the birth visit


Thurs, Dec 25th: We come home from the hospital to the beginning stages of a Christmas party. I take my first shower and change my clothes for the first time since Monday, and it feels glorious. Lots of relatives start showing up, both those we’ve met already during our trip and some new faces, and the boys go crazy with the excitement for opening presents. Betsy gives Aria the sweater she knitted for her, and the boys get the books we picked out for them. (The initial reaction from the boys is “hmm, a book. Where’s the next toy?”, but the books have since become very popular.) Everyone gets a chance to cuddle with Seth a little bit.

Sweater for Aria
Sweater for Aria

Uncle Carter
Uncle Carter

Fri, Dec. 26th: There’s some concern that Seth isn’t getting enough food, as Betsy’s milk has yet to come in and he’s showing some early signs of jaundice. Heather teaches Todd how to make a homemade formula to help supplement Betsy’s milk, and Betsy experiments with using a supplemental nursing system. Seth isn’t too fond of the SNS and has trouble feeding, and we start feeling worried and stressed about him not getting enough food. Add some gas troubles in the evening, and it’s a fairly tough day.


Making formula


Bags of formula for the SNS

Sat, Dec. 27th: Gale (the leader of her local La Leche League) determines that he has no problem with the strength of his suck or his desire to nurse, and that since he’s such a natural, using a bottle for the supplemental feedings would be okay as long as it is done in moderation and with LOTS of pure nursing in between the bottle supplements. He takes to the bottle very well, and the day goes much smoother. I take advantage of the downtime to record a picture of his heart-shaped birthmark. (Angle your head slightly to see it.)

The phone rings during the afternoon, and the caller ID shows that it is my parents calling. That’s not suspicious, as my Dad expressed an interest in calling the house to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. But when Gale answers the phone, she gets up immediately and moves to a different room. She almost never moves into another room for phone calls (raising 3 kids seems to have granted her impressive noise-filtering abilities), and so that makes me wonder. When she returns, she mentions that my parents called “to ask what they should buy (Betsy and me) for Christmas”. I know my parents finished their shopping in early December, so I’m pretty sure she’s not telling me the truth. I have my guesses as to what’s going on, but I’m trying to not get my hopes up too high…


Heart-shaped birthmark

Sun, Dec 28th: We go to church in the morning. The theme of the service is all about babies being born, with Christmas happening a few days ago and another baby being dedicated that morning. The combination of songs and sermon make several eyes in our party wet.

The afternoon is laid back, and I’m starting to feel more and more confident in my guess as to why my parents called. Just the thought of that coming true is making my eyes wet, and I’m trying to not get too excited…

In the evening, there’s a knock at the door, and a couple of very familiar voices in the front room. I walk around the corner to see my parents at the house. They had been planning on coming down to California for New Years already, and while their final destination was going to be in Pasadena, hundreds of miles away, they made a special stop in Lake County to visit their grandson. It was great to see them.


Mom V


Dad V

Mon, Dec 29th: My parents come over again in the morning, and we hang out for a little longer before they have to leave at noon to catch their next flight.

In the afternoon, Seth gets his first bath. He’s not particularly fond of bathing.

I suggest that we take a family walk around the neighborhood, as I’m getting a bit stir-crazy in the house. Betsy is worried about the terrifying arctic weather outside (55 degrees and sunny), and my idea is handled as if I had suggested loading his playpen with a sack of disgruntled weasels. I back off, and I’ll try this again later.


Bathtime

Tue, Dec 30th: We go to the doctor for the one-week checkup. Seth is weighed in at 8lbs 12oz, which would be a 11oz gain in the first week. Since babies usually lose weight during that first week, we’re a bit skeptical of these results, but it makes us feel good about his nutrition levels. Everything else checks out great, and I think we surprised the doctor by being calm and confident in our parenting. (Betsy suggested that the first week check-up is often as much for the parents as for the child, which sounds about right to me.) But what the doctor hasn’t seen is that we’ve been peppering Gale with questions all day long for the past week, and we didn’t have any questions left for him.

In the afternoon, Aria’s friends come by to say hello and meet Seth. After that, there’s some family naptime, and I get to capture my favorite picture so far.


Friends


Family Naptime

Wed, Dec 31st: Wednesday is the most mellow day on record so far, as the rest of the family leaves for the day, leaving just Betsy, Seth and me alone at the house. I finally convince Betsy that Seth would be able to survive a trek into the wilderness, and he gets bundled up for his walk outside.

In the evening, we’re left alone again, and the family has a very relaxed New Year’s Eve, nursing near the fireplace and watching Top Chef on YouTube. (TV shows that are normally 40 minutes now take 3 hours to watch – I can’t imagine how long it would take to watch a movie.) Seth had slept through most of the day and wakes up more in the evening, so we’re up until about 11:45. We don’t stay up all the way until midnight, so we instead greet the New Year somewhere around 2am, with a feeding, a diaper change and a cuddle. I have the feeling that those are going to be the themes of 2009 for us…


Snow Suit

Change in plans! Looks like we’ll be flying back on Friday, not Saturday. We’ll be seeing you guys one day earlier than expected!

We got a call from our counselor this morning, and all of our legal paperwork has gone through to allow us to leave the state of California. We’ll be back in Seattle on Saturday, and get to start settling in to our lives back at home.

It’s both exciting and scary to think about going back home. Having Gale, Auntie Heather, and everyone else with us to help answer our questions has been so extremely valuable, and I can’t imagine how we would have done it on our own. At the same time, I can’t wait to see some of our friends and family, and introduce Seth to the house that he’ll be growing up in.

We all went to an appointment at the hospital on Wednesday to check out current status. The hospital was extremely busy at the time. Every bed in the maternity ward was full, so we had to wait an extremely long time for people to talk to us, to run tests, and to get the results of the tests back. The appointment started at 10am and we were there until past 1pm, all for about 20 minutes of actual time with a medical professional.

Everything continued to look good – plenty of amniotic fluid, all vitals looking good, etc – he’s just not ready yet to come out and play. It was the first ultrasound that I was able to attend, and it was pretty neat. There were definitely some goosebumpy moments when the face came into focus, but for the most part, the images are really blurry and indistinct. I think I was almost more impressed that anyone was able to distingush fingers and toes and, uh, indicators of gender in the images we were seeing. Definitely a more difficult skill than just smearing the goop on the tummy and waving the ultrasound wand around.

Nothing much was decided after Wednesday’s appointment with the general hospital staff, but there was another appointment on Thursday with Aria’s doctor. At that appointment, they began talking about inducing labor, and the decision was made that if there is room in hospital, they’ll try inducing on Saturday (tomorrow). We’re all crossing our fingers that beds will be open that day, but as I mentioned earlier, they were all full on Wednesday, and there’s a pretty good chance that that could happen again on the weekend – apparently the hospital knows of 25 women who are due in December, and so far, only a half-dozen of them have delivered, so they are expecting a very busy end of the month. We’ll just see what happens, I guess…

Ok, so first things first – no baby yet. I feel like I need to check in here every once in a while, even if I have nothing to say, because a long period of silence may be interpreted as something significant. (When there is something significant to report, I’ll be sure to let everyone know, so no need to obsess too much about silences…)

I’m still feeling relatively zen about the whole thing – while I’m beyond excited for it, I’m also willing to wait until the time is right, and I know that worrying or hoping won’t make it happen any sooner. Life just keeps going on while we wait, and I know that the few days we are waiting now will be insignificant in the long run once he is born.

I don’t want to speak for anyone else’s mindset, but the impression I get is that not everyone is feeling quite as mellow about the wait. There’s definitely some anxiousness around the house, and a sense of “come on! let’s go already!” Going to church concerts or other events around town has resulted in a parade of people coming up to say “you haven’t had the baby yet?”, and while everyone has been well-meaning, I imagine that I’d be a little tired of it if I was the pregnant one. Betsy and I jump whenever the phone rings when Aria and Gale are out of the house, and try not to sound too disappointed if the question is just about whether or not there’s still a can of hominy in the pantry. We go to bed every night wondering if we’ll be woken up at midnight that night.

But, we continue waiting, and he’ll come out when it’s time…

It’s definitely taken a turn for the winter down here. It’s not as intense as the winter that Seattle is experiencing in our absence, but we’ve gotten our fair share of snow as well, and the 65-70 degree days that greeted us a couple weeks ago are now a distant memory:


Before

After


Front of the house

While the boys have gone crazy in the snow, running around and making messes, the rest of us have cuddled up inside for the most part, making blazing fires, baking cookies and relaxing while watching movies. I even got to show Star Wars to Skyler for the first time – unfortunately, he was starting to feel sick and was up past his bedtime anyway, and ended up drifting off to bed before the end. We’ll try again later, some day.


From left to right: Aria, Obi-Wan, Darth Vader, Carter, Gale


Decorating cookies

Drove to Santa Rosa last night after work (about 4:30pm) to have dinner with Aria’s cousin and his girlfriend. The group was Aria, Gale, Carter, Betsy and I.

Nice people, good food, watched a movie at the cousin’s house. Started timing contractions at dinner, and they were about 5 minutes apart. The intensity level was very low (“about a 2″), and no water breakage, so no rush to get back.

The drive is about 1.5 hours, so after leaving at midnight, we were back around 1:30am. Aria’s contractions were still coming quick, and now up to a 6 or 7 intensity. Dropped Carter off at home, and drove on to the hospital.

No dialation yet. They wanted to keep Aria for another couple of hours for observation. Aria tried to sleep for a little while, and then just walked through the halls for an hour to try to get things going.

I slept on the linoleum floor of the hospital room, using my leather jacket for a pillow. Discovered why pillows are rarely made out of leather, and beds rarely of linoleum. Squeezed in about 30 minutes of actual asleep time in a 2-hour wait, which was still about 30 minutes more than anyone else.

Still no dialation, and the intensity of the contractions back down to 2-3. Released from hospital. Crawled into bed around 4:30am.

Skyler had a friend sleep over last night. They went to sleep much earlier, and are full of energy now. They also have a trampoline. They also have loud, boisterous lungs and voiceboxes.

Awake again. Still waiting for the big day, but got some good practice and an interesting story. Lost my ability to write in anything but simple sentences, and everyone in the house will likely be dragging today. But the big day is getting closer…

Since the dawning of time, fathers have had a vestigal role to play in the birthing process. Their role was important at the beginning, but once the 9 months have elapsed and it’s time for the labor, the father doesn’t have a clearly defined role. The doctor or midwife is providing their expertise, the sisters and grandmothers are providing their advice and experience, and the father… well, he’s generally standing around with a stunned look on his face.

The role of the adoptive father is even more nebulous. If it was my wife giving birth, I would like to think that I’m an enlightened enough male to be able to openly discuss women’s health issues and all the changes going on in her body. I may not be an expert, and I may not have the experience, but at the very least, I could be there as a coach and an assistant. It’s different, though, with an adoption. The week we’ve spent living in the house together has helped us all get to know each other and grow closer, but we’re still not quite so close that I would feel comfortable asking Aria detailed questions about the status of her cervix (to be fair, the number of women I WOULD feel comfortable asking questions like that of is somewhere around 1). Her mother, her friends and the adoptive mother step into the coach/assistant role, and the adoptive father role becomes even more ill-defined.

I should take the time here to mention that everyone is playing the exact right role in our adoption story. There’s nothing I would change, nor do I feel like my toes are getting stepped on – I’m beyond grateful for all of the wonderful people surrounding this process, and having a surfeit of experience and expertise is great problem to have. I trust everyone fully, and wouldn’t want to displace anyone’s role in the process.

I think it’s just an odd adjustment for me to make to being the passenger on this journey. We’re days (hours? minutes?) away from what is going to be one the most important moments of my entire life, and the “right” place for me to be is on the sidelines, watching and cheering on the team.

And that’s a weird spot for me to be in. I wouldn’t really consider myself to be a control freak, as my temperment is far too mellow to be considered “freakish”, and I can adjust fine to lack of control, but it’s definitely no secret among those I’ve worked with that I prefer the hands-on approach and will often end up steering a project, either subtly or not, towards the direction I think it should go. This time, though, it’s all hands-off and watching.

The work involved in an open adoption has a lot to do with defining roles. What is the adoptive father’s role before/during the birth? What is the birthmother’s extended family’s role after the birth? Who is in charge of naming the child? Who is invited to the christening? Who attend what baby showers? I’m not the first person to be trying to sort through these issues while events happen, nor will I be the last. The goal, as always, will be just to be respectful of what everyone needs and what is best for the child. That will look different day-to-day or even minute-to-minute, but as long as that stays as the central goal, all should work out for the best.

And the fact that I get to attend the birth of my son is such a fantastic blessing that everything else is mere details and logistics.

Still waiting here. The due date isn’t officially until tomorrow, but we’re definitely all getting more anxious as each day passes. The mellow wait-and-see approach of a lazy Sunday afternoon is different than the feeling of a Tuesday evening after another day of telecommuting and missing the comforts of our own home (which is not to take anything away from our hosts – they’ve been fantastic – but it’s not our own house).

One of the biggest adjustments for me personally has been missing the Christmas season. Christmas has always been a big event in my family, with some complex structures surrounding what is done when. When I was growing up, we had the calendar set for December before we even entered the month – what weekend we’d get our tree, when the lights would go up, when we’d watch which Christmas movie, official food for every meal Christmas Eve dinner through Christmas Day dinner – through the month, we built in a lot of traditions, and the familiarity of these rituals on a yearly cycle helped make the season feel like a safe, warm place rich with the memories of previous years.

Marrying Betsy was a bit of an adjustment as we started to build our own traditions and see what fit in our lives, but we’ve negotiated the first few years successfully and had just started to codify our Christmas traditions together in our new house last year.

Now, it’s December, and it’s a beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the mid 60′s to low 70′s every day, hot-tubbing available every evening, and palm trees growing on green grassy lawns. And if that’s not the most perverse and disgusting thing you’ve ever heard, well, I don’t know what to say…

Ok, so maybe that’s overreacting a bit (it’s actually extremely pleasant down here), but it’s definitely been an adjustment to be going through Christmas in California.

And it’s good practice for me. There’s going to be a lot of adjustments that I’m going to have to make to my life and traditions in the extremely near future. Everything from the way we celebrate holidays or go on vacations as a family, to the daily stuff like cooking complex meals, reading casually on the couch, or sleeping – it’s all going to be changing, and not every change is going to be pleasant or easy. But the overall result of building a new life with little Eelfang in the center of it is well worth it.

Even if I have to trade my traditional grey overcast Christmases for the occassional sunny one.

Photo time!


Standing in front of the Lakeport library, aforementioned palm trees in the background.


Betsy and Aria at the lake


We attended a Christmas parade in downtown Kelseyville, which was a lot of fun. In the foreground is the back of Dave and Carter’s heads.


I helped Dave put together the lighted deer for the front yard.


Probably my favorite picture of the trip so far.


Gale and Skyler decorating a small Christmas tree.


Carter in front of the big Christmas tree that we all helped decorate.

Wednesday was a long day of travel – we set off walking to the bus at around 10:20, and pulled up in the driveway at Aria’s house a little before 5pm. There were some mild misadventures (running for a bus we almost missed, flight delays, long windy mountain roads that threatened to eject my lunch), but overall, it was a great trip. Arriving at the airport was the best part, of course, and it was fantastic to see Aria and Gale again. Even though it had only been a little over a month, it felt like it had been forever.


Our plane in the background – a small prop plane that seated maybe 60 people, and an airport that couldn’t handle many more people than that.

After arriving at the house, we finally got to meet Dave (Gale’s husband), and saw a very excited Skyler and Carter. We also got introduced to all of the dogs, cats, chicken and rabbit. Huck, their big old dog, is a sweetheart and I took an instant liking to him (Max and Crystal are also sweet dogs, but Huck is so mellow and cuddly that he’s impossible to not love). The evening was spent with pizza and story time for the boys.


Betsy, Skyler and Crystal


Carter, with Aria and Maximus in the background

The area where they live is very beautiful, reminding me a lot of Wenatchee or other parts of Eastern Washington. It definitely doesn’t feel like December down here, with daytime temperatures in the mid 60s to low 70s. The morning after we arrived, the valley below their house was very foggy.

I’ve been working remotely the last couple of days, trying to save all of my paid vacation time for after the big day. The rest of the family went into town, so I sat on the couch with my laptop and worked while the dogs relaxed in the sun.


Working hard, or updating Eelfang.com?


Crystal in foreground, Huck in background

In the afternoon, everyone came back, and once I finished working, Max got dressed up for Christmas, and then we went on a walk while the sun set.


Santa Max


Betsy and Aria

After we returned from our walk, Betsy and I went out to dinner with Aria and Ethan. It was good to see him, and he knew pretty much everyone in the restaurant, both the people working there and the other customers. I guess that’s the benefit of being a social butterfly in a small town.

The evening ended with Betsy and me in the hot-tub, staring up at the stars, which were remarkably vivid and beautiful. It was extremely relaxing.

Today, the family is off in town again, and I’m still here working (and/or updating). No news yet on the baby front, although the latest doctor report seems to favor the people who guessed earlier rather than later dates. We’ll let you know once we hear something!