Wednesday, 28 February 2018

First I Ask the Friends, Then I Do the Parenting (Part 2)

As I said in my last post, I got so much great advice and feedback from friends that I had to write a series. This is one of my personal favorites, particularly because the story is so epically terrifying, and because it happened to family. I can't honestly put it into better words than this so I've decided to let Cousin J tell the story in his own words:

Let me tell you the story of why I now have a home phone, a.k.a. the scariest 30 minutes of my life. As with all stories of this nature it started out like any other evening. We were all getting ready for a low key family dinner date - well that's not really true - some of us were getting ready and a certain naked 3 year old was practicing his jumping on the bed and his “look dad, look dad, look dad” routine. Anyone who has the pleasure of living with these micro terrorists knows how this ends - Crash!

I turned around and my son was piled up in the bottom of his brother’s playpen and let out a pretty good scream. Nothing to worry about at this point; for anyone with kids this is still pretty much business as usual. At this age they have only a few jobs and one of the main ones is pushing everything to failure. That could be testing gravity with one of your prized pre-children artifacts, or maybe just your will to live. In this case it was his ability to do a backflip off a playpen railing. Anyway, things went quiet. P.S. now is the time to worry.

My wife went to pick him up and do the usual “there, there, you're alright,” but he was not alright. She immediately signalled to me something was wrong. I turned around to see his limp and lifeless body in her arms and he was peeing on the floor; now I'm no medical expert, but that is never good. I jumped right to action, and when I say that, I mean I yelled out “HE IS NOT OK!” just in case that wasn’t clear to her already. We put him down on the bed and I told her to call 911 and get some help ASAP.

Now at this point, I should point out I have taken first aid a bunch of times. I forgot everything. Right then my wife came flying back into the room, “where is your #$#@$ phone!?!?”. Pretty sure I didn’t even respond to her, I could only think “this is how my son dies.” After I processed the fact I was going to have to do something here, I checked to see if he was breathing. This all seemed like it took 5 minutes to me, but in reality it was probably like 15 seconds.

Nope I don't hear anything and his chest isn’t moving. “We need help right now!” I finally responded to her. I could now hear her telling someone the whole story. They stopped her right away and she spit out our address. OK now what? I was just positioning his head for what would be a parent's worst nightmare. Head tilt, chin lift, pinch the nose and with the greatest relief his beautiful brown eyes opened up. I’m not religious, but at this point I thanked all the gods I could think of.

He was pretty out of it, but was making some noises. I started trying to talk to him and let my wife know “he's ALIVE!”, but he was barely there and he hadn't moved a muscle. I guess I was expecting him to cry out and jump up like in the movies. I immediately thought, "oh no he broke his neck or something". Can you feel this? No action. Can you hear me? Still nothing. I kept trying to get his attention and relay what was happening to my wife who was around the corner because it’s the only place she could get a signal on her phone.

I started to see some movement with my boy’s body and he was saying some words that made no sense. Then the ambulance arrived - I can’t describe the relief you feel when two professionals come on the scene - everything was under control now.

Pretty scary right? Ya, the feelings still go through my mind when I see him on top of a counter or bouncing around the furniture. He was totally fine by the time he finished his ambulance ride to the Stollery Hospital; sadly I don’t think they get to see many kids bouncing off the walls around there (shout out to those beautiful people, please donate if you can). They eventually got him to sit still for a few minutes and gave him a checkout and explained what they suspect happened. We even made it to that dinner date.

So what did I learn about parenting from this experience? Have a reliable phone in the house, and get first aid training. I might have thought I forgot everything in the moment, but who knows how I would have reacted without that basic training. Also, you can get home phone service from a bunch of places and it's practically free these days through your internet connection. You could be faced with an emergency at any moment and you can be sure that’s when your phone will be dead or the signal is just ten feet too far away.

And to the non or new parents thinking “shouldn’t the lesson be to keep your kid off the playpen railing?!” I would say - Good Luck!

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

First I Ask the Friends, Then I Do the Parenting (Part 1)

I always knew I wanted to have kids at some point in my life. I remember when my best friend B told me he was going to be a dad. At the time we were pretty young, but I turned to him and congratulated him. He told me I was the first person to say that to him, and it wasn't for lack of people that he'd told. Everyone's response to his news wasn't entirely unexpected - at that age, becoming grandparents was our parents' worst nightmare. However, it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to him. Between then and now he's become an example of the kind of father I look forward to being: caring, understanding, careful with his words, and unbelievably patient. The result has been two of the most polite, well-behaved, and interesting kids I have ever met.

Kay's new bump
Subsequent to his children being born, I watched as each one of my high school friends gradually had children of their own. As I'm one of the last of those friends to have kids, this puts me in an outstanding position to learn from the best, a notion that seemed like it would make a really good blog post. So I asked a number of those friends to help with my research by giving me their best parenting advice, tips, and tricks. What I was honestly hoping to get from this was enough hilarious material in the form of stories and cheeky advice to write an entertaining blog post, but what I actually got was effective, moving, and helpful recommendations with some seriously thick substance, so substantial that I've decided to make it a series instead of just one post.

For example, my friend B, the first of my friends to have children, explained his parenting philosophy to me - "show them love" he said. Something that seems really obvious and simple, right? Not necessarily for everyone. What he means by that isn't that you should tell them how much you love them all the time, or shower them with gifts. What he means is to lead by example - "be a good person, do something nice for a stranger, listen when they talk, treat them like real people - not just kids that don't understand what you're talking about", lessons I'm sure we can agree we should all live by, and something that I think really hits home about what it means to be a parent. Prior to parenthood, you can pretty much do what you want with your own life and (for the most part) you don't have to worry how that will affect other people. But as a parent, every single thing you do affects the kind of person that child is going to be.

B added to his advice by saying "show them you love their mominstil in them the want and need be a good person". He believes, "if you do everything with love in your heart; your kids (or anybody's kids) will turn out to be really great people". This will be really easy for me. As you all know, my wife is my pride and joy, the person who supports me, and the person that gives me purpose. How I treat my wife is how my children will learn to treat the people they care about. I read an article recently about a Harvard study that was done over the course of almost 80 years - which came to the conclusion that the key to our happiness in life is the relationships we have with others. To me, this means that if I show my children the love I have for their mother, I can teach them how to treat other people properly, how to love, and how to build meaningful and healthy relationships.

If this study is correct, I can then have a profound impact on their happiness well into adulthood. The secret to great children, it seems, is also the secret to great adults - which I think is what B was getting at when he added "Don't be afraid to discipline your children. That is something that is missing these days, and look how many asshole little kids there are out there."

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Hush Those Puppies

Kay is 30 weeks into her pregnancy and routine has pretty much taken over. We still have no idea what we’re having, although we do have our suspicions. We’ve finally got the names picked out for either a boy or a girl, something we’ve decided to keep to ourselves for now. I think we lost so much of the surprise in the beginning, through all the procedures, that we’re really trying to make up for it on the back end, and honestly it’s working. We are so excited to find out what we’re having, so excited to meet our little boy or little girl, and we can hardly contain it!

Until then, though, my life will be consumed with making sure my pup doesn’t kill himself (that’s another story), and giving my tired wife the most epic of all foot rubs. Through trial and error, literal sweat and tears, I have learned the secrets to the best foot rubs, knowledge that I could easily keep to myself, but instead will bestow upon the masses – so all the hopeful dads and moms out there can rub those swollen, pregnant feet and not have to undergo the growing pains that we had to. Keep these tips in mind and you should have a pretty smooth transition into pregnanthood.

Never Say No
This may be the most important tip of all, because what you need to understand is that no matter how tired you are, no matter how long your day was – you lived that day without having to carry a human inside you. So when you finish dinner, and you sit down on the couch to relax, and she subtly takes off her socks and slides them into your lap, and looks at you with those anticipating eyes, it is your responsibility to rub those sweaty bastards; which brings me to my second tip.

Her Feet Never Smell
Under no circumstances will you ever tell her that her feet stink. I don’t care if those things smell like liquefied meat, you will not mention it to her; unless you wish to hear the uncontrollable sobs of a hormonal woman in tears because of something you said. Instead, you will cowboy up, hold your breath, and ask for nothing but the other foot when you’re done rubbing the first one.

Let Her Guide You
When her feet are sore, it’s because she’s carrying around all that extra weight she’s not used to, and depending on how she walks, different parts of her feet may need a little extra love than others. Listen to what she says to find the spots that need it the most. If she says the outside hurts the most, rub a little harder there, if she groans a bit when you rub her heel, make sure you don’t forget that spot on the next foot. If you listen to her, she will tell you how to give the best foot rub she’s ever had. Stay as far away as possible from her toes though, for she will give you no warning, no groan, no laugh, she will just kick you in the face because her toes are the most ticklish part of her feet.

Don’t Stop Until You Have To
They say that 90% of running a marathon is in your head; well this is the same with rubbing pregnancy feet. When you finish the first foot, you will likely have to take a break, but by god you better pick up that second foot and finish the job. That woman is counting on you, and so is the baby she’s carrying. The feet are the key to the body’s balance, and therefore need the same level of care and attention you would give your car by getting new tires, because better balance equals a happy wife and a safe baby. Now that you understand, the break is over, finish that second foot and don’t stop until you can’t make a fist.

Toenails Are Sharp
The harsh reality of having a basketball sized belly is that she can no longer reach her toenails, so they are probably getting long and sharp. So while you’re down there, make sure you clip them for her, or better yet, stay true to tip number three by staying away from her toes altogether and send her for a pedicure. This tip is just as much for you as it is for her, because clean feet with trimmed nails don't smell and don't cut you and therefore are substantially easier to rub.

When it comes down to it, you need to rub those feet like it’s your job. Why? Because it is literally the only job you have while she grows you your very own human. So don't shy away from it, take it on like a challenge, like you're about to climb a mountain. But when you do, remember, this isn't a sprint, its a marathon, a test of your endurance, so take the time to perfect your skills - you will thank me later.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Naming of the Shrew

For the last 27 weeks I've been exercising my patience muscle - something that I maybe should have done a long time ago. It turns out pregnancy is not nearly as exciting as I expected. Not to say that it hasn't had it's moments; once the baby got over being shy when my hand was resting on Kay's belly, I finally got to feel it kick, which was an incredible moment for me. AND we just discovered that if we play some music out loud on my phone and place it on Kay's belly, we can watch the baby dance as the phone gets kicked all over the place. However, aside from the intermittent excitement of baby kicks, pregnancy is pretty boring, at least for me. For Kay, pregnancy is littered with bathroom breaks, and sleepless nights, tiny feet jabbing her in the bladder, and an insatiable need for anything citrus. I honestly marvel at the miracle that is my wife's baby bakery and although I'm somewhat jealous at times, I always come back to being extremely thankful I was born a dude.

We pass the time by shooting down each other's ideas for baby names, which reminds me of a show from my childhood called "Mad About You" starring Helen Hunt and Paul Riser. There was this episode where they had their baby girl, but it remained unnamed for a ridiculous amount of time because they couldn't agree on a name. Their family was all over them about not knowing what to call the baby, but they were adamant they would decide on a name in their own time. At the end of the episode they were fiddling with the baby (changing it or bathing it or something) and one of them said the name 'Mabel'. They both looked at each other with wide eyes and together in unison, with sing-songy voices said, "Maaaabelllll" - knowing they had finally chosen the name. That show aired from 1992 to 1999 - so its more than 20 years old, meaning I was 12 when it ended, and I have absolutely no idea why I still remember it.

What I do know is that I don't want to be like them and waiting till post-discharge to be giving our child a name, but not knowing the gender of the baby has added a whole new element to naming it that I didn't really expect. Having to choose suitable names for both a boy and a girl has recently been a lot of work, but for a while I thought we had it all figured out. Not too long after the second ultrasound, I was very close to writing an advice post because I was so confident that Kay and I had found the secret to agreeing on a name. We both had a list of boy's names and a list of girl's names we liked, and many of them were the same. So we took our lists, and each ranked our top ten names in order from most favorite to least favorite. Then we went down each other's lists, starting at the top, and circled the ones that matched. Both of us had matching girl and boy names near the top of the list. Voila - names chosen.

Unfortunately, having all this time available has allowed us to second guess our decisions. Or, I guess if I'm being truthful, I should say it has allowed Kay the time to second guess our decisions. Not her choice for a boy's name of course, since the one we ended up choosing was her number one - or if we're still being truthful, it really was her only choice. It is, however, the girl's name that she is second guessing. She still likes it, but isn't 100% sold on it. So after our tremendous example of compromise, we are back to square one - peppering each other with girl names, which are being rejected over and over - which is even more frustrating since we don't even know if it's a girl!

Now if I'm being fair, I also am having reservations about our girl name, but only because Kay has been sending me five new names a day for the last month and I've fallen in love with a whole new list. Kay also believes that having solid nicknames for the names we choose is almost as important as the name itself. This is a family trait of hers that comes from having at least sixteen nicknames for all of their family pets, which isn't a bad thing, but is not a catalyst for decisiveness. In the end, I'm confident we're going to find a name that both of us love, but until then I guess we're just stuck waiting for our own "Mabel Moment".

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Pamper Panic

The term expecting frustrates me immensely. I understand that you're pregnant and expecting to have a child, but being this is my first child, I honestly have no god damn clue what to expect. Aside from the cliché parts - no sleep, changing diapers, and being introduced to the love of your life - I'm completely in the dark. I try to read up on stuff to get a clearer picture of what's coming, but there is so much contradictory information out there it makes my head spin. Top that off with the insane marketing tactics utilized by the baby retail industry and I don't know how anybody doing this for the first time knows what to expect.

Kay and I were out and about, checking out our local baby stores and we walked into the hell on earth that is Buy Buy Baby. That store was not made with the first time parent in mind, with floor to ceiling marketing of baby doohickeys, and ruzzlestumps, and whatever the hell else the industry is trying to convince you that you need to keep your baby alive - that place is a living panic attack. All I want to know is how to take the best care of my impending child and that store made me feel like all I have to look forward to is my impending doom.

When it comes to learning how to use a new tool, or learning how to wire a garage, I usually just look up an instructional video on YouTube. I don't put myself in any situations where I could cut off my foot, or set the house on fire - maybe just lose a few bucks from extra materials from making small mistakes. Things are different with a child than with a piece of wood, I can't just toss it on the scrap pile if I mess it up. It's not that I'm incompetent or anything, I mean I've kept my suicidal dog alive for over year, and if you've read my previous posts about him you understand the incredible feat that is in itself. I just know what I don't know, and that's pretty much everything.

The anxiety was building up inside for a while and the longer I thought about it the more terrified I became. My stress in the whole situation culminated when I was at work and I got an alert on my phone. I have one of those apps that tells you how big your baby is, only mine is for expectant fathers and compares the size to lumberjack, wilderness-themed items like beaver tails and axe heads. The app alerted me that we had reached 21 weeks in the pregnancy. Out of curiosity, and naivety, I Googled how long a pregnancy lasts - 40 weeks. 40 WEEKS?!! WE'RE OVER HALF WAY!!

I lost it - I frantically started searching the internet for some kind of course, any course that would teach me how to make my baby not die. I found a number of listings for labor and delivery courses, but nothing on how to take care of a newborn. So I started searching for the best books for new parents, but the vast majority of books I found were geared towards the mother. Eventually, I found a couple handfuls of books that were specific to new dads, but upon reading the reviews they apparently were just condescending advice pieces for the stereotypical dad - "Don't go out for wings with your buddies so often.", "Offer to babysit once in a while so your partner can have a break." Babysit? It's called parenting you douche! This garbage did not at all resonate with the kind of father I plan to be, and only served to fuel my fear.

When I couldn't find what I was looking for, I texted Kay in a panic explaining my frustration - she answered nonchalantly, "Calm down, we'll figure it out" - this was usually my line! She's the pregnant one with all the hormones and I'm the basket case losing my mind because I don't know how to change a diaper. When she realized the level of freakout I was having, Kay called me at work to talk me down off the ledge. She did this by explaining to me how you go about changing a diaper and the differences between changing a boy's diaper and a girl's diaper. I'm quite confident I could have figured it out on my own, and it wasn't the largest part of my worries, but this new knowledge gave me the confidence I needed.

Kay sent me a bunch of links to some decent daddy-focused parenting websites - one of which uses car metaphors to categorize its subjects (I guess not all stereotypes are bad). I also ended up finding a couple of books on Amazon and having them overnight shipped to my door. It turns out learning how to care for a baby is similar to learning how to use a new tool, you have a little bit of upfront anxiety, it costs you a few extra bucks to figure it out, but in the end you have a new skill you can use for a lifetime.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Pink or Blue, Either Will Do

When we were planning our wedding, I think the question we got asked more than any other question that year was "when is your wedding again?", even from my own family. We would say August 27th, and it would go in one ear, they would nod, and then it would go out the other. It was extremely frustrating to tell the same people over and over the date we were getting married. So after we got pregnant I fully expected that everyone would incessantly ask when the baby was due. Instead, overwhelmingly, the question we get asked the most is, "do you know what you are having?"

One of the biggest decisions we had to make was whether we wanted to know the sex of our baby. I'm not going to debate the issue of gender neutrality here, or the pros and cons of teaching your children gender specific societal expectations and the harm we may or may not be doing to them, that's not what this is about. It's about whether we wanted to find out if we were going to have a little boy, or a little girl.

I have always been of the belief that the gender of your baby is the last great surprise in life. Maybe I'm wrong. I hope I'm wrong, but to date there has been nothing that has entered my mind that could exceed the surprise of finding out whether we're going to have a boy or a girl. I picture myself running out into the waiting room to see our families and exclaiming "it's a girl!", and being excited no matter what word it is that I exclaim.

My beautiful wife, Kay, on the other hand, hates surprises, particularly surprises that she knows are surprises. For example, if I bring home flowers, she's happy with me for doing so, but if I were to tell her on Monday that I have a surprise for her on Friday, she will pester me incessantly until I tell her exactly where we are going, what we are doing, and what the activity requires of her. In most cases, this ruins my well laid plans - and then she feels bad for ruining the surprise, and then I feel bad because she feels bad - it's maddening, but I've learned to cope by keeping her surprises to myself. Unfortunately, she can't exactly keep the surprise of being pregnant from herself - so that was the first problem I foresaw.

The second issue I expected, arose from Kay being a planner, with that Type-A personality that forces her to be in control of all aspects of her foreseeable world. So not finding out the sex means no gender specific purchases, it means no expectations, it means waiting till the last minute to get things ready that we might otherwise have needed - basically it means no planning.

In my eyes, all the foreseeable issues I expected revolved around Kay. I didn't expect that it was me that would have all the difficulty. When we started hitting up the baby stores in the area I found out that "gender neutral color" apparently is synonymous with "no color at all". So wanting that "last great surprise" was starting to mean that I'd have to sit in the nursery, a white and grey clinical setting, with a throwback to the masturbatorium I had worked so hard to forget, and get depressed while trying to rock my screaming baby back to sleep. I was not having it, and I started to second guess my decision. Kay on the other hand, was calm, laid back, and was like "it's fine, we'll just have the shower after the baby is born" - meanwhile I'm having a nervous breakdown because I'm thinking I'm going to damage my kid by depriving it of color in its early years.

I eventually chilled myself out and realized that I was being ridiculous, and what really grounded me was an epiphany I had while making a long solo drive early one morning. As I was driving, I was picturing in my mind that the day had come, that the baby was coming, and we hadn't found out the sex. The baby came out and I was ecstatic to find out the gender, and just like I had imagined previously I walked out into the waiting room to tell everyone what we had - but this time, instead of saying it was a boy or girl, I said "I have a son" or "I have a daughter". That subtle difference changed everything for me, what it did was make that child mine, my responsibility. It really set in that I was going to be a father, not just have a boy or a girl - and I didn't care anymore about what color of clothes it was going to wear - what I truly care about is having that surprise moment when I meet my child.

As cliche' as it sounds, Kay and I really just want the baby to be healthy, we'll be ecstatic no matter what we have, but full disclosure; Kay thinks it's a boy, and I think it's a girl - "may the odds be ever in your favour".

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Operation Incubation

Now that Kay is pregnant, the emotional roller coaster has finally come to a stop, at least for me (Kay is pregnant after all). Life is a little bit calmer, but quite a bit more interesting, as we do baby research, and make baby lists, and shop for baby stuff. It's also full of new surprises and things to get used to.

All-day Morning Sickness
They say morning sickness is pretty standard in the first trimester, but for Kay, it was all day sickness. She was nauseous pretty much from getting out of bed in the morning till going to bed at night. I don't think she ever vomited, but she definitely came close. For the first few weeks she did nothing but lay on the couch, until my incessant nagging (its my blog, so I get to take the credit) got her to go to the doctor and get a prescription. She still occasionally gets a little sick, but not nearly as bad as it was in the beginning, when I had to keep five different kinds of ginger food options in the house at all times, ranging from ginger candy to ginger tea.

Super Human Sense of Smell
Kay's super-sniffer has seriously astounded me. The sensitivity of her nose has increased exponentially since becoming pregnant, which apparently has something to do with an evolutionary trait to make sure she doesn't ingest anything that might harm the baby.  Just walking through a door into a large building has made her turn to me and say: "someone is wearing too much perfume" only to figure out that person was on the opposite side of the building.

Cravings are Real
Kay's cravings have not been as unusual as some that I've heard, mostly she craves vinegar. We made a batch of pickled garden carrots recently, and I'm positive they would all be gone already had I not told her that they take time for the pickling to set in. So in the absence of eating our stash of pickled carrots, I came home to find her eating potatoes doused in vinegar...apparently we were all out of chips.

The Baby-Bump
Kay was so excited to start seeing some progress in the growth of her bump. She took progress pictures to watch it grow, which definitely helped, and I was really surprised to see how fast it grew. It hasn't led to too much discomfort yet, but she can't sleep on her stomach anymore (her preferred position is face down starfish, taking up the entire king size bed), the baby is basically always sitting on her bladder, and we have already gone shopping for special pregnancy pillows to alleviate her anticipated sleep issues, although she couldn't make a commitment to any of them.

Crying at the Drop of a Hat
Not everything, but pretty much anything will make Kay cry. Obviously the amount of hormones surging through her body is what makes her emotional and trying not to laugh is the hardest part of dealing with these situations, but I try to be as supportive as I can. Especially when it's me singing a song she doesn't like that brings her to tears, or interrupting her show to ask her questions, or getting scratched by the cat, or feeling like an imposter because her belly isn't big enough yet. In my opinion, it's adorable, so I just give her a hug and keep my chuckling in my head.

Given where we've come from, it's been really nice to have a relatively uneventful pregnancy to date. While it hasn't been without its challenges, a little bit of normalcy in our lives has been a breath of fresh air - even if potatoes and vinegar are your benchmark for normal.