Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Punishment

            Did you hear that? Wait a minute – could it be?
            Silence.
            I actually have a moment to myself.
            It’s 10:30pm and everyone’s asleep except for me. And the amazing thing is that even though Celia will wake me up around 6:00am, I have absolutely no desire to go to bed yet. I feel an absolutely fulfilling desire to take full advantage of these precious moments as best I can.
            Celia is starting to act up. I’m putting it nicely. She’s become a handful.
            To give her credit, she did have a big day. I dropped her off at my neighbor’s daycare for the first time ever, literally downstairs from us. I’ve figured out no other way to actually get any work done anymore.
            Michelle is utterly exhausted with Joshua and all the midnight wakings, so she has no extra energy to deal with Celia. And Celia, poor Celia, is now not the center of attention that she used to be.
            Thankfully, daycare is a treat for her. She usually begs us to go downstairs and play with the other kids there, so when I dropped her off this morning, she didn’t even look at me when I said goodbye. She was so eager to play with the other kids, I think it was harder for me than for her. I watched her wander off and climb onto a giant rocking horse with a bit of a lump in my throat. She’s growing up.
            When I came to pick her up at noon she didn’t want to leave. And I don’t blame her. We put her down for a nap, then took her on some errands when she woke up. Not nearly as much fun as the daycare. I did eventually jog with her to the park, where we played with some other kids and explored all sorts of things like ducks eating seeds, sand castles other people had built, we kicked around a soccer ball, tried some Orangina from a nice family having a picnic (I’ve mentioned she’s ridiculously friendly, right?).
            But the climactic moment happened after I got back. Michelle was busy breastfeeding and had stopped cooking halfway, so I had to finish. Michelle plopped Celia down in front of my computer to watch a cartoon, and when dinner was finally ready and I went in to get her not only was she standing on the desk (a big no-no), she had scribbled with pencil all over the LCD screen.
            I was shocked and upset. Not overly angry. Pen would have been terrible – at least pencil can wash off easily. I wanted to teach her a lesson so she’d never do it again, but didn’t want to be overly harsh either, so I chose to scold her and put her in a “time out” chair. Michelle didn’t like my punishments one bit, and said I was being “too rough” and needed to read more from the book on parenting that she’s grown to love.
            I gave Celia lots of attention after that, so she would feel loved and receive positive attention from me as well, but I felt stuck. How do you deal with a kid who’s obviously doing something they know is wrong without punishing them?
            After putting Celia to bed, I cracked open Michelle’s new favorite book and read a few chapters on punishment. Their whole theory is that punishments and rewards don’t teach a kid anything. In fact, it’s the opposite, because you’re just cramming down their throats your own agenda. Their thesis is that you need to help the child understand the consequences of their actions, and you won’t be able to do that unless you engage with them coherently and provide a consequence that they can understand.
            Sounds good, unless your child is twenty months old. Still, I sit here typing away at a screen that’s half covered in pencil lead and think, “I can do something that shows her there’s a consequence. I can get her to help me clean this in the morning.”
            So, I hope she wakes up early tomorrow, because I have a feeling it will take us at least twenty minutes.
            I think this experience embodies the meat-and-potatoes of parenting. You can read all the books, and have all the best intentions you want, but at some point, the kid is going to have a need that you didn’t meet, and do something dumb. Something that deserves a negative consequence.
            It’s not my job to raise a perfect kid. But it is my job to figure out how to give her a healthy sense of how great she is right alongside knowing she’ll be better off with some serious limits.
            There was a lot of crying today. Both kids. At one point, I sat on the couch wondering what craziness got into our heads to think we could have two kids under two and keep our sanity. But then, I didn’t have much time to think about it, because I had to console not only the two children, but my tired wife. That’s the thing – there’s just not a lot of time to do much else but be present.
            Which is why quiet moments like these are like pure gold. I pray I can have many more to come!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Twisted Hips

            The little bean (aka Joshua) has been on edge for almost a week now. It’s like he woke up from his euphoric stupor, realized he wasn’t sucking in umbilical cord anymore, and decided he’d make good use of his lungs.
            It doesn’t help that we got the poor guy circumcised on Friday. Ouch.
            I’ll never forget watching the doctor cut off that little flap at the end of the penis. It was so sudden. So bloody. So painful for my own family jewels, just to think about it.
            But the nice thing about doing it young is the kid recovers quickly, as of course he has. And I’d like to think that it was the circumcision that made him cranky, but a few days leading up to it as well I felt like he was a bit “off.” He’s seemed too cranky sometimes, as if he’s in pain that doesn’t have to do with gas or pooping.
            When he was born the doctor told us he had a loose hip from the delivery, and to see an orthopedic doctor soon. They still haven’t booked us, and I got a feeling I should take matters into my own hands and take him to my family chiropractor, who happens to be one of the only ones around who works on infants.
            I was so thankful I did, because he showed me how twisted poor Joshua’s pelvis was, and he very gently, using his thumbs, coaxed it back into place. I was shaking my head, wondering what the long term consequences would have been if we hadn’t caught it so early.
            My chiropractor told me that nine times out of ten a colicky baby has had back trauma during birth, and some simple chiro will make him healthy again. I was shocked. It seems so simple. And it makes sense – birth is apparently one of the most traumatic experiences any body goes through in a lifetime. And when the body gets twisted up, it’s harder to eat, bowel movements become erratic, and headaches are common.
            Well, Joshua hasn’t turned into a bed of roses yet, but he does seem calmer. Now Celia, on the other hand, seems like she’s just starting to get worked up…

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Grind

            I couldn’t get anything done, so finally I thought to myself, “Why am I staying cooped up here? I’m going hiking!”
            I started by showing Celia some pictures of us hiking in the past, so she could get excited and mentally prepare herself for it. Then, I opened a map and started brainstorming ideas for where to go. In the end, I decided on the Grouse Grind – a sheer uphill natural stairmaster – because we could ride the gondola down for only five bucks and I wouldn’t have to wreck my knees with Celia in the backpack.
            I popped upstairs to tell my sleeping wife I was heading out and she said, “What if I want to come too?”
            So, the trip was delayed while Michelle and Joshua got ready, and an hour later we piled into the car and drove to the base of the mountain.
            I felt like a bit of an item, what with Celia on my back and heading on a grueling hike like that one. A tv video guy was interviewing someone at the base, and he noticed me out of the corner of his eye and immediately filmed me walking in. I smiled. Everyone I saw had comments like, “Woah! That’s quite the load!” or, “Ambitious!”
            I smiled and said nice things back as we energetically made our way up. By the first quarter mark I’d sweat out all the water I’d brought, and Celia wanted to run around. We took a break and kept at it again. By the second mark, Celia was shouting, “Out! Walk!” till I had to stop. I sat exhausted on a log watching all the hikers streaming past us, wondering why on earth I thought we could do this crazy hike.
            Celia wanted to hike up on her own at that point, and I let her for a few minutes, but I was holding both her hands and it started to wear on my back as she walked up every step by putting all her weight on me. I shook my head. What am I, crazy?
            The last hour was a blur. I remember thinking to myself, “I can do this. I can do this. Just get to the top.” Celia was flipping out by the end. I kept telling her, “We’re going to see Mommy soon. Twenty more minutes.”
            The hike took me a total of two hours. I was shocked when I looked at the time, because the last time I’d hiked it I had taken only one hour. I arrived completely drenched in sweat, and needing to eat a massive amount of calories. When I calculate it, I suppose I was hiking up with about fifty more pounds than the last time I hiked it – ten around my waist, thirty on my daughter, and ten on the backpack, water, and gear. My right knee feels awful right now because of all the strain, and my legs are on fire.
            But the biggest shock came after I sat down. Michelle said, “Guess how much the gondola ticket cost me?”
            I’d figured it would be ten bucks, exactly twice of what it was going to cost me to ride down. “More than ten bucks?” I said with a grimace.
            Michelle smiled. I thought, “Uh oh.”
            “Fifteen?” I asked with my teeth gritted.
            Michelle shook her head.
            “Twenty?” I was still hopeful.
            “Forty-two!”
            “Oooh.” I felt like I was stabbed. So much for a simple outing with Celia. We suddenly had ourselves a previously unplanned expensive outing! I wonder if there’s a lesson in here somewhere? The view was awfully nice from the top, and we got to look a couple of grizzly bears behind a fence that I hadn’t known about, but we certainly hadn’t expected all the pain and cost. I always like to find life lessons out of things that turn out different than I expected.
            In this case, I'm not sure. What else sounds like a good idea, ends up costing a lot of money and being a big pain, but ends up with a great view and some unexpected grizzlies because of it?
            How about having a baby? Does that count?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hang On Little Tomato

            Still hectic. The kid’s a cutie pie, but boy, has he got some lungs.
            I haven’t gotten a single thing done this week, besides of course be the best dad possible to Celia. Michelle’s been on Joshua duty, but I’m surprised at how little time I have to myself with little Celia. She’s so independent, I expected her to be happier on her own for longer stretches, but at this point it looks like she lasts a maximum of fifteen minutes or so.
            Even when I put on a kid show, if I’m sitting next to her trying to work she’ll eventually say, “Daddy! Lap!” and there goes my ability to type.
            The week feels like it’s flying by quickly. I need to come up for air at some point, but so far when evening hits and Celia conks out in bed, I feel like doing the same.
            I had a brilliant moment of peace, in the midst of it all, where the sun peaked out behind the clouds, Celia was playing with a doll, and the song came on, from Pink Martini, Hang on Little Tomato. The words go something like, “You’ve gotta hold on, hold on through the night, hang on, things will be alright…” and later, “Hang on, hang onto the vine. Stay on, soon you’ll be divine.”
            I smiled thinking of myself as a little tomato, and I thought, “Everything’ll be alright. Yeah. We’re all just little tomatoes.” And then Celia pulled on my leg and said, “Poopy diaper.” Oh well, I did get one moment, anyway.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Let the Crying Begin

            The honeymoon is over. Joshua is normal. He cries a lot.
            I don’t so much mind when Joshua cries. That’s what I expected – I mean, he is a baby. But when both he and Celia are wailing at the same time – that’s when the adults get worn down quickly.
            I hope he calms down soon.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cheers!

            Over the weekend I went sailing with a few buddies. It was Michelle’s birthday gift to me to let me leave for the whole weekend, and we’d coordinated my mother being in town just for the occasion.
            Out on the open sea with my friends I couldn’t help but smile into the sun and be thankful. A little space, just after the birth of my son, was so restful to my spirit.
            That first night out my friends all raised a glass and said, “Cheers! Here’s to Ephie, and his family. We wish him the best in his move and new life.”
            When I got home I was exhausted, but energized. I was eager to be a father and husband to the best of my ability. What a shock when I realized, with my mother and sister-in-law leaving, so left my freedom. I stayed home, now that I’m not working, and tended to Celia all day.
            I chased her around, fed her, changed her, played with her, and wasn’t able to do a single thing for myself. I was starting to feel tired again, after one day.
            When we sat down at dinner I said, “I think I’ll have a beer.”
            Michelle nodded. It had already felt like a long day, and we’d cancelled having friends come over just so that we could have some down time. I sat at the table quietly with Michelle and Celia, when Celia raised her cup full of water and said, “Cheers!”
            I stared at her in shock. When did she learn that?
            Michelle and I instinctively raised our glasses and clinked them with Celia’s. “Cheers!” we said with smiles.
            Celia grinned. I shook my head. Who knows where she learned to do that, but it certainly picked up my mood. My daughter, celebrating the moment with us. What could be better than that?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Perfect

            Today was my last day at work. What a mixed bag of emotions – on the one hand I’m absolutely thrilled to be moving on to something new, and on the other hand I’m already missing the familiarity that I’ve had the last two-and-a-half years.
            Thankfully, I left on good terms with everyone. In the send-off gathering at the end of the day I said I felt good that I was leaving them in a whole heckuva lot better situation than when I arrived. That’s my goal in life – to be a blessing to all that I am in contact with.
            So, I packed up my bag with all the stuff I’d collected over the years – the family photo, work magazines, external hard drive, and a few leftover snacks, and I walked out the door to my new life.
            All the way home I dreamed about what would be next. So many things are unclear about our future, and yet I held onto the things I am decided on. We’ll be buying a minivan and a canoe, and making sure to get out into creation at least once a week. We’re going to be surrounded by love – relatives and a tight community. But other than that, where we’ll live and what I’ll do for work are as of yet unknowns.
            When I walked in the door my entire house was bustling with activity. Michelle was feeding Joshua on the couch, Celia was running around with my mother following closely behind, and my sister-in-law was in the kitchen feeding her son. I shook my head. I’m starting to reconsider living with my parents, if I can help it. No disrespect to my family, who I love, but the house has been quite full the last week, to the point of feeling kind of hectic. I’m not sure we really want a “hectic” feeling in our lives. I’m thinking it would be nice to have our own space if possible.
            Some friends stopped by to see the new baby. “What’s he like?” they asked.
            My mother replied, “As far as we know, he’s perfect!”
            I smiled. I like the way she put that. Maybe that’s what all of life is like. So far, as far as we know, it’s perfect. We don’t know how we’re going to make it. We don’t know where we’ll lay our heads. But we know who we love, and we know we are loved. What could be more perfect than that?
            Just then Celia barfed up a bit of her blueberry smoothie on her foot. I held Celia and called, “Michelle! Celia just barfed!”
            Michelle came running over. Celia was wearing a new purple tie-dye outfit her grandma had just given her. Michelle came and wiped up the purple puke off Celia’s sleeve and foot. “Well,” she said, “At least it matches her outfit.”
            I smiled. It may be messy, but of all the barfs we've seen so far, that one was definitely the most well-matched. One could even call it perfect.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Little Boys Vs. Little Girls

            Here’s one I didn’t plan on. We were sitting on the couch last night and Michelle was changing our darling new baby’s diaper when she said to me, “Ephie. Take a look at this redness under his scrotum.”
            I leaned over to look and the little guy started peeing everywhere. It was a veritable fountain, cascading up and covering his face. Michelle gasped and put a cloth over him. I stared at Joshua’s little face in shock. He seemed totally happy, as if nothing had happened, face covered in pee. “Woah!” I called out.
            In these last couple of years of parenting we’ve never come across this. This is the first significant difference we’ve encountered between raising girls and boys. I hear they even make things called “peepee teepee’s” for just this sort of situation. Who knew?
            Actually, there’s another difference that’s come up as well. My friend called me, asking if I would be okay doing the shopping Friday afternoon for the big sailing trip we’re planning this weekend. I said, “Let’s see. I might be getting my son circumcised that day…”
            I shook my head. What a funny thing to have come out of a guy’s mouth. First, I’ll do some errands, pick up the eggs, and then, oh yes, get my son circumcised.
            In Canada normal doctors don’t do it anymore, so I called a special office, and they said they can fit me in a week from now. Sheesh, so much for getting it done on the eighth day, like good ol’ Jesus. I can’t figure out why they need so much time. The total operation takes only thirty seconds. They book you in for an hour and a half, probably to pat the parents’ backs and tell them it’s all going to be okay.
            Four-hundred-fifty bucks for a thirty second snip-snip. This guy’s making a killing. Maybe I should change professions.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Health Hiccups

            So, although everything’s mostly healthy, both Michelle and little Joshua have issues. Michelle has major uterus cramps when she breastfeeds, and is still wobbly from losing all that blood. and Joshua has a weird hip thing. I’ve also noticed that he hiccups a lot, but I think that’s mostly normal.
            I imagine that they’ll both get better soon, but still, they remind me how traumatic childbirth really is. Michelle told me, “I’m glad that day’s over-with.” I totally agree. Although it’s an odd one, because that moment he was born, all bright purple and odd-looking, was one of the happiest moments of my entire life.
            It’s kind of like that time I was young and walking through the bitter cold for almost two hours, feeling awfully frozen and desperately desiring to be indoors. I distinctly remember that first sip I took of a hot chocolate. It was like heaven.
            Maybe we have to go through tough times to appreciate things more. True or not, I do hope Michelle and Joshua recover quickly. This is one health-hiccup I’d rather do without.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Family Resemblance

            Celia let out a huge belch at dinner today. We were all shocked. Michelle looked over at me, “That was you, right?”
            I shook my head. “Nope.” Then I turned to my daughter. “Celia say, ‘Excuse me.’ It’s polite to say, ‘Excuse me’ after you burp.”
            She just smiled and went back to eating. Ah, I hate to admit it, but I think she’s taking after me. All the good quality traits I’m passing along have tag-along bad ones, the belching, smacking the food, impatience. She’s got it all. Add to that the fact that she looks like the spitting image of me and it makes a dad kind of proud. Who cares if she has some unruly behavior because of it – this kid is a part of the family.
            Now I look at this new kid and wonder, “Who the heck is he, anyway?” Not only does he sleep all the time, he doesn’t really look like me or Michelle. Well, okay, he has my blue eyes and Michelle’s ears, but other than that, he looks like somebody else’s kid. I suppose when he’s older we’ll see more family resemblance, but right now I’m shocked at this kid. Who the heck is he?
            I do remember that when Celia was his age I didn’t quite know what she was like either. I didn’t think she looked like either of us, and never could have told you her personality, although she was quite a bit more spunky than the new guy.
            It’s a slog getting through all the needs they have, while getting pretty much nothing back – no real response. Michelle at least is breastfeeding, so she feels an attachment to the guy, but I just kind of look at him and think, “Hey buddy, whoever you are. You sure are small.”
            These first few months are probably most helpful when seen as preparation months – they get parents to throw themselves into this thing so that when the kid is older and seems to need less attention but still really does need all that attention, you’re in the mode of being there for them.
            I remember with Celia the moment that it all became easier was when she started smiling, around two months old. What a difference that makes to the parent, especially the dad. Up till then, the kid’s just a pooping, sleeping, eating machine.
            Hmm, actually, come to think of it, maybe he does take after me.            

Monday, June 14, 2010

Time Suckers

            I’m a father of two now. Have been for four days. And already I’m wondering how to find time to tie my own shoes. It amazes me that people all around the world have done this, this massive undertaking, and somehow the rest of us have had absolutely no idea of the sheer amount of work they’ve been pouring into it for all these years.
            We’ve all been sitting back sipping our piña coladas and wondering what all the fuss was about. We’d watch a family pass by, and when one child would start to scream we’d think, “Ah, those parents aren’t raising their kids very well. They certainly don’t have them under control the way I would do it.”
            And then we’d go back and take a sip of our lovely drink and think about something esoteric, amusing, or not even think at all. Why not? We had all the time we wanted on our hands. We could read meaningless novels, go to movies, stay up late drinking with our buddies. Heck, we’d even blow big cash on completely unnecessary items just because we could and we felt like it.
            Ah, those were the days.
            I suppose looking back, there were some warning signals. Friends with kids who would talk about sleepless nights. The dark rings planted under their puffy eyes. Or the very fact that none of the parent-friends in my life would be the ones hanging out late playing poker or spending money on frivolous items of the non-diaper variety.
            With one child I felt like we had our hands full. But what I didn’t consider is the fact that we could trade off. One parent could always take a break while the other took on child duty. With two kids, there are now many moments where having two of us doesn’t quite feel like enough. Right now I’m thinking we could really use a third person to cook, clean, do the laundry, and catch up on some of my sleep for me, because I certainly don’t have enough time to do that!
            In between running to and fro, I have managed to stop and gaze at the little sleeping face of my newborn son. Every time I’m blown away by just how tiny he is. I thought my daughter was still tiny. I thought she was barely not a baby anymore. But when I see the two of them together, she’s huge. I can’t believe an entire person fits into that little dude. His fingers are smaller than french fries. His eyes smaller than olives.
            Sometimes I pick him up and lift him too quickly because I’m thinking he must weigh more than he does. Seven pounds. It’s like a big sandwich. It’s practically nothing at all.
            Not only am I amazed that he can be squished into such a tiny frame, he looks pretty squished. I guess living in a small sack for nine months will do that to a person. I don’t think he looks like me or Michelle at all.
            At least it seems like Celia is taking to it well. You never know how the older kid will like having a newborn around, especially when they’re used to having all the attention to themselves. I’m just hoping a big bout of jealousy doesn’t kick in soon.
            I’m trying my hardest to make her feel like this is her responsibility – being a big sister is what this is all about. My theory is that if I make this all about her, and not the new guy, she’ll take to it better. Every time we give little Joshua a kiss, we’ll say, “Celia, come here and give your brother a kiss, like this.” Every time we need to attend to him, we’ll say, “Celia, come help us make your brother happy.”
            I figure if I can make her feel like she is the center of attention, she’ll have a much easier time with allowing this enormous time sucker into our family. And who knows, maybe she actually will become helpful with all the things I ask her to help with. Maybe a year from now Celia will be changing the diapers and giving Joshua the extra attention while their daddy sits on the porch sipping his well-earned piña colada and reading some mind drivel to pass the time away.
            A man can dream, can’t he?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-Jig

            Already I’m amazed at how easy little Joshua is compared to what Celia was like. Celia wailed and let us know in no uncertain terms every time something wasn’t quite right. She cried when she was hungry, tired, cold, needed burping, or wanted holding. Sometimes I think she wailed just to exercise her vocal chords. But this guy – he seems to want to mostly hang out, sleep a lot, and only complains when we expose his naked body to the air.
            I am so thankful for that. I hope it lasts.
            They say the first couple of weeks are the easiest, probably because all those wonderful hormones from the birth are coursing through their body. That was true for Celia – she opened up and started really looking at things after two weeks.
            I’m finally feeling rested, a couple of days after the birth. It’s been non-stop up till now – first dealing with hospitals and health, then Celia, who is not taking well to the new transition, and of course all the friends who want to meet Joshua and give us a pat on the back.
            It’s been exhausting.
            Michelle finally got out of the hospital yesterday morning, with a very low blood count, to the point where she was a bit dizzy. The doctor said, “Eat red meat and take iron supplements.” She’s in good health, but definitely not her usual energetic self. During the labor I found her sweeping the kitchen floor between contractions, and after the birth, she was bounding around excitedly until the nurse forced her to sit in the bed. What a difference after losing all that extra blood!
            At least everyone is back to a regular bowel movement schedule, including little Joshua. The funny thing is that Michelle was overly conscious about pooping during the delivery. At one point she said self-consciously, “I feel like I’m pooping. Am I pooping?”
            “No,” we replied.
            She said, “Tell our doctor the story about how Celia had diarrhea recently.”
            I explained how we rinsed Celia off in the shower, and the whole time she wailed, “Babarrhea!”
            The doctor said, “Well, right now you’ve got Baby-rrhea!”
            I laughed. Yes, Michelle, you’re going to poop out a new baby.
            The baby came out wonderfully tiny, which was a relief to me, because last time Michelle had ripping and it took a couple of months before she healed well enough for us to have sex. Yes, I admit, I’m a guy. These things are important to me.
            I was so thankful for my doctor, because when Joshua’s head started coming out Michelle just wanted to push and get him all the way out, but the doctor could see that she’d have ripped, so he physically pushed the kid’s head back in and made Michelle say, “Heh-heh-heh!” for a minute.
            That minute saved her from all sorts of ripping, and when Joshua came out I sighed in relief that Michelle was fully intact. Not just for my sake, but it’s a lot of extra pain, having all that healing to do down there.
            I spent the rest of the day at the hospital. When I felt Michelle was okay on her own, I went home, took out the trash, gave my daughter a bath and put her to bed. She woke up upset that her mom wasn’t around, just before my mom and sister-in-law arrived, around 11:30pm. In the end it worked out great because her cousin had also arrived, and her mood improved considerably romping around on the bed with him.
            Little did I know, her sleeplessness was just beginning. Something about all the change, coupled with the fact that Mommy wasn’t home yet, put Celia on edge all night. Last night was even worse. She woke up for major cry sessions four times, and nothing I could do would calm her down. I prayed and tried to discern what exactly the problem was. It’s hard at 2:30am to be patient and understanding of a wailing kid who has no major pain issues. In the end, I figured she was missing her mom’s attention.
            There’s been a lot of change in Celia’s life in the last two weeks. She’s been weaned, and now I’m taking care of her at night. Add to that the fact that her mother is tied up with a different kid, and I can see where she might have anxiety.
            She’s napping now, as is her brother and mother, giving me a precious few moments to write. I can already tell that these moments will be few and far between, so I will seize them as soon as they arise. I still feel a bit in shock that I’m the father of two kids now. It doesn’t quite make sense to me yet. I wonder how I’ll find the time to do it well, and keep my sanity. I’ll keep you updated.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Birth

            I believe it. I see it. He’s sleeping in my lap at the hospital right now as I type – his gorgeous tiny lips so delicately nestled under his little fist. Even though we knew this was coming for nine months, I’m amazed. I’m a father again. This precious cutie pie already astounds me.
            Joshua Ephraim Risho was born 7lbs 2oz this morning, and he’s already showing promise of being a piano player, athlete, and artist.
            At 11:45pm Michelle woke up drenched and confused. Her water broke in the middle of her dreams and it was everywhere, all over the newly cleaned sheets. Thankfully, when Michelle had changed the sheets a couple of days ago she’d followed the inspiration of a friend of hers and put down a pad on her side of the bed, which soaked up nearly everything.
            I shook my head in amazement (and also to wake up). That could have been a big cleanup job. Good thinking ladies!
            Michelle got on the phone with Siamak right away. “The water broke. Get over here.”
            He was literally on our doorstep within half an hour.
            I wanted to go back to sleep, but couldn’t. Based on the last time, I knew I’d want as much sleep as possible, but how can a man sleep when the labor is moving along so quickly? The contractions escalated so rapidly, I wondered if the baby would be born way faster than the first one.
            I thought of some of the stories we’d heard recently of people having births in random places for their second child – like the lobby of their apartment, the car, or on their couch. I made some tuna sandwiches and we shot out the door to the hospital.
            It turns out the birth came quickly, but not as fast as the stories we’d heard. It took about eight hours in total.
            The birthing process was much more painful than last time, according to Michelle. I just shake my head, because from my perspective it was pretty darn similar. My theory is that she blocked out all the pain she went through from the first time, so the second time it was more of a surprise. I’d hear her tell the stories of the birth to other women and think, “Are you nuts?! You’re telling it as if there was no pain! You were in a lot of pain. I know. I was there.”
            But of course, I have kept my mouth mostly shut in these kinds of moments. I wonder if that was a bad thing, after all, because this time I felt like she wasn’t prepared for the pain like she was the first time. She says it was more difficult because it went so quickly. This may be true, but I wonder if she wasn’t in the right mental space.
            Her favorite place was sitting on the toilet. I suppose every woman has her quirks. I can’t remember her “mantra” last time, but I hear it’s normal for a woman to repeat the same line over and over the entire birth. This time it was, “O God!” She must have said that at least fifty times. Sometimes, it was said like a prayer, pleading with God to make it easier. Other times it was used as an exclamation, and drawn out to fifteen syllables. As in, “O my Go-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-od!”
            At one point she turned and looked at me and said, “Ephie! You should be thankful you don’t have to go through this!”
            I nodded my head and thought, “That was uncanny! I was just thinking the exact same thing!”
            Off in the distance the sound of another newborn baby screaming as it took its first breaths pierced the air. It gave encouragement to Michelle just when she was getting worn down, almost as if to say, “Kids get born all the time. You can do it.”
            Our doctor was a big positive contributor to the delivery. He told me stories about some of the deliveries he’s done, including one woman who gave birth in the SUV as her husband hurtled toward the hospital. He found the little boy in the woman’s baggy sweatpants. He kept telling Michelle, “This baby is coming out today. There’s no stopping it. You’ll do it.”
            That always seemed to cheer Michelle up. But then she’d ask him how much longer she needed to go, and I could see his true experience kicking in – he never gave her a straight answer. I thought that was brilliant. He’d say things like, “Every time you push, it comes out two more millimeters. Just keep pushing.” Or what I thought was particularly brilliant, the use of the double-negative: “You aren’t going to have a non-rapid birth at this rate.”
            When Joshua finally came out, he was bright purple everywhere. I started to cry instantly when I saw him. Just like when Celia was born, I thought, “This is the best day of my life.” It really is true. What a joy to see your newborn child. It suddenly makes life seem so unbelievably precious.
            But the purple confused me. Why purple? At first I thought he was dead, but then I remembered that they’d kept checking his heart rate. I figured perhaps he’s just an artist, with a flare for vivid color. He gave a little gasp, and a brief, “Meh!” and I knew he was doing okay. He didn’t say much more after that, which shocked me because Celia wailed like crazy when she was born. Different personalities?
            They were amazed at his long fingers and muscular thighs. “He’s going to be a piano player and an athlete,” Michelle told me. I nodded my head. Why not? At this point, I’m so thankful that he’s out, and we can start thinking about what he’s going to be, instead of whether or not he’ll be healthy. That’s a relief.
            He’s conked out in my lap right now. The little darling. Babies are so cute when they sleep, and this guy’s no different. He didn’t like sleeping on his own in the little bed they set up for him, but he seems to be doing fine on my lap. I suppose it feels more like the womb here. The warmth, the noise of my typing, the sound of my regular breathing.
            They say that the first three months of a baby’s life is really like the fourth trimester of pregnancy. They’re not really engaging with the world for the first stretch, just slowly waking up to reality. As my son opens his droopy eyes and “looks” at me, I think, “Just you wait, buddy. You’re going to see an awful lot in the next few months.”
            Just you wait.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Still No Baby

            It’s been five days, and still no baby. A couple of days ago Michelle said, “I’m having cramps!”
            I said, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
            At this rate, I won’t be surprised if we have the kid on the actual due date, in five days. We’ll see.
            They say the expectant mother gets a huge burst of energy right before, but I’ve given up on that sign. We had a humongous yard sale on Saturday, and Michelle was lifting objects, running around, schmoozing with the people who showed up, and not going into labor.
            I came home yesterday and she was on her knees weeding in the front yard. But still no baby.
            She’s been taking walks, cleaning, and setting up the front room for my mother to stay in. And of course, none of these seemed to initiate labor.
            I have to say, it’s actually been quite convenient. It was such a relief to clear out that front room with all the stuff we wanted to get rid of. The yard sale was hardly worth the time and energy for the amount of money we made, but it was satisfying to see all our stuff picked up by people who were sincerely interested in it.
            I was especially gratified to see most of my cassette tape collection dwindle away at ten cents each. If I’d have taken that to the local thrift shop or charity, it would have been thrown straight in the garbage pile. How wonderful to know that all those albums and mixes from my past are actually going to be listened to!
            I’m relieved now that the house is more in order, and I’ve started getting sleep again, now that Celia is weaned. Finally, I feel ready to have this little bundle of joy. But I’m not going to go running out the door the next time Michelle has a cramp.
            At least, that’s what I’m saying today.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Nesting and Puking

            Michelle went to the doctor, who said she’s not having labor pains, but cramps. Although she could pop any day now.
            So, we waved goodbye to Siamak, and I planned on going to work in the morning. Michelle got a burst of energy and started preparing all sorts of stuff for us to sell at the yard sale we’ve been wanting to put on for three Saturdays now. She said to me, “I’m glad I wasn’t in labor yet. I want to have the yard sale first.”
            I completely understand, because the front room is full of “junk” to be sold, and that’s where my parents are supposed to be staying when they come out to visit us soon. But I laughed, because that whole stereotype of the “nesting” mother who’s expecting her baby seems to be all too true.
            Michelle did the whole nesting thing with Celia too. The whole house was cleaned, organized, and re-organized. Every last piece of required clothing, diaper and doohickey was purchased. Stacks of books were purchased, borrowed, and devoured. The Mama Bird had made her nest, and when the egg finally hatched, that baby chick had a nice little place to lay her head.
            So, I went in to work this morning, only to receive the first phone call from Michelle at 9:30am. “Celia puked on the bed.”
            The next phone call came within an hour. “She puked on the couch.”
            Then, just before 1pm. “She woke up from her nap puking. She was on her back puking. She could have choked on her own vomit. I need you to come home.”
            For the second time this week, I waved my goodbyes to everyone at work and sped down the highway to get home as quickly as possible. Thankfully, Celia didn’t puke after I came home. She did have diarrhea, which was an event all in itself.
            We knew it was bad because of the smell, and Michelle instinctively wanted us to change her together. Before even undressing her we could tell it was diarrhea, and I started puzzling through in my brain, “How are we going to do this and not get it everywhere?”
            Michelle had apparently been thinking the same thing, and said. “Let’s take her to the tub.”
            We stripped her down and turned on the water. She started crying.
            “Sweetheart, you have diarrhea. It happens to everyone.”
            “Babarrhea!” she wailed.
            “It’s okay, Sweetheart. Everyone gets diarrhea sometimes. You’ll be okay.”
            “Babarrhea!” she continued to cry.
            I started spraying down her filthy body.
            “Babarrheaaaa!”
            I couldn’t help but smile. I know it was a somewhat traumatic experience for my daughter, but the way she pronounced “diarrhea,” and the intensity of her reaction to having it, seemed so extreme as to be melodramatic.
            “You’ll be okay, Sweetie. It’s only diarrhea.”
            “Babarrheaa!”
            I’m thankful the next kid isn’t born yet. That would’ve been a most unpleasant scene for Siamak to have to deal with. Maybe Michelle’s right. Let’s have the yard sale, wait till Celia’s feeling better, then go into labor. We’ve waited this long, what’s another couple of days?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Ready List

            “Are you ready?” I asked Michelle.
            “Yes.” She looked at me and nodded.
            “What do we need to bring? Do you have it all laid out?”
            “Yes. The car seat is upstairs. Next to a bag full of necessities. And you’ll have to prepare some good food so we don’t have to eat that hospital crap.”
            I looked at Michelle in the eye, to make sure she hadn’t forgotten anything. Satisfied, I changed the subject and we distracted ourselves while she had another cramp.
            Later, our good friend Siamak showed up unexpected. I'd called him in the morning to tell him the situation – Michelle having some cramps but not quite full labor pains yet. He’s going to help us with Celia during the birth, and after the call his mother said, “It’s a boy. Boys come quick. You should go now.”
            We were all buckled into our seats and just driving off to the grocery store when Michelle said, “Stop the car!”
            I stopped and looked around. There was Siamak, walking toward the house with a big backpack on. “Get in!” I called to him.
            Celia, who’d been preparing herself for a long car ride in the back alone, suddenly saw her best friend open the door and freaked out.
            “Sikamak!” she called out with a huge grin on her face.
            We all laughed at her newest version of his name. It was sure nice to have Siamak show up, even though he ended up sleeping on the couch with no newborn to show for it.
            Last night, the two of us sat on the porch sipping a good scotch and smoking Siamak’s pipe. Siamak asked me the same thing I’d asked Michelle earlier in the day. “Are you ready?”
            “Let’s see,” I gazed into the distance as I mentally came up with my list. “I’ve got a bottle of champagne in the fridge, and some Cuban cigars I’ve been saving.”
            “Good. Good.” Siamak nodded.
            Suddenly, I laughed.
            “What?” Siamak looked puzzled.
            I explained the difference between Michelle’s answer and mine, and Siamak bellowed in laughter. “Everything’s a party to you!” he patted me on the back.
            I smiled and shook my head. I can’t believe myself, sometimes. How ridiculous is that? Deep down I somehow think that being ready for another child means having champagne and cigars. Heck, just let that kid come out and we’ll be ready! 

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Waiting

            I got the call at work today.
            “I’m having contractions. I want you to come home.”
            I tied up all the loose ends and shot out the door. But then, after arriving home Michelle said it had calmed down. Who knows if this is the beginning of the labor, or just a false call? And now we’re cooped up at home waiting.
            I think waiting is a deeply spiritual exercise. All through Scripture there are references to waiting, most of which seem to refer to the idea that we have to “wait for God” somehow. The spiritual silence we can hear in prayer, and the urgency we feel in our own circumstances, merge together to create a challenging atmosphere where we just want to get on with things. I think that’s why waiting comes up in Scripture a lot – because our general nature is to want to rush on with living, with or without any divine help.
            The word “patience” always conjures up aspects of waiting for me. Maybe that’s why I’m so bad at it. I dislike waiting very much. Yesterday I showed up at the bank to deposit a check, and somebody was standing at the instant teller with five deposit envelopes in his hand so I walked inside to go to one of the empty cashiers, rather than waiting. But of course, I happened to choose the person who was in training, and she took a painfully long time to simply deposit my check.
            “Is this a paycheck?” she finally asked me after long minutes of typing and peering at the check in her hand.
            “What’s the problem here?” I demanded. “Just deposit it!”
            She could see I was getting impatient, and said, “I’m in training. This one is over my limit.”
            “I’ll go to the instant teller,” I said, reaching out for the check.
            She pulled it back and said, “No, I can do it. Just wait.”
            Which, of course, I did. But I definitely found it painful, especially knowing that Michelle and Celia were waiting for me in the car, and that four or five people had probably come and gone from the instant teller machine in all this time.
            Back to my current situation, I now sit here waiting for my second-born, after nine months, and in these last hours I feel my eagerness and excitement build to a great crescendo.
            I think waiting builds in us a desire for something far greater than if we get it right away. If we don’t have to wait, we feel gratified instantly and appreciate whatever it is less. The longer we have to wait, the more expectant we become, and the more grateful when we finally have our desire or need met.
            That’s probably one of the greatest perks to having a nine-month incubation period of pregnancy. That, and it gives a guy a chance to mentally prepare for the massive life-changes he’s about to be facing.
            As for right now, I’ll have to distract myself and do something, or I’ll go nuts sitting here waiting.