Fathers Day.

Lessons from the Great Bai Laoshi

I call my dad Bai Laoshi. Translation: Professor Bourgerie in Chinese. He has taught many people a lot of stuff. Chinese, Cantonese, Syntax, Asian Stuff, you know, the usual.

In addition to all of that, he has taught me some pretty amazing life lessons. Here is a list of the top 5 things I have learned from Bai Laoshi.

  1. RESPECT. Respect your parents. Respect your teachers. Respect authority. Respect your elders. It is better to be too respectful than not enough.
  2. LOVE OF LEARNING. My dad is smart. He loves to learn. He has taught me to be interested in that around me. He knows so much that in order to keep up with him in conversation, I am always reading. When I was in 3rd grade my dad, apparently unsatisfied with my reading skills, asked my teacher if there was anything he could do to help my “mediocre” reading skills. The teacher, baffled, told him that I was reading at a junior high level. She was very nice to me after that. She realized what I was up against at home. It was a good thing though really, having high expectations set of you at home. It brings me to my next lesson, which is…
  3. ALWAYS KEEP CHALLENGING YOURSELF. Never be satisfied with mediocrity. Keep stretching your mind and yourself physically. Not in a bad way, where you think nothing you do is good enough, but just that you always push yourself to do more. My dad rides his bike all over the canyon and Utah Valley like it ain’t no thang. He is always pushing himself to be better.
  4. IF YOU GET CAUGHT, ALWAYS HAVE A GOOD EXCUSE. Sometimes, you are doing something completely wrong, and you know it, and you get caught. Usually the deserved punishment comes after. However, if you have a really brazen excuse, he might just let you off the hook because he is so baffled at your shamelessness. Example- Dad: “Annie, don’t use my new iPod. (they had just been invented). 1 hour later. Me: Listening to my Dad’s new iPod. “Hey Friend! Check out my Dad’s new iPod!” Dad enters the room. Dad: “What are you doing?” Me: I… accidentally was listening to it Dad.” Dad: “The headphones accidentally just fell in your ears and you started listening?” Me: “Yep. That is exactly what happened.” Dad takes his iPod and walks away.
  5. DON’T BE AFRAID. I was afraid of a lot of things as a kid. When I would come to my dad with my fears, he was always so calm. We were hiking in the Grand Canyon, and I was afraid of the heights. He calmly said, “Respect the heights. Stay toward the canyon wall.” Like it was so simple. It was. I stayed away and I was fine. My dad has such a simple answer for my fears, that I wonder why I was ever afraid of it to begin with.

My dad is pretty awesome. Happy Fathers Day!

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Adapting.

Change is hard for me. I am very dependent on my routine and a deviation from it can be quite difficult. I like to have my routine, my schedule, my bearings. When I go on vacation, I take certain things with me and set up as soon as I get to my destination. I take my pillow always. I have my necessities by my bed. My book, my reading lamp, my lotion, my charger, etc. These things help me to adapt better. I guess it’s like a kid taking their teddy bear along with them. It’s easier to cope if you have something special to you. My aversion to change is a control thing. I am a control freak. I like things a certain way.

I like the things that change brings, it is just hard initially to adapt.

Becoming a mom was like this for me. I didn’t want things to change drastically. I wanted to still be able to do the spontaneous, shallow things that brought me so much pleasure-Girls trips, getting my nails done, going to concerts, going shopping. I wasn’t sure how motherhood would change this. On Facebook I would see posts complaining from moms that they hadn’t showered for a week. They hadn’t done anything for themselves in months. They never slept. I didn’t want that. I wanted to retain my interests, my hygiene, my spontaneity, but I wanted to be a good mom too.

I am a very intense person. When I like something, I do it all the way. I find a shirt that I like and I buy it in every color. I find a book that I like and I do nothing else but read until it’s finished. Then I read every single book by that author. Sometimes I get so into something that I neglect everyone around me. I get obsessed with something and that is all that I can think about. I feel that I don’t have control over the level of intensity with my passions.

My biggest fear with motherhood was that I would get too sucked into my personal things and ignore my kids. I wanted to be myself and a good mom. I just didn’t know these two things could coexist from what I had seen. I couldn’t risk my intensity taking over and my future kids suffering because of it.

A was born. After the initial adjustment and shock wore off from learning how to be a mom, recovering from PPD, and readjusting my life to having a newborn, I  didn’t restart the things that I used to enjoy so much. Reading, Writing, Yoga, Sewing were all neglected. The rare time when I would start to do things for myself I felt like I was neglecting my baby. I felt like if A was awake then I needed to be 100 percent invested in her. At the time I didn’t realize I was doing this. I was handling things the only way I knew how- by intensely getting involved in one thing and neglecting everything else.

As time went on, I started to feel bored. And dull. I would go on a walks with A, go to the splash pad with her, go to different baby activities, the park. I still felt flat. And just a general discontent.

I googled “stay-at-home mom boredom.” Guess what? No responses. Seriously? I couldn’t be the only bored stay-at-home mom. The search responses that kind of matched it were ideas of things do to help my child not be bored. My child was an infant. She was definitely not bored. Subsequent searches gave me ideas on how to be an even better stay-at-home mom. The way to be an even better mom, it seemed, was to invest even more of myself into my child.

I remember walking into the living room one evening around this time. My husband was watching A. He was sitting in a chair, A propped up in his lap, and he was playing Call of Duty like nothing had changed. I realized that he was still exactly the same. He was a great dad but he still had his interests. How could I do this too? I lost my spark and I wanted to get it back.

I read a book. “Bringing up Bebe.” It is a book about an American’s experience living in France and the differences in parenting between the two cultures. As I read the book, I saw my own childhood in it. My parents still retained themselves while raising me and my sisters. I had an excellent childhood even though my parents had their own things going on. Some of my fondest memories are activities where I am helping my parents. Gardening, cooking, errands. I loved helping my parents with their routines and doing things together.

I started to try this with my own child. I started to do the things I normally would do, but with A. I cooked dinner while she was awake- not napping. I would, depending on her age at the time, incorporate her into it, or entertain her. I started taking a shower when she was awake. To achieve this, I put her in her crib with toys and books. I read books while she was playing with her toys. I started doing my everyday living, but with her. Having her help actually made it more enjoyable a lot of the time. Doing this, I surprisingly ended up having more time to play with her individually. I was happy because I was able to meet my own needs. And my being happy made me a better mom. I became more confident. I made more friends. I took her to the park. I thought up fun ideas to do. It was a chain effect. It kept building upon itself.

Finding myself again was not overnight. It was a gradual process. It was when A hit her 18 month mark that I felt like my core pieces had returned back.

Every day is not perfect. I still struggle at times to find a balance between myself and motherhood. Some days I am embarrassing amounts of lazy and ignore my children completely. Other times I am struggling to have one minute to myself. But overall, I feel like I have successfully navigated my way through the uncertainties of motherhood. I’ve made a safe place for myself and found joy in both my children’s and my own individualities.

My Itchy Pregnancy.

I’m a googler. I google everything. My husband gets mad at me because when we’re watching movies together at home, I will start to google information about the movie and the actors. By the end of the movie, I know it all.

I also google health questions. If I get a weird twinge or pain- I google it. It’s not that I’m afraid that I’m sick, it’s just that I am just so interested in the why. Why does my leg get this certain twitch in it after I walk up a big hill? Why does my knee hurt only on the third Tuesday of every month? Thanks to Google, I have a very wide array of random knowledge. A girl I knew told me she grew up across the street from a Vegas troupe. I googled them. 30 minutes later I was telling my husband all about it. The accident. My opinion on what happened. I like to know things.

When I was 32 weeks pregnant, I woke up one night with really itchy hands and feet. I thought it was kind of weird. Usually when I itch during pregnancy, it’s on my belly where I am doing the growing. And this was really itchy. In the morning, I googled it. At my most recent doctors appointment, they had put me on a high dosage of iron for anemia. I figured it was a side effect.

I started typing in itchy hands and feet. Trusty google predicted exactly what I was going to say next. “Itchy hands and feet during pregnancy” It finished it up for me.

The first search result was from mayoclinic.org. Cholestasis of Pregnancy.

They gave a definition:

“Cholestasis of pregnancy can make you intensely uncomfortable but poses no long-term risk to an expectant mother. For a developing baby, however, cholestasis of pregnancy can be dangerous. Doctors usually recommend early delivery.”

Not the benign answer that I was expecting. I went down the list through the search results. The more I googled, the more I realized the seriousness of the situation. I called my doctors office and spoke to a nurse. “I’ll schedule you in with the lab at the hospital. When can you get down there? Right away?” The urgency in her voice left me with one option. I got there right away.

I tested positive.

The doctor called me to deliver the news. In order to ensure my baby was born healthy, I needed to get blood work done weekly. I needed 2 Non Stress Tests a week. I needed an ultrasound once a week. It was strange to go from a relatively healthy pregnancy to high risk within a morning.

Movement is important in Cholestatis. At any moment your bile acid levels can rise and you lose the baby. We needed to know my baby was okay and moving. If I didn’t feel my baby move in a certain time period, I needed to go to Labor and Delivery right away for an ultrasound. It was possible that they could deliver the baby right then if he seemed distressed, unresponsive or his heart was slowing down.

During the Non Stress Tests, E’s heart had to peak a certain amount of times to make sure he was okay. “Hold on, let me have the doctor look at this” was a dreaded phrase. One I heard too often. E really enjoyed his naps it seemed. I was so worried all the time. I was worried that they would miss something. I was worried my baby would stop moving. I was worried I would be one of the loss stories. I had so much fear.

At first the itchiness was unbearable. Forget my past knowledge over what I thought was intolerable itching. The Chicken Pox seemed like a walk in the park by comparison. It was unreal. Antihistamines did not work. Lotions did not work. I scratched myself until I bled and there was still no relief. Ice packs were my best friend. I would bury myself in every frozen thing in my house. In spite of the torture I was going through, I was one of the lucky ones. After my levels normalized, my itching went down. Others are not so lucky and itch the entire pregnancy.

My bile levels stayed normal. My baby stayed moving. I had my baby at 37 weeks. The NICU was on hand just in case. He was amazingly healthy.

June is ICP Awareness month. (Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy) It’s important to me to share my experience because there are women who were not as lucky as I was. They didn’t realize that they had ICP and they lost their babies. Even though ICP is fairly common, (1 in 1000 pregnancies) there are people who don’t know anything about it. Like I hadn’t.

Here are some facts.

What exactly is cholestasis?

“[Cholestatsis is] a common liver disease that only happens in pregnancy. Cholestasis of pregnancy is a condition in which the normal flow of bile in the gallbladder is affected by the high amounts of pregnancy hormones” –americanpregnancy.org

What is the treatment for Cholestasis?

1) Medication in the management plan of ICP.

Different Medicines to control the itch and to keep your bile acid levels down.

2) Early Delivery in the management plan of ICP.

The ideal time to deliver is between 36-37 weeks if symptoms can be managed. It is not common to have to deliver the baby earlier than that.

3) Additional management plan of ICP.

Monitoring

Blood Work

Fetal Monitoring

Below is an amazing website. It answers questions, has success stories, doctor recommendations for each state. Everything you could want to know about Cholestatsis.

http://www.icpcare.org/

Measuring up.

Motherhood is tiring. I’m not referring to the actual mothering part of motherhood. I am referring to the judgment. The rules.

C-Section vs. Natural

Formula vs. Breast

Organic vs. Not

Wooden Toys vs. Plastic Toys

Co-Sleeping vs. Crib

Sleep training in general.

The list is infinite.

What inspired me to start this blog was that I always felt that I was on the wrong side of parenting. I was never parenting the “correct” way. It took me awhile to realize that there is no one correct way. The correct way is what works best for you. I’m of the belief of, why try to be a second rate imitation of someone else when I can be first rate of myself?

A was a c-section baby. Her birth was traumatic. I was in labor for 26 hours. I was bleeding. A lot. My baby was in distress. It was time to intervene. They wheeled me away to the operating room. “It won’t hurt.” they told me. “You will only feel pressure.” They were wrong. I felt pain. I felt cutting. They got A out in about 3 minutes. Then because of the pain, they knocked me completely out while they stitched me up. I don’t remember very much about my baby being born. Am I sad about that? Yes. I wish I remembered more. More important though, my baby and I were healthy. I am much happier about that.

A few months after my baby was born, I was telling someone about my c-section. They stopped me and said “Wait…was it really necessary? Did you have to have it?”

“No.” I thought, “I just wanted to get cut open for fun.” Were they crazy? Of course I had to have it.

I was telling somebody else another time. My story was met with a deep sigh. “Oh man….why do doctors push so much for c-sections? I am POSITIVE you would have had your baby naturally if you had just waited. The body knows what it’s doing.” “Well, actually…” I interjected. They continued, “ They induced you too soon.”  “I was already over a week late.” I told them. Another smug look. “Well, how do you know that was your actual due date?” I was getting frustrated with the conversation. “It was necessary, and it saved mine AND my baby’s life!”

I was expecting empathy from people, but was instead getting shamed. As if I didn’t try hard enough.

“You’ll try for a natural one though next time, right?” people always added.

I actually wasn’t sure if I wanted to go through that traumatizing process again, and I definitely didn’t see where it was anyones business if I did or didn’t.

I learned to keep my mouth shut. I would see people’s Facebook posts bragging about how they had their baby naturally. How was I less of a woman? Just because my baby was cut out of my stomach? “Do you ever wonder what it’s like to actually give birth?” people would ask. “Well. I’m pretty sure what I did was childbirth.”

It was heroic to have a baby, but only if you did it the “right way.” Apparently, 26 hours of labor, almost dying, and then having a major surgery, wasn’t heroic enough.

A was also formula fed. I expected feedback on this one. It is very important to a lot of people. It was very important to me as well. A was breast fed for the first little while. For many reasons, I was not able to continue it.

There are articles. Articles informing formula feeders of the damage that they are doing to their kids with their selfish choice. Lowering their IQ’s, increasing their risk of cancer, robbing them of the amazing bond that can only be formed with your child through breast feeding.

I believe breast milk is the first choice. I believe that the mother’s antibodies are passed through the milk and do help the baby’s health. I believe that there is a bond that is formed through breastfeeding.

However, I also believe that breastfeeding does not always work. I believe that we have a great alternative. I believe that there is a bond that comes from feeding your baby with a bottle. I’ve felt it.

As hard as it was to get up with my babies in the night, I loved sitting there feeding them. Watching their faces. Watching them drink and fall asleep in my arms again. As hard as nights are, I feel like that is how I built my bond with A.

I don’t like that is it is hard for women who breastfeed. I don’t like that people feel like they have to hide it. I also don’t like that it is hard for women who formula feed. We are arguing over the best way to love our babies. It’s so absurd.

I wish both methods of feeding were more supported, and that we didn’t argue so much about what is best for our babies. No situation is alike and what is best for one, is not necessarily best for another.

I hated feeling guilty checking that box on the well-child check up forms that said my baby was formula fed. I hated apologizing to everyone about why I was formula feeding my child. I hated that every time A got sick, people would point out, “well, she is formula fed.”

What I have learned from being the “atypical” mother at times, is just how important it is to support others and not to judge. I definitely judged. In my frustration with feeling judged, I judged back. What makes us all so wonderful is how different we are. The best piece of mothering advice I received was this: I was asking for advice on potty training A. I told her that this book told me to do it this way, but I just didn’t know how I was going to make that work with my current situation. She said, “ Don’t do it. The best method is what works for you. If taking a longer time to potty train works for you, then do it. If a shorter method works for you, then do it. That is the best method.”