my life in ounces, aka my time as an exclusive pumper.

Goodbye breastmilk.

Since I stopped pumping around Emmy’s 16th week, she has gotten one, precious, 4 ounce bag of breastmilk a day. Today, she will drink the last bag. I’m not quite sure what to do with myself. It feels like there ought to be some kind of ceremony to commemorate the moment – like maybe it would finally be appropriate to light my breast pump on fire?

When it became clear that breastfeeding was not going to work out for us, I switched over to exclusively pumping breastmilk and stopped putting Emmy to the breast. In theory, I loved the idea – no more stressing out about whether or not the baby had eaten enough, or second-guessing whether her latch was correct – I would bottle feed my breastmilk and know exactly how much she was getting each time. The OCD side of me rejoiced. But, exclusive pumping is HARD WORK. You’re making a choice to become a human cow, attached to a machine for what amounts to a few hours of each day, staring, transfixed, at the weird shape your boobs become when they get pulled into the plastic flanges. Oh, also, you still have to take care of a newborn who, I assure you, does not care that it’s been four hours and you have to pump for 15-20 minutes to ensure the sanctity of your already tiny supply.

I was always an underproducer, and at my best, I was pumping about 12 ounces a day. But, in order to get those ounces, I was pumping every four hours, around the clock, day and night. Emmy already needed around 25 ounces at the time, her appetite increasing what felt like daily, but still, I continued pumping for those 12 ounces of liquid gold. Each day was a blur of zipping into my pumping bra, washing and washing endless pump parts, recording how many ounces I did or didn’t produce that day, and oftentimes holding Emmy in my arms above the working pump because she needed to be held and I needed to pump.

I knew at the volume I was producing it didn’t make sense to pump forever, so I decided to freeze a 4 ounce bag every day with the dream that maybe I could provide her this tiny amount of breastmilk daily until she was 6 months old. It was an arbitrary goal, but it became my obsession. I looked forward to bagging those 4 ounces at the end of each day, writing in the date and “4 OZ” where the bag asked for volume with an immense amount of pride.

When Emmy was about 12 weeks old, I was in bad shape. My breasts had been stinging and aching for a few weeks and I was desperately uncomfortable. I cringed every time I attached myself to the pump (which was a lot), but kept telling myself I needed to do this for Emmy. I convinced myself that pain was a totally normal part of exclusive pumping, and continued on, patting myself on the back for persevering. I finally admitted that something was wrong when my chest exploded into red, angry splotches. The doctor told me I had been suffering from either thrush (a yeast infection on your boobs) or a bacterial skin infection of some kind – likely a combo of the two, and why had I waited so long to come in? I was immediately put on medication and a healthy dose of reality.

What the hell was I doing?

From that point on, I stopped recording how many ounces I pumped in a day. I returned my hospital grade pump and shifted to only using my hand pump – a longer process, but definitely a less stressful experience for me mentally. I started skipping night pumps and letting myself sleep for 5-6 hour stretches that matched my baby’s sleep. I refocused on the reason why I stopped breastfeeding in the first place – a healthy mom is more important to my daughter’s wellbeing than a few extra ounces of breastmilk a day.

I made it as an exclusive pumper until Emmy was about 16 weeks old. I knew I didn’t have enough in the freezer to make it to Emmy’s 6 month, but it was time to put away the pump, and time to admit everything was going to be okay even if we didn’t make it to my arbitrary goal. I could tell my supply was dipping again and Emmy was so much more alert lately…The ounces just weren’t worth it anymore, I realized.

I’m pretty sure I’ll never know if Emmy getting 4 ounces of breastmilk a day for an additional 7 weeks will make a significant difference in her life. As I’m finding with a lot of aspects of parenting, ultimately this was more about me than it was about her. I felt, and sometimes still feel, shame in not being able to breastfeed her, so I put myself through hell to prove – what? That I love her? That I am enough? I’m still not quite sure, and I might need the distance of a few more months to really unpack that period and what I felt I needed to put myself through. But today, as I pour out her last bag of breastmilk, I can at least say that while this isn’t what I envisioned motherhood to look like, this is what it looks like for us, and we are better for it.


5 ways I understand my parents differently since becoming a mom.

My parents after their courthouse wedding looking all kinds of fresh! (Circa 1979)

I’ve pretty much always been close with my mom and my dad. I never really went through a notable rebellious phase in my teen years, and my mom has always described my personality as a kid as “xi nai,” or “adorably affectionate” in Taiwanese (I may be adding the “adorably” part). So, of course, I’ve always known that they love my sister and me. But, since having Emmy and experiencing how my heart comes close to exploding on a daily basis, I suddenly realized THIS is how my parents feel about US. Whoa, mind blown.

As I’ve been grappling to understand my identity in relation to new motherhood, I’ve found myself seeing my parents through a new lens and thinking a bit more about what it must have been like for them to become parents and watch us grow from babies to women, to having kids of our own. Here are five things I’ve realized about my parents since becoming a mother myself.

1. They used to be young.

Newsflash, my mom was a total babe! And apparently did some moonlighting as a shampoo model.

My husband Alex and I were talking about how Emmy will always see us as “old,” but damn it, we’re still young(ish)! It lead me to think about my parents when my sister and I were babies, or kids even. My mom and dad had us young, in their early and mid-twenties, so it was startling for me to realize that in my earliest memories, my mother wasn’t even my age yet (32). They were really just kids having kids.

2. They had no idea what they were doing.
In my mind, my parents have always been all knowing and, prior to Google, my go to resource for random questions. How long should I boil this corn on the cob? Is there something wrong with my car? What is this rash on my arm? Honestly, I still call them with questions like these. But, let’s be real guys, when my parents became parents they were even younger than I am now AND they didn’t have Google, WebMD, Baby Center, iPhones, or lactation consultants to tell them what they were doing wrong. They were improvising and making up a lot of stuff along the way – and they did it free of the crippling fear we new mothers face today with the overabundance of information we have at our fingertips.

3. It hurts when they see us cry.
As I learned in the the first moments of Emmy’s life, as parents we are hardwired to respond when our babies cry and will go to great lengths to make sure they are happy and thriving. I am pretty certain that instinct doesn’t go away just because our babies grow into adults (or dramatic teenagers). I think back now to all those times my mom comforted me post-heartbreak, or how my parents must have felt when I absolutely fell apart when I didn’t make it into my top college choices. 
They assured me over and over again that everything would be fine, that I would survive this. But, when I didn’t come out of my deep blue funk, they pulled their ultimate trump card: since they had anticipated a private school tuition and I would be headed to a school with significantly lower cost, what if we used that extra tuition money for a new car? My parents are clever people.

4. It may be a little awful to be the firstborn child.
Since Emmy entered our lives, I’ve realized that the firstborn comes out of the womb carrying a world of expectations, unknowns, and all the new parent naivety, hope, and sheer wonder that subsequent children are maybe not expected to shoulder as much of. After all, your first child is the one that forged your new identity as a parent; prior to her, you were just some schmuck eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (or at least I was). I’m the youngest of two in my family and definitely noticed when we were younger that my parents could be a lot harder on my older sister than they were on me. As a kid, I figured it was because my sister was clearly the achiever and the brains between us two – there wasn’t a thing she wasn’t good at: she brought home top grades in super hard classes, she played piano, she could draw, write, dance, was popular in high school AND universally loved by every and any educator that met her. But, her achievements were always a given rather than recognized as something specific and special to her. It makes me wonder if your firstborn child, no matter what age they are, will always carry the weight of your expectations and wide-eyed hope from when you were a newly minted parent.

5. They have regrets.
My mom confided in me the other day that she regrets how much they worked when my sister and I were kids. My parents were immigrants in a new country, chasing the American Dream, so of course at the time it seemed like the right thing to do. At the heart of my mother’s regret is a simple thing though: if she could do it over, she would have made the time to be with us, ask more questions, and show more curiosity about our lives when we were younger. She didn’t realize how quickly those days would be gone. I’ve been struggling lately, wondering if I’m doing the right thing by putting my career on hold to take care of Emmy. While maybe I could take my mom’s regret as validation for the choice I’m making, I think what it actually means is that no matter what choice I make, there is no right answer. I will always have regrets, something will always have to give – but I’ll have amazing memories and experiences, no matter what road I pick.



a letter to myself at 5 weeks postpartum.

emmy 5 vs 5 v2.002
Emmy at 5 weeks versus Emmy at 5 months.

Hey there,

I know, it’s pretty ballsy of me to be writing to you – I mean, I only have 17 weeks of motherhood on you, so I must be feeling pretty good about myself. I know it’s hard to imagine right now, in the thick of the fourth trimester, but things are going to get better. That Benjamin Button-looking, string bean blob in front of you is going to become a tiny person – and seriously, the day she first smiles at you on purpose – all double chins and pink gums – everything else will disappear.

But that won’t happen for awhile yet.

The pediatrician recently delivered the news to you that Emmy hasn’t been gaining the weight she should have been, and now you cry every time you have to supplement feed her formula. You also cry while you’re working your butt off, feeding her on one boob, pumping on the other, swapping, then bottle feeding her back whatever was pumped, and then putting her down so you can pump both boobs for another 10 minutes. Alex is back to work now too, so its just you, Emmy, and our dog, Riley. And everyone is looking to you to love them and know what to do next.

No one ever said that motherhood was going to be easy, but for sure, no one ever told us it was going to be THIS hard, this early.

Spoiler alert: breastfeeding isn’t going to work out for us. We’ll see two lactation consultants and we’ll take all the fenugreek, Boobie Bars, lactation treats and Mother’s Milk tea that can be safely consumed. We’ll also refuse to see anyone for a week so we can take a “nursing vacation” – we’ll sit on the couch, demand feed Emmy and finish season one of Big Little Lies in two days, surrounded by empty bags of pretzels and plantain chips. We’ll get up at 2am and use our hospital grade pump to power pump for an hour, over and over again. We’ll get acupuncture, hoping that those little needles will open up whatever blocked qi is screwing our milk supply. We’re going to do it all, and, unfortunately, we’re going to be really mean to ourselves every step of the way.

There are more dark days than you realized there would be this early on – and strangely, they are all related to what Emmy is eating. There are some days when you feel yourself tipping over the precipice, and all you can think about is how you’ve already let your baby down. Over and over again, those dark thoughts come back until you don’t even hear them anymore, they are just part of your daily mantra: I am not enough, I am a disappointment.

But I’m here to tell you that we make it through. That Emmy, yes, she is formula-fed, but she is thriving – and so are you. You love being a mother, and Emmy loves being your kid – her face lights up and her legs kick with joy whenever she sees you. Someday, you will actually look forward to bottle-feeding Emmy, because she will use both hands to hold your fingers as you feed her, and she will look up at you and smile, milk running down her chubby cheeks and into the folds that make up her neck. There’s going to come a day where you’ll wonder why you wasted so many of those early, precious, Benjamin Button days wrecking yourself over breastfeeding.

But all of that won’t happen for awhile yet.

So in the meantime, I hope you’ll try to be kinder to yourself and remember – you are all that this baby needs. You were meant to be her mother, and you deserve a little grace too.

Hang in there champ – and see you in 17 weeks.

Love and kisses,
Future You

how a wrinkled blanket became my first metaphor for motherhood.

How Emmy really feels about these monthly pictures.
Emmy is 5 months old today. So, as with the past 4 times she turned a month older, I got her dressed in her cutest outfit, arranged her monthly milestone blanket on the rug in her nursery, and proceeded to take about 1000 photos of her while shaking a toy above her head and using my highest pitch voice and best nonsense words to try and elicit a giggle or smile from her.


If you had asked me before I became a mother if I would be doing monthly photos of my kid, I would most definitely have said no. Not because I have anything against them, but more because the idea of getting myself together enough to actually remember to do something like this on a monthly basis would seem absurd to me even before a tiny human was depending on me to keep them alive. Honestly, its a good month when I remember to give our dog her flea medicine on the right day (the 17th of every month, reminders welcome).


So, when I received the milestone blanket from coworkers as a gift, I told myself I would at least do the first month as a courtesy. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon on Emmy’s one month before I even realized what day it was. It was also the first time I actually opened the milestone blanket – and found out it was a wrinkly muslin square.


Friends, I was at a crossroads: do I bust out the ironing board and iron the thing? MacGyver a way to hang it from the ceiling and steam it? Do I just say screw it, shove it back into the closet, and pretend like I never received it in the first place? Or, horror of horrors, do I use it as is, all wrinkles and uneven edges, Emmy’s striped rug peeking out around the borders, and allow everyone to see that I do not have any of this cute mom stuff handled?


I’m very proud to say that we’re on the fifth monthly picture and I have absolutely no intention of ironing the damn blanket. If being a mother for five months has taught me anything, it’s that life is guaranteed to be imperfect, that there are very, very few things I am actually in control of, and that embracing these facts are part of motherhood, wrinkles and all. I’ve also found that I look forward to these monthly photos with Emmy and taking the time to acknowledge and commemorate that we both made it another month wiser, both a little pudgier, and very much loving every moment we have together.