Nine Month Mobility

My Darling Boy,

You’ve had a busy month! As we move past your ninth month in this world you’ve absolutely crushed life, smashing full speed into it with no fear. You’re crawling, speaking, and expressing yourself in ways I wasn’t prepared for (in a good way). I can’t believe how fast you’ve grown up, but I’m even more excited for the future as every day passes. It’s amazing how fascinated you are with everything and how eagerly you’re exploring your world. Your eyes sparkle as you figure out your toys. Even this simplest of toys holds your attention providing hours of entertainment. It’s so easy to get lost in your world and be completely absorbed in whatever you are doing. Time ceases to exist when it’s just you and I, bonding and having fun.

And the speech? I could listen to you talk for hours. There have been times in the car that I’ve shut off the radio because what you have to say has always been more interesting and satisfying than any song on the stereo. Even if the words aren’t associative yet, I can see in your eyes and hear in your voice your expression of complete thoughts.

Keep talking, my son, and you can rest assured that I will always be here to listen.

I love you.

Weighted Words

It seemed like an ordinary enough day. Mom and T were at Grandpa’s house and I was at home taking care of errands, meal planning, and some general household chores. But that’s not how it ended. Mom pulled into the garage, took T out of the car seat, and headed toward me. T turns, wide eyed and cute as a button, locks his gaze with mine, and says:

“Da da da da”.

Time stops. My son just said words!!!! I know they’re not associated with any particular meaning yet my brain neurons were firing full force in all their kaleidoscopic glory. I instantly feel overjoyed, proud, floored, nostalgic, and excited; a complex cocktail of emotions that consumes so much energy that I have to intentionally brace myself to keep my legs from giving out. In just a simple fragment of time my son grew up before my very eyes, added a vast new layer of depth to his entire being, assembled all the communication skills he’s learned on his own for the 8ish months of his existence, and formed a word using consonants, vowels, and syllables, all without even trying.

It’s the strangest yet most wonderful feeling. In my perception of time, just seconds before that moment I was unaware he had developed that capability. And instantly, he had it. Like it was no big thing. Truthfully he had been practicing those words all day unbeknownst to me, but hearing it described by my wife pales in comparison to actually experiencing it. Despite overwhelming physical exhaustion it took me quite awhile to come down from that natural high and fall asleep that night. I just kept staring at my son, tucked away next to me in Dreamland, the proudest father I could ever be.

I don’t even care what’s next. This is now, and this is incredible.

Eight is Great

My Beautiful Boy,

The last month has been an incredible ride. Every time I blink I feel like you grow more, develop more, learn more. You’re now eight months old with 2 teeth, the ability to pull yourself up, and what seems like mere seconds away from crawling around the entire house. Your energy is unparalleled, and while exhausting for both me and your mom, at the same time just amazing and astounding. My challenge now is to keep up with you! I wish I had more to say, but in all honesty this month was a complete blur. They say time accelerates when you have children and they were most definitely NOT kidding. Part of me wants you to stay little forever, but another part of me realizes that you are destined for great things in this world and that you must continue to grow to reach your full potential.

As always I’m here to help you, guide you, laugh with you, cry with you, share in both your victories and your defeats. Please keep me humble and honest if my priorities ever start to drift away from our family.

I love you.

7 Months – Radiance

My Son,

I cannot think of a greater first Father’s Day gift than to celebrate you turning 7 months old today. Incredible doesn’t even begin to describe you and how fast you’re growing up. As I type this we’re sitting in the living room and you’re happily banging away on your toy xylophone, cooing all sorts of “words” I have yet to understand but know carry such meaning and emotion. It brings me such joy to see you explore your world, to see how happy you are playing with your toys, with other people, with the pets, with me and mommy.

And that smile. That radiant, infinite smile that lights up every room is one of the highlights of my day. They say the eyes are the windows to the soul which means your vast, beautiful brown eyes reveal such a clear innocence and curiosity about your world. You feel raw emotions with such intensity that sometimes it overwhelms you, and my job is to help you learn to harness those emotions to guide your passion and get the most you can out of life. I will do my absolute best for you as I know how it feels to be overpowered by emotions, both good and bad.

Keep on smiling, laughing, playing, and growing. You are wonderful to the point that no words I will ever say or write can fully convey my feelings. So instead I’ll pledge to be by your side watching you and guiding you through this life as best I can.

I love you, father to son.

6 Months – A Bright and Shining Star

My Baby Boy,

It’s getting much harder to call you that now that you’re six months old. Every time I look at you and think “this can’t possibly get any better”, you gladly prove me wrong. To see you gain awareness of the world around you and want to explore it with the fearlessness and confidence everyone wishes they had, this brings me an unspeakable amount of joy. Your personality is on full display as this bright and happy baby who wants to be a part of everything that’s going on around you. And I hope your mom and I can foster that confidence and curiosity for your entire life as it’s one of the rarest and most valuable traits in today’s world.

We’re about to embark on one of the wildest rides of our journey together as a family. In the next few months you will start eating solid foods, cutting teeth, and crawling around the house. While I honestly cannot wait for all these developments, I’m already starting to wax nostalgic about the early months. You used to be so little that I could engulf you completely in my arms for hours on end. That’s proving to be much more difficult now that you’re so big, and while this makes me sad, this sadness is replaced tenfold by the abundant joy of seeing you explore this world.

So let’s explore this world together, my son. You have so much to learn about it and I have a feeling I do too.

I love you.

Goodbye, Old Friend

While it’s definitely true that I get really excited over buying a new car, it’s definitely not like me to get emotional over the car I’m trading in. This past weekend proved much different. My car was getting up there in miles, had some decent wear and tear on it, and was proving to have not enough storage space for everything we needed to haul on longer trips with our son and dog in tow. So we decided to go car shopping. I’ll spare you the details of the experience as car shopping is about as much fun as watching paint dry, but needless to say I purchased a new vehicle. Cause to celebrate, right? Well, yes, but it was definitely tempered by having to say goodbye to my old car.

I bought this car (2008 Chevy Malibu) brand new. It was really the first car I got to choose to buy as opposed to having only one option for financial or circumstantial reasons. My plan was to drive it until it died, but obviously having a child changes the rules of the game quite a bit. Regardless, I drove the hell out of it – 128,000 miles in 6 years and 23 days. I’ve hauled everything from bikes to drums to pets to moving boxes, and it handled everything with nary a complaint. But those experiences aren’t enough to get my eyes to tear up. It’s the other, life-altering experiences:

March 8th, 2009: After walking into Petsmart with the sole purpose of buying cat food, we fell in love with the cutest dog ever and brought home our first dog since childhood – our pitbull/pointer mix Sandy.

September 19th, 2009: I drove my then fiancé to our wedding at the courthouse. After the ceremony I was almost given a parking ticket for an expired meter, but the police officer saw that I just got married and decided to give us a break. I then drove my new wife off to our reception.

November 14th, 2013: After over 24 hours of hard but productive labor at home, I loaded up the car and carefully navigated the 20-minute drive to the hospital where our first son would be born in the wee hours of the next morning.

November 17th, 2013: We brought our brand new, first born son back to his home.

 

As I took a final glimpse at my old car in the dealership parking lot, completely emptied of all my personal belongings, reflecting back on all those life changing events that it supported, my eyes welled up uncontrollably. Goodbye, my old friend. You’ve been nothing but the best.

 

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The Littlest Fan

Blackhawks_LogoLast week we took my 5.25-month-old son to his first Chicago Blackhawks hockey game. In the playoffs. He’d been to 3 previous games in utero (all wins), so we were hoping for some additional luck here so we could even the series against St. Louis. Regardless of the outcome, being able to experience his first NHL game with him was magical. Here are my top 5 incredible, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping moments from the game:

5) If you know anything about Blackhawks games at home, you know they’re loud. You probably also know the National Anthem is LOUD. He was a trooper for the entire thing, not batting an eye as mommy and daddy went partially deaf for 3 solid minutes. NOTE: He did have hearing protection. We may be crazy parents, but we’re not stupid. 🙂

4) All the fans we met in the stadium and around us in our seats (even the drunk ones) were respectful, courteous, and downright happy to see such a young kid at the game. In any other venue I can see this one going completely FUBAR with people whining and complaining about a young kid fussing, general looks of “he’s not supposed to be here”, or shock/disgust/general discontent over breastfeeding (see #3). But not at the Madhouse on Madison, proving once again that Blackhawks fans are the greatest fans in the world.

3) Speaking of breastfeeding, my wife was able to feed him during the game. In her seat. While the game was being played. All with no issues from any fans around us. She and I are of the same mind that we don’t care (kid’s gotta eat, right?), but we’re very aware that other people make it their business to care for some stupid reason. But again, not at the Hawks game. So BIG kudos to my wife and son both for making breastfeeding at a professional sports stadium during the game look like just another meal at home.

2) I mean it when I say this kid was a trooper. The stadium was loud for the entire game (as it should be), yet he fell asleep while mommy was wearing him in the 3rd period. And then he stayed asleep until the end of the game in OVERTIME. All while maintaining his mellow, laid back personality as if to say “as long as I have mommy and daddy everything is no big deal.”

1) Holding my son as the red lamp lights up, the horns blare, and over 22,000 of the greatest fans in hockey belt out “Chelsea Dagger”. There is truly no other experience like this in the world. He shoots, he scores. Go Hawks.

 

Epilogue: The Blackhawks won the game in overtime, 4-3. This kid now has 4 wins under his belt including 2 in the playoffs. Maybe you’ll see us at more games. 🙂

Five Fabulous Months

To My Son,

You are now an incredible 5 months old. As I type this you are sound asleep snuggled warmly against my chest in one of our carriers. It’s a wonderful experience watching you relax and slowly fall asleep while I’m wearing you, seeing the feelings of comfort, safety, and security in your eyes as the Sandman slowly lulls you into dreamland. Normally I talk about your development and how it’s outpacing any of our expectations, and to be sure there’s been some great developments this past month. But for me the major milestone this past month has to do with our bond. Specifically, I think you and I are both starting to realize that we are more than father and son. We are family.

It’s very obvious and yet breathtaking at the same time, to see you, so brand new to this world, form bonds and connections with others, to see the trust and understanding build on foundations of billions of neural connections. You’re clearly happiest when you, me, and mom are all together. You laugh, you smile, you flirt, you’re excited and exploring your world! Our weekends have been so relaxing and filled with so much fun and joy that it makes the meat grinder of the work week seem a million miles away. You and I have a great relationship, just as you and mom do. We both love you so much and would do anything for you. All the stresses, sacrifices, and tears just disappear when your eyes light up and you smile at us.

While I never had a completely clear picture in my head of what my family would look like when I started it, you are by far the best way to start one! Now that the brutality of the winter is behind us let’s fill your first spring and summer with some great memories as a family.

I love you.

4 Months – Acceleration

My Beautiful Baby Boy,

4 months old. Four. Some people might say only 4 months old, and truthfully it does seem like ages ago that you were born. But strangely at the same time it has gone incredibly fast. Your development has accelerated at light speed this month and shows no signs of slowing down. You can push up on your own, roll over, grab your feet, bear all your weight on your legs for awhile, grab objects and pull them into your mouth, grab things that I need to be careful of now (like my food and my earring), have wonderful, bright-eyed “conversations” with me, and let’s not forget about those 2 top canine teeth that started coming in 5 days after your 3rd month! There have been some rough times this month but every giggle after a neck raspberry (that I’ve affectionately nicknamed a snozberry) makes it all worth it. Our connection is solid albeit constantly evolving. There are some days where I feel we’re completely in sync and others where I feel like a brand new parent with no skills at all. I’m definitely growing as you’re growing and we’re learning together; hopefully you can look back and say I’ve done the best I can for you.

I gaze at the photo I took when you were only 3 hours old and I’m floored, speechless at what a glorious wonder you’ve become. You’re changing so fast that I can already see what you will look like as a toddler! I could easily sit and stare at you, watching in amazement as you grow up before my very eyes. But then I snap out of it as you give me that “WTF?!?!” look and realize that I should be talking to you!

My heart bursts with pride and joy for you as it always will. I look forward to every day with you and as much as I want to hold you, freezing this moment in time forever as the world flies by, I cannot wait to see who you will become.

I love you.

The Birth Story of Our Son

Prologue

One of the greatest blessings of Bradley Method husband-coached childbirth is experiencing the birth of a child from start to finish and being there for the entire thing. Women often have difficulty recalling some of the details of the birth experience because they are off in “Labor Land” and busy doing the exquisite work of bringing a child into the world. Even though it’s been over 3 months since the birth of our son the majority of the details of his birth are still very clear in my mind, etched as some of the most wonderful memories I’ll ever have. Many of these details are from my perspective so please don’t take that to mean I am the center of this story. My wife is and always will be the bravest, toughest, most determined person I know. Our son would not have had such a wonderful birth and start in life without her work. This is my version of the story of his entrance into our arms and into this world.

The Calm Before the Storm

Our son’s due date was November 14th, 2013. As knowledgeable parents-to-be, both my wife and I expected him to be born around the 21st or 22nd since the average length of pregnancy for new mothers is 41 weeks and 1 day. So needless to say we were both surprised when I woke up the morning of the 13th to my wife saying “I had contractions for about 3 hours last night”. Since they were intermittent and had slowed down we both decided it was best for me to go to work that day and see how things went. The work day passed without any more contractions so we went about our business that night. After dinner we finished watching the last 2 episodes of Season 3 of The Walking Dead (because that’s what we do) and prepared for bed. Little did we know our night was just beginning.

A Good Night’s Work

Around 10:30pm that night the contractions returned, this time much stronger and faster. Lower back pain was the name of the game with contractions coming every 5-10 minutes or so. We spent about an hour walking around the house keeping an eye on the contraction times, but they were here to stay. Taking cues from our Bradley Method training we settled into bed and started some deep relaxation, focused breathing, and counter-pressure on her lower back. The contractions continued at a steady pace throughout the night, sometimes as close as 3-4 minutes apart with nearly 1 minute in length. Unable to really rest between contractions, this continued through to 5:30am on the 14th (his due date), so we called Malory, our doula, to get her up to speed. As dependable as always, she was at our house within 30 minutes along with Alyssa, her shadow doula.

Restless Day – Part 1

Still with very little rest, contractions continued intermittently as the sun rose on our son’s due date. Some were so strong that no amount of counter-pressure on her back could overcome them. I felt nearly useless but soldiered on, knowing full well that we were in this for the long haul. Our doula team helped keep us calm and helped guide us through the labor with birth ball and stair exercises, hot compresses, massages, and an unwavering confidence in our abilities. The contractions slowed down to an unpredictable pace around 10:30 that morning. At that point we thought it best that our doula team should leave us to try to rest and gather our strength for awhile. Having them leave was a little unsettling but I took great comfort in knowing they were just a phone call away.

Restless Day – Part 2

“Rest between contractions” is a great concept, but very difficult to execute in practice with fierce lower back pain and unpredictable timings. Based on the intensity of the back pain and several phone calls and text messages with Malory we were nearly convinced that our son was “sunny-side up” and was trying to turn. This called for several sessions of downright painful lunges, stair climbing, and pelvic rocking, accompanied by even stronger contractions. By 4:30pm we were staring into the void, nearly completely depleted of energy, confidence, and hope. Just when we needed it most, Malory returned to give us a boost in confidence, now with us having gone over 35 hours without good solid sleep and working over 18 hours in early labor. Our son must have picked up on that boost of confidence because, like clockwork, he kicked into active labor. Hard, consistent contractions over 60 seconds long and 4 minutes apart. My wife worked with her labor for 3 solid hours, trying everything from showers to massages to hot compresses. Around 7:30pm my wife, Malory, and I made a team call to load the car and head to the hospital. We left our home, now a war-torn disaster on all 3 floors from the greatest work of our lives.

Labor Land

Arriving at the hospital, birth plan and medical records in hand, we were ecstatic at her progress, 5-6cm dilated! In my mind we had achieved our goal of laboring as long as possible at home and reducing the possibility of exceeding the hospital “time limit” for labor, which is a very real thing despite everything known about the Natural Alignment Plateau and the effects of stress and pressure on labor progression. But I digress. Our doula team met us in our Labor/Delivery/Recovery room and we got back to work. Strong contractions. HARD work. Showers, birth balls, lunges, counter-pressure with 2 fists and tennis balls, and constant reassurance that my wife could do this, that she was doing this. 4 hours of beautiful, wonderful work by my wife went very quickly, at least for me. Somehow we found the energy despite no sleep and very little food. Right around 12:30am the morning of the 15th, things shifted dramatically. After a particularly hard contraction on the LDR room floor, Malory suggested we consider moving back to the bed because it looked like my wife was “looking pushy”. A quick check showed over 9cm dilation – we were almost there!!!

Push

12:45am. Fully dilated and complete, my wife began the process of pushing when her body felt the urge and to the point of comfort, just like Bradley class had taught us. Starting from a squatting position on the bed with the help of a squat bar, she pushed a few times to establish a rhythm. We then moved to a nearly upright and optimized lithotomic position with 1 key difference – my wife braced her legs on the posts of the squat bar for leverage. Brilliant. A few pushes were really effective and my son was almost there! At this point we had an entire birth team around us – a few nurses, our midwife, the OB on call, and a few resident students who had never seen a natural birth(!).

Heart Strings

The birth team was monitoring our son’s heart rate between pushes and an alarming trend quickly rose up – his heart rate was decelerating during pushes and not recovering as fast or as high with each push. Even with an oxygen mask on my wife to boost him up, something had to change. Breaking the water at this point (yes, her water was still intact this far into labor!) didn’t help. The OB and our midwife consulted, and the OB stepped up to talk to us. Our son had his hand trapped against the side of his head with his umbilical cord pinched around it. Every push constricted the cord which reduced his flow of blood and oxygen, causing his heart rate to drop to alarmingly low levels. We had to act fast. True to our birth plan, the OB talked us through it. We had 2 choices – an emergency C-section, but his words were very reassuring, “I don’t think we need to do that”, or a delivery assisted by forceps. With a nod from me and a thumbs up from my wife, the team moved quickly into action. They set the foreceps, and with 2 strong pushes, my son entered the world at 1:18am on Friday, November 15th, 2013. 6 pounds, 10 ounces, and 19-1/2 inches long.

Welcome to the World

As I wrote in a previous entry, one of the greatest moments of my life was gazing on our beautiful newborn son and announcing to my wife and the world, “It’s a boy!!!” We didn’t know his gender for the entire pregnancy as finding out on arrival is one of the few true surprises in life. High on adrenaline and love, I introduced myself to him by proclaiming “Welcome to the world!” as I cut his umbilical cord, severing the physical link through which my wife had nurtured him and fostered his growth for 40 weeks and 1 day. Within a matter of seconds he was placed right on my wife’s chest, eyes wide open and hungry, ready to continue changing our lives forever, now in the physical world. And boy was he ready. Awake and alert; healthy lungs that didn’t need suction; a whopping 9 on the APGAR score; immediate breastfeeding latch; a full head of luscious hair. A job well done, the birth team finished patching my wife up, packed up, and left us to bond as a family for 2 straight hours before it was time to go the nursery for clean-up and check-ups. My wife and I celebrated with the customary Bradley nightcap of cold fresh orange juice and stared at our son in an overwhelming outpouring of love as the rest of the world fell away. We had done it; we had achieved a completely natural, medication-free, husband-coached birth of our first child!

Epilogue

Experiencing and participating in the birth of our son remains the greatest achievement of my life to date. Truthfully I doubt anything will ever top it, though I am completely confident that the birth of our next child will match it. Taking the Bradley Method journey was the cornerstone of this experience; without it these memories would not be as vivid now, nor would I be able to say with overflowing pride that I helped bring him into the world. Typing those words even now give me a chill down my spine. Exhausting, overwhelming, frightening, and enlightening all at the same time, I am a changed man from all this. I know we did absolutely everything we could to give our son the best possible start in life, and yes, we made it.

Special Thanks

As with anything in life, this would not have been possible without a lot of supportive people. I could go on for days with sincere thanks for everyone involved, but I want to mention a select few here for their profound impact. Please know there are so many more people not listed that supported us in huge ways throughout our entire pregnancy; your contributions are just as important and certainly not forgotten.

My Wife, Whitney

This goes without saying, but my wife is the strongest, most determined, most courageous, most loving and caring person I know. She did all the research and homework on the Bradley Method and natural birth and rocked an awesome pregnancy and birth. No amount of words could ever describe the epic effort she put forth or how truly grateful and lucky I am to have her in my life. I love you, Whitney.

Our Doula, Malory Teegarden

We had originally planned on interviewing 3 doulas and selecting the one that best fit our needs. Malory was our first interview and we immediately knew we didn’t need to look for anyone else. She embodied the perfect balance of knowledge, humility, grace, tenacity, advocacy, support, and friendship from our first prenatal meeting all the way through our postpartum goodbye. Without a doubt one of the best in the business and a rare breed, even for doulas. Don’t ever change, Malory.

Our Bradley Instructor, Melissa Lee

It’s one thing to attend Bradley Classes. It’s another thing altogether to have a teacher who makes such a profound impression on our lives. Melissa is one of the most supportive, loving, and open-minded people I know. Her class and her birth stories provided the motivation and inspiration to commit to the Bradley Method and the path of hard work to give our son the best possible start in life.

Our Midwife, Mary Tisdale, CNM

For agreeing to take us on as clients when we made the decision to switch from our OB-GYN to her at 38-1/2 weeks!! She fully supported our birth plan without batting an eye, instilling even more confidence in my wife that she could do this, that she was built to do this. Calm and cool in the delivery room, she was more than comfortable with a backseat role until her skills were medically required, which is the way it should be.

The Entire Birth Staff at UnityPoint Methodist Hospital (Peoria, IL)

Every single nurse, every single doctor, the OB on call, the residents, the nursery staff, the lactation consultants, the pediatricians on call, the room cleaning staff, the receptionists, the security guards, the valet parking attendants. Everyone was fully supportive of our birth plan and 100% committed to executing it as best as possible. A few days after the birth I went back through the plan and checked off what we had achieved. Astonishingly, we had achieved everything we had requested and hoped for. This would not have been possible without the right people in the right places at the right times. Lots of hospitals give you the grand tour, promise you everything will be exactly as you want it to be, and say they stand behind you. We toured all 3 hospitals in the area and were the most confident that UnityPoint Methodist could walk the walk. And they did, without question. Best in the business, hands down.

Our Family and Friends

Too many to list individually. Thank you all for being there for us every step of the way. We love you all.

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