BELLY PHOTO SHOOTS

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!

11/6/2018 (two days past my due date, and two days before Dash was born) – I had to get the baby out, so that the baby would not destroy my body while coming out. Jumping and climbing stairs were known to induce labor. So I jumped! To DDR music! Would you believe that Care Bear, a lanky Caucasian programmer, is MUCH better at DDR than me? He beat me every time, to my utter surprise.

11/4/2018 (due date) – Hiking on my due date. Is that crazy?? But it was a <2hr hike and I had no contractions, even fake/practice ones. And my priority was to get the baby out, since I was afraid of baby’s head and shoulders getting too big inside my uterus. So I had to keep moving!
10/31/2018 (39 weeks) – At Care Bear’s employer’s enormous (think tens of thousands of people) Halloween party at the Shoreline Amphitheater. Too bad I couldn’t drink the free alcohol.
10/21/2018 (38 weeks) – Stanford Dish 3.5 mile hike
10/21/2018 (38 weeks) – That time when we asked random strangers on the hike to take these awkwardly intimate pictures (to be fair, they approached us first to chat, because they were also pregnant, and we took their belly photos too in return)
10/6/2018 (35 weeks) – At Watsonville apple picking farm, an hour drive from home. We got overzealous and picked more apples than we could eat, cook, or give away fast enough. Pro tip: take a small ladder, so you can reach the top branch apples!
9/30/2018 (34 weeks) – Hiking at the Los Altos Hills. I went hiking in the mountains until four days before Dash was born, as a form of exercise. Looking back, I should’ve done some yoga or pilates too, along with hiking, during pregnancy, so that my back would not be so strained post partum.

DASH’S BIRTH STORY

11/8/2019 – First picture of our family of three!

Care Bear and I welcomed baby Dash into the world on November 8, 2018, Thursday at 7:06 pm at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. He was 7 lbs 3.5 oz and 19 in (48.5 cm). It was four days past our due date and a day before my birthday! Dash came with the California fires.

A short version of our birth story is that we had the baby within 16 hours of checking into the hospital, I labored epidural-free for 9 hours before I had epidural, I pushed for 3.5 hours, there was meconium in the amniotic fluid, the baby was born with the cord wrapped around his neck once, and I had more than average blood loss and had migraine shortly after birth.

Here is the long version. In the morning of the day before Dash’s birth, I had bad menstral cramps. A few hours later, I had discharge of the brownish mucus plug and a bloody show, the latter of which continued until we went to the hospital the next day. That day, I started having real contractions sporadically that were hours apart. I was still able to go on a 30 minute walk that night to a near by convenience store.

On the day I gave birth, which was four days after my due date, I started having more frequent regular contractions around midnight. It was then that I took a shower, thinking that at this rate of contractions and bleeding we will likely be heading to the hospital tonight. Around 2 am, Care Bear sensed the same and took a shower as well. For three hours, I breathed through the contractions on all four on the bed.

We headed for the hospital at 3 am. I was placed at the triage room and was then moved to the delivery room. They put wireless baby heart and contraction monitors on my belly, so I was able to labor anywhere in the room. I labored on my knees by the couch on the floor then I labored lying down on the bed.

I labored epidural-free for 9 hours, until around 11:30 am. The contractions had been manageable by practicing the slow breathing and sleep breathing methods that I learned from a hypnobirthing book. What became difficult to bear was the increased frequency of the contractions. They kept coming within minutes apart, without leaving me time to recover! When a new one came so soon, I felt contraction-phobia and said out loud “Oh my god another one!!”

Up until that point, I had insisted on epidural-free birth to the nurses and the doctor. I was even assigned a labor and delivery nurse all to myself because of that. I had resisted epidural because I had what I learned later was a false notion that epidural leads to more complications and is more likely lead to C-section, which I had heard was more painful post partum than vaginal delivery.

There came a point where my worry about epidural leading to more complications no longer mattered in my mind because it was outweighed by the frequency of the contractions. I asked for epidural. The kind anesthesiologist resident came and did it quickly in one try. It took 15 minutes to take effect, and then I experienced what Koreans refer to as “pain free heaven.” I think epidural also lifts up mood, because I started feeling happy, cracked jokes with the nurse and Care Bear, and laughed.

I also had nitrous oxide (laughing gas) three times before the epidural: 1) to help me get through a cervical check (7:30 am, 4.5 hours post check-in), during which I was 3 cm open; 2) the intentional rupture of membranes (10:30 am, 7.5 hours post check-in), after which brown water, which was amniotic fluid with meconium, came gushing out of me; and 3) for staying still during epidural injection (11:30 am, 8.5 hours post check-in). I went from 6 cm dilated (12 pm, 9 hours post check-in) to 10 cm dilated (3 pm, 12 hours post check-in) in three hours, during which both Aaron and I took a nice 1.5 hour nap.

At 3 pm, when I was turning to the other side on my bed during my nap, my nurse, who was monitoring the screen remotely, came in saying she lost the baby’s heart beat. She fixed the monitor then she pressed a button and what seemed like about 5-6 nurses and a resident doctor rushed in, waking up Care Bear and I from our naps. I had what they called a deceleration of the baby’s heart beat. Thankfully, the baby’s heart rate came back to normal (or was re-found?) and I was told we can start pushing!


Victory snap after getting all set up to push and before the big moment! Epidural Heaven makes smiles, jokes, and peace sign possible.

After getting ready to push, which involved cleaning up around me, raising my legs, installing the squatting bar, notifying the doctor, etc, we took a few snaps and we began pushing!

I did not have any discomfort during contractions because of the epidural. But I could still move my legs however I wanted. I pushed in four positions, back, left, right, and all four. I also used the squatting bar in two different angles.

After an hour of pushing, I got one, then two injections of pitocin, to charge my slowed and weakened contractions. For the first two to three hours, I was not pushing too hard because I was worried about tearing. But then I got worried that they’ll pressure me to have a C-section if I push for too long, so I started pushing as hard as I can. Thinking angry thoughts helped me push really hard. The last 20 or so pushes on my back and holding my knees to my chest, without the squatting bar, was what brought the baby’s head down.

A few minutes after birth, after the “complex” team sucked the meconium out of his lungs, and before Dash was put on my chest

At 7:06 pm (16 hours post check-in), Dash was born! The cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck once. The baby was not breathing when he was born. There were three people from pediatrics, three people from the complex (?) department, and a few other people who rushed in within seconds of birth.

The placenta was born a minute after the baby. I did not feel it and did not know about it until about 30 minutes later when the doctor told me.

The baby started breathing normally quickly and was put on my chest. The baby latched immediately.

While I was pregnant and was reading other people’s birth stories online, I had wondered what feeling I would feel when I met my baby for the first time, i.e., when the baby was first put on my chest. I finally arrived at that moment when the baby was first put on my chest, and the feeling I felt was . . . : 1) “Wow his eyes are so focused and they are staring directly at my own eyes! It’s so cool a newborn can make direct eye contact at birth!”; 2) “Awesome, I finally have a baby now. A half-white, half-Asian baby no less. Wish list item checked off. Good job to myself. Now moving on!”; and 3) “The baby was a boy all this time! I thought the baby was a girl this whole time! OMG HAHA.”

Those were my three thoughts at that instant I met my baby for the first time. I was surprised that I was not feeling emotional or getting teary. I was feeling surprisingly matter of fact and dry. In fact, for the next half hour, when the doctor was stitching me up, I was thinking of things to make small talk with the doctor and making jokes.

That crib sticker that officially recognized as my son in the sticker made me so happy : ) The hospital gives it to you when you leave as a souvenir and I kept it in my “all things Dash” binder.

To help me stop bleeding, they gave me methergine and I think one other drug. Stitching me up took about half an hour. After spending two hours post-birth in the delivery room, I was moved in a gurney to the recovery room in the maternity ward. I had a migraine until the next morning.

Comfortable and fun (with delicious room service!) two-night stay at the Stanford hospital maternity ward

We stayed at the hospital for two nights and enjoyed being there. The maternity ward nurses were amazing, and each of them helped me well with breast feeding. We also saw a lactation nurse and she was also amazing and taught us more in detail. We had the recovery room all to ourselves, and the room service food was good and so convenient!

그윽한 하루된 아기의 눈빛!

All in all, I had a pleasant birth experience, thanks to the amazingly patient and kind doctors and nurses who let me make my own decisions and take my time.

Here is a card I wrote my obgyn who delivered Dash, which I gave to her along with a box of chocolates at my 6 week appointment. I am so grateful for her.

DASH’S NEAR DUE DATE RECAP

Due Date minus 1 day (11/3/2018 Saturday) – DIY-hemmed three pairs of lounge pants to wear post partum. Hiked 3.5 mile Old Spanish Trail in Porto Valley. Dinner at Zeni Ethiopian in Campbell.

Hiking going strong even till last days of pregnancy

We LOVE Ethiopian food! Spicy and vegetarian friendly
Due Date (11/4/2018 Sunday) – Hiked 2 mile Rhus Ridge Trail in Los Altos. It had the best view of the peninsula out of all the hikes we’ve been on! Had instant Shin noodles and kimchi for dinner, because that is what I craved!
Selfie stick, a must for beautiful hikes in California

A whistle, a defense against mountain lions that may or may not be effective
Due Date + 1 day (11/5/2018 Monday) – Doctor’s appointment and a non-stress test for the baby. Had nausea in the morning and thought it was mild poisoning. Looking back, it was probably a sign of impending early labor. Watched Ex Machina on Netflix, which had a great ending. Ate Wendy’s baked potato and Caesar salad for dinner. Went for a evening stroll to Safeway.

Due Date + 2 days (11/6/2018 Tuesday) – Slight back pain appeared. Drove to Santa Clara to picked up free swaddle blankets that I found on Craigslist. Ate pork blood sausage for lunch. Walked across the street from our apartment to vote at the fire station. Ate spicy wontons and noodles for dinner at Chang An Artisan Noodles. Went for a evening stroll to Google and played Dance Dance Revolution, where I jumped up and down, to naturally induce labor. I went into early labor the next day, so it worked!
My (and Dash’s) first ever voting experience

DDR, the most fun way to naturally induce labor LOL
Due Date + 3 days (11/7/2018 Wednesday) – Had the worst menstral cramps in my life at 7 am (pain level of 6/10). Mucus plug and bloody show starting around 11:50 am, the latter of which continued until we went to the hospital. Went on a 40 minute evening stroll to Seven Eleven while having contractions every 10 minutes or so (and had one inside the store and one right outside the store).

Due Date + 4 days (11/8/2018 Thursday) – Went to the hospital at 3 am and welcomed baby Dash into the world 16 hours later, at 7:06 pm!

BABY DASHES INTO OUR LIVES

Dash Z!

After five years of marriage, Care Bear and I finally made it happen!

I found out that I was pregnant on the night of my California bar exam, on February 27, 2018, Tuesday. I had noticed a few signs of conception for a week or two leading up to the bar exam. But I had held off on taking a pregnancy pee test because I did not want to be distracted from studying for the bar. The symptoms included losing 3-4 lbs in a span of two weeks, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and eating food I rarely ate before (potato).

On the night before the exam, Care Bear sweetly offered to join me to stay that night at a hotel a few blocks from the bar exam center, in downtown Oakland. That evening, I had diarrhea and could not eat dinner because I was not feeling well. Care Bear had made a snack run and had brought back potato chips. And I ate some potato chips! This is newsworthy to me because I normally do not eat anything potato because I think it tastes bad. Little did I know that this rare nibble at chips was a sign of an enormous craving for anything potato to hit me later in pregnancy and to stay with me until today (Wendy’s baked potato, anyone?).

Image result for waffle potato chips
The first pregnancy craving

After I took the bar exam, Care Bear was waiting for me just outside the doors of the exam room. I was so happy to see him and was so exhausted from the bar. We walked to a Thai place and had dinner. I had a mango cocktail, which was delicious. This was the last of the alcohol I was going to taste for 9 months (or not).

When I came home that night, I took a pregnancy pee test and it showed a Big Fat Positive (BFP). I’ve been taking these tests for at least the past four months, several times a month, all of which had shown negative, i.e., no line. So, to finally see a faint positive line would have you think that I flipped out in joy or showed happiness, right? Nope. I was so exhausted and sleep deprived that when I saw the faint line, I tossed the test strip into the trash immediately, did not care to tell Care Bear about it, and went straight to bed.

I took the pregnancy pee test again the next day, and this time, when the line showed up (which was instantly), I brought it to the living room and showed it to Care Bear. Care Bear said “Oh my god honey, are you pregnant?” (or something like that), and gave me a sweet back hug.

In Korea, when you’re pregnant, it is common to give the uterus baby a nickname (태명) that is meaningful. I decided to name the uterus baby Dash because he/she came suddenly and unexpectedly. I had been trying to have a baby for five years and sometimes it was difficult to be hopeful. Then came Dash rushing in to surprise us!

That is the story of how I got pregnant and how I found out!