Prep

How do you prepare yourself for parenthood? 

The answer is, in many ways, you don’t. 

You tell yourself this is a good thing, something you want to do. To leave a legacy. Then you just brace yourself and roll with it. 
With the bad moments come many great memories too. Just like everything else in life. 

And if your heart is steadfastly fixated on the right things, it will be a wonderful journey. 

Mother nature


‘Twas Mother’s Day yesterday. And we made that up there (not the grapes, silly, the two coloured kuih thing). It’s called Ban Tng (at least it is in our family hehe) and it was a recipe that Mama (our grandmother) used to cook. She’s long gone now, but since my sis and I wanted to spend time with our Mum yesterday in conjunction with Mother’s Day, that’s what we decided to do. Cook together using a family tradition kind of recipe. 

Except that since it’s common for the older generation to use approximate measurements and cooking methods, my Mum decided to Google for a recipe that’s available online to refer to that as a guide. Hmm. So not quite the tradtional family recipe I was hoping to learn of. 

Nevertheless, it was a similar recipe and actually fairly easy to do. So, if you’d like to try what Ban Tng is (I realise this is not sold commercially anywhere in the Klang Valley, at least), you can visit this link for the instructions. Apparently the author of the post  has translated it as Three Layer Egg Custard Cake, so there you go… that’s essentially what it is). 

Well, it turned out more or less like what we expected. Except I remember Mama’s one being a bit tougher skinned. But that isn’t really an issue for me. I’d reduce the sugar ratio further though, as I felt it was still a tad too sweet. And the next time I try this out at home, I’m gonna weigh my ingredients so I can use a standardised measurement for it instead of this agak-agak philosophy. 

Anyway, since we’re on the topic of Mohter’s Day, I might as well share a bit about how I feel about motherhood at this juncture. It’s only my second Mother’s Day celebration though so perhaps my views may still be pretty naive. Hehe. Well, at least this year’s celebration was better than the last one (which I spent in the hospital with Jamie – you can read about that here). And I digress. 

So… 

I have always thought I would end up a mother. Never really expected that I would ever feel otherwise (though I actually did for a season, which was right after I got married, up till the time we actually conceived Jamie). I guess a huge part of me believes that as a woman, this is a quintessential experience that I must have before my life’s end. 

The reason for that? Well, on a biological-psychological level, I guess it’s to satifsy my maternal instincts. Which from a very young age was already present (I remember carting stuffed toys around and pretending to feed and care for them as though they were in fact alive). Also, I believed having children would bring a different level of meaning and purpose to my life. This was how I felt prior to having a child. 

Do I feel any different about parenthood now that I’m in it? No, actually. It is pretty much what I imagined it would be, but perhaps it is more too. 

More demanding – I am often placed into situations where I have to consciously decide whether to put my needs or the needs of my child first. 

More tiring – all those countless nights of falling asleep while Jamie nurses (indicative of how exhausted I am in reality. 

Yet, it is also more fulfilling than I could have ever envisioned beforehand. There are so many special moments that I am glad to have shared with Jamie. And I hope for many, many more as the years roll by.

Another thing that happened last weekend was that I had to give up a tooth due to a terribly severe cavity that had taken place inside of it. 

I was really sad to have it extracted, but it was the best option, at least according to the dentist that I consulted. The reason it bothers me so much is because so much of dental work has been done on my teeth over the years, and it feels like an awful waste that the tooth should still end up being unable to be saved. 

But that’s that, I guess. Had to be done. Was the cheaper option too (thank God), and hopefully it will prevent me from having anymore significant aches on the right side of my mouth which I used to have really often. 

I guess inevitably my body is ageing and succunbing to wear and tear in its own ways. I am not really that old yet, but I already see so many signs that I am not as young as I used to be. It’s a little unsettling, but there’s no stopping time. Probably my life has already had half or two thirds of its entire lifespan carried out already. It’s a scary thought. 

I guess the most I can hope for is for God to be gracious enough to grant me enough years so I can see Jamie (and any other future children of mine) grow up into adulthood and help them to safely transition into a life of independence and confidence. 

I am a fairly simple person. I do not have such lofty expectations of the outcome of my life. If I can just be around to ensure the wellbeing of my family to the point in time where they can function well even in my absence, I think I will be content enough. 

Jamie is asleep on my lap as I type this. I usually take such oppotunities to smell and kiss him to my heart’s content. It’s an everyday privilege of mine, but one that will vanish someday. What will I be like when my motherly duties taper down to a bare minimum in the future? The thought somewhat terrifies me. I worry I will go crazy because I would have become so accustomed to it by then. 

But I suppose if God has meant for me to be a mother, and if He is indeed the source of the strength that has sustained me all this while, He will preserve my sanity when my motherly tendencies are not so much required anymore. 

The only conclusion I can make for now is this: If being a mother is the only significant thing I accomplish in this life, I think I will still be pretty much content. 

Hope you had a great Mother’s Day if the mummy title applies to you too. Now, back to (house)work.

Madness or the fine line between 

Apparently, I used to lead a different kind of life before Jamie. I just about almost cannot recall any of it. Or even when I do, it all feels like a distant memory. 

I was talking to my Mum about it in the car just now. About how when you become a mother, you don’t have time for things like taking care of yourself. 

I have 2 separate toes oozing with puss that I have yet to figure out what to do about. 

I am deprived of sleep. Even when I do sleep, it’s mostly sitting up thanks to difficulties nursing Jamie lying down. 

I just had a cold yesterday thanks to being topless too long in a room with the air conditioning on (something we seldom do at home, but chose to do yesterday in order to keep the room extra cool so Jamie would feel more comfortable while battling his high fever). But I couldn’t rest because Jamie was unwell and he was constantly needing me. 

I have been due for a follow up appointment with an ENT doctor since the middle of this year. It’s now December. 

I never used to have this, but now I am almost constantly with a red/pink spot on my nose and dry patches of skin all around my mouth. Hideously ugly and hard to hide, even with makeup. 

Am I less of a selfish person because of all this?

Yes and no. 

Circumstances can shape the person you become. But it does not determine who you eventually will be. Only you alone can do that. If you allow yourself to learn the lessons you need to, and to let go of the things you needn’t cling on to. 

Every day, I am trying to be more patient with Jamie. And with myself. I still fail. 

But I wake up with each sunrise, and try again. 

Rain and cupcakes 

Rainy week it has been. Today is no exception to the ongoing streak. I don’t mind, really, since I love rain. 

Jamie does too, except once the thunder and lightning get too much. I decided to keep the curtains drawn and had some music playing on Spotify to keep him distracted today when it was pouring. But I think it wasn’t as dashyat as yesterday so he didn’t seem to be affected. 

Yesterday, he would have this slight look of terror every time he saw a lightning flash. He can now anticipate that after that comes the thunder. (We had an episode last weekend where our neighbours in the landed homes beneath us had a fireworks party and it absolutely terrified Jamie because it seemed as if it were just outside our balcony. He has been extra nervous about thunder ever since). 

Well, he’s asleep… for now. I am having an early coffee break. Not a common occurrence in this job of mine as Work-At-Home-Mum. I’m eating cupcakes that I baked yesterday. Also while it was raining. There are 2 left. I *should* be leaving one each for Deric and Jamie… but it’s tempting to just have another… No one would know… *rubs hands gleefully* 

On a more serious note, I’m actually feeling a little melancholic today. Perhaps it’s the recent challenges of breastfeeding Jamie at night (he has been having more midnight awakenings, teething perhaps?) and also the mundaneness of chores and work. I don’t even feel I’m perky enough around Jamie (and I have always tried to be since I want to raise him to be a cheerful boy and not melancholic like me). 

I had sketched out a plan to write a book. It’s currently on hold as I manage my workload. My work is sort of on pause mode because I feel I’ve hit a wall for one of my ongoing jobs and am dawdling while waiting for the client to reply me on the issues (I generally do not like to talk about work issues on this blog so that’s all I will say about it). 

Quick lament to say that for some reason lately I seem to have lost the spark for writing. I can still do it, but I find little delight in it. It’s like I’m on autopilot. Muscle memory. Responding on reflex. This is worrying. What should I do about this? 

I still daydream about selling handmade stuff of mine. I tested out a modest little motif for some hairpin design I thought would be good to start off with. I need to work out costing. I can’t because I need to go out to check out the materials. 

I want to do craft projects but there never seems to be the right time. Or I put other things as more of a priority over it and never get round to actually doing anything. I have so many planned and pending projects! I’ve told my husband countless times that I might die buried beneath all the tools and raw materials I’ve purchased for crafting. 

Meanwhile, my ukelele’s only function at the moment is to entertain Jamie. He will frequently exclaim, “Guitar!” and gesture towards our study where the uke and Deric’s guitar and other miscellaneous music instruments we own are stored. Once in awhile, I will relent and take the uke out for him. I still haven’t progressed from learning chords from the C key (in fact, I think I’ve forgotten what F chord is like). 

Sigh. My music interests seem to have dwindled too. Even choosing songs on Spotify to play for myself is such a difficult task. What tunes do I like nowadays? Why can’t I figure it out? 

More rain now and a very loud burst of thunder. My heart nearly stopped worrying Jamie might awaken in fear in his bed. He didn’t. Back to my coffee. Forgive my long post. It’s been awhile since I shared my thoughts. 

Shorter stories next round. I promise. 

 

The life and times of a teeny toddler

Toddlers are busy bees, flitting from one activity to the next within minutes.
* This story was also published on Saya Seorang Ibu on August 27. 

Life with a toddler is crazy! Not sure if this is the case for everyone, but Jamie hardly ever sits still. Whatever mess I clean up after him is almost immediately created again. It’s like his goal in life is to upset everything. 

His enthusiasm for life is refreshing though. For a 30 something year old me especially, who sometimes can fail to comprehend how intriguing it is to taste silly little things like dust bunnies (well, back in my day I ate tissue just to try out how it feels like on my tongue) or how satisfying it is to repeat a new word you’ve learned ten thousand times.

This toddler phase seems to have dawned upon us very suddenly. I knew, of course, that once Jamie turned a year old, lots of things about him would change. But I would not have been able to imagine beforehand just how vast the differences would be. It’s almost as if Jamie flipped an internal switch upon hitting his first birthday, and it immediately altered everything about him. 

But well, despite all the ups and downs and trying times (screams are at unbearably shrill pitches and we are also starting to see the beginnings of tantrums), there’s much to be savoured about this phase in Jamie’s life. I’m doing my best to make the most of it. Before long, he’ll be all grown up and not the clingy little tot who adores me so much. *sniff* 

Here are some things I’ve learned  about toddlerhood so far: 

Keep them in sight. As before, it’s inadvisable to leave the child unattended for too long. In fact, it might be even more important to keep this mind than it had been when they were still infants. Just avert your gaze from them for a few seconds and next thing you know, they’re popping something dangerous into their mouths or putting themselves in harm’s way somehow. *gasp*

Feed them adequately and vary meals. Appetites soar even more than before now. I realise the importance of tea times now. And snacks, wherever necessary. That means lots more food planning, preparation and cleaning up afterwards. It’s also been a priority of ours to make sure that we offer Jamie a variety of food in his meals. That has worked out really well as he seems to like most foods these days. 

Toddlers will eventually want to self feed if they aren’t already doing so. I loved the idea of baby led weaning, but never quite understood how to pull it off in the first year of Jamie’s life. You could say we more or less failed, although in the end, we at least managed to get him to eat with his hands. However, once he entered his second year, he showed keenness to learn how to feed himself with a spoon and to drink from a normal cup. So we decided to teach him and to let him continue to play with his food and attempt to feed himself. The results have been great. (It’s a lot of mess to clean up though, sometimes, but well, I’m home based and have a flexible schedule so it doesn’t matter as much). 

Irritating behaviour mostly occurs for a reason. Prior to having a child, I always found it annoying whenever someone else’s kid started to scream or cry or kick up some kind of a fuss. Now, with a child of my own, I understand such behaviour better. I’ve found that Jamie only screams for a few reasons: (1) He’s reached his energy limits and is tired and in dire need of sleep; (2) He’s frustrated about something and needs my help; or (3) He wants something that he was told he cannot have. So before reprimanding Jamie for screaming, what I do nowadays is to first observe what he is doing to determine whether he is just simply asking for my assistance or in need of my attention. 

Undivided attention matters. It isn’t enough for Jamie that I am in the same room as he is. He often walks all the way to where I am just to communicate with me. He wants me to be within arm’s length and to be looking him in the eyes. Even sitting next to him while being occupied with my smartphone is not acceptable. He wants me to be focussed on him. And perhaps, that’s as it should be. I need to constantly remind myself of that. 

Continually teach them new stuff because they are eager to learn. It amazed me just how fast Jamie picked up new words over the past few months. Back when he turned one year old, the only words he could say were “papa”, “mmm-meh” (in reference to me), “nen nen” (breastmilk) and “dog-dog”. Now, he can say at least a dozen or more words. It’s almost as if he is learning a new word every few days. I need to remind myself to keep introducing new words and concepts to him though. 

The imitation habit begins. Toddlers imitate what we do a lot. Which means I really have to be careful what I do or say around him. There was a brief period where my Mum and I observed that Jamie would utter something that sounded close to “stupid” and so, I had to re-evaluate whether I had been saying that word a lot around him. Thankfully that habit has seemed to pass. Or we could have just heard him wrongly. But either way, it’s something to be mindful of. What we do around our toddlers. 

Childproofing is troublesome, but worth it. I bet you most Malaysian families don’t think too much of childproofing their homes. For us, though, it would be hard to imagine NOT doing so as Jamie is really inquisitive and super active. We have two safety gates installed at home, limiting his freedom to roam to only the living room. We have also started installing drawer locks, sliding door stoppers and much more. For a parent like me who is often alone at home with a toddler, this really makes a difference as I can at least disappear for a few minutes here and there to get things done around the home without worrying that Jamie will put himself in grave danger (although there are still some hazards present, those are minimal; nevertheless it’s important to still monitor them constantly – see my first point above). 

Toddlers need assurance to move towards independence. This I read from somewhere. It may seem like your tot is clinging to you more than ever, and it may be surprising since you expect them to become more independent by now. Truth is, they ARE growing more independent, but it’s a back-and-forth process whereby they’ll still periodically come back to you for assurance. In my case, this comes in the form of Jamie constantly clinging to my leg,  leaning on my back (when I’m seated on the floor) or arbitrarily asking for “nen nen” though not being actually hungry. But as frustrating as this seems, I’ve discovered that this is normal for their development so it doesn’t bother me as much as it might be expected to. 

Self weaning can happen, as long as you are patient. I posted something about this on one of the breastfeeding Facebook groups that I am a member of. From the responses of other mothers, I realised that Jamie might already be on the path to self weaning. He still nurses in the middle of the night, but much less. And daytime feeds seem to be decreasing too, in terms of demand and also duration. I’ve less instances where my breasts feel full (of milk) and absolutely no more necessity to pump for relief. I read that nursing sessions that are first thing in the  morning and  last thing at night will be the final ones to go. Nowadays, Jamie also tends to ask for “nen nen” more for a chance to be close to me than to actually feed. It’s a little surprising and occasionally makes me feel sad because I think of how our nursing days may soon be numbered, but it’s a good sign that he’s graduating to other things in life. For which I am proud of him. 

There’s probably more to say than what I’ve listed here but I can’t seem to think of it at this hour of the night. Perhaps I’ll share it with you in other posts when I regain my memory (if that’s even possible). 

But well, if you don’t remember anything else from this post, just take note: Toddlerhood is challenging but so rewarding to be a part of. It’s just a season. With lots of help and encouragement, these kids of ours will get one step closer to one day facing life on their own without us. That’s the goal. We’re shaping future adults here. One wobbly step at a time. 

The quick brown fox

I’m having my lunch and I’ve got a moment. Jamie’s asleep and for a brief period of time, I can do as I please. For now. 

(We’re due to be out the door soon though, as I need to make an unplanned visit to the dentist to fix an unfortunate hole in my mouth left in the wake of a cracked temporary tooth filling. More on that later.) 

It’s Friday and I’m glad. Every week, I look forward to Friday even though I’m at home almost all the time and there’s no after office jam to battle or work-free days to look forward to on the weekend (my work consists of being the main caregiver to Jamie and being a freelance writer and usually it’s the case whereby I’m either doing one or the other at any given day of the week). 

I’m just happy to reach the Friday mark because it means I’ve survived another week of mayhem at home (of which there is more now thanks to an increasingly mobile Jamie). And also because it means that for the next two whole days, I’ll have Deric around to keep me company. 

Weekends are crucial for my sanity. They remind me that there is always hope. That a break in the monotonous domestic schedule can do wonders for my enthusiasm to dive right back into it when Monday comes knocking. 

Now, back to what I was saying earlier about the damaged tooth filling… 

I was trying my hardest to stay awake and work last night till the wee hours of 3am. And I desperately needed a snack, and was resisting coffee, leaving it for a last resort. So I picked up some corn nuts, a deliciously addictive snack that is sadly too gruelling to crunch on for teeth already marred by prior decay. So it cracked, that temporary filling on my molar which was only due to be given a permanent repair next Tuesday. 

So I have to make that trip to the dentist today. It’s challenging going much of anywhere mid-week, thanks to my darling tag-along, Jamie. But thankfully Grandma (Jamie’s, that is) is available today so we can go. 

Here’s to the Soon-To-Be Weekend. And Jamie’s wailing now. So. Goodbye!

Back in red

So my period came back today. It’s been approximately a year since I last had one. Wow. How time flies.

Last year, on 31 August, Malaysia’s independence day, I lost my personal independence when Deric and I discovered that I was pregnant.

We had bought a home pregnancy test kit just the day before from Caring Pharmacy, and that morning was the designated day that I would do the test on myself. Worrying that I would pee and miss the mark where I was supposed to aim at on the test kit, I opted to pee into a cup first and then to put the test stick in.

Two lines appeared, which meant, according to the way the kit was designed, that I had something growing inside me.

My period had been about a month late by then. I literally had waited for one whole month to pass before actually checking because I didn’t really want a false alarm.

By that time, Deric and I had already come to an agreement about having kids. We had decided we were okay with the possibility of it happening, and had been having unprotected sex for a couple of months. We didn’t track dates or count days. I didn’t even bother figuring out when exactly I ovulated.

One part of me was not too convinced that it was that easy to get pregnant. There were so many tales out there of couples who wanted to conceive but had to wait really long before it actually happened. Some even had problems which would require medical intervention. I guess I just assumed that it wouldn’t be that easy for us either.

Well, apparently I was wrong about that.

But anyway, to backtrack a little further back than that, I recall a time when I was still uncertain about how I felt about becoming a mother. I feared that I would not have it in me to raise a child. Not so much the financial considerations as it was the ability to nurture and set a child on the right path in life.

I also wondered whether I would regret having had children halfway through raising them. Whether a day would come when I would be sorry I brought a few extra sampah masyarakat into the world.

However, as with all other aspects of my life, I felt God patiently working in me to prepare me for the journey to parenthood. Little things that happened along the way helped to reassure me and opened my mind and heart to the possibilities of it occurring in my life.

One particular incident that has remained in my memory is the time when Deric’s JB pastor and his wife came up to PJ to speak at my parent’s church. I got to meet their two sons that day, and was impressed at how well mannered they were and how blessed they were in the way their lives had turned out.

Of course, this was because their parents honoured and served God faithfully over the years. The favour of God on His leaders. But that point aside, I also found out that the pastor’s wife was a homemaker and had quit her job to take care of the children.

This is a common thing for my parent’s generation, and even my own mother did that, but for some reason, something about their family struck me.

And later that evening, when we had dinner with my parents and the pastor and his family, I remember his wife asking me about having children somewhere in the middle of the conversation that was going on. Usually, I would be slightly uncomfortable and offended whenever people asked me such things, but for some reason, because it was her asking, and I had a reasonable amount of respect for her, I didn’t react that way. I think I even hinted at the fact that we were planning for it in the future.

Something she said to me at that time really encouraged me. I cannot recall exactly what it was but it was the beginning of a different perspective in my heart. I guess having seen her able to raise her boys well and through all of that maintain a graceful demeanour as a woman and mother and wife made me think perhaps it could be possible for me too.

Not long after that day, I remember a specific moment where I was in the toilet at home thinking about the prospects of parenthood. Then I prayed to God saying that if it was His will that I became a mother, that He would make my pregnancy journey a smooth one and help me through the process.

This was because, in addition to worrying whether I had what it took to be a mother, I was also rather concerned about how my body would respond to pregnancy.

Bearing a baby in your womb for 9 months just seemed like an awfully scary thing to go through. There were all these health issues that accompanied pregnancy and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to endure them. Morning sickness. Carrying around additional weight which would lead to swollen ankles and a painful back (I had a history of a slipped disc and was unclear whether pregnancy would worsen it). Who knows what else.

After I had said that prayer, I felt a whole lot better and there was a certain degree of peace.

Then came that moment on the 31st of August which I had described.

Looking back, now that I’ve successfully navigated through the 9 month of pregnancy, I think God heard and answered my prayer. Mine was a relatively fuss free experience.

Of course, there were physical ailments that I had to endure. But given the tales that I’ve heard other women go through, I think whatever I suffered pales in comparison. In fact, I wouldn’t really call it suffering. Pregnancy also had joys of its own to offer. And Deric and I did enjoy that season of our lives as much as we could.

Now it’s onward into the days of parenting, and 3+ months into the program, I’m still glad we made this choice to start a family together. It’s tiring but it’s fun. And the world will be blessed to have Jamie in it. At least that’s what I hope and pray for.

Perhaps the time is right to revisit my pregnancy journey now and to share the experience as what I had intended to do after my delivery (and had failed to, obviously). I have the benefit of some distance in time now which allows me to reflect on those moments more objectively instead of writing about them in an impassioned state while in the midst of the experience itself.

Time has indeed gone by so quickly. It feels like ages ago since I conceived. I can hardly believe that I am where I am today: at home with a baby boy to care for and a career on the verge of change.

But I must say I am glad that I have reached this point as I plod on further into my 30’s. I have no clue how long I will have on this Earth, but I suppose for whatever time God affords me, hopefully I can leave a legacy behind through Jamie.

It’s an overwhelming feeling to be nurturing someone who will outlive you. I still don’t know how I’ll do this. But if the unexpected smoothness of my pregnancy experience is anything to go by, I’m thinking God will give me the grace to see it through.