Mothers

Now that I’ve become a mother, it’s even more apparent how little any of us (parents) knows about raising a person. I charge into the day with good intentions and I never know how each intention would turn out. I may have an inkling of what to expect, but the growing brain and body of littles are often at odds with one another (i.e. the brain wants another round of play but the drowsy body just wants to crash) that I find my good intentions sitting on the sideline just observing the open conflict.

This phase, I can only hope, shall pass, too.

My own mother was a superwoman in my eyes for many years being a professional and a duty-bound eldest daughter as well as daughter-in-law. Her strong personality never allowed challenges from me, her only child, and I never dared. These days I sometimes catch myself in the authoritative image of my mom, especially when I feel impatient with Baobao. When mom “advises” me to speak more kindly and warmly to Baobao when I vent over the phone, I think wistfully of the time when mom threatened to disown me if I were to marry my first boyfriend.

How much a mother can get away with once she becomes a grandmother?

My maternal grandmother A-Po grew up in the Japanese-occupied Taiwan and never had the opportunity to attend school. She worked on the farm and raised many of her grandchildren. I have fond memories of being her first grandchild and learning my way around the kitchen and caring for baby cousins by shadowing A-Po. In contrast, my paternal grandmother Nai grew up in a privileged family in Nanjing, China. Nai was well-educated, confident and proud, even though she lost everything during the conflict between communists and nationalists.

Sometimes, being in the moment seems overrated. As I try to get through another day in the trenches of early motherhood, that is, wiping dirty bottoms and calming a tantrum, my sight is set on the phase when reasoning becomes the normal mode of operation.

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Monday before 9:30

Change (also replace mattress protector and crib sheet due to accident) and nurse Erbao, check. Feed self (a cup of hot goat milk), check. Sweep, vacuum and steam mop part of the house, check. Force Baobao through the “torture” of mani/pedi plus a poorly done trim over the sink, check.

It’s 9:30 a.m., Monday, and I’m already beat.

I don’t know how other mothers with regular day job and multiple children carry out their weekday morning routines, seriously it has to be the most challenging example of multitasking. On most days, I congratulate myself when the kids and I get through a hot breakfast by 9 a.m. Today J was kind enough to feed Baobao some yogurt since she got up way too early considering when she went to bed the night before. My days, at this point, still revolve around breastfeeding Erbao, so that means getting up two to three times during the night and trying to function on a cloudy mind at the start of the morning.

From time to time, I come across online articles about morning habits of highly effective people; some examples include meditation, good breakfast, some exercise, planning, and reading. All of these habits sound great, really, but I do wonder whether these habits are able to withstand the ever changing infancy and toddler years. I’m not even talking about when a child is ill and how that disrupts the basic routine of the entire household, because just getting everyone properly fed and appropriately dressed is already a feat.

How does your morning look like as a mother?

Baobao’s language development 3Y6M

Baobao is half way through her third year as a creative, spirited child. And boy, has she had a dramatic transition during the last six months:

  • Moved into her own bedroom and slept through the night without company or drama
  • Became a big sister to a baby boy
  • Coped with (and probably still adjusting to) brand new routine due to Daddy’s new work schedule and Mommy’s preoccupation with baby brother
  • Appeared to begin character recognition (for Chinese) as well as blending (for English)

She’s talking back in both Mandarin and English, sometimes even using reasoning in her defense. The other day when I caught her putting something that wasn’t food in her mouth, I reminded her that she was ingesting germs into her belly; Baobao replied nonchalantly that her white blood cells would eat up the germs (Thank you 漢聲小百科). Just tonight J asked Baobao why she “sanded” the branches, and she said because she likes it.

She demands to be read to by both Daddy and Mommy as well as going through some of her audio books repeatedly (i.e. 三字兒歌 – 生活、大自然、好習慣). Lately I have overheard Baobao, with more frequency, “read” out of memory to herself.

After reading The Bernstein Bears and the Bad Dream, Baobao has initiated several discussions about nightmares and our minds, each time tackling the same theme in a different way. Similarly, Baobao is learning that when we go out during the week, we take baby brother along. We talked about legally I would be considered a bad guy if I were to leave baby brother behind by himself, and that the police would take me away. Heavy duty stuff, I know, but it’s important for children even as young as Baobao to become aware that the world is, unfortunately, quite complicated.

I tell J that I don’t dumb it down for our children, and the reason is that I sincerely believe in the intellectual and emotional potential in children. Baobao’s poignant questions in both languages challenge J and I on a daily basis, in an amazing sort of way.

胎盤樹

約三年半前,寶寶在家裡順產出生。接生的助產師細心的把養育寶寶的胎盤收在我們預備的盒子裡面,這些年盒子也就靜靜地待在大冰庫的角落,有時我和老公聊起來也維持初衷打算把胎盤拿來後院種樹。四個多月前,幸運的再度在家順產迎接二寶,助產師聞知我們的意願是種樹,她俐落地把胎盤裝入冷凍袋直接塞廚房冰箱的上層冰櫃,順便提醒我們別誤把胎盤當食材(不過此地有人專門把新鮮胎盤製成膠囊幫媽媽補身體)。

真的,生了孩子以後好像沒什麼不能聊的,連孕期負責養胎兒的胎盤也洋洋灑灑寫了一堆。有時候開冰櫃瞄到那包二寶的胎盤,心裡還是感到一定的震撼,母體實在是太神奇了,就這樣靠一坨組織養育一個新生命。

今天在二寶四個多月大的下午,我終於把退冰的兩個胎盤倒入老公事先挖好的洞,一邊回答寶寶的許多問題:「媽媽這是什麼?」「這麼多血是媽媽的嗎?」「哎呀這麼多血!」老公在旁邊等不及的趕快把紅橡樹苗蓋住胎盤,把洞填滿,不像我還回想著生產的點滴,心裡還感動著。

兩個寶貝,你們可真是媽媽的血肉生出來的,希望這棵紅橡樹能和你們一起健康的成長、茁壯。

When I wasn’t looking…

Baobao has been fairly patient with me, who had been mostly dazed from around the clock nursing and getting over digestive problems that lasted three eternal weeks. The poor kid had to figure out ways to keep herself entertained and occupied during my recovery, because mommy barely managed to fix meals and snacks and not much else.

Guilt was an understatement while my body healed, but I refused to let rules slide or make promises to placate the toddler. So there were tense moments of power struggle, and maybe it was unfair to put a three-year-old in that situation. I don’t know, my secret hope was that children’s innate resilience would somehow carry Baobao through and she would, at the end, forgive my many shortcomings.

I could hear the anxiety in Baobao’s voice when she watched me groan in pain and close my eyes from exhaustion, “Mommy, are you going to sleep?” I knew the toddler was anxious about the prospect of being left alone to play, about losing THE person to talk to or to interact with, but gosh I was not functioning at all.

So Baobao sought amusement around the house and created. She made up new games with existing toys, practiced towel folding because she wanted to, and jumped on as many things as she could get away with.

When I wasn’t able to keep tab on the amazing three-year-old, she somehow balanced the chaise cushion between the coffee table and the edge of the chaise, essentially furnishing a hammock of sorts. Then she must have carefully laid the three layers of blankets on the suspended coushion judging by the aligned corners of the blankets. All this exquisite effort so she could take a nap in new comfort, and to experience the unanticipated fall when she woke up from her nap.

When I wasn’t looking, my child grew up without me.

Local outings

Back in the days when I just had Baobao in tow, the two of us managed some exploration of local offerings in between my interpreting gigs and errands. Since I’ve started logging Baobao’s “homeschool” activities after the birth of Erbao, I decided to list the “field trips” we have gone for reference. What I want to remind myself with this list is that any place can be a learning experience, as long as one’s senses and heart are receptive.

My rule of thumb with any outings with Baobao is to follow directions and have fun. The directions I might give are mostly related to safety and getting along with others. Since I speak Mandarin exclusively to Baobao even when we are out and about, we do attract some curious glances. The beauty of raising a bilingual child, especially when we are out in public, is that the child quickly adjusts to use the correct language with whichever audience she interacts with. Another reason that causes me to interfere Baobao’s play is to explain to other children that Baobao is a lot younger than many of them even though Baobao is as tall as a four or five-year-old. I expect that in time Baobao will possess enough language to advocate for herself more effectively.

We’ve only gone to the aquarium once and I was unimpressed by the crowded and limited display; however, Baobao enjoyed herself just fine. Note for future visit: Preview books about aquatic life and discuss issues surrounding so-called conservation efforts.

絲婚紀念

維繫婚姻真的不簡單。四年的磨合,感覺好像還沒到位。每天像修行一樣,敲鐘唸經,光保持整潔就夠忙了(畢竟兩個孩子的東西有夠可觀)。我那拘謹的老公,也許是擔心家計,似乎忘了婚後才更需要戀愛。

看著他當初求婚時依據我的喜好而精心選的古董鑽戒,很想念那時的我們。

Postpartum gratitudes

Erbao arrived in a rush two weeks ago, and I was beyond surprise to have birthed him in three consecutive contractions instead of the by-the-book labor with Baobao. The midwives missed the delivery by minutes, so J had the unique claim of delivering his son. I think J should add that to the list of skills on his resume, no?

Being cooped up for postpartum remaining/confinement poses some specific challenges with my high strung mother and the unpredictable three-year-old. So I’m extra grateful during this time for any patience any of us can muster for the sake of my recovery and sanity.

I am grateful for the relatives and friends who’ve extended their excitement and practical help from dropping off food to diapers. I am thankful for those interested in the birth story, because through recalling the event I am better equipped to cope with the physical trauma associated with this particular birth.

A couple of months prior to Erbao’s birth, I moved Baobao to her own room with a second twin bed in anticipation of the disrupted sleep with a newborn. The second twin bed, or “Baby’s Bed” as Baobao called it, allowed me and my big belly to keep Baobao company in her new digs so her occasional night terror or bathroom trips would be tended to. The extra bed in Baobao’s room also provided a dark and quiet place for J to sleep while I take care of myself and Erbao during postpartum confinement (and possibly beyond until Erbao is sleep trained). I’m grateful for the existence of this modest twin bed and the options it provides so the maximum number of the household can have a proper night of sleep and normal functioning during the day.

Welcome to your life, Erbao.

Baby weight, still?!

~ March 2016 ~

Well…yes! Baobao is almost two-and-half-years-old (wow), and the simple explanation for the 15lbs baby weight is that I live a mostly sedentary lifestyle with no set schedule for workout or sleep. I suppose chasing after the toddler and standing around in the kitchen for hours cooking/cleaning amount to some caloric loss, but at the end of the day I really just want to curl up with a book and a fuzzy blanket.

Now that we’ve made it through the holidays (including lunar new year), I feel ready to pay more attention to enjoying delicious food in reasonable portion at a reasonable hour. I couldn’t bear the thought of “portion control”, as unpleasant an idea as postpartum girdle, but I can draw daily inspiration from the little one, who:

  • Quits eating when satisfied, never mind the leftover
  • Knows and asks for what she wants to eat/drink
  • Tests her motor skills and physical strength in a variety of ways, all the time

There may be lack of motivation on my part to be more consistent on paying attention to how my pants fit, instead I made the closet purge acknowledging the permanent changes my body will carry. This may not be the body I will have for the remainder of life, but it’s the body I have now to be the wife, the mother (As Baobao would ask J, “Where is THE mommy?”), and the working professional.

~ September 2016 ~

On Baobao’s 2.5 birthday, we discovered that we were pregnant with Erbao using the trusty pregnancy test kit from dollar store (a bit of inside joke from J). We celebrated the news (or calmed our nerves depending on whom you ask) with some Mexican food at a local mom-and-pop restaurant.

So technically, I should carry on with carrying that baby weight for a while longer ^_^

The first half of this pregnancy was rather unpleasant compared to the first pregnancy, though one might argue that I really had it easy with Baobao with minimal discomfort except for fatigue. With Erbao (or Monkey as his Chinese zodiac sign), I lost some weight from nausea, headaches and poor appetite. My car was (and still is) stocked with Milton’s crackers for those unpredictable queasiness, and the only fluid I tolerated was lemon water.

Now I’m well into third trimester, Erbao finally dropped a bit so his bum is not pressing on my diaphragm as it did throughout the pregnancy. I don’t think I ever paid this much attention to my breathing in my life!

 

The sky, come sleep

Baobao is turning 3 in a month, and sometimes I can’t seem to wrap my head around the impending milestone. Nor could J, for that matter, as he directs his “accusation” at Baobao, “Where is my baby?!”

There are plenty of days when wrecking my brain to entertain and engage a toddler seem to inspire the best (and worst) in me. With Erbao on his way (now at 26 weeks), I basically run out of battery by late afternoon and have zero tolerance for toddler shenanigans. I pray for a smooth transition to bedtime with no drama or odd requests (i.e. arrangement of blanket), so there may be just a chance for J and I to have an adult conversation or for me to make some progress on reading (currently: Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal, a book club selection of Nampa Library).

I have intentionally avoided making reading part of the bedtime routine because we’ve most likely done that some time during the day. On the days when I have several interpreting gigs, my voice is pretty shut by the evening. Realistically, all I can mentally handle as a bedtime routine is milk, flossing, tooth brushing, potty, and tucking in. Ideally, the entire sequence is executed without protest, threat, cajoling, or raised voice. When I lose my cool at any point of implementing the routine, I do try to remind myself that mastering bedtime routine is a learning process and can be challenging for a toddler of Baobao’s age.

Tonight we only had a slight detour from the bedtime routine, that all three of us actually hung out in the big bed for about 10 minutes. I was too tired to order Baobao to get back to her own bed, plus Baobao somehow managed to persuade J to join us instead of a quick kiss good night and getting back to whatever he was doing. I sneaked in some tickling while Baobao chatted up her father, and at one point Baobao declared in her own words the poetic, English equivalent of 太陽下山了 (literal translation: the sun has come down the mountain/the sun has set).

And she wrapped up the bedtime routine by asking me to accompany her to her last visit to the loo and to tuck her in her own bed.

Where has my baby gone?!