Journal

Those four years, I wrote compulsively, afraid I’d one day forget the details of days that were starting to melt and months that were starting to blend. At 18 I started marking time by reference to days out drinking and categorizing eras according to romantic interests of the moment. In between the bleeding, blurry, evenings, I documented the color of the leaves in my morning tea, described the exact shade of gold flecks found in his eyes only in a certain light, and recorded the pattern of sunlight creeping in through the pergola on the cafe patio. I was wearing a plaid skirt and fishnet shirt that day, and carefully noted clouds in my coffee on lunch break. This was the summer I worked in a teeny bopper retail store; on this particular day, my friends had gone skydiving.

I did not know that when I was 33 I’d read the deliberate loops and lines and still could not remember anyway; familiar though the handwriting may be, it was as if it was written by a stranger. This stranger was a bit neurotic and disjointed, vaguely touched by hackneyed angst. The whiskey-laden scrawls on some of the pages were less grand than Jack Daniels would have you believe, but rather, vacillated between nonsense and maudlin nostalgia. The stranger woke up at 9:00 in the morning on a Saturday one weekend (early for her), to a phone call from an old man from the coffee shop who wanted to talk about nothing in particular. She thought he had meant to call her friend, but she ended up talking to him anyway, after taking a seat on the kitchen counter of the sorority house, apple in hand.

The next time I saw the old man, he told me the tragic tale of his wife inexplicably leaving him, fleeing to Japan, and absconding with their child, when in reality he had been convicted of possession of child porn.

I eventually went skydiving, and it felt like flying, but I didn’t write about it.

 

January 20, 2018

Dear Vale,

Today, we spent all day together. You fell asleep after eating at 6:30 pm the night before, and slept longer than usual. You slept until it was almost your bed time. I was concerned your chubby little ass would be hungry, so I woke you up at 9:45 p.m. to eat again before sleeping for the night. You ate vigorously, fell promptly asleep, and slept until 8:45 a.m. today. Again, I questioned how your usual gluttonous self could possibly still be going without food, and woke you up, all smiles, for breakfast, but you wouldn’t drink breast milk, after many heroic attempts.

I eventually gave up, and went downstairs to feed myself, but did not get past the coffee. You were a bit fussy, even though I gave you your doll and como tomo, so I got distracted from my own food and decided to try my luck with your new sippy cup (failure), and then with your Dr. Brown bottle (expected failure), and then I decided I might as well make a breast milk avocado puree with the 3 ounces I pumped at 11:15 a.m. during my mediation the day before. You made a mediocre attempt at the avocado puree, though I suppose I should consider it fortunate that at least half probably made it into your mouth.

Eventually, you were convinced into breastfeeding at approximately 10:45 a.m., two hours after you woke up. The moment you were finished, I whisked you off to run errands before hunger struck again. You enjoyed browsing the aisles at Target, where we used my gift card from work to buy face powder, shampoo, baby sunscreen, and a sleep sack (pink fleece, with owls, 50% off, only $5). We went to Ross next, because I was hoping to buy a professional-looking name brand purse large enough to occasionally hold pump supplies, but I didn’t find anything that wasn’t completely boring.

I tested the limits of your patience, and took you to Barnes & Noble, where I spent many days of my youth, so you could be exposed to books. We then cruised into Starbucks, where I craved sweets, since I still hadn’t had breakfast, but I resisted.

We went home and you weren’t hungry for a while, so I took you on a walk. I called Ana while we walked to catch up, and see how things are going with your buddy Luka. The goal was to walk 4 times up the steep hill by our house, but you got bored on round 3, so we went home and I did a few half-assed squats instead. After your next feeding, you seemed to have fallen asleep, so I left you to rest, and practiced a Chopin Etude. I started on the Fantasie Impromptu, when I saw you squirm and flail on your baby monitor – quite a short nap – not even 30 minutes.

The balance of the day was spent pleasantly. I strapped you to my chest and folded and put away laundry. You watched me eat pasta and salad for dinner with great interest (you should be jealous – it was damn good!) I read from your Tang dynasty poetry book, and started reading Madeline and the Gypsies, but you started to get bored. I put you in your jumper while I did some ab exercises.

Your daddy called from New York and I realized the whole day had slipped by and you had barely napped, so I put you in your sleep sack, placed you in your bassinet hoping you would go to sleep at 9:00 p.m., and turned on your mobile You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy, when skies are gray… I went downstairs to chat with your dad on the phone and make some tea. I heard you yell and scream bloody murder, and let you have at it for a few minutes, but then you began to cry, and I felt bad, so I came back upstairs to check on you. I cocked my head to one side and examined your behavior for myself. I asked you what could possibly be so tragic and smiled at you. At this point, you couldn’t help but start to smile back, yet you also clearly wanted to continue your act, so for the next 15 seconds you involuntarily vacillated between smiling and wailing while I laughed at you.

I picked you up and we sat next to the heater for a few minutes to warm up, and I put you in bed. (Daddy spoils you this way sometimes, so I can too!) I sang two songs in Chinese for you, but you were still wide awake, so I started singing Hallelujah. I had not gotten past the first verse when you decided you were just a little hungry. You had a night cap, fell asleep, and that was the end of our lovely day.

Your daddy misses you tons and will be back tomorrow.

Three Months and Some

Vale is 3 and a half months. She enjoys looking at fire, her own reflection in the mirror, and the Audrey Hepburn poster on our bedroom wall. She still looks pretty serious most of the time, but started laughing on occasion recently. The first time she did it took me by surprise; I laughed at her while we were laying in bed, and she laughed back at me.

We put on the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer claymation (a holiday favorite of ours), but she seemed more engaged watching Bruce Campbell’s antics on Evil Dead (the show). She has progressed quickly from carefully inspecting her hands and realizing they belong to her, to using them to grab things, and unfortunately, sometimes pinch and twist. I was working from home one day with her in my lap, when Fiona decided there was just enough space remaining in my lap for her to squeeze her butt in and join the party. She came upon my lap with her flank facing Vale, who proceeded to grab a handful of fur and twist. Fiona didn’t seem to mind, but I admonished Vale to be gentle.

She is becoming a bit drooly, and likes to bite on her hands (among other objects). The lactation consultant thinks she will have teeth soon. She also seemingly grows out of her clothes overnight. All the cute onesies and outfits we’ve received from friends and family seemingly get less than a handful of uses before they become a bit tight.

Survived The First Week Back At Work

I made it through the first week of work with no disasters. I didn’t forget any necessary supplies, even though remembering stuff is my number one weakness, and I didn’t spill milk anywhere. I picked Vale up from daycare on time both days, and billed over 8 hours during my work-from-home day.

I attended a deposition that started and ended at an awkward time for my pumping schedule; it was too early to pump before the deposition started, it ended before lunch break, but lasted long enough that 5 hours had passed before the last feeding. I didn’t want to pump in a bathroom, so I thought it’d be genius for me to pump while driving. It worked out OK, but taking into consideration the extra time involved in setting up in the car, and pulling over to put my milk in bags, it didn’t save very much time, and wasn’t worth the hassle. Hey, learning experience for the future.

I thought the lack of sleep would be the worst part of new motherhood. I was wrong. It’s definitely breastfeeding and all that it entails. To clarify, breastfeeding per se is not the issue. However, having to constantly think about feeding and pumping schedules, where I’ll be, whether I’ll be able to feed and/or pump, and how long (i.e. how much freedom I have) until the next pumping session or until my boobs feel like they are going to explode, and crafting my wardrobe, sleep, social calendar, and work obligations around pumping/feeding considerations makes me feel a bit enslaved by my body.

People asked me if I cried, and I have not, but Vale has been increasingly resistant to drinking from a bottle, such that she goes many more hours than usual without eating during the day. She starts getting irritable as soon as she so much as sees a bottle, and has been eating far less than she otherwise would. She doesn’t cry much or fuss, but seems to have resorted to napping and eating her hand in place of drinking milk, which is depressing and hearts my heart a little. I want to enjoy her presence when I pick her up at the end of the day, but all I can think about is feeding her as soon as possible.

Vale continues to be a mellow baby otherwise, and has been adaptable to our schedule. She sleeps around 10:30-11:00 p.m., so we have plenty of time to play with her when we get home (although, when she insists on cramming all her feedings in at night, there really is not much playing going on), and wakes up to eat when we need to get up for work. She’s a grouchy little moon at 6:30 a.m., which I can relate to, and we can be grouchy in bed together while she eats her first meal of the day.

Hello, I’m 2 Months

I turned 2 months a few days ago, and have made some progress. I smile a lot more now, and put on a show for others. I’m always smiling at my cousins, aunt, and uncle at daycare, but I still frown a lot at mom. I coo and say “lai” or “leh” a lot (“lai lai lai leh leh”) and Mom asks me if I’m trying to sing The Boxer by Simon & Garfunkle. No, I’m not, Mom. That song is for old ass people. Much older than you, even. Dad heard Mumford’s version of it on a Pandora station and didn’t even realize it was a cover. Mom went back to work on October 30, and I spend Mondays and Wednesdays at my aunt and uncle’s daycare with other pals, Tuesdays and Thursdays at home with Mom and Dad while they work, and Friday with Grandma and Grandpa, so I have an active social calendar.

Mom and Dad took me to a pumpkin patch over the weekend. Mom said I wouldn’t remember or understand any of it and pumpkin patches are dumb but they took me anyway, because everyone else was taking their babies and Mom didn’t want to feel like a grinch. It was abnormally hot for the end of October and I went without clothes again. I tried to sleep through the experience because the sun was too bright. Those infant sunglasses still don’t fit me.

A couple of days later, they put me in a furry ladybug costume on Halloween. It was too big and made me look like a giant puffy ball. I was not impressed. They walked me around with uncle, aunt, and cousin Sage in a nearby neighborhood, but I slept through the trick-or-treating festivities for the most part. I don’t have teeth and can’t eat candy anyway.

The weather started getting colder as of Halloween, and I have to wear clothes (more frequently) now. Mostly hand-me-down boys clothes, not that I care. I have some cool stuff with robots and animals, but Mom passed on making me wear the onesie that says, “Lock up your daughters.”

I’ve developed a somewhat stubborn personality in one respect; I began refusing almost entirely to drink out of a bottle. I don’t like it, so I’ve resorted to a semi-hunger strike during the day, as much as I love eating. I am still sleeping through the night and wake up pretty hungry. Mom used to say “Good morning, Sunshine,” when greeting me in the morning but the consensus between my parents was that after sleeping 8-9 hours straight and waking up starving, it wasn’t accurate to describe me as a ray of sunshine, so Mom now calls me “Moon.” She admits she’s a moon too, because she loves sleeping and is grouchy in the morning.

My cat sister stepped on me again recently. I have observed she is used to encroaching on human personal space and stepping all over them as she pleases, so it seems she now has come to recognize me as a flesh and blood human. It also seems to me she has been spoiled these past 10+ years, so I gave her swift kick to ensure such behavior does not occur again.

Damn Itchy

At a week before the end of my leave from work, I thought I’d gotten into a good groove of things. Mastitis was seemingly at bay, I was getting back into sprinting and some easy jogging, and we had several good days in a row.

Alas, it was not meant to last. I suddenly developed some hive-like rashes that itched like all hell. They started out small, and I’ve had hives before, so I was not too concerned. However, they quickly expanded, and exploded out of my stretch marks in numerous, patchy, bumps. It was the worst itch I’d ever had, and I didn’t want to use anything that would interfere with breastfeeding.

I Googled these horrible bumps and it sounded and looked (Google images, shudder) exactly like PUPPS, which strangely typically occurs in women pregnant with boys, entails pretty much the worst imaginable itch (a woman on a forum said she’d rather experience labor 5 times over than deal with this again), and is only resolved with time. Just my luck. Not pregnant anymore, and had a girl, and breaking out in this horror less than a week before returning to work. I emailed my doc and she didn’t think it was PUPPS but suggested cortisone and making sure to wipe it off before feeding, along with a low dose of Benadryl.

I’ve always been a little hesitant when it comes to using medications, probably owing partly to the fact I’ve never been seriously ill, but I’ve gotten so much worse after having a kid. It’s worrisome to put random shit on my skin when I know she’s going to eat right off of it. I caved one night and used cortisone, making sure to wipe it off thoroughly in the morning before Little V ate, but I wasn’t too keen on it, so I started googling “home remedies” and “natural” ways of dealing with horrible rashes.

This led me to sending poor husband on a hunt for Witch Hazel (easy to find) and pine tar soap, which I had never heard of, and which was not readily available at Wal-Mart or any nearby pharmacy. After making some calls and consulting the internet, we discovered GNC carries it (how fortunate that we live close to a GNC store!) I scrubbed with pine tar soap, which smells like campfire, and then slathered myself with tons of coconut oil and globs of aloe, which I had previously purchased for making homemade charcoal masks.

The combination of these substances helped somewhat, and I’m crossing my fingers it clears up sufficiently before I go back to work. Please oh please…

When He’s Away

Earlier today, Husband left on a work trip to New York City for a few days, and it’s the first time he’ll be away overnight since Little V was born. We will both miss him.

When my husband is gone, there’s no one to make sure all the balcony sliding doors are closed and all the “rape doors” are locked.

The house is quiet and I notice sounds I don’t pay attention to when he’s here, like the sudden, unfamiliar hum of the neighbor’s air conditioning unit.

There’s no one to share a small bowl of cereal with before going to sleep, the bed feels too big, and the air seems cooler than usual.

I almost want to close the french doors in our bedroom because the lovely breeze that creeps in at night when he’s here feels like a lonely breath when he is gone.

We miss him already.

Not Much Time Left

My return to work date is less than 2 weeks away, and I’m not sure how that happened. Two months sounds like a lot, but indeed, it is not at all when it comes to transitioning to life with a baby. Even at this point, I have not reached a comfortable or familiar pattern. I am constantly torn between wanting to do nothing and everything. After being on two courses of antibiotics, I’m really trying to take it easy, but it’s hard to know how. The more I do, the more overwhelmed I become, but the less I do, the more anxious I become about not doing anything. 

I fluctuate inexplicably between wanting some time to myself without a baby attached to my body for hours a day, and literally not wanting to go downstairs to play piano because I don’t want to be too far from Little V. It makes no fucking sense. Sometimes I crave social interaction, but then the problems and timing associated with feeding, pumping, and changing make me never want to leave the house. Or the bed, for that matter.

Another difficult thing I’ve had to grapple with is how many fuckups there are because I simply know nothing and am completely unprepared. Every time we think we’ve figured something out, it stops working after a couple of days (which apparently is an expected phenomenon). Every time I think I’ve taken all reasonable measures in furtherance of a mess-free feeding or pumping session, some minor disaster occurs and I end up covered in milk, or with a new batch of laundry to do. Every time I make what I believe to be a productive effort to bathe her, trim her nails, or clean up, it seems the effort is undone within a day (crazy how quickly those razor sharp nails grow – they are not kind when she decides to give my nipple a squeeze).

I started elimination communication training with great zeal, but after a week or so, it’s feeling like too much effort for too little gain. I also wonder whether I’m training her or she’s training me. I’ve tried to pay attention to her cues before she goes pee and poo, and don’t feel I’ve made much progress. Apparently, we are both failing at training each other. I know it’s borderline ridiculous to have such expectations at 6 weeks anyway, but I read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother at an (in?)opportune time, which has inspired me, but also created a nagging voice in the back of my head telling me not to be lazy about being a parent, especially when I am not working. If I let things slide now, just how indolent will I be when I go back to work in 2 weeks?

As I finished the paragraph above, Little V gave some grunting cues indicating she wanted to poo. I figured I’d finish just the last two sentences, but in the 2 minutes it took me to do so, she had pooped and I missed the opportunity for potty training. Tiger mom would be tsking me.

Husband and I discussed working from home one day a week, but at 2 weeks out from my return to work date, I have not raised this with my boss yet. I’m going to have to bring this up within the next couple of days and I’m not real keen on having this conversation, mostly because I’m quite sure how to approach it. Instead, I’ve asked the office to throw me some work so I can get back into the swing of things, and prove by my actions that I’m fairly efficient and reliable when working from home.

The good part is I am indeed reliable and efficient. The bad part is then I don’t feel I am making the most of maternity leave. Rather than starting the day slowly, listening to some music, reading to Little V, blogging, and practicing a little elimination communication, I set up my laptop work station, put her in a rocker, and plow away at research and memos while peeking on her every once in a while. I’ve tried to type one-handed while feeding her, but that was excruciatingly inefficient.

I have no idea how I am going to return to work in a functional manner, given the current circumstances. I’m sure this is no news to veteran moms, but our morning routine is an unexpectedly time-consuming process alone. Feeding and pumping takes about an hour, and even though I can get myself ready in 15 minutes, I figure even if I skip breakfast, I still have to wake up at an ungodly hour to be able to take her to daycare and arrive at work on time. And I might add that when it comes to babies, she seems relatively easy: she sleeps through noise, she sleeps in long stretches at night, and she does not cry much.

I am constantly wondering how this will all work out logistically. I feel pained at the idea of sending her to daycare already, even though I have an ideal situation when it comes to daycare – she will be taken care of by family. Given my highly fortunate and favorable circumstances, I question how any other mother, perhaps with fussier babies, no family nearby, ever make it out alive.

First 24 with Baby V

The first 24 hours at the hospital in hindsight feel like a fast-forwarding DVD, in that I remember everything that happened, but it felt like it was on super speed.

You barely can handle the excitement from being responsible for a tiny human and the new information and activities just come flooding in without respite, including blood tests, hearing tests, breastfeeding advice, medication administrations, birth certificate paperwork, etc.; it’s a nonstop, intense learning experience. People complain about not being able to sleep because of disruptions from nurses coming in and out, but honestly, we were able to sleep through anything at that point, and when I couldn’t sleep it was from being too excited, not due to external stimuli.

The first thing I did after transferring from the labor suite to the recovery room was take a shower. I felt like I’d hiked Mount Whitney and a hot shower never felt so good. In her first 24 hours, Little V got a hepatitis vaccine, received a vitamin K shot, had a blood draw for various required screening, passed her hearing test, and had her first visit from a Pediatrician. Both sets of her grandparents also came to visit the lucky lady just 4 hours after she was born.

This was my first time staying in a hospital and it was interesting seeing nurses and care providers execute various processes in real life as opposed to reading about them at work. The nurses in Labor & Delivery were great with helping us learn to swaddle and get breastfeeding started. They also took Little V to the nursery for a couple of hours that night so we could get a smidgen of uninterrupted sleep after probably the only double all-nighter we’ve done.

We had the option of staying an extra night at the hospital, but things appeared to be relatively smooth and straightforward, and I really felt it would be more relaxing to be at home. Plus, the hospital food was pretty mediocre. After we felt we’d received enough instruction from nurses on breastfeeding and swaddling, we left the hospital early afternoon and returned home to finish off Labor Day weekend.