Fathering a Korean-American girl, two years in

I wanted to be a father.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I had to be a father, to realize a subconscious image of myself: the vital Dad, in the midst of his loving and active family.

But my mind was near capacity, with little room for fatherhood duties. I spent more time preparing for job interviews than I spent deliberately preparing for fatherhood. Still, I felt pretty sure that fatherhood — like marriage — is what you do, if you’re an upstanding gentleman. And I sure wanted to be one.

I decided we would have two kids, for two reasons: One, I was raised in a two-kid family, which was — in retrospect — a not-too-chaotic family unit. And Two, from an Earth-stewardship perspective, replacing myself and my wife with two equally-fantastic specimens was an attractive plan. A pathway to a kind of conservation of cosmic energy. Soon after my daughter was born, a third reason to stop at two kids revealed itself: childcare is exhausting.

On the spectrum of fatherhood, I gravitated towards a more-involved Dad image. “Naturally I’ll be better at it than my Dad was,” I thought smugly. I don’t know what led me to believe this, as my Dad was already ahead of his time in the 1970s. His résumé included fathering two kids, a stint as a widower, and then a second stint as Dad, fathering two more beautiful kids. He also helped to found a children’s puppet company in the 1980s, a fact that instantly differentiated him from the other dads.

My own kids would come, I figured, but I wasn’t in a hurry to initiate the process, content instead to enjoy the freewheeling DINK lifestyle (Double Income, No Kids) with my wife. She wasn’t anxious to start popping out kids either. She was smart, driven, and determined to bring home income — fast. The end of graduate school and her entry into the workforce brought a welcome spike in that regard.

My specs for the Dad role looked good on paper: married, MIT graduate, healthy (at least physically). But I had zero years of experience. I spent zero time visualizing the real nature of the work: sleepless nights, long days hanging around the house, and frequent bouts of in-law exposure.

Before my daughter was born, I didn’t appreciate the many ways a father can provide for his kids. A counselor once told me — in a manner clearly unperturbed by political correctness — that a man’s role in the family is threefold: leader, provider, and protector. “So old-fashioned,” I thought as the counselor tried to drill those three words into me. Try as I might, I couldn’t dismiss them outright.

My wife and I were active DINKs, and her pregnancy barely impacted our social schedule. Some days she didn’t feel great. Other days she had oddly-specific cravings, like the day we went to the farmer’s market and she spotted a big, expensive jar of pickled purple cabbage that she had to have.

The B.C. era (Before Child) continued regardless: domestic and international trips, fooling around now and then, and eating out at top-rated restaurants exhaustively researched on Yelp. Sex during pregnancy was awkward (though not much more so than usual). Maternity clothes hid her belly most of the time, but it wasn’t all that big to begin with. She seemed to expand in all the normal places.

I was nervous around my in-laws from the beginning, for reasons perhaps only a student of Korean culture can fully appreciate. I became infatuated with Korean culture and my wife around the same time. But as years passed, my gaze settled on certain imperfections in the culture. One was the honorific form of speech used by younger Koreans to address their elders. It was a product of the hierarchical Neo-Confucianism that dominated Korean thought throughout the Joseon dynasty (1392–1910). Honorific Korean was designed to create distance between people. My rudimentary understanding of the language only made the perceived distance between me and my in-laws greater. When the right words didn’t come, I tensed up. I didn’t hear their jokes half of the time, and the rest of the time I didn’t get the humor. I was stuck in a cultural limbo. So when my in-laws arrived to help out three weeks before the baby’s due date, a new layer of anxiety descended onto my already-thin skin.

I read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”. Cover to cover. My wife read just the most relevant sections (did I mention that she’s smart?). I also spent undue time attending classes and reading parenting blogs — time I wish I could get back. To pass the time in waiting rooms, I started creating new titles for “What to Expect”, like:

“Well, It Could Happen…”
or
“Developing Your Pregnancy-related Anxiety for Dummies”

If you feel your life is lacking in anxiety, I recommend that book.

I enrolled us in a couples’ program called Centering Pregnancy at Kaiser Permanente hospital, because I thought it might be fun to experience pregnancy in community with other couples. Each Centering session started with quick individual check-ups with the OB/GYN in a private cubicle, followed by an interactive class and forum for the couples to ask questions. It was fun, for the most part, to commiserate and laugh with some new faces instead of doing all the doctor’s visits just the two of us. The excruciating part was listening to endless pregnancy-related hearsay from the other couples.

The classes ended and our daughter was born, and then a weird thing happened: I became obsessed. The build-up to labor and conversations with friends and family had convinced me (at least intellectually) that it would be a life-changing event. But I was unprepared for how much I loved my slimy frog-of-a baby, and I wanted to protect her. At times I even felt an urge to protect her from her own mother. (Mother bears have been known to consume their young, FYI.) I became defensive about every little thing grandma and grandpa — or, in Korean, Hammi and Abua — wanted to do for the baby. Hammi wanted to co-sleep with her every night, and I resented being ousted from the protective role. When the umbilical cord fell off, my wife and Hammi wanted to wash the little pink nub every day. I just kept my mouth shut.

I couldn’t get used to the sound of my baby crying. It stressed me out beyond belief, a dull heartache lingering after every crying session.

My wife pumped and breastfed and pumped again. It was brutal. In the maternity ward, our daughter’s postnatal weight had dropped by more than the allowable ten percent, so we met a lactation consultant. She stressed the urgency of getting our daughter to feed at the teat. Ah, the lactation consultant. A midwife, with a very particular set of nipple-related skills. When I was born, a solitary midwife helped my mom to deliver me in our own apartment. At Kaiser hospital, there was a baby-measuring nurse, a bathing nurse, a lactation nurse, and a nurse named Wilma, to hold mom’s right leg in the stirrups.

When we first came home from the hospital, I had watched with Hammi and Abua, fascinated by the sight of my wife and daughter wrestling each other. Two weeks after breastfeeding began, I was 99% desensitized to the sight of my wife’s breasts. We stopped fooling around, but I didn’t mind for the first two months. I wanted to care for the baby.

So I learned how.
It was mostly about being present and committing certain movements to muscle memory. I learned to change diapers. First, the disposable Pampers at the hospital, and later, the cloth tri-folds we bought to reduce the guilt of watching disposable diapers pile up in the trash can. Rather than admitting when I was ignorant, I felt obliged to stand on a pedestal and criticize. (After all, I read “What to Expect” cover to cover). It seemed important to confidently proclaim a hodgepodge of facts acquired from the pregnancy books and blogs, because that’s what our other childless friends were doing.

I wanted to protect my daughter from harm, and also from stupid parenting trends. To that end, I prepared diatribes on various topics, but most them proved useless as the Koreans seemed to have studied from a different parenting manual entirely. Some of their methods struck me as odd and I watched disapprovingly, occasionally summoning the courage to voice my concerns. For instance, Hammi believed that after childbirth, my wife should eat miyeokguk (Korean seaweed soup) at every single meal — including breakfast — for approximately two months straight. When my wife’s breast started hurting, the baton passed to my father-in-law — and then to me — to administer a vigorous breast massage, the assumption being that a clogged milk duct was causing the inflammation, and massaging it would clear the blockage. I grabbed the flesh reluctantly and started to mash it between my hands, administering the cruel and unusual punishment like a lowly soldier ordered to torture an innocent civilian.

My family came for a short visit, and I relished the chance to relax and reconnect with them. The baby’s routine relaxed in kind.

Our simple rancher house, chosen to optimize cost, comfort, and commutes, was transformed into a Worry Zone, its air polluted with excess anxiety. I inhaled too much perhaps, and soon found myself plagued by health issues. Morning vertigo episodes floored me for a couple of hours at a stretch, until the room finally stopped spinning. I entertained the romantic notion that I might be suffering from Couvade syndrome, also known as “sympathetic pregnancy”. But in reality there was no “sym” and the pregnancy was over, which left… “pathetic”. I began sleeping on a single mattress pad on the floor, because I couldn’t handle the stress of waking up every time my wife awoke to breastfeed with her mother in the other room.
I know what you’re thinking. Poor you.

One night, I awoke around 3am and puked into a trash can beside my bed. I hadn’t been drinking since before my wife got pregnant. Quitting drinking was a good solidarity move, and in my early thirties alcohol had stopped agreeing with me anyways. My wife and her parents began to worry about me almost as much as they worried about the baby. “Take a rest” became their mantra during the first few months. They didn’t intend to ostracize me, and yet I stewed on the sidelines, looking for outlets for my blame. The language barrier had seemed a minor hurdle, but it suddenly transformed into a high-jump bar. I could barely express my desires for my daughter’s care in English, let alone Korean.

Before the baby was born, I had asked my boss what to expect, since he was Dad to two grown kids. He said he remembered driving people around a lot. Sure enough, I took charge of carting everyone to Korean stores (and American ones) to buy ingredients, medicines, and other infant-related gear. My father-in-law went to the gym regularly in Korea, so I got us both memberships at 24 Hour Fitness during his stay in the U.S. Despite his kind disposition, my father-in-law still gave me agita, a feeling that diminished only slightly when he came to the U.S.

Five months after our daughter was born, the grandparents returned to Korea and I took over daytime childcare duties. Airborne anxiety levels decreased measurably at home. Still, the in-laws’ childcare style left an indelible impression. My wife and I exhausted ourselves for the first week after they left, trying to maintain the same standards. Then we gave up, and cleanliness at the dinner table — and pretty much everywhere else — dropped a few pegs. The nervous feeling of invisible Korean laser beams on the back of my neck lingered, because we still spoke with the grandparents daily on Facetime. As we fed the baby her dinner, the grandparents watched, chiming in in Korean. “Give her some water, please.” “What’s that on her chin… Can you wipe it?” I had inculcated in myself a Korean-style absolute filial piety, and yet I had to pause sometimes, allowing my individual will to surface for air. My backbone — not particularly stiff to begin with — seemed as soft and malleable as the baby’s.

I spent a lot of time watching my baby girl. The nice part about watching her all day — besides the angelic moments — was discovering (and learning to accept) my parenting style. Some dads are content to work for the boss, I think, while others are more entrepreneurial. Watching the baby on my own, I observed the following differences:

Quicker house entries and exits.
More time outside at the park randomly exploring, blissfully unhindered by contingencies.
More naps.

Our daughter didn’t sleep as much when the grandparents were around, perhaps because they were light sleepers themselves. But during full days with Daddy, we napped. Hard. I needed the naps to relieve that first-time-parent tension caused by the problematic pair: inexperience and overambition.

My image of dadhood was relaxing in the living room, laughing, singing, and playing games together. That came much later, around the time our daughter turned two. Before two, it went something like this: Find the nearest wet wipe and clean baby’s nose. Change baby’s diaper. Change baby’s clothes. Prepare baby’s food. Prepare a contingency bag. Struggle to put baby into the car seat. Hover around baby at the park to make sure she doesn’t hurt herself. Coax baby into leaving the park before she gets too tired and starts wailing. Put baby to sleep, without putting yourself to sleep in the process. Forget the idea of working while baby sleeps, and pass out next to her. Take pictures and document everything for your spouse and extended families. Deal with the guilt of missed picture opportunities. A benefit to staying at home with my daughter was having some additional time to observe and master my guilt. Now I take pictures when I want to.

After tending to our daughter all day and making dinner on my assigned Daddy-dinner nights, I was too tired to devote much energy to my wife. Many nights we watched one short TV show and then slept, or caught up on chores.

It’s said that women begin to nest after giving birth, and in our house the twigs and leaves (i.e. hand-me-down toys and clothes) piled up rather quickly. In an unexpected twist, the owners of the house we were renting decided to sell it, offering it to us directly a few months before our lease was set to expire. After much deliberation, we bought the house from them before our daughter’s first birthday. In less than a year, I went from freewheeling DINK to frightened dad with an adorable little creature to protect and a big, ugly structure to maintain. My wife would probably be happiest in a brand-new house, airlifted straight from the factory to an empty plot of land on our move-in date. But instead we got an old, post-WWII rancher that scores high on location and “character” — and I love it.

My wife and I have different priorities about what needs to be fixed. My wife: “The sink is not draining fast enough.” Me: “I think we need a tree house.” Don’t get me wrong, I like fixing stuff when I’m able. It’s the satisfying part of an otherwise thankless job.

My wife’s the primary breadwinner in the family, but I still believe that fatherhood is basically a leadership position, as that counselor hammered home to me years ago. I am starting to get the hang of the leadership part. I’ve also started to accept that my daughter is a reflection of me. She’s a sponge and she learns everything by example, so caring for her and caring for me are inseparable tasks. In those moments when vertigo put me out of commission I missed out, but so did she. Other times, I relaxed, laughed, and connected with her at a deeper level, and she fed off of my energy. There are many ways to provide for your child. She needs food, sure. But she also needs energy. She needs Fun. Smiles. Confidence. Direction. Clearly-articulated Positions. All things that I — the Dad — can provide.

Who is the best Gynecologist in Gurgaon?

Adolescent phase is the time interval when neither you are a child nor you have come of age. Teen girls begin to feel profound mental as well as physical transformation in them in such state. In such circumstances, she does need an intimate as well as educated friend with whom she could discuss her private matters. A friend or mom may guide her but up to some extent due to their knowledge confinements. Hence, in such conditions she does require a doctor to escort her through this era of makeover. A general physician can help her, but perhaps not able to answer many questions which are percolating throughout her mind frame. It is only a gynecologist, who will carry about the bucket of perfect answers to her all doubts.

The reasons to pay a visit to a gynecologist:
• Help you realize your body as well as how to take care of it
• Permit the doctor discover problems early on so they can be healed
• Provide you plus the doctor a sense of what is usual for you so you can become aware of any problem changes, such as symptoms of vaginal infection
• Give details what a typical vaginal discharge ought to look like as well as what could be an indication of a trouble
• Teach you how to guard yourself if you have sex

The best Gynecologist in Gurgaon Sector 56, Dr. Ragini Agrawal states that your gynecologist can elicit a precise response to any inquiry you have about the numerous changes that may be taking place to your body. It’s advised to build an association with your gynecologist in long term so he or she recognizes your health as well as what matters to you.

When should I contact a Gynecologist?

The ideal age for the teenage girls to consult a gynecologist is between the 13 and 15. He or she will clarify your doubts if:
• You are having troubles with your period, such as excruciating pain, bleeding heavily or else bleeding for longer than natural, or it has blocked coming on a regular basis
• You have stomach ache, fever, as well as fluid sticking out from your vagina that is golden, gray, or else green with a pungent smell — all of which are promising signs of a solemn condition recognized as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) that requires instant treatment
• You have ever indulged in sex (oral, vaginal or anal) otherwise intimate sexual contact

• It has been 3 months or even more since your previous period plus you haven’t obtained it again
• You are having sex as well as missed your period
• You have not obtained your period by the age of 15 or else within three years of at what time your breasts began to develop
• You’ve enclosed your period for two years as well as it’s still not regular or else comes more than one time a month

When a midwife is the first-time mom: a birth story

Shannon Keller, MSN, CNM, joined UNC Midwives in July 2015. She was a labor-and-delivery nurse for six years before becoming a certified nurse midwife, and she has seen many, many women through labor. In January 2016, Keller learned she was expecting her first baby.

So, what happens when a UNC Midwife gives birth?

Jude Keller reps UNC Midwives at one week old.

“Midwifery care is so much more than delivery. It’s how you’re cared for during your pregnancy and throughout your life. You develop a relationship and mutual trust. Being at UNC means we have colleagues in maternal-fetal medicine and general obstetrics, with whom we can collaborate or consult should a complication arise. I was really happy to deliver in a hospital that offers really great low-risk care within this larger scope of safety. This is what I tell my patients — I felt safe and respected here, and you should, too.”

UNC Women’s Care offers a variety of risk-appropriate prenatal and maternal care — from (free!) volunteer doulas and Centering pregnancy to experts in complicated pregnancies. Visit My UNC Baby to learn more or make an appointment.

MY SON: DO YOU DARE TO WALK YOUR PATH?

Do you dare?

To walk your path.

Because I will dare you,

To walk your path.

I feel your pain,

Regardless! Walk that path.

I know you don’t want to,

But please walk that path.

It will hurt,

But you need to walk that path.

“Why?” You will ask me…

“Do I need to walk that path?”

I’ll ask you..

“What else will you do?”

Life fading away, day by day.

Knowing the huge potential in you,

Not doing anything, might drive you crazy one day.

I will tell you one day,

I have raised you my beautiful child,

Not for the perfect and happy life,

But for the beauty you may find in the struggles of your path.

I will tell you one day,

Cry if you need to,

But get up an continue.

My child, I will tell you one day,

This is exactly what my own mother told me one day!

Stop complaining, and be thankful for all you have:

An amazing mind,

An amazing heart,

An amazing life of love.

Just as I am reminding myself today,

I will also remind you one day.

And you will go and start your path,

With all the conversations we might have had.

Shining your light everywhere you go,

Finding a piece of love, in every single sorrow.

Make a beautiful prayer for me my child,

I will be in need of it by that time✨

P.S. This poem is especially important to me because I wrote it in a time when I was pregnant but didn’t know it yet.

Baby Shower Games

It’s that time of your pregnancy! The baby shower is around the corner. If you’re apprehensive about how well your guests will mingle, here are two games that your friends and family will love. Use them to avoid those awkward silences and encourage people to loosen up. You’re baby shower will be a memorable event that people will still talk about years from now.

The only caveat is that you must not reveal the names you’ve chosen or the gender of the baby before the shower. So, hopefully you read this article in the earliest weeks of your pregnancy.

Whether you believe in old wives tales or not, put them to use. Divide guests into pairs or groups of three or four. Larger groups are fine if you have several guests. Then encourage them to use their knowledge of old wives tales to make a list of questions. They’ll get to ask you each question on their list and your answer will help them determine the sex of the baby. Give them time to analyze your answers and then let them share their guess.

If grandma doesn’t want to know the gender of the baby until he or she is born, tell your guests that you’ll be revealing the answer the day after the baby’s born with a thank you card. Of course, this means you’ll need to have thank you cards prepared so the hubby can send them for you.

This game is a great way to keep the anticipation and excitement building until the birth while letting those who want to know whether you’re having a boy or girl indulge in thinking about it.

Here are a few old wives tales that may help guests create their questions.

Predicts A Girl

Predicts A Boy

Using blue paper, make a cutout for each letter in your baby’s full name. Do the same with pink paper for a girl. Even if you know the gender, don’t tell them. You’re guests will get to figure out the name of your baby if she’s a girl as well as the name you’ll use for a boy. Make several sets and put them in baggies. Divide your guests into groups. Given each group one blue baggie and one pink baggie. Tell them that they will need to unscramble the letters and create a name out of each bag (two names total, one for a boy and one for a girl). The group that accurately determines the names you’ll give your baby depending upon if he is a boy or she is a girl wins. You can also decide who wins based on speed or time. Give a prize to the winning group.

Here are a few suggestions to enhance this game:

If the idea of dividing your guests into groups stresses you out, try this. Divide the number of guests by the number of people you want in a group. Then cut out that many pieces of paper. Number each piece of paper. Make copies of each piece. Have guests draw a number out of a hat, then ask them to find the individuals who drew the same number. This is a good way to mix and match groups while encouraging people to mingle with those they haven’t met.

Games are a fun way to get the party going! Of course, no party is complete without great food and drinks, so remember to include them. Sorry, mom-to-be, you’ll have to stick to mocktails for now. But don’t worry, you’re guests will have a blast. Just remember to thank whomever put this party together for you.

Skeptics Guide to Home Birth

Today only about 1.5% of births in the United States take place outside of the hospital. But more and more women are becoming interested in going back to their roots by choosing to give birth at home.

Why are families interested in home birth?
Laboring and giving birth at home is an irreplaceable experience. The compassionate, gentle care, and the calm, undisturbed environment is a unique atmosphere for mothers, partners, and babies that you don’t find anywhere else.

What you get with home birth care…

When planning a home birth, your midwife may come to your home for prenatal visits. Your prenatal visits are longer and more intimate than hospital appointments so you get really comfortable with each other and have time to talk about any fears that come up.

Your midwife will usually have a second midwife (whom you meet during your prenatal visits) who arrives before baby is born so that you and baby each have your own care attendant. You can labor at your own pace, eat and drink as you please, and birth in any position that feels best. You are essentially in charge of your birth experience. After the baby is born, your midwife stays for a couple hours to make sure everyone is settled and breastfeeding is successful. What’s really unique and special about home birth midwives is that they visit your home to support the adjustment of having a new baby multiple times within the first few days and weeks post birth.

A mother has the right to choose where she births her baby. And if she feels most safe, secure, and comfortable at home, home birth may be an option to consider.

A little history about midwives and birth…

For as long as humans have existed, women have been giving birth out of the hospital. There was a higher rate of infant and maternal deaths due to the lack of medical supplies and technology as well as sanitation. But close to 95% of births were successful.

Hospitals were growing in the 1700–1800’s but doctors were not trained to deliver babies in that time. Midwives were the primary care providers for women having babies. And even by the year 1900, only 5% of births took place in a hospital. Gradually, trust was handed over to doctors and the view of birth shifted. Women no longer should have to “suffer” and labor should be managed to ensure that it is safe.

Click here for a historical timeline of midwifery and childbirth in America.

Birth Story As Told By Grandma

Photo by Jake Peterson on Unsplash

Have you ever found a moment of extreme spiritual and emotional joy, right in the middle of a painful and chaotic situation? I have. It was the day my granddaughter was born.

The situation was, to say the least, dire. My daughter was in a terrible relationship which she couldn’t seem to let go of. She felt torn between her need to have someone special, and the needs of her baby. Social services had been involved with the pregnancy since month four.

They were sure Julie couldn’t handle the baby and, since the boyfriend was demanding, selfish and very controlling, they were concerned about him around Julie and the baby. He had a previous relationship where he left his girlfriend when she was in labour. Social services were not impressed with his behaviour.

To me, although I could see where social services were coming from, it was like they were vultures round that baby, just waiting to take her away from Julie. I felt like she should have a chance to bring up her baby. I had seen women completely change personality when their babies were placed in their arms, and I really wanted my daughter to have that chance.

On the day, I got a call at around 7 pm Julie had gone into hospital. She had had one false alarm so I wasn’t terribly excited, but still, I hurried to the hospital. It turned out that she had had pains all day, and then around 5 pm her waters broke at home. She didn’t call an ambulance because they wouldn’t stop to pick up the boyfriend, who was at the skate park.

She struggled to walk ¼ of a mile or so to the sweet shop where she was friends with the family that ran it, her belly huge and the baby heavy on her pelvis. She got them to call the boyfriend then call an ambulance. She had been at the hospital an hour or so before I got there.

When I arrived big tears rolled down her cheeks. She felt frightened about what was going to happen. I remember walking into the room where she was, still fully dressed, eating crisps and crying into the packet. She had a long thin room to herself with a bathroom. Lots of equipment was already in the room, the boyfriend sat there with some bags, he didn’t want to eat. He seemed quite nervous.

Turned out my daughter was crying because when she saw me she knew it was for real, the baby was coming. I am not sure why her waters breaking didn’t give that away but sometimes women in labour don’t think normally. I know I didn’t.

A midwife bustled in and strapped a monitor to her tummy, we could hear the heartbeat just fine. The machine printed out a strip of paper so I could see that everything looked normal, regular. I had three babies myself so I knew that this was all part of the drill.

After about thirty minutes another midwife strode in and examined her to see how far her cervix was dilated. They were satisfied that things were moving in the right direction and her labour was moving along. So we all then had to troop to the delivery room, bags in tow, where we met two more midwives who would help her through the rest of the labour and delivery.

The room was bigger, there was pain relief in the form of Entonox (gas and air) and more equipment for the baby if it needed some basic resuscitation. There was a window with curtains closed and everything was clean and neat looking. The midwives were older women, I was glad about that. They were closer to my age and I felt they would be experienced. I was excited but apprehensive; I had never seen a baby delivered before.

I was so impressed with Julie. She stood up and leaned on the bed and she worked so hard to get that baby out. I kept telling her how well she was doing, how she was doing a great job. My heart felt like it was breaking like crystal glass when she said to me: “Mum, don’t let them take my baby away from me.” I promised her I would do everything I could.

The midwives offered her gas and air, it was piped in from the wall, she just had to hold it in her mouth and inhale; she had maybe five breaths but she didn’t like it.

Our calm, efficient midwives were keen on monitoring the baby closely so they put a clip on the babies head. I always worried about that, my babies had them and I didn’t know how the clip, clipped. However, Julie said okay, and that was that.

Julie just worked with her body and laboured away, head down focusing through the contractions. She just did so amazingly well! I felt so proud of her, my baby having a baby and doing so fabulously. To be honest, she did much better than her mother did in all her labours, and that is the truth.

It was just a few hours after I had arrived at the hospital and the midwives said the babies heartbeat was lowering and had been for 20 minutes. My thought was — if it had been low for 20 minutes why hadn’t they done something already? — but it just meant it was time for Julie to get on the bed and actually deliver our wee baby.

Julie didn’t want to go on the bed, her forehead furrowed with worry, she was concerned about pushing the baby back up. We all assured her that it wasn’t going to happen and she needed to be on the bed for the next bit. She clambered on and she did a couple of huge pushes. I saw my little granddaughter delivered; she slipped, out face down, on her nose.

No damage was done, they immediately cleaned her up a little, weighed her, and wrapped her in a blanket. She was utterly beautiful. She didn’t cry much, but she looked at us all with her big blue eyes. Julie lay her back in her arms, exhaling with relief. Her smile was wide as she gazed down at her perfect baby girl.

I wasn’t as happy. Every time Julie lay the baby back in her arms, the baby seemed to go purple. I told Julie to hold her more upright, but I could see there was something wrong. The midwives were busy with Julie delivering the placenta. I said the baby needs some oxygen.

They didn’t take any notice of me, so I said it louder, this baby needs some oxygen. Still no response from the midwives. I slammed my fists down on the bed, panic was rising in me and I stated firmly and clearly: “This baby is going purple, she needs some oxygen!” At last, I had their attention and they came and looked at her, straight away they took the baby over to the Resuscitaire machine, and gave her some oxygen.

It didn’t take much oxygen and our little baby was looking pink and well again.

It’s hospital policy that both mum and dad hold the baby topless for 30 minutes so they can bond. I was hopping from one foot to the other, waiting for my turn to hold her. She was so amazing. The whole experience was amazing — the birth of another human being. And I was allowed to watch. My eyes filled with tears at the experience, the awe-inspiring feeling that I was somehow closer to God at this precious, unforgettable moment.

The midwives were very good to me. Ever curious, they showed me the embryonic sac and the placenta. Then even showed me the clip that they put on the baby’s head.

It was a hugely powerful experience and one that I will definitely never forget. It truly was the miracle of life and whatever you believe, God or no God, Sky-Daddy or not, it was a momentous experience I would never want to miss. If you ever, ever get the chance to see a baby born, my advice would be, take that chance. It was emotionally moving and spiritually rewarding in ways I could never anticipate.

Evan Nicholas Jones, Our Birth Story

Everyone has this “idea” of what their delivery or birth story should be. As a women you are told to create a birth plan. Originally I had every intention of doing a water birth. My delivery would be laid back and in a room full of love with my husband, mom and mother in law. Although I didnt get my water birth, my delivery room was very mellow and there was more love in that small room than our hearts could handle.

In my last post I shared that at 35 weeks, February 8, I was admitted into high risk with my second kidney stone. I was unable to have the surgery to remove the stone because of the baby and how far in the pregnancy we were. The around the clock medication wasn’t safe for him either. Decisions had to be made. This is not the way anyone wants to bring their baby into the world. This is not the way I had planned to bring MY baby into the world. We had to determine if it was better to leave the baby until closer to our due date (March 10), Or induce now to prevent any type of addiction for the baby due to the pain medication I had been on in the hospital.

Photography by Nicole Leone Miller http://www.nicoleleonemiller.com

I had been in pain for 7 days now and was super swollen from all the IV fluids. It was my 27th birthday. Friends, family, even my doctors came to the hospital to celebrate with me. I will never forget my 27th birthday. Not just because I was in the hospital but also because I found out that morning, in 24 hours they would be starting my induction. Taking Evan a little early was better than risking any type of drug addiction. I would be meeting my son for the first time!! This is when all of the fear set in. I would be close to 37 weeks by the time Evan made his appearance, but that was still early. I was so afraid of the challenges my baby would face because of everything I had been going through. I didn't want to see my baby in the NICU and I knew this was a possibility. That night we had a heart shaped pizza in the hospital and talked about how Evan would be here soon.

Photography by Nicole Leone Miller http://www.nicoleleonemiller.com

They started my pitocin and epidural on Wednesday February 15 around 10pm. No shame in my game, the epidural was amazing!! It may not have been my planned water birth but It was our new story and I was going to make the best out of it. I was 3cm dialated and contractions were starting to come more regularly. I can honeslty say the contractions didn't phase me at all. I’m not sure if it was the epidural, or the fact that my kidney stone pain felt so much worse that anything I experienced in labor.

Photography by Nicole Leone Miller http://www.nicoleleonemiller.com

It was a VERY long night. I didn’t progress quickly at first.( I guess this is normal when you are being induced.) Around 5am my water finally broke! I started to change every 1–2 hours. I remember around 10:30 I was 6cm dialated. My labor and delivery nurse told me it would only be a few more hours and we would be ready to push. They kept encouarging me to rest, but I couldn't. My adrenaline was going strong.

Photography by Nicole Leone Miller http://www.nicoleleonemiller.com

Around 11:30 I felt a strong contraction. I paged my nurse to make sure everything was ok because something didn't seem right. She decided to check me early. I will never forget when my nurse looked me in the eye and asked me if I was ready to meet my son?! I started crying hysterically. I wasn't expecting to hear those words already. I had dreamed of hearing that for years! I felt so many different emotions. I was SO excited, a little guilty and also scared. I was so worried about what struggles Evan would face being born preemie. I felt guilty because my pain was the reason in taking him early. Everything that I was afraid of slowly disappeared every time I pushed and was able to watch my baby making his way into the world.

Photography by Nicole Leone Miller http://www.nicoleleonemiller.com

After a very long 2 hours of pushing, My doctor asked me If I wanted to pull out my son? I reached down and pulled my baby boy onto my chest.

Photography by Nicole Leone Miller http://www.nicoleleonemiller.com

February 16 at 1:58pm, Evan Nicholas Jones was welcomed into the world. I can’t begin to explain the way I felt. My heart was exploding. Evan was more than perfect. Not only was he perfect in our eyes he was perfect in the doctors eyes. He may have been preemie but he was so strong. Evan beat all odds. All the symptoms we were expecting to see in him, didn’t exist. Evan was a miracle in every way.

Did I mention how amazing Evan’s daddy is? He didnt leave my side from the day I was admitted to the day we were discharged as a family. Nick spent every night with me and catered to me. I was unable to get myself up at times for the bathroom and he would be right there to help me every step of the way. He coached me and kept me laughing through out delivery. He was my crutch through it all. Evan is so lucky to have such a supportive father, and I am so lucky to have him too.

Photography by Nicole Leone Miller http://www.nicoleleonemiller.com

This baby boy has such a special spot in his mommy and daddys heart. Life with Evan feels so full and complete. We are finally a family of 3!

As we move forward and learn to become parents I know we will face so many challenegs. If there is anything I have learned through out this journey, It’s that together Nick and I are strong enough to handle it all. Enjoy some pictures from our delivery. Coming soon: Life as a mommy to the blog and how post- partum is no Joke!

With love from Evans mommy

Photography by Nicole Leone Miller http://www.nicoleleonemiller.com

Photography by Nicole Leone Miller http://www.nicoleleonemiller.com

Photography by Nicole Leone Miller http://www.nicoleleonemiller.com

Photography by Nicole Leone Miller http://www.nicoleleonemiller.com

Photography by Nicole Leone Miller http://www.nicoleleonemiller.com

Photography by Nicole Leone Miller http://www.nicoleleonemiller.com

Photography by Nicole Leone Miller http://www.nicoleleonemiller.com

Photography by Nicole Leone Miller http://www.nicoleleonemiller.com

Photography by Nicole Leone Miller http://www.nicoleleonemiller.com

Photography by Nicole Leone Miller http://www.nicoleleonemiller.com

Photography by Nicole Leone Miller http://www.nicoleleonemiller.com

Photography by Nicole Leone Miller http://www.nicoleleonemiller.com

Photography by Nicole Leone Miller http://www.nicoleleonemiller.com

Photography by Nicole Leone Miller http://www.nicoleleonemiller.com

Photography by Nicole Leone Miller http://www.nicoleleonemiller.com

Photography by Nicole Leone Miller http://www.nicoleleonemiller.com

Diverse product leaders will redefine what leadership looks like for the better.

I recently answered the question “How do you think about using your leadership role to advance diversity in product?” for Elpha’s ongoing series on women in tech. Here’s my answer in full.

One early morning, I was ready to present my team’s weekly progress to the business and technical leadership. The CEO looked at my giant pregnant belly from the other end of the boardroom table and asked me how I was doing. Looking around the table of men watching me, I gathered myself, forced a calm smile, and lied “I’m great.” “That’s good” he said, “not all pregnancies are that easy, know you.” He meant well, but he didn’t know that I had just had another sleepless night filled with contractions, leg cramps, and heartburn. He didn’t know that I was going through a pregnancy from hell and was petrified of my long commute to the office because I was getting very little sleep and could start getting contractions at any point. A few weeks earlier, I’d gotten rear-ended by a careless driver on the freeway and spent painful and terrifying hours strapped in a baby monitor at the hospital. My fear was not exactly unsubstantiated.

After that leadership meeting, my manager took me aside to tell me that I needed to work on my leadership presence. I didn’t look confident, he said. He too meant well. I was the first woman to be pregnant at our rapidly growing 200+ people company and the first in his entire professional life. He had no idea what I was going through.

I took my manager’s feedback seriously because leadership charisma is key to product management. You have to lead and inspire your team without formal authority. And you have to represent the team’s work to the rest of the org to make sure the team is always moving in the right direction and never gets bogged down in cross-functional miscommunications.

At first, I was having a hard time reconciling this new feedback with the feedback I’ve been hearing for years. Colleagues had always identified leadership charisma as one of my greatest strengths. So what was going on?

Listening to The Charisma Myth during my commute, I finally figured it out. My physical discomfort came through in my body language, voice, and posture, so I didn’t exude confidence. The Charisma Myth tells you to wear comfortable clothes and avoid getting the sun in your eyes for important conversations, but there was literally nothing I could do to get more comfortable with a giant baby growing inside me.

Looking back at my pregnancy and postpartum time, I miraculously managed to make a lot of progress in my work during that year. Probably much more progress than most able-bodied men do in a year. But not nearly as much progress as I made in the following years. And making that progress was ridiculously hard. I think about all the mothers who’ve gone through this experience multiple times during their most productive years and people with disabilities whose chronic physical discomfort prevents them from “looking confident.”

We all know that diversity is good for business in many ways. Most obviously, the dudes in blue checked shirts sitting around our boardroom table had no experience or ability to empathize with 50% of the world’s population and some of the ultimate users of the products we were building.

But how do we actually enable diversity and inclusion when all our work models are designed around just one type of individual? The good news is that more and more people with different backgrounds are getting to leadership roles where they can redefine what leadership looks like. It’s a tricky balance because to get there we need to try to fit in and fake it till we make it. Once we’ve made it though, we can use that position of power to make the path for other people from diverse groups easier. Having struggled ourselves, this is easier said than done. I’ve seen many women in leadership roles turn a blind eye to blatant sexism, not to mention unconscious bias. They are tired. They feel like they have seen much worse. But that’s no excuse. You have to continue trying to do the right thing, even when it’s hard.

I’ve thought about this responsibility when hiring product managers. To try to level the playing field, I introduced a task to get more diverse candidates further in the hiring pipeline. Non-diverse candidates tend to have had lots of advantages due to their privilege that causes them to look better on paper, but not necessarily be better at doing the actual work. I got lots of pushback for my task both from colleagues who preferred it to be a presentation that tested the candidates’ leadership presence and from the most privileged candidate in the pool who didn’t want to be bothered completing the task and mansplained that I didn’t know what I was doing. But pushing through the pushback paid off. Using an objective measure, the few diverse candidates in our pipeline perform better on the task than most non-diverse candidates. The takeaway is not that diverse candidates are always better PMs. Rather it’s that diverse candidates tend to stop themselves from applying unless they are really good. They do this even though I’ve tried to design job descriptions to avoid gendered language, share with groups like Women in Product, and advertise the fact that I’m a female hiring manager, which is fairly rare for product roles.

I’ve also thought about this when organizing events for Women in Product. Our sponsors sometimes want male product leaders to keynote the event or moderate a panel, particularly when they don’t have female executives in product leadership roles. It’s something we’ve had to push back on given the central role a keynote speaker plays at an event. Junior female PMs need to be able to look at the speaker and think “This could be me. I could do this.” Because they really could and, one day, it will be them.

The Epidural Debate: Here’s What You Need To Know

Preparing for a birth, especially a first birth, is important. Which is why many first time parents attend classes, read books and brace themselves with the knowledge of what to expect before heading into the delivery room. AND HERE lays the first lesson your child will teach you… they are pretty unpredictable!

Many soon-to-be parents go into the delivery room with their minds set about the big E. But things happen… parents who had planned on a “drug-free” delivery find themselves in a situation where getting one is a medical necessity. Or a woman who had planned on getting one can show up to delivery already too far along to receive it.

So before you continue, know that while education yourself and creating a birth plan is important, the safety of both mother and baby trumps all. Like many parts of life it’s best to make a plan and then adjust accordingly. In the meantime here’s a run-down of what you need to know about the epidural debate.

Statistically speaking, epidurals are safe for mother and baby. Permanent injuries, such as paraplegia or long-term back pain, are as rare as they are extreme: In 2009, the British Journal of Anesthesia concluded the risk was one per twenty thousand, or lower. Most complications, such as headaches, or lower back aches, are relieved within a few days after the birth.

The reason women take an epidural during labor is to relieve the pain of contractions. Once the epidural kicks in, the mother can benefit from some R & R as her cervix continues to dilate in preparation for the birth. Ideally, the epidural wears off enough in time for the pushing stage, and the mother has enough feeling in her pelvis and legs to purposefully push her baby out to be born. That having been said, there are a few caveats: 1) Epidurals do not necessarily relieve all of the pain, 2) it’s impossible to plan the timing precisely for pushing. Therefore, when accepting an epidural, keep in mind realistic expectations.

Women who choose to forgo the epidural are usually able to do so because they use natural means to relieve contraction* intensity. Contrary to popular opinion, they are not heroines who can handle high levels of pain — they just relieve it without drugs. Coping mechanisms include relaxing the body with comfortable positioning (e.g. upright versus flat on the back), hot water bottles, warm showers, massage, vocalizing/singing, hypnosis, dim lighting, smiling (believe it or not), and hearing encouraging messages from others. Other relaxation techniques are useful such as lowering the shoulders, releasing the jaw, softening the cheeks, and leaving the fingers open instead of clenching them.

But these natural-pain-relief techniques are not for everyone. Or perhaps they work well for a while, but labor continues for so long that the woman tires out. Whatever the reason, more than half of birthing women use an epidural for contraction relief.

Every woman can weigh the decision about epidural for herself. Knowledge is power and there are no hard-and-fast answers. Do your research, and prepare for the type of birth you prefer. And if it’s not what you intended, take everything into consideration and for sure give yourself huge kudos because no matter how the birth transpired, you. gave. birth. You went through a lot to have a baby. That’s your story, and that’s amazing. And if you want to plan differently for a consequent birth, you can.

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  • Refers to natural contractions. Conversely, contractions from Pitocin are not often relieved naturally; Pitocin-induced labors are often accompanied by epidurals.

Originally published at www.miamiobgyns.com on February 2, 2017.