I want to jab my eyes out every time I hear this question

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At least once a week, I get asked this question: “When are you having a second baby?”

Most people do not even bother to ask, “Are you going to have a second baby?” They instantly assume I am going to strive for the American dream of 2.2 children frolicking behind a white picket fence and just whack me with a “when…?”

I want to jab my eyes out every time I hear it.

Because now I have to go through this whole process of explaining why I don’t want more kids and the other person tries really hard to change my mind and it ends with me changing the subject or needing to end it with a “Oh, we’ll see…” so that I can move on with my life. It’s a very predictable, boring and terrible conversation.

But I’ve thought long and hard about this and decided that there is actually one way that the question would be well-received. The other person only needs to follow it up with this statement:

“Before you answer that question, I want you to know that I have several things to offer you. The first is a lump sum of $300,000 to help support the upbringing and education of your second child.

“Also, I have long held a secret magic that will set into motion the reversal of climate change, implementation of nuclear disarmament, and eradication of hate and ignorance. Once you decide to have a second child, I will unleash this magic so that your child and her offspring will be guaranteed a long, fulfilling, and peaceful life on a healthy planet.

“And lastly, here is a pill. Once you take it, your body will only need half the amount of sleep that it normally needs. This way, you will have an extra 4 hours in your day to engage in self-care and other activities that create enjoyment in your life.”

If you cannot offer me these three gifts, please do not ask me this question.

But if the question inadvertently slips from your mouth and I respond with, “No, I don’t want another child. I’m happy with one,” please don’t say:

“But she needs someone to play with.” She can play with me or her dad, two of the silliest adults you’ll ever meet. She can play with friends. A cat. A dog. A neighbor. Roomba, our vacuum. This is not a concern of mine. Next please.

“She will get spoiled.” I don’t make a million dollars. She is not going to get a sports car for her 16th birthday. But if taking a week long trip to Hawaii before she is 18—which is something I’ve still yet to do—means that she is spoiled, I can live with that.

“She won’t know what it’s like to bond with a sibling.” The sibling connection is special—I know that from experience. But I also know many people who do not have a close relationship with their sibling. And I know a good handful of people who will have nothing to do with their siblings. Having a sibling doesn’t automatically guarantee closeness. This is not enough of a factor to convince me. Sorry.

You know how nowadays it’s rude now to ask women why they don’t have children? Well, guess what…it’s similarly rude to ask mothers when they are going to have more children.

We are not dairy cows. Some of us don’t want children. Some of us are happy with a pet. Some of us are happy with one child while others are happy with 6. Some of us—namely me—are just trying to make an impact in this world before an angry Asian guy and raging egomaniac blows it up.

Stop setting expectations for how we should live our lives. We get enough of it from the rest of the world. We don’t need it from our friends and families.

So, if you’re having trouble making conversation with a one-child mother, here are more meaningful discussion topics you can try instead:

“What do you like most about being a mother?”

“What’s the hardest thing about being a mother?”

“What’s your relationship with your partner like now that you’re parents?”

“What’s it like being a working mother or a stay at home mother?”

“How has being a mother changed you?”

“Do you want to add to your family?”

“You’re doing an amazing job.”

But the best thing you can say to any mother is: “I am going to wash your dishes.”

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An Honest Account of the “Baby Blues”

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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.

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