SECOND TRIMESTER REPORT
Posted originally on Kuro5hin.
"I'm being beaten up from the inside!"
That is the sound of my wife gasping in shock after being punched in the pubic bone by our child-in-progress. In the three months since I filed my first report on this beautiful and terrifying process, the foetus temporarily known as Baby has learned to express his or her moment to moment opinion of the world by bludgeoning my wife's uterine wall. Baby now has a fully articulated spectrum of primitive emotions, including pleasure (belly kicking), displeasure (bowel boxing), boredom (spine punching), and existential angst (bladder jabbing).
Baby is well on the way to becoming a fully-fledged birthable infant, and my wife and I are well on the way to becoming fully-fledged parents. We are some two thirds of the way along now, and so it is time again for me to offer up my observations and experiences from the edge of approaching fatherhood: this is my Second Trimester Report.
In the previous article in this series I described how my wife and I were surprised to learn that somebody was being built inside of her, due in part to an incident involving tainted tunafish and an expectorated birth-control pill.
At this point, Baby is about 30 cm tall, weighs nearly a kilogram, and is covered in a fine, downy hair called lanugo. Baby's eyes can now open and close, and Baby may even shield them with a wee hand in reaction to very bright light. Baby can hear our voices, and we have read that Baby can taste traces of my wife's food through the amniotic fluid. Baby has semi-predictable cycles of sleep and wakefulness. My wife's uterus - or meatsack - is now about the size of a basketball.
Over the course of this trimester Baby has quadrupled in size. This has had some dramatic effects on my wife's body. Because her giblets are being compressed up into her rib-cage by her ballooning womb she's been experiencing some shortness of breath and heartburn (acid reflux). Her areolas and nipples have darkened, her breasts have swollen, and her belly button is threatening to invert (umbilical hernia). Her new shape and altered centre of gravity have combined with dizzying hormonal surges to make her heartbreakingly clumsy (slapstick).
Her belly aches as the ligaments stretch and harden to support to the weight of the whole wet enterprise. The accumulation of fluid near her joints causes occasional numbness in her hands or forearm, so now we're Carpal Tunnel Syndrome buddies, she and I. It is becoming harder for her to find comfortable positions in which to sleep, so I keep waking up to her watching Wile E. Coyote cartoons in the middle of the night. "What's up?" I mumble.
"I'm hungry," she says.
In the past three months there have been some changes in our lives.
First of all, my wife decided to stop doing contract work providing in-home therapy for people with brain injuries in favour of a somewhat mindless full-time job as an administrative assistant. We agreed that this was a good idea partly because she was finding driving across our stinky megalopolis all day to be uncomfortable (and occasionally messy) given the powerful nausea she was experiencing at the time, and partly because it better qualified her for fatter maternity benefits from the state.
Human Resources Development Canada will cough up about half of her working wages (up to maximum of $ 1 652.00 per month) for 50 weeks, assuming she has enjoyed those working wages for at least 600 hours prior to delivery. At the end of her 601st hour of work, my wife resigned. This had not been her plan from the beginning, but rather a combined result of the dense ball of loathing she acquired for the mindlessness of her job and some of her jackass co-workers, as well as the nagging back-pain she was experiencing from sitting at a desk all day (which she feared would bloom into the debilitating chronic sciatica her cousin had experienced while pregnant).
Of course, this has caused a shortfall in our budget for the rest of the year, which must somehow be addressed. My wife is convinced that I am altogether too obsessed with the subject of our finances, and I am convinced that I am not nearly obsessed enough. According to various books and websites we've consulted, it is not at all uncommon for expectant fathers to channel all of their baby-related insecurities in to a single polished blade of pointy fiscal anxiety. Knowing that my anxiety is common does not make me feel appreciably less anxious, however.
We are no longer renting a spacious apartment; we now rent a cozy house. The dog is ecstatic. The cats luxuriate in crapping in the wild. Unfortunately, this move took us out of the range of the crack team of birthing specialists that had been poised for my wife's midwifery, and so we had to look for new talent here in the north end of the city. Midwives are fewer and farther between up here so we had some trouble finding anyone with an opening. At last we did manage to secure a new team: the bad news is that they won't supply us with a collapsible heated birthing pool, but the good news is that they lack the undertone of sinister misandry I detected from the lesbian lioness who headed up our first group.
Since having a water-birth is predicated on being wet, we found ourselves trying to shop for a collapsible wading pool in Canada in October (which, needless to say, is considered an "out of season" item). Since we are under thirty we turn to the Internet for the solution to most vexing problems of this kind, and my wife was indeed finally able to place an order with Canadian Tire.
The pool arrived yesterday, and my wife insists that it will fit into the baby's room. I'm pretty sure that this would violate some basic laws of physics. I have suggested that she may have to excrete the little bugger in the livingroom, but she feels this would compromise her plan for the social arrangements for the birthing occasion. "I don't want everyone in the room with me," she explains.
"Everyone who?" I ask.
This is a big question. You see, just about everybody in our respective families has expressed some level of interest in attending the occasion of the birth. For the sake of curbing the chaos, we will have to refuse many of them. Those that are allowed to attend will be divided by my wife into two distinct groups: those whom she is comfortable watching her squeeze a baby out of her yin, and those whom she'd rather wait in the next room and not be treated to that particular spectacle. She wants her mother with her, but isn't sure about mine; she thinks her best-friend should be there, but may want my sister to wait outside. It is a delicate sorting process, with a lot of potential for people to feel left out or snubbed. (What is the protocol for such an occasion, anyway? Should I be keeping hors d'oeuvres on hand? Beer and coolers? Cigars?)
The midwife's padawan-learner showed us some videos of actual water-births so that we could get a feel for what to expect. "You might want to get one of those little scoopy nets from a pet supply store, so that you can scoop debris out of the pool as you go along," she told us.
"Don't worry," says my wife, "we already have a fish."
The videos themselves were lurid and terrifying amateur works suitable for Ludovico: voluptuous, wet, naked women writhe, moan and scream as they force snot and offal out of their nethers while a crowd of intimates takes photographs and coos encouragement. (Funny aside: my wife asked me why the birthing centre didn't just offer the videos as downloadable clips from their website.)
Ever since then my wife seems preoccupied with how she will comport herself throughout the delivery. She is worried that she will whimper, or simper, or cry in a way that somehow betrays her sense of pride. She is determined to reserve some measure of equanimity. (And who can blame her? If I were facing a similar physical trial, wouldn't I be concerned with my ability to "take it like a man"?) She is a harsh judge of the women she sees on A Baby Story. She thinks most of them are wimps. I assure her of my confidence that she will bear the trial well, while at the same time trying to suggest that some mild woosery is perfectly acceptable given the circumstances.
My wife has expressed concern that we're not playing enough music for Baby. I asked her what she wanted Baby to hear, and she told me she to find something stimulating for a growing neural net, eager to make fresh connections and in search of a template. So, this morning we spent a few hours treating Baby to a complete concert of The Well-Tempered Clavier by Johann Sebastian Bach. In the silence between discs Baby kicked furiously, to be soothed only by the sound of the next track beginning.
Baby still has no name. Both of us continue to procrastinate on this issue. She wants something Latvian; I want something rare but unpretentious. Every few weeks one of us asks "What do you think about the name X?" and the other pauses, considers thoughtfully, then says "I don't like it." Our second glimpse through ultrasound imaging has not clarified Baby's sex, so our naming search space has not much diminished.
...And that's about it. There isn't as much to say about this second trimester as there was about the first. In some superficial ways the pregnancy has become mundane. I have gotten used to the fact that I have a perpetually hungry, swollen wife. We have both been trying to ready ourselves to be parents: listening to advice, recalling our childhood interactions with our own parents (the other day we discussed whether or not we thought being forced to stand in the corner quietly is a suitable penalty box for overzealous tots (we think that it is)), and reading books. Friends and family have donated to us toys, a pram, a bassinet, a car-seat, dozens of tiny little jumpers, and about a thousand miniature bibs featuring Hello Kitty-esque motifs. In just three short months Baby is due to debut in this colder, drier world we larger people inhabit, and to join us as a practitioner of the pulmonary arts. We're both giddy with excitement. We can't wait to meet Baby face to face.
In my last installment in this series I plan to report on our experiences with pre-natal classes, preparing for the home-birth itself, and last but not least, the exciting climax: the big showdown between Baby and the birth canal. When next I write, I'll have an infant in my arms.
(And, very likely, milk barf on my shoulder.)