13 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Human Birth

Robbie Gonzalez of io9 published a fantastic super list on the 13 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Human Birth. Posted with permission, please enjoy reading the full article!

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13 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Human Birth

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Everyone on Earth has been through it, but there’s a lot about birth that you’re probably unfamiliar with. Here’s thirteen facts about the human birthing process you may not have picked up in biology class.

13. In An Alternate Timeline, Birth Might Have Been Aided By Centrifugal Force

In the 1960s, inventors Charlotte and George Blonksy devised an “apparatus for facilitating the birth of a child by centrifugal force.” The device, which is picture at the top of the post anddescribed in further detail here, was designed to “assist and supplement” the natural efforts of the mom, who is strapped into the apparatus, “so that such centrifugal force and her efforts act in concert to overcome the action of resisting forces and facilitate the delivery of the child. Blessedly, the “Blonksy Device” never really caught on.

12. Postpartum Depression Isn’t Always Postpartum, or Depression

The New York Times reported on the growing body of research that suggests mental illness in new mothers and moms-to-be is not only more common than once believed, but more varied. Recent findings challenge the view that symptoms begin in the weeks immediately following childbirth, and that those symptoms are limited to ones of depression:

In fact, depression often begins during pregnancy… and can develop any time in the first year after a baby is born… In the year after giving birth, studies suggest, at least one in eight and as many as one in five women develop symptoms of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder or a combination. In addition, predicting who might develop these illnesses is difficult, scientists say. While studies are revealing clues as to who is most vulnerable, there are often cases that appear to come out of nowhere.

…Depression [during] pregnancy can be missed because symptoms like trouble sleeping and moodiness also occur in pregnant women who are not depressed. And doctors have historically been taught in medical school that “women don’t get depressed during pregnancy because they are happy,” said Dr. Katherine L. Wisner, a professor of psychiatry and obstetrics at Northwestern University.

11. Babies Born In Space Would Likely Have Problems

Pregnant rats that are sent to space give birth to pups on Earth with an impaired sense of direction. They struggle with basic orientation, and have difficulty righting themselves when thrown into water. The pups do, however, tend to be better at processing orientations common during weightlessness, suggesting that a baby gestated and born in space might actually have an easier time navigating their zero-G environment than one born here on Earth.

That being said, there’s reason to believe that children raised in space would face considerable developmental challenges. That’s assuming, of course, that it’s even possible to become pregnant in space. Sperm do weird things in aberrant gravitational environments.

10. Part of Your Microbiome Is Planted During Birth

Image by Lauren Davis, sources via Shutterstock

Every one of our bodies is an ecosystem, home to an estimated 100-trillion bacteria called, collectively, our “microbiome.” Many of the microbes found in a baby’s gut are believed to be acquired during birth, when an infant is exposed to the microbe-rich environments of their mothers’ vagina and intestines.

9. But Your Microbiome May Also Begin Taking Shape Before You’re Born

It was long assumed that fetuses developed in a sterile womb and took on their first bacterial tenants during birth, upon exposure to the microbial communities mentioned above. But in the last decade or so, several studies have called the concept of the sterile womb into question. Increasingly, scientists are beginning to suspect that women actually “seed” their fetuses’ microbiomes with bacterial populations prior to birth, during pregnancy. The means of bacterial transmission, the makeup of these foundational populations, and the degree to which an unborn baby’s nascent microbiome can be targeted for manipulation remains less clear.

8. The Placenta Is a Lot Like Your Mouth

One piece of evidence that fetuses may acquire bacteria in the womb was the discovery,published in May, that DNA from a variety of microbes can be found in the placentas of healthy pregnant women. More intriguing still: when researchers compared the placental microbiomes of pregnant women to the skin, oral, nasal, vaginal, and gut microbiomes from nonpregnant controls, they found that the microorganismal makeup of the placenta most closely resembled that of the mouth. (A fascinating, if widely overhyped, observation.)

7. Bringing a Child to Term Costs More in America Than Anywhere Else

According to a survey conducted by Truven Health Analytics on behalf of the New York Times,charges for delivery have about tripled in the U.S. since 1996.`

6. The U.S. Also Has The Highest First-Day Infant Death Rate In the Industrialized World

Via Save the Children’s State of the World’s Mothers 2013 Report:

Only 1 percent of the world’s newborn deaths occur in industrialized countries, but the newborn period is still the riskiest time, no matter where a baby is born, with the first day being the riskiest time of all in most, if not all, countries. The United States has the highest first-day death rate in the industrialized world. An estimated 11,300 newborn babies die each year in the United States on the day they are born. This is 50 percent more first-day deaths than all other industrialized countries combined.

5. America’s Stats: Bad For Moms, Too

Research published in the May issue of The Lancet illustrates how the surprising disparity in birthing safety applies to mothers, as well. Tracy Cassel summarizes The Lancet’s review in a recent post at Evolutionary Parenting, where she notes that a mother is more likely to die from childbirth-related problems in America than Albania:

In 1990, the USA was ranked 22 in maternal health and mortality. This year, the USA ranks 60th after dropping from 50th in the last assessment. In fact, the US is one of only 8 countries to have seen a rise in maternal morality, up from 17.6 in 2003 to 18.5 deaths/100,000 in 2013 (the other 7 were Afghanistan, Belize, El Salvador, Guinea-Bissau, Greece, Seychelles, and the South Sudan). In 1987 that number was 7.2/100,00.

…Canada and New Zealand have maternal mortality rates that are half of the USA. The UK has one that is a third. Australia’s is a quarter of the USA’s. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Kuwait, Lebanon, Iran, and Serbia all have rates that are lower than that of the USA.

4. Birth Is Surprisingly Risky

Birth is a high-risk affair for mammals, in general, but it’s especially so for humans. The constraints of the narrow human pelvis, thought to be an evolutionary tradeoff of walking on two legs, combined with the exceptionally large heads of human babies, makes human birth especially difficult, and therefore dangerous, compared to other animals.

3. So Where Are Moms Least Likely To Face Birth Risks?

13 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Human Birth

Photo Credit: Moyan Brenn | CC BY 2.0

That would be Iceland – home to gorgeous vistas, crazy-maned ponies and maternal mortality rates of just 2.4/100,000 (roughly 1/8th that of the U.S.).

2. Human Labor Is Also Exceptionally Long (And Painful)

13 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Human Birth

Image Credit: Dr. Cheryll Knott via

To accommodate big-headed babies, a human’s cervix has to dilate a lot – about three times wider than it does in apes. Not only does greater cervical dilation require more time, these later stages of dilation are also more painful. As the Mayo Clinic notes, the beginning stages cervical dilation are so mild that many women report feeling perfectly content to continue going about their daily lives. It’s further along in childbirth, as the body prepares for active labor by dilating the cervix to 8, 9, or more than 10 centimeters across, that humans experience the most pain.

1. At One Point In Life, We All Looked Like Admiral Ackbar

In 2011, researchers were first able to acquire scans of a baby’s face, taken between the second and third months of fetal development, and combine them into the morphing animation you see here. Ever wonder where the dimple above your lip comes from? Wonder no more.

Check out the post here, as well as the endless stream of content on io9 posted daily! 

A community-based model of pregnancy support: Centering Pregnancy

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Pregnancy” by TipsTimesAdmin is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Public Radio International recently published a piece on a community-based approach to prenatal and postpartum care.

Centering Pregnancy is a model of care that integrates health assessment, education, and support, uniting each element into a group setting. Women of similar gestational ages join together to learn caregiving skills, develop supportive relationships, and participate in a  facilitated discussion with either a doctor or midwife. Centering groups usually meet around 10 times throughout the pregnancy and postpartum period.

The effects of Centering Pregnancy are extensive:

Studies show group prenatal care leads to better birth outcomes. Women who participate in Centering Pregnancy are more likely to breastfeed and attend prenatal care appointments, and they’re less likely to have postpartum depression and preterm births.

There’s another benefit: Centering Pregnancy is linked to fewer Cesarean sections, which saves money. For California births without complications, C-sections cost nearly twice as much as vaginal births.

Listen to the feature here.

February 14

This week, dad’s gone to the gym three times. As I mentioned in a post from a few days ago, dad spent some time in the pool swimming laps. Yesterday, he stayed on the upright bike for around 40 minutes. He talked about how much stronger he experiences his left hand to be today compared to even yesterday. The work he’s doing at the gym and around the house has been incredible rehab. I noticed a dramatic difference in his left hand from before and after my trip to Boston. Additionally, dad noted how he finds the stationary exercise itself a bit dull, as he’s sitting / standing there without much distraction (for good reason – he needs to be intently focused on each of his movements so as not to fall off or trip). Nonetheless, he seems really satisfied and content after these trips to the gym. One Kennism from the trips: “I’m using the machines that are all dusty because nobody likes to even be near them. But it’s great. I’m at least 10 yards from any lycra.”

Yesterday was a fairly straightforward day for dad: meeting, treatment, lunch, hangout, read, dinner, and bed, with some naps interspersed through each of these activities. He learned recently that one of the best ways to work on speech rehabilitation is to read aloud. When Robbie and I were heading out for a trip to a cafe for some reading and studying, he told us that his big plans for the night were to read aloud to the dogs, his eager students. 

On the dog front, I’ve realized that Lyle (our conniving, neurotic dog) has been taking advantage of our absentmindedness: he ate an entire frozen salmon, and has taken to sleeping on the top of our couches when nobody’s looking. He is also prone to stealing cookies of varying compositions. 

This morning mom and dad went to an early meeting, and Robbie and I met them at the center after radiation therapy. Dad has a weekly meeting with Dr. Shifner, dad’s radiation oncologist. In the meeting, Shifner noted how sharp dad has been looking the last few times he’s seen him. In contrast to the first few weeks where dad was wheelchair bound, very limited in his motor control, and in comparably low spirits, dad’s spirit and body have improved dramatically. When asked about the trajectory, Shifner encouraged us to avoided dwelling on numbers and data, and rather to look at the treatment as it is reflected in dad’s state of being. He mentioned how the way someone appears in person can often contrast to how an MRI would predict someone’s health. Better to take the news as dad wears it: he’s responding to the treatment well. I also learned today that the effects of the radiation continue for longer than the 6 week period of receiving the treatments. In other words, after dad finishes his radiation treatment in 2 weeks, the radiation will continue to shrink the tumor for up to three months (give or take) following. Paired with the chemotherapy (aka biological therapy) and we’re able to postpone the onset of tumor growth. That being said, Shifner also strayed from speaking about average patients, as he’s treated every possible kind of response to the treatment. 

After treatment. dad, Robbie and I headed off to University Avenue to grab some coffee. Dad, clad in flip flops and a pair of Hunter’s jeans navigated the stairs, wet pavement, and ramps with ease and skill. He walks as fast as ever, but seems to be moving around with greater care. He tired very quickly on our trip out, so we soon returned to the house for some lunch and nap. 

Dad’s been increasingly more independent, so we’ve been giving him more time at home alone. Unbeknownst to mom, Robbie, or I, dad took a joyride through the neighborhood today. We all freaked out. He definitely, definitely shouldn’t be driving around, and especially when nobody “in charge” knew that he was out and about. While he got home safe, he realized that he probably shouldn’t be driving around, given how he feels behind the wheel (as well as his doctor’s orders). This endeavor illustrates how strong willed yet dangerous my dad can be. His thought processes and strategies aren’t complete; however, his physical improvements overshadow many of his remaining cognitive weaknesses. Though his physical progress is remarkable, he continues to require careful supervision and help. The lesson: continuous adult supervision is probably a good idea. 

Mom and dad picked up some new glasses, and we successfully mailed all the clinical trial paperwork to their respective addresses. This is an achievement in itself, regardless of whether or not we choose to seek out the trials. 

On my end, today wasn’t an easy day. Going to the hospital and meeting with Dr. Shifner broke down a lot of my willful efforts to see dad’s progress and improvements as healing and full recovery from these difficult two months. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s so natural to have a back-to-normal approach when looking at dad’s independence in household tasks and his increasing ease in navigating physical challenges. But going to the meeting today brought the reality back into view for me, which made my denial much more difficult to sustain. 

Tomorrow’s a new day. I’m looking forward to celebrating Kelly and Anna’s birthday via Mexican feast, and to cooking with Mike. 

February 12

Wednesday was a smooth day for dad: relaxed meeting and treatment, followed by some downtime and paperwork back at home. We’re researching different clinical trial options. While we recognize that Duke is a fantastic clinical trial facility, we’d like to pursue other comparable (if they are in fact comparable) programs somewhere more local (say, UCSF?). So, today consisted of a lot of copies, faxes, phone calls, and paperwork for the clinical trials at both Duke and UCSF. 

On dad’s end, he was relaxed and patient. He visited the gym early this afternoon, and swam 20 laps (!). I can’t imagine better rehabilitation than swimming in the pool. I’m amazed he was able to swim at all, and so far, and with such focus. He’s motivated to recover as much physical mobility as possible. Yesterday he told me that all week he’s been thinking about jogging on the treadmill. Looking back on his workout yesterday, he told me where he was at with respect to his fitness and rehab: “man, if you say you want to do something, just make it happen!!!” Very Ken. I still laugh remembering his 2.5 mile walk that will be remembered by Charlie and Bob as that 25 mile walk. Dad was wiped, but not quite as much as his companions. I’d really like to bring him to Sawyer Camp Trail, a paved and relatively flat trail that follows alongside the Crystal Springs Reservoir. 

On the homestead, Robbie has returned for another visit from Boston. We’re all working together to get all the paperwork in order, and to keep dad feeling surrounded and supported. 

With love,
Mikaela

February 11

I feel happy to share that dad walked on the treadmill for 40 minutes today. An unexpected and proud ‘welcome home’ for me. Dad started the week off somewhere between powerwalking and jogging – a happy pace for someone who is still a bit wobbly from surgery. 

It always feels like so much happens day to day, so catching up on a week will be challenging. Some of the major movements in the works are: getting dad involved in a clinical trial at Duke. Specifically, we’re hoping to enroll dad in a trial at Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center (PRTBTC) at Duke University. This effort is due to my mom’s efforts, for which she should be recognized. We will accompany dad to Duke when his treatment wraps up, which will be sometime in March. There he will be evaluated by the doctors and nurse practitioners to determine if he’ll be a good fit for the trial. The trials sound very interesting: injecting the tumors with polio virus to delay the growth of the cancer, among other trials at Duke. Check out this website for more information: http://www.cancer.duke.edu/btc/modules/leadershipmain20/

In other news, our dear friend Bob Wilkie headed back to Washington after spending three weeks out here with us. Words don’t touch on how appreciative I am of Bob for his generous stay. We all loved having him around, especially dad. Bob was incredibly perceptive, and also willing to take dad wherever he wanted to go: San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Mountain View for ramen or pho, Half Moon Bay, among other of my dad’s favorite spots in the area. Dad is so fortunate to have Bob as his friend, and I feel lucky to have been able to spend that time with him. Bob was smooth when tensions were high in the house, and I found his presence immensely comforting.

Now the house is back to normal, or whatever you’d call normal considering this constant state of flux: Mom, dad, and I at the house. I got back from Boston late last night. When I woke up this morning, dad had lit the fire and was up walking around making coffee. I was taken aback by his strength and agility. Mom and Bob took dad to get his head shaven, so that he didn’t continue to lose his hair all over the place. Aside from a shaven head and a different demeanor, he resembled the dad I grew up watching romp around the kitchen making coffee and lighting the fire in the mornings. 

There are important deficits and differences, but today I was very struck by how much more strength and precision he had developed in his left hand. Today he was more comfortable moving his hand and fingers around. Though he still struggled with two hand jobs, such as opening plastic bags, the improvement from last week was striking. I mentioned how strong he appeared, which he really appreciated. Like anything, it’s hard to see how much you’ve improved when you’re so stuck in the day to day trials and errors of your own life. 

Other things: dad was very conversational today. We did a fair bit of driving together (pho lunch with Bob and Melissa (Bob’s wife), heading to the gym for dad’s workout and shower), and spent the time we had talking and catching up. Granted, the conversations still feel different, but I appreciated his relatively greater availability in our conversation. 

Dad is also far more self-sufficient these days. Bob, Melissa, and I were able to leave dad napping at home while the three of us picked up some groceries. This felt like a huge change, since before I left Boston dad required 24/7 supervision. I know he appreciates the freedom, as do we!

It was nice to be back with dad today. It was hard to be away from him this past week, and I’m happy to see him so full of energy today. 

Until tomorrow, I send off peace to each of you!

With gratitude,

Mikaela

February 3

High energy day for dad today. 

After his morning meeting with mom, dad and I went to radiation and then headed over to a French café near PAMF. We had a slow breakfast together, and sat in the sun while we checked in with each other and shared updates. Dad’s upfront about how he’s feeling and what he’s going through, and acknowledges how difficult this time is for him. His perspective lately follows something along these lines: “each morning I wake up and feel frustrated about my left hand, and then I realize, hey! you had fucking brain surgery!” He’s not short on perspective, and is easily reminded of how fantastic his recovery has progressed. 

When I asked him what his adjectives would be were he to describe his current state, he simply replied: challenged, uncertain. 

Dad did his best to get through some of his work stuff, but unfortunately he seems to have forgotten his password to log into his computer. This is so frustrating for him, and requires a lot of accommodation and assistance for getting past this first and fundamental step. After we attempted logging in for awhile, dad and I sat outside in the sun. He was himself today, and I found him very easy to talk to. Bob and Charlie returned shortly afterwards. Charlie made some delicious bean dip, which we enjoyed out on the deck. 

I headed off, and returned a few hours to an empty house. I checked in with Charlie, and learned that the three boys were out on a walk. About 30 minutes later, they came back in a pack. They walked 2.5 miles! This is 2.5 miles of unassisted, without-a-wheelchair walking. A huge feat, considering walking more than 5 blocks was an overwhelming challenge for dad just a few days ago. 

We sat around and enjoyed some coffee, and dad retired to his room shortly after. 

I feel so proud of him. Dad’s good attitude sets him up for a strong tolerance to adversity with his new limitations. He’s rehabilitating strikingly well, and the exercise keeps him well-oxygenated and in high enough spirits for effective treatment of his cancer. Tomorrow is a new day, and we hope to help him to be in good spirits, showered, exercised, and well-fed. 

With thanks and appreciation,

Mikaela

February 2

Today was personally a very hard day for me. Bob, Charlie, and I dropped Erin off at the airport this evening after watching the Super Bowl at Andy and Mike’s house. Her visit was soothing, but far too short. It makes me ache to think of moving on in life further from her. My energy is tapped from saying goodbye to her today, so it would be economical to move onto other aspects of today. 

Dad took a shower on his own today! Granted, it took some “gentle” prodding to get him into the bathroom on my part, but he was pleased once he got in. I realized it’s been FIVE days since he showered. I went into his room this morning to find him shivering in bed, with all the blankets on top of him. This seemed like a good window to propose a hot shower, and he was under the hot water after 30 minutes of his prepping. Showering independently is a huge step for dad, and indicates how much stronger, more balanced, and coordinated he is. He still has a lot of trouble buttoning up his collard shirts, but otherwise he’s capable. Long term goal is to get him into the shower every other day. 

Dad had an early breakfast with Bob. After his shower, the three of us headed out to Stanford for some low-key errands and to get some fresh air, while Mom and Erin went to a meeting. We sat down to some clam chowder and a chocolate eclaire. Dad seemed to be in good (definitely better relative to yesterday) spirits, and was up for deeper conversation. He was also curious to know how I’d been feeling with this quick transformation. I’ve realized that time with dad should be viewed in minutes, rather than in days. There are wonderful moments where you’re really connecting, and those are followed by long periods of a less focused and less cued in version of himself. I remind myself that it’s important to just be there to savor those short moments, rather than to try seeking them out.

After errands, we got back home and dad rested for the rest of the day. He was planning on coming with the rest of us to Andy and Mike’s to watch the Super Bowl, but he was too exhausted to join when the time came around. So he and mom got some good rest time this afternoon. 

Week 4 of radiation and chemotherapy tomorrow. We hope for more rain for California, and a relaxed start to the week for dad. 

Grateful for all our company this weekend, especially Charlie, Bob, and Erin. Those three have been the foundation for the house’s relatively smooth running, and certainly my peace of mind. 

February 1

Today was a hard day all around. 

For the past few days and weeks, I’ve been reflecting on dad’s achievements: from walking without a cane or the help of another, to working out on the erg, to staying up later into the evening, to being more emotionally present when he’s around the rest of us. Though there have been harder days, and I’m reminding myself not to seek out trends, dad has generally been rehabilitating and recovering a lot of physical and mental strength. Today we saw something we weren’t expecting: failure on dad’s mindpower and memory. 

Dad, Bob, and Charlie were heading to get an early lunch at a local pho spot in Mountain View. Dad knows this area well, but after a few attempts to give Bob directions, he was unable to recall how to get to the restaurant. At first he was confused, then apologized over and over again for his difficulties.

Dad’s hair has started falling out today, something he’s been expecting since the meeting with his doctor on Friday. For me, who wasn’t expecting this, I saw through all the progress and healing from the brain surgery to the unfortunate reality of his cancer when I saw the bald patch on dad’s head. 

The energy was low around the house all day. Dad relayed to my mom and I how he’s beginning to realize some of implications of his condition. Even before expressing these realizations outright, I was feeling heavy from my own awakening into the circumstances. I imagine the “house” energy fed off the other independently low energies in the house. 

We had a very full house this afternoon. Mom, dad, Erin, Kelly, Bob, Charlie, Andy, Mike, and I were all hanging out in the house throughout the afternoon. I made dinner, and Erin performed some of her music for all of us. Having been fortunate enough to share a space with this powerful presence for almost four years, I have to say how soothed and relaxed I feel after hearing Erin sing. I’m hurting to realize that she’s leaving tomorrow. 

Today I feel so grateful to Kelly, who spent the entire day hanging around with all of us. She’s one of those who knows how to be there, even when all you need is quiet. She’s making a difference for me. Last night I was snuggled up between her and Erin all night, and it couldn’t have been better. 

Thank you to mom, Bob, Kelly, and Erin for the important, honest conversation tonight. Image

January 31

End of week 3 of radiation and chemotherapy! Mom took dad to the meeting and treatment this morning, and met with dad’s oncologist following his 15 minute radiation session. Afterwards, the two walked around Stanford Shopping Center (not Patagonia, believe it or not) until heading back home around noon. 

Erin and I woke up this morning to a steaming loaf of dog shit. Lyle had a rough night – he slept on top of our love seat and made his way into the mud room to drop us this morning delight. Groggily, Erin and I were dropping off the recycling when we both stepped in two separate piles of his beige accident. We weren’t wearing shoes. Bob and Charlie were sitting in the kitchen when they heard our chorus of screams, and Charlie saved the day by hosing off the rug. I’m up to do most things to help out around the house, but I faced my edge with this one. I feel grateful for Charlie and Bob each day, but I was especially appreciative to have another set of hands on this task. 

In other news, dad worked out on his rowing machine for 45 minutes today. He outdid Bob, who sat with him on the recumbent bike. From Bob and Charlie’s report, dad was somewhat off balance due to the weakness on his left side, and he would frequently drop the handle with his left hand. Nonetheless, his strength, mobility, and balance would improve enormously if dad were to use the erg or recumbent bike for exercise. I’m really proud of him. 

A message to our kind gift-providing loved ones: we’re sticking off of sugar as best we can. We had a group discussion, and we all decided that the fewer sweets we have around the house, the less inclined dad will be to eat them or ask for them. Dad predictably spoils his appetite with Hershey’s kisses or cookies, and this is something we’d like to stay away from. We appreciate you keeping this in mind when you so generously make your way over to the house. I’m working on making it a household policy, but we’ll see how far that stretches. 

Tomorrow is a weekend day, which means no radiation or PAMF visits. Dad plans to go to an early morning meeting, get some exercise in, and hopefully stretch his legs out to Palo Alto. We’re hoping to set up my bike, and tomorrow would be a good time to do that. 

I’m laying here in bed with Erin and Kelly. Feeling lucky for the full house, and these two ladies by my side. 

Until tomorrow —

January 30

As we wrap up the end of dad’s third week of treatment, I notice that he’s walking around a lot, getting himself organized, and spending a lot more time in the kitchen with the rest of us, rather than in bed sleeping. I worry he may be doing this to a fault – spending too much time with us means he’s not getting as much rest as his body may need to heal. We try to urge dad to rest as much as possible, but it’s hard to convince him to stay in bed when he bursts with energy to go to amoeba, head into the city, go to bookstores in Berkeley, etc. I have a hunch that he’s trying to make the most of his energy while he still has it, and all of us are happy to keep him company on these expeditions, large and small. 

Dad started out the day with treatment and an appointment with my mom. Bob, Charlie, dad, and I then headed to the Stanford Bookstore in search of a few books (Bob’s reading The Great Cholesterol Myth – click here to check it out yourself – and has been spreading the word far and wide). Though the bookstore didn’t have any of the books we were searching for, we spent the morning sitting in the Bookstore’s cafe, drinking coffee and talking. It’s really comfortable to pass the time with Charlie and Bob, and I’ve found the last few days to be more relaxed and peaceful than in the weeks and days leading up. I think it’s a combination of things: acclimation to the entire situation, dad’s increased mobility and energy, as well as the positive presence of both Bob and Charlie. 

After spending about an hour at the bookstore, I headed off to pick up my dear roommate from the airport. Erin’s timing couldn’t have been better – I’ve been doing my best to transition into the unexpected move from Boston back to California, but she she has a certain way of soothing me. I’m ever grateful for her visit. Plus she could use a bit of CA sunshine – Boston is in the dead of winter, so we’re heading off on a hike tomorrow to get her caught up on Vitamin D. 

This afternoon, Charlie and Bob reorganized our entire garage in about an hour and a half (the same task has taken my brothers and dad more than a weekend to achieve, on several occasions). Meanwhile dad organized and reorganized his gear, and later headed off to nap. When Erin and I got back, we slowly began preparing tonight’s dinner. Suze, one of mom’s closest friends joined us for dinner tonight, and the six of us (missing only Charlie was out in Palo Alto for the evening) shared the evening eating, drinking tea, and catching up. Dad headed off shortly after he finished dinner, while the rest of us sat by the fire into late. We were accompanied by one uncharacteristically faded dog. 

Tomorrow wraps up the 21st session of dad’s six-week radiation.