Father’s Night

It is 1:52am. I just spent the last 25 minutes being awoken by a crying baby, making a bottle for her, changing her diaper, feeding her, rocking her, cuddling her, and finally putting her back to sleep in her crib.

You know what? I couldn’t be happier this Father’s Day, not even at 1:52am, because I get to be among those celebrated today, because my beautiful daughter Julia is here.

I am a father. Interrupted sleep from time to time is nothing compared to that.

On Silly Baby Nicknames

Without any specific intent to do so, I’ve begun using a variety of nicknames for Julia. None of them are the kind of permanent nickname that sticks for years, but I use all of them often enough that they aren’t just one-off silliness. Maybe eight-off or nine-off silliness.

Different people have all different kinds of nicknames for their kids, formed in creative ways from funny circumstances, or sometimes with deep personal meaning. I, on the other hand, have become more of a nickname literalist. Now, these names are not without any sentiment or emotion, but they tend to be imminently practical and speak to something about the situation at hand. A few are timeless things that are true all the time, which I feel compelled to mention via nickname, but most are not.

All of these nicknames follow a basic pattern of adjective-noun, where the adjective describes something Julia is or exhibits, and the noun is invariably one of head, face, pants, or butt. For some reason, these four words just lend themselves to nickname suffixes. You can sometimes cheat on the true “adjective” requirement if you pick a phonetically similar word that gets the point across. It is just a nickname, after all. No need to be too strict.

All you have to do is pick whatever descriptive word applies at the moment, choose a suffix to go with it (though some work better than others depending on the descriptive work), and BAM! Instant nickname. Good candidates for babies include cutie, stinky, fussy, cranky, silly, barfy, fancy, poopy, chompy, smiley, happy, sleepy, giggly…the list goes on.

While some of these pairings are odd at best, some of them are downright hilarious. At least, they are to me, when saying them it a silly voice at Julia’s adorable face–even when the contextually appropriate nickname is cranky-pants. Heck, especially when it’s cranky-pants.

I’ve taken the liberty of putting all of the possible pairings in a table below, because that’s how I roll. Also, as an exercise, I’d like to see if there are any awesome ones I’m missing out on.

head face pants butt
barfy barfy-head barfy-face barfy-pants barfy-butt
chompy chompy-head chompy-face chompy-pants chompy-butt
cranky cranky-head cranky-face cranky-pants cranky-butt
cutie cutie-head cutie-face cutie-pants cutie-butt
fancy fancy-head fancy-face fancy-pants fancy-butt
fussy fussy-head fussy-face fussy-pants fussy-butt
giggly giggly-head giggly-face giggly-pants giggly-butt
happy happy-head happy-face happy-pants happy-butt
poopy poopy-head poopy-face poopy-pants poopy-butt
silly silly-head silly-face silly-pants silly-butt
sleepy sleepy-head sleepy-face sleepy-pants sleepy-butt
smiley smiley-head smiley-face smiley-pants smiley-butt
stinky stinky-head stinky-face stinky-pants stinky-butt

I’ve bolded the ones that I tend to use on any kind of a regular basis. I’m sure you’ll agree that some of the combinations above just don’t work for one reason or another. Statistically, it looks like I get the most mileage out of face and pants. This doesn’t surprise me. They’re hilarious.

I mean…barfy-pants? How can you not laugh?

Orange County Debut

Today is our 10th day in California, and also the day of our flight home. Julia has managed to invoke a serious case of cuteness overload in most of the family members that she’s met over the last week and a half, as well as a dozen or more strangers at grocery stores, airports, and the zoo. It’s been a great trip, and for her first pseudo-vacation involving air travel, I am pleased with how everything transpired. I mean, I figured things would go well outside of the time spent traveling, but she managed to make even the travel part easy on us.

We still have half of the second flight home to make it through, but so far, Julia’s behavior has won her still more new friends. We discovered that she just really likes seeing people smiling back at her, and so we used that to our advantage. While Courtney and I remained strapped in our seats, I gave Julia the lift-and-lower elevator treatment for as long as my sad-looking thin programmer arms could hold out. Every time her view got above the back of my head rest, her eyes would lock onto some presumably staring passenger (because really, how distracting would a bouncing baby a row or two in front of you be?) and then develop a big grin on her face. She’s been essentially happy almost the entire time.

One interesting observation that has nothing at all to do with Julia except that she was the means by which I encountered it: when you’re descending in an airplane, everything is noticeably lighter to carry. In retrospect, this is obvious, since astronaut weightlessness is simulated by the extreme version of exactly the same thing (free fall in an airplane). Due to the typical speed of altitude change, you can’t feel the weight difference much if you only have light things to hold onto. But when you’re hefting a 15-pound baby up every few seconds, it becomes a whole lot more apparent. Furthermore, when the pilot stops descending for a moment, that seemingly 10-pound baby suddenly weighs 20 pounds as your arms slow down her descent. It’s wild.

I’ve also been introduced to the wondrous adventure that is the baby changing station in a four-across commuter jet’s rear bathroom. It’s a challenge under any circumstances, but especially so when the baby is inconsolably crying and has a diaper with…well, plenty more than just pee in it. But Julia and I managed to come out alive and without leaving a terrible mess for the next passenger, so as long as she avoids any further episodes until we land, we’ll be in good shape!

This trip has been great, but I’m definitely excited to get back home and return to a predictable routine. Only an hour or so to go!

Julia in the Clouds

Julia does well with white noise. This is very fortunate for us, since today we took her on her very first flight–two of them, in fact, to get from our home to my parents’ home in California. Jet engines happen to make exceptional white noise machines, at least after takeoff. Julia was fussy for a bit until right after we left the ground, and then she was out like a light. (A light that was just turned off. Certainly not like one that is still on.)

She just passed her four-month milestone, which means I have a lot of catching up to do here. It’s funny, in that not-funny-but-more-curious way, that I have no shortage of pictures, but I do have a shortage of words to talk about them. Maybe I should have made this a photoblog. Actually, it’s not quite fair to say that I have a shortage of words, because I don’t have trouble writing when I sit down and write. What I actually have is a shortage of time set aside to write, which I guess is typical for new dads.

Since January, Julia has pudged up a bit, learned to smile when she’s happy, and learned to laugh in an adorable baby fashion. She’s developed an appreciation for books (or at least for being read to), as well as for music of various kinds. She especially enjoys her Baby Einstein animal book, which can usually stop an episode of crying with remarkable speed.

Her last two “well” visits to the pediatrician have gone perfectly, and she is right on track for physical growth and mental development. She’s about 25 inches long and about 13 pounds, not too far from the 50th percentile for this age. She hasn’t started solid foods yet, but that should begin in the next month or so.

She doesn’t sit or roll over yet (or play fetch, though she is very good about not barking at strangers). We’ve watched her very nearly roll over a few times, but she hasn’t quite got the technique yet. The one time she actually did was definitely an accident. I’m not sure whether to be eager or fearful about that next milestone, since even just that much mobility means if we look away for even a second, she might not be in the same spot when our attention returns. I suppose I’m both excited and worried about how that stage of development will go.

I also suppose I’ll probably maintain those feelings about Julia until I’m dead. It comes with the territory.

Our biggest challenge for now concerns sleep, which is something that Julia still resists except under certain unsustainable circumstances (all-night open bar with Mommy). We’ve recently instituted a “crib-only” policy, where we do go in from time to time in the middle of the night for comfort or feeding if necessary, but she always goes back in the crib to sleep. Courtney especially has read and watched and listened to all manner of opinions on managing your baby’s sleep, and this approach (as the current goal anyway) seems to make the most sense to both of us. Things appear to be going quite well, all things considered.

Of course, now we’re heading off to California for 10 days, where we won’t be able to keep up all of the same bedtime routines, and she’ll have to adjust three hours (twice!), and we don’t have quite the same flexibility to let her cry when needed. Way to go, Mom and Dad! But it is what it is. We’ll do our best to maintain as much of that routine as we can while traveling, and then return to it completely when we get home.

For now, I need to pack this tablet up so we can get off the last flight of the day and say hello to Grammy and Grandpa! California, here we come!

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.

IMG_5321

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.