Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Casper, Month 4

Dear Casper,

You are our little Goofball; our little Disaster; our Doodler. The Grossest Baby in the World.

Even though you are only 4 months old I can no longer remember having a newborn. At Mommy/Baby Yoga I marvel at the 7 and 8 weeks olds and then I marvel at how I could forget so quickly. But surely you were never so tiny! You are solid. You have lost all of your newborn floppiness. We are no longer afraid of breaking you. We joke about how fat you are but despite your copious rolls you’re still well below the 50th percentile for weight. You’re above the 50th percentile for height so we’re hoping some Wundrow genes snuck into our baby and someday you’ll tower over mom and dad.

When dad and I left the hospital with you we were given a pamphlet on all the ways not to shake your baby and we had followed the rules up until this month. Shake the baby is suddenly a fun game. I hogtie your ankles and wrists in my hands and roll your body back and forth. I grab you by your hips and shake your little bum. Dad rolls you up in a towel and lets you fight your way out. You love being roughhoused. Your dry skin defies all “baby soft” cliches so in the evening your dad and I strip you down to lather you up with coconut oil and Aquaphor. We call this “the four hand massage” and we like to joke about the day in preschool when we get a call about your propositioning 2 other kids for the same treatment. (“First I get naked and then Sally puts the oil on my balls!”). Afterwards we let you squirm around naked on our bed. Nothing makes you happier. You’re twisting your hips and pushing your butt up off of the bed and will soon be rolling over from back to belly. For now you make do with mom and dad forcefully flipping you over which you find hilarious.

You’re so active that it seems even when asleep or nursing you can’t quite calm down. My chest is covered with tiny baby scratches from your hands grabbing, kneading and clawing me during all meals. At night I hear you across the room beating your legs against the mattress. We’ve been waking up to your flailing arms escaped from the swaddle, and fear the day we can no longer lock you down for the night as our little Casperito. You’re a master grabber with a singular goal: put this in my mouth. My fingers, burp clothes, your entire fist, my nursing pads and all of your toys seem equally delicious.

You have lots to say. You’ve discovered babbling and screaming. In the morning, after a 10 hour rest, you’re in your best mood. You wake us to the happy coos of you chatting with your baby friend (aka the mirror in your crib). When I walk over to your crib, I get a big smile followed by my own verbal update on your night. After I free you from your swaddle you use both of your hands to grab my cheeks and begin making out with my face. Your little tongue vigorously spelling out “FEED ME!” over and over on my skin. I try to get the boob in your mouth before you decide you’re starving to death and the screams begin. After a couple of minutes of panicked nursing you pull off with the biggest grin, ready for our morning conversation. You goo and gaa, oooh and aww, squeal and squeak. It goes on and on punctuated by quick sucks. It’s endlessly adorable but I feel like a bit of fool sitting there with my bare boob hanging out in the morning air getting cold.

I am a less sappy mama this month as you and I do more playing and less gazing at one another. You are becoming the fun, silly baby I was looking forward to while pregnant and though I am sad to have said goodbye to the newborn you I am thrilled with our new games. With less time to contemplate the magnitude of motherhood and more time spent giggling I am left with no pithy yet touching ending for this post. We are laughing too hard to be poignant.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Lil' Data

This is a different kind of post about Casper’s first three months. Less lovey-dovey. More facts and figures. Less cuddly, but easier to hold.

Since shortly after his birth I’ve been tracking Casper’s eating and excreting via the Baby Connect App for iOS. In the hospital we were asked to record this information on a piece of paper (like cavemen!) which the nurses would check periodically. We could not abide such prosaic data collection. Luckily I had researched baby tracking apps before my water broke (‘natch). When we were discharged we were asked to continue to record this information for a week primarily because Casper had lost almost 10% of his body weight since birth. And then… I kept tracking him. I have a hard time stopping data collection once it has begun. 

Data is often useful and fun!  (Yes, I said, "fun." #coolkid). I use Casper's data to gauge things like which boob he ate from last, just how bad the coming poop is likely to be and to extrapolate how much sleep I might get tonight. I've managed to extract a few fun facts that are great for shock value over brunch and which will most certainly be hurled at 13 year old Casper during one of our coming parent/son battles. Watch this space.

So.... On to the data! 

But first! Data caveats: I stopped my excel import on Feb 17 since I had to cut off at some point or keep reimporting forever -- this gave me exactly 3 months of data. I have not, however, stopped using the app (who could stop?) so the graphs from the app itself represent more data (most pictures were taken on the morning of Feb 24 when Casper was 14 weeks and 2 days old). I’ve also used the app data for some figures when adding up the numbers in the app proved easier than parsing the csv export.

So yes, data is fun. And I find all that follows to be fun but... data is also scary, especially in aggregate.

New parents, avert your eyes! I’m about to reveal the total number of diapers changed in just over 14 weeks of Casper’s life.

Total Diapers Changed: 785. (roughly 8 per day).
The fact that I see this number and think “huh, not too bad.” is evidence of the kind of crazy thinking inspired by postpartum hormones.

As you can see Casper has recently decided that pooping is super uncool. Sadly, every few days he's forced to debase himself (and the entire family) with a huge poo. This leads to much groaning by mom and dad. For each diaper Baby Connect gives you the option of recording quantity, color, "open air accident" and diaper leakage. We rarely used these features until February when we needed them for passive aggressive data collection purposes. ("Young man, this disgusting mess is going on your permanent record!").
Total poopy diapers awful enough for mom or dad to manually apply a “large” label: 22 (18 of which resulted in diaper leaks.)
I would have very much liked to include a mommy/daddy diaper off here but sadly my husband is much less of a data nerd than I. When he changes diapers (which he does a lot of including all of the 5am diaper changes) I’m left to do most of the recording on my own. Thus the “caretaker” log is riddled with data errors. Alas. Perhaps this is for the best lest we start comparing our diapering score and end up divorced. For what it’s worth all of the nursing has been done by me.

(click through for full size image)

Total time nursing: 224 hours 45min otherwise known as 9.36 DAYS of my life!

This stat shocked me much more than the diapers. To think that I have sat on the couch or the bed, boob in baby’s maw for almost a week and a half is amazing. Thank god for my iPhone. I have no idea what moms did while nursing before the invention of the smart phone. I know that the “right” answer here is “just gazed lovingly down at their baby.” But I suspect the REAL answer is “watched TV and tried not to die of boredom."

The app also makes it easy to remember which boob was offered to baby last so we consistently alternate to try for evenness, the baby could still show a preference for one boob over the other by eating longer on the favorite boob. Casper, however, shows no favorite loving both righty and lefty equally.

Longest amount of nursing in one day: 11/18 -- 338min (5 hours 38 mins).

I’m tempted to call this log user error -- certainly Casper could not have nursed as frequently as recorded here, especially since the data shows that he basically nursed from 8am until 6 pm with almost no pauses. And yet.... the more I stare at the excel the more I'm convinced that there is no error and my baby was just super into eating. For all his effort he likely didn't get much reward. My milk almost for sure had not come in yet so much of this was just time Casper was spending telling my body to hurry up and FEED ME!!!!!. A more average day in the first few weeks of Casper’s life involved 3 hours on the boob.
We never bothered to record Casper’s sleep. Considering how worried I was before he was born about never sleeping again this is, in retrospect, a bit strange. Perhaps I was too afraid to stare this data in the face. You can, however, use the data I have to extrapolate night time sleep blocks since upon waking Casper is always immediately changed then fed and (thank you to the baby gods) goes right back to sleep. This is how I know that we are regularly getting 7 hours sleep stretches in the past few weeks. This is also reflected in our eating intervals which show consistent growth over time. This data is especially encouraging when you consider that during the day Casper still eats every 90-120 minutes so almost all of the interval growth is due to extended nighttime sleeping.
One wonders what might influence the up and down nature of a baby's eating. Sure, doctors claim this is mostly due to "growth spurts" but shouldn't other possibilities be considered? Like, for example, is Casper influenced but the full moon (is he, in fact, a werewolf?!?!?) ?
Guess not.

After this exercise in data analysis I'm sure all readers are wondering exactly what the point of all this is. I’ll admit to a slight case of paranoia that someone might challenge me on my parenting skills and I’ll respond with data to back up the case. Look! I am, in fact, a good mom who totally feeds her child (this is never going to happen, and if it did a punch in the face would be a more valid response than, “But look at this excel graph I have!”). Mostly my data obsession is nonsensical. 
When my brother laughed out loud as I recorded information on my son's poops I could offer no clear reason to explain exactly why I am doing this (blog fodder?). Data collection has become religious. Data is comforting. It makes tangible what might otherwise be amorphous. The recording of facts its own sacrament. Like church, data offers comfort, direction, sometimes misdirection and often, indifference. Despite how important collecting data on Casper has felt I know that so much of what I have gathered here does not matter. And yet, I can't stop. The weight of existing data that isn’t being recorded often feels needlessly heavy. It implies importance for things that might actually be inconsequential.

Of course, nothing feels inconsequential when you have a baby. I know that Casper's every new discovery has already been discovered by every human baby to proceed him and yet a celebration still seems in order. This data shows what it's like to have a newborn. He poops. He eats. He pees. He sleeps. Nothing new. And yet his mom is mesmerized