The Day My Parents Confirmed I Was An Accident

It all began with an observation my wife made:

I don’t know, a 7 year gap is pretty wide between you and your brother. Are you sure you weren’t an accident?”

I might have responded with: “Hmmm, that’s an interesting point…” But I didn’t really think much of it after she said it – I just brushed it off and moved on.

Then half a year later – just two months ago – this happened during our regular Thursday night dinner with my Parents…

As I went in for that last bite of rice, I casually asked my parents in Chinese:

“Hey, can I ask you guys a question?”

I look up at my at both my parents, and they gaze up to look at their 31 year old son, sitting next to his wife and 16 month old daughter.

They both had a genuinely curious look on their faces, and probably thought I was going to ask them about something trivial, like how did they cook the tofu, or what time are they going to come over next week.

Instead, I hit them with this bomb:

“I was wondering…Was I an accident?!”

If this was a movie, this is where my folks would comedically spit out their soup. That didn’t happen – but it might as well have – for what came out was a rapid fire succession of responses:

“No, of course not!” stumbled my mom.

“No…You see, it was so tough back then after having your brother…” my Dad chimed in. “…we were in a rough financial situations too…” He stammered on.

The funny thing was the more he spoke, more and more reasons of why I was an accident came to light.

At this point, I remember looking at my wife, and she had the biggest, ‘WTF is wrong with you?’ expression on her face.

I was loving every moment of it, because I had already known the answer. Since my wife’s comment six months before, this was something that I thought of for a while and come to terms with.

Unlike my parents, I was ready for this conversation.

“…Aaaand our house was so small too…work was tough…”, my dad continued.

I’m willing to bet that over three decades ago, when they found out they were having me, my folks had a conversation like this:

“Okay, the day he asks if he was an accident, here’s what I’m going to say..and here’s what you should say…”

Unfortunately for them, the gameplan that they devised was locked away and buried deep like a faded note inside a time capsule housed in a rusted tin container.

The gameplan, though was solid when planned, couldn’t hold up to the test of time thirty years later.

After I grew out of my teens, they probably thought the coast was clear, and that they wouldn’t have to deal with this awkward conversation – especially to an emotional  teenager. 

And we all know that if there’s one common Chinese family stereotype, it’s that we love avoiding awkward moments where we have to express any feelings or emotions.

They probably thought, well, if he wasn’t going to ask now, he’s not going to ask ever.

Ha! I sure showed them!


After the dinner, I felt pretty good about myself. Sure, I basically sucker-punched my parents with my question, but I felt pretty at ease.

Can you imagine telling this version of me that her was an accident?

In most stories that I hear regarding someone finding out they were an accident, the main character is usually embarrassed or devastated by the news.

I, on the other hand, was not phased by the discovery.

Perhaps if this were say ten years ago, learning about this would likely have bothered me.

But not today.

I think a lot has to do with the fact that I’m quite proud of what I’ve accomplished so far in life, and I sense that my parents feel the same way too.

I’m proud to be an accident, and thinking about it further, I’m even more proud with how my parents handled my upbringing ensuring that it never crossed my mind.

Never have I felt unwanted, and never have they expressed that I was a burden to them and their lives.

I always felt loved and cared for from the both of them – at least as “loved and cared for” as possible in the Chinese family sense, like that “What Asian Parent’s Don’t Say” video.

In any case, I never questioned whether I was planned or unplanned.

Hey look! Here’s a photo of my dad NOT telling me I was an accident!

Coming back full circle –  as my wife and I constantly ponder whether or not we want to have a second child –  knowing this I think helps put things into perspective. I don’t think we’re ready for a second, and I don’t know if we’ll ever be with how content both of us are.

However, upon learning of my origin, there is solace in knowing that even in the difficult circumstance my parents were in, they ended up raising an unplanned child that grew up feeling wholeheartedly and conditionally loved and wanted in this world.

Of course, if by fate or fortune we end up with an unplanned kid, I’ll at least know to rehearse my lines, and be extra suspicious if he or she casually asks me a question during a family dinner thirty years later.

I’ll just simply get up and leave the dinner table and let my wife answer the questions. She did afterall, caused all of this with her innocent observation allowing me to confront my parents and realize that it’s actually okay to have an unplanned kid.

The First Night From A Year Ago

With my daughter just turning one yesterday, I had some time to reflect back on what a crazy first night it was when she came into this world. Behind this confident looking dad constantly posting Instagram photos of how wonderful being a dad is – lies a memory of a traumatic, life changing first night at the hospital. A night that has forever shaped this dad, and is now in the back of his mind whenever the inkling of having a second child comes into conversation.

The dad is more impressed with the lights than the baby.

A photo posted by Ingus (@snappingus) on


You know when you buy Ikea furniture and before you build, you go through the instructions and feel a little overwhelmed? That’s kind of like becoming a parent. You know what the end product looks like, but the process of getting there is what’s confusing and intimidating.

Babies: Assembly Required

You realize that the end goal is you becoming a competent and loving parent, but in order to become that, you need to go through so many confusing and trying steps.

That is what I realized that first night when she arrived.

I remember that the first night after she came out, when her mom was recovering and I was lying with her skin to skin on a makeshift couch bed, she was so tiny and so delicate.

I thought to myself:

“Oh sh*t, I have a daughter. Oh sh*t, I’m a dad now.”


That moment, I felt like everything that I had prepared myself for was useless.

Skin to Skin and Sing to Sing

I envisioned how I would be as a dad, and I envisioned how it would be like to have a baby. But when it finally happened, I never actually thought about process of become a dad.

Basically, for those first early moments, I just did stuff I saw on TV and movies.

Seriously, at one point in my hysterical mindset I thought, “Oh I must sing this song to her so that she’ll have an emotional attachment to it and be calm in the future whenever I sing”

I talked to her and told her how everything was going to be fine and life is going fantastic.

That was all a lie of course.

I mean can you imagine sleeping peacefully in a warm toasty bed only to be forced out to the cold winter streets – wet and naked?

I’d be pissed and freaked out.

For the rest of the night I remember her waking up and crying every one and a half hours. And I remember getting up each interval changing her diaper and bringing her to mom for feeding.

After the feeding I would put her in a loose swaddle and rock her so that she would fall asleep.

It Ain’t 5:05 In The Afternoon

All that crying. 

It sounded like they cross-bred one of those rubber chickens with a pterodactyl.

What a truly terrible sound.

I felt bad that she was crying and disturbing her mom, so I just started walking around the maternity ward shoeless with a tiny baby in circles.

At one point I even thought, maybe if I walk her over to the nurses desk, they’ll see how distraught I look and help me hold her for a bit.

Nope.

They just politely smiled and gave me a “your-wife-just-went-through-labour-and-you-better-hold-on-to-that-newborn-look.

Fair enough.

Basically I was so tired and overwhelmed, and I thought:

Shhhhhhh*t I have a daughter now, and thiiiis is how it’s going to be?


I really didn’t think it would be that hard.

But it was.

And it’s something that I’ll never forget.

Ever.

Of course things got better little by little as each day passed. And when we finally were discharged from the hospital, we felt relatively confident that we were able to do this.

And we were right.

As the weeks turned into months, and the months now became a year life is pretty sweet.

“Don’t drop baby, don’t drop baby.” ??

A photo posted by Ingus (@snappingus) on


As I write this, my daughter is quietly taking a morning nap, and last night I even slept for 7 hours!

Life is good right now.

Really good.

Yes, there still are tough days and tough nights. But nothing can measure up to that first night.

I think the experience I gained on that first night was exactly what I needed to prepare me as a dad.

And that’s the thing about becoming a parent, you can read all the books, go to the pre-natal classes, or talk to seasoned parents about their experiences. But when the moment comes and a life is gifted to you, you forget everything just learn on the fly.

And you’ll never forget. Ever.

Once assembled, babies are great.

 

How Our Disabled Dog Prepared Us To Be Parents

Okay I need to confess something: So far this parenting gig is pretty awesome.

Sure the first month was a nightmare, and my wife went through some heavy stuff early on.

I know I might have just jinxed it, but lately things have been pretty great. I love being a dad, and we love being parents.

I mean, just look how happy I look here:

You can see how much I love being a dad in her expression.
You can see how much I love being a dad from her expression.

Prior to having a kid, we were warned that once you have a kid, your life changes. Your world will revolve around them and your every free moment will belong to them. I really do see this point, and I think this is the part that takes the most getting used to for new parents.

For my wife and I however, this is not something that we haven’t faced before even prior to being married. In fact, for us adjusting to a baby came pretty natural, and it could be because had a little more practice compared to other new parents.

Practice in the form of a dog.

Yes, I know how taboo (and annoying) it can be when dog owners who don’t have kids compare having a dog to having kids.

I mean essentially you pick up their poop, bathe them, feed them, teach them to roll over, pretty much the same right?

But before I get put on a stake by an angry mob for my outrageous statement, please hear me out. As well, please allow me to dedicate this post to my dog, Owen.

IMG_9409

So let me start by going back a few years, where my pants were too baggy, and my hair was too long, and we were unknowingly put to the test for parenthood…

Sunday, November 9, 2008

We were playing fetch on a field with our dog Owen when suddenly he stumbles and somersaults while chasing after a tennis ball.

Dogs do not somersault. Their bodies just don’t bend that way. It’s almost as weird as us humans walking on all fours; it just doesn’t seem right.

I slowly walk towards him, thinking it was just another silly spill from our silly dog. I mean, this our three year old super puppy; who runs faster than the other dogs, jumps higher than an eight foot fence. He’ll just get back up and forget he even tumbled.

But something was wrong. He wasn’t getting up.

My mind went numb, and the slow walk towards him became a sprint. You know those moments when the volume in your head tunes out, and things go in slow motion? I was in one of those moments.

IMG_3035
Not the actual picture of the incident, here he’s much older and recovered

Our puppy looked up at me with two of his front legs holding himself up, and gave me this “What’s going on?” expression.

As I picked him up to rush him back to the house, I remember thinking, “Shit it’s a holiday, what do we do? Where do we take him?”

36 hours and two emergency veterinary clinics later, we learned that our dog had lost function from the hip down. It could be for just a few days, a month, or longer.

What. The. Hell.

Prior to our dog getting hurt, our stresses consisted of silly arguments and disputes that normal young couples fight over. Silly things like where should we go eat, what do you want to watch, etc.

As abrupt as he got injured, we were now talking about the cost of x-rays, MRIs, slings, wheelchairs, rehab, etc.  To quote a popular phrase during that era: “Shit just got real.”

Our daily lives and schedules were now devoted to our dog: carefully walking him, doing physio/exercise, making sure he ate quality food, taking him to frequent vet visits, etc.  In a sense, he really embodied a baby.

My then girlfriend (now wife) and I suddenly became more than just a couple. We now were now responsible for a dog with special needs. We were caregivers, but above all else, that was when we learned that we could count on one another to make things work no matter how tough things get. Dare I say, that was when I realized that one day, I know I can count on her to look out for me and our family.

Because he was injured, it not only brought us closer to each other, but also learn to split love and responsibility onto something else. And this is the practice that I was talking about.

I wrote this in a journal soon after the endeavour:

I am very fortunate not to be going through such an experience alone, as I am very grateful to have Jenn along the way. Every fear, every setback, every direction to go has been shared and experienced with Jenn, and I feel very lucky to have her through all of this. Even though she is Owen’s main owner, as he lives with her, I deeply feel that we’re in this together equally and wholeheartedly.

The past few days have allowed me to fully be confident of dark situations because I’m with Jenn. I’m so glad to be with her.

First off, I was a much better writer then compared to than I am now. Second, I think this was the turning point for me for a lot of things in life as it allowed me to understand what it means to share a responsibility, and share a life with someone. ☺️

Slowly he was able to recover and after two years he ended up recovering most of his movement, only requiring to wear one boot on one of his hind leg. And through countless Tony Stark-like boot prototypes (I think we had seven variations in total) he was a healthy happy dog who got to enjoy a full life as a dog. 

This boot design was "Mark VI"
This boot design was “Mark IV”

We were lucky to have him for another seven health years, and it’s been almost two years since he left us. I sincerely think because of his injury, we were better prepared for our journey into parenthood, which eventually lead to this:

Notice that the baby aisle is also the pet aisle?
Notice that the baby aisle is also the pet aisle?

So there you have it, I hope you’re not angry with my sentinent about dogs and babies, but our dog certainly helped us become who we are as parents. If there is a doggy heaven and he somehow managed to learn to read, I want to say thank you pup, you taught us to become parents before we even knew it.

One final takeaway from this is that I now believe that every stage of life or situation prepares you for the next in some serendipitous way, I know the struggle of taking care of our disabled dog certainly helped us as new parents. At least that’s a better way to think about things when life gives you a ruff situation.

(Phew, I`m glad I was able to slip that one in.)

 

A photo posted by Ingus (@snappingus) on

Stay awesome pup-pup.


Wood Watch Review

Four Things That I Wish I Told My Pre-Dad Self

Last week was Charlie’s first month and what a whirlwind of a month it was! (Hurray for Christmas babies!!) Within the past month, I’ve been up some nights making a list of just things. I’m sure much of this has been brought up before from other dads who have nighttime epiphanies, but I need to have my point across, since it’s only once that I get a chance to be a dad to a first child.

But before I even begin, I just want to get something off my chest.

I think there’s something wrong with the physics of a newborn as I learned in high school that input equals output. Well based on the amount of poop that this child has produced, I’m pretty sure she’s been sneaking food other than the formula that we’ve been giving her.

I mean seriously the stuff comes out of her like your first time going to Menchie’s for frozen yogurt. And while I can go on about the wonders of a newborns’ bowel movement (the darkish meconium anyone?), here are some things that I learned this past month that I immediately would have brush off prior to the birth.

Sleep is Valuable

You will not sleep. Sleep as much as you can right now. Seriously, just sleep now while you can. They say that some of the greatest minds only slept 2-4 hours per night, well you’re likely not as great as Sir Isaac Newton so enjoy the sleep as much as you can before you become a sleep deprived zombie.

SleepLog
If you don’t believe how brutal it can get, check out my sleep log for the first week: Terrible.

For the most part our babes’ sleep cycle is relatively tame compared to other babies that we hear about, but it’s still gruelling on the body. After the first two weeks, I was amazed how functional I was as a human being going on 3-4 hours of sleep a night. If there’s a sure-fire way to look like the walking dead, having a baby kind of does it for you. I am even more amazed with those parents who take on all of the nighttime responsibilities alone. Previously I thought: “How bad can it be? I mean I had some serious Netflix and Call of Duty binges. It can’t be that bad.” Sigh…If only I had a mailbox like in that Lakehouse movie to time-space-continuum-punch the pre-dad version of me.

Woaahh..a mailbox
Woaahh..a mailbox

Check Your Pride at the Door

Heading in to all of this baby stuff, the wife and I were adamant on roughing it out on our own. I mean it’s a good feeling to know that you can do it all without the help of family or friends. Admittedly I have a tendency to not want to trouble people with our lives. We envisioned it to be some badge of honour tell our kids in the future that we had absolutely everything under control, being parents with an us against the world mentality.

Oh boy.

I learned first hand that sometimes life throws you a curve-ball and you simply need to reassess and rethink. During the first week, I was challenged with the decision to either take care of our newborn or stay and support my wife in the hospital. No amount of pre-planning could have prepared what our new family of three needed to face.

I thought long and hard about taking it on by myself, thinking that it might be possible to look after both baby and mom, but I quickly realized that this was not going to be a realistic option. When you realize that the end goal is going to suffer, that is when you need to graciously accept all the help you can get.

As great as it is to be independent, it is equally as important to know when you need to depend on others to help you.

Life isn’t a movie where an unlikely nanny like Vin Diesel or Jackie Chan will babysit your one week old child with inaudible action pack hilarious hijinks. Sometimes the best solution is one where your pride will take a hit, but it is the right choice for you and your family.

Have a 3:00am Sense of Humour

When it’s 3:00am and you’ve been up for two days at you limit and your baby is still crying even though you think she’s full, burped and clean, you need to have a sense of humour. I knew things would get tough. In fact, I specifically remembered a conversation my wife and I had, when we first went to the hospital, that our relationship and sanity will be tested to its limits. Those limits certainly were reached and there were times where I thought, “Man, what did we get ourselves into?”

But I learned that the best way to cope with a tiring and stressful situation is to try to make light of it. For the past 20 odd years of my life, I’ve been absorbing enough Simpson’s material to any daily situation, and the beauty of it is that my wife can understand most of the references. I’ve begun to shout random Simpsons reference (“HELL, DAMN, FART!”) depending on the situation and I personally feel that this helps keep both my wife and I from going insane.

I truly feel that these moments helped us bond as they allowed us to create a new batch of inside jokes that only we can understand. As a new dad, there were times where I felt deeply entrenched in the process of caring for a newborn and I would inadvertently shun out my wife. Being able to open up to her about this new situation allowed me to get a big picture of what was really happening and what the goal was. I can confidently say that simply letting out my feelings and experiences allowed me to de-stress what really is a life-changing moment.

Another de-stressor that I discovered is that while your newborn will give you the absolute hardest time at night, they can be an incredible source of humour and entertainment in the daytime. So poke fun at them, take a silly photo with them, or anything that can help you justify the terrible nights they give you.

Don’t forget what she went through

My wife is Wonder Woman.

I can honestly say that watching my wife go through labour was one of the craziest and most intense things I’ve witnessed in my life. Kudos to movies and TV shows – when our baby came out with all the fixings, it was exactly like how it was on TV! The tiny, slimy, purplish-blue thing that popped out of my wife was exactly as advertised on Grey’s Anatomy; never will I question what I see on TV. Ever.

More importantly, the pain that she went through leading up and following, I will never know or experience in my life. If they can somehow simulate the labour and birthing experience, I’m positive it could use it to interrogate the toughest criminals and get any answer needed. My wife is amazing for toughing it through and I made the mistake of making a Captain Phillips: “Look at me, I’m the Captain Now!” joke helping her focus on one of the contractions.  Note to self: If you’re not funny when she’s not in labour, you’re definitely not funny when she is.

captain

As the baby takes over our lives, I think it’s very easy to forget how much sacrifice my wife made to get this child out. For the past 10 months it was all about her, and it’s dangerously unfair to her if the attention suddenly shifts from her to the baby the moment the tiny, slimy, purplish-blue thing comes out of her you-know-where.

So just as a friendly reminder: Don’t ever forget what she went through. Period.

With all of that said, every day I am learning more about this world of being a dad to a newborn and a husband to a mom. The moment I think I have things figured out, things get turned upside down and you end up questioning everything.

I am sure there will be much more to learn in the days, months, years ahead, but if I can somehow tell my pre-dad self this (perhaps through a time-travelling mailbox), I’ll be at least a little bit ahead of the game.

Yes Baby Punch Your Mommy!

Chinese parents have a phrase that directly translates to “don’t move your hands and feet.”  When my brother and I would get into a scuffle, my mom would angrily shout that phrase to us telling us to stop hitting each other.

The funny thing is, right now, we are saying the complete opposite to our baby.

“Alright little baby kick and punch to all your little heart’s content!”

“It’s just your mom’s innards, don’t worry!”

We encourage the movements.  The sudden “oofffs” coming from my wife is quite reassuring.  Cause those days when baby is not as active, my day becomes…well scary.

So far I’ve learned that the moment you become a parent, you just naturally worry.  Even though we are only 23 weeks in, I’ve already grown a few grey hairs and I anticipate losing a few existing hair as well.

jchanhairfall
Well if it is good enough for Jacky…

The days when I ask my wife, how’s baby today I’m really asking for my own sake.

I’m actually surprised by how easily a thought bubble can escalate to paranoia.  But I guess this is only the beginning right?

Pretty soon I’ll start asking questions like:

“Is baby sleeping well?”
“Is formula safe?”
“Is the room too cold? Too hot?
“Is this the right car seat?”
“Is this the right daycare?”
“Is that kid bullying our kid?”
“Is our kid bullying the other kid?”
“Is that a face tattoo?”

 

Channeling Iron Mike
Channeling Iron Mike Inside the Womb

(Yep our baby is going to have a pretty badass first year…tattoos and all.)

So many questions and worries.  So much paranoia, so many more greys and so much more hair loss to come.  But you know what?

This is only fair.

If there’s one thing that this pregnancy has taught me, it is that I really need to appreciate what my folks had to go through mentally just to make sure both my brother and I end up where we are today.

What’s crazier is that our kid will not understand what we are going through, until they eventually become parents.

And I guess that truly is the sucky thing.  When you’re a parent, your kids will not understand the sacrifices and worries you’ve endured for them.

And when they’re old enough to understand, they’ll simply repeat the same cycle.

This is like a cycle of parental appreciation ignorance.