29 December 2007

Random thoughts from a week of fatherhood

Please excuse me as the blog continues to be all baby, all the time.

Des has been with us for a week now.  We brought him home on Christmas Eve and enjoyed a constant stream of visits from both of our families.  Everyone says he looks like me, but truthfully I don't see it, at least not yet.  To me, he just looks like Desmond.  Nothing could make me happier.

Some thoughts I've had in the last week:

1. Feed first, change diapers later.  A empty belly demands attention over a full diaper anytime.  It's all about the stomach, and when it's empty, it doesn't matter what else is going on.  Fill it.

2. I hope whoever invented the pacifier won a Nobel Prize.  Or was canonized.  Or both.

3. Waking up every three hours or so in the middle of the night isn't fun, but it could be a whole lot worse.  So far, our boy likes to sleep.  Let's hope that continues, though I'm thinking that is mostly wishful thinking.

4. I never realized how much newborn boys look like old men until I stared at my son for twelve hours straight after he was born.

5. I was adequately under-prepared for the emotional level of a child's birth, which stuns me because I knew going in it was going to be the most intense experience of my life.  I felt like I was being tasered from the moment we left for the hospital until the time we came home with Des.  it comes now in waves.  I can be sitting here doing next to nothing when it hits me again that there is a new life in the house and that it is ALL OURS!!! and the process starts over again.  It's very liberating, like I just emerged from a mine after a year or something. 

6. If there is a feeling better than having an infant fall asleep on your chest, I don't want to know what it is.

7. I hope whoever invented the pacifier owns at least a home on every inhabitable continent, for they deserve it.

8. I've always felt that I've been someone who has given women their due as a gender, but now more than ever, it's clear to me that men are the inferior sex.  There's no way any man could have put up with eight hours of labor, two hours of pushing, and then a c-section without punching someone or declaring war.  I was ready to invade China.  Toss in being on call 24/7 for the maniacal feeding desires of a wrinkly-yet-supremely lovable baby boy and I am more convinced that if it were men who were responsible for giving birth, this would be an empty planet.

9. Have I mentioned lately how much I love my wife?  How I will never be able to doubt anything she does ever again (not that I did much before this), how I know for sure that she tolerates pain better than I do, is braver than I am, etc.?  I am several rungs below her on the ladder of impressibility.

10. I remember five years ago when my father died how surprised I was when people who had lost their fathers too commiserated with me.  Any time someone said "I've been there" or "I had my turn X years ago" I was floored by the idea that someone else was going through what I was.  Eventually I realized that the feeling of surprise was due to the fact that while other people lost their fathers, they didn't lose my father.  When it happened, I felt like I was the only person ever to lose a dad.  Building up to the birth of our son, it was the opposite.  It seemed like everyone had been through this before and were happy to offer advice and tips, so much so that I expected certain things.  It was only after Desmond was born that I realized he was more than just a baby, he was my baby.  And now that he is here, he puts me in the middle of something.  I was and always will be a son to my father.  Now, I am and always will be a father to my son.  I see another facet of Dad's life that I knew existed but had no idea how it felt.  We never talked about what it was like to be a father, mostly because I never asked but also I think he felt, like I did, that I would not be one.  The conversations I have now with my father about being a dad come from my memories of the things that he did.  While I don't remember what he was like when I was first born, I see myself doing things with Desmond that I know he did with me.  It is quite a comforting feeling, one that gives me a sense of my father's presence, stronger than I have ever felt since he died.  I am in the middle of a circle, looking back while I am moving forward, and it has never felt so right to be alive.

21 December 2007

We have baby

Our son Desmond James was born tonight 12/21.  He wasn't as big as "feared" but still came in at a hefty 8 lbs 3 oz.  All is right with the world.

Big thanks to those who expressed well wishes.  And for once in my life, I'm pretty much left speechless.

To the other side of the fence

The minutes tick away on the last day of my life where I will not be a father.  It's all amazingly surreal.  Tuesday and Wednesday I was a nervous wreck to the point where I was having physical reactions, but today I have been calm, as if I almost expect that I know what I am doing.  My wife is upstairs asleep, which is good, since she has to do most of the heavy work tomorrow.  She's more nervous than I, but then I would be too if I had to push out what she's been carrying for the last nine months.

I went in to this with no real idea of what it would be like.  She has been wonderfully pregnant, blessed to not have any issues and to have felt like herself for most of the time.  She told me tonight that she will miss being pregnant.  I've been envious of her since the baby started moving around, because no matter how many times I feel him kick, I can't possibly realize what it feels for her, to feel a living thing moving around inside.

She's been a joy to experience this with.  I am luckier than I ever dreamed I would be.

I'm not much of a person of faith, but I do feel some type of spirit within me, keeping me under control, not letting me get too out of my own self.  I also feel my father all around me.  This is going to be intense.

So I suppose I should try to sleep, since I have to be up by five and get us to the hospital by six.  There's no telling how long it will take; it might be over by noon, it might go on into Saturday.

No matter what, it will make Tuesday just a little anti-climatic,
yet no less of a reason to be thankful for the blessings of this world.  Let's hope the next time I come this way that I haven't turned into a babbling moron.

18 December 2007

Holding steady

Nope.  He's not here yet.

We had a doctor appt. today.  According to our esteemed medical professional, whom we like very much, our son is somewhere in between 8.5 and 9.5 pounds.  He's a big kid (he certainly did not get this from me), and my wife doesn't like her doctor as much today as she did yesterday.

Given his size, we've been advised to take proper action, so baring his arrival before, we'll be going to the hospital Friday morning at 6, where they will induce my wife.  Sometime that day (hopefully-I am not letting her read this) we will officially become parents.

I can't really put together how I feel right now.  I suppose I am nervous.  Mentally I do not feel nervous.  Physically I feel like the most nervous person ever.  I feel like a low electrical current is going through my body.  I tell myself that I am not nervous.  It doesn't seem to be working.

About fifteen minutes ago both of us sort of looked at each other and said "is this really happening?"  We've been looking at baby stuff strewn around the house for the last month or so, and it has had the effect on us as if we were only playing house.  What does it take to get the realization of this?  Do we have to wait until we can physically see him?  That's the only thing I haven't been able to figure out about this, why I have this "no, this isn't really happening" feeling.  Not that I don't want it to, more like someone telling us "oops, sorry, we made a mistake."

It's completely irrational.  I guess I thought maybe that I'd never have an irrational thought again.

For the last time, a fatherless random eleven:

1. "The Man's Too Strong"-Dire Straits.  Of course it's possible to make baby connotations about everything that comes up here, but this makes me laugh.  This is one of those songs that make me want to learn the acoustic guitar.

2. "To Go Beyond"-Enya.  My grandmother died on July 14, 1995.  It was during one of the hottest stretches of weather in Chicago history (she was not a victim of the heat) and that night, when I went to sleep in my roasting apartment, I left the CD player on.  I woke up at three AM to this song, and had one of those "I get it, she's OK" moments.  Changes the song forever, obviously, and makes me think fondly of the only grandparent I got to spend any meaningful time with.  Man, she was fun; everything a grandma is supposed to be.

3. "Rocket"-Smashing Pumpkins.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Repeat for the rest of the day.

4. "Miss Halfway"-Anya Marina.  I heard this on NPR (I think it was "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me") one day and downloaded it shortly afterwards.  Imagine my horror when I found out it had been featured earlier on "Grey's Anatomy."

5. "White City Fighting"-Pete Townshend.  I'm sure that I have mentioned it before but the "White City" album is my favorite album ever, and always will be.  It's not possible that any piece of music released in the future will ever top it.  Had this album not come out in the summer of 1985 (so I could play it to death in the fall of '85), I might not be the person I am today.  Suffice to say it played a big part and getting me through one of the hardest moments of my life.

6. "Lazy Days"-Enya.  I have no dead person story to tell with this one.  Make a joke here about how all my lazy days are about to end forever-actually I'm not worried about that.  I am looking forward to days of exploration with my little boy.  I can't wait for the first time he discovers airplanes, cars, trains, etc.  I could make a list of one thousand things.  The first twenty-five seconds of this song are as strong as any intro I've ever heard.  I can listen to it over and over again.  In fact, I just did.  Seven times.

7. "It's Money That Matters"-Randy Newman.  With a strong assist from Mark Knoppfler on guitar (which with # 1 gives him two appearances a la Miss Enya.  Of all of the people that I used to know/Most never adjusted to the great big world.  This is the only Randy Newman song that doesn't make me want to break something and then impale myself on a spike.  All of these people/are much brighter than I/In any fair system they would flourish and thrive/But they barely survive/they eke out a living/they barely survive.

8. "Oceanside"-Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians.  I saw this band in '89 opening for REM in Iowa City and had no idea who they were for about five years until I went into a used CD shop next to my apartment and the owner gave me this.  I'd love to know if they played this song.  Wish I'd paid closer attention.  Stick around for the hum at the end.

9. "Miss Sarajevo"-Passengers.  Better known as U2.  Pavarotti (I know I spelled that wrong-oops, maybe not.  Why is he in spell check?) has a solo at the end of this of which I have no clue what he is actually singing.  This makes me think of a documentary I saw a long time ago about Sarajevo during the war, when they had the Miss Sarajevo Beauty Pageant.  At the end, the dozen or so ladies in competition came out on stage dressed in one-piece bathing suits and high heels, posed for a moment or two, and then unfurled a banner that said "Please don't let them kill us."  It's impossible to ever forget that.

10. "Me and Sarah Jane"-Genesis.  I've known one Sara in my life, I think, and one Jane.  I have never met anyone named Sarah Jane. 

11. "Crazy Love Vol. II"-Paul Simon.  I don't know where Vol. I is.  I always think of Fat Charlie as someone else when I hear this song, someone who was not an architect but had the same bevy of problems he seems to have in this song.

Keep the car running

08 December 2007

Hurry up and wait

That is what our life is like now: wait.  Wait some more.  Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait.  It has been this way for about two weeks, and will continue to be so until our son decides he wants to join the human race.

It's driving me nuts.

And yes, of course it is harder on my wife, since she's caring the little bugger.  She gets bigger everyday.  I can't imagine how any of it feels.  She has this thing living inside her; it likes to move all the time, and it is particularly fond of poking her in the ribs.  But she's not blogging this.

Waiting for our son to be born is unlike anything I have ever experienced before.  I've been nervous before.  I don't feel like I am now, however, maybe I am so perpetually nervous that I don't understand it.  For the length of the pregnancy I have been waiting for all of this to "hit me."   I remember when I bought my wife's engagement ring was when it "hit me" that I was getting married.  We've bought a crib.  A dresser.  A car seat.  A stroller.  Lots and lots of clothes (OK, some of these things have been bought by others, obviously), etc. etc. etc.  Everything is ready.  We just need a baby.  So when will this "hit me"?

This baby boy is going to be here within a few weeks (he's due the 22nd, but if he waits that long his mother may never speak to him).  From the middle of summer I have said December 14th, which is six days away.  Six days.  Holy schnikies.  We are about to become parents.

Every time I see the empty crib, when I see all the clothes in the closet, the bottles in the pantry I find myself wondering how much longer?  I haven't been in a position like this in a long time, where I have to wait and wait for something and I have no control over it.  I can't remember how long it has been since I've had to deal with something like this.  It certainly has returned the anticipatory feeling of Christmas that I used to have as a kid.  But this is the birth of my first child, one of those "never again" events.  I might have more kids, but only one gets born first.  This is an event, man.  Why aren't I going more insane?

I was on the train a week or so ago heading into the city when a woman with a baby boy got on and sat a few seats in front of me.  The kid was maybe six months old, and once he saw my face, he never stopped staring at me.  At first I thought his smile was cute, then I thought it sinister, like he knew what was coming soon and was saying "Ha!  You have no idea what you are in for!"  God, he was adorable.  And for the rest of the afternoon I kept telling myself that I get to have one of these soon.

If he ever decides to get here.  He can take his time.  My fingernails will grow back.

Time for a hurry-up-and-wait random eleven:

1. "Some Days Are Better Than Others"-U2.  Great.  Cryptic messages right off the bat.

2. "When the Levee Breaks"-Led Zeppelin.  I couldn't make this up.  Maybe I should change the lyrics: "If he keeps on pushing the water's going to break..."

3. "Promenade"-U2.  I have a cousin who is a U2 freak.  She once tried to scale the giant fence outside his home in Killeney (I was there-she didn't get a foot off the ground).  Her name is Teri.  This song has a moment where Bono sings "Oh, tell me, tell me that you will dance with me" except it sounds like he says "Teri will you dance with me?"  I'll never forget her reaction when I finally got her to understand this.  We had to listen to it fifty-seven times.

4. "Ain't So Easy"-David + David.  More parental advice from a group that disappeared faster tham Amelia Earhart.

5. "Readymade"-Beck.  Hmm.  At the beginning some is singing through one of those voice things that make you sound like a robot. It sounds like "baby boy."  Let's see if I get the truth when I google the lyrics: nope. Nobody knows.

6. "Is It Any Wonder?"-Keane.  I suppose you can twist the title of any song to fit a baby scenario, but this is starting to freak me out just a bit.  I swear I am not altering anything.  This is all random.  I always think about Barcelona, Spain when I hear this song because of the line "nothing left in this old cathedral/just these sad lonely spires."  Makes me think of the Sagrada Familia (it's a fascinating building, and the Wikipedia page has a video tout towards the end).

7. "Come Talk To Me"-Peter Gabriel.  The first and only song that I have seen sung in a telephone booth live in concert.  There's a great story about a hobo giving my the eye later that night, but I ain't telling that here.

8. "The Rebels"-The Cranberries.  No group has more songs with lyrics that I can't decipher than the Cranberries.  Dolores O'Riordan wails like a Banshee.  There's a part here when she sings "it wasn't often/that we fought at all."  I didn't get it until the ten-thousandth time I listened to it.  That reminds me of another story (which I can tell here): when I was six I bought a cartoon book at a garage sale, and in one of them, a mother buffalo was admonishing her young buffalo, looking down at him and saying"did I just hear a discouraging word?"  I didn't get it.  More than twenty years later I was at work when all of the sudden it hit me, it's because of the lyric from "Home on the Range."  I wasn't even thinking about it, it just decided to pop up into my head.  I was so excited that I told the story to my boss.  She thought I was nuts.

9. "When I Want You"-Del Amitri.  This band is vacationing with David + David somewhere.  And I just did this again: I misspelled a word early within it, and instead of clicking the cursor over the error I deleted everything back to the error.  What a colossal waste of time.

10. "The Heart of the Matter"-Don Henley.  Probably a good candidate to delete from the 'pod since I always skip over it.  The Eagles have turned into Wal-Mart whores anyway.

11. "Everybody Wants to Rule the World."-Tears for Fears.  Yes they do.  Mitt Romney even gives religious speeches about it.  I've done so well to avoid politics here, because both sides make me insane (tell me who is more qualified among the candidates then Bill Richardson?  He's been a successful governor, an ambassador to the UN (hello, foreign policy) and an energy secretary.  He also has a distinguished record in diplomacy, which will be the most important thing that the next president of the US will need).  I'll have to address this eventually, of course, but for now it makes my head spin.  It's bad enough my son has to be born under GW, but he might have to live his first four years under Guiliani, Clinton or Romney?  Whoa.