Stan! Here for a Year!

You read that right.

I sent an email to my pal Stan last night, which was part "Hey, how ya doin'? Just touchin' base!" and part "Where's my money?" He replied this morning, and one thing that he mentioned was that he'd been living here in Southern California for a year already.

That got me thinking, because hell if I realized that it had been that long since he'd moved down here. After doing the math, though, I realized that he was right.

You see, it was a somewhat stormy time of the year, and my son Stephen had been with us for about a week since his birth. Stan had driven down to SoCal from Seattle, and I remember him coming by our apartment that evening to say hello and meet our newborn child.

That memory drove it home for me. The most important benchmark in my life up until now was Stephen's birth on March 21st, 2005. We celebrated his first birthday in style, but that celebration didn't remind me of the other benchmarks -- some small, some large -- that I'd put out of my mind in my day to day life as a dad, a husband, a writer, and a buyer.

So, like...wow.

There's another important benchmark on the horizon, which recalls another of my most important days: my wedding anniversary. Next Tuesday, Amy and I will celebrate our fifth year as wife and husband. Previous to that, we'd been together (in sin) since we met in July of 1992. All told, that's fourteen years.

Just consider how many little Stephens we could have running around right now, if we'd been so inclined.


A Chronicle of Stephen

I have been disappointingly lax in my attention to Freelance Father lately. That is about to change, as my little boy is having a birthday. I want to take this opportunity to look at him as he has grown, and to share a few interesting tidbits (as they come up).

"We Grew Him From a Bean."

Amy and I had gone to see Spiderman II at the movies with our reenacting friends, John and Jean. It was on the way to the theater that Amy, almost casually, stated, "We might want to pick up a test."

It took a moment for that to sink in. "A what?" I asked.

"A pregnancy test," she replied. "I'm late."

"Okay," I said. I didn't give too much thought to it for the rest of the afternoon, which is surprising. I only started to get worried when we got home. She took the test, and the result came back positive. There was some fretting then, along with trying the test again "just in case," which only confirmed that the number of blue lines on the stick was consistent with a positive result.

We followed that with a doctor's appointment, which occured maybe a week later. They gave Amy a sonogram (pictured above), and explained that our child was about the size of a bean (hence, the phrase). Bean-sized or not, he was waving his little arms and legs around, and you could see his little heart beating in there. At nine weeks, he was a little person.

Ten Minutes Old

Flash forward seven months later. Stephen came into the world via c-section, wailing like most babies do. Amy got to look at him for a second or two before they dragged both he and I away to get cleaned up. Amy was still open, and they were inspecting her innards when I was ushered out of the OR. I averted my eyes; I love my wife to death, but I don't want to see her internal organs if I can help it.

The picture above is probably the second picture ever taken of the boy by a human being. It was one of the first of perhaps hundreds that would be taken over the course of the next twelve months.

That night, still groggy from the anesthesia and starting to get sore, Amy was able to hold the little man for the first time. One thing they don't tell you at the hospital is that they want you to care for the child from day one. They room the little guy with you, and they don't really care if you'd just had your belly laid open like a boned fish or not.

The Day After

Oh, we had visitors, including Stephen's grandma. Being her first grandchild, he was an instant hit. In the meantime, I changed his first poopy diaper (the famous tar-like stuff that I'd heard so many jokes about; tasty!). We learned that he had a milk allergy, and moved him to soy formula so that he could keep his meals down.

Amy bounced back quickly, both because she wanted to go home, and because she didn't see eye to eye with her nurse. Given another day or two, I think she might've strangled the woman with an IV cord. We drove home as a family after only two or three days (which was a record in the ward for c-sections, it seems).

As innocuous as the boy was in the hospital - small, relatively quiet, and (most importantly) sleeping, he changed his tune when we got home. Though he slept a good bit of the time, he didn't do it on any kind of human (or humane, for that matter) schedule. By the end of the week, Amy and I had already had one or two late-night spats which seem to be par for the course for couples with their first newborn.

I was back to work the week following Stephen's birth, groggy and crawling through my days in an exausted, sleep-deprived haze. I endured countless jokes at my expense from men and women who had been in my shoes before, not to mentioned several more digs from folks who had no idea what I was going through (and who, by all rights, had no place to be making such jokes).

All that aside, the first month flew by. In retrospect, it seemed like it lasted forever, but we made it. Somehow.

April 2005 - One Month Down

Like I said, the first month flew by. He remained largely helpless and demanding the whole time. It was hard to enjoy the earliest weeks of being a father. The experience wasn't what you might call "fun." It's nothing, at the time, that I would ever agree to go through a second time.

That said, every day brought new growth and development. He didn't smile when he was awake -- and wouldn't do so for some time -- but he was aware, and took a long look at everything and everyone that came his way.

May 2005 - Two Months Down

I think it was about this time that the little guy had me by the heartstrings. You can't live with someone, serving their every whim and desire, for two months and not feel some kind of attachment. His personality was starting to emerge. You could see it in his eyes, his little expressions. He was starting to smile at us.

June 2005 - Three Months Down

A lot of what happened in the first six months is a blur. We had our share of scares. It turned out that the boy had a heart murmur, and we eventually got him checked out by a specialist, and went through the process of having an ECG. In the end, it seemed like everything was fine with his ticker. Just a bit of narrowing of the vessel going into his heart, something he seems to have grown out of.

We also took him out to his first living history event. He laid around in his Moses basket much of the time, when he wasn't being swapped between all the ladies in our unit. Everyone loved holding him, and he wasn't too objectionable (except for when Frank picked him up; it was then that he decided to fuss...blame the lack of bosoms or whatever).

July 2005 - Four Months Down

I began to interact with him more in his fifth month than I think I did at any other time. My relationship with my son started taking off in his third and fourth months, but I think the fifth was when I really lost whatever reservations I'd had about him. He was a member of the family, and I really enjoyed being his daddy.

He also started eating solids on July 6th, with a bowl of gruel-like rice cereal. Yum!

August 2005 - Five Months Down

Sometime between July and August, the boy lost his hair.

Well, he didn't really lose it, but the dark hair that he was born with fell out and was replaced by a very blond fuzz that continues to grow longer with each passing week. He became ever more interactive and engaging for both Amy and I, though he wasn't strictly mobile. He still had trouble with being on his belly, and hated "tummy time" to no end.

This hatred of all things tummy related doubtless resulted in his flat little head, and the DOC band that he'd be fitted with come October. More on that later...

We also took a trip to Sea World. The boy was frightened by seals and sharks, but learned that lemon ice is yummmmmmy.

September 2005 - Six Months Down

September really melds into the rest of the months, and I can't think of anything that sticks out amongst all the other trivia. Life went on, that's all I can reckon, considering the fact that we're all still here.

It was in September that we took Stephen to Cranial Technologies for the first time, to get his flat little head checked out. About a month later, he'd be fitten with a device that would help his head grow into a somewhat normal and proper shape (as far as baby heads are concerned).

Another highlight: his first midnight illness. He woke up, as some of you might recall, and blew soy formula chunks all over his daddy. What a memory.

October 2005 - Seven Months Down

Stephen cut his first tooth on October 5th. At least, that's when we noticed it poking through his pink little gums. Here we are today, and that one little white eruption has turned into eight sharp little teeth. God forbid he sticks something in his mouth that you don't want him to eat, because you're putting your fingers into the Lord's hands if you dare to stick them into the boy's ravening maw.

The other major event in October of 05 is the DOC band, which you will no doubt notice on Stephen's head in the pictures for the next two or so months. Cute? Sure, and it was harder on us than it was on him. He didn't seem to care too much, so long as it was either on or off. The transition between putting it on or taking it off always seemed to annoy him for some reason.

In case you were wondering, we noticed improvement in his overall head shape after only a week of treatment. Impressive stuff, this science.

November 2005 - Eight Months Down

I called my wife from work on November 17th (or maybe she called me, I can't remember), and she had news.

"Guess what the baby is doing?"



That's right, folks. Mr. "I Hate Being On My Tummy" was ambulatory, crawling around like a little beast on our run-down, stain-resistant (but hardly "stain-free") carpet. It was like someone had flipped a switch, instantly gifting him with quadruped mobility. It had only been a matter of time, given that his ability to push himself up and roll himself over had been improving for weeks.

Prior to that, he'd been sitting up very well. If he needed to move, he'd put his head on the ground and, using it as a pivot, would swivel his lower half around. It was a ridiculous way to move around. Crawling proved to be a bit more efficient.

December 2005 - Nine Months Down

Christmas! The holiday feared by many sane first-time parents. Money was tight, but the baby didn't care. He stared at the lights and the tree until he grew jaded to their novelty. Occasionally, he would attempt to eat a stray pine needle, but beyond that one simple vice, Christmas didn't impress Stephen overmuch.

On Christmas Eve, he got to meet (a) Santa Claus (imposter). His reaction was pretty standard: barely-contained horror. Once that ordeal had been overcome, he was given presents to open. He didn't quite get it, I don't think, but that didn't stop us from loading up the car that weekend with dozens of toys and oodles of clothes.

Since that day of days, our apartment has been swimming in toys. At least he plays with most of them. His attention flits, butterfly-like, from toy to toy. As the months have passed, his attention span has grown along with his ability to get around.

January 2006 - Ten Months Down

Speaking of his ability to get around, Stephen took his first toddling step on January 14th, before falling flat on his butt.

He'd taken to standing up a lot. Between late November and mid-January, standing seemed to be his favorite pasttime. He'd creep around the coffee table or the sofa, walking with support, but until the 14th, he'd never (to my knowledge) put one foot in front of the other with no other support.

This continued on until just recently, I'd say mid-February, at which point he decided that he didn't need anymore stinking support. Toddling ensued, and has slowly been perfected by our hero. He still looks like a tight-rope walker, his arms held out in an amusing characature of a little man keeping his balance.

February 2006 - Eleven Months Down

Like I said, walking. He almost runs. Have mercy, Lord. What happened to our helpless child? You remember, the one that couldn't open cupboard doors, or grab movies off of the DVD rack so that he could contentedly chew on them. As I recall it, he would lay there and wait for us to pick him up.

Now, when I go to pick him up, he runs away, as if to say, "Sorry, pop. I've got other things to do. Leave a message, and maybe you can change my diaper later on. That'll be fun, won't it?" Alternately, we can ask him to come to us, and he occasionally will. I guess it depends on how the baby stock market is doing.

March 2006 - We've Come Full Circle

Birthday time.

It's hard to believe that it's been a year since Stephen came into our lives. We've been changed in ways we never expected. As scary as the idea of having a child was, I think we've come out of it rather well. That's not to say that our fears were unfounded, just that we've done a good job coming to grips with our roles as "Mommy" and "Daddy."

I've had a lot to think about. I see my son and I wonder how he feels about me. I guess he must like me. It's important that he does, at least to me. I want he and I to get along in a way that my father and I never could. I want my son to look up to me, to respect me, and -- most importantly -- I don't want him to be ashamed of what I am or what I will eventually become (whatever that is).

I realize that what I am, and what I do, will affect Stephen in very important ways as he grows up. I recognize that, past a certain age, he will need to make his own decisions. If he is comfortable enough with his mother and I to ask us for advice, that will be a wonderful bonus, but it won't by any means replace his own need to make his own choices and live with their consequences.

Deep stuff, huh?

We spent lunch this past Saturday at Claim Jumper, and we took the liberty of ordering for the boy. Given his lack of speech, and the fact that reading the menu is a few years off for him, it seemed the best thing to do. His grandma, grampa, and uncle were in attendance, as was his uncle's girlfriend. Oh, and we -- his parents -- were there, too.

March 2006 - Birthday Lunch

How does mini-corndogs and fries sound? The fries were a much bigger hit that the corndogs, I'm afraid. He didn't complain. I'm always pleased at how well-behaved he is on the rare occasion that we go out to eat. So long as he's a part of the conversation, and has something to do, he's a pure joy. Like anyone, though, he gets bored, so keeping him stimulated is important to our sanity.

March 2006 - Birthday Cake!

This last photograph is the cherry on the top of this blog entry: Stephen eating his first piece of cake.

When we gave it to him, he wasn't entirely sure what to think of it. He played in it, smeared it around, threw it on the floor. Once he realized it was edible and (most importantly) sweet, he dug right in. We got a lot of pictures of him lost within this chocolate fever-dream, but this was the one that says (to me, at least):

"I'm happy. I'm loved. And this cake is damn good!"