What I Wish You Told Me Before I Had A Baby

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Recently, I spoke to several fellow first-time mothers and shared with each other the hardship of mothering a newborn:

“I couldn’t walk for 2 weeks…”

“I thought breastfeeding was going to be easy…”

“It’s a good thing babies are so cute…”

“It was the hardest time of my life…”

As we shared our common experiences, we all had the same thought: “Why didn’t anyone tell us it was going to be so difficult?!”

During pregnancy, it seemed as if everyone was only interested in learning the mundane: what foods we craved, if the pregnancy was planned, and our top picks for the baby’s name. My hypnobirthing class—which made up the most of my birth training— was hyper focused on visualizing the perfect birth experience and instilling positive thoughts. The outcome was that I was underprepared for what would be the most difficult weeks I’ve yet to experience.

For me, the part where you love your baby unconditionally is a no brainer—now that I’m almost three months into motherhood, I am LOVING being a mom. It’s the other side of parenthood that people failed to tell us about.

I wish that parents advising me to “sleep when the baby sleeps” would instead wail to me about the nights where they only slept for an hour and the midnight hours walking back and forth to get baby to sleep. And instead of suggestions like “check out the breastfeeding group” and “you should probably read about breastfeeding”, I wish I was informed about the high likelihood of developing blisters, scabs, bleeding, and pain during the initial period of breastfeeding.

I wish I sat down longer with veteran parents and solicited the harrowing details of the first few weeks of parenthood. I admit it—I may also be guilty of being dismissive of negative stories, imagining that I would be lucky and have the perfect experience that I had been meditating on for months and months. After talking to many mothers now, I am surprised to hear how even the healthiest, most prepared and optimistic women just as likely to have these common challenges with birth and motherhood.

Don’t get me wrong—my baby turned out to be the most wonderful thing in my life. She is so happy and beautiful, and her smile lights up my day. However I didn’t have these feelings in the first few weeks of her entrance into my life…but I got through it with patience, time, and encouragement.

Hoping that I can help prevent future mothers from having the same SHOCK experience, I wanted to share these six pieces of advice I wish I had received before motherhood:

1. Expect the unexpected. Nearly every one of my friends who had a baby around the same time as me (early 2015) had some sort of complication during labor. Babies born very early, babies born very late, babies who experienced fetal distress during birth. Friends of mine had unexpected c-sections as I did, were unable to give birth at the birth center, and had unwanted medical procedures done. No matter how hard you prepared to have a normal delivery and how much positive thinking you put into your pregnancy, there is never any guarantee it will happen your way. There may be scary surprises along the way, but you’ll get through it! It’s all part of this wonderful art of creating life.

2. Plan for the recovery period. When I was pregnant, there was so much focus on the pregnancy and birth that very few people prepped me for how difficult the weeks following the birth would be. I wish more people talked about how it was like to recover from a vaginal delivery or a C-section delivery so I knew that I should expect to be immobile for several weeks and that my main job was to nurse and to rest. I didn’t even learn how to change diapers until about a week into it because dad graciously filled the role of official diaper-changer and baby holder while I was recovering from the c-section. I recommend that mothers-to-be start recruiting friends and family who can volunteer to come over to feed to you, help you clean, and look after the baby so you can rest. Inform your family in advanced that you want some private time alone with the baby and your partner & set clear visitation rules if you have overexcited or intrusive family members.

3. It’s okay if you’re annoyed with the baby. The pain from labor, the fatigue from not sleeping for days, and the stress of figuring out why your baby is crying are all enough reasons why parents may not be initially head over heels over their baby. I felt horribly guilty that I was not automatically in love with my newborn. I told everyone that I wished she would skip the newborn phase and turn into a walking, talking toddler already.  Little did I know that many mothers felt this same way for the first few weeks or months. It takes time for mommy and baby to get to know each other and develop a bond, so don’t feel bad if you find the baby irritating at first…the love will come in time! Once my baby started cooing, smiling and reciprocating the love, it made the long days a million times more fun.

4. Don’t be surprised by the baby blues. Even if you do not think you are predisposed to depression, you shouldn’t be surprised if you feel sad, anxious or even regretful about having a baby. In my case, I had been baby-hungry for several years—so I was very surprised that I was not completely ecstatic about my little one’s arrival. I ended up reminiscing a lot about the carefree days when my husband and I could sleep, go out, and eat whenever we wanted. I was so sad those days were over! I cried almost daily for about three weeks. The baby blues happen for 80% of new mothers, and it is only temporary. What helped me get through it was talking to other mothers, crying on my husband’s shoulder, energy healing sessions, and some wine! If the baby blues persists, then it’s time to consult professional help.

5. Breast-feeding is not easy. Almost every new mother I know I had some sort of difficulty with breast-feeding in the first few weeks. I had blisters and scabs for the first two weeks and it was excruciating. One night I was so exhausted and in pain from nursing, I had even contemplated switching to formula! I also developed mastitis, an infection of the breast that resulted in a very high fever and had to be treated with antibiotics. Because of these common problems, there’s a good reason free breast-feeding support groups exists. Mothers need as much help and encouragement as they can get to continue breastfeeding their little one and not give up. Being able to provide all of the nutrition to my baby is an amazing feeling, and I’m so happy that I was able to get through those first few weeks with the help of lactation consultants at the hospital and at support groups.

6. It gets better! What I learned from this experience is that I am a much stronger woman—both physically and emotionally—than I ever knew I was capable of. Once I got through the never-ending first month, I felt like everything started falling into place. I started trusting my instincts more and became less reliant on the advice of the internet and other mothers. My baby started crying less and sleeping more. I felt stronger and more confident in my ability to care for her. My husband and I became closer than ever. It indeed does get infinitely better and easier over time!

This post is not meant to scare anyone—I’m sorry if that is an unintended effect. Instead, I hope it helps new mothers to know what to expect and to not be completely taken by surprise.

What do you think about my list? Any other advice you would pass on to new mothers? Does hearing about the initial difficulties of motherhood scare you away from it?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Why Asian Moms Don’t Want You To Hold Your Baby

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Being a first-time mom and the first daughter in my family to have a baby, I expected much nagging from my Chinese-Vietnamese family. For the first few weeks of my baby’s life, my husband and I had to tolerate a barrage of small Asian women telling us a number of things that we should do, shouldn’t do, and are doing wrong. The one advice that was most commonly shared was to not hold our baby too much because that would spoil her. When my baby cried when my parents were over at my house, they would try every which way to get her to stop crying instead of just picking her up (by the way, after several weeks of visiting her, they learned that their method was very ineffective).

“Don’t hold her too much.  If you do, she won’t EVER let you put her down!”

Almost every single relative relayed this vital baby lesson to us as if it was the only thing that was important for us to know. Considering that I am a mom who loves holding, wearing and napping with baby on me, this really irritated me. And, I mean, it irritated me so much, I would lay awake in the middle of the night fuming. I hate not only unsolicited advice but especially advice that makes absolutely no sense to me. But after I had a recent conversation with my mother about why she could not hold my brother much when he was a baby, it framed the “don’t hold the baby” advice into  real-life context for me.

When we moved to America from Vietnam in 1989, my father went to work at a restaurant while my mother stayed home raising my siblings and me. She took a job sewing clothes—it was a job where she could work at home on her industrial machine and got paid for each item that she completed. And so she sewed during the day while taking care of my infant brother who was born soon after we moved here, my sister who had just started elementary school and me, age three at the time when we moved here. It was no wonder she didn’t want my baby brother to get too used to being held too much…she couldn’t physically hold him because she had to work during the day and take care of two other kids at the same time! After hearing her account of raising us, I felt much more empathy towards her and the other women in my family who had to juggle multiple roles while caring for their babies.

Still, this simple story does not fully explain why my Asian family does not want us to overly attend to our babies, nor does it justify letting babies’ cries be ignored. I am almost certain that the women in my family believe in the outdated practice of letting newborns cry and learn to self-soothe although modern science shows that newborns are not capable of self-soothing and need comfort through human touch. I am also sure they are unaware that research shows that responsive parenting during infancy generates human beings who are more confident, capable, and caring. I have to be forgiving of them for not well-read and informed about the science of babies. And I have to remind myself that they raised children in social and economic contexts that are different from mine—and many women do not have the ability to attend to their babies even if they wanted to!

And so here I am, a middle-class, first time mom with the luxury of not having to work for three months and my primary job during this time is to dote on my child. Thank goodness that I actually HAVE the time to just sit there and hold my baby while she is napping. Thank goodness I do not have to ignore her cries because I am caring for other children or working.

I can relish in this beautiful window of time when I can be alone with her, become in tuned with her, and let her know she is loved. Right now, I don’t have anything more important to do besides to rock, bounce, nurse, and hug my baby. The laundry can wait until the next nap time (and thank goodness, I have a baby who can entertain herself for short periods of time when I need to attend to other things). In this moment, the only thing I want to do is gaze at the beautiful sleeping baby that is my daughter and hold her for as long as I want.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

An ode to my parents and to all parents

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

An Honest Account of the “Baby Blues”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

It’s 2:00am on a Tuesday night. Everyone tells new moms to sleep when the baby sleeps, but it’s pretty difficult to asleep awkwardly half reclined on a pillow with a baby sleeping on your chest, grunting and chortling like a piglet. Yep– it’s one of those nights when baby is adamant she can only sleep in one position and one position only. Of course I could try laying her down but since that has already backfired twice three times in the last two  four hours, I figured I would just accept the reality of this sleepless night and make use of this time to write. I’m just glad that she is asleep.

I can’t believe I made it through the first month of motherhood. It has been inexplicably the most challenging month of my life. Perhaps I’ve had it easy for a while and life wanted to throw me a hard ball?

Let’s start from week one. Recovering from an emergency cesarean section is no easy ordeal, both physically and emotionally. I could hardly move the first few days. It took me about ten minutes to walk the fifteen feet from my hospital bed to the bathroom. When I came home I was stronger but I resented that it would take me a whole minute to get in and out of my bed. I’ve been too used to being spry apparently. Despite being in so much pain, I was trying to wean myself off of my pain medication early due to the severe constipation that the narcotics caused. I’m not one who is shy to talk about poop so I’ll readily admit that it took six days to have a bowel movement – I was crying and praying the last two days that the prune juice and stool softener would start working because it was so uncomfortable. When I finally had a bowel movement, it felt like labor pain….but thank goodness, I have never felt more relieved!

I never imagined that I would undergo any surgery, never mind a c-section. I felt like I had been cut in half and the idea of it was very gross to me. I refused to touch to look at my scar for a week and a half.  My husband finally succeeded in convincing me to tear off the tape off of the scar.

My labor trauma set me up for what experts call the “baby blues” and what I call “the intense experience of recovering from a major surgery, learning how to take of a new human being, not sleeping for 48 hours, hormones going out of whack, suffering from pain, second guessing everything that you’re doing as a mother, dealing with my overbearing parents, and missing my old life”. In my honest opinion, the term “baby blues” is a stupid way to label the intensity of becoming a new mother and only seeks to pathologize the women who experience it and compare them to the ideal vision of women who are able to fall in love with their child right away and feel like everything just comes naturally.

For the first week and a half, it was hard not to associate the baby with pain and displeasure. Every time I nursed her, I wanted to cry from the the blisters and scabs that had developed on my nipples, caused by her biting the tips of my nipples on the first day. Of course, I was in pain meds and couldn’t feel the pain initially. And it took every ounce of effort to pick her up due to not my then dysfunctional abdominal muscles. I wasn’t sleeping much due to her 2-3 hour feeding cycles at night.  Additionally, I had high maternal anxiety at night and could not help from paying attention from every sound she made in her co-sleeper.

Soon after my nipples recovered from the scabs, I developed a high fever one night of 101 degrees. I was scared it was due to an infection from my c-section wound but it turned out it was mastitis (infection of the breast tissue).   Despite my hatred for antibiotics, I had to take them for a week to treat it.  The mastitis symptoms soon subsided…but it didn’t end there.  A few days into my medication use, my baby developed abdominal pain and had an episode of projectile vomitng and diarrhea, which I believe were side effects of the antibiotics.  So began several days of intense researching on how to relieve her discomfort and trying out baby gas drops and gripe water.

All of this happened in the first two weeks of her birth and I felt like the chaos would never end. When I was alone in my attempts to nap, I often cried. Several times I broke down to my husband and cried, “Why is this so difficult for me?” I could not believe that I didn’t fall in love with motherhood as I had expected. I was also struggling with the reality that I didn’t have a easy-going, calm baby that Hypnobirthing had promised me. My baby was fussy, particular, and not a self-soother—not unusual for a baby but just different from what I expected for my first baby.

The lack of sleep exacerbated the crying spells so I was super protective over my sleep and making extra efforts to make sure baby was sleeping well.  Yes, Dr. Harvey Karp (author of “Happiest Baby on the Block”, this included making sure baby was 100% sound asleep when I put her in the crib instead of developing the good sleep habit of making sure she’s still a little awake when I lay her down. That advice was ridiculous to me. My emotional sanity was on the line and I felt I had to do whatever it took to make sure all three of us got sleep during the night.

The third week was approaching and I was worried that my baby blues still had not subsided.  After all, the literature says that it should only last 2 weeks or else it becomes this other pathologizing term called postpartum depression. Thankfully, I turned the corner the night after my husband poured me a glass of wine and cared for the baby while I slept for a 4 hour chunk, something I had not done since before her birth. I also did several treatments of an energy psychology technique that I practice called “Neuro Emotional Technique” on myself.  I did emotional clearing on issues of feeling lost and vulnerable as a mother, my inability to sleep at night, and the stress of not knowing exactly how to make my baby feel comfortable with her gas pains. I woke up from that 4-hour nap and immediately felt back to normal. I no longer felt like crying at every little thing that happened and stopped ruminating on how much I missed my old life with my husband.

My husband went back to work after three works of being with me, and it has helped me feel more confident in caring for the baby when I’m alone with her. I know her routine and her nuances. I still question a lot of things I do and continue to strategize every day on how to make her more comfortable and sleep better.  But I’m so relieved I’m not feeling so emotionally fragile anymore.  It was a truly scary feeling.

I understand that it may be taboo to talk about the baby blues this publicly.  After all, new parents on Facebook mostly share about falling in love with their baby and photos of what I call “the good times” (e.g. not the photos of babies screaming and crying in the middle of the night or mom’s raccoon eyes). But apparently I read somewhere that 80% of women experience the baby blues, again whatever that means for each individual mother. Why is it that I have never read or heard detailed accounts of the baby blues until I actually experienced it?

I’m so glad that stage has passed and that I’m able to fully appreciate my baby now—even on nights when I’ve only slept two hours because I’ve spent 6 hours either feeding her, changing her diaper, or trying to rock her back to sleep. I would still give anything for her to be able to communicate with me her needs.  But for now, I think I just need to focus on this moment…which is learning to sleep sitting upright with a grunting baby on my chest.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

How My Hypnobirthing Plan Turned into a C-section Delivery

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Deciding on Natural Birth

Before my pregnancy, I never thought it was possible for me to have a natural birth. I knew myself too well–I had low pain tolerance, heightened physical sensitivities, and a body in which I was confident is too small to bear a child. Besides, my mother, stepmother, and nearly every woman in my family had c-sections. I figured that there was something in my bloodline that made it particularly challenging to have a vaginal birth.

However when I first learned I was pregnant in June 2014, I looked into the range of birthing options and ultimately decided to work towards a natural birth. I was displeased to hear how often medically unnecessary interventions are used during labor and wanted to embrace the possibility that I could have a gentle, comfortable birth experience. And so I decided to stick with the approach that I normally use to manage most of my health issues: start with more natural remedies (i.e. natural birth), use modern medicine (i.e. epidural) if they fail.

I enrolled in a hypnobirthing course and for the last four months of pregnancy practiced the techniques diligently. I appreciated how hypnobirthing can help make natural birth a reality for many women–however, I was well aware that every woman’s body is different and so is their pain tolerance. I’ve heard many women’s accounts of childbirth….everything from “it felt like I was being repeatedly stabbed by a knife” to “it was just a lot of pressure but not pain” to “it was orgasmic!” I wished for nothing more than to know ahead of time what it would feel like for me, but since there is no way for me to know, I knew tat pain relief would continue to be an option for me if I needed it.

How It All Went Down

I was fortunate to have had a relatively uneventful and comfortable pregnancy. However, I was physically and emotionally miserable in the last few weeks. I started my maternity leave from work on week 37, thinking (or hoping?) that perhaps my baby will come early. Week after week passed and I was surprised that she had not yet emerged from my petite body. It was very difficult to idle at home as I waited for her. My husband and I were becoming very impatient.

Before we knew it, week 41 was approaching. I had had mild signs of prodromal labor, my cervix was dilated about 2-3 cm, and I had bloody show. In the last few days before her birth, I had received 2 acupuncture sessions and spent the days self-stimulating labor-inducing acupressure points. I also walked several times a day and did many other natural forms of induction. Nothing worked!

On week 41 and 1 day, we decided to give my obstetrician permission to sweep my membranes. I was very conflicted about this because I read accounts that this procedure sometimes threw women into intense labor very quickl–or it didn’t work at all. I was hyper anxious about approaching week 42 and having to be induced with pitocin hence I opted for the membrane sweep.

The actual procedure was very uncomfortable. The obstetrician stuck a finger into my cervix and made circular motions to separate the bag of water from the walls of the uterus. This was supposed to trigger labor-inducing hormones within 72 hours. I had the procedure done on a Friday afternoon around 2:30pm. By the time I came home, I was feeling a mild back ache and abdominal cramping that came in waves. It was a gentle feeling, 3/10 on the pain scale, and lasted for about 4-5 hours. By 9pm, it had stopped.

Around 11:15pm, I was watching TV on my couch when my first REAL contraction happened. This was way more powerful than the prodromal labor contractions that I had felt previously. It was about a 6/10 on the pain scale. I walked over to my husband and told him “it’s happening!” The third one hit a few minutes later and I knew I was in for something much more intense than I had ever anticipated. I did not have a gradual progression of intensity as I had expected. By the fifth or sixth contraction, the feeling of pain was at a 7 or 8 and was coming about every 5 minutes and lasting almost a minute. At some point during the hour I was laboring at home, I started collapsing to my hands and knees every time a contraction hit me.

Every woman’s sensation of labor is different. The easiest way for me to describe what a contraction felt like for me was the fist of gravity trying to rip the baby out of me all in one pull. I tried to breathe through each one and use my relaxation techniques but to no avail. It was terrifying and I dreaded each upcoming contraction.

I asked my husband to pack up our bag to head to the hospital and I told him in advanced that I was going to ask for an epidural. We arrived at the hospital to be admitted to triage. I was thoroughly pissed that they would ask a woman in labor pain so many questions that they had in their system already. I also had to endure another 2-3 hours of contractions until a room was available. At this point, with each contraction, I had rolled up my husband’s sweater and bit into it with each wave. He seemed relieved that I stopped trying to bite into his leg!

Once the anesthesiologist administered the epidural, I was immediately relieved and laid back comfortably on my hospital bed. The next moments were hazy to me but my husband gave me his account of what happened. Minutes after I was given the epidural, my blood pressure dropped dramatically (my blood pressure is normally very low) and so did the baby’s heart rate. The nurses tilted my bed backwards to send blood flowing to my head and was squeezing the IV bag to get fluids into my system. Before I knew it, they were rolling me upstairs to the operating room as they explained to me that the baby’s heart rate had dropped for several minutes and that I may need a cesarean section. I was too numbed out to have an emotional response–I only knew it was serious because I was surrounded by doctors and nurses, and they were going back and forth on what they should do.

Finally, at one point, the primary doctor saw that the baby’s heart rate had stabilized to a normal level and did not see a need for a cesarian section at that moment. I was wheeled to another room and, seeing that I was 9.5 cm dilated and baby was not low enough for me to push, I was asked to wait until it was time for active labor.

I was immensely relieved at the news and rested comfortable for about an hour in my room as they monitored the baby’s vitals. All of the nurses on the floor were on edge because the baby’s heart rate continued to drop with each contraction. At one point, the nurses were getting ready to wheel me back to the OR before the doctor asked them to give me some time to try pushing the baby out. I was effective at pushing and they continued to monitor her heart rate with each contraction and push. Her vitals looked dire. Finally the new doctor told me that a c-section was the best option for me with the least risk.

Of course my husband and I consented to whatever the doctor thought would be best for me and the baby. This didn’t keep me from feeling very stressed and worried about the operation. I knew that most C-sections are uncomplicated but I still had a deep fear that something would go wrong and my body would not be able to tolerate it. I was shaking very intensely due to both the labor hormones and pure fear. I asked my husband for my headphones and music so that I could relax as they prepared me for the operation room. As soon as I started listening to music, I broke down, cried and told my husband that how scared I was. He consoled me and reassured me that the staff were going to take care of me.

They wheeled me over to the OR and hot tears were still pouring down my face. The anesthiologist stood by my side as they tested my pain sensation and assured me that I was going to meet my baby in about twenty minutes. Soon my husband was allowed in the room and they hung up the drape by my chest so that we could not see the operation.

Surely, after some tugging and pulling at my abdomen, we heard a cry. I saw her face and I was so happy to see that she was okay. Travis went over to the side as they cleaned her up. He then brought her over to me. I gave her many kisses. I was so joyful and relieved to finally meet her.

My Thoughts Now

My daughter Sky is two weeks old now and I am feeling almost fully recovered from the surgery. The recovery process and first few days of learning how to care for her were very difficult. I often found myself drifting back to day of her birth and ruminating on how scary the whole experience was for me. I also couldn’t stop wondering what I could’ve done to have made labor a better experience. If I didn’t have my membranes swept, would the contractions have been less painful? Would I be able to tolerate a second birth without an epidural? And considering that my body did not tolerate the epidural very well, would I ever be able to give birth again without an c-section? All questions I’m not able to answer unless I can travel back or ahead in time. For now, I can only absolutely grateful that both Sky and I made it through that experience alive and healthy.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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.

 

 

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Chinese Superstitions About Pregnancy

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

asianbabyWithin five minutes of telling my Chinese parents that I was pregnant, I was recited a list of every rule that I must follow in order to guarantee a healthy, good-looking baby. My husband and I laughed through most of the superstitions as it was hard to conceive of the scientific reasoning behind most of them. I did hope to find a Chinese medicine practitioner who could substantiate at least some of these claims but I haven’t met anyone yet with enough knowledge to elaborate more on these superstitions.  For now, I’ll share what I’ve heard for sake of pure entertainment.

1) Hammers and scissors should not be used in the bedroom, my husband was firmly told. Why, you ask? Because it will cause facial defects, such as scars and a cleft lip, as if the tools could literally cut into my child’s face (is that graphic enough for you?).

2) I should not eat pineapples. The reason? My baby will grow sharp, prickly bumps – like that of pineapple skin – on her head.

3) No eating watermelon during pregnancy.  It is considered a “cold” food in Chinese medicine and can make me susceptible to illness.  (Ironically, ten minutes after dinner, my dad sliced up half a watermelon for me to bring home to eat.)

4) No squatting! The baby will literally slip out right underneath me. If only labor was that easy…

5) I should post up large magazine posters of babies on my bedroom walls.  I have seen the inside of many bedrooms in Vietnamese plastered corner-to-corner with calendar photos of babies and cartoon bears.  The images of babies are supposed to help mom with positive visualizations and feelings about her baby

6) I shouldn’t make a habit of rubbing or touching my belly too often. To reinforce this rule, my mother scolds me every single time I even think about touching my belly bump. No one explained to me why this is bad, but according to this website, the Chinese believe that rubbing one’s belly will cause the child to be spoiled and overly demanding.

These are only some of the many rules a Chinese woman must follow during pregnancy.  Wait until you hear the rules the mother must follow after the baby is born.  Here’s a quick run through: limit exposure to water in the weeks after birth (this means limit showering, bathing, standing in the rain, hand washing clothes, etc.), no eating raw fruits and vegetables, no leaving the house for the first month, no wearing clothes that bare too much skin…and the list goes on.  And of course, I imagine that different Chinese communities modify these rules as they see fit – a first generation Chinese family in America may adhere to these rules less than a family in rural China.

I do continue to find myself questioning if some of these rules have any scientific validity.  For instance, I wonder if Chinese mothers (and babies) are less likely to get sick due to a strict diet and limiting their exposure to cold elements?  Are there less miscarriages in Chinese populations where women are more careful in not overexerting themselves and more likely to keep themselves homebound during pregnancy?

If someone can help answer these questions without my having to do a scientific literature review (because that is SO not happening in my last two weeks of pregnancy), I would love to hear it!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

36 Weeks And Counting Down

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

I can’t believe I’m finally at this point….week 36!

This last trimester has definitely felt the longest.  Whereas the second trimester flashed by like nobody’s business, these last two months have been crawling at snail speed.  Or maybe it’s just me that’s been moving at snail speed?  Transitioning from lying down to sitting has been quite the struggle.  And I swear it takes me five full minutes to put on my socks and shoes.  My darling dog is looking behind his should to slow down so I can catch up with him during our walks.  The three times I managed to get to the gym swimming pool this past month I end up wading around rather than try for an cardio-aerobic session.

It’s really not so bad that time is slowing down.  I have been enjoying my no-rush days with my hubby and the husky.  We have been spending long leisurely weekends together, going to the beach, indulging in eating out at pizzerias, taco shops, and dessert parlors, enjoying a lot of quiet time together as a couple.

I have noticed myself really wanting to retreat from the outside world.  I’m not very excited about phone calls right now or even leaving the house for the grocery store.  And definitely not eager to go to work (thank goodness, I have only a few more days of work!). I am definitely ready for a spiritual hibernation right now, which means lots of quiet moments of meditation, stretching and internal preparation to become a mother.

Last night, I finally had my first dream about my baby.  In this dream, I was in a white room.  I was laboring on a bed with white sheets.  My labor seemed so effortless and felt very relaxed.  I remember reaching down to feel her head as she was crowning.  I couldn’t believe how easy it was.  I put her on my chest and then remembered that I still had to wait for my placenta to be expelled.  Sure enough it came out on its own.  I had a beautiful little moment with the baby and put her in her crib to sleep.

Still doing a lot of visualizations, positive affirmations, relaxation exercises, Spinning Baby exercises (to get baby in a good position), watching natural birth videos, getting educated about potential complications, preparing for how to avoid them, preparing fur child for human child.  100% ready to meet baby girl and welcome her into our family.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

What it feels like for a tiny Asian lady to carry a nearly grown baby in her stomach

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

After having such an energetic and comfortable second trimester, I am surprised by the level of exhaustion and change I’ve been experiencing in my last trimester.  Once I hit 27 weeks, I saw my energy slowly wane and suddenly tank like nobody’s business.  I went from going to the gym 2-3 times a week to exercise on the stationary bike and swim to only having enough energy for my short and slow morning and afternoon walks with my dog. My husband is back to cooking most nights because I just don’t have the physical energy or motivation to cook a proper meal after coming home from work.  Thankfully, I still have enough energy to do some housework and preparation in the baby room.

I normally can operate on 7-8 hours of sleep, but now if I don’t get 9 hours or more, I feel very drained during the day.  The pain I’ve been having on my right hip has been easing in the last few weeks, but weirdly enough, a new symptom I’ve been experiencing is slight numbness in my right leg.  I’m guessing there’s something going on with my circulation there.  Bending at the waist is the most difficult thing to do when you’re only five feet tall and your center is rounded up like a bowling bowl. I wish I could teach my dog to put my socks on for me!

I have been successfully gaining 1-1.5 pounds a week in the last two months.  Apparently, I’m at the stage when baby is about at her maximum length but packing on the cheeky baby fat.  Thankfully I’m one of the people where most of my added weight has gone directly to my belly.  My legs are getting quite a workout from carrying the extra weight.

As challenging as I’m making these last few months sound, I don’t think I have it too bad compared to the average woman’s third trimester.  I am still mobile and have proven that if I really did want to go back to the gym, it’s possible…it’s just a matter of whether or not I want to exercise right now.  My food cravings have stabilized (though I still enjoy regular servings of ice cream). My memory is bad, but at least I have enough brainpower to still do my job competently. I’ve been spending a lot of time practicing my visualization exercises, meditation, and yoga.  It’s been easier to go into a quiet internal space these last few weeks, which is a good indicator for my planning of a relaxed, meditative labor.

Reality is settling in.  In only a couple of weeks, I will be waking up in the mornings (and several times in the evening) to not only my husband and my doggy, but a newborn human in my room!  It sounds a little insane.  We have no idea who she is or who she will be, but we are very excited to meet her and to help her grow up. I hope that she takes after her parents’ calm, low-key temperament.  I hope she is blessed with health and gets stronger everyday. I hope she makes us first-time parents feel confident and at ease in raising her. I hope she and our fur child will love each other as siblings.

And I’m writing this on a Sunday night and it’s 8:15pm. Yes, this means good night for exhausted Hippie Asian Mom!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Reflection: Finding Happiness in 7 Years

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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.

 

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail