Family · Life

Journey to Parenthood: Part 2

Previously, I talked about my journey to being a parent for the first time. Here, I talk about how it’s like being a parent for the second time.

Surprise!

I found out I was expecting again at a time when my work life was going through a huge change. My boss had told use that he was leaving and that the lab was closing down. We knew that the lab closure was an inevitable thing but I wasn’t expecting it to happen so soon. We had actually stopped actively trying for a second child when I started seeing the signs of change coming into the lab, but I guess the universe had other plans.

This big impending change, both the pregnancy and the lab closure, had me feeling a lot of things:

  • Worry at how we’re going to afford another baby with me being out of a job eventually when the grant runs out
  • Guilt, that my girl won’t be the centre of our attention anymore, and guilt for feeling, just a tiny bit, not really accepting the pregnancy
  • Surprise, because we weren’t actually planning to have another one so soon

But we managed to get over the negative feelings I had and I started to enjoy the journey again.

The pregnancy

The pregnancy this time around was a lot smoother than the previous one, except for the morning sickness, which is a lie! I threw up every day during the first trimester at exactly 6pm. Every. Single. Day. And nothing worked to make the nausea go away. Not even constantly eating. I was just so glad that I stopped puking around 14 weeks, and I felt almost normal after that.

Fortunately, this time around, I didn’t have any food aversions like I did previously. I ate everything and surprisingly, the cravings weren’t very serious. That was pretty good too since I could actually satiate the cravings with substitutes.

Everything went smoothly and due to my placenta previa history, there was a high chance of me having the same issue again but I was blessed with a totally normal pregnancy. And I knew that I wanted a VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean section).

However, one thing was exactly the same  as the previous pregnancy; I had pre-term contractions at 32 weeks. Fortunately, the contractions weren’t very bad and I was only on a mild dosage of meds to prevent the contractions. And because everything was going well and smooth, my doctors gave me the green light to try for a VBAC.

And the waiting game began.

Here’s the birth announcement I made after my baby was born.

The birth story

Woke up at 2am because I was hungry and I had a sharp, piercing pain in the lady bits area.

Got up to use the loo and when. I stood up, there was a gush of water splashing my ankles.

Uh oh.

Was shocked but ok, sat down on a pee pad just to make sure that my waterbag was leaking.

2 more gushes of liquid. Confirm plus chop, my waterbag was not intact.

Went to wake the husband up.

Husband: Why is the clock showing 2am.

Me: Because it is 2am.

I went to shower while husband packed his go bag.

We moved the toddler to my MIL’s room, kissed her goodbye, and called a Grab car. At the delivery ward, I was still only 1cm dilated (been that way since 36w) and irregular contractions , so they sent me up to the ward to rest and hopefully the labour will start naturally. 8am, only 2cm dilated. They did a cervix massage to help the labour along.

Given 2 options, either induce or emergency c sect.

I chose Option 3, talk to senior consultant first and see what he says.

Prof Biswas: Be positive. Try for natural and induce. See how the labour progresses and then we make a decision.

That’s what we did.

10.30am 1 pill inserted to help push the labour along.

2pm- some time before 6pm I lost track of time from when they gave me the laughing gas, the pethidine injection. I was 5cm dilated which means I can ask for epidural.

Sometime before 6pm I think.

They wheeled me into the delivery suite (because 1 finally cleared, it was a very busy busy day at the delivary ward that day) and I asked for epidural.

They checked and said, “Sorry, no time. You’re fully dilated. Time to push”.

Pushed for an hour but baby was not coming out.

(This is what happens when you’ve barely eaten the entire day and you’re supposed to push a watermelon out if a 10cm wide tube)

Doctors: We can give assisted labour if you need it.

Me: GET THE DAMN BABY OUT ALREADY!

1 episiotomy, and a vacuum, and a push later, the baby arrived. Screaming his lungs out.

I was too relived that I don’t have to push anymore to actually register the wonderful feeling of being a mother again. Then the stitching started. Thank god for the gas. I still felt the stitches but at least it was bearable.

The end.

BTW, I’ve had both a c sect and a natural delivery.

Which one is better? Neither. They both hurt. A lot.

Do I regret not going for an elective c sect this time? Only during the most excruciating contractions, and while trying to push the baby out. Regardless the method of birth, as long as the baby is healthy and arrives safely. That is the most important part.

So, tell me about your birth story. Was it hard? Humorous? Memorable? Share it in the comments below.

 

 

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Parenting

Pumping 101: What Are Breast Pumps?

A few posts ago, I talked about how I learned to use the breastpumps, but I never really explained what those are. It’s not something that you see unless you have family members who pump or you’re pumping yourself. In fact, I don’t think my sisters have ever seen my pumps or how I pump before.

Breast pumps are one of the best inventions, in my opinion, for a breastfeeding mother to take some time away from their screaming infant. Pump for about 15-30 minutes to get sufficient milk for a baby’s feed or two (depending on how much the baby feeds), and get someone else to take over the feeding for a while. Everyone needs a break, especially moms.

There are basically 3 types of breast pumps:

  1. Manual breast pumps
  2. Electric breast pumps
  3. Battery powered breast pumps

Manual breast pumps are self-explanatory, basically you use your hand to power the pump and express the milk. As far as I know, there are no dual pumping manual pumps, which means, you can only pump one side at a time.

Electric breast pumps may not have an inbuilt battery, which means that you may have to bring the charging cord where ever you go. Battery powered breast pumps may use disposable batteries or rechargeable ones. Both the electric and the battery powered breast pumps may or may not have dual pumping capabilities, depending on the brand.

And the electric breastpumps can be further subgrouped into hospital grade or personal pumps. Hospital grade pumps are usual bigger, and found in hospitals for multiple users with their own pumping kits. Personal pumps, or portable pumps as I like to call them, are smaller, and meant for just a single person use.

Having both the hospital grade and the portable pumps, I can tell you that it’s worth having a hospital grade one, especially if you’re a lower supply mom as it’s more efficient in expressing the milk. The portable pumps will do it’s job on the go, but if you only have a limited time to pump per session (ie you’re a full-time working mom with sucky colleagues/boss who think it’s a waste of time of you pumping), having an efficient pump is best.

In my experience, for the same yield, I would have to pump for a longer time (20-30 minutes) using the portable pump, as compared to the hospital grade one (10-15 minutes). And, using a higher pump setting.

Here’s a video I did on the comparison:

Choosing a breast pump is a personal thing as it’s dependent on how often you’re pumping (latching and supplementing with expressed milk, or exclusively pumping), are you going back to work, where will you be pumping (availability of power points) and of course your budget.

In Singapore, there are a variety of different brands to choose from. Just go to any baby fair and you’ll have massive booths selling different varieties of pumps in various bundles of free stuff. In fact, you can even buy pre-loved ones from Carousell. Just be wary about buying pumps that are not known to have a backflow protector as one of the parts, as the previous user might have gotten milk into the system and who knows  what sort of stuff are growing in there. Also, make sure you buy your own new pump parts.

Other than the pumps, it’s also most important to get the right fitting breastsheild, as ill-fitting ones may cause abraisions on the areolas. You can get the measurement tool here. And you may consider getting a hands free set if you want your hands free to do other things, while you pump. My favourite is the Simplicity Hands Free Pumping Bra Kit. It’s ultra-portable and relatively easy to use.

So, if you have any questions or anything interesting to share with regards to pumping, please drop me a comment below.

Food · Parenting

What is baby’s first food?

My baby boy, A2, is just 2 weeks shy of turning 6 months and we just introduced him to purees over the weekend. He’s the same age as his older sister when we started her on solid too.

According to the KKH website on weaning, the child needs to show some of these developmental signs:

  • Able to hold head up and maintain a steady upright position, which is important for spoon-feeding
  • Sits well when supported
  • Makes chewing motion and is able to move food from front to back of mouth to swallow
  • Disappearance of the tongue’s thrust
  • Makes chewing motion and is able to move food from front to back of mouth to swallow
  • Interest in food, perhaps eyeing your food or reaching out for it
  • Dribbles and increased frequency of putting things into mouth
  • Cries for feeds before usual time, which is a sign of hunger

He’s been showing most of these signs for at least 2 weeks to a month. I didn’t want to rush into starting him on solids because I’m not sure if his digestive system was going to be ready yet, and of course, I wasn’t ready to deal with smellier  and more textured poop.

But last week, I had some Chinese pears that I had bought for his older sister as she was having a cough. I usually will make the pear and rock sugar for her when she has a prolonged cough. But this time around, as I knew I was going to give some to her baby brother, I skipped the rock sugar and I just roughly chopped it, dumped it into the small slowcooker that we have, add in a few table spoons of water, and let it simmer on low until it’s soft and mashable with a spoon. I portioned out some for the baby and kept the rest for the toddler. Baby’s portioned was blended using a hand blender and fed to him.

His expression after we fed him the puree:

But he loved it! The next day, I only gave him half a container of puree and he was screaming for more when he finished it. So today, I packed some for the infant care to feed during lunch.

This time around, I’m planning to sous vide the baby food instead of using the steamer. It might take longer but the flavours and nutrients are contained. I’m not in a rush anyway since we are supposed to gradually introduce new food items, so that we can monitor for allergies.

Next few things that I want to introduce into his diet are:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Pumpkin
  • Carrots
  • Avocado (if I can get a nice ripe one)
  • Iron fortified cereal

What are your baby’s (real or hypothetical) first foods going to be? And if you have any recipes for baby food, please share them in the comments below.

Family

Turning 37 (Dude, I’m old….)

I turned 37 over the weekend and it was great! Well, as great as a mom with 2 small kids and a mountain of laundry to do, can have a great birthday.

We went out for brunch with the kids and had 2 FREE SUNDAES! YES! 2! (Perks of being a Swensens member. Apparently, if you’re a Swensens member, you get a free sundae with every main, EVERY SINGLE DAY OF YOUR BIRTHDAY MONTH?!)

Brunch was great and we had way waaaaay too much sugar. So did the toddler.

And then I went home to do laundry. A lot of laundry.

On a serious note though, just 3 years shy of 40, I do feel a lot older than when I turned 30. Maybe because I’m at a different stage of my life and with a lot more responsibilities. My focus is now the family and the house, not so much myself. I barely have time for my facial routine. Heck, I barely have time to eat.

Even so, I’m thankful for what I have; my family, my health, a home, relatively healthy parents whom I see every week. Sisters who dote on my kids. Friends on the same wavelength.

I hope that this coming year will be an even better one than the last. I hope to get a job with a good salary, good working environment with a great team, and great working hours for a mom with young kids.

What do you wish for on your birthday?

Cooking · Parenting

How do you get toddlers to eat?

Have you ever wondered what to make for your toddler’s dinner? And said toddler is going through a food strike or picky eating phase? Or is just mommy being a bad cook?

My toddler, A1, is almost 3 and she’s being going through this phase on and off since she turned 2. One week she’ll eat prawns, and the next week, prawns are the most disgusting things ever. I’m just glad that she would still eat eggs in almost every form. Her current favourite are fluffy omelettes. And if we’re out, we’d get a soupy meal with rice, or chicken rice, because everyone loves chicken rice.

Cooking at home, however, has been hit and miss. It’s frustrating and stressful when they decide that whatever they liked last week, is now disgusting and they will. Not. Even. Open. Their. Mouths. I can’t just be feeding her eggs all the time, and we don’t always have steaks to sous vide, either (yes, baby girl loves sous vide steak. That’s how we roll in this house.)

I was pleasantly surprised when she ate 3/4 of a burger patty that my mother-in-law bought from Zac’s butcher, and I thought, let’s see if she’ll eat a home-made version of that. So I looked for a kid-friendly meatball recipe that I used to make the burgers.

Here are the ingredients:

  • 500g minced beef
  • 2 slices of bread
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1tbs ketchup (I used tomato paste since we ran out of ketchup)
  • 1tb soy sauce
  • 1 egg

Here’s a video if how I did the patties/meatballs:

You can pan-fry the patties or meatballs, however you want it. We sous vide the patties in vacuum sealed bags at 60°C for 2 hours. Then pan fried with some coconut oil, just to finish it off.

Sadly, my toddler refused to eat it after the first bite, which I think was due to the texture of the minced meat. It wasn’t as smooth as the previous burger she had. The taste was actually pretty good, if it had a tad more salt; and scorched bits of onions on it was really good.

While this was a failure at feeding the toddler, it was a hit with the daddy. The next time I repeat this recipe, I might want to put the meat into the food processor as well, just to make a finer mince, and maybe even making my own minced meat with rib eye cuts, just for the extra juicy fatness to it.

Have you ever made something that your toddler really, really loved? Please do share it with me in the comments section.

Family · Parenting

What I learnt about breastfeeding that no one told me, a list

Before I start on this list, I want to say that this are my lessons, and my journey through breastfeeding. Everyone’s journey is different. Breastfeeding is ultimately a choice. As parents, we do the best we can for our children and no one has the right to tell you otherwise or judge you for your choices.

Now that that is out of the way, here’s what I’ve learnt in my almost 3 years of breastfeeding.

1. It’s tough

I always thought that breastfeeding was something that would come naturally to you once you have a baby, but I was completely wrong. Especially for a first time mother, it was very overwhelming to learn how to carry the child in the proper way to help the child latch, especially after a Cesarean section. On top of that, it’s stressful when the baby is crying and you have to angle the baby in a correct way so that you don’t hurt, and the baby latches well.

I’ve been very lucky that I didn’t have any physical problems like short or inverted nipples, and a baby with tongue tie. These issues would make it a lot harder, but not impossible to direct latch.

2. Perseverance needed

Because it’s tiring, and it hurts. No one tells you that the first week or so of breastfeeding, especially the first time, that your nipples will crack and bleed from latching almost every 2-3 hours. Or more often if you’re feeding on demand like I was. There are so many nipple butter/creams out there but so far, the best I’ve had was just rubbing some of the breastmilk on the nipple and air drying it. Yes, you will need to let the nips hang out free if you want to get better.

No one also tells you that it will be very, very, very exhausting because you’ll be feeding the baby constantly. That means waking up in the middle of the night to feed every 2 hours. I’ve heard from a lot of mothers who gave up within the first few weeks because they said it was too tiring to continue.

3. Support support support!

This is one of the most important things, in my opinion; having a lot of support, be it emotional, physical, or both. I know that not many mothers out there have a husband and/or family members who supported their decision to breastfeed. They think that it’s just easier to bottle feed with formula, or that breastmilk isn’t as nutritious because the baby is constantly feeding.

I’m lucky that my husband took my lead and supported me from day 1; be it making snacks for me or getting me a drink while I was latching the baby (you’re constantly hungry and thirsty when breastfeeding), making my boosters (see the next section), or lately, just nagging me to eat and eat and eat, and drink.

I’m lucky that no one else told me to my face that I should be feeding formula. If they’d told my husband, parents, or in laws, I never heard it. It helped that my husband kept telling everyone how much weight the baby gained every month from the breastmilk.

4. Boosters

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Fenugreek and Brewer’s yeast to boost lactation, Lecithin to reduce blocked ducts

If you google lactation boosters, you’ll see so many different things out there and they don’t all work for everyone. I’m one of those lucky people where I have a lot of boosters that work for me. For example, brewer’s yeast, oats, chia seeds, flax seeds, salmon sashimi, and durian; they all work for me.

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Home-made lactation boosters

I take supplements that I buy from iHerb (click here to see the list) and I make my own too, like the red date longan drink.

5. How to use the pump

This was something that I had problems with, as the pumps that I bought were from Korea, so the instructions were in Korean. I was fortunate that a friend of mine went to see a lactation consultant and she learnt how to pump effectively, and she did a tutorial for us at her home.

It was one of the most valuable lessons as she taught us how to hold the bottles while pumping, if you don’t have a hands-free set (yes, there is a thing), how to trigger a let down with the pump, and how to store the milk correctly. It was especially useful for those of us going back to work, or those who are exclusively pumping.

(I’ll do a video on pumping some time soon)

6. You still learn new things the second time around

When I had my second child, I thought I was already a pro at breastfeeding and pumping but nope, nature has a way of telling you that you know nothing. As I was tandem feeding my toddler, A1, as well as my newborn, A2, I discovered that it made my milk flow a lot faster than when I was just nursing 1 child.

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So I had to learn a new latching position so that my let down doesn’t choke the poor baby. On top of that, I had to learn how to feed both kids at the same time because nothing is worse than have 2 crying kids and full boobs, at the same time. It’s… messy.

I learnt that every child also breastfeeds differently. A1 didn’t unlatch at all, even in sleep, so I remembered having her in my arms, attached to the boobs, for hours on end. A2 however, is a crier. Hungry, cry. Milk too fast, cry. Unlatch, cry.

At almost 5 months, I’m still learning new things when I feed my baby, and I don’t think this learning thing will stop until both kids are weaned off.