Austen turns 11 months old today. He took his first real steps on Friday, getting bolder with each run between the ottomans and the couch (a run that got longer each time because the babysitter kept moving the ottomans :). Sometimes he'd sort of plunge forward, and other times he'd really get the hang of walking completely upright, taking full, confident, heel-to-toe steps. It's hard to believe that this time last year, he had his head, feet, and hands all stuck underneath my ribs, and that despite his hearty thrashing, he couldn't even turn himself head-down, much less cruise around the room without me. In eleven months, Austen has gone from a tiny, grunty, swaddled little newborn to a sturdy, vocal, corduroy-wearing toddler.
On Thursday he went in for another well-baby visit with the pediatrician. We never got around to determining the over/under ahead of time; instead, we just looked at each other and said "how much do you think he weighs?" right before we plopped His Nakedness on the scale. Al's guess was 23.5 lbs, and I threw out 24 just for variety. I wouldn't have been surprised at anything between 23 and 24.5 pounds. (He was 23 lbs. 10 oz.) For the first time, he was allowed (or able?) to sit up on the scale instead of being forced to lie down. He seemed to tolerate the weighing better this way, though the socket into which the scale was plugged was in far too convenient a spot for a sitting 11 month-old who loves power cords. (Our first disciplinary battles have been over the touching of cords and diaper pails.)
Anyway, while I hadn't anticipated being able to sit Austen up on the scale, I *had* thought they might stand him up to measure him. No dice: He had to lie down, which seems like a great way to get an inaccurate measurement, if you ask me. This month's seemed more accurate than August's, however. I suspect that the August one was off because it indicated that he'd grown less than 1/2" since his 5-month visit, and this one indicated that he'd grown over 3" since August. My bet is that he grew about an inch between 5 months and 8 months, and about 2" between 8 months and 11 months. That he'd grown some in the last month or so was definitely noticeable; when we switched to long pants (size 12-18 mo.) in September, they had to be rolled up, but by last week this was no longer the case.
Partly because of the wonky height measurement at 8 months, and partly because Austen's much more mobile now (have I mentioned before that he's a very proficient crawler?), his dots on the growth charts have flip-flopped: Whereas at 8 months he was in the 90th percentile for weight and the 75th (or 70th?) percentile for height, at 11 months he is in the 75th percentile for weight and the 90th percentile for height. In short, he's tall, and he's growing faster than he's gaining weight (finally).
Austen is on target with all the developmental milestones, says the pediatrician, and from my own observations and others', he's happy, interactive, silly, curious, and amenable to new people and places. It's still easy to strap him into the stroller or the car seat and head out on errands or other diversions, and it's almost as easy to leave him with the babysitter for a couple hours at a time while I go out to play hockey. We even left him with the sitter for 7 hours AT NIGHT! on Wednesday when Al took me to a New Jersey Devils game for my birthday. Of course, I missed him nearly every moment of those 7 hours, but I only worried about him a little.
I used to wonder why a stay-at-home Mom who didn't work would need a babysitter, but now I know: Without help a couple days a week, nothing would ever get done. Even though Austen naps fairly regularly, and it's easy to take him on errands, it's no longer possible to cook, bake, or clean the house without someone else watching him. He can still technically fit into the Bjorn, but it's not particularly comfortable for either of us, and cleaning or cooking with him in the backpack carrier is a bit too strenuous for me. I'll admit that cleaning and cooking weren't the main reasons I hired a babysitter at the beginning of the month—hockey was—but they're the reason I asked the sitter to come twice a week instead of just Fridays.
I still struggle occasionally to get through the non-babysitter days; they're even a bit tougher than before I had help because Austen tries to make up for lost Mommy time by being clingier. You'd never know that he missed me at all when Hannah is here—they play and laugh non-stop—but as soon as she leaves he wants me to hold him all the time. He'll often wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning on Wednesdays and Saturdays (instead of his usual 5:30 or 6:30) so that he'll get some extra snuggle/nursing time in our bed. Basically, under the current arrangement both my highs and my lows are magnified: On the bad days my crankiness, my frustration, my anger, and sometimes even my despair seem overwhelming. On the good days, though, the joy is pretty limitless.
This week will be an interesting one because Hannah is away for a long weekend and won't be coming on Tuesday, and Austen and I leave Wednesday for Valerie's house in Maine. I debated for a long time about how to swing this trip, especially after getting some good advice about driving alone with a baby to Maine from my friend Shannon ("DON'T DO IT!"). I looked into flying, but in the end I decided to try something a little unconventional but possibly fun: I'm driving, but making frequent stops. On Wednesday we'll be driving from Philadelphia to Danbury, CT; on Thursday we'll go from Danbury to Lexington, MA (where we'll hopefully have dinner with our friends Anne & Peggy); on Friday we'll head up to Portland, where we'll stay until Sunday morning; and on Sunday we'll drive from Portland down to Springfield, MA. (These legs are all designed to be between 2 and 3.5 hours, which is about Austen's range in the car.) After checking in at the hotel in Springfield, we'll make a short drive down to Hartford, CT to pick Al up at the airport, and on Monday morning the three of us will head back to Philly. This last leg is the longest, but it's also the one where I'll have help—one of us can sit in the back seat with Austen if he starts to wig out.
I don't think I've ever been to Portland before (I might have been as a kid, but I don't remember), so I'm looking forward to seeing it, and of course to seeing Valerie. I'm also interested to see what it's like to go on an extended trip with Austen by myself. I do worry a bit that Austen will miss Al, especially since Al now gets up with him every morning so I can have a little extra sleep. Both of them really enjoy their morning time together; the father-son bonding has been spectacular. It's so cute when Austen wakes up/stops nursing, rolls over, sits up, and starts patting Al on the shoulder (or in the face, if the shoulder gets no response), saying "Dadda! Dadda! Up!"
When I get back from Maine, we'll need to buckle down and start planning Austen's first birthday party. As I've probably said many times before, first birthdays are a big deal in Korean culture, so it won't be your average kiddie party. The two things we've settled on are the date (Dec. 3 instead of the Saturday after Thanksgiving, for reasons that were obvious to everyone but us until recently) and the location (our house, because we can't find a good Korean restaurant in Philly); the rest is all up in the air. At the very least we need to figure out the food and lodging arrangements asap.
OK, before I go off rambling ad nauseam (too late!), I want to leave you with a perhaps-clichéd analogy: Parenthood really is like the Army, from the boot camp-like early days to the sometimes monotonous patrol duties to the singing of songs while marching around (I think only current parents will understand that last one). It certainly changes the way you look at and interact with the world, and it is indeed the toughest job you'll ever love.