Pregnancy simulator backpack

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One day Mary was complaining about being hot and uncomfortable for no good reason. It was 75 degrees or so in the apartment, so it wasn’t excessively hot that day. She said: “If you had a 30 pound hot waterbottle attached, you’d be miserable too.”

Then she suggested: why don’t you give it a shot – fill your CamelBak with hot water and weights and put it on. I said fine. I filled the whole 3L water sack and put in another 12lbs in weights. The whole thing weighed about 18 lbs, and was bottom-heavy.

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Mary was so amused by the whole venture, that she jotted down notes on my reaction:

5:45 PM - tommy puts on pack
6:00 - tommy starts complaining, gets pillows
6:10 - tommy starts butterflying legs, complains of crotch pressure
6:20 - tommy keeps shifting positions
6:30 - tommy lays down
6:40 - tommy takes it off

I will admit that it was legitimately and surprisingly uncomfortable. Unlike wearing the backpack on your back, the abdomen is not really designed to bear weight, and the pressure starts hurting fairly quickly.

Mary is watching me type this, and she says that watching me suffer put her in a much better mood that day.

I was also hot, though I think Mary is exaggerating, because if the weight was truly inside me, I would be able to sweat on top of it, and it wouldn’t be so hot.

Now Mary is ordering me to put the backpack back on, and I am declining.

Although I only wore it for 55 minutes, that was enough, since I was able to experience the discomfort. There was no need to continue the experiment and suffer needlessly.

Now she is saying that I should wear the backpack to sleep for a whole night.

I am declining.

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Heat Wave Part 2: Oh my god I’m butt naked!

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Sunday night I’m woken up. Mary stands over me: “Tommy – can you help me move the futon mattress in front of the A/C?”. I remember getting up to help her, but not much else. The next morning Mary tells me I exclaimed upon waking: “Oh my god I’m butt naked!”. Apparently in my sleep I had stripped off all my clothes in agony.

weather-graph

This is Part 2 of the LA heat wave. Look at the graph. The top red line is the average temperature. The gray bars are the actually recorded temperatures. Currently it’s mid-October, so the typical daily high should be 73F. It should be sweater weather.

Instead, it appears the ground has opened up and the fires of hell are burning up LA. Yeah maybe global warming is real. I’m moving to Seattle. Or Alaska.

Rolling blackouts

Oh, and we’re not the only people blasting A/C 24/7, so rolling blackouts have been going through the neighborhood every 12 hours or so. The power only goes off for a second, but the lights flicker, and the decades-old A/C unit sounds like it’s going to cough up a lung.

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It actually sounds pretty scary, like it’s going to explode or go Terminator for about 5 seconds until the compressor resumes normal operation. As a result of Mary’s belief in the paranormal and general cowardliness, not only is she sleeping in the living room in front of the A/C, I am too. The futon mattress is old and I can feel the springs in it. My back hurts. I feel like I’m living in a third world country.

Finally, that thing consumes 2 kilowatts. (Believe me I am not getting my 2kW worth of cooling. This thing sucks.) Running it all day is about 40 kwH. The plurality of our electricity comes from coal, of which 1lbs generates 1kWh. So each day we’re basically burning a 40lbs bag of coal. That’s not going to make global warming even worse is it?

Tommy’s Questions for the Pediatrician

Here was my interrogation list for the pediatrician. I needed real answers to these real questions, mostly because I was cajoled into coming into the interview in the first place, so I might as well learn something.

It’s actually good for both parents to go to the interview, since then one parent can choose to play “bad cop” and ask the really direct questions.

The literal question I asked was in bold, the rationale is right after.

  1. How behind are you on a normal day? This was the first question because we were already waiting beyond our scheduled appointment time to interview her.
  2. What’s urgent care availability? Weekends? Nights? I wanted to know that if Little Sebastian was running a super-high fever, I could take him in 18 out of the 24 hours.
  3. Pager / On-call availability? I didn’t literally ask this question, but she provided the answer. (One doctor from the center is always on call.) Since in the U.S. we pay super high health care costs, we might as well get our money’s worth.
  4. How easy it is it to get an appointment? Are you going to be waiting two days? (Pretty good) Two weeks? (Pretty bad) Two months? (Nope out of there)
  5. Email latency? The doctor promised 24 hours. I’m down with that. It’s good to get a question answered via e-mail without needing to go in.
  6. How comprehensive are the facilities? Under what circumstances / how often are you going to need to be referred to another facility for a test? This can add delays to getting care for your child.
  7. First year care schedule? Your doctor should have a prepared sheet detailing their first year care schedule. Compare it to your expectations.
  8. How do you arrange the first visit? In our case, Mary is delivering at UCLA, and we are going with a pediatrician across the street, so it will be automatically scheduled.
  9. Accept anti-vaccine patients? Well we were disappointed to learn that our doctor did accept anti-vaccine patients, but I guess the hospital is in Santa Monica… 🙁
  10. Separate waiting room for sick children? No there is no separate waiting room for sick children. But newborns do have a separate waiting area (two random chairs in a hallway), so at least there is some separation.
  11. Doctor vs. parent authority, will you put your foot down? Personally I wanted a doctor who was willing to tell me when I was wrong and apply her medical expertise when shit’s going down and I’m not able to make a rational judgement. That might be opposite of what some parents want, but hey, that’s just me.

This list is by no means comprehensive. It’s just what I thought of to pester my pediatrician with. She talked really fast so she was able to cover all these questions, and I was satisfied with her answers.

We went with her.

Change your own cabin air filter

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Does your car smell musty when you turn on the A/C? Normally this wouldn’t bother you, but your wife is complaining about basically everything. Moreover, the country is experiencing an epic heat wave (90th percentile temperatures for weeks), and you’re using the A/C every time you drive.

Change your own cabin air filter. It has the following benefits:

  • You impress your wife with your handiness.
  • You show her you care about her comfort.
  • You save money vs. having the dealership do it.
  • Your car no longer smells like ass when you turn on the A/C.
  • You avoid other worse baby related chores.
  • Technically you were supposed to do it 5,000 miles ago.

Don’t tell her about the last point. Tell her it’s for her comfort.

Here’s how to do this:

  1. Go to Amazon (or Autozone or O’Reilly if you are some kind of savage). Look up the compatible air filters for your car. It’s all basically the same stuff. I ordered this one. It was half the price of the OEM part, and probably mostly as good.
  2. Watch a YouTube video on how to change it. It will literally require 15 minutes and no tools. Here was the video I watched (on my phone as I was doing it).
  3. Actually replace it. It’s idiot proof – except make sure it’s oriented in the z-axis correctly. That’s the only thing.
  4. Marvel at how dirty your old cabin air filter got after driving around LA for only 2 years.
  5. Brag to your wife and write blog post.

Babymoon on a budget: The Hotel

Your pregnant wife might be agitating for a “babymoon”. It’s a new word invented by crafty marketeers to beguile hormonally imbalanced pregnant women into travel. That being said, the second trimester could be your last chance to road-trip without a screaming baby.

I recently discovered* how to actually use Priceline’s Name Your Own Price system, so I used that to book a hotel room at roughly half price. I will share my secrets now:

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  1. Must-have amentities – Your pregnant wife is going to want: a clean room, a comfy bed, and air conditioning. I know you skimped on these qualities in college, but you can’t with a pregnant wife.
  2. Moneyball the location – Every city has nice neighborhoods that are overlooked by tourists. For instance, Rancho Bernardo is an upscale suburb with a direct freeway to downtown San Diego. Priceline’s Express Deal interface breaks down the city into neighborhoods. Pick 2 or 3 good ones. This step is going to take the longest, but you have to research your destination anyway, so it’s not wasted time.
  3. Express Deals are the upper-bound for price – Express deals are reservation offers where you don’t know the actual hotel – only the location, price, amenities, star rating, and rough review rating.Think of the Express price as the opening ask price. You can go lower.
  4. Use Name Your Own Price – It’s exactly like Express Deals, but you bid on the price. Look at the amenities and location. You can probably guess which hotels the NYOP ones are.
  5. Start bidding at 15-20% lower than the Express price – Raise your bid 5% each time until it’s accepted. Obviously if you exceed the Express price, just take that instead.
  6. That’s it – now just travel there and complete your trip. You can’t cancel.

Is all this worth it? I don’t know, it certainly takes time. I kind of enjoy dumb games like these, but certainly some people are just not going to want to go through the hassle, and I respect that, time value of money and so forth.

*By “discovered”, I mean, I read this forum post and followed the directions.

Mary’s insane nesting instinct

Months ago, Mary was reading some pregnancy thing in bed, and warned me that she would likely “nest” during the third trimester. She described “nesting” as re-ordering the household and compulsively cleaning. It sounded like more pregnancy nonsense to me, and actually didn’t seem all that different from her usual behavior.

One day however, I came home and found her scrubbing the walls. Yes, the walls. This was only the beginning. During her insane nesting phase, she has:

  • Completely rearranged the bedroom, forcing me to work on a weekend.
  • Prematurely installed cabinet locks all over the apartment
  • Cleaned out the closet and bought three over-the-door hooks
  • Scrubbed the shower and toilet (she never cleans the bathroom, I always do)
  • Relegated my custom woodwork TV stand to a lowly “bench”
  • Replaced it with a “media center” with childproof-able doors
  • Hand-washed something like 30 cloth diapers
  • Forced me to clean out the whole kitchen and deal with the cockroaches under the sink at gunpoint
  • Prematurely installed stove knob covers (how am I supposed to cook now?)

Do I sound ungrateful? Maybe I do. But after a long day at work, the last thing you want to see when you come home is 30 half-washed cloth diapers in a bucket in the middle of the bathroom.

Instead, I think you’d rather see a cheeseburger ready for consumption.

Taking Advantage of your Wife’s Nesting Instinct

In seriousness, all of the above things are valuable, with the possible exception of the wall scrubbing. Everyone I’ve talked to has emphasized the value of having all of the above already done by the time your child arrives and your sanity leaves (or so I hear).

Here are some thoughts you can use to stay sane, and perhaps even happy, when your wife interrupts your gaming to ask for help:

  • Remember you have to do this stuff eventually. Might as well do it today. I guess.
  • She’s doing productive work. Celebrate. It’s another thing you don’t have to do.
  • If she asks for help, remember it could be worse. She could just straight-up ask you to do it yourself.

Finally, it’s perfectly normal to be frustrated with the timing (Do we really have to childproof the cabinets now? We literally have 5 months) even if you ultimately appreciate the effort. Set realistic standards for yourself. Think of all the fathers who aren’t even present. You’re still doing better than all of them, and that’s all anyone can ask.

How to pick a convertible carseat

TLDR: Just buy a Diono Rainier from Amazon. You’ll be making a fine choice at 1% of the effort.

Since we are getting ready to receive a newborn, I volunteered to look into carseats. Hospitals won’t discharge a baby to you until you have one installed and inspected, so this is a required task.

Infant vs. convertible

If you just Google “infant carseat”, you’ll get infant-only carseats. These do have benefits. They are cheaper, lightweight, and can double as a napper in a pinch. Unfortunately your baby will also outgrow these in a year.

I didn’t want to buy another one in a year, and I doubted we were going to remove the carseat very frequently (we live in a city with narrow parking spaces), so we decided to focus our search on convertible carseats.

These carseats are heavier, bigger, and more expensive, but are designed to take your child from infancy through early childhood.

Which convertible carseat?

There’s hundreds of different models, and hundreds of variables you could optimize. But there’s one factor that should make your choice very simple:

Rear facing is 5 times safer than forward facing. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends keeping children rear-facing until at least two years of age. In Sweden, children are kept rear facing until age 4 by law, and they have near zero fatality rates for 0-6  year old children.

Swedish carseats are designed to be rear-facing for much longer, and have weight limits of up to 55lbs. But the vast majority of convertible American carseats are only designed to carry a child up to 40lbs in rear-facing.

Even if you could import a Swedish carseat, they would not be legal to use in the U.S., since they have not passed the American NHTSA safety tests.

Extended Rear Facing in the U.S.

Thankfully there are two brands that make carseats for the American market with high rear facing weight limits. They are Clek and Diono, and they make a few models that allow rear-facing until 50lbs.

The Clek carseats are more expensive, made in Canada (a good thing), and require an expensive infant insert to work for newborns. They also have a lower upper weight limit (for eventual forward facing). If money no object I might buy that and also the infant insert.

The Diono carseats are more affordable, made in China (eh), but do fit newborns without any additional accessories. They also have a higher upper weight limit for eventual forward facing. It overall seemed to be a better compromise for us, and we bought that. Specifically, we got a purple one.

Did we make the right choice? I’m not sure. After all, you have to decide before your child is even born, and probably before you have any experience with children or carseats. But I can sleep at night knowing I did through research to prioritize my child’s safety.