Saturday, April 28, 2007

Monster Update: Week 05

Deep in the bowels of Stef's uterus, the Monster is growing at a furious pace. At this point its about the size of a sesame seed (pictured, not actual size), and it looks more like a tiny tadpole than a human. The Monster is now made up of three layers — the ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm — that will later form its organs and tissues. The cells are forming for the major organs, including its kidneys and liver, and its neural tube is beginning to develop. This neural tube — from which the Monster's brain, spinal cord, nerves, and backbone will sprout — develops in the top layer, called the ectoderm. This layer will also give rise to skin, hair, nails, mammary and sweat glands, and tooth enamel. The Monster's heart and circulatory system begin to form in the middle layer, or mesoderm. (This week, in fact, its tiny heart begins to divide into chambers and beat and pump blood.) The mesoderm will also form the Monster's muscles, cartilage, bone, and subcutaneous (under skin) tissue. The third layer, or endoderm, will house its lungs, intestines, and rudimentary urinary system, as well as its thyroid, liver, and pancreas. In the meantime, the primitive placenta and umbilical cord, which deliver nourishment and oxygen to the Monster, are already on the job.

Text adapted from Baby Center.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Dreaded Cat Poo Disease

I'm finding out that pregnancy means more than getting your wife an extra pillow for her feet or pickles slathered in satay sauce at three o'clock in the morning. Especially if you're infected with cats. Apparently, one of the many dangers the Monster faces in its larval stage is toxiplasmosis*, which comes from a parasite that mostly infects cats and can cause some fairly serious and unfunny consequences to a small percentage of unborn monsters. This disease, I kid you not, is transmitted by touching cat poo (also, raw meat). Caveat #1: most people have gotten toxiplasmosis already in their life, and you really only worry about transmitting it to a fetus when the expectant mother is exposed to the parasite for the first time while carrying the child. Caveat #2: if you clean up the cat poo every day (like a good owner should), the parasite doesn't really have time to reproduce. Caveat #3: strictly house cats, like Jackie and Houdini (pictured above), aren't at risk of having the parasite because cats get it from eating prey, not kibbles.

Nevertheless, this discussion gives me an excellent opportunity to share this little tid bit about the Toxoplasma gondii parasite:

It has been found that the parasite has the ability to change the behavior of its host: infected rats and mice are less fearful of cats - in fact, some of the infected rats seek out cat-urine-marked areas. This effect is advantageous to the parasite, which will be able to sexually reproduce if its host is eaten by a cat. The mechanism for this change is not completely understood, but there is evidence that toxoplasmosis infection raises dopamine levels in infected mice. The findings of behavioral alteration in rats and mice have led some scientists to speculate that toxoplasma may have similar effects in humans. . . . [however, the] evidence for behavioral effects on humans, although intriguing, is relatively weak.

We all know, of course, that what those "scientists" are really saying is that (i) cats have a parasite in their poo that (ii) makes us all think they're super cute and harmless, and (iii) one day they will use this poo disease to take over the world.

* I learned everything I know about this disease from the internets, and I am not a doctor.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Feeding The Monster

So, the first hurdle towards finding a place to live and raise the monster has been surpassed. To wit: I have been offered a full-time Associate position with my first-choice Rhode Island firm, Reavis Cianciolo. If the number they give me (which I expect sometime next week) is reasonable and economically feasible, I will accept their offer. And then we won't have to worry so much about how we're going to feed and clothe the Monster.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Apologies To The Monster

Dearest Monster,

First, I want to apologize for the fact that your name right now is "Monster". I assure you, this moniker is not meant to be disparaging, rather a term of endearment. Similar to your soon-to-be friends "Nugget", "Ribs", "Critter" and "Parasite" (etc.).

More importantly, we'd like to apologize for your unfortunate expected birth date. See, your Mom was born in mid-December, and has this thing against her own birthday due to its proximity to the winter holidays (specifically Christmas). She seems to feel that having the events so close together in time makes it too difficult for her friends and family to properly and adequately adulate and celebrate her triumphant birth. So, when we set about thinking about making you, our intent was to avoid that horrible outcome.

Unfortunately, society lied to us! We were raised to think that babies took nine months to make. Which is true, technically, but you have to count from sometime before the making of the baby and the pee-on-a-stick test, and we didn't know that. We thought we were in the clear and you'd be coming around mid-January, early-February. Turns out, your due date is smack dab in the middle of Christmas and New Year's Eve. This is something that didn't even occur to us until it was (happily) too late. Basically, what I'm telling you is that we're sorry if your birthday is too near the holidays (but I promise we'll make it up to you with a special cake or something).

Your Dad-To-Be

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Pee On A Stick

About 6:30 am on Sunday, lying in the guest bed of our good friends in Pittsburgh, Eileen and Jim, Stef turned to me and asked, "when we get home tonight, could we pick up a pregnancy test?" I had known it was a possibility that she might be pregnant (after all, we had been trying for a while now, and we were both tracking her cycle at this point). However, up to that point I had no actual indication (positive or negative) as to whether or not it was probable. Stef's round-about confirmation of that more-likely-than-not probability certainly made the 10.5 hour ride home -- despite the traffic, a restless night, and a nagging cough -- much more bearable.

When we got back to Providence around 7 pm, we immediately hit the CVS. However, Stefanie being a stickler for following the rules (and being much more patient than I am), we waited until the following morning before she did the pee-on-a-stick ritual. Two minutes later (those test results come back so fast!) we noticed a faint blue line, and we became ecstatic. Although, to be honest, by that time my fledgling cough had become a full-fledged Spring Carnival mystery sickness, and my ecstasy was limited to a weak smile. I assure you though, had I been able to jump and shout, I certainly would have done so.

And, of course, Stefanie didn't trust the results, so she peed on another stick the following morning. Happily, that line came out much more blue (see above photo), and our adventures in Tummy Monster-land began.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Monster Update: Week 04

This week marks the beginning of the embryonic period. From now until ten weeks, all of the Monster's organs will begin to develop and function. As a result, this is the time when the Monster'll be the most vulnerable to anything that might interfere with its development. Right now the Monster is an embryo consisting of two layers: the epiblast and the hypoblast, from which all its organs and body parts will develop. The primitive placenta is also made up of two layers at this point. Its cells are tunneling into the lining of the uterus, creating spaces for mom's blood to flow into so that the developed placenta can provide nutrients and oxygen to the Monster when it starts to function at the end of this week. Also present now are the amniotic sac that will house the Monster, the amniotic fluid that will cushion it as it grows, and the yolk sac that produces the Monster's red blood cells and helps deliver nutrients to it until the placenta is ready to take over this duty.

Text adapted from Baby Center.