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Taking the rough with the smooth in Addis Ababa

Asa has now spent a little more than half of his life in Ethiopia: he left the US in April at 2 months of age, and turned 4 months old last week.  



When I rejoined Asa and Selam in May, Asa was a little over 3 months old and had adapted effortlessly to his new surroundings.  Our one-bedroom apartment in Addis Ababa, as far as we could tell, seemed just as comfortable to him as Aunt Sylvia's spacious house in Atlanta.  
For the first two weeks after they arrived, Selam spent most of her time at home with Asa.  Since then she's returned to her job at the UNHCR, although she usually comes home at lunchtime to breastfeed. 
I've taken over from Kuri some of the work of caring for Asa during the days. I've  gotten the hang of changing his nappies, warming bottles and feeding him, putting him to sleep when he's drowsy, and -- when other tricks don't work -- carrying him outdoors in a sling, which never fails to calm him.


More recently I've been leaving home dur…

My mistake / Wonderful life

A few days ago I wrote that, compared to other animals we are born early, and do an unusual amount of developing after birth.  
On reflection, it would have been more accurate to say, "unlike other mammals".  
Animals in general have a lot of weird and wonderful ways of managing the early stages of development -- laying eggs, for instance, and either sitting on them until they hatch, like most birds, or trusting them to their own fates, like frogs do.
But even among mammals, I've realised, we're far from being the only unusual ones:  
The platypus and echidna are mammals, but they lay eggs.  
Marsupials are mammals, but they emerge from the womb in a very rudimentary shape, and migrate to their mothers' pouches, where they spend more time developing than they do in the womb.  


A more appropriate comparison would have been between us and the rest of the placental mammals, including rats, bats, cats, and whales.  
Other placental mammals give birth to little ones who are …

Fourth trimester

Since I've been working on my dissertation, I've not been able to write on the blog recently.  But now the dissertation is done, I can pick up Asa's story again. Asa is 80 days old today: a little under 3 months.  So far he's racked up the following list of accomplishments:
Feeding.  He's got that down, at least as far as breast milk goes.  Crapping.  Also under control. Growing.  He has grown prodigiously, acquiring a second chin and adding rolls of spare fat to his legs.Crying.  Thankfully he doesn't do this too much.  But when he's unhappy, he lets us know.Smiling!  He started doing this after about 35 days, and does it a lot.  (He has even laughed a little in his sleep.)Moving around.  Placed on his stomach, he supports his head and writhes about a good deal.  He doesn't yet get very far.Finger-sucking.  Sometimes this happens in the womb, I've heard.  For Asa, it seemed to happen in the course of routine flailing, but recently he brings his hand …

First days

To pick up where we left off:
This is the world that Asa came into.
It was still and peaceful in the room, with the lights dimmed.After Asa was born we were given a minute or two to hold him.Anjli clamped off the umbilical cord, but gave me the honor of severing it, cutting Asa free from his mother.
(Cue ululation.)
Then the nurse, Sandra, whisked him over to a heat lamp, and tidied up his cord stump, and weighed him, and put a nametag on his wrist and an alarm sensor on his ankle.
Selam meanwhile had clambered out of the pool and had been helped onto a bed.She was having some stitches inserted when Asa was handed back to her a few minutes later, wrapped in a hospital blanket and wearing a handsome cap.
"All citizens of the republic shall be issued at birth with a Phrygian cap, to insure against monarchist proclivities," my dad remarked.
Kitted out with cap, anklet, and armband, Asa was well on the way to official personhood before he'd even had his first meal.

But the meal wa…

Birth

Asa was born on February 4, 2011.
Selam had been in labor for about 15 hours.  During the last 3 hours we sat in a birthing pool, and Selam alternated between drowsiness and alertness, good humor and exasperation as the contractions grew stronger.
Midwife Anjli encouraged Selam when she needed encouraging, and gave us all confidence that things would go well.
At 3:39 AM, Asa surfaced in the glow of a spotlight and was delivered to the arms of his astonished parents.  


Asa's maternal grandmother, Kuri Shibo, and paternal grandfather, Jan Stevenson, were present at his birth.
It was a rainy night in Georgia.  But a ray of sunlight burst through for us all.
He is a boy, and his name shall be called Isaac Dhaddacha Stevenson

A strange fish

When does personality emerge?  In the case of the hero of this blog, it was around 7 weeks gestation, when we chose the nickname, "fish" (asa in Amharic).

At 7 weeks gestation, we're all more or less like fish.


Back then, Asa was less than 2 cm (1 inch) tall and weighed about as much as a bean. The nickname gave us a way of thinking about this little thing as a real live individual.

Now, just a couple of days short of 9 months gestation, dozens of people are looking forward to meeting Asa.

And yet there is much that remains unknown:


Gender.  Is Asa male or female?  We don't know.  (For the meantime, we'll use 'he' for convenience.)Complexion.  Asa's mother and father happen to differ quite dramatically in skin color.  Grafted from the two of us, Asa may be light or dark, or somewhere in between. Amharic has five categories for skin-color: nech [white], qay [red], yeqay dama [dark red], tayim [burnt], and tiqur [black]. Perhaps he will be, as the Eth…