Bottle Battles (#236)

Baby D was born hungry. Maybe because he’d stretched his stomach swallowing amniotic fluid. Maybe it’s that he was overdue and over nine pounds. Maybe it was just genetic, courtesy of parents who love food.

That kid could eat. I’d nurse Baby D for almost an hour in the hospital, and send him back to the nursery to get a little sleep. Within an hour, a nurse would bring him back, saying, “He’s hungry!”

Me, wailing: “But I just fed him!”

Luckily, the hospital had plenty of little formula bottles we could use to as supplements. Andy took a whole bunch with us when we were discharged.

They lasted a day.

On the advice of Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister, I would nurse Baby D and then pump while Andy gave him a bottle, in order to a) make sure I was empty, and b) increase my milk supply.

Once Baby D figured out he could get more milk faster from a bottle, he refused to nurse, wailing until we gave in and gave him a bottle. Between raw nipples, my baby’s rejection, and feeling like an unwanted cow, I was a wreck.

“Maybe I should just give up breast feeding,” I sobbed to Dr. Sister on the phone.

Despite not being able to produce enough milk for her own ginormous daughter, Dr. Sis had strong opinions of breast feeding. And she’s definitely not a coddler. She hissed, “If you don’t breast feed, I will fucking kill you.”

“Okay,” I sniffled. The next 24 hours were miserable. Baby D kept demanding the bottle. I kept pumping and crying.

Then Baby D slept for 6 hours. When he woke up, still convinced he was starving, his Mommy Cow’s milk reservoir had built up enough that both supply and speed of discharge were acceptable. Baby D still insisted on a supplemental bottle after some feedings, but within a week of being born, he was sleeping through at least one nighttime feeding. Since I was not, I would get up and pump some supplemental milk in order to cut down on formula.

I thought we were now in a good place.

My pediatrician thought differently. Most babies lose weight after they are born. It’s expected. It takes a while for the mother’s milk to come in, and it takes a while for babies to get the hang of nursing.

Our pediatrician was older, a tiny little Persian dude with a wealth of experience. The only time I ever saw him shocked was when he weighed and measured my child a week after delivery.

“Your baby has gained 8 ounces! You are overfeeding him!” Dr. Y declared.

“But—but he’s also gained an inch in size!” I argued.

Dr. Y dismissed this with a wave of his hand, saying, “The initial measurements are always a little off. Babies curl up and can be hard to measure. Are you giving him a bottle?”

“After I nurse him, yes. But only when he cries! And he ONLY cries when he is hungry.”

“How much in in his bottle?”

“I don’t know. I feed him until he stops eating.” At this point, I was ready to cry myself, convinced of my maternal failures.

“At this age, he should only be eating one ounce!” Dr. Y insisted.

I mumbled some vague sort of agreement, hovering between tears and indignation. I knew I was right, but I needed more data points to prove it. When we got home, I sent Andy off to call his mother and ask about her nursing experience. Since I didn’t have a mom to call and I wasn’t up to being bitched out by a doctor again, I called Big Brother’s Wife instead of Dr. Sis.

Big Brother’s Wife is very organized. Not surprisingly, she kept excellent records of her two oldest children. She reported that Second Niece and Nephew had, like Baby D, gained inches and ounces during their first weeks.

Andy’s mother reported that Andy had been so hangry and awful to breastfeed that she’d had to switch to a bottle.

Instead of nursing Baby D that evening, I pumped and measured my milk production: not quite 2 ounces. Andy fed Baby D a bottle and reported that our child sucked down over 4 ounces before falling asleep.

“There’s no way our kid should be limited to just one ounce,” I huffed to Andy. “Clearly our tiny little Persian pediatrician has no experience with the giant Germanic-Chinese baby that’s born growth spurting!”

Baby D, already on the the high end of the baby height and weight charts, literally went off the charts for the next six months.

I was fully prepared to smack down Dr. Y if he came at me again over Baby D’s bottle. So of course he never did.

Maybe because his own measurements showed Baby D gaining height along with weight.

Maybe he finally realized Baby D’s parents were looming over him by a foot and he took genetics into account.

Or maybe it was because recognized the battle-ready glint in my eye.

Overfeeding, my ass.

Salute to Stupidity (#235)

Growing up in Washington, D.C. means no other Independence Day celebration will live up to your childhood memories. For a relentlessly political, cynical city, they throw a heck of a party.

Photo by Ron Engle

First, there’s the National Independence Day Parade. This ain’t no small, hometown parade where the local horses and fire trucks are the stars of the show. This is A Historical Spectacle. There are hundreds of Uncle Sams (some  in balloon form or on stilts). Bewigged Founding Fathers abound, as do Paul Revere impersonators. Military bands–past and present–are pressed into service, sweating in wool uniforms and 100 degree heat. My sisters and I once counted seventy-five Betsy Rosses. (We would’ve liked some Deborah Sampsons better, but we cheered what female historical figures we could get.)

From National Archives News

After the parade, tens of thousands of people descend on the National Mall. Some visit the National Archives, home of the Declaration of Independence, which has its own concert and historical impersonators.

When my dad worked on Capitol Hill (and had a parking space), we’d picnic on the hill below the Capitol building. Sometimes we’d watch the PBS “Capitol Fourth” concert (my younger sister was on TV once, even). Sometimes we walked to the Washington Monument for the best view of the fireworks, whining about the bugs and heat the whole way. When it was time for the big finale, Dad would race off to get the car. He’d have it waiting at the closest curb. We’d all pile in, trying to beat the traffic from the mass exodus.

From the IG of my direct opposite, a SoCal guy who moved to D.C.

After Dad lost his job and primo parking space, we picnicked at the Jefferson Memorial (less crowds, worse view of fireworks) or the Lincoln Memorial (more crowds, better fireworks view).

Every area that didn’t involve the fireworks display or wasn’t being restored was open to the public. Hippies with sparklers sang “Happy Birthday America.” Religious fanatics screamed that we were going to hell. Sunburned Midwesterners bought up flags and bug repellant. There were protestors of all kinds, but the celebration was open to all.

This is the first year I’m glad I’m not back home. Not because of the bugs, or the 100 degree heat, or 100% humidity. It’s not even because of crowds of willfully ignorant, drunk, white, flag-waving Americans confusing nationalism with patriotism.

It’s because Trump fucking ruins everything.

This year, Trump’s taking over the Lincoln Memorial and holding a political rally called “Salute to America.” You need a ticket to enter, and you won’t get one unless you’re a Republican friend, family, or political donor. If you support Trump, you can sit in the bleachers he’s erecting and have a perfect view of the fireworks display, which he moved to give himself the best seat in the house.

Trump insists on expensive flyovers by the Blue Angeles and bombers all the way from the midwest.

Trump’s diverting money desperately needed by our underfunded National Parks to pay for all this and tanks (technically “armored personnel carriers”).  Never mind that the National Park Service and everyone else has warned Trump that tanks may crack roads and do other damage.

The Orange Pustule doesn’t care. He has to have military trappings to prove his greatness. Just like Hitler.

Maybe you think the Hitler comparison is over the top. It’s not, but fine. Here’s a more obvious comparison.

There was one other President who did his best to turn the Independence Day celebration at the Lincoln Memorial into a conservative, pro-President, pro-military, nationalistic event. The “Honor America Day” was arranged by white, conservative, Christian men (Mormon J.W. Marriott and Evangelist Billy Graham). It began with Graham praying. Next up were acts by Hollywood C-listers (because the A & B list declined). Marriott and Graham called these acts a “Salute to America” (which should also sound familiar, as, yes, Trump’s team is actually using the EXACT SAME NAME because they have no original thoughts). The first “Salute to America” even had Jeannie C. Riley bashing anti-war protestors by singing:

If you don’t love it, leave it
Let this song that I’m singin’ be a warnin’
When you’re runnin’ down our country, hoss
You’re walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me.

In case you haven’t figured out which President ordered the first odious “Salute to America,” it was Nixon.* Seriously. I can’t make this shit up. Trump literally stole his celebration idea from disgraced President Nixon, who eventually resigned rather than be impeached.

May Trump’s era end in the same ignominious fashion.

*Unlike Trump, however, Nixon was smart enough not to attend his own “Salute to America.” He stayed home in San Clemente, far away from the heat, the bugs, the protestors, and the tear gas. 

The Good Dad (#234)

When Andy and I were skirmishing negotiating over having a child, I extracted certain concessions. First, my husband would have to take Family Leave for 12 weeks and help take care of Baby D. Since California only covers 6 weeks of paid leave (a partial rate), we’d use my saving to pay the bills.

The idea of not saving money was almost physically painful for the son of Chinese immigrants. Dipping into savings might as well have been a mortal wound. (He never did fess up to his parents.) But I was adamant. Andy reluctantly agreed. We had no helpful grandparents to rock babies, make dinners, or do laundry within thousands of miles.

Besides, if Andy wanted the baby, he was not going to saunter off to work and leave me covered in poop and spit-up. He was gonna help. Continue reading The Good Dad (#234)

Lost in Translations (#233)

I find names and the naming process fascinating. Giving someone a nickname is often a way of expressing affection—or dislike. My parents divorced and remarried so much that we sometimes had as many as three different surnames in our households, but God help the poor classmate who referred to my stepfather as “Mr. Ashbough,” (the name of my mother’s ex-husband).

God also help whichever sibling my father hollered at using their full name—middle name included.

When my husband and I married, we put a lot of thought into hyphenating both our names. Andy’s Chinese-American parents objected. Their arguments were illogical, hypocritical, and downright ludicrous, but I was forced to concede.

Years later, I was still pissed. When I got pregnant, I was ready for the second round. Our kid would have the surname I we chose: Ashbough-Wong. No, Wong was NOT coming first, because the name Wong-Ashbough doesn’t sound right.

This time, I held all the cards because the mother gets all the say on the birth certificate.

So of course Andy’s parents didn’t make a single objection.

They stayed meekly and uncharacteristically quiet on the subject of the Number One Son’s future son.

This was despite the fact that in Andy’s family,  it was traditional to give their children an English first name and a Cantonese middle name. Andy’s aunts, uncles, and grandparents always referred to Andy and his siblings by their Cantonese names. As Andy neglected to explain this to me, it took me about a year to figure out who his family was gossiping about, even when they spoke in English.

Since my in-laws were behaving reasonably and I’m a sucker for tradition, I magnanimously told Andy that his folks could pick a middle name for Baby D.

Then Andy’s cousins came to our baby shower. Engineer Cousin asked about Baby D’s Chinese name.

“Don’t have it yet,” I told her cheerfully. “Jay and Sunny are working on it.”

“You’re letting them? Are you crazy? If I could do it again, I would never let anyone else have a say,” she ranted. She told me she’d insisted on giving her daughter her first name, but let her husband pick the middle name. Like me, her husband was Quite White, but wanted to give his child a Cantonese middle name. So he dutifully studied and opted for “Mei,” which means “pretty.”

“But…what’s wrong with that?” I asked.

Engineer Cousin snorted contemptuously. “He didn’t even pick the right kind of ‘pretty.’ It’s a plain, insipid word for pretty! And then he insisted he liked it and refused to change it!”

“Oh. But, um, surely Sunny wouldn’t make a mistake like that. She’s a native speaker.”

“You never know,” Engineer Cousin muttered darkly, and took a hearty slug of the wine she’d brought.

That night, I insisted that my husband call his sister. She was pregnant with her second child, and due ahead of me. “Ask her what middle name your parents are giving her son.”

“But I’m so tired,” Andy whined. “I’ll do it tomorrow.”

I shoved a phone in his hand. “This is an important test case.”

Andy reluctantly called his sister.

He discovered that his father had indeed picked a name for our nephew, one that meant something along the lines of “country.” Jay was very proud of his choice.

In English, the name sounds like “Gawk.”

I immediately flashed back to my History of the Vietnam War class. “Oh, no! What if he names our son ‘Gook?!’”

“I’m sure it won’t be that bad, honey,” Andy said—without meeting my eyes.

I shoved the phone in his face yet again. “You call your parents right now and tell them that, that, I need a list! Yes! A list. They give me three names and I will pick one of the three.”

“Are you sure about this?”

“Yes. No! Make it five names!”

Thankfully, Jay had not yet settled on his favorite name. I got a list of 4 choices. Some sounded better than others, but all were better than my future nephew’s name. (Not telling you what the sketchy ones were, lest I offend someone. Or possibly I forgot.)

We chose “Kuang,” which means “shining,” or “shiny.” It also went the best with the rest of Baby D’s name.

As soon as I picked it, though, I chuckled.

“Now what?” asked my long-suffering husband.

“In my house, when you were in trouble—like seriously doomed—you knew it because my father used your whole name,” I explained. “He’d yell, ‘Autumn Allison Ashbough! Downstairs! This instant!’ And that’s when you wondered whether it’d be less painful to jump out the window.”

“Okay…”

“But that’s not gonna work on our kid. I’m gonna be furious because he put an orange down the toilet or something, but the minute I yell, ‘Dalton Kuang Ashbough-Wong’ I’m gonna start giggling because it rhymes. So I won’t be able to use his middle name to intimidate him or convey the seriousness of the situation. I’ve lost the most important function of the middle name!”

“I thought the most important function of the middle name was to distinguish you for other people with the same first and last names,” argued my husband (who works at a company with TWO other Andy Wongs).

“Oh, honey,” I said. “I promise you, our son is going to be the only Dalton Ashbough-Wong on the entire planet. Ever.”

He’s gonna hate me when he has to start writing his name on school papers, though.

Want more info on Chinese names? Check out Marta Lives in China’s brand new post!

17 Surprising Difficulties During Labor & Delivery (#232)

Around here, we do things The Hard Way.

  1. Let’s start with your baby not wanting to make an appearance. Like mine. He was late and big. Once the doctor made it clear that there was no benefit to Baby D remaining in utero any longer, we opted to induced labor.
  2. Turns out, if you’re having contractions already, the doctor isn’t allowed to speed things up with a little Pitocin. “How could you not notice you were having contractions?” one nurse asked me. “I dunno,” I answered with a shrug. “Maybe because I’m itching so badly that I want to rip off my own arms?”

Continue reading 17 Surprising Difficulties During Labor & Delivery (#232)

Lows & Highs (#252)

Some creatures are suited to lying in bed all day. I am not one of them.

We Ashboughs have two dominant traits. 

The first is impatience. We’re high-functioning, super efficient people and we expect the same of everyone else (who isn’t a guest in our home). If we think someone’s moving slowly—or stupidly—we are either loudly critical or chewing our tongues bloody. We’re excellent employees and potentially nightmarish employers. If you’re foolish enough to road trip with us, make sure we drive.

Continue reading Lows & Highs (#252)

Heels (#251)

I loved dressing up when I was young. There was no high-heeled shoe, no tutu too blinged out for me. I convinced my second grade teacher to let me put on plays solely for the costumes. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Sleeping Beauty performed in tutus–but minus the music or ballet. 

I got tall early. My mother tried to steer me toward tailored, conservative clothes. Her results were mixed. Whenever possible, I insisted on shiny boots or four inch clogs, no matter how many times I tripped or how many inches I towered over my fifth grade square dancing partner.  

More than once, my father flinched visibly over my outfits. Continue reading Heels (#251)

Showers (#250)

Ah, the baby shower.

Traditionally, these all-women events involved opening boxes of baby clothes and cooing over them. Many showers had guessing games. I’ve played everything from “What chocolate bar has been melted in this diaper?” to “Is this white powder baking soda, cornstarch, or flour?” 

Since I’m a chocoholic, an amateur baker, and competitive as fuck, I won all the traditional baby showers (even when the hostess tried to trick me by throwing in cream of tartar). Continue reading Showers (#250)

Belly Up (#249)

I used to play volleyball with a big group of women. About half these women were Japanese Nationals, living in the Los Angeles area while they or their husbands were working for Toyota, Honda, or other Japanese corporations.

These Japanese women never played volleyball professionally. Many hadn’t played since their school days. And yet they were amazing. They could run down and set a ball like pros. They never gave up on a play, wearing down and demoralizing the strongest, biggest, hardest hitting white women (like me). 

Continue reading Belly Up (#249)

The Itch (#248)

I didn’t have an easy pregnancy.  There were six months of puking. There was weight loss, weight gain, anemia, and cankles

Pregnancy was miserable, but I didn’t think you could actually become allergic to being pregnant.

Turns out, you can.

My arms started to itch. I looked for bug bites. Nothing.  Just light redness.

Continue reading The Itch (#248)