mama whose curiosity knows no bounds

Archive for October, 2014

Really tiny baby

I had to wait for 4 hours before I saw S again.  She was healthy but because of low birth weight, she had to be observed for 4 hours at the nursery.

In my hospital room was a roommate.  She was a 17 year old Latino girl who had an emergency C-section and spoke little English. Her baby boy was LOUD.  Interestingly, the night-shift nurses were all Filipinos.  When I had K in the same hospital, both night and day shifts are mostly white and some Asians, but somehow, the population shifted.  They were so hilarious.  Since they spoke no Spanish, to communicate with my roommate, they tried to make English word into something that sounds like Spanish.  It was not even close to Spanglish.  My belly hurt because of their hilarious but fruitless effort to communicate with the girl. They were much more caring and friendly than day-shift nurses, for whatever reason.  During the four-day stay in the hospital, I befriended with the night shift nurses.

One of the nurses pushed the cot cart and I immediately knew it was my girl. I got up though my belly hurt so much. This was the first time I looked at her carefully.  She was so tiny and so different from K, who was born at 41 weeks at 7 lbs. 6 oz.  She barely had any hair and her skin was scaly and red.  And most noticeably, she had no fat at all around her arms and legs.  I worried a little bit, since I’d never seen that tiny baby.  I held by myself.  She was weightless.  Still, she somehow made eye contact with me and filled me with happiness.

I asked the nurse for permission to breastfeed her.  I wasn’t sure my narcotics and anesthesia will affect my milk.  After the okay from the nurse, I tried.  But she was unable to latch on.  Well, K took a full week to master the art of suckling milk, so I didn’t worry at that time.  The next morning, however, a pediatrician on day-shift warned me that I had to give her a formula to prevent dehydration.  I didn’t want to, but she was so tiny and different from K, so I obeyed and gave a teaspoon or so of formula with a cup.  Lactation consultant was outraged.  “She was not dehydrated at all or at any risk!”  She noticed that my girl showed sign of hunger, so I tried again.  Success! She latched on and start suckling.  Now, just by remembering those moments, my breast starts to feel tender.  There is something special about breastfeeding that affected me a lot.  Some might say, “oxytocin”, and that’s probably it.

She lost a few ounces during the stay, which was pretty normal.  I started to practice walking and the nurse was really tough on training!  I had a horrible gas pain.  I didn’t know it was caused by gas but the nurse gave me a piece of Gas X and poof! The pain was gone.  During Gas X was working, I walked around and around the ward. During that exercise, I could hear the cry of my roommate’s baby.  I could hardly hear my girl’s: “whe, wheoie, hoe”–I’m trying to spell what I hear.  Unless I pay attention, I couldn’t hear her cry even though her cot was right next to me and my roommate’s was several feet away.

I had a normal recovery and left the hospital after 4 days.  I tried to maximize the stay I can because once I come back home, I knew I had to take care of K.  Except that wheelchair took so long to come (I waited well over an hour standing after all the paperwork was finished — they wouldn’t let me discharge without wheelchair — though I had to walk that much during the stay), I was discharged as a normal healthy patient.

I was anxious to know how K react with the baby.



IUGR – a.k.a., small baby and breech

It seems like that despite my more than enough weight gain, my little girl is not growing as much.  The perinatologist started to get concerned around 24 weeks and they ordered an additional ultrasound.

I’m sorry, I can’t forget the name of the ultrasound technician.  Really.  Because her name was “Elizabeth Taylor”!

She was effective and compassionate.  She told me that my baby is small, but other than that she was so confident that there is no abnormality.  I wasn’t so sure about that.

Anyway, since my baby was small at 10th percentile in size, she was labeled, “Intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR)”.  The R-word didn’t feel offensive to me at that time, because this was such a technical diagnosis.  Still, she is so tiny so I need to visit the doctor more often than usual and have in-office ultrasound.

Other than being small, she was great.  I was sometimes emotional during that time because K was not performing well in preschool.  After his 3rd birthday, he was out of early intervention and started to go to a small preschool for children with special needs.  The teacher herself had a daughter with Down syndrome and staff were all awesome.  Among them, K looked the “normalest”.  After all, autism is hard to show unlike other disabilities.  Despite that appearance, K was the most delayed. I was still swinging back and forth between denial and acceptance.  After one performance at the end of school year, I was so devastated because he was the only one who didn’t understand instruction (sing and dance thingy) at all.

In terms of attachment, K was really good.  He was happy to be piggybacked on me at all time and even if I was pregnant, I didn’t have any issue with that.  My husband got a job at a university and we bought our first house (well, I have one experience during this period I need to let out, but I’ll write it later). Moving was postponed for one quarter because our baby was due mid July.  Everything was good.

Nothing dramatic really.  But at 37th week checkup, I was told that the baby is really really small, so she would thrive better out my womb.  I felt like an insult to my motherhood, but I had no choice.  She suggested to come the next day because she would be in the day-shift at the hospital.  I talked to my mentor/supervisor and K’s wonderful daycare provider, then the next morning, my husband and I headed to the hospital for induction.  Well, I seemed to have no chance for natural birth experience, but of course safe and artificial birth was way better than natural and devastated.

This time, the room was much smaller, but still LDR (labor, delivery and recovery) type room.  The nurse hooked me to I.V. and the resident physician checked my baby.

She was in breech!  The day before at the perinatologist’s office, she was in normal position. In hindsight, I remembered a big movement in my womb in the evening but I had no idea she was doing a flip.  She was a gymnast before being born. It was as though she didn’t want to get out.

Now induction must be on hold until perinatologist comes back to maneuver my baby to the normal position.  I checked in the hospital at around 9 a.m. and waited and waited.  The perinatologist wasn’t available until almost 6 p.m.  Before that, I was asked to have an epidural because manueuvering baby can be painful and epidural can make it more likely to succeed.  I followed.

“Today was not your day.” The doctor told me. “One emergency after another.” Then she told me that she would attempt three times to turn my baby and then if that doesn’t work, we hook off from epidural and wait until tomorrow or have a C-section.  Of course my baby didn’t turn.  Although at the end of 12 hour shift with many emergency C-sections, the doctor seemed energized.  “Do you want to have the baby today? I’m ready.” So the C-sections begun.  I remembered that my arms were so cold.

My husband was grossed out.  But as the doctor cut through my layers of tissues and placed the hands into my womb (You feel it), she called him to watch the birth.  He was scared but went anyway.  My little girl, already named S, was born from her buttocks.

After that everything went really quick.  She was suctioned, weighed, and Apgar score was checked (it was 8. One point less than K) in less than a minute.  The nurse pressed her to my chest so I can see her for a few seconds and she was whisked away to a nursery for observation.  She was indeed small. She was 4 lbs 13 oz. So she was considered “low-birth weight”.  I was later told that the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck three times.  I remembered thinking, if it were 100 years ago, both S and I would be dead.

I was taken to a two-person hospital room and I rested there.  My husband went home to pick up K (it was way past 7.  I can’t thank enough for the daycare provider!).  I needed to wait for 4 hours to see my girl.


My experience with amniocentesis

When I was pregnant with my daughter S, my husband and I opted for an amniocentesis. I was about 18 week pregnant.

First I met with a genetic counselor.  I felt a sort of sorry for her.  It must be so hard to counsel with a geneticist!  But she still went standard procedure of explaining Down syndrome risk and maternal age (well, at that point, my husband and I used that graph all the time, as we were studying on meiosis, the process to produce egg/sperm.).  Then went on to autism risk, confirming my knowledge.

I was alone.  My husband was out of town for job interview.  Believe me, the job application/interview process for university faculty is exhaustive and traumatizing.  I didn’t want to add additional burden by asking him to reschedule his interview.

Then first I had a routine ultrasound.  There seems no problem at all, though it was small for the age.  And I got the best news – IT’S A GIRL!  I always wanted a girl, and I also felt that the risk of another autistic child is lower if the second one is a girl, though the statistics we looked at didn’t differentiate the sex of the second child.

Then the perinatologist who delivered K walked in.  She first said, “your son got autism, right?”  She sort of remembered him (or at least pretended to remember). I felt immediate relief.  Amniocentesis is a procedure that the skill really matters.  Good experienced doctor has virtually no miscarriage record while sloppy one gets tons.  The number we hear so often (~1/200) is just the average of all.  Now my risk of having a miscarriage is virtually nil!  She heads genetics and prenatal diagnosis team for the State of California.

My little girl was resisting to the procedure, staying in the way of needle.  Watching that needle that close to my baby was scary but I trusted my doctor. The doctor was talking, “move! little one, no, the other way!” to my baby.  Somehow, the perinatologist managed to get enough amniotic fluid to diagnose.  She filled a full 50 ml conical tube and had some extra.

That procedure was okay, but then after arriving home with K, anxiety started to nag me.  What if she has a Down syndrome?  What if she has a Trisomy 18?  What if she has a Turner’s? Triple X? And on, and on and on. The following seven days was emotionally very tough for me.  I told my husband in the end, “regardless of the result, I WILL have this girl!”  My husband was confused.  To him, “What’s the point of having amnio then?”.  After all, he was a father, not mother.  I have no other explanation for this difference.

Then the call came to my lab.  The genetic counselor who I talked was out of town, so someone else called me.  After confirming my name and date of birth, etc., she gave me the magic word “46 XX” – that is, it’s a girl with no gross chromosomal aberration!  Phew. What a relief.

But since this experience, whenever I substitute taught my husband’s human genetics class, I told the students that there are emotional costs on top of the benefit and biological risk and emotional cost of waiting was not mentioned in counseling.


Having a second child after autism diagnosis

I always wanted to have many children.  The reason I blogged about my pregnancy with K was to justify my reasoning for having another, sort of.

When I came back from hospital after K was born, I told my husband, “I want another one”.  He was beyond belief…”What’s you’re talking about?  Don’t you remember the pain you had two days ago?”

Well, I forgot.  I want another.  Actually, the space and void left behind by K’s birth was so big that I felt the immediate need to fill in. The closeness K and I shared was so precious and priceless I wanted to experience it again.

But I knew that I had to finish my Ph.D. first. So I worked hard.  Our night-owl lifestyle was swapped with early bird style so we follow the daycare’s schedule.  Still there were time I carried K on my back and did experiments at night.  It was much more convenient that way to breastfeed when the need arised than going to restroom and pump.

But soon after I finished my Ph.D., K was diagnosed with autism.  My husband’s response was so cold (at least to me). “How could we raise another child when we have an autistic child already?” This was his attitude.  It took a lot of talk to have him agreed to have another child.  Then things didn’t go as smoothly as expected.  It took six months to get pregnant since we decided.

I cannot forget the jubilation when I found TWO lines on my pregnancy test! I put it back in the foil pack, and drove to the lab to pick up my husband.  As soon as he got on the car, I shouted, “Look at THIS!”  This may sound gross to some, after all, it was soaked in my urine.  But that didn’t matter.  I was overjoyed with my second pregnancy.

This time, I knew about my Grave’s disease and high risk of having an autistic child.  The statistics then was about 5-7% of the second child would be autistic if the first SON is autistic.  If the first one was a girl, the percentage rose to 25%, almost like single gene recessive.

I was already 35, a borderline age where the risk of having a child with Down syndrome and risk of miscarriage by amniocentesis are about the same.  We opted to amnio, although my feeling was conflicted.  My husband’s feeling was quite straight forward: we are already taking the 5-7% risk of having an autistic child, therefore we should avoid the risk of other disorders if at all possible.  This is a very difficult topic to even contemplate now I have so many friends with child with Down syndrome.  If I were an advocate then, I wouldn’t have amnio, for sure.

To be continued


lupus flare and prednisone and self-hate

For the last few days I’ve been really sick. I think I did my best to calm my angry immune system down and recover. Basically, I rested whenever I can.

For whatever reasons, I’ve been having more flare-ups than , say, a few months ago. Maybe my synthroid is not enough to manage my hypothyroid from thyroidectomy. Maybe I’m too busy doing stuff. Maybe because since S started middle school, it’s been difficult to go to walk track to exercise. Maybe I’m too involved with emotional discussion in Facebook. Just maybe.

Yesterday it was overwhelmingly hard so I had no choice but stay in bed all day. I had an event I must attend in the evening so I need to recover even for a little bit for that. Thanks to the bed rest and Vicodin, which I take very sparingly, I was able to function at the event. One stuff on the list down.

Then this morning, pain and fatigue is back again. Also today is my Fosamax day. I wake up before 6 am and take Fosamax then stay upright for 30 minutes. Usually I lean on couch and pretend to be awake, but I even couldn’t do that. Nausea and pounding headache was added to the mix. Only after that Fosamax time, I could take my morning medicine, which include tramadol and etodolac to control pain and inflammation.

Today simply that was not enough. Last week I was sick so I canceled my visit to my son, K. So I MUST GO SEE HIM NO MATTER WHAT. Then I gave in the temptation—-I took some extra prednisone, which guarantees to bring back energy and reduces my joint pain. My rheumatologist prescribes some extra prednisone for that purpose.

Now the self-hatred kicks in. I feel like a drug addict trying to recover and relapsed. Since I already have osteoporosis, I’ve been making a conscious effort to minimize prednisone. And trying to replace it with much healthier option — rest. I tend to do more than I can handle, so saying no and setting aside some time to rest both emotionally and physically was something I  worked hard to achieve. 

Now I’m letting my schedule taking over my rest and taking that magic pill. At the expense of my bones and probably pancreas. Well, of course my son is worth giving up some bone health and I can work to catch up with exercise. Still, my effort for the last few days to rest was replaced by the magic pill. I feel defeated, as my energy level goes up. 

All I can do now is get off of it very quickly, though it will take at least a week.


simple broccoli slaw

Most cole slaw is made of milky dressing that is watery. I don’t hate it, but I like my version better. Much better.

I buy a bag of “broccoli slaw” (mix of julienned broccoli, carrots, plus red cabbage and/or cauliflower). I transfer it to a bowl, wrap tightly and slit a hole with a knife and microwave. For one bag, I microwave for 4-5 minutes. It is harder than you might imagine.

After all the extra water is drained, I add equal amounts of two ingredients: 

  • roasted sesame seed oil 
  • Aji-pon“-soy sauce plus citrus vinegar. I don’t bother making it from scratch. It’s available at Asian food section of most supermarket or Asian grocery store. Even if “aji-pon” is not there, there usually is “pon-zu” just a bottle of citrus-vinegar mix. You can mix 1:1 with soy sauce.

For a bag of this broccoli, about 12 oz, I think I used about 1.5 tbsp each. But honestly I didn’t measure. I drizzled each and when I felt right, I stopped and tossed.


That’s it. This is as tasty as any namul, and as easy as bean sprout namul. This goes well in bento box. The only trick is to drain water really well before adding aji pon and oil.

I guarantee it. It’s better than regular slaw dressing!


my first sewing machine repair

Oh, there are lots of firsts, recently. I think it’s a good thing.

I’ve been frustrated by the quality of sewing machine service. It’s expensive (about $90+tax), and the dealer is at least two hours away. Then I have that bird’s nest problem, soon after I resumed using it. When I bring to a dealer, I expect the real fix, and I don’t think it’s wrong.

So, I decided to learn to repair myself. I bought a text online, at $99. It’s not the easiest read, but at least contains information I need.

I needed a machine to play with. I don’t want to sacrifice my Brother or Bernina for the practice. I still have things to sew.

Then I got this old old machine at a yard sale. It was $20. The lady told me that it was functional.

Well, if functional means that needles goes up and down, yes. But I couldn’t do the initial sewing test (according to my text book, that’s the first thing to do). Presser foot didn’t go down.

Now I started to explore the cause. I opened the side panel.


It seems like the Presser foot bar is stuck. I used the everyone’s trick: soaked in WD-40.

While soaking, I cleaned the other part. I used WD-40 to clean any metal part. At first I used it for the outside casing (painted cast iron) but I found that glass cleaner with ammonia worked better. It seemed like the previous owner was a smoker. 

After several minutes, it started moving! I moved up and down, cleaning with old toothbrush while moving. The reset the height and put things back after lubricating everywhere I can reach. I inserted the needle – it was a sheer luck that I had a needle for this machine. It is not standard household machine needle (also called 130/705H), but some industrial or serger one called (EL x 705). I think I bought this needle when I bought my brother serger some 11 years ago, without knowing that my serger takes regular household needle. Anyway, it took some cleaning to insert the needle, and threaded. There were several bobbins that came with it, so I used them.

Voila! It sewed! I had to lower the upper thread tension to minimum to get the right balance (of course bobbin tension was balanced correctly) so I think there is some problem in the tension disks. I haven’t got it yet, as this is my “initial sewing test!”.

I tested how thick it can go.


Great, it can go 6 layers of 12 oz.(for men’s jeans) denim! 

But when I switched the upper thread to jean thread, it stopped working. I guess this is tension problem. And the discs can’t take thicker thread.

This machine has other stitches like zig zag, button hole, stretch stitch, etc. none of them worked. Gear problem, maybe?

At least I managed to fix the Presser foot, so I should think it’s a good start! I can spend as long as I want to fix and then sell or disassemble apart and save the parts. That sounds fun.


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