Thursday, August 29, 2013

Grace's first development update

Our little Grace officially turns 7 weeks today.
This morning, I took Grace out for her official 6-8 week check-up with the child health nurse. It was gratifying to see how all my precious milk has been doing her good. She's definitely a solid sized baby, sitting above average on the weight and height charts.
The early weeks were initially hard as she has been a very hungry baby and also needed a lot of help settling to sleep. I had to either rock or hold her constantly and often even nurse her to sleep (which I know a lot of people say is against the 'rules').
However, I think she's finally settling into a good daily pattern and rhythm. And earlier this week, we finally broke through the 2-3-hour mark and she slept through close to 7 hours one night. Phew!
So what is little Grace like?
Well, she's a very contented little baby (once she's had her milk) and can sit happily in her rocker observing all the activity around her. And there is definitely plenty of activity happening whenever her big brother is around.
She loves having lots of cuddles and being carried, and enjoys being rocked and held. Sometimes even only wants to stay asleep that way for her entire nap.
She has started making little coos and gurgles, which is really cute. She also makes a lot of grunting sounds (I sometimes call her a little piglet because of that) when she's trying to communicate something and also when she is transitioning sleep cycles. Other than that she hardly ever cries except when she's hungry or tired.
She's also a very strong baby. She was already starting to hold her neck up for seconds at a time since she was around 2-3 weeks old. She has also started pushing her legs downward to try and 'stand up' whenever we hold her upright on our lap. She's also very good at tummy time and is happy to stay on her tummy for up to 3-4 minutes at a time.
And the best thing everyone loves? Her smiles!
That's my cuddly baby girl!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Keep the good ones

Even though this is my second time with a baby, it really surprised me how much I've forgotten how hard looking after a baby is.
I was inclined to think that Nathan was just an easier baby. Perhaps he was, I can't really remember. So I revisited some old posts from my early days with him and discovered how equally tough it was for me back then as well.
But following that initial discouraging period with my first baby were hundreds more beautiful photos and lovely anecdotes about parenting and our new baby and celebrating wonderful baby milestones.
(I think perhaps you can sense that I am slowly starting to emerge from the narrow and dark tunnel of the early weeks being broken in by a new baby.)
The point I'm trying to get at is this:
As cliché as it sounds, the joy of having children really and truly always, ALWAYS, outweighs the pain.
It's why there are rainbows after the rain.

It's why the pain of labour is usually always forgotten the instant the baby is laid in a mother's arms.
It's why my parents often can hardly remember our naughty moments, but usually only remember the happy times and how good we were (apparently) as kids.
It's why the the difficulties of my early weeks with Nathan have been completely wiped out from my memory, and why the fatigue and tears I have been going through recently are quickly fading from my mind.
All to make room for rainbow moments like this...
Whether it's a new baby, or your wedding day, or the family holiday, in the end, however many parenting books you read, or how perfectly you plan that wedding or holiday, there are bound to be some bad moments.
But our memory (and photo album) has a funny trick of photoshopping over everything to preserve only the smiley, happy and funny moments.
Because there is one thing that always helps to make it all better: 'Editing'
I find this best described in this speech given by Raymond (of Everybody Loves Raymond) during his brother, Robert's, wedding:


You know, Robert and I, when we remember our childhood, we kind of use that technology in our heads. We only remember the good stuff, like the food. We don't remember when mom would yell at dad not to scratch his rear end with a spatula... In the bakery.


Yeah, anybody who knows our family probably wasn't surprised by what happened today. I mean, Amy knew what she was getting into when she married into this family, and that's why I got her a wedding gift I know she can use-- cyanide.

And by the way, Robert, if you think it was annoying today when mom interrupted the ceremony, wait till she interrupts tonight.

I think Amy understands that that's what marriage is about. I mean, she's not only getting a husband, she's getting an entire mental hospital....


...And, you know, one more thing about the editing,

I think you're gonna remember about today what you wanna remember.

You know, I guess our brains are good like that.

Like I remember my wedding day as the day that I got to kiss the most beautiful girl in the world.

I think she remembers it.

At least, I hope she does.

It was a good day, the start of a lot of good memories.

We completely blotted out the part where mom was hangin' onto my pants leg yelling "Don't go! Don't go!".

We didn't save those pictures.

Just the good ones.

Just the good ones.

So here's to my brother Robert and the best thing that ever happened to him-- my new sister Amy.

You'll keep the good ones.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Because of a bruise

I mentioned in passing in a previous post about our encounter with Child Protection Services in Australia. As expected, we received many concerned questions from friends and family wondering what on earth happened to us during that very eventful weekend.
So to calm all your fears and worries, here is the story...
A week earlier, hubs had brought Nathan to see a doctor to check on a very bad bruise on his cheek. Like all active boys, Nathan was always getting bumps and bruises from running and jumping about everywhere.
This bruise first came about a couple of months ago when he was jumping on the couch, fell and knocked his cheek against our coffee table. But apart from some initial tears and fussing, he was not bothered by the bruise at all.
Nathan's super bad bruise on his right cheek
 A few weeks went by and we started to notice a lump developing under the bruise on his cheek. So we finally we decided to get it checked out by a doctor. The doctor didn't really seem overly concerned and said it was probably just a hematoma, but he referred us to get an x-ray so he could have a closer look at what was going on under there.
We called the radiology clinic to book an appointment, but we were not able to secure one until a week later.
Now comes the critical point that started the ball rolling...
During the week after seeing the doctor before the radiology appointment, Nathan unfortunately had another bad fall while he was in daycare on Thursday. He was running, tripped and fell forward, flat on his face. The damage: Two more big bruises on his face, on his forehead and on his other cheek, and couple of small cuts on his nose and upper lip.
The fresh new bruises combined with his existing bruise made Nathan's face looked really bashed up. However the bruises themselves were not life-threatening and Nathan was bouncing around again almost immediately.
Anyway, the very next day happened to be the day of Nathan's radiology appointment, so hubby took him to get his x-ray done as planned. However I think the sight of Nathan's 'bashed up' face must have shocked the radiologist and he immediately referred the report back to the doctor. So the same day, hubs brought Nathan back to the doctor to review the results of the x-ray.

Here's when things started to get 'exciting'...
The doctor told hubs that as part of the child protection policy in Australia, any reports of multiple injuries made by any health care worker must be flagged to the Child Protection Unit in Princess Margaret Hospital.
The doctor assured hubs that it is just a procedural thing and there is nothing to worry about as out of a hundred reports, probably only two are genuine cases of child abuse. However it is simply a mandatory and legal requirement for him to flag the multiple injuries on Nathan's face in his report.
The response to this little flag was amazingly swift...
Within an hour, hubby and I received separate phone calls from the Child Protection Unit. They basically asked the same set of questions, asking us individually to describe how each of the injuries on Nathan's face occurred. They then asked for the contact number of our daycare to cross-check the information.
They must have picked up the phone almost straightaway to call Nathan's daycare. I didn't get a chance to call her in advance to explain the situation to our daycare lady. So you can imagine her shock and fear to receive this call asking her all these incriminating questions.
After speaking with our daycare, they called me back again and told me that we needed to bring Nathan down to the hospital immediately to get his bruises checked out by another doctor.
My phone was ringing non-stop getting these calls all afternoon from the Child Protection Unit, and then from our daycare lady worriedly asking what was going on, and also from hubby (he was out running errands) to find out what was happening on my side.
Unfortunately, this turned out to be also the day I was coming down with mastitis. Because I was so busy handling these calls and enquiries, I didn't really pause to realise how sick I was feeling. Soon, my body began crashing in a downward spiral with the pain and symptoms of the infection.
Within a short time, I was so sick that I was not able to get out of bed. I told hubs that it would be impossible for me to manage alone while he was at the hospital with Nathan. And knowing hospitals, I suspected that there would be a long queue before they would finally be seen by a doctor to verify the causes of Nathan's bruises.
So we blew the hospital appointment and hubby stayed at home to look after everyone. That was one really tough weekend. It rounded off with hubs falling sick himself toward the end.
Anyway, continuing on with the main story...
On Monday, we received a follow up call from the Child Protection Unit. Man, these guys are persistent. Hubs told them about my mastitis and why we were not able to come into the hospital over the weekend. They seemed to understand and so we booked another appointment to go in to see a doctor.
So finally, hubs was able to bring Nathan to Princess Margaret Hospital. They really take each case seriously. There were three workers present during the hour-long session: Two doctors and one case worker. But after seeing the bruises, it was definitely apparent that there was nothing to fuss about. The bruises were clearly simply a result of ordinary accidents. Still, they went through the whole drill of asking hubs questions about each bruise, drawing some blood from Nathan for testing, checking his whole body for other injuries.
The whole adventure kind of ends in a somewhat anti-climax. Because after all, there really was nothing to fuss about.
Apparently, it is not really uncommon for a child to be flagged under Child Protection Services like this. Hubby's boss said he went through several cases like this with his own kids. They even flagged an insect bite as a potential cigarette butt mark.
But perhaps it is kind of reassuring to know that child protection is taken so seriously in Australia. Although we know ourselves as parents, the system and the workers in the system can't be expected to know that. Hence the need to follow all the procedures and flags until they can know for sure.
Something to keep in mind if you ever happen to take your kid to the doctor to check out a bruise.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Three things not to say

Three things not to say to a mother with a new baby (especially if you currently do not have a baby yourself)

#1. Baby sleeping (again)? Forever sleeping one! (you were not up with baby since 5.30am, the toddler since 7.00am, only managed to get baby to sleep at 8.00am, while everyone else slept until 8.30)

#2. How many times did baby wake up last night? My children all slept through the night since they were one month old! (tell me, how is that remark even remotely helpful?)

#3. Why don't you just pump your milk to feed baby? It will make your life so much easier! (have you ever even breastfed before?)

Remarks like that whether said directly or casually in passing will result in said mother crying alone in the middle of the night, when she has been up for two hours with a restless baby trying to figure out why her baby just will not sleep.

(End rant)

Monday, August 19, 2013


I suspect I might have a serious case of Folliculaphilia.
Folliculaphilia \ fol-i-kuh-la-fil-ee-uh \ verb
A person who is only attracted to men with a moustache 
I don't know about you, but I've really been digging the current trend in Hollywood of male celebrities sporting beards these days.

Hubs always gets a heavy five o'clock shadow every second day. On weekends, by Sunday night he'd be looking absolutely grizzly. One day on a whim, I told him he should try to tidy up his weekend scruff so it still looks casually neat.

As expected, he didn't want to bother with it at first... so I might have thrown in some bedroom promises to seal the deal... maybe, the details are all somewhat hazy now.

I even googled different beard styles and how-tos so we could select which one to go for, and shared a few giggles over a few wacky facial hair styles. But in the end, he got the razor and clippers out to fulfil his end of the deal.

It's weird. I never thought I'd be someone who likes the beardy look. In fact, when hubs made his first debut in public with his new look, the guys were all "Awesome!" but the girls were all "Errrmmm...". They were even more surprised when they found out it was my idea.

Maybe it's an age thing... just liking men to look like men. Or the subtle influence of what the big shots in Hollywood are doing. Or simply seeing my other half in a different perspective. Whatever it is I must say, I'm loving this look on my man.

What about you? Are for beards or do you find them a big turn-off?
If you're not yet convinced, here's a great illustration about how a little facial hair makes all the difference!
Better with a mustaches

Monday, August 12, 2013

An eventful weekend

Phew! I've just emerged from a super drama weekend. When it rains, it pours! And I mean that both literally and figuratively.
Keywords describing our highly eventful weekend...
  • Wonder week
  • Cluster feeding
  • Sleep regression (the only way and place she will sleep is in bed, while being nursed)
  • Mastitis
  • Child protection services investigation (long story for another time)
  • Flu (poor hubs finally fell sick with all the stress looking after everyone)
Desperate times call for desperate measures. So it has come to this...
I called my dad to get one and bring it over yesterday before his flight. She sleeps like a dream in it, so now at least I have a bit if respite in between feeds. Perhaps there will come a day when I shall curse this contraption, but for now it is the saviour of my sanity.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

What does labour feel like?

A real conversation I had with two youths at church a couple of weeks before I was due...
"Hello Serene! Wow, you are still here. Is the baby due soon?"

"Yup, still here. Baby should be coming any day now."

"Really? You mean like it can even come today?"

"Yes, who knows? Quite possibly."

"Oh my gosh! So if it happens what should we do? Like what happens if your water breaks here? Man, that will be so exciting!"

"*LOL* Well, labour doesn't always start that way. It's not like in the movies."

"It isn't? So what is it like?"

"Erm... well, usually the woman will start feeling some contractions at first. Something like a tummy ache which gradually become more painful. Then we can call the hospital so they can advise us when to come in.

"Oh, I see. Then after the contractions, you will 'pang' the baby out, right? What does that feel like? Is it painful?"

"Well, it kind of feels like doing the biggest poo of your life... but not from that hole of course."

"Huh? Then which hole???"

Every now and then, a pre-parent would ask me about labour. The topic would comes up more often recently since most of the conversations I have revolve around how I am doing after the birth.
I'm never sure how much information to give. I always worry about burdening these future mothers or mums-to-be with too much information and scare them off.

The classic question I always get asked is, "Is it painful?", which is usually followed by a wince and grimace upon hearing my frank answer.

Here is my attempt to give a full response to this frequently asked question... so far I have never been able to give a complete response because we always get sidetracked by other questions one after another.
Many pre-mothers tend to fixate only on the labour... particularly on the 'pushing baby out' part. I think it's because most movies featuring a labour scene focus mostly on that part, because that's when all the action happens. With the woman in labour groaning, yelling and screaming as she pushes the baby out, it's easy to assume that the pain is centred all around that scene alone. 
The truth is, the pain of labour is actually really centred around the contractions. When a pregnant woman's body decides it's time for baby to come out, the muscles surrounding the uterus begin contracting to slowly push baby downward and out. 
The contraction process is a slow and painful journey, akin to running a marathon or climbing a mountain. They start out slow and gentle, like a soft squeezing in the muscles in your belly. As they progress further, the squeezing gets tighter and harder. At the peak of the journey, it feels like something reaching in and squishing your insides to smithereens. 
Toward the end, the contractions start coming so fast and hard, as if your body is hurrying to squeeze baby out ASAP. 
And then comes the final part, when baby's head finally starts to emerge. At this point, it feels like something trying to push it's way out down there... pretty much like when you feel a really strong urge to do a giant poo. 
The pushing part is actually somewhat less painful. Maybe because there is something else to focus on, or perhaps there is a rush of adrenaline to push baby out. And before you know it, you've reached the finished line, panting and victorious.
If you decide take the 'au naturel' route, I won't lie to you, it will definitely hurt. But even if you opt for the so called 'pain-free' path with epidural or c-section, you can't run away from pain because there is still the recovery process to go through. I've been told that the recovery process for c-section births is even more gruelling and painful than than a vaginal birth.
But the thing is, when you decide to have a child, you look beyond the pain of labour. Labour is just one small narrow entryway to the tremendous joy and adventure of parenting and  children that awaits on the other side.

To quote a friend...

This narrowness
is the narrowness
of a birth canal.
There is an entire universe waiting on the other side.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Talking to babies

Question for you mums out there: When you first had your baby, did you start talking and chatting to him or her right away? Or did it take some time for you to start doing so?

Someone recently asked me, "Why are you not talking to the baby more?"

The question kind of threw me off a little. I didn't like the feeling of being pressured to talk to my baby for the sake of just talking. In fact I went through the exact same thing when I first had Nathan as well.

After just starting to recover from labour, I honestly didn't feel one hundred percent like myself yet. I was feeling so fatigued and sleep deprived, I didn't feel like talking much, even to other adults. I just wanted to take things slowly and move about quietly, gradually regaining my footing step by step.
Upon further pondering over the question, I also realised that this baby was really a whole new person I was getting to know. I didn't feel like chattering random things to her. I wanted to quietly gaze at her, smell her hair and skin, nuzzle her cheek and whisper little secrets softly in her ear.

But I also admire those who seem to immediately know how to pick up a conversation with babies in such a warm, familiar fashion, as if they had already known the little baby all their lives.

So what was it like for you? Did you start talking to baby right away or did it take some time for you to know what to say?

Thursday, August 01, 2013

What helps

Following my really honest post a couple of days ago about my baby blues, I received a few messages here and there from people telling me how that post really resonated with them and how much they can really relate to it.
I first wrote it mainly as an outlet for myself. Writing about it somehow made me feel better. Instead of bottling it up, it was good to be able to empty it all out so it doesn't seem so bad after all.
However, I was also worried that my post might be a little depressing, discouraging or scary for potential new mums out there. Yes, post-partum recovery and looking after a new baby is hard. But that's only one side of the story.
So here are a few things I found to be helpful during this time...
Learning to breastfeed lying down - it's apparently a learned skill, but a good one to have. Then you can nurse lying down in bed at night or if can't sit up long due to your stitches.
Babywearing - sometimes babies just need to be held, so wear them close and free up your hands to do other stuff.
Watching reruns of my favourite series - I put them on my tablet and phone so I can watch them on the go during a marathon feeding session.
Accepting help - This is hard to do, but necessary. Sometimes I just need to take off my superwoman costume and remind myself that I'm just a regular mortal like everyone else. 
Reaching out - talking about it, sharing what I'm going through, essentially just putting out there so I can discover that "I am not alone in this"
Breathing in that soft soft, velvety baby smell - it's like a sniffing drug that can sometimes help me keep going.
Telling myself that "This too shall pass" - the difficult times and even the happy ones... all will inevitably come to an end. So hang on through the bad times and savour the good ones.
Remembering that "The days (and nights) are long, but the years are short" - with a new baby, the day seems to drag by, nap-by-nap and feed-by-feed, but before you know it, the baby years would have flown by. So don't blink, even for a second.