Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Dusting off the daddy blog

I had a colleague once who started "The Dead Blog Blog" about all the new blogs people started that just died. Ironically, The Dead Blog Blog also went the way of the dodo. I mention this because my own daddy blog, which I started in 2008 with the intention of documenting my newborn daughter's life, also quickly died. I had good intentions, but, well, you know what happens with those. Nearly seven years later I'm attempting to rev it up again to chronicle the misadventures of my now nearly 7-year-old daughter and her 19-month-old baby brother. Parenthood is a trip, ain't it?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Saint Doula

It's been nearly a week now since we took the drastic step of hiring The Sleep Doula to help train our nearly five-month old daughter to try to sleep for longer than 2 hours at a time and, although I was against it at first, it has truly been a life-changing experience.
After yet another restless day of rocking our lovely daughter, Grace, to sleep for 20-60 minutes, only to have her wake up within the preceding hour and have to repeat the whole process over again, my wife informed me she was hiring the Sleep Doula.
"The what?" Was my initial sleep-addled response. In her frenetic way, enhanced by more than four months of minuscule sack time, my wife explained that she was going to kill herself if Grace's sleep pattern continued for much longer and that this Sleep Doula was the ONLY answer to the problem.
After I shook off some of the cobwebs of a couple hours' sleep, to focus on just what my lovely, but completely insane spouse was telling me, my first thought was 'This is going to cost a lot.' I must have been thinking that thought out loud, or have lost my inner monologue capabilities, because my wife instantly responded: "It will cost you a lot more if I'm dead." My wife is a very smart woman, far more so than I ever acknowledge publicly as to do so would put me at an even greater imbalance in our power relationship, so I tried to hear what she was saying, but all I kept thinking was: 'What kind of loser parents have to pay someone to get their baby to sleep?' By their very nature babies are supposed to sleep most of the day. However I was not dealing with the reality of our situation; that Gracie was a child who refused to be a baby... in this way she seemed to have bypassed the whole infant and toddler stage and proceeded straight to the life of a 10-year-old: constantly active and wanting to defy her parents by staying up late. Canadian Music icon Leonard Cohen once famously said that drinking, womanizing and staying up late were the only true forms of rebellion, but clearly he wasn't referring to babies.
I guess as a lifelong night owl, I only have myself to blame. In this regard the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Not so long ago, after Grace was born, I was forced to admit - after another occasion of being wrong - that my wife is ALWAYS right (I even wrote it on a note that my wife keeps in a drawer). Here is yet another example of me being eternally in the wrong position.
The Sleep Doula showed up on our doorstep last Thursday, at 7:45 pm, in the middle of me bathing our daughter (something that gives us both great pleasure). She was not what I had envisioned. She arrived in a powder blue velour track suit, armed with a Blackberry and a bottle of Coke. She told us she would sleep on the floor all night next to Grace's crib and shush her every time she cried out to be held by mummy or daddy. She said from everything she'd heard in the 1-hour phone consult with my wife the day before, Grace had an "attitude problem" and like a softer female version of Alec Baldwin, it was her job to straighten her ass out (I am of course paraphrasing very liberally).
After I toweled off and swaddled Grace, as I have done almost every night of her young life, I laid her in her crib completely awake, with the lights out and the white-noise machine on and said goodnight. It was 8:00 pm. As I left the room, she began to cry immediately and on my way out our Sleep Doula crawled into the room on all fours, so as to not be noticed by Grace. This is to trick your child into thinking it's still you (or in this case my wife) in the room doing the shushing. It's supposedly more comforting than a total stranger.
I should add here that we had tried the Tracy Hogg (AKA the Baby Whisperer) technique a week earlier, whereby you put your baby to sleep drowsy and when she cries, you pick her up and quiet her back to that drowsy state again and lay her back down. This seems like a good alternative to the very popular 'Cry It Out' philosophies, promoted by best-selling authors Dr. Marc Weissbluth (Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby), Dr. Richard Ferber (Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems) and Dr. Jodi Mindell (Sleeping Through The Night). I still get chills remembering how our lovely little pale half-Korean, half-white bundle of joy morphed into a screaming, wailing and snorting red-faced banshee over the 21/2 hours we spent trying to get her 'down.'
So you can see my reluctance to believe how this Sleep Doula would have any more success by merely 'shushing' our champion crier.
From the first shush, Gracie went into hysterics that put me in a Vietnam-like flashback situation. This went on for an intense 90 minutes, but then something truly miraculous happened: quiet. Through a series of key words and shushes, the SD had tamed our sleepless stallion. I was literally at a loss for words, when our jump-suited doula came back downstairs and we all huddled around our baby monitor to witness the splendid slumber.
Look, it's not as though we had never seen her sleeping peacefully, it was just that it had only come after prolonged periods of rocking, walking or swaying that made you want to jump out the window.
To know that she could now essentially put herself to sleep? Heaven.
However it was still not clear sailing, as 45 minutes after she went down, Grace awoke ready to do battle against her shushing adversary. Our SD, also known as Tracy Ruiz, was again equal to the task. Another hour of shushing put Grace back into dreamland. At 11:00 pm I crept into the room with a bottle of breast milk for what Tracy called a 'dream feed.' That's when you feed your baby while she is still asleep. Grace sucked back the 4 OZ bottle in roughly 10 minutes and continued her slumber as I gently laid her back down and closed the door.
She woke again at 1:00 am and required minimal effort on Tracy's behalf to close her eyes again. She then slept from 1-4 in the morning. Grace got in another hour, before Tracy called Rosa in (via text message, hence the all-important Blackberry) at 5:30 for a feeding, for which she turned on the lights, so your baby does not associate sleep with food. After a 5-10 minute power feed, out went the lights again and Grace was put back to sleep by roughly 6:30. Our SD then left and Grace didn't wake again until 9:00 am (it was supposed to be 8:00, but we overslept - yeah).
In the morning Tracy told us to greet Grace with plenty of celebratory kisses and cuddles and lots of enthusiastic praise. This was certainly the easiest part, after having to listen to her plaintive wails all night long.
While we were both filled with a sense of euphoria over Grace's stunning ability to sleep without being held and rocked, the one downside was that she was clearly POed at her parents and let us know by averting her gaze, every time we tried to establish eye contact. It made me feel like I was in high school all over again, trying to get the cool girl I was crushing on to notice me!
However it is a small price to pay for regaining one's sanity. It might have been the first time in weeks, perhaps months, where I was able to look at my wife and see the lovely woman I fell in love with and not as an appendage to my daughter.
And while we really didn't manage any more sleep for ourselves than we had using our nonstop human-swing technique, we both knew we had turned a corner in the quest to have our daughter sleeping 'normally.'
In a nutshell; we were able to get back that sense of just loving our baby, instead of looking at her as a terrorist, trying to 'break' us by keeping us up for days on end. Sometimes all you need as a parent is a pause to dispel the negative thoughts that can creep into your tired mind.
We can thank the Sleep Doula for that.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Chasing Sleep

If you ever want a cure for your insomnia; have a baby.
Pre-baby, I used to average about 5-7 hours of sleep a night. A lot of nights I spent tossing and turning, unable to sleep, likely due to life and job stress.
I never thought I'd miss those days!
Post-baby, I'm lucky to get 3 or 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep. A lot of days I make do with just a couple. When I talk about how it's an insomnia cure, I mean that while the quantity has diminished, the quality of sleep has improved. Those 2, 3 or 4-hours of sleep are so deep they pull me through an entire day. I am so tired, I could sleep standing up in a construction zone in broad daylight.
Apart from the first couple days, Grace has not been a baby who sleeps well. Since those first deceptive days in the hospital, where she was barely awake, our daughter has been awake more than asleep. The books say she should be averaging 16 hours of sleep as a newborn, but Grace's average was closer to 12.
We tried everything to get her the rest we were told she needed and sought. We swaddled, rocked, rolled, walked, drove - everything. We used a bassinet, our bed, the sofa, our arms and chest and finally the infant car seat we used to transport her home from the hospital. All had varying degrees of success over the first five weeks. Grace's sleep periods grew longer until she would go five straight hours in her infant car seat (placed in our bedroom of course... although I did consider sleeping in the car at one point).
And then the terrible six-week period hit like a category 5 storm and everything ground to a halt. For the next two weeks we endured Grace waking every other hour to cry at night. This made her days equally terrible, as our poor, overtired girl tried to deal with the changes her rapidly maturing body was putting her through. It was at this point that I was sure Grace suffered from gastroenteritis. At the time our pediatrician told us Grace was likely a bit 'colicky' and there was little we could do except push through until she grew out of it. We battled it for another week and when it seemed to improve, we decided to escape to my parents to get some help.
Despite the terrible sleep deprivation, we were continually cheered by our daughter's sunny disposition (when she wasn't screaming from our attempts to put her to bed). No matter how bad her sleep was, she always greeted us in the morning with smile after smile. This is the magic that people tell you about before you have a baby. I just wished they had also dwelled a little bit more on how raising a newborn is like going 12 rounds with Mike Tyson, and being on the ropes every round.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man...

I became a father for the first time at the ripe old age of 37! Last May, my wife and I welcomed our beautiful daughter Grace into, as Ron Burgundy would say, this big blue marble.
However our wonderfully easy pregnancy - my wife's type 2 diabetes diagnosis aside - morphed into the absolutely hardest job I have ever known (and I thought castrating sheep was tough!). Not that I don't love our little Fozzie, as my wife nicknamed her, but man she needed to come with her own manual. So here I am four and a half months into fatherhood and it's enough to make an atheist hug the floor and pray. However there is no trading that first smile of the day, after yet another sleepless night, to lift your spirits and make you feel all is right with the world.
This space aims to document one man's journey down the path where countless dads have gone before. Hopefully through this 21-st-century father's experience you will see snippets of yourself and your little Fozzie. Its aim is to entertain and at times make you chuckle (laughter is the best medicine), by offering a true and unadulterated account of a man's life with baby. Ultimately the goal is to encourage other dads to come out of the closet with their stories and raise fatherhood from that 'thing you do on the weekend' to what it has become - a full-time job, with no training, vacation or pension, but with a kick-ass benefits package.
Now grab a brew, plant your overtired posterior into your most comfortable chair (no one will judge you if it happens to be in the bathroom), turn the lights down - if you haven't already - and read about one dad's tightrope dance to raise a healthy, happy and 'normal' girl.