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The Truth About Being a Parent

The Husband and I had been married for seven years when we found out we were pregnant. We’ve always wanted kids. We never made special efforts to avoid having them. But somehow Baby Z took his own sweet time to come into our family. All through those seven years, we were calm and never really stressed about not getting pregnant. Our logic was – if it has to happen it will – and we both had complete faith in God and his timing. And we’re so grateful for this lil wonder in our lives today.

But I do remember my ‘couple’ days. When it was just the two of us. Life was so much more organised and predictable. We have a group of friends, other couples who we hang out with – two have kids, and one doesn’t. And we used to watch both sides and smile. Life really does change you after babies. The reason I write this is because ever since Z was born I’m slowly realising that motherhood is HARD. No one tells you just how exhausting it really is. It is bone tiring exhaustion 24/7. And I’m only two months in.

There’s this article written by a Ms. Venugopal doing the rounds on the internet today which talks about just how tiring it is to be a parent. The sleepless nights, the exhaustion and the fact that your life is no longer completely yours any more. I understood the point she was trying to make. in fact this is just a small excerpt from her article

“Since deciding to have a child is perhaps the only irreversible decision that one can make, it simply makes sense that it be evaluated on reality and not on celebrity-endorsement or marketing slogans. And the reality is this. Parenting is the most difficult experience you would ever have. It isn’t just about changing diapers, sterilising bottles and staying up nights with a colicky baby. It’s about having to put someone else ahead of you. Every day. It isn’t always possible. It is, in fact, never easy. And you have to do it for the rest of your life.”

(read the whole article here)

But then she ruins it by bashing moms in general and suggesting that women who make the decision to have a child are women with no ambition and that parenting in general is overrated.

I have friends who chose not to have kids, they are wonderful unselfish people with generous hearts and loving families. They just don’t want to have kids of their own. And I get that. It’s a perfectly normal decision to make. But to go one step ahead and judge those who do chose to have a child is completely wrong. I agree that being a parent is not for everyone and that it’s time people spoke about the extremely hard first few months (or years) in a more realistic tone. You do not (miraculously) forget the pain of childbirth when your baby is born and you still feel tired at 3 am when you wake up for yet another feed even after 8 weeks of doing it daily. Your memory is a mess and your health takes a beating with the change in schedules. Your moods are all over the place and you rarely have time for your husband, your friends or most importantly – yourself. Claiming that parenting is exhausting is oh so true! And no matter how many books or blogs you may read prior to the baby about this, you never really realise just how hard it is until you actually experience it for yourself.

Ms. Venugopal is also right when she says “Having a child is indeed a life-altering experience, much like high-altitude trekking or swimming the Amazon. There are times when you can’t believe you decided to embark on this insane activity and there are times when it feels like it is worth the pain. But sadly, unlike high-altitude trekking or swimming the Amazon, you can’t check out of it midway when you find out that it’s too hard and perhaps not worth the effort involved” Now, I do not agree with the comparisons she’s used but the point that it’s life altering and irreversible stands true. What she doesn’t realise however is that in spite of all this, parenting can be and more of ten than not is one of the most satisfying and fulfilling experiences of our lives. Raising a tiny human is going to be hard – of course it is. But it’s just not possible to put down in words just how tremendous the feeling of joy is when you catch a glimpse of a toothless smile or when those tiny fingers clasp yours, the way your baby follows you across the room with his eye and the way he snuggles into you for a cuddle  – not comparable to ANYTHING in this world (IMO) And just for that, the rest is bearable. You do not forget the pain of childbirth, you do not forget the sleepless nights or the fact that you take 4 days to write one blog post as you no longer have the luxury to write it in one go – but your feelings for your baby take over and are way stronger than any negative ones you may be experiencing.

Another mum from one of the forums I am a member of wrote a reply to Ms. Venugopal’s article and I think it’s a cracker of a reply.

http://www.themomviews.com/an-open-letter-to-the-lady-lying-about-parenting/

Well, I’m off to hug the source of all my exhaustion and steal a few kisses from the lil monkey 🙂

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Two Months

And just like that you are eight weeks old. Eight weeks seems like such a long time, or at least it used to before you came along. Now eight weeks feels like two. You’ve changed so much baby Z, you smile at me now – when I sing and talk to you. You make the sweetest lil cooing noises and you definitely have strong opinions on the last feed of the day. You are developing your own personality and I’m beginning to see glimpses of a person I would love to get to know better!

I miss your skinny legs though. You’ve been filling out and thats great! But it reminds me just how fast you are growing. And I miss your sweet little grunts when you used to settle down for a feed. Those sweet grunts have metamorphosed into growls and grumbles loud enough to wake the neighbourhood. But you are my darling child and I can’t stop loving you!

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Oh My Sleeping Child!

I’ve never been a reader of self help books. Don’t know why actually because I do think that there’s a bit of logic and sense that goes into most of them – but I usually just find them preachy and boring. Now, I’m not sure if ‘bringing up baby’ books count as ‘self help’ but  certainly think they are – I mean aren’t they all about helping yourself manage life after the baby better? isn’t that self help? Anyway, the Husband and I have been trying to follow The Baby Whisperer’s EASY schedule as soon as we got the lil Z boy home and to be honest he fell into it with minimal fuss. There may have been a handful of episodes where we had to let him cry a bit longer until he soothed himself and slept but for the most part it’s been literally easy. Which is why I was (pleasantly) surprised when Z slept for a straight 5.5 hrs the night before last. I mean, isn’t that supposed to happen after month four? Could this whole EASY schedule actually work???!! Well, it happened again last night! and fingers crossed it repeats itself as often as possible. He seems rested and not ravenous when he wakes up and I’m hoping he can do this regularly. He’s 7 weeks old and if he can get this whole sleep stuff down early I’m going to be one proud Ammi!

Wish the Husband was around to see it though, life is hard without him and I can’t wait till he gets back from his 2 week work trip.

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….and then you smiled at me :-)

Z is not a smiley baby. At least not yet. He frowns a lot – appears to be some sort of thinker and is quite argumentative when he wants to be. He protests vehemently at diaper changes and hasn’t quite taken to washing his hair yet but don’t let this give you the wrong impression. He’s a beautiful, happy and content lil boy. He rarely cries unless we fail to interpret his signals for food, tiredness or discomfort and he’s a dream to be around, sleeping for 4 straight hours at night from week 5. He first smiled on my birthday, when we got him home from the hospital after his bout of jaundice. And then he got pricey with his smiles, only letting his cute dimples show under REM. Only recently he’s started to smile a wee bit when we talk to him and if we sing his favourite songs. And then too, very rarely.

But today, just now in fact, after a tiring diaper change where he yet again decided to pee all over himself (how DO you deal with that I wonder) right after I opened his diaper – resulting in a change of clothes and a wipe down of his whole body (something he does NOT like at all) I swaddled him in his ridiculously expensive Aden & Anais piece of muslin and put him in his cot and he began to settle – closing his eyes slowly. As I watched him, he turned to me and smiled. And my heart skipped a beat. 🙂 Of course it could’ve been REM. In fact it probably was. But just for that moment Z, I got a glimpse of what it would feel like for you to look at me and smile. Just for me. Maybe like a private joke we may share or maybe a happy moment  – and I know, I just know that those smiles will be tremendous and wonderful and joyous and I hope I never take them for granted. Because you are so beautiful baby boy and I love you forever!

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Week Seven

When Z was born I tried putting him on the breast as soon as I could post the csec. I had never done any of it before so I was clueless as to whether too much time had passed or not and if that had affected the “bonding” everyone mentions. What I did know was that Baby Z had a great sucking reflex. He instinctively sought my nipple and sucked deeply. I was fortunate to have a steady and strong flow of milk very early. It was commented on and exclaimed loudly by practically every single nurse/lactation consultant who helped me latch-and there were many who did that. It was true, my breasts were constantly full and heavy, bordering on painful even after a good pump. I filled up bottle after bottle and there was just so much that we thought of donating some. And then it slowed down. I thought, maybe its regulating. (maybe it is) but I couldn’t ignore the fact that I was getting close to 100-130ml per pump session and this is stressful because Z consumes 120-130 per feed. I was losing my buffer.

Reading up on why supply can wane, I realised that one of the main factors can be stress and lack of sleep. Seriously??!! How on earth is a mother of a newborn supposed to get any sleep? As for stress, no sleep can do that to you. And the fact that your whole life has changed permanently. So what was I supposed to do then? Relax? Sleep? take a holiday?I wish!

I’m trying my best to relax. Destress and calm myself down. The Hus is a huge huge help at night when he does all the feeds but unfortunately I can’t sleep through them because I still need to pump. And in the meantime my supply still stays steady instead of increasing. So I’m determined to try out some of the stuff I found online.

  • Drink up!  – This is easy, I love water and can guzzle down litres. The reason I’m skipping on this is just plain tiredness and forgetfulness. No more. I’m going to make a conscious effort to remember now.
  • Sleep – Trying that. It’s dependent on so many outside factors that it’s not always easy to predict if it will happen in a day or not. But I’m giving it my best shot
  • Pump in a stress free environment – This should be easy right? but who really has the time to rearrange the room to get the right chair to sit in with a plug point right next to it so I can pump and ensure that it’s also cool and not stuffy, comfortable and calming. I don’t. So Im sticking to my current location and hoping that me writing my blog (I’m pumping now) or reading an ebook while doing it makes the difference instead.
  • Fenugreek – Supposedly this helps boost supply. I have the actual seeds at home so no harm in trying them right? Just swallowed a teaspoon full and fingers crossed I see the difference soon.
  • Oats – Now this one is tricky. I’ve always been indifferent to oats. During my pregnancy, I tried adding them into my Almond banana shake and immediately felt nauseous. I need to give it another shot. Not looking forward to it but I’ll  try anything for the milk!

So, fingers crossed it works and my supply increases. I really need this. *sigh*

 

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Our First Photo shoot

We’ve been toying with the idea of getting a studio portrait done but both the husband and I are camera shy (kind of) and so we kept putting it off. Until we saw an offer for the Mount Alvernia Ladies Card members that was too good to resist.

It had a tie up with Baobab Tree Studio which offered a complimentary newborn shoot for babies born at Mt A. It was the perfect opportunity for us to get the experience of a professional photo shoot without actually being in it (Baby Z was going to be the star!)

Booking an appointment was extremely easy. All it took was an email and some details to confirm the birth and we were set. Only clause was that the shoot needed to be done within two months of the birth.

Once we got there we were met by the photographer, a lovely Korean lady who did not speak much english but immediately connected with Baby Z. She swooped down to look at him, carried him and cooed to him while calmly stroking his back. I thought that was great as it’s so important for the baby to relax with the photographer and he did immediately.

All through the shoot she was talking to him in a soft gentle voice (in korean) and Z hopefully gave her the reactions she needed for her shots. The studio itself is not very big but seeing how it was first time in any studio I can’t compare! She put him in quite a few outfit changes and shot a whole bunch of pics. We had to take a break in between to feed him but that went fairly quickly. All in all I thought the experience was fantastic and I can’t wait till friday when we get to choose the prints 🙂 And we are now seriously considering signing up for their package that covers a year in the life of the baby.

P.S. We found out that all the clothes and props that the baby uses is handmade by the photographer – what a talented person!

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Week Six

Cannot believe how fast it’s already six weeks since baby Z was born! Life is getting a wee bit better now, he still feeds around every two hours but my body has more or less adjusted. There are still days when I am completely exhausted and want to just lie in bed and stare at the ceiling but those are getting fewer and further apart.

Motherhood is hard. Not everything came easy to me. Breastfeeding is still a challenge. No one told me how complicated latching the baby onto the breast can be. The first few weeks I struggled very very hard. I still struggle but baby Z is smart and he picks up the slack where I fail. I remember those early days (and nights) in the hospital- every single time the nurses wheeled him in for a feed I would cringe inwardly (unless I was completely zonked out, then I would just do the zombie) wondering if I would actually manage a latch on my own this time. And chances were that I couldn’t and would have to enlist the help of the husband, the lactation consultant, any random nurse to help push my nipple into his mouth. It was frustrating and tiring.
I lost count of the number of people who grabbed my breast. Somehow I simply could not master the art of the latch. It was usually too shallow, too painful, his tongue was above the nipple, my breast was too hard (engorgement happened early for me) and a host of other reasons that my drug induced post caesarean brain just couldn’t fathom. I really really struggled. Looked up every possible video on YouTube for help, read the breastfeeding book we bought from Mt. Alvernia from cover to cover and asked every single nurse who helped with the latch for tips and hints as to what I’m doing wrong but nothing helped.
I googled tongue ties convinced that my boy had one. To be honest he did have most of the signs. But my gut instinct said to wait before I do anything to fix that.
I met a wonderful lactation consultant called Latha. She helped boost my confidence, reminded me I’m not a failure and told me not to give up and keep at it-it will get easier.

We got discharged from the hospital after 6 days(we stayed an extra day for his jaundice to clear) and the situation did not get any better at home. I pumped constantly. When we returned to the hospital for his jaundice I took an appointment with Ms Kang Phaik Gaik and once again witnessed baby Z latching on spectacularly but I still struggled. But he was now slightly older and I got a wee bit better. Came home and we tried about twice a day (I still pumped regularly to feed him) and somehow it kept getting easier.
Today, six weeks later, I know I can latch him by myself. I may take a few dialed attempts but I get it.

What I’ve learned through this whole frustrating time is this:

1. Getting the latch just right takes time. Give yourself that time. In my case it is still a WIP. I only started to get it slightly easier by the 4th week. So wait. And keep trying.

2. Pump! I didn’t know what I was doing when it came to BF. All I knew is that if I got milk I wanted to BF my child. Well, I did get milk- lots and lots of it. I didn’t know what engorgement was. All I knew is that one day my breasts hurt like hell and were super hard and sore. Latha told me to massage it, request for a breast pump and keep expressing the milk. I did exactly as she said and before long I was expressing about 50-80 ml every two hours. Far more than lil Z was consuming. I believe this helped keep my supply up as he wasn’t latching on correctly those early days. Not that I knew what ‘keeping up the supply’ meant.

3. New born babies have really tiny mouths. To position the breast just right is not easy at all! Pressing it into a V, ensuring that the nipple touches the roof of his mouth, making sure his lower lip is protruding, checking to see if his tongue is below the nipple, bringing his head to the breast instead of the other way around….the list of things to remember is crazy! And all this in the span of like 3 nano seconds while your newborn opens his wee lil mouth and shuts it again. Do not give up. Their mouths will grow and they will learn too. Together as a team it gets easier.

4. Get a breast feeding pillow. It’s not mandatory but it helped me. I would otherwise struggle with the piling of pillows next to me to get the height just right. This just eliminated that guesswork and helped support my back too. Although I know he’s outgrowing the pillow really fast as his tiny body is no longer that tiny any more and he won’t fit on it for much longer, I still am grateful for the consultant who suggested buying it, I think it helped me with positioning him right and it may help you too.

5. Relax. This struggle too shall pass. I realized when I was relaxed I latched faster. The husband learnt to do it too which was a huge help for latching at home ( still is) and remember, if the nipple or the breast hurts then it is not a good latch so detach and try again.

6. Medela’s Purelan works wonders on sore nipples. Use it. Or something like it. Use shells so they don’t rub against fabric. And use nipple shields if you think they will improve your latch. I bought them but had trouble keeping them on the breast. I think they did help with the latch but I don’t use them much as they still keep falling off.

7. There is no shame in pumping. My child is still exclusively breastfed. But I latch him directly for about 2 feeds a day out of 9. The rest of the time is expressed milk in a Tommee Tippee

8. I didn’t know about nipple confusion until recently. Thankfully Z didn’t get it. I don’t know what they used in the hospital to feed him my expressed milk. I believe it was a cup, but either way, when we got him home on day 5, he happily drank from a Tommee Tippee bottle and has continued to do so till today. He has no trouble taking the breast either. I’m just grateful it worked out this way. I’ve heard about how it’s better to use rubber nipples, wait till week 3-4 before using a bottle but I honestly didn’t know this and it thankfully didn’t blow up in my face.

I’m still working on the perfect easy latch but I’m so much more confident that it’s within my reach now. Thinking back to those early days I’m glad I stuck with it and did not let the frustration get to me. Things can only get better!