Parenting, pregnancy

The Quiet Joy of Having a Baby

There are many women who choose not to become mothers. For them, motherhood is just not among their life goals. I used to be one of those women. Back in high school, while my friends would fantasize about their ideal weddings and come up with names for their future children, I shuddered at the thought of getting pregnant, giving birth, and becoming dumpy for the rest of my life. Haha.

Then I got married to an amazing man who was a great cook and handy with tools — in other words, a very domesticated guy. Needless to say, he wanted kids. I entered into our marriage fully aware of this and willing to set aside my anxiety to grant his desires. As we grew more in love, I also grew more at ease with the idea of raising his babies. I realized that the reasons I had before for not wanting children — the fear of getting fat, the dreaded sleepless nights, the endless crying — were surmountable with a loving partner by my side.

More than two years into our marriage, we decided to do away with birth control. A month later, I got a positive pregnancy test. We didn’t expect it would happen so soon, but I was happy that we didn’t have to deal with the stress of trying several times to conceive.

While I was pregnant, many people asked me if I were scared of giving birth. I always replied that I was more scared of what would happen after the baby came out. Caring for a baby seemed like such a huge responsibility to me, with the disadvantages outweighing the benefits. I was imagining non-stop crying of the baby (and mommy), poop everywhere, utter chaos on bad days and mundane routines on good days. Suffice to say, I had a very bleak picture of what it meant to be a new parent.

Boy, was I wrong.

Perhaps I was too jaded. I often err on the side of pessimism, and it keeps my expectations in check. I dreaded too much and hoped for too little. Now, as I reflect on the past eight months caring for my baby, I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot. I didn’t expect being a mom to be this.. enjoyable! Yes, there are sleepless nights and round-the-clock diaper changes, but all those chores are rewarded with the most adorable coos and smiles that make the fatigue worth it. And the number one reason I had before for not wanting to conceive, which is that I didn’t want to gain weight that I wouldn’t be able to shed post-partum, is now no longer an issue, because in these eight months, I’ve successfully returned to my pre-pregnancy weight.

I am just in my twenties, and I have so much of life still ahead of me, but I can say that having a baby is the most incredible, humbling, rewarding experience thus far. My advice for women on the fence with having kids is to take that terrifying plunge. The experience is much more wonderful than it seems. The “bad” side often gets the limelight, and we tend to think of infants as how they are portrayed in movies — synonymous to wailing poop machines. But the good, no, the great side, is too often overlooked, perhaps because it is quiet and tender — the warmth of your baby falling asleep on your chest, the delight on his face as he learns to sit up, the wonder with which he becomes aware of his fingers and toes.

Babies find joy in the smallest things. They teach you, not only to love another human unconditionally, but also to rediscover and love the world. I do not regret and don’t think I will ever regret having a baby. Some days are exhausting. Some days are chaotic. But all days are amazing.

Parenting, pregnancy

Elin: The Best Online Shop for Maternity Wear

Last week was World Breastfeeding Week! I joined a celebratory promo hosted by my favorite maternity clothing brand, Elin. I posted a photo of my favorite items from Elin and captioned it with a description of how Elin has made my motherhood journey easier.

Here’s the photo:

This was the caption:
Back when I was still pregnant, at first, shopping for new clothes was a nightmare. I scoured various maternity sections yet always left empty-handed. I wondered why maternity clothes were so expensive yet so horribly designed that they made you want, not to buy them, but to burn them. ๐Ÿ˜… Then I stumbled upon Elin, and the search was finally over for classic, flattering pieces that I could wear during and after pregnancy. My wardrobe is full of Elin clothes now, and pictured above are my two favorite items–my red New Sydney Tee for casual dates with my two boys, and my black Patrice Nursing Dress for elegant formal affairs. Breastfeeding in public is a breeze as long as I’m wearing Elin. Whether I’m running errands at the mall or attending a wedding, Elin has got me covered (pun intended). ๐Ÿ˜‰ Every day is an Elin day! Thanks, Elin, for making us mommies look and feel fabulous! โค๏ธ #elineveryday #elinph #worldbreastfeedingweek

I was delighted to find out a few days ago that my photo was chosen as one of the winners! The prize was P2000 credit to spend on more Elin clothes. Oh yeeeaah! As soon as I woke up this morning, I went shopping! Elin is an online store, so it’s super easy for moms to purchase clothes.

Wearing the Marta Maxi Nursing Dress while eight months pregnant
The Marta Maxi Nursing Dress featuring six-month old Wolf!

I have several tops and dresses from Elin, and on the whole I’m very satisfied. The styles are timeless and elegant. No garish prints or tacky designs here! The fabric is also very soft and cool on the skin, suitable for our humid climate. However, because for some items, the fabric is on the thin side, it is better to hand wash or use gentle washing machine cycles on the clothes, as they are quite delicate. I learned this the hard way, when two of my dresses got worn down in the wash. Another downside of the fabric’s thinness is that for some items, the hemmed openings for nursing access cause visible creases in the top layer that covers the openings. Although I think this is no longer an issue for their most recent arrivals.

Minor issues aside, Elin is the best option for moms who want to look good and feel good. Mommies, especially those who are pregnant and nursing, no longer have to make do with unflattering wardrobe choices.

Here I am in the Carmen Nursing Dress just a week before my due date (39 weeks)! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ
Carmen Nursing Dress at four months post-partumย 

You know how people can throw offhand comments about how women during or after pregnancy “let themselves go?” Especially in our country, I hear a lot of comments like “Mommyng mommy na talaga siya” (She really looks like a mom already). When people say this, they are often implying that the woman wasn’t able to shed the baby weight or that the woman looks haggard or run-down compared to their former state of youthful bloom. People are so quick to make such insensitive comments. Now that I myself am a mom, I know that I would hate to be on the receiving end of such statements. So next time you think of hurling that veiled insult, I suggest that you compliment the mom for doing a great job raising her child. Baby pounds are really difficult to lose, and a mom has more important things to prioritize when caring for a newborn! Also, a mom who looks careworn is most probably a mom who was up in the wee hours soothing an upset baby. So share love, not scorn.

A mom who has put on pounds from pregnancy or who is exhausted from taking care of a baby does not choose to experience the negative effects of those circumstances. But she can look and feel better in clothes that help her focus on her baby without compromising aesthetic appeal. As much as I myself don’t usually enjoy buying clothes, pregnancy and breastfeeding forced me to update my wardrobe. With Elin, one of the biggest advantages is they can be worn even when no longer pregnant or nursing, unlike other maternity clothes that should carry this warning: “Caution: Highly Unflattering! For Pregnant and Nursing Moms Only, to Make Them Look Even Worse than They Feel.” Don’t know what I’m talking about? Visit any department store’s maternity section. ๐Ÿ˜‚ But if you’re a preggy mom in the Philippines, save yourself the wasted time and effort. Go straight to ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’m wearing the Patrice Maxi Nursing Dress here. I was nursing Wolf in this photo! When I’m wearing Elin clothes, people usually think he’s asleep, but he’s actually breastfeeding. ๐Ÿ˜„
Parenting, pregnancy

Five Benefits of Enrolling in a Birthing Class

Last October to November 2016, Casey and I attended the birthing class of Rome Kanapi held at Ateneo de Manila University. The class consisted of six morning sessions every Sunday. Rome is a birthing class pioneer in the Philippines, specializing in the Lamaze method. She is a certified childbirth educator under the Philippine Association for Childbirth Education (PACE) and a member of the International Childbirth Education Association. Not only was she knowledgeable in her field, she was also very kind and approachable. What I loved about her teaching style is that she never pressured us into following a specific route for labor (such as going for fully unmedicated birth) even if that was her preference for her own births. She presented us with our options, but she always respected our birthing choices. It was a great experience and was definitely worth the investment. Below are the five major benefits we got from our birthing class.

1. It prepared both me and my husband for my pregnancy, labor, and post-labor. The topics covered were extensive, from diet during pregnancy, to massage and breathing techniques during labor, to changing diapers and carrying newborns, and so much more. Although some of the information can be accessed by reading books or articles online, other topics, such as labor massage, breathing techniques, and carrying newborns, are easier to digest when actually demonstrated. Also, there were tips and pieces of advice shared that could not have been found in books because they were gleaned from our facilitator’s experience with her own pregnancies and those of her former students.

2. It empowered both me as a mother and my husband as a father. It’s difficult being a first-time parent, and although we could have prepared by just reading on our own, attending a birthing class together better cemented our relationship as husband and wife and made us anticipate our new roles of father and mother. The class not only provided us with vital information but also was a safe avenue for us to share any of our concerns with other couples who could truly empathize with us.

3. It provided us with a certificate of attendance honored by major hospitals. Some hospitals are strict when it comes to permitting the father to be in the labor room. They require proof that the father attended a birthing class. In our case, we did not need to present our certificate, but it gave me peace of mind to know we had it just in case.

4. It gave us access to many discounts and freebies from baby companies. Rome invited various company representatives to pitch baby products at the end of every session. The representatives usually gave freebies and discounts exclusive to attendees of the birthing class. We were able to save a lot of money on big ticket items for Wolf, such as his stroller and baby carrier!

5. We gained a solid parenting support group. It’s really valuable for us to have gained many mommy and daddy friends through our birthing class. We still keep in touch through our Viber group, and so we’re able to support each other as our babies reach their milestones. It really helps that our babies are all practically the same age (Wolf is around a month younger than most of the babies), and so we encounter the same issues simultaneously.

To learn more about Rome’s birthing class, you may contact Rome Kanapi at 63-917-541-5114.

Last week, we had our first birthing class reunion, wherein our babies were able to meet one another for the first time. It was expertly organized by our classmate Angel, who used to work in the events industry. We had lunch and a few activities (Name the Baby, Baby Fashion Show, and Music and Movement). It was really fun meeting our classmates again and seeing all our babies together. I’m already looking forward to the next reunion!

birthing class reunion with six month old babies
Spot us in red! Wolf was busy eating his hands most of the time!
birthing class reunion with six month old babies
Among the three boy babies, Wolf is the youngest and the smallest. โ˜บ๏ธ
birthing class reunion with six month old babies
Wolf stopped eating his hands to comfort his crying classmate. ๐Ÿ˜˜
birthing class reunion with six month old babies
Mommies, daddies, and babies wearing one color per family. We’re team red! โค๏ธ
Dad with six month old baby
My boys! ๐Ÿ˜
six month old baby in birthing class reunion game
Wolf in his purple royal garb! Our team won! ๐Ÿ‘
Six month old baby with mom and dad
Wolf is defending his territory. ๐Ÿ˜…
happy family at birthing class reunion with six month old babies
Our happy family โค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธ
birthing class reunion with six month old babies
All mommies with our adorable babies and birthing class teacher, Rome! ๐Ÿ˜


My Confidence-Boosting Maternity Shoot

In the early months of my pregnancy with Wolf, I hemmed and hawed over scheduling a maternity shoot. I am normally not camera shy, but I am pretty sensitive about my weight. I wasn’t sure that documenting a particularly weighty (in more ways than one) time in my life would be a good idea. Eventually, I decided to go for it, because I reasoned that if I end up not liking the pictures, then no one else has to see them. I figured that it’s best to have a keepsake, as it might be the first and last time I’d be pregnant. Who knows, right?

Maternity shoots are best scheduled in the latter part of the third trimester, so that the bump is more obvious. The word “obvious” in my case was an understatement, because we had our shoot on November 30, 2016, less than a month before my due date. By that time, my tummy was really big already! 

Aside from the issue of my hugeness, I was also concerned about ensuring that we will get classy photos. I have seen so many maternity shoots that come out really tacky, which I believe is usually the fault of the photographer. If the photographer has a good eye and sense of style, the pictures will be tasteful. Thus, I made sure that the photographer I chose fit the bill. 

I decided to go with Ida Roccio Ferrer-David, one of our friends. Her rates are on the higher end, but based on my experience, they are justified. She knows how to strike a good balance between establishing rapport and being professional, she works quickly and efficiently while remaining sensitive to her client’s comfort, and her studio is beautifully and thoughtfully designed. It is an air conditioned glass house, which allows her to take advantage of natural lighting while her clients stay sweat-free. 

The day before the shoot, Ida checked in with me to ensure I was ready with our outfits and props. I’ve never been what you’d call fashionable or trendy (I’m the rare girl who hates shopping for clothes), and so I just prepared a blouse and pair of shorts and figured that if they’re not shoot-worthy, I’d go nude instead. Haha. Luckily, my outfit choice was nice enough for the shoot, though I had nude shots taken anyway, because those are what would bare the bump in all its glory! I included a few at the end of this post, so if you’re uncomfortable with such photos, don’t scroll down! For Casey’s outfits, I just made sure they were color-coordinated with mine. I went with a black, red, and cream color scheme. We didn’t bring any props except for red baby Toms (to match Casey’s shoes).

Couple holding baby shoes during maternity shoot Couple holding hands during maternity shoot
On the day of the shoot, we had no trouble finding the studio, as it’s searchable on Waze. Ida began by briefing us on the flow of the shoot and on the poses we’d be doing. We were to start with my solo shots, and then proceed to couple shots, at which point Casey mumbled to me, “What about my solo shots?” Uhhh hellooo, there’s a reason it’s called a MATERNITY shoot?! Ida was nice enough though to humor my vain husband by squeezing in a few solo dad shots. Haha!

Maternity photo of woman seated and smiling
Cradling my baby bump โ˜บ๏ธ
Maternity photo of woman looking out window
One of my favorite shots ๐Ÿ˜
Asian man wearing Toms sits on couch
The dadzilla strikes again!
Asian man relaxes on couch
He has a bump too. It’s just well hidden! ๐Ÿ˜›

It was the most tiring photo shoot I’ve ever had, but only because I was so heavily pregnant and I would tire really easily! Ida was always making sure that I was well hydrated and comfortable with each pose. We also took breaks whenever I needed them. She had two female assistants who were cheery and quick on their feet. The studio had curtains, and so I did not feel so exposed when the nude shots were being taken.

I did not regret having a maternity shoot, especially when the prints arrived. They were gorgeous! True to form, my husband saw me gushing over the pictures and said with a shrug, “Well, Ida had good models.” Hahaha. 

But seriously, I believe the success of the shoot had less to do with us and more to do with Ida. A bad photographer can make anyone look bad. Likewise, a good photographer can make anyone look good. I think that through the lens of a skilled photographer, everyone is photogenic. That’s why it’s important to choose a competent photographer, especially for a maternity shoot, because this is a time when you are vulnerable and self-conscious about your rapidly changing body. I made sure that I was in the hands of someone talented, who delivered photographs that boosted my confidence and made me proud of my heavily pregnant body. Rather than pay less and risk getting tacky, badly edited photos, I chose to spend a bit more so that I could be captured at my best, biggest, and most beautiful.

Maternity shoot in nature
This was taken outside the studio in Ida’s lush garden! ๐Ÿ˜ Boudoir photos are posted below. Proceed with caution! ๐Ÿ˜‰
Boudoir maternity photoBoudoir maternity photo of woman kissed by husbandBoudoir maternity photo of woman hugged by husband Boudoir maternity photo of woman hugged and kissed by husband Boudoir maternity photo of woman lying downBoudoir maternity photo of woman lying down Maternity photo of woman leaning on husband Maternity photo of woman kissing husband


Giving Birth at St. Luke’s Global: The Good and the Bad

St. Luke’s is widely known in the Philippines for being one of the best, not to mention one of the most expensive, hospitals. I claim to be peso savvy, and so you may ask why I chose to give birth there. Let me clarify that when I say I am peso savvy, I do not mean to say that I am a cheapskate. I do my best to make wise monetary decisions in order to get the most bang for my buck. I don’t always pick the cheapest option, but I strive to get my money’s worth. And so now you may ask, was St. Luke’s worth our hard-earned cash? I hope to answer that in this post, wherein I enumerate the best and worst parts of my St. Luke’s experience.

The Good:

1. The hospital is clean, bright, and airy. Many public and some private hospitals have worn-down facades and dark halls that carry the stench of sickness. St. Luke’s is the opposite. The hospital makes me feel at ease.

2. You are not confined to hospital food. There are nice restaurants inside the hospital, such as Bizu, Via Mare, and Mary Grace. There are also many restaurants within walking distance, as the hospital is inside BGC.

3. They allow companions to be with you during labor. This was non-negotiable for me, because I wanted my husband to be my partner in birthing our son. We attended Lamaze classes, and he was the one who coached me through all the breathing techniques.

St. Luke's Global labor room
With Casey in the private labor room of St. Luke’s
pregnant woman prepares for labor
Getting ready for labor
husband gets ready for labor
Getting ready for labor ๐Ÿ˜‚

4. The rooms are more spacious. I’ve been to rooms in other private hospitals of a similar price point (Makati Med and The Medical City). The rooms in St. Luke’s BGC are relatively bigger. This was also important for me because I didn’t want my visitors to feel cramped. We got a Deluxe Private (because the dadzilla wanted a La-Z-Boy). Haha. But even their smallest room, the Small Private, may suffice.

St. Luke's Deluxe Private room
Recovering in the Deluxe Private room with the dadzilla’s La-Z-Boy in the background ๐Ÿ˜‚

5. They comply with the Milk Code and Unang Yakap. They also room in healthy babies with their mothers. This was another non-negotiable item for me, as I wanted to pursue exclusive breastfeeding with Wolf. I have heard stories of nurses in other hospitals giving formula to newborns while the mothers recovered from c sections, a practice that severely undermines breastfeeding success.

6. Most of the doctors and nurses were very attentive and caring. In particular, my ob gyne, Dr. Angela Aguilar, was so patient and supportive of my desire to deliver normally. Even when she told me that I would have to deliver via c section, I really felt that she did her best to try for normal. She waited until the very last moment and exhausted other options to encourage descent before declaring the need for a c section. I’d also like to commend the anesthesiologist present during my delivery, Dr. Allan Garcia. He was such a source of comfort to me, even stroking my hair while I was being prepped. I remember how the room was stark bright and the operating table was cold against my skin, and as I shivered in disappointment with myself, I clung to this doctor’s soothing words of encouragement.

Ob gyne helps dad cut cord
Dr. Aguilar helping Casey cut the umbilical cord
Nurse gives infant first bath
One of the nurses giving Wolf his first bath

The Bad:

1. The restroom in the labor unit was not thoroughly maintained. This was the only restroom with which I had an issue, as the others throughout the hospital were always clean. Unfortunately, the one in the labor unit had a wet floor and a trash can overflowing with tissue. Considering full-term pregnant women are the ones using this restroom, shouldn’t the floor be dry at all times? If a pregnant woman in labor slips while using the restroom, the hospital could surely be sued for that!

2. One of their anesthesiologists was condescending, bordering on rude. Prior to going into labor, I discussed the option of not getting an epidural with my ob gyne. She told me that based on her experience, there are mothers who opt for no epidural and end up too tired to enjoy their newborn. She told me that if my labor progresses quickly, an epidural may not be needed, but if it is long and drawn out, she recommends that I get an epidural. I tried my best to have no epidural administered, but my labor was induced and long (33 hours). At the 24-hour mark, Wolf’s station was not progressing and I was utterly exhausted, so I requested for an epidural. Instead of comforting me, the anesthesiologist who entered our room said mockingly, “Ah, ikaw yung Lamaze dapat” (So you’re the one who supposedly wanted a Lamaze birth). It was like she rubbed salt on an open wound. She made me feel like such a failure. Good thing the residents who attended to me were much kinder. They offered me the comfort I needed.

3. None of their staff discouraged me from using a nipple shield. Although the hospital is pro-breastfeeding in general, their staff did not warn me about nipple shields possibly restricting milk flow, which led to me having problems breastfeeding Wolf in the early weeks.

Comparing the ups and downs of my birth experience, I can say that there is more good than bad. Also, the negative things I noted are for the most part isolated cases and will not be experienced by all. However, the bad parts of my experience are not trivial issues, and I hope that St. Luke’s improves on these aspects in the future. Do I think giving birth at St. Luke’s was worth it? Yes, I do. On the whole, the hospital gave value for money. I can’t say it was a pleasant stay (when is hospital confinement ever pleasant?), but I believe being in St. Luke’s did make my labor, birth, and recovery a bit more comfortable.