For the birth of our second son, we wanted to be sure we were fresh and not sleep deprived like we were when Kaveh was born. Pooneh’s doctor scheduled her C-section two full weeks before the due date and first thing in the morning. About a week before that, I was working an overnight on-call shift in the hospital, while Pooneh’s parents stayed with her and Kaveh for the night. Back in 2004, we hadn’t really used our primitive cell phones very much (texting wasn’t even invented yet), so we just paged each other when we wanted to talk. (Yes, old-fashioned pagers, and if you can believe it, we still use them at work.) Anyhow, Pooneh and I had a system when paging each other. Instead of typing in our whole phone number, we simply typed in a bunch of 5’s which just meant to call home. At about 1:30 in the morning I got a page to 5555, which ironically is the extension to our obstetrics department. I figured they were calling me for a consult, but when I called back, they said that nobody paged me. I didn’t think anything about it since we get paged a lot with nobody owning up to it. But seriously, even if I didn’t recognize the 5’s, you would think talking to the OB department might have tipped me off. Nope, fell right back asleep. A bit later I got a page with a bunch of numbers jumbled together that didn’t look like an extension at our hospital, so I figured it was another nonsense page we sometimes get with no way to dial it. Well, unbeknownst to me, this time it happened to be my father-in-law’s cell phone number. Then I got another page that woke me from a deep sleep with a different area code from my hospital (actually the area code that we live in), so I figured someone was paging the wrong number and promptly fell back to sleep again. We were still three weeks from the due date, so it never occurred to me that she might actually go into labor this early. Finally, I got a page from an ICU nurse, her voice stern and direct, “Dr. Wojtowich, your wife has been trying to page you, she’s about to deliver your baby at Lakeview Hospital!”
I jumped out of bed and cussed myself out for being so prodigiously stupid, handed off my pager to an obliging colleague, and raced thirty miles to the other hospital at over 100 mph. For the entire drive over there, I kept wondering to myself how in the hell I could be such an undeniable and extraordinary idiot. At the same time, I kept wondering why she is in labor so early. And why did it have to be at 3:00 in the morning again? No fair, we planned this!
Anyhow, I got to the hospital just in time to see the birth of our second beautiful boy, Kian.
I videotaped the birth, but accidentally filmed something inappropriate that Pooneh wasn’t fond of, so we never watched it with family or our kids once they grew up. His name comes from a mythological dynasty of Persian kings from The Shahnameh, the same epic poem that Kaveh’s name comes from. It is not the same evil king that Kaveh vanquished with his axe though—that wouldn’t be good. I like the name Kian because it is easy to pronounce and sounds cute, but it also conveys strength and elegance.
Kaveh was so adorable when he first met Kian. At two years old we thought he would be jealous and try to hurt him or distract our attention from him. On the way up the elevator, Kaveh kept asking to hold the little stuffed animal I bought for Kian at the gift store. I handed it over, realizing that I should have bought two of them. I figured he would never want to give it up, instead he walked up to Kian with a big smile and gave him his first little stuffed animal without anyone asking him to. We were all very impressed and applauded what a nice thing he had done.
I didn’t think he would want to stay in the hospital room all day with us because he might get bored or too loud, but when I took him back to the daycare, he started crying that he wanted to be with Baby Kian. He sounded so cute saying his name over and over too, “Baby Keeeeaaaaan.” After about five minutes of trying to console him along with his teacher, he remained adamant. I didn’t want him to think we were abandoning him for the new baby, so I gave in and brought him back to the hospital room where he behaved like a perfect happy little angel. During the ride home, Kaveh wouldn’t stop talking and singing to him from his car seat next to him. And there was no drama about a loose car seat. By this time, I was a veteran at installing them and made sure they were both properly secured.
A few weeks later when I had babysitting duties, Kian was sleeping in his crib and Kaveh was playing quietly in his room with his stuffed animals. I figured it was a good time to go to the bathroom. Like usual, it took a little longer than expected, and I became engrossed in some magazine article, enjoying the peace and quiet for a change. Pooneh came home from shopping and went to check on her sweet, new baby but didn’t see him in his crib. What she saw was about thirty stuffed animals piled up on top of him! Suddenly breaking the silence of my tranquility, I heard her call out from the other room, “Oh My God, what happened in here?!” I quickly finished up and came out to see Pooneh whipping stuffed animals across the room from his crowded crib. Apparently, Kaveh had decided that giving him one stuffed animal wasn’t enough, so he kept throwing more and more into his crib until you couldn’t even see poor Kian anymore. As a consequence of my inattentiveness, I wasn’t allowed to poop anymore during babysitting duties.
Kian had a completely different personality than Kaveh did as a baby. Kaveh rarely cried for anything; he just made a cute little gurgling or cooing sound when he wanted something. Kian, on the other hand, would cry when he was hungry, when he was sleepy, when his diaper needed to be changed, or seemingly for no reason at all. We figured he must have colic because he would cry almost every night, sometimes for a half hour straight. We had to hold him with his right side down when he cried because this was the only position that seemed to calm him down. We found out about a year later when he had to get a chest x-ray for some reason that he had what appeared to be a healed fracture of one of his ribs. They said it probably happened during birth. We felt so bad for the poor little guy.
Kaveh was very difficult to get to sleep; it was as if he just didn’t want to stop playing, but once asleep he tended to stay asleep. I couldn’t shake the conviction that the best way to put a baby to sleep was to stimulate him until he was worn out. I used to bring him back downstairs and put him in his play station where he bounced up and down over and over and beat his hands on the cute little animals spread out in a circular tray around him. I patiently let him get this out of his system for a half hour and then try to put him back in his crib again. As to why I didn’t just sit with him in his dark, quiet room until he got bored and sleepy, I cannot say; except that maybe I just got so mind-numbingly bored while waiting in that dark, quiet room for so long that I just became impatient to try something else. One time he woke up at 4:00 in the morning and wouldn’t go back to sleep which was unusual for him. I decided to take him for a walk in the stroller outside since that always worked during the day. It didn’t work of course. When he eventually did fall asleep an hour later, I was too wide awake to go back to sleep which made for an exhausting day at work.
For Kian, we decided to try a pacifier for him because we had friends that told us it should help to calm him down. One of those parenting books recommended to avoid the pacifier, so we never used one for Kaveh and we regretted it. Kian went to sleep pretty early and easily and we attributed this blessing to his pacifier. We also had another trick that we used. He liked to hold onto our finger until he fell asleep which we thought was really precious. But then this became a routine after a while, so every night one of us had to sit on the floor next to his crib with our arm up in the air so he could hold onto our finger. Sometimes it took him a while to fall asleep and if we took our finger back too early, he would wake up all over again, so we really had to be sure he was in a deep sleep. Meanwhile, our shoulders became sore and our arms became numb from holding it up for so long.
I give him credit for falling asleep much easier than Kaveh, but he woke up about every one to two hours, crying about absolutely nothing. This wasn’t just while he was an infant; it went on until he was over three years old, just not quite as frequent. If he had to go to the bathroom, he would cry out for Mommy to take him across the hall. He quit asking for me because I was too crabby waking up in the middle of the night.
I read in one of those parenting books that if you just let babies cry it out for thirty minutes, they eventually learn to put themselves back to sleep, and it should only take about three days. Pooneh didn’t want to try this because she read in a different book that the child feels abandoned if you don’t go and comfort them within a few minutes. I didn’t know who was interviewing these babies or how we could possibly know whose theory was right, but if this strategy would put an end to his interrupted sleeping patterns, I was all for it.
I decided to try this experiment on a night when Pooneh was on call. Sure enough, around midnight, he woke up crying again for no good reason. I made sure he didn’t need to be changed, provided some gentle reassurance, and went back to bed. About five minutes later, he started crying again. I checked the clock and it was 12:03. I never realized how long a half hour could be. I tried calling to him from my bed to let him know that I was nearby, but it didn’t do any good. I kept staring at the clock. By 12:20 I figured this was getting ridiculous but since I had only ten more minutes to complete my experiment, I let it ride. Finally, 12:33 arrived and I climbed out of bed to go to his room when he suddenly stopped. I couldn’t believe that it actually worked! I lied back down and to my sweet relief, he slept soundly for the rest of the night.
Pooneh couldn’t believe that I could actually lay in bed for that long with my poor baby crying out for me. Even colleagues and friends of mine that were mommies said they could never let their baby cry for that long. The dads, on the other hand, were all very enthusiastic about it and wanted to try it out themselves! Pooneh wouldn’t let me do it three nights in a row, so we never got to see if it would really work.
As Kaveh and Kian grew older, their personalities and their looks continued to diverge. Kaveh had straight hair and looked more like Pooneh with a pointed chin and angled jaw. Even as a toddler, Kaveh seemed to have a mature demeanor about him and had a good sense of awareness. Pooneh’s cousin joked that he looked like a “little person” instead of a kid. He loved to be outside and was constantly looking for something to climb and jump off.
Kian had a round face with huge droopy cheeks as a baby, and he eventually grew out an awesome curly head of hair. Everyone said he looked a little more like me than Kaveh did, although I can say I don’t have curly hair, a round face, or droopy cheeks. Whereas Kaveh had kind of a shy smile, Kian’s was big and bold, and he loved to laugh and show it off. He had a way of telling stories and saying things that made his brother laugh just as hard as he did. These caricatures really capture their personalities.
Kian was also more impulsive with getting into things, and he was never shy about expressing himself. He must have heard me call someone an idiot while I was driving or something because that became his favorite word for a while. Any time he got angry or even a little perturbed at someone, he called them an idiot. It sounded funny though because he was not even a year old yet, especially when he yelled it at me with full fury. My parents came to visit around this grumpy phase of his, and we warned them so they wouldn’t take it personal. The first morning after they arrived, my mom woke up early and made breakfast for the kids. As Kian slowly walked down the stairs, she noticed that he didn’t look too happy. She tried to brighten his mood, smiling cheerfully and saying “Good morning Sunshine! How are you today?” He just muttered quietly to himself, thinking she didn’t hear, but the word was clear: “Idiot.” She couldn’t stop laughing and said that was the cutest and funniest thing she ever heard!