Tag: the baby

“Your life will change forever…” (1 day to go)

Last night’s dream:

I’m about to leave the office when a researcher comes by and says he needs immediate help with the “100% computing” project, which has just been approved. (I have never heard of this project, but I always try to be helpful, even if it is not in my area.) He walks to the room across from my office, but no one is there so he comes into my office. “I need your help,” he says.

“Unfortunately,” I say, “Well, unfortunately for you, I am about to leave. I’m getting married. No, I’m already married. I’m having a baby tomorrow!”

And so we are. As I write this, it is 26 hours before our scheduled C-section. We are having a baby tomorrow! (The phrase, “having a baby” sounds awkward now. We already have the baby; he’s simply in storage at this point, and he’s coming out of storage tomorrow–which doesn’t sound any better.) The whole idea has become more abstract over the last week or so, which is a bit surprising as I had expected it to become more real in my mind. Despite the obvious signs, it is still hard to imagine that we’ll have a baby to take care of tomorrow. It’s caused a flurry of vignette-like thoughts about the past and future to pass through my mind, as though I’m bouncing around in time.

35 years ago, roughly this time in June: I’m sitting at a small wooden table in the family room of our house in Somerset, New Jersey. My feet barely reach the blue tiled floor. The table is off toward one corner of the room, kind of near where the front windows are. There’s a pack of crayons on the table and some paper, and my uncle is teaching me how to color with my left hand. (I was already clearly right-handed at this point.) There is some commotion and I realize that some people are coming to the front door. It’s my mom and dad, and with them, they have my new baby brother…

If there is a common phrase that all parents seem to use with respect to the birth of a first child, the most frequently used phrase is most certainly, “Your life will change forever.” I’ve already written about the ambiguity of this statement. It implies both the good and the bad. But it is also a blatantly obvious statement. I’m not sure how anyone could go through the 40 weeks preceding the birth of a child and think that their life would ever be the same. It is also a vague statement. How much change? How quickly? I can’t help asking these questions. It’s in my nature. I need some kind of baseline to judge the amount of change. There are ways of doing this.

  • Sleep. In the week before Zachary’s arrival, I averaged 9.5 hours of sleep each night. My actual average is probably less than this. It’s skewed by the fact that I got 13 hours of sleep on Friday night.
  • Reading. I’ve read, on average 30 books per year in the 14 years preceding Zachary’s birth. Since books vary in length, you can say that on average, I’ve read about 5 million words per year.
  • Writing. Despite my best efforts, I only manage to complete 2 or 3 stories a year. I’ve sold two stories. I’ve got two in the works.

I’m sure there are other subtle changes, but these are some solid metrics that I can look at say, a year from now, and see just how much my life has changed, at least with respect to how much time I spend on these things.

We were finally home from just about the best day of my life. We’d gone to the Hayden Planetarium and I got a first hand look at the cosmos in a way that I’d never seen it before. I might only be five or six years old, but I already considered myself a professional astronomer, at least among my circle of friends, all of whom were amateurs at best. I even got a toy at the museum gift shop: a model of a 747 with a space shuttle that hooked to it’s back. I mean, how cool is that! We were walking toward the front door of the house and I stopped my Dad. “Daddy,” I said, “I have a question.”

“What is it?”

“I know that when boys grow up they start calling their Daddy’s ‘Dad’. But I was wondering if it was okay if I always called you ‘Daddy’?”

Last night, I cleaned the house in preparation for Zach’s arrival. I vacuumed the entire house. I cleaned all three bathrooms. I cleaned out the litter boxes and took out the trash. I mopped the floors in the kitchen and bathroom. All the while, I listed to my “Road Trip” playlist on my iPod. And I sang along with the songs the entire time. When I was finishing up, it occurred to me that it would be a little while before I’d be able to do that again. With a baby in the house, I’d have to learn to suppress my natural urge to sing out loud. After all, babies tend to sleep a lot and I wouldn’t want to wake him up. In fact, my natural speaking voice can quickly grow loud when I grow excited or enthusiastic about something. I’ll have to be much more aware of that now than I ever was before.

I loved Milton the Monkey. In my Kindergarten class, we learned the alphabet through a wonderful flip-chart story about the adventures of Milton the Monkey. Each page was an adventure for Milton, and his adventures always ended up with us learning a new letter of the alphabet: what it looked like and how it sounded. It turned out to be not only fun, but pretty easy. After all, the letter almost always sounded like the name off the letter. An ‘A’ made an ‘ah’ sound; a ‘B’ made a ‘buh’ sound. It couldn’t have been long after this that I was sitting in the dining room of our New Jersey house, leaning up against a wall near the linen closet with a book in my lap. I remember looking at the words in the book and seeing lots of letters. A whole lot of letters! I thought back to Milton the Monkey and how the letters made sounds. The first group of letters I tried stymied me: T-H-E. Tuh-hee. Tuh-hee! The problem was I didn’t recognize any word that sounded like tuh-hee. I figured it was an adult word, shrugged my shoulders and moved on to another one: L-O-V-E. I tried sounding it out: Luh-oh-vee. That didn’t sound right, but I already knew from some of the older kids that sometimes an E was silent at the end of a word. So I tried again. Luh-ove. Nope. Try again. Luh-ove. Luhove. Luhove. I had not idea what luhove was. But I did know what “luv” was. Could it be that L-O-V-E sounded like LUV? Somehow, I knew this was right, and I grew incredibly excited. I’d just learned how to read my first word. And I was still in kindergarten!

I sometimes wonder if certain aspects of parenting will be easier for us that it was for our parents. Zachary will be a true digital native, for instance. In fact, tomorrow, June 12, analog TV signals go away, replaced by all-digital signals. While the digital age has happened in my lifetime, I can remember some years before ever having a computer, a cellular phone, an iPod, a DVR, a GPS. For Zachary, it will be different. He will certainly have a cellular phone–or whatever the future equivalent is. Social networking systems, like Loopt, for instance, will likely be more sophisticated over time. When he goes out with friends, it will be easy to know his exact location at any moment, without intruding upon him. This must certainly add a layer of security to the worry that every parent must experience when their children are away from home. On the other hand, I think of myself as pretty technically sophisticated, but I can foresee the say (despite being a science fiction writer!) when Zachary turns to me in dismay, shaking his head and muttering, “iPhones are so 2025, Dad. When are you going to get a BrainChip?”

Kelly and I hoped to get to the movies one last time before Zach was born. We wanted to go see Up. But who knows when we’ll get to the movies again. And so the last movie that I saw in the theater, prior to being a father will have been Star Trek. I have an odd fascination with these “lasts and firsts”. I’ve often wondered, for no good reason, what the last meal my parents had was before I was born. That I have a diary (and blog) makes it easy to reflect on some of these things. My last lunch with work friends, Todd and Karl, prior to Zach’s arrival, was yesterday. We had sushi. The last book that I finished was Ray Bradbury’s We’ll Always Have Paris. The book that I am reading now (at the time Zach will be born) is Jack McDevitt’s Polaris. The last place we traveled to was Richmond, Virginia for the RavenCon science fiction convention. The last time I took a plane trip was in March, to Santa Monica, for a work retreat. I don’t see all my friends enough. We’re too scattered. I saw Eric back in February. I saw Andy and Lisa back in March. I saw Dan and Megan in October. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Norm and Vicky. I don’t see my brother and sister enough. I saw Jen and Jason in May. But it was back in October when I saw Doug and Rachel. The next time I see all of them I’ll be a dad.

Alternate-future history: “The taxi just pulled up out front,” I say to Kelly, watching the three people climb out of the cab and walk slowly toward the front of our townhouse. Kelly reaches into the crib to scoop up Zachary, who is celebrating his 15 day birthday today. I dash down the stairs, skipping three steps at a time, and throw open the front door. Mom and Dad are standing there smiling, hugs all around. And standing there with them, a silly grin on his face, is Grandpa. He reaches for me with his unusually long arms and gives me a hug. We all go upstairs, where Kelly is waiting with Zachary.

“Mom and Dad,” I say, “meet your grandson, Zachary.” Everyone hovers around, making much of the startled little guy, who, all things considered, is holding up pretty well. “Grandpa,” I say, “you know what you and your great-grandson share in common?”

“What’s that?” he says.

“Well, your name is Paul and his middle name is Paul.”

I wait for a witty response from him, but none is forthcoming.  He can’t seem to get any words past the tears.

There is something surreal about the whole experience of becoming a Dad–or a parent for that matter.  For 37 years I have been a spectator–and sometimes a color-commentator–to the whole sport of parenting.  The best way that I can describe it is that parents seem like a different species to me.  I don’t mean this in any negative way, I simply mean a parent seems so different from my world that I find it incredibly difficult to imagine myself in that position.  It’s like trying to imagine myself in my cat’s position.  The comprehension simply isn’t there.  There is also something existential about entering an operating room as a husband and leaving it an hour later as a husband and a father.  I’ve found over the last two days that I may not be able to maintain my usual calm, objective self.  Thinking about Zach’s impending arrival while cleaning the house last night, I found myself on more than one occasion on the verge of tears.  But I take that as a good sign.  Biology is a remarkable thing, and perhaps the greatest experiment that two people can perform is taking two cells and eventually turning them into a relatively well-behaved college graduate.  That we have the power to do this is remarkable.  It’s what makes history so fascinating.  Everything we do and everything we know is because, at some point two people introduced a pair of cells to one another…

Sunday morning breakfast.  Mom made pancakes and they were now stacked neatly the brown pancake-warmer.  The four of us sat around the kitchen table.  It’s possible this was the day that I ate 50 1/2-dollar-sized pancakes.  I’m not sure.  My memory isn’t that good.  We’d found out not too long ago that Mom was going to be having another baby.  Everyone thought that this one would be another boy, but I was certain it would be a girl.  My reasoning was quite simple:  my odds of picking something different was equal to the odds of everyone else, so why not?  Always curious, I asked a simple question at that breakfast.  I don’t remember exactly how it was worded.  I might have said, “Mom, where do babies come from?”  Or I might have asked, “How are babies made?”  I tend to think I asked the former since there was nothing in my store of knowledge that babies were in any way “made”.  They simply grew in Mom’s tummy until they were ready to come out.  So there it was, “Where to babies come from?”

I remember my Mom’s answer, though.  She said, “When we decide we want another baby, your Dad puts a pill in my tea and soon after that the baby starts to grow.”

Looking back on it, I find that it is a very apt metaphor.  Unfortunately, as a 6-1/2 year old boy, I knew nothing of metaphor, and I am embarrassed to admit how long I believed that my Mom’s answer was the literal truth.  Most kids pick up the basic facts of life “in the gutter”.  A few years later, I learned the basics “in the gutter” after insisting to some friends that my Mom’s description of baby-making was scientifically accurate.  (Back then, I was not know for my sagacity.)

Today is my last day at work for 2 weeks.  The next time I am back in the office, I’ll be a Dad.  Kelly will be a Mom.  Our cats will have a new younger sibling.  Our parents will be grandparents all over again.  Our siblings will have a new nephew.  Our nieces and nephews will have a new cousin.  My Grandpa used to say that family was the most important thing.  He saw things through rose-colored glasses.  Family could be frustrating.  They could be just as silly as anyone else.  But I’m beginning to see what he meant, I think.

So what do I think about our lives changes forever tomorrow?  I’m not too worried about it.  I think we’re prepared.  We’ve had good teachers.  I’m just so excited for Zach’s arrival.  But setting aside that excitement, I suppose I could best describe how I feel by quoting the Eagles:

“I’ve got a peaceful, easy feeling.”

Originally published at From the Desk of Jamie Todd Rubin. You can comment here or there.

With 2 days left, here are the FAQs

There really have been some Frequently Asked Questions these last few weeks, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to address them here.

1. Are you nervous?

I’m not.  At least, not yet.  Everyone tells me that instinct will take over and I trust that will be the case.  So I have no reason to be nervous until instinct doesn’t take over.  I’ll worry about it then.  I had a dream last night that the baby was born and I held him for the first time.  He was bigger than I thought he would be.  He also pooped on me.  What really upset me, however, was that I didn’t remember his birth, and Kelly told me that I was sleeping and she didn’t want to wake me up, so she let me sleep through it.  I wasn’t too happy about that.

2. How is Kelly doing?

She is doing great.  She has been great throughout the pregnancy, and a real trooper, too, considering how uncomfortable it must be to grow a baby inside you.  I think she is ready for the baby to arrive.  Over the last few days, I have occasionally heard her tossing and turning at night, so I imagine things are still pretty uncomfortable when trying to sleep.  But she is still active (we went for a walk in the rain last night).  And even if she’s physically uncomfortable, she’s as cheerful as ever.

3. Do you know what you are having?

Yes.  We are having a baby.  (Duh!)  Oh, you mean the sex of the baby?  Yes, we are having a baby boy.  (As a side note, this question is often framed as: “Do you know what you are having, or are you going to be surprised?”  As I’ve said before, finding out the sex of the baby could be considered a surprise, whether you wait until he or she is born, or you find out early.  But the more I think about it, the only real surprise in the whole thing is if you found out you were having something other than a boy or girl.)

4. When is he due?

His official due date is June 19, 2009.  However, Kelly is having a scheduled c-section on Friday, June 12, which is just two days from now.

5. Are you excited?

It’s been building up gradually, but I found that when I woke up this morning, I’d passed some critical point at which the excitement is feeding on itself and growing, in much the way a star is fuel through nuclear reactions.  I imagine by tomorrow I’ll be coming out of my skin.  I’m going to be a dad–me, the guy who can still clearly remember days back to when he was two years old himself.  I haven’t yet been able to wrap my head around it.

Originally published at From the Desk of Jamie Todd Rubin. You can comment here or there.

What to expect (in 3 more days…)

Okay, I missed a few days. It’s been busy. I’ve been ramping up for a major software roll-out–which was pushed at the last minute and is now on at least a 3 week hiatus.  With three days left, I thought I should mention how things will proceed going forward.  Here is the plan:

  1. An email will go out to friends and family as soon as is reasonably possible after the baby is born.  This should be sometime on Friday.
  2. A twitter update should follow shortly after that–which is automatically relayed to Facebook.
  3. Phone calls will go out to those people to whom we promised phone calls sometime in the afternoon, once we’re settled in our room.
  4. A blog entry will appear sometime late Friday.
  5. Going forward, my plan is to write a weekly blog entry on the baby.

I’m still in the office working full days every day, which makes this whole things seem kind of surreal.  It seems like business as usual, but we know that a lot is going to change in the coming days.

Originally published at From the Desk of Jamie Todd Rubin. You can comment here or there.

My degree in Parenthood (8 days and counting)

I’m nothing if not cheerfully self-appreciative, so it will come as no surprise to those who know me that I think I will make a very good parent.  I used to wonder, fleetingly, if I would be a good parent, but I quickly realized that of course I would and there is one main reason for this:

I have a degree in Parenthood. 

Most of us do, and we just don’t realize it.  I have studied parenthood from the perspective of a son for the last 37 years.  And let me say for the record that I have had excellent teachers.  It seems to me, therefore, that any time I’m stuck for what to do, all I have to do is flip back through my tenacious memory and ask, “What did Mom or Dad do with me in this situation?”  There can be no finer example than that set by my folks, and so of course, that seems like the natural place to start.  This doesn’t mean I will do things exactly how my parents did them.  After all, we grow up to become our own person.  I’m sure that my folks didn’t raise us exactly how their parents did (otherwise, I would still be sitting at some long lost dinner table with uneaten food on my plate).  We all have our quirks, and we also seek to improve upon what we learn.  Nevertheless, how my parents raised me (and Doug and Jen) serves as an excellent atlas for navigating the parental world.

Originally published at From the Desk of Jamie Todd Rubin. You can comment here or there.

Week 38 (t-minus 9 days and counting…)

We are into the single digits!

Time is moving quickly and slowly.  At work we are in the midst of a massive application rollout which takes place this weekend.  That has been making the workdays go by quickly.  But the nights can’t seem to slide by fast enough.

I think both Kelly and I have been stewing in anticipation.  We are both very excited for the baby’s arrival, but I have a few observations of things that I’ve been thinking about in the last week:

  1. I don’t feel like a Dad yet.  I’m not sure if there is some chemical change that takes place in your brain once the baby is born.  I’ll let you know.  But for now, I feel pretty much the same as I’ve always felt.  In other words, I feel like me.  I’m so excited for the baby’s arrival, but 9 days out, it is almost as if it’s happening to someone else, not me.  (In a real sense, it is happening to Kelly, since she is the one carrying the baby.)
  2. I keep thinking about how excited I am for the baby’s arrival and to bring him home.  Of course, in a real sense, he is already home, albeit within Kelly’s belly.  But at 38 weeks, he’s not too much different than he will be 9 days from now.  He’s already able to hear voices, and though he hasn’t “seen” the house yet, he spends most of his time in the house.  It’s funny how we build up in our heads bringing the baby home–to a place he’s already been for the last nine month.  The only difference is the 5 layers of intervening skin and muscle.
  3. Lots of people have told us how our lives will change forever once the baby is born.  I’m skeptical about the intent of some of them.  For one thing, I think our lives “changed forever” on the day the baby was conceived; we just didn’t know it yet.  Second, while most people tell us that our lives will change forever, they do it with a sinister kind of ring in their voices, implying all of the negative parts of raising a child like sleepless nights, worries, anxiety, frustration.  What’s interesting is that only a very few people who say this actually add, “for the better.”  I don’t doubt that our lives will change forever (or as long as they last anyhow) for the better, but I find it interesting that people tend to focus on the negative, rather than the positive.

In some ways, I liken the experience so far to getting my pilot’s license.  There was a point a month or so before my first solo flight when it seemed to me I simply couldn’t imagine myself flying a plane all alone with no one there to help me out.  I didn’t feel like a pilot.  But came the big day, and I did it, and it was one of the high points of my life.  In the same way, while I don’t feel like a Dad yet, I imagine that once little Zach is born and I am holding him in my arms (or watching Kelly hold him in hers), the feeling will come and along with it, another high point in my life.

Stick around and find out.  I plan on posting some thoughts about Zach’s upcoming arrival each of the remaining 9 days before the Big Day.  Tomorrow, I’ll talk more about how I feel about becoming a parent and why I don’t feel complete overwhelmed (yet).

Originally published at From the Desk of Jamie Todd Rubin. You can comment here or there.

37 weeks (and 2 weeks to go)

For those who don’t know, 37 weeks is a watershed moment in any pregnancy.  At 37 weeks, the baby is considered “full term.”  Technically, it means that his lungs are fully developed, but I like to think that he’s done cooking, and is now just staying in the oven to keep warm.  Moreover, 37 weeks is a milestone for the parents-to-be.  To explain, I have to digress slightly.

To a child, parents always seem partially insane.  This insanity grows noticeably more subtle as the child gets older.  Think about this and you’ll see that I am right.  When I was young, my parents would tell me not to do something and when I asked “Why not?” one or both would reply with, “Because I said so.”  Children learn logic quickly.  Just about any child, whether or not they know the technical term, realizes that “Because I said so,” is at best an ad hominum argument.  Over time, we simply come to accept that it is a mild form of insanity.  There are endless homilies that get spun: “Don’t eat that, you’ll spoil your dinner,” is another classic.  We know, rationally, that many small meals throughout the day are better than a few large ones.  Again, insanity.  Even so this insanity seems to diminish over time.  Nevertheless, it leaves an intelligent child wondering how their folks even avoided the loony bin in the first place.  And what caused them to go round the bend?

Thirty Seven Weeks.  At 37 weeks, something happens inside the crania of parents-to-be.  (I’m reminded of a lyric from They Might Be Giants: “Something unpleasant has spilled on his brain…”) At 37 weeks, the pressure on the brains of expectant parents has passed beyond a threshold where it can be further contained.  This pressure often takes the form of, “Will this child ever arrive?”  Or “what the heck is taking so long?”  Or (speaking directly into the bellybutton at this point): “do you need directions or something?”  There is no more room for the baby and it has begun to smush and deform the brain of the parents.  This leads, of course, to a mild form of brain damage, which in turn positions the would-be mommy and daddy somewhere just left of sanity.  Yes, we have hit that mark, ladies and gentlemen, and we are pleased to announce that we now join our own parents somewhere over the rainbow.

Suddenly, everything my parents ever did makes perfect sense.  There is an eerie logic to all of it.  It also helps explain the great divide between those who find it easy to install car seats, and those who farm the job out to rocket scientists.  The ones who find it easy are the ones who installed the car seat after 37 weeks.

Bill Cosby spoke of kids being the brain damaged ones, but I think it is the other way around.  This is the truly transformative moment, the one which no one ever warns you about, the sudden feather-light tip from sanity into insanity.  I fight it, I really do.  But then again, I suspect everyone does.  I suspect that my folks fought it.  No one wants to be insane.  No one wants to talk in a goofy voice to an infant who can’t understand a word you are saying anyway.  But we have no control over that part of our mind anymore.  It’s gone, and we’re left stammering to a newborn infant things like, “Do-you-have-a-dir-ty-diaper?”

What’s even more remarkable is the fact that when I’ve announce that we have reached the 37 week mark, I have gotten knowing glances from parents, a kind of subtle turn of the lip, gleam in the eye, a secret handshake, a “welcome to the club” nod.  You are one of us now, it says.  And the scary part is that by “us” they don’t mean parents–they mean insane.

All of this I am attempting to take in stride.  In fact, I find it oddly comforting.  I look forward with great enthusiasm to things like changing diapers, and 2 am feedings, and spit-up, and glass-shattering, brain-bending screaming.  All things that a perfectly insane person would look forward to.  The truth is, I don’t mind the insanity at all.

I just wish someone would have warned me about it.

Originally published at From the Desk of Jamie Todd Rubin. You can comment here or there.

36 weeks (and 3 to go)

For some reason, 3 weeks sounds a lot shorter than 4 weeks.  I’ve taken 3 week vacations that have zoomed by in the blink of an eye.  So there’s not much more of a wait before Zachary arrives.  At least we are finally done with everything.  On Sunday, we finished up the last of the stuff we needed to do in preparation of Zachary’s arrival.  We have all of the stuff we need.  We have our bag to the hospital packed.  We met with our lawyer to get wills and a trust set up.  We met with our financial adviser and adjusted our life insurance.  We’ve got the nursery setup, we’ve got the pack-n-play setup.  We’ve got two weeks worth of diapers on hand.

And we are ready.

At 36 weeks, if Zachary were to arrive today, he would be delivered, rather than sent back to cook for a little longer.  I think we’d prefer him to stay put for one more week (babies lungs are fully developed at 37 weeks).  On the other hand, Kelly has reached the point where she is getting increasingly uncomfortable and I think she’d be happy if he arrived any time now.  Thursday is her last day in the office.  She will then be tele-working (from home) until the baby arrives, at which point she will be on “vacation” for 3-4 months.

We have been trying to squeeze in last-minute activities.  We’ve gone to the movies the last two weekends in a row.  On Saturday evening, we had dinner in Shirlington with new friends. On Friday I will attend what is likely my last “happy hour” for some time.   This weekend, we are going to scope out some local neighborhoods in which we are thinking about buying a house.  And we are marking off time by various milestones between now and Zach’s arrival:  Memorial Day weekend (a long weekend, which means a short week following); a couple of birthdays between now and Zach’s arrival.  3 more doctor appointments.  And so on.

I am still eager to see the baby, but I am still finding it extremely difficult to imagine what things will be like once he’s arrived.  Even just holding him is hard to imagine, although I am very excited about it all.  Our informal survey of friends and family who have recently had babies tells us that we should expect an average of 3 hours of sleep every 24 hours for the first couple of weeks.  Then it gradually gets better, moving up to 4 or 5 hours after the first month or so.  We are trying to set our expectations appropriately.  We will have some help.  Kelly’s parents will be in town for a week or so when the baby is first born.  My parents will be in town the last week in June.  And we are looking at getting a cleaning service in twice a month or so, to help keep the house in shape so that we can focus on taking care of the baby.

There are a few other things I’d like to get done before he arrives.  I’d like to make some revisions on a story and get it sent out to ASIMOV’S.  And I’d really like to get a decent way through the next story.  I haven’t done any writing at all in the last several weeks, and I’d like to squeeze some in before Zach arrives.  My reading list also requires updating, and I’d like to get that updated before his arrival.  Finally, I’m still about 5 issues behind in the science magazines (although I’m making progress).  Maybe I can get caught up there too (so that when I fall behind again, it won’t be quite as far behind).

I am looking forward to seeing Zach again at our doctor’s appointment on Friday.  We got some good pictures last time.

See you in a week!

Originally published at From the Desk of Jamie Todd Rubin. You can comment here or there.

Where’s your brain?

Funny comment from today’s OB visit. After getting a good look (via ultrasound) of the baby’s brain, our doctor snapped off two pictures of it which she handed to Kelly.

“Here’s a picture of your baby’s perfect brain,” she said, “Keep it, so that when he’s thirteen, you can prove to him that he once had one.”

How can you not love a doctor with that sense of humor?

Originally published at From the Desk of Jamie Todd Rubin. You can comment here or there.

34 weeks (and 5 to go)

Today is the 34 week-mark in Kelly’s pregnancy and that means there are only 5 weeks left before our baby’s arrival.  (Kelly’s c-section is scheduled at 39 weeks, which is a common practice, and that’s why there are only 5 weeks left and not 6 weeks.)  It seems like these last 5 week-markers are good times to reflect on the idea that we will soon be parents, and to update you all on what we are doing to prepare for this.

At this point, we have just about everything that we need to bring the baby home.  We’ve got a crib (which was beta-tested this past weekend by our niece, Sadie).  We have a glider (and one that does not have a crack in it–finally!)  We have a beautifully painted bookshelf (courtesy of Kelly’s parents) on which to put all of the books we have received.  We’ve got a top-of-the-line car seat.  We’ve got baby clothes galore.  We’ve got a breast pump, bed sets, swaddling blankets, toys, stuffed animals, diapers, a changing table, strollers, bottles, and bibs.  There are still some things that we have to pick up, but there are not critical to have.  I still need to install the car seat in the car, but there is time for that yet.  We have completed our childbirth classes, our baby care class, our c-section class, and this past Sunday, we had a tour of our hospital.  We are on two daycare waiting lists.  We have even chosen our pediatrician.  We have submitted our leave plans with our employers.

There are still a few significant things that we plan on doing before the baby arrives.  We need to install the car seat, and once we do, we will drive over to the local police station and have it inspected to make sure we’ve done it correctly.  Next week, we are enrolled in an infant CPR and pediatric first aid class.  Late next week, we are meeting with our lawyer to get our estate planning setup and finalized.  With a baby on the way, that suddenly seems much more important.  We are also meeting with our financial advisor next week, who will tell us how we have to adjust our life insurance, how much to save for college, how much of a house we can afford (because as the family grows, they will need a place to grow into).  There are also a few things that we still would like to pick up before the baby arrives (a baby monitor, for instance, and perhaps some more diapers).

I think we are both beginning to mentally prepare for his arrival at this point.  Everyone in the world has told us in rather dramatic terms, that our lives will change forever after he arrives.  It seems to me that our lives changed forever the moment we could detect signs of his life.  We are expecting to get virtually no sleep.  We are planning on living on the main floor of the townhouse for a while, until Kelly can safely negotiate the stairs after the c-section.  We are well-verses in the frustrations of breast-feeding.  Trouble in these areas will come as no surprise to us, although we will be pleasantly surprised if these things turn out to be easier than we expect.  We are trying to plan ahead.  We have received an abundance of good advice from family and friends and we are trying to use that to our advantage.  We know that we have to prioritize–cleaning the house won’t be as important as changing a diaper.  We are looking at getting some help around the house to tide us over so that we don’t have to worry about this.  (And of course, Kelly’s parents and my parents will be around to help out in the very early stages.)

Physically, Kelly is showing the entire cadre of signs of 8-1/2 months of carrying a bay.  She waddles when she walks.  Her back bothers her.  She sleeps within a remarkable pillow fortress, which calls to mind the height of baroque architecture.  She had her first Braxton-Hicks contractions on Monday.  Yesterday, I could feel the baby just below the surface of her belly.  His feet pushed against my hand with a surprising degree of force.  He has been moving with sometimes violent force, but talking to him seems to calm him down a bit.  (On the other hand, ice cream seems to excite him, so we already know he’s a smart kid.)  I am very conscious of the signs I am supposed to be looking out for.  We know what the plan is for the baby’s arrival, but we are also aware that plans sometimes fall apart and that we have to be ready to go with the flow.  I think we are prepared as we can be at this point, and I can say for myself that I am not nervous, but rather anxious for the time to go by and eager to see the little guy.

So that tells you on how we have prepared.  But how to do I feel about all of this?

That is more difficult to describe.  In my mind, I’ve always imagines myself as a kind of kid living in a world where I am surrounded primarily by adults.  I don’t know why I think of myself in this way, but is the way I have always thought of myself.  Perhaps it’s because I hold a job in which I do things that were a lot of fun for me to do when I was a kid (program computers).  After all, as the saying goes, do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.  Regardless, when I think that I am 37 years old, I experience a kind of cognitive dissonance:  on the one hand 37 is still fairly young; on the other hand, I don’t see myself as 37, I see myself as ageless, which is the same way I have always seen myself.  And since the bulk of my life was spent at ages far younger than 37, I still feel in many ways, like a kid.

I find myself fascinated by the day before and the day after.  With a scheduled c-section, it was suggested that we spend the day before the c-section relaxing, going out to eat, taking in a movie, getting a good night’s sleep.  There is something surreal in that.  It is so typical of the last 37 years, and yet the very next day, things change in some fundamental way that I am not yet capable of understanding.  Or let me put it another way.  For 37 years, I have done a whole bunch of things: learned to read, played baseball, played with all kinds of games and toys, gotten bumped and bruised, laughed (and sometimes suffered) through 16 years of schooling, worked at various jobs, been in various relationships, make people proud and made lots of mistakes.  And now, I am about to do it all over again though someone else’s eyes.  Seems kind of remarkable when you think of it that way.  It’s an opportunity to experience my first plane ride all over again, my first time to Disney World, the first time I skinned my knee or got stung by a bee, the first time I realized the Earth was hurtling around the sun, the first time I read a science fiction book, all of it.  And really, it’s a kind of two-for-one, since Zachary will be experiencing it all for the first time, too.  I have never heard a completely adequate description of why parents take such pride in their progeny, but I suspect it has something to do with this.

I used to worry if I would make a good parent.  It was a legitimate worry.  How does one know until one tries?  But I have had enough people tell me what a great dad I will be that I have allowed my cheerful self-appreciation to accept their opinions as fact.  I do feel like I will be a great dad.  Not a flawless one by any means, but it’s not something I worry about any more.  (Although I must admit, I think it might take me a while to get used to holding the baby.  When Sadie was here, I held her, and I never felt as though she were comfortable in my arms, and vice versa–and I don’t mean “comfortable” in the abstract sense, but the literal, physical sense.)  I think it will be interesting to look back on these blog entries (and on my diary) in years to come and see if I laugh at my naivete.  In the meantime, I just plan on enjoying this.

See you next week.

Originally published at From the Desk of Jamie Todd Rubin. You can comment here or there.

Baby face

We had another doctor appointment this morning to see how the baby is doing.  Kelly is into week 26 now and everything is looking good.  The baby was moving around a lot early this morning, and later in the day, it occurred to me that the regularity of his movements were probably hiccups–and the doctor agree that’s probably what it was.  We could see his face on the ultrasound, and even got a few snapshots of his little mug.

We go again in a month and then it’s every two weeks after that.  We have all of our appointments through the “birth date” booked now.  Less than 3 months to go!

Originally published at From the Desk of Jamie Todd Rubin. You can comment here or there.

The source of quirky habits

I was packing my lunch this morning and realized that I was moving out of the turkey phase and back to the peanut butter and jelly phase.  As I set about making my PB&J sandwich, I had the following little daydream:

I am preparing Zachary’s lunch for school.  He is standing beside me, head reaching to my hip, watching me work.  With the knife I spread the peanut butter thickly on one side of the bread.  Then I reach for the spoon, spoon out a glob of grape jelly and use the back of the spoon to spread it on the other side of the bread.

Zach gets a curious look on his face.  "Daddy," he says, "why do you use a knife for the peanut butter and a spoon for the jelly?"

I think about this and realize that from his perspective, this is a fundamental question, harking back to why the universe works the way it does.  The problem is that I don’t have a good answer.  If he had asked why the sky was blue or why the sun appeared redder in the evening, I would have been able to explain it without trouble.  But he asked why I used a knife for the peanut butter and a spoon for the jelly.  Since I was always taught that honesty is the best policy, I decided to go for broke. 

"Well," I say, "I don’t really have a good reason.  Everyone else in the world probably uses a knife for both.  But this is the way your grandpa made my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when I was growing up, and it’s the way I learned how to do it.  I just feels comfortable this way."

Zach smiles, showing a few missing teeth.  "When I grow up, I’m going to use a knife and spoon just like you, Daddy," he says.

Incidentally, I definitely felt Zach move this morning, sometime around 3:30 AM.  Since the previous time I wasn’t certain, I’ll consider this one the definite one and record it hereafter as the first time I felt him move.

Forward progress, part 1

I did pretty good at sticking to the schedule I planned for today.  There’s a lot to get done this weekend and I felt like I needed a schedule and list to help get it all done in the time I’ve got.

I slept pretty well last night.  When I went to go to bed, two of the cats were curled up on my side of the bed.  So I went to lay down in the guest room for a while, and an hour or so later (when I woke up not quite sure where I was), I found that they had mostly relinquished my side and I crawled into bed.  I was up at 7 am, ate breakfast and headed to the gym.

After my shower, I started on the house-cleaning chores.  I cleaned all of the bathrooms (and poured Drano down the sink in the master bathroom in order to clear out a slow drain).  I swept and mopped the kitchen, bathrooms, and the landings.  I cleaned out the cat littler, took out the trash, cleaned the kitchen counter, and cleaned the sliding glass door, both inside and out.  When that was all done, I vacuumed the entire downstairs.  By then, it was just after noon and I took 50 minutes off for lunch and to do a little reading (plus what amounted to a 10 minute nap).

Sarah came by just after 1 pm and we headed off to Babies ‘R Us, where we registered.  Kelly got one of those little scanner guns and Sarah (who had a list of Much Needed Items from her sister) led us through the store, showing us what we needed.  We picked out clothes and bedding, car seats and toys, all of the paraphernalia one needs when one has a newborn.  After we left with our list of items, we headed over to Pier 1 to pick up a piece of furniture in which to hold all of these items.  They were out of what we were looking for but we ordered it from the warehouse and we should have it in 9 days or so.

Back home and I spent an hour doing work:  reading and fleshing out a test plan document for my Big Project.  When that was done, I set about planning out our dinners for the next 7 days so that I know what to get at the grocery store first thing tomorrow morning.  I ate a late dinner and then was craving cookies so I dashed over to the grocery store to pick some up.  We watched last night’s episode of Battlestar Galactica, and then Kelly headed up to bed.  I was supposed to be doing some writing this evening, but I’m not in the proper frame of mind so that will have to wait until tomorrow.

Got the May issue of ANALOG in the mail today.  Yesterday, Kelly got her new social security card (with her name change) only one week after going to the social security office to change it.

I have a nearly equally long list of things to do tomorrow, but some of the items are catch-up items and I don’t think the day will be quite as hectic.  Besides, tomorrow is Sunday and I try not to distract myself with the Internet on Sunday.  I’ve been staying "offline" on Sunday’s except just before bed on Sunday evening to do my blog update.

I’ve got a glass of chocolate milk sitting here and I’m going to read more of The Way the Future Was.  I’d like to finish by Tuesday, when I’m expecting Nancy Kress‘s new book, which I am very eager to read.