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.

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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 elin.ph. 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˜

pregnancy

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.

pregnancy

My Traumatic yet Beautiful Birthing Experience

I remember that as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I gathered all the information I could on pregnancy and giving birth. I wanted to be able to make the best birth choices for my baby, and according to my research, that meant attempting a vaginal birth with little to no medical intervention. One statistic I came across is that inductions increase the chances of a c section delivery. It was easy for me to gloss over this statistic, until I was induced and became living proof of it.

The estimated due date of Wolf was December 25, 2016. Yes, he was God’s Christmas gift to us! One week before Christmas, my cervix was still closed. Our ob gyne, Dr. Angela Aguilar, said that if I didn’t go into labor within the week, I would be induced on the 26th. I had read about inductions possibly leading to c sections and so I really wanted to avoid being induced if possible. But at that last check-up, Wolf was already quite big, and so waiting past the due date would decrease the chances of him fitting through my pelvic area. I decided to agree to induction on the 26th while still praying that it wouldn’t come to that. The whole week prior to Christmas day, I walked as much as I could to encourage Wolf to descend. During our Christmas dinner on the 25th, my father, who is an ENT surgeon and the one who recommended his friend Dr. Aguilar, took one look at me and said, “Oh, he’s still high up.” My heart sank.

pregnant full term on Christmas Eve
With my sisters on Christmas Eve
pregnant full term with family on Christmas
Christmas Dinner on the 25th
 

On the 26th, I waited all morning for a sign that I was approaching active labor, but I felt nothing. Accepting defeat, I got ready to go to the hospital. I cried in the shower so my husband wouldn’t realize how scared I was. Although extremely anxious, at the back of my mind, I still believed I would deliver normally.

St. Luke's hospital selfie before labor
The Calm Before the Storm

I was admitted in the afternoon of December 26. Wolf came out via c section at 11:49 pm on December 27. I experienced 33 hours of labor, with no anesthesia for the first 24 hours. I wanted to get through the whole labor without pain medication, but because I was induced, the contractions came hard and fast. I knew that these contractions were medically triggered. They were not naturally initiated by my body. This awareness made it extremely difficult for me to accept and overcome the pain. As each contraction pummeled through my body, I kept thinking, “What if it’s not meant to be this strong or this frequent? What if my body would have timed this differently?” 

After 24 hours, I was exhausted and my baby’s station was not progressing. I realized at that point that I needed to request for anesthesia so I could get a small reprieve, because if I continued without any, sure, I would be able to say that I experienced the full pain of childbirth, but I would not have had any energy left to care for my baby. At that point, I believed that requesting for an epidural was the best for Wolf.

Dr. Aguilar approved of my decision to get an epidural midway, because it gave her the freedom to increase the dosage of the contraction-inducing pitocin without worrying about me being in pain. My husband told me that the nurses said Dr. Aguilar held the record at St. Luke’s Global for the highest number of normal deliveries, and so I was confident she would do her best to avoid cutting me open. She continued increasing the intensity and frequency of induced contractions, but Wolf just wouldn’t go down! At one point his heart rate began to drop due to the stress of the contractions. Finally, she told us that it was time to stop trying, citing failure of descent as the reason for opting for a c section. I was devastated. 

At 11 in the evening, I was wheeled into the operating room and prepped for surgery. I shivered uncontrollably as the doctors transferred me to the operating table. They kept asking me if I were cold. I wasn’t. I was in shock and holding back my tears. I never thought I would actually deliver via CS. My mom delivered me and my sisters normally. My older sister delivered normally. I felt like a failure.

I had read countless accounts of moms describing the rush of joy they felt when they saw their babies for the first time. I did not feel it. What I did feel, as I heard Wolf’s first cry, was extreme exhaustion and nausea as I slipped in and out of consciousness. My husband was not even able to get a proper family picture of the three of us in the operating room because I was so groggy.

husband cuts umbilical cord
Casey cut the umbilical cord, guided by our awesome OB, Dr. Angge Aguilar. โค๏ธ
newborn is cleaned in delivery room
The newborn Wolf, bloated with IV fluid and squinting at the world!
 

My first birthing experience was definitely traumatic. It was terrible. But it was also beautiful. It may have been really different from how I had hoped it to be, but amid all my disappointment were moments of pure love. The contractions may have been artificially induced, but my husband’s constant encouragement was genuine. With every surge of pain, I felt Casey’s hands knead my back, I heard him remind me to breathe, and I saw his eyes well up as he comforted me.

husband with newborn at St. Luke's hospital
This is just one of the many photos Casey had with Wolf while I was stuck in the recovery room. ๐Ÿ˜ž
mother resting with newborn after giving birth
Resting in our room after the grueling labor
 

I may not have delivered the way I hoped to deliver. Even weeks after the birth, I was miserable and frustrated. Although looking back, I beat myself up over the method of delivery, but what I needed to realize and appreciate is that without the option of a c section, my baby’s health may have been compromised. I certainly was not expecting a c section, and that is why I was not prepared for it and got traumatized. But it was a c section that kept me and my baby safe and healthy. I am thankful I had a successful birth. It was tough, it was the very opposite of what I had hoped and prayed for, but it was the best for Wolf, and that’s what matters most.

newborn at St. Luke's hospital in Aden + Anais teal swaddle
Baby Wolf, Day 1 โค๏ธ