The Best 365 Days of My Life

Cory, Caloway & Lindsey On Jan. 29, 2013, Lindsey and I had the privilege of welcoming our first child into the world — Caloway Jesse Miller. And today that little boy turns one. To mark this occasion, I wanted to write about the last 365 days and what they’ve meant to me as a parent, a father, a husband, a son.

Because I’ll probably be crying through most of this, I’m just going to share my experiences being a parent to this magnificent boy in bullet point / random fire.

So here goes:

  • The Absolute Best Days of My Life -- Each and every day we’ve had Caloway in our lives has been a miracle. Every second, every minute, every hour, every day is a gift to me. Although there has been a lack of sleep, some hard times, I count every day as a blessing. There was a time in my life I conceded that the door to having kiddos had closed permanently and thought I’d never have the opportunity. Only when I met Lindsey and found a lover and lifetime partner did I see any hope of ever having a child. So each day, I’ve sought to hold him tight and kiss his cheeks because he’s my little miracle and the best gift anyone could ever give me. I often look over at Lindsey as he’s plowing through our house or banging something or just looks over at us and smiles and just say, “Thank you for the best gift in the universe.” Everything I had to do or went through to get here … was worth it 100,000 times over again. Priceless.
  • The most joy I’ve ever experienced – Along with that, having a child has been everything my father and others billed it to me as — The most joy I’ve ever felt. Seeing your baby smile at you for the first time, or giggle, or roll over, then crawl, then stand up are precious moments I’ll forever savor. When I pick him up and he snuggles his little head into my chest at night or when he rambles ‘da-da-da-da-da-da,” he is joy incarnate.
  • The most pain I’ve ever experienced – When your baby hurts, you are tortured. I’ve never felt so helpless when seeing my child hurt or feel so much pain in my life as when we saw him taken away from us, for his hip surgery. So many times, we’ve said we’d take his pain for him, gladly, just to not see him hurt. I’ve realized and experienced the unconditional love of a parent. I would eagerly give my life for him. Every day. And if I had my way he would experience as little pain in this world as possible. (See our post on We Signed Up For This.)
  • He has THE best mother ever – I knew Lindsey was my perfect mate and life partner. I knew and felt her immense love before Callie came into our lives. But 365 days ago, her Mama Bear awoke in her. And her entire being, her eyes, her smile, her actions radiate this mama love like none other. And I feel all the warm reverb of it all. When she holds her child and gazes at him adoringly, I feel loved too by extension. When she sacrifices her own comfort for his, I feel the radiance of that love and sacrifice and commitment. No one else could come close to loving this child as she does. I believe mothers are superheroes. Her energy, focus, protection, love and care for him is superhuman. I don’t know how she does it. He has the best mother ever. She is our rock, our north star, our mama bear. His eyes light up when he sees her in the morning and he literally jumps with joy. (And me too seeing how she loves our child.) There is no one like our little Mama Bear. (By the way, this boy is a REAL mama’s boy!)
  • Slowing down and savoring each moment – I have a tendency to live in the future. To rush through and not savor what’s here right in front of me. Lindsey helped me slow down and to see each moment for what it is — something we’ll never have again with him. I told her early on I might not like this stage where he can’t talk to me, or go to the Lego store or play catch. But I was so so wrong. It’s a very tough time with lack of sleep some nights (and I’m just the part-time caregiver for him) but I want to burn each moment into my memory to play over for a lifetime. So I typically pick him up in the morning and feed him breakfast. And at night, I do his baths. Those have been such special times for me as I just stare in awe of this amazing little creature. In the mornings, we typically open the curtains, look out into the morning light and I whisper in his ear how much I love him, how I’ll always be with him (as he carries me into the world) and how he’s going to be a great man. I want him to hear my voice saying I love you over and over and over again. Believing in him and believing great things for him. These moments are priceless.
  • One Smile Heals My Soul – His smiles melt me. They put my world back into rotation (or stop it). I live for those smiles. All my problems or worries just fade away in an instant. I can be intently focused on something then see that smile and forget it in an instance.
  • You can run over me, but I’ll bulldoze you for my child – You can call me names, misplace my order and generally just push me around … but no one messes with my baby. I’ve always enjoyed being a nice guy. I like being liked by others. I like being pleasant and courteous and enjoyable to be around. But I am the force field of my child. I always start with charm. We tell them it’s FTP — “first-time parents” syndrome. And I smile and point to my adorable son. And that has typically worked 99% of the time (unless you encounter a heartless jerk who doesn’t realize he was an infant who cried and pooped too once).  But I’ve realized I can also summon the Daddy Hulk to protect and ensure my child gets everything he deserves and more. In the hospital, I had this surreal realization when I could completely step outside of myself and my norms and be whatever was necessary to ensure he was well taken care of. I think Lindsey laughs a little at it inside, but also cherishes it and lets me do my daddy thing. I memorized all the names of his surgery team and knew their exact jobs. I quizzed them, restated things they told me for clarification (and testing) and ask a million more clarifying questions. Then I looked them all directly in the eye and made them promise they’d take care of him like their own. (Yeah, that’s call the Daddy Emotional Baseball Bat.) And when they didn’t call when they said they would, I went looking for them. No one messes with baby. If they do, they have a Daddy to deal with. And trust me, they’d rather deal with me, than an angry Mama Bear. :)
  • He is MY teacher – I thought I would be the teacher, but he has taught me more. When he was in his cast, everyone felt so sorry for him and cried like we did. They ached for him. All the while, our little boy just smiled and laughed. He knew no difference. He only knew love and happiness and joy, even while trapped in an itchy cast from his chest to his ankles. This is when I realized he was MY teacher. I could have a bad day, get bent out of shape over something most likely very trivial and see him in that cast smiling and realize I was so dumb and naive and shallow. I was squandering my time and happiness on things that really didn’t matter. He’s taught me problems aren’t really problems, they are merely obstacles to blow through. He’s taught me about resilience, about obstacles and challenges, like none other. When he flipped over for the first time in his brace like an Olympic gymnast, I was soberly reminded there was nothing too big in life. And this is just the first 365 days. I’m looking forward to a lifetime and being taught by him.
  • Learning is Failure. Failure is Learning. – One thing in particular he’s taught me is about learning and failing and trying. Seeing how he learns to do things is awe-inspiring. Watching him figure out clapping, or crawling, or standing and soon, walking, is so incredible. It’s continuous failure, continous learning. Each time he falls, he learns something new. He adds that to his experience vault and tries it again or adds something new to the vault. It’s so fascinating to me. Somehow we forget how we are supposed to learn. Sure, he gets upset when he can’t do something or falls down. But he’s relentless in getting right back up and trying again. Testing, experimenting, learning. He drops things and looks over the edge. (And of course expects us to pick it up.) He sees me pick up the TV remote and instantly looks at the TV. When we read to him he looks intently then sometimes back at us. Or just yesterday touched the book to feel the animals. I see this little sponge just taking it all in. It’s just reinforced and reminded me how we all learn … Try, fail, learn. Try, fail, learn. Try, fail, learn.
  • Lindsey and I prioritize our marriage and relationship – Before we had Caloway, we promised ourselves we’d prioritize our relationship. We knew we’d have less time, energy and focus on each other and sought to put things in place to ensure we keep our love and relationship in tact. One of the key things was getting a babysitter/nanny and the other was spending time together, alone. So what we’ve done is travel extensively (with and without him), we take monthly getaways (like to Dallas a couple weekends ago) and bigger trips (like to Europe in a couple of weeks), and then each week we try to have a date night. I will say, I feel strongly about it, but Lindsey has led the way with all of this and I’m so thankful for it. We’ve said and believe that we want to have a lasting and loving relationship for us AND for him. We want to show him an authentic example of two imperfect people who simply love and care for each other. Who give preference and priority to each other. Who sacrifice for each other. Who have their unique faults and strengths. Yet are deeply committed to each other. And of course we realize at some point, he’s going to move out and start his own journey in life, without us. (Insert tears and weeping here)
  • Poop – I’ll change the tune a minute and just say POOP. There is a lot of it. Had no idea how much but all the stories were true and not exaggerated in the least. I could go on …. but I’ll spare you.
  • Understanding my parents and grandparents better – After 37 years, my grandfather still kisses me on the cheek. Now I understand why. I love those little Caloway cheeks and can’t help but kiss them. (And people tell me he’s my little mini-me.) I also understand a mother’s love and a father’s love so much better now. Moms give so much (in particular of their bodies God bless them, but their energy and time and hearts and souls). They dream and want so much for their children. I have a better understanding of a mama’s love for her children. It’s very very special and unique. And sharing these times with my parents and grandparents has been so amazing and special in its own right. Seeing my mother and my father hold my child for the first time makes my heart well up in pride and love every time I think of it. And of course I get a father’s love now. (Reference this entire post for my thoughts on that.)
  • My Daddy Bucket List – I started a different version of the Bucket List when Cal was born — one with all of the things I want to do and experience with him — like seeing the Northern Lights or watching Spaceballs to see if he laughs like I do. I don’t ever want to force him to do things he doesn’t want to do or enjoy doing. But I want to introduce him to things to see if he likes them or not. I want him to be open to trying new things at least once (the positive kind of stuff of course). I told Lindsey my greatest joy is thinking about his first reactions and hearing his thoughts about them, like watching a hockey game (I’m not a hockey fan really but want to know his opinions about it), voting in an election, or seeing a falling star.
  • BBFs or Best Buddies Forever – That’s one of my new supreme goals and chief aims in life. I just want to be his buddy. If he’ll let me, I’ll learn and enjoy whatever hobby or sport or passion he loves. Promise. My brothers tease me about teaching him to hunt because they are avid hunters. I never got into hunting. My only enjoyment when hunting was spending time with them and my father. But if Cal decides he loves hunting, you better believe I’ll learn to enjoy it … I’d wake up before the sun comes up and freezes my tush off in a stand alongside him if that’s what he wants … all because I just want to spend moments and have experiences with him. I’ll carry the equipment. I’ll be his biggest fan. Cal, I promise to be the least obnoxious hunter I can be if that’s what you choose. And just love and support you even if your uncles brainwash you, buddy. #pals
  • What We Want To Impart To Him – We talk a lot about his education and what we want to give and impart to him so he has the best chance to live a long, healthy, joyful life fulfilling all of his big dreams and goals. We’re still formulating the formal education plan. But our goal is to help him embrace and tackle challenges boldly on his own, be a creative problem solver, start and maintain healthy relationships and define and achieve success for himself.
  • Finally, I added a new item to my Bucket List – I want grandchildren. Sorry, Cal. Pressure is on. Welcome to the party, buddy.

Those are just some of the things overflowing in my heart as I reflect on the miracle named Caloway …

To him, my buddy, I say, thank you for the best 365 days of my life. Here’s to many many more joyful days together.

With love, your adoring goofy father, Cory

He Thinks His Name is Love

Caloway hears “I love you” a lot. So often in fact that started at about 3 and 1/2 months old he would smile every time he heard “I love you”. The more and more Cory and I noticed this we decided.

He thinks his name is LOVE!

I am not kidding. We would just say Love and he would turn and smile. It was the cutest thing in the world. Now that he is older he is responding to Caloway, but for several months his name was love.

 

 

Update on Caloway’s Hips

Caloway was born January 29th and on January 30th was put in a Pavlik Harness for hip dysplasia. When that failed we moved to two different abduction braces which both failed. Then in May he had surgery and was in a spica body cast until September. After surgery he was put in the rhino cruiser.

Now we are finally ready for the next steps.

Tomorrow is our big appointment. We will see where his hips are and how well they have healed. We could be walking out of OU Children’s Center tomorrow without any brace.

9 1/2 months. 9 1/2 long months…and we are almost done.

So, wish us luck because tomorrow all I want to hear is good news!

Why Bath Time Is So Special

When Caloway was first diagnosed with hip dysplasia one thing I read repeatedly on support forums was “I don’t get to bathe my baby anymore” and similar feelings. I thought it was so silly. Bathing is the biggest worry these other parents have??? I even told Cory about this. That so many others concern was with bath time. We didn’t get to give Caloway a bath until he was 3 months old. For us there were bigger concerns than soap. We would sponge bathe him and use wipies and it was fine with us. I found others whining about baths frivolous.

As I was giving Caloway his night time bath last night I had a realization. Every night for 10 or 15 minutes Caloway gets to be a “normal” baby. No cast, brace or worries. He gets to kick and play. He gets to let his skin touch nothing but water and air. He isn’t stifled by anything and gets to just be a baby.

Not only that, but I get to have that experience too. For 10 minutes every night I get to touch my baby’s skin. I get to see him try to sit up–something he can’t do during the day. I get to feel free too. No braces or casts to worry about. No making sure I am holding him so he is comfortable. Sometimes I just sit beside him and help him splash and give him duckies that he throws out.

For those 10 minutes Cory, Caloway and I get to play and not worry. So now I owe all those other parents an apology for judging them. Now I get it. I don’t want to go back and take away these times. It isn’t about being clean and using soap. It is about the freedom we all get to have during bath time, even if it is just 10 minutes a day. I will take it.

 

Caloway after one of his baths

Caloway after one of his baths

New Mexico

Cory and I have been dreaming of spending summers in New Mexico since we met. We have talked about on end and finally this year we made that dream come true. After Caloway’s surgery we headed for New Mexico. We have been here almost a week and are already loving our decision. Red River has some amazing events happening in their community and we are looking forward to participating. We have been in Mora and Elizabethtown and will be dividing our time there. We are staying until we go back to Oklahoma City in July for Cal’s cast change and then we will be making our way back.

Here are some of my favorite pictures of our trip so far:

 

San Diego

Ok, so you have probably seen the video by now of Caloway’s beach adventure. If you haven’t, you should. It is hilarious and a memory I won’t soon forget. But what we haven’t done is effectively told the story of our fantastic time in San Diego.

We were there to see doctors for Caloway, but really it was a great excuse to see our wonderful friends (really more like family) Dan and Becky. They were so kind and opened their home to us for almost a full week and gave us one of their cars to drive too! When I say they are more like family I mean it. Dan and Becky both volunteer at the Cabrillo National Monument which is a gorgeous place. At the lighthouse is where Dan proposed and remains their favorite place on earth.

We also accomplished Caloway’s first successful beach trip. We had Dan and Becky’s help, but Cal got to touch the sand and the ocean. He was a little confused, but he wasn’t angry with us.

 

Truitt Comes For A Visit

Recently I had the opportunity to watch my good friends son, Truitt for about an hour. This means I had Caloway and Truitt (he was 8 months old) at the same time. I am sure all you baby experts out there do not think this is a big deal, but for me it was huge. Jill had about an hour that she needed someone to watch Truitt before Jesse could pick him up. So I gladly volunteered. Truitt is an awesome kid and I was looking forward to getting to play with him.

Luckily, Caloway fell asleep just before Jill left. Not even luckily, it was a miracle. Then I was able to just focus on Truitt and let Cal sleep. We had a lot of fun. We played pick up the DVD’s and pet the doggies. Caloway slept until about 15 minutes before Jesse was picking him up and the boys got to play together. Truitt is a few months older than Cal and better at grabbing things and really wanted to interact. Caloway, however, was still in the looking around stage. It was because of this difference that I got these gems.

IMG_2904 IMG_2905 IMG_2906

This last one was right before Cal started screaming and wanted in my lap. Then Truitt felt left out so he got in my lap too. Jesse and Cory got to the house at the same time and that is how they found us. Me cross legged on the floor a boy on each side. And all of us happy! We had a really great time and considering Caloway and Trutt are going to be best friends for life a wonderful story to tell them.

Here are some more pictures of the incredibly cute Truitt during our afternoon play time.

5 Things I Have Learned About Hip Dysplasia

June is Hip Dysplasia Awareness month and in honor of this I am going to share 5 things I have learned through this process.

  1. Pediatricians check all babies for signs of “hip clicks” when they are born. This is a preliminary test for hip dysplasia.
  2. If you know someone who has arthritis in their hips, they were probably born with hip dysplasia.
  3. Most babies with hip dysplasia do not need interventions such as braces or surgery as it can correct itself.
  4. Over 90% of cases are corrected using the Pavlik Harness. (We tried this with Cal for 2 separate time periods)
  5. Even if your child needs surgery to correct hip dysplasia it is a blip on the radar. A blip that is difficult, but one that won’t need to be repeated for your child’s lifetime.

Hip Dysplasia Awareness Month

 

Hip Dysplasia Surgery

There are a few reasons why I want to write this post. One is selfish and is just for therapeutic reasons. Secondly, I know there are other parents going through the same thing as us right now or will be in the future and maybe some of them will find this and find some comfort. For me the unknown was and is the worst in dealing with hip dysplasia in Caloway. As we are continuing on this journey and the things I was concerned about ie: diaper issues, spica cast comfort, anestesia etc are figured out I am already starting to feel better.

It has been 2 weeks since Caloway’s bilateral hip surgery so now is a good time to tell you about the day.

Infants are allowed to have formula or in our case breastmilk closer to start time of surgery as opposed to midnight for older kids and adults. But still, four hours before start time is a long time for a 4 month old to go without eating. So, we planned ahead. He woke at his normal time around 6 am. We did our normal routine of nursing and back to bed. 8:15am was our stop time. We woke him up at 7:30am and started nursing again. We wanted to leave plenty of time to nurse, burp, spit-up, get hungry again to repeat a few times before we stopped. After it was time for him to stop nursing we changed his diaper and played for a few minutes. Then we loaded him up in the car. We knew he would sleep and potential stay asleep once we reached the hospital. For us that was the goal. Keep him asleep for as long as possible. When Caloway is awake he is hungry! It worked well. We drove and talked about everything other than where we were going to be in two hours and let Cal sleep. And he stayed asleep all the way until we went back into pre-op. He was in a pretty good mood, plus all of the distractions were helpful. All of the nurses and doctors were happy to talk to him and play with him. This helped a lot in keeping him away from milk.

I can’t speak for every hospital, but here is how it worked at OU Children’s. We pre-registered for his surgery 1 week in advance and spoke with a nurse (Fred) who answered all of our questions-that he could. This helped us not have to redo paperwork the morning of surgery. We arrived at 2 hours prior to surgery start time and waited in the waiting room for about 20 minutes before we went to pre-op. There we spoke with pre-op nurses, the child life specialist and the anesthesiologist. We had to go ahead and change Caloway into his hospital gown. What I liked best about the pre-op area is they let us walk around with him and there was even a game room. I am sure it is perfect for the older kids, but it was nice for us too. Cory and I didn’t want him screaming for 2 hours before he went into surgery, so we did everything we could to keep him happy. This did mean Cory did a lot of the holding because when I held him he would go straight to my breast wanting to nurse.

Once it was close to time for surgery we were moved to the next area which is much smaller and functions as the room just outside the surgical area. It was just curtained off into 5 “rooms”. We were only supposed to be in this area for a short time before they took him back, but one of our doctors had a surgery that went long and they put another case in front of us. We thought we were doomed because we had already gone 4 hours and it was another 2 1/2 before they took him back. BUT Caloway did great. All the playing in the pre-op area made him very tired. Plus the child life specialist brought us a soother and a mobile that he loved and that helped him stay asleep.

The nurse came up to us and said it was time for her to take him. I tried to lighten the mood a bit and said “you mean you want me to hand my baby to you?” We all laughed, but yes that is exactly what I had to do. He was asleep, Cory and I kissed him and told him we loved him and off they went. We heard him wake up and cry when they were down the hallway. It was tough. Watching them walk away and Cory and I standing there. This was the moment I dreaded more than anything else and it lived up to how awful I thought it would be. Cory and I embraced and cried for awhile. Once we composed ourselves we decided to go out with our family and friends. Now for the surprise, this was the hardest part. Cory and I walking away from that little curtained room. I had imagined Caloway going away from us, I NEVER thought that we would have to walk away from him. So after Cory held me for a long time we finally made our way to the waiting room.

We were very lucky to be greeted by our loved ones. CJ, my parents, Cory’s mom, my grandma, nanny and papa and Uncle Scott and Aunt Melissa. It was nice having them all there. Now was the wait for the hour (or more) for the surgery to be over. We wouldn’t know until the put the dye into his hips if he would need open or closed reduction. We were hoping for closed. This would be a shorter surgery and faster recovery. We waited what seemed like forever and finally got a call in the waiting room. They told us he would in fact have open reduction. It was tough getting that news, but we had confidence in our doctors and knew they would make the right choice. They had reserved 3 hours at most for his surgery and he was back there almost 4. They did call with updates which Cory took and was very good about asking when the next one would be. For example: “You are going to call in an hour? So I will hear from you by 3:25?” It was funny but awesome all at the same time. They called to find out what color cast we wanted and we looked at each other like it was a joke. We just wanted him out of there! So we just said plain. Just a side note, that should probably be asked before you take a child into the operating room. Parents are on that phone for updates not cosmetic decisions. One thing I will say to all the breastfeeding mommies out there who may go through this is pump while your little one is in surgery. I did and I was so glad I had a supply built up. He didn’t want to nurse that night and it was easier to try and give him bottles.

Finally, they called to say they were done and the doctor would be out to see us. Dr. Puffinbarger along with Dr. Herndon performed the surgery. Dr. Puffinbarger came out to talk to us. He found a waiting room full of only our family and friends and I am sure it was a little surprising. But he let us know that everything went perfectly. He answered all of our questions and explained it all in detail. He told us we could go back and see him soon.

I was standing by the phone the next time it rang. I said hello and before the nurse could say our names I could hear Caloway in the background and said so. She said I must be his mom and we could come back. Cory and I grabbed our things and literally ran all the way to the recovery area. I was prepared to see the IV, but I wasn’t prepared to see him so swollen. His cry didn’t sound right because his throat was so dry. It took all of our energy to keep it together. We promised ourselves he wouldn’t see us upset. He is very emotionally intelligent and we wanted to make sure we kept smiling. Cory picked him up and laid him in my lap. I thought he would nurse right away, but he just wanted to be near and went back to sleep. He was very groggy from all the medications. We stayed in the recovery area just long enough for the nurse to finish the paperwork and then they took us to his room for the night. Cory held Caloway’s hand the entire way up. It was very very special and seemed to soothe Cal.

Once we got to his room Caloway slept and didn’t stir. We all crowded around him, but tried not to disturb him because we knew he would hurt when he woke up. I kept pumping and saving my milk for later. I was told by Caloway’s nanny who is also a lactation consultant and RN that stress can really reduce supply. So pumping is good for several reasons. When he finally woke up breastfeeding was hard for us so bottles really came in handy. He didn’t have to get into any other positions and could still get the nutrition he needed.

That night in the hospital was rough for Caloway. He was confused and uncomfortable. I was very glad that Cory and I were there. Several things happened with the nursing staff and Caloway needed us as advocates. Eventually for his own comfort I climbed in bed with him and laid him on my chest. It seems like it wouldn’t be conducive with the spica cast, but it was a perfect position. He slept over 3 hours like that…the longest time of the night. We left first thing the next morning. So all in all we were at the hospital for 24 hours.

 

We Signed Up For This

Cory and I have stayed up late every night this week. Both of us nervous talking in anticipation of today. The day Caloway has his procedure on his hips. I feel like I have talked about it and then talked about it some more.

Cory said something Wednesday night though that I am clinging to: We signed up for this

And we did. We decided last January to try to start our family. In June we found out we were pregnant. We knew what it meant to have a child. We knew we might not get pregnant right away and could try for years. We knew we could potentially suffer along the way during pregnancy. We knew that delivering a baby could be difficult. We knew that once that baby arrived it may not be as picturesque as our dreams (think sleep deprivation). One day he may hate us, marry someone we don’t like, fail history and hate computers. That is what we signed up for.

We signed up to have a baby and to grow our family. We want it all. The ups and the downs. Today may be a down right now, but I feel like it will turn into an up. Cory and I will find out we are stronger than we thought. That we can handle anything that comes our way, together. We will find out that Caloway is brave and strong.In all seriousness we are also making this decision so that Caloway doesn’t have problems later in life when hip dysplasia is much harder to fix than it is now. That is also what we signed up for. To do better than our best raising him and try to make the best decisions we can.

I told Cory when we were dating that downs are good because they help us define what “good” is. So with all of that being said we are getting Caloway up soon to take him to the hospital. And today will be a day to help us define all of the good that we have had and will have with our son. It is also another day in the life that we wanted that we dreamed of no matter the ups and downs. Because we signed up for this.