Archive | January, 2011

All over but for the shouting. The shouting!

30 Jan

The baby just went to sleep, after shouting in my face for 45 minutes straight. I mean, what is with these kids? They go from content to frantic in just a hot second. Hungry? No, he’s been fed. Diaper changed. I’d been more or less burping him straight solid for 30 minutes, there wasn’t an air bubble to be found in his little system. Not too hot, not too cold, no physical trauma. And so, faced with no reason to cry, he then proceeding to just shout it out.

Seriously, 45 minutes of straight-up screaming baby (sadly, I’m being conservative here – it was more like a solid hour). At some point the ugly thoughts enter into it, which surprised me a little. What if I tape his mouth shut? Am I allowed to try to reach into his open mouth and grab his tongue with my fingers? If I just leave him there, what do you think the maximum amount of time is, that a 7 week old could keep up at full throttle?

My ulcer is that much closer, and I could feel my hair actually turning gray. Laughably, I had sent my wife to sleep already; she melted down about an hour earlier, over the stress of finding day care, an inability to sooth, the endless maw of hunger that is our baby’s current feeding pattern. The return of thrush. Luckily, I’m a lovely man. As the voice of reason, I sent mama to bed, and mostly stayed calm in the face of red-faced tonsil boy. Yep, necessity for women is magically transformed into above-and-beyond heroism for dear old dad.

So, yeah, things are happening chez nous. And the insane thing is that this was a really great weekend! We had friends come in from Boston, and they stayed in our apartment with their two kids (a-dooooor-able, 3 and 5). We decamped for Mother-in-Law’s sublet – another story, another time. So kinwork was wildly successfully accomplished. But apparently the fallout was a temporarily frantic baby and frantic mama.

Our daycare solution is still not forthcoming, though, and we’re on a clock. Baby mama returns to work in March. Something’s got to give. We’ve had a couple of interviews with potential caregivers actually end up being no-shows, which is encouraging, and some of the more promising possibilities seem at the moment to have dried up some. Something will work out, I hope.

And in the meantime, with some casualties of the weekend, it nevertheless proved that we can indeed be flexible in the face of domestic zaniness. Plus I got to throw a 5-year-old girl in the snow. And you can’t argue with that.



25 Jan

Ok, this is pretty funny. That last photo is great. We’ve just begun giving Baby a pacifier, which he’ll take, but he’s not big enough to keep it in his mouth himself, so it’s pretty much guaranteed pacification followed by pretty much guaranteed waterworks. These babies, they are not the smartest of creatures, are they?

6 weeks of Baby

23 Jan

Today (well, 1:30am tomorrow) marks six weeks in the life of a small person in our household. Let’s run some numbers:

For the first 4 weeks, he ate an average of 10 times per 24-hour day. For the last two weeks, he’s eaten an average of 9 times per 24-hour period (We haven’t tracked everything, it’s not an exact science). This means he’s eaten about 406 times since he’s been outside the womb. Figuring 2 oz. per feeding over the last month or so, with less at the outset, and we’re at 266 2-oz feedings, and 140 1-oz feedings (Averages. Yes, colostrum at the outset was probably much less). That’s 672 ounces of breast milk. Or 5.25 gallons of the stuff. Oh, and at about 30 minutes per feeding, that’s about 203 hours of nursing. My math might be a bit off here.

Diapers, geez, we haven’t kept good track. I can track down 400 or so diapers via orders and receipts, but I think it’s likely higher. Figuring once per feeding, and then times when he poops while you are changing him, pees all over the walls, you, himself, his new diaper, etc. We’re likely at 450, conservatively.

Newborn babies cry about 2-4 hours per day, and ours has been no exception. He’s not a super crybaby, so we’re maybe on the low side of average. Maybe. Baby. Still, that’s 126 hours of crying. Or 5.25 full days of crying, spread out over the past 6 weeks. My favorite is when he shouts as loud as he can, right in your face, while you are trying to change his diaper or his clothes.

We’ve gotten 17 hours of sleep since 12/13/10. Collectively. That’s 8.5 hours for my wife, and 8.5 hours for me. Actually more like 10 for her and 7 for me. I’ve spent half of those hours dreaming stress dreams of work, and dreams of a giant baby playing board games with Ghandi and Bobby Fischer. Ok, that last one only happened once.

Our house has been professionally cleaned twice, and it still is messier than it was on 12/12.

My wife has complained about pain during breastfeeding 117 times. I responded sympathetically 86 of those times. The rest I mostly nodded. Once I yelled at her and made her cry.

The baby weighed 6 pounds, 13 ounces at birth. Then 6 lbs, 7 oz. when we took him home. 6 lbs. 14 oz. a week later, after IV and feeding when we took him back for the jaundice. Because of his cast, we don’t have much opportunity to track his weight au natural. But a week ago, we weighed him in between castings, and he weighed 9 lbs. 13 oz.

We have written dozens of thank you notes, and responded to over a hundred email congratulations, notes, check-ins. Baby mama wrote most of the notes. I mostly respond to the emails.

I have 1016 emails in my inbox.

Some things are less quantifiable of course. I wouldn’t call life with BB ‘magical’ or anything. But it certainly is life-changing.

Expertise swap

20 Jan

I have two friends who want to learn how to cook, one wants to make bread and the other wants to make chocolate chip cookies. It turns out, I know how to do both of these things. Meanwhile, I would like to learn to sew, and how to write a business plan. Perhaps we could work out some kind of expertise swap? In fact, I’d love to do this with any number of people. I want to learn to do lots of things, many of them crafty. I’d like to learn how to use Adobe Illustrator (because I’d love to make my own board book, and I’m completely inspired. I want to learn to sew (because I’m super-inspired by this playhouse under the table). I’d love to learn your family recipe for empanadas, or whatever it is that you loved as a child. I’m dying to learn how to actually use the DSL camera we’ve had for years, and not just take wan, yellow-ish pictures of stuff and people in our apartment over and over and over. We have a video camera, but I’m not so good at iMovie. Are you? I want in.

I can cook pretty well, including some fun recipes that I learned from the mother of all family cavatelli-making sessions (grandma watched the clock, waiting for it to tick noon so she could have her wine, and mom thought I did a good enough job that she bought me a cavatelli roller as a gift!). I can make excellent cookies, I can share my super-secret prototype for a cookbook I once made, I know how to use WordPress pretty well, I know about web hosting, HTML coding, some PHP. I can use statistics, SPSS and Stata. I know how to draft a questionnaire. I can help you set up Google Voice, and other technologies. I’m quite an editor.

So let’s get this shit together. I’m expertise-seeky, and you’ve got what I need.

Chua nonsense

17 Jan

I’ve been reluctant to comment on the Amy Chua Tiger Mother article, from the Wall Street Journal. It’s such obviously inflammatory link-bait, and as such it was and is meant to sell books. Out of nowhere, hot-button issue, race and culture, outrage, uproar. Then it goes away, waiting for the next bullshit PR article meant to sell books. Maybe a missing White woman or something.

In fact, we’ve seen the initial article, then the outrage, then of course the retreat, as the author hits the NYT to ‘clarify’ some misunderstandings. “Her narration, she said, was meant to be ironic and self-mocking — “I find it very funny, almost obtuse.'” Of course, we haven’t heard the last of this. It will soon turn from contrite and surprised to chagrined, and then more derisive. We’ll hear how the criticisms are from people who haven’t even bothered to read my whole book. Just wait, until her defenders take to the airwaves not just to apologize for her, but to actively defend her. Let’s just assume for fuck’s sake that it’ll be Elisabeth Hasselbeck who casts that first stone. Because it’s got to come from another total asshole.

So, yeah, meh. Chinese mothers.

Now, as a claim about the world, the article is complete shit, and the Yale Law professor is simply stupid. For one, actual research on parenting styles suggests that a permissive-vs-strict dichotomy is pretty simplistic. Of course, this is not meant to be a real claim about the world, just a memoir. As we joke in our household, I can’t be wrong, it’s how I feel. Plus, she shat the book out in 8 weeks, not nearly enough time for her to actually learn much about mothering. Pretty shoddy, frankly. Maybe par for the course for academic law professors, though, whose writing is renown for being craptacular.

For two, there’s a pretty massive small-N sample, on the dependent variable no less. In other words, you take two ‘successful’ girls, and then you explain what you did raising these girls, as if what you did explains that success. The problem is, if you take her prescriptions (be an asshole demanding mother), and apply it to kids, it’s still wildly unlikely that they will end up being as successful as her kids. More likely are things like, I don’t know, the economic and cultural capital that go along with being the children of two Yale law professors? In social science terms, it is impossible to make causal claims by sampling on your dependent variable. It makes you look like an idiot to do so. But whatevs, it’s a memoir, it’s How I Feel.

For three, how do you explain the success of a whole slew of ethnic and racial groups that have come down the American pike? Most glaringly, what about the Jews? Of course, in that case it’s not the mothering, it’s the genetic IQ superiority of the Jews. Cubans in Miami? Armenians in the Northeast corridor? Lots of success stories disproportionate to the ethnic representation in the population, but not much reference to lax parenting vs. asshole parenting. Why? Because it’s a dumb explanation.

There’s more, and I could even make some diagrams, but enough. Outrage registered, nothing learned, time to move right on.

Back to work – can you even avoid feeling bad about this shit?

17 Jan

So tomorrow is the first day of the new semester, and that means that I’m going back to work. We have had a good bit of time together, since the baby was born, where we have been dual-teaming the baby tasks. I’ve been up at the 11pm, the 2am, the 5am feedings, getting water, doing diaper changes. I’ve been a ‘dear man.’

But all that is beginning to change. A couple days ago, I woke up feeling the beginnings of a cold, and baby mama has responded by allowing me to sleep more and sleep through some of the feedings. I’ve been soothing the baby just as I normally would, and changing diapers and whatnot as normal. But my childcare duties have, in my humble estimation, been cut from something like 37% (where you max out, if your partner is breastfeeding) to something more like 28%. Last night I think I may have had 5-6 hours of interrupted sleep, which is kind of huge. And baby mama has been changing diapers on top of all that.

Interestingly, I am feeling like crap about this. I know it’s going to get a bit worse, too, once I’m formally back at work. We have a relationship predicated on strong forms of equality, and that is tipping out the window a bit. And neither of us is really ready to manage this change. So in the face of offers to sleep, I’m sitting up on the sofa at 4am watching baby mama breastfeed and chatting about the weather, because of the guilt of actually sleeping. I know, right? Get on over it, privileged dude, and at least take advantage of the gift that is being offered.

How people do this without feeling like assholes, I have no idea.

Dear old Dad

14 Jan

NB: I’m going to tell this story my way. My wife may have a different opinion of the woman, and she would probably suggest that I’m not being very gracious. Or nurturing. I would in turn suggest that wordpress makes it incredibly easy to start your own blog, where you can write anything you like…

When a lactation consultant (internationally board certified! unable to diagnose thrush!) came by a couple weeks back, she exuded all kinds of earthy Park Slope vibe. The baby was premature, she said, though the baby was born at 37.5 weeks. The baby’s neck muscles are affected by the epidural, she said, and suggested a baby massage to help BB ‘work out his issues’ (the good news is, since he has so few, it could be worked out in hours rather than weeks, as it would be for an adult!). Listening to her, I can’t help wondering if these issues are our fault. She clearly thinks so.

She was helpful in suggesting some adjustments to baby mama’s positioning, decrying the Boppy pillow as not designed for breastfeeding (and suggesting a device called ‘My Breast Friend.’ I thought I was her breast friend!). And she brought along a scale to make certain that the baby was actually eating during the breastfeeding sessions.

During this two and a half hour, $200 home visit, she made baby mama out to be the latest in a long line of warrior women, breastfeeding their babies, eschewing bottles, opting out of pacifiers. The night feedings are the toughest, she noted, when it’s you alone against the long, hard night.

“My husband actually wakes up and keeps me company during the 4am nursing,” says my wife. And the woman looks at me and says to her, “he is a lovely man.”

Ok, I’ll take it. I am. A lovely man. But I’m also raising this damn kid. And despite knowing in my heart and my mind that fathers get both overvalued (aww, what a great dad, taking his kid to the park!) and undervalued (my uncle told me in passing that I must be loving that wife is breastfeeding, since it means that I’m off the hook for so much of the infant’s early needs – ‘you must secretly be thinking, ‘YES!'”).

We’re making a turn at the moment, towards thinking about what happens when baby mama turns back into a working pumpkin, and my work kicks back in, and what we’ll do with this precious bundle of poop and cry when we emerge from the cocoon of newborn infancy. It is true that body-wise, she’s taking the brunt of this thing. But I’ve been around this operation long enough to see that I’m putting in sweat equity to keep Joint Parenting, LLC in business. Calling me a ‘lovely man’ is only going to piss me off on that front…