Family

On Being an Only Child

I am an only child. My father is also an only child and my mother was raised as an only child — which also made me an only grandchild. Not only that, but I am an only child raised by divorced parents. Parents who separated when I was not even a year old. This has shaped, influenced, and decorated my personality, my relationships and overall — my entire life.

There was a brief time during early childhood that I wanted a sibling. Okay…but you would have to share all your toys and attention, my mom had explained to me when I asked her to give me a brother or sister. Apparently, I never brought it up again. This story makes me laugh for two reasons: one, because my mother is and has always been incredibly clever and two, because it is clear what my priorities were at a young age.

Growing up, it was difficult for me to relate to my peers. I had no siblings to play with and annoy, no cousins at Thanksgiving, and my parents’ friends were in their early 20’s and nowhere near having children of their own. Children were as abstract to me as Mandarin Chinese — I did not know what to say to them nor did I understand a word they said. Neighborhood kids would come to my front door asking me to “play outside” which at the time, might as well have been a death sentence. Typical of an only child, I had spent most of my time around adults having adult conversations. You would think this would have accelerated me developmentally but it actually slowed me down.

Every human being needs peers, if not friends, that are their own age. Because I had such a challenging experience in making friends, it would be years before I developed the tools to create trusting and enjoyable friendships. It is not a coincidence that even today, my friends are on average 4-6 years older than me. Sure, being an only child allowed me to easily communicate with teachers, strangers, authority figures, and later on — potential employers. But it prevented me from “fitting in” when I was little and I personally believe that that was what I needed most.

Throughout adolescence when I was surrounded by a solid circle of friends, I hardly noticed my being an only child. Relatives and family friends no longer expressed their pity towards me or proclaimed me as putting the “only” in “lonely”. I no longer ached for that empty role in my life. Especially when all I saw at my friends’ houses were sibling screaming marathons at worst and complete avoidance at best. I was even perhaps — grateful — to go home to my own room and not fight over the remote or my clothes with anyone.

The reality of being an only child hit hardest in my late teens and early 20’s. Grandparents started aging and becoming ill. Family relationships became estranged. Babies were born. I became a mother. My friendships were no longer as close-knit as they were before due to the natural process of growing up and apart. It was around this time that I noticed that a lot of my friends were strengthening their bonds with their siblings. Without the interruption of teenage hormones and Barbie real estate wars, they were now able to see each other as friends and pillars of support. Age gaps became negligible. Their differences became endearing rather than isolating. When a parent became ill or they got their heart broken or their apartment became mold infested– they called each other first. They slept on each other’s couches. They became each others “person”. That empty space in my life was never more noticeable.

I have no aunts or uncles to give to my son. No cousins. I have no sister to make my maid of honor. No brother to tease. No siblings to seek solace in when one of my parents or grandparents inevitably passes away. No one to share stories of childhood with. There is nothing that I can do about this nor will there ever be. I am now able to accept this because although these realities are tough pills to swallow — being an only child gave me many gifts. The gift of bonding with my parents in a way I never would have had I been forced to share them. Of cherishing one-on-one relationships. Of embracing alone time happily. And most importantly — the gift of owning my entire generation… it is completely up to me how my family’s legacy continues (which is both empowering and terrifying).

Before I chose to start a family, I promised myself that I would do everything in my power to make sure my child would never put the “only in lonely”. I would give them a brother to wrestle with or a sister to giggle with late into the night. These are absolute dreams of mine. Yes, I understand that not all siblings like each other. That not all siblings get along, or even stay in touch. That some brothers are assholes and some sisters are a shame to the term “sisterhood”. Although this makes me sad at a lost opportunity for a once in a lifetime bond, it inspires me to teach my children the importance of holding onto each other in life. Because, at least from an outside perspective, there is truly no better friend than the one you have had from the start.

Motherhood

10 Newborn Products That Will Get You Through The Fourth Trimester

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:

Continue reading “10 Newborn Products That Will Get You Through The Fourth Trimester”

Family, Motherhood

Why I Don’t Post Content of My Baby on Social Media

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.

Motherhood

Breastfeeding: How I Went From Formula to EBF

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.

Motherhood

Why Postpartum is a B!tch

They warned me about pregnancy. The swollen ankles. The incessant midnight cravings. The inability to sleep and bend over to tie my shoes.

They warned me about giving birth. The “ring of fire”. The contractions. The tearing.

But no one warned me about new motherhood’s ugly stepchild; postpartum. No, I don’t have postpartum depression and I have so much empathy for the new mamas who have to deal with that on top of everything else.

What’s everything else?

  • Baby blues.
  • No sleep AT ALL.
  • Wearing adult diapers.
  • Going #2 without your ass ripping apart.
  • Cracked and bleeding nipples.
  • Mastitis.
  • Mom guilt (lots of it!).
  • Worrying about keeping your baby alive.
  • Night sweats.
  • Hair loss.
  • Hemorrhoids.
  • Chubby new mom pooch.

And that’s just to name a few.

Two weeks after I gave birth, I knew something wasn’t right “down there”. The sutures were poking through the skin. It was discolored. It burned every time I peed. I ended up having to hop in the shower or bath every time I wanted to go pee to alleviate the sting for 2 weeks — you should’ve seen that month’s water bill.

I visited the emergency room twice and the clinic 5 times all within the span of 2 weeks. It took five physicians (two OB’s and three family medicine physicians) to discover that I was allergic to the vicryl sutures used after birth. My body was rejecting them.

At 9 weeks postpartum, I was rolled into the OR to remove the sutures and a considerable amount of tissue. When I was supposed to be gearing up to resume intimacy with my SO again, I was instead starting my recovery from scratch all over again.

My postpartum recovery has challenged me more than pregnancy and labor combined. I no longer feel like my body is my own. I no longer feel that my body is acting right. With pregnancy, you at least know that’s it going to end at some point. During postpartum, all your physical (and emotional) struggles seem like they’ll last forever. All while you’re trying to learn how to care for another beautiful and helpless human being.

TLDR; Pregnant women are doted on. New moms receive flowers and wine at the hospital after their babies are born. But those moms in postpartum are forgotten while they are enduring the most challenging phase of all. If you know a new mama; hit her up and remind her that she’s amazing.

Motherhood

My Birth Story: When Nothing Goes As Planned

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.

Motherhood, Uncategorized

Why I Didn’t Share My Pregnancy on Social Media

On a balmy summer night last August, Dan Kim and I found out that we were going to be parents. Those two little pink lines didn’t take more than a second to appear. It was real and this was happening.

I simultaneously and instantaneously felt a sense of excitement and terror. This would continue for the rest of pregnancy (and beyond!). It is true that my being 24-years-old made the odds of miscarriage or genetic abnormality very low. But pregnancy doesn’t exactly encourage rational train of thought. I was endlessly cognizant of my own fragility, both physically and emotionally, for those 40 weeks and 2 days.

Microwaves. Caffeine. X-ray machines. Traveling by airplane. Pants that were too tight. Stress. Sleeping on my back. Secondhand smoke. Sashimi. Toxic people. These were all my worst enemies but none more so than social media.

If you didn’t post it, did it really happen?” seems to be the theme of my generation. Bought a car? Post it. Traveling to a new place? Post it. Getting engaged? Married? Find out the gender of your baby? At the gym? POST IT! Unlike most, my first instinct upon finding out I was pregnant, was to keep this information private. The custom of telling people at 12 weeks came and went with little to no announcement. I would be towards the end of my second trimester before even some of my closest friends would be told.

I didn’t want to be a piece of gossip swirling around my high school alumni. I didn’t want those who I barely fraternized with to know the intimate details of my life. I was a fragile pregnant woman. I wanted zero negativity, nosiness, and unsolicited advice regarding myself and my baby. So I opted out of the clever graphic t-shirts that say “bun in the oven”. The gender reveal posts. The monthly photo updates of my growing bare belly. The birth announcement with my baby’s full name, weight, and height.

Conversations often went like this:


Friend: “Is your pregnancy a secret?”

Me: No.

Friend: “Then why aren’t you posting it?”

Me: Because I only want close friends and family to know.

Friend: “So it is a secret then.”

Me: *sigh*……………………..


These conversations only validated my desire to keep this special time in my life close to my heart. I’m a strong opponent of oversharing. Social media isn’t entitled to my life. My details. My intimate moments. Out of the 1,000+ measly followers on my Instagram, only a handful of them would truly care about my pregnancy. For the rest of them, I would simply be a post that they scrolled past at 11 p.m. while in bed dreading work the next day. The most beautiful time in my life deserved more than that.

This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy people’s pregnancy announcements, maternity photo shoots (I am a photographer after all), and pictures of their little peanuts fresh out the womb. I find a lot of joy viewing these beautiful moments of people’s lives. I get it. But for me, the right answer was privacy. This privacy allowed me to have a stress-free, “good vibes only”, and intimate experience. One that strengthened me to bring my beautiful son into this world with psychological and spiritual ease.

TLDR; Sharing my pregnancy on social media wasn’t for me personally. Keeping it intimate allowed me to remain peaceful, at ease, and enjoy it more with those who truly cared.