One year and one thousand things to say

More than one thousand, but I’ll limit it to bullet points!:

  • This has been such an intense time! S choked–really choked, not gagged–on a piece of chicken at an Italian restaurant a couple of weeks ago. I was with my friend from prenatal yoga and her baby daughter, who is the same age as S. I jumped up, pulled him from the high chair, and kicked the high chair out of the way with a powerful, karate-like kick. Placed him tummy-down on my forearm and lowered his head, gave him five firm thrusts between the shoulder blades with the heel of my hand, and the chicken popped up. Then I held him, breathing very quickly, while S looked at the table and reached for more chicken. He was unfazed. “You just saved his life!” my friend exclaimed. I had never quite felt that sort of rush of adrenaline. I swear, I could have lifted a car.
  • While opening his birthday gifts on our bed, I turned away for a moment, and S dove off the bed, whacking his head hard on the hardwood floor. I have never heard a more sickening sound in my life. He cried right away, wailed for a long while, but then he collapsed against me and I got scared. He was probably just in need of comfort and exhausted from crying, but he seemed unusually limp. After phoning my husband and telling him to come home, and then trying to call the pediatrician, I looked at S, so limp in my arms, and called 911. The fire department came. Police came. Then the ambulance. S was quiet, but alert—he never lost consciousness or vomited—and he smiled at the firemen. In the ambulance on the way to the hospital, he started interacting with me more or less normally. He sings the “La-La” song with us, the one that we wrote, and so I tried that–but he didn’t pick it up, which never happens. But then he did say “Awoowa” (=dog) when I said “Awoowa.” By the end of the ambulance trip, I was beginning to think that he was okay. Perplexed and quiet, but okay. And he was. After a four-hour period of observation in the pediatric ER, they sent us home. “Did I overreact?” I kept asking people–the pediatrician, the nurses, my husband. The adamant answer was: No. “It’s only time that you lost by doing this,” my pediatrician said. “And now we’re all 100% sure he’s okay, and you were able to sleep last night!”
  • His one-year birthday. Oh my. I organized a huge baby-buddy party at his favorite gym playspace and perhaps did way too much (note to self: take it easy next year), but it was lovely and fun and just what I pictured. He wore a tux t-shirt and chowed down on some Grover-as-starman cake, danced, played. Then we came home, he napped, and we prepared for party #2, the doljanchi, which we held in our apartment! His grandma on DH’s side came from FLA, DH’s brother and niece and cousin came from Brooklyn. Grandma had gotten him a gorgeous hanbok from Korean, several layers, made of silk, robes, vests, ornamental cap, tassles—it is a breathtakingly gorgeous garment, and S looked like a little round doll in it. We arranged the table with mountains of fruits and rice cakes and candies, and put a year-of-the-horse dol tower beside his blue satin throne. Then we put him in the throne and took approximately eight thousand pictures. Oh my. You should have seen our son. Putting the tangerines in his mouth, grinning. Then we put him on the floor on a sheet of gold satin and placed objects on it, and what he chose, according to the tradition, is to say something about the vocational/life path he will take. Well, we put a stethoscope on the sheet, which he didn’t touch. “This is the real one you want!” his grandma kept saying after the ceremony, shaking the stethoscope, and we were all cracking up. “We should have put nothing but stethoscopes down,” she said. There was also a wad of money, which he never touched, either. For months beforehand I joked that I would not put a paint brush on the dolsang because I knew too many artists, and they had hard lives. But I decided to put one on it, in the end. And what was the first thing he picked? The paint brush! Second thing: spatula (hooray!). Third: A miniature guitar (of course) which he kept coming back to, holding it and staring at it. Fourth thing: A globe of earth. World-traveling artist-muscian who loves to cook! Ah, well. Not a wealthy doctor. He is our son, after all.
  • My relationship with my MIL has taken an incredible turn. We are actually getting along, expressing intimacy and affection. I must give myself props for this one. I have tried harder at this than I can adequately express, putting aside pride, past resentments, and present-tense minor offenses, and simply accepting her. It is working. She has been, I have to say, loving and kind toward me. We had an awkward conversation during which it was decided that I would call her Oma. I have decided that I do not want to hate her, that I want to understand her and take her into my heart. She is my son’s grandma, and she is such a loving and attentive grandma, and she and DH’s dad are seriously amazing grandparents. My mind is blown, and my heart is open. It feels so good to feel affection toward her! This is such a powerful example of how being family with someone forces us to be our best selves and make it through countless rupture-and-repair moments. I can see her more clearly now. I understand that I have, in the past, wrongly condemned her (although sometimes not wrongly) because I have often misunderstood her, just as she has misunderstood me. I can see the wonderful qualities she has that DH also has–especially thoughtfulness. I am committed to staying on this track! We actually enjoyed her company, while she was here. At one point, feeling tender toward her and her relentless anxieties (anxieties that I used to feel so oppressed by but now understand ultimately come from a place of love), I stopped her in mid-worry and gave her an amused hug. “Don’t worry so much,” I said, smiling. She smiled and patted my back and seemed quite moved. When she gave us $1000 for S’s birthday, I hugged her for a long time and said, “You are so sweet, and we appreciate your help so much.” It felt good to do that. Without her help, we would not have a nice car, or have a slightly upgraded lifestyle.  We would not have been able to try IVF at CCRM. And now more than ever I understand how important it is to our well-being that we can, in emergencies, lean on her and DH’s dad financially. It’s no small thing.

I’ll leave it at that for now.

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  1. Wow. So much in this post. First, wow I would have frozen in that moment of my baby choking on a piece of chicken. You sounded super hero like! It’s crazy what could happen in a given moment. And happy birthday to S! Too bad I can’t see how cute he looks. I am particularly touched by the change in your relationship with your MIL. You know my story and I really look forward to one day when my relationship with my MIL could improve. I am hoping for that baby that will help us bridge the gap. So happy for you that you are doing well, friend. :)

  2. Through the tears I must say way to go mom – you are my hero even without the kick to the highchair. You did what you felt you had to do in each instance. Very powerful!! OMA. Open roads to you both with those open hearts.

  3. Omg, I had that same limp-baby thing happen to me. We were taking a walk, me wearing him in a carrier, and I tripped and fell. After I calmed down his crying, he fell asleep so fast and hard it felt like he had passed out, and it really worried me. But yeah, I think he was just already tired from the walk and then the falling and subsequent crying tuckered him right out. It still gives me anxiety when I think about that incident.

  4. Sounds likes o many awesome things! So scary about S choking! I would have probably panicked, so good on you for being so quick to save his life! And went to a Dol about a year ago, and what an awesome and beautiful tradition to have!

  5. Sounds like a great birthday! My kids went for the brushes too!!!

  6. What an incredible post. I am so sorry about the choking and the fall, but you were a fierce mama who took matters into your own hands (literally!) and made sure S was safe and healthy. Scary moments for sure! I am so glad for your relationship with your MIL. Such powerful words about rupture and repair moments. Happy birthday to S, your world-traveling musician artist chef! :)


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