One Month Young

Julia has graced us with her presence for one whole month as of today, January 19th. To commemorate, here are some of the things that we’ve experienced, witnessed, and learned over the course of her entire lifespan, to date, in no particular order:

  • Always keep a good supply of OxiClean products handy. In particular, laundry stain remover and carpet cleaner are your friends in time of trouble. When your fresh-from-the-dryer pair of pants starts feeling unnaturally warm in one spot all of a sudden, or when some bodily fluid (or not-so-fluid) defies the laws of physics and arcs through the sky—magically bypassing the burp cloth, blanket, or painter’s tarp you meticulously laid out—it’s good to know that the resulting blemishes are not permanent.
  • Always keep a spare shirt and pair of pants handy. This is a good corollary to the first point. While being able to clean stuff off your clothes efficiently is great, it usually puts those clothes out of commission for at least a short while. Unless you keep your house…uh, abnormally warm, shall we say, then you’ll want a backup outfit for yourself just as much as the backup outfits for the baby.
  • Cuteness only mostly cancels out grossness. Julia is ridiculously adorable, no doubt. However, her cherubic face does not make me feel noticeably better when my hand has barf on it. However, I admit that I have only one baseline reference point here, and I concede that it might somehow be worse if she happened to be ugly.
  • There are some problems that only Mommy can fix. I make many attempts to be a helpful husband, but sometimes, no amount of Daddy’s attention or ministrations will do the trick. When Julia is crying for no apparent reason, and the last 15 minutes of my attempts to console her haven’t made a dent in the ambient noise level, handing her to Courtney is occasionally a ticket to instant silence. Go figure, right?
  • Julia is obsessed with ceiling fans. Granted, it’s more likely that she visually latches onto the high-contrast dark brown fan in front of a white ceiling, and does so because she spends a large part of her time staring upwards. But if she grows up with an otherwise inexplicable interest in fans, well…at least we’ll know when it started.
  • There are no babies cuter than ours. It’s an objective observation, an indisputable fact. Of the six billion or so people alive on this earth now, all of whom were once babies, Julia is at the very top of the list. There’s nothing more that can be said. Sorry, everyone else.
  • Julia is an easy baby, as babies go. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s true. She doesn’t cry all the time, she eats well, she doesn’t make more than the normal quantity of mess. She does require some extra attention now and then, but I think that’s listed somewhere in the Baby Datasheet, or maybe it was in the User’s Guide. In the section on Troubleshooting, if I recall. But in any case, she’s a baby, and she’s not a pain. Thanks, Julia!
  • I’ll never forget gazing into her dark blue baby eyes. Often, she looks straight at me when I’ve got a bottle or my fingertip in her mouth. It’s unlike anything I’ve experienced before. Seeing your own child look back at you is indescribable, and I cherish each time this happens.
  • Baby pre-cry noises made while sucking on your fingertip are weird. I never thought about this before, because why would I? Imagine someone weakly grunting into a broken kazoo, and that’s just about got it.
  • Even non-emotionally-driven smiles are uber-rewarding. I realize that babies this young typically don’t “smile” in the normal sense, to show recognition or happiness. I know it’s a physiological reflex on the rare occasions where it does happen. But at the same time, it’s still so much fun to watch.
  • Our lives now involve notably less sleep. This one is a given, but still worth mentioning. Sleep is also punctuated by feedings, rather than just having slightly shorter nights. Courtney does the lion’s share of the work here, for which I am extremely grateful, but I do try to volunteer sometimes and to be available anytime she asks. But being awake at intervals in the middle of the night isn’t the end of the world, given the rewards.
  • There is a lot more laundry to do. Part of this is due to her making messes of her own clothes, and part is due to her making messes of our clothes. Relatively little of it is our doing, directly. Courtney has taken on this task and, thankfully, has been more than able to stay on top of it.
  • My Facebook feed has magically filled with babies. To be honest, most of them aren’t Julia. I don’t know how this happened exactly; either lots of my friends had babies around the same time (which is quite possible), or Facebook not-so-subtly adapted what I see based on the context and content of my own somewhat infrequent baby posts (which is also quite possible). Either way, I’ve had a lot of photos of tiny people to scroll through lately.
  • My wife is an amazing mom. Courtney has a lot more Julia-related work to do than I do, including some things that she is uniquely qualified for. She is dealing with the tasks (and stress) really well, and it’s a joy for me to watch her interact with Julia in all the various ways she does throughout the day.
  • Being able to work from home is fantastic. I am able to stay isolated in the office to get stuff done most of the day, but I can also take quick breaks to hang out with Julia for 15 minutes to give her a bottle, or to be a second set of hands for Courtney when she needs help or to take a break herself. I wondered before Julia arrived how having a home office with a baby would work out, and I’m pleased to say that it’s been great so far.
  • Dealing with “ick” has become easier. Not that we live in filth or put up with baby mess everywhere, but the everyday diaper changes and cleaning of baby expulsions of various types is a lot easier for me one month in than it was on day one.

One final point:

  • It’s totally worth it. While I might pine for simpler, more rested times occasionally, I wouldn’t undo this. Having a tiny, beautiful daughter is incredible and wonderful, and she far outweighs anything I could possibly think of to complain about.

Congratulations on your first month, Julia! Here’s to hoping you have at least a thousand more to enjoy.

A Classical Moment

Courtney and I had to drive to the Roanoke airport tonight in order to drop off a car for my dad to use while he’s in town for the next week or so. That meant that one of us would have Julia in the bigger car, and one would be alone in the smaller car. Courtney chose to take the smaller car for a few reasons. That was only the second time that I’d driven with just Julia in the car, so it’s still a novel feeling.

As Parental Law apparently dictates, she started crying just about as soon as I shut the car door. Now, I don’t exactly freak out around a crying baby (good thing!), but I prefer no-crying to crying, hands-down. So, I pulled out my phone and, on a whim, started Spotify’s Classical Essentials playlist on shuffle. I don’t actually listen to classic that often, though I do really enjoy it; I just figured it might be a better choice for baby-soothing than many other genres.

Julia seemed to enjoy it, although her rapid descent to silence and then sleep may be just as easily and logically explained by the fact that she was in a moving car. But as we drove along, a minute or so after we got on the freeway, J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.3 in G (BWV 1048 – 3. Allegro) came on, and I had to pause and enjoy the daylights out of that moment.

I’m not really familiar with the Brandenburg Concertos, or indeed many of the very well-known compositions from the various classical eras. I’m not writing about this to pretend that I am more cultured than I really am, or that Julia is destined to be a gifted savant because I’m injecting her brain with magic “intellectual” music at an early age. But it was just such a perfect peaceful combination: warm car, dark night, sleeping baby, topped off with a beautiful and intricate composition.

I do hope that we can help Julia gain an appreciation for that kind of music as time goes on. I hope it’s just a matter of regularly listening to it, since I’d be happy to do that anyway.

I wonder–will Julia be able to pull any of this out of the depths of her subconscious? Will BWV 1048 trigger some unexpected internal response, something she feels but can’t quite put her finger on?

Guess How Much I Love You?

Julia is 23 days old now, and tonight I finally read her first actual bedtime story at home. It seems a bit odd that it took this long, since I read some short story or other nearly every night before she escaped the confines of Courtney’s body. I guess the best explanation is that babies are a whole lot easier to manage and less time-consuming when they’re on the inside rather than the outside.

For her inaugural story, I chose Guess How Much I Love You? by Sam McBratney, which was one of my favorites over the last many months. However, I must say that reading to Courtney’s bump isn’t as engaging as reading to a baby who is (or at least appears to be) giving you her rapt attention. It’s likely that she was just processing the new experience and visual stimulation provided by large pictures in a large book, but that’s good enough for me given her age.

If you aren’t familiar with it, this story is very sweet. Whether I get misty eyes at the end is a bit of a toss-up every time I read it. It’s about a daddy hare and his young son–not a perfect fit for Julia and me, but close enough. The son keeps trying to find ways to express how much he loves his dad, while the dad responds each time with an even greater amount. They both end up asleep at the end, so it makes for a good bedtime story.

I’m really looking forward to the reading many more stories, especially as she grows to the point of image and then language comprehension.

Julia in the Moonlight

It’s six in the morning, and my fingertip is in Julia’s tiny mouth as she makes occasional soft cooing noises while hopefully moving towards sleep after her most recent feeding/changing cycle. I’m writing this using one hand on my iPad, more awake than I usually am right now probably because Courtney took care of the entire last feeding, letting me sleep instead. She’s great that way.

I briefly considered pulling up my work email, since it is Monday morning, after all. But then I figured, why put a damper on a moment like this? I’d rather immortalize it. The work will still be there in a couple of hours.

What caught my eye in the first place and subconsciously inspired me to pull out my iPad and write something was actually a small strip of light on Julia’s outfit, which I couldn’t tell at first where it came from. The only light on in the room is the multicolored LED glow from Courtney’s Tetris lamp (which, incidentally, makes a great brighter-than-usual night light). But the light I saw came from the other direction and was a decidedly different color and temperature.

It turns out that there was a break in the clouds outside such that the very full moon happened to shine at an angle through the gap in our two bedroom blinds just right, creating a two-inch-wide strip of light across her chin and monkey-emblazoned chest.

Right about then is when I considered that it’s a good thing we don’t have to worry about lycanthropy these days.

Because maybe I’m less awake than I thought.

My fingertip is turning into a raisin, and Julia seems to be about finished with it. Perhaps I’ll try to steal a few more precious minutes of sleep. Or, maybe I’ll just sit here and stare at this beautiful baby for a while longer.

It’s good to be a daddy.

Welcome to the World, Julia!

Have you ever heard the term “daddyblogger” before? I haven’t–but apparently, it’s a thing. A brief Google search turns up many, many instances of the term. Good thing I didn’t try to get “daddyblogger.com” or something for this site.

A few ideas have bounced around in my head over the last many days about how best to remember as much as I can about the growing-up years of my kid(s). I want to note all of the “firsts,” all of the funny statements, all of the sweet moments, and even the hard bits in between. And more than that, how great would it be for Julia to see her first few years through her parents’ eyes?

Therefore, given the kind of person I am, I’ve opted to create a blog. This not only accomplishes the main goal, but also gives me good motivation to write regularly (which I enjoy) and ensures that the large portion of my family that does not live nearby will have a more direct window into these wonderful formative years. I can turn it into a book later if I want to, or anything at all. Maybe one day, I’ll hand it off directly to Julia. Wouldn’t that be something?

So.

The Chronicles of Julia, part one.

Julia is about ten and a half days old as of this minute, but I’ll start at the beginning. On second thought, maybe about nine months after the beginning. No need to go all the way back.

Julia’s 0th birthday, her entrance into this world, did not quite occur on our expected timetable. Courtney’s regular OB check-up visits estimated her due date at December 6th or December 9th, depending on a couple of factors. Courtney is small, so we planned for the 6th ourselves and hoped for just a bit earlier so Julia could be on the small side as well. Julia, however, would have no such thing. She decided that “inside mommy” was a much more pleasant spot to hang out, and refused to budge. (Or rather refused to leave, since she seemed to have her own budge-filled dance parties on a nightly basis inside the warm comforts of Mommy.)

After the 6th came and went, Courtney’s doctor continued to monitor Julia with stress test equipment and ultrasounds every few days, and both she and her environment seemed to be completely fine. But as more time elapsed after her due date, we decided that inducing her would be wise.

Almost two weeks late with Christmas rapidly approaching, we headed to the hospital just after 6am on December 18th, per the doctor’s instructions. He came in shortly after we got settled in the room, and then at 7:45am used a small plastic hook-stick thing to break Courtney’s water as a means of hopefully triggering the labor process. Our desire was to keep everything as natural as possible (while still ending up with a healthy baby and healthy mommy), so we chose this route rather than just dosing her with Pitocin right off the bat.

It took a few hours, but the broken water did seem to make a difference. Courtney’s contractions increased in frequency and intensity, albeit slowly. Yes, I did say “increased,” because they were there before; she had in fact been experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions for many months. (Or, as I started calling them, Briggs and Stratton contractions, or Braxton Higgs-Boson contractions. The doctor did say they would “become more pronounced” as time went on, so I am still at a loss for why Courtney kept punching me in the arm every time I pronounced them more.)

An hour or so into the process, it occurred to me to set up a silly novelty domain along the lines of some others I’d seen in the past, to easily let friends and family members know the status of Courtney’s labor. $10 on NameCheap and 20 minutes of Rackspace cloud instance wizardry later, I had “hasjuliabeenbornyet.com” and a really simple one-page website with a great big “No.” in huge text in the middle. This evolved a bit over the next 24 hours, and I have now archived the final state of the site here for anyone interested. The domain itself will expire (we don’t plan to have another daughter named Julia), so while it might be up in its original location now, it won’t be later.

To make a long story short, after nearly 24 hours which included a much-needed epidural halfway through, Julia was delivered naturally at 7:10am on December 19th, 2014. She was 6 pounds 11.3 ounces, 19.0 inches long.

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How Courtney managed to expel something that large from her small body, I’ll never know. But I have the utmost respect, admiration, and gratefulness for her perseverance. She never gave up. Her mom was also with us the whole time, having previously trained as a doula, and she offered invaluable emotional and physical support during the whole process. Sonia, we are forever thankful for that.

So what’s the long version of this story? I’ll elaborate on the same set of updates that I originally posted to hasjuliabeenbornyet.com, this time in forward chronological order:

  • 12/18 @ 5:30am – Called labor and delivery to confirm availability to induce. The doctor had us do this to make sure the maternity ward was not unexpectedly overrun with women in labor. As it turned out, we got in at just the right time, since it completely filled up not long afterwards.
  • 12/18 @ 5:45am – Breakfast and final gathering of stuff. Courtney had already packed virtually everything in anticipation of this day, so this step only took a couple of minutes.
  • 12/18 @ 6:45am – Arrived at hospital and checked in. Shifts change at 7am, so we only got the first nurse (Olivia) for 15 minutes before the second one (Kathy) swapped in.
  • 12/18 @ 7:25am – IV access finished and monitoring set up. Courtney now has some equipment hanging off of her, but not too much. She’s still mobile.
  • 12/18 @ 7:45am – Water broken. Starting point for dilation is ~3cm. Here we go!
  • 12/18 @ 10:45am – Contractions increasing slightly over past few hours. Not too much to show for it yet.
  • 12/18 @ 11:45am – Contractions continue to increase. Not yet serious, but there is a little more pain. Courtney’s baseline Braxton Hicks contractions make this seem pretty run-of-the-mill.
  • 12/18 @ 1:15pm – Much more effaced now, dilated about 4-5cm. Increasing frequency and intensity of contractions.
  • 12/18 @ 4:00pm – 85% effaced, solid 5cm. Julia is notably lower now.
  • 12/18 @ 5:40pm – 100% effaced, dilated to 7cm. Good progress for an hour and a half!
  • 12/18 @ 7:00pm – Now dilated 8-9cm, looks like she’s almost ready to push.
  • 12/18 @ 8:30pm – Not pushing yet. Julia is somewhere in transition, and Courtney is dealing with ridiculously painful contractions almost constantly. So far, she’s had no pain medication.
  • 12/18 @ 9:50pm – Finally got an epidural. Courtney really needs rest, and there is no other feasible way. The epidural went in without issue and has done wonders for her ability to relax. We are hopeful that this will help move the labor process forward.
  • 12/18 @ 10:40pm – Now completely dilated. Waiting a bit until pushing to make sure everything remains stable despite the epidural.
  • 12/19 @ 1:00am – Ready to start pushing. Her uterus has done its job after Courtney’s stress level dropped.
  • 12/19 @ 1:25am – Apparently, Julia doesn’t like being pushed. Her heart rate drops every time Courtney tries. Laboring down a bit, slowly, to let the muscles and contractions do it on their own little by little.
  • 12/19 @ 3:45am – Pushing once again. Julia is taking it better now, with her heart rate recovering to nominal immediately after each push (momentary drops are normal).
  • 12/19 @ 4:35am – Continued hard pushing. Julia’s heart rate is staying in the healthy zone even through pushing. We can see bits of her head showing now!
  • 12/19 @ 5:05am – More of the same pushing. Nurse says she’s doing great.
  • 12/19 @ 5:30am – Doctor checked in and gave a thumbs-up to her status. She’s still pushing regularly with almost every contraction.
  • 12/19 @ 7:10am – Julia is here!

I’ll admit it. I cried a bit when she finally made it. Dads are allowed to do that, so I’ve heard.

I also cut the umbilical cord, which was somewhat of a spur-of-the-moment decision made when the doctor handed me a pair of scissors and said “Here you go, Dad. Cut between here and here.” And there was Julia, all alive and breathing and crying and covered in everything babies are usually covered in when they are born.

And she is beautiful.