Today, my bubba turns two.
Two years on, I still recall every moment of my labour and his birth in great detail. The contractions that came in waves, the nausea that had me running to the bathroom again and again. The relief that flooded my every fibre when the nurses at the delivery ward told me that I was 8cm dilated. The confusion that ran through my brains when I was asked to push. The quiet determination in trying all ways and means to get this baby out of my body. The bubbling joy that removed all traces of pain when they told me it was a boy. The contented love in seeing husband cuddle his newborn. The sense of completion when I held his tiny pink body in my arms and said, hello Zac.
This littlest one of ours, ah, he is everything that we have wanted and yet completely unexpected. The greatest beauty in parenting more than one child is in seeing how they develop and blossom into their own individual identities, despite coming from the same gene pool. Needless to say, Zac is so different from his brother and yet so alike.
And just like that, another year has passed. If your first year seemed to have zoomed past at scarily great speed, then this second year has been so much more FUN and ridiculously hilarious.
You, my darling boy, are the cheekiest little person in the world. I cannot believe the things that you get up to – jumping on papa and mummy’s bed as if it’s a trampoline, trying to sit on the cats, tossing your bowl and spoon off from the table when you are bored at the dining table, blowing raspberries with oodles of saliva, demanding more food in your bowl. And yet when we tell you off sternly, you simply crack us your sweetest grin, so wide that your eyes literally disappear into slits. Sometimes, I have to turn away so you cannot see me laugh. You are my THUG BABY, the one whose DNA is devoid of FEAR.
It’s of no wonder, then, that the teachers at your daycare are so in love with you. Yes, that was one of the things that we did, placing you in your brother’s daycare when you turned 21 months. You cried and cried in the first few weeks, and it broke my heart to see you sobbing away when I returned to pick you up.
But you know, we all expected you to be a trooper and you did so good. By the end of a month, you had more or less adjusted and while you would cling to me at drop off, you seemed to be enjoying yourself.
So back to the teachers. They gush about you all the time, and they would tell me how your smile melts their hearts. Once, your teacher Lina told me incredulously that you ate four servings of lunch. I burst out laughing. You do make it my money’s worth, I dare say.
School has been good for you though, despite my initial reservations at putting you there so early. Your vocabulary has increased tremendously and you come home humming songs. When we sing to you, you try to chime in, complete with actions. Even your skeptical grandmothers can see how school has helped you in becoming more verbal – they who were worried that you hardly spoke a word at home. You are such a funny little person, stringing words into short sentences like “I want do!” and “Papa wake up” and “Thank you mummy” and (more frequently) “sorry Aidan!”
You are my little tornado, my little bull. You have so, so, so much energy every single day. From the morning you are up, you are on the go go go. It’s so amazing how much zest for life you have. I wish that you will always have that joy for living, the tremendous love for doing. And that’s one thing I hope we, as parents, won’t go wrong.
I know that we are constantly on the sidelines saying, “No Zac, don’t do this and don’t do that.” We worry about your safety, worry about you getting yet another bump on the head. And yet at the same time, I try to remember that this is what will get you through life, this desire to try new things, to push boundaries and see what you can get out of it. It’s an important trait to have in life, and I never want to see you lose it or be forced to conform.
Parenting is a strange journey – there is no instruction manual, there is no pause button and more importantly, there is no way that we can ever go back to right the mistakes that we make. With you, we have the benefit of hindsight gained from the experience of parenting your brother but that doesn’t make us perfect parents, because you are so different from him. I can only hope that the seeds that we have laid today will form the foundation of a future for you – one where you are a good, kind, loving, empathetic man with that cheeky sense of humour and crazy love for living that you have today at the grand old age of two.
Ah yes, that’s where we are today. The age of two. You are my squishy bear, the one whom I am still nursing to sleep every night (you will now dictate which side to start first and when you are done). The one whom I am still baby wearing in my wrap. The one who doles out hugs and kisses, and has “conversations” with me when wrapped. The one whom I squeeze and kiss to death every single day because you are just so delectable. The one whom I will gaze upon in the quiet night after you have drifted off into slumberland, listening to your even breathing and then gently kissing your bouncy cheeks while sniffing your hair. The one who makes me smile as you zip down the corridor in typical Zac fashion. The one who is my last baby, who is showing me that the very last set of firsts should not be a source of sadness but a thing of impermanence, ready to be celebrated and cherished.
When you are older, all these may not make any sense to you or mean anything much. But know that these memories matter to your old mother, they will be what keeps me going when I am silver haired and have nothing to live for.
And right now, these are the memories that keep me afloat when times are hard – and they do get hard – and during moments when I feel like I may have failed as a mother.
Because these are beautiful memories that tell me that no matter what’s been said and done, you are happy and laughing and that’s all that is important.
Happy birthday, my darling Zac. I love you, baby boy and know that we will always have your back.
Stay fearless. Stay joyful.
I am a baby wearing addict. Every weekend, I will diligently pack one of my wraps into our diaper bag, knowing that I will probably have to carry my littlest at some point. In fact, I hope I will get to carry him.
Never mind that my little fatty is all of 11kg and he refuses to go on my back, which means I have to carry him in front just like I did when he was snug in my womb. Never mind that when we walk and we walk and I am wearing him like that, it hurts my injured back sometimes.
I just want to.
The truth is that, that’s the kind of mother I am. I love snuggling close to my boys, love being able to kiss their bouncy cheeks, love holding them. And each and every single wrap that I have in my little stash is precious, it allows me to do just that – hold them close to me, close enough to kiss. Every single wrap holds sentimental value to me, which is why I am finding it so difficult to let go of any of them. (And thank goodness the man understands this passion.)
Also, I am finding it hard to let go because I know that this one is my last baby. Once he decides that he does not want to go up into the wrap anymore, my baby wearing days will be over.
There will be other memories to create and cherish, of course. There will be other moments to look forward to. But at this point in time, I am starting to mourn the end of my baby’s babyhood, especially since I know that we will also have to wean for good come March, when I go on a 10-day business trip.
He is my last baby.
Husband is pretty much done, he has stated clearly that he does not want another child. I am ambivalent, I neither reject the idea nor crave for a third badly. But I also had an epiphany the other day: I was looking at myself in the mirror one morning, me with the tired eyes and insidious lines on my face. And I realised, with a start, that I was 35. If I were to be pregnant for the third time, I would be a mother to a newborn at 36 or 37.
I am not sure I can, or want to, handle that.
So, nostalgia. Looking forward to the future, yes, but also saddened by the end of the firsts.
Every single day, every single night, I look at these two and all I can think of is how much love I have for them.
And yet, there are moments on this motherhood journey when I feel completely spent, lost and doubtful. When I feel like I am simply making things up as I go along. When I am not completely sure and can only cross my fingers and hope that what I am doing is the right thing.
Maybe I will sound like a wuss for saying it but man, life with two little people as a full-time working mother is freaking tiring. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, I love them, I love us. But that’s not to say that this gig is not hard.
It’s not even the fact that I wake up two, three times a night that makes this tiring. There are some evenings when I feel like I have given everything I have got left after a day’s work to them and it’s still not enough. My boys are blessedly not difficult children, they are funny and cute and loving. But they are also very physical and their physical need of me can be very overwhelming, especially when the introvert side of me is grumpy and needs a recharge from this noisy, intrusive world. So I heave a huge sigh of relief when they go to bed and I can retreat into the sofa with my laptop. Or ice-cream. Mostly the laptop though.
That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate their physical side though. These two can be so endearing and affectionate in showing their love, I think we lucked out in that respect. Aidan is so generous in doling out hugs and kisses to his sappy mama here, while Zac is a little more reserved, saving these mostly for mama. But the littlest loves to toddle over to me, tug at my shirt and go “eh eh eh” – his way of asking to be carried. And woe betide me should I dare to put him down before he is ready to go!
But I am…tired. I know the days are long and the years are short, I know all that. In the meantime, I am looking forward to NOT feeling so exhausted one day.
Another year, another round of HFMD.
Yes, the three-year-old is down with this dreadful illness again. Poor baby has ulcers at the back of his throat and isn’t eating well at the moment. When he gives up three quarters of his chocolate biscuit, you know he is in great pain. He would never have given it up willingly in healthier times, hah.
The silver lining is that he is still, pretty much, himself. He’s happy and playful and still singing away.
Right now we are concerned with separating Aidan from Zac. The last thing we want is for the baby to get it too. And that’s where it turns dicey. We now have to activate our parents’ help – I can’t take leave because of classes and assessments while the man is juggling several projects. The logistics can be a challenge and this is frustrating for two parents who are working full-time.
At the same time, I am terrified of getting HFMD too. My last experience was nasty, I could barely eat or drink for seven days. It felt like I was swallowing shards of glass whenever I tried to ingest something. And then, miraculously, the ulcers disappeared on the 7th day.
Yup. HFMD as an adult is a terrible experience.
It’s been tough for the past year because we have been bouncing from illness to illness. It’s frustrating that we can only catch a short break before the next wave of illness comes, we are talking in terms of a week or two, at most a month. This is something that we accept as part and parcel of daycare life but it’s still difficult to live through. I’m tired of being sick, of my two babies being sick, of having to wake up a gazillion times at night to an angry, crying baby who cannot breathe through his congested nose, of having to clean snotty noses and rub phlegmy chests.
Well, everyone tells me that the first year of daycare is usually the toughest on the kid’s health. Fingers crossed that their immune systems would be strengthen soon as we inch towards that one-year mark.
We’ve entered June and the weather’s officially turned. Which means it’s hello to scorching days and sweaty humidity, hello to shorts and tanks and sandals, hello to escaping to air-conditioning.
We marked the first day of June by going on a ride down Lorong Halus to Punggol. Crazy, really, considering that we started so late (the littles took a late nap) and it was blazing hot. When we first started pedalling, I thought to myself, this is going down as one of those mistakes. Yup, we have had plenty of those. You know, when you do something which you thought was a good idea and then once you are in it, you kinda go, Hmm, yeah, NO.
Like when we thought it was a good idea to nap the boys in the car and go check out Some Random Place but the boys didn’t nap and they ended up overtired wrecks once we were out of the car. Or when we decided to go Somewhere Nice for dinner and they were slaying us with their worst behaviour.
I really thought it was going to be a disaster. Plus, Zac was screaming the entire way to Punggol. Don’t ask me why, I think he was just in a snitch. Sort of like, Dude, I was perfectly happy to toss toys all over the house and you strap me into this thing for what?! He wanted me to carry him but clearly, I had my hands full.
So there we were, pedalling furiously and there he was, yelling his lungs out, equally furiously. It was HILARIOUS. I was cycling behind husband, who had him in the bike seat, and I could see the heads of the passersby swivelling towards us to check out the screaming baby.
But other than Zac’s vocal exertion, it was a pretty fab ride. The moon was hanging low in the bright, clear blue sky, which thrilled the three-year-old to no end. And then on the other side was the setting sun: a glorious, majestic ball of fire. We quickly made our way to the beach, just in time to see it disappear over the horizon. The boys ate some banana pancakes that I had whipped up just before we set off, we rested our aching legs and we were quietly relishing the moment.
As the sky darkened, we made our way home. By this time, the heat had dissipated and the wind was rushing in our ears. Our legs worked extra hard so that we can get back as quickly as we could, since Zac had resumed his pissed off yelling. To placate him, we started singing as we cycled and so we became the band of singing cyclists. Only, our choice of songs were limited to Aidan’s repertoire and we were warbling, loudly, tunes about children rolling out of bed and Old MacDonald’s farm. And once we were home, the littlest one was quickly put to bed while the rest of us feasted on frozen pizza while catching the SEA Games on the telly.
So it didn’t turn out to be a disaster after all. And as I rode, all I could think of was how this is home and how these are the memories that I want my kids to have. We may not own anything fancy but these rides with mama and papa, these are the things that they will remember. Not the expensive toys or beautiful clothes.
I hope that one day, when my boys are all grown up and perhaps fathers themselves, they will recall that once upon a time, their parents took them cycling and they caught beautiful sunsets and they felt free, happy, contented and so, so loved.
(Okay, maybe Zac won’t remember that he screamed for most of the ride. He did feel loved and happy and free after we took him out of the seat.)
I don’t know about you but I am one of those parents who think that their own children are really, really cute.
(I also think that my toddler can be an arsehole but that’s another story for another day.)
Anyway, during one of those moments when I was absolutely overwhelmed by just how adorable my Zac was, I said to husband: “I make really cute kids. We should totally have another.”
To which he replied, “No thanks.”
Although this was something we had agreed upon, that still made my heart wrench a little in regret.
The thing is, I have always wanted two children and I have been blessed with two beautiful boys. They are enough for us and they complete our family. We are happy and contented, given how three years ago, we weren’t even sure we could ever have any children at all. We have certainly come a long way since those long, awful days.
But given our finances, our resources and our energy, having another child is simply not practical. So we decided we are not going to have a third. And I am done incubating babies.
But still, it doesn’t mean that I don’t mourn the fact that I will never be pregnant again. Does it make sense? I don’t want another child, I don’t need another child and yet I feel a tinge of sadness that I will never experience my baby’s kicks from within. I will never have to prepare for labour, to push my baby out of me again. My womb will never house another baby, a being that grows so miraculously from a little ball of cells into a tiny human. There’s a sense of quiet resignation. I don’t crave a third child the way I was dying to have a second. And yet, there is this emptiness in my heart, knowing that this is it.
Zac’s every milestone will be the last time we get to experience it. Every minute, every second that the boys are growing up is equivalent to every step that they take away from babyhood.
Oh, I am enjoying and savouring every moment that I have with them, don’t get me wrong, but there is a whole bunch of emotions tangled up in me at the same time. I felt it when my girlfriend gave birth to her little girl – her third! – and I feel it when friends announce their pregnancies. And I suspect that I will continue feeling it, even as the years go by.
But it’s all good. I look at my boys and I am deeply happy. Even on days when things seem to go wrong and somebody is screaming at any given moment, I remember how I used to cry in the shower. This emptiness keeps me grounded, it keeps me from ever taking my kids for granted.