Wednesday, June 18, 2008

No Really, Who Am I?

Our family has various names they'd like to be called by Evan, eventually. All types of creative names that are variations on the Original Grandparent (OG) names.

In my day it was like, Hey Gramps, turn up the A/C ya cheap old bastard, and Grandma, do my chores, I'm watching cartoons.

Not this generation of grandparents, though. These old hippies want names like Siti and BaBa and Poppyseed muffin. Hebrew names, Arabic names, Polish names, nonsensical names.

Oh but then there's my dad, who would prefer to be referred to as "Grandfather." Nerd-alert.

Nonfiction: I'm at work, uh, all day and night. Indeed, I've been watching that masterful little piece of cinematography you see below pretty frequently to remind myself of what baby looks like. That way, when I finally get home, I'm not all "hey, who are you, infant? You think you can just lay there all the time, you little freeloader? Beat it, you!"

Anyway, so I was watching it again a few minutes ago and suddenly felt all lost and weird inside. I was like...yo that's my baby. She my offspring, dude. As lame as it sounds, it sort of hadn't totally hit me until that moment. See, I don't really feel like a mama. That's what people are calling me these days, and I keep looking over my shoulder, all, "who? That lady over there? Yeah, she's kinda old and saggy, she's probably a mama."

At first methought I was more like dad. Cause I play Grand Theft Auto like it's my job and I think "Ain't No Fun If the Homies Can't Have None" is the best track on Doggystyle.

But then I realized, I don't feel like anything, really. Does having a kid automatically make you a mama, or whatever? Or do you earn the title once you've scraped fecal matter from the face of your watch a sufficient number of times (again, nonfiction. How does it get there so often?)? Because I don't feel like a mom. I feel a little like a shepherd. Occassionally minding a solitary, excessively small sheep, usually while E is in the shower.

But grandparents are totally cool with being grandparents. I was like: are you ready for this, parental unit? They're all, hell yeah I'm ready to be a Poppy/Siti/Grandfather. I was born ready. It's probably because they've done the whole parental thing already, and being a grandparent is some sort of custodial cakewalk in comparison. But still, their hyper-readiness for us to produce offspring makes me wary. What's in it for them, damnitt? Sometimes I think they're just reveling in the feeling of payback. Leaning back in their chairs, occasionally pointing and laughing as I stumble my way through taking care of this baby.

"Ha ha, look at you. Up all night, eh? Ya like that? Ah, ha ha. Oops, there's a little fermented regurgitated breastmilk on your arm there. Oh, ho ho."

Meanwhile, I just shuffle around with my staff, an inept shephard with no name of my own.

Friday, June 13, 2008

This is What I do on Friday Nights Now. Who am I?

I'm only slightly freaked out that my Friday nights of late no longer consist of passing out face down on the sidewalk in front of my apartment building.  Now I do this.  It's more of a natural progression than I would have guessed.  

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Things Someone Should Have Told Me Before I Had a Baby

1. You will never find the right baby sling, no matter how hard you try.

Baby-wearing devices were invented by either 1) an asshole or 2) a morbidly obese person. I've tried three, and each is a colossal failure of cotton dessign. The Hotsling worked the first time I used it, but now droops sadly when I stuff my poor baby in, who winds up lying flat at the very bottom of the fabric pouch, staring up at me with a look of utter disdain. Then we've got the Terra Cotta or something, which is as ineptly named as it is designed.

And finally, the Moby. Oh, where do I begin with the Moby? Why is the Moby so long? Why, God, why is it so long? One size fits all, in that it is so large that it is big enough for anyone on the planet, including a silverback gorilla.

I loathe the Moby with a violent loathing. I want to kick it in the face, but it is just a 98 foot long pile of cloth, so it doesn't care what I do to it. In fact I think it grows each time I begrudgingly extract it from its tiny cloth bag, just to mock me.

Seriously, who the hell invented this thing? All it is is a strip of fabric so long that if you tried to hang yourself with it, you'd fail, no matter how high your ceilings are. Oh, I should mention it comes with a 50 page instruction manual on how the fuck you use it, since that's how long it takes to explain why anyone needs a 98 foot long strip of fabric. Which leads me to...

2. Immediately dispose of any and all items requiring an instruction manual.

There is nothing so frustrating as scanning an instruction book while simultaneously trying to operate the device you have no clue how to use while your poor, patient baby waves her arms and grunts and begins to cry because it is taking you eons, EONS, to figure out said device, and baby needs snuggling or swaddling or food and there you are, futilely scanning the pictures of smiling moms, searching for the golden shred of knowledge that will TELL YOU WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN ORDER TO ACCOMPLISH YOUR GOAL SO THAT YOU CAN MOVE ON WITH YOUR LIFE.

If it needs a manual, toss it in the dumpster. Unless it is a car seat. Those really just ought to come with some sort of fairy or elf who magically manipulates baby's arms and legs through the various straps and buckles the various plastic elements properly because adult human hands are incapable of such precise movements without years of prior training.

Lo, the heartbreaking wail of a baby being strapped to a torture device carseat. Bet you didn't know that...

3. ...your heart will be broken, pinched, spit on, and bitch-slapped on a daily basis!

That thin little wail your baby emits when you buckle her into the carseat? Your fault, you sadistic asshole. Her wide-eyed look of alarm accompanied by outstretched flailing arms? Hey, that's because she thinks you're about to drop her! Nice going, idiot. How about when baby stops eating, turns bright red, shrieks, then starts eating again? Oh, that's just because it hurts to eat, people. It just hurts to eat.

Babies can't catch a break, and that shit is sad. Baby used to be all snuggled up cozy inside, sans bright lights or cold air or nurses who drop things on their heads or inept parents. And then they come out and you know what bitches? It's hard out here for a baby. She may not be dodging bullets, but the bathwater temperature can be dicey and her hoes are arguably more trouble than they're worth.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Due Time

We're trying, with some success, to forget the whole hospital ordeal and move on. Thanks so much to those who commented - I can't tell you how good it felt to get reassurance from you that what happened really WAS fucked, and we weren't just psychotic crunchy people with a grudge against western medicine.

Anyway, it helps that Evan is so goddamned perfect it hurts. She sleeps, she eats, and she is awake, wide-eyed and mesmerized by light filtering through the tree leaves. She smiled yesterday -- her first true, eyes to mouth smile -- at the dog. She loves to float in a sink full of warm water, as long as she's got a two-handed, iron-clad grip on the finger of a larger, sturdier individual. She is instantly rendered unconscious, even in the midst of a full-blown hiccup attack, with a head massage. She tolerates kisses with a look of mild disgust.

As fucked-up as her arrival was, our 1 Great Triumph was that she never had one drop of formula. E pumped every three hours starting the morning after her birth, and her milk came in on day 3, which I consider a minor miracle due to the circumstances of her delivery. Evan was bottle-fed breast milk at the hospital, and once she got home she transitioned to breast-feeding within a week. Her diminutive stature and narcoleptic behavior made it difficult at first, but an extremely strict lactation consultant with many small plastic instruments and a bubbling cauldron turned things around, and then they were off and running.

Some minor bumps along the way:

1. Choking at every feeding. We realized that E's boobs were functioning like beer bongs, forcing milk down the poor baby's throat at a speed alarming to a newborn. E made some adjustments (switch sides every 2 feedings) and things have improved. She still chokes at the first feeding on the new side...any advice on how to prevent that? I've experienced few things as heartbreaking as listening to my tiny, hungry infant splutter and gasp for air. Although her milk-bong induced coma is sort of hysterical.

2. Excessive, at times scary, projectile spitting up. I'm embarrassed to admit that there were a few times in which I felt afraid of my baby. Note to new parents: don't prop up your baby and stare at her in the middle of the night in a darkened room. Babies look kind of creepy in dim light, and when their eyes suddenly cross and white liquid shoots out of their mouth, jesus christo, who wouldn't say a little prayer?

Anyway, we spent a couple of days worrying that she had reflux, so we called our lactation consultant who laughed and pointed her finger at us and laughed some more. You'd know if your baby had reflux, she said, cryptically. Just prop her up when you feed her, and don't bother me with such nonsense in the future, fools, for I am busy ensuring the babies of the world Gain Weight and Thrive, and frankly your baby's thighs are much too large for that preemie diaper she's wearing.

8 pounds, 2 ounces on her due date. I could not be more proud of E. She set about the breastfeeding thing with steely-eyed, lock-jawed determination and lucky for all of us her body cooperated and Evan is totally thriving.

And you know what? Since the day I met her, the longest this baby has cried is the time it takes to stuff a pre-fold diaper into a cover. Slap the diaper on, pick her up, and girlfriend's like, waa- what up, gangster? What was I crying about?

I don't presume that things will stay so easy forever...but it's hard not to feel like we lucked the fuck out with this one.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Follow the Yellow Brick Road: A Guide to Getting Your Baby Out of the Hospital. AKA, Part II

I don't feel like writing about the NICU, thus the long delay in a follow-up post. But I'm going to do it anyway. I know that our NICU experience was a trip across the slip and slide compared to some other NICU experiences, and for that we feel deeply fortunate. But our time there shaped my initial experience of parenthood, big time, so it's worth writing about.

Let me start by saying that, of all the things we wanted for our baby's birth, what we wanted the most was for her to be with us right after she was born. We had gotten so much reassurance from our numerous OBs that baby would be fine that I was pretty flippant about this particular aspect of the birth. Every other goddamned thing had gone wrong, this would be the one thing that would go right. How ever she came out, at least she'd be here. With us.

The OBs assured us repeatedly that she may be a little grunty when she was born, a little lethargic, but that would just be "The Mag," and not a sign of any critical illness, as it can be for more premature babies. We extracted multiple promises that our baby would not be taken away due to magnesium induced sluggishness, and we reminded our poor L&D nurses over and over to bring her to E after she came out. These poor people must have thought we were insane.

Turns out all our fussing meant diddly. It was the pediatric nurse that made all the decisions about our baby, while the L&D people were busy with E. We were so wrapped up in the process of getting her out, that I forgot that in the alternate reality of Hospital-land, you must Talk to the Right People, otherwise fresh hell will descend upon you at every turn.

So, without further ado, I present you with PART II.

They carried Evan out of surgery and across the hall to the transitional nursery. The hour or so that followed is sort of lost, but I do remember sitting on the window ledge in our L&D room and wondering what the fuck just happened.

Once E was out of recovery we rolled our way over to the transitional nursery. Evan was the only baby there, stretched out in an open bassinet like a tiny bird. Her eyes were squeezed shut and smeared with ointment, an IV was taped to her hand, 3 monitors were strapped to her chest, and the CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device was pushed up her little nose. The sheet in her bassinet, as well as her tiny foot, were streaked with fresh blood from a blown IV. Two nurses sat at a desk at the opposite end of the room, surfing the internet. As we approached our baby, one of the nurses barked: "don't touch it!"

The L&D nurse who wheeled us in had to explain that we were the moms, and E hadn't gotten to hold her baby yet. The pediatric nurse looked up from her solitaire game and said: "you can't hold that baby. That is a very sick baby. She's going to the NICU."

I shit. You not.

So E cried, and we put our fingers in Evan's palms to feel her tiny squeeze reflex. She looked so small, and so much paler and more fragile than she did right after she was born. They paged the doctor, because these particular minions of satan were unable to explain what was wrong with her and why she had to go to the NICU, aside from repeating the words "she's very sick."

Sick. Such a helpful word. The doctor came and told us she had underdeveloped lungs, and why hadn't we gotten a steroid shot? Oh, only because the OB, in response to my query about the appropriateness of a steroid shot before induction, described it as, and I quote, "completely unnecessary."

She was moved to the NICU later that night, and her first nurse was the most wonderful person, so calm and gentle. I sat in a rocker for a while, and in my delusional state, I quite clearly imagined the gods reaching a giant finger down from the heavens and anointing her with every golden attribute that a NICU nurse should have. "She's fine," lovely nurse said, her halo shimmering in the dim lights. "She'll be home in no time. These doctors are just covering their asses." In that moment I felt love for this woman.

The NICU couldn't accommodate beds, only wheelchairs, so E couldn't visit the baby until she was off the magnesium sulfate, which wouldn't be for another 24 hours (E, btw, finagled this down to 18 with strong language and threats. She was, I imagine, what they call a "difficult" patient). I spent these 18 hours visiting our baby in the NICU and reporting back to the increasingly frantic E, who, by the time her mag drip was out, was in a sort of primal hysteria. Girl needed to see her baby. She was actually escorted to the antepartum unit by the attending physician, who surely did this kindly deed just to get E off her unit.

E's first visit with Evan in the NICU was one of the most heartbreaking moments of my life. I wheeled her close to Evan's isolette, so she could reach a hand through the porthole. She was silent for a few moments, touching Evan's tiny chest. But then she pulled her hand out and closed the porthole, dropped her head and stared at her lap. A minute later she started to sob. Great, big, slow sobs, a kind I'd never heard from her before. I felt a piece of my heart crack open then, seeing our baby like that, and seeing E so broken over it.

The first time I got to hold Evan, my heart was beating out of my chest. In fact, every time I held her for the first week or so, my heart would just hammer away, so hard that you could see it beating through my shirt. It was such a strange feeling, but it seemed to work for Evan, because when her little body was pressed up against my chest, her breathing rate would slow, and her heartrate would drop to the "sleeping range." It was strange and sweet, holding her like that with all her monitor lines draping out the bottom of her swaddle.

The ups and downs of the 10 days that followed will not be so dramatic, since you all know the ending, so I won't bore you with the details. But know this: the NICU is no place for the faint of heart. The lows are quite low in the NICU. The highs do not reach the same levels, because, hey, your kid's still in the NICU. But I swear to god if I were a writer I would have some amazing material from the days spent there, what with the beeping monitors, crazy family visits, drill sergeant nurses and condescending doctors, and just the blinding bewilderment of it all.

I learned many useful things during our time in the hospital, however.

I learned how to speak calmly to a security guard reluctant to grant me a my own official, laminated "Parent Pass," because, quote, there can only be one mom. Unquote.

I learned how to change a diaper. Through a porthole.

I learned that new babies don't really have a smell.*

I learned to dump out many a cc of bottled breastmilk behind nurses' backs to prevent the introduction of a nasal-gastric tube.

I learned how to reattach a monitor to prevent a desaturation alarm from causing my baby to choke on her bottle.

I learned how to silence a desaturation alarm (although I still have panicked moments of hearing a de-sat alarm as I stand on the corner with my morning coffee, looking wildly around to discover it is merely a car alarm).

Anyway, the day she was finally released from the hospital was totally momentous. We harassed the doctors to release her until they finally buckled, releasing her "WITH RESERVATIONS." Also, we were thoroughly underprepared, had no idea how to work the car seat, and were nearly demented from lack of sleep (I worked days and went to the NICU all night, E stayed all day only to wake at 3 AM and take a cab back to the NICU), so walking out of the hospital with her felt a lot like kidnapping a sweet child from some other, more normal parents.

I remember very clearly that as we finally walked out, this time with Evan, we were making fun of a capella music, laughing maniacally as we drove through the rain.

*this proved untrue, because once evan arrived home she almost immediately smelled of sugar cookies.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hell in a Handbasket: The Birth Story, Part I

E and I had the coolest birthplan ever. It wasn't a birthplan in any physical sense. We never wrote shit down or talked about it at any great length, but we both had a vision of how Le Fetus would get here, and I can assure you that it involved minimal medical intervention.

Ah, best laid plans. Slippery fellows.

As we get further from the days of Evan's birth, those days are losing their heiniousity in my mind. Heiniousity. Like that word? Yeah, you like it.

So I decided to post the story before it becomes happily distorted in my memory to something flowery and cliche, "but it was all worth it" style. As if being worth it makes it any less shiteous.

As I posted earlier, E became suddenly and severely preeclamptic at 35 weeks - she was as swollen as Violet Beauregarde at the end, poor thing. Evan (who should still be Le Fetus, dammit) was measuring big for her gestational age, and none of the battery of OBs who looked at her on the ultrasound were concerned about her readiness for New York City air. We followed the OB's advice and started the induction process.

The cervix softening drugs did their job, and when she was 100% effaced and 1 cm dilated, they put in the Foley catheter. What is a Foley catheter, you ask? Well, it is mostly a balloon! A fun little water balloon! Who doesn't love a water balloon??

Well this water balloon is a little different. Instead of preparing for a fun antic by filling up your balloon at the sink faucet, you stick this balloon up your vagina and into your cervix and then fill it up with a syringe. Instead of tossing it out your window at an unassuming passerby for a silly trick, you lie there and wait for it to force open your nethers until it slips out and lays limply between your legs.

Essentially, instead of getting your shirt wet, it pries open your cervix to 3 centimeters.

Good times. Anyway, Foley did it's jobby job and then pitocin was introduced and E's uterus was off and running.

36 hours later, E was getting rolled in for a section. E, as I may have mentioned before, swore up and down and backwards that she'd never get sectioned, that she'd push that baby out come hell or high water. I swear that had she been floating on an inner tube in Satan's flooded basement, she would still be pushing. But after 24 hours at 3 centimeters, her cervix began to swell, and poor E had no choice.

At that point, though, we were both ready to throw in the towel. E didn't want to be sectioned because she thought of labor as something she could do while standing, sitting up, or generally changing position. But because she was preeclamptic, her body was attached to approximately 29 machines (really), most of which involved catheters. She was also on magnesium sulphate throughout to prevent seizures from the preeclampsia. Magnesium sulphate produces a similar effect on the mind and body as the stupefy spell, as I understand it.

Poor girl was going no where.

She was a total champion laboring with all that shit attached to her, though. Had things gone differently, she could totally have pushed the baby out, I know it.

Anyhizzy, the section is where things got ugly.

We had a little pep talk right before they took her in.

We're gonna meet the baby, we said, smiling dumbly at each other. Tonight we'll have a baby in our pimped out L&D room. Yay.

So they prepped her for surgery, then brought me in. I sat right next to her head, behind the sheet that kept her from seeing her abdomen sliced open.

She was way drugged. The shit they pumped into her epidural on top of the mag made her Loopy Mcloopified, and not in the funny or good way. When they started cutting, she started moaning. They kept cutting, and she started screaming.

Bottom line: her epidural had slipped, and she had a window of feeling across the right side of her abdomen.

They gave her nitrous oxide to calm her, as she was distressed and tearing at her IVs. The nitrous, drugging her further, had the opposite effect. She started crying about the baby, asking me over and over what's wrong with the baby, what's wrong with the baby. It took them 3 hours to section her because her abdominal muscles were so tight. I felt like I was in a horror movie.

When they finally pulled out the sweetest little fetus, E was beyond reason. I didn't feel like I was soothing her at all, so I left her momentarily to go see our baby, and things got worse from there. I thought once the baby was out that E's pain would be over, but I had forgotten about the placenta, and the pulling of the abdominals to sew her back together. She was screaming while I met our baby for the first time.

I was wedged in between the pediatric team who were roughly rubbing her and clapping on her tiny body with a plastic cup. She looked wonderful to my untrained eye, pinking up quickly, crying her tiny bird cry, so mad. But the peds team frowned disapprovingly at her.

She's grunting, they said.

Of course she's grunting, you're smacking the shit out of her, I said.

No, no, frown frown, you don't understand, it's a medical term, they said.

I know that babies full of magnesium sulfate often grunt when they're born, please don't take her away, I said.

She needs to go to the transitional nursery. Don't worry, she'll be back with you within 8 hours, they said.

And our baby was taken away. At the time, I was preoccupied with E. I was on the other side of the sheet now, and I could see the nurses holding her legs down, and the surgeon sweating, white as a sheet. E's moans filled the room. I sat down on a chair in the corner until a nurse escorted me out.

Part II, in which our baby lives in the NICU, to come.