8 years.

To my dearest Ed,

It’s been eight years since you departed this life. This is the first year that, in the weeks leading up to your death anniversary, I did not feel a great anticipation of seeing you again. Every year up until this year, I’ve always gotten a sense that I would “see” you again, whether that was through my dreams or through some sign you’d send down to earth, letting me know that you were still out there watching over me. This year, I did not feel anything. Maybe it’s my subconscious’s way of expressing that I’ve finally and fully accepted that you truly are gone. Granted, I’ve never been in denial that you were gone. It’s more that I always got the feeling that your spirit was still nearby, especially while I’d be at home in San Francisco.

A lot has happened in the last year. My relationship with our parents is further strained. This country is even more torn apart than it already was. People are somehow still dying from COVID-19 because they don’t believe in science and refuse to get vaccinated. I went through IVF and finally got pregnant (lucky you, you will never be acquainted with the total hell and roller coaster that process is).

I’m still pregnant; every day I wake up, and every night I go to sleep at night, marveling at the fact that I got pregnant and am continuing to be pregnant. I can’t believe how lucky I am. Each night, I give thanks for what I have and what my body is carrying and nourishing. When I found out I was originally pregnant with twins, I got so excited. One of my first thoughts was of you and what your reaction would have been like. I imagined your face breaking out into a huge grin, marveling over the idea that you’d be an uncle to identical twin girls, in shock at the idea that this was actually real. I teared up thinking about the fact that you will never get to react. You always liked babies, and you especially liked little girls. I just thought it was another sign that it was meant to be. And when one of those twins’ hearts stopped beating, I was just shattered. I wondered if embryo baby angels go to heaven, and if they do go to heaven, do they get to meet people like you, who actually lived a real life on earth and have since departed? Do you know where the embryo baby angels go?

I always knew you’d be a great uncle, the kind of uncle who would always want to spend time with nieces and nephews, the one who would spoil them rotten with all the gifts they wanted, even if it was against my own wishes. It really breaks my heart that you will never meet this baby, this little human I am growing. You will never get to hold her, feed her, kiss her, spoil her. I will never know what it’s like to have my child meet her mama’s brother and have a relationship with him. The world robbed you of so much, and by default, it’s robbed me and my future child of so much, as well.

As this pregnancy has progressed, I’ve reflected a lot on our shared childhood and involuntarily had a lot of flashbacks of awful situations that happened between us and our parents. As we all know, no parent is perfect, but I am especially and painfully cognizant of the effect that they had on you. I want to take the good that they did and emulate it, but I especially want to take the bad that they did and learn to never repeat the same mistakes of the past. I don’t want to continue the cycle of dysfunction and tyranny. I want your little niece to feel supported and unconditionally loved. I think at the core, that’s what every parent wants; whether that is actually the result is a completely different story.

I hope you will look down on me and help give me the strength I need to be the best mama I can be. I will make sure to tell your little niece all about the great uncle she will never meet. You will still be a part of her life, even if you aren’t here on earth with us. Every day, I wonder if you are watching over us, giving us your blessings to continue with this pregnancy and ensure the baby is happy and healthy. I hope you are with whatever abilities you have; I need all the help and good vibes I can get — seriously.

I miss you. Every day, I think about you and miss you. I wish you could still be with us in a happier and healthier state than you were last in when you were here. The world still goes on, though, even when great individuals like you leave us. But I will never forget you. How could I possibly forget you? It still makes my heart ache thinking about all the sibling bonds that are out there, and how we no longer have one here in this world to actively continue. But I still feel you — just in a different way. I love you, Ed. I hope to see you again in my dreams soon since it’s been quite some time. So, when are you going to come again?

Love,

Yvonne

Sharing about the pregnancy

Given the ongoing pandemic situation, even with cities and businesses reopening, it’s been really easy to not share about my pregnancy. I work from home and will do so as long as I work at the company I’m at, so I have no colleagues to “hide” from. Even if you saw me, if I wore loose clothing, you’d never guess I was pregnant.

So when I was having a friendly chat with one of our doormen last week, he asked “how the family” was doing. I told him everything was good. Then he awkwardly looked around and looked at me and said, “okay, okay… If you’re not gonna say nothin,’ then I’m not gonna say nothin’.” I guess that was the queue for me to share my news, so I told him.

“Oh, THANK GOD!” he exclaimed, sighing loudly. “I thought you were, but you never know… CONGRATULATIONS!”

Yep, I’m not getting fat. I’m pregnant. 🙂

When your parents disagree with you on a major health decision

Since I got pregnant and told my parents, both of them have made sure to voice the fact that they do not think I should get the COVID-19 vaccine (any version of it) while pregnant. My parents kept saying that I had plenty of time to get the vaccine… after the baby was delivered. While I did initially have hesitations about getting the vaccine during my first trimester, after seeing the data that over 80,000 pregnant American women had gotten the vaccine and the outcomes were much better than average for birth defects, still births, and miscarriages, I felt more comfortable getting it. So I got both doses towards the second half of my first trimester. This allowed us to get on a plane for two trips. It made me feel more comfortable going out and being in restaurants and seeing comedy. In fact, the Comedy Cellar required proof of vaccination to be admitted. Plus, with the delta variant, I couldn’t be safe anywhere. I’m well aware that COVID can even cause miscarriages itself, and with pregnancy causing a weakened immune system, I was at higher risk: pregnant women are more likely to get hospitalized from COVID and be on a ventilator. Pregnant women with COVID are also more likely to die.

None of this seemed to be a concern for my parents, though. Given they both had very severe side effects (weakness, fever, chills) from the vaccines, they kept saying that the vaccine would harm the baby and even cause birth defects. What data they had to back this up I will never know, but they insisted they were right.

So when I told my mom I was coming home next week, she was surprised and said that I shouldn’t come since I haven’t had the vaccine yet. When I told her I actually was fully vaccinated, I could tell she was really mad.

“I cannot believe you got the shot!” my mom said, her voice sounding elevated. “You shouldn’t have gotten it. You have no idea what it will do to the baby. If I were you, I never would have gotten the vaccine while pregnant. What if something bad happens to the baby?”

It’s always frustrating hearing stuff like this. My health apparently doesn’t matter. The risk of getting COVID for me doesn’t matter, and apparently that doesn’t affect the fetus. My parents actually think it would be totally fine for me to just stay at home for nine months and only go to the doctor’s office this whole time. Everything else is unnecessary. My mental health doesn’t matter.

When I tried to tell her that my doctors (ALL OF THEM), plus my pregnant doctor friend all recommended and got the vaccine, she raised her voice and said, “I’m not arguing with you! Just do whatever you want! It’s your life! I’m just telling you that I wouldn’t do what you did!”

Why is it that when I try to have a reasonable conversation with reasonable dialogue with my mom, she always perceives it to be my instigating an argument and causing problems? It’s like it’s impossible for us to just have a conversation about a serious topic without her feeling like I am attacking her… when in fact, she is the one attacking me?

She then proceeded to do her usual questioning of what relatives I’d been in contact with and bash her supposed best friend and daughter and gossip again about the daughter’s recent divorce. My mother really does take pride in other people’s pain, and it’s sad.

Drugstore beetle infestation

About a week before our move, in the last apartment I started noticing these tiny little bugs around the kitchen and kitchen window. They were no bigger than a sesame seed and were reddish-brown in color. And worse: they had WINGS. Eventually, I started seeing them flying in the bedroom and bathroom. I had no idea what was causing them. At first, I wondered if it was because of fruit I purchased that I left on the counter. After this, I started spraying all fruit on the counter with boiling water before leaving them there (everything else goes in the fridge, but alas, you are supposed to let mangoes, kiwis, and stone fruit ripen at room temperature). Then, I inspected my spider plant a few times to ensure that it was not the root cause and found nothing. I just couldn’t figure out the cause. Then finally, yesterday, while moving a plastic storage bin with pantry item foods, I discovered at least 10 of them in the bin! Something in the bin was causing this nonsense!

Through process of elimination, I separated out all canned and bagged items. I inspected the plastic bagged items for holes. And finally, I found the culprit: it was my dried Mexican chilies that I’d purchased at a market in Corona, Queens, last year. The beetles were crawling around, gnawing their way at the chilies; it was just awful. I immediately wrapped up the chili bag and tossed it down the shoot. Then, I sealed the plastic bin to contain any beetles and hopefully suffocate them.

I read about these drugstore beetles online, as I’d never heard of them before or noticed them. They are specifically drawn to spices, particularly CHILIES and PEPPERS, and they are like cockroaches in that they just keep multiplying and are super resilient. They can go days and days without food or water and still survive. It’s just hideous. I’m confused, though, because I’d had these chilies for so long, and they’d never had any bugs before until now. I have no idea where these disgusting critters originated from to begin with…?!

Some of them unfortunately got out in the new apartment. In the last couple of days, I’ve had to kill at least 5-6 every day. Today is the first day when I haven’t seen any. Fingers crossed I killed them all. Bug infestations are truly the worst. Now, I’m trying to remove almost everything like rice, flour, etc., out of their original packaging and into sealed glass or plastic jars/bins. I also threw my other chilies and peppers into the freezer (plus all my rice flours because I’m paranoid now) temporarily to kill any potential bugs. I cannot have this happen again.

When you discover mold plants in your new apartment

Regardless of where you move and what kind of building you move into, whether it’s single family home you rent or buy, an apartment in a dingy walk-up or in a luxury high-rise, inevitably you will discover some problem with it. Some will be small and easily fixable, others may require more time, money, and effort, while others will just be… flat out disgusting.

We did an apartment inspection with the building super on Wednesday and called out a few things that needed fixing or touching up that they missed. But one area that I didn’t check (that I also did not think I even NEEDED to check) was the garbage disposal and drain in the kitchen sink. And well, clearly, they missed this, too.

When I went to clean the sink yesterday, I pulled out the plug and noticed… not only a very off, sewage, moldy smell, but also… MOLD PLANTS growing on the kitchen plug. There were three of them growing and sprouting leaves. It was the most hideous thing I’d ever uncovered in a new apartment. I was particularly appalled because we’ve been living in this building for four years now, and I’d never heard or seen anything so gross. Plus, this is supposed to be a luxury building in New York City. All I could think was, WTF?! I wiped them off and sanitized them. One of the porters came up and did some additional drain cleaning for us, but it still wasn’t enough to get rid of the smell. I’ve had to apply a baking soda and vinegar solution to let the drain soak to try to get the smell out. While it’s helped, there is still a faint moldy smell every time I take the kitchen plug out of the drain. Not happy.

Moving Day once again after 4 years

“This will be the easiest move of your life,” Chris said, as we started filling up large plastic storage bins and endless reusable cloth bags with our belongings.

We’re moving “very very far,” or, well, just a floor up in the same building into a larger 2-bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment. It will be the very first time since I was growing up that I’ll live in a place that has more than one bathroom, which is kind of crazy to me. Our apartment will have southwest exposure, which means we’ll not only have views of the Hudson River, but also views of downtown Manhattan. We hired movers just to move furniture, and we moved the rest of our belongings on our own. We didn’t have to package and tape anything, nor did we need to buy any one-time-use moving boxes, which was nice (and good for the environment). With the large storage bins, the luggage cart, and of course an elevator, plus easy access to two stairwells, although it took a lot of trips up and down, we were eventually able to move every single non-furniture item ourselves. Granted, I willl say that I emptied out the entire kitchen and the vast majority of the closets since Chris claimed he had to wait for the Verizon guy to show up (and because it was a stormy afternoon-evening, there seemed to have been a huge delay), so a considerable chunk of this “move” was me going up and down the stairs and elevators about a gazillion times to finally get most of our non-furniture belongings moved over. After about 14 hours of constantly going up and down between the two floors, emptying out storage bins and our endless supply of stuffed reusable bags, I was totally pooped. I can already feel my calves getting sore from all the excessive exercise. I should win an award for the most physical activity related to moving for a pregnant woman ever.

But now, we are in our new home, the third home we’ve shared, and the second home we’ve shared just with each other. I’m looking forward to new memories being made in this new, spacious apartment, along with the hopeful healthy arrival of our new family member.

Body image

I cannot count the number of people I’ve met and stories I’ve read of people everywhere who have body image issues, and not just body image issues because of Hollywood and mass media and the unrealistic depiction of male and female bodies, but rather because… of their own parents. It’s not always about what parents say directly to their children that results in these body image insecurities, but what they do and say to and about themselves. Children of all ages are really perceptive; they pick up on even the subtlest things that their parents do.

I’m grateful and lucky to say that my parents have never tried to make me look any different than I do (well, unless you count the times my mom wanted me to continue having blunt cut bangs or attempted to forbid me from plucking my eyebrows). They’ve never told me that I needed to gain or lose weight, that I was fat or ugly, or that I needed to exercise more/less. My parents are likely some of the least superficial people I know, and so from what I know about them, they’ve never worried a lot about their own appearances. With me, they have only told me that I am beautiful the way I am, and there’s no reason to change what I am. I have friends who have parents who’ve saved money for them to get cosmetic surgery. I also have friends and family members who have been constantly told by their parents that they need to lose weight or are fat. These ideas are all very foreign to me, but I am grateful that my parents have accepted my appearance for what it is.

I thought about this today as I thought about all the women who get self conscious about weight gain during pregnancy. Multiple online pregnancy groups I’ve since unsubscribed to have people obsessing over their weight and how “fat” they are now. But it’s a normal part of life: when you get pregnant, you are literally growing a tiny human, so it should be obvious you will gain weight. It’s been said that someone of average body weight/frame will gain somewhere between 25-35 pounds. I just checked the scale, and it looks like I’m about eight pounds over my usual, pre-pregnancy weight now, which seems steady and on track for being “healthy” while pregnant. I have no idea what my end weight will be, nor do I have any idea exactly how big I will be come labor, but regardless of how I look or feel, I doubt I will get too upset about it because I will just be grateful to have had a, fingers crossed, healthy pregnancy and hopefully healthy birth.

Fetal movements throughout the day

I can’t believe I’ve made it this far: I’m now in my 19th week of pregnancy. It’s so crazy to me that I nervously went through my embryo transfer at the end of March and have somehow made it out alive and pregnant now that we’re already halfway through July.

I was able to detect fetal movements a few weeks ago, but they were so subtle and strange, like a combination of internal tickling and indigestion, that I didn’t really think much of it. Then, on our flight to Oklahoma, I actually felt what resembled an actual kick that really startled me. Sometimes, it feels like a lot of bubbles inside. And since then, there are specific periods throughout the day when I am fairly certain that it’s actual fetal movement. It tends to happen right after my morning workouts, anytime after I eat or drink a lot of anything, and then, funnily enough, right around bedtime, usually between 9:30-11pm. At night before bed, it is especially distracting: it feels like a combination of rolling and rumbling in my lower abdomen, right up to where my belly button is. I’ve even started sleeping with a pillow between my legs and pulled up to my stomach to provide some support for my gradually growing belly.

Every time I feel the movement, I get really excited. It’s like I’m detecting my baby’s patterns, and we’re almost bonding with each other. I’m not sure the baby feels that way, but I do. Every day, with each movement, I’m getting closer and closer to meeting my miracle baby.

Apartment inspection

This afternoon, we went through our new apartment unit to do an inspection for things that may need fixing or additional touch ups. It’s strange to think that this will be our new home. Not that it’s far away or different in finishes at all from our current place… it’s one floor up, just in a bigger unit. The kitchen is exactly the same; the bathrooms are designed the same. But it just seems like a lot of space for the two of us. Fingers crossed that all goes well and it won’t just be the two of us for that much longer, but still feels strange to finally have an apartment where there is “free space,” as in a second bedroom for at least the next 8-9 months, will pretty much be unoccupied other than having my work space in it. Ideally, I would like the baby to stay in our room for at least the first 6-8 months, so it’s not technically planned as “just” the baby room for now.

The views of the unit are also much different. For some reason, every time I look out these windows, it feels so much farther away, even though it’s in the SAME BUILDING. It’s a different perspective for sure.

When you care about the common good

Although President Biden and the CDC have already stated that masks are not necessary if you are fully vaccinated, I am not feeling quite that confident. With the delta variant close at bay and the number of positive cases still at a considerable rate in this country, I do not feel comfortable going unmasked in indoor situations, particularly in crowded spaces. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have gradually increased their max capacity numbers, so I can feel that it’s definitely getting more full in those stores during shopping. Given that the vaccination rate here in New York City is quite high, it’s surprising to see that the vast majority other than maybe one or two guys are wearing masks when I go grocery shopping. This is almost like peer pressure for myself to wear a mask, but I’ve already been entering the stores masked. I’m sure that the vast majority of these shoppers are vaccinated, but they’re wearing a mask just for extra protection and to help everyone else. That’s what it really should be about: making small sacrifices to help everyone else. We’re supposed to be a community.