The factory is silent. Its assembly line stands motionless. Somewhere off in the darkness, a buzzer sounds. One by one, lights begin to flicker and illuminate on long-unmanned diagnostic panels, giving a sense of enormity and complexity and scale to the machinery. The low hum of power supplies warming up comes next, followed by the higher and louder whine of turbines and electric motors. A whistle sounds, and one by one, employees begin to file in and take their places at the controls. Purposed for a single task, whose time has now come, the factory slowly comes to life...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lazy baby!

Last week I had to go for what they call a fetal non-stress test, or NST.

Baby Girl had been really active over the weekend. We were painting the nursery and running errands, and she was kicking away like normal. Monday we went to see the doctor (another doctor this time; I think we may have seen all of the midwives by now) and everything was measuring on track, and her heartbeat was in the 130s. But the appointment was first thing in the morning, and the whole rest of the day, I hardly felt her move at all. By that night I was getting concerned. We listened to her heartbeat on the Doppler, but it was harder to find than usual. I thought maybe she was turned around backwards and I just couldn't feel her like I had been, but I was still concerned. I told Craig that if she wasn't back to normal by Tuesday, I would call the doctors' office.

Tuesday was a busy work day in the morning, but I tried to get her moving like usual with a nice, cold, sweet, chocolatey Carnation Instant Breakfast. She wasn't having it. Barely a kick or two. So I called the doctor's office and one of the nurses called me back. She asked a bunch of questions about what I had tried, and offered that as the baby gets bigger I may not feel her move as much because she has less room to do so. But she said what they could do is have me come down and hook me up to the monitors and see how it goes, so that's what I did.

It was easy enough to do. They sat me in a big recliner (like the one in the lab they sit you in if you're going to pass out!) and hooked up a fetal heart rate monitor and a contraction monitor. She had a hard time placing the heart rate monitor because someone didn't like the belt it was attached to, and squirmed away more than once. Then the nurse gave me a button to push every time I felt the baby move. And we waited, and watched the machine slowly churn out a roll of paper with squiggly lines on it.

At one point Baby Girl was being kind of sluggish so the nurse said we could try the buzzer. She showed me what the buzzer felt like on my leg before she put it on my stomach, and sure enough it produced a small BZZZT and a vibration. When she activated it on my stomach, Baby Girl JUMPED. I think we may have startled her! Poor little muffin, just trying to get a nap in there, with us bugging her, hee hee.

After the test was over the nurse told me everything looked fine, but they were going to have me see the doctor anyway. Coincidentally, the doctor I ended up seeing is the same one we're going to go see next week. He was really nice, and told me again that everything seemed fine, and he measured me. He said that he is all for someone coming down and doing an NST if there is a concern because it's so easy and non-invasive to do, and it also lets everyone be reassured. So he was glad I called and decided to come down if I was worried, and told me to feel free to do so at any time.

So yes, Baby Girl was just fine, she was just having a couple of lazy days. She's been pretty active since. This week (31 weeks!) I've noticed that I feel her pretty much all the time in some way. It's a lot of rolling or small movements, but I have a feeling that with much less space to move around in, she's pushing against me more and doing less floating.

It makes me happy and excited every time she moves. Even last night when she had her foot square up in my ribs. It's totally worth it to know she's okay in there, and that she'll be on the outside with us soon!

(Also, for the record, I forgot to mention that the results of my glucose tolerance test were just fine, and I do NOT have gestational diabetes! Yay!)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Nursery Update #2

Okay, so first let me start off by apologizing yet again for the delay between blogs. With the timer ticking down and less than nine weeks remaining until the baby is born, we're really starting to feel the crunch. That said, we've done quite a bit of work on the nursery over the past couple of weeks and I thought you might like to see how it's going.

Two Saturdays ago, we painted the ceiling and taped it up, along with the windows, in preparation for painting the walls:

The following day, Kathy and I painted around the edges and outlets (I'm providing these photos for reference, because it's harder to see the color in the later pictures):

Finally, we painted the rest of the room:

Very astute viewers, upon clicking the last image, will notice the very faint outlines of a few circles drawn on the wall. There's a very good reason for this. Kathy created detailed top-down plans and elevations of each wall in Visio, which we used to plan the layout of the room (with scale drawings of all the furniture). She also used the elevation of one particular wall to plan a pretty intricate pattern of interlocking circles. This allowed her to plan the radius of each circle as well as each section's respective color (you will see how this plays out in the next nursery update). Here are two of the plans (one showing size, the other color):

In the background, you can also see one of the individual pieces of string she used to draw the circles. Each one had the radius marked in red tape to avoid confusion.

Finally, once all of the circles were drawn, Kathy laid down the first coat of the lightest color. I didn't go near the project at this point (except to spot the pregnant lady on the stepladder) because my painting hand is not nearly as steady.

So that's where we're at right now... I know Kathy's working on another blog entry as we speak and I know there will be more coming soon from my end. Sorry again for the delay, but we'll try to keep the news flowing as we get it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Back to School

Note: As so often happens in our shared life, the pendulum has swung back the other way. Kathy is now absolutely buried at work, so I will endeavour to take over the blogging duties in her stead. This means more big words (but also hopefully more jokes [not that quantity in this case is synonymous with quality]). Annnnyway...

Last night, we found ourselves attending our very first Childbirth Preparation class at the hospital (or rather, a small Maternity Education building right next to the hospital). For me, the jury was still out as to whether this would be a worthwhile experience. I was 1 for 2 with these courses after the (imo) abysmal CPR/Safety class and the amazing (again, imo) Boot Camp for New Dads.

We shuffled into the room, blankets and pillows in tow, along with about 6 other couples who were all interesting and different in their own ways. The nurse who would be officiating the class handed out name tags and collected fees. Then she addressed the class, giving us her name, home telephone and cellular numbers ("Call me any time if you have a question") and telling us, "I've been in nursing longer than any of you have been alive." A bold statement, but it turned out to be true.

She used no notes or textbook (she didn't need them). She'd been helping deliver babies since the 60's, she told us, and explained all that had changed over the years. She offered many colorful anecdotes, plenty of advice (always backed up with a sound medical rationale) and more than a little humor. This lady was amazing. I can tell you with no exaggeration that as of right now, she is the only nurse I want at the hospital when Kathy delivers.

She talked about the roles of the husband during labor (busting most of us guys' chops as she went along), what the actual process of labor would be like (long and not a lot of fun), and gave us an overview of what to expect from the class in the coming weeks. And like that, two and a half hours had passed before we knew it.

With just over two months of pregnancy left to go, it feels like we're finally entering the home stretch. Probably because we are.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Boot(ie) Camp

Regular followers of this blog will recall that my last experience with a childbirth prep class (Infant CPR and Safety) fell somewhat short of my expectations, to put it nicely. So I wasn't exactly looking forward to my return trip to the hospital (solo this time) for a "Boot Camp for New Dads" class. The previous class had felt like a disaster to me, despite being taught by a licensed (and female) medical professional. However, in the interest of learning everything I possibly could about this baby and how to take care of it, I decided to enter this one with an open mind.

It was hard not to picture a class called "Boot Camp" to be full of false bravado, b.s. stereotype-riddled misinformation and macho posturing. When I saw the "no girls allowed"-style literature I was handed upon entering the classroom, my fears seemed to be becoming a reality. However, I was to be pleasantly surprised.

The class essentially consisted of an instructor and three "veteran dads" (men with their own first children, ranging in age from 12 weeks to 6 months, in tow; they'd all been through the program themselves while their wives were pregnant) addressing any and all concerns we had about becoming fathers (and being good ones, especially in the shadow of our own [for better and/or worse] dads). Turns out the "no girls allowed" thing, more than being some sort of facade, was really an opportunity for all of us to say what was on our minds without fear of being judged by anyone who might already have their misgivings about letting us anywhere near her baby.

The instructor was a youngish guy who I instantly liked for several reasons:
1. He bore more than a passing resemblance to my brother-in-law Aaron.
2. Right out of the gate, he identified himself as a 9 year cancer survivor who had been unsure if he was ever able to realize his dreams of fatherhood (and whose wife was currently pregnant with their third child).
3. He didn't seem like a d-bag (I'm trying to cut down on swearing this month in the hopes that I can quit completely by May).

Much of the class consisted of the instructor asking the veteran dads about their experiences with their wife's pregnancy, labor, delivery, post-partum and their own experiences with fatherhood. We were fortunate because all three typical birth types were represented by the three guys: natural birth, induced labor, and c-section. All described their experiences in frank terms with no detectable posturing (and oftentimes a lot of actual genuine emotion). Watching them with their kids, it was clear that they loved them very much and were great dads (A's all around for effort, at the very least). It was very encouraging stuff.

Later, we broke into smaller group with the veterans, each of whom gave a few of us a guided tour of their diaper bags, along with a few recommendations of which products were worth the money and which we could do without. My veteran dad looked like a young Tim Robbins. Tim Robbins (I'm terrible with names and have already forgotten his real one) talked at length about his experiences, stopping occasionally to let us ask questions (I had a few about how much time he took off from work and how he and his wife shared the duties of getting up at night). He was incredibly helpful and positive.

Finally, we watched a video about shaken baby syndrome which, coupled with a very graphic demonstration of shaking via an egg inside a plastic jar was enough to make me live in constant fear of accidentally killing or maiming my baby. (I ran home after the class and immediately made a contingency plan with Kathy that involved my being able to hand our daughter off to her, no questions asked, if I ever felt my rage starting to get the best of me).

At the end of it all (the class ran three hours with a five minute break and we used up every minute and then some), I stayed after class to chat with the instructor for a few minutes about cancer and also met one of the other "rookie" dads, whose wife had gone through five(!) miscarriages and some intensive corrective surgery, complications and months of anxious waiting. He was now just weeks away from finally becoming a dad. I told him that I couldn't even imagine what he'd gone through. One miscarriage rocked the foundations of our world in a very profound way... I couldn't in a million years imagine going through that five times.

Finally, I said my goodbyes and went home, very impressed with the class I'd just attended. Put together by a bunch of guys with no medical training (and perhaps even more shocking to some, no female intervention), this thing had all the makings of an epic disaster, but instead ended up being the best ten dollars I've spent in quite a while. I wish I could say that I made a bunch of new friends who'll be with me through this new experience called fatherhood, but you know what?

I guess I kind of did.