Luke Samuel McTernan, also known as B3, was born 6 pounds and 3 ounces. Because he was breech until he arrived, we didn’t get a good look at his face on any ultrasounds, but as it turns out, he has bright, dark eyes that look both perplexed and amazed most of the time, a little upturned nose, a bow mouth. His long, black hair, which we did see waving back and forth on the ultrasound, now forms funny sideburns and sticks out at tufty angles; his head smells like vanilla and warm cookies, the best, most addictive remedy for any baby blues. He likes to punch his fist into the air in his sleep in what looks like his best tribute to Bender in The Breakfast Club, a gesture I recognize from when a small knob used to protrude on the left side of my belly a few times a day. He has the pillowiest, most ponderous cheeks — the first thing I touched when I held him for the first time. In short, we are in love with him.
The day we got home from the hospital, we were amazed by how everything was just as we left it: a gigantic half-eaten jar of Utz Pub Mix on the counter, two pounds of flank steak that ended up defrosting in the refrigerator for four days more than I’d planned (sad face), a bottle of water on the desk in my quest to give Luke plenty of amniotic fluid in his last few weeks in his old house (my belly). It’s already hard for me to imagine what it was like the last time we were there, running around like chickens with our heads cut off, throwing last-minute things into the car for a C-section that we didn’t think would happen for another week (potentially more on that later). But now we’re back, with this little guy. Where before I feel like life was measured in billing clients in six-minute increments and turning drafts of briefs, now it’s feedings per day and the number of soiled diapers and the next pediatrician appointment. It’s both more consuming and so much more beautifully simple than it’s ever been, a delirious kind of happiness that I’m sure is both from joy and sleep deprivation, but the best kind nonetheless.
Obviously, I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have our rough moments here and there — Luke is incredibly peaceful during the day, to the point where sometimes we get antsy with how still he is, but he fusses a bit at night (and so far we have done a terrible job of following the advice that everyone has told us, to sleep when the baby sleeps — but it’s so sunny and nice and idyllic! And we can catch up on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Westworld!) I also had these inexplicable pangs of sadness in the first few days that were so salient but so totally incongruous with the joy from the vanilla-scented little bundle in my lap, I cried my heart out at the weirdest moments, and for the first time maybe ever, I snapped at my sweetest mother-in-law — more than once! — like when she wanted to soothe Luke and I wanted to do it myself. (I’m super embarrassed about this. I hope it can fade into oblivion as quickly as possible.) I don’t know if these things will make a reappearance, I’m sure they could, but I do feel like I woke up from a weird dream after a few days and felt so much more myself (and also mortified, like, was that really me? My conversation with B2: “Oh no, I’ve been such a bitch the last few days.” “That’s okay, you did just make a person.” “Wait, so I have been a bitch the last few days? Oh no.”)
In these early days, I’ve been subscribing to a kind of funny hybrid of the postpartum traditions from my Chinese side and B2’s Korean side. They’re not too different, and mostly boil down to staying really warm, not going barefoot (weirdly, I hate socks, so this is not my favorite!), and eating a lot, a lot of hot soup. (I am, however, showering, though I won’t say how frequently.) My mom drives two hours to drop off chicken and wood ear soup and pork knuckle soup for me, shrimp with green peas and beef short ribs for everyone else, and my mother-in-law, who is staying with us for a few weeks, has been making pot after pot of Korean seaweed soup, which is supposed to (and I really think does) cleanse your body and give you tons of iron and nutrients for feeding baby. I can’t stop telling everyone who will listen how weird and cool it is that my cravings have totally changed since pregnancy — where all I wanted was cheesy carbs and pizza and sweets then, all I want now are these old, comforting Asian traditions that feel like they are a part of me and a part of Luke, gentle foods that warm from the inside out and feel like they’re so good for our little one.
Speaking of feeding, I was convinced that I wasn’t going to be able to nurse Luke, somehow, but it seems like (knock on wood knock on wood) it’s been going well so far, which has been a huge relief. He seems like he loves eating and usually nurses until he passes out, looking hilariously like a guy who’s had one too many on a Saturday night. (In a case of Not the Best Parents Ever, we like to wave his limp fists around at this point and pretend like he’s saying things like, “No.. I’m okay.. Just give me, hic, just one more beer,” while cracking up uncontrollably.) True to form, I’m already paranoid that I won’t keep it up, so I’ve been scarfing every galactagogue (best word ever) I can find and making these lactation cookies for midnight snacks.
B2 has been a trooper. He is the diaper change expert, since I’m just now starting to be able to bend over comfortably and do it. He has heart-to-hearts with B3 while inspecting the color of his poo and makes up song after song to lull him to sleep in the middle of the night. He’s been the super-est of super-dads. On top of that, he distracted me during the C-section when I was terrified, and when it was hard to get out of bed the first few days afterward, brought me water, and more water, and more water, and my phone, and that blanket, and more water. He has treated me like I was beautiful and capable and ready for this every step of the way, especially when I felt anything but. (I think the one objection I have is that it has never been more inconvenient to have a husband who makes me laugh uncontrollably as when I am trying not to bust stitches from ab surgery.) I don’t think I’ve ever been happier than when Luke is asleep on my chest and B2 on my shoulder — my whole world in a few square feet. I’m already sad for when B2’s much, much, much shorter paternity leave ends and I can’t confine my world to our sunny apartment.
So I think that’s it for now, though I feel like I already can’t remember anything I’ve typed. We are so grateful for all the help, love, and support we’ve received along the way to make this wild ride more manageable. We loved our experience at Cedars-Sinai and thought everybody there was amazing. It’s incredible how much they give you to help you feel less overwhelmed for this crazy new experience, from diapers (because we somehow bought a size that is huge on Luke — pretty sure it was the smallest size available, though?!) to changing pads to a mini bottle of Johnson’s baby wash. One nurse in particular, who took care of me on the day after the C-section when the pain was worst and who felt like a surrogate auntie to us by the time her shift ended, brought us an entire Santa-style sack of extra diapers and gauze wipes to take home, even though we were still two days away from being discharged. Miyun, where can we find you to thank you again?! Ah.
Weirdly, we’re already severely nostalgic for these first few days, even though B3 does hardly anything but eat, sleep, and poop (and also make hilarious faces while eating, sleeping, or pooping). I thought I’d be impatient for the days when he’ll start to smile and show his little personality, but instead I think we could live forever with this tiny bub just the way he is, a feeling I’ve read about but just now am starting to understand. It’s the kind of thing that makes it worth not sleeping, because we get more time to savor this person that, crazily, is finally in our lives.