Pregnancy

I always thought I would really, really hate being pregnant. As a teenager, I was afflicted by wrenching menstrual cramps that knocked me out of commission at least one day per month and often made me vomit. Aleve offered only partial pain relief. Stewed dates—”ancient Chinese medicine,” I called it, imitating the uncle from the 2000s TV show Jackie Chan Adventures—helped more, but the taste made me feel sick in a different way. I had an ultrasound to look for signs of endometriosis or some other disorder; there were none. My female parts felt inexplicably, unsolvably broken.

My mother was unsympathetic, even impatient. “This is just what it means to be a woman,” she would say. “Pregnancy is much, much worse.”

Somehow, magically, it has not come close. The worst and weirdest aspect so far was pregnancy gingivitis, which caused a section of my gums to swell so much that I had to get it sliced off. In my first trimester, I had a few bouts of queasiness, fatigue, and mild aversion to certain foods. Now in my third trimester, I have a lot of aches and pains in my legs, and it is definitely wearisome to be so bulky. All this is tolerable, though. Overall, my pregnancy has been pretty smooth. No cramps, vomiting, heartburn, constipation, insomnia, varicose veins, high blood pressure, placenta previa, gestational diabetes, or injuries. Guess my anatomy isn’t so screwed-up, after all.

We have learned so much during this journey. My husband has accompanied me to every doctor’s appointment and prenatal class. Together, we researched baby supplies, diapering methods, labor stages, breastfeeding, and more. We watched our creation grow from a tiny avocado pit to a humanoid with wildly flailing limbs… to a body too big to fit on an ultrasound screen, with the most adorable face ever rendered by 3D imaging software.

I did not know fetuses moved so much in the womb, nor did I expect to find the movements so fascinating and endearing. I had previously only heard others talk about kicks. I have since learned firsthand that there are also wiggles, punches, stretches, and even hiccups. It is surreal to watch your belly shift and undulate on its own, and to feel a little fist here or leg there. My husband loves touching my belly, too. He swears he is able to play a call-and-response game with our new buddy. It is sweet to see how much he is embracing his upcoming role as a father.

As eager as we are to meet the baby, I know I’ll miss carrying him around in me and feeling these motions. I am keeping him completely warm and safe for now, but soon he will have to face coldness and hunger and a whirlwind of confusing stimuli in the real world. I know also that everything will be totally different for my husband and me going forward. We got pregnant so soon after getting married. It would have been nice to have more time together, just the two of us. But this is going to be fun, I think. Part of me is surprisingly a bit sad about this part of the journey coming to a close, but I am really, really excited for the next.

Year-end Reflections

Every year around my birthday and Thanksgiving, I like to write a piece reflecting on all that transpired that year, how I’ve grown, and what I’d like to accomplish the following year. I missed that window in 2018, so here I am trying to collect my thoughts on New Year’s Day.

Normally, I would be beating myself up over it. I tend to set certain standards of productivity and achievement for myself, and get bitterly upset when I fail to meet them. I am learning to lighten up, though. Nobody else cares if I share a summary of my year on December 31 or January 1. I used to be so inordinately preoccupied with making all these pieces and processes of my life—even mundane ones like cooking or laundry—come together in a prompt, seamless series. Well, I still love that feeling when things are timed well, but I am finally realizing the stress to make that happen isn’t always worth it.

I am also coming to accept that sometimes people suffer even when they have done everything possible or right. I think there’s this Asian, or at least Chinese, mentality that bad things only happen to those who don’t try hard enough. When you grow up with this constant messaging, you feel the need to be “on” all the time. You might be less empathetic toward others. Failure, accidents, and traumatic events feel so much more frightening and disorienting because they aren’t “supposed” to happen to you. In hindsight, sure, there is always something you could have done differently or better. However, often other people (or nature, or physics, or something else totally out of our control) are just shitty and there is nothing you can do about that. You could be walking down the street, minding your own business and not doing anything flashy, and get mugged. Or you could be posting your little essays on a personal blog, when a creepy fan comes along and compels you to give up the site you’ve had for years and move to a new one so he can’t follow your stuff anymore.

Not everything can be fair, even if you fight really hard to make it so. Sometimes the fight can make it worse.

But if getting mugged and having to get a new blog were the worst things to happen to me in 2018, I consider myself very fortunate. Overall, I had a lot of positive experiences. I have been flourishing at the job I started in December 2017, meeting great people and working on interesting, gratifying projects. I performed at Carnegie Hall and had a poem published in an independent magazine. I got married to someone who makes me happier than I would have ever imagined possible. We traveled to Iceland, Hawaii, Catalina Island, and Chicago. We celebrated friends’ weddings, birthdays, and successes. We tried our hand at playing the theremin, writing a short screenplay, blowing glass, and cooking many recipes. And now we are expecting a baby in just a few weeks.

Going forward, I’d like to pick up writing more frequently again. Everyone says I will have no time for anything except the baby, but who knows?—perhaps it will actually give me more inspiration. Part of me didn’t want to do it anymore because of the aforementioned creepy fan, but my soul starts to feel empty when I go too long without writing. I’d also like to be a better listener and friend, which is basically what I say every year but nonetheless always holds true. I don’t want to be one of those parents who only talk about parenting. I love hearing about what others are doing with their lives, and supporting however I can.

Hope everyone else had a great 2018 and has an even better 2019!