Our Disappointing Picture Company Session

As a mom, I love taking pictures of my sons. In J's first year alone, I amassed more than 2000 photos of him. These photos help preserve memories of special days and the everyday moments that make up a childhood. Same story with Little C, although most of the photos are now taken with my phone camera instead of our trusty digital camera.

Despite having a ton of photos, I still wanted to get professional family and child portraits taken. So when I found vouchers for discounted membership for The Picture Company (TPC), I jumped at the chance. My nephews and nieces had portraits taken at their studios and I always liked those pictures.

Our first photo shoot as members of TPC was scheduled at their Rockwell branch. Since they were a studio that catered to taking kids' portraits, I was expecting a very professionally conducted photo shoot, despite the fact that I was with a rambunctious 2-year-old and a 6-month-old. I was highly disappointed because of our photographer.

First, I felt that our photographer was very exasperated and irritated by the fact that J was running all over the place. Of course, it's a new place, with tons of toys and new things to see, he won't sit in one spot and smile for you. I thought it was just me, but apparently every one who was with us that day got the same vibe: my husband, my two yayas, even my parents and sister who came to see my sons in their first pictorial together. I acknowledge that taking photos of my son that day was a challenge, but these photographers are supposed to be used to taking pictures of kids. I doubt that my son was the only kid who couldn't stay still during a pictorial.

Second, sensing the photographer's mounting irritation, I was asking her to suggest different poses or set-ups that my son would be more likely to cooperate with. At that time, the two boys were just sitting down or lying on the rug. I asked her, several times, "Do you have any other ideas of poses or set-ups we can try?" She didn't respond, and I don't know if it's because she didn't hear me, or she just really didn't want to answer. In the end, I suggested some possible poses based on previous photos I saw. I guess I expected more input from her because she's supposed to be the professional, not me.

Third, the photographer seemed unwilling to go with the flow. Little C wouldn't look at the camera, so the yayas were trying to coax him into looking forward so we could get good shots of his face. One of my yayas happened to notice the sintras boards for other clients lying on the shelf and picked one up to get my son's attention. It worked, Little C looked up and at the camera and smiled at the picture of the other baby. Instead of taking the opportunity to snap photos, the photographer said, "Ate, wag po yan. May nag-order po niyan." (Don't use that, that's someone else's order.) I understand that the photo board belonged to other people, but it's not like the yaya gave it to the baby to play with. She was just waving it around so that Little C would look at the camera. Also, there was one point that the boys wanted to play with the balls. The photographer took several pieces from the crate and gave it to them, but of course, that's not enough for kids, they want all the balls. When we took some more from the crate and gave it to them, she said, "Tama na, makalat na e." I'm hoping she was referring to the pictures, and not to the mess. The thing is, if it keeps the kids happy and willing to take pictures, I don't see what the problem is. If it looks too cluttered in the photo, she could always edit some out right?

Lastly, she seemed to be conserving her shots. By this, I mean she wasn't taking as many photos as she could. See, in my amateur experience taking photos of my boys, I learned that the general rule is to take as many as possible, to keep shooting, in the hopes that there are one or two good photos that we can use. But during the shoot, it felt like the photographer was waiting for both the kids to be in a good pose before she'd snap a shot. There were several points where I would tell her, "There, he's smiling na!" She wasn't even looking at the boys, just fiddling with her camera. As my husband said, "Parang film camera gamit niya a. Kelangan tipirin yung shot." (It's like she's using a film camera where you have to conserve your shots.) It ended up that every time I would ask her if she got any good shots, she'd say, "These are all I have."

When the session was finished, I didn't have so many nice photos to choose from. We've tried having a TPC pictorial before with just J (at the Podium branch), when they also issued vouchers for single photo sessions, and that time, I had the problem of too many photos to choose from. There were so many nice photos, I couldn't narrow down the choices. This time, the choice was easy. There were only four family photos to choose from, and two were not good. In one picture, the two kids and I looked nice, but Big C's eyes were half closed. In the other, the four of us were looking in separate directions. Thankfully, the other two were passable. I was also really disappointed that in the series of pictures where the two boys were together, Little C wasn't smiling in any of the photos. In Little C's solo shots though, there were several nice ones and that mollified me a little.

In their website, TPC says that they "take great care to make sure that every portrait session is an enjoyable experience for you and your family". It certainly didn't feel that way last Sunday and I can't express how disappointed I was by what happened. I know it wasn't easy to take pictures of my sons, but I would have appreciated a little more patience, effort and enthusiasm from the photographer.

I want to maximize the membership with lots of shoots, but based on our Rockwell experience, it's safe to say that I'll be trying out the other branches next time. I'm just hoping that our next photo shoot will be a vast improvement over this one. Any recommendations for which branches and photographers to try will be much appreciated.

Till the next post!

Help, Mommies! I have a toddler school dilemma!

When J's second semester started last Monday, he had a new classmate, a little boy six months older than him. Ordinarily, before the class starts, the kids are allowed to play with the toys in the classroom, and J, New Classmate (NC) and some of the other early birds were playing. While they were playing, NC threw a toy at another classmate, a little girl who had just stepped in the door. She didn't cry but was sufficiently surprised to stick close to her mother, who stays with her during class. Like most people, I shrugged it off as an isolated incident and left J on his own to start class. Anyway, NC's mom, who was with him at that time, scolded her son right away and made him say sorry.

Fast forward to the end of the class and I was about to step inside the classroom to pick J up. NC's dad was also waiting to pick his son up and we stepped inside the classroom at the same time. I spotted J among the kids, who were all standing in the front of the room dancing to the Barney song after having their snacks. J, NC and one of the other little boys were standing together. J spotted me and I waved hi as I stepped towards him.

Then out of nowhere, THWACK!

NC slapped my son.

Of course, I rushed to my son's side to give him a hug. He was so surprised that he didn't even cry, not until I had hugged him and kissed his ouchie. He buried his face in my neck and started crying, not the loud wails that I expected, but a scared and surprised kind of crying. NC's mom and dad apologized profusely to me and scolded their son and made him say sorry, so I told them that it was no problem. It happens with kids. They looked really contrite and embarrassed so I assured them that it was alright. Then I found out that NC had also hit one of their other classmates. The boy's yaya, who came to pick him up, was indignant on behalf of her charge.

Today, J and NC were once again the early birds in the class and they were playing together. They were seated close to each other and I was keeping an eye on them both because of what happened in the previous session. (This time, NC was unaccompanied. His mom had dropped him off and would not be joining them in class.) Again, out of the blue, NC reached over to hit my son, but luckily, the class yaya was there to pull back his arm so J wasn't really hit that hard.

To make a long story short, before the class had even started, NC had hit two other classmates and kicked another in the shins. All these incidents were unprovoked. The children weren't fighting over anything. I was already concerned, but relieved that the incidents were witnessed by the teacher, who firmly reprimanded NC for his behavior and made him apologize to his classmates.

I got to thinking though. What should I do if the incidents were to continue? Big C and I tell J that hitting is not okay and that he should never hit others. Yet, as I comforted him after another child hit him, he heard me tell the other mom that it's okay. That's confusing for J. I understand that NC is just a little kid and he's still learning how to behave, but I have a responsibility to my son, to teach him what's right and to protect him from harm.

Still, I also think, what if I were in the other mom's shoes? She was obviously not happy with what her son is doing, and she does reprimand him and tell him that what he is doing is not acceptable and that he should apologize to the other kids he hurts. But I don't like that every time my son is in school, he runs the risk of getting hit. Today, after NC hit him again and when he noticed that I had left the room already, he started crying in class and called out for me for the first time. Thankfully, he stopped after a while, but still, it disturbed me enough to write about it and seek advice from other moms.

So, there's my dilemma, mommies. Any input? It would be much appreciated.

Bedtime MOM-ent

Just a few days ago, I read an article about kids' last times. The author was talking about how we always remember the first time our babies turned over, their first steps, first words. But we focus so much on the first times, that we don't notice the last times that mark our children's passage from one stage of their life to the other. And the thing is, you never know when it might be the last time. Thinking of it now, I can't remember the last time J needed to be swayed to sleep. For months now, he's been sleeping like a big boy, tossing and turning on his bed until he drifts off.

Last night, after we brushed J's teeth, I carried him to his bed to sleep. I gave him his bottle, and just before he stuck it in his mouth, he said, "Mama, ga!" He was telling me to lie down beside him. My son does this fairly regularly. He likes it when we cuddle in his bed. Sometimes I sing him silly little songs and nursery rhymes. Sometimes I admonish him for some misbehavior during the day. And sometimes, I just babble and say sweet nothings to my little boy.

Mama cuddling a 6-month old J
I always love these moments. Even though I still had to go downstairs and check on the maid, pick up the trail of debris J left in our room, and prepare our things for the next morning, I was always reluctant to say good night. Last night, as he was cuddled close to me, sipping his milk contentedly, I breathed in that special little boy smell and rubbed his tummy. I rested my head against his shoulder and out of nowhere, I said softly to him, "You know something, you won't be a baby forever, but you will always be Mama's little baby boy." To my surprise, J nodded his head, as though saying, "I know, Mama."

It always amazes me to find out how much he understands now. Last night, as I was preparing to say one final good night, I told him that I had to go in a bit because I still had to go check on things downstairs. J pulled the bottle from his mouth and said, "Daddy, baba." He meant that I should stay there and tell his dad to go down instead of me. Haha!

It amazes me even more to realize that one day, Little C will grow up and be as big as J is now, and one day, both my boys will grow up and they won't ask me to kiss their ouchies, to spend a few moments with them before they drift off to sleep, or to hold my hand when we take a walk.

I won't know when that last time will come, that last time when J will plead with me to stay a bit longer with him, or ask me to sit down and play with him. I don't know until when Little C will be able to fall asleep cradled in my arms like the baby he is, or until when he'll gurgle happily at the sight of me and raise his chubby little arms to be picked up. I don't know until when I'll stop being the most beautiful woman in the world for these two boys and I don't know when Big C and I will stop being the most important people in the world to them. All I know is that the days are long but the years are short, and in the blink of an eye, my boys will have grown up.

So I stayed just a few minutes longer. And as I reluctantly crept my way out of their room last night, J's plaintive little whimper, "Mama, de!", telling me not to leave, tugged at my heart and I tucked the memory away. After all, as I told J, my babies won't be babies forever.

Happy weekend!

McGyver MOM-ent

I just had to share my frazzled moment for the day.

Mornings are usually hectic at our house, especially on the days when J has school. This morning, I was pretty on time, ahead even. I was able to prepare the meat for tonight's dinner, have breakfast, make J's baon and take a shower, all before my 7:20 morning pump to leave milk for Little C.
While J sang and danced in class, I was in the car finishing my 9:00 pump when I realized what I missed this morning.
I'd forgotten to bring covers for the breastmilk bottles. 
Oh no.
So, borne out of desperation, here's my mommy fix to the problem. Not the most sanitary solution, but at least I didn't have to throw out the milk. Don't worry, I made sure the plastic's clean and the scrunchie never touched the rim of the bottle. :-)

breastmilk bottle covered with a sheet of plastic and sealed with a scrunchie

When A Sacrifice Isn't a Sacrifice

I was so inspired by the latest post on Chronicles of a Nursing Mom, entitled "A Mother's Commitment: Giving Without Counting the Cost (a Johnson's Baby Sponsored Post)" that I decided to write about it as well. The entry actually started as a comment/response to the question she posed at the end of the entry, which was "What sacrifices or things that you have done that you never thought you would be able to do so before you had kids?" (Click on the link to read and enjoy Jenny's original post.)

My favorite Philosophy professor always started our class with St. Ignatius' Prayer for Generosity. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, this is how it goes.

Lord, teach us to be generous
Teach us to serve you as you deserve
To give and not to count the cost
To fight and not to heed the wounds
To toil and not to seek for rest
To labor and not to ask for reward
Save that of knowing that I do your will.

It became my favorite prayer, especially when I was teaching. Back then, I thought being a teacher seemed to be the best example of this prayer. And then I became a mother.

Mother's Love (by Natalie Holland)
To answer Jenny's question, I would have to say that before becoming a mother, I never imagined I had this much of myself to give. One of the most obvious sacrifices that I can name would probably choosing to give my son breastmilk instead of formula. Because J was formula-fed, it was so tempting to make the easy choice and give Little C formula as well. But even on the most challenging, sleep-deprived days (or during each and every 3am pump session), the idea of stopping just seems so abhorrent for me. I know that formula is good enough, but I can't bear the thought of not giving Little C the best there is when I am fully capable of doing so, even at the expense of much-needed rest.

But I also realized that being a mom means surrender. It means giving up control over a lot of things. When you get pregnant, you surrender control over your body. It stops being just your own and become a vessel for the creation of another human being. You stop eating what you want and eat what is good for you. You stop eating altogether because your little one's presence makes your body reject all kinds of food. You sleep at the most inappropriate times because your body's so tired from making a whole new person from scratch. You go to the bathroom a gazillion times a day because there's only so much space for a baby and your bladder inside your body.

Labor and childbirth is another exercise in surrender. You can come up with the most detailed birth plan in the world, but if your baby has other ideas, you might as well chuck that birth plan out the window. Then when the baby is finally born, your world as you know it will be turned upside down. Your life (and your schedule) will revolve around this tiny, helpless person, so much so that bodily functions such as eating, sleeping, peeing, pooping and bathing will only be attended to on an absolutely need-to-go basis.

Choosing to be an exclusively pumping mom also means surrendering a measure of control over my schedule. Pumping offers flexibility, but it also requires some discipline to keep pumping every two hours. My pumping schedule is close to sacred in my book. I don't skip pumps. Ever. Everywhere I go, I have to consider what time I'll be able to pump and where I'll be able to do it. That means that I lug my breastpump wherever I go. That being said, pumping also kind of limits where I'm able to go. This took a lot of adjustment because I was always so used to going whenever and wherever I wanted to go.

But most of all, I learned that while a lot of the things that you do will seem like a sacrifice to other people, it will never feel like a sacrifice for you. From the day my babies were formed in my body, my world revolved around trying to keep them safe, healthy and happy. When I held them for the first time, I finally understood what it meant to want to give up your life for someone else's, to willingly and without resentment, put someone else's needs before your own and to endure everything just to spare them a moment of pain. And not once, not even in my most sleep-deprived, tired, frustrated, sore-boobs-and-nipples, why-won't-he-stop-crying moments did I feel that what I do for my sons is a sacrifice.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that way. After all, I'm not the only mother in the world. So here's to all the moms out there, the living, breathing examples of what it means to give and not to count the cost. Cheers to us!

No Star Stamps for Little J :-(

J just finished his first week of toddler class. While his first day went without a hitch and ended with two star stamps to show off to Daddy, sadly, Day 2 didn't go as smoothly.

Mommy's first mistake: letting J run around the play area because we got to school early. Mommy's second mistake: not giving J a snack instead of letting him run around the play area. Result? Rambunctious J, not behaving during class because he was hungry and a bit tired already.

I watched from outside the classroom as my son kept standing up while the lesson was going on, didn't follow the teacher's instructions and generally kept digging at the class art supplies instead of paying attention. He also didn't participate in the lesson by repeating the new words they were learning.

But when the time came for the teacher to start giving out the star stamps, J snapped to attention, sat down in his chair and placed his hands on the table in expectation of the stamp from the teacher. He was so excited. When the teacher asked who wanted stamps for the day, J said very loudly, "Co-cob!" and pointed to the back of his hand. The teacher walked around the room and picked out select students who behaved and participated for the day. After each stamp, she would ask again, who else would get stamps and I watched as my son called out, "Tee, Co-cob!" (Tee = teacher) while pointing to his hand.

Now, while the teacher in me knew J didn't deserve a stamp for the day, the mother in me willed with all my might for the teacher to walk to my little boy and put a star stamp on his hand. Oh, how my heart broke when the teacher announced that there were no more stamps for the day and my little boy realized that he wasn't getting one. I am almost embarrassed to admit that I had to hold back tears at the thought of my son not getting the star he so badly wanted.

I understood the concept of the stamps and how they're used to reinforce good behavior in kids, so I broke my rule of leaving him with only his yaya during class and went to him to explain to him why he didn't get a stamp for that day. I also told him the things that he should do if he wanted to get a stamp in the next class: sit in his chair, obey the teacher and participate in class.

I never really thought that a star stamp would mean so much to me, until I saw how much my son wanted one.

As I mulled it over, I came to a realization. It wasn't about the stamp. It was about the fact that for the first time in his life, J wanted something and I couldn't get it for him.

Mind you, that doesn't mean that I think my son should get everything he wants. I definitely don't think that the teacher should have given J a stamp because his behavior during class didn't deserve one. But the thing is, I'm a parent. And like all the other parents of the world, I think that my son is one of the two most awesome kids on the planet. For the first time, my son didn't measure up to someone's expectations, so much so that he didn't get something he wanted and got disappointed as a result.

As parents, we always want to spare our kids from everything: from pain, sadness, illness and all the painful realities of life. It's irrational and impossible, but you still want to be able to do it anyway. You know that it's through these experiences that they learn and grow to become better people, because that's how you grew and became a better person. However, you wish for your kids' sake that it didn't have to feel so bad.

That day, as I stood there watching my son experience his first brush with disappointment, I was confronted with the harsh truth that I wouldn't be able to shield J from life. There are still so many things that he'll have to go through. It's painful to realize that this was only going to be the first of many times that my son would fail at something and I wouldn't be able to do anything about it, except watch with a heavy heart, help him bear the disappointment and encourage him to do better next time.

I realize that I may not always be there when he falls, and that I should allow him to make mistakes but he can be sure that I'll be there to help him back up, even when helping him back up means stepping aside to let him get back up on his own.

To my J and Little C, mistakes and failures are nothing but steps closer to your ultimate goals. We all have those moments, but what will define us as people is how we deal with the pains of life. But always know that Mommy's in your corner to be your number one fan and own personal Blue Babble Battalion. I love you both heaps and heaps!

Happy weekend, mommies! Watch out for a belated post on J's first day of school. :)

Happy birthday, G

Here in my heart 
There's a picture of us
Together forever
Unfaded and unbroken
Wherever you are
Your love covers me
Forever more
You'll be here in my heart

Happy birthday, G. I love you heaps and heaps and I miss you everyday.


My Body is a Wonderland

More than once, as he watched me carefully collect the milk I've just expressed for our baby to drink, Big C voiced out his amazement at how wonderful the female body is. Or rather, the mother's body. He says he finds it incredibly amazing that my body could produce something that completely provides for our son's nutritional needs.

When I think about it, the human body really is a wonderland. Every time I hear the nursery rhyme/kiddie song about how the head bone connects to the neck bone and then connects to the shoulder bone and all the way down to the foot bone, I marvel at the construction of the human body and how it comes together. Far be it for me to get all religious, but I consider myself to be a spiritual person and whoever made us or however we came to be, I do believe that we are wonderfully made.

And if the human body itself is amazing, I think the female body is nothing short of a miracle.

I came to this realization shortly after I gave birth to G, our eldest. I looked at him and I marveled at how this huge thing could have come out through such a small hole. (I know you're thinking my thoughts should have been more profound, but I mean, really, a baby's head is around 32cm at birth and hole it comes out from is definitely NOT 32cm. Is there anything more mind-boggling than that??) I looked at his pictures and I said to myself, "I did that. He came from my body, where he stayed for nine months and I kept him alive and then I pushed him out."

Now, even as I look at my two other sons, the wonder of how the female body is equipped to shelter life inside it, its ability to withstand the pain of giving birth, and its subsequent ability to keep that new little life nourished with the milk from her breasts, still knocks me off my feet.

You've probably seen this picture circulating on Facebook on how the pain of childbirth equates to the pain of having 20 bones broken at the same time. (I don't know how true it is. All I know is that labor is pretty damn painful, but I'm not going to break 20 bones at the same time to find out which is worse.) For a first-time expectant mom, that's an overwhelming thing to digest. I know three such moms right now, all due within the month and I'm sure one thing that's looming on their minds is the labor and the pain that's associated with it. One of them has told me of her apprehension at giving birth and how she considered getting an elective C-section just to avoid the pain.

Believe me, I understand the fear. I understand the apprehension. I remember feeling all of that and more before I had my first experience with childbirth. In fact, I vividly remember one incident while I was teaching. I was prefecting a film showing about teen pregnancy and there was one scene that showed exactly what happens during childbirth. As in it showed the baby sliding out of the girl's lady parts. Oh dear lord, I remember walking out of the room in a daze and just sitting there trying to absorb the fact that that would happen to me one day. All I could think of was how much that would hurt.

But the physical experience of motherhood, pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding, has left me with a much deeper respect for my body and what it can do. So I told my friend, with all the sagacity borne (no pun intended!) from 3 experiences with childbirth, to just not think about the pain because she'll be able to deal with it when it comes. I said that there's no point in thinking about it, because she'll have to go through it regardless of how scared she is. But I also told her to not be afraid, because even if she doesn't know what she's doing, her body will know what to do.

Giving birth to J was way easier than giving birth to Little C, mostly because there was way less pain. But upon reflection, I think that my birth experience will be the one that will stay with me. J's birth was painless, thanks to the epidural, but it was during Little C's birth that I really understood what the female body is capable of doing. With J, the doctors told me when to push and I just contracted my tummy like I was doing crunches, but I wasn't sure what that was doing exactly. Apparently, I was doing it right, because they said I was doing a great job.

But with Little C, my labor progressed so quickly that the epidural didn't have time to completely work its way into my system. It made me completely aware of what was happening to my body. In fact, I was the one who told the doctors that I needed to push already and I was timing my pushes with the contractions while in the delivery room. I instinctively knew what to do and when to do it. And when Little C was finally born, the euphoria rush was twice that of J's birth. I was extremely happy to finally meet my son, but I was equally happy that I was finally done.

So for expectant moms, I urge you to read as much as you can about the physical process of childbirth. Attend birthing classes just so you understand what's supposed to happen. Most of all, trust your body. Believe me, it knows what to do.

Happy day, mommies!

Happy 4th!

Four years, three children and a lifetime ago, I stood in a church, in front of all my friends and family, and promised to take this man to be my lawfully wedded husband.

Since that day, Big C and I have gone through so much in such a short span of time. Our vows of for better or worse were tested early on in our marriage, when "worse" was epitomized by the devastating loss of our eldest son that shattered our rose-colored views of the future and life in general. Because of that, we found strength in each other, and we've learned to be more grateful. We were uncomplicated people to begin with, but after our son passed away, we've taken greater pleasure in simple things such as good health, good food, shared laughter and moments with our kids.

More than once, I have said that my husband is the most wonderful blessing I have received. Without him, I would not have had my three wonderful sons, and I would not have a partner to share the crazy adventures of parenting with. That being said, I have to admit that my husband is probably the least romantic man in the world. He didn't get teary-eyed during our wedding, as most grooms do. We've been together for 12 years and I have yet to receive a single flower from him, not even a humble sampaguita or kalachuchi. (Good thing  that I find flowers to be a useless gift because they're so expensive and then they just die.) Big C is also one of the least demonstrative people in the world, never the type to wear his heart on his sleeve.

Despite this, my husband has never failed to make me feel loved. Big C is the prime example of how love is not expressed through flowers and chocolates, or through big romantic gestures.

For Big C, love is shown in the small things that make up the day to day of a married couple's life together. Among his many simple expressions of love, he gives me the whole block of feta on his burger without me even asking because he knows it's my favorite. He has never refused a single food craving I had through all my three pregnancies (and even the cravings I had before, in between and after said pregnancies). He tells me I look perfect even though I have yet to lose the ten extra pounds left over from giving birth. He waits for me to finish getting ready for bed even though I take forever and he's super tired and sleepy. He downloads my favorite TV shows without me needing to ask him to do it. Most of all, I know he loves me because after we lost G, he chose to be my rock to let me cry, grieve and heal. Because of him, I found the strength to laugh and look forward again.

That being said, happy 4th anniversary to my one and only! Four years down, and forever to look forward to!

On Celebrating Small Victories

A few weeks ago, I went to the Medela House to get my pump checked because I felt that my pump was not efficiently draining my breasts. Like most breastfeeding moms, I was uncertain about my breastmilk supply and was determined to squeeze out as much milk for my Little C. (I take the liberty of calling myself a breastfeeding mom, even though I am technically a bottle-feeding-breastmilk mom.) At that time, I was pumping out an average of 2.50 to 2.75 ounces per pumping session, every two hours.

Turns out there was nothing wrong with my pump, and my output was normal for an exclusively pumping mom, according to Medela Moms' Maricel. We had a short chat where I told her about my experience as an exclusively pumping mom and my worries about not producing enough for my son, because Little C was still taking in 2-4 ounces of formula a day to meet his needs. To that, Maricel told me that I was doing pretty well, and being familiar with my previous experience with breastfeeding J, she gently reminded me that this was a vast improvement from where I was two years ago.

I never really thought about it that way. All I focused on was the 2-4 ounces a day that I was unable to provide and I didn't think about the 34 or so ounces of milk that I was able to produce for my son. (That might not seem like a lot to moms who produce milk by the bagful and have a freezer stuffed full of expressed milk just waiting to be consumed or donated, but for a mom like me who was unable to successfully breastfeed one child, to be able to provide for another is a wonderful thing.)

Since then, I have learned to look at my experience as an exclusively pumping mom in a different light. Yes, Little C still gets 4 ounces of formula on bad days, and 2 ounces on good days. But then, there are also those great days, when he gets no formula at all. Those days are the best days for me, and I feel a sense of accomplishment.

That feeling of accomplishment is multiplied by a million times when I pick up my son, who is getting heftier by the day and I marvel at how I was able to do that. J was a big baby too, but I figured that was because of the formula. But now, I look at Little C, and how he has caught up to big brother J's size, and I think to myself, "I did that! That's all me!"

Exclusively pumping is hard. The day passes by so quickly because in between pumping sessions, I only have pockets of time to finish all the things that I need to do, including household chores, errands, and work projects. It cuts into my schedule in a really bad way and I have yet to sleep for 3 hours straight since I gave birth. (It has saved me a bundle though, because I am usually so reluctant to interrupt my pumping schedule for fear of decreasing my milk supply that I only go out when I absolutely have to, which means no more impulsive trips to the mall. And there's the decreased milk expense that comes from not needing to buy formula as much.) At least once a day, usually at 3am when I roll out of bed for another pumping session, I wonder why I put myself through this when there's a more convenient alternative.

My not-so-little C!
And then I pick up my son and see and feel for myself how he's grown so big and strong with just my milk. I look at his pictures from when he was born and think how tiny he was then and how big he is now. Even Big C is amazed by how big he's gotten. I hug him and hold him close and feel all the layers of fat that I put on him and my heart just swells with love and pride. I know that overly large babies are no longer considered healthy, but I can't help it, I love that my baby's so soft and cuddly!

So now, I've learned to celebrate my small victories. On the wonderful days when Little C gets zero formula, I give myself an internal high-five. So far my streak has only been two days straight of no formula, but I'm hoping for better days ahead. On the bad days when he gets more formula than I'd like, I've learned to shrug and say to myself that tomorrow will be a better day.

So what's the lesson for the day? I learned that moms can focus too much on what they are unable to do, and sometimes it takes another mommy to give her a gentle nudge and say, "Hey, you're doing great!" There's already so much negativity around us for moms to criticize and pass judgement on each other. At the end of the day, we're all just doing the same thing, and that is trying to do what is best for our children. We juggle chores, feeding sessions, work and societal pressures and internal doubts and anxieties, and sometimes some things can slip through the cracks. But hey, from one mom to the other? I think we're all doing great.

To end this post, I'd like to encourage other moms to focus on and celebrate our small victories, whether it be one full day of no formula, or one day without the kids getting into a fight, or finishing all your small tasks and chores for the day. We all have bad days and sometimes it can all become too much, but we're still afloat, right? As best expressed from this quote I read on a fellow mommy's FB page,

Happy long weekend to you all!

Happy MOM-ments: I'm Sorry, Daddy :-(

Here's another happy moment I'd like J to read about years from now.

The other night, Big C and J were playing with the wooden peg puzzles, when J suddenly swung one of the puzzle boards up and hit his poor daddy in the nose.

Of course, Big C started rubbing his nose to get rid of the pain. You know what J did?

He gently removed Big C's hand and placed three baby kisses on Daddy's nose. That's what we do when J gets ouchies and I guess it works on him, because he believes his baby kisses will take away Daddy's ouchie.

What do you know? It works on adults too, because it put the biggest smile on Daddy's face.
Happy Monday to you all!

Of Teething and Tummyaches

So last night, the inevitable finally happened.

J bit his baby brother's toe.

Oh, my poor Little C. He wailed so loudly and wouldn't be soothed even after big brother J apologized. Good thing his foot was in his frogsuit and J's sharp little teeth didn't do much damage.

It started out innocently, with J being affectionate with his little brother and kissing Little C's tiny foot, as he's allowed to do. And then.. CHOMP!


To be fair, J did seem to feel really bad about it. I'm sure he knew he did something bad, because when I walked through the door to see what all the commotion was about, he ran to me and said, "Mama, popo!" When he saw how distressed I was upon finding out he bit Little C, his face got this really worried expression and when I asked him if he would do it again, he immediately shook his head to say no.

On that note, J also hasn't been feeling well lately. His back teeth are coming in, and he's been cranky, and his appetite very erratic. I swear, some days it feels like this teething thing will never end. I found this diagram that tells me teething can last up until 26 months! Oh, lord.

With J, a new tooth is usually accompanied by LBM. The "What to Expect" book explains this by saying that when kids are teething, they produce a lot more saliva (and believe me, they do!) so their stools naturally become more runny. I asked my doctor about it though, and she said there's no proven link that teething causes LBM. Most likely, because the kid's teething, he chews on his fingers to soothe his aching and itchy gums and despite Mama and Yaya's best efforts, sometimes those little fingers carry dirt and germs. The doctor assured me it's most likely a viral infection and will pass in a few days.

This has happened to us before, last Christmas when Yaya was on vacation. J was also cutting a tooth and pooping non-stop, so I had a pretty good idea of what to do this time. Upon the advise of my MIL, I diluted his milk at first, then bought lactose-free formula. According to the doctor, his stomach lining is most likely inflamed already, and the lactose in the milk is making a bad situation worse. The lactose-free formula will give his tummy time to recover. We usually finish a 900-gram can, mixing his regular formula in when the can only has about 1/4 left. His appetite's also a little wonky, on account of his tummy, so we've been trying to keep him fed with Yakult, plain congee (lugaw), bread and bananas, pretty much anything that he's willing to eat and won't make him poop even more.

Thankfully, the worst seems to have passed but for the next few days, J will stay under observation by Dr. Mama.

Enjoy the rainy weekend!

My Life as an EP-ing (exclusively pumping) mommy

Little C just turned 2 months old yesterday and it's been roughly that much time since I became an exclusively pumping (EP-ing) mommy. While committed to providing breastmilk for my son, I realized that direct breastfeeding isn't a lifestyle that works for our family. As I've mentioned in a previous post, direct feeding turned out to be a lot harder than expected, mostly since Little C is like big brother J, who won't stop feeding. I had a hard time with being stuck to one spot for the entire day with all the things that need to be done and I switched to EP-ing for Little C.

What's an EP-ing mom anyway? 

An EP-ing mom, according to my definition at least, is a mom who doesn't directly nurse her child, but instead expresses breastmilk for the little one's consumption. Mind you, being an EP-ing mom is just as hard as direct feeding. At least with direct feeding, you have the pleasure of holding your child while you're feeding him. That's one thing I miss terribly. But every time we try direct feeding with Little C, I ended up being stressed because there were so many other things that need my attention and my milk supply tanks, which is a worse situation for my baby boy.

What's a day like in the life of this EP-ing mom?

I'm at the pump every 2 hours from 6am to 6pm. After 6pm, it's every 3 hours, so pumps are scheduled at 9pm, 12am, 3am and 6am. Classic example of how motherhood means no holidays and no days off. No matter the day, I keep this schedule. This ensures that I pump more than 8 times a day, with each session lasting 20 minutes.

The time in between these pumps is scheduled for meals, baths, errands and household chores, including cooking. I also spend time with my boys, individually and together. Usually, right after I pump, I spend a few minutes cuddling or playing with Little C. Other times, I horse around with J. In the past few days, I've started taking a few minutes a day trying to teach him his ABCs, which is a bit rough going for now since his attention span is still a bit limited. We're making progress though. The time between my 4pm and 6pm pump is dedicated to cooking dinner and taking a walk with J. Between 6pm and 9pm, it's dinner time, family time and bath time. Big C spends time with J while I'm in charge of Little C.

I can also work in between pumps and while pumping. I bought a hands-free pumping bra from Tiny Tots, which lets me continue working while expressing milk for Little C.

How much milk do I get?

Each pumping session yields at least 2oz (worst case) and 4.5oz (best case). My best pumping times are during the wee hours of the morning, maybe due to the fact that the gaps between pumps are 3 hours instead of just 2. During the day, it's usually 2.50 to 2.75 oz. :-)

I'd have to admit it's not as much as I'd hope. You know those moms who post pictures of a freezer full of expressed milk? That's not me. I'm lucky if my milk even makes it to the fridge for storage. Usually what I pump is just enough to keep up with Little C's feedings. Right now, my total daily output ranges from 28 to 30 oz per day, which isn't enough for Little C's needs. He takes around 30-35 oz of milk per day in total, so we supplement with formula. It's usually needed in the late afternoons, when my milk supply is lowest. We've yet to have a day where he has nothing but my milk, but I haven't given up.

I refuse to let the fact that I'm mixed feeding discourage me. As it is, this is a better situation than two years ago when J was an infant. My milk was supplementing the formula, instead of the other way around. Now, Little C's consumption is at less than 20% on most days. (And yes for disbelievers, those statistics are legit. I have a spreadsheet. Haha.) And like I said, I'm still holding out hope that my patience with pumping will pay off and that my milk will be enough for my son.

For those who are wondering, it's not impossible. I actually know someone only let her baby latch during the first week and had a hard time with it, but has kept her baby on breastmilk until he was 8 months old. That's the dream for me.

What happens when I go out?

I usually bring my breastpump with me so I can keep up with the schedule. But when I'm out, the gaps between pumpings are usually 3-4 hours, which are about as far apart as I go. I make sure to pump just before I leave the house and count 3-4 hours from that time. I'm rarely out of the house for more than 6 hours, so I just pump once while I'm out and again as soon as I get home. It makes very little difference in my total daily output.

It's a new experience for me to pump while out of the house. When I was expressing milk for J, it was always at home. Since I wasn't able to supply much milk for him, I'd go out as I pleased and expressed as soon as I got home. With Little C, it's different. I'm actually capable of supplying most of the milk he needs so I'm stricter with myself. It's a bit disconcerting at first, but after a couple of times you get used to it. I've pumped while having dinner with friends, and in the car while travelling from one place to another.

It's a bit harder than it used to be with J, when I didn't keep to a strict schedule. Going out is also trickier and requires a lot more forethought. I have to think about how long we're going to be out, when I can pump and how long my cooler pack will last. So far, it's lasted me 6 hours and the milk was still nice and cool when we got home.

My new best friend and fashion accessory. :-)
It's two months into my life as an EP-ing mom. With J, I lasted until he was 8 months old, supplementing his formula diet with my breastmilk. Others in my position would probably have been discouraged, thinking that since most of his diet is formula anyways, might as well just give up and gone with formula after the first few weeks. But my thinking was a little breastmilk is better than none, so I kept at it, until my supply dwindled to practically nothing.

With Little C, I've been fortunate that my patience has paid off. My supply is increasing just a little bit each day. Still not enough to provide for his entire consumption, but just enough to keep me going until the next day. I haven't set an exact goal for myself, like stopping when he's 6 months old, or 8 months old like J, or until he's a year old or two years old. Right now, I'm just taking it a day at a time and hopefully, my one-day-at-a-time attitude will pay off and my son will eventually have nothing but my milk. :-)

Hello, Monday! - July 9, 2012

It's been a while since I last had a chance to take stock of the things that I am thankful for. In between managing a household that's adjusting to having new members, going back to work so soon after giving birth and making time for my two adorable little ones, finding the time to blog has been a real challenge. But when I do have a few minutes of free time, it's nice to sit down and reflect, to look over what has transpired in the past week (or weeks, in my case) and express thanks for all the good in my life.

  • Little C is turning 2 months old in a few days (how time flies!) and he's smiling more each day.
  • My efforts as an EP-ing (exclusively pumping) mom are paying off! On our most challenging days, Little C gets 8 oz. of formula to supplement my milk, but on our good days (although they're far and few in between) he only gets 2 oz. At the average, he gets around 4 oz. a day to supplement. While this is still far from my ideal of having him on nothing but my milk, I'm grateful that he's gotten so much from me already and I'm hoping to eventually produce more and get rid of the formula.
  • J has added new words to his baby vocabulary. He has learned to say "key" (for car keys, naturally), "B" (for USB - my son is a techie baby, through and through), "da-day" (for our new helper), "wee" (for whale), "mi" (for Mickey) and "co-cob" (referring to himself). He's also learned the different parts of the whale, which he can point to in one of his picture book (the whale's eye, teeth, tail and spout). In terms of his picture words (or pictures that he can point to when you say the word), he's added cake, crayon, cherry, and fish.
  • I finally found the Cars bandages that J likes. I bought some a few months ago, but I haven't been able to find any more. Yesterday, I chanced upon them in True Value so I got one box of Cars bandages and another box of Nemo bandages. They're waterproof bandages that have the characters from Cars printed on them. Given his increasing levels of curiosity and activity, J has gotten his fair share of scrapes. His latest ouchie? Getting his fingers jammed in the screen door. And with his tendency to pick at his wounds or scabs (which makes them worse), I've had to bandage them. The regular boring bandages don't cut it. He peels them right off. The Cars bandages? He refuses to have them removed and asks me to put bandages, even without ouchies. :|
  • The simple pleasure of watching my son help his daddy fix a doorknob. J acted as Big C's assistant handyman yesterday and I was amazed at how quickly he picked up the task. He knew which parts go where, although I don't know how he knew. I still remember the look of intense concentration on his face and the sight of him picking up screws and handing it to Big C and refusing to give his daddy the screwdriver, insisting on doing it himself.
  • Being able to jump back into work. Every day, despite the challenges that my work presents, I am happy because each project means that I can contribute to saving for my sons' futures, instead of simply depending on my husband to provide for us.
  • A box of free doughnuts! (Burp!)
  • A meal shared with old friends, which of course was full of laughter. Nothing makes a meal better than good company and great laughs.
  • A husband who indulges me in my post-natal cravings. Yes, there's such a thing as post-natal cravings. 
And now, there's work to be done and mommy errands to be run. Have a great Monday and a great week!

Happy MOM-ents with Big Brother J

The latest picture of my little boys

A quick post to record a happy memory!

As I was hard at work on today's project, I heard J calling out "Mama!" (to hear my son calling me never fails to bring a smile to my face.) from the playroom. I look up from the computer to see him holding Little C's empty bottle in his hand. (Translation: Mama! Shoti has no more milk! Get more, please!)

I love how he learns to help take care of his little brother more and more each day. We've pretty much gotten past the phase where he hits Little C (with "pretty much" being the operative words), and each day I see him grow to become Little C's big brother in more ways. For example, upon waking in the morning, his first word is "baby" and when Little C cries, he'll run to grab Little C's bottle and give it to him. My baby boy is really growing up so quickly.

But that doesn't mean J's shenanigans have stopped!

The other day, he saw me wearing my going-out clothes and of course, he wanted to ride the car. I told him that I wasn't leaving yet, but that we could take a ride later when I leave. I said I still have to make milk for Shoti before I go.

So what did car-crazy J do?

He grabbed Little C's empty bottle and pointed toward our room, to the chair where I usually sit and express breastmilk for Little C! (Translation: Go make milk, Mama, so we can ride the car NOW!)

A happy day to you all! Looking forward to the weekend that is just around the corner, but for now, I have to get back to work. Till the next post!

Our DFA Experience

Dealing with Philippine government offices is always as hassle and I arrive at their offices expecting the worst. That way, when things turn out faster than they do, I'll be pleasantly surprised. That pretty much sums up my experience at the DFA when Big C and I went with J to get our passports.

It was our first time with the passport appointment system. Basically, all I did was to go to the DFA Passport Appointment System website and submitted the online applications for a new passport for J and renewals for me and Big C. We filed ours under the Family Appointment System, which is pretty much batch processing.

After I filled out the application forms, they provided me with a list of documentary requirements for each of us. For the renewals, all we needed were photocopies of the first three pages, last page and pages with the latest immigration stamps of your old passport. For J's new application, we needed to present his original birth certificate. There are more requirements depending on who's going with the child to the DFA, if the child is legitimate, etc. The website is pretty comprehensive and detailed when it comes to the requirements. Then they'll ask you to pick a date and a time for your appointment. After this, they'll email you the copy of your application forms, which you will need to print out and bring to the DFA. Along with this email is a confirmation link to confirm your appointment.

Our appointment was set for 2:00 pm, and we were required to be there by 1:30. To our dismay, when we got there, there was a whole crush of people standing outside the DFA waiting in line. Inside the gates were more people sitting in waiting areas under tents in the midday heat. Since we were with J, I was not looking forward to staying there and waiting, because J would surely get cranky in the heat.

The first stop upon entering the DFA gates was a station where they would recheck to see if you do have an appointment for the day, by scanning the bar code on your application forms. We were then sent to one of the waiting areas under the tents. I asked the person at the confirmation table and asked for the special lane for family application processing and said that we were with a child. She told me that was only for those with children under a year old. I sighed and settled in for a long wait.

Luckily, Big C flagged down a passing guard and asked again where to go for family appointments with children. The guard told us to go straight inside the building and ask for the courtesy lane. And so it goes. The rest of our appointment was spent inside the deliciously airconditioned building of the DFA.

We went straight to the second floor, to the courtesy lane. Be warned though. If you process through the courtesy lane, you'll be paying for rush processing (P1200) instead of regular processing (P950).

We presented our documents and we went to pay for the passports. The line for the payment took me about 5 minutes, which wasn't bad. We were sent to encoding, to get our data inputted and our pictures taken. Again, in the encoding area, there was a huge crowd seated on benches and I wondered what they were doing. Big C told me that those people were in line for encoding. We had lined up to get our numbers for encoding and because of the family appointment and the fact that we were applying with a child, we were in a special line and our wait was mercifully short. The last step was to pay for the delivery of our passports, which cost us P120 per passport. About 30 minutes later, we exited the DFA.

All in all, I'd have to say not a bad experience. Quick, easy and simple. But I think that's only because we were processing with a child as a family. I'm not really sure how it would go for people without kids. But hopefully, by the time Big C and I need to apply for our passports without the kids, they'll have streamlined it enough to make it more efficient.

A Month Full of Blessings!

Hello all!

It's been a while since my last post, and while I meant to make my gratitude journal a weekly thing, it kind of got away from me, because we're once again adjusting to have a newborn in the household. But while I've been remiss in writing them down, I have been fully aware of all the wonderful blessings that I and my family have received in the past month.

  • My wonderful new son, Little C, who came into the world far earlier than any of us expected, but has been a joy in our life, in our home and in our hearts since the minute he arrived. He is now six weeks old and growing bigger by the day.
  • An uncomplicated delivery and a speedy recovery
  • Seeing my husband fall more in love with his boys every day
  • Wonderful mothers who took care of me after giving birth. To my mom, who was a big help in the early days of breastfeeding Little C, and to my mother-in-law, who supervised my ge-lai, especially my meals.
  • Despite being on mixed feedings, Little C is getting far more of my milk that big brother J ever did. At the moment, Little C's diet is 2/3 breastmilk and 1/3 formula. I still haven't given up on my original goal of making sure he gets nothing but breastmilk, but as far as I'm concerned, we're in a pretty good place right now.
  • My first Happy Lemon drink after giving birth!
  • Getting rid of a crappy maid without having to fire her and getting a better one as a replacement
  • A quick and painless DFA experience (watch out for a post on this!)
That's all for now. I just snuck off to write a quick post and I have to get back to my boys. Later, it's the hunt for an ice cream cake for Big C's birthday and a dinner with old friends to look forward to! :)

Ge-Lai: Chinese Post-partum Care

A lot of my Filipino friends ask me about ge-lai, or the Chinese method of post-partum care. What is it anyway?

This is my third time to undergo ge-lai and I've been very lucky because both my mother-in-law and my mom take really good care of me at this time. Ge-lai actually requires a lot of work, not for the new mother, but for the people who take care of her. Based on my experience, my MIL supervises the preparation of all my meals. My mother also takes the time to bring me ge-lai dishes that she prepares at home.

A disclaimer before I go on, though. What is described in this post is based on my experience of ge-lai. Because we live in a country that is a melting pot of various Asian cultures, some of the practices may be different from what is traditionally practiced in China. And even so, each family has different beliefs about what ge-lai is and what it entails. What I write about here, is ge-lai as I have experienced it and as it was explained to me by my mom and my mother-in-law.

Ge-lai, or po-ge-lai, takes place during the first month after birth where a new mother is under a strict regimen to restore her qi after childbirth. The Chinese believe that the woman's body gets cold, or chin, after giving birth so the body should be heated with food that is considered warming, or diyet to restore the balance of the body by observing the following:

1. Drinking Tonics: these are usually soups/drinks made from boiled Chinese medicinal herbs.
  • Seng-hwa-theng: According to my mom, this is meant to flush out the "dirty blood" that remains in the woman's body after birth. I'm guessing this means ensuring that the uterus is cleaned out properly and that whatever remains of the placenta are expelled with the postpartum bleeding. You drink this first thing in the morning for the first three days after giving birth.
  • O-tso-tong-sim: Since the new mother isn't allowed to drink water after giving birth (more on this below), she is given a boiled drink that has prunes and dates and longgans in it that will serve as her main source of hydration. It doesn't really quench your thirst, but I still find it helpful because it softens your poop so you're not constipated. Believe me, with stitches on your lady parts, you do not want to strain that area any more than you have to.
  • Sip-tsuan-tai-po: This is taken 21 days after giving birth, right around the time the postpartum bleeding stops. It's an expensive herbal medicine that tastes awful, but is supposed to be very nutritious for a recovering mother.
2. Ge-Lai Meals:
  • Breakfast was usually oatmeal cooked with chocolate tablea with an egg stirred in. Chocolate is considered diyet, which is why it's good for new mothers.
  • Eggs: Eggs are mixed into my morning oatmeal, and if I'm in the mood for it, I can have egg that is cooked in sugar water for meryenda. Eggs are considered very nutritious in general, probably cause of the protein, so I'm guessing that's why it's part of the ge-lai diet. Big C came up with a new invention which I love: eggs cooked in fresh milk. That's what I have for breakfast instead of chocolate oatmeal on some days.
  • Soups: I usually have 5 meals a day: breakfast, morning merienda, lunch, two afternoon meriendas and dinner. Apart from breakfast, I have soup for all those meals. Usually it's fish soup, which helps with lactation as well. 
  • Chicken and ginger soup that is more ginger than chicken, mixed with mushrooms and banana blossoms. This soup is very warming because it's spicy. You drink it and sweat really breaks out all over your body.
  • Sesame oil and ginger: These are two staple ingredients for ge-lai. For example, I have fried rice with every meal, but it's not your usual garlic rice. For ge-lai, fried rice is rice cooked in ginger and sesame oil, two ingredients that are considered very diyet, and therefore, good for mommy's recovering body. Most of my viands are also cooked with these two ingredients, from black chicken, to regular fried chicken, to pork chops and steak.
3. Dietary Restrictions:
  • No water for 40 days. Because water is refreshing, it's considered chin, so it's a no-no for new moms. Diyet substances only. In place of water, I drank the o-tso-tong-sim. 
  • No fruits and veggies for 40 days. Like water, fruits and veggies are considered chin food. Even malunggay supplements to boost up my milk supply were not allowed. I think this is the biggest contrast between the Chinese and Filipino post-partum recovery methods. 
  • Nothing cold. Obviously, since the point of ge-lai is to warm the body up, cold foods are out of the question. 
4. Other Restrictions:
  • No bathing. I think I hate this most of all. Haha. No bathing for a month, and even after a month, you can't take a bath daily. You have to ease back into it. In my case, the day I took my first bath after giving birth, I waited two days, then took a bath on the third day. After a few cycles of that, you can then ease into baths every other day, then every day. 
  • No getting wet, even hand washing. Generally, water is cold, especially from the tap, so the idea is to keep your body away from cold stuff. This is supposed to help reduce the aches and pains we may experience as we get older. In my case, I was advised to use rubber gloves to protect my hands if I do need to wash things.
  • No going out. It's house arrest for a month, ladies. And while you'll experience cabin fever, you'll find that you'll want to keep your first outing after ge-lai short. You'll actually miss being in the house and near your baby (well, at least that's what I experienced).
  • No strenuous exertion and activities. In my case, I was forbidden to pick J up, which was also difficult for me. He's been a bit clingy and demanding lately, I guess, adjusting to having to share Mommy with his little brother, so he would ask me to carry him. The most I could do was cuddle him while seated.
So that's what my ge-lai experience was like. I still have 3 days more to go and I would have to say that it's a challenging experience. The no bathing part is the obvious difficulty, and eating five meals a day is easier said than done, especially when you have a newborn and a toddler demanding your constant attention. But if you're lucky enough to have someone want who cares enough to perform the ge-lai rituals for you, take the opportunity. After all, there's no harm in obeying the rules that our mothers, grandmothers and other predecessors have followed for years. At the very least, you have a month where you're not expected to worry about anything except taking care of your baby and resting. Believe me, that's something every new mom needs, even second-time moms like me.

Little C's 3rd Week!

Hello all! It's been three weeks since my Little C joined our family and today also marks my third week with breastfeeding. Now, three weeks may not seem like much, especially in comparison with moms who have breastfed for 6 months, a year, 2 years or even 5 years (Hats off to you, Mommy Abbie!), but in comparison to my breastfeeding experience with J, three weeks is a big deal for me.

For the most part, Little C is breastfed, but there have been some days when I needed to supplement, first with glucose water in the hospital, then with formula when we got home. Despite supplementing, I am really happy with the fact that a large part of his nutrition is sustained by my milk. It's a whole lot better than it was during J's time, when my milk barely came to a third of J's needs.

In his first few days while we were at the hospital, Little C was nursed 24/7, but for some reason, he would get frustrated and have a hard time nursing. I don't really know why. At the suggestion of the pedia resident, we would let him latch, but use a dropper to give him glucose water. Latching made sure that he was stimulating milk production and letting him practice sucking, but the sugar water satisfied him enough to keep nursing from me. I wasn't happy about giving him glucose water, but for me, it was a lesser evil compared to giving him a bottle.

After two nights, I succumbed to the need for rest and would pump milk at night while Yaya gave him expressed milk using our Calma teat. But during the daytime, Little C nurses directly from me, until about 9 in the evening when I nurse him for the last time. At night, he'd take expressed breastmilk. Most nights, the milk I provide is enough, but on the nights that I'd come up short, we gave him formula, using the Medela Calma teat. This works pretty well for us, since Little C hasn't had any problems so far latching during the day even though he's bottle fed at night. I'd recommend the Calma teat for moms who feel the need to supplement with a bottle. In our experience (so far) it really doesn't interfere with direct feeding.

Breastfeeding is hard. No one is ever really prepared for it, and I think that the only reason why I'm not having such a hard time with it now is because my experience with nursing J has given me an idea of the challenges I should expect. But still, I'm dealing with the discomfort of sore nipples, of being tied to that one chair where we breastfeed, to have to gobble down food because Little C is already asking to be fed even though it's time for Mommy to eat, and to take bathroom breaks when I can. I'm still trying to find the balance of feeding Little C, while still giving J the attention he badly needs, especially now that he has to share everything with his new brother.

Despite these adjustments, breastfeeding is still the more convenient choice, at least now that I'm still confined to staying home. All I have to do is pull up my shirt, let him latch and Little C is happy. And one of the most wonderful and heartwarming memories I will keep from nursing my son is the image I have of him unlatching from my breast as he sleeps, milk pooling at the corner of his little mouth. Nothing affirms my mother's heart more than the knowledge that my son rests contentedly because he is full from the milk that I have provided for him. While he doesn't gain weight as quickly as J did, Little C is alert, already aware of his surroundings. At less than a week old, he turns to his side by himself, and is learning to hold his head up when we have tummy time.

However, I'm preparing myself to transition to exclusive pumping.

You see, I've had to take a good long look about what it would be like for us when I am allowed to rejoin the world (in 10 more days!). Despite my willingness to try babywearing, I have to confess that I'm not so comfortable taking Little C around with me while he's still so small. Also, since we live a bit far from most places, it's really not possible for me to just be gone for two hours in between feedings. The travel time alone would take me an hour and a half. Because of that, I'd really be stuck at home. Hence, the decision to express milk for Little C. I've gotten a lot of support and advice from other moms who have done the same thing, and have successfully managed to keep their kids on breastmilk.

When I was still pregnant I was determined to exclusively breastfeed. But each day brings new lessons, and I guess my experience with mothering two kids so far has affirmed what I already know. That parenting choices varies from family to family and you have to go with what works. After much deliberation, I felt that the decision to express milk is a good compromise. It will allow me to provide the best possible nutrition for Little C, but also give me the time to spend with J. Apart from that, it will allow me to take time and breathing room for myself. Much as I love my kids, from my experience with J, I know that it's important to take "me" time. I also need time to spend with my husband, just as a wife and not as a mother. We still have our quality time as a family, but it is also important for me that Big C and I have quality time as a couple.

So starting Monday, I will attempt to become an EP (exclusively pumping) mom. Hopefully, my supply will sustain itself and increase as I go along, because I have a growing boy on my hands! In the meantime, say hello to my little cutie, who turned three weeks old today. :-)

My Little Princes!

In the beginning, we had a little bit of trouble when we brought Little C home. J would cry when he saw his little brother being handed to me for nursing and he would often scramble to sit on my lap to beat Little C to it. He'd point to Little C, then to his Yaya's boob, meaning that his shoti should nurse from Yaya instead of Mommy. He'd also fuss when his Daddy would pay attention to shoti. We also had some instances where he would hit Little C (although not too hard, thankfully).

But 2 weeks later, my boys are getting along much better. J has learned to use a gentler touch with his brother and he seems very fascinated by this new little person in our household. It doesn't bother him as much when he sees Little C nursing from me, although sometimes he still asks me to give Little C to Yaya and he's still a bit clingy with me. Whenever he sees his brother, he'd wave, "hi!" and giggle a little bit. When Little C is in his baby basket or when I'm holding him, J likes touching his little feet, hands and hair. Just this week, we were able to take this short video of one of the first special moments between my boys.

As parents, Big C and I have no other wish than to see our boys get along. Even when Little C was still in my tummy, we would say that nothing would make us happier. Now, I always tell J that he has to protect his little brother because he's bigger and stronger (and when I say 'strong', he makes a growling noise and does the macho arms thing that boys do) and that when Little C is bigger, he'll learn to protect and help his Ahya as well. I also told him that he's been given a very wonderful gift, a friend who will always be with him wherever he goes, just like his two playmates, sisters Elise and Erika. He seems to get it, and hopefully, Big C and I get our wish and our boys will be the best of friends. :-)

Little C's Birth Story

Here it is! My last birth story. I decided to write about it while it was still fresh in my mind. I hope that one day, my boys will want to read about how they came into the world.

Unlike G's and J's births, I was in a very positive state of mind about Little C's birth. Given that it was my third birth in four years, I was fairly confident about my ability to handle the labor and delivery. Also, since the ultrasounds showed that Little C was significantly smaller than J was, I would say that I was pretty cocky about my ability to push him out into the world.

But I learned a very important lesson the day Little C was born. Every labor and delivery is different.

Let me start this off by saying that with Little C, I was in no rush to give birth. There were still a lot of things to be done in preparation and I needed all the time I could get to have the house in order. I had a new maid to train, groceries to buy and errands to run in preparation for my month-long retreat into the world of motherhood.

At my 37 week check-up, my OB told me that I was already 1cm dilated, but since that's still in the latent (non-active) phase of labor, it would be a while before I actually gave birth. Besides, while books say that 37 weeks is considered full-term, I really wanted to give Little C some more time inside my tummy to grow. So I took it easy. I avoided going for walks and tried to stay off my feet as much as possible.

But at 37 weeks and 5 days of pregnancy, I woke up to a little bit of bloody discharge and regular contractions coming in at 4-9 minutes apart. Like I said, I was in no rush to give birth, so I decided to observe the contractions for a while. I went to my mom's house with J as planned. By 10 am, there was more discharge and the contractions were still regular. Since everyone was telling me that with this being my third time to give birth, things could progress really quickly and I could go into active labor at any given moment, I made a judgement call and asked my mom to go with me to the delivery room to get checked out. If there was still no progress, at least I could go home with assurance that Little C and I were okay.

At the hospital, my OB checked me out and said I was still at 1cm. I was already hopping off the table, thinking, "Great! I can still go home," when my OB hurriedly added that she didn't feel comfortable with me going home for that night. We live a bit far from the hospital, and she didn't want me suddenly going into labor and having to rush back to the hospital in the middle of the night. I struck a compromise with her and we agreed that I could just go out for a bit, run some errands, do some walking to hasten the labor and just go back to the hospital to get assessed later in the day.

To get some of my to-do's out of the way, my mom went with me to do the groceries. Later in the afternoon, Big C came to get me. We went out, walked for a bit, and had dinner. All the while, the contractions were coming steadily, in regular intervals. At about 830 pm, we went back to the delivery room, but I was only 2cm dilated. I wanted to go home, but again, my doctor didn't feel comfortable sending me home only to have me come back to the hospital in a panic, because I had suddenly gone into active labor. We decided to just get admitted and wait it out in the hospital. My doctor predicted that I would go into labor within 6-8 hours.

The next day brought more contractions, with increasing intensity, but I was still stuck at 2cm. Before the IE, I already told Big C that if there was no progress, I was going home no matter what the doctor said. I was already tired and I missed J terribly. I had never been apart from him for that long, and all I wanted to do was go home and see him. The doctor told us that since we were admitted late, the room was already paid for until late that evening and that it would be a waste for us to go home only to come back. She suggested waiting it out some more until that evening. She also suggested considering a labor induction.

By then I was already really frustrated with the back and forth. I was in no rush to give birth, but I was getting tired of everyone saying that the labor can go very quickly. To make a long story short, Big C and I discussed it thoroughly, and we consented to inducing labor.

The labor induction was started at 1pm, and I was hooked to an IV drip of syntocinon to intensify the contractions. I was also given a dose of buscopan to hasten the dilation of my cervix. In less than an hour, the contractions were coming at 2-3 minute intervals, and each contraction was getting more intense than the last. By 4 pm, there was still no progress, but the doctors assured me that reaching 4cm dilation would really take time and that labor induction was a waiting game.

After 4pm, I was in agony. The contractions were getting to be very painful, but I didn't want to ask for an epidural, at least until I reached active labor. If I did, it might slow down the progress and prolong the labor. So I gritted my teeth and inhaled and exhaled and tried to think happy thoughts. I was due for another IE at 7pm, and I was wishing with all my might that I had progressed to 4cm so that I could get an epidural. Good thing that by then, my anesthesiologist was already there at the hospital.

At this point, I should probably say that this was nothing like my labor with J. That went really well, and I progressed nicely without needing drugs. The pain intensified with each contraction, just as this one did, but the pain was bearable and I was able to last until 6cm dilation before I consented to the epidural.

By 7pm, there was still no progress and I was close to tears already. The next IE was scheduled at 10, and I was counting down the contractions and the minutes until then. The doctors were asking me if I wanted to be sedated, but I said no. To differentiate, sedation and having an epidural are two different things. The epidural basically numbs you, but the sedation would put me to sleep so that I wouldn't be aware of the worst of it. I didn't want to be sedated when I gave birth. I wanted to be awake to welcome Little C into the world.

I was allowed to make calls to the room to update Big C and my family. Sometime between 7pm and 11pm, I called the room and asked to talk to Big C. If I recall correctly, I threatened to smack him because of the pain I was in.

Thankfully, by 11pm, I had jumped to 6-7cm dilation. My water bag was ruptured to hasten the process and I was finally given the epidural. I subsided into a haze of numbness and I called Big C to let him know that it didn't hurt anymore. I probably wasn't making any sense at that time, but hey, you have to cut the lady in labor some slack. When the doctor asked me how I was feeling, I just said woozily, "I love you very much right now, Dra." (which made the doctors in the labor room laugh)

My OB predicted that it would be at least 2 more hours until it was time to push, so I was trying to nap a little bit to shore up my strength. From experience, I knew it would be a sleepless night and I needed all the rest I could get. But in another hour, the doctors told me that Little C was on his way out. I was quickly wheeled to the delivery room.

What followed was the longest and shortest hour of my life. Because the labor progressed much quicker than we expected, I think the epidural didn't have much time to work its way into my system, so I felt everything. It's at this point that I'd like to say hats off to the women who practiced Lamaze when giving birth. I've always said that I wasn't brave enough to undergo a non-medicated birth, and I really applaud the women who do. I was already in so much pain, and I didn't know if I could do it any longer. To think that I was already on a continuous epidural at that point.

When you're pushing a 7-pound something through a very small opening, you can expect that there's a lot of pressure. Thankfully, the epidural took the edge off most of the pain, but I could still feel the pressure as Little C made his way out of my body. You know that scene in movies where the pregnant woman gives one big push and then it's all done? It actually happens that way. You push hard one last time and then everything  just slides right out. I actually felt Little C slide out.

The moment I heard Little C cry, it's like all the cliches about childbirth came true for me. Everything faded into the background, even the unbearable pain that I underwent just mere seconds ago, and all I could focus on was that tiny human being they were placing on my chest. He was so small, much smaller than J was when he was born. It's true. Labor hurts like nothing else, but the minute you see your baby, all that is forgotten.

I gave birth to Little C at nearly 1am, and I was so tired I fell asleep by the time I arrived in the recovery room. When I woke up, every muscle in my body hurt, and I felt like a truck had rolled all over me -- several times. But by 6am, I was at the nursery to hold my son and feed him for the first time. By 9am, my little one was roomed in and there, our journey as a family of four started.

Say hello to my little dude!

Maternity Leave

Hello all!

I've been remiss on updating the blog lately, but I think I have a pretty good reason. :-)

Last week, our family of three officially became a family of four, when Caleb Matthew was born very early Saturday morning. Born at 38 weeks gestation, our latest addition weighed in at 7 lbs. 2 oz. and measured 50 cm in length. Happy to say that Mommy and Bubba are both resting at home.

As it is, I'll be taking the month off to recuperate and focus my energies on my two little ones. Watch out for posts on Little C's birth story (every pregnancy and birth experience really is different), ge-lai do's and don'ts based on my current (and hopefully last) ge-lai experience, and a VERY late Mothers' Day tribute post. I started on that last week, but babies have their own schedule, so I have yet to finish it.

Thanks to all the friends and family members who called/visited/texted us! A very merry month of May for all of  us!

My two greatest treasures!

Expo Mom 2012 at the Rockwell Tent

Expo Mom is a yearly event that I always look forward to, and this is my third year in a row to attend. This year's Expo Mom took place last May 5-6, 2012, at the Rockwell Tent. It's a great chance for mommies to check out what new goodies mompreneurs have for us.

Usually, I go on the very first day, early in the morning. During this time, the foot traffic is considerably lighter and the stall owners have time to talk to you about their products. But this year, I was unable to make it during the morning, so we went on Sunday afternoon, and when we got there, the place was bustling. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to take pictures, because I was immediately distracted by all the things to check out.

This is also my first time to attend the expo with other expectant moms. I was accompanied by two friends who are also first-time pregnant moms, and I'm guessing we were quite a sight, one in her first trimester (looking around to see what's available), another in her second trimester (definitely in shopping mode), and me in my third trimester (looking like I could give birth at any second).

While some mommies prefer to bring their little ones and their husbands to the expo, I prefer to go by myself. For one thing, J would most likely wreak havoc in the tent, what with all the cool things he can fiddle with there. For another, this really isn't Big C's cup of tea, and he'd be much happier browsing through True Value while I roam to my heart's content. Yesterday, the three of us were accompanied by our husbands, but going alone to these expos is the recommendation I gave my two friends. Our husbands have been friends since college, and while the three guys gamely followed us around and carried all the loot bags we got from the exhibitors, after half an hour, we found the three of them huddled in a corner, talking shop and god-knows-what.

I was looking for a cute outfit for Little C's one month birthday, body washes and/or shampoos for J, mosquito repellent, and a ring sling. Out of that list, I was only able to buy was the ring sling, which I got from the Mama.Baby.Love booth. A big, big thanks to Jonie of Mamaway, who was kind enough to assist me and one of my friends by giving us a thorough demonstration of the ring slings. My friend and I ended up purchasing one each. She got a Mamaway ring sling, while I bagged one of the Next9 ring slings. I was attracted to the prints of the Mamaway slings, but the huge pocket in the Next9 sling sealed the deal for me, since I always need a place to stash my keys and my phones.

I also stopped by the Cradle/Cycles booth to pick up a refill pack of the bottle and nipple cleanser and a bottle of the toy and surface cleaner. Another important stop was the Medela Moms, Inc. booth as well. My friend who's in her second trimester is looking for a good breastpump, and from experience, I recommended that she purchase a Medela. It's a great pump that's easy to use, plus Medela Moms offers a great warranty coverage and hands-on service for each customer.

I wasn't able to get the other stuff that I needed, because the place was already very crowded and with me in my last trimester on a scorching Sunday afternoon, I was already baking inside the tent, so we left after visiting our targeted booths. (The venue was very well-ventilated and the airconditioning was working fine, so I'm guessing it's just the pregnancy temperature spike that got to me.)

And of course, my favorite part of the Expo is the freebies and samples you get from the exhibitors. Child care products are often costly, and samples of products to try are always appreciated to help in making purchasing decisions. While Expo Mom always has a lot of goodies for attendees, this year, the expo was organized in such a way that promotions for the event was linked to more prizes for moms. Posting photos of this year's theme to promote the event gives you a chance to pick a prize from Mommy Mundo, while liking the Facebook pages of the exhibitors entitles you to freebies. In addition to that, by having your ticket stamped when you visit the booths entitles you to another prize.

I wasn't able to take pictures of all the loot bags, because I was so excited to dive in and explore what was inside. This year's haul, in addition to what I bought, yielded disposable pads from both Pigeon and Avent, samples of Pigeon fruit and vegetable wash, a breastmilk storage cup from Avent, sample diapers from Sweet Baby, and lots of interesting reading material, including the latest issue of Urban Mom, featuring the moms of the #RealMom campaign.

So while I wasn't able to get all the things I needed at this year's expo, just the chance to look around at all the cute stuff they have for our little ones, and for me as well, was a fun experience. I hope it was a good afternoon for my two friends also, and I'm already looking forward to next year's expo.

To Mommy Mundo, thanks for a great event! See you again next year!