Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Gen X Parenting Primer

One of the advantages of being born into what was once called Generation X is that we were shorn of many of our illusions early on. Many of these shattered illusions involved the fallibility of pop music, it’s true—I mean Nirvana was basically just a stopgap gap between hair metal and boy bands in the grand scheme of it all—but the more meaningful wake up calls involved marriage; its tenuous nature, its unreliability, but also its central importance to the development of children that come from such unions.

Like many of my friends, and probably more than a few of you reading, my parents divorced. They separated when I was 11, and the legal documents were finally finished when I was 17, but that’s technical talk. The marriage was rent asunder when my dad left home for good when I was 11. I remember the night well. Particularly I remember him taking a small-bore rifle out from one of the closets in the master bedroom to take to his new home. Whoa! How did I miss that? Like any kid I’d been a true busybody when it came to my parent’s wardrobe, looking at all those sport coats, and thinking, I’m going to be like that some day, a man dressed for business. When I was much, much younger I also tried to walk in my mother’s gold high heels, but that’s perhaps best left to another, more alternative blog. One I will not write.

But let’s get back to the issue at hand, divorce. Divorce is legal talk, it’s the separation that is so hurtful to the kids. I didn’t love one parent more than another. I adored them both. I would run to greet my father when he came home from work when I was young, and he’d lift me high in the air. He would tell me bedtime stories that were so damn good, I had no idea he was completely making them up until I already was not such a little kid anymore. But I didn’t care, I wanted him to tell them to me anyway.

I remember that so well. It probably is what started my nascent story-telling impulse, one I still indulge. (Ha!) He would tell me about some wacky, Rabelaisian adventure my various stuffed animals were on—I had 14 of them that I slept with most nights, god I was a tenderhearted kid—and then there would be a critical juncture in the story. Something BIG was about to happen, a new character would emerge and make it all congeal into a logical ending. I just didn’t know who! My dad would look me right in the eye and ask: “Who do you think showed up?”

I would wrack my brain. I didn’t know! I would finally throw out a name of one, or another, of my favorite recurring bedtime story characters.

“Jake the snake?”

My dad was always amazed.

“How did you know?” he ask, his eyes wide.

I didn't! Just lucky, I guess!

Of course later I finally figured out, through such interludes, that the stories were, in fact, all cobbled together on the spot. Because every character I ever called out was the right one. Even I, with my limitless capacity to hear a good story, got wise. But I didn’t care, I kept on asking daddy to tell them to me.

Other fond memories of Dad at home include sitting with him while he watched the news, on our old, extremely uncomfortable couch. Where other families had big, plush couches you could sink into ours was kind of small, and covered in a red, black and yellow checked pattern. The sofa itself was covered in what felt like burlap. Match this with our wall-to-wall tomato red carpeting and you’ve got yourself one swinging '70s allergy pit.

Still, I loved being next to my father while he watched the news, or read. My face would get hot, I would even sweat from the closeness, but I didn’t care.

My mother, of course, was just, to me, the epitome of kindness, and unquestioning love. We were tight from the moment I was born, and still are today, and this will never change. I hope many of you feel the same way about your mothers. I am lucky to feel this way about mine.

Clearly, I didn’t want either parent to leave. I mean, yeah, it was horrible when they fought, and it terrified me, the way mortals quiver when angry gods clash. And, due to business, my father had to go away on longer and longer business trips. Still, which child wants his world torn asunder?

When the split was final I only cried for some time, as it wasn’t so terribly different from day to day life before. My father would travel a lot, as already noted, so on an average day him not being home was not such a surprise. But over time the missed days began to accumulate, as did the gaps in my knowledge of what it means to be a man, boyfriend, husband and, eventually, father. How could it not? It wasn’t in my memory. I, like my dad, was improvising, but the stakes were a little higher. I created my whole identity from what I could pull from the ether, and the good examples around me that I could cling to. I hoped it was enough. But I will say this: it took me a long time to get it right.

I won’t get into what deficiencies these gaps may or may not have given me. It’s not to say here. I love my parents, and it’s not fair to blog their parenting ups or downs to the world. I am sure I will have noteworthy parenting faults of my own.

But what their divorce gave me, again like many of you out there, probably, is a pathological fear of having my marriage turn out the same way, inflicting the same issues upon my own child.

This makes being a parent a scary, scary thing for us Generation X folks. We were the first real generation to be raised with divorce as a normal, everyday part of life. In the olden days parents stayed together, for better or worse, richer or poorer. For poorer mainly, come to think of it, as no one really had any money in this country—at least not widespread money—until after WWII. So parents stayed together out of necessity, unless someone died.

Affluence, of course, changed that. I see in my parent’s generation a belief, particularly among the men I am sorry to say, of new possibilities, of a newfound respect for the rights of an individual to pursue their own happiness, even if it meant divorce. Many took that option. I can’t know if these men became, in fact, happier, but I know many of their kids were left to wonder what it’s all about, and were much less happy for the wondering.

I guess all this is a long-winded way, sorry, of saying that for me, and for Randi, (her parents divorced, too) we are part of an unlikely vanguard: kids who know how terrible divorce is firsthand, but still are willing to get married and raise a family together. Is it foolishness? Is it an acceptance that things will sometimes be rough, and that’s okay? Is it this idea that even if the odds are not what we’d like they’re good enough?

Maybe it’s all of these things, but it’s also faith. Faith that we won’t make the same mistakes our parents made. We’ll probably make new ones, just the same, but not the same ones. Possibly it’s faith that we know from the pain still in our hearts that while some wounds never heal, we don’t have to pass the pain along. We have choices. This makes marriage joyous, but also scary. We can't say we weren't warned. These things happen. Only we can prevent them.

It’s a scary world, in general, I suppose. Oil tops $130.00 a barrel and you just know it’s going to go higher; if not this year, then next. So much of what is misinterpreted as the “American dream” was built on the shaky back of that viscous liquid. So we can kiss a lot of our collective material dreams goodbye, unless we collectively strike it rich. Randi and I, again, are probably not atypical in thinking that maybe this means we need some new dreams.

Plus, with global warming, soon polar bears might not be the only ones looking for some dry land. I live in a city that’s incredibly susceptible to flooding, despite our amazing lack of beachfront. I love it here, but let’s hope the water level doesn’t get too much higher. Again, Randi and I are probably not atypical in thinking that maybe this means we have to appreciate the nice, temperate days of this spring, but our child will always wear sunscreen.

It’s a scary world when you consider how we are really just one massive terrorism event away from things changing very much, and forever. We both lived through Sept. 11, 2001 in New York. I met Randi, in fact, just a few months later. Whatever that day has become to many Americans—sadly a second Memorial Day for some—it was very real to us. I lost a source who worked in the ‘Towers. We weren’t close, but I knew him. Randi potentially almost lost a lot more, but she chose to not go downtown that morning. Again, we are not so different from many of you who are trying to live and build in the shadow of where the ‘Towers used to be, even if only in your minds. Yet we choose to try.

So that’s the world we Gen X’ers inherited and now are helping to perpetuate, as we now call at least a few shots.

Broken homes, perhaps some bad examples from those broken homes, and a scary macro-picture, this is our reality. Yet, maybe this is our moment, us Gen X’ers, because we were the generation that was supposed to shrug off things, to say well, whatever. Never mind war without end and divorce. We were made for these, perhaps reduced, times. It’s a strangely optimistic feeling, being freed of a malfunctioning American dream. Now let’s get down to what works.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Getting Started Pt. 3: The Tit Vampire

The first major struggle once we got Stella home was that she cried, a lot. We had heard of the dreaded “colicky baby” syndrome, and hoped and prayed that it wouldn’t happen to us. While doctors, even now, aren’t totally sure what colic is one thing we do know is that it involves massive amounts of crying from the baby. Often babies develop it after a couple of weeks of life, and it can last for weeks, if not months. And, lucky us, our baby had it.

We had set up our bedroom so that Stella’s bassinet was on the side of the bed, just about at bed height. This way, if the baby should need anything, we would know, right away. We shouldn’t have worried.

Almost from the first night Stella started to cry. And not just cry, but shriek and wail, in a way that was akin to one of those little air-horns that people bring to football games. This baby, so slight at birth, was a powerful little demon. Making matters worse it seemed that she hated to sleep. Whereas our baby books all told us that newborns sleep up to 18 hours a day our baby barely slept eight hours a day, if that. The rest of the time was either spent sucking on a booby, or crying. In fact eventually I started to call her the Tit Vampire, as she drained Randi not only of milk, but energy, and, eventually, patience. The result was an extremely stressed out mom and dad.

It also included a stressed out grandma, too. Randi’s mother Judy slept on our couch for the first two weeks of Stella’s life. She was here to help us, and do whatever it was that needed doing. As such she cleaned the apartment, did dishes, and bought groceries. All of this was a great help. But she couldn’t help us as Stella cried and cried for the breast. Once she’d get the breast she’d latch onto it with a fierceness until all the milk was gone. Then she’d suck on the dry breast, until the pain of it made Randi disengage from her, and then she would cry some more, getting red faced in the process.

Since it was too early to bottle feed Stella Judy was unable to hold her and feed her, which is a common thing for grandmothers to want to do. So she felt like there wasn’t all that much she could do to help us, which, I think, made her feel bad.

But the truth was, no one could help us. Nothing worked.

One night I put Stella in her car seat as she screamed right in my face, and gently, gently rocked her for about an hour. She would almost fall asleep, almost fall asleep, and almost fall asleep. Each time she would then awake from her near slumber madder than ever, and louder than ever, too. Finally, I got her to sleep, if only for a little while. I then smugly thought: I’ve got this baby all figured out. I would take the time, and gently rock her, every night. It never worked again.

Another night I held her and sang “The Summer of ‘69” for almost 25 minutes. Miraculously it worked, but I had to stop when Randi busted out laughing, as I sang, over and over, the refrain: “It was the summer of ’69, ohhhhh yeahhhh.” Eventually I started to sing it so slow and low that it resembled a Gregorian chant. Stella liked it, actually, but it was too much Bryan Adams for me to bear.

After several weeks we bought this stuff called gripe water, which is made out of, I think, sugar and ginger. It’s non-toxic, always a plus, and is supposed to calm a baby’s stomach down, kind of like Tums. That worked like a charm … for exactly two nights, and then it never worked again.

During one particularly nightmarish stretch Stella cried for, no lie, 36 hours in a row, sleeping, at most, three hours in that whole time. Randi held her, but couldn’t help her. Finally, she cried herself out, and slept for eight hours in a row, like a drunk that had been on some kind of insane bender. But our nerves were shot.

Despite the ongoing crying, and lack of sleep, Stella kept on putting on weight, and growing.

Every time we’d see the doctor, too, she’d be on her absolute best behavior, which was in a way, kind of irritating. On the one hand I was glad she was giving us a break, but on the other it made us look hysterical. I mean, we called our pediatrician’s office, during the first month of Stella’s life, at least half a dozen times, at our wit’s end. Often it would be night, or before the office even opened. The voice on the other end would tell us that “in case of an emergency” we could leave a number and the doctor would call us back.

But the word, “emergency” was hard to quantify. Isn’t crying for 36 hours an emergency? True the baby is eating, and doesn’t have a fever, but for god’s sake, this seems like an emergency to us! Then we’d get the doctor on the phone, and they would patiently explain that, despite what we think, the baby isn’t dying. I guess that can be a cue: lots of crying does not always equal dying.

Finally, Stella stopped her colicky episodes nearly as suddenly as they began. The reason? Randi stopped eating eggs. Well, whatever it takes.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Getting Started Pt. 2: If Only I Knew...

This is a list of things that I just didn't know until I became a parent. For you wise-asses out there, yes, this is only a partial list.

1. That healthy baby poo is yellow, with little things that look like mustard seeds in it. I know I just wrote about this, but this still blows me away. Seriously, mustard seeds? Wow.

2. That babies are born unable to shed tears as their tear ducts are closed at birth.

3. That babies are born without knee caps.

4. That newborns really can't see, either.

5. That nursing mothers probably shouldn't have sushi, for some stupid reason. (Note: the whole sushi ban for pregnant women and new mothers kind of doesn't make sense. Last I checked Japan was doing okay, population-wise, at least.)

6. That some babies just don't like to sleep.

7. That it takes the remnants of the umbilical cord way too long to finally fall off, and that it looks pretty nasty when it finally does. And that it starts to smell!

8. That you basically shouldn't take your baby anywhere for its first few weeks of life if you can avoid it, as it has very little in the way of immunity.

9. That I suddenly would need to wash my hands more than Lady MacBeth.

10. That what we make for dinner can have a nasty effect on my wife's breast milk. As a result, no more Thai food! Which sucks, because we love Thai food, but it made the baby literally cry for a day straight because she got colic.

11. That colic is a digestive condition where your baby gets such bad gas that it turns into a something as loud, persistent and maddening as a car alarm.

12. That I would become even more nervous when the baby is silent and wake her up just to make sure she is alive during the night.

13. That the only song that I can sing that soothes her is "The Summer of '69" by Bryan Adams. Parents, be careful of what you play for the baby when she's in the womb!

14. That people will send you things, unbidden, from all over the world.

15. That when I tell people without kids what it's really like--crappy sleep, increased stress and pressure--they get kind of a weird, upset look on their face. But then I tell them I wouldn't change it for anything, and their look becomes even more strange.

Getting Started Pt. 1: The Green Baby?

One of the first adjustments we had to make involved space. Stella herself is tiny; as noted she was just a touch over seven pounds at birth. But her trail of stuff was, right from the start, enormous.

Which brings up a larger issue: the green baby. By this I don’t mean a baby that due to merconium a baby has a greenish tint to their skin (as Stella, in fact, had at birth), but rather the conundrum of how to square living, or trying to live, in many ways, a “green” life with having and raising a child. Let’s face it; short of mowing down a few acres of virgin rain forest to get some kindling there’s little any of us will ever due that will consume more resources than having a child. And the enlarged carbon footprint isn’t just for one generation, but for all the generations to follow, should we be so lucky as to ever see grandkids. (God, I sound like an old yenta already! Stella, no pressure on the grandkids front, okay? How about you, say, learn how to talk first?)

But, it’s a real issue. Randi and I try to keep our carbon footprint, by American standards at least, pretty low. We put a brick in our toilet bowl in order to use less water. We only use our air conditioner if we have to, and then we set it on the energy saving mode. We live in New York City so we take public transportation all the time. Or at least I do; Randi’s basically been apartment bound since the baby’s been born, poor thing. We recycle everything, which makes our kitchen look kind of messy sometimes, but we feel it’s worth it. We switched out our light bulbs for those fluorescent jobs that kind of resemble soft-serve ice cream. True we switched some of those bulbs back because the incandescent light is so much better, but we try! We turn off lights when we leave rooms, turn off the faucet when we brush our teeth, and so on.

I mean, we’re not perfect, on this front. I often forget to bring my own bag to the supermarket, and as a consequence we have a collection of plastic bags that we may or may not re-use. We have a car these days, so we sometimes use it, consuming gas. We eat meat, which consumes way, way more energy than vegetarian dishes. This is doubly bad because we actually love to eat light when we can, as we feel better. But often the meat thing is kind of a crutch, there out of habit and convenience.

But there is almost no true environmentally friendly way to have a baby. Let’s face it, there just isn’t. You can do everything you please to reduce the impact your baby makes, but there are several factors working against you. For starters, the entire baby-industrial complex.

That’s my name for the infant care and products industry: the baby industrial complex.

Because as the parents out there probably know, the minute you have a kid you feel like you’ve been sucked into a whole ‘nother rabbit hole of mass and conspicuous consumption, or at least that’s the ongoing pressure around you.

This, by the way, isn’t a terribly different feeling than what we around here call the wedding-industrial complex, whereby a perfectly normal couple learns that the napkins they want for their wedding now cost four times as much as they should, because they are for nuptials. And that everything costs four times as much as it should, when it comes to weddings. And the evil bride magazines that make young, beautiful women feel fat and poor, no matter how hard they try to ignore the consumerist drumbeat. Well, in many cases even if the brides-to-be don’t start out poor and fat they sure end up poor, because everything for a wedding is as expensive as they can make it. Like, seriously, $1000 for a shitty-tasting wedding cake? Really?

So then you do what society tells you to do, and get married, and have children as a result, like we did. And our reward? More useless crap in our lives than I could ever, ever imagine.
The first culprit/moral dilemma, of course, is diapers.

We decided that we wanted to use cloth diapers, because it would be better for the environment. But not initially because we felt it would just be too hard in the first few months of Stella’s life, what with us never having been parents before. So we got what they call “swaddlers” from Target, which are just really small diapers with pictures of the characters from Sesame Street on them. So our daughter can pee and poo on a drawing of Ernie or Big Bird, which I’m sure means a lot to her. They’re not the adult characters either, by the way, but the baby versions of those characters. As if the adult version of, say, the Cookie Monster, is just way too in your face for the average newborn. The average newborn that can barely see, that is. Well, anyway, I go on.

The thing about the diapers is not just that they will sit in a landfill until, literally, we are all buried in the next Ice Age/flooded by global warming. But that we go through so many of them. I never knew that a healthy kid will poo sometimes ten times a day. I mean, I should be so lucky, right? I go, depending on my coffee intake, well, a lot less than that.

And Stella, you see, is kind of a prima-donna when it comes to new diapers. No sooner have we clothed her rear in them then she’s ready to christen them. Here’s an example from two nights ago, to illustrate the point.

She awoke at 4:00 a.m., crying. Randi checked her diaper, and found, lo and behold, that it had some poopy in it. Dad to the rescue. I changed the diaper. Then, seconds after I changed it, Stella got a funny look on her face on the changing table, and blammo!, made more poo. I changed the diaper again. She did it again! I changed it again, she did it again! Now clean, I put her in her bassinet. She did it again! Randi changed her diaper … you can guess what happened next.

This girl loves the feeling of new diapers when it comes time for her to poo. It’s like nothing less will do.

And the diaper bag starts filling. Every day there is a new, filled bag of diapers waiting. Some are heavy with pee. Some are heavy with poop and pee. Some are actually kind of light, because Stella just had a little bit to excrete. You get the picture, I’m sure. I’m now a connoisseur of baby poo and diapers, by the way. I will even open up a used one if Randi thinks it’s worth taking a look at. Hmm, does it have the suitably right, yellow color? Better yet are there mustard seeds in it? Judges, I give this poo an 8.9!

But our environmentalist dilemma doesn’t end there.

Why, oh why, is everything made for babies absolutely enormous, and made out of plastic?

Here are just the things we either bought new for the baby, or received as presents. Our baby bath is a blue monstrosity about the size of a little car. It’s plastic, with plastic toys. For sponge baths we put her on a foam thing roughly in the shape of a bear. Our car safety seat is a large plastic shell that clips into another plastic shell. These, the manufacturers say, should never be re-used. So that’s going into a landfill some day. Our stroller is plastic, and sits in our front landing area. We have a little jungle gym that unfolds onto the floor that is, at least partly, made of plastic. After we received it we realized our landlords had one that we could’ve used anyway. And that’s just stuff we received new. True, we also took as much used stuff as we could, but now it’s our job to either landfill this stuff when we’re done, or pass it along.

The true bane of my existence, though, is plastic baby chairs. Stella is now perfectly happy to spend hours at a time sucking on Randi’s boob. In fact often it’s the only thing that makes her happy. So why do we have two different folding plastic chairs for her for when she sits at the table? One of them is a folding high seat, and, I must say, I have come to loath this thing. I got it from my sister, and was happy enough to have it. But it’s enormous, awkward, heavy, and made in such a way that it almost constantly wants to unfold automatically and snap into readiness. For our little apartment it is way too big, and when I put it in the hallway, it blocked the walkway and became a fire hazard. Over and over again I tried to find new, innovative ways to store it—with it opening on me over and over again—until I finally gave up and just threw it in the basement.

There’s also a booster seat of some kind. I don’t even know what it does, but my sister offered it, and I took it. This too is made of plastic.

Then there’s our bassinet, which, although it isn’t made out of plastic—it's metal tubing—has an absurdly wide stance, taking up, it seems, like 20% of our bedroom. Seriously, the bed area, where the baby actually sleeps, is like one foot wide. But the wheels are about two and a half feet apart, which gives it an absurdly wide profile--like a Camero for babies--and makes it hard to wheel around, as it gets caught on everything.

And we are literally just getting started, I know. Stella will grow, and outgrow these plastic things. Meaning that there will be new plastic things on our horizon. Some of which will be hand-me-downs, but a lot of it will be new, because people like to buy toys for children they love, most of which, it must be said, are also plastic. After all, who wants old, crummy toys? And thus the cycle continues.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tiredness ... in pictures

So what can be said about the first few weeks back from the hospital? Lots of crying, lots of late night feeding, and that's just for us, the parents. The baby, Stella, that's a whole different story.

People keep on asking me if I'm tired, if I'm getting enough sleep. I always say, and mean it when I say it, that I am doing okay sleepwise. I add that Randi is the one doing more late night work. Because even if I change some poopy diapers at 3:00 a.m., Randi does that and awakes to feed the baby, which is an ongoing chore. I will get into all these issues into further posts: Stella's sleeplessness, Stella's ongoing hunger, Stella's colic, our various methods of trying to cope. Most of which fail.

But, here's the thing. I always say I'm not tired, but then I look at the photos snapped within the first few weeks of Stella's life, and I look wiped out in most of them. The camera doesn't lie, folks, it's all right below.

Randi, by contrast, always looks great. Despite being at her wit's end half the time, and feeding all night, she looks fresh as can be. It's inexplicable!

See: Randi

See: Dave

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Hospital Pt. 5: My Daughter, Keith Richards

Okay, I mean breast feeding is beautiful, and all that. But, yeah, it still kind of blows.

The problem is that breast feeding novices are lead to believe that it’s so natural. That nothing could be more natural, in fact. And it is. But what happens is that it leads us to confuse natural with easy, and from what I’ve seen at least, breastfeeding, like pimping, ain’t easy.

Here’s how easy breast feeding is supposed to be, how intuitive for mother and child.

One of the great stories of natural survival I’ve ever heard involves baby kangaroos, when they’re so young you can’t even call them a joey yet. They’re newborns about the size of a lima bean. But—and I heard this somewhere, I don’t know where—these kangaroos are so instinctively motivated to get milk that after birth they climb up their mother’s bellies, painstakingly, with all their strength, with everything they’ve possibly got, to get to a teat, latch on and live. The lima beans that can’t do this simply die. It’s nature’s way. Can you imagine? For them it’s like scaling the Palisades! Talk about instinct!

So you’d think, considering how much harder kangaroos have it, and yet somehow they manage, that breast feeding a newborn human child, with a highly motivated mother, would be kind of a cinch in comparison. I mean, after all, we have thumbs.


Now, I must say here, Randi was a fabulous mother within about three seconds of Stella’s birth. Listening to her coo and talk to the little one was a heartwarming experience. I wish I could replicate the instinctive chatter she knew to share with Stella, but her cadence is so sweet, it’s hard.

But, unfortunately, for the first several days of Stella’s life that sweet cadence became increasingly exasperated as she tried to get our reluctant baby to attach to the boob and get her anti-body slushy.

“C’mon sweetie, Mommy’s got a beautiful breast for you right here! It’s just waiting all for you,” she’d say as she held Stella next to her breast. The problem was that her nipple was still kind of inverted and flexible. What we needed were big old pencil erasers. Instead these kind of swayed back and forth. And Stella was having a hard time “latching on,” which is literally the moment when the child stops playing around and starts drawing from the boob. It’s fairly dramatic if you’ve never seen it. All of a sudden a crying, fussy newborn will get incredibly still, stop crying and become a sucking machine. And baby’s mouths are way stronger than I imagined. When I stuck my pinky in Stella’s mouth it started to feel badly squished within just a few moments.

But that latching-on moment proved elusive.

This was especially frustrating because we desperately wanted Stella, if nothing else, to get the colostrum. Colostrum is the clear liquid that squirts out before the milk. It is packed with anti-bodies, and can’t be replaced. It only lasts for a few days, though, and if the baby misses it, she misses it, which would disturb us to no end.

And she was missing it. Randi would literally stick her boob in Stella’s face, and Stella would either suck for a few moments and go to sleep, or turn her head. It just wasn’t working.

Fortunately, the hospital provided a mechanical breast pump in the room. At first I didn’t even know what it was. But once Randi put the little suction cups over her breasts, and the machine turned on there was no doubt. All of a sudden the suction kicked in for real, and, well, you can imagine what happened next. I don’t want to embarrass my wife here. I’ll just say that next time Stella tried to latch on her target was about three times bigger. And stiffer.

So that was part of what we were going through during our hospital stay.

Another part of it was that nurses seemed pretty much unwilling to leave us alone for more than two hours at a time; it must be in their union contract. It seemed that just as soon as all three of us got comfortable, or—heaven forbid—even got a little sleep a nurse, or janitor, would bust in to give Randi some kind of test, borrow our baby, or clean our room.

Also, one of the nurses quickly became our enemy.

She was youngish, probably in her early 20s, and had an eastern European accent. She popped in the first night, and quickly gave us a hard time.

“This room is too cold! You could harm the baby!”

Yeah, that’s what you want to hear when you’re a brand new parent. You're killing your baby. We turned up the heat. But the nurse’s mood didn’t improve upon subsequent visits. And we were getting ready to pounce in return.

We also had to fill out a surprising amount of paper work during this time.

One such item was how we wanted Stella to be registered with the Social Security administration. With pride I filled out her name, Stella Rae Serchuk. I took particular joy in writing down the name Serchuk, especially because up until that moment all the hospital documents, including my name tag, had the last name Skaggs on it. This is because Randi had registered under her own name. So for several days I suffered the slight indignity of being called Mr. Skaggs by all the staff whenever I wrested back my baby from their greedy, bureaucratic clutches.

(David Skaggs, by the way, is actually a former Congressman from Colorado that I once interned for. Nice guy, but that’s another story. Although not much of one; it was a pretty boring internship.)

I also felt pride because we had added one additional Serchuk to the world, which is saying something. I don’t know many Serchuks. Do you? Sometimes I get the feeling if you rounded all of us up together we’d just barely make a minyan. (Although it should be noted that there are two other David Serchuks. One is my uncle, no big surprises there. But the other one is a large, Midwestern auto racer and mechanic. I am a nerdy writer with glasses. We must’ve been switched at birth!)

Another thing we were required to do before leaving is sign a document testifying that we watched an anti-baby shaking documentary. I found this slightly patronizing as I knew that shaking a baby is very dangerous, but I guess they feel that many other people just haven’t figured this out yet.

There were minor victories along the way, though, too. Soon--although it was a slow-going process--Stella managed to suck down several feedings of colostrum. In a few days the milk would come in, we were told, and she would start to sleep better.

Stella, you see, was prone to waking up every few hours, no matter what we did, and crying until she was near a nipple. And the few times she did want to sleep for more than three hours we had to wake her up to feed her. We didn’t want to, that’s what we were told to do. But it was no fun. Stella wouldn’t want to suck, but she couldn’t go back to sleep anyway. The answer? More crying!

Basically, though, we learned that the kid just didn’t want to sleep. And she didn’t necessarily want to eat, either. She just wanted Mom’s boob near her face. With such symptoms I soon realized that we had given birth not to a baby, but to a tiny, adorable, Keith Richards.

This frustrated Randi, who kept on trying to talk Stella into breast feeding.

“C’mon baby girl, you’ve got to get all your colostrum so you don’t get sick,” Randi would plead. Stella would take a few sips of boob bourbon turn her head and pass out. For about a minute, until she’d start crying again.

But Stella wasn’t the only one getting antsy. By day two we were all ready to leave the hospital. It’s amazing to me that women used to stay in the hospital for over a weak after childbirth as a rule. Randi was feeling good enough that she wanted to go home after one night; another happy consequence of the natural birth.

Soon enough, the big day came. Taking our congratulatory flowers, and Mylar balloons and stuffing them in the trunk we clicked Stella into her brand spanking new baby seat, and I carefully, carefully drove the five minutes to home. Stella had been fidgeting, but she immediately calmed down once the car started moving. The girl like to travel, again like Keith Richards. I parked the car, and we brought our new love home. We'd done a lot of work to make it ready for her, and couldn't wait to share it.

It was April 16, and we were now officially on our own.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Hospital Pt. 4: The Lurking Fear

I rang Abbie’s bell. Thank god, I thought, that our landlords only live two doors down. I really don’t know what I would’ve done, in the middle of the day, with all my building-mates at work, in slippers.

Abbie came to the door after a moment. She’d been downstairs doing work, she said, and invited me in.

I apologized for disturbing her, but she was very friendly about it, and quickly found extra keys. Not wanting to keep her from her project, I took the keys and promised to have them back in a few moments.

“You can just drop them through the mail slot,” she said.

You know what? Abbie is a great landlord. She and her husband, David, have blazed one route that Randi and I imagine we could go down, eventually. They are successful business owners, but they still make time for lengthy summer vacations with their kids. Plus David is forever playing catch with his son, Henry. Not long ago I joked that the only reason they had kids was so that David, who’s kind of a jock, had someone to play with.

Abbie is more of an artist, in appearance and general demeanor, although I think she’s an architect by trade. She has glasses and fairly short hair. She’s always been very friendly and laid-back with us.

David is a school teacher, at a Quaker school, I believe, and has a high energy about him. We don’t really know them intimately, all these years later, but we do feel comfortable with them, and we’ve come to them for advice. Specifically, because we were interested in actually buying an apartment before the Great Apartment Hunt began. One night we sat down with them to discuss whether it made sense to buy, and what kind of lead time they’d need so we’d get our deposit back. They told us they needed just a few weeks lead for us to get our money back and gave us sound advice about buying. (I.E., do it!) Seriously, how many landlords would do that?

Well, anyway, Abbie had the keys. I took them, but before I could leave she stopped me.

“Hey, so what happened with the baby?”

Oh yeah, the baby! In my grogginess I had forgotten.

“Right! Sorry Abbie! Yes, she’s here, and wonderful. Her name’s Stella Rae, and she’s just over seven pounds. She’s pretty adorable, although with a name like that I think I’ve doomed her to a life as a blues guitarist.”

Abbie and I went back and forth like that until she felt reasonably caught up, and then I left. Back inside the apartment I ate a bowl of Cheerios, took a shower, put on some new clothes and went back outside, feeling like a new man. Then I carefully dropped Abbie’s set of keys in her mail slot, and drove back to the hospital. This time, I said, I would be damned if I paid for parking.

Luckily there was a free spot down the street from the hospital. As I locked the car the sun felt gloriously warm. Weeping cherry trees graced the brownstoned streets as I walked back to my wife, child and life.

Once inside the hospital, however, it was as dreary as ever. I can’t speak for other hospitals but after not very long I realized that, as far as amenities went, New York Methodist combined the worst hotel ever with the worst airplane food ever.

And here was some of that airplane food now. While I was away Randi had either ordered, or had been given, some kind of gristly meat on the bone. She’d barely touched it, favoring the flavorless vegetables and sugary fruit cocktail instead. Still hungry, despite my bowl of cereal, I gamely tackled the bone. Key word here: gamely. I felt every inch the predator, or more fittingly, the scavenger. No surprises here, it tasted pretty bad.

After that relatives started to filter in. That day we saw my mother, brother, father, my friend Eric, and Randi’s friends Alex and Don. Lots of pictures were taken, and the baby was passed around like firewater at a hobo convention.

The last to leave was my father, who drove Judy back to our apartment, so she could cat sit, while Randi and I attempted to cram ourselves onto the slightly larger than twin-sized adjustable bed. By 10:00 p.m. we were ready to sleep, and that’s when a nurse came in, and told us they were taking Stella to conduct some kind of test. Exhausted we agreed, and dozed off.

But not for long. We awoke just two hours later, realizing the baby still hadn’t returned. And yes, I admit, we panicked a little. Did they steal her? So soon?

I walked to the nurse station, asking, no DEMANDING, to see my baby, now. The nurse at the desk looked at me sympathetically—they were only trying to help us get some sleep, in reality—but soon they found the child and wheeled her out to me to take back. Man, what a sight for sore eyes our baby was.

It’s amazing how quickly I grew dependent on having Stella in my life. Seriously, it took about five minutes.

When I got back to our room Randi was wide awake. Stella was not. She slept on peacefully.

I stood there and watched her breath. Terrified of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), terrified of a nurse already taking her again, but also just to see her tiny chest heave up and down.

Soon her breaths became sharper, and emerged into, yes, cries! This is how new we were to parenting: even her cry delighted me.

“You hear that?” I asked Randi. “It sounds like ‘mama!’”

I know, all this sounds kind of dopey. Believe me, we got over the cuteness of her cries pretty quick.

At this point I did my first solo diaper change, having been instructed by Randi earlier in the day. I was terrified that if I did it wrong I would somehow do something terrible to the kid.

This is a good time to mention that this terrified feeling pretty much described my entire first week of parenthood. And although we were certainly afraid of exterior things and people—such as baby thieves—I was much more afraid of myself.

Every time I held Stella I asked Randi if I was hurting her. When I laid her down it took about eight minutes each time, so scared was I of bruising her neck, and wounding her for life. When I held her and she cried, which happened a lot, I felt like I must be cracking a baby rib, scaring her, or just possessed bad baby mojo.

Judy had given me wonderful advice the day Stella was born: “Don’t be afraid of her! No matter what you do, you are her father, and she will love you.”

But I couldn’t believe that. I once stuck a pinky in her mouth during that first week so she could suck on something without breast feeding, to give Randi a rare break. She sucked for about three minutes, spit it out, and then went on a crying rampage. I freaked out, convinced I had somehow given my daughter stomach flu. I spent that night looking out for all these symptoms and then the next 48 hours were spent on constant alert as I watched for vomiting and runny stools. Guess what? All baby stools are runny! Some have what look like Dijon mustard seeds in them, but that’s about as firm as they get. But it didn’t matter, I was losing my mind.

Anyway, so I changed that diaper, somehow, despite my fear of rending her flesh on the very mild adhesive tape provided to close the diaper. God, I couldn’t have been gentler is she had been a landmine.

After my maiden diaper change Randi tried to breast feed her. We were on the natural kick, no formula for us. It was the breast all the way. Both of us had been bottle fed from the start and felt bummed that we missed out on all those anti-bodies. There was no way we’d let our kid get screwed like we did. All those mothers that went straight for the bottle made us mad. Were they just lazy? Did they even try?

But there’s one thing they don’t tell you about breast feeding. True, it is the most natural, and healthy, way for a child to eat. True, it can save a lot of money over formula, and uses less packaging, so it’s better for the environment. True it’s so central to life that it’s one of the basic things that defines what a mammal is.

But this is also true: breast feeding kind of blows.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Hospital Pt. 3: Dave Takes A Nap

Back in the delivery room they were getting packed for the short trek one flight up to our private room. I took my wife’s clothes and stuffed them in my backpack, and everyone else took what they could. At this point Julie prepared to say goodbye. But before she left she held Stella and gave her a little pep-talk.

“Welcome, baby girl! You were born on a beautiful spring day!”

That we got a private room sounds pretty posh, and you might even imagine it was, until you saw it. It was about the size of a small jail cell, dominated by a Craftmatic adjustable bed, two small chairs, and that was it. There was a slim closet that you could only get to by moving one of the chairs. There was also a TV, but to actually watch it would’ve cost extra so it stayed off for the duration of Randi’s visit.

It was now about 9:00 a.m. I had to go back to the apartment as our cats needed to be fed. Poor little suckers, they have no idea what was coming their way. I admit I was worried about how they would take it. Our older cat, Cromwell, is a proud, ebony feline, with an affectionate, but somewhat reserved, personality. I thought he would probably be fine. Our younger cat, Talisker, is a skittish black and white job, wiry and thin. He’s extremely affectionate but kind of nervous. I could see him making some kind of horrible cat-related disaster. But we would see.

Before I could worry about that I went to see about getting my parking validated. I walked down to the main admissions desk and they told me to ask security. Why would security validate parking, I wondered.

It turned out they didn’t.

There was no validated parking, at all. For anyone. Including newly minted parents.

Irritated, I walked through the automatic hospital doors to get to the car. Outside Park Slope bustled as people got ready yet another Monday. It was indeed, as Julie had said, a beautiful spring day, although a little crisp. But the sky was clear, and the sun shined. Mostly I was amazed that the last time I had walked into this hospital I was just another married man. Now I was a father. I expected almost that people could see a radiant, Dad-ish glow emanating from me, but if they could they didn’t make a big deal out of it. I also felt a little hung over, but from adrenaline, not booze.

Taking a deep breath I walked into the garage; the car was parked a few flights down. I had written the parking spot down in my notebook the night before, so I wouldn’t forget. I had felt pretty smart about this at the time. This is neither here nor there, although it’s perhaps worth noting how easily I am pleased when I do even the smallest amount of planning in advance. The car started and I drove up to leave.

At the window the woman looked at my ticket for a moment. I kind of hoped that she’d still let me off the hook, but it was not to be.

“That’ll be $30.00”

I gagged in disbelief, but there is no arguing with a parking meter attendant. The car had been in the lot 14 hours. Now, if it had been 10-to-12 hours I would’ve only paid $22.50, but such is life. I paid the bill, reluctantly, and drove home.

It was alternate side of the street parking on my block, another New York treat. For those not from New York, alternate side of the street parking is an odd system that’s evolved so they can clean the streets. Between 8:00 and 11:00 a.m. on Mondays you have to move your car, and for that brief window of time it is legal to double park. Then the next day those on the other side do the same thing. Soon a large, if odd-shaped vehicle that resembles a Zamboni slowly crawls up the side of the street, polishing the pavement with rotating brushes. The bottom line is if your car is still on the wrong side when the trash Zamboni drives up you’ll get a $45 ticket. In fact I once got two tickets during the same cleaning session. Those start to smart pretty quick.

I double parked on the Tuesday side and walked upstairs to the apartment. As usual Cromwell met me at the door. I looked around the apartment. Soon we would be coming back not only with a baby, but a mother-in-law, too. That’ll make six beings living in this one bedroom apartment. Good thing I liked everyone.

I fed the cats after giving them a brief rundown of what was to come; although I think the pep talk was more for my own benefit than for theirs.

After that I took a brief shower, and a nap. The plan was that I would catch up on some sleep and then drive back to the hospital in the early afternoon, while Judy took care of Randi.

I awoke at 10:45 a.m., with great difficulty, to move the car back to the Monday side. Grabbing the car keys, and throwing on a pair of slippers I went outside and realized I had locked myself out about two seconds after I heard the door close. That’s how tired I was. I had no phone, either. If Randi needed me, she couldn’t reach me, and I didn’t even have real shoes on.

My landlord had better be home.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Hospital Pt. 2: The Baby Aquarium

The baby aquarium is my name for where the nurses weigh, and clean the babies. You know, that area with all the glass, and the little infants mostly sleeping inside as various medical professionals handle them.

Judy followed close behind the nurse, as Stella was wheeled into the aquarium. I didn’t fully understand why she seemed so attentive, but she soon explained it to me.

You see, she explained, sometimes they switch the babies, either by accident or on purpose. And, being southern, she had a fairly gruesome story on tap to make me extra worried. This trait is something I joke about with my wife and in-laws: they love tales of woe, and horror, even as they pretend to hate them. But I have never watched so many cable TV shows about senior proms gone horribly wrong, haunted nursery schools, and unsolved animal murders as the during the time I have spent in their presence. The rest of the time they watch cooking shows.

Here is the gruesome story, though. My forgiveness requested in advance from my mother-in-law if I’ve muddled some details.

“There was this pregnant woman, you see, and this other woman murdered her, cut open her stomach and stole her baby,” she said. “She’d stalked her, and the worst part is, she had befriended the pregnant woman!”

So armed with such details I, of course, paid extra, extra close attention to as these suddenly much more suspicious nurses and doctors worked their voodoo magic from behind their plate glass window.

Of course, we still also beamed with pride. The first thing the staff did was sponge her off, then they dried her, and then started to weigh her; 7 lbs. 1 oz. Right on. The nurse looked, in my opinion, rather taken with Stella, and turned to us and smiled, raising a thumb’s up in our direction.

After that they put some identification tags on her ankle, in the baby version of those the ID bracelets they make prisoners wear on civilian leave. Then a doctor walked by, stuck a rubber-gloved finger in her mouth, and watched approvingly as she sucked. After that she was put in a bassinet right in front of us, and looked in our general direction. Although both Judy and I both knew that baby’s eyes don’t really work all that well in the first few weeks, we still felt quite pleased that she kept on looking in our direction.

Then Stella passed out. Eventually Judy went back downstairs to get back to her daughter, but I stayed at the window, watching my sleeping baby.

Soon a larger, much fatter baby was being washed behind Stella. I mean, this baby was fat! He looked kind of like a shar-pei dog, that Asian dog with all the fat rolls? He had rolls on his arms, and a round, bullet-shaped head. He had black hair, and his eyes were little slits. Actually he looked kind of adorable, even if I felt for the mother that had to push that one out.

To my right a doctor, in full surgical scrubs, stood, looking at the little boy. The doctor was fairly tall, with droopy eyes, and dark hair as well.

“Wow, that’s a big boy over there,” I said, making conversation.

“Yeah, 9 lbs. 6 ounces,” he said.

Man! Stella was over two pounds less and getting her out was an ordeal. I can only imagine.

I turned to the doctor again.

“Yeah, that’s a chunky monkey over there!”

He nodded.

We stood in silence looking at our respective babies for a few moments. Then I looked more closely at the doctor, and at the baby. Black hair, check. Droopy eyes, check. General fatness, check. Uh-oh.

“Hey, congratulations!”

He brightened.


We chatted a little. It turns out that his wife had had a C-section for the Chunky Monkey, although I didn’t ask what the extenuating circumstances were; this explained why he wore scrubs. I reddened, feeling pretty bad that I had basically insulted this guy’s new baby just a few moments after it was born. But he was on such a high, smiling through the glass at his new child that he didn’t seem bothered.

I, of course, continued to stare through the glass too. Partly out of adoration, partly out of stark terror that somehow someone will try to steal my new baby.

Eventually a doctor looked her over, and signaled me to go around a corner and speak to him.

“Congratulations,” he said, extending a hand. The doctor was a shortish man, with sharp eyes, and salt-and-pepper hair. “That’s a beautiful baby! Good work!”

I didn’t have much to say to this, as it hadn’t felt like work at the time. But I took the compliment in the spirit it was given.

The doctor handed me a card, and was very complimentary about the baby, saying that she was in perfect health, and her limbs and proportions were in the top 25% of some obscure baby-metric that I hadn’t heard of. I don’t know if this is what all doctors say to new parents, but he seemed sincere. Needless to say it made me favorably disposed to him. Then he handed me the card for his pediatric practice, and was on his way.

I continued to stand at the window for as long as I could, then I finally steeled up my nerves to walk to the desk of the aquarium, and find out what’s next.

“We’re going to keep her here for just a little while longer,” the nurse said. “We are going to examine her more, and do a few more tests. Then we will bring her to your room.”

“But how long will it take?”

“Don’t worry,” she said. “We’ll get her to you soon.”

Reluctantly, then, I turned away and walked back to my wife.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Hospital Pt. 1: Running And Doing

Gradually coming down from that incredible high, although still overjoyed by our new child, we spent the next hour or so still in the delivery room, enjoying Stella. More or less.

Of course there were still a few more minor details of the birth to go through, like passing the placenta. I’d always wanted to see it, but it happened while I was cutting the cord, so I missed that one. In all honesty it was kind of an anti-climax after the actual birth.

But I’ve always had special feeling for placentas. First of all because, like most typically ignorant guys, I had no idea what a placenta even was until I saw film of a live birth at sometime in my 20s, and then I was like, “what the hell is that?” Ever since then I thought we would save ours when the occasion came up.

Now, after the birth, I finally saw a real live placenta in person. The hospital staffers had put it in a little plastic tub, and it resembled a massive, veined, purple liver. In all honesty it looked just rich in iron and other healthy stuff. I didn’t know what I wanted us to do with it, but it was all a moot point, anyway, as we weren’t going to get it. The hospital makes you fill out so many forms, and go through so many hoops to get your own wife’s placenta, that you can tell they think of it more as some kind of contaminated, possibly nuclear, waste than something that just came from a human body.

So, with a small amount of regret, I had to let the placenta go.

With that came a larger issue, though. Today new parents have the option of saving blood from the umbilical cord, and freezing it at the cost of a least $1000. Later if a disease comes up with your child this precious blood can help them treat it. It, in my opinion, sets up an inevitable class conflict where rich people get another thing that poor or middle class people can’t afford that could save their baby’s lives. In all honesty we knew we couldn’t do it—we’d discussed it beforehand—so we regretfully had to pass on this. But it didn’t feel like an economic issue: it felt like an emotional one. Why can’t we just spend the money on our child? But we couldn’t, so we had to that let that go, too. For one of the first times in my life I found myself on the other side of a class conflict when it really mattered, and it felt terrible.

Anne also had to sew up part of Randi’s baby area, because she had a minor tear. This happened so fast, I barely even knew it was taking place. You’d think a needle going through that, of all areas, would kill someone, but Randi seemed to barely even notice. The tears were relatively minor, and Anne applied some anesthetic, but mainly, Randi dealt with it so well because it was such a small procedure when compared to birth. To which I say: wow, needles in the fun area, and it doesn’t hurt? In that case, having a baby must really, really hurt.

After these issues, though, we finally got to start to enjoy and love our child.

First of all, everyone got to hold her. And many photos were snapped.

At this point, Julie did us a huge favor by running out to buy us breakfast, which consisted of bagels, juice and, at least in my case, lox spread. This was really sweet, and really unexpected, but very much appreciated.

Also, as could be predicted, various phone calls were made to family and friends, with the understanding that they would get here as soon as was feasible.

But, I also had a job to do. We’d decided that we wanted a private room for our stay in the hospital. It was extra money, and, honestly, it pinched a little bit, but we decided it was worth it. Primarily because I wanted to sleep in the room with Randi and Stella the next two nights—the length of the hospital stay—and it wouldn’t be allowed if we shared a room with someone else.

So by 8:30 a.m., or so, I was on my way downstairs to the registration desk to make it happen. But it was still hard to move on from what I had just seen.

“I’m a new dad,” I confessed to a thoroughly unmoved orderly in the elevator as we went down.

“Just today.” The orderly, a young black man, barely nodded and waited for his floor.

Downstairs the functionaries behind the desk where I was to get the private room told me that, somehow, I had already done it all wrong. These functionaries were women, of indeterminate age, typical bureaucrats from their looks and actions.

“You can’t get the private room from us,” they said, handing me several sheets of paper to be filled out. “You have to bring these to the nurse on assignment upstairs, and get her to see if there’s room. Then you can have a room.”

“Also, how much will this all cost?” I asked. The nurse upstairs had told me it would be an extra $100 for the room, period. Now I found out it would be an extra $100 per night. But there was no going back. I thanked them for the information, and got going.

The women had a skeptical, seen-it-all look, as they sent me on my way. Of course I had only gone to their desk to start with because a nurse upstairs had told me that I had to see them. Now I went back upstairs to find someone, anyone, who could help.

I brought my multiple sheets of paper to the desk of the birthing center, which was its usual, busy self, abuzz with young, tired-looking doctors, the much more seasoned, and less white, administrative staff and the occasional midwife.

In fact here came Anne now.

“I just wanted thank you for all you did for us,” I told Anne as I stood at the desk, waiting for someone to accost.

Anne was gracious, and understanding.

“Your wife has a very high tolerance for pain,” she said.

This was true, although it’s funny. No one screams louder when they step on a tack than Randi, but when it came time to siphon a Thanksgiving turkey through a pneumatic tube she came through with flying colors.

Still overcome I hugged Anne, who returned the hug, although with perhaps slightly less enthusiasm than I had administered it.

At the desk itself I was shuffled from staff person to staff person. Eventually I was told I had to talk to a woman named Rachel, and that she’d be here eventually. After five minutes I saw a youngish-looking staffer, and asked if she was the famed Rachel. She was, and immediately told me to speak to someone else, the head nurse on call at that time, Mona.

Mona was a strong-looking black woman in her mid-to-late 40s, but her face looked kind, and understanding. Sometimes, as you’ve probably already figured, hospital staffers can have an exhausted, jaded aspect to them, but I felt Mona would be different. And, let’s be honest, no one can resist a brand new parent. And I really sold it.

“Hi Mona,” I said, smiling. “My wife Randi just gave birth about 20 minutes ago.”

Mona cut me off.

“What’s her name?”

“Randi Skaggs.”

“And what’s your name?”

“David Serchuk.”

Randi kept her maiden name, you see, which is a minor point of contention between us.

“And, anyway,” I continued, “we would really, really like to get a private room, if it’s at all possible. Can you help us?”

“Why didn’t you do this downstairs?” she asked.

“They told me to come to you!”

She sighed, and took my papers.

“Alright,” she said. “I’ve got some room. Room 101 on the fifth floor.”


She smiled, happy to have already made someone’s day, and it was only 8:45 a.m.

“And congratulations!”

Mona now took the forms, filled them out, and, poof, it was done, we had our room.

Back in the delivery room everyone was now chowing down on their various breakfasts. I grabbed my pumpernickel bagel, and started to eat although I wasn’t even hungry. And, not long after that, my adrenaline started to slowly drain away, replaced with lethargy and tiredness.

Randi, by contrast, looked fresh as a daisy. And so did the baby, by the way. Not to go on too much about it, but here was a wholly unexpected benefit of the natural child birth; both mother and child were un-drugged and totally alert.

Soon our first flowers came, from Rachel and Seth, great people that we only see socially through our other friends, Alex and her husband Don. This was totally unexpected and wonderful; it’s amazing who steps up for the big moments of your life. It also made us realize how great Rachel and Seth are anyway, and how much more we would like to see them. (Hey, guys, if you’re reading, this is still the case!)

Soon yet another nurse came into the room, and informed us that she needed to take Stella and wash her up, weigh her, and generally do what they always do at hospitals, which is isolate the child from its mother almost immediately. Can’t this wait? I guess not. They’d wanted to do it while I was getting the room thing straight, and Judy was going to go, but they decided they would wait for dad. So now they took Stella, put her in a rolling bassinet, and Judy and I followed her upstairs to the baby aquarium.