The Soft Side of Endeavour: What Space Exploration Means to Me

Space shuttle Endeavour at California Science Center. Photo by Ariane Coffin.
Space Shuttle Endeavour at California Science Center. Photo by Ariane Coffin.

While my in-laws were visiting us last month, we took them and our two kids to see Endeavour at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. When I walked into the hangar and saw Endeavour, I got a little teary-eyed. I am not usually an emotional person, and certainly not one to attach meaning to objects, but Endeavour may always be the exception to my rule.

I saw Endeavour and remembered our first visit to see the shuttle eleven months ago. It was the very day we found out I was pregnant with the baby I was now holding in my arms. We had been trying to get pregnant for a long time, so seeing the shuttle symbolized not only the end of an era for the shuttle itself, but also the end of an era in our lives: We were finally done with the hardships of infertility. Seeing Endeavour was the end of our own endeavor and the launch of our next adventure.

I suggested to my husband that we name our unborn daughter Endeavour after that meaningful day. He, who had been much less moved by the coincidence of a positive pregnancy test falling on the same day as our Endeavour visit, quickly shut it down. “But think about how cute the nickname Endie would be,” I argued. In retrospect, it was probably a wise move on his part. Nevertheless, she will always be my Endeavour baby to me.

There are three of us in both photos! Photo by Ariane Coffin.
There are three of us in both photos! Photo by Ariane Coffin.

It wasn’t the only reason I felt sentimental. There was also something incredibly surreal about seeing the shuttle. This one object, standing right there in front of me, had been in space. Space! It wasn’t a video of the shuttle, it wasn’t a photograph of the shuttle, it was the shuttle. And it had seen things we can only dream of.

The essence of its presence left the adults in an humbled silence, but it was completely lost on my preschooler and the other children her age. They were all glued to the one television screen playing scenes from an Endeavour launch. Tried as I might to explain that this shuttle right here was the one in the launch video, the video was evidently much cooler in their mind’s eye. I have to admit there was still something special about seeing a space shuttle launch, so I let them be. They will see—really see—the shuttle itself soon enough.

Finally, the last part of my sorry-I-have-something-in-my-eye moment was what the shuttle represents for my daughters’ future. Space exploration stands for discovery and knowledge. It stands for the feats of engineering and a defiance against the seemingly impossible. It stands for a dream that our children will know a world bigger than our own.

Our children may not yet fully grasp the significance of Endeavour. Surely no one else, small or tall, will ever have warm fuzzy feelings for Endeavour for all the same reasons I do. My own baby story notwithstanding, I have nothing but good things to say about our visits to Endeavour, let alone the California Science Center as a whole—perhaps with the exception of L.A. traffic. We may or may not colonize Mars one day, but early exposure to space exploration can only help inspire the next generation of movers and shakers.

Haikus On Being 9 Months Pregnant

Dressing your belly / Like Rainbow Dash does not make / You any faster. Photo by Ariane Coffin.
Dressing your belly / Like Rainbow Dash does not make / You any faster. Photo by Ariane Coffin.

Maternity leave
Too much time, let’s write haikus
Sure, why the heck not

Impending birth is
Turning my nerd brain to mush

While I do grok why
My body is gigantic
I do not like it

Baby come out soon
Or unjust imprecations
Your daddy will get

What will it take to
Get regular contractions
Braxton Hicks tease me

Child learns to repeat
You learn to extemporize
A plea for mercy

TARDIS versus me
I’m bigger on the outside
For small womb inside

Are haikus still cool?
Being a parent makes you
Late on all memes

Diary of a Geeky Pregnancy Weeks 1-4: Tales of Very Early Pregnancy

Diary of a Geeky Pregnancy
Diary of a Geeky Pregnancy
Photo via Wikimedia

I am Kate Kotler and I am a geek and a writer and I am soon to be a geek mom. This is a diary of my geeky pregnancy.

Weeks 1-2: According to medical type people, a pregnancy starts before you’re even pregnant, on the first day of your last regular menstrual cycle. (That’s science, hnnng!) So for the first two weeks of my pregnancy I wasn’t even pregnant. That boggles my mind, yet is so scientific that it’s sensible at the same time.

Little did the British Boy [my significant other] and I know, we were busy cooking up a baby.

Little did I know, it would be the last time for nine + months that I felt… well… good. Because, as I’m sure all of you know already, the “glow” and good feelings that we are told come with expecting a child are complete and total horse hooey. Pregnancy, especially early pregnancy, especially when you’re older than 35, sucks balls.

Shocked Kate is shocked. Photo by Kate Kotler

Week 3: Early on a Saturday morning, I peed on a stick and my life changed forever. I had spent the previous week feeling nauseous, crampy, and exhausted. The month before I had similar symptoms and at a doctor’s visit was told that at “nearly 40” that likely I was experiencing early signs of menopause. (Ha ha, how wrong was that?) However, upon discovering my period was nearly a week late, I decided to be safe and take a pregnancy test.

The blue lines showed up in less than 30 seconds.

Though shocked that I was “up the duff” (as my British boyfriend and baby daddy would say), my mind became instantly clear: I was having this baby.

I handed the pee stick to British Boy. It took him a minute to register what I’d handed him and the look of shock on his face was pretty amusing.

“Are you kidding?” he asked. “You’re really pregnant?”

“I assure you I am not the type of person to think handing you a positive pregnancy test would be a funny practical joke,” I answered. “I am indeed pregnant.”

And, god bless him, in that moment British Boy proved I was right in suspecting that he was the very best person in the world and quite deserving of being my favorite person. “Well, while this is an unexpected turn of events, I like the idea of being a dad. What do you think we should do? Do you want to have the baby?”

Mom, we can haz baby?
Mom, we can haz baby? Photo by Kate Kotler

I think my hormones must have also completely kicked in this week, as during this conversation my dog Max spent about 20 minutes sniffing me. He would sniff one area of my body (arm, leg, stomach) and then look at me. Then pause. Then start sniffing another area. After this was completed, he started following me around more than normal and insisting on laying on or near my stomach at all times. (As I write this, dear Geeky Pregnancy Diary, he is laying on my lap.) I guess that in such I told him I was pregnant, too.

Week 4: The term “morning sickness” is a joke. It should be called “all day and night sickness.” Like it was timed to an old-fashioned watch movement, my morning sickness started spot on the very first day of my fourth week of pregnancy. British Boy, while grossed out that I was puking all the time, tried hard to be supportive—bringing me soda crackers, ginger ale, and bananas (according to the interwebs, these are supposed to help with nausea). He also banished raw onions from the house, scrubbed out the bathroom and kitchen to eliminate odors, took the trash out, and walked the dog so I wouldn’t have to deal with poop patrol.

Morning sickness? More like all-day sickness!
Photo via

Other lovely early pregnancy symptoms I experienced immediately were having to pee every 30 seconds, mild-to-medium narcolepsy, and some seriously weird food aversions/cravings. (Yummy food: Tomatoes, pasta, pickles, hard-boiled eggs, anything sweet. Not-so-yummy food: Chicken, beef, anything cheesy or fried. Cravings I could do jack about: Sushi, sushi, sushi, and Brie… you can’t have either raw fish or soft cheese while preggo. Damn!)

Such a stereotype, but so true. Photo by Kate Kotler

One afternoon, while we were laying on the bed and British Boy was rubbing my back to try to make the overwhelming nausea subside, we started talking about baby names. Of course, being the geeky people we are, we immediately went there.

“How about Doctor? It would work for a boy or a girl,” I said.

“I think that Darth Vadar XXXX has a nice ring to it,” he said.

Then we looked at each other and said simultaneously, “Batman.”

(Though we decided later that naming our kid Batman wouldn’t bode well for our life expectancy or our dignity.)

baby batman
Photo via

It was around this time that I started telling close friends I was expecting. The geeky replies made me very happy:

“That kid is going to have so many Wonder Woman onesies, regardless of it it’s a girl or a boy.” (Said my best friend and platonic life partner, Meghan.)

“Oh my god! I’m going to start knitting a baby Batman cowl tonight!” (Said my dear friend Jen.)

“You will have the nerdiest baby showers!” (Said my colleague Meg.)

“We have to buy him or her a tiny fedora and whip.” (Said my dear friend Lauren, whom I call “Indie.”)

On Wednesday of the fourth week, British Boy had to go to a class at Second City. I was also supposed to go to this class, but was feeling so nauseous I decided to skip it. Though British Boy walked Max before he left, around midday it became clear that Max wasn’t going to be able to hold it until 6pm when he returned. So I put on some clothes, leashed Max up, and took him out for a quick walk.

Earlier in the week, I had been getting over a cold, so my sense of smell wasn’t that acute and I really only had been bothered by strong smells (onions, garbage) if I was right on top of the offending odor. Apparently, this day was the day that I was to be completely over the cold and my sense of smell was to return to normal. This was good health-wise, but not so good odiferously speaking. As I turned the corner of my block and crossed the street, I caught whiff of a garbage smell so disgusting that it made me retch.

I locked Max’s leash, covered my mouth, and ran to a nearby bush where I immediately began to barf my guts out. I couldn’t believe that this was happening, I was so viciously sick from the smell that my eyes were watering and I was covered with sweat. It was awful.

A mid-day jogger (male) was running by and Max started barking his head off at him. I turned my head mid-puke only to catch this guy slowing down and giving me a look of such utter disgust—like I was some drunk, homeless, crazy person with no control over my life barfing in a bush.

I was not content to be assigned the jogger’s disdain, so in typical me fashion, I yelled at him in between retches:

“Hey!” baaarrrrrfffffffffffff “Put your eyeballs back in your head!” baaaaaarrrrrrrrfffff “I’m pregnant, alright?” baaarrrrrrrrrrfffffff “Judge much?”

Were it me and I happened on a well dressed woman with a dog on a leash barfing in a bush, I would have at least stopped to ask if she was okay. But this jerk just jogged on.

Next time: Kate meets the Mayor of Chicago while on her way to an ob/gyn appointment, discovers the meaning of word “fundus,” and further identifies with the Elizabeth Banks character in What to Expect When You’re Expecting: The Movie.