Friday, December 28, 2007

Expecting a Baby!

Hello again!

My wife and I will be having a baby next April!

It's a boy. The second ultrasound was clear about that.

Ultrasound sessions are odd. The first thing the nurse photographed was a series of cross-sections of the skull and brain. Probably the only time my wife and I every clearly see what is happening in our son's head. But not normally how I first meet someone. I felt like I should have shaken hands first, or something.

It is traditional in Jewish culture to use the names from recently deceased relatives. My wife and I both like names from our grandfathers: Simon, Herbert, Oakley Earl. We are currently favoring one of these but won't tell you which until the baby's naming day. Please pray that God tells us what he wants this baby to be named!

The official due day is Tax Day, April 15th. However in both our families the births tend to run a couple weeks early. Early would be nice: having Tax Day as your birthday would be sad later on in life.

My wife is not only feeling him kick but has seen him kick a few times. I have not yet been in the right place at the right time to feel him kick. He does kick regularly (but softly) in between swing dances and after she eats chocolate. I suppose he is making his likes known early on.

That's the quick report of the big news. Now for a longer explanation of what the past few weeks has been like.

One of the effects of gluten-intolerance is that gluten reactions cause miscarriages during the first trimester. (Just like how living in an famine without enough food causes a certain "don't stay pregnant" metabolic effect, so does a Celiac reaction. Although the pantry may be full the chemical changes do not know this.) So we have been putting off announcing the pregnancy until it was past this risky time.

Being gluten-intolerant also is a setup for a miserable first trimester (actually four months in my wife's case). My wife is so sensitive that she can get a small gluten reaction even from invisible crumbs transferred from the refrigerator door handle at work or from a package of food contaminated when handled by a grocery store shelf-stocker. These small gluten reactions make her tired and slightly nauseous. They do not combine well with how the first four months of pregnancy made her quite tired and nauseous during the mornings and evenings.

The result was that my entire life changed for four months as we dealt with the pregnancy.
  • Fortunately, her employer allows her to work from 10am to 6pm if she does a "working lunch". This fit well with her many slow and queasy mornings. But I needed to be at work earlier than 10am, so I arranged on the days I taught to carpool with a friendly co-worker in the math department. How I did errands had to change since I never had the car during the work week.
  • The new congregation, Sar Shalom, has many small children. Small children are covered with gluten crumbs. It was too risky for my wife to attend Shabbat services. I usually did, but it was difficult to worship while my wife was stuck at home.
  • Normally my wife and I share housework chores, but that stopped. I had to take care of the house by myself.
  • That housework included cooking. Have you tried cooking for a nauseous person who does not eat gluten or meat, is currently not digesting potatoes well (an uncommon but not too rare pregnancy symptom), and whose nausea is especially triggered by the smell of tomato products? I'm not a good cook, even if I've learned to bake cookies well. Cooking for us, and trying to do so with variety, was quite a task.
  • I was waking up at about 6am and at work until 4:30pm. Because of the weight lifting class I was also exercising more than usual, in a way I was not used to. This meant I was often exhausted. My productivity at home dropped, even on days I was not teaching. It was very opportune that Providence had arranged for my ministry responsibilities to be almost nothing for a few months as the new congregation grew.
  • My ministry roles in the new congregation are quite similar to what they were when I led everything: presenting sermons, giving other teaching, doing pastoral counseling, and worshiping. But none of these roles need to be responsibilities since there are two other "Messianic Rabbis" to also fill these roles. I did what I had time and strength to do, but was blessed to be able to step back as much as I needed to be able to care for my wife.
  • My wife was so tired and nauseous in the evenings that she could not be as good company as she wanted. Often, the best she could do was be in the same room with me as we read different books or did different things on the computers. She would also frequently need me to do quick things for her: get her more tea, deal with the lovebirds, get her a new magazine from the mail pile, etc. My evening relaxation and recreation time had to change to try to be with her as much as I could, and be available to help her. Prompted by my brother, I tried World of Warcraft and found that it was a great fit: I could hang out with a bunch of friends while in the living room, and take short breaks whenever necessary.
  • The book I was writing for Math 25 turned out to be a huge project compared to what I anticipated. I had planned to simply reformat the established activities to provide what Vigotsky called "scaffolding". However, the more I talked with the other Math 25 instructors the more we all realized drastic change was needed. My plans to use Tuesdays and Thursdays for ministry work (that had no immediate demand) were replaced by the need to work on this math book (which will be used Winter term).
  • My wife could not attend our normal weekly social fun time: swing dancing on Wednesday nights with friends. I decided to learn how to grill fish on days I was not teaching, and invited friends over to the house to help me experiment. This new habit, along with my new World of Warcraft friends, meant that I was spending time with a different set of friends than usual.
All of these things--especially their affect on me in ways that would be interesting to blog about--were directly related to the pregnancy. Since I was not allowed to talk about the pregnancy I simply didn't blog much in September or October, and not at all in November. Now you know why!

For icing on the cake, one of my math co-workers caught mono at the end of Fall term and I needed to substitute teach for her, for three weeks. That was more to fill my plate, and although not related to the pregnancy not really exciting to blog about.

The Fall term ended in mid-December. I took one week off to relax. Then I caught the very bad cold that has been going around Oregon. Today I am feeling better, and Erev Shabbat seems a fitting time to get back in touch with my family and friends.

During the past three weeks my wife has finally regained a lot of her strength, and the nausea has finally left. She is doing most of the cooking again. We are going swing dancing on Wednesday nights again. We are again doing things together when relaxing after work.

Her craving for Ethiopian food has forced us to learn to cook it ourselves, since there are no Ethiopian restaurants in town. Working together during the past three weeks, we've gotten pretty good at it! We've also recently cooked celerac latkes and mushroom-filled tamales, and baked biscotti and chocolate layer bars.

We've investigated the world of cloth diapers, researched our families' prevalent infancy health conditions, and shopped for nursery furniture.

My wife and I spent a lot of this week cleaning up the house. We went through the garage, which was messy primarily because as growing season ended my wife was unable to put all of her gardening equipment away properly and since I did not know how to do so it just got set on the garage floor in piles. We went through the nursery, changing it from a babysitting room to an actual nursery-to-be. And we went through the spare bedroom we use as a library and project room, which routinely accumulates piles of stuff that was begging to be set down somewhere out of the way and dealt with later.

How will life be different during the second half of the pregnancy?

P'nei Adonai was waiting since September for a certain church to finalize plans to work together, but they finally gave up two days before Thanksgiving and told us we should find other churches to work with, let them know what happens, and not give them any priority in scheduling and planning or expect much participation.

My main to-do item next week, now that local pastors have made it through Christmas, is to call the ones I know are interested in the first-century roots of their faith to find which are interested in working with P'nei Adonai in 2008. The current plan is for a weekly discussion study, an hour or two long, either Sunday or Monday evenings (or possibly both) about the first-century vocabulary concepts through which Yeshua saw the world and explained his teaching, with application to how these concepts today effect our relationships with God and with other people. An hour of first-century sharing-style worship would precede the discussion, with perhaps a few people attending one or the other but not both.

Thus, for the foreseeable future, P'nei Adonai will not be a "Messianic Jewish" ministry (Sar Shalom will do that job in town) but will be a "First Century" worship and teaching ministry working with local churches and anyone else interested in attending.

The first official "P'nei Adonai" activity since the Jewish New Year that is distinct from Sar Shalom will happen at the end of this month. Each Gregorian New Year's Eve we visit a church in Cottage Grove and do worship dance with them.

During Winter term I'll be teaching three math classes. This will make me quite busy on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. However, I will no longer be writing a math book on Tuesday and Thursdays. (Hooray!) I will still carpool on the days I teach so my wife has the car.

I will continue weight lifting on campus but during the weight room's open hours instead of as a formal class; after eight weeks it finally became something that energized me instead of adding to my fatigue.

Since I am teaching three classes next term I can either take Spring term off completely or teach one class, depending upon family needs. (My wife can cut down to slightly fewer hours while remaining full time for health benefits, and if she does that we can schedule our weeks so one of us is always home even if I teach a single class.)

During the summer we had our sewing machine repaired, in anticipation of sewing baby clothes. I'll have to warm up to sewing by making my wife a few more shirts. Sewing shirts for her is fun but not economical; baby outfits can actually be sewn at home to save money.

I'll keep grilling fish and playing World of Warcraft, but not as much. I have been working on the pencil-and-paper role-playing game a bit since Fall term ended, so my wife and I can play that together in the evenings. It is ready now!

I'll also blog more. Notice that even in this long post I never got around to discussing how all these items have affected me. I have learned a great deal from having ministry responsibilities fade away while the roles remain, changing the setting of my weekly corporate worship, spending time with different friends in different ways, and from caring for a spouse who was not infirm but was similarly needing constant care and attention while being unable to reciprocate and dote on me as she desired. I have a lot to write about!