Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Travels with Baby 2: Baby in a Hotel

Baby's first flight was OK.  Thanks to the easy availability of food and comfort in the form of breastfeeding and some work on my part shushing and bouncing her, she stayed mostly quiet and even slept a little bit.  If you want to be realistic, I think that's about as good as you can hope for.  That's certainly as good as you can expect.  If it goes more smoothly than that, good for you.  And of course, this experience will be vastly different given even a month's difference in age (The Baby was 5 1/2 months old for this trip).

We arrived in San Diego, put The Baby into the carrier, collected our bags, made it to the rental car place, got the car seat installed and made our way to the hotel, all without incident other than at this point The Baby is about four hours behind on sleep.  She was more or less delirious, but she was hanging on and being a pretty good sport about it.  She would've fallen asleep in the car, but the hotel was really close, so she didn't have much of a chance.

As soon as we got to the hotel, we called down to have them send up a pack and play.

Tip #5:  Call the hotel and tell them you'll be staying with an infant.  Most will have pack and plays and other infant products that guests can use for free.  We'd planned to rent a pack and play until a friend told us to talk to the hotel.  Easy peasy.

Here's a tough question then, assuming you're not staying in a suite: where do you put the pack and play?  If you put it in the bedroom, you're consigning yourself to many hours of sitting in the dark reading quietly.  Or you can do like we did and put it in the bathroom.  Problem there is...  What do you do when you need to get ready for bed or take a poo yourself?  On the balance, I think the bathroom is the smarter move, but you literally need to be more prepared.  Before putting baby down for a nap, make sure you've done your business.  At night, before you put baby down, plan it out so you have access to your bedtime products in the bedroom so you can pop into and out of the bathroom as quickly and quietly as possible so as to disturb baby as much as possible.

There is a third possibility depending on your hotel room: if the closet is big enough, you can put baby in there.  This would be the best option, providing a quiet, dark place for baby while still giving you access to the bathroom.  The closet in our room wasn't big enough for us to be comfortable with this, and it may sound strange, but remember what makes for a good place to sleep - quiet and dark.  Closets are good for that.

The next few days, while not as relaxing as a pre-baby vacation would've been, were really pretty smooth.  We did our best to respect The Baby's sleep schedule.

Tip #6:  Respect your baby's sleep schedule.  I know, I know.  There are all these fun distractions right next to your hotel, and it's so easy to pop over for an appetizer or a drink or whatever.  You know what you're like when you're tired, and you know what your baby is like when he/she's tired.  If you want to push it, that's your business, but prepare yourself to deal with a tired, cranky baby.  For us, it has as much to do with "doing what's best for baby" as "just not wanting to deal with a crabby little shit while in public."  We pushed it one night.  There was a good Mexican restaurant across the street.  We thought we could put in an order to go and enjoy a quick beer while we waited for the food.  We ended up tag-teaming The Baby; while one of us sat nervously at the bar, drinking alone, the other walked around outside the restaurant doing our best to keep her quiet.  Just the kind of night you look forward to on vacation!  You can respect the schedule without being a slave to it.

I thought I'd get to thoughts on Being Thought a Bad Parent, but this ran on longer than expected.  Next time.  Also, stay tuned for Poopmageddon!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Travels with Baby 1: Flying with Baby

As I may have mentioned, The Wife is a physician and one of the perks of her position is a good travel budget to encourage her and her colleagues to attend and present at various conferences.  She had a poster selected for presentation at a conference in California, and it just so happens that her grandfather, The Baby's great-grandfather, winters within a couple hours of where the conference was.  So we decided to make a vacation out of it.  We'd go to the conference and then spend a few days with great-grandpa.  GREAT!...

When it comes to travel, I am a minimalist and poor planner.  The Wife is the opposite.  Historically, we've nicely balanced each other out, but when traveling with a baby, minimalism goes right the hell out the window.  YOU BRING EVERYTHING.  Nuks?  Check.  Rags?  Check.  Book that The Baby cannot understand and has looked at twice since birth?  Check.  Toy that The Baby has never shown the slightest interest in?  Check.  You do this because you will do anything, and I mean anything, to keep a child occupied during a three-hour flight.  What silly objection could you possibly have to bringing along that stupid stuffed animal that's she's never played with?  You don't want to take up the space?  You want to *look* like one of those couples who has it so together they manage to travel with a baby but without checking a bag?!

You're a fool.  So you bring it all.

We got the packing taken care of with little stress once I let go of my silly objections to taking a bigger suitcase (I mean honestly, what was I thinking?).  We did a good job of tempering our expectations.  This would not be a vacation by the definition that existed pre-Baby.  No lounging by the pool sipping drinks.  No luxurious dinners out.  In fact, while the conference was on, since we were still going to make breastfeeding happen, it wouldn't be a vacation at all - we'd have to work to make that happen.

Tip #1: Temper your expectations.  Your days of relaxing vacations are over.

Once the packing is done, the next thing to worry about is moving all that shit plus The Baby.  With curbside check-in, this really turned out to be a non-issue.  We dumped the suitcases, unhooked the baby seat, dumped it into its nifty red "GATE CHECK" bag, handed that over, put The Baby into her Ergo, and hit the line for security.  This would be the first time of many that my blood pressure spiked and I thought I would get an ulcer, but security was amazingly, remarkably, mind-bendingly anti-climactic.  The truth is, I don't give The Baby enough credit.  If she's comfortable and full and has things to look at, she'll stay happy and quiet for a long time, and she proved it in that security line.  The other amazing thing is, people LOVE to see a dude wearing a baby.  This is one of the first examples of sexist unfairness with being a SAHD that I noticed.  When my wife wears her, it's no big deal; just another lady with her kid.  When I wear The Baby, everybody smiles, including TSA.  We got a special card so we didn't need to take off shoes and went through a separate line so we didn't fry The Baby with microwaves or whatever the hell those new scanners use.  Easy peasy.

We boarded the plane and did our best to stick to a schedule that would have The Baby nursing during takeoff, but she had other plans.  This would be the second time my blood pressure spiked.  You can see people taking stock of their seating arrangement as they board the plane, and you can see them see a baby, and you see them slump.  They know.  They know this flight could be a living nightmare, and YOU know it could be the fault of your precious little poop factory.  That's a feeling I dreaded, so much so that I actually brought ear plugs for our neighbors.

Tip #2: Bring ear plugs for your plane neighbors.  Nobody will take them, but you offering them communicates the following: "I know my child may make this an uncomfortable experience, and for that, I'm sorry."

Tip #3: If possible, time it so your baby is nursing during takeoff and landing.  The sucking will help his/her ears equilibrate, which will reduce crying, which in turn will decrease the odds that the flight attendants will through you off the plane or put you down with the baggage.

As I said, we tried to time it right, but The Baby had other ideas and was finished nursing by the time we took off, which also ended up being not a big deal.  If her ears bothered her, she didn't show it.  After that, it's just a constant battle to keep the kid occupied and/or asleep.  This isn't easy, but it's also not anything you haven't done before.  Just like you brought every fucking baby accessory in your house, you also need to bring every soothing tool you've acquired since birth.  I hadn't shushed The Baby for months, but I shushed the shit out of her on that flight, and it sort of worked.  I hadn't stood and bounced her for even longer, but that worked too.

Tip #4: Do whatever it takes to get your baby to sleep.  This may mean standing with the baby back by the bathrooms, which will make you feel like a total creeper, but if it keeps the kid quiet, nobody will care.

In the next installment, we'll talk about fears of being thought a Bad Parent, then we'll tackle how to stay sane in a hotel with an infant.  Oh, and at some point, we'll talk about Poopmageddon, or The Terror at 30,000 Feet.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Peace Like a Hallmark Card and Final-ish Thoughts on Sleep Training

As you may have surmised from the dearth of recent posts, things are really good with The Baby right now.  This has allowed me enough slack in my mind space to really start to appreciate this fatherhood thing.  I'd heard and read that it can take fathers longer to bond with their children because we don't have the immediate intimacy of breastfeeding.  When I laid eyes on my daughter for the first time, I thought buuuuuuuuuuull shit.  My feelings of love were immediate and real.


I think I kinda sorta get it now.  My wife has been working evenings this week, which means I'm the sole proprietor of bedtimes.  The Baby has always been OK with a bottle, but now she's a pro, which means she doesn't fight it, is cleaner, and we just don't struggle the way we used to.  I've actually started to enjoy feeding time, and even more so bedtime.  Earlier this week, I was feeding her, and she kind of nestles into my armpit when we feed, and with my non-bottle hand, I work on keeping her hands from disrupting the process too much.  So she's eating, and she's kind of stroking my hand and holding onto my fingers, and she's looking up at me with those perfect blue eyes (that will be the death of me when she's older and knows how to use them), and dammit if I didn't just about explode.  And I thought, "This is it.  This is what The Wife experienced from the very first feeding."  I know our relationship will be evolving for the rest of my life.  I know we will drift together and apart and together again over the years.  That's the nature of a human relationship.  This was just the first time I recognized and felt us drifting together.  That feeling is what I was looking for from parenthood.  Feels really good.

The slack in my mind space has also allowed a lot of time to reflect on sleep training.  I hope to put more of these down in the future, because there is so much baggage that goes along with sleep training you could write a book on it (which of course many have).  Bottom line is, things got markedly better as soon as we started and have continued to improve since then.

But why?

This question is a rabbit hole down which you can go really, really deep.  Did we really sleep train The Baby?  Or was she just ready to sleep better?  Is she really sleeping better, or did we just decide to stop agonizing and obsessing over her sleep?  Did we really do it for her own good, or were our motivations more selfish?  The truth, like most reality, is it's likely a combination of all of these.  She is sleeping better, but I don't think about her sleep much anymore either.  Obviously, good sleep is essential, so doing what we thought we needed to do to get her better sleep was for her benefit, but I'd be a big fat liar if I denied how important getting time for myself back has been.  For now at least, I feel like I'm back on top of my life.