Making costumes is one of my favorite things in the world. I was determined not to let a few little things like pregnancy, childbirth, and a newborn stop me. Oh, how little I knew. If it weren't for the excited determination of my husband, I don't think I would've made it across the finish line for Dragon*con last year. Here's the tale.
Now, if you saw this article on our Lightsaber Gender Reveal, you know we're geeks. Ryan and I have been geeks for 11 years together. We went to our first Dragon*con with one costume each back in 2004, and they weren't handmade. We met LeVar Burton and Peter Mayhew, and saw Ray Parks kindly hold a lady's purse while she tied her shoe. George Lowe recorded my outgoing voicemail message as Brak's Dad (instead of Space Ghost as most people requested) for $10.
I met Marina Sirtis dressed as Deanna Troi, her character from Star Trek: The Next Generation, laminating my geek card in a single accidental moment. In the program book, I saw several actors I recognized. I exclaimed, "Oh! That guy from Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place!" Yeah, that was Nathan Fillion. I hadn't seen Firefly yet. That happened. We took photos of so many costumes and went to tons of panels and watched the parade like kids at Disney. We invented costumes for ourselves out of the clothes we'd brought, just for the fun of participating in this epic costume party in the hotels.
Flash forward a decade. Maybe some of the luster is gone now. We've already met many of the attending celebrities, we've worn as many as six handmade costumes each in a weekend at the con, and we rarely attend panels anymore. We've walked in the parade and relished the applause for our group costumes, waving to children and excited adults alike.
We wear the costumes we've worked so hard on, do a little shopping in the vendors' area, and then hang out in our hotel room with the friends (and sometimes relatives!) we've gathered there for the weekend. It's still glorious, if not as shiny as it once was, and we still look forward to it every year. We spend the summertime making our costumes, sometimes doing a workout program, and solidifying plans with everyone we know who will be attending.
The summer of 2014, I was not doing a workout program. I was growing a human. I couldn't work on my costume plans because I couldn't cut out a pattern with my giant belly and uncomfortableness. I was still able to make plans with people we knew who would be attending, though, and last year, that included my folks. More on that in a bit, though. First, I had to have a baby.
I was due July 21st, 2014. That would make our newborn only about 5 weeks old when we got to Dragon*con. I started to doubt that I should go at all. Ryan gently asked me if I'd regret not going, and I agreed that I really would. We went to the doctor on June 30th for my checkup. We asked the doctor if we'd be able to take a baby to a big crazy convention like that. She said that as long as he was able to get his shots before we left, and we were smart about it, it should be okay. Yikes. Those were 8-week shots, not 5-week shots. Maybe we couldn't go at all.
Wouldn't you know it, late that night my water broke! Harrison was born on July 1st, 2014--three weeks early!
After my recovery and our adjusting to having a new tiny creature in the house, Ryan gently suggested we try to get costume work done for Dragon*con. I was so tired. I was struggling with breastfeeding and pumping and low supply. I didn't know how we'd make it to Atlanta and back with this tiny baby in tow. I had my doubts about the whole thing. I put together some costumes using thrifted clothes and embellishments. Then I asked Ryan for some help finishing the one costume I made from scratch. He held our tiny guy while I hot glued and sewed and fought to stay awake. It was a tough time, and I felt guilty for not loving it like I had every year before. Looking back now, I'm glad I was able to get everything finished in time. The final push was when I asked my folks--and Harrison's godfather, Brian--if they'd be interested in a group costume with the baby and me. They all jumped on board. (Ryan already had too many costumes last year, or he would've jumped in, too. He's still a little upset with himself for not joining the big group.) Knowing they were going to participate made me really push to get mine done.
My folks had never been to Dragon*con before. I'm challenging Mom here and now to write a guest piece about going to her first convention.
They seemed to have a really great time--I'm sure it helped that their costumes were perfect. My Dad really went all out (my Dad is a really talented designer. He made all my Homecoming, Prom, and Pageant gowns growing up, as well as the family's Halloween costumes and tons of gowns for my Mom. He's my costume inspiration). They were there for one reason, really: to see their grandson again! It didn't hurt that Ryan and I would be there, nor that it was Mom's birthday weekend! Every year, I find a celebrity that Mom knows and I get their autograph for her. She has signed photos of Mickey Rooney, Barbara Eden, Christopher Lloyd, and Kathy Najimi. One year, Haley Mills cancelled, so Mom got a photo of me and Alice Cooper instead.
All right. Time for the goods. After a difficult summer of adjusting to life with a newborn while juggling the house, the dog, work, and other commitments, we managed to create some great costumes and get ourselves psyched up for Dragon*con. All of my costumes included the baby. Ryan came up with our one family costume, which you've seen before here: Adventure Parents. We made outfits using baby care items that looked like action heroes. Ryan wore a military backpack from our friend, Will Terza, stocked with diapers and bottles and a teddy bear. I wore a utility belt made of pacifiers and a manual breast pump in a holster. Ryan had a diaper belt and bottles in a chest holster. I had the baby in the Bjorn and carried a coffee. It was funny, but also pretty close to true life.
My other costume with the baby was a simple, easy, Captain Hook with Baby Smee. I used thrifted clothes and added a few details here and there. I made a hairpiece with a hook and bright feathers. I wore black pajama pants because I JUST HAD A BABY. Ryan had three Walter White costumes because, well, he looks a bit like him, and we marathoned Breaking Bad when we brought the baby home (in retrospect, maybe not the best show for me and my post-natal fragile hormones).
The final costume for me, the big group costume, was from Harry Potter. I said a long time ago that if I ever had a baby, I would dress as Professor Sprout and have the baby dressed as a mandrake. "That way," I reasoned, "when it cries it's just in character!" So, after another gentle prod from Ryan, I actually did it. Brian came on board as Professor Snape, and my parents--to their neverending credit--went as Lucius and Draco Malfoy. That's right, not Lucius and Narcissa, Lucius and Draco. My Mom was Draco Malfoy. It was GLORIOUS. That costume group, while a bit challenging since I had to carry the baby all day (I built a t-shirt sling and added a felt flower pot and Mandragora label on the front), was just amazing. We were certainly appreciated around the con!
We ended up having a great time. All our friends were really cool about having a baby at Dragon*con for the first time. They held him, made faces at him, even gave him a bottle from time to time. They were such good sports, and Ryan and I are eternally grateful. Some friends would have looked at our bringing the baby as throwing a wet blanket on their wild vacation, but not these guys. So, Brian, Travis, Hillary, Matt, and Hannah, you have my thanks (and my axe).
My folks even offered to spend time with the baby and kick us out of the hotel room to go "be adults" for awhile. It was really hard for me to leave him behind, even knowing I'd be in the same building with a working cell phone. Ryan took my arm and gently led me out into the throngs of Dragon*con, saying how excited he was for us to "be us" for a little while.
To be honest, I don't remember much from last year's Dragon*con. That's what sleep deprivation and breastfeeding struggles will do to a person. But I have so many photos that remind me of the fun we had. We made Harrison some onesies with images we printed and ironed on. His godmother, Amanda, bought him a tiny Batman outfit, so Ryan and I also wore Batman-themed outfits out to Benihana our first night of the con. Our little geeky family, out for dinner at Dragon*con. Priceless.
Am I glad I fought through the exhaustion and made these wonderful memories? Of course! Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! Was it hard? Dear God, YES! There's one more part to the tale, too. It's truly personal, and very few know about it. I hate to leave you on a cliffhanger, but I'm looking at over 1,700 words here, so you'll have to wait til next week, my darlings.
Until next time... "Never give up! Never surrender!"
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Filed under: Storytelling
Tags: adventure parents, alice cooper, baby, baby costumes, baby smee, baby's first convention, batman, bringing a baby to a con, captain hook, chicago mom, convention, cosplay, cosplay family, costume parade, costumes, dragoncon, dragoncon parade, geek, geek dad, geek mom, geeky parents, harry potter, marina sirtis, newborn, professor sprout and mandrake, sincere mommy, spaceballs, Tara Schile