Tuesday, January 31, 2006

soporific toys

[posted by bkmarcus]
Angel our nextdoor neighbor is a mother of 3, runs a daycare, and is training to become a doula. She is one of the reasons we're moving back to Charlottesville.

(Another reason is MJH just down the road, where we are now signed up for 6 weeks of childbirth classes, a breastfeeding class, and a basic baby care class. It's also where the pumpkin will, if things go according to plan, first see the world.)

One of Angel's charges is a 6-month-old girl who sleeps cuddling a "Sleep Sheep" -- a fluffy companion that plays the sound of "Mother's Heartbeat" (or, if you prefer, "Spring Showers", "Ocean Surf", or "Whale Songs").

Angel also points us to The Original Slumber Bear -- which, according to the website, "contains the ONLY actual intra-uterine, recorded womb sound to help lull your Baby to sleep in minutes! Sound and motion sensors re-activate recording when Baby cries or jostles bear."

When we were up in the Catskill Mountains, we visited my favorite boyhood store and bought the pumpkin a teddybear, so I'm more inclined toward the Sleep Sheep. I suspect we'll get one or the other. But I find myself wondering when someone's going to come out with a soporific crib toy that lets me upload and download MP3 files. We're already planning to put my old powerbook in the nursery so we can have access to the full music library in there. Maybe I should just look for a CD of sleepy sounds, or a place to download them.

I'll end this audiocentric pondering with a guessing game. What are these 3 sounds?
  1. Aye

  2. Bee

  3. See
No peeking!

I'll just say for now that it's not maman's heartbeat, not the pumpkin's heartbeat, not the Sleep Sheep, and not the Slumber Bear. No, it's not my heartbeat either.

- papa


Sunday, January 29, 2006

children's classics - online and off

[posted by bkmarcus]
One of the first things we did when we learned we were expecting the pumpkin was to visit the parenting section of the nearest big bookstore. This turns out to be a small wall of shelves in the children's books section. I grabbed a couple of books -- one on expectant fatherhood, the other on how to buy baby stuff less expensively -- and then quickly grew bored of the whole section and wandered into the children's area while maman-to-be sat down and went through one of the bigger books pretty thoroughly.

I discovered three things about children's books:
  1. they make great kid's books from non-paper materials (like a soft vinyl copy of One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish that you can take in the bath, plus plenty of soft cloth books that junior can't tear or ruin by chewing on the pages);
  2. they still have all the books I remember from childhood;
  3. it matters to me that our child have books from my childhood.

One of my favorite books was Clifford The Big Red Dog. They're producing some new books with Clifford, but it's the original I'm fond of. We bought a copy for a friend of ours who is recently a new mom.

Another favorite is Are You My Mother. We got a cloth version of that one for another friend of ours who is also a new mother. (Yes, it seems that every woman we know is either a new mother, newly expecting, or trying to become newly expecting.)

Meanwhile, for prenatal story time, I've now read Wizard of Oz and Alice In Wonderland to Nathalie's roundening belly.

What to read next? We'll eventually get to the Oz and Alice sequels, but I want to read something new first. Something old to the world but new to us. I think I might do the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. You'll notice that last link takes you to Project Gutenberg. Another source for electronic copy of classic literature is just across town from our house: University of Virginia's Electronic Text Center. I mention this because our prenatal reading is all of electronic text. In the position we've come up with that allows both maman and papa to be relatively comfortable while papa's mouth is up against the curve beneath maman's belly button, papa only has one hand free. Paper books just won't do. But a laptop only requires one finger to progress through a book as I read from the screen.

So here are my two requests for your input:
  1. What childhood classics (where classics needn't be older than the 1970s) do you recommend we make sure are in the pumpkin's library? I'm talking physical books here, whether paper, cardboard, vinyl, or cloth.
  2. What childhood classics (where classics probably means out-of-copyright in this case) do you know are available in electronic text? Adobe PDF files, HTML, plain text -- those are our formats.
I welcome your input and I thank you for your recommendations, suggestions, or advice.

- papa

Saturday, January 28, 2006

More food comparisons

[posted by Nat]
Today marks 17 weeks down and about 23 to go and I've got more food comparisons. This week the iVillage calendar and the BabyCenter timeline seem to agree: the Pumpkin is about 5 inches long and weighs aproximately 5 oz. For iVillage this means the Pumpkin is about the size of a lobster tail (I thought the vegetables were a little strange, but lobster tail??! I've decided not to post an image because the ones I looked at turn my stomach, but here's a link to one), while BabyCenter compares him to a large onion.

I have been tired all week. Yesterday as I headed to school I just wanted to turn the car around and go back under the comforter. Didn't have much energy in class. My goal is to get to bed by 10:30 this coming week. Of course, this has been my goal for weeks and I never never meet it. Yesterday I thought maybe my iron was getting low so we had steak for dinner. But I think I mostly need more sleep.

I'm still not sure if I have felt any movement. Several times I have felt something like popcorn popping or gurgling-- once when Papa was talking to my tummy. I woke up in the middle of the night (or early early this morning) and had the impression that two bubbles popped one after the other in my abdomen (well, it's what I imagine bubbles popping feel like).

On that note, I'll wrap up this post before I start bitching about the aches and pains of the Pumpkin moving up towards my belly button.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

the infant art of persuasion

[posted by bkmarcus]
- papa

Sunday, January 22, 2006

4 or 5 inches

[posted by bkmarcus]

At 72 pixels per inch, this is pretty close to scale.
- papa

An avocado

[posted by Nat]
According to BabyCenter.com the Pumpkin is now about the size of an avocado -- though I don't know if they mean the big, smooth avocados or the smaller ones that have bumps.

I was disappointed not to receive my weekly BabyCenter newsletter last night. It usually comes on Saturday night because that's when we "change" weeks. For the last ten weeks the newsletter has marked each milestone of the Pumpkin's development. I guess it got lost somewhere in cyberspace.

As I was searching for images of avocados for the blog,I found this wonderful poster by Oliver Wetter at Epilogue. The cat reminds me of Lutece and boy is she going to have the blues when the Pumpkin arrives.

While going through images I also had a craving for an avocado salad... does that make me a cannibal?


Saturday, January 21, 2006

End of week 16

[posted by Nat]
A friend emailed this week and asked: "So tell, tell, tell. What's impending motherhood like?"

I found it very difficult to answer perhaps in part because I am so focused on what my body is doing now and on what the first few months of childcare are going to be like that it's hard for me to imagine the broader "motherhood".

Mostly, though, it still doesn't seem quite real, even after hearing the heartbeat twice at the doctor's office, even after the ultrasound (though I must say that during the ultrasound I was pretty nervous due to what I considered the odd behavior of the tech and doctor -- sorry guys, but I hope we get at least a woman tech next time, one who is like the nurse at the doctor's office and shows some enthusiasm for what she is doing). The pregnancy should also feel more real these days because all of a sudden I've got a belly (well, my stomach was not flat before, but as my uterus moves up towards my belly button, my tummy has started to stick out more so I look pregnant). I've been making a pile of all the clothes I can't wear anymore and I even bought maternity clothes -- shirts and pants -- and have worn some of them. Unfortunately, the nice jeans I got at Old Navy are a bit big -- maybe I should try suspenders until I grow into them...).

So perhaps in trying to answer this friend's question, I got too focused on "motherhood" instead of the whole idea of "impending motherhood", that period before motherhood, when you are careful about what you eat, when you start popping out of your clothes, when foods you once loved suddenly become unappealing (chocolate! I usually love chocolate and these days I have absolutely no desire to eat it -- I ate chocolate everyday before I got pregnant), when your body is going through all sorts of weird changes (where do all my organs go as the baby gets bigger??? why do I already need new bras when I won't be breastfeeding for another 5 or so months? my belly button is probably going to become an outy in the weeks to come?!?).

Impending motherhood has also been about balancing the obsession with impending baby and everyday life -- i.e. work. I was lucky to have several weeks off for the holidays, but now it's back to the grindstone and the grind is going to be tough this semester -- classes started last Monday and I am already sleep deprived and have a cold (ah, college! that wonderful cesspool of continuously recycled germs). When I really should be looking over the reading I have assigned for Monday, I would rather be looking for baby bumpers and crib skirts. (I've found plenty of nice ones for boys, but I usually don't like the gender neutral ones or those for girls -- I really hate all the bubblegum pink stuff. Finally found some nice designs at Pottery Barn Kids, but they are pretty expensive, so I am hoping they might be available on eBay...). Although I am really interested in the classes I am teaching this semester, I think I would rather be decorating the nursery (is that the nesting instinct already?).

Perhaps the obsession with baby crib skirts and baby cribs (we've already been to a couple stores several times to look at cribs and other gear) has to do with the fact that for now, other than the Doppler at the doctor's and the ultrasound at the hospital, we have little indication of what the life growing inside me is doing. Yesterday we were at Target looking for baby stuff and Brian wondered if baby departments would have the same draw for us once the Pumpkin becomes Thumper and starts making his presence known through flips and kicks and taps and punches, instead of the stuff we need to buy for him. I am growing impatient to feel those movements that have been going on for weeks already. I lie on my side and try to figure out what I feel. Often I just hear my heartbeat. Sometimes I think I feel a gentle swishing in my abdomen, like a fish swimming around in a bowl, but I'm not sure. Once I thought I felt something like popcorn popping.

Come on! Give me a good kick!

Friday, January 20, 2006

prenatal literacy

[posted by bkmarcus]
An unexpected benefit of prenatal communication is that I'm finally reading famous children's books I've never read before. I only knew The Wizard of Oz from the movie, seen annually on TV throughout the 1970s, and I only knew Alice in Wonderland from the Disney animated feature. And, like everyone else, I've encountered dozens of spoofs of both. They are part of our cultural bloodstream, however few of us have read the originals.

First of all, I knew there were plenty of book sequels in the land of Oz, but I didn't realize that the movie ends the story about two thirds into the first book. Second, I could have sworn I'd read Alice in Wonderland several years ago when I was testing out a RocketBook (ancient ebook reader) but I don't remember a good half of what I'm reading right now. Finally, despite its reputation among nerdy professors, geeky programmers, and other paragons of the yes-brains-no-clue set, I had no idea how fun and how funny Alice would turn out to be. Or rather, I did have some idea and was still pleasantly surprised.
- papa

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


[posted by bkmarcus]
The other day I wrote, "Their ultrasound must have been earlier than ours, because our little punkin has a definite human profile..."

Now I have reason to believe otherwise.

Compare these two images:

The one on the left is the ultrasound of a friend of ours. The one on the right is the pumpkin. They were taken at about the same age, give or take a few days. I saved them both out at the same file quality.

Tell me if I'm wrong, but it sure looks like our ultrasound is higher-resolution. That fits what the doctors tell us. Apparently Bryn Mawr Hospital is one of the first in the country to have this latest ultrasound equipment -- and it's only been available here for a few months! It makes our options different for this stage. Better.

There are some definite disadvantages to having the first 2 trimesters in Pennsylvania and then the 3rd trimester in Virginia. For instance, there are prenatal courses for new parents that require us to be in the same place for 16 weeks, which we can't do. The doctors and nurses we see won't be involved in our baby's birth, and we can't yet meet the doctors and nurses who will be. If I had my druthers, we'd be in Charlottesville for the whole thing.

But now I'm at least somewhat glad that the pumpkin was conceived in the right place at the right time for this new technology.

- papa

Saturday, January 14, 2006


[posted by bkmarcus]
Trying to reorganize my hard drive, I came upon a file from a few years ago called NotesToMyChildren.

This was a list of thoughts I was having on child raising in general and on home schooling and intellectual development in particular.

I'm not going to share all of it, but here's a handful of the earlier points:
  • Be patient with your old man: he means well.

  • NEVER accept "he means well" as an excuse for anything!

    Intentions are necessary but not sufficient.

  • With me, you will have to speak French very slowly.

  • Don't dichotomize. Not only is it intellectually lazy, but it also leads to wrong answers. Look for 3rd, 4th, and Nth alternatives to the standard 2 you'll be presented with.

  • You're going to have to provisionally trust authority (me, your mom, the media, librarians, professors, books, etc.) long enough to get a coherent picture together. Trust the facts long enough to see if they make a consistent map. If they don't, then you can't continue trusting any of those facts, at least not on the mere authority of their source.

    If the facts do make up a coherent picture, you still can't take the picture as true or accurate. At this point, you have to start checking the facts. I can't tell you how many lies I've discovered in my own schooling.

- papa

Friday, January 13, 2006

resistance is futile!

[posted by bkmarcus]
A note from grandpa:
Nathalie is pregnant. Wonderful, and familiar enough: nothing hard for a human bean to figure out there: a familiar phenomenon.

Can bk say "we" are pregnant? bk can say anything he wants, and many of us will understand him, not too many, I don't think, being offended, thrown too far off balance.

Ah, but the special circumstances of your mutual and near simultaneous renaming suggests a coinage:

The MARCUS is pregnant.


[posted by Nat]
I don't have a strong preference about the sex of our child, though I must admit a tiny preference for a girl because I know girls better than boys. So, I am a little apprehensive about having a boy -- and we won't know whether the Pumpkin is a boy or a girl for another 5 weeks.

I just read an interesting paragraph in an article in the Washington Post about a PBS documentary that was on last night called "Raising Cain" (presented by Michael G. Thompson, co-author of the book Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys ):

Research confirms that genetically baby boys and girls exhibit more similarities than differences. Contrary to common stereotypes, experiments show that baby boys are emotionally more vulnerable than girls. At Harvard University Medical School, Thompson follows an experiment that shows how infant boys and girls deal with the absence of a mother's attention. While the girls remain calm and find ways to occupy themselves, the boys become upset. But from a young age, boys are directed to deny their feelings and emotional responses. They are encouraged to exhibit aggression and toughness as signs of manliness; feelings of vulnerability and fear are discouraged. Authority figures then react simply to the physical and aggressive behavior they see rather than boys's true feelings. Problems intensify as boys enter the public school system.

(Interesting that the first sentence tells us that there are more similarities genetically between girls and boys and that the next sentence goes on to tell us a difference between girls and boys...)

PBS also has a companion website to the show about raising and understanding boys. I haven't had much time to look through it, but it seems like it might be interesting -- though their little "Quick tips slideshow" about raising boys isn't at all helpful and seems really obvious. One interesting aspect of the slideshow, however, is that it lightly suggests (and seems afraid to pursue) that maybe school isn't the right learning environment for boys. I know there have been studies made on homeschooled children and behavior and I wonder if any of them were taken into account when this documentary and website were prepared.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

li'l PUMPkin

[posted by bkmarcus]
Because of Monday's (dis)appointment, we had to wait until this afternoon to hear the lub-dub rapidfire of baby's little heart. That is my favorite sound in the world right now. I've only heard it 3 times. I'm feeling extra dumb not to have brought my iTalk so I could record it and (a) listen to it at my whim, (b) share it here.

Very sorry. We'll all have to wait 4 more weeks ...

- papa

Monday, January 09, 2006

Doctor's appointment

[posted by Nat]
So one of the things about seeing an OB is that you aren't the OB's only patient and the OB never knows when one of her patients might deliver. Our appointment was canceled tonight because our doctor had to go to the hospital. *sigh* We have to wait until Wed. to hear the heartbeat again. And I have to wait until Wed. to get reassured that everything is OK. (I tend to get nervous before doctor's appointments -- for no clear reason.)

That baby about to be born during my appointment has some nerve!

- maman

Sunday, January 08, 2006

whence 'pumpkin'

[posted by bkmarcus]
Last night, my baby momma said we should explain the kid's name.

punkin ... pum'kin ... pumpkin ...

We have real names picked out, but don't yet know if the punkin is a girl or a boy. I hate saying "it" just because we don't know the sex of the baby, and I find "he or she" to be awkward under almost all circumstances.

A few years back, my boss at the last corporate gig announced that he and his wife were pregnant. (Until that point, I'd always thought that women got pregnant, but no, apparently couples get pregnant. I have yet to tell anyone "we're pregnant" though. Do couples get knocked up?)

Boss-man started referring to his unborn progeny as "the peanut" because of how the critter looked on the ultrasound. Their ultrasound must have been earlier than ours, because our little punkin has a definite human profile, but I liked the idea of having a pre-gendered nickname so you don't have to say the baby this and the baby that. Since then, we've known several pregnant couples, and most of them come up with an equivalent of the peanut: the tadpole, the passenger, thumper ... even the cannibal. (Don't ask.)

Another part of the story is that I have no pet name to call my own. Nathalie called me sweetie and sweetheart, but then I noticed that she called our cats the same things.

She calls my cat Bones "White Boy" which it seems to me is another appropriate appellation for me -- and one with some precedent. But no. That one is the cat's.

Then she started to call me babe or sometimes baby. But those too became terms of feline affection.

Finally, late last October, she started calling me pumpkin. I liked it. I made her promise that she would not call either of the cats by that name. And she did so promise. And I believed her, because it seemed like an unlikely pet name for either of our actual pets.

And then she took the pregnancy test. On Halloween. And we checked the results together. (Trick or treat!) And we decided that the baby was the pumpkin.

This time I didn't mind giving up the name.

- papa

How I am feeling at 14 weeks

[posted by Nat]
All week I have been thinking about what my first "real" (or long) post should be and it finally occurred to me tonight that I should simply answer the question that everyone has been asking me since we revealed that we have a baby on the way: how are you feeling?

Well, this very moment I am feeling OK. "Morning" sickness -- which, as you may know, is a complete misnomer -- was for me evening sickness. During the first trimester I felt great in the morning, tired and a little queasy in the afternoon, and then sick and exhausted after dinner. This was fine with me because I taught in the morning and I really didn't want to suddenly dash out of the classroom with my hand clapped over my mouth and then return and have to reassure some stunned student that it wasn't her literary analysis or her grammar that had sent me running from the room looking a little green. So evening sickness seems to have passed, last rearing its ugly head on New Year's Eve after having been pretty tame for a week or so. I guess it wanted to punctuate the end of the first trimester.

Now the question that comes to mind is what am I feeling. No, no kicks yet. At least, I don't think so. Sometimes I think I feel popcorn popping low in my belly, but that might be digestion. According to the books and websites I consult it's still a little early to feel the fetus (though Kerry on Baby Time -- a really good podcast about pregnancy -- seems to have felt her baby pretty early on).

(I just went to www.BabyTimeShow.com to make sure I put the right link in and read that Kerry's dad died this week. I don't know Kerry, but my heart goes out to her. My father died in August and it's hard for me to believe and to think about the fact that he'll never hold the Pumpkin in his arms. I'm glad for Kerry that her dad knew the baby was on the way and that mom-to-be and child were doing well).

What I do feel is a weight low in my belly -- not too heavy, mind you. At 14 weeks the Pumpkin (a nickname that we should explain at some point) is about 3.5 inches long (the size of a lemon) according to BabyCenter.com or 4 to 4.5 inches long according to iVillage's pregnancy calendar. The two websites almost agree on weight: 1.5 or 1.75 ounces (though I guess .25 of ounce difference is probably a lot at this stage). That doesn't include amniotic fluid or the growing uterus, but I don't know how much that weighs. In any case, I definitely have a bump below my belly button, though I don't think anyone other than me would notice it.

The other thing that I am feeling is round ligament pain (at least I hope so! We have a doctor's appointment tomorrow so I'm going to double check with her). This usually occurs when I laugh or cough. At dinner tonight, for example, I coughed and felt a brief, but deep and stabbing pain on the right side of my abdomen. I had to leave the table and lie down for a few minutes. I find the pain paralyzing -- just for a few seconds -- but then it usually disappears fairly quickly (tonight I still feel a little numb after the dinner cough stab).

A few days ago I was a little freaked out because after cleaning the kitchen I felt out of breath and had to lie down on the couch. I don't know what the symptoms for high blood pressure are, but I got it into my head that perhaps I had high blood pressure. We were on vacation with only dial-up internet access so I didn't bother to check pregnancy symptoms online. When we got home I pulled out my Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy . For month 4 the book has a section on the respiratory system: "Stimulated by progesterone, your lung capacity is increasing this month. With each breath, your lungs are inhaling and exhaling up to 30 percent to 40 percent more air than they did before. [...] You may notice that you're breathing slightly faster this month. You may also be experiencing shortness of breath. Two-thirds of all pregnant women do, usually beginning around the 13th week of pregnancy. This is because your brain is decreasing the carbon dioxide level in your blood in order to make it easier to transfer more carbon dioxide from your baby to you. To do this, the brain adjusts your breathing volume and rate. As a result, many women feel short of breath." To boot: during pregnancy the rib cage enlarges 2 to 3 inches.

I knew the body changed a lot during pregnancy, but I had no idea how much and I had never stopped to think about the details. Morning sickness is what most people talk about and what most movies and books cover -- somehow that's more romantic than round ligament pain or a number of other symptoms I won't talk about tonight.

Anyway, all that to say that I mostly feel fine. A little tired, a little sore, but mostly OK. And totally thrilled.


voir la couleur rose

[posted by bkmarcus]
The punkin doesn't start to hear for another month or so, but we're already practicing our prenatal communication. Most nights I read to maman's belly: The Wizard of Oz. (A certain Misesian says that the baby will now grow up to oppose the gold standard.)

I was trying to do different intonations for the different characters, then doing different voices for the most extreme characters -- e.g., a high, squeaky voice for the Queen of the Field Mice -- but The Expectant Father says that when the baby's hearing develops, she* will only be able to hear low pitches. The book also says to speak loudly -- to speak so that someone across the room could hear me clearly. So now I read everything with the Voice of God. It's fun, though dramatically monotonous.

* She? No, it's not that we already know the sex of the baby. We won't know that for another month or so. But because papa's imagination defaults to a little boy and maman's defaults to a little girl, we're trying to challenge ourselves to imagine differently. So she says he and him, and I say she and her.

Mamie (maternal grand-mère, pronounced ma-MIE) says she has so many females in her family that ours is bound to be a girl. My father says he's "seeing pink" since his only issue (yours truly) is male.

I have a friend who's in the family-planning way, and he says he hopes for a girl because girls are easier to get along with.

When people ask me whether I have a sex preference, I say, Yes, but it changes every few days. It's true: this weekend I am, like my dad, seeing pink. Most of the past week, I'd been seeing blue.

- papa

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Playing Dress-Up

[posted by Nat]
Still in utero and we're already dressing you up. Sorry Pumpkin, but you'll be choosing your own clothes before we know it. ;-)

first post

[posted by bkmarcus]

Happy New Year!

Papa's little anarchist should be born mid-2006.

Wish us luck.