Catherine Margaret Hampton

My life changed forever at 7:57 AM on June 15. Bethany’s abdomen and uterus were sliced open, and Catherine Margaret Hampton made her grand entrance into this world. As Dr. Perkins held Catherine up over the sterile drape that blocked Bethany’s face from her exposed innards, I stared at my offspring and thought, “Wow! She looks normal”—a romantic thought, I know. Many people told me that even if my baby were really ugly, I wouldn’t even know it, and I’d think she was beautiful. While these people are sweet and idealistic, they are also wrong. I knew that if my baby came out looking odd and funny, I would love her like crazy and pray that she grew into her giant nose or stuck out ears. 

I probably thought she was going to be odd-looking because for some reason, I had the idea in my head that Bethany and I weren’t allowed to have a normal, complication-free birthing experience. I was sure throughout the pregnancy that Bethany would get eclampsia and have to be on bed rest and be dependent on Magnesium supplements to keep her from seizing and dying or that the baby would have a horrible shoulder dystocia where it gets stuck in the birth canal and would end up paralyzed.

Catherine was transverse and required a c-section, but Bethany and I were okay with this and didn’t consider it too much of a complication. It was part of our birth plan. When one of our friends who’s a little bit granola asked Bethany what her birth plan was, Bethany informed her it was “to get the baby out and have her be safe and healthy.” The friend scoffed at Bethany and informed her, “Oh, you really need a birth plan.” I don’t think she realized that Bethany was serious. We both figured Bethany would end up with an epidural, and if it was needed, she’d get a c-section, and as long as she and the baby came through healthy and whole, we were good.

The whole time in the hospital was a little bit surreal. Even when I was watching the nursery nurses clean her and measure her and give her a bath, it seemed hard to believe that she was ours. Maybe it’s because I’ve held and swaddled and snuggled so many other babies in that nursery. While they were getting Catherine ready to meet Bethany there was another baby crying, and I instinctively picked it up and started rocking it because that’s usually what I do when I’m in the nursery examining the babies that are my patients. I felt a connection to Catherine because I knew she was mine, but the connection seemed more in my head than in my heart; however, as the hours passed by and as Bethany and I sat together holding Catherine and looking at her, I quickly realized that this kid is mine forever and always. Due to this undying love, any medical knowledge I have immediately became irrelevant in regards to Catherine. I sat and stared at her in the nursery while the doctor did her newborn assessment just sure that there was something massively wrong with her. I was sure that she was going to be deaf because she didn’t always respond when I talked to her in the womb. I was the one frantically texting our pediatrician the day after we brought her home because she hadn’t pooped or peed in 12 hours, and I was convinced it was my fault because I’d been tired during the night and waited 3.5 hours instead of the recommended 2-3 hours to wake up Bethany to feed Catherine. As she started to get a little bit more jaundice on her first day home, I was convinced she would get kernicterus and be traumatically brain damaged forever. I also was wearing some trashy travel deodorant while we were in the hospital. I know that babies recognize their parent’s scents, and as my newborn daughter nestled against my shoulder, I was just sure that she would now expect her father to smell like a frat house and that the familiarity with this scent would most certainly give her an attraction toward trashy guys.

My friends in the medical field who already have children tell me this is normal, but they’ve also warned me that it doesn’t usually get any better for the first few years.

This whole baby thing still terrifies me just a little bit, but I am so excited to be a father. I think I’ll follow the advice my mom gave me a few days before Catherine was born. I will just take it a day at a time.

The Nursery

Over the past 9 months, Bethany and I joined ranks with the millions of other impatient parents desiring a sense of control during pregnancy by pouring our pent up tension and anxiety into our nursery (and many bottles of Cabernet–me, not Bethany). Bethany and I are both always up for a good project, and getting a chance to prepare for our newborn daughter has been pretty good incentive to get creative.

Give Bethany her sewing machine and give me a paintbrush and an old wooden pallet, and we’ll produce something useful.

When Bethany and I moved into our apartment, we quickly settled into most of the 1,000 sq ft. space with the exception of The Tan Cave–the extra room above the garage where our land lord covered every surface in fifty shades of beige. Our friends Paul and Erin who lived in our apartment before us had planned for the room to be Paul’s man cave, but once Erin jokingly called it “the tan cave,” the new name stuck.  The room basically became a make shift “office/guest bedroom” where we kept a desk and a futon, but the room never truly had any sense of completion.

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Once the two pink lines appeared on the pee stick, this nursery has become a labor of love. Neither of us wanted to dump thousands of dollars into a room in which the primary occupant doesn’t even have developed enough senses to enjoy it; however, we also are both always looking for a nice outlet for our creativity, and we didn’t want our house to look like a dump. We also knew that we would be spending a lot of time in the room with feedings and rockings and diaper changes, and we wanted a place that would be calming.

I’ll give a quick caveat that neither of us are into making “How To” posts on projects. Bethany finds tutorials for things and follows them like a true scientist. I see something I like, read some tutorials, then get started. I rarely can find an exact tutorial for what I want, and this often leads to a lot of trial and error, but between the two of us, we now have a bedroom for our daughter that we both truly love.

So, without further ado, I present Catherine’s nursery.

 

Photo Jun 07, 9 20 29 AM

 Photo Jun 07, 9 31 20 AM

 The Dresser

This dresser was an old Craig’s list find that Bethany and I hunted down over Christmas break in South Bend. I’m pretty craptacular at remembering to take “before” pictures, but imagine a nasty pine dresser with pine knobs, a lot of dents, and drawers scattered with cobwebs and mouse turds. Photo Jun 07, 9 21 29 AMWe made the cash/dresser exchange in the parking lot of a seedy bar in downtown South Bend. The whole time we were waiting, we kept watching the patrons coming and going from the bar wondering if we were going to get raped, robbed, and murdered or if we’d find a false bottom to a dresser drawer filled with a stash of pills or cocaine. In the end, we made it through the exchange unscathed. The owner of the dresser was a pretty cool seeming girl in her mid twenties with some sweet tats her nasal septum pierced.

With some love, sandpaper, mint green paint and new hardware, our baby’s dresser came to fruition. The dresser cost us $60 to buy, and we probably put $30 into it for paint and hardware. That’s not too bad of a deal considering it’s a solid piece that could easily be repainted and repurposed in the future.

Photo Jun 07, 9 22 06 AMThis is just a regular old Summer’s Eve changing pad from Walmart. Bethany made the covers using this great tutorial. (http://asmallsnippet .com/2013/09/diy-changing-pad-cover.html). 

Bethany bought this lamp at Walmart before we got married. I slapped on a coat of the same coral paint we used to paint the bookshelf while Bethany recovered the lampshade with some white fabric and made the little rosettes to put on it. 

   The Chair

Photo Jun 07, 9 25 49 AMThis chair is probably my favorite part of the nursery. This is mostly because this chair and I have spent many good hours together. The chair came with a set of furniture I bought before leaving more med school. For the underwhelming sum of $100, I got this chair and a matching ottoman, love seat, and sofa. I took these with me when I moved to West Virginia while the desk and entertainment center went to my brother’s house.

IMG_3818The other pieces of furniture have been sold or given away over the last 6 years, but my beloved chair remains. It started out plaid with a very floral back cushion. My mom held the back cushion in her lap while my parents drove me down to West Virginia and recovered it in the green fabric so her young, medical student son wouldn’t feel emasculated by having pink floral furniture.

Six years later, the chair needed another transformation. Were told by many friends that having a bed or recliner in the nursery was fantastic. Well, we didn’t have room for a bed and didnt’ really want to buy a recliner because, let’s be honest…most reclincers are pretty ugly. Therefore, the wife and I took up our first upholstery project together. Now, fabric is expensive. Upholstery fabric is REALLY expensive. BUT painting dropclothes…not so expensive.

We reupholstered this chair for a wopping $35 in supplies. The hidden cost in this project was the time component. The chair got started around the time Bethany’s growing uterus made it hard for her to get up and down easily. This left me with the job of covering the base. She read a lot of tutorials and guided me in the right direction, and the base got done over the course of a weekend. My beloved mother came to our aid and helped Bethany cover the pillows. This was a labor of love considering how much time Bernice invested, but it’s been totally worth it. I’ve already resumed my habit of taking naps in the chair.

Photo Jun 15, 4 09 14 PMThe side table was a great find. I was actually on my way to Lowes to buy the materials to build a side table when I found this beauty in somebody’s front yard next to their trash cans. One of the legs was broken, and the table top was ovular, but with the help of some wood glue and my jigsaw, I made this.

Bethany found the fabric for the bigger back pillow at Hobby Lobby and decided it would be the basis for the color palette for the room. The smaller pillow in the front is from the same fabric she used for the bedskirt–also from Hobby Lobby.

 

 The Ottoman 

OttomanIf I were ever inclined to write a tutorial on one of my projects, this ottoman should have been the piece. I made quite a few mistakes along the way including screwing about twelve pockets holes in the wrong spots, but I got a chance to use my awesome Kreg Jig (https://www.kregtool .com/store/c13/ kreg-jigsreg/p169/kreg-jigreg-r3/).

The chair had an ottoman that came with it, but as we were trying to enhance our storage options, we decided building this ottoman was the way to go. Plus, it gave me a good project to work on. It also gave me a chance to say, “Screw you, Pottery Barn!” because this ottoman is pretty stellar.

What’s not pictured is that the ottoman is now filled to the brim with packages of diapers. We’re making good use of the storage space.

The Crib 

Photo Jun 07, 9 23 47 AMCrib: http://www.walmart.com/ip/Fisher-Price-Charlotte-3-in-1-Fixed-Side-Convertible-Crib-Choose-Your-Finish/23595237

Sheets: http://www.amazon.com/American-Baby-Company-Percale-Sheet/dp/B000O7WHQO 

Photo Jun 15, 4 11 04 PMBethany made the crib rails in the same fabric as the changing pad cover using this tutorial  (http://www.babyrabies.com /2009/02/shes-crafty/).  She also made the crib skirt cause she’s cool and handy like that.

The mobile was my creation. I didn’t follow any kind of tutorial because I really didn’t need directions to tell me how to punch out paint swatch circles and glue them on nylon thread then suspend them from an embroidery frame. (Consider the previous sentence my first tutorial).

If the baby had been a boy, I had a grand plan for a mobile that involved wood cut outs of a fedora, a smoking pipe, brass knuckles, etc. Since this didn’t really coincide well with the coral and mint theme Bethany had going, and since our baby didn’t have a penis, I decided for this piece.

The Bookshelf

Photo Jun 07, 9 27 41 AMI am so happy that we got to use this bookshelf in the nursery. My mom bought this from one of her clients when she cleaned houses twenty years ago. This bookshelf has made the rounds through our family. I had it in my bedroom for several years. My sister had it in her first apartment and in her first house. Then I acquired it again, and it was with me through undergrad and into med school. (Again, this is when a before picture would be helpful.) But now that it got a fresh coat of paint, I don’t foresee the bookshelf leaving the family anytime soon.Photo Jun 15, 4 08 24 PM Sidenote: When I was transferring books to the shelf, I just took the whole poetry section (yes, I do have my books organized by genre) because I knew I wanted Shel Silverstein in the nursery. I didn’t pay much attention the fact that along side Where the Sidewalk Ends sat Leonard Cohen’s Book of Longing and Sylvia Plath’s entire collection of poetry. I probably need to get these out of the nursery before the baby can start reading and she begins to ponder Cohen’s intricate descriptions of sex and Plath’s suicidal ideations.

Take note of the wooden rattle sitting in front of the duck. Our friend Timmo is a brilliant wood carver who builds furniture for rich people. (Seriously, they pay him thousands of dollars for his creations!). Well, he made the baby this beautiful rattle out of walnut and osage orange.

See Timmo’s work here (http://www.timmschleiff.com/)

 The Glider

Photo Jun 07, 9 29 33 AM Bethany really wanted some kind of glider to be able to breast feed in. We searched high and low for gliders that were built well, didn’t cost too much, and didn’t look like they belonged in your Great Aunt Prudence’s house covered in a blanket with cats on it. Let me just tell you that no such glider exists.

There are awesome gliders out there that look modern and are great quality…and they all cost $700. We opted for the affordable option and went for this glider by Storkcraft. The good news is that it matched the drop cloth covered chair perfectly, and it cost under $200. Let’s hope it holds up through a couple years worth of breast feedings. It also was an even better deal because Bethany’s mom decided she wanted to pay for it as another baby gift and my Dad assembled it while I was finishing the bookshelf.

The Conclusion

Photo Jun 15, 3 57 03 AM

A friend of ours from church gave us this sign as a gift. Her sister is an artist who does printmaking and calligraphy. We love it! The artist’s work can be found at http://www.virginialucashart.com/blog. We are also thrilled to finally announce her name to the world now that she’s arrived. We are pretty smitten with our little bundle of poop and joy, and we hope that Catherine enjoys her new room.