Week 1: Searching For The Joy of Parenthood

3 01 2009

I’ve been reading through some other blogs on the topic of post-natal confinement, and it seems that while people are lauding over the joys of pregnancy, few people actually speak of the aftermath of giving birth. In fact, the most I’ve gotten about the subject prior to Xander’s birth were either a very sympathetic “Good luck, bro” or a very solemn “Welcome to parenthood. Try to stick with it.”

It really isn’t until you’re in the thick of it that you realise exactly why these responses sound the way they do. And even then, they don’t even begin to describe the ordeal you have to go through, regardless of whether you are the father or mother.

Take my wife (not literally). Having been through the pains of the 3 major types of delivery in one sitting (normal, assisted and C-section), one can only imagine the pain she must be going through during the recovery process. Add breastfeeding (proof that big boobs does not necessarily a happy husband make), a strict regiment of confinement foods (and very little else), perpetual house arrest, an overbearing parent, and of course a baby that cries for milk, a change of diapers or colic relief every hour without fail, and you start to wonder if it’s really hormonal changes that’s affecting her mood or just emotional retaliation to the conditions she has to go through. Whatever the case, from the day Xander was born, my love and respect for her has grown to such a level no words or actions are enough to justify its worth.

The baby, too, seems to be having a tough time. Jaundice is common among newborns, requiring a short stint in the morning sun at a specific time frame so you don’t overcook him. And since he’s only a week old, one cannot expect the kid to tell you he needs to pee or poop, though he has learnt since day 4 (to my knowledge anyway) to make known to the entire household when he’s made a bowel movement or bladder clearing (sometimes he emphasises the point some more by peeing over everything within 2 feet of his cot halfway through a diaper change). Our first night we had to pile on wet wipe after wet wipe over his poo, resulting in a sculptural masterpiece on his soiled diaper that resembled a half-serving of lasagna. And just like any offspring of mine would, he has a voracious appetite, further laying claim that he is my son by loving every minute of his face being immersed in my wife’s bosom (he’s luckier though; he gets to do it at least twice a day, while I get nada). But it is his cry that really gets to you; my wife once quipped with such terms of endearment that his crying carries such sadness with it. I can best describe it as a sudden sucking of air, followed by small whimper that grows a little in volume until it trails off into a high-pitched whisper as his lungs run out of air before he lets out a big blast of a wail that’s guaranteed to wake the other side of the estate. You got to hear it to understand how heart-piercing it is.

Being the new addition to the family, he is also showered with attention by my mother-in-law (commander-in-chief of the Great Confinement Period), her trusty maid (sometimes second-in-command) and me (the blur recruit). At some points during middle-of-the-night diaper changes (and some daytime changes), my son gets molested all over by 6 hands trying to make sense of his soiled buttocks, the diaper his clothing and his swaddle all at the same time. I’ve since learned to back off during this kind of situation. You have to trust your mother-in-law knows what she’s doing; she did bring up your wife, after all.

After all this, I cannot possibly lay claim to having the toughest job of all. over the past week, I have taken on the task of night-time nanny, allowing my wife to rest while I took care of Xander, with some help from Commander-in-Chief and her trusty sidekick and when they wake up to the sounds of Xander’s crying and think he’s complaining about me. The past week I have been clocking 2-4 hours of sleep a night – none of those hours consecutive – forcing me to retreat like a beaten dog back to my Sengkang flat as soon as the night is over to assume the foetal position in my bed and suck my thumb. I am lucky on 2 counts; that it is the holiday season (so most of the time I don’t have to work in the day), and that I got my driving license (so I can get home in 20 minutes as opposed to the 1-hour public transport option).

To all mothers (including my wife, my wife’s mother and my own), I take my hat off. If my hair weren’t so short and ugly right now, I’d take that off too. And if I didn’t need my skullcap to protect my brain, I’d take that off too.

To all new fathers, … Good luck, bro.





Chapter 1: Here Goes Nothing…

28 12 2008

The title is, of course, the understatement of the century, seeing as “nothing” has made me a father, my wife a mother, and our lives for the next 2 years or so potentially a sleepless tirade of midnight feedings, soothing baby crying sessions, takign turns at eating while the other is bobbing the baby to do whatever it has to do, and everything else tied to the joys of parenthood.

But the title symbolises the deep breath I am now taking as I type out one of the most dramatic 13 hours my wife and I have ever experienced in our lives, and trying very hard not to take anything vital away from every detail of every defining moment of our life-giving exercise.

I’ll start off where I left off. Soon after I finished the last post, I headed back to the labour ward and went to look for my wife. I get directed to the bed where my wife is resting, having had an induction pill inserted into her a few minutes before. And there we waited. My wife told me to go home and catch some Zzzs. So I drove home (oh yeah, I got my license, woohoo) and ended up doing the laundry at 5am because I simply could not sleep. I left the house at 6.30am once the laundry was done and all hung up, and headed back up to the hospital.

By the time I got there, the induction pill was supposed to have taken effect, failing which a second pill would need to be used, and a second 8-hour period to see if it worked would ensue. The pill hadn’t taken effect; though there were contractions, they were too weak nd far between to bear any significance. So we tried again.

At 4.30pm (still on Christmas Day), the CTG still didn’t detect any real sign that labour would be under way any time soon, so the doctor checked. The good news was, baby’s head had lowered to its desired 3cm mark down the cervix, and we could proceed into labour. We were told to wait again while the second phase of the labour progressed, which was to see the baby’s head lowered to 10cm, and thus commence the birthing process.

8.30pm. A check was done again, and baby’s head had moved a grand total of… half a cm. We get moved to a delivery room. Another 2 hours later, and my wife was gradually feeling stronger contractions. We were still hopeful at this point, though the more experienced staff nurses knew better; baby’s head would move at an average rate of 1cm per hour, which meant that if estimates were to be trusted, Xander would only be out about 2.30am, Boxing Day. My wife’s disappointment grew as the minutes passed; seeing her like that broke my heart. Eventually we would both just comfort each other with the fact that at least the kid’s still doing well and his heartbeat’s still healthy.

2.30am, Boxing Day. We do another check, and the boy is now at the 8cm mark. We commence pushing exercises, and continue to do so for the next hour and a half. During this time, I get to see the top of Xander’s head through my wife’s cervix – disturbing, and amazing at the same time. But for the best of my wife’s efforts at pushing, huffing, and puffing, that would be all anyone would see in the delivery room. at 3.45am, our gynae gets called in, and after reviewing the situation, she calls for forceps. When the forceps is inserted, and my wife is asked to push one more time, the good doctor decides after one push, “It’s not working. Sorry, we’ll have to go for a Ceasarian.”

To be continued





Xander Claus Is Coming To Town…

23 12 2008

My mother-in-law came up with that one, with a little editing help from my 2nd sister-in-law.

But the real reason why that above lyric seems so poignant now is because we decided to break Xander out of jail on Christmas Day. Yes, if nothing happens between now and Christmas, we’re going to induce.

What does that mean for our little one? For now, we can only think of the positive more than the negative. For one, the world will pretty much be celebrating his birthday together with him, even though they think it’s in honour of Someone Else entirely. Parties with countdowns to Christmas will have an entirely new meaning to him, and for that matter, parties on his birthday are ripe for his picking. (As parents who have, at one time or another, participated in nighttime activities involving dancing, drinking and drunken flirting, we like to plan ahead for our child’s future.)

Secondly, he will get double the amount of presents anyone else gets. Okay, that may be cheating, but it makes for double the joy doesn’t it? But knowing Singapore society, he might just end up getting one present as a Xmas-B’day combo (because people are cheap like that), in which case, me and my wife have taken a vow that we will never scrimp on quantity when it comes to his birthday and Christmas. Most of the time.

Third, his birthday on Christmas. That must be the most easily remembered birth date anyone can have. I personally would have preferred New Years’ Day, but the doctor says waiting that long carries a risk of the placenta aging and potentially adds complications to the birth. So Christmas it is. Let’s just hope he turns out to have as high an IQ as I do, but with faster processing so he doesn’t lose out to classmates that are almost a year ahead of him in brain development time. (On an aside, someone told me children born on New Year’s Day have a choice to start primary school on either the year he turns 6 or the year he turns 5. Can someone verify that?)

My wife’s been packing for her trip to the hospital. Come the 24th, she might not be seeing our flat for about a month or so after we leave for her eldest sister’s Christmas party, because we’re getting admitted straight after. For that matter, I’m probably not going to get a proper night’s sleep again for another 4 years (I’m optimistic). And that’s IF we’re not trying for another one in the next 2 years.





Are You Lonesome Today?

12 12 2008

My wife’s been on maternity leave for a week now. It takes some getting used to, even though I still get to see her when I go home.

Our life at work is a little different form other couples working together in the same office. I first introduced her into the company before I even joined a year later, and that may have contributed to the (mostly) smoothsailing working relationship we have. Also, we set down some rules for ourselves as well as the people around us early on so boundaries are not overstepped, yet we are still very comfortable talking about our jobs both at work and outside of it.

Now that she’s on maternity leave though, I find myself a little more isolated from the rest of the office. Her absence has made me realise how dependent I am on her for social fulfillment. This whole time, I’ve been hving lunch with her, or buying lunch in for her. We crack jokes with each other, and even when I’m engaging in small talk or idle conversation with other people, she’s always involved one way or another, which is a great comfort to me, becaus eI wouldn’t really know how to hold my own with the people in the office.

I think the thing I’m missing the most is doing everything with her around. I’d be sitting in my cubicle, comfortable with the fact that she’s just a few cubicles from me. I’d look forward to sitting in the car with her, riding to and from work, and planning the rest of the evening with her, whether it be for dinner, or shopping, or family visits, or just which channel to idle in front of the TV with.

I’m now looking at about 3-4 months of not being able to do all these things with her while she is resting at home waiting for Xander to appear. Thanks to the new enhanced baby bonus scheme, she now has more time to spend with the kid and recuperate from the delivery, while I work off the payments I have to make for my various new purchases in anticipation for the biggest change in our lives (the unapproved $1000 bike included). Maybe it might not have felt so bad if we were working in separate corporations; maybe I wouldn’t have been so dependent on her for my emotional fulfillment at work. But if you ask me, working with my wife in the same office has been what’s keeping me happy (and what’s kept me i this job) since I started work here, and  I wouldn’t have had it any other way. There is no doubt we keep each other out of trouble, and we keep an eye out for one another when we’re together.

Now that she’s on maternity leave for the next few months, I wonder what kind of trouble I’m going to get into. That damn bike might just be the beginning.





Cleaning House

8 12 2008

Weekends are almost always for sleeping in, shoppping, and late night TV… unless you have a place of your own. Then you have to add cleaning house into the mix, which can be fun. If you’re a sadist.

But clean house we did. Particularly since Xander’s so close to exiting the Mothership, it means we can no longer use the guest room as a store room and have to clear out the 15-20 boxes of Idunnowhatodowiththatstuff.

Honestly, I don’t know how maids do it. I know how my mother does it, but she doesn’t count. To clean 2 bathrooms, vacuum the floor, do the laundry (7 loads total, including our bedding, a kiddie bolster, a child car seat cover which almost disintegrated, some bathmats and my clothes for the week) and change new bedsheets took me a whole day, while my wife tried to sort out her half of the stuff in the guest room (she’s pregnant, so she’s got concession for taking the whole day).

I’m planning a sort-of-minor renovation when my wife’s in confinement; we’re hoping to outfit new cabinets, curtain rails, window grilles and balcony windows as well as buy a new fridge, install a ceiling fan and clean up some mistakes made during our last renovation. Hopefully this second phase is going to make things just a little more like home. Even more hopefully, it won’t cost me my total income for next year.

Ah, the price of parenthood. I am beginning to think our technical depression was caused by August’s announcement of the enhanced baby bonus scheme.





You are running out of swim space on Local Belly (B:). To free space on this belly, click the belly button.

13 11 2008

My wife would wish it were so easy.

Xander’s been moving about more frequently and vigorously the past week or so. ‘Tis the month of turning down, as our gynae and about a hundred pregnancy books and articles say, so my wife is also in the process of packing her overnight bag for the hospital stay when she is ready to deliver.

(I am finding pregnancy terms increasingly disturbing. like “ready to deliver.” When we first went to see our gynae, she had to leave in the middle of our consultation to “take a delivery”. Being the only man in the entire clinic at the moment, I thought maybe some pharmaceutical company were replenishing some stock or something, but nooooooo, it was a baby she had to take delivery of! That’s right up there in the list of “They Got To Find a Better Way Of Saying That” phrases, together with “expressing milk” for me.)

Many nights, we’ve been marvelling at Xander’s movements. My wife describes him as large enough to stretch himself from her left side to her right side (which is a bit of a stretch for me to believe, but who am I to talk? She’s the one who’s pregnant). When she invites me to put my hands on her belly though, I get what she’s saying. Xander’s either playing out the Contra secret code for 99 lives (the ever immortal up-up-down-down-left-right-left-right-A-B-Select-Start) with his legs, or my wife installed a foetal Dance Dance Revolution wombpad for Xander’s turn-of-the-millenium Ah Beng education.

Whatever he’s doing, it’s evident he’s running out of space in his mother’s not-very-little tum-tum. My wife is starting to walk the exact way she doesn’t want to; like a penguin. And the labour pains are constant; our bout of food poisoning seems like a primer for what is to inevitably come for the tail end of my wife’s hotly anticipated third trimester; Braxton-Hicks coupled with a few solid foetal kicks (I was hoping he’d get into basketball instead, but whatever keeps him fit, yeah?).





I Should Get Poisoned More Often.

4 11 2008

Food poisoning is a very effective, albeit uncomfortable, diet plan.

In the last 48 hours since I’ve been afflicted, I’ve lost over 3kg. If this goes on, I’ll be back to my old army physique in a month (oops, I think I just gave out how much weight I’m supposed to lose).

The doctor also told me yesterday, I am suffering from food poisoning not amounting to diarrhoea. I thought he was reading me a criminal charge, like “negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide”, or “culpable homicide not amounting to murder”, or something; I felt just as guilty when I called the office to report my medical leave.

I’m not the only one who got poisoned though; my wife’s got the runs as well. She’s been running to the toilet about 5 or 6 times each day for the last two days as well. While this would be quite worrying for any parent-to-be, through our dear friend Google and our trusted gynaecologist whom we paid a visit to yesterday, we were told as long as there’s no fever and no bleeding, my wife is free to run as many times as she wants without harming the baby, as long as she doesn’t mind the pain and inconvenience that comes with it, which she does, so we’re gonna try not doing it too often.

But we’re not the only ones either! Apparently there are 2 people in our office that have also been food-poisoned. While one (who was celebrating Deepavali last week, thus will probably have a lot of curry wreaking havoc in her system) is understandable, the other would make 4 people in the office who have eaten something wrong at some point over the weekend. This might seem too much of a coincidence to anyone who’s watched enough TV (i.e., too much CSI/X-Files and the Final Destination Trilogy).

Is it something we all ate at some point in the office? Or did we all go to the same hawker centre next to the Esplanade over the weekend and ordered the same fried oyster for dinner? Or were we all poisoned by Chinese food manufacturers?

Regardless the conspiracy, good things have come out of this little debacle. For one, I lost over 3kg. I’ve also got to spend a little more personal time with my wife and our about-to-be-born son (even though I was delirious with fever half the time) and we even got to watch the Coffin (against both our parents’ advice for horror content, and our friends’ advice for its low rating), which isn’t really scary… unless you know for a fact how these Thai coffin rituals are really performed (again, another story for another post).

Update:

Looks like my China conspiracy theory isn’t too far off. I was drinking a pack of Vitasoy honeydew-flavoured milk when I realised my wife was drinking a pack the night she got her diarrhoea ( I realise diarrhoea may not be an immediate symptom of melamine poisoning, but then who knows anything for sure?). After doing a search on Vitasoy and melamine, checking out the AVA melamine-tainted product list and subsequently looking through our pantry, we realised this China food crisis has hit closer to home than we so wrongly assumed. We’ve had to throw out some biscuits and other (already expired anyway) items, as well as the rest of our Vitasoy stock, though the warnings against the Vitasoy Honeydew-flavoured Soy Milk seems suspiciously hoax-ish. Oh well.





Any Time Now…

31 10 2008

My wife’s been feeling a little under the weather lately. I figure it’s third trimester jitters, which should be normal. The truth is, we’re expecting Xander to pop out anytime between now and December (though frankly, December might be a better time). He’s been getting rougher in my wife’s womb too. It used to be little bumps here and there, but now her reactions and my own personal experiences feeling Xander’s full-bodied elbowing, kicking, somersaulting and frequent Hadouken practice sessions in her womb with my hand are making me wonder if Tae Bo is ingrained into a foetus’ instincts.

***

There’s been a lot of news and opinions about how the economy is doing and how best to approach it, varying from spending all the money you got in order to keep the economy running to start planning and saving as much financial reserves as you can possibkly get your hands on in order to weather the upcoming storm.

I’ve been told by my family I’ll be getting my own rescue package for my birthday to help me alleviate my debts. As much as I welcome the gesture, I also realise financial management is not a lesson to be taken lightly, but if handouts were readily available, it may not serve to teach anyone anything but the easiest way out and why it probably won’t work; when I was 16 years old, my dad signed me up for a supplementary credit card. when I was 16 years old and 6 months, he canceled it.

I’ve since signed up credit cards of my own, but of course, with a family of my own, the lessons that come with earning and spending have hit much closer to the heart (and the backside, where I usually put my wallet). My family has my interests at heart when they find out about my financial situation and offer their help, but I’ve told them all, “Sure, I’ll be more than happy to take your money, what what do you think I will learn out of it?”

Since I got married, I find myself having to work harder to prove to people that I’m not this kid that gets into financial trouble and has to get his family to bail him out, even though my first 20 years of life I’ve been trying to prove the exact opposite. I’m coming to realise though, that I’m trying to prove I’m financially stable to myself more than anyone else.

Damn recession isn’t making things easier though. Even if my paycheck’s still coming in and my expenses have been consistent, the daily headlines are making people really nervous, because nobody at my level, the level of the layman, knows what’s going to happen. My only hope is that Xander and my wife live through their days with me comfortably despite all of this.





Buy One Get One Free – An Ode To My Love

25 10 2008

I’ve always thought my wife was a beautiful woman, and not without good reason. She’s had her fair share of suitors in her heydays (the way tention this post is going, I would say she’s still in her heydays), and has even gotten into trouble a few times with friends whose boyfriends inadvertently stray their attention to her (including me).

I’m by no means the possessive type, so the times when I hear of her attracting attention from other men – especially now we’re married – becomes an amusing anecdote when I hear of it, and sometimes I even think of it as a compliment, both to her and to me. What’s really amazing to me about this ability of hers to draw attention from the opposite sex is that she’s still doing it now, while she’s 7 months pregnant.

So my wife was out with an old school friend in town for dinner last night, her hair down and dressed in a black satin A-line sleeveless number (that hid her maternal status quite well from quite a few angles) and a pair of bell-bottom Dorothy Perkins maternity jeans, she looked like a 7-month pregnant woman who was ready to enter Zouk on a Friday night – and would’ve gotten into the VIP entrance. When she came home from the nice Japanese dinner and catchup with her friend, she told me,  among other things, that midway through the night, she noticed a guy giving her glances and activating her GPS (Guy Predator Senses), much to her amusement. She also told me the guy was about to approach her, presumably to make contact, or ask for her number or something… until she turned a bit and Xander stopped him short.

I laughed after hearing what happened, and told her, “If the guy actually did manage to make contact with you, he’d have gotten a Buy-One-Get-One-Free promo!”

***

People do say when you’re pregnant with a boy, you become what my sister would call “a stray cat” – an unkempt mother-to-be with straggly hair, eye-bags the size of roasted chestnuts, skin drier than an air-sealed packet of dried cuttlefish and water retention on the ankles akin to braised pig’s trotters. But everyone around us has evaluated my wife at one point or another during this period, and she has not lost any of her allure (though she did disclaim that said Guy Predator above probably wouldn’t want to see her in the morning).

It’s times like this that make me wonder: how did I get so lucky and manage to get someone like my wife to marry me? When I first met this woman, four words immediately came to mind – out of my league. I was also dating at the time (her best friend too, no less), so I didn’t delve further into the matter. but in the years that followed, she became a friend, and then she became a good friend, and then she became a best friend, and a large part of those years she wasn’t even in the same country as I was. But the relationship remained platonic for a long time, our lives barely intertwining and our paths barely crossed. When she came back to Singapore, though, was when I started considering the possibility of us becoming an item. Funnily enough, we only really started going out as a couple with a couple fight. That one moment in time, when we got pissed with each other, was the moment I thought to myself, this one’s gonna be different.

And here we are, a boy in a man’s body, married to his best friend, who just so happens to be a beauty with brains, complete with a bun in the oven (that’s almost done baking). I really couldn’t ask for more.





Xander’s First Photos/Videos (in IMAX 4D)

14 10 2008
Xander's First Photos

Not even born yet, but already he knows how to do kawaii poses complete with V-signs plugged in his ear.

Ah, technology. So advanced that 3 dimensions are no longer enough. It used to be 2 dimensions are all you’ve got when it comes to looking at your child before it makes its debut into the world from its mother’s womb. Add another dimension and a 3D ultrasound scan will yield the images you see above, and then you add yet another dimension and call it a 4D scan just to make it sound like paying S$250 for it is justified (actually the 4th dimension is movement; I’ve got videos that show him fluffing his pillow and digging his nose in his sleep too).

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. Say hello to Xander. See the way he’s waving back at you like a superstar, eyes closed and nose turned up like he’s just nonchalantly acknowledging your presence with a flick of his pudgy little fingers? That’s my boy…

As I mentioned, I got videos too, but after describing it the way I did, putting the video on will just seem a little contradictory (he’s just sleeping, and his hand isn’t even facing palm out, which just goes to show a little imagination can go a long way).

And as usual, the doctors and technician never cease to be fascinated by my boy’s fast-growing genitalia. Our ultrasound technician showed us this wonderfully indecipherable prepubescent porn picture confirming Xander’s status as a miniature manly male man complete with man-thing (which I have explained graphically in red and green circles).

Balls to you! (Proudly brought to you by Thomson Medical Centre)

Balls to you! (Proudly brought to you by Thomson Medical Centre)

Personally, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a boy, girl or other, particularly after the world around us found out. In fact, reactions around us upon hearing that it is a boy made my wife and I wonder why everyone thought it would be more of a good thing.

We’ve gotten responses like, “Great! Now the carrying on the family name is out of the way…” and “Wah, so lucky! First time is boy already…” and “Boy ah? Your parents must be pleased.” My wife has always responded to these comments with, “Actually, it doesn’t really matter to us if it’s a boy or girl,” which will lead to one of two outcomes: awkward silence, or change of subject.

The truth is, it should no longer matter. Having a kid of any sex will be fun in its own way. With boys, you probably get to play a little rougher, get a little more exercise (with all the running around chasing him), and potentially less problems with the opposite sex (a misnomer by all counts, but worth looking into as a valid theory for another time, possibly the next blog post). With girls, you get to play dress-up more (80% of the retail market is built to cater for girls), life tends to be more peaceful, and they tend to be more loving too.

So as far as we’re conderned, gender bias shouldn’t ever be an issue; we’re dealt with the cards that we’re dealt with, we’re gonna play those cards as best as we bloody well can. My only real concern here is not how my child will fulfill my expectations, but how I’m going to do as a father, and it’s going to be a concern for me from when Xander’s born until the day I die.

That being said, I know we’re lucky. People can try for years and years and still get nada, and here we are, a boy on the way after just thinking about trying for a kid. There’s a lot of “what ifs” that can be raised if Xander turned out to be Xandra, but at the end of the day, they’re just “what ifs”. The questions that present themselves through reality are what’s really gonna screw with us now.








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