The underwater purr

At least once per day, Mouse wants to lay on my belly. And purr. Loudly. She’s always liked laying on my belly because it’s soft and warm, but she seems even more drawn to it now that someone’s in there. Maybe it’s warmer.

This morning, she got under the blankets and laid against one side of my belly for warmth. A couple of minutes into this, I felt a definite kick — on the other side of my belly. This means, among other things, that Mouse was likely directly on top of the baby’s head.

At any rate, I can’t help but imagine what all that purring sounds like, from deep within the amniotic sac. I told Devin the other day, “There’s a good chance that this baby won’t be able to get to sleep unless Mouse is laying on it and purring.”

— Beth

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It’s what’s important

Sometime within the last week or two, the Seed allegedly acquired some degree of hearing. I say some degree, because this is just the approximate point when babies start reacting to noises in ways that can be detected. Maybe they had awareness without response previously, it’s hard(er) to tell. However, the ear structures won’t be entirely developed for another couple of months, so it’s somewhat questionable how ready the Seed is to hear my fatherly pronouncements. As you can imagine, I’m eager to extend as much as possible the duration of the period between when my offspring can first hear my voice and the moment when they decide everything I say is bullshit. But the uncertainty over to what extent I’m audible, much less intelligible, leaves me with a modicum of trepidation over the affair. Granted, I’ve spent a significant chunk of my professional life talking to people whose ear structures evidently hadn’t entirely developed either, but at least I knew that going in, so I knew where I stood.

So apart from the occasional moment of passing a bit of clever rhetoric at Beth’s midsection, I’m currently sticking a bit more towards communicating via patting her belly. That’s probably a better medium anyway for communicating the urgent survival skills it will need for its future, namely: factorization, divisibility, and prime numbers. It goes a bit like this:

Devin’s hand: patpat
Devin’s hand: patpatpat
Devin’s hand: patpatpatpatpat
Devin’s hand: patpatpatpatpatpatpat
Devin’s hand: patpatpatpatpatpatpatpatpatpatpat

or:

Devin’s hand: patpatpatpatpatpatpatpat
Devin’s hand: patpatpatpat (pause) patpat

or:

Devin’s hand: patpat (pause) patpatpatpatpatpatpatpat
Devin’s hand: patpatpatpatpatatpatpatpatpatpat-
Beth: Ow, stop that.

We’ve also had the Baby Starts Moving week (moving in a way Beth can feel, I mean). There was a bit last week, but it’s been the big deal of this one. After dinner this evening Beth was reporting that if she poked herself in the proper spot, the baby would wiggle. It was difficult to reproduce, though. I tried poking out prime numbers, of course:

Devin: pokepoke
Devin: pokepoke-
Beth: Ow. Not like that, like this (demonstrating)
Devin (like that): poke-
Beth: Ow.
Devin (differently): pokepokepoke
Beth: Ow, stop that.

The sequence was blown by that point, and even if the Seed had been inclined to wiggle out its answer I don’t know how I could have done the grading. The conceptual range is limited, too; I’m not sure how I’m going to communicate the concept of zero through a uterine wall.

– Devin

Can you hear me now?

I keep watching the week-by-week development descriptions to figure out when the baby might begin to be able to hear (and process that it’s hearing, since the detailed bits in the ears allegedly form a few weeks earlier than the auditory nerves and the brain centers responsible for understanding sound). It seems to be sometime in the 15-20 week range, but nobody agrees on exactly when it is, and probably for good reason; it just varies.

That said, this week would’ve been a good time for the Seed’s hearing to kick in, since election season is heating up and we had an 8:30 Monday morning meeting to learn about all 22 measures on the San Francisco ballot this November. At least the little one will know whether to vote for or against municipal electricity, the Historic Landmark Commission or merging the Transportation Authority with Muni. A couple of weeks ago, one of my co-workers said that by the time the baby is born, it will have sat through enough news meetings to know how to pitch a story idea. Ha.

I’ve also started occasionally listening to my belly with a stethoscope, which I didn’t expect to yield any real results in terms of being able to hear the baby. It hasn’t, but now I have a much more intimate understanding of all the gurgling noises the baby is probably hearing day in and day out. Our midwife said she would be surprised if my success was any different — and that she has trouble hearing babies with stethoscopes at any time in pregnancy. Oh well.

And, lastly, I’m almost definitely feeling the little one move now and then throughout the day — it’s still mostly a mild fluttering feeling, or “wiggling” as I’ve been calling it, though yesterday during deadlines I felt a very rhythmic thump, thump, thump that I thought sure was proof the baby has inherited my sense of rhythm. Turns out it was probably just hiccups. And yet — hiccups! Awww. Hic.

— Beth

If doppler machines did visualizations

Our midwife came by, with her apprentice and their equipment. They brought a fetoscope (or “doppler heartbeat gadget” if you prefer). It was the second time we got to hear the baby’s heartbeat — the first being a couple of weeks ago during a visit to UCSF. The midwife/OB we saw did the usual examinations, then wheeled in the little cart and played the heartbeat for us. Which was splendid, but just as we were starting to connect it to the developing mesh of about-to-be-parents emotions (which is to say, after about two seconds, just as we were starting to grin at one another), she started cutting in with small talk, and what with the whole scene it didn’t occur to me to ask her to be quiet and let us listen until several minutes later.

Having already relayed this story, and not being UCSF staffers, they allowed us lots more time with the machine. And even indulged Beth in hanging out while I recorded some of it (okay, it was my idea, but I was kidding. Beth wanted to do it anyway. We did. It’s a bit faint, and someone’s cellphone rang at the end. But anyway. Here it is:

It does bring up the dire and defining question of childbearing in our time, of course. Namely: what silly eye-candy music player visualization is most appropriate for baby heartbeats? We’ll need to sort this out so we can start manufacturing the fetoscopes for parents with the backlit LCDs and maybe the laser light shows.

– Devin

Swallowed a pumpkin seed …

There’s a lot wrong with this photo (the shadow on my face, the smudges on the mirror), but, well, here:

— Beth

On (maybe) being carless parents

Beth’s not exaggerating when she says we haven’t driven a car since early August. We haven’t. We’re driving every six weeks or so, maybe less. When we do, it’s either to get to Sonoma or Marin to see our families, or to haul stuff around. The hauling is rare, because pretty much everything we need to buy regularly (groceries, toilet paper, books, cat litter, drywall screws, tacos) is within walking distance. Most everything else one might need less often (music, potting soil, pornography, clothing, chiles, electronic beepy things, tattoos, lawyers, korean barbecue) is on the other end of a single BART or Muni ride. Our offices are downtown, and half the transit in the city goes there. There’s a lot wrong with San Francisco’s public transit, but most of the bad bits don’t affect us. When we need to leave the city or haul stuff, there are two carshare lots a short walk away.

In fact, the most troublesome experiences we’ve had trying to get to places lately have involved… our baby. The one we haven’t had yet, but on whose behalf we’ve gone to places like UCSF (44 O’Shaughnessy, N Judah, 38 Geary) for prenatal care, for whom we’re going to visit midwives (26 Valencia, J Church), who will need to see its pediatrician regularly (who knows, but to be pessimistic, 22 Fillmore), be educated, enriched and enlightened up to the point where we cease to be of further use or value and can then head off to the nearest strip mall (23 Monterey) to buy striped leisure outfits and lapse into a suitably portly (14 Mission) obsolescence.

In short, as childless adults, we don’t really need a car, and should probably get rid of the one we have and hardly use. We only still own one out of inertia, convenience, and because I really like the thing and keeping it there isn’t costing enough to motivate us to do anything about it. As childful parents, it’s been hard to predict, but we’re having trouble talking ourselves into replacing it. On the one hand, owning a two-seater sportscar we can’t fit our whole family in is silly, and feels like having an early midlife crisis, one that comes with all the selfishness and none of the actual fun and loose women (it doesn’t even come with the cruising around in a convertible sportscar, because as previously mentioned, we hardly ever drive). Naturally that means we should replace it with a simple family sedan, right? Well, maybe, but the thought of dropping at least several grand on a car that would then go mostly unused feels equally lame in a whole different set of ways.

That’s the sort of situation that leads to car-sharing systems, with which our city is liberally festooned. About 8 bucks an hour will get you a car, gas included. I get another discount through my employer. If you don’t drive much, they’re a pretty good way to go. Except for one thing: availability on demand. If you didn’t know until two minutes ago that you need a car, you aren’t necessarily going to be able to get one. If it’s 2AM some frigid January night and the Seed needs to get to the hospital, you might have a problem.(Actually, you won’t, because at 2AM you can always get a carshare. It’s 2PM when it’s hard. Transit is perfectly available then, but if the Seed is coughing up blood and the alien could burst out of its chest any second without getting to the emergency room, the 2 Clement is not part of my plan.)

So after walking around the house yesterday working out which bits of our adult lives we might need to get rid of, I browsed around Craigslist for a while to see what fairly ordinary, fuel efficient, reasonably safe, sensitive-Dad cars cost. Quite a bit, it turns out, if you want all that safety stuff, or decent gas mileage. Enough that I found myself resuming a recent long-running subverbal argument with the screen over the whole situation, in a way that suggests that I now transition over to Q&A format.

Q: Look, trust me, you don’t want to have to carry a baby around on the bus. You’ll be one of those parents who blocks up three seats and the aisle with their massive child-support-apparatus bags, the stroller and their actual screaming offspring. Everybody on the bus hates them, and one day you end up buying a giant SUV just to feel insulated from all the emnity.
A: Maybe. I gather there’s some baggage involved in managing kids in public. But I’ve noticed a lot of variability, and some folks seem to manage it really well, right there on public transit. It’s there for the whole public, not just the spry nimble and childless. Maybe we don’t need a stroller for every trip — I plan to carry my child everywhere until the Seed can walk on its own, my and my partner’s backs are destroyed, or it turns out to be a bad idea, whichever comes first. Maybe for those times when our only options involve the 30 Stockton at rush hour, we can get a carshare instead. Most of the time it’s okay, right? Right?

Q: How are you going to get your child to school? This is San Francisco, the lottery will place them in a school halfway across town.
A: The Seed isn’t even born yet. It won’t go to school at all for two or three years, and there’s a lot of allegedly pretty decent childcare and preschooling right here in our neighboorhood. If our kid really does need to be ferried across town to somewhere with unreliable transit, we’ll have some warning.

Q: You’re not going to put the child’s car seat in that sportscar, are you? After all those warnings about never putting young children in the front seat?
A: Doubtful. But if an emergency required it, sure. I know how to disable the airbag on that side. We’re talking about the extra risk of a frontal collision while on the way to the hospital here.

Q: Speaking of hospitals, how are you supposed to get Beth and the baby home? Reserve a carshare for three or four days so you can have it outside the hospital?
A: If things go according to plan, the baby will be born at home. Sure, we might end up at the hospital. But really, buying a car for one trip? I’m not Hunter S Thompson. There are other ways.

Q: What about shopping and errands, which the baby will require you to do lots more often and to strange and far-flung places?
A: Go go Gadget Parental Teamwork. Oh, and Amazon Prime.

Q: It takes a long time to get anywhere on public transit. You’ll have hardly any spare time or energy as it is. Just drive a car.
A: Driving a car in this city sucks. Parking sucks even more. Sometimes together they still suck less than public transit. But I’m thinking those times might just be predictable enough to plan for.

Q: But what about safety?
A: Know why there’s so much emphasis on making kids’ car seats safe in the event of crashes? Because cars are dangerous things. Staying out of them is safer yet.

Q: This is all cute and idealistic, but it’s selfish and unparental to be putting your own whims ahead of the safety and development of your children.
A: I’m still hoping that growing up and learning to live and get around in a city is one of the developmental gifts I’ll be able to give my offspring. Maybe cold, unwieldly middle-class urban realities will get the better of us. But escaping to the suburbs is what got us into many of our current problems of sprawl, congestion, petroleum dependency and urban crime in the first place. Can we at least try doing what seems right first?

Q: Look, you just can’t rely on buses or trains. You’ve got to have a car. What are you, unpatriotic?
A: Hush. You’re just the voice of the outraged midwestern Republican I stuck into this imaginary dialog because it gives me a more concrete outlet for my angst and frustration.

Q: But you’ve got a garage. There’s a car in it, even. You only keep that car because you like it so much. You’ll have a child to draw your affections. What harm could it do to have a regular family car there when you need it?
A: Couldn’t we wait to see if we really need it? Sure, I have rhetorically-unhelpful car attachment issues and I’m likely to get over them in a hurry. But that’s about the point when we might go from a two-seater to no car at all. Maybe.

Q: Hey, what about taxis? They work in cities, right?
A: Forget it. They work in some parts of the city, but not this one. You can call them on the phone, but there’s no connection between someone agreeing to dispatch a cab for you and a cab actually turning up. Just figured I should mention that.

Q: So what are you going to do?
A: We don’t know, yet.

– Devin

Don’t panic

… That silence you hear is the sound of us assessing our apartment for what needs to be changed, built, bought or thrown away before the baby arrives, and us being stunned at the mountain of work ahead of us.

Also, we have no reliable sources of information on whether it’s possible to get by easily in San Francisco with two adults, a newborn, and no full-size passenger car of our own. We have car-share and rentals for when we need one; the last time we drove Devin’s car (a two-seater) anywhere was sometime in early August, so “when we need one” hasn’t been terribly often. I suggested we ask people in our neighborhood, but Devin pointed out that all of them are firmly affixed to their vehicles despite the easy access to public transit here. We’d like to be non-environment-destroying parents here, but we’d also like to be practical. And we’d like to think we can do both at once.

P.S. We found a midwife!

— Beth

Little things

Fifteen weeks, two days, more than a third of the way through pregnancy. My nausea is less intense and less constant, but hasn’t left me — I have some rough days, but not every day is a rough day anymore, thank goodness. I have days right now when I almost forget I’m pregnant, except that my clothes are too snug and I keep crying at sentimental TV, good fight scenes, that sort of thing.

I’m right in that limbo period where I don’t have the constant symptomatic reminders, but don’t yet have the obvious belly or even belly-flutters to remind me that someone’s living and growing in there. I’ve felt a couple of things that could have been fetal movement or could have been my overactive imagination (or gas), but I am eager to feel it soon, as all the pregnancy literature assures me I will.

We’re close to picking a midwife, I think; in the meantime, tomorrow we’ll see one of UCSF’s midwives for what’s only my second prenatal visit. (It seems like I’ve had more than that, between all the appointments and other meetings.) Although I feel like everything’s fine, it’s always good to have that reassurance. We should be able to hear the heartbeat on the doppler monitor, which I still haven’t done yet (and Devin hasn’t heard it at all).

Then I get to go to work and continue pretending I’m not spending all my energy on one giant biology experiment/ecosystem construction project in my belly.

Although I’m glad I haven’t thrown up (*knock on wood*), there were moments in the past three months — especially moments among certain local politicians I won’t name because it would be unscrupulous of me to do so, and besides, I’m sure they Google themselves — when being able to projectile-vomit on command (while also getting pregnancy-sympathy) would have been so awesome. Just sayin’.

I’m also beginning to suspect that I’ll want, you know, heavy-metal music during labor. They say “women labor better when listening to familiar music,” perhaps not anticipating that this woman’s “familiar music” might involve a lot of aggressive guitar. Some of it gives me lots of energy, which boosts me in other physical activities; wouldn’t that help in labor and pushing? Devin says the neighbors won’t like it, and he may not like it either. I say these are reasons headphones were invented. Ha.

Of course, I may turn out to want quiet pan-flute music or some other floaty stuff in the end, but I never consciously want that stuff any other time, so who knows.

Oh, yes: and I thought it was too appropriate that Devin’s dad will be in his first episode of Sons of Anarchy tonight. The title? Seeds.

— Beth

Our flat needs cleaning

But the light was nice.

Beth & Devin at 15 weeks

– Devin

Yes, we really talk this way

SCENE: OVER DINNER

Beth: I’ve been thinking; it’s so sad that I’ll be able to feel the baby move before you will.
Devin: You get to feel most everything first.
Beth: Yeah, but getting to feel the nausea first isn’t really a privilege.
Devin: (pause)
Devin: I got to feel the ejaculation first.

— Beth