Friday, August 29, 2014

Late Night Koalid

Every night between midnight and 1 AM or so, I get up. Newborns don't sleep more than 3 hours or so, and when they wake up they need to be changed and fed. When I first envisioned this, I assumed this meant getting up, taking care of things, then going back to sleep.

The Koalid being cute and awake,
which she has been doing much
of tonight.
In fact, the Koalid is never done with her ablutions in less than an hour, and two hours is not unreasonable. So, I quickly gave up the idea of trying to feed her and get back to bed. Instead, I now go to bed earlier so that when it is time to take the night shift, I get up, take the Koalid in the other room, put something on Netflix (for a while it was Voyager, but I'm quite enjoying The West Wing lately) and maybe get some work done on the computer. The trick is that Amy goes to work for 9 AM, so if the Koalid gets back to sleep early enough, then she'll wake up before Amy leaves for work and Amy can take care of her. If I miss that window, which I likely will tonight, then she'll wake up too late for Amy to take care of her, and I'll get the three hours that she sleeps before I have to get up.

As I was looking at her adorable, fussy face tonight it got me thinking. Within the next few months, she'll start sleeping through the night, but I'm sure this won't be the last time she needs me at 4 AM. Maybe she'll have a bad dream and I'll have to reassure her that there are no monsters in her closet. Maybe some night we'll be up late discussing the mysteries of life... or maybe just some topic of geeky interest. And, I'm sure there will be late night talks about boys (or girls) and why they are so stupid.

Perhaps she will need me in other ways in the wee hours of the morning. Maybe one day I'll get a call at 4 AM saying she needs me to pick her up. Maybe she's at a party she doesn't want to be at, or her ride is drunk. Then, as now, Dad will be on duty and will rush to the aid of my Koalid, because no matter how big she gets, her father will always be ready to get up in the wee hours to help her... just hopefully less often as time goes on.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Can't Wait to Meet Her

During the last few weeks of pregnancy, Amy would say that she could not wait to meet the Koalid. She looked forward to seeing what she looked like and getting to hold her. Naturally, I felt this same excitement.

The Koalid next to our smallest cat.
However, as we have gone through our first month of parenthood, I feel that I am still saying "I can't wait to meet her." What do I mean by this? Of course, I have met her. She's right here, all the time. But I do not feel I have met my daughter. I have met the newborn which will grow to become my daughter. The first month of life of a newborn could be thought of as the 10th month of gestation. She does not respond to external stimuli. She does not interact. She simply gives cues of hunger and other needs so that we may fulfill them in order for her to continue her growth and development. It is like incubating a particularly demanding egg.

Of course, most people would never say such a thing. First, to say anything about ones child other than "she's perfect" and the like is considered uncouth. Additionally, most people are quite taken with the cuteness of the baby and don't notice the complete lack of interaction. Since the part of my brain that is overcome by baby cuteness appear not to function properly, I notice that this process is like getting a computer loaded with installation files but no functioning software... if the computer required a few months to get everything loaded... and occasionally pooped on you.

I know that she will be an amazing, beautiful, funny, kind, lovely girl and woman. She's not there yet, but she will be soon, and I can't wait to meet her.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Seige

As I prepared for the arrival of the Koalid, I was ready for many things. I learned the basics of diapering, feeding, burping, and as individual challenges I was quite up to them. However, like many things we do in life, the difficulty is not in the individual elements once or twice. Running a marathon is just putting one foot in front of another. What makes it hard is doing so 34,000 times.

Being up all night once, watching Star Trek: Voyager, and periodically feeding and changing a baby is exciting and not overly taxing. But then there is the second night, the third, the tenth. After two weeks of sleeping no more than 4 hours at a time, being awakened by screaming baby, it starts to wear.
This is what the Koalid looked like
for about 12 seconds last night.

Eventually, one gets to learn the rhythm of the baby. She is sleeping less and less each night, but sleeps quite a bit in the morning. The challenge is not that it's difficult to figure out the rhythm, it's that it's difficult to solve simple problems when running on little sleep, with a baby crying, and all the rest. It gets to be like juggling while tightrope walking in a windstorm.

I am also learning a bit about sleep and the lack thereof. Staying up all night is not nearly as hard as trying to sleep four times and being woken within 15 minutes each time. Each time you start to sleep and are awoken, you wake up a little groggier until simple tasks become complicated and difficult. So, the solution appears to be not to try to sleep until the baby is securely asleep and will be sleeping for a while. It's a very challenging game of endurance and fortitude.

As I write this, I have gotten a good chunk of sleep in the morning and the Koalid is asleep, so I'm feeling pretty solid, which is good because there are other things I have to do besides watch a baby, like create a non-profit book store.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A Lesson From A Baby: Pause to Look Around

There is something that I noticed the Koalid doing which I realized many people could take a lesson from. As you know, babies tend to overreact to everything. A little hungry? Scream. A little cold? Scream. Wet diaper? Scream.

This baby is clearly up to no good.
However, babies are also distractable. In the middle of a great barrage of crying and screaming, the baby may suddenly notice something: a sound, a sight, being moved. For a moment, the baby will stop crying and investigate, as much as her baby senses allow. Of course, she will determine that the new thing is not as interesting as whatever is distracting her, and return to crying.

This is an effective thing to know with a baby. When mom is getting the bottle ready, I can do some things to distract her for a moment. I think she does this because, if for example she is hungry, she needs to stop crying to eat.

There is also a valuable lesson for adults. How often have you seen someone be so busy complaining about what upsets them that they do not notice something good happening? Even worse, sometimes a person will be so busy complaining about a problem that they don't notice that the solution to that very problem is being presented to them.

The next time that you find yourself focused on a problem and how bad it is, take a lesson from a newborn. Pause to be distracted by what is around you. You never know when the solution might be there if you stop focusing on the problem long enough to notice it.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Two Parents, One Baby: Sharing Work With Love

My wife is amazing. If I let her, she would do everything herself: feeding and caring for the baby, cleaning the
house, cooking, working, and probably fighting crime in her spare time. Her outsized sense of duty would likely make her run herself to exhaustion, then to feel bad in her hospital bed because she couldn't do more. This is why it is my job to make sure that she doesn't do as much as she thinks she should.

This post was typed one handed because the Koalid would
only sleep while in my arms.
I am writing this around 6 AM, which is not a time that I get up when left to my own devices. However, around 1:30, a certain Koalid woke up hungry. I handed the hungry baby to the parent with the functioning, milk-producing breasts and returned to sleep. At 5:30, I woke up again to find that Amy had been running a marathon of feeding and changing for the past four hours. The Koalid was crying and wailing. I did not know when I woke up that Amy had been at it for four hours, but I could tell she was fatigued, so I took the Koalid and had Amy get me a bottle so I could feed her. She took the bottle and calmed down somewhat.

Now, here is the amazing part. Amy, who went to sleep at 12:30 and got up at 1:30 when the Koalid started crying, felt bad that she had, in her words, "dumped the baby" on me at 5:30 because I, who also went to sleep at 12:30, hadn't gotten much sleep either.

At its core, taking care of a baby as not terribly difficult. You feed. You burp. You change. You make sure she doesn't fall into couch cushions. The complexity is that you must do this 24 hours a day with no break longer than 135 minutes. This is why parenting is ideally a two or more person job.

There are two basic ways that you can share duties. You can do it by each person worrying about themselves and their own needs or you can do it by each person worrying about the other's needs. In both cases, the work ends up being split somewhat equally, but in the latter, it is much less contentious and more loving.

Looking for a good cute baby image to indicate you
approve? Why not this adorable thumbs up baby?
If we were each worrying about ourselves this morning, Amy would have woken me up saying "it's your turn." And I might have grudgingly taken her, objecting that I had already done thus and such. In time bitterness develops, both towards the partner who may or may not be pulling their weight and towards the baby who causes all this work.

The much more pleasant alternative which Amy and I have chosen, is to each worry about the other. I woke up because I heard the Koalid's cries, and, once awake, I sensed Amy's frustration. I forced blood into my brain and offered to take the baby, not because it was my turn or because Amy expected me to, but because I knew Amy was out of steam and needed to be relieved. I can do this because I know that she feels a similar duty to take over for me when I am spent. Further, taking on her burdens feels like an act of love rather than an act of duty or capitulation.

Our division of labor is equitable, but we do not waste energy on resentment at doing work which is not "our job". Instead, we feel love for each other and the Koalid as we work together, growing closer and doing what must be done as a family.