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Please Welcome Tristan Mackay Engst

A friend of ours at Apple once commented that what he liked the most about TidBITS was that it is so personal. In part, that’s because we’ve grown up over the years. TidBITS started in 1990, when Tonya and I were both 22, and those who have been reading us each week since then have seen us get married, move to Seattle, get an Internet connection, write a few successful books, move to a new home, and cope with a burglary. We’ve met friends—sometimes close friends—through TidBITS, and last year we spent half of our month-long vacation in Australia visiting friends from Perth who we’ve met over the Internet.


Tristan Mackay Engst Arrives

What I’m leading up to is a piece of completely personal news. Tonya and I would like to share with you the birth of our first child, Tristan Mackay Engst <[email protected]>. He was born on Saturday, 09-Jan-99, at the Puget Sound Birth Center in Kirkland, Washington. He weighed 5 pounds 15.5 ounces and was about 18 inches long. And of course, from our totally unbiased viewpoint, he’s a major cutie. You can see some of his early links to the Macintosh world in the pictures on the Web page below.


Tristan’s birth was inextricably linked with the recent Macworld Expo in San Francisco. When I left for the show, Tonya was 37 weeks pregnant with a due date of 28-Jan-99. I took the cell phone with me so Tonya could call at any time, figuring that the chances of needing to fly back to Seattle early were fairly low. Tonya’s pregnancy had been quite easy and average, thanks in large part to her devotion to eating well and exercising throughout, plus a healthy dose of luck and genetics.

The first few days of the Expo went fine, and I had fun telling everyone who asked about Tonya that she was “home, 37 weeks pregnant.” Then, early Friday morning, on the last day of the show, Tonya woke me up with a call. I was a bit groggy from being at the Mac the Knife party and chatting with friends until 2:30 AM, but managed to internalize the possibility that I might be going to the airport that evening instead of to my sister’s for the weekend. Tonya called again that afternoon, and by 9:00 PM (after a brief moment of incredulity with the airline guy who seemed uncertain that I’d want to pay the $35 change fee even after I’d told him my wife was in labor), I was home. Tonya was indeed in labor, and although her contractions prevented either of us from sleeping that night, the extra time proved useful for packing to go to the birth center and cleaning the house up a bit.

By 7:00 AM, it was time to go to the birth center, and when we arrived an hour later, Tonya was 8 centimeters dilated (out of 10 centimeters, if you’re unfamiliar with pregnancy numerology). We popped into the hot tub—the midwives at this birth center don’t use drugs or most other methods of medical intervention, which fortunately weren’t necessary in this, a normal birth—and with the aid of me, a midwife, and a doula (a woman who knows a lot about labor and is there purely to help the laboring woman in any way necessary), Tonya gave birth less than four hours later. We’re not the gushy sorts, and although the birth itself may not be the defining point of our lives, it was pretty neat. We did have a sense of an announcer intoning, “This has been a Biology Moment.”

If you’re interested in birth centers, midwifery, or want to see pictures of the room we were in (Room 2), check out the Web site below. We highly recommend the birth center experience.


Learning to Cope

We’d done a vast amount of research into various aspects of pregnancy and giving birth, especially since the midwives’ approach was to provide us with the latest obstetric research whenever we had a decision to make. Still, when Tristan came almost three weeks early, we were a bit unprepared. We’re planners, and we’d been counting on a few more weeks to finish shopping, have the baby shower (Tristan got to attend, as it turned out), rearrange the bedroom for the crib, get Geoff and Jeff handling TidBITS, and put other projects on hold for a while. Instead, we’ve been trying to stay afloat, ignoring everything that’s unnecessary, and sleeping whenever possible. Even still, it wouldn’t have been possible without Geoff and Jeff taking over TidBITS and the lifesaving efforts of several sets of friends who brought us items of clothing and other necessary baby paraphernalia.

The lesson we’ve learned is that having a baby is in many ways a public act. By doing so, we’re contributing to society, to the gene pool, perhaps even to our shared culture. The child might grow up to be an author, plumber, sculptor, leader, carpenter, or teacher. He might date your daughter, deliver your own child, cure the common cold, or fix your sink. He’s one of us now.

The main thing we want to pass on to our son is something my great-aunt Irene Gutchess once told me when I was about 11. She asked me, like many adults do, what I wanted to be when I grew up. Being an honest child, I replied that I didn’t know, and was relieved when she said that it didn’t matter what I did as long as whatever it was made the world a better place.

Appropriate Technology

Although Tonya and I are pretty high-tech people, what with all the Macs in the house and the dedicated Internet connection, we’re also cognizant of when technology is and is not appropriate. We have no plans to introduce Tristan to computers before he shows interest, and we’re especially curious to see how he views the Internet, since for us it’s simply a fact of life that’s always accessible from any computer in the house.

The Internet may be a bit different for Tristan than for other children his age, though, since I set up an email address for him upon coming home, and I’ve subscribed him not only to all four family mailing lists we run, but also to a special Tristan Updates list we set up for relatives and friends who want to hear what’s happening on a roughly daily basis. When he’s old enough to read and understand these messages, they’ll enable him to get a sense of what his extended family is like, not to mention our perceptions of his growth and development. I know I’ve become more curious about my own childhood as I’ve grown up and as Tonya and I started talking about having a child; I think Tristan will find the messages fascinating at some point in time.

Needless to say, since we write in TidBITS about things that interest us, it’s likely that we’ll be covering more educational and children’s software in the coming years. Until this point, it’s been hard to evaluate, but with an in-house child tester, it could be a lot of fun.

Our Request for Tristan

We seldom ask for anything from readers, but we’d like to make an exception, since we have such an incredible opportunity here. The combined knowledge and life experience of the oodles of people who read TidBITS is a staggering resource, and we ask that you share some of it with us and Tristan. We’d like if you could at some point send an email message to <[email protected]> giving your thoughts about one of the following:

  • What sort of world do you live in today? How do you view other people, communities, world events? What is your life like? What do you think of our collective future? The world I was born into in 1967 was much different from the world in which I learned to live over the following 31 years. I’d like Tristan to get a sense of what the late 1990s were like around the globe.
  • What do you believe are the most important lessons you’ve learned? What knowledge might have made a difference if you’d learned it earlier in your life? Perhaps it’s just me, but in the last few years, I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about how I live, which of my traits I like and dislike, how the world works, and so on. From those musings, I periodically attempt to distill the most important points. If you do anything similar, I think those thoughts could be valuable to Tristan as well.
  • What do you think of Tonya and me—what sort of people are we? Has our work made the world a better place in some small way? Tristan will never truly know who we are now, and this might help him understand what we were like before he came into our lives. We only begin to know our parents as adults once we’re adults ourselves, but by then our parents have been through another 15 to 20 years of life and changes.

People often debate the effect of the Internet on community, but community is only what we make it. Tonya and I have long been supporters of the idea of the Internet community, and we’ve tried to contribute over the years. By sharing your knowledge and life experiences with Tristan, you can help him understand what makes up the Internet community and at the same time welcome him into it. Please note we may read messages sent to Tristan at this point in time, but we will not delete anything other than any spam that appears.

Finally, on a practical note, we’re pretty much overwhelmed with learning how to live with a small one in the house. Although we are reading email and enjoy hearing from people, we may not be able to reply until life settles down a bit (and we get more sleep). Thanks in advance for all your support and kind words—they do make a difference.

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