Health Goddess

It shouldn’t have to be this hard

Today, my friend lost her baby.
Today, a mama lost the child that she had been so eagerly looking forward to.
Today, a little life was snuffed out.
Today, someone who deserves something good in her life received nothing but bad news and heartbreak.

Her baby was in utero, and not even three months old. It doesn’t make it less of a loss. It doesn’t make her less of a mother.

We’ve all been on the infertility train, we know the rules of the game. Seeing our little embryo snugly nestled in our womb on the ultrasound doesn’t count. Hearing the heartbeat doesn’t make it make it any more certain. Miscarriages can happen anytime within the first trimester. Nothing is guaranteed until the baby is safe and alive in your arms. It’s the luck of the draw, someone once told me. Just as a perfect embryo doesn’t guarantee pregnancy, neither does hearing that WOOSH WOOSH WOOSH reverberate around the tiny room.

When we boarded the train, we figured we will take things as they come. We didn’t want to think too far. We worry about complications and bad news, and yet we never stop hoping for the best and praying that we will have a happy ending.

And then the train hits a brick wall that throws us and our hopes up into the air. We fall, leadenly, almost as if in slow-motion. And when we hit the ground, the pain is like nothing you can imagine. It breaks our heart into little pieces that are oh so difficult to put back together. We cry, despite knowing that crying isn’t going to change the fact that the end result hurts.

I don’t know if they will carry on fighting the good fight. I wish they would, because I know that they are strong, but it’s easier said than done. Infertility takes a lot out of your soul, it can change who you are. I know that, because┬ádeep down, it’s changed me profoundly.

I can’t take away their pain, I can’t bear their burden.
I only wish I could.

Dear girl, I know that nothing I say can make that sorrow go away. Your little bean was loved by us and so are you.

Bun in oven, Letters to

Where you belong

Dear Tiny Human,

Strangely enough, I haven’t been sleeping in on weekends the way I used to before you came along. This morning, my eyes flew open at 8am and try as I might, I couldn’t fall back asleep. Instead, I turned onto my side and took a long, sweet glance at your sleeping father. And then I started to pray:

Dear God, thank you for this man. He is not perfect but he is just perfect for me. Thank you for keeping us together in spite of all that we have gone through. He is feeling a little lost now so please guide him in the right direction.

Thank you for this little nugget of ours, thank you for giving him to us after two years of struggle, tears and pain. We will love him dearly. And God, while I am grateful that you have gifted us with this miracle boy, there are many others out there who can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. They are struggling, like we were, and they are bitter, sad and angry. Please help them, they need your guidance too. Thank you.

23 weeks in and there are still times when I could hardly believe that you are truly here. These fleeting moments of wonder and joy and disbelief pop into my head and I have to look down at my swelling belly to be brought back to reality.

Your movements have been more distinct, more exuberant. You love it when I eat: five bites into my meal, I can feel you knocking at the walls of your watery home, as if thanking me for devouring such delicious food. When I am happy and laughing, you bubble up in joy too. And when I read to you, you stay silent till the end of the book, nudging me when the last page has been flipped.

But when your Daddy is around, oh my little man, you become so, so still! You could be flipping around like a fish and when I call for your Dad excitedly, you quieten down. He watches you with his hand on my tummy and speaks to you, but you only respond with tiny squirms. The moment he leaves and we are alone in the room, you start somersaulting again. It’s really funny!

Despite knowing that you will be with us in March next year, there are times when pangs of sadness still hit me. I always believe that things happen for a reason but sometimes, I just don’t know why we had to tread on such an arduous journey before we hit the prize. It’s been so hard, so, so, hard but I am thankful that we got through it in the end.

During those tough times, one song kept me going and I will never listen to this song without being reminded of how it encapsulates all my murky emotions then.

I’d go hungry
I’d go black and blue
I’d go crawling down the avenue
Know there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
To make you feel my love

It’s true, you don’t only become a mother when your child is born. You become a mother the moment you realize that a little being is slowing growing in your belly, when the two lines appear on the stick. You become a mother the day you know that you are nurturing a ball of cells that would one day be your child. You become a mother when everything you do is for the best of your child, who is yet to be born.

Thank you for making me your mother.

♥, Mama

Bun in oven, Two of Us

Married life #21

One night before bedtime…

(No, this is strictly non-scandalous in nature. Definitely safe for work)

Me: Can you read a story to your kid? He hears my voice throughout the day, we should let him get used to yours.

Him: Okay. What shall I read to him?

Me: The Dr Seuss book that Yi Lin bought for him?

Him: So boring. Mmm… (starts mucking around on his iPhone)

This was what happened next:

(When the story ended…)

Me: Read something else?

Him: Okay.

And then:

Him: Hey boy boy! Your mommy tweeted about me!

Me: Stop calling him boy boy! That’s damn gross. Or worse, “boi boi”.

Him: (ignores me and continues flicking on his iPhone screen)

And then suddenly:

Don’t know what The Tunnel is? Here it is and remember to turn up the volume. Don’t say I didn’t share a good thing with you.

Bun in oven, Little Miss Shopaholic

Buying maternity clothes

Alright, I’ll admit it. I caved. I am now wearing the very clothes that I had tried my darnest to avoid until I absolutely had to.

But seriously, at 22 weeks, I can’t put off the inevitable, especially when I am a full-time working mom-to-be who needs to be properly and formally dressed in school. If I were still in the agency, I could have gotten away with strappy maxi dresses and pre-pregnancy jeans with my trusty Bella band (purchased at a steal from AlleMom). Now that I am in a job that allows me to, uhhmm, MOULD YOUNG MINDS, I can hardly strop around in jeans and tank tops, can’t I?

Over the weekend, Mr Thick and I threw ourselves into the arduous task of shopping and let’s just say that my credit card had a good workout. SOBS. But I console myself with the fact that these basics will be with me until the nugget is born in March and beyond.

Spring Maternity
You can’t miss Spring Maternity. It’s everywhere. The Sista had passed me some basic spaghetti strap tops, a pair of jeans and pants from the brand, and they have been LIFESAVERS. But mostly for weekend wear though.

I’m not one for wearing ruffles, really, but I love the cheery green stripes of this top. Mr Thick commented that it made me look young, fresh and…OKAY LET’S PAY FOR IT NOW. The pants are super comfy! Immediately after I tried them on, I started devising ways in which I could incorporate them into my daily wardrobe AFTER my pregnancy. That’s how fab they are.

Le Bloomingchic
I feel a tad guilty about Le Bloomingchic, actually. When we were in there, the sales ladies were SO warm and friendly, they handed me a pile of things to try. When I emerged from the changing room, slightly dazed and confused, there was a MOUNTAIN of clothes on the floor and the hanging rod.

The shop is a bit of a hit and miss to me though. There were floral and frilly pieces that weren’t my style at all but boy, when they hit the mark, they REALLY hit the damn bullseye.

I got this pair of MUG+ jeans even though it felt a little pricey at $79. You have to understand that I am a cheap mom-to-be. I’d rather spend the money on preparing for my little man’s arrival than on clothes that I will wear for a few months, tops. But the jeans were oh so comfy and stretchy. The grey top is something that I will be able to wear post-delivery and its simplicity allows me to jazz it up however I want to.

The next two MUG+ tops are meant for nursing as well, which means that their shelf life extends beyond pregnancy. Score! They are very basic tops but that’s alright, I have plenty of ways to jazz up my wardrobe. I especially like the turquoise top with its cut-outs – adds something different to the look.

Marina Square #03-152
Tel: +65 6337 2537

Maternity Exchange
I had resisted stepping into Maternity Exchange because I had heard from mommy friends that their clothing tends to be on the expensive side. Remember: cheapie mommy here.

But Mr Thick’s discerning eye picked out a few items that he thought I would like from outside the store and he nudged me towards the shop.

It IS true, Maternity Exchange does have pieces that are pretty pricey. I particularly loved the Jules & Jim items but could not justify paying so much for them. I could rent them but they were so gorgeous that I could not imagine giving them back!

But Maternity Exchange does have some of the most gorgeous maternity outfits around, hands down. If I have an event or fancy dinner to attend, I would most definitely head over there to rent a pretty dress. Or two.

I ended up with two basic black dresses that would be able to last me till pregnancy and beyond.

This Ripe Maternity little black dress is actually a rental piece but other than looking a little washed, it’s almost as good as new. What I like about it is its flattering v-neck and swingy skirt. I could wear it post-pregnancy and even when nursing.

Don’t underestimate the simplicity of this Seraphine black dress. When I put it on, I felt like a gorgeous goddess. The comfortable jersey clings to my every curve (which I don’t have, frankly, many of) and accentuates the belly. It flows with my every move and the best thing is, the ruched waist has room for a growing baby belly. Wear it with pearls and a pair of sexy red heels and woot! I’ll be the most sexy momma out there.

I am totally going to slip this on even when the bun is out of the oven.

#03-108 Marina Square
Tel: +65 61003924

BONUS!!
For your patience in reading about my shopping exploits, here’s a bonus JUST FOR YOU. The best accessories a pregnant woman can have: the funniest husband in the world and a most unwilling cat!

Bun in oven

The 22-week belly

22 weeks

This week has been a week of curbing my unhealthy cravings. While at the clinic for our detailed scan, I discovered that I had piled on 3kg in six weeks. The horror! The nugget takes up all of 500g so hmm. I’m pretty sure the rest of it went into his personal swimming pool AKA the amniotic waters and the BOOBS.

Oh yeah, let’s talk about BOOBS. I actually have BOOBS. Mr Thick took a close look at them one morning in the bathroom and went WAH. If I could shove my boobs into the face of every arsehole who had laughed at my A-cup (or AAA-cup, goes the joke, HAR HAR HAR) chest, it would make me a very happy person indeed. Vindictive, me? NOOOO.

HOWEVER. I have to say that big(ger) boobs are not terribly fun. Whenever I run for the bus, I have to cross my arms under my boobs because these gloriously rounded babies HURT LIKE A BITCH when they bounce around. And I look like a porn star with my girls POPPING! OUT! to say hello when I wear tops or dresses that used to fit me like a glove.

The nugget’s moves have become more and more distinct. Every night and every morning, I love to talk to him and feel him wriggle, squirm and somersault. My little man is a morning person, so terribly unlike his night owl parents. He bounces up and down a lot more in the day than at night, which suits me just fine.

I can’t wait to meet him.

Bun in oven

To manhood!

This past week has literally flown by. After back to back weddings on Sunday – where family members came up to me to exclaim over how small my tummy was (oh, because pregnant women LOVE IT WHEN PEOPLE TELL THEM HOW SMALL THEIR TUMMIES ARE!) – my week at work has been packed with classes and orientation. Ordinarily, I would have loved to get away from work with ANY excuse but this time, I was moaning about it all the frigging time because it meant having to reschedule classes and less time to grade assignments.

My, what a changed person I have become!

We went for our 20th week Fetal Anatomy scan (ie. the detailed scan) earlier this week and phew! The nugget has got all his fingers, toes, nose, lips, kidneys, liver, spine and heart in place. We even saw the aorta as well as the four chambers of his heart. Isn’t life just amazing? Weeks ago, I had to strain my eyes to look at the barely there flickering of his heart, thinking it was a bad pixel. Now, we could see the the ventricles and atria, and the opening and closing of the valve as it tirelessly pumps away.

The Tiny Human was wriggling away like a fish and the doctor commented more than once that he is an active little thing. He was constantly moving his hands around and at one point, we saw him opening and closing his hands into fists. And then a minute later, baby boy moved his tiny ass to sit RIGHT ONTO MY BLADDER, which would explain why mama here HAS GOT TO GO PEE NOW NOW NOW sooooo many times in the day.

I love my little man.

Enough to share with the whole world the picture of the appendage between his tiny thighs, hur hur.

During my scan that day with Dr Y when I had the gastric attack, I asked him to check again for the nugget’s weenis. JUST IN CASE, I said and he asked, JUST IN CASE WHAT?

You know. Just in case.

He moved that magic ultrasound paddle around my “blossoming” belly (something from my daily hypnobirthing affirmations) and voila! There’s my boy flashing us his weenis. The accompanying subtitle is clearly NOT my idea.

I need to get used to this. Weenis. No, penis. PENIS. PENIS PENIS PENIS. My son has a PENIS (and rightly so too).

That means…

LOOK MA, I HAVE A PENIS IN MY UTERUS!

The organised chaos

The one and only uterus

No, this is not a post paying homage to the anatomy that’s currently housing my little man. As grateful as I am that my female plumbing is working perfectly, I can think of two other persons who are more grateful that I am: my in-laws.

When I married Mr Thick, I didn’t think much about having babies and procreation. I was focused on the two of us, the fact that his parents might be intensely desiring for grandchildren never crossed my mind.

Mr Thick is the runt of the litter, with both of his elder brothers married – years before we did – and childless. They are also much older than I am, in their forties. Which makes me the owner of the only viable uterus in the family. Needless to say, his mother cast her scrutinizing eye on us after our wedding, fully expecting the two of us to produce a grandchild for her in the near future.

During our first year of marriage, we were enjoying each other’s company with no intention of procreating. Going into our second year, I felt that it was time to spawn and populate the world with mini-me(s). We kept it quiet because, COME ON, this was a personal decision – NOBODY ELSE needed to know.

And my mother-in-law became more and MORE anxious.

She threw the gauntlet down at reunion dinner that year. We had all finished feasting and were sitting idly around the dining table with full bellies. Out of nowhere, she banged her fists on the table and proclaimed loudly, “By the end of the year, you lot had better produce a grandchild for me.” The eyes of my brothers- and sisters-in-law turned on me and I suddenly felt like downing that “Drink me” potion and shrinking to the size of an ant.

“Well, it’s all on you now,” quipped brother-in-law #1. “Because none of us are going to have kids.”

My brains exploded into a series of WTFWTFWTFWTF.

Turns out that mom-in-law had been driven to a rage by a friend of hers at the wet market, who commented that despite mom-in-law’s comfortable life of being a homemaker, having a car and a helper, she wasn’t blessed with grandchildren.

From that point on, I realised that the pressure had been steadily mounting. It was like the dam that is holding back flood waters and I became very aware of my mother-in-law’s need to have a grandchild.

Every single comment that she made added to the pressure, and boy, were those comments coming in frequently. She would say things like “if you have a Tiger baby…”, “I already have three sons and I really want a granddaughter” or “next year you will be collecting ang pows for your baby”. Unfortunately, it was also during this time that we embarked on our roller coaster infertility ride, when it felt like I was in the deepest of hell battling my own demons. I was tuned to the highest level of sensitivity, I had enough to deal with and I certainly didn’t want to handle her desperation.

My emotions came to a boiling point when I realized that mom-in-law had made comments regarding my weight and fertility to my mother, who wisely kept it from me. I was on the phone with my sister, having a moan about something my mother did when Sista blurted out that mom-in-law had told my mother that we weren’t conceiving because I was too skinny to bear children.

Cracking under the strain of going through assisted reproductive treatments without telling ANYONE and the pressure from my mother-in-law, I withdrew from them and started crying in my sleep. Mr Thick and I had a huge row one afternoon when I told him that I could never forget that his mother had made such unfair judgements on me; he couldn’t understand why I couldn’t simply forgive and forget.

Eventually, when we decided to go for the first round of IVF, we shared the news with our families. Mom-in-law backed off. Mostly. She did have a go at us once for not wanting to buy a larger clothes drying rack, which left us wondering about her vehemence. Until she shouted out the real reason, “Wait till your baby comes, then you will know!”

Ah. Yes. Everything revolves around this non-existent baby.

Today, obviously, she is a much happier person. Her life is complete now that she has a grandchild to look forward to. She did have an emotional outburst about me being too thin (again) initially but for most of the time, thankfully, she leaves us be.

Looking back, I can see why she became so desperate. She has been waiting for a grandchild for more than 10 years: that’s how long brother-in-law #1 has been married for. When it became clear that there was no forthcoming grandchild, it became a burden that weighed heavily on her mind. It certainly didn’t help that her siblings had many children who bore many children of their own. While I have never wanted to have big full-month dos for my kids, I am now planning to have one for the nugget just so that she can show off her very first grandson to her friends and family.

But from this, I have also learnt to NEVER EVER interfere with my children’s decisions to have children. We should only have kids because we want to, not because someone expects us to. The ensuing pressure is just too, too great for an individual to bear.

And I have also learnt this: despite all these, my Tiny Human is first and foremost MY CHILD. My parenting decisions will always take priority over any grandparent’s – that is the rule I intend to abide by.

For the rest of my life, I will never understand why having a grandchild has been so important to mom-in-law. But I am glad for her that her wish is finally coming true.

Bun in oven

The 20-week belly

♥ Peoples, a milestone: WE ARE AT THE HALFWAY MARK! It suddenly feels like the six weeks since we passed the first trimester have literally flown by.

♥ Although theoretically, we are more than halfway there cos we turn 21 weeks tomorrow.

♥ I had a gastric attack yesterday: skipped a tea break due to a four hour teaching stretch and my stomach went APESHIT on me. Popped over to Dr Y’s and he told me to take Gaviscon. Which I have been refusing to buy because I HATE drinking milky, antacid solutions.

♥ Yes, I’d rather suffer from gastric and heartburn than down strange tasting stuff.

♥ I’m also the one who went through IVF and stabbed my stomach twice a day for 10 days. Wuss.

♥ Bought the Gaviscon tablets instead, chewed on them and nearly gagged. After swallowing, I realized that it really wasn’t THAT BAD. Maybe I should start a HypnoChewing class. Any takers?

♥ The good news is, we had a good look at the Tiny Human today! The kid’s got some seriously long arms and fingers, he kept his hands close to his face the entire time we were peeping at him. Shy boy, just like who? Why, Mama of course!

♥ Oh, and I checked. He REALLY does have a weenis. Just in case. You know.

Bun in oven

Thoughts on HypnoBirthing

(Before I start, I just want to thank everyone for sharing their stories and showing encouragement in the previous post!

Also, I was in no way belittling the other choices made by other mothers. Everything to do with parenting boils down to personal choices and what works for someone may not work for another person, whether it’s pain relief or toilet paper.)

Infertility survivors, more than any other women, tend to be uber PARANOID.

When we first found out that we were expecting, we wondered if the pregnancy would last. And when we did go past the first trimester and saw the cute nugget waving at us during our nuchal translucency test, I started worrying about the potential medical complications that could threaten the pregnancy. Incompetent cervix, IUGR, preterm labour, gestational diabetes…you name it, I thought about it. Infertility brings out the Type A in me and I end up researching on the what-might-happens. These BIG, SCARY THINGS UNDER THE BED are the what-might-happens.

And then there’s the birth itself. While I am not terrified of labour itself, I do have a fear of not being able to go through the natural, drug-free birth that I aspire towards. And the reason behind this? My pint-sized body coupled with the fact that my husband is a fat big person. What’s more, both my mother and sister went through Caesarean births because their babies (my sister herself and Rai) were in breech position.

My inner, irrational alarm bells went DING! DING! DING! DINGGGG!

I know, right. As if birthing is hereditary, like bad hair days. HUR HUR.

Back when I was shooting myself up with drugs to try and make a baby, I was already thinking about the type of birth that I wanted for myself and my kid. Cart before horse, yadda yadda. But being Type A then and doing loads of research, I found out about alternative types of births that we don’t hear much of: home births, water births, hypnobirthing etc. It opened my eyes up to a whole new world and I decided that I would try to have a natural, drug-free birth with as little medical intervention as possible.

The reason: honestly, we don’t know if we will be blessed with another child and this could possibly be my one and only shot at doing it the way I want to. If I don’t try to have a natural, drug-free birth NOW, I may well NEVER get the chance to.

Now, a disclaimer (cos you should never NOT have a disclaimer): While I hope to achieve a natural, drug-free birth, I am perfectly aware that births do not always go the way you plan. I mean, Murphy is like my BFF. In the event that I need to have a C-sect or an epidural, I am more than willing to do so and no, I won’t kill myself over it. The perfect birth is the one in which my son and I emerge healthy and safe.

With me and my mental complexity, I decided that going for a structured class would benefit me immensely (ie. instead of me doing it on my own with books and CDs, which you CAN). I was very drawn to hypnobirthing because it focuses on the power of the mind but I was dithering because of costs: a typical hypnobirthing course can cost more than twice that of a conventional antenatal class. But when my friend P came back from her first hypnobirthing session with rave reviews, I decided to splurge and sign up with Four Trimesters.

Mr Thick and I attended our first session with Ginny over the weekend and I came away feeling like it was money well spent. It was pretty intimate because there were only four other couples in the group and we shared among one another about our fears and aspirations towards the birth of our children. And it felt good voicing out my fears and seeing the words form on the pages of the book. It was almost catharthic, knowing that I have pulled the words out of my brains and I can now “discard” these words from my mind.

Plus, I was pleasantly surprised by husband’s fear. I know, it sounds weird. But he shared with the group that his greatest fear was the uncertainty that loomed over birth and parenthood, and how he felt that he wasn’t adequately prepared. It was almost SNAG-ish.

WOW. That man manages to impress me after 12 long years together!

While I can only tell you if hypnobirthing works in March 2012 when the nugget makes his way out, I can honestly say that it’s something that I firmly believe in. I know that hypnobirthing does not guarantee the kind of birth that I want but it’s something that I can work towards.

Bun in oven

Doing it my way

I want to have a natural, drug-free birth.
I believe in HypnoBirthing.
More importantly, I believe I can do it.

I will not be hiring a traditional confinement nanny.
Instead, my mother will be helping me out for the first two weeks, post-partum. In the day.
I will handle the night feeds by myself.

And for the rest of my maternity leave, I will be looking after the Tiny Human on my own.

I plan to cloth diaper the nugget.

There, I have said it.
I’m probably bucking the norm here for at least one of my goals but I don’t care. I am planning for what is best for myself and what I believe I can handle.

Maybe along the way, I will falter. I may cry out of exhaustion at sleeping only in fits and bursts. I may haul myself and the baby to my mother’s and seek her help. I may wonder why I want to do these things my way. I may cave and listen to the well-meaning but unsupportive words of the family and support network.

But believe me, when I say that I will do what I set out to do, I will achieve it, by hook or by crook. I didn’t live through two gruelling years of infertility – one of which was filled with continuous treatments – without a backbone.

So thank you for all your advice and negative, horror stories. Thank you for letting me know how so many of your friends and colleagues insisted on not having a confinement nanny and ended up eating their words. Thank you for telling me how I will wish I had a confinement nanny at 3am in the morning. Thank you for exhorting the conveniences of disposable diapers and the remarks on how I’ll be so exhausted from looking after the nugget that I’d cave and use disposables. Thank you for regaling me with tales of how painful childbirth is and how I’d beg for the relief of epidural. Thank you for telling me what I should do.

Thank you for telling me how you don’t think I can do all these things.
Thank you for not believing that I have the mental fortitude to achieve my goals.

Thank you for your skepticism.

I’m not a fool, nor am I an idealistic idiot with rose tinted glasses. I know what I am getting into and no, I don’t think I will be 100% prepared. But who goes into labour and parenthood fully and completely prepared?

I’ve done my homework and thought long and hard about the choices that I am making. I believe in me. I understand that their words stem from concern. What I don’t understand is this: why do we like to put others down and force the unhappy, negative stories down their throats instead of offering support and encouragement? Why can’t people be open about my decision to not hire a confinement nanny and, instead, offer their help should I need it? Why do we like to say, I don’t think you should do this? Why do we like to make them feel like a failure should their plans not work out?

So thank you for your advice but really, I didn’t ask for it.

The more you tell me you don’t think I can do it, the more I will prove you wrong.