I’m back from parental leave! Sort of! I am / we are still careening around on the Log Flume of Fourth-Trimester Exhaustion, my absolute least-favorite amusement-park ride. But I’ve missed writing this newsletter, and I want to slowly inch my way back in. I’ve been debating how, exactly, to do it. In all honesty, I cannot yet commit to resuming my pre-baby schedule of weekly newsletter posts. But here’s what I can commit to: I will write as often as I can. I am aiming for an essay every other week, at least through the spring, and Friday chats on a similar schedule. By early summer we’ll have part-time childcare, and I expect that’ll help me, and us, get closer to a sustainable new “normal.”
If you are a paying subscriber, you may have noticed that you have not been charged during my leave. I will reactivate payments on Friday, March 24. If you’re a paying subscriber and my commitment above doesn’t meet your expectations, you’re free to change your subscription at any time.
Thank you for supporting my work, whether through a paid newsletter subscription, by buying my books, signing up for a writing workshop, listening to Spilled Milk, or just by being nice if you see me at the grocery store. Onward —
We began referring to him by his name months before he was born, a thing I used to think was weird when I heard other people do it. But we’d chosen his name early, barely two weeks after Ash’s positive pregnancy test, and why not tell everybody, we figured, why not go ahead and use it. Our friends have known since then, and now you know too: his name is Ames George Wizenberg-Choi. He’s Ames because we like it; George for George Harrison, because we love George Harrison, and because our decision to try for a baby coincided with (though was not caused by) a period of acute obsession with Harrison’s album All Things Must Pass; and Wizenberg-Choi because we wanted him to have both of our last names, poor kid.
Ames was born at 6:03am on January 19, 2023. After slogging through three months of hyperemesis, Ash crossed the finish line in triumph, with a healthy and relatively uncomplicated hospital birth attended by the nurse-midwives of Swedish Midwifery, one resident MD, a tireless nurse named Summer, our friends Lesley and Jen, and me.
In the weeks since, whenever Ash tells their birth story, someone asks me what it was like to attend the birth, having given birth myself ten years ago. It’s going to take many more weeks or months to put language to it, but what I’ve been saying is, I felt calm. I felt clear-headed. I did not feel afraid of it or afraid for Ash, much of which is surely because their birth was not high-risk or under emergent conditions. But it is also because I knew from experience when the moaning and wincing and panting was reasonable, and I also knew when it had veered into suffering, when we needed to advocate for more pain medication and more care.
Jen made a seconds-long video of the final push, the instant when Ash rocketed Ames with their very own muscle and will into the light of that Thursday morning. The sound in the room at that instant is like nothing I could have imagined: the cheers and shouts and whooping cries of a birthing person and a half-dozen women who’ve been awake with them for a day and a night, waiting and eating salted cashews and whispering encouragement and offering ice chips and massaging and applying cool compresses, a song of cheers and shouts and whooping cries that is nothing less than I’d wish for every human entering the world.
It is straight-up bonkers to me that (cis) men, who make up 50.4% of the world population, will never give birth (or even have to grapple with the possibility of getting pregnant), and yet they get to make the rules. This outlandish fact has been articulated a million times in a million different ways by a million different people, but it never gets less nonsensical to me. If I made the rules, I would make it mandatory that every human being on earth attend a birth, and I say this as someone who, prior to birthing a baby myself, would rather have been buried alive than see a baby be born.
I want to write so many things about it, from the mundane to the sublime — the homemade meals we’ve been brought and what I would recommend bringing to others who need support; the shows we’ve watched to make the time pass; what I’ve been reading, including a historical-shipwreck audiobook that Ames and I both find soothing; what it has been like to re-encounter this version of my self, New-Baby-Parent Molly, a self with whom I had a fraught relationship the first time and still do; my hot take on formula,as someone who once exclusively breastfed; and my even hotter take on 🔥equitable parenting in the newborn days🔥 — six words that, put together in that order, might make the sexiest phrase I've ever composed. I want to tell you about how, on a solo grocery run when Ames was a week old and the sleep deprivation was beginning to set in, I — just for a second — mistook a loaf of sandwich bread for the baby.
But today’s newsletter is a start, and maybe now we can all look forward to the next.
Thank you for reading —
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hint: I LOVE IT
Well, Ames is positively lovely. Congratulations!
love you, love Ames, love this newsletter <3