Sunday, May 9, 2021


There's a muscle memory in handling your own baby—the way you set him on your hip, or play with his hair, or clip his fingernails. It has become second nature to look for furniture corners, to check the temperature of his fish sticks, to smell parts of his body (like his feet, his bum, the crook of his neck). When he's away or asleep, I still think about him, remembering his voice in song and laughter and conversation, picturing the birthmark on his left cheek, and the tan lines behind his knees, and his round belly full of fruit. I think of random things he says to AI: "Alexa, turn on the lights to 50%." Or "Alexa, play 'What a Wonderful World' by Louis Armstrong." I think of things he says to me: sometimes it's, "Mommy, you're so special," or, "Mommy, are you happy?" or with a truthful sting, "Mommy, I don't want to hear anymore crying." 

There were moments during that very dark (and very recent) season when I would spiral into depression, and without fail, the thought of his laugh was enough to pull me out of the murk. I'd cherish every little memory, every ember that's kept me warm, every smile that restored hope. But there were a few but jarring times when things were REALLY bad, and despite the thoughts of his laughter and jokes and songs, I'd still feel lost.  And feeling lost, I'd wander off, trying to find myself, trying to find my way home.  With a bit of imagination, I'd picture his little voice saying, "Mommy left me," and that grievous and painful statement would echo out into the forest, becoming a beacon for me to come back to the land of the living.  And I'd come running back, because that's where he is: in a state of joy, trust, compassion, and warm love. And that place where he is—so full of life—is exactly where I want to be.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Spoiler Alerts

The events leading up to me in the hospital read like spoiler alerts, so I will begin by telling you the biggest spoiler of all: I make it to the hospital.
And a Baby is born.

Finding a doctor for Wes' mom back in November felt hopeless. It felt like online dating/matchmaking, constantly poring over the internet for a compatible AND available fit. By the time we found "the one," the waitlist was three months. "Unfortunately the soonest appointment is February 15," Wes told me. I groaned. My due date was February 19, but we need this appointment, we needed Jeanne to get a refill on prescriptions, we needed professional help. "Can you hang in there, little guy?" I asked my belly. We prayed so hard, God PLEASE don't let him come before this appointment! Spoiler #1: God is faithful. Baby didn't come before the appointment. HOWEVER:

Forward to appointment day, February 15 (also my dad's birthday.  Also Ron, Wes' stepdad's, birthday). It was just two hours after Wes and Jeanne came home from that long-awaited doctor's visit that I found myself lying in bed, nauseous. I'd been sick the whole week, battling dizziness and a lingering cough. "But thank God it's not the flu!" I wrote in my journal THAT VERY afternoon. Spoiler #2: it was absolutely the flu. We just didn't know it yet.

And neither did my midwife. In fact, just the day before, Wes and I met with her and my only symptom of illness was a stuffy head. "Mint tea for congestion, netti pot for your sinuses," she offered. "And maybe the flu shot..?" she asked per protocol, as she did every week. "Nope," I coughed. "I hate needles." Spoiler #3: many needles will be had.

Like a script, she went over the benefits, telling me about her other patients who've had the flu during their pregnancy. I asked her if a she's ever tended to a mom who had the flu during delivery. "Never had one," she said. Spoiler #4: she checks that off her list.

Back to Feb 15, after Jeanne's appointment + nauseous me. I woke up from a nap I didn't know I took, chills all over my body. "101," Wes said, taking my temperature. Anxiety over baby's health triggered a phone call to the hospital. "They said I should go in to be safe," I told Wes. "You think the next time you'll be home you'll be holding a baby?" he asked. I shuddered. "I don't think so," I said. Spoiler #5: I thought wrong. The next time I came home, I was holding a squishy baby.

Were we ready? Absolutely not! Just the night before, I finally packed my hospital bag and Wes finally installed the car seat. And those are imperative! But even though I let procrastination get the best of me, there was only one thing I was always adamant about...

A week or two prior, Wes and I were in a heated argument, but had to keep our squalor at bay because we were riding in the car with Jeanne in the back seat. Our thoughts, plotting how to win the argument once we got home, were soon interrupted as Jeanne inched her head between us. "Hey Wes," she whispered loudly. "What's that orange light on your dashboard?" Of course it was the ONE THING I was adamant about. Of course I glared at him. Of course it was the gas light. "You better have gas when it's time to go to the hospital," I quietly scolded (and quietly thanked Jeanne). Spoiler alert #6: there was no gas in the car that night.

And so we stopped to get gas. "At least it's night and no traffic," we said. Spoiler alert #7: yeah of course there was traffic. Four lanes closed. What should've been 20 minutes lasted over an hour. I was baking this kid.

Indeed, it was a blessing that Jeanne had her appointment before we went to the hospital (she will need that doctor one week later), and that we had the hospital bag and car seat ready, and that we had enough gas to get us there. It was also a blessing that I had the flu, because without that unexpected trip to the hospital, we would've never known his heart rate was dropping. But back to the original spoiler: I make it to the hospital. And a baby is born. Eventually.


Bonus spoiler: that week at work I got a paper cut. I hate paper cuts. They make me nauseous. Spoiler alert #8: I end up with the biggest paper cut of them all.

Also that photo was a little treat from my baby shower, which happened to be the same day All of Hawaii got an accidental alert about a missile threat.

Sunday, June 24, 2018


In the first weeks when Liam was still fresh, I'd watch the way he'd hold a tight fist that reeked of sweat, drool, and sour milk soaked in a ball of lint. As disgusting as it was, I felt that like him, my fists have been clenched, holding on to his birth story, or rather the pain of his story. And neither of us were ready to open up.

Sure I've talked about the surrounding circumstances leading up to his birth, but only as if I were reading aloud a genealogy, sparing emotions. Left to myself, merely thinking about the actual birth would make me sob—it was the scariest, probably most traumatic moment of my life. I'd frequently wake up in the middle of the night, not to feed him, but remembering the sounds of surgery and feeling the pain in my core (I still don't have nerves by the incision) and mulling over many unanswered questions.

I held that pain tightly, never admitting the terrors, because so many other women have done it, so many people have gone through much worse. In my mind every other mother carries way more strength, and I feel like such a weakling, and I hate comparing pain and discomfort, and I want to accept my story. Our story. I wanted to look back at the memory in the poetic way prophets would write, how mourning turns to dancing and weeping turns to laughing. How joy comes in the morning.

I had a doctor's visit around the time he turned four months. But what should've been a mere checkup turned into an unraveling. I blurted how postpartum depression got the best of me, how I still face the trauma, how I'm trying my best not to cry right now. I asked her about the birth. I told her what I remember, but mostly what I don't, and how I wrestle with the mystery. I asked her to look up my charts. I asked her why's after why's.

Why did it happen that way.
What was wrong with me.
Was something wrong with him.
And above all--WHY wouldn't you let me see his face, why couldn't I look at his crying eyes, why wouldn't you let me touch his skin.. why couldn't I meet him until the next day, why did it take so long, why wouldn't they give Wes skin to skin, why did my baby come into this world alone.

And a big part of me was so terrified of what I would find. That maybe it's better for me to stick with the story I know, the story in my hands. Because what if I can't bear the truth, what if I can't handle the real story? Or worse, what if there are no answers? What if there are no records? What if there's only the disappointment of a doctor shrugging her shoulders?

She didn't shrug her shoulders, but indeed, she had no answers. The sterile room felt a little colder. But I had barely left the atrium of the clinic when I got a phone call from my doctor saying that the moment I left, she looked up my charts and found a couple notes. And as she relayed them to me, I was both shaken but covered with peace and relief. I went to my car and wept until I was out of breath. Instead of the hopelessness I had readied myself for, here was my closure.

That night while holding Liam, I began to ruminate on my meltdown with my doctor and a different set of answers began to surface. The pains I held onto, the unknowns, the mysteries--they finally had names: loneliness, abandonment, and a strange sense of guilt, as if I entered motherhood inflicting my son with the very things I myself struggled with. But I had to remind myself that I can't protect him from everything, not from things unseen and unknown in the womb, not from my own insecurities and the places I still need restoration. All I can do is begin here: acceptance, forgiveness, and loving my son the best I can. I picked up his hand and said to him in order to say it to myself: "I'm sorry you were by yourself for a while... but you don't have to be afraid. You're never really alone. Not ever." I know.. it sounds a little soupy, but I had to say it. Because even soup on the coldest of nights can be the most comforting. He squeezed my finger.

These days, Liam's hands are wide open; they search for textures or the warmth of skin. He reaches for his toes and shoves his foot in his mouth. His fingers wriggle and play piano on my chest when I nurse him (a gesture I never want to forget). And my hands have opened too. I've been letting go of the ache by writing down his birth story, reading it aloud to myself. And as I do this, it's helped me invite God into my pain. I can say that it was painful then, and it's not so painful now.. It's just the way he came into this world. I'm opening up to healing, searching for warmth, and grasping joy so tightly, I can't let go.