Monday, July 29, 2013

Baby Blues

They say almost every mother is bound to get some form of the baby blues during her post-partum period... and in some cases it could even lead on to a more serious case of post-natal depression.
The first time round, I found myself breaking down in tears in front of a near-stranger in my house. I thought it was probably because I was a new mother, everything was new to me and I didn't know what to expect. So naturally I would have lost my grip on things a little.
But this time round, I would know better. I would not allow myself to fall into any pitfalls of depression and the blues. After all, I am a strong, experienced, capable, well-rounded woman. There is no need to get all mood-swingy and hormonal over a few petty issues, right? I shall not become one of those women who make the baby blues a fallback excuse for letting myself get all weak and lazy. It's really just a case of mind over matter.
So now, here I am again.
Things are indeed somewhat less hazy than they were the last time. I was able to fall into a familar flow of feeding, changing diapers and soothing baby to sleep. But then one night I found myself alone in the dark, holding my beautiful new baby, in tears. Seriously, what's up with me?
So perhaps I had to admit, the baby blues are a real phenomenon.
This list is a feeble attempt on my part to put into words, all the craziness that's going on inside me (and probably with some other fellow mothers out there as well)...
Why do I cry…
Because it hurts. Physically. The stitches, the soreness, the muscle aches, the cramps. It hurts to sit down. It hurts to get up. It hurts when I move and even when I'm lying still.  It stings when I pee. And hell, it hurts when I poo. I'm popping pills every few hours like mentos. There is no escape, just bearing with it as best as I can for now.
Because I am tired. On average I am getting 30 minutes of sleep at a time... on a good stretch, maybe one or two hours at most. They say REM sleep is essential to being able to function normally during the day. Well, say good-bye to that for next few months. People always tell me, just switch your brain off, close your eyes and go to sleep. How can I with an active toddler bouncing off the walls? And how can I when I'm continually kept on the edge of my seat with a baby that could wake up again anytime... whenever when I let my guard down, there she goes again.
Because I look (and feel) like shit. And here come the guests. But I didn't have time to change my clothes, or comb my hair, or shower, or do anything with myself. And well-meaning friends say "You look sooooo tired, you should rest more". And then they wonder why I start laughing hysterically like a crazy woman.
Because caring for baby is a lonely business. In the middle of the night, long after everyone has finished playing with the baby and gone to bed, it's just me on my own with baby. Midnight feedings, changing diapers in semi-darkness, wondering why baby just will not go to sleep. And believe me, as peaceful and content a baby seems during the day, at night they are a totally different creature. And nobody else knows it but me.
Because I don't know the answer. Why is baby crying (again)? Is she hungry (again)? Is it naptime again so soon? Why? Why? Why? Everyone turns to me, the capable, experienced, knowledgeable mother who supposedly has all the answers. Maybe it's a growth spurt, or a wonder week, or gas, or just one of those days. But the truth is, I really don't have a clue why.
Because I don't feel like myself. After nine months of pregnancy when my body has been going through all those alien changes, you would think after baby pops out, my body should feel like it belongs to me again. It doesn't. Physically, my insides feel all different and hollow. Coupled with the pain, everything about me feels different. Even I myself feel all different. Where did I go? When will I start to feel normal again?
Because I don't know why. Sometimes there is no apparent reason why. Everything just seems comes down hard on me all at once and I simply break down.
[Next post: What helps for times like these]


Linking up to #MummyMondays

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Becoming a big brother

Apart from asking me how things have been going with baby Grace, friends and family have also kindly been asking how Nathan has been doing since the birth of his new little sister.

This issue has been one I have been struggling with throughout my pregnancy: How would Nathan react and cope with the changes to our family with the addition of a new sibling?

Right up to the last moment as I was about to leave for the hospital, I was still feeling wistful and apprehensive about the whole thing. As I knelt down to say good-bye to Nathan and explain to him where I was going, I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. He is such a good boy and I love him so much I could burst... but what will things be like when I come back holding a new baby in my arms?

The day after my delivery, hubby and mum stopped by the hospital with Nathan bounding happily beside them. He was clutching a little package of pressies we had prepared for him to give to his little sister, including a little card he had made for her at daycare.

He peered curiously at little Grace, nestled sleepily in my arms.

Then the first thing he asked was, "Can I touch her?"

"Of course you can!", we exclaimed.

We watched him gently pat Grace's head and stroke her soft downy hair.

After that he got preoccupied with his special present --a new toy truck 'from' baby Grace. But I loved watching that magical moment of him meeting his little sister for the very first time.

Since then Nathan has just been incredible with the baby. He is so affectionate and excited over his new little sister, often asking to carry her, and loves sneaking little kisses and nuzzles all over her eyes, nose and cheeks.

Of course there are moments where I sense a little apprehensiveness over having to share lap time with mummy. But overall he's proving to be an awesome big brother, and I am so looking forward to seeing their special brother and sister relationship grow in the years to come. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Grace: The Birth Story

So it's now close to two weeks since the arrival of little Grace. Only two weeks but it feels like a lifetime ago. Once again we have stepped into another new era.

People have been asking me whether labour this time round has been better than last time. I'm rather stumped as how to answer this. How does one define the word 'better'?
All I can say is that it was definitely very different  from the first time round...
  1. It was waaaaay more painful (no epidural or gas like last time)
  2. It was much shorter (by half, 9-10 hours this time vs. 22 hours previously)
Despite the pain, I would say it was kind of an empowering experience. I pretty much went through it completely bare-faced and unarmed and felt full force of the pain of labour piercing through every fibre of my being.
Read on for a full recap of what happened...
Baby Grace was overdue by five days and as discussed earlier with our obstretician, we had agreed that if I had not popped by that time, I would undergo a simple induction to get things going.
The procedure itself was very simple. All the doctor did was to apply a special kind of gel into my cervix to soften it, which would gently kick-start my body into labour.
After applying the gel, they wheeled me into a ward to rest quietly while waiting for things to happen. Hubby and I agreed that he should go home and get some rest and return in the morning when the action would have started.
A couple of hours later, I started to feel mild contractions which gradually grew stronger. I had a TENS machine which I put on and rode through the contractions with it for an hour or so.
By then the pain was getting really strong, so one of the midwives gave me a small dose of morphine to help take the edge off the contractions so I could rest a little.
Another hour ticked by before the morphine wore off and the contractions flooded in much stronger than before. I called hubby to come back to the hospital.
By that point I was bent over, kneeling on the bed, desperately bearing through each wave of contraction as it hit. Hubby had returned by this point and was holding me from behind for support. I decided to blast myself with some hot water in the shower to distract my mind from the pain.
So there I sat in the bathroom, with the shower on full hot water. Each contraction just shook me at the core of my being. I found myself humming familiar hymns and choruses through each wave.

A midwife finally came in to transfer me to one of the birthing rooms. The contractions were now so close together that there was hardly any time in between each one to catch my breath. All I could do was lean my head against hubby and concentrate on each contraction one at a time.
At this point I was ready to ask for an epidural because I didn't know how much longer of this I could stand. The midwife then examined me and was surprised to find baby's head already pushing out right at the entrance of my cervix.
"No time for anything else, Serene... baby's head is right there so it's time to get going!"

I was so dazed from the pain. But this time with each contraction, I realised I was having that 'urge' to push something out... like I needed to do the biggest poo in my life. The pushing part now at least gave me something to focus that I was not thinking about the pain as much.

After several pushes, I finally felt her head emerge out, followed by a 'slithery' feeling of the rest of her body slipping out.

And just like that, the pain completely melted away as I found myself with a tiny velvety little creature snuggling up on my chest.


A friend from church recently called to offer his congratulations...
"So how was it this time? Did you get an epidural?", he asked.

"No I didn't, there wasn't enough time anyway as everything happened so quickly"

"Wow, really? You are so strong!", he remarked.

"I didn't know how strong I was until now!", I replied, laughing.
And it was true. I felt I had now joined the silent ranks of mothers before me who have journeyed to the edge of our being, reaching a deeper primal level within ourselves that we never knew existed inside us.

Of course I understand that there is a different kind of pain that those who have to undergo c-sections or need to have an epidural (as I myself did the last time) have to endure.

I would not say I would happily go through the pain of labour again. Nevertheless, going through the pain of labour in all its rawness and vulnerability allowed me to discover a new meaning of strength and grace I could draw upon. And that is definitely something.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

She's here!

She's finally here!
Hello world, meet Baby Grace.
My first thoughts for her can be summed up with this:
Welcome little Grace,
"Here is the world.
Beautiful and terrible.
Things will happen.
DON'T be afraid."
- Frederick Buechner
Looking forward to sharing more in the coming weeks once this initial crazy period has settled down a bit. They tell me it eventually will. And I'm going on that by faith. Speak soon!

Tuesday, July 09, 2013


So here's the answer to the biggest FAQ from loving folks all around. 

Yup. No sign of baby yet.

I'm now hanging around in what Dr Seuss calls The Waiting Place

…For people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come,
Or a plane to go or the mail to come,
Or the rain to go or the phone to ring,
Or the snow to snow,
Or waiting around for a Yes or a No,
Or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

I'm taking some comfort in this beautiful piece on the last days of pregnancy

"To give birth, whether at home in a birth tub with candles and family or in a surgical suite with machines and a neonatal team, a woman must go to the place between this world and the next, to that thin membrane between here and there. To the place where life comes from, to the mystery, in order to reach over to bring forth the child that is hers. The heroic tales of Odysseus are with us, each ordinary day. This round woman is not going into battle, but she is going to the edge of her being where every resource she has will be called on to assist in this journey."

Baby, come soon! I'll be waiting for you.