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The Midnight Smile

I never thought that being sick and up past midnight on a Thursday could be so awesome.

Vinny, our little guy, had caught something at day care last week, and by Tuesday we were both sick. I had a cough and congestion; he had a runny nose and respiratory issues. By Thursday night, his breathing had become labored and he was wheezing. My wife was more concerned about his breathing than I was. Chalk it up to a difference between moms and dads, I guess.

So she decided to call the doctor’s office (the answering service actually), and when we got a call back from Vinny’s doctor, she suggested that we take him to the all-night medical clinic.

We got there at around 8:30 p.m. After filling out many forms and waiting for many long minutes, we finally saw a nurse and a doctor. They put Vinny back on the nebulizer, making this the third time he has had to use it. They also gave him a dose of steroids to reduce the inflammation.

By the time this was all done, it was midnight. We were finally at the front desk checking out, and I was filling out more forms. My own congestion and coughing were getting worse, and I was falling asleep on my feet.

You may be wondering where the “awesome” part of this comes in...

Well, as I was filling out some medical form, I looked over at Vinny sitting in my wife’s lap. He was about 20 feet away. When he saw me looking at him, he flashed the most beautiful smile. I smiled back at him and said, “Hey Vinny!”

With that smile, my discomfort from the last 4 hours disappeared. My congestion and fatigue diminished.

I realized at that moment that this was not about me.

So what if I did not get to sit at home watching TV. So what if I did not get to surf the Internet or read a book. I had spent the last four hours, with my wife, making sure that our son was ok. And when he smiled at me, I knew that I had done something that was infinitely more important and fulfilling than any “self actualizing” activity I could have done with “my” time.

I get miniature versions of this feeling when I look at my son sleeping at night. I realize that even if I thought my day was “bad” that it was actually perfect if, at its end, my son is sleeping peacefully and comfortably in his crib.

In light of recent articles about “hating our lives, but loving our children,” which I blogged about here, my son’s midnight smile at the 24-hour medical clinic reconfirmed to me that when you love your children, and you are dedicated to their lives, nothing can make your own life less than beautiful.

Vinny's perfect smile

Mother's Day - Take 2

There was a lot of pressure on Vinny and I to make mommy's first Mother's Day memorable. I knew that getting a Hallmark card and some flowers would not be enough. The "thought" only counts for so much...

So, we (notice how I am attributing rational thought to a 4-month-old) decided to make mom a homemade card and other hand-crafted items instead.

So, I headed over to Michael's to pick up the materials the Friday before Mother's Day. I wanted to make a cast of Vinny's footprint or hand print, so I bought the kit to do so. I also wanted to make a card with his hand and footprint on it, so I bought construction paper and finger paints (nontoxic, of course; do they sell toxic finger paints?).

The next step, of course, was to go retrieve Vinny at day care so we could make the gift together in the one place where mom would not be around - my office.

When we got to my office, I was ready to create. Vinny was asleep. Had I fully read the instructions on the footprint-making kit, I would have known that it was best to leave the child asleep while making his footprint. Instead I woke him up, and upon inserting his foot into the plaster gel, he began kicking, squirming, and crying. I tried to do the same with his hand. In seconds, he had space-age gel between all of his fingers.

I knew I had to act fast. The gel was hardening. My co-workers (Renae, Jason, Mike, Amy, and Natalie) were doing their best to help, but it was too late. The gel hardened and the project was lost.

Good thing I had a Plan B. The finger paints. I decided to use red, because it stands out on light-colored construction paper. It also stands out on clothing. Mine and the baby's. All of my co-workers had deserted me at this point, except Renae, who must like crying babies trying to make handmade Mother's Day gifts.

Nevertheless, after much more kicking, squirming, and crying (mine and the baby's), we were able to get two decent footprints and two decent hand prints onto the paper.

I was sweating by the time it was over. After many paper towels, we were able to get all of the paint and gel off Vinny's hands and feet. There would be no trace elements left for mom to ask about when we got home -- "Why does the baby have red paint on his feet? And why are your pants covered in that same red paint?"

Alas, mom did not suspect a thing. Baby was clean, and I had changed my clothes by the time she got home. Whew...

So, on Mother's Day, when mom opened her card, the hard work paid off. She loved it. Vinny and I did a telepathic high five. To prove that I did not make any of this up, here is photographic evidence of happy mom and baby, with handmade Mother's Day card. If you stare at the picture long enough, Vinny will give you a telepathic high five, too.

There is a Reason for the Gaping Hole in My Trousers

Ah, the joys of fatherhood!

This morning, as I was dropping my little guy off at day care, I bent over to pick up his diaper bag and heard a thunderous roar come from behind. No, it wasn't that. It was the sound of my pants splitting.

So, there I was, in a room full of infants, toddlers, and women, with a six inch tear right down the buttocks of my nice pants. Fortunately, I was wearing a jacket, so I could conceal the "important stuff," but it was still embarrassing.

It was 8:20, I have to be at work at 8:30, and home is 25 minutes away. Doesn't take a math genius to figure out that I would be late to work. And I had someone coming in for an interview at 9.

So, I finished handing the baby off to the kind day care people (who were shielding their eyes), and headed home to change my pants.

If this happened to me a year ago, I probably would have been a lot more flustered and upset by the situation. But the fact that I ripped my pants open for a noble cause - getting my son safely in the hands of his caretakers - made it seem not so bad.

The lesson here, if there is one, is that having a child does indeed change everything. It made an impatient guy who hates being late not care about being late.

Tomorrow, I plan to have my shirt burst open while I lift my child out of his car seat.

First Day of Day Care

This morning, my wife and I dropped off three-month-old Vinny for his first day in day care. It is also, of course, my wife's first day back at work since January. It was an emotional morning, especially for my wife. Really, this episode highlights one of the differences between moms and dads.

For the most part, I was excited to see the little guy in a new environment with all kinds of new things and people to learn about. I, of course, was a little sad to be leaving him with someone other than mom, who has been the greatest caretaker he will ever have.

But while I was "a little sad," my wife was very sad. There were tears. She is going to miss the baby very much. She has been caring for him every day and night for three months, and now someone else is going to be in charge of that. I imagine she is going through some very complex emotions right now. I did my best to comfort her, but I know it is going to take a few days, or even weeks, for her to get used to leaving her "prince" in someone else's hands.

Or maybe she will never get used to it. In fact, it is probably a healthy sign for a mother to always believe that she is her own baby's best nurturer. After all, I would not want to live in a society that is too comfortable with the idea of parents offhandedly leaving their children for other people to take care of in their place.

For now, we simply understand that this is an economic reality for our family that we both have to work. Fortunately, the baby is in very caring hands. But it still does not make it easy...

Does anyone remember the first day they left their little one in day care? Any stories?

The Great "Milestone Marathon"

If there is one thing I have learned about babies in my first two months as a father is that they change --- fast! Since I am out of the house at work for about 10 hours every day, the changes in my now two-month-old son, Vinny, appear to be taking place at a supernatural rate. Even my wife, who spends all day every day with him, can't believe how fast he is changing.

Right now, the categories of change are in "physical size" and "level of interaction and alertness."

As for physical size, the little tyke came home from the hospital on January 17 weighing 5 lbs. 9 ounces. He has nearly doubled his weight in less than two months. Yep - he weighs about 11 pounds now. I will hold him for a few minutes in the morning before I leave for work, and then when I get home 10 hours later and lift him, I nearly dislocate my rotator cuff due to the "surprise" extra pound the kid put on during the day. What is my wife feeding him?

As for his level of interaction and alertness, he is making similar leaps and bounds. It seems overnight he went from staring blankly into space (or the nearest light bulb) to intense, sustained eye contact that would make a wolf blush. And when he is not sleeping or eating, he wants to be entertained. If you are not in his face (a la Earl Weaver arguing with an umpire) talking and singing and making weird noises, he will cry (or scream) to get your attention. He now smiles, and makes cooing sounds and other new faces that only a few days ago would have been the result of gas. Now they are "real." The pressure is on - I have to force myself to be entertaining whenever the little guy needs it!

Well, before I know it, I will be coming home to him playing cards in the basement with his buddies.

All that said, he still is a tiny baby who mostly eats, sleeps, and messes up diapers, but with each passing day, he makes noticeable strides towards college graduation. It is time to open up that 529 plan....

A+ Health Reports!

In my continuing "new dad" series, I thought I would touch on one of the "firsts" that new parents experience - the first visit to the pediatrician.

I am happy to report that Vinny is getting perfect health reports. We are going to an amazing pediatrician that we knew through church, and he and his staff have used the word "perfect" several times to describe our little boy. I never want to take his health for granted, so I will take this opportunity to say how grateful we are that our little guy is healthy. It has been one less thing we have had to worry about in our new, very busy lives.

A sign of Vinny's good health - he gained over a pound in 9 days! He is now 8 ounces above his birth weight and he is only 12 days old. The goal was to get to birth weight after 14 days. Little Vinny is quickly becoming Big Vinny. Although I got on the scale today at the doc's office and noticed that I am about 15 pounds heavier than I was about a year ago .... uh oh. I guess I am Bigger Vinny :)

Now that Little Vinny is starting to become more alert between feedings - rather than just sleeping all the time - my next post will be about how we are interacting with him and the activity that I have found, as a new dad, to be especially fun for me and, I think, the little guy.

He's Here!

Vincent Andres DiCaro was born at 4:41 a.m. on Friday, January 15, 2010. He weighed in at 6 pounds, 3 ounces and 19.5 inches long. He is amazing, wonderful, beautiful!

My wife was in labor for 25 hours and was unable to receive an epidural. She was so incredible, and fought bravely through the pain to bring our Little Guy into the "outer world."

There is so much I can write, so instead of trying to say everything about everything, I will summarize the "highlights":
  • Vincent is named after me. His middle name, Andres, is his grandfather's middle name (my wife's father) and his uncle's first name (my wife's brother).
  • No words can do justice in describing the moment when he first came out. It was easily one of the most awesome moments of my life, perhaps only behind the moment I saw my wife begin to walk down the aisle on our wedding day.
  • We have learned so much during these first 4 days of his life. As much as there is to know, we just have to remind ourselves that babies are built to survive. If we fretted over every bit of knowledge, we would drive ourselves crazy.
  • Vincent had his first full appointment with the pediatrician today. The doc and the two docs who visited him in the hospital have all said the same thing - he is perfect. What can I say - my wife and I have good genes (Italian and Bolivian - what a combo!).
  • Mom is recovering well. Still some pain and discomfort and some challenges around breastfeeding (I will post more about that later this week). But overall, she is doing great.
  • Both sets of grandparents have been extremely helpful, and they are happy and proud to say the least. I think we have made our parents very happy - or at least Vinny has :)
  • It has been so much easier than I expected to introduce my dog to the baby. He is an Irish Setter, which are notoriously loving and friendly dogs, but he has behaved so well. He is curious about the baby, sniffing in his general direction, but he is not getting excited or forcing the issue. Usually he just lies down near the three of us and relaxes. Good dog!
That is all for now. I will continue to post updates as our first two weeks unfold! So without further ado, here's Vinny!

Becoming a Dad!

Here in my 8th year at National Fatherhood Initiative, I am on the verge of becoming a dad for the first time. My wife, Claudia, and I are expecting our first baby any day now. Perhaps any hour now! Just this morning, my wife was having contractions. They do not appear to be the "real thing," but a definite pre-cursor to the big moment.

I will do my best to chronicle my experiences of becoming a dad here on The Father Factor.

In this post, I wanted to point out something that I had heard about in the abstract for many years, but now know to be true -- it is difficult for expectant fathers to feel connected to their coming baby. In the least, it is much more difficult for fathers than it is for mothers.

Even now, when we are probably hours or a few days away from having the baby, it still feels very abstract to me. I have read books, designed and decorated the nursery, gone through exercises and videos, seen the baby on several ultrasounds, but I know that this is not really going to hit me until the moment the baby comes out and is handed to me and my wife.

That, from what I have heard from other dads, is when the light switch flips on and you really know you are a dad.

In the meantime, I think my favorite activity during the pregnancy (aside from seeing the ultrasounds) was decorating the nursery. I hung a chair rail and, with my dad's help, put up a mural of a Beatrix Potter-inspired scene. Here is a picture:

Stay tuned - it is likely my next post will be from the hospital right after the birth!

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