Tender Loving Self-care

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Every evening when I sit down to have dinner with my husband, he will ask me how my day was.  I used to launch into an offloading session where I update him on the latest progress or gossip at work or amongst social circles. These days, instead of just blabbering about my day, I will stop and think about it, before telling him whether it was a good day or a bad day. 

Last Thursday was a bad day. I was having a grand self-pitying moment while driving home from work. My shoulders had been aching for 2 weeks and I couldn’t find a time to get a quick massage. Weeks of carrying my 10kg son in the baby carrier with his school backpack on my shoulders have taken a toll. Add to that my terrible posture at my work desk, and handling an ill-adjusted steering wheel of my new car (I haven’t figured out what’s a good height), it just aggravated the situation. 

The Mommy Mule. That’s my pump bag (breast pump and ice pack) hanging off my son’s school backpack because it kept sliding off my shoulders. 

My work was piling and I didn’t see any end in sight. One of my junior staff had recently resigned and we have not  found a replacement for another position, which meant in a few weeks time our 5-men team will be down to 3. The thought of all the work I had to cover until we hired someone makes me want to throw myself  onto the bed and wail.

I was on my way to my mom’s place to pick up my child. There had been a case of chicken pox at his school so I was keeping him in that week so he would not catch it and pass it to me. I have not had chicken pox before and I have been putting off getting a vaccination jab. On top of all the things I had to do, I had to get myself jabbed soon. That went right to the top of the list. 

Since my mom was helping me take care of my child that day, I was rushing through peak hour traffic to relieve my mother from having spent the day taking care of an active child.  Added to that, my husband was waiting for me at home so we could go have dinner. He sent a text message with the words “ASAP”. 

The letters “ASAP” were going round and round my mind as I sat in traffic. I was stuck in bumper to bumper traffic and the car in front of me wasn’t going anywhere. I glanced at the clock and mentally calculated the number of hours my mom had been watching my child, and felt slightly guilty. Guilty at having to ask my mom the favour although she would gladly help me take care of my child anytime. Guilty that if I had been pox vaccinated earlier I wouldn’t have to take such precautions. Guilty that if I had gotten married and had a child earlier, my mom would have been much younger and have the energy to manage a young child. My thoughts started spiraling down the list of things I could possibly be guilty about. 

By the time I got to my mom’s, I was almost in tears. But there was no time to cry, as the minute my mom opened the door, she was updating me on what my son did, what time he ate and slept, how often did he poop, how he fared in general. And because she’s my mom and not a childminder, I asked her how her day was and she began offloading onto me. Her aches and pains. Her grumbles. As I listened, all of that became my aches, my pains, my grumbles. 

By the time we fed, burped, diapered, the baby and packed his bag, 45 minutes had passed. In between all that activity, I found time to call a few clinics in the area to check if they administered the chicken pox vaccine. I was also very conscious of the fact that my husband was still waiting, so I quickly bundled my kid into the car and drove off. 

And then it’s another whirlwind of activity getting dinner, getting jabbed and getting the kid to bed. By the time he fell asleep, I was too tired to care about anything else. My shoulders were aching so badly I was feeling nauseated from the pain. Sitting in the darkeness, I unwoubd by scrolling through Facebook while my child slept. That was when a Facebook link popped up on my screen about finding time to take care of oneself. 

“Self-care is not selfish; it’s one of the best things you can do for your kids. Taking a break from family can cause guilt and anxiety in mothers and fathers alike. But a few hours away can re-energize you so you can get back to playing with Legos, making dinner and taking care of everyone else.”

And that was when I decided that I needed a little tender loving self-care too. Ever since I had my child, I have been so caught up in caring for him, on top of taking care of the house, that I had forgotten about myself. I can’t remember the last time I had a pedicure, my eyebrows were a mess, my roots have grown out past my ears. I look, and feel, like a total mess. 

So taking baby steps, the next day I booked a 20 minute shoulder and back massage appointment at one of those China massage centers near my office during lunch. The masseuse commented that my muscles were all knotted up and spent and extraordinary amount of time on my shoulders before moving to my back. He kept telling me to relax. I told him I didn’t know how to. But it felt SO GOOD after that. 

Then I rewarded myself with a steaming hot pot of kimchi stew. I love eating by myself. You eat at your own pace, you don’t have to talk to anyone. You basically do your own thing. 


So. Good. 

And my day slowly got better. That night, when my husband asked me how my day was, I thought about what I did, and I smiled and told him, “Today was a good day.”

Carousell, a great way to buy

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When Carousell, a buy sell trade app, launched in Singapore, I paid little attention to it. Dealing and wheeling was not my sort of thing.

However when I got pregnant and we needed to set up the nursery, Carousell became really useful in many ways. You see, the baby room before it was a baby room, was my husband’s store room. Half of the things he brought over from his old place when we moved, was chucked into this room, “to be cleared whenever”. Which probably meant never if it had not been for the baby. tv with missing cables. Sound system with 2 missing speakers. Xbox 360. A hand held UV vacuum cleaner. So the best way to get rid of everything was to Carousell everything. 
I listed everything at $50. Some saw the good deals that they were and snapped them up without question. There were the handful of negotiators which I ignored. Some were mildly interesting. I had a baby cot which I didn’t find suitable so I tried to sell it off. The interested party was obviously a young mother who was totally clueless about how big baby cots can be. While asking for details about the cot, she asked if it’s something she could transport back on a motorcycle. I wanted to tell her perhaps if she lived in a village yes but not here. My friend suggested since the cot had wheels, she could tie the cot to the back of her husband’s bike and sit in the cot while he pulled her home. I thought that was a pretty good suggestion. 


It was also a great place to sell my husband’s many coffee machines. 

After the baby arrived I soon found Carousell to be god sent. I ended up buying baby stuff online. One can find pretty well maintained secondhand stuff for a good price on Carousell. We got our Bugaboo stroller from a lady whose boy had outgrown it. My freemie breast pumps  and Hana baby wrap from other moms. I even got 2 sets of brand new nursing bras at half the retail price. 

Out of these many transactions, I encountered the usual; those who ask for really low prices despite the already good price that I’ve listed the items for. There are those who expressed interest but end up not responding after that. Annoying as hell but there’s nothing to do about it. 

However out of all that I had one really good exchange. I was enquiring about a breast milk cooler bag and needed it pretty urgently so I searched for one within the vicinity. I then found out the seller was living in the very same apartment as I was! So we started chatting and we both realised we were fans of the same diaper bag brand Jujube and hung out in the same community group on Facebook! What are the odds of finding a neighbour on Carousell. What’s more, she was really nice and honest about the cooler bag, advising me to purchase another brand that worked better, even if it meant a lost sale for her. We both agreed that we should meet up and hang out one day. 

But for every good one you meet, there’s invariably one that kinda puts you off. We were at this lady’s house collecting our purchase when she realized we had brought our baby along. She first remarked that it was past his bed time (it was 815pm and we were only there at that time because she couldn’t get home in time to meet me). Then she commented that he was well past the age of having not started on solid food (he’s 7 months old in a few days time). And then she told him that he shouldn’t be putting his fingers in his mouth. We were so glad to just pass her the money and leave after that. I was tempted to rate her as “item in good condition. Comes with free unsolicited advice”.  

But this wasn’t the worse encounter I’ve had. I wanted to purchase a pouch from a seller who said it was being shipped in from USA. so I put in a deposit and waited for it. A few weeks went by but the item hasn’t arrived. Responses from the seller were slow and intermittent. Separately in another community chat room some ladies were discussing about the pouch and I realised they had all purchased from the same seller! After a little amateur sleuthing, we concluded that she was scamming us some of us pulled out of the transactions, demanding refunds. One of the ladies decided to make a police report. A few months later, she was charged in court for her scams and was sent to jail for a few weeks. Truly a hard price to pay for just a few dollars. 

So it seems Carousell is here to stay. There are a few annoyances about the people you meet on it but the positives do outweigh the negatives. As they say, one man’s trash can be another man’s treasure. And it’s a great way for me to declutter my home of my husband’s things. 

Happy 6 months to us

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This picture was taken inside the nursing room at Takashimaya where we paused to change from left boob to right boob. He was smiling at me so I had to catch a quick picture of us together. We’ve gone past the 6 month mark a few weeks ago but it was a milestone for us. I told myself that I would breastfeed him for 6 months and no more. I didn’t think it would have lasted this long but I did it. And here he is now, weighing in at 8.6kg and 68cm. The champion of champions. 

It was an uphill battle right from the start. While I was lucky to have breast milk kick in from day 1, I soon discovered that my left nipple was flatter than the right so Liam had a hard time latching on properly. That caused his tongue to scrape the side of my nipple and the skin started to tear. Every time he latched on, it was like a thousand knives sawing away at my left breast and I didn’t know what to do about it. 

Thankfully I had my friends by my side. My friend Michelle who’s a pro at this child rearing thing what with three kids under her belt, rung up her lactation consultant and booked me a visit. The consultant spotted the problem immediately and taught me how to feed despite my underachieving nipple. After many attempts at the different types of positions to feed Liam, I soon got the hang of it and breastfeeding became less of a burden. Now, my left breast is the hardworking one and produces more milk than its partner. It’s like one of those documentaries where it achieves greater success than its peer (right boob) despite all odds! I can almost hear the soundtrack of Chariots of Fire with this one. 

Then the next few weeks of adjustment while the baby fed and my boobs tried to figure out how much he drank. I still remember the feeling of being engorged and leaking all day. The most remarkable part was my boobs leaked whenever he was hungry, even though he was in the next room. I could be in my room chillin’ with my homies and when one or both started to leak, I knew the reason the baby was crying was because he was hungry. 

What really helped were the timelines my friend Michelle gave me. She assured me that by 8 weeks the boobs would work it out among themselves, and they did. My nipples stopped hurting. My boobs stopped crying along with the baby. Breastfeeding became easy. I started enjoying the feeds as they became less of a chore. I now look forward to each feed as I enjoy the closeness between my baby and me. 

Now that I’ve achieved my 6 month milestone, I’ve decided to continue breastfeeding him as long as I can. I decided against setting myself another 6 month mark and will be taking it a day at a time. Since Liam is in infant care, I have to pump milk out for him everyday. It’s been tough trying to keep up a 3-hourly pumping schedule while working. You’ll be amazed how short 3 hours is! After each pump, I’d return to my desk to work, and soon it’s time to pump again! Sometimes I cannot find an empty room to pump in and that stresses me out. Other times I have to be out of office and trying to figure out the logistics of pumping worries me. However so far I’ve been lucky. I’ve a supportive boss who has 3 kids and been through all this herself. I’ve a supportive HR manager who checks in on me and my progress. I’ve supportive colleagues who watch out for me when they know I need to use the spare room to pump. 

I’m using my experience to educate people about breastfeeding and normalizing it as much as I can. When my junior colleagues asked what would happen should I miss a pump, I mimicked my breasts spurting out milk like the musical fountain. Once during lunch time when I came out of the spare room holding onto my cooler bag, a male colleague asked if I had packed lunch (since I was still in office), and I ernestly replied that that was my son’s lunch. He’s gotten so used to my comments that he doesn’t bat an eyelid anymore. 

I never thought I would make it this far but I did. So far both my mother and mother in law have made passing remarks about feeding my child formula milk but they’ve stopped after seeing how well my baby has grown, and after being overwhelmed by a deluge of literature about the benefits of breast milk sent by me. 

Here’s to many more days of feeding to the both of us!

Baby sleep

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Liam has been having a shitty time falling asleep, be it day time naps or night time sleep. He will fight sleep even though he’s obviously tired, and sometimes the battle between mother and baby can drag on for an hour or two before he finally gives up. I’m still waiting for the day he realises there’s no point fighting and just gives up 5 minutes into the battle. But alas, we are not there yet. One glorious night, he spent two hours fighting sleep. He had two feeds within a span of 2 hours, was babbling non-stop, and intermittently singing along with me as I tried to lullaby him to concussion. He even showed me his new trick by arching his back and throwing himself backward so that all the blood rushed to his head. I thought that might have worked but no, still wide awake. 
I read that babies don’t sleep well at night if they didn’t nap enough in the day. But even forcing him to nap was a trial. Sometimes latching him to sleep worked. Other times I concede defeat and handed him over to my mom and let her magic hands do the trick. She would carry him and pat his butt until he finally dozed off. Even then, his naps didn’t last more than 60 minutes before he woke up crying. Those apparently weren’t good naps as babies were supposed to wake up with a smile on their faces. Really. 

Then I came across this article about baby wake times vs naps and I realised I’ve been doing it all wrong. Babies need a set schedule of feeding and nap times, and while I’ve been keeping to a 2-3 hourly feed schedule (otherwise exploding boobs), I’ve not quite kept to a strict nap schedule. Hence Liam ends up with only 1-2 naps a day instead of the requisite 3-4. My poor baby has been tired out keeping up with mommy’s schedule. 

So this morning we started some sort of schedule. At 4 months old he should be awake only 1.25-1.45 hours each time. So after he had his feed and bath, I let him play by himself until he started yelling for me. Then I fed him one more time, thinking he would latch to sleep but he didn’t. He struggled for another 15 minutes before he finally dozed off in my arms. Right on the dot at 1.25 hours of wake time he fell asleep. Amazing!

It’s really quite funny watching him fight sleep. His eyes would droop a little and he would be still for 4 seconds and then a small part of his brain would be all FOMO and wake him up, thinking I’m doing something fun without him. I would pretend to be dozing, hoping that he would mimic me. And then he’s still for another 4 seconds before flailing his arms as he fought sleep. This goes on for a few more cycles before the zzzs overwhelm him. 

Asleep in 15 minutes! Success!!

So for the next precious 1.5 hours, I did what I could. Kept the laundry. Hung new batch of laundry. Mopped the floor. Swept his room. Packed the diaper bag. Proper nap times give you so much time to do house work (woo hoo) so why didn’t I institute a nap schedule earlier? Like seriously?

I feel so accomplished today. 

Feeding children medication

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Parenting, I found out, is all about reaching milestones with your kid. There are two kinds of milestones; one that your kid reaches and that involves things like flipping over onto his belly, first steps, first words. And then there’s the parental milestone that no one tells you about. Like feeding your kid medication the first time, and having him throw up all over you in response. 

Liam just had his third vaccination yesterday and it’s a big one which includes a 5 vaccines in 1 and a jab of pneumococcal. One or both of these vaccines causes fever, which means his little body is producing antibodies to fight the germs, which is of course a good thing. I was given a list of symptoms to look out for and a bottle of paracetamol to medicate should his fever go beyond 37.5C. 

Liam was fine most parts of the day and the fever only came at night. I took his temperature only when I woke up for his midnight feeds and it was only at 6am that the indicator on the thermometer turned red. Having medicated Liam for thrush previously, I didn’t think much about feeding him medication this time. so I propped the unsuspecting fella up on my nursing pillow, stuck the syringe full of cherry red liquid and slowly squirted a little into the corner of his mouth (years of medicating cats have taught me that much).

What happened next should be made into a “what to expect when you feed your child oral medicine” video. Liam’s face went from gurgling happiness to instant shock. He cringed as he tasted the sugary sweetness of the medicine. Then he gagged. That should have been the cue for me but I’m a first time parent and there’s a first time for everything. The morning’s feed came bubbling out of Liam’s mouth and nose in copious amounts. Liam has vomited his milk before, once when I burped him too soon after he’s done drinking. But you never quite get over that feeling of sheer helplessness and terror as your wee one regurgitates everything out. It’s also something you can’t quite get used to, but then perhaps a mother of three would probably disagree. Well this was my second experience and it was just as horrifying as the first time it happened. 

As Liam’s body tensed up, his face in total confusion as to what’s happening while he’s between coughing everything out, choking and trying to breathe, I froze in panic. I usually pride myself in being calm and collected in times of crises but nothing stops you quicker than the sight of your baby gasping for air. All I could do was freak out and exclaimed OH NO! OH NO!

Then the mommy reflexes kicked in. My right arm immediately lifted to push Liam into an upright position while my left hand frantically thumped Liam’s chest to help him get the liquid and air bubbles out. When the heaving stopped and Liam was still trying to catch his breath, I hugged him close to me and alternated between thumping and rubbing his back. Slowly, the headlights faded away, the deer blinked, and my consciousness registered what I was doing and my brain comforted myself, “it’s ok. He’s ok. You’re ok. Breathe.”

It too awhile longer for his little body to recover from the shock of cherry red liquid. He stopped gasping and spitting, and instead now tried to hack out what remaining gunk that’s start between his airway and throat. His nose wheezed a little from the forceful exodus. By the time both mother and child calmed, my bed was covered with spots of regurgitated milk and wads of wet tissues. 

When I thought everything was okay, I thought to try again since he already puked out his breakfast. A little squirt and a second upheaval of milk came out again. This time I was better prepared so he was already leaning forward when that happened, and I was already thumping his back to help him out. The look on his face was enough to make me fling the syringe across the room. We are doing this the old fashion way.

So Liam has had his bath (what with all the puke on his pyjamas), a second cool wipe down an hour later, and a cold towel “hat” he’s going to be wearing for the rest of the day. His body doesn’t feel so hot anymore so I think the worst is over. 

For now, he refuses to sleep unless it’s on top of some part of me (leg, arm, chest). He fusses a lot and cries when I walk away from him. But I think we will be okay soon.