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February 19, 2008
Is that the baby's head? I asked. It was by no means clear, but perhaps the denser area of white on the sonogram was my next grandchild's brain.

I think it's mostly heart at this stage, Anna said..

But he's adding 250,000 new brain cells every minute, Chad offered.

Can that be possible? 250,000 new cells every minute? At that rate, she's going to be really smart very soon.

Perhaps you have noticed a certain deficit in pronoun precision where this child is concerned. This is because we don't yet know if it's a boy or a girl -- that information is still in the future. Some parents decide to remain in the dark about it, as all of us were in the old days. I don't know what Anna and Chad will do.

They're having a doula. I am so far from current on these matters that I didn't even know how to spell "doula," and had to Google my wild guess ("dulla") in order to find out exactly what a doula is. She seems to function in the way an older relative -- a mother, for instance -- would have functioned in the old days, only the doula knows all the latest developments in neonatal care, which is more than you can say for me. Things change a lot in the baby business; all the things we were told to do aren't being done any more, and some of the things we were told to avoid like the plague are now just what the doula ordered.

For instance, the birthing ball. It's a large inflatable rubber exercise ball, two or three feet in diameter, such as one might encounter in a gym or a Pilates class.

You have the baby on a ball? I asked, incredulous.

Yeah, Anna said, matter-of-factly.

That's just wrong, Buddy said when I told him about the birthing ball. We've got to stop her.

Well, you're her priest.
Buddy married Anna and Chad, and I feel he bears some responsibility if my grandchild ends up being born on a ball. You talk to her.

You're her mother. But Anna may not end up having her baby on a rubber ball. We don't know that. Or in a bathtub of warm water, another current favorite. I think it's safe to say that whatever position she's in, it won't involve being virtually upside down with her feet in cold iron stirrups, as it did when I was in that business.

I haven't heard you use a pronoun, I tell Q. Are you saying "he" or "she?"

Neither one,
he answers. I'm not going down that road.

I have grown grandchildren. And now here comes a new little one, and it all begins again. Things have changed a lot since I was a young mother, and even since Rosie and Madeline came along. But the excitement hasn't changed: the guesses about what the baby will be like, the sobering moments of realization that everything will change forever when the little one arrives. The sweet assurance which grandchildren represent: that life will go on after we all have left the stage.

For a long time, Anna and I have called each other "Dude." Dude, I'll say, when she answers the phone, and she'll say How are you, Dude? When she and Chad got married, the herd of dudes expanded by one. I wouldn't worry about it, Dude, he IMs me in response to mine about whether our ancient television will be able to handle the new DVDs. The announcement came to us in the form of a valentine signed "Your littlest Dude," enclosing the sonogram I can't stop looking at.

Dude. Dude. It's an all-purpose word to us, a noun that is almost a pronoun, it's become so neutral. A dude can be anything. It's really up to the dude. And whatever it is, a new little dude is fine by me.
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