THE PARENTS: Aram Sol, 32, and Jason Sol, 37, of Elkins Park
THE CHILD: Liana Summer Sol, born March 7, 2018
AN EARLY "THIS MIGHT BE IT" MOMENT: On their first date, when Aram kept flagging the busboy every time Jason's water glass neared empty.
Her apartment, in Queens, had bedbugs and problematic roommates. His, a fifth-floor walk-up in midtown, had room for Aram's furniture and kitchen gadgets. There was just one obstacle: In a phone call from Korea, Aram's mother registered her emphatic disapproval of the two living together.
"I hung up the phone with my mom and told Jason, 'My mom is very unhappy and she's asking me to get a hotel room because we are not married,'" Aram recalls.
There was just one solution: a trip to City Hall for a marriage license.
Never mind that they'd been dating for only three months, or that Jason hadn't actually proposed. The afternoon of their City Hall sojourn, he coaxed Aram to Manhattan's High Line, where a photographer friend trailed the couple until Jason finally broached the question. In the pictures, Aram's eyes are flushed with happy tears.
At first — they were introduced by mutual friends and met for dinner at a rooftop lounge in 2014 — Aram thought Jason wasn't her type, with his brown boots and puffy black down jacket. "But he was a really sweet guy," she says. "I realized that he would be very family oriented."
Even though Jason was an actor back then, not a business executive or a doctor, he managed to charm Aram's mother (before her return to Korea) with a Valentine's Day box of chocolates and an elegant dinner out. And the day Aram moved in, while she sat in the U-Haul with the engine idling to avoid a parking ticket and he schlepped her belongings up five flights of stairs, "I knew he was the right guy for my entire life."
They married in March 2015 in Philadelphia — this time, Jason was the one to cry, gulping through their vows — and celebrated a second time, in Korea, the following year. Jason figured conception would happen swiftly once they stopped being vigilant about contraception — wasn't that what his health teachers had said? — and was surprised when it took closer to a year.
"On July 3, we were planning to go out to a beer garden," Aram recalls. "He said, 'Just to make sure, why don't you go in the bathroom and check?' I said, 'Oh, I'm not pregnant.' But I went in and checked. I looked at the stick and there were two lines. I read the instruction again; I was really, really pregnant."
They waited 12 weeks to tell people — immediate family first, then their Facebook community. Jason also started an Instagram account for their in-utero child, a pictorial story that begins with the positive pregnancy test.
The first trimester brought bouts of nausea, relieved with icy-cold seltzer. "I love seafood, but when we went to the beach last summer, I couldn't eat even one steamed crab leg," Aram recalls.
Jason was determined to keep his wife's life as stress-free as possible. He did the dishes, the laundry and the vacuuming. He took out the trash. "There were times when she was very irritable. I told myself: Just be patient. Be understanding. Try to adapt."
They wanted a girl, so they were delighted with their gender-reveal maneuver; they brought two baseballs — one filled with blue powder, and one with pink — to the ultrasound appointment and asked the tech to give them the correct ball. Then they took it to Jason's sister's house for batting practice.
"The second time Aram threw it, I hit it and pink powder came out."
Aram's labor began at 4 in the morning, but when the couple showed up at Abington Hospital that afternoon, nurses sent them back home with instructions not to return until her contractions were so fierce that she couldn't speak through them.
By that night, they were back at the hospital: a long wait in triage, an epidural, a brief respite during which both of them caught a bit of sleep. "Around 10 o'clock in the morning, when she started pushing, the nurse said, 'Grab a leg.' I was not prepared for any of this. I didn't think I was going to get this involved in the labor," Jason remembers.
Because Liana was faceup, doctors encouraged the couple to let the team use suction to ease her out. "It took four or five attempts," Jason recalls. "As soon as she came out, and I saw her, it was like my wedding day — floodgates of emotion."
Liana had a baby Mohawk of ink-dark hair. And when Jason cued up the church melody he'd played often when she was in utero, she opened her eyes.
The couple felt confident on the drive home from the hospital. Aram had begun nursing, and Jason believed he had a grasp of Liana's schedule. But no one had told him about cluster-feeding, or what to do with an infant who fell asleep as soon as she'd latched, or about the nightly vortex of colicky screaming. No one had told Aram how long it would take to recover physically from giving birth.
Now, they aim to do things differently than their own parents did. "I want to travel with her," says Aram. "I want to share everything with her, like friends."
When Jason was growing up, his parents owned a grocery store and worked around the clock. "They missed out on a lot of my life," he says. "They had to provide for us." He wants to be flexible, available, the kind of dad who joins the PTA and ferries his daughter to swimming lessons or music classes. "I want to be as involved as I can," he says.
Already, Liana has changed him. "I was always good with kids who were 3 or 4 years old. But I was never good with newborns. I never wanted to hold babies. I didn't want to risk upsetting them.