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We'll Leave the Light On

January 25, 2008: Day 184

It's been six months since you were conceived, and you're two weeks into the third trimester. You're due in 82 days. If you were born today, you could probably breathe on your own and at least respond to changes in body temperature, even if you would still have to be in an incubator since your little body couldn't generate enough heat. But the important thing is, if you are born today or any day after, the odds are overwhelmingly in your favor. The nurses and doctors will fight for you and do whatever it takes.

I realize that in my writing, I often comment on your survival odds, and upon reflection, I admit it might seem obsessive and even morbid to dwell on such things, but you know what? Damn right I dwell on these things! I'm practical, and I'm a realist. It doesn't change my love for you... quite the opposite, in fact, because it's how I've expressed my concern for your well-being. I never allowed this line of thinking to escalate into a frenzy of worry, but there was always enough concern to keep us (your mother and me) aware of and focused on your health. We never lost focus, we never considered your successful birth to be a foregone conclusion, which means we were never complacent or flippant about your pregnancy, we never took this for granted. We were always in your corner, pulling for you and cheering you on.

I believe that every once in a while, when we're in the privacy of our home and not around other people, it's worthwhile to go a day or two without a shower, because that next, much needed shower is a most rejuvenating experience. You can't appreciate how good it feels to be clean until you've known the misery of being grimy and dirty. In the same way, being aware of all that can go wrong in a pregnancy helps us appreciate how fortunate we are when things go right. Our family has been extremely fortunate thus far, enough so that whatever challenges may come our way, we can take them head-on with confidence. Not arrogance or complacency, but confidence. Of course, some couples try so hard to have a child, some spend a small fortune trying to adopt, that'll we'll never truly know how lucky we are.

We enrolled in a Bradley Method childbirthing class. This was your mother's planning, and it's been a valuable experience. We've learned exercises to strengthen your mother's body and prepare her and you for birth, simple ways to help birth go better for everyone involved, things I think the medical community should teach all expecting mothers in a country where one-third of babies are delivered by Caesarean-section and birthing interventions abound.

The Bradley Method has also taught us a new way to approach diet. For example, avoiding excessive weight gain is important, but it should never trump proper nutrition. The Bradley Method teaches what a balanced pregnancy diet is, and how a proper diet will maintain proper weight gain. Traditional obstetric practice addresses the issue in backwards fashion: stressing proper weight gain to expecting mothers, and placing less emphasis on diet. So, by telling a pregnant woman she's gaining too much weight, but not teaching her how to make informed diet choices, many medical professionals unwittingly motivate women to eat less and get inadequate nutrition.

I always thought it was normal and healthy for the breaking of the waters to signal the start of labor (in fact, many ob/gyns will puncture the amniotic sac to help labor progress). Breaking the waters early is not necessarily a good thing. The forewaters around the baby's head provide cushioning and protection during labor, and reduce the mother's discomfort as the baby's skull pushes against the pelvis and pubic bone. Consuming plenty of protein helps strengthen the amniotic sac, ideally keeping it intact for cushioning until moments before birth. So now, we hope for a birth where the water gushes out as the head begins to crown, and we will not allow a physician or midwife to break your amniotic sac simply to progress labor for convenience's sake.

Episiotomies are to be avoided. Even a few minor tears are preferable to the single incision of an episiotomy, because on the whole, vaginal tears heal with fewer complications than episiotomies. Call me crazy, but I believe that our good friend Evolution has responded to crowning by developing vaginas that can heal from tears, but hasn't had an opportunity to respond to the relatively new practice of episiotomy. But in the meantime, squatting and consuming plenty of unsaturated fat and protein helps make the perineum all stretchy-like.

I could go on, but you get the point: these childbirthing classes have given us a new perspective. And to think I was initially resistant to the $250 cost and 12-week commitment! I'm almost ashamed.

What else? We have your crib and dresser with hutch. That crib is quite nice, I must say. Solid, heavy construction, the kind that won't wobble when you grab on and push and pull. Unless we use it for a second child, you'll come to know it as your childhood bed, for we also bought the rails to convert it into a full-size bed. This, too, was your mother's doing. She takes the lead on most everything, while I sit around and pontificate about them in my weblog.

Well, I did take the lead on the electronics: a camcorder to record your milestones, and a camera to capture the moments that go by so quickly and only come once, the moments we want to treasure and not forget, the very moments you'll hope we never show a significant other before a date. Please understand we do it with the best intentions at heart, as a test. For whoever adores our daughter at her most precious or entertaining moments, only these people are worthy of her heart. Trust us on this one.

You're kicking quite a bit, your poor mother's bladder... and sometimes, when you flip, it's your poor mother's ribs we talk about. Not only have I felt you kick, I've seen lumps and bumps move around. A couple weeks ago, we first heard your heartbeat with our own ears through a stethoscope, not amplified through a doppler microphone. The other day, when I coughed next to your mother's belly, you kicked as if startled, so we know you're aware, if not consciously so. I've been shining a laser pointer and moving it over your mother's belly, trying to elicit a response... none yet, but we're certain the glow penetrates blood and tissue, because it's red and bright. Perhaps you think the red glow is nothing to be concerned about or worth moving for, at least not enough for us to feel. Of course, you can't even open your eyes for a few more days.

Until then, we'll leave the light on for you.

:: Bryan Travis :: 01/25/2008 @ 23:49 :: [link] ::