Finally at long last a full four days after after being delivered into the world a full month premature we bring our new little baby girl home. It’s a bit strange we’ve been waiting for this moment nearly eight months now and once she’s in the door what is there really to do. She doesn’t care about the view from any window or the masterwork that has become her room it’s all irrelevant to her and that’s when it hits me this is a different kind of houseguest. Of course this houseguest won’t be leaving for another eighteen years but unlike when friends or family visit your home Kathleen has no concern how nice her new home is as long as it’s warm and her mommy the food supply is close at hand.
Having been held up all day at the hospital awaiting Kate’s Billy Rubin test we don’t come through the front door till after nine PM with neither JoAnn nor I having eaten and just really overwhelmed by the experience of the past eight days. I know that no matter how many times we’re interrupted from sleeping tonight JoAnn will have the first real rest she’s had in a week and as for me this is night one with a new born in the room so I’m set for no rest at all. In my quest to finish the last minute shopping we thought we had another month to achieve I came to a vast realization, why do we need a bassinet? This was one of the items on my baby-shopping list, a bassinet or a Moses basket for our bedroom but after spending over four hundred dollars on a stroller/carriage/car seat combo I figured why can’t the baby sleep in this. After all she’ll only be a month or so in our room till we move her to her own crib and it’s not like she can really go anywhere, JoAnn agreed so we set the stroller into it’s flat sleeper mode and lined it with warm fuzzy fleece blankets and put her down for the night.
Unlike JoAnn I was unaccustomed to being woken at all hours by the cries of a hungry baby so sleep was sporadic the first couple nights while we slowly learned what to expect from our little girl, or rather while I learned. JoAnn was far more in tune with Katie already and on the first grumbling before she even really began to cry she was up to tend to her. I always suspected she would make a great mom but even now at this early stage I was amazed at how well she was adapting. Me on the other hand, I’d never baby sat kids before other than my niece and nephew and they weren’t babies at the time. I had no experience with babies in fact I’d shied away from them my entire life so I wondered if I was at all qualified to be called a father, surely this was going to be a much steeper learning curve for me.
Katie seemed to us to be suckling well and sleeping lots not fussing much and we patted ourselves on the back for having a wonderfully easy going baby, that was until the public health nurse made her first home visit a week later. Her first comment was Kathleen was still very jaundiced looking which we had noticed but thought would pass in time, she’d also lost nearly 10% of her birth weight which is the maximum they will let it go before they think there is a problem. Another Billy Rubin was ordered and the test result was higher than when she was still in hospital and her pediatrician wanted her readmitted right away. Of course I found out about all this on the phone as I’d gone back to work. What worried me was the emotional JoAnn was calling not the comfortable at home mommy I was getting to know the past week. I’m not sure if she thought she’d done something wrong but it just came across that way she felt she’d broken our daughter and failed as a mother to notice her child was sick. Neither of us did and that’s why there is a public health nurse to look in on newborns and their incompetent overwhelmed new parents.
I drove the two of them back to the hospital, as JoAnn would be staying the night on a cot next to Katie to feed her and watch her bake under the blue lights again while I went home alone again after only a week with the two of them. As it turned out the doctors were able to figure out JoAnn wasn’t producing enough milk yet to satisfy Katie and even though she suckled well and long she wasn’t getting enough nourishment. It’s a vicious cycle really Katie doesn’t get enough food she’ll develop jaundice but you don’t know how much food she’s getting on the breast you just assume she’s getting enough as long as she’s suckling. So it was formula for Katie and pills to help ramp up JoAnn’s production and after one night and day away basking under the blue lights they were released home again. All indications had her Billy Rubin numbers falling and on the bottle they knew she was getting plenty of food so they took a chance on letting us be parents again.
I personally was never really that worried, I never had a real fear of doom that she wouldn’t get through this early hiccup in her development but I was less sure about JoAnn. She was more worried than I’d ever seen her less sure of herself and when she asked me if I’d call my mom to see if she’d be interested in flying west for a visit I knew she needed some reassurance. She was doing everything she could and doing it right she just wanted someone to tell her she was doing it right and what better person than a retired pediatric nurse. I think in a perfect world if didn’t have to work to put food on the table I might have been able to help shoulder more of the burden JoAnn felt but the reality of the situation meant one of us had to work.
Imagine my surprise when I drop the invite on my mom expecting her in a week or two she flies in the next day. Kathleen was not her first grandchild rather her forth but it was however the first new one she’d had in over twelve years and she was as excited as anyone to see her plus she’d be the first in the family. There are both good and bad aspects to having family live far away and I guess over the next month we were about to find out as we were booked up with back to back family visits. My mother is the only one requested by JoAnn and it seemed to do the trick to settle her down, she didn’t do anything different than she was already doing but with my mother not critizing her she knew she was doing fine. That’s the good thing about my mom she never forces her views on you, only giving careful advice where she see’s fit, the next month would not prove as simple as everyone else seemed to have advice on how to raise Katie and were less discriminating in sharing their views.
Once my mother flew home we finally had a week to get used to this whole being a parent thing and seemed to get into a grove but with Katie’s demanding feeding schedule of every three hours JoAnn was not getting much sleep. I picked up the slack on the weekends trying to let her sleep and getting up to service the baby and sometimes I even pulled it off but on other occasions JoAnn would come to the rescue of an inept dad floundering way over his head. I found it quite frustrating not being able to quell Katie’s cries the way JoAnn could just by picking her up. They did spend a lot more time together and she was mom. Really who was this hairy guy she didn’t know changing her diaper in the middle of the night and trying to feed her a bottle without burping her. I mean really what do you think? of course she’s going to throw it all up on you. I think the oddest thing was I didn’t mind hearing her cry and I loved just walking around holding her as she cried but this always brought JoAnn out after a minute or two as her mothering instinct to sooth her child would not let her sleep while her idiot husband tortured her child letting her cry. To me it was like music, just hearing this little voice I had a small part in helping create still floored me. I was just overwhelmed by the love I felt for this small very vocal package and still found it hard to believe I was a father.
I may not know anything at all about how to raise her but it didn’t matter I’d learn. The important thing was she was here. It seemed like not that long ago we found out we were pregnant and now here she is, my little girl in my arms crying for her mother. It’s been a long journey to get here, thirteen years with JoAnn and me not really sure I ever wanted to be a father really but now so glad we made the decision to do this. It’s truly the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. She’s healthy and I’m determined to make her happy and if she’ll be patient with me I’ll even learn how to be a competent father as long as her mom doesn’t kill me first. Standing in the darkness of our living room with her in my arms as the sun rises I pledge to her to be the best Dad I can be and I give her a little kiss I am truly humbled and proud she’s my little girl and she’s what I’ve always wanted in this life. It took me a while to get to this moment but now that it’s here I won’t trade it for anything, welcome home Kathleen.