Anna picks up Dave's slack

Filling in for her her delinquent husband, Anna writes:

My cousins got me a Pregnancy Journal that tells you where you are in terms of the baby's development each day and warns you about how you'll feel. Anyway, I just turned the page into the Second Trimester on Saturday (181 Days to Go!). There's a "Things To Do" list for Month 4 and included in the list is:

*Avoid secondhand smoke and consider quitting if you smoke.

Consider quitting? Geez, this is the first book I've seen that may err on the side of being a bit too lenient!



It appears that I had this blog set up to allow only registered blogspot users to make comments. My bad, but the problem is fixed. And thanks for jumping in, Spencer.


by the by

If I haven't already mentioned it, your parenting tips, advice, random comments and opinions are both solicited and appreciated.


Baby's 1st 10 weeks: A Prenatal Primer

Here's what we missed over the past 10 weeks (loosely based on information culled from the Mayo Clinic Guide):

Week 1-2: Fertilization and Conception

Approximately four months after going off the Pill, Anna's body begins producing follicle stimulating and luteinizing hormones. A small cavity in her ovary, the follicle, swells and bursts through the ovary wall, releasing an egg. The egg begins a slow journey into the fallopian tube, where it's captured by "finger-like structures" called fimbriae. There it lies in wait for one of a billion or so of my boys to show up and finish the job. They call this period "preconception." Think of it as the calm before the intrauterine storm.

In the interest of maintaining the family-friendly atmosphere of this blog, and since both our moms are probably reading this, I won't go into graphic detail about the process of insemination. Suffice to say my little swimmers find their way into Anna's reproductive tract and make a beeline for her awaiting egg: into the vagina, through the cervix, beyond the uterus to the fallopian tube. Hundreds of millions of brave little guys die before ever reaching this point, but a plucky few arrive at the egg, and one tenacious sucker penetrates the corona radiata and zona pellucida and voila! Fertilization! At this point, our baby is but a zygote, a one-celled bundle of 46 chromosomes containing the genetic material that will dictate everything from biological sex to eye color, and which have already pretty much determined he or she will never play professional basketball. Such is the miracle of conception.

Week 3-4: Implantation and Early Development

Within 12 hours of conception, the process of cell division begins. The zygote doubles in cellular mass every 12 hours thereafter as it moves from the fallopian tube into the uterus. After three days, our busy little zygote has become a morula, "a cluster of 13 to 32 cells resembling a tiny raspberry." In a few days more it will be a blastocyst, comfortably imbedded in the cozy endometrium of Anna's uterus. They grow up so fast, don't they? Before long, I'll be handing him or her the keys to the car and nervously contemplating the skyrocketing cost of college tuition.

Week 5: Hello, Embryo!

During the 5th week of pregnancy, our budding baby has put aside blastocystic things and developed an embryonic fascination with cell differentiation. Its ectoderm has begun to form a neural tube, which will eventually become our baby's nervous system. Its mesoderm is beginning to form a heart and circulatory system. Its endoderm, which will eventually become lungs, intestines, and a urinary bladder, is pretty much dormant at this point. What do you expect? It's a friggin' embryo. Cut it some slack.

Week 6: Slow down there, Tiger.

During this busy week, our baby triples in size, basic facial features are becoming visible, the neural tube has closed and a brain is beginning to form. A miraculous brain with a virtually infinite capacity for creativity and understanding of the complex universe into which our baby will be born. Or so we'd like to think.

Week 7: It's a boy! And he's hung like a bear!

During week 7, the umbilical cord becomes visible. One wonders if Robin Williams is the only expectant father to mistake the umbilical cord for another "vital organ."

Week 8: Now they tell us

Eight weeks into the pregnancy, our baby's development continues apace: tiny arms and legs are growing longer and more defined; eyelids are forming; ears, lips and a nose are almost recognizable. But that's not the important part. It's at this point in the Mayo Clinic Guide that they decide to tell us about the "Early Hazards to Your Baby's Health." Teratogens, infections, radiation, poor nutrition - these are but a few of the many hazards that threaten to derail the pregnancy. If the purpose of this little bit of information is to instill paranoia and irrational fear, mission accomplished. It doesn't help that they emphasize our baby "is most vulnerable during the period from three to eight weeks after conception." We didn't even know Anna was pregnant for another two weeks. Fantastic. I need a teratogen.

Week 9: Congratulations - It's a humanoid!

In week 9, our baby begins to look less like a tadpole and more like a human. The embryonic tail at the base of the spine is shrinking, hands and feet are sprouting fingers and toes, and the endoderm has finally gotten into the act: a pancreas, bile ducts, gall bladder and anus have formed. That is so gross. Miraculous, but gross.

Week 10: See Figure 1 - Baby's 1st Sonogram

It's at this point that we found out Anna is pregnant. Vital organs have formed, embryonic tail has disappeared, and fully separated fingers and toes are visible. The brain is growing quicker, at the astounding rate of 250,000 new neurons per minute. And if it's a boy, his testes will begin producing testosterone. This could explain why Anna has the distinct feeling it's a boy.


the realization begins to sink in...

The euphoria of impending fatherhood is slowly giving way to a host of prenatal worries: Will our baby be healthy? Will the pregnancy be hell on Anna? On me? Assuming we survive it, what kind of parents will we be? What sort of trauma will we inflict upon our kid? No matter how well-intentioned we are, some emotional scarring is unavoidable, right?

All of these thoughts were swimming around in my head this morning, and it didn't help when Anna called from Best Buy to tell me she'd almost fainted, and that she needed me to come get her. In a panic, I rushed to her rescue. Luckily, it appears the episode was triggered by hunger - apparently the baby is draining her life juices, as Anna so elegantly put it. Still, it served as but another reminder of what's ahead of us. I feel totally unprepared, and knowing we've already missed most of the first trimester doesn't help matters any. We picked up a couple of books, the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy and The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby From Birth to Age Two. Unfortunately, these have only reinforced the feeling that we dropped the ball by getting such a late start on prenatal care. Apparently, the first trimester is the most critical period in a baby's development. Great. We slept through the most critical period. That's reassuring. Of course, I'd be a lot more worried if the womb in question didn't belong to Anna. She exercises daily, doesn't smoke, has never consumed a drug more potent than an antibiotic, and is drunk after two beers (and those occasions happen about once every six months). Sure, it's a gross over-generalization, and probably sexist to the core, but I can't help thinking the folks in charge of human biological design knew what they were doing when they decided women should be the ones to carry the fetus. The prospects for humanity's survival would be pretty goddamn bleak if that task was left up to men - at least the men I know, including myself.

And then there's the whole issue of karma. Even if we are prepared, and our baby is a ten-fingered, ten-toed beauty, what's going to happen when he or she reaches adolescence? I think about the headaches and heartaches I caused my folks, and worry that a Just Universe will visit that misery upon me tenfold. Is it too late to pay reparations for my youthful (and not-so-youthful) indiscretions?


It's a small world after all

Anna and I met up with friends at the Brown Bar last night to celebrate both our recent nuptials and the news of the pregnancy. When the waitress came to take our order, she leaned in to ask, "Is it okay if I'm your server?" I thought the question was kind of strange, and it took a couple of seconds to wrap my mind around the reason for her odd query: the waitress was my ex-wife. As Yuri put it, you can't make this shit up.


I have become one of THEM

We fancied ourselves quite the cosmopolitan couple: unpretentiously hip, overly educated, effortlessly fashionable. We imagined our future together, living off the fruits of our creativity, traveling the world, laughing at those mired in the reproductive squalor of suburbia. If we had children, they would be adopted from some distant, suffering place, because truly cosmopolitan couples eschew procreation for beneficent acquisition; perhaps an unwanted daughter from a small village on the southeastern coast of China, or a son from a slum in some post-Communist backwater in Eastern Europe. And if we didn't adopt children? No problem. After all, modern reproductive freedom is all about the freedom not to reproduce. Unshackled from quaint conceptions of procreative obligations, we would do as we damn well pleased. Or so we thought...

I didn't see this one coming...

The visual evidence is irrefutable.