Friday, February 9, 2018

on mamahood: month two

Dear Birdie,

Oh my gosh. Look at you.

Look at your fingers! Your expression!

You are no longer my wee, grunting newborn. When I first met you, I loved you but I didn't know you.

60 some odd days later -- I know you now. We know you now.

I stare at you so much that it would be embarrassing or awkward if you were anyone else. I feel like I know your face more than I even know your Baba's, because all I do anymore is watch, riveted, while you sleep, eat, cry, poo, smile, laugh, think. (I've never stared at him as much. That would be creepy.)

Your cheeks have been kissed 1 billion times by Mama. I told your Dad the other day that you are now one of the top three dudes I have kissed most in my life (the winners being you, Baba, and the ex that shall not be named, LOL.)

You are sleeping as I write this, and I stop typing every few minutes because I think I hear you.

It's as if my heart literally falters for a minute-- I catch my breath and freeze. Is he crying out for me? Both of the last times this has happened in the past hour, it was a crow in the backyard.

Oh, Birdie.

Things that make you sad in Month 2:

- If I am even 5 seconds late with boob
- The pain of your fart gas bubbles.

As you can see, this list has not veered much from last month. You are predictably simple, pure, easy to please.

Things that make you happy in Month 2:

- Seeing Mama's face after she feeds you and cleans up your butt. It's as if you didn't know it was her doing it all this time, and then once your primary needs are met, you go "Hey! It's this lady again! I like her a lot."

- Bath time with your Dad. He gives you massages and is so careful and loving with you.

- When we play, "Who's that baby in the mirror?" You love your reflection and it is the cutest because you think it is another baby, and whoever you think he is, you get so bashful and sweeeeet in his presence.

- Pretending to participate in conversation. You are babbling up a storm, with all manner of expressions on your face. The other day, I was belting out Beyonce and you joined in with me at the top of your lungs.

This month, we went from the three of us goofs, pal-ing around every day to just you and me.
Baba had to go back to work after 7 weeks off with us, and it was really sad. It was and is a huge transition, since we all three got so used to our tight family unit. He was pretty bereft about it the night before he went back, and when he told you his big feelings, you looked at him as if you understood his pain.

Rest assured, not every day is magical. We are under slept, for sure. Sometimes I gesture for your dad to just take this baby from me, exasperated, but it is not from a lack of loving you. It's just that we used to have different identities before becoming your parents, and we are blindly finding our way to seeing if we can own both at the same time.

And yet -- We have been lucky peaches to get this baby bubble together.

Babes, I can't believe you and I have a 2 month old!

Some words from your beloved Dad:

"Things I hope not to forget:

The rewiring of neurons when the wet cloth hits his tired and hungry body, a cry like no other, unforgiving, a bottomless call to serve, so strong that I must do everything, so dissonant I lose motor skills.

The look of surprised interest in his own bowel movements, like developing a taste for tuna sashimi with wasabi, kinda of painful at first, but then wow, that's pretty good!

The guilt of letting him squawk or fuss a bit longer because I really, really REALLY just want to pour this fucking coffee and get some toast in me.

The awe of his growth rate. His every change being so important and yet for every other parent that's said "he can hold his head up for almost 5 seconds" it's been like, "whatevs".

The hard truth that you, my wife, are so so so tired and just fell deep into that sweet and oh-so-needed sleep, but he's hungry again, and I know you will not get back to sleep for the day has begun, and naps are hard to find, and I always get more rest than you, more time than you, but there you are, 20 minutes later, shining your love down on him, I hear your sweet words, and am filled with pride and wonder at how truly completely you love him, regardless of all the above.

The paranoid checks when he burrows deep in my chest, limp-spined and curled into the Ergo where I can not see him, so I have to put fingers in his hand and gently squeeze until he startles, moves, sighs, or shows other signs of life.

The sense when he smiles that I am one of the precious few - that this moment is distinct from the multitude of frowns and cries, that his love is beaming back at me, matching mine and somehow amplifying it beyond measure.

The realization that maybe watching Black Mirror or TV in general while he naps on the couch next to us may not be perfect parenting.

Him on my chest, the soft weight, the slack contentedness of his body, helping ground me, to focus on this, and breathe, and lose myself in the feel of his soft head in my hand, his tiny arm draped over my ribs, his beautiful sleep telling me that he knows he is safe, and loved, that I'm doing my job, fulfilling the best and most cherished role I could ask for, that of Papa."

I know, right? He is pretty great, that one.

In the daylight hours, it's mostly me and you now. Po Po and Gong Gong pop by a lot, and are a huge help to us. They are completely smitten with you and will teach you to speak Cantonese, hopefully better than I can.

On the days that it is just us, I feel my confident spine growing taller. I can fulfill your needs. I can push past fatigue and change your barfed-on outfit, just one more time. I can survive the hours of the work day until your father comes home.

I thank you for being patient with me as I sometimes flail. You forgive me so quickly.

Love you, Goof.

You are my favourite child I've ever had.



Thursday, January 18, 2018

on mamahood: month one

Dear Birdie,

You have been with us for one month now, and while your Baba is reading a comic and you are taking a nap, I thought I would write down some words. They may be quickly dashed out, as I never know when exactly your squawks will lead me back to you; my boobs back to you. It's so nice to get a break to do something just for me.

( Simultaneously, I miss your face and smell and wonder when you will wake up.)

You might be wondering why the nickname. Why doesn't Mama ever refer to me as Kai? Well, for one thing, I generally very rarely call the people close to me by their real names. For instance, the day you hear me call your Dad by 'Bryan' to his face, is the day that he has done something that has me very mad. Your auntie is called Sister, your auntie Maggie is Marge. You get the drill.

So. You are Birdie. You and your squawks and cheeps and downright SCREECHES.

Baby, you have changed so much in this month that I'm not sure what even to say. When we brought you home, you were this small tiny human -- Baba could pick you up off the change table with one arm. You looked kind of like an alien; dark eyes without hardly any of the whites showing. Furrowed brows and so many frowns, that your neurotic Mama googled it to make sure nothing was wrong. Long piano fingers. Your hands and feet would often turn purple, as your circulation was still finding its way.

We held our breath so often these last 30 days. Is he alive? Is he still breathing? More than once, I would hold my finger to your nose to make sure I could feel a puff of air. Bringing you home that first day after the hospital was maybe the scariest night of my life: we foolishly tried to will ourselves to stay awake into the wee hours of the morning, terrified that if we both fell asleep, the very earth would swallow you whole and take you away from us.

We had just met you, you see. We didn't know if we would lose you. We had never been the stewards of anything so small, so precious, so beautiful before.

I can report that we are gaining confidence, as each night successfully yields its way to dawn: another day of triumph, another day where we did not wreck you. (You think I am being dramatic, in my use of words, child? One day, you may find yourself with 7lbs of flesh that depends on you too, and then we'll talk.)

Your first bath, sucked. You hated it SO much. You cried, and cried, and cried. Surely, we were torturing you. Dad thought this was an omen that you might hate the water as you got older (like your mother), and secretly was nervous that you might not share in his love of ocean and sea. Curse your DNA, Mama. I rolled my eyes.

A few weeks in, he tried again. Guess what? You love it. When the temperature of the water isn't tepid, and no shampoo gets in your eyes, and you've got your loving dad washing your cute bum, what's not to love?

I'm trying to think of the mundane facts that I will forget by next month, because of my extreme sleep deprivation and the fact that every day something new changes about you.

A tally so far:

- Your eyes are gunmetal grey

- Your hair is dark brown

- You are longer than you are wide. Who do you belong to, Big Bird?

- You love your soother, boobs, sleeping on your Dad's chest, being swaddled, being sung to / music

- You hate the inbetween of waking up and not having a boob in your mouth, being cold, wet wipes in your bum crack when you are hungry. Basically, when you are boobless.

- You tolerate: tummy time, when Baba is wearing you in the Ergo and crumbs fall onto your head because he is eating, and when Mama is on a mission to pick your nose.

- Mama's favourite part of you: lips. Perfect ears.

- Baba's favourite part of you: lips. Chubby arms.

Near the end of the month, you started to coo and oh BOY is that the sweetest sound? I didn't even know what a coo was before you, as a single, childless ladyperson. I googled it too, when the nurse told us that we could expect to hear that soon. The baby in the video was making such cute sounds, but trust me, it is even better when it comes out of the mouth of you.

Recently, you started smiling and chuckling in your sleep. The next few days, you smiled at ME, your FATHER, your POPO and your GONG GONG.

Anytime you do something terrific and amazing like that, I call you my little Valedictorian (your Dad was Valedictorian of his grad class) or my little Class Poet (your mom, her grad class), and your Uncle Vee overheard me saying that and told me I was going to give you a perfectionist complex one day. Yep, probably.


Listen, my little love. You are the heart that beats outside of my chest now. It is a homing beacon that always tethers me to you. There are days that are long, monotnous, tiring. There are days that I don't know how to be your Mama, whether anything I'm doing is right. Where the tether is hard to bear, to wear.

But then, we will be alone together in the orange rocking chair at 3AM as your Dad sleeps in the next room, your little body tucked firmly against my chest, and your face is peace and bliss. Breastfeeding can often be tedious, but there are these seriously poetic moments where I look down at you, watching as you relax because you are safe, cradled, nourished. I feel beautiful and strong, like the most important person on the planet. Because at this moment, I am the most important person to you.

I love you, Bird. What a pleasure to be around you.

Love, Mama

Thursday, November 30, 2017

on mamahood: the early days, part II

When I first found out I was pregnant, the expected due date was November 30th. That is today.
After we had the dating ultrasound, they modified the date to December 1st. That is tomorrow.

I don't know how we got here, husband.

How is it that we are going to meet our little love so so so imminently?

3 months have gone by since I last wrote about any of this to you -- and amidst that silence, the egg has been growing and growing. Our newly burgeoning parent identities have been shyly growing too. Quietly at first, we acknowledge ourselves as Mama and Baba. We wonder: who are we to claim these names yet?

Even with 40 weeks to digest this idea, it all still feels so new.

Moments / Symptoms from the third trimester:

- Strangers yelling at me on the street while pointing at my belly: HEY! CONGRATULATIONS!

- Having our best friends throw us such a loving baby shower, like a mini-reunion from our wedding.

- Feeling baby kick and move around consistently every day ((what a blessing, how reassuring))

- Learning words such as: epistiotomy, mucus plug, glider vs. rocker, gestational diabetes, 
microfleece inserts

- standing in a real exaggerated, pregnant way on the skytrain to see who notices me

- the rollercoaster of being told that B could take 3 unpaid months off work, serious conversations and my serious doubts, a realization that I'm not the only parent deserving of bonding time, a unanimous decision to forgo money in order for this priceless investment, to being told that actually, he doesn't qualify for this type of leave, heartbreak, recovery

- poking myself in the finger 3, then 7, then 3, then 0 times a day to make sure my blood sugar is ok

- things that saved my sore back: weekly prenatal yoga, the little borrowed wedge pillow for side sleeping, weekly prenatal massage (thank you, extended health)

- waking up to find the sleeping bag and mat out on the floor of the baby room for the first time. My snoring has gotten intense, apparently.

- only 2 pairs of shoes fit me now

- every Friday, I would exclaim to Bryan, "We've reached 3__ weeks!" It always felt like an accomplishment.

On Nesting

Like a mama squirrel or mama bird, I have been bringing home feathers and bits of twig and leaves in my mouth to build this tiny creature the safest haven. 

In the past, I have always left the craigslisting to B, but this nesting instinct is real dude, and has been a happy, tangible way to express my love and creativity. 

Seeing the baby room up and ready this past weekend gave me an immense feeling of peace in my heart. We are so thankful to our friends and family who have contributed their generosity to this space. I sit in that orange rocker to brush my teeth at night, and everywhere my eyes flit to, I see an auntie or uncle or grandparent who lovingly gifted us with a treasure. This room feels like a warm community.

Baby: I will keep you safe while you're in my belly. I will keep you safe once you are out in our wild, wild world.

Something to confess: 

There is a part of me that mourns that we will no longer be just two. My best friend and I, my pal, my husband, my person. And I know, I know, he will still be around and it will be even better than before (you say, they say) because we will be a family with this new, beautiful being in between us --

But until now, it's always been just me and him. For 8 years. So you can go ahead and tell me that it will be beautiful with three -- and even I know that too-- but I am still sad. I am still mourning the end of this chapter of our lives. I already miss the quality of our twosome. 

Soon, this feeling will be replaced with something unimaginable and greater than I could have conceived at this naive point of writing. But. In the meantime, no need to reassure me that it will be fine. It's just my human way of listening to my human heart... and it is feeling tender and bittersweet towards this youthful couple who, once upon a time, only had to attend to each other. 

Our time together feels very precious to me right now.


♥ I started maternity leave two weeks ago. Before I left, the loves of my professional life threw me a surprise baby party on my very last day. Having only taught them for three months, I wasn't prepared to be as enamoured with them as I am. On day 2 of class, I said to them: We should probably try not to like each other too much, on account of me leaving in November.

Didn't work.

 I remember being 17 years old myself, and throwing our high school english teacher a baby shower, and know the kind of thoughtfulness and care that takes. I said to Maggie (being a fellow teacher, she gets the magnitude of this) that I could retire happily now-- I had reached, for me, my highest teaching accomplishment. Balloons? Haikus? A present? A cake???

One of my big sadnesses of this pregnancy is that I won't be there with them through to June, when they graduate and fly the coop. I feel so grateful that the counselling program has made me a huge sap and that I am now explicit when I cherish something. They were told often how proud I am of them.

After yellow cake, squeals and laughter, we spent our last moments together in our usual circle, sharing what we love about this class and one another. I asked them to pass around a smooth piece of jasper as they talked, and to warm up the rock with their words. I joked that I would bring it into the delivery room with me as a talisman.

♥ This mama officially convocated and received her Masters degree in Counselling Psych! Thankful that I got to walk across that Chan Centre stage for the fourth and final time in my life (highschool lol, BFA, B.Ed., M.Ed), with a 39 week baby bump to boot. 

Felt proud to celebrate my brain and heart in this public way, before turning my attention to the next task of celebrating my body and heart in a much more private way... 

 This next step ahead of us is big, my friends. 40 weeks is tomorrow.

 Recently, I was feeling a deep sense of denial about what is coming. My brain would literally shut down when I was asked about birth or labour. It seemed too enormous a task, and I just could not engage with it in any real way.

Then, we met our doula.

In her very warm, validating, honest way, she made it possible for us to talk about our fears and worries.

Mine: pain.

His: seeing me in pain.

After acknowledging these truths, she reminded us that as much as this feels new, we also have a breadth of experience with things like pain, and fear, and uncertainty -- and that we have weathered these very things together as a couple. Lord knows, Bryan has seen me in excruciating pain. Despair. I have been in certain tiny rooms of Hell.

So this is new. But not foreign. I can't tell you enough how much this perspective has helped us to lean into this next bit.

Like the rushing of a broken dam, I can suddenly envision myself in moments of birth now.

I somehow know that I can and will claim my birthright as a woman. That our species is powerful, strong, brave, good, honest: and that birth can be all of these things. That whatever form birth takes, whether it is medicated or not, includes a caesarean or not, it is a rite of passage that I am going to go through with pride and honor.

Because on the other side of this moment?

I am going to be born again into a mother. A mother!

This child is going to make me a mother.

Monday, November 20, 2017

travelogue: Roadtrip to California

What do you do when you promised your spouse that Europe 2015 would be the last big international voyage for a long while, because of jet fuel, carbon footprint, and airport anxiety?

You wait two years. Finish a Masters. Announce a celebratory trip is owed. Compromise by getting into the car with sleeping bags, a cooler, long johns, and head down the coast to California instead.

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Timing: August. The day after your husband finishes a stressful, frenzied 5 week summer school stint. Wildfires will have ravaged the interior, the sky will have been a weird grey-lavender for weeks, and you will feel grateful to put miles in between you and the BC apocalyptic horizon.

Itinerary: 18 days, with a bit in Washington upfront, and then the rest spilt evenly between Oregon and California. We stayed on the 101 to stare at the Pacific ocean for as much as we could. Majority of the time is spent in campgrounds that have been booked well in advance -- not so romantic or spontaneous, but beats being worried about where we're going to lay our heads at night. Two nights on a proper bed to break up the drive, as this woman is 6 months pregnant and FEELING it.

Packing: He and I have camped together for the past 8+ years of our relationship. After all these adventures, we finally invested in some comforts for this journey:

1) A sleek double burner Primus stove
2) A queen sized thermarest and a double sleeping bag for optimal cuddling / warmth
3) Actual camping plates / bowls ( vs. random tin lids)
4) A car stereo and Spotify subscription for playlists and all the music (vs. our very scratched CDs)

I know all this is like... duh? to you. But it was new to us since we have subsisted on his early 20's camping gear for years. Adult Purchases are so great!

Favourite campsite(s):

Tilicum Beach campground, just north of Yachats, Oregon. Taking our plates of dinner down the stairs to the beach for sunset was so pretty.

Pheiffer Big Sur campground. We did one night by a babbling creek, and one night staring up at the giant Redwoods and stars while we listened to an audio book by the fire.


The huge rattle snake that crossed our path and hissed at us in Big Sur.

The weird, gaping hole in a tree that Bryan poked at in our campsite at Montana de Oro State park, only to discover that it was a giant nest of big, black spiders and all their legs.

Free camping overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, that I scored by calling a month in advance (Bicentennial State park).

The adventure that is marriage + driving almost 4,000 km together when you're hot and lost and maybe dehydrated.

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Day 1 - 3: Deception Pass WA, short stop in Seattle, this super cool spot along the Columbia River, and Astoria WA

Recommend: NOT getting stuck in 1-5 traffic getting into or out of Seattle on a weekend, and Buoy Beer Co. for great burgers and sea lions underneath your feet

🚗   Day 4 - 7: Cannon Beach OR, Yachats OR, and Humbolt State Park OR

Recommend:  Yachats Brewing for their Brisket sandwich and ferments, and Thor's Well.

🚗    Day 8 - 10: Redding CA, and San Francisco CA, Bicentennial Campground

Recommend: The podcast Revisionist's History by Malcolm Gladwell and Beautiful Anonymous by Chris Gethard (as there will be nothing to see for the hours of inland driving to 38℃ Redding), and
Outerlands for brunch in San Francisco

🚗  Day 11 - 15: Big Sur CA, Pheiffer Big Sur Campground,  and Montana de Oro State Park

Recommend: Pulling over whenever you can to stare at the moody, dramatic Californian coastline

🚗   Day 16- 18: Heading back North! Crazy 6-7 hours of driving to Redding for rest and In 'N Out burgers, then 3 nights of relaxation in Portland 

Recommend: Por Que No for Mexican, and Bollywood Theatre for Indian

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Is a babymoon what you do when baby is earthside, or still in the belly? 

Was this our bellybabymoon?

Now that baby is imminent, I'm dreaming of a Hawaii getaway. If spouse lets us do it, I will be super thrilled -- an earthside babymoon.

For now, these memories serve as a reminder of our last trip that was just the two of us. 

(Just the two of us. Isn't that wild?)