Stereotyping based on how I look

The average person who looks at me will assume I’m Chinese. A more nuanced person might see that I actually look a bit Vietnamese. And when most people see my last name, they will know for sure that I am Chinese, at least partly. When others who are familiar with Vietnamese middle names see my first, middle, and last names, they will then know for sure that I must be Chinese-Vietnamese. That would be a very educated (and accurate) guess.

A few years ago, when I shared information with my wider team about my YouTube channel and Instagram handle for Yvonne meets Food, I scored a lot of new followers and subscribers on both platforms. A large number of my colleagues regularly look at my Instagram content every day. So when I was having a 1:1 chat with a colleague I don’t chat with much (and doesn’t follow me on Instagram), as she asked to speak about specific work related items, I was a little surprised when she ended the call with, “Hey! I haven’t forgotten about your food channel! Don’t forget to send me your chicken chow mein recipe! It’s my absolute favorite Chinese dish!”

The call ended so quickly that I barely had a chance to even respond to that other than nodding and saying bye. But it was such an annoying way to end. Here goes a White colleague stereotyping me regarding how I look and just assuming that all my content must be stereotypical Chinese dishes she’s aware of… like chicken chow mein, something I never order and cannot even remember the last time I ate. Why don’t I also just share with her my family’s top-secret recipes for General Tso’s chicken and beef with broccoli (hint: our family never made those dishes, much less ordered them at restaurants!). Maybe she will feel like she knows me and my culture even better then!

It would be nice if in 2024, I could chat with people who are from a culture different than mine and hope that they don’t stick me in a box, whether it’s regarding personality or food I eat/make, based on a white-gaze stereotype that they’ve contrived in their heads and need confirmation is actually “true.” I don’t exist to confirm harmful racial stereotypes other people have.

Nanny quit at 10pm last night

Well, that was fun. Our nanny sent a long, nasty text message, letting me know that telling her that the baby log wasn’t complete was “demeaning” and “you treated me like a child,” and she’s tired and can’t handle adult stress, so her time with us has come to an end. She used to say that she wasn’t used to being in a workplace where she felt so open and free to say what she thinks and feels. She would say that we treated her really well and we were good people, and that she was really happy she took this job. She had never worked with a non-White family before, so in her eyes, she was “taking a chance.” She had shared all the negative stereotypes she once held of Asian people. While all that was not fun to hear and perhaps sharing TOO much information, I thought she was trying to tell me that she realized that they were unfair stereotypes, and that we proved them wrong for her. I suppose she was just being two-faced all along. I guess I should have expected it since she shared so much nasty information about her previous mom bosses, but I thought it may have been different with us. I was wrong.

So, I guess Kaia is starting daycare earlier than we thought. To be honest, this is probably for the best for all parties. I didn’t think our nanny was keeping up with Kaia’s learning and development, especially after we came back from Australia. Plus, it was exhausting to have to manage her inability to accept even the most benign feedback. I was tired of constantly cleaning up after her when I was paying her money to clean up after my baby. I was also exhausted listening to her bring up bad experiences with her last employers. I was like an unpaid therapist for her, listening to her complain about past grievances and how they affected her emotionally. It was like I was being forced to deal with her past traumas, which were all bubbling up in my own home.

I’m sure daycare will present its own set of challenges, but after dealing with the emotional instability and outbursts from our nanny over common sense tasks, I think I am welcoming daycare as our next step.

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.

Baby laundry: not dryer safe

Before having a baby, I was warned by many other parents about how much laundry I would end up doing. It wasn’t necessarily that babies need a lot of clothes or that they get that dirty that often. It was more that they will spit up a lot on their own clothes as well as on yours. It is also that they are unpredictable when it comes to how many blowouts they will have. You may also have situations when you are taking off one of their dirty diapers, and then, you accidentally get some of their pee or poop on their clothes. Then, the baby can no longer wear that onesie or shirt anymore, and you have to soak it and get it ready for the wash. Or, another situation that may arise during a diaper change when you are changing them: they suddenly decide, oftentimes reflexively, that they want to take one of their little feet or hands and shove it right into the dirty diaper. Then, while you are trying to block them from getting into that dirty diaper, the smear ends up happening. Voila: there, you have another situation of yet another piece of dirty clothing that you have to wash.

Also, when other parents warned me about how much laundry I was going to be doing as a parent, no one warned me that baby clothes and baby cloth items cannot be washed in the same way that I wash my own clothes. What I mean by that is, these items often times will say, wash in cold water only, wash on delicate cycle, do not tumble dry, do not put in dryer; not dryer safe. Why is this the case? Well, for the clothes, it’s because the baby clothes will shrink. They are already so small. For the other items? I have no freaking clue. These baby companies need to get their crap together and actually make their cloth items washer and dryer safe. Stat. 

So what the hell are you supposed to do? You’re just supposed to air dry everything? When did having a baby and her clothes become so unbelievably high maintenance? I don’t even do this for over 99% of my own clothes! And I am an adult! 

Not everyone has the luxury of having an outdoor space with clean, crisp air where they can just line dry clothes and hang them up in the midst of sun and nature. Some of us actually live in urban areas where we dwell in apartments and cannot line dry our clothes and have them be nice and soft and fluffy once they are dry. We don’t even have a rack to hang clothes to dry. When we have the occasional item that needs to be air dried, I will usually hang it on a clothing hanger and then put it on the shower rod in the bathroom. But I can’t really do that with the baby’s clothes because they are so small and would just fall off. So what we have ended up doing is just putting all of her wet clothes out of the washer all around the dining room table and chairs to dry. And sadly, once they are dry, they are not soft and fluffy. Some of them are actually a little bit rough, as sad as that sounds. It depends on the material of the item, but some of them really are just not soft… At all. And that makes me sad given the original state the clothing item was in. Luckily, most of those items, after a few days in her drawers, get a little bit softer by the time she wears it. So in the end, it’s not so bad. But it is definitely not in its original baby soft condition.

So yes, you can add this to the list of things that I was not anticipating when becoming a new parent. No one warned me how high maintenance baby clothes and baby cloth items would be to wash. And don’t even get me started on the lounger covers and how hard they are to take on and off, not to mention baby chair covers. Those items also need to be air dried. How riveting and fun for new, tired, sleep-deprived parents.

First therapy session since baby’s arrival

I had my first therapy session since about two weeks before the baby was born. At that point, I was feeling pretty good about everything and optimistic about how the baby’s birth was going to go. My therapist had been a great support to me over the course of the last year. I started seeing her after I had completed the IVF stimulations and was feeling a lot of uncertainty. Since then, she has been a solid outlet for me to sort through my thoughts, vent, and just be vulnerable without judgment. But today, I kind of got the sense that she was judging me. I get that it is her goal, and well, job, to guard my mental health. But she reminded me of what I had said to her months ago about breast-feeding: I told her that I was going to try my best to breast-feed and make this work because that was what I ultimately wanted. But if it did not work, then I was not going to kill myself over it, and I would formula feed in the way that it made the most sense, so with the type of formula that best fit my baby and my own beliefs. That is to say, there was no way in hell I was going to feed my baby with corn syrup laced formula.

Well, what I said to her then still holds: I am trying my best to breast-feed and make this work. It is just not breast-feeding in the way that I had originally imagined. Breast-feeding includes nursing as well as feeding breastmilk via a bottle. A lot of people are not aware of this, and it seems really silly to me. If you are feeding breastmilk via a bottle, how is that not breast-feeding? Where the hell did that milk come from? I told her that when I first mentioned this to her, I specifically thought about breast-feeding directly on the breast. I honestly did not realize that exclusive pumping was a thing. I originally thought that women only pump milk when they were away from their children and needed to give them something to eat via a bottle. It’s because I had never meant a mom who exclusively pumped and was open about it. I was learning as I was going, and because I was lactating and had a decent supply at this point, I wanted to continue this for as long as possible. She pressed me and asked where this pressure was coming from: was it because of all the blogs or the news or the lactation consultant or even Chris? Yes, I am sure that the constant saying of “breast is best“ is probably pushing me along. I am also sure that everything I have heard from the news and all the lactation consultants is also pushing me along. But what I am most sure about is that I am putting all of the pressure on myself. I know that if I were to switch my baby to formula tomorrow and have it be exclusively formula, I would likely ignore any judgment from anyone and just do my thing. I know all of my friends would be supportive… I am not totally sure my family would be supportive but… well, whatever.  But the point is that all of the pressure that matters the most to me is the pressure that I have put on myself. I want this journey to work really badly. Exclusive pumping is tough as hell, and in someways, it is even harder than nursing because you spend so much time with an electric breast pump, an animate object, versus your own baby. So a lot of the struggle is mental. It’s also a physical struggle because you cannot physically be with your baby  and interacting with her in probably the way that you want to, which is feeding her from the breast. And some days are harder than others. But I am going to make this work for as long as possible, and I told her this. 

She kept on insisting to me that breastmilk was not that much better than formula other than the live antibodies. But I do not agree with that. The corn syrup argument holds. I am also not certain that my baby should be eating palm oil so early on in her life and clogging her arteries… Which are teeny tiny, should I add. And yes, there are many brands of formula in this country that have palm oil. It just doesn’t make sense to me how these companies decide to put all these random pieces of crap into infant formula. That makes me angry, and I should not be feeding my child something that makes me angry.

At the end of the day, she was probably grilling me because she wanted to make sure that I was certain about my chosen path, but I am. I need the support of the people around me, both in word and in action. And if there was anyone who is not going to support my decision, I did not need to have them in my life, and that included her. She said she would be supportive of whatever decision I made, and whatever decision I made, my baby would be happy on whatever I chose to feed her with, but I really didn’t feel supported during this conversation. And that made me sad given how supportive if she has been to date.

American healthcare recognizes that I only have one boob.

Thanks to former President Barack Obama, women across this country who are employed by companies of a certain size were entitled to dedicated spaces for pumping breast milk after coming back from maternity leave. On top of that, they were also entitled to having their breast pump covered by insurance, as well as replacement parts, after the initial purchase. I placed my order via insurance for my breast pump back in November, and the company they are going through notified me a week ago that I was ready for replacement parts if I’d like them, so of course, I requested them. What I was not prepared for was that the replacement parts were just for one breast.

This is what the box says:

Spectra Premium Accessory Kit


Breast shield

Back-flow protector




Bottle Cap


Bottle Cover

So in case you are not familiar with pumping, the ideal setup, especially if you own a breast pump that allows for double pumping, which means pumping milk from both breasts… is that you WILL double pump for more efficiency. So the above contents are just for one breast, as each piece is singular. So what does this mean — American healthcare via my health insurance recognizes that I only have ONE boob and not two?????

This is truly American healthcare at its finest. This is beyond embarrassing that to call this a SNAFU (situation normal: all fucked up) would genuinely be an understatement.

And if you are pumping exclusively or pumping as much as I do (that’s 6-7 times per day), it’s recommended you replace your parts every month, not every three months as insurance will cover. And you would need to replace them for both boobs. So thanks, American health insurance, for only recognizing half of my boob inventory.

When bad dreams return

It must be my subconscious slowly building its anxiety level, greatly anticipating when I will be back at my parents’ house in San Francisco. That bleak place with an odd, eerie chill and a damp, musty vibe rarely has a positive effect on anyone.

I woke up this morning from an annoying dream. It could be characterized as “bad,” but it’s more annoying because it really encompasses, to me, how frustrating my family can be. I’m here in New York and suddenly my mom calls, and all she says is, “Did you hear that Ed died?”

First of all, assuming that Ed were actually still around, why the hell would anyone ever so casually ask you if you “heard” that your own brother DIED? There is something so wrong about that that I cannot even put it into words. Death is not casual. It is especially not casual when it is the death of an immediate family member.

It is really insane to think that nearly eight years ago, my brother died. Tomorrow will mark eight years since his funeral, since the day I stood up at a podium and gave a eulogy for him that I never wanted to write, a eulogy that gave subtle but pretty obvious hints at what he died from. When I think of going home, I am always reminded first and foremost that he is gone and that I will never see him ever again.

Vivid dreams during early pregnancy

Surges in progesterone and estrogen, as well as the obvious HCG/pregnancy hormone, are to blame for pretty much every pregnancy symptom that exists, from moodiness, sore breasts, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, food aversions, etc. But what I wasn’t quite expecting while reading about pregnancy symptoms is that women also tend to experience more vivid dreams and nightmares as a result of being pregnant, particularly in the first and third trimesters. And this, in somehow and some way, can also be attributed to the surges in progesterone due to pregnancy.

Many women who had never really remembered their dreams prior to becoming pregnant report greater dream recall during pregnancy. They also say that there is an increase in nightmares that feel very, very real. Granted, I’ve always been a vivid dreamer who thinks her dreams are real as she’s experiencing them, but in the last few months, my dream recall has been relatively poor.

The dream I had last night was very much out of the normal range for me. I had a dream I was at the border of two countries… who the heck knows what countries. And we had an endless number of huge crates filled with tropical citrus. I was charged with illegally getting these citrus from one country to the next by smuggling them in and hiding them underneath some other legally recognized cargo. I was working with two other people, and we were mapping out the route we were going to take on the road, the excuses we’d make at the border check-point, what we’d show the border patrol agents, and approximately how much time this would take. It felt like a very high stress, high stakes endeavor, and the pressure was on.

Maybe in some ways, this does make sense for me to dream about from a pregnancy perspective because I have been experiencing cravings for grapefruit that I’ve never really gotten before. While I’ve always enjoyed grapefruit, it’s tasted even more delicious to me in the last couple weeks than ever before. I wonder what I will dream up next.

Excitement vs. fear?

I was chatting with my therapist this morning about the transfer earlier this week. She asked me how I was feeling, and I immediately just started crying. I told her I just felt worried… and powerless. There’s nothing, once again, I can do at this point to make anything happen. I also felt a little excited, but all that excitement could easily just die upon getting a negative HCG test next Wednesday, or even worse, getting my period. I hate waiting, I said to her. I’ve done SO MUCH WAITING this entire time. IVF should really be called I FUCKING HATE WAITING VF. So I wasn’t sure how to feel or even how to express myself.

She suggested that I don’t really give myself time to feel, which is likely why I had such an explosion of emotion when being asked by her how I felt. “It’s okay to sit on your emotions, whether they are good or bad or a mix of two opposing feelings,” she said. She said I have a tendency to bury myself in doing things or being efficient to avoid having to feel. That observation is likely true. I mean, I have consciously noted that I pride myself on productivity and “getting shit done,” so those two things kind of go hand in hand.

So then the next question is: how do I let myself feel?

Moral/religious opposition to pre-genetic screening of embryos

In the last two months, I joined a few IVF support groups on Facebook just to see what people were posting and if there was any information I could potentially benefit from. For the most part, over the last week or so, I’ve stopped reading any of the posts in depth, but I did notice a few annoying themes that I immediately ignore when scrolling.

I’m sure decades ago when IVF first became available, a lot of people were “morally” or “religiously” opposed, believing that this interfered with “God” or whatever higher power exists, and felt that pursuing IVF was wrong or “a sin.” I’m sure there are a lot of people who still believe this. Yet, as couples become desperate to start a family of their own, they slowly but surely begin to let their guard down, believing that “God intended for them to pursue this route,” or “God made people discover this possibility to benefit us,” so of course, it would be okay to pursue because God gives these options to people. In other words, when things are convenient for them, they allow what was previously against their beliefs to be acceptable.

The latest war seems to be against pre-genetic screening, which, for women who choose an IVF “freeze-all” cycle instead of a “fresh” cycle, they can also add on (with an additional expense if you are self-pay), as the embryos that make it to blastocyst/Day 5 are biopsied and sent off to a lab for genetic testing to make sure that the embryos are “chromosomal normal” (you cannot do PGS testing for a fresh cycle because the labs need at least 1.5-2 weeks to biopsy and get the result back to you, and fresh-cycle embryo transfers are usually 3-6 days after your egg retrieval). In addition to this, PGS testing also allows for you to know what the sex of the embryo is (it’s usually redacted, but you can request to have it un-redacted). You can also elect for other tests that can evaluate whether the embryo is a dominant carrier of certain diseases if you and your partner overlap for any recessive diseases. So funnily enough, there are many women and couples who think that although “God created IVF for a reason,” doing PGS testing is against God or “messing with God,” and choose “for moral/religious reasons” not to do PGS testing…. even though studies have shown time and time again that transferring a PGS-normal embryo results in a higher live-birth rate, a higher transfer success rate, and a far lower miscarriage rate.

And soon in the future, the people who were morally or religiously opposed to PGS-testing will ween themselves off this thought, and then be against some other new development in science and infertility medicine because it’s convenient for them. I hate it when people use religion or morals as a reason to be opposed to these decisions. You could use “God created X to benefit man/woman” with pretty much every argument!