In God’s Perfect Timing

I’m exhausted. Sebastian Alexander went topsy-turvy and exchanged night for day and didn’t allow me to sleep a wink all night. It’s hot, and I’m sweaty, sore from nursing, and I stink of stale breastmilk. My hair has not been combed and I’m wearing stained clothes from lactating. My vain self is crying. Not the best days for camwhoring.

I am a mere shadow of my former self. That realization jarringly came to me on our first day home from the hospital and was something I had to deal with lots of tears and coming to terms. Unknown to a lot of people, there was a time when I didn’t want kids. My reason being, that I thought I was too selfish and self-indulgent to want a child. I know now that there is a part of me that is too selfish and self-indulgent and I had to say goodbye to that when I delivered Basti.

I don’t have any regrets. In fact, I’m very thankful that I had my child now. Some people have expressed their shock that I chose to have a child so late in life (exagg though, I’m only 35. Again, “may edad” na naman ang mga taong ito). I’m glad though that Basti came now instead of earlier.

For those who don’t know me, this was what I used to do:

I would cartwheel around the world.

Hike lengths to see Mt. Everest up close.

Drag a backpack through Tibet.

Play with children all day long as a career.

These days, only one child matters.

I have no regrets, but I do miss one thing the most.

I miss being a wife to my husband. It seems like my whole life revolves around being a mother. He understands, of course. Even though we’re together all day in the house, I miss Orley so much. I can’t wait till we can go out on a date again.

For some people, having a child at 35 is a bit too late. For me, it’s the perfect time. I lived my single life to the hilt and there was no better time to settle down than when Orley and I got married.

I believe I will get some semblance of my old life back. I believe I will look the way I used to again. And I believe the real me, not this tired, messy woman with mom-hair, is still inside somewhere.

Mga Sabi-Sabi….

We’ve all heard these warnings before. From pregnancy to birth, I’ve heard so many old wives’ tales (tama lang old, kasi always “may edad” ang nagsasabi sa kin) about pregnancy and children that I’ve come up with a “sabi-sabi” poker face in order to maintain respect to these well-meaning people. Here’s a handful:

1. “Hamog”

If you expose your baby to “hamog”, they will get sick. And “hamog” appears at dusk and you shouldn’t bring out the baby by then. I don’t believe in “hamog”, neither does my pedia and neither should you. I do believe in fresh air and if the only tolerable conditions to bring out my infant is at 5pm, the onset of “hamog”, I don’t care. You can take your “hamog” to your albularyo and make it patawas.

2. Colic is kabag.

No, it’s not.

3. If you eat raw eggs just before you deliver, your “entrada” will be madulas and the baby will come out easier.

This one was shared by a neighbor and cracked me up. I don’t think she’s ever heard of salmonella and would feed me raw chicken while I was pregnant.

4. Drinking cold water will make your milk supply dry up.

And here I am drinking a tall glass of iced water with porno-star proportion breasts because of my overabundance of milk.

5. You should feed your baby from both breasts at each session because one breast is the “kanin” and one is “ulam”.

Someone call La Leche League! This is a scientific breakthrough!!!

6. Pinching your baby’s nose will make it “matangos”.

Stop mangling my baby with your hands and your colonial mentality, please.

7. Breastfeeding for more than 6 months will make the baby attached to you.

Better me than the yaya, the TV or a DS Lite, thank you.

8. You have to be super super careful with the baby’s pusod. And use a bigkis.

Dr. Elizza Senseng grabbed my hand and made me poke Basti’s umbilical stump to prove to me that it was a dead nerve. Using a bigkis does not protect it any more and neither does it prevent a baby from having a big tummy. Newborns are naturally frog-bellied. Deal with it, lolas.

9. If you’re pretty while pregnant, then you’re having a girl.

I had a boy, thanks. And, yes, I was pretty while pregnant.

“Mga Sabi-Sabi”: Infant Care Myths

We’ve all heard these warnings before. From pregnancy to birth, I’ve heard so many old wives’ tales (tama lang old, kasi always “may edad” ang nagsasabi sa kin) about pregnancy and children that I’ve come up with a “sabi-sabi” poker face in order to maintain respect to these well-meaning people. Here’s a handful of these infant care myths:

1. “Hamog”

If you expose your baby to “hamog”, they will get sick. And “hamog” appears at dusk and you shouldn’t bring out the baby by then. I don’t believe in “hamog”, neither does my pedia and neither should you. I do believe in fresh air and if the only tolerable conditions to bring out my infant is at 5pm, the onset of “hamog”, I don’t care. You can take your “hamog” to your albularyo and make it patawas.

2. Colic is kabag.

No, it’s not.

3. If you eat raw eggs just before you deliver, your “entrada” will be madulas and the baby will come out easier.

This one was shared by a neighbor and cracked me up. I don’t think she’s ever heard of salmonella and would feed me raw chicken while I was pregnant.

4. Drinking cold water will make your milk supply dry up.

And here I am drinking a tall glass of iced water with porno-star proportion breasts because of my overabundance of milk.

5. You should feed your baby from both breasts at each session because one breast is the “kanin” and one is “ulam”.

Someone call La Leche League! This is a scientific breakthrough!!!

6. Pinching your baby’s nose will make it “matangos”.

Stop mangling my baby with your hands and your colonial mentality, please.

7. Breastfeeding for more than 6 months will make the baby attached to you.

Better me than the yaya, the TV or a DS Lite, thank you.

8. You have to be super super careful with the baby’s pusod. And use a bigkis.

Dr. Elizza Senseng grabbed my hand and made me poke Basti’s umbilical stump to prove to me that it was a dead nerve. Using a bigkis does not protect it any more and neither does it prevent a baby from having a big tummy. Newborns are naturally frog-bellied. Deal with it, lolas.

9. If you’re pretty while pregnant, then you’re having a girl.

I had a boy, thanks. And, yes, I was pretty while pregnant.

Thoughts on Nursing

Ever since I got pregnant, Orley and I decided that we were going to be a breastfeeding family. I did everything to prepare myself as well as I could. I took classes, I spoke to other breastfeeding moms, I put my lactation consultant and breastfeeding counselor on speed dial, and really searched for a pediatrician who would be on my back about nursing. Now, after almost 3 weeks of the ups and downs of purely breastfeeding, I’ve got thoughts, both nice and not-so-nice, to share to other moms out there.

1. Educate yourself.

Breastfeeding really isn’t a “oh the baby has natural sucking instincts” thing. You have got to immerse yourself in all the information about latching, feeding times, feeding patterns and the benefits of breastfeeding. Knowing what to expect helped me get through the most difficult transitional period. Really, really take in the benefits of breastfeeding and think of how much a can of formula would cost. Those thoughts alone got me through the pain, which brings me to…

2. It will really hurt.

Any breastfeeding advocacy and education counselor/website/article will always have the line: “Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt.” Yes, it shouldn’t, once your baby learns the proper latch. If you’re lucky enough to have an infant born with a perfect latch then do believe what they tell you. For most of us, it’s a painful learning process that could take days, even weeks, and with that comes the bleeding, the soreness, the peeling and the pain that comes from poor latching. Lanolin kept me sane. For those nights that Sebastian was feeding every 30 minutes, I had Orley’s hand to squeeze while he rubbed my legs that were clenching from the pain. Be prepared for pain because it will be there. Be assured it will go away.

3. Don’t give yourself a way out.

When you’re under so much pain and haven’t slept a wink, it’s easy to give in and say, “That’s it. I’m giving you formula now.” Night after night, Orley would wake to find my head drooping from exhaustion while Sebastian was precariously balanced on pillows, nursing away. Other nights, he would wake up to a my yelp of pain as Basti latched, or sobbing because I haven’t had time to heal and Basti was asking to nurse again. We made it a policy not to keep a can of formula on standby and the bottles that Badette gave me for the baby shower remain unwashed and unsterilized.

4. Don’t hesitate to call friends who’ve been there or going through breastfeeding blues.

What you will go through is not unique. It helps to hear it from those who’ve done it and survived. I constantly called Leah (who breastfed Skye till she was three) and went on texting marathons with Audrey, my classmate from birthing class. Friends who were also mommies gave words of encouragement and kept the baby blues at bay.

5. Arm yourself with nursing gear.

Ok, so they say that you don’t need anything to successfully breastfeed but I beg to disagree. I love my nursing clothes and I love my nursing cover. There’s nothing more awkward than balancing a squirming baby and trying to roll up your shirt at the same time. I’m lucky to have chanced upon Mommy Matters and their bundle sale, where I was able to buy 12 nursing dresses/tops for only Php2,500.00. Gel got me a nursing cover from her sister Bessie’s site, Nursing Mom and I bought nursing bras from Mama.Baby.Love. I need more actually as it looks like nursing wear is all I’m going to be in for a couple of years.

6. Learn the side-lying position.

I abandoned the side-lying position after being traumatized with it from nursing while recovering from a C-section in the hospital. I adopted the cradle hold position from that point on because I felt it brought me and my baby closer. Now, after backpains and sore forearms from holding Sebastian for sometimes up to an hour while he nurses, I’ve gone back to side-lying for night nursing. It took a while for Basti to like it, but it helps us get more sleep now.

My next challenge will be moving Sebastian to his crib in a couple of weeks. Now that I’m all healed from the C-section, it’s time to get him into the crib so Orley can go back to the bed after weeks of sleeping on a mattress on the floor. I hope we transition without too much drama.

My Birth Story

God has a plan for everyone. As much as Orley and I had our perfect birthing plan in mind, things don’t always go the way you want them to go. This is my birth story.

I felt birthing pains starting 2am of April 27, Tuesday. I ignored the initial pangs, not quite sure if that was really IT, despite having the first sign of labor discharge the day before. By 6am, contractions were coming at 6-minute intervals, and even though I told Orley to stay home first because I still wasn’t sure if that was IT, he decided to come anyway. I calmly told my mom to please come earlier (we were scheduled for an OB appointment that day).

By the time I arrived at The Medical City, the contractions were getting stronger and coming every 5 minutes. Upon my doctor’s checkup, I was pronounced to be in active labor, dilated at 3cm and wheeled off to the pre-labor room. By 4pm I was hooked up to monitors at the Lamaze room of TMC, with Orley in scrubs on the sofa, watching Animal Planet.

A note about the Lamaze room in TMC. It’s really just a room where a husband can stay in. They may call it a “lamaze room” but they will treat you as if you don’t intend to do lamaze. They were quite surprised we were attempting it actually. My requests to not be hooked up to an IV and monitors were denied and they didn’t have any lamaze tools, not even a medicine ball. Orley and I were able to apply the breathing techniques, but we couldn’t help thinking afterwards if labor could’ve progressed a little faster if I had been walking around.

I was able to hold on until 7cm. I feel like I could’ve pushed my threshold of pain even further, if not for the oxytocin drip that pushed the contractions into overdrive. There was no speak of building up the pain tolerance once they had the drip going. I gave in and asked for an epidural. My anesthesiologist later explained that an epidural helps relax the mom, therefore relaxing the cervix, causing it to dilate more. In my case, I needed to be more relaxed because I wasn’t dilating as well as my doctor would’ve liked.

I was at 7cm for what felt like forever. There was a point where my doctor said if you don’t move in another hour, we’re going to have to perform a CS. I think fear of a C-section drove my cervix to dilate, eventually opening up to 10cm by the time midnight rolled along.

And then here came the problem. I was fully dilated, my pelvic opening was adequate, and Basti still wouldn’t come out. He simply wouldn’t budge. No amount of pushing could coax him out of his little shell. An hour and a half later, my doctor gave in and said, “We have to do it. I have to open you up.”

I have to admit I cried. I remember looking woefully towards Orley and saying, “I’m sorry.” He shook his head and said, “You have nothing to be sorry about. You tried your best. What’s important now is that you and Sebastian will be safe.”

I was scared. I have never been operated on in my entire life. When I was on the table, with two arms bound and harsh lights in my eyes, I could see the reflection on the overhead lamp of what they were doing to me beyond the curtain. I tried not to look, but it’s hard not to. Numb below the waist, it felt like something out of a cut-and-slash movie. What broke my fear was when Dr. Mike put on some music. When I heard the opening bars of Lady Gaga, I somehow knew I was going to be okay.

Somewhere in between “Insomnia” and “Mad”, I felt a huge lump taken out of my tummy (much like a big, stubborn booger you have finally fished out) and heard Sebastian’s first wail. I cried again, this time tears of joy and I heard Dr. Mike ushering in Orley into the OR (against TMC hospital rules, I’m sure). We took our first family picture right there on the operating table.

TMC has a great breastfeeding policy and I’m lucky to have found Dr. Elizza Senseng for a pedia (thanks to Pia and Tasha). A true breastfeeding advocate, she gave orders for Basti to be brought in to me every hour to nurse while I was in the recovery room, still numb from anesthesia. By 9am, he was roomed in with me and feeding using the side-lying position.

Our first night was horrible and I think my mom deserves a medal for what we went through that night. I was tied down to a bed with tubes running down my back and arms and legs, and my mom had to stay up with Basti and bring him to me when he wanted to nurse. He was awake from midnight to 7am, and I think she literally shoved Basti into Orley’s arms when he came in the morning to relieve her.

I was off the tubes by the next day. First thing I did was had the sheets changed and a sponge bath. Our second night was better. Having learned my lesson, Orley let me sleep the entire afternoon, then took a nap after Basti was fed. We were able to get through the night without much drama.

We were discharged the next day and were in the house by the afternoon. The wonders of medicine had me back on my feet as if I delivered normally. Orley and I still can’t believe I’m up and about a week after surgery with the smallest of scars.

Now at just over a week into motherhood, I’m still coping. Sometimes I feel like I’m never going to leave this house again. Sometimes I feel like all I am is breasts on legs. I’ve cried not just once, and I’ve cried for all the reasons and for no reason at all. Sebastian keeps me going, and my husband is my rock. I’ve confirmed that motherhood is a secret society and your friends will help you get through. Knowing they’ve been there and turned out fine helps in getting through every hour of this most demanding stage.

I can’t wait for the day when the three of us will go off and have adventures together. For now, we just have to get through this stage and get to know each other more and more.

And on a side note, I want to say a belated 35-year sorry to my mom and dad for sometimes being an ass while growing up. If I only knew what you guys put up with when I was a new baby, I would’ve been a better-behaved human being overall.

A Few Moments…

Because that’s all I have. A few moments. I gave birth last Wednesday to Sebastian, at 12:56am, and my world hasn’t been the same ever since.

I will blog about the birthing experience very soon. But right now, I’m just relishing the eye before the storm. It’s a few minutes before Basti is due for another feeding. In between nursing, burping, diaper changes, and trying to get some sleep when the Basti sleeps… well, there’s very little time left to do anything else.

At this point I would like to thank my friends, moms and single women alike, who took the time to send me a Facebook message, an email, a text and every other way they could to encourage me and get me through my post-partum baby blues. These first few weeks are not easy and your words are pulling me through. Thank you.

One week into Basti’s world and here are my thoughts:

1. If you are a woman who says you don’t want children, I respect your decision. Being a mother is not easy and if you are brave enough to say that you don’t want to deal with it, then so be it. You are not a lesser woman because of your decision not to procreate.

2. Though I am a breastfeeding advocate and will always champion the benefits of pure breastfeeding, I will never judge any mother who chooses to feed their children formula. Breastfeeding is 100% commitment. It hurts like hell and you are the only one who can do it for your child, no matter how supportive your husband is. You will have to be the one to wake up at all hours, endure painful breasts and think of sleep as something you used to do.

3. What pregnancy has done to my body is downright depressing.

4. I look at my previous albums posted in Facebook and think what a far cry my life is now compared to before. I am so glad I did it all – worked in China, saw Mt. Everest, had broken hearts and love affairs – before settling and having a child. It’s time for new adventures, and they’re not about me anymore.

And on that note, I can hear Basti whimpering for mama’s milk. Till next time.