Pooping problems and sleepless nights

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Husband-and-wife journalists Bob Miller and Callie Clark Miller use this space to offer their views on everyday issues.

SHE SAID: I didn't recognize the shell-shocked person staring back at me in the mirror. The wan features. Dark circles under the eyes. I'd managed the occasional quick shower, but my hair hadn't seen a true brushing in days, let alone a blow dryer or styling products.

And were those cheeks starting to look a little sunken? It's been two weeks since I've had the use of both hands at a meal, and meals themselves are becoming less and less frequent. The person in that mirror was scary. I've seen more pleasant expressions on victims of natural disasters. Then again, maybe that description fits my situation, too.

From the next room, the screams began. Ah, I said to myself, they're playing your song.

They. Ha. Technically, it's a one-man band, but he's loud enough to drown out the Phil Harmonic.

Dawson's first week at home was great. I didn't realize why it was great until the second week -- when Bob and I were on our own. You see, our moms stayed with us that first week. Then they went home. Know the phrase, "I want my mommy?" Well, Dawson isn't the only one thinking that at our house these days.

The second week wasn't all that bad either. It was kind of nice being on our own, and Bob and I did a good job taking turns with diapers and feeding and other baby duties. And now here we are.

Excuse me. My song started playing again (pacifier fell out of his mouth). Where was I? Right. Here we are in week three, and it's just ... Oy! More crying. Be back in a sec.

No idea what that one was about. Pacifier was still in place (how can they wail so loudly with so much plastic shoved in their mouths?). Apparently, he just wanted to hear my voice. Back to what I was saying. It's week three, and it's just me here with Dawson. Which means ...

Which means, every time he cries I'm the one checking on him. Turns out, that makes it impossible to write a column. Sorry. Gotta go again.

OK, now I'm pecking away at the keyboard one-handed, holding my little 5-pound songbird with the other arm. I'm exhausted. Hungry. My glasses are barely hanging on my face. I'm in my pajamas (and it's 3:05 p.m.). "Is it worth it?" I ask myself. The hours without sleep. Getting peed on. Pooped on. Spit up on -- all of which have happened multiple times. Now you know why I don't bother getting out of my pjs.

I glance down from the computer screen and find Dawson's wide eyes staring up at my face. His little hand reaches up to touch my chin.

Definitely worth it, I tell myself as his tiny fingers latch on to my hair. And yank.

HE SAID: First, let me clarify for my cute, talented and increasingly frustrated wife: Dawson is a dream, a blessing, a beautiful gift.

But he's a lot of work.

Of course, it's easier for me to keep perspective these days. For eight or nine hours a day I find quietness (and social human contact) at the office. I actually get to talk to adults, many of whom have much in common with me. Callie's got Dawson. Or, should I say, Dawson's got Callie. And he's not talking nice.

Dawson's been fussy lately, more so since I came back to work. He's having "stomach issues," which have required an increased dose of prune juice. Hey, don't laugh. If you couldn't poop, you'd be fussy, too.

As he has since he was born, Dawson must eat every two hours. He demands it. Now, in between times, he isn't resting well, or quietly, in our arms as he did in the first week.

But, alas, I'm tired, too. Five hours of sleep isn't the norm for me. I've always been an eight-hour guy. And my five hours is interrupted at least twice while Callie takes her shift.

I don't want to give an impression that I haven't at times been as frustrated as Callie has been this week. In fact, I make no apologies for barking at Callie while she was laughing at me at 3 in the morning. Apparently, she thought it was funny how I was fumbling aimlessly during a diaper change and becoming flustered about the insane complexity of the snap contraptions on one of Dawson's onesies.

Callie and I are figuring out more about each other. She's learned that nothing, and I do mean nothing, is funny at 3 in the morning. I have learned that Callie doesn't have to be prissy and well-manicured to function. Together we've learned that a new life is an indescribable and pure miracle that doesn't always poop or sleep like he should.

Callie Clark Miller is the special publications managing editor for the Southeast Missourian, at least she will be when Dawson lets her. Bob Miller, the Southeast Missourian managing editor, just found out the prune juice worked. Reach them at cmiller@semissourian.com and bmiller@semissourian.com.

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