“My diapers will blot out the sun.” “Then we will change in the shade.”

Today marks Emilia’s seventh day home from the hospital. I’ve learned a lot over the past week: about myself, about parenting, and about Lauren. You like to think as you reach your thirties that you have most of the world figured out. You walk with a sense of confidence, of purpose, that comes from having survived such horrors as high school, college, temp jobs, heartbreak, and all the other notches that mark up the belts of our lives.  Then someone pops into your life that can play your emotions like no other, the good and the bad, without remorse or even awareness they are doing so (yet!); all while at the same time proving you know very little.

I was a non-believer. I would scoff at the stories: how life “changes” after you have a child. When someone would tell me I would “see the world through a different light” I would smile, nod, then move on confident in my ignorance. Well, they were right. Only, the “different light” is some sort of sleep-deprived diaper-changing constant-fear-your-child-is-on-the-brink-of-death hell.

When last I wrote things were going well, then along came lady luck to keep me company. In this analogy lady luck is strep throat, and by keeping me company I mean clobbering me with a baseball bat and instilling a deep fear I’m going to cause the death of my child. I don’t know where the sickness came from; the best I can offer is that perhaps my lack of sleep let the bacteria that has been lurking in my throat throughout my life (I had strep throat almost yearly up until my early twenties) take control. I resisted for a few days and stocked up on cold medication, delving deep into the google-doctor late at night for possible ailments. Today I realized I wasn’t making any progress and a quick trip to the clinic and the doctor’s diagnosis and subsequent prescription for antibiotics showed me why.

Although I was still functional over the past few days every task took on a new element of fear. We purchased some hand sanitizer I use before touching Emilia or her things and I had to give up any little baby kisses for now. Thankfully Lauren has never caught my strep throat over the past seven years which leads me to think she’s immune; if that immunity passes on to Emilia we should be in the clear. As a preemie Emilia is much more susceptible to complications from getting sick and she could easily land back in the NICU. I’ve been monitoring Emilia closely, watching for any temperature changes or a stuffy nose, but so far she seems oblivious to my concerns.

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Pre-sickness cuddle times.

 


On the other side of the equation is Lauren. Unfortunately, as the Bearer of the Milk, she has been getting even less sleep than I am. If you know Lauren, you know sleep is to her what water is to a man in a desert. She needs it, and she will fight to get it. Although I take a shift to bottle once every night Lauren chooses to do the other feedings via her breasts. Even were she to forgo more feedings to the bottle and I she would still need to pump to maintain the milk supply. Couple that with Emilia’s razor sharp beast-gums, which inflict unspeakable horrors during the first sixty seconds of every latch onto the boob, and you have one tired and frustrated mommy.

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Emilia staking her claim on Mount Milk.

Emilia herself has taken to playing some fun games to keep the good times rolling. Oh, time for a diaper change? Watch as I flail about, all the while screaming for you to finish faster and bring me to feast. What’s that, you think I should wear clothes? Sounds like a good time to show you my impression of a turtle. You think I’m done eating just because I’ve laid here staring at you for fifteen minutes? Try again!

 

Of course, she does all this with an incredibly cute face so it’s hard to get upset but she definitely has a career in psychological torture if she so chooses (I’m not sure where those jobs are actually; perhaps as the director of programming for Grey’s Anatomy?).


My cousin came to visit us recently with her nine-week-old in tow. It was interesting seeing the contrast between him and Emilia. Even though the two are only about two weeks apart birth-wise he dwarfs her in every respect. This also explains why all of the children’s clothing we’ve been gifted over the past month seem so huge; that’s just the size of a normal child. For awhile I thought there was a secret race of baby-giants no one told me about (I’m actually kind of sad that there aren’t baby-giants now).

Outside of Emilia our world continues to move along. Our basement is now framed and next week my father-in-law will be here to help with the electrical/plumbing. Lots of time to get things done before we need to start thinking about a nanny or daycare.

As always, thanks for reading.

Damon

 

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Home At Last

We made it. Right now it is the morning of our third day with Emilia home. Lauren is sleeping on the couch with Emilia while the two cats, the dog, and I stand watch. I’ve quickly learned that terms such as morning, evening, and night are relative when you have a baby in the house.

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The family having a snooze together. Archer looks a bit hungry.

 

This past Friday I went over to the hospital in the morning after taking care of a few last-minute errands. Lauren had an appointment in the afternoon with a lactation doctor so we took advantage of one last nurse babysitter and ran out to grab some diapers, wipes, and all the other little odds and ends the hospital previously provided for us. When we got back to the hospital we brought in the car seat so the staff could give it the green-light for use.

Before discharge, we were provided with a lot of information by our nurse. When to go in for immunizations, the risks of respiratory syndrome virus, car-seat tips, and many other little things that slip the mind right now. As I sat there listening to her I felt like my dog who, after being presented with a treat placed on the floor in front of him, is told to stay to prove his dedication.

After the information session, I was asked to put Emilia into the car-seat so the nurse could check that we knew what we were up to. I dutifully plunked Emilia down into her seat, fastened the web of clasps and buckles, then smiled to myself with the knowledge that it was perfect. Unfortunately not, the nurse returned to check out my handiwork and gave me a failing grade. She showed me how the buckles had to be tight enough that only a single finger can fit under the shoulder and how to roll up some blankets to give Emilia’s tiny head a little more support. Eventually, we were deemed fit to leave and our nurse snapped a quick celebratory picture.

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The family, all together and ready to head out.

Before leaving Lauren took some time to say goodbye to all the staff she had become so close to over the past month. There were some tears involved and we were invited back for “Preemie Day” in November. With that, we were done. I carried Emilia in her car seat out of the hospital, our family finally together and destined for the rest of our lives.

 


Despite the lack of sleep things haven’t been that bad at home. The hardest part is figuring out how to get anything else done around the house while dealing with Emilia’s feedings, changings, etc. Finding time to cook, do laundry, clean, walk the dog, get groceries, and more suddenly take on a whole new logistical depth. What did people do before you could order your groceries online?

Out of the pets, the cats were the ones who needed the most adjustment. When we got home they were banned from the master bedroom which they protested throughout the night with their tiny little paws reaching under the door and waving back and forth. Archer seemed rather relaxed about the whole thing. He tried to give Emilia a lick or two but other than that he just likes that he gets more cuddle time alongside us on the couch when she is being fed.

Right now Emilia is on a three-hour feeding schedule which she sticks to fairly well. She wakes up, summons the breast, then gets a little bottle time from dad while mom pumps out the remaining milk. She seems to be quickly moving towards only needing to be breastfed which will be nice for Lauren as it will shorten the amount of time we have to be awake during the night. I’ve taken some shifts of just bottle-feeding her so mom can get some sleep but Emilia doesn’t always appreciate my efforts. Then there is the whole debate on how to heat up bottled milk: whether you even should, microwave or no microwave, bottle warmers, etc. The internet is full of anecdotal suggestions which, with the exception of the obvious BPA considerations, proves that this debate will likely rage long after I’m gone. I just keep it simple and throw it in the toaster.

Yesterday we had a visit from the public-health nurse as part of the hospital’s discharge procedures. They come by to see how you are making out, ask if you need any help, and assess the baby to make sure there are no issues. As Emilia still has another month before she should have even appeared in this world it will likely be a while before she can do any visiting. We were warned that her immune system still isn’t that great and to avoid venues with large amounts of the public. This was a blow to me, my plans of attending various bottled milk heating protests now ruined, but at least we were told that short walks outside are okay as long as we protect her from the weather. In what was one of my finer moments I asked the nurse why my spray bottle, the one used for the cats when they scratch the couch, wasn’t working on Emilia when she cried. We laughed and laughed, well… I did anyway.


In an attempt to celebrate both my nerdiness, as well as Emilia’s birth and Lauren’s birthday, I last month commissioned the creation of a pendant for Lauren. My hope was that it would be ready for her birthday but that didn’t really work out. They did, however, manage to finish it just in time for Emilia’s release so I was able to give it to Lauren just before we left the hospital.

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The Triforce of our family.

The bottom two stones are aquamarine, Lauren and Emilia’s birthstones, while the top is blue topaz, my birthstone. There is a channel in the back of the top stone that lets a chain loop through so it can be worn as a pendant. I didn’t have a chance before showing Lauren but eventually, the back of each stone will have our first names engraved there. The general thought behind it was that, like the Triforce, the three of us together can make the world a reality to match our hearts. I know, muuuushy. What can I say, fatherhood made me a bit squishy.

Anyway, that is about all of the time I can squeeze in to write at the moment.

Thanks for reading and we look forward to Emilia meeting all of you!

Damon, Lauren, and Emilia

So Long And Thanks For All The Wipes

Big news:

Emilia is coming home tomorrow!

Last weekend it was suggested by the nurses that Lauren spend the night. According to the night shift Emilia was waking up more during the night now and seemed to be hungry. Lauren packed up her stuff and dutifully headed to the hospital to be with Emilia only to find a baby who had no interest in breast-feeding. The plan was to move Emilia to semi-demand for her feeding; her food would be delayed by a half hour to see if she would wake up and demand some (hence the name, genius). In reality this consisted of Lauren being woken every two hours by the nursing staff, not Emilia, who asked her to try feeding Emilia who, in turn, wasn’t having any of it. The end result was a lot of frustration.

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As a father this pose already has me worried about her future.

 

The next morning we decided to reset. Lauren expressed some of her frustration during rounds and the staff apologized for pushing her to stay too early when Emilia wasn’t ready. We both understood where they were coming from; Emilia has been doing so well and the staff only wants the best for us. While they only wanted to help us get home as soon as we could it was just a bit too soon and somewhat discouraging. We decided that Lauren would return home for the night and if Emilia got feisty the nurses had permission to try bottle feeding her. This turned out to be a poor choice on our part which resulted in a lot of heartache for Lauren.

The next morning we were told that Emilia had bottle fed her entire feed (around 40 or so millilitres at that point) three times during the night. I saw Lauren`s expression plummet and I knew she was upset. Lauren had expected the nursing staff to only try bottle feeding if Emilia was really asking for it. It was hard for her to believe that in one night there was suddenly such a marked difference in Emilia’s behaviour. Obviously we were happy for Emilia but it was just something Lauren really wanted to be part of when it finally happened, especially since she puts so much work into pumping out all that milk for Emilia.

In any event over the next couple of days Emilia really took off. Her volume of oral feeding, both via breast as well as bottle, increased to the point where her feeding tube was removed and she was moved to a full demand schedule. If she wants to eat she has to sing for her dinner (She chooses the worst songs by the way, seriously; they cut right to the bone). Each time she ate she was weighed before and after to see how much she took. If she took too little via breast she was topped up with a bottle. She’s taken a page out of dad’s book and really packed on the pounds to the point where she is now five pounds in weight!

Yesterday I knew we were closing in on the end when Lauren told me the staff gave her some handouts to bring home and read. I took a look through the papers and there seemed to be the usual new-parent advice: don`t shake the baby, don`t drop the baby, don`t microwave the baby. That sort of thing. Anyway, the booklet was labelled “Discharge Documents” so I knew the time was close. Lauren spent the night at the hospital and Emilia fed throughout with no issues.

This morning during rounds Lauren was told that Emilia would be discharged tomorrow and that she was being taken off her monitors today. When I read the text I`ll admit to a few whispers of moisture taking up residence in my eyes. It wasn`t long before that switched to a mild sense of panic. Where do we put her? Who watches her when we do stuff? I’m a real parent now? No more breaks?

Thankfully Lauren has prepared our house to the brim with everything we need for this particular adventure. While I was fretting over things like blankets, bottles, and warmers she was casually explaining that these were all things she has been collecting over the past few months. Whatever we are missing we will pick up in the coming days using gift cards provided for by our friends’ generosity.

Lauren is spending tonight at the hospital but she came home to help me set up the bassinette and get a few minor things ready like the car-seat and change table. It didn’t take long for the cats to decide the bassinette was a good sleeping spot so there may be new boundaries for them in the near future. I set up our baby monitor which seemed a bit surreal. After all this time at the hospital a simple camera and noise/movement monitor seems a bit underwhelming. Where is the pulse and the respiratory rate? How do you know they’re still alive at all times?  I was reminded of when we first arrived at the hospital and the nurse joked about some parents being “crazy” and wanting to purchase monitors for their house. Good thing I’m not like them (insert “The Office” camera look).

When we got back to the hospital Emilia was sleeping in her room. I got to hold my daughter in my arms for the first time in 35 days without any sort of wires dangling from her. I walked her around the room a little bit while Lauren chatted with her sister on the phone, Emilia and I both enjoying our freedom.

After a short visit I returned home to continue getting things sorted and with a task list for the morning. Emilia needs some prescriptions filled prior to leaving the hospital (an iron supplement and more vitamin D) and we still need to purchase some diapers/wipes. The hospital has provided everything for so long I actually forgot you need to buy these things at some point. Tomorrow Lauren and I will use one last free-babysitting card with the nurses to slip over to the store to get our final supplies.

I’ve taken next week off from work so Lauren and I can figure out how to be parents together on our own. I’m sure there will be lots to talk about as make our way through the next few days; I’ll do my best to keep everyone in the loop.

Thanks for reading,

Damon

PS – Respect to anyone who knows the title reference.