Tell me about your experience of becoming a mother.
I never imagined I’d give birth to both of my children overseas in Korea. I absolutely love that I did, but I never would have predicted it. I had plans, you know? Plans to work, have my babies in my comfort zone, have babysitters, etc. But when you make your own plans, they don’t stick. God has a funny way of making sure you know He’s in control. I’ve learned that now after many plans of mine never came to fruition.
We found out we were moving to Korea just three days after finding out I was pregnant with my daughter. I moved when I was seven months pregnant! So that definitely colored my transition into motherhood. My amazing mom flew out a little before my due date. If it weren’t for her, I would have felt completely alone.
Since we had our daughter just two to three months after landing in the country, we hadn’t yet established close friendships or established any sort of community. We ourselves were barely comfortable with our new life. I remember feeling so much joy at the birth of my new daughter—I had just accomplished a huge goal of having a drug-free natural birth after laboring for and not sleeping for three days. I was the first woman in my family (on my mom’s side) to have a drug-free natural birth. Only one out of 10 cousins in my generation was a vaginal birth. I was feeling complete relief and euphoria!
But I also felt some sadness that we didn’t have any visitors at the hospital or when we went home. I felt sad for my daughter that my whole family (like my dad, brother, sister-in-law) and close friends couldn’t come to shower prayers, blessings or warmth over her. It would have been nice to have close friends visit and have some adult chatter. Add all this to just the initial shock and hard adjustment of learning how to breastfeed and care for your first baby… the idea of “it takes a village to raise a child” really resonated with me at the time because I didn’t have one set up before I brought my baby home.
What was it like to be part of the military as a mother?
There were definitely spots of brightness like the Navy spouse community in Seoul. I hadn’t even met the majority of the Navy spouses stationed in Korea and yet, they set up and brought us two weeks worth of dinners and gifts for my baby. How amazing is that?! I’m realizing that kind of care and camaraderie for someone you haven’t even met is really special and possibly unique to the military community. Military spouses are so strong and they know to really support one another when we are stationed far from family. I’ll never ever forget that kindness. I try to pay it forward to new moms I know.
Also, whatever sadness or sorrow I might have felt was overshadowed by this new love that had completely captivated my heart. Holding, seeing and caring for my daughter expanded my heart to new depths I didn’t know existed. I literally didn’t know you could love another person in that way. The moment I held her, I loved her (even though I didn’t know who she was or what kind of personality she would develop) and I knew I would sacrifice my own life for her–in a heartbeat, no question. This love was so great and consuming in those first days and weeks, it really took away any sadness and feelings of being alone.
Also, I was a mom now. There was no time for a pity party. I focused on the positives—like being able to instill the Korean heritage in my biracial child—and did the best that I could. I gave caring for and breastfeeding my daughter my all. So many times I wanted to quit breastfeeding in those early days when we were struggling. But I stayed the course.
I learned that from my mom. Like I said, she was the only one there to help and be with us. It probably wasn’t very fun for her to be there (the first time in years for her) because we were just so unfamiliar with how to do life in Korea. It didn’t feel smooth yet and I didn’t really know where to tell her to go eat, shop, or do anything. But my mom came and she served us and she loved on us anyway. Now I know… she did it because she’s my mom. And in my family, that’s what moms do.
Tell me about your grandmother.
My grandmother was a saint on earth. Truly. I saw how she tirelessly and selflessly loved and served her family. She was a Godly woman and so very strong, but not in a loud and attention-seeking way. She was the silent, strong heartbeat that kept the entire family together. So I’m blessed to have multiple generations of strong, selflessly loving women who were matriarchs and carried their families. Now I see—God put me in the right family and knew I would only need Him and the examples of my mom and grandmother to carry me through the most transformative experience of my life in a new country, far away from comfort.
I think because of my grandmother and my mom, I was ready to become a mom—no matter the circumstances. I thought about my grandmother a lot after I had my daughter. I thought about her strength and selfless love. I saw my mom’s strength and selfless love right before my eyes. I knew that’s the kind of mom I wanted to be: silently strong and selflessly loving. I hope I will continue to grow into a better mom and be the pulse and heartbeat of my family.