The big sister I never had

One of my good friends from my last company has been an invaluable support to me since before I even got pregnant and while I was on my IVF journey. She and her husband have graciously and generously given us literally a boatload of lightly used baby items, ranging from big, essential items such as our bassinet to our baby lounger to our car seat cozy to swaddle blankets. These are items that we have literally used every single day since the baby has come home. And instead of getting us a baby gift, she and her husband gifted Chris and me a delicious food delivery order from a food startup that tries to support refugees and spreads the word about their diverse cultures represented in New York City.

On top of that, she has given me a ton of reassurance every step of the way. For example, two days after the baby was born, I noticed that there were hard lumps on both of my breasts, and I immediately just assumed that I was experiencing clogged milk ducts. I freaked out a little bit, took a bunch of sunflower lecithin pills, and proceeded to massage them out with heat. It actually hurt, too. I told Chris, and of course he was sympathetic and tried to tend to the baby as much as possible while I kept on massaging my breasts. I was already getting scared that I was going to get mastitis, and I texted her to tell her. She told me that given it was so close after giving birth, there was no way that I could already have a clogged milk duct. The lumps that I was experiencing were likely just signs of my milk coming in, as that often times is what it feels like. It can also feel like your breasts are just getting rock hard. These are all good signs, she insisted to me. Your milk is coming in! I was immediately relieved and got really excited. I really wanted to be able to breast-feed my child and know for a fact that she was actually getting milk when she was at my breast.

Last week, she knew that I was feeling overwhelmed with Chris back at work, so she offered to come over to help relieve me by helping with bottle feeds and anything else that I might need help with. She proactively offered to do everything, from chopping vegetables to even cleaning my apartment. There was no way I was going to let her clean my apartment, so I asked if she could help with bottle feeding the baby. She knew that I was missing my Asian greens, so she went to Flushing the morning she came over and picked up four different types of Asian vegetables just for me, on top of stopping by one of my absolute favorite Chinese restaurants to get me some shengjianbao, or fried Shanghainese dumplings, as well as HK style noodles. I felt really overwhelmed by her generosity and kindness. It was like she was trying to take care of me when she knew that I was feeling inadequate and in need of some TLC. When she came over, we caught up and talked about a lot of things, mostly around motherhood, balancing child care and having a child in general with having an actual life. I often times look at her like the big sister I never had; I am so grateful that I have her.

Visiting friends and mom’s comparisons

When you live in a city as exciting and cosmopolitan as New York, you inevitably will have guests and visitors come from all over the place not just to see you, but to see and experience the city. One of my friends came to visit today with her now husband, and since they were coming over to grace me with their presence, I decided that since I was still feeling good, I’d make one of her favorite childhood cookies, the snickerdoodle, and send her off with some. Unfortunately, the Serious Eats recipe did not come out as I’d hoped (immediately out of the oven and a few hours later they were good, but passed that, they didn’t retain their soft, chewiness the way snickerdoodles are supposed to.

The two of them had been engaged since 2014, around the time Chris and I got engaged, and so my mom used to always say annoying things about how at some point, they would get married, never tell me, and not invite me to the wedding. “You can’t just assume that just because you invited someone to your wedding that they will invite you to theirs,” she started. “Maybe they don’t have the money to invite you, or maybe they just don’t see you as close enough to invite to their wedding.”

I thought about these constant jabs when my friend revealed that the two of them had gotten married about two weeks ago, in her parents’ backyard with just immediate family in attendance. Great, I thought, now my mom will be smug because she was right. Though it wasn’t like some grand affair that I was just left out of as my mother would want to imagine.

Not only did they get married in the last month, but they’ve also bought a home in the Bay Area. Talk about a double whammy in just one month.

I told my mom this later in the evening, which excited her to no end. She wants all my friends (at least, the ones she knows) to get married, have kids, and “settle down.” “Did you know that she’s your prettiest friend? I used to think (insert another friend’s name) was the prettiest. But no, SHE is the prettiest of them all!”

Yes, because I rank all my friends by how good looking they are. My mother really cannot help herself from comparing, as comparing people is one of her absolute favorite things to do, which annoys me to no end. Why can’t someone just be pretty or smart and that’s it? Why do they always need to be compared to someone else….?!

Unexpected Facebook direct message

It was around midday today when I was working at my desk, and a Facebook direct message popped up onto my phone. It was from someone who I was good friends with, perhaps potentially even a little bit more, in high school, who I hadn’t seen since high school graduation in June 2004, so 17+ years now. He said he was in New York for a quick trip and was actually leaving tomorrow and realized I was here, so he asked if he could see me. It was a happy, pleasant surprise, so I checked my calendar and suggested we meet up this early evening for tea.

We met up and chatted for about an hour, and it felt so funny but happy. I have lots of fond memories of hanging out with this old friend from high school. He had feelings for me and expressed them openly, and while we did hang out frequently and even went to a winter ball event together, I never really reciprocated or acted on anything since I knew he wasn’t really a fit for me both emotionally or intellectually. That sounds kind of snooty, but I knew what I wanted, and he was definitely not the person for me. It also didn’t really help that there were plenty of rumors during high school that he was closeted and likely gay (and, well, since then, as an adult, has “come out” and is now openly homosexual). Since graduation, we’d had zero contact. The most “contact” we’d ever had was “liking” or “reacting” to each other’s Facebook posts, and that was really it. So it was a total surprise when he actually reached out to meet up.

It was like a trip down memory lane, as corny as that sounds. We talked high level about things that have happened since high school. He admitted he’d been closely following pretty much ALL my Facebook posts since high school, as he thought about me often and wondered how I was doing. He knew about my boyfriends, my travels, my wedding and current partner, my brother’s passing, all my AFSP fundraising. He knew I was still closely in contact with two of my best friends from high school, who also used to be friends with him.

“When I look back at all the guys and girls I used to date or had a thing for, you always stand out to me,” he said, thoughtfully. “Even though we never really officially dated, you were always special to me, so I think about you often. I just hoped you were doing well.”

It was touching to hear this, but it also felt strange at the same time… to think that someone who was once close to you in the past but has kept quite the distance still thinks about you often, keeping a laser focus on all your social media posts, and still holds you close to their heart. It’s not like he was never able to directly message me or reach out in some way; it would have been so easy to do that given Facebook, but he just chose not to. I barely even knew what to say in response; I just smiled and said I appreciated his thoughts and well wishes.

He said that since his sister is living up in Toronto now that he’d have more opportunities to come to the East Coast, so he’d like to come to New York more often. I couldn’t believe it when he shared that this was not only his first trip to New York, but also his very first time on the east coast of the U.S.! I’m not sure we have much in common, but it would still be nice to see him for old time’s sake moving forward.

If I thought I would see him again, though, I never imagined it would be when I was pregnant. It was pretty hilarious and he seemed pretty happy for me. Everyone is happily looking forward to Pookie Bear’s arrival.

Friends for nearly a quarter of a century

Tonight, I was on a Zoom chat with two of my close friends. The conversation mostly revolved around my pregnancy and little baby coming soon, as well as my friend having her in-laws come for about two months after a very long pandemic period of not seeing each other, as well as random other family topics.

When we were growing up, we used to talk about how fun it would be if we all had kids around the same time so that we could become moms together and raise our children together. They’d have play dates and become good friends. We’d spend all this family/friend time together. I guess that isn’t really happening since I decided to move away. One of the three of us is never planning to have kids. So that picture we used to have in our minds isn’t really happening. It makes me wonder what kind of connection, if any, our kids will have to each other: will they remember seeing each other after long periods of time not seeing each other? Or will they just be some random distant person who is easily forgotten?

Regardless of what happens, I’m still grateful for their friendships and for how far I’ve gotten in this pregnancy to date. It still feels unreal that I’m almost 35 weeks into this pregnancy, and Pookie Bear still appears to be thriving. I feel extremely lucky.

Reunited after 3 years and familial expectations

I had the day off today, so I made plans to see a friend who was in town from Seattle for lunch. She and her husband are originally from New Jersey, but they moved out to Seattle for career opportunities in 2012, and they’ve stayed there since and have really fallen in love with the city. They recently bought a townhouse there, and it looks like they want to stay there for at least the next five years, much to their families’ dismay. When we caught up over FaceTime a few months ago, I realized that the last time I had actually seen here was in 2018, so over three years ago now, which was crazy to me. Every time we catch up again, it always feels really comfortable, as though no time has passed. I guess that’s usually a sign that you have a friend worth keeping, when there’s no real pressure to do certain things together and you just feel comfortable being around each other without much expectation.

I usually know when my mom likes one of my friends when she repeatedly asks about the person. With this friend, she will usually ask every few months if we’ve been in contact and how this person is, and whether this person has had kids yet. This friend has no plans to have kids; in fact, she and her husband decided long before marriage that they would remain child-free. I always tell my mom this, to which she always responds that people say that, but they change their mind. Or, they will think about their “old age” and realize they need to have kids.

There is no nice, polite way to tell my mom that people today are definitely NOT having kids because they expect their offspring to take care of them when they get old. If anything, they have kids for the “progression of life,” or because they want to leave a “legacy.” Or, hey, maybe they just want kids! I mean, my mom always had this stupid fantasy that Ed would take care of her and my dad when they got old since I decided to be selfish and move away, but now that Ed isn’t here anymore, she’s saving every last penny for her future convalescent home because she doesn’t think I will do anything for her when she needs help. Oh, familial expectations.

Delayed catch-up after almost 3 years

This afternoon, I had an almost 2.5 hour FaceTime chat with a friend of mine who I haven’t seen in almost three years. She and her husband live in Seattle, and while she has family out here in the tri-state area, she hadn’t visited since 2019, and it was only for quick visits to Jersey. We caught up on everything from her new home, my chaotic pregnancy journey, shared family dysfunction, and everything in between.

Although we’d loosely kept in touch this entire time via text message and Instagram, we hadn’t had a real 1:1 conversation until this day. Yet despite that, it felt like no time had passed since we last spoke because the way we interacted and exchanged laughs and retorts seemed so natural.

I thought about all the blogs and mom stories I’ve read about people who become parents, and their friends tend to change in favor of others who are parents vs. those who are child-free, and I wondered what my life would be like with my friends who don’t have kids. My circle of friends already relatively small, so I don’t really fear that I’ll become that disconnected from child-free friends, but I wonder how often we will chat and what our interactions will be like post-baby being born. I do hope that I’ll be able to make new friends through parent/mom groups, though, since it will be important for our child to socialize with those of a similar age.

27 weeks gestational age and birth

I had a casual 1:1 catch-up with one of my colleague friends over Zoom today, and I finally told her that I was pregnant. We talked about the female body in general and how resilient and amazing it is, and she revealed to me that although she’s never had a baby herself, she always marvels at mothers and pregnant women for going through the pregnancy and birth process because of how beautiful she thinks it is… particularly because in her own case, she was born at 27 weeks gestational age and had to stay in the NICU for almost three months before being allowed to go home.

I was so shocked that I could barely contain myself. My colleague is two years older than me, which means that science and hospitals were equipped to keep her alive and healthy in 1984 at a super premature stage. TWENTY SEVEN WEEKS? I thought to myself. That’s just over six months of pregnancy!!!!! What a miracle baby she was, I told her. I don’t think I can look at her the same way ever again. And now, she’s a 37-year old woman who is accomplished, extremely smart, and so thoughtful. Thank goodness she not only survived but thrived. She told me that the hospital filled her up with so much formula in her three-month stay that she was super fat when she finally went home, and no one could tell that she was originally born so premature!

Sacramento friends reunion

This morning, we drove up to the Sacramento area to spend the next few days visiting friends who have relocated up here. It was such a nice difference in temperature (20-35+ degrees F!!!), and the warmth from the sun felt so good. It was almost like we were defrosting on our way up.

One of the friends we visited and spent most of today with was our friend we met about six years ago in New York. Chris calls them the only couple friend we’ve made together, as when we usually hang out with other couples, they are usually through my side or his, but we’re not necessarily all “mutually” friends. Her husband died from unknown causes and seizures just about two weeks after their first and only child was born. I learned during our time together today that they had been trying to conceive for over 2.5 years until they finally got pregnant… right after a few cycles of failed fertility treatments. Having gone through fertility treatments myself, just hearing this felt torturous to me: 2.5 years of trying without any intervention or outside help. Granted, this was likely the case due to lack of insurance coverage and costs that I was privileged enough not to have to deal with, but it pained me regardless. And I felt like my heart was getting pierced hearing that after 2.5 years of trials and tribulations trying and failing to conceive, what felt like a miracle positive pregnancy test after that and a smooth pregnancy experience, that our friend only got to see and hold his own son for just a few days before having unexpected seizures and going into a coma that he would never wake up from. It was immediate joy followed by immediate pain, anguish, and death. I had to hold back tears hearing this, as I cannot even imagine how brutal this was for his wife. His son will only ever have a few photos with his dad to remember him by.

The entire time we were with her and her baby boy, I could feel Raj’s presence with us. It was as though I was still waiting for him to jump out of a closet or bathroom and yell, “Gotcha!” His presence is still strongly felt, and I felt it the entire time with them today. There is really no one else I know who is male who was so outwardly expressive and excited about the impending arrival of a child. Most men, including mine, are reserved and don’t really express too much emotion; Raj wore his heart on his sleeve and just shared everything, literally everything. No man I know is more open than he was. His passing was the universe’s loss. I still cannot believe he is gone.

Life is really fucking short. When I think of him and how suddenly and unexpectedly he passed, I always think about how short life is. Things always come up that you don’t expect, for the better and worse. I don’t know if any of us will live to see the next day, year, 10 years. It makes me even more painfully aware and annoyed of how miserable and mopey some people in my life are. It’s just that some people are so incapable of being grateful for what are seemingly the most basic things: good health, roof over our heads, enough money to never even have to worry about money. Those aren’t so “basic” to so many people in this country and world.

I hope Raj can still see us. I think about him all the time and hope his son inherits all his amazing qualities and his positive outlook on life.

Back to “dating”

This evening, I caught up over a vegan dinner downtown with my friend, who is sort of single and sort of not. The recap is that she’s separated and moved out from the apartment she shared with her boyfriend, and though she originally wanted to break up with him, she couldn’t really muster herself up to fully go through with it, so they are on a “break.” In the meantime, she’s been living in another apartment on her own, going on dates she’s been meeting through dating apps, and having the occasional date with… her boyfriend. I’m not really sure “dating” your boyfriend is really what a “break” is, but to each her own.

It’s been interesting to hear about her dating experiences via apps, though, since although I have used an online website for dating once before, I’ve never used any dating app ever. With my friend, her own experience is particularly interesting and comical because in her nearly 35-year-long life, she’s only had two boyfriends, both relationships that lasted at least 9-12 years, so she really has never had much experience “being out there” and playing the field. In the last several weeks, she’s had everything from booty calls to guys sending her essay-long messages, saying that they feared they’d fall too hard for her because of how good looking she is. Both are gag worthy to me, but at least the booty call is straight forward. Who wants an essay long message about how the sender is already emotionally attached before ever actually meeting….? I already wanted to puke in my mouth when I heard that pathetic story.

I really have no idea what I’d do if I were single again and dating. I barely knew what to do with myself when it came to dating the few blocks of time in my life when I was “single.” My general distaste for men and their idiocies would likely render me single for the rest of my life. But hey, that’s probably better than being with some selfish guy who just wants a mommy substitute to do everything for him.

Gestational diabetes

One of my friends is due to give birth to her first child in August. She’s a doctor, so she’s very well aware of all the diagnostic tests that are done during the pre-natal period. Unfortunately, she failed one of her tests that screen for gestational diabetes (GDM), and while she is currently waiting for a follow-up test to dig into how severe the condition is for her, she’s had to completely cut out any desserts or candy, sweet drinks (including juice), and reduce her intake of any refined grain or wheat products (so, no white rice, no white bread, only whole grain/whole wheat everything).

It wasn’t my diagnosis, but this just made me so sad. All of my comfort foods are unfortunately…. refined products. Chinese bao. Rice noodles. Pho. ICE CREAM. Chocolate chip cookies. Even the purer products, like grass jelly and doufu fa/tofu pudding, are all SWEETENED by sugar syrups. I realize that gestational diabetes is a temporary diagnosis until you give birth, but during pregnancy, they already give you a whole laundry list of things you aren’t supposed to touch, so it feels even more restrictive and anger-inducing to hear that they’re just going to add even MORE to that long list if you get GDM.

Everyone always loves to talk about the joys and excitement around pregnancy. That’s because it’s easy and comfortable to discuss that; it’s simple. It doesn’t offend or hurt anyone. But no one wants to openly discuss the ugly parts of pregnancy: the high chance of miscarriage due to things completely out of a woman’s control; all the unattractive symptoms, like excessive bloating and gas, breast pain/enlargement, round ligament pain (pain/tension that is ongoing in your lower abdomen), constant urination; all the fear and anxiety around what you will do if you lose your pregnancy; all the fear and anxiety around when you’re even supposed to share when you’re expecting; all the things you’re restricted from doing and eating; all the emotional ups and downs.

As a society, we’ve basically put women in a dog house and forced them into that small box for nine months. We’re told to suffer in silence and keep any of our pains or anxieties to ourselves. I thought we were supposed to be getting more progressive??