Noe Valley Voice April 2000

More Mouths to Feed: Jack Douxami Meahl

Pierre and Liz Meahl asked their friends Melissa McStay and her husband Carlos Gomez, both school teachers, to be on hand for the birth of their first child, Jack Douxami Meahl. As fate would have it, baby Jack chose to make his entrance on Aug. 23, 1999, the first day of the academic year.

"We call Carlos and Melissa his 'spirit parents'--officially they're Jack's godparents," says Liz. "They were with us from the time the labor started, at home on Sunday morning, until around 9 on Sunday night, when they went home to get some sleep and go teach their first day of school." After the school day was over, Melissa and Carlos returned to the hospital and joined Jack's welcoming committee. He arrived at 11:41 p.m. Monday night.

"Having Melissa and Carlos there was really a huge gift," says Liz. "It was so funny. We were so grateful to have them there for a pretty long labor, and they kept thanking us."

Also present at University of California Medical Center was doula (birth assistant) Esther Gallagher. "She's a great resource," says Pierre.

"It made me feel good, when I was leaning on Pierre for the entire stretch, to know that he also had somebody to lean on," says Liz. "Esther was always there." Baby weighed in at 7 pounds, 8 ounces.

Now, at 6 months, Jack is still going with the flow. "He was a hands-on baby at first -- he wanted to be held all the time," reports Mom. "But in the past month, he's just blossomed into this extremely adaptable baby."

Jack is named after Liz's father, Jack White, who likes to call his grandson "Douzie." Douxami is the maiden name of Pierre's mother, Françoise Meahl. And, says Dad, "early on we called him 'Pterodactyl' since he made these prehistoric funny sounds."

"Primal sounds, like 'Mmmmm,'" Liz demonstrates in a low voice. "I expected him to wake up and suddenly start flying around the room!" The moniker soon became a more personalized "Ptero-jack-tyl."

"I keep a little tape recorder and record his different sounds," Liz says. "He loves listening to it, especially the sound of his heartbeat in utero." Another big hit with Jack is the traditional chanting practiced at his mom and baby yoga group.

Dad is also adept at capturing Jack's attention. "I'll jump up and down or make funny sounds," says Pierre.

"Pierre is his entertainment," Liz confirms. "Jack will laugh for Pierre, wildly. He just thinks he's the funniest thing. If I do the same exact motions or try to imitate the same sounds -- nothing. But I'm his comfort. He's already defined us as who we're going to be for him."

"He's a lot of fun," says Dad. "He's curious. If you carry him, he rotates his head everywhere, and if he gets close to anything he'll grab for it." This includes his own foot, which he likes to direct towards his mouth. "He's a big eater, and he's turning into a much better sleeper."

"He's got Pierre's easygoing temperament. If he turns out to be stubborn, that will prove to be a lot like me," Liz jokes. "He's never been a big crier. That's probably because we've carried him so much."

Jack has his mom's nose, and "a good size noggin, like me," says Pierre. He has auburn hair and blue eyes, "which is curious since neither Pierre nor I have blue eyes," says Liz.

"There's also a sad element to the time when I was pregnant," she relates. "We had a little nephew [Dempsey Brockelman] who was diagnosed with cancer about a month before Jack was conceived. He passed away in June while I was still pregnant with Jack. A lot of people say that babies are made in heaven, so we've always liked to believe that Dempsey already knows Jack, and that in their overlap time, when Jack was not yet born, he and Dempsey met. Dempsey had blue eyes, so maybe that was one of his ways of passing himself on through Jack."

Jack also cherishes a stuffed snowman called "Man-Man" that once belonged to his cousin. "It was Dempsey's absolute favorite thing in the world," says Liz. "And Jack loves Man-Man. So those are things that are pretty special."

Pierre, 31, a project manager for an insurance company, and Liz, 31, an administrative coordinator at the St. Anthony Foundation, met in 1994 at the wedding of a mutual friend in Princeton, New Jersey. The two carried on a long-distance relationship, with Liz living on the East Coast and Pierre based in San Francisco.

"We decided that we had enough to go on for me to move out here, and I actually moved in with Pierre all in one fell swoop, which, looking back, was probably a bold move," Liz says with a grin. "We moved in together in 1996, got engaged in 1997, got married in 1998, and had Jack in 1999 -- each time in August."

After first residing on Russian Hill, the couple found a flat on 22nd Street near Sanchez. "When Jack was coming up, we were looking for a more community-oriented neighborhood, something a little less hectic," Pierre says.

In January, Jack began attending day care three days a week. "At first he was a little sad," says Liz. "But about two weeks ago, I was accosted on my way in the door and told how he's adjusted so nicely and how he loves to look around and listen to the other babies." He's also fond of watching the fish swimming in the aquarium.

When not at day care, Jack has been eagerly exploring the Bay Area, hiking at Bodega Bay, at Land's End, or along the Tennessee Valley Trail. He also strolls around Noe Valley. "It's a great way to start the day," says Dad. "We go for walks along 24th Street and up to Douglass Park."

On weekends, "we love to stay in bed with him and play," says Liz. "And he likes it, too. It's very cozy. We'll still be sort of resting, and he'll be kneading our back or our arm like he does."

At interview time, the family was planning a move to Portland, Maine. "It's been a tough decision to leave the area," Pierre says. "The formal reason is that I got transferred, but beyond that we have a lot more family there. We've loved our time in San Francisco, but it's so expensive. We'd like to try to buy a home, so it's a matter of weighing the options."

The Meahls are hoping to find a new neighborhood that has the same feel as Noe Valley. "You get a real nice sense of community here," Pierre says. "Our neighbors are our landlords. They've been so wonderful since we moved in and since Jack was born. People talk to one another when they walk down the street. And giving up the diversity of the area will be hard."

Meanwhile, Mom and Dad are savoring their new role as parents. Liz especially likes "just hanging out" with her son, "especially now that he's turned this corner and is this fun little person."

"It definitely has its challenges," Jack says. "But when I come home from work, it's like every day is Christmas. I just can't wait to come home and see him."