Friday, September 22, 2006

The Long Promised Little Abbey Update

Following are little notes about Little Abbey that come to mind in no particular order.

Little Abbey has started to play with toys on her own. Though she has a myriad of rattles and several chairs with dangling objects, she never really has reached out and grabbed them. Up until and including now, most collisions between appendages and hanging objects seems to be reflex in nature. However, on an impulse purchase a couple weeks ago, I bought a package of brightly colors rings that clip together and form a chain. At first she didn't give them much attention unless I dangled them in front of her but a week ago, she started grabbing onto them and shaking them. I tied off one end of the chain around the base of her bear mobile with the other end lying on the crib floor beside her. With the mobile bears doing their endless circle and the plastic chain that she grabs and plays with, she can entertain herself sometimes for almost twenty minutes.

Why are babies fascinated with things that spin in circles? Little Abbey if terribly fascinated with ceiling fans and will almost dislocate her neck trying to crane her head back far enough while being carried to watch them. When laying on the couch or bed where she can watch them in comfort, this too serves as a good distraction. Despite her ceiling fan fascination, the mobile bears that spin in the endless circle to the tune of Old MacDonald's Farm is by far her favorite.

One of the best developments is her happiness. Although she has been displaying signs of smiling and cooing for over a month now, they seem to get stronger and more pronounced with every passing day. Her smiles are definitely genuine and not to be mistaken with any other facial gesture. Her squeals of delight can be heard clear across the house. My favorite part of the day consists of me taking fifteen minutes after her afternoon feeding to just babble to her, repeating her various coos that emit from her throat. Those are conversations that I wish could go on forever.

Little Abbey has adapted will to Mrs. Z and Mrs. Z seems to be adapting well to Little Abbey. They have developed a schedule together and we have adapter our evening schedule slightly to match up so the days are seamless. Every morning when I drop her off at Mrs. Z's house, Little Abbey is all smiles as she greets Mrs. Z while I update her on the overnight and morning news such as last bottle, etc. In the afternoon when I pick her up, she is all smiles while I get updated on all the day's happenings from Mrs. Z. That aspect of rearing a child has been surprisingly painless.

Although Little Abbey is doing well in regards to neck control and holding it up in the air for longer and longer periods of time when on her stomach, she has showed little inclination towards rolling over. However, this is fine with us as we are in no hurry for her to grow up all at once and there seems to be no pressing reason that she must learn to roll over. In fact, rolling over complicates things because you now have to be more vigilant on where she is laid down so that she doesn't roll off. Besides, when she can't roll over, she is forced to face towards me and have a conversation. The day when she can roll over and 'give me the shoulder' will come soon enough as it is.

All parents think their babies are beautiful or at least I get the sense that is the case. However, judging by the number of people who stop us whenever we go out in public just to comment on how beautiful Little Abbey is, I'm guessing that she truly is beautiful. This is good now but sure to give me loads of heartburn later when she is in high school around boys like I was, another event that I'm not looking forward too.

She was pretty colicky for the first couple months and even after that, sometimes a little in the evenings. All that has gone now and she is happy or quiet unless she wants something like attention, diaper changings, food or sleep. She still needs to work on falling asleep by herself during the daytime. At night she can be awake when we put her to bed, no problem. But during the daytime, she just rubs her eyes and shakes her head from side to side as she tries to rid herself of what I presume is a heavy eyelid feeling. All it takes is one of us to hold her for a few seconds to fall asleep but she just needs that guidance telling her that she is sleepy.

Part of her not sleeping by herself during the day I think stems from her curiosity. Probably because I'm a new parent and am blind when it comes to my child, but she seems wise beyond her years at times. When we go for walks in the evenings, where Little Abbey used to snooze in her stroller, she now gazes out over the edges at trees and houses in a wide eyed gaze. Whenever we are holding her, she is always looking around at this and that seemingly fascinated by every little thing. Even when she is in one of her chairs, her eyes are always wandering around the room looking at first one thing and then another. I think all this fascination keeps her mind alert and her eyes open far longer than she should keep them.

Perhaps her lack of sleep during the day contributes towards her excellent sleeping habits at night. We normally put her to bed at nine and wake her around six in the morning to take her to feed her before dropping her off at the daycare. In the almost two months that she has been sleeping through the night, she has slipped and woken up early perhaps less than a half dozen times but always goes back to bed. On the weekends, she will sleep a little later until seven or gets up at the same time as during the week, eats and goes back to bed. Either way, it allows mom and dad to catch up on some sleep. Another friend who reads this blog (and is linked in my sidebar) wrote a blog piece a week or so ago about having her baby sleep in the same bed with them. We decided against this for a couple reasons. The biggest reason was SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Although if you are careful, this problem can be avoided, it leads into the second reason why we bed Little Abbey in a crib in her own room. That reason is the quality of our sleep, i.e. mom and dad. When Little Abbey sleeps with us for a weekend nap, I always sleep much lighter out of worry of accidentally moving a cover over Little Abbey. I sleep, but it is not the good quality sleep that one gets when they have the whole bed to toss around in and know it. Having Little Abbey in the next room brings me peace of mind and a lot better sleep. As a side benefit, it allows my wife and I to have some us time. Now I don't mean this in a sexual nature. I mean it in a way where we can just talk and be ourselves without a baby in-between us whom we are trying not to disturb. Finally, I have talked with too many people who allowed their children to sleep in bed with mom and dad as infants until toddlers and when they finally wean the children to their own rooms, it is always a more traumatic event. The only reason I can see to bed a child in bed with the parents is convenience but if your child sleeps through the night anyway and takes convenience out of the question, why risk SIDS or a not so restful sleep?

I think we are getting close to starting to feed Little Abbey something other than a pure breast milk diet. Already we give her some rice water from time to time and little scraps of what we are eating but it has been only recently that she is starting to lose the tongue thrust reflex that all babies are born with. This reflex causes them to push all foreign objects from their mouth and usually disappears around four to six months of age. Evidently it then reverses causing them to stick everything they find into their mouth such as the eyeball of a Tickle Me Elmo mirror that I found Little Abbey contently sucking on the other day. A relative who is very keen on cooking gadget infomercials sent us a Magic Bullet (mini blender) set for Christmas last year and we promptly put it down in the storage room downstairs. Now, I'm thinking of finding it again so that I can blend up some breast milk/what-ever-we're-eating shakes for Little Abbey to try. I'm guessing she'll really like them.

I think I could probably go on for quite a bit more but this post is already plenty long. I'll turn into Phil (none for his long posts) if I keep at it so I'll save the rest for another time. I want to thank everyone for the nice comments and emails regarding Little Abbey that I receive from time to time. I'm happy that I can share some of her experiences with you.

Monday, September 11, 2006

It's Been Five Years and Yet It Feels Like Yesterday

The time was a little after 8:00 and I had just poured myself a bowl of cereal for breakfast. Normally I would have been at work but the week before I had been laid off from my job of five years and was now currently unemployed. Although the computer industry that I had just worked in during the previous week was suffering, the economy and other engineering sectors were going strong. I had been paid almost two months severance pay and I intended to make that last for a couple months before I started looking for a job. In fact, my only pressing task of the day was to cash the check at the bank after breakfast.

I pulled into the bank parking lot around nine and as I made my way into the normally hushed interior, I was taken back by the noise. A television was sitting on the desk in front of the vault blaring away and there was a group of people standing in front of it. I could hear the reporter talking about all the water rushing down the stairwells but quickly unfocused myself from his voice as I made my way to the counter. A few minutes later, I walked by the blaring television and went back to my car.

I filled up with gas and grabbed some breakfast on the way back to my apartment. As I pulled into the parking lot of the apartment complex and got out of the car, an old woman came tottering out of the doors shouting that planes were slamming into buildings all over New York City. Not knowing the proper response to someone who was obviously many cards short of a full deck, I simply smiled nodded and went inside. Yet when I got inside, I felt the odd urge to turn on the television just to make sure that the world was still sane, that revelations hadn’t yet begun. I turned on the television at 10:05 and as the screen popped into focus, I watched the south tower of the World Trade Center collapse, live on television accompanied by the startled shouts of everyone within microphone range.

Even then, I still thought it all was some movie clip that was being previewed on the morning news until the startled reported gathered their senses and stated the obvious, the south tower had indeed just collapsed. I too collapsed numbly into my chair still not comprehending the gravity of what had just happened. Half an hour later after the north tower collapsed, I finally gained some of my senses and started calling people. First were some fellow co-workers who were part of the 600+ people that were laid off with me. Then some of the co-workers who were at work. As it turned out, they weren’t working either, merely sitting in the cafeteria watching it unfold on televisions and wondering the same things as me. Is the world coming to an end?

When my girlfriend at the time, working in England, was off from work, I called her. I let her know that I was safe and we talked for a while, all the while my eyes kept watching the events unfold live on television. The Pentagon had been hit and another plane had hit the ground in Pennsylvania. Tens of thousands were estimated dead. It was overwhelming.

It was probably five or six in the evening when I realized that I had sat in my chair watching television non-stop all day, not even breaking for eating or drinking. Only to field an occasional phone call from someone needing to reach out and touch someone in a time when tomorrow wasn’t a guaranteed certainty anymore. By then I had realized that things were serious, not only for our country but for my personal livelihood. Here I was unemployed in a nation that had been attacked on the same scale as Pearl Harbor and I knew then that I would be lucky to find a job by the end of the year. Nobody hires people in a world as shocked as America was today, September 11, 2001. Despite it being early evening, I turned off the television and went to bed. I didn’t want to be awake anymore in this world.

I started sending out resumes the very next day and in a job market that would have yielded me a half dozen jobs to choose from within a week pre-9/11, it would take me two months one job offer which I took begrudgingly just so that I could continue to eat and earn money to fly overseas to see my girlfriend.

Even to this day, I only have to close my eyes and I can vividly relive that day five years ago. I can still remember being annoyed at the loud television in the bank before I had realized that hundreds of people were already dead and almost three thousand more would die in the next two hours. I can still remember the very first picture on the television showing the south tower collapsing live for the entire viewing world to see. I can still remember thinking that tomorrow might never come again. It’s been five years and yet it feels like yesterday.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

...And That Afternoon I Got Her Back

Okay, so I cheated a little. I pretended to go down to the floor to look at something and snuck out the door a few minutes early. Since everyone was gone, I wasn't going to get busted and even if I had, I would have taken just about anything just to see my Little Abbey again and hold her in my arms. I flew through town, obeying most traffic laws except for maybe the speed limits here and there and hurriedly made my way to Mrs. Z's house.

As soon as I opened my car door, I recognized Little Abbey's cries coming through the window and my heart sank into my toes. Not because I was worried about Little Abbey but because I was afraid that Little Abbey had been crying all day and Mrs. Z wouldn't want to keep her anymore. But as soon as I got inside, Mrs. Z sensing what I must have been thinking, assured me that Little Abbey had just woken up and was a little grumpy from being sleepy. She went on to say that Little Abbey had been in fact wonderful and hadn't cried all day except when she was hungry. She was a little worried that Little Abbey had only taken two bottle of milk all day when she normally would have taken three and I was even more worried since Little Abbey had only eaten part of her morning bottle. But everything seemed to be good.

I gathered a crying Little Abbey into my arms and she immediately quieted down. When your baby knows that, you really are assured that you are a father and that she realizes it. I got her fastened into her car carrier, gathered up her things and we drove on home where I assessed the situation. Little Abbey was tired, there was no doubt about it. She almost immediately fell asleep on my arms when we got home and stayed that way until my wife got home.

It was Little Abbey's three month birthday on Friday. Normally I wouldn't celebrate such trivial things especially with someone who isn't going to remember it but it is tradition in the Philippines to celebrate every month until they are one year old. Even that wouldn't have worried me but my mother-in-law and uncle-in-law both wanted photographic proof of the birthday celebration. So while my wife cooed over her daughter, I put the final touches on a sugar cookie 'birthday cake' and got three candles lit. Little Abbey was awake enough to celebrate her birthday by staring at the candles for a few minutes and then it was over. We fed her a bottle and put her to sleep.

Little Abbey would sleep for almost twelve hours straight during the night and then slept most of the next day. By Saturday evening, she was back to her normal feeding schedule and was well rested and happy again. Things were looking up. Yesterday finally came and this time things went smoothly. Little Abbey slept through the night, took her morning bottle just fine, and saw my wife out the door. I played with Little Abbey for a few minutes until she was sleepy once again and when it was time, snuggled her into the car carrier and into my car.

When I dropped her off at Mrs. Z's house, Little Abbey was snoring away and looked as if she had no intention of waking soon. Mrs. Z and I got caught up on the happenings of Little Abbey on Friday and through the week and both of us were convinced that things were going to be just fine. This time as I kissed Little Abbey's forehead before making my way out the door, I knew things were going to be just fine.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

The Day I Left My Baby Behind...

Well it happened. We dropped off Little Abbey for her first day at daycare on Friday of last week. It wasn't how I expected.

For a month, we had developed a routine with Little Abbey. We started her bedtime routine at around 8:30 and by a quarter after nine, she was in bed falling asleep in her room. For a month, she would sleep through the night and wake up once in the early hours before dawn for some food and a dry diaper before sleeping for another two to three hours. We thought that all this would continue when daycare time came except that the last sleep would be delayed while I drove the five blocks to drop her off. We may be right but Friday certainly didn't reassure us any.

Thursday night, my wife had a craving for Hy-Vee chicken and seeing this was our last day before Little Abbey went to daycare, I thought it worthy of fulfilling. Very unfortunate since all three of us came down with a case of gas. (How does fried chicken give someone gas?) My wife and I have mature intestinal tracks and let nature work its magic but Little Abbey's gut is still developing and for her, farting is a painful process. All night long, we were getting up to soothe her by holding her in our arms and applying pressure to her stomach or rolling warm bottles of water across her abdomen. These worked and Little Abbey would relax only to be bowled over by another round of pain in her abdomen. Never in my life did I think I would be praying for someone to fart but on Thursday night into early Friday morning I was.

Alarm clocks eventually went off and we swung into what we hoped would be our new routine. Mom pumped and got ready for work while I changed Little Abbey and tried to feed her a bottle. Unfortunately, the gas was still a problem and when a baby has gas, they really aren't in the mood for eating. I kept trying to soothe Little Abbey and finally as my wife was ready to make her way out the door, an explosion ripped though the house. Fortunately it was contained by them well built Huggies Supremes Size Number Ones. My wife helped me changed Little Abbey into a fresh diaper and bid a tearful goodbye to a baby she hasn't been away from for three months.

After my wife left, Little Abbey was still not wanting anything to do with her milk so I got her into her car seat and shuttled it, a diaper bag, a milk bag, a bag of diapers and wipes for Mrs. Z to keep at her house, my lunch bag and the partial bottle of milk out to the car. Little Abbey was silent for the trip over as we both pondered her fate for the day. I felt guilty as if I weren't a good parent and needed a stranger to do something I should be doing. I also felt guilty because Little Abbey was still not feeling well and I thought giving her to Mrs. Z was like dropping a baby off on the steps of a hospital and slinking off into the shadows.

Mrs. Z gathered Little Abbey into her arms as I explained the night's events and assured her that it would be no problem to give me a call if she was too cranky to deal with. Mrs. Z said everything was going to be all right and started carrying Little Abbey away from me and into the living room. The last thing I saw before heading out the door to my car was a tearful Little Abbey looking over Mrs. Z's shoulder at me and starting to cry. I quietly slipped out the door and made my way to the car but not before hearing Little Abbey's cries coming through the windows. As I got into my car and backed out of the driveway, my world blurred up and I cried a little myself. I've been leaving Little Abbey behind every morning for two and a half months but I knew today was different and I couldn't help but let my emotions get the better of me. I drove to work in silence and wished everything could start over again like three months ago, when all Little Abbey knew of the world was our house, my wife and I.

All day at work was hard. Fortunately the never ending crisis that always seem to pop up on a Friday before a holiday popped up and kept me busy for most of the morning. A message from my wife saying that she had talked with Mrs. Z and Little Abbey was now sleeping although still not taking much milk gave me a little boost in my moral but still I kept counting the hours until I got to see Little Abbey again. Lunch came and went, people started leaving early for a jump on the holiday weekend, minutes seem to lengthen and time slowed down. Three-thirty seemed as if it would never get here soon enough.