Saturday, September 30, 2006

Gratitude

Yesterday, my friend Jacki came over bearing Indian food and then, after a good lunch, proceeded to ignore my protests and general discomfort with the concept and thoroughly cleaned my house.

This was surprisingly hard for me to let someone do, but oh LORD am I glad I did. Because little did we know what the baby had in store for us later that day.

Sofia picked yesterday to go on what Brett and I are now calling the Great Sleep Strike. No naps of more than 5-10 minutes all day yesterday, and then almost no sleep overnight. She did go down for about two hours in the evening, but then she proceeded to sleep only from 2-3 a.m. and 5-7 a.m. Aside from those three precious hours, she was up all night. She was up all morning. Brett kindly took her downstairs at seven so that I could sleep, and when I got up at ten, she was STILL up. She stayed up through lunch. What on earth is going on?

Don't assume that this means she's happily alert, either - she's so sleep deprived and cranky that she could throttle us with her bare hands if she were just a little bigger.

So - thank you Jacki! Brett and I are so insane with sleep deprivation today that there's no way we would have gotten the place cleaned up ourselves today before guests arrive for dinner. You did an amazing job and we couldn't appreciate it more.

Also, thank you to Erica for bringing us food on Wednesday night! We've got the greatest friends...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

My companion

Phoenix, the cat who loves me like no other, has taken to getting up with me for the middle of the night feeding. Each and every night, when I get up to fetch the baby at 2 or 3 or 4, he drags himself off his warm bathroom floor and joins me on the bed, or downstairs in the baby's room, and proceeds to purr and sit companionably beside me for the whole process - even if it takes an hour. And when we finish, he gives me headbutts and kisses as if to say, "You're doing great. Keep it up. We love you."

What an amazing cat. I wish he could live forever.

He then sometimes will follow me into the kitchen, if my tasks take me there, and wrap himself encouragingly around my legs as if to say, "Hey, I know it's the middle of the night, but since we're here, how about you open up a nice can of catfood?"

Rough patch

Over the last 48-72 hours, our calm and mellow baby has turned into a screaming-bloody-murder wildcat, all purple-faced and arch-backed and clawing at whoever is holding her. She went from being a baby who never cried or cried very politely when she did, at low decibels and with a willingness to be soothed, to a baby who goes from zero to shrieking at the top of her lungs in about a millionth of a second.

This, needless to say, has been an alarming development.

This has also been a week in which Brett has had to work long, long, loooong hours, leaving me trying to figure out what's wrong with Sofia for all but a few precious hours of the day.

Parenthood - it really puts you through the wringer, I've got to admit. It's such a hard thing when you suddenly can't soothe your baby and she seems to desperately need something you can't figure out. To top it off, she picked the same two days to start crying real tears, which is heartbreaking - in addition to feeling like I couldn't help her, I had to watch little tear tracks roll down her chubby cheeks. I spent yesterday feeling utterly helpless, like maybe they should have flunked me in childbirth class.

Today, though, I think we figured it out. Thank you, Internet - I posted frantic messages in several different babyfit.com forums (a site I posted on a lot during the pregnancy) last night at two a.m. about sudden increases in irritability and her exact symptoms, and got about two dozen responses saying, "Oh, yeah, same thing happened to me with my baby when she was exactly the same age as yours! Probably a growth spurt. It goes away. Try feeding her a whole lot more."

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. How did new parents survive without the Internet?

Today, I gave up all intentions of doing anything other than feeding the baby, and we had a much, much better day. Sofia ate nearly continuously pretty much all day long (they need a lot of extra calories in a growth spurt) and napped a couple of times, and I pretty much managed to avoid setting off any huge crying jags, in either of us. She smiled at me again for the first time in two days. I even got a very brief nap.

Crisis averted for now. But I wonder what's next. Being a parent is fascinating. I'm learning, slowly, to be more completely on Baby Time, to give up the vestiges of wanting or needing to feel productive or to focus on other things. I'm slowly slowing down and getting more absorbed in what she needs and what she's trying to tell me. It's quite hard in a way, like shedding your skin, like molting -- I feel like I'm flexing muscles I haven't used much in the last 14 years of working in the corporate world, taking first wobbly steps in a whole different direction. My most important job in the world right now is to make this baby feel loved.

And, well, to feed her a whole heck of a lot.

But mostly the love thing.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Bathtime

We had to take the naked baby in the bath picture, yesterday, because what else are we going to use for leverage when she has her first boyfriend years from now? "Come home by curfew or we'll show him the bath picture!"

Last night, after one initial wail, she decided she rather liked the bathtub. Yay!

(This picture is strategically cropped to prevent me from getting arrested for posting inappropriate pictures of minors)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Three weeks old birthday

It hardly seems possible that three whole weeks have gone by and that in another quick week she'll be a month old. While some moments, particularly the three a.m. feedings, feel like an eternity, overall I have to admit that the time is just flying by. And although I look forward to the landmarks to come - holding her head up, crawling and cooing, laughing, being able to talk - I also feel like she's just so perfect and wonderful now that I don't ever want her to change. There's something so magical about these early days when they're so helpless and little and cuddly. And all too soon this little tiny baby is going to be only a memory.

Can I possibly be getting sentimental and nostalgic already?

Sofia's week three portrait - don't know why she looks so purple in this picture, but I assure you she's of normal hue in real life:


And her closeup. She looks a little insane in this picture - mostly because she had just woken up.


We're getting the hang of things around here, slowly. Every day tends to be different but there does tend to be the barest hint of a routine:
  • You can usually rely on her to be awake and to cluster feed all morning, to be latched on to something almost continually from about eight a.m. until eleven.
  • You can generally rely on her to take a long, long nap in the afternoon, maybe from 1-4. (This habit is a godsend, as usually it's the first nap of the day after a veeeery long night.)
  • You can usually rely on her to conk out at around nine at night for several more hours. If you let her sleep all evening you can rely on her to be up for two or three hours in the middle of the night. (*groan*). We've taken to violating the "don't wake the baby" rule because of this, because if we keep her active for a while longer in the evenings she tends to go back to sleep more easily after each of her three night feedings.

What you can't count on her for is any kind of consistent sleep pattern at night. Some nights she does great, sleeping four hours at a shot, feeding twice, and going right back to sleep. Some nights she stays up and fusses from two a.m. until after five - she and I have now watched more late night movies and reruns of Conan O'Brian than I'd ever thought possible. Some nights she sleeps but in that fussy, interrupted, half-crying every few minutes way. No consistency yet, but we weren't expecting any at this stage.

We're holding up pretty well, though. I find that the physical act of waking up is the worst part of night feedings, and that once I'm up and have changed the diaper and gotten down to feeding her, I'm pretty much okay. (I do reach a kind of despair on the nights when she's up for two or three hours, though, but it takes quite a bit to get me to that point.) And the next day, if we can linger in bed until around eight (which she's quite cooperative about), I find that I get enough of a second wind to make it through the morning until it's time for the Big Afternoon Nap.

The secret is to have low expectations of the whole morning. I no longer expect to get dressed, brush my teeth, or even eat breakfast before 11. Instead, I linger in bed either feeding or soothing my fussy girl, showing her the many interesting things she can do with her feet (swim, run, bicycle, dance a triple-step), telling her stories, encouraging her to imitate a variety of facial expressions I make, and introducing her to semi-bad television series. (We're enjoying Charmed, these days, on each morning at ten.)

Tired as I am, it's really nice. And when Brett comes home and takes her off my hands for an hour or two, I'm surprised how much I miss her. It's all I can do sometimes to not wander in and greedily snatch her back because I want to hold her so badly. But Daddy deserves his bonding time too.

That's all for now.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Thought

Why do newborn diapers need to have pictures of Elmo, baby Ernie from Sesame Street Babies, or (god forbid) the Lion King on them? We bought a whole variety of different diaper brands to find out which we like (they're all fine, actually), and the one thing they all have in common is that they're slathered in marketing images.

I keep wondering why this is. The newborn can't see them and wouldn't care a hoot if they could. If I've learned one thing about newborns, it's that aside from faces and light sources, they really don't notice much. Maybe a toddler would care, be more willing to put up with diapering if there were cute characters present, but no baby is ever going to notice.

And the parents? My diapering experience sure isn't improved by having the smiling mug of Elmo staring up at me as I scrub the poop off my daughter's tiny little butt.

I wonder if I'm paying more for this than I would for the seemingly nonexistent plain diapers.

Anniversary

Three years ago today I married Brett - still the best and smartest decision I've ever made. It's amazing how much life can change in three years - when we got married, I thought we'd live in the little house across the street for the rest of our presumably childless lives. Now my parents live there and we live in the house we'd always loved across the street, and wow, we have a daughter! Three years is such a short span when you're really living and not just letting time pass by.

We had joked that we'd probably have a pretty lame anniversary this year, with a newborn to deal with, but actually it was really nice. The third year is the leather anniversary on the gift buying guides, which are silly but we kind of like following them, so this led to a really nice Coach bag for me and various goodies (a new watch, leather-wrapped USB sticks) for Brett.

More importantly, we went out for sushi! I haven't had sushi, my food of choice if I had to restrict myself to one cuisine for the rest of my life, since last December when I found out I was pregnant. So we packed up the baby (thanking the heavens again for her pleasant restaurant persona) and went out to our favorite local joint and dug in. And it was FANTASTIC. Oh man, I missed that.

I feel like I should say more, but it's the middle of the night (waiting for Sofia to settle down after a feeding) and I'm very tired. So let me just close by saying that I couldn't be happier or wish for a better person to go through life with, Brett, and I'm very glad to be married to you.

Happy anniversary.

Monday, September 18, 2006

My new job

Today was a day I'd viewed with a lot of anxiety - Brett's return to work. Suddenly I'm responsible for the baby all day long by myself? This was actually scarier to me than bringing the baby home from the hospital was. It felt kind of like starting a new job, in a way - I knew it was going to be demanding, with a whole new set of challenges, long hours, etc.


Sofie, demonstrating what we call her tree frog posture

I'm relieved to report, however, that today went just fine - it was actually a very mellow day. Aside from the utter lack of sleep, Sofia and I had a nice time - we watched an old movie in the morning, she fell asleep long enough to let me get myself together for the day, we went out to lunch with Grandma and Grandpa, we took a walk... No big deal, and not too hard to fill the time. I'm feeling much more confident.

Plus, she stayed awake almost all day for the first time ever - maybe the day/night thing is sorting itself out a little. She was wide awake at lunch, which was a first, but still amazingly well behaved in the restaurant. She grinned at me a lot throughout the day, especially after a particularly mind-blowing episode in which she soiled the entire changing table in the millisecond between throwing the old diaper away and getting the new diaper on. Apparently this is highly amusing to a baby.

Her sense of humor, it is not of the highbrow variety.

Week three

Today is the beginning of week three of Sofie's life in the outside world. Here's what they don't tell you about week three. Weeks one and two? A breeze. Week one, you're on pure adrenaline - you have the cutest baby in the whole world and you're out of the hospital and all you want to do is stare at her. Week two, you're still on a buzz. This buzz enables you to not only take care of your baby but do things like get housework done, read a little bit while you feed her, blog an insane amount, cheerfully entertain visitors, etc.

Week three? Week three, that adrenaline rush is GONE. You are one thing and one thing only - insanely tired. TIRED. Tired to the point where brushing your teeth might just be too much work. Tired to the point where you schlump your way through the three a.m. feeding without barely opening your eyes, nevermind examining the baby's perfect little face while she's feeding the way you did in week two. Tired to the point where the house really starts to look like the disaster you'd heard newborn households are supposed to look like and you stop patting yourself on the back about how efficient you're going to be and how YOUR house won't get messy. Of course it will. By week four you'll probably be shoveling aside piles of unread newspapers just to find a place to sit the baby down for a minute.

Sofia's doing fine, and is still a wonderful baby who drives me to delighted distraction many many times a day. What she is not is clear on the whole day-night thing. Like many newborns, she's confused about this whole business of the earth rotating on its axis and creating periods of light and dark, and prefers to sleep all day and party all night. Some readng last night online indicated that this will sort itself out somewhere in the first three months, but that there's not a lot you can do about it. She's also become a "grazer" - preferring to eat little amounts at very frequent (even hourly) intervals, at least at night.

Combine these two traits and add in Brett's return to work today and the fact that everything that happens after midnight is now Mom's responsibility and you have a tired person here. Last night we slept from 12:30 to 3:30 (blissful) and from 5:30 to 7:00. We got another 45 minutes later in the morning while we watched the old Orson Welles version of Jane Eyre, but that's it for my night. I'm going to have to get a lot more serious about the napping during the day business to survive.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

One week down

Well, it's official - we've had the baby home for a week, and she's STILL ALIVE.

We took a moment to high five each other for this over lunch.

Week one portrait - we're going to take one each Saturday in this same chair to show her growth:


So far Sofia has:


  • Been on a walk every day for the last four days, but has never stayed conscious long enough to see a single blade of grass. The stroller, it puts her to sleep. Also, Mommy can only walk about eight blocks at this point before wanting to collapse, so these are very short trips. But it adds some sunlight to the day and one of these days she'll wake up and enjoy it.

    In the stroller - what's happening?


  • Been out to lunch twice - and again, slept through both of them. We went to Roxie's Deli last Wednesday before her doctor's appointment, and to Pete's Eggnest today on our walk. She's very comfortable in restaurants, if by "comfortable" you mean "mouth-open-snoring-drooling-asleep." This is also a good trait in a baby.

  • Had two baths. The first one you would have thought we were trying to murder her from the screams and howls. The second one, she settled in a lot better and even let us truly shampoo her hair. Now she has lovely girl hair instead of the greasy goop she's had since we left the hospital from treating her head wound from the attempted vacuum delivery.

    Bath number two


  • Nearly lost her belly button stump - it came 90% off yesterday. But it was still dangling by a string that wouldn't come loose, and being nervous new parents we just slapped a bandaid on it and left it for the doctor to deal with tomorrow.

  • Developed a rash all over her body. I'm afraid it's from the bandaid, but as I said, doctor visit tomorrow.

  • Gone through more outfits than both of us put together. Boy, this girl can mess up clothes. She has a prodigious ability to go through about four diapers in a row, rapid fire - dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty. We sit around and wait when we hear her go trying to gauge when she's really finished before we change her, but somehow she always holds a little bit in reserve and takes a sick kind of pleasure in letting loose as soon as you've settled back into your seat.

Overall, it's been wonderful, exhausting, and a little overwhelming at times, but the fact remains that the kid is now ten days old, and that's a third of the way to surviving a whole month. Wahoo!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Styling

Sofia's new hat is lovely -- thank you Amy! (She'll grow into it.)

Sling

Today we tried out Sofie's new sling -- I wanted to see how she reacted to it, and how I liked it. Overall, it was great, and may be a lifesaver in the long run -- she still gets to cuddle up against my heartbeat all day and I get both hands free and support in carrying her. Brett, of course, photographed this event:

Me, on the phone while Sofie sleeps in the sling


Close up


Sleeping with Dad is a less structured affair:

Friday, September 08, 2006

Questions not to ask the newly delivered

We took Sofia for her first stroller ride tonight - nothing huge, since I'm still having trouble getting around - just a walk around a couple of blocks. While we were out, we ran into a man who lives around the corner from us who has twin newborn boys; we'd heard about him but never met him before.

We introduced ourselves, and said we were in the same boat as him now, meaning that we had a newborn.

"Oh, going to have two soon yourself, I see," he said.

"No, we just have the one," Brett said.

"And one on the way, right?" he said, pointing at my stomach.

Oh lord. I must admit I teared up behind my sunglasses, even though I completely understand and know that my body is supposed to look like this right now. Let's blame the hormones. But still. I'm having a hard enough time dealing with the recovery from a major operation and a new baby without total strangers pointing out how pregnant I look.

I've heard this happens when you're still in the immediate postpartum phase, but I didn't expect it to start so soon. I may very well just not leave the house for the next few weeks, or at least until my stomach contracts enough to plant doubt in people's minds about whether I'm expecting or not. Enough doubt, that is, so that they won't dare ask.

Arg.

Best friends

Cassie is adjusting to the baby better than we'd hoped...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Homecoming, random observations

Sofia's homecoming yesterday was quietly monumental - everything has changed for us, but it all fits together and feels pretty effortless. She was quiet and sleepy yesterday from the jaundice and from getting more to eat, and she napped happily in her basket or bassinet nearly all day. A few of the neighbors stopped by to visit her, and some of the little girls held her and were completely enthralled. She slept through all of this hubbub.

Coming home outfit

In the carseat



Her feedings were and continue to be idyllic and (for the most part) easy and I loveloveLOVE them more than nearly anything - the look of faraway concentration in her eyes as she nurses, like she's there but not really there; the way her little hand pats my breast absentmindedly but with seeming great affection; the punch drunk way she reels back when she's finished and then settles in for a burping, an activity she just adores. It's hard feeding her day and night - nearly a fulltime job, taking up at least as many hours of my day as my job at Microsoft did - but it's also my very favorite thing.

Blissfully asleep


***

Brett is in dad mode, calling us his girls, driving like a nervous wreck on the way home from the hospital, in full worry mode with the neighbors about her future, etc. After we went to bed at home the first night he was up like a shot five minutes later. "I smell smoke!" he shouts, and disappears to check the whole house, although predictably enough nothing is wrong except that he now has a little person to protect from all harm.


"Do you ever forget, just a second at night, that she's here?" I ask.
"I think of her every second," he says in full sincerity.
"You do not."
"I do."
"Are you thinking of her right now?"
"Yes. I'm thinking about college."

The look - Daddy's girl

He doesn't really get the gist of my question, but that's okay because his perspective is equally sweet. But lying in bed I have moments of hardly believing this is real, this luck, this astonishing good fortune. It may be the Percoset, but just for one second I forget all about the fact that she's here, that it's not just us still, waiting for her to arrive, alone. Then she turns or breathes or mutters in that baby way and I'm instantly back in the moment with her.

Brett calls his brother at 5:30 a.m. to share the early morning feeding - his brother is on the east coast and time zones line up for early morning calls. "She's so cute that we keep wanting to wake her up and play with her!" he says. "NEVER wake a sleeping baby," Ira warns. Brett promises to tattoo this on his forehead to remind us both at all times.

***

The cats' reactions to Sofia are odd. Max, as expected, takes one look at her and flees the house, maybe for good. Maddie doesn't seem to notice her at all, even when brought in for a look. But Phoenix and Cassie are intensely curious and strangely respectful. They watch her closely but give her first priority. As I feed her at midnight, they wait in the nook off the bedroom looking intensely worried at her cries, and then each come in to receive their own dose of affection from me once she's off to sleep. They steal rapt looks into the bassinet as they do so. What is this thing? they seem to be asking. Except I get the feeling they know it's a baby.

Cat's eye view


Today Cassie has twice joined me during feedings, so that I've had the baby on one knee and a cat on the other. She seems to be the one taking the "help protect the baby" stance, as we'd guessed she might. It's very cute.

Sun baby

Sofia soaking up some rays at the hospital, by doctor's orders - we put her in front of a window to help treat jaundice a few times.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Welcome Sofia

We are happy to announce the arrival of Sofia Barbara, who entered the world this past Saturday night at 10:15. My water broke on Friday morning, and she arrived via c-section on Saturday, after 24 hours of labor and 36 hours at the hospital. Aside from the first few hours, which were excruciating, labor and even the operation were a breeze, thanks to the wonders of modern pharmaceuticals. I had morphine overnight to deal with back labor, and the world's best epidural with a "press me for more" button that I made liberal use of when it came time for the hardest stages of labor. Ahhhh. I respect people who go through unmedicated childbirth, but I'm very glad to have not been one of them.



The C-section, when it became unavoidable, was made more than bearable by the knowledge that I'd be seeing my daughter in a few minutes. She arrived only five or ten minutes into the operation, at which point I burst into tears and sobbed happily through the rest of it while watching Brett hold her and sing her songs - the doctors could have been tattooing their names on my internal organs at that point and I wouldn't have noticed a thing other than the tiny pair of feet being weighed on the other side of the room.

Overall, the whole thing was a fascinating experience, and an utterly positive one. We were both almost preternaturally calm about the whole thing, and both fell in love with my doctor and each of the nurses who took such wonderful care of us through the whole delivery.

Vital stats: 7 lbs 13 oz and 21 inches long. Here's a picture of her from just a few minutes after her big arrival:



As with most hospital babies, she came with a hat:



We're just thrilled with her, and it's been an amazing experience to watch how quickly Brett has become wrapped around her little finger as the world's most devoted father. He talks to her for hours and she gazes up into his eyes with an adoration that is complete and total.



Much more to come - we just got home today, and life has changed so completely and utterly between when I left the house Saturday morning and when I returned on Tuesday afternoon that I hardly know how to describe it yet.

But I'll undoubtedly spend many posts trying to do just that. :)

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