Wednesday, December 31, 2008
A report from the front lines:
We began HG's sleep training earlier this evening. Yes that's right, we're doing this on New Year's Eve. I guess we figured the day doesn't have any real significance to us at this point - we can't very well take the baby out partying - and since our neighbors will most likely be awake until midnight anyway, at least it won't keep them up.
All in all, it hasn't been too terribly bad... so far. Not that Hank isn't putting up a fight. KG put him down at around 7:10 and he cried/screamed off and on (mostly on) for the next hour-and-a-half. As dictated by Dr. Richard Ferber's sleep training book, KG would briefly enter his room every ten minutes to say soothing, kind things, but never to pick him up. Meanwhile, I made dinner (this is not part of Ferber's method but it's a good idea nonetheless if your spouse is in there fighting the good fight). At 8:45 HG finally fell asleep and KG and I sat down to dinner, bleary-eyed and dazed but hopeful. Ten minutes later the little guy woke up again, cried for a 3 or 4 minutes, then whimpered himself to sleep. He hasn't woken up since.
It's a little after 10:00 now. KG's taking a bath. Next time the baby wakes up it's my turn to take a round.
As KG aptly put it, this whole thing is sort of like lancing a wound. There's an acute, hard to take sting right up front, followed by a long, LONG sought after relief. Right now, I'm somewhere in between. I'll try to keep posting as the night goes on.
Friday, December 26, 2008
So we'd had our sights set on Wednesday the 24th for about a week or two, though it had nothing to do with Christmas Eve. Instead (secularists that we are, more or less) we had chosen that night to finally "Ferberize" Henry. For those of you who haven't heard of it, the term refers to a way of teaching babies to go to sleep on their own. There's a whole lot to it, but in a nutshell what you do is put the baby down at night and let him cry it out, checking up on him at regular intervals. It usually takes three or four days to complete.
As difficult as the process was likely to be emotionally, KG ad I both were jonesing for it. As I mentioned in a recent post, HG keeps us up quite a bit at night. It's literally been months since either of us has had a truly good night of sleep. Those of you who speak to me often can testify that I've become a pale imitation of my former self. I'm sure KG would say something similar. We're both on a two-week break for the holidays so we'd picked Wednesday, hoping to have a little vacation left when we were done. Of course, we also thought it'd be nice for HG in the long run. I can't imagine he gets much rest waking up every hour or so.
In the end, we didn't get the chance. Early Wednesday evening, I noticed a persistent wheezing coming from the baby, like his wind-pipe was constricting. As I'm wont to do, I didn't really digest it at first. That kind of wheezing is a scary sound, sure, but it wasn't so bad at that point and I think I was just hoping it'd go away. Nobody wants to see their baby sick.
When the sound persisted, I called the pediatrician's office. The doctor on call that night is probably my favorite in the group. She's kind of young and when we'd first met her we'd had our doubts, but she really seems to know her stuff and she's always as nice as can be. Lucky for everyone, Henry obligingly made the wheezing sound as soon as she got on the phone. The doctor quickly identified it, telling me HG had the croup and loading me up with various instructions. Hoping against hope - and with no little amount of selfishness - I asked if we could still sleep train him. Definitely not, she told me. It wasn't incredibly serious, but we needed to help him recover first. We set about doing that.
Our main task involved running a hot shower in the bathroom and taking him in there to breathe in the steam (HG snapped the photo to the left immediately after opening the bathroom door). We did this again and again and again over the next day or so, for twenty minutes at a time. Henry was an absolute trooper throughout, so much so that I keep thinking about it. It's the kind of thing that can make you like your baby as a person, on top of all the love you feel. Honest to God, he only made one complaint the whole time, early on when we stupidly took him in there with all kinds of warm clothes on (once we figured it out and got him down to his diapers he grew calm and happy again). Treatment after treatment, he'd be in there all red-faced and sweaty just smiling away at us. I'm a grown man and I honestly think he handled those weird conditions better than I did.
As of today, he's doing better - still wheezing, but definitely less so. We're lucky I suppose, as I think he only caught a mild case. Hopefully, he'll be through it in a day or two.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
HG's laughing now, not just happy bleats but real and true giggling. It's been going on for a couple of weeks but every time I try to film him he sees the camera and stops short. Today I finally managed to get some very brief footage before he noticed me. It felt like a UFO sighting or something.
To the tape!
Friday, December 12, 2008
HG gets up a lot at night, an average of perhaps 10 to 15 times. Obviously this means that KG and I get up a lot too. We're planning to "sleep train" him any day now so we're hoping that these crazy nights will soon be nothing but a blurry memory. At present it's pretty brutal. Still and all, there is one nice thing about it.
On his current schedule, HG feeds just once between 8:00 pm and 6:00 am. Usually sometime around 1:00 he'll wake up hungry, whereupon I'll get him from his crib and bring him into the bedroom for KG to feed. It's like a little intimate cocoon, this: the lights out, the three of us sleepy-headed and, once he settles down, the only real sound in the room being HG huffing and puffing his way though his midnight snack.
KG lays on her side as she feeds him and sometimes I curl up with her, placing my hand around her waist and against HG's busy stomach. His little breaths follow one another quickly, for some reason filling me with love. This late feeding is typically a pretty long one, anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. KG and I take advantage and chat drowsily about our day.
If you asked me, I don't know that I could recall the actual content of any of these conversations, but the itch they scratch is nonetheless a big one. It's as if KG and I are suddenly "together" again after hours and hours of simply laboring side by side. It's something we both very much need. We did get married to one another after all.
As I was writing this, KG came home from work looking relieved to have reached the weekend, as am I. We chatted a bit and before she asked me, "You know what's nice?"
"Being here together - all of us."
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Okay, so HG is 90th percentile in both height and weight according to our pediatrician. He's big.
Being that he's our first child, we're only just starting to get an idea of how big he truly is. A couple of days ago I bought him onesies that were supposedly for one year olds and he was way too big for them. I couldn't even get them to snap. He's not yet 5 months old.
It's out in the world, though, where we really see it. On our way home from our Thanksgiving in Tucson we ran into a woman with a 13-month-old baby girl. Henry completely dwarfed her. He totally could have kicked that baby's ass. My sister says I should rename him Clifford.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
For those of you who don't know, I teach a weekly acting class in San Diego. A couple months ago, KG and the baby joined me on one of my trips down there. After I'd taught my class, the three of us visited our friends Jason and Kim, who live nearby and whose son was born just three days after Henry.
Turns out Jason was much more dutiful than I, posting about the visit a few weeks later on the blog he and his wife maintain together. He even linked to my blog. Well, at long last I'm returning the favor. Here's the link:
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Just your standard storytelling blog, today: trying to keep track of the big events in HG's life and their impact on how KG and I live.
It's the Sunday after Thanksgiving and I'm sitting in the airport in Tucson trying not to fall asleep. Our flight to LA has been significantly delayed by, of all wildly unlikely things, impenetrable fog at LAX. (I can't remember the last time I even saw fog in LA.) Both KG and the baby are out cold. I've got my ears peeled, hoping to catch some kind of update regarding our flight.
To give you some background, every year KG and I travel to Arizona to spend Thanksgiving with her mom. Unlike virtually everyone else in the world, I actually enjoy vacationing at my mother in-law's. Sandra's a sweet, funny lady and she and her husband Joe are forever as nice and generous as can be. KG's brother Bob also makes the annual Thanksgiving trek and - not to sound too sunshiney about everything - I like him as well. If he lived nearby to us, I'd try to strike up a friendship for sure.
This year, however, we had Henry with us, so I was feeling a little high-strung about the whole thing. I hate to identify myself as this kind of person, but traveling with the baby totally stresses me out. Even when everything goes well (which, by and large, it did), I worry about each new circumstance, that we won't be prepared or we'll have forgotten something essential, things like that.
Anyway, this year Sandra and Joe booked us a hotel rather than put us up at their place, which had been the custom during the pre-Henry era. It was a good call and saved everyone a ton of hassle, though KG and I did have the bad luck to be put in a room opposite a dance club. We woke up night after night to the sound of young, drunk, hyper-stylish people hooting to one another and honking their horns right beneath our window. Insert your own cranky old-person statement here.
On a completely different note, another of the trip's interesting moments came when Bob, Joe and I found ourselves hanging out alone one evening in the living room. Somehow the course of the conversation lead me to mention that becoming a father had turned my attention to the future more than ever. Prior to Henry's arrival, I was just naturally more inclined to remain in the present, plus it was something I actively cultivated. Now it seems like every other thought I have is about what Henry's gonna be. Bob, who's got a three year old daughter - cute little Ana - picked up on the theme and added his own insights. As I listened to him, he seemed less a brother-in-law and more like someone who could tip me off to what the next few years of parenthood might bring. Joe then interjected to say that he's at a point where parenthood leads him to look to the past, things done well, mistakes made, both. It was so open of him. The whole conversation was such a gift and I must admit that the sentimentalist in me couldn't help but warmly embrace the bunch-of-dads-sharing-wisdom angle.
Our trip had one other vital story-line for me. Just as KG and I were leaving for Tucson, I received an email from the artistic director of a summer Shakespeare company I'd recently contacted about an audition. In his message he'd said he had no plans to come out to the west coast, but asked if I could send him something on film. The upshot is that I spent a good chunk of the trip alone in our hotel room, rehearsing my pieces and trying to capture them on film.
(KG's Aunt Johnnie did yeoman's work running lines with me and proved to be an excellent interpreter of the text. She particularly liked the line, "Peace shall go sleep with Turks and infidels." Insert your own "sleep with Turks" joke here.)
For those of you who know me well, you can imagine how crazy I became trying put together the video. Filming a theatre audition can be harrowing. Invariably, you end up watching yourself do take after take after take, nearly all of which contain some embarrassingly fatal flaw. By the time you finally pull off a performance that doesn't make you absolutely cringe, your ability to view yourself objectively has been completely decimated. I pretty much began to lose my mind. At some point in the midst of all this, I spoke to KG on the phone sounding, I'm sure, like one of those monks that flagellate themselves with horsehair. Later she told me that when she'd hung up the phone she'd thought to herself, "Well, there goes my husband - doing what he loves to do." In the end I did, of course, settle on something to submit to the guy. We'll see if it bears any fruit.
What has all this got to do with my baby blog? Not much, I suppose. Mostly, it's just what I was up to during his first Thanksgiving. And I suppose also that it speaks to issues of identity that have arisen for me since HG was born.
In fact, I want to deviate a bit and finish there: One of my big fears about fatherhood all along has been that being a good father and a serious artist might be, at least to some degree, incompatible. Truth be told, I've already limited my creative pursuits about as much as I can stand. What I keep telling myself is that the strictest limitations will only last a couple years... at most. But if I'm honest, I have to admit that I'm afraid - afraid of losing a vital aspect of myself. I wish I could sit here and tell you I'm solid as a rock, but the fact is I'm continually working it out. Deep down I have faith I'll find a way to make my artistic life and parenthood coexist. Still, it doesn't prevent me from worrying my way through a lovely Thanksgiving dinner.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
KG went back to work this morning, which means today was day 1 of what will likely be a two year stint for me playing Mr. Mom. I thought I should commemorate it with a post.
The day went disturbingly well - I worry about it all being downhill from here - with everything that could go wrong going exactly right. HG didn't cry all day, easily went down for his two 90 minute naps, and ate, slept and played exactly according to the schedule KG and I have set for him. It was the last thing I expected.
My friend Lisa, who is 5 months pregnant, came by for a visit and lent a hand with the baby. Perfect timing, that was (Thanks, LT). Lisa and I have known each other since we were both in grade school and daddying in her presence made me acutely aware of how much fatherhood has already changed me. Top of the list was how shamelessly I exhibit my pride in the little guy. For most of my past, such overwhelming pride about anything was something to keep under wraps. With HG, I can't really hide it.
When my day with him was up, I took him to school, handed him off to KG (who was herself just getting off work), and began my work day. It's a grueling schedule, this, no less for KG than for myself. For perspective, I began the day with Henry at 6:00 AM and got home at 9:15 PM. This is perhaps doable for a day or two or three, but in the long run it'll surely be taxing to the very bones. Honestly, I don't know how I'm going to pull it off. KG said tonight that she plans to work out and meditate every day - act like she's training for the olympics or something. I hope she does. If she can pull that off, she is a better man than I.
You know, sometimes I imagine HG reading this blog in the distant future. I often wonder what he'll be like and I hope that he'll see how much he means to me. When I imagine him reading today's entry and seeing what his mom and I have been through on his behalf, I do so not because I want him to obligingly think highly of us, but because I wish him to know how much he was and is worth.
I love you, future Henry!
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
With everything else I've had going on, I haven't seen HG much of late. Last night when I got home I was so damn happy to see him that I didn't even really care that he was cranky or that I was exhausted. He's changing and growing so much.
Today, for the second day in a row, I'm working a 12-hour day. I'll get home around 7:30 this evening. Tomorrow I'll be off work because of the Jewish holiday and I'll tell you what: I'm going to do my best to take advantage and soak him in.
Today, for the second day in a row, I'm working a 12-hour day. I'll get home around 7:30 this evening. Tomorrow I'll be off work because of the Jewish holiday and I'll tell you what: I'm going to do my best to take advantage and soak him in.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
My mom has returned home, released from the hospital this past Friday. She's feeling better and, though she'll have to keep a much closer eye on her health from now on (you hear that, Mom?), it seems as though the worst has passed.
Thanks a million to everyone who contacted me with your concerns in the wake of my original post. It truly means a great deal. My apologies for the delay in posting an update but I've been busy getting my own life back in order.
Thanks, too, to KG, for assuming the bulk of the baby care duties while I was otherwise occupied.
Mom, I'm so glad you're okay. You have no idea. Now how about you get on with the business of knowing Henry for a very, very long time?
Thursday, October 2, 2008
My mom had emergency heart surgery yesterday. They did an angioplasty to open a blocked artery. The surgery went very well according to the doctors, but she's still got a ways to go before she's completely out of the woods.
I'm headed to the hospital later tonight to sit with her for a while. I'll have my (internet-accessing) phone with me and wanted to have something of Henry to show her. Obviously he can't understand these kind of things yet, but if he did, maybe he'd say something like this....
Saturday, September 27, 2008
HG cried ceaselessly for more than an hour today and there was little KG or I could do about it. We spelled each other a bit, taking it in shifts, but it was still rather hard to bear.
Eventually in this kind of situation, I find that some part of me just relents. It's not that I quit trying to help him, of course; it's just that I eventually accept that - for the moment at least - I am utterly and completely powerless. Today I simply could not stop his suffering.
Strange as it may seem, I feel as if something extraordinarily good came out of it. Holding him as he cried, incapable of soothing him, I instead looked into his eyes and simply took him in. It is a rare moment when one can look into the eyes of someone so upset and not shrivel up and retreat in one form or another. It taught me something. I think I grew closer to him today. I would prefer, of course, that HG not suffer through that kind of thing at all. Still and all, I consider myself fortunate to have been there when it happened.
Henry laughed yesterday, the first time ever. He and I had been playing on the couch together, tickling and talking, when he bleated one out. It seemed to really startle him (me too, of course). He got this sort of puzzled, cautious look on his face in the immediate aftermath. But just a minute later he was over any confusion and tried it again.
Needless to say, I was overjoyed. To see my reaction, you'd have thought he had generated cold fusion while brokering a peace accord between the Israelis and Palestinians. It's funny how excited you can get over the simplest of things.
Friday, September 19, 2008
HG got his first round of shots today. Five of them. One right after the other.
We showed up at the pediatrician's office for his two-month (!) checkup and, after briefly airing a few concerns with the doctor, a nurse stepped in carrying a box full of needles. What happened next made her really laugh. HG batted his eyes and gave her a big smile, as if trying to charm his way out of all this. No such luck.
Once the shots began, HG did a lot of screaming. The needle would go in and he'd let loose a big holler before, quick as can be, the nurse would remove it and he'd start to settle down. Of course, almost immediately the whole process would repeat itself... and repeat itself... and repeat itself. It was heartbreaking to see HG continually think it was over, only to find out again and again that there was more to come.
As it happens, I'm afraid of shots, myself - like to a nearly phobic level - so it definitely pained me to watch the little guy go through it all. However, the need to be there for him made things much easier to bear. I leaned over and spoke comforting words into his ear as best as I could think of them. Poor KG was pretty upset as well. On the surface, she was rock-solid (no surprise there) but when everything was done and I stole a glance at her, she was really crying. It reminded me of the time, years ago, when my nephew was circumcised and my sister fled the room in tears. Mother love is a force of nature.
Anyway, HG's home now and - all worst fears to the contrary - he's perfectly fine. Other than the fact that he's sleeping more than usual, nothing has changed at all. Phew.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Friday, September 12, 2008
I've collected together some random photos having to do with HG that, for one reason or another, haven't been posted before. Think of it as a collection of rarities and B-Sides.
The Big News
The Great Pumpkin Picture
Painting the mural in the nursery...
...and celebrating its completion
Pastime #1: Sleeping
Pastime #2: Crying
Showing off a sweet, patient disposition while being burped
Close to present: a soulful look
Well, not quite. But things are changing...
He's smiling now, real smiling, the kind of smiling that's obviously smiling as opposed to poop grimacing. Oh my God, its boffo. Sadly, it's been difficult so far to get a good photo of it (he's usually moving too much) so my apologies for the blurry picture. Anyway, as you can imagine, when it comes to smiles, KG and I are absolute junkies. As soon as he doles out even a small one, we immediately turn into wild-eyed, smile-seeking idiots.
He's getting big, too, though I've only recently begun to notice. Today as I found myself showing off pictures of him, including some we took during the first few weeks, it was suddenly so obvious. I looked at the newborn shots and thought "HOLY COW, he was small!" Last night I put him down in what we call his little "Moses basket" and I realized he's going to outgrow it pretty soon. Quite a shocker.
His sound-making abilities have also begun to expand - wildly exciting, I know! For those of you who I'M CERTAIN are interested in the blow by blow details of such things, he has recently moved from a primarily grunt-only form of communication to one that includes several interesting variations of coo and gurgle.
He's more and more interactive every day. He looks around at everything and takes in what he sees. We have a little mat they call a "baby gym," with toys hanging from above for him to punch at. He's recently begun to use it in earnest. I lay him down on it, jiggle one of the toys and say, "Can you hit it?" and he actually does, wiggling his legs and smiling at his success.
About to punch a bug
I love him. I love him I love him I love him.
There, I said it.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Sitting outside with Henry today, I realized something that I expect most experienced parents already know:
It's easy to get lost in the "solving" part of caring for a newborn, to look at everything as a fire that needs to be put out. I suppose it's akin to what they say can sometimes happen to doctors; they can begin to think only about preventing illness and neglect the cultivation of health. But there's more to life than plugging the dam.
Henry's a person of course, one I happen to like. When he's up for it, there's no reason I can't just "hang out" with him. Today on my balcony he was nice and calm, just kind of looking around like babies do. I talked with him about our surroundings: "Hear that? That's a bird," "The wind is made of air," "Look at that plant," that sort of simple blather. I liked trying to see things through his eyes. It's impossible of course; babies are unfathomable. Still, it was fun.
Friday, August 15, 2008
KG's dad and his wife came into town the day before yesterday, flying all the way across the country for a quick, one day visit. It was their first ever chance to get aquatinted with Frank's new grandson so we kept our plans fairly simple. In the morning, the two of them took us to breakfast and, afterward, we returned home and basically ogled HG for the remainder of the day. Debbie also took a moment to give us a gift she'd brought with her, a sweet little matching plate and bowl. Very cute.
I suppose it was a typical family visit by any practical measure but for me it was a standout. Frank lives far away and I don't yet know him as well as I'd like. That said, I find him a genuinely nice, interesting guy. Spending the day together, I took the opportunity to ask him all sorts of things. He was nice enough to tell us a little about his time in the Marines, his experience during KG's infancy, and the fact that he nearly went to law school - something I'd never heard. We even talked music a little, with both he and Debbie getting a good laugh remembering the corny songs of Guy Mitchell. (In Frank's defense, the other artists he mentioned included Frank Sinatra, Little Richard, and The Beach Boys)
Best of all, though, was seeing Frank with the baby sleeping comfortably in his lap, the little guy as calm as he could be. The both of them - charmingly, when you see them together - are the long, lanky type. That and a couple other physical similarities served to remind me of the concrete nature of relationhip. I like that. There is literally a part of KG's dad in my son.
Frank, Debbie, and The Boy
Monday, August 11, 2008
Friday, August 8, 2008
Wow. Henry fussed virtually all last night from about 10:00 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. It was easily the toughest he's been so far. KG took the early shift, I the later one. Virtually the whole time he was squirming or crying, with a downright screaming jag or three thrown in for good measure. I could sometimes soothe him a little, but only so much. I think he's got indigestion, poor guy, but it could be anything. We also put a different kind of diaper on him. Anyway, nothing seemed to calm him, none of the old standbys.
When he finally gave in to sleep at 4:30 - out of sheer exhaustion, I suppose - I was too tired and strung out to sleep. I'm going to go try again now.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
This post is more for myself than anyone else. From the start, I've wanted to use this blog in part to leave a digital paper trail of Henry's young life. Nearly every parent I've spoken to cautioned me about how quickly time goes by and how thoroughly memory fades. During these first few weeks I've begun to catalogue some memories I'd like to preserve. A few...
1) Earlier tonight, KG took over baby-watch while I got in a little nap. Just as I was drifting off to sleep, I heard her singing to Henry in the next room:
You are my sunshine, my only sunshineYou make me happy when skies are greyYou'll never know, dear, how much I love youPlease don't take my sunshine away
She sang it over and over again. It was nothing, really. KG can't carry a tune. All the same, her wobbly voice was so relaxed and certain. It was the best thing.
2) Pedestrian Road Rage: This is something that took place the day Henry was born, beforehand while driving to the hospital. KG was in labor. We knew we were close. After driving along a bumpy side road, I stopped at a red light to make a right onto the main street where the hospital is located. At that point, a man approached my car from the passenger side. He had a round face, closely cropped hair and a four-day shadow or so. He began yelling, I wasn't sure about what; maybe he'd planned to cross the crosswalk where I was making my turn. Regardless, KG was sitting to my right clearly in pain, her shirt pulled up over her belly, and this guy was yelling and yelling. I obviously needed to put a stop to it so I turned to him and said simply, "My wife's in labor," nodding towards her and hoping that'd do the trick.
The guy pulled up short, taking a quick glance at KG's naked belly. For a moment he stood there looking dumbfounded. Even in the midst of all this chaos it was pretty captivating. You could see him turning over his decision: drop the tirade or continue yelling at a couple on their way to deliver their baby. Then the guy did the most amazing thing: He decided to keep yelling. You could see it pass over him, the actual decision to keep going. It was incredible. KG and I, despite everything, just burst out laughing. The whole situation was so absurd. I made my right and headed off to the hospital.
3) HG's Suspicious Look: Talking about this is SO new-parenty, but sometimes Henry busts out this sort of sideways, "you've got to be kidding me" look that just slays me. It's so goofy in a baby. Infants already sort of look like old people as is, then one of them goes and lowers his eyebrows at you. I haven't been able to capture it on film yet. If I do, I'll post a pic.
4) White Noise: This is perhaps the most ever-present thing in our lives right now. Apparently, babies love it. HG sure does. Puts him right to sleep. We've always got a fan running or something like that. And loudly. It's kind of maddening, actually, but worth it if it soothes the little guy.
5) Coming Of Age In The Milky Way: When KG breast-feeds the baby, I usually read to her from a book called Coming Of Age In The Milky Way, by Timothy Ferris. Ferris is a popular-science writer, justifiably famous for his ability to render complex theories easy to comprehend. The two of us are loving it. It's funny to say this about a science book, but Coming Of Age is terrifically romantic. Written as a history of mankind's relationship to "Time, Space, and Creation," it reads more like an adventure novel than a work of non-fiction. It's also filled with great character portraits of some pretty dashing oddballs who've shaped scientific inquiry throughout the years. With my life currently dominated by the most mulchy of things, it's been fun to spend time prowling around the heavens with a bunch of weirdos.