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.
In 2013, I flew to Chicago, Illinois to spend Thanksgiving with my mother over a long weekend. It would be my first time visiting and I was absolutely overcome with excitement. Chicago had been on my bucket list for quite some time primarily due to The Oprah Show. I had also just started dating Dan Kim who happened to be a big Chicago Bears fan.
For us California girls, it was a strikingly cold weekend despite the lack of snow (to my dismay). Despite the uncomfortable temperature, we tried to hit the major tourist destinations: The Chicago Bean, the Willis Tower and the Skydeck, and Millennium Park.
Here I am, in my entirety.
65 inches and 120 pounds of stardust taking the form of a fragile package made up of hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus. I occupy a tiny space, on a tiny blue rock, in an enormously wide and vast universe. A couple of hundred years from now, everyone I have ever known will be gone, and with them, the knowledge of me ever existing.
I am simply a drop of water in the cosmos. The universe blinks and my entire life will have been lived. All of my memories. My thoughts. My worries. My fears. My jokes. My adventures. My relationships. My children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. Poof.
I am no more significant than a cow or a leaf or a pebble skipping across the surface of a lake. Like my buddy Eckhardt Tolle once said, I am just the Universe expressing itself as a human for a little while. And that is just fine with me.
Here is a little secret of mine:
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.
I am a work in progress and I hope to always be. Being content with my character would only mean I have become complacent. I genuinely enjoy self-improvement, even the hard parts!
In honor of a new year here are 3 things I would like to improve about myself:
1. Being Kind to Myself
I am really hard on myself — especially recently after becoming a mom and all the newfound *mom guilt*. Even the smallest and most insignificant mistake can set me off on a self-loathing tangent for hours. It is almost as if I expect myself to perfect at everything, everywhere, all the time. But this does not serve me in any way. I would never speak to Dan Kim, my son, or anyone I loved like that — so why is it okay to say these things to myself?
Telling myself I am stupid or untalented or ugly or worthless does not make me a better partner, mother, or friend.
I have decided to start small with a self-affirmation in the mirror each morning.
2. Exercise 4-5 Times A Week
When it comes to being active, I am either all or nothing. I have either not exercised for months at a time or am practicing martial arts and yoga or running religiously. Since giving birth and breastfeeding, I have not regained my normal energy levels. Never mind that raising a baby is exhausting! But no more excuses — exercise has always been a stress reliever for me and getting my mojo back has been long overdue. I may be the lightest I have ever been in terms of weight but I am the weakest I have ever been physically (except for my mom biceps — those are no joke!).
3. Be More Selfish
Don’t get me wrong — there are several aspects of my life that I need to be less selfish in but my time is not one of them. Because of the previously mentioned mom guilt and my endless responsibilities piling up on me, I have not taken enough time for myself to feel like me again. That includes alone time, girl time, and date night time, and just rest and relaxation overall.
Life is about balance. I am slowly accepting that being the best mom does not necessarily mean being a mom who is there every second of every day. That being the best partner does not mean having all the chores done, the meals cooked, or all of my relationship’s needs met before my own. I am working on giving to myself because the old adage is true: you can not pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.
My son was due on a Friday in April.
That was the longest day of my pregnancy, by far. An uncharacteristically hot week had started to melt all the clouds in Portland. I was hot. Uncomfortable. Moody. And like most other incredibly pregnant women– I was DONE.
Throughout my entire pregnancy, I had one goal in mind: a natural birth in a clinical environment. The mentioning of epidurals and/or narcotics was met with dismay and disgust. Surely, I’d be able to birth my child naturally. My mom had. Her mom had. My dad’s mom had. I was healthy, strong, and determined. Women have been doing this for thousands of years, right?!
The Saturday after my due date started out as a normal day. That week, I walked 2.0 miles a day. I ate pineapple and pizza. I did Asian squats. I had sex. I did everything that was even mildly correlated with inducing labor. Ironically, it was in a matinee showing of the Avengers: Infinity War that I would start to feel contractions. At most, they were uncomfortable period-like cramps. But that would soon end.
My contractions became closer together until they plateaued at 6-7 minutes apart, lasting for 45-50 seconds. Close, but not close enough to the meet the admission requirement for the hospital. For the rest of the day, I tensed up in pain intermittently as I flipped channels and rocked on my birthing ball.
At 2AM, Dan Kim called the hospital. After a painful 20 minute ride through ironic road construction, I arrived in triage. After an unbearable cervical check, I measured at only 3cm dilated. I had 2cm to go before I was to be admitted. My reaction: this is fucking bullshit.
For the next 3 hours, I wandered around the birth center like a waddling fat penguin trying to get my son to move lower. At 7AM, three hours after arriving and 18 hours after my first contraction: I was admitted. I was writhing in pain. I couldn’t sit. I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t lay down. I couldn’t breathe.
I asked for narcotics.
I was heartbroken. My “natural birth” had ended before it had even begun…
I labored for several hours into Sunday morning. Every profane word was spewed out of my mouth at an alarming volume. I labored in the tub. I labored standing up. I labored on all fours. It felt like a bomb was detonating in slow motion within my womb and that all of my limbs were slowly being projected from my abdomen. The relief from the narcotics were laughable.
When I made it past 30 hours of laboring, I started to wonder how I’d be able to make it through. I hadn’t eaten. I hadn’t slept in 2 days. My morale was low considering I had accepted narcotics. My birth plan was going out the window. So, naturally…
I asked for an epidural.
The epidural felt like a bee sting compared to my contractions. Within an hour, I was falling asleep with the giant peanut between my legs. I made jokes. I rubbed my leg without any sensation of it being my leg. I watched Naked and Afraid and Shark Tank. Although I was incredibly disappointed in myself, I felt so much better.
Around 4PM, my doctor told me that we would start pushing. They were concerned that the epidural had slowed my labor and that they would have to break my water manually. Upon checking my cervix, it broke all over my doctor’s hand. Looks like my son had heard him.
For the next 3 hours, I pushed with all the strength a woman can muster. The epidural had considerably weakened my sensation. Pushing was a confusing mechanism with little precision. Was it less painful with the epidural? Yes. Was it painless? Absolutely not. All the mothers were right — giving birth does feel like pooping.
With my mother by my side and Dan Kim on the other, I pushed in every position available to me. With the mirror in front of me, I could see my son’s hair. It didn’t seem possible that anything human could fit through something so small. As he (slowly) made his way down the birthing canal, I started to develop a fever and his heart rate started to rise.
There were whispers about IV antibiotics. Concerned facial expressions. And the sudden appearance of the NICU team. There were no less than 15 people in my birthing suite. Despite this, I only had eyes on the prize: bringing my healthy child into this world.
At 7:49PM, on a warm Sunday evening in April, my son was born. The moment they placed him on my chest, I felt as if I had died and found out that heaven was indeed real. He was pink and fleshy, had Asian eyes, was covered in meconium, and rocked a black patch of hair on the back of his head. He was beautiful and I was in love.
As I was meeting this little lump of love, I hemorrhaged in my uterus. I had torn in 3 places. My fever rose to 102.0 degrees F. I developed tremors and was frighteningly cold. I was unable to urinate on my own and had a catheter placed. IV Antibiotics were pumped in me like diesel fuel. I was in the worst shape I had ever been.
But none of that mattered — my son was here.
TLDR; It’s nice to have a birthing plan. But the best plan of all is to be ready to say fuck the plan. Bringing life into this world was the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done with my time on Earth. Although I wasn’t able to experience an all natural birth, my son was born healthy and happy. Things didn’t turn out the way I wanted, they turned out better.