In an early piece of correspondence about this parenthood thing, I mentioned an incident in the hospital that threatened to turn me into Freaky Dad. This heretofore unknown side of me emerged when I felt myself getting unaccountably agitated by fairly innocuous circumstances. An example: when I was staying home, on Dante duty from 10pm to 5am, I’d occasionally hear him gasp or clear his throat in his bassinet. Now, I know that it is not rational to rush up to his room and make sure he’s still breathing when this happens, and indeed, I stuck with the rational thing. What surprised me is what a struggle it was not to rush up there. Between the terrifyingly random prospect of SIDS and the fact that Dante really did have some issues with his breathing in his first few weeks of life, there’s a powerful enough fear to bring out the freakiness.
A friend of mine (and fellow parent) responded by saying, “You’re likely to see Freaky Dad again. It’s inevitable! You’ll have those moments and they’ll pass. Everyone does it. It’s the result of passionate engagement with your child and stress, a heady cocktail.” Boy, was she right. I find that FD most frequently emerges in response to worries about Dante’s breathing. Which leads me to my story.
This weekend, we went on our first “family trip” with Dante. Laura and I usually take a weekend jaunt to the mountains in mid-September to celebrate our wedding anniversary, so this weekend we headed up to Keystone, but with a baby in tow for the first time. For those of you who don’t know, Keystone is a ski resort in the Rockies, elevation about 9000 feet. It’s quite popular in the winter, but in the summer it’s relatively deserted (and relatively inexpensive too), albeit still beautiful. We generally stay in a “vacation rental”, a condo owned by somebody else but administered by a property management company to host tourists while the owners are away.
This trip was great fun, and Dante seemed to have a good time, too, being very cheerful almost the whole time he was awake. However, that was less time than usual — he slept a lot. This really didn’t faze us most of the time, but after Laura went to bed on Saturday night, I was waiting to feed the baby… and waiting, and waiting. He’d eaten at about 4:15pm, and gone to sleep around 6:00. Laura went to bed at 9:00, and Dante just kept sleeping. At 11:00 or so, I began to get unnerved. Dante’s been known to sleep (and go without food) for long stretches, but it’s always happened at night, not during the afternoon/evening. Come to think of it, he’d also slept a whole lot that morning. Was he being affected by the altitude?
As Freaky Dad surfaced, I began anxiously googling on “infants altitude” and such, using the condo’s wireless internet connection. I found a page that warned me to watch out for somnolence and bluish skin as signs of oxygen deprivation. So I dragged Dante’s little “sleep tray” (an adapted diaper changing pad) into the light, inspecting his skin for any sign of blue. It was pink. I sat there, quietly wigging out and trying to distract myself while also wondering where the nearest hospital was, until 12:30, when Dante woke on his own and rather contentedly asked to be fed. I fed him. He took the whole bottle. Then he went back to sleep, waking at about 5:00 as his usual animated self.
I now believe that Dante was completely fine at all points. He may have slept a bit more in response to the altitude, or perhaps in response to having gone on a long car ride, or perhaps just as part of his natural rhythm, which leads him to eat and sleep more and less depending on a host of unseen factors. The baby was fine, but I was a mess. Freaky Dad. Passionate engagement and stress. A heady cocktail indeed. (And perhaps a different sort of heady cocktail would make a fine solution next time…)