Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Racing a Hurricane...In St Louis

Norah has turned the ripe old age of one month. Depending on when you ask me, it is either impossible that it has been so long…or simply astounding that we were childless only one month ago.

This morning Moonshot and I sat mulling over the words “one month old” as we inhaled our breakfast cereal, hoping she would sleep just long enough to let us finish. Her one-month anniversary reminded us of her doctor’s appointment tomorrow. And the combination of those two things reminded us that we had not signed her up on my insurance plan! We were given a 31-day grace period during which she would be automatically covered, but if we missed this deadline, she would be uncovered until June 1 of ’07. We sighed in relief that we had remembered at the 11th hour.

I drove to work with the intention of fixing this issue with our HR Director, but she could only referred me to ADP Total Source (this new-fangled system that’s supposed to save us lots of money, but really just makes more headaches). I spoke with the ADP people and they told me that I’d have to fax their sign-up form and Norah’s birth certificate to them by the end of the day.

“That’s fine,” I replied. “I’ll swing by home during lunch and bring back the birth certificate.”

The kind woman on the phone hesitated with an, “um.”

I was curious, “Is lunch too late?”

“No, probably not.” She paused. “It’s just that we’re in Miami and we might have to evacuate the building because of the hurricane. So, the sooner you get us the forms…the better.”

I agreed and within seconds found myself racing back home. As I drove I had some time to enjoy the absurdity of me, in St. Louis, racing against Hurricane Ernesto over a thousand miles away. The prize? Health insurance for my daughter. I also had some time to kick myself for my procrastinating ways. Why do I always put these things off ‘til the last possible second? It’s been a life-long trend. But then, while I was deep in my self-lecture, I began to think about the insurance company itself. Why hadn’t they contacted me?

Now, I’m not trying to weasel my way out of my responsibility here. It was, in the end, my job to protect Norah’s health…not my insurance company’s. But hear me out for a second. This is a company that contacted us on multiple occasions during the pregnancy to offer swanky pregnancy packages and even (to their credit) some very nifty free benefits that could help us out through the pregnancy. So they knew we were pregnant. And they sure knew Moonshot had given birth since they got the bill for the delivery. So, why not call us again to get Norah on the plan?

The only thing I can think of (but I’m open to other interpretations) is that the insurance company looses money on newborns and would rather not pick them up until year two. And that makes mathematical sense. If the cost of a generic child age 0-18 is x, then the cost of a newborn would almost always be higher since there are so many doctor visits and such.

As I drove, I got disgusted. Granted, I was not completely shocked to find an insurance company attempting to keep a baby from getting covered. And it’s not like they actively tried to make registration difficult. But it seems clear to me that they just held their breath and hoped I would miss the 31-day cut-off.

When I returned to work, I spoke with our HR director about it and she agreed. She added that the 31-day window is actually pretty good for the insurer since there aren’t typically many reminders in those first thirty days. The first doctor’s appointment usually comes just after. And with a 6-week leave being typical for mothers, the HR department is less likely to remind you until it’s too late.

Once again, not shocked…just a bit disturbed.

The good news is that I beat that insurance-blocking Ernesto. Norah can have as many doctor visits as she wants.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Two Sad Moments

A Sad Moment for Pluto

I have absolutely no reason to care whether Pluto is considered a planet or not. It changes nothing about the actual nature of the Universe and certainly changes nothing about my life specifically. And yet I find myself saddened as Pluto orbits away into the planetary underworld. And what makes it even more confusing is that I actually agree with the IAU’s decision on this, I was just hoping they’d make a different one.

In the end it boils down to the fact that adding is more fun than subtracting. Logic specific to the case at hand doesn’t matter…it’s just more fun to add. It’s why I get excited about new expansion teams even though I don’t think it really adds anything to the competition of the sport. It just tickles the mind in an enjoyable way to assimilate new items into a category you were previously familiar with. I remember just rolling the phrase “Carolina Panthers” around for a while…trying to get used to it when that team was announced. And although I agreed that the Browns was clearly the correct name for Cleveland’s expansion team, I was horribly disappointed simply because I was denied my joy of addition.

And that’s why I was rooting for Charon, 2003 UB313 (“Xena”) and even brave little Ceres to be allowed into the club. Ok, I wasn’t thrilled with the addition of Ceres since it’s clearly an asteroid. But, I was willing to let it in just so I could have the fun of saying, “Wow, three new planets!” Even though I knew in my heart of hearts that Pluto should probably never have been a planet in the first place, I was pulling for it and the others just so I could have the fun of saying, “Wow, three new planets!”

In the end, I’m glad that the members of the IAU are not so ruled by their childish impulses as I am. My system would probably have 30 more planets added in the next decade. Children failing out of school due to an inability to memorize all 42 and astrologers pulling their hair out, unable to invent areas of governance for so many planets. In other words…pure chaos.

So, I’m sad to see Pluto go. But I take heart in the knowledge that there is now a new kind of planet…a dwarf planet. So, while their probably won’t ever be a new planet, I can now get excited about adding to the dwarf planet category. I can root for Quaoar, Sedna, Orcus and countless others. I can delight if they declare Pluto and Charon a binary system (much cooler than a simple planet/moon system). And I can take comfort in the fact that while they may have stripped Pluto of its planetary status, it will always be the very first dwarf planet. Which ain’t such a bad consolation prize, I guess.

We were once so close to Heaven
Peter came out and gave us medals
Declaring us the nicest of the damned.
They Might Be Giants

A Sad Moment For Humanity

Yesterday Morning:

I am driving to an insurance class (I have to get my insurance license for a project at work). I left home in plenty of time, so I opt to make my way from I70 to Olive by taking Creve Coeur Mills Rd…the scenic route in other words. I’m merrily cruising past the farms and parks, singing along with Old Crow Medicine Show until I reach Olive. And right on the corner of Olive and Creve Coeur Mills there is an accident. No cars are getting by from our little country road and there was no way I am turning back around since I’m less than a quarter mill from my class by this point. Luckily, there is a service road I can get to that runs up and around the Fern Ridge High School (where Duke teaches) and hits Olive just a block east of the accident. Good plan I think to myself. The traffic is backed up heading west (since that run toward the accident) but the eastward lanes are pretty open (also due to the accident). All I have to do is hope that someone will kindly let me slide past them so I can execute a left turn into the open eastward lanes. It will cost them nothing, I reasoned, and most the time you can find one or two kind souls.

However, once I duck around the high school, I find four other cars sitting, waiting to make the same turn I had imagined. And no one is letting them by. Westbound cars are inching their bumpers closer together to keep us from gaining access to the eastbound lanes. Despite our clear blinkers that indicate that we have no intention of jumping in front of them…they glare at us and jockey around to make sure they form no gap. How asinine is this? However, if this was the extent of their assholishness, I would not be writing this down. But at this point a school bus full of kids arrives in the turning lane. They too need only pass through the traffic and will cause no delay to the folks who are waiting in very near standstill traffic. And yet the cars continue to inch closer to each other to prevent the bus’s access to the school. At this point I’m amazed at the level of selfishness. No…not selfishness. Selfishness implies that they are gaining something for their efforts and just don’t care enough about others to give up some of that gain. But these jerks are gaining NOTHING. They are apparently blocking a school bus for the sheer joy of blocking it. After three or four cars eep past our intersection and fail to let the bus through, the bus driver gently edges the nose of his bus into the traffic and forces a woman in a green SUV to pause while he makes his way across the road. My jaw literally dropped as Ms. Green SUV’s face turns red and she begins screaming through her windshield at the bus driver. While I have no idea what she is saying, I am certain that it is unkind since both middle fingers have flown into insult position and she is leaning into her passenger seat so that her crude gestures can track the target of her rage a bit longer. That’s right, she’s flipping off a bus full of kids because the driver had the audacity to edge his bus in front of her, thereby forcing her to do what she should have volunteered to do on her own had she been a decent human being. He caused her no delay, he injured he in now way. He merely kept her from having her bumper glued to the car in front of her for a total of maybe 20 seconds…and for that, she lost her friggin’ mind. Ah, humanity at it’s best.

However, I will say that after watching this display, the cars behind Ms. Green SUV felt guilty and let me and all four of my patient friends into the eastbound lanes. So perhaps there is hope.
And what’s bothersome is that St. Louis was just ranked one of the friendliest driving cities in America. Scary.

So, if you’re out and about in your car today…be extra courteous and maybe even let a driver or two in front of you…there’s some nasty karma in the form of a green SUV out there that we need to balance out.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Newborn: Vortex of Time

Time is an elusive thing even under the best of circumstances. However, the presence of a newborn in your home makes whole chucks of time just disappear…slip away into some ethereal non-existence. I understood, or course, that I had not posted any words to this website in some time…but I had not realized just how overdue my update was until the complaints started rolling in. And to those fine people who were brave enough to complain to this new parent (despite the fact that new parents as a group are so often clinging to sanity by a mere thread), I thank you for your obvious concern for Norah and invite you to come over any time you like so as to watch the Little Miss as thus afford me some time to post. My readers would thank you. If, however, that’s not what you were offering by your complaints…then you’ll just have to make your peace with the fact that I’ll get to posting as soon as I clean the spit-up from my hair, wash the poop from the crib sheets, and pump a few more ounces of formula into my growing daughter. It’s a glamorous life. In actuality, I do thank the complainers. I have no idea how long I would have ignored my posting duties had people not cared enough to jostle me about.

Chug, Chug, Chug!!To answer the real questions the protesters were concerned about…Norah is doing fine. She’s putting on weight like a champ. She’s got her second chin and rolls of fat on her chubby little thighs…like a happy baby should. She eats what seems to me to be massive amounts of formula and then launches significant portions of it back at us. She is so undisturbed as the milk comes back out her mouth that I can only think of a drunken college student too far gone to be concerned about a little vomit. I am consequently tempted to chant “Chug, chug, chug!” as he mows through her bottle.

Staring at her hangy toysNorah has been practicing smiling as she falls asleep, but has yet to bust out a real smile while she was awake. Her eyes are tracking together which makes her appear far more alert than before. She’s using this newfound focus to pay close attention to her mobile and the hangy toys in her hammock. She loves music and will listen contently to the simplistic symphonies produced by her crib fish. She sleeps most the evening and only wakes about two times during the night. We count ourselves as lucky on this point, but know that we may be causing future problems sine this sound sleep is purchased by letting young Norah sleep in bed with Moonshot and me. There will come a time in the near future when the screaming will start as we try to accustom her to her own bed.

Moonshot tells me that she is more fussy during the day while I am at work, but I usually only see her complain around dinner time…nothing upsets Norah more than the idea of her parents eating a meal together. She wails like a siren when she’s hungry (which is often), but she reverts to happy girl one she fills her belly. I have no idea what she weighs right now, but we have a check-up next week, so I’ll let you know then.

In short, we have a very happy and healthy girl.

Moonshot and I are adjusting well, I think. Oh, we have our moments of irritability and frustration. But, generally, we’re coping well and enjoying the ride as much as we can. I returned to work last week. On some levels it’s nice to get out of the house, but it is nerve-racking to leave. I have every confidence in Moonshot and there is no reason my absence should decrease Norah’s safety nor even her happiness at this point. But, the protector gene has switched on and it is difficult to be away from home.

She's time consuming...but she's cuteWe watch more TV these days than I like. But reaching for a book is useless…you WILL be interrupted within a few seconds. And a two-hour movie is an impossible fantasy at this point (Netflix is finally making their money’s worth on us). Hell, even a half-hour sitcom is a bit of a stretch. I find myself gravitating to Discovery Channel and Game Show Network…channels that can deliver entertainment in tiny clips. When I have ten uninterrupted seconds, I like to be amused by some interesting factoid or to challenge my brain with a trivia question. Only these channels can deliver that kind of rapid-fire passive entertainment. I’ve become a fan of Lingo and Chain Reaction since I can play along even if Norah’s cries drown out the TV speakers. I am embarrassed to admit that on one occasion while Moonshot and I struggled to recall when we had last fed Norah, we were able to answer our question by remembering what game show had been on. I have devolved into a person who tells time by television programming. It’s disturbing…but temporary.

And with that sad fact, I must steer myself toward bed. My wife and daughter have already drifted off to sleep and my 3am feeding looms closer with each keystroke. So, enjoy the new pics both here and over on Norah's page. And remember that every second I spend on this blog must be wrestled away from my little bundle of time warping joy...so quit your belly-aching about my slow output ;)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Food Fright

I had counted on the sleep dep. I had counted on the sound of newborn wailing. But, I had not counted on the worry.

It was around Wednesday of last week that it occurred to me that we might have given birth to a zombie baby. She wanted no food, she required no sleep. She sustained herself solely on human flesh (in the form of a suck-able finger). She refused to latch on to Moonshot’s breast. She screamed and clawed away from the offending mammaries with such rage that I began to suspect our poor daughter had been viciously attacked by boobs in a previous life. Moonshot would spend hours trying to get Norah to take any substance before giving up…tears on both of their beautiful faces. Since coming home on Monday, we had made frequent calls to the kind nurses at the maternity ward and even to the psychotic LeLeche League. They all reassured us that she would latch on if we kept at it. They told us that since she had latched on at the hospital, she would again when she got hungry. Babies, they reminded us are born with a large reserve of fuel to get them by until mommy’s milk comes in…usually three to five days after birth.

MoMa, who had been in town to help us since Friday, calmed us as much as she could, but by Wednesday we gave into our fear and purchased a breast pump. At LeLeche’s recommendation we fed little Norah with an eyedropper so as not to cause nipple confusion and decrease our chances of breast-feeding. And so, we had a dropper baby. We would squirt milk directly into her screaming mouth. She, for her part, would occasionally latch onto the dropper and suck tons of air into her little belly. This air led to massive spit-up and uncomfortable gas. On Friday, still thwarted in our attempts to bring Norah together with Moonshot’s boob, we returned to the hospital to meet with a lactation consultant. Under the watchful eye of this kind expert, Norah latched right on and acted like the breast was her best friend. We were embarrassed, but relieved. The lactation consultant reminded us that babies often take this much effort to achieve a successful latch to the breast. Which lead me to wonder (not for the first time) how the hell the human race is still here if the very act of eating is so incredibly difficult to achieve. Every other animal I can think of takes to this act with ease…not so for us. Seriously…we should have all starved off thousands of years ago.

Friday night found Husker and Panache showing up to meet their granddaughter. They arrived in time to see us relax. Through the weekend, Norah continued to feed and we started to believe that we were in the clear. We couldn’t tell how much she was getting, and she still took way too long for a single meal, but we took solace in the fact that the pump had been able to supply prodigious amounts of foodstuff for our child. We began to fall into a comfortable routine.

Our first doctor’s appointment was on Monday. We went in with a fairly happy baby, convinced that we’d get a clean bill of health. Instead, we were told that she had lost a pound and a half since birth. Some weight loss is expected…but her doctor was concerned about this amount of loss. We were to start offering her formula after she had finished on the breast. In addition, the weight loss had caused the doctor to become concerned about two minor health problems that had been discovered just after birth. A small heart murmur and jaundice. Both are very common in newborns and are typically outgrown. They are watched but generally ignored unless other symptoms rear their heads. And since weight loss is a symptom trigger for both jaundice and a heart murmur, the doc wanted us to subject Norah to a few tests. He was sure the problem was simply the lack of sustenance…but he had to be sure. I appreciate such thoroughness and figured the test would put our minds at ease. So, we were to get the tests, pump the child full of food, and return on Thursday for a weigh-in.

That afternoon, Norah performed her typical half-hearted feeding on the breast. We then offered her formula from a bottle. She gorged herself like she had never eaten before and then passed out to digest. For her next meal, we decided to find out how much milk was being offered. Moonshot re-attached herself to the pump and was aghast to find that almost nothing came out. It seems that the miraculous biofeedback system that is the mother’s body had read Norah’s feeble sucking to mean that less milk was needed. Norah, spoiled by the milk-squirting eyedropper, refused to put enough umph behind her nursing to trigger more milk production. And so, unbeknownst to us, Moonshot’s milk supply had been dwindling.

Moonshot returned to the pump with a vengeance, desperate to reinvigorate the flow of food. But it was not to be. The milk kept dwindling and formula kept making up more and more of our child’s diet. Moonshot, having convinced herself that good mothering included breastfeeding, began to believe that her inability to feed our child was a failure of some sort. I could only reassure her and remind her that we had done everything we could to supply milk to our child. Norah herself had refused the breast and dried up her own well by being such a lazy feeder. I assured Moonshot that she had fought harder than many mothers would have.

On Tuesday, we took Norah in for her battery of test. Qwest Diagnostics had been charged with taking a blood sample to look at the jaundice. This was excruciating. Since newborn veins are so tiny, they took blood from her heel. A tiny slash was made and then the phlebotomist squeezed the injury until three little bottles were filled. I held my panicked daughter as our specialist tried once…then twice…then gave up and fetched someone else. This new specially was better, but the injury squeezing still lasted at least 15 minutes. My jeans were dotted with little spots of my child’s blood and Moonshot’s eyes were teared up. I left with the hope that we would never have to go through such a thing again.

Next on our rounds were x-rays at the hospital to check out the heart murmur. Compared to the bloodletting, this was smooth and simple. However, seeing my defenseless child sprawled on that metal table reminded me just how vulnerable she is. I kept reminding myself that both of these tests were just precautionary and that nothing was really wrong other than the fact that her parents had been starving her. But as Moonshot and I stared from the hallway, the constant dread that had plagued us since she was born would not accept such optimistic reasoning. I could not wait for the Thursday weigh in to reassure us.

This morning, I awoke for a business meeting. I set up the laptop on the dining room table and got the phone ready so the impending ring wouldn’t wake Moonshot and Norah. However, when the phone did ring it wasn’t work. It was the doctor’s office. They had no news to report on the test results since Qwest Diagnostics had botched the tests. Seems the numbers they had sent over were off the chart stupid, inhuman, and impossible. In short, they mishandled the samples. We would have to return and give another sample. I canceled the business meeting and rounded up the troops. I apologized to young Norah that she would have to go through this again…but I’m pretty sure that it was her mother and I that would be most traumatized. Luckily, the phlebotomist that helped us this time had worked in the premature birth ward at the hospital. Sure, Norah hated it…but the whole process took five minutes. Thank you so much, you wonderful young lady whose name I can’t recall.

So now, Norah is sleeping in her crib as I type this on the laptop still set up on the dining room table. She is a newly content baby now that her belly is regularly full. I have very little doubt that her weight will get right back on track, but I’ll not relax until I get the sign-off from the doctor.

Moonshot is upstairs pumping. It’s almost not worth it at this point, but we figure every little bit helps.

Arlo is resting at my feet. He has taken a liking to his younger sister. He stays close to her and lets us know when she wakes up. He gets visibly upset when she cries and has yet to show any signs of jealousy. We couldn’t be happier with our furry little guy.

For my part…I’m hanging in there. The hours are long and the task is largely thankless at this point. But, it is an indescribable joy when her alert eyes stare at you, or when she cuddles against you. I guess I wouldn’t be worrying so much if I wasn’t so in love with the little girl.

I’m told the worry doesn’t really go away…ever. MoMa assures me she still worries about me. But I have to say that I’ll feel better once she puts on a bit of weight and gets a clean bill of health on these other issues. I can take the sleep dep. I can take the sound of newborn wailing. But this worrying is wearing me down.


I’d like to take a few minutes to thank everyone who has sent us love and support. It's been wonderful to be continually reminded of all the people who will love our daughter. I know I'll miss someone (feel free to post an angry comment) and they are in no particular order. Thanks to MoMa for staying with us through the initial chaos and taking care of Arlo while we were away. I have no idea how we would have managed without it. Thanks to Husker and Panache for pitching in last weekend and bringing tasty produce from Iowa. Thanks to Elsa and Taltap for the continual stream of cards and gifts, can't wait for you to meet her. Thanks to Jet for pacing the hospital halls and helping to make sure I ate. Thanks to Bobby, Theresa, Sarah, Nick, Caleb, Summer, and Austin out in Kansas for the cards and clothes and toys. And thanks Caleb for being so understanding about our not having a Caleb on this go-round. Thanks for Moonshot's Aunt Kathy for the clothing and the wall hanging...it's very cute. Thanks to Uncle Goldwing and Loretta for their cards, both virtual and mailed. Thanks Duke, Pinky, Dolly, and Duran for visiting us in the hospital...it was great to see you. Sorry we've been so quiet these last few days, but Norah will be out to play in O'Fallon very soon. And thanks Duke for forgiving us for selfishly forgetting your birthday while we holed up with our newborn. Thanks to Great Aunt Lefty for your love and comments. Thanks to Susan, John, and Sarah for the wonderful package left discreetly on our doorstep. Thanks to Polly and Schnitzel for some wonderful childrens cds. Thanks to Tom and Sabrina next door for being our back-up dog watchers and for the package of onesies. Thanks to John, Katie and Samatha Haney for the well wishes and for directing me to what will surely be Norah's favorite onesie. Thanks to Oaf for the kind words. Thanks to the fine folks up on the third floor at Barnes Jewish St. Peters Hospital both for delivering our beautiful daughter and for putting up with our terrified calls. Thanks to Cheeseburger and Littlestar for being so open about their lives. Their childbirth experience helped ease our minds and Cheeseburger's blog is almost directly responsible for the fact that you can come to this nice website and see pictures of Norah today. And thanks even to Erica over at A Mopey Southern Chick for following along and wishing us well. Basically..thanks to everyone.