Sunday, November 30, 2008

Yeah I know... what happened to 2 times a week? I set myself some lofty goals in posting and so far I am falling short. Sorry.

Anyway... so this weekend is what I would call the beginning of the Christmas Season. To celebrate we went down to the town centre in Dundas for the annual tree-lighting ceremony. I grew up in Dundas and I can honestly say that I have never attended. It was time that I made up for it. Last year I had a gig so I was unable to make it. Luckily this year I had the whole weekend off so I was able to go.

Andrea, Declan and I got there around 7:00pm and the lighting was supposed to happen around 7:30pm. The Dundas Brass Band went through several renditions of Traditional Christmas songs. They had the spirit, if not the skill, but it contained just the right amount of small-town kitsch to not suck. It was nice....reminded me of various Christmas movies with people singing and enjoying the company that they were in.

Brilliantly we did not put Declan's snowpants on before we left so we had to get him dressed up while we were in the cold because his pants looked more like shorts while he was being held. It was too cold for that nonsense! Once he was all bundled up we got into the serious business of being Merry. This included two cups of warm apple cider to chase away the cold.

The warm cups of comfort were enjoyed while a small group of children were led through warbling renditions of some of my favorite Christmas tunes. To be honest I can't remember any of the songs that they sang because each child looked terrified and it was more entertaining watching them than listening to them. I am sure someone's precious snowflake will be scarred for life due that experience!

Declan enjoyed all of it. The band, the singing and the eventual tree lighting. The coup de grace was the arrival of Jolly Ole St. Nick in the back of a Firetruck. Apparently the sleigh was in the shop and Rudolph was on vacation. Oh well, the madding crowds were hilarious. Parents thrusting their kids forward into the chaos to say hi to Santa. Teenagers pushing kids away so that they could get even closer. Ah, the Christmas spirit was alive and well.

Honestly though it was a great night. Just as the Tree Lighting was taking place, big fluffy snowflakes started to fall. It really did make for a wonderful scene. I know that Andrea enjoyed it and Declan had fun listening to the music. That is all that really matters to me.

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year and I am looking forward to sharing the rest of the season.

Friday, November 7, 2008

It's 5:00am... shouldn't you be sleeping?

One of the things that constantly blows me away about being a parent is how it feels first thing in the morning when your child wakes you up. Last night Declan woke up at 2:00am and then again and 5:00am. His teeth are coming in and he has an ear infection that cannot be treated with antibiotics currently so he is in a lot of discomfort.

Andrea brought him into our bed to try and comfort him and it worked. The only thing that would calm him down was being snuggled up to his mummy. Every once in a while he would sit up while he was on her just to make sure that she was still there and then he would hunker back down with his head in her neck and give a little sigh.

These nights have become fewer and fewer over the last year but I can remember when he would come into bed with us and he would fall asleep on my chest. Granted this was before he weighed almost 30 pounds so it was much easier to do. He really is the most precious little guy and there is a part of me that does not want anything about this to change.

Declan started sleeping in his own bed without any problems by 3 months. We were really lucky that he was so good about being in his own room because it gave us a sense of our own space again, as well as better nights of sleep. Anyone with little ones knows it can be frustrating when you have to get up with them in the night but I don't know what we'll do when that time passes. As it stands, on nights when he actually sleeps straight through I wake up anyway just waiting for him to need us.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Day One

I figured that I would continue the thread from my last post. This is Day One and on with a newborn:

I slept in the next day. I probably shouldn't have but I figured I would need it. When I got to the hospital Andrea was relaxing in the room with the baby. Feeding hadn't been the easiest thing and would continue to be difficult throughout our time in the hospital. We felt as though we did not get as much support as we needed as new parents. The hospital was very "breast feed or else", and Andrea and I knew that we were going to our best to try but were open to the other options if necessary. All it would have taken was for someone to advise us that the difficulties we were experiencing were normal. It was very hard for me to watch Andrea struggle through the feedings but she persevered. Eventually, he would take to the feedings but not consistently until after we left the hospital.

I'm not sure how many people are aware of this but I was the first person to change a poopy diaper. Granted it was mercomium, which is really like tar, but it was still the first crap the boy took. Anyone who knows my penchant for being sick should realize that this was a massive achievement for me. I was proud of myself. I know that Andrea was proud of me as well.

I think that the most vivid memory I have of the whole hospital experience was when Andrea was too sleepy to stay up with Declan and the baby just would not go to sleep. I walked around the ward with Declan in the crib for at least an hour. He hadn't really fed much that day so I went into the nursery and grabbed some formula (a big no no apparently) some tubing and a bottle. I brought the baby into the family room and filled the bottle, cut a small hole in the nipple which I ran the tube through. I then ran the tube along my thumb and into Declan's mouth. He fed like that for around 30 minutes and then fell asleep finally. I brought him back to the room and fell asleep on the chair/bed that I was using. This was the first time that I felt as though I was a father. It was incredible.

I have to admit, there are things that you kind of expect from the whole child-birth experience. I was looking forward to cutting the cord and handing the baby to Andrea. I thought that the first time he looked into her eyes and then started feeding would be magical. Looking back on it I feel as though we were ripped off. I don't know who cut the cord and Andrea was so exhausted and so uncomfortable from the ordeal that those first moments were kind of lost to us. I will always remember the first time I held Declan but there will always be a twinge of guilt because I wanted to hand him back to the nurses because Andrea was so upset. After nine months of anticipation it was a bit anticlimatic.

Our little yellow baby, full of jaundice, was losing weight and Andrea was becoming increasingly convinced that she was doing something wrong and that he was not getting the nutrition that he needed. The first nurse that offered advice actually chastised us for giving the baby any formula which was unfair as no one offered the information that the whole breast milk thing was a process and the baby was indeed getting what he needed. This put us off of asking for too much help at first because we felt that the militant breast feeding culture at the hospital would look down on us if we did not give it the best try. Beside that, Andrea wanted to feed from the breast and I fully supported her decision.

It was not until one of our last days in the hospital that we were introduced to a lactation nurse who explained the process to us and then gave Andrea some pointers on how to feed the baby properly. There were so many rules that we were originally told to follow that it made it impossible to distinguish which ones were important and which weren't. For example, the first nurse told Andrea that the baby had to feed for 20 minutes one side and then 20 minutes on the second side. This was not possible as the baby was not interested in feeding for that long. We quickly decided that he could be the judge of when he was hungry and when he was not. Looking at the size of him now... I think we did okay.

After various heel pokes to see how badly jaundiced he was Andrea and I basically insisted that we wanted to go home after our 4 days in the hospital. I don't want to be too negative about the experience but it is really difficult to be comfortable and start being a family when you are constantly being intruded upon and poked and prodded. Andrea was healing up pretty well and she had started being able to walk again without much discomfort so it was decided after securing permission from our family Doctor that they would be released with a promise to go see the Doctor within a few days for a check up on Declan.

A quick aside... If you ever want to see a father lose it, try backing into his car with wife and their newborn as they try to leave the hospital. As we were leaving the underground parking at Mac someone almost did this. Had he successfully hit our car I am not sure what I would have done to him but I assure anyone reading this that it would not have been pleasant.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Big Day

I wrote this about a year after after my son was born:

I must have been sound asleep. I mean, it felt as though I woke up immediately but apparently it took a little while. When I was told it was time I felt as though I was pretty calm. We had been waiting almost 9 months at this point and I thought that I was ready. Andrea just sort of woke me up and said, "I think that it is time."

Looking back 16 months later I reflect on how my life has changed. I'm a Dad. I still don't feel as though I am an adult. I want to be a good Dad and good husband and I feel as though it is always going to be a learning experience for both. I know that I can be incredibly selfish and I am trying to curb that and understand that I am not the most important thing in the world and that there are others who depend on me now. The funny things is that I can state something like that but still have the conceit to believe that maybe someone will want an insight into my life.

Going to the hospital was useless at first because the contractions were almost non-existent. Instead we decided to both grab a shower and just relax for a little while before we called the hospital to advise them that we were on the way. Once our showers were done we called our parents to let them know that it was time and that we were headed to the hospital. Grabbing our pre-packed bags we took the 5 minute trip to McMaster with the firm belief that our lives were about to change forever.

Not quite yet. Before our lives could change it had to be confirmed that Andrea had not just peed the bed. In all honesty we both knew that this was not the case but the interns have to feel as though they have done their jobs to the best of their ability and they need the opportunity to learn (or at least that is what we told ourselves). Once they had performed the correct tests it was determined that even though Andrea was indeed in labour, it was not yet time to deliver. It was suggested that we take a walk for a couple of hours to see if we could speed the process along. By this time Shirley, my mother-in-law had joined us so it was decided that it was a nice enough morning for a walk around the University grounds.

After what must have been the most torturous two hours of walking we returned to the labour and delivery area of the hospital. As we were waiting for Andrea to be seen the power for the whole hospital went out. It was only out for maybe a few seconds and then the emergency power went on. Little did we know that this was about to throw a slight wrench in our plans for the day. A nurse informed us that since Andrea was in no danger of delivering any time soon we may as well return home for a while as the hospital was now on its emergency plan due to the power failure. Andrea and I decided to return home and try and get a little shut eye.

I was able to sleep for around 3 hours without much of a problem and once I woke up I decided to go to the store to grab some essentials for lunch. By the time I had returned home Andrea was awake and the contractions were getting more severe. By 3:00pm we were getting ready to return to the hospital. The phone rang and it was the labour and delivery nurse asking us to come back to the hospital. We bundled ourselves back in the car and returned.

This time there was no problem getting into a room. We were ushered into the delivery room without any problem and set ourselves up in anticipation. We called our parents again and let them know what was happening. My parents arrived with my sisters relatively soon for a visit before the pain became too much for Andrea. Every few minutes we would excuse ourselves form the conversation and move aside because Andrea was bearing down in pain. At this point it was decided that Andrea would receive the epidural. Luckily for us the earlier pawer failure had cancelled all elective surgeries for the day so we had access to an epidural immediately.

To be honest sitting in the living room thinking back on that night is not very easy. I should have tried to document a little better at the time. The time line for the whole day was very difficult to follow as we were incredibly busy.

Andrea began to push around 9:00pm and it seemed that it would not take too long for the baby to come as she was receiving wonderful encouragement from the nurse and very positive feedback about her pushing. Unfortunately for us Declan had other plans. Unbeknownst to us, or the staff for some reason, the baby was turned funny and Andrea was continually trying to pass his shoulders under her pelvis. This we found out was not possible without some help. (As an aside, I should say that Andrea was inspected 3 times before this problem was found and something drastic was done about it.)

I have to take a moment to explain how incredibly proud I was of Andrea during the whole labour. Her strength and poise was inspiring and she should always be proud of how she handled herself and her situation. It took 2 hours for someone to realize that the baby was turned funny and by then Andrea was absolutely exhausted. She was drained both emotionally and physically. There had been so much encouragement and excitement at the beginning and that made way for frustration and concern over the well-being of both Andrea and the baby. There was no warning when the team came in, and no discussion as to what they were about to do. The episiotomy was entirely unexpected and it terrified me. Andrea did not know what was happening to her body or the baby and the terror in her face was heartbreaking. It devastated me to hear her apologize and feel as though she was failing. I tried to explain that this was not the case and that it was out of our control at this point.

At 11:30pm on June 24, 2007 after 2 and a half hours of labour Declan James Carroll was born. I am not entirely sure who actually brought him into this world but I think that it was Dr. Sibley. I have no idea who cut the cord as Declan was spirited away immediately. When the newly swaddled boy was brought to me I almost considered returning him to the nurse as Andrea was still in pain and I felt as though I needed to be with her. My son was fine but my wife needed me. Andrea was absolutely exhausted from the physical effort that she put into the labour; so much so that she could barely speak above a whisper.

Once the staff had stitched her up Andrea was able to hold her newborn son for the first time. It was one of the most remarkable moments I have ever experienced. She was a natural from the get go. We called our parents and gave them the wonderful news and asked Shirley if she would like to come to the hospital to see Andrea and the baby. Both Shirley and Mike came down to hospital to visit.

Once they had a room ready for Andrea we were asked if we would like to go bathe Declan. Andrea declined as she could barely keep her eyes open. I went with the nurse and got a crash course in how to give an infant a bath. To be honest I don't really remember much of what the nurse told me at that moment as I was enrapt with my son.

Once the bath was finished I had the opportunity to take Declan back to see Andrea. She was absolutely exhausted. I have never seen someone work so hard in my life and the crazy part about it, she would never agree with me on this, was that she looked amazing. She took the baby and then for the first time ever began to try and feed him. It took some time but he eventually began the journey to learning how to eat. It was decided that I would go home as Andrea was placed in a room with someone else so I was unable to sleep with them that night. It was hard to say goodnight but in reality I was pretty tired as well.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I Am Not Alone

I am not alone.  This is what I keep telling myself.  I am young, married, educated and now a Father and I know that I am not alone.  I have friends all over the place who are in my shoes and we spend a ridiculous amount of time talking about the predicaments, the pratfalls and the victories that we experience every day but there does not seem to be much of an outlet for those discussions except in the ether.

My goal is to get those topics out there.  Originally I wanted to speak specifically on what it is to be a Dad but I think that I will concentrate more on the everyday.  This will definitely include being a Dad but it will also include being a husband, homeowner, taxpayer, lead singer of a Rock Band and any other hat that I may be wearing that day.  I have a goal to share these experiences twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays as those are the least busy days on my Calendar.

I am going to start by relaying the experience of becoming a Dad and will go from there.

I welcome comments, shared experiences, questions whatever!  If I can answer I will, if not then I won't.  Wish me luck!