Daddy Diary – Fatherhood is Also…

My previous daddy stories have generally focused on the challenges, albeit with a twist of humor, of being a parent. Today, I wanted to focus on those moments that spontaneously elicits that feeling of warmth and joy that makes being a parent a blessing – even when you are transformed into a makeshift sofa for two sick children because your burgeoning pot belly is mighty comfortable (see picture below). Whether it is the pride you feel because you have garnered enough trust from your daughter to dry her damp fingernail polish with a cool blow dryer or being awakened from a deep slumber because your son crawls over to you and plants a sloppy kiss on your cheek; parenting challenges are always tempered with those special moments of thankfulness and happiness. Here are a few of my reflections below.

  1. Fatherhood is also commuting to a shopping mall during your lunch break, meandering through the children’s department, and discovering an irresistibly cute dress that your little girl can wear at daycare.
  2. Fatherhood is also witnessing the sheer excitement and joy your daughter experiences when she spies a dual rainbow on a misty daycare morning. And you are momentarily  reminded how nature’s beauty can sometimes escape an adult’s eye, but not the eye of a child.
  3. Fatherhood is also patiently waiting for your son to finally form the sounds that constitute the word daddy, and when the time begrudgingly arrives, listening to him say it again and again until he falls asleep.
  4. Fatherhood is also having a bad day at the office, but receiving this daycare notice at the end of the day: Ava did her class work nicely and followed directions well. She also sings so sweetly! The Bear prize in Ava’s bag is for being a wonderful singer and helper.
  5. Fatherhood is also arriving home after work and having both your children demand you open the car door so they can pile into your lap behind the steering wheel and pretend to drive. Please don’t call CPS, the car was in park and engine was off.
  6. Fatherhood is also watching your son furiously tap his foot and clap his hands to Serpentine Fire by Earth, Wind , and Fire. Fatherhood is also watching your little girl grab a toy microphone and attempt to hit Philip Bailey notes from the aforementioned group.
  7. Fatherhood is also appreciating those quiet, infrequent moments when your son scampers into your arms, peacefully lays his head on your shoulder, softly acknowledges that he is sleepy, and slowly drifting away to sleep.
  8. Fatherhood is also having your arrival proudly and loudly announced when you enter the daycare facility to pick up your daughter – made even better when said daughter runs down the hallway to greet you with a hug.
  9. Fatherhood is also attending your first, exclusive daycare outing for fathers and feeling overjoyed as your child sings beautifully off-key  along with fellow classmates.  And to top it all off – she takes a bow at the end.
  10. Fatherhood is also never stopping to be amazed by the continuous learning and development of your children. Spanning the gamut of them learning how to walk to reciting their address by heart, your children will astonish you in more ways you could ever dream of.

Daddy Diary – Fatherhood Is…

Fatherhood is having a frank discussion with the nursing staff to switch your daughter’s room because the adjacent occupant is disruptive and your child needs her sleep.

Certainly, this will not be a surprise for many individuals, but fatherhood does not arrive with a meticulously crafted how-to manual that addresses every parenting contingency. It is simply impossible to document every circumstance that may or will arise. Now, I was inspired to write this post after a fellowship meeting with other men from my congregation. It has almost been two years since I have been in the presence of like-minded men; exchanging and offering wisdom to ferment personal growth.

Fatherhood and manhood were the main topics of discussion. Now, if a man is so blessed to become a father, he should understand that the responsibility is not merely a novelty – it is a serious undertaking. And so, here, I offer a brief testimony with hopes of offering wisdom and clarity to a newly minted father or one that is already in the game. If the tone seems a bit serious, don’t fret, I plan to pen a more upbeat post soon.

1. Fatherhood is singing and cradling your baby girl to sleep in a noisy emergency room until a hospital bed becomes available in the pediatric unit. Fatherhood is then entertaining baby girl for a full day as she must remain enclosed in a hospital crib for care.

2. Fatherhood is rising in the early a.m. to get your daughter on the potty, showered & groomed, dressed, fed breakfast, and then dropped off at daycare. Fatherhood is situating your own shower, groom, and dress routine between the aforementioned child tasks before speeding off to work.

3. Fatherhood is facing down criticism from individuals that negatively question and undermine your parenting. Fatherhood is understanding that one should not seek the approval from those individuals that diminish your character. Rather, fatherhood is knowing your reward lies with a higher, greater power.

4. Fatherhood is creativity – as in carrying a high chair into the bathroom while you shower so you can seat your child nearby for comfort. With fatherhood, you have to think outside of the box.

5. Fatherhood is setting the alarm on one’s phone to periodically wake up throughout the night to administer required breathing treatments for your child. Said mission must be performed quietly and discreetly, therefore, a pillow must be employed to muffle the loud hum of the nebulizer while twisting one’s body to ensure successful delivery of medicine.

6. Fatherhood is knowing that discipline requires the presence of love. Fatherhood is understanding that discipline is followed with a hug, kiss, and explanation of why discipline was required in the first place.

7. Fatherhood is feeling anger, pain, and fear when you discover a child does not want to interact with your child because her hair does not look like his mother or sister. Fatherhood is having wisdom to instill strong self-esteem and confidence in your children.

8. Fatherhood is cleaning up a diarrhea related accident from your son’s car seat at 2 a.m. – only to discover that your washing machine is down because your daughter’s sock has obstructed the washer pump. Fatherhood is repairing said washing machine for the second time – the first repair was not child related.

9. Fatherhood is maintaining a well-groomed lawn, washing dishes, packing your daughter’s lunch, ironing your children’s clothes, shoveling snow, killing renegade insects, etc. Fatherhood is maintaining all of your mental faculties as you head into work to deal with an array of madness.

10. Fatherhood is doubt. Fatherhood is making mistakes. Fatherhood is learning. Fatherhood is fear. Fatherhood is love, patience, dedication, and sacrifice.

Daddy Diary – The Not So Glamorous Side of Being a Father

Dad & Daughter SleepParenthood is tough – no doubt about it. Well, someone once asked me why I don’t write about the not-so-cute reality of parenting. It’s that alternate reality that strains patience and tests sanity. It’s a reality that invokes frustration and sometimes tears. So, at your request, I present to you the less glamorous side of parenting. If you’re not a parent already, this article may be the best birth control next to contraceptives and abstinence. Enjoy.

  • Given the young age, children are not quite aware of all the dangers that the world presents. Stairwells, electrical outlets, the terrifying drop-off that is the edge of the bed – to an infant that is a long way down. Therefore as a dutiful parent, it is your assignment to protect your little one from varying dangers as best you can. It’s like parental secret service. And besides rogue infant explorations, a parent also has to deal with natural health related issues that may arise too. Now, I readily submit, I can be overly protective on occasion. However, when you have visited the emergency room with your little one as much as I have within the first two years, one tends to develop a slight parental paranoia. Having your helpless little one poked and prodded by strangers is never easy, even if you present a strong front for the public.
  • I have visited this subject before in previous articles, but I truly realize why sleep deprivation is utilized as a form of torture. One never realizes how important sleep is until one is deprived of the luxury. Trust me. And when you still have the duty to properly function as a spouse, employee, employer, parent, or combination of any of those; the struggle becomes real. This is how psychologically damning it can be; when your child finally starts sleeping for longer stretches, you’ll still discover yourself waking up in anticipation of them waking up.
  • Speaking of sleep deprivation, you’ll find yourself falling asleep anywhere and in the most awkward positions. I’ve blacked-out on the couch more times than I can count. The floor becomes a viable option when worst comes to worst. Even my car became a welcome sleeping area during my lunch break – even in the winter!
  • So, with time and sleep a treasured commodity, a gentleman will be confronted with some difficult situations. Standard tasks become critical decisions. One has to begin to prioritize the business of relieving oneself of bodily waste, washing away funk and dirt in the shower, replenishing one’s stomach with sustenance, or performing any other rudimentary chore one has taken for granted. There will be days when you barely eat and definitely days you won’t shower – depending on levels of funk of course.
  • Children are a germ factory. Seriously, children are a Petri dish of all sorts of nastiness that will navigate its way to your person. They will sneeze and cough in your face. They will hand you poop when you think it’s granola. They will rub snot in your hand when you think it’s lint. They will expel the digested contents of their stomach all over you. And you can’t disown the little germ magnet. Daycare? Yes, be prepared to become an expert on illnesses such as hand-foot-mouth disease, pink eye, croup, whooping-cough, and a whole host of other bad stuff that I can’t spell. By the time you’ve run through all sorts of nasty bugs, you might as well apply for a position at the CDC as an infectious disease specialist. Oh, and we live in an age where more and more parents often shun vaccines. So, get ready. I’ve NEVER been so sick in my adult life.
  • I abhor being the bad guy. Nevertheless, it is a necessary evil. Children must learn discipline. And trust, your little one may be small, but the intelligence level is greater than you might assume. And best believe, your little one will test you. The moment of truth will arrive when you will have to put your foot down. Through the cries and tears, you must remain resolute. Sure, you feel crummy afterwards, and you might even wonder if their little mind will formulate a lasting disdain for you. No worries, they’ll still love you
  • Lastly, as a parent, you can bid farewell to your privacy. That translates to your little one pulling back the shower curtain like a reenactment of Psycho, brazenly interrupting your intimate time with the porcelain throne, and if you have lofty aspirations of adding an additional germ-spreading, sleep depriving – I mean – bundle of joy to your family, you better lock that bedroom door cowboy!

Daddy Diary – My Best Moments of Being a Dad (Year 1.5)

IMG_2956Continuing in the tradition of my inaugural documentation of my first-year best moments as a father, I wanted to revisit the subject, only this time we are winding towards the 1 and 1/2 year mark. Yes, the terrible-twos will soon upon me and Stephanie. Nonetheless, there have been some really awesome moments that I would like to share since the last time I wrote. And again, in no particular order, here are some of the best moments that I have experienced as a newly minted father. Enjoy.

  • Crawling has slowly transformed into walking, and walking has given way to running. Incoherent babbling has transformed into long strings of incoherent babbling. Thus, the moments when I walk through the door after work and I am greeted with excited squeals and the hurried scamper of feet, the feeling of overwhelming joy is one that is unparalleled.
  • Now, on the contrary – this may seem slightly odd being listed here – when I depart, Ava has taken to the practice of producing a few salty tears, whining with discontent, and even attaching herself to my leg (on occasion both legs) in an attempt to thwart my exit. Now, this was an act only exclusively performed when my wife readied herself for departure. I was now the benefactor of such treatment. No parent wants their child to launch into tirade when they leave – it’s not healthy. Nevertheless, at this stage of the game when the words I love you have not been properly formed, this small act of loving defiance is a reassuring confirmation that my little girl doesn’t to see daddy go, and it slightly warms the heart.
  • Nothing strengthens the bond between father and child more (perhaps I’m exaggerating) than engaging infant bodily fluids in battle. Sure, Ava initiated me into fatherhood with a nice, warm spray of baby urine, but that was nothing. Every father should encounter a bodily fluid moment that pushes him to the limit. I have three good ones under my belt thus far. First episode: The entire family had a bout with the stomach flu. It started with Ava, moved on to my wife, and partially claimed me. That weekend, Ava probably hit me with streams of vomit on 5-6 separate occasions. Coupled with runny diapers – it was a wild weekend. Stephanie was incapacitated, so the entire weekend I was either at the laundromat with our soiled bed comforter, changing Ava’s soiled bed & clothing, going to CVS for medicine & Pedialyte, or trying to stay healthy myself – I was feeling queasy, but the good Lord kept me healthy enough to hold it down for everyone else.
  • The second episode saw me engaging fecal matter that had cleverly escaped Ava’s diaper – Shawshank Redemption style – and totally flooding her onesie with smelly, renegade poop. Changing a runny diaper is a challenge. And stopping a child from reaching into soiled nether regions is also quite a task itself. So, off to the laundry basin I whisked Ava away and armed myself with some latex gloves. I skipped the surgical mask, as it was too cumbersome and hot. It was messy. It was smelly. It was an adventure. Nevertheless, all contaminated articles of clothing were successfully extracted and said infant daughter was thoroughly cleansed of most unpleasant bodily waste.
  • The third episode witnessed me once again engaging infant regurgitation. Except at this juncture, Ava had graduated to adult food, and this wasn’t that adorable little spit-up that infants produce. No, out of nowhere, I was hit with a green, chunky blast that would make Linda Blair of Exorcist fame blush. Even though we were on tile, I instinctively tried to “catch” the contents of my baby girl’s upset stomach with my body to avoid getting it on the floor. I know…I wasn’t thinking at all. Crying out like a baby deer with a busted hoof, I beckoned rescue to my wife upstairs, as I could not move in any direction for fear of tracking the digestive remnants of kale and squash with me throughout the house. In what seemed like an eternity for help to arrive, Ava and I just stood in the middle of the hallway looking at each other, covering in green muck. You have to appreciate moments like those.
  • Okay, on to something more pleasant. I love when Ava runs to a table, grabs a book, and then hurries back to me as she motions for me to read to her. It’s really cute.
  • Feeding my little lady has been a very interesting process. Teaching her how to use utensils and communicate her needs begs patience, but it so very worth the instruction. I even taught her how to “feed” daddy some of her yummy food. That’s really cute too, well, at least to me.
  • Art FairAva had her first art fair in daycare and I bought up what I could that she was involved with – a very proud daddy moment for me. Yes, this picture to the right of her little feet as butterfly wings almost…almost made me cry.
  • In daycare, daily progress reports are given at the end of the day so a parent can read about their child’s day. I love reading about the new things Ava is being introduced to and her interaction with teachers and classmates. I hope I don’t turn into a hoarder, but I have a folder that I keep all her reports in. She’ll probably get a kick out of reading them when she is older.
  • I love daddy and daughter time when we take strolls around the neighborhood either in the stroller or simple walking to and fro, up and down the block.
  • It is simple amazing to watch a child develop the necessary cognitive skills to fully interact with you. One morning, Ava had once again found her way into our bed. Armed with the capability of scaling and traversing any human obstacle in her path to freedom, she attempted to vault over me and onto the floor. Nevertheless, I prevented each attempt. Exasperated and irritated; she suddenly stopped, crawled over to me, gave me a kiss on the cheek and just looked at me. I let her out of the bed. Damn it –  foiled by daddy’s little girl!

Blog Appreciation – Please feel free to share on your social network of choice. Spread a little positivity. Not all fathers, especially fathers of color, fit the mold of a negative stereotype. There are plenty of fathers handling business as men.

 

Daddy Diary – Coping With a Child in the Hospital

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Seriously, it is a parent’s worst possible fear: A son or daughter experiencing some form of illness or malady. As a parent, you diligently guard and try to protect your child from any hurt, harm, or danger. Unfortunately, as mere mortals, as best as we might attempt, we cannot shield our children from everything. And at the 16 month mark of my little girl’s life, Stephanie and I have 3 emergency room visits and 2 hospitalizations under our belt with our ladybug. Trust me, our unexpected trips to the hospital with our little one elicited heart palpitations and surely gave rise to a few more gray hairs. Nevertheless, all is well, and we are all back home doing just fine. As a father, you will definitely enjoy some great moments with your offspring. However, there are going to be some not-so-great moments like hospital visits. Here are a few key points to remember if you find yourself dealing with such an experience. I am no expert, but hopefully some of these points will help. And if you have some advice of your own, please share. Continue reading

Daddy Diary – My Best Moments of Being a Dad (Year 1)

Ava & DaddyThis upcoming Sunday, my daughter will finally reach the tender age of one, and it has been a truly amazing experience. I would not trade it in for anything. A question that I received all the time from people was: What is the best part of being a father? Well, that is a tough one to completely nail down. There are many facets that I love and adore dearly. Nevertheless, I have decided to write down some of the best moments that readily come to mind over this past year. So, in no particular order, here are my best moments of being a father during Ava’s first year.

  • That moment when I have retired from work for the day, and as I walk through the door, my daughter will either flash me a big smile from her high chair or crawl over to me and pull herself up on my pants legs – still flashing that big smile.
  • Sleep has been plenty scarce for the past year. Nevertheless, it is always pleasant to be awakened in the morning because your daughter is playing with your face. And as you open your eyes, the first thing you see is a big toothless smile peering at you.
  • And speaking of the scarcity of sleep, sometimes I am also awakened in the middle of the night, as my daughter has sleepily travelled across the bed and found a nice sleeping spot under my armpit.
  • Actually, anytime Ava falls asleep either in my arms, on my chest, or in my lap – the moment is wonderful.
  • Of course, watching Ava reach her milestones (flipping over, crawling, babbling, walking) has been a joy to see. In the back of your mind, you hope and pray that your child’s development proceeds as normal, and presumptuously you assume it will. However, watching the little things finally take shape is truly spectacular. I remember lounging on the couch one afternoon when Ava babbled those words every father anticipates to hear: Dada. Of course she hadn’t made the connection between her babble to the gentleman that was holding her. Nevertheless it made my heart melt with happiness.
  • Given my work schedule, I am the last one out of the house. Thus, I have been assigned the task of getting Ava ready in the morning. And so, we have developed our own little morning routine as I hustle to get us both ready for the day. Whether we sing along with Doc McStuffins’ toy check-ups or dive adventurously into the car seat on our way to daycare; each morning is a different, exciting experience that I love having with my daughter.
  • I would be terribly remiss if I excluded Kenny G from this post. Mr. G. was instrumental during Ava’s early, early weeks of bedtime. Although we don’t listen to Kenny quite as often now, it is amazing to see Ava’s eyes light up and flap her arms when she hears the first few notes of “Alone” kick in.
  • And when Kenny G is not around for any assistance, Ava sometimes sucks on her 2 middle fingers on one hand and tugs on my beard as she goes to sleep with the other hand. Cute.
  • Now, Ava does cry. Sometimes – a lot. I found out early on that she likes looking at herself. I mean…really, really likes looking at herself. So, in times of distress, I would whip out my cell phone and load a picture of her to calm her down. Instantly, she would cease crying, flash that smile, and be completely at ease. Crazy right? And if my cell phone was not readily accessible, I would quickly retreat to a mirror as back-up. Again – cute.
  • That moment when Ava was born. There is no feeling like it. Staying up for almost an entire day, seeing the labor until the end. One minute, she is in your wife’s belly, and the next minute, she is staring at you like, “What’s up?” I don’t think I really slept that night or the next few weeks thereafter. Not because Ava was waking up crying. No. Because, as a newly minted father, you’re paranoid as all get-out. A brother was checking numerous times nightly to see if his angel’s lungs were in working order.
  • File this moment under the blooper files. My wife, bless her heart, reads a lot and likes to try different things. So, she is really big into skin-to-skin contact. The first night home, Stephanie had to use the bathroom, so she handed Ava over to me. Being a big skin-to-skin advocate, she instructed me to take off my shirt. I put up resistance, but I relented. Well, instinctively, Ava mistook my chest for Stephanie’s chest and tried to extract milk from a place that had nothing bear. Suffice it to say, I quickly put my shirt on before things got weird. #milkdon’tcomefromthere LoL

Daddy Diary – Enter the Sandman…Please

Ava P ToesWell, quite some time has elapsed since I last posted an entry here at The Gentlemen’s Standard. However, my absence does not arrive without good reason. My darling Ava is approaching the tender age of 10 months, and she is in the beginning stages of formulating her own little precocious personality. Emboldened with the newly acquired skill of crawling and standing, Ava has become what we like to describe as – busy. Her infant cries have gradually evolved from primitive distress signals to sophisticated screams of coercion. Fully cognizant of the presence of her upper limbs, she has adroitly mastered pushing away both objects and people who encroach upon her personal space. And along with my daughter’s attempts to exert her tiny will, my wife and I have also dealt with the dreaded, obligatory bout with baby sickness.

Now, if chasing down a 9 month old traveling 5 mph across the floor and up the stairs isn’t distressing enough; receiving an e-mail notification that hand, foot, and mouth disease, along with chicken pox, has invaded Ava’s daycare center certainly does not help to assuage the preexisting stress levels. Add in a high fever for approximately a week and then a trip to the emergency room due to an unexpected allergic reaction (scary) to scrambled eggs, yes, life has been very hectic. My blogging duties, usually performed during my lunch break, is still being replaced by afternoon naps. So desperate for sleep, despite plunging temperatures, I still traverse the parking lot to a warm, waiting car for some shut-eye. Thank goodness for remote starters. Well, hopefully, life will slow down a bit so I can hop back on the blogging horse more routinely. I just wanted to check in with everyone. I hope everyone has a blessed and safe Thanksgiving. Be careful out there during Black Friday – this guy will be sleeping.

Daddy Diary – 6 Ways to Bond With Your Baby During the First 6 Months

Ava & DaddyBluntly stating the obvious: Parenthood is certainly not an easy task to undertake. Through a myriad of trials and copious amount of errors; parenting a newborn child requires enduring patience, understanding, and dedication. Being the product of a single parent household with no father for guidance, unfortunately, I was not educated in the loving art of rearing a child – at least not in a fatherly way. And truthfully, there are some gentlemen that are reared in households with the benefit of a father being present, but are still bewildered and confounded when blessed with a child of their own.

Now, this is not too say that a gentleman cannot glean a wealth of knowledge from his mother, grandmother, aunt, or whomever is present during the maturation process. Nevertheless, for the fatherless son, it would certainly be beneficial to have some wisdom passed down from a male perspective. Therefore, for those gentleman whom could utilize the advice, I have decided to pen an entry regarding bonding with your little. Yes, some of the following points may appear as commonsense, but I have learned not to take knowledge for granted. What I may know and understand; you might not know and understand. And the same statement can be directed towards me. That being said, let’s jump in and explore 6 ways to bond with your little bundle of joy within the first 6 months.

Show Some Affection

This simple directive may appear to be too obvious, but it is not surprising that many adult men are conditioned to hide or reject their emotions, and that denial of a base human trait can directly impact on your child. Please don’t be distant with your baby. Newborns need that loving skin to skin contact, and it is imperative that they receive it from both parents. Your child needs to become accustomed to your scent, to your feel. Prime example: My wife took a trip to New York for her sister’s graduation and she took Ava with her – she was 4 months old or so at the time. When they returned, my daughter didn’t want anything to do with me.

Momentarily wounded, I made sure Ava and I secured some much-required daddy/daughter time. Make sure you have allotted more than sufficient time to shower your little one with hugs and kisses. And yes, that goes for baby boys as well. It would be wise to resist any inclination to “toughen” up your baby boy. A man can certainly show affection and emotion without sacrificing his masculinity. You don’t have to be “hard” all the time.

For more, scroll down a bit for the remaining pages.

Daddy Diary – The Gentleman’s Guide to Awesome (Hopefully) Labor & Delivery

Baby AvaDisclaimer: Please be advised that the following testimony is based solely on my experience alone; I do not purport to be an expert in the field of childbirth. This autobiographical entry is written to function as a gentle guide for that father-to-be, or perhaps, that father who could benefit from a few new suggestions. But first, allow me to articulate this thought: The birth of my daughter ranks number 1 on my list of greatest days in my life – like seriously. After all of the doctor’s appointments, diligent research, scouring of books, attending birthing classes, etc.; the culmination of those arduous 9 months provide a mental euphoria that is unlike any feeling one could anticipate. So, how did my wife and I arrive at that point? Well, let’s get to story.

However, before I dive deep into the details, I must formally announce that my wife is truly a strong woman. We opted to deliver our daughter naturally – meaning no drug intervention unless it was medically necessary due to unforeseen complications. Let me reiterate: no drugs. That translates to no pitocin, no epidural, and no narcotic would be used during delivery. So, again, my wife is an extremely strong woman, and she deserves every bit of praise for what she endured for nearly 24 hours of labor. Yes – 24 hours. Because, without the usage of drugs, and to paraphrase Ray Charles, you have to let the body “do what it do baby”. The level of mental and physical fortitude required is unfathomable. Yet, my wife endured until the end and never wavered, never relented, and never crumbled. She’s my champ (wink, wink – inside joke).

Now, the way I envisioned the birth of our daughter went down like this: Stephanie would wake up in terrible pain in the middle of the night and we would go speeding to the hospital at 3 in the morning. It didn’t go down like that. However, my nervous energy precluded any restful sleep for nearly 2 weeks heading into showtime anyway. There was one night when she woke up screaming, but that was a charley horse in her calf. Scared the living daylights out of me. I’m fumbling around under the sheets, half asleep, trying rub out a charley horse in the dead of night. But I digress, how her labor did go down: While at work, in the throes of Polar Vortex 2013-14, I received the phone call. Yes – that phone call. Actually, it was two phone calls that I received from Stephanie. The first went something like this: my contractions are starting ramp up, I will keep you posted. The second call (approximately 30 minutes later): you better start driving home now!

And with that, I notified my supervisor that it was go-time and I bounced out the door. Was I nervous? Well, nervous in the sense that I was about to be a father for the first time; I was excited. You have to understand that at 37 years old; after mentoring other people’s kids, being a godfather, and volunteering in children’s ministry – I was to finally have a child that I could call my own. I was ready! So, I drove safely home, retrieved our bags, and set out with Stephanie to the Alternative Birthing Center. We made our way to the second floor and the nurse looked at me and laughed. Well, I was lugging two bags on each arm with one extra scheduled trip back to the car to retrieve more. “How long do you think you’re staying?”, she bellowed. I responded, “Just following orders maam.” And so, the night had just began.

The first few hours of labor was spent waging battle against the fierce onslaught of contraction after contraction. Retrieving an exercise ball, Stephanie and I ducked into the shower for a 3 hour marathon meant to assuage the intensity of the contractions. With a soft meditation soundtrack on a continuous loop playing on Stephanie’s tablet, I darted back and forth from the water & ice machine to fill Stephanie’s water bottle to keep her hydrated. What followed next was a medley of birthing exercises that we had learned from classes. And then walking up and down the hospital hall. And then more birthing exercises. Next was jacuzzi time, as the warm water would act as a soothing and relaxing agent. Somewhere around 5 a.m. I blacked out in a creaky wooden recliner. Comfy.

The next morning was a rotation of the previous night. However, baby Ava was still in the same position and had even rotated to a weird position. The nurse had an idea. It would be painful, but it was worth a shot of making baby rotate to an optimal birthing position. The nurse called it the knees to chest position. Stephanie would probably call it hell. As close to a fetal position as one could get, Stephanie was instructed to lie face down, palms flat, posterior arched in the air, with her knees pulled up as close to her chest as possible. Remember – she’s pregnant and doing this. Oh, I failed to mention that she had to hold this position for 30 minutes.

I say this with all seriousness. To get through with what we had to get through; a wife and husband need to be on the same wavelength. Mentally. And emotionally. For my part, I had to be part drill sergeant and part supportive husband. For my drill sergeant part I implored Stephanie to fight and ignore the pain. I called out 10 minute intervals as a countdown, gently coaxing her to the finish line. As a husband I ran back and forth from the bathroom with cold rags to cool her down. I re-purposed the hospital menu into a fan to wave over her sweaty brow. I waved that flimsy menu like a madman. And I continuously reminded her that her strength lay within our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and she could do it. And then – the 30 minutes were up. Exhausted, she collapsed into the bed and cried tears of joy.

At this time, I would like to send a special shout-out to my sister-in-law Brandi for shoveling the sidewalk at home while we were holed up in the hospital. Brandi had flown in the previous night and had went home to freshen up. It was during that time when Polar Vortex 2013-14 decided to wallop the Detroit Metropolitan area with a fresh blanket of 8-10 inches of snow. The trooper that she is, Brandi armed herself with a shovel, waved a middle finger to the impromptu blizzard, and plowed through the glacial hell with reckless abandon. And I would be remiss if I didn’t send another special shout-out to our adjacent neighbors who used their snow blowers to cut through the heavier paths. We were all #TeamAva.

Next on the agenda, yes, more birthing exercises! The natural birthing process is not a joke people! Now, sometime during the afternoon, I needed to refuel, so I dashed to the cafeteria for a turkey burger with pepper jack cheese, red skin potatoes, and an orange juice. That hit the spot. Up until that point, I was so pumped with adrenaline, I had not eaten since the previous night. So, I bounded back to the room and the contractions were starting to intensify. Stephanie dove back into jacuzzi for physical and mental respite. However, the jacuzzi was not having any effect, Ava was on the way. Involuntarily, Stephanie’s body started to push. But after all that hard work, Stephanie was not dilated enough. At that point, Stephanie had the are-you-$#%^*-kidding-me face going on. Nurse Dee instructed Stephanie to hold tight. A few minutes later, Stephanie looked at me and instructed me to call Nurse Dee back into the room. Stephanie could not halt the arrival of our beautiful angel any longer.

I beckoned Nurse Dee from the hall. She entered and checked Stephanie for progress. And then things started to move very swiftly. When nurses start clearing tables and moving furniture to make room for more staff and hospital supplies, you know it is go-time for real. Dr. P. was phoned in and Stephanie was moved from the jacuzzi to the bed; it was time to deliver our daughter. Allow me to digress a bit and speak to the room itself. Given that we decided upon the natural birthing route, our room was specifically designed to mimic an at-home experience. It was more of a hotel room than hospital room. Stephanie was able to move around with freedom without being hooked up to a machine that constrained her movements. It is designed to make the woman feel less a patient and ease her stress a little. Now, back to the bed.

A majority of the deliveries that I had seen usually goes like this: Woman in bed with a big white sheet draped over her, nurses are off to the side, the physician stands at the foot of the bed, and the husband (if he’s not camped out in the hallway) is by his woman’s side for moral support. My experience: Same scenario, but delete the big white sheet, enter my sister-in-law & mother-in-law, and place me in the bed with Stephanie. Yes, the nurse directed me to jump right in the bed with her! Ladies and gentlemen, I was right in the thick of things. So, I grabbed left leg, a nurse grabbed the right leg – and then the pushing began.

The team work was unbelievable. Nurse Dee, firm and concise, would look Stephanie square in the eye and enforce that Stephanie had all the tools as woman to deliver Ava into the world. Dr. P., calm and collected, called out instructions, and directed everyone where they needed to be and what they needed to do. Brandi shouted on encouragement, telling Stephanie to smile, because one can’t tense up when you’re smiling, as it forces you to relax. I was to Stephanie’s left, whispering encouragement and reinforcement all the way. You can do it baby. You can do it baby – I said over and over. Ava was still traveling sideways, but through the hard work of Stephanie, Dr. P. and the nursing staff (one of whom tossed Stephanie a towel and leveraged herself in a tug-of-war position with Stephanie to grant more pushing power) delivered Ava at 5:03 pm – almost 24 hours after the labor had begun.

The moment was surreal. One minute your wife is pregnant, the next minute, this little baby is looking at you like – what’s up? The nurse placed Ava on Stephanie’s chest. There were hugs. There were tears. There were high-fives. The jubilation was unreal. I had escaped with all my phalanges intact. Stephanie had not called me every profanity known to man. It was nothing like they warn you about or what you see on television. It was quite beautiful. As a new family, the nurses let us chill out in the bed as Ava lay on Stephanie. And then I got to cut the umbilical cord. Then Ava was wrapped up and placed in my arms. I could relive that moment over and over. There is nothing like it. Nothing. It wasn’t until hours later that Ava was weighed and measured. In the Alternate Birthing Center, they are firm proponents of leaving baby with the parents for as long as possible, barring any medical need to separate. The next day we were discharged. I could not have asked for a better labor and delivery. Now, every gentleman’s experience will be different from the next, but I have compiled a few suggestions that a guy may not think of as the main event draws near. So, here you go gents:

Gentlemanly Hints For Labor & Delivery

  • It is paramount that a gentleman not only attend birthing classes with his mate, but it is also important that he absorbs the knowledge that is being offered. If her water breaks, it would behoove you to know what color it should be and if it is odorous. Vaginal bleeding – recognize if there is any sharp abdominal pains associated with it and how heavy is the bleeding. Discern false labor from active labor. Time contractions. Understand when it is okay for your infant to sleep on his or her stomach. I was shocked to discover that SIDS is highest in the black community – by a considerable margin. Look, there is plenty of information that can be extremely beneficial for the both of you. Don’t be like the guy in my birthing class who paid more to his smart phone than he did his woman or the instructor. Proud Daddy Moment: As Stephanie was trying to focus through painful contractions, I suggested we employ the exercises we learned in class. To which she looked at me and said she couldn’t remember. Understandable, performing single leg lunges was probably the furthest thing from her mind. Luckily during class I wasn’t texting and actually remembered what the instructer taught us.
  • Pack your bags early. We learned in our class that around the 36-37 week of pregnancy, baby can arrive well before the due date. So it is best to be prepared. And yes, that means packing a bag for yourself. You are going to be there right? Pack comfortable clothes and shoes. This isn’t a fashion show, so don’t stress too much. My wardrobe consisted of tee shirts, track pants, sneakers, and scrubs. Oh – and fresh underwear & socks! Pack the usual gentlemanly toiletries that will suitably prevent manly funk from creeping in.
  • Ensure that both of your bags house a cadre of small snacks and beverages. Hospital food is expensive. So, it would be wise to grab a couple of bottles of Gatorade (or whatever sports drink of your choice), some snack bars, and some fruit. You might be in for a long night, so you will need the energy as well. You don’t want to be drained and irritable as your lady is experiencing probably the most mentally and physically taxing day in her life.
  • You want this moment documented, so don’t forget camera and video camera!
  • And speaking of early preparation, ensure that baby essentials such as the crib, any swinging or vibrating contraption, and tummy time play mats are assembled well ahead of time as well. And don’t forget to install that car seat. Call your local police or fire station and inquire about a possible inspection. Our local station checked to ensure it was properly installed.
  • Squeamish around blood? Get over it friend. If you dive into the trenches of birth, you will be exposed to any and all types of body fluid that will expel from your woman’s body. But since you’re in a tee-shirt and scrubs anyway; who cares right? Proud Daddy Moment: Okay, this is going to sound weird. Stephanie drank a ton of water during labor & delivery, and consequently, numerous trips to the little ladies room was needed. However, during her extended stint in the jacuzzi, her surroundings precluded her dashes to the bathroom. Now, before I go any further, a little background on me. I worked as a laboratory assistant for 3 years where I handled sputum, blood, fecal matter, pleural effusions, urine – if it was a fluid that came from the human body, I probably handled it. That being said, when it was time to tend to matters of the bladder, I gloved up, grabbed a plastic bed pan, manned up, and tended to my woman. My daughter was coming into the world, a man does what he has to do.
  • You and your mate have to be on the same page. There cannot be any surprises. Sit down and discuss how you would like the day to proceed. Discuss topics such as whom will be allowed in the delivery room, how many visitors is acceptable, etc. If I can make a suggestion, that first night post-delivery should consist of you, mother, and baby. That’s it. This is bonding time. This is the time where you look at your mate, she looks at you, you both look at your baby…and just say wow. It really is a special time.
  • Lastly, you have to get your mind right. Meaning, your focus must be sharp and acute. The media, sometimes, likes to portray men as incompetent and buffoonish during childbirth. Please, avoid being that stereotypical nincompoop. Sure, a gentleman cannot prepare for everything, as life rarely goes 100% as planned. Nevertheless, you can position yourself to handle labor & delivery better by performing your due diligence and prepping for the big day. So, watch videos (there are a ton on the Internet), read as much material on childbirth as you can, pray and get your mind right with whatever deity you believe in, and most of all, communicate with your mate. The lines of communication must be open at all times. A continuous, positive discourse between yourselves can certainly add ease to a jam-packed day.

Now, of course, these are just my suggestions. You may not follow anything I recommended and still have a beautiful labor & delivery. And there may be things that I did not even think of. If you are a father, please feel free to chime in with your own suggestions. It is a learning process. We all can benefit from the knowledge. Well, hope you enjoyed the passage, and I hope you were able extract at least one nugget of wisdom from my experience. Be easy, talk you good people later.

*Blog Appreciation – Please feel free to share on your social network of choice. Spread a little positivity. Not all fathers, especially fathers of color, fit the mold of a negative stereotype. There are plenty of fathers handling business as men.

Daddy Diary – Ava, Me, & Kenny G

Ava P ToesIt has been widely documented that newborn babies maintain an extremely sporadic sleeping schedule during the early months of their infant lives. If a parent is fortunate enough, perhaps, they will be blessed with a child that can string together 2-3 good hours of sleep during the late night. Otherwise, be prepared to wake up at least 4 times during the night for various baby activities. Anticipating my impending initiation to sleep deprivation, I requested 2 weeks off from work to spend time with my newborn daughter and lend husband support to my wife. Now, first-time parents are usually briefed on the horrors of coerced insomnia, but nothing really prepares you for what is to come. Nothing!

During those early sleep starved days, you will become painfully desperate for a full night’s rest. You will find yourself at 5:32 a.m. walking around the living room like you’re auditioning for The Walking Dead; pacing in a zombie-like trance, rocking and pleading for your dear child to go to sleep. Your head will continuously ache. Your eyes will be afflicted with a dull burning. Trust me, it will not be pretty. You will resort to any and all recommendations you find on the Internet or hear from friends & family. You will try anything. And just when you think you have solved the sleep problem, your baby will switch it up and reject your advances for bedtime.

Many nights I found myself in the laundry room singing Always & Forever by Heatwave – over and over again. Don’t judge me – that worked for about 3 weeks or so! My wife and I employed the use of a white noise machine. We used a toy that played lullaby music and projected colorful stars on the ceiling. I even utilized the vibrations and sounds from the washing machine to induce slumber. Stephanie broke out a Michael Jackson jazz CD. All of it worked until it didn’t work. However, it was something about that jazz CD that was special. And then Kenny G entered our lives.

It was something about that jazz music that would put little Ava to sleep. Sometimes it seemed more like a battle of attrition between Ava and us before she finally acquiesced to the Sandman. One night, again – desperate, I recovered some of Kenny G’s greatest hits from a YouTube channel. I turned off the lights. I turned off the television set. Gently, I steadied Ava into a car seat position in my arms, and I slowly cascaded (don’t bounce) across the living room floor to Sentimental, Sister Rose, and Alone. Sometimes, I held my lips to her curly locks and hummed the tune of choice. Every night for the past 2 months; it is our ritual. Stephanie even started tuning up Kenny. We’ve probably never listened to so much Kenny G in our lives! Within 10-15 minutes, Ava is usually asleep. Sometimes a little less, sometimes a little longer. Nonetheless, a little over a month ago, our little darling slept through the entire night! Stephanie and I freaked out.

Promptly I phoned the pediatrician that day. I mean…I understand that babies eventually sleep through the night…but Ava wasn’t even 3 months yet. The pediatrician said we should count our blessings – we are amongst the few parents that have a newborn sleeping all the way through the night. No rice cereal. No secret baby formula (Ava gets breastfeed anyway). Now, I don’t have  scientific proof that purports the tunes of Kenny G can knock a baby out cold, so please be advised that results may not be typical and may vary from child to child. However, you can best believe that Kenny G will be in heavy rotation for the forseeable months to come. Thanks Kenny! The Palmer Family appreciates you!

 

 

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