An ode to my parents and to all parents

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I’ve only been in this parenting game for less than six weeks and, already, I have a new understanding and appreciation of so many things in my life.  Tonight, I was trying to sneak in an 8pm nap while my dear husband was faithfully bouncing my “witching hour” baby up and down on a yoga ball when I had a sudden inspiration to write about my parents and my expanding appreciation of their sacrifices for me. You see, my parents and I didn’t really having intimate conversations until these past few years, and I can already tell that our relationship will continue to change—hopefully for the better–as they see me raise my daughter. Whenever they come over to visit me, I ask them for more stories on what I was like when I was a baby and what they did as young parents.

The other day, my father told me about the conditions of hospitals in post-war Vietnam: unsanitary, crowded, and a dangerous place to deliver your babies.  Communist rule had it so that hospitals (as were most other public services) were underfunded and overrun. He claimed that many of the hospital doctors were young, inexperienced yet put in positions where they were unsupervised and responsible for people’s lives.  Fearful that they would be under the care of one of these intern doctors, my parents rounded up a substantial amount of money and gifts to offer to a senior doctor at the hospital to guarantee that he would care for my mother when she went into labor—apparently this was common practice in the 1980s in Vietnam.  They would ask for the address of the senior doctor, knock on his door and convince him to take in the mother and baby as his patients.  Once at the hospital, families would also pay the nurses to  ensure that they were getting the best care as well as the security guards if you wanted to access the hospital room after hours. My mother had me via c-section and  I was a healthy baby. My mother was able to breastfeed  thankfully, as formula was unaffordable to common people. and babies were often fed nearly-expired cow’s milk if the mother was not producing sufficient milk.

This is only one of the stories that he has told me about my birth so far, and I expect that many more stories will spill as time goes on.

I moved to America when I was three and I had a very typical first-general Chinese-Vietnamese-American childhood. I did a lot of homework, I stayed indoors mostly, and I was used to not having my parents home because they worked restaurant hours. I used to resent my parents for not giving me the idyllic childhood that I wanted. I never attended dance lessons, never learned how to swim until I was an adult, was not allowed to sleep over at my friends’ houses, and did not have the sort of relationship with my parents where I could go to them with my life questions and be listened to. Even though I would’ve greatly benefitted from a more secure and emotional attachment to my parents, I—now having been responsible for a human being for six weeks—have the new understanding that the fact that I was kept safe, warm, and fed from birth to adulthood is a miraculous feat! Sure, my parents were not affectionate and were distant. However they never resorted to physical discipline, never neglected us and instilled in me strong morals and work ethic. Considering that my parents came from a war torn impoverished country, had little education, and were immigrants to this country, what they provided me was way more than I could ever ask for.

The beautiful thing that comes with the way my parents raised me is that I have a bigger and better idea of what parenting can be & that I have the ability to provide a different experience for my daughter.

The pains of pregnancy and labor, the nighttime feedings, the loss of sleep (and some sanity), the financial investment, the loss of freedom that was once enjoyed…all of these are the physical and emotional sacrifices to raise a child. This is only the beginning of this adventure for me.

No parent is perfect. No parent can EVER be perfect. I guess we all do the best we can considering what we have and what we know.

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12 Ways for Hippie Moms to Pass Time While Waiting for Baby

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Waiting for babyStarting maternity leave early and wondering how to pass your pre-baby days without losing your mind?  I’ve compiled a list of my favorite things to do while you, hippie mama, are waiting for your precious angel to make its way out of WombLand onto this terrestrial planet.

In case you don’t already know, the baby is not in a rush at all to get outta there. I mean, who would trade floating inside a warm ball of yummy juices and no obligations with an earthly existence of crying and having to figure out how to use your own lungs only to breathe in unfiltered city smog?  Seriously. The baby does not care if you are tired of spending beautiful, sunny days inside your cold house, on the couch, eating ice cream straight out of the container, anticipating her birth.  The baby does not care that the furniture and clothes in her room are collecting dust. She will come out when she is ready. In the meantime, she is happily enjoying bruising your organs and gradually depriving you of your ability to walk.

So the best thing you can do right now is sit back, relax, and pick a few things on this list to do on top of your usual wake up, eat, nap, eat, eat, eat, sleep cycle.

1. Spend your most productive hours of the day on YouTube and watch the vast collection of videos of stay-at-home mothers teach you everything–I mean, everything–you ever wanted to know about cloth diapers.  Topics include but are not limited to: velcro vs. snaps, rinsing out breastfed poo vs. solid food poo, diapers for skinny leg babies vs. average leg babies vs. chubby leg babies, washing your diapers in a top loader vs. high-efficiency top loader vs. high efficiency front loader, detergents to use for soft water vs. hard water…okay, you get the point. You have time–use it to become an expert on cloth diapering, your obligatory must-do as a hippie mom.

2. Freak out when you learn that almost every baby product is tainted with toxic chemicals. And then try to figure out what you’re going to do with the closet full of Kirkland Baby Wipes that people bought for your baby shower. (Petrochemicals and cancer-causing agents in baby wipes?! What is wrong with this world?)

3. Get your hopes up each time you feel any sort of sensation in your abdomen. No, it’s not a contraction–more likely than not, it’s the baby jabbing your bladder or you are constipated.

4. Offer endless thanks to your husband who volunteers to cook dinner every night for you after he comes home from work.  Even though he’s been seeing patients all day long in his hospital job and you’ve only moved from the couch to pee a couple times, somehow you’re still too tired to cook a real meal.

5. Judiciously select all of the items to pack in your hospital bag.  After reading all of the recommended things to bring, you wonder why everyone calls it “hospital bag” when they actually suggest enough items to fit into two large suitcases for a 1-2 night hospital stay.

6. Figure out how to drink 2-3 cups of raspberry leaf tea and eat at least 6 dates a day to help strengthen uterus and ripen the cervix.  How does that work exactly?  I have no idea–just do it!

7. Anticipate how much you’re going to cry when you have to go back to work and leave your baby with a caretaker.  That is months away and there is no reason to think about it now. But you do because you are a worrier. Just like your mother.

8. Read about all the common sicknesses that infants suffer from and face the reality that you and your partner will soon be in charge of a little human that cannot respond to “Honey, what’s wrong?”

9. Try to explain to your dog that the reason for the very short walks and lack of trips to the dog park are due to your physical limitations as an extremely pregnant woman and hope that he actually understands what you are saying.  To lessen the guilt, try to teach your dog new tricks–even if it proves to be extremely challenging because the dog is having trouble understanding that he has to actually DO SOMETHING to earn a treat.

10. Wash the baby’s clothes, dust the house, mop the floors, and do an overall tidying of the house in hopes that the baby will come in time to a clean house. Try to forget about the possibility that the baby may come weeks later than you expected and you may have to go through the cycle of cleaning all over again. NOOO!

11. Go back and forth on whether you will make an attempt to run errands that day or stay home JUST IN CASE the baby decides to come that day.  Usually, staying at home is the road most taken and the baby has already decided that her birthday is definitely NOT going to be that day.

12. When there is absolutely nothing to do, put on your eye mask, turn on your birthing playlist, and practice your hypnobirthing/relaxation techniques.  Fall asleep in the process.

Those are my personal favorites so far, and I’m only two weeks into my maternity leave!  There is even the possibility that I could have two MORE weeks of waiting for the minutes whiz by…but let’s not jinx myself.

 

 

 

 

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Reflection: Finding Happiness in 7 Years

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In the same way that I’m picky about my cream puffs, I’m super picky about what books I’m willing to invest my time in reading. I’m one of those people who will compulsively borrow ten library books, keep them for six weeks, but will have only read a paragraph from each one to determine that “the writing is just not my taste”. The thought of reading a badly written book even for five minutes feels like getting a tooth pulled out with rusty pliers.

But it’s the last month of my pregnancy right now, and all I can manage to enjoy after work is sitting on the couch with a bowl of ice cream. My left brain tells me to douse myself with fresh knowledge while baby is in her ultra-growing phase and mommy is her ultra-lazy phase.  So I head into the library next to IKEA and spend about an hour cherry-picking the last books I will read in a very long time (I’m assuming most new mothers don’t have the leisure or energy to finish a book).

After combing up and down the aisles, I finally made a choice. Interestingly, for someone who doesn’t typically read books a second time, I decided to revisit Caroline Myss’ Sacred Contracts, a spiritual book about realizing our life purpose. This was a book that I read about seven years ago during my ripe 20’s when I was having a hard time figuring out where my life was going.  I honestly do not remember if I derived much from this book back then, but something told me that it was time for me to pick it up again.

During my early 20s, I read a lot of Buddhist literature and spiritual self-help books to help navigate my life decisions. I was one of those crazily unrealistic perfectionist who had an impossibly high expectation of what I should have achieved by age 22. I wanted to be a world-changer, a leader, a noted activist in the environmental and animal rights movement.  I wanted to be one of those young people on the front page of the news for my worldly accomplishments.  I didn’t realize at that time that my dreams for what I wanted to be and my emotional growth and leadership skills were not in sync.  I wanted to be someone that I was not ready to become yet.  I still had a lot of growing and learning to do, but I couldn’t see through my impatience and self-criticism to realize or accept that.

As a wise person might predict, no matter how many self-help texts I read or spiritual teachers I consulted, I would reap no benefit if I could not see the truth of my state of my life. The books, spiritual groups, and classes only intensified the self-critic in me that said I was not good enough and that I wasn’t doing enough.

Amazingly, less than ten years later, I go back to reading this book with what feels like a new set of eyes. It’s only been a handful of years, but I feel like I’ve gone through hell and back to find a place of peace, acceptance, and, yes, happiness. I left a field of work that I thought I would work in for the rest of my life to attend graduate school, which turned out to be like a three year long therapy session. I left an old relationship when I met a man who I knew instantly was going to be my life partner.  I got engaged, married, and pregnant.  I held a number of very challenging jobs which tested me in ways that I never expected.  I grieved through the loss of several grandparents and my beloved canine.  I learned to be okay that there would be people who would never like or approve of me no matter how hard I tried.  I moved away from the college town that I loved back to my home town to live with my family.  I learned to forgive my parents for things I wish they would’ve done for me as a child and to accept them for who they are now.  Each life change and challenge had a purpose–I realize that now.

The intent of this short post is not to reflect on the book (I’m only on the third chapter!) or to boast about my life.  I merely wanted to express the possibility that a lot can change in a small period of time if one is willing to take the challenge to face their fears, to accept their flaws, to risk their heart in new relationships, to make big life changes and to take big leaps of faith. I am so blessed to become a mother at a point in life when I feel physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy and to raise a child with an equally healthy partner.  I am eager to have a child who can further my growth in my new life as a mother.

 

 

 

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