The New Normal

NOTE: I wrote this blog two days before Ella was born and never posted it. Still catching up. 

Hailey and I know our lives are about to change forever. We planned for it.

Crib, clothes and more. Friends & family are the best!

Our friends who are parents have told us to go to the movies (we’ve been to the theater more in the last 6 weeks than we had the entire previous year), go out to dinner, get plenty of sleep and spend time talking—do whatever we can to get time alone, just the two of us.

The advice has been wonderful. But, at the same time, we’ve been married for seven years and  were also gifted with 10 months together where almost every night was spent alone with one another-without a tv, consistently working Internet and the other distractions most of us consider necessities. It’s odd to be at this stage and feel…well, ready (even if there is some uneasiness at the same time).

We’ve spent the better part of the past few months acquiring furniture, clothing and all the modern amenities people have told us we just have to have. And we’re extremely grateful for what we have received. Most of what we have is hand-me-downs or gifts. We wouldn’t be able to have this kid without the generous support of our friends and family.

In Malawi I learned that it really does take a village to raise a kid. Most children have multiple fathers and mothers (here we’d call them uncles and aunts) and each is equally important in the upbringing of a child. Our village has come through.

No carseats, only chitenjes…

As our home fills with baby stuff, I can’t help but think about the children we grew to know a year ago. When my daughter is born, she won’t be the first child I’ve named (in Malawi the parents do not name the child, the uncle does). Mothers rode in the car I drove and I didn’t worry once about whether or not the chitenje  around their chest carrying their newborn would pass Child Safety Seat Laws. I saw women unabashedly breastfeed without a hooter hider and (eventually) thought nothing of it. And I saw children thrive without Baby Einstein, pacifiers or diapers that always fit.

Two completely different worlds with different definitions of need. Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in the middle–but maybe that’s a good thing.

Hailey and I are cherishing our last few nights as a family of two, but we’re also dreaming about the sleepless ones ahead. I’m positive we’ll miss the times we had alone, the feeling of being rested, and the ability to go out whenever we want. But I also know the “new normal” will provide all kinds of new experiences, stories and life lessons. And I can’t wait.

Ella’s Birth Story

NOTE: I have 3-4 posts that I’ve started in the last 2 months and haven’t had time to finish. A newborn daughter will do that. Over the next week or two, I will be posting them. I wrote most of this post on July 18, 2012. 

Today was supposed to be our daughter’s due date. Instead it was Ella Marie’s two-week birthday (and check up with the doc).

Last night Hailey and I sat up talking about how different her birth could have been. Instead of a cooing and growling baby, anticipation and anxiety could have been the culprits keeping us awake. The timing couldn’t     have been better.

On July 3rd, I got home from a long day at work. Around 7:00 Hailey sent a text asking if I would be coming home anytime soon. I thought nothing of it and called her to ask about dinner and if it was okay if I stopped to get gas. She said sure.

I got home and she was making dinner. It was a normal night…or so I thought. Hailey paused every few minutes while cutting vegetables and said she was feeling a little pain and tightness. Then she’d turn back to the veggies.

My wife is a rock star.

She didn’t tell me over the phone because she didn’t want me to worry and she assumed it was just Braxton Hicks contractions. We sat down on the couch, started dinner and within the hour she was arching her back in pain and had set her food down. She called a friend and then the doctor (who told her that she had probably just pushed herself too hard for the day and that she should drink some water and relax). Doctors know best, so I went back to my spaghetti.

While she was on the phone I went upstairs for less than five minutes. I came down and, through tears, she blurted, “DON’T YOU LEAVE ME!” All sorts of craziness ran through my head.

I knew she wanted to have the baby naturally and that our birth plan included the phrase “drug free.” Early in her pregnancy I would try to talk her down off her hippy pedestal. I’d recite my defense, there’s a reason for birth interventions and I wanted to be realistic about what might happen.

She’d always argue and I’d eventually concede (at some point I learned that arguing with a pregnant woman was a bad idea, but it took me entirely too long to get there…sorry dear). And now her practice contractions were causing her to scream at me and cry? Drug free my booty. There was no way she was having our kid without any medication.

By 9:00 she was hanging on my shoulders and wincing in pain. It was never consistent, so we weren’t too sure what to think. I was annoyed. I wanted to go to sleep. I had been up since 5:00 AM and these fake labor pains were keeping us awake. I said, “we’re either going to the hospital or I’m going to bed.” (Yes, I realize this whole interaction makes me look and sound like a complete jerk…). She wanted to go to the hospital.

I went upstairs and got ready to leave, came back down and then instead of getting in the car we decided we’d stay awhile longer. We couldn’t make up our mind. I had read somewhere that a bath helped with Braxton Hicks, so we agreed it would be a good next step. I went upstairs, started the water and then Hailey came up, but she didn’t get in the bath at all. She was already wet. Her water broke when she set foot in the bathroom.

The water breaking was a huge relief. Hailey’s pain supposedly worsened but I never knew. She was uncomfortable, but at least she knew that the baby was really coming right then, that night.

She sat on an exercise ball and I ran all over the house while tears flew down my face. We called the hospital and the doc had already called them saying we would be in later that night. Our parents were on their way. This was really it. The baby was coming.

I figured we’d be in for a long night. All our birth classes had told us to prepare for a marathon. Many of our friends have had kids; we had heard the stories. But none of them prepared me for what happened.

We got to the hospital just before 11:00 PM. Ella was born at 12:48 AM. All my thoughts and our disagreements about birth plans didn’t matter. There wasn’t time for them to. Nor was there time for drugs.

Hailey originally wanted me to be in the delivery room alone with her. She knew I was terrified so she asked our friend Amy, who is a nurse, to join me. Amy was in Indiana and wouldn’t have made it up from San Diego anyway, it was that fast.

Early in her pregnancy I told Hailey that I didn’t want to actually watch our daughter being born. I’d focus on her, coach her through the pain and keep my eyes above the imaginary curtain (the one that hides all the blood and other birth goo…). But I had to watch. Birth is unlike anything else I’d seen.

I cut the umbilical chord (twice), watched the doc clean up my beautiful and crazy tough wife and, after the initial skin to skin time with mom, stood in awe as my daughter squirmed and screamed under the lights of the warmer.

Ella was less than an hour old. I wandered over to Hailey and, as usual, the filter that is supposed to work between my brain and mouth didn’t. I brushed back her hair and said, “You were made for this. That was easy, when do we try for number two?”

To read Hailey’s perspective on Ella’s birth, click here.

Countdown to Fatherhood: One Month

Thanks for the photos Mikey. www.prinephotography.com

Fatherhood. Over the last 8 months I’ve debated how much or how little I should write about becoming a dad. Hailey and I have read books, attended classes and spent a lot of time talking about the whats, hows and whys of our impending (and exciting) life change. We can’t wait to have this little girl.

BUT, I haven’t spent much time processing on paper. And I figured now—a month away from Kid Rohde’s due date—and the day after Father’s Day, was as good of a time as any to write down a few thoughts:

 

  1. Birthing Class—When I was in middle school, during sex ed, my teacher made me stand on top of the table and scream “penis” and “vagina” at the top of my lungs until I could do it without laughing. I was that kid. I’d like to think I’ve grown up, but I also felt like that dad in birthing class. I found myself laughing when no one else was, shaking my head at questions common sense should have answered and making faces when the videos got a little too graphic for post meal education. I look forward to being a dad, but I’m terrified of the whole birthing process—and I’m not even the one pushing the child through my body.
  2. Doctor’s Appointments—I wish my 8th grade teacher could see me now, walking into an OBGYN office like it’s normal. This has been one of my favorite parts of our pregnancy (which is weird to say, our pregnancy…I know I had something to do with it and I may even have a belly like I’m with child, but let’s be honest, men don’t get pregnant). Going to the doc’s office to ask questions, see how much Hailey’s stomach has grown and hear our daughter’s heartbeat has been unreal. I wouldn’t miss an appointment for anything. This is happening. That thing moving around, throwing off my wife’s hormones and stomping around on her bladder isn’t an alien or a thing at all, its not even an IT—she’s a little girl—our little girl.
  3. Fear—Every 5-6 hours I have a freak out moment. They wake me up in the middle of the night. “Can I really do this?” “Am I ready to be a dad?” I’ve always loved kids—I spent much of my career in family ministry because of it—but I could always send those kids back home after a few hours. What happens when home is your own house?  I’ve been told that the greatest test of trusting God is knowing that He loves your child more than you can or ever will. Conceptually and theologically, I get it. Practically, I say bull. I want to control every aspect of this kid’s life—from her actual birth to when she eats, sleeps, poops or begins to date (thirty sounds about right…). But I don’t get to. And that is frightening.
  4. “That’s Just Your Theory”—I’m convinced there are more theories about birthing practices and infant care than there are actual babies alive in the world today. With every birth, comes a new method—maybe we will paten the Rohde Method, it will pay for our daughter’s college tuition. Everywhere we turn someone mentions new approaches to feeding, ways of avoiding sicknesses and how we should create the perfect atmosphere for healthy development. At first we were like sponges soaking up as much as we could. Now we’re like the old grimy thing that has sat by your sink for 8 months. We can’t soak up anymore. We’ll try our best, but I can’t guarantee bits of old food won’t be spread all over the counter while we listen.

Thirty-One Days…