Archive for the ‘Parenthood’ Category

Ready or Not

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Little by little it’s all becoming quite real.  IEP has moved out of the nursery and into his good-boy room.  My FMLA paperwork has been filled out and will be submitted to HR this week.  Last week Nanny laundered all of our newborn and 0-3 month baby clothes.  And over the weekend I took IEP’s vast collection of 2T polo shirts out of the nursery closet and hung his former collection of newborn footed sleepers on tiny hangers.  Tiny hats, socks, and onesies fill the dresser.  Newborn diapers will be ordered this week.

This baby is coming.

People ask me if I’m ready.  The nice thing about having a second boy, and a second November baby is that from a logistical perspective, I’ve been ready for three years.  We have all the gear, all the clothes, and all kinds of knowledge we didn’t have the first time around.  This should be a piece of cake, right? …  I’m not so sure.

I have no experience in parenting two children.  I have never tried to care for a newborn while also caring for a toddler.  We have never been a family of four.  And this adventure, much like the first one, will be a case study in lessons learned the hard way.  For that is the only way to figure these things out.

And so I look at the logistical end of things.  I am pre-registered at the hospital.  IEP’s birthday party is planned and booked.  Christmas shopping is about 85% complete.  We have made arrangements for Nanny to be on call for IEP should I go into labor in the middle of the night.  I still need to stock my freezer with my preferred post-partum menu of homemade soups, and stock up on batteries for all of the bouncy seats, swings, white noise machines and other baby paraphernalia.  But beyond that, I’m ready.

And beyond that, I’m ready.  I’m ready to meet this little guy.  I’m ready to see what IEP is like as a big brother.  I’m ready for the ligament pain in my spine to dissipate.  I’m ready to roll over in bed without having to wake up and adjust multiple pillows each time.  I’m ready walk away from my job for a few months and indulge my mind in the mental vacation its been craving for weeks now.  And I’m ready to burp and swaddle and snuggle the newest love of my life; to smell that new baby smell; to hear the sweet little grunts that are only made by a nursing baby; and to watch my life fill up again beyond anything I ever could have imagined.

This baby is coming whether I’m ready or not.  Lucky for both of us, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

Good Boy Room

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Several weeks ago, in an effort to begin preparing IEP for big brotherhood and to keep him excited about being a little boy after the baby arrives on the scene, I started talking to him periodically about all the things that ”big boys” get to do that babies can’t do.  (Think: go down slides, eat ice cream, play with trains, tickle Daddy, go to gymnastics class, etc.).  However, after months and months of telling him after various outings and adventures that he behaved well and was a good boy, when I started regaling him with the glories of being a big boy he corrected me.  “No, no, Mommy.  No big boy.  IEP good boy!”  (Note: he doesn’t actually refer to himself by his initials…)  And so it was in that vein that this past weekend’s major project was not moving IEP into his Big Boy Room, but rather into his Good Boy Room.

The process was bigger than GAP and I anticipated at the outset and ended up absorbing the entire holiday weekend.  Tasks included:  Select and purchase furniture.  Select and purchase bedding.  Select and purchase family meal from KFC.  Move all adult office furniture out of heretofore home office and into heretofore guest bedroom.  Reroute all computer, phone, and internet cables.  Realize cell phone is missing.  Vacuum many dust bunnies.  Select and purchase wall paint.  Paint bedroom walls.  Go out to breakfast because the house is completely devoid of any basic provisions.  Unsuccessfully shop for draperies.  Successfully shop for drapery hardware.  Select and purchase two file cabinets.  Drive to two different warehouses to collect said file cabinets.  Realize cell phone was left at first furniture store two days prior.  And on, and on, and on.  It was an incredible drain.

Nevertheless, the weekend contained some significant bright spots.  I always enjoy weekends at home with my boys, but weekends like this one remind me of how much I appreciate them.  I appreciate that even in exhausting and stressful circumstances GAP and I navigate life together without snapping or fighting.  I appreciate that IEP is a trooper, happy to tag along on errands and (for the most part) keep himself occupied and out of trouble.  And somehow, it is during trying times as often as happy ones that I recognize how truly thankful I am for the life that I have.

As for the Good Boy Room project itself, we got it all done.  The office was successfully relocated.  The new bedroom furniture will be delivered tomorrow.  The walls are painted.  The bedding is washed.  And IEP has slept on his Good Boy Bed every night since Saturday (we were able to bring the mattress home without the rest of the set).  Drapes have been ordered.  I’m still looking for a rug, but other than that we’re very close.  I’ve been amazed and impressed with how easily my baby has handled this big change, and I find myself quite proud of the little boy he’s become.  Each night when I tuck him in he goes down with a smile and I’m sometimes taken aback at how much he simply isn’t a baby anymore.

As for babies, IEP’s move into the Good Boy Room means that the nursery is once again vacant.  And somehow – as if being seven months pregnant weren’t tangible enough – seeing that room sit empty has made it quite real to me that we have another baby on the way.  I am easily transported to the weeks leading up to IEP’s birth, when the nursery was complete but the pregnancy wasn’t.  Many evenings I would walk in, sit in the glider, and stare at the space that had been so carefully filled with the stuff of a baby, but was yet so empty for lack of an actual tiny person.  I thought to myself, “There’s going to be a baby living in here soon.”  But no matter how many times I tried to envision it I really had precious little conception of what it would be like when that statement came true.  Now, with our second go around, I make the same statement in my head with much more knowledge of what the future holds.  What I don’t know, though, is who this baby is.  Is he a good sleeper and a good eater?  Will he nurse quickly like his brother or slowly?  Does he like to be swaddled?  Are the hours from 5:00pm to 7:00pm hard for him?  Much like meeting any new person for the first time I know both much and little of what to expect.

What I know for now, though, is that IEP is a Good Boy, with a Good Boy Bed, in a Good Boy Room.  For the past nearly-three years he has been as good a boy as I could ever have dreamt of.  I can’t imagine loving anything else as I much as I love him.  But then again, before he was born I never could have imagined loving him this much either.

My life is stuffed with blessings.

30 Down. 10 To Go.

Monday, August 29th, 2011

30 weeks down.  10 to go.

75% there.

Glass three-quarters full.

Six months and three weeks along.

Two and a half months left.

All of those things are true about my pregnancy today.  But only one of them makes me feel like I’m really getting closer to my due date.  I’ve been pregnant for 30 weeks.  I have only ten weeks left.  That feels like an accomplishment.  Every other version of the same math leaves me feeling as though the end is still not in sight.  So I’m focusing on the first countdown method, because I find myself needing a little pick-me-up in the attitude department.

I should be honest here.  Pregnancy is pretty easy on me.  Other than third trimester heartburn (which mercifully hasn’t set in yet), I get virtually none of the miserable side effects that often come with pregnancy.  I am keeping up with my usual routine, and while I’ve had to dial back the intensity level of a few things, for the most part I feel pretty normal.  So I feel a bit selfish admitting that I’m counting down the weeks to delivery, because I know I could have it a lot worse.  Nevertheless, I miss feeling like my old self.

Wishing these last few weeks away could be dangerous, though.  These are IEP’s last weeks of being an only child.  They are my last weeks of having only one little boy who needs me.  My last weeks of being able to devote myself entirely to him.  GAP’s and my last weeks of outnumbering our children.  Whether or not we are ready, big changes are coming and I would be remiss not to stop and cherish the life that we have had and loved for the past nearly-three years.

I’ve remarked to GAP many times recently that I never imagined that parenthood would be this much fun.  I thought I would enjoy it, but I have been surprised and delighted at how truly fun it is.  I believe that adding to our family will only add to that level of fun.  I will find joy in watching IEP take up the mantle of brotherhood.  I will get to be tickled all over again with the many milestones of the first couple of years.  And I will be able to look around at my life, never having envisioned myself as the mother of two boys, and recognize how much I love it and how well it suits me.

However, there is much about my life as it is that I love.  Aspects of that life are going to end, and I’m struggling with that.  From this vantage point I can easily see what I will lose when our second son is born this fall.  But I can’t yet see all that I will gain.  So I am left to take it on faith, to trust, and to believe, that what I give up will be outweighed by what I gain.  After all, it was because we are so head over heels in love with IEP that we wanted to have another child.  I know it will be hard for a while.  I know we will be in over our heads.  I know that there will be stress and hormones and tears.  But I also know that the moment my second little boy is born I won’t ever again be able to imagine my life without him.

Something Tangible

Friday, August 26th, 2011

With some big changes on the horizon (moving into his big boy room in the next couple of weeks, followed closely by the arrival of a baby brother) Nanny wisely decided to incorporate some increased structure into IEP’s weekly schedule.  Moving forward each week will include a designated day for crafts, gymnastics class, field trips, library story time, and cooking.  These are all things that they’ve been doing anyway, but assigning each one a day of the week makes things a little more predictable for IEP, which I think will be good for all of us. 

Wednesday was the first official cooking day, and I’m already thrilled with it.  IEP was waiting for me at the back door when I got home from work (which is unusual), knocking and waving as I approached.  When I got inside he exploded into a chorus of, “MOMMY!! LOOK!  LOOK!  LOOK!!  MOMMY!! MOMMY!!”  He ran to the kitchen counter and pointed very proudly to a loaf of banana bread sitting on a cooling rack.  He requested a seat on the counter and immediately picked up the entire loaf, so that I could get a better look at his creation. 

IEP eagerly told me – replete with hand motions – about how he squished the bananas, cracked the eggs, dumped the flour, and made the mixer spin.  Per Nanny, when he awoke from his nap he couldn’t wait to see the final results and quickly declared, “Banana soup is toast!  Show Mommy!  Show Daddy!”  When GAP got home he was too excited showing off the banana bread to go through the explanations again, but he made it quite clear that he was pleased with the results by sinking his teeth right into the loaf without bothering to ask that we slice off a piece. 

I’ve written before about the benefits of having something to show for yourself, and IEP’s pride and excitement really resonated with me.  As someone who’s been cooking her whole life I know well the feeling of being tickled by the fruits of your labor.  I feel such satisfaction at seeing a cake on a platter, a slice of pie on a plate, a platter of chicken parmesan, or an especially colorful salad that I’ve made.  It’s probably been 25 years since I uttered the phrase “Mommy! Look!” after completing a dish, but a tiny remnant of that sentiment still lives in the back of my mind every time I put dinner on the table.

Cooking may not turn out to be IEP’s thing.  Perhaps he’ll move on to matchbox cars, or painting, or the construction of a treehouse.  But I hope he’ll always find a way in his life to create something tangible.  Seeing his face light up with pride on Wednesday filled me up in so many ways.  And yesterday morning at breakfast I was filled again, more literally though, with delicious banana bread made by my equally delicious son.

A Fighting Chance

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

I’m skeptical of any married person who claims that she doesn’t fight with her spouse.  No two people are so perfectly aligned that they never disagree, never hurt each other’s feelings, or never sense friction of any kind.  I think I’m even more skeptical of people who claim that they do disagree, hurt each other’s feelings, and sense friction and still don’t fight.  Something about that just doesn’t feel genuine to me.

Of course there is a continuum here.  What I call a fight you might call a discussion.  What you call a fight I might call a hostile screaming match.  What I call cooling off you might call the silent treatment.  And so on.  But the commonality here is that there is conflict, no matter how civilly or heatedly it is expressed.

When the two conflicted adults don’t have children, their fighting style is mostly a personal choice.  Provided it’s not done publicly there’s not much place for anyone to say what is the “right” way to fight.  If yelling and screaming gets the anger out of your system and the issues out on the table (and your partner is game for it), then who am I to claim right or wrong?  If a calm conversation is both cathartic and productive, then more power to you.

The kicker, though, is when kids are in the picture.

Questions abound.  Should our kids know that we fight?  Should we let them see us argue?  If they know we’ve had a fight should we put on a happy face when we’re in front of them, or is that disingenuous and stressful for them?  A post yesterday on NYT’s Motherlode asks these very questions.

The social worker quoted in the article says just what you’d expect her to say – that what matters most is that kids learn how to manage their differences; that they learn how to do so in a loving fashion and with respect; and that they learn how to voice their own needs and opinions.  This all sounds quite manageable in shrink-speak, but I wonder if it isn’t a great deal harder than that in real life.

GAP and I aren’t “fighters” per se.  We disagree and argue often enough – we are both strong-willed and opinionated.  But we don’t yell or scream.  Ever.  We don’t get huffy with each other in front of IEP, which for the moment I think is the right call.  He’s too young to understand that conflict between Mommy and Daddy is normal and healthy and I don’t want any occasional tension between us to ever frighten him.

But what of the future?  What about four or five years from now when he’s in elementary school, perhaps getting into playground spats with friends from time to time, has several siblings he has to get along with, and needs an example of how to settle an issue effectively?  How then does our example affect him?

Like most parenting issues, as the mother of a two-year-old this one is new to me.  So much of what I will learn about raising a child is out in the future still.  And, like many other parenting issues I’m sure we will screw this one up, at least a couple of times, before we get the hang of it and figure out what works in our families.  Nevertheless, I wonder if there is some path – whether wide or narrow – within the boundaries of which I can walk with some assurance of safety.  Even though I know I’ll make mistakes in this realm, I hope that they will be minor.

From an Unlikely Source

Monday, August 8th, 2011

I get lots of good parenting advice.  I get it from my parents and in-laws.  I get it from my friends.  I get it from books.  I get it from fellow bloggers.  And this past weekend I got it from an unlikely source.

While IEP napped GAP and I were watching an episode of Louis CK’s show.  For those who don’t know him, Louis CK is a stand-up comedian who also has a scripted show that portrays aspects of his real life.  It incorporates his role as a single dad, and his attempts to do right by his kids under imperfect circumstances.  As many comedians do, Louis CK has a bit of an edge.  But in one of his softer moments in the episode we were watching, he dispensed some terrific parenting advice.

After halving a mango along the sides of the pit to make a smoothie, he was left with a disc of mango with a good deal of edible fruit still attached to the pit.  The cameras followed him as he peeled it and stabbed a fork in one end, walked the treat into his dining room, and gave it to his older daughter who was doing her homework at the dining room table.  His younger daughter then promptly marched into the kitchen and declared, “I get a mango pop too!”

The dialogue that followed was fascinating.  He told her that he only had one mango.  She said that wasn’t fair, and that if her sister got a mango pop she should get one too.  He countered that she and her sister are two different people and can never be expected to get exactly the same things.  The logic that was burrowed in this heated conversation between a six-year-old and a grown man was ripe for dissection.  Her implied position was that parents are expected to treat their children equally, which he had not done.  His more explicit position was that she can’t go through life expecting everything to be exactly even all the time.  Fascinating though it was, it wasn’t the thing that grabbed me most.

In a moment that was a eloquent as it was surprising, Louis CK said to his daughter, “The only time you look into your neighbor’s bowl is to see if your neighbor has enough.  You never look into your neighbor’s bowl to see if he has more than you do.”  Even now I am stunned at the simple beauty and generous spirit of that statement.

For the moment, IEP is still an only child.  But that won’t be true for long.  He will get older.  His sense of justice will evolve.  And he (and his siblings) will compare themselves to each other as well as other kids they know at every turn.  I would guess that trying to explain to little kids that life isn’t fair is an often-futile exercise.  Trying to teach magnanimity at the same time seems like fool’s errand.  And yet this one simple sentence seems to convey all of it in one tidy little package.

The scene in the show ended with Louis CK abandoning his lesson out of frustration.  For whatever reason he decided it wasn’t worth the fight and gave his younger daughter a consolation prize of some sort.  (There was still only the one mango pop…)  I’m sure that I will have comparable moments as a mother – moments when the wide grassy path of completely equal treatment of my children will carry the day.  But I know there will be times when things don’t shake out with such balance.  When those situations arise I will do well to remember Louis CK’s approach to the “but that’s not fair” argument that will surely pour from my children’s mouths on many occasions.

You only look into your neighbor’s bowl to see if he has enough.  Words to live by for all of us, to be sure.

The Prenatal Trade Deadline

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

This is a busy time of year for baseball fans.  The mid-season trade deadline passed on July 31st, although with some finagling teams can continue to execute trades until the end of this month.  It’s unnerving if your team loses a good player (as mine did…).  It’s exciting if your team picks one up.  Either way, at this time of year when the weather is hot and miserable, the season is feeling sluggish, and the postseason lineup is still debatable, the mid-season trade deadline injects a bit of excitement into the game.  And, in a strange episode of life imitating sports, I just made a swap of my own.

Yesterday, at 26 weeks and change into my second pregnancy, I switched to a new OB.

That single sentence represents a complex web of emotions for me.  It represents the frustration and anger I felt with my old OB.  It represents my disappointment at having to reconcile myself to the fact that I was in the wrong hands.  It represents the triumph of knowing that I took control of the situation and made the right decision for me and my baby.  And it represents the warmth and comfort of a friend who talked through my situation with me, recommended her OB without hesitation, and called her doctor’s office on my behalf to help ensure that I could get an appointment.

Being an adult is not always easy.  Actually, more times than not, it’s really difficult – especially if we want to do it well.  Confrontation, both of people and of situations, takes courage that can be hard to muster.  After the deal-breaker appointment with my old OB I sat with a pit in my stomach for five days without telling a soul as I came to grips with the change I needed to make.  I wrestled with myself, working hard to determine if my convictions were rooted in reason or prenatal hormones.  And eventually I knew that I had to do something very hard.

The act of leaving my old OB (whom I’d been with for 10 years and 1.5 pregnancies) was easy.  I didn’t even have to tell him my reasons if I didn’t want to.  All I had to do was sign a piece of paper releasing my records to my new doctor and be on my way.  But I didn’t want to do it that way.

My last appointment in his office was with another doctor in his practice (scheduled as such before I’d made the decision to leave).  Since my new doctor couldn’t get me in right away, I had to keep that last appointment, knowing that when I went in I likely wouldn’t see my own doctor unless it was in passing.  Aware that I might not have the opportunity for a verbal explanation, and fearing that I might dilute my feelings in a face-to-face encounter, I wrote a letter.  I hoped to give it to him myself, but he was out of the office and I had to leave it with his receptionist.

In it I told him the reasons for my transition to a new doctor – namely the fact that specific aspects of his treatment of my pregnancy made me question the quality of the care I was getting.  I told him in detail what he had done to make me doubt him.  And I told him that his actions were entirely preventable.  I told him that while I defended him after IEP’s fraught delivery, I didn’t intend to let something go wrong again just because I didn’t have the nerve to abandon a doctor who wasn’t giving me his full attention.

He hasn’t contacted me, and I’m not surprised.  Frankly, I don’t need him to.  What I need him to do is take my words to heart and consider whether he’s being the kind of doctor his patients deserve.  If my departure can solicit that kind of self-evaluation, then it’s worth it to me.

I’ve only had one appointment with her, but so far I like my new OB.  She had read my transferred records before seeing me.  She listened as I explained the circumstances behind my 26-week switch.  She asked pointed and astute questions about IEP’s delivery, and tried to assess (as best she could without having been there) why it was so problematic, and what we might do to prevent similar problems with my next delivery.  She was warm.  She was kind.  She seemed genuinely concerned about what I’d been through to this point.  And she seemed committed to giving me a better birth experience with my second delivery than I had with my first.

Being an adult is sometimes hard.  Doing it well is frequently hard.  But I’ve found in my life that I have more regrets about skirting confrontation than I do about facing it.  I have a son to raise.  And before too long I’ll have two.  I want them to see me be honest and forthright.  I want them to see me do things that are hard because they are right.  I want them to learn by example what it means not only to be a good adult, but to be a good human being.

No one wants to admit that a doctor they’ve been with for 10 years is asleep at the switch.  But I have a family to take care of.  And in this case, taking care of my son meant doing something hard even before he is born.  I’m sure he doesn’t appreciate it now.  But it represents a trend I hope to continue throughout my kids’ lives; a trend that I hope they will appreciate one day, provided I continue to do it right.

On the Cusp

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

It’s a bit surreal spending three hours a week in a NICU when you’re pregnant.  Actually, I should clarify that.  It’s a bit surreal spending three hours a week in a NICU when you’re about 2/3 of the way through your pregnancy.

I’m at a precarious place, gestationally speaking.  I’m 25 weeks pregnant, which is a scary place for me.  If something happened and my baby were born today he would be in the position of a decent likelihood of survival, but also a decent likelihood of lifelong health problems stemming from prematurity.  Perhaps some people take comfort in crossing that threshold into “the baby could survive” territory, but I step onto a bed of pins a needles.  I will stay on those pins and needles until at least 34 or 35 weeks.

This past Sunday as I made my way through the NICU looking for fussy babies to soothe I came across two who were especially tiny.  Both were in incubators and under bili lights.  Due to HIPAA constraints I’m really not supposed to ask questions about patients unless it relates to my interaction with them.  But in these cases I couldn’t help myself.  I asked these babies’ respective nurses how old they were.  One was 2 weeks old, and born at 25 weeks.  The other was 4 days old and born at 27 weeks.  These babies should have been born a mere two weeks before mine, and yet they are here now.

Seeing these tiny creatures was strange – almost like looking into my own womb.  No matter how much you read about what your baby weighs at this point, or how long he is, or how he hasn’t filled out and his skin is wrinkled, it just isn’t the same as actually seeing a baby who looks a lot like yours would (or rather, does).  I feel big these days, but I know now that my baby is still small.  And on the days when I wish to fast forward to the end of the pregnancy I can remind myself that every day matters.  Every day that my baby kicks and squirms is a blessing.  No matter how much I want to meet this little boy, the unknown is better than the known.  No matter how much I miss my old jeans, big and pregnant is better than slim and not pregnant.  Because at this point, the alternative would be a nightmare.

I am on the cusp of my third trimester.  The coming weeks will bring heartburn, snoring, and an inability to tie my own shoes.  And I will be thankful for every discomfort I endure.

No Shirt, No Shoes, No Toddlers?

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

When my sister and I were little girls my parents made a concerted effort to throw us into a wide variety of social situations.  These included backyard barbecues, church potlucks, pre-theatre dinners before the opera, rodeos, and country club brunches.  Their intention – which worked – was to ensure that Anne and I were comfortable in any setting – that we would be neither daunted by formality, nor unable to relax and enjoy a more casual atmosphere.  It’s a strategy that GAP and I plan to replicate with our own children.

The lynchpin of this strategy, though, is exposure.  The only way a kid learns how to behave and acclimate to a formal restaurant is if you take them to one.  Or, rather, to several.  No number of at-home lessons on “start with the fork at the outside and work your way in” can match the exposure that the real experience provides.  As a parent you have to expect that your first foray into new territory – whether it’s with linen tablecloths or cowboys and bull riding – is going to be fraught with hiccups.  Kids acclimate quickly, but not typically without a few errant assumptions and awkward questions.  It’s just part of the learning experience.

With all of this in mind, I was disheartened to learn that a restaurant in Pennsylvania has banned all children under the age of six.  They claim that young children create excessive and uncontrollable noise that disturbs other customers.  I claim that they are intolerant and a bit too big for their britches.

As the mother of a toddler I know well the pitfalls of restaurant dining with a little kid in tow.  IEP is a pretty good restaurant patron, though we have certainly powered our way through a few meals that were interrupted for disciplinary trips outside.  In most of these moments few, if any, other diners were bothered because we took care to remove the tiny tyrant from the dining room and rectify the bad behavior someplace else.  Thankfully, we’ve never gotten so much as a cross look from a waiter or hostess.

So I wonder why this restaurant wasn’t willing to take a more individualized approach.  Why not address each family when a problem arises?  Why punish all families, even those with mannerly tots?

I have always found that it is the most upper-crust places that are the most tolerant of young kids.  Their approach is one of service which applies to all customers.  These establishments seem to pride themselves in playing a role in helping children learn how to behave in an environment that may be new and different, and I always appreciate that.

It’s hard to raise kids who know how to behave in public.  It’s a lot of work to expose them to different situations and teach them the social protocols for each.  Of course it’s easier to just stay home and order pizza (and there are plenty of nights when we do just that).  But trying to teach kids to know something a bit broader,  well, it’s not for the faint of heart.  We need all the help we can get.  And that’s exactly why news like this leaves me crestfallen.  If this particular decision becomes a trend (surely not!) we parents will be left with few options, and a generation of 10-year-olds who know only how to behave at Pizza Hut.

He Knows

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Every morning GAP gets up first.  The dogs follow him out of our bedroom, wait while he gets IEP from his crib, and then the lot of them go downstairs to kick off the day.  About 10 minutes later I roll out of bed, go through my morning oblutions, and join them in the sunroom.  This is how it works… unless I’m pregnant.  There’s one wrinkle in the routine when I’m pregnant, because Scout knows.

The morning routine has been the same for several years now.  So I found it curious during my first pregnancy when, near the end of my first trimester, Scout stopped going downstairs with GAP in the morning.  He would go across the hall to the study, lie down, and wait for me to get up.  When I emerged he would greet me eagerly, then lie back down and wait for me to get ready to head downstairs.  He did this every single morning until IEP was born.

This time around he’s been a little slower to realize that I’m pregnant, and a bit more inconsistent in his attentiveness.  I think it probably has something to do with his protective instincts toward IEP and the fact that he can’t be in two places at once.  But sometime in the past couple of weeks he figured it out, and most mornings I get out of bed to discover that he is either waiting for me in the study, or hasn’t even left the bedroom at all.

Apparently, while there is no scientific evidence of dogs’ ability to discern pregnancy, there is voluminous anecdotal support.  Dogs are keenly aware of our body language, routines, and scents.  And all of these things change to some extent during a pregnancy.

Scout is the best, sweetest, most obedient, and gentlest dog I’ve ever known (and I grew up with dogs).  When we have overnight company Scout doesn’t follow us upstairs at night, but goes down to the guest room in the basement and spends the night with our guests.  When he was about three years old he found a burrow of days-old baby bunnies in our yard.  He checked on them daily (we assumed he was after a furry snack), and when they were old enough to venture out of their hole he lay down on the patio, making himself as small as a hundred-pound dog can, and gently played with them, never once pouncing or snapping.  We have it on video.  At six months old IEP pulled on Scout’s cheeks and ears regularly and Scout just lay there.  He walks at your side without a leash.  And when I am pregnant he stays close, making sure that I’m okay.

Taking a step back, maybe it’s not all that amazing that dogs can sense pregnancy.  They are highly social animals and highly attuned to their masters.  But even after having him in our family for five years now, sometimes Scout still awes me.  GAP and I have long said that Scout is the best dog we’ll ever have.  Perhaps it’s because he was our first, but even setting that bias aside, it will be hard for any other dog to live up to the example he’s set.

Every morning, until Baby #2 is born, Scout will stick close by my side.  And I won’t take it for granted even for a moment.