Sharing about the pregnancy

Given the ongoing pandemic situation, even with cities and businesses reopening, it’s been really easy to not share about my pregnancy. I work from home and will do so as long as I work at the company I’m at, so I have no colleagues to “hide” from. Even if you saw me, if I wore loose clothing, you’d never guess I was pregnant.

So when I was having a friendly chat with one of our doormen last week, he asked “how the family” was doing. I told him everything was good. Then he awkwardly looked around and looked at me and said, “okay, okay… If you’re not gonna say nothin,’ then I’m not gonna say nothin’.” I guess that was the queue for me to share my news, so I told him.

“Oh, THANK GOD!” he exclaimed, sighing loudly. “I thought you were, but you never know… CONGRATULATIONS!”

Yep, I’m not getting fat. I’m pregnant. 🙂

When your parents disagree with you on a major health decision

Since I got pregnant and told my parents, both of them have made sure to voice the fact that they do not think I should get the COVID-19 vaccine (any version of it) while pregnant. My parents kept saying that I had plenty of time to get the vaccine… after the baby was delivered. While I did initially have hesitations about getting the vaccine during my first trimester, after seeing the data that over 80,000 pregnant American women had gotten the vaccine and the outcomes were much better than average for birth defects, still births, and miscarriages, I felt more comfortable getting it. So I got both doses towards the second half of my first trimester. This allowed us to get on a plane for two trips. It made me feel more comfortable going out and being in restaurants and seeing comedy. In fact, the Comedy Cellar required proof of vaccination to be admitted. Plus, with the delta variant, I couldn’t be safe anywhere. I’m well aware that COVID can even cause miscarriages itself, and with pregnancy causing a weakened immune system, I was at higher risk: pregnant women are more likely to get hospitalized from COVID and be on a ventilator. Pregnant women with COVID are also more likely to die.

None of this seemed to be a concern for my parents, though. Given they both had very severe side effects (weakness, fever, chills) from the vaccines, they kept saying that the vaccine would harm the baby and even cause birth defects. What data they had to back this up I will never know, but they insisted they were right.

So when I told my mom I was coming home next week, she was surprised and said that I shouldn’t come since I haven’t had the vaccine yet. When I told her I actually was fully vaccinated, I could tell she was really mad.

“I cannot believe you got the shot!” my mom said, her voice sounding elevated. “You shouldn’t have gotten it. You have no idea what it will do to the baby. If I were you, I never would have gotten the vaccine while pregnant. What if something bad happens to the baby?”

It’s always frustrating hearing stuff like this. My health apparently doesn’t matter. The risk of getting COVID for me doesn’t matter, and apparently that doesn’t affect the fetus. My parents actually think it would be totally fine for me to just stay at home for nine months and only go to the doctor’s office this whole time. Everything else is unnecessary. My mental health doesn’t matter.

When I tried to tell her that my doctors (ALL OF THEM), plus my pregnant doctor friend all recommended and got the vaccine, she raised her voice and said, “I’m not arguing with you! Just do whatever you want! It’s your life! I’m just telling you that I wouldn’t do what you did!”

Why is it that when I try to have a reasonable conversation with reasonable dialogue with my mom, she always perceives it to be my instigating an argument and causing problems? It’s like it’s impossible for us to just have a conversation about a serious topic without her feeling like I am attacking her… when in fact, she is the one attacking me?

She then proceeded to do her usual questioning of what relatives I’d been in contact with and bash her supposed best friend and daughter and gossip again about the daughter’s recent divorce. My mother really does take pride in other people’s pain, and it’s sad.

Drugstore beetle infestation

About a week before our move, in the last apartment I started noticing these tiny little bugs around the kitchen and kitchen window. They were no bigger than a sesame seed and were reddish-brown in color. And worse: they had WINGS. Eventually, I started seeing them flying in the bedroom and bathroom. I had no idea what was causing them. At first, I wondered if it was because of fruit I purchased that I left on the counter. After this, I started spraying all fruit on the counter with boiling water before leaving them there (everything else goes in the fridge, but alas, you are supposed to let mangoes, kiwis, and stone fruit ripen at room temperature). Then, I inspected my spider plant a few times to ensure that it was not the root cause and found nothing. I just couldn’t figure out the cause. Then finally, yesterday, while moving a plastic storage bin with pantry item foods, I discovered at least 10 of them in the bin! Something in the bin was causing this nonsense!

Through process of elimination, I separated out all canned and bagged items. I inspected the plastic bagged items for holes. And finally, I found the culprit: it was my dried Mexican chilies that I’d purchased at a market in Corona, Queens, last year. The beetles were crawling around, gnawing their way at the chilies; it was just awful. I immediately wrapped up the chili bag and tossed it down the shoot. Then, I sealed the plastic bin to contain any beetles and hopefully suffocate them.

I read about these drugstore beetles online, as I’d never heard of them before or noticed them. They are specifically drawn to spices, particularly CHILIES and PEPPERS, and they are like cockroaches in that they just keep multiplying and are super resilient. They can go days and days without food or water and still survive. It’s just hideous. I’m confused, though, because I’d had these chilies for so long, and they’d never had any bugs before until now. I have no idea where these disgusting critters originated from to begin with…?!

Some of them unfortunately got out in the new apartment. In the last couple of days, I’ve had to kill at least 5-6 every day. Today is the first day when I haven’t seen any. Fingers crossed I killed them all. Bug infestations are truly the worst. Now, I’m trying to remove almost everything like rice, flour, etc., out of their original packaging and into sealed glass or plastic jars/bins. I also threw my other chilies and peppers into the freezer (plus all my rice flours because I’m paranoid now) temporarily to kill any potential bugs. I cannot have this happen again.

When you discover mold plants in your new apartment

Regardless of where you move and what kind of building you move into, whether it’s single family home you rent or buy, an apartment in a dingy walk-up or in a luxury high-rise, inevitably you will discover some problem with it. Some will be small and easily fixable, others may require more time, money, and effort, while others will just be… flat out disgusting.

We did an apartment inspection with the building super on Wednesday and called out a few things that needed fixing or touching up that they missed. But one area that I didn’t check (that I also did not think I even NEEDED to check) was the garbage disposal and drain in the kitchen sink. And well, clearly, they missed this, too.

When I went to clean the sink yesterday, I pulled out the plug and noticed… not only a very off, sewage, moldy smell, but also… MOLD PLANTS growing on the kitchen plug. There were three of them growing and sprouting leaves. It was the most hideous thing I’d ever uncovered in a new apartment. I was particularly appalled because we’ve been living in this building for four years now, and I’d never heard or seen anything so gross. Plus, this is supposed to be a luxury building in New York City. All I could think was, WTF?! I wiped them off and sanitized them. One of the porters came up and did some additional drain cleaning for us, but it still wasn’t enough to get rid of the smell. I’ve had to apply a baking soda and vinegar solution to let the drain soak to try to get the smell out. While it’s helped, there is still a faint moldy smell every time I take the kitchen plug out of the drain. Not happy.

Moving Day once again after 4 years

“This will be the easiest move of your life,” Chris said, as we started filling up large plastic storage bins and endless reusable cloth bags with our belongings.

We’re moving “very very far,” or, well, just a floor up in the same building into a larger 2-bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment. It will be the very first time since I was growing up that I’ll live in a place that has more than one bathroom, which is kind of crazy to me. Our apartment will have southwest exposure, which means we’ll not only have views of the Hudson River, but also views of downtown Manhattan. We hired movers just to move furniture, and we moved the rest of our belongings on our own. We didn’t have to package and tape anything, nor did we need to buy any one-time-use moving boxes, which was nice (and good for the environment). With the large storage bins, the luggage cart, and of course an elevator, plus easy access to two stairwells, although it took a lot of trips up and down, we were eventually able to move every single non-furniture item ourselves. Granted, I willl say that I emptied out the entire kitchen and the vast majority of the closets since Chris claimed he had to wait for the Verizon guy to show up (and because it was a stormy afternoon-evening, there seemed to have been a huge delay), so a considerable chunk of this “move” was me going up and down the stairs and elevators about a gazillion times to finally get most of our non-furniture belongings moved over. After about 14 hours of constantly going up and down between the two floors, emptying out storage bins and our endless supply of stuffed reusable bags, I was totally pooped. I can already feel my calves getting sore from all the excessive exercise. I should win an award for the most physical activity related to moving for a pregnant woman ever.

But now, we are in our new home, the third home we’ve shared, and the second home we’ve shared just with each other. I’m looking forward to new memories being made in this new, spacious apartment, along with the hopeful healthy arrival of our new family member.

Body image

I cannot count the number of people I’ve met and stories I’ve read of people everywhere who have body image issues, and not just body image issues because of Hollywood and mass media and the unrealistic depiction of male and female bodies, but rather because… of their own parents. It’s not always about what parents say directly to their children that results in these body image insecurities, but what they do and say to and about themselves. Children of all ages are really perceptive; they pick up on even the subtlest things that their parents do.

I’m grateful and lucky to say that my parents have never tried to make me look any different than I do (well, unless you count the times my mom wanted me to continue having blunt cut bangs or attempted to forbid me from plucking my eyebrows). They’ve never told me that I needed to gain or lose weight, that I was fat or ugly, or that I needed to exercise more/less. My parents are likely some of the least superficial people I know, and so from what I know about them, they’ve never worried a lot about their own appearances. With me, they have only told me that I am beautiful the way I am, and there’s no reason to change what I am. I have friends who have parents who’ve saved money for them to get cosmetic surgery. I also have friends and family members who have been constantly told by their parents that they need to lose weight or are fat. These ideas are all very foreign to me, but I am grateful that my parents have accepted my appearance for what it is.

I thought about this today as I thought about all the women who get self conscious about weight gain during pregnancy. Multiple online pregnancy groups I’ve since unsubscribed to have people obsessing over their weight and how “fat” they are now. But it’s a normal part of life: when you get pregnant, you are literally growing a tiny human, so it should be obvious you will gain weight. It’s been said that someone of average body weight/frame will gain somewhere between 25-35 pounds. I just checked the scale, and it looks like I’m about eight pounds over my usual, pre-pregnancy weight now, which seems steady and on track for being “healthy” while pregnant. I have no idea what my end weight will be, nor do I have any idea exactly how big I will be come labor, but regardless of how I look or feel, I doubt I will get too upset about it because I will just be grateful to have had a, fingers crossed, healthy pregnancy and hopefully healthy birth.

Fetal movements throughout the day

I can’t believe I’ve made it this far: I’m now in my 19th week of pregnancy. It’s so crazy to me that I nervously went through my embryo transfer at the end of March and have somehow made it out alive and pregnant now that we’re already halfway through July.

I was able to detect fetal movements a few weeks ago, but they were so subtle and strange, like a combination of internal tickling and indigestion, that I didn’t really think much of it. Then, on our flight to Oklahoma, I actually felt what resembled an actual kick that really startled me. Sometimes, it feels like a lot of bubbles inside. And since then, there are specific periods throughout the day when I am fairly certain that it’s actual fetal movement. It tends to happen right after my morning workouts, anytime after I eat or drink a lot of anything, and then, funnily enough, right around bedtime, usually between 9:30-11pm. At night before bed, it is especially distracting: it feels like a combination of rolling and rumbling in my lower abdomen, right up to where my belly button is. I’ve even started sleeping with a pillow between my legs and pulled up to my stomach to provide some support for my gradually growing belly.

Every time I feel the movement, I get really excited. It’s like I’m detecting my baby’s patterns, and we’re almost bonding with each other. I’m not sure the baby feels that way, but I do. Every day, with each movement, I’m getting closer and closer to meeting my miracle baby.

Accumulating too much clutter and junk

When friends love and appreciate you, they shower you with gifts for every possible event possible: birthdays, Christmases, Hanukkahs, housewarmings, baby arrivals, engagements, weddings, anniversaries — you name it. Sometimes, some friends can be efficient with gift giving (asking explicitly for what you want, wish lists, etc.), some friends can be frugal (waiting until around New Year’s Day to give you your Christmas gift so she can buy it once it’s gone on sale after Christmas). I get it: it’s done out of love. I’m definitely not complaining about it and am grateful when I am gifted items because it means someone’s actually thinking about me. What this inevitably means is… the more friends you have, the chances are high the more stuff you will accumulate. Between Chris and me, we definitely do not have a high quantity of friends, yet somehow, we’ve managed to accumulate so many items that are still brand new, never opened, and never used.

Among the gifts we uncovered during our move: fancy, hand-crafted, made-in-France cheese knives, cutting boards, excess blankets, never-used bowls and plates, a single-scoop ice cream maker, cheese knife-and-board sets, a wine rack, books on random topics. In addition, I’ve also uncovered things we’ve purchased or been gifted that we really just are bored of and have no use for anymore, including popsicle molds, DVD sets, and a picnic umbrella (I am still confused as to why my husband, who is a self-proclaimed picnic hater, not only owns a very large plastic picnic blanket, but also a MASSIVE multi-colored picnic umbrella). We’re creating a pile of items to sell and wondering what we will actually get back for these.

The downside of moving into a larger space is that when you have more space… you will inevitably get more things to fill it up. When you have more closet space, you will find ways (or your family/friends will find ways) to help you fill it up. I hope we do not accumulate too much clutter in this new place and focus on buying/accepting gifts of items we will actually use.

The saddest part about going on a trip: having to come home

Once upon a time, we used to take multiple trips a year and plan the majority of them out at the beginning of the year so that we always had something to look forward to. There was always a “next trip” on the calendar to greatly anticipate in between the mundane and usual of the everyday with work and nonsensical daily news and politics of the world. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic came crashing down upon us, changing all of our lives in ways we’d never seen in our lifetime. All trips got cancelled. We had no idea when we’d never travel to see a new place.

When boarding the plane yesterday to come back home, all I could think about was: when are we going on another trip? When will we be able to travel freely again? Where will we be going? Where can we actually safely go….?

It’s not that I don’t like home: I obviously love New York, as I’ve willingly lived here the last 13 years. It’s more the idea of having to go back to the daily grind of work, work, and work. And with this trip going home, we’re going to be moving, so we’ll not only have to go back to work, but also start packing up our apartment for our move upstairs. Even though it’s only one floor up, a lot of packing and trips between stairs will need to be done, and who looks forward to moving… ever?

Vietnamese food in the South

I’m pretty annoyed to admit this: there are more authentic Vietnamese bakeries and restaurants all over Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana than there are in New York. Chris noted that other than our trip to Vietnam, we’ve eaten the most Vietnamese food on this trip than on any other trip. We had Vietamese food once in Oklahoma, multiple times in Houston (small bites, full meals, and snacks), and then twice here in New Orleans. Our very last meal this morning before heading to the airport to go home was at Dong Phuong, a famous bakery-restaurant about 25 minutes outside of the main New Orleans downtown area. They have a bakery section that is quite famous not just for their banh mi and Vietnamese baked treats, but also their seasonal king cakes (they’re reputed to be the BEST in New Orleans if you come around Mardi Gras in March!!), and they sell their perfect baguettes in oversized bags of 2, or even in 8s and 10s! Attached to the bakery is a restaurant with a good amount of indoor seating, and next to the restaurant is likely their bakery and cooking operations, which based on the building, is quite extensive and long!

We picked up a special pate/cold cuts banh mi, two types of banh bao (Vietnamese steamed buns), a Vietnamese iced coffee, a jackfruit smoothie with tapioca balls, taro and coconut cream sticky rice, and a slice of cassava-coconut cake. I LOVED ALL OF IT. The banh mi was spectacular, with huge, thick cuts of all the usual Vietnamese sliced meats, a delicious and creamy pate, thickly sliced cucumber, and enough pickled daikon and carrot to balance all the meaty flavors. And the bread was just perfect: super crisp on the outside and light and airy on the inside. I could have easily sat there and eaten five of those sandwiches by myself. While I’m used to the meats and vegetables being sliced thinner, I actually enjoyed the thicker cuts this time as a novelty.

The banh bao were delicious, though Chris thought they were just fine. I don’t get many opportunities to eat Vietnamese style bao, so I try to get them when I see them. The filling is always made differently than the Chinese ones, and you can just tell they taste Vietnamese. Sometimes, it’s because of their liberal use of white pepper. Other times, they have just a hint of fish sauce flavor. And the way the meat tends to be minced is a bit finer, too.

I grew up eating different Vietnamese tapioca and rice-based coconut desserts, so this taro one definitely hit the spot: it even had nice little chunks of creamy taro. Taro and coconut cream paired can never go wrong. The drinks we got also hit the spot: the iced coffee was SUPER potent; I could only have a few sips, otherwise I’d have been wired the rest of the day. The jackfruit smoothie was nice and fruity, and the tapioca balls were soft and chewy, with a hint of honey flavor to them.

I enjoyed the cassava cake at the airport a few hours later, and while it wasn’t as tasty as the version I make, it would serve as a good substitute for when I don’t want to bake a whole cassava cake or bake at all. Love this spot. As we ate our treats outside the bakery before heading to the airport, I watched avidly as the workers rolled over endless hot and toasty baguettes on carts while hungry patrons queued up and waited for their endless orders. So many cars just kept pulling into the parking lot to get their Vietnamese food fix; it’s a good thing their parking lot is so big! I enviously watched one guy leave the bakery with two huge bags of goodies, likely multiple banh mi orders and an entire bag of JUST baguette. He’s a smart dude, I thought. I would totally do that if I lived here!!