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!