This little girl was less cooperitive than Ender, who slept through the whole ultrasound. She did give a lovely profile at the very beginning which is one of the only ultrasound images I can actually easily recognize. That and the creepy skull shot:
The heart was super cool, but they didn’t save any photos for us- I’m not sure it would have been quite as awesome in a still image anyway. It was like a pulsing clover plant. I also love the look of the spine in ultrasound, but that also is not something they include on the CD. But hey, they gave us a CD this time! The digital images are actually much easier to see than the thermal paper images, much less the thermal images scanned into a digital file.
So if you hadn’t heard the news yet, I’m pregnant. Due in early August. Matt and I are both super excited. Ender told me he’s excited to have a little sister and then told me he wanted to hit her, so, you know, we’ll see.
He watched the first minute or so of the ultrasound, then lost interest. Can’t really blame him since it’s kind of hard to see the baby most of the time. The baby did not sit still for the entire thing which was freaking awesome… she was kicking and squirming all over the place, sucked her fingers, wriggled around. She had her hands in fists and the ultrasound tech kept shaking my belly trying to get her to unclench. At one point the baby popped a single digit up and I told her, “I think she just gave you the finger.” She said, “Yes, but I need all five.”
Ender is… well I won’t call it Crawling, but by the time you finish reading this post it might be. He’s got the legs mostly worked out, but his arms stick out stiff in front of him, effectively providing breaks to his forward momentum. Sometimes he topples forward and manages to scramble a few inches, sometimes he sort of hops, frog style, and his whole body slides forward a bit. Sometimes he tips to the side and ends up in a roll which takes him somewhere unless he gets distracted by looking at the ceiling.
Whatever I want to call it though, Ender is starting to be mobile. It might take him a while to get there, but he moves from point A to point B. Or at least to point A and 1/2. So far he rarely travels further than a few feet at a time, and by the time he makes it that far he’s probably ready for a nap, or at least a different point of view. Nonetheless, my baby is moving (or rather crawling) slowly into a significant new phase of independence.
I think the reason I’ve been so excited about crawling (despite many many suggestions from more experienced parents to enjoy the lack of mobility while I could) is because it is the first time a baby is able to inflict his will on the world. Up until this point, Ender has been subject to my choices and my whims. Obviously he still is, but before the only protest he could make was to cry or to hold on to the toy a bit tighter. Now he can run away. He can go places I’d rather he not.
Obviously it’s not just about baby vs. parent. Ender suddenly has the ability to make real choices.
I mean, sure, before, while he was playing under his baby gym, he could choose to bat at the owl, or yank on the blue bird, or kick the padded bar, but this is the illusion of choice we give to toddlers to appease them (would you like the blue socks or the red socks today?) not a real decision.
Soon, Ender will be able to survey the room and decide: do I want to go play with the ball, or do I want to hide under a blanket, or do I want to try to pull up on that chair? Or maybe shake the security gate or bang on the door?
We think of crawling as a big milestone, but we lump it in line with sitting up and rolling over, we see it as a halfway point to walking. It’s more than any of those, because it is such a significant shift in how the baby’s world operates.
I realize this will sound absurd, but it makes me think of the video game the Sims. Sims 2 to be specific. (And this isn’t even the first time I’ve talked about life mirroring the Sims.) In the Sims 2, when your sim has a baby, it functions as an object in the game for three days. You have to feed it and change it and bathe it, and you can play with it or sing to it, and you put it to bed. After three days, it morphs to a “toddler” a slightly larger crawling sim. Only then can you see the intent of the sim, the moods, the metered needs and wants and fears. Only then does the sim have selectable actions, and begin to learn skills. Only then does the sim become a playable character.
From the time Ender was born, he was learning of course. They do that. Up until now, he was not a participant in his learning, he was a passive receiver, truly the sponge we say babies are (a really CUTE sponge though). Now he is on the same continuum as a toddler or even a preschooler. Of course there is a world of difference between a crawling baby and a three year old, but it is only one of time and experience, not one of being.
Rather, I know why they say it. If you’re a vet, you probably see mostly sick animals, and when they’re really sick, death is a saving grace to the pain which is your vision of that animal’s normal. If someone’s cat was hit by a car, of course you wouldn’t say “It was for the best.” When your cat gets a sudden illness, or even a less sudden illness, it is one long car accident, culminating in death. When it’s over, and you’re stroking the fur of what used to be your cat, you are still reeling from coming home to find her wheezing and lethargic, barely able to move and not interested in tuna. When the vet says “It’s for the best,” you are still thinking of uneaten tuna.
It brings up those secret worries about snowballing vet bills. Googling “hepatitis” and the dismay at complicated and expensive long term treatment on top of the twice a day insulin injections and hepatitis has a different special diet than diabetes and there will probably be more urine and vomit and blood and probably diarrhea to clean up now. In the end you conclude she’s worth it, but when the vet says, “It’s for the best,” that little part of you that was tallying up the logistics of animal illness slinks lower down inside you, hunched with guilt.
Chyna (pronounced Chee-nuh) was probably about 8.
Back when Matt was still living in his own apartment, I had a project using a little piece poster board. The rest of the poster board I folded in half, into a rough Teepee shape and wrote “cat house” on the side. To my delight, Chyna ran right over it and proceeded to camp out. She played in that paper Teepee for weeks as it lost it’s shape sliding wider and lower, and she had to crawl on her belly to get underneath.
If you made the mistake of scratching your leg beneath a blanket, Chyna was there to help you SCRATCH harder. Then when you jerked your hand out from under the blanket she perked up and said, “pet me?” with her eyes.
Her meow sounded surprisingly like the word “hello” and I’d always meant to record it, but never got around to it.
She liked to carry toys in her mouth and meow around them, and often meowed in the darker corners of the house, as though she was exploring. If we called out to her, she we glance at us, then continue her expedition. Hello? Hello?
A few years ago we adopted Tricky, and Chyna, though she was eventually happier for the company, started binge eating to keep the new cat from getting her food. She slowly gained weight and started slowing down, acting old. About a year and a half ago, we found out she had diabetes, and almost as soon as we started treatment, she started acting like a kitten again, and was more loving and social than ever. The new house was likewise good for her, with more spaces, more places to climb, more perches, and spaces to crouch beneath.
With some cats it seems like the only time they come near you is when they want to be fed or they want to be pet, but Chyna would follow you around to see what you were up to. If your lap was full, she would curl up by your leg, or if it was too hot, she’d curl up a few inches away, purring and clearly just happy to be near you. Her favorite place in the world was the bathroom, and the first time she tried to jump on Matt’s lap he was in the bathroom and he was, shall we say, unprepared for a lap cat.
When Ender came into the picture, Chyna was the first cat to sniff him (though she’s also been the smarter cat in terms of keeping out of reach as he starts to grab for furry things) and when he cried she would meow at us in evident concern that we weren’t taking care of him fast enough. One of our friends brought a toddler to the house, and when we weren’t watching closely enough, she picked up Chyna around the middle, and carried her into the room, arms and legs sticking awkwardly out in front. Chyna didn’t try to scratch or bite the little girl, she just looked at us and meowed pitifully as if to say, “can you do something about this please?” I really hoped we would get a few years of trying to stop Ender chasing her around before we would have to say goodbye.
Whenever we got home from a trip, or even a long day of errands, Chyna would be sitting at the french doors, looking out for us. As we got out of the car, she would stand up expectantly, and we could see her mouth opening to meow at us.