12 Months of Charlee: The 12 Things I’ve Learned in my First Year of Parenting

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So, what better way to celebrate a year of Charlee then to reflect back on getting here and what I’ve learned.

It’s really interesting and almost comical sometimes when I look back on the older posts in my blog, where I have advice or recommendations that I’m providing. There was nothing wrong with those, but often they reveal a Dad who was sooooooo unaware of what was up next! Not unprepared per se, but most definitely unaware. And here I am, looking back on only the first year! I can’t even begin to think about year 2… daycare, talking, walking…. Oy vey!

What I can say is that this year has been something that I could have never expected. I hope you’ve enjoyed following along with my journey so far. You keep reading and I’ll keep writing J

On that note, what a great segue into number 1 on my list… Enjoy!

  1. Read!

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It’s really just that simple.

Read.

There are tons of books and while I personally recommend the Dr. Karp series, look around… ask around… google some reviews. There are so many parenting books out there and they are there for a reason.

You will have questions!

You will want to know that you are not alone in this journey, nor has anything you are about to encounter never been encountered before!

I read one book that ironically advised not to read books. But rather, many of your parenting intuitions will come naturally. That’s fine and dandy, and I hope for whomever abides by that principal, they are right, but the number of approaches that we took which did not come naturally, were not spawned off of our natural intuitions, yet resulted in the right outcome is staggering (approaches to sleep is my #1 in that regard!)

It was interesting what happened in-between books as well.  We read plenty leading up to having Charlee, a little bit after having her, and then sort of assumed things were on cruise control. Little did we realize how quickly babies change and how difficult it is to stay on top of what happens next and how to handle it!

I’ve started reading again, and right now I’m on Dr. Karp’s, The Happiest Toddler on the Block. He himself says that you should start reading it ideally when your little one is 9 months of so, in order to be ramped up for the 1-3 year window.

I know it’s a toughie to fit in to anyone’s schedule, but really, it will help out immensely to be as prepared as possible.

  1. Yard by yard is pretty hard, but inch by inch is a cinch

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I wrote a blog entry once called How Quickly We Forget – The Halo Effect and Dad’s with PTSD. The main point being that we often go through situations which seems incredibly catastrophic and painful yet, in time, we move on and get to reflect back on it.

I look back at Charlee’s year and even when she was enjoying womb service:

First there was the determination that she was breeched and all the chiropractic visits and moxibustion attempts and the scheduling of a C-section. Finally when she was born there was 4 days in the NICU, sleep regression, food sensitivities, more sleep regression, teething, my changing employers, more sleep regression, milk shortages, financial hiccups, more sleep regression, relationship strains, and did I mention sleep regression?!

But at a certain point, you get a chance to look back, be it through a blog or just personal memory, and go, holy shit that was rough, but we made it!

  1. It ain’t a competition

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So don’t get me wrong – I fully understand that everybody wants to know that their child is doing well. But similar to the earlier point, if your baby starts crawling at 6, 7, 8 or even 15 months, it’s great at the time, but when they are older these things will be so inconsequential! The fact that your baby is in the 85th percentile, or the 35th percentile – it’s all irrelevant as long as they’re healthy, it doesn’t matter!!

However, and I hope this point makes sense, you should never, ever, ever, feel that you need to suppress your urges to talk about your baby.

You should be proud.

You are raising a human being and every achievement of theirs, is a representation of your work and dedication. So good on you!

Granted there is a fine line between pride and gloating, and you know what, sometimes it will just be heard the way that it’s heard, but in my honest opinion, you don’t get these opportunities too often, unless you’re breeding like bunnies (and all the power to you if you are), so go on, be proud of yourself and of your little one!

  1. Your life will change… duh!

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In case for some ungodly reason you thought that this is just an addition to your life, I will firmly state that you are wrong!

A baby does not accompany you to the club. They WILL get carded and refused access.

A baby does not sleep in on weekends, nor do they pull all-nighters… well… not in the good sense…

Your relationship will not be the same and you need to come to terms with that.

However!

You’ve just created a miniature version of yourselves – how friggin cool is that?! Granted when they first arrive, they’re a tad wrinkly or ‘fresh’ as one woman in a shopping mall once referred to 2 week old Charlee. But in time, it’s amazing how you start to see elements of yourselves in him or her.

With Charlee, she has my laugh, many of my features, and somehow at the age of 1, my sense of humor. She also has Becca’s disposition, kindness, and for what it’s worth, toes!

  1. Routine is important, but don’t obsess

Many books we’ve read address the fact that babies thrive off of routine. They will act better, sleep better, and overall just function better. But this doesn’t mean that there is no flex to the rigidity. Other than the fact that there can be extenuating circumstances, you have to realize that your life is not obsessively routine so how can your child’s be?

My mum had my brother and me 11 months apart (he was adopted, not that that matters, but just to help with the math and not assume that my mum and dad were aiming to have two kids so close together). Her line to me when I asked how the heck she juggled two children under the age of 1 was simply, “have baby, will travel”.

Makes sense to me – sometimes your baby just has to come along for the ride.

I’m a pretty firm believer that balance is everything, so stick to a routine for sure, but don’t obsess over every little thing… for the baby’s sake… and your own!

  1. Figure out child care as early as possible

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Maybe I’m putting this in here because it’s kinda fresh in my mind, but the most ridiculous thing happened the other day to me, and apparently it’s much more common than you would expect.

I approached a daycare which is well situated and affordable, they start with kids at the age of 1, and with all of these factors there understandably is a queue of families who are pre-registered.

Now here’s where it gets interesting…

I was directed to their website to register and low and behold, there is a 2 year waiting list… “Approximately”… meaning that it could actually be OVER 2 years!

In our situation, it would have meant a very interesting first date conversation where we skipped the dinner and drinks and went straight to pre-registering our unborn…nay, uncreated baby!

In Ontario and Toronto specifically, child care is expensive and hard to come by. Granted, our province has just recently abolished waiting list fees, but while we were searching it could potentially have cost us hundreds if not thousands of dollars just to get Charlee’s name on some lists!

We’re still sorting through ideas, but at this point, Becca is home with Charlee until at least 18 months and we’re on a few waiting lists, but that clocks a’ tickin’ and finding out that there are waiting lists that are over 2 years long, gets the heart rate rising!

  1. Money talk

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So, aside from those costs you can forecast, there are just a ton of things that creep up on you and apparently are never ending! Different wages for different stages you could say… patent pending.

When we first looked into daycare, we factored that it would cost anywhere from around $800 to $2000 a month; $800 being on the cheaper side through something like an unlicensed home daycare, and top of the price range being a licensed city run daycare (yup… $108 a day!).

Our in between option was a Montessori, where it’s around $1500 per month, but low and behold, waiting lists and questionable reviews have made things a wee bit more complex.

Next there is the food factor. If you’re breastfeeding, that’s fantastic, and we are too, but there were some unexpected situations with food sensitivities, sick baby not being able to feed successfully, drop in milk supply… y’know… expecting the unexpected again.

Due to Becca’s work and upbringing, she is very conscious about food additives and the like so we are pretty diligent about the quality of food we give Charlee. And with that comes a price tag too.

Even when you factor and budget for all of those things, there is still STUFF.

We have been extremely lucky to have Charlee’s older cousin who provides a ton of hand-me-downs, and also so many generous friends and family. And I’m actually pretty proud to admit that I don’t think we’ve binged on anything unnecessary for Charlee, even though I do still have my eye on a $2000 kids’ ride on Porsche…

But food, toys, gifts, and even at times entertainment, adds up – be mindful and diligent and don’t forget to put money into an RESP if you’re in Canada! In 17 years, university is going to be pretty steep.

  1. You and your baby are going to get sick
For the record, no baby is happy with a nosefrida
For the record, no baby is happy with a NoseFrida…

I always think of that Nyquil commercial, with the dad trying to call in sick.

We all wish that were true.

What actually happens is that one of the parents gets sick and brings it home to treat the whole family to a bout of the flu.

Somehow you have to muster the strength to get through your own cold while also treating the baby with whatever lack of medicine you can use (though infant Tylenol, Advil, a NoseFrida and a bottle of Salinex do work wonders) and all the while holding down a job, keeping the house in order, and sticking to the routine as best as possible.

Keep in mind that every sickness the baby gets through usually implies a strengthening of her immune system; so really, she’s just doing this to become that much bigger and stronger.

  1. Don’t forget about YOU
Healthy dad or attempted mugging?
Healthy dad or attempted mugging?

Remember that your health is just as important as the baby’s – after all, you’ve got to be in peak shape in order to take care of the little one.

I follow so many dads online who are proponents of keeping in great shape. I am all about wanting to do that too, and I have way too many excuses.

The least you can and should do is keep up to date with your own doctors’ visits, eat your vitamins, and take your meds.

That’s the easy part.

What people often forget is that you sometimes need a break from your family. Sounds kinda mean, but it’s really true. It doesn’t mean you love them any less, but from a purely psychological perspective, getting out for a pint with the boys, or especially taking the misses out on a date night is hugely important for you and your relationship with your family.

  1. Treasure your quiet time

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Date nights and drinks are few and far between, and I often find myself enjoying the most bizarre quiet times.

I follow a blogger online who wrote about how she even treasures the silence between buckling up her little one in the backseat of the car, closing the door, and walking to the driver side!

Another blogger seeks solace in his breaks to go to the bathroom…alone!

We’re lucky that Charlee is a lovely, calm, and gentle little angel, so in general the volume is fairly low, but she is active and mobile, and sometimes, yeah, it’s nice to get away, even if it’s just to sit on the can!

  1. More importantly, treasure your time with baby

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Sure it’s important to get away, but it’s even more important to be involved.

Charlee is fantastic and watching her learn and develop is breath taking. In one weekend around 9 months, she said momma, dada and started crawling… ONE WEEKEND!

I did a review on the book thirty million words, and the messaging there is one that, at least for me, appears fairly new. There is an overall recognition now that the first three years of a baby’s life are some of the most fundamental for growth and learning. A child’s brain undergoes an amazing period of development from birth to three, producing 700 new neural connections every second. The fact that you can actually witness it firsthand and help develop it with the way you engage with them is surreal!

Treasure it!

  1. Love is the answer

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Yeah it’s a little hokey, but you know what, it’s true.

Maybe I need to define what love means to me…

To me, there are two key factors in in love:

  1. Love is unconditional to those who are deserving of it.
  2. You get back what you give.

If those fundamentals are met, everything else is just noise.

Sometimes it is not easy to love, because the noise is loud; so loud that you forget that the fundamentals are still there.

You can block the noise with strong communication. Without it, the noise keeps ringing in your ears.

I don’t mean to sound too profound here, but that metaphor works for me.

With some, I’ve found that the noise is so consistent that I need to reassess the fundamentals.

With some I’ve found that the fundamentals are not there.

When that occurs, I need to rid myself of the noise, because it’s not healthy noise. It’s not noise that’s going to subside.

With others, the noise comes and goes, but the fundamentals are strong and the basis of our relationship is valid and meaningful and important.

Charlee has introduced to me a whole new world of love and a whole new approach to priorities.

She has fundamentally changed Becca and me, including our love for each other. It’s not gone by any means, it’s just different.

We’ve learned a lot about each other through Charlee, and we’ve developed a new love for one another and a new love as parents – a new definition of who we are.

I was thinking once about how you rarely know for sure about how your mate is going to parent, let alone how you are. You chat when you’re dating about things like what kind of school you’d like your future kids to attend, and how you’ll celebrate Chanukah and Christmas together, but you rarely discuss how you’ll approach baby led weaning, or what technique you’ll use for sleep training.

When those events arise in parenting, you are no longer addressing them as individuals. You are a team of two parents, approaching something foreign to the two of you.

You’ve either read up on it together or separately; queried a parent together or separately; have heard experiences through a friend, together or separately; or just have a gut instinct on how to handle the situation, together or separately.

Regardless, you now have to handle it… together!


This next year is going to be eventful, to say the least! I’ve just started back at school, part time. I have a new job but my contract expires in February (hoping for an extension). Becca and I have been chatting about opening up a store, but also discussing whether Becca may want to go back to her old work, or maybe school. We’re sorting out day cares and interviewing different Montessoris. We may even invest in a rental property in the next few months.

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I do not know what the future holds but I look forward to continuing to share my wild journey through fatherhood with you and hope you’ll stick around for the ride!

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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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.

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!”

My 6 Month Epiphany

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We were over at a friends house, painting Easter eggs this weekend, when Becca asked our friend, a mother of 2, for advice on a feeding question about Charlee. Her response both amused me and made me think.

“I’m no expert, I’ve only done it twice.”

While she wasn’t trying to be coy, she did bring up an interesting perspective. Just because she’d done it twice before, successfully, still didn’t mean that she felt she was in any position to give advice.

And with that, I offer you my 6 month epiphany…

Don’t take anyone’s advice.

Huh??
Huh??

“What!?”, you say.

“But isn’t this blog, in fact, producing advice to help guide the new dad through their journey?”

Well, ironically yes and no. And by that I mean, that right now if you were to ask my advice on how to parent, it would be to not take anyone’s advice!

Allow me to explain.

After speaking with new mums and dads over the course of the last 6 months of Charlee and for years previous, everyone has their own story. From how they found out they were expecting to how the pregnancy elapsed, let alone how unique their birth story was.

Each of their little snowflakes is different in their own right and though you may find the ability to categorize them with terms like ‘spirited’ or ‘easy’ it’s impossible to assume that even the most identical of twins can be raised exactly the same way.

I think that we as parents, especially new parents, have put ourselves in the situation where we have created a forum of information so vast that the overwhelming sense of parenthood is only further exacerbated by the overwhelming world wide web of information.

The fact of the matter is that this information is just that; info!

It is not solutions. It is potential solutions. It is examples of what has worked for some.

For every person it’s worked for, there are another thousand for whom it failed. And those thousand have a hundred different ‘solutions’ that have worked for them. And so on and so forth.

So what does one do? What should be the best source of knowledge?

Some people just have a tendency of going with the masses. Whatever is the best selling book on the subject.

Many people are simply swayed by the trends. This, however, can have detrimental effects like the whole anti-vaccination movement that many have followed care of celebrities voicing their ‘opinions’ based on personal experience and incorrect medical backing.

Others rely on their own parents approach, as it worked for them just fine, so why not carry that methodology forward. For the record, some even approach this on the contrary, where they ensure that they’ll do nothing like what their parents did (or did not do) for them!

I’ve read some perspectives that it may just end up coming naturally to you; instinctive if you will.

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Personally, I’ll give you my approach… but remember, it’s not advice!

My current job involves working with the healthcare sector, centralizing patient information and broadening access; helping to establish and maintain an electronic health record for the millions of people in our province.

By going through this endeavour, we’ve been able to amass an incredible amount of data, and with big data, comes big responsibility and big opportunity to delve deeper and run analytics.

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“Bro, there are drawings in the sky”          “Dude, you’re tripping out”

One of the many perks of big data, is that with more data comes more confident decision making, which can then lead to greater efficiency and reduced risk.

It’s a pretty cool premise, that I find helps steer me in the right direction with my approach to parenting and quite frankly, to life!

I like to do a thorough review of a topic – anything from investment banking to sleep training a 4 month old – there is a ton of data out there to review.

The caveat being, that in order to make decisions with this method, it takes time. There are few knee jerk reactions when you are scavenging books, articles, doctors suggestions, friends references, parents’ thoughts, and mummy group input.

But at the same time, knowing more scenarios, understanding more opinions, seeing the ‘why’ behind peoples recommendations is crucial in forming an opinion of your own and choosing to go down that path.

What I’ve grown to find is that with all the information in the world, it will only form an approach for you that still may not be correct, because your baby is one of a kind, or as the book On the Night You Were Born beautifully puts it:

For never before in story or rhyme
(not even once upon a time)
Has the world ever known a you, my friend,
And it never will, not ever again…

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Eventually it will be a combination of lessons learned, your gut instinct, and the repetitive trial and error that gets you to familiarize yourself with who this little person is that you made.

And this, believe it or not, is half the fun of parenting; Realizing that your little 1 in 7 billion is as new to your life as you are to hers, and learning everything about her is the greatest, most rewarding unknown there is.

How Quickly We Forget – The Halo Effect and Dad’s with PTSD

Becca was telling me the other day about how she has been starting to feel a little… different.

“Different?”, I asked, “what do you mean?”

She went on to say that theres a certain amount of structure in our lives now, that she feels more prepared and in control of how things are. Yet at the same time, that preparedness is more in line with being prepared to be surprised… it’s such a paradox.

I’ve said it as advice and it may have taken some time for that advice to hit home, but its so true – you’ve gotta expect the unexpected.

We took a second to really reflect back on how much we’ve been through and what it took to get here. It’s ironic, but had I not been updating my blog as frequently as I do, a lot of our experiences and the details surrounding them would be quickly forgotten.

And with that, I bring to you my ‘topic du jour’ … forgetting.

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A few of my friends have been going through various stages of pregnancy and parenthood within the last several years. From my vantage point, it’s been instrumental in helping prepare me for my own parenting experience and what I could expect with Becca, including what she would be going through in her pregnancy and motherhood journey.

One thing that’s always proved interesting, and of course, kind of comical is the good old “mummy brain”.

I’m sure you’ve heard the term or experienced it yourself or with your partner, but the symptoms are something along the lines of when you walk into a room… stop… and have no memory of why you were heading there in the first place. Entertaining as it is, a colleague mentioned to me that there is actually a scientific basis around it and why it happens to pregnant women.

The assumption is that the hormonal change allows women to more easily forget the pain, discomfort, and overall physical stress that comes along with pregnancy and childbirth.

It’s an interesting premise that we, as human beings, have a natural mechanism that kicks in during a time of extreme physical change and strain.

It reminds me about so many of the other natural wonders that you come across with childbirth, such as the number of things breastmilk is good for. Aside from the obvious power pack of nutrients and sustenance, it also helps clear up baby acne and even helps clean out your baby’s stuffy nose (yes, we tried it – a few eyedrops of it did the trick!).

You figure we’ve been having children for millions of years and modern day medicine only really stepped up it’s game recently. It makes sense that so many natural and almost instinctual reactions happen in the human body to help keep us functioning, especially during and after a physically and mentally strenuous life experience such as birth!

By the by, I’m not by any means insinuating that mummy brain makes childbirth an easy thing for mums!

I mean, my god, I witnessed Becca go through it, including the recovery from major surgery, 4 days in the NICU with Charlee, and then trying to raise an infant as first time parents…. and as far as I hear from other folks experiences, we got off mostly easy!!

But on that note, what about us dads?

We don’t get the hormonal imbalance.

No ‘daddy brain’.

Ironically, science has shown that we get similar symptoms to some things mum’s go through, like post pardum depression… well lucky us!

I’ve actually read stories about new dad’s who actually get post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from truly extreme birth experiences. It’s not really that surprising if you think about it. There are some seriously intense labour stories out there, and dad’s play a role in support but are not at all the focus of the event. There is an expected, yet overlooked imbalance when it comes to postnatal care for new parents as the focus is primarily on mum.

Again, I’m not selling short what mums go through. You just pushed a person out of you – you deserve all the attention in the world!

All I’m saying is that I think we need to be aware of the fact, that as caring and involved husbands and partners, the amount of energy, focus, concern, and love we emote, translates into an incredibly stressful situation for us too.

I’ve attended a few of Becca’s mummy groups, and also had the pleasure of reading a number of blogs from new mums and dads alike. The most surreal commonality, it would seem, is that for the most part, nobody has had an easy labor. I swear… the odds have gotta be something like 1 in 8 or maybe even 1 in 10 birth stories where the outcome was a normal, natural birth. Otherwise, there always seem to be complications.

From premie babies, to haemorrhaging spouses, to gestational diabetes, to emergency C-sections. Let alone stories of infertility and couples struggling for months, years, and beyond to try and conceive. My parents went nearly a decade without being able to conceive. They then went through the process of adopting my brother.

11 months later, yours truly made an appearance… via C-section…

Whomever painted the picture of birth as it’s ‘supposed to be’ has a serious lack of regard for reality.

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The funny thing is that we do make it through the labour stage, albeit some of us in better condition than others.

We then make it into the newborn stage and deal with the sleep deprivation and the helplessness of this new little person who is wholly under your care now.

Then into infancy and trying to teach this little bundle of joy what a good night’s sleep is. You muscle through sleep regression and sleep training and you’ve already forgotten about the helpless newborn baby who used to fall asleep wherever and whenever she wanted.

I’m guessing at a certain point you’ve moved on to the toddler in your life, who explores the house and won’t sit still. This little child is starting daycare, making friends, learning and developing and demonstrating all the different traits that really make them your child, and before you know it, you’ve forgotten about how they used to wake up every 3 hours overnight and kvetch about nothing and everything all at once.

This, I’ve read, is referred to as “The Halo Effect”.

Aw shucks... how can I stay mad at you?
Aw shucks… how can I stay mad at you?

You can think of it as the happiness and the reward make us remember the pain… differently.

Usually the term is linked to a marketing ploy, but I think the idea that we innately have this tendency and subconsciously utilize it with our children is awe-inspiring. We reimagine the past based on how happy we are with what we now have; with what our mini-me’s have turned into.

And the beauty part is that to dad’s benefit, it affects us all equally and we too can relish in the act of forgetting.

Isn’t Mother Nature grand?

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Top 4 Things Parenting a 4 Month Old Has Taught Me

Sure its a bit of a ‘bait and click’ approach, but hey, who doesn’t like a good top something list?!

In order to celebrate 4 months of Charlee, I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight 4 of the more crucial takeaways I have at this point in my fatherhood journey. I could easily have written a top 44 list, but I’m opting to stay away from the generic “my god how can such a tiny thing produce so much poop” approach, and lean more towards the “I assumed I had read everything about parenting, but I never knew about that” lesson in life.

So without further ado, here are the Hello, My Name Is Dad, Top 4 Things Parenting a 4 Month Old Has Taught Me:

1. Going back to work sucks, but there is always a silver lining

This past week was my first back at the office after my extended parental leave. Including the time I took off to help Becca with her moxibustion and inversion stretches, it was nearing the 6 month mark, the longest I have ever been ‘not working’ since I was 14 years old.

I don’t think there is ever a good time to return to work, but compound the fact that Charlee had just received her 4 month vaccination, was ill because of it and had a cold on top of that which she then infected Becca with, and of course was still on the tail end of the dreaded sleep regression I had mentioned in an earlier post, the timing was awful; the perfect storm, you may say.

The first day of my return to work… yes, literally Day 1, we were so concerned that morning that I almost skipped work to take Charlee to the walk in clinic. In fact, 3 days later, we did take her in and she was prescribed a puffer to help alleviate some mild inflammation in her lungs (just want to paint the picture of the severity of her cold). Charlee’s congestion led to difficulty in feeding and sleeping, let alone the several-times-a-day-choking-on-her-boogers-and-puking-up-her-feedings… it was quite the scene at the Goldberg household.

Becca on the flip-side, had the adult version of this cold, yet could not take anything other than mild throat lozenges and buckets of hot water with lemon and honey, as she’s still breastfeeding (and doing an amazing job at it, I might add).

Amongst all this, we were still adamant that the best way to parent our little boogery angel, was to stick with consistency, and therefore needed to introduce to her the new regiment also known as, “Daddy’s return to work routine”.

This would turn out to be the silver lining on an otherwise tissue laden, nose frida dependent, salinex fest of a week.

My mornings would start at 6 AM when my alarm would go off, and begrudgingly (at first), I would go to wake Charlee up. We were following the recommendation that you should have a morning and evening routine for your little one, and ours fell under the Dr. Karp proposed 6-6:30 window for a child her age.

My cutie pie would always do the most adorable stretches, as I sing a little good morning jaunt and undo her swaddle. We do some stretches in the crib, until she smiles up at me and we’re ready to get the day going.

I reach down and lift Charlee up to me, where she goes straight into a bear hug. The most sublime, soul smiling bear hug you could ever get. Then off to the change table to get her diaper changed, before I let Charlee have a bit of ‘air drying’ time back in the crib while I go draw a bath.

I give her a bath while singing songs and chatting about our day and what it will entail. She smiles and coos and chats up a storm, all the while I can’t help but have the feeling like we are the only two people awake in the whole world, and this time is only ours.

We finish up and I scoop her out of the bath and wrap her up in a towel. We head back to her room and she gets a coconut oil baby massage.

We pick an outfit of the day and get her dressed before heading downstairs to let the dog out together. We turn on the radio and play in the basement on her mat with Princess Crackle and Daisy the Cow.

Usually its about an hour that goes by before she starts to yawn, so I bring her back up and wake Becca for a feeding while I then go and get ready for my work day.

When I’m all washed, dressed, and prepped for work, I get a chance to give Charlee a quick kiss before her morning nap, another kiss for Becca, and I’m out the door.

I tell you that what otherwise I would have expected to be a draining experience, is actually the highlight of my day and something I look forward to in my sleep.

2. That smile has already won me over… I’m destined to be a push over

Her smile is the first thing I see when I wake her up, and the last thing I see before she goes down for the night. She’s the background on my phone and the screen saver on my laptop.

I’ve told myself that I’d like to be an authoritative parent, but at the same time, I’d love it if Charlee were a daddy’s girl.

All I know is that the other night, I was reading her a copy of Jimmy Fallon’s book Your Baby’s First Word Will Be DADA” and I put on a voice that got her giggling. That pretty much sealed the deal – I don’t stand a chance against this cutie:

3. There is no right answer to sleep training… pick a path and commit to it

I’m going to preface this next one with the fact that whatever path we’re going down, it hasn’t worked yet. I have faith that with consistency and a committed approach, we’ll figure out Charlee and get her into a sleep groove.

First off, this is where we are right now:

Charlee wakes at 6… and sometimes we wake her at 6. From time to time she’s right on the dot at 6, other times she pushes the 5-5:30 window, while still other times, I’m the one waking her up.

She usually back down around 7:30-8 for anywhere from 2-3 hours. Sounds like a lot, yes, and we’re thinking that this window is there cause it’s compensating for a sub par overnight sleep. However, for those of you counting along, mark down 2 hours on your notepad.

Next she’s up for another 2 hour window, usually lasting until noon or 12:30, then back down for what usually ends up to be 60-90 minutes. This nap fluctuates a bit, especially Monday’s when we try to prep her for a walk to one of Becca’s mummy group sessions at 11:15. (Total time is 3.5 hours so far… on a good day).

She’s then up for another 2 hours or so and then down for another 90 minutes, but truthfully more like 60 on a good day. Charlee then does the long haul until around 7-7:30 when we start her night time ramp down, and ideally she’s off to sleep around 8-8:30.

Over night, she’s up usually twice – once at 11:30, and then again around 3. Admittedly, the overnight varies quite a bit, but on average I would say she sleep for 8 of the 10 hours.

So how’d the math go? 8 overnight and at least 4.5 during the day… 12.5 hours at an age where she should ideally be getting 12-15 (so it’s said).

I look at that and think, HOT DAMN! we’re doing a great job. Becca is looking for improvement.

Depending on what you read and by whom, you’ll see that some kids at this age are getting 8-10 hours straight overnight. I envy those parents and also would like nothing more than to punch them in the face and call bullshit. But that’s just jealousy rearing it’s ugly head…

I know we’ll have to struggle through weaning Charlee off the swaddle, and maybe making more of a conscious effort to put her down more awake and let her learn how to fall asleep, but I say all in good time.

For now, I’ll relish in our 12.5 hours and call that a new-parent victory!

4. It is the most unbelievable emotional rollercoaster

As I rewrite this section for the fifth time, I’m going to try again and stress just how extreme your emotions can be during your first few months of fatherhood.

With regards to your little bundle of joy, it is most definitely true what they say. When you first connect with your baby, you know that you would do anything and everything in your power to ensure no harm comes to this little miracle.

The extreme highs you feel engaging with this little person that you played a role creating, are inexplicable.

She’s perfection.

She’s the cutest, the funniest, the loveliest, the friendliest, the sweetest, the everything-est everything that ever has been and ever will be!

You feel so proud of how much she’s grown. How quickly she is passing milestones. How her little characteristics are already shining through.

One of those characteristics is her energy and her passion… or as Dr. Karp calls it, how “spirited” she is.

It’s wonderful to have such a little ball of passion and you know that it’s because of this enthusiasm that her sleep is a little wonky. Sure she’ll do a long stretch here and there, but you chalk it up to her growth spurts and ever changing skillset and development.

After all, she’s still getting over a cold, which was emotionally draining enough; watching her sneeze and cough, and get plugged up with phlegm and boogers. No wonder she can’t sleep.

But now she’s on the up and up and you get to watch her continue to develop and hone skills.

You figure that at this point, 3 hour windows of sleep are fine, and soon she’ll catch up to “normal” sleep, whatever that means.

After 2 days of it though, you start to question your approach, but you and the wife tell each other to stay strong and things will work out.

Sure the lack of sleep is starting to get to you, but you try to rise above and muscle through, knowing theres a light at the end of the tunnel.

1 week in, and the lack of sleep is starting to make you turn against each other, and you are noticeably more snappy and irritable. You often find yourselves catching each other and apologizing, then getting back and level setting, agreeing again about your approach.

The days are fun. Time spent in awe, watching her grow and advance, learning new abilities and growing stronger and bigger right before your eyes. At night, you muscle through the wakings and feedings, straining to get up the next morning and coach yourself through learning the new routine.

You make your way through the work day, always eying the clock anticipating the moment you get to race back home and hug your family.

Gradually that light at the end of the tunnel gets closer, and your baby starts to show the signs of maturing; she’s sleeping longer stretches, and she’s starting to understand what you ask of her and learns how to fall asleep on her own.

You love your baby through the highs and the lows.

You love your partner, cause you have never needed each other more.

You are beginning to realize the change in your life.

You are turning into something, or rather someone.

Hello.

Your name is Dad.

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Guest Blogger – “We’re Doing This?” by Heroic Dad

Here at Hello, My Name is Dad, we look forward to the opportunities to share other Dad’s voices and experiences, and with that I introduce to you our new Guest Blogger series.

First out the gate is dad and blogger, Brandyn Shoemaker.

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Brandyn is the founder of Heroic Dad, a platform that connects fathers from all over the world to share their experiences and to emphasize the importance of being heroes to our kids. Brandyn writes about his experiences in fatherhood on the Heroic Dad Blog, and he has fun and useful merchandise for fathers in the Heroic Dad Shop. You can connect with him on Instagram here: @heroicdad

Brandyn is a passionate dad and I know you’ll appreciate what he has to say… and you gotta love the logo!

Enjoy!


If you’re thinking of having a baby, there are a lot of things you’re going to hear when you start telling people about it. Your single friends will think you’re crazy to give up even more of your freedom. Your career minded friends will think you haven’t dedicated enough time to your job and this baby will ruin any chance you have at advancing in your career. The friends you have that like posting pictures of cash on instagram will think you’re going to be poor for the rest of your life, and your friends obsessed with traveling the world will think you’ll be stuck in the same boring place forever. But don’t worry, your mom will probably be thrilled to have a grandbaby, so definitely tell her after everyone else has told you you’re crazy. You can tell your Dad, but he’s probably going to shrug it off and go back to watching his football game.

What matters most, obviously, is how you feel. Maybe a part of you shares all of the concerns your friends have for you and that’s fine. It’s okay to be worried about the promotion you’re trying to get at work, or if you have enough money, or if you’ll ever get to see the world after you have a kid. Just don’t let those worries stop you from doing what you really want to do.

Truth is you’ll never be in the perfect situation to have a baby. There will always be something in your life telling you that you should wait and that you’re not ready. People are really good at making excuses when they’re about to do something that terrifies them, and having a baby is no exception. So if you and your significant other are ready to have your first child, just do it. Don’t worry about reading all the pregnancy books first or setting up a huge savings account or moving up a couple more rungs on the proverbial ladder at work. Just do it. No one learns how to swim in the shallow end of the pool. You just jump into the deep end head first.

I was terrified when I found out we were pregnant. I was very happy, but I was terrified. I spent most of the first trimester numb to the fact that my wife was pregnant. She just turned into this lady that had some strange bump on her stomach that was puking a lot now for some reason. It didn’t really hit me that she was making a baby until I felt him kick for the first time. That’s a day I’ll never forget. That’s also the day I started freaking out.

OH MY GOD MY WIFE IS GROWING A HUMAN INSIDE OF HER AND I’M GOING TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR IT WHAT AM I THINKING I’M STILL JUST A KID MYSELF I JUST WANT TO PLAY VIDEO GAMES I CAN’T BE A DAD OH MY GOD THIS KID IS GOING TO BE STUPID BECAUSE OF ME.

Yeah, crazy ramblings like that went on in my head for days. But there was no going back at this point. Luckily I calmed down and got my head back on straight and started doing the things I needed to do. When you have your first kid the people that care for you will get really excited too. Even the people that had some doubts about your decision at first will be happy for you and support you in your decision. Which is awesome because they buy you a ton of stuff. When my son was born we didn’t have to buy a single piece of clothing for him until he was about a year old. Cribs, changing tables, walkers, and all the other essentials were also paid for by friends and family. And diapers….we had mountains of diapers and wipes. So if one of your worries is the initial cost, don’t worry. People will buy everything you need for you. After our baby showers we were more than ready to bring the little man into the world.

And then he was here. And let me be the first to tell you, there is no greater joy than seeing your baby for the first time. You’re overcome by a rush of pure joy and happiness that you’ve never felt before. Every worry you had before, the money, the career, the travel, all of them are just washed away the first time you see him and hold him in your arms. The first time I held him I just stared at him for what seemed like days gazing into his blue eyes and admiring that full head of hair. I knew my life would never be the same again and I was completely okay with that.

Everything took on a greater meaning once he was born. I worked harder at my job so I could provide for him. Now I’m completely changing my life around in that area and I’m running my own business so I’m able to set my own schedule and spend more time with him when I want. I still don’t have the money that I think I need (who does?) but I’m more careful with the money I do have. I wanted to travel the world before I had a kid, but now I’m inspired to travel even more so I can show the world to my son. I love watching him learn and discover new things, so what better way to do that than to travel with him?

If you and your significant other really want a kid, do it. Timing will never be perfect. There are no books you can read that will adequately prepare you for what you have in store. Buying a dog won’t help prepare you for a kid, so don’t fall into that trap either. Babysitting won’t even prepare you for having your own child because you get to give those kids back. That’s not the case with a child of your own. Remember the last time you had a fever of about 101 and you were vomiting all night and all you wanted to do was curl up into a ball on your bed and forget the world exists? Yeah, your baby doesn’t care about that. He’s still there, and he still needs you. But trust me, when you’ve had a bad day at work and you walk into your house at the end of the day and your son has a huge smile on his face when he sees you and then he screams “Dada!” and runs to you as fast as he can, it makes everything worth it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

His and Her’s Nervous Breakdowns – How Not to Sleep Train a Baby

brace yourself

Here’s a term for you: “Sleep Regression”

Ever heard of it?

Neither had we, yet they happen at 4 months, 9 months, 12 months, 18 months, and apparently straight through to 2 years’ of age.

Now you’ll have to pardon my french, but how the fuck was that not something that we would have read about at this point? I truly had considered ourselves well versed on many things baby… not everything, but I thought it was fair to say we were a tad smarter than the average bear.

A quick google search will find you a ton of pages highlighting the “pleasures” of sleep regression and the methods to go about dealing with it.

Let’s begin with what exactly it is, as described by www.babysleepsite.com:

A sleep regression describes a period of time (anywhere from 1 – 4 weeks) when a baby or toddler who has been sleeping well suddenly starts waking at night, and/or skipping naps (or waking early from naps) for no apparent reason. Parents often describe being caught totally off guard: you think your have conquered all your little one’s sleep challenges, when suddenly, out of nowhere, you’re back to constant night wakings and nonexistent naps.

Each regression has a different rationale. The 4 month one makes sense, especially if you tie in what we had read about in Dr. Karp’s book, with regards to the fourth trimester. Charlee at this point is ‘graduating’ from infancy into becoming a baby. I guess within three and a half short months, we’ve seen Charlee evolve from newborn to infant and now finally to baby, and with this title comes new challenges and behavioural nuances. These include ditching her infant-like sleeping patterns, which were a bloody godsend, and now frequently  waking and fussing with shortened naps much like a newborn, hence the ‘regression’.

This is a child who just 3 weeks ago was sleeping 7-8 hour stretches, napping when she felt so inclined, and rarely, if ever, fussing about anything. She spoke a language that we could comprehend, and did not have the capability to manipulate with crocodile tears.

Let me preface whatever else I’m going to write here, with the fact that we absolutely love our daughter with all our heart and we recognize that there are going to be many moments in her life that lead us to frustration and test our limits.

Fair?

Ok – carrying on.

Charlee has always been ‘advanced’ for her age. She’s in the top 85th percentile for weight and height, is strong like a bull, communicates impressively well, and we feel that all in all, she is progressing extremely well for a 3.5 month old.

We were so convinced of this, that upon the first sign of her beginning to fuss during the days, we read and determined that she was either teething (around 1-3 months early), or had matured to the point where she needed a much more rigid sleep structure.

In hindsight, it may be a case of how you search for things that determines what you find, so the fact that we searched and read up on sleep training (i.e. what to do in order to sleep train your child) versus ‘is it normal that my 3 month old is beginning to fuss’ (i.e. how to handle a normal baby like a normal person would), probably fed a good portion of our issues for the last 3 weeks.

Upon reading a slew of different articles and soliciting feedback from family and friends, we opted to put together a schedule for Charlee that would ensure she slept for 10-12 hours at night and another 3-5 during the day while at once making sure she didn’t have awake stretches longer than an hour and a half.

We read articles and books about the ‘cry it out’ technique.

We then read articles and books against the ‘cry it out’ technique and how it will scar your baby for life.

We read articles and books about props and crutches such as pacifiers and swaddles, and how to eliminate those from your child’s sleep dependencies as it will cause your child to grow up with elevated levels of anxiety.

We then read articles and books on how those specific ‘props’ can be integral in ensuring a good sleep even into the 3, 4, and 5 month periods and helps impart feelings of safety, security, and calmness.

Ironically, we read about consistency being key, yet continuously altered our approach based on feedback and guidance, and what seemed like whichever was the flavour of the day or week.

Seemingly overnight, we went from having a calm, cool, stress free household, to one that revolved around our daughters rigid yet ever changing schedule. Constantly jotting down notes in her sleep diary that we created while at once watching the seconds tick by as we stared blankly at the baby monitor, praying she wouldn’t budge. We continually would hear ‘phantom cries’ and would barely get more than 1-2 hours sleep at a time.

All this and poor Charlee was fidgety, upset, overtired, and cranky for most of the day.

It's like deja vu all over again
It’s like deja vu all over again

We were a mirror image of that.

Poor sleep breeds other poor habits, most notably poor eating. Poor eating and lack of sleep have a direct effect on one’s behaviour, emotions, and ability to function.

I was the first to snap.

Ironically, vocalizing it all was somewhat therapeutic, but it was not pretty and I felt horrible that Becca was on the receiving end.

I spent that night in front of the computer at around 2 AM typing a letter to Becca apologizing and really opening up in greater detail about everything. 4 hours and 7 pages later, I sent it to Becca’s email and returned to bed in time to get back to our awakened baby.

We had a very good chat about things and continue to every day. We’ll figure things out, and as one of my favourite quotes goes, “yard by yard, life is hard, but inch by inch is a cinch”.

Becca’s turn came a few days later… what’s good for the goose, eh?

While we’ve both been waking up every hour on the hour, I’m the guy that can change a diaper, while Becca is the only one who can provide food.

Did I mention that this sleep regression can be brought on by a growth spurt? Yes… ANOTHER growth spurt! And with great growth spurts come great yearning for nourishment and Becca can’t even keep up with a pumping schedule to have bottles ready for the ‘in case of emergency’ feeding, or for daddy to step in.

I underestimated the toll this takes on Becca and with the two of us in such a sleep deprived, stress elevated, boob deflated, and angry state, negativity bred negativity and Becca needed an outlet.

The saving grace for all of this is that it gave us a chance to really ‘rebaseline’ expectations. To sit back and go… whoa… what just happened?… how did we get here?… how do we fix this?

And fix this we shall, care of our good old friend Dr. Harvey Karp.

I liken this to any personal experience someone would have with any professional. If that professional is engaged and solicited for advice that proves useful and effective once put into practice, why would you not come back to that same professional for future advice?

Dr. Karp’s book, The Happiest Baby on the Block, was intrinsic in our successes leading up to Charlee’s birth, and for the first 3 months of her life. As we’re entering the next stage in her life, we have now started reading “The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep: Simple Solutions for Kids from Birth to 5 Years” and it is fundamentally helping us get back to the ‘good old days’ where Charlee was a good sleeper and functioned so much better.

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Suffice it to say that I will do a full book review in the near future – probably after the next 2-3 months of fully implementing his recommendations. But until then, I can look back and realize exactly where we went wrong.

Remember how I mentioned that we’ve always seen Charlee as a mature over-achiever? Well that was our first downfall.

Yes, she’s large for her age.

Yes, she’s fantastically bright and capable.

Yes, she’s strong and excelling in her abilities.

But at the end of the day, she is still a 3 month old baby who does not need to be rushed through her development just to float our egos.

Charlee did not need to be weaned off of a pacifier and swaddle. Charlee does not need to adhere by rules and timelines devised by some random internet doula.

We are taking away a number of lessons from this whole experience:

  1. We love each other and need each other and are here to support one another and be the most dynamic, effective, loving, passionate, engaged, and informed parents we can be
  2. Charlee is a wonderful baby and we genuinely want what’s best for her, but need to have some patience
  3. We have resolved to read up on everything BEFORE it happens and come to consensus on how we are going to parent her as a team, rather than reactively having to dig up information and test it out with trial and error
  4. Lastly, parental instinct is a profound thing – sometimes you really do need to go with your gut, because you truly have a better sense of what’s good for your baby

In less than 2 weeks Charlee will be 4 months old and we’ll be celebrating her 100 Day birthday with friends and family.

We all plan to be very well rested for a lovely, stress free event.

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