Second time around, things are admittedly easier than before.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, we are all exhausted. A typical night looks like this: bathe both boys, put both boys to sleep and then concuss at 10pm, wake up at 2am in alarm because I had forgotten to set the timer for my three-hourly wake up call to feed the baby, feed the baby, change his diaper, feed the baby again, place baby gingerly into his cot, sleep, wake up at 5am when baby fusses, feed baby, change baby’s diaper, feed baby again, place baby gingerly into his cot, sleep, wake up at 7am because toddler is up.
Some nights, Zac will not go back to sleep after his feed. Which means that we will be staring at each other for a good hour (or two, or three) before he conks out. If I am lucky, he doesn’t cry much. If I am not, he will be fussing and whinging and I will be all WHAT DO YOU WANT, KID.
But it’s cool. One night, both Mr Thick and I collapsed in our bed and laid there in silence for a little bit. And then I said, “Good thing we know that it is not going to be like this for too long.” He nodded and we shared a quiet laugh.
With two littles, there is no time for us to sit there shell-shocked, wondering what the heck is going on and how do we do it. We just roll up our sleeves and do. And having experience on our side helps, we know that eventually, things will get easier.
Admittedly, it’s tough during the day when I need to juggle the needs of Zac and Aidan at the same time. Thankfully, I have my mother over and she’s been a gem at helping me with the boys. She adores Zac and will put him down for his nap while I give Aidan some one-on-one attention that he craves. And when I am nursing Zac, she will feed Aidan, bring him to the potty and keep an eye on him.
And let’s not forget that I get all my meals prepared for me for a month. I have no idea how I will survive without her after this but mmm, let’s take it one day at a time.
So yes, having two kids has been great so far. Extremely tiring, but also extremely joyful.
(But no, this family is going to be a family of four for a long, long, long time.)
They say that second time around, motherhood is easier. Maybe because you have experience in the bag, maybe because the second child is easier, maybe because you are just a hell lot more relaxed than before.
And it’s true.
We welcomed our littlest over the weekend. Zac joined us on his estimated due date and he’s just perfect. I cannot imagine life without him now and we are all madly in love with him.
The birth experience was an immensely intense one and apparently rather dramatic. Which I had no clue of, until I was discharged and the nurses and doctors heaved a sigh of relief.
But I’ll leave that to another day.
In the meantime, we are very, very happy, trying to get used to life being parents of a toddler and a newborn, and chalking up sleep debt.
Last weekend, I attended my cousin’s wedding and for their photo montage, the couple used this song, OneRepublic’s “Good Life”.
It’s been stuck on my mind since then and as I put it on repeat mode (habit of mine, I can repeat a song a gazillion times, heh), I can’t help but reflect on the lyrics.
Because I’m really leading the good life now at 32.
(Yes, I realise I am revealing my age to the Internetz. And no, I don’t care, I’m proud of how old I am.)
Back in my teens, I was chasing popularity. I wanted desperately to be one of the popular girls but I failed miserably, what with my bad haircuts, thick glasses and bad skin. I wanted to be liked by everyone and I probably tried too hard.
In my 20s, I was seeking myself. Call it an existential angst if you want, but I was trying to find my place in life and the world. I didn’t know what I was good for and looked really hard to find a job that made me sing. I yearned to be one of those chic women with the latest IT bag and perfectly coiffed hair, high heels clicking in harmony.
And now that I am in my 30s, I am astonishingly comfortable in my own skin. I am no longer young and beautiful, true. But I am confident of who I am, of what I am. I love husband and we are still crazy in love. My little man has taught me patience, humility and gratitude and not a day goes by without him bringing us laughter and love.
This has gotta be the good life.
I don’t have that coveted Chanel bag. I’m not travelling half as much as I dreamed of. We often wonder why our bank accounts are not growing. Our flat is done up simply. I get a thrill from going grocery shopping.
But we make our lives. We decide that this is our life, this is how we intend to live, and we should make every day a good one.
Some days are harder than others, some nights drag on for longer than they should. But we are happy. And contented. Because there is so much to feel good about.
Speaking of weddings, the best parts are usually the montages and the speeches by the bride and groom. Montages are so run of the mill, it’s true, but it always warms my heart to see pictures of the couple as they were growing up, as well as those of them creating memories together. And the speeches, they tell you a lot about who they are, and what they went through in their relationship.
Every relationship is unique and each one has its own story. Ours is written here, for our son to read when he is older. And I love listening to these stories, I love hearing about how two people meet, fall in love and make it work.
I don’t really remember the details of the speech that my beloved gave on our wedding day. He sang to me and for me, and then said something about thanking me, about it being fated. I think. But the intense joy, the feeling that it was the most amazing day of our loves – that has stayed with me for the past four years. And as we approach our fifth year together, I’m glad that he’s by my side as my partner and the father of my baby.
This could really be the good life, the good, good life.
To my cousin and his wife, have a blessed marriage ahead that’s full of love and laughter. And thanks for reminding me that life is beautiful.
Jimmy & Yann – our lives, our faces, our love from Jimmy Liew on Vimeo.
As I sit here typing this, my nose is running, my hands are as cold as ice, and the back of my throat feels like sandpaper. It’s no exaggeration when I say that I FEEL LIKE CRAP. And obviously, I look like crap too.
BUT. That is not the point. I am not here to whine and whinge about my illness. Okay, maybe just a little. WHINE WHINE WHINE. Now stop.
I have never appreciated how much work my mother put into bringing me up until I became a mother myself. It’s so cliched but true. As a mother, you don’t have “off” days. Even if you are sick, you still have to haul your ass up to do whatever is necessary because your child needs you. My baby isn’t going to feed, bathe and put himself to bed just because mama is feeling ill. Even if you had a bad day at work, you still have to put on a big smile and pull on that Mama hat because you just have to.
At least I have a helper now who can take over the cleaning up, and a husband who is able to put my little man to bed while I lie on the bed for a brief respite. Back then, my mother never had any of that. It was just her and two kids, whom she had to bring up by herself.
As someone who never had the privilege of education, she had to work long hours in order to feed us two. And she missed out on so many priceless moments of our lives. Not once was she able to attend the ceremonies in which I received book prizes, neither did she attend a single choir performance of my life. And I sang for 13 YEARS.
Which is why now that I have my own child, I am absolutely insistent on letting her have at least partial care of A while I am at work. She never had the chance to be joyful about our growth, it was always about survival for her. How to make sure that we have the money to go to school and pay for textbooks, how to make enough money such that we are not deprived of little treats like renting books to read (for me). Toys were non-existent in our house but books, oh my, all the books that I read!
Now that the stress of having to bring up her own children is out of the way, she can finally relax and just be a caregiver. And it’s evident that she is enjoying it immensely. She shifted all her furniture out of the way so that the boys have a large space to run/crawl/ride their trikes, switched out pieces that had sharp corners to those without, and plays with them. She turns on music and encourages them to dance, and takes them down to the playground every evening.
Never mind that her house has been turned topsy turvy, never mind that toys line the hallway, never mind that milk bottles clutter her dining table. It’s a little house that’s full of love and warm and joy. The house speaks of laughter and tears and milestones reached.
Sure, the situation is not perfect. She gets upset with me when I refuse to feed A porridge (I mean, he gets porridge EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Surely it’s not wrong for me to offer him variety.), turns on the TV in the house even though I have said that I am limiting A’s exposure to TV, and slips some sugar into the chrysanthemum or barley drink that she feeds him.
But to see her eyes light up every time A smiles at her? And to see my little man kiss her goodbye? It’s well worth it.
Today, my son “met” my father for the first time.
And I was struck by just how much that had meant to me.
You see, my father died when I was six. In the years that ensued, I had built and lived a life in his absence. Because he had passed on when I was still a young child, I did not really feel the void that his death had created in my life, not in the same way that it had affected the lives of my mother and my sister.
Last year, I had missed out on attending the Qing Ming procedures because of the birth of my little man. And this year, he almost missed it again, having fallen asleep in the car en route to the columbarium. We decided that Mr Thick would remain in the car with him while I went up to my father’s niche to pay my respects.
And we did, my aunt and my cousins and my mom – the women who had lost so many people along the way. These days, we can stand around the niches and exchange fond, amusing memories of the dead but that in itself took many long years of learning to forgive and accept. We laughed and knelt and bowed our heads in prayer, hoping that those whom we had loved and departed all too soon were in good hands somewhere, somehow.
Shortly after, we left. And just as we reached the carpark, the little boy woke up from his short-lived nap. I was ready to leave but Mr Thick gently pushed me into taking Aidan to pay his respects to Gong Gong. And so off we went again, hauling the kid up to the niche.
Of course, he had no idea what the occasion was. He pounded his tiny fists against the glass that protected my father’s niche, and gave it quizzical looks. I explained to him that this is Gong Gong.
This is mama’s daddy, I said.
He studied my father’s photo, banged his hands against the glass and made some indecipherable noise.
Knock knock! I said, in jest. Gong Gong is not going to appear just because you are knocking at his door, you know.
My little man laughed, as if he understood my joke.
And in that moment, my heart welled up with an emotion that I could not identify.
I don’t think I can ever put in words or measure just how much my father’s death had altered the course of my existence. I will never know just how I would have turned out if he had been around. And I have always dismissed his absence as an unfortunate incident in my life.
But I must miss him more than I have ever realised.
Papa, this is your grandson. Wherever you are, I hope you are happy to know that you have him. Please look after him, and give him your blessings.