Jan 27 2007

A Cutting Dilemma

Salon recently ran an extremely affecting story from a young Jewish/Protestant couple struggling with the question of whether or not to circumcise their son. The couple in the article suffers an unbelievable amount of pressure from their families, and reading their story, I was once again struck with gratitude for our extremely supportive families.

Circumcision is a vexed question, though, even for Sam and me, who don’t have the cultural/religious dimension to deal with. On the one hand, if Junior does end up being of the male persuasion, maybe it would be better for him to “look like Daddy”. And there do seem to be some health benefits to circumcision.

On the other hand, I find myself swayed by the logic Dan Savage put forward in his (excellent) book, The Kid. Botched circumcisions are rare, but they happen, and why take the risk of castrating your child in a medically unnecessary procedure?

So, I think we’re leaning against circumcision.

Jan 26 2007

The nausea is definitely getting better, but I’ve been experiencing two other symptoms more acutely: headaches and fatigue.  The fatigue especially is making me whiny.  For the past two nights I have literally gone to bed as soon as I get home.  I take off my shoes, brush my teeth, and fall asleep.  Nina says I should get one of those buttons: “I May Look Like I’m Not Doing Anything, But On A Cellular Level I’m Really Quite Busy.”

All the symptoms will supposedly get better when I graduate into the second trimester, which is either in a few days or a couple of weeks, depending on how you count.  (Doctors count pregnancy from the last missed period, which puts me into the twelfth week, even though it’s only been ten since conception.)

Jan 14 2007

Baby Pictures

So, Nina and I laughed about people who coo over ultrasound pictures, but, well, the doctor gave us one and I thought my folks might be interested.


You can see the head pretty clearly, and the arms sticking out on either side.  It looks like you can see legs too, but the doctor said that could just as easily be part of the umbilical cord.  Anyway, there definitely is a little baby-shaped critter in there.  Pretty trippy.

Jan 12 2007

The 32-Year-Plan

On our third official “date” (as opposed to all the hanging-out we’d done in the years we were “just friends”), Sam asked me what I was thinking, and I answered: “Okay, well, don’t freak out, but I’m imagining our wedding. You have to understand, this is just something that girls do. It doesn’t mean anything, except that if you’re with some guy and you can’t even picture walking down the aisle with him, that’s maybe a bad sign. So. I’m picturing it.”

Sam nodded calmly, and that was that. Except that the next time I saw him, he had drawn up a guest list.

Shortly after that, we drafted the 32-Year-Plan. The Plan called for a year of dating, a year of engagement, and the first baby nine months after marriage, in Year 3. We planned for three children all together, and figured that in 32 years the last of them would be graduating from college. To plan any further out would, we felt, be getting ahead of ourselves.

We shacked up a month later, and Sam got me a ring not long after that, but we made the engagement extra-long to compensate, with the result that it’s now Year 3 and Baby #1 is arriving right on schedule.

We named all the children as part of the Plan. The first boy will be Robert Samuel, nicknamed “Robin” for as long as he’ll put up with it. The first girl will be Rosaura Gayle (or possibly spelled “Gale”). The third child (the Plan does not allow for three boys or three girls) will be either Francisco or Francesca Amato. It’s fun to say, in an exaggerated Italian accent, “Fran-SEES-ko! A-MAH-to!” Then you drop the accent and add “…Phillips.”

The moral of the story is, it’s good to have a plan.

Jan 11 2007

Water and Wine

Part One: Water

So, I’ve read a lot of great things about water birth. There’s some evidence that contact with water actually causes a woman’s cervix to dilate more rapidly during labor. It also eases labor pains and reduces the chance of perineal tears. (Parenthetically, I worked myself up in a lather the other day by reading about perineal tears. Some of my expectant-mother literature said that 70 percent of women will experience a tear during childbirth. There was a handy diagram showing a woman’s nether parts, with a dotted line between the vagina and the rectum, where I can apparently expect to be barbarically ripped open. Horrified, I called my mother, who confirmed that it’s very painful and takes ages to heal. I find this knowledge nightmarishly terrifying.)

Most hospitals have accepted the benefits of water during labor to the extent that they will commonly provide tubs or showers for laboring women, but none of our local hospitals will allow actual delivery in a tub. For that you pretty much have to have a home birth, or travel to a birthing center set up for water births. The problem is that in a non-hospital setting, there would be no anesthesiologist, and I really want to leave myself the option of painkillers. On the other hand, a lot of women say that laboring in the warm water provides effective pain relief.

So, I’m conflicted. Good thing I’ve got seven months left to make up my mind!

Part Two: Wine

Actress Rachel Weisz recently drew heaps of condemnation when, asked whether she thought it was OK for a pregnant woman to drink a glass of wine, she answered: “Personally I do. They say not in the first three months though, but I think that after that it’s fine. I mean in Europe they drink it.”

I know that, until about a year ago, I had the hazy impression that if even a sip of alcohol passed a pregnant woman’s lips, her baby would most likely be born with three heads. In fact, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is associated with babies whose mothers are accustomed to having five or more drinks a night.

As Weisz correctly pointed out, in countries like France and Italy, pregnant women routinely drink wine with their dinners. In the UK, pregnant women are advised to restrict themselves to one or two drinks a week. The rate of FAS in those countries is probably about the same as it is in the U.S, although it may be much lower.

Here in the States, most of the literature on alchohol consumption during pregnancy will say something like “because we know that large amounts of alcohol are harmful to a fetus, and because we are not sure what the ‘safe’ amount of alcohol consumption might be, you should abstain completely from drinking while pregnant.” Which sounds reasonable enough, until you flip to the section on caffeine consumption, which will say something like “Large amounts of caffeine can be harmful to a fetus, but most women who limit themselves to a cup of coffee a day seem to be fine, so you should just be careful to moderate your caffeine intake.”

Women who limit themselves to a glass of wine a day are fine, too. There’s an impressive body of literature compiled at this site supporting the conclusion that:

There is no scientific support for the type of widespread hysteria that permeates public discussion on fetal alcohol syndrome. Many people falsely believe that even a single drink during pregnancy can cause FAS. If this were true, the majority of the populations of dozens of countries around the world would suffer the effects of FAS! … In reality there is absolutely no evidence that light drinking, even on a daily basis, leads to fetal alcohol syndrome.

I haven’t had any desire for alcohol in the past couple months, due to my nausea. A few sips of champagne on New Year’s Eve was enough for me. However, I expect that when the morning sickness goes away, I’ll resume my habit of drinking a glass of wine with dinner. Not every night, and never more than one, but I’ll have one when I feel like it and I’ll drink it without a shred of guilt.

Jan 9 2007


Auntie Nina points out the cutest bassinet evah:

We’re actually looking at the Arm’s Reach co-sleeper, as it seems like it would be very convenient to conduct midnight feedings with the baby right to hand, but I have to admit that little canopy is just the greatest thing. There’s also a girly version with pink ribbons.

Jan 5 2007

The Oracular Pig

Auntie Nina’s pet name for Baby is “Fire Piglet”, derived from the Chinese horoscope for 2007.  Chinese astrology is way more complicated than what you see on the placemats, and I’m certainly no expert, but I do know that in addition to the twelve animal signs, every year is modified both by an element and by an overall aspect of yin or yang. 2007 is a yin year, a fire year, and the Year of the Pig. When you have a very yang element like fire, it’s good to have it modified by the yin influence: it’s supposed to make all that outward-focused energy more balanced, more sustainable. (I myself am a yang fire Dragon, a ridiculous combination of untempered passion and brute stubborn will that survives, basically, through an unearned helping of sheer dumb luck.)

Nina sent me the oracles for a Pig, which in general focus on amiability and honesty, while the influence of Fire adds energy and willpower:

Sufficiently confident, he knows how to defend himself with efficacy—but only in case of necessity. He also has the courage to work for all kinds of causes, even the evidently lost ones. Nevertheless, his ambitions and successes do not prevent him from feeling constantly torn between the temptation to seek security and the need of adventure.

As the Fire Pig is rather credulous and compliant, he often runs the
risk of being exploited by unscrupulous types. When such unfortunate
events occur, his disappointment is great and deep. He cannot believe
anyone could be so greedy and dishonest. However, the many setbacks he
may have encountered do not teach him much about distrust and
prudence. No matter how many times he is cheated, he regularly remains
on the lookout for somebody new to help.

Fire Pigs don’t usually want success for themselves: they love to pull
the strings behind the scene, assisting others in their ascent to
power and fortune. They will go to any lengths to see their partners
win. They long to bask in the reflected glory of their own personal
winners. Consequently, Fire Pigs are often givers of love, born
nurturers and make wonderful parents and supportive spouses.
Occasionally, they do leave; but they never leave for ever — because
they are too good to do so!

With all his retrograde thinking, the Fire Pig is none the less an
incurable idealist. He strongly believes in the future of mankind and
sincerely wishes to work towards political and moral progress, to help
establish brotherhood among men. He dreams optimistically of the
toppling of tyrants, the elimination of borders, the end of racism. In
some ways, he is an enthusiast and a Utopian — but there is no
aggressiveness whatsoever in his behavior.

It’s a very nice horoscope!

In other vaguely Asian news, last night I made a vegetable stir fry with garlic-ginger sauce, and not only was I able to eat lots of it, but I didn’t feel sick at all for the rest of the night. Ginger is supposed to be good for upset tummies, and it looks like the reputation is entirely earned. I brought some leftovers for lunch today. Yay ginger!

Jan 4 2007

How I’ll Make My Million

I’m shocked and dismayed by the lack of luxury spa/birthing center combinations. Even here in the Dionysian Bay Area, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of a place where expectant mothers can go to get cucumbers put on their eyes, have an aromatherapy treatment and a hot stone massage, deliver their babies, get a pedicure… Instead, most babies are born in hospitals. How pedestrian!

When I open Marin’s first high-class, exorbitantly priced “Empress of Heaven Birthing Retreat & Resort”, I’ll feature top-notch masseuses, an array of doulas, a harpist, several hairdressers and makeup artists, yoga instructors, guided meditation gurus, a chef specializing in high-energy small plates, and some nurse midwives. There will be little burbling fountains and Zen gardens for women in early labor to stroll through, mosaic-lined birthing pools featuring jacuzzi jets, labor rooms outfitted with softly-scented candles and fluffy down pillows. There will also be an anesthesiologist. We’ll make money in buckets.

Unfortunately, it looks like I’ll be delivering Baby in a hospital, probably California Pacific Medical Center. No cucumbers for me!

Jan 3 2007

Tummy Troubles

Right, so, this here blog is supposed to be about pregnancy stuff. Woo! I’m pregnant!

I’m about seven weeks along, or nine weeks the way the doctor counts it: seven weeks from when I think conception occurred, nine weeks from my last period. I’ve only thrown up twice, but I’m sick to my stomach pretty much all the time. One of the times I hurled was on a public sidewalk, into some bushes. That was embarrassing. I felt like calling out to passers-by: “Don’t worry! It’s not catching!”

I haven’t gained any weight yet, actually lost a few pounds because of the constant nausea. Counterintuitively, it seems to be true that the thing to do when I feel really sick is to eat something. The nausea is definitely worst on an empty stomach. The best snacky food I’ve found so far is Breton whole wheat crackers. I tried buying ginger ale and ice cream, as those are foods I associate with sickness, but I only drank a little of the ginger ale and the ice cream bar is still in the fridge. It just doesn’t seem to appeal right now. What are you thinking, Baby?? Ice cream is delicious!

Baby doesn’t want pickles either, but there was some fresh pinapple at the grocery store that looked pretty good, so I brought it home. Maybe I’ll bust that out now.

Jan 2 2007


So, I’m pretty pleased with myself for getting this here blog set up. It was the work of a few hours, and involved: getting a shell account on my ISP’s server; using my very basic knowledge of the Linux command line to download and install WordPress in the right directory on the remote server; creating and configuring a MySQL database for the blog; and futzing with CSS to make it look the way I want. My programmer friends will be rolling their eyes now, but I think I stand a pretty good chance of impressing my mom. Hi mom!

I guess the reason I’m so proud is that, while everything I did is really basic on a Morlock level, it’s probably impossible on the Eloi level, and I like reminding myself that I can be a Morlock when I want to. The Morlock/Eloi metaphor, by the way, comes from Neal Stephenson’s “In the Beginning Was the Command Line”:

Contemporary culture is a two-tiered system, like the Morlocks and the Eloi in H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, except that it’s been turned upside down. In The Time Machine the Eloi were an effete upper class, supported by lots of subterranean Morlocks who kept the technological wheels turning. But in our world it’s the other way round. The Morlocks are in the minority, and they are running the show, because they understand how everything works.”

It’s probably worth mentioning that there’s a cadre of helpful Morlocks willing to install WordPress on behalf of any Eloi who wants a blog but is intimidated by the installation process.