Thursday, November 27, 2008

Time for Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

I hope everyone is happy, healthy and on their way to being well fed.

We are at my sister's family's place in the eastern U.S. Yes, we took a chance and decided to drive somewhere on baby Nathaniel's third week of life.

It took us 10+ hours, but we made it, and the little tyke was a champ. He slept most of the way, waking to be fed by a bottle of his mother's pumped milk, and then would drift back off to sleep.

Minimal crying. What a great kid – already!

My sister and her husband, Rob, were dear enough to vacate their own room for us and the baby to sleep in, nurse and otherwise treat as if we were staying at some exclusive bed-and-breakfast. The only thing missing is breakfast in bed, and my sister, Lee Ann, would not bite on that one, although I tried.

I'm lucky she didn't take a swing at me.

Her three children, Kate 13, Chris, 10, and Trey, nearly seven, were beside themselves with excitement to greet their new cousin. Meanwhile, Michelle and I paced around like a pair of nervous Nellies, fearing that the cold that had run through their house would make its way to our child. Lee Ann would not let that happen, of course, but we fretted anyway.

The children were so cute with their new cousin. They stumbled over each other, and jockeyed for position, craning their necks and contorting their bodies, climbing on  to tables and chairs, t get a better look at their new cousin. They held him and smiled. They patted his downy head. They stroked his back.

They seem really interested in the little guy.

Besides that, it also means I don't get beaten to a pulp like I've been in past visits. 

In this instance, it's nice to be an afterthought.

So, on this Thanksgiving, surrounded by family and graced with an adorable baby boy, we feel truly thankful. And blessed.

We hope you feel the same.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Small Discoveries

Nathaniel is three weeks old tomorrow. It's hard to believe he's already that old. He's changed so much.

At least, that's the opinion of my sister, who saw Nathaniel days after he was born and has watched him "grow" through pictures. Me, I don't see it as much, probably because I see him every day. But I've noticed his hair has lightened, and perhaps his eyes, too. He's interacting more with the environment around him, noticing more, his eyes wandering around, even if he doesn't know or understand what he's taking in.

We think we may understand more about him. We know that Nathaniel goes on a crying jag beginning in the evening and lasting until midnight. We believe this pattern of tears lies in the little guy's telling us he's hungry. It's like he wants dinner, dessert and a midnight snack in consecutive hours. My, what an appetite! If he doesn't get fed, he cries inconsolably. For some time, we couldn't figure out why. Now, we think we may have uncovered a pattern. So, we have adjusted accordingly; Michelle feeds him his "dinner" in the early evening, and we bridge the next hours with a bottle of prior-pumped milk or formula. Then, around 11 or so, Michelle gives him another meal. After some fussing, Nathaniel tends to drift into a deep slumber, sleeping for 4-5 hours.

We are very lucky he snoozes that long. Or so our friends and co-workers tell us.

We know we're lucky Nathaniel is with us. It seems he's been with us so long, far longer than the three weeks he's actually been here. At the same time, it's hard to imagine he's our son. I catch myself looking at him every now and then, and I wonder, "Who's baby is this, anyway?" And then I realize, he's ours.

I'm so happy about that.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Healthy and Happy (we think)

Nathaniel turned two weeks today.

He commemorated the occasion by visiting the pediatrician. He may not count that as a milestone, but we sure do.

We're more than happy to report that the little guy is healthy. He weighs 8 lbs., 13 oz., about three ounces more than he was born with a healthy cache of stored goodies. Also, he has gained nine ounces from a week ago.

I think it's safe to say our little man is eating heartily. Michelle would attest to that.

All other signs are good, according to the pediatrician. He's a healthy newborn so far. We feel very blessed.

We also think he's happy, but really we don't know for sure. Nathaniel hasn't smiled at us yet, although our pediatrician swore that he smiled at her during last week's visit. 

Hmmm. Talk about stealing our glory!

Instead, we get a little dude who scowls, grimaces, gazes, seems dazed and howls. Lots of emotions, granted, but no smiles. 

My friends and many coworkers, most of them women, tell me not to fret. The smiling will come they say, but there's no consensus when. One coworker thought she recalled her boy smiling after two months. Or was it four? She couldn't remember. It's all a blur, she declared. Another said it happens in weeks. But then again, she thinks her baby is special, as well she should. Somebody else told me it could take a half-year. Wow! Talk about waiting for confirmation that you're doing your job right. Some Wall Street CEOs wait less for such approval (talking about bonuses here).

So, we'll wait for that first grin, that first beam of sunshine, that parting of the lips that isn't a grimace or a growl but a full-fledged stamp of approval that yeah, parents, you're not so bad after all.

We can only hope, right?

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Squeaker

Slowly but surely we're learning about our new baby.

We know, for instance, that Nathaniel is a squeaker.

He squeaks when he's feeding.
He squeaks when he's sleeping.
He squeaks when he's squirming.
He even squeaks in between his squalls of screams.

The squeaks aren't all the same. The feeding squeak is a short jab of a squeak, which we interpret as his way of vocalizing the voraciousness of his eating.

The sleeping squeak is lazy and subdued. Perhaps it's his way of vocalizing a baby dream. Perhaps he's having a nightmare, something on the par of the all-important boob running away from him.

The squirming squeak is a gnashing sound. We think he's grimacing as he adjusts his position in our arms, or he's trying to tell us he doesn't like the way we're holding him.

The crying squeak is more of a piercing vocal shot. We don't need to interpret that one. We know he's pissed about something, and he's demanding we do something about it.

At 12 days, our son's hair has lightened, although the jury is out whether he'll have his father's near-white blond locks (far gone now). There are some in the family who are fervently rooting that some copper appears, which may portent red hair like his mother.

No evidence of that so far, from what we can see.

Physically, he looks much the same as the day he was born. He's redder now, and his cheeks are ruddy, good signs, we believe. He has a few light scratches on his face, war wounds from flailing his arms when he cries. He's arcing his neck at impressive angles under his own power, and we swear he can nearly support himself when he stretched his legs in a standing position on our laps. He seems pretty darn strong for his age.

Of course, we're biased.

And, we think he's pretty darn cute.

Fair bet to say we're biased on that one, too.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cry, Baby, Cry

Newborn babies sure do cry a lot.

I guess that's to be expected. When you think about it, it's the only way they can communicate. They cry when they're hungry. They cry when they're tired. They cry when they're hot or cold. They cry when they're angry. Who knows? Maybe they weep when they're happy, too. In any event, they cry for all sorts of reasons.

Baby Nathaniel is no exception. He's a crier, a real screamer. He opens his mouth like a baby bird and lets out a full-throated whoop to let it be known that something is not right with his world, and yes, daddy or mommy, you need to fix it, and fast.

We've been unable to differentiate the little hombre's cries so far. There's the repetitive cry, the one that loops as if it's a 45 rpm record that's skipping on a turnstile. With that one, baby Nathaniel goes round and round, coughing every now and then, an "I'm disgusted with you" scoffing kind of cough and then he resumes with his looping staccato set of cries. We think this one means he's pissed off, such as when we swaddle him and lay him in his Boppie and he want to be cuddled, or when he's fighting to stay awake, despite being physically exhausted.

Then there's the more soulful cry, not as shrill as the angry cry with a hint of melody to it. This cry can occasionally reach repetitive status, but usually it doesn't reach that degree of urgency. We think this one is the "I'm hungry" cry, and our best guess is it's more mellow, because usually he employs that one when he's emerging from a deep slumber.

Speaking of slumber, the little guy has been a champion sleeper. The last three nights he has slept for more than three hours at a stretch. In fact, last night, the little camper bundled up from 12:30 a.m to 5 and then from 6 a.m. to past 10. It's hell many times getting him to fall asleep (see angry cry, above), but we have to say that when he does fall asleep, he stays that way for a long while.

Nathaniel is 10 days old today (Saturday). I still look at him occasionally and marvel. I get these jolts: Is he truly ours? Did he just show up at our doorstep? Did we steal him? Are we fully responsible for his plight?

Then again, I have this other emotion: It feels as if he's been with us for months, if not longer. It's hard to imagine the time when he was not here, despite knowing full well it hasn't been that long.

Nathaniel already has woven himself into the fabric of our lives. That blanket, if you will, is so much warmer, cuddlier, more familiar.

Buddy, we're glad you're with us.

Monday, November 10, 2008

New Addition

The Lewis family has a new addition.

Michelle and I welcomed Nathaniel Ames Lewis to the world at 12:16 p.m. on Nov. 5. The little guy weighed 8 lbs., 10.5 oz. and was 19 3/4 inches at birth.

He is doing fine, and Michelle is doing fine.

We are very blessed.

We are also very tired. The five days since Nathaniel's grand entrance has been a blur. Time is all but irrelevant; night is day, day is night. Our schedule has morphed into his schedule. He calls the shots, dictates the pace of our lives. The days of selfishness, of bouts of self-absorption, have ended.

He's the new sheriff n town, and our emotions are strangely tied to his. When he cries, we're tense, confused and unhappy. When he sleeps, we're relaxed, grateful and glad. If I were to give a ratio between these two competing states, I'd put it at 60-40 in the tense, confused, unhappy column.

Not bad, I think.

You know, we've gotten a lot of advice of what to expect and how to react to our baby's arrival. All of it has been with the best of intentions. People with children are happy to dispense with tips and stories of their experiences. I don't profess to know much, but it seems to me all babies are different, and they have their own set of likes and dislikes. What works for one may not work for another. For example, we've found that for the most part little Nathaniel does not seem to like his arms to be pinned against his body. That has made the SwaddleMe outfit, an infant strait jacket if I've ever seen one, not the end-all, be-all solution to hysterically crying infants as we expected. Nor, however, does the little king like his arms to flail madly about. Must be a control thing. The best we've figured our so far is he kind of likes it in-between; he likes his hands to be mobile, but he doesn't like full arm motion. He likes to be swaddled, but not overly so.

It's serious on-the-job training, and there is no manual.

We also haven't figured out a position he likes best, one that keeps him content. Lord knows I've tried all sorts of bodily contortions, short of turning the little dude upside down. You feel like you find one that works, and lo and behold, it fails the next time. Then, like magic, it works again. The latest trick I found that worked was holding him up to my face and letting my suck my nose, like a pacifier. I kind of discovered that one by accident, as he was squawking his fool head off early one morning, and I brought him closer to see if he blew out his vocal box (just kidding, of course). He latched on to my nose like a life preserver. It didn't hurt, and really, it felt kind of cool. A bond of sorts between a father and a son.

Can't wait until he gets teeth.

I guess what it all comes down to is
there is no rhyme and reason to the first steps of babyhood and parenthood. If you like structure in your universe, you can forget it.

So, screw structure. I love my universe fine right now – just the way it is.