Pregnancy Pics

I guess it’s time for some pictures since it’s the 27th week.

Amber in Week 27 Amber in Kameez Shalwar Amber and me

The pregnancy is finally showing, though it can be somewhat hidden in Amber’s Pakistani kameez shalwar.

Week 21: Level 2 Diagnostic Ultrasound

The child finally looks human

I was scheduled for a level 2 diagnostic ultrasound during the 21st week. Myself and Zack were very excited as we were told that at 21st week the baby looks like a complete human vs “human like” in the early weeks.

The ultrasound was scheduled at around 7:30am. We reached our lab and the procedure started. Our baby was lying on her tummy and was very active. The ultrasound technicion took at least 50 different views. The sonogram included brain, kidneys, heart, legs, arms, face, hands, feet and what not. It continued for 2 hours. All that time our little one did not sit idle for a sec. She was not very co-operative. At one point the technician said to us “what a crazy kid she is, she is not letting me have the details I need to do”. But by hook or crook, all of the diagnosis was done. We were blessed to know that everything is normal.

The most amazing part was that at one point in time, she almost raised her head and seemed like she looked at us (that’s how it appeared on the screen) and while doing it, she used her pretty little hands and wiped her face. According to the lady performing the procedure, very few kids do use their hands to clean their face. Seems like we will have a neat, tidy kid after all. Like mother like daughter.

Progress of the fetus

During the 21st week,

Your baby can still move all over in the amniotic fluid. Towards the end of this trimester the baby will begin to settle, usually in a head down position (Although some babies do not turn head down until late in the last trimester.). About 3-4% of babies will remain in a breech position. Your baby weighs just under a pound (13 ounces or 369 grams).

What’s in a Name II

In my previous post thinking about a name for our baby, I mentioned a website for Muslim names.

Now, what exactly is a Muslim name? Let’s take a look at a few websites listing Muslim names. Most of the names on these sites are Arabic names with some Persian and a few Turkish names as well.

This seems like the general naming pattern in Pakistan where Arabic and Persian names are quite common.

However, why should we restrict Muslim status to Arabic, Persian or Turkish names? One website seems to be even more restrictive, prohibiting even Persian and Turkish names as “foreign.” Why are Persian or Arabic names Muslim while Indonesian (which is the largest Muslim country) ones are not considered Islamic by some Muslims? What about Berber names? Or African ones?

Why should we consider Arabic names Islamic? After all, Arabs of all religions share those names. Arabic names have spread over wherever Arabs ruled as well as in other Muslim lands, but one can still not tell a Muslim or Christian Arab apart by their given name in general. An example of the cultural and ethnic origins of names is that Pejman Yousefzadeh’s grandfather was named Abdollah. Pejman’s family is from Iran and he’s Jewish, but his paternal grandfather’s name is Arabic and means “Allah’s slave.”

I think names follow culture, language and ethnicity. A few names are based on religious figures and hence could be said to belong to a religion, but most are not.

Consider Biblical names. Quite a few Biblical names are common among Jews, Christians and Muslims. Yochanan, Ioannes, Johannes, John, Jean and Yahya are different versions of the same name in different languages. Why should we consider Yahya, the Arabic version, as the only Muslim one of this list?

Let’s look at the practice of the Prophet Muhammad in this matter. There is no record of him renaming people who accepted Islam to distinguish them from pagans, Christians or Jews. The only examples I know of where Muhammad changed someone’s name was either because the name was derogatory or was of the form “slave of X.” Here is what Muslim Baby Names says on the topic:

The name must be meaningful. “You will be called by your name on the day of judgment” this is another reason why it is important to chose a name with good meaning. The prophet was very particular about it and he always changed names that were derogatory. An example is that he changed Aasiyah (disobedient) into Jameelah (beautiful).

A child must not be given the name of Allah unless it is compounded with Allah. According to a Hadith the worst of men on the day of judgement will be one who is called Shahinshah. only Allah Ta’ala is king of kings or Shahinshah; Kingdom belongs to him alone

Further parents must make sure that the names they select signify servitude to Allah alone and to no one else. They must not append bondage even to the name Nabi. Names that reflect love or romance must not be used either. The Prophet has suggested names of the Prophets or Abdullah and Abdur Rahman. He has said,

“Keep the names of the noble Prophets, Allah loves most the names Abdullah and Abdur Rahman. The most truthful names are Harith and Humam, while the most disliked are Harb and Murrah (war and bitter).”

I am always surprised at Muslim converts who change their names at the time of their conversion. I see no need for it.

Next: The struggle for last names.

What’s in a Name I

One of the interesting pastimes during pregnancy is choosing a name for the baby. Since we can’t be sure about the gender of the baby, we have to consider both boy and girl names.

The question then comes down to what sort of names to choose. Most people choose names either from their own culture or the culture they are surrounded by. For immigrants, the question can sometimes be quite important. I have heard arguments on both sides. On the one hand, a name in one’s native language is one of the basic links of one’s child to a culture they won’t exactly be part of. On the other hand, giving a strange (to the community one has settled in) name to one’s child can point the child out as an outsider.

We don’t care much about these issues, but there is a related problem that’s important. It is pronunciation. We want to pick a name that’s simple, beautiful as well as pronouncable by both Pakistanis and Americans.

The emphasis on pronunciation comes from the way my name has been distorted all my life. My name is “Zakaria” (زکریا). It’s a Hebrew name from the Old Testament. It is also found in the Quran as the Prophet Zakaria who was the father of John the Baptist (یحیی) [Yes, I know there are some differences between the Bible and Quran about my namesake]. Because it is a Biblical name, there are lots of different spellings and pronunciations. That, by itself, is not so problematic.

My pronunciation problems started in Pakistan over a confusion about the meaning of my name and some features of Urdu. My name means Yahweh (God) remembers. Now, remembrance of God is popularly known in Urdu and Arabic as zikr/dhikr (ذکر). Notice the difference in the first character in zikr (ذ) and in Zakaria (ز). They are two different letters, both pronounced as “z” in Urdu and Persian, but having somewhat different sounds in Arabic [In fact, there are four letters in Urdu that have the “z” sound]. This caused spelling errors of my name in Urdu, so much so that my Urdu teacher in middle school would try to “correct” my name on any work I turned in. I finally did win that battle with him.

The pronunciation errors were, however, not a result of this issue. They owed their explanation to another peculiarity of Urdu (and Persian and Arabic): lack of vowels. We have long vowels in Urdu but the short vowels are never written down. There are diacritical marks for short vowels, but they are almost never used. Let’s take a look at my name. Letter by letter, it would be transliterated from Urdu to English as “Zkrya.” Add in the people’s assumption that my name is related to “zikr” and you get “Zikree-a.” That used to piss me off.

Our pronunciation problems obviously weren’t over when we came to the US. Here, people do all sorts of stuff to my name. Those who call me “Zachary” or “Zachariah” are ok by me. The most common mistake, that I don’t like, though is to elongate the second “a” to say “zakaaria.”

I have been used to people mispronouncing my first name since birth. So I have gotten over it. However, I never thought someone would drastically mispronounce my last name. It really is pretty simple: “Ajmal.” The worst mistake you can make is elongating one or both of the short a’s. But I have heard worse. People have tried to think of the “J” in my last name as either a Spanish or German one. That sounds so awful, I usually don’t recognize it.

Enough about my problems. There are issues with Pakistani names due to lack of similar sounds in English. For example, Talha (طلحہ) has a soft “t” that doesn’t exist in English. There are other letters and sounds as well. I remember how amused I was to first hear the word khakis from a native English speaker. Its origin is Hindi/Urdu خاکی and we don’t pronounce “kh” as “k” at all.

Names in Pakistan can either be local (i.e., Punjabi, Sindhi, Pushto, etc.) or borrowed from Persian, Arabic or Turkish. There is a large number of such borrowed names.

When a name from a different script is transliterated into English, there are always multiple versions. For example, Muhammad/Mohammed, Usama/Osama, etc. Talking to Kianoush, it also seems that my Urdu-speaking instinct for transliteration is different from his Persian-speaking one. For example, where I would think an “i” as the appropriate vowel, he likes to use “e.” The Turks also use much more different spellings for the same words. This not only means different spellings for the same word, but also different pronunciations based on those different transliterations.

Therefore, we are limiting our search to names from either the US or Pakistan which would work in both places. Even if the name is strange to one country’s ears, they shouldn’t have to struggle to pronounce it.

Here are some online resources for names.

  • 1990 US Census name distributions: A list of first and last names in the US arranged by their popularity.
  • Behind the name: Lists of names from different cultures/languages and their meanings.
  • Popular baby names from the Social Security Administration.
  • Name Statistics: Check the popularity of specific first and last names in the US.
  • Baby Names lists more than 6,000 names. I noticed Persian and Arabic names in addition to European ones.
  • Parenthood has Norse, Phoenician, and Aramaic in addition to the regular ones.
  • Babycenter allows you to search names by first letter, last letter and number of syllables.
  • Popular baby names seems to have a good collection of names as well.
  • Or you could invent a name.
  • Muslim names: This requires a long discussion which will have to wait for part II.

Feel free to suggest any names you like in the comments.

Next: What’s a Muslim name?

Week 20: Boy or Girl

Finally, the pregnancy is half over. Amber is starting to get a bit bigger from her 100lb (46 kg) self. She needs new clothes but doesn’t like the maternity clothes available. I’ll leave it to her to write the details of her travails.

Now is the time to find out if we are having a boy or a girl. Amber has always wanted a boy. I have an adverserial side to my personality which means that I am hoping for a girl. It’s fun to argue about the sex of the fetus. One interesting aspect of our discussions is that Amber seems to want a most feminine boy while I am looking forward to a tomboyish girl. Perverse, isn’t it?

To answer the big question of what are we having, we turn to our friend, the Internet. It turns out there are many, many ways to predict the sex of your unborn child.

Let’s first use the Chinese Calendar method. Amber was 30 at the time of conception which was in November. Checking the table, we find out it’s going to be a boy.

People also say that girls have heartbeats faster than boys. Our fetus’s has consistently been greater than 140, so girl ties boy 1—1. But all my enthusiasm was dashed though by this guy who did some scientific study showing that fetal heart rate does not predict sex at all.

Instead of boring you with each of these old wives’ tales, let’s go directly to the results. Taking this quiz, we found out that there’s a 66% chance that we are going to have a girl. Yay, I win!

Enough of the old wives’ tales. Let’s find out how we can scientifically find out the gender of the fetus. There seem to be three main methods:

  1. Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) is generally only performed if there is a high risk of genetic abnormalities as there is a 4% chance of miscariage as a result of this test.
  2. Amniocentisis is also similar and is generally not recommended unless the Alpha-fetoprotein test comes out positive.
  3. Since the other two options are out, the only one we are left with is the ultrasound. An ultrasound is not a very good way of finding the gender of the baby. We know several people who got it wrong. The most common mistake is “we can’t see a penis, so it’s a girl.” The accuracy depends on several factors like the position/pose of the fetus, gestational age, technician’s ability, etc.

We were hoping our doctor would make a recording of the ultrasound video at our next monthly appointment. May be if we played it like 100 times, we could figure out if it’s a girl or a boy. Plus I could use my mad image analysis skills to write a penis detection algorithm. Unfortunately, they don’t do video recordings.

UPDATE: Here is some info about the accuracy of ultrasound for determining the gender of a fetus.

Weeks 11–19

Will my child be bald?

In weeks 14th—17th the fetus grows hair. I was very upset that time ‘cause it looked like I was going to get laid off. So Zack kept telling me that due to all that worry, we will have a bald child as the fetus will lose all his/her hair. So what choice do I have?

Why the starter for life can endanger the life itself?

Besides major cramping and nasal congestion, rest of my first trimester ended fine so when the 18th week started, our doc gave us a “go ahead” for intercourse (they prefer to avoid calling sex). He said but masturbation is not allowed and the question comes “why? is it because it’s always better?” And to my surprise answer came out to be yes which I had said as a joke. My doc said masturbation in women results in a much stronger stimulation than regular sex so stay away from it.

I shared it with another friend of mine who is pregnant herself so she asked it from her ob/gyn at her next visit if she can use her paw or vibrator and the doctor’s eyes were wide open, unable to reply for a few minutes. I guess it’s still not good that women talk about it. They just do it quietly.

We were quite excited as nothing had stopped us in last 10 years 🙂 before. We planned like it’s our first time or at least we felt it that way. Everything went smooth from candle-light dinner to nice cuddling etc.

48 hours later I was spotting again. First few days I thought it will go away and on day 3, I called my doc who asked me to come right away for a check up. Everything looked fine. So they asked “were you sexually active before it started?” and it reminds you of teenage years when your mom asks you what were you doing talking so late on phone with a guy like what can you do beside talking but..and very shyly like we have made a mistake, we both agreed that we shared the bed one night. And the doctor was like “No, you can’t do it then.” We were like but you said it’s ok and they said “no, not any more. SEX is not for you.”

Progress of the fetus

During the 19th week,

This is an impressive week for growth! The baby will increase in weight to 8 ounces (227 grams)! If you are having a girl, her ovaries now contain primitive egg cells. Lanugo appears all over the baby’s body. This fine hair will remain until birth draws nearer. Sometimes you can still see some on the baby’s face and ears after birth.

Permanent teeth buds are forming behind the already formed milk teeth buds.

Spring Break Movies

When one’s pregnant and not feeling well, there’s not much one can do outdoors. So no camping trips or long drives for us this spring break. We stayed home and watched a lot of movies. For the ones we watched in theater, I am not sure Amber enjoyed them since she went to the restroom about couple of times during each movie.

Touching the Void is a documentary about two British mountaineers. One of them breaks his leg and is left for dead by his partner. It showed an amazing climb down by the injured guy. If you liked Vertical Limit, this documentary is a must-see. Amazing! It was nominated for an Oscar this year but lost out to Fog of War. I think it is much better than Fog of War.

The Fog of War is a documentary about Robert McNamara, the US Secretary of Defense during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. The documentary is good with some interesting observations by McNamara, but I think some of what McNamara said about the Vietnam-America war was a bit self-serving.

Whale Rider was an interesting movie. The kid, Keisha Castle-Hughes, was good.

Twelve Monkeys is among a few select science fiction movies that Amber liked.

Rabbit-Proof Fence is the amazing story about the escape of an aborigine Australian girl of the Stolen Generation by walking across the continent. A good movie.

Spartan is a good thriller, other than near the end. However, please do not read any reviews before watching the movie. This is a movie best watched without any information. A lot of the reviews spoil some of the suspense and plot twists.

Monster makes Charlize Theron look like a monster. What’s up with beautiful actresses taking the parts of ugly women on-screen and then winning oscars for their performance? Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman and now Charlize Theron.

Weeks 7-10

Start of a new life

On Dec 29th, we went to see the Doc in the morning. We were very nervous, if the heartbeat be there or not?

Dr Darder was there that day. He performed the transvaginal ultrasound. Zack was sitting on a chair next to me while I was lying on my back in that bed. The doctor congratulated us as he saw the heartbeat. Zack could see it from the distance while I was unable to see it. So Dr Darder put the cursor next to that little blinking dot and we were so excited to see it. What a nice way to start a new year.

He also told us to visit them for another week and then start going to my regular ob/gyn.

On Jan 05, I went to the doc and everything seemed ok.They also recommended some good ob/gyn in the area, since my guy is 25 miles away and I want someone near by.

I made the appointment with the regular ob/gyn for 14th Jan 2004.

My first pregnant visit to a regular ob/gyn

As usual I hated the long wait. Also, I am so pampered by going to specialists that ob/gyn gives me the silly PCP visit kind of feeling.

Anyways I visisted my new regular doctors on 14th Jan. They drew lots of blood (which was lost by the lab and I had to redo it) and performed a pap smear.

Doc told me that it will bleed slightly for an hour or so but nothing to be worried. It kept bleeding for three days. Again in desparation, I called my PCOS specialist and they told me to come right away for an ultrasound on Jan 17. The ultrasound was ok and Dr Trieser told me that cervix is just extra-sensitive. Finally the bleeding vanished away.

Another annoying part of my pregnancy

There is no doubt that I am suffering from major cramping etc. But that’s not all. My nose is congested all the time. I can’t breathe, can’t sleep and have no appetite left.

I am seriously allergic to molds, house mites etc. So I thought it must be my allergies. I visited the ENT specialist who told me that I have a deviated septum and may be polyps. Later they found I have no polyps; just suffering from pregnancy rhinitis. And it will get worse before it gets better… which is after delivery.

I can’t take any medicine and they can’t do CT scan to really know the cause, so blame it on the usual suspect… pregnancy.

But so far it has exhausted me. I am unable to eat and whatever I eat I throw up since I have post nasal drip and post nasal drip always make me vomit.

Progress of the fetus

During the 10th week,

The baby now enters it’s fetal period. The average size is approximately 27-35 mm crown to rump length (CRL), or 1.06-1.38 inches. S/he weighs in at 4 grams, or 4 paper clips. Tiny toes have formed. The eyes are largely open, but the eyelids are beginning to fuse, and will stay that way until 25-27 weeks. External genitalia is beginning to differentiate. External ears are completely formed, as well as the upper lip. The biggest accomplishment this week is the disappearance of the tail!

Weeks 5-6

I was having cramps in my lower abdomen for a few days and I noticed on Dec 16th evening that I have slight dark brown spotting. Spotting continued for next 10 days and cramps starting to become severe.

On the 18th, I freaked out as cramps were getting worse. I had an ovarian cyst couple months ago with similar symptoms, so I called my doc (IVF-NJ/PCOS specialist group). The nurse told me to have an early home pregnancy test and I told her… no way, it has not happened to me in last 7 years so it may not be pregnancy.

She was very polite and asked me to come next morning to have an ultrasound to see what’s going on with my cycle. I love this setup with the fertility specialist. They have 2 or 3 hours dedicated each morning where their patients can just walk in to have a blood test and/or ultrasound and one of the doctors from the group is always there even on weekends. It’s absolutely necessary for women taking IVF treatment but is also a blessing for patients like me who have gynecological issues often and need immediate attention and correct diagnosis.

My last emergency trip to a hospital (rated very best in NJ for its women health) was a very bad experience. I was dying with pain, they diagnosed me wrong without doing any test, X-ray or ultrasound and then started the wrong medicines and asked me to go see my regular specialist, who on my first visit did the ultrasound and right away told me that I have no infection, it’s just an ovarian cyst and then provided me correct line of treatment. So you can tell how much I trust my specialist over the hospital emergency rooms.

We (Zack and me) visited the specialist next morning, Dec 19th. One of the new doctors from their group (Dr Yi) was there that day. I have never met her before. Mostly I go with appointments and only see Dr Trieser or Dr Darder. She did a quick transvaginal ultrasound and told us that it seems like I am pregnant and the bleeding is due to implantation —- nothing to be worried about. She also did the blood test and later called me home around noon to confirm the pregnancy. She also asked me to keep visiting every week till the 10th week, when they can say pregnancy is stable.

Who comes to know next —- A complete stranger

My company is not doing good in last three years. We are reduced (by force adjustments) from a group of 8 System Engineers to only 2 and this is the last ultimatum from upper management to make a sale of our product or they will close shop.

So I was applying for other jobs. The same last week of Dec, I was negotiating with S, a manager in a very good company and he offered me a good package and I was supposed to confirm Monday Dec 22, that I will join this new company on Feb 01.

When I heard the baby news, I started to take it slow at work and decided not to change jobs. Moving to a new company requires a lot of extra work hours and effort before you make a good reputation. Zack and myself talked and decided it’s not a good time for me to start all over at work front. If I lose my present job in 6 months, so be it, but we should not be taking any risk.

So I told S on monday Dec 22, that I am sorry I can’t join and he was so disappointed and he tried to convince me and asked me if I wanted more benefits etc. I felt kind of sorry too and told him that I just found out I am pregnant and I don’t want to take any risk of extra work load etc.

Everything seems ok but cramps keep getting worse and worse. There were days when I was unable to sit staright in my office.

I told a few of my friends at work… mainly Steven, Rob, Laura and Daksha. I was feeling very tired and sick, could not sleep properly at nigt so I wanted to ask my boss if I can telecommute one day a week. Most of my friends at work told me not to tell my boss. Considering the force adjustments and stuff, they feared that he might use it as a negative impact on my employment continuation with my present company. But my lower abdominal pain was killing me so I decided to trust my boss. When I told him, he reacted very happy and told me to work from home as much as I needed. I was not sure if it was a good idea to share with him or not but I trusted him. It’s very important that you trust your immediate boss at work.

On the 24th Dec, I was scheduled for an ultrasound to see the baby’s heart beat. My doc could not find the heartbeat and he was concerned that it might not be the good sac since I am having such bad cramps. It made me very sad and I did pray a lot for a healthy baby.

My doc told me to revisit on Dec 29th to again check the heart beat. According to him if there will be no heart beat by Dec 29th (6 weeks) then it’s not a good sign.

Weeks 2-3

We don’t know when our baby was conceived. Actually, we have a vague idea. Since we live in different states, we can narrow down the dates to when I was home in Jersey. That comes out to be the thanksgiving weekend from Nov 27—30. But we can’t be more precise because we live apart. So it could have been any one of those days.

You see the conception of our baby was an accident. No, that’s not correct. It was conceived in indifference. Amber has PCOS and PCOS means infertility. So a long time ago, we stopped using any birth control. Condoms after all take the fun out of sex. And the only time we got pregnant before was in 1996 which ended in a miscarriage.

So, hear nutcase relatives of mine (you know who you are), God wasn’t punishing us (by not giving us any kids) for using birth control like you thought. Stop being so crazy and judgmental.

On the other hand, I can’t say that the baby is unwanted or unplanned. We were thinking about a baby and were ready to have one. Our plans just called for this to happen a couple of months and thousands of dollars later.

If you have read Amber’s post, you might wonder if our perspectives are completely different. They were. Amber has always wanted a baby while I have been, ahem, indifferent. However, both of us have been getting closer to the other’s viewpoint recently. This pregnancy is the result.