Meeting the offices

We went off to visit our various jobs yesterday, to say hello to our coworkers and let them coo over Laurel a bit.

To itemize:

  • SF Examiner (Baby’s First Editorial Meeting): News productivity rapidly reduced by the need for reporting & editorial staff to come examine Laurel. Much cooing and passing-around of the baby. Laurel slept through the entire affair. Amusingly, it took about two minutes for all the men to drift back to their desks; the women stuck around for ten minutes or so.
  • Google: Site of an actual baby evidently a rare event at Google SF, judging from the number of surprised looks over various shoulders. Sat around chatting w/ coworkers for a bit, mostly about non-baby stuff.
    • Baby’s First Evacuation: was about to take her off for a diaper change when the fire alarm went off. Entire staff evacuates the building amidst much grumbling — this was evidently the third false alarm in a week, from a system only six months past its last lengthy bout of regular false alarms (one of the App Engine guys built a little “time since last false alarm” app with lots of animated flames just to make the point — after a while it was getting updated before the evacuation rather than after).
    • Baby’s First Improvisational Diaper Change: Cleared to reenter building, Laurel was thus spared being changed under Cupid’s Arrow. Instead, changed her on the men’s room counter in the narrow space between two sinks. After a few minutes of this, Laurel had squirmed around such that she was flailing one arm continually in front of the sensor on one of the soap dispensers, thus accumulating an impressive puddle of soap for which I could think of no real use, and also ensuring that her left arm & hand would smell distinctly of generic lotion soap for the rest of the day.
    • Baby’s First Nursing Room Visit: Talked a lactating coworker into unlocking the Mom’s Room so Beth could nurse Laurel. Since I usually handle the followup bottle of supplementary formula, hung out there myself too. Observations included respectable appointment of said room, need for massage chair in addition to ordinary comfy padded one, probability of Laurel being the first actual baby ever nursed there, and a strong desire to push the “call for help” button on the wall to see what sort of help would arrive.

Also added the K Ingleside to Laurel’s public transit scoreboard.

– Devin

How we grow

After our struggles last week, Laurel is gaining weight like it’s her job (which, as far as I’m concerned, it is) and developing even more goofy habits related to nursing. Her latest thing, especially at night when we’ve got lights on and she’s sleepy, is to nurse a while and then bury her head underneath the breast, where it’s nice and dark. But she’ll sling an arm protectively over the breast, as if to say, “I know it looks like I’m not using this, but I am. Hands off.”

She’s also started muttering and squeaking while she eats. The muttering is pretty cute; she sounds like she’s rasping, “Allright, allright” over and over again. It makes me call her “The breast whisperer.” I tell her, “You talk to the breast and tell it to give you milk.” And she says, Allrightallrightallright. The squeaks are more intermittent but just as cute. On top of that, she often winds up with her nose mashed into one side of my breast no matter what position we start in, so her breathing is audible. Devin says it sounds like I’m nursing an elderly vacuum cleaner.

But I love how, when she’s worked up about being hungry and we put her on the breast, the look in her eyes changes from Oh god I thought I’d never see you again to deep and total peace.

We’ve been glancing at the developmental milestones guidelines to figure out what she might be up to by the end of her first month. Admittedly, the first four weeks aren’t a huge hurdle for her, but there are a few things. She can already hold her head up for short periods, although not so reliably that we don’t hang on to it like it could pop off at any moment.

And just the other night, after a nice long nurse, we laid down and she looked at me with her wide open eyes. I showed her my hand, which startled her at first, but then as I moved my hand slowly back and forth in front of her, she followed it with her eyes. She did it again the next day, and with a bit more control, so I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a fluke.

— Beth

From the monster guide

Changing Table

FREQUENCY: Common; 8 + 1d10/day
ARMOR CLASS: 5 (-8 wood, -2 foam, +1 cotton cover)
HIT DICE: 2d10+10
% IN LAIR: 100%
TREASURE TYPE: 20% wipes; 80% pail
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Spell-like abilities; cold; cast fear
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Cotton cover; vinyl coating
MAGIC RESISTANCE: +2 resistance to Soothe
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic neutral
  Attack/defense modes: Nil

Changing tables are sedentary beasts, which lurk passively in nearby rooms until unwary babies are brought to them. Indentations and padding on their upper portions entice placement of soiled infants upon them. Once roused, encounters usually begin with surprise Fuss spell (+4 bonus for initiative, -2 penalty to saving throw for calm). Attacks continue once per round until the baby escapes or the table is subdued (see below). Babies brought within range of the table by two parents gain +3 bonuses to Soothe spells.

Successful Fuss spells cast by changing tables induce Fussing (see standard Conditions.) Fussing babies inflict 1 kick, 1 flail per round on random members of the party, and have a 50% chance per round of employing Piercing Wail. Fussing lasts 4+d4 rounds or until a successful Soothe is employed by a member of the party. The table may re-attempt the Fuss within 2 rounds of any successful Soothe.

Special weaknesses: changing tables’ cotton covers are vulnerable to Urine Storm attacks. Urine Storm reduces the arena of combat to 40+d20% of the previous area, as with a Poison Trap, but without onset delay modifiers. After a successful Urine Storm, on subsequent encounters with the same Table the cotton cover will be missing, with consequent adjustments to Armor class.

– Devin

The spreadsheet

We told some people we’d share this after we’d picked a name. So here’s the spreadsheet. I’ve scrubbed out a few especially colorful comments, but most of it is intact.

– Devin


It turns out that a bale of 80 infant-size cloth diapers weighs about 18 pounds, give or take a bit. And in eight days, a newborn baby can poop on all of them.

– Devin

Why “Laurel”

When I was a hippie teenager growing up in Sonoma County, I was reading lots of Starhawk books and exploring my spirituality. One of the things that happens in Wicca/paganism is that folks often choose a “magical name,” something that tells the rational brain to step aside so this magic-working personality can step in. That’s how you wind up with folks named Silver Ravenwolf and Bunny Fluffernutter and what have you. Those kinds of names never appealed to me. I wanted something simple — magical, separate from my day-to-day name and identity, but something that could pass for a real name. I chose Laurel, in part from the California Bay Laurels that are common in the North Bay.

Except, I never went anywhere with those explorations and hence never used the name.

When I was 19 I convinced my dad to buy a modem for our computer and I began exploring the world of BBSes. The first time I logged into one, I realized I was going to have to pick a “handle,” an identity I’d use online. Hey, I’d already picked a name before, and never got to use it. Laurel it was.

My insertion into the Sonoma County BBS scene happened really rapidly. Within three weeks I was a Co-SysOp on the Clam Chowder Hut, a board run by a 13-year-old Santa Rosa kid who went by Derf (Fred backwards) and soon had my own advice board, called “Ask Laurel” (which was a counterpart to the much more crass and comedic Ask Homey Da Clown). I loved the freedom I had online to communicate with people — at that age I was still so painfully shy that I didn’t talk much except with close friends, but online I found that I felt free to write out my thoughts in detail, and that people were interested in hearing them. BBSes were a place where many of us learned to be less socially awkward, at least among folks who were as socially awkward as we were. This path of self-discovery allowed me to shift into a place of relative social self-confidence, an aspect of myself I still rely upon daily.

Many people thought “Laurel” was my real name, because it is a name that sounds like it could be on someone’s birth certificate (unlike, say, Flourescent Floral Flouride or Tristessa or Thunderbolt or Swamp Gas). In some ways, “Laurel” was a new identity for me, a name for the self that was emerging.

Devin was also running a BBS at that time — Atlantica, named after a tropical-fish store where he’d worked. I remember meeting him at a MORE (Modemers of the Redwood Empire) meeting when he was 15 and still very small physically — made all the more dramatic by his close friendship with Chris Church, who was more than 6 feet tall and quite heavy then.

Devin and I were friendly acquaintances for a long time, but when I closed down my BBS and moved away to Berkeley to go to Cal, we struck up an email correspondence. He came to visit me often, looked after me during some rough patches, and in June of 1995, when he was just about to turn 18 and I was 22, our friendship turned romantic — and has remained so since. What started as an intimacy between good friends has turned into what we hope will be a life-long romance and commitment to each other. I’ve always felt that I chose well when I fell in love with him, and the experiences of our attempts to get pregnant and the experiences of our pregnancy and first week of parenting have only proven that more.

I wouldn’t have found him without the modem, and my being “Laurel” feels like a huge part of it, too.

When we were making our baby-names list, he had suggested Laura and I had suggested Lorelei, the name for a woman who became a siren, one of those water-nymphs who lure sailors to their deaths. (What can I say? I’m a sucker for sea mythology, especially when we’re talking about a Piscean baby.) Somewhere in there one of us suggested Laurel, and when we did the scoring, it rose to the top of the list.

But what cemented it was the day I spent at UCSF while Devin hung out with our new baby girl at home. He says he noticed that she would make little movements that reminded him of me. Since then, we’ve noticed that she and I like to sleep in the exact same pose. So it made sense to name our daughter for an aspect of myself, one that had been deeply involved in us coming together to produce her in the first place.

That said, if we ever have a second child and it turns out to be a boy, I don’t think we’ll be naming him after Devin’s BBS handle. It was Aquamaestro.

— Beth


I fed my daughter from a bottle today, and she looked at me as if I were Superman.

That demands some explanation, I suppose. So let me back up. This is where we get into the not-sweetness-and-light side of Laurel’s first week in the world, the ones that mostly don’t photograph and that take up a lot of our time.

Read the rest of this entry »


A lot of the things Laurel does when she’s nursing just make me laugh and laugh. Almost all of them are odd dramatic gestures, the sort you imagine singers adopting during some melodramatic Italian opera.

For example, she’ll put her hands on either side of her face like she’s astonished. Except sometimes, she’ll stick the fingers of one hand into the corner of her eye, and pull. Or she’ll throw one arm out into the air with plenty of gusto.

She also likes playing with her ear or punching my breasts with her tiny but strong fists. (Our lactation consultant says this is normal and helps urge the milk out.)

I often wonder what’s going on in her mind when she’s doing all this. By the time she could explain it to me, she will have forgotten.

— Beth


Day four, during a visit with her uncle Tyler:

Beth, manipulating Laurel’s hand: “Now, you hold your thumb over just like you’re doing, and then you raise this finger here and the other one here, and that’s called ‘throwing the goat.’ It’s what you do when something is awesome.”
Tyler laughs

Day five, while switching from one breast to the other:

Devin, turning Laurel over to nurse on the other side: “Okay darling, now we’ll just flip you over thus, and you can have the other breast.”
Laurel throws the goat

Day three

To briefly itemize:

  • Changing diapers not too bad an undertaking thus far, even when one is sort of obliged to inventory their contents for the sake of medical professionals. Slight bloody streaks disconcerting but allegedly normal for newborn girls.
  • Nursing an expectedly fiddly business, but improving.
  • Returned birth tub today. Walking along Valencia so as to bring back tacos, something blew in my eye that I still haven’t managed to extricate. Hoping Laurel doesn’t learn to emulate her father’s myopic squinting.
  • Flower is a splendid game for newborns. It’s got soothing music, you can play it with only one hand, and it doesn’t matter how little you’ve slept.
  • Laurel still sleeps a decent amount, and is happy to do so in American Academy of Pediatrics-approved positions.
  • Baby TV continues.

« Older entries