Tuesday, January 19, 2010

This Family Will Never Be The Same

Here we are. It's nearly the close of day two at home with our newest member of the family, Rory Elizabeth. So far, Lindsay and I have experienced a full range of emotions in just 48 hours. Rory is now 3 days old. In that 3 days, Lindsay and I have experienced happiness, worry, joy, frustration, fear, anxiety, a little anger, and a lot fulfilling satisfaction.

I will admit it. I wasn't quite ready for Rory to come into the world when she did. For some reason, Rory's birth just seemed so distant - even all the way up until Lindsay finally went into labor. This time, pregnancy just seemed to fly by. I remember with Michael, it seemed like forever for Lindsay to get to her second trimester, then the third, then each and every week that dragged on - each week slower than the last. Though time went by at the same pace it did with Michael, it felt like it was just last week that Lindsay came to me, tears in her eyes with a pretty smile on her face, and said "I'm pregnant again." Suddenly, we found ourselves in the labor and delivery ward of the hospital, and before I could think, there was a baby lying on Lindsay's chest. How did that happen so fast?

Well, if I didn't have time to get myself into the mentality that a new life was about to come into the world, I surely shaped up fast. Lindsay and Rory only spent the night in the hospital and it was now time to bring her home. Reality still hadn't quite sunken in yet. My mother brought Michael home and he was asleep. Lindsay took him into his room and quickly laid him down to finish out the nap he started in the car. Then Mom and sis were in the house oogling and googling at our baby girl. I had an engagement that I could have gotten out of, but figured I should attend since there were plenty of people at home with the new baby girl.

When I came home that evening, it was just Lindsay, me, Michael and our new baby Rory. Gone were the nurses and doctors. Gone were visitors, and in its place was the responsibility I have to be Rory's father. I'll admit, I was a bit overwhelmed, but I had a day to get back into the habit. You see, I was able to get a little lazy with Michael because he hasn't been completely helpless since July of last year. The kid has his routine down and knows what to expect on a daily basis; Michael is also a fantastic little boy.

The first night was a night of frustration. Lindsay was upset. Rory was up all night crying and we couldn't quite figure out why. Fortunately, I found a couple hours of sleep, but it really wasn't enough. I stayed up with Rory for a couple hours and did my best to comfort her while Lindsay took in some very much needed sleep. I couldn't feed her since Lindsay is breast feeding. The most I could do was rock her, console her, and make her feel comfortable.

Finally day came and Lindsay was awake (sort of) enough to go at it again with the feeding. Still, Rory didn't seem to be getting enough to drink even though she was feeding almost every half hour. Lindsay determined that due to Rory's very tiny size, she was having latching problems. There is no problem with supply. It was just getting that supply from Mommy to baby. Fortunately, Lindsay came out with this bag that had liquid similac bottle in them - two ounces per bottle. I dropped the contents of one bottle into our Dr. Browns bottles. When I put that bottle to the baby, she sucked it right down and immediately went to sleep. She didn't even give me a chance to burp her. I turned her over and gave her a few pats on the back for good measure, but instead of belching, she just laid there asleep and as content as could be. I gently placed her in the co-sleeper and watched her sleep in peace for nearly two hours. Last night was a lot better. Lindsay began pumping and we supplemented her supply with Similac as needed.

Lindsay had a 9am appointment with the Pediatrician, so I stayed home with my boy while Lindsay took Rory in. The doctor's report was that she was strong and healthy. Her reflexes were right on, and the doctor also noticed that her neck muscles were very strong for a girl her age. With a clean bill of health, Lindsay came home to a husband and not-so-baby boy that were waiting for her.

Today was a good day. Lindsay has been able to feed her baby girl with her own supply and I think we only needed a few ounces of the Similac to supplement. I feel a lot better because even I can hold a bottle and feed my daughter. It makes me feel a lot better as a dad since I can actually do something about my baby girl when she starts fussing and looking for that nipple to suckle on.

With the supply problem pretty much figured out, we were able to devote a lot more attention back to Michael. Part of the reason we were really frustrated, yesterday, was because Michael was not getting some of the attention that he needed and was doing anything he could to get it; that included doing things to make us mad. However, things were different today. Michael got his individual attention from each of us, and that made his day. He spent a lot more time looking to me for love and attention, even more so than he usually does. This made me feel good because I really love my son and I enjoy our time together. Michael didn't even protest when we had to divert attention from him to take care of his baby sister. That's good. We also found that tag-teaming on Rory and Michael was effective. When we changed Rory's diaper, Lindsay just changed Michael's too. When Michael started getting too rambunctious, I simply plopped him in his high chair and let him sit close by while I prepared dinner. He enjoyed that a lot more than I expected he would. I got him to say a new phrase today as well: "OH YEAH!" No, seriously, I said, "oh yeah" and he copied me. So we took turns saying it as obnoxious as we could to each other. Yeah, that's how Michael and I roll.

Some of the really extraordinary stuff was happening on the newborn front, however. Rory was asleep on the boppy pillow. Her head was facing her left. When I left the room and came back, her head was facing right. I asked Lindsay if she had moved her, to which she said no. Then I noticed Rory moving her head to get more comfortable. After an hour, I roused her for a diaper change; well, she was already stirring. When I had her on her back, she rolled over to her side - then to the other. If she only realized that her arm was in the way, she could roll right over onto her belly. Rory really likes to lay on her belly, which strikes me as odd because Michael hated it with a passion. He really hated tummy time. Rory, on the other hand, was all about it. Lindsay had her on her belly, propped up in the boppy pillow. There she was just laying there with her head up, looking around the room with her big blue eyes like it wasn't anything. Child, you're not supposed to be able to do that yet - not at 3 days old! Amazing!

Rory is our little tree frog. She lays on her belly with her legs tucked up under herself with her little butt sticking out. She even managed to push the boppy pillow out from underneath herself with her legs. She's a strong little girl. I have to hold her extra secure because, unlike Michael at that age, Rory will kick with her legs and feels like she's about to springboard off my arm across the room. That's something to get used to. I'm happy about it though. She is going to crawl sooner than Michael, I think. I think she's going to do a lot of things earlier, and it's not just because she will have Michael as an example; although I know that will play a part in it.

In any case, I'm hoping tonight goes as well as last night. Rory was such an angel today and Michael was just happy as can be being my little man. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings. Ah, the joys and excitement of being a new dad all over again.

-James

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Welcome Rory

I am happy to announce the birth of Lindsay's and my baby girl, Rory Elizabeth. She was born today, Jan 16, 2010 at 8:15 AM. She weighed in at 6 lbs, 14 oz and was 20 inches long.

It's 11:28 as of this sentence. Rory has been with us for just over 3 hours (well, 9 months and 3 hours for Lindsay). I am happy to say she is doing extremely well. She turned pink almost immediately after exiting the womb and cried out a healthy cry. We are in the recovery room at the hospital, where Mom and Baby are both asleep after nearly 11 hours of labor and delivery. Somehow, I have managed to stay awake during all this, even though I've only had about 1 good hour of sleep in the last 36 hours.

Rory, like her older brother Michael, decided to pull an all-nighter for Lindsay before she made her debut into the world. And what a debut it was! This pregnancy was pretty normal. The labor and delivery were cut and dry and by the book. There were 't any strange anomalies, no serious issues, and certainly no emergency c-sections this time around. Lindsay was a trooper. She delivered Rory using a VBAC method (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). I'm proud of her for sticking to her guns and insisting on doing this. Yes, there are risks associated with VBAC, but from what I've read, the risks of a repeated c-section are just as bad, if not worse. Besides, I think this was important to Lindsay to prove it to herself. It's a mom thing. Don't ask me.

It gets better too. Apparently, if all is well Sunday morning, we get to take her home. Awesome! No need to stay in the hospital all weekend! That's good because I get cabin fever in places like this. Glad I brought along my computer. :)

I can't wait to see Michael's reaction to Rory. He has poked Lindsay's belly with much curiosity lately, but hasn't made the connection that a new life was being created within the confines of that round ball hanging off Mommy's tummy. I have a feeling Rory will be a big hit with him... until he finds out she hogs a lot of the attention that used to be his. Looks like my job as a weapon of mass distraction is going to go into full force with my boy. Then again, I wouldn't mind holding my baby girl while Lindsay distracts Michael, he he.

It is still surreal to me. I have two children now - one boy and one girl. Sheesh, all I need is a picket fence around my house and a puppy, and I'll have it all!

When Rory's head poked through, Lindsay started crying. The nurses were kind enough to place a mirror so that Lindsay could see all that was happening. I was almost too afraid to look. I saw Michael get pulled out of Lindsay's abdomen when we has born, but hadn't quite experienced watching a baby get pushed out through Lindsay's you-know-what. Finally, I sucked it up and stole a glance and saw just what Lindsay was crying about. Our beautiful baby girl's head was out and not more than a second later, she was all out. She was crying before her head made it all the way. The doctor and nurses immediately placed Rory on Lindsay's chest and let her hold her while they did the initial check of vitals and made sure she was able to breathe. Lindsay held her and cried a lot of tears of joy. As much as I tried to suck it up, I too succumbed to some tears, but you didn't hear it from me!

I decided that since Lindsay didn't get to hold Michael right after he was born, I'd stand by and let her soak this all in. When Michael was born, Lindsay was doped up on some heavy drugs due to the c-section and she was a little hysterical due to it being an emergency after 30 some hours of labor! They gave Michael to me and then spirited both of us away into the recovery room, where I spent about 20 minutes alone with my son before Lindsay came in. Even then, she was so heavily doped up, she really didn't know what was going on. I've always felt bad that Lindsay didn't get to enjoy the first moments of her son's life they way I got to. It was only fair this time that Lindsay get a chance to really hold and enjoy her baby girl while being completely lucid. I knew that there would be plenty of time for me to hold her, so I wasn't in a rush.

Instead, the doctor gave me the opportunity to cut the umbilical cord, which I looked at him and said, "heck yes!"

At the moment, my heart is full. I feel so blessed at this moment that I cannot find the words to express how I feel. I am happy. I am content. It seems to me that the missing piece of our family puzzle is finally in its place. Welcome home Rory. God has blessed you to be born into a home with a family that will love you and cherish you forever. I can speak for Lindsay when I say "We love you". I love you.

-James

Friday, January 1, 2010

Bug Out Bag

Yes, I'm going to address the "bug out bag", or for those who don't care for such extreme language, the 72 hour kit. In today's economic, social, political, and environmental climate, it pays to do a little thinking beforehand and be prepared for what may/will come. In the wake of a natural disaster do you think the government will have your best interests in mind? Well, if you weren't sleeping when Hurricane Katrina, you know for a fact that until help can arrive, you are on your own.

Now, I'm not going to start a debate over whether FEMA will have gotten its act together, or if the Federal Government will send help to the rich neighborhoods first, or even if the National Guard will run around disarming the public because it is in the "best interest" of everyone. Dude, we already know everything was FUBAR in the wake of one of the most expensive disasters in recorded history. Face it, until law and order are restored in the wake of an emergency, you need to rely on yourself and those closest to you.

I'm pretty big on emergency preparedness, and for most situations, I'm confident I'll weather the storm in one piece. I have food, water, guns, ammo, and the ability to cook and provide electricity for a while until order is [hopefully] restored. I've always been a big proponent of outfitting my home because in most instances, that's where I will be riding out any storm. But what if my house is destroyed in an earthquake, a fire, or some other incident (plane crash, bombing, etc)? The need for a small 72 hour kit, or bug out bag, starts looking pretty good.

Now, I'm not suggesting that I'll be put into a situation where I need to grab, jump out of my window, and run like hell. I'm talking about a kit that will get me through the first critical hours of an emergency, whether I am home, away from home, or somewhere in between.

In my profession, I oftentimes find myself 100 miles from home. That's an hour-and a half drive in a vehicle, but could be an exhausting 3-5 day trip on foot, depending on terrain. You cannot survive 3-5 days without food or supplies. Oh sure, there are convenience stores and restaurants, but in the aftermath of a major disaster, can you really count on those to be a reliable source of food or supplies? I'm not a betting man, so my answer is no.

I think it would be a good idea to clarify something here. Unless you already live in the boondocks, the only thing you would "bug out" to is a traffic jam. The roads around here, if they aren't torn up after an earthquake, would be come parking lots. Should you find the need to "bug out", you're going to be hoofing it out, unless you want to sit in a vehicle idling on a highway with a finite amount of fuel. What you will most likely be doing is holding out until the storm clears, whatever that storm may be. Call it a "hold out bag" then. Or call it whatever you want. I call it smart thinking either way.

So, if I am going to hold out, what do I need a special bag for anyway? I'm going to be holding out in my house, right? Not always. As stated above, I could be miles from home when the the shit hits the fan (SHTF) and may not be able to hold out as I plan on doing. I may have a long walk ahead of me. Or what if my home was destroyed, along with all my year's worth of food and supplies? Where will I hold out now? A vehicle? What if something falls on it, or it is stolen during the almost predictable riots and looting that occur after major disasters? Why do you need a bug out bag? Simply speaking... it's convenient, packed, and ready to go in a moment's notice and will help you get through the first few days in one piece.

I am a backpacker. I go backpacking at least 6-8 times a year, and have become very acquainted with my gear. I know exactly where it stows in my pack and everytime I go on a trip, I learn what works, what doesn't work, what is bulky and heavy and unecessary, and what is light and fast and capable. My pack is stored in a known location in my house, but I keep it unloaded. This allows the gear to remain relaxed when not needed and allows my pack to breathe. It also keeps tension cords taught and straps from stretching and straining against the threads that hold them in place. When I need it, it takes but a few minutes to load up.

But I don't take my pack everywhere with me. I leave it at home because for all intents and purposes, I spend at least half of my day home or close by. But for those times when I'm not close to home, I still need a basic kit, a solo kit if you will. It needs to be something that I have for me and me alone. If the SHTF when I'm 50 miles from home, I need enough gear to get me home in one piece. However, I still don't recommend storing a fully loaded pack, for the reasons listed above. Placing them in a plastic tote in your vehicle is the better idea. The additional benefit of this is that you can inventory your gear and readily inspect every piece on a regular basis (at least 3 times a year) for wear, tear, and damage. I also recommend that your gear in your vehicle be identical to the gear you use in your main bug out bag. My bug out bag is more of a backpacking bag, but the gear I use is tailored for my application. It would make sense to keep identical gear in the vehicle bag just because when tensions are high, you are worn out, and cold, you will at least know exactly how your gear works.

This is the plan for 2010. I know what gear I have that works. I don't have to duplicate much - a stove, knife, good socks, clothing, food, and a first-aid kit. Sleeping bags are sleeping bags. Packs are packs, but I'd recommend either getting an identical one to yours, or getting something you will be comfortable with. My pack is a $250 pack and it is designed for excursions lasting longer than 3 days. I probably wouln't get something like that to just keep in a vehicle. A smaller pack that I break in will suffice.

When I assemble my new modular vehicle kit, I will describe in better detail what is in it.

-James