From the category archives:

Week 27

Random thoughts on a day off

by Milton on Fri, Feb 12th, 2010

in Psychological,Week 27

This is an abstract post that came out of my stream-of-consciousness writing for my daily 750 Words.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how my brain is subconsciously shifting gears into parent mode. My whole life I’ve assumed that this is a choice you make at some point to switch priorities and move from ambitious entrepreneur to ambitious parent. Where ambitious means two completely different things in context. But, I’m finding, that the changes are happening in some chamber of my brain that my conscious brain doesn’t control. And I’m actually relieved about that since I don’t know if I could’ve moved my whole thought process over as easily as it seems to have done over the last 6 months.

Back to the point though, context, like continents along fault lines, is what’s changing here. And right now I’m in that purgatory land between contexts, and it’s that brief little moment when both contexts can be seen from the sky for what they are… tectonic plates rubbing against each other. From any given context’s perspective, each looks like an entire world, and it’s every other context that’s driftless, a game, a system that works within itself but has no real meaning outside of the context. Monopoly money. But all contexts are like that. Life itself is like that. We build an empire and then leave it behind as building blocks for other empires. In the end all of our Legos go back into the shared community box.

In a meaningless world, meaning must be created. It comes from each of our own interpretations and stories of the world, of our place in it, of our people within it. And the context that we call home is the context that we hang most of these meanings on. We become attached to our preferred contexts. Worker, family person, singleton, etc. I’ve always thought of myself as an ambitious person, I stake part of my sense of self on the fact that I want to be successful, I want to be creative, I want to build companies and communities and have lots of friends. Backlash from growing up in Orange County made me shun the easy path of college -> marriage -> kids -> corporate job. Of course, along the way I’ve gone to college, I’m married, I had a semi-corporate job at Amazon for 5 years and even gave up my original dream of being a novelist in order to hop on at the top of the first big bubble in 1998.

Now as it comes time to shift contexts, I’m leaving behind a lot of self-made meaning. And am getting ready to create a whole new batch. The world of parenting comes with quite a few meaning templates though. Tones of voice, warnings of self-sacrifice, lots of reassurance that all of the bootcamp like habits are “worth it”, trained scripts on what to say when, what’s life-changing, what’s safe, what’s wise. It’s weird, and I’m ready to jump in, but am a little hesitant to take anyone else’s word about what I will or will not think, feel, or experience. That’s my own stubbornness.

The one I was thinking about today though was about this miracle of creating a baby. Creating a life from our lives, creating a new being from our being. It’s probably one of the most amazing tricks this universe has come up with. Condensing billions of years of biology into a 9 month process. And, even more interesting, is that we each get our own to play with. Each of us who decides to become a parent, if lucky, gets to experience this trick of the universe in the most personal and intimate way imaginable. It’s as if there were some way, between one and a dozen times in our lives, to create a new solar system. Or experience our own self-made sunset, or volcano, or to invent a new species of animal. Except even more amazing than those other examples. A merged copy of you and your favorite person in the world, with other slightly altered bits from previous generations, and a few random alterations. It’s crazy when I think about it that way, and find the meaning in this experience outside of the rough-cut templates that others have come up with themselves.

But, and here’s the twist, I think the danger of this magical event is to be afraid of it. To think it’s impossible, or likely to fail, or to be cynical about it from the start. Why can such horrible things happen in hospitals that people get away with? Because, despite all the unneeded drugs, lazy and biased excuses for surgery, repetitive sharing of the worst horror stories, cold, impersonal treatment, etc, in the end you still get your own amazing new human being. And it’s “worth it”. And, one might even say, there’s a part of us (some more than others) that think that all good things have to come at a cost. That, the drama, fear, and horror are part of the price that you pay for the privilege of becoming a parent. And that’s just wrong. Part of the reason I want my new child to have nothing to do with the institution of ritualized and religion-sponsored guilt systems. No pain no gain is NOT a law of the universe, and it sucks that so many of us were taught that and even expect that or are comforted by it. Work and pain are two different things. Work can build meaning, work can be joyful, work is good. Anyway, random rant, I guess.

I am of course studying every parent I see these days. I’m excited to join the ranks. I can’t wait, really. The whole thing is out of our control, largely, but it is not scary, it’s not going to suck, it’s going to be awesome. Being out of control is one of the best parts about it… because things are going to happen that are way more complicated, beautiful, awe-inspiring, magical, and rooted in the deepest secrets of the universe than anything I could ever build out of my own intentions.

I get to see a brand new baby that a friend just made in a couple hours. We’re bringing her tatertot casserole, some amazing cookies, and some wide eyes.


The umbilical noose

by Milton on Fri, Feb 12th, 2010

in Doctors, midwives, and doulas,Week 27

Had our 28 week midwife appointment today.  Esther got to drink sugary orange juice plus sugary white bread plus a spoonful of sugary honey and get her blood drawn in order to test for gestational diabetes.  I got to be coached yet again on how to feel for our baby’s head, and butt, and legs, etc.  We all think he’s upside down already (I felt a hard little head way down there, it was cool), and it would be great if he just stayed right there.  Though maybe he needs the exercise and should do a few more warm-up laps around her uterus so he comes out extra strong and ready to go.  That’s up to him I guess.

Today I voiced my somewhat irrational fear of him getting too tangled up in umbilical cords before he comes out.  You know, after reading 3 bazillion birth stories certain fears lodge themselves.  For me it has been the tangling.  Not sure why.  But I guess because I so much enjoy to rock him back and forth in Esther’s belly to try and figure out where he is, what he’s doing, etc and the thought has crossed my mind that I may be making him move more and get tangled more than he otherwise would.

Luckily, Beth reassured me that almost all of those horror stories of hospitalized births “failing to progress” where the doctor later says, “Oh, it was because he was all a tangled up and had his umbilical cord around his head 25 times and that’s why he wasn’t coming down” are really usually confabulated stories where, yeah, there might have been some tangling, but that wasn’t what was causing the labor to halt.  Drugs, anxiety, impatience, etc, much more likely to be the cause.  Yeah, sometimes the cord is in the way, but only once in a blue moon (Beth said once every 10 years even) does the chord actually inhibit the birth from progressing as normal.  Yeah, sometimes it’s around the neck, even twice or three times, but a little looping around and pushing the cord and all is well.  Very rarely they’ll clamp the cord and cut it if the baby is really close to being born, but even that almost never happens.

So, that was all good to hear.  Nature wasn’t silly enough to put a noose in the womb.  It’s stretchy, and easy to move around, and not a problem at all.  After I voiced this fear, Esther also confessed to having the fear, so it was good for us both to talk about it and then move on.

Weird how fear works like that, sometimes.  It’s a full-time job to worry less.


Housing Challenges

by Esther on Sun, Feb 7th, 2010

in Challenges,Home,Money,Pregnancy by week,Week 27

I read in a book yesterday that putting together a nursery is an important part of early bonding with your baby.  According to this book, objects and art around the baby will be a part of the baby’s first stimulation.  What we choose to expose our child to will become the building blocks of who our child is to become.  This will be the first way for us to give some culture to our child.  It will be the first teaching of our family’s aesthetic style.

Well then.  If this is the case, I venture to guess that our child will have a strong foundation in urban minimalism.  Our house has been on the market (with a small break around the the winter holidays) for the better part of 4 months.  We will give it another 3 weeks before pulling if off of the market in favor of getting ready for some baby arrival.

I love our little condo!  It was first Milton’s perfect bachelor pad.  Then we redecorated and made it our perfect love nest.  It has a great view of the city, a private roof deck, and is just blocks away from anything you could possibly want in Seattle.  It is my most very favorite place that I have ever lived in.  As a wife and cook, I work this small place like it is a machine and actually love that everything is so close together.  I don’t even think I would ever want a big huge house.  It just seems like too much work, and I feel like my husband and I would be too far away from one another if we had more than a few good rooms.

The thing is, our place is a loft.  It doesn’t have any separate rooms unless you count the bathroom.  It’s just one big happy box.  I don’t think that most couples could get along in a living situation like this one, but Milton and I are very very happy.  We know when to be quiet and we know when to have a discussion from the lofted bedroom to the living room below.  I don’t think we’ve ever had a difficult moment between us that is spatially related.  Adding a baby, however, could potentially cause a problem.  The slippery stairs don’t have a railing.  There aren’t any doors to close to block Junior from devastation.  There are nerdy wires falling from several computered surfaces.  It’s kind of an adults only sort of place.

Or so we’ve thought.  If this place doesn’t sell, we’re going to begin an endeavor in March that will redecorate this place once more to make room for this baby.  Some shelves.  An old-fashioned pram for use as a bassinet.  A few less computers.  An open space for lounging about on the floor.  A new easy to clean rug underfoot.  The key has got to come from a few creative solutions for urban baby nesting.  We can handle that as long as we can scrape together a few bucks.

The more I think about it, the more I think we’ll be just fine with our urban minimalist baby.  We don’t ever plan on living outside of a city (‘burbs scare me, I gotta be honest), so our son can just get used to slippery stairs, the sounds of cars outside, cavorting on the streets, and our voices shouting from the loft to the living room.


Dear Baby B

by Esther on Sun, Feb 7th, 2010

in Letters to baby,Pregnancy by week,Week 27

I think your father felt your knee inside my belly last night.  You moved quickly away and are ever elusive with your positioning.  Sometimes, I feel high high kicks that are close to my ribs.  On those days, I can also feel what might be your 10 little fingers tickling so far down low in my belly that I feel you might stick an arm out from me and wave.  I can be pretty sure on these days that you are already in the position that will be most conducive to our comfort when I go into labor in 3 months.  BUT, there are other days when you stretch to other positions.  Laying across my belly.  Swimming around in circles.  Are you a fish?  Are you a yogi like your mom?  A runner like your dad?  Something all together completely new, unexpected, or different?  I am trying hard not to project our personalities on you; I can feel every day that you are of your own mind… but it’s hard for me to not think of  you as sharing at least a few similar interests with your parents.  I hope you won’t get too annoyed with me later in life when you strike out on your own and I tell you that you’re a part of us.  I’ll try to keep an open mind, ok?

For now, since I am able to communicate with these words, I would like to state for the record how I feel your kicking, rolling, and finger tickling will translate to your personality.  Bear with me a bit and we can have a laugh later over how very wrong or very right I may be.

For now, you seem to like it when I pat you through my belly.  Maybe it calms you down.  Maybe it reminds you that there are two of us in here.  When I stop before you are ready for me to be done, you kick and roll to let me know that we haven’t yet finished bonding.  I feel like this is an indication of what’s to come when you’re here, on the outside of me, and we get to spend hours during your beginning – communicating through my pats and your kicks, coos and shouts.  I’m appreciating the early training we have now while certainly looking forward to all the the fun we’ll get to have later.  I think you might be a little like me, needing to know that someone is always there to love you and pet you.

The quality, consistency, and timing of your motion tells me that you’ve got a persistent character, but that you’re not too forceful.  You don’t move suddenly.  You build up and roll down.  You tickle rather than jerk.  You are a fluid little fish inside me.  Sometimes I poke you and you poke me back, playfully.  Sweetly.  I never feel as if you’re uncomfortable or unhappy.  I venture to hope that you have the Benson family positivity streak… goodness knows that’ll be useful to you in this house.

This is all I know about who you are, for now.  And I realize that it’s all speculation.  I reserve the right to change my opinion of you at any time.  You can reserve the right to tell me that I’m wrong anytime, too.  Just please, be as gentle as you are now.  I already love you too much to fight.


your Mum