Today, our baby started daycare. On the door to the infants’ room, there was a large, colorful welcome sign with his name. This was sure to be an emotional day for me, but I didn’t expect to tear up at such a simple gesture. After I kissed him goodbye, he watched curiously as we walked out of the room and closed the door behind us, not seeming remotely as sad as I was.

I know the staff will do their best to take good care of him. I know he will behave, because he is an easygoing and happy kid. I was only nervous about whether he would eat (he refused bottles from us for weeks) and sleep (at home, he often needs to be rocked, and sometimes only wants to nap on us)—but thankfully, he did both. Not much, but he will learn and adapt.

This was the first day in almost twelve weeks that I was away from the baby for more than three hours. Throughout my leave, I have sought out simple activities to feel more like a “normal person” and less like a mommy robot: reading, writing, hitting the gym, walking around town, having friends over to visit, and going out to malls and restaurants. Physically, I’m almost back to my pre-pregnancy self; I’ve lost 40 of 46 pounds, gotten my mile time under eleven minutes (I was never very fast, anyway), and steadily lifted more weight. Yet I was always glancing at the baby every few minutes if he was in sight, or listening for a cry or panicked phone call if he wasn’t. I have spent so much time researching baby behavior and reading baby articles and chatting with other moms of newborns that I fear I no longer have anything to say about other matters. Today gave me the first glimmer of hope that I could have non-baby thoughts and be my own person again.

On Monday, I will be heading back to my office in the city. The restoration to my “regular life” will be complete, with minor adjustments. I will need to put work on pause three times a day to produce sustenance for our child. I will be working from home twice a week to manage miscellaneous chores and errands, have some alone time, and maybe pick up the baby early if I get all my work done quickly. Every weeknight, we will need to prepare bottles and pack a bag for daycare. But I will be working full-time again, and I am really looking forward to it. My company is incredible, and I am pretty darn good at my job.

Being a parent, I’ve learned, means being an interpreter, food safety expert, physical therapist, manicurist, personal shopper, and even (possibly—but hopefully it never becomes necessary for us) entomologist. It comes with plenty of mental and emotional challenges. I miss the types of challenges I would face at my job, though. I found them more interesting, and—much as I hate to admit it—I feel better equipped to handle them. Being a stay-at-home parent has worn me down more than I expected. Every day is fourteen solid hours of cycling through feeding, entertaining, diaper changing, and coercing into a nap. Going out adds variety and reduces loneliness, but I still feel so burnt out by the evening.

I think I would love the homemaker life once our child is old enough to talk and be less needy, because I do enjoy spending time with him, meal planning, cooking, cleaning, and so on. Part of me feels weak for not embracing that life today, for throwing him in daycare so I can run away to another state for eight and a half hours a day. At the same time, I know working will make me happier and saner—at least for now. Who knows if I will still feel this way five or ten years down the line? As little as one year ago, I never would have imagined I would be having these thoughts or living this life. We learn and adapt.



This may be surprising, but I am a very sentimental person. I love savoring moments present and past. When I close a chapter of my life—by graduating from a school, ending a relationship, leaving a job, and so on—I always want closure, one last good look around, a satisfying sense of neatly wrapped loose ends. I am a completionist who hates feeling as though I am missing out on part of any experience.

Parenthood exposes this aspect like an open wound that you can’t stop poking because you relish the sting. I don’t want to miss anything cute or funny or interesting from my baby. I want to catch every smile, coo, and even pout. I love holding his warm little body, looking into his wondering eyes, rubbing his soft cheeks, smelling his milky breath and his hair that smells like both mine and his father’s. Part of me hates that I’ll be going back to work full-time and will most likely miss his first steps and words.

And yet, the days are sometimes so, so hard because I worry so much about being the optimal nurturer. Is the baby crying too much? Is he sleeping enough? Am I talking to him enough to stimulate mental growth? Am I having him do enough tummy time and other activities for physical growth? Is he going to have developmental problems because I spend too much time on my phone and leave the TV on? Am I enforcing bad habits and associations? Some days, the hours pass at a miserable crawl. I count them down until the end of the day, the end of the week, and finally the arrival at some milestone when everything is supposed to get easier and better. At these times, I can’t wait to go back to work so I can stop obsessing over the baby and feel more like my old, “normal” self again.

They say, “The days are long, but the years are short.” My son is seven weeks old tomorrow. I can’t believe he’s already seven weeks old, but I also remember how far in the future this date used to feel whenever I was frustrated and exhausted. I remember how long my pregnancy felt, too. This baby takes so long to grow, and then he grows up too quickly.

The other day, I started a memories box for him. It contains ultrasound photos, hospital wristbands, medical charts, and cards from friends and family. Reviewing the ultrasound photos makes me so emotional. It is incredible to consider how this thirteen-pound living, breathing boy grew from a tiny bean. Eventually, my baby will be too big to nap on my torso. He may want to stop nursing before I do. Then, one day, I will have picked him up for the last time, not knowing it would be the last. There will never be any sort of closure.

Those kinds of thoughts wreck me, they really do.

Birth Story

When I was expecting, I spent a lot of time reading the subreddit /r/babybumps, an online forum to discuss pregnancy. I particularly enjoyed when people posted “birth stories.” So much of what we (think we) know about labor and delivery comes from television and movies. It’s helpful to hear real first-person accounts to broaden your awareness of what can happen, good or bad.

For one thing, I had no idea that your cervix can start dilating weeks before your body is ready to deliver. You can have contractions for over a full day, but hospitals generally don’t admit you until they reach a particular intensity. Fifteen days before my due date, my ob/gyn determined my cervix was already 1 centimeter dilated. He encouraged me to walk around more so that it would dilate further, faster. Eight days before my due date, I was at 2 centimeters. Suddenly he warned me not to walk around too much, because the weather forecasts were predicting a big snowstorm that weekend and it might be tough getting to the hospital.

Then I reached my actual due date, and I was still at 2 centimeters with no regular contractions. (That snowstorm ended up not landing, either—at least not in our part of the state.) I went to the doctor again and he hooked me up to a fetal monitoring machine for twenty minutes. The machine indicated I’d had a bunch of contractions during that time, but I hadn’t felt anything. I was pretty impressed by my own pain tolerance and figured maybe this labor thing wasn’t going to be so bad. That evening, slightly bummed that I’d still be pregnant past the forty-week mark, I went to the mall with my husband to walk for an hour. I ate some dried pineapple that we bought from a candy stand, since pineapple is said to induce labor.

The following morning, I awoke at 4:45 with what felt like light menstrual cramps. This in itself was not unusual, as the same thing had happened every day for about a week. I had even been having some pink discharge, or “bloody show,” for several days. However, that morning, the cramps came and went with more regularity, they lasted longer, and I had darker red discharge.

At 5:10 am, I called my doctor and he advised us to go to the hospital. Even though I might still not have reached the requisite level of intensity, they wouldn’t send me back home since I was past my due date. Okay, then—this was it! It was finally happening!

But first, both my husband and I had some things to take care of. I took a shower, made and ate breakfast, and wrapped up some things for work. He had to get on a call and do other stuff for work, too. Kind of funny and sad that both of us were working while I was—hello!—going into active labor.

The rest of the day went by very quickly:

6:30 am: Left for the hospital.

7:10 am: Finished the paperwork to check in. Glad we had taken a tour of the hospital’s maternity ward a few weeks prior, so we already knew where to go and what to expect.

7:30 am: We were admitted into an L&D (labor and delivery) room. A nurse measured me at 4 centimeters dilated, hooked me up to a fetal monitoring machine and IV, and drew some blood. I played some games on my phone, read, chatted with my husband, and tried to nap.

10:20 am: Contractions were definitely stronger, but still tolerable. I was encouraged to walk around the L&D area to accelerate the dilation. After a few minutes, the mobile fetal monitoring machine started malfunctioning, so I was only allowed to circle my room.

11:30 am: My ob/gyn arrived and measured me at 5 centimeters. Contractions started hurting pretty badly; if this had been a period, I would have taken some Aleve by now. However, they still weren’t as regular as they should have been at this stage.

My doctor decided to break my water manually, which would unleash hormones to get me to 10 centimeters faster. I had to choose now whether I wanted an epidural (painkiller), because it would be more complicated to administer after my water was broken. In the movies, pregnant patients always seem to wait until the pain reaches some critical threshold to scream for it. I didn’t feel I was there yet, so I wasn’t sure. I never made a birth plan; I just wanted to play it by ear and do whatever the medical professionals recommended for my and the baby’s health. The nurse told me the pain would continue to get exponentially worse from here on out, and we still had hours to go. I decided to take the epidural.

An anesthesiologist came in to deliver a series of shots (local anesthesia plus the epidural itself), which he and the nurse said I took like a champ. Needles have never bothered me much. Next, the nurse hooked me up to a urinary catheter, since the painkiller would make it impossible for me to sense when I needed to pee. The catheter honestly hurt a lot more. Very soon, my legs felt numb, yet warm and fuzzy. I no longer felt any contractions. This stuff was incredible.

12:15 pm: At 5.5 centimeters, my doctor broke my water. I had heard it would feel like a popped water balloon, but it didn’t really—it was more like a faucet running. Back to phone games and napping.

2:15 pm: Contractions were lasting about 2 minutes each and coming every 5 minutes, which still was not frequent enough. Started a minimal Pitocin (oxytocin) dosage to induce labor.

3:00 pm: Not sure if the epidural was already wearing off or if the contractions were just that strong, but I started feeling pains again.

3:15 pm: Reached 8 centimeters. The nurse suggested that I have some “ice chips,” which we thought meant chunks of frozen water, but she was apparently referring to a cup of Italian ice. This was the only thing I was allowed to eat in the L&D room. I enjoyed it very much.

4:35 pm: Started feeling the need to poop, which meant it was time to start actively pushing the baby out. I kept my eyes screwed shut the entire time because of the pain, as well as fear of what I might see.

We thought my husband would just hold my hand or wipe my face, but he was instructed to play an active role in holding up one of my legs and supporting my neck. He was nervous about it, but I found it comforting.

The nurse was yelling rapidfire instructions: inhale, exhale, hold, push. I was confused about whether I was supposed to be holding my breath after inhaling or exhaling. I also couldn’t tell if I was pushing correctly. They said to use the same muscles you would when pooping, but I was terrified I’d get a hernia from pushing too hard. (My mother always said that would happen if you sat on the toilet too long!) At some point, unsettling imagery entered my mind, and I began to think I couldn’t keep pushing much longer.

5:03 pm: Baby was out! I heard his cries and my doctor declaring the time of birth. Before I knew it, someone placed him on my chest, and I saw this cutie staring straight into my eyes. I couldn’t believe he was here at last, or that I only needed to push for under half an hour. I was dimly aware of being stitched up—turned out I had a second-degree tear—but all I could focus on were my baby’s tiny face, his warm presence, and an overwhelming relief that it was all over and he was whole and healthy.

Overall, I felt it was a positive and smooth experience. It definitely seemed easier than most other birth stories I had read. The recovery over the next few days was tougher, with all the bleeding, stinging, and soreness. So grateful for all the kindness and support from my husband, our families, and the hospital staff.

It helped that the room service in the hospital was pretty good, too.


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.