Finally going maskless in the building

This morning, I was at my computer when I received an email notification from our building management company. Throughout the pandemic, they have sent out notifications around mask mandates, expectations around common areas, and thoughts about the pandemic and pandemic living in general. It’s been nice to see that our management company has been proactive in sending out these updates, particularly since I know other people who also live in buildings overseen by a management company, and they really have not done anything to be proactive about keeping their residents safe during COVID-19. The latest update from management was that finally, after almost 2 years, the mask mandate in the building common areas would be removed to align with the mask mandate being removed across New York City. I honestly could not believe it when I read it: we have been wearing masks in common areas in this building on and off pretty much since April 2020. That is almost two years of never seeing anyone’s full face in our building. It is such a change and something that I really was not anticipating anytime soon… Not because the rates of Covid have been increasing because they have not in New York, but rather because wearing masks has been a new normal for us. I just expected that we would be wearing masks pretty much forever, particularly since there have constantly been new variants of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

When I went downstairs to chat with our building manager, it was almost like a revelation: both of us were talking in a building common area and seeing each other’s full faces. Neither of us was wearing a mask. We both commented on the fact that we could actually see both of our full faces for the very first time, since she started here during the pandemic, and how amazing and ridiculous it was all at the same time. I wonder how long this will last. It felt pretty good, but at the same time, it also felt a little bit scary… Because who the heck knows if not wearing a mask will make us more susceptible to getting this freaking virus?!

Organized baby drawers

Our night nurse Cheryl was scheduled to start with a new client in the middle of February. Because of this, we knew that our time with her was coming to an end, and so we decided that we would continue to have a Night Nurse come a few nights a week until the baby was sleeping through the night. She told us that her new client is going to be a new type of client for her: it was her first gay couple who is having a baby via a surrogate. One of them had given his sperm for this child and used the egg of their surrogate.  The baby’s due date was February 17, but as we all know, babies rarely come exactly on time, so she was on standby. She also said that with this couple, they had hired her for 24–7 support for a full month. Given that they are a gay couple, she said, and her words, “They are two men. They have zero maternal instinct. So I  need to give them all the help they can get.”

We asked her if she had any referrals for a Night Nurse who could continue in her place until the baby was sleeping through the night, and she gave us a couple of names, one of whom we ended up moving forward with. Her name is Annie , and we tentatively told her that we would like her support through mid April. She started with us this week, and I had a feeling that it was probably going to be good, but just different than what we were used to. We fully trusted Cheryl taking care of our baby. We knew that she knew exactly what she was doing and she taught us so much. With Annie, we trusted her because of the fact that Cheryl had referred her, and we knew that we could trust Cheryl‘s word.  

When Annie came, she was completely different than Cheryl: Cheryl tends to keep to herself and not talk a ton. Annie is super talkative, outgoing, and extremely friendly. She is very proactive about giving advice about the baby and how to manage her as she grows. She also loves talking to the baby and engaging with her. I had a feeling that this would be a good fit at this stage, particularly since the baby is approaching the non-newborn status, meaning that she would actually need a lot more interaction and stimulation. While we were hiring her for overnight support, she also said that she would be open to daytime support if and when needed. And when she came, she was proactive about things that we were not used to: one of them included organizing the baby’s drawers. She offered to take out the baby’s garbage via her diaper pail. She even wanted to get all of her things organized in advance such as her massive Costco box of wet wipes. It was very sweet that she was so proactive, but I wasn’t sure that she was actually going to do these things until yesterday, when I opened one of the baby’s drawers to find everything organized and neatly folded in easy to identify piles. To give you some context, the baby’s set of drawers is not like a regular dresser. The drawers open like doors outwards, as opposed to being pulled out. Because of this, I have always been frustrated organizing clothing in these drawers. But somehow, Annie found a way to organize everything. She had all of the onesies organized, all of the bibs, washers,  towels, even the socks. I could not believe how beautiful and neat the inside of these drawers looked. It was such a pleasant surprise because she didn’t actually tell me before she left that she did all of this. I just felt so happy and grateful to see that this was done, as she really did not have to do this. So I texted her and thanked her for going out of her way and taking care of this. And she said in response, it’s my pleasure! Happy to do it. Just want you to relax. That’s why I am here.

We are so lucky to have found two night nurses to support us who have been great to us and our baby. I had heard some nightmarish stories about hired help for childcare who have fallen asleep while on duty and ignored a crying baby, so in the back of my mind, I was never quite sure what to expect. I just hoped for the best. And well, we really lucked out so far.

First night out since giving birth

Last night, Chris and I went out together for the first time since Kaia’s birth. He had gone out a few times during the day to meet up with friends and colleagues, and we’d had visitors come over to see the baby, but we had not gone out to do anything fun at all since her arrival. Months ago, Chris had booked us tickets to see the comedian Hasan Minhaj at Radio City Music Hall for tonight. He said that he thought this time frame for going out would be good in terms of getting our routine settled with the baby, and in the end, he was right: we were in a routine and did feel pretty comfortable with her. Plus, we just had a new night nurse start with us who was referred from our last night nurse, who had to leave for another booked client, and she agreed to come a few hours early to watch and care for the baby.

Chris asked if I had any separation anxiety, and I immediately said no. I mean, we were only going to be out for a few hours, and so it didn’t really feel like true “separation” just yet. I think it would be a harder thing and really feel like separation if I were away from our baby for the full day at an office, or worse, on an overnight or multiple night work trip.

The night was amazing as expected: Hasan even talked about some things that hit close to home, such as infertility, starting a family, sucking snot of his baby girl’s nose, and protectiveness over his family. It felt really good to get out of the house and out of the feeding/pumping schedule we’ve been locked into and actually do something fun, something we always did before the baby came. We may end up having this be a semi-regular thing assuming we can find help, as well.

When your husband trolls your parents

Since my parents found out I was pregnant, they have been insanely overprotective and obnoxious about pretty much everything. They are not shy at all about criticizing me and my decisions, or about telling me when they disagree. One of my mom’s favorite things is to tell me she has more wisdom than me, so I should do what she says…. right. When I went to get the Covid vaccine last May, they both admonished me and said that I was being selfish, only thinking about myself being able to go out to eat and socialize as opposed to thinking about my unborn baby (it was actually the opposite, but hey, they have more wisdom than me!). When I got the COVID-19 booster shot, my mom got even more pissed, saying that I had no idea what risk I was putting my baby in just weeks before labor and delivery. And when I was in San Francisco back in August, Chris was holding back and trying to be very patient when my mother was fussing over me about literally everything: she got mad when I leaned over the dining table to get a dish during dinner, she did not want me bending down, and she obsessed over me eating cold foods. This was all annoying, but I expected it. And since we were only in San Francisco for one week, I put up with it. If I actually lived in the same city with her and had to deal with her fussing over me this much, I probably would’ve told her to take a hike and learn science. 

So, since the baby has arrived, I have tried to communicate to my mother that I’m not going to deal with her ridiculous nonsense. I stopped responding to all of her 5 million daily calls, and I tell them constantly to stop freaking out and that I’m doing what I’m going to do, and I am not going to listen to them. Chris particularly likes to egg them on by trolling them. He takes pleasure in getting reactions out of them because they are that predictable.

The latest episode of this was when one morning, Chris woke up to check on the baby before a feed to see that she had broken out of the swaddle that he had done in the middle of the night. It honestly looked like she was stuck in a big bag and trying to wiggle her way out. He thought this was absolutely hilarious, so he decided to take a video of it, completely aware that this was something that would totally piss off my parents and make them think that we were irresponsible parents to their grandchild. He immediately uploaded it as an unlisted video to YouTube, and that afternoon, he sent it via our group text that he created facetiously among my mom, dad, him and myself.  He laughed evilly and was just waiting for a reaction. 

Well, I took a nap after nursing the baby that early evening for just an hour. And when I woke up, I looked at my phone to see that there were two missed calls, one from my mom and one from my dad. There were also two voice messages, again, one from my mom and one from my dad. In addition to that, my mom sent me a direct text outside of the group text, asking me why I had covered up the baby’s face… She would not be able to breathe. I did not bother listening to the voice messages from both of my parents as I knew that they would be accusatory and irrational. Instead, I quickly looked at the audio transcript on my phone to see that both parents had accused me of suffocating my child – entirely predictable. The funny thing was, the way that my dad started the message was, “Yvonne: there is a video showing that the baby has her face covered.“ Well, considering that it was uploaded to my account, doesn’t he think that… I would know that the video existed?! Granted, they did not know that Chris used my phone to send them this video link, but considering that this is my YouTube account, why does he make it sound like there is a random video out there showing that our grandchild is about to suffocate that I would not be aware of? It’s as though this was news or something that we had no idea about, and that just seemed senseless.

I responded to my mom’s direct text with my usual sentiment: stop freaking out. And then, I ignored both the voice messages as well as the missed calls. On top of that, the next day, I refrained from sharing any photos or videos with them. I cannot deal with their nonsense.

And the more that I think about it, the more ridiculous my dad‘s involvement in this is. To give you some context, my dad has not called me directly probably since September of last year. Even after the baby arrived, he never had any direct voice contact with me until this call. He has only sent me these basic 1 to 2 sentence emails. He has also sent me a handful of texts, but mostly in response to videos and photos that I sent of the baby. The most substantial text he has sent is, “Nice,” or “interesting,” or “very good.” So as you can see, he is not particularly interactive or talkative or… Really involved. 

And when I really, really think about it, it’s ridiculous that he even has these responses considering the fact that he was not really even actively involved in my life while I was a child or my brother’s life except to criticize us. Sure, he paid the bills and made sure we had a roof over our head, but in terms of day-to-day interaction, there was a little to none unless it was a put down. When I think back to my childhood, there was never a time when my dad spent any quality one on one time with either my brother or me. He really did not know us, our interests or hobbies, nor did he make any attempt to show he wanted to build a bond with us or be interested in our lives and development. In fact, he spent more quality one on one time with my pet parakeet. Every night, when he would get home from work, he would spend about 30 minutes to one hour downstairs in the bird’s room, talking to Willie my parakeet, playing with him, and having one on one time with his favorite child… my parakeet Willie.  He never did that with Ed or me. In fact, he barely even said anything to either of us when we were at the dinner table. How does this even make any sense? So now, fast forward to 36 to 43 years later, and he suddenly has all kinds of opinions about my child, his grandchild! And that, when I think about it, is very infuriating. 

So no, I’m not going to put up with them.  And no, I am not going to deal with the fact that they have zero sense of humor and are stuck in their ways, and think that their parenting is the best. Because as you can see from the above, it is clear that their parenting is not the best.

Morning neediness

Each morning for the last couple of weeks since we’ve been stretching Kaia’s sleep, I’ve began the morning with my usual oatmeal and tea, and Chris will prop Kaia up in her Baby Bjorn chair. I will sit with her, talk to her, sing songs to her, makes faces to her, and “exercise” with her by moving around her arms and legs. I will do this all while connected to my pump for my daily morning power pump, when I’m essentially connected to my breast pump on and off for about an hour and fifteen minutes. She’s always been very alert during this time and very much seemed to absorb all the interactions, closely studying my facial expressions and movements. I’ve really enjoyed this time, especially since she is full, so she doesn’t usually need more food, and I can enjoy time with her while also simultaneously pumping milk for her. So it’s kind of like a two-in-one benefit time.

However, I’ve noticed that as she’s gotten older, she’s gotten a bit needier. Most of the time, she’s fine to babble to herself and wiggle around on her lounger on her own, but while in the chair during these mornings, the minute I leave to go double boil my chai, reheat my tea, or go to the bathroom, she will start yelling out or wailing. Sometimes, even when I break my eye contact with her and look down at my breasts to do breast compressions while pumping, she will even scream at me! I feel sad when she does this because I know she wants the interaction and attention, but at the same time… Mama has got to get shit done and cannot always be attentive with her every second!

Hot tub time

Since the baby has been born, Chris has been insistent that we do little things to indulge ourselves and relax. One of those things is to make sure that our freezer always has ice cream in it. For him, it means going to the pool regularly to have his morning swim. He started this probably about the time when he went back to work. For me, it has meant occasionally making time to go up to our roof to enjoy the Jacuzzi, or going to the gym to do a 30 minute workout between nursing and pumping after my six-week postpartum checkup.

Today, I went up to the roof to enjoy a quick 15 minutes of the Jacuzzi. And, if I understand the way that hot tubs work, it is normal and expected to have the jets going. That means that there is plenty of water pressure for aching muscles and for relaxation. Having them on always feels good, especially given I have had achy muscles from gradually returning to the gym and working out. My hips have felt strange, and my core and thigh muscles are definitely feeling the transition into working out again. So you can imagine how surprised and weirded out I was when an older woman was in the Jacuzzi without the jets going, and I turned them on when I went in. The jets were going for about 10 minutes when she said to me that she wanted to turn them off for just about five minutes and then she would leave. She said that she just wanted to relax and that the jets were not relaxing.

I gave her a strange look and said it was fine  since I had to leave soon anyway, but in my mind, I was thinking: if you find the jets of a jacuzzi stressful, I really wonder what the hell kind of life you have led? 

This woman, along with her roommate, who is also an older woman, are often times up on the roof enjoying the pool and the Jacuzzi. Our handyman who is also our friend told us that the two of them were formerly doctors before they got retired and as friends, they decided that they would live together and rent an apartment together for company. That sounds like a great way to ensure that they are not lonely in their old age, but honestly, they are both a little neurotic and ridiculous. Yesterday, when I was up on the roof and trying to enjoy the Jacuzzi again, the same woman was in the Jacuzzi while her friend was getting out of the pool. The Jacuzzi has a setting where residents of this building can turn on and off the jets with a timer. The same woman was in the Jacuzzi without the jets and I turned the jets on and set the timer to 15 minutes. Her friend coming out of the pool got alarmed when I turned the jets on, and she looked at me with this crazed expression and asked if I had turned the temperature up on the Jacuzzi. I told her that it was not possible for us to control the temperature of the Jacuzzi and that instead, I had turned on the jets/timer. She was about to enter the Jacuzzi until we had this exchange, and even after I responded to her, she said to her friend/roommate that she was not comfortable getting into the Jacuzzi with the change I had made and would go immediately back to their apartment. I am not sure what the hell makes her think that any building would allow any resident to actually control the heat of a hot tub… Allowing residents to ultimately boil each other to death, but hey, it’s her neuroses that is preventing her from enjoying, and I really did not care.

So, while I do believe that it is cute that these two older women have decided in their golden years to become roommates, a la The Golden Girls, it is just unfortunate that they are both a bit psychotic and slightly spoiled my own relaxed time away from child care duties and pumping.

The big sister I never had

One of my good friends from my last company has been an invaluable support to me since before I even got pregnant and while I was on my IVF journey. She and her husband have graciously and generously given us literally a boatload of lightly used baby items, ranging from big, essential items such as our bassinet to our baby lounger to our car seat cozy to swaddle blankets. These are items that we have literally used every single day since the baby has come home. And instead of getting us a baby gift, she and her husband gifted Chris and me a delicious food delivery order from a food startup that tries to support refugees and spreads the word about their diverse cultures represented in New York City.

On top of that, she has given me a ton of reassurance every step of the way. For example, two days after the baby was born, I noticed that there were hard lumps on both of my breasts, and I immediately just assumed that I was experiencing clogged milk ducts. I freaked out a little bit, took a bunch of sunflower lecithin pills, and proceeded to massage them out with heat. It actually hurt, too. I told Chris, and of course he was sympathetic and tried to tend to the baby as much as possible while I kept on massaging my breasts. I was already getting scared that I was going to get mastitis, and I texted her to tell her. She told me that given it was so close after giving birth, there was no way that I could already have a clogged milk duct. The lumps that I was experiencing were likely just signs of my milk coming in, as that often times is what it feels like. It can also feel like your breasts are just getting rock hard. These are all good signs, she insisted to me. Your milk is coming in! I was immediately relieved and got really excited. I really wanted to be able to breast-feed my child and know for a fact that she was actually getting milk when she was at my breast.

Last week, she knew that I was feeling overwhelmed with Chris back at work, so she offered to come over to help relieve me by helping with bottle feeds and anything else that I might need help with. She proactively offered to do everything, from chopping vegetables to even cleaning my apartment. There was no way I was going to let her clean my apartment, so I asked if she could help with bottle feeding the baby. She knew that I was missing my Asian greens, so she went to Flushing the morning she came over and picked up four different types of Asian vegetables just for me, on top of stopping by one of my absolute favorite Chinese restaurants to get me some shengjianbao, or fried Shanghainese dumplings, as well as HK style noodles. I felt really overwhelmed by her generosity and kindness. It was like she was trying to take care of me when she knew that I was feeling inadequate and in need of some TLC. When she came over, we caught up and talked about a lot of things, mostly around motherhood, balancing child care and having a child in general with having an actual life. I often times look at her like the big sister I never had; I am so grateful that I have her.

First visit from my cousin, his wife, and son

I had been dreading my cousin and his family coming over. They live fairly close, just right across the park on the Upper East Side, but his entire marriage and the way he and his wife have raised their son just screams dysfunctional. She blames him for everything, and he blames her for everything. Each sees themselves as a victim and the other as the reason for their misery. It’s truly a match made in hell, and you wonder how these two people even got married and had a kid together. There is very little joy in meeting up with them. The last time I had seen them, I went to help them move from their old apartment on the Upper West Side to the new place on the east side. Every time my cousin asked his wife a question, she would ignore him. When I would ask her something or tell her something, she’d immediately respond. Well, nothing had changed, as this same situation repeated itself when they showed up today. It was made even more awkward by the fact that their son was with them, and he is not totally all there. The baby was clearly with me, and he asked where the baby was. He had no interest in seeing or really interacting with my child at all even though he claimed he did when he walked in. And his mother was constantly grabbing and holding him even though he’s almost 10 years old. All of them kept their masks on the entire time, and seemingly were too scared to touch anything in our apartment in fear that we would likely give them COVID. They wouldn’t even take a glass of water from us to drink. My cousin barely even looked at my child and was on his phone almost the entire time.

So yeah, that was a fun and riveting visit. At least they dropped off two brand new play mats for my baby.

Baby’s first bath by mama

If you can believe it or not, tonight was the very first time I bathed my baby. My baby is over two months old, and since the day she was born, we have had a night nurse come about four nights a week who has taken care of her baths. Because of that, I have actually never bathed her. For the first week of her life, her umbilical cord was still intact, and you are not supposed to bathe your baby or submerge her body in water when the cord is still intact. Instead, you are supposed to give the baby sponge baths and avoid getting water around her belly button, which could get infected. Our night nurse took care of all of this, and so we never had to worry about her belly button getting infected.  Our night nurse Cheryl is leaving us to go to her next client who booked her far in advance, and so tonight was her very last night with us. On her last night, she suggested that I bathe the baby and that she watch. And so, I bathed my baby for the very first time.

 Kaia loves her baths. The very first bath she had after her umbilical cord fell off, she was really pissy and hated it. She screamed and yelled and cried from the beginning until the end. Her second bath was much more pleasant with just a little bit of crying. And her third bath onward, she loved it as though it was a luxurious spa experience. Her little bathtub came with a newborn sling, as well as two additional accessories: one bottle with little holes in it to drizzle water all over her, as well as a little whale with tiny holes in it to sprinkle water over her body as entertainment. She absolutely loves her tiny little whale and having water sprinkled all over her head. This is probably her favorite part of the bath, as she really just laps it up and has endless smiles.

So I bathed Kaia this evening, and while I enjoyed it, I realized that I felt a little bit disabled because my hands hurt while keeping her body upright and especially when turning her over to get her back. It was hard for me to have a good grip on her body especially, while flipping her over to wash her back. It would have been easier to have two people do this. Since that experience, our new night nurse Annie has given a couple of tips in terms of making sure that the grip is strong on her body when flipping her over while she’s wet: use a dry washcloth on her chest when you flip her over so that your hand is gripping the washcloth instead of her slippery body. And then, keep the wet washcloth on her back. This will ensure a grip on both sides so that you don’t accidentally dropped the baby or lose grip.

These night nurses know everything.

Visits to meet our baby while she is being nursed

Last weekend, a friend and his wife came over to visit Kaia for the first time. Given she feeds so often, as in every three hours, and I nurse her during the day, I am pretty open about the fact that my breasts will be out, and no, I will not cover them up. I’m in my own damn house, so I need to be comfortable. So I tend to preface all visitors with this message: Just giving you the head’s up that my nipples will be out, so hope you’ll be comfortable with that!

So they came and visited for a short duration while I nursed Kaia on one breast and had my Haakaa breast pump that pumped and caught milk drops on the other breast. I felt totally comfortable during this while we chatted. But afterwards, Chris said that they were both extremely awkward; my friend was doing his very best to look away from the direction of my breasts, and his wife was trying hard to be extremely polite, staring straight ahead as though actively avoiding my view.

I wish that as a culture, we could be more open minded and “normal” about breast/chest feeding. It’s really not that big of a deal. This is how animals feed their children. There is absolutely nothing sexual or inappropriate or questionable about seeing a person breast/chest feeding their baby in the presence of other people. If I saw them staring at my breasts while I fed my baby, I really would not care. This is human and animal nature and thus is natural. Americans need to stop being so prudish about something that is just natural: feeding one’s child.