I’m feeding Finn right now and dictating this as I hold him in a bottle in my other hand.
I got back late last night from a business trip to Portland. It was my first night away from him. It was hard, I missed him very much, but I also got a full nights sleep for the first time since he was born. I felt amazing the next day. It felt like that moment when you’re no longer sick with the flu.
I never had any truck with spit-up before. The idea of it has always been super gross. This little human is going to be vomiting up milk onto your clothing. No thanks.
In fact, that was one of the chief reasons I never wanted to hold any of my nephews when they were that age. I don’t want to have to deal with that or any other body fluids.
But becoming a parent changes all of that. It’s not that I enjoy spit-up, it’s just that I don’t mind it. It doesn’t gross me out. He’s mine and I am his. His spit up, somehow, is ours.
And the fact that it gets on your clothes? So what. That’s what washing machines are for. If he spits up on himself, I go and change his clothing — I don’t want the wetness of it to give him a chill. If he spits up on me, I just wipe it off and go on with my day. I’ll go to the grocery store with dried spit-up on my shoulder. I wear it like a badge of honor.
Still, it’s to be avoided. When Finn spits up, it’s usually because of two causes: He either has a gas bubble under what he’s recently eaten or I’ve laid him down (to sleep or to change a diaper) too soon after eating.
To prevent it, I burp him after every couple of ounces (more on that technique later) and I keep him up against my chest for a while after he’s finished eating — 20 or 30 minutes usually works.
O happy living things! no tongue
Their beauty might declare:
A spring of love gushed from my heart,
And I blessed them unaware:
Sure my kind saint took pity on me,
And I blessed them unaware.
–Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
Taya and I becoming parents was a shock to some. “I didn’t even know she was pregnant,” said someone from church who didn’t know (or didn’t remember) that Taya and I had engaged with an adoption agency more than two years ago.
It happened so suddenly that many were caught off guard. I was one of those people.
We had been on a low-level alert for a long time. As soon as all of our paperwork was complete and the waiting began, I somehow believed that it would be quick for us. I guess that outs me as an optimist. I had previously worried that once we quit the birth control, the pregnancy might happen sooner than I wanted. I was wrong on both counts.
But we knew we could get the call any day, and that we could receive a last-minute placement. But months and months of waiting became grind. We had a stockpile of baby things that gathered dust in the basement. As we got closer to our home study renewal date, we realized that we were losing hope fast and that it was time to think of other options.
Then we got the call.
Our adoption counsellor filled us in on the details of what she knew about the birth mother and birth father. There were some private details about this adoption and some health risks for the baby that Taya and I had to understand before we agreed to go ahead with it. It was a 18-hour period of shock, excitement and fear. We learned as much and as fast as we could about the issues. We sat with it and talked about it. We agreed that this was our chance. We worked quickly on getting the house ready and our affairs in order.
Two weeks later, Finn was born. They brought him to us immediately after he was born. We stayed with him in one of the maternity rooms while his birth mother recovered in a room down the hall.
Our adoption agency specializes in open adoption, where the both the adoptive family and the birth family try to maintain a connection for the benefit of the child. We met Finn’s birth mother just before she went into delivery, and we spent the rest of the weekend getting to know her and her family. We’ll be spending the coming years reaching out to them for Finn’s sake, trying to maintain a connection to them that he can someday own.
All of this has been frightening, exciting and beautiful. We’ll see how it develops.
God. Becoming a parent is a whole new level of anxiety. Again, that’s something I would have known in advance theoretically, but the experience of it is still surprising.
When I’m changing Finn, he seems indestructible. He doesn’t really like being changed, so he flexes his body and either stretches out his limbs or curls them up. It’s such a relief. I can curl him back, change his clothes or diapers and all I have to withstand his is complaint.
After he’s fed, though, he seems just like a cooked noodle. It’s as if all of his bones have dissolved and his breathing seems labored and shallow. Shit, I think, I’ve got to keep this kid alive somehow. I’ve got to keep him moving, awake. It’s like that scene in the movie when the character is over-dosing on a drug or is hypothermic. “Don’t you die on me, man!”
And there’s SIDS! I don’t think you can imagine how much of my brain cycles are devoted to calculating the risk of SIDS. Let’s just say that I think about SIDS about as much as I used to think about sex…when I was 17.
I love him dearly. He’s the most important person in my life, and it feels like his tenuous survival is in my hands. What can I do to manage all of this anxiety?
Part of me wants to respond with: endure. Get through this. Calculate the percentages and realize that as long as you hit the milestones — each day he lives — increases his odds of survival.
But another part of me thinks this is wrong, that there’s something broken in my anxiety — a break that will take attention away from what a gift this time with him is. Like someone once said, worry is a prayer for what you don’t want. He is both fragile and strong and I’m doing all the right things to take care of him. Trust in that.