the third month of maternity leave

so, the month started well: Watermelon was generally easy, and i was getting a better hang of things. we began to understand her different cries. she had a predictable poop pattern, which gave me a peace of mind when we went out, coz i only had to worry about wet diapers.

week 10 rolled by, and then the growth spurt happened. oh lordy. it was a huge test of my iman. instead of crying, she was freaking yelling the house — no, i mean the block — down. she fought naps. and refused to sleep in her cot, by waking up every 15-30 min in the early night 😩

i raised the white flag and let her sleep in our bed again, after a month of her sleeping well in the cot. sigh! it felt like ten steps backwards into square one. plus i slept better as a heavily pregnant woman than as a new mummy squeezed into a thin slice of the bed, careful not to crush Watermelon into pulp.

thankfully the phase passed, and she returned to sleeping inside her cot. she still gets clingy and fussy every now and then, during which i try to be veeeery patient.

***

this month, we went out A LOT! for instance, after we collected her passport from ICA Building, we went straight into JB. and have brought her twice more, with mama kraken as well. also started doing morning stroller dates with mummy friends around bedok reservoir, i love love being there during off peak hours. such a luxury!

i feel like i grow a lot as a person whenever i bring my baby out alone. it pushes me out of my comfort zone, and i have to learn how to get comfy, fast. i also have to strategise about a lot of things that i never had to worry about pre-Watermelon e.g. stroller vs ring sling, back pack vs tote, etc.

the first time i brought her alone was to Tampines interchange. in the feeder bus on the way there, she already started crying in the ring sling. ooh, awkward… i tried to remain calm while eagerly anticipating for the bus to reach the interchange, thinking that maybe she preferred me to be walking. then i zipped around the mall running my errands to buy this, and to buy that. before long, she was wailing loudly again, attracting onlookers’ attention. so i popped by the nursing room before heading home. i was terrified of the bus ride back, and even contemplated walking home which honestly might have killed me given the shopping bags, but thankfully she slept throughout. phew! what a memorable first experience though.

the gahmen allowed open strollers on buses earlier this month, and so i tried it once. it’s still not very easy, because there was a medium sized gap between the bus and bus stop kerb. i froze at the exit doors, not knowing what to do. luckily this kind uncle who chatted me up about Watermelon also happened to alight at the same bus stop, and he helped me carry her stroller over. another phew! moment. that’s when i learnt that when i have the stroller, i have to be a bit more smiley and look more approachable and hopefully attract the good vibes of kind strangers who offer to help ✨ plus the moment i got home, i practised carrying the stroller with Watermelon inside lol. gotta know where to grip!

going out with baby alone sends my stress levels through the roof, espesh when things can’t go as planned. but once i’ve reached home safely, i think to myself: let’s do it again! it’s like a sick addiction.

we also brought her to watch a movie ….. Fast and Furious 8. our friend volunteered to hold her throughout the movie, a request that NG and i gladly agreed to. Watermelon slept through most of it, and stirred herself awake towards the end. she body surfed two bodies down to reach me. i was a bit gancheong trying to latch her swiftly in the dark, and alhamdulillah did not have to struggle much. so we survived the experience, but i’m not sure i would do this again.

***

i’ve also started pumping what i call freedom milk. each bag signifies my freedom to be away from baby. i’ve cashed them in for a movie date with NG (beauty & the beast — thought it was alright, like not much value add from the animated version? whoops), zumba sessions (just two so far — my postpartum fitness level leaves much to be desired) and the best one of all, a trip to the salon. woohoo! i really dressed up for this one, even though i was going alone. haha.

i guess i’m a little more used to pumping now, than when i first started out. i aim for once a day, though sometimes i miss sessions. or sometimes i don’t pump, and instead collect milk in my Haakaa silicone pump throughout the day.

bottle training went relatively smoothly, though i had to “downgrade” her teat from the 1 month old’s to newborn’s. all these from the Avent Newborn Starter Kit (Natural) which i bought from my first baby fair. i was worried i was introducing the bottle too early at 7 weeks, but on hindsight, it was a good time, otherwise a little late. i’m using the smallest bottle size because i’m paranoid about Watermelon swallowing too much air. plus i’m not the most diligent mama when it comes to burping the baby…

this month’s Korean drama pick was Hello Monster, mostly so i could watch more of Park Bo Gum. *melts into goo* well i quite enjoyed it, loved how the villains were smart and cunning, and a fair match for the smart policemen. 

all in all, the month started well but sadly could not stay that way. moments, whether bad or good, pass quickly. some days i’m like “yeahhh i did it!” and other days i think i’m not going to make it as a new mum. motherhood is a tough teacher … it makes me sad and bitter sometimes. i know i’m not alone but yet, i feel alone.

picking up her infantcare registration forms earlier this week gave me a jolt, though. as tough and rapidly changing things are, it’s not going to be easy going back to work and being away from her for most of the day either, so i better appreciate and enjoy all of this. we’re only in her third month of life, and i’m already missing the first.

the second month of maternity leave

i was hoping that the second month would be easier since i already have one month experience, but no. our second month was as hard, or maybe harder.

some highlights / lowlights:

1. had to settle my own meals. my confinement food catering ended, so in theory i had to start cooking my own meals. in practice, i ordered some meals online, or NG cooked for us, or we ate out. haiz. i’m not the sort to be excited or curious about cooking, and to be honest the kitchen terrifies me. so there is a huge inertia for me to cook. i’d love to cook malay dishes, but i look up the recipes and get turned off by the long list of ingredients … some of which i don’t recognise, heh.

recently, Aida Azlin shared in one of The Shawl Label’s love letters that she wasn’t a good cook when she first got married, but she cooked consistently and eventually got better. reading it gave me some motivation to cook even if i suck at it. i can learn from my mistakes as i try to cook more, so hopefully i’ll get better. in time for ramadhan, especially.

2. babywearing begins! and not to a good start. Watermelon continued crying when i put her in my stretchy wrap on one particular clingy and tough day, and i felt horribly frustrated and paralysed. so i called a babywearing consultant, Nurjanna Ng from Jars of Fluff to my house for a 2h session. she taught me how to wear a stretchy wrap, ring sling, and how to do the FWCC on a woven wrap. she is suuuper nice and friendly, and i really enjoyed our session. i’ve tried watching YouTube videos, but having someone to guide and critique my attempts was so much better. after our session, i sent her photos of my ring sling attempts (it’s harder than it looks, boo) and she gave helpful pointers on how to improve. so i highly, highly recommend her services 😊

Continue reading

tahnik, aqiqah & majlis kesyukuran

tahnik & cukur rambut – applying honey into newborn’s mouth & first shave of hair

we did her tahnik at home when she turned a week old. we got Uztaz Abdul Aziz from Darul Ghufran Mosque to help shave her head and feed her some honey. he then estimated the weight of her hair and the corresponding donation amount, and we passed him the money to kirim to the mosque for administration. since Ghufran is raising funds for their re-construction efforts, i thought we could have donated to them instead. however, one thing we learnt is that donations from tahnik must go to the poor.

anyhoos it was a good session coz we also chatted on the origins of the sunnah, and discussed tips to help make her hair grow faster hee. we also sought his help to confirm how to write Watermelon’s name in Jawi for her birth certificate registration. luckily i didn’t make my own attempt, i would have been sooo wrong!

here’s an IG story that i wanted to share here coz y’all get watermelon references, and some photos of the tahnik. alhamdulillah Watermelon slept through the shaving until she got jolted awake by the sweet sweet honey.

aqiqah – sacrifice of animal on the occasion of a child’s birth

for aqiqah, also done on her one week, mama kraken helped arrange it through a relative who has contacts in Cambodia. they were erm, very enthusiastic. they promptly sent us photos to show the sacrificed sheep, and also the subsequent meal session organised for underprivileged kids. the funny/cute/not really cute thing is that in each photo they had a placard with Watermelon’s name on it and … blood splatters! keeping it very real 😳

majlis kesyukuran

we also held a majlis kesyukuran for family and friends on Watermelon’s first month anniversary. it’s an idea we’ve toyed with for months, and also meant it to be an open house since we’ve not invited relatives over yet. it was purely a makan-makan session with no marhaban since we already did the tahnik and cukur rambut earlier.

wellll as hosting open houses go, it was pure madness for NG and me! tried to catch up with guests as much as possible, but even then i’m sure there were some who fell through the cracks 😦

thankfully Watermelon was not overly fussy during the event though i felt bad that her feeding times were delayed. after latching her in my room, i’d throw on my nursing cover and go back outside to catch them guests. think she was so tired that she would fall asleep immediately despite me being sweaty and the warmth from the crowd.

alhamdulillah, although the idea was to share some rezeki with guests out of gratitude that Watermelon has been safely delivered, our guests shared rezeki with us instead ❤ may Allah swt multiply their rezeki back! aamiin.

oh yes and i got to order a huge 10 inch thai iced milk tea birthday cake for NG and some chocolate/salted caramel pods from my baker friends. love it when i have an excuse to order sweet treats heheh.

regret not taking a family photo with NG and baby before the event started 😦 so here’s my favourite photo of Watermelon instead. this was taken by her dad in our bedroom back when she was less than a week old. can’t wait for her hair to grow back! ⭐

the first month of maternity leave 

Dr Harvey Karp from the Happiest Baby on the Block shared this theory that human babies are immature at birth, compared to other mammals. human babies’ brains are only 25% of their adult size, while other mammal babies’ brains are between 60% to 90% of their adults’. human babies are born 3-4 months earlier, before their heads become too large to pass through the birth canal. that’s why this period is sometimes referred to as the “fourth trimester”.

our first month at home has been about getting to know Watermelon and her temperaments. the first night at home, she wailed and wailed instead of falling asleep. NG and i stared at her blankly as we exhausted the different soothing tricks we learnt during our childbirth class — none of which worked. i was so desperate i almost wanted to Phone a Nenek for some emergency help.

on hindsight though, i would have given her the boob. i didn’t at that time because i had this notion that newborns feed every 3-4h in the early days, and i had just fed her. i didn’t know that babies can want feeds that are 5 min apart. but now i do. ha! and also the day that Watermelon becomes inconsolable by the boob will be the worst day of my life. it’s been a great solution for almost everything hurhur.

luckily we didn’t have anymore wailing + panicked nights. nonetheless the first few nights were still scary. i took things night by night, and learnt to adjust to her various behaviours. some nights i was sooo tired during feeds because i hadn’t napped enough in the day. other nights were quite shiok because she slept relatively long, usually when she’s beside me in bed. there was one night in the first week which was a good night because she mostly slept in the cot. the thing i still struggle with is getting her to sleep in her cot peacefully. it’s something i really want to work towards for the long term, but i think i’ll give us more time coz some nights i really don’t have the perseverance to re-nurse her to sleep after she wakes up crying in the cot. hai~

i also noticed that she seemed calmer around both our mums and my makcik urut. apparently babies can sense if you’re anxious or scared, so i tried to work on my ~energy~ in the initial days, as abstract as that sounds. tried to be more calm and firm, especially when swaddling her. makcik urut even joked that her hands have handled so many babies that Watermelon can probably smell her “members” and therefore feels relaxed/assured by it. lol!

but yes going by the fourth trimester theory above, sometimes i pity her also lah. nine months of being in a womb and suddenly out in this big, open world … because i miss my pregnancy, she would have been welcome to stay longer. notwithstanding the problems that will arise from that, this is just my fantasy talking ya. so sometimes i will “manjakan” her and let her sleep in my arms, on or beside me, so she knows that i’m still around for her.

i hope she will gradually learn to be more independent though coz if we really go the infantcare route, ain’t nobody going to do these for her there 😔

other than that, breastfeeding has been going relatively well so far, alhamdulillah. the sweetest parts are to be needed and to be able to give. the least savoury parts are when she wants to nurse AGAIN! and when she wants to nurse during my meal time … almost every time.

i swear babies take a pledge in the womb underworld that goes like this:

we will eat when they want to eat, and will wake up when they want to sleep.

i try not to worry about my milk supply, and instead trust that my body will produce enough based on our direct latching. i’ve not tried pumping yet. i also consciously try not to be overly stressed or upset though this is sometimes hard, very hard.

my confinement food is catered by Nar Bakings’ and Culinary. so far i’m quite happy with the service, though i also don’t have high expectations because it is after all, confinement food. i’m just glad that i get to eat balanced meals and that i don’t have to cook … for now. (cue: horror movie music)

i also opted for a 7-day post natal massage. i was scared that it would hurt but it turned out to be so gooood. it was such a nice treat for myself. the breast massage was the most painful to me, but it helped prevent engorgement and blocked ducts — two things that i don’t know much about, especially in the early days — so i didn’t mind. i cried when the 7 days ended. and sobbed a little more when i saw that sweet makcik urut left a little envelope for Watermelon. heh, hormones!

other first month achievements include watching the Korean drama Goblin! heard friends raving about it and decided to reserve it for my maternity leave. NG taught me how to stream the videos on our TV (i’m so left behind on TV technology) so seeing Gong Yoo’s face on our TV instead of my phone screen is just urgh! 😍 am currently watching Reply 1988 after seeing a few people mention that it’s one of their all time favourites. it’s funny how much TV i’ve started watching.

i almost can’t believe i’ve been a mum for one month now! some days i still have a bit of an identity crisis, wondering how to juggle my new responsibilities; why women  have it tough when new dads have it seemingly easy; and when my hips will shrink back and stretch marks fade…

can’t wait for her to start smiling and recognising us. till then, Watermelon you sleep lots, get chubby, and grow back your hair ok!!

what was in my hospital bag

here’s my hospital bag list and some notes. the moment where we prepared to exit the car park after 3 days was most scary … haha.

for me

  • night gown to labour in (ya i action choose to wear my own clothes in the delivery suite; it was a cute but worn out BF-friendly dress which i planned to throw away after)
  • husband’s tshirt to also labour in (change of my own clothes in case i wanted to get into the shower for some hydrotherapy)
  • socks – 2 pairs (labour + post delivery)
  • disposable undies (the premium ones from qoo10 here have cottony texture, so much more comfy than the paper-y ones!)
  • cardigan and instant shawl (for when guests visit; i even colour coordinated with expected hospital gown colour)
  • nipple cream
  • water bottle
  • lactation cookies (ordered mine in advance from @mamalait)
  • kurma ajwa and air zam-zam (i asked a friend who had just returned from umrah for some; for snacking and first tahnik by husband)
  • air kurma – ended up forgetting to bring to delivery suite
  • exercise ball – deflated (NUH no longer lends patients theirs)
  • maternity pads (actually no need; ended up using theirs)
  • for going home, a jubah (was advised to pack something roomy enough for a 5 month-ish bump), clean tudung + inner + brooches
  • nursing bra
  • nursing pads (ended up not using these)
  • telekung + sejadah
  • toiletries – toothbrush, shower gel, shampoo, facial wash etc (can check whether hospital will provide you a set, if you’re not picky)
  • preferred soundtracks – we planned to play pre-downloaded recitations from our Quran apps; i also had the Hypnobirthing relaxation tracks which i ended up not using
  • Vicks inhaler – was useful on my first day when the aircon gave me the sniffles; the plan was to do deep breathing during labour, so wanted to clear my airways!
  • make up – snuck eyeliner, eyelash curler and mascara into my handbag before leaving home
  • contact lens – ended up not wearing; also forgot to bring my spectacle casing so i couldn’t clean my glasses properly
  • what i wish i had: extra change of maternity clothes; had to wear back my sweaty clothes when we walked around the hospital next morning, yuck
  • what i wish i had: my own slippers. NG didn’t let me pack coz he wanted to keep the bag light. so i kept borrowing his to go into the toilet, coz wearing my sandals was too troublesome
  • what i wish i had: my dSLR; also shot down by husband. but ok lah, phone camera also not bad.
  • what i wish i had: foldable bag to bring home extra stuff. we made do with plastic bags, but could have been better prepared!
  • what i almost needed: compression socks, to bring down swelling feet. it was a hikmah that i procrastinated buying it in my last week of work, because my water retention miraculously went away on first day of maternity leave. but anyways the hospital pharmacy should sell it too. not cheap though – $70ish? 😮

for husband

  • 2 sets of clothes (which was almost not enough due to extended stay; will recommend packing extra)
  • sweater
  • energy bars
  • what he wishes he had: pre-paid extra data, because he burnt through his data plan out of boredom
  • what he wishes he had: socks, cause hospital was cold
  • what he wishes he had: instant drinks e.g. milo, tea and his tumbler, coz there was plenty of hot water

for baby

  • 1 romper
  • 1 swaddle
  • 1 set of beanie, mittens and booties
  • stretchy wrap, which i ended up not using coz i wasn’t confident

others

  • handphone chargers (should consider bringing multi-plug too)
  • NRIC
  • marriage cert (we thought we would register baby’s birth cert at NUH but ended up not doing so because (i) we were still undecided on her name and (ii) it’s slightly cheaper to do it at ICA haha and (iii) we were too tired)
  • Baby Blues comic books (konon for some comedy relief during labour or for NG to read when bored, haha)

choice of hospital bag: a check in-sized luggage. which still wasn’t big enough because when we checked out, we had the gift bag from hospital, some gifts from guests (alhamdulillah!) and a basin for me to do my sitz salt bath. i saw another family checking out where the dad had a backpack + 3 big plastic bags to carry. so i say just bring a huge bag with wheels, save yourself the trouble!

hospital parking at NUH: sadly we didn’t know better, and was prepared to pay $275 upon exit after 3 days, based on our per hourly calculations. luckily only kena $75, because they cap per day charges. turns out you can either opt for valet ($6/day + someone will have to collect key in evening when the valet office closes) or buy season parking ($60 for 2 weeks; can aim to include your last 1-2 antenatal visits).

breast pump: i didn’t bring mine because i didn’t think there’s much to pump in the first 1-2 days. in the first 2 days of life, a newborn’s stomach is the size of a cherry, and needs only 1-1.25 teaspoons of colostrum to keep full. if necessary, hand expression would be better; see this helpful Stanford video on how to (thanks Sue for sharing this link!) nonetheless some mummies choose to use their pumps to massage boobs for oxytocin to speed up labour.

kopitiam at NUH: for husbands, NG says the Kopitiam at the Medical Centre is nearer though the one at the Main Building has more selections.

 

watermelon’s birth story

the story started with my waterbag leaking at 1.30am on tuesday morning. at first i thought it was pee, and was like “issit because i never do my kegels?” but then i realised that okay it was probably the waterbag. apparently amniotic fluid has a certain smell but my nose is perpetually blocked so…

put on a pad and went back to sleep. felt my first contractions — like a wave running up my tummy. wasn’t a good sleep, think i managed only 3h. after subuh, i folded the laundry and mended a button on NG’s shirt. basically, things that were supposed to be done already except i procrastinated on my first day of maternity leave (that super rainy everywhere-flooded monday) because i was too happy and only wanted to play. then we left for the airport — wait, not to fly off but for a 2h birth walk to bring baby down, down, down. half an hour into our stroll at T3, i spotted some yellowish-greenish discharge in my pad which alarmed us because what if it’s meconium (baby poop, usually a sign of distress in the womb)? consulted our doula, Azlin from Your Doula Next Door, who advised to check with the hospital. nurse on the phone advised us to come in for a check since it would have been close to 12h since my waterbag leaked.

we headed home to fetch our hospital bag, played some computer games, napped, passed our neighbours some CNY goodies before we left again for the hospital. at the observation area of the delivery suite, the doctors used a speculum to confirm that waterbag had broken. they also strapped me to the CTG machine to check on Watermelon’s heartbeat and my contractions. they wanted us to check in immediately but we wanted to go home to labour, and come back only when my contractions are 3 min apart. at that time, my contractions were maybe 30 min apart? still quite relaxed. the resident kept harping on the fact that the waterbag had broken 12h ago. he didn’t seem as concerned about the discharge as we were. and we weren’t as concerned about the time as he was. but anyways we compromised and agreed to check in to the labour ward around 8pm that night. meanwhile, we went to Kopitiam for a late lunch (was starving!) and walked around NUS for close to 2h with Azlin. also, i declined a VE because (i) once your waterbag breaks, any insertion increases risk of infection (ii) i knew i was still far from full dilation since i was doing okay and (iii) actually i’m just a scaredy cat.

Continue reading