Archive | February, 2012

The Parenting Pendulum

I came across this article today: Law Would Let Parents See Kids’ Text Messages, and, well, frankly, I’m outraged.  So, you mean to tell me that under federal law (read the article), my minor child – for whom I am completely legally responsible, whose cell phone I provided and pay the bill on every month – actually has the right to refuse to allow me access to text messages on his phone?

I’m guessing that the law, as drafted (which I have not actually seen), isn’t actually aimed at kids and their right to privacy, and it’s probably also not specifically aimed at preventing parents from having access to their kids’ business.  I’m guessing it’s a law meant to protect privacy rights of cell phone owners in general; unfortunately, kids – some as young as 6 and 7 years old! – fall under that umbrella.

Here’s what I think: any kid who refuses to show his or her parents his or her text messages has something to hide.  Also, they’ve probably been fed some misguided notion  (by their parents!) that they actually have a right to privacy.  As I see it, everything my kids do is my business; privacy (I’m not talking about bathroom privacy) is a privilege as long as they’re minors – not a right.

No, this does not mean that I go through my kids’ things – specifically my teenager’s – or that I read all his texts and emails (anymore).  I do, however, reserve the right to, and he knows it.  So far, there hasn’t been any push back from him on this issue – it’s just the way it is, and we seem to get along fine.

I realize this is an unpopular opinion in this day and age.  But I’m full of unpopular opinions, so what’s one more?

This feeds right into a bigger issue: the overall climate of parenting these days.  Is it just me, or does it seem like we’ve all gone a little nuts trying to turn out happy, confident, brilliant kids?  It seems like everyone is so worried about doing the least bit of damage to little Billy’s and Susie’s psyches that the reins have been let out too much.  Are we really under the impression that kids are just miniature adults who deserve all the perks adults can have, and that discipline and consequences will break their spirits?

A therapist acquaintance (okay, my therapist) recently informed me that it is now frowned upon by the experts to put a child in an isolated time-out – that is, to make a child who is acting out go be by him- or herself, as in sending him or her to his or her room – because it creates shame and abandonment issues.  Are you fucking kidding me?  It’s bad enough that spanking has been taken off the table by “the experts” – now time-outs, too? Apparently, if a kid is freaking out and acting like a complete hysterical brat, or mouthing off and being rude and disrespectful, what is called for is hugging.  I’m serious, that’s what she said.

I’m no expert, but I’m calling bullshit on this one.

I’m not saying I’m a fan of abusive parenting.  Look, I suffered my share of abuse as a kid.  My dad whipped me and my brothers with a leather belt – on our bare skin – leaving welts up and down our backs and legs – and this was his regular method of discipline.  My mother called me names, told me repeatedly that she didn’t like me, mimicked me crying, oh, and slapped me around plenty and once broke a hairbrush on me.  Not cool.  Not acceptable.  Common back then?  Perhaps more than people realize.  But it seems to me that the pendulum has swung from one extreme to the other, and now it’s all about being permissive and indulgent and doing for our kids instead of teaching them to do for themselves, and putting their (supposed) happiness above everyone else’s.  And what are we really accomplishing?  Are we really raising a generation of capable, empathetic, respectful, well-adjusted people?  A lot of signs point to NO.

There’s got to be a middle ground.  Kids need to have rules and boundaries and meaningful consequences.  They need to be allowed to fail.  They need to understand that they are kids, not little adults, and that not everything is a right when you’re a kid.

And we parents need to accept that nobody gets out of childhood unscathed.  Every parenting method turns out its share of kids with issues – that’s just the way it is.  Let’s just be rational, okay?  And realize that these kids we’re raising are going to be turned loose on society eventually.

 

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Why Neither Kelle Hampton Nor Noah’s Dad Inspire Me

I’ve been thinking lately about the Big Bloggers and how they’ve managed to build such phenomenal fandoms.

Some people really work at promoting themselves.  Take Noah’s Dad, for instance.  It’s no secret that his biggest talent is self-promotion.  He’s tirelessly spammed and pushed and shoved his way to Big Blogger status.  He’s also stepped on a lot of people along the way, leaving a lot of people pissed off and creating a reputation for himself as a sleazy whore of the blogosphere.

Other Big Bloggers seem to have it all fall effortlessly into their laps.  Kelle Hampton is one that comes to mind.  She wrote a birth story and became the It Girl of the blogging community (not just the Down syndrome blogging community) virtually overnight.  Since then, her already privileged life appears to have become even more privileged, with speaking engagements and interviews and even a book deal with a major publisher falling into her lap, and (almost) everyone wanting her magic fairy dust to rub off on them.

It seems like the Big Bloggers all have a gimmick, an angle, that makes them stand out from the crowd.  Rick Smith has his daily one-minute videos, and Kelle Hampton has her photography.  I seriously wonder if either of their writing would stand on its own without the gimmicks.

I’m not inspired by either one of them, frankly.  My distaste for Rick Smith is pretty simple: he’s kind of a snake.  And what makes him worse than your everyday garden variety snake is that he portrays himself as this hardcore Christian, but his methods sure don’t back that up.

My feelings about Kelle Hampton are a little more complicated.  She’s not blatantly smarmy and offensive like Rick Smith.  I just feel like she’s a lot of glitz and not a lot of substance.  It seems that she is gradually becoming more willing to talk about Down syndrome, but I don’t feel that she really imparts any wisdom that the vast majority of we parents of children with Ds don’t come by all on our own eventually (and many of us actually have before she ever did).  Sometimes there are hints that she’s becoming a little more willing to step out of her comfort zone and be, well, real.  I wish she would open up more.  I wish she would talk about who inspires her, instead of standing alone on the pedestal that’s been constructed for her, as if she’s figured it all out without the help and encouragement of those who went before her.  I’m not inspired by pretty, because pretty isn’t earned.  I’m not inspired by privileged lives, because it’s not something I can relate to, it’s not something I think most people can relate to, and it’s a shallow foundation upon which to stand as a role model.  Kelle has raised a whole lot of money for NDSS, there’s no doubt about that (where that money actually goes, what exactly it’s spent on, dollar for dollar, is something of a mystery, but let’s assume it’s all well spent in ways every person touched by Down syndrome would be in favor of), and she’s managed to paint a prettier picture of Down syndrome than probably anyone else has ever managed to do on a large scale.  Those are the biggest contributions she’s made to the Down syndrome community – and they are big things. But how has she actually inspired anyone beyond how to take fabulous photographs and throw fabulous parties and to always look one’s best, at least on camera?

What bothers me about these two Big Bloggers who seem to stand at the top of the heap of all the rest of us bloggers is that someone decided that they speak for all of us, that what they portray is what all the rest of us should be aspiring to – and they’ve gone along with it.  And I think that if someone is going to enjoy that kind of status, they have a responsibility to be real advocates.  To actually inspire people in meaningful ways.

What inspires me?  People who are real.  People who are honest about their struggles. People who face down real adversity and overcome.  People who humbly give credit where credit is due.  People who admit that they don’t have it all figured out.  People who talk about not only the ups, but the downs, too.  People who aren’t afraid to stumble, and acknowledge it.

So, what inspires you?

On Being Pregnant Again After Down Syndrome

It’s a funny thing to find oneself pregnant again after having a child with Down syndrome.  Some people never do go on to have more children after having a child with Ds – either because they hadn’t planned to in any case, or because, perhaps, the possibility of having another child with a lifelong diagnosis is more than they can or want to deal with.  Some people do go on to have another child – because they planned to anyway, or because in some secret place in their heart, they want a do-over.

Finn was our sixth child.  I was 40 years old when he was born, and Michael 41.  It was somewhat of a surprise pregnancy, but not a complete shock; after Lilah was born, I wanted another baby – just one more (it’s hard to explain . . . I felt like there was still another child waiting to join our family – which I admit sounds really kooky coming from someone who doesn’t believe in any of that divine or supernatural hooey.  It was probably the death moans of my biological clock).  Michael, on the other hand, was ready to call it a day and be done having babies – a very practical position to take, no doubt about it.  But, neither of us was very careful, and, well, if you play with fire . . .

And along came Finn.  He was definitely going to be our last.  Six kids, two parents in their 40s – that was it.  And while I was pregnant with him, I was in complete agreement.  I love being pregnant, but I was tired, and I couldn’t argue with the fact that we were about to have all we could probably handle.

Then he was born.  It was a hard birth – difficult to explain because it went off without a hitch, but it kind of wrecked me.  I felt like I had been hit by a truck after he was born; it just took a lot out of me, probably owing to the polyhydramnios I had developed which put my body into a degree of shock with his birth.  Then he had to go to the hospital and have surgery, and we spent a nightmarish two weeks living a dazed existence going back and forth between the NICU and home.  We learned that he had Down syndrome, and that was hard.  Really, really hard.  I grieved, I ranted, I wrung my hands, I shook my fists, and I cried myself out.  And this tiny kernel began to gnaw at me: I wanted another baby.  I wanted a do-over.  Not that I didn’t love Finn – there wasn’t a single moment that I wasn’t consumed by how much I loved him, despite my grief over his diagnosis.  I just couldn’t imagine that being my swan song in my long career of having babies.  I wanted to go out on a high note, not a sad one, left with memories of gloom.  I wanted a happy birth, and a happy aftermath.  I wanted the babymoon I never got to have after Finn was born.

It sounds silly now.  Or selfish, anyway.  And in time, I got over it, that urge to have another baby.  Down syndrome or not, it was hard to say goodbye to that chapter of my life, though, the childbearing chapter.  But in time I began to enjoy and appreciate the next chapter, the one of just raising kids, watching them grow up, and enjoying all the things that we could finally do as a family that were too difficult to undertake when I was constantly pregnant or caring for a newborn or nursing.

And then, surprise, surprise – I found myself pregnant again.  At 44 years old.  I didn’t even think it was possible, what with all the chemo and radiation Michael underwent when he had cancer, plus at my age I figured my chances of conceiving must have been pretty diminished.  Not so, evidently.

When I discovered I was pregnant last October, it wasn’t happy news.  I was upset.  And scared.  I had made peace with the end of childbearing!  I had moved on.  I had gotten rid of everything – all my maternity clothes, all the baby clothes, all the gear that Finn had outgrown, gone.  Where would we put this kid?  Space-wise, we’re maxed out as it is, in the house and the truck.

And what if there’s something wrong with this baby?

I spent the entire first trimester being really scared.  To the point of having anxiety attacks and crying jags, convinced that I was going to lose the baby – that the odds were that something was so terribly wrong with the baby that it would die.  And I kept thinking, “If it’s going to happen, let it be now, when it won’t hurt so much, before I get too attached.”  When the news hit that Michelle Duggar miscarried at 20 weeks, I went into a tailspin.  She’s only a year older than me; clearly pregnancy at this age could only end in heartbreak.

It’s funny.  When I was torturing myself with fantasies of a do-over after Finn was born, I wondered whether, if by some chance I did get pregnant again, I would do prenatal testing.  Just for peace of mind, you know?  But over time, as Finn grew and his having Down syndrome gradually stopped dominating so many of my thoughts and feelings, my feelings about prenatal testing began to evolve.  I didn’t do any prenatal testing with Finn, mostly because I was having a home birth and choosing prenatal screenings would have landed me in an OB’s office which I wanted no part of, and partly because even at 40 years old, it just didn’t really occur to me that I might have a baby with a genetic condition.  Naive.  Smug.  Call it what you want.  Probably some of both.  I did do some prenatal screenings with my other pregnancies, but I did them somewhat mindlessly, just going through the motions because I was advised to, but never really thinking to worry about possible outcomes.

So what would I do now that I found myself unexpectedly pregnant at 44 after having a child with Down syndrome?  It actually didn’t take much soul-searching for me.  I realized very quickly that I did not want to do any prenatal testing.  I think this surprised a lot of people.

Here’s the thing: the more I look back on how it unfolded with Finn, the more grateful I am for the way we received the news of his diagnosis.  Do I look back fondly on the hard birth or his surgery and hospitalization, or the grief I felt coming to terms with the fact that my baby had Down syndrome – and it was forever?  No.  But I am glad, so very glad, that I didn’t know until after he was born, that I got to enjoy a pregnancy filled with anticipation and not fear and dread, that I got to meet and fall in love with a beautiful tiny little baby before he had a frightening diagnosis attached to him, and that the news of his diagnosis was delivered to us gently.  If it turns out that this baby has a genetic condition, I’d like to have it unfold much the same way it did with Finn.

So, although I was pretty scared throughout the first trimester, I decided very quickly that there would be no prenatal screenings this time around, and I’ve had no regrets about that decision.  I’ve had three ultrasounds, one to date the pregnancy, and one “anatomical” ultrasound which, for me, only served to reveal the baby’s gender and to confirm that it’s safe to go forward with another home birth.  I was adamant during both, however, that I did not want to know about any soft markers.  I don’t want speculation, I don’t want shadowy possibilities that can only be confirmed or ruled out by more invasive testing.  I only want to know if the baby appears to be viable and healthy enough to be safely born at home.  The tech who did my ultrasounds is the same one who did my ultrasound when I was pregnant with Finn, and apparently, according to my midwife, she still feels terrible that she “missed” his Down syndrome. My midwife tried to explain to her that I’m grateful to have not known until after he was born.  When I was in the ER last week with that mystery pain and they did another detailed ultrasound, my biggest fear was not that they would find something wrong with the baby, but that they would find something wrong with the baby and tell me.  But according to all the ultrasounds, this baby appears to be just fine.  I know ultrasounds are not definitive, so I take all this with a grain of salt – and a measure of optimism.

I’m no fool.  I know that at my age, the odds are not overwhelmingly in my favor.  One source, downsyndrome.about.com, puts the risk of a woman my age at 1 in 38 of having a baby with Down syndrome, and 1 in 26 of having a baby with any other trisomy.  But odds and statistics don’t necessarily predict the future.  Would I rather this baby not have Down syndrome – or any other condition?  Of course.  I wouldn’t change Finn if I could, but I know the world is not welcoming to people like Finn, and  if I could choose for my child to not be faced with the prejudices and difficulties that go hand in hand with Down syndrome, of course I would choose that.  But I know that if it turns out that she does have Down syndrome, we can deal with that, and I don’t think I would be undone by it this time.  And if she has something more serious than Down syndrome?  We’ll deal with that, too.  In any case, we will love her – we already love her – and we will give her as full and healthy and loving a life as we can.

I decided not to do any prenatal testing because I just wanted to enjoy this pregnancy – this gift that I never thought I’d experience again.  I wanted to fall in love with this creature moving about inside me.  I wanted to revel in the magic of it all.  And that’s what I’m doing.

A Little Big Thing

“. . . realizing your child is not ‘Down syndrome’ and being able to see your child as an amazing person, full of potential, is part of acceptance . . . .  Acceptance of Ds (and the role it plays in all of our lives) as a whole is entirely different . . . and is a life long process. We have all recognized that our children are very awesome. We are also open to the ups and downs of dealing with how Ds impacts our children and our lives and are aware that we will evolve.”

This is something a friend of mine said recently.  Let me just say, first, that I am so fortunate to be acquainted with some other parents traveling their own paths through Down syndrome who are willing to sit down and open their minds and hearts to me, to reflect and discuss with me, and to enable me to sort out my own feelings along the way.

What she said above put into words some nebulous feeling I’ve had, maybe since Finn was an infant, about acceptance.  Through a process that had a distinct beginning (receiving Finn’s diagnosis) but no distinct end, I arrived at a place, gradually, of acceptance.  The shock wore off, the tears dried up, the anger at the unfairness of it all evaporated, the fear was (mostly) replaced by resolve, and finally all that was left was this little boy who I loved with a fierceness that was bigger than the grief.  I’ve never really looked back.  I’ve sworn up and down that I wouldn’t change a thing about Finn – not even the fact that he has Down syndrome.  And it’s true, it’s really true.  Maybe it’s because I just can’t separate Finn from Down syndrome; maybe I just can’t fathom a different Finn, a Finn without Down syndrome.

Which is not to say that all  – or even very many – of my thoughts are consumed by Down syndrome.  I don’t think about it in concrete terms very much, really.  Finn is just Finn, for the most part.

And yet, to deny that he is different, to deny that our family is impacted, to deny that we face challenges and frustrations because of his having Down syndrome, to deny that sometimes these challenges result in a certain sadness, is an exercise in denial and dishonesty.

In the beginning, I mourned the dream-child I thought I was going to have. I don’t mourn that dream anymore, but there’s a constant awareness, sometimes conscious, sometimes subconscious, that I’ve landed in a place I never planned to be.  And while I feel completely capable of and utterly fulfilled by being Finn’s mommy, sometimes I feel ill-equipped to be a mommy to a child with special needs.

What I’ve figured out, and with the help of other wise parents have been able to articulate, is that acceptance is a life-long process. It’s not just something that happens one day, and phew! it’s behind you.   Loving a child with special needs requires continual adjustments in your perspective and expectations – of your child and of the world around him.  From his lack of communication skills and the resultant frustration on his part and ours, to his utter lack of fear and his penchant for bolting, to the knowledge and sadness that he has no idea that Mommy’s growing belly contains a baby sister he will soon have to contend with, to the stomach ache I get when I contemplate his going to school and the fight we will have to face over his placement and fears about how he will be treated . . . these are only a few of the regular visitors in my head.  I don’t dwell on these things; they are fleeting thoughts and feelings that come and go, and come and go, and come and go.

Life has been a continuum of events and circumstances that have shaped the way I feel, perceive, and behave.  I’d like to think that I’ve allowed even the most trying of events and circumstances to enable me to grow and acquire some measure of wisdom and compassion.  Having a child with Down syndrome, while not the biggest thing that’s happened along the way, and not the lowest of low points, is nonetheless forever – always there, sometimes center stage but more often in the background – always shaping me, asking me to be the best I can be so that Finn, and all of my children, can be the best they can be.

Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

I’ve got nothing very worthwhile currently brewing in the ol’ noggin (the mystery pain in my side is completely gone; many thanks to everyone who expressed concern and offered ideas about what it might have been), so allow me to amuse you with puppy tidbits.

Scout (or Scoutimus, as we sometimes call her . . . or Rowdy Scouty . . .) has now tripled her weight in the seven weeks we’ve had her.  When we brought her home, she was just over 8 pounds; today at the vet’s office she tipped the scales at 24 and a half pounds.  She’s nearly as big as Finn now (he weighs about 26 pounds).

Ahh, they grow up so quickly, those young ‘uns, don’t they?

She’s affectionate and playful and seems to dig us as much as we dig her.  She’s also pretty darn smart – she’s catching onto basic commands pretty quickly – although stubborn, too.

We don’t quite have the housebreaking thing behind us, but progress is being made.  At least some days I think so.  Other days, not so much.  I’m looking forward to the time when it suddenly clicks for her that “Thou shalt not piddle or take a dumpeth in thy house.”

Anyway, she’s great 🙂

Up All Night . . . or, Maternity Misadventures

It all started around ten o’clock last night.  I went to bed with a stomach ache.  I was uncomfortable, but didn’t think much of it – discomfort is sometimes part of the territory when you’re knocked up. I woke up around midnight with terrible pain in my right side.  I tried turning over, getting up and walking around, sitting in the rocking chair I often resort to when I have insomnia – nothing helped.  It was a sharp, constant pain in my right side that was worse when I moved, breathed deeply, or pressed on it, and after wracking my brain trying to figure out what it might be (and coming up with all kinds of worst case scenarios), I Googled my symptoms and came up with possible appendicitis.  Fuckity fuck.  Well, this scared the crap out of me – that’s all anyone needs is the possibility of abdominal surgery while pregnant.  Finally I woke Michael up, and he decided we should call Sue, my midwife.  After talking to her for a few minutes, she said I probably should just go to the ER.

And that’s how I found myself in the ER, and subsequently in Labor & Delivery, at about two a.m.

My anxiety increased noticeably as we got closer to the hospital.  Hospitals just have so many bad associations in my mind – my horrible experience giving birth there to the twins, Finn’s hospitalization almost immediately after birth, Michael’s many hospitalizations over the last three years.  I was also not expecting to be warmly welcomed by the L&D staff; they’re typically not crazy about home birthers.  I knew they would ask me who my OB is and that I would have to tell them that I don’t have an OB, but that yes, at the ripe old age of 44 (can you say “advanced maternal age” or what the medical minded think of as “catastrophe waiting to happen”?) I have a midwife and plan to give birth at home.  Reckless.

Actually they were okay with the midwife/home birth part.  Or, at least they didn’t give me any grief about it.  Which, honestly, surprised me.  Maybe I don’t give them enough credit.  Maybe, based on past experience, I just go into defensive mode about this particular topic.

Anyway.

So they made me undress and put a gown on and climb into bed, where they strapped a contraction monitor around my middle (no contractions).  The nurse asked me a million questions, and then the attending OB – a woman – came in and asked me a million questions (including, “Have you had your prenatal screenings done?  Have you seen a geneticist?”  Because, you know, I’m old, and I might have a defective baby or something.  I didn’t even bother mentioning that we have a child with Down syndrome; I figured that would have just thrown a log on the fire).  At first she seemed nice enough, but she got kind of bitchy when she explained that they were going to do an ultrasound, and that part of that would be a transvaginal ultrasound to check my cervix, and I balked.  “Is that really necessary?” I asked.  “Just allow us to do what needs to be done, okay?”  she said (bitchily).  That’s what I don’t like – and that is one of the polar differences between OB/hospital care and midwifery care: hospitals and OBs take on the “We’re the boss, just do what we say because you’re stupid and we know best” attitude, whereas a home birth midwife is a collaborator with you – you’re both on the same team, working together, and respecting and honoring each other’s roles in the whole process.

This was the scene at our house yesterday morning, many hours before all this shit happened, when my midwife came over for my regular monthly prenatal appointment:

***

So, in L&D they did a blood panel, a urine panel, and a very detailed ultrasound – not just of my uterus and the baby, but of all surrounding organs (in the end, a transvaginal ultrasound wasn’t necessary).  They seemed to suspect either appendicitis or a kidney stone.  In the end, after being there for about three and a half hours, pretty much everything was ruled out.  No kidney stones.  My appendix apparently wasn’t visible on the ultrasound because the baby was covering it, but the blood panel showed no signs of infection or anything.  The baby looked “perfect” in the ultrasound, the placenta looked great, everything looked fine.  At that point I was advised to leave L&D and go downstairs to consult with a surgeon who might run further tests.  I declined.  I just wanted to go home.  So they signed me out AMA (insert eye roll here).

Michael and I got home a few minutes before six a.m., and fortunately none of the kids were up yet.  We had woken Kevin up before we left for the hospital since he would be in charge in our absence, but none of the other kids had any idea that we even left the house.  They still don’t, and that’s fine because if you think my associations with the hospital are bad, the kids’ are even worse.  Daisy, especially, has been extremely worried and anxious ever since we told them Mommy is going to have another baby that I might end up in the hospital, so I’d rather save them as much worry as we can.

When we got home, I crawled into bed and slept for about an hour, but then I had to get up because Michael had to go to work, and all the kids are home from school today for Lincoln’s birthday.  The pain in my side persists.  It’s still terribly painful, but at this point the only thing I can figure is that maybe I pulled a muscle or ligament or something.  Hopefully that will be my last foray into the L&D ward ever, and hopefully this stupid pain will cease and desist sooner than later.

I Have a New Love: Ballet

For the longest time, I’ve wanted to go to a real ballet.  Finally this past December, it happened: a friend and I took the three girls to see The Nutcracker Ballet.

It was more than I had hoped for . . . absolutely magical.  Enchanting.      There’s just something about it . . . the absolute beauty and grace and fluidity of the dancers, and knowing how hard they work to achieve this, but how completely effortless they make it look.  And the sets, and the costumes – breathtaking.  I was hooked from the moment the curtain rose.  And I couldn’t wait to go to another ballet.

So as soon as we found another ballet company performing locally, we bought tickets, and today was the show.  It’s so much fun to get dressed up and take the girls out for a special day!

Today we saw the Moscow Festival Ballet dance Cinderella.

 

It was amazing, and over too quickly.  I really can’t wait to go to another ballet.

Practical Tips For the Expectant Dad

For the sixth time in sixteen years, I’m thumbing through my dog-eared copy of Your Pregnancy Week by Week by Glade B. Curtis, M.D., OB/GYN. The medical stuff kind of goes in one ear and out the other at this point – I get it. What draws me back week after week are the “How Big Is Your Baby?”, “How Big Are You?”, and “How Your Baby is Growing and Developing” sections in each weekly chapter. It just makes it all seem more real, somehow. Wow, my baby is the size of a softball now? Or, wow, I only should have gained 8 to 10 pounds by now? Uh oh . . .

Also somewhat entertaining are the weekly “Dad Tips” – practical advice for the expectant dad aimed at helping him be a good expectant dad. A sampling:

Clean or vacuum the house without being asked. Wait. Clean or vacuum the house? Since cleaning the house involves a whole lot more than just vacuuming, which do you think most expectant dads would pick? Also, without being asked? What, do you expect him to be a mind reader?

Bring home flowers for no special occasion. Um, the fact that this tip is in a pregnancy book means that the special occasion is that she’s pregnant.

Pregnancy is an opportunity for increased closeness and intimacy for you as a couple. Sex can be a positive part of this experience. Written by a man for a man. Like any man needs to be encouraged to have sex. Although, some are heebie-jeebied out by the whole pregnancy thing. I’ve heard.

If you go out of town, call her at least once every day. Really? Men need to be told this?

When you need to be away or out of touch, ask friends and family to check on your partner or to be available to help out. You know, like, for instance, if you have to go to Washington DC. For a week. And she’s left to take care of your six spawn while growing the latest baby you put in her. Hypothetically, of course.

Around 20 weeks of pregnancy, your partner may have an ultrasound exam. Try to be present for this test. Again, men need to be told this?

Now’s the time to begin discussing baby equipment, such as cribs, car seats, or blankets, with your partner. You’ll need to make some of these purchases before baby’s birth. Okay, listen up: there will be no discussion. She will pick everything out. Just go along with it.

~*~

Alright. After some pondering, I’ve come up with some real tips for expectant dads – from a woman who knows (not from a doctor who never has been and never will be pregnant):

Do not scoff at her need to take pregnancy test after pregnancy test, either just to make sure, or each time hoping for the other result.

Do not stare at or acknowledge in any way the huge hormone-induced zit that has sprouted on her chin. She can’t help it, and she’s desperately trying to wish it away. Just tell her she’s beautiful.

If your snoring should keep her awake at night, go sleep on the couch.

If her pregnancy-induced snoring should keep you awake at night, go sleep on the couch.

Don’t mess with her Ben & Jerry’s. Trust me on this one.

Don’t mention how tired you are, or how your poor widdle back hurts. Seriously. Do you have a live human being inside you sucking the very life out of you? No, I didn’t think so. So shut up.

When she starts unselfconsciously scratching her expanding belly (and she will), just tell her she’s beautiful.

Buy her Tums. Just for the heck of it. And hell, throw a Snickers in there, too.

If she should happen to wax bitchy or tearful, just tell her she’s beautiful.

Do the obvious things that need doing: if you see that the garbage can is full, empty it. Instead of balancing one more cup on the pile of clean dishes in the dish drainer, put the dishes away! And for god’s sake, take more bread out of the freezer if you use the last of the fresh bread!

Remember: just because she’s hormonal and bitchy does not mean that you’re not actually being a jackass.

Whatever you do, do not chuckle as she screams, pushing a human being out of her vagina, even though she insisted to you beforehand that she’s not a screamer.

~*~

Tie-Breaker

Sugar and spice . . .  and probably generous helpings of mischief and stubbornness, too, if she’s anything like her sisters.

That’s right, we’re having a baby of the girl variety!  (That’s a shot of her girly bits above.)  Girls rule, boys drool!  No, seriously, already having three of each, we would be thrilled with either a boy or a girl.

Michael was discharged from the hospital yesterday morning in time to be with me at my ultrasound in the afternoon.  Everything looked good on the ultrasound.  Of course, I know full well that ultrasounds are not definitive, but I’m not looking for guarantees, just a reasonable assurance that it’s safe to go forward with a home birth.

No matter how many times I’ve done this already, it just doesn’t lose its magic – seeing an actual baby moving around in there, seeing its wee little parts: spine, ribs, hands, feet, little heart pumping away . . . the miracle of it all never ceases to leave me a little breathless.  And to think that at my age, my body can still do this!  I really, really feel like I’ve been bestowed a special gift.

And I feel great!  I’m expanding by the week, and loving it.  I feel her moving around in there more and more, and sometimes it’s like we’re communicating with each other.

My due date has been changed again, from June 15 to June 22.  Whatever; the baby will come when she’s ready.  Just as long as it’s not when my midwife is out of town early in June!