The Heartbeat

My frustrations with the doctor’s failure to prepare us for “what’s next” are starting to mount.  I’m usually a very patient person, but for some reason I’m a little eager to know more about our baby.  Last Thursday we went to another appointment.  This one was to hear the heartbeat among other normal tests.  My wife and I were pretty excited.  When the nurse came in she went straight to work.  This being our first time, I didn’t realize the machine was a small handheld device.  She had it on my wife’s belly before I even knew what was going on.  Suddenly we could hear the whooshing of the heartbeat.  “160 beats per minute.  Nice and strong!” the nurse told us.  It kind of sounded like a train.  It was very encouraging news.    I was still sitting in a chair by the door and wanted to get up and go by my wife’s side, but I was holding several things and by the time I moved to put them down, it was over.  We did share an all too brief look as we listened in wonder.  The nurse then said she was going to put it on the computer and left.  It was really cool to hear, but I really could have used a heads-up to prepare.  I would have liked to been by my wife’s instead of across the room.  It was a little annoying.  I also would like to have a recording of the heartbeat.  I could have prepared my iPhone to have the voice recorder going if I had known in advance.

After the appointment, I actually found the doctor again and asked when we could find out the gender of our baby.  I specifically asked if we could find out at the next appointment.  The doctor looked at her computer and said my wife would only be 18 weeks and that was a little too early to tell.  She said we could find out at the one after that.  Well that normally would be at 22 weeks because of the way they are scheduling our appointments.  I think she could see the annoyance on my face however, because she said we could bump that appointment up one week, so at 21 weeks.  Now my frustrations grew, but there’s nothing I can do.  I understand the need for caution and the doctor’s reluctance to be wrong, but I feel this is an over-abundance of caution.  Traditionally, yes, it did take 20 weeks.  However, we now have much better imaging technology and can tell earlier whether the baby is a girl or a boy.  We have numerous friends who found out anywhere between 16 and 18 weeks.  I would like to know sooner rather than later.

One important thing to note:  I do believe this doctor takes her time to explain things to my wife and make her comfortable.  She takes the time to answer all of our questions and never makes us feel rushed.  My wife mentioned that my ranting about the lack of foreknowledge was making her feel that I thought this doctor was inadequate and that is certainly not true.  I do wish the nurse would slow down a little and explain things more before we jump right in.  I get the feeling she has done this a thousand times.  We have never gone through this before and as new parents we don’t always know what’s going on.

Part of my frustration comes from the planning aspect.  We haven’t nailed down a name partially because we are waiting to find out if we’re having a boy or a girl.  That would instantly eliminate 50% of the names on our list.  We also cannot begin to shop, decorate, or plan out details until we know.  We can’t tell our many friends and family who want to know (every time we see them) if we’re going to find out, when we will find out, and if we’re going to announce.  It’s also just hard not knowing.  It’s like opening a present very slowly.  We can see the shape of the gift, we shook the box and heard the gift inside moving, but we’re not allowed to peel back the wrapping paper even a little.  Not yet anyway.  So we sit here and watch my wife’s belly expand and wonder, dream, and hope.

-Spencer (Daddy-to-be)

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The Ultrasound

The day was finally here.  We were finally going to get to see our little baby.  I drove my wife to the appointment and we discussed numerous things, including possible names.  We had never been to this doctors office and we were running a little late in rush hour traffic.  Not fun.  We finally arrived slightly frazzled from the horrible roads which are always under construction and constantly facing a barrage of morning commuters.  Cars thundered by overhead (the office is directly under an overpass).  You can still hear them in the waiting room zooming twelve feet above your head.

While we waited more women arrived and waited.  I only saw one other man there with his wife.  We really didn’t have to wait for very long to be called back.  When we were ushered into the waiting room the nurses smiled at my wife and gave me a polite nod.  I began to notice something.  Perhaps it isn’t that common for a husband to come with his wife to her prenatal appointments.  I’m was so eager to see our baby it seemed incomprehensible to me.  Why wouldn’t you want to be involved every step of the way in this new life you helped create?

So it turns out the doctors are fairly busy!  We met a nice nurse who explained we would see the doctor for a few minutes at a time, but for the most part she (the nurse) would be our direct contact.  She then opened something on her laptop and asked numerous questions about my wife’s medical history.  I only had to answer one question regarding my medical history.  Then the nurse reached a question and paused.  She gave me a look that said “well this would be easier if you weren’t here” and then glanced at my wife.  We both just stared back at her.  The nurse appeared to make up her mind and asked “does this apply to you?” and showed my wife something on the computer screen.  My wife said “No, of course not.”  I didn’t know exactly what it was, but I had a suspicion.  Later I found out.

Finally we were taken to the ultrasound room.  What an experience.  We were looking at the screen and then all of a sudden there it was.  An image I’ve seen countless times from friends who have children.  Only this was OUR child.  Our little tiny baby was there on the screen.  He/She waved their tiny little arms.  She/he kicked their feet.  My heart soared.  I looked at my wife and grabbed her hand.  We both had tears in our eyes.  What a moment.  We both watched as our little one floated around.

The Prospective Dad's Perspective

Our little baby

Our baby was quite a mover.  Squirming all over the place.  Fascinating to watch.  I wanted to record the baby moving, so I asked and the technician said I could do so afterwards.   She pointed out the baby’s heart beat was nice and strong and we watched as the technician measured the length of the baby.  I was exactly right as to the timeline (I was rather proud of that as I’ve kept the timeline throughout the whole pregnancy.).  Then the tech turned away and I thought she was done, so I asked again if I could record now.  She clearly got irritated and repeated I could do so at the end.  I tried to apologize and say I was just so excited and that it was our first, but I’m not sure I got it all out.  I truly was excited.  We kept watching not wanting the moment to end, but in what seemed like just a few seconds it was over.  The tech turned around again and now the screen was showing just a still picture she had captured with the computer.  I was determined to keep my mouth shut until she said it was done.  She did keep her word and allowed me to take a picture and then she revealed that she had captured the entire session, but I was only allowed a 2-3 second loop to record (I found out later very few offices allow you to record anything due to malpractice fears.).  The baby hadn’t moved much during that little frame so I all recorded was her/him sitting still and their little heart beating at 173 beats per minute, but it was enough.  You can see that little spark of life on the screen.  I’ve played it so many times since then.  I’ve shown it to just about anyone who will take the time to watch and several who really didn’t want to see it, I’m sure.  I haven’t been that ecstatic in quite some time.

After the ultrasound, we met the doctor for the first time.  She has pictures of her two children around the office along with some drawings they made for her.  She was very nice and took the time to make my wife feel comfortable.  I made sure to ask several questions.    However, the doctor tended to direct the answers to my wife.  I was noticing a pattern here.  She also mentioned several tests that can be done to determine if your child has any birth defects. Now I’m not trying to dissuade anyone who wants these tests, but we’re not in the at-risk categories.  So we declined.  The doctor then mentioned that some people like to know so they can prepare for the life altering challenges and others like to know so they can terminate the pregnancy.  I was somewhat surprised this was presented in such a matter-of-fact manner.  I didn’t even realize that I was shaking my head somewhat vigorously while the doctor was still speaking.  As soon as she was done, I looked at my wife and she at me.  We both had discussed this well in advance.  I told the doctor we were going to have the child regardless and whatever God decides to give us is what we’ll take.  She then explained it was her duty to place all the options on the table regardless of her personal beliefs.

I don’t know if this is typical, but it bothered me.  Abortion by choice because you don’t want to deal with a child with disabilities?  As a man of faith, I find this disturbing.  There is no guarantee our baby will be perfect in every way physically possible, but it’s perfect for us.  This baby is what we created together (well God made the baby, but we certainly contributed).  Even more frightening is the idea that this practice could expand.  Soon scientists will be able to tell you the eye color of your child, or the likelihood of cancer by a certain age, etc.  Then you can abort if you don’t like those attributes.  This all leads to designer babies.  It’s not necessarily there yet, but it’s something to be aware of.  There is a desire by some people for this sort of service.

We chatted for quite a while and then the doctor mentioned the upcoming appointments and things became clearer.  One appointment every month for the next few months, then every two weeks, then every week.  My first thought was I can’t possibly be there for all of these appointments.  It would require a monumental amount of time off from work.  I’m only getting my two weeks of paid vacation after the baby arrives anyway!  These appointments could cut into that.  Now I understood a possible reason why so many women were there by themselves.  Perhaps their spouse could not get the time off to join them for so many appointments.  However, after further contemplation, I realized I may be able to take a few hours off and make up that time later in the week.  I want to be there for every ultrasound.  I realize they don’t do one at every appointment, but I want to be there for the ones they do!  I want to see our baby every chance I get.

After that we had another meeting with the nurse to schedule the next appointment (when we get to hear the heartbeat!), my wife had a flu shot, and we were heading back to our side of town.  We were both a little late to work that day, but man it was worth it!

Now my wife felt very welcomed and comfortable with this doctor and the office.  I agree they did a great job making her feel like they care about her as a mother, not just a patient.  However, there needs to be a way to involve the dad.  On the way back, my wife explained the nurse had pointed to a question on the screen asking if she was the victim of domestic abuse.  I understand the concern.  I do.  I also highly suspected that was the question from the way the nurse looked at me.  Why did they not have my wife just look at all of the questions on the screen and answer them one by one?  Why not have her write them all on a piece of paper?  By singling out that one question, I knew what it was and I was a little hurt, not by the question, but by the nurse’s glance.  I understand her concern and the reason for it, but that’s how it made me feel.  The technician in the ultrasound room was quick to get irritated with me, but it was my first time ever experiencing the wonder of seeing my child.  I wasn’t trying to be inconsiderate.  I was so anxious to capture the moment so I could share it with our family and friends.  I want to compare notes with other dads my age.  The doctor directed the answers to my questions to my wife.  I asked the question.  At least acknowledge that a little better.

The entire experience was truly centered around my wife and our baby.  Which is wonderful, but as a dad I have feelings too.  I want to be as involved as possible.  I don’t get to experience the physical changes or feeling the baby move inside.  So I’m always asking my wife how she feels.  Sometimes, I just stare at her belly amazed as it’s getting bigger and firmer over time.  I want to take a “bump” picture each day and compare it to the previous one (I’m restraining myself and keeping it to once a week).  I love her and I’m growing to love our baby in the womb.  I have dreams about her/him and what they’ll be like.  Respect that and show a little compassion to the father.  Ask how he’s doing, if he has questions, and try to have patience when he doesn’t know what’s going on.  I’m not sure if the absence of these things is a result of society as a whole, the mindset of the office, or a general lack of understanding of future dads.

Our society says men are aloof.  They helped make the baby, but they’re generally not interested in the minutia of the pregnancy.  They just want to drink beer with their buddies and when the time comes they’ll just be there to hold their wife’s hand and panic when they don’t know what’s going on.  I’m not sure where the blame falls for this.  Hollywood has certainly inflamed the stereotype.  Men do try to “be cool” and act macho around their friends, but attitudes are changing.  Watch a little “Up All Night” on TV and I think you’ll see a difference even in the entertainment industry.  More men are becoming stay at home dads.  Things are changing and it’s time our perception did too.

Bottom line:  If I’m at the appointment, if I’m shopping at Babies-R-Us, if I’m in the Lamaze class, it’s because I want to be involved, not just because my wife asked me to come.  Guys, go to the ultrasounds!  Watch your little baby move and wave at you!  It’s truly an amazing experience and you’ll feel so blessed to be a future dad!

-Spencer (Daddy-to-be)

By Spencer Hudon

The Butterfly

This morning my wife asked me to look up butterflies online.  She said she was feeling a fluttering/twitching and wondered if it was the baby moving.  We both thought it was way too early.  She’s not quite 12 weeks along.  So I looked it up.  Well, from what I’ve read many women actually DO feel a fluttering right around 11 weeks, especially if they are good physical shape and/or slender.  Conventional wisdom from doctors is that you should not be able to feel anything until 16 weeks or so, but it would appear that a great deal of women feel the baby much earlier than that.  Now with the connectivity of the world via the internet these women are able to find others feeling the same symptoms.  Many women who already had a baby and were pregnant again said this is what they felt with their first child around 16 weeks, but now they were feeling the fluttering around 11 weeks.  They say it felt the same.  Others who were pregnant with their first found this very reassuring.  The feeling was described as muscle twitching, fluttering, butterflies, and my favorite, “popcorn fluttering”.  Perhaps it’s time for doctors to re-examine the traditional 16-week thought.

We are taking it as a sign of the baby moving.  When we saw the ultrasound for the first time, the baby was moving around a lot.  So of course this caused more excitement this morning.  My wife left for work with a smile on her face and I felt rather elated myself.

-Spencer (Daddy-to-be)

By Spencer Hudon

The Good News

“Who’s your daddy?” says Darth Vader on the T-shirt my wife just gave me in celebration of the good news. I’m going to be a daddy! Whoa!  It’s 6:30am and I’m barely awake. My emotions run the gamut. In 2 seconds I feel surprised, elated, manly, grateful, slightly worried, terrified, and back to excited.

My wife is up early on this Sunday morning because she is singing in both services at church. She has to be there by 7:30. I’m sleeping in and going to the second service. At least that was the plan. Now I’m wide awake and despite my best efforts I can’t get back to sleep.

I’m filled with wonder and hopes. I try to imagine what it’s going to be like if we have a girl. Then what if it’s a boy? I wonder if in 5 years I’ll be having tea parties with my daughter or outside teaching my son to throw. Then I realize I’ll teach my daughter to throw too! Guys love a girl who is into sports. Wait! I’m already thinking of her getting a boyfriend? Whoa! Hold the horses!! Who said she could start dating? She’s not even a fetus yet and here I am dreaming of the distant future.

This was my initial reaction to finding out my wife was pregnant.

So many thoughts raced through my head as I praised the Lord that morning.  I went to church and watched my wife sing in worship on stage.  I teared up a little as I thought of her as a mom.  I was surrounded by friends, none of whom I could tell yet.  At this point, six women in our church small group were pregnant and all of them were due by the end of the year.  Half of them already have kids so our group is rapidly expanding (pun intended).  People asked me the usual, “How are you?”.  All I could do was grin from ear to ear and say I was doing great.

Honestly, my thoughts were not very focused.  I would alternate between listening to the sermon and envisioning our child at church or in making friends in our small group.  The idea of molding a young child, teaching them about God, history, sports, life lessons, etc is both thrilling and intimidating.

I’ve always wanted to be a dad.  When our friends had children I couldn’t wait to hold them and watch their little fingers wrap around mine.  Now we’re having our own and I’m so excited.  I’m also feeling a little trepidation.  I don’t want just to be a dad.  I want to be a good dad.  Someone my child can look up to.  I want to be a good role model and instill good values and a love of God.  I want to do it right.

Later that evening we went to my mother-in-law’s house.  We didn’t want to say anything until we knew for sure from a doctor’s appointment.  So it was somewhat difficult to explain that my wife really didn’t want any wine with dinner, nor did she want a caffeinated beverage.  Water was just fine.  After dinner my wife was hit with a wave of exhaustion and napped on the couch.  This was unusual and again I was sure my mother-in-law would figure it out.  Later, she would claim she didn’t.

What a nerve-wracking week waiting for the appointment with the doctor.  It’s hard to wait to know for sure.  However, my wife’s nausea and exhaustion were somewhat comforting to me.  They seemed to prove the test was accurate.  She was showing the classic signs.  Thankfully later that week the doctor confirmed the test results.  My wife was pregnant (and still is…almost 12 weeks as of this writing!).

Good news confirmed!  Praise the Lord!

-Spencer (Daddy-to-be)

By Spencer Hudon