When we look back at 2016, we might consider it the year where political systems and democratic ideals faltered against the pressures of populism, intolerance, and class conflict. I should feel glad that it is over. However, it was easily one of the best years of my life! I made a successful transition to a new job in another state. We also got to experiences hundreds of unique experiences with our daughter, DJ.
Over the past few months, Dahlia’s personality is really starting to emerge. She is outgoing, creative, and fearless. That has encouraged us to take many trips to various farms and hikes. We’ve dressed her up as an owl for Halloween and found many, many toys to play with. We’ve read hundreds of kids books at home and in Story Time at our local libraries.
It’s not all positive though. She got a broken wrist after a short fall on some stairs because she was so aggressive with her climbing tactics; she spent most of December with a pink cast. Her first experience with Santa Claus was traumatic; she’s never cried so hard.
Right now, our family is with Jean Browe who is Dahlia Jean’s namesake and great grandmother. Christmas in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina is a lot warmer than our last few months in Frederick, Maryland. We’re having a terrific time at Brookgreen Gardens and we are eager for more adventures in 2017.
Dahlia celebrated her first birthday on August 10th. The prior weekend, we were surrounded by family at Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina. The signature image of this blog post is a recreation of a photo we took when Megan was still pregnant: Dahlia and Megan in front of “Frog Baby”. This time, Dahlia is sitting next to Megan instead of being in the womb.
We are getting very comfortable in Maryland. Even though we haven’t spent much time exploring the DC area, we love what we have seen so far. It’s perfect for Dahlia’s early development because of all the available services for new parents. As we start thinking about where to live, it’s no longer a question of which state we will live in; we just need to figure out which part of Maryland is right for us. Our time here has been in Urbana so far which is 30 minutes to an hour away from work.
We have a few trips planned for the rest of the year. Megan and Dahlia are on a short trip to Florida right now. We will be heading to Seattle for a wedding in September. Megan and Dahlia will be in Texas in October. We may head to Michigan for Thanksgiving. We will probably go back to South Carolina in December for Christmas.
Being close to the capital during an election season is very interesting. With Dahlia here, I definitely see how having a child can adjust the way parents perceive various issues. How the economy performs is directly connected to how we can pay for her education. The way people talk about immigration and other hot topics makes me wonder about the world she will grow up in. Will there still be an American dream like the one that brought my parents to this country or will there be a giant wall?
Dahlia will be a year old soon. She just started “toddling” – walking around with authority. It’s not as mind blowing as I thought it would be. The real shock came a month ago when she determined how to get more play time with her walker by moving to the other side when she had pushed it all the way to a wall. I can see her study things every day. This is going to be fun!
The whole process has made me realize how challenging most day to day activities are. Things we take for granted probably took many centuries to develop. They get passed down from generation to generation without a second thought. Reading, talking, eating with utensils, exercising, climbing up and down stairs, using the bathroom – the list goes on and on. If you break each activity into its component parts, there are so many steps and scenarios to consider. Over time, they become effortless. Eventually, we learn to master complex things like architecture, engineering, and even good parenting (I hope). The Internet became part of our world over my lifetime; will DJ even understand a world where it didn’t exist?
She’s become a frequent traveler over the past year: 8 flights, 3 long road trips. She has moved cross country. She knows a few words. She can sign when she wants milk or wants to be held. Her smile is effortless. She has a favorite song – the Gayatri Manta – which we use whenever she gets stressed out. She dances to Beyoncé.
I love my new job and the DC Area. Megan is an amazing mother and doing extremely well as a student. While we are working on balance, we have a strong foundation to work with and community connections that are growing.
I’ve included a lot of photos in this blog post including our first trip to Megan’s hometown as a family. We went there to spread the ashes of our favorite grandfather – Walter Browe. I am reminded of him whenever Dahlia smiles. Next month, we should have many more pictures when we celebrate DJ’s first birthday at Brookegreen Gardens in South Carolina.
Dahlia is 8 months old. The last time I wrote in this blog, she was 10 weeks old. I can’t believe 5 months have passed by! Things are moving fast.
There have been so many firsts in her life within the past month:
Her first words were mama. She looked straight at Megan, said the magic word, and moved quickly to her mother. She already understands Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs!
She’s crawling. We practice everyday and she gets faster and more confident. Right now, we play a game of chase where we both crawl from room to room. My knees have never been this sore!
She’s practically standing. To prevent her from exploring too many new things without our supervision (because of her new mobility), we setup a fence in the main room. This has just allowed her to practice standing up with support. Fortunately, she’s learned to fall on her bottom recently so we don’t have to stick a helmet on her
She has teeth! We’ve been trying to get her to play with food. It’s a messy exercise, but the entire family gets into it. We always end it with a bath.
She smiles at us all the time. It used to be something that we could only expect for short stretches during the day. Now, she just spends most of her day finding new ways to laugh and giggle. It’s still as extraordinary as the first time we saw her do it.
Over the past few months, we’ve never been so tired or so happy. However, I have struggled with balancing work and family due to a large amount of travel and a long commute. As we thought about the future, we were not sure whether Florida was the best fit for us. We decided to make a change and I will be looking for new opportunities this month. It’s exciting but it’s also scary because we have a little person to consider.
There are a lot of photos in this collection. Just imagine how many videos we have taken! In time, I’m sure DJ will think this was excessive but she’ll never know how much these moments affected her parents.
Some of the key events that occurred during this period were my sister’s weddings in Los Angeles and Houston as well as Christmas with Megan’s family. We also got to see DJ’s great grandfather for the last time.
Squiggles is 10 weeks old! I’m writing this blog post as I watch her resting in a rocker which I push front and back with my left leg. In the beginning it was far too big for her; now it feels a little too small. Sometimes, she smiles while she sleeps. There are so many subtle cues that her mind is processing large amounts of information. Sometimes I stare at her and forget to continue the rocker movement. Dahlia just opens her eyes, glares at me, and forces me to remember where I am and what she wants me to do. No one stops the rocker unless she says so.
She is so beautiful. In the beginning, she was more of a tiny blob than a baby. Now, she has these incredibly delicate features and ivory skin. She has started to coo at us when we talk to her. I’m convinced that I can teach her to say “mama” very soon. I think its a great first word because it is not too easy and because mom has definitely been the MVP her incredible development so far.
Mom has also had to make some serious sacrifices. Not only does she balance her rigorous nurse practitioner program with taking care of Squiggles, but Megan has also given up dairy because Dahlia may be allergic to a specific protein. To ensure breastfeeding goes well, Megan cannot have any milk, cheese, or ice cream – staples of her old diet. Breastfeeding ensures that Dahlia gets the proper antibodies to protect her for life. She also just had her first set of vaccinations!
None of my old techniques to soothe the baby work anymore. The good old “shush” walk is no longer effective. The swaddle is a bad idea because the baby can roll. Fortunately, it no longer feels like trial by fire. Instead of being thrown into parenthood, the new challenges emerge gradually and can be handled as we see the patterns.
Dahlia is almost two months old. People say time flies with a baby. My experience has been quite different. I have a hard time remembering what life was like before she joined us. Did I ever do anything important? Was I ever this happy?
She rolled on her own for the first time two weeks ago. She squiggled from her front onto her back in a very deliberate way. I caught it on a short video! Unfortunately, I was so excited that only two seconds of the three second event made it onto youtube for our families to celebrate her achievement. Afterwards, I wasn’t sure how to feel. She’s only a few steps away from rolling from her back to her front which is only a few steps away from crawling. A mobile delicate Dahlia makes us very, very nervous. I’m sure I will feel this way about every step in her development.
My favorite time of day is watching her wake up from a nap. It’s a ritual that lasts several minutes with several awkward looking stretches and flickering eyes. Sometimes, she loses the fight and just ends up in another nap.
It feels like Megan and Dahlia can talk to each other. Dahlia is very articulate and her expressions range from boredom to pure joy! It’s fun to watch them interact and I’ve never been so proud of my partner. During my day, I usually get at least 2-3 photos of Dahlia in new outfits. It’s made my transition to the workforce much easier and my stress levels have never been lower!
My free time is also more valuable than it has ever been. Between 5-7 AM and 9-10PM, I have time to work on personal projects while getting ready for work or getting ready to go to bed. Surprisingly, I have been able to achieve more with this time than in the past. All my pursuits have been broken up into tiny 15 minute tasks. The habit of doing these short tasks has produced incredible results. I would not be surprised if Megan feels the same way. She may be limited to two hours of precious study time per day, but the constraints make these sessions very focused.
There is a feature called Live Photos on the new iPhones that is perfect for babies. It captures 1.5 seconds of video before and after you take a picture. Its been perfect to show how explosive and uncontrolled little Dahlia’s movements can seem. The photo is just one part of the experience; the video segments provide so much more context. I’m looking forward to sharing those on this site when support for them expands beyond Apple devices.
We call her Squiggles. Dahlia Jean had so many potential nicknames – DJ, Dolly, Baby D – but Squiggles is the one that sticks. When she is awake, she is never still. Her legs and arms go up and down, side to side. Her face has so many shifting expressions. To me, she is squeaky, squirmy, and feels so squishy. Sometimes, I think she’s as difficult to carry as a kayak. She may weigh 9 pounds and 10 ounces on paper but she never feels solid enough to hold with any confidence. Squiggles is a boundless bundle of joy!
We celebrated her 1 month birthday last week. Squiggles had just taken her first flight ever for Megan’s orientation to the DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) at the University of Michigan and she met Megan’s parents. Despite all our worries, Dahlia was just perfect through security and on the plane. Everyone says that babies get much tougher on planes later on in life, but we feel very lucky that Squiggles travels well. Besides, everytime anyone sees how awesome she is at every thing, they always say that it only gets tougher. Whatever. Squiggles is amazing!
Now that all the flights and friends are over with, Megan and I have developed a routine with the baby. Surprisingly, nights are easy and we are getting 6 to 7 hours of sleep. Dahlia is more challenging during the day. While we have excellent methods of calming the baby, we have no idea what to do when she is calm to keep her calm. Megan and I are squeezing in all the cleaning, cooking, and studying in between all the tense moments when Dahlia tries to tell us what she wants. We had originally thought that we would be using cloth diapers; that fantasy is over now that we know how many diapers she goes through.
This past week, I started work again. It feels so strange. While my month off sometimes felt like a lifetime, I loved every minute of it. Suddenly, work feels like another world. costa rica . I’m inspired to be more efficient but I’m also more frustrated when tasks lack the discipline of a solid plan. Unfortunately, my time at work means that Megan has to balance studying for her program with the most difficult time to work with Squiggles. This usually means that I come home and take on Daddy duties full-time so that Megan can prepare for her classes. Time to create a new routine!
Living on the beach has been a blessing since we had Dahlia. If the tide is low, we walk near the water barefoot. While it would be nice to be closer to work to avoid the long commute, I would never want to give up sunrise at Cape Canaveral. Enjoy the photos!
For the first few days after Dahlia was born, we had two friends over from Seattle – Kris and her daughter Kim. They were the MVPs of Dahlia’s first 10 days of life. They provided us with words of wisdom, nourishment and support while we got rest, and encouragement when spirits were low. When they left, my parents and my sister visited us to see the new baby. My family was very surprised at how efficient our baby handling operations had become!
As we get a break from visitors, we have been reflecting on the lessons we have learned in the first two weeks. We don’t need to feel isolated as new parents. We’ve been able to go out for walks, enjoy some meals at restaurants, and attend many doctors visits without stressing out. This weekend, Dahlia will take her first flight to Michigan where she will see Megan’s parents. While I am stressed about the trip, I’m recognizing that I am stressed out about any new experience for Dahlia. day-trips Fortunately, Megan provides me with a reality check on my anxiety.
Dahlia is currently 8lbs 5 ounces and 21 inches tall; this is 7 ounces and 2.5 inches more than where she was when she was born. She just graduated from the lactation clinic as an expert milk drinker! As a team we are getting at least 6 hours of sleep a night which is helping us stay happy and healthy.
Some of the highlights from this period (other than the visitors): Dahlia’s first bath, realizing that Dahlia’s little digestive system doesn’t take a nap when you change her diapers, getting her footprint and handprint as a keepsake, and the strange question about what to do with a baby’s umbilical cord when it falls off.
Our professional photographs are in! These were taken at Cape Canaveral Hospital in Cocoa Beach, FL. We worked with a skilled photographer who captured the wonders of this big milestone for our family.
Before Dahlia was born, one of our big concerns was how Silly Goose, our 8 year old cat, would take to the new family member. The first day, Goose stayed far away from all of us and isolated himself on our tiny patio. The next day, he joined us in bed but stayed awake for all our hijinks. Afterwards, he was as exhausted as we were. Last night, he got back into his normal spot above my pillow and even gave us his normal 5:15AM “get out of bed” alarm. We think Dahlia and Goose will be good friends!
Enjoy the photos! In the next post, we plan on discussing the importance of friends and family during this special time.
I once said that the tattoo on the back of my arm was the male version of childbirth in terms of pain and endurance. Now that we’ve experienced childbirth, I would like to personally apologize to every female on the planet for underestimating this miracle.
Dahlia Jean is here! After 10 hours of labor when my wife was induced on August 10, our baby was born at 5:41 PM Eastern at a weight of 7lbs 14 ounces. She is a beautiful, healthy, and vivacious baby girl. Megan and I are in love. I think she has my eyes and my hair. Fortunately, she gets everything else from her gorgeous mom. I suspect that everything in my life prior to August 10 (pre-DJ) will no longer be as memorable as all the events that occur after.
Right now, our lives revolve around Dahlia’s needs. We use an app called Baby Tracker to record her every action – you’d be surprised at how much hard work that is even for a newborn that can only eat, sleep, and poop at this point – and it might as well account for all of our activities too. Even when I’m away from the little one, I can’t stop thinking about her. Physically, getting enough sleep is a huge struggle!
Megan has many additional challenges to deal with. Her body went through tremendous changes during pregnancy and childbirth takes a huge toll on the body. I’m glad I can be here to help during the minimum recovery time of six weeks while we learn how to take care of our precious new DJ.
I’m taking one month off from work for “baby bonding time” using FMLA (America’s 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act); it will only scratch the surface of how much time we truly need for a good foundation for Dahlia’s care. Reading about all the companies and countries that are doubling their current alottments (Netflix has switched to an unlimited allowed leave), I’m glad that there are changes coming when it comes to parental leave. There are tremendous benefits to being able to safely transition into the immense challenges of raising a child. No one should have to do it alone and unsupported.
Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes 10,000 hours to become world class at a skill. If this first week is any measuring stick, Megan and I will soon become masters of the swaddle, breastfeeding, and diapers. Having friends visit during this time is awesome. Special thanks to Kris and Kim for helping out! We’re looking forward to getting help from our families as well.
Enjoy our photos from these first few days! A photographer took professional photos of us while we were in the hospital; I will upload them as soon as possible.