Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Taste of Yesteryear

It was the "Dongzhi" Festival or Winter Solstice Festival on Wednesday. My mum had bought some glutinous rice dough to make some dumplings as offering to my late grandparents. When I got up, I saw that my auntie was cooking some in an orange syrup soup (using the same type of sugar eaten with steamed rice cupcakes a.k.a. "wa ko kueh") with dried longans for a added flavour. It sure made my day.

I got reminded of how my sister and I would make these little pink and white dumplings when we were little. Just barely tall enough to reach the kitchen counter top in our grandmother's (we call her Mama) house, we would roll the dough in our palms into balls. We would make them all pink or all white and even a swirl of both colours. Mama would cook them in the traditional orange sugar syrup, without the longans. The syrup would completely stain the balls but when you bit into them, you could see the pretty pink and white swirls.

Although they are plain compared to their Hong Kong and Japanese equivalents, they were very comforting and heartwarming. The longans that my auntie added changed the taste of it a little, but it was still nice to be taken back some 20 odd years.

I love you Mama. I love you Jie.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

All Bound for Moo Moo Land

I packed away my nursing bras today. The cow has gone home.

Months ago, I would secretly wish for this day to arrive. But it's a kind of bittersweet feeling, I must say. I've always had mixed feelings about breastfeeding. I liked the closeness that I shared with The Baby. I loved how his tiny hands would wrap around my little finger, and how his tiny fingers would intertwine with mine, whenever he nursed. It's all true, the "bond" that magazines and websites and doctors talk about. It's a bond that only you and your baby share. A bond that cannot be replicated any other way. Then there were days where it would be really frustrating. Like when The Baby went on nursing strikes (which led to horrible engorgement) and when he would not cooperate and fight with me under the nursing cover. Or how troublesome and time consuming pumping milk out is. I will not even get started on how unflattering and uncomfortable (most people would disagree on this) nursing bras are! It was just impossible to find the "perfect" nursing bra. Basically, breastfeeding can be rather socially, for the lack of a better word, crippling. Having said all that, I still feel proud to know that I was providing the best thing that The Baby could ever have.

Weaning The Baby off was trying for me. I had mastitis. It sucked because I came down with a fever (low grade, luckily) and body aches. I went to see a doctor who prescribed antibiotics (apparently there is no other choice) so strong that I had an upset tummy after the first dose. It must've killed off all the good bacteria in my gut. For five days I was especially tired and dazed. Didn't help that The Baby still does not sleep through the night coupled with the restlessness caused by possible teething. And the pain from a blocked duct and general engorgement was not fun. I tried cold cabbage and cold compresses but they only provided relief for as long as they stayed cold. But as horrible as the antibiotics were, I'm glad they worked. I just pray that nobody gets mastitis, ever!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Got Milk?

Most books and websites, even doctors and lactation supervisors say that breastfeeding helps a mother lose weight quicker and regain her pre-pregnancy figure. And I have a fussy baby who won't let me sit while carrying him. That means I at least get some kind of exercise while putting him to sleep. A foolproof weight loss program, right? Wrong. Because, my fellow already pregnant or planning to be pregnant girlfriends, breastfeeding makes you hungry. Pretty much all the time, just like when I was pregnant. Isn't the human body just amazing? I probably feel hungry because the body is telling me to feed myself so I can produce enough milk. A perfect excuse to eat.

So in an effort to make healthier choices to keep up with the hunger, I went to the supermarket yesterday to stock up on some vegetables and meats. Today I made Grilled Chicken and fresh Orange Salad, drizzled with Lemon Miso dressing. It was refreshing because the tart lemon juice woke my taste buds up. And the chicken (fillet) was tender and nicely flavoured with rosemary and thyme. Even though it was satisfying and feel-good, I have a feeling it won't keep me full for long. As I write this while sipping coffee and munching on, er, munchies (oat and coconut cookies made by my little sister), I think I probably will be pretty hungry for dinner soon.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Strike a balance

I might have had the worse day on Friday. I left the house without enough time to pump out my milk. Not a good thing. It was made worse with The Baby deciding to go on a nursing strike. My boobs were filling up quick and they started to become lumpy and painful. With him refusing to feed, I had no choice but to buy a manual breast pump to relief the discomfort. I have never used a manual pump before and was dripping milk on myself. Sitting in the nursing room, I felt rather miserable. I was worried about The Baby not drinking, wondering if he was starving and not being able to do anything about it. And I really didn't know why he was refusing me. It was frustrating because every time I tried to feed him, he would stiffen up his body, turn his head away and cry his lungs out. I was afraid to force his head towards me because I didn't want to hurt him, but I didn't want him to starve too! My sister consoled me by saying that nursing strikes happen and I should not be so stressed about it. The Baby will drink when he wants to. I just couldn't help feeling so rejected.

Sometimes I feel like I am running out of fuel driving down this road of motherhood. There are no exits, hardly any stop signs and plenty of potholes. Alright, enough with the analogies. I know it has only been 2, almost 3 months and I'm complaining so much. But on days when The Baby is difficult, I can't help but feel extremely "trapped". I really do miss my old life where I can just get up and go whenever, wherever. Now, going out means I have to rush through my shower, bathe The Baby, feed The Baby and importantly, pump out the milk. Otherwise I will be in a situation of over supply. Oh and wherever we are going, it is an absolute MUST that it is an air conditioned place because it is absolutely, totally, oh-my-goodness-I-could-combust, HOT when handling and breastfeeding a baby. Okay I tend to exaggerate, but I dare say all mothers will attest to this.

It's so hard to have a balanced life now. All my time is spent looking after The Baby. I don't get much time to myself. It's not that I'm selfish; I've let go of the freedom and the many pleasures in life the moment the positive sign came on. I mean, I have had my fun and now I have a family. What more could I ask for? Perhaps my life is pretty balanced after all. Of course, and its only natural to miss the things that you no longer have. I miss going to work, I miss late night drinks with friends, I miss brunches with The Husband. I miss finishing a sentence here without having to run and check on The Baby. But I know in years to come, what I will miss most is that gummy smile and sheer joy The Baby has whenever he sees my face.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Glass Full

Two more days to the end of my confinement period. The Baby will also be officially one month old! How time flies when you're having "fun". Well, I'm not using the word fun without the inverted commas because honestly, it has been tiring and trying. I don't sleep much at night and barely squeeze in an hour's (if I'm lucky) nap in the day. The rest of the time is spent feeding, changing diapers, cleaning spit ups and putting The Baby to sleep. It can get pretty annoying when he stirs and grumbles the very moment I put him down on the bed. I am fortunate to have my mum help me out but it is quite tiring for her too. She goes to the market in the morning, a chore she insists on doing because the pork in my meals must be fresh. Then she bathes The Baby, cooks my lunch and dinner. In the night she helps with the diaper changing and the pacifying. I'm glad there are only two more days left, so at least she won't have to be so busy with the food preparation.

As mentioned in my previous post, the food hasn't been bad at all. I hardly crave other types of food. I guess that is the good thing about chinese food. You probably can never get sick of it as compared to, say, Italian. You know you are getting old when you say something like that. But I must admit I do think of random food items and they are:

- Peanut butter
- Pineapple
- Durian
- Old school bread ice cream
- Udon soup
- Handrolls
- Salmon sashimi
- Banana Nut Crunch cereal
- Sandwiches from Simply Bread

Out of these items, only 2 are immediately accessible. So on Friday morning, I shall have the cereal and a peanut butter toast. Oh! But not before I treat myself to a large glass of refreshing plain water. Man, I cannot wait! I think my kidneys will be thankful.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Gingered Up

Being in confinement actually isn't as bad as I expected. I am lucky to be allowed air conditioning and showering every 3-4 days with herb water. Of course, there were some days where I would feel extremely uncomfortable from the humidity, especially while breastfeeding. I do feel pretty tired from waking up several times in the night to feed The Baby so I try to snooze in the day time but hardly do simply because I'm not used to afternoon naps. I guess the only thing that can be annoying is that I can only drink ginger red date tea. It is believed that plain water has "wind" which is not good for a postnatal mother, and can cause bloating. It was rather trying when I came down with a slight cold but I loaded up on vitamin C which helped.

I have been taking to plenty of ginger quite well, much to my surprise. I have always disliked ginger and would only eat it with "xiao long bao" or as a form of herbal infusion tea. Now, its in all my meals, except breakfast and I find myself looking forward to crunching down on the strips. My meals have been tasty, comprising of ingredients that are pretty much the same everyday.

Oats / Cornflakes / Bread. I am getting quite sick of marmalade and jam. I need some chunky peanut butter!!!

Lunch is more varied in terms of the staple. Sometimes its "bee hoon" or "mee sua" or brown rice porridge. Today I got "kway teow"! But its always soup with pork, chinese spinach and fish.

Served with brown rice, there is always a pork dish with vegetables. Fish is also an important feature because it's suppose to boost milk supply. Sometimes there is chicken or pig kidney or liver.

I still dislike liver. The texture doesn't do anything for me; its powdery and has a distinct "innard" taste. No thanks! But it's still palatable compared to a dish of pig trotters and old ginger stewed in black vinegar. It's got to be the MOST vile thing I ever tasted. I actually love vinegar, but this dish was sweet and the smell of it reminded me of a herbal feet soak my sister used to treat her eczema. And the best part was, the pig trotter was not meant to be eaten. Only the ginger. My sister said she would drink a couple of bowls of the vinegar when she was in confinement. Amazement!

Friday, April 16, 2010

T minus 10

Today is the 16th of April 2010. The day that I was supposed to be due to deliver. Instead, I gave birth 10 days ago on the 6th of April at 2.50am, to a happy and healthy boy of 2.96 kilograms. It was intense and still oh-so-fresh in my mind. Before I forget (if it is even possible), I shall record here every single detail with as much accuracy as possible. Warning: TMI ahead!

5th April 2010, Monday

I got up to pee groggily, as usual. Making it a habit to check the paper after every wipe, I was shocked to see a little light blood. I quickly stood up to check the toilet bowl and saw more light blood and a brownish clump. I whispered "Oh my god!" to myself and hurriedly walked to The Husband and told him that I might be in labour soon. Not knowing what to do, he suggested that we wait it out and go straight to Dr Chua's clinic first thing when they open. As he continued to snore, I laid awake, anticipating contractions. I started to feel slight cramps, much like those of menstruation. I made a call to the clinic, just so I can listen to their recording that informs of their opening hours - 8.30am. Long time from now, I thought. I couldn't sleep, even though I kept telling myself to. I was nervous and frantically monitoring the contractions. The cramps were irregular, sometimes 20 to 25 minutes apart, sometimes 15.

I jumped out of bed to shower and packed whatever that was not packed into my hospital bag (to be specific, it's my Minnie Mouse trolley bag, which I think is really meant for kids).

I called the clinic just to inform them of my arrival. Shirley, the nurse, told me to go in at 1.30pm because Dr Chua would only be in then. Besides, my contractions were irregular and totally manageable. I felt disappointed, for some reason, that she didn't share my excitement and nervousness. I laid in bed momentarily feeling lost. I called my sister and she advised that I go straight to the hospital to get admitted.

I sent a text msg to my mum. She also agrees that I go straight to the hospital but not before taking a bottle of chicken essence. I suggested to The Husband that we have breakfast at Starbucks (Paragon) before going to the hospital.

My sister picked us up and we drove to Paragon.

I had a cranberry walnut toast and spearmint tea. The Husband had a sandwich and green tea latte. My sister had a spinach egg fritata and a double short soy latte. We chatted and enjoyed breakfast like I wasn't in labour!

The Husband and I make our way to the hospital. Not knowing where to go, we walked straight into the Delivery Suite.

We were settled down in Delivery Suite 5. I changed into a pink hospital gown and got acquainted with the nurse and midwife on duty. I had to give a sample of my pee and was strapped onto the machine to monitor the baby's heartbeat and my contractions. Midwife/Nurse No. 1 came in shortly after to explain certain procedures and also checked how far dilated I was. Only a centimetre. She wasn't very good at checking. Ouch!

TV channels in the suite rocked! There was Star World, Discovery Channel and HBO. I was watching Glee!

I called Kim who was in holidaying in Japan.

I am admitted. No promises for a single room yet.

I call Karen whose first words were, "Oh My God!". Lunch was served in the delivery suite.

Pain is still manageable, almost negligible. We walk around to aid in the progress of my dilation.

Dr Selina Chua pops in to check on me. I am only 1-2cm so far. She gave me a choice to wait it out or break my water bag. I chose to wait because I didn't want to be in pain suddenly. She will check in at 6.00pm. We were told that we could be moved up to the ward to wait it out.

We adjourn to Ward 4B Room 4437 (single room) to rest. The Husband takes a nap while I watch more tv.

Tea is served. The chicken sandwich I ordered turned out to be tuna sandwich instead. I only pinched the corners of the bread.

Pain is not getting anymore intense. We walk around somemore.

The nurse gave me an enema. Awful!

We make our way back to the delivery suite. We meet Midwife/Nurse No. 2.

Dr Chua checks that I am merely 3 cm dilated. She suggested breaking my water bag but I was worried of the sudden onset of pain. If I wanted to wait it out further, I could become very tired. She chided me saying that I will be in labour anyway. :(
I plucked up my courage and got my bag burst. I had no idea it contained so much amniotic fluid!

We return to the ward. My mum, sis (+2 kids) and auntie were there.

The pain got more intense. 5 minutes apart and were like extreme menstrual cramps. At one point when Aeryn was talking to me, I could not reply her properly.

We return to the delivery suite. We meet Midwife/Nurse No. 3 and 4. Dr Chua orders for me to be induced to really speed things up. The nurse applied the needle and hooked me up to a glucose and oxytocin drip. No more food, only water. The oxytoxin would be administered after every cm that I dilated, about half an hour apart.

Pain escalated relatively quickly. I had to grip on the bed handle to manage the pain. Breathing slowly helped.

Very quickly, the pain climbed to beyond bearable. I was trying not to cry and asking The Husband "to make it stop". Haha. I needed epidural NOW. The nurse called for Dr Jung, the anaesthetician, who would take about 20 minutes to arrive.

Yes! Dr Jung arrived! Boy was I relieved to see him! Little did I know what I was getting into. The application of the epidural was the most awful experience EVER. The lower half of my body felt alien; it was a mixture of weakness, numbness and pain. I was fighting with a contraction and the horrible sensation of the epidural. I attempted to verbalise the pain I felt but the doc couldn't hear me because my face was burrowed in the pillow. What a baby I was. The nurse inserts a urinary catheter as I could not walk or pee with the anaesthetic.

Aah. Relief.

The nurse asked me to get some sleep to help the cervix relax. I am completely wasted by this point as I was awake since 3.45am on Monday morning.

6th April 2010, Tuesday

I felt extreme rectal and vaginal pressure with each contraction. It was pretty bad. I inform the nurses and they maxed out the dosage for the epidural.

I was now already 9 cm dilated and the nurse said I can start pushing at 1.00am.

Nurses prepped me for delivery. My leg were completely numbed by now and could not even maintain its position of the leg rest. I attempted to push but was inconsistent with the way I pushed. The baby's head kept coming out and going back in. I tried not to fall asleep from sheer exhaustion.

The baby's head can be felt by the nurses. I started to show blood in my urine. The nurses call for Dr Chua. I continue to watch Glee.

Dr Chua arrives (wearing a NUS polo tee, berms and some kind of uncool footwear. She's a MAN.)! She put on her scrubs and asked me to push. As there was blood in my urine, Dr Chua informs that she would need to use a vacuum to assist in the delivery of the baby. The vacuum looked like a tiny plunger, attached to a pressure machine, and was inserted into you-know-where. There was a lot of squishy sounds.

Baby Luke (yes, we changed our minds) arrives! The Husband cut the umbilical cord and Luke was taken by the nurses to clean up. Dr Chua collected the cord blood. My placenta was delivered soon after ( I saw the doc pulling it out by the umbillical cord) and it looked like liver. Yuck.

Dr Chua stitched me up. I didn't even know I had an episiotomy. Luke got weighed, tagged and dressed simultaneously. His right foot print was taken. The Husband went trigger happy.

Dr Chua leaves. I got more glucose drip to flush out the blood in my urine. I breastfed Luke for the first time.

The Husband went trigger happy again. We wait further for the blood to flush out. The nurses were frantically cleaning up the delivery suite at this point and I make small talk.

We leave for the ward, which was changed to a double room but we got the whole thing. Ward 4A Room 4417/18.

The urinary catheter was removed without discomfort. Lucky me! I feel pain from my uterus contracting. I was slightly nauseated from the journey from the delivery suite.

I finally got some sleep.

So there it is. Probably the most memorable day in my life. Well, other than our wedding day. Even though the pain was excrutiating, it all went by just like that. I must be crazy to keep wanting to relive those moments again and again in my mind. Would I do it again? Honestly, I don't... know yet.