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February 8th, 2017:
Lessons Learned By A New Father (Part 2)

Christmas Eve Kara and DuaneWe’re almost at the 7 month mark with Kara. Everyone said that we should take lots of pictures because time moves so quickly. It’s true! It’s hard to remember the tough parts in the first 3 months and the progress made in months 4 – 6 is incredible! Here are more lessons learned:

  1. I mentioned in my last article that it gets a lot better after week 10… that’s true! But, 3 months is like cresting a hill and seeing nothing but sunshine, green trees, and blue water. You finally feel like your effort is paying off.
  2. That bedtime routing really starts to pay off after 3 months. We got a few full nights of sleep and it was amazing. We also woke up the next morning, double checked the baby monitor, and went to her room to make sure she was ok. We couldn’t believe she slept for 11 hours!
  3. Don’t get cocky, though. Babies occasionally regress. Our first experience with a regression was also Kara’s first cold. She just started sleeping through the night (at least a few times in the same week) and then she got an upper-respiratory/head cold. She barely slept for an hour at a time. It was rough. Then, we got sick. I was afraid of coughing and waking her up, so I slept on a sofa in the basement. It took a lot of effort to get back into a routine after Kara recovered from that cold.
  4. If your baby attends daycare, they’re going to get sick. Our line of thinking is that she will have a better developed immune system eventually… but it can be tough. She’s had 3 colds in the past 4 months… each time making her fussy and depriving us all of sleep.
  5. Despite the previous note on daycare, it’s so worth it. We think that Kara is very well socialized. The schedule at daycare helps establish a rhythm that we continue on weekends and holidays and it keeps things running smoothly. She participates in a lot of activities and the staff has helped her make a number of keepsakes. Kara is genuinely happt to see the staff when we drop her off in the morning.
  6. Around 4 months or so, Kara needed less constant handling and was happier to be on her tummy to play (with supervision, of course). She also started playing in an exer-saucer… kind of a bouncy seat that helps develop leg and core muscles. We could set Kara in her exer-saucer or on a play mat within eyeshot while we cook dinner or clean.
  7. Diaper rash and dry skin… we’ve figured out the few occasions that we’ve encountered to far… but it’s probably going to happen for you too. We found that a 2-layer approach to diaper rash works best: thick coat of bag balm followed by a zinc-oxide moisture barrier. Spread that stuff on like cake frosting! The dry skin ended up being a combination of winter (dry air and furnace heat indoors) and the baby-safe liquid soap we were using. We switched soap and mom lotions Kara up with Aquaphor every night before getting into her sleeper and sleep sack… and no more blotchy dry skin.
  8. At 6 months we started to introduce real food: blended sweet peas, bananas, pears, carrots, squash, mangos, chicken w/ sweet potato, etc. Each are blended and frozen into little 1 oz. servings. We can then pop them into the microwave for 10 seconds and mix with a little nursing milk. Kara has been very excited about this new activity. It’s mostly for fun, as the majority of her calories still come from nursing.
  9. Baby isn’t the only one to enjoy new activities with real food… get ready for baby turds. I noted in my last article that diapers from nursing weren’t too bad. While not the most horrifying experience, that first turd can be quite a surpise… especially if baby just enjoyed carrots! The smells are a little worse, but honestly, if you’ve been changing baby’s diapers regularly, you’re pretty well conditioned for the task by now
  10. At 6 months, Kara is focused on things around her. She anticipates things (like the next knee bounce or kiss). She watches the door and waits for us to get her when she cries in her crib. She is more engaged with us when playing and she gets a focused, intense expression on her face when she’s trying to figure something out (like reaching for blocks, trying out a new toy, or discovering a button on her outfit).
  11. We’ve gone on a few outings together and she’s had a blast: a week ago we went to the computer store for the first time. I was pretty confident that it would go well as Kara has been going to the supermarket with us since she was a few weeks old. She generally enjoys looking at all of the colorful boxes on the shelves as we roll down the isles. The computer store was a little more challenging. We went on the observed New Year holiday… along with what seemed like every other technophile in Southeast Michigan. Kara was starting a cold, but was still an absolute angel. She wanted to get out of her carrier and have me hold her… but really wanted to see all of the exciting new things on the shelves of the store. It was a little scary… especially because we ventured out on our own. I asked my wife if she would like to see a movie while Kara and I went out. This weekend, we went to Legoland in a nearby mall with my brother and his family. It was our first “kid activity”… also a huge success, it’s given us confidence in our decision to visit Disneyworld in April!

Kara is just starting to babble. She’s holding herself up on all fours, turning around on the floor and sitting up on her own. She’s not crawling yet, but we feel like it’s right around the corner. Gina and I refer to Kara as “smooshy” for the first 3 months. She had not yet developed much of a personality, lacked eye contact, and rare smiles were like oxygen to a drowning person. At 6 months, it can be hard to remember those times when your baby smiles when she wakes up and recognizes your face, giggles when you play together, or reaches for you when she’s ready to be picked up.

Stay tuned. I’m pretty sure I’ve barely scratched the surface of this whole new dad thing. I doubt I’m right about a lot of this, but it’s working pretty well for me at the moment. Let’s see what happens in a few more months…

- Duane

August 30th, 2016:
Lessons Learned By A New Father (Part 1)

Here’s the first installment of stuff I’ve learned in the past 10 weeks of new fatherhood:

    Stay Puft Baby and Dad

  1. The first 2 weeks are tough. More difficult than you can imagine. Everyone says this. You think you know what it means. You’re wrong.
  2. Weeks 3-4 are better than the first two… but your brain will be erased and you won’t remember how bad 1 & 2 were. Weeks 3-4 are about as bad as you imagined 1-2 could be before baby arrived.
  3. After week 6, it gets a lot better. You come out of the haze and really realize that this new person is in your family. By week 10, you’re interacting with her and you can barely remember the first month.
  4. Take lots of pictures/videos. Everyone tells you that it goes by so fast and they grow too quickly. It’s true.
  5. Diapers aren’t as bad as you imagined… especially if baby is nursing. The first few days are a horror show (meconium), but really, it’s not too bad.
  6. There will be blow outs… big time. My wife is a scientist and bought a case of “blue pads” used for surgeries, etc. We put them on the changing pad as well as line her car seat with them. Keep a few in your diaper bag for impromptu changing. Lastly, make sure the “seal” around baby’s legs is good by pulling the diaper up on her waist after securing it… like you’re putting a pair of shorts on her. Nothing can stop the dreaded “rooster tail”… it’s just going to happen some day(s).
  7. Gripe water works. All of the articles/books I read said that there’s no scientific evidence for it to work (our baby showed no signs of colic, so that may be a different story), but a dose of gripe water and a little patting on the back and she produces some of the most amazing belches and stops crying
  8. Your wife will need a break… especially if she’s nursing. As soon as you can prepare a bottle and baby is ready to accept it (check with your pediatrician), offer to take the last feeding of the night and put her to bed… or tell your wife to go out shopping for herself and stay home and feed baby. (Just make sure you time everything right so that you have enough milk and/or mom comes back in time.)
  9. A bedtime routine is key. Our baby has slept in her room, in her crib, since she was 2 weeks old (before that we tried a bassinet in our room). Having a bedtime routine was key to making that happen. On bath night, she gets a warm bath… but otherwise, it’s the same every night: mom puts on a lullaby and dims the lights. I undress baby and change her diaper (if needed). Mom applies night time lotion. I put baby in her swaddle. Mom feeds baby. Usually she’s asleep by the end of the feeding and mom waits 20 minutes, then puts her in her crib. 90% of the time, that works. The other 10%… well… all bets are off
  10. Speaking of swaddles: they work… just be sure that you follow the instructions for your swaddle blanket or quick-swaddle. Talk to your pediatrician about positioning baby’s head. Baby should always sleep on her back.
  11. We found out about swaddles in on of our classes, but we also learned about the 5 S’s for getting baby to calm down/sleep from “The Happiest Baby On The Block” by Dr. Harvey Karp: Side, Swaddle, Shush, Swing, Suck. Look it up… it helps, but as you’ll find, nothing is a guaranteed solution
  12. We’ve always cooked dinner together, and doing that with baby is a challenge. We found that a bouncer or car seat on the kitchen counter (if you have space) works well. We tried wearing her in a front-carrier, but worried about hot spatter from pans could get her. Of course, be careful with cutlery, spices, or other hot liquids.
  13. Bonding time helps. If you’re only holding baby when she’s crying, that’s all that you’re going to get out of it. Make time to play with baby (tummy time included) and I find that just a minute of fun when changing diapers or getting dressed means a lot before my day starts or before baby goes to bed.
  14. Teamwork helps. My wife and I have always teamed up: hobbies, chores, projects, and now baby. We calm each other down and cover for each other when we’ve just had enough. Teamwork can be fun too… and makes bath time a lot safer.

Well, that wraps up my first installment of lessons learned. There’s a ton more and I’ll try to provide ongoing updates.

- Duane

June 29th, 2016:
A Wild Kara Appears! (Part 1)

On the Friday before Gina’s due date we learned that Kara was breach (butt down) and were scheduled for a C-Section on her due date. We were a little bummed out that Gina’s recovery time would be longer and that much of what we learned in our baby classes wouldn’t be used… or so we thought. Kara decided to surprise us:

On Sunday, June 19th, we went to church as usual and performed during the service (Gina sings and I play guitar in the praise band). During a particularly energetic song, Gina started to feel a little… weird. We went home to have lunch prepare for a Father’s Day visit with my family when Gina started feeling contractions… real ones. Excited to use some of our training, we started timing their frequency and duration. We quickly reached 5-7 minute intervals, but the duration was still around 30-45 seconds. After an hour-or-so, we decided to go to the hospital and check in… since Gina wasn’t supposed to go into labor due to baby being breach.

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After checking in, we were ushered to a triage room where Gina was hooked up to some monitors, got checked out, and then told to go back home. I thought Gina might take a swing at the staff! When asked when we should come back, they said “… when the contractions are 5 minutes apart and stronger…” We ended up going to the parking lot, watching “House” on Netflix for a while, then going to a market and walking around/buying some water to drink. Not sure what to do next, we just went home.

Once home, we tried to eat lunch and wait it out: more Netflix and a few phone calls to alert family of the false alarm. Gina called her parents and after a brief conversation, hung up and immediately her water broke. Big time. For real. No mistaking what just happened. Our previously calm demeanor stepped up to “go time”: while Gina got cleaned up, I took care of the new laundry tasks. We were definitely anxious and our next trip to the hospital was definitely more hurried, but still calm.

This time it took longer to get into a room… at least it felt longer. Our nurse took a little longer than we liked to hook up the monitors (again… compared to the first visit). After we explained our concerns, she stepped it up and we heard Kara’s heartbeat. Our nerves calmed, we settled in and waited for the staff to confirm that labor had begun. Once that was complete, we were scheduled for an… um… unscheduled…(?) C-Section at 9:00. The next 40-ish minutes were a whirlwind: operating room (OR) cover-alls, spinal anesthetics, waiting outside the OR, then in the OR seated next to Gina.

It seemed like just a few minutes later that we heard Kara cry… loudly. Our daughter had arrived and our biggest adventure together begins.

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- Duane

May 11th, 2009:
Baby Degen!

I know I’ve already posted this to twitter and my moblog, but I gotta put it in here too: Degen Christian Leinninger arrived around 8:00 last night. Robyn and Christian are doing well and are very proud of their little man.

- Duane

Devtroit