The chronicle of a lonely do-gooder family doctor who survived.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Holy crap, I'm exhausted.

I promise not to turn this into yet another daddy-blog, but it's true that I have done very little in the last week outside of child care.

Some observations:

The level of exhaustion is nowhere near residency training. Newborn care is incessant, there is no time where you are free from responsibility, but I haven't had to do much thinking and there have been regular nap periods. I have lost my ability to do simple math problems such as figuring out the tip on take-out food.

It's amazing how much laundry one tiny little six pound human being can generate.

Breast feeding is difficult. Extremely difficult.

The ergonomic design of baby gear is incredible. I'm consistently impressed at the attention to tiny details that make your life easier. The way the car seat clicks in and out of the base. The handles on the laundry hamper are exactly where you want them. The way the baby bjorn holds Ravi exactly where he wants to be, without any back strain whatsoever.

The lithium battery on our TV remote went 3 days ago. This was a major crisis and we had to have one flown to the house overnight.

Baby care is all about rhythm and it is a team sport. Ideally, it goes diaper change --> feed --> burp --> nap --> repeat. It's pretty easy to get into a pattern of feed --> burp --> feed --> diaper --> short restless nap --> diaper --> feed; this is a Very Bad Situation. If both of us are functioning like a coordinated team, and the schedule doesn't get screwed up by something like a doctor's appointment, each parent can get 1-2 hours of relative freedom every three hours. Thank the gods that Shireesha and I have been working from the same playbook through all of this. I can't think of anyone I'd rather share this responsibility with.

Wet babies are extremely slippery and cute.

I'm really surprised by my capacity to love this child, but I am probably more surprised by my capacity for patience. By all rights, I should be totally pissed off when it's 3 am and he's been fussing for 2 hours and won't go to sleep. But I'm not.

I would do absolutely anything for the well-being of this child.

Despite a few frustrating nights, I think we've been doing pretty well. Shireesha's been going out for walks almost every day, and I've managed to exercise several times. The three of us made it out to the Ballard Farmer's Market at day 6 and I got to go to the My Bloody Valentine show on day 7. We even had band practice on Sunday. Ravi is gaining weight, he's clearly able to focus his vision on faces and seems to have a preference for his mother and father over other people. His feeding is getting better. I'm not sure what is going to happen when I go back to work but I think uncertainty and problem solving are probably the defining characteristics of child-rearing.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ravi John

As the dawn broke over a clear sunny spring day in Seattle, Ravi John Sourpuss was delivered on April 20, 2009 at 5:13 AM to his previously ambivalent parents who now understand the true meaning of love.


I am so friggin happy right now. I am totally, completely, blissfully in love.

More later...

Dateline Seattle: Swedish Hospital

We are at Baby-Con 5...this is not a drill. Shireesha is resting comfortably, contemplating the wonder of epidural anesthesia.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Staff Benda Bilili

Well, I'm at home still waiting for the Babu, but it gives me a moment to write about my latest musical obsession. With Konono No.1's Congotronics in 2004 and Jupiter's Dance in 2006 it seems like the most interesting music I've heard in recent years is being made in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. But far and away the most astonishing of the bunch is made by a group of polio-stricken paraplegics and abandoned street kids living on the grounds of the Kinshasa zoo who call themselves Staff Benda Bilili.

This clip comes from Jupiter's Dance:

In 2006, the United Nations Development Programme helped them produce a song called "Let's Go and Vote" which became wildly popular in the run up to the Congolese elections and was reportedly responsible for a 70% increase in voter turnout. The track became one of the most recognizably popular songs in the history of central Africa. For all this, the musicians were paid about $50 each.

Well they finally have a real album out on Crammed Records and it is fantastically good. From the record company's website:

The band's mesmerising rumba-rooted grooves, overlaid with vibrant vocals, remind you at times of Cuban nonchalance, at other times of the Godfather of Soul himself. You can hear echoes of old-school rhythm and blues, then reggae, then no-holds barred funk...

The songs were recorded out in the open, mainly in the zoological garden near centre ville, using a dozen microphones, a MacBook laptop and a 100m mains cable fraudulously connected to a deserted refreshment bar nearby.

The album is available on both iTunes and Amazon and I hope it brings them all the success they deserve.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Born at the Right Time

The other day I had my first dream about the baby, due any day now. I never dream, or at least remember my dreams, but this one was so vivid, the kind of polysensory experience where you hear, touch, and smell what's happening and when you wake up and you aren't sure it wasn't real.

In the dream, I was holding little Babu in my hands just after he'd been born. He was crying and squirming, still glistening with amniotic fluid, his rubbery white umbilical cord still hanging from his tummy with a steel surgical clamp attached to the end. I found myself completely overcome with emotion, sobbing uncontrollably. Looking down, I saw in this one brief moment the limitless potential, a clean empty canvas upon which I would paint the world.

Pretty powerful stuff for someone whose attitude thus far in the pregnancy would best be described as "mixed ambivalence tempered by hesitant anxiety."

Appearing elsewhere in the dream was a more sinister figure, a patient I had seen earlier that day in clinic. This person wasn't your ordinary down-on-his luck drug abusing crazy person that we see all the time. This was a very seriously distrubed man, alcoholic, bipolar, with anti-social personality disorder, one year out from a twenty year sentence for murder one. He had been dragged in to clinic by his girlfriend who had just witnessed yet another 2 week long drug-fueled manic rampage. I was in the exam room contemplating how in the world someone gets so screwed up when she began to tell me about the time she went home to visit his family. What followed was a description of family dynamics that ranged from indifference to outright verbal, and then physical, abuse compounded by a history of sexual abuse.

I've taken care of literally thousands of families, from telling patients that their pregnancy test was positive, to taking care of their newborns in the hospital, to doing their kids' check ups, to dealing with behavior problems that develop in school. In the enduring war between Nature and Nurture, I come down firmly on the side of Nurture. I believe so strongly that any kid has the potential to grow and excel in the right environment and yet there are so many ways that the people on the fringes of society can get it wrong. Thoughtful, well adjusted parents simply don't raise bad kids yet inexperienced, stressed out parents so rarely raise good kids. On occasion, I have seen childbirth transform a few people into curious, careful, and doting parents, and it is inspiring to see, but this is sadly the rare exception.

Tony and I got into a discussion the other day about the things a newborn baby comes pre-programmed with. Lately, a trend has emerged to promote more paternal bonding, presumably to awaken some predetermined neural path that gives the baby a special emotional bond with their father. At these births, the newborn goes directly from mom's bare stomach (where studies show this increases maternal bonding and successful breast feeding) to dad's bare chest. I think this is a little silly, as babies at birth probably don't even conceive of the existence of any other people besides their mothers, but whatever imparts a sense of nurturing and responsibility to the male parent has got to be a good thing.

It's a strange limbo I'm living in right now, anticipating the arrival of my son yet holding an open heart free of expectations. I've always believed that music captures the wonder of emotional truth better than any other form of expression. When I was discussing this on Metafilter, someone suggested to me a song I'd never heard, called Born at the Right Time. Paul Simon wrote it about his son.

Down among the reeds and rushes
A baby boy was found
His eyes as clear as centuries
His silky hair was brown

Never been lonely
Never been lied to
Never had to scuffle in fear
Nothing denied to
Born at the instant
The church bells chime
And the whole world whispering
Born at the right time

Me and my buddies we are travelling people
We like to go down to restaurant row
Spend those euro-dollars
All the way from washington to tokyo
I see them in the airport lounge
Upon their mothers breast
They follow me with open eyes
Their uninvited guest

Never been lonely
Never been lied to
Never had to scuffle in fear
Nothing denied to
Born at the instant
The church bells chime
And the whole world whispering
Born at the right time

Too many people on the bus from the airport
Too many holes in the crust of the earth
The planet groans
Every time it registers another birth

But among the reeds and rushes
A baby girl was found
Her eyes as clear as centuries
Her silky hair was brown

Never been lonely
Never been lied to
Never had to scuffle in fear
Nothing denied to
Born at the instant
The church bells chime
And the whole world whispering
Born at the right time