Thursday, 29 March 2012

First Tumble

Hey, Owen.

You fell off the sofa tonight onto the wood floor. Your mom had just propped you up in the corner and stepped away for a moment -- as we have done dozens of times before -- when we heard you land with a thud.

We later agreed It was the worst sound we've ever heard. We both knew right away what it meant.

We raced to you and I arrived first to find you face down between the coffee table and the couch, bawling. I was already saying "You're OK. You're OK. You're OK." as I reached for you, but the truth is I was terrified about what you were going to look like when I turned you over. Bruised? Bleeding? Dented?

It's too gut wrenching to wonder any further about how bad it "could" have been. You're OK. You bawled for less than a minute and then we had you calmed down. It took a little longer for us.

For her part, your mom felt awful. Holding back tears, she kept apologizing to you, to me, to you again... keep in mind this is not a woman who is given to wearing her emotions on her sleeve. I guess she kind of likes you. I tried to reassure her that it could have just as easily been me who put you there before you fell. It's not like she was doing something where she should have known better; Hell, I probably put you in the exact same position 2 or 3 times earlier today without incident.

That's why it was so crazy that it happened. You're not even mobile: how the heck could you have traveled all the way to the edge of the sofa? A little later, out of curiosity we put you back in the same propped-up position. Within  seconds you reached forward for one of your feet, morphed into a perfect little baby ball and executed a startlingly efficient shoulder roll. At least we were there to catch you this time.

We quickly started noting all the things we couldn't do (or not do) anymore to keep this from happening again. In one way it was lucky: your warning tumble "wake up call" for mom and dad could have been a lot worse; We've learned something important and you don't seem much worse for wear.

Now, I fully accept that you're going to get hurt sometimes. I never deluded myself into thinking I would somehow manage to prevent harm from ever coming to you. I'm also a firm subscriber to the "We need to fall down sometimes so we can learn how to get back up" philosophy. But I had 2 hopes for when you did eventually get hurt (1) That we wouldn't be somehow responsible, and (2) That when it happened I would be the one with the attitude, "Aw, he's OK. He'll go through worse. No worries."

Fail on both accounts, I suppose. Turns out I'm not that guy. I was seriously freaked out when I heard you fall.  I was actually on the verge of tears when I reached you and saw you lying there.

The haunting thought I keep coming back to is, "How am I going to do this? How am I going to live my life and let you live yours without constantly fearing for your health and safety? How am I going to become the reassuring foundation in our little family that I want to be?"

You will have many more falls and bumps and knocks (hopefully not due to our negligence!) as you grow into the little boy and then the man you will become. I can only hope I'll grow and develop with you and get better at dealing with it.

Stay at Home Dad Lesson #117:
When a 5 month old reaches for his feet from a sitting position he creates a perfect sphere that is capable of travel.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Baby Sandman

Hey, Owen. For 2 weeks now I have been trying to write an entry musing on society’s attitude towards stay-at-home dads, but it has just been impossible to find the time and necessary level of alertness. The weird thing is, despite trying to renovate a house, keep up some volunteer commitments, maintain some semblance of an exercise regime, and …what else? oh yeah…keep you alive, nourished, and hopefully happy, I haven’t really felt all that “busy” – at least not in the traditional sense of the word. What I have been feeling, is exhausted. Just totally, mentally and physically bagged. I feel hungover all..the.. time. Given the last few weeks, it seems silly to write about anything other than “sleep”.

Sleep. Sweet, sweet “sleep” – yours and ours -- is a topic that has pretty much occupied your mom and I to the point of obsession since you came along. “Man, I need some sleep.” “Should he be asleep right now?” “When did he go to sleep?” “Should we wake him up?” “Is it Ok for him to sleep there?” “Why isn’t he sleeping longer?” “Christ, I need some sleep” “Why won’t he sleep?” “Seriously, why won’t he sleep?!?!?!” “I would trade him to gypsies for a clean house and 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep” “Aw for the love of…PLEASE GO TO SLEEP!!”.

When you’re asleep, we’re wondering when you might wake up,  and what we might be able to accomplish before you do. When you’re awake, we’re watching the clock and your face for any signs of sleepiness so we don’t miss any tiny window that might open up for you to have a nap. We’re always asking friends and family about their experiences with their kids’ sleep.

And we read.

Books, websites, magazine articles.. there’s no shortage of opinions on how to raise baby healthy, well-fed, and well-rested. The awful thing is, so much of the “expert” info is inconsistent at best, and downright contradictory at worst. How do you reconcile the 5’s of having “The Happiest Baby on the Block (swaddling, side, sucking, shushing, swinging… of course!) with Dr. Weissbluth’s caution to “remove the disruptive effects of external noises, lights, or vibrations”? What to do when one book advocates “attachment parenting” by having baby right there in bed with you,  and another gravely cautions against it. You should nurse him until he sleeps. No! You’re doomed if you do that.

And on it goes…

I think what really kills me even more than a lack of total sleep is the unpredictability of it all. When you have a “good” night where we actually get 3+ hours of consecutive sleep, we painstakingly try to re-create the day leading up to it: When did he eat? When did he nap? Where did he nap? What songs did I sing to him? What was I wearing? What was I thinking about?... Only to discover that the exact same conditions leads to a terrible…terrible night. One of those nights when I could almost cry in utter frustration and the thought actually occurs to me that you may NEVER. SLEEP. AGAIN.

Our next door neighbours who have a little girl a few months older than you sagely pointed out that when it comes to baby’s sleep,  “The only consistency is inconsistency”.

I’m not even sure what we used to talk about…or think about…before we became obsessed with the concept of sleep. All I know is that my hair went grey this month (seriously) and your mom commented that how much she loves you is "directly proportional" to how much you sleep.

People keep telling us, "It gets better." and "The first 6 months are the worst".  I can't believe anyone chooses to go through this more than once.


Saturday morning. You had me up at 6:30 am. Your mom went to work at 8:45. Between 9 and 10:15 we slept on the sofa together. Morning sun filling the room. You on my chest making contented murmurs and stirring gently. Better than any drug. Pure bliss.


  • We went for your 4 month immunizations today. Our bewilderment at how big you’re getting how fast notwithstanding, apparently you’re in the 50th percentile for weight  and 85th for height…er…”length”. Worst part is when you get your shots. You bawl and fix me with a look that can only say, “Seriously, Dad?!?!? You’ve got one job: keep me safe and don’t let anyone hurt me. Where were you on that one, dip s**t?”
  • You're getting better and better at using your hands and you seem to marvel at the things they can do to help you explore your world like never before. We lined the edge of your change table with pipe insulation so you wouldn't bang yourself on it. Recently, and quite by accident, you managed to pull a piece off with your hand. Now every time we lay you on there the first thing you do is jab your little digits under it, yank it off and see how much you can fit in your mouth. Not sure what's more impressive -- the physical act, or the fact that you learned how to do this by yourself. Kind of begs the question, "Is it bad for a baby to eat pipe insulation?"