On Two

I am a mother of two. TWO.

(Wow…saying this out loud certainly takes getting used to.)

And the truth is…I didn’t think I would be this happy.

I knew being a mother of two would be very challenging, and that the equilibrium we have finally worked out for our family of three would tilt out of our favour in the early months of becoming four; I was deeply concerned about how we would cope, especially when F became more clingy as the pregnancy progressed. Over the past few months, I could barely manage my frustration and guilt when I had to say no to some of her requests (AND face the consequences of saying no); I knew then that becoming four would be an uphill task.

And uphill, it is.

It has been two weeks since E was born. For two weeks now, I feel like I have been thrown into the deep end once again, albeit for different reasons. I had expected the sleepless nights, the much-too-frequent diaper changes, jaundice and challenges that come with breastfeeding. We have been there, done that. But to care for a newborn round the clock, on top of looking after AND looking out for a toddler…now, that’s a different ball game altogether. Often, I wish there were two of me. Yes, I am taking the sleepless nights surprisingly well (starkly different to when F was a newborn…back then, even the first few sleepless nights were akin to episodes of going into shock). Yes, F is adjusting as well as a parent can hope for. Yes, M no longer has to work overnight shifts and it’s really lovely to know that he is around, even if he is unable to help me with E in the middle of the night. Things are more manageable somewhat but having to, at times, choose between my two children is downright awful.

Every morning, my eyes fly open at 6am, either to the cries of my newborn or to my husband’s alarm clock. I curse if I had just fallen asleep after the previous night feed and quickly utter a silent prayer for only one of my kids to be awake/needing my attention at any one time, then it’s all-systems-go. I quickly wash up if E hasn’t woken up, and nurse him back to sleep if he does. Then, I wake F up at 7.30am and begin my negotiations with her. Everything is debatable these days, from what she wants for breakfast to the button on her school uniform that she would like to fasten before all others. By the time I get her fed, showered and dressed for school, I am barely coherent. On good days, E would only wake up to nurse after I am done preparing F for school. Even then, we get to school fashionably late (well, hardly, because I am dressed in pyjamas most of the time) after a tantrum or two…and this counts as a fairly good morning. Evenings can be quite the harrowing experience. I struggle to get E ready for bedtime. Even though there isn’t much of a routine at this stage, I’d say goodnight to E, nurse him in his dim and quiet room before putting him to bed. But, little miss F insists on being in the room, making a ruckus most of the time; she does not always respond to gentle reminders to pipe down and I eventually resort to giving her stern warnings. She also lunges at E a little too enthusiastically and smothers him with kisses whilst I try to nurse E and keep F from crushing him. Sometimes, F jumps on the bed, wrings my neck from behind as she tries to ride piggyback and accidentally pulls my hair whilst she is at it. I count my lucky stars when all she wants to do is to shove books in my face and demand to be read to. All this whilst I struggle to make sure E doesn’t choke and sputter on my overactive let-down, or stir from my conversations (that’s putting it mildly) with F. On good days, after E goes to bed, we get through a tantrum-free rest of the evening. On bad days (which are unfortunately more frequent), F protests at dinner, refuses to brush her teeth and gives me a hard time as I put her to bed. Sometimes, both of us end up in tears. During these struggles, E might wake up to nurse and I get bamboozled by the madness of it all. I am unable to tell you exactly how I get through the night because the truth is I don’t remember anything save for how it feels like I have to jump through hoops of fire to make sure both kids are settled down, but I do make it out alive, somehow.

Regardless, there is comfort in the chaos. Harassed, frustrated and exhausted as I might be when I juggle the needs of my (at times, screaming) children, I relish the love that we now share as a family of four. That love, which I thought I would lack as a mother of two, has surprised me with its power to keep me going during sleepless nights, amidst tantrums and piercing cries, and when I feel the keen sting of having to choose to attend to one child over the other. Yes, there have been times when I walked away from the madness and sat huddled in a corner of my bedroom to weep my guts out, but I always head back to the little dumplings of mine because there is nowhere else I’d rather be. Nowhere else.

Because I am very fortunate to be made the mother of these two, and I cannot be happier.

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Write Me For Another Ten

We don’t celebrate anniversaries with much fanfare, but I guess being together for ten years today is good enough a reason to celebrate…with words, that is.

Throughout the decade together, we wrote to each other quite a fair bit, more so when we were living in different countries, and less when the daily grind got in the way. We may not be the best writers, but we find much solace in words, especially when they come from the other. I remember eagerly checking my mailbox after a harried day at work for a letter signed ‘With love from London’, doing a happy dance when there is word from the Mister, and saving the letter for a read at bedtime when I am all showered, relaxed and ready to devour his comforting words that evening.

This morning, as I roused from restless sleep, M handed me an envelope stuffed with letters that he had written over the past four months. He is due to work the night shift this evening, and wouldn’t be able to spend our tenth anniversary with me. Knowing that I would likely need encouragement as I would be putting the two kids to bed myself at the most trying time of the day, he asked me to save the letters for when the kids have gone to bed. 

I couldn’t wait. Of course, I couldn’t. I tore the envelope open and savoured every word penned in his doctor’s scribble after dropping F at school. 

He chided me on Whatsapp, “I took so long to write the letters and yet, you finished reading them so quickly! They were supposed to last you through the night.”

“I read your letters over and over again. They will last me a lifetime”, I argued. 

So, write me for another ten years, won’t you, darling? And if I have ten lifetimes, I’d want for nothing. 

Happy Tenth, my love. 

Married Life Blooper #5: When Your Husband Knows You Better Than You Do

With the second pregnancy, I have been getting Braxton Hicks contractions and those painful ones way earlier than when I was carrying Faith. Yesterday night, I was resting in bed, timing the contractions whilst the husband kept me company.

At one point, after about three hours of frequent contractions, the pain, intensity and frequency somewhat abated and baby resumed its movements. M noticed that I wasn’t as bothered as before, and asked if the contractions were still coming on.

“I think we are good for now, but who knows, being the sound sleeper that you are, you might suddenly get woken up by piercing cries of a newborn! OOOOH-YEEEEAK OOOOH-YEEEEAK!” I teased.

“Yeah, and then you will go..M, HURRY UP! GIVE ME A TOWEL, MY PRISTINE WHITE BEDSHEETS ARE ALL BLOODSTAINED!!!!” He retorted.

Well, true that. He knows he married a clean freak. *shrugs*

  

Dear Faith: Two and A Half

Dear Faith,

It’s been a year since Mama wrote to you. I had planned to write to you every six months, but things got a little busy when you turned two, and I didn’t get round to penning my thoughts down then. Mama is deeply sorry about that…

You see, I was *just* pregnant with your little sibling then. Whilst it was a much easier first trimester this time (Mama didn’t hurl at all even though I was mostly nauseated), I didn’t want to give up any minute I could spend with you. I took less photos, wrote less often on the blog and in my diary, and soaked up the here-and-now whenever we spent time together. Mama knew that we wouldn’t have much one-on-one time once your sibling is born, and I wanted us to be…us.

And us, it has been. Mama may not have been able to take you out as often as before owing to the difficulty of catching up with your Speedy-Gonzales-esque sprints with a growing bump, and your increasing requests to be carried when I am physically unable to do so as the pregnancy progresses, but we spent a lot of time at home and in the neighbourhood making believe with your growing family of soft toys (including Elephant, Minnie, Bear Bear, Pooh Bear, Olaf, Bunny and many more!), playing with your kitchen, making burgers and ice cream cones out of Lego, singing, dancing, playing musical instruments, reading, blowing and catching (I blow, you catch) bubbles on the balcony and even baking. Oh yes, we cuddle lots too. Papa has been taking you for twice-weekly swims, when you would demand to sit on his back whilst he ferries you around in the water, and squeal in delight when you playfully push his head down under; I would slowly make my way across the pool and wait in the shallow areas for you, if and when you decide to mess with the water jets and scoop water in and out with your sandcastle-building toys, you know, scaled-down activities that Mama can manage whilst being heavily pregnant. Such wonderful times together.

Through it all, we continue to be surprised by how much of a little adult you are and how quickly you are growing up. You say the most astounding things and ask the most unexpected questions. “Can you manage, Mama?” when you see me having difficulty in completing a task. “Is your stomach painful? You must wear this!” when you catch me in the middle of a contraction or a bout of pelvic pain, and run off to get my maternity belt from the wardrobe. “Mama, I help you!” when you see me having difficulties pulling up my shorts as I struggle to bend over the rock-hard bump that is your little sibling. You make your demands for our affection loud and clear and show yours for us unabashedly. “Papa, I want hug and kiss and pat pat.” “Mama, kisssssss!” When you catch me in tears, you fling whatever you have in your hands aside and run to hand me a piece of tissue paper and give me a hug, often rubbing my back gently and whispering, “It’s okay, Mama” as you do so. Whilst I am proud and thoroughly delighted at the being you have blossomed into, your acts of love, words and knowing tantrums do little to assuage my guilt.

The tantrums…they could be ignited by something as simple as wanting Mama instead of Papa to brush your teeth, or Mama being unable to carry you as I am in pain. Whatever the reason, I know it has to do with your attachment to and longing for me, especially with a little sibling on the way. To watch you cry helplessly and know that you do not understand why I am unable to do certain things with you…breaks my heart into a million pieces. On occasions when I was unable to give in to your requests and reasoning failed to work, I had to be stern and I raised my voice at you . You, being the sweet, loving angel that you are, settled down quickly most of the time when I did that and you have no idea how sad I am to know that you did it out of fear of making me unhappy. “I want Mama to be happy”, you would say once you have calmed down. I often weeped, after I put you to bed, and mulled over that guilt for days after, because I know why you were upset on those occasions, and the thing is I don’t know how to reconcile your needs with what I can provide at this point.

Things are going to change very drastically when your little sibling arrives, how so…I do not know. I simply pray that we can go through the transition as a family of four, no matter how hard it may be for all of us and trust that everything will turn out alright.

Faith, you may not understand this now but I want you to know that I love you very much, much more than you will ever know. I want you to know that even though I may not be able to give you my full attention in the near future, I will try my best to be a doting and present mother to you and your little sibling, and a supportive wife to Papa. Please give me time to be good at balancing my different acts, and I promise Mama will be back in no time, taking you out on one-on-one frozen yogurt dates and runs to the playground. There will be lots of cuddles too, as many as I can dole out, and most importantly, as many as you would like me to give.

You will always be my baby.

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Loving you always,

Mama

A Local Delight to Read: Stacey Goes To The Peranakan Museum

[SPONSORED POST*] We are big, BIG fans of books (in fact, we bought F more books than toys or clothes, most of the latter are gifts from family and friends!) and one of the things I like to do with F after I pick her up from preschool on weekday afternoons is to read. We have amassed a variety of tales in F’s growing library, but one genre that I didn’t get my hands on relates to our local context. Up until recently, that is!

Lianne Ong, author of Stacey Goes To The National Museum, has released the second book in the Stacey & The Museums series in partnership with the National Heritage Board, and this one really caught my eye as it introduces the Peranakan culture to children.

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When I first received the book, I was a little concerned that the prose might be too advanced for F, who is just 2.5 years old now but looking at how F pounced on the book when I whipped it out and how she gushed over the brightly-coloured illustrations, I needn’t have worried that this was out of her league. She pored over the book and pointed excitedly at the pictures, exclaiming, “Pretty dress!” when she spotted the kebaya, and thumbed every page whilst giving a live commentary of what the illustrations depicted before she handed me the book and asked to be read to. As I went through the story with her, I was brought back to the time when we visited the Peranakan Museum with F; she was about one then.

I thought the book is an excellent platform to introduce the Peranakan culture to children, especially when Lianne takes bits and bobs of the exhibits and weaves them into a fantasy where a statue takes Stacey through the museum! I see it as the perfect guidebook for children to navigate and relate the content to the exhibits in the museum; this is what I would do when we take F to the Peranakan Museum in future, as F is very fond of and quick at pointing out things she sees, and relating them to what she has learnt in songs and books these days. I reckon the excursion, with the tale in hand, will make for a memorable adventure for F (and really, it makes it so easy for us parents to stir our children’s interest in local culture and history, I would be clueless as to how to do that otherwise).

We can’t wait for the third book in the series to be released; if the approach is similar to what Lianne has done for the first two books, then I think we might have ourselves another excellent children’s guidebook to one of Singapore’s other museums.

*I was gifted one copy of Stacey Goes To The National Museum and one copy of Stacey Goes To The Peranakan Museum. No additional monetary compensation has been received. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products/services. Sponsors have been notified that I am not obliged to write a review upon receipt of sponsored service/items, should I find the products/services unsuitable.

The Stacey & The Museums Series are sold here. Like the Stacey & The Museums Facebook page for updates on book releases in the series and readings!