Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Baby Brief (With a Touch of Gross-out Stuff)

Before I had a child, I told myself I would rarely write about child-rearing experiences on this blog once I brought a human into this world. Childless people have nearly zero interest in reading about the adventures in bottle-feeding, cleaning up shit, and sleepless nights, but since this blog is all but dead, and I'm writing just to hear myself think, I'll lay down a summary and reflection.


I've talked to people who get downright philosophical about witnessing a baby come down the birth canal. I've heard all the gross-out stories about the blood and ripping skin etc. Personally, I didn't find the procedure stomach-turning, nor did I feel like howling at the moon because I'd connected to my primordial past. For me, it was all procedure; let's just get this DONE. But, of course, the real work was done by my wife, Katie. I was surprised by how much hands-on assistance the hospital allowed me to do. Throughout the pushing process, I was basically doing the same thing as the other nurse. That was pretty cool. I watched the whole thing, including the long needle penetrate my wife's spinal cord when she got the epidural at 4am, the grayish-blue baby's head coming out face up, and the massive purple placenta dropping into the stainless steel bowl -- all creating an environment that looked close to a murder scene. COOL. And my son had to be vaccumed out with this crazy suction cup device with a cord and handle.

My advice for dads-to-be in the delivery room is to be as hands-on as the hospital staff will let you -- especially right after the baby pops out. At that point, your wife will be so spent that she can hardly manage on her own. The staff have to give her a wheelchair just to go 15 feet to the bathroom. It was scary when Katie came back to the bed and passed out at the same time she started to vomit, so I could hear the sound of my own wife choking on the puke gurgling, blocking the air in her throat. Luckily, the nurse had some smelling salts on hand -- came out of nowhere -- and a spray of chunkified orange-juice vomit coated my arm and splattered the floor. But thank God for it, because Katie was awake and breathing again. I'm glad I was there to hold her head and make sure the nurse got things done quick. In my limited experience with birth, that seems to be a crucial point in your post-partum wife's health -- so guys, be alert.

The Goddamn NICU

Our baby was born five weeks premature so as soon as he came out, they put him on the warming table to revive him. He wasn't crying when he came out and was limp and floppy. The first thing Katie said when she saw him across the room on the warming table was, "Wow, his balls are really big." Yea man -- that's my boy. ;-)

The doc handed him to us for a quick picture, and then whisked him off to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for 15 days -- yes, fifteen fucking days. This is precautionary because premature babies are so vulnerable, but it was torture not being able to have him home immediately.

For two weeks we made the back-and-forth trek to the hospital to sit with Elliot amongst the loud bleeping alarms of the 500 monitors they have hooked up to all the preemies. The aesthetics of the place do not appear conducive to proper child development, but we were assured that being there was the best thing for him. Christ, the kid can't even see solid shapes right in front of him so I guess it doesn't matter that multiple nurses are handling him with rubber gloves and wires and hoses are running into all his orifices. We just toughed it up and kept visiting him for five to seven hours a day.

Here's my little dude on the night before I thought he was getting out. He actually got out five days after this photo was taken:

Katie's Chief of Staff

All of this is a lot of work, but one of the biggest tasks is playing chief of staff to my wife by handling the many phone calls, emails, text messages, facebook updates, and visitors. By far, in the first day or so of birth, that took up more of my time than any other single thing. Granted, I'm not complaining -- I'm a social person, and I LOVE people -- but I didn't expect such an outpouring of generosity and love from so many family, friends, and neighbors. Babies make you realize how fundamentally good people are. At least four of my neighbors brought over home-cooked meals, the gifts from all the family and friends are a TREMENDOUS help, and all the offers of support were just mind-blowingly generous. I wonder how I'll ever properly thank everyone.

The Cliche Sleepless Nights

The short story is that I've had much harder sleepless nights on overnight sailing, airplane, and camping trips -- MUCH harder. I'm an insomniac by nature so the continual waking up, changing diapers, bottle-feeding, then trying to go back to sleep is not that different from my normal nights. I had just been warned by so many hundreds of parents that I could give up sleep that I was expecting the worst but it really is not so bad. But who knows, maybe the worst is to come.

Thank God for the Home Bar

I got some weird sickness two days ago so I sequestered myself in the basement bar for two nights. I felt like crap, with a fever of 100.7. Who knows what it was but I was not giving my baby my germs so I stayed down in the bar and wore a surgical mask when I went upstairs. My hands are now cracked and dry from obsessively washing them so much. But having that wood-walled man-cave in the basement is a nice get-away, and thank God for a quick martini by the Christmas tree after the baby's been changed and fed and everyone but me is asleep and I love my family so goddamn much -- seems all is right with the world. That is a feeling that's hard to put into writing. Maybe the below photo I took last night sums up part of that feeling. Cheers everyone, and Merry Christmas.

I have been reading your blog forever and just wanted to say congrats and glad your guys are healthy and well. My wife and I are days away from giving birth to our first and your baby posts are particularly poignant.

Man, what an ordeal. I am glad to hear your wife and the baby made it through fine. You sould relatively unscathed as well. I'm also expecitng my first boy on New Year's eve, so this frank post was really welcome. Please don't be afraid to post baby stores up here. Your style certainly promises that they'll be enlightening, amusing, and not too cliche.
Beautiful, man. All the best!

A very touching post. Isn't it amazing to become a parent? All of the ups and downs aside, parenting is an amazing, amazing thing.

Sounds like Katie had a rough labor! Good thing the prize at the end was basically the awesomest baby newborn ever since...well....since Julian! ;)

To the other daddies reading, my birth was easy, so don't be scared! Every birth is different, so think positive. Then again, I *might* have been the primordial, howl at the moon mommy that Damon was referencing. ;)

Also, I had the opposite luck with early parenting, with a baby who was so psyched to join this world that he decided against sleep! Daniel and I were basically hallucinating after the first fortnight.

Whoa. Damon, you blogged about parenting and I loaded up your comments section with not one but two winky-faced emoticons. What has become of us?!

Much love to the family of three.
Congratulations on becoming a father! I've attended many births - most of the babies I've witnessed do not cry when they arrive. I think in earlier decades they cried because the doctors slapped them. And we wonder why everyone in my generation ended up in psychotherapy at some point.

Childbirth is gross and not gross. It truly is miraculous, yet completely normal. We all got here that way.

Did you cry when he was born? I always cry.

Sweet post. Bravo!! And best to your whole family.
Hey - I think dcblog honored us both the same day so I wanted to stop by. Yeah - it may get old to the childless but I have to say - I never get bored hearing about other family's experiences. BTW - I was always one of those peeps who said - hubby - you will be standing behind me during the birth. It didn't quite work out that way. Congratulations!
The sensitive side of Lonnie Bruner. Love it, my friend - congratulations. Being a dad is way cooler than, like, growing a mustache, isn't it?
Great post and great pics. you're best posts are the ones you are really adamant about so write about the little squirt if you want. No rules.
I actually want to hear more
I've been reading your blog forever too, though we've never met. I really wouldn't mind reading about you guys and your kid, even though I don't have any.
Thanks guys. I very much appreciate your support.
Just discovered you through DCBlogs.

What a gorgeous little guy! Congratulations!!

I was tickled to see the Moses basket near your Christmas tree. I made one for my sister's first son and he spent a lot of time in it. His younger brother spent months in hospital, so was too big for it by the time he came home.

Congratulations again. I can tell you and Katie are going to enjoy parenthood.
Congrats on this little guy. He's a beauty. NICUs can be scary places but, you're right, they are the best place for these early birds to nest while we all understand how strong they are. I'm glad he's home and doing well.
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