Baby RenRen,

You’d probably still be in the womb if it weren’t for Pitocin. Like Emmy and Odessa—you were induced. They were both still cooking after their due dates so the OB decided to get the party started. But with you being the 3rd baby and your dad being 6’6” and all, there were concerns you might come out the size of the Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin and ain’t nobody got time for that. So we made an appointment to come in on your due date and prompt a little action right from the get. That’s what she said.

Third baby. Everything’s supposed to go fast, right? Easy, right? Slip’N Slide right? I actually wouldn’t know, I’ve never had the privilege of slipping and sliding. The backyards I grew up in and around were concrete and rocky and Asian. We don’t intentionally spray water all over everything and try to fall down. That would be both wasteful and dangerous.

In any case, I was under the notion the third baby was just going to ease right into the world, and more or less fit right into the sched. As a producer at NBC Bay Area with 3 kids repeatedly said, while gently peer pressuring me into having three kids, “The third baby is the family’s baby. The baby just falls in line. It will go with the flow.” And of course I read zero baby books about birthing and labor, to keep with the tradition of how I went in blind with baby #1 and #2. I mean what good is The Good Doctor if I can’t treat him like a human Alexa MD? “Good Doctor, what does a contraction feel like?” “Good Doctor, what is this poop pain?” “Good Doctor, is labor supposed to feel like you have to poop but you’re not pooping?” It doesn’t matter that he’s not an obstetrician. I still expect answers. Just like the relative who wants him to look at a purple rash. When there’s a doctor in the family, he treats all-comers related by blood or marriage. #doctorlife as the millennials would say in a sing song voice.

So there we were, bright and early, ready for the IV and the drugs to start puffing me up and forcing my uterus to contract. The drip hit my system at about 7AM. You arrived 12 HOURS LATER. As Odessa would say, “For real life?” Yes, for real life. At least we managed to binge-watch the OJ Made in America documentary. I can only imagine what the nurses were thinking every time they came in to check on me.

The whole thing took way longer than I expected. Only when we were at the hospital did I hear for the first time, “Oh third babies are tricky. They are either really fast, or they take as long or LONGER than the first.” Say what?

After the OJ binge, we did a lot of hall walking, with the wireless monitors velcro’ed around my enormous belly, and The Good Doc maneuvering the IV pole behind me. Design suggestion for architects blueprinting future OB wings: install a track for laboring women. A nice circular loop with mile markers and some natural light, and extra receivers so the monitors don’t get out of range, forcing the nurses to go looking for you because they’re worried you fell off the grid. Then just put the pregnant moms out there and let them grind away until it’s time to push.

When that time did come, I was dangerously close to not being able to have an epidural. Every time, and I mean EVERY single time, I have said, “I’m gonna try to go without an epidural.” Wisely, every single time, The Good Doctor has put on his most nonchalant, non-judgmental face and said, with his most supportive and sincere tone, “Oh yes, definitely. You should try.” If he were Kevin Spacey, this is where he would turn to the camera with a South Carolinan accent and say “Yeah right.”

This was my closest call though. A skilled doctor managed to get the epidural in about 20 minutes before I felt like I had to push in earnest. I’d like to think I would have made it gracefully without the drugs, but we’ll never know. Spacey, toward camera, “Yeah right.”

With the epidural in, the laboring experience was fairly straightforward. Once my doctor and nurse reminded me HOW TO DO IT. The nurse: You remember what to do, right? Me: ??? Actually I don’t!!! Nurse: Take a deep breath and exhale while you count to 10 and bear down. Me: Oh yeah, now I remember. *INHALE* 

The thing is, you forget. Especially if you’re me. I have the worst long term memory. I blame the years of general assignment reporting where I had to exercise my short term memory so much on a daily basis that my long term memory bank grew dusty and cobwebby. Every brain cell was focused on becoming a mini-expert on that day’s story. Remember, process, deliver the story, delete.

Also, nature tries to trick you into forgetting all the loco that comes with childbirth so that you’ll repeat it and we won’t become extinct.

So I’m inhaling and pushing during the exhale and bearing down and our doctor, our lovely doctor who came in on her holiday weekend to deliver this baby, is so encouraging and upbeat and cheering me on so hard, “That’s it Vicky! THAT’S IT! You got it Vicky. YOU GOT IT!!!”

Except I didn’t got it. I would look down and think I had pushed the baby out, along with a pot of gold, because she was so enthusiastic and excited and…nothing. Not one piece of baby anywhere. But this is also a part of the labor mind game. The doctors and nurses have to cheer you on like you’re about to score the Super Bowl-winning touchdown. Even if you’re just barely moving the baby millimeters down the birth canal. Because you’re freaking exhausted and hungry and cranky and even with the epidural you still feel all the body parts doing crazy things that they don’t usually do, so the medical people are smart. They make you feel like a million bucks even though you’re a tired, grunting, primal being in mother beast mode with your uterus in the driver’s seat.

But after about 15 pushes--the Good Doctor will have to confirm--but I think it was relatively manageable and clocked in under 45 minutes from first push to last. I also had a mirror towards the end. I know, I thought that was crazy gross before but there is seriously something incredibly unforgettable about actually seeing your baby being born. I wish I had done it the first two times. Even with my poor memory, I think I will always remember that instant and the indescribable sensation of seeing and feeling something simultaneously that is as close to an out of body experience that I’ve ever had.

Then the doctor lifted you up, RenRen, and you were a purplish blue perfectly formed human being. You didn’t cry right away, and now that I think of it, I don’t know how you did on your APGARs but you must have done okay because you sure can yell and scream with the best of them now.

You were just a warm, soft, tiny and impossibly perfect person out in the world for the first time. I’ve often said I would endure 10 births for every one pregnancy because the birth itself is such a miracle. Pregnancy is month after month of endurance. Labor is a few hours of crazy but the reward at the end is so tangible and magical. A human!

I've read several articles that say how important it is for us to be awestruck in our lives. To be in awe, to feel like you are part of a giant, amazing, way beyond yourself universe. Having that feeling of being in awe is supposed to help lower your blood pressure and stress levels and give you a sense of connectedness. It’s an awe often felt when you’re out in nature. Maybe a walk in the redwoods, or standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon.

Giving birth definitely qualifies for a level of awe unmatched by any of my other life experiences. I’m grateful I’ve felt this awestruck three times. Don’t even think about asking me if we’re going to try for a boy.

Love you Renley Jade,





Noisy Nelly

We finally figured it out. We think. All the crying and screaming IN OUR FACES. 

You are at war. With yourself.

You have serious gas. Bubble guts. Burpies from hell.

Loud, rumbling, RoqueRoqueRoqueRoque gurglings from deep within your baby belly that need an exorcism.

We can hear the effervescence in your tummy. And unless we sit you upright for 20 minutes and pat you on the back nonstop like a millennial at work, you will projectile vomit curdled milk at a time and place of your choosing, usually all over at least three pieces of clothing I'm currently wearing and it's a bonus if you get it in my hair. Typically you do this at night, right after I've showered and I'm all ready for bed. As they say, timing is everything!

This gas explains why you were such a Mankey in the first 4 weeks of life. You got a bad rap for all the hollering and screaming. You just needed some good deep burps and a couple of toots. 

And all the farm animal noises at night--that's gotten so much better now that I know the secret to putting you down. Right around week 5 we got into power-burping mode. We stay upright until I hear at least 3 burps and then I slowly cantilever you into a horizontal position. If you're still struggling and grunting, then we go vertical for a few more minutes. Aside from my wrists developing carpal-tunnel pain from hoisting you up and down and patting your back nonstop, this system appears to be working. For the past 2 weeks, you've quieted down.

Gone are the grunts and chain of ahem ahem AHEM throat clearing sounds you would make like you were about to give the commencement speech at Harvard and no one was paying attention. All this time you had some kind of gas or reflux. That explains it! You had the baby demons. You are not yourself a baby demon. I mean, not that we thought that or anything.

Not quite gone are the nights of nervously listening and wondering if your tiny baby grunts will turn into a full blown PICK ME UP NOW OR EVERYONE DIES cry. That still happens on occasion. 

My other attempt at solving the gas/reflux/baby GERD issue is homeopathic. A liquid, grape flavored elixir. Not sure if it is actually helping but apparently it really can't hurt because as The Good Doctor told me, homeopathic medicine does NOT, as I thought, mean that it's an all natural remedy. I thought homeopathic meant wholesome, natural, herbal. Like something you could find in or around your home, to make a pathway to healing. Like it sounds. Home Eee Oh Pathic. This is how I make my way through much of life. Sounding things out.

Apparently it means taking some sort of medicine and diluting it a zillion parts to one. Allegedly.

Me: I got this great stuff for the baby's gas. It's good--homeopathic stuff. Amazon Prime. It will be here tomorrow. 

Him: Homeopathic? Do you know what that means?

Me: (Giving my sound and logical explanation from above.) It means it's all natural, duh.

Him: No. It means it's medicine that has been super watered down. So it's like giving her water drops. 

Me: Are you sure? It got 5 stars. My friend's sister swears by it. Grape flavored too. It costs $10!

Him: Shaking his head. 

When the bottle came, the directions said to give .3ml every 15 minutes up to 8 times in a row. Lending some proof to what The Good Doctor said.

Him: See? It's like giving her 2 drops of water every 15 minutes. Good purchase Vic. 

In any case, we're going to use up all this flavored water just in case because even if it doesn't help, it's about as powerful as tap water. And 5 years from now we'll know why you love grape Bubble Yum.



Welcome Renley Jade

Or should I call you Mankey? Born in the year of the monkey, you are more like the Pokemon Go character Mankey. Described as "very aggressive and short-tempered... When angry, Mankey begins shaking and its breathing turns rough. Its rage peaks quickly, preventing its victim from being able to flee. If Mankey loses sight of its colony, its loneliness causes it to become infuriated... if one becomes enraged, the whole colony rampages for no reason."

I hate to label you at this tender age of 4 weeks but lady you are one heckuva yeller and screamer. It's next level crying. Like, babies cry. I get that. But you don't feel that's sufficient. You're like Emeril. BAM. Kicking it up a notch. Always. For the first two weeks Daddy was convinced you hated his guts. You would yell and scream directly into his face when you were tired/hungry/just plain messing around. Then he'd hand you to me and you'd instantly, I mean like a light switch turning off INSTANTLY, chill. 

I admit, it was deliciously satisfying. I've never had a baby that loved me like that. Emmy and Odessa were equal opportunity lovers and haters and in fact, they were such Daddy's girls for years that I was accustomed to being the Backseat Parent.

Then Week Three rolled around and I got a taste of your medicine. No mother left behind. You raged on me and suddenly I couldn't sit on Smug Mountain any longer. The tables had turned. Suddenly, and for a solid two days, I could not comfort you, and you would only calm down when I handed you off to Daddy or Asian Grandma. 

Not cool RenRen.

Speaking of your name, here are some of the runners up to Renley: Huxley, Spencer, Finley, Harvey, Rooney, Radley. Pretty much all nixed by Daddy. He really hated Huxley/Hux and Spencer, even with the promised nickname of Penny. His first choice was Camille. Beautiful name, but on the rise in popularity according to the Social Security index. Renley is about as popular as Odessa, somewhere in the 3000's. Emerson is in the 200's. Daddy's other choices were pretty...nature-y. Summer, Sierra, Sienna, Clover... followed by Larkin, Marquette (? Don't get me started) and many others I've tried to mentally block to avoid re-traumatizing myself. 

Third babies are hard to name if you don't have some sort of theme like the Kardashians. We didn't want a name that started with E or O, or a name that ended in N or A, so that cut out a lot of choices. Ren actually has a Confucian meaning, "a virtue denoting the good feeling a virtuous human experiences when being altruistic." It's also a family name and a variant on a name from Game of Thrones. Nevermind that he was a gay king killed off by a shadow. Let's blaze a new path Renley Jade! Strong woman with strong lungs who betters the world with her indefatigable spirit, shining intelligence and charismatic spirit.

Early signs show the strong lungs part is definitely true. Refer to photo above.

Everyone thinks you look like Emmy from the mouth down. That is to say, you have the same chicken nugget chin and little pursed lips hiding your bottom lip. But you have hair like Odessa and more of her eyes. Your personality though, very distinct. The screaming and yelling for one. You also have a look of skepticism and concern. It's most apparent right before you fall asleep, when you're gazing into the eyes of your adult sherpa. The way you fall asleep is a serious, cliff hanger, hold our breaths process. You don't just close your eyes and nod off. You close them and then a few seconds later your lids pop right back open, eyes wide with questions about what just happened and where am I and what's going on and oh yes...zzz. Repeat about 10-15 times before you actually stay asleep. It's like a big sleep battle with yourself, punctuated by slightly accusatory stares and occasional feral cat screams before you finally succumb. It's comical and endearing, and I don't remember our other babies doing that. 

Staying asleep is a whole 'nother ordeal. Especialy during the day. You fight your naps and can't stay asleep for longer than 20 minutes when we put you into the pack n play OR rocker OR swing. We literally have three different sleep areas downstairs for you, Queen Renley. It's a newborn Airbnb up in here. The swing was our surefire sleep elixir. It hypnotized Emmy and Odessa and allowed them to get good deep daytime naps. You, not so much.

We've even tried weighing you down with two cups of rice in a baggie. Some Asian magic trick. Effectiveness has been spotty.

Hopefully you outgrow this or I'm going to be all caught up on every HGTV Fixer Upper episode ever filmed. I'm already wanting to move to Waco after watching 18 renovations. 

But you're also just #babiesbeingbabies. So far in 5 weeks you've slept through the night once, a fluke, but I'll take it. A handful of really rough wide awake for an hour and a half at 2 or 3. But for the past 5 nights you're pretty consistently down at 9 or 10PM after the "Snack and Snooze" last feeding of the night, up at 4AM, and back down until about 7AM. Keep up this pattern RenRen, we can make this work.

I'm not so uptight about the sleep deprivation this third time around. I know how quickly every stage passes and suddenly you're graduating from college and moving to New York. The interrupted sleep makes for crazy vivid dreams though. Like the one where I was mountain climbing with our meteorologist Jeff Ranieri and we had to run from from a black viper. Only the viper was also able to jump up super high like a Jack Russell terrier. And it kept jumping after me before biting me in the hand. I tried repeatedly to trap it with a Tupperware container and various colanders only to have it escape through a hole each time. Yeah, #randomsauce.

Next post: Noisy Nelly. You are so loud at night. To the casual observer, watching a video of you on mute, you'd look like a baby sort of moving around in her swaddle. Unmuted, you sound like a WWE wrestler lifting another WWE wrestler right before slamming him on the ground. It's like you're digging ditches in your crib for the world's tallest skyscraper. Or you're literally trying to move a mountain. The grunting, the huffing, the groaning and moaning. So. Loud.


Complimenting a Pregnant Woman

On the way to a shoot in Santa Cruz the other day, my photog Felipe gave me one of the best compliments I've received this entire pregnancy.

Him: You know I keep forgetting you're pregant, except for when I see you.

Me: ...Thanks! ...That's a compliment right? ...You mean...I'm demanding as ever...

(And yes, even with all those dot dot dots, I still talk faster than the regular person)

Him: Yeah, no it's totally like, you're just as efficient.

And THAT is how you compliment a pregnant working lady/woman/future transgender person who is able to carry a child.

Not to sound like an ingrate, which is something I actually would take great umbrage with if you were to say I were an ingrateful person because I actually make an effort to be forever conscious of the many many things I am grateful for all the time, but every time someone asks me how I'm doing, I wince a little.

It's totally NOT a normal reaction and I recognize that. People are being kind, courteous, polite. But as the lady walking around with the kids' size soccer ball belly and extra 35+ pounds, every time you ask me, "How are you feeling?" it's a reminder that you're seeing Pregnant Vicky and not just Vicky Vicky.

It's all the extra considerations for Pregnant Vicky, like no, no you go ahead and get in the line in the diner first, or no, no we'll flatten ourselves against the hallway so your enormity can pass peacefully, or no, no we don't expect the same from you because, well OBVIOUSLY, you're pregnant so you can't POSSIBLY be the same person who works at the same level.

I'm sure it's a neurosis of mine, but it's also a very real change in the way people view you, treat you, talk to you, consider you. I have never wanted special pregnancy treatment, at work or anywhere else. Except yeah I have no problem asking you to please pick up the phone I just dropped that rolled two feet under my desk. I mean, retrieving that would be like, impossible. But otherwise, if we normally work together and we don't normally talk about my kids or family, I prefer it stay that way.

Not out of antisocial meanness, but because it perturbs me to think you think I'm radically different now that I'm cultivating a small person.

And yet, I am totally guilty of doing this to other pregnant women. You get excited for them, they're carrying a life, it's a crazy physical transformation that results in the creation of ANOTHER HUMAN. It's totally natural to recognize that and notice it and comment on it and ask how someone is doing when they're pregnant. 

But when it's directed toward me, I cringe inside. When I'm at work, I just want to be Work Vicky, the same Vicky you knew 35+ pounds ago, before the flip flops and ever present giant black wrap sweater. 

And the question that I'm getting so much lately, "WHEN are you DUE?" Because when you're 5'2" and normally 105lbs, even if you're still 6 weeks away from giving birth, you look like you could pop at any second. Constantly being reminded that you look that way is less fun.

It's why I'm always so relieved when I go to an interview and my subject says absolutely nothing about my condition. When they don't ask if it's a boy or girl, or if it's my first, or how many more months do I have to go. When they just sit down, answer my questions, and we go our separate ways. It's like a nice moment of normalcy that I have rarely had in the last few months as my belly swells to proportions that make me question whether I will ever fit into 98% of my closet again. 

The Good Doctor says I will, and that with both previous pregnancies I would always ask in the third trimester: Will I always wear giant granny underwear from now on?

Answer TBD.


Memo to Odessa: 42 Months

So we sort of skipped like 7 months of memos. Odessa, if we're already this lazy with a second child, I'm not really sure what we'd do with a third one. Despite your promises that you'd "feed the baby and read to the baby and put the baby to sleep" but "not change the baby's diaper," I'm not convinced you really want to be a middle sister. Although you do seem to love the idea of being both a big sister ANDDDD a little sister.

In any case, this post is about you, not an imaginary third baby. There's nothing imagined about you. You're a solid, confident, commandeering little person. How someone so small talks so much and is so stubborn and yet heart-melting at the same time, with alternately frowny fishy hands-on-hippy attitude that instantly flashes into contagious giggles. You have this distinctive voice and laugh and cadence to your speech that is uniquely Odessa. Like you smoke cigars at night after we read to you. Croaky, throaty, Lauren Bacall if she were a 3 year old Marvin with sass. And you are not shy about laughing at your own jokes and playing in your own world.

You've taken over the guest room. Your wooden blocks and Duplo farmhouse bricks are everywhere. But you can seriously build. Doll beds, bird houses, crocodiles, trains, bridges, people, even a zipline. The imagination is Trumptastic. You tell these amazing stories about what everything is and what it does and who lives where and what they do there. I so enjoy that it's your world and I'm just living in it.

You definitely didn't get any architectural skills from me. When I'm upstairs "helping," you really just want me to watch you build build and watch you nae nae. Which thrills me because building stuff gives me panic attacks. Like I just don't come up with things in configurations. I put a square block on another square block and then hives break out. #sonotanengineer 

However, I may have passed other traits onto you. Bossy isn't the right word, but it's true you make your opinions known, sharply and unequivocally. "Don't touch that, it's mine" is your first reaction, threat level red, to any strangers, large or small, who get too close to something you're fond of. But as soon as we remind you, "Hey Odessa, you can share x with X," you're completely magnanimous like of course you're going to share, it's the greatest thing to share, who said you don't share! And your evil staredown transforms into a sharing is caring helper smile. You're like the T. Rex from Jurassic World. Adapting and clever with short little arms.

You had to wait forever to go back to pre-school, a good 3 weeks after Emmy started 1st grade. Those weeks = torture. You couldn't wait to get back to classes, if only to play by yourself with the ponies. I've watched you a couple times out in the wild. I have seen you talk earnestly and convincingly to a gang of three boys who then turned around and decided to do something else at the playground. Your teachers are the best, they did an awesome job with Emmy, and it seems every student that comes out of that school is a great little bon bon, well socialized and just a happy camper.

But one thing your dad and I can't quite figure out is why all the teachers are so vague in describing what you do and what you're like all day. They have always told us the same things about you and Emmy. "She's wonderful. She's such a good girl. She's a delight. She's a joy." It's like a Jedi mind trick. I swear they are purposefully broad and general because they know we are Silicon Valley parents and if they give us too much detail about our kids, we will spiral out of control. Specifics are like the gateway drug. Tell a tiger parent an observation about his/her 3 year old and suffer a lifetime of addiction and rehab in the form of probing questions, Kumon worksheets, and more assessments. The demands never cease! Hence the "Your daughter is great. She's doing great. Her? Great!"

Heaven forbid anyone recycle a single scrap of your art. Even if it's on scratch paper and you haven't seen it for months. If those crafts float anywhere near a bin in your line of sight--you will protest #artlivesmatter. We can only trash that stuff at night and even then, we know it's at our own risk.

You're majorly into smartphone photography. If only I looked good when someone 3 feet tall shot up at me, I'd have so many awesome portraits. Who doesn't love looking like a giant with a double chin? But hey, you're already better at taking pictures than Daddy so I can't complain. We joke that a photo of me with you and Emmy that I didn't take myself is like a blue diamond. 

Speaking of blue diamonds. Blue is your favorite color. You love to pretend you're a dog and Emmy's a cat. You give the best kisses and hugs. You have a grumpy streak. I see so much of who I think I would be as a kid in you and so much of who your dad is in your sister. Genetics is bananas. (Are? Plural or singular?) I love your wily ways and how you use Dubsmash as a verb, as in "Let's Dubsmash that Mommy." Indeed, we have a lot of fun ahead of us lil Odessa.

Love you my darling,

Mama and Papa

PS You pretty much only go by Odessa now. You don't seem to like Dessy. "I don't like Dessy. I'm Odessa."