37 weeks

by Grace Ko

Baby is the length of a bunch of Swiss chard and this mama's been finding it hard to sleep. I have been nomadic, migrating back-and-forth between the bed and the sofa at two-hour intervals, awoken by my bladder. I have been trying desperately to find a comfortable position that allows me to both lie on my side and prop up my feet but so far to no avail. 

Week 37 was significant, wrapping up 2016 but also wrapping up work (both part-time gigs) and other responsibilities. I guess I have entered my own little "maternity leave" until baby decides to arrive! 

I fit in some good quality time with the husband - a brunch date, a movie date and a hair treatment - a small group dinner to celebrate our last meeting, an Italian dinner out with Y's cousin's family, quiet time with the closest, and even a museum date to the National Folk Museum familiarizing baby to Korean culture. 

We ushered in the new year during Week 37. We celebrated with a small gathering at our house with lots of snacks, both the salty and sweet kinds. And after we sent "the kiddos" off, Y and I rang in the new year quietly at home watching "Roman Holiday", like an old married couple. My kind of night - an amalgamation of outlets for the extroverted and the introverted. 

Over the past few weeks, I have relished some intentional "me time" with journal and pen in hand, flipping back through my 2016 planner to jot down and record reflections on the past year and expectations for the new one. And what a year it has been! And what a year 2017 will be! 

Happy New Year, y'all! 

Dear Baby,

by Grace Ko

Dear Baby, 

I've been wanting to tell you about your dad. You see, ever since finding out we're pregnant with you, this wonderful, magical thing has happened (aside from the obvious of your growing in my belly, which has been nothing short of miraculous). I have gotten to see and know your dad in a new way and have been growing to love him more and more each day. 

I know you're going to meet him very soon but I wanted to be the very first to tell you about him. 

Your dad... he's a lover of life. He takes in the sound of walking through crunchy leaves in the fall. He thoroughly enjoys a good meal and will enthusiastically express it throughout the entirety of it. He likes to curl up on the couch with a cozy blanket and a good book but he also exuberantly joins in on the excitement of a rambunctious sporting event. 

Daddy and I have now known each other for 9 years - we met straight out of college and became friends, dated for 2 years, engaged for over a year and now we've been married for over 5 and 1/2 years. But I still remember, one of the first things that attracted me to him was his passion. He's an architect by training but what that means is that he's creative, an "out-of-the-box" thinker, flexible yet planned. He is a "go-getter", never settling for what is but always striving for more while striking the balance of simultaneously maintaining a thankful heart. He is a life learner, a lover of books. (I hope you know that your daddy and I read to you every night while you were growing in mommy's belly.) 

He loves people. With a knack for networking and connecting, you will often find him greeting newcomers at church or striking up a conversation with a perfect stranger on the street - young or old, he loves to hear their stories. He values every life and greets people on the elevator, even in stuffy, often cold Seoul city life. He says his "please" and "thank you's" because he genuinely cares. When mommy and daddy have people over, which we love to do often, daddy is the "king of hospitality". He preemptively thinks about other people's needs and is constantly "on-the-go" fixing up something in the kitchen or grabbing something to make someone feel more at home. 

Daddy also loves mommy and loves mommy well. His friends used to tease him when we were dating that he had set the standard too high for everyone. But you see, he's the type of person that is unapologetic for doing what he thinks is right. Daddy has always treated mommy well but he has gone far beyond expectations during this pregnancy. I want you to know that the main reason mommy has been so thankful and happy and content throughout this pregnancy has been because of who she has had beside her the whole time, your daddy. 

 In love in Daegu. Dec 2017 PC:  Mariyah G

In love in Daegu. Dec 2017 PC: Mariyah G

He cares deeply for justice. One of mommy and daddy's favorite people is Dr. MLK Jr. and he once said: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." And this is not just a quote for daddy. He cares about injustice anywhere. 2016 was a meaningful and special year finding out we were having you. Bringing life into this world gets you thinking about what kind of world you're bringing life into. Truth be told, sometimes it's a scary and unfair, unjust world out there but daddy and I hold fast to a just and loving Father that knows far better than we will ever. With this in mind, your daddy took an ultrasound picture of you giving us a thumbs-up and rode across this motherland of ours, Korea. He rode his bike from Busan to Seoul, that's a whopping ~550 km (over 340 miles!) riding against trafficking, praying for justice and falling deeper in love with this country. He did this with you in mind, baby, praying for a better world for you and praying you would have this heart for justice, too. 

Daddy has prayed for your health, your strength, your happiness but he's prayed most that you would have a heart of justice. He prays that you would become a man that stands up for the weak and isn't afraid to fight for what's right. He prays that you would have a heart for counseling others, like your grandpa. 

There's so much more to be said but I want to leave room for you to get to know him on your own, in your time. 

We love you, baby. And can't wait to meet you. 


36 weeks

by Grace Ko in ,

Welcome, final month of pregnancy! 

As I have Mozart tickling my ears and there's a light dusting of powdery snow on the ground outside, with precious baby clothes gifted to us by a small group member strewn all over our couch, I am taking in every moment. I'm taking in this moment - our mini Christmas tree still twinkling , new plants greeting me here and there, the quiet lull of a winter's day. Pregnancy has taught me to take it slow, to show myself grace, to embrace rest, to embrace this season, to brush off comments and to hold onto what's true. The current challenge is to balance holding fast to the present while embracing the impending future, to prepare dutifully for what's to come while remaining in an attitude of gratitude of what's here now. 

At 9 months~

Baby's size: A head of romaine lettuce! 
Pros: Meeting baby soon! 
Cons: Feeling heavy and super emotional! 
Craving: Blueberry muffin smoothie! (Recipe found here) Been making myself one every morning
Outlook on the coming of baby: After a very informative Lamaze class, I am channeling what was previously nerves and anxiety about labor & delivery into anticipation and excitement to meet baby! 
Feelings about husband: I most appreciate his verbal affirmations and encouragements lately. He randomly leans in and tells me, "I'm so proud of you!" "You're a trooper!" (I am also very grateful for his foot and leg massages.)

Week 36 was spent soaking up quality time with my parents, soon-to-be grandma and grandpa! I eased into each day, woken up by the scent of my dad's morning coffee lingering in the air. And together, we crossed off our mutual "Family Christmas to-do" list: a Handel Messiah concert, a trip to Gwangjang Market for warm and toasty Korean comfort food, the LED flower show at DDP (Dongdaemun Design Plaza), a Renoir exhibit and a walk through Changdeok Palace where royalty roamed and played and even an impromptu mosey around Yangjae Flower Market. 

 Bebe's second time at 예술의전당 Seoul Art Center - this time for Handel's Messiah with grandma and grandpa! He was having a dance party in my belly throughout the performance! 

Bebe's second time at 예술의전당 Seoul Art Center - this time for Handel's Messiah with grandma and grandpa! He was having a dance party in my belly throughout the performance! 

Dad's first time at 광장시장 Gwangjang Market. We feasted on 떡볶기 (ddukbokki), 순대 (soondae), 마약김밥 (kimbap), and 녹두빈대떡 (fried soy pancakes) and I requested a 호떡 (ho-dduk) and what pregnant woman requests, pregnant woman shall receive. I washed it down with a fresh strawberry/pineapple/banana juice. (The lady was sweet and threw in a kiwi in my juice, saying kiwis are good during pregnancy.)

 A walk along 청계천 Chunggyecheon

A walk along 청계천 Chunggyecheon

Beautiful LED flowers at DDP

We crossed off my dad's Christmas wish: to walk around the "Secret Garden" at 창덕궁 Changdeok Palace when it snows. It was a Christmas miracle and snowed on that day!

Y & I even managed to fit in a breastfeeding class on Christmas Eve. It was hilarious - let's just say it involved the teacher donning a "breast vest" for demonstration purposes. The class taught me a lot and gave me a lot of food for thought to munch on - mainly to communicate with baby, to focus on loving and comforting him, and that baby needs and wants mom most. There was something truly reassuring about these realizations. I hadn't realized I had been focused on the logistics and details of pregnancy/motherhood/breastfeeding but the class helped me take a HUGE~ step back and to look at the big picture. 

We wrapped up Christmas weekend with the most exquisite Ugly Sweater Potluck Party at Le Garden hosted by the loveliest. There were homemade dishes, desserts, photo shoots, a friendly yet competitive round of White Elephant and a mix of the goofy, the serious and sincere. All in all, the best kind of night with beautiful people. 

 With Asian Santa! Just a side note: My husband takes the "ugly" part of the ugly sweater party very seriously, my faux fur vest (not shown) made it into his OOTN. 

With Asian Santa! Just a side note: My husband takes the "ugly" part of the ugly sweater party very seriously, my faux fur vest (not shown) made it into his OOTN. 

 So much happiness in one picture 

So much happiness in one picture 

Christmas evening was spent napping on the couch to recharge to end the night with the first friends Y & I made here in Seoul - a special group of people indeed. Over chicken and beer (water for me) we laughed until our stomachs hurt, making the most of our time together. We parted saying our goodbyes and good lucks as it would be the last time this said group would be altogether for a while. Much will have changed in a few months' time when we're reunited. 

35 weeks

by Grace Ko in

Week 35 has been quite eventful:

  • lunch dates/coffee dates with girlfriends
  • a prenatal massage (albeit shorter than I had expected, still glorious)
  • a date with me, myself & I fully embracing my season, including a new planner and stickers for 2017, browsing a used bookstore and finding books for baby
  • pizza date with the husband
  • live Jazz at a Jazz bar
  • a buffet dinner with special basketball crew (first friends we made here in Korea)
  • a hilarious Lamaze class
  • another doctors appointment (from here on out, I go weekly!) 

As we were scheduling our next appointment, the nurse told me the baby could come out anytime from now on and he would be A-okay! How crazy? Here I was thinking that even if he were early, he would be a 2017 baby but there's quite a possibility that he is born in 2016 if he decides to make an early appearance! 

So you know how I've been griping about my weight gain? I was slightly reprimanded by the nurse at the hospital. She said I had gained quite a bit of weight in this past month and that I should just be careful this final month. (Even as I look back at my weekly photos, I see that in this past month, I have "popped"!) I went on to meet with my doctor and shared this with him. And you know what he said? He said, "이미 떠나간 기차입니다". Translation? "That ship has sailed!" And it made me laugh and actually relieved a lot of stress for me. He told me I shouldn't try to go out of my way to gain additional weight but that there's nothing I can really do about it now and that I'll lose the weight after giving birth. 

I'm learning to take command over things I can control and let go of things I cannot control. 

Bookend - A Trip to Daegu

by Grace Ko

The other weekend, Y and I ( with "squad") went down for a weekend trip to Daegu. It was both Y and my first time in Korea's third largest metropolitan area and we anticipate it'll most likely be our last "trip" before baby's arrival so we packed our bags, stocked up on snacks for the ride and made our way down. 

Traffic out of Seoul on a Friday evening was brutal but after a break at a rest stop to fuel up on dinner, a cornucopia of udon noodles, donkatsu and fried rice, we made it to Daegu in one piece, albeit with very swollen feet and legs due to the long ride. But I remedied that as soon as we arrived with a walk around 수성못 (Suseong Lake), a thermos of peppermint tea and hearty belly laughs thanks to friends. 

 Rest stop food is the best & fist bumps for baby 

Rest stop food is the best & fist bumps for baby 

Saturday morning was spent with a good sleep-in and a slow start to the day, the girls chatting away while the boys leisurely made us breakfast (the best kind of morning, if I say so myself). We walked to a nearby cafe, one our friend A has talked about for quite some time, claiming it has the best coffee in Daegu, possibly some of the best coffee in Korea! (I secretly recited one of my favorite lines from my favorite movie Elf in my head: "Congratulations! You did it! World's best cup of coffee!") 

With coffee in our systems, we moseyed on over to County Market, naturally thinking it would be just that, a market. But we were pleasantly surprised to find a white, airy venue for the best meal of the day - brunch. Good thing squad is always up for more food. We vision-casted, dreamed and planned over the choicest salads, pastas and even steak (!) 

The day continued driving into Daegu's "Downtown" - the equivalent to Seoul's Myeongdong.  Y & I met up with friends from home and I was gifted a stuffed animal from B, a 5 year-old. He made sure I knew he had won the stuffed animal all by himself and I quietly prayed that our baby boy would possess B's sweet, tender heart. Later that night, while Y and A went out for Daegu's famous 막창 I chose to end the evening with a pamper session with the girls - a hydrating sheet mask to combat the bitter and dry winter air. 

Sunday was lovely - the perfect weather for strolling. A introduced us to a tea house hidden in the mountains and we ordered a myriad of teas (basically one of each on the menu, the owner chuckled at our varied choices) but we wanted to make the most of it. And plus, "sharing is caring". 

We ended our time in Daegu at a gelato place and I left feeling energized by roasted pistachio and chocolate gelato but also recharged by the parting messages from R - someone I had just gotten to meet. 

It was my kind of trip - no pre-planned agendas, which is surprising as I am a planner to the core. But I've grown to love the "Let's see how we feel" kind of trips where being present wins over worries of what to do next, and where quality time trumps crossing off things on our to-do/to-see/to-eat lists.

Personally, the craziest part of this trip? This trip is a bookend. Back in May, this same group of friends made a trip to Busan. It was an exceptional weekend because we escaped the hubbub of Seoul to fill up on Busan's fare, scenery and slower pace but it was also the weekend Y and I found out we were pregnant! [I told Y on the KTX train ride down to Busan so that trip will always have a special place in our hearts.]

Now we're nearing the end of this chapter of pregnancy and have memories of Daegu to keep with us. Bookends, a sweet reminder of seasons and friendships.