Friday, September 25, 2009

FAQ about being a new parent

I was hoping to avoid turning this blog into a baby blog. As much as I enjoy reading other people's baby blogs, I thought that forcing myself to blog about things other than the baby would encourage me to keep other interests alive. That said, most of my new thoughts and realizations lately have been related to parenting. Also, since the vast majority of my friends don't have any kids, I find I am surrounded by a lot of curiosity about what exactly goes on in a newly expanded family. So I'm not sure what the future of this blog holds, but for now, I would like to answer some frequently asked questions:

Is having a baby anything like what you expected?

Yes; logistically its been pretty much exactly what I expected. Which leads me to think that the cause and effect are probably the other way around; I have probably set up my life/routine *based* on what I was picturing. The baby is still very adaptable and sleeps most of the time, so really, she fits into whatever environment we decide to create. In some ways, I think we were mentally prepared for the worst, since we had no idea what to expect. For example, I was able to start squeezing in a bit of work each day much earlier than I expected (within a week I was at least able to respond to urgent e-mails - I thought that would take a month). Similarly, I don't think we ever really struggled with sleep deprivation, though it was a challenge to actually wake up and not nod off during those middle-of-the-night feedings for the first few weeks. Still, I've always felt pretty rested and alert during the days, even during the early weeks (more on that later).

What was the most difficult thing that you did not expect?

Baby hypochondria! I can't help but worry about every little thing that might be wrong with her. And I must say that the Internet is probably the worst invention ever for hypochondriacs. I have already made a vow to never read Yahoo! Answers or any other user forums, since only the most vapid, misinformed people tend to discuss their baby's ailments on the internet instead of talking to a real doctor. Some published articles are OK, but still often cause intense (and unfounded) alarm. All that worry is exhausting!

The other major challenge has been my constant state of slight distraction. I find my social interactions to be a little less fulfilling because I am always using a few brain cycles to keep tabs on the baby status. Its made it a bit tougher to keep up with and contribute to really interesting conversations, and I often find myself mis-speaking or unable to think of exactly the right response to something.

Are you breastfeeding? What's your opinion on breastfeeding in public?

Yes, breastfeeding. It was a huge pain in the ass (or, more literally, pain in the nipple) for the first few weeks, but since then, its been super convenient. Its allowed us to be extremely mobile (both around town, and for weekend trips), and its an instant way of quieting an irritated baby when we're out-and-about (for example, I took her to a wedding last weekend, and she just suckled through the ceremony). The downside is that on the rare occasion that she's really angry and shoving a boob in her face doesn't calm her, she will spit milk all over me, and its really sticky and annoying.

As for breastfeeding in public, I'm not sure why this is an issue that even comes up. It seems kind of absurd to think of a functional breast as some kind of sexual/indecent object. My opinion is that if you don't like it, you can hide yourself in a bathroom stall until I'm done. I do my best to be discreet and stay covered up, but beyond that, my priority is to keep my baby from getting upset (which, honestly, would be much more annoying to bystanders than a 2-second flash of nipple while the baby latches on).

Can you even remember life before the baby?

Yes. One reason we were anxious to have a baby is because we were getting a little bored. We had a lot of time on our hands. I think our current life is pretty similar to the old one, except it involves more bouncing, more colorful objects around the house, and attending fewer crowded events. And its way more fun. One major difference: tasks that require more than one hand are very difficult to accomplish.

Does she sleep through the night?

There seems to be some kind of morbid fascination with babies' sleep habits. So here is a full breakdown of the sleep progression so far:

Week 1: complete blur. we had no idea what was going on. I do remember that we would have to wake her up during the day because the doctor told us that she should go a MAX of 3 hours between feedings. She probably ate every 2-3 hours around the clock.

Week 2: she was sleeping a few 4-hour blocks per day; often one was at night, and one during the day.

Week 5: she consistently slept from around midnight to 4:30am, then would eat and go back to sleep for another 3 hours. Not bad.

2 months: she slept her first 8-hour continuous block. hell yeah. Here's a video taken around 2 months, just before bedtime:

present (3 months):
a typical 24-hour schedule is (all times are approximate):

midnight: falls asleep after eating. I hold her for about 20-30 minutes to make sure she's really out, then swaddle her in her velcro contraption and put her in her bassinet, where she generally sleeps soundly for the next 8-9 hours.

midnight-8:30am: baby sleeps; G and I usually putter around for about 30-90 minutes (finish up work, watch the rest of a TV show that we tried to watch earlier, shower), and then go to bed. Sometimes during the night the baby stirs/whines and I just pat her. Hopefully she falls back asleep quickly - I wouldn't know, because I fall back asleep first. On rare occasion, she'll wake up around 6am for a feeding/change, but will then go back to sleep for another 2-3 hours.

8:30am: everybody wakes up extremely groggy. by the time Gautam changes her diaper, however, she realizes her intense hunger and starts freaking out. She is then tasked with eating from an overfull boob, which is not that easy. She usually does a pretty good job, though if she's too groggy, sometimes it gets a little messy. depending on when we (mom and dad) went to bed, we sometimes try to make her go back to sleep at this point so we can sleep for another hour or two. often it works.

8:30am-1pm: she eats every 1-2 hours, maybe to make up for the long night drought. naps/plays/smiles/talks/whines between feedings. We either sleep, or get up and have breakfast, read the newspaper and start checking in with work stuff.

1pm-4pm: she usually sleeps pretty solidly, especially if I take her out. G usually works during this time.

4-8pm: baby eats approximately every 2-3 hours. plays/naps/smiles/talks/whines in between. G and I work and alternate baby care.

8-11pm: all hell breaks loose. her moods swing dramatically; she eats every 1-1.5 hours, and requires lots of bouncing. sometimes she'll sleep a little bit and we'll watch TV. My theory: storing up food for the long night.

11pm: if we're not feeling super lazy, we'll give her a bath. Then I feed her again, and prepare for bed.

How did you come up with her name?

I honestly don't know the answer to this question. Its the only one that met a bunch of criteria we had (short, sounds nice, vaguely indian), and that G and I both agreed upon. I think its a pretty sweet name.

What type of "parenting style" did you use? Any specific tricks that worked or didn't work?

I tried to avoid reading too much about parenting, and wanted to just do what felt right. The one baby care class I took preached "attachment parenting" and it made a lot of sense to me, so I used it as a guideline. Attachment parenting prescribes as much physical contact with your baby as possible; babywearing (sling/bjorn as much as possible), co-sleeping, breastfeeding. They also say to pick up your baby as soon as she starts crying (because supposedly you can't "spoil" a young baby, and comfort/security are vital to an infant). The funny thing is that sometimes, she gets annoyed at being carried around and just wants to be put down. So much for that. Overall, its been working well; lil' A loves being in the sling, and I love having a soft warm bundle near me...

Lastly, I haven't decided whether or not to use her name on the internet, so until I decide, please keep her name out of blogger comments (facebook comments are OK).