Monday, October 31, 2011

Hubby first, Daddy second

As much fun as a newborn can be, one thing Hannah and I haven’t forgotten in the month we’ve had Abigail is that we are, first and foremost, husband and wife. Abby is very much a part of our family, but she is not a part of our marriage. And marriage is easy to neglect when we only pay attention to that which is most urgent.

In the past month I’ve managed to buy my wife a new piece of jewelry (completely random—there was no special event or occasion), and she’s been able to take us out on a date, without Abigail tagging along.

We like to take walks in the evening, pushing Abs in her stroller, while the two of us talk about things besides diapers, screaming fits, and cute photos. It’s not that we’re trying to grasp at something we’ve lost or pretending we don’t have a child. We just want to remember that as much as she’s “Mom” and I’m “Dad”, we’re “wifey” and “hubby” first.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Why I Love the Newborn Stage

What is it about the newborn stage that we parents love? I love it. I laugh and joke about the diapers and the screaming, but I really do love this stage. This may seem counterintuitive to folks who don’t have children, especially when they ask me how it’s going and I respond with something like this:

I’m tired. Even when I was in college I don’t remember being this tired. There’s something that makes you feel grumpy and pitiful inside when a child is screaming to the best of her ability less than a foot from your face. It’s loud. It’s bothersome. And unless you can figure out what’s causing it, she’ll keep going on like that until your eyes are bloodshot and you seriously think about driving to Wal-Mart with a sign like those people who give away kittens as you’re going in for eggs and milk. I think new Army recruits get more sleep during the first week of boot camp than I’ve gotten in the last three.
My friends with children either nod knowingly or laugh maniacally, depending on the age of their youngest and whether or not they think they’ll have another. My friends without children give me a puzzled look and say something like, “Reason number forty-three why I don’t want to have children.”

Daddy's Sweet Heart: You bet she is!
But the friends without children are missing it. I love the newborn stage. Like I said, this is counter-intuitive to some, so I’ll try to explain it as best I can.

I think the reason we all love the newborn stage is because a newborn is so needy.

The only thing Abigail can do for herself is vacate her body of fluids (poop is not a solid for newborns), suck, scream, and sleep. She prefers to do the first when we’re getting ready to go, the second when we are with company, the third while we are sleeping, and the fourth when we can’t take a nap. She’s more or less inconvenient.

But that’s the point. Abigail can’t use the bathroom by herself, make her own food, deal with her issues, or go to bed and wake up at a decent hour. She’s incapable. She’s dependent.

Dependency is the key thing. When she moves on to the next stage she becomes a little less dependent on mommy and daddy. Though we talk about how much we wish they’d sleep through the night, when she finally does, it will mean she’s taken another step towards independence. She no longer needs me to get through the night.

Time goes on and she doesn’t need mom to feed her. Doesn’t need dad to change her diaper. Doesn’t need us to rock her to sleep in our arms. Little by little Abigail will grow independent of us. Eventually she’ll develop friendships—growing independent of our social interaction.

Time and time again when Abigail exhibits a little more independence from us we’ll look back to this stage and remember. When she goes on her first sleepover, we’ll remember how she couldn’t sleep for a few hours without one of us near. When she gets her license, we’ll remember how she couldn’t move without one of us carrying her. When she goes to college, moves out, or gets, we’ll remember that for a brief moment in time she was all ours and her whole life revolved around us.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Life is No Longer Boring

This is from my older sister, Amy. Katelynne is 3 years old and Kyleigh is only 1. Glad to know we’re not alone.

Amy is a 4th grade element-
ary teacher in Big Rapids, MI.
There is nothing like being a parent. It makes you wonder what you did with yourself when you were only focused on you. This morning I wondered how boring my life used to be too... Let me explain:

6:15 a.m.—Katelynne woke up and was crying in less than five minutes because she wanted to wear a dress, and I said probably not today due to the temperature outside.
6:25 a.m.—She continued cry because she wanted mini-wheat cereal.
6:35 a.m.—She threw her cereal because I asked her to put on a shirt (not a dress).
6:36 a.m.—She ripped the shirt off her head… and so goes her morning.

Kyleigh woke up with a stuffy, boogery nose, and a dirty face (I wasn't there for bed time; I was over at a friend’s for girls’ dinner).
She happily got dressed and even sat while I did her hair. Then she took Katelynne's flung cereal and ate it, sending Katelynne to more tears.
Kyleigh wanted to brush her teeth with her mouth full of mini-wheats. She proceeded to sneeze, shooting mini-wheats all over Katelynne's face and hair and shooting snot out both nostrils and onto her shirt.

And that was all in less than forty-five minutes.

I got to school and talked with my coworker, who has a 6 month old, and we discussed our mornings and how different life would be… and boring.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Getting Married can be Stressful

I was looking through my emails and came across one I sent to a friend back in February of 2008. I had written something on Facebook about getting ready for marriage being "stressful and fulfilling". The friend asked if there was something she should be worried about because she anticipated getting married in the next year or so. Here's what I wrote:

What is so stressful? The whole concept of going from having something to having nothing but the other person is crazy! For one thing, I worry about stuff, and if I'm not worrying, Hannah certainly is. We have all kinds of things to worry about, such as where to live, how to afford it, insurance costs, going to school, taxes, Christmas presents, birthdays, where to spend holidays, the wedding plans, and all the other things that go along with getting ready for marriage.
 It's kind of funny how we think we have to have everything worked out perfectly for a marriage that will last for 70+ years (if I'm lucky enough to live that long). We might as well be trying to figure out where we're going to live when we retire! Some things can't be planned for (i.e. what if Hannah gets pregnant the evening of June 14?), so worrying isn't going to help anyone. Even still, there are so many little details that we're trying to work out that it can be stressful at times.
 There is a lot of stress in our lives right now with the wedding, work, family, church, and school, but that really has helped solidify our relationship. I am so committed to Hannah that people at school don't seem to get it. As much as I may get frustrated, I know that God has brought us together for a reason, and I am comfortable knowing that He is in control—which is a good thing because I am not in control, and if Hannah were, I might worry a little bit more... Just kidding.
 Anywho, there is something so... fulfilling knowing that you love someone so much that you would give up everything for them. I guess that is part of the reason why God likens the relationship between true believers and Christ to the image of a groom and his bride. Well, it's late and I have to go to church in the morning. See ya soon, I hope!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Yellow Muck and Dirty Hands

I’m sure my daughter will be mortified one day by all these diaper blowout stories, but I doubt she could ever be as mortified as her mother and I have been while experiencing them. Besides, she keeps giving me so much material to work with, both literally and literary, that I can't help but write something.

My Little Angel: Silent but messy.
My wife and I were prepping to leave for our book discussion group at church when we decided to check Abigail’s diaper. When I undid the semi-velcro straps and lifted the flap, I saw a small amount of number two at the bottom of the diaper. Although Abigail was only 13 days old at the time, we’d already figured out that she doesn’t do diapers that way. She will either have a full diaper or an empty one.

I decided I didn’t want another experience wherein she finishes her business as I’m attempting to switch out a clean diaper for the dirty one. My previous attempts have met with as much success as Indiana Jones’ attempt to swap a bag of sand for a golden idol in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Naturally, I resealed the biohazard, unbuttoned and pulled up the bottom half of her onesie, and decided to wait a few minutes for Abs to finish what she started.

That was mistake number one.

I held her on my lap and clicked around on my laptop while I waited, eating an apple. After a few raspberry noises from her bottom half, I decided it was time to go back to the changing station, assess the damage, and make the swap. Keep in mind that the time to leave for church is still counting down.

As I set down my apple and reached under my little darling to carry her to the changing table I discovered her diaper had leaked. The texture is similar to pond muck, if you’ve ever had the pleasure of holding it in your bare hands, but a lot more horrifying due to the surprise.

As I briskly walked to Abigail’s room I saw a long, diagonal yellow streak across the front of my shirt. At the changing table I grabbed a wet wipe with my one clean hand and wiped off priority number one: my dirty hand. I then took off my blue shirt and turned my attention to my child.

Abigail was surprisingly quiet throughout the whole experience. Her onesie, which I had unbuttoned, had a small stain on it, so she would need new clothes before we left for church as well. The leakage point on the diaper was near the top in the back, so it was accessible to her hands, which were waving around like mad.

I went to grab another wet wipe but discovered our container was empty. I called in Hannah to come in and hold Abigail’s hands up so she couldn’t get the dandelion yellow all over them while I tore at a package of spare wipes.

I removed the diaper and lifted up Abigail’s bottom by her ankles to do yet another damage assessment. It wasn’t too bad. Most of the explosion had been contained by the diaper, and with a few wipes I had managed to get things set in order again.

Then Abigail did something new.

She turned her head to one side and started spitting up her supper. Since her back had largely been spared from the diaper mess, she decided to mess up her hair, neck, and shoulder area with white milk spittle.

With a clean diaper on her bottom I grabbed some more wet wipes to get to work on her face, hair, and neck.

She was finally clean.

I handed her off to Hannah and went to work cleaning the changing pad. I had to get a plastic grocery bag to seal off the diaper before tossing it in the diaper genie because there was no way to contain the mess within the diaper itself.

I finished the task by cleaning my hands on a wet wipe and went back into the living room to pick up my stuff, finish my apple, and head off to church.

As I came into the living room I saw that the apple had fallen to the floor, likely when I got up rather quickly from the couch. Since I was still shirtless, I headed over to the bedroom to pick out another shirt to wear.

I rested my hand on my thigh and—déjà vu—pond muck sensation. I looked down only to discover that the diagonal streak across my blue shirt extended to my blue jeans. The yellow on my hands was just like those dandelion paintbrushes we made when we were kids. I turned and ran into the bathroom to wash it off. Hannah had left her curling iron on the sink so I grabbed it to move it.
Yellow Muck: There's more where that came
At this point I’m not sure what numbered mistake I was up to, but this was definitely the next in sequence. I’m not sure how many people decide to curl their hair two minutes before they have to leave, but my wife is definitely one of them.

I gave a little yip, which my wife describes as more of a shout, as I rapidly let go of the still hot curling iron. Grabbing it by the handle this time, I moved it away from the sink and twisted the knobs for the sweet relief of cold water, half forgetting that I originally went to the bathroom to wash muck off my other hand.

I changed into a new shirt, new pants, and washed off my apple. Hannah put Abigail into a sleeper outfit and gathered the car seat, diaper bag, and my bag with class materials. We got to the church on time, but I now have a little more grace in reserves for people with children who show up a little late now and again.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Rushing to the Hospital

Proof that my wife has a sense of humor. From Hannah:

Newborns bring much joy, but they also bring a state of wakeful exhaustion. One look at a parent of a newborn and you will see the unmistakable symptoms: bloodshot eyes, dark circles, and overall lethargy. Talk to the parent and you may notice some incoherent speech and impaired judgment as well.

Such was the case Tuesday around 9 pm. While I attempted to feed Abigail and convince her that she was tired, I looked down at my exhausted legs. I blinked twice. Was I delusional? No, my eyes showed me deathly blue-gray legs that looked bruised in places. Like any rational person, I texted my husband:
I dont know if i am ok. My legs are blue gray like a giant bruise all over and are numb Hannah
He was at a friends’ house and rushed home without even finishing his sentence or saying “Goodbye”.

“Where are you? Can you hear me?” he yelled as he burst through the door. Reassured that I hadn’t passed out, he looked at my legs, eyes wide, and exclaimed, “Oh my goodness! Let’s go!”

The baby was packed in the car seat in record time and we were out the door in a matter of minutes.

On the way, Abigail decided that we were trying to return her to the hospital and protested by screaming the whole way there. Meanwhile, I tried to call the OB doctor.

“Maam, I’m having trouble hearing you. Please move away from the baby.”

By the time we arrived, I had given up on the phone doctor. I ran into the emergency room while Andrew looked for a parking space. He parked 5 miles away and managed to calm the screaming baby.

Inside, we waited for the doctor. When he finally came, he looked puzzled. “Usually blood clots cause blueness in one leg, not two,” he said. He ordered a CAT scan. My husband and I looked at each other, both of us seeing huge dollar signs in front of our faces. “Is it really necessary?” he asked.

He assured us it was, then, with a flash of inspiration, said “Well, let me try one thing first.” He reached for a wet towelette and wiped my leg. Amazingly, the scary blueness vanished.

I was released moments later. “You have been seen for blue legs that are the result of leeching from your blue jeans.”

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Diaper Blowouts at 5 am

Little sleeper: The resemblance is uncanny.
Abigail has grown a lot since we took her home from the hospital. It’s hard to believe what a week or two will do to the body of a newborn. It’s also hard to believe what a week or two will do to the bodies of the parents of a newborn.

I came into work today and it wasn’t long before my coworkers were pointing at me and saying, “He’s got the look. Look at his eyes.” Apparently new parents have a look that betrays just how tired they feel. I can almost hear my dad’s Barney Rubble laugh that he does when he’s feigning pleasure at the misfortune of others, usually mine.

Truth be told, Hannah and I both look pretty good considering how often we’re getting up at night. Actually, Hannah’s been getting up a lot more than I have because I can’t feed little Miss Abigail.

I left the house for work this morning with a mix of joy, relief, and apprehension. I got up at four to change a wet diaper and calm Abs because she had just fed and was still fussy. She hadn’t filled her diaper with number two for almost 24 hours and we were worried Hannah would have to take her to the hospital after I left for work.

Then at five my dear wife had her second encounter with “diaper blowout”.

I was lying in bed and could hear the screaming through the baby monitor. It was Abigail, not Hannah. I learned that if the baby monitor reaches its red peak enough times in a row, it begins to sound an alarm, as if someone could possibly sleep through the screaming.

I shut of the alarm and decided to check on Hannah and Abby, since whatever Hannah was doing wasn’t helping calm the child down. When I saw the diaper blowout, I realized why Abby was inconsolable.

Somehow Hannah had already taken care of the dirty diaper, but the changing pad looked worse than Bob Ross’ palette after painting a forest of “happy little trees”. I asked Hannah to give our little wonder a bath while worked on making the changing pad white again. I’m glad these things are waterproof.

The little screamer didn’t really enjoy her bath, which made parents and child just about even, as far as I was concerned. After the bath I put a new diaper on Miss Abigail, dressed her in a new outfit, and realized it was time to start getting ready for work.

Believe it or not, I really do consider this whole experience to be fun!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Back to Square One

I am now a father. I have a daughter who, when her diaper is dry, her tummy is full, and her consciousness is awakened, is looking at everything. She’s taking in new information all the time. She sees lights, hears sounds. She looks at Hannah and me every day. What is she seeing?

I have a Bible on my dresser that I believe is the Word of God. I have a relationship with the Creator of the universe because He sent His Son to endure what I couldn’t, to die in my stead, and to rise to life. Will she see this in me?

The only way to show her is to read that Bible, living and doing what it says. To pray to that God in proportion to my faith, my thankfulness, my dependence on Him.

Really, it isn’t any different than what we expect a new believer to do. Read the Word. Pray. Live out your faith every day. It’s like going back to square one.

Spiritual growth and spiritual maturity is not measured in levels. It’s measured by movement. All believers who are growing and maturing in their faith should be at square one. Praying. Reading. Living. Doing.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Diaper Blowout (Not, it's not a Sale)

Bath Time: Do I look like trouble?

Yesterday Hannah and I were a little worried that Abigail was having some kind of a problem because she wasn't filling her diaper. It turned out to be a very big problem, but not for Miss Abigail.

Hannah checked her diaper around seven o’ clock and there was a little brown spot, so she decided to change it. Shortly after removing the diaper Abigail had a small explosion similar to what you’d expect a power washer could produce. In fact, I think we needed a power washer to bring a little order and sanity to the whole mess.

Fortunately for me (but not for Hannah), I was working on homework at the time. Even still, I distinctly remember seeing the onesie Abigail had been in at the time, and I wondered how the baby had managed to escape without injury. After countless wet wipes, three or four diapers, and a new onesie, she was like a brand new baby.

Hannah is now convinced that I have to change every one of Abigail's diapers until I go back to work on Tuesday to make up for what she had to go through. Thus far they’ve been quite manageable.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The First Night Home

Finger-licking good: Sleeping as if last night never

I used to think I knew something about parenting. At this point I’m rebuilding from the ground up. My first night home with Abigail… I don’t even know how to describe it. As we transitioned from daytime to bedtime she transitioned from cute little baby to angry howler monkey. Until you’ve been up all night with a toothless, two-foot long person screaming incessantly a few inches from your ear you will never understand.

Thank you Mom and Dad.

This little exercise in futility lasted until around 5 a.m. Every half hour or so Hannah and I would switch being with Abigail. I’d rock and coo her as best I could, change her diaper, and the like. Hannah would feed her and do all the above as well (minus the diaper changing).

After four hours of fun Hannah and I relented on one of our convictions. We know that pacifiers can interfere with breast-feeding, since the baby can get confused over the different shapes she’s putting in her mouth. We’re willing to take that risk if it means getting a little bit of sleep at night.

Today we’ve taken a nap, and we’ve been trying to keep Abigail from sleeping all day like she did yesterday. I had a bad feeling that last night would be rough since she hadn’t been awake much during the day. Little did I know…

I’m hoping tonight goes better. But if not, at least I don’t have to go anywhere in the morning.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Abigail Means "Her Father's Joy"

The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy. Proverbs 14:10

On September 30, 2011, at 3:43 pm, weighing in at 8lbs. 2oz. and measuring 21½ inches long, Abigail Renee Wencl was born.

What does a father feel the moment he sees his daughter enter the world and take her first few breaths of air? Truly it is an experience like none other I have had in my life. I could describe it as joy. Pure elation. Wonder. Excitement. Mystery.

This experience was shared with only a few. A doctor, a nurse, a nursing student, none of whom could possibly have felt the same way Hannah and I did when I saw her. Our close friend Roksana was there too, and we were all overjoyed. My joy was the joy of a new father, and not just that, but the joy of Andrew. Hannah may have had similar feelings to what other mothers have had, but no one else was pushing out Abigail. The joy of our daughter’s birth was all her own. Though we were all overjoyed by the same experience, Hannah’s was unique to her and mine was unique to me. It think that’s part of what makes it so special.