The nanny search

We decided we would hire a full time nanny for when I go back to work as opposed to putting our baby in daycare. Given that I work from home at my current company, the transition to going back to work would be less painful for me given that I could still see the baby throughout the day between meetings if we had a nanny looking after her. And that was important to me given my remote work situation. If I didn’t have to go to an office, then why not have a nanny be here with her during the day?

The search was looking up initially. I had two solid leads and one “okay” lead that we had trial dates scheduled for. But then, out of nowhere, one of them bailed and said that she couldn’t start at the end of April. The second one, within a couple days later, told me she accepted a position with a family that she had done a trial with two weeks before that she didn’t think she’d hear back from. And then I was left with my third choice, which I wasn’t that enthused by given these first two didn’t work out. So I sunk into a hole and wondered if I’d ever find the right fit for my baby.

Chris found a site called Mommy Bites where parents can pay to recommend and list their nannies who are ending with them, so I used that site and ended up finding a lot of solid leads. Around the same time, I got a new lead from the Upper West Side Moms group. Now, we have about six potential nanny candidates who all seem to fit what we are looking for: passionate about babies, interested in baby learning and development, and generally easy going and relaxed. If you can believe it, one used to be a chef in Belize, but when she immigrated here, it wasn’t that easy for her to find a job in food. So she decided that because she loved kids that she would become a nanny. All her references have raved about her energy and interaction with their kids, and they even said that she cooked for the kids AND the families. She’d whip up gourmet meals out of scraps in their fridge. And when I scheduled the trial date with her, she asked if we could leave chicken and vegetables in the fridge so she could cook for us.

Guess who I am partial to?

When six pumps a day becomes five

Today is my fourth day doing five pumps a day, and I really wasn’t expecting to be reducing it down to five pumps a day this soon. My original goal was to get down to five pumps a day before I went back to work, with my sixth pump dropped from the middle of the night, ultimately allowing me to sleep at least 6 to 7 hours straight at night. I know there would have been no way for me to survive working full-time while also caring for my baby without a full night’s sleep, and so this was what I decided to do for myself.  Given that my supply actually went up when I went down to six pumps per day from seven, I decided to start weaning myself sooner rather than later off of my sixth pump. And after about a week and a half, I cut that sixth pump out. I was scared initially, particularly about getting yet another milk clog, but I made sure to take extra sunflower lecithin pills as well as massage my breasts thoroughly as soon as I woke up, as per the recommendation from my Cleo lactation consultant. And so far, so good. My supply has remained a similar, and if anything, it has actually increased slightly.

I feel really good at five pumps per day now. I hope to be doing this now until at least 7 to 8 months postpartum. My original goal was six months, but given how balanced I feel right now and how less overwhelmed I feel with pumping at five pumps per day, I think I can keep this up for longer. I hope I can be giving my baby breastmilk until she is one year old. I am anticipating my supply dropping once my period comes back as it does with most breastfeeding moms, but that’s okay. I have made peace with all of that.

I actually felt a little bit sad as I dropped my sixth pump, as strange as that sounds. You would think that given I had such a love-hate relationship with pumping that I would be really excited every single time I dropped another pump. But instead, it actually made me feel a little bit empty and emotional. Because as I continue to drop pumps, I will get closer and closer to the stage when my baby no longer needs breastmilk and will be eating solids 100 percent. And what this actually means is that she will be less reliant on me. There is an inner joy and comfort that I feel knowing that my body is producing food for my baby to eat. I am providing her with essential nutrients and more. And to know that eventually, this journey will come to an end makes me a little bit sad; her reliance on my body for food will eventually come to an end. One day, she is not going to need me to comfort her by having her suckle on my boob. One day, she is not going to need me to carry her around anymore. One day, she is not really going to want to bury her face in my chest or be soothed simply from the sound of my voice speaking or singing. All of these moments are going to come to an end at some point. It’s a little sad to think about it that way. All of these little moments that I love and cherish are eventually going to end.

Every day, as she gets older, she will be a little bit less reliant on me. Now, she has very good neck strength and needs just a little bit of neck support. Next, she will no longer need us to carry her around because she will be able to walk. Then, she will be able to talk. And eventually, she will be going around the city on her own and doing her own thing. She will gradually become more and more independent and less dependent on us as her parents. And this is all a journey. This is all part of raising a child and giving life. There is a time for everything, and each of those times eventually ends. I just want to sit in each of these moments a little bit longer and cherish it because it really does all go way too fast. I still can’t even believe this is her sixteenth week of life. It all just passes us by too quickly.

One year anniversary of the embryo transfer

Today marks one year since I had my frozen embryo transfer. That tiny little embryo, that little bundle of cells that were expanding, ended up being a little baby that I gave birth to in December and now call my sweet baby Kaia. I got the photo memory on my phone this morning, and I smiled to myself while looking at it at the gym. I had a lot of hope and a lot of fear that morning when I went into the clinic for my transfer. During the transfer, per my request, they played Lady Gaga songs to inspire me. And when I went home that night, Chris and my friend who was staying with us at the time tried to send good vibes and declared me “pupo”: pregnant until proven otherwise. And so for the next week and a half, I was just that: I was Pupo. And about a week in, I started feeling a strange warmth almost like a light fire creeping up on my hips. And that was when I suspected that the embryo transfer was successful, that I was actually pregnant. And nine days after the transfer happened, I went into the clinic for my very first beta , and at just before noon that day, the nurse called with the good news that I was four weeks pregnant. I was so happy and so shocked that I immediately got choked up and started crying. It felt like an eternity – trying to get pregnant, constantly failing, going to the clinic constantly for endless appointments and endless blood tests and endless uterine scans … And finally this one bit of good news was more than I could handle.

The photo of me that came up on my phone was of me on the evening after the embryo transfer. I have a photo that the clinic gave me of my embryo and expanding as you can clearly see in the picture. I have it placed right at my belly and I’m smiling in the photo. When I took that photo, I wasn’t sure what would come next. I wasn’t sure if I would continue to get good news in the upcoming appointments. Every time I went to the bathroom, I was terrified that I was going to see blood , which would indicate that I’d had a miscarriage. It took me a really long time to not get nervous going to the bathroom. But eventually, my nerves were calmed, and I started getting more comfortable with being pregnant. It’s amazing to think how quickly time flies because those scary and uncertain times feel like they were just yesterday.

 And now today, I am still on maternity leave caring for my sweet baby. Every day, I look at her constantly obviously, and I never forget how much uncertainty and fear I had during this journey in conceiving and giving birth to her. I never for a second forget how scary that process was, and I never take for granted what I have; I know I am extremely lucky. There are endless women out there who are trying to get pregnant and not able to, and they would love to have just one chance to conceive successfully.  I feel for them every day. I know their pain intimately. So even when my baby is screaming and crying because of her pre-teething pain, even when it has made me sad that she has not been successful at eating directly from my boob, even when she blows out yet another diaper and I have to pre-soak more of her onesies, even when I get pissed at my pumping schedule, and even when Chris and I are disagreeing and arguing about something baby related, I remember that what I have today is truly a blessing, a gift for which I will forever be grateful. My baby is truly the center of my world, and there is nothing else that I am more grateful for in this life than her. Sometimes I look at her, and I think, fuck everything else. She is literally everything to me and nothing else matters. My sweet little Kaia jam.

Paranoia around masking

I was getting ready to go to the gym this morning when I was in the elevator going down, and the elevator stopped at the 11th floor. A woman who was in a big coat wearing a face mask looked at me and was a bit wide eyed. She told me that she would just wait for the next elevator and that I could go ahead. I figured that she didn’t want to get in the elevator with me because I was not wearing a mask. But then again, our building had removed our mask mandate weeks and weeks ago. This basically aligned with when New York City had removed its mask mandate. And so the fact that I was not wearing a mask should not have been surprising. However, there is still a lot of paranoia around COVID-19 and all of the different variants that seem to still be coming out, and so of course, there are going to be people who are germaphobic, paranoid and are not going to want to be in small, cramped spaces like elevators with people who are not wearing a mask. I get it. I don’t really mind it. In the beginning when the mask mandate got removed, I was a little bit wary as well. I still wanted to wear a mask when I went into stores. But Chris got mad at this, and he insisted that I not wear a mask. He says that we are no longer in a pandemic, that instead, we are actually in an endemic, and that because of that, we would need to learn to live with COVID-19 as the new normal that’s just part of our lives. And anyway, we are all triple vaccinated other than a baby, so fingers crossed that the worst would not happen to us. 

Anyway, so I went into the gym and was getting my elliptical set up when I heard a loud hard banging on the glass door entrance going into the gym. I turned around and saw the same heavy coated, masked woman there. I was wondering why the heck she was even standing there given that it was clear she was not getting ready to go to the gym, and so I went to the door and opened it for her.

“I just wanted to let you know that the reason I did not get into the elevator with you is because you were not wearing a mask, and I am not comfortable getting into the elevator with anyone not wearing a mask, “the woman said. “It had nothing to do with anything else. I just don’t want to be around people who are not wearing a mask. I don’t agree with the fact that the building removed the mask mandate. There is still a pandemic going on, and I’m just trying to be safe.”

I thought it was a little bit ridiculous that she got off on the third floor and went to the gym just to tell me this. I generally do not think the worst of people even though they piss me off all the time: I genuinely thought that she was not getting on the elevator with me because I was not wearing a mask, and based on what she said, I was right. Why, did she think that I thought that she didn’t get into the elevator because I was… Asian, or something else that she may be against? And also, I have no idea how old she is, but she looked a lot older than me. And once you get to a certain age, aren’t you supposed to stop caring what other people think? Not only is this woman paranoid about COVID-19, but it is clear that she is also paranoid about what other people think about her, even if those other people are total strangers like me who will likely never run into her ever again. Even if I were to see her again given that we live in the same building, chances are high that I would not even recognize her. People seriously need to stop all of their paranoia and just take a chill pill.

Postpartum itchy scalp

Women go through a lot of crap in their lives, particularly if they have to go through pregnancy and childbirth. While most people are aware of the pains and annoyances of pregnancy, not many people, other than those who have actually experienced it themselves, are aware of all the postpartum side effects that women face. Of course, while most logical and reasonably aware people would know that childbirth would require your uterus and vagina to heal, it is less well known that postpartum hormones can really go haywire after the birth of a child. Some of the potential things that can happen can include but are not limited to:  hot flashes, cold night sweats, mood swings, acne, hair loss, and a massively itchy scalp. Oh, that massively itchy scalp is actually affecting me literally as I write this.

A bunch of my friends and colleagues warned me about postpartum hair loss. This tends to be most common about 3 to 4 months after giving birth when most of the pregnancy hormones have left your body, and your body is starting to regulate once again into a non-pregnant body. If that happens, your hair can suddenly start falling out in huge clumps. While I have not yet experienced any hair loss that is notable, fingers crossed, I have repeatedly experience a scalp that is so itchy that all I want to do is scratch it until I bleed. And the most annoying part is that whenever it gets super itchy, it’s when I am supposed to be resting. 

When I actually have a quiet moment and can lie down and not use my arms or hands at all, that is when I itch the most. And it drives me absolutely nuts because all I want to do is rest. I don’t have that much time to rest during the day or night. And so it’s like my body is trying to mess with me and tell me that I’m not allowed to rest, and and instead, it is going to drive me crazy by making my scalp itch. That is just not fun at all for me. I wash my hair about 2 to 3 times a week, and if the itchiness continues, I may actually have to increase the number of times I wash it, which I absolutely hate because I hate washing my hair. It is one of the self grooming things that I abhor. It is annoying to wash my hair particularly because ever since I started dying it, I get massive knots trying to get my fingers through my hair while I am washing. And the knots are super frustrating. That’s why during the very few times during the year when I actually get my hair done, I am so happy to have someone else wash my hair for me.

Oh, postpartum life.

Grain bowls and how they became a thing

As I am slowly but surely (and unfortunately) approaching my return to work date, I am also weaning myself off of my sixth pump per day, and that sixth one is my middle of the night pump. And as I wean myself off of pumps, I am also slowly but surely returning to my old self before having a baby, as in, I actually have interests outside of my baby that I’d like to revisit. I want to read books. I want to cook and research different things I want to make. These are all the things I used to do before I had a baby. My mind is slowly but surely becoming clearer so that I can think about these things more often once again.

One of the things that I have been prepping over the last few days has been bibimbap, which is just Korean for “mixed rice.” Traditionally, it is just a dish that Korean moms would whip up when they had random odds and ends in their fridge and needed to clean out leftovers. Of course, as with many of these types of things, it ended up becoming a very popular dish in Korean restaurants. The traditional components of what goes in it include: beef, spinach, bean sprouts, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, rice, and a gochuchang-based sauce to bring it all together. You can also top it with a fried egg. And in restaurants, it is often times served in a hot stone bowl, which creates a nice crunchy rice bottom that I absolutely love. 

Well, as I was prepping all of these ingredients in a combination of blanching in hot water, roasting in the oven, and sautéing on the stove, I realized that this dish is basically like the OG grain bowl. Or, when you think about it, what Asians eat traditionally are basically what grain bowls are based on; it’s just that what Asians eat in terms of how it sounds does not sound that exciting to the western mind. It needed to be branded as a “grain bowl“ in order to sell… To non-Asian people. Because what is it that we eat as Asians: mostly a lot of different dishes that can be poached or stir-fried or sauteed and then combined in a sauce with rice.

Rice is the basis of what most of us eat. And rice is just another grain. There is absolutely nothing new about this. The only thing that is new about grain bowls and them being sold in restaurants is the fact that they are now branded by non-Asian people to sell to non-Asian people. And when I think about it, I just think it’s a little bit ridiculous that people think this is some new thing that is so cool and trendy. Whenever I see grain bowls advertised on signs or in front of fast-casual lunch type restaurants in business areas, I just cringe a little bit and laugh to myself.

Perception vs. reality

This morning, I sat in my apartment building lobby with a bag containing Annie’s slippers, mask, and leftover opened snacks we got her. She asked me to meet her in the lobby instead of coming up to our apartment, as she had a scheduled train to catch at noon. When she finally arrived, she came with a large backpack in tow, likely to take a trip somewhere. We both apologized to each other for the miscommunication, and I told her that we really appreciated all her help, and that she clearly was amazing at her job, and we’d miss her. She told me that she’d be heading to Connecticut after this for a long weekend at her sister’s. And then, out of nowhere, she started tearing up.


“I love Kaia,” she said, teary-eyed, her voice breaking up. “I love you. I’m going to miss you and Kaia.”

On the one hand, I felt bad that things had to end this way. On the other hand, I was annoyed. If anyone who did not know this situation were to witness this exchange happening, it would appear as though I fired her and let her go. That is NOT the case at all; she is the one who left us, and quite abruptly, might I add! She gave up two days of pay, today and Sunday, just because she got mad at the principle of having four days a week vs. three. And I know she wouldn’t have found work that quickly. Plus, she was giving up work anyway now to go spend time with her sister, so clearly she would not be working this Friday or Sunday at all to fill in what she potentially would have missed with us. Yet somehow, she was the one crying at the end of this even though she also admitted she could have been clearer about her expectations. I really did love having her; in many ways, she was far more thorough and meticulous in her job than Cheryl was. She really did give her all with her families, as she said.

But this is the way it is when you hire people to help you. Misunderstandings happen. We are all human, after all. Situations like this unfortunately are more common than not, as my friend reminded me.

“That shit happens all the time!” my friend exclaimed. “It’s SO awkward! That’s why we stopped having a nanny and just put the kids in daycare!”

de Quervain’s tenosynovitis

Months ago, when I was sharing with my colleagues that I was pregnant, all of my colleagues, particularly my mom colleagues, were very excited for me. The ones who knew that I had dealt with carpal and cubital tunnel warned me about mommy thumb, also known as de Quervain’s tenosynovitis. They warned me not to throw away my wrist splints (as at that point, I didn’t need to wear them regularly anymore given I had managed to get rid of the daily pain) and to save them in case I might need them after the baby came. One of them told me she even had to start seeing a physical therapist for some relief because the condition nicknamed “mommy thumb” was so painful. I knew I had given myself this when I tried to do a thumb’s up motion on my right hand and completely failed. When I tried to move my thumb in circles upwards, I was feeling an unpleasant popping sensation in the tendons in my wrist directly under my right thumb. And that was when I knew that I had pinpointed my wrist problem: this has nothing to do with carpal tunnel. This was a completely different situation. And in some way as strange as it sounds, I am happy that has it has nothing to do with carpal tunnel because carpal tunnel is a nerve issue. Mommy thumb is a tendon issue, which I am hoping is easier to heal.

New parents are most susceptible to this condition, which is a form of tendinitis in the thumb and wrist. They get it because of the repetitive motions of caring for their babies, particularly in lifting them up using their thumb and pointer fingers. Well, I rarely lifted my baby that way in the last 15 weeks because it wasn’t until relatively recently that she had a decent hold of her head and good neck strength. Instead, how did I give myself this? Well, it all goes back to the same thing that I’ve been complaining about and been frustrated with pretty much since the beginning: pumping milk. All of the hand expression that I have been doing to prime my breasts for my electric pump have ultimately been responsible for not only the numbness in my fingertips, but also this mommy thumb condition. Pumping is also responsible for aggravating my cubital tunnel, simply from the repetitive motion of placing my flanges in the right position on my breasts every day for at least 6 to 7 times a day in the last 15 weeks, as well as doing breast compression while pumping.

Well, the numbness in my fingertips is slowly going away because I have been less aggressive about doing breast compressions… Partly out of laziness, and partly just because I’ve been more gentle on myself in terms of my output. And with mommy thumb, there are very specific stretches and exercises to do to help the condition, and I even just purchased a thumb splint, which is basically a wrist splint with another splint for the thumb. I did a massage that was specific for my wrist, and while it seem to help, it likely gets worse before it gets better. The next day after I did this massage on myself a few times, I felt really sore in my wrist. The specific stretch I found online definitely helps it feel better. And I have been icing my wrist as well.

More mommy injuries. It just keeps coming.

First outsourced childcare failure

Before becoming a parent, I had frequently heard about all kinds of childcare failures: nannies or baby nurses that just stop showing up, daycare centers suddenly shutting down without notice or sending babies home, stat; babysitters cancelling last minute, and even family members and friends who babysat having major meltdowns with the kids. I figured that at some point, something like this would happen to us. I just was not anticipating it happening this soon.

When Annie started working with us after Cheryl left, I had told her at the beginning that we wanted her to come at night. And I told her that when the baby started sleeping through the night, we would start shifting night support to daytime support, but I wasn’t certain of the number of days that we needed help with because it was so far into the future. A common way that I repeatedly started statements with her was, “We’re not sure, but…” Well, it wasn’t that far into the future as I thought, as the baby has started sleeping through the night in the last week. So that’s why we started having Annie come during the day last week. In total, she was still working four days a week with us. But given that we were shifting 100 percent to daytime support, I personally did not think that four days was needed, particularly since both of us are still on family leave. And now that I am unfortunately counting down the weeks until I have to go back to work, this has made me feel very unsettled and emotional knowing that I will no longer be able to spend this much time with my baby once I go back to work. So the thought of having daytime support four days a week, which is just one day less than five days a week when I would be working, just did not make any sense to me.  With that logic, why don’t I just go back to work now?! And so I thought that we could try doing three days a week with Annie.

Apparently, something got lost in translation, and Annie never thought that we would reduce the total number of days that she would work with us. She flipped out when we told her that we did not want her to come a fourth day this week, and she sent me a very distraught text message late at night on Tuesday to let me know that she felt that we had not told her the truth and misled her all along. The next day, we talked it out over the phone, and we both admitted that we could have been a little bit clearer about the communication. I could have explicitly told her that we eventually did not want four total days of support per week. At the same time, she could have also explicitly told me that she needed to work four days a week, and a minimum of 40 hours a week. That was never told to me, otherwise I would have said that this may not be a fit, particularly since I had interviewed other people who were more flexible in terms of the number of hours and had explicitly told me so. So, she was supposed to come this Friday, and because she was so hurt, she decided that she would rather forgo an entire day’s worth of pay rather than work with us one last day. In the end, she is losing a day’s worth of pay because it is highly unlikely that she would have found work that soon, but we also lost: we have a show that we booked for Friday night, and now, we don’t know how we are going to see it without any help. And what’s worse… In the last couple of days, our baby has been super fussy when we put her down to bed after her last feed at around 8 PM, and this is a new development. Chris is not comfortable asking anyone we know who has offered babysitting to deal with this fussiness. And it also makes us apprehensive to have a babysitter come and deal with this.

So what the hell are we supposed to do?

Fatty milk

Ever since I reduced the number of pumps down from seven pumps per day to six, my output per pump has increased dramatically, plus my overall daily output has also gone up, much to my excitement. I am basically producing 2 to 3 ounces more per day with six pumps a day as opposed to seven, which makes me super happy. What also makes me happy? Looking at my pump output at a given session and seeing such full bottles. No one could relate to the happiness at looking at these fuller breast milk bottles then a pumping mama. This is a fact.

In addition to that, when I put these bottles in the fridge to cool down before combining with other milk that I have expressed and into the bottles that the baby will eventually drink, because the bottles are so full of milk, now, I can see a clearer separation between the foremilk and hindmilk. These two types of milk are exactly what they sound like: the foremilk is milk that you expressed at the beginning of a pump or nursing session. This milk is a lot thinner and less fatty. As you continue nursing or pumping, your body starts releasing the hindmilk, which is a lot thicker, creamier, and much whiter. The hindmilk has the most fat content. The hindmilk is ultimately what gets your baby full. And so the more hindmilk you have, the richer your overall milk is. And when you really look at the milk separation, sometimes the foremilk can look like it’s a blue color. You’re supposed to shake up the milk to ensure they are combined thoroughly before feeding baby.

And for the first time, this week, I saw the foremilk look a little light blue. But when you see the separation of the foremilk from the hindmilk, it was very clear that the hindmilk made the vast majority of the bottle, whereas the foremilk was a teeny tiny proportion. And this made me feel so proud and happy: I have super fatty breast milk! My milk is fatty! My baby is getting lots of good nutrition from my breastmilk that my body is producing. And that just feels like the best thing. It makes all of the pumping that I do feel worth it even though it has been extremely trying and mentally exhausting.