28 March 2018

Baby: One Month

And just like that, he's already looking less and less like a tiny wrinkly red newborn!

Likes: Hanging out on his belly, being carried in the Ergo, dancing with Angel, baths given by Grandma.

Dislikes: diaper changes, being hungry, baths given by Angel

In real life, he's almost constantly in motion, so this is what he looks like in real life, seen in a variety of videos from his first month:

Daily routines with Cyrus so far:

- We've intentionally started a bedtime routine--every evening, after he's fed and changed, Angel dances with him, usually first to some upbeat Spanish songs (La Chona and Ya Llego) followed by a couple of hymns sung by Fernando Ortega or some Rich Mullins music (i.e. Grace and Peace and Let Mercy Lead), afterwards getting swaddled and then rocked in my arms until he's asleep enough to go into his playpen. Some nights this process is faster than others. Sometimes he falls asleep pretty quickly, other nights it might be 45 minutes or so of rocking him and wandering around the house while he opens his eyes every other second to see if I'm still there. Once he falls asleep, he usually sleeps for about 4-5 hours the first time, wakes up to eat, and then wakes up sometime around 4-5 a.m.

- Angel went back to work after our first two weeks, and the jump to taking care of him on my own for long chunks of time took some courage! Now that he's at work, I make sure to fill my early mornings as efficiently as possible--usually after I feed Cyrus sometime between 4-5, I put him back down, or give him to sleepy Angel, and quickly eat breakfast, shower, start laundry and cut up veggies for dinner--whatever I can get done while Angel's still home is great, because when it's just me and Cyrus, I can't count on having two hands free at once for long periods of time. Once Angel and Cyrus wake up, sometime between 5 and 7, Angel gives him a bath and plays with him a bit, or reads to him from the Bible--lately, the book of Romans, because you might as well start with hardcore theology, am I right? Then I take baby while Angel gets ready for work, and we say goodbye before starting the day's adventures. I started putting him in the Ergo while I hang up laundry or do other chores a few days ago, and that's worked great, but I still can't do anything dangerous like cooking. Babies teach you to be energetic and efficient! He's pretty much awake most of the day, but given that he sleeps so well at night, I think it's totally great for him to be awake all day.

- He wants to eat all the time. In fact, our new slogan about Cyrus is: "He's always hungriest right after he eats." He's determined to be a chunky baby. Feeding hasn't come so easily for me, but it's pretty much his favorite thing to do. There is nothing exclusive about the way Cyrus eats. Formula, breastmilk, whatever, he eats it all--really trying hard to keep it to primarily breastfeeding with an extra bottle or two in the afternoon/evening when he has his "hunger rampages," as I call them. We only have two bottles, one for formula and one for the pump. I've noticed that only owning two bottles really helps keep you on top of washing and sterilizing bottles frequently. #minimalist

- We often go visit my parents in the evenings so that Grandma, Grandpa, and aunties can get their daily dose of Cyrus. I often strategically do this while Angel is out for his evening run so that there are a few extra pairs of arms to cuddle him with during that hour or so. Grandma often gives Cyrus his evening bath, this two-bath-a-day baby (necessity of living in a tropical climate!).

- We've just begun to take him out a bit more often for errands, etc., though I've tried to keep him home as much as possible during the first month to minimize germ exposure. We also asked for no visitors, which, simply given how rough I've felt this month, was a very, very good idea. Easter will be his official debut at church. He appears to be a baby who likes adventures--he likes his carseat as long as the car is moving (his feelings about heavy traffic are the same as ours) and generally he's quiet and stares at everything when we're out somewhere.


My thoughts on being one month postpartum: People sure talk a lot about losing the baby weight and stretchmarks. They talk less about being so ridiculously weak. I was never worried about weight or stretchmarks, and I don't seem to have acquired either one thus far. But getting up and down off the floor with baby is still hard and I still have to use my arms to pull myself up from lying down and walking for any distance can get me out of breath and/or shaky/dizzy. I was too sick to eat for about 10 days after he was born, so my under-nutrition probably didn't help matters. Looking forward to being able to slowly add exercise back in once I've healed a little more so that I can rebuild my strength. I'm open to listening to any advice on getting strong again after baby! I've been sipping bone broth and eating more normally and reminding myself to be patient--patience is not entirely my greatest strength, but then again, neither is actual strength at the moment...
25 March 2018

When a Baby Needs a Country (Consular Report of Birth Abroad Experience)

Malaysia is a country that doesn't have birthright citizenship. I've found that our American community often assume that Cyrus automatically has the possibility of being a Malaysian citizen because he was born here, since that's the way it works in our country, but nope, for the first three weeks of his life, Cyrus was sort of a man without a country.

Because we are both foreigners, the responsibility was on us as his parents to get him documented as a citizen of our home country. We researched the application procedure before his birth, and collected and prepared as many of the documents as possible even before he was born in order to make the process a bit easier once he actually arrived.

Registering an American citizen who was born abroad requires a THICK stack of documents, and a variety of originals, notarized copies, and copies. There's a few major categories that you have to have evidence for:

1) Proof of the parents' citizenship, i.e. passports. 

2) Proof that at least one of the parents has resided in the USA before--one option is college transcripts and diploma, but there are a variety of potential ways to prove residency.

3) Proof that the parents are really the parents and that the mom was actually pregnant with this baby, in the form of receipts for hospital bills, ultrasound photos, medical records, hospital bracelets, and photos of the mom while pregnant and in the hospital with the baby (good thing I took those bump photos periodically, right?), marriage license if the parents are married, proof that the parents are in the same location, etc.

4) Proof that there is a baby, i.e. birth certificate, the baby himself, passport photos, etc.


So, here's what happened.

Angel was like a paperwork tornado on our first day home after Cyrus's birth, and got his application mailed into the US Embassy first thing Monday morning. After a series of emails with them, our appointment was set for three weeks after his birth. We needed to get passport photos taken of him, and we'd heard that they are quite picky about newborn passport photos, so we painstakingly made sure his eyes were wide open and his head was straight for his photo (not easy when he had the neck control of a 10-day-old baby).

{Spoiler Alert: This is not his actual passport photo, but I wish it were. And thank you, Angi, for the "Baby Bear" onesie, it's famous now.}

We live about a 5-hour drive from the U.S. Embassy, and I'll be entirely honest, the idea of a long road trip, 10 hours of driving in a day, with a tiny baby, was rather intimidating. Thankfully, Mom was able to join us for the trip--little did we know at the time exactly how much three adults would be needed!

The drive down went smoothly. We were in the car by 4 a.m. and stopped once to feed Cyrus. Angel got just slightly turned around when trying to find a place to park near the embassy, and we ended up parking at a mall about 1 kilometer from the embassy. The walk from the mall to the embassy was brutal in the blazing hot tropical sun. It wasn't even 10 a.m. yet, but in this part of the world, it doesn't have to be the middle of the day for the sun to be scorching.

We made it to the embassy and through security (cannot bring any phones, laptops, or even car key with an electronic tag inside), and then through the second set of bag checks. The guard laughed at us for having so many bags--I had a purse, Mom had a purse, Angel had his satchel, briefcase full of important documents, AND we had a well-stocked diaper bag for baby. I joked back that it's not like we could opt to leave the diaper bag behind!

Once inside, we took our number, and when we were called up, went up to the window with baby and all of our paperwork. First they took all of our documents, then asked us to go and pay, before sitting down and waiting for the interview. We probably waited about 40 minutes before getting called back up--Cyrus behaved himself pretty well during the wait because Grandma could walk around with him, but of course as soon as we all got called in to a tiny glass room for the interview, he started crying, and the interviewer said that Grandma could take him out to walk around again. He likes to take thorough tours of every location he visits. Angel and I had to take an oath that everything we'd reported on his application was true, and then answer a variety of questions. One that slightly stumped us was "When was the first time you left the USA, where did you go, and for how long?" I guess answers like, "Ummm, I was probably about 4 or 5, and my parents took me to Mexico, and I was probably there for a week or two?" and "I used to live in Michigan, so my family went to Canada a bunch of times when I was young." sound legit enough. Angel also got asked what his middle name was, they asked if I went to college in the USA, why we were living in Malaysia, how long we've lived here, where we both were in May last year, if we'd ever lived abroad before, etc.

We were told that everything was in order for his application, and it could begin to be processed right away...IF we got a new passport photo taken and turned in today. Because they couldn't accept the photo we'd turned in, as it wasn't "sharp" enough. 

No....this was what I was nervous about! But I'd thought his passport photo looked just like a passport photo, so we were not prepared for it to be rejected. They handed us a map of the area with places that offered passport photo services marked. The closest one was supposed to be 1 km away, and we were told we could walk it.

So, we walked it. Only...we could not find the place that was listed on the map. And I'm good with maps. We even asked some construction workers for help, and they couldn't get us there, either. This is where the day got rough. We crossed multiple roads. The sun was getting even more fierce, Mom and Angel were trading off carrying Cyrus with a blanket over his face. I was sure I was getting sunburned since I'm the only fair-skinned one of the three of us and I hadn't slathered on sunscreen that day, assuming incorrectly that a visit to the embassy would not involve excessive sun exposure.

I was growing more and more exhausted and lightheaded as we searched for the place to take passport photos. I hadn't packed any snacks or drinks for myself for the embassy, not wanting to carry anything extra beyond what we already had to carry, and the sun and the long walk after about 9 months of little-to-no exercise felt like it was going to kill me. I'd had it in mind that we ought to just grab a taxi and head to KLCC (aka the mall at the base of the famous Petronas Towers). KLCC was on the list of places that had passport photo shops, but because it was about 2 km away, we hadn't wanted to try for there at first. When we finally did reach a taxi stand, we were within sight of KLCC and probably half a kilometer away, but we asked the taxi driver if he'd take us. He looked at us in shock, pointed it out and said, "But it's so close!"

We must have looked very desperate and bedraggled. We pointed out the extremely sweaty newborn baby, and I know I was looking in very bad shape, as near to fainting as I was, and he took pity on us and drove us to the mall. I know taxi drivers don't like to take such short fares because it's not worth it (the meter rang up at less than $1 USD), but I was at the point where I don't think I could have made it to the mall otherwise (remember that whole giving birth three weeks ago and having a rather rough recovery thing? Yeah. I wasn't doing well.).

We got to the mall, Angel went straight to information and found out where we needed to go for passport photos, we got there. I was feeling distinctly dizzy, so I stumbled to the closest place where I could buy a drink, which happened to be a ridiculously expensive cold-pressed juice shop, but I didn't even care, I grabbed a bottle and started sipping it--at any cost I didn't want to end up on the floor of the mall (I have fainted before and that history--plus the weakness I've dealt with post-birth, plus the fact that I hadn't had access to food or drink for several hours, plus the long hike in the hot sun...were not a good combo).

Cyrus, who had slept the entire walk, decided that the last thing in the world he wanted to do was to take a passport photo, and began screaming. I held out hope that KLCC, one of the nicest malls in Malaysia, might actually have a baby care room of some kind, so we took him toward the nearest bathrooms, where, lo and behold, there actually was a baby changing room that had chairs for nursing moms! Amazing! I fed him, hoped that would make him happy enough for a passport photo, and then remained curled in the chair, sipping my juice, while Angel brought him back to the picture place. This failed, because Cyrus was not happy enough after only one feeding (I told you this baby's nickname is "Milk Monster" because his enthusiasm for milk rivals the Cookie Monster's enthusiasm for cookies, right?). Angel brought him back, I fed him again. Angel went and bought peanut M&Ms in hope of temporarily reviving me while I was feeding Cyrus. This time, when baby was done, Angel brought him back to the photo place once more, I stayed curled in the chair, and we were successful! He got a photo with his eyes open!

Now Angel was off and heading back to the embassy as fast as he could to get those photos turned in. Mom and I were starving--juice and M&Ms can only do so much, and had this idea that we deserved a nice sit-down lunch after such an ordeal as we'd just been through. We tried to go to Chili's, but they had a long, long line of people waiting for tables. So did every other sit-down restaurant in the mall. Then we tried the food court, but it was so crowded that my first thought was, "This is the sort of crowd that could cause a panic attack." And I don't even normally mind crowds all that much. I've lived in China, for pity's sake. Did I mention that KLCC is one of the most popular malls in KL? We eventually realized, a bit too late, that there would be no nice restaurant lunch for us, and opted instead to head to the basement again, buy an Auntie Anne's pretzel each, and hide out in the nursing moms' room to escape the crowds. 

So that's what we did. I'll even honestly admit that as much as I tried to repress them, I was in tears as I ordered my original-flavor pretzel and lemonade from Auntie Anne's. Every part of my body hurt, I was exhausted, starving, only somewhat less dizzy than I'd been an hour before, and I was denied even the possibility of a real lunch after the day's ordeal by hundreds of other people who, I was certain, needed lunch far less than I did. (Did I mention I was feeling a bit dramatic?)

We hid out in the nursing mothers' room and ate our pretzels and drank our lemonade and I fed the baby until I got word from Angel that they'd accepted the new photo, and he was headed our way to pick us up from the mall in our car.

I don't think we'd ever felt more relieved than when we got back inside our little orange car and were finally on our way home.

On the way home...we stopped about 40 minutes in so I could feed Cyrus again (Milk Monster), and then he slept for a good long time. We got stuck in quite the traffic jam just 10 kilometers from the bridge that reaches our island, and by the time we reached our island, Cyrus was demanding his next meal. 

It was good to see home at about 8 p.m. after leaving at 4 a.m. It was quite the 16 hour trip!


So, that's the story of baby's first road trip. Let's hope that the next one involves somewhat less paperwork. And less passport photography. Honestly, baby did pretty good--it was really only the photo thing that made the experience into such an ordeal. Next time, I'm coming prepared with multiple passport photos in case of rejection. And snacks for myself, to prevent bursting into tears at Auntie Anne's.

Also, the day of our embassy appointment was the 8th anniversary of the day Angel and I became official. Happy 8 years to us!
20 March 2018

My Experience with Prenatal Care in Malaysia

It must be noted that the comments in this post reflect my perspective: as an American expat in Malaysia. Though I haven't had any babies in America, I've heard plenty of tales of prenatal care in my birth country from family and friends, so that was the main reference point that I came into pregnancy with. Now I'm reflecting on what seemed interesting or different about the care I received here in Malaysia.

Malaysia has both public (government) hospitals and private hospitals. Where we are, doctor's offices are located in the hospital itself, and I went to a private hospital for all of my prenatal appointments. We chose our doctor based on the fact that she was the only female OB/GYN who had an open appointment on the first day we wanted to get in to see the doctor {super scientific method}.

Insurance: Malaysian private health insurance does not typically cover wellness care for expectant moms, at all. I was surprised by this when we were looking into switching providers and buying local health insurance and meeting with insurance consultants last year. We ended up buying our health insurance through an international provider, but there is still no coverage for prenatal care, which means that the total cost of doctor's visits, tests, treatment, and birth is completely out of pocket. One reason that we chose the international insurance provider, though, was that they did offer an option to cover complications of childbirth and newborn care--that's what we want to have insurance for, the extreme situations that you can't plan for, and we're glad we opted for that insurance choice, and also glad that we didn't need to use it.

Appointments: We have always found it very easy to make or change an appointment with our doctor, usually with only a few days' notice. No need to get my name in many weeks in advance. For my doctor, you do need an appointment, but an appointment is just for a certain day, not for a certain time. It took us a while to figure out the system, but patients are seen based on who arrived at the hospital first and registered and took a number. We finally figured out that the way to get an early number, so that you don't have to wait hours to be seen, is to send Angel to the hospital, arriving at 6:30 a.m. when registration opens, so that he can get one of the first few numbers, and then he'll return home and we'll have breakfast and then come back at about 9, which is the earliest my doctor might arrive. She might not be in her office till 10...or 11, but this strategy cut down wait times from about 3-4 hours if we arrived at 9 in the morning to take a number, to about 1-2 hours with the 6:30 a.m. strategy. On several occasions, the doctor rushed out of her office, and the nurses would come out and tell everyone in the waiting room that we could leave and come back in an hour, because the doctor had left to do an emergency surgery. So, we quickly learned to plan on doctor's appointments taking a good half of the day. We started seeing the doctor early because of my history, had 3 appointments during the first trimester, and after that, once a month appointments up until the 3rd trimester, when appointments shifted to every 2 or 3 weeks.

Testing: I got the impression that there are far fewer routine tests in prenatal care here as compared to in the USA. My doctor seemed quick to provide treatment without needing lots of testing first. I suspect that this may be related to the insurance factor--when patients are paying for every aspect of the visit out of pocket, there may be less feeling of a need for multiple tests or exams unless it actually appears likely that the results of the tests will be crucial. Actually, there were multiple times when our doctor advised on what she thought was/wasn't financially worthwhile as far as medical care (Angel asked if the hospital offered water birth, and she said they did, but that she didn't think it was worth the high fees charged for it)--for some of the medications I needed to take, she advised that we go buy them ourselves at a local pharmacy instead of sourcing them from the hospital pharmacy because it would be cheaper. I had my blood taken only once during my pregnancy and never had the infamous gestational diabetes test with the sugary drink. I think the standard testing protocol is not as intensive as it is in the USA, because there were a number of tests that I'd heard of as "required" in the USA that were never even mentioned to me. The only three things that were consistently checked at every appointment were my weight, my blood pressure, and the baby, via ultrasound. My actual appointments probably took 10 minutes each.

Ultrasounds: In Malaysia, you get a lot of ultrasounds. I had an abdominal ultrasound at every appointment and we were able to see the baby on an abdominal ultrasound from our very first appointment at about 5 and a half weeks. For me, the ultrasounds were very quick, probably 5 minutes or less most of the time, and performed right away by the doctor in her little office. Sometimes she printed photos to give us, sometimes she didn't. No 3D ultrasounds. We found out baby boy's gender when I was about 17 weeks along.

Interventions: I felt like my experience with prenatal care was minimally invasive and generally intervention-free. My doctor was proactive with prescriptions to help support and prolong my pregnancy during scary moments in the early weeks and the possibility of early labor in the beginning of the third trimester, but other than that, tended to be hands-off. We established early on that I was a good candidate for natural birth, and the doctor told me at one point she'd be comfortable letting me go to 10 days overdue without thinking about induction if baby was doing fine and in the mood to stay inside, although she suspected he wouldn't stay put nearly that long (he arrived several days before his due date, though, so no stress there!).

Communication: This is partially my own personality and preference, and also partially just the nature of busy doctors, but there was not much in the way of unnecessary talking or communication at appointments. And perhaps slightly lacking in necessary communication. We were surprised at my 34 week appointment when the doctor asked if we were planning on returning to America for the birth. When we said no, we weren't, we were staying here, then she handed us a birth plan form with lists of boxes to check or leave unchecked as far as preferences, and told us that if we went to patient services, we could ask to be shown the hospital's labor and delivery ward and a delivery room. At some point we asked where we were supposed to go if I went into labor and she told us to go to the Emergency Room, so that was good information to know. I was given steroid shots at the emergency room and it was rather confusing because it seems like all entrances to the waiting room say "Not An Entrance," but since we couldn't figure out how to get in, we just broke the rules and walked in through a not-entrance. I would say that our birth plan was mostly, though not exactly, followed--seeing as the plan was generally leave me alone as much as possible.


There are quite a few big differences in post-birth traditions when it comes to comparing Malaysia and the USA, but I don't plan to post about that since I pretty much made up my own "hybrid" tradition. The baby and I are pretty much staying home alone and not taking visitors for our first month, which is acceptable as far as the confinement tradition goes in this country, but that's where the similarity stops. Many, though not all, moms either hire a "confinement lady" to live with them for the first month post-birth, or else move into a "confinement rest home" with their baby for that month. Multiple people asked before Cyrus was born if I were planning on either of those two options, but I did not opt for either. I'm not eating any of the traditional foods that new moms are supposed to eat and I'm drinking iced water and wearing shorts and t-shirts and generally acting very American indeed--except that instead of bouncing right back into going on errands and getting back to the normal pace of life, I'm taking it as easy as possible and keeping the calendar empty while giving my body time to recover and Cyrus time to get a little bit bigger and stronger before facing the big outside world. Expat life often means taking a little bit of the best parts of different regions of the world and finding what suits your own lifestyle best.
18 March 2018

Parenthood: The First Two Weeks

+ Taking care of a newborn is not so much the hard part. The hard part is taking care of yourself when you're in too much pain and too weak to hardly walk or stand or sit...and then somehow take care of a newborn. Pretty sure I'd pick both pregnancy and labor over the ordeal of recovery, if that tells you my feelings on the matter. I've been really happy (other than when at doctor's appointments) but for a while there it was a muted, dazed sort of happiness that you're capable of feeling when your body is running on empty. I'm doing much better now in the healing process and getting ever closer to feeling like an actual human!

+ Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned...but nobody on the face of the planet hath an energy burst like that of a brand-new mom whose baby is freshly fed and sleeping...who knows she has about half an hour to eat breakfast, start the laundry, wash dishes, get out everything he needs for a bath, check email, pick out ingredients for dinner, etc. I imagine I look like a tornado at these times.

+ Grandmas are the best. Our strategic decision to move into the same apartment complex as my parents has certainly proved its worth over the past few weeks. Grandpa and the two aunties are pretty enthralled with baby boy, too, but Grandma is truly magic with her mysterious knowledge of babies and everything you're supposed to do with them 24/7.

+ Babies are scary. I wake up throughout the night to look at him and check on him. He's gone to the doctor six times in his first two weeks of life. A lovely, healthy little boy, but the first thing he did after being born was get a fingernail infection (who does that??) which scared this mama, and he's also had to get poked all too often as the doctors are testing his blood. I think it's rather unkind of doctors to force poor pitiful just-given-birth moms to wait in waiting rooms with their tiny babies for all these checks. Whatever happened to old-school house calls?

+ On the "babies are scary" note, the other afternoon I was so very tired and wanted an afternoon nap, so I handed Angel the baby at 1 p.m. and told him I was going to sleep. At 1:15 p.m. I woke up suddenly, arms flailing, panicking because I couldn't remember where the baby was or if he was safe. A minute later, I realized he was with Angel, and fell back asleep until 2.

+ So far, we don't manage to use his name all that often. It's still "Baby" a lot of the time along with all sorts of random nicknames. The one I've latched onto the most is "Milk Monster," because of his resemblance to the Cookie Monster when it's time to eat. I can understand his enthusiasm for a good meal.

+ We are totally the obsessed parents who are proud of basically everything Cyrus does. Look around the room with his out-of-focus eyes. Open and close his mouth. Grab onto things with his tiny fist. Lift his head up. Flip from his belly to his side, which he started doing at 13 days old and continues to do every day. He loves being on his belly and loves trying to brace his legs against anything and push as hard as he can to move that little body. Angel even thinks it's cute when he cries. Which is good, because Angel's in charge of bathtime, and bathtime is what Cyrus hates most in the whole world. I understand, little guy. Hygiene is so annoying.

+ I don't know if I've ever laughed so much in my life as I have in the past two weeks. He's like a random facial expression generator and it's pretty much the best and funniest thing ever.

+ One of Cyrus's favorite things is what we've called "house tours." Which is really just being held and wandering from room to room all over the apartment. So, basically every baby's favorite thing--being in motion at all times. During the house tours, we often actually narrate the apartment's special features--items like stovetops and ceiling fans and bathrooms--to Cyrus so that he knows exactly the kind of home he's living in and where all of the important stuff is. For future reference.

+ While my big hurdle in the first two weeks has been recovery, Angel's big hurdle has been paperwork. Mountains of it. Nothing about finances or insurance, like you might imagine, because it's really simple here--the hospital just charged our credit card for his birth before we were checked out. Instead, it's mountains of identity paperwork as we get ready to head to the embassy to get this baby registered as a U.S. Citizen and get a blue passport and all that good stuff. Actually, our first outing as a family of three was to get passport photos taken. Cyrus really did not want to open his eyes for the passport photos and it was quite the hilarious ordeal, but in the end, we got the photos. As I shuffled back to the car after photos, a tiny elderly lady stopped us to scold me roundly for having such a young baby out in public and for being out in public myself, and to tell me I should be wearing long pants and long sleeves so I don't get too cold and we should just be staying at home and it's not good to be out so soon, I haven't had time to heal yet. It was hilarious, but internally I was pretty much agreeing with her. In this culture, moms and babies stay "confined" for a month after birth. There are many traditions associated with this confinement period, but in general, I kind of like the idea of staying home for that first month--I liked it even before I knew how difficult recovery was. Being out getting passport pictures taken was about the last thing I wanted to do, but what options do you have when Angel has limited leave from work and we need to all appear at the embassy very soon?

+ My favorite moments so far have been family rest time, when everything mysteriously aligns and the three of us all somehow have time and are inclined to napping at the same time. I look around the room and see my Angel and my Cyrus and I cry because I can't believe how amazing this is.
05 March 2018

His Birth Day

Cyrus is here, and this is the story of the day he was born.

I woke up with a contraction at 3:40, and thought I should get up and wander around the house to see if they were going to continue. From that first contraction to the next one was just three minutes, and they continued at that rate. After about 15 minutes of wandering, it occurred to me that although it really hadn't been long, I probably should hop in the shower and start getting ready to go...just in case. They always tell you that first-time moms are likely to think they're in labor when they're not...or to go to the hospital way too early in labor, so I was hesitant at first to think anything for sure...especially when it had only been 15 minutes.

After my shower, I woke up Angel and told him, "I think we should get ready and go to the hospital now." He was a bit dazed, but jumped into action quickly, texting his boss that he wouldn't be into work, and getting everything together so that we could leave. He reported later that he noticed when I woke up and left the room originally, but thought I was just out for a middle of the night snack...and that he noticed when I got in the shower, but thought I probably just needed some pain relief. We worked quickly together to get everything we needed (although we forgot our toothbrushes), contractions coming steadily 3 minutes apart the whole time. 

I told Angel to fill up a thermos with ice from the freezer right before we left, a last minute stroke of genius that came in very handy during the hours that followed. 

The drive between our home and the hospital is normally filled with a good bit of stop-and-go traffic during business hours of the day, but the roads are very clear around 5 in the morning, so we made good time. We parked near the Emergency Room and I walked in ahead of Angel while he grabbed our backpack. I entered through doors that say "No Unauthorized Entry," but so far we have never been able to find an entry to that ER that doesn't say that...seriously, there doesn't appear to be an authorized entry to the ER. It was a sleepy little place, but the reception people took one look at me, asked how many weeks I was ("39 plus" I responded) and immediately called for a wheelchair. A guy wheeled me to a delivery room right away. The pain from contractions was giving me nausea and I distinctly remember thinking, "I really don't want to throw up in this wheelchair."

Angel came up in the elevator with me to the delivery room, but basically as soon as we'd gotten into the room, they asked him to go back down to do registration and payment--we had to give our credit card info and deposit right away. I wished that he hadn't had to leave me right away, but during that time they let me go and change into a hospital gown and take off my shoes and get on the bed so that they could check for baby's heart on the monitors. 

I had purposely worn my flip-flops to the hospital, I remember grabbing them and thinking that I didn't want to risk wearing good shoes to the hospital. This also turned out to be a very wise idea. Because...I ended up leaving the hospital shoe-less. The last time I saw my flip-flops was in the delivery room. Somehow they didn't ever get packed in the bag when we moved to the recovery room...and that's how I ended up walking into my apartment complex in stocking feet the next day.

The contractions were probably about 2 minutes apart at this time, Angel returned very quickly from registering and giving our payment info. We'd never wanted an epidural, but once Angel was back in the room, he asked the midwife what other, less invasive pain relief options there were. They gave me some gas to breathe and the midwife told Angel, "Umm...there's not really enough time for any other pain relief to work anyways."

They had called my doctor to come, but after that, they left Angel and I alone in the room for a little while, which I appreciated. I found using the gas during contractions to be somewhat "entertaining" in a gave me something to focus on, attempting to actually breathe in the gas from the tube and such, so I think the distraction it provided was the major benefit. Angel was very helpful during this time and focused on me and gave me ice cubes to suck on whenever I asked for them--whenever any medical person noticed that I was eating ice cubes, they were very shocked. In this culture, ice is the last thing you would give a person at a time like this, so this was one of those situations where we were behaving a bit like "crazy Americans." One of the nurses told me later that she was surprised with how "strong" Americans are that they can have ice during times like these. Safe to say, I'm glad we brought our own ice because I think the nurses would have been reluctant to give in to such a request. I felt very clear-minded the whole time both before and after Cyrus was born...possibly even more clear minded than Angel, who you'll find out, forgot our anniversary as is the norm. But more on that later.

When my doctor arrived, it was "go time." I've described this labor in my mind as "fast and furious" because it went so much more quickly and intensely than anyone prepares you for. But the pushing stage was by far the longest and most difficult part. Angel remembers the doctor saying "Five more pushes and he'll be here!" and thinking that there's no way, because this was the part that felt like it wouldn't end, but in reality the doctor's estimate at that point was not far off. 

Cyrus was born 5 hours and 14 minutes after the first contraction that I woke up with. My most distinct memory was how as soon as he was born they handed him to me, and I remember that he didn't have much of the white coating at all and that he was very purple, and I was just saying, "My baby, My baby!"

He was indeed purple, and crying just a little, so after only a minute or two they took him from me to suction him thoroughly, and brought him back a couple minutes later, very red and crying loudly. They still didn't let me keep him for long though, maybe 15-20 minutes or so until they took him off to the nursery because he was breathing fast and they wanted to check his oxygen. 

When they took my baby away I felt pretty forlorn and very much "frozen," like unable to move. Angel was extremely antsy, he did not like having the baby away from us at all and they didn't really tell us what was going on or why they'd taken him at first. Angel got called out of the room to answer questions for Cyrus's birth certificate. He came back in the room to ask me when we got married because he wanted to be sure, and then his next question for me was what the race of the baby was, because two ethnicities were apparently too confusing, so we just had to pick one. Then Angel worked on texting my family, who we knew were eagerly awaiting updates, plus family in the USA who also wanted to be first in on the big news.

It felt like forever before they brought Cyrus back to us, and it probably was over an hour, and they let us stay together for a while in the delivery room. We were moved into a recovery room sometime between noon and one. We'd requested to take care of the baby ourselves in the room instead of letting him to to the nursery, and in order to do that, you are required to have a private room. They didn't have a private room available at first, but put us in a double room that didn't have anyone else staying in it until they were able to move us into an actual private room.

My family came to visit and stayed the rest of the afternoon, bringing us snacks and food. I felt basically no appetite, but I knew I needed to keep eating at least small amounts of food and drink. The homemade salty popcorn and bottles of Sprite that my family brought from home were just perfect. 

My mom stayed overnight in the room to help us take care of the baby, and I was surprised that the nurses left us very much alone the entire night. Between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., the only time anyone came in was when Angel rang the call bell to ask for more pain meds for me. Earlier in the evening, a nurse had expressed surprise at how involved Angel was in all of the delivery and medical processes and how he wasn't scared of anything about this baby being born, she said "Asian dads are not like that." I laughed, thinking to myself that it's not so much that he's American, because plenty of American dads wouldn't be comfortable with these things either and would not be so actively involved. It's that he's Angel, and he's a registered nurse. Our little secret. The same nurse asked us if we were an arranged marriage or a love marriage, which I think is the first time we've ever gotten that particular question about our relationship.

We were discharged from the hospital the next afternoon, and made it home around 4:45 pm. My family had bought cute blue helium balloons, and snacks, and "Happy birthday" banners, and had made welcome home signs, so the homecoming felt very special indeed!