#parentinnaebaby: the Third Month

It’s time for the 90 day review, isn’t it.

We are three months in. Baby is thriving and kicking – and boy, is she kicking! The changing table is her favorite place to create a ruckus, both with her legs… and in her diaper.

The days have gotten easier, and the nights even better. I apparently didn’t jinx myself with the last blog post, and despite napping horribly during the day, baby E is now down to one nighttime wake-up.

As I am a highly scheduled person, this consistency jives well with my desire for routine and regularity. So when you nap in your swing for 2 hours straight on Monday, you should do the same on Tuesday.

That’s not how baby E works.

She will sleep for 2 hours in the swing Monday, then cry indignantly in it on Tuesday, while laughing gleefully at the mirror above her head on Wednesday. Thursday she’ll sleep in it for 30 minutes, and Friday…  who sleeps on Friday?

It. Drives. Me. Nuts. And we’re still years away from the drama-filled saga of teenagehood and adolescence.

A key example of this was Halloween.

  • Mama was super excited to go to a friend’s house to socialize with other adults over pizza and beer, oohing and aahing over #babiesincostume (one of my current Pinterest boards, for the record). Mama had purchased Baby’s costume weeks prior, and even scrapped together basic DIY parent outfits to match.
  • Baby decided to continue her trend of not napping well during the day, finally falling asleep at 4:30 p.m. The day before, she slept 20 minutes at the same time.
  • Dada was on his way home.
  • Soon, the whole family would go to enjoy the spooky festivities together.

Four hours later, us parents sat in front of an empty frozen pizza box in our living room.

The disappointment was surprisingly overwhelming. I didn’t realize how much I was looking forward to a simple event, and soon a pile of crumpled tissues fell into the pizza box. Ashamed as I am to admit it, I cried because I didn’t get my way.

For so long, I was able to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted however I wanted. I even fought the idea of this surrender in marriage, still craving that independent life. Now with a baby that was wholly dependent on me and her dad, I knew I had to let it go.

There will be more pizza get-togethers and Halloweens. And there will also be naps that happen and naps that don’t. Through it all, I need to meet her where she is. Such an obvious lesson, and yet it took the disappointment of a missed costume party to finally accept that my way would no longer be the high way. Instead, it would be important to find the way that would work for all three of us.

Which meant: wearing her costume in November. Because why not?

 

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#narwhalsofNovember

#parentinnaebaby: the Second Month

“It gets easier.”

“The first two months are the worst.”

“Milk supply usually regulates around the 6-8 week mark.”

 

Lo and behold, our family has arrived at this nirvana.

Does it feel different?

Honestly, yes. I haven’t had a painful clogged duct in a week and a half, my diaper changing speed is exponentially faster, and there are fewer cry sessions in the dark.* As of this writing, I am scared to share that our baby slept a nearly 7-hour stretch last night for fear of jinxing myself tonight.

This blog is becoming an outlet and avenue for me to reflect, and I’m grateful for it. Granted, it’s a bit curated for you – thanks for reading! – but the thoughts and feelings are real. Otherwise I confess I might choose to stay in a mind-numbing place and simply sleep or watch Netflix** whenever possible.

In looking back, I’ve realized that my husband and I have gone through a LOT as new parents. But this isn’t a self-pat on the back. There was no way we could have gotten through these two months without the help and support of Our People.

  • People like my mom, who insisted on me napping every time I finished nursing (which was often), taking her granddaughter from my arms so that her own daughter could rest while managing to cook homemade meals every day for more than a month.
  • People like our church community, from whom we received every single piece of necessary baby gear – from sleep sacks to giant swings – to ensure the transition was as smooth as possible.
  • People who sent food delivery gift cards or brought home-cooked meals because I’ve pretty much only used the kitchen to clean pumping supplies and drink water.
  • People like the family and friends who text and email and call us at all hours to just check in because they’re in a different time zone or on another continent or even here in the Bay Area because they’re nursing a baby at a godforsaken hour too. They also patiently waited for very-delayed responses as me replying to written communication in a timely fashion felt like a Herculean task.

These are Our People, and I realize God gave us these amazing human beings so that I wouldn’t give up on our mini human being. If we can raise our daughter to end up like any of these people, this will have been worth it.

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And I have to admit, her newly developed smiles help make it worth it too 🙂

See you in a month!

*The last one was a tense conversation between me and my husband because: parenting = hard, which means marriage = hard, and that means we have to work harder at our relationship. But that’s for another post. 

**We are trying to be mindful parents and not watch TV when the baby is alert and engaged. I have managed to find the loophole and watch Netflix when nursing, since she can’t see the TV.

#Parentinnae Baby: the First Month

“Do you feel that overwhelming sense of love for your baby girl?”

I always thought I’d feel it on first glance, on first touch, on first smell. I’ve wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember, and I just KNEW that I would have no trouble bonding with my baby when she was born.

However, I didn’t anticipate the uncontrollable full-body spasms, taste of vomit from throwing up during the C-section, and an inability to keep my eyes open post-surgery when my daughter entered the world. I could hear the delight in my husband’s voice – “She’s so beautiful. She’s SO beautiful, Innae!” – but I could see and feel nothing.

In the days that followed, I continued to have little control over my body. I swelled to the point of looking like the Michelin Man, and my eyes were barely able to close due to the regular feedings and attention the little human needed. Every time she woke up to feed, I dutifully satisfied her hunger while wincing at the many trials and pains that come with breastfeeding, and then immediately looked to hand her off to other doting family members who could not stop gushing about how perfect she was. What I looked forward to most was when I could catch a few minutes of sleep, and that would only happen if the baby was not in my vicinity. Relatives came and went, and I mustered up the joy and excitement necessary to reflect the image of a glowing new mother.

Friends had shared that the ‘bonding’ with the baby took time, but I assumed that it wouldn’t be an issue for me. I assumed so much and knew so little.

At one month, the moments of connection come and go. In a dark room for a late night feeding, I feel connected. 3 hours later for the next feeding, though? The moment is gone and the new mother is disgrunted and frustrated.

Yet of all the trials of this month (which include, but are not limited to the following breastfeeding woes: painful nursing, clogged ducts, cracked nipples, milk blisters, vasospasms and painful letdowns at least 10 times a day), the hardest has been my own self-shame.

Until now, I had heard many a mother friend admit that she felt like a failure. As her single friend, I emphatically reassured her she was not. Now I became the one in need of reassurance because amidst my crying fits in the dark, I realized that this role requires a selflessness that I could not possess. My shame came from coming face-to-face with my own selfishness and I hated that I couldn’t be the mother I wanted to be.

But it’s been 30 days of realizing that I can’t be the mother I want to be, and in those low moments, I am given one comfort: I am the mother I am capable of being.

The mother Iwanted to be doesn’t exist; she is an ideal based on a supernatural selflessness. This I will only find in the Savior I believe in.

Instead, I am called to be me: broken, imperfect, selfish – and still a mother trying to love her daughter the way that Christ loves me. I’ll fail, but He won’t.

What will month two bring?

A Letter, Better Late than Never

I am ashamed to say that in my more than three decades of existence, I have not read Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s letter from the Birmingham jail.

The shame doesn’t end there.

As a privileged, educated Christian who is a minority but often treated like the majority, I cringe at knowing the injustice that existed less than a century ago – and the fact that injustice still exists now.

I cringe because there are still Christians who “stand on the sidelines” and while they mouth the right words when facing inhumane circumstances or possibilities for sacrifice, the hands stay closed and the eyes are dull.

I cringe when recognizing the disgust with the church has not diminished; in fact, the faith I believe in is frequently dismissed by outsiders because we are no longer extremists as Jesus Christ was. Were we ever? Could we be?

I know myself, and I see the potential for such standoffishness in me. Yes, me who graduated from an Ivy League university and chose to work part-time at a news station, dreamy about telling the stories of the voiceless. Yes, me who has grown up ‘churched’ and reciting Bible verses her entire life. Yes, me who left a provocative career for one that seems less ‘glamorous’ in order to ‘do good.’

We’re all frighteningly capable of indifference. Today I saw a man ahead of me who appeared to be mentally unstable based on his loud ranting and stumbling gait. I set my teeth, determined to walk straight past him as a sign that he was a human being and not a ‘body’ to avoid.

Then a well-dressed gentleman stranger walking from that direction passed me and suggested kindly, “Hey, you should cross the street.”

I crossed.

When the lesser-dressed man caught my eye from over the hood of a car, I gave a weak smile. He grinned and kept on singing and leaning against a pole, and I walked the remaining block to work, wondering if I had given into irrational fear by creating a distance of 10 feet rather than 10 inches between us.

 

This letter is to me. This letter is to you.

“The question is not whether we will be extremist, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate, or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of justice, or will we be extremists for the cause of justice?”

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., August 1963

At the Table with 엄마

The last time I was home, you became privy to three vignettes about my father, a brilliant architect and loving Korean father (you don’t understand how much of an anomaly those last three words that can be).

2015’s visit showcases my mother, a woman conservative in her thinking and mannerisms but liberal in the ways she shows her love.

In contrast to the pasta of less than a handful of ingredients, my mother’s Korean dinners are always “just” a main dish and “just” a 찌개 (stew) and “just” a few 반찬 (side dishes) and then “just” a few more things. Each time she cooks at home, the serving dishes don’t stop coming.

Not just any meal

Not just any meal

My father had planned an elaborate golf outing for the three of us. Mind you, what I attempt with a golf club should in no way be referred to as ‘playing golf.’ But on the dawn of our tee time, it was just my mother and I heading to the course as he unexpectedly succumbed to a sudden onset of the flu. The other days spent traveling Jeju Island were exclusively ours, as he was unable to travel.

“Let’s take a picture!” – 엄마

“Okay.” – 인애, as she busily prepares the selfie stick.

“Do you want a picture of you?” – 엄마

“No.”

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[minutes later]

“Oh this is all so pretty. Let me take a picture of you.”

“No, I’m good.” – uninterested daughter

 

The incorrigible mother  decides that she’ll then take photos of her eldest daughter as she walks down an icy hiking path.

“Look at me! But look natural!”

“How am I supposed to look at you and not fall?!”

Her handiwork

Her handiwork

 

We have a tradition of saying good-bye until the very last minute at airports. These are fairly frequent for our long-distance family, unfortunately. In years past, the clear glass partition that separated residents from travelers allowed for visible hand-waving.

 

Recently Incheon International Airport decided to frost up the glass… but that wouldn’t deter my mother.

 

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How do you not love a face… an eyeball like that?

I love you, 어머니.

Quote

The Commitment to Fulfillment

“But your fulfillment in life will not come from how well you explore your freedom and keep your options open… Your fulfillment in life will come from how well you end your freedom.”

– David Brooks, NYT

It has been quite the roller coaster ride, these last 15 months. An obscene amount of travel, reunions with friends old and new, and all the soul searching one could wish for (and yet not want at the same time). I’ve journeyed through valleys and stared up at a sky blanketed with a self-made fog of hopelessness. Elation has rushed through me as I realize near strangers are willing to take a chance on me out of the goodness of their hearts and the immediate connection we forged. And still – as of this publication – I am unemployed.

One could say I gave up the world of fame and recognition to be in this place of uncertainty. ‘You stepped down from being an anchor in air-conditioning… to being a reporter in the elements?!’ ‘You walked away from a glamorous career where free haircuts and holidays at work are the norm?!’

It’s not the one-way ticket most people envision booking.

 

Yet David Brooks’ recent commencement address at Dartmouth reminded me of words my own father shared with me in one of his epic birthday card messages.

Freedom is not always being free from something, but being free to do something. And as Brooks so wisely detailed, true fulfillment comes from understanding that limitations such as commitment can provide you with what you really want.

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And so:

I am committed to seeking my next path in the Bay Area.

I am committed to being invested in my community (though which specific one is still to be determined).

I am committed to loving my family, friends, and those who I shouldn’t have any reason to love.

I am committed to giving God glory because “by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.” [1 Corinthians 15:10]

 

Once again, the estimable David Brooks.

“You have to give to receive. You have to surrender something outside yourself to gain something within yourself. You have to conquer your desire to get what you crave.”

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My chains are (not) gone. I’ve been set free.

Beautiful Feet

I wanted to share a letter I wrote to the staff at Kiva on my last day of my internship (today!). It took me some time to get the thoughts out, but it felt necessary to make them public too. Now that I’m entering the world of unemployment again, it’s a reminder of why I gave up what I did to try to do what I want to do.

I’m definitely at a loss for words with this email.

As I mentioned in All Hands this morning, the last 5 months have been extremely influential. It has been a privilege to be part of a team that is filled with joy, passion, vision and… lots and lots of delicious sweets from the TOW (I kid you not, when I say I’ve gained so much, I also mean in the form of physical weight).

Yet the powerful impact each of you has on an individual – the individual mother who has been told she can’t financially back her own family, the individual immigrant who refuses to let limited English capability hold him back, the individual intern who’s trying to figure out her next professional footing – is widespread.

Isaiah 52:7 says in part, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news…”

I realize that Kiva will see many interns come and go, and it’s easy to get lost in that shuffle, but I wanted you to know this: You are bringing such good news to our neighborhoods and the world. Thank you for climbing the mountains with me.

Stay in touch,

Innae