Tag Archives: Bonnie

Second-Shift Parenting

Your mom’s favorite joke right now is how enamored I am with the chair the nurse brought me, the one that converted into a bed. Apparently, it’s all I can talk about when people ask about your birth. But really what can I say? If I say the birth was easy, the person I’m talking to would say, “Maybe for you!” If I say it was difficult, they’d add, “Oh yeah?  You did a lot of the pushing then?” No, they probably wouldn’t say any of this, but these are the sort of low-hanging-fruit jokes I would make. So I limit my commentary to the chair the nurse brought me. Have I already mentioned that it converted into a bed?

After you were born, I started getting to chip in with the whole raising you business. Your mom went through twenty-two hours of unmedicated contractions, then seven hours of Pitocin, and then finally an hour of pushing. She carried you, our most precious cargo, for nine months—through nausea and sleepless nights and a rash that covered the majority of her body—before pushing you miraculously into the world, but I supervised your first bath, so really we’re even. Actually, I just sort of stood there while the nurse sponged you off and shot more instructions at me than I could ever possibly remember.

It’s hard being a dad. I feel so late to the game. Your mom has been raising you for nine months; I’ve been at it for nine minutes. And even now I’m left out of a lot. Because I have to work and, you know, can’t feed you, I miss all that night parenting everyone raves about.

Okay, so maybe that’s not so bad, but I also miss all the day stuff too. I’m a second-shift parent, which is just as expendable as it sounds. Really, I’m an assistant second-shift parent, assistant to the parent, in charge of all those “can’t screw it up” tasks like taking your temperature or changing your diaper. Wishing I could do more. And yet I love you with a force that keeps me working more at work so that I can play, guilt-free, at home. And it is an all together new love. It is the sort of love that comes with new set of instructions for living. And a new definition of what it is to live—and to love.

For instance, I’ve always taken for granted that agape, “The Love of God,” was a mystery of the faith that I’d never comprehend. Or worse, I have taken it to mean only the love I feel towards God. But then this morning your mom handed me you, because it was my shift. I held you in my arms while you cried until we both fell back to sleep. And in that short hour nap as the sun rose, I dreamt terrible things: Committing accidental crimes and being imprisoned for them. During the day I visited the cells of my fellows, converting their hearts as best I could and trying to remain hopeful and useful. Then, as so often follows the day, even in dreams, the night came and I remembered you at home, crying in your mother’s arms, and at this I let out a wail, not a mature crying spell but an infant’s bellow—so absolute was my sorrow.

When I woke up to find you in my arms, still fast asleep, it was not the relief of an innocent man set free by the morning, as I have felt many times before. No, it was the relief of the shepherd, the woman who had lost her coin, the father whose son had returned—as if from the dead. And I started to see then, if only briefly and imperfectly, what “The Love of God” really means, because the worst part of my dream wasn’t being in dream prison. No, the worst part was not being there to rock you back to sleep when you cried.

Bonnie’s First Vacation

Phew! Life with Bonnie is great, but busy! Did anyone warn me about that? I’ve had a gigantic draft post started since her first week of life, but somehow I never get around to finishing it. Baby maintenance is a full-time gig.  I think I heard or read about that somewhere…

Love bum.
Love bum.

Anywho, last week we took Bonnie on her first big road trip for our annual family vacation to Colorado. I was a teensy bit nervous and stressed about the long car trip, sleeping in the pack and play, altitude sickness, and trying to remember to pack all of her essentials + mine + Steven’s.  Aunt Abby came over on Friday to help me pack and clean the house so we were able to leave right on time Friday evening.  This was my first time nursing in the car, and changing Bonnie in a McDonald’s bathroom, but everything went well.  It’s still astonishing to me how much attention Bonnie generates in public. We get stopped everywhere. At the Burger King on the way home, a whole group of elderly ladies coming back from a bible study swarmed the car when they saw Steven with Bonnie and asked if she needed any additional grandparents. At the King Sooper’s in Pueblo, every single person who passed us stopped to ooh and ahh and ask how old she was.  In a culture that sometimes feels like it’s filled with baby-haters, it’s comforting to see complete strangers light up when we walk by.

Aunt Abby, Jimmy and Cheesy.
Aunt Abby, Jimmy and Cheesy.

Bonnie was an excellent traveler and handled it all like a champ.  We waited a little too long to feed her on the way to Garden City, so had to make a pit stop in Hanston to soothe the savage beast.  Then, on the way home, I woke her up to try and avoid the screaming in the middle of the Interstate and thoroughly confused her, so she screamed for a few miles before we could pull over and I could soothe her.  Other than that, she was perfectly happy and didn’t seem bothered at all about the 20 some hours (all together) in the car seat.  Steven suffers from terrible altitude sickness, so we were on high alert for any symptoms of that, but she slept right on through it.

Sweet Anna Bear
Sweet Anna Bear

We stopped in Garden City on the way down to pick up Dad and break up the trip.  It was the first night in the pack and play, and I was curious to see how she’d like it.  The new bassinet feature is super handy, so she was right at the level of the bed for easy binky maintenance.  We were worried about her being too hot, so we let her flail about without her sleep sack for most of the night before we gave in and swaddled her and voila – she slept soundly. Unluckily, her stubborn parents didn’t give in to the swaddle until 6 in the morning, so it was a long night for everyone before then.  Somehow she didn’t wake up Dad or Abby with her steady screaming, but Steven and I were a bit frazzled by the morning.  She slept beautifully the rest of the week at the cabin, and didn’t seem to mind the new bed one bit.  I actually think she’s having more trouble adjusting back to the bassinet now, since she had so much more room to stretch out in the pack and play. Ah well.  Better for her to learn about life’s constant adjustments now, right?

Katie Bug, in her favorite Wild shirt and strawberry pants. Style icon, first and always.
Katie Bug, in her favorite Wild shirt and strawberry pants. Style icon, first and always.

The cabin is one of my favorite places in the entire world, and we have been spending a week there every year since I was 6 years old.  When we first started going to the cabin there were just 4 of us – Mom, Dad, Susan and Betsy.  This year, with the addition of Bonnie and Teddy we are up to 11 occupants. We are incredibly blessed and more than a little crowded.  Betsy and Matthew have already started scoping out neighboring cabins that Steven can buy when he writes his first bestseller.  Unless I beat him to it.  The race is on!

The hike crew!
The hike crew!
The hike crew again, minus Steven, but with photo proof of Jimmy stealing Teddy's bub.  Perfection.
The hike crew again, minus Steven, but with photo proof of Jimmy stealing Teddy’s bub. Perfection.

With 5 kids under 10, several hikes a day were needed to keep the peace.  We were so excited to use the carrier for the first time and Bonnie loved being carried around by her parents. When we started packing up the cabin on Sunday, Bonnie must have sensed that we were ignoring her and trying to get things done, because she was fussier than normal. Steven put her in the carrier and she went around with him all morning, washing dishes, vacuuming, shaking out rugs, etc. and had a great time. It’s so nice to know that if we need to get something done around the house, we can always put her in the carrier and she’ll be content to go right along with us.

Mama with the carrier.
Mama with the carrier.
Daddy and Bonnie
Daddy and Bonnie

The week at the cabin was lovely.  Betsy and the kiddos got to stay for the full week for the first time – ever?  Maybe ever.  Matthew got to come up at the end of the week too and we all had a great time hiking, reading, eating, playing, taking lots and lots of pictures, and giggling.  I’m so grateful that we’ve been able to go to the cabin every year, even as we get older and get jobs and our schedules get more and more complex. Everyone in the family has held that week sacred, and every year I’m amazed and thankful for the opportunity to spend so much time together.

Pine cone baseball!
Pine cone baseball!
Kiddos at the stream.
Kiddos at the stream.
Cooking hot dogs at Fire Rock, just like Mama taught us.
Cooking hot dogs at Fire Rock, just like Mama taught us.
Teddy chowing down on some stream snacks.
Teddy chowing down on some stream snacks.
Hiking with Aunt Abby.
Hiking with Aunt Abby.
Sisters at the stream.
Stream sisters.
Adding Bonnie to the Miller family tree.

As I was reading with Bonnie in the sky chair on the deck, I remembered how sad I was last summer, thinking about the baby that we lost in June 2014.  Betsy was pregnant with Grazie and I had been so excited to be pregnant with her.  I remember cautiously thinking about Cabin 2015, and wondering if maybe we would be bringing a baby of our own, or if it would be my turn to be pregnant at the cabin.  I don’t think I ever truly believed that it would happen so quickly, or that it would be beautiful Bonnie in my lap just one short year later.  So much of pregnancy and babies is about waiting and planning and schedules and worry.  Then one day you look up and realize that God has given you everything you wanted, and all that worrying was for nothing.  It was a beautiful reminder that His timing is perfect and that I am as impatient as ever.

Love at First Sight

Life ascends gradually—just like they always said. I stop counting on immediate transformations—the overnight best-seller, instant enlightenment—and instead focus on what I can do: Writing a little each day and making it to Mass on the weekend. I even give up meat on Fridays. Sort of. Gone are the days of the get rich quick schemes and learning Italian in a fortnight. At least for me. Life gets just a little bit better each day. Which is why, subconsciously, I think I had stopped believing in some of the good things too. Like miracles and apparitions. Like love at first sight.

I met you in a hospital, of all places. But isn’t that just how it is with love? She cares not for timing or circumstance—and why should she? Aren’t the best writings those that take you where you hadn’t planned to go? No, love does not wait, she just appears—ta da!—and reduces you to rubble. “I used to be such a solid, upright person,” you think to yourself, but so you are no more. And that’s how it happened with you too. In the moment I first saw you the inner roads of my heart were given extra lanes to accommodate all that I received.

I took you in my arms, embraced you, kissed you, bathed you—how intimate an act for strangers!—and found you a purple hat from a box of crocheted hats. There was a wastebasket there in the nursery and so I emptied out my wallet. I emptied out all my plans and ambitions, anything that would take me away from the miracle of you, and I dumped them there with all the other love-drunk fathers.

As you lay there under the warming lamp, I whisper-sung to you, my sweet, my heart, my gorgeous daughter:

I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes…

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About the story: A few days ago, I was searching through Spotify to find songs for our Bonnie Mix. I was flipping through anything that had “girl” or “Bonnie” or “daughter” in the title, when I came across this song by Damien Rice called “The Blower’s Daughter.” This track was made popular—at least to me—by the movie Closer, which I saw either my freshman or sophomore year of college. I had always assumed it was a song about a love affair, but in the context of this search I saw it as a love song from a dad to his newborn daughter. It knocked me over. Now, eventually, I went on to learn that the inspiration for the song was not in fact Damien Rice having a baby. However, the sentiment remained. And if I’m holding my daughter and these lines pop into my head, I still sort of lose it.

Bonnie y daddy (hospital)