Friday, March 26, 2021

Two Months: Firsts and Lasts

These days, we often lie in bed at night and marvel at the fact that there is a tiny human in the same room. She has been on this earth for nearly two months now. We roll over and watch her sleep, her big head turned towards us to her left shoulder, one arm straight out, cheeks spilling out of the collar of her onesie, perky lips slightly apart, her tiny chest rising and falling quickly with its rhythmical irregularity that we have become so accustomed to. She might let out a sudden gasp or wheeze, a whimper, a snort. We’ve gotten so used to it that we laugh and put on our earplugs. We feel mostly at ease around her and we trust that she will let us know if she needs anything.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

First Taste of Parenthood

It is through bleary, half-closed eyes and milk-streaked pajamas that I type these words--not to mention, with one hand, because the other is being incapacitated by a 7-pound, 20-inch long baby in the crook of my arm.  My alarm rang fifteen minutes ago, and I don't mean that glib ring tone emanating from the phone on my nightstand.  I am referring to my human alarm swaddled up in the bassinet beside my bed.  I open my eyes and it takes me a moment to register whether I really heard her cry or not, since hearing phantom cries happens almost just as often.  I wait a moment, suspended between my own very shallow sleep cycles, and there it is--a confirmed wail from the bassinet.  I grab my phone and open the Babytracker app.  Last feeding was an hour and 20 minutes ago.  Hmm, sounds a bit early for her to be hungry, but it isn't unprecedented for her to want to eat well before the three-hour mark.  Or maybe her diaper is poopy.  Either way, time to get up and check.  

It's been a daily grind unlike any I've ever felt before.  For the first two weeks, adrenaline was on my side and I never actually felt tired of getting up.  I looked forward to seeing her and feeding her in the middle of the night, and I proudly logged every feeding as a little win.  I would always wake up before the timer for her next feeding, anxious and excited.  Now, at 4 weeks, I feel much more ravaged and I don't always awaken before she does anymore.  The honeymoon phase is realThis is not to say that I love my baby any less after that phase was over.  It's just that it's heavy coming to the realization that I will essentially be a slave to her basic needs for months on end with no breaks.  All of those mental health mantras about putting yourself first and setting boundaries do not feel like they apply when you're the mother of a newborn baby, who is so dependent on you for survival.  But along with that grim realization also comes a beautiful one: becoming a new mom comes with a naturally unconditional love that feels so intense that it both hurts and liberates.  From that sense of commitment rises endurance, patience, and selflessness that I never knew that I possessed.  I have lost some parts of my life that I was proud of, but I have gained new purpose, meaning, and clarity.  I am somebody's creator and I mean the world to her, and that is in itself overwhelming and awesome to know.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Our Daughter is Born

"We are going to offer you an induction," spoke the maternal-fetal medicine specialist at our 38th week growth scan. These words hit me like a ton of bricks. Wes was participating in this appointment via FaceTime from the phone in my hand, which I was about ready to drop. I did not want to believe that our baby was truly at risk for stillbirth if I let her arrive naturally--naturally meaning without the use of synthetic hormones or other invasive procedures to force my body and the baby into labor. I wasn't against medical intervention if I was in control of deciding when to initiate it, but since this recommendation came as a curveball to us, we were definitely not prepared.

The MFM specialist didn't say it then, but when I reviewed his notes after getting home, he had diagnosed us with late onset fetal growth restriction. He told us only that the baby had an abdominal size of under the 10th percentile, and that this was reason to be concerned that she would do better with nourishment outside rather than inside of me.  I knew that we were referred to the MFM department to begin with because the baby was measuring small for most of the pregnancy, but according to the OBGYN at our last appointment, she had caught up and was at 13th percentile. I figured that this final growth scan would just be a safety check, nothing crazy, maybe we'd get some souvenir ultrasound photos to take home as we get pumped for her arrival.  I was confused when the doctor told us that she was not necessarily safe to stay in until 40 weeks.  I always thought that our baby would need all the time she could get inside of me to get catch up on her, inductions are for babies who are overdue, right?  Going back to the doctor's notes, it was indicated that the baby was in the 2nd percentile with her abdominal size, which definitely worried us.  With this more specific information, I accepted the fact that she was not getting what she needed in the womb.  The doctor let us know that if we were willing to have the induction, it would be best to do it the following week on Friday January 29th, citing that 39-week inductions are perfectly safe and in fact reduce the chance of needing a C-section.  We nervously booked the appointment right then and there.  

When I emerged from the hospital building, Wes, who had participated in the appointment via FaceTime, was waiting on the sidewalk and ready to give me a hug. We had to take this in. First, we were shocked that we'd be meeting our baby so much sooner than expected. Her due date was supposedly February 4th. Then, we had to try not to worry about her size for the rest of the days leading up to induction day.  Finally, we had just one week to be sure that everything at home was ready for her, and that we could be mentally prepared by then.  Fortunately, we had been slowly getting things together and cleaning up over the past few months due to the stay-at-home order, so the only thing we really needed to do was to finish the nursery projects and let family, friends, and coworkers know.  We ended up getting excited for the 29th, and Wes pointed out that at least now we had a target date to plan around rather than having to be caught off guard.  I still was disappointed that I would have to be induced and that things couldn't run their course, but I was definitely on board with seeing the baby come out safe and sound.  I marked our Google calendars on January 29th at 3:00 PM as: "The Day that Our Lives Change Forever," for lack of any other words.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Nearing the Finish Line

On this day one year ago, I was in a very dark place.  I had just miscarried what I thought would be our rainbow baby.  A rainbow baby is a joyful term representing a baby who is born after a loss--the rainbow after the storm.  I was honestly not sure if I would ever find the courage to hope for yet another rainbow; the thought of weathering another storm crushed me.  Initially, I wanted to just give up and blame myself.  If I could have told myself back then that in a year's time, I'd be nine months pregnant with a very good chance of giving birth to a healthy baby, I don't think that I would have believed myself.  But now, I am full term, full of excitement, and full of life.  It's surreal and magical.

I see that I had to walk this hard path in order to learn that control is an illusion, but trust is essential in the face of that illusion.  I learned how to hope again after being let down, and how to cope with the ebb and flow of that very fragile hope.  I learned that I can observe, choose, and change my reactions.  Though I have a supportive partner, family, and friends, I learned that I need to take on that responsibility to love and care for myself, by myself.  I tried to be present with pain, fear, and joy without feeling shame.  I have my weak moments, but today I feel strong.

At any point in the next few weeks, I could go into labor, and then the rest is up in the air.  I choose not to see this quickly approaching, unpredictable, wild experience with anxiety, fear, and a need for control.  I will harness the strength, hope, love, and trust that I've been practicing over the past year.  It still takes some courage to muster up these words, but I know that no matter what happens, it will be empowering, all-consuming, and totally worth it.  

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Gratitude and 2020

This year, it feels both harder and easier to be thankful.  2020 has been overwhelming.  The pandemic, climate change, civil unrest, political polarization, racial injustice, social isolation, school closures, and pregnancy after loss, have all brought up a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.  But at the same time, 2020 has forced me to do a lot of inner work and to appreciate things that I took for granted before.  Uncomfortable feelings have led to growth, awareness, learning (and unlearning), slowing down, solidifying values, and self care.  I'm not anywhere near where I want to be, but I have been able to devote undivided attention to both collective and internal issues that have flown under my radar for far too long.  Truthfully, neither the external work nor the inner work will ever be done to my satisfaction, and disappointment is certain.  I realized that I needed to come to terms with this by being at peace with myself.  To be fully present for learning opportunities, to create sustainable change, and to show up for others, I had to show up for myself.  For me, practicing gratitude during these torn times has helped me to move away from a place of guilt and go forward with a sense of hope.

Perhaps the biggest responsibility either of us has ever dreamed of holding is now on the horizon.  We are about to be parents of the next generation.  This has put us in both a vulnerable and empowering position over the last seven months.  To put the timing into perspective, I had literally just finished all of the infertility tests before things shut down, I was six weeks pregnant when we marched in a Black Lives Matter protest, my second trimester was overshadowed by the wildfires, and the elections were happening as I was entering the third trimester.  Throughout this time, we have had many conversations about how we can raise our child to become a socially responsible and self aware adult.  Our conversations always go back to how important it is for us to model what we want to see.  So, there is no better time to stop beating myself up, to stop acting like things need to be in my control, to stop hiding my weaknesses.  There is no better time to practice gratitude to reconcile vulnerability and empowerment.  I've been feeling positive and courageous about raising our kid together and about making progress as a society, even in this messy world, even though I'm still cleaning up my own mess.  I think that a big part of this is recognizing the good in the world, and the good in me.  

I feel grateful to start a family together, grateful for the opportunity to both teach and learn from our child.  I feel grateful for my health and my family's health.  I feel grateful to have our comfortable home.  I feel grateful that I have reconnected with hobbies that fulfill me.  I feel grateful for a job that satisfies me and for every parent, child, and teacher who has touched my heart through the Internet in the last eight months.  I feel grateful to have a supportive, smart, and selfless circle of friends.  I feel grateful for the 6-foot-distanced outdoor chats, phone calls, text messages, Instagram interactions, Facebook comments from people near and far.  I feel grateful to be breathing, grateful to be alive.  Grateful to give my all to what's to come.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Living with Pregnancy after Loss

We went to Descanso Gardens for a walk the week before my 31st birthday.  It is always really sweet to find ourselves there, since it's where we got married in 2015.  It hits me every time we come here how time flies so quickly, and this time the feeling was even more poignant.  Another year around the sun, another life ready to enter the world, another five years since we said, "I do."  We've grown a lot, and yet we still have so much left to experience together.  I've taken some time to reflect on where we are in our lives right now and how to make the most out of this waiting period.  

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Mooncake Gender Reveal

I’m 22 weeks pregnant today!  We had the pleasure of throwing an ignition-free, socially distant gender reveal with our families over the past weekend.  With the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival coming up this week, there couldn’t have been a more fitting way to announce our baby's gender than with mooncake, which we baked ourselves with discreetly dyed filling. 

Going into having this party, I was still fearful of the possibility of this reality crumbling before my eyes.  How horrible would it be to have to announce to everyone that we lost this one too, after celebrating.  It shouldn't feel this way, but it does feel like I'd be letting expecting grandparents, aunties, and uncles down.  It was bad enough when it was only Wes who knew.  But, I'm realizing that the longer I hold this in, the more I am letting that anxiety rule my world.  Wes reminds me that all of the evidence has been in favor of this baby being alive and well.  We saw the heart beating on the ultrasound multiple times already, measurements have come back normal, we're seeing my belly grow, and I'm still slightly gagging at the thought of sautéed vegetables and poultry.  We have more reason to expect than to doubt.

The waiting will continue for just under 20 more weeks, and though we’ve been doing our best to protect all three of us and stay safe, we know that nothing is for sure.  What we've learned from the other losses is that so much is really beyond our control.  Living through these pandemic days may look uneventful, but I am constantly on edge that anything can happen.  Not just to our growing baby, but out there in our ecosystem, in our social system, in our economic system, in the world that this kid may be born into.  I've been more focused than ever on the news and anything revolving around social justice, and though I am disappointed, having the awareness is inspiring me, too.  Despite everything, our hopes are high.  I’m still learning, and I’m not afraid to face the ugly truths all around me and within me.  I’m still excited to welcome a new life into this crazy place.  These systems need love, tweaking, and rethinking.  If anything, there is no better time to raise a new generation to get that job done.

So, with a big breath of positivity and courage (just like when I shared about the miscarriages), I share this great news to lift a burden from my shoulders.  I dare to smile and put on a dress that shows my bump.  I want to bask in what happy moments this pregnancy can offer now and not deprive myself of what this special, yet brief time can offer us and our loved ones.  I knew that it would feel more real when we planned this party, made announcements, and started buying items... and that's all frightening, but it's also really fun.  Yes, I have PTSD, but I can let that go slowly and let the joy in.  I think that I finally reached that turning point at our 18-week doctor's appointment where we found out the gender of our baby.  There was something so tangible and real about everything since that day.  Soon after, I started to visibly expand in my belly!  It's beautiful, unpredictable, and it's life.  And yes, that's pink fillingit's a girl!

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Who Let the Squirrels Out?

It started with birding, but quickly morphed into photos of any and all wildlife within the perimeter of our property.  The variety is actually quite astounding!  Wes used his telephoto lens to capture action shots of birds, bugs, cats, and plants through the Spring and Summer months.  Our favorite animals to observe were definitely the squirrels, though.  They are so cute, agile, and quirky.  There's nothing like seeing one hop from tree branch to roof like a superhero, observing a hungry pregnant squirrel going at a freshly picked orange, or enjoying the sight of young squirrels (quite possibly her pups) playing raucously early in the morning.  Wes insisted on making rainbow colored ladders for the squirrels to play on using scrap wood in the garage, which I thought was sort of ridiculous.  We made them anyway and they look cute, whether the squirrels actually make use of them or not.  On the hot days, Wes would turn on the sprinklers to spritz the grass and make it cooler for them, since we noticed that they like to lie in the grass to cool off.  For fun, we would leave oranges around to see if they would take them.  The squirrels provided a daily perk to look forward to and their surprising behaviors never ceased to amaze us.  Sometimes, it just comes down to noticing the simple things in times like this.  If we weren't home so much, we may never have known of this circle of life occurring right in our yard. 

Friday, July 31, 2020

Adventures at the Wong Campground

Since we couldn't go anywhere this year for our anniversary (for a variety of reasons), we still made the day special by setting up camp in our back yard.  I was really craving an outing into nature after much time being cooped up inside.  We pitched the tent like we always do, blew up the sleeping pads, made a camp fire, and played games.  It was totally corny, but how often do two adults get do this?  We cheated a little bit by making it okay to use the bathroom and the kitchen!  We went on a familiar hike earlier that day in the Angeles National Forest, which was a great getaway that offered fresh air, sprawling mountain views, and no crowds.  I was worried at first that this year's celebration would be dull compared to the past ones, but of course it never ends up being dull unless you see it that way.  We felt fortunate to have been able to do something different for our five-year wedding anniversary, even though we stayed local.  In light of current events, this day was epic in its own way.