Having a Baby? Get a Doula!

I had always intended on discussing baby stuff on the blog, but I haven’t done much of it yet. Brody is just over 7 months old now, so maybe I should discuss some of the things that brought him into this world, like a doula.

Kat had decided she wanted a doula for her birth, and being the smart husband I am, I agreed to it. When I was working at Grant MacEwan we had a doula training class offered through the division I worked for, so I knew a little bit about what they do, but not a lot. We had gotten a couple of names of doulas from people we knew, so I decided to call them and set up an appointment. The first one was waaaaay over-the-top, gushing about how this was a blessed event, and she was so privileged to be considered for this event. After that call, and an email, Kat and I both decided she wasn’t right for us. A doula shares a special moment with you, and you have to be comfortable with them, and we weren’t comfortable with her at all.

The second person I called was Ricky Issler at Comforting Hands Doula. The first call was just to get some information on another service she offers (more on that in another blog post), and to set up a meeting to talk about her doula services. She was warm on the phone, but definitely not over-the-top like the first girl was, and we arraigned to meet in a coffee shop nearby.

I think it took 2 minutes for me to decide I wanted Ricky as our doula (though, the decision wasn’t really mine). She carried herself well, spoke softly, but with confidence, and looked like a warm person. They say first impressions are important, and Ricky gave off a great first impression. She explained that a doula will work for us to facilitate the type of birth we (meaning Kat) wanted to have. Kat wanted to have a natural child birth (nope, no drugs), so Ricky would work with us to help us achieve that. One thing that’s important to have is a “birth plan,” things you want, and don’t want when it comes time to have the baby, and while all the craziness it happening in the room, the doula watches over things to make sure your birth plan is being carried out. If things aren’t going according to plan, she’ll mention it to the father to deal with. This was our first child, and we really didn’t know what to expect, so the thought of someone being there for us was very appealing. If complications arise, doctors may not always give you all the options, and the doula is there to step in an advise of some other choices that can be made, or say “Well, you could do that, but that goes against your birth plan because of these reasons.” It’s like having an advocate with you… a warm, caring advocate.

We kept in touch with Ricky before the birth, calling her a couple of times when we had questions or concerns. She came over to our place on Christmas Day when Kat was starting her labour, and helped get everything ready for the hospital. Ricky and I took turns giving Kat massages to make her feel more comfortable, and Ricky told us when we should leave (actually, it was more of a “we need to go now, or she may be having it in the car”). She stayed with Kat when we got to the hospital and I had to do paperwork, massaged her when I got too tired, and we exchanged looks when the nurse was being a pain-in-the-ass. She was also there to take photos when he was born, which was great because I was busy having my hand crushed by Kat.

I can’t imagine going through the whole birthing process without having Ricky as our doula, and I recommend everyone get one if they’re having a baby. Doulas are awesome!

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Nearly Two Months of Fatherhood

It’s been nearly two months since Broderick was born, and I’ve learned a few things:

  • I’m not as patient as I thought I was.
    I can only take crying for a bit, then I snap. My frustration level creeps up slowly, slowly and then it jumps all the way up and I get angry. He’s a little boy, and I need to learn to chill.

  • Listening to music helps me chill.
    If he’s freaking out, listening to music with headphones on helps a lot. Sure, I can still hear him crying, but it’s not the predominant sound, so I don’t get frustrated. I never hit that 100%, and a chill dad can help to chill a crying baby.

  • I like smiles.
    In the last week Brody has started to smile while reacting to things we’ve done, and it’s awesome. The other day I was making funny faces and sounds and he gave me the biggest smile, and it was so rewarding.

  • I like making funny sounds.
    I think I’ve always liked making weird sounds, but having a kid allows me to make weird sounds for a reason. He likes the silly songs I make up while changing him, or doing his exercises, so I’ll keep making them for him. I’m sure that’ll change when he hits his teenage years…

  • I’m getting used to this.
    We’ve started having a routine with him, and everyone seems to have gotten used to it. I have my tasks, Kat has her’s, and Brody seems fine with everything. We’re getting to bed at a reasonable hour, and he’s sleeping 6-8 hours in one stretch in the night… I can deal with this. It’s still a bit odd to look at him and think “wow, I made this little guy,” but I’m getting used to it.

  • I’ve become obsessed with having a clean kitchen.
    I have no idea if this is related to having a kid, but in the past week I’ve become completely obsessed with the kitchen being clean before I go to bed. No, it’s not spotless, but I want all the dishes away, and the mess gone. We have a habit of leaving something on the counter, then 2 days later there are 15 things on the counter and it’s a pain to clean, so I’m trying to do my part to keep the house clean even night. I think I’m driving Kat crazy because I get after her if she leaves something out for 5 mins. Oops.

  • I’m starting to remember things from my childhood.
    We’ve been learning some children’s rhymes, and that’s triggered memories of my childhood – mostly rhymes my parents used to sing to me. Sometimes there are other things, like games I used to play, places I’d go with friends, or toys I had. It’s neat to have 30 year old memories triggered. At least nothing has been traumatic!

  • Babies get you smiles.
    I’ve taken Brody out for walks by myself in the stroller a few times, and older women give me the biggest smiles. Maybe they aren’t used to seeing fathers out with their kids, and seeing one makes them happy? I’m not sure what it is, but it’s nice to have people smile at you.

I’m sure I’ve learned a few other things in the past 2 months, but that’s all I can think of right now. Or maybe it’s that I know Brody will be up in 6-7 hours and I want sleep. Yup, that’s probably it.

Things that are Awesome

My last post was such an emotional roller-coaster that I figured I should post something a bit more upbeat. Here are some random, and not-so-random, awesome things:

  1. Pinball Arcade
    As you know, I love pinball, and this game recreates real pinball tables in virtual form, and it’s coming out in less than an hour. The game launches with 4 tables (Tales of the Arabian Nights, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Black Hole and Theatre of Magic), and they’re working on more tables to release later on. I was a beta tester for the game, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s coming out for iPhones/iPads today, and other consoles and platforms later on.
  2. “The Losers”
    This is a comic series I ripped through about a week ago. It came out a few years ago, and tells the story of a group of CIA officers that were screwed over by a superior, and want to right some wrongs. There was a movie based on the comic which starred Idris Elba (who is also awesome). It’s only 32 issues, so it was a quick read.
  3. Archaia Entertainment
    This is a small comic company, but they’re awesome. They take a lot of foreign comics and translate them to English, then release them.I’ve read the three volumes of “The Killer” that they’ve put out, and managed to track down “Secret History” (volume 1 was out of print, but Chapters actually had a copy in stock). They’ve also started releasing comics based on some Jim Henson properties – Fraggle Rock, The Storyteller, The Dark Crystal, and Tale of Sand (a screenplay that was never made into a movie). Their books are all really high quality, and the ones I’ve read have been excellent stories.
  4. My kid
    Yes, he poops a lot, and cries a lot, but Broderick is pretty awesome to have around. Kat has gone out with him a few times and left me at home, and it’s really weird not having him around.
  5. Books
    I’ve been trying to read more lately, and thankfully a writer friend (Lee Goldberg), and some of his friends had a big Kindle book giveaway last week. There were 75 books for free, and many of them were short stories. While I enjoy novels, short stories can be a blast as well, simply because you can read them in much less time (which is something I’m short of). I have so many books that I bought and haven’t read yet – I hope to make time for them sooner rather than later.
  6. Twitter
    I’ve met a ton of really awesome people on Twitter! Both virtually, and in person. Edmonton has a wonderful Twitter community. If you aren’t on Twitter, you should give it a shot.
  7. Kat
    This wasn’t a list of things in order, but I saved the best to the last. She’s an awesome wife, and a super awesome mother, and I can’t imagine going through life without anyone else by my side. She makes me laugh, she makes our house pretty, she pushes me, and makes me a better person, and for that she is the most awesome.

The Hell We Went Through

When I started this blog I figured I’d be posting about being a new father, but I never thought I’d be making a post like this.

This isn’t a post about poopy diapers, late-night feedings, or anything else that’s common with having a newborn, it’s about something that most couples thankfully never experience. A day or two after you bring your baby home you’ll be paid a visit by the public health nurse, as part of the Healthy Beginnings Program. It’s an excellent service for new parents; the nurse checks to see how you’re doing, offers information on proper breast feeding, answers any questions you have, and performs a “heel prick.” This is where they prick the baby’s foot and put four drops of blood on a card which is sent to a lab where it’s tested for 17 genetic disorders. We were told “no news is good news, so don’t expect a call.” The test was taken on Tuesday, December 27.

On Tuesday, January 3 we got a call.

“Hi, this is a nurse with the Healthy Beginnings program. Can you come in to give another blood sample today?” I was a bit freaked out, because “now news is good news,” and this was news. We headed to the local clinic and met with a nurse there. She talked to Kat about breast feeding, and answered a few questions, but all I cared about was the blood sample. I asked her what happened, and she explained that sometimes they get tests kicked back to them because the sample was taken incorrectly – there wasn’t enough blood, or maybe the foot touched the card and there were skin cells on it. If there was a problem with the sample it would go to our pediatrician to follow up with us. But then I asked another question, I can’t remember what, and she looked at the form from the lab. She commented that it wasn’t a standard form they get back, and it had “HMG” written on it. “What’s that?” I asked, and she didn’t know, so I pulled out my phone and quickly looked on Google while Kat asked her another question. I gulped at what I found at first glance, but I didn’t have much time to read it. She double-checked that our pediatrician’s information was correct, but it wasn’t. We had a name of a good pediatrician from our OB, but when we called to book an appointment we couldn’t get in to see him, so we opted for someone else, and the clinic didn’t have the name of our new doctor, they had the one we couldn’t get.

When we left the clinic my mind was racing. Why were they doing this test again? Was it because the sample was bad, like she said, or was there something more to it? Why was HMG written on the form, and why was it a different form than they usually get at the clinic? What if the lab tried contacting the pediatrician we had listed, but since we weren’t his patient they kicked it back to the public health clinic? And why when the nurse told us that everything was fine did she say it in a way that made me feel like she just didn’t want to deal with a stressed out parent (she was a mousey little thing that didn’t seem confident with anything she told us that day)?

I went home and Googled HMG. I had already briefly skimmed a page and learned that it was a genetic disorder caused by receiving a mutated gene from both parents. “People with organic acid disorders cannot break down protein properly. This causes harmful substances to build up in their blood and urine. These substances can affect health, growth and learning.” Great… awesome… I read on. “Babies with this condition are usually healthy at birth. Most babies start to have symptoms between 3 months and two years of age.” Okay, well, that’s crap. Broderick seems like a normal baby right now, but that means nothing because he could have this thing and not be showing symptoms yet (he was 9 days old). “If not treated, many babies with HMG lyase deficiency die during their first metabolic crisis. In surviving babies, repeated episodes of metabolic crisis can cause brain damage. This can result in life-long learning problems or mental retardation.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! So he could have a metabolic crisis and die?! Oh, and look at this, people with the disorder need to eat every 4-6 hours or else they can go into metabolic crisis. Oh, and they have to limit things high in protein such as:

  • milk and dairy products
  • meat and poultry
  • fish
  • eggs
  • dried beans and legumes
  • nuts and peanut butter
  • butter, margarine, oil, lard, and foods made with these fats

Well, that’s just great. I kept telling myself not to freak out, since this is a rare condition, but that nurse did absolutely nothing to reassure me that everything would be fine. I even found a forum posting from someone who just had their daughter diagnosed with the condition. I had already figured out that what we were going through wasn’t normal, but I tried to keep it together. We had an appointment with our pediatrician the following Thursday, and I figured we’d be clear if we hadn’t heard anything more by then.

That night my mom called to chat, and I told her that they needed another blood sample because the first one wasn’t good. For a reason I’ll never know, my mom decided to tell me about her friend who had a baby and the blood sample didn’t get to the lab within the 30 days needed, and there ended up being a problem. Her daughter had a genetic disorder where she couldn’t process certain things in her body, she has to be on a special diet, and there can be all kinds of complications (she didn’t know the name of the disorder her friend’s daughter had). I nearly lost it on her. Why on Earth would she tell me a horror story like this?! That sounded like HMG to me, something which is supposed to be rare, but her friend’s daughter may have it?! I started to get worried again.

On Tuesday, January 10 I answered the phone, and the voice on the other end said “Hi, is this Broderick’s dad? I’m your pediatrician…” I think I actually said “Fuuuuuuuuuuuck meeeeeee” into the phone. This was the second time I got the call I didn’t want. She explained that something had come up and that they needed a urine sample from Broderick ASAP. I felt like someone had plunged their hand into my stomach and ripped every organ out of my body. I was empty inside; completely gutted. I managed to hold it together on the phone and got the information we needed; we had to go to the University hospital ASAP and a requisition form would be waiting for us, because they were going to run the tests the next day. She gave me her cell number, and the number of the doctor working in the newborn screening office in case we had any problems. We also got our appointment bumped to Wednesday, instead of Thursday.

I went upstairs to where Broderick and Kat were sleeping, and I lay on the bed beside him and cried. It was the hardest cry I’ve had in a long, long time. He was sound asleep, looking like a little angel. How could we be in this situation? Kat woke to me crying and I told her about the call, and how we had to get to the hospital soon and they would run tests on him, and then I went to get ready.

We got to the hospital and found the lab, grabbed a number and waiting for an hour before we were called. The nurse told us that they’d be taking another blood sample, but didn’t mention anything about a urine sample, so I asked about it. She looked at the form and went away to talk to someone else, and when she came back she wasn’t sure exactly what was going on. Was it a blood sample, or a urine sample? They seemed completely clueless. I pulled out my cell and called the number I was given for the doctor at the lab. She wasn’t there, but her colleague told me that she’d find her and send her to the lab to straighten everything out. A few minutes later she arrived to tell the nurses that it was both a blood AND urine sample that was needed, and I had a chance to talk to her.

She explained that when they tested they found Broderick’s levels were high, but still borderline for having HMG, so they needed to do these followup tests. I asked a bunch of questions and learned that HMG is extremely rare (I had read it was 1:100,000 online), and that they’ve never actually had a confirmed case of the disorder in the lab, so she couldn’t tell me how rare it was. That was the first good news I had heard. She also said that this is a test which returns a lot of false positives (not in terms of numbers, but that every “hit” they get turns out to be incorrect). More good news. The nurse took his blood test, but we couldn’t get him to pee, so we took the collection container home.

The next day I took the urine sample back to the hospital, and I had a chance to talk to the doctor some more. I asked about the various levels; what was the cutoff for them to be concerned, what were his levels for the first two tests, and what’s the level where someone definitely has the condition? The “red flag” level was 0.7 units. His first test was at 0.77, and his second was 0.76, but people that have the condition are at 0.9 or higher. This was extremely good news, because although he was higher than 0.7, he was much lower than 0.9. This is an all-or-nothing disorder; you can’t “sort of” have it, you either have it or you don’t. I also asked how common it was for someone to be flagged, and she told me they had another sample flagged a few weeks earlier, but it had been months before that they had another one. Finally, for the first time in over a week, I started to relax. She told me that they would run the samples and get back to me on Friday afternoon.

Yesterday, on Friday the 13th, I got the call I was hoping for – everything is good, and he doesn’t have HMG. Our pediatrician appointment went well, and she told us he’s a very healthy boy – nothing to be concerned about at all.

I wish we had received the first call from the doctor at the lab because she was the only one that could tell us what was going on. The nurse who took the second test could have told me the sky was blue and I would have doubted her just because of her mannerisms. She was meek, and didn’t sound confident in anything she told us. The doctor could have told us what the levels were and I wouldn’t have been stressed out, but unfortunately that’s not how things played out, and I spent a week worrying that my little guy had a genetic disorder that would impact his entire life.

Welcome to fatherhood.

Merry Christmas, Dad

For some of you this is news, and for others it’s old, but on Christmas Day I became a dad for the first time. Kat and I were expecting our little guy to come, but in January, and certainly not on Christmas day. My day started at 5:30 when Kat turned the light on and was patting the bed.

“What’s going on?!” I asked.

Kat replied with, “I’m wet!”

“Like… we’re going to have a baby??”

<Sigh> “I think so.”

So that’s how my Christmas started. I reached over and plugged in the iPad so it would have a full charge, and we both got up. Her contractions hadn’t started yet, which a quick Google search showed was normal, but only in 8-10% of births. A few hours later they started, and we breathed a sigh of relief (once the water is broken the baby is left unprotected, and can become infected if left too long).

We cleaned the kitchen, I wrapped Christmas presents, we did some baby laundry, and I took the dog to the dog-sitters. The entire day was completely calm, though Kat would have to pause from time-to-time because of a contraction. We kept our doula, Ricky (she’s absolutely awesome!) in the loop, and in early afternoon she came over. We hung out and Ricky helped Kat with some exercises. Around 3:30 we arrived at the hospital, and at 6:20 Broderick Dmitry Lacey was born, weighing 8 lbs, 5 oz. I’ll likely talk more in-depth about the type of birth we had in another post, but Kat managed to do it completely natural, and without drugs. She did such an amazing job, and I was so proud of her.

So that’s how we spent our Christmas day. It wasn’t how I expected to spend it, but the present that was delivered is pretty neat.

Expect lots more posts about fatherhood appearing here. I have lots to say, I just may not have tons of time to say it.

Brody

A shot of Brody in his cute hat and blanket

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