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

Sweet Dreams

I once dreamt of becoming the president
Ruling the land with grace
Benevolent toward my people

I once dreamt of becoming a saint
Leading thousands in worship
Singing hymns and making miracles

I once dreamt of becoming an astronaut
Voyaging beyond the unknown
Saving the future

All those dreams
remained figments of my naivety
Worlds away from the reality
of growing up

All I dream about now
are tiny shoes and cribs
and my fair baby
falling down

I am jolted awake
and he is safe in my arms
breathing softly, thank God

He stirs and nestles against me
Smiling in his sleep
as I kiss his forehead
It's so quiet
yet overwhelming

Is there anything more profound?

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. ☺️
birthing class reunion with six month old babies
Wolf stopped eating his hands to comfort his crying classmate. 😘
birthing class reunion with six month old babies
Mommies, daddies, and babies wearing one color per family. We’re team red! ❀️
Dad with six month old baby
My boys! 😍
six month old baby in birthing class reunion game
Wolf in his purple royal garb! Our team won! πŸ‘
Six month old baby with mom and dad
Wolf is defending his territory. πŸ˜…
happy family at birthing class reunion with six month old babies
Our happy family ❀️❀️❀️
birthing class reunion with six month old babies
All mommies with our adorable babies and birthing class teacher, Rome! 😍

Parenting

Why More Women Should Nurse Without a Cover

Breastfeeding is best for babies and mothers. It is how nature intended infants to be nourished. It is natural, and it used to be instinctive among communities where women breastfed in public without shame. However, with the advent of overt sexualization of breasts in media, breastfeeding became something that many women began to do discreetly. Women started to experience difficulty breastfeeding because they no longer saw it being done by fellow women. Breastfeeding shouldn’t have to be complicated, but it has sadly become so for many women because of society’s sexual objectification of the female body. Many mothers give up on breastfeeding because of lack of awareness and guidance. Many babies suffer because mothers are inadequately supported when learning to breastfeed. My own son was one such baby, and although we are breastfeeding well now, I look back on our rocky start with sadness and guilt.

I gave birth to my son in St. Luke’s Global, which is touted as one of the best (and most expensive) hospitals in the country. St. Luke’s strictly enforces the Milk Code. They do not allow bottle or formula feeding in the hospital, they follow Unang Yakap protocol (skin-to-skin contact of mom and baby right after birth), and they always room in baby with mom if the baby comes out healthy. On the surface, they appear to be highly supportive of breastfeeding. But they failed me and my son. They were not able to provide adequate breastfeeding guidance in the critical first days.

mom breastfeeding newborn baby in hospital
Breastfeeding Wolf at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Global City
From day one, I followed the nurses’ instructions to breastfeed on demand. They would come in throughout the day to check on my baby’s latch, and they always said that he had a good latch. Despite that, my nipples were getting extremely sore (something that shouldn’t happen if the latch is correct). By the third day, the pain was so bad that I tried using a nipple shield. Before leaving St. Luke’s, my husband and I asked several hospital staff if it were okay to use a nipple shield. We asked two nurses, the lactation specialist who gave us a mini lecture on breastfeeding, and the pediatrician present at Wolf’s birth. They all said without hesitation that I can use it while breastfeeding.

We spent the first week in distress and pain as my nipples became cracked and bled even with constant use of the shield. Eventually, they healed, but by that time, Wolf had gotten used to the shield and did not know how to nurse without it. At his ninth day check-up in St. Luke’s, I asked the pediatrician if I could still continue nursing with the shield, because Wolf wouldn’t latch without it. She said it was not a problem. At that check-up, Wolf’s weight gain was satisfactory.

We switched pediatricians after that, transferring to a relative of Casey who held clinic in Asian Hospital. Continuing to track Wolf’s weight, she noted that he was slow to gain.

When Wolf was 1.5 months, I fell ill with a horrible dry cough that kept me awake all night for two weeks. I noticed at this time that Wolf became very fussy and would often suckle very lightly. I seldom heard him swallowing milk. I felt something was horribly amiss. At his two-month check-up, my fears were confirmed. His weight plummeted from 4.1 kg to 3.8 kg, placing him in the severely underweight bracket of the WHO weight chart. I suspected use of the shield coupled with my falling ill resulted in his weight loss. I tried weaning him from it but failed.

baby at two months
Wolf at two months
I sought help from my dad, an ENT surgeon at Philippine General Hospital. He referred me to a breastfeeding advocate pediatrician, Dr. Au Libadia, with whom I consulted over the phone. She recommended that I schedule a home visit with Ms. Lita Neri, a well-known lactation specialist. The first thing Ms. Lita said when she saw Wolf nursing was to take off the shield. She said that the shield interfered with milk flow and caused a shallow latch, resulting in Wolf’s slow weight gain. The shield was supposed to help with breastfeeding, but all it did, actually, was add more problems! She showed me how to wean him from the shield. The very next day, Wolf was successfully nursing without it. From then on, he began to gain weight more quickly. And on his fourth month, he was no longer underweight for his age.

It was such a relief to overcome all the initial obstacles I encountered, but while I was relieved, I was also frustrated at the lack of guidance I received from the medical practitioners I depended on when I was learning how to breastfeed. To think that I had access to care from one of the top hospitals! I shudder to think of how much worse the miseducation is in smaller health centers.

baby at two months wearing st. patrick
Underweight for two months old at 3.8 kg 😒
baby at four months wearing mothercare onesie
Normal weight for four months at 6.1 kg 😌

Going back to the beginning of this post, the root cause of many breastfeeding problems is that breastfeeding is, for the most part, hidden from plain sight. Women don’t know what a good latch is because they’ve never seen an infant latch. I would love to nurse Wolf in public without a cover, but I don’t know yet how I will react if others tell me to cover up. I don’t want to cause a scene, but at the same time, I know that nursing without a cover will definitely help normalize breastfeeding again. I hope one day I’ll be brave enough to do it. Though if we go to the beach, I’d do it without batting an eyelash, because I can always retort that there are many around me more scantily clad. Haha!

So consider this post as fair warning. If in the future, you run into me breastfeeding without a cover, you better not tell me off, because you’d be wasting your time. I do not want other new moms to have to experience the extreme anxiety and guilt that I experienced. I do not want other babies to go through the distress Wolf had to endure. If I muster up the courage to breastfeed without a nursing cover, I will be doing so not to be indecent, but to help new moms and babies breastfeed well. There is nothing sexual about that! Look away if you’re uncomfortable, but please don’t tell me to cover up. Let’s help normalize breastfeeding! ❀️

asian mom breastfeeding newborn baby
Breastfeeding Wolf at his newborn photo shoot 
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. ❀️
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. 😞
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 ❀️