Thursday, June 29, 2006

some progress

[posted by bkmarcus]
I keep saying that the nursery is done, but now it's more done than it was before, by which I mean, not only is it functionally ready for the new inhabitant scheduled for July, but now it's even decorated, comfy, and pleasant to the grown-up eye. (Parental eyes, in this case. If you don't care for our theme or execution, well ... good thing you're not living with us.)

In other news, Benjamin's maman is now 70% effaced. Benjamin himself is still at 0 station, still head down with his back toward maman's belly button — all good, but still not engaged. His position is perfect, except for that one little hold-out detail that his head isn't locked in place in maman's pelvis.

The doctor felt around maman's belly and told us where Benjamin's feet were, where his hands were, then pointed exactly to where he expected to find the heartbeat and indeed found it immediately. Solid 130s, which is perfect.

Doc estimates he's about 6½ pounds and that he'll continue to grow at about ½ pound a week. Since the boy is due in a week and a half, that would put him between 7 and 7½, which is what the doctor originally predicted.

BUT ... the doctor continues to think Benjamin will be late. Today he added that he doesn't think it would be a good idea to let him go past 1 week late. So if we agree to induction, that means we expect to set eyes on the boy no later than the 15th. My fingers are still crossed for the 12th.

- papa

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

a little knowledge is a dangerous thing

[posted by bkmarcus]

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

better than Cats!

[posted by bkmarcus]
Chapter 1 of Secrets of the Baby Whisperer opens with the following quote:
I just can't get over how much babies cry. I really had no idea what I was getting into. To tell you the truth, I thought it would be more like getting a cat."
I don't think we'll be making that mistake. We have enough friends with babies to know the difference. (And yes, most of them started with cats, just like us. Reminder: here's a picture of Bones and Maman.)

But I still found this report from The Onion Radio News pretty funny:

(Or download.)
- papa

Update: SammyMammy points out that I could have used a photo of someone we know:

Friday, June 23, 2006


[posted by Nat]
During this time when I am increasingly uncomfortable (BH contractions are more frequent, often around my rib cage at night, which makes getting out of bed for frequent bathroom visits even more complicated) and have hardly any clothes that still fit, the last thing I wanted to hear yesterday is that Benjamin will probably be late.

Yes, late. Only three weeks ago the doctor thought he would be early. But now nothing has changed in three weeks (rather, since last week we are back to where we were three weeks ago). And this lack of change also means -- if I understood the doctor correctly -- a long labor. It's best to efface and even begin to dilate before labor begins and that seems to have stopped happening for me. (Any suggestions on how to get this going? I've heard plenty on how to start labor, but not how to "get ready" for labor.)

Of course, it's not unusual for first babies to be late. And it might be fun for father and son to share a birthday. I've just had it in my head that he would be early -- for a while now -- even though I was freaked out when the doctor told us he would be early three weeks ago.

In the end, of course, all that counts is a healthy baby and for now everything -- heartbeat, my size and weight gain -- is pointing in that direction.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

9 months later

[posted by bkmarcus]
benmaman @ 37 weeks:

... which turns out to be exactly 9 months according to a slightly different way of counting ...

... all of which means that Benjamin is full-term now.

He could come at any time, although we don't expect him for another 3 weeks.

Here's the composite, just to put things in perspective (or weird you out, depending):

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Don't Panic

[posted by Nat]
No, I am not referring to the reassuring words on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, I am quoting from today's Pregnancy Calendar on And if the quote were simply "Don't panic" I wouldn't be writing about it at all. It is, however, "...but don't panic unless you also have contractions."

The context: what to do if your water breaks (apparently, unlike what television and movies show, only 10% of women have their water break before labor begins). The way I understand this advice is that you are not to panic if your water breaks and you have no contractions. On the other hand, if your water breaks AND you have contractions, PANIC!

Panic, after all, means "sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior" which is exactly the behavior you want when you are about to have a baby.

Perhaps we are in need of a Hitchhiker's Guide to Pregnancy.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

rhymes with cursory

[posted by bkmarcus]
While it's questionable that we're ready for a new baby, we can make certain factual claims:
  1. The car seat is ready.
  2. The nursery is ready.
OK, two. Two factual claims. And they're even true!

Benjamin's great aunt is giving him a fancy corner changing table, but it won't arrive until the end of July, so we're set up to use the Pack'n'Play from his grandma:

That quilt on the wall is also from his grandma. The American, er, British, um, no, American one!

That door you see is a screen door, sawed and sanded to fit an indoor doorframe. This is our solution for how to keep the cats out of Benjamin's room while still being able to hear him.

And these are the curtains maman has picked out:

- papa

status quo ante

[posted by bkmarcus]
We're where we were 2 weeks ago: 0 station, 50% effaced, 0 dilation.

Benjamin's head is down. The boy is in position. The doctor seems confident that won't change again.

He thinks we're right on target for our early July due date.

My first thought when we learned all this was, Why not in June? Last time Nathalie was 0,50,0, you thought she was only a few weeks away from ...

And then it hit me. We are only a few weeks away ...

- papa

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Cooking for July: suggestions?

[posted by Nat]
I've read in several pregnancy books and magazines that it's a good idea to prepare meals before the baby arrives and freeze them so that you don't have to worry about cooking when you get back from the hospital. We've started doing this. So far my mom made Boeuf provencal when she was here, and I've prepared pork loin in mustard sauce, a large tray of lasagna (it might last us a week!), and lentil with ginger soup. Next week's dishes will probably be quiche (one spinach, one ham and cheese).

Does anyone have any suggestions for easy to freeze meals? Especially vegetable dishes? Or meat and vegetable dishes? Thanks in advance!

Still unreal

[posted by Nat]
A new father-to-be asked me when being pregnant starts to feel real -- the end of what I'll call the "is this really happening?" phase.

Well, here I am at nearly 37 weeks, sitting in a chair with my laptop at arm's length because my belly is in the way, feeling my son roll around and give the occasional hiccup and... it still doesn't quite feel real to me. I know he's in there -- I've seen the ultrasounds, I've felt the kicks, I've seen my belly wiggle strangely, and I've felt the shape of little limbs just under my skin as he stretches -- and yet I can't believe that in just a few weeks he's going to do all that squirming in our arms or in his crib, that his now silent hiccups are going to become hiccups we can hear, that we'll listen to him cry and coo, that we'll watch him discover this world that he is so completely oblivious to right now. When we sing to him, we'll be able to see him react (or not react) to the songs that he's been hearing for months now.

He's going to make his entrance sometime soon, and yet I still can't quite believe it.


Thursday, June 08, 2006


[posted by bkmarcus]
We had our weekly visit to the OB this afternoon.

One thing that throws me off is how this man never seems to remember what he said to us a week earlier. I realize that he's probably seen a hundred patients between our last visit and the current one, but I still find myself thinking, "She was at 0, 0, and 50! How could you forget that?"

Some context: Nathalie was 50% effaced last week, as she still is. She was not at all dilated, and still isn't. But last week she was at 0 "station" meaning that the top of Benjamin's head was exactly snuggled into his mother's pelvis, no higher, no lower. This week, he's at -2 station, meaning he's retreated 2 centimeters.

I asked the doctor if he wanted to change his prediction of "late June" and he did: we're back to the original due date, July 8th.

Everything is "on target," which is good. Nathalie and Benjamin are exactly where they should be. (Unfortunately for Nathalie, some of "where she should be" is quite painful as her hips loosen in anticipation of the coming birth. )

Nathalie feels relieved that we're talking about a July delivery again. There's a lot less pressure with that extra week or two of preparation time.

Me? I'm ambivalent. I understand the relief, and I feel some of it, but mostly I'm impatient to meet my son. I feel as if a long-anticipated visit from a loved one has been postponed.


Childbirth class Part II: Pain

[posted by Nat]
Brian has beaten me to the punch line, so to speak, about last week's class (I've been such a blogging slacker). And I must admit I prefer how he tells the story to how I would have told it.

As we go to childbirth classes and I read books on childbirth (I'm focusing primarily on the Lamaze method), I am continuously struck by how many different childbirth cultures there are just in the US -- I haven't yet surfed French motherhood sites on the subject, but hope to have time to soon.

Our instructor's reference to Genesis 3:16 is just one example. In thinking about her comment, I wonder how many women refuse drugs during childbirth because they think that they must feel this punishment from God. I must admit that I had never thought of childbirth as an act of penance -- like a hair shirt especially for women. I hope to not have any medical interventions and I hope to not take drugs, but it's certainly not a question of paying for Eve's sin.

Of course, as Brian pointed out to me last night, my own conception of pain and childbirth is rooted in a modern romantic myth of the body. I am very attached to the idea that pain is information, that it will help me know what to do when during childbirth, that my body knows how to give birth and I need to trust it and myself, that my instinct will tell me what to do. This is the core of the Lamaze method (perhaps Bradley too). Listen to your body.

The first three mantras of the Lamaze philosophy are:
  • Birth is normal, natural, and healthy.
  • The experience of birth profoundly affects women and their families.
  • Women's inner wisdom guides them through birth.
Interestingly enough, The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth With Confidence has a birth story in it that should make everyone question the idea that our bodies know what to do -- and I write about this with some disappointment and fear, because I really really want my body to know what to do.

In her story a woman explains how she managed to have a VBAC and although she had planned for "natural" childbirth with no interventions, she had to have several. From her story it seems that one of the reasons she had to have several was that she started pushing when it felt right and in fact she was only half way dilated and the pushing caused the cervix to swell shut. Of course, her midwife points out that her whole childbirth process was very slow because her baby had a short umbilical cord and so her body wasn't allowing the baby to move down too fast to protect him.

So the way the story tells it, on the one hand her body didn't give her accurate information, and on the other it knew what it was doing in making the process super slow.

Part of Lamaze is breathing and concentration to help you get through the pain. Mind over body (and I won't get into the relationship between mind and body here). We practiced modified-paced breathing for active labor last night. While staring at a focal point you take a deep "cleansing" breath, then a few slow breaths and then increase the pace of breathing as pain increases and then decrease it as the pain decreases.

Brian squeezed my leg tighter and tighter through this, timing the "contraction" (saying to me "15... 30... 45... 60"). Afterwards he squeezed my leg to show me how hard he had been squeezing. I was amazed: it hadn't felt that hard at all while I was concentrating and breathing. Let's hope this works with the real thing!

(I should point out that though our childbirth class is influenced by Lamaze, it's not a Lamaze class. We're doing Lamaze on our own with a manual.)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Genesis 3:16

[posted by bkmarcus]
I thought that Nathalie would have blogged about this by now, but since she hasn't, I guess I will.

At our last childbirth class, after about an hour and a half discussing labor pain (although mostly avoiding the word "pain" for some reason), the instructor asked the class why childbirth involves pain.

My very first thought was about the evolution of the human brain, the cranial capacity to accomodate it, etc. But I kept all that to myself, because I assumed the teacher wanted to make a different point.

My second thought was about the Garden of Eden, and I contemplated (very briefly) making a joke by saying in my best dumb voice, "Something about a snake and an apple, right?" But I kept that to myself, too. (And yes, my time out among other human beings is largely spent thinking of things that I then force myself not to say.)

Nathalie was the first to raise her hand. The answer she offered: "Information."

The childbirth teacher praised her answer and talked about how we would know what stage of labor we were in from the degree and duration of pain, etc.

I thought about all the reading I had done on the subject of pain back in my senior year of college, when I had originally considered it as a philosophy thesis. I studied torture, surgery, phantom pain ...

Here's one of my favorite quotes from my biological psychology professor:
Pain is an emotion masquerading as a sensation."

These thoughts kept me from hearing the other one or two answers offered by other couples in the childbirth class. Mostly I was thinking how this "purpose of pain" talk was better-suited to a religion class. Pain is the product of our evolutionary history. It has less "purpose" than we tend to think.

Then the teacher said, "What else? What's the reason for pain in childbirth?"

The class was silent.

She said, "Genesis 3:16. You might want to look it up when you get home."

We were dumbstruck. I thought, Hey! That was my joke!

But of course, she wasn't joking.

In case you don't know the passage, here it is:

- papa


[posted by bkmarcus]

Small victories over discomfort

[posted by Nat]
When you are eight months pregnant it's sometimes -- what am I saying, often! -- hard to move your body in a way that is comfortable. I had heard plenty about the discomfort, but I thought it would come mostly from the weight of my belly. It does and it doesn't. I'm not directly aware of the weight of my belly (nor of its size, unless I look in the mirror), but I do get pain in the muscles that are holding it up. The main thing, however, is that turning in bed and getting out of bed have become acrobatic feats. Standing up can be too. I had no idea how much I use my abs to do these things and now I can't use them to stand up or sit up forward, I need to do everything sideways (the baby being at 0 station means that he's nicely nestled in my pelvis). I'm sure I'm pretty funny to look at.

I do not envy Brian sleeping next to my night time acrobatics. Pregnant women are "supposed" to sleep on their side, preferably the left (to relieve pressure on the liver). Sleeping on your back puts pressure on the artery that goes to your legs and can slow down the blood supply to the uterus and legs.

My doctor in PA said that this recommendation is based on just one study of women in labor and that it's only around 35 weeks that a pregnant woman should really try to stay on her side. I've been doing it since about 20 weeks just to get used to it and I have sometimes been worried that I am smashing poor Benjamin because I'll be on my side and suddenly feel him kicking or punching at the mattress as if to remind me that he is in there and he'd like a little more room.

When a pregnant woman (who has about as much flexibility in bed as a sea cow on land) sleeps on her side, she needs sleep aids -- in other words, lots of pillows. Thanks to the advice of a friend, I've been sleeping with a body pillow and a smaller pillow -- I know some women who use a bunch of pillows -- which makes moving the pillows around much easier. I had been sleeping with the body pillow in front of me, slightly tucked under my belly and between my knees (to relieve pressure on my hips) and the smaller pillow tucked behind my back to help me stay on my side. Even with just two pillows, turning over has been quite tiring because I've had to move the pillows. The other night I decided I really didn't have the energy to do that so I just slowly rotated myself between the pillows. And guess what? It's better to have the body pillow against my back and between my knees and the small pillow under my belly! I don't feel as sore when I wake up!

This may not seem like something to blog about, but even though I didn't quite get enough hours of sleep last night, I got up feeling refreshed and relaxed which is a big deal right now. When a pregnant woman goes to bed exhausted and sore and wakes up sore (and perhaps still tired) she is no fun to be around.

Now if only I could get the sciatica to go away...


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Childbirth class Part I: The parts of the body

[posted by Nat]
(I'm writing this at 35 weeks -- in two weeks Benjamin will be considered "full term"!!)

The last two Thursday nights we've been taking a childbirth course at the hospital where we will be having our baby. Actually, it's not at the hospital, but in a little house dedicated to childbirth near it. I have the impression that Martha Jefferson Hospital is very invested in being the progressive birth choice in the area -- although they only have 2 midwives (which is 2 more than UVA hospital...). We have three more evening classes to go to and a baby care class (which is often class 6, but we were afraid the baby would arrive early, so we are taking it early since it's "baby care basics") and I have a lactation class (that Brian is free to go to as well).

In our class there are about 8 couples and we are probably the oldest couple -- though a former local newscaster and his wife are probably close to our age (hard to tell) and there is a man who looks a lot older than his wife (who looks like she's maybe 20). Most of the couples are American, one is Chinese (they might also be closer in age to us) and one is Venezuelan (though so far it's only been the wife and her friend because her husband is away on business -- I was a little excited the first time I saw these two women, before we all introduced ourselves, because I thought we had a lesbian couple in the class). The other couples look young to me, which means that I'm already thinking like an old married lady... Some of the couples come from out-of-town and will have to drive 30 minutes to get to the hospital once labor begins! (It should take us maybe 3 minutes once I get myself into the car).

All this to say that the class seems to be made up of people of different backgrounds, though we haven't really had much time to get to know each other.

The first class dealt primarily with vocabulary and the stages of labor. Our instructor told us she was going to use the terms for different parts of the body and apologized before saying "vagina." I was a little surprised, but figured she has to deal with a vast variety of students and that she doesn't want to offend anyone and wants to keep people in the class so that they'll go into labor informed. Of course, apologizing for saying "vagina" would offend some people.

In any case, we went over vocabulary and the stages of labor. I went home with the question "What exactly is the placenta?" -- thanks to Brian who pointed out that when she talked about the placenta she only pointed to one area of the diagram of the uterus. Reading my Lamaze book yesterday I discovered that I in fact didn't really know where the placenta was, just what it did -- somehow I missed that in 9th grade biology. I thought the placenta lined the whole uterus and the amniotic sack. It does not. It's only one section (see the diagram). I am appalled that at age 35 I didn't know that.

Ok, that's enough for now. Next time I'll write about childbirth and PAIN.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

where there's treasure

[posted by bkmarcus]

Friday, June 02, 2006

a new song for benjamin

[posted by bkmarcus]
In addition to the song we made up for Benjamin (here and here), we also sing along with 3 French songs we didn't make up:
  1. Tous les légumes (listen)
  2. Petit escargot (listen)
  3. L'éléphant (listen)
Here are the lyrics of the last one:

Regardez là haut
Ce qui monte au plafond
Cette grosse bête
Qui roule à bicyclette
C’est un éléphant
Mais oui évidemment
Avec une queue derrière
Et une autre devant


And tonight they inspired these new lyrics just for Benjamin:

Le Potiron

Regardez dans maman
Le petit potiron
Qui arrivera
À la fin du mois
Ce petit garçon
Est encore là-dedans
Mais il arrive plus près
À cause de cette chanson

Regardez dans maman
Ce petit garçon
Qui arrivera
À la fin de juin
Le petit potiron
Est encore là-dedans
Mais il arrive plus près
Avec chaque con-trac-tion

Thursday, June 01, 2006

End of June?

[posted by Nat]
We just had our first June OB appointment — the appointment that marks the start of weekly doctor's visits (during the first two trimesters you generally see the doctor every 4 weeks, then during the first part of the third trimester every two weeks, then every week during the last month).

Dr W checked Benjamin's heart beat — it sounds good.

He then palpated my belly and said "I love this size" -- about the baby, not my belly! Right now the baby is probably around 4½ lbs and Dr W estimated that at birth he will be around 7–7½ lbs. He also said that if he were born today he would be fine.

So far, we were still on target. Then came the internal exam:
  • 0 station (meaning Benjamin is head down, but hasn't started down the birth canal — which he normally wouldn't do until the second stage of labor anyway)
  • 0 dilation (cervix isn't opening yet — thank goodness!!!)
  • 50% effaced (cervix is thinning… which is what it does before opening)
Dr W predicted we wouldn't make it to the estimated birth date! Looks like Benjamin might arrive end of June. (And of course I now think of the question I didn't ask: does that mean he'll be less than 7 lbs?)

Maman really needs to finish organizing the house and find curtains for the nursery! Not to mention practice breathing and relaxation for labor, and do stretching exercises…