The Things Faith Says #7: On Girly Things

At 3 years and almost 8 months old, Faith has taken a very keen interest in my belongings. Makeup (lipstick, which she refers to as lip balm, in particular), shoes, imaginary bags (I don’t carry any except for a burly knapsack for diapering purposes).

She likes to watch me put on makeup when we head out on Sundays, always wondering out loud why I do that then, and not on other days.

“Mama, why are you putting on makeup? Where are your spectacles?”

And, she would rush to rummage through her handbag for a natural lip balm that I have given her, before smearing her lips with it. I would remind her not to do that, and to only apply the lip balm once around her lips.

“Mama, one time only. One time, okay?”

She has also, somehow, staked a claim to my belongings.

“Mama, when I grow up, when I am a big girl, you share with me, okay? You share your shoes with me, okay? You must also share your lip balm with me. Mmm, okay, GOOD.”

Most days, she would be so used to me looking like I needed some severe grooming, that she would go, “Mama, I want you to wear spectacles. And I want your hair up, not down (referring to how I wear my fringe up with a hairband and tie the rest up in a ponytail).”

Man. Can she stop growing up so quickly?

 

Ethan’s Birth Story 

TALK ABOUT LATE.

This post must have shrivelled up in the draft folder, almost a year after Ethan was born, and nothing kicks my arse into penning this properly AND publishing it, like his first birthday approaching at the end of this week. EEEPS.

(Son, please don’t take this the wrong way; Mama has been far too busy cuddling you to even pay much attention to this space anymore. Please don’t ever think that the glaring absence of your birth story over here means that Mama loves you any less.)

SO. When I was about to pop Faith out of my hoo-ha back in 2012, it was barely a brain-teaser. All I had to do was to show up, scream in pain and push. SIMPLES. Okay, maybe I packed and re-packed my hospital bag a little too often, and I freaked out about what labour might be like. But with Ethan, I went through a gazillion plans in my mind (along with another gazillion back-up plans) as the due date approached, as we had to make sure that Faith would be well taken care of, regardless of where, when and how labour kicked in. I had every route to my parents’ and to the hospital from possible locations of where I might be mapped out according to different times of the day, and briefed everyone (shy of barking instructions at the neighbour’s dog) on what to do with Faith when the time comes. Her well-being was all I could think about in the weeks leading up to the due date, as I had not spent a night away from her prior to giving birth to Ethan and I was nervous about how she might react…being away from me and all that.

Amidst rehearsing plans over and over during waking hours and in my sleep, a few nights before Ethan’s birth, I thought I was going into labour. I was 38 weeks along then. I had felt cramps in the lower back which grew into aching contractions that came around every three minutes and lasted 30-60 seconds each. They were painful enough for me to know that those were not Braxton-Hicks. This went on from when I picked Faith up from school at about 4pm until 9pm. Ethan was also strangely not moving at all during this period, and that freaked me out. After we put Faith to bed at about 8.30pm, we were pretty certain of getting my parents to stay over at ours whilst we headed to the hospital, when the contractions suddenly stopped at 9pm and E started cartwheeling in my uterus again. That was when I decided to just sleep it off, but I had diarrhoea instead and I was horrified that I couldn’t tell a bad tummy ache apart from labour. Anyhow, all of our bags, including Faith’s school and home things, were packed and we were ready to put the plans into action should I go into labour.

Two nights later, on the eve of the day that Ethan was born (also the day I was scheduled to go in for a CTG and VE), the contractions came back. They were similar in frequency and length to what I had experienced two days ago, and the episode lasted for about five hours again before calling it quits on me. E also barely moved until the contractions stopped. Once the episode was over, I had diarrhoea and by this time, I was extremely frustrated at myself for not recognising the signs properly. I mean, I SHOULD KNOW THIS, HAVING HAD ONE KID BEFORE AND SHAT SO MANY TIMES IN MY LIFE, SHOULDN’T I?! GEEZ.

All this time, I was hoping to labour naturally, even if it meant chaos would ensue in terms of making sure F was in good hands before we headed to the hospital. But, E had been small throughout gestation and Dr K was concerned about getting him out before the womb became too stressful an environment for him. After all, he had shown signs of stress and I had bled during the pregnancy. Dr K had mentioned a C-section by 38.5 weeks if he was still in breech (he turned a few days before that, thank God) or to induce labour if the amniotic fluid volume decreased and if his weight didn’t get up to a decent number. Getting cut up was something that I was very reluctant to go through owing to the slow recovery time (I wanted to bounce right back and be able to carry and cuddle both of my children after giving birth). I was also resistant to the idea of getting induced again this time round, as I was induced with F and the rapid escalation in highly intense contractions that didn’t pace well with the lack of cervical dilation, had me cave into getting the epidural. I was banging on a drug-free birth with E, and I know that I wouldn’t stand a chance of doing that if I were to be induced.

Morning came around (it was the eve of Good Friday), we stuck all of F’s bags in a corner of our house, dropped F at school and headed to the clinic at Mt Elizabeth with the hospital bag in tow. We didn’t get good news. Well, I didn’t get the news that I wanted. Dr K was certain that E would face unnecessary stress should he continue to bunk in, and strongly recommended for me to be induced. The amniotic fluid volume was thinning out and I experienced long hours of painful, frequent contractions in the days before. The discussion was peppered with lots of choked-up and feeble ‘but’s’ from me. M, however was supportive of what Dr K suggested, and somehow, I agreed to her plan even though it was killing me to say yes. Dr K sent me out for a big brunch and asked me to be admitted at 12.45pm, and I walked out of the clinic simmering with anger and disappointment.

M took me to Paragon to hunt for lunch options, and as we walked to PS Cafe, I broke down. Yes, I did a really ugly cry in public, and everyone who was early enough to do some shopping at Paragon that morning saw this pregnant lady bawling like a baby. I couldn’t accept that I was going to be induced, that I was going to be a mother-of-two when I was not mentally ready (though, on hindsight, one will NEVER be ready). I WAS GOING TO LABOUR NATURALLY AND GO FOR A DRUG-FREE BIRTH AT 40 WEEKS, THANK YOU VERY MUCH, YOU TWO EVIL DOCTORS WHO ARE CONSPIRING AGAINST ME, AND YES, I MEAN YOU TOO, HUSBAND! I started going on and on (gesturing wildly, if I might add) about how Dr K must have suggested an induction because she didn’t want to come to work over the Easter weekend, about how no one respected my decision and what I wanted, and about how E wasn’t really under stress. M grew from being extremely patient and empathetic, to slightly mad when I got hysterical. He said that if I didn’t want to be induced, he would march us back to Dr K’s clinic and we would call it off. For some reason, I calmed down just enough for him to take me to PS Cafe, and as I bulldozed the fish and chips, I asked him why he agreed with Dr K and I listened intently as he explained his stance. He said that he could understand my concern as a parent and as a patient with a desired birth plan, but he also said that Dr K has decades of experience under her belt and that we, of all people, having been taken care of by her when we were expecting Faith, should know that she would never push for me to go for an induction just so she didn’t have to come in to work over the Easter weekend. As a doctor, he agreed that the signs (couldn’t remember all the jargon he blabbered on) pointed to the fact that it was better to get E out via natural birth (even if it is induced) than to end up in a emergency C-section if something went awry. Also, with an induction, we would  know exactly how, where and when to place F, and my parents need not be stressed with middle-of-the-night calls from us to help look after F. The instant he mentioned emergency C-section and F, I was sold. 12.45pm to the labour ward, it was then. Between the fish and chips and 12.45pm, M and I rang our parents to let them know that we were having Ethan that day, and my folks knew to pick F up from school and to care for her for a night as Dr K expected E to be out in the late evening.

12.45pm: We arrived at the labour ward. This time, I walked in instead of getting wheeled in. My ward was getting cleaned up by the nurses. Whilst we waited, I could see the charts of other labouring mothers blipping on the screens at the nurses’ station. The ward was unusually quiet. Why is no one moaning? 

1pm: The nurse finally had time to take my documents and admit me properly. The ward looked far too familiar. M was obviously a seasoned pro. He headed straight for the couch, unpacked our bags to unearth the necessary stuff  – camera, phone, charger, magazines – and made himself at home. I hopped onto the bed and played around with the buttons until I made myself comfortable.

2pm: Ethan was super active. There were minor contractions and I had a really bad tummy ache, so bad that I practically ran to the loo. I thought I had food poisoning (sorry if this is TMI) and when I was finished, the nurse came in to ask if I needed to be administered the Fleet enema. Well, let’s just say I cleared my bowels sufficiently for the week ahead, so I told her it wasn’t necessary. When the nurse left, I wondered if diarrhoea could be a sign of labour and Googled it. It turned out that it was, and I started to think that the 5-hour-long painful contractions plus episodes of diarrhoea I had in the days leading up to this point were my body’s way of preparing for labour after all! Mother Nature’s way of reducing the likelihood of mothers crapping while they push their babies out. How clever. And considerate for everyone who would be present at the birth.

2.20pm: Dr K swung by and did a VE. I was 2cm dilated. She broke my water bag and whaddaya know, E was under stress after all! There was meconium in the amniotic fluid. So the contractions, episodes of diarrhoea WERE signs of labour, signs that E was giving me to get him out! At this point, I was relieved and thankful that I heeded Dr K’s and M’s advice. And mildly embarrassed that I cried in public earlier that morning.

2.30pm: The contractions were getting stronger but they were very bearable. 2/10 on the pain scale.

3.20pm: I was given a low dose of syntocin to speed things up by artificially inducing strong contractions. Blood was taken from me as part of the procedure required of cord blood donation to SCBB. The contractions got to above 100 for a few, and I rated them 7/10 on the pain scale, but most contractions were small and irregular.

4.30pm: The midwife came in and upped the dose for syntocin. Having gone through an induced delivery before, I knew I was in for a rough ride and braced myself for the abrupt escalation in pain.

5.15pm: The contractions were unbearable. They were of near maximum amplitudes on the chart, and there were 3 to 4 of them every 5 minutes. This was worse than what I had experienced when giving birth to Faith and there was NO time for rest in between the strong contractions, but I held out and told M I wanted to try and wait until 5.45pm before deciding if I wanted an epidural.

5.30pm: The pain was truly excruciating by now, nothing like what I felt with F, and I cried partly because of the pain and partly because of what it meant.  I asked for a VE and on learning that I was only 3cm dilated, I knew I wouldn’t be able to withstand 3 to 4 maximal contractions every 5 minutes until I was 10cm dilated. With a heavy heart, I asked for an epidural.

6.10pm: The same anaesthetist who hooked me up to an epidural when I was giving birth to F came by again this time. The catheter insertion took much longer and the process was more uncomfortable this time. The contractions were so painful that I trembled. The midwife and anaesthetist had to hold me down to stop me from trembling and finally, the epidural was safely administered. The anaesthetist said that she gave me a very low dose of epidural to take the edge off, instead of numbing everything out. Before the epidural took effect, the midwife did a quick VE and I was already 5cm dilated. At this point, I was a little disappointed that I asked for an epidural, given that I dilated pretty quickly since the last VE. I thought I should have waited but the deed was done and I just had to live with my decision.

6.30pm: 6cm dilated and I felt a very strong urge to push. I was shivering from the epidural. I could still move my legs. Felt nauseated and I stopped drinking water even though I was parched. A catheter was inserted to empty my bladder as I was bed-bound.

6.45pm: 7cm dilated and I felt an even stronger urge to push. I could still move my legs and felt pain in my right bum as baby tried to make its way out. The midwife told me to try not to push, and man, was that a tall order!

7.10pm: I was 9cm dilated this time and if it was even possible at all, I felt an even stronger urge to push. The pain in my right bum was rather intense as baby tried to get out. The midwife had me practise pushing as she gowned up and prepared me for delivery. After a few attempts, I finally got past my fear of pooping and pushed properly. Chin down, bump up, it was!

7.15pm: Dr K arrived and I continued pushing properly as she gowned up and prepared for the final stage of delivery. I felt Ethan crowning, something that I hadn’t felt before with F as I was on a particularly lose dose of epidural this time. There was a burning sensation and I certainly felt like I was tearing apart when baby crowned and his shoulders went past. I was told to relax and to stop pushing once his shoulders were out.

7.20pm:  Ethan was born. Dr K placed him on my tummy and I couldn’t believe how small he was. My heart broke a little at this point. M cut E’s umbilical cord and E was carried to the warmer for checks and to be cleaned. M scooted over to take good look at him and took some videos for our archives. Dr K collected the cord blood and delivered the placenta. Whilst it was whole, the placenta was one-third the size of Faith’s placenta, and suddenly, it made sense as to why Ethan had been so small during gestation. I was relieved to have listened to Dr K to get him out earlier, and felt that I was to blame for E’s slower growth. Was it my diet or something I did? I’ll never know. As Dr K stitched me up, I could feel the pain from the needle and thread but I distracted myself by looking on as the midwife cleaned up and weighed E. After Dr K left, we took a family photo and I asked to have a go at latching Ethan. He suckled and licked but wasn’t able to latch properly. I made a conscious attempt not to be stressed out about this and decided to simply enjoy the moment we had with E in our arms.

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It took two hours for us to be done at the labour ward before getting transferred to the maternity ward. As I was wheeled out to the lobby, I was received by my sister, bro-in-law and my in-laws. They stayed on for a while and took photos with E before heading home. M stayed with me that evening and wasted no time in falling asleep. Even though I was exhausted, I couldn’t sleep. I knew I had to get some rest to prepare myself for the two-to-three-hourly feeds, but I was missing F terribly and wondered how she was doing at my parents’. I didn’t want to call my folks and disrupt her bedtime routine, and I was very thankful when Papa sent me a photo of Mama showering her. She looked delighted to be spending the night at my parents’ and I was immensely relieved to know that.

The rest of the night was filled with cuddles with a very sleepy E, latching attempts and checks on my BP and bleeding. I was also in a lot of pain, more so than when I delivered F. My insides felt like they have been thoroughly bruised but I resisted taking meds to relieve the pain as I was breastfeeding. Whenever E was brought to me that night, I took some videos and photos of him in the quiet whilst M snored away, and each time I held him, I couldn’t wait for morning to come. I didn’t know how F would take to E, and rehearsed their first meeting in my mind. Like how I would have E in the bassinet when F arrives, so she wouldn’t feel jealous. And how we would present E’s gift to her (a ginormous teddy bear). I pictured how she would cradle E in her arms and kiss him like the loving big sister I hope she would be, and prayed that we would cope and be happy as a family of four here on out.

Before I knew it, morning came and I was exhausted with nary a trace of sleep but I was so very elated when my little girl stepped into the ward ever so tentatively. I guess she couldn’t fully comprehend why I was away at a strange place. She squealed in delight when she saw me and hopped into my bed to give me a big hug. I took a deep whiff of her freshly washed hair, realising that I had missed her even more than I thought I would. Then, I explained to her that Didi (Mandarin for little brother), who was in my belly previously, finally arrived and that he had a gift for her. She was very shy and reserved when she received the teddy bear, as all eyes were on her, and she was very quiet when we placed E in her arms. I was biting my nails and watching her nervously, but all fears were displaced when I saw her leaning over to give E a kiss on his forehead. There and then, time stood still and I knew that God was at work, that God has been at work all our lives. We wouldn’t have made it to that point otherwise. The sight of my new baby boy in my firstborn’s arms is not something I would or could ever forget.

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Some days, being the human that I am, I wonder what it would have been like if my birth plan, well, went according to plan, or if I had made other decisions in the moments leading up to Ethan’s birth. Many days, I wonder if I had done anything wrong for the placenta to be so small, so much so that it affected E’s growth. But most days, those things don’t matter at all for I am most blessed to be the mother of these two very beautiful and healthy children. Suffice to say that my life is complete, and I am thankful that it is, no matter how we got here today. So there you go, the birth stories of my children. Not quite spectacular births right there, but so precious all the same.

I Don’t Want You To Go To Work

For the past month or so, F has been telling me that she doesn’t want me to go to work. Now, this caught me by surprise because I have never spoken to her about my thoughts about returning to the workforce. She understands that Papa goes to work to provide for us, and that Mama bakes in the night whenever she can to help with minor household expenses.

Being a SAHM was not part of my plan when I gave birth to F. Back then, I struggled with the decision to leave the workforce (a decision made for a few pressing reasons) and it was indeed painful to say goodbye to my career after years of hard work in research and graduate education, as well as time spent working in London. I still struggle with the consequences of my decision today, especially when I get that-taitai-flak for being a SAHM or when people seem to think that I have no aspirations post-PhD, that I do shit at home and bake for fun because I am a Stepford wife or something. But, I have to say that I am better at embracing this decision we have made as a family more than three years on, because this is what works best for us, even if it means making sacrifices that can be unpalatable or very stressful at times.

Now that E is older, I have thought about going back to work (even if my tendency lies with being home with the kids), and if I do, it would be (mainly) to help with the finances. I would love to take the pressure off the husband, but I would be doing it at the expense of my time with the children, something that I have had the privilege of enjoying over the past 3.5 years, and I don’t know if it’s worth it. Sure, there is a small part of me that misses being out there, working on projects, getting back into the kind of research I was doing after grad school, and I miss being in the rush of problem-solving that doesn’t involve getting tangles out of my daughter’s hair, negotiating naptimes or the best way to change my son’s poopy diaper without him kicking and screaming, but that’s not nearly as important to me anymore in the grander scheme of things. Perhaps a part-time arrangement would work better for us, financially, stimulation-wise, kids-wise, or maybe part-time work wouldn’t get any of us anywhere, I don’t know.

These are just some of the many thoughts that tear me apart from time to time, and I do look to the Big Man Upstairs and ask, “What am I to do? What would You have me do?”

Then, out of the blue, F comes along and says, “Mama, I want you to stay at home. I don’t want you to go to work because I don’t want to be alone.” So I guess that’s that. For now. Clarity, closure, an answer to quell the uncertainties I had on where I would be better placed in our current circumstance.

Perhaps, things may change in the future. The children may have different needs. It may very well do the children more good, in one way or another, if I were to go back to work. Who knows? But right now, F’s repeated request makes me feel okay about staying home and not helping out much financially. I don’t feel as guilty about the husband working so hard because F made me realise that I have done something (intangible yes, but) valuable enough for her to want me to be home, and that, I can’t just write off like I typically do with my best and worst efforts. What I do means more than what I give it credit for, and it germinates and nurtures something that I can’t see or measure. It doesn’t make me less of a mother, even if I don’t have the means to provide for their necessities and  nice-to-have’s, and it certainly doesn’t make me less of a role model even though I am not that driven, career woman for them to look up to. If staying home means that we have to make some adjustments financially and that the journey to getting where I want to be aspirations-wise has to slow down, then so be it. I am just thankful that I have the husband’s and children’s blessings to still do what I do, and that we are still living comfortably without having to make huge sacrifices whilst on a single income. I am also thankful for F to say this out loud to me every day; I know her desire for me to stay home is implied and yet, obvious, as with most children who yearn to be with their parents, but listening to her speak up about this issue, which I have never brought up to her, is nothing short of a divine and timely reminder of the importance of what I do.

Most mothers I know, working and stay-at-home alike, go through some variant of this emotional turmoil. It doesn’t matter what form the struggle takes; we have all been torn apart by stereotypes, our aspirations, needs, roles and wants at some point, or for several times in a day. May we continue to do what’s necessary and what works best for our families.

The Things Faith Says #6: There is Milo On Your Face

This afternoon, I gave F a packet of cold Milo as a treat and she was happily slurping it down when she stopped in her tracks, leaned forward and peered at me very, very seriously.

“Mama…there is Milo on your face. Hmm, yes, Milo.” She deadpanned.

I was puzzled because I wasn’t drinking any Milo and she certainly hadn’t spilled any on me. And then I realised what she was referring to.

That damned blotchy patch of pigmentation on my face. Someone hand me the laser, please? 

The Things Faith Says #5: He Didn’t Sleep Well

Every morning, I creep into F’s room, sit by her bed and rub her back gently to wake her up. We’d then have a conversation on what we would be doing for the day and whether she slept well. Nothing out of the ordinary, usually, but today, F got me laughing. 

Me: Faith, did you sleep well?

F (rubbing her eyes): Yes, I slept well. 

Me (stroking her hair): Good!

F (pulling Dumbo, one of the many stuffed toys she goes to bed with): But I think Elephant didn’t sleep well because he didn’t close his eyes like me.

And she gestured at Dumbo’s big, unblinking eyes as she related her thoughts to me. 

The things kids say…!

Dear Faith: Three and A Half

Dear Faith,

Mama’s (not) at it again and did a little something cheeky to this letter. Yes, yes, I am late in writing to you once more, and we’re in-between timelines now but really, who cares about timelines when I have so much to say to you right this second? So, three-and-more-than-a-quarter under the guise of three-and-a-half, let’s go.

Where do I even begin? Since my previous note to you, so much has changed and yet, nothing has. Your baby brother, Ethan, is finally here with us (in fact, he arrived very shortly after my previous letter to you) and he is 9 months old now; suffice to say that our days have been filled with so much more love and joy than what I thought my heart could ever wrap around. Papa and I did not have to worry about carving out space within to accommodate the both of you, for there just is and more for the two of you. Infinity, as we have learnt, does exist in love and hope, even if it is sorely lacking in time, sleep, the number of limbs we have and patience.

Whilst you have been absolutely amazing at being a new, big sister, I can’t say the same for myself as a second-time mum. You have demonstrated incredible tolerance for my limited bandwidth over the past 9 months. I’ve seen you look longingly at me as I nursed your baby brother. I’ve caught more than a few glimpses of you waiting patiently by my side while I struggled to put him to bed as quickly as I can so that I could spend time with you. What about the times when you chose to sit quietly by my feet, just so you could be physically close to me, whilst I rushed to put food on the table most crazy evenings? You, my dear, are far more mature than a three-year-old, and I thank God everyday for this grace, yours and His. “Please wait, Faith”; oh, how I have lost count of the number of times I have had to say this to you. “Faith, can you please help Mama with this?” is a close-second. At times, I wish you knew how my heart breaks whenever you choke back tears at my insistence that you go to school, even though you yearn to be home with me. I wish you knew how much I want to “play Lego” with you instead of asking you to build yet another playground or pile more ‘patties’ on the ‘burger’ on your own. I wish you knew how much I want to be alone with you, how much I love having you sleep next to me when the opportunity arises during holidays, even if it means having your foot in my face or one of your lanky limbs jabbing me in the ribs in the middle of the night. I wish you could count the number of kisses that I plant on your cheeks or the whiffs I take of your hair when I return to the bed after nursing your brother at night.  Sometimes, I even jump for joy when you run a fever and are barred from attending school as a result, because it means I have a shot at shared naps with Ethan and you by my side, even if it means I run a risk of not having any of us nap because synchronised naps are mythical beasts. I know, I’m a weirdo.

Of course, there have been tantrums and meltdowns and arguments. Like when you just wouldn’t have it if I wouldn’t let you put on your Snow White costume at home. Or when your old socks, which have lost the elasticity, wouldn’t pull up and just stay put like you want them to. Or when you insist on spending more time wrinkling your fingers and toes in the pool, even if Papa says that you have to go as your lips have turned blue from the cold. And the persistent and ubiquitous “NO!”, let’s just say life would be easier without them. But, you are all of three years old and you have not directed your anger, disappointment and lack of patience with us at your brother, and that is simply remarkable.  I am not even sure if I, at 33, can compartmentalise my emotions all that well. Papa and I are incredibly proud of you, my love.

As I held your little hand yesterday morning, walked you to your first day of N2, and saw how reluctant you were to be away from me when you stifled sobs, it struck me that as much as you are my baby girl, you have grown so, so much. When we first moved into our new home early last year, we transited you from sleeping in the cot to a big girl’s bed because we thought to free up the cot for your baby brother, and you nailed it in a mere few days. You woke up a few times a night, looking for Papa Pig and Bear Bear which we always tuck you in with, and Papa would go in to soothe you; surprisingly, you went back to bed without kicking up a fuss. A few nights later, you slept through again and woke up in the morning, proudly exclaiming, “MAMA, I SLEEP WELL IN MY OWN BED!” We also had you enrolled you in a new school which is closer to home, and you blossomed from that quiet, little girl to a confident speaker in class who loves her friends, music and dance; sometimes, you even take on the role of little Miss Bossypants, much to my amusement and horror. When I was heavily pregnant with your brother, you would stroke my bump ever so gently whenever you caught me wincing in pain and asked me if I was okay. When your brother arrived, we spent our first two nights apart from each other and you did so well at Gong Gong’s and Ma Ma’s that I teared up a fair bit, wondering if you missed me and wondering how you have gone from baby to young lady in the blink of an eye. I could tell you were struggling to make sense of your brother when you first laid eyes on him at the hospital. I was so worried that you would be jealous that I made sure not to carry him when you arrived at the ward. I watched you intently as Papa handed you the big bear that your brother gifted you, and said a silent prayer as you accepted it tentatively and took a closer peek at your new brother. My heart sang as you cradled a wrinkly Ethan gently in your arms and leaned forward to kiss him on the forehead.  You looked up at the audience that had gone all quiet watching the two of you, stole a few more curious glances at your brother and kept very still as you held him. I swore you grew up in that few minutes; my heart ached and soared to witness that. Who knew that that was the point of no return?

Soon, you would sit by my side in the dimly lit nursery, trying your best to understand why I would ask you to pipe down when I put your brother to bed. Soon, you would pack Ethan’s diaper bag on my behalf and bring me his towels and changing mat. You would read to him, play with him and soothe him whenever I ask you to keep an eye on him so I could take a quick shower. You would tell him not to cry because “Mama has to cook, Didi. Mama is busy and she will carry you later.” You have become much too big much too quickly.

I don’t know whether to be happy or sad whenever I spot you quietly playing with Playdoh, Lego and jigsaw puzzles, three of your favourite toys in the world, as I pace the corridor trying to get your brother to nap. One half of me yearns to be there with you, 100% with you, and the other half applauds that my three-year-old plays independently. I don’t know whether to be happy or sad when you tell us that you “want to play with bubbles, and go swimming and go to the playground. I want Papa and Mama to come. I want chocolate milk and chocolate bread and cornflakes for breakfast” night after night when we put you to bed. Because it’s very telling of what you yearn for, our exclusive company and your favourite things which we haven’t been able to give you consistently since we became a family of four, and yet, you share your childlike desires with us so cheerfully that it reminds us you are still a small person who looks forward to the future, like we hope for you to be. How conflicted my poor mother’s heart is right now but it all boils down to me loving you that much. This tug-of-war of emotions is a good thing, I suppose. It makes me want to do more for you, and damn, am I trying.

Until Mama gets it right, my dear girl, please be patient with me, as you have been all this while. And I promise to be more patient with you. Less ‘hurry up’s and more time to let you apply your lip balm when you spot me putting on makeup. Less ‘come on’s and more prancing in front of the mirror whilst you twirl in your favourite dresses. Less ‘that’s enough’s and more Playdoh bits that get stuck on the upholstery. Because upstolstery can be cleaned, even if not to perfection. Because you would only fit in those size 3 dresses until you grow out of them too soon. Because you would only want to admire Mama while she dolls up until you think you are too cool for your parents. Because I love you too much for these meaningless battles to get in the way of your childhood. Because even though you are now a big sister, you are only three and a half for one day and no longer.

我爱你. *tweet* (Ask me what this means if you have forgotten about it.)

Forever yours,

Mama

ANT_6052

 

 

Goodbye, 2015

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2015 has been a number of pretty big things for us. We moved into our new home in late January after some mad packing and minor renovations done whilst I was heavily pregnant. I had a very smooth delivery and we welcomed little Ethan to our family a few months later. Over the year, we watched Faith grow into the sprightly young lady and loving big sister she is today. M advanced in his career and earned another qualification. I battled the dreadful postnatal blues, learnt to cope as a mother-of-two, and cooked and baked a lot more than what I thought was possible with two kids in tow. All four of us fell ill much too often, with me getting hooked up to a drip just a few days ago after the suay-est bout of suay-ness (suay = Hokkien for unlucky). So there we have it, pretty big things.

Through it all, there were plenty of tears shed, hurtful words both spoken and heard, and some very painful lessons learnt, but above all, I remember this. Our deep belly laughs. Trying to get out of the tangle of limbs (four sets, we have now!) as we collapsed in a pile of machine gun giggles. The quiet walks we took by the sea. The times when we were all covered in flour and sugar when Faith blasted the KitchenAid at the maximum speed despite repeated warnings. The smell of dark chocolate and sea salt melting moments wafting through our home when I was working hard for the bake sales. The nights when Ethan smiled at me like nothing or no one else could delight him more. The first time we took Faith out to ride the new bicycle which she finally grew into after receiving it on her second birthday. Those phenomenal steak nights at home with M. Us holding hands whilst we vegged out in front of the telly and tried to stay awake past 9.30pm. Putting up our very first Christmas tree as a family of four in our own home. Watching Ethan and Faith smile and coo at each other. When people told me they loved what I baked. Or when Faith slurped up everything that I cooked for dinner. Pretending that we don’t hear the kids stir on Sunday mornings so we could sleep in until 8am..even though we know we get headaches from sleeping in now (the irony). Stolen kisses. Stolen super-quick ice-cream jaunts after the kids have gone to bed. Stolen roller-coaster rides. The night when I was alone with Ethan in the hospital after giving birth. How my heart burst as Faith reassured me that I would be okay when I was bedridden. My papa and my mama giving their all to tide us over the toughest times. Those tear-jerking (in a good way) texts from my baby sister, who got me through the dark times. This New Year’s Eve during our nightly bedtime prayer, when Faith told God that Sleeping Beauty farted and we laughed and laughed, and in doing that, unknowingly thanked God for Joy. How faith and love brought us further than we could have ever imagined. 

It’s been a challenging 52 weeks, as I had expected it to be this time last year, peppered with lots of Ups and rather stormy Downs. I feel like I have aged quite a bit from roughing it out so much this year…and yet, I have come out stronger  and more mature with quite a bit of clarity having gone through all that and survived. Truth be told, I know it’s going to get harder, what with the uncertainties that we will be facing in 2016, and I don’t quite know what to feel about the year that will be dawning upon us in a few hours’ time. But the only way forward is to go through whatever Life hands us anyway, that I know, and I pray for wisdom, strength and guidance for me to make the best out of 2016. That, and more tales of Sleeping Beauty and her mysterious farts, please.

Here’s to joy, peace, good health and the heartiest laughs for all of us. Happy New Year, my friends. See you on the other side.

ANT_5787 “BRING IT ON, TWO O ONE SIX!”

Ecover ZERO – Cleaning Products That Wouldn’t Kill Your Skin

[*SPONSORED POST] Three years ago, I became that parent who constantly sources for eco-friendly, safer products to use in our home, knowing that Faith is likely to lick the floor, throw her toys around and chew at them after…you get the picture. I knew I couldn’t totally protect her from the big bad world but I was (still am!) determined to minimise her exposure to harsh chemicals, especially when she suffered from eczema back then (she hasn’t had flare-ups in the past year or so). I tried using a couple of products to clean our home and have been loyal to mainly two brands since 2012, one of which is Ecover. I have used its floor cleaner religiously over the past three years and am a huge fan of it. We have gone through bottles of that stuff and I only have good things to say about it. I was naturally delighted when Ecover invited us to try out the ZERO range, which is touted to thoroughly clean with its gentle plant- and mineral-based ingredients whilst staying gentle on sensitive skin with its colouring-free and fragrance-free formulation.

I have tried the following for about two weeks now, and am VERY pleased to report that the ZERO range lives up to very high expectations.

  

The ZERO Laundry Liquid is superb at cleaning our clothes, even at 30 degrees Celsius, which is the temperature I use to save on utilities. I haven’t found any stains or aggregates that may come from certain laundry powder or liquid products, and our laundry comes out smelling clean even though the laundry liquid is fragrance-free. I really, really like the fact that it is so because I am very sensitive to smell (I abhor most fragrances from laundry products…they make me feel nauseated). I have also used the laundry liquid on the kids’ clothes, and F, who has more sensitive skin of the two, has not reacted to this new product, unsurprisingly so as it has been dermatologically tested and approved by Allergy UK. Yay! I am also glad to know that the laundry liquid does not contain any phosphates or optical brighteners; that’s super good news for my handwoven wraps and pretty baby carriers!.

We also use the ZERO Fabric Conditioner in every load and it does the job of keeping our clothes soft pretty damn well! Again, our clothes smell clean, even in the absence of fragrance. I’m pretty amazed at how the products do this. I suppose the plant- and mineral-based ingredients are super effective at cleaning! I mean, if something is truly clean, then it shouldn’t smell funky, right?

And the ZERO Washing Up Liquid? Stellar. My hands used to age with every round of dishwashing I do, no thanks to the harsh but effective dishwashing liquid that we were using before trying out the ZERO range. My hands no longer feel parched and tight with the ZERO Washing Up Liquid and most of all, I am truly in awe of its cleaning prowess. The dishes, pots and pans are squeaky clean when I am done washing, even with the sometimes-heavy cooking I do! LOVE this product. And my dishes don’t come off smelling like ‘Lemon’ or ‘Lime’, just clean! 

I am pretty impressed by the ZERO range, and highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for clean-and-green products that are suitable for sensitive skin. They are definitely more expensive than the harsher counterparts that I used to use but I think  the products are well worth the money if you are in need of something that is eco-friendly AND less likely to kill what’s left of your sensitive skin, 

You can shop online at Ecover or get hold of its products at the following stockists.

*I was gifted Ecover ZERO products for the review. 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.