our first week with rory.

Rory was born on December 15 at 6:41am. Labor began on the 14th; Lauren and I spent the first few hours walking up and down our street, pausing during her contractions and keeping track of their length and the space between them. It seemed like go time from the get go — contractions were a minute long, five minutes apart, and strong enough to take her breath away. After receiving some input from our friend Amber, we scrambled to finish packing our bags and then we headed to the hospital.

It was a bit of a journey from the parking lot to the delivery room. We had to check in at triage, and then Lauren got set up in a room for an initial assessment while I sat in a waiting room, listening to a couple teenagers talking about how they wished babies skipped from birth to one year old because “that’s when they get loveable.” Ten minutes later I was able to join Lauren, and we spent the next hour or so waiting for things to progress enough to be admitted into a delivery room. I immediately figured out which graph on the screen was charting her contractions. Oddly enough, the scale goes from 0 to 100, but many of hers were in the neighborhood of 130.

There was a chance we’d be sent home to ride out early labor until Lauren was truly ready for the delivery room. We weren’t super keen on the prospect of reliving the admission process again, so we were relieved when the doctor announced that we were clear for the second floor. Shortly thereafter, Lauren received her epidural and we settled in for an unexpectedly peaceful night.

Delivery itself happened in a flash. I can’t speak for Lauren and, out of respect for her privacy, I am not going to describe it in detail. What I will say is that Rory came out blue, was deemed “slow to start” and carried to a back room for a couple quick breathing exercises. Within a couple minutes he was ready to rock, and the nurses placed him on Lauren’s chest and there he was: the most beautiful little human being we’d ever seen.

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Rory and me (approx. 36 hours old).

We spent the next two days in the hospital, basically learning how to keep Rory alive in the early going. He kept failing his blood sugar test, and we found ourselves in a seemingly endless loop of trying again. Lauren endured lectures from nurses who spoke as if she was personally sabotaging his test results. However, when he finally passed the test and it was clear we wouldn’t have to supplement with formula, the entire staff seemed to share in our joy and relief. Nurses are awesome people, and they were instrumental in building our confidence over the first couple days of Rory’s life.

It took about 36 hours for Rory to find his voice. We were worried that he might be so low-key that he wouldn’t be capable of waking us if he needed to be fed. Eventually that all kicked in, though he remains very soft-spoken and only cries when absolutely necessary — a trait he may have picked up from yours truly. By the time we were cleared for discharge, we felt we were ready to be home and perfectly capable of reading Rory’s cues.

My first week as Rory’s father has been the best week of my life. I’ve never loved anyone quite like I love Rory. He is infinitely loveable. I’ve heard so many stories about parents, especially fathers, who cannot form a connection with newborns because they aren’t the person on whom the child relies for sustenance and survival, and supposedly there’s no way to form a bond with a person that can’t communicate complexly. Personally I have no idea what these people are talking about. Rory is sweet and cuddly, and he makes the most ridiculous faces. He only cries when he’s being changed or if we miss his initial hunger cues. He somehow manages to be endearing even when he’s melting down. His arms and legs pump in a way that makes him look like he’s marching, and I like to imagine he’s chanting “We want milk! We want milk!” in some kind of baby self-advocacy protest. I feel bad laughing at a person who is crying so desperately, but I can’t help it. He is just that cute.

I’ve been introducing Rory to music via the Rockabye Baby! series of lullaby versions of rock songs. So far Rory is really into Where Is My Mind? by the Pixies and Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey. He also seems to enjoy it when we read stories to him. We’ve been sticking to Goodnight Moon and A is for Activist. At this point I think it’s just the rhythmic intonations of familiar voices that he’s enjoying; we could read him random Wikipedia articles and he’d probably be into it.

Our cats seem mostly okay with this strange, mostly immobile kitten who appeared out of nowhere and is now taking up most of our attention. Sam seems a little bummed out that Lauren’s lap is often occupied by Rory, but he doesn’t seem to be taking it personally. Frodo usually positions himself across the room from Rory so he can observe him from a distance, though he has crept up and sniffed Rory’s face a few times. Cats have limited means for expressing their stress; one of them is increased hyperactivity and destructiveness. There’s been a tiny uptick in that type of behavior, but for all we know it could be the unusually warm weather that’s causing it.

Life with a newborn is surprisingly relaxed and focused. I already suck at sleeping, so the new schedule isn’t that much of a departure from the norm. Lauren is a heavy sleeper and prefers a solid eight to nine hours per night, but she’s rolling with Rory impressively well so far. There is a certain unmatched joy in holding and soothing a newborn baby in the wee hours of morning. The downsides are all minor inconveniences; the upside is a new person who we get to hang out with every day and night.

Newborns provide daily milestones — yesterday was Rory’s first walk in the stroller, and he slept through the whole thing while Lauren and I cherished the moment. Each day I test Rory to see what he’ll respond to and what he’s not quite ready to see or hear. His level of alertness is growing by leaps and bounds, along with his ability to express happiness and annoyance and all-out rejection. He clearly prefers Lauren’s company when he’s awake, but he often conks out immediately when it’s my turn to sooth him.

Our families and close friends have been incredibly supportive, and of course we’ve also received an outpouring of enthusiasm from the fandom communities in which we make a living. Though we’ve proudly refused various offers of help around the house and so forth, it’s been comforting and encouraging to have so many people pulling for us and our little guy. Our sense of gratitude is off the charts. Our sanity is well intact largely due to the generosity of others.

Rory is healthy, happy, and loved by many. He’s a lucky guy and so are we.

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The many faces of Rory (one week old).
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ANY DAY NOW.

Here we are: on the eve of Week 38. The baby is more or less to term, depending on which medical professional is talking. We have built all the furniture, installed the car seat, set up all the other baby gear, and laundered all the new clothes. We’ve met the baby’s pediatrician and we’ve taken a detailed tour of the hospital. We’re keeping the house spotless in case we have to disappear for a few days, because the last thing we’ll want to do when we return from the hospital is clean the house. We’ve stocked our freezer and cupboard with easy meals. We are daydreaming about the baby on our own and talking about the baby constantly when we’re together. We’re ordering more baby supplies on the internet because it’s basically the only way we can take care of our child at this moment in time. We’re doing everything we can to stay calm.

Every day I play the same game: if the baby came today, would I be ready? I run through the task lists and inventories again, double- and triple-check to make sure I didn’t miss anything. There’s no way around it: our home is completely ready for this child. There is nothing left to do except deal with my excitement and anxiety.

I do the same thing every day at work, but the story is different because there is always something else to do. For weeks, I’ve been on a mission to tie up all loose ends, finish ongoing projects and initiate new ones so I can lay the foundation and get people set up to assume what would normally be my role. It’s not easy for me to relinquish control of projects that are my responsibility to lead. No matter how much faith I have in others to perform well in my place, my sense of ownership over my work is so strong and it hurts to think about putting it down for eight weeks. At least that’s how I feel right now. I know the baby’s arrival will change everything.

I keep thinking about how I only have a couple more weeks of being a person who is not a parent. I’ve lived nearly 37 years as a non-parent. Once the baby comes, I will be a parent for the rest of my life. The more I think about it, the more I realize there’s nothing else with the ability to completely alter my identity and worldview, in such an immediate and unavoidable fashion, the way being a parent will.

Many people have told me and Lauren that we’re going to be amazing parents. While I appreciate the vote of confidence, it strikes me as an odd thing to say. Seriously — what if we totally suck? I can see fatherhood bringing out the very best in me, but I can also see it bringing out my worst qualities: my anxiety, my control freak tendencies, my stubbornness, my emotional distance, etc. There’s no possible way that Lauren and I are going to be consistently amazing at parenting, and I don’t think that’s a reasonable expectation for anyone. If we don’t fuck up sometimes, then we are not human.

I’ve had significant troubles with sleeping for a decade, but it’s only getting worse as our due date approaches. Morning hangout sessions with baby have become all-nighters. He is as active as ever, though he clearly takes up a lot more space in Lauren’s belly. Often her abdomen is skewed in whatever direction he’s leaning, making her look like an adorably lopsided penguin.

This blog post is about as scattered as my brain right now. I’m guessing this will be my last post before the baby is born — at which point I will be a legit dad in plaid.