Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mom Level 10 and Yay for Husbands

For so many weeks, it's felt like living from hour to hour. Feed, pump, diaper change, nap, repeat. Sometimes I get up in the morning and it's all I can do to keep up with the needs of this little baby, and by the time I look up it's 3:00 p.m., and I haven't even brushed my teeth, much less eaten or taken a shower. On those days, I can feel a little desperate by the time Greg gets home (which is often after 7:00, since he has so many obligations with different organizations).

But the last few days, I feel like I've leveled up. If being a mom was an RPG, I'd have gotten some strength points, and maybe a few magic points, too. On Thursday, I surprised myself by being with it enough to go visit Guy's Gramps at work, walk about 2 miles (round trip) to drop off some film at a local camera shop, did all of Greg's laundry, did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen, make the bed, and still have time to enjoy some of my book and a few episodes of Glee. Friday was similar, but I also got in my first run since Guy was born, because Cheri came over to let me get out of the house for a few.

I know not all days can be like that, but after several weeks of barely keeping my head above water and worrying constantly about my ability to provide enough sustenance for my child, it's nice to put one in the W column now and then.

Another thing I've learned firsthand lately is the dichotomy of wanting to hand the baby over to Greg and simultaneously feeling guilty handing the baby over. By the time 5:30 rolls around and Greg walks in the door, I'm so ready for a break. I love Guy, but there is something about being so relied upon all day long that just makes you want to go into another room and stare at a wall for a while, uninterrupted. At the same time, I know Greg has probably had a long day at work, and probably wants nothing more than to sit down on the couch and veg for a few moments. It's a difficult balance, knowing where the line is. On the one hand, I don't want to be so accommodating that I get baby burn out from trying to be the ultimate caregiver (and also cause Greg to feel like I don't trust him with the baby). On the other hand, I don't want to be the woman who forces her weary husband to overwork himself. I'm still working on finding the right give and take.

Speaking of husbands, though, I'm very lucky. Greg not only is willing to help, he seems to have a great knack of knowing when I've hit my limit. At night especially, I can get pretty overwhelmed, and Greg recognizes it immediately and takes over. He offers to take a crying baby or hold him when he's wide awake and refuses to go back to sleep. I've had friends who have really been one-man shows when it comes to caring for children, so I'm acutely aware of how incredibly lucky I am to have a modern man who can not only build me a deck but also entertain a 7-week old.

I think I'll go ahead and put that in the W column as well.


Clean Laundry

Fresh through the wash!

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Jennifer has posted about ten times since my last post so it's about time for another one. Fatherhood is a little bit different than I expected. Every parent has his or her observations, adventures, and advice on their experiences with parenthood, but I've found mine to be a little different from the mean. I've been surprised at how natural everything feels. There are a myriad different challenges and stresses so far with raising our little one, but he's our little one. I have a sense of peace, even at the stressful baby-barely-breathing-midnight-cry/scream. It's nice to be able to synthesize everyone's advice, value judgements, and neuroses and then throw them out the window.

My wife has been an amazing mother so far. I feel like I'm a slacker compared to her. She has a little less than one month left of her maternity leave. It's going to be hard to have our little one go to day care and not spend every day at home with mommy. There is a clear distinction between my experience with the baby, and my wife's. There have been times where there has been a suspicion of jealousy in my mind regarding the roles. As a man with my career I'm not able to take 3 months of time off to spend with my baby, while Jennifer with her amazing work environment, has been allowed to take a significant chunk of time off to start raising our child. As a man I can't lactate without taking an absurd cocktail of hormones and frequent nipple stimulation (disclaimer: I have no idea if this is true) so I don't have that deep bond that develops through nursing.

Mothers are the nurturers, and men are the bread winners. This is the role that biology and society has given us. Of course with my college and prep school upbringing, I've been taught that this is a very old fashioned point of view. To a certain degree it is, but there is a definite truth to it. The biggest place where this notion falls apart is that Jennifer is listed as the head of household on our W-9, and we both contribute to our financial well-being. So much for being a manly bread winner. However, I've been amazed out how much more naturally Jennifer has fallen into the role of nurturer than I have. I occasionally get gentle nudges from my family that I need to cuddle Guy more when I hold him, talk to him while I'm feeding him, or as the hippy hospital people told me–have skin to skin time.

Despite those nudges, I feel like I have a comfortable understanding between son and father. I enjoy our time together. He's starting to become more and more responsive to his environment. Last night after I spent some time putting some fall plantings into the garden beds, I played with Guy outside outside on the lawn. Guy's little legs are starting to really work, and he's developing some real head control. I had him "walking" with his legs pushing against the ground. I think it was his first time to touch some grass. Tonks actually interacted with him as I made him "kick" her and fly through the air. She got really excited and pushed on him with her snout.

I really enjoy having Guy as my little play toy. Jennifer gets "mad" at me because I'm always turning Guy into some kind of deadly weapon–a machine gun, unmanned drone fighter, nuclear warhead, or poop dive-bomber. I made him "play the piano" at the table at Brownie's the other day. He seems to enjoy these little interactions even if he has no idea what is going on. I love having him just sit in my lap and look out at all of the stimuli of the world. He's slowly learning how to process what is going on in the world around him, and I find that extremely exciting.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Smiles All Around

Today marks the smiliest day yet from Guy. This morning, just after his first breakfast, he was all about smiling at everything - me, Crack, the ceiling, the window, and (his personal favorite) the ceiling fan. I got a few coos and some great arm flailing out of the deal, too. But usually after the morning smiles, he's pretty much done for the day.

Well, this afternoon, I got another round of smiles. There's nothing in particular that I can do to make him smile, but sometimes rubbing his belly or touching his cheeks helps it along. I've gotten one, big gummy smile that was genuinely for me - eyes locked on mine and everything. What they say is right, that smile was just about the greatest thrill I've ever known. I might have scared Guy with my utter joy.

We're quickly closing in on two months, so I'll save the bigger discussion of his awesomeness for that post, but I do owe you an update on Greg and my first date together since Guy was born. It was a couple of weeks ago, and Greg's parents basically forced us out at gunpoint. We decided to go to Tucci's -- our favorite Brookside restaurant, for dinner. I had my very first glass of wine since Guy was born and enjoyed a huge plate of spaghetti AND dessert with decaf coffee. Then, we went to Akins to pick up a couple of things recommended by the lactation specialist.

I felt pretty good being out and about. But the strange part came when we were driving from Tucci's to Akins. We passed right by our street, and I felt as if I were tethered to our house. I was constantly aware, for the entire time we were gone, where Guy was - ahead of me, behind me, to my left, to my right. It's like he's become my true north. Wherever he is, my compass is pointing to him. I told my mom about that, and she assured me that no matter how big he gets, that will always be the case. Which would be why she periodically checks on me and my brother via the iPhone app Find My Friends. She just has to make sure her compass is still pointing to the right spot.

Anyway, our date was about two hours long. We talked about the conflict in Syria, web programming, and plenty of other things. It was nice to talk to him about things other than the myriad of bodily functions performed by our tiny child. Not that talk about spit up isn't just riveting, donchaknow.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Baby Gourmand

Guy has learned a new trick - I like to call it "Scream at the Bottle Until Mommy Wants to Cry."

Over the last two days, Guy has developed some sort of hatred for bottles. Which would be great if I had enough milk to breastfeed him exclusively. But I don't, so I have to use some bottles. I can use the supplemental nursing system for part of the feedings, but I still usually have to follow it up with a bottle, and he is just not having it anymore. I'm not sure if it's his reflux or if he's just decided that he hates the formula. But he does it some even if it's breast milk in the bottle, too.

So, I'm kind of at a loss. The logical part of my brain thinks, "Keep trying and don't sweat it. He will eat when he's hungry enough. He won't let himself starve." But then the illogical, emotional mommy part of my brain thinks, "Oh, God! He is going to starve himself rather than accept a plastic nipple in place of my awesome milk bags!"

I think we will probably try soy formula to see if maybe he's just developed a delicate palate that simply will not accept the formula. Not that I blame him. I once made the mistake of licking some I dripped on my arm, and I nearly gagged. Nasty, nasty stuff.

At least he's napping better lately! (So says logical mommy. While illogical, emotional mommy says, "He's sleeping because he's so worn out from being starved to death!)

This motherhood stuff is magical.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Just Hanging Around

Well, yesterday Guy was seven weeks old. Just a few more days, and he'll be two months old. I figured it was high time for an update and some photos. 

Things are going...better. I'm still feeding, pumping and supplementing with formula. It's tiring, but it's working. Guy has gained weight admirably, and was 9 lbs 5 oz as of Monday. My guess is that next week he'll be 10 pounds. It'll be awesome. He'll graduate to size 1 diapers, and my arms will start getting a workout with every lift of the little dude. 

He's starting to become more aware now, too. He's obsessed with the fan in the living room, and spends a lot of his time staring up at it in wonder. He's frightened of velcro sounds, so I have to be careful when taking off my pumping bra, which is held together with velcro. It is always so frustrating when I manage to get him down for a nap, and then wake him up with that scratchy noise. 

Sleep is also going well-ish. He usually sleeps 3-4 hours when I first put him down at night, and then sleeps 2 hours for two additional stretches. So, I've been averaging about 6-7 hours of sleep a night. Not bad. We had to switch sleeping arrangements, though. Our friends from Ohio visited Tulsa last weekend, and my mom and I stayed in their hotel one night to make things easier for me with my feeding/pumping schedule. I took the Pack and Play, and Guy slept SO good in it that night. So, as soon as I got home, I moved out the sweet bassinet we have and replaced it with the Pack and Play. The bassinet insert just cradles him so well, and he sleeps like... well, you know, like a baby.

Okay, a few photos to keep you entertained...


Papa fed Guy at the hotel, but apparently was falling down on the job, so Guy took over. (Make no mistake. Seconds after this photo was taken, the bottle fell out of his hands.)

 Guy and I have both had thrush, a yeast infection. The old school remedy is Gentian Violet, a fast-working but messy solution. I took this photo after Guy had finished breastfeeding, hence the comatose look. Poor kid. Nothing like having a purple mouth to inspire his mother to ceaselessly make fun of him.

Here's a little comparison for you. Look at the photo above and notice the size of Guy's head and torso in comparison with his elephant. Now, look at the photo below. 

 Six-week old Guy clearly has done some growing!
I just thought this photo was sweet - he still looks so tiny sitting in his daddy's lap! We were watching Star Trek here. Never too early to indoctrinate the children.


And one last photo of Guy with his favorite toy. We've named him Crack because he is like a drug. Wind him up and let him play his lullaby, and Guy invariably quiets and listens intently. It is the best way to keep him quiet when I need to do something quickly like pee, wash my hands or recover my sanity. In this photo, Granny was playing Crack for him in her lap, and he's clearly enjoying it with relish.

 Until next time!


Monday, September 10, 2012

Midnight Runs

The other night we had our first encounter with a middle-of-the-night-blowout.

I wish I was talking about tires.

I was feeding Guy and attempting to help him back to sleep, when he looked up at me with those huge, innocent blue eyes and proceeded to crap out of his diaper and all over me, the pillow in my lap, and himself. This event may have been followed by an evil grin, but I was too busy retching to notice.

Once I regained composure and began thinking about what to do next, I nudged Greg awake. "Greg, wake up. I need your help," I said.

Greg is notoriously foggy when he first wakes up, so I turned on the light to help make the problem more apparent. Greg got out of bed without a word and left the room. My first inclination was to start giving instructions, but instead, I thought I'd wait this one out and see what his plan of action was. A minute later, Greg returned with a paper towel roll with one paper towel left on it. Then he walked out of the room again and returned a few moments later with two wet wipes.

If you could have seen the spread of Guy's handiwork, you would probably have laughed at the idea of cleaning it up with three small squares of paper product. But in Greg's defense, the two-pronged attack would likely have worked for a less prolific pooper. As it was, it was kind of hilarious, though no one was laughing at 2:00 a.m.

Somehow, I managed to get Guy to Greg and wad up my nightgown and the pillow without getting feces all over the bed or sheets. Miraculous.

I just hope this isn't the first of many repeat performances.

- Jennifer

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Birth Story - His View

The wife has bugged, the wife has badgered, I dragged my feet, and now finally here it is! At long last! Before I forget! Before it passes into oft-repeated myths and legends.

The birth story.

This will be my second time to write up this account, as the first time I wrote it misty-eyed, holding Guy in one arm, and laboriously typing with the other. Unfortunately Blogger messed everything up when I went in to continue working on the account and I hit undo. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but for some reason it completely deleted everything that I had typed and instantly saved. Of course it wouldn't let me undo the undo, so all was lost. I spent about two hours trying to recover the post by accessing the raw saved memory in the browser. Alas, I couldn't find it.

On the first of August we had the external version (breached baby flipping procedure) scheduled for the morning. I, of course, had done a bunch of reading on the procedure in the days leading up to it. Jennifer was really hoping for a natural birth, and was working very hard to achieve one. The version sounded like a procedure that would have a high probability to increase the chance of a natural birth without a lot of risk due to the conveniences of modern medicine. They perform the procedure next to the c-section room just in case there is an emergency. The risks I looked up seem to be very low, but the procedure was not always successful. Of course the scary and remote possibility was that something would go wrong and they would have to do an emergency section.

So as dutiful patients, we fully prepared for the worst case scenario. We packed all of our hospital bags, and informed our employers about the possibility. The oft-repeated mantra for the day was that if we fully prepared for it, it would not happen. So of course it did.

We headed up to the labor and delivery area of the hospital giddily imagining what it would like to be there when it was really our turn. Jennifer got all prepped up for the procedure with her poor pregnant (relatively) empty belly as she could not eat or drink that morning. I'd only had a half cup of coffee in our haste to get there at 7:30am.

The doctor finally came in and examined Jennifer. It became very obvious very quickly that the procedure was not going to go forward as planned because Jennifer was too dilated. What took a little bit longer to sink in was the fact that the doctor was beginning to explain all of the risks and benefits of a c-section performed as soon as it could be scheduled that morning.

A few hours later Jennifer was being whisked away for her spinal block and the section. Before that however, we had an hour or two of waiting. Of course Jennifer was hooked up to IV fluids and no catheter, so we made several awkward trips back and forth between the bathroom. I began the onslaught of texts that informed people that we would most definitely not be available anytime soon. Of course when you open those particular text floodgates, they are pretty hard to close. Jennifer insisted that we inform her boss before our parents. I guess she had her priorities!

I ended up running a quick errand of filling up my belly with some horribly stale hospital pastry thing and guzzling down the rest of my coffee from my thermos mug. On my worried and excited journey through the hospital I received a phone call from my dentist reminding me that my appointment was tomorrow. I informed them that I was happy that they called because I was actually going to have to reschedule because I was having a baby. She replied that they required a two business day notice for rescheduling. I was a incredulous at first and laughed because I really didn't care. After chatting for a minute she assured me that this was probably not going to be a problem. I would hope not!

So, back in the room, Jennifer and I were giddy about the fact that we were about to be parents. The doctors, nurses, and peanut gallery finally whisked Jennifer away from me. We started getting nervous. Jennifer most definitely did not want to do the anesthesia. I awkwardly scrubbed up and sat there nervously deciding when to put on my face mask. I sat for a good twenty minutes while they got her ready. This was killer. Everything we had done to prepare had been with me there as support, and I was stuck in a separate room. I still think this part is a bunch of bull-honky. My dad explained the necessity of it from a medical perspective, but I still think it's just some kind of insurance and litigation requirement and a convenience for the doctors.

So I sat there nervously looking around, watching people move pass the tiny window in the operating room. I could only sit and hope that everything was going alright. Finally the doctor came out and told me that she was doing fine, and just nervous. Relieved of one worry, I could concentrate on all of the rest.

Finally they led me in, and my mind started reeling with the overwhelming sensory overload. Jennifer was completely set up for the procedure with a big drape hiding her from what was happening below. Doctors and nurses were everything. The anesthesiologists and their residents/peanut gallery were chatting loudly. They made the large room feel cramped. If I had to guess, there were probably 10-15 people in the room. Of course the sensory overload I was experiencing makes it hard to remember precisely.

I sat down next to Jennifer afraid to bump into anything or anyone, fully scrubbed up in an awkward paint suit, booties, cafeteria hairnet, and face mask. She was seriously scared and nervous. There was an instant where I got really mad that they had her go through all of that without me there to provide support. That passed quickly and I held her hand.

The procedure was quick. The morning was quick. We became parents so quickly after so much waiting. My word count here is growing exponentially long, but that morning went by in an instant. They began. We could here their cheery chatter and see nothing. Jennifer's body was jostled around as they worked. Suddenly we heard a fluid filled cry. Instantly, I was overwhelmed with emotion and tears were threatening in my eyes. My mask was redirecting my warm breath into my glasses and they began to fog up.

"Dad you can stand up to see him." one of the many disembodied voices in the room cried out. I stood up, looking past the clamped barrier hiding the procedure. There was my baby son, gurggling and crying. I sat back down overwhelmed. He had a full head of hair! Or did he? Yes he did! My brain was barely functioning.

As an aside, what an aside at this point? Yes we want to hear the rest but this is an important time to note that my phone began buzzing in my pocket with someone calling me. I ignored it, but when I checked it an hour or so later, it was none other than my dad. We had been upfront about the fact that we wanted some space during the birth and would keep them up to date with what was happening. I got a good chuckle out of it later as that is so typical of him being excited and wanting to insert himself into the event. (Like the fact that he tried to book my restaurant reservations for me for my proposal date with Jennifer.) Ok, back to the good stuff.

The crying got further away as the nurses whisked him off to be cleaned. I squeezed Jennifer's hand as they began finishing up the procedure. I heard the crying off in the other room and looked over to see if I could catch another glimpse of our new son through the window. I saw a bright light and some hands working. My befuzzled mind eagerly tried to comprehend what I was seeing. It looked like they were trying to put a watermelon back together. I realized with a shock that I was a seeing a reflection of the procedure. So much for the protective drape!

Finally they came back with a huge bundle of blanket, and a little tiny head poking out wearing a cap. They unceremoniously plopped him in my arms. I've heard of the fear dads have the first time they pick up their baby that they are going to break it. I had a feeling of that, but mainly from the fact that I didn't know if my arms would be steady enough to hold him because of how overwhelmed I was.

I must admit, I've had a little jealousy over the fact that Jennifer was going to have this big bonding experience with the baby through the natural birth. We took an extremely long course on the natural birth where they constantly emphasized the bonding that the mother and child would have. Of course they completely leave out anything with the dad. So with a level of selfishness I in no way regret, I greedily took our son for his first check up. This was daddy time before the almighty boob (and the wonderful love of my life that is attached to said boob) eclipsed everything.

I pushed him in his little cart up to the nursery, staring into his little amazing face the entire time. I was still completely scrubbed up, carefully trying not to bump the cart into anything. We got up into the nursery, and the nurse got him completely naked to check him out under the warmer. This was daddy time. I got to marvel at my new son, just the two of us. I touched his hair, caressed his arms, and talked to him. I wasn't really sure what to do, but I knew that I was amazed. I'm a little chagrined to admit that I forgot about my poor wife for a minute being sewn up below while I reveled in my new-found parenthood. Of course my daddy-time was soon over, and Guy was wrapped up again for his trip back to his mommy.

Again to hit upon the fact that we wanted a little distance on the birth, unbeknownst to us, all of our parents (sans my dad who was doing grand rounds in the hospital) were waiting in the waiting room. Their timing was fortuitous to me, but bad for them as they just missed me in the nursery. My daddy time was uninterrupted.

Back in the recovery room, Jennifer was doing well. The nurses helped her get Guy up for his first breastfeeding. We had our first bit of time to sit down and enjoy the moment together with the stress of the operation behind us. After an hour or so we went to our hospital room A.K.A. the awesome suite with a great view of downtown. I quickly found out that all the grandparents were there as I headed to the car to get our hospital bags.

We ended up staying 48 hours in the hospital with tons of wonderful visitors. The grandparents were so enthusiastic the entire time. Jennifer recovered quickly from the c-section, and we finally got home to really start this parenthood thing.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

One Month - Challenges and Joys

Today, Guy is one month old. Guy celebrated as most Tatums do - by eating so much he threw up. It seems that (again, like most Tatums) he has a hard time saying no to more food.

Part of the problem is that we did end up having to supplement with formula, and apparently babies are known to overeat formula. But, after knowing that for the last four weeks, our son has been hungry, it's hard to deny him food when he even acts remotely peckish. Regardless, he has gained six more ounces in three days on the new food. He's now a whopping 7 pounds 4 ounces, with plenty of room to grow. His cheeks are filling out... both sets. :-)

That said, this week has been a challenge. I went from supplementing at every other feeding, to supplementing and pumping at every single feeding. My day looks like this:

  • Feed Guy for 30 minutes
  • Struggle with Supplemental Nursing System (which allows me to supplement him while he's still nursing, so it's seamless to him, and he gets more milk with every suck) for 15 minutes
  • Grow frustrated with SNS, and put into bottle, after feeding for more than 45 minutes
  • Let someone else finish Guy with a bottle
  • Pump for 20 minutes
  • Rest for an hour, and start the process again
  • Repeat 8-10 times a day

I went to a lactation specialist who said that for the next few weeks, all I should be doing is nursing, pumping and resting. No housework, no running around. Just doing my best to make sure I'm relaxed, rested and producing as much milk as possible.

Thankfully, when this sentence came down on my head, my mother-in-law, Cheri, was immediately there to help. For the last five days, she has been at my side, taking care of everything. Laundry, dishes, meals, making the bed, even sweeping the floors. All with a smile. It was a rough week, but it could have been so much worse without her there. I cannot believe how lucky I am to have not only my mother, but also a mother-in-law who is so supportive and caring.

This week, my mother is coming to join me to help. Again, I'm quite lucky. Just like Cheri, I know my mom will do the lion's share of work, and she'll be happy to do it.

We haven't hit many milestones yet. Guy has started sleeping more, now that he is getting plenty to eat. Some nights I get nearly 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep. And if I get two rounds of that? I'm looking at nearly 6-7 hours of real rest. It makes such a difference in how I feel.

He's also on the verge of smiling on demand. His smiles are coming more often, and sometimes when he's awake, though he doesn't yet seem aware why he's smiling. The best moment was when he was laying quietly awake on Greg's chest and I watched as Greg laid a kiss on Guy's forehead, which was followed by a big, gummy smile. I'm not sure if his goatee tickled or if Guy could sense that kisses are a thing to be happy about. Whichever, it was sweet.

I've also developed a routine in the morning with Guy. After his 4-5 a.m. feed, he is difficult to get back into his bassinet. Because usually by that time he's wet through his sleeper, so I've had to change him and wake him up. So, after feeding, I cuddle with him in bed, close to my chest. That, of course, means we often fall asleep together in the bed. (I know - it can be dangerous to sleep with a newborn. I never thought I'd be one to do it, but for those couple of hours in the morning, after I've had most of a night's rest, I feel that I sleep lightly enough that I'm more aware of the baby and less concerned about possible accidents. Still, I understand the concern, trust me.)

It's come to be a special bonding time for us. At least, for me it is. I mean, for 9 months, this baby was so close to me that nothing could come between us, and sometimes a bassinet, no matter how close it is to the bed, is too far away. The other morning, Greg caught a photo of the two of us, enjoying our last morning nap.

So one month, and we're doing pretty well. He's starting to thrive, I'm starting to get sleep, and Greg and I finally had our first date night. Which I'll write more about later. A first date is definitely worthy of its own post.

- Jennifer