Soloing

Saturday marked the first time that I took care of Morgan solo for more than about 30 minutes.  She has been going through a very clingy phase lately where she was really only content with Jen as she started to get tired, so I was nervous, to say the least.  When I say clingy, perhaps I should rephrase to say that she would cry in my arms until she fell asleep, then wake up just to see if I was Jen and start crying again.  Needless to say, I wasn’t in the most confident of moods going into this several-hour solo mission.

Fortunately, she was as perfect as I could have ever asked.  She fussed a little bit when she got tired, but calmed down quickly and went right to sleep.  During her awake-and-not-tired times, we played and she laughed and smiled (just like always).  I definitely feel much better going forward.

I’ll be honest: going into this, I felt like I was a level 30 about to solo a 12-man endgame raid.  I was afraid Jen would get back from her outing and find us both curled up in the fetal position and crying.  

I’m hoping this means that Morgan is coming out of her ultra-clingy phase, and not just that she didn’t see mommy anywhere and figured she may as well not fuss while daddy held her.  Either way, it’s nice that my solo instance took a cue from a popular MMORPG and scaled its difficulty for me.

Do You Speaka My Language?

In the past week or so, Morgan has started to babble, which excites Jen and me to no end.  Saturday evening, I was singing to Morgan (like you do) when I started humming a random tune and pausing in between bars.  At first she didn’t know what to make of it, although she thought it was rather funny, but eventually she figured out that I was giving her a chance to be a part of the song.  Suddenly, almost every time I would pause in my humming, she would babble something back to me.  We kept it up for a good 3 or 4 minutes and, young though she is, I think Morgan appreciated the thought that daddy wanted her to sing along.

Sunday morning, I woke up to the sound of Morgan babbling happily away and walked, bleary-eyed, into the living room to be told that Morgan had been carrying on a conversation with the Ninja Turtles on Jen’s water glass for the past ten minutes.  By the time I woke up, she was mostly finished with her conversation, but I can only imagine the wisdom she felt Leo, Don, Raph, and Mikey needed to hear.  It’s going to be a lot of fun to sit down with her and actually watch Ninja Turtles cartoons when she gets a little bit older.

We have found out, however, that Morgan is either camera shy or techno-curious, because all her babbling ceases within 5-10 seconds of noticing a camera.  Given her daddy’s love of gadgetry, I’m going to go with techno-curious.

It is fresh and amazing every day to see her sense of joy and wonder at the experiences I take so much for granted.  Something as simple as standing on my lap while I hold her up lights her face up unimaginably bright.  Something as simple as not understanding the body mechanics involved in consistently rolling over gets her incredibly frustrated.  So many things that are as mundane as peas on a plate to me are fascinating to her.  In fact, I’m sure peas on a plate will be pretty fascinating the first time she gets to try them.

The sum of our experiences help make us who we are.  It is almost obscene to imagine that something as simple as standing on daddy’s lap singing between the bars of a nameless tune has forever etched and shaped a small part of Morgan’s personality.  The language of a child is the language of creation itself, chaotic and vital and beyond our comprehension.  It truly is a thing of wonder.

Waking Up Your Primal Instincts

I’m a bit of a heavy sleeper.  When Hurricane Opal whipped through North Georgia in 1995, felling numerous trees on our property and leaving us penned in for a few days as a result, I woke up late that morning having no idea what had happened until my mother told me.  I’ve slept through a mild earthquake (which is still more major than Georgia is supposed to get), a few tornadoes, and countless intense thunder storms.  I’ve only slept through an alarm a couple of times in my life, but I also set third and fourth redundant alarms to make sure of this.

I was terrified that I would find myself watching Morgan by myself at some point and sleep through her crying – especially since I have tended to sleep through any time she wakes Jen up for a feeding.  This morning, I was given one of the greatest reliefs of my young life as a parent.  Jen had gotten up to use the restroom, and I assume that either Morgan was waking up anyway or the jostling must have woken her (it was not long before I normally get up for work).  Morgan made a sound and I woke up out of a dead sleep to check on her.  I was able to get her up and ready for Jen to feed her with no trouble.

It’s such a minor thing, but knowing just how much I am capable of sleeping through, it is a huge relief to know that evolution did not fail me.  Of course we know that there are certain behaviors that have selected over the course of our evolution, and that awareness of one’s children is among the simplest of our animal instincts to have been selected (since, after all, being unaware would typically lead to fewer surviving offspring), but until you’ve had that awareness confirmed, there are always niggling doubts.  It is a huge load off my shoulders to have this doubt removed!

The things nobody tells you

Going into parenthood for the first time, Jen and I researched, talked to people, and tried to do everything we could to get ready.  Jen was 10 and 15 when her younger sisters were born, so she thought she had a decent idea what to expect.  All the same, there were simple and apparently common things that totally blindsided us.  We found plenty of information once we started searching, but, strangely enough, it all started with someone saying, “Help, I don’t know what to do!”

Fussy Time:
Of all the things you’d think you might get warned about, this one’s a biggie.  Apparently, at some point between 1-6 months, almost every baby has a fussy time where they cry for no apparent reason for a couple of hours each day.  This is not colic.  It’s not gas.  It’s not hunger.  It MIGHT be fighting sleep.  The first time this happens, you spend hours searching online in worried parent mode, only to find out two things: it’s normal, and experts have no idea what causes it.  Seriously, fussiness with no cause that starts and stops on its own, and nobody thinks to warn the new parents?  We heard plenty of glowing comments about how we would soon be able to understand Morgan’s every cry, but never a mention that there’s one cry that just means, “Nope, nothing you can do about it, I’m just gonna cry.”

Clusterfeeding:
Oh dear god, clusterfeeding!  Neither Jen nor I had ever heard of clusterfeeding before Morgan started doing it.  It often coincides with “fussy time,” and it is absolute hell on the mother while it happens, because the baby is essentially grumpily snacking almost constantly for anywhere from several hours to the entire day.  Even in non-fussy babies, clusterfeeding is very common during growth spurts.  To give you an idea of how rough this is, I’ve also heard it called “Little Devil Syndrome.”  If a mom doesn’t know it’s coming, it can be devastating to her confidence.  Even if she does know it’s coming, the first thought is that she must be doing something wrong or her body must not be producing enough milk.  Nothing is further from the truth, and this is perfectly normal.  It goes away in a few days and things get back to normal, but the stress on mama in the middle of a clusterfeed time is incredible, and it can be terribly frustrating for women who are used to being independent, because clusterfeed days become almost exclusively devoted to feeding and comforting.

The difference between formulae:
You may be planning to breastfeed, and if you are, that’s awesome. If you can feed and pump and do everything that way, by all means, do so.  But you may find you have trouble with your milk supply, or maybe you have trouble producing for a breast pump, so you may find yourself supplementing formula.  Or you may decide not to breast feed at all, in which case you are going to rely solely on formula.  Then you go into the baby formula aisle at the grocery story.  That’s right: formula aisle.  You may have a baby with a stomach of steel who doesn’t care if you buy the cheapest crap in the aisle, or you may have a baby that suffers from reflux or, god forbid, GERD.  The good news is that babies with reflux and GERD get over it.  The bad news is that, until they do, trying to find the right formula is going to feel a lot like something out of The Exorcist.  Similac and other high-end companies make formula specifically designed for spit-up and GERD.  Not surprisingly, it’s a lot more expensive.  A quart of Similac’s alimentum (supposedly the best formula for GERD and reflux) is usually about $3-4 more than a quart of standard formula.  That adds up fast.

The thing is, though, your baby may not need the most expensive formula if they are spitting up badly.  The first thing you should try is simply switching from powdered formula to ready-to-drink formula.  Ready-to-drink is thicker, and that thickness is often enough by itself to fix the problem.  Even if it’s not, get small packs of several types of ready-to-drink formula to test.  Morgan spits up frequently with alimentum, but she handles the cheap Gerber Good Start formula just fine.  

Parenting Advice:
This is a weird one, but Jen and I both noticed that the parenting advice given to us post-partum, especially the written advice, quickly turned from the happy, joking advice we had received leading up to Morgan’s birth to a very dark place.  The pamphlet the hospital sent home with us suggested in all seriousness that, on those days you feel like throwing your baby against the wall, you should lay her down in another room, leave her crying, close the door on her, and retreat a few rooms away so that you can’t hear.  Jen saw similar advice from several more post-partum advice sources.  Besides being somewhat scary that parenting advice has to mention feeling like you want to throw your baby against the wall, it seems like this advice (likely designed to help mothers who are dealing with post-partum depression cope with some of the issues above) goes to an even darker place than a PPD mother already occupies, to say nothing of the fact that this could start parents trying to force their kids to “cry it out” way too early (most research shows that the “cry it out” approach simply teaches a child that her parents do not care about her and will not listen to her – especially when that child is still learning how to differentiate her cries enough to communicate.  Essentially the body of research now thinks that making a baby “cry it out” does not teach them independence, it simply demolishes their spirit).

There are plenty more things that blindsided us, and I’m sure even more will come in the future, but these were some of the big ones that may just help someone else be that much more prepared when their own son or daughter gets here.