Category Archives: Meme

This Season

Sometime between putting my firstborn to bed and waking up in the middle of the night to nurse my secondborn, I felt that I couldn’t go on.

That inertia, the dead weights that are my body and mind, snuck up on me very quietly and ousted whatever will I had left. And I thought this to be very weird indeed.

It wasn’t an exceptionally bad day. I have gone through worse. In fact, there were only two tantrums, a couple of very challenging nursing sessions and the usual lack of sleep, all part and parcel of the new-norm since I became a mother of two. There was absolutely no good reason to be flat out of motivation, but I was. In that moment of surrender, I knew that whatever bogged me down wouldn’t last forever. Yet, in that moment of surrender, I didn’t want to budge and move out of transience into logic. I simply wallowed.

I let the exhaustion overwhelm me as I crept into my son’s nursery. My shoulders burned with weariness as I hunched over a shrinking will. I hid my teary eyes from no one in particular behind a curtain of greasy, tangled mass of unwashed hair. As I nursed my son, my heart ached for him, for he had no idea how much I wanted to be someplace else at that instant. His mother was giving up on the most ordinary of days.

I prayed for my children.

Then, a twitch on my secondborn’s milk-drunk face spread into the widest smile, and everything changed. I knew that this is where I am meant to be. This season of seemingly mindless child-minding (the irony) and that much-dreaded loss of self will pass once I get the hang of being a new mother of two. And another season will dawn, when my children will play, fight, cry, argue and throw their heads back in unrestrained laughter, and I will have the privilege of breaking up fights, watching them kiss and make up, and witnessing the making of precious memories that they will thirst for one day. Then, they will grow up and no longer need me to be part of their lives. So, this season, however trying and joyful and overwhelming and blissful, is mine and mine to live, and it will pass. Its passing will herald the commencement of another.

This season, which I get to be part of now, will not last forever. 

The gravity of how wilful time is finally sunk in. My shoulders still burned, but only from wanting to go on. My eyes still welled up, but only because I was mourning the loss of permanence when the smile on my son’s face withered in his sleep. It was 3.45am and yet another day has passed. My children were one day older. My hair stank, but who cares about hair when I know that, one day, my children will no longer be babies, that I will no longer get to ‘kiss, hug and pat-pat’ the five soft toys that F insists on having on her bed when we tuck her in every night, that I will miss perspiring each time I nurse/wrestle a very wriggly E.

And so I choose to hang on to this season, even if I yearn for it to end on some days. Because this season, this night, will slip away to a time when only vague memories can be recalled, to a time when this season and I will no longer be.

201505 Faith putting on sock for Ethan

Enough, Sometimes

It’s been a rough couple of weeks, and I feel a little out of sorts, what with mummy’s guilt and a poor sense of day and night overwhelming me.

I am not going to lie and say that I am holding up perfectly. When there comes a moment to pause and reflect, I know I am very blessed to be part of this family of four and I smile at the thought of us. This love, one that evokes warmth and a sense that we are complete, however, sprouts stabbing pangs of guilt. Guilt of not being able to meet all the needs of the little people (and a certain big person) whom I love so very much. The sort of guilt that gnaws at me silently. The sort of guilt that reduces me to a watery mess when no one is looking. But, life has to go on, even if the guilt paralyses. My children need me to do what I have to do, to care for and nurture them, and I need to be strong for my husband. So, I wipe away my tears, hold my head up high and focus on getting through every good and bad moment that I have the privilege of sharing with them.

That said, there are moments of doubt that trail in the wake of guilt. When the going gets tough, it is not unusual for me to wonder if I have done anything right for my family. Should I have gone back to the workforce? Have I been too proud to ask for help? Or perhaps, I should step up and do more? I may have given birth to my children, but does it make me the best person to care for them? Why, oh why did I not rein in my temper? Do I have to be so hung up on the boundaries that I have set for my children? Could I have done things differently so I can attend to everyone whom I love when they need me simultaneously, without having to sacrifice one for the other? Do I have to be so stubborn on some of the things that I set out to do for my family?

These questions beg for answers, from when I was a new mother to when I became a mother of two, and it took me two children to learn that there is no right answer. With my firstborn, I subconsciously allowed these doubts to crush me one too many times. Now that I have two children, the challenges I have faced, even in such early days, have keenly illustrated just how crippling these questions can be if I choose to dwell on them. As I plough through these doubts that come a-knocking on a daily basis, I learn that I can only do my best for my family and hope that my best is good enough. An overly thorough dissection of those questions would only feed my obsession over getting things ‘right’ rather than encourage me to do the necessary; after all, parenting two very young children and being the main pillar of emotional support to my husband with limited help, energy, resources and sleep often mean that one has to delve deep and just do it

So, I learn. I learn to let my doubts keep me on my toes, just enough to help me make the best choice for my family in a given circumstance, but not too much to make me keel over. I learn to acknowledge the guilt and appreciate that it is born out of love, which is a good thing, really. I learn to roll with the punches because my loved ones need me to be there for them, regardless.

Most of all, I learn that there are good days and bad days. There will come a time when I feel that my family deserves a better Rachel. But, that is okay, because there surely will come a time when I know that my best is truly enough.

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.

20150410 Faith and Ethan

 

 

 

This Year, Our Year

2014 was a little bit of everything. It was a year when we worked hard and played hard. When the three of us grew up in our own ways and as a family. When we became acutely aware, more so than ever (if that’s even possible), that family comes first. When we started praying together as a family, every night before Faith goes to bed. The year zipped past, chock full of laughter and joy, with a little bit of drama and some heartbreaking tears from personal struggles, and it ended off on a quiet note, with Faith going to bed on New Year’s Eve, softly chiming, “Happy New Year, Mama. Happy New Year, Papa”, and with M and I solemnly reflecting on our lives at the stroke of midnight as we crossed into 2015.

The greatest changes were evident in the little powerhouse of ours. Faith started pre-school in March and grew up very quickly after that. She can now speak in full and rather long sentences, string and express her train of thoughts quite coherently, and insists on doing things on her own. “No Mama, Faith wear shoes herself”, she says whenever I forget that she is no longer a baby who needs Mama to tend to her every need. She continues to be a joyful girl who now loves to sing (like a rockstar) and dance (like a member of some indigenous tribe with two left feet) to anything that is remotely rhythmic. She is mostly an easygoing, chatty child with family, generally shy in the presence of others and extremely loving, one who is always quick to express genuine concern when somebody is in tears or yelps in pain. I will not forget how she has somehow learnt to hand me tissues, rub my back and ask, “You okay?” with furrowed brows whenever I cry. Her antics and conversations with us have M and I laughing until our bellies hurt. And she laughs like it truly matters, when we do. We often find ourselves staring at each other incredulously whenever she says or does something extraordinary, which is pretty darn often, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. There were the epic displays of tantrums, of course, but thankfully, they were far and few between; whilst we did feeling like gouging our own eyeballs out on certain occasions, there has been no casualties. 2014 was the year when we watched Faith’s personality come into being and we can’t wait to see how she blossoms next, even as I quietly lament at how she is no longer my squishy baby.

We also enjoyed more time as a family with holidays and a better work-life balance for M; this is in stark contrast to our topsy-turvy lives back in 2012 and 2013 when we barely saw M. We travelled to Bali and stayed in a villa with a large private pool, where Faith fell head over heels in love with what she thinks constitutes swimming (she can’t swim and hates going under the water, so….). We sat through the worst traffic congestions ever in Jakarta and lugged Faith along to the most kid-unfriendly activities such as vintage shopping in the extreme heat. Faith also gamely tucked into the dirtiest street foods with us (bún chả, anyone?) in Hanoi and we all survived. And we enjoyed the most beautiful spring in Sydney, where we spent lots of time running outdoors and soaking up the sun rays in the cool, dry weather. We giggled and cuddled lots during our family vacations, as if to make up for the time lost in the two years before. Most of all, we saw M on a more regular basis, at humane hours too, and we cannot be more thankful for the new working arrangement.

2014 was also a year when I watched M grow into his calling. This is the tenth year that we have been together and I’m not kidding when I say that we have spent the last ten years chasing his dream of being a doctor. From the trying days of medical school in London to the toughest training at work in Singapore, I am immensely proud to witness the huge differences he has made in people’s lives, not just medically but emotionally as well. I may be biased but to me, that’s the true mark of a great physician. It’s absolutely wonderful to see him progress in the right direction. If anything, I feel like I’m realising my own dream too. Hopefully, 2015 will bring him good tidings, and that he will continue to mature personally and professionally.

As for me, well, 2014 was a mixed bag of everything. I baked a little more in the first half of the year, and ran a very tiny venture (which is now closed owing to other commitments I have got going on). In the second half of the year, I started writing professionally and it’s nice to receive remuneration and recognition for my written works. These made me feel like I’m more than just a mother. I started driving at the end of March after overcoming one of the biggest fears in my life (yes, I was such a scaredy-cat, to only start driving 8 years after getting my license!), and am now a lot more confident behind the wheel. I attribute this newfound bravery to #thelengthsthatmummiesgotofortheirchildren. I have also grown to be a lot more vocal and do not hesitate when I need to stand up for myself, and I like that bullies are beginning to realise that I am no longer the pushover I once was. I have also learnt to let go of friendships that are no longer working out (sadly, they started to deteriorate after I became a stay-at-home-mother) and keeping those who really matter, understand and love me for who I am, close to my heart (thank you, to those who have stuck around. I don’t say very much but you mean a lot to me). Braver, and a lot less tolerant for pretence and bullshit, well..I guess Faith wasn’t the only one who grew up loads. Whilst it was generally a happier and much more fulfilling year than before, there were heartbreaks here and there too…but I’m glad that I’m still on track to a better sense of well-being. Fingers crossed for this year then, for me to make the best out of whatever life hands me. I pray that 2015 will be the year in which I grow stronger, live passionately, love freely and trust whole-heartedly.

This year…this will be a year of change for us. M is settling down into a new work routine, and I, into a more challenging role as a mother and hopefully, a better (and more professional?) writer/baker/whatchamacallit. Both of us hope to be better, not just at what we do, but as people, parents and a couple. Faith has started N1 in a new school recently, and is adjusting well, and we hope to help her blossom into a considerate, loving young lady. We are definitely looking forward to the many kick-ass interactions we will have with our funny little girl. We will also (finally!) be moving into a space of our own and are all set for a new lease of life in our new home. We aren’t certain how things will pan out but we know that we will get into and out of 2015 as a family, with a whole lot of excitement and a healthy dash of fear, and that’s really all that matters to us right now.

We hope to make this year OUR year and wish the same for you too. Say “Aye!” to a better life and a better you!

201412 Happy New Year

Something Right

I don’t know about you but these days, there will come a moment everyday, however transient, when my heart goes all frail on me and I wonder if I have even done anything right. I have always been very self-critical; it hasn’t always worked to my advantage but as I grew older, I learnt to harness the ability to find fault in everything I do and turn it into motivation for excellence. And it paid off in my studies and career (or whatever I used to have before I became a mother). I excelled in everything I worked on, and the grades, appraisals, anything that was telling of a report card were apparent indicators of my best efforts. It was easy to know that I did my best, and I thrive on knowing that I gave my best efforts.

But…parenting is NOTHING like I have ever worked on previously. Don’t get me wrong…I have never once thought parenting to be a race. I don’t seek to be the best mother in the world. I simply wonder if I have done enough for my child because everyday, something is bound to happen that makes me feel like I could have given more to the being I am nurturing. And surely, this being is way more important than any of the silly exams or projects I have  undertaken in the past?

My everyday could look like this:

F is playing independently or reading in our living room. I look up from whatever I am doing, and I am suddenly consumed with guilt as I realise that I haven’t taken her to the playground to run with wild abandon for weeks just because I haven’t been feeling well enough to do so. 

Or this:

F is ill. I have been trying to coax her into drinking more water but she refuses every attempt. When I finally get some fluid into her, she lets the fluid dribble down her chin and breaks into a cheeky smile because that is apparently funny to her. I lose my temper and tell her off for doing so. She looks at me with tears welling up in her eyes and tries to hug me. I dodge her attempt to be close to me and go on to clean up the mess rather angrily. As I calm down, I feel like a downright lousy mother as I realise I should have been more patient and that I should have held my tongue and accepted her gesture of apology.

These are just two of the infinite permutations on how I feel that I have let my daughter down. And I have been struck by this guilt every single day ever since she was born. Have I done anything right? There isn’t a pat on my back to make me think otherwise. And it’s not like parents are routinely entitled to pats on the back. In fact, criticisms inundate my everyday, and it’s up to me to filter them and take up the constructive ones, but it is just so darn difficult when I doubt myself to begin with. On good days, I shrug the guilt off and know that it is okay that I tripped up. On bad days, like today, I crumble.

This evening, as F clung onto me tightly with her head buried in my chest for our bedtime prayer, I took in her baby scent and am reminded of how small a person I am and yet, how much she needed me, and how much she needed me to be BIG. I asked God to help me become what I can never be without Him, to help me do something right, and I broke into sobs mid-prayer. It was then when F drew her head back away from my chest and looked at me with so much love and concern in her eyes that I knew my prayer was answered in an instant.

“Mama, you want tissue?” She asked gently, yet earnestly as she stroked my face and nodded to urge me to go on and take a piece of tissue.

And there and then, I thought, of all the things I have done wrong, I might have done one thing right.

201411 Sydney