The Arrival of BabyDumpling

BabyDumpling was due on May 13, 2017. The day passed uneventfully in our dumpling family. And the next day, and the next day, and the next.

On May 16, 2017, I had an appointment with my OB. They gave me an ultrasound to check if everything was all right with the baby. It was. Everything looked healthy, I was just overdue, which is pretty common for the first child. I still hadn’t had a single contraction, and didn’t feel like the baby was coming out any time soon. I could easily imagine BabyDumpling coming out a full week late.

At the ultrasound, they estimated that her weight was 8.5 lbs. This terrified me. Babies gain weight very quickly towards the end of the pregnancy, which meant if BabyDumpling was another few days late, she could easily be 9 lbs at birth. That is a lot of baby to push out! My OB didn’t quite believe the estimate from the ultrasound, insisting that based on the measurement of my belly, my baby was likely around 7.5 lbs, “unless she’s very tightly packed in there,” my OB joked (turned out she kind of was).

My OB gave me a cervical exam and determined that I was now 3cm dilated. Full dilation, which is when you are ready to start pushing, is 10cm. 3cm is a lot to be dilated without feeling a thing. Both my mother and mother-in-law had gone into labor with 0cm dilated, and every 1cm dilation took over an hour of painful contractions. So, they were understandably confused and jealous that I was somehow already 3cm without feeling any pain.

During the cervical exam, my OB asked me if I wanted a membrane sweep. It is basically the doctor making a “sweeping” motion with her fingers during a cervical exam across the membrane or sac holding the baby, which is believed to help release natural hormones that may trigger labor. She told me it might result in spotting (light bleeding) and some pain. It’s not guaranteed to work, but I decided to give it a try.

A few hours later, I immediately regretted my decision. As soon as I got home, I started to feel a lot of pain. And it wasn’t contraction pain, it was just constant pain in my lower abdomen, like a period pain. And it seemed like a lot of blood was coming out considering that she had described it as “spotting.” Worried that this may not be normal, I turned to Google, and found other women describing the pain I was feeling after a membrane sweep. Some had it for 24-36 hours and they didn’t even go into labor. 24-36 hours?! I did not want to feel this way for that long, especially if it wasn’t even going to get me into labor.

I decided to take a shower, as warm water is said to help with some of the pain, while I cursed my OB. Then, halfway through the shower, I noticed the pain changed. It was no longer constant. It seemed to come and go. Could they be… contractions? I couldn’t be sure, I could barely feel them, and they were still in the same spot as the “period pains,” whereas I had been told that contractions would hurt across your whole belly, including your lower back, and were unmistakable. These seemed… mistakable.

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A Nine Month Journey

I am now entering the last few days of my pregnancy (almost 40 weeks!). BabyDumpling can come any day now, although I think she may come right around her due date (May 13th, right before Mother’s Day). I can’t believe I am nearing the end of this nine month journey. Obviously I know that pregnancy has to come to an end at some point, but I have almost gotten used to it, as if I’ll be carrying BabyDumpling around in my belly indefinitely like this. Looking back on the past nine months, I realize how different each trimester was, in terms of pregnancy’s impact on me.

First Trimester

I found out I was pregnant around 5 weeks. I was only a few days late, but since I wasn’t very regular to begin with, I couldn’t be certain. The first pregnancy test I took came back negative. I was traveling to New York every week at that time, and during the week, there was one morning when I opened up the shampoo bottle in the shower and suddenly wanted to throw up. The smell of the shampoo was suddenly overpowering and disgusting to me. I had been staying at the same hotel, using the same shampoo, for months, so this was definitely out of the ordinary. As soon as I gagged at the shampoo smell, I knew I was pregnant. But I wanted to wait until I got home on the weekend to take another pregnancy test, that way PapaDumpling could see the result with me. The day after I got back to Boston, I took another pregnancy test, and this came back positive. PapaDumpling tried to trick me, since he looked at the result first and told me it was negative. “Really?” I asked, since I was almost certain that I was pregnant, and then he told me it was positive. “Yep, I knew it.”

That weekend, we had rented out a house for a weekend getaway with our friends. It was too early to tell anyone of course, and I wondered if I needed to make any excuses for why I wasn’t drinking alcohol, or if anyone would notice. I don’t think anyone noticed that I wasn’t drinking, although one of my friends noticed I was hyper emotional. I didn’t realize it myself, but I think she was right in hindsight. I got super angry, to the point of tears, over something completely trivial during that weekend. It made no sense, other than that maybe my hormones were acting up.

The most difficult part of the first trimester was the nausea. Relatively speaking, I had it light. I would gag but not really throw up, except for one time when I vomited during a client meeting that I was leading, practically throwing up in the client’s face mid-sentence. They were really nice about it. I don’t know if anyone thought I was pregnant, but again, I didn’t offer an explanation. I had read that it’s best to wait until Week 12 to announce the news, since the chances of a miscarriage are pretty high early on. I was also “lucky” in the sense that I spent most of my first trimester at home. Due to my employment visa issues, I had to be “unemployed” for two months during that time, so although I threw up once in a client meeting, I didn’t have to worry about it happening a second time. Nonetheless, it was difficult to eat out, or go anywhere that smelled of food. Sometimes just the thought of food made me nauseous. I ate very little during the first trimester, often skipping meals. This annoyed me because, as a food-lover, every meal is an opportunity to do what I love (eat) so I normally never skip meals. But I just had no appetite in the first trimester, which apparently is pretty common among pregnant ladies.

I don’t think the idea that we were having a baby really sunk in for PapaDumpling until our first ultrasound, which was around Week 12. It was kind of crazy how clearly you could see the features of the baby even at such an early stage. We could see her (we didn’t know it was a “her” at the time)  nose and hands and feet and toes! It was crazy.

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MamaDumpling’s Childhood

Recently, I have had occasion to reflect on my early childhood, and although I know my personal narrative well, I see many things in a new light now that I am about to embark on the journey of parenthood myself. It gives me a better appreciation of the difficult decisions my parents had to make, and the sacrifices and hardships they had to endure in order to give me a better life.

I hope BabyDumpling will read this one day, or that I will tell her the story myself, so that she can have some appreciation for how lucky she is to be born into her situation.

Life before Toronto

My story is pretty typical for a first-generation immigrant in the early 90s. I was born in China, and both my parents were academics. My father got accepted into a PhD program in Toronto, and when I was four years old, he came to Canada alone. My mother joined him when I was five years old, and left me to the care of my maternal grandparents. A year later, when my parents deemed that Canada was suitable for their family, they brought me over as well.

I used to tell this part of the story matter-of-factly whenever asked. I would ring off the dates and facts like I was reading them from a book about someone else, because I barely remember that period of my life. But now that I think about it, I can’t imagine leaving my four or five year old daughter for a year or two. I can’t even imagine leaving my child for two months at that age, much less two years. At the time, my parents didn’t know exactly how long they would be leaving me, but they knew it was going to be a while. That must have been incredibly difficult for them. But it wasn’t easy to leave China back in the day, so getting sponsored by a PhD program to leave the country was a huge opportunity.

I remember having long-distance phone calls with my parents from my grandparents’ bedroom. They would call, they would talk to my grandparents for a while, and then my grandparents would give me the phone and tell me to say something to my parents. I didn’t know what to say. Even in the snippets of my memory, I can still remember the awkward silences on the phone after I said hello. If I were my mom on the other end of the line, feeling the strangeness and distance between her and her child, I would probably be bawling. Maybe she did cry, but if she did, she kept it hidden from me.

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You seem frustrated. How can I help?

As my due date gets ever closer, I start getting more and more questions about whether I feel “scared” or “ready” for the baby. Honestly, other than being a little nervous about the delivery itself (I mean, 10-14 hours of pain does not sound like fun), I am not really scared or anxious about the baby’s arrival itself. In fact, I can’t wait for the baby to come. It’s the same kind of feeling when we were waiting for DoggyDumpling to be 8 weeks old so we could go pick him up – I can’t wait to meet her!

What scares me far more than taking care of a newborn, or even a toddler, is taking care of an older child. It’s one thing to lose sleep over breastfeeding and diaper changes, it’s a whole other thing once they’re walking and talking and expressing their own opinions and arguing back and slamming doors. In truth, the idea of raising a teenager is the scariest of all.

I think I am much more terrified about actual “parenting” than just raising another being (e.g. providing food and shelter). I haven’t read a lot of parenting books or articles, but what I have read sometimes makes me go, “WTF?”

This article is a great example. Have a child crying for seemingly no reason? “I hear that you are very upset. I am here for you.” Have a child throwing a tantrum and it’s affecting their sibling? “I see that you are frustrated. Sister is frustrated, too. How can I help you?” Have a child that’s bouncing off the walls trying to get your attention? “You have a lot to say today. I am excited for all that you are learning.”

All of her “instead try” suggestions remind me of when I was working at the IT support desk of my university, and instead of yelling at the idiot on the other end of the line, I’d have to grit my teeth and say very sweetly, “I know you may have checked if the monitor was powered on before, but please check again. Oh, the cord that runs from the monitor to the wall is unplugged? That’s the power cord.”

Her suggested responses are how I imagine an emotionless robot would parent. “I am excited for all that you are learning.” Who talks like that?

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To having it all

One question I have been asked a lot since I became pregnant, especially from women, is whether I still plan to work after I give birth. To those who know me well, it should not come as a surprise that my response is automatically, “Of course I still plan to work.” It seems absurd to even ask me that question, because I can’t imagine (nor have I ever seen) anybody ask a man whose wife is about to give birth whether he plans to continue working after the baby is born. The truth is that most men who have young children, at least in my industry, have wives who stay at home, or work from home, and/or have an army of hired help (nannies, au pairs, maids, even cooks sometimes) to take the load off at home. A working mom could have all of that help as well, including a stay-at-home dad, but it’s not as common.

Although I fully plan to continue working after I have a baby, that doesn’t mean I haven’t given a lot of thought to the kind of work that I’ll be doing. Right now, my work involves a lot of travel, and I don’t know how I will feel about leaving the baby 3-4 days a week, every week. My firm has been really great about discussing other options with me, such as being staffed on local projects so I don’t have to travel, or working on internal (non-client-facing) projects if there aren’t client projects in Boston. I am confident that, at least in the first few months back to work, I can figure something out where I don’t have to travel, but in the long term, travel is a necessary part of my firm’s model. And even if travel wasn’t part of the equation, being a management consultant can be pretty demanding in terms of hours – it’s no coincidence that there aren’t a lot of women with children who stay in this field. So, I have considered the possibility that I may need to move “in-house” (get an industry job that has more regular hours). However, I have not come across any industry job that I find more interesting than my current job. Moreover, it can’t just be a job, it should be compatible with my overall career ambitions.

So the broader question is, what do I think of the family-career “trade-off”? Can women who have ambitious career goals still reach those goals if they have children? Can we “have it all”?

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Eating for two, or not

Since this is my first pregnancy, there was a lot I didn’t know when I first found out I was pregnant. Heck, there was very little I knew about pregnancy. And the little that I knew turned out to be mostly wrong.

The crazy thing about this is that we are all surrounded by people who have been through pregnancy, often multiple times. First of all, our moms. Maybe older siblings. And as we enter a certain age range, there are more people around us getting pregnant and having babies. But I’ve realized that it’s rarely talked about by or with people who are not themselves pregnant. Why don’t we talk about it? I’m a chatterbox, so my friends can’t stop me from talking about it, and none of them are pregnant, but I think it’s like anything else that you’d go through in life. We talk with friends who have new health issues that crop up, we talk with friends who are going through the wedding-planning process for the first (and hopefully only) time, why wouldn’t we talk about the pregnancy process? Why should all of this come as a surprise? Why should it be treated like a “need-to-know” only subject?

Case in point, my husband is five years my senior, so a lot more of his friends are in the “new parent” stage of life than mine. Yet, he knew almost nothing about pregnancy and raising a newborn. He has had at least three close friends around him have babies, and yet they rarely ever talk about it. When they catch up after the baby is born, a typical conversation goes something like this:

PapaDumpling: Hey, how’s it going? Haven’t seen you in a while!

New Parent Friend: Good, good. Been busy with the baby, you know.

PapaDumpling: How’s the little one?

New Parent Friend: Doing well. Growing fast!

That’s it.  Then they start talking about cars or video games, and the whole baby-making/raising thing never comes up again.

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What is a little soup dumpling?

“Little soup dumpling” is the literal translation of 小笼包 (xiao long bao), or more accurately, 小笼汤包 (xiao long tang bao). Soup dumplings are delicious Chinese steamed appetizers, consisting of a juicy pork filling in a thin flour wrapper. It is extremely popular in Shanghai and Taiwan, although it can now be found in almost any community that has a large population of East Asians. On English menus, it is often translated as “mini soup dumpling,” but I like the word “little” for the title of this blog.

Why have I chosen to call this blog Little Soup Dumpling?

  1. Because I really love xiao long bao.
  2. Because I am a foodie, and wanted a food-related name.
  3. Because it ties to my Chinese heritage and my husband’s Chinese heritage (he is Shanghainese).
  4. Because it sounds cute.

What is this blog about?

This blog will primarily be about myself and my family of little soup dumplings. I am MamaDumpling, mother to a fur-child (DoggyDumpling) and soon-to-be mother of a human-child (BabyDumpling #1). I shall refer to my husband as PapaDumpling, who may make an appearance on this blog from time to time.

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