The Fetus Formerly Known as Ndugu.

We named our fetus Ndugu. I woke up one morning very early on in my pregnancy and Tobyjoe said he had come up with the perfect name if we were to have a boy. “Ndugu.” He said. And we both laughed. That’s how our fetal nickname was coined.

About a month and a half ago, Ndugu started beating the hell out of me. Ndugu would kick me, headbutt me, or just sucker punch the inside of my belly. Our fetus is one active little creature. Ndugu is. Back then you couldn’t feel the punches from the outside, but there was no mistaking that I had something growing inside of me. Women told me about the sensation, warned me about it, told me how awesome it would be. But I never really understood until it became personal. It’s impossible to imagine and even harder to explain. I would try and explain it to Tobyjoe and he would listen. But it was like trying to explain a shiver, a sneeze, or a goosebump to someone who lacks all sensation.

One night I insisted that Tobyjoe sit quietly with his hand resting on my belly. “Just be patient!” I told him. “He’ll move and you will feel it.” Five minutes went by, the both of us all the while trying hard not to breath, and then something happened. Tobyjoe looked over at me from his pillow, eyes huge, as if he’d just seen something unreal out of the corner of his eye.

“Did you feel that?” I asked him. “Ndugu just punched you!”

“Yes!” He answered. “Holy shit!” He had read Ndugu Code via my tummy.

This became more and more noticeable as the days wore on. After we found out that Ndugu was a boy, the sensation became even more spectacular.

Now we watch him every night. We’ll be on the couch or in bed reading. My belly will dance. It looks as if super sized kernels of popcorn are exploding inside of me; I’m like a human Jiffy Pop. I’ll pull my shirt up above my belly and we’ll watch the firework display, the work of a performance artist. Tobyjoe will put his lips to my tummy and say things like, “What’re you doing in there? You’re beating up your mama!” And I’ll push him away after a few sentences because his stubble irritates my belly. “Talk through my shirt!” I’ll giggle.

Now the baby moves all day long, reminding me of his whereabouts, the fact that he exists. And every day I realize that I’m never alone even when there are no voices.

Ndugu doesn’t come around much anymore. Words like “Son” and “The Baby” have become regular mutterings throughout our household. Tobyjoe will ask me, “How’s my boy doing?” And I’ll tell him the last time his boy said hello to me and then complain about what his boy’s doing to my bladder.

I guess what I’m trying to say is – what I’m starting to realize – is that the fetus formally known as Ndugu is becoming Our Son.


  1. I have to stop reading these at work. The sobbing at my desk bit is rather unprofessional.


  2. It’s the most wonderful thing, and something so hard to explain to those who haven’t been pregnant.


  3. Funny I should come back to check your site for a second time today—I just felt my first movement this morning! Unbelievable. I was just trying to explain what it felt like to my husband and he said, “As long as I live, I’ll never know what that feels like.” And I was at a loss for the right words to tell him.

    Drop me a line later and I’ll give you that vet info.


  4. I just wanted to say this is a really beautiful entry :) Thanks Michelle.


  5. That’s awesome!!! Dee has been telling me about our little one kicking her as well. I thought I felt something before and I saw him on the ultrasound and that was all mindblowing.

    Although the other night the same thing you mentioned happened to us. He kicked my hand like he was trying to break through Dee’s belly. Everything became so much more real and I jumped like I saw a ghost.


  6. you could just name him ndugu and then the name would come back. that’s what i vote for. that or tien.


  7. I tried (at one point) talking Tobyjoe into using Ndugu as a middle name. Tobyjoe was like, “You don’t name a kid on a joke. In a few weeks you’ll wonder what the hell you were thinking anyway.”

    I guess he’s right. But you know darn well this story will come out. One day we’ll tell our boy, “You know, your first name was Ndugu. You were named after a fictional orphan from a really depressing movie starring Jack Nicholson.” He’ll think we’re crazy. Or maybe, just maybe, he’ll be like, “Dude, that would have been a cool name!”

    So, it looks like it won’t be Professor Ndugu Boudreaux after all.

    Tien, you do have a great name. Nothing beats the sun.


  8. When’s the little guy due to bust out of there? :) I’m sure you mentioned it a while back, but I forgot.


  9. The actual due date is August 4th. But for some reason I think he’s coming a little early. :] I’m thinking late July. I have no reason for saying that, however.


  10. hey, I though his name was cleetus!? Cleetus joe Boudreaux


  11. haha!

    Shelley, my brother sent me an email recently having not been made privy to this information. It read:

    Cleatus Ignatious Boudreaux

    I think that should be his name.

    Why do our family members want us to name our baby Cleatus? :]


  12. In my last pregnancy, my husband would put his hands on my belly and all movement would stop and then not happen for a long period of time. Our solution: We slept with his back against my belly.


  13. haha! So either your husband had a really great hand at calming your little guy or your little guy so didn’t like the feel of that! Maybe he was afraid he was going to get kicked out of his warm, rent-controlled apartment.

    Clearly I have been living in NYC for too long.


  14. ahem. it’s sky.

    now i’ll keep putting food photos on flickr and my site.


  15. crap! Why did I think sun? Well, sky is important, too. Sky is good. Without sky we’d have no sun and without sun we’d see no sky.

    You’re important either way. And that food thing… that thing you and Jen do, that has GOT TO STOP!

    I am going to start marking all food pics as “offensive.” hahaha


  16. This is an odd question:

    How old will Toby Jr. be when you tell him that you used to call him Ndugu as a fetus? Or will you just let him find out via google and the archives ?


  17. Ndugu?…..i have a question……how do you pronounce that?……are the “u”s silent? : )


  18. en-doo-goo


  19. i see…i like it!


  20. i just puked in my mouth because of how cute you two are. bllarrrhghhg, oh geez, here i go again…


  21. nervous and small April 5, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    Umm…..first………..DONT CRY!!

    BUT this was indeed a gorgeous post……keep’em coming!! [in between the left jabs, the right hooks and the roundhouses]

    And thanks for the correct pronunciation, Tobyjoe……the way my dense little pea brain was imagining it wasn’t nearly as poetic……


  22. There’s already so much love spilled onto these pages. Your son is very lucky (and smart) to have chosen you as his mumma.

    Beautiful and touching post. It reminds me of an old favourite from a few years ago… The intimacy, the honesty. You remember the one? I think you had it favourited. Might’ve been called The Dance.

    ps… we need more belly pics! xo


  23. I was named on a joke, my parents thought Tobias was the most hilarious thing they’d ever heard but then started calling me Tobi (in-utero)….they never changed it after they found out I was a girl though. I love my name but the story behind it is not always so amusing :)


  24. Tobi, are you Jewish? I swear to you, every time Tobyjoe and I visit B and H and we get up to the checkout counter and they ask for his name and he says, “Toby.” The Hasidic guy behind the counter will say, “Jewish Tobi means girl.”

    And we always nod and say, “yeah, we know.”

    Seriously, this has happened at least 3 times when I’ve been there with him. So funny.


  25. Oh, and girl27, I do not know of this post you speak of. But that’s ok. I have rambled on now for over 6 years, and lord knows how many posts I have forgotten about. Unbelievable, how long I have kept this here blog up. Seriously.


  26. No, I’m not Jewish…I just have crazy parents. I always either get told it’s a boys name or a dogs name. I’ve even had people in Taiwan tell me that, now that is strange.


  27. Toby gets the dog thing ALL THE TIME. But it’s funny that here in NYC he gets told it’s a girls name. :] Move to Williamsburg!


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