Sunday, January 31, 2010

A World of Hurt

When Dylan was just a few weeks old, M. and I took him for a little walk around our neighborhood on a sunny autumn afternoon. As we strolled up the sidewalk, a wizened old woman hobbled down her front steps to take a peek at our bundle of joy. She exclaimed, "What a blessing!" She asked how old his was, and we responded cheerfully, proud to show off our son. Then she said, "He is beautiful. He is so free of sin." We trundled off, uttering our thanks.

At the time, I didn't appreciate her words. They felt, I don't know, so...sanctimonious or something. It made me uncomfortable that this stranger was judging my son in such a way.

But since then, there have been many times when I've looked at our sweet little guy and reflected back on her comment. Especially like now, when he's asleep. His soft round head is turned to one side, and his long, dark lashes rim his closed, fluttering eyes. Occasionally, his pudgy cheek moves a bit, in concert with his full lips in their precious infant overbite. He's swaddled, so his body is one small bundle. He looks so vulnerable, and so innocent.

Once when I caught my husband looking over him while Dylan sucked sleepily on his pacifier, M. struggled a bit to find words. Then he said, with moist eyes, "He's so earnest."

Yes, that's a good word. Everything that our son does now, he does with pure intent.

I told M. then what I am trying to express now: that observing the baby like this makes me melancholy. "He's so naive," I said.

As much hope and optimism as I feel for this young human, I am also already desperately sad for all the hurt I know life can - and will - bring to him. There is so much I can't - and shouldn't - protect him from. I continued, "He has no idea that there is a whole wide world out there." And for now, that's the way I want it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Essentials

As new parents, M and I have learned quickly that when it comes to getting your kid to sleep - as in other emergencies - preparation is key. Here, in no particular order, are the items we've found to be essential in getting our little guy to nap well...and to maintain our sanity.

  1. A flashlight - actually, this item is used at night rather than at naptime, as a courtesy to the partner still attempting to sleep during the one or two feedings that take place after 10 p.m. and before 7 a.m. What's essential is keeping it from shining on Dylan's face, waking him unnecessarily. This one was once part of a goofy headlamp, but now its nice to have a small, powerful light source easily accessible

  2. Spit up cloth - typically placed wherever his head is, these old, fancied-up-with-ribbon-by-my-cool-counsin-cloth diapers are a lot easier to swap out when spit up upon than the sheet of his co-sleeper.

  3. Sleep Sheep - I must confess: when my sis-in-law gave Dylan this white noise machine disguised as an adorable, plush lamb, I thought it was a bit extravagent. Could such a thing really make a difference? Indeed, it does! This clever device offers options: babbling brook, crashing waves, singing whales, or rapid rainfall. Dylan's preference, it turns out, is the deluge. We speculate this is because it sounds most similar to another essential item: the hairdryer. Early in his life, while I was attempting to dry my hair and get out of the house as the baby screamed, we discovered that the Conair 1875 has some kind of magical soothing power. He goes from red faced and inconsolable to serene in seconds whenever it's flipped on. (We recognize this is not a sustainable use of wattage...but sometimes a parent's gotta do what a parent's gotta do, you know?) So, the Sleep Sheep has been a welcome addition to our arsenal. I fear Dylan's addiction, however.

  4. Binky - paci, pacifer, soothie, whatever you wanna call it, one of these was in our kid's mouth within minutes of birth. And it really does seem to help calm him down. We've pledged to remove them from his life when he's about six months old and should be able to get his own fingers in his mouth to suck or otherwise self-soothe. Wish us luck!

  5. Binky Numero Dos - see #4. This one is in case the first one fails for some reason (e.g., is projected out of the co-sleeper by a vigorous tongue-thrust).

  6. Blanket - handmade by a friend of my mother's, this soft, cozy cover has been a constant in Dylan's life since very early on. We love that it provides some warmth, and yet is loosely-knit enough to limit the ever-present fear of suffocation.

  7. Swaddle blankets - these are truly the essential speel items. We've become big believers in the "fourth trimester" posited by Karp and his "Happiest Baby on the Block." Essentially, his position is that for the first several months of a child's life, we should mimic the womb as much as possible. Tightly wrapping a baby restricts movements like they were before birth, preventing "spasms" that startle and frustrate until the kid is mature enough to have some limb contol. We're not sure about all of that - though it does seem to make some sense. But we do know that swaddling Dylan has helped him - and US - sleep much better.

If you have a child and have been surprised by what helped her or him get needed rest, please share your own "essentials." Truth be told, ours are useful but not always successful, so any suggestions would be much appreciated!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

You've Come a Long Way, Baby!

Dylan, a few days old and in the NICU

Dylan, three months old and (almost) all smiles

Our boy is three months old now, and it seems to me he's recently matured from a "new born" to a "baby."

Some things we've noticed and want to remember from this time in his life:
  • He is smiling reactively now. (See above.) He is especially full of grins in the morning, which I suspect must be a Darwinian survival trait, since I am definitely NOT a morning person.

  • He is more interactive in general. He looks around and watches things closely, and it just looks like he's trying to make sense of it all. (Good luck, Dylan!)

  • He must have an imaginary friend from India. He talks about "Hagu" all the time.

  • We'd been a little concerned about how much - rather how little - he'd been eating. But this week, he's started consuming a lot more. And he's not usually "writhing" - which we attributed to acid reflux - as he typically did after each feeding, which makes them a lot easier...and quicker!

  • My hair is now dangerous territory. Though he is not grasping deliberately yet, his fat little hands flex and close all the time. And he is delighted and surprised whenever they clutch something he's interested in.

  • He outgrew his Moses basket several weeks ago and is now sleeping in a "co-sleeper" at the foot of our bed. We are delighted to report that he's starting to sleep for longer stretches - closer to four hours than three at a time.

  • One of the things that makes it seem as though his new born days are already over is how well he's holding up his big noggin. He keeps his head up really well, unless he's really tired or hungry, when it starts to tip off balance and then dip. Also, his little legs are getting really strong. His birth mom, based on her in utero experience with him, warned us that he'd be a kicker, and that seems to be proving true.

  • Like many little ones, motion lulls our baby. If you walk him in the stroller, or even the Ergo, he will reliably fall asleep. This is especially true in the car. Yesterday, we had a short outing that concluded on the outer limits of his mealtime, so he was cranky. But he quieted down whenever we were in motion...and then complained loudly whenever we had to stop.

  • We are working to set up a routine that includes fairly regular nap times and a bedtime ritual.

  • I'm in my second week back to work now, and it seems to be going pretty well. Of course, it's meant new "patterns of parental attention," which requires some adjusting for us all.

  • Often, when I'm snuggling him close, perhaps after a feeding, he nuzzles his soft head in even closer, tucking in under my chin. Inevitably, this sweet, primal gesture causes a lump to swell in my throat.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Holiday Wrappings

...errr....make that wrap up.

On this twelfth day of Christmas (lemme check. Yep, it's still January 6th here), my true love gave to me....many special moments with our baby. (Thanks, M!)

Here he is, prepping for the onslaught of merriment.

Dylan and his daddy, topping the tree.

Our warm little house all aglow.
(Can you tell we live in California, enjoying the porch in December?)

The halls are decked, the stockings are hung,
and we are ready to PARRTAY.

"Look deep into my eyes."
Dylan with his Granddaddy

My dad came down from Northern California to wish his grandson a happy first Christmas before heading back east to be with my younger brother and his family. We missed them all! But I was glad they could be together.

Grandpa Jack reading - rather dramatically - a favorite from
M and his sisters' childhoods, "The Christmas Mouse,"
(I have a feeling a new tradition has been born.)

M's family came over on Christmas morning for a great potluck brunch. We exchanged "Simple Santa Stocking Stuffers" - everyone gave each other the same gift of a nominal value, which made shopping so much easier and more affordable. And the gifts were great! For example, we all got movie theater tickets from M's sister, practical flashlights from his dad, and framed photos of Dylan from M (my personal favorite).

Dylan - in one of three adorable Christmas outfits he received -
with his silly Grandmommy
On the 26th we headed "over the river and through the woods" (actually down the freeway and toward the beach) to my mom's place. There we shared festivities with my older brother and his family, in the area from Arizona. After hours of opening wonderful gifts, we enjoyed a yummy dinner of mac'n'cheese and chocolate cake and took a quick stroll through the canals, with the fancy houses and docks alight and sparkling in the water.

Dylan with his great aunt and my counsin

With my dad back in town, on the 27th we went to his sister's place for our traditional Scandinavian celebration, complete with herring and meatballs (neither of which I eat, but I do enjoy the rice pudding!). Her house is always so cozy, and it was great to catch up with my counsins.

We had such a nice holiday season. We got to spend time with so many loved ones. (Is it my imagination, or did some of them want to spend more time with us this year? I wonder why. We ate and drank well and too much. We - especially Dylan - got so many thoughtful, creative, generous gifts, and we enjoyed the grateful reactions to those we gave too. This year more than most, we found ourselves singing; it's not something we do on a regular basis, and I loved it. For some reason, all of the carols about adoring a special baby especially resonated. It was certainly a Christmas season to remember.

I think my favorite memory will be of one of the simplest moments of the season: getting cozy with M and some hot cocoa on Christmas night, on the floor in front of our beautiful tree, with our jolly boy between us.

Here he is with the gorgeous stocking his Auntie L. hand stitched for him.

Happy New Year!
Best wishes for health, happiness, and
dreams come true in 2010!