Anybody reading this blog may conclude that I’m more obsessed with the dead than the living. Maya is two months old already and all she has is a single entry, marking her arrival. As a new parent, keeping my head above the water was tough enough. Two months later, things feel a little more under control, the fears of a first time parent have subsided and there is a little more time to do other things, such as blog. So here is a two month highlights entry, from the time the sweet child arrived.
Week 1: Her birth itself was breath-taking, for Shanthala quite literally. After several hours of labor, with Maya deciding to not head down the canal, she came out from the belly. She landed on the OR table, whimpered for a second and lay still. I said “Hi sunshine” and she lifted her head up and turning it, seemed to focus where I was standing. I couldn’t believe a new born could do that. She had me at hello.
There’s so many things that can go wrong as a life tries to take hold, so many fears. Just calming myself as we struggled through questions of is she getting enough food, when will the breast milk come, is her weight loss too much, was exhausting. I struggled to wake up when she woke up in the middle of the night.
She came home on Valentine’s Day. It just happened to be the fourth day after her C-section arrival. But there she was, coming home on the day of love, coming with such hope and life. I drove her home with the infant seat unbuckled and just sitting on the car seat. It had come loose accidentally and I hadn’t noticed.
Week 2: The struggle over getting her breast milk continued. We met with a lactation consultant who suggested that Shanthala separately pump milk while I fed her in the hope that she could pump more often thereby stimulating the arrival of milk. I fed her with my finger for one night, exhausting myself in trying to avoid from her developing nipple confusion, getting too used to the easy flow of milk from a bottle that she’d refuse to suckle later on. We experimented with bottles to find one that would prevent this problem. We rigorously noted how much she drank, when she peed and when she pooped.
I called friends whom I trusted who had kids and sought their advice for whatever was going on. Shanthala and I had decided that Maya would share our bed. No cribs for her, no “crying it out”. I was quite militant that we should do whatever is possible to stop her crying as soon as possible. I persisted despite cries of “you’re spoiling her”. Her weight started to increase and in ten days, she was back to her birth weight.
Week 3: She stopped pooping every day. Was she constipated, was it just a passing phase or was it there to stay ? When people told me that life as I knew it was about to change, they forgot to mention that I’d obsess over poop so much. As long as it was smooth, it doesn’t matter how often she poops, I learnt. “You’re lucky that she poops only every other day”, some friends said. Their kids had pooped after every feed.
I had begun to realize that novelty was over-rated. I had changed her diapers so many times, but it was still not a chore. We had decided to use cloth diapers. Shanthala had purchased the amounts she thought fit from eBay, used and new. She had the whole system ready to go and we never had a hiccough with the system.
Week 4:She was not much of a colicky baby. She was easily comforted. I had started playing Mark Knopfler’s Shangri-La, John Lennon’s Imagine, Van Morrison’s “These Are the Days” and “Have I Told You Lately”, a couple of Kannada folk songs and some instrumentals such as Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and Mark Knopfler’s Cal. I would start rocking her, dancing her to sleep. It seemed to mostly work. People never told me that I had to go to the gym more often as I had to carry her so much. My upper back hurt from carrying her.
Week 5:She changed the rules on me. She’d typically feed, be awake for about 10 minutes or so and then start wanting to sleep. I’d start my song and dance routine ten minutes or so after the feed to head off any crying that might have started. Now, I did the same and a half hour later, I was sweaty and exhausted while she was still awake! I lost my composure a couple of times as I was unable to get her to sleep as quickly as before.
But she turned on her smiles, full wattage and we were all floored. She kept smiling and started cooing. Having learnt from Kitty, I had no problems interpreting what she said
Week 6: This was the worst week! My sister came to visit us and caught Maya at her worst. For two consecutive days, she was crying inconsolably for almost two/three hours. She was comforted briefly only to start again. Her crying was also of a heightened intensity, different from her fussy crying. Finally, we rushed her to the pediatrician, worried that something was badly wrong. They wanted some blood tests done to confirm nothing was wrong. We sat there, waiting for the technician to locate a vein from which he could draw blood as Maya cried louder and louder, pausing only because she was exhausted. Memories of the last days of Kitty began to haunt me. The road to her pediatrician was along the same path that I had taken Kitty on his last days.
Luckily, it was over and she went to sleep, woke up a few hours later, fed as usual and went back to sleep again. Whatever was bothering her, it was gone. The blood tests didn’t reveal anything. We did discover thrush, a yeast infection on her tongue, for which she was given some oral medicine.
Week 7:Diaper rash. Bad, with yeast infection. The candida from her mouth had also lodged itself on her crotch. But Maya didn’t seem upset with it. In fact, after that horrible two days, she visibly improved and somehow we understood each other better. She became the easy baby that she had always been. Sometime in the previous week, she had started sleeping through the night!
Her talking was increasing. She was awake much longer between feeds. One Tuesday afternoon, I decided to just hang out with her. We spent two hours talking. Those two hours are etched on my brain. She eventually went to sleep on my shoulder.
People ask if I felt great being a dad. I said that if she can be lulled to sleep with my voice, a voice that wouldn’t win the neighborhood idol competition, how could I not be touched. She had now developed a routine where she’d indicate with a simple veto which song and which rocking motion she preferred as she was lulled to sleep.
Weeks 8-9:Things continued to improve. One night, I awoke to find Shanthala crying. I asked what was wrong and she said “How can such a small child sleep for seven hours without feeding. Something must be wrong”. After convincing her that all was well, we went to sleep. Three days later, Maya started waking up around 4:30 AM for a feed! Luckily she went to sleep immediately.
We celebrated her first Ugadi, Kannada new year. Shanthala’s mom went the extra mile in preparing a sumptuous meal.
She got her second set of vaccinations. She developed some pain and so was given infant Tylenol. But she went through her examination in flying colors. She had gained two pounds in one month and now was almost 12 lbs!
Through this time, friends have been of great help in making me navigate some seemingly treacherous waters that turned out to be not so. Books that I drew support from were Meredith Small’s “Our Babies, Ourselves”, William Sears’ “The Baby Book” and Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn’s “Everyday Blessings”.
A friend said that all parents are amateurs while all children are professionals!