When breakfast is like dessert

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), with postpartum preparation and recovery, it is highly encouraged for pregnant women to begin consuming dates or date tea in the several weeks leading up to labor and birth, and in the weeks following baby’s birth. The idea behind this is that dates have some enzyme in them that is supposed to help the uterus and make for an easier, smoother and less painful labor, not to mention an easier recovery. This has become generally widespread that now, even western cultures are embracing this, particularly in the midwifery and doula communities.

While I did purchase some traditional Chinese herbs and different types of dried dates for postpartum healing teas to make, I also purchased some medjool dates from Trader Joe’s the other day to make midday smoothies sweetened with dates and banana. The combination that seems to be quite the winner, which tasted like dessert at first sip, was this:

1 C nut milk (I used the Trader Joe’s macadamia nut/almond/cashew milk combo)

2 medjool dates, chopped and soaked

1 sliced frozen ripe banana

1 Tbsp unsweetened cacao or cocoa powder

1 Tbsp almond butter

1/4 tsp cinnamon

2 ice cubes

1 tsp chia seeds

I blended it twice since dates sometimes resist being blended. And when I took the first sip, I nearly gasped at how good it was. It doesn’t taste like a “healthy” smoothie. Instead, it tastes like an indulgent, guilty pleasure smoothie that you have behind closed doors. I can’t believe this was my first time really using dates in smoothies. It seems to be a very common way for the health-conscious to add sweetness to desserts without actually adding refined sugar. If all TCM was like this, then pretty much every postpartum mama would embrace Chinese medicine.

As the days slowly shorten

Chris was especially eager to get out of the house around noon today because as the days progress, and as October ends, this ultimately means that the days are only getting shorter and shorter. Daylight Savings Time will sadly be ending next weekend. So our daylight hours are more limited, and sooner rather than later, it will be 4pm and completely pitch black outside, which is something that makes me feel a little bit depressed every single year, no fail. And while most years before last year, we had a Thanksgiving in Europe and a summer in the Southern Hemisphere to look forward to, currently, we have zero trips planned… other than to the hospital to welcome Pookie Bear into our lives.

We went to Williamsburg and Green Point today, and Chris kept pointing out all the babies, strollers, and little kids running around in the Halloween costumes that their parents dressed them in. We’re at a point now where I can pretty much call out with high accuracy nearly every stroller brand that passes us. Chris does not embrace Halloween or Thanksgiving. He thinks Halloween is only fun when there is a place to go to to show off what you are dressed up in, and he thinks traditional Thanksgiving food is boring and bland (well, that’s why we tend to put our own Asian spins on these “classic” dishes). But in the future, I do hope to introduce Pookie Bear to Halloween costumes and how to carve a pumpkin because I love pumpkin carving (especially with the right tools!). While I don’t really care about dressing up in costume, who could possibly say that babies and kids aren’t adorable in costume? And I want my little baby to know Thanksgiving foods and how her mom likes to change them up, even if it’s just a few of us eating together. Good food should be part of every family gathering. And yes, at the same time, she should also know the terrible history of Thanksgiving, too, not the white-washed version.

Reunited after 3 years and familial expectations

I had the day off today, so I made plans to see a friend who was in town from Seattle for lunch. She and her husband are originally from New Jersey, but they moved out to Seattle for career opportunities in 2012, and they’ve stayed there since and have really fallen in love with the city. They recently bought a townhouse there, and it looks like they want to stay there for at least the next five years, much to their families’ dismay. When we caught up over FaceTime a few months ago, I realized that the last time I had actually seen here was in 2018, so over three years ago now, which was crazy to me. Every time we catch up again, it always feels really comfortable, as though no time has passed. I guess that’s usually a sign that you have a friend worth keeping, when there’s no real pressure to do certain things together and you just feel comfortable being around each other without much expectation.

I usually know when my mom likes one of my friends when she repeatedly asks about the person. With this friend, she will usually ask every few months if we’ve been in contact and how this person is, and whether this person has had kids yet. This friend has no plans to have kids; in fact, she and her husband decided long before marriage that they would remain child-free. I always tell my mom this, to which she always responds that people say that, but they change their mind. Or, they will think about their “old age” and realize they need to have kids.

There is no nice, polite way to tell my mom that people today are definitely NOT having kids because they expect their offspring to take care of them when they get old. If anything, they have kids for the “progression of life,” or because they want to leave a “legacy.” Or, hey, maybe they just want kids! I mean, my mom always had this stupid fantasy that Ed would take care of her and my dad when they got old since I decided to be selfish and move away, but now that Ed isn’t here anymore, she’s saving every last penny for her future convalescent home because she doesn’t think I will do anything for her when she needs help. Oh, familial expectations.

Braxton Hicks adventures

This afternoon was rough. I had a number of meetings to get through before my day ended, but the “practice” Braxton Hicks contractions kept my day a lot more eventful than it really needed to be. Sometimes, I felt dull pain in my lower back. Occasionally, I felt like I was having menstrual pains in my abdomen. I was really hoping this wasn’t early labor, but lower back pain and the sensation of menstrual cramps during pregnancy are all signs of labor. I’m currently in my 34th week of pregnancy, and if this really were signs of early labor, this would be pre-term labor, which really would not be good. Pookie Bear is still growing and her lungs need to fully mature, and they aren’t quite there yet. While she’d likely be totally fine and healthy eventually as a full-term baby would be, labor at this stage would definitely worry me. The doctors say that it’s fairly normal to go into labor from week 37 onward. Week 39 onward is really the ideal time, though, because at this stage for the most part, lung development wouldn’t be a concern.

Luckily for me, after lying down for a little bit and changing my position a few times, the tensions in my belly stopped. I just continued to feel exhausted, though. Third trimester exhaustion is going to be in direct competition with my desire to “nest” and get everything ready for Pookie Bear’s arrival.

Preparing for labor via perineal massage

In the U.S., postpartum care for moms is generally overlooked and disregarded. You typically will get one follow-up appointment with your OB-GYN at the six week mark postpartum that is considered “standard,” and that’s it. It’s pretty consistent with the theme that society doesn’t really care about or take care of women or new parents because in general, you’re on your own if you have any problems. Before I was trying to conceive and actively discussing with friends, colleagues, and former colleagues about child birth, labor, and postpartum recovery, I had no idea what postpartum recovery looked like other than trying to rest as much as possible in between your baby needing feeds, diaper changes, and soothing. I had no idea that vaginal tearing from vaginal births was extremely common and considered “normal,” especially first and second degree tears that require stitches. Third and fourth degree tears can extend as far as your anus, which means that you will not only be in pain sitting, standing, walking, or doing pretty much anything, but your recovery period could be as long as 5-7 months long before you can walk normally and do regular, everyday activities with the ease you had before giving birth. This is why I get angry when I hear idiots say ignorant crap like “only one parent needs to stay at home” postpartum to care for the child, or that dads don’t have to recover from child birth, so why should they get paid time off, because in that case, who the hell is taking care of MOM recovering from her birth wounds??? Once again, it completely overlooks mom’s needs and recovery.

I had no idea that it would sting like crazy every time you urinate after giving birth because of the tears down there, and it’s strongly suggested you use a perineal squirt bottle with warm water to soothe your perineum each time you pee, as your urine is actually acidic, and anything acidic hitting an open wound will hurt like crazy. I didn’t know that the first time you take a poop after giving birth, if not for several weeks after, it would be a far greater terror than actually going through labor pains and contractions, as it may feel like you are about to poop out all your insides and even your uterus (which… DOES happen for some women!). This is why it’s advised to have stool softener immediately postpartum regardless of your diet because anything that will make pooping easier would be good and less traumatic for you.

So I figured that if some things could potentially help with vaginal tearing, assuming the stars are aligned and I will have a vaginal birth, that I would do whatever I could to prevent or lessen it. So I’ve started doing perineal massage at least 5 times per week for 12 minutes each evening to ‘stretch’ my vagina and prep it for opening wider to accommodate the baby. I basically get a mirror to make sure I’m getting the right area, then I massage my vaginal opening about 2 inches in moving downward towards my anus, at the 9, 12, and 3 o’clock mark. Chris makes fun of me and says I am masturbating, but I can assure anyone that this is definitely NOT masturbating. The vaginal canal actually has no nerve endings, so all I feel is stretching down there while I am doing it. I’ve also started eating a couple dates every day because dates are supposed to contain an enzyme that helps with uterine contractions and making for an easier labor. That’s actually documented quite well in of Traditional Chinese Medicine, too, as in TCM, they suggest women have date tea at about 32- to 34-weeks of pregnancy until birth to prepare for baby’s arrival. I’m hoping this will all make it easier for my little baby to come out and not completely rip up my vagina.

Third trimester fatigue sets in

The fatigue I felt in the first trimester seems to be creeping itself into me yet again, except this time, it just feels like pure lethargy rather than the constant urge to nap mid day or mid afternoon back in the spring. Your body goes through so many changes throughout pregnancy to create a tiny new human, and so it makes sense that you’d experience fatigue and exhaustion throughout.

The baby movements have certainly continued, and I tend to know what to expect at certain times of the day. Her hands and head are closer down to my pelvis, and so when she starts waving her hands around, it feels like strong tickling, in addition to the feeling that she may even be slapping my bladder (which, inevitably makes me want to go pee). Her feet are higher up in my uterus closer to my rib cage, and so occasionally when she is undulating, squirming, and kicking, she kicks my ribs, and it definitely startles and sometimes even hurts. She also seems to react quite a bit when I eat spicy foods. I hope she will enjoy spicy foods when she arrives in this world.

Winding down work

Since my own boss once upon a time was on bed rest for her last four weeks of pregnancy and gave birth to her child at 32 weeks, she’s been extremely empathetic in making sure that my transition into motherhood from a work perspective will be smooth. We’ve been talking a little at a time about my transition plan for all my customer accounts for the last six weeks, and right now, the plan is to have all my accounts fully transitioned to a handful of my colleagues by mid-November, or the 35th to 36th week mark. We never know when the baby will choose to come, especially early, so it’s best to be prepared. By mid-November, I will no longer have any active role in my accounts and will only shadow calls and provide guidance if and when needed by my colleagues. It feels really good to have a manager who is supportive, empathetic, and doesn’t want to see me suffer through the transition into motherhood.

I officially get 16 weeks of maternity leave off at my company, but my manager is completely fine with my taking paid time off on top of that whether it’s before the official leave begins or ends. I’m grateful for the time I get off plus the flexibility from my manager, but I cannot help but think that while this is great by U.S. standards, it’s pretty sad by global standards since most developed, rich countries will give an entire year off to new moms. In addition, our own Congress right now is deadlocked trying to roll out a paid family leave plan, and while the Democrats originally wanted 12 weeks, it’s now being slashed to barely four weeks if not less to appease idiotic, short sighted “moderate” Democrats and selfish Republicans who think that lazy Americans shouldn’t be relying on the government for benefits. It is so disgusting to me how little this country values parents and children, and it’s clear from the way we spend money that we truly do not give a shit about the plight of parents, caregivers, and the future generations of the people who will eventually be taking charge of this country. It’s even more disgusting how some people choose to justify the status quo and insist that it shouldn’t be on the government to help and give money to those who “choose” to become parents…. as though society does not benefit from these children, who will eventually become adults and our future.

AFSP Out of the Darkness Manhattan Walk – 2021

After the 2020 pandemic year when the AFSP Out of the Darkness Manhattan walk was cancelled (well, it was “virtual”), AFSP restarted their OOTD walks this year, and the Manhattan one was located again at Pier 16 downtown. I actually raised more money this year than I did last year, which I wasn’t sure about since this is the eighth year I’ve done this, and sometimes people get donation fatigue, but this year I did decently well. The walk had a pretty good turnout for the crowd, larger than I had imagined, but it was less involved: they ran out of t-shirts by the time I arrived, so they said they’d be mailing me one. A lot of the previous booths that were set up weren’t there this time. No snacks or drinks were provided, either, but I didn’t really miss that anyway. It’s always one of those sad but empowering events every year for me. It’s sad to see how many people have lost loved ones from all walks of life at these events, but it’s at the same time inspiring to see people who actually care and want to make a difference for people suffering today and in the future.

It’s been eight years since I lost Ed. Every year that passes, I get farther and farther away from remembering what he was like, what his voice sounded like, what his being was about. But I still try hard to remember. This event seemed different for me personally though, because at this event, little Pookie Bear came along, too, snuggled up inside my womb. This year, she walked for her uncle’s honor and memory. And next year, I hope she will be able to come, too, in her stroller that her dad will push, to continue Uncle Ed’s legacy in her life.

Old colleagues meetup

Yesterday afternoon, I met up with two colleagues from my last company. One of them is originally from New York but has spent the last five years living in San Francisco, so she was out here to see family and hang out. The second one is a New York native and someone I was quite close to while working at the last company. We were on a texting basis when working together about all the dirt at the last place, yet I knew that once we no longer worked together, we’d have little to nothing in common. The visiting ex-colleague reached out to organize a coffee meetup, so we got some drinks and brought them back to my rooftop and chatted for about an hour. It really wasn’t that long because one of them needed to head back to Queens for dinner, and well, the other reason was that we really don’t have much in common anymore. Sadly, it didn’t really feel that natural to be interacting with them, and it felt a little forced at times. It’s not that I think they are bad people, as I definitely do not think that at all. It’s more that we’re not really people who could ever be friends outside of work. Sometimes, that’s just the way it is with certain people. Once you take away the one thing you used to complain about and commiserate on together, it’s kind of over for you all. It’s always a bit of a gamble seeing former colleagues when they are no longer your colleagues because the one thing you had in common, work, is no longer a commonality anymore. I knew we didn’t have much in common in the way of hobbies or life interests in general, but at least we caught up on each other’s lives, respective work, and how that was all going. And with the pandemic’s end not really being in sight, we talked about how we coped with that and how our families managed, as well.

It was a good attempt, but oh well. You can’t always remain friends with former colleagues even if you were really close while working together. C’est la vie.

32-week doctor’s appointment

I went in to the doctor’s for my 32-week OB appointment yesterday. There are four doctors and one nurse practitioner at the practice I go to, and so really any five of them could be there when I birth my baby, so they wanted me to ensure I met with all the providers before the baby comes. That’s a pretty easy thing to arrange since now until 36 weeks, I have appointments every two weeks, then after 36 weeks, the appointments are every week. And if I go over my due date at 40 weeks, they ask you to come in TWO TIMES per week. I met with the last doctor, who had a great bedside manner and answered all my questions really thoroughly and thoughtfully. She said our baby is still in the “perfect place,” meaning she’s head down still, and as of today, she is approximately 4 pounds, 5 ounces. My little munchkin has grown exactly a pound in just the last two weeks! These are all weight estimates from the ultrasound, and there can be minor inaccuracies once the baby is born, but this sounded pretty good to me and on track from what the doctor said.

I told the doctor about my concerns about pre-term labor, which is defined as labor that is before the 37th week mark. She said that it’s very rare, and she didn’t think I was at risk for it given how everything has been looking to date, plus I haven’t had any weird symptoms or bleeding that would indicate it could happen to me. But it still sits in the back of my mind since I know quite a handful of people who have gone into labor at 28, 32, 33, and 34 weeks. One of my friends had her water break at 34 weeks, but because she was in Amsterdam and had a nurse see her every week after the initial first week in the hospital for close monitoring, she gave birth at 37 weeks.

I want my little baby to bake as much as possible so that she’s as healthy as possible before she comes out. Her lungs still need developing, but the doctor said that that in the event pre-term labor happened, medication could be given to expedite lung growth to prepare the baby for life outside the womb. So at least there is that that’s been developed over the years to help premie babies.