Monday, June 15, 2015

Life with our newborn

Allow me to introduce the newest member of our family: baby Benjamin!

My wife gave birth a few days ago and we are just getting settled back home.  She had an uncomplicated delivery and has been recovering quickly.  Now I understand why everyone told us to “get some sleep while we still can” before the arrival of our baby.  They were right! 

While we’ve both read a lot of information about what to expect with a baby, we are still learning every day. 

At home caring for our child
I am very grateful to be able to take 4 weeks off work to help raise my child and take care of my wife.  My wife is lucky to have a job that will allow her to take 6 months leave to care for our boy (note: she is not getting 6 months worth of pay).  So far it’s just been the 3 of us (me, my wife, and our son).  Our parents have busy lives and will only be able to come visit infrequently.  Next week, my wife’s parents will fly in to visit for two nights.  In September, my father is going to visit for 3 weeks to come help.  We helped him book a free round trip flight from Taiwan using our Chase Ultimate Rewards points.  We feel lucky to have our parents interested in helping out, even if it is only for a little while.

Some of our friends have parents with no interest in getting involved with raising their grandkids.  These grandparents may feel that they’ve already done enough in raising their own child(ren), and don’t want to become a day care service.  I can respect that.  Many of our friends hire nannies.  A nanny can definitely make your life a lot easier.  Nannies can prepare food, clean your house, wash the dishes, do the laundry, change your child’s diaper, bathe your child, potty train your child, and much more.  This comes with a price; full time nanny service can cost over $4,000 per month.     

We briefly considered hiring a part time nanny.  Many of our friends have nannies. Our parents felt bad that they could not help us raise our son, and even offered to help pay for a nanny to come help us.  We talked about this for a while and decided that we did not want to depend on a stranger to come into our home to raise our child.  I don’t have a problem with hiring a nanny – a nanny raised my sister and me and I feel like we turned out just fine.  We just chose to go without.  Plus, who will love your child more you and your own family?  For the next few weeks, I’ll be the nanny.         

I’ve heard on the opposite end that some grandparents are a little bit too involved in helping to raise their children.  Mothers and mother-in-laws who mean well may bicker and argue with new parents over different methods of caring for the child.  Some people just don’t want grandma and grandpa staying over all the time.  A newborn can strain this relationship and make things more stressful.  It’s kind of nice to have just the two of us watch our child.    

We aren’t turning away all help.  Many friends and family members have stopped by to visit for a few hours, bringing nourishing food and even cooking fresh meals for us.  This is much appreciated.  If someone is offering to help, I say accept it!      

Sleep deprivation
Any parent who has experienced a lack of sleep while raising their child knows that it is no fun.  We have both been very sleep deprived the last few days (my wife especially).  There have been times where the two of us have felt delirious, feeding, burping, and changing diapers on autopilot.  Did you know that sleep deprivation has been used in brainwashing, torture, and interrogation?  When you’re not sleeping enough, it’s easy to lose track of the time and day of the week.

Human newborns are the most fragile of any kind of baby.  Your newborn is completely dependent on you for everything; they are completely helpless.  Newborns can’t sit up, walk, talk, find food, control their muscles, or their bowel movements.  Newborns can’t even burp by themselves! 

Our son needs to be constantly monitored.  He needs to be fed every 2 to 3 hours.  The process of feeding can take up to 30 minutes.  After feeding, our son needs to be burped to prevent air from getting trapped in his stomach.  It seems like our son is a poop and pee machine.  So far he’s left us with wet and soiled diapers every 1 to 2 hours.  We can easily go through over 10 diapers a day.  We were advised to be careful not to get peed on during a diaper change – but we couldn’t avoid that! 

My wife and I have gotten pretty good at cleaning our son up and changing his diapers.  When we really want to get a diaper changed, we team up.  The process is like a well-run pit-stop crew.  As soon as we discover that he has gone potty, one person grabs his legs and lefts them up, while the other wipes his bottom.  Then one person applies a thin layer of Aquaphor ointment while the other one puts on a fresh diaper. 

Our days are filled with frequent short 30-minute power naps and 3 hour long naps whenever we get the chance.  We still need to get rest and take care of ourselves.  But no matter how tired we are, we seem to always find strength when we need it.  My wife is especially good at watching over our son.  When he spits up or cries, my wife is usually the first one to jump out of bed and tend to his needs.  I’m so proud of her maternal abilities. 

While my wife is feeding, I am in charge of all the other chores in the house.  This includes food preparation, cleaning, taking Abby out for walks, and running errands.  When I am downstairs, I can monitor our baby’s activity with our Dropcam Pro, which allows me to watch live video with audio from my laptop or iPhone. 

The Dropcam Pro has excellent night vision

The benefits of breastfeeding
Prior to the birth of our son, we were really hoping my wife could breastfeed exclusively.  Breast milk provides the baby with all the nourishment they need and protects the baby from illness and allergies.  Exclusive breastfeeding for at least 6 months can decrease the risk of a baby developing infections and can reduce the severity of infections if they do occur. 

Breastfeeding can boost your child’s intelligence – children nursed longer have higher IQ scores.  Breastfeeding seems to also reduce your child’s risk of becoming overweight.  Natural breast milk is just something science cannot duplicate 100% with formula.  See Babycenter’s summary of all the health benefits of breastfeeding here.  Breastfeeding can burn around 300 to 500 calories a day, helping mothers return to their pre-pregnancy weight.   Another great benefit of breastfeeding is that it is completely free!

Breastfeeding can be very challenging, and some women are unable to produce milk or breastfeed.  We know a few parents who were unable to breastfeed.  They raised their children completely on formula, and they turned out just fine.  We were lucky to have the help of two different lactation nurse consultants who worked with my wife in the hospital.  It took a while, but my wife’s nipples are now compatible with our baby’s mouth.  Hopefully we won’t have too much problems with breastfeeding in the future.

Baby jaundice
A newborn’s blood often contains higher levels of bilirubin, a yellowish pigment of red blood cells.  The liver is responsible for processing and removing bilirubin from the blood.  Since the baby’s liver isn’t fully mature, too much bilirubin can build up in the blood and cause jaundice, a yellow discoloration of the baby’s skin and eyes.  A baby with jaundice will first develop yellowing of the face.  Then the skin yellowing will occur on the chest, stomach, and down to the legs.  If bilirubin levels increase, severe jaundice can occur, which if not treated can cause deafness and brain damage.   

Most cases of newborn jaundice do not require any treatment, as it goes away on its own when the maturing baby’s body excretes excess bilirubin.  For baby Ben, his bilirubin levels were high enough that our doctor prescribed a home phototherapy treatment.  For two days, we had to rent a special phototherapy blanket that had a bright blue light shine on our baby’s naked body.  The light helped our baby break down and get rid of bilirubin. 

We were also advised to supplement his diet with formula to get more fluids into his body and to expose his skin to indirect sunlight several times a day.  Benjamin was also pooping a lot, which also helped him remove bilirubin.  
Off to get yet another blood test
During this time, we drove to the hospital lab daily for bilirubin blood testing.  Several of our friends shared that they had to go through similar therapy when their children developed mild jaundice.  We were relieved when Benjamin’s 5th (and last) blood test showed that his bilirubin levels finally dropped to a safe amount and we could discontinue phototherapy treatment.        

Abby is still part of our family
We haven’t forgotten or neglected our dog Abby!  She is still a member of our family.  Our neighbor watched Abby for the few days we were at the hospital and a few days after we returned home.   Now Abby is staying with us again.  Since we were afraid of Abby getting jealous of the new baby, I’ve been trying to spend more time with her while my wife feeds our son.  Keeping Abby’s daily routine consistent will prevent her from thinking that our son is getting all of her attention.   
Abby sleeping through Ben's crying
As usual, Abby starts the day with a nice 15 to 20 minute walk / run every morning at 6:30am.  Abby still gets to walk a minimum of 3 times a day.   Our jogging and walking keeps us healthy and happy.  Starting the day with a brisk jog / walk is better than waking up with a cup of coffee.  Abby also continues to go on doggy play dates with a few of our neighbors’ dogs.    

We slowly introduced Abby to our son by first letting her smell worn clothing so she could get used to his scent.  A few days later, we let Abby smell (and lick) Ben’s feet.  We are glad she showed no aggression to our son.  Abby mostly wants to smell Ben and is curious why he cries so much.  One day the two of them may become best friends.  After our son gets his first set of vaccinations, we can take Benjamin out in the stroller for walks with Abby.  We love Abby very much, but not as much as this woman who loves her dog more than her son.   

Cherishing the moment
We received a card from my sister-in-law the other day that had a very sweet message for us.  A small quote from the card:

“Days and months go by quicker than you’ll think so cherish every moment, even the not-so-peaceful and vomit covered ones.” 

Children grow up so fast.  As hard as things can get, we will try to treasure every moment and enjoy this amazing experience. 

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