Reflections on Baby’s Personality

One thing I’d worried about a little, before Lillian was born, was that life with a newborn would be completely overwhelming. Especially after such an easy pregnancy and easy delivery, I would have thought all the good luck got used up already, and we’d find ourselves up all night every night with a screaming colicky infant.

But wow, Lillian is such a sweet, relaxed, mellow baby. She loves to sleep — in her crib, in her car seat, in your arms, it doesn’t matter. In the beginning, we even had to wake her up for feedings instead of vice versa, setting an alarm every three hours during the night just to make sure she was getting enough to eat.

Sleeping like a cuddly little doll.

She’s such a champion sleeper that she can’t be deterred from napping by such trivialities as a door slamming or an object clattering to the floor. She even seems to have a 4-step protocol for responding to those kinds of loud sudden noises:

  1. Jerk awake, sprawl arms and legs out in shock.
  2. Slowly relax body.
  3. Frown, make angry grunting noise.
  4. Go back to sleep.

We can load her up in the car seat to run errands, or go shopping, and she’ll sleep right through that as well. Although sometimes she’ll go from normal sleeping to angry sleeping, making this little frowny face as she dozes away.

The best shot I've managed to get of Lillian in "angry sleeping" mode.

Not that she sleeps all the time, though. She has these periods of quiet alertness where she’s awake and calm, gazing around with her big blue eyes.

Wide awake in the frilly hat she wore to Thanksgiving.

During these awake periods, Joe and I try to talk to her or read to her. We’ve gotten a handful of children’s books now, but in the beginning, the reading was mostly just news articles about Mitt Romney and Ron Paul and whoever else was making headlines.

Lillian didn’t seem to mind, though. At this age, she probably just likes being held and hearing her parents’ voices. Although it’s also possible that we’re in the process of raising the most politically-opinionated baby ever. For example, one memorable incident went as follows:

Me: [reading] Ron Paul is probably not going to be president any time soon–

Lillian: [completely out of the blue] WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!

Joe: Oh no! We’re raising a libertarian!

Anyway, here at the 1-month mark, she’s already grown and changed a lot since coming home from the hospital. Her umbilical cord stump fell off a week or so back, revealing a perfect little baby belly button, and the newborn-sized outfits are starting to look pretty snug on her already. She’s also getting to the point where she can almost hold her head up on her own, and everyone who holds her seems surprised at how strong she is.

The journey so far has been pretty amazing, and it’s crazy to think that we’re still only at the beginning. There are so many milestones to look forward to — laughing, crawling, walking, talking — but since I’ve heard that time seems to accelerate like mad once you have a child, I’m going to try my hardest to cherish these baby days while they last.

Surprise Working Fireplace

In retrospect, I have no idea how we didn’t notice this right away. We moved into our house thinking that the decorative fireplace was a completely pointless ornamental hole in the wall, and we never suspected that there might be more to it than that. Even though, looking back, there were clues visible in a number of photos I’ve taken, including one that I posted in the virtual house tour a few months back. Take a close look at this shot of our fireplace:

Notice anything interesting in this picture?

It turns out, that dark square thing under the log is an electrical outlet. And the log itself isn’t just a decoration, but an actual electric log.

We’d already been living here for a couple months when I finally noticed the wire tucked away behind the log, and the electrical outlet beneath it, and then tried plugging the wire into the outlet to see what would happen. This was the result:

Glowy electric fireplace!

Nifty, right? I’ll admit I got way too excited when I made this discovery. (Just imagine me yelling through the house, “Oh my god! Joe! Joe! Come look at this!” until he came running.) Judging from the style of the plug, it seems pretty old, and it’s just a simple steady glow — no fire-like flickering or anything like that.

Still, knowing that the outlet is right there, we could easily swap out this electric log with a more modern one down the road. A quick Google Shopping search for “electric log” turns up all kinds of (relatively inexpensive) options, with LED’s and flickering effects and even some that generate heat.

Anyway, even though it’s still purely decorative, the warm glow is a welcome addition to our living room — it adds a cozy atmosphere that should be perfect for winter and the holiday season. And the whole thing makes me wonder what other neat little details we might just be overlooking in this old house.

What about you guys? Did you ever discover anything surprising about your home after already living there for a while?

Giving Thanks on Baby’s 1-Month Birthday

Thanksgiving falls on the 24th this year, and since Lillian was born on the 24th of October, I guess that officially makes this her 1-month birthday. It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long already!

We spent today having our traditional turkey dinner with the family. My sister Laura flew in from New York and got to meet her new niece for the first time, which was awesome. I ate way too much pie — will have to get back to that whole “lose the baby weight” thing some other time — and we lingered around watching BBC America’s Star Trek marathon after dinner because we’re all a bunch of nerds sci-fi fans that way. But more than anything it was just really great having everyone together under one roof.

Just for fun, here’s a gratuitous baby picture showing what Lillian was doing while we were feasting on stuffing and sweet potatoes:

Smiling in her sleep?

Anyway, moving on to the “giving thanks” portion of this post… In no particular order, here’s a list of everything I’m feeling thankful for on this Thanksgiving day:

  • For my beautiful and healthy baby daughter, my wonderful loving husband, and my warm caring family and friends. I’m so grateful for everyone in my life, and I can’t even imagine what life would be like without them.
  • That Lily is an easy baby who sleeps in her crib at night and generally only cries to communicate some easy-to-guess thing that she wants. (Usually food.) I really feel like I have no business getting this much sleep as a new parent.
  • That we have a roof over our heads — and not just any roof, but a home of our own in a wonderful neighborhood that should provide a stable and wholesome environment to raise our daughter.
  • That we have some degree of financial security at a time when millions are unemployed and the economy is in the pits. (And that we aren’t going to be forced into bankruptcy by our obscenely over-inflated medical bills.)

Not to mention all the other things I tend to take for granted — heat, electricity, clean running water, plenty of food to eat. The modern medicine that helped deliver our daughter healthy, safely, and virtually pain-free thanks to whoever invented epidurals. The internet access that’s allowing me to post this message now, and for it to be potentially read by people all over the world.

In conclusion, I have so many reasons to be feeling thankful today. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

The Health Care Costs of Having a Baby

Over the past few weeks since Lillian’s arrival, the medical bills have been slowly trickling in, chock full of fees from the hospital, doctors, specialists, and labs. How much does it actually cost to give birth in the United States these days?

To answer that question, I thought it would be interesting to tally up the costs of everything from my prenatal care to Lillian’s pediatrician visits. Be warned that this post will contain some large numbers. In fact, if you’re pregnant right now, or thinking of becoming pregnant, you might want to stop reading this so as to avoid a heart attack. Just a fair warning.

Okay. Anyway. For your entertainment and horror, here are the totals:

Prenatal Care Appointments $10,717.79
Hospital (Me) $24,017.40
Hospital (Lillian) $3,271.75
Lillian’s Pediatrician Appointments (so far) $743.00
Total Medical Bills $38,749.94

So yeah… Almost forty thousand dollars worth of medical bills. And keep in mind that this wasn’t even a high-risk pregnancy or a caesarean delivery — Lillian’s birth was about the smoothest, complication-free thing that anyone could hope for. So it kind of makes my head spin to think about it. How can two days in the hospital be worth more than our car? How can anything cost this much?

Right now I’m just thanking our lucky stars that we have health insurance. After everything covered by our BlueCross BlueShield PPO — which seems to be about the closest thing to a gold-plated Cadillac that a working-class American can hope to get in the health care department — we’re on the hook for only $1,381.26 of that bankruptcy-incuding total.

(It feels weird to say that. Only $1,381.26. As if we’re billionaires or won the lottery or something. But according to this article, even with an “uninsured patient” discount, you could easily expect to pay ten times that without health insurance. So from that perspective, we really dodged a bullet.)

Anyway, I assume this sort of thing will vary from state to state and hospital to hospital, but there you have it. One random blogger’s health care costs for having a baby in 2011.

I’d be curious to hear from anyone else who’s had experience with the maternity ward, or with hospital / medical bills in general. Don’t the charges just seem unbelievably, outrageously, preposterously high? I have some opinions on the current state of our health care system, but I probably shouldn’t even get started on that…

Money image from here.

Deciding on Lillian’s Photo Project

Back in October, I wrote a blog post looking at some baby photo project ideas — that is, ideas for making a series of photographs taken at some regular interval to document a baby’s growth over the first year or so of their life. There were lots of fun ideas in that post, ranging from colorful fabric backdrops to photographing the baby with furniture, toys, and other props.

Being the obsessive shutterbug that I am, I really wanted to do some kind of photo project like that for Lillian — something cute and fun for her baby scrapbook that we could all look back on down the road. But what kind of project, exactly? That part was a bit harder.

From looking at those examples of projects others have done, I was able to decide that the photos needed to include something other than just the baby, something to help establish a sense of scale and illustrate how they’ve grown from one image to the next. So I had the vague idea of photographing Lillian with a toy or something that could be included in each photo. All that remained was to decide what specifically to use.

Idea #1 was to use the rocking lion — it seemed like the perfect thing since it kind of inspired her nursery mural and all. Unfortunately, since she’s too young to actually sit on it or interact with it in any way, I struggled a bit with how to arrange the photo. The best shot I was able to come up with was this:

Potential photo project #1: the rocking lion.

I’m sure the rocking lion will make for some really cute photos once she’s older, but at this age, when all she can really do is lie next to this big stiff wooden thing looking confused, it didn’t quite seem like the best prop to use.

So idea #2 was to use this zebra pillow pet we picked up. It seemed to fit in with the general “safari animals” theme we had going, and yet it was cuddlier than the rocking lion. This was the resulting photo:

Potential photo project #2: the zebra pillow pet.

Definitely an improvement, I think (who can resist a sleeping Lillian?) but it still seemed to be missing something. Ignoring the poor lighting and white balance (I shot it after dark using only artificial light), and the general drab colorlessness of it (I shot it on our beige wallowing couch for some reason), the zebra pillow pet ended up looking more shaggy and shapeless than I’d imagined it would.

So finally, I had the idea to try photographing her lying on a colorful quilt made by her great-grandmama, cuddled with a small white plush bunny for scale. Here was the result:

Potential photo project #3: quilt and bunny.

This one was by far my favorite of the three — it’s cute, colorful, meaningful, and it should be easy to see how much bigger she’s getting in relation to the stuffed animal. It even kind of fits in with her animal nursery theme, albeit in a more cartoonish easter-bunny kind of way. All in all it seemed like the perfect start for an ongoing photo project.

My only regret is at being a little late getting going with it, though I’m not sure it makes too much difference to start this project at three weeks rather than one week. (As of her last doctor’s appointment she’d gained about a half pound since birth, which doesn’t translate into that much visible growth just yet — she still fits into her smallest newborn-size clothes and everything.)

Anyway, I’ll probably try to take a new photo every month or so, since that seems like about the right interval based on those examples I looked at. And since Lillian’s received a lot of baby blankets and quilts as gifts, we can probably even use a different background for each photo, which should make for plenty of color and variety in the series.

As crazy as it may sound, I’m already looking forward to taking the next one. So, be sure to check back in a month or so to see how much Lillian’s grown in relation to the stuffed bunny!