Around November or December of every year, my gift purchasing spikes given that Christmas and a slew of birthdays of those close to me are around the corner. Plus, Black Friday/Cyber Monday is a great time to buy since most companies will be having their biggest sales of the year. The annoying thing that happens? When you buy a bunch of products from whatever company, they think it’s okay to start inundating you pretty much every single day after that initial purchase that you should keep buying constantly. And the emails just don’t stop unless you fully unsubscribe or limit email outreaches from them to once a week or once a month! From my perspective, I am thinking.. seriously? I literally JUST bought from you yesterday. Why are you pushing me to buy yet again, every single day from here on out?! Is that even a realistic expectation? How much do you genuinely think a single person can purchase, and for whom?? These companies really need to get their ducks in a row and realize that they shouldn’t be so freaking aggressive about their email marketing, especially to people who have just purchased for the very first time, and it may be prudent of them to tone it down a bit and pull back on this incessant outreach.
I think that by today, my body has fully adjusted to being back in New York on Eastern time. I always adjust right away, but with the baby sleeping on me plus the red-eye, this last flight was a real doozy for me. But more so, I think I am still mentally decompressing from my visit to my family. I was chatting with my therapist today, and she said that I need to work on a plan for myself where I can enter the family visit like it’s just any other day, and leave the family visit without any need to decompress. I told her that I thought that would be nearly impossible. Everything there is such a trigger for me — the hoarding, the clutter, the mess everywhere, the excessive amount of food that I know will inevitably rot or get thrown away; the dilapidation; the weedy backyard; even my brother’s old belongings that still sit around in the bedroom.
Before I put Kaia to bed last night, I was staring at the photo of Ed and me on my bedside table, scrutinizing his nose against mine and trying to figure out if we had the same nose… because if we do have the same nose, then that means Kaia also has Ed’s nose. But the more I stared at it, the more I realized that Ed’s nose was more like our dad’s, whereas mine was more like our mom’s. But Ed and I do share the same eyes. Kaia’s eyes seem to morph, and while sometimes they look like mine, other times they look ambiguous. I then tried to remember his voice, and for a split second I failed, and this deep feeling emptiness came over me. And then out of nowhere, I heard it again. I tried to remember his laugh and could not hear it, though. This is what time does. It’s been over nine years since he’s died, and now I suddenly cannot remember the sound of his laugh. That just felt so heartbreaking to me. Everything seems to fade away over time.
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.
A friend I made a few years ago while walking at the AFSP Out of the Darkness annual walk has been going through some rough times. Earlier this year, she had some conflicts at work, which eventually led to her getting fired in February. It sounded like there may have been some legal action taking place, but she said that due to the nature of the litigation, she wasn’t able to share what was going on, so I never asked any questions and didn’t want to pry. It really wasn’t my place anyway, but I told her if she ever wanted to talk, I’d be open. Since I found out, I’ve only seen her twice. The last time was for a lunch to celebrate her belated birthday, and that was while I was still on maternity leave. Since then, I haven’t seen her a single time. I know she is struggling and that interviewing isn’t going well. We were supposed to meet up for a coffee/tea break and walk in early June, but just a couple hours before we were scheduled to meet, she cancelled on me without giving any reason. I told her she should take time to herself, but that I was here for her if she needed.
Well, last week, I realized it had been over a month since I last texted her. So I messaged her and didn’t get a response. I dropped a few additional texts, and still nothing. I tried calling five times, and each time, I was sent directly to voice mail. I left one voice message. Then, I went to her Facebook page and saw that it was down.
A feeling of worry came over me. I immediately Googled her to see if I could find out anything but didn’t. It’s hard for me not to be concerned, especially after we met at a suicide prevention walk, and I know she’s had addiction problems in the past. And to make things worse, this week is the anniversary of Ed’s passing. So suicide and mental health are very much top of mind for me in particular this week.
The best case scenario here is that she’s just not ready to talk and is just shutting everyone out temporarily. I could accept that and give her space. The worst case scenario, which I hope isn’t true, is that she’s done something to herself. I can’t shake thinking about it.
Our nanny arrived ten minutes early this morning for her first day of work. It was also our baby’s first day being in a new routine and not taking a nap immediately after her first morning feed. I wasn’t sure how the day would go, but I had a feeling it would include some fussiness and crying. Our baby has occasionally gotten upset when being held with strangers as of late, and unfortunately, this morning was no different. In fact, it was even worse: as soon as our nanny picked her up, she immediately started crying and screaming nonstop. Before she had arrived, our baby was completely fine, smiling and babbling and happy. I was wondering how long it would last. Well, other than her nap time, all morning she screamed and cried. She even screamed and cried through her 10am feed and didn’t even finish the bottle. That’s fresh breast milk I pump that morning; she ALWAYS finishes that bottle. I was so devastated and struggled to concentrate on work in the morning. Being in the next room attempting to work while your baby daughter is screaming bloody murder in the next room is…. pretty futile and miserable. I lasted maybe 30-40 minutes before I caved in and got out of the second bedroom to hold and comfort her. I eventually had to go outside to get some air, and our handyman friend ran into me and comforted me while I cried outside, feeling a lot of mom guilt and wondering when the hell this was going to get easier. I normally don’t get too phased hearing the sound of my baby cry, but hearing the wailing and screaming nonstop was driving me crazy and making me wonder if having a nanny was a good idea after all. I mean, don’t I want to be with my baby during the day? It doesn’t seem to matter what choice you make; there’s guilt all around when you’re a mom.
I told a colleague this during a call this morning. I was trying to focus on what he was sharing with me, but I also told him that in the next room was my screaming 21-week old baby, struggling to get along with the new nanny. He sent me an email later telling me that he really felt for me: when his now toddler went to daycare the very first day, he said it was likely the hardest day of his and his wife’s lives. For the first two weeks, it was a huge struggle and pain to get ready in the morning, get out the door, and do drop off. Pickups were miserable because his son was angry at them both for leaving him with strangers. But after two weeks, the kid adjusted, and now he loves his teachers and friends and looks forward to daycare. He told me to take it a day at a time, and that we’d all get used to this new normal, including my daughter.
These are the emotional ups and downs of having a child in real time, and it really, really sucks.
This morning, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and came across a post in the one IVF support groups that I stayed in. The person posting said that she had gone through a couple of egg retrievals and just one embryo transfer. That embryo transfer resulted in her getting pregnant and giving birth at 38 weeks. But… the baby was stillborn. There was no explanation for it. She had a smooth and straightforward pregnancy. There were zero signs of any dangers. Even during labor, everything looked normal, or so they said. She said that she was currently in therapy to process all of this, but she wanted to start thinking about next steps after her body healed.
She was debating whether she should move forward with the second frozen embryo or do another retrieval to bank more eggs. My heart ached when I read this post. It almost felt like she was someone I knew personally when I read this story. I felt so horrible and couldn’t stop thinking about it all day. Just the mere thought of having to go through multiple IVF cycles and then being nearly at the finish line… with no baby to bring home just hurt so much. I kept on looking at my own baby. And all day today, I cuddled a little bit more with her, I kissed her a little more, and I held her a little bit tighter. I tell her every single day before bed how grateful I am to have her. She is my most incredible gift in life. There is not a moment when I don’t remember this. I always remember these sad stories and think…. That easily could have been me. But it wasn’t. I was blessed with a successful IVF experience and a healthy baby girl. Not everyone is so lucky and fortunate.
Each year in this country, about 24,000 babies are stillborn. This number has been consistent every year for over 20 years now, yet little additional research and study is being done to solve for this. Yet somehow, SIDS deaths get far more research money and attention even though the number of deaths resulting from SIDS is about 2,000 per year — that’s one TWELFTH of the babies affected by still birth. I don’t understand why not more is being done to prevent stillbirths. I just can’t even begin to fathom the pain of that loss… of taking an empty car seat home from the hospital.
After having two terrible nanny trials, I had high hopes for Wednesday’s trial nanny. She was very bubbly and outgoing when we spoke over video, and her references just raved about her. They even said she was an amazing cook and would cook for the whole family. This person HAD to be good, right?
Well, she wasn’t just good… she was great. She followed all our instructions. She filled out the baby log book. She got on the floor with Kaia and showed her how to roll and every time I looked over, she was getting Kaia to do tummy time. She was enthusiastic and sang, read books, showed her colors and textures. This nanny clearly loved babies. She was great at soothing Kaia and pivoting when needed. Kaia actually had not one but two teething tantrums while this nanny was here, and the nanny handled both well. She also did a thorough job bathing her. I texted her after she left and asked for her email address where we could send a sample contract to.
Well, this didn’t work out. This morning, she apparently signed a contract with another family she had done a trial with weeks ago. She said she prayed to Jehovah last night when we both messaged her around the same time and asked him to point her in the right direction. And so she decided on the other family. She called this afternoon to let me know and thank me for the opportunity to care for my sweet, precious baby.
I was crushed. We were immediately back at zero… AGAIN. The first promising nanny we had, and she was saying no… to US. SERIOUSLY? I made her oyster butter noodles, peeled her mandarins, and cut her a mango!
“Stop cutting mangoes for these people!” Chris exclaimed. “You can cut them all you want once they get hired, but stop giving my mangoes to these people who aren’t going to last!”
Since when did the mangoes in this house become his mangoes…?
I always imagined being a working mom. Being a stay at home mom was never something I envisioned for myself for multiple reasons: my mom always said it was important to stand on my own two feet and to not rely on a man for money. That’s why she always worked after she had Ed and me. And she’s right for multiple reasons: if your husband is an asshole and tyrannizes you about spending because he earns the money and you do the unpaid work that he doesn’t value, well, that doesn’t put you in a good position. But the other “in case of emergency” situation people think less about can happen: men die earlier than women on average, and so if your working husband randomly drops dead of a heart attack and you have been out of the workforce for, what, 3-5 years, it’s going to be THAT much harder for you to re-enter the workforce to support your kids and yourself. I also want to set the example to my child that women can work outside of the home and do things other that what is stereotypically considered “women’s work.”
Now that I’m in the situation where I am about to return to work, though, I’m definitely feeling all kinds of emotions. My first thought was: I’m going to hire a nanny, and eventually a daycare center, to witness all my child’s developmental milestones before I do?? I am going to go back to work in order to pay a lot of money to a random stranger to care for my child? It was a bit of a mind fuck: really? Most of my earnings are going towards THAT as an expense?? Something just didn’t feel right about this.
I hate that this is even a feeling I am having. I have to go back to work after about 20 weeks of leave, which is way way more than the average American woman gets. But it’s far, far less than what working moms in other western countries get: my friend in the U.K. had 13 months off, and she didn’t think it was enough. Another friend had her first child in Amsterdam and had seven months of leave. Moms in Australia get a full 12 months. It just didn’t feel right, and I’m trying to accept this as my reality. I never thought it would be this hard to mentally wrap my head around this before I became a mom. It’s not that I don’t want to go back to work or ever seriously considered being a stay-at-home mom. I do want to go back to work to have something to focus on other than my child. I also don’t really want to get tyrannized for not making money from my husband or anyone else; even jokes would be half-jokes because guess what… we live in a world that devalues childcare as well as work that doesn’t bring dollars in. It just makes me sad and a bit emotional to think I have to leave my baby with someone else during the majority of the week, even when I will be working at home in the next room.
But having these thoughts and emotions makes me feel even more for stay-at-home moms who give up their paid work and careers to raise their children, to be there for them every step of the way. Even when society devalues them, even when their parents or in-laws or spouses talk down to them because they don’t value the actual work they do, they still give their all to their babies. It’s a hard life regardless of whether you are a working mom or an unpaid working mom. The demands of motherhood never end regardless of which path you choose.
I was at my neighbor friend’s baby shower this afternoon. To be honest, it felt really good to actually dress up, wear makeup and jewelry, and get out of the house, even if it was just in our building’s lounge for a few hours. It felt good to wear something other than sweats, my nursing top, and a pumping bra for once. I met her friend, who is a labor and delivery nurse at Lenox Hill, and she shared this horrifying story that nearly left me in tears when I heard it.
At some point in the last two years, a woman gave birth to a healthy baby.. and within hours of being born, the baby was on the dad’s chest doing skin to skin while he was on his phone busily texting family/friends… and he had no idea that the baby’s nose was pressed up against his chest too much and it blocked off his oxygen, and he died. He was dead for over an hour without the dad being aware. Since then, Lenox Hill has a policy that no partner/support person can do skin to skin with baby until after 6-8 hours post birth.
I was so disturbed and upset when she shared this story with me that I nearly started crying. Since going through the insanity of IVF and the emotional intensity of pregnancy and childbirth, and now having Kaia, I physically feel pain when I hear stories like this. I cannot even imagine what that couple’s conversations were like after the death of their child, or if their partnership even survived that.
Two nights ago, it was just me and Chris with the baby at home. Usually when it’s just Chris and me, I will do the baby’s last feed of the night at around 10 PM. Afterwards, I will do my last pump for the night and go to sleep for approximately three hours. Then, I’ll wake up around 3 AM to do my middle of the night pump. However, I have noticed that the baby tends to be a little bit more feisty on the nights when I have her. That night, she had about 3/4 of her bottle when she started falling asleep. I figured that this was a sign that she was full, so I burped her, held her upright for an additional 10 minutes, and then started to swaddle her to bring her to her bassinet. She was totally fine throughout this entire process… Until I started swaddling her, and she started crying for more food. So I said OK, I can give you more food. I fed her about 20 mL more breastmilk, and then, she started falling asleep yet again. This time, I went through the exact same process as I did above, and then at the exact point when I started swaddling her, she started crying… again. I was like, seriously?! You need to go to bed and make up your mind and stop grazing! This is your last meal of the night, and it is not a buffet spread that you can just graze at and pick at little bit of foods with on tiny toothpicks!
I gave her about 10 mL more breastmilk until she started falling asleep again. Then, for the third time, I started swaddling her, and she started crying. This is when my patience really wore thin. I continued swaddling her and then picked her up, rocked her, and sang her a song. I told her that this time, she was not getting any more food, and I did not care how much she was going to cry. I needed to pump, and then I needed to go to sleep. She needed to sleep right then and there.
She eventually complied and started falling asleep. I put her in her bassinet and immediately went to set up my pump. I did my last evening pump, and then I went to sleep. I looked at the clock, and it was just a couple minutes past midnight. That was so frustrating. I needed to wake up in three hours to do my middle of the night pump, and the thought made me miserable. I told myself OK, maybe I’ll give myself an extra hour of sleep and get up to pump at 4am. One additional hour of sleep felt very nice and luxurious, and I was going to give it to myself.
Well, I woke up after my alarm went off, and Chris asked if I was going to get up to pump. He was up waiting for the baby to stir so that she could have her middle of the night feed. I immediately felt a weird lumpy sensation in my right breast, in addition to the same tingly sensation on both my boobs, telling me I needed to pump ASAP or risk engorgement. I started massaging both of my breasts as I normally do before a pump, but I noticed that there were two lumps on the top of my right breast… and I was not happy. Seriously? I gave myself one extra hour of sleep, just four consecutive hours, and my punishment is milk duct clogs??
I went to do my pump and got a good amount of milk, more than I normally do around this time of night. I actively massaged out both lumps to see if I could loosen them. One of them seemed to have gone away, but one of them still remained. It was strange that my milk output was higher than usual despite having these lumps, because most of the time when you have clogs, they actually block the milk from flowing. That ends up reducing your output from what you normally get. When I finished my pump, I went back to sleep and woke up again in about three hours to do my first morning pump. And this was when I realized that the clog was not going away unless I manually got rid of it: my right breast produced just half of what my left breast produced this time. The unevenness in both of the bottles that I was pumping really unnerved to me. I knew I had to get this clog out, and get it out ASAP.
I went up to the hot tub on the roof and actively massaged the clog. I used the Haakaa and Epsom salt hack with warm water, and soaked my nipple in it about four times throughout the day. I also applied my Theragun on the clog and pushed it down towards towards my nipple. I made sure to be prepared, as I put a bottle under my nipple, and thankfully I did: milk sprayed everywhere when I did this, and I even got it all over my shirt. I am stingy with breastmilk as an under supplier, and there was no way that I was just going to let the milk spray everywhere and lose it if I could control it. I tried massaging the clog out in the shower, and I also noticed milk spraying. I took sunflower lecithin pills throughout the day, which are supposed to loosen fatty milk and prevent clogged ducts.
Finally that evening, I did more Theragun massage, as painful as that was, and did a last Haakaa and Epsom salt nipple soak for the night. this resulted in the clog finally loosening in a way that looked promising: in the Epsom salt soak, which was colored purple because of the lavender in the Epsom salt mixture, I saw a big, slow gush of white fluid in the Haakaa breast pump that eventually spilled out. While it made me sad to lose this milk, it made me really happy to actually see this Haakaa hack in action and actually working. I continued to massage the clog and gradually felt that it was getting smaller and flatter. Then, I thought that it would be a good measure to get into another hot shower, use a hot wet hand towel, and continue to apply pressure to ensure that the clog was gone while bending over to let gravity help me. I used the heel of my hand as my friend suggested and more milk sprayed out. Did I finally get it all?
I did my 8:30 PM pump, and my right breast produced just over 10 mL… That was miserable to see. And unfortunately, I did not see milk spraying out of the milk ducts that I know this clog is associated with on the top of my breast. I didn’t think the clog was fully out. When I massaged the top part of my breast, I still felt a lump, though it was much flatter and smaller than it was before. However, it looked like my left breast wanted to over compensate for my right breast, and it actually produced the difference of what I normally produce for both breasts during this evening pump, which made me a little happy.
This morning, I took another hot shower after the gym and used the hot towel, the power of the heel of my hand, and bent over to get the clog out further. And this time, there was no doubt about it: The milk just gushed out of my right nipple. It started as long, fast sprays, and then it progressed into huge gushes of milk. I felt one part relief and one part sadness… I felt relief knowing that I was actually making progress to get rid of the clog, but I felt really sad because I was literally seeing my precious breast milk going down the drain and ultimately getting wasted.
The day before, I had finally, in the last 12 weeks, reached over 20 ounces of breast milk output in a single day. I was proud of myself and my progress, as I had worked so hard to get my milk supply up. But then, as though to punish me and laugh at me, my body gave me a clog the day after. What the actual fuck?! It was like mother nature playing some cruel trick on me.
My mom friend told me that my baby would be able to help me get my clog out, as her baby had always helped her get her clogs out. They always say that a breast pump is never as efficient as a baby at the breast. Well, that is having the assumption that your baby is actually an efficient eater. Well, I knew that that was not going to be the case for me because my baby was not an efficient eater at the boob. And my suspicions were correct: when I placed her on the right side at my breast, she lasted about seven minutes tops before she started wailing loudly. And then this morning, she lasted just four minutes and kept on unlatching and cried yet again. This baby was not going to help me unclog myself at all… I can only hope that this laziness and weakness is not indicative of the person she will grow up to be.
The morale of the story is: take sunflower lecithin pills to prevent clogs. Don’t sleep too long between pumps otherwise your body will punish you. Don’t get too excited about your increased milk supply because your body may come back and bite you in the ass… or in my case, in the boob. MILK CLOGS HURT.