Parenting Against the Memories of the Past

My brother showing me how to hold a baby.

A funny thing happened a few weeks ago, Cristian turned 18 months old.  A lot’s changed in a year and a half.  I no longer look like a gorilla dragging a baby around the cage.  My better half doesn’t have to stuff the baby bag and leave three complete outfits for the baby.  She still does—but doesn’t have to.  It’s been over a year since I looked at the extensive list of care instructions posted in the kitchen.

Cristian’s grown into a hyperactive toddler, kind of like the Tazmanian Devil on Red Bull, and I’ve become a functional Stay at Home Dad.  Getting here was twisty road of diaper blowouts (his not mine), empty bottles (mine not his) and unsolicited advice from just about everyone.

Feeding, bathing and dressing the baby is now part of my daily routine.  I no longer hear It looks like Daddy dressed you today.  Okay maybe from Esther—geez you forget to fasten the snaps on his onesie a few times.

A year ago, women at Target sniffed out diaper changes.   People at the post office suggested he may need a nap. Families at Costco gave me stink eye when I put the baby into the same shopping cart with a few gallons of bleach, a case of motor oil and 10 pounds of seafood.  Imagine if I threw the live lobsters into the cart, like I wanted to.

What are you doing with those lobsters Daddy?
What are you doing with those lobsters Daddy?

The family has gotten better too.  They no longer rush to feed or change the baby when he cries, just when I thought I had them trained.  Watching me take care of him eased their anxiety, or maybe they realized they’ve become material for a post or two.

You think that would be the end of it, of course it isn’t.  Haven’t you been reading this blog?

Having graduated from feedings and diaper changes, Parenting 101, I’ve moved onto the advanced course.  It started with a few subtle hints from the family elders, who am I kidding about subtle.

To give you some background on the family elders.  I once overheard them remark about how a new mom still had her baby belly—two days after a grueling 20-hours of labor ending in a C-Section.  To hear them talk they all went straight home from the delivery room and did three loads of laundry.

According to them when they raised us we always ate elaborately-planned home-cooked meals, didn’t fight them at bedtime, and never got dirty.  Oh selective memory is a wonderful thing.  I remember being called a bad child, constantly being scolded for getting dirty.

Parenting guidelines and norms changed over the years.  When I was a child, parents barely childproofed their homes, small children rode in the car’s backseat without a child seat or seatbelt, and moms did the heavy lifting regarding childcare.  So I can only imagine their shock at watching us raise our own children.  I don’t need to, I hear it constantly, but that’s okay.  As Cristian keeps growing and hitting developmental milestones, I’m hitting mine as a parent.  I guess it’s a good thing I keep a blog.


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It’s Showtime – Part 2

machines 2In the hospital we watched Jimmy Fallon as Esther lay in bed hooked to machines and an IV Drip I knew we were in for a long night.  Sitting in a cushy recliner next to her bed listening to my son’s heartbeat all we can do is wait.  After 41 weeks, Baby Priegue is ready to arrive, but like his parents he’s being stubborn.

Leaving the doctor’s office, we stopped for Esther’s “Last Meal.”  We went home to walk and feed Chico, and called friends and family letting them, it was go time.

Let me hit the highlights so this post isn’t too long, of course I still can’t promise it won’t be really long.

SInce you're up could you go to Dunkin Donuts and get me a cup of coffee?
SInce you’re up could you go to Dunkin Donuts and get me a cup of coffee?

Facebook Posts Instead of Phone Calls-Knowing this was going deep into the night or into the next morning we kept friends and family updated via an ongoing Facebook posts.  Apparently we weren’t the only ones who had a sleepless night.  Several friends woke up hourly checking for updates.

No All-Night Maternal Slumber Party-Anticipating what awaited us; I pushed the recliner back at around 3am to get a few hours’ sleep.  It didn’t sit well with my better half.  Esther expected the type of all-night maternal slumber party she had when her sister gave birth to her son.

Let me give you a little family history.  My sister-in-law Rose Marie, or Neiqui, her family nickname, was in labor for over 20 hours.  It’s become something of an urban legend (tell me about the doctor using the Jaws of Life again) and Esther was with her kid sister every step of the way.   

Esther and I before she went into the O.R.
Esther and I before she went into the O.R.

“When Neiqui had Justin, I stayed awake the entire night,” She mentioned with a very disappointed look.  “I’m happy for you,” was my tired reply, “but the doctor said he won’t be here until 8 am, we have a long day ahead of us.”  I went to sleep wondering if I’d wake up to an irate wife smothering me with a pillow.

A Moment of Calm-Upon waking up the nurses told me Induction wasn’t working—we were probably having a C-Section.  Hungry and a little anxious, I stepped out for a quick breakfast sandwich and coffee (yeah coffee will help those nerves Frank).

Looking at the newborns when I returned to maternity wing gave me a sense of calm.  Tuning around, I saw Steven, Esther’s doctor watching me.  I don’t remember what he said but it removed any remaining anxiety.  I guess his services extend to expectant fathers too.

In our room Esther napped as induction continued.  Listening to the baby’s heartbeat, I knew we were in for a long day.

We’re having a C-Section-Around 10am Stephen and the anesthesiologist confirmed the C-Section.  Let’s do this I thought.  Since a Caesarean section is surgical procedure, the nurses brought me a package of surgical gear, hat, mask, white coveralls that looked like a hazmat suit and a pair of little booties to cover my shoes.

I was gearing up when they came for Esther.  Rushing after her I forgot to put my feet through cutouts of my “hazmat suit.”  Straightening up the suit started tearing like clothes off the Incredible Hulk.  It was the icebreaker we needed.   Mentioning it still brings a smile to Esther’s face.

Selfie in my Hazmat Suit
Selfie in my Hazmat Suit

It’s Go Time-Outside the O.R. I watched Esther being prepped as I paced.  Turning around I saw Stephen, who must have been thinking, not again.  He told me, “You will be sitting behind a screen with Esther, when I call your name, stand up and starting taking pictures.”

Holding Esther’s hand, we waited and listened.  Hearing a gurgling sound Stephen called me. I stood up and saw my son for the first time, I was awestruck.  Stephen called again. “Frank, start taking pictures!”  Turning to Esther I said, The C-Section was right decision, he’s huge.

Snapping pictures I felt guilty, Esther carried him to term and could hear him crying, but still couldn’t see him.  Taking a few pictures, I went over so she could see her son.  When they cleaned him up, they put him under a heat lamp.

After cutting the umbilical cord, yes I cut the cord, they weighed the baby. The scale said 147.  147?  It was 147 ounces, which is 9 pounds 3 ounces.  That’s a big boy!  Stepping out I called my mom to let her know she was a grandma again, then made the obligatory calls, while watching my son through the O.R. Window.  With that done, I fired off a Facebook post with a picture saying, “We have a boy!”

Esther holding Cristian for the first time.
Esther holding Cristian for the first time.

Returning to Esther’s side she mentioned, we still have to name him.  You pick.  We narrowed the list to two names Cristian and Daniel.  I wanted Daniel.

Growing up, was my best friend was Danny.  He was the popular kid, who was good at sports and picked the kids no one wanted when we chose sides. He protected a lot of us from bullies.  As an adult, he coached baseball and soccer taking the kids the other coaches passed on.  The kids loved playing for Danny.  Sadly he was killed driving to work when a drunk driver crashed into the car he was riding in.

Esther knew this story and I knew she preferred the name Cristian.  Thinking of everything we went through to get here, how and she had the hard part through all of it, I looked at our son in his mother’s arms, he looked like a Cristian.

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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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