Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Us Our Due

One of the very first things that you do when you learn you're having a baby is determine the due date. The due date is very important because it determines which zodiac themed onesie you should buy. In our case, because of some weird end-of-year insurance changes it may actually determine which hospital we go to. Kind of a big deal.

To determine the due date, they use something called "Naegele's rule", which basically sets your due date 280 days after the beginning of your last menstrual period (LMP). Presumably, this is because the best science mankind has to offer has determined that human gestation lasts 266 days on average, and the best estimate of the commencement of gestation is 14 days after the beginning of the last menstrual period -- bing bam boom, 280 days. Of course, they tell you up front that few women give birth on their due date but, short of having a fortune teller at your baby shower, it's the best intel you've got.

Science has had a long time to work on this problem. Undoubtedly, one assumes, scientists have conducted extensive empirical research and observed that the median pregnancy lasts 280 days. That is, of the women who don't give birth on the exact date, 50% would be earlier and 50% later than that. There should be something like a normal bell curve around that date, but maybe leaned to the earlier side (since there should be more babies born 3 weeks early than 3 weeks late).

Have you guessed where I'm going with this? Let's check in with Wikipedia and see what they have to say about good ol' Naegele's rule:

Franz Karl Naegele was born July 12, 1778, in Düsseldorf, Germany. In 1806 Naegele became ordinary professor and director of the lying-in hospital in Heidelberg. His "Lehrbuch der Geburtshilfe," published in 1830 for midwives, enjoyed a successful 14 editions.

What the what? The best estimation technique medical science has to offer was developed two hundred years ago? Perhaps this is because it is so accurate that it just never needed to be updated? Nope, that's not it.

Studies of uncomplicated spontaneous-labor pregnancies have shown that this assumption leads to due dates that are premature, relative to the median.

It turns out that the method in common use is kind of bogus, like using the Farmer's Almanac to choose a date for your outdoor wedding.   Given how easy it would be to study human gestation length, and how relevant it is to, you know, humans, you'd think there would be extensive data available.  There isn't. In fact, there have been very few studies, and these studies produce different results based on time, place, race of the mother, and other factors.

What we do know is that the best data available does not suggest that your due date is 280 days from LMP. 288 days is more likely to be the median for the first time mom in an uncomplicated pregnancy.

It gets worse. Remember that they estimate the date of conception based on your LMP, but that in itself introduces a lot of room for error. Very early ultrasounds may be even more accurate at placing gestational age than LMP, but doctors don't usually bother using the ultrasound to set the due date if it's within a week in either direction of the LMP version. But based on our early ultrasound and the 276 day gestation implied by scientific knowledge obtained in the last 200 years, we should be expecting the baby not on January 5, but on January 18th.

That's a pretty big freaking difference.

Fortunately, V-Train and I do have an alternate method with nearly as much scientific rigor as Naegele's rule: the fortune teller predicted that baby DJ will arrive in the wee hours of January 8, measuring a slight 17 inches long but weighing a healthy 6 lbs, 2 oz. And that, my friends, is as good a guess as any.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Twilight: Babymoon

Learning of V-Train's "condition" was sure exciting, but soon the implications of our family increasing in size by 50% began to sink in.  We weren't going to be DINKs anymore, but DIOKs.  That meant we'd have to stop lighting cigars with twenty dollar bills and, instead, carefully snuff out and store unfinished cigars to finish later and, by later, I mostly mean 18 or so years from now.  Another realization was that we were at the twilight of the era of our freedom.  It would be a long time before we had a real, non-child-oriented vacation again.  Except, that is, for the Babymoon, which is a word I learned at approximately the same time we considered taking one.

At first, we weren't thinking of going far.  Hawaii seemed like a good option.   But then someone said to me "you want to take your seven month pregnant wife who is annoyed about having to buy special swimsuits and isn't supposed to spend time in the sun on a beach vacation?"  And so it was that just a few weeks before we were due to go on vacation, I somehow decided that going to Rome and Florence would be totally awesome.  And the wife, who never says no to Europe, was quickly on board.

What has two thumbs and loves ancient ruins?  THIS GUY.

Italy has a lot to offer the nearly seven months pregnant woman:  It's 20 hours away by plane, everyone smokes everywhere, they pretty much require you to drink wine at every meal, the cheese is unpasteurized and, because they have only rudimentary public transportation but so many sights to see, you must walk many miles every day.  "It's perfect!", thought I, blowing up my chance at being named the 2009 Husband Laureate.

Honey, look at all this stuff that you love but can't have!

But there was at least one major redeeming quality.   Italy, it turns out, has maybe the best Italian food outside of New York.  And if there's one good thing about being pregnant (I'm told), it's that you're granted like a double-oh license to eat.  It's not just the extra caloric needs of the free-riding baby on board -- they tell you that the variety of flavors the mom eats while pregnant or breast-feeding can shape a child's food preferences for life.  Eating a lot of different foods is something of a duty for a pregnant woman.

Oh, the sacrifice.

And so in late October, we found ourselves on a plane to Italy where we spent 4 days in Rome and 3 in Florence.  V-Train, I must say, handled it like a trooper.  Which kind of sucked for me since if she wasn't complaining about her feet hurting, I certainly couldn't.

If you turned the arch 90 degrees to the left, it would kind of look like a pregnant woman.

My heavy work travel schedule isn't exactly fun for either of us, but one major perk is that we were able to use all of the accumulated points and miles to fly there and stay at some pretty swanky hotels for the very reasonable price of nearly free.  On our last night in Rome, we got stuck in the lobby of our hotel for a while as bagpipes announced the arrival of the motorcade of President Napolitano with King Abdullah of Jordan.  For reals, y'all.

The window of our room in Florence is actually visible in this photo.  Holy crap.

Italy really did have something for each of us.  V-Train got to visit the birthplace of some of her very favorite foodstuffs, while I got to gape in amazement at things --two and three thousand year old things-- that I'd read about in stories.

Gelato technology is more advanced in Italy.  Shown here, a reversible gelato.

I'm always amazed when I visit really old historical sites, and it reminds me that modern American history is, well, modern.  You visit the east coast and they tell you this carefully preserved building is four... hundred... years... old, and it's kind of amazing.  And then you visit Europe... and the detail in your hotel room is four hundred years old.  But over here, well, here is where Julius Caesar got stabbed to death. Why don't you have a seat on this two thousand year old column that somebody 70 generations before you chiseled by hand and take it in?

DJ visits the thousand-year-old Baptistry of St. John.  Good thing we got that checked off... sin away, baby!

Oddly, some of my favorite things were the religious monuments.  Ok, I guess it's not that odd, since we're talking about the capital of Catholicism here.  But with so much to do in so little time, we almost left the Vatican Museum off the list.  Which would have been a shame since it turned out to be one of my favorite sites, second maybe to the Academia and the statue of David.  The Vatican Museum is basically the garage of the Catholic church.  It has so much stuff, ancient stuff, priceless stuff from over the world, that they stick it in the hallways and don't even bother to label a lot of it.  It's surely a monument to the spoils of holy wars past, but holy crap.  Their hegemony is my gain.

For those of you who don't speak Italian, capella sistina means "no pants" or, literally, "pants without."

And so, it turned out that Italy was actually a very nice choice for a last hurrah.  Though exhausting, I think it proved far memorable for us than a beach vacation would have been.  And while I think it would be great to take a 10 year old to ancient monuments, we really did get to keep a pace and do a lot of stuff that probably won't be feasible for the next few years.  Which, after all, was the whole point.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Baby Myths Dispelled

Being a newly minted baby expert (as a result of my studious academic approach to new endeavors) it's hard to imagine that, but a scant eight months ago, I knew very little about babies other than that which appeared in the popular media.  Of course, I knew that they ofter a convenient source of unconditional love for teenage girls (thanks, MTV), can come in sets of eight (thanks... well, everyone), and often bite (thanks, YouTube).  However, I also had several misconceptions about babies.  As a service to those who may not be as far along on the path of enlightenment, I thought I should dispel some common myths about babies.

Myth:  Babies always land on their feet.
Reality:  An infant's vestibular system is insufficiently developed for it to right itself in the air.   Babies land on their feet at a rate no greater than that predicted by chance.

Myth:   If you don't feed a baby, it will stay small and cute forever.
Reality:  While this myth is at least partially based in fact, such an approach is likely to cause significant side effects and should never be attempted.

Myth:  You should never approach a baby when it is eating or playing with a favorite toy, as the baby may become aggressive.
Reality:  This myth has no basis in fact, at least for domesticated babies. It likely originated as an overly broad interpretation of wild animal behavior.

Myth:  You cannot get pregnant when you are already pregnant.
Fun fact: Yes, you can.

Myth:  Teach a baby to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.
Reality:  Even basic survival skills such as fishing, hunting, foraging, and opening cans are too advanced for an infant to accomplish with meaningful consistency. A baby must be supplied with food, water, shelter, and heat for a minimum of three years, and often even longer.

Myth:  Babies born in December are doomed to hockey mediocrity.
Reality:  This one's actually true.

I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting - I'll be sure to share any surprises or interesting tidbits as my knowledge base continues to expand.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Should I be worried?

Jemifus and I recently went to Italy for our babymoon. It was a fantastic trip but in retrospect, I don't think it's the ideal place to go when you're 7 months pregnant. The only thing to do in Rome and Florence is walk around all day. And only once did someone offer me a place to sit at a museum coffee shop. Otherwise I had to fend for myself, especially on the subway. I don't know what ENSV is talking about when she says everyone is soooo nice to you when you're pregnant. She said that people wanted to hold her bags for her, let her go first, etc. Yeah, I'm still waiting for that treatment. My husband often forgets to offer to help me carry things sometimes. Just the other day, we were walking from the car and I was carrying heavier items than him. Anyway, I digress.

So Jemifus and I are at the Rome airport, going through security to return back to the States. We are well-rested and have plenty of time before our flight boards. We're through security and putting on our shoes. Jemifus says to me "Where's my backpack?" Me: 'Uhhhh, why would I know where your backpack is?' This of course is the backpack with our fancy camera and some other important stuff. It turns out Jemifus never even put the backpack on the conveyor belt. Oy vey! We were lucky enough that security had just picked it up and we caught them in time before they shipped it off to the mysterious land of unclaimed suspicious bags.

So, should I be worried for baby DJ?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Get Used To It, For the Rest of Your Life.

I have a feeling I'm going to be hearing that sentence echoed to me a lot as the progression of Baby DJ continues.

A couple days ago, I hadn't felt DJ move in 16 hours. I tried prodding him with 2 cups of ice-cold water but nothing. So the doctor told me to come in and get checked out, which consisted of a NST (non stress test) and ultrasound. Of course, the minute I get on the examining table (not sure what else to call it), DJ is moving like noone's business. Seriously, really? I passed the NST and ultrasound with flying colors; per the doc, I got a 10/10. I couldn't help thinking, 'Boy, DJ is such an a-hole...scaring the heck out of Jemifus and me like that.' Is it wrong to already think your 1st unborn is a booger? I recounted this story to my friend, ENSV, who has 2 young boys of her own and sure enough, she said 'Get used to it...for the rest of your life.'

At least we got an ultrasound and learned that in fact, DJ is still a boy and if I keep it up, he'll be 7lbs at birth. Woo hoo!

DJ is moving quite a bit as I'm writing this post. Perhaps he can sense I'm talking ill of him. Well, if that's what it takes to get him moving...

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Kicking off

The Joneses (i.e. the people with whom I try to keep up) have been diligently posting updates on their pregnancies or their fully formed babies.   But here we are, a full 7 months into gestation nation, and I've done nothing.  Well, ok, not nothing.  I've read an imperial assload (for my foreign friends, that's about 10% more than a metric assload) of pregnancy and baby books, installed floors, painted, all while working many many hours and traveling like a nearly bankrupt former pop-star.  But I thought it would be nice, too, to document the experience since Vivandres tend to experience things differently than normal folk.

We've got a lot of catching up to do.  For now, I'll start out with one of our first big critical milestones:

Baby DJ's First USC Game (vs. San Jose St.)
Sep 5, 2009 -- 22 weeks