In our latest adventure, Jace and I head to the Las Vegas Strip to see flamingos and then to Town Square to play on the jungle gym.
Today was Jace’s six-month birthday. Only a baby’s age is measured in months, and then only up to a one year (I will never call my child a 14-month old. He will simply be 1).
Despite the special day, we had a pretty ordinary day for the little monkey. We started the day with a routine followup with a doctor. We stopped by work at Mandalay Bay to pick up a few things from my locker. We went to Target and spent a filthy amount of money on baby-related items.
Jace at six months is a funny, curious, gibberish-talking, round mound of infant. He is starting to take in the world around him. He pets (pulls the fur) of his dog, Ace. His interest level in any object starts and stops at ‘will this fit in my mouth’. He has two little teeth and big hair.
He has started to eat solid foods, as long as you loosely define the word solid. It’s mainly oatmeal or vegetables that are smashed into a fine sauce. He is a sloppy eater who enjoys the splatter of an uncovered sneeze with a mouth full of veggie sauce.
Me, with Jace at six months? That’s a different story. I’ve had to learn a lot more patience and a lot more planning. I have my son every day by myself. I have to plan ahead for what errands to run and which ones to skip until a different time.
Jace is still a little too small to ride in shopping carts and a little too heavy to haul around in his car seat. A lot of places I end up putting the car seat in the shopping cart, which leaves little room for actual shopping.
I have to try to take a nap when he takes a nap or go to work on less than five hours of sleep. I do more laundry, more dishes and clean up more messes than I ever have.
Yet, I’m encouraged by what is coming. He is working on sitting up which is a precursor to crawling and leads to walking. His mobility, as I am told, will lead to a lot less carrying him but a lot more WATCHING him as he finds trouble everywhere he goes.
In May, Jace will be taking his first commercial plane ride to Kansas City and Iowa. He will be 10 1/2 months old. I took my first commercial plane ride in 1992 as a student sports information assistant with the Northern Iowa women’s basketball team to play Southwest Missouri State. I was 23 years old.
Jace is a great kid, and I am truly blessed to have him. I spend all of my time now trying to find ways to make his life better each day. As every parent knows, I will probably spend the rest of my life working on that.
Happy 6-month birthday, Jace.
The year 2014 will definitely be one of the biggest roller coasters of my life.
I started the year out intentionally unemployed, as I had taken a buyout from my dead end job at a previous company so I could get back to working as an entrepreneur. My ex-girlfriend was pregnant with my child. My new dog, Ace, was shredding everything he could get his teeth and claws on.
I even found this amazing inspiration video that I loved watching over and over.
I was setting myself up for a great year.
Pregnancy is hard on women, hard on couples. It is especially hard when the couple is not actually together. They are just two people having a child together.
To say those last seven months of pregnancy were challenging was a gross understatement. There were times when I was threatened that I would never see my child. That he wouldn’t have my last name. There were times when I thought we were going to have to go Family Court to settle things.
We were both at fault. She was going through the normal pregnancy feelings and emotions. I had taken a job working graveyard shift as a poker supervisor. I hadn’t worked graveyard since I was a night stocker at a Hy-Vee in Marshalltown Iowa in the late 1980s. The 1-9AM shift, the pregnancy stress and the baby preparations all contributed to me barely keeping it together emotionally.
I was so ready for this little guy to come out.
Then things went from bad to worse. Little Jace Allen Harberts spent 49 days in the NICU overcoming a few health problems. It was tortuous. Driving up to see him twice a day to spend maybe 30 minutes each time then trying to plow through an 8-hour graveyard shift with him on my mind every moment.
In the last quarter of the 2014 things have gotten better. Jace is healthy and happy. He is growing up to be a beautiful, strong boy.
My relationship with my son is great. He is going to be a great man. We struggle at times because a 45 year old man doesn’t have a clue what to do with a four-month old baby when he’s all alone and the kid is screaming. But I walk him around, I beg, I plead, I cry along sometimes and we make it through.
I set a goal to get off the graveyard shift by the end of 2015. Then a job opened with two day shifts and three swing shifts the week before Thanksgiving. I jumped at the opportunity and got off graveyard more than a year ahead of schedule.
My social life is still absent. It would be nice to have that special someone to share my joy with my son and my dog, but it apparently isn’t in the cards right now.
It has been a roller coaster of a 2014. It turns out, however, I am having a great year.
Being a single dad is challenging. Diaper changes and feedings are relatively easy. In between diaper changes and feedings are not so easy. There is a lot of crying, a little screaming, a little pulling out of my quickly-graying hair. Babies cannot tell you what they want, but they can tell you they are upset. They are like little Congressmen.
What (I think) I have learned so far in no particular order:
Jace has really cool clothes. Logo t-shirts, jammies, little socks and hats and onesies. Unfortunately, these clothes last approximately 90 days before he is too big to wear them again. Baby clothes go from 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-9 months and 9 months-1 year. This kid will have four all new wardrobes by the time he is old enough to smash his hands into a cake to celebrate his first birthday.I still wear a windbreaker the youth basketball team I coached gave me in 1995.
Also, I think adults should get to wear onesies.
Diaper Genies make one long intestine of dirty diapers. My Diaper Genie was full…or at least it seemed full…or maybe I just had a few diapers jammed in the chute. Regardless, it felt full. I needed to change the bag for the first time. Diaper Genies are about two feet tall. As I pulled out the bag for the first time I discovered it holds about six feet worth of diapers.
The diapers wrap around in one long blue sack like a large intestine. Which is appropriate because they hold a lot of stuff that passes through the large intestine. I was so impressed by the length of the magical poopy bag I laid it out on the dining room floor. This also impressed the dog. Ace was infatuated by what the human race would refer to as waste, but the canine race would probably call food.
I picked up this giant sack of disposable diapers and tossed them in the garbage container in the garage. Ace used this exact moment to drop a deuce on the dining room floor where the sack had been moments earlier. I guess he was contributing to the cause.
Babies have terrible timing. Just as the Vikings are marching toward a game-clinching touchdown, Jace will wake up and cry. Right when you are considering whether to call off your whole stack with a nut flush draw in a game of online poker, Jace will be hungry. As you take your first bite of lunch, Jace will scream. He doesn’t mean to do it, but he doesn’t really care what you have going on. Nor should he.
When he doesn’t spend the night, I still fall asleep to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Jace spends seven days per week at my house, and usually 1-2 nights. I work nights so he spends seven nights per week with his mother and 1-2 days. When he spends the night I put him in his crib with his lullaby relaxation machine. He had this in the NICU as a way to help him relax and fall asleep. I bought him one of these machines for his crib. It projects cartoon jungle animals on the ceiling while playing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, Mozart, white noise, a heartbeat, etc. When he is not spending the night, I still listen to it so I can fall asleep.
Babies are crazy expensive. I have great insurance, and so does his mom. Which is a good thing. Because having a baby is not cheap. I haven’t seen all the bills yet, but just the ones in dispute are more than $85,000. His NICU bill was routinely more than $2,500 per day. He could have stayed a week in a penthouse suite at Mandalay Bay for less than that.
Right after his release from the NICU he had to see the pediatrician for the first time. It was just a routine check-up and a few immunizations.
Here is the invoice:
Thankfully, the co-pay was considerably less than the $2917 for a 90-minute doctor visit and a little anti-cooties juice.
After all the things I’ve learned, I’ve also learned I still don’t know a damn thing. Babies are hard. Having one all by yourself 70 hours per week is really hard. The three of us — Jace, Ace and myself — are slowly figuring things out.
Just in time to wrap this up…Jace is stirring.
The first ever boys’ three-day weekend for Chad, Jace and Ace is starting to wind down. Beginning Sunday night at 7PM and continuing until Wednesday at 5:30PM it has been eventful.
Jace went through a
crapload whole bunch of diapers. I guess when you eat eight times per day you are going to do a few #1 and #2s. How the heck did people do this when all the diapers were cotton and had to be washed and dried over and over?
I did a few loads of laundry, and a few more and one more after that. My son went through three different shirts in one day because he is either a diva or a slob. I prefer diva. It makes more sense with the whole crying thing.
Ace the dog has gone from jealous to curious to downright loving. He has learned to stay back during feedings — no easy feat for a Jack Russell — and plant a few kisses during burping time. He even managed to hone in on play time with his brother.
Sometimes Jace covets sleep, sometimes he fights it. He decides those times, and there is no telling which time is up next.
There are lots of books and online reading materials for learning how to raise a baby. I know my ex-girlfriend has read lots of them and passed along texts and texts of information to me while I am taking care of Jace.
But a lot of this seems like common sense. Protect him at all times, change him when he needs it, be patient, don’t yell, keep the house relatively quiet, keep the bottles and nipples really clean.
My friend Jerry and his wife Mei came over to drop off a present and lend a little moral support. It’s always good to talk to people who have been down a road before. In this case, Jerry is probably the most no-nonsense friend I have. It’s calls ’em as he see ’em, and I felt better after listening to some of his advice.
I know there are going to be some times when I want to pull my hair out, but I also know I can do this.
Single dads, rock on!