From the monthly archives:

December 2009

Dear Baby Benson

by Milton on Sun, Dec 20th, 2009

in Letters to baby,Week 21

Dear Baby Benson,

Now I can really write to you. I know your gender, and I’ve seen you move! You look like a real baby–to the point that we could count your fingers and toes.  It was a little weird that we could also see right into you and count the vertebrae in your spine, and see the chambers of your heart pumping blood this way and that.  Ultrasounds are mystical technology that way.  I hope that’s the last time I ever see your spine and heart and the contents of your brain in such detail… better to keep that stuff on the down low once you’re in the outside world.

Everyone wants to know if you’re a boy or a girl.  We will be telling people after Christmas, I think, since Esther wants to make your gender a Christmas gift of sorts, which is cute. Personally, I can’t wait to tell people.  I think people will like what you are.

I’ve been thinking a lot about expectations.  What kind of person I expect you to be.  What kind of father I expect myself to be.  What kind of parents Esther and I will make as a team.  Of course, everyone tells us that our expectations are bound to be way off, given all of the random wild card factors that come about when you actually arrive and start expressing your magical combination of genes and environment.  But expectations are unavoidable, necessary even.  We can also expect to have some of our expectations changed in the process.

More than anything, I expect that we’ll be a happy family. That’s the primary thing. A family that gets along with each other. A family that spends time together. A family that helps each other when difficulty presents itself, and a family that knows how to appreciate when times are good.  I have this expectation, and I will not let it go, ever.

I have also begun to think beyond the generic expectations and to go into specifics. To think about which expectations come about simply as a byproduct of what kind of people we are as parents.  Do we expect that you’ll be hyper or mellow?  Do we expect that you’ll be an extrovert or an introvert?  Do we expect you to excel at your studies?  Do we expect that you’ll like sports?  Video games?  Vegetables?  Reading?  Dancing?  Surprises?  Heights?  Music?  Will you be logical or emotional?  How empathetic do we expect you to be?  I guess I expect you to be a little bit like us, plus or minus.  Then again, you’ll be your own self and are welcome to surprise us on any of those characteristics.

The fact that you’re growing up now, in this world, is new.  Esther and I grew up in a world that was 30ish years ago, with a lot of different things going on.  The world is changing fast, and we’re aware of that.  We want to change with the world, to keep up with it primarily as a means of keeping up with you.  We’re excited about the future, and we’re excited that you are going to be a part of it.

It’s definitely weird to think about you as a person all unto yourself. As a person that we have the privilege of introducing into this world.  Guiding you in your growing understanding of how it all works together.  A process that both Esther and I are still on ourselves, and really have no expectation of completing in our lifetime.  While we aren’t experts at this world, we do feel like we have a lot that we can show you.  A lot of cool stuff.

In the meantime, I’m working on reviewing a lot of ideas about life, childhood, etc.  I feel like I’m a teacher and I have a very important class to prepare for.  There’s a lot of material, and I’m not formally trained as a teacher, so I also need to practice that part too.  We’re reading some books, we’re having lots of conversations, and we’re trying to narrow down a few basic strategies for how to work as a team on the amazing task of caring for you.  It’s gonna be awesome, I promise.

Love,

Your dad

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Today was the momentous occasion we’ve been looking towards for some months:  The 20 Week Ultrasound!

This means that we are OFFICIALLY at the half-way point.  I also officially have a baby bump and officially know the sex of my baby (though I won’t be sharing that quite yet!).

Things are looking pretty sweet.  I have a great heart rate, have gained the perfect amount of weight and have a uterus that has grown right where it should have grown.

As far as our baby is concerned, (s)he is doing very well.  Good heart rate, good skull shape, no signs of the dreaded  spina bifida, no sign of a cleft palate, skull in good condition. 10 fingers, 10 toes…

Speaking of toes, the baby has my husband’s feet.  My big toe is considerably longer than my second toe, while my husband’s second toe is longer than his first.  While we both have long toes, Milton sports tingers, which simply means that his toes are freakishly long.  We can see in the ultrasound that our baby also has tingers.  I am also convinced that the baby has my husband’s leg proportions, which means another family runner.  This is all good stuff.

I did have a moment of nervousness after the ultrasound tech left the room and returned with (dum dum dum) The Doctor.  It was obvious from the start that The Doctor was summoned into the room to give us Potential Bad News.  First, he confirmed my age, “You’ll be having the baby when you’re 34 and a half,” he says, and suddenly I am filled with fear.  My brain immediately starts telling me that this will be my only child, that the risks are too great as I approach my dreaded (and absolutely youthful) 35th birthday.  The Doctor goes on to tell me that the baby’s heart is showing a sign of Echogenic Intracardiac Foci, as told by bright spots on the heart.  This increases my chances of having a baby with Downs Syndrome by 2.  Broken down, this means that while my age and history indicated a 1 in 350 chance of having a baby with an extra chromosome when I woke up this morning, appearance of EIF ups my chances to 1 in 200, or .5%.  SPECIFICALLY, babies with the EIF marker have a 1 in 188 chance of T-21 (Downs).

Of course, there is no indication of a chromosomal problem as far as the bone structure of the baby’s face is concerned.  The ridge of the baby’s nose and cheekbones appears to be strong and “normal”.  AND, further investigation (thanks to an immediate iPhone google search) indicates that a full 30% of Asians have EIF.  Further race investigation indicates 11% of caucasians and 6% of black babies show symptoms of EIF.  Thus,  I don’t think that there is anything to worry about… and if there is, it’s out of my control to do anything but love whatever baby we have.  I do find it odd that it’s required for a doctor to put extra fear in you, but not required for them to say, “But, hey, your baby is Asian, so there was a 30% chance the baby would have EIF anyhow.”  I mean, really?   I would hate to be a doctor who gets called into examination rooms to only deliver red flag news.  I was thinking the whole time about how awesome the job of the ultrasound technician was… and later I thought about how the stony-faced-bearer-of-bad-news doctor ‘s job was NOT awesome.  Also, WAY TO MAKE A GIRL FEEL OLD, doctor.  34 and a half. Geez louise.

All that EIF business aside, it was AMAZING to see our baby moving around in there!  S(he) is far more active than I even imagined!  Lots of times there is whole moving around that I can’t even feel.  I didn’t realize that!  The baby flips and flops into all sorts of different positions without my even knowing, all of the time!  I need to really be punched and kicked to know that something is going on in there… which means that I’m being punched and kicked all the time, too, because I feel it plenty!   So great!!

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19 weeks, 5 days

by Esther on Thu, Dec 17th, 2009

in Week 20

In a day and a half, we will head to an ultrasound appointment to see the last pictures of our baby until the pictures we take ourselves when the baby arrives.

In a day and a half, we will be given an envelope that contains the most interesting news.  In less than 48 hours, we will open that envelope over dinner.  The contents of the envelope will settle a bet that decides who pays for dinner.

We have a pizza resting on the sex of our baby.  If the contents of the envelope reveal that the baby is a girl, I pay for the pizza.  If the envelope reveals the baby to be a boy, my husbandface pays for the pizza.

Our sides seem arbitrary.  Or, rather, it seemed so until earlier this week when Milton has  decided that he is 90% sure that the baby will be a girl because he had a dream about her. 90% odds are hardly arbitrary.

I somewhat randomly decided that this baby will be a boy because a hobby numerologist, a Brooklyn girl who insists her ring test has never been wrong, and my acupuncturist, all say BOY.  I also once had an overwhelming BOY feeling when I visited the house that we are in (contingent on sale of our current place) contract for buying..

I saw myself in that house with a boy, and told my husband, “We should bid!”  Of course,  a few months later we are still in our small but spectacular downtown condo (with no separate bedroom), which has been sadly ignored by the perfect buyer (or any buyer, really).  With that in mind, my vision is possibly moot.  For that matter, the vision of anyone doesn’t mean much.  Any little boy or girl cooking inside of me will be raised around plenty of people who later in life bent their gender roles accordingly… so while the visions of our well meaning friends might be profoundly on point, they could have nothing to do with the current state of genitalia growing inside of me.

Right?  So why is this so important?  As important as pizza, anyway?

Milton says that the baby isn’t real to him until it has a gender assignment.  To quote, “It’s just a little animal.”  But I say that it’s a little animal (OUR little animal) no matter what gender it is.

My whole reason for finding out the baby’s gender is the fact that I want to name the baby before the baby comes.  I want to have greater reason not to refer to my baby as it any longer.  Not that I’ll tell anyone the baby’s name until the day he or she arrives, mind you, but I will start referring to the baby with the proper gender assigning pronoun.

In the meantime, we’re hanging out playing little games with each other.  Asking each other, “Right now.  What sex do you think the baby is?  How correct do you think your feeling is, on the scale of 1 to 10?”  It’s a pretty fun game, but in the end I honestly don’t care.  I have good reasons to want a girl and good reasons to want a boy.  Mostly I just want a healthy baby.  For serious.

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I’ve been plagued by nightmares this week. One was about INTRUDERS that us good guys were going head to head with. There was graphic killing and maiming on both the good guy teams and bad guy teams , resulting in an eventual cat and mouse game with lots of strategy and more blood. I woke with a gasp! and ran to the bathroom (because that’s was I do about 4 times a night still), where I wondered about the mental state of my poor baby. See, I’ve been a little obsessed with the state of my baby’s emotions ever since reading about a study in the book <i>What’s Going on in There (How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life).  Read on:

“One 1982 Israeli study offers a fascinating demonstration of how a mother’s emotional state affects her fetus. Researches put headphones on pregnant women and allowed them to listen to various types of music while they measured fetal movements under ultrasound. Remarkably, most of the fetuses became more active when the music was turned on, particularly when their mothers were listening to their favorite type of music, whether pop or classical. Because the music was inaudible to the fetuses, the researches concluded that they must have been reacting to changes in their mother’s emotional state. The question is: How does an unborn baby know what its mother is feeling?”

The short answer is the limbic system, which links higher areas of the cerebral cortex to lower brain structures that coordinate the basic bodily functions from blood flow to sex drive.  The watered down explanation to my concern is that “hormonal responses can be based solely on the basis of emotional stimuli”, and that the same system that is running my hormones is busy running my baby’s hormones.

After reading about all of this, I became convinced that I needed to do my damnedest to be in a pretty good mood, most of the time. I am actively trying to not let little things about life bother me. This cuts down considerably on my typical east coast kvetching, which can sometimes become loud and cursing in my head even when there is a smile on my face. (Don’t blame me! It’s my culture!) To help me along this course, I have taken to sitting in front of a Philips GoLite blue light system on most mornings. I also stick with my regularly scheduled program of fish oil, vitamin D, yoga, walking, terrific music, and acupuncture. All of this busy blues combating behavior seems to help, too. Either that or I am actually a naturally happy person who is just being a little OCD about SAD and the kvetching voice in her head.

But, honestly?! How could possibly I protect my baby from my own bloody murderous dreams!!? Or, perhaps even worse, the dream I had right after the murderous dream in which I had a dramatic and bloody miscarriage? The second dream triggered an 8am wake up call that had me absolutely convinced that the child I was carrying was dead (until 9am, when I felt that child kick).  I can’t imagine that it’s very cool for me to impart such a dramatic, heart racing, fight or flight reaction to the child within me at the innocent age of 18 weeks.  But, then again, maybe all of life’s lessons start very early.  Maybe I should even let the occasional f-bomb rush out from my inner voice.  Goodness knows how I’m going to prevent such bombs from rushing out from my outer voice from time to time, when my baby is all ears, sitting right in front of me.

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