Friday, August 24, 2012

Elephants on Acid

Did that title grab your attention?  Are you wondering what elephants and acid have to do with babies and fatherhood?  Read on to find out.

I believe that real life is stranger than fiction.  I love reading about all the crazy things that happen in this world.  I recently went to the library and took out a book for fun.  Believe it or not I'm reading for pleasure.  It's exciting to do something that makes me feel like a human being again!  Anyway, this book is all about bizarre experiments that were conducted in the name of science.  They're wacky, but they really were done with good intentions. 

The book describes all sorts of crazy experiments like...
  • Can you fall asleep with your eyes open?  (It's possible)
  • Do cats sleepwalk?  (They can)
  • Will people gamble more smelling something pleasant than smelling nothing?  (They will)
  • Can humans and apes mate?  (???...the experiment was never completed1)
  • Will Lassie get help when an owner is in trouble?  (Don't count on it)
  • Can you eat an animal and pick up their memory?  (Doubtful...but not totally impossible)
There is also a section on babies.  Here are some of the experiments...
  • If you let children eat what they want will they eat a well balanced diet?  (Yes...but this study only offered healthy food.  No Oreos, hot dogs or ice cream.  If the kids ate enough food they would have a balanced diet.)
  • Is laughter an innate response to tickling or is it learned?  (It seems laughter is a natural response to tickling but the experimenter's wife had a few laspses where she smiled while bouncing their baby and that tainted the experiment.)
  • If a chimp is reared like a human will she develop like a human?  (No!  Chimps are wild.  Please don't ever try this experiment again!)
  • Can a box that includes a window for seeing the world, a heater, humidifier, air filter, canvas on rollers for the "floor" and insulated walls take care of a baby and reduce laundry, eliminate falls, prevent back injuries in parents and protect the baby from germs?  (Yes.  But when the study was published the magazine changed the title to "Baby in a Box" which made it a major turn off to society.)

While I don't plan on witholding laughter from my children, I did bring them in for their first experiment a couple weeks ago.  The kids went to the language lab at my alma mater.  If I ever go back to school to get my masters it would probably be in linguistics and I would study first or second language acquisition.  I'm fascinated by that so I support language experiments on babies.  I can't wait to see what kind of twin language they develop and if they develop twin sign language too.

During the test the kids looked at some pictures and listened to some sounds.  The experimenter didn't do a good job explaining the purpose of the test so I couldn't quite understand the goal.  I think the reasearch is seeing if kids can categorize at their age.  Regardless, it was good to get out and give me kids an experience.  We don't let them watch TV so it was probably like a little treat to watch pictures on the screen.  Plus, we got books and a t-shirt.  Here they are sporting their rewards.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

You've Known My Kids For Over Two Years

I have a very good and very funny friend who recently said something shocking to me.  After talking about her favorite game to play with kids called "Who Can Keep Their Eyes Closed The Longest?" (a game at which she is an expert and my kids are still novices) she joked about how much she is in love with these kiddies of mine and how much that surprises her.  Don't get me wrong, she's not a mean person and she doesn't hate kids by any means.  She just isn't the type of person who typically gushes over babies.  She then went on to say that she feels like she has been a part of these babies' lives for a few years.  And you know what?  She's right.  She is one of my friends who I turned to at the start of this whole process when I was scared and overwhelmed.  She helped me face my fears and continue with this journey filled with life altering decisions of surrogates, egg donors, doctors, lawyers and more.  She really has had a large part in helping these kids come into my life.  She half-joked that with straight couples you usually find out about their babies 5-6 months before the baby is born.  My journey took over two years.  She experienced a lot of the waiting, hoping, anticipation, heartbreak and more with me.  It's something I hadn't thought about until now, but I think it's an important point.

It makes sense, though.  I'm so in love with babies who have been born in Colorado, Wisconsin, Texas, Georgia, Washington DC, Washington state and more even though I have never met them.  Following theses stories makes you emotionally involved and it's wonderful to know many people feel the same way about my children.

So to all of you who invested yourselves in my fatherhood adventure, thank you for being a part of my children's lives when they started as just a deposit to an agency, as they became more of a possibility after being matched with a surrogate and having a contract, when they were teeny, tiny 5-day old embryos, as they grew and prepared themselves to enter this world and now, as they grow up into amazing people. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sleep Part Four: I Like Explanations

I've always been envious of people who are funny writers.  I think I'm funny in person, but I'm not sure I'm a great comedic writer.  Yes, I've had a few blog entries that have made me proud, but sometimes my humor doesn't come across.  Tone can be hard to convey in writing. 

My blog entries about how little my children sleep are complaints.  Yes.  But they are complaining with a smile on my face.  I want to assure everyone I'm OK with how everything is going. 

I want to thank L at Baby Mama(s) Drama for mentioning sleep regression.  I Googled it and one article I found said...

At 3 or 4 months old, your baby is now sleeping more like an adult. Now when she falls asleep, she does not enter deep sleep right away and if you lay her down before she is in deep sleep, she is likely to wake up and you will start all over helping her to fall back to sleep again and again.
A child’s sleep cycle is about 45-50 minutes. So, your baby will briefly awake 45-50 minutes after she has been asleep.
To me, this might explain why Aaron wakes up after about an hour with a huge shriek, why he can't fall asleep in his crib and has to fall asleep on me, and why Jeff doesn't fall right back asleep after a bottle in the middle of the night. 
Although I could be totally wrong. 
Who knows. 
These are babies we're talking about - unique, little people who function differently than everyone else on the planet.  For me, having a name or a theory about what is happening helps.  So for this week, we'll say it's a sleep regression issue.  In another week I'll say it's because we took them to a party and it messed up their schedule.  The week after that it'll be because it's September.  And the following week I'll say it's because Jupiter tilted 17 degrees to the left.  It's all OK.  Years from now, when my boys are grown up, I'll have some good stories to tell.  And you know the stories will get better and better each time I tell it.  By the time the kids are about 10 years old my story will go a little something like this...
I remember when you were four months old and you went through 93 bottles of formula a day and I was up for 217 hours straight.  You cried loud enough to wake the neighbors who lived three streets in every direction.  Your father and I held you in our arms non-stop for weeks, we spent thousands on toys, hundreds of hours researching sleep methods and even flew in a sleep expert from Sweden becuase we DO EVERYTHING FOR YOU.
Hey, I didn't go through labor so at least I have this. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sleep Part Three: Two Steps Backwards, One Step Forward

“No, no, no, Michael,” you’re thinking to yourself.  The phrase is “TWO steps forward, ONE step back.”

I know.  And I know what I said.

The last few nights seem worse.  How is this happening?  Aaron still isn’t going to sleep until late.  He stays up through naps and when he does nap he often naps for less than an hour.  You’d think he’d be tired by 9:00 p.m., but no.  Maybe 10:00 p.m.?  Ha!  Hopefully by 11:00 p.m. he’s in bed but that’s usually after screaming for a while.  I’m not quite sure what makes him finally fall asleep.  I’m sometimes not totally coherent after rocking, shushing, walking, and bouncing for two hours.  Last night he went to sleep about 10:00-something and an hour later I heard a shriek.  He does this too.  It seems he gets scared in the middle of his sleeping and calls out.  Usually, if you rush to him and stroke his head or chest you can get him back to sleep.  But take a few seconds too long and we’re back to the rocking, shushing, walking and bouncing for a while.  Aaron will only fall asleep on me.  That’s a great way to get him to close his eyes.  After 10, 15, 20 minutes (it doesn’t matter how long) of Aaron being deep in sleep his eyes pop open the first moment that I stand up to bring him to bed. 

The shrieks now wake up Jeff so that’s another reason to nip it in the bud.  Jeff will usually sleep a few hours between his feedings (3 hours on average, sometimes 2.5 hours but also 4 hours from time to time!) but isn’t always falling asleep right after the feedings now.  Last night I fed him about 12:30 a.m. and got smiles after the milk was gone.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love smiles from my babies, but in the middle of the night it’s all about business.  Don’t smile!  Smile means we’re having fun and this is not the time for fun.  This is the time for sleeping!  Yes, you're adorable, Jeff, but go back to sleep!

“You’re starving your baby by not giving him rice cereal.”

Yep.  I’ve heard that one from a lot of people.  One co-worker literally told me that I was starving my children.  At the last pediatrician’s appointment the doctor said to start giving them cereal.  We’ve been giving them cereal for the last week and a half.  Last night we made sure to give the boys cereal at their last feeding before bed.  Did it work?  Two and a half hours after that feeding I find myself with a two babies and two bottles.    (Sigh)

I know, in a few months I’ll miss this.  I’ll wish I got to hold my babies at night.  In my very first entry of this blog I said I’d use these entries to help me be grateful for what I have.  I know this entry seems like I’m complaining and I’ve lost sight of all the good that has happened.  I won’t make excuses.  I am complaining a little.  The sleep deprivation and screaming at 2 a.m. just get to a person after so many months.  I just need to...

Aaron just screamed after 20 minutes of sleeping.  He’s awake.  To be continued.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sleep...Part Deux

Four months, people.  It has been four months.  Four months of no sleep.  Four months of wondering when the boys will sleep.  Four months of constant feedings every 3 hours (or sometimes 2 1/2 hours).

At three months I wrote about sleep and was sure by now things would be different.  They're not much different.

I had no fear, though.  I knew that the boys had their four month check up coming up and that my amazing, brilliant and compassionate doctor would have the answers to more sleep.  I'll describe our appointment.*  It went something like this...

Michael: Hi Dr. L.  We need to talk about sleep.
Dr. L: Sure.  What's going on?
Michael: Well, the boys aren't sleeping.  They still feed constantly.  I thought by three months they were supposed to stretch out their feedings a little more.
Dr. L: Yes, that's true.  What's a typical feeding schedule?
Michael: Well, let's say their last feeding before bed is maybe 9:00pm.  Then there's a feeding at 12:00am, 3:00am and 6:00am. 
Dr. L: Well, the 9:00pm and 6:00am feedings don't count as overnight feedings.  So the fact that your boys are only waking up twice duirng the night is good.
Michael: (muffled talking due to falling on the floor and crying in the fetal position)

(20 minutes pass)

Derek: Ummmm...Michael...are you OK?
Michael: Yes, I just want a new doctor.

* - appointment may or may not have happened like this.  The recollection of this appointment may have been compromised due to lack of sleep.

The literature the doctor gave us said "by four months of age, most bottle-fed babies sleep more than seven hours without feeding."  So what the doctor tells you in the office and what the doctor gives you to read when you're home are vastly different.  It seems doctors have a get-out-of-jail-free card by just falling back on the whole "every baby is different" excuse and then they distract you with the "you're doing a great job" line so I feel all proud of myself and forget I'm mad at her for having no answers!

If these kids weren't so darn cute I may have been upset.  But when they smile and giggle and nuzzle into my neck I don't care that I haven't slept.  They're also starting to notice each other a lot more.  It's fun to put them on a play mat together and watch them watch each other.  Maybe I should put them on a play mat with a cat.  The cats sleep a lot.  Maybe the cats can teach them a thing or two about sleep.

And, in the interest of full disclosure, the last two or three nights have been a little easier.  Aaron is up until 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. but then he is so exhausted he is starting sleeping longer stretches once in a while.  Jeff has been easy to get to sleep for a while now but I'm noticing he will sometimes sleep for longer than three hours as well.  I see progress!  Stay tuned.