Long time no…. type?

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Hello, my name is Dad.

Remember me?

Come now, it’s only been a month… and a week… or two…

I remember speaking with a fellow blogger during the earlier days of my site and she mentioned that she was so impressed with the fact that I could dedicate so much time to typing out blog entries while having a little one at home. At the time I thought, wow, I must be really lucky that Charlee is so chill!

In hindsight, I think her being impressed was just a tad premature to the non stop parenting rollercoaster ride that really starts to peak around 6-8 months.

Well, suffice it to say, these last few weeks and months have been the most trying, but also the most rewarding. For example, just this last weekend, Charlee did the following:

  • Clearly said “mama”
  • Started crawling
  • Cut two more teeth (yes, she’s up to FOUR now!)
  • And, I swear this is true, with Becca as my witness, specifically requested, through arm motions, for us to sing ‘skinamarinky dinky dink’ by Sharon, Lois and Bram.

I have video and photographic evidence (check out my youtube channel and follow my feeds to see more).

Anyway, let’s take it from the top, and sadly it begins on an unhappy note, with the passing of my uncle on May 26.

Two weeks prior I had tendered my resignation from work (more on that to follow) and was actually attending my going away party when my mother called from England where she had been vacationing with my aunt. Through some round about channels, she had heard the news and wanted to get in touch with me as soon as possible.

I spoke with my cousins and tried to come to terms with the news.

Though in recent years I had not been in close contact with my uncle or cousins, Becca and I had gotten together with them when Charlee was just a couple months old to introduce her to them then.

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Aside from being 86 and diabetic, Uncle Seymour, or ‘Shim’ as he was known by family and friends, was in great health and his passing came as a huge shock.

I think the blessing in disguise is how extreme family events such as this can bring out the best in people, and give family an opportunity to first grieve together, and then reconnect.

This passing was one that brought out both the good and the bad, and it was quite a stressful occasion for all of us for many reasons.

I will always be grateful for the relationship I remember with my uncle. He was a soft-spoken man, but his family legacy lives on with 4 children, their spouses, and their combined 14 grandchildren (I hope I didn’t miss anyone). I only wish that I can one day see my own family grow like that.

My aunt is a wonderful woman with a strong circle of family and friends. Becca, Charlee and I have already made an effort to see her more often and help keep her involved as Charlee grows while also restoring our family bond.


The other piece of news, yup, I tendered my resignation with my employer after five and half years, having found a new opportunity that would benefit me and my family.

As a father, I’m now much more scrupulous in my decision making, and this by far was one of the most difficult. It had been in the works for well over a year mind you, and in fact, almost came to fruition in March of last year, but I opted to hold off having just found out that Charlee was on her way!

To be honest, I thing everything played out quite well.

With my old employer, I had the benefit of getting top up on nearly 5 months of parental leave. I also had all the benefits coverage that helped us be comfortable in the NICU and not out of pocket too much. I had added vacation time to help with Becca while we tried to turn Charlee, and then finally came back to a job that was mostly enjoyable for the few months that I needed to work out the details of this next opportunity.

I’ve decided to take the plunge and incorporate my own business under which I am doing consulting work.

The pay is very good, but the job security is non existent as I attempt to work contract to contract.

I feel very confident with the decision though, and Becca has my back as always.

This job gives us the luxury of having Becca stay at home with Charlee straight through until she is 18 months, and then we’re exploring a multitude of opportunities including Montessori for Charlee, and potentially opening a business for Becca… more details to follow as that slowly unfolds!

Not sure what your take is on Montessoris, but I can tell you that daycare here is a fortune and if I’m going to be spending that kind of money, I want an education for Charlee that I would be keen on. Having toured a few Montessoris, our hearts are set on it, and we’re on one waiting list in particular which we hope pans out.

As it sits right now, we’ve got another 9 months to go, so fingers crossed!

It’s crazy that Charlee is 9 months old already. We like to say she has officially been out of the womb longer than she was in it!

She is certainly keeping us busy.

Becca has her down to a routine that is impeccable – she now naps twice a day and gets a full nights sleep of 10 hours. I would like to say that it’s consistent, but of course it’s not. She has, however, improved astronomically!

As I mentioned, she’s crawling now, which changes the whole dynamic of our living space! We have to baby-proof the house now, and to add to it, she’s outgrown her exersaucer, so we’ve just recently unfolded the pack n’ play so she can use that as a holding pen while Becca needs to run off for a second to answer the door, use the facilities, or prepare a meal.

Charlee and Becca have been actively doing a bunch of different things from story time at the library, to swimming, to yoga.

The other day they went to the Royal Ontario Museum and I got this pic in my email:

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I laughed my ass off!

All in all, it’s been a challenging yet rewarding few weeks.

From passing comes rekindled relationships.

From old jobs comes new challenges and opportunities.

And from a roly-poly baby, comes an explorative, engaging, adorable, astounding, developing little person.

I can’t wait to keep sharing my journey with my family, with you.

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Bonding with Charlee through Infant Massage

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The first time we met Carolynn, I was still on my parental leave, and Becca and I were taking Charlee to her first mummy group.

8 mums, 8 babies, and 1 dad (yours truly) sat around in a circle in the basement of one of the neighbourhoods oldest churches, and Carolynn got right into it.

She welcomed us all to the class, introduced what the next 12 weeks was going to look like, and then whipped out her ukulele and gave a playfully gentle disclaimer that while she had a masters degree, it did not imply any special musical talents.

I was lucky enough to be able to attend a couple classes before heading back to work, and I know that Becca and Charlee had a blast. It’s often through these types of meet-ups that parents are able to meet other parents with similarly aged babies, and foster new friendships.

With us, we were able to connect with Carolynn as well, and had the pleasure of having her over the other day to teach me about infant massage, and the bonding experience it can have for fathers.

Carolynn wrote a fascinating white paper that is perfectly in line with the material that dad’s are so often seeking; new opportunities to bond with their infants.

During that delicate time before babies can vocalize their feelings, it is a constant struggle to connect with our kids the same way mum’s naturally can.

As Carolynn writes, “fathers may feel dissatisfied with their ability to form a close attachment with their infants in the early postpartum period, which, in turn, may increase their parent-related stress.”

Their study sought to align infant massage between a father and their child and the subsequent reduction in stress and increase in bonding.

I implore you to read the white paper on Carolynn’s site; it is a fascinating study and the outcomes offer a fundamental opportunity that no father should miss.

Carolynn’s research did not stop there. She in turn is a certified infant massage instructor, and offers both group and individual classes on baby massage.

As determined in her paper, there are numerous benefits to massage, both for the baby and the parent themselves! These benefits include:

Benefits for baby
• Promote longer and deeper sleeping patterns
• Relieve symptoms of “colic” or gassy periods
• Improve cardiac and respiratory output
• Help baby develop sense of self

Benefits for parents/caregivers
• Enhance and facilitate parent/child relationships
• Increase confidence and sensitivity as you learn to read and respond to your babies’ cues
• Provide special, focused time together
• Decrease stress

The first thing Carolynn did when she came over, after settling down and giving Party (our dog) some attention, was to pull out the ukulele and sing a few tunes for Charlee.

Right off the bat, Charlee was beside herself! The power of song is so evident, and it put a huge smile on Charlee’s face as she remembered the music from a few months back.

Becca had helped me out and set up a calm space upstairs to go through the tutorial, so we headed up and got settled.

Carolynn reiterated that she wasn’t there to massage Charlee, but rather to guide me through the process. She brought out a doll for demonstration purposes, and we sat across from each other as I got Charlee prepped.

One of the very first things Carolynn guided me on doing, was seeking permission from Charlee before massaging her. I thought it was such an odd premise, but when she explained that it’s one of the first opportunities to teach Charlee about boundaries, and consent, I was all for it.

Carolynn walked me through the stages of several massage techniques, starting from Charlee’s legs and moving up to her head. Every move was well thought out, methodical, and explained in detail. My favourite part, was that every massaging move was accompanied by a little song to sing through the motions.

Charlee was a gem and enjoyed the whole process immensely. I was taught how the direction of the massage can be a huge influence on relaxation versus stimulation, so it was important to not overdo it on such a tiny person.

The days following our session with Carolynn, I continue doing to the techniques she taught me, and Charlee is growing more and more comfortable with it. We’ll usually have ‘leg days’ for a few in a row, followed by arms and maybe face. Charlee has always been brought up with massage in her routine, but now having some technique to accompany it makes me more confident, and Charlee even more receptive.

As new dads, we’re often searching for things that we can implement that will help us feel more involved in the child raising process, and give us that opportunity to bond with our little ones. I was grateful to have met Carolynn and been giving a lesson on infant massage, and I whole heartedly recommend it to all the dads out there.

Make sure to visit Carolynn’s websites, at either http://carolynndarrell.weebly.com or www.discoverytoys.com/PlayLadyCarolynn and contact her directly at carolynn.darrell@gmail.com.


A little about Carolynn, in her own words, from her website:

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Ancient wisdom, modern parenting is a tagline I created to describe my parenting and teaching philosophy.  There has been a recent surge of interest and research in parenting practices of long, long ago.  Swaddling, infant massage and breastfeeding are a few of these practices that are high on the modern parent’s radar.  My philosophy honours thousands of years of evolutionary wisdom, but also values the needs and realities of 21st century families. 

My interest in parenting really began as an interest in infant development.  I  studied child health at Brock University and graduated with an honours B.A. I became a certified Child life specialist through a post graduate program at McMaster University.  I practiced Child Life for many years at  both Sickkids and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab.  I really enjoyed helping children and teen’s navigate and gain mastery over their healthcare experience.  But my smallest clients and their parents troubled me.  I wasn’t sure how to truly help them until I became certified as an infant massage instructor. The benefits of this instruction went well beyond the baby, and perhaps helped the parents the most, by empowering them when they feel most vulnerable, especially when their baby wont stop crying or has colic.  A desire to help more parents in this effective and powerful way led me  again to further graduate education. I completed a Masters of Arts degree from Brock University where I was able to study some important questions about infant massage and parenting.  I have attached a PDF at the bottom of this page describing my most relevant work with parents and their babies.  My greatest experience of all however, has been the birth of my own beautiful children.  They teach me everyday that each child, family and parent is unique and they deserve to be treated that way.

Beer and Cookies to the Rescue!

I knew it would happen! I logged in today and realized that it’s been almost an entire month since I’ve blogged.

I had read somewhere that the best way to keep yourself honest was to assign a writing day. Let me just say, that aside from showing up to work every day, I can hardly commit to much more! Just as I think I’m getting better at my time management skills, Charlee throws us for a loop and we have to rethink EVERYTHING.

So suffice it to say, there have been a few things that have happened over the course of the last month, and so today I’m writing two… yes TWO blog posts!

Let’s start with the recap:

First and foremost, Charlee got sick… again! I’m pretty sure this time was my fault, or at least I was the conveyor of said illness. She took another 2 weeks to get through it, but she seemed to have done better this (her third) time. We did nose-frida the crap out of her, but she never got a fever thank god, so it was really just something viral.

The cold happened during the most inopportune time (not that it’s ever ‘opportune’!) and we missed what would have been Charlee’s first Passover seder. There will be more, and we truly tried, but she was having an absolute meltdown and we couldn’t make it out the door.

The sickness, this time, had another residual effect, and that was the old ‘too plugged up to be able to feed properly’ syndrome, but this time, it really took it’s toll.

Looking back and even dealing with the onset of her rebounding now, we’re probably dealing with a series of events happening simultaneously, which I will refer to as STIF – sick, teething, introduction of solids, and fussy.

Sickness

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Not being able to breath is making her uncomfortable while feeding – she can’t breath through her nose, and there’s the chance that she’s associating this discomfort with the breast rather than the boogers

 

Teething

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Nothing has “cut” the surface yet, but we know, nay, we are POSITIVE, that she is teething. There is no other excuse for the compulsive goobering, red cheeks, and all in all discomfort that Charlee is going through. Becca’s mum said that Becca didn’t get her teeth in until late, but they came in one fell swoop. Mine were fairly quick according to my mum. Charlee appears to be somewhere in the middle. For what it’s worth, we’ve been giving her this stuff called Camilia which really seems to help. It’s a natural formula that we can give Charlee before the real teething starts and we need to resort to Tylenol.

Introduction of Solids

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Trying to find a balance for solid food has been a struggle for us… and evidently for Charlee too. If you feed her solids too soon, she forgoes milk and doesn’t get enough nutrients, which then leads to crappy sleeps. Feed her too little, and you miss out on the opportunity to introduce these new foods to her and close the gap on any allergy issues. It’s a tough balance and many different debates.

Fussiness

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Remember that app I told you about? It’s called the Wonder Weeks and is based off of the book by the same name. Charlee has been living her life in direct correlation to what this chart forecasts. It’s kinda frightening.

Well, with our luck, we’re getting Charlee sick and teething, just on the cusp of one of her fussy stages. On the positive, this does mean that she is perfecting some new developmental milestone, but on the flip side, we get a fussy little munchkin who is quite the handful.

Through all the STIF, it’s been taking a toll on Becca and my patience, but more importantly, Charlee’s feeding habits based on the above have been totally thrown outta whack.

Her feeding being off schedule therefore throws her sleeping off schedule, which throws us off schedule and better yet (sarcasm), Becca’s having some issues with her production, and yes, I mean the milk kind.

Now, historically I’ve chatted about breastfeeding as one of those things that we dudes just can’t do, and maybe for some of us, that’s that. But lately I’ve gotten the sense of how impactful it is on our partners, and how in the end, we have to remember one of the large roles we play throughout all of this child rearing journey – supporter.

I’m a huge proponent of men playing a co-starring role in parenting, obviously. I’m super proud of the National At-Home Dad Network’s campaign to distinguish the fact that “Dad’s don’t babysit!” And I’m also hugely aware of the fact that there are many things women can do that we guys just can’t, and with that there is a level of importance and determination that come along with it that we dads need to recognize, admire, support, and encourage.

I know the breastfeeding debate goes back and forth – “breast is best” vs. formula feeding.

First and foremost, you’ll have to get a catchier slogan than simply ‘formula feeding’ in order to compete.

How bout “breast is best” vs. “fuck that, formula’s fine”

Not bad… let’s call it a work in progress.

Well, in my mind, I understood the debate and would support Becca regardless of her choice. I’m a huge fan of the health benefits behind breast feeding, and was very happy when Becca decided that this was the choice she was going to make.

The initial phases during our time at the NICU, and then subsequently being home and getting into a routine, were all huge learning experiences for us, and I’m proud of Becca for how she handled it all.

Our main goal was to get by the 6 week window, where studies had shown that it was the most valuable, physiologically, for the baby.

Of course, the act of breastfeeding continues to be a bonding experience for Becca and Charlee; one that Becca was aiming to hold onto until Charlee reached at least a year.

Now back to present day STIF Charlee, and we have been forced to supplement her meals with bottle feeding formula, as her routine while being STIF has been near impossible to keep up with, and we’d rather “waste” formula when Charlee is snacking, then liquid gold aka breast milk.

Unfortunately, this has caused Charlee to not only completely toss her sleep schedule out the window, but it has also cause Becca’s supply to drop as Charlee is on a milk strike.

Pop quiz Dad… what do you do!?

Well, first I can tell you what not to do…

Do not assume that 8 months was a good run, and that getting food into Charlee is all that’s important. Of course, it is the most important thing, but understanding the impact a drop in breastmilk production can have is something else altogether.

When your partner has their heart set on something, and that something is important to them, you should make it important to you.

Once we talked and I had a better sense of just how impactful the drop in flow was, I did what I always do solve a problem.

I picked up a six pack

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Come on now – when was the last time beer actually was the answer!?

Along with that, I bought Becca some lactation cookies by a company called Stork and Dove and some tea which also promotes lactation.

The most important thing though, was chatting about it; getting an understanding of the importance and trying to destress from the situation.

Fortunately, we’re also surrounded by a good support network. Within walking distance, we have a very good (and free!) breastfeeding clinic at the Michael Garron Hospital, so Becca swung by for a consultation.

Just as important, was her mummy’s group, where she could compare notes with other mums who had gone through, or were going through the same thing. There is an odd sense of reassurance knowing that other people have some of the shitty experiences you go through with your kids, and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel… I guess that’s the premise of my blog sometimes too.

Well, at the end of the day, I guess two things happened.

First is that Becca is much more at ease about what’s happening with her production, and she’s doing what she can to increase it (which is so far working quite well) while at the same time she’s comfortable with the fact that through the breast milk she is providing and in addition the solids and formula, Charlee is getting the nutrients she needs.

The other thing that happened over the course of the last month was mother’s day – Becca’s first.

Last year we celebrated cause Charlee was the little bun in the oven, and I got Becca a ring.

This year I went for the spa retreat gift certificate, cause no one deserves a break more than my wonderful lady does.

Now if only I can convince her to leave the breast pump at home.

VLOG – Charlee is 7 months old!!

Well, we’ve been watering her, feeding her, and giving her plenty of sunlight, and low and behold, she’s growing!

Our not so little Charlee is 7 months old and doing phenomenally well. She’s pushing 20 pounds, eating like a champ, has just started swimming classes, and has won my heart.

Becca and I couldn’t be prouder. Enjoy a little sneak peek into our lives with my next VLOG linked below:

Cheers!

 

HMNID’s best and…er… ‘least best’ things about parenthood 

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I think I’m almost there.

I haven’t quite had the moment yet, but I feel like it’s on the horizon.

Referring to my daughter is so much more casual now; the words actually sound right.

I still push, but even with the help of Jimmy Fallon’s book, it hasn’t materialized yet.

Nearly seven months in and still almost every day brings something new. The sheer amount of these experiences is staggering for such a short period of time, and watching Charlee mature and develop into a little person is unfathomable.

I still genuinely think that the clincher is going to be when my little bubbaloo actually says it.

“Dada!”

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

But I will tell you this. So far, I’m having so much fun!

Sure, there are some days that the word “fun” would not describe in a million years, and with that I offer you the “Hello, my name is dad, best, and least best things about parenting“.

Like any conveyance of news, let’s start with the bad.

You will never sleep the same again

I wake up and all I smell are dirty diapers!

I wake up and all I smell are dirty diapers!

Let’s think about that sentence for a second. I’m not saying that you will never sleep again – that’s on you, my friend. But the idea of waking up at noon on a Sunday at this point would be tied to a gross demonstration of child negligence.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the stories on both ends of the spectrum with regards to kids’ sleep habits, and I for one will be the first to admit that whatever I think we have right now, is just point in time and could change again. But for the most part, my understanding is that Charlee is somewhere in the middle of good and bad sleepers, leaning more toward good sleepers, considering the ever increasing 7+ hour stretches.

Regardless, when baby’s up… baby’s up!

Sure they sleep up to 15 hours a day at this age… but not 15 hours straight! And not at reasonable hours! And not without naps which may or may not prove to be successful!

My full time job is at the office. I’m up when Charlee stirs, but Becca spoils me by dealing with her overnight wakings. Otherwise, I’m up sometime between 6 and 7, out the door by 7:30 and home ideally by 5:30 the latest. Then Charlee, Becca and I have  a nice sit down dinner together, and I begin her bath routine. She’s fed, bathed and in bed by 7:30 the latest, and then Becca and I get a couple hours to catch up about our days, our plans, our house chores and whatever else before we both tap out realizing how exhausted we are.

We’re usually in bed by 9:30, anticipating waking up at least once overnight.

Becca’s day’s are exhausting. Her full time job is parenting a 6 month old! This means trying to keep her in a routine that ensures she eats enough while trying new foods, sleeps properly, gets the right amount of stimulation and socialization, all while keeping the house in order in terms of laundry, cleaning, dishes, dinners, etc.

Every day we try and keep a routine because we’ve been advised that consistency is key. At the same time we’ve heard the saying ‘have baby, will travel’, eluding to some parents perspective of  trying to keep schedules loose so that you can have more flex in their day.

I’m pretty convinced that regimented scheduling is a first time parent move and later if/when we have baby number 2, it’ll be for the most part out the window, while we try and manage two very distinct children and their relative scheduling needs.

So yeah, you’ll never sleep the same again, but if you’re lucky, you may still get some sleep – a lot of it comes back to you and your approach.

You’ll often feel at a loss

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Life is full of firsts.

Many of these firsts are fairly short. They happen, you learn, and you move on with your life.

With a newborn, there are many firsts. MANY MANY MANY firsts.

And they come at you one after the other, after the other, like clowns emerging from the most ridiculous clown car you could ever imagine.

Holding a newborn. Changing a diaper. Interpreting cries. Feeding. Prepping bottles. Figuring out sleep routines. And so on, and so on.

What about the conversations you have… some of which turn into arguments! After all, it’s a first for both of you potentially!

The worst thing? For the most part, there is no one single correct answer to any of it!

I’m a very finite guy. I like for there to be a common solution to a common problem.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, there is just no single right answer to solve everything. There are way to many variables at play with parenting, that even the greatest of google searches will never find the one right answer.

I have often felt totally lost. It can be frustrating and put a huge strain on you and your relationship while you try and navigate your way through sleep regressions and 2 AM wailings.

But man is it ever worth it – let’s chat about the good!

Ben + Becca = Charlee

Don't worry - she's only working part time

Don’t worry – she’s only working part time

I’m a huge fan of Becca.

I’m a pretty big fan of myself. God that sounds arrogant, but c’mon, if you don’t love yourself, you’ve gotta work through that.

So put a splash of Becca with a dash of Ben together and you get, what in my eyes, is the most perfect creation this planet has ever seen – Charlee!

The crazy thing is that aside from how visually perfect Charlee is in my eyes, it’s only recently that I’ve gotten to actually know her.

Let me explain.

From birth to 3 months, Charlee was a gorgeous, little, wrinkly, bald, leaky, sometimes stinky, giggly, cooing ball of wonder. I was gobsmacked with what I was encountering on the daily and it was changing Becca and I throughout the journey.

At 4 months, just as we were getting in a groove, Charlee reverted back to being fussy and sleepless, and frustration was creeping in.

Two to three very long weeks later things changed. Dramatically.

Suddenly, there was something that transpired. Charlee was connecting. She knew us. She cared for us. She wanted to be close to us and be with us.

She reciprocates morning hugs.

She looks forward to bath time.

She sings songs with us.

She loves books.

She has a sense of humour; A great one in fact!

My heart aches when I’m not with Charlee and I know the same is true for her because the look on her face when I get home just melts me every time.

You often read that you will never feel love like the love you have for your child. It sounds so cliche, but it couldn’t be truer.

I’ve been told that the magic age is 5. Apparently from then till about 9 or 10 is the sweet spot, when your child idolizes you and you can do no wrong.

So far, 5 months was what has done it for me – this kid is my world and I can’t get enough of her.


Tomorrow I get to take Charlee for her first swimming lesson. While it will be my first time taking my daughter swimming, it will be Charlee’s first time in a bathing suit, in a pool, at the community centre, with new people, etc etc.

For all of the firsts we encounter, she is having her firsts in multiples!

I’m forever grateful and privileged to be able to be there for many of Charlee’s firsts and I can’t wait for more to come.

“Dada!”