Time to go shoppin’, boys! (part 2)

Ok – you’ve stretched your legs, had a pee, and nuked your coffee.  Let’s pick up where we left off.

(confused? read part 1 and it will all make sense!)

 

3) Things that are Useful but Not Absolutely Required

Many lists suggest these are ‘required’, but hubby and I have found ways around many of them, often using ‘stuff’ we already have around our home.

Change Pad(s): plasticized pads on which you put your stinky little baby, to change his diaper.  We made good use of a pair of them – one for our permanent changing station (guest bedroom futon…), and one for the diaper bag.  Of course, a thick towel accomplishes the same task, though you run the risk of having to wash it right away.

Stroller: we used a baby carrier instead of a traditional ‘baby carriage’; however, we did get a baby chariot for biking.  Consider recommending to your baby’s grandparents that they get a stroller for when they visit, or when you all visit them.

Playpen: we received one of these as a gift, and it came in very handy for son#1 – once he was able to sit up.  It collapsed and packed well, which made it ideal as his bed whenever we travelled.  Can you do without one?  Yes.  Especially with a newborn.

It might keep him quiet today…

Pacifiers: called ‘binkies’ in our house (no, not bikinis.  Read it again).  Our first little guy used these a bit, but he weaned off of them easily (well, I just took it away one day, and after a week of a bit of fussiness, he sighed and moved on with life).  Our second mini-man spits them out if we try to give him one.  I suggest you be very sparring with a pacifier – the less you let your little one use this, the easier it will be to take it away later.  If a baby isn’t fussy, you’d be wise not to stick one of these in his mouth.

Playpad: these come in many variations.  Basically they are like a mobile with an attached base.  Both our boys spent time under one of these, and seemed to enjoy it, but I suspect that had they not had one, they would have somehow survived.

Baby Play Pad

Rocking Chair / Recliner for Baby: some of these are self-rocking, or vibrating at the very least.  We didn’t opt for such decadence.  We received a simple one as a gift for son #1, and used it as a portable bed for when he was very young and still spending most of his day in REM sleep.  As I mentioned in part 1 of this post, babies can sleep anywhere; a blanket on the ground would serve the same purpose as a baby recliner.  Just don’t step on him.

baby rocking chair

Gentle Laundry Soda: perfumes and harsh chemicals can be hard on brand new baby skin.  Save you and you little one some pain and frustration, and adapt your laundry habits just a bit by going for an all-natural soda.  Plus, if you happen to be on a septic system like we are, it’s easier on your system.  We’ve used Nellies Laundry Soda for three years now; I highly recommend it, or something similar.

A Reference Book or Two: keep a few on hand to cover the unknowns, or even to cover each day of your baby’s life for the first year or so.  Of course, the fact that you’re reading this probably means that you’ve heard of something called ‘google’…

keep a how-to book close at hand!

Sleepers: these are like little sleeping bags that have sleeves and zip up in the front.  They have a high cuteness quotient, but a long onesie over a short onesie serves the same purpose.

Scratch Mittens: newborns have no control over their hands, and have long nails.  Together, that equals lots of little scratches marring their angelic little faces.  Hence where these items come in.  Of course, you could always just trim their nails (you’re gonna have to sooner or later.  Why not get some practice now?!)  Plus, lots of long onesies come with a curl-over bit of fabric at the wrist, to cover those claw-like hands.

Bibs: these will become more useful once your joy-bundle is into solid foods.  For the time being, however, you could just use a baby face cloth tucked into a onesie to catch a bit of spittle. 

Car Sun Shades: meh.  Every infant car seat I’ve come across has a cover that can be positioned to block most direct sun.

Gas Drops: we don’t use these.  When our little guys have had gas problems, we’ve had success with massage and leg pumping – a chemical-free way to get the gas up and out… or down and out!).

4) Things You Are Very Likely to Receive as Gifts

People mean well.  Sometimes, the gifts they shower you with* are useful.  And sometimes, they are not.

(*either at an actual baby shower, or because they are irate that you didn’t throw a shower, and then go way overboard) (oops – were we supposed to throw a baby shower?  Hubby and I thought that was only for women)

Anyways, I’ve listed the stuff in this category from MOST useful to LEAST useful.  Feel free to stop reading this category whenever you feel your gag reflex activating (I was forced to stop writing this several times for that reason, in fact).

Gift Certificates: mixed blessing, these are.  They save you from having to store/return/burn crap that you absolutely didn’t want in the first place.  If you get one from that obscure baby boutique across town that is not on the way to anything else, it’ll likely sit with all your new-baby greeting cards in a forgotten pile, until you put them in that ‘memory box’ (memory box = place where you put junk that you feel too guilty about throwing out).

Hand-Me-Downs: “Eww!” you say.  Bite your tongue, sir.  Even if you don’t have a baby shower, I suggest you ASK for these.  Look: somebody else has gone to the trouble of collecting shorts, shirts, pants, socks, shoes, sweaters, jackets, hats, mittens, scarves, snowsuits and boots for you, saving you literally DAYS of tedious shopping at likely dozens of stores.  We have a woman up the road who – unannounced – drops off a bag of little boy clothes every three months or so (whenever her youngest boy grows out of them) at our doorstep.  Hubby and I have not had to go clothes shopping for either of our boys more than three times, in three years.  Oh, did I mention we both hate shopping?

Wash Cloth + Bib + Burp Towel Combos: cloths can be used right away for cleaning and wiping.  Put bibs away until your little drinker is onto solids.  Burp towels will get dirty starting on day one, and continue to do so for a long while!  These are very useful gifts, no matter how many you get.

Packs of Little baby-powder + baby cream + baby shampoo + wipes: good for your diaper bag!

Baby Mobile: a nice-to-have item.  Son #1 liked to watch and listen to this in his crib at night.  If it’ll help your little one go to sleep, USE IT.  Starting tonight.

Books:  board books with bright colours and pictures of animals and smiling babies can help your little guy get used to the concept of reading (oh, YOU’LL be the one reading them to him, btw).  Put any other books you get on a shelf in his room, and come back to them in a year’s time.

Toys: put them away along with those older kid books until he can grab and manipulate them.

Stuffed Animals: see above.  Don’t put them in his crib with him until he’s older (at least 6 months), then – only put a couple in at a time.  For a newborn, stuffed animals could be a suffocation hazard, in an extreme case.

Baby Memory Photo Album: unless either of you are into scrapbooking, just re-gift this.  For yourselves, just upload photos onto an album online (be careful with whom you share it, though, eh?!).

Handcrafted Items (quilts, needlepoint, knitted sweaters, crocheted stuff): Yikes… this is a touchy one.  Either they are well-handcrafted, or not-so-well-handcrafted.  Additionally, they are either made by 1) people who will visit again and expect to see said crafted item; or 2) people whom you will never see again unless you travel to the other side of the country.  Tread carefully.

Porcelain Baby Animal Figurines: ugh.  Here we go.

Personalized Snow-Globes: gag.

Fancy Keepsake Boxes: choke.

Cutsie Picture Frames: heave!

Footprint or Fingerprint Kits: (holding hand to mouth in an attempt to halt bile from splattering my screen)

…yeah, it goes on and on.  There were several reasons why we actually skipped a baby shower; this category alone would have been enough for us, had we known its contents.

5) Things that You Can Really Do Without

Hopefully, the title of this category is self-explanatory.

Baby Wet Wipes: we feel bad enough using disposable diapers.  I refuse to use these (…however, a small pack in your diaper bag might just save the day).

Fancy Pillows and Stuff for Inside the Crib: most health professionals recommend against having anything in the crib anyways.  Keep it simple – just your baby in there.

Change Table: if you feel you absolutely cannot get along without one of these, get one that will convert into a proper, normal dresser after diaper-days are behind you.  Otherwise, just throw a towel down on your bed and be done with it.

Bassinet: get a play pen, or a rocking chair instead.  They will outlive a bassinet’s usefulness by at least one year.

Bottle Warmer: just put the formula in a bowl of hot water for five minutes!

Diaper Warmer: to stop him peeing as you’re putting it on… yeah, whatever.

Bottle and Nipple Brushes: an old toothbrush and a normal dishcloth will work just fine.

Bottle Sterilizer: most dishwashers have a high-temp option on them these days – and you probably already have a dishwasher, right?

Infant Tubs: just take him into the bath with you, or use the kitchen sink.

Crib Wedges: to prop baby onto their side if they have a tendency of choking on their spit up as they sleep… instead, just roll up a burp towel and push it under one shoulder-blade and bum-cheek.

Baby Hairbrush: honestly?  If he even has hair, he spends most of his days laying down, thus will naturally and perpetually sport bed-head.  Pick your battles.

Q-tips: if you don’t have any of these, you won’t be tempted to use them in places they shouldn’t go, like baby ears and noses.

Baby Shoes: if you can’t walk, why do you need shoes?

Designer Baby Clothes: …that he will outgrow in three weeks’ time.  Put your wallet away and back out of the designer baby boutique.  Save your money.

Cure-all.

 Gripe Water: supposed to be for colic, teething pain and reflux.  No clinical evidence exists that supports its usefulness.  However, if you’ve found that Echinacea works wonders for you, by all means, buy some gripe water (deadpan face).

Breast Pump, Nursing Bras, Breast Pads, Lotion for Sore Nipples…: Yay!!! It’s good to be 2 guys!

 

…and the final category:

5) Things You DON’T Need Right Away (but will come in handy soon)

Bigger Nipples: bottles usually come with a nipple that has the smallest hole size.  As your little guy gets a bit older, he’ll want to be able to suck more formula out of that bottle, so you’ll need to stock up on nipples with a larger hole size (our first son moved up to a bigger nipple at 3mths). 

Jolly Jumper: we loved this, and so did son #1.  Gravity operated, jumping baby, jolly parents.

High Chair / Booster Seat: this will be essential when your joy bundle is three or four months of age (whenever you start feeding him solids).  We chose a simple booster seat, that just fastens onto one of our regular chairs.  It travels easy, and you can even throw it in the dishwasher.  It cost us $20.  Or you dish out $2100 and get one of these.

Baby Food: he’s on a liquid diet, guys.  come back to this in three or four months.

Safety Gates: even if your home is only on one level, these are perfect for cordoning off no-go areas.  We decided that ours had reached the end of its useful life when, one day, we caught son #1 open it, walk through and close it behind him.

Outlet Plugs: little caps you push into your outlets to stop hot air and little fingers from going through the holes.  You might already have these, if you’ve had a home energy efficiency test and followed the recommendations to the letter.  Otherwise, if you are adopting and you have a ‘home inspection’ conducted by your social worker, s/he will inform you that these will be needed.

Kiddie Toilet: son #1 – who is less than three – has been going to the bathroom in his little potty for about one year by himself.  “If you build it put a kiddie potty on the ground, they will come”.

 Notes

I.  Money Saving Tips

  1. hand-me-downs are cheap (see category 4 above);
  2. if you are adopting, ask your social workers if there are any places in town that offer discounts for adoptive parents – can save 10-15% in some instances; and
  3. if you guys have decided to ask for gifts and/or have a shower, do your research before hand, and be very specific about what you want, so that you get what you want.

II.  Don’t Forget…

…to call your doctor before the arrival of your baby, to confirm that s/he will be able to take on your little guy as a patient.  Then, the day you bring said small human home, call to book his first appointment (your hospital will probably recommend that baby should be seen by a doctor within the first five days of his life, then on a set schedule for the next two years or so, to monitor growth, administer immunizations, etc.).

III.  Diaper Bag Primer

You will have to leave the house sooner or later after your little dude arrives home,  though it may seem like the scariest of prospects, to go out in public with him (omg – will he shriek, will he be wearing enough, how do I feed him or change him when he’s out, etc., etc.).  All babies should be born with an accompanying bag full of all their essentials, to make their parents’ lives easier.  Alas, it is up to us to put one together.  Hopefully, you’ve chosen a tastefully neutral bag.  If you’ve succumbed to female pressure and bought a frilly little number with flowers and bows and such, you’re gonna be laughed out of the guys change room, the first time you take your little tyke swimming.  Not to mention the utter shame that he will feel for the rest of his natural life.

Anyways – the bag should be at least as long as the distance from the tips of your fingers to your elbow, and have a number of pockets sequestered about it.  Here’s what you should probably have in it when you leave the house, to be ready for most eventualities:

  • extra diapers (min 3)
  • wipes (sigh, yeah – take some wipes)
  • empty ziplock bags (in case there are no garbage bins right where you are, with poopy diaper in-hand)
  • diaper pad
  • a set of those mini bottles of: baby powder, baby moisturizing cream, bum-rash cream, etc.
  • face cloths (a few)
  • burp towels (a few)
  • bib (one should do)
  • bottle of formula, if you intend to feed him while you’re out (keep it wrapped in a towel with an ice pack, then – say you’re at a restaurant – ask for a pitcher of hot water, in which to warm it up)
  • change of clothes (we always carry one short onesie and one long onesie)
  • extra seasonal clothing (hat, mitts, sweater, etc.)
  • bottle of emergency ready-to-drink formula (whether or not you intend to be out very long, sometimes sh*t happens)
  • blanket
  • emergency pacifier (for shrieking baby, or alternatively for shrieking spouse)
  • paper and a pen/pencil (you just never know)
  • …and then some room leftover for your stuff, like a snack, a camera, sunglasses, a book, etc.

    Welcome to your new man-purse!

whew!

So there you have it.  An exhaustive list (well, I’m exhausted from writing it) of ‘stuff ‘ for your forthcoming joy-bundle.  If something you’ve thought of is not in my list somewhere, it’s because I don’t know anything about it (eg: boppy pillow = ughn?!). 

I really do hope this helps some of you guys out there.  Waiting for your little one to arrive is stressful enough as it is, without having to scratch your head about what to stock up on.  And hey – try to make this a fun time too; you’ll only get to do this for the first time once!

Now get that credit card warmed up!

Time to go shoppin’, boys! (part 1)

Ok, so I think I’d like to back up a bit from the time frame of my last post, where I recounted how we two gay dudes had just brought our first newborn home.  See, there’s a bit of prep work that went into getting our home set up as a baby-friendly zone.  In doing this ourselves, we discovered the mysterious inverse relationship between the age of an infant, and the volume of ‘stuff ‘ needed to support said small human.

I’ll use this post as a way to flesh out exactly what I mean by ‘stuff ‘.  And yes, this has been done before in many other blogs/sites.  But do you know what?  Each and every other ‘list of stuff you need for your newborn’ that I’ve come across has been written from a woman’s perspective.  So, this will (hopefully) be a bit of a fresh look at “The List”.

“ahem”

What You Need for a Brand New Baby (ie: younger that say, three months old)

I’ve broken this list down into categories sorta based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  I’ll talk about needs, wants, not-yets, and the useless ‘stuff’, and then order each item within the categories according to importance or relevance.  Yes, I’m anal when it comes to lists.  I find lists comforting (please just nod like you appreciate where I’m coming from and read on, ok?).

1)  Things You Really Need to Get

Infant Carseat: this is number one on my list, because if you don’t have this, you ain’t takin’ your little guy home!  Hospitals won’t let you leave unless you arrive with one in hand.  Any brand or model you find will (well, should!) meet the safety standards of your country or region, so really, it comes down to personal choice.  Some carseats are designed to combine with a stroller (they usually are sold together), so if you think you’ll use a stroller, this variety might be for you (it wasn’t for us; we rarely used a stroller).

Bottles: even if you guys are bringing home an older infant (upwards of 18mths), you’ll still need some of these.  They come in different sizes (most commonly small (4oz) and large (8oz)); the small ones are more useful at first, but quickly become useless once your voracious drinker wants a full bottle.  We bought a mix of sizes for son #1, but have exclusively used the 8oz size for son #2.

       *glass vs. plastic?  New plastic bottles are supposed to be BPA free (there was a scare a few years ago about plastic bottles); however, we use glass because all the hype about plastic bottles still has us wary of them, plus I really just like the feel of glass.

Formula: start with some ready-serve formula for the first day or so, until you see how your routine is establishing itself, then switch to the powdered version of the SAME brand, and start mixing!  There’s an old wives’ tale about how babies reject the first type of formula they try, so you should buy your second choice first.  We did not have that problem with either of our two boys (strangely enough, we didn’t have problems with ANY of the old wives’ tales we were told…).  I won’t endorse any particular brand here (cuz I ain’t gettin’ paid to do so), and they are all supposed to be nutritionally equal… but hey – you get what you pay for, right?

If they are all out of fillet mignon-flavour, this should be an adequate substitute.

Somewhere for Baby to Sleep: babies can and will sleep almost anywhere.  That being said, if you are doing a public adoption (like hubby and I did), your social workers will want to see that you have a bed set up exclusively for your new small human.  Our local public health agency does not support ‘family beds’ (where you, your significant other and baby all sleep together); nor do I.  I have a hard enough time sleeping with hubby rolling all over the place all night long, without having to worry about another body getting in the way of my beauty sleep.  So what are your other options?  Bassinet (he’ll outgrow this quickly!), or crib.  We chose the latter for our first son, buying something called a convertible crib.  No, it doesn’t have a retractable roof – it converted into a big-boy-bed when he got old enough to want to get out of bed himself, and can convert into a double bed when he’s outgrown this stage.  If you go for a crib, don’t forget to pick up a baby mattress, along with some fitted baby mattress sheets, and a plastic sheet to go between them and the mattress.

Diapers:

  • Disposable or Re-useable: you know what?  Just make your life easy – start with disposable diapers.  After a few months, when you can think rationally again, look into re-useable ones.  Son #1 uses a re-useable diaper for his afternoon nap, and a disposable diaper at night (we found having a re-usable diaper on all-night-long is too hard on his skin).
  • What Size to Buy: if you guys are bringing home a newborn, you probably want to get one (ONE) regular pack of ‘newborn’ sized diapers (usually marked with an ‘n’ on the box).  Your little dude is likely to grow quickly – he might even be ready for size ‘1’ by the time you finish the newborn pack.  At that stage, you are probably ok to buy a bigger box (which saves a bit of cash, and the odd trip to the store).
  • What Brand to Use: pick one and see if your little squirter does well in them (by ‘well’, I mean does he break out in pussy rashes and angry pimples one hour after you put the diaper on?).  We’ve only ever tried Pampers, with 100% success.  Like formula, I’m not sure that diapers are something you want to skimp on…  I suggest you be wary of no-name or store brands.

Onesies: The workdress of an infant.  Comes in two styles: short-sleeved-short-legged, and long-sleeved-long-legged. Half a dozen of each should do (why so few?  Because you’ll likely be getting a whole bunch more as gifts from friends and family).  Oh, and hey: the fewer buttons the better. Some crazy little outfits come with flaps and double breasts with snaps here, buttons there and ties for good measure.  Just go for simple one-row button-ups or (better yet) zippers; when it’s 2-am, you’re all thumbs, and you’re trying to get him back into his clothes after a particularly messy diaper change… well, you’ll thank me.

Short onesie & long onesie

Socks & Hats:  You only need a couple of each of these.  There will be mornings that are too warm for a long onesie, but a bit too chilly for bare baby feet.  And when you’re headed outside for a walk on a cloudy, windy day, a hat will keep his little bald head warm.

*The rule of thumb for dressing your little tyke: consider how much you are wearing, and add one layer for him.  No more.  Over-dressing an infant may have a link to sids.

Diaper Rash Cream: every baby gets diaper rash.  Some worse than others.  I’ve got a whole rant coming in another post about diaper rash…  In short, I believe the best way to treat diaper rash is to REMOVE THE DIAPER !  Failing that, it’s not bad to have some of this cream around, because – yeah – I know: there are times when a non-diapered baby is a non-option.

Blankies (adult spelling = blankets): you need a few knitted or fleece blankets for when your little dude is in the car seat, or to cover him and you when you are both a little sleepy after a feeding in your comfy chair (aaahhh!  cuddle time with your satiated baby = daddy bliss).

Burp cloths: Ok – so you don’t NEED these, provided you have an equal number of shirts to the number of feedings you do per week (roughly 40, for the first while).  Otherwise, get a dozen of these.  Little secret => get a pack or two of Gerber ‘cloth diapers’, which are just large squares of extra absorbent cloth; fold one in half and throw over your shoulder = perfect burp cloth.  They also come in handy for swaddling (ah, swaddling!  I’m going to dedicate another post to the wonder and joy of the swaddle).

Baby Carrier: aka baby sling or baby wrap.  Essentially, a device to fasten your baby to your chest.  We used this in place of a stroller almost without exception.  The type we used was a Snugli carrier; I’m not specifically endorsing this brand; it was simply the first and only one we tried.  With complete success 😉 .

Better bonding opportunities than with a stroller!

Baby 1st Aid / Toiletry Kit: Some of this stuff can be found in your home already (see next category below), but a few things are exclusive to little humans, such as: baby nail clippers, baby pain killer, baby thermometer, baby turkey baster (yeah… we never actually used this, but it’s supposed to suck boogies out of your little squirmer’s nose…)

and the final thing you guys will need

Quick Meals for the Two of You: for at least one week.  Because the last thing either of you want to think about is cooking a meal from scratch, or even go out for take-out.  Think frozen pizzas, frozen meat pies, frozen lasagnas, fresh pasta, frozen heat-and-serve fish meals, etc., etc.  Or hey – got a caterer friend?  Get them to drop a bunch of fresh meals off at your place.  Or invite one of your mothers to stay with you for a bit. <=nah.  Not worth it, in the long run.  Trust me 😦

2) Things You Can Cobble Together from Stuff You Already Have

Not everything has to be shiny and new for your little guy – he won’t notice if a thing or two looks recycled, and you’ll save yourselves a bit of cash.  Root around in that medicine cabinet for stuff that’s been there for eight years (Vaseline doesn’t go bad).  Feel good about re-using something that was just sitting in the garage, collecting mice feces dust.  Discover a use for something that was destined for the curb.

Diaper Bag: an essential piece of baby-kit, though not essential to be a designer model.  Pretty much any ol’ bag will do (a knap sack, a small suitcase, etc.)  We use a medium-sized gym bag with end pockets, and a few internal pockets.  It doesn’t have to get fancier than that.  Oh wait – you’re asking “what’s a diaper bag?!”  Good question.  Scroll to the bottom of part 2 of this post for the Diaper Bag Primer.

It’s up to you, dads. YOU’RE the ones who have to carry it.

Diaper Pail: if you intend to use re-useable diapers (we use a mix of re-useable and disposable), you’ll need somewhere other than your normal laundry hamper to drop these puppies.  We use a big ice cream tub beside the toilet in our bathroom (the tub comes from a local ice cream parlour, that sells them for a dollar a piece).

Corn Starch: I used an awful lot of talcum powder on our first son – it was a great way to keep his bum dry, and cut down on the development of diaper rash.  However, there is some thought that inhaling talcum powder can be harmful, and even carcinogenic (some people likening it to asbestos!).  Well, corn starch – which everybody has in their kitchen – works just as well, if not better, and I’ve started using it on our #2 boy.  Just don’t apply as much as you would talc – it can clump up a bit in the folds of his skin. 

making your life – at night – easier

Night Lights: Guess what?  You’re gonna find yourself stumbling around your home at all hours of the night with baby-in-hand.  Why fumble for light switches (and wake him up in the process), when you can just plug-in a handful of these strategically throughout your place, making night-travel a cinch?

Other: petroleum jelly, rubbing alcohol, cotton balls; basically, anything you’d find in a baby first aid kit.  The items in a store-bought baby kit will be packaged smaller, and come in nice-smelling varieties, but your stuff – obviously – will work just as well.

Ok – let’s take a breather here.  When you come back, “The List” will continue in Part 2.

Move aside ladies – the Men are here…

…When I say ‘ladies’, of course, I mean my Mom and Mom-in-law.  And when I say ‘move aside’, I mean ‘uhm, just change his diaper the first few times for us, so that we can watch and learn… from over here’.

Back from the hospital

Honey, I’m home…

Hubby and I were very fortunate to have had both our sets of parents present when we brought our first adoptive son home from the hospital.  Despite the bravado and coolness I was attempting to display on the outside, I did not have one sweet clue as to what to do with this new little human.  When the social workers had ‘passed’ him over to us at the hospital, he was already fastened in his car seat; I had yet to even hold him in my arms.

So, yes – if you are about to bring home a baby for the first time, do your best to surround yourself with as many experienced hands as you can – friends, family, neighbours or whom so ever you can find (within reason, of course).  Our Moms ever so gently took charge for the first few hours, while our Dads sat around talking about sports (ugh, yes, I know – how disgustingly stereotypical – it’s a wonder hubby and I managed to turn out as gay and well-adjusted as we did, despite the hotbeds of heterosexism and outdated gender roles that we were exposed to in our youth).  In any case, for the first few hours after son #1 came home, we were witness to the subtle art of ‘managing a baby’.  Oh, and the not-so-subtle art of ‘Mom & Mom-in-Law one upmanship’.  Or is that one upwomanship?

My Mom got to take him out of the car seat and hold him first; hubby’s Mom changed his first diaper; my Mom fed him for a few minutes, then they switched, etc, etc.

And that’s it.

Yep – that’s what you do with babies for the first little bit: hold them, feed them, change them, and repeat.

And then guess what?  My Dad held him… and then hubby’s Dad – and the baby was still fine; no dropping, no shrieking, no disaster.

I might say that I had an epiphany at that moment, but honestly, I already knew it – men can hold a baby without the sky falling.  Womankind is not a magical species, specifically designed to raise babykind.  Humankind is all alike, differentiated largely by social norms shoved down our throats from infancy (thou shalt wear blue; thou shalt play with trucks, thou shalt only play with barbies if your intent is to rip off their heads to piss off your sister, etc., etc.).

In any case, both hubby and I are capable of holding eight pounds gently in our arms.  We both have at least as much dexterity and hand-eye coordination as our Moms do.  Between us, we have 13 years of post-secondary education, and aren’t so old that we can’t pick up new tricks.  “So,” we asked ourselves, after having observed the process for a few hours, “…can we do it?”  We shared a collective intake of breath, then chanted: “Yes! We! Can!”  (ok, so maybe it didn’t go exactly like that, but after you start watching hours and hours of Bob-the-Builder, you’ll be quoting him too).

I graciously thanked my Mom and Dad for sharing the afternoon with us and with their new grandson, then sent them on their way.  They live 1/2 hour away, which is nice.  Not too far, but not too close, either.  My in-laws are a different matter.  I graciously thanked them as well, but they just stood there, having nowhere to go but our guest bedroom.  There are benefits and drawbacks to having your in-laws live many hours away.

Ok – so you’ve both watched the women in your lives do the heavy lifting with your newborn and silently catalogued all their moves and tricks.  You’ve watched the men in your lives sit on their asses, letting the womanfolk do the heavy lifting, and silently chided them while acknowledging their dated worldview.  Now it’s time for YOU to get your hands (literally) dirty.

Dive in!  You have to.  Either you’ve sent everybody home, and there is nobody left to save you, or you have to show those who remain that you’re capable, so that they’ll eventually LEAVE, comforted knowing that the newest member of your household is in safe hands.

Sit down beside that little human and pick him up.  Cradle him in one arm, then the other – figure out which side is more comfortable for you… and him.  Yeah yeah yeah, and ‘watch his head’ (that’s my Mom’s favourite warning for my Dad whenever he picks up a tiny human).  Put him back down.  Pick him up again.  Kiss him gently.  Look at his funny little fingers, at his tiny toes.  Look at yourself in the mirror with him.  Pass him to your significant-other.  Take their picture.  Actually, take 10, cuz the first nine will not flatter either of them.

Warm up his little bottle (get a pack or two of the instant-serve formula bottles, as well as some disposable nipples – that’ll make your life a bit easier before you have to start making your own formula).  Get him set up in your arms, with whatever arrangement of blankets and towels that those lady-folk used while you were watching from the sidelines (eventually, you’ll come up with your own routine; I’ve actually mastered the art of no-handed infant feeding… what do you think I’m doing right now? 😉 ).  Now stick that nipple into his little mouth and watch him suck.  Both our boys drank anywhere from 15mL – 30mL per feeding during their first 24 hours at home.  Don’t worry: he will let you know when he’s done (he’ll either fall asleep in your arms, or fidget and spit the nipple out).  For the first little bit (I hesitate to use ‘days’ or ‘week’, because each baby will be different), your joy-bundle will be feeding every two hours.  In fact, your whole life will be reset to a two-hour cycle.  An endless two-hour cycle.

Oh, and don’t forget to burp him while feeding, or he’ll be puking all over you in one minute from now.    Burp him often the first few times you feed him.  You’ll eventually establish a routine with burping too – it’ll be obvious (puking-ly obvious) how much formula you should let him drink between burps.  Oh, and hey: the more burps you do early on, the more practice you’ll get transferring him from a feeding position to a burping position!  I started burping my first boy on my shoulder, but found that it caused him to bring up all his formula rather than just the gas in his belly, so I switched to sitting-up-burps, where he sits on one of your legs, facing the other.  You support him by cupping his chin and cheeks with one hand (yes, it looks like you’re choking him; no, you’re not), and tap/rub his back with the other.  Since you’ll need to master burping right away, I’ve embedded this video (thank you Howcast!).  Take what you need from it and disregard the rest (I cringed when I saw the on-his-belly burp method):

So everybody’s gone home, he’s done feeding (and burping) for now, and you’re both sitting there wondering: what next?  Yep.  Unfortunately, it’s that time.  You must now Change His Diaper.

Again, do yourself a favour and DIVE IN (yuck, yep – literally).  Hopefully you’ve set up a changing station somewhere.  Either you’ve succumbed to the consumer urge and bought a frighteningly stylish change table complete with side cabinets and hutch, five shelves, five drawers, detailed beveled edges, curved side & inset panels, exclusive finishes and optional wood swatches. Or you’ve just put a towel down on your bed.  We do the latter, and it works just fine.  End result = diaper changed.

So, set the small human down on the towel/whatever and unbutton his onesie.  Up until the point where we brought our first son home, ‘onesie’ for me meant the oddly attractive one-piece triathlon suits that hubby wears to his races.

Evolution of the Onesie

The evolution of the meaning of ‘onesie’ in our household

Anyways, moving on.  You’ve got the little guy laying on a flat surface.  Next, you unbutton the onesie, slide it off and/or push it up, undo the diaper tabs, pull the diaper front down and…

                    …OH MY GOD – What. Is. That?!?!?!

No – you don’t need to call in a favour from Sigourney Weaver; it’s just the umbilical cord.  And don’t worry – I won’t post an actual picture of it.  Sufficed to say, you’re going to have this little bit of vileness coming along for the ride for roughly a week, before it gets bored and drops off of its own accord.  In the meantime, whenever you change your little guy, make sure his diaper doesn’t overlap the cord (you can fold the top of the diaper down).  Also, keep an eye on his belly button – take note of what it looked like the first time you saw it – if it starts to get (more) red and puffy looking, you could be dealing with an infection, which needs to be dealt with ASAP (ie: by a medical professional).

So, you’re both cool with how the umbilical cord looks (well, after getting over the initial shock).  Next, grab your little tyke’s ankles with one hand, lift up his bum and slide that diaper out from underneath him…

         … ARGH!!!!!  WHAT THE BLOODY HELL IS THAT!?!?!?!?

Yeah, you’re in for shock number two.  What you guys are probably looking at is a diaper full of what can only be described as syrupy crude oil.  Amazingly, this is completely normal.  It’s called meconium, which means ‘fecal discharge from a newborn infant’, or, alternatively ‘poppy juice’.  Don’t get any ideas.

Babies first poo

Are babies a source of crude oil?!

So anyways, just clean it up – it’s a bit sticky, but has no odour that I can remember, and only lasts for a few poops, before you move onto poo-phase-two (chunky yellow-green purée).  Cleaning can be accomplished in any number of ways.  Disposable wet wipes are quick and convenient and mean that you are a SWORN ENEMY TO THE ENVIRONMENT.  Alternatively, just wet one of the myriad little baby face cloths* that everybody and their dog will be giving you as soon as they hear that ‘you two wonderful boys are bringing home a little one’ (*Be warned – you will get told off by the little guy in one of two ways if the cloth is too cold: 1) shrieking; or 2) pissing all over you).  Later on, once the umbilical cord has fallen off, you can do a proper job of cleaning him over the sink.  I much prefer this method, rather than just spreading feces around his crotch until you can’t see it anymore, then putting another diaper on him.  No wonder so many babies get diaper rashes all the time.  But I digress.

He’s all clean?  Good.  Now slip a new diaper on, fasten it.  Put the onesie back on and presto.  Just like that.  Easy, eh?  Yeah, of course it’s not.  The good news, is that practice makes perfect and that’s something that you guys are going to have (heh heh ) lots of.  Lots of.  LOTS OF. 

  • Got the diaper on backwards?  Well, one of you will figure it out and (gently) chide the other. 
  • Diaper not fastened quite snuggly enough?  Well, leaking poo is a strong motivator. 
  • Little legs flailing about ceaselessly, while his penis is squirting you purely out of spite?  You’ll develop methods of single-hand multi-tasking like you never thought possible.

Ok!  Well, you’ve done it.  You both got your mini human being home in one piece, got a glimpse of how the basics are accomplished, and had a hand in trying them all yourselves.  Your little sleeping angel is well-fed, has a nice clean diaper on, and is snuggling contentedly in your arms as your significant-other looks over your shoulder lovingly.  All three of you have survived the first few hours at home together.

       Whew! (wiping brow).

Now, go and have a nice long, hot shower and jump into bed for a deep and peaceful sleep.

Ha.  Suckers.

2 gay guys and a baby

Let’s start at the hospital.

Couples who make their own babies (the straight folk) usually pick up their kids here, though home-delivery via midwifery is getting more common.  Gay couples have a few other options, especially if they are adopting an older child.  As for my husband and I, we chose  to adopt a newborn through Ontario’s public adoption agency (the Children’s Aid Society), in which case, we found ourselves at our local hospital one sunny afternoon a few years ago, waiting nervously in the lobby for the stork to bring us our baby.  When I say ‘stork’, of course, I mean ‘social worker’.

But let’s back up a bit.

So, my husband and I got married back in the early days of same-sex marriage in Ontario, when there were still a few naysayers out there (West-ish of Saskatchewan, but not so far as BC) who worried that – somehow – their own personal heterosexual relationships were at risk, should gays be allowed to tie the knot.  In any case, the sky did not fall, and straight marriages seemed secure (well, expect for the 40% that are not).  Both of us had always seen kids in our future, even if – in our childhood dreams – we had not necessarily pictured the man-with-whom-we-shared-a-bed-with in our life too.  So it was natural for us to begin talking about kids early on in our relationship; even before our marriage. 

As most people (hopefully) realize, two gay guys can’t actually conceive a baby (some religious organizations actually use this biological fact as an argument against same-sex marriage, but don’t get me started), so we had to explore other options to expand our family:

  • get a dog
  • surrogacy
  • cloning
  • international adoption
  • private adoption
  • public adoption

Get a dog: already got one.  Two, actually.  But we both still felt incomplete, somehow.

Surrogacy: thinking about surrogacy made both me and my husband a bit queasy.  The idea of seeking out a female of the species to act as an incubator for our child was fraught with potential drama: from deciding whose sperm would get turkey-basted up inside… *there*, to having to deal with a hormonally imbalanced pregnant woman to whom we were not married-and-in-love-with, to setting roles and boundaries for post-birth relationships…  not to mention how much it costs per *ahem* squirt.  Sufficed to say, even talking about it turned us completely off.  Nevertheless, if you’ve got a friend lined up who is dying to have you and your spouse’s baby for you, well, uhm… think it over.

Cloning: perfect solution… but who to clone?  Did I really want a husband plus a mini-husband running around the house?  I already had enough trouble getting just one of them to load the dishwasher properly.  In any case, last I checked, cloning was not covered under either of our health plans (though I bet anybody out there a bejillion bucks that there’s a cloned human alive right now, in a dirty underground laboratory in some ex-Soviet state).

International adoption:  as it turns out, this is largely unavailable to us gays.  Many foreign countries expressly state that they will only give their children up to good heterosexual couples.  I could go into quite a rant about this here, but in the interest of staying on topic, I’ll just move on.

Private adoption: to be honest, my husband and I did not look very deeply into this option.  We do know couples who have gone through private adoption, however, with great success.  Be aware that this type of adoption (as with international adoption) costs money – thousands of dollars.

Public adoption: our method of choice.  Public adoption doesn’t cost anything, but it can have its own drawbacks (I will have come back to this in other posts – for now, let’s just leave it at ‘everything has a price’).  The way this works varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but basically, you need to complete a home-study and a training course, be accepted by the agency, then go onto a waiting list until you are matched with your very own bundle of pooy joy.

==>Before leaving this topic, I’ll just mention that LGBT adoption is available all across Canada.  If you’re reading this from Ontario, I suggest you check this site out.  If you’re from outside of Canada, just google ‘gay adoption’ in your country or region to see what the deal is for you. 

Ok, so where were we?  Oh right – hubby and I were sitting uncomfortably in the lobby of the hospital.  We’d gotten through the adoption home study, the classes, the seminars, the general scrutiny and intrusion into our lives that we were forced to undergo to ensure that we were not child molesters masquerading as prospective adoptive parents, and we made it through the waiting.

The waiting was not as bad as we had feared.  We didn’t spend every waking moment poised next to the phone, waiting with bated breath for the call.  In fact, we pretty much forgot about the whole thing.  We had convinced ourselves that it would be at least one year before something came up, so we just picked up and carried on with our life as if nothing was different.  In fact, when we did get the call, we almost didn’t answer it.  Both hubby and I were playing World of Warcraft at the time, involved in a rather heated raid (for non-gamers this means: ‘no, I can’t just pause the friggin game for a minute!’), and I remember – as I reached over to answer it –  thinking furiously to myself: who the bloody hell is bothering us NOW?!?!?!

Well, the game ended pretty quickly after that.  We’d been given the news: a baby boy was on his way in about two weeks’ time, and we were the chosen recipients.  Between that phone call and sitting in the hospital waiting area, we scrambled madly to transform our suburban bungalow from a dual-bachelor, video-game-geek haven to an infant-ready, family-friendly home.  The day the baby was born, we got another call, and were informed that we would be picking him up from the hospital upon his release, 22 hours hence.  So here we were: I was hiding my nervousness by making an annoying video of the whole affair, while my husband had a rictus grin frozen on his face, and was replying to my inane ‘you’re on video’ comments with monosyllabic disinterest.

When the baby finally emerged from the elevator, fastened in his car seat and being carried by one of the Children’s Aid social workers, it was a bit of an anti-climax.  Neither my husband nor I began gushing weepily; neither of us ran screaming over to the baby screaming ‘my son! my son!’  I took one look at him and… well, saw a little red sqirmy human infant.  My husband looked suspiciously at him, not really sure what to expect.  The social worker informed us that one of us had to go back up with her to sign some release forms, and the other had to stay down here with the baby.  I volunteered to go up, and my husband’s suspicious look turned to one of panic.  He described the first few minutes with his son as one of mutual confusion; neither he nor the baby quite knew how to react.  The baby’s hat slipped off his head (hats slip off of infant heads very easily); my husband tried ineffectually to tap it and smooth it back into place.  The baby cried briefly; hubby reached out his hands, but stopped short of touching him, in fear of amplifying the sound somehow.

It was a relief  for both new father and new son when I returned, and we were on our way out the door.  Walking to the car, hubby and I stole a glance at one another, then at the baby, and then began to giggle to one another.  We’d just been handed our son.  It was as easy as that.  It seemed like we had just gotten away with something scott free…

…little did we know, the fun was about to begin.

And when I say ‘fun’, of course, I mean ‘oops, we didn’t get away with something scott free after all.’

                    =>next up: the first few hours at home with your kid.

Gay Dads do it Better

Hello,

Welcome to my blog “2 Dads are better than 1”; thank you for checking it out.  My name is Gary, and I live in Eastern Ontario with my husband, our two sons and our two dogs.  I’ve begun this blog in response to the overwhelmingly heterosexist and misandrist (man-hating) attitude that this planet has towards parenting.  My goal is to dispel the notion that child-rearing is purely the bailiwick of (straight) women, and to demonstrate that two guys are just as good at raising kids (if not better, in my not-so-humble opinion) than any other parental combination.

*Disclaimer* – I am not a doctor, nor a psychologist, nor a counsellor, nor any other type of professional in the field of child-rearing.  I am merely a father of two, and anything I may post from here on in is my opinion or my best guess, garnered from experiences my husband and I had with our two boys.  I may also re-post items from other sources.  Nothing you read in here should be considered gospel with respect to child-rearing.  First off, there is no such thing as gospel with respect to child-rearing.  Second, you should always take anything you read online with a grain of salt.  There.  Consider yourselves forewarned.

Ok!  We’ve got the intro out of the way, now it’s time to find out why – when it comes to parenting – gay dads do it better!