Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Trick Or Treat Punks

Is it wrong to turn off your lights once the trick-or-treat punks come out?

We don't get very many trick-or-treaters at our place, but we get enough to detect three distinct "waves" of revellers. The first wave comes between 6pm and 7pm, and it is composed mainly of cute little kids with their parents. I like the first wave, and I enjoy giving them candy.

My brother and sister-in-law in Calgary (R's sister) have a cute little 2.5-year-old girl. Last year they dressed her up as a pumpkin, and she went trick-or-treating for her first time. They sent us pictures and it looked so cute. She even insisted on carrying her own little candy bag, despite the fact that she was constantly tripping on her enormous pumpkin costume. That is what the first wave is all about -- the cute little kids.

By 7pm, the cute little kids are on their way home, and you are left with the middle crowd. These kids are old enough to be out later without their parents, but they are courteous enough to bother wearing a costume when they come around looking for handouts. I don't mind the middle wave, because they are still doing it the right way.

The third wave hits its peak after 8pm. That's when the punks come out. Punks might be a harsh word, but I'm going to use it anyway. These are the kids that weren't planning on going trick-or-treating, but the thought of free candy was too much for them. The way I imagine it, a few of them get together in the evening and one says, "Hey, if we go run around, people have to give us stuff." The rest say, "Right on, let's go." On their way out the door, they realize that they're supposed to be wearing costumes. Two of them swap hats. Another one picks up a raincoat and an umbrella, and off they go, bags in hand.

When they arrive at my door, I want to tell them to go home -- I have some candy left, but it's for people in costumes. I know this won't get me very far, so I just give them a caramel and say good night. I'd always imagine that they'll come back later and egg my house or something.

The funny thing is, we used to do the same thing. I remember putting on a snowmobile suit while my brother grabbed the bag for his paper route and a pair of gumboots (he was in shorts, as well). We went running around the neighbourhood way later than we really should have. We were punks, but at least we made some effort, right?

Tonight we just turned out the lights after 8:30pm -- and then we left altogether. I guess I'm just an old humbug.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Evening Sickness

Welcome to week 13, and a temporary reprieve from fruit comparisons. As of today, we have a fully-formed, 3-inch baby, described by babycenter.com as "roughly the size of a jumbo shrimp". I'm not sure what I think of that comparison, but I am tremendously excited about the progress. This is the last week of the first trimester, which is good news for two reasons. In the second trimester, the miscarriage risk greatly diminishes, and morning sickness often subsides.

When someone hears that your wife is pregnant, they usually say two things:
1) Congratulations
2) How is she feeling?

Item number 1 is self-explanatory. Number 2 clearly refers to morning sickness (aka Nausea & Vomiting of Pregnancy - NVP), a condition experienced by a majority of pregnant women. There are a few important facts about morning sickness that some people (meaning me) are not aware of:

- morning sickness is not confined to the morning
- the sickess is not always manifested as projectile vomit
- nobody has determined the exact cause or purpose of this condition

R suffers from a milder form of NVP that could be described as "evening sickness", or more accurately as "the after eight blahs". She feels fairly well in the morning, but she always feels kind of iffy after the evening meal. It lingers into the night, but she usually feels better after she gets up and gets going the next day. I don't know if there is any valuable insight that we can draw from these observations, but I point it out all the same. Consider it a detailed answer to question #2, provided to those of you who would have asked, given the chance.

I'll assume that you send your congratulations, as well. Thank you very much.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Round-Up Gang

In the past, we weren't huge Halloween enthusiasts. Although we usually came up with some kind of costume to wear to parties or dances, we didn't go really big. Last year was a bit out of the ordinary. We spent most of October building our costumes from scratch, and we really enjoyed the results. Buoyed by this previous success, we tried to go big again this year.

We started preparing a little bit late, but we finally settled on an idea:

In case you couldn't tell, we dressed up as Woody and Jessie from Toy Story 2. It was a lot of work -- more work than I would have expected. Dressing up as a cowboy is easy. You just throw on some jeans and a cowboy hat. Trying to dress up as a the computer-generated toy cowboy that you saw in a movie is quite a bit more involved... especially if you decide you are going to make your own cowboy boots. You end up having to spraypaint and/or modify everything first.

Finding the cowprint chaps and vest was a challenge -- even with two Value Village stores in range. I found a child-size vest with a fur-like lining that I could colour with a marker and wear inside-out. R bought a dalmation dog costume for a child that she turned into some chaps and modified with a black marker. The results were surprisingly good. I am proud to say that I made her belt buckle -- out of a brass candle-holder that I found at Value Village.

If you've seen the movie, you'll know that Woody and Jessie have a pull-ring on their back which you can pull to make them say various quotes. I was pretty proud of this one. I put a grommet in the back of our shirts with a retracting clip for an identity card, which was attached to an embroidery hoop. It was pulled many times when we went out, and each time I dutifully informed the puller that there was a snake in my boot. R mainly just yodelled, because the movie never showed what her character was supposed to say.

We found some low-cut cowboy boots for R, but there isn't much available in size 12 in a second-hand store, so I was out of luck. Being the over-confident buffoon that I am, I convinced myself that I could make a pair of boots from some leather-looking material. What a mistake. We don't even have a sewing machine. Mostly, I used an eyelet clamp to fasten bits of fabric together. It almost worked. Actually, it worked pretty well for the upper part of the boot. The bottom became problematic. In the end, the best solution was just to wear some brown shoes. I'm particularly proud of the spurs. I made those out of fasteners used for linking drainspouts together. Who needs a sewing machine when you've got a rivet gun, an eyelet clamp and a grommet punch?

We thought we'd done pretty well until we got to a party thrown by my recently-hitched cohorts E and L at their fashionable house in Riverside South (the latest and greatest Ottawa suburbian housing development). Apparently, they had started planning in the summer, and starting decorating in September. It's hard to describe. It was unbelievable. Here's Sheriff Woody after he was spooked by the head suspended in an eerie globe:

Friday, October 27, 2006

First Reality Check

(This wasn't written on Friday, but it happened on Friday.)

Friday we had our first reality check. For the first time, we had to take babysitting into consideration when scheduling. Not since the ultrasound has it seemed this real.

In the morning, R went to her dentist appointment. It was completely rad-free, because they opted not to do an x-ray. Afterwards, she went to make her next appointment. Six months from now would be the end of April -- about a week or two before the due date. Instead, the appointment was set for August, three months post-birth. The hygenist (who was reportedly VERY enthusiastic about the prospect of anyone having a baby) suggested that R should bring the baby in to her appointment, since some moms are reluctant to part with their newborns so early on.

At this point, R's mind started reeling.

Later on, she called me to suggest that maybe I would want to have my appointment on the same day "so that we could take turns watching the baby."

That totally freaked me out.

So that was Friday. The first of many such instances, I'm sure.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Thoughts About Names

So far, we have not started discussing baby names. Yes, my brother explained why he liked the name Henry, which led to a series of posts about how boy names are sometimes poached for use by girls -- but we didn't delve much deeper than that. I think we have been waiting until the next ultrasound, when we should find out the gender of the baby. That way, we can cut the possibilities in half. It's also an issue of "counting your chicks", if you know what I mean.

I started thinking about this because I went to check on our neglected old friend, babiesonline.com, and found a link to section called "Tips For Choosing Baby Names". I was intrigued. There are two kinds of advice on the internet: 1) good advice; 2) advice to be ridiculed. I hoped that there would be some of both. Actually, it was fairly decent. Here's the headings from each of their five tips:
1. Don't rush
2. Talk about it
3. Say it out loud
4. Spell it out
5. Make it meaningful

When you take away the paragraphs of information that went with each tip, you have to guess at the meaning -- which is more fun. Here are the paragraphs that I would write:

1. Don't rush: Unless your baby becomes a pop icon or a hollywood star and adopts a new name like "Pink" or "Brangelina", this name is going to have to last for 80 years. You've got 9 months, so ease yourself into a name you think your child can live with. However, you should remember that you are dealing with a firm deadline (birth), so you shouldn't leave it until it's time to fill out the birth certificate. Asking the clerk for ideas is considered poor form.

2. Talk about it: Speaking is essential for meaningful discussion. Yes, you should certainly talk about it at some point. Using a combination of Scrabble tiles and grunting is considered less-effective.

3. Say it out loud: See #2 above. Talking is generally done out loud.

4. Spell it out: Spelling is key. You can do one of two things: 1) make it painfully easy (Fox); or 2) impossibly difficult (Caleigh). If it's moderately difficult, people will misspell it anyway, and then they'll feel bad. You might as well go big.

5. Make it meaningful: Load that name with meaning, the more the better. Try something powerful like "Thunder", "Warrior-Princess", or "Larry".

You can read the real advice (which is good), or you can just settle for my flippant interpretation. We'll probably start mulling over some names in the near future, so we welcome any additional advice or suggestions. Now that we're in week 12, I think we can safely begin to count our chicks: one.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Belly Shots

Back in September, I joked that I would start taking pictures of my stomach every week to track the change, since R wasn't interested in taking pictures of her stomach. Maybe I really should have done it. Then I'd have a definite answer to a troubling question:

Am I really gaining sympathy weight?

It may have been the binge eating at Famous Dave's BBQ, the snacks, or the rain keeping me off my bike. Whatever the reason, I think I've been gaining weight the last few weeks. Not much, but enough to make me wonder. Nobody has said anything, so maybe it's just my imagination. You could probably count on someone saying something if it were true. People have been helpful in pointing out perceived changes in R's stomach.

Several people have made off-hand comments to R about the growing size of her tummy. This has not really thrilled her, because she was not supposed to be showing that early on. Sure, she's got a baby the size of a large lime inside her abdomen, but she doesn't think that has had that great an impact on her waistline. Since she doesn't think that she's changed much, any comment that people make she takes as a comment on her regular appearance.

Well, her waistline is supposed to expand, and mine isn't -- so I'm worried.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

First Third?

If a full term is 37 weeks, then we have just hit the 1/3 mark of this pregnancy... kind of. That's a bit of stretch, but it sounds nice. You start counting the weeks from the beginning of a cycle, not from the date of conception, so you get to add two weeks for free. I guess that's because couples usually aren't as sure about the day of conception as they are about the first day of the cycle. In our case, we had conception pegged right down to the hour, so those extra two weeks seem like a bit of a freebie.

12-2/7 weeks is only a third of the way to "full term." Apparently, most first-time pregnancies go the whole 40 weeks, so calling it a third is somewhat inappropriate. We won't be at the real one-third mark until 13 weeks and 2 days -- next Tuesday. When we get to that point, then we can feel really good about ourselves.

I was flipping ahead to find out a bit about the last few weeks of pregnancy -- mainly in an effort to find out if we could expect comparisons to pineapples or watermelons. I didn't turn up any melon references, but I did find out that you really shouldn't drink castor oil to try to encourage labour when you start to get impatient. Castor oil has proven to be quite a powerful laxative, but it's ability to encourage labour is still in question. Yikes. I hope the store will let me return all this castor oil that I bought.

Did you know that castor oil has been used as "a tool of political terror"? Neither did I. What a versatile product.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sorting The Foods

The fruit experts at babycenter.com say that the baby has surpassed the 2-inch mark, crown to rump. According to them, it is "about the size of a lime." I may be mistaken, but I thought it was already the size of lime LAST WEEK. Not only that, it was the size of LARGE lime last week. Now it's just a regular lime? I don't feel like we're making any progress. Supposedly, the baby doubled in size over the last three weeks. Large lime, indeed!

Finding ourselves unable to sort out these produce difficulties, we went to the Ottawa Food Bank to find solace amongst the stacks of canned goods. For 90 minutes, we joined with about 20 other people to shuck and sort shopping bags of donated non-perishables. We plowed through a large quantity of food, and it was quite gratifying.
TIP: When in doubt, sort as "miscellaneous dry".

We'd never been to the Food Bank before. It's shadier than I expected. It's tucked away in a dark industrial area behind the highway. Once you find your way through the particularly-shady side door, things get better: tremendous quantities of peanut butter and baked beans, stacked 20 feet high.

R usually gets pretty worn out in the evenings, but she handled it like a champ. She said that she was fading a bit near the end, but she came out okay -- except that spending all that time with food gave her the munchies. YPWBW* advises against sweet or sugary snacks -- suggesting fruit, cheese or maybe some peanut butter. R hates peanut butter with all her heart (I love the stuff -- I could have smeared it all over my head like this baby did). In the end, she went for the cheese. Fruit would have been just as good, but we've been stuck on limes for much too long.

Let's cross our fingers that we get a bigger fruit next week, maybe something exotic like an apple.
* Your Pregnancy Week By Week

Sunday, October 22, 2006


I missed doing a post yesterday. We were busy for most of the day running errands -- mainly hitting 2nd-hand shops and hardware stores to find elements of our halloween costumes. We set the bar pretty high with last year's costumes, and it's going to be quite a bit of work to get ourselves ready for this year.

Last year R and I were blue commanders from the board game RISK:2210. She was the Nuclear Commander and I was the Naval Commander. We rounded up items from Value Village (2nd hand), Home Depot and the Dollar Store, and built ourselves futuristic armour that we spray-painted blue with silver accents. At one party we went to, nobody had any clue what we were supposed to be, so we carried the little game pieces in our pocket so that we could show people. The next party we went to was with many of the people who play RISK:2210 with me, so they were much more excited about the outfits.

This year, the 3-month mark of R's pregancy was going to coincide quite closely with Halloween, we thought we would wait until then to tell people about the pregancy. WE had the idea to create a simple costume (scientist, police constable, natural gas salesman, etc), of which R would be the pregnant version and I would be the humpback version. In our minds, it was a fun and clever way to spread the news and have a unique costume. That idea didn't last very long, since we weren't able to keep the pregnancy under wraps for much more than a few days. We were just too excited, I guess.

Maybe everybody already knows about the pregnancy, but they don't know anything about our new costume idea. If we can get it all together, it will be almost as cool as last year -- but not quite as blue.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Doctor, Can I Dance?

According to the babycenter.com entry for week 11, a woman might begin to experience some strange symptoms, like excessive saliva. I haven't noticed if R has been drooling all over the place, but I haven't really been looking for it. I'll keep my eyes open from now on.

Similar to the recent post about airplanes and bumper-cars, this week's babycenter helps clarify some more questions about what activities you should and shouldn't do while you're pregnant. One question was about dancing: "Is a strenuous dance class safe during pregnancy?"

Can you guess the answer?

The answer is maybe ...If you're not a high-risk case and you are willing to modify your dancing a little bit. They suggestthat you avoid jumping, that you use fewer arm movements, and that you keep one foot on the floor at all times. Sounds kind of like marching to me.

We were asked to help teach a group of Young Single Adults (mostly university students) how to do some swing dancing for tonight. We've been asked to this kind of thing several times in the past. It all started when we first moved to Ottawa. We went to a church dance and we were just messing around with some of the moves that we picked up here and there, and suddenly a rumour went around that we'd been on the university dance team. Shortly thereafter, we got a phone call from someone, asking us to teach a group of teenagers how to swing dance. We explained that we weren't very qualified teachers, but that didn't dissuade them one bit.

We ended up getting some instructional videos from the library so that we could learn the steps properly before we set out to teach anyone else. We picked up enough from the video to pull off a decent lesson, as well as learning a few new tricks. We've probably been asked 3 more times since then. It's funny, if you asked us 5 years ago, neither of us would have predicted that we would ever be in a situation where we were teaching other people to dance.

Well, tonight didn't turn out so well. Someone is decorating the church for a wedding, so we couldn't get in there to do the dancing. That's probably just as well, because it would be hard for us to pull off some of these moves while keeping one foot on the ground ;)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Experts Argue Over Twins

(I have changed this from the original posting because I didn't summarize the New Scientist article adequately. I recommend reading the whole article.)

Mad props to Mr. Rooney for pointing out this interesting article about IVF. We never ventured into the world of IVF, but this would be good information for anyone who was considering it.

In case you didn't bother to read it, the article presents the position of some fertility experts who want to limit the number of embryos implanted in any given treatment cycle to one. The common practice in North America is to implant two or more embryos, in an effort to increase the chances of success on the first try. This often results in twins or triplets (nearly half of all IVF babies are involved in a multiple birth - wow). However, there are several risks associated with a multiple pregnancy. The experts claim that you get similar rates of success by implanting one embryo at a time, and you avoid the risks of multiple pregnancies. I think this makes good sense.

There are pressures to continue the practice of multiple implantation, however. Unbeknownst to me, there is a published "league table" for fertility clinics, which lists the ratio of live births vs. IVF procedures for each clinic. In the past, some couples have used this data to select their clinic -- equating a higher ratio on the table to a better facility. Obviously, instances of twins or triplets boost these statistics, so there has been little incentive for clinics to reduce the number of embryos implanted in each cycle. Some will implant as many as five embryos, occasionally requiring "multifetal pregnancy reductions" (using abortion methods to reduce the number of gestations to a safer number).

Pressure also comes from prospective parents who are desperate for results:
Many patients see twins as the ideal outcome of IVF. “They have this picture of healthy, bouncing twins,” says William Ledger, a fertility specialist at the University of Sheffield, UK, and a member of the expert group. “We doctors see the premature babies in intensive care.”

This describes my previous mindset perfectly. Although I wasn't really hoping for twins, I thought it would be a nice outcome, because it would result in an "instant family". This article has caused me to reconsider my position, mainly because of the risks:
-birth complications six times more likely
-mother mortality rate three times higher
-IVF twins average three weeks premature and 1kg lighter
-infant mortality at birth is higher (twins 3x higher, triplets 9x higher)
-physical & mental disabilities increase (ie: cerebral palsy 6x/18x higher)

Here is a counter-argument from an expert in London: "If the HFEA moved towards adopting single embryo transfer indiscriminately – it would probably result in a small decrease in twins but a larger number of people who do not become pregnant."

In our case, a single implantation would make some sense, because R is not a high risk case and she has no history of miscarriages. Circumstances are different for different couples, though. I know quite a few people who are involved in IVF treatments at some stage or another. I hope this information is useful for them as they consider their options.

To close, here are some interesting facts from Wikipedia:
The first successful IVF treatment in the USA (producing Elizabeth Jordan Carr) took place in 1981 under the direction of Doctors Howard Jones and Georgeanna Seegar-Jones in Norfolk, Virginia. Since then IVF has exploded in popularity, with as many as 1% of all births now being conceived in-vitro, with over 115,000 born in the USA to date. At present, the percentage of children born after IVF or ICSI has been up to 4% of all babies born in Denmark.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Countdown: 200 Days

There are now only 200 days until the due date -- May 7, 2006. We're almost a third of the way through the pregnancy. By this time next year, the baby will be more than 5 months old. When October 2007 rolls around, I wonder if I'll look back on this time and laugh at how completely clueless I was about babies and parenthood. I wonder if I'll look at my pre-baby self with a bit of jealousy or resentment, since I won't have as much time for myself. Hopefully, I will pull myself aside occasionally and say, "enjoy the time you have while you have it. You'll never get these years back again."

Two hundred days. It seems like such a long time...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What, no tuna?

There's a lot of stuff that comes with a pregnancy. There's all the emotions, all the cravings, all the excitement, and all the rest. These are things that I expected. I also expected that there would be few rules and recommendations that you would have to follow, things you would have to avoid. You know, you shouldn't smoke cigars and get drunk -- all the stuff that you've heard growing up.

Actually, the list is much longer. Here's a few more things to add:
1. raw seafood
2. albacore tuna / tuna steak
3. shark / swordfish / king mackerel / tilefish
4. unpasteurized milk / soft cheeses
5. foods with raw eggs
6. eggnog

Luckily, most of these these things are not a problem. R doesn't like any of them, except for tuna. We eat tuna nearly every week. Apparently, tuna absorb a lot mercury, which can be bad for the fetus' brain development. They say that you can probably handle 6 ounces each week (one serving) of albacore (white tuna), and 12 ounces of light tuna. We eat albacore. I was worried when I read this, so I mentioned it to R. She said she was already aware, and has been moderate in her consumption. This is a relief. I just wonder, why did babycenter wait until week 11 to tell us about it? I feel betrayed.

What about eggnog? I love eggnog. I also love pumpkin pie. I love eggnog and pumpkin pie together. Fortunately, I can still have them both, because I'm not pregnant. R is the pregnant one, and she hates them both. So, there's no problem. Of course, she could eat pumpkin pie if she wanted to -- it's not on the list. So why bring it up?

For quite a while, I've been polling people to see if they like eggnog and / or pumpkin pie. I used to think that there was a correlation, but now I'm not so sure. I believe the most recent conclusion I came to was that people who like eggnog may like pumpkin pie, but people who don't like eggnog don't like pumpkin pie. I may have that backwards, however.

All of that to say that R is NOT smoking cigars, eating soft cheeses, drinking alcohol, or drinking eggnog. She IS eating tuna, but in moderation. We'll soon learn about some more rules to add to our list, I'm sure.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Large Lime

There are two different fruits this week, so take your pick. The baby is somewhere between a large lime and a fig (according to YPWBW* and babycenter.com, respectively). Maybe I'll stick with the lime. A nice, healthy green lime seems much better than a wrinkly brown fig. Plus, a fig has negative connotations in some places.

I don't eat limes much. That's not really what limes are for. Their primary use seems to be a flavouring for drinks. Sprite is purported to be a lemon-lime soda. I don't know if I can really taste lime in there, but I'll take their word for it. Sprite is nice enough, but the poor lime has to share the limelight (groan) with the lemon. Lime's breakthrough role is really the Lime Rickey. During a family reunion last summer we were introduced to the (non-alcoholic version of the) Lime Rickey -- served from the soda fountain at a fast food chain called the Iceberg Drive Inn. This same place also sells onion rings that are frighteningly large. We're talking about immense onions. Unnaturally large onions. It's abnormal produce like these onions that render baby comparisons almost meaningless. Imagine a comparison in the coming weeks that reads: "This week your baby is the size of an onion." But is that an onion like they have at the Iceberg Drive Inn? Who knows?

The book also tells us R could feel a stirring inside that might seem like a little kick or an elbow moving. According to YPWBY, "If you think you feel your baby move at this time, you either have gas or are further along in your pregancy than you thought." Call me childish, but I thought this was hilarious. Yeah, what you thought was your baby -- it's the beans, darling.

I guess we're getting into the big growth spurt here. The length will double over the next 3 weeks. That's incredible. I think I heard somewhere that if a newborn baby continued to grow at the rate that it did during the pregancy, it would be as big as a battleship before too long. Yeah, I don't have any citation for that, but it stands to reason.

*Your Pregnancy Week By Week

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Here's another question: Can a pregnant lady go to the dentist? What about the x-rays?

We have a dental checkup coming up next week. Since we were already talking about airport scanners and such, R wondered if there were any concerns regarding the x-ray machines at the dentist's office. Lucky for her, babycenter.com has the answer.

I was interested to learn that there has been a correlation between gum disease and early/low-weight babies. Who would have thought? The experts can't explain the correlation, but they use the data to explain why you should go in for your scheduled cleaning and not put it off.

You don't have to worry too much about the x-rays. According to another article, "fetal exposure to more than 10 rads (the unit of measurement for absorbed radiation) has been shown to increase the risks for mental retardation and eye abnormalities." A diagnostic x-ray usually is less than 5 rads; however, the baby only absorbs a portion of that. A baby would absorb 0.01 millirads as a result of a dental x-ray. During the course of a pregnancy, a baby gets 100 millirads of radiation from the sun and earth, so the dental x-ray is not a major concern.

I've had a lot of x-rays before. I've had x-rays on my nose, chest, arms, hands, feet, lungs, knees... you name it. Sports injuries, mainly. R says that she's never had an x-ray other than the one at the dentist's office. I feel kind of sorry for her. She's really been shortchanged on rads all these years.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Flying Restrictions

Christmas Day will be the half-way point -- week 20. We'll be flying out to see family for Christmas, and we've already booked our tickets. As we talked about it today, R mentioned that there would come a point in her pregnancy when she might not be able to fly, but she didn't know when that might be.

Is there a point during pregancy after which a woman is not supposed to fly aboard an airplane? When is that? What are the reasons why? Let's ask babycenter.com.

My search took me to the section with all sorts of pregnancy travel information, likely compiled in response to the most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on the subject. Most of the questions seem pretty predictable, but there are a couple that I found mildly amusing. Here's the list:

• Can air bags harm a pregnant driver or passenger?
• Is it safe to fly during my third trimester?
• Is it safe to get vaccinated during pregnancy?
• Is it safe to go to a rock concert when I'm pregnant?
• Is it safe to ride the bumper cars at an amusement park when I'm pregnant?
• Is it safe to travel alone during pregnancy?
• Is it safe to travel to developing countries during pregnancy?
• Is it safe to use a seat belt during pregnancy?
• Is it safe to vacation at high altitude during pregnancy?
• Is it safe to walk through airport screening machines while I'm pregnant?
• Will airplane cabin pressure harm my unborn baby?

The article says that it's generally safe to fly throughout your pregnancy, except if you are a high-risk case (twins, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc). The main concern in the last month of pregnancy is that you might go into labour. Most airlines have some kind of restriction against flying in the last week or the last month before the due date. I imagine the airlines got tired of people having babies on their planes and disrupting their passengers and schedules.

Cabin pressure isn't a problem, but blood circulation can be. You just have to make sure to walk around to keep the blood flowing. The metal detectors aren't considered dangerous to anyone's health, including pregnant ladies. Bumper cars, on the other hand, are not the ideal way to travel when you are pregnant. So, if you decide you have to go to a rock concert, you would be better off driving your regular car.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Comparing Capitals

I’m on my way home to Ottawa tonight, having spent part of my trip in Washington, DC. While we were there, we went by the Capitol Building and some of “The Mall.” We also went into the National Archives and saw the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as well as one of the original copies of the Magna Carta. I’d seen The Mall before, and several of the memorials, but I’d not been in the National Archives, so that was a treat.

The day before my trip (Monday), while J & J were in town, we showed them around Ottawa and took them on the tour of the Parliament Buildings. The next morning, I found myself standing in the wide expanse between the US Capitol Building and the Washington Monument. Not often do you have the opportunity to experience the legislatures of two great democracies in two days. They are certainly quite different.

Parliament Hill in Ottawa is picturesque and quite impressive. The buildings are set on a rocky bluff overlooking the Ottawa River, surrounded on Wellington Street by several other elegant stone buildings – several in the same neogothic style. I love to go up and enjoy the view from behind the Centre Block, next to the conical Parliamentary Library. The buildings themselves are fairly impressive, but it is the combination of the buildings and the landscape that makes it all so beautiful.

Washington DC is impressive first, and beautiful second. That’s one of the big differences. The central part of the city is a maze of massive stone structures, all somewhat similar in their classical design and their enormous size. Not even in Athens could you find more stone pillars and Parthenon facades. The entire sector is pristine and every building immaculate. It is all beautiful, especially towards the river and the Lincoln Memorial; however, it is the scale and the precision of the design that makes it so. Those are the main differences between Ottawa and Washington: that classic style, that enormous scale. Both are immaculate.

One more difference – Washington has Famous Dave’s BBQ. We ate there twice in three nights. Despite the Country-Fried-Steak incident Tuesday morning, I still managed to pack away an enormous rack of ribs in the evening. It was only my second time eating ribs like that, but I was game to try them again. That was my philosophy this trip – try new stuff. I had lobster for my first time, ribs for my second time, and Country-Fried-Steak for my last time.

Eating the lobster was tasty, but a little frightening. I’m not really the type of person who enjoys dissecting things, and that’s pretty much what was required. The lobster arrives on your plate in much the same state as it arrived in the pot. To me, it looked like it might get up and walk off the plate. I have to admit, I hesitated to touch it at first. That’s the problem with trying new things. Some new things are icky.

I put on my special lobster bib, grabbed the nutcracker pliers and went to work. I had some good coaching from the seasoned vets at my table, who instructed me to tear off the claws, then move on to the tail. The claws aren’t that bad. It’s when you turn it over to go after the tail -- there are legs everywhere. I swear, it is like dealing with a really big bug… a big bug that tastes like a big shrimp. I stopped after the tail. Apparently, the middle section is filled with “green stuff.” I’m not down with green stuff.

As I said, we went back to Famous Dave’s BBQ for night #3. In the spirit of the trip, two of us went for the All-American BBQ Feast (for 4-5 people). It had a rack of ribs, a whole chicken, two links of sausage, fries, beans, coleslaw, 2 corn cobs and 4 cornmeal muffins. The thing was served on the inverted lid of a garbage can. We managed to finish it, much to the surprise and delight of our associates.

While here, I bought a headset and managed to call R every night using Skype. The headset was $15, but we’ve already saved more than $3 on long distance charges. I was able to provide R with daily updates regarding my gluttony. She was impressed by both my adventurous spirit and my great thrift.

Final Analysis:
Ottawa is pretty. Washington is pretty impressive. Country Fried Steak is pretty nasty. Lobster is pretty spooky. Famous Dave’s is pretty wicked. Skype is pretty sweet, and I ate way too much.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

People You Miss

I'm away from home and I miss my wife.

I generally haven't had to travel much since we've been married, but it hasn't been overly traumatic the few times that she or I have gone away. It hurts a little more now that she's pregnant. It's like my friend S said the other day, there's something extra special about your wife when she's pregnant. I agree. There's something wonderful.

Our relationship changed the day we found out about the pregnancy. First, there's this incredible sense of relief -- the uncertainty is over. It's also the dizzying thrill of the unknown future. Something big is coming, and you know it's going to be tough, but you can't help but be completely wrapped up in the excitement. The mixture of relief and excited anticipation washes over both of you and binds you together even closer. The waiting can push you apart a little bit, so it's wonderful to have the pendulum swing back again.

It's kind of funny that I would be so excited about it all. Generally, I don't get that excited about lookin after little kids. I think it's because they don't have the ability to engage in harmless banter. That is my favourite pastime. They can be silly, and I like that, but it requires a lot of energy. With banter, you can just sit about.

My oldest brother was just out to visit us, and he told us how he missed his kids even before he left to get on the plane. He recounted weepy moments at airports when he first had to travel on business. He and his kids would cry. I think that is interesting, because I think my brother was equally ambivalent about little kids when he was younger. He's not the type that would have been totally into hanging out with little kids, but now he loves them.

I don't think I was the type either. I've hardly spent any time with kids. But now that there's going to be a little tyke in my house, I just can't wait.

I miss my wife because I'm gone. And I miss my baby before it's even born.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Country Fried Mistake

Well, I'm writing this from the backseat of a rental car, stuck in rush-hour traffic coming out of Washington, DC. I feel pretty ill because I ate breakfast at Denny's this morning. Actually, I ate leftover pizza for breakfast this morning -- at about 4:30am. I had already been up for nearly 5 hours by the time I ate "Country Fried Steak with Biscuits & Gravy" at the Denny's somewhere between Dulles Airport and Washington, DC. No one should ever eat that. The gravy was particularly unappetizing. I ordered it because it's not on the menu in Canada, and it seemed like the thing to do while in Virginia. I'm feeling it now, I'll tell you. I think I'm going to have to take a break, because I"m worried that I'm going to lose it all over the apolstery. I'll pick this up later...

Cannons, Cannons, Cannons

I hope I did not give anyone the wrong impression about Quebec City by specifically recommending that you avoid attacking it by sea. In reality, you should not try to attack that place by land OR by sea. Either way, it can only end in tears. Sure, they have nearly 100 cannons pointing out towards the St. Lawrence, but they also have ample defenses against a frontal assault by ground forces. Trust me on that. I went on the tour and I saw it all. Cannons, walls, towers... you name it. In fact, when the British finished it, it was considered impregnable (as opposed to pregnable) -- that's how good it was. No one ever tried to assault it after that, so I guess they never found out for sure.

If you haven't been to Quebec City, you really should go. It was settled in 1608, and it held great strategic and economic importance for400 years: first for France, then England, then Canada. The old city is still surrounded by an immense defensive wall that is 30 feet high and accessible only through a certain number of elegant gates -- each flanked by numerous firing positions. As an invader, you could hardly expect to breach the gate; however, tourists are quite welcome to pass through. Don't let your deficiencies in French deter you. Although I made efforts to speak French when possible, we hardly encountered a single person who couldn't help us out in English. In most cases, their English was far superior to my French capability (which I found surprising, because I invested some time earlier in the week watching a movie with the French subtitles turned on.)

Within the beautifully-preserved stone walls is a historic old city with buildings that look as good (or better) than they did when they were built 200-400 years ago. Unlike places in France that had to be rebuilt after the destruction of the two world wars, Quebec City has not seen a major battle since early 1800s, so nearly every building dates back to that period or before. It's like a city-sized outdoor museum, perched on the cliffs above the river, complete with crepes and cliche souvenir t-shirts.

Speaking of crepes, our hotel (Chateau Bellevue) didn't have a breakfast included, so we went out this little place that specialized in eggs. Instead of choosing the eggs, I felt like having a crepe with some strawberries and cream. The closest they could come to that was a dessert crepe with strawberries and ice-cream. I went for it, and I didn't regret it one bit.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Bye - Bye 'Bryo

Babycenter.com says, "Your baby is no longer an embryo!" The first nine weeks have brought the baby to the point where rapid growth begins -- and official status as a fetus. You might assume that the baby has grown to considerable size, given its recent promotion. You might be wrong... but I'm not sure. Babycenter says that the baby is "barely the size of a kumquat." Hmmmm. I've heard that word before, but I can't say that it means a lot to me. I'd better check in with wikipedia:

Apparently, the kumquat fruit resembles a miniature oval orange, about 4 cm long and 3 cm wide. It's from China, but it's been imported to several parts of the world.

Our new book, YPWBW*, says the baby is about 1.4 inches (36mm) long from "crown-to-rump". It is approximately 5g and is the size of a small plum. I know what a plum is.

Obviously, there's no expert consensus on the issue of fruit; however, we can be certain that the baby has outgrown comparisons to different types of nuts. Yes, gone are the days of the nut & embryo. We are now in the realm of fetal development & fruit measurement. These are exciting times.

*Your Pregnancy Week By Week

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Pregnant Ladies Love Travel

We got back from our trip yesterday. My brother J and his wife J had flown out to New York City for a few days last week. They hung out with my brother T and my cousin Kage and saw a few Broadway shows. They drove up through Vermont to Montreal, where we met them on Thursday night. Then we drove out to Quebec City together. It was a lot of fun, but it was pretty tough on R. All that sitting in the car makes her extra stiff and extra sore. She still has some really stiff muscles in her back and her stomach hasn't totally been agreeing with her. She was a real trooper through the whole thing. She still went out and did everything and saw all the sights. She got a particularly good look at this cannon.

We stayed in cute hotel nestled between the Chateau Frontenac and the Citadelle (the immense stronghold built by the British in the early 1800s to keep the savage American forces out). The Citadelle is the highest point in the city, with enormous cannons set to cover any approach along the St. Lawrence River in either direction. The tour guide told us that this cannon can shoot a 250-pound cannonball 4km. That's pretty impressive. In this picture, you can see the top of the Chateau Frontenac in the background.

Here's the view of the city and the waterfront from just behind that cannon. You can see how large the Chateau Frontenac really is. I looked at getting a hotel room there, but they are crazy expensive. The week we were there is still considered the high season in Quebec, because that's when the fall colours of the foliage are at their peak. There had been some strong wind storms in the last few weeks, so some of the leaves had been blown off. That was a shame.

This next picture is pretty much the reverse of the previous one. I'm standing right in front of the Chateau Frontenac, looking back towards the Citadelle. As you can see, there are tons of cannons in Quebec City (literally). We found one park (Montmorency Park) where there must have been 30 cannons all in a row, all pointing out to the river.

Here's my advice to you: Don't attack Quebec City... especially by sea.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Quebec City

The posts have slowed down because we`re in Quebec City with D`s brother J and his wife J. The weather has been excellent and the leaves are fiery red and orange. R has been travelling pretty well, but she woke up sore again today. We figure it`s a issue of muscle tightness, not morning sickness. Either way, it`s not pleasant.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

What Can a Doula Do For You?

This one is for R's sister J, who is due in November. Page 296 of WTEWYE* asks, "What exactly can a doula do for you?"

Ah, an excellent question. First, let's find out what a doula is.

A doula is a woman trained as a labour companion who is hired to support the mother-to-be during pregnancy. According to the book, "her primary role is to offer continuous emotional and physical support during labor, as well as help with relaxation techniques and breathing exercises, advice on labor positions, massage, hand holding, pillow plumping, and bed adjusting." At first, I am tempted to wonder if I would be so terrible at pillow plumping and hand holding that I could not be relied upon to shoulder some of these responsiblities.

The book has foreseen my insecurities (on page 297): "Though an expectant father may fear that hiring a doula will relegate him to third wheel status, this isn't the case." That is a relief. I do not want third wheel status.

Now we know what a doula does -- but there's still more! The doulas claim to provide very significant benefits. According to Doulas of North America (DONA), women supported by a doula during labor have been shown to have:

  • 50% reduction in cesarean rate

  • 25% shorter labor

  • 60% reduction in epidural requests

  • 30% reduction in analgesic use

  • 40% reduction in forceps delivery

I'm not surprised at these numbers, since I'll bet doulas tend toward natural birth techniques. They probably sway a lot of parents away from epidurals and analgesics. I bet they also strike fear into the hearts of doctors, too. Having a doula around, questioning everything, probably makes the doctor think twice about any decision to employ a scalpel or forceps. All that, and you get the benefits of a shorter period in labour.

For more information or to locate a doula in your area, contact Doulas of North America: (206) 324-5440; www.dona.org.

Or, as the book says, go for the low-cost (ie: free) doula: a female friend / relative who has gone through pregnancy and delivery herself. The level of service may be lower, but the price is fantastic.

There it is J, get yourself a doula. If it's your mom, make her wear a nametag that says "Doula" on it.

*What To Expect When You Are Expecting.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Iron Gong Show

If any of you were alarmed by the reports of iron deficiency in my recent post, don't worry. It was a false alarm.

Well, it wasn't entirely false, but the sense of alarm isn't there anymore.

If you remember the chronology of the past week, you will recall that R went in for some blood work last week, received a call from the doctor's office on Sunday that she should begin regular (and substantial) doses of an iron supplement, and then came back for a follow-up appointment today.

The main source of consternation for us was the lack of information on Sunday. The person who called from the doctor's office gave scant details about R's required supplement, saying only that she needed 300mg, twice daily, of something called POLIFER. R asked him to spell it, and P-O-L-I-F-E-R is what she got. She asked what POLIFER was, but the caller could provide no additional information except that it was an iron supplement.

After considerable searching on the internet, and thanks to Google's heuristic search capabilities, we realized that the product was actually called PALAFeR. We also learned that 300mg of PALAFeR has 100mg of elemental iron in it, which is a pretty hefty dose. Normally, a pregnant woman needs about 28mg of iron in a day, and R was already taking that much. The impression we got from all this was that R had anemia, and needed a lot of iron. She consulted with a pharmacist, who said that it should be okay to take that much iron. Fine.

During today's appointment, the doctor reconfirmed the need to take 300mg of PALAFeR -- now referred to in our home as Falafel (see picture), because of the miscommunications. Then she looked at another test result, and did an about-face. She said that R has high enough levels of Ferritin that she should absorb and store iron quite well, so she should just be sure to eat lots of iron-rich foods... like Falafel.

If anybody needs some iron supplements, let us know. We've got extra.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Girls Night Out

I recently stumbled upon a posting by a mother of 5 years who has NEVER spent a night away from her kids. It was clear that she resented (if only mildly) that her husband had the occasional time alone, either relaxing in front of a football game or when she would go visit family with the kids.

I thought this was instructive. There are lessons here for everyone. Pick your favourite.

The blogger then solicited comments from her readers on how to get "a day off." One of the respondents gave several suggestions, including "I try to organize women-only game nights at my home every few months." Ah yes, the infamous "girls night". Our narrow demographic loves these nights. For most of our 6 years of marriage, we have been part of what might be called a "lost demographic" -- the Married No Kids (MNK?) demographic. Let me explain what I mean.

When you were single, you probably noticed how your friends -- whoosh! -- dropped off the face of the earth when they got married (or engaged, for that matter). Then you yourself got married, and you got to hang out with your now-married friends again ("hanging out" being defined as dinner parties). But as soon as your friends had babies -- whoosh! -- they were gone again, only to resurface at "girls only" and "guys only" nights.

As I see it, parents like these because:
1. Get some "me" time away from the kids
2. Free babysitting -- thanks to the spouse
3. Chance to spend time with people who have similar interests (ie: same gender)

We don't have any kids, so #1 and #2 aren't such an issue. Therefore, one person just gets to cool his/her heels at home while the other goes out. I am better at cooling my heels than R, because I am joined to my computer at the hip. If R had her druthers, she'd just go see her sister or her mom, but she can't, because I dragged her to the opposite end of the country when I got this job. The long and short: the MNK Demographic doesn't benefit from #1 (or #2).

Through first hand experience, R has noticed that "Girls only" is frequently short for "Girls only talk about pregancy, babies and all associated biological conditions." For the first hour this is merely awkward, because you can only relate inasfar as their childrearing experiences coincide with your brief stint caring for a hamster when you were eight. Then they notice you haven't said anything and ask when you are planning on having kids. That's when you Rub the Buddha. This can backfire, however, and you can spend the entire evening discussing your biological functions instead of theirs.

I have concluded that "Guys only" is generally short for "Stuff that interests Guys only, period." Guys want to go watch action movies and play games. These are things that I enjoy, but it's hard to justify leaving my wife at home for the evening if there was something we could have done together. We, like most couples, have enough shared interests that we can find a way to spend the evening together that is mutually enjoyable, so we usually end up opting out of the "only" nights. There goes benefit #3.

I imagine our little social inconveniences are insignificant when placed before the mammoth task of rearing small children. A harried mother of 3 toddlers would probably tell me, "I dare you to swap places with me, pal. You'd be calling for a 'guys night' before week's end, guaranteed." Probably, but these are my observations, and they have been given free of charge.

How will all of this change for us in May 2007? That's a really good question. Most likely, there will be a loud "whoosh", followed by five years of silence.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Olives, Iron and IPS

Babycenter.com kind of let us down this week, because they had no food comparisons. Luckily, R received a new book in the mail from her sister J, called Your Pregnancy Week By Week with greater detail. According to page 101, "The crown-to-rump length of the embryo is .9 inches to 1.2 inches (22mm to 30mm). This is close to the size of a medium green olive. " Also, there is an "actual size" drawing of a week-9 fetus, along with larger, more detailed drawing. It may be tiny, but it has really started to look like a cute little baby. There are ears, eyes, little hands -- it's absolutely beautiful.

R went in to see the our family doctor last week, since the clinic has done its job and is handing us off. We were both initially surprised that the doctor only wanted to do some blood tests and ask a few questions. I thought, "What is the doctor going to tell her, that she's pregnant?" It seemed like she would go through the horror of giving blood samples for nothing. Giving blood is not something I take lightly.

The other day we were watching a news item about influenza innoculations. Of course, The sadist reporters had to show several people getting needles jabbed in their arms. Ghastly. Then they showed a happy little baby lying on an examining table. While the news anchor droned on about vaccination shortages, a nurse jabbed a needle into this little child. I reacted much faster than the baby, curling up in a ball and covering my head. After a few seconds, the baby realized what had been done and began to wail. Rightly so. Think about the size of that needle relative to that little infant. For an adult it would be like getting impaled on a lance... almost.

This reminded me of a news story we saw specifically about infant immunizations. The piece started out innocently enough, but quickly went sour. They must have shown 15 or 20 infants and toddlers getting jabbed with needles in rapid succession, each one erupting in a wail of pain. As I squirmed in my chair I said to R, "This is like a bad horror movie!" It really was horrifying -- needles always are.

R went and did the blood test. She called me after and said that they took FIVE ENORMOUS vials of blood. (Oh... I'm getting woozy just thinking about it.) She got a call yesterday from the doctor's secretary to say that she needed to start taking an iron supplement. Apparently, she hasn't got enough iron. We looked it up in all our sources, and an iron deficiency can account for shortness of breath, fatigue and feelings of general ill-health. Unfortunately, the side effects of taking these tablets are equally unappealing (nausea! vomiting! upset stomach!). R has started taking the supplements, so we'll see how she feels when she visits the doctor on Wednesday.

By Wednesday, we also have to decide whether we'd like to schedule an "Integrated Prenatal Screening (IPS), which helps determine the probability of having a baby with 1) Down Syndrome; 2) Trisomy 18; or 3) an Open Neural Tube Defect. Once you have the blood test and ultrasound, you find out if you have a higher or lower probability. If high, you can go on to an amniocentesis (taking some amniotic fluid) to more accurately detect/predict these conditions. This doesn't sound too bad until you read that 1 in 200 amniocenteses results in a miscarriage! We've decided not to do the screening for the following reasons:
  • we don't like needles

  • we don't like obstetrical ultrasounds

  • we don't want to risk a miscarriage

  • we don't want an abortion, regardless what the test says

Since the probabilities of these conditions are low, and we don't see much to benefit from it, we're not going to do it. I was tempted to do the first part (blood work and ultrasound), just so I could get another look at the baby. But that would also mean lots of needles, and nobody around here is into horror movies.