Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Dropping The Bomb

Here's how we let the cat out of the bag (finally): First, Stef told AJ and Fran that she may not be able to keep up or eat out too much... because she was pregnant. They were very excited for us and we all agreed that it's pretty cool that the Monster will be about the same age as Ribs (a.k.a. Hunter). Fran and Stef commisteratted/gushed about their shared experiences, while AJ and I played Nintendo. It was all very 21st Century Norman Rockwellian. Meanwhile, Auntie Kate called, and we decided to tell her, too, since we weren't going to see her in a few weeks and it was very unlikely Stef's family could keep it a secret from her for that long. She was happy, but feeling a bit left out, I think. I am sure she'll get over it after she smells her first diaper.

As for the Parentals, both sets were extremely happy. We had held back with some Mother's Day gifts... children's books related to being grandmothers, knowing that we were going to break the news during our vacation to everyone in person. I don't think anyone was particularly surprised (I mean, we've been married for four years now), but it's one thing to think you might be a grandparent, and another to actually find out that you will be a grandparent. Congratulations to everyone (mostly us!), and welcome to Tummy Monster's blog. We hope this keeps you well informed.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Monster's First: Road Trip

This past Memorial Day weekend, we took a road trip to visit friends and family down the eastern seaboard. Our first stop was West Chester, PA, where we stayed with our good friends the "Hechlingers." Kylie was beautiful and amazing, Bethany looked healthy and happy, and Randy was--as always--in good spirits. They're expecting their latest brood member soon enough, and I've no doubt we'll be hitting them up for parenting advice sooner or later.

Stop number two was AJ and Fran's new home in Raleigh, NC. They seemed to be doing very well for themselves, as were their adorable pups, Luci and Rocco (see above). While in North Carolina we went to a flea market, a comic store, numerous grocery stores looking for fresh mint (MOJITOS!!!), and a dog park where we saw a pony (actually, a Great Dane), and met Chandler Bing (the Cocker Spaniel). We also introduced AJ and Fran and their friends to the awesomeness that is the Wii. Oh! And we FINALLY got to tell people about the Monster (see this post).

Our third stop was Northern Virginia, to see my folks, and tell them the good news. This was followed by the requisite hugs, kisses and phone calls to relatives, along with more Wii playing, dinner at Reston Town Center, and Settlers of Catan (h/t DeLanceys).

Finally, we made our way back north, with only a brief detour at Mystic, CT to tell Stef's folks the big news. They fed us steak and sent us home, and we got a very good night's rest, even though the cats puked on our bed while we were gone.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Monster Update: Week 09

The Monster is nearly an inch long — barely the size of a grape (pictured) — and weighs just a fraction of an ounce, but it's poised for rapid weight gain now that its basic physical structure is in place. The Monster is also starting to look more and more human. The embryonic "tail" is now completely gone and its body parts — including organs, muscles, and nerves — are kicking into gear.

The Monster's eyelids are fused shut and won't open until 27 weeks. It has earlobes, and by week's end, the inner workings of its ears will be complete. The Monster's upper lip is fully formed, too, and its mouth, nose, and nostrils are more distinct. The tips of its fingers are slightly enlarged where its touch pads are developing. All major joints — shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees, and ankles — are working, enabling the Monster to move its limbs. As for the heart, it has divided into four chambers now, and the valves have started to develop. External sex organs are there, but won't be distinguishable as male or female for another few weeks.

Text adapted from Baby Center.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Monster Update: Week 08

The Monster is now 5/8 of an inch long, about the size of a kidney bean. Its constantly moving and shifting, although Stef won't be able to feel these womb wiggles for several weeks yet. Its embryonic tail is disappearing, and its eyelids practically cover its eyes. Still slightly webbed, its fingers and toes are growing longer. The Monster's arms have lengthened, too, and its hands are now flexed at the wrist and meet over its little heart. Its knee joints have formed, and its feet may be long enough to meet in front of its body. With its trunk straightening out, its head is more erect. Breathing tubes extend from its throat to the branches of its developing lungs. The nerve cells in its brain are also branching out to connect with one another, forming primitive neural pathways. In case you're curious, its external genitals still haven't developed enough to reveal whether we're having a boy monster or a girl monster.

Text adapted from Baby Center.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Happy Anniversary, Us!

Dear Monster,

Yesterday, your Mom and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary. It was really nice to share gifts, to go out to a nice dinner, and to just relax together. Even though we've only had a couple of anniversaries, I'd have to say that this one was probably our best yet . . . although that's mostly 'cause we're so super-excited about you!

Anyway, as it was our anniversary I got to thinking about how fast the past four years have gone by. Really, it's been a blur, and that's mostly a good thing, but sometimes you need nights like the one we had last night.

What's crazy is that, ignoring the fact that you can't even comprehend the concept of "time" yet, you'd probably think that four years was forever. I mean, four years is about 200 weeks older than you are now (or, alternatively, 26 times longer than you've been in existence)! Anyway, my point was that time goes by fast, especially when you're in love like your Mom and I are. I'm sure after you're born time is going to seem like it goes even faster. Nevertheless, I hope, for all our sakes, that we're able to slow down a little and just enjoy it like your Mom and I did last night.

Your Dad-to-be

Book Report: "The Expectant Father: Facts, Tip & Advice for Dads-to-Be"

Armin A. Brott & Jennifer Ash, 1995

Yet another slim, easily-concealed, male-oriented pregnancy preparation library book. Also, I note here for the first time, written by a male and a female, for whatever that is worth. The Expectant Father . . . starts off a bit disorganized, describing some decisions regarding pregnancy that will need to be made in either the near future or down the line a bit (it's actually unclear at this point, and very little information is given regarding each of these decisions). The book then veers off into the cost of birthing a baby, and at this point I am thinking that the medical bills alone should have stopped humans from procreating long, long ago. Approximately $12K just to have a baby? I find it hard to believe anyone actually pays that much, and so I wonder what purpose the information serves other than to freak me out.

Anyway, eventually, the book gets a month-by-month guide of (i) symptoms (physical and emotional) to expect in the wife, and (ii) things to be worried about/look forward to that month. This is really the strength and saving grace of the book, because--let's face it--there's an overwhelming amount of information to process when you find out you're having a baby. It's comforting to know there's a priority of decision-making, and schedule of things to come; even if rationally you know that the "schedule" is illusory and much more flexible than the book makes out.

Of course, all of the really useful information in The Expectant Father . . . could have been summed up in a handy chart (or, more appropriately, a time-line or calendar), but interspersed amongst the good stuff is a bunch of touchie-feelie "here's how you might be feeling at this juncture-or not" hokum. Sure, the Monster may turn me into an emotional wreck, and I'm sure it helps just knowing that other guys have felt some anxieties regarding pregnancy. I may really need that stuff down the line. But I doubt it.

Overall, The Expectant Father . . . was somewhat helpful, but it relied more on dealing with hypothetical emotional baggage instead of providing more proactive advice for more practical issues. It did come with pregnancy-friendly recipes, though. So that was nice.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Why Mommy's So Tired

It's not uncommon for a pregnant woman in her first trimester to have difficulty sleeping due to emotional anxiety, hormonal fluctuations, physical discomfort or what-have-you. That's not been the case exactly with Stef, though. Actually, she's been sleeping (in fits and starts) about 12 hours a day, and she'd probably sleep more if she could. Heck, even when she's not sleeping she's still spending most of her free time resting or lying down. That's not her being lazy, though. She's well and truly tired. And the reason the Monster has her so wiped out, according to Stef's OB/GYN, is Progesterone.

Progesterone is "the hormone of pregnancy", and it does a lot of neat stuff. It keeps Stef's immune system from kicking out the Monster as some sort of disease, it keep her from lactating, and apparently, when the levels of progesterone drop, it'll mean Stef's going into labor. It also makes some women tired, and by "some women," I mean Stef.

Now that we're in the eighth week of pregnancy, the source of all this crazy progesterone should be switching over to the Monster's placenta, and perhaps Stef will liven up a bit. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, I just don't think Stef wants to sleep through this exciting part of our lives.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Book Report: "Your Pregnancy: For the Father-to-Be"

by Glade B. Curtis & Judith Schuler, 2003

This was the first book I read after we confirmed the Monster was a reality. Not because it was recommended to me or anything, but simply because it was small and thin (and therefore easy to take to work and hide from people), and because it was a library rental and therefore had to be read fairly quickly. As it turns out, though, this was a great first book to read.

To begin with, Your Pregnancy . . . is not a large reference tome, but that's probably a good thing. Anyway, it was a helpful starter book for someone like me who has only the most rudimentary idea of what's actually going on and going to be happening inside Stef. Not that the book got into the science of the Monster or anything. Instead, the book focused on some really helpful, practical stuff, like the jargon of pregnancy, what all those pregnancy tests are going to be looking for, and what symptoms I should expect (and when). It also let me know what symptoms are normal and what are abnormal enough that we should call a doctor, putting my mind a bit at ease. More importantly, the book gave advice on what I can do to help regarding certain symptoms, particularly in the areas of health and nutrition. So now when I plan meals or go grocery shopping I'm a bit more confident that I won't be endangering the Monster or grossing-out Stef.

Less useful (because they were more generic) were the parts of the book dealing with paying for and saving for the baby, but at least it put the idea in my head that we should be thinking about all that stuff now. Also, although it touched on the matter, the book didn't get too much into what equipment and "stuff" we're going to need. It did help focus our decision-making regarding the birthing process, but it kind of fell short regarding everything subsequent to labor.

Perhaps I only feel that way because I'm having a hard time mentally grasping, you kow, actually having a kid. Or maybe I was simply overwhelmed by all of the info at the beginning of the book that my attention wandered towards the end. Who knows? The book is called Your Pregnancy . . ., after all, not Your Child Rearing . . ., so overall I think it was a good read that was well worth the effort.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Doctor Visit: 01

Stef would write something here, but she's tired, and sick to her stomach, and not in the mood. And I'd write something more meaningful here, but I didn't actually go to this appointment (sorry, Monster).

Basically, from what I gather, it consisted of Stef peeing in a cup and the doctor applying a standard pregnancy test simply to confirm that we are indeed pregnant. Don't get me wrong, I think this is fabulous news. It's just that it's not really "new" to us. Stef did pick up some literature and get some free vitamins, though, and I think we're both excited she's found an Ob/Gyn she's comfortable with.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Monster Update: Week 07

Now almost half an inch long — roughly the size of a raspberry — the Tummy Monster has elbow joints and distinct, slightly webbed fingers and toes. In its oversized head, both hemispheres of the brain are developing. Its teeth and the inside of its mouth are forming, and its ears continue to develop. Eyelid folds partially cover the Monster's tiny peepers. Its skin is paper-thin, and its veins are clearly visible.

The Monster also has an appendix and a pancreas (finally! slacker), which will eventually produce the hormone insulin to aid in digestion. Its liver is busy producing red blood cells, and a loop of the Monster's growing intestines is bulging into its umbilical cord, which now has distinct blood vessels to carry oxygen and nutrients. Stef can't feel its gyrations yet, but our little Monster is moving in fits and starts around its watery home.

Text adapted from Baby Center.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Monster's First: Movie

Dear Monster,

Well, I guess you "saw" Spider-Man 3 today. It was okay, I guess. It probably would have been better as two separate movies, and it moved much too fast for your mother to really enjoy. Trust me when I say that you will see much, much worse movies even before you're born, but there are also plenty of better ones you should look forward to. Heck, maybe "Unc-tie Fraj"* will take you to see Pirates of the Carribean 3 when we go to visit at the end of the month.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Monster Update: Week 06

The cells that will make up all of the Monster's body parts and systems are dividing furiously as its body begins to take shape. Right now it's about the size of a small lentil bean (4 to 5 millimeters across). If you could see through Stef's uterine wall, you'd find an overlarge head and dark spots where little Monster eyes and nostrils are beginning to take shape. Shallow pits on the sides of its head mark developing ears, and arms and legs appear as protruding buds. The MOnster's hands and feet look like paddles, with thick webbing between the developing digits, but its fingers and toes will soon become more distinct. Below the opening that will later be the Monster's mouth, there are small folds where its neck and lower jaw will eventually develop. (Inside, a tongue and vocal cords are just beginning to form.)

The Monster's heart (which is starting to divide into the right and left chambers) is beating about 100 to 130 beats per minute — almost twice as fast as yours, slacker — and blood is beginning to circulate through its body. Its intestines are developing and tiny breathing passages are beginning to appear where its lungs will be. The Monster is also starting to build muscle fibers and, halfway through this week, it'll likely start moving its tiny limbs.

Text adapted from Baby Center.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Monster's First: Concert

Dear Auntie Kate,

Unbeknownst* to you, last night you treated the Monster to its very first musical concert last night: Ben Folds at PC's Schneider Arena. I only hope that every concert the Monster sees during its life is that good. So, thank you, Kate, for introducing quality live musical entertainment to the Monster. Although, now that I think about it, the Monster doesn't have the capacity to appreciate music, yet (or ears, for that matter).


*Obviously, we're waiting to tell people about the Monster until later. Stef hasn't even had her first OB/Gyn appointment, and it's looking like we'll be sharing the news with family first, in person, on our Memorial Day vacation.