The Baby List | 1


I’ve been a parent for a whole 7 WEEKS now and obviously, I’m now an expert.  BAHAHAHHAH.  Oh, god.  So far from it.  I’ve done (and am still doing) SO much research on babies, childcare, parenting, sleep training, breastfeeding — it’s ridiculous.  Before Lou was born, we did our research and bought what we considered the best gear.  We’ll totally use this all the time!  Funny how babies don’t care that something has over 1000 4-star reviews on Amazon.

But in these first 7 weeks, there have been some things that we do use all the time that I wouldn’t hesitate to buy again.  In fact, for a couple of these things, I actually have gone and bought a 2nd (and 3rd) set.


1. Woombie // Lou has a strong startle reflex and will wake herself up with her flailing as-if-independent-from-her-body arms.  She loves being swaddled, but no matter how tightly we swaddled her with regular swaddle blankets, she could always break out of them.  Enter the Woombie.  It zips up, so you don’t have to deal with folding blankets (although we did end up swaddling her loosely with a blanket over the Woombie for more warmth).  It also zips from the bottom, which is nice for middle-of-the-night diaper changes.

2. OXO Wipes Dispenser // You quickly learn that a lot of the steps to changing a diaper require that you do them with only one hand because your other hand is needed to hold your baby’s legs out of her own poop.  The dispenser has a push top opening, keeps wipes moist, and lets you pull out single wipes at a time.  It’s a simple concept, but when you’re changing 10+ diapers a day, the convenience is exponentially appreciated.

3. Spasilk Wrap Onesie // Most babies hate wearing clothes and love being naked.  Lou was the complete opposite.  She HATED being naked.  This turned every diaper or clothing change into a mini meltdown for the first month or so.  Those extra few seconds spent trying to pull a tiny neck hole over her giant 65-percentile head was not an option.  These onesies were great because there were just 3 snap buttons down the front, so you could put it on like a jacket.  I also really liked how the bottom snaps snapped across the belly instead of the crotch, which also made things a lot easier.  This is what Lou wears every night to bed underneath her swaddle.

4. Art for Baby // We use this book during tummy time and Lou loves it.  Babies love high-contrast black and white images and this book features art by contemporary artists, so it’s at least interesting for adults to look at too.  Lou’s favorite is the Murakami flower.  She stares at it for minutes (an eternity in baby-time!).

5. Zutano Booties // Babies are always missing one sock.  These booties actually stay on.  AND look good.  They’re great as “shoes” for newborns when leaving the house.  They look like little hightop moonboots.  So cute.

6. Freemie Collection Cups // Pumping breastmilk is the worst.  I never really knew what pumping entailed because I never really thought about it.  Pumping breastmilk?  It just comes out into a container, right?  OMG NO.  There are SO many steps and parts involved.  You’re attached to a machine for 20 minutes with huge pieces of plastic attached to your boobs milking you like a cow.  These 20 minutes aren’t including setup beforehand or cleanup afterwards.  Then you have to deal with measuring and storing what you pumped into sterilized containers for freezing later.  And the amount you pump for all that work is SO LITTLE!  Sometimes as little as 1 ounce!  And you do this MULTIPLE times a day.  Pumping is THE WORST.  These Freemie collection cups make pumping a LITTLE less annoying because you can stick them inside your shirt (and then connect them to your existing pump with your existing tubing). The traditional “horns” that come with most breast pumps are a lot bigger and require you take off your bra and use a hands-free bra if you don’t want to hold them up to your boobs.  The Freemie cups are a lot more discrete.  I could write a whole blog entry about pumping and using traditional flanges vs. Freemie cups….but I won’t….because most people don’t care….and I’m boring myself just thinking about it.

7. Circo Sleep-N-Play // Lou has quite the collection of stylish clothing hanging in her closet.  She’s worn maybe 10% of them.  However, she basically lives in these Circo Sleep-N-Play suits.  As I mentioned, she hates taking off her clothes, so anything with too many buttons or multiple pieces is like an invitation for screaming.  These are one piece and the Circo brand in particular features an inverted zipper that unzips from the bottom, which has proven to be PRICELESS for middle-of-the-night diaper changes because it allows the top portion of her clothes to remain closed.  Also, they’re like less than $5 each at Target.

8. Aden + Anais Muslin Swaddle Blankets // I never realized how many items you need to cover your baby with.  We have SO many different blankets of varying thickness for Lou and we use all of them!  We use these muslin swaddle blankets every day for swaddling, for laying on top of the couch, for laying on top of her various seating apparatuses, for covering her in her stroller, for blocking rain and wind when we’re outside — so many uses!  They’re lightweight, but are big enough that you can fold for extra thickness.  I like this jeweled-colored set in particular for the pop of color amongst the mostly black/white/grey furniture and clothes I buy for her.

9. Ergo 360 // Baby-wearing has been a game-changer for us.  Turns out, babies don’t always like to hang out by themselves.  Play in your crib for 10 minutes while mama clears the dishwasher?  Sit in your bouncy chair for 15 minutes while mama does a load of laundry?   2 minutes while mama goes to the bathroom??  NOPE NOT GONNA DO IT.  Wearing your baby enables you to go about your day (somewhat) with the use of both arms, whereas before, you were confined to the couch or walking laps around your living room, baby in tow.  I’ve tried wrap carriers like the K’Tan, Moby, and Boba, but ended up liking the Ergo the best.  While the softer wrap carriers did feel more natural/comfortable, I preferred the structured feel of the Ergo better, at least for my purposes of getting stuff done around the house.  In fact, Lou is sitting in the Ergo right now as I’m typing up this blog draft.  With the wraps, while they were more comfortable for just hanging out or sitting on the couch, it was harder to do chores because after a while, they felt loose and more saggy feeling.  I do still own both types, but I find myself reaching for the Ergo more.  An added bonus is that Lou falls asleep in the carrier within 10 minutes, guaranteed.  It’s my go-to way of sneaking in a nap!


So these are my 9 picks for theses first 7 weeks of baby’s life.  Will be interesting to see what our little dictator chooses as her next 9 items of choice in the coming weeks.

On Postpartum

Photo Jan 28, 12 55 55 PM
Baby Shusher, Land of Nod changing pad cover, Noe & Zoe Berlin hat (similar here)


The word “postpartum” is usually associated with the concept of “postpartum depression,” but the word “postpartum” itself just means the period after childbirth.  Right now, I’m almost 6 weeks postpartum and while I was lucky enough not to have experienced actual postpartum depression, it has been an mental/physical/emotional roller coaster for sure.

Physiologically, when you’re pregnant, your body has super high levels of hormones for both you and baby.  After giving birth, there is a so-called “crash” when all of those hormones that were sustaining you for the past 9 months are suddenly gone.  It’s truly a sudden drop and let me tell you, the effects are palpable.

I consider myself a pretty even-keeled person and have a pretty firm grasp over my emotions.  Those first two weeks, though.  WHEW.  It was a side of myself I did not expect to see.  To go from feeling your heart be so full of love for this tiny person one second, to hiding out in the bathroom and sobbing into a crumpled wad of toilet paper the next – it got to be pretty overwhelming.

It wasn’t the hormones alone that made that time so crazy.  It was the hormone crash combined with:

  • Overwhelming responsibility of taking care of a human being who is completely dependent on you.
  • Breastfeeding is hard and not as “natural” as one might think.
  • Physical recovery from childbirth is worse than actual childbirth.  And you look and feel gross.
  • Sleep deprivation that comes from having to feed something every 1-2 hours around the clock.
  • Guilt coming from a disconnect between what you think you should be feeling and what you are actually feeling.
  • Helplessness because WTF HAVE I DONE AND WHAT AM I DOING?

So all these factors combined makes for a pretty rough couple of weeks.  I literally cried every single day, multiple times a day, for the first two weeks.  It wasn’t all sad tears, though.  Happy tears were sprinkled in here and there too!  Here are some things that triggered my crying:

  1. How much I loved Beet.
  2. How much I loved Husband.
  3. Beet is so small and helpless.
  4. When Beet did her first Cries Of Despair and I didn’t know how to fix it.
  5. Superbowl commercial about the dad and son.
  6. How much I loved that first week we were home with Beet.
  7. How much I would miss that first week we were home with Beet.
  8. The fact that Husband had to go back to work after one week.
  9. The fact that I would go back to work in 2 months.
  10. Grey’s Anatomy episode about April and Jackson’s baby.
  11. Too many people around.
  12. Wanting to be alone.
  13. Any song that had to do with any type of emotion (e.g., Beatles – Blackbird, Clean Bandit – Rather Be, Robyn + Royksopp – Do It Again).
  14. That I wanted all the grandparents to leave.
  15. When the grandparents left.
  16. Huggies commercial about you being your baby’s first hug, and the diaper being the 2nd.
  17. Seeing Husband be a dad.

The list goes on.  I think another big factor related to these postpartum feelings was how they affect your confidence.  Imagine being at work and being assigned a project that you THOUGHT you had could handle because you had prepared yourself for months, only to find that the project is nothing like you had imagined and you feel like an idiot because your irrational boss keeps yelling at you and demanding one thing, but expects something else.  Also, your boss keeps pooping in his diaper and after you change it, he immediately poops again….which wouldn’t be such a big deal except that your boss cries every time he poops.  THIS WOULD BE A SHOT TO YOUR CONFIDENCE, NO?  I wasn’t expecting this “baby project” to affect my confidence on a personal level as much as it did.  That feeling like you can’t do anything right is magnified when the project is NEVER ENDING and 24 HOURS A DAY.  Quit the project?  NO, YOU CANNOT.  HERE ARE MORE PROJECTS.

There’s also the feeling lack of compensation.  They say, “but at the end of the day, you have your baby, and that makes it all worth it.”  I’m sure that’s true, I KNOW that’s true – but at this moment, it doesn’t feel true.  Not yet, anyway.  Because when your baby is a newborn, she doesn’t smile at you yet, she doesn’t laugh, she doesn’t show affection.  A newborn is just a lump that NEEDS you and DEMANDS things from you all day, and doesn’t really give anything in return.  It’s a hard relationship to be in.

But here’s what gets me through the day.  I know it gets better.  And it does get better, little by little, day by day.  I can see the changes in Beet as each day passes and she gets a little stronger, a little smarter.  As her neck gets stronger, breastfeeding gets easier.  As her stomach gets stronger, she cries less often when she has a burp she can’t get out.  As her eyes get stronger, she recognizes me and Husband and begins to actually look at us, as opposed to simply seeing us.  Everyday is totally different, which is both exciting and terrifying for me, being someone who thrives on structure.  Regarding taking care of a baby, I’ve heard, “the days are long, but the years are short.”  I can completely see that being true.  But knowing that it will only get better from here really helps you get through each day.


Shopbop Sale – Pregnancy Style



Shopbop is having a sale starting Tuesday March 3, 2015 6:30AM EST to Sunday March 8, 2015 4:00AM EST

15% with purchase over $250
20% with purchase over $500
25% with purchase over $1000

For these currently expecting, this is a good time to splurge on some key investment maternity wear.  Figuring out “cool” things to wear while pregnant was both fun and frustrating.  I managed to get by with buying only 5 or 6 actual “maternity” items and mostly wore the drapey, loose clothes I already owned.  Thank god “slouchy” is still on trend!  My splurge items ended up being black skinny jeans, which I wore several times a week.

Of the maternity items I bought, I found most of them on Shopbop.  They have an actual maternity section with NORMAL looking clothes on their site, which was really nice.  These were the things I ended up buying:




Citizens of Humanity Avedon Skinny Maternity Jeans – I was initially resistant to “full panel” maternity pants because….I mean, look at them.  So gross, right?  Well, turns out, that panel is the most comfortable thing to wear when your belly REALLY starts to show.  They keep your pants up and it’s especially comfortable if you have a desk job that requires you to be sitting for long periods of time.  The soft, stretchy material of these COH jeans were really great too.

Splendid Maternity Fit Tank Dress – I loved this dress and wore it so many times, both alone and layered with different tops and outerwear.  One of my favorite things about being pregnant was being able to wear bodycon dresses!  It’s the one time you actually WANT your clothes to touch your stomach – it actually looked more flattering that way.  Awesome.  The material of this dress was soft and not too thin for the amount of stretch it had.  You can totally wear this dress even if you’re not pregnant.  There’s none of that weird side ruching that a lot of maternity dresses have.  It just looks like a normal, black tank dress.

DL1967 Angel Maternity Ankle Jeans – So these jeans were the first pair of maternity pants I bought.  I liked them because they didn’t look like maternity pants since they just had the elastic panels on the side, instead of a full panel.  They totally look and fit like normal jeans.  I initially thought I’d wear the hell out of them, but actually only wore them for about a month before my belly got so big that the jeans got uncomfortable.  That’s when I learned the ways of the gross FULL PANEL maternity jeans (see above).

BUT!  I don’t regret these jeans and actually learned to love them AFTER giving birth because these are the only jeans that I currently fit!  After you give birth, you unfortunately do not go immediately back to your pre-pregnancy weight, and DEFINITELY do not go back to your pre-pregnancy body.  So weird and mushy in random places. =(  I gained 45 lbs throughout my pregnancy and when I left the hospital, I was down 10 lbs.  ONLY 10 LBS.  Yes, the cruel reality is that you still look pregnant after you give birth and continue to do so for a while.  These jeans ended up being perfect for that weird in-between period when you don’t fit your maternity jeans anymore, but also don’t fit your pre-pregnancy jeans.  So I ended up being able to wear these jeans until I was about 5-6 months pregnant, couldn’t wear them after that, but then am wearing them currently at 1 month postpartum and counting.


Welcome, Lilou



Lilou Tran Phan
6lb 6oz, 19.25 inches


Photo Jan 29, 5 10 00 PM

It’s been a month since Lilou arrived and I figure I should get to recording her birth story while it’s still fresh in my mind!  But first – the name Lilou.  Husband and I had narrowed down our list of names to about 3 or 4 names and Lou was at the top of my list.  I liked the French sound to it and how it was slightly masculine but still sweetly feminine.  I even liked how it could sound like the name of a janitor….but also the name of a cool French girl (e.g., Lou Doillon).  Husband then suggested Lilou, a similar French name, but also the name of a character in The Fifth Element.  Yes, Milla Jovovich’s character in that sci-fi movie with Bruce Willis and Chris Tucker.  So Lilou it was – or Lou for short.  But really, we’ve still been mostly calling her Beet.

Photo Jan 29, 5 09 48 PMI woke up on a Saturday morning not really feeling any different.  I had been having braxton hicks contractions daily my entire third trimester, and that day was no different.  At that point, I had gained 45 pounds and was waddling around with some back pain, but pretty much able to go about with my normal activities.  We met up May and Calvin for dinner at a Salvadoran restaurant for pupusas and plantains. By the time we got home at 7pm, I commented to Tu that it seemed like my contractions seemed to be getting more frequent.  They still felt the same – like tightening, but not at all painful – but seemed to be occurring more often.  We used the contraction counter function on one of my pregnancy apps and saw that they were coming about every 10-15 minutes.  The hospital had told us that they generally won’t admit you into labor & delivery until your contractions are 5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute each, for an hour.  We were still a ways off, so we settled on the couch and watched TV.  Pretty soon, the contractions started getting closer together and more intense, 7-10 minutes apart.  I called my OB/GYN and she told me that if I was able to call her and talk to her normally on the phone, the contractions probably weren’t strong enough.  “YOU’LL KNOW when they’re real contractions.”  She said she wouldn’t be surprised to hear from me in a couple hours, but to sit tight until the contractions were closer together.  Eventually, at midnight, we decided to turn in and go to bed.

I woke up at 2am because the contractions were definitely starting to feel less like tightening and more like actual pain.  They were still only occurring every 10 minutes, so I tried to sleep through it, but that ended up being impossible.  I’d squeeze my eyes shut through each contraction, breathing through the pressure, but every time the pain would subside and I would fall asleep, another contraction would hit 10 minutes later, waking me up.  I laid in bed like that until 6am.

In the morning, Husband said we should just go to the hospital, but I was afraid they’d just send us home since the contractions wouldn’t get any closer together than 7-10 minutes apart.  By then, the pain was getting more and more intense, where I couldn’t even respond to Husband’s questions if a contraction was in progress because my eyes were closed and I was trying to breathe through my nose and out my mouth.  Husband suggested taking a walk to see if we could speed things along, so we took a morning walk with the dogs.  When we got home, I finally agreed to go to the hospital because it was starting to hurt so much.  Let’s just hope that we hit 5 minutes apart by the time we get there!

In triage, they hooked me up to the monitors and checked my dilation and turns out, I was already dilated almost 6cm (you start pushing at 10cm).  I was admitted at around 11am and they told me I’d probably be delivery by the late afternoon.  OMGOMGOMG.

Photo Jan 27, 2 06 27 PMWould I be wanting an epidural, the nurse asked?  Oh HELLS yes.  I want all the drugs, all the doctors, and all the computers.  No at-home-water-birth-midwifery for this pregnant lady.  And let me tell you, an epidural is the BEST EVER.  We had the whole afternoon of contractions ahead of us to wait for me to be dilated enough to start pushing, but surprisingly, it ended up being REALLY pleasant.  It was a sunny Sunday afternoon, we had a big private room with a window view of Mount Ranier, and it was just a really nice, chill afternoon.  Husband and I hung out and talked, watched tv, had lunch, took naps.  Again, epidural = best thing ever.  I was having contractions every 3 minutes and I slept through all of them.  In fact, those naps were some of the best sleep I’d had my entire pregnancy.  I FEEL NOTHING.  So good.

At around 4pm, they told me that Beet was in position, but that she had turned “sunny side up” to a posterior position, where she was face up looking up towards my belly button.  The ideal position for an easier delivery would be for her to be facing my spine, so the next 2 hours were spent with the doctor trying to turn Beet while she was still inside me, and me laying in different positions to get Beet to turn on her own.  Like a good girl, when the doctor checked me again, Beet was in the correct anterior position and we were ready to get this baby out of me!

I remember the transition to the “pushing” stage being a lot more casual and fast than I anticipated.  It was literally like, ok why don’t you start pushing.  Oh, what, like…now?  Yep!  Oh, ok.  Like….just start pushing?  Yep!  No curtains pulling, getting out stirrups, doctors with masks, or anything.  Just grab your knees and push!

Based on movies and tv, I thought the “pushing” stage was like, CONSTANT PUSHING UNTIL BABBY POPS OUT.  Well, in reality, you only push for maybe a minute when you are actually having a contraction.  Then you rest for a couple minutes until the next contraction comes and then you start pushing again.  So I was having this conversation with the doctor about how I went to law school *OK READY TO PUSH?  PUSHPUSHPUSHPUSHPUSH JUST A LITTLE BIT MORRRREEE OK* and then I practiced for about 5 years doing tax law *OK READY TO GO AGAIN?  PUSHPUSHPUSHPUSHPUSHHHH OK* and then we moved to Seattle and I decided to leave law and go into retail operations *OK HERE COMES ANOTHER CONTRACTION PUSHPUSHPUSHPUSHPUSH* and I’m now working at a store called Moorea Seal down in Belltown on 3rd.

Now I had told Husband from the beginning of my pregnancy that he would not be allowed down past my waist during delivery.  Because I imagined it would be looking ALL KINDS OF CRAZY down there.  But when Beet started to crown, the doctor exclaimed, “Oh my god, she has so much hair!  So cute!  Tu, you gotta see this!”  So Tu WENT DOWN THERE AND LOOKED.  He reported back that the doctor was twirling Beet’s hair with her fingers and that it in fact did not look as crazy as I probably imagined.

“Do you want to see?” the doctor asked.  “We can bring our a mirror.  Sometimes it helps with the pushing to see.”

“Umm….” Even though Husband had already looked, I wasn’t sure if i was ready to see.  If there was ever a THINGS YOU CANNOT UNSEE situation, this would be a big one.

“It really doesn’t look that crazy,” Husband assured me.

So they wheeled out a tall mirror and set it up next to the doctor and you know what – they were right.  It really wasn’t that crazy.  I was expecting a horrific scene of blood and fluids and poop (oh god).  But I didn’t see any of that, thank god.  And I totally COULD see the top of her head, which was kind of crazy.

“Do you want to reach down and feel her head?” the doctor asked.

So I did and felt her tiny little head of hair.  It was kind of unreal, feeling this foreign thing that was completely separate from your own body, and yet still very connected.

“Alright, one more big push!”

In seconds, I felt her being pulled out and immediately heard her cries.  The nurse put Beet on my chest right way and I remember that “oh my god” moment as I cupped her tiny head in my hand.  SHE’S REAL.  AND SHE’S RIGHT HERE.

Photo Jan 30, 12 01 59 PM


I ended up being in labor for about 24 hours, but only pushed for about 30 minutes.  All in all, labor and delivery was a really good experience for me.  I remember thinking afterwards, I could totally do this again!  The RECOVERY afterwards, on the other hand.  TOTALLY DIFFERENT STORY.  Recovery was SO MUCH worse than actually birthing the baby.  I won’t go into specifics, but there are definite consequences to having a fast pushing stage.  I tried to be a hero and not take any of the painkillers that my OB/GYN offered, only to call my OB/GYN 4 days later asking about that Percocet she mentioned earlier?  Besides epidurals, I highly recommend alternating some Perkies in with the rotation of Ibuprofen you’ll be on postpartum.  It makes life SO much less terrible.  Because having to get up every 1.5 hours to feed a newborn when your vagina feels like it’s going to fall out is kind of the worst.

Recovery aside, one of my favorite memories so far was that first week home.  We had no visitors yet, no parents in from out of town.  Husband was home that week on paternity leave, so it was just our new little family – me, Husband, Beet, and the dogs.  It was so quiet and peaceful, especially since Beet was still a super sleepy newborn.  It truly felt magical and I didn’t want it to end.  To those expecting little ones in the future, I’m so excited for you to be able to experience this special time.  Definitely a time I’ll always remember.


Beet is a little over a month old now and we are settling into our roles as parents.  I still can’t believe that this thing is mine.  Or that I have to take care of this thing.  FOREVER.  I have moments where I forget that I own this organism and am responsible for its life.  Like, I’m not just babysitting her. This job, in fact, DOES NOT END.  Yes, it’s overwhelming at times, and yes, it feels like I’ve cried more times this past month than I have in the past 10 years, but it’s also fun.  You surprise yourself with how much you’re willing to do and forgo for this tiny creature.  And I hear it only gets better from here.




Babyletto cribLand of Nod fitted crib sheetFerm Living wall decals

Beet’s nursery is coming together! It’s been so fun decorating the room and it’s becoming my favorite room in the house. I’ve never envisioned my hypothetical nursery to be very “kid-ish,” and I figure if I’m going to be the one who is spending the most time in that room, I might as well make it a room that I enjoy being in. BEET WON’T EVEN CARE, ANYWAY, RIGHT?  But I think she will like it. =)

The room is mostly all black and white, with pops of color coming from her toys and mobiles.  Both of the mobiles were independently given to us as gifts from my friends Moorea and Jenny.  My friends know me so well!  We hung one over the crib and the other over the changing table.

The framed Robyn+Royksopp concert poster was from a show here in Seattle this past June.  Beet’s first concert, when she was about 9 weeks along in-utero!  The “Oh Whale” print was a gift from May and the “Oh Baby” print is from calligrapher Jenny Highsmith.  My sister drew the adorable “Heart Skipped a Beet” print.

I’m 38+ weeks today, so I have less than 2 weeks until Beet is here.  AAAAH COMING SO SOON.