First snows of the season

It is technically not winter yet, as it’s officially winter on December 21st here in the northern hemisphere, but it certainly feels like it’s winter given the drop in temperatures. I always know that winter has arrived when my head feels naked without a hat on and my hands either need gloves or to be pushed into my pockets. But another reminder of winter is the tiny little snow flurries that tend to happen in late November and early December. When I am in the comfort of a warm office or home, and I look out the window and see tiny snowflakes fluttering around outside, I know it’s really winter. And that feeling that accompanies those snowflakes is usually a mixed one: a little bit of excitement because I think snow is really beautiful, and quite a bit of dread because I absolutely hate cold weather, and I especially cannot stand navigating the snow, ice, and dangerous black ice on the streets and sidewalks of New York. I will also add that snow is especially beautiful when you are nice and warm inside a cozy, heated apartment, with a nice hot drink in hand. And there, you can admire it from the inside out, and the world feels like your own snow globe.

I started noticing the tiny flurries this past weekend. And this afternoon, I noticed them, as well, a bit more furious than this weekend with more intention, almost as if to say, “yep, autumn is gone, and winter is here. deal with the snow!” It’s a different feeling this year, though, with Pookie Bear in my womb, nice and cozy, squirming around in her limited space in the uterus, just waiting to come out into the world. My baby will be a winter baby in the northern hemisphere and a summer baby in the southern hemisphere. No amount of snow or snow flurries could take away the nice warm feeling I get thinking about her pending arrival.

Registry etiquette

In general, whenever I have been invited to a wedding or baby shower, if the couple has a registry, I will always buy a gift from the registry or give cash. This makes the lives of all of us much easier: we know that the couple will like and appreciate the gift because, well, they themselves chose it. And there’s no guesswork needed, nor is there pressure in terms of how creative you can get with the gift. I recently finished reading Adam Grant’s book Give and Take, and in it, he succinctly says that if you are a giver (in other words, a good human :D), you will buy a gift off a registry or give cash. What you will not do is try to go off registry and buy something else… because in that case, you are thinking about yourself and your own orientation and what you think would be best for them. And in sum, a gift is supposed to be about the recipient, NOT the giver.

So it was weird when I received a long-winded email from my uncle when he wanted to explain that he didn’t get us something off our baby registry and decided to go with something else. While I am always appreciative of gifts and do not expect gifts (I mean, I’m not forcing anyone to get us a gift), this was just odd. He said that given the ongoing pandemic, he wanted to get us something fitting, which ended up being… an automated soap dispenser with soap refill. “This way, both parents and baby will keep safe,” he explained.

A soap dispenser isn’t baby or mama related directly, and his rationale for going with this just seemed so strange and out there. In addition, we already have an automated soap dispenser, so why does he think this is such a superior gift compared to any of the items I had added to our registry? The most absurd part is that he purposely didn’t even check off the “this is a gift” box on Amazon and just had it sent without a tracking or order number (he admitted this when I told him the item came already open/seemingly used), and without the ability to return or exchange it. My uncle has sent me many gifts from Amazon previously over the years, and he had always checked this box off before. So in my head, I wondered if he did this purposely and/or even facetiously.

Regardless, we were able to return it and get Amazon credit for it, but in the back of my mind, I wonder what real rationale he had when he did this and if he was trying to send some weird message to us in doing so.

Antenatal hand expression of colostrum – first time failure

I finally ordered the little syringes that Chris’s cousin’s wife told me about to attempt to capture hand expressed colostrum before Pookie Bear arrives. So today, I sterilized the little syringes and attempted to express colostrum. I took a warm shower and thus heated my breasts, massaged them, and then tried to do the “C” shape around them to express colostrum… and well, nothing happened. It was a failure. Later in the evening, I tried again, this time warming my breasts up with a hot hand towel and massaging them, and still nothing. I was dismayed, but there’s no way I’m going to stop trying. I really want this to work. While I’ve read that even if you cannot do this successfully before the baby comes that this has zero bearing on whether you will be successful at breastfeeding, I still am determined to do this. I just need to focus on getting the technique right and continuing to try, as I’ve read that many other women struggled for the first several days of attempting a few times a day, and then miraculously as though out of nowhere, a few drops actually came out. And a few drops are all you really need each expressing session. The breast stimulation, if nothing else, is still supposed to help with future milk production, and so I’m hoping all this effort will be worth it.

Prenatal massage indulgence #2

I’m in week 38 of pregnancy, and I’m indulging in what will likely be my last prenatal massage before the baby comes. All my friends and Chris have thought I’ve been cheap about indulging in experiences like this, but hey, at least I booked a second massage given my piriformis muscle has been giving me issues in the last couple of weeks. It has not been as debilitating as the sciatica, but it’s definitely slowed me down and made simple things like squatting down to pick up items or even sitting down and getting out of a chair momentarily painful.

Yesterday, I went to get another prenatal massage with the same masseuse I saw in October, and I told her about my piriformis muscle pains in my butt. While she did spend more time on it for me, she said that unfortunately, the only “solution” for this was the baby coming out. As my hips continue to widen in preparation for labor and birth, this would cause more stress on my lower back and butt muscles and nerves, which is inevitably what is causing the pains in my butt. She said she was pretty sure the pain was manifesting itself in my piriformis, but it’s likely that the piriformis wasn’t just it when it came to the nerve compression; it was just my right butt cheek entirely.

It’s okay, though. All these little nuisances are worth it as long as my little Pookie Bear comes out healthy and happy.

Living close by doesn’t mean you see each other much in New York City

In a lot of cities and towns across the world, when you have friends and family who live just a few blocks from each other, it tends to mean you see each other quite often, whether that’s intentionally planned or by chance. Somehow, when you live in such a densely populated city like New York where people live in these huge high rise buildings with endless units, it’s easy to literally never see familiar people… ever, unless it’s actually planned and scheduled. That’s what it’s like with seeing Chris’s mom’s cousin and his wife and family, who literally live just four blocks from our apartment, but in the last several years of us living in this building, we’ve seen only twice.

Chris’s mom sent an email to her cousin letting him know that I was pregnant, and so he and his wife invited us over for dinner this evening. While I didn’t expect to stay for nearly six hours and until midnight, that’s exactly what happened. We talked about a lot of things, including, of course, the pandemic, the pregnancy, and family. His mom’s cousin and wife are always very warm and welcoming, and his wife has the most infectious, bellowing laugh. From the way they have their house arranged and various items like serving trays and endless ice cream scoops, it’s obvious that pre-pandemic, they are used to hosting and entertaining friends and family often. In fact, a lot of Chris’s family and extended family are like this. I always wonder why my parents are always so standoff-ish and cold at the idea of hosting people over even for something as simple and easy as tea when I am around Chris’s relatives.

I was thinking into the future when we are tentatively planning to bring Pookie Bear to San Francisco to see family and friends, and I was wondering about what the dynamic would be like, if we have friends and family coming in and out of the house to see the baby and how awkward and frustrated that would make my parents. I can already imagine my mom getting stressed out for nothing, thinking about food that needs to be in the house, tea that needs to get served, cups and plates that need to get washed. I’ve always enjoyed hosting people over at my own places I’ve lived, and I clearly do not get that from either parent.

Thanksgiving 2021

Although I’m about 37.5 weeks pregnant, I still wanted to have a Thanksgiving gathering, so I invited two of my friends and two neighbors over for our meal this evening. Despite being this far along and close to labor, I still feel pretty good. I’ve been lucky in that as of late, the only thing I’m really dealing with is some pain in my butt around my piriformis muscle, which makes me a bit slower, but other than that, my energy level is decent, and I am still happy to be mobile, to exercise, and to move around, even if it is slower. For dinner this evening, I made a slow roasted lamb leg with homemade harissa and garlicky yogurt sauce, roasted orange and pomegranate salmon for my pescatarian friend, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, mushroom, leek, and gruyere bread pudding, brussel sprouts, kale, cabbage salad with pomegranate, apple, almonds, sweet potatoes, and sunflower seeds tossed in a homemade vinaigrette, and sticky date/toffee pudding. My friend brought her spinach broccoli casserole. My other friend had a delivery from Breads Bakery that was supposed to be pumpkin pie and chocolate babka/harvest babka, but the delivery was incorrect, so they ended up sending us these in the end, along with a babka pie and pecan pie. Needless to say, we had way more food than we really needed, and everyone took a doggy bag home.

Everyone usually says they spend Thanksgiving with their families, for better or for worse. That’s usually the time of year people either get really excited to see their families… or they end up having stupid fights about family tensions or politics. My parents don’t really celebrate Thanksgiving anymore and consider it just another day of the year, so I have zero reason to go home. So my new family is Chris and my long time middle school friend, and soon to be out of the uterus Pookie Bear. Everyone else who is at our table is chosen family, a makeshift “urban tribe” of people I care about and want to make feel welcome in our home… and feed. Feeding people always makes me happy. Togetherness with people I care about and food that is delicious is all we really need for Thanksgiving.

Practicing putting in a car seat

One of the more unique things about living in New York City, especially Manhattan, is that most expectant parents will not own a car. That is a very different story than for most Americans in this country, who rely on their car just to travel one block since they probably aren’t used to walking even that little. What that also tends to mean for expectant Manhattan dwelling parents is that they will not have a car to have an infant car seat permanently installed inside of it, which means… well, you either have to get everywhere by foot or train/bus, or you have to get a car seat that doesn’t require a base and get used to installing it quickly just with a seat belt in cabs and Uber/Lyfts/ride shares.

So today, after renting a car to take a trip to Costco for our last major haul before Pookie Bear arrives, we spent the last hour of our Zipcar time figuring out how to install the car seat with the seat belt in multiple ways. It’s definitely not as intuitive or straightforward as I’d like, and we had to try it a few times before (I think?) we got it right. Installing it with a base would be trickier and likely take more time, but given that we don’t own a car and would likely, at most, only use that in Australia when we have access for weeks at a time to a single car, we didn’t really bother with going over the instructions for that.

It likely will be a bit nerve racking doing it for the first trip home from the hospital, but hopefully it will go smoothly and the Uber driver won’t dock our star rating for taking too long. I mean, this WILL be our very first time doing it in real time…

Sexist old wives’ tales

I was walking back to our apartment this afternoon when I ran into one of the leasing agents for our building management. The last time we had spoken, I had shared that I was pregnant, so she asked me how I was feeling and how much longer I had to go.

“Okay, let me guess! You’re having a BOY!” she exclaimed excitedly, her eyes wide open and her smile even wider.

“No,” I said, laughing. “I’m having a girl. What makes you think that I’m having a boy?”

“Well, for one thing, you’re carrying very low, and I’ve been told that girls tend to sit very high while boys are very low,” she started. “And you are absolutely vibrant and glowing, and I’d heard that when you are carrying a girl, the girl will suck all the beauty out of you and you’ll have no color in your face and look tired all the time!”

“Wendy, you realize that’s all sexist bs, right?” I said to her, chuckling. “There’s no way to tell whether someone is carrying a boy or a girl just from how good their skin looks!! And not only that, I better be carrying low now and have the baby drop further down because we’re already at 37 weeks!”

It doesn’t seem to matter how recent or far back in time you go, or what culture you are referring to. So many sexist, misogynistic old wives’ tales are always being shared about girls… pretty much from the moment of conception. I am not a fan of perpetuating any of these terrible, outdated stereotypes and will call out the bullshit whenever and wherever I can to try to get people to stop repeating such garbage.

When I am either being a jerk or other people are just deers with headlights

Since I’ve started working at the current company, I’ve been pretty happy with my colleagues for the most part. Of course, there are always selfish, dickish sales people and self-seeking individuals to look out for, but overall, I’d say it’s been a breath of fresh air, especially considering I came from a place that reeked of stereotypical office politics and backstabbing at its finest. But recently, I’ve noticed that some of the newest hires are not the brightest bulbs, and it’s not because they are not “getting it” right away; it’s more because when new information is presented to them, instead of confidently digesting the new information, they clearly freak out over the video chat and start panicking. Multiple times in the last few days talking with new people, it’s like I was working with deers with headlights, and the freak out sessions were painfully obvious even over Zoom. I can’t even imagine how frustrating this would have been if it were in person.

My general belief about people in customer facing roles is that at minimum, you need to be able to be pleasant, friendly, firm, and exude confidence even when you aren’t even sure what you are talking about. Confidence makes people trust you, and trust is really important with customers. If you are not confident and freak out over little things you don’t understand, customers aren’t stupid; they will pick up on it and call you out for it.

So I’m not sure if I’m just feeling a little impatient because I am slowly preparing to step away from my day to day duties to go out on maternity leave, or if I am just being a jerk in my thoughts. I am definitely patient and kind when I speak with these individuals, and to catch myself, I always smile and take a breath before I speak. I need to pause before I speak, otherwise I know I will end up saying something I will regret.

Travel magnets are up in our kitchen

Since we moved into this new apartment in our same building, we haven’t had our magnet boards up in our kitchen as we did in the last apartment. When Chris first attempted to put one up in the last kitchen in 2017, I insisted to him that it was crooked. He didn’t agree and insisted it was straight, and so we had to have our building handyman/friend come to intervene and give his opinion… which was that it was obviously crooked. Since our handyman friend is, well, a handyman, he does this kind of task very quickly and easily, so he graciously and generously installed all three magnet boards for us in our last apartment. So we were waiting for him to come to install these in our new place, too. The only issue is that there are some work politics here where his counterpart has been lazy and handing off a lot of jobs to him, so in the last several months, he hasn’t had time to come visit and hang out, and thus hasn’t had time to help us install the magnet boards. When he was asking me about how my belly was doing and expressing how excited he was to meet our little one soon, I told him that if he wanted to give the baby a gift, he could come install the magnet boards this weekend. And apparently it worked: he showed up! 😀

He put all three of them up, two of them being in our kitchen right where my happy place is, and I couldn’t believe how happy I was to see them up; it just felt like we had really, finally moved in and like our kitchen was actually whole once again! Since he helped put them up, I keep looking up at them to admire all the places we’ve been to, and I can’t wait to continue adding more magnets to the third board in the second bedroom with little Pookie Bear accompanying us soon.