Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Joys of Poop

Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of spending several hours with Miller while Megan was out the house.  My mother-in-law was also around, using her wisdom to help me avoid parental malpractice, but it resulted in more one-on-one time with the little guy than I have had since we left the hospital.

I gave him a bottle (of milk), which he greatly enjoyed, and afterwards held him, basking in the glory of fatherhood.  Suddenly, Miller formed a distinctly concerned and confused expression on his face.  His eyes locked with mine, his forehead wrinkled, his wispy eyebrows twisted downward.  If he could speak, I expect he would have said: "WTF?"  A groan, more facial contortions, and then, explosion.  I felt massive vibrations in my arm along with a splattering sound of epic proportions.  Miller's face relaxed.  Poop happens.  But, for us, these explosions still feel like little miracles.

Some my readers will have seen a version of this story I posted in a Facebook competition for Graham Brothers Jewelers in Amarillo. The story I posted for Graham Brothers has resulted in a lot of feedback from friends and family who were unaware of the ordeal, so I thought I would expand the discussion here.  In short, for months before Miller's birth, we were afraid poop wouldn't happen.

At a routine sonogram around the 20th week of Megan's pregnancy, the sonogram doctor noted that Miller had a "prominent" stomach.  In other words, his stomach was larger than average.  They noted no other major warning signs, but they decided it was important to monitor the condition.  This resulted in monthly sonograms that transformed from exciting glimpses of our child to dreaded events adding to our anxiety.  Month after month we had the same result: prominent stomach, no other warning signs.

We hit a low point about two months before the due date.  Megan received a call from the sonogram doctor around 8 PM one evening.  The doctor stated she was concerned about the latest sonogram findings and recommended an MRI in order to get more information about possible conditions.  Her concerns ranged from intestinal blockage to unformed intestines, to cystic fibrosis, to a whole host of other possible problems.  In the course of that conversation, our mild concern transformed into a hefty pile of worry.

We ended up rejecting the proposed MRI.  The approach would have required sedating both Megan and the baby and would possibly fail to provide any additional information.  Instead we waited, hoped and prayed for the best, and prepared for the possibility of needing to bring in specialists after birth.

Miller was born at 3:09 PM on April 26.  His birth, followed by a healthy-sounding cry was wonderful, but lurking at the back of our minds was his first poop.  We wanted a full, stinky diaper, and we wanted it as soon as possible.

The following hours flew by in a frenzy of nurses and family and other visitors.  We had Megan's recovery to tend to, and we also had to figure out how to take care of the little guy.  Hour after hour passed with no diaper filled.  By 9 PM, we were exhausted and needed some rest.  We asked the nurses to wheel Miller to the nursery for a few hours until he needed to eat again.  We both immediately fell into an exhausted deep sleep.

Around 11 PM, the night nurse brought Miller in for an attempted feeding.  I asked her, "Any chance you had to change a diaper?"

Unaware of our particular concern and potentially suspecting I was questioning her skills as a caregiver, she responded, "Yes, we changed his diaper."

At this point, I'm sure both Megan and I looked insane and desperate.  Megan's bevy of drugs had left her with a series of unusual facial expressions normally bordering on a vacant, droopy stare, but, at this time, transitioning to a hopeful, vacant, droopy stare.  My intense nap had left dried remnants of drool on my cheek, and my hair was a messy disaster.  I asked urgently, "Pee or poop?"

Apparently used to dealing with crazy people, the nurse responded: "Both."

Megan and I broke into huge smiles.  We hugged, we kissed, and I'm pretty sure we even high-fived.  I text-messaged family and friends who were equally thrilled to hear about Miller's first bowel moment.  About an hour later, I witnessed some beautiful pooping with my own eyes in real time.  In case the nurse didn't already think I was crazy, I was gleeful as the black muck oozed all over the changing table.

We are now three weeks in, and he's still packing diapers.  While my excitement at the dirty ones has died down a little bit, I am still thankful for every one of them.  I'm told this opinion will change when he moves to solid foods . . . but I'll enjoy it right now.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Miller Clay Knapp, Born April 26, 2012

He's here. I can't imagine a more transformative and amazing fourteen days than the weeks we have spent with Miller.  This time has flown, but here is the update.

This Ain't Sea World

Megan and I struggled to sleep the night of April 25. We celebrated our last evening out without needing a babysitter with a dinner at Bob's Steak and Chop House, but even the effects of excellent beef and (for me) delicious wine were unsuccessful at calming us in the face of such excitement.

The morning of April 26 was worse. We both wandered the house aimlessly picking up, organizing, reorganizing, creating meaningless tasks, and generally trying to prepare for the unpreparable (so maybe that is not a word, but it seems appropriate to describe impending parenthood).

At 12:30, we arrived at the hospital. Our anthem of the morning was the brilliant Andy Samberg/T-Pain collaboration, "I'm On A Boat." Specifically, as IVs were inserted, blood drawn, and heartbeats monitored, the lyric, "This ain't Sea World, this is as real as it gets," repeated over and over in our minds.  By 2:45, Megan was summoned to an operating room to have a massive needle inserted into her spine. I donned scrubs and joined her at 2:55.

At 3:09, we had a baby. Megan's doctor lifted him over the curtain to give me a first glance--and he was bright purple. I knew to expect a purple baby, but the sight was still shocking and disturbing. The little guy then let out a strong cough, shoved some fluid out of his lungs, and released a healthy cry that is perhaps the most beautiful sound I've heard.  Megan and I are very cool and tough, but we teared up at the sound.

Megan's view at this point was restricted to the curtain separating her head from the surgery taking place. I was able to peak around the curtain and see the nurses clean, weigh, and test the baby. A digital scale, complete with a panda and a sunshine-rainbow, announced his weight at 7 pounds, 7 ounces.

Tests completed, the nurses brought us Miller for our first opportunity to spend time as a family. By 3:30, we were headed to recovery.

The Learning Curve

Megan and I are overachievers to a fault. We collectively have about forty years of formal education, and we approach most new adventures through careful research and study. Before visiting South America, we ordered extensive road maps to assist in travels around Patagonia, studied multiple guidebooks, contacted local acquaintances for details, and arranged a sophisticated itinerary. Before getting a puppy, we studied dog training books from at least three different authors while also interrogating friends who had well-behaved pets regarding methods and techniques.  We've put poor Harper through four dog training courses (which has paid off splendidly, as noted below).

We approached having a baby with a similar methodology. We attended multiple classes: classes on breast feeding, classes on baby CPR and first aid, classes on general baby care, classes on C-sections and C-section recovery. We read books including What to Expect When You're Expecting, What to Expect the First Year, Bringing Up Bebe, Secrets of The Baby Whisperer, and So You're Going to Be A Dad. Megan joined multiple email lists that would circulate updates and advice on that stage of the pregnancy along with tips for preparing one's home.

As we got to the hospital, I got the sneaking suspicion that I had no idea what I was in for. Megan's anaesthesiologist highlighted this point by asking if we had read any books. We said "yes," to which he replied: "Good, so you know how to raise other people's children."

That evening, as our guests slowly left the hospital, and I found myself in a room with just Megan and Miller, I began to realize that the real education was about to begin. The nursing staff--particularly a night nurse named Erin with astonishing patience--provided great help, but it quickly became apparent that Miller would operate on his own schedule, learn to feed at his own pace, and, significantly, leave us having to identify problems through a cryptic series of seemingly indistinguishable cries.

A few weeks later we are getting much better in that department. He head-bobs like a raver at a metal concert when he's hungry. He has a fairly specific cry when he needs to burp. Once that burp comes, he sounds like a 40-year-old bratwurst eating champion letting out a triumphant victory belch. He is exceptionally talented at evading diapers. The wet and dirty ones don't seem to trouble him too much, but perhaps that is because he manages to distribute his expulsions well beyond the bounds of the diaper itself. We still refer to the books sometimes, but Miller has his own ways of working with us. We'll figure it out together.  

Our biggest adventure so far was Miller's newborn photo session. Having seen her amazing work for some friends, we hired Leslie Lane of Lane Portraits.  Before her arrival, Leslie shared the secret formula: keep the baby up for an hour before the shoot, turn the house to 85 degrees, and then feed him well right before the photos should begin.  For somewhere near 90% of babies (so I'm making up this number), this induces a coma-like slumber in which the little one can be molded into angelic poses and photographed for hours. 

Miller was not in this 90%.  Instead, the feeding made him want to feed more . . . and more . . . and more.  He went on a four-hour feeding rampage with brief moments of quiet in between.  During these brief moments, Leslie snapped photos until the peace would again be disrupted.  Fortunately, Leslie is a pro, and she managed to capture some gorgeous material with relatively few shots.  We'll post them when they arrive.  Unfortunately, Miller's prospects of employment as a baby model are now gone.

One of our biggest concerns was how Harper would handle being edged out as the baby of the family.  Harper is a great, if highly energetic, dog.  He loves to play with all creatures, and he greets most visitors with enthusiasm.  We feared this enthusiasm would result in him tormenting Miller.

Instead, his golden retriever genes seem to be kicking in.  He regards Miller with curiousity but has avoided licking or otherwise antagonizing the baby.  He seems perplexed by some of the sounds Miller emits, and he often dodges the crying by moving to the other side of the house to sleep.  Harper still looks at stuffed animals, pacifiers, and other baby possessions with a particularly hungry glare, but, for now, all is peaceful in human-canine relations.

We are also learning to use all the baby gadgets. In the photo above, Megan improvised a bottle warmer.   Since then we've mastered a more sophisticated bottle warmer device, which does the job efficiently and without implying that we are boozing our child.  We have bottle sanitizers, wipe warmers, baby monitors, swings, bouncers, strollers . . . all the tools of the trade.  Won't be long and we will literally be able to operate all this stuff with our eyes closed (and a good thing too, as we will likely be exhausted).

I will try to do a better job keeping new content on the blog.  We have some travels ahead--a San Angelo wedding in June, a trip to Amarillo in July, and a visit to Red River, New Mexico.  While Miller has enjoyed occasional brief outings, the road trip will be a new task entirely.  But I'm sure we'll have it all figured out by then . . .

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