Thursday, August 30, 2007

All Symbolic and Whatnot

Last night I dreamed that Mrs. Rodius and I tried and tried to make the sweet, sweet love, but we couldn't because no matter what room we went into, we were interrupted by house guests that wouldn't leave us alone.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Happy Four Weeks Day

This really is a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. There was at least one day when I thought to myself that I was really in it way over my head. Sleep helps. Gripe Water doesn't, though. Things I would ask the boy if he only spoke English:

1. Why does nighttime cause you pain?

2. What's with the grunting and groaning? Even in your deepest sleep, you sound alternately like a cat, a dog, a pig, a horse... Is this practice for future rounds of Old MacDonald? It kinda makes you a lousy roommate. No offense.

3. Why does it aggrieve you so when I burp you or change your diaper? And speaking of burping, can you try doing a little more of it, please? It might help you not torment your mother with the screams of agony.

4. Do you hold it until the diaper comes off? Seriously. Statistically speaking, it's starting to look intentional.

5. Is your unbelievable cuteness an evolutionary survival trait? Without it, you might be in trouble...

Love ya! Now go to sleep, Grunty...

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Ties That Bind

I woke up this morning stretched out in my recliner with Thumper still asleep on me. He had drooled on my chest. I had drooled on his head. It was a bonding moment. I still haven't peed, pooped, or puked on him, though. He cannot say the same.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Battle of the Boob

The chronology of the last few weeks is a little murky. I woke up to a screaming Thumper again this morning after several frustrating nights. After getting angry at him, and angry at Mrs. Rodius, this thought occurred to me: find a way to deal with what is, instead of getting upset that it's not something different. We'll see if I still feel that way in the wee hours. Anyway, like I said, it's all a little murky. I think this is what happened. Eh, close enough.

Like many things with which I had no previous experience, I had absolutely no understanding of the depth of complexity in the breastfeeding world. When, in our birthing class, I heard that there was a "Lactation Department" full of "Lactation Consultants" at the hospital, I thought, "Huh. A whole department for that? Babies try to suck on just about anything that comes within a foot of their mouths. How hard could it be?"

Well, hard enough. We had a few strikes against us to start. Thumper showed up a couple weeks early, and apparently those are a key couple of weeks. He should've been spending those weeks practicing sucking on amniotic fluid. Yum, right? So he didn't get the practice. And he was breech, which apparently somehow wonks him out a bit, too, though I didn't get the why's and wherefore's of that one. And that couple of weeks also meant that Mrs. Rodius wasn't quite ready in the production department. And neurologically, he was underdeveloped and had a weak suck. And his tongue is short. And Mrs. Rodius had edema. And pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel syndrome.

Which all meant that we had many frustrating hours in the hospital, with a few satisfying successes. With varying amounts of wrestling, and varying degrees of pain and exhaustion in Mrs. Rodius' hands and wrists, he'd latch on, but couldn't get enough to satisfy the nursery nurses, who said his blood sugar was too low and insisted on formula supplementation. So we bottle-fed him formula to get his blood sugar up, but we agonized over what we had heard: if you introduce the bottle before at least a few weeks have passed, you'll ruin him! He'll never breastfeed again! But it had to be better than starving the boy, right?

But the Lactation Consultants would come during the day, and he'd latch and suck away, and all seemed right with the world. Then the dark of night would come, and he'd fight and scream and refuse to latch on, and after a couple of hours of tears (his and ours) and exhaustion (his and ours), we'd give in and give him the bottle again. Then we discovered the nursery nurses were giving him a pacifier when they had him, so we righteously marked him down as "No Paci," but eventually the lure of the pacifier overcame us, and we were slipping it to him ourselves. And we were ruining him! Ruining him!

We had a few victories, when a particularly kind night nurse with five kids of her own stayed with us and helped get him latched, or when the Lactation Consultants were on duty and Thumper chose to show off for them and latch right on immediately. But mostly, it wasn't working out very well. We became intimately familiar with the football and the cross-cradle, with sideline and reverse pressure.

Eventually, one of the consultants brought us a pump to help keep up supply without relying on the boy to latch on, because protecting the supply was the most important concern. That's when it became clear that the supply wasn't really there yet, though it really began to improve before we left the hospital. It seemed like no wonder Thumper preferred the bottle to the boob, because the boob wasn't really competing yet.

With a few successful sessions here and there, though, and an ever-increasing supply and a pump of our own, we left the hospital with hope in our hearts that soon, the boy would learn to love the boob as much as his Daddy, though for admittedly different reasons. But on our own, the exhausting, painful, frustrating wrestling matches for an hour or two in the dark, desperate hours seemed insurmountable. So we called in another consultant for a house call. She had suggestions and techniques that we hadn't tried. She had tales of babies who'd learned to latch on after a couple of months. She had reassurances that the bottle did not sound the death knell of the boob. She had a highly specialized scale and a supply of extremely reassuring sympathy. She came on Tuesday, and said she'd follow up on Saturday. We had a plan of new techniques and positions, a plan of short, frequent sessions that would reduce all of our stress levels. Hope was resuscitated.

But Wednesday was a disaster, so we left her a voicemail on Thursday. She didn't call us back. She left us a voicemail on Saturday saying that she hadn't heard from us, so she was assuming everything was fine. She had her home on the market and had an open house on Saturday, so she'd follow up in a couple of days. In the meantime, Hope was starting to look a little green around the gills again. The sessions got shorter and less frequent. We were all so tired of fighting. The supply was really coming on, though, so we didn't even need to supplement with formula anymore. I shouldn't, but I kind of blame that consultant now. If she'd called me back, everything would have been idyllic. But she didn't, and between Thursday and Tuesday, pumping and bottle feeding started looking more and more inevitable, and more and more just kind of all right. I did tell Thumper that if he latched on no problem when the consultant came back, I was going to have to kick his ass. I was just kidding, though. Sort of.

And I'm only slightly ashamed to admit that I was glad when he wouldn't perform for her when she finally returned on Tuesday. He gave us a half-hearted latch-on, of which she made far too much, but he wouldn't really suck. She used a few milliliters of expressed breast milk (known to those of us in the business as EBM) to get him going, but he never really did, and when she did the "After" weigh-in, that EBM was the only extra weight on the scale. Ha ha, I say! Take that, you professional!

So we tried a few more times, but our hearts weren't really in it. Pumping and bottle feeding was working out just fine. The consultant said that many women make that choice for a variety of reasons and pointed us to And since ultimately our plan is for me to stay home with him during the day, we were going to have to introduce the bottle right about now anyway. So I'm fine with it. For Mrs. Rodius, though, it's much more emotional of an issue. For her, it feels like a failure and a rejection. I don't think it's either. It is what it is. I still stand amazed by the fact that not only can she grow an entire human being within her body, she can also produce all of the food required to nurture that human being and make it grow at the rate he's growing. She's producing more than he can eat. She's even been able to have the well-deserved shot of vodka that she said many months ago she would want when this whole pregnancy thing was over, because she's got enough of a supply built up that she can actually pump and dump (as we say in the business.) Woman, you are an astounding creation.

So I guess, as the reports on the Battle of the Boob come in, it looks like we may have lost the battle, but we're definitely winning the war.

Oh, and to anybody out there who says, "What's with all this 'we' crap, you Man! Stop inserting yourself into the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding! Stop oppressing me with your penis!" I say to you: I get it. At the pediatrician, after a string of questions about Mrs. Rodius, the only question they asked about me was if my last name was the same. The Consultant, too, made it clear that I was of little use except to fetch blankets with which to prop the boob or the baby, or wet washclothes with which to wake him up and stimulate him into sucking. Every time, I was the one who called her, but when she called back, she always asked for Mrs. Rodius. It's been made abundantly clear that I'm a lesser participant in the entire process. But still I say, "Screw you. I was there for all those sessions with the boob and the boy. I hunched blearily over Mrs. Rodius, trying to be her hands when her hands didn't want to anymore. I've touched my wife in ways more clinical than I ever would have foreseen. I've paced and bounced and patted Thumper to calm him when he was as inconsolably frustrated as we were. I rubbed her shoulders and told her we were doing everything right when I really wasn't sure it was true. So screw you. It was 'we' all the way."


Dressing a baby in a onesie that proclaims him a "Sleepyhead" does not, in fact, make him sleep.

I don't want to embarrass him in front of the entire internets, but the boy has a gas problem. He seems to prefer sending it out the back door rather than the front. We're going off in search of Gripe Water today.

Haven't blogged much lately, but I'll be back, I swear!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Birth Story

We went to the regular weekly OB check up at 37 1/2 weeks with some mild concern. On Saturday, Mrs. Rodius had a couple of strong contractions, then nothing. Beginning on Sunday, and continuing into Monday, little Thumper was more lethargic than his usual self. He wiggled around in there, but not with his usual frequency or vigor. He was even unenthusiastic about his post-ice cream dancing. The OB had told us that decreased fetal movement was one of the four reasons to call and wake her up in the middle of the night, but Thumper had sleepy days before, and we didn't want to be the nervous parents who called at the slightest provocation. We should have called.

The nurse took Mrs. Rodius blood pressure. She didn't tell us the numbers, as she usually does, but said that it was fine. When the doctor came in, we expressed our concern about Thumper's lethargy, and she chastised us kindly and put Mrs. Rodius on a fetal heart monitor for twenty minutes. Halfway through, she came to check on us, and wasn't encouraged by the squiggly lines on the stock-ticker paper. She gave Mrs. Rodius a couple of juice boxes with which to stimulate Thumper's thumper, but when she came back again, she announced that we had failed the test. It wasn't so much that his heart rate was fast or slow, it was just flat. She expected to see it increase and decrease over the course of the twenty minutes as he moved around in there, especially after the stimulation of the juice. Instead, it remained fairly constant, between 135 and 145 beats per minute. She also mentioned that Mrs. Rodius blood pressure was elevated. After an ultrasound, she said that Thumper was transverse. He'd been head-down at the previous week's appointment, but maybe during those contractions on Saturday, he'd been spun around sideways. The doctor's concern was that if Mrs. Rodius went into labor with him in that position, there was a risk of the cord "presenting" first, which would be bad. Very bad.

"You're having a baby today," she said. Huh? What? Today, like today? Well, can we go home and get the bag?

"No. I don't want you to be concerned. This isn't an emergency where we're rushing you over for immediate surgery, but I'm concerned enough not to let you go home for the bag. It looks like you're going to have this baby in the next few hours. Go across the street to the hospital, straight up to the third floor, and check in. I'll call ahead and let them know you're coming."

Huh. Wow. Today. We're having a baby! While Mrs. Rodius went to the restroom, I listened to the doctor call the hospital. She reiterated the same equation: heart rate + blood pressure + position = c-section. Today. I wasn't so much excited, or scared, or nervous. I was simply stunned. I felt like I'd been programmed to proceed with a set of directions, but I wasn't really thinking much. I was in cruise control. But by the time we'd pulled into a spot in the garage, it was starting to hit me. His birthday would be July 31. We were really doing this.

Mrs. Rodius called her office to let them know she wouldn't be coming in. I called my office and did the same. I don't remember who else I called. I think I called my mother. And maybe Mrs. Rodius' mother. Or maybe she called her herself, I don't know. Things were starting to feel a little unreal. When I left the hospital the next day to go home and give Puck his antibiotics, I would have absolutely no idea where I'd parked the car.

And speaking of Puck and his antibiotics, I felt guilty every time I left Mrs. Rodius at the hospital over the next four days. Puck had already been through one round of antibiotics to fight a urinary tract infection, and I really didn't want it to come back again because we didn't finish this round. So I went home twice a day every day but one. To give the cat a pill. At his follow-up this week, they pronounced the infection beaten. Thank God, because I don't think we really need that to deal with on top of everything else.

So, we went to the third floor, dropped Mrs. Rodius' name like a password, and were immediately ushered to a room. A nurse, named Angie if I recall, hooked Mrs. Rodius up to a blood pressure monitor, a fetal heart monitor, and IV fluids. We watched bad weekday morning TV. We made small talk and laughed nervously at each other. We listened to the underwater sound of the heartbeat on the monitor. We listened to the underwater heartbeat of the baby in the belly in the room next door, too. We watched another stock-ticker stream of paper slowly ooze out of the machine.

Angie typed an exhaustive medical history into the computer next to the bed. I'd wondered aloud to Mrs. Rodius earlier if I could get internet on that computer, so I could blog, "Today's the day!" She said probably not. After maybe an hour or so, Angie pronounced Mrs. Rodius' blood pressure perfect, examined the squiggly lines and declared Thumper "the most beautiful baby ever." His heart rate was rising and falling just as it should. She speculated that perhaps Mrs. Rodius had been dehydrated, causing the reduced movement and flat heart rate, and that her stress over that had elevated her pressure. But with the introduction of IV fluids, both problems had resolved themselves. Mrs. Rodius didn't really see how she could possibly be dehydrated, though, with all of the water she was drinking, and all of the trips to the bathroom to get rid of it again. But whether dehydrated and rehydrated, whether high blood pressure or low, the kid was still stuck in there sideways.

So after we called the offices and the moms again to say maybe it wouldn't be today after all, the doctor came in to check on us, and agreed with Angie's assessment. Things looked good; maybe today wasn't the day. But: he's a big kid, with a big head, and he's only going to get bigger. He's in there sideways. Mrs. Rodius' swollen legs and feet indicated that blood pressure was likely to eventually become a problem again anyway. We're here; we're ready; what do you say we just go ahead and get this kid out of there?

Hey, sure! What the hell? Why not? Let's have us a kid today!

From that moment, things moved rapidly along. From "What the hell, why not?" to "Holy crap, that's my son!" was probably about 45 minutes. I got papered over, with hat and mask and gown and booties. They wheeled Mrs. Rodius into an operating room to prep her and give her a spinal. I stood in the hall holding her purse until a nurse took pity on me and showed me where I could leave it. Then she sat me on a stainless steel chair outside the operating room to wait.

I noticed I was breathing hard, fogging up my glasses above the mask. I did some breathing exercises from BFF's bible. I tried not to look as if I was listening to two nurses trying to detective out what happened to some narcotics. One was sure she'd given it to the right patient, but marked it down to the wrong patient in the computer. They were poking away furiously at a touchscreen computer. Surgeons came and flirted with the nurses while they washed their hands. None of them paid any attention to me.

I was beginning to feel exactly like I did right before riding a roller coaster the last time I went to an amusement park. When I was a kid, I could ride all the rides and never get sick. But after many years in roller-coasting hiatus, I returned to discover that even the kiddie coaster made me vomit. After the first vomit experience, I suddenly became very nervous while standing in line and especially while sitting in the coaster as it click-click-clicked its way up that first anticipatory hill. Saying to myself, "Don't throw up, don't throw up, please don't throw up," oddly had absolutely no effect, and I threw up on every ride I tried.

Big Brother had told me about his surreal cesarean experience of talking to his conscious and coherent wife on one side of the screen while looking right down into her exposed guts on the other side. Many years ago, after several stitches experiences, I decided I was going to sit up and watch the doctor stitch up a cut in my hand. He thought it was a bad idea, but wasn't inclined to stop me. As soon as the needle touched my skin, a nauseating wave of heat hit me in the face, and I suddenly had to lie down. Watching was indeed a bad idea.

So between the roller coaster, the brother, and the stitches, I was not at all confident of my ability to stay conscious in the operating room. So I sat still as a stone on that steel chair, my eyes darting all over at the doctors and nurses bustling by. Occasionally a nurse would pop out to tell me "almost ready for you." I tried to keep breathing. I tried to stop with the "don't pass out" mantra. Finally, they called me in.

I needn't have worried. Perhaps they've had experiences with the fabulous fainting fathers, so they immediately directed me to a chair by her head and told me to hold her hand. The screen hid everything below her neck. It was high and insurmountable, and I said a prayer of thanks for that. We grinned nervously at each other. The anesthesiologist said a few encouraging words. Mrs. Rodius kind of jiggled around a little bit as they tugged and prodded her. After a few minutes, she said, "Have they started yet?" just as the doctor said, "Here he is! He's definitely a boy. Oh, he's peeing already!" He started crying immediately, and so did we. They carried the bloody squirming bundle of arms and legs over to another table that wasn't hidden behind the screen. Somebody told me I could go over and look, so I did. My mind's eye was blinded by the white-hot flash of that singular moment, though, and I cannot see him there in my memory. He peed on two more nurses there; I do remember that. They carried him over to Mrs. Rodius, and she cried as she kissed his fuzzy little head. Then they said I could carry him to the nursery, and I thought, "What, me?" I followed the nurse, walking, walking, turning, walking, turning again. It was a labyrinth. I didn't look at him, for fear of tripping. But he was hot and squirmy on my chest and arms. He squeaked and snuffled. "Don't pass out" had been replaced by, "My son. My son. He's here. My son."

We got to the nursery, and I handed him over to his nurse for the day, Jennifer. I was told to discard all of my coverings, except the gown, because that goes into linens. Then I could watch from outside. So I did. Jennifer wiped more goo off of him, weighed him, took his temperature, and looked over his various body parts. Thumper, in turn, peed on her. Twice. He had now christened one doctor and three nurses, all within his first five minutes out here in the world. Before long, he'd get his mother too, making a beautiful four-foot arc as I changed his diaper to hit her from the crib beside her bed. It must've been all those IV fluids. Then Jennifer gave him a more thorough bath and shampoo, which lowered his temperature, so they had to bake him under the heat lamps for awhile. I stood and watched him wiggle, squirm, cry, and sleep for about another 45 minutes with another new father. His baby, his third daughter, had that newborn conehead, as did several of Thumper's cellmates. Some had hair, some didn't. Some were outraged, some were placid. Thumper was the second biggest, but he was by far the most beautiful.

I took out my phone to call my mother and tell her the good news, and it rang before I could dial. It was Mrs. Rodius' oldest sister, calling to check on us, so that's how she became the first to hear the news and his name. She works hard at brainwashing the nieces and nephews into calling her becoming the favorite Aunty, and I have no doubt she will carry on the tradition with Thumper. So that's how Grandma became the second person to hear, through no fault of my own, except that I answered the phone when it rang.

Eventually, Jennifer pronounced him done baking, and asked me if Mrs. Rodius was ready for him. I had no idea, as I'd been standing there staring at Thumper. She called to find out, then swaddled and capped him, and let me push him back to Mrs. Rodius in a miniature plexiglass crib. For liability reasons, the baby had to be in the crib while out of the room, except for that one "New Dad Walking" march from the operating room.

Mrs. Rodius looked exhausted, but relieved and thrilled to finally be able to hold the baby. I've since seen her looking more exhausted, though. That was the beginning of the strangest, most surreal, exhausting, exhilirating, thrilling, desperate, frightening, worrisome, funniest, saddest, happiest time of my life. She kissed him on the head again. Neither of has stopped since.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

I Solemnly Swear

When I'm an old hand at parenting, and someone says to me, "I'm pregnant!" I promise:

I will not immediately follow "Congratulations!" with tales of all of the worst pregnancy, birth, and postpartum memories I can conjure up. One well meaning family member, within five minutes of Mrs. Rodius making the Big Announcement, was regaling us with tales of her c-section, in which the doctor touched her stomach, and she threw up. Twice. A co-worker, again within only a minute or two of hearing that we were expecting, told me how the OB had to deliberately break his son's collarbone to fit him through the pelvis, and how he heard the crack. So I promise not to do the same. And if I do, I'll try to contain the glee in my voice. At least a little.

I will never use the phrase, "You'll never sleep again!" or any of its variants, such as "you better sleep now," or "you can't store up sleep, but you can at least be well rested." I'm here to tell you that "well-rested" doesn't carry you very far once you're in it. So if I get the urge myself someday to pass on these little nuggets, I will remind myself that no words can convey this hazy, shapeless time, when days smear together into one long, hallucination of waking and sleep; of desperately trying to satisfy a helpless newborn life that seems to believe he is truly dying; of glorious, glowing afternoons crashing disastrously into apocalyptic, endless hours in the dungeon of 3 a.m. I promise I will not find joy in oracling this limbo in another's future. And if I do, I'll try not to grin too wide.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The One-Armed Man

Blogging: latest activity on my newly discovered list of things I can do with one arm, not so much tied behind my back, but more a deadened lump of twisted bone on which my son sleeps angelically.

Other items on the list:

Dozing. I plan to work my way up to all-out sleeping soon, but that's the advanced parenting level to which I have not yet graduated.

Preparing and eating food. Granted, we're talking about opening a package of crackers or gnawing on cold leftover pizza, but again, at the advanced level, I plan to be do the full Iron Chef.

Taking a dump. I'm not proud that it took me less than 15 hours out of the hospital to reach this desperate a low already, but I'm working on the longest stretch of peace Mrs. Rodius has had so far, and she was starting to look a bit desperate herself.

Item not yet on the list:

Washing my hands afterward. I had to put him down for a second for this one, and he gravely threatened to kill me dead. How do people with one arm wash their hand?

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Home at Last

Whew! What a week! But now, Thumper's home, changed, fed, swaddled, tucked in, and sleeping. 'Night all! I'll blog it later. Now, a snack and a nap, just like the Thump Man!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Coming of Thumper III: The Arrival

More pictures and details to follow, but Thumper's here! He showed up a bit early, which all in all, was probably a good thing.

7/31 at 3:41 p.m.
7 lbs. 15 oz.
19 3/4"

With his Mama's nose and his Daddy's big ol' giant head.
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