Scattered thoughts on fatherhood

I’ve had a number of intense thoughts and feelings over the past week or so.
I can’t think how to organize them except as a series of short things. I can’t
even think of what to call the things. I’m reminded of an episode of the Simpsons
when Homer says something to the effect of

Oh, Lisa, you and your stories. "Bart’s a vampire. Having a new baby scrambles
your brain." Now let’s go back to the…place, where the beds…and things…is.


I
hate obnoxious new parents, but I’m the worst one. I recognize that, but here
are a few things anyway:

  • My
    baby
    could lift his head before he was out of the hospital. At 11 days old, he can
    even hold it up for several seconds before it comes crashing down onto
    whatever surface he happens to be lying on.
  • Today he received his Social Security card, so he is an official person.
  • He goes to sleep at 8:00 p.m. He
    wakes up hungry at midnight and 5:00 a.m. I have never heard of
    a newborn who sleeps so soundly and so consistently.
  • He has already developed an infinite
    variety of facial expressions. (See one of them to the right.)
  • At five days old, he spoke his first word: bahgo. He said it quite
    distinctly. I didn’t know what it meant, so I had to look it up. Apparently
    it is a chemical
    compound consisting of barium, mercury and oxygen. It plays a role in
    several important formulas. He doesn’t talk much, but when he speaks, it is
    seriously profound.

I could fill up the internet with stuff about how perfect Tater is, but suffice
it to say he is perfect.


My wife is such a stud. She has taken to mothering the way a horse takes to
running—full speed and right away. I love her more than ever.


When you hold a 10 pound, 6 ounce, 22-inch-long baby, he doesn’t really seem
that big. He’s just a baby. But when you put him alongside a bunch of other
newborns, he looks like a giant. My mother took Mrs. Happy to the pediatrician
the other day, and inquired of the other mothers how much their babies weighed
and how old they were. He really is as big as a child in his third month. It’s
a stupid thing to be proud of, but I’m so proud.


I’m
working a temp job right now. The other day, a woman in the office asked me
how much my baby weighed. I told her 10 pounds, 6 ounces. "Ha!" she said.
"I’ve
got
you
beat.
Two weeks
ago I had one that was 10 pounds"—and here she pointed at me emphatically—"9 ounces!"
Suddenly I felt very protective. Several responses occurred to me immediately:

  1. "Well, you’re 5′ 6" and already weigh 190 pounds. My wife is 5′ 1′ and
    usually wears a size 6 dress. And my baby was taken by C-section nine days
    before his due date, so if he had gone full term, he’d've kicked your baby’s
    butt.
    He probably could anyway." —I decided not to say that. It seemed too confrontational.
  2. "Your baby is two weeks old and you’ve already handed him over
    to someone else to raise?" —I decided not to say that. It seemed too judgmental.
  3. "Your baby may be three ounces heavier, but mine’s a lot more
    attractive." —I decided not to say that. It seemed too mean.

I chose to respond instead with an uncomfortable chuckle that expressed the
sentiment, "What a sad little life you must lead to care about such things."
Hypocritical, yes, but I couldn’t think of a single gracious thing to say.


I have never met a new parent whose company I could bear for more than a few
minutes. On the other hand, I have always been impressed with the heroic lengths
new parents go to in order to make sure their baby is happy and comfortable.
I have heard parents describe at length how their baby doesn’t sleep at night,
but their tone is almost always one of concern for the baby rather than complaint
on their own behalf. I had one friend in particular whose baby had acid reflux.
He wanted to make sure that if she spit up in her sleep she wouldn’t choke,
but he’s a heavy sleeper himself so he was afraid to go to sleep because she
might not make enough noise to wake him. He got even less sleep than most new
parents, but he never complained for himself—he only wanted his daughter to
be okay. I also remember my dad squashing a wasp with his bare hand after it
stung me, and my mother reaching through floating poop logs to retrieve a favorite
toy I had dropped in the toilet. This stuff is heroic. But now I know that
I should be neither annoyed nor in awe of parents who brag excessively or sacrifice
themselves for their kids any more than I should criticize or praise them for
breathing. They We have no thought of inflating the
truth or becoming martyrs for a cause. Our babies really are the best in the
world, and there is nothing to do but take care of them by any means necessary.

A few thoughts from Baby Happy

I must apologize for my outburst
last week
. I temporarily "freaked out," as
my daddy says, and forgot myself entirely. It’s not that being born caught
me by
surprise—I simply did not expect it to be quite like that.
I understand more now, and were I to have the same experience again, I believe
I could control my words. Sadly, though, I will never get that second chance.
Daddy tells me I will have experiences in life nearly as traumatic as birth,
and some even more so, but no one can prepare themselves for these events.

I was afraid for a long while that life would not be fun. Mama barely moved,
a motley assortment of women in white uniforms persisted in violently shoving
my face into her breast, and the other babies seemed capable of nothing but
crying. I understand now that the hospital was only a temporary residence.
Mama can walk more now, and carry me with her; I have discerned that her breast
is a source of nourishment; and I may never have to tolerate the presence of
another baby again, thank goodness. I still do not understand what they hoped
to accomplish with their wails. I have found adults (Mama, Daddy, and Granny
in particular) to be quite attentive and perceptive concerning the various
sources of my discomfort. Whether I find myself hungry, dirty, or tired, I
need only voice my feeling momentarily (and at a tolerable volume) before one
of my grownups remedies the situation. Other babies simply scream. Had I been
able to walk in the hospital, perhaps I could have intimidated them into hushing—I
outweighed them all by an average of three pounds—but alas, I am just a baby
myself.

I hope I still express myself adequately. When I lived inside Mama,
I could focus every bit of my energy on thinking. Now I must devote nearly
all of my attention to learning how to eat, and it is exhausting. Before birth,
I did not have to work for my sustenance. Now I must use every bit of my considerable
strength just to get a few drops of milk. My remaining strength I reserve for
rebellion against diaper changes and the rare moments when I need to cry. As
a result, I have little energy for anything else and sleep for most of the
day.

Disordered as my thoughts are right now, I just realized I started out apologizing
for letting language and emotion control me rather than the other way around.
I do hope I did not offend anyone (though Granny still seems a little miffed
at a few of my words); I feel sure that everyone who remembers their own birth
will understand.

Lots of stuff trumps blogging

I need to get some sleep tonight; tomorrow I have to go back to working my
temp job. I do, however want to share this picture of Tater in his bouncer
with Deb (the cute little
duckling)
and
Risha (the adorable donkey).
And no, your mind is not playing tricks on you—he got cuter once again. I don’t
know how he does it or when he will stop.

A couple of people have asked about what we named our baby, and I know there are a lot more who are interested. We did come up
with a cool name chock full of meaning, aesthetic value, and sonorous resonance.
At this point in my parenthood, however, I am too paranoid about crazed lunatics
with internet access (psycho stalkers, I mean, not THH readers) to release this information. Just as I never call Mrs.
Happy by her given name online, I also plan to never mention Tater’s name either.
Sorry, that’s just how it is.

Baby pool results

I’m aware that new parents tend to believe irrational things about their children
that even the most unbalanced and exuberant mind would recognize as impossible,
but I really, honestly believe that little Tater got cuter overnight.

Anyway, it’s time to announce the winner of the baby pool. I was afraid that
there would be charges of professional misconduct when I released the information
about the scheduled C-section. Fortunately, it seems that everyone who knows
me, even online, understands that I would never cheat. What kind of role model
would that make me, in my first official act as a father? But just to alleviate
any lingering concerns, I swear that no one (including Mrs. Happy and me) knew
about the C-section before making a guess.

I have never participated in, much less organized, a pool of any kind before.
I don’t know how to run a pool any more than I know how to change a diaper.
I’ve done both all by myself now, with roughly equal success. At least none
of the pool participants slapped their feet in a pile of poop.

Things were complicated in the pool because nearly everyone guessed right
on the sex, no one guessed right on the day, and no one guessed right on the
weight. That gives us a 21-way tie, which to my competitive mind is unacceptable.
The original rules are:

  • 50 points for a correct prediction of sex, plus 25 additional points for
    each correct guess of twins’ sex if that happens (i.e., a correct prediction
    of twins earns 50 points, and correct prediction of both sexes earns 50
    more points)
  • 50 points for a correct prediction of birth date, minus one point for
    every hour between your time prediction and the actual time of birth
  • 40 points for correct poundage prediction, plus 20 additional points for
    correct prediction of ounces

I am arbitrarily and unilaterally instituting these additional rules to break
the tie:

  • Anyone who didn’t guess boy gets 20 points for being bold and
    going against the ultrasound.
  • Deb gets 25 points for guessing within 24 hours (barely) of the actual
    time of birth.
  • Mrs. Happy gets 20 points for carrying a 10-pound-plus baby in
    her diminutive frame.
  • Risha gets 25 points for guessing within one pound (barely) of the actual
    weight.
  • Joe gets 10 points for guessing the correct number of extra ounces.
  • I get fifteen points for being in the room during the birth.
  • Matt and my dad get 10 points for guessing the time of birth within one
    hour.

In a way, we’re all winners. In another, more accurate way, Deb and Risha are the winners. For all of the winners in the general sense, your prize is
the privilege of buying the new baby a
gift from his wish list
. For the winners in the specific sense, your prize
is to have a stuffed animal named for you. Because they guessed so well, Tater
will have a little plush duckling named Deb and
an adorable
plush
donkey
named
Risha.

Thank you all for playing and for being excited along with me.

Baby Pool

Contestant Sex Date Time Weight Total Points
Lori triplets
(3 boys)
Oct. 31
12:00 a.m.
8 lbs., 5 oz.
8 lbs., 4 oz.
7 lbs., 1 oz.
20
Deb boy Nov. 4
2:30
p.m.
8 lbs., 8 oz.
75
MCF boy Nov. 4
7:23 p.m.
9 lbs., 0 oz.
50
Mrs. Happy boy Nov. 5
3:12 a.m.
8 lbs., 10 oz.
70
Jeff boy Nov. 7
9:52 a.m.
8 lbs., 11 oz.
50
Risha boy Nov. 8
3:28 a.m.
9
lbs., 7 oz.
75
Joe boy Nov. 10
2:30 a.m.
8 lbs., 6 oz.
60
Curt boy Nov. 10
9:40 p.m.
8 lbs., 9 oz.
65
Amy S. boy Nov. 10
9:45 p.m.
7 lbs., 12 oz.
50
Elaina boy Nov. 11
10:00 p.m.
8 lbs., 9 oz.
50
Derek boy Nov. 12
11:58 p.m.
9 lbs., 2.175 oz.
50
Daniel boy Nov. 13
12:13 a.m.
7 lbs., 8 oz.
50
Amy
P.
boy Nov. 13
4:00 p.m.
7 lbs., 8 oz.
50
Louisa boy 14 Nov.
4:56 a.m.
8 lbs., 4 oz.
50
Firefly girl Nov. 14
5:55 p.m.
8 lbs., 7 oz.
20
Ruth boy Nov. 15
5:32 a.m.
8 lbs., 14 oz.
50
Ashley boy Nov. 15
7:23 a.m.
8 lbs., 3 oz.
50
Rey boy Nov. 15
10:34 p.m.
7 lbs., 10.5 oz.
50
Kev twins
(boy, girl)
Nov. 19
11:00 a.m.
6 lbs., 15 oz.
20
Matt BOY Nov. 19
3:36 p.m.
8 lbs., 9 oz.
60
mopsy boy Nov. 20
6:33 p.m.
9 lbs., 4 oz.
50
Sara boy Nov. 21
10:41 a.m.
8 lbs., 13 oz.
50
Miss O’Hara twins
(boy, girl)
Nov. 22 11:33 p.m.
6 lbs., 9 oz.
6 lbs., 9 oz.
20
Robin boy Nov. 23
2:30 a.m.
9 lbs., 4 oz.
50
Curt’s Dad boy Nov. 24
1:45 p.m.
7 lbs., 8 oz.
60

Another message from Baby Happy

Something strange is happening that I find myself at a loss to explain. I’m
sensing a sort of unfamiliar commotion in part of my dwelling. I must admit
to feeling
somewhat
disconcerted.
The commotion seems to be growing, though I can fathom neither its source nor
its purpose. I have in the past felt a sensation of hands pressing against
me from outside my dwelling, but at the moment the touching seems rather vigorous;
in fact, I would describe it as pushing rather than touching. The sensation
is not wholly unpleasant but I do wish it would sto— wait a minute. What’s
happening? I’m being pulled out of my— HOLY CRAP!!!
PUT
ME BACK!!! MY LUNGS ARE BURNING AND I’M FREEZING MY ASS OFF!!!! AAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!
WHAT IS THIS?!! WHERE’S MY MAMA?!! AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!
SON OF A—


A note from Curt

I hope you can all forgive my son for forgetting himself at this moment, and
I hope he’ll forgive me for cutting him off before he blogs anything he’ll
regret later on. He was born by scheduled C-section earlier today (it was scheduled
only last Friday, so there was no cheating in the pool) because our doctor
feared he might be too big for a safe vaginal birth. Here are his
vitals
(I will tally the baby pool guesses as soon as I can):

Born: Thursday, Nov. 3 at 2:42 p.m.
Weight: 10 lbs., 6 oz.
Length: 22 inches

I’ve never really been around babies, so I have no frame of reference, but
everyone at the hospital took one look at him and said "Now that is one big baby."

This has been a surreal day. I can’t tell whether I’m emotionally overwhelmed,
emotionally numb, or just exhausted, but I can’t really express any feelings
right now. Baby and his mama are both doing amazingly well. C-sections are
never pleasant, but this one seems to have gone off without a hitch. I will
certainly write more about this later.

Heeeeeeere’s Curt!

Tonight I’ll be playing the role of Carnac the Adequate, a poor imitation
of Johnny Carson’s Carnac
the Magnificent
. For those of you too young or uneducated to remember The
Tonight Show
before Jay Leno, Carson used to periodically don a turban
and "predict" the answer to a question inside a sealed envelope. He would
then open the envelope and read the question, which provided the punch line.

A. A pair of forceps.
Q. What beats a pair of threeceps in poker?

A. The Babylonian captivity.
Q. What is it called when a woman can’t leave home for a while because she
is taking care of a newborn?

A. No.
Q. Are you still accepting entries into the baby pool?

A. No, but ask me again tomorrow.
Q. Has your baby been born yet?

A message from Baby Happy

I can sense the time of my birth drawing nearer every day. I’m not yet sure
what
it means, but I am truly excited to find out. I suppose part of it involves leaving
my current home. I can’t imagine what lies beyond my surroundings,
but honestly, I’m feeling rather cramped. It seems I can’t flex a muscle
without distressing Mama, and sometimes I simply must stretch, which unfortunately
causes her all sorts of discomfort. Beyond the physical uneasiness, I can also
sense Mama’s emotions growing stronger and more widely varied every day. She
feels at turns excitement, fear, elation, grief, benevolence,
and exasperation in such violent extremes that I sometimes fear her passions
may break down her body. She has remained strong so far, however, ruling her
emotions when she can and redirecting them when she cannot. Thank God for Daddy.

Speaking of Daddy, he still sings to me every night. He still tells me he
loves me, and that Mama loves me, and that Jesus loves me most of all. I already
know that, as I have mentioned
before
, but I still enjoy hearing it.

I have a powerful intuition that life as I know it will soon end, and life
as I cannot imagine it will soon begin. Daddy tells me he feels pretty much
the same way.

The faith of friends

I wrote these words in a recent post:

Where are the testimonies like Job’s? Marauders murdered some of his
servants and slaughtered his cattle, fire consumed some of his other servants
along with all his sheep, another raiding party stole all of his camels and
the servants that cared for them, and all of his children died while dining
together when their house collapsed.

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the
ground and worshiped. And he said, "Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed
be the name of the LORD." (Job
1:13–21
)

My point was that Job didn’t wait for everything to turn out okay before he
acknowledged God’s goodness. That’s a powerful example for those of us in the
midst of trying times.

I recently received an e-mail from a friend at church
who was having some problems with her pregnancy. Her words, while filled
with pain, encouraged me more than I can express. She gave me permission to
publish
the content of her message:

On 9/28 I went for a routine sonogram. Everything looked fine.
Then I was informed that from a previous blood test that my Alpha
Fetal Protein was elevated. That COULD be an indicator for problems
such as neural tube defect (this effects the vertebrae of the spine
where they would not be lined up completely straight). I was told
to have a follow up sonogram the following week.

On 10/05 I went for the
follow up. The spine looked fine and I left
the appointment with peace of mind.

On 10/11 my doctor called me at work
and said that the sonographers
noticed that the ventricles in the baby’s brain were large. They
wanted me to come in for ANOTHER sonogram to check this further. Some babies
have small ventricles, some medium, and some large. My baby may have large
ones simply because I have large ones, or he
could have large ones because of fluid build-up. They wanted to double check
to make sure everything was fine.

Rob and I went for the
sonogram yesterday (10/13). They checked the brain’s ventricles and everything
looked fine. Then, the
sonographer spent a very long time looking at the baby’s heart. We
were told that the left side of the heart appeared to be smaller
than the right side. This could be caused because of a blockage OR
because of some chromosomal defect (such as Downs Syndrome or
others). She had a doctor come in to verify what she saw. He
agreed that the left side looked smaller. He said I would need to
have an amniocentesis. They did it in the office a few minutes
later (fortunately it was not nearly as painful as I had
anticipated).

Although it will take at least a couple of weeks to get the
full
results of this test, we will have some of the results by Monday
afternoon or Tuesday morning (this is when we will find out if the
baby has Downs Syndrome or 1 of 2 other chromosomal defects). The
latter 2 defects we were told are lethal and doctors will advise to
terminate the pregnancy. I already told them that termination is
NOT an option for us in any circumstance. No matter what doctors
tell us, God will decide the fate of our baby. God is greater than
this situation. If He so chooses He could miraculously heal Evan
(that’s what we’ve named the baby). If not, he will equip us to
give Evan everything he needs.

I was told not to go to work today, but
I can return Monday. Tuesday
I will be out again to see a pediatric cardiologist. She will
analyze the test results and perform a fetal echocardiogram. If it
is determined that there is nothing wrong with Evan’s chromosomes
then the problem may be caused by a blockage. If that is the case,
Evan would probably need surgery shortly after he’s born, and
there’s no guarantee that he would survive. There is actually an
experimental procedure that has been done for babies with heart
blockages at a children’s hospital in Boston and one in
Philadelphia. It’s done while the baby is still in the womb. We’ve
looked into it in case we have to go that route.

The hardest part right
now is waiting. Most things with the baby
are normal as of now: the brain, the spine, the heart rate, his size
and weight. That gives me some hope. Many people have also shared
stories with me of how expecting parents have been told the worst
about their unborn children and they end up being born without any
complications. That gives me hope, too. I have to keep in mind the
words of that hymn: "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’
love and righteousness"…not just for salvation, but for all
aspects of life.

This couple’s faith and emotional strength is an inspiration to me. Their
names are Rob and Tara (and Evan), if anyone wants to pray for them specifically.

Itchy, scratchy, and Mrs. Happy

There’s this skin condition called PUPPP that some pregnant women get toward
the end of the third trimester. It occurs in fewer than one percent of pregnant
women,
but those few suffer pretty terribly. Here’s what WebMD says
about it:

Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) is the most
common skin condition specific to pregnancy. Women with PUPPP develop small
red bumps and hives, and when severe, the bumps form large patches. This
rash usually starts on the abdomen and spreads to the thighs, buttocks, breasts,
and arms.

"You feel itchy everywhere during the worst and last trimester," Leffel
says. However, he adds, anti-itching topical medications, antihistamines,
and topical steroids can control the itching.

I’m here to tell you that topical medications and antihistamines don’t work,
at least not for Mrs. Happy. She saw the OB today, who told her she has the
worst case she’s ever seen. Calihist, Aveeno, and hydrocortisone relieve the
itching for about half an hour, but then she’s in hell again. The itching is
so bad it wakes her up at night. She can’t sleep for more than three hours
at a time because she has to keep reapplying the cream(s). She expects to live
like that after the
baby’s born, but not before.

She’s seeing a dermatologist tomorrow to hopefully get some sort of topical
steroid. The OB promised it wouldn’t affect the baby, but if any of you ladies
out there know of a natural or OTC way to cure this thing, your input would
be greatly appreciated.

So much trumps blogging

During the day I have all sorts of fascinating thoughts that I intend to write
about in my blog. When I sit down to write in the evening, they all fly out
of my head. (I’m working a freelance job this week, so I can’t write during
the
day.)
It doesn’t help that we had another sonogram today and that we just got home
from
our
childbirth
education
class.
Blogging
thoughts have been pushed out by the details of breastfeeding
and newborn hygiene. I really will write something good and substantial sometime
soon.
And things will settle down once the baby is born. Right?

In the mean time, the baby pool is shaping up nicely. As I mentioned, we had
another sonogram today, which gave us a little more information. In the interest
of
fairness, neither of us will modify our original answers in any way. Neither
will I reveal any of the sonogram results except to say that the baby/babies is/are perfectly
healthy. So keep those guesses coming. Everyone has an equal chance of winning,
except for Lori, because my wife is definitely not carrying three
babies.