Solid foods competition among babies

As of today, Kaia has already been exposed to 64 different types of solid food, and we have not yet reached her 8-month birthday, or two full months of solid foods exposure. Given that food, and a variety of food, is integral to my being, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I was going to focus on this for my baby. But I shared this with a friend, who has a baby who is about 4 months older than Kaia, and she was really shocked that our baby was eating that many types of food. She started feeling bad, saying that her baby, who is half Mexican and half Bangladeshi, is really behind in the food arena and “eats like a white baby, which we need to start changing ASAP.” So today, she sent me a video of her son’s first time at almost 1-year of age, finally eating spiced dal with rice. Before this, he’d never been exposed to many spices at all. And in the video, it was pretty clear he was not a fan and started shaking his head rapidly and pushing the spoon away.

I didn’t mean to start a competition or a “keeping up with the Jones’s” mentality with solid foods, but apparently, I have incidentally had that effect now.

Rolling, crawling, and eventually walking

Being a mother is definitely the most tiring job one can have, especially while your child is still a baby and 100% dependent on you. But it’s also one of the most gratifying jobs, especially when you are able to watch your child grow and develop. Even the littlest things that my baby does fascinate me as I observe her. Lately, she’s been working on pushing her butt up into the air and getting on all fours, likely so that she can attempt to crawl. She is not quite crawling yet, but is more pushing and sliding her body around the mat to move places. Sometimes, it looks like she’s going to start doing push ups. Other times, she looks like she’s doing downward dog, the yoga pose, or trying to do a side plank by lifting one arm high in the air for stability. I realized she puts her arm in the air for stability in an attempt to begin rolling, and it’s the cutest thing. And then, there are the times when, in Chris’s words, it looks like she is “dry humping” the floor, constantly coming up and down and pushing down. She’s learning her different body parts and how to properly use them.

I’ve also been standing her up on her two feet more over the last couple of weeks to see how stable she is while attempting to stand, and it’s clear she’s getting stronger and stronger. She is able to put a lot of weight on her two feet, and a few times, it actually felt like I could *almost* let go and have her stand on her own for maybe 2-3 seconds. It’s crazy to think that she is almost eight months old and now getting ready to crawl and eventually walk. My sweet little baby is growing up.

Living to exist vs. living to live

Chris has been pretty cognizant of the fact that his dad is turning 70 next year, plus his mom is in her late 60s. Because of this, for the last few years, he’s been urging them to retire fully. His dad works for himself, while his mom works three days a week, so part time, but he’s been insistent in telling them that they should both just stop work altogether to do all the things they enjoy doing, plus discovering and picking up new hobbies they always talk about but think they don’t have time for. They are both reluctant to retire, though. I think his dad just loves what he does (it’s amazing… he’s an accountant who LOVES being an accountant!). His mom doesn’t want to give up her medical license perks. I get it. But at the same time, his urging them to retire to pursue their passions reminds me that my dad is actually turning 74 in just a few days. That means that my mom is 68.

And while both of my parents are pretty much retired, they don’t pursue any passions and instead, seem to let each day pass them in their usual mundane way. They complain about everything from the weather, to people, to politics. They gossip. They ask about people but never ask those people they are asking about. It’s a pretty miserable existence when I think about it, especially since they are both financially set and could pretty much do whatever they want to do at this point, but they choose not to. They could remodel or renovate their home. They could travel. They could actually work on the yard and make it into the beautiful garden it once was when my grandma cared for it. But the truth is that… they don’t seem to take pride or joy in literally anything. Their house is dilapidated. The yard looks like a disorganized mess with piles of dirt everywhere, a few plants that seem to be doing well, but their appearance is marred by all the ugly dying plants surrounding them. That house and its yard are literally just dying. It always makes me a little sad when I go home. When I bring it up to my mom, she gets mad and says I am negative, “just don’t talk about that. You’re going to upset me.” She says it as though I am provoking her when all I am doing is asking… what the hell are you doing with your life?

So Chris summed up his urging his parents to retire like this: He wants them to actually live life, not to just exist…. the way my parents do. And while that seems like a blunt, stabbing kind of comment, the truth is that… well, it’s the truth. My parents are living just to exist each day with no real path to anywhere. I’m not saying we all need to have goals to achieve when we’re in the later half of our lives, but in the very least, there should be some motivation to do things that we actually enjoy and are passionate about. And they don’t seem to have that. And that makes me feel sad for them.

“Khana Khaya”

I was on a casual Zoom call with my team this afternoon to welcome a new colleague who joined our team. But I realize that most of us hadn’t really been on a call anytime recently to discuss non-work things. So an Indian colleague of mine asked me if the reason we named our daughter Kaia was for the Hindi phrase. I asked her, what Hindi phrase? And she said “khana khaya,” which is a way of greeting someone in Hindi to ask “Have you eaten yet?” So, she said to me, “khaya” in Hindi means “has eaten.”

I cracked up and could not stop smiling. WHAT? A version of the name we chose for our daughter actually means “to eat”??? How did we not know this? Or rather, how did Chris’s mother, who is fluent in Hindi, never tell us this? I was completely mind boggled by all of this new knowledge. This colleague totally made my day.

I hope my sweet baby Kaia grows up to be a voracious eater who explores and embraces all cultures’ foods.

Work travel in an endemic and while pumping

Once July started, work really kicked in on high gear. I was lucky to have a slow ramp back to work for my first two months, which I was grateful for, but once July started, which is the start of our Q3, everything felt like it started flooding in: endless enablement, new customers, more meetings. It really does feel like I am “back to work” fully now. Most days, I end feeling pretty tired, even when I haven’t had a lot of meetings. It’s more like the mental suck of being immersed in work. On the one hand, it’s good to be busy and I’m grateful to be employed, especially since so many companies are preemptively doing layoffs now, anticipating a recession. On the other hand, I kind of miss my slower days in May and June.

Well, for the first time since December 2019, I am actually traveling to a customer onsite again. And since February 2020, I am traveling for work again. Granted, it’s nothing big, as I’m just going to a suburb of New Jersey, but it’s meant planning for travel via New Jersey transit, booking train tickets and looking at train schedules, thinking about times to get an Uber to and from, coordinating a car pickup with a colleague… and alas, figuring out how to reconfigure my pumping schedule that day so that I can still pump right before I leave home. I’ll need to pump earlier, which will be annoying, but that’s part of being a working mom and not something I’ve had to get annoyed about just yet since I work from home. If I were in an office, pumping would be 100 million times worse than what I deal with today. My work from home setup with pumping is definitely the most comfortable. Hopefully when I get back from that meeting, though, my boobs won’t be too mad at me and end up engorged, though.

When a random stranger is supposedly more trustworthy than your best friend

I knew coming back to San Francisco with the baby would be annoying. I just didn’t really think about exactly how it would be annoying in the weeks leading up to the trip. I had already asked one of my best friends if I could borrow her kid’s Pack and Play, which was sitting in storage unused at her mom’s place in anticipation of baby number 2. This would give Kaia a safe place to sleep at my parents’ place. I already told my mom that I’d arranged this, but she didn’t listen. She claims that her “friend” is giving her a “like brand new” crib, plus a high chair. She wouldn’t share the name of this friend, nor how or why this person had a high chair or crib to begin with. That’s how I knew that these were both sourced from a random Craigslist person. My dad is addicted to Craigslist and getting free crap off of it. It’s like his one hobby that he actually follows through on because he rarely follows through on doing anything he says he will.

She called late last week, telling me to disregard my friend’s Pack and Play. “Tell her you don’t need it anymore,” she insisted. “This one is better. It’s like brand new. You can’t trust Rebecca. How do you know she kept hers clean?”

Seriously? She’s going to trust a random person off Craigslist over my best friend? I tried hard to remember what I learned from the Maturity Awareness Approach in the Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents book: 1) express, then let go, 2) manage, don’t engage. I calmly told her that I had already arranged to borrow my friend’s Pack and Play, and that we were still going to use it. She’s my best friend, and I trust her to keep things clean, especially things she’s allowing my baby to borrow. My mom denied this was true and tried to fight me on it, but I kept my cool and simply restated what I already said.. We are going to use the Pack and Play… in the exact same words. I was not going to engage with her bullshit.

“You don’t want the highchair?” my mom said, trying to change the subject.

“We are talking about the crib,” I said to her in a monotone. “We do not need your crib.”

“Okay, you’re in a bad mood right now, so we don’t have to talk,” she said, clearly mad. And then she hung up.

The truth was that I didn’t even get worked up. Was it annoying? Of course. But because I already expected her to try to exert control, I didn’t feel any need to change her mind or engage her and felt pretty calm the whole time. This is my baby, and my baby is going to have what I want for her, not what her deranged grandmother wants for her.

Time flies by so fast

Chris and I were pushing the baby in her stroller on Saturday afternoon in Inwood, and a mom passed us on the street and marveled at how cute Kaia was. “Enjoy it and soak in every minute!” she said, smiling. “It goes by so, so fast! I have two babies, and they are 16 and 18 now, just like that! It was like it was just yesterday! Where did my babies go??”

She’s right. It’s totally nuts. Kaia is already 32 weeks old, almost at her eight-month birthday. I was so proud of her yesterday when I presented steak to her. She had a big hunk she was sucking and chewing on, and after biting off two large pieces, she gagged a little on the first and spit it out with some coaching. She didn’t gag at all with the second piece, moved it around her mouth, tried to chew, and then eventually spit it out.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous watching her with that piece of steak in her mouth, which I knew she would not be able to swallow as it was without more chewing. I kept my exaggerated model of chewing and spitting out to show her what to do, and she seemed to get it. She’s catching on really fast. She still doesn’t have any teeth yet, but given how hard her gums are, I have a feeling a tooth is going to break out any day now.

It is work to teach her the basics of survival: how to chew, spit out, move food around her mouth. But these moments are the ones I live for. Watching her grow and evolve is the greatest gift I’ve ever had. Not a day has gone by when I have not given thanks for having her, especially when I know so many others who have struggled to conceive and still do not have their miracle baby. It easily could have been the case that I never even had a child. Every day, I feel like time is passing too quickly, like I don’t have enough time in a day to do everything I want. Something always seems like it needs to get done or fixed or cleaned. Or I have to pump or clean pump parts or do something else chore-like. Sometimes, I just want to sit and hold her and admire our little family, and that’s it. I guess this is what it’s like to be a working mom — never feeling like you have enough time for everything and always feeling like you could be doing more, for yourself, your baby, and your home.

Triggering books

Years ago, I read Khaled Hosseini’s book The Kite Runner and found it to be one of the most engaging stories I had read to date. His prose would quickly draw you in, and you really felt like you were immersed in the lives of his characters. I also learned a bit about living in Afghanistan and Afghani culture in general, which I had known little to nothing about. I always wanted to read his follow-up book, A Thousand Splendid Suns, but other books ended up taking priority in my book queue. I finally thought about this book the other day, so I checked on NYPL via the Libby app and found that it was available for loan, so I had it sent electronically to my Kindle.

Well, similar to The Kite Runner, this book drew me in right away.. as in, right on the first page. I read about 20 percent of the book until I realized I had to stop. The book is basically a mother-daughter story that depicts in gory detail how little rights women had in the 1970s and the Taliban takeover, which made women’s’ lives even worse than they already were.

The start of the story goes like this: a housekeeper for a very wealthy businessman, who has three wives and many children with those wives, gets pregnant by the businessman. He lies and says that the housekeeper pushed herself on him and he had no choice; we all know that’s bullshit. The housekeeper gets pregnant and keeps the baby. But everyone in town knows that the father of the child is this businessman. So the businessman spends every Thursday afternoon just outside of town with the kid as she grows up. When she’s 15, she asks him to take her to the cinema in town that he owns. He reluctantly agrees, but he never shows up. Her mother warns her that if she goes into town looking for him, she will kill herself. The girl ignores her mom. She goes into town looking for him and sleeps outside his mansion, waiting for him to show up. The servants say he is out of town when she tries to run into the courtyard, and she sees that he is actually there all along and allowed her to sleep on the streets.

She eventually goes back home… to find out her mom was true to her word: she hung herself by the tree outside their home.

And that’s when I had to stop. I can’t read this kind of story anymore. To see men get away with their abuses, mistreating women, women putting down other women (the wives were jealous and didn’t want to have anything to do with the housekeeper, or even the girl after her other died), and knowing that Afghanistan is still being run by the Tailban today makes me sick. That’s on top of the fact that women’s rights are eroding right here in the U.S. is too much to handle. I used to be able to read books that were this heavy and remove myself from them, but now, I can’t any longer. Today, living in the U.S. feels like a dystopia. Plus, I’m a mother now myself, and I feel like I’ve become way more sensitive to everything as a result of this.

So I returned the book electronically and checked out a Japanese thriller in its place. Hopefully, that will be more fun.

Data and “The Google”

My nanny occasionally has mini rants about young moms of today, first time moms, and in general, moms of this generation. She likes to say every now and then that, “You moms don’t listen to us nannies who have 20+ years of experience. Instead, all you do is listen to your doctors and the Google.” I tried to explain to her that the Solid Starts website and app was based on research and study done on thousands of babies… while nannies certainly have experience caring for and feeding babies, no nanny on this planet has ever cared and fed thousands of babies. That just would not be possible. She rolled her eyes at me, indicating she didn’t really care for or believe what I was saying. She just thinks I’m being defensive. And that’s fine. But I’m still her boss. 😛

We do agree on some things with feeding the baby, though: it’s important to model chewing and spitting out in an exaggerated way so that babies understand what they do when they have different textures in their mouth. We need to give babies more credit for how much they absorb in watching us do everyday things, including handling, chewing, and swallowing food. They need to understand the “map of their mouth” to know how to safely digest food and not choke: food on the front of the tongue is for tasting; food further back on the tongue is getting ready to go down and get swallowed. Pureed food doesn’t teach babies to chew; it only has them swallow. Chewing is important for basic survival, and knowing how to chew and chew well opens up babies to an entire universe of foods that are not only nutritious but tasty. Oftentimes, babies and toddlers will develop aversions to different food textures, and it’s because they just weren’t exposed to it much or at all early on.

So my nanny can say what she wants about “the Google,” but all these points are not only backed by data, but logically, it just makes sense when you think about how human beings eat.

Nine years later.

Dear Ed,

It’s the 9-year anniversary of when you bid farewell to this earthly world and left all of us. I can’t believe this much time has passed since I last heard your voice, since the last time I saw your face… your sad face. Some days, it feels like an eternity since I last saw you. Other days, it feels like just yesterday.

This time last year, I was pregnant with your little niece. And now, she’s over seven months old, thriving more than I ever could have imagined. She’s crawling, rolling, eating solid food, babbling and laughing. Sometimes, I see you when I look at her face. Sometimes, I imagine what your reaction would be to hear that she was born healthy and safe. I imagine what it would have been like to have you meet her in person for the first time, knowing she’s your little niece, your little sister’s baby. And these thoughts crush me. I try not to think about it too much because it gets me emotional and teary, and since she was born, almost everything makes me want to cry. I guess Kaia’s birth has made me even more in touch with my feelings, especially the sad and happy ones. I wish you could meet her and be a part of her earthly life.

I hope to raise her to be curious, thoughtful, empathetic, generous, and kind. I hope to share stories of you with her so that you will still be a part of her life, even if she will never meet you in person. I’m not sure if she will be able to have the privilege of having a sibling as I did with you, which makes me sad because I know I benefited so much from having you as my sibling in my life. Occasionally, I still have moments when I feel extremely lonely knowing you’re gone, knowing I have no living siblings. I don’t know if Kaia will feel that way if she has no siblings. But I think about the future, about our parents slowly growing older and needing care and support. And though money isn’t an issue for them, someone will need to facilitate all of that. And that burden is on my shoulders… my shoulders alone. It would have been more easy to fathom if you were still here so that we could support each other and grow old through life together. But you’re gone.

My heart is heavy. Kaia’s birth and presence every day is a reminder to me of my own mortality. She reminds me how quickly time is passing. Every minute that passes is another minute closer to death. Every minute gone is another minute lost. Sometimes, I just want to freeze time. Sometimes, I just want to go back in time and see you again, say and do other things to and with you. But I can’t. I won’t be here forever, and one day I’ll join you wherever you are.

Did you ever ask… what is this all worth? Why am I still here? Why do I still want to be here? Or were you so deep in your pit that you just stopped asking questions because the hurt was too much? I get it. I get it. Recently, I’ve been asking myself what I’m doing with my own life, or if I’m making the right decisions, or if I’m doing the best I can for baby Kaia. She gives me a new purpose in life, though. I’ve never realized how happy I could be until she arrived. Now I understand what other mothers say when they say that they can see their hearts beating outside their chests. She’s my little heart.

I will do my best to take the very best care of her and to have your spirit live on through the both of us. You will always be a part of our lives, Ed. I love you forever. Kaia will love you, too.