Sunday, December 9, 2007


I had another ultrasound on December 3. In the last ultrasound, Ruth was either taking after Daniel (laconic) or me (stubborn) and refused to roll over to show us the base of her spine. The latest ultrasound revealed that her lower spine and tail bone are perfectly formed. She's also turned around and is head-down now but moved fairly constantly during the scan. It was interesting to see what part of her was poking me while simultaneously feeling said poking.

It also revealed that my placenta is low-lying. Normally, the placenta attaches near the top of the uterus where it is out of the way during the birth. When the placenta is low-lying, there is a slight potential for complications during birth. However, my midwife assures me that complications can be avoided with occasional ultrasound monitoring. So, I'll have another ultrasound on January 14 to see if things have shifted -- in more than 80% of cases, things do shift as the pregnancy progresses. In any case, I'll get a few more pictures of Ruth so I can't really say I'm disappointed.

In other news, thanks to the incredible generosity of our friends M and S and their rapidly growing kids, we have a crib, changing table, and highchair to compliment the rocking chair, bookcase, and tiny roll top desk already in her room. We also picked up two prints to hang in her room from Devoted Bee (if you click on drawings, then on 2007 drawings, we got the one called "Just Before Bed" with the rabbit hugging a teddy bear; the other is a forest scene) at a local craft fair.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Ruth's Zeroeth Channukha!

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Tonight is the first night of the festival of lights, which celebrates the victory of religious fascism over cosmopolitanism, or something like that. We hope to bring Ruth up to appreciate fully the great history of her people - to that end, I have made sure that we have two essential Judaism manuals around the house:

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For me, To Be a Jew was the central devotional element of the holidays when I was a child. The Jewish side of my family was never very observant (and after I opted not to be Bar Mitzvah, I wasn't really welcomed by the local rabbis - my other grandparents' priest was much more interested in talking to me about theology... I just never found Catholic theology all that agreeable, but I give them points for being relatively welcoming), so holidays meant sitting down with my family so that my dad could flip back and forth through To Be a Jew and we could all stumble over the Hebrew transliterations. It was only later in life that I started telling everyone foolish enough to ask that Hannukha celebrated a terrorist victory. My folks had a lot to put up with. Thanks, Mom and Dad.

Oh, and yes, that is a bad-ass oil-burning menorah. I fell in love with it at the synagogue gift shop when I was a kid. It went missing sometime around when my family moved from my old hometown back in 1992, and my mom (miraculously?) found it just in time for our first Channukah in the new house and our first "with" Ruth.

Monday, November 26, 2007


I received the results from my quad screen today. The quad screen measures the levels of four substances in my blood: alpha-fetoprotein, a protein that is produced by the fetus; human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone produced within the placenta; Estriol, an estrogen produced by both the fetus and the placenta; and Inhibin-A, a protein produced by the placenta and ovaries. The quad screen detects about 75-85% of neural tube defects and 75-80% of Down Syndrome cases; when the blood test is combined with an ultrasound like one we just had, most birth defects can be detected.

The levels of those four proteins are compared to "normal" levels. The "normal" level is really a range based on maternal age and the gestational age of the fetus.

All four markers were well within the normal range. This means our baby is significantly less likely to have Down Syndrome and neural tube defects like spina bifida.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

21st Century Digital Girl!

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Melissa and I went to get the big-deal ultrasound yesterday, and this is the result. Everything looks fine, except that she's inherited my freakishly long arms (she's 18 weeks + 2 days, except her arms, which are 19w1d). Welcome to lots of short sleeved shirts, kid.

Oh, and she has had the poor taste to NOT be a frog. Despite my encouragements.

We're currently wavering between "Ruth Lysistrata" and "Ruth Zachary." Both make pretty good nicknames - "RuthLys" works pretty well when you sound it out, and "R.Z." has a certain amount of zing as well.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Keeping the Baby Safe

If anyone is thinking of buying toys for the baby, we'd respectfully ask that you not buy anything made in China or out of plastic.

The more I read about toy recalls, the more I want to keep plastics away from our kid-to-be. Besides lead paint, at least two children have been injured after ingesting plastic toys. The toy, when ingested, produced a toxic chemical, causing seizures and coma. Besides, as a policy wonk, I can tell you that the Consumer Product Safety Commission - the agency charged with recalls - is not operating well either. They've been without a permanent commissioner for some time and are woefully underfunded.

If you're interested in toys, there are some wonderful and safe toys available from the U.S. and abroad. Cool Mom Picks has compiled a list of toys by category (teething, riding, building, etc.). Many of the manufacturers highlighted are offering discounts (scroll down for the coupon codes). Besides the toys highlighted on that website, Etsy, a website designed to let independent merchants sell their goods more easily, has an extensive list of toys by category.

If you're thinking of a toy, we'd love you to consider a book instead. Daniel and I saved some of our most well-loved children's books (I have a shelf of Roald Dahl).

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I saw my midwife this morning. It was a basic weight/blood pressure/pee in a cup appointment. We reviewed my lab work. The results were as-expected and all appropriately positive or negative. She noted that I'll need two RhoGAM shots, which I knew, one at 28 weeks and the other postpartum to prevent complications if the baby has a positive blood type.

We chatted a bit about forming a birth plan. I'm reading and working on it in spurts.

I heard the heartbeat again via fetal doppler. It was hugely reassuring to hear the swoosh, swoosh, swoosh sound as the Insider wiggled. I still haven't gained any weight but I was only down half a pound this appointment. She wants me to aim for a half pound to pound per week from this point on. Total weight gain should be between 20-30 lbs.

I go back again November 13 for the same type of appointment, plus the quad screen. On November 19, we have the big ultrasound/fetal anatomy screen where we will -- if the Insider is cooperative -- find out the sex. The anatomy scan will be at the Center for Advanced Fetal Medicine at University of Maryland just across the street from my midwife's office. They prefer to have a perinatologist read all the scans and to use a more sensitive ultrasound machine. So, off to the hospital I'll go.

I'm planning to schedule a tour of the birth center in January or February, about the same time as we take a birthing class.

Monday, October 15, 2007

When Other People Don't Understand

The morning (noon, and night) sickness I've been dealing with -- and still am, to greater and lesser degrees, depending on the day -- is a medical condition.

It is extremely frustrating to have other people ask "Have you tried saltines? What about ginger tea?" after you've explained that every home remedy failed. And believe me, I tried everything from ginger to saltines, to a high protein diet, to drinking very cold beverages, to upping my B6 and B12, to sucking on peppermints, to getting enough rest, to eating a snack in the middle of the night, to eating before I even got out of bed.

Nothing worked.

And it is difficult for other people to understand that morning sickness exists on a spectrum. From mild nausea all the way to Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG). Having your overwhelming, debilitating nausea and vomiting labeled as "just morning sickness" or picking up a prescription and having the pharmacist ask "Have you tried ginger?" is insulting. I wish that more medical professionals were better educated about peripartum conditions.

In other news, I'm not showing exactly but I am starting to notice my waist thickening. I have two belly bands, thanks to my mother-in-law. They let me wear my normal pants unbuttoned and/or unzipped. The bands, which are akin to extra stretchy tube tops, are worn folded over the unbuttoned area to hold up your pants. They are a lifesaver. Maternity fashions have come a long way but I didn't really want to have to buy a 2d wardrobe.

I'm looking forward to looking pregnant rather than tubby. At the moment, I just look like I've been having second or third helpings.

I have a regular appointment tomorrow morning. I'll be 12 weeks, 6 days pregnant so the doppler should be able to pick up the heartbeat. At the appointment after that, sometime in mid-November, we'll schedule the 18-20 week ultrasound. It'll either be either immediately before or after Thanksgiving. The later ultrasound will examine the vital organs and check for any congenital defects, and, if the Insider is cooperative, let us know if we're having a boy or girl.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


No, we don't yet have a crib. Baby proofing? Eh, the kid'll only pull over a bookshelf on itself once. Daycare? We'll get to it.


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My aunt Connie was in town last weekend and we found the desk at an antique store in Hampden. It's super-cute (and was a steal at the price), but I suspect we're just ensuring that we're going to raise a total jock.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Confirming My Beliefs

I'm beginning to feel better. By which I mean I am riding the commuter train without gritting my teeth every.single.morning. While breakfast remains hit-or-miss in terms of staying power, my stomach generally accepts lunch and dinner without too much protest.

These past weeks of horrendous nausea, near-continuous vomiting, dehydration, and repeated trips to my midwife to beg for relief have done one thing: I am more firmly pro-choice than ever.

A coworker asked me how I felt, being pregnant now, about having worked for reproductive rights organizations. And I answered honestly that I find my time with them even more valuable.

Misconceptions about reproductive rights organizations (RRO) abound. The idea that we're baby haters couldn't possibly be farther from the truth. In my time with one organization, two of the women in my seven person department had children and coworkers couldn't possibly have been more excited. Two others had young children (under 5) at home. Babies were celebrated with showers; battle-hardened lobbyists would drop everything to see a visiting kid. Generous maternity leaves were encouraged and supported, as was flextime upon return.

All that aside, I am simply amazed at the demands of pregnancy, even this early on. I know that forcing myself to eat won't be hardest thing I ever have to do for this baby -- not by a long shot. But the once conceptual idea of requiring a woman to carry her pregnancy to term is now hugely repugnant to me.

I cannot imagine how I would've gotten through those days where morning (noon, and night) sickness forced me to the cool tile floor of the bathroom again and again if this pregnancy was unplanned or unwanted. How I would've kept eating, despite being in physical pain from doing so. How I would've managed the unrelenting fatigue.

Pregnancy certainly is amazing but it is difficult too. A difficulty I couldn't imagine bearing without a supportive partner, family, and employers.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

23.5mm of Pure Awesome!

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Yesterday morning, we had the first ultrasound. As you can see, the kid clearly takes after me, insofar as I like frogs, and it has had the good taste to kinda sorta look like one if you squint your eyes properly. No, really, check out the close-up:

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Anyway, we also got to hear the heartbeat, which was pretty cool. It was actually cooler than I thought it would be. In addition, Melissa tells me that before one can hear the heartbeat, there is roughly a 99.9% chance that the embryo will spontaneously combust, causing untold death and destruction. Once you can hear the heartbeat, for a young healthy woman, the chances of miscarriage drop to approximately .00000001%, and chances are that the embryo will in fact be born and become just like Mother Theresa, except with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's vertical leap.

I may have to check with Melissa again on those numbers, but you get the gist of it.

Friday, September 14, 2007


As Melissa noted, I'm the "later worries" guy. I worry a lot about education, for one thing. There are two main reasons I worry about education.

REASON 1: The public education messed with me.
REASON 2: But all the homeschooling/unschooling folks I've met strike me as deeply unbalanced.

I'll get to reason 2 and continue massively offending folks at some later date. But for the moment, I want to talk about reason 1. Reason 1 is why I try to find books on anti-authoritarian schooling in the first place.

I'm not going to give you some sob story about how, in school, the MAN kept me down, but later my natural brilliance shone through.

Quite the contrary. I quickly learned how to be awesome at school. I dominated school. School was where I was a Viking.

Not, mind you, all the social stuff. No, there, I was useless. And, when you're useless socially and at sports, but awesome at getting As, a feedback loop is established that can be awfully difficult to break (I moved. Shortly after I moved, I finally got my first girlfriend.).

The problem was not that school stifled my natural creativity and I chafed beneath the wheel. The problem was that I learned how to do well within the system and that guaranteed a fairly constant stream of praise and reward.

What's wrong with that, you may ask? Well, lots of stuff. The basic problem is that school doesn't necessarily reward you for anything particularly worthwhile. It's kind of like those classes where they teach you how to get a 1600 (or whatever the max score is now that they've replaced analogies with interpretive dance, or something) on the SATs without actually knowing math or words. You can be really good at getting As without learning much or even becoming a better person.

I'm sure that it's different for kids who have to work really hard to get those As. But for me, it was fairly easy, at least through HS (I had a rude awakening as a university physics major, and I still wonder whether I went into Philosophy at least in part because it was a field in which I found it easier to get As). So it didn't represent me carving out a particular niche of interest and excellence. Rather, my As were evidence of having found the path of least resistance to rewards, and mining it for all it was worth. Frankly, this has made me lazy in ways that I still struggle with.

Now, I wonder how this could have been handled better. It's partly why I worry about normal schooling practices. Smart, dumb, or indifferent, most schools are set up to see if all students can hit a series of basic marks. If you can do that, great. It doesn't really matter whether it's easy or hard for you.

This is part of what I think the unschoolers get right - when your teacher assures you that you'll need geometry later in life, s/he is lying. You may not. I was really good at geometry, liked, it and actually learned much of it. I hardly ever use it. I got As in history, but there I was hitting the minimums for that A, and I retained very little. I thought history was boring. Now I use history all the time, and have taught myself a whole lot of it.

I wish someone had taken me aside and said, "Look, kid, I know your game. You're doing this because it's easy and people will be proud of you. They shouldn't be - this is easy for you. More importantly, you shouldn't be proud of it. Let's find something hard and see if you can do it." I mean, I dabbled in a couple of sports, but mostly gave up on them. I don't think I ever saw the value in the fact that athletics were hard for me (though I can honestly say I've worked harder on few tasks than trying to master the spin style of throwing shotput... and failing... and failing...).

Now, I don't blame anyone in particular. I'm sure it would have seemed churlish of my folks to look at my report card and say, "yeah, so?" My folks were great, and worked hard at being good parents. I mean, they fretted about how I wasn't challenged enough, but it's only in retrospect that I even started thinking that maybe the solution was not trying to find more challenges for me - which I could avoid if they were really challenging - but rather to make it clear that success in the unchallenging stuff wasn't going to wow people.

So it's not people, it's the way expectations are set up. I want to figure out a way to help my kid find things that are hard for him or her so she can have the pride of constantly expanding his/her powers. I don't yet know how to do that without just being a dick about it. But that's what I think is key to education - constantly challenging people to expand their boundaries. It's not about learning lists of stuff and figuring out how to game the classroom.

I worry that our kid won't get much of that in school. And again, I don't blame the teachers. I know elementary school teachers. The best intentioned ones spend most of their time trying to get everyone to hit those marks and going beyond that, especially in an "antagonistic" way that I just described probably isn't even feasible. And I'm probably too much generalizing from my experience - maybe I needed to attend St. Nietzsche's School of Hard Knocks, but not every child will. So how do we individualize their experiences properly? How do I make my kid's education challenging and rewarding and interesting while still shipping him her off to public school for 6 hours a day so I can put food on the table?

OK, the fact that my dream school could plausibly be called St. Nietzsche's probably puts me squarely in the "deeply unbalanced" camp, right?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Now and Later Worries

While Daniel is - admirably - worried about baby-proofing the house, effective discipline, education systems, moral development and the like, I have more immediate concerns:

How will I ever eat again?

I found out I was pregnant like most women: I went to Walgreens, paid an exorbitant amount of money for two small plastic sticks, peed, nearly fell over in shock, and finally recovered enough to tell my husband. Important, that last bit.

Initially I was a little unnerved. I felt exactly the same, no signs of pregnancy whatsoever. I turned to Dr. Google who told me that I was (a) perfectly normal or (b) doomed to miscarry.

That was two weeks and a few days ago. Now? I rue the day I ever wished for some physical sign of the lentil within. I am tired. So tired that when I asked the time last evening and the answer was "9:30 P.M," I thought I was hallucinating. My sixth grade bedtime rides again.

And food? Normally I love food. I love baingan bartha, sweetbreads, broccoli rabe, labne, moldy-musty blue-veined cheeses, kimchi, boudin and merguez, frogs legs, and homemade sauerkraut pierogi. You get the idea. And we are lucky to live near a terrific farmer's market. I am exceptionally lucky to have a husband who cooks and cooks very well. Weekend dinners were a celebration of the season.

No more. Or at least not for a while. The lentil wants fruit, cereal, toast, crackers, and tea. It doesn't want a prenatal vitamin. It doesn't want meat; fish, even the smell, makes it angry. Honestly, I haven't spent this much caressing a toilet since I was an irresponsible undergraduate. All the traditional remedies -- eating frequent, small meals; not going to bed hungry, eating simple carbs upon awakening -- help, to a degree, but nothing takes away the terrible seasick/motion sick feeling. (I am a coastal child and have never been seasick or motion sick so I can only make an approximation.)

So, I'm leaving the big questions largely in Daniel's capable hands until my stomach starts permanently accepting more than Goldfish crackers.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


I'll admit it. This becoming a parent thing scares me a bit.

More than a bit.

First, I've got the general "will I be a good parent?" worries. Will I raise a pscyhopath? Will I horribly scar my child through incompetence or careless malice? Will I ever get over being grossed out by diapers? Will I ever be able to warm up to something that can't talk about philosophy, or politics, or even Lost for a decade or more? Will the fact that Melissa and I are atheists, or have tattoos, or are pretty lefty, or etc. put our kid in an awkward position in an increasingly conservative U.S.? Did we do the right thing by moving to Baltimore, or did we condemn our kid to a childhood of crime, crummy schools, and mercury in their crabs? Speaking of schools, what will/should we do about their education (I'm sure I'll be speaking about education at length here)?

Second, I have to admit to more selfish, personal, how will this affect my life worries. It's not exactly admirable, but I worry that, now that I have opportunity to travel (both for my jobs and because we have more money now), having a kid will make that hard, especially if I want to travel somewhere more out of the way or be gone for an extended period. Already, between the commute, work at home, etc. etc. Melissa and I need to plan ahead to get out of the house for anything more strenuous than dinner or a movie - when will I get to go to awesome shows and rock out (I remind myself that I don't do that that much now, which is less than comforting)? The consensus, even from reading accounts of "alternative" parents is that, yes, having a kid means you don't get out much for the next 18 years or so.

None of this makes me not want to have a kid. They're just worries and apprehensions that I need to manage. I think, especially for the selfish ones, it's a lot of "you're 30, you have a mortgage, and NOW YOU'RE HAVING A KID. YOU ARE OFFICIALLY OLD." Which is irrational but, I think, probably fairly normal.

Super-Double-Plus Secret Blog

Originally, this blog was going to be called "Beat on the Brat," but I should have figured out that someone would have thought of that by now. So, instead, you get the lame-ish title that it does in fact have. Of course, "Beat on the Brat" would probably have seemed embarrassing itself in a few months, and at least this way I don't have to worry about nice men showing up at my house to ask me why I'm beating my child.

Which doesn't, technically speaking, exist yet. Hence the gender-neutral name.

If you're reading this post, and it's before late September 2007, you must either have randomly come across this blog or you know me and are rather clever. My wife (Melissa) found out a couple of weeks ago that she's pregnant. This is very much an expected, planned, and hoped-for event. This won't be that sort of blog. We're not not telling folks about it yet out of any perversity, but just because things are early and if anything were to happen with the pregnancy, we'd rather just deal with it quitely ourselves than have to go around to all the folks we'd told about the good news to tell them about the bad news, too.

Now that I think about, I may have to reassess that existence claim. I guess if the pregnancy continues, then our kid does in fact exist, in some sense, now (in a sort of acorn-to-oak-tree sense). S/he's just very, very small. On the other hand, should (mighty agnost forbid) something go wrong, it'll be perfectly natural to think of this as losing a pregnancy, but not really as losing a child. I'm a philosopher, and this sort of metaphysics still makes my head hurt a little.

But I digress.

Anyway, the fact that we haven't told folks yet doesn't stop me from thinking about it. I'm worrying about how to baby-proof a house that features two cats, lots of wobbly bookshelves, a glass table top, and bunches of tiny gaming dice. I'm doing standard-issue gen-X parent things like reading Punk Rock Dad and The Future Generation (and The Moral Judgment of the Child and Parenting Beyond Belief, when I get done), putting Ramones onesies on the baby wishlist, and, well, starting a blog. I figure that this is something like the 21st Century equivalent of the scrapbook, only more confessional and involving less paste and dust.

So this will be a place for me to gather my thoughts and reflect. It'll be relatively straightforward and uncensored, and I'm sure somewhat stream-of-consciousness at times, so I hope there's nothing here that will scar my future child (or my parents). Maybe I can even get Melissa to contribute from time to time. We'll see.