On day 7 of being ill

It’s now officially been a week of being sick. It’s been over a week of Pookster being sick, but the good news is that she’s on the mend, while I’m still hacking up phlegm. I contacted my OB-GYN to get a gastroenterologist referral (my primary care doctor has stopped accepting any insurance – how fun!), and the earliest appointment they had available was for next Thursday, so I made the appointment. I hope they will be able to shed some light on what I’ve been experiencing with coughing fits and endless mucus during every cold for the last six years.

It’s annoying to think about how I’ve brought this up to nearly every doctor (okay, not the OB-GYNs, but all the other primary care doctors I’ve spoken with), and not ONE of them has ever suggested I go see a specialist about this problem. Every single one of them has brushed this off, saying that different people have different reactions to different viruses. That’s always helpful and enlightening, isn’t it? It’s not supposed to be normal. But I guess that goes to show that you really need to advocate for yourself when you think something is wrong. Doctors aren’t incentivized to really help you, sadly. They’re just incentivized to get paid for your visit.

the battle of the blinds

The last month has been quite hot in New York. While we usually leave all the blinds open to enjoy the floor-to-ceiling windows in our living area, I had to start pulling a number of them down because the apartment was just getting too hot. Even with the air conditioner running, it was like it was still hot and and miserable in the apartment, as though the AC wasn’t even on! So I pulled down 3-4 of them and immediately noticed a temperature difference when I came back into the room.

Chris absolutely hates it when the blinds are closed. He wants as much natural light as possible around the clock. He doesn’t care that the light can bleach furniture or photos. He doesn’t care that it can interfere with how hard the AC has to work to cool the room. He just wants them all open, all day and all night long. We’re paying for these large windows, so we need to maximize the value of them, right? So when he saw that I pulled the binds down, he was not very happy. But, he recognized that yes, the apartment was actually cooler with the blinds drawn down. So he kept them down.. until night time, when he would, like clockwork, go to pull them up.

So now, this is what we do: on particularly hot days, I pull the blinds down at some point in the afternoon, and in the evening, he will pull them up again. It’s almost like a mini unspoken battle of the blinds in this apartment during the summer time. Even Pookster is fascinated with the blinds being drawn because she’s not used to seeing them move, ever!

Babies are resilient while adults suffer

After just a day of antibiotics, Kaia is already looking and sounding better. She’s talkative, babbling and saying real words constantly, and walking around the apartment as though she owns the place. She’s interacting with her toys and a couple of stuffed animals and demanding foods once again, so she’s back to her semi-normal self!

But me? Every time I think I am feeling better, I find myself running into the bathroom to cough up endless amounts of phlegm, and in the worst cases, kneeling over the toilet to throw up whatever I had just eaten. Doctor after doctor has told me that sometimes, different viruses just hit people differently, so I shouldn’t think too much of it. But is this really just the cold virus’s fault over the last six years since I first got silent reflux, or did something happen to me when I got that virus that changed something about my body?

I went to chat with the pharmacist at Duane Reade today to ask for his recommendations for my symptoms. He suggested that I get Mucinex with the cough suppressant, and Benadryl of all things. I wasn’t clear on the Benadryl since I thought that was supposed to be an allergy medication, but he told me that it helps with mucus production, too, and would dry it out for me while I slept. The Teladoc doctor I spoke with recommended a decongestant that would not help with mucus, and when I told the pharmacist this, he looked at me like I was nuts and clarified what that medication was for. It’s always fun to talk to incompetent doctors via Teladoc.

The mystery virus and now an ear infection

After what have now been eight days of Kaia being ill, I finally decided to schedule a doctor’s appointment for her to see if there was anything additional that could be done for her. To date, I think this is the longest she’s been sick without much improvement, other than a fever that has faded off. The last few nights were especially rough: our combined constant coughing and phlegm really made for near sleepless nights. Each morning, she’d wake up with endless snot encrusted all over her face, and even all over her eyes. This morning, I had to slowly and gently massage her eyes and eyelashes with a warm, wet face towel to dislodge all the caked on snot so that she could even open her eyes. That was not fun… for her or for me.

So Chris took her to the pediatrician’s office this morning for a sick visit. And after some examination, they came to the conclusion that she’s actually at the tail end of this bad cold virus, which seems to be affecting a lot of kids her age recently. They don’t know exactly what the cold virus is, but they ruled out COVID or RSV. But what we weren’t quite expecting: after examining her ears, they realized that all the mucus she had been experiencing had given her an ear infection, as the inside of her right ear was red. So, they gave her a 10-day course of antibiotics for the ear infection.

It’s actually amazing she’s been able to stay away from ear infections until now. Ear infections are extremely common among babies and toddlers because their immune systems are under developed and less equipped to fight off infections. Ear infections are caused by bacteria and usually begin after a child has had a sore throat, cold, or upper respiratory infection. In Kaia’s case, she has the most common ear infection type, which is acute otitis media (AOM), where parts of the middle ear are infected and swollen, and fluid is trapped behind the ear drum. The ear infection was a bit of a surprise since she hadn’t shown any signs of it (no pulling or touching of the ears), but at the same time, I also wasn’t surprised that this had happened given how long she’d been so miserable.

Hopefully there is some light at the end of this tunnel now, hopefully.

Daycare sickness woes

It is never fun to see your child suffering in any way, especially when they are ill, and there’s little to nothing you can do to take away the pain. As a parent, it’s almost ingrained in you to want to do something to alleviate the pain, but when kids are as young as Kaia is, there’s not much you can really do. You can’t take most medications to alleviate things like cough or congestion. You just have to “ride it out,” which really stinks. And it’s especially frustrating when not only your child is sick, but YOU are sick with the exact same illness. Every time Kaia coughs her very phlegmy cough or her nose oozes with endless boogers streaming down her face, I think: that’s what I have! I have that, too! I’m basically the same, except I can do things like clean up my face that she doesn’t really know how to do yet.

People warn you a lot about daycare sicknesses. It’s not just the issue of your child getting sick and needing to be pulled out of daycare; it’s also the fact that they will get you sick, and then you have to take time off work not just to care for them, but you’ll be miserable and ill yourself the entire time. And there’s really no break when they’re at home, whether it’s day or night. Last night, I probably slept only 1-2 consecutive hours at a time, if I am being generous. I was constantly being woken up by my own coughing and phlegm, or her coughing, phlegm, and crying. Plus, because I was constantly drinking warm water to soothe my throat, I was making endless trips to the bathroom. And, I also had to suck her nose and offer her poor throat some water.

I always tell myself: it’s okay. It’s better that she build up her immune system now when she’s really young than have to get super sick all the time once she starts kindergarten and the “real” school years, when missing class will become more critical. And it’s not like we were ever going to have a nanny that long, anyway. But even when I say this to reassure myself, all along, I still know that either way, it still really, really sucks. I say this all while I am coughing violently, hacking up endless phlegm and on the verge of vomiting.

When in-laws can see the bigger picture for the sake of their grandchildren

When my friend gave birth for the second time in May, both her mom and her mother-in-law came from out of town (Louisiana and Texas) to where they live in Atlanta to not only help out with their toddler, but also to help them out once they came home with the baby. My friend was having a planned second c-section due to her baby being breech, and so both moms wanted to come help support with the older toddler, cooking, cleaning, and general house maintenance. Both my friend and her husband were a bit worried about what the dynamic would be like. These two moms had never lived under the same roof before for even one night, so what would it be like for them to live together in the same house for two weeks straight? Her mother-in-law would be with them just for two weeks and would go back, but her mom would stay with them for about two months to help out. Let’s just add: both were not thrilled with the marriage to begin with. My friend is Bangladeshi Muslim, and her husband is third generation Mexican American, but from a very strict, conservative evangelical Christian family. He actually converted to Islam to marry my friend, which his mother was completely disapproving of and disgusted by. They both weren’t sure what they had in store for them, but they needed the help and support, so they agreed to let them come at the same time.

It ended up being a really fruitful, happy trip. Both moms were happy to tag team to help with the toddler, and when the two came home with the new baby, they took turns with different household chores, helped with cooking and cleaning, and of course, my friend’s mom made sure to cook her all her favorite foods and ensured she rested and recovered properly. Both moms actually got along really well; they both told their respective children that they enjoyed their time together and were even pleasantly surprised how well the trip went. There was no passive aggression, no back talking, no cheap jabs. They both did the adult thing and tried to make it work for the sake of their children and their grandchildren.

I could never see that happening with my parents and Chris’s parents. Chris’s parents would be completely fine. His mom would be overly careful and cautious, which would probably come to bite her in the butt. But my parents would find “hidden meanings” in every word and action said and done by Chris’s parents and find even more reasons to despise them. Passive aggression would constantly be present. And as Chris said, “I think I’d rather die” than have both sets of in-laws in the house for two consecutive weeks.

Plus, when I think of it, my parents did literally nothing to help me when Kaia was born. They tried to chalk it up to COVID, but the truth is that they were completely useless to us. They sent $300 (that was enough to pay for one night of night nurse support) as a gift. My mom made sure to call about every two hours to annoy me and get mad at me for not spending time to make the soup my aunt told me to make to help me heal from my postpartum wounds. I didn’t answer all the time because frankly, I didn’t have the time or patience to deal with her toxicity. She criticized the photos I’d send of Pookster and say that I was wrapping her too tightly in her swaddle, suffocating her, or not dressing her warmly enough. Other parents try to help their kids when they’re at this big next stage in their life. Even though my friend’s mom’s physical health wasn’t great and she knew she wouldn’t be able to hold the baby much, she still came to do light cleaning and to cook, which she knew she could do. My parents just tried to make things worse and more unnerving for me. My dad never even wanted to talk to me to congratulate me on the birth, or to ask how my healing was going. To this day, I cannot even remember the last time he’s spoken to me on the phone.

I think about what my therapist said during my pregnancy: “It’s okay to mourn the experience you wish you had but aren’t going to get. You should give yourself time and permission to mourn it. It’s not that you were not deserving of it. The people who are supposed to be key in your life to support you just are incapable of doing it. And that’s a reality for a lot of people in your position. You are not alone.” That’s just another way to say: find it in yourself to forgive your parents for failing you, in yet another way. She’s not exactly telling me to forgive my parents, but she’s saying, find a way to move on.

Daycare bug

Last week, we noticed a lot of kids being out of the classroom. I just assumed it was due to summer vacations, so I didn’t think much of it until one of the teachers told me at pickup that a bug has been going around, and the kids have been getting sick. On ne day I went in last week, the teacher said that a kid had to get picked up not even at the half-day mark because she was so ill. I braced myself: at some point, that bug is going to get Kaia, and well, eventually me, too. I share food and utensils with her all the time, and because I am hyper anti-waste, I even eat all her leftover lunch food (yes, my parents constantly guilting me about not wasting food when I was little has stayed with me until now).

Kaia was feverish on Friday. It went up to 104 on Saturday night. It came down with some medication on Sunday, but since, she’s had congestion, lots of phlegm and cough, an on and off fever going up to 102 F, and in general, is just not quite herself. She still gets excited about music, but when it comes to food, she just doesn’t want to eat much. Though tonight, she did eat some of my (watered down for her) matzo soup that Chris got me. I’ve picked up pretty much all her symptoms, as well, minus the fever.

I slept for about 3 hours straight this afternoon, and when I woke up, I couldn’t even believe I slept that long in the middle of the day. But I suppose that’s just how tired my body was. In these moments, I just think: I don’t know how people with traditional office jobs do paid work AND parenting at the same time, especially when being sick themselves!

Daycare politics and annoyances

When Kaia first joined her daycare, she was on the older end of the 12-18 month age range for her class, so we knew that just after a month in, she’d have to switch classes to join the 18-24 month class. This was sad because we really liked the main teacher of her first class. This teacher was really responsive to feedback and suggestions we had, and she seemed overall like an easy-going, well-intentioned teacher who is passionate about kids (she had five of her own!). And at this age, kids tend to get attached quickly. Asking them to adjust after just a month in seemed annoying, but it had to be done.

Now that Kaia has switched classes, the new main teacher seems fine, though it’s clear she has a chip on her shoulder and doesn’t like the previous teacher. When I asked the new teacher to make sure to serve veggies first to Kaia at lunch, then her protein/carbs, along with the request to potentially put feeding instructions on the fridge so that all teachers/floaters coming in and out could carry out the same instruction, as this is the process that worked in Kaia’s previous class, she seemed like she felt insulted. Her message back to me stated, “I appreciate all the feedback. However, I do run my class differently than (former teacher).” Lo and behold, the instructions weren’t followed the next day, and I had to call it out. It’s fine if you have different methods for communication, but I’m giving you a suggestion on what has worked, so if you choose another method, it would be best if you did not fail, which she did.

This new main teacher also has not been shy about giving a stink eye to Kaia’s former teacher when passing in the hallway, which I’ve personally observed. She and her assistant teachers have also been very territorial about having the former teacher float into their class when backup is needed. They’ve made comments like, “They’re not in your class anymore! They’re not yours! You shouldn’t be so attached to them; they’ve moved on! Let them transition into their new class and stop holding onto them.” The funny thing is: the reason they make comments like this is that the kids all love the former teacher. They run to her when she walks into the room; they want to follow her out of the room when she leaves. What’s really driving all the teacher politics here is 1) the other teachers’ jealousy and 2) the fact that the former teacher just has more passion for kids, frankly, that they do not have. Kids sense this, and they gravitate towards the adults they know care.

And I’ve noticed that amongst the assistant teachers in Kaia’s new class that they don’t really have an apparent passion for early childhood education: they’ve been on their phones scrolling through Instagram and Facebook. They do the bare minimum. They let the kids roam around on their own and don’t initiate any play in the multi-purpose room. During lunch, they don’t really assist in feeding or watching the kids; they’re doing their own thing. Kaia’s thrown her food on the floor twice this week, and they weren’t anywhere nearby to even prevent or stop this (yes, we can see it via the live camera). They’re there for the job and the pay check/benefits, not so much because they are passionate about kids… they’re not. So I’ve brought this up to the director of the program and plan on having more conversations about this. This daycare is relatively new, and they are not even close to being at capacity. They are hustling to get more kids enrolled with open houses, referral bonuses, etc. But if you have crappy teachers and assistant teachers, it’s unlikely any of the kids will stay enrolled that long, especially with the high fees that all these places are charging. It’s just sad that the level of care can change so much from one classroom to another, but then again, isn’t that school in general here in the U.S.?

My friend’s second shot at breastfeeding

A friend of mine recently had her second baby in May. She gave birth to her first in August 2021. While they weren’t actively trying to get pregnant, they weren’t not trying to get pregnant, so she got pregnant the second time around “accidentally,” and realized quickly that she’d be one of those parents who had “two under two” very soon. While she did not successfully breastfeed her first due to lack of knowledge and education, she decided that with this second child, she’d at least try to pump. She’s about 12 weeks postpartum now, and pumping about four times a day. She produces about half of what baby needs and tops up with formula. While we were on a video chat with another friend yesterday night, she was connecting to her breast pump and putting on a hands-free pumping bra, feeling embarrassed.

“Yvonne, did you know that I didn’t even know these hands-free pumping bras even existed until a week ago when a friend told me about them?” she said, laughing. “She told me, and then I immediately ordered it. I don’t know how I pumped this whole time without it! It’s been life changing!”

“Ahhhhh! You should have asked me! I would have told you way earlier!” I responded back, feeling bad.

“That’s the thing: I didn’t even know what to ask! You don’t know what you don’t know,” she replied, sighing and feeling dejected.

She’s totally right, though. When you’re on a journey as black-box-ish as breastfeeding and pumping, you really have no idea what to ask; you just hope that the people and resources who are supposed to be educating you will actually tell you everything you need. You really do NOT know what you don’t know, so how do you even begin to ask? So it’s sad when the experts you (or your insurance) pay money to just don’t arm you with all that information, then don’t give you the adequate time to ask and learn with them. And that’s what makes breastfeeding so hard in this country. We don’t have all the adequate resources to even know what questions to ask. Even though I weaned earlier this year, I still think about how frustrating this lack of knowledge and awareness is all the time and how my journey with breastfeeding Kaia could have looked so different if I just had all the right information upfront before she was even born. I’m happy that my friend is trying this second time, though, and that she has a second shot at it.

10 years.

Dear Ed,

Today marks ten years since you jumped off that bridge and bid farewell to the world. This past week, all this anger and anxiety was building up in me, thinking once again about how you’ve been gone all this time and how screwed up that is. The world was truly unfair to you. I think about how you never felt safe physically or psychologically in the home you grew up in. Back in the days of our youth, no one ever talked about the concept of “psychological safety.” When we were growing up, people always said physical abuse of children was wrong, but no one ever talked about mental or psychological abuse. They never talked about how the harmful words that are spoken to us can stay with us longer than a bruise or a scratch. But that’s ultimately what hurt you the most in the end.

In the last ten years, our parents have done absolutely nothing to improve their lives. Okay, maybe that’s not 100 percent true: our dad got bypass surgery the year after you died. He probably tacked on at least another 15-20 years onto his life with that surgery alone. Yet, what is he actually doing with all this extra time? Is he trying to become a better person? Is he taking on all the hobbies he used to complain he never had time or money for, yet now he has plenty of time and money to do? Is he trying to be a better dad and actually be a grandparent? Is he treating his wife with more kindness? The answer to all those questions is… a big, fat no. As for our mother, she’s just as angry, resentful, manipulative, and twisted as she was when you were here. If anything, she’s only gotten worse in all those areas.

I’m tired of dealing with it all, Ed. And I hate to say this, but I’m tired of dealing with it all without you here to shoulder the burden with me. I know you always had it ten times worse than I did, especially as the first born and as a boy, but I just can’t deal with it anymore. These are the moments when I truly feel alone in the world, like no one really gets it. You were the only one who ever “got it” and understood how awful they were to us. My patience and tolerance for all this intergenerational trauma has really run out. I’m tired of being the one who has to have all the pressure on her to keep the peace when I am not even the one creating the drama. I am the one trying to make things at least APPEAR normal, but I can’t even get that to work because of their idiocies. Kaia is now over 19 months old. She’s perceptive. She knows when things are off. She gets upset when Chris and I have the occasional spat, and sadly, she was even exposed to an argument I had with our mom when we went back home last August. I don’t want her to grow up thinking that the way they act is normal, that families treat each other the way they have treated us. I want to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma and have her grow up in a loving, caring, empathetic home, one that takes her seriously and treats her with respect. And with all this anger building up in me, I just have zero desire to go back to San Francisco this year and expose her to all of that crap again. I just don’t have it in me. And I know our mom is going to be mad, asking why we aren’t coming, feigning total amnesia to how poorly she and our dad treated me when I came back last year. What kind of mother defends their husband, saying it’s okay for him to call their daughter a bitch? What kind of mother constantly tries to tell her daughter that she and her husband worked harder than any other parent on earth for their children? What kind of person perceives every meal invitation, every family outing, every major event like a graduation or wedding, as “more suffering” that needs to be endured? She will never get the help she needs, but that’s frankly her choice.

I don’t want to go home. I don’t want to deal with their uncalled for childish behavior and anger. I don’t want to see them admire Kaia from across a room and not interact with her. I’m tired of dealing with people’s questions, including Chris’s parents, on when I last saw my parents and when I will see them again. I’m tired of people not understanding the fact that my family is not normal. So I’m not going to deal with it anymore, and I will proactively shut it down whenever presented the chance. This is what I’m doing for myself to move forward and to create a better and more functional life for Kaia Pookie. I do it for her future, but I also will do it for your memory.

I miss you. I miss you every day. Sometimes, it’s just for a minute. Other times, it’s for hours at a time. On days like this, it’s all day long, and then the next few days. I saw you in Kaia’s face today. It suddenly dawned on me this morning that you and I have the same nose, which means Kaia has your nose. You will always live on in her and me. And she will always know it.

I love you, Ed. I hope you look down on us and are happy that we’re progressing, even if our parents are not.