Monday, February 22, 2010

All Fours

[Apologies to anyone who was emailed this post prematurely. Somehow I managed to hit "publish" rather than "save" again! Arghh!!]

Dylan is four (and a half!) months old now, and I continued to be amazed by how rapidly he's developing. It seems like almost every day we notice some new "trick," or different way he is absorbing the world around him.

We took him for his well-baby visit and the doctor again told us that Dylan is doing great. We learned that our son now weighs 11 pounds and 13 ounces, and he's 23 inches long (or 1'11", as his dad likes to say). He's still small, even when adjusted for his early birth. But he's on track, following a typical growth curve, and there is no cause for concern. The doctor did encourage us to try to get him to drink more; he's only consuming an average of 21 - 23 ounces of formula a day, and we'd like it to be closer to 26 ounces. We described how he devours the first couple of ounces of his bottles voraciously, but then it can take a full hour to get him to drink more, and asked how long we should keep at it. The doc said that Dylan's size and calorie consumption don't suggest that we should devote extended periods to feeding him. In essence, he indicated that the kid looks good - chubby cheeks and all, and is developing normally, so we don't need to do anything other than we are.

(I really like our pediatrician. He is very attentive and receptive to all of our questions, and seems to evaluate his young patient with a reasoned, and reasonable, approach.)

At the end of his appointment, Dylan got three shots of vaccines, as well as one delivered orally. He took it pretty well then (brave lil guy), and quieted down really quickly with the bottle I stuffed in his mouth. We gave him baby Tylenol, and he quickly fell asleep. The first time he got his shots a couple of months ago, it didn't seem to effect him much; perhaps he was just a bit fussier the next day. But this he obviously suffered with all of those mini-diseases coursing around in his little body. He didn't sleep very well, his appetite was off, and he was quicker to cry then usual. Fortunately, more Tylenol and some snuggling soothed him pretty easily. It was hard, though, to see our little guy so uncomfortable. As M. said, "He's dealing with diphtheria right now!"

Fortunately, Dylan is typically a very happy-go-lucky guy, something we speculate he's inherited from his birth mother. He is so smiley, and he's developing a nice little laugh. He's sleeping well. It's funny: I know that "sleep training" is a point of pride with a lot of parents, and one of the most common questions we get is if he's sleeping through the night. I've started asking the inquirers how they define that term, and usually they indicate a six or so hour stretch of time. (In fact, sleep experts do define sleeping through the night as six hours.) In that case, our boy has usually been sleeping through the night...just not the same night we are.

We usually put him down when he starts fussing, often between 8 - 9 p.m. We change him into his jammies and a disposable diaper, give him a bottle, sing a few songs, and swaddle him up. (He's still letting us wrap him tightly at night.) We stick his binky in his mouth and turn on the Sleep Sheep. We give him some kisses, stroke his soft head, and leave the room. Almost always, when we check on him a few minutes later, he's already asleep and he'll stay that way until 2 - 3 a.m. when we can hear him grunting and groaning. (Rarely does he get to the point of wailing at night.) Then we feed him - and usually we can do that quickly and quietly - and get him back to his co-sleeper, where he most often will continue to slumber until 6 - 7 a.m. At that point, we frequently bring him into bed with us, hoping for a few more zees of our own, though since he's enjoying his new freedom out from the swaddle, his active stretching and squawking usually make that impossible. He is so bright-eyed and full of grins in the morning. If we can't keep him quiet enough to sleep a bit more ourselves, we usually spend some time snuggling and marveling together at our boy who just seems so excited to start another day.

At this point, our "system" is that whichever parent is working the next day is "off," and the other parent needs to tend to the boy throughout the night. This means that in theory, at least twice a week, each of us should get a full night's rest. Unfortunately, it doesn't usually work out that way. I'm a light sleeper, and its hard for me not to wake, even when I know that M. is up and tending well to him. (M. on the other hand, can stick in the earplugs and slumber soundly when I am "on.") And while I can usually fall back to sleep quickly after getting up with the kid, M.'s found it a challenge and has had several really tough nights when he hasn't been able to catch a wink between his late night and early morning feedings.

We've been doing a little experimenting with Dylan's sleeping too, feeding him really late, just as we go to bed ourselves. Then D. will sleep soundly until about 4 a.m., and may or may not go back to sleep until later in the morning. But we haven't found the perfect pattern yet.

Though I can't brag the way some parents of four month olds do that our son is "sleeping through the night," I'm feeling okay about his - and our - sleep right now. One of my greatest fears about becoming a new parent was the delirium of sleep deprivation. Sure, we could use some more, but it's not as bad as I dreaded. We go to bed early, catch up on weekends, and occasionally nap when he does. And last night, he slept from 8:30 p.m. until 4:30 a.m., and then again until 7:00 a.m. So we are headed in the right direction1

In fact, we are developing a "routine," and life is becoming easier to manage in general. Dylan's usually a pretty good napper, often sleeping for two-hour plus stretches, either in the morning and/or afternoon. Of course, this is the time we scurry around to shower, pick up the house, make and eat a meal, and maybe, just maybe find time to check email or blog and such.

Between meals and sleeping, we run errands, go for walks, read a book or two, dance a bit, hang out on the front porch if the weather permits, and generally have a good time together. Dylan is becoming more interested in toys. His grasping is more directed and he is able to bring his hands together. More often than not, he can get a hold of his object of interest and bring it to his mouth. He is increasingly able to get his thumb and/or fingers into his gob to suck vigorously. He tries to hold his own bottle and pulls on his binky. His playmat has become increasingly popular, and he can spend lots of time just hanging out, banging into the chimes that sound gamelan music.

Adorably, he's started to take interest in the baby in the mirror. I still don't think he'd figured out that his feet are his own extremities or how to control them. Today he was surprised and delighted when he happened to grab them.

And then there is all the "talking" he's doing. There are cute little babbles and sharp screeches, and constant chattering about his imaginary friend Hagu. In other oral developments, though there are no signs of teeth, there is lots of bubbling with saliva going on, and plenty of drool drips. The doctor indicates this is his salivary glands prepping for more solid foods, though he's advised us to wait until Dylan is at least six months, since he's getting all of the nutrition he needs now from his formula.

Most exciting to us is his gross motor development. The little guy can sit up - often with a gleeful, self-satisfied grin - with just a couple of our fingers holding his back. And he easily goes up to standing with just a firm grip on our pinkie fingers.We've now introduced the Bumbo seat, which he enjoys for about ten minutes a couple times a day before he starts arching and stretching and complaining to be picked up.

Remember all of that gorgeous, dark hair Dylan was born with, and how it's grown into several very sweet swirls? We joked that he needed a haircut! Well, a few weeks ago we started to notice that he was leaving soft strands of hair wherever his little head lay. Sure enough, our boy is balding! In fact, he's now got very thin hair with lots of pink scalp showing through and just a curly tuft on the top of his head (good for a comb-over), and another on one side. (We've been known to affectionately call him Bozo.)

There's lots more I could share, but this is already too long. I'll wrap up just by saying that as Dylan's wonder at the world grows, my wonder in him grows. He is just a fabulous kid, and I am so proud to call him my own.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Heart Felt

Happy Valentine's Day!!


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Show and Tell


During the six months between when Dylan's birth parent's rights were terminated and when we can apply to the state for his adoption, we must be monitored by our agency. This means we must attend a support group meeting or trek to the office each month. In January, to cover this obligation, we were invited to speak at the conclusion of a weekend intensive, which is essentially an orientation with people who have just "signed on the dotted line" and launched the process to become adoptive parents.

Almost exactly two years ago, M. and I sat in the same room and listened first to a birth mom talk about her experience placing her child and maintaining a relationship with him and his adoptive family, and then to a new adoptive mom, who brought along her adorable tiny baby. The stories they related really helped us understand how this whole open adoption thing could work; they had a powerful impact on us. So, eager to "pay it forward," M. and I agreed to tote Dylan across the city and talk about our own experiences bringing him into our lives.

It was kind of strange. In a way, meeting with these new hopefuls brought me back to a very painful time: the period in my life when I wasn't sure I had much more to give to our family building efforts. And a time when embarking on the path to parenthood via adoption brought both new optimism and increased risk. As I looked out on this group of people, I wanted to tell them that I knew they'd probably already been down a rough road, and that while there is a light at the end of the tunnel, unfortunately, they should strap themselves in for some more bumps on a wild roller coaster ride (to mix some crazy metaphors).

Asked to share "our story," we spoke honestly and from the heart, though I think how we ultimately matched with V. and brought Dylan home is more interessting than how we actually related it all. We need to hone our story-telling skills!

The questions from the group were good. One person asked what we know now that we wish we'd known when we were in their seats. At first we responded with some technical tips about the arduous process to get "in the books." Then upon further reflection, I said two things.

First, I had kind of expected that when we final "got" our baby, there would be this magical moment when he was placed in my arms and he felt like ours. That single, special moment never came. Instead, because of our attachment to his birth mom and our desire for the match to continue to progress smoothly, for us the moments immediately following his birth were just as much about her and how she was doing as they were about him. And oddly enough, I am glad for that. We will have a liftime of magical moments with our son. But V. was our focus at a time when she really needed us.

After our talk, one of the participants thanked us and said that she now realizes she and her partner need to progress with more thought about what they can offer a birth mother than what she can offer them. So, that reframing is a good thing, I think.

Second, for a long time I've recognized that I attempt to manage my stress by fighting to control things around me. Part of that is struggling to anticipate things I can't possibly predicct. During our long wait, I spent ungodly amounts of psychic energy trying to guess how things might unfold so that I might have a chance to better prepare for them emotionally and otherwise. However, at some unidentifable point shortly before Dylan's birth, things became so unpredicatable, I just had to stop fighting and go with the flow. Looking back now, that made it so much more enjoyable. While I don't think its in my nature, I wish I hadn't tried so hard to figure everything out much sooner. I told the group that I wish I'd known there was NO way I'd guess how my baby would come to me and trusted more that however it happened - as long as it happened - I'd be okay.

Of course, throughout the whole session, Dylan was adorable. I think I caught in a few people's eyes that same baby lust that the little guy in the session we attended 24 months before had tiggered in me. I must admit, it was so gratifying to show off my son.

..and Tell

Like most new parents, when we are out and about with our little guy, he attracts lots of attention. People want to know what his name is, or especially how old his is. They often comment on how much hair he has and his gorgeous dark eyes.

And when people make these comments, there's always a little something in me that wonders if I should share that he is adopted. If I know the people, or the conversation becomes more involved, I will usually say something. More and more, though, I just say thank you...without adding, "he's adopted, so we have nothing to do with how cute he is."

Recently I noticed that I feel less driven to share that he was adopted when I am out alone with Dylan. When M. and I are together and Dylan attracts attention, I feel more compelled to reveal the special way he joined our family. What's weird is that I think this relates to some kind of latent fear of the questions that might come up when people can see that this little boy obviously came from some other gene pool than his parents'. I want to pre-empt any odd assumptions or awkwardness.

I hope this is something I get over soon. I'm surprise by how challenging I am finding it to navigate the issue of when to try to "pass." I know that when to share what with who about a child's adoption is a hot top with ambigous answers. Ultimately, I want Dylan to make the decisions about disclosing that information. But until then, I need to work on my own feelings and language related to "telling."