For Christmas holidays, we decided to take a road trip down the famed, scenic “All-American Road” State Route 1 to LA. Dash was six weeks old.
We left on Friday evening after Care Bear’s work. We stayed overnight at a hotel in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
The next day, we spent the whole day sight seeing different parks, beaches, and places on State Route 1, including at Big Sur. We had a late dinner at Santa Barbara at a New Orleans cajun joint, where I had amazing shrimp scampi, one of my favorite Western dishes. Then we arrived in LA and spent four nights at an Airbnb in Korean Town in LA.
Growth: Lost weight after birth, which is normal, but surpassed birth weight in one week. Wore newborn sized diapers for one month (then moved onto size 1 diapers).
Height – 0.6 m (1′ 10”) (69th percentile)
Weight – 4.6 kg (10 lb 3.5 oz) (57th percentile)
Head circumference – 37 cm (14.57″) (38th percentile)
Loves: Staring at lights.
Sleep: For the first two weeks, he was like a normal baby, waking up every 3-4 hours. But after about two weeks, he started sleeping 5, . . . 6, . . . then gradually . . . 7 hours at night in one stretch . . . . -0- To say he is a good sleeper is an understatement.
Feeding: Exclusively breastfed. He eats well. He latched instantly when he was put on my chest after birth.
To get a proper latch, I insert my finger above his lower lip and below his upper lip to widen his latch. He is fed on demand, sometimes hourly when he is going through growth spurts, but usually every three hours or so. Each feeding session lasts 40 min to an hour, I think because he is a slow eater.
Engorgement of the breasts came in about three days after birth, and boy, was it painful. For the first few weeks, my breasts felt as big and heavy as honeydew melons, and as if they were getting more and more full of liquid by the minute and about to explode out into the open. So, even though the breast pump machine looked scarily destructive of my nipples, I put on a brave face and started pumping as early as six days after birth. I had to. Otherwise, my breasts were going to swallow me alive. The pumping machine max level was 10, and I pumped at the puny low level of 2. Haha.
My breasts sprayed with gusto everywhere, my bra, outfit, couch, bed, Dash’s face and hair, Care Bear’s hands, car seat in our car, Dash’s car seat, dining table, my laptop, and more. My breasts and nipples hurt for the whole month, because I was still getting used to breastfeeding.
Went to the beach twice (Baker’s beach in SF and Natural Bridges Park in Santa Barbara), art museums twice, and many restaurants.
First Thanksgiving with all family members.
First outing outside of home (other than the first three days in the hospital) was on his eighth day, to go grocery shopping at Costco, where he slept the entire time.
First hike was on his sixteenth day. It would’ve been much earlier if it weren’t for the bad air quality.
First party Dash ever attended was aba’s work holiday party at the Tech Museum in San Jose (read about it here). He got dozens of comments about being a cute fresh baby. He slept through most of it.
Our favorite facial expressions of Dash: MAJOR POUTS; the silent, breathless, red scream face he made when we gave him his first bath ever, in the bathroom sink, before he let out the loudest scream in his life; “milk stupor” or “milk drunk” face after feeding; sleeping with his tongue sticking out and hands in superman position.
Nicknames we call Dash: monster (used by abba only, at night when Dash refuses to fall asleep), package (because we carry him around in one arm, like a package, wherever we go), old man (because of his receding? hairline), bug (because he is almost always attached at my nipples, sucking . . . ), blob (because that’s what he looks like, a shapeless droopy dough, when he is being burped on our thighs), 고객님 (= “dear customer”; and umma is called the restaurant).
Miscellanous: Must cut fingernails every 4-5 days. Otherwise, he claws umma’s breasts relentlessly and scratches his face and ears, cutting his skin open (which heals within a matter of hours/days).
Umma’s recovery: Lots of witch hazel pads, adult diapers, mesh disposable underwear, Dermoplast (numbing spray), and ice packs. Was able to walk and sit normally starting the day after birth. Lots of very uncomfortable queefing 24/7, even while sleeping (please make them stop.. T_T).
I took norco a few times in the first 2-3 weeks and stopped because I realized that they bring on massive, temporarily debilitating (40 min or so) migraines. So then I took ibuprofen 1-2 times a day, almost every day, for the first month.
“I feel complete.”
Umma’s take on motherhood: 1) IT IS SO FUN. 2) Time is going by so fast. I am alarmed that he is growing bigger so fast. I want to get pregnant again already, so I can have another tiny newborn. XD 2) I still can’t believe my luck of finally having a baby. I feel complete. 3) Wow Care Bear really does not like it when he can’t get sleep at night, even if the reason is cute Dash.
Surprises of motherhood: 1) I did not know that newborn babies grunt. A lot. And don’t coo, at least in the first month. 2) He stares at my acrylic paintings on our living room wall! Intently. I’m so honored and moved that I have a very interested audience that I almost shed a tear. *^D^*
In Korea, there is a culture of taking care of someone who just had a baby and her baby in a certain way. It’s called Sanhujori. The Korean government even gives mothers about $500 to spend on such post partum care (though only if it’s your third child or beyond, which makes sense given Korea’s ultra-low birth rate at 0.96).
Sanhujori involves eating seaweed soup and other assortment of highly nutritious food at all three meals, special sitz baths, chest massages and other body massages, keeping the feet and the body warm, having someone help you with breast feeding and all things baby, including diapering and bathing, and, most of all, not exerting yourself too much. That means someone else is helping the new mom, such as cooking food for her, doing housework for her, and taking care of the baby. That person traditionally used to be the new mom’s mother or other older female members of the family. But in modern Korea, there are swanky Sanhujori centers that are set up like an upscale hotel/spa.
As I spent my adulthood in America and saw friends and coworkers have babies, I had wondered why such specialized post partum care culture does not exist in America. It seems that in America, after women have babies, apart from the common six-week mark ob-gyn doctor’s visit, there is no system or established routine for taking care of the new mom. Instead, the new moms go back into moving as normal (or not), eating as normal (or not), and not doing anything particularly special in the post partum period, other than taking care of the wound (if any) and the occasional sitz baths.
I tried to look up online the reason for this big difference in post partum care culture between Korea and America. The best answer I’ve found seems to be that Asian women tend to have thinner pelvic muscles relative to the body compared to Western women. That is why Asian women need a more intense recovery period than their Western counterparts, apparently. True or not, I was not going to forego the interesting, new (to me), and uniquely-Korean experience of Sanhujori!
When I was pregnant, one of the first things I did to prepare for the baby was to look for a post partum caregiver, since the care givers book up quickly. (It was also, by far, the most costly expense spent on baby/mommy recovery care.) That was when I was five months pregnant. Thankfully, even in America, I was able to find and hire someone who was able to give me the traditional Korean-style post partum care that I was looking for.
Her name is Sonny. She is an excellent chef. She custom-prepared each meal to my liking (less salt and mostly vegetarian/pescaterian). She made Care Bear and me three meals a day, did our laundry, cleaned our house, changed Dash’s diaper, bathed him, fed him, cuddled him when he fussed, gave me special dried tong ho steam sitz bath once every day, and provided general baby care advice. She helped us for about two weeks.
The biggest value Sonny provided, without question, was her excellent food. So much so that she still comes back occasionally to make food for Care Bear and me!
I had always wanted a personal chef, ever since I learned that Oprah has her own. (Oprah is who I strive to be, in some aspects.) At 34 years old, I too have a personal chef now! Woohoot!
I am so excited to finally complete my 10 month-long photo art project that I’ve been working on studiously!
Now that the baby is born, I present you the pregnancy collage art featuring progressive photo bombs by Care Bear!
As you may notice from the pics, for the first four months, my morning sickness was so bad that it was difficult to smile even for the few seconds while taking the photos. I was happy just to change into those clothes without passing out on the couch.
Adding Care Bear was an unanticipated decision. I wanted Care Bear to be in the last picture (with the baby), so I thought, why not slowly introduce his presence? After all, Care Bear took part of the grunt of my pregnancy, living with a person who was in a bad/pukey mood for several months and having to do more housework himself than usual.
As can be seen in the pictures, I switched phones the last month of my pregnancy. I went from my beloved, four year old Samsung Note 3, which stopped making or receiving calls, to iPhone 8. How I missed having an iPhone! Nifty and user-friendly interface.
Here are some of my other favorite belly photos. I absolutely loved being pregnant. I practiced “pregnancy privilege,” i.e., eating high caloric food that I would otherwise restrain from eating, and had no back pain (though it came back with a vengeance one month after having the baby). And I had lots of happy thoughts!
On Dash’s one month birthday, it was Care Bear’s work holiday party at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose. Knowing that Care Bear’s work holiday parties are truly extravagant and have lots of yummy, cool food, I was determined to go! Care Bear was not so hot on the idea, Dash being so young. Also the work invitation said something like “no guests under 18+ are allowed.” But Care Bear said a newborn is an extension of the adult, rather than its own person yet, so that is all I needed to hear to get ready to go.
Since I was being frugal and had held off on buying a baby sling or a baby wrap, I Google searched DIY baby wrap and used two scarves and a baby swaddle blanket to fashion my own DIY baby wrap. That way, Dash can be worn near me, hopefully not so conspicuously, throughout the party and I can enjoy the great food!
The party was at the San Jose Technology Museum. Parking was hard to find. This year’s party was much smaller than last year’s and had less food. What they had was sushi stations, croudites, dosa stations, mango lassi, and cake pops. I love parties at museums. So much to see and feels so swanky!
Everyone looked at us, or rather Dash, at the party. We got lots of comments like “fresh baby!” We saw one other newborn-ish baby at the party. Because peopled looked at us wherever we were, I felt like a celebrity ha.
It was a brave, fun outing! Would have regretted it if we didn’t go. : )