time he scraped an elbow, what kind of example would I be setting for when he gets hurt and I’m not there? (This is something I need to practice more myself, as I am one to immediately run for the bandages upon the occurrence of even a minor papercut) Keep as calm as possible, and focus on soothing your child. If you must be paranoid about every little thing, do it after bedtime. Your child will thank you later.

Worry. Concern. Paranoia. It’s really like saying “I love you, I love you more, I love you unconditionally.” It’s natural to be driven crazy over it…because you’re crazy over your child.

Newborns: Only A Parent Could Love ‘Em

This is another “father-to-be lesson” from a few months ago, regarding the sight of childbirth, and some lighter comments on the initial meeting between fathers and children…

I'm a Daddy! How...cute...?

Just-born infants are ugly. Period. Harsh, yes, but there’s really no other way to say it. Think about this. Your child has been developing in your partner’s womb for the last 38-40 weeks or so. In liquid. Warm, slimy amniotic fluid that was quite comfortable and helped to create a soundproof environment much of the time. What do you look like after soaking in a tub of warm water for an hour? What if it were maple syrup instead? That’s a newborn fresh out of the womb. To add to the gruesome sight, the kid is blue (which changes to a pale skin color after just a couple of minutes, then to pink) and screaming in agony at the jackass that just yanked him from his nice warm sauna. Add in a white, sickly looking umbilical cord, and you quickly understand why some new fathers pass out and become useless, as I have touched upon in this post. I did just fine with Mason’s birth. I was evenly dispersing my attention between Holly’s face and nether region. While your partner will strongly prefer you concentrate on her face, you’re going to be looking at Webster’s definition of pain in either case. Trust me, your partner will not remember where you were looking, so feel free to gawk in either direction!

What do you make of this blue, slimy, screaming human? Most say that a father does not truly realize the impact of being a father until he sees his child out of the womb for the first time. While I found this to be true, there was a 5-10 minute buffer period while Mason self-humanized himself and began looking like something I wanted to take home. Regardless of how you feel after 5 seconds, 5 minutes, or 5 days, this baby is yours. Nothing will ever match the first time you meet your children, so introduce yourself to your new baby, snap some photos and relish in the atmosphere that only comes when your child meets their new world and life, which you are responsible for. Your child is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen, after all…eventually.

The Joys of Childbirth…As Only a Man Can Enjoy

This was written back in March when I was writing from a teaching point of view, as if I were preparing fathers-to-be for what to expect from childbirth forward. This was my  “lesson” on childbirth, from a man’s point of view…

No matter how you slice the tasks of parenthood, women always have, and always will, have the upper hand when it comes to the physical act of delivering a child. The first task for a father is to accept this as absolute fact. Try to win an argument over who had it harder leading up to this point, and you may as well ask your mother to knit you a nice warm blanket that matches your couch, since that’s where you’ll be sleeping until your child can talk. But enough discussion of the female advantages. Let’s talk about your role as a father-to-be during childbirth.

It all begins when you arrive at the hospital. I’m leaving out the scenarios of being awoken in the middle of the night, or being rudely interrupted during the Super Bowl. This may not happen to everyone. Holly and I chose to be induced on a specific date, so we wouldn’t be caught off guard (which I highly recommend, by the way). When you arrive at the hospital, you’ll likely face a charge nurse who looks like it’s been at least 30 years since she experienced childbirth for herself, if she did at all. Your significant other will be asked several questions, which she will not hear correctly due to intense contractions. The charge nurse simply wants to see how long your partner can go without launching a vicious attack on the entire maternity ward. Your role here is to assist your partner in answering the questions. That’s it. LISTEN!

Before you know it, you’ll find yourself in a room and your partner will be asked to strip down to nothing and sport a rather fashionable hospital gown. WARNING: do not make sexual jokes at this time. There is no rule that states that you are required to be a part of the birth in any way, shape or form. If you want any part of the fun that will ensue, shut your mouth and be good! This is where any number of things can happen, but usually a midwife or other hospital staff will instruct your partner to get settled in the bed and “open wide.” Hands go where you had always assumed only your parts would go in an intimate setting, and you will realize that this is not a joke. As a father, and a male, all you need to do is sit back and watch! And boy, is it fun! Now, I’m not trying to be insensitive to the incredible miracle that childbirth is, and it’s been proven again and again that labor hurts. It’s no fun for your partner. In the end, however, you essentially do nothing, but wind up with a little human in your arms nonetheless. So why is childbirth fun for you? You get to watch like it’s CSI: Maternity!

As a side note…if you feel the least bit queasy or have feelings as if you are going to faint, SIT DOWN! You are of no use to anyone lying unconscious on the floor because you can’t handle stretching tissue and blood.

The sign of a self-sufficient mother-to-be in labor.

There is an underlying point to all of this. You’ve done nothing physical, yet your partner has sacrificed her entire body for the sake of another person, and for what is now your family. This is exactly why you shouldn’t complain about anything whatsoever from here on out. It’s not about you anymore. Before you know it, you’ll be holding your first child.

Excrement & You: A Lesson for All

The following was written around February 2011, when Mason was 4 months old…

A cartoon baby assuming the diaper changing position.

Don’t let the smile fool you.

One thing I worried about when Mason was in utero, perhaps excessively, was poop. Yes, I know, everybody poops, I’ve seen the book. Thanks to the development of the average human brain, however, I have little to no recollection of being potty trained. Therefore, in my mind, I’ve always wiped my own ass. Add the fact that my only sibling is my half-sister, who is 10 ½ years older than I, and you see how apparent it is that before Mason, I had never changed a diaper. Ever. You’ll have to take my work when I say that because of this inexperience, I never knew what baby poop actually smelled like.

Before I continue, I’d like to say that I do realize just how odd it is for me to engage you in a lesson on baby poop. There, I feel better.

When Mason was just a day or two old, he had already pooped (or “made stinkies,” as is our phrase for a bowel movement) several times, to rid himself of the amazing meconium I marvel about in other writings. As I mention in those writings, meconium has a very mild odor. It really didn’t bother me much at all. Now that Mason has made hundreds of stinkies since then, I can tell you that it gets worse…much, much worse. I realize that some of you may have changed diapers in the past. If so, good for you, enjoy my horror story. If you are like me and are starting to question your olfactory system’s health, read on and prepare yourself.

Actually, one thing more before the horror story begins. You are setting yourself up for a heap of anger in your partner if you constantly try to avoid changing a stinky diaper. Take it from someone who still does it…it’s best you do your share, but know that it’s bad, since I still avoid it and take the heat from Holly. It’s just easier sometimes.

Back to my little guy. Mason was a hybrid-fed baby, meaning he was fed both breast milk and formula, pretty much from his first week of life. It’s said that formula-fed babies have stinker feces that their breast fed counterparts. I didn’t really notice any odor at first. Mason’s poops were light yellow and had a mild stench that was very tolerable. After his bilirubin treatment for jaundice, the poop color darkened, and the smell got a bit stronger. As time went on, Mason’s poop got darker and darker, and the stench became downright unbearable. I found it incredible that the sheer pungency of his poop seemed to double within days. Maybe it was the formula. Maybe it was just his digestive system. Either way, it was (and still is) Hell in a diaper. Imagine combining the odors of propane, sulfur and expired Chinese food. At times, I was gagging and struggling to not throw up. Mason just smiled at my misfortune, but at least he seemed thankful that I was spiffing him up.

Nonetheless, it got to the point where I had to leave the room and strand poor Holly to do all the dirty work. By three months old, I was doing all I could to avoid changing him, including issuing full-body massages and household chores in exchange for detaining myself on the opposite side of the house during a changing. Every now and then, I’d have no choice but to suck it up and deal with it, like when Holly was out and it was just Mason and I at home. I thought I would slowly acclimate myself to the smell, but it just never happened. The struggle continues to this day.

Now, you may have a less sensitive sense of smell, or perhaps it just won’t bother you. More power to you if that’s the case. If you are like me, do your best. Try holding your breath, but you’ll need to learn to change a diaper in under 60 seconds, or else you’ll inhale so deeply, passing out is a possibility. Try a clothespin on your nose, but eventually your baby will think you’re nuts (not to mention your partner will think it immediately). In the end, everybody poops, and you’ll have to wipe your child’s ass, just like your parents did for you, whether you remember it or not.

Beware the Onesie!

I learned very quickly after Mason was born that dressing a baby is no easier than changing a diaper. When babies are born, they have no control over their bodies. They flail here and there and everywhere. They discover things like fingernails and feet by sheer luck. Because of these movements (which slowly become more processed at nerves grow their myelin sheath), dressing an infant is like trying to guide a greased pig into a slaughterhouse.
Eventually, I got used to disrobing Mason for bath time, as well as helping him squirm into clothes each morning (usually with Holly’s help). Most of the time in Mason’s first months, he wore body suits that were simply zip-and-go, or button-and-go. These suits are a godsend because you just make sure feet and hands go where they should, and the rest just falls into place. I was not prepared for the next level. The diabolical, maniacal, farce of an invention that quickly became a top source of embarrassment. The exploiter of my cluelessness as a first-time dad. The bane of my existence as a wardrobe choice. The start of laughter for all others who heard of my embarrassing adventure with it.
The onesie.

A typical onesie. Cute...and confusing.

A onesie looks so innocent. A deceptively simple-looking garment with three or four buttons that, when snapped together, form holes for legs. Most come with cute prints and sayings on them.
Do not trust the onesie, my friends. Tangle with it, and you’ll soon be standing behind your partner like a dog with its tail between its legs, watching Mom unravel the tube top you’ve just adorned upon your baby, fixing it so easily she laughs and shakes her head in disbelief that anyone could ever take something so “simple,” and screw it up so royally.
Yes, I said “tube top.” One evening, it was time for Mason’s bath. Holly had to pump, so I was put in charge of undressing him. Mason was dressed in a lovely blue and white striped onesie. How cute. To the changing pad we went. The steps were simple:

1) Un-snap buttons on onesie.

2) Remove arms from sleeves.

3) Pull onesie over arms and –

What the…?! Arms? How did they get there?! Damn it…

4) Attempt to replace arms in sleeves to no avail.

5) Try to tug onesie down over Mason’s diaper, also to no avail.

6) “SON of a BITCH!! HOLLY! HELP!!”

Holly had just finished pumping and came to see what I’d done this time. She took it in for about one second, and started laughing so hard she had to lean against the wall to prevent herself from falling over. Here was poor Mason, laying on the changing pad, graced in the blue and white striped onesie, stuck between his diaper and his arms, just like a tube top. Mason didn’t seem to mind his new style, he just lay there kicking his legs like he always did. I just stood there, head hung, watching Mason lay there while Holly collected herself and, within about 10 seconds, had his arms back in the sleeves and the onesie removed the proper way. She turned to me and started laughing some more. I sulked my way to the bathroom to assist with Mason’s bath, and later on, told the world via Facebook what I had done. It made me feel a little better to know that others found it just as hilarious.

It was while Holly was correcting my blunder that I realized the mistake I had made. I won’t leave you in the lurch…I share this with you so that you may never know my shame. When removing your baby’s arms from the onesie, do not remove them through the space for baby’s neck! This is known as the “Tube Top Maneuver,” and will cost you your dignity at Thanksgiving Dinner for years to come. An easy way to remember this is a little rhyme: “Arms at the sides, and the onesie abides!”

Beware the deceptive, dastardly onesie.

%d bloggers like this: