Saturday, July 11, 2015

Whitley turns 6 Months

It has been awhile since I have been on here to write about Whitley (or anything for that matter), and it saddens me that I have not been more diligent in keeping up with my experiences with her. Thankfully, much of the reason I have not been able to write is because I was spending my time with Whit, so I guess it is a good trade off. So many things have occurred these last few months that I can't even begin to start detailing all that has happened. That being said, I want to share a few special moments we have shared as daddy-daughter and as a family with Andrea, as well as a few thoughts about parenting so far.

Just look at that cute little thing.
Just a warning right now that this is the record of how I have viewed my time with Whitley, and so it is highly sappy and extremely gushy. To say that I love Whitley falls short of the incredible feelings inside of me. To say that I have never loved anything in all my life more than this little girl is a much more accurate portrayal, and so just stop now if that last phrase was too much for you.

Baby Immunizations

Many people have told me that you don't know pain until you have seen your child suffer. While I always knew that this was true in some sense, I figured it was some rhetoric parents told children to get them to stop whining so much about their pain. For years parents would tell me this, and I guess I just sort of brushed it off as being a bunch of hoopla. Surely a broken ankle was true pain, something that I intimately knew for several weeks some years ago.

Really dad? You know those shots were way worse.

I'm glad she likes to sleep on me.
It can be said that I often don't listen to what people tell me, and this was one time where I didn't expect all the many words to actually be true. But sure enough, I had not known pain like I did the day that I saw Whitley receive her first shots. Naturally I was being way more dramatic about it than I should have been, but I was not ready for the depth of agony I felt when the first wails of pain came out of her. It was a cry that neither Andrea nor I had heard from her before and it completely took me off guard.

Now I am not saying that routine immunizations are a harrowing experience, and I know that there is yet more pain and suffering to come towards Whitley that will be far worse than those first few shots. Nevertheless, the most poignant feelings occur when it is a new sensation, something that you have never seen or heard before.

She conks out pretty hard the days she gets shots.

I still remember how when she was stuck with that needle her mouth made the most terribly sad sound I have ever had the misfortune of hearing. Four months later and it still brings tears to my eyes (and she has had several shots since, with the six month's shots being a milestone where I didn't even shed one tear). That first memory of her pain has stuck with me, and ever since I have tried in every particularl to keep her from severe pain (not all paint is bad). I don't want to see the frowny-face, nor see her eyelashes bead with tears. I don't even remember what the shots were for, or how many they were, all I know is that after she got the shots I picked Whitley up and turned to face the wall so that the nurse couldn't see my soggy eyes. Andrea and I cried a good two or three minutes after that, every tear proof that this first time daddy is more sensitive to his baby's shots than she was (she stopped crying after about thirty seconds - I took it WAY harder than she did). Makes me wonder sometimes who the real baby is.

Frustration at Feeding Her Cold Milk

Her face would look like this with the cold milk.
The last time I wrote I talked about how easy it was being a parent. I have since come to realize that it is easy for us only because Whitley is the sweetest little dumpling to ever fall into the soup of life. Seriously, anyone who has spent even a fraction of time with her knows how very even-keeled she is, and how her precious little smiles can illuminate even the darkest and dankest corners of any curmudgeon's soul. We have been truly blessed to have one of God's choice spirits in our home, and she has made being a parent not only fun and delightful, but really quite easy.

Now that I have declared how incredibly wonderful our little Whitley is, I want to share probably my biggest frustration at her, which frustration made me break down in tears. Yes, Whitley has broken me down a few times, but I have since learned that she cries only when a need of hers is not met. Some babies cry because they are upset and don't know why, or they have colic, or any number of reasons; but Whitley cries only when she needs something (usually a pacifier, milk, or a nap).

My frustrating experiences with Whitley thankfully have only happened twice, and they coincided with the first two times I was left alone with her for more than an hour (Andrea would go to a night shift for nursing). My newbness at being a father really shined through on these occasions and left me wishing that I had spent more time paying attention to how to feed babies.

This is what we usually want to see.
Before Andrea went to work, she would leave some of her milk in the refrigerator with the instructions that I was to warm it up. To me warm milk is just not-cold milk, and so I assumed that it would work well with Whitley. This assumption was, naturally, very wrong. I would spend the better part of an hour trying to get her to get anything down, and she would spit it up and start wailing. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why she was having such a hard time. I had fed her milk before (which Andrea had prepared for me) and so I knew she didn't mind eating from a bottle. But no matter what I did, she wouldn't take it, deciding instead to make gagging sounds and sputter the milk out in her attempt to cry.
I usually wanted to just wrap in her a swaddler and be done.

Frustration would build over the course of an hour until Whitley finally decided to eat. This happened both times, and it wasn't until I told this experience to my mother-in-law did it dawn on me that she probably finally accepted the milk because it had warmed up enough over the course of an hour of me holding the bottle. The next time I went to feed Whitley I warmed it up quite a bit more and she ate it just fine. I haven't had a problem feeding her since.

The frustration I felt would often times leave me in tears because I felt like a failure, unable to even feed my daughter a simple bottle of milk. Anger at Whitley was really just anger at my own incompetence as a parent. My frustration would lead to shame as I realized that I was getting mad at a 3 month old, and she was only mad because she was being fed cold food. If it were me in her situation, I would have slapped me if I could.

First Bath

Babies, contrary to my initial impression, do get quite dirty over time. When I first held Whitley I couldn't see a reason why we would really need to bathe her that often; so we waited a few weeks before we gave her a bath. She has had many baths since and is quite the hydrophile and splashing
machine. Bath times are never very long, but they are a lot of fun.

I don't have any bath pictures, but she is cute here.
Whitley hardly ever had the chance to be cold. 
Her first bath was not so fun. Due to the fact that I prefer much colder temperatures than most (ask my wife, she is not a fan), Andrea and I have struck a compromise that we would keep the house around 60 degrees in the winter. When Whitley came that moved up to 65 to ensure that she would stay warm. She never showed any signs of being cold, so we thought that a slight temperature rise
would be sufficient when it came time to give her a bath. The water would be warm enough to keep her happy even if the surrounding air wasn't that warm; or so we thought.

We almost always had her in many blankets and at least one hat (due to her lack of hair).

Turns out that babies need a lot more warmth than adults. Whitley was very unhappy to be put in the luke-warm water we provided her. Out of fear of making it too hot, we inadvertently made it too cold. The bath lasted maybe a minute as we rushed to get all of the necessary cleansing done. The experience was so traumatic that we didn't bathe her again for over two weeks.

First Day in a Pool

The first few stories I have shared have been about some negative aspects of my time with Whitley, but have nevertheless been core experiences that have helped shape our time together. These next few experiences have been some of the happiest times I can remember with my dear little Whitley.
We're so ready to go to the pool!
So excited.
It is interesting to me that I would have loved my time with Whitley at the pool so much because I myself am not a big swimmer or fan of being wet. In fact, when Andrea suggested that we go to the pool as part of the free time for Steel Days in American Fork, I was sort of hesitant. I am very happy that we went because the experience was just so sweet and fun that, if I were a woman, my ovaries would have exploded from the cuteness.
Now she is bored and wants my phone.

Whitley was very hesitant at first of going in to the water, and her hesitation didn't subside for the majority of the time we were in the pool. At one point, as I walked with her through the water to get to a private corner of the pool, she started crying and frowning her fear at the new sensation she was feeling. After a bit she stopped crying, but she didn't really smile either in her normal cheery way like she normally does when she sees something new. Instead, she gave out a constant, lower-lipped-sucked-in hum for the rest of the time in the deep-end (the 3 foot end). We would push her through the water, and she would open her mouth at times to try and catch some of the wake, but she didn't really seem to take to it much.

With daddy in the pool.
She wasn't too happy to be there, or about the finger.
Walking with momma.
When we finally moved to more shallow water where she could sit up and splash a bit is when we started to see more joy over being in the water. Andrea would pick her up by her arms and walk with her in the shallow and, and this made her quite happy. Finally we picked her up and put her feet over a spout, something that elicited quite a few giggles.
She is such a good walker.
An example of her love of the spout.
There is just something so wonderful about seeing your little child experiencing things for the first time. Our trip to the pool was special to me because I got to witness her first time. Thankfully I have a great job that allows me to see some of these moments, and it makes me proud to see Whitley easing her way into things even when she is not comfortable doing them. I couldn't help but imagine watching her learn to swim and seeing her overcome more of her fears in the future.
This little Jedi is ready to go home.

First Solid Foods

She really wishes that this was food.
At six months we decided to start getting her used to solid foods, with her first meal consisting of rice cereal and milk. It was adorable to watch Whitley gum the little spoon we were feeding her with, unsure of what it was exactly we were putting in her mouth. Her first spoonful almost didn't even make it past the tip of her tongue as she was hurriedly attempting to explore the strange new substance with her lips. Most of the cereal ended up down her face and on her shirt.

Our next few spoonfuls were a little better, and the quizzical look on her face made us laugh. It wasn't like she wasn't liking the food we were giving her, but it was more of a fascination that she had this substance in her mouth and she knew how to swallow it. I am not sure what was more amazing to her - the spoon or the strange motion of her mouth and throat. Though the cereal was basically little more than liquid, you could see in her expression that she was quite curious about what it was she was doing. Watching her try to gnaw on the cereal with her little mouth was simply delightful.

First Time She Laughed

She really likes this toy and sort of laughs at it.
Several of these experiences have caused me to cry, and it is interesting to say that this was one of them. Perhaps it was because it was a little late in the coming, or perhaps it is simply because I am overly infatuated with her, but when I first heard Whitley laugh it gave me the happy shivers like
nothing else. Her laugh is a shy little creature, but when it comes out makes your heart melt. Her first laugh was no exception. What it was that made her laugh I can't even remember, but I do remember that I tried several things afterwards to keep her laughing.

That laugh only lasted about five seconds, and she stopped laughing for a good week or so after. I would try to make her laugh, but to no success. She is at a point now, 6 months out, where we can make her laugh (when she isn't tired) by either blowing raspberries on her stomach or neck, or running a wipe down her chest when changing her. Each time she goes into a fit of giggles and we keep doing it until she gets bored of what we are doing. I love the fact that she laughs when she wants to, kind of like telling us that she
A video with her and her cousin. She may have laughed, I can't remember.
isn't our play thing and that we are there to entertain her. She definitely has a sassy personality like that, and I love it.
The only video we have of her laughing. This is the technique I use to get those precious giggles out.

A Few Thoughts

Who doesn't love that smile?
I could go on and on and on about the things our sweet Whitley does that brings such mirth into our lives, but I feel like the experiences I have shared are sufficient. Several of her mannerisms are what make her such a joy, particularly the way she will, without fail, stare at me and wait for me to look at her so she can give me the biggest open-mouthed smile whenever we are eating meals. Her infectious joviality is felt by anyone who gets to catch her eye. Today we went to IHOP and the lady at the next table, who has a small baby of her own, couldn't help but notice Whitley - and she wasn't even seated facing in Whit's direction. Everywhere we go we meet people who tell us of how happy and cute she is (and one person telling me how puny she is, which was funny), and I couldn't agree more.

She wouldn't even let go.
Like her daddy (and a lot like her mommy, though not as outwardly obvious), Whitley is quite an opinionated little girl, and she isn't afraid to let you know it. She refuses to be laid down in such a way where she can't see what is going on. If there are people around she will not nod off and go to sleep like some babies (unless it is church, where even the best of us fall asleep). If she is hungry, she is hungry now and she had better get her food; there is never a build up to the fact. Sleep is a nuisance to her and she doesn't like to give in. She will arch her back when we try to rock her to sleep, and often will spread her arms and slap our faces before she succumbs to the tired. Tummy time is not fun time and she refuses to sit there long enough to roll over. If she doesn't like the way you looked when she first met you, she will have a problem with you forever (my poor dad has never been able to hold her without her crying).

Snuggling with Grandma Phillips.
With all her attitude, she is still the most loving little girl I have ever met. When she is scared she wants to be held, and in holding her she will bury her head in your arm pit and only see what is happening by moving her eyes. When she decides she wants to be tired she will hold on to your shirt and lets you know she counts on you to watch her when she sleeps. When we need to work she will sit and watch us with rapt fascination, going for hours before she finally needs our attention. When you need a smile she will give it to you in spades.
We had to clean paintbrushes, so she was ok hanging out on the counter.
She is super excited to help us paint!
She is possibly the cutest sleeper ever.
I love that I can sing my little girl to sleep at night, and that she will stop crying whenever we sing. It is also a funny little note that I can get her to stop crying most of the time or  stop her doing most anything simply by whistle-humming at her (when I whistle and hum at the same time). I am not sure if it is because she is fascinated by the sound, or it genuinely calms her because I have been doing it to her as a soothing technique since the day she left the womb. Although I feel bad that she won't be comforted by some people, I entirely love the fact that she can always be soothed by me or Andrea. I love, love, love the fact that she seems to love her parents so much - it makes it a lot easier to love her so much back.

So much of being a parent these days seems to be wrapped up in an expectation that it is somehow unpleasant and not worth the time. Although I have such an easy baby, I don't think that it makes my opinion any less valid when I say that parenthood, and specifically fatherhood for me, is incredible and a journey of greater worth than any other thing that I can possibly think of or do.

Whitley is already training hard for more adventures ahead with push-ups.
Doing her sit ups.
My biggest fear now is what it will be like when we have another child. How can I possibly love another child as much as I do Whitley? Will I be able to show the same amount of love for them as I do for her? It is a serious fear of mine, but it is the best fear I can possibly think of having.

I have well over 100 pictures of Whitley already, but for some reason this ranks among the top. I thought I would share it.