Dear Baby: You're Beautiful!

Dear Baby,

You are just over two weeks old now and already I'm worried about your self esteem when you are older. You see, your grandmother has been so persistent about what I should do to help mold your physical features. Every single conversation I have with her, either via Skype, texts, or phone calls involve a lengthy discussion about your "flat nose" or "big face." There is absolutely nothing wrong with you (other than the fact that you refuse to stay asleep right now).

You, my beautiful daughter, are absolutely perfect in every way.

My mom is an amazing woman and I hate to sound like I'm bashing on her. She did so many things right when raising us as a single parent.  I know that she means well, but I am beginning to see that she is the reason why I have such low self esteem.

Your grandma is very concerned with how wrinkly your hands are, the fact that you furrow your brows like Dad, that you have double eyelids, your ears being squished by the hats we put on your tiny head to keep you warm, the way we swaddle you and how it binds your limbs, the nose you inherited from me, and most importantly the shape of your face.

How can there possibly be so many things "wrong" with such a little person who is so new to the world?

I've been told to start pinching your nose so that it's pointier. I refused.

I specifically remember sitting in the backseat of the car when I was in elementary school and being told that everything about me is wonderful, except for my flat nose. "Whenever you can, pinch your nose." What a terrible thing to say to a young girl.

I've been told to have you sleep on your stomach and to alternate the side of your face you sleep on as your face will just "get larger and larger" if you remain on your back. I refused.

My mom claims that my sister's head "has a good shape" but mine is "not good"as I slept on my back when I was a baby. I tried to explain to her that infants who sleep on their stomachs are more likely to die from SIDS. And then I went on to tell her that I have a large face because she has a large face and her own mom has a large face as well. But try explaining genetics to a woman who is set in her ways.

I grew up being so self conscious about my appearance and it has unfortunately followed me through life.

When I went bra shopping with my mother the first time she insisted on getting me pushup bras because I lacked in that department at the ripe age of twelve. One time I gained a little extra weight and my mom very seriously said to me, "Min, if you're pregnant you can tell me."

I have been struggling with hormonal acne and terrible scarring for years now and absolutely nothing has helped it. It's something that I am very emotional about, but what makes it worse is that I dread showing my bare face to my grandmother and mom when I visit home because I know they'll make remarks. I remember my mom telling me she was sending me a birthday gift and it ended up being acne cream. They're visiting us next week and I am hoping my face clears up before they see me.

Right now, as I sit with you drifting away on my arm, I feel remarkably unattractive: My long hair is knotted and has not been brushed in days, I'm wearing the same milk stained top I've been wearing for days as I wait for the laundry to be finished, I have heavy bags under my eyes, and the right side of my face has exactly five large pimples taunting me.

But I promise you, Amelia, you will never hear me say any of these things in front of you. I will do my very best to raise you to love everything about yourself. The first step is for me to love myself.



It is amazing how similar our backgrounds are, Min! When I had my first daughter, everyone kept raving about how beautiful she was, which was nice, but it made me feel so ugly and awful about myself. Plus, I really struggled with postpartum depression for a few months--nothing huge but definitely feeling a black cloud over my head all the time. It was stressful.

My mother used to say the EXACT same things to me as your mother (must be an Asian thing). I pulled on my own nose to make it less flat until I was out of my teens. I was always criticized by my parents for not being thin enough. I used to score my eyelids with a bobbypin in order to get a crease. At the same time, I was a cute kid and my whole self-esteem rested on whether someone had told me I was pretty that day.

As an adult, I also had terrible acne and scarring, and whenever I visited my parents, my mother would scoff and look disgusted with me. (I waited until I was 40 to get help, so I encourage you to see a doctor about it, maybe next year after you're done nursing. A round of antibiotics and one tube of retin-A totally solved my acne problem. After despairing for so long with each new daily zit, now, I might get one pimple a year if that.)

No one tells you how hard being a new mother is. It took me several months before I felt truly bonded and "in love" with my babies. Your hormones are going crazy, your body is changing in drastic ways, your family has expanded by 50%, you are responsible for someone 24/7, and you and your husband are trying to figure out who's who and what's what. (My husband and I fought more during the first few months after having a baby than we ever had before or have since.)

My first daughter also cried A LOT. I remember asking a friend how long she was going to cry so much, and the friend said, "Every day, she will cry a little bit less." And it was true. It might only have been 1 minute less, but it helped me so much psychologically, to look for the "less" everyday, as everything became a little smoother and calmer everyday, until it finally was just "normal" again.

So, that's all my uninvited baby advice. You are a wonderful mom, and I know Brandon is a fabulous dad. And Amelia is a blessed baby. Sending you hugs. Mimi