Suburban Butch Dad Report, First Birthday Edition

It’s been a year since the weekend my second daughter was born.  We’ve been reminiscing about a lot, reciting Little Bit’s birth story, remembering little details and funny stories.  She was born on a Sunday, but we started gearing up for her arrival that Friday.  My wife was sure the baby was coming within the next two days, so she and I went over our plan.  Her mom was here already, stationed in her recreational vehicle next to the house.  We’d talked to my parents, confirming they were on-call, ready to pick up ElderSpawn.

We planned to call her sister once we were in labor, everyone else who would be attending the birth was in town.  Our bags and checklists were double-checked.

My wife didn’t sleep well that night and Saturday morning she definitely didn’t feel right.  As the morning went on, it became clear that labor had begun.  Phone calls were made, her sister started driving across the state and arrangements were made for ElderSpawn to go off with my parents for a while.  At around 9 pm, we headed for the hospital.  The night passed in that bizarre timelessness you find in hospitals, airports and customer support phone calls.

We welcomed our second born the next evening, at 6:01 pm.  My wife was heroic, and I did my part by not screaming as she squeezed my hand like a vise.  After 9 hours of hard labor, and an hour and a half of pushing, we had a beautiful 8 lb, 20 inch baby girl to add to our family.

And now that bundle of adorable chub is walking, babbling, eating, hugging, laughing hysterically when tickled, playing peek-a-boo and charming everyone in her path.   It feels like she just got here and as if she’s been with us forever, at the same time.

On Sunday, we invited a small group of family and friends over to celebrate the occasion.  We’re having a bit of a heat wave here and it was nice to gather in our front lawn, under the huge cherry tree.  Little Bit rambled around, trying to escape into the flower beds the whole time.  Our friends brought their one year old (she’s 3 days older than LB) but she’s not walking yet, just cruising.

ElderSpawn and I took on the challenge of baking the birthday cake.  We spent some time pouring over some cookbooks, discussing the comparative merits of various cakes and frostings.  We decided to make Red Velvet Cake based on the Pioneer Woman’s recipe.  It’s not a difficult recipe, but the result is dramatic.  I’ve never made a layer cake before, but it turned out brilliantly.  We spent several hours on the project, reviewing the recipe, checking our supplies and going shopping.  Then we took our time with the recipe, mostly so ES could do the bulk of the measuring and mixing, and take her time with the fractional math and conversions between pounds, ounces and cups.  The batter ended up looking like red play dough thanks to the 2 ounces of red food coloring we added to make sure we got a true red.

We frosted our brilliantly red, mildly toxic cake with cream cheese frosting (Mrs. Kyle’s request), decorated with pink writing and free-form designs, and served with a scoop of creamy, delicious vanilla ice cream.

Last night, on Little Bit’s actual birthday, we were on a soccer sideline watching ElderSpawn’s team play in the nearly 90 degree heat (her team won, 3-2).  Last year, her team had a bye on Monday (convenient as we were checking out of the hospital) and then played their last game on Thursday, the hottest day on record for Olympia at 104 degrees.  And, despite the furnace-like temperature, we were there with our 3 day old baby, who insisted on being swaddled tightly in spite of the heat.   Little Bit got birthday greetings from everyone last night, and we parents reminisced about the heat last year.  This year we’ve got another hot week, though not as bad, and we had another newborn on the sidelines.  One of the other families greeted their 5th child, a boy, 2 weeks ago.  This Saturday, we’ll host the season ending soccer party (and slide show) and welcome our extended soccer family for an afternoon of food and family fun.  Then we’ll all have a well-deserved break from soccer for a little while.

The biggest stress point at home right now is in trying to get Little Bit to sleep on her own, so we can get some as well.  And it’s not just lack of sleep, it’s the inability of my wife to move freely, without the leach-like presence of our baby clinging to her at all times.   Little Bit is going through some serious separation anxiety right now, and Mrs. Kyle deals with it all day long and then again at night, once I’m in bed.  It used to be that my wife could nurse the baby to sleep, then deposit her into her crib, earning some freedom.   That baby-free zone was an essential space for her to recharge her batteries, get phone time with friends, do things that can’t be done with only one hand free and the other holding a baby to her hip.  We did have that schedule for a while, but now we’ve got a baby who begins to cry as soon as she feels a break in bodily contact and the gravity of being lowered into the crib.  Last night was typical.  My wife tried several times, starting at around midnight.   I was in bed by then, but I could hear her walk from the living room to the baby’s room next to ours.  A soft creaking sound as she bent over the crib and then Little Bit would start crying.  Mrs. Kyle would attempt to settle her into her bed without picking her back up, but the crying doesn’t die down, it increases.  Eventually, she’d pick the baby back up and carry her out to the living room.   This was repeated, each time my wife got more desperate for relief, until the last time when she was near tears herself.  You might ask, what about letting the baby cry it out?  Well, yeah, we could try that (and have), but the result would be that everyone in the house is awake and miserable.   My wife is very conscientious about making sure our eldest daughter and I get as much sleep as possible.  Last night, after hearing the note of desperation in my wife’s voice as she pulled the baby out of the crib for the umpteenth time, I got up and took the baby from her.

I sat up with LB, in our bed, while my wife did her pre-bed preparations.  Usually, Mrs. Kyle reads a little and then gets some baby-free sleep before I bring Little Bit in to nurse and finish the night with us.  Baby-free sleep means not having to carefully arrange our bodies around her little sprawling one, or for my wife, having to arrange herself so that she’s positioned for feeding.

So we got through the night, without as much sleep as we wanted, and without my wife getting her time alone.  We’re surviving, but not thriving.  And, unfortunately, since our normally considerable brain power is being suppressed by sleep deprivation, we’re having a hard time coming up with viable solutions.  I’ve got some new ideas (thank you, Roxy, for brainstorming with me this morning) and I’ll see what Mrs. Kyle thinks about those tonight.  I know this will get easier, I know she’ll sleep through the night at some point and I know my wife won’t be a bitchy wreck due to lack of sleep someday, but dammit, that isn’t helping a whole lot right now.   It’s hard to get through the days and nights when my only solace is that at some unspecified date in the future it will be easier.

Ok, bitch session over, thanks for sticking around.  Hope you all have a great week.  It’s almost time for me to bike to day camp to pick up my ElderSpawn and see what the evening has in store for us.  Wish me luck.

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