I knew I was pregnant the moment it happened. The pregnancy test was just a formality for me. Even still — when I saw those two pink lines, I could not believe it. I was going to be a mother. It is true that we had wanted a baby, that we had planned for this baby, but the fact that there was actually a baby growing inside my body was a concept that I could not wrap my brain around. Nothing and no one could have prepared me for the experience that is pregnancy.
I was 23-years-old when I became pregnant for the first time.
Youth was on my side.
I made my best attempt at creating a stress-free and healthy pregnancy, but most of my efforts began after conception. This is something I would like to approach differently the next time around.
Here is my plan for preparing for Baby Kim #2:
I love to write, just like my mother. It allows me to express the emotions that would otherwise be buried within me, layer after layer.
But why create a blog?
Sometimes I think I am certifiably insane for sharing the embarrassing, self-deprecating, and vulnerable thoughts and experiences that I do on this platform. I might as well publish my 4th grade diary at this rate. I surprise myself — post after post — about how much I am willing to share. Because if you truly know me, you know that I am not share-er. That old lass Rose Dawson was right when she said a woman’s heart is an ocean of secrets. 9-year-old me took that shit pretty seriously! 💁🏽♀️
But all that has changed — I have a son now.
If you are expecting — you are probably experiencing mild anxiety about all the things you have to buy in order to prepare for your baby’s arrival. The honest truth is that you really need very little for those first few months. The “fourth trimester” is challenging. You and your partner will be at your absolute physical, mental, and emotional worst all while being blissfully in love with your new tiny peanut.
Here are the 10 items I couldn’t live without during that time:
Before I had kids, hell, before I even WANTED kids, I imagined that the diapers, sleep deprivation, lack of “me” and romantic time, and the overall 24/7 responsibility of caring for another person would be nearly impossible.
Surprisingly, those ended up being the easier parts. Yes, I am tired. Yes, I could use a moment to comb my hair and get out of the sweatpants I’ve been wearing for 4 days straight. But these incredibly exhausting things are bearable — for me at least.
No one warned me about what would truly be the hardest part about parenthood:
I am the last generation whose baby pictures exist in an old dusty photo album sitting on a bookshelf. Every blue moon, my mom whips out the album so she and my other relatives or friends can coo (or point and laugh) at a much smaller and shyer version of myself. I like it like this. Although embarrassing, it’s intimate and perhaps even — special.
25 years later, children are plastered all over social media. Monthly updates, baby’s “firsts”, and even delivery room pictures are shared instantly. Babies I don’t personally know fill my feed as mini IG models in “sponsored posts” for clothes, diapers, and carriers. Mothers today can build social media empires off of family-centric posts and heartfelt instagram captions. Admittedly, my favorite YouTube channel is about a vegan mom living in Maui with her three beautiful babies. I wouldn’t be the mother I am today without the inspiration of these mothers. However, I can’t help but feel like I am intruding on their personal lives. Why should I, stranger from the internet, know their child’s full name or what their first words were?
When my son was born, I started thinking deeply about privacy. It was no longer my life, but ours. Would he want to have his childhood on public display? Would he want my random old classmate from high school to know what his first words were? When he took his first steps? Or even, his name? Maybe the answer will be yes. But he isn’t even aware that he’s a human being yet, let alone what social media is. He can’t give me consent. He can’t give his say.
Knowing that what goes on the internet stays on the internet, I can’t justify sharing his baby pictures with the world. If my son someday chooses online anonymity, I want to grant him that. No amount of “likes”, comments, or convenience could allow me to take that option away from him. His identity on the internet is his to foster, not mine.
As the online world becomes ever increasingly its own social behemoth, I practice caution with what I divulge. I know can’t protect my son from everything. Chances are he won’t care that I did or didn’t post about him. Maybe he will even be disappointed that there’s not an archive to look back on later in his life. I simply hope that he will understand that I wanted him to choose. That this is my personal choice as the person who speaks on his behalf. A choice that’s understandably not for everyone. A choice that’s met with the occasional eye roll or “ok Jamakea, you’ve gone off the deep end” look. But that’s okay. Part of being a mom is accepting that you’ll look crazy sometimes. That what you think is best will be met with speculation and eye rolls. It’s part of the package.
I already have thousands of pictures of my son. Our camera rolls are bursting at the seams. I message a photo of him to someone at least daily. I mail prints to faraway aunties and grandparents. Our walls are covered with his happy little face. 25 years from now, he may not have a Facebook album to look back on but at least I will be able to embarrass him by whipping out that old dusty photo album.
IMHO, breastfeeding is more challenging than pregnancy and labor combined. I know a lot of mamas share this same experience. Every culture and nation has its own breastfeeding culture. African countries, at present, seem to hold the torch for highest rates of breastfeeding while western nations, like France, seem to be less “pro-breast”. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends babies be breastfed for up to two years. During the first 2 months of breastfeeding, the thought of even doing it for six months was daunting, if not terrifying.
After the first 4-5 days of colostrum, my son was fed formula for two weeks. I had developed Cellulitis from delivery complications as well as Mastitis and was placed on narcotics and antibiotics. Both of these medications, although cleared as “safe” by my PCP, were not acceptable as being transferred through my breastmilk to my son. I had made the difficult decision to risk losing my milk supply so that he could remain medication free. There were a lot of tears and mom guilt involved.
To prevent losing my milk supply, I manually expressed milk every 3-4 hours for two weeks.
After I stopped taking medications, I began to breastfeed my son once in the morning. During the next 1-2 weeks, I slowly added feeding sessions as my milk supply increased. I understand that many women in the same situation would not have been able to maintain and build back their milk supply. I feel very fortunate. That’s not to say that I didn’t experience many challenges along the way: cracked, bleeding, and sore nipples, nipple bleps, anxiety about my son’s weight gain, etc.
My son still feeds every 1.5-2 hours for up to 50 minutes at a time. It’s completely exhausting and some days I shudder at the thought of breastfeeding for the months, or weeks, ahead. My solution for this anxiety? One simple mantra: one feeding session at a time.
Despite all the challenges, I deeply enjoying breastfeeding my son. It is a bonding experience unlike any other. It amazes me that I can nourish my baby and provide him with antibodies, vitamins, and minerals that help him thrive. I sympathize with women who are not able to breastfeed their babies. I also understand why women choose not to. It’s hard and it’s not for everyone. I personally am just grateful that I get to nourish my baby in the way that I choose.
TLDR; Breastfeeding isn’t easy. I wasn’t able to breastfeed for the first weeks. Luckily, I was able to rebuild my milk supply slowly. I am blessed.