Sunday, 12 August 2018

Newborns & Airhorns

Taking care of a newborn truly is a full-time job, and while I do know that as a father that goes to work while his partner stays at home with the baby, sometimes I just don’t understand it. I try to be as supportive as I can. When Kay is stressed out and has days that she feels like she hasn’t been able to get anything done, I always tell her, you only have two responsibilities; “take care of the baby and take care of yourself”. Most of the time I mean that, but occasionally, I don’t. Occasionally, I resent her for getting to spend so much time with our son, for being the one he wants when he’s upset, for being the only one that can feed him, and the one that knows him better than anybody.

Jealousy is a manipulative emotion and it can really cloud your judgement if you let it. For example, when Kay takes my advice, and takes care of herself and the baby, nothing else gets done; and sometimes, after coming home from an exhausting day at work, despite my better judgement, I’ll get annoyed that now instead of spending time with the baby, I’m spending my evenings taking out the garbage, cleaning the cat litter, and doing the dishes. We share all our chores and since the baby was born, most of them have become my chores. This is something I’m totally fine with on days when my judgement has not lapsed, but on days when I’ve tossed it to the wind, the resentment starts to build.

Today was one of those days. I’m an early riser and I was up early this morning. It’s Sunday, so I’m not at work. I spent my morning running some errands while Kay and the baby slept. Then around 9AM they woke up and with complete disregard for the fact that my wife had been up every two or three hours caring for our child, I rushed her and the baby out of bed and got annoyed when she took too long. We went for breakfast at a restaurant together, and I scarfed down my food quickly, recognizing that the baby was about to lose his shit, and when I tried to console him, all he wanted was his mom, so the resentment kept building.
 
Nap time aftermath
Later in the afternoon, Kay decided she wanted to clean the bathtub, so I eagerly took the little man for some father son time, but my three-month-old had other plans. He didn’t want father son time, or lay on his back time, or over the shoulder time, or tummy time, or story time, or singalong time, or a puppet show. He needed nap time, but it seemed he didn’t want that either. By that time, mama had finished cleaning the bathtub, and I begrudgingly handed him over to her and went downstairs for a snack. As I was eating I decided to turn on the video baby monitor that was sitting there, partially to be a creep, partially to be funny, and partially to find out what the hell she’s got that I don’t (besides the milk).

I sat there watching my son’s arms and legs flail, and my wife try over and over to calm him down enough to feed him. She swaddled him, she sang to him, she held him and rocked him. She patiently tried everything she could, one after the other, while the whole time he screamed at the top of his lungs. Eventually, she did get him to sleep by trying a new bouncing maneuver while she held him close to her chest. I watched all of this with a mixture of emotions. I felt shame, for resenting my wife who is seriously just trying to do the best she can. I felt pride, in her for being such a great mother and wife and for being so patient with our son. And finally, I was grateful that it wasn’t me, because I realized that this is every single day and pretty much every night for her – and has been for the last three months – which has got to be a feat equivalent to completing a marathon every day while someone blows an air horn in your face every time you stop for a rest.

I started this blog with the hope that I might reach some people out there and it might help them get through some similar things. But today, I think I just owe my wife an apology. So, to my beautiful wife – I’m sorry if I’m a dick sometimes, you’re doing an amazing job. Please don’t buy an airhorn.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

#sorrynotsorry

So Kay and I have, for the most part, figured out how to keep the little man clean, happy, and fed – although we’ve been told on numerous occasions that just when you figure it out they will change entirely.  Both of us are completely in love and spend any small amount of free time we have staring at him in awe. We obsess over his adorably thick head of hair, we melt when we smile at him and he smiles back, and our hearts burst when I sing to him and he coos as though he’s singing along with me. Having a child is every bit as amazing as I thought it would be and so much more.

Some of the things we are still figuring out are the best ways to keep him safe. I mean, there’s the obvious things, like not leaving him unattended at the mall, strapping him into his car seat correctly, and making sure we are following the recommended sleep suggestions (which could really take up a whole post on its own), but something we’ve really struggled with is our son’s online presence.

Kay and I didn’t feel quite right about plastering his photo all over social media and we asked our family and friends not to do so as well, at least until we figured out how we wanted to handle it. It’s not that we don’t want to share him with the world - if it was up to me I’d walk him out to the edge of Pride Rock and have a baboon present him to a crowd of African beasts, while a world class symphony led by Elton John serenades everything the light touches. Fortunately, it’s not up to me because nobody in their right mind should entrust their newborn with a baboon, but I think I’ve made my point.

We grew up before the time of Facebook, and Twitter, and Instagram, and Snapchat. We were young adults when Facebook became a thing and we consented to our information being used and shared with the world – even if we didn’t fully understand what that meant at the time, we were able to make the choice for ourselves. The feeling that we have is that by putting his image out there again and again, we are robbing him of something our generation had, and the new generation has much less of- privacy.

The majority of our friends and family have been entirely respectful of our wishes, but inevitably we’ve had to remind some people once or twice or had to ask people to remove photos from social media – but we truly do understand where people are coming from. We are more proud of him than any grandparent, or aunt, or uncle, or best friend could possibly be, and posting pictures of him and seeing the public comment at how adorable he is, or watching that “like” count go up would be extremely gratifying and validating – but then almost as quickly as we posted it, the photo would fade from our memory, and his image would be in cyberspace forever, totally out of our control, and most importantly, out of his control. Kay used the analogy of a teenage crush visiting you at home and your mom hauling out the baby pictures while you’re finishing the touch-ups on your hair in the bathroom – except instead of just being embarrassed in front of his teenage crush, it’s everyone he will ever meet.

It turns out, sharing photos is just as effective through private messages between friends and family.  It’s also just as gratifying as social media for me, when someone asks me if I have pictures of my son, and I get to say “DO I?!” and pull out my phone and show them the 50 most recent photos because my entire library is just pictures of him. I’m not even exaggerating, just because I don’t wallpaper my digital wall with him, doesn’t mean I don’t take pictures of him. I take pictures of everything he does; of him smiling while mom plays pattycake with him, or screaming as we give him a bath, or a picture of a dirty diaper because I was so impressed with how full it was.

I’m not oblivious to the fact that times have changed – that social media is a significant part of our lives now. I’m also not so ignorant that I don’t know what privacy settings are. Nor am I blind to the irony that I write a blog about some of the most intimate parts of my life. These concepts have been carefully considered in our decision to keep our son’s face absent from the word of social media, and at this point in time, it’s really his choice that we are protecting. 

We’re not so self-righteous to believe that this is the right decision for everyone, and I am the first person to hit like on pictures of my friends’ kids, so there’s truly no judgement from us on how everyone else chooses to share their own children with the world. It also doesn’t mean that we will always feel this way, or that we will never share pictures of him on social media – but until then, we remain unapologetically and ironically #sorrynotsorry.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Sweet Child of Mine

In most cases, when you watch an action movie, the protagonist is usually struck with some kind of epic tragedy before their life turns upside down and they become the hero. Peter Parker's uncle died and he became Spiderman, Frank Castle's family was murdered and he became the Punisher, Superman's home planet, Krypton, was destroyed and he was rocketed to Earth by his parents to live out his extraordinary existence. In most cases in real life though, we live through tragedy, we grieve, and then we simply continue on our paths living our lives with the knowledge of what we endured.

My personal tragedy, while admittedly was substantially less tragic than the destruction of my entire planet, has served to change my life for the better. I have proved to myself what I can accomplish when I put my mind to it, I have been offered and taken the opportunity to stand up for others dealing with their own personal tragedies. I have counselled and offered support to people struggling with infertility, and now my hope is that my story will offer hope to those on their own journey. While I am immensely proud of these accomplishments, I am in no way saying I'm a superhero or comparing myself to the likes of Superman and Spiderman. Although, I'm not going to lie, there have been times in the past couple of weeks that I have thrown my fists up in the air, then flexed my underdeveloped dad biceps and declared myself SuperDad in front of my wife and a room full of pets.

My birthday is on April 29th, and at 34 minutes past midnight that morning, my son was born. He came into the world naturally, although he did require a bit of a push by induction. After ten hours of labour, K pushed like a champion for two additional hours to deliver to me the most incredible birthday gift I could ever ask for. I am not ashamed for a second to admit to the tears that streamed down my face, and as I thanked him for the gift of himself, I looked down at that little man and I said, "but I didn't get you anything for your birthday."

Aside from seeing something we'd worked so hard for come to fruition, and aside from meeting my baby boy for the first time, I also came to understand the reason people refer to child birth as a miracle. As K was pushing, I held her leg and did my part to encourage her and tell her how good of a job she was doing. Bit by bit, however, as I watched that baby come I became more and more convinced that there was no way in hell that baby was going to fit.  Then all of the sudden, by some kind of a complete miracle there was another human in the world. It was, by far, the single most incredible thing I have ever witnessed in my entire life, and it gave me a whole new understanding and complete and utter appreciation for the human body and for my wife's accomplishment of giving birth. 

I was in complete awe and I remained so until they finally released us from the hospital (they kept us an extra day because K's blood pressure was too high). The nurse showed us how to strap the little man into the car seat and as we were walking out two things occurred to me: One, I was totally terrified, and two, I couldn't help but feel like someone should stop us and question us to at least make sure we were competent or something, but nobody did. You can't fish without a license but you can make babies on demand and just figure out how to keep them alive - it's mind-blowing to me. 

The drive home from the hospital was the most nerve racking driving experience I've ever had, and I was once in a roll over, in a rented convertible, in a foreign country, so that's saying something. I felt like a new driver all over again. In fact, it wasn't just driving that made me feel like that, it was parenting altogether - it felt like I had just started my first day at a new job, in a new company, and had no idea what I was doing. 

Changing diapers was a whole new experience for me too, especially the black tar-like substance that comes out of a newborn as though they are a tube of charcoal toothpaste. What I mean by new experience though isn't just the colour of the goo, it's that I never thought I would be so okay with having poop on my hand. It's like this weird understanding comes over you and all the sudden, wiping cream on another human's butthole with a bare finger is just something that needs to be done, you just wash your hands and get over it. 

Little by little as we figure out our new life, and in between sessions of staring at our new child in awe, more and more of those parenting instincts kick in and we become better at the job itself. Although, not everything is instinctual, a lot of it is learned, like the lesson learned from getting peed all over because I didn't know that exposure to air is what kicks in the urinary response. Or the realization that my terrible a'capella karaoke voice singing Guns N' Roses' Sweet Child O' Mine will produce dead silence in a screaming baby while I sing the song as slowly as I can, and on repeat, to draw it out longer.

Of all the lessons I've learned throughout this immensely exhausting and rewarding experience, the one thing I know without a doubt - is that this life, with this woman, and this child is worth every dollar we've spent, every tear we've shed, every heartbreak we've endured, and every fear we have conquered to get here, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

A Wizard is Never Late

With the due date of April 20th having come and gone, and still no baby having shown up, Kay and I are impatiently waiting on pins and needles to meet our new addition. We scrambled to get the nursery completed by the due date, knowing in the back of our minds the baby could really have come any time. We cleaned the carpets, got the vents and furnace cleaned, gave it a fresh coat of paint and K worked her designer magic on the room by building a custom book shelf, refinishing an Ikea dresser, and flexing her creative muscle with some custom artwork and hanging methods.

Practicing on baby's bear "Hiccup"
With the nursery complete and everything set up and ready, we are passing the time by figuring out all of our baby equipment. A friend of ours is a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (something I had no idea existed until recently) and she showed K how to install the car seat properly, then K turned around and taught me how to buckle the baby in.

Unfortunately, with the way K's car is built, the car seat doesn't allow for much leg-room in the front passenger seat, which has me considering something I never thought I would - a minivan. Yes, I said it, I could actually see us buying a minivan in the future. The combination of room, practicality, and relatively cheap cost has my dad-eyes glazed over. A friend of mine said it best when she said something to the effect of: "I never saw myself in a minivan, but having this much distance between my head and my kids' mouths is better than sex."

Occupying ourselves with all these activities is, of course, a good thing, but it gets a little mind-numbing when all we really want to do is start our new life by meeting our new baby. The excitement I feel when I think about what this is going to mean for us is inexplicable, although I have to admit, with all the medical procedures we've gone through already, both K and I would really prefer natural initiation of labour than having to be induced.

I truly believe that working really hard at something and then standing back to look at the accomplishment makes everything worth it. With what we've done to get here, and how long we have waited, this is truly going to be the best feeling in the world. So when I think about the baby being past due, I try to remember the quote from the great wizard Gandalf: "A wizard is never late, nor is he (or she) early, he (or she) arrives precisely when they mean to."


Tuesday, 10 April 2018

First I Ask the Friends, Then I Do the Parenting (Part 3)

Any day now.
While living the child-free life, I've watched as each of my friends got married and/or had children, the majority of them before me. I've also watched as they had kids and then quickly drifted away, something I admittedly resented somewhat no matter how understanding I tried to be. I even went on to vow to myself that when I have kids, I'm not going to miss out on things, and skip events, and de-prioritize my friends - I'm not going to use them as an excuse. But as I get closer to having children, and I watch my wife as she turns our house into a giant nest, and I get ready for the baby myself, I struggle more and more about how I'm going to keep this promise to myself.

A couple of my friends put this into perspective for me. They explained to me that you wait for so long to meet your child, then once they are here you want to spend every moment of every day with them. You get so wrapped up in their little world that you forget to take care of yourself. Whether that be missing social events and activities, or playing sports, or working out. They said "you tell yourself you'll have time tomorrow, or the next day, but before you know it months have passed" and the time you needed for yourself is gone. They explained that this doesn't stop with your marriage either, that you can end up neglecting your relationship too - not maliciously, but honestly out of love for your new child.

When I think of the advice they gave, I compare it to riding on a plane, and the directions of how to use the oxygen masks in the event of an emergency. The directions are very clear that an adult must put on their own oxygen mask first, before helping their child. The reason for this, is because if the adult passes out first, there will be nobody to help the child. What I learned from them is that in order to take the best care of your child, you need to make sure you're also taking care of yourself and your relationships. This isn't to say there won't be sacrifices, those are inevitable, but finding a way to meet your own needs and those of your relationship with your partner ensures that your child has a solid opportunity to grow.

This is something I already admittedly have trouble with, and especially now that K is off work and at home waiting for the baby to come, something that has come to the forefront of our relationship. Being home by herself all day is a lonely place to be, even with a dog and two cats. So when I'm gone all the time working, or volunteering, or even when I'm at home working in my office - my absence takes much more of a toll than it did when she was working. I tell myself that I'm doing these things for my family (which there is some truth to), but what I've realized, with the help of the advice from my friends, is that I need to prioritize a little differently now - something that I'm sure will change even more once the baby is here.

I don't really know what that prioritization needs to look like, I'm still just fumbling around in the dark. What I do know, is that Kay and I are due for a date night, so date night is where I'm going to start.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

First I Ask the Friends, Then I Do the Parenting (Part 2)

As I said in my last post, I got so much great advice and feedback from friends that I had to write a series. This is one of my personal favorites, particularly because the story is so epically terrifying, and because it happened to family. I can't honestly put it into better words than this so I've decided to let Cousin J tell the story in his own words:

Let me tell you the story of why I now have a home phone, a.k.a. the scariest 30 minutes of my life. As with all stories of this nature it started out like any other evening. We were all getting ready for a low key family dinner date - well that's not really true - some of us were getting ready and a certain naked 3 year old was practicing his jumping on the bed and his “look dad, look dad, look dad” routine. Anyone who has the pleasure of living with these micro terrorists knows how this ends - Crash!

I turned around and my son was piled up in the bottom of his brother’s playpen and let out a pretty good scream. Nothing to worry about at this point; for anyone with kids this is still pretty much business as usual. At this age they have only a few jobs and one of the main ones is pushing everything to failure. That could be testing gravity with one of your prized pre-children artifacts, or maybe just your will to live. In this case it was his ability to do a backflip off a playpen railing. Anyway, things went quiet. P.S. now is the time to worry.

My wife went to pick him up and do the usual “there, there, you're alright,” but he was not alright. She immediately signalled to me something was wrong. I turned around to see his limp and lifeless body in her arms and he was peeing on the floor; now I'm no medical expert, but that is never good. I jumped right to action, and when I say that, I mean I yelled out “HE IS NOT OK!” just in case that wasn’t clear to her already. We put him down on the bed and I told her to call 911 and get some help ASAP.

Now at this point, I should point out I have taken first aid a bunch of times. I forgot everything. Right then my wife came flying back into the room, “where is your #$#@$ phone!?!?”. Pretty sure I didn’t even respond to her, I could only think “this is how my son dies.” After I processed the fact I was going to have to do something here, I checked to see if he was breathing. This all seemed like it took 5 minutes to me, but in reality it was probably like 15 seconds.

Nope I don't hear anything and his chest isn’t moving. “We need help right now!” I finally responded to her. I could now hear her telling someone the whole story. They stopped her right away and she spit out our address. OK now what? I was just positioning his head for what would be a parent's worst nightmare. Head tilt, chin lift, pinch the nose and with the greatest relief his beautiful brown eyes opened up. I’m not religious, but at this point I thanked all the gods I could think of.

He was pretty out of it, but was making some noises. I started trying to talk to him and let my wife know “he's ALIVE!”, but he was barely there and he hadn't moved a muscle. I guess I was expecting him to cry out and jump up like in the movies. I immediately thought, "oh no he broke his neck or something". Can you feel this? No action. Can you hear me? Still nothing. I kept trying to get his attention and relay what was happening to my wife who was around the corner because it’s the only place she could get a signal on her phone.

I started to see some movement with my boy’s body and he was saying some words that made no sense. Then the ambulance arrived - I can’t describe the relief you feel when two professionals come on the scene - everything was under control now.

Pretty scary right? Ya, the feelings still go through my mind when I see him on top of a counter or bouncing around the furniture. He was totally fine by the time he finished his ambulance ride to the Stollery Hospital; sadly I don’t think they get to see many kids bouncing off the walls around there (shout out to those beautiful people, please donate if you can). They eventually got him to sit still for a few minutes and gave him a checkout and explained what they suspect happened. We even made it to that dinner date.

So what did I learn about parenting from this experience? Have a reliable phone in the house, and get first aid training. I might have thought I forgot everything in the moment, but who knows how I would have reacted without that basic training. Also, you can get home phone service from a bunch of places and it's practically free these days through your internet connection. You could be faced with an emergency at any moment and you can be sure that’s when your phone will be dead or the signal is just ten feet too far away.

And to the non or new parents thinking “shouldn’t the lesson be to keep your kid off the playpen railing?!” I would say - Good Luck!


Wednesday, 21 February 2018

First I Ask the Friends, Then I Do the Parenting (Part 1)

I always knew I wanted to have kids at some point in my life. I remember when my best friend B told me he was going to be a dad. At the time we were pretty young, but I turned to him and congratulated him. He told me I was the first person to say that to him, and it wasn't for lack of people that he'd told. Everyone's response to his news wasn't entirely unexpected - at that age, becoming grandparents was our parents' worst nightmare. However, it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to him. Between then and now he's become an example of the kind of father I look forward to being: caring, understanding, careful with his words, and unbelievably patient. The result has been two of the most polite, well-behaved, and interesting kids I have ever met.

Kay's new bump
Subsequent to his children being born, I watched as each one of my high school friends gradually had children of their own. As I'm one of the last of those friends to have kids, this puts me in an outstanding position to learn from the best, a notion that seemed like it would make a really good blog post. So I asked a number of those friends to help with my research by giving me their best parenting advice, tips, and tricks. What I was honestly hoping to get from this was enough hilarious material in the form of stories and cheeky advice to write an entertaining blog post, but what I actually got was effective, moving, and helpful recommendations with some seriously thick substance, so substantial that I've decided to make it a series instead of just one post.

For example, my friend B, the first of my friends to have children, explained his parenting philosophy to me - "show them love" he said. Something that seems really obvious and simple, right? Not necessarily for everyone. What he means by that isn't that you should tell them how much you love them all the time, or shower them with gifts. What he means is to lead by example - "be a good person, do something nice for a stranger, listen when they talk, treat them like real people - not just kids that don't understand what you're talking about", lessons I'm sure we can agree we should all live by, and something that I think really hits home about what it means to be a parent. Prior to parenthood, you can pretty much do what you want with your own life and (for the most part) you don't have to worry how that will affect other people. But as a parent, every single thing you do affects the kind of person that child is going to be.

B added to his advice by saying "show them you love their mominstil in them the want and need be a good person". He believes, "if you do everything with love in your heart; your kids (or anybody's kids) will turn out to be really great people". This will be really easy for me. As you all know, my wife is my pride and joy, the person who supports me, and the person that gives me purpose. How I treat my wife is how my children will learn to treat the people they care about. I read an article recently about a Harvard study that was done over the course of almost 80 years - which came to the conclusion that the key to our happiness in life is the relationships we have with others. To me, this means that if I show my children the love I have for their mother, I can teach them how to treat other people properly, how to love, and how to build meaningful and healthy relationships.

If this study is correct, I can then have a profound impact on their happiness well into adulthood. The secret to great children, it seems, is also the secret to great adults - which I think is what B was getting at when he added "Don't be afraid to discipline your children. That is something that is missing these days, and look how many asshole little kids there are out there."