Top Ten Things I Learned During My First Year of Fatherhood

Being a parent is on-the-job training.  Although I’m not the baby spaz I was when Cristian was born, certain things still make me shake my head.  Last week I read a blog post on Inside Martyns Thoughts, (he’s another Daddy Blogger) about the ten things he wanted to know before he been a parent.  It made me smile.

Although I came into parenthood with open eyes, there was plenty of the unexpected over the past year.  Parents take a look at the list and let know how many you’ve come across or add a few I missed in the comments section.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so here is my Top Ten List of Things I didn’t expect before being a parent.

  • Number 1 -Breastfeeding-I didn’t know some newborn babies have problems breastfeeding, Cristian was one of them. We don’t know if it was the effects of the epidural but it wasn’t automatic.  We tried everything, multiple lactation specialists, bringing a breast pump from home, we even hooked Esther up to an industrial-strength pump, which resembled some of my grandfather’s equipment, he was a commercial dairy farmer.  None of it worked.  When we were home, Cristian got the hang of it.  Maybe all he needed was privacy.
  • The baby bag, your baby's life support system.
    The baby bag, your baby’s life support system.

    Number 2-The Baby Bag-Okay this one might be me bitching and moaning. The baby bag is a parent’s life support system when you are away from home.  Failure to pack diapers, baby wipes or formula will have dire consequences.  Esther packs the bag daily, her unique ability of packing the contents of a one-bedroom apartment into a backpack make her better suited for the task.  My only question is why are the important things like diapers always at the bottom of the bag?  Another question is if this is such a problem, why am I not packing the diaper bag?  Yes this one is me bitching and moaning.

  •  My non-squirming practice doll.
    My non-squirming practice doll.

    Number 3-Squirming Baby on the Changing Table- I knew changing diapers was part of this Dad/Baby thing—I was ok with it.  However, no one mentioned twisting, rolling and squirming on the changing table during the prenatal-parenting classes.  Cristian kicks it up a notch when the changing table is next to a wet counter in a public restaurant.

  • Number 4-Blowouts-Before becoming a parent this was strictly an automotive term, not anymore.  Every parent has experienced one.  Few things can change your mood faster than a blowout. “Why is the back of his onesie muddy? Nooooo!” Two blowouts are memorable. The Mother’s Day blowout in a Cuban Chinese restaurant with the tiny bathroom and no changing table.  The second was the Wake-Up blowout requiring a new cover on his changing table and the crib’s bedding .  Esther and I also needed a shower afterwards.  It got us going faster than a strong cup of coffee.
  • Number 5- Chico’s New Role-Before Cristian was born, Chico was our baby I’ve written about him.  When Esther and I read the newspaper in bed on a lazy Sunday morning, he’d be curled up next to one of us trying to hog the mattress. Chico had a better life than most people, until that baby came along. We still love you Chico, I’m sorry Cristian is getting much of the attention we once gave you.
Hey kid, we gotta talk.
Hey kid, we gotta talk.
  • Number 6 – There Are No Quick Trips to Pick Up Anything For The Baby.-I know this one’s not new, I’ve posted about it here and mentioned it here but it bears repeating. There are no quick trips to Carter’s, Babies R Us, or Bye Bye Baby.  This one may run along gender lines. If you send me to pick up diapers, baby food, and sippy cups the trip takes about 15 or 20 minutes because I’ll pick up diapers, baby food and sippy cups.  When I hear we need to pick up a few things for the baby, I cringe because the trip involves all sorts of detours.  Watching her ooh and ahh looking at baby clothes makes my uterus pinch.  Advice to new Dads, bring a fully-charged tablet and find a comfortable chair where they sell baby furniture, this is going to take a while.
  • Number 7 Prunes- Most parenting books advise introducing babies to solid food at three or four months.  A new fruit or vegetable is introduced for about three days ensuring the baby isn’t allergic to it before moving on to the next one. This is all common sense.  Then there are prunes. Dark, sticky and gooey they look the same in the container as they do in the diaper.  I’ve spent a sleepless night or two wondering about the logic of feeding a baby with a well-functioning digestive system prunes.
  • Number 8-Babies Will Pee On You-It’s not as bad as a blowout but still an eye-opener. Cristian peed on the doctor during his first pediatrician appointment.  After a year, I’m pretty good at dodging the spray, but Cristian still laughs knowing Daddy is going to have to change the cover on the changing table.
  • Father son napNumber 9 -There is no Rhyme or Reason to a Baby’s Sleeping Habits-File this one under should have known better. We had established a routine at about five months of feed, bathe, bottle, bedtime and Cristian would sleep from about 10 pm until about 5 am.  Esther and I thought we had this sleep thing under control. Then his sleep pattern changed.  He’s now up once or twice a night, sitting in his crib like a Baby Buddha waiting for a bottle.
  • Number 10--Competitive Parents-I’ve been around a lot of babies in the past year.  Our building welcomed five and our family and friends had six more. That’s a lot of babies. Parents compare notes.  It’s harmless at first, checking on eating and sleeping patterns. Little by little, it gets competitive.  Your baby has two teeth, mine has eight. Yours started crawling; mine walks around the block.  I’m waiting for the inevitable, yours isn’t toilet trained yet?  Ours was toilet trained months ago, and now he’s training others. It’s not a competition. Let’s all take a breath or maybe a nap. Your child is as special to you as mine is to me there’s no need to be competitive.
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It’s Showtime – Part 1

Two posts ago I covered the highlights of Esther’s pregnancy, but there is more story to tell—a lot more.   I split this post into two parts to make it easier to read.  Hey it worked for Quentin Tarantino in Kill Bill I and II.

For me one of the joys of pregnancy was creating something that’s part Esther and part me.  Certain things, like who the baby resembles were obvious immediately, (our friends started with the sonograms) other traits like habits, temperament, and personality may take years.  It started for me upon being given the baby’s due date.

Which one of us does he look like?
Which one of us does he look like?

Esther comes from a strong gene pool, so I knew Baby Priegue would look like her.  Just go to a Santiago family event—there are mini-mes everywhere.  I was ok with that, I fell in love with that pretty face (other things too but I’m getting sidetracked).

Upon receiving an October 1st due day my mind, and sarcasm, started racing.  My brother and I are both punctual—we get that from Dad.   Dad got twitchy if we weren’t early for family gatherings—many times we arrived for weddings while the waiters were setting the room up.

Esther has many wonderful traits but punctuality isn’t one of them.  Let’s meet at six means arrive at six not leave home at six.   My theory was if Cornelius (just checking to see if you are paying attention) was born before October 1st, he’d take after me and Esther if he was born after the 1st.

Let’s cover some highlights before this post gets too long.

mapNesting-Described by Parenting as “an uncontrollable urge to clean one’s house brought on by a desire to prepare a nest for the new baby, to tie up loose ends of old projects and to organize your world.”  I guess Esther’s been nesting since I met her.  After Labor Day we worked on the nursery, translation Esther planned the layout and design and I moved furniture back and forth, and back again and again.

The Baby Bag(s)-In early September we each packed a “baby bag” and left them in my car.  Two bags quickly became four—yes we both over pack.   The bags were packed and repacked after last September’s Indian Summer.   I spent the month figuring out how to sneak Chico into our hospital room.  He fits in the big bag, doesn’t he?

Belly’s Everywhere-Our building had five new babies last year, including our next-door neighbors Shawn and Nika.  We met them, five-years ago when Chico walked right into their apartment as they were moving in.  They married a month before we did and had their daughter Sydney Rose a month after Cristian was born.  Shawn and I shared more than few beers while the women compared notes on all things pregnancy. How does another cold one sound Shawn?

More Humor-Esther’s OB/GYN was Raveco Medical, whose primary physicians are husband and wife Doctors Steven and Claudia Ravins.  Besides being excellent doctors their sense of humor appealed to me.  Claudia was the first one who got the Cornelius reference, without it being explained.  When I joked about videotaping the baby’s birth so we could show him in a few years when he asks, “where did I come from,” Steven played along, joking about strapping a Go Pro Camera around his forehead during the delivery.  Esther’s response, usually with her legs in the stirrups was always the same, “Hello remember me?  The patient.”  For the record, we didn’t record Cristian’s birth, something about therapy being expensive.

Esther and her ginger-ale filled champagne flute.
Esther and her ginger-ale filled champagne flute.

 Not So Smooth Sailing- Although the pregnancy was pretty smooth—we had a few scares along the way. About four months in, Esther fell down a few steps, requiring a trip to the emergency room.   It turned out to be nothing, but I remember the baby’s pissed off look on the screen during the sonogram.  Late in the pregnancy she developed a skin condition called PUPS, an itchy uncomfortable rash on her legs.

Our biggest scare came during an early-morning appointment.  Claudia was concerned with the baby’s heartrate—it was too low.   After trying to raise her blood sugar level with ginger ale, served in a champagne flute, didn’t get the desired result Esther was sent for a carb-rich breakfast.   It turned out to be a false alarm, but after months on a strict diet, doctor’s orders never tasted so good.

Esther finishing her last 5K race at Met Life Stadium in July.
Esther finishing her last 5K race at Met Life Stadium in July.

The Walking Tour-The baby kept growing as late September faded into October, but Esther wasn’t dilating.  Trying to stimulate contractions the doctors suggested extensive walking—three hours’ worth every night.  It was Esther’s first intense activity since her last 5K race in July.  Keeping it interesting, we walked a different park every day.  We walked Cunningham Park, Flushing Meadows Park, Kissena Park, Central Park, and Prospect Park as well as touring Fresh Meadows, Flushing, Howard Beach, Jamaica Estates and Malba, but it didn’t help.

Its Go Time-After 41 weeks and much discomfort Esther was ready to pop, but the baby wasn’t cooperating.  On our way to yet another doctor’s appointment, she vented.  “As soon as we get there, I’m telling him, Induce me or C-Section me, I’m ready.”  I was surprised when she repeated this verbatim to Steven.  Without missing a beat, he replied, “How about tonight?”

After few phone calls, he told us to be at the hospital at 8pm, so they could start inducing. This gave us a few hours to tie up some loose ends.  Leaving the doctor’s office, Esther called her sister and nephew, asking them to meet us at Applebee’s for her “last meal.”  When the meal was done, two-year old Justin launched into a wicked tantrum.  Foreshadowing, I wondered.  Looking at Esther, I said, “Too late to turn back now.  Let’s go.”

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