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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 to his mouth more often than you'd expect by chance -- and then to give it a good suck.  Once Selam reported that he put almost his entire hand inside his mouth.  (Try that for yourself.)
  • Vocalizing.  Largely vowel sounds, but some consonants too.  Once I seemed to hear him say "Embi" (an Amharic word which translates roughly as "No way."). 

In addition to these achievements, Asa has gotten a passport, and has been Christened in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.  (The Christening deserves a post of its own, and I'll report on that soon.)

Asa's passport photo.  Not looking his best.

On April 1, Asa flew to Ethiopia together with his mum and grandmother Kuri.  

Selam has gone back to work with the UN Refugee agency in Addis Ababa, and I'll be joining her and Asa there in a few weeks.

Asa has reportedly adjusted well to Ethiopia.  We're not sure whether he noticed the difference.  In Ethiopia, as in the US, he's been doted on by his mum and grandmother, who cater to his every need.

Back here in the US, I wonder what these first months have felt like to him. When he dreams, for instance -- when he's asleep, and his eyes are darting around and his breath is irregular; when he laughs in his sleep -- what is he seeing?

Some people consider the first 3 months of life as a fourth trimester, a period of rapid development that in other animals happens in utero, but in humans happens after birth.  So in a sense Asa is as yet unfinished (more than us older folks): a compromise between what his mum's pelvis could accommodate in terms of delivery, and where he could get to in terms of viability.

On this basis, we should be generous in appraising what he's able to do so far.  

Bravo, my son!  Keep it up.


  1. Wonderful update! I especially liked your musings about the 4th trimester. I had my daughter 12 weeks early in the beginning of March. She's still in the NICU, but getting very close to being sprung from the joint. I spend hours watching her and most of that time is spent wondering about what she thinks about, dreams about, and will remember (whether consciously or subconsciously) about her first months of life. I often thought that she was inwardly ridiculing the doctors, nurse practitioners, and nurses when they talked about how the isolette/incubator she spent about 6 weeks in was replicating the womb. I am glad you will be reunited with Asa and your wife soon, as I imagine it is difficult to be away from them. I hope his next 80 days is equally exciting and formative as his first 80 days!

    Andrea (Arrington, from grad school)

  2. Loved reading this -- please keep it up.

    At emergency room now after trying to insert whole hand in mouth (perhaps you shouldn't have suggested that).


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Maybe it's all the to-and-fro'ing we've done on the trains between London and Birmingham for his eye exams, or maybe it's due to some kind of innate fascination with large moving things, but Asa loves trains.

I post these drawings of his partly to cheer myself up. It's been a pretty rough week, watching the US elect a con man as President.

Asa is an American citizen, and in 13 years time he'll be eligible to vote. I'm grateful that he's healthy, and that he stands an excellent chance of living a full life. But I worry about the world that he and his generation will inherit.

Let us pray for wisdom in our leaders, and for strength and resolve for those who resist them in the cause of the greater good.