Two Wonderful Girls. One Day At A Time…

Archive for November, 2005

iRis' iPod (aka the Coldplay Cure)

I don’t profess to have a very good voice, but I’ve always been a closet singer. I can remember road trips to college where I’d be driving by myself and singing at the top of my lungs. I really got into Pearl Jam’s "Alive", singing with such emotion that you’d have thought I was Eddie Vedder. Was I good? Well, let’s just say I reached notes only dogs could hear. But when I got older, I realized that it was time that I grew out of that and I’ve put away my imaginary microphone. Well, that was until I realized I was about to be a father.

My musical renaissance started when Iris was still in the womb. Cherise and I went to a U2 concert in April and I was proud of how we were introducing Iris to quality music in utero. But how could we continue this musical lesson? Sure, we could’ve played a bunch of music, but where’s the bonding in that? So, rather than just talk Iris in the womb, many nights before we went to sleep, I’d rub Cherise’s belly and sing U2’s "City of Blinding Lights" (which conincidentally has the word "Irises" in it). Sure, I don’t sound like Bono, but let’s face it, through all that skin and amniotic fluid, Iris probably couldn’t tell the difference. After listening to Coldplay’s latest album, I heard the song "Talk" and thought "what a great song for Iris". I consequently downloaded the lyrics and memorized them. Still, when it came time to sing it to her, I was nervous. In fact, I was more nervous the first time singing that song than I was when I met Bill Gates–I kid you not! Can you believe that? Maybe I was nervous of what Cherise would think, but that can’t be since I haven’t been nervous around Cherise in years. Is it possible to worry about disappointing your kids before they’re even born? Well, so goes the pressure of being a dad.

Now that Iris is finally out in the real world, I’ve been giving her a "private concert" most nights. It’s a special time for us since it’s usually just the two of us after Cherise goes to bed . Usually I give the pure a capella version, which has me go through a bunch of my favorite songs over the years. It’s always the dymanic set list and I’ll cut a song short any time she doesn’t look happy (when was the last time you saw a concert where the band did that?). Yep, Iris is getting her dose of Foo Fighters, REM, and Dave Matthews. I don’t want to brag, but I bet Iris would be holding out her lighter if she wasn’t six weeks old and not allowed to have a lighter (hey,I’m a father first, rock star second)…

But when Iris is really fussy and virtually inconsolable, that’s when I need help and I call on the reinforcements. I take Iris, bring her close to the stereo, and the play Coldplay’s "X&Y" loudly and sing along just as loud, all the while having her dance around. Wouldn’t you know it, it works like magic. Apparently, my womb singing has paved the way for her appreciation of Coldplay. Despite the loud music and loud dad, she starts falling asleep a couple of songs through the concert. My voice sounds much better when Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin sings with me. I imagine Iris must be jealous of the baby that actually gets Chris Martin singing to her (Martin’s daughter with wife Gwyneth Paltrow), but then again, Martin named his daughter Apple, so I guess it’s all about tradeoffs.

So, I’ll continue the Sandy World Tour as long as Iris enjoys it. I don’t know if I’ll have to transition to kiddie tunes or if a two-year old Iris will be so cool that she will anticipate the next REM or U2 album as much as I will. But even if Iris forgoes the rock route in her musical tastes, no one will ever be able to take away this special time in our lives–when I was a rock star and she was my #1 fan.

A New Language

As new parents, we’ve learned a whole new vocabulary that we never had any idea about before – things like swaddling, rooting, baby byorn, good latch, and the verb “to sling”.
And over the past few weeks, Iris has shown more and more personality, picking up new nicknames along the way:
  • Squeaky burrito – grandma’s name for her, when she’s swaddled and making her usual squeaky noises
  • Woodpecker – when she’s hungry, she’ll bang her head hard into anyone’s chest.  Not at all subtle!
  • Little monkey – she had hairy ears and back at birth.  They say that will go away… right?
  • Leprechaun – for her Irish roots
  • Froggy – for her cute little green froggy outfits
  • Lil’ pumpkin – you’ve seen her Halloween outfit, complete with pumpkin hat
  • Bull – for her heavy breathing
  • Beehive hairdo, or Marge Simpson – yeah, the vacuum did weird things to her head at birth.  Good thing that’s all gone now!
  • Sweet pea – mom’s most common name for her, since she’s as adorable as a little pea in a pod
  • The queen of poop – for her amazing number of exploding poops each day
And finally, Sandy has made mothering very challenging for me in one key area – when I’m breast-feeding Iris, he often makes me laugh, which makes it hard for Iris to stay connected.  Our term for that?  A "milkshake", of course!

Professor Iris

We’re coming up on one month as parents and it has been one heck of a roller coaster. I learn more about Iris every day and continually alternate my temperment between infatuated and frustrated. The best description of the challenge of parenting is that it was less about any individual act (changing diapers, feeding, etc) and more about the constant attention it requires. Unlike our ReplayTV, there is no pause button (actually, I’d settle for a Mute button on some nights). The two things you give up are expectations of rational behavior and the idea of a routine. Iris simply doesn’t make sense with some of the things she does and she is anything but consistent about when the erratic behavior happens. And yet, after an hour of constant crying, she will do something or make a priceless face that completely wins me over. It’s like one of those destructive relationships where the woman treats the guy like dirt, but, with one kiss, gains full redemption. I suppose Iris may toy with many hearts in her life and she’s starting with dear old dad.

But let it not be said that babies don’t teach you stuff. In fact, Iris is even teaching me to rethink stuff I learned in college. As many of you know, I started with a Physics degree before engineering and then the MBA. Well, Iris has completely invalidated much of that first degree. That’s right–my daughter continually violates the laws of physics. "How", you ask? Simple. First off, she breaks the rules of the physics of sound. How something as small as that mouth can create screams that loud is simply beyond scientific explanation. I mean, she is like those little Bose speakers that can crank out the tunes–only she is louder and hits some pretty hellacious notes.  Imagine Kenny G (ugh) and, in the immortal words from Spinal Tap, "it goes to 11". "What else?", you ask. Well, how about the conservation of mass?  As many of you know, matter cannot be created or destroyed. Well, I got news for you. I’ve seen a nine-pound baby eat 3 ounces of milk and produce 2 pounds of poop–and still gain weight!  Where does the extra mass come from?!?  Even Sir Issac Newton is confounded. Supposedly, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Well Newton hasn’t met Iris when Iris is in one of her moods. Last night, I spent two hours trying to calm this child down. It was after she ate plenty, so she couldn’t be hungry, right? I burped her–still crying. I rocked her gently–still crying. I tried a pacifier–still crying. I checked her diaper–still crying. I swaddled her–still crying. I sang–still crying. I shushed–still crying. I put her in the swing–still crying. Just when I was ready to give up, suddenly without me doing anything different, she’ll stop crying.  It’s like she’s messing with me.

I’ve come to describe the study of her behavior as Irisology and it’s more voodoo than science. Still, I’ll keep learning and see what happens.

Childbirth – Miracle or Achievement?

After a few weeks recovery, I’m finally posting a little reflection on the experience of childbirth:
During pregnancy we read a lot of books and saw photos of the “amazing miracle of birth”, and were in awe that we were about to experience it.  Now looking back, I must say that it did leave us awe-struck that our bodies are capable of creating such an amazing being, but I feel like the word “miracle” makes it sound as if it happened to us, rather that it being something incredible that women all over the world achieve every day.  I no longer feel the urge to do something like the IronMan race, to push my body further than I thought it could go, because I’ve just done that in childbirth!   I’ve completed the ultimate super-marathon, with a much better reward than a gold medal.  and I felt like Lance Armstrong – needing an entire dedicated support team in order to finish the race.  Sandy was the ultimate birth-coach helping me breathe through every single contraction, mom thought of every detail to get ready for Iris’ arrival, and our doula Shari was invaluable with her bottomless bag of tricks for dealing with pain.  How is it that women around the world accomplish this amazing feat every day, and yet we as nations or communities aren’t constantly celebrating their awesome strength, endurance, selflessness, and will?
In the first week after childbirth, I felt like a trauma victim, unable to even tell my “birth story” – to talk about the extreme pain and seemingly unending process that childbirth was for me.  (I won’t get into gorey details here, but will share with you if you’re interested)
After the first week, I finally felt more like myself – ready to build things again (built the changing table), and went for my first walk outside with Iris.  The fresh air felt fantastic, and walking from home to the lake was a major accomplishment.
Now in week 3, memories of childbirth are beginning to fade, as if the pain were more of a bad dream than reality.  It doesn’t seem possible that this adorable being was once inside me, struggling to find her way out.  My focus is much less on my own recovery, and much more on the constant caring and feeding of Iris – especially now that my 2 major supports are gone during the weekdays – mom flew back to CA and Sandy is back at work until Thanksgiving.  So I am mastering the art of multitasking – eating lunch with Iris in her sling, reading email while feeding, and typing this with one hand.  Each day I feel more competent as a mother, and a stronger bond with Iris.  As Sandy said, it will eventually really sink in for us that we’re not just babysitting for awhile – this is permanent, and she’s our daughter forever.  And that really is a miracle.

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