Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Who's the Daddy?

I am!!! We have our baby!!! He was born at 3:01pm on Friday, September 10th 2010. Five days past his due date!

I have been meaning to write about all this for a while, but just haven't had the time to do so, as it turns out being a new Daddy is pretty hectic! So here's a quick update...

Labour lasted almost 36 hours, and was pretty awful. HW woke me up at about 5am on Thursday 9th, to say that she felt like she was having contractions. I called in to work to let them know I wouldn't be coming in. Then we spent the day in as normal a fashion as possible; going for a walk, going to the supermarket, etc. We also watched the opening game of the NFL season, and then at around 9pm HW felt like the contractions were becoming even more intense and frequent, so we called our doula, and she came over, to talk us through it all and help us stay calm.

At about 11pm we finally decided to head to the hospital. Got there, and they split us all up and made HW fill in a load of paperwork and do a blood test and a urine test, etc. Basically they stressed us all out, which totally ruined the relaxation we had been working on all day, and delayed the contractions all over again. We spent an hour or so in Triage, and were then sent down to Labour; where we were pretty much ignored, and had the least helpful nurse in the world.

Contractions continued and became even more painful, till around 6am. At this point we hadn't slept in 25 hours, and were losing our minds. So HW opted for the epidural. Our doula was sent out of the room again, and I had to sit and watch HW crying in pain, as an incompetent doctor injected her in the spine not just once or twice but SIX times, trying to find the right spot. Finally the epidural worked, and we then got a couple of hours sleep.

We woke up around 8am and carried on, contractions getting closer together again. By noon HW was pretty much fully dilated, and ready to push. But then suddenly the OB was nowhere to be found, and they told us to wait. So once again we lost momentum, and were frustrated and upset, to say the least. Finally the OB returned, and at about 1pm we started trying to deliver the baby. After much pushing and screaming and crying, he was born at exactly 3:01pm.

An incredibly stressful and exhausting experience, but most importantly we got the result we wanted: a perfectly healthy baby boy. And no C-section.

He was 9lbs 7ozs at birth, in perfect health, and with a full head of hair!

We spent the next couple of days recovering in the postpartum ward, and the aftercare was fantastic. No complaints there. We finally checked out of the hospital and went home on Sunday, September 12th.

Since then we have just been readjusting to home life, and falling madly in love with our little boy. I'm sure all parents think that their baby is perfect, and we are no exception. The nurses at the hospital all seemed very enamored with him too; and all commented on his cuteness and hair. He also seems to have a lot of admirers when we go out in public - random people stop us to comment on how adorable he is, or how sweet he looks. The other day we were in CVS (the American version of Boots) and one old lady practically started crying because she enjoys knitting things for babies but didn't have anything with her to give us at the time. It has got to the stage where we now cover his babyseat up with a blanket if we're going out in public, just to avoid the constant stream of admirers! It's a bit like going out with a celeb!

HW's Mum and sister visited us last week, which gave us some time to catch up with The Real World. We got to go to a concert and spend a couple of hours away from BB, which was probably healthy. We also got to take BB out of the house a few times; on his first trip to a restaurant, the beach, the park, etc.

So, yes, we have our baby boy, and we are incredibly happy and proud of him. I have occasional moments of The Fear, and total "Ohmygodwhathavewedone" anxiety, but 99% of the time I am just overcome by how amazing he is. He clearly doesn't realize he's a newborn, either, as he's already lifting his head and trying to roll around and crawl, and grabbing on to things. He eats and poos and wees like a trooper, too; I've gone from amateur to semi-pro ranking in the diaper-changing stakes in just two weeks. Maybe I'll try out for pro status in just a couple more months.  And BB sleeps pretty well through the night too, for three or four hours at a time! At first he didn't like being put down in his crib, and would only sleep in arms, but over the past few nights he's got used to it, and now he loves to be in there. We seriously feel like we've won the baby lottery, as everything so far has been really easy and straightforward, and we haven't encountered any problems. One thing I'll say about that is that, throughout the pregnancy, HW was really careful with her diet; she ate lots of fruit and vegetables, and made sure to take her pre-natal vitamins every single day (go for the ones with folic acid), and stayed away from smokers, or alcohol. Did those factors contribute to the fact that we have a healthy, happy baby? Who knows. But why not play it safe anyway, just in case?

Anyhow, everything is great. Being a Daddy is awesome!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Today's the day... supposedly.

Well, today is BB's due date, but there's still no sign of him.

Our hospital bags are packed, we've cleaned the apartment from top to bottom (several times), and everything is ready. Now we just need him to show up!

It's quite a weird feeling; knowing he could be here any minute, but not knowing when. We can't really make any plans to do anything, and we're just sort of stuck sitting around, waiting for HW to go into labour. We'll probably go for a walk today, as that's supposed to help induce labour. And I told HW she should try to visualize BB starting to make his way out, too. Tomorrow is labour day here in the US, and I suppose it would be quite fitting if he decided to arrive then.

Come on BB!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

List of the Essentials

Today HW and I finally made it to the movies, to see Toy Story 3 (highly recommended). I noticed during the movie that HW seemed very uncomfortable at times, and was gripping her belly and taking deep breaths; as though she might be having initial contractions! It turned out this wasn't the case, but I was reminded that our due date is just two weeks away, and we haven't even packed for the hospital yet! So I'm going to do that this weekend, and I just remembered we already have a list of everything we'll need. A friend of mine in England just had a baby boy a couple of months ago, so I thought I'd ask her if she had any last minute advice for HW and she was kind enough to send me us some GREAT information and a load of lists, so I thought I'd share those all here, as they were so useful:

For the Hospital Bag:

• T-shirt/nightie for labour
• Dressing Gown
• Slippers
• Socks
• Camera and/or videocamera
• Hairband (invaluable)
• Comfortable shoes
• Evian face spray (or a cheaper cooling spray)
• Arnica (used for bruising, I had some on my arms from various injections/blood taking etc)
• Dextro energy tablets
• Boiled sweets (gas and air can taste funny)
• Soothing music to listen to
• Disposable pants
• Big knickers/panties
• Maternity sanitary pads (need a LOT of these, at least 6 or 7)
• Sanitary bags
• Breast pads
• Nursing bras
• Front opening nightie (if breast-feeding)
• Toiletries
• Toothbrush and toothpaste
• Tissues
• Lip Balm
• Tea Tree oil & empty 50cl water bottle - fill with luke warm water whenever you go to the loo and drop in a couple of drops of the tea tree oil then pour over your "bits" as you pee or just after
• Lansinoh Lanolin cream
• DARK towels (eg. 1 hand towel and 1 bath towel)
• Comfy clothes to go home in
• Make up if you're worried about looking good!
• Money for phone card, newspaper etc….
• No brainer book/magazine if you are waiting for things to happen.
• Phone with charger

Labour Tips:

-In terms of breathing, you need to say 'breathe with me' and breathe obviously and a little more slowly than normal. There are also massages you can find online that will help. I didn't do any particular breathing exercises. There are also CDs you can use that are meditative, envisioning your child and breathing more deeply. I can't make any recommendations on that front as I didn't use. The only thing I will say is you will be surprised how long it all takes and something to amuse you both between contractions can be a good idea - cards, a book, something to take your mind off it! Although my contractions were too close to one another for most of the process for me to do much!

For baby at the hospital:

• Towel
• Nappies / Diapers (pack quite a few)
• Cotton wool – hospitals frown on wet-wipes
• Couple of muslin clothes
• 5x vest bodysuits
• 5x sleepsuits
• Hat
• Scratch mitts
• Blanket/shawl
• Teddy bear!
• Have going home outfit (probably just another babygro, and coat ready for hubbie to bring in)
• Booties (If wearing an outfit)
• If you plan to bottle feed I think you have to provide bottles and formula.
• Also make sure car-seat is already fully fitted, ready to take baby home!

For baby at home:

• Mattress
• Mobile
• Changing mat and cheap towels to keep bottoms warm!
• Night-light
• Curtains with blackout lining or Blackout blind (something we may invest in in the near future)
• Baby monitor
• Bouncy chair
• Room thermometer
• Grobags (baby sleeping bags), invaluable in the heat. Also, stop baby kicking blankets off.
• Moses basket and bedding (4 flat sheets and a couple of top sheets and coverlet)
• Couple of toys! (we recommend Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes)
• Pram/pushchair
• Sun parasol
• Raincover (probably not necessary in San Diego)
• Car seat
• Sunscreens for car
• Baby carrier
• Changing bag
• Breast pads
• Steriliser ( needed for pump/bottles for expressed milk and dummies)
• Bottle brush
• Bottle and teats
• Breast pump
• Formula (have a couple of ready made cartons even if you plan to breastfeed)
• Muslins
• Bibs (if bottle feeding, plastic backed ones recommended to stop the milk soaking through to clothes)
• Infacol drops (for bringing up wind, they’re fine from birth and can be very useful)
• Baby wipes (Huggies Pure are very good)
• Baby shampoo
• Body wash
• Cotton wool pads
• Sudocrem
• Nappies
• Nappy sacks
• Nail clippers/scissors
• Bath thermometer
• Bath sponge
• Wash cloth
• Bath support
• Baby bath
• Brush and comb
• Bath towels
• Bodysuits
• Sleepsuits (go for ones with poppers and ones don't involve putting it over the head)
• Cardigan
• Socks
• Scratch mitts (many sleepsuits have in-built ones)
• Shawl/blanket
• Little rocker chair and activity mat also really useful.

Recommended books:

1. "Your Baby Week by Week" by Simone Cave, pretty much as it says on the tin. Obviously a bit UK-centric, talking about Child Benefit etc but also tells you stuff like how many nappies to expect per day. Nice little bitesize chunks per week.
2. "Baby's First Skills" by Dr Miriam Stoppard, activities you can do with baby to develop them based on their age.
3. The What To Expect website is also a fantastic resource, with a great online community, daily email service, and messageboard!

Diaper Tips:

-They are able to aim with surprising accuracy and will often pee as soon as you take off the nappy. Another bit of advice is to undo the tape, allow air to circulate and put lay nappy back on top for thirty secs to prevent that. Clothing with poppers at the crotch is easiest!

Additional Advice:

-Throwing up is a 'good' sign and entirely normal during the birth.
-Try putting the car seat in the car a few times before baby is born. Also, practise collapsing and putting up the buggy/pram.
-Also, you'll be surprised by how quickly they grow, don't go overboard with first sizes (newborn), they are only in them for a couple of weeks and some babies are too big straight away. Some babies from our group are already into 3-6 months, although they are between the ages of seven weeks and three months. You'll probably be gifted a lot in those sizes, I wish we hadn't bought more than a couple.
-The pushing phase of labour feels very much like you really need a poo. You may evacuate your bowels but that feeling is more about baby
-Birth plans are useful to go through what you would like (or not like) to happen, but very few people I know follow it to the letter
-Gas and air don't work for everyone; be prepared to be forceful enough to ask for next level of painkiller if necessary, before its too late!
-Newborn must be woken every two to three hours for a feed (and that's start to start of feed, so if baby starts feed at 2am, the next begins around 5am, regardless of how long the feed takes) Our baby slept through on our first night at home which I thought was good; turns out that in fact he was being lazy, not waking for a feed. He lost a lot of weight and was quite dehydrated. I thunk that phase passes after the first fortnight and they can go six hours overnight
-Most babies do lose a little bit of weight after they are born.
-If you are breastfeeding, I found the first three weeks really hard work, whether because it hurt or because baby wanted to feed what felt like all the time. It got infinitely easier after that and now it is so much more convenient.
-Always pack a spare pack of clothing in the baby's changing bag. They are going to poop/spew/have a leaky nappy if you don't!
-Have a support network. try to find other mums who have babies at the same sort of time, ie within a month or so of you. It helps to have other people you can benchmark against.
-That first two weeks was pretty nightmarish, baby didn't want to sleep in his Moses basket, would only sleep on me and didn't go to sleep much at night. IT DOES GET BETTER!! Persisting with a bedtime routine has helped, and not engaging with him for night feeds.
-Babies smell amazing when they come out!
-Prepare your meals the night before, or in the morning or when you get a chance, particularly if you are breastfeeding. You will end up being stuck on the couch for long stretches.
-Finally, sort of counter to all this advice, listen to what everyone has to say, smile and nod and then go your own way! You'll get so much conflicting advice, particularly around feeding which seems to be an area of contention and you'll know what works for your baby.
-All in all, make the most of all of the different things that happen, I know it's a cliche but it really does race by and baby will change so quickly! I can't believe how much I adore him

Right, I'd better go and pack that hospital bag!

The Basics Of Baby-Care

HW has several sisters who each have numerous children, so she's already witnessed a lot of childcare first-hand. Similary, I have two half-sisters who are a lot younger than I am (one was born when I was 11 years old, the other when I was 13) so I got to see them being raised, and helped out with a lot of the babycare. Nonetheless, we still thought it'd be useful to attend at least one parenting class, so last week HW and I went to our first (and only) class, at our hospital. It was a four hour intensive class, on the basics of baby-care.

They showed us how to change diapers, how to fold swaddling cloths, how to feed the baby, how to bathe it, and what to do if it gets sick. All the essential stuff.

Here are some notes I took during the class:
  • If baby is being circumcised, check with insurance provider to see if this is covered (usually isn't)
  • Don't use any lotions or product on the baby for at least the first two weeks
  • The baby will get eye meds, vitamin K, and an umbilical cord clamp at the hospital
  • "Tummy time" from 4 weeks onwards, but never unattended
  • Always put baby down to sleep on its back, with nothing else in the crib
  • Always make sure the crib has a firm mattress with tight-fitting sheets
  • Use a Q-tip with hydrogen peroxide twice a day around the umbilical cord, to help it heal
  • Sponge baths for the first two weeks at least
  • Normal for the cord to 'ooze', but shouldn't be bloody
  • Use warm water and a washclother for diaper changes
  • Use receiving blankets as swaddling cloths
  • Have a nasal aspirator close by, in case baby has any blocked sinuses or needs help breathing
  • Baby should always be wearing one more layer than adults; including a hat at night
  • Will start smiling at 3 weeks old
  • Will get colic from around 4 weeks old
  • Tub bathing is okay after the cord has healed
  • "Brick dust" orange urine is normal in the first week; but after that it could signal dehydration
Medicine cabinet should contain:
  • Q-tips, with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide
  • Chemical-free detergent for washing babies clothes, towels, etc.
  • Digital thermometer
  • Cotton balls
  • Washclothes and chemical-free wipes
  • Desitin, in case of rash
  • Soft-bristle hairbrush (can be very soothing for baby)
  • Infant tylenol
In a 24-hour day, you can expect the following from a newborn:
  • 2 to 3 hours of crying
  • 16 to 17 hours of sleeping (sadly not consecutive!)
  • Pooping 3 to 5 times a day
  • Peeing around 8 times a day
  • This means around 12 diaper changes a day; probably totaling around 1 hour
  • Feeding every 2 hours; 15 minutes on each breast (10 to 12 times a day); totaling around 5 hours a day
Doesn't leave much time for anything else!

Anyway, the class was definitely useful, and we also got a magazine titled "The Joy Of Parenthood: Your Personal Journey Through Newborn Care", which contained lots of extra information. Specifically, there's a guide to infant CPR, which is obviously really important to know, in case of emergencies. Every parent should take some kind of class or have some kind of book which covers this, just in case!

Birthing Movies

I thought I'd write about a couple of birthing movies which HW and I have watched. They both proved to be very thought-provoking and influential about our choices for our birth plan and what we want to happen when the big day comes.

Right at the start of our pregnancy we watched The Business Of Being Born. The film was produced by Ricki Lake, who realized after her first (hospital) birth that she wanted to have her second baby by home-birth, and decided to make a movie about the process; debunking some of the myths surrounding the process. (Also, the movie actually shows Lake giving birth to her second baby, in her bath, at home!) Particularly in America, there seems to be a lot of pressure towards having a hospital birth, and I was very surprised by this, as the general consensus in Europe is a lot more laid back; seeing birth as a very natural, pure process, which should only require medical interventions in extreme cases. Ricki Lake's movie explores some of the reasons behind the trend towards hospital births in America (and the alarming number of C-sections) and, surprise surprise, she discovers that a lot of it comes down to time and money. The birthing process in American hospitals often feels a lot like a baby production line: ship 'em in, squeeze 'em out, and move on to the next. The majority of births are induced by pitocin, but the reality of this is that it makes the contractions more painful, and also reduces the mother's oxytocin levels (which are a natural chemical to bond the mother and baby!). This is because it's essentially the most cost-effective (and profitable) way for health providers to deal with births. It all seems to be very impersonal and unnatural. Home births, on the other hand, are very pure and simple, and encourage the woman to fully appreciate the wonder of giving birth, and to see it as a sensual, intimate process, where she gets to welcome her baby to the world.

After watching the movie HW and I agreed that we'd stick with our doctor (as he is great, and very understanding and respectful of all our choices) and have the baby delivered in a hospital (just in case anything should go wrong), but that we'd stick to a very simple birth plan: keep everything natural, and deliver the baby without any medical intervention unless absolutely necessary.

Then, last night HW and I watched the Orgasmic Birth movie. It essentially delivers the same message as Ricki Lake's movie, but focuses even more on the sensual qualities of the birth process; suggesting that it can actually be a very sexual and orgasmic experience for the mother. Basically, it just confirmed a lot of the decisions we'd already made, about how we want our big day to go.

Obviously every parent  is going to make their own decision about what is best for them, and how they want to deliver their baby, but I would definitely recommend these two movies to every parent-to-be, before you make that choice. They're very informative, and really give you a good idea of what your birthing options are, and some of the cultural differences all around the world (for instance, Orgasmic Birth shows a Maori mother giving birth; welcome her baby to the world with special tribal chants).

One final comment, though, is that it struck me as I was watching these movies that I would feel very left out if I was watching these as a single parent. All of the birthing movies (not to mention most of the literatue) seem to be aimed at straight couples. Considering there are more and more single mothers (and fathers) than ever before (not to mention same-sex couples) having babies now, this seems a little outdated and insensitive to me. It'd be nice to see some more variety represented out there. Just a thought.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

One Month and Counting... (the story so far)

So, before I write this post, I'm just going to make a couple of things clear:

1. I enjoy my privacy, and I'm pretty sure my wife enjoys hers too, so I will not be using our real names on this blog. Instead I will refer to myself as TD (The Daddy), my wife as HW (Her Wifeness), and baby boy as BB!

2. You might wonder why I've only just started this blog now, with a few weeks to go until baby arrives, instead of starting it several months ago, to document the entire pregnancy. Well, the honest answer is that there hasn't been anything to document! We have had a textbook pregnancy. Every visit to the doctor has taken about 5 minutes, all test results have always been good, and the baby's heartbeat has always been healthy. So it would have been a pretty boring blog. I guess the only thing I might have written about is that we found Freecycle and Craigslist to both be really helpful ways to get all our baby stuff together. Many people told us that there's no point paying full price for baby stuff because you only need it for such a short time, and that definitely seems to be true. We've bought almost everything second-hand from other parents, or had it donated to us. If you're parenting on a budget (which almost everybody is these days, right?) then I definitely recommend those two sites.

Right, on with the post: today is 5th August, which means there's exactly one month to go till baby's due date! We really don't think he's going to stay put for that long, though. HW is almost ready to pop and really doesn't think she will go full term. Apparently it's very common for pregnant women to think that, though, so I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

We had an appointment with our doctor a couple of days ago (they used to be monthly, but now they're every two weeks, and soon they'll be weekly, leading up to the birth) and as usual all the test results were clear and BB's heartbeat was strong and healthy! We also found out that he's in a head-down position; ready to make his escape! So that was all good news. We also got some useful information about how to know when it's time to go to the hospital (when HW's waters break, or when she is sure she's in labor and her contractions are between 2 and 3 minutes apart, or if there's a lot of bleeding) and what exactly will happen when we get there.

We're obviously overjoyed that our baby is healthy and that we've had no complications at all throughout the pregnancy, but there is ONE annoying thing about it: because there have never been any issues, the doctors have never needed to do any ultrasounds. So we haven't actually seen BB since the initial ultrasounds, right at the start of the pregnancy.

This one was at 7 weeks:

  This one was at 9 weeks, 5 days:

And this one was at 19 weeks, 5 days; weighing 11 ounces (look at that spine!):

And that's the last time we actually got to see him! We've both been talking about how strange it seems, having this little being who we can feeling kicking inside HW's belly all the time, and who is going to be living with us soon, and yet we still don't know what he looks like! Oh well, just a few more weeks to wait, now.

As far as being otherwise prepared, BB's room is pretty much ready to go: we have his crib, changing table, and plenty of clothes, toys, books, and blankets... although we could probably do with stocking up on a few more boxes of diapers and baby wipes (HW is having a baby shower at work next Tuesday so hopefully she'll get some there!). We also have two breast pumps; one double electric pump, and one backup manual pump. And we have a little baby bathtub thing for washing him, too. So I feel like we have most of the things we're going to need. We still need to pack our hospital bags, though - we might do that this weekend. We also have a parenting class at the hospital, next Tuesday night. It's an intensive class, just to take us through all the basics and make sure we're ready! I'm looking forward to it, and hoping we might also get to chat with some of the other parents, too, to see how they're all getting along. I wonder if they all feel the same as we do... excited about this amazing adventure we're about to embark on, but also kind of nervous!

Well, that's all for now. I feel like we're almost ready to meet our baby boy!

Monday, August 2, 2010

It's a Blog!

I'm about to become a Daddy!

My wife and I are having our first baby - a boy - in just a few weeks (our due date is September 5th), so I've decided to bring this new blog into the world, as a place to document everything that happens, and to collect my thoughts about it all.

Stay tuned for wild news and raucous photos, on rock 'n roll topics such as nappy-changing (or diapers, if you're American), sleepless nights, strollers, car seats, Baby Bjorns, and all the other serious, exciting, and wonderful issues that accompany first-time fatherhood. It's going to be an adventure!