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.

I can't believe that it's almost been a month since we've become Zoe's mom and dad.  The first week was the most magical, but also pretty anxiety-ridden for both of us.  We were finally home with our baby, after nine months of anticipation.  And she's a cute, chubby little one.  We thought that we had a good handle on things upon leaving the hospital because she essentially ate and slept with little drama, but on the third day, things didn't go so smoothly.  She fed differently and she cried more irregularly.  Suddenly we had questions about things that we hadn't considered before.  We were phoning the hospital's 24-hour hotline, I was texting all of my mom friends, Wes was frantically buying things from Amazon.  We were a good team.  By week 2, we had begun to understand that there was too much conflicting information out there, and that we didn't necessarily have to follow exactly what they had told us at the hospital.  Babies aren't as straightforward as they make it seem when they teach you about baby care.  After all, they're only human, and we all have our good days and our off days.  In fact, life as a newborn must really suck.  I don't know if I'd want to trade places with Zoe.  Week 3 was when Wes had to start work again, and I found myself missing my 24-hour teammate and wishing that he had just one more week off.  He works from home, but he unfortunately can be very unavailable some days, without warning.  This was the week that we had to work on our communication skills and to reassure one another of our commitment and trust in each other's intentions.  And now we're at Week 4.  Every week brings something different--a new challenge, a new discovery--but we are learning to trust our instincts more.

2 days old

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When I was pregnant, I was often advised to enjoy whatever time I have to myself and to sleep to my heart's content before the baby comes.  Indeed, now that Zoe has arrived, I operate in roughly 2-to-3-hour period cycles.  Within each period, four primary things need to happen: feed the baby, change the baby's diaper, put the baby down to sleep, and catch some sleep of my own.  Somewhere in there, I need to factor in using the bathroom, taking a shower, breast care/troubleshooting, taking a walk, updating friends/family, eating a meal, researching my millions of questions, and--if I'm lucky--yoga, doodling, and blogging.  Needless to say, I barely have the time or energy for most items on that list, even though all I'm doing all day is the same few tasks on repeat.  It can feel like a marathon on some days when Zoe is extra hungry and/or refuses to be put down for a nap.  

I am grateful that Wes has run every errand and done every household chore while also being a great baby-burper, swaddler, snot-sucker, nail-trimmer, bather, and entertainer (lol, he won't let me post any incriminating pictures or videos though).  He also came to the rescue several times with breastfeeding issues, like massaging out my clogged ducts, popping a bleb, and pretty much teaching me how to use my own pump.  He also continues to enjoy cooking for us, but our parents have been graciously dropping off loads of delicious homemade food weekly.  Now that every free minute mattters, it's nice to have one less thing to worry about.  From postpartum recovery soups to improve my health, to my childhood favorite cake to lift my spirits, to handmade dumplings and dimsum, they've really outdone themselves.  We as a couple commit to sitting down to lunch and dinner together each day.  Since the days have been blending together and the baby's feeding cycles are so unpredictable, these two meals may really be the only anchors in the passage of time for me now.  Mealtime is non-negotiable Mommy and Daddy time, and we work around the baby's demands to make it happen.  








When our parents bring food, they also unload tons of love on Zoe and though it can be hard to plan for visitors, I always appreciate seeing our family and having a reason to get outside.  We've also been able to videochat with Zoe's aunts, uncles, cousin, and fur-cousins!  Luckily with the pandemic, we are all already in the habit of keeping in touch this way.









What has been super helpful too is staying connected with other moms.  I am so lucky to have a great network of nonjudgmental friends who are mothers who genuinely want to help me and who check on me without my asking, even though they themselves have their hands full too.  I can't imagine going through all of this without these women.  

Even being surrounded by so much love and support though, it's impossible not to feel alone, with my new life on an endless loop.  By the beginning of the third week, with sustained sleep deprivation, my breasts screaming in pain, constipation, worrying about the baby's growth (constantly second-guessing what I'm doing), compounded with Wes's return to work, I felt hints of hopelessness for the first time.  I never hit the point of depression, but it was very easy to feel down and downright wasted.  It’s hard to have grace with yourself and others when you’re still learning and when your own basic needs are constantly being put on hold.  For Wes, working full-time from home and having daddy duties during every break he can get has been a marathon too.  He told me that he is giving himself a lot of pressure to be the perfect dad, husband, and worker, trying to take on roles that are traditionally designated for women while still performing at his best for his company.  We have had to adjust and manage expectations when he returned to work and I have had to accept that during work hours, he unfortunately cannot be as hands-on.  I think that we both had thought he would have more flexibility due to working remotely, but coincidentally, he got put on a very time-consuming project the first day he went back, just as Zoe was going through a growth spurt.  As much as I wish he could just put work stuff on hold and come be with me, it simply isn't a realistic or sustainable expectation.  

In addition to this, I've had to learn how to let go of my own guilt and hubris: accept his help when it is available, state my needs clearly, nap even though it doesn't feel productive, and confront disappointments before things escalate to resentment.  Because we are both trying to demonstrate excellence and exceed expectations, we've lashed out, compared against, and blamed each other during that first week back to work.  But along with those conflicts, we've also had profound moments of deep, deep appreciation for what we have and what we do for each other and for Zoe.  She has brought out the best and the worst in both of us!  From what I've read and heard, it is normal for marriages to be stressed after the birth of a baby.  It's how we weather through it that's important, and I sure am glad that we went into parenting together with a strong foundation of love, respect, and trust.



















































































Our sacrifices as parents are so entirely worth it.  Zoe is so funny and cute, whether it's her huge adult-sounding farts, or how hairy she is, or the way she puckers her lips and widens those innocent eyes after laying a shit in the third diaper in under five minutes.  Her crossed eyes, her puppet-like movements, her piggy noises.  Her clenched fists, her perfectly horizontal line eyes when she's sleeping, her cowlick, her elusive smile, her mountainous cheeks, her inverted nipples, that bloated little belly after a feed, those stubby little arms, the curled ends of her eyebrows.  Though she may barely be aware of who we are right now, we are so in love with who she is.  I've never felt such a heart-wrenching desire to provide for and protect someone.  She is such an innocent, pure little soul.  We sometimes just watch her while she sleeps, fully entranced.  

It's starting to taper off now, but I would cry a few times a day while looking at her, just because it is so unbelievable that she even exists.  She is our everything.  While the days feel long and tiring, they also feel short and fleeting looking back.  I want to hold onto every moment and I fear that she will grow up too quickly, leaving us wishing for more time together.  I can attribute this melancholy love to that postpartum hormone dump, or maybe it's just a good ol' dose of motherhood getting the best of me.  I'll think twice about rolling my eyes the next time I see my mom tear up over something!  Here's to a lifetime of uncontrollable emotions and unbeatable joy.

3 comments:

  1. Feeling touched & inspired by your heartfelt and candid shares about your journey as new parents. It resonates.
    (I recently started trying to get pregnant, happen to be Chinese/ from a similar background--and haven't really seen or heard stories from someone like me, and have my share of fears around having my life/body/relationships change.) So helpful to get a glimpse & hear some firsthand wisdom--on the beautiful & challenging aspects, and everything in between. Thank you. And cheers to your bravery, resilience, adventures to come, your care and creativity! (W's & your photos are so.much.wow. They really say a lot.)

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    Replies
    1. Hello Amber, I really appreciate your taking the time to leave this message! It makes me feel so validated that someone was able to relate :) Good luck to you and no matter what happens, you will learn and gain strength and understanding. Always keep your own self-worth in mind <3

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  2. 保持每天坐下來一起燈下進餐,夫妻同心守著表情十足的毛毛, 好好把握!

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