Saturday, April 29, 2006

Q1 review?

It's one thing to read about stuff in books or hear about other mothers' experiences, and another to experience them for myself. So here are my Top 10 things I learned this past quarter. No apologies for sounding plagiaristic either as I'm sure millions of mommies out there would be familiar with these:

1. Babies are multitaskers
Leah has a never-fail-to-amaze-me ability to wee, poo and eat all at once...even in the same breath sometimes. There's an amusing take on an all too familiar sitch on the email circuit called Splish Splash but I can't upload the powerpoint presentation onto this blog.

2. I can survive on 2-3 hour blocks of sleep per day for months at a time!
There is no need for uppers or amphetamines when the reason for getting out of bed is wailing her head off in Defcon 3, and I'm worrying that she's not getting enough nutrition or that my breastmilk supply will taper off if I don't feed her regularly.

3. I can experience joy, fear, frustration and tiredness all at the same time too.
(See #2 as example situation)

4. Cloth diapers contain runny poo better than disposables
I think it is because most disposable diapers don't have enough gathers at the back which allows breastfed poo to trickle or ooze out. I have now learned not to put Leah in a horizontal position when she's wearing disposables and nursing (see #1 above): it's not pleasant to feel warm stickiness ooze onto my hands.

5. Baby girls can wee just like baby boys
Leah can pee with the best of the boys as we found out to the detriment of our parquet flooring and bookshelves. Maybe it is the pressure and angle, but she has described perfect parabolic arcs a few times. Once even hitting her mark: her daddy's right eye. This fountain of wee then usually splashes on the floor, the bed, and if a bookshelf is nearby, then sometimes our books.

6. To treasure every minute, every day
Leah is growing so fast that I sometimes catch myself wondering what's happened to the little premmie with the Elvis backcomb. Her face is changing, her vocal range expanding (now I know babies really
do go "ga" and "goo") and her appetite is bigger too!
What is scary though is that I have no clear memories of nursing Leah in the first 2 months: none at all of what she looked like in my arms as I nursed her. Perhaps all the sleep deprivation has made huge gaps in my memory. Perhaps the business of coping day to day with regular feeds, nappy changing, laundry, my own mood swings et al, has left little room in the brain for storing those precious moments. But I feel so bereft!
Now I consciously try to remember her looks, her feel, her sounds when I nurse her...in order that I may remember what she was like in future. Plus I'm now taking pictures of her every week as a reference.

7. Breastfed poo smells
I have been misled by all the books and parenting websites! Contrary to what they say (that bf poo is not smelly; some even allege that it's sweet smelling!), Leah's poo smells. Okay, so it isn't as maladorous as adult poo but still, it ain't eau de Chanel.
And she farts: from silent lethal ones to loud poppers. Not very ladylike (takes after her mommy -- haha!).

8. Every child is different
It is often inescapable to start comparing babies, but I have tried to stay calm and not worry about whether Leah has begun grasping things or turned over etc yet. She seems to want to sleep more than some other babies and it can be a bit embarrassing and disheartening to have her fall asleep (and snore) during mommy & baby yoga classes (while the other bubs are happily cooing and responding to their mommies), but hey, I just have to accept it and maybe appreciate this now when she's placid as later it may be pretty hard trying to catch up with her while she toddles.

9. Leah sets her own routine
I don't know if she truly has reflux, but her 'colic' period has been extraordinarily long: from week 3 to now at 3.5 months! She's a perfect little angel during the day (although there are occasions when she does cry when I try to nurse her, but I think it is due to my fast milk let-down) but she turns into Ms Hyde in the evenings.
Thus, it has been near impossible implementing whatever Gina Ford or Baby Whisperer type routine for the evenings when she just won't nurse, arching her back to wail and wail. I don't nurse her by 'demand' but try to keep to regular intervals of 2.5-3 hours between feeds so that she has time to digest the milk, which I hoped would help with reflux: she seems to exhibit reflux signs such as excessive spit ups and drool and crying when nursing at night.
The trouble is convincing her doctor to do something about it!

10. Patience!
Alright, so I'm still not the most patient person in the world (by a looooong shot as my husband will testify) but when it comes to Leah, I think I have mellowed (if I say so myself!). There are the couple of occasions when I have screamed into pillows pleading with her to shut up (during particularly bad 'colicky' spells when I was dead tired in the late evenings) but generally, Leah has taught me to slow down and to go at her pace. And when she finally rewards me with a genuine gummy smile, it makes the weeks of grinning like a mad hyena to her all worth while.


It is actually difficult trying to think up 10 specific 'lessons' from these past months: I do suffer from brain damage and can't seem to think coherently these days. But the above list is not the end of it. Leah is still teaching hubby and me a lot of things. (We just can't articulate them?) But I guess the most important of all: it is possible to love somebody without expecting anything back.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

confession of a nappy addict

First off I would like to confess that I am not 100% on cloth. I do use disposables for nights and sometimes when we go out. So this is not a full-on cloth advocacy site; when someone invents a cloth nappy that super-soaker Leah can be comfortable (read: sleep soundly) in overnight, then I will be the first to invest in that product!

So why have I chosen to dipe Leah in cloth?
I was inspired by my sister-in-law in the UK who diapered her twins this way. She introduced me to modern cloth nappying: shaped nappies that do not need to be folded. When I saw that her husband could change such nappies really easily with these new type of cloth nappies I was sold.

But after the inspiration came stubborness. Much later, when back in Malaysia I became pregnant, I went to pregnancy fitness classes and met other mums-to-be. After one of the classes I asked a few friends if they intended to cloth nappy. The looks of horror that greeted that innocent question amazed me. I could almost hear sharp intakes of breath, as the literary-minded are wont to say.

One woman huskily said, "There is no diaper service in Malaysia." She was referring to cloth nappy laundering and delivery services that are available in the UK and USA. Another lady said, "Oh disposable diapers are more convenient", nodding her head as if making a wise pronouncement. I then realised that their notion of cloth nappies was of traditional large muslin squares that need to be folded and pinned and are not very absorbent. But to keep our conversation on an even keel I kept my mouth shut and we moved to less contentious matters.

I was quietly adamant, however, to try cloth nappies as I find disposable nappies a bit repulsive. Maybe because they are manufactured by large companies. Maybe because I find them aesthetically unappealing.

Start of the addiction
Alone, so I thought, in Malaysia in my cloth nappy quest, I did my own research (the miracle of the Internet) on cloth nappies and finally sought the advice of one of the consultants from The Nappy Lady (a UK cloth nappy retailer). From that advice and judging from most of the posters on cloth nappy fora I decided to plump for Bumbles and Mother-ease One Size nappies.

These arrived in time for my premature delivery of Leah (see previous post) but I found them enormous on my little baby, who although had chipmunk cheeks, was slight everywhere else. So while I stuck to despisable disposable diapers for several weeks I did more research on cloth nappies.

It was like moving from a world of black and white television to colour; from snail mail to e-mail. I had been living a bland cloth nappy existence in comparison when I saw the colourful and pretty options out in the world wide web.

To the exasperation of hub-unit, who thinks I have enough cloth nappies now, I am still trawling different WAHM cloth nappy sites for interesting nappies. To me, besides whatever marginal or real environmental reasons for using cloth, it is also a matter of aesthetics. Cloth nappies are like any other fashion item in Leah's wardrobe, if not the most important!

Now, the results of my nappy addiction can be viewed on this blog.

A minor peeve: I am still searching for the perfect nighttime cloth nappy, one that is super-absorbent yet keeps Leah dry, and thus undisturbed from her beauty sleep. Because of this I still have Leah in disposables at night. I know, boo hiss. (When hubby is away on business I am 100% cloth though, as he is the one who insists on disposables for nights.)

For independent opinions, or user comments on cloth nappies (aka real nappies) I recommend these sites:

These are the sites from which I have ordered real nappies:

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

quote of the day: 25 April 2006

After I came out from the shower hubby said: "Wow, that's a HUGE scar. Will it ever heal?"

This is 3.5 months after my c-section. Nice one, darling.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

picture gallery 1

Here are the various types and brands of nappies from my stash (as of 19 April; I'm itching to get more).
Leah @ 3 months, weighing over 6kg


Nappy: Bumble
Manufacturer: Easy Peasy
Comments: The Bumble has a white terry cloth outer with white fleece inner that is fastened with either pins or a Nappi-n
ippa (aka Snappi). It has an optional insert - a rectangular length of a few terry layers - that can be snapped in one end inside. But Leah isn't wearing it in this picture. I find that with the insert the nappy becomes very bulky, although with the insert it can be used as a night-time nappy.
Leah used to be quite happy for a few hours in a Bumble as the fleece interior covers the inside of the nappy and kept her dry-ish. But she is a super soaker and now I think I need to boost this nappy with the insert. Or change her more frequently.
Also, the terry has gotten very stiff and hard washing in the &%
#!@ hard water here. Even flapping them vigorously to try to fluff up the fibres doesn't work. *sigh*

Wrap/ Cover: Bummis Whisper Super Snap
Manufacturer: Bummis
Comments: I fin
d Bummis wraps are pretty low rise and if you have a bulky nappy the fit isn't so good. They are however pretty trim over boosters and trim nappies (like the Diddy and Rainbow Tots). There are no leg gussets but I like the elastic gathers at the back and the leg openings - they are encased in lycra, so not as 'sharp' to the skin as the Mother-ease wraps' bindings.
For now there is still room for 'horizonta
l' growth in this wrap, but when Leah gets longer this wrap may reveal a 'builder's bum'!
I also bought the Bummis Whisper Super Wrap, which closes with Aplix, in Small. It is still OK (by a stretch) if I use a booster lined with fleece just for brief periods, but at the rate Leah's waist is expanding I shall need to put it away very very very soon.

Nappy: Diddy Diaper
Manufacturer: Nature Babies

Comments: This diaper would
be great for newborns. Too bad I didn't have it in Leah's first 2 months though. It is made of unbleached terry cloth (outer) with an unbleached cotton jersey (like t-shirt material) inner. It can be fastened with either pins or a Nappi-nippa (aka Snappi).
I like it as it is a very very trim nappy (Le
ah wears the Newborn size which allegedly fits up to 18 lbs depending on build) but it needs to be boosted: I can add a booster/insert outside the nappy (in between the nappy and wrap) for added absorbency to prevent the nappy from becoming too bulky.
I have also used this as an insert for a Small FuzziBunz and it seeme
d to work. Lasted Leah more than 2 hours in that combination.
There is no hidden waterproof layer so a cover is needed for this napp
y.

Nappy: Fuzzi Bunz
Manufacturer: Fuzzi Bunz
Comments: This is a pocket nappy, meaning there is no sewn in soaker layer to the nappy, just a pocket for laying in one's own absorbent material.
I find the rise of the FBs a bit low, truth be told, but they are great out-and-about nappies as they are trimmer than the 2-part system and I don't have to fiddle with a separate wrap if I need to change her while out.
As previously noted, I have used a Small FB stuffed to the brim with a Diddy Diaper and it didn't leak at all when used for a couple of hours. Previously though I had stuffed the Small with a Bumble insert along with a Mother-ease booster and the bulkiness made the pocket opening gape. There was too much nappy between the legs and there was some leakage of bf poo: never again will I overstuff FBs!

Nappy: Kissaluvs Colours
Manufacturer: Kissaluvs

Comments: Su
ch a beautiful nappy! Wonderfully soft, although it is stiffening with the hard water in my area. Made of cotton fleece (not to be confused with poly fleece used as nappy liners) like the insides of deluxe sweatshirts.
Leah is wearing a Size 1 and it should fit her for a while. I just wish I had bought fewer Mother-ease One Size nappies a
nd got these instead.
A cover is needed for this nappy. For this I normally use a Mother-ease Airflow.

Wrap/ Cover: Modern Baby cotton wrap
Manu
facturer: Modern Baby
Comments: The Modern Baby cotton/PUL wraps come in great colours and the cotton exterior is nice and soft. The inside P
UL layer seems to be quite thick -- thicker than the Mother-ease wraps anyway -- but because the exterior is cotton, when Leah wears this for long periods (e.g. in a car seat or pram), the wrap wicks.
Because this wrap closes with Aplix there is some flexibility in getting the waist to fit well. There are also leg gussets in this wrap so there is better leg containment. That said, with bulky nappies on a growing Leah, this wrap may not last long...sigh.

Nappy: Mother-ease One Size
Manufacturer: Mother-ease
Comments: The One Size is as can be inferred from its name, meant to be used from birth to potty training. But I have fo
und it incredibly bulky for a newborn. Leah is just beginning to look alright wearing it, and the nappy still needs to be folded for a shorter rise on her.
The terry material of the nappy is actually very nice and feels like a plush short pile carpet. It dries well and doesn't go as stiff as the Bumble. However, it does not seem to be as absorbent as I would have liked, which is a pity because it
is well made.

Wrap/Cover: Nature Babies
Manufacturer: Nature Babies
Comments: This wrap has an amazing number of poppers, which can be finicky to use especially since the wrap material is soft and elastic. There are 3 sets of poppers --- for the waist, legs and to shorten the rise of the front of the nappy. A great idea in theory, but quite difficult to master when trying to get everything on a wriggly baby.
Initially I was attracted to this wrap's m
any different colours and prints but it feels a bit rubbery and is not my favourite.

Nappy: Rainbow Tots
Manufacturer: Tots Bots
Comments: This is a terry nappy that is longer looped (is there such a phrase?) than the Bumble and consequently much softer. It comes with sewn-in booster and microfleece liner which can be a pain when I want to boost it differently.
However, it is a trim nappy and cute looking, even if it is not as absorbent as the Bumble. If I had known how soft and cute they are I think I would've bought more.

Nappy: Wee Wonder (Original)
Manufacturer: Wee Notions UK

Comments: I ordered bespoke nappies from this WAHM, choosing the colours and patterns for the microfibre exterior and inner fleece layers as well as the lycra binding. It came with a built-in insert that I can pull out
to dry after the nappy has been washed.
It is a very well constructed nappy (there are colour coordinated buttons to keep the 'wings' of the nappy flushed to the sides and there is hidden elastic used to adjust the leg openings) and it looks fab, but I am ambivalent about microfibre.
As it traps moisture between its fibres instead of within them like cotton, the slightest pressure on the nappy makes wee drip out. And with a super soaker like Leah there was a lot of wee to drip (on the floor, the bed...you get the picture) when I took the nappy out of the wrap to put into the nappy bin! It is also quite an expensive nappy.
With the original Wee Wonder there is no hidden PUL layer so I need to use a wrap over this nappy. If I had to do my ordering again I would've gotten Wee Wonder Pockets instead --- better for showing off too as then the nappy can be seen and not be covered by a wrap.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

shopping list

In the Nursery
1. Cot – Best to get one that has one or both sides that can be pulled up and down, with different heights for the mattress base (3 is good). This way your back and belly won’t hurt so much when you bend to put baby down or carry him up.
a. Mobile
b. Mattress – a firm one that won’t sink so that baby won’t suffocate when he rolls over
c. Blanket - for swaddling
d. Bumper – unnecessary until baby is perhaps 10 months
e. Cot sheets
f. Mattress protector

2. Changing unit/ mat – A mat is portable, but a changing unit could double as drawers for storing all the nappies and bb clothes. See #3.
3. Cupboard/ chest of drawers for storing clothes etc. – Or clear space in your built-in cupboards
4. Clothes
a. Body suits/babygros/onesies
b. Mittens – don’t need many, one pair will do actually
c. Bootees – a pair will do
d. Tops - long and short sleeves
e. Bottoms – shorts and trousers

5. Sleeping sack
6. Cotton balls/ baby wipes
7. Cotton buds – for cord care, NOT for ears!
8. Room thermometer
9. Baby thermometer (for underarm temperature readings)
10. Nail clippers (or you could use scissors specially designed for cutting bb fingernails)
11. Nappy rash prevention cream (e.g. Bepanthen)
12. Oil for wind (Yew Yee oil)
13. Baby belly belt - to wrap round the waist after putting on Yew Yee oil
14. Woodward’s Gripe Water
15. Nappies - newborn babies need to be changed 10-12 times a day. Buy enough nappies to keep you going for at least the first few days or so.
16. Baby Monitor
17. Burp cloths – something to keep your clothes from getting spit-ups and vomit. These can be traditional muslins which can be used as general covers for furniture, bb changing etc.
18. Playpen (later purchase)
19. Bouncer/ Walker (later purchase) – there are some who argue that bouncers and walkers actually impair babies’ ability to walk properly
20. Stairgates (later purchase)
21. Rubber protectors (later purchase)


First-aid Kit
1. Paracetamol for babies – also called infant suspension
2. Antihistamine for babies
3. Tea tree oil
4. Cold/chest rubs for babies
5. Fever plasters (e.g. Kodomo cooling adhesive)
6. Teething gel (for when bb's older)
7. Sunscreen
8. Mosquito repellent
9. Ointment for cuts, scratches and bites (e.g. Lucas’s Papaw Ointment)


Bathroom
1. Wipes/ Sponge/ Bath mitten
2. Baby bath tub/ newborn bath support
3. Hooded towels
4. Mild baby bath/ shampoo (use very little) - e.g. Eubos or iGreen Buds
5. Baby oil – for occasional use or massages
6. Dish/ container (to put water for washing baby’s face)
7. Baby powder (make sure it doesn’t contain talc)
8. Cord spirit or alcohol swabs – for care of the umbilical cord stump


Laundry for Baby Clothes & Nappies
1. Buckets with lids - separate ones for clothes and cloth nappies
2. Baby friendly detergent - e.g. Pureen (no enzymes, whiteners or softeners)
3. Tea tree oil or lavender oil solution - add in final rinse to take away the smell of wee and poo

Feeding Time
1. Milk bottles & small sized teats - if breastfeeding there is really no need to get newborn teats (Avent size 1), unless planning on letting someone else bottle-feed bb once in a while

2. Bottle scrub brush with nipple brush attached
3. Bottle warmer – optional, as can use bowl with warm water
4. Sterilising equipment – e.g. large pot or electric steam steriliser
5. Tongs (to handle hot bottles)
6. Breast pump
7. Expressed milk containers/bottles
8. Nursing pillow (optional)
9. Highchair - for when bb is older. Don’t need to buy straightaway


Going Out
1. Car seat – rear-facing for newborn
2. Baby sling/ wrap/ pouch (optional)
3. Pram/ stroller - get one that is suitable for newborn babies (with lie-flat position)
4. Diaper bag, containing:
a. Day's supply of diapers
b. Wet wipes
c. Plastic bags for disposing soiled diapers/ ziplock bags for cloth nappies
d. Diaper rash ointment/ baby powder
e. Small toys and/or books
f. Ice packs to keep liquids cool, e.g. expressed breast milk
g. Baby formula (if not breastfeeding)
h. Bottle or a spill-proof cup (if needed)
i. Spoon and fork (if needed)
j. Change of clothing for both baby and mommy (in case of boo-boo accidents)
k. Lightweight receiving blanket or muslin (could be used as burp cloth or cover for bb)
l. Water bottle for mommy
m. Snack for mommy
n. Antibacterial spray/ no-rinse handwash

Mummy Stuff
1. Breastfeeding clothes
2. Nipple cream (e.g. Bepanthen) - actually, you might not need to resort to creams: express some breastmilk to moisten the sore area and then leave it to air has helped me
3. Nursing bras – I find these the most comfy and easiest to breastfeed*
4. Nursing pads
5. Sanitary pads - for the first few postpartum weeks. Periods tend to be delayed when one breastfeeds
6. Disposable panties (Optional)


Notes:
CHOOSING A PRAM/ STROLLER/ TRAVEL SYSTEM
There are several types, which can be confusing to choose. It certainly was for us. Given the knowledge I have now, I would have made a different purchase.

Main considerations when buying one:
1. Seat must be able to allow newborn to lie flat
2. Portability – will it fit into your car boot? Will you be using it to catch taxis, MRT?
3. User-friendliness – how easy is it to fold up and open
4. Stability - choose a stroller or pram with a wide base. You want to be sure that the carrier cannot tip over.
5. Only use a stroller with proper restraints. Good restraints should secure your baby at the waist with a guard between the legs so he can't slide out.
6. Check the brakes. They should be secure and easy to operate.
7. Be sure it has the storage capacity you need. A basket under the seat may offer more stability than a basket at the rear.
8. Stroller's fabric - is it washable? is it the right type for your climate?
9. How long do you want to use the stroller? Do you wish to keep it for your second/third child?
10. Your budget!

Different types:
1. Prams – can be rear-facing (i.e. baby lies facing the pusher of the pram) or front-facing, or adjustable for both ways.
2. Travel systems – all-in-ones that include a car seat
3. Strollers – these are very lightweight and can be folded up easily. To be used only for toddlers.

Useful websites:
www.strollers.com/choose-stroller.php
www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/feature/-/146824/002-2113728-3682418

Given what we know now, hub unit said he would probably have chosen a McLaren as they are lightweight and very portable. Ours is a Peg Perego A3 (sounds like cars don’t they?!) that only folds in half so it takes up a lot of space in the boot.
However, I would probably have opted for a pram that can be adjusted to face the pusher as well as face forwards. This way, when the baby is still very small, I can look at and talk to her while pushing the pram – important for baby’s development.


CHOOSING AN INFANT CAR SEAT
The main points to note:
1. The car seat has to fit the car! We had a hand-me-down – a MaxiCosi Priori – and when we fitted it into our car, we found that the seatbelt isn’t long enough for the recommended method of securing the seat. We have to use a different method of securing the car seat with the short seat belt…one that isn’t as secure as I would like.
2. Infant harness – is it a 5-point belt up harness? Ours is only a 3-point (as the car seat is an older model.
3. Do you want a base for the car seat? This base will be permanently installed in the car, while you can take out car seat more easily.
4. Avoid secondhand car seats unless you are very sure of the family that used it and are certain they had no car accidents and had taken care of the seat properly. It is like buying a car really!


Car seats can sometimes double up as a carry seat, i.e. when the baby is very tiny, you can bring him around by carrying him in the seat with the handle. However, the car seat is VERY heavy and post-partum you should NOT carry the baby in the car seat. You might injure yourself and will take a much longer time to recover from the delivery. I know, because I did it!

Web resources:
www.strollers.com/car-seat-buying-guide.php
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/feature/-/153290/002-2113728-3682418


WHERE TO SHOP FOR BABY STUFF
Shops - Singapore
The first two are next to each other at 83 Kaki Bukit Ave 1, Shun Li Industrial Park
- Baby Kingdom (allegedly the better of the 2 here)
- Baby Hyperstore
- Mothercare outlets – expensive stuff but knowledgeable (some) staff

Shops - Malaysia
- Planete Enfant
- Mothercare

Online - Singapore
www.babytown.com.sg - you may find great bargains here
www.kidsmall.com.sg

Whoopeekiddies

Online - Malaysia
The Babyloft
Jonas Jodie

*
The Moms in Mind Basic Cami Bra and Seamless Spaghetti Cami Bra - Moms in Mind

Friday, April 14, 2006

what to expect (delivery and post-)

this is a list i wrote for my sister, based on my experience at the hospital and what i did to prepare myself for d-day and what i did after that.

maybe someone out there will find this useful. but caveat: the context is malaysia/ singapore so the information mightn't be 100% pertinent to someone who lives elsewhere.

what to expect and how to prepare
Pre-delivery
1. Start packing your ‘hospital bag’ and have it on standby. It should contain:
1) Nightgowns or big t-shirts that will allow you to nurse (i.e. breastfeed) comfortably
2) Disposable panties
3) A pair of slippers (for shuffling to and from the toilet)
4) Nursing bras
5) Going home clothes – this can simply be the maternity outfit you wore when you were admitted, as you will definitely still be big post-delivery
6) Toiletries: toothbrush, hairbrush, cleansers, etc. (The hospital’s stuff is basic.)
7) Face towel and bath towel
8) Hospital appointment card, your I/C, etc.
9) Birth plan (signed/acknowledged by your own doctor) – you can remind the nurses and doctors of what you want and not want for the labour.
10) Books, magazines or CD player – to provide distraction as you can get bored, especially post-partum
11) Camera - to capture the special moments!
12) A set of baby clothes: 1 babygro, mittens, socks/booties/, hat
13) Receiving blanket
14) Snacks e.g. muesli bars, chocolate
Optional:
1) Maternity pads – the hospital will provide them. You may wish to have a few of your own disposables as extras.
2) Bathrobe
3) Aromatherapy stuff
4) Breast pads – you may not need this unless your milk “comes in” while you’re still in hospital and you’re leaking badly.


Note: No need to bring wallet or wear a watch. Hub-unit can be in charge and can buy you stuff from the hospital’s sundry shop or outside supermarket if you really need it. Keep all jewellery at home.

2. Make sure hubby (and whoever is accompanying you to the hospital) knows where the hospital bag is, as he will need to get it if in a rush.

3. Make sure that the infant car seat is installed in the car. You and hubby should definitely practise installing it a couple of times beforehand. Then leave it installed in the car before your EDD. When you bring baby home you must install him in the car seat for his safety.

4. Have everything bought, unwrapped, washed, assembled and in its place at home, before your EDD. For instance, that the changing mat, wipes and rubbish bin etc are where they should be for your convenience. The cot should be assembled and the bedding in place.

5. At the hospital, speak to the maternity ward reception desk. The nurses will bring you to the room you request for (specify what type you want: suite, single, etc.).
Then, the admissions process: your IC will be required here, as well as the doctor and hospital appointment card(s). Hubby's or your credit card may be asked for. You will need to sign some forms.
Ask about sleepover arrangements (if you wish it) for hubby, and the sort of bedding available in the room for him. (My hub-unit stayed over when Leah was born, bringing our yoga mats to lay on the floor, with my hospital bed’s duvet --- i didn't need it --- and extra pillow as bedding!)

6. You will be given a wrist tag that you leave on till you get discharged. Your baby will also get a tag – this will be in your name.

7. Every now and then you will be hooked to a CTG machine that monitors your contractions and you will be able to hear baby’s heart beat. The nurses will periodically come to monitor baby’s heart rate with a handheld device, squirting gel on your belly before doing so.

8. Your doctor will pay you a visit once or twice a day to check on you, if things are still slow. If not, he will advise on the next steps.

9. The hospital should provide free meals. You can order via the menu daily. But once you are prepped for delivery, they may tell you to stop eating. Speak to your doc about whether you can have a light snack (e.g. a muesli bar) and liquids.
If you ask for an epidural, they will wheel you (transfer you to another portable bed) to the anaesthetist’s. There, you get transferred again to another bed. The doctor will come in and do the epidural. A pillow or other support will be provided if you do the procedure sitting up instead of lying on one side. The doc will give you a local anaesthetic first and you won’t feel the needle at all.
I am not sure about the other pain relief procedures, but there will definitely be a gas machine connected to the bed that could be used.
You may be put on the drip. This is the thing I absolutely abhor the most. They will poke a needle into your wrist and leave a plastic thing that joins up to a drip bag that hangs from a stand. This stand has castor wheels so you take the drip with you everywhere, even going to the toilet. It makes sleeping sometimes difficult. I kept thinking of how irritating the plastic thing in my wrist was (the pain is like ant bites).
As for the C-section delivery process, see leah's birth story. You should already know what to expect for natural birth from your pre-natal classes.

Post-delivery (in hospital)
1. Baby will be taken away for measuring and a check by the hospital paediatrician. (If you have not appointed a paediatrician, ask your doc to recommend one.)

2. Expect a lot of gunk to keep coming out from the nether region. This is a good thing so long as it is not excessive, but your doc and nurses will monitor. The hospital will provide pads to soak the gunk up. I can’t remember what this gunk is called; there is a medical term. You will be sleeping on top of waterproof soaker pads provided by the hospital so don’t worry about stains. (The gunk should continue for maybe 1-3 weeks, depending on how fast your uterus contracts and drops back into its pre-pregnancy position.)

3. Baby will be wheeled back into your room lying in a baby trolley-bed. He will have been washed and cleaned, wearing a teeny hospital gown and may be swaddled in the hospital’s receiving blanket.

4. Ask the nurses to show you how to swaddle baby. It’s important to swaddle baby unless cleaning or feeding him.

5. Ask the nurses to demonstrate nappy wearing, and where they have kept the diapers and umbilical cord care stuff. (Ours were kept in a compartment below the baby trolley bed.) When you run out of diapers and other stuff, ask the nurses to bring more. While in hospital, all these would be provided FOC (or as part of their service).

6. A lactation nurse should visit you shortly, to teach you how to get baby to latch on and make sure you are breastfeeding correctly.
Make sure this is done soonest possible. If someone doesn’t come within the first 2 hours when baby is already rooming with you, press the buzzer and ask nurses.
Feeding at first may hurt a little bit, and don’t expect milk-coloured substances to come out for maybe one or two days. But it’s important that baby is nursing from the beginning because whatever you can’t see, or if you do see the translucent stuff oozing out, is vital for baby’s nutrition.

7. The nurses should bring baby away to be cleaned up each day. At the end of your stay, ask to see a demonstration of how they clean baby and what to do to take care of the umbilical cord stump.

8. Baby may need to undergo some UV treatment for jaundice. (Leah underwent that on the 3rd day, I think.) Just remind nurses to bring baby back to you for nursing every 2.5 or 3 hours. By the way, that is the frequency that you should be nursing from day one. (Keep to this schedule up to at least 8 weeks, to ensure your milk supply is adequate and that baby is given all the nutrition he needs.)

9. Hubby can help to change diapers and check that baby is latched on properly. It is great if he sleeps over and can do the late night diaper changes while you rest.

10. You can shower and ablute as soon as you feel better in the hospital. You will feel so much better after that! (I know I did.)

11. Post-partum blues: Mine set in around 30 hours after delivery. I was suddenly scared and depressed that I won’t make a good mother (esp. since Leah slept so much and ate what I thought was so little), until my doc came to see me in the morning and said this is a natural reaction. It’s ok to be weepy!

Discharging from hospital
1. The hospital will take back baby’s swaddling blanket and gown (unless they’re generous). You can supply the nurses with the outfit you brought. They will put it on him after cleaning him. When they bring him back to you, you can wrap him in his own receiving blanket.

2. Hubby and you then make the appointments for follow-up checkups that will be in a week’s time. Yours and baby’s should be on the same day for convenience.

3. The hospital will give you forms to register baby. Hubby’s passport/PR card etc will be required.

4.
Hubby will have to pay up and finalise the discharge process. It may need some running up and down, depending on where the cashier counter is. You should rest and look after baby.

5. Make sure to take the cord care stuff and all the things the hospital can give you (e.g. the leftover diapers, bottle of saline water to wash baby, maternity pads, etc).

6. Take your time to carefully pack your things and check that the room and toilet are empty of your belongings.

7. You may wish to get dad and mom to help bring all your barang back on discharge day. Remember that hubby will have to carry baby in the infant carrier/car seat to the car. (You should not be lifting anything heavier than baby for several weeks!) Or hubby will need to make a few trips to the car to put all the belongings in the boot, if you have a lot.

8. Put baby in the car seat/infant carrier, belt him up and leave together for the car.
Hubby could fasten the seat (with baby) in the car and drive the car round to the front to get you – to save you from walking so much.

Post-delivery (at home)/ “Confinement”
1. You can shower and wash your hair. Just make sure it’s done in the daytime and that you are dry and warmly dressed before you come out of the bathroom (esp. if you have air-con in the room).
Your doc will probably give you some medication and/or cream/ointment for your wound.


Note: Your pregnancy books should have information on the medical (biological) side of what happens after delivery. And the doctors (yours and baby’s) will let you know about the follow-ups.

2. You can engage a Malay masseuse now, and drink the Chinese/ Malay herbal stuff. (Although, my paediatrician had advised against taking herbal potions for the first 2 weeks to prevent infant jaundice from occurring.)
The Malay lactation nurse who was looking after me said that the Malays believe eating bananas is not so good while breastfeeding as it may lead to baby getting diarrhoea.
Continue to take the vitamin pills given to you during your pregnancy.

3. Breastfeeding: Make sure you stick to a 2.5-3 hr feed schedule round the clock. It means waking baby up even if he’s sleeping and waking in the night to feed him. If he screams for food feed him too.
It’s ok to go up to only 15 mins at each feed. That’s what Leah could accomplish before falling sound asleep. But if baby wants more, that’s great; let him!
Always have a large tumbler of water (plain is better) beside you while feeding baby, as you will get very dehydrated and the fluids will replenish your milk supply.

4. Keep a logbook to record feed times, length of feed, which breast was fed on, poo times, poo type, etc. This helps you to monitor if baby is developing correctly, and you won’t forget which breast you last fed him on. (Important to single side feed in the early days.) A B4 or A4 size diary will do, preferably one with a day a page.

5. You can also engage a midwife to do post-natal visits at home. She will check on your stitches, advise on exercise, check your breastfeeding technique, weigh and measure baby, and advise on baby care (e.g. on cradle cap) and development.
I found such a service very useful. One, it reassured me that Leah was growing well. Two, that my breastfeeding was fine. These regular checkups make good information for by the time you get to see the paediatrician it may be a month or two later. You can ask the midwife any- and everything concerning baby and yourself.
I believe in Singapore that Birth and Beyond, Mother and Child et al provide such post-natal services.

6. Your pre-natal classes should have covered baby cord care. Use the alcohol swabs to gently wipe round the area connecting the cord to the navel at baby cleaning times. Once the cord falls off (it can take as long as 2 weeks) you could keep it as a souvenir!

Other baby issues such as colic, reflux etc are covered in the book What to expect: The First Year. A lot of useful information: breastfeeding, diet, baby's developmental milestones etc, is inside.

Other Resources/ Additional info
Foods to avoid - PREGNANCY and Diet
www.parentingjoy.com
www.bimandruth.com/daniel/resources.htm

www.fourtrimesters.com
Baby Bonus (SG)
New Mothers' Support Group - Singapore
Babies and Sleep
La Leche League (www.lalecheleague.org)
Breastfeeding.com (www.breastfeeding.com)

Forums for S’pore moms and pregnant women
www.baybsupplies.biz/forum/default.asp
www.singaporemotherhood.com/cgi-bin/forumboard/discus.cgi?pg=topics
IDOBABY.com - Singapore's Baby and Parenting Portal

leah's (long-winded) birth story

a sudden drip
when i stopped work on friday 30 dec, i was all set to relax and enjoy my 9th month of pregnancy - the last leg, the last time i would be responsible just for my self: had my pride & prejudice dvd (the colin firth bbc version naturally, not the naff keira knightley hash job), loads of reading material, and a plan for lots of sun by the pool and leisurely swims, occasional guest appearances at the local pregnancy fitness classes, and of course internet shopping for extra nursery items.

this became a pipe dream when on new year's eve, while chez friend (a superb bachelor penthouse) i noticed unusual spotting from the nether regions. i tried not to worry about it, promising myself to just keep monitoring, but an hour or so later i was doubled over with a sharp pain in my abdomen. it lasted a moment, but enough to alarm. when i told the hub-unit however, he said to rest up and let's wait and see. (men!)

it was a smokey, loud (good DJs) ny's eve party and although i spent most of the evening cooped in the master bedroom enjoying the commisserating company of cowboy, a dewy-eyed jack russell, i did get to see the fireworks around kl. that was super...but it didn't lessen my concern.

on new year's day we lounged by the pool. sleep had made me cast aside the worry and i didn't see any new 'spotting'. then i went for a swim. now i'm the first to admit that i am no matt biondi or ian thorpe, so i was surprised, nay, alarmed again when my feeble exertions seemed to have induced severe pain. this time i was not so sanguine. i stopped swimming and worried for 2 days.

bombshell
the hospital's clinic was closed till tuesday and i had to wring my hand in anxiety 'til the morn of 3 jan. after popping into the office to see to some dangling matters i drove to the hospital where i was told to head straight into the maternity ward for CTG monitoring.

shortly, hub unit joined me in the room and not long later my gynae came along and examined me.

we were not quite prepared for the prognosis: there is definite premature rupture of the membrane and i was contracting already. the doc said i would be given some steroid injections to strengthen the baby's lungs and there will be blood tests to see if there is any infection in the womb. if there is the doc said that an emergency operation to take out the baby would be likely the day after (thurs, 5 jan)!

the doc asked if this would be alright. i was stunned. of course if there is an infection there is no debate: the baby has to be rescued and what could i do about it? but so soon?

i turned to look at hub-unit who had gaped and turned several shades paler than usual. he looked drained of blood and for a second or two i wondered if he needed oxygen.

when the doc left, both of us shook like leaves. calls were placed. his business trip (for the next day) was cancelled. it was only the 33rd week and baby was estimated to be 2.4kg (not enough to reassure the doc that taking her out would be best now).

hospital blues
suffice to say that i had to stay on in the hospital for observation and constant CTG monitoring. the great thing about it was that i could regularly hear baby's heartbeat each time they hooked up the machine and when the nurses came round with a handheld scan that picked up the heart rate.

hub-unit went back to work and returned later that evening with my hospital bag, which was luckily, already packed.

i was cossetted in the ward from tuesday afternoon till saturday 7 jan, and had plenty of bed rest, which was what the doc ordered. however, the days and nights were a bit dull...the astro service was very limited and i had no choice but watch news repeats on bbc world service. i did have visitors though: a good friend dropped by and loaned a few books, while my folks had come up (a planned visit, which was fortuitous) and they came in daily to check my progress.

those few days were suspenseful. i had quite a few blood tests while they tried to slow my contractions. finally my doc said that since the amniotic leak seemed to be slowly disappearing, she was willing to let me go home, under strict orders to remain at home and not attempt to go out at all. she hoped that while there would be regular clinic visits (twice a week), we could prolong the pregnancy till chinese new year (hopefully).

drooling over mr darcy
it was a real pain to be under house arrest. i wasn't even allowed to go check the mail. so i resolved to spend my time wisely: i watched pride & prejudice, as i thought (presciently it turns out) that my days of freedom could be curtailed shortly. what a dish colin firth was/is although that swim scene (a great liberty taken by the tv producers as of course it didn't happen in the book) when fitzwilliam darcy plunged into the pond in athletic despond and then strode about with a wet blouson sticking to his manly physique, while much touted and feted, was a bit disappointing for me. i didn't see how he could become a sex symbol because of it...he just appeared bedraggled, untidy. i was more enamoured of the chemistry between the two leads (who did have a romance then) and of how tall and unconventionally good looking c. firth is/was. anyway, it was a very very good production of a much-loved book. two cheers for the beeb.

after a few days vegetating at home, we had to go back for the next check-up. everything seemed okay till we got home (with a detour for hub-unit to check on a phone in bangsar baru).

then i started cramping and the leak, which had appeared to dry up, started again. this time with the same volume as when i went into the hospital the week before. my hope of having a cny baby (dog, aquarian) was dashed when on my second check-up (a week after i was discharged) the doc's face turned grim and she said i needed to be rehospitalised. thankfully baby was deemed to be of a good enough size, around 2.6kg (she'd been eating well and my womb had loads of amniotic fluid despite the leak).

maternity ward revisited: deja vu
i checked in around 1530 hours on 14 jan. this time we were better prepared mentally for the event. although i was without my trusty nokia handphone since hub-unit had misplaced (read: lost) it during the hubbub checking out from the hospital the previous time.

on sunday i was asked to pick the date of the delivery. it was to be a caesarian op as baby was breech, lying sideways across my belly.

initially, i thought it would be good to prolong the birth till maybe wednesday or thursday. if baby was born the next day (mon) then she would, like me, be a monday's child. and as she was going to be a capricorn kid, i thought it is just too much like me for comfort.

anyway, i changed my mind and gave the go-ahead to operate the next day. better to get this over with sooner rather than later, everyone thought (my mum & hub-unit; my dad had returned home thinking that i was safe).

d-day (delivery day)
i abstained from meals that morning. a real shame as i love my food and it had been fun picking things from the daily menu, even if the quality of the fare was similar to airline food. (the 2nd trimester onwards was fantastic as i had regained my appetite and food was glorious food, as the saying goes.) besides, it was kinda cheery to see the smiling face of the tudong-ed and bowtied miss who came to deliver and clear away meal trays.

it was a bit of a tortuous wait and i was counting down the seconds a bit nervously i have to admit. then finally they came to get me.

i was transferred - bodily shifted - to another bed and trundled through fluorescent-lit corridors, vault-like elevators and stark rooms to what seemed like dr frankenstein's lair. no, it wasn't that gothic. there was another bed in the middle of the small squarish room and i was bodily transferred across to it. the nurses who wheeled me there departed and a fresh pair of young looking docs/nurses (not the most inspiring sight to see such greenhorn pimply visages) sort of attended to me. i say sort of as they were tight-lipped. one was more smiley and managed a "you'll be fine" at least.

finally, after what seemed hours, my anaesthetist came in. he's a fatherly figure and after the operation i like and trust him immensely, but at that moment i was still trepidacious. i had seen the needles used in epidurals and they are like evil spikes. i was informed that the needle wouldn't hurt as the area would be locally anaesthesised first. i was told to sit up and a pillow/cushion was provided for me to hug/lean on.

an area down my spine was swabbed and the chill nearly made me jump. whatever it was was very cold.

after a few minutes the doc said, "hmmm...this is interesting."

now, in a different sort of situation, say at a crime scene or a poetry reading, "this is interesting" would be quite a thrilling little comment. but as i waited wondering whether the epidural was effecting, knowing that an enormous needle had just had its wicked way with me, the comment was wholly unwelcome.

the doc then said that a fluid was leaking out from the needle puncture (uh...so?) and that it was the first time he had seen anything like this (shit on a stick!).

i was thus left epidural tubeless (normally i think they stick a tube that allows the numbing drug to flow into the spine). but i think they injected the drug nonetheless for i was then made to lie down and moments later, while the newbies and the doc stood observing me, i was told to wait for the novel sensation of being sensation-less from the waist down.

when i said that i could feel pins and needles up and down my legs (not what i would call sensation-less) they said good, i should not be able to move my legs. immediately, i wanted to cross them and i had an itch to scratch.

being immobile was a terrible feeling. the painkiller was nothing like what i thought it would be. as pleasant as sinking in quicksand.

i was then given an oxygen mask (this is supposed to be good for the baby) but when i put it on i began hyperventilating. i felt suffocated, as if i was being boxed in and the little railing round the bed was hemming me in like a coffin's walls.

i took out the mask but when the doc came back and asked why i did that i told him i couldn't breathe and (because i was a tad hysterical) said that i wished i had a general anaesthetic done instead. so he asked one of the newbies to put in oxygen tubes (instead of the mask) and with the little plastic things in each nostril i was soon breathing easier. it didn't hurt either when the doc proceeded to give me a calming drug. i think it was morphine. it made me drowsy and calmer.

we then waited, while i lay there like a laidback, doped out hippie. and waited. my gynae/ob was delayed by another operation she had to perform, plus i was the last scheduled op for the day.

finally though (half an hour later i think) i was trundled into the op theatre. and it was like an episode of e.r. or some similar medical programme when the camera shows the p.o.v. of the patient as he/she gets wheeled in for surgery. surreal...far out.

then i knew why they call it an operating theatre. a huge echoey room, very stainless steel and amphitheatre-like with a centre contraption of huge lights hanging from the ceiling. i was to be the star of this show. or rather, my doc was.

not long later a hub-unit wearing a ridiculous shower cap and garbed in the same green nursing outfit as the orderlies walked in and was beside me (to my left behind my head) holding my hand and murmuring in a nervous undertone that i was going to be alright.

before that though, one of the docs asked if i wanted to see what was going on. (hell no!) so they put up the little curtain shielding me from the bloody business down there.

thus, it was a little drama played out behind closed curtains. i could hear what was going on and could feel the tugs and zippings that were being carried out. however, i chose to block all by thinking only of cuddly kittens and puppies and how lovely it would be to hold my baby.

after another interminably long time and lots of mutterings between the docs and nurses and what seemed like a cooking demo going on, my doc pulled out a huge brick-like something and i heard her exclaim, "oh she's a big baby." then the blood-curdling screams. that went on and on and didn't stop till our little baby was taken out of the op theatre. stating the obvious, my doc said, "well, she definitely has a good set of lungs."

i couldn't help it. i cried. the tears freely flowed...from relief and happiness. but mostly from relief. an instantaneous feeling of release and i thought: hallelujah, joy to the world, i don't have to worry about what i eat any longer! she's safe! oh my god, she's a really loud baby! will she be this loud all the time?!

hub-unit went to observe what the nurses were doing to the bub and then he followed our baby out as they had to put her in the icu ward for warming. she being a premmie and all they also had to observe her a bit.

i was left in the op theatre while the doc did the cleaning up, i suppose: getting whatever yucky business it is out of me and sewing me up. after some time i was wheeled to an anteroom. i can't remember what they did to me there. i suppose i was given some other drugs, but half an hour later i was in a proper room, waiting for hub-unit to show.

our baby weighed in at 3kg, a very healthy weight for a premmie, and hubby reported that she could room in with me in a few hours' time. he then showed me the pictures he took on the digital camera. not the most flattering of pics but i was glad she had chubby cheeks and seemed like a fair creature.

anyway, that's how baby leah robin (it took us a while before we settled on that name combination and in that order) came into our world.

the bean arrives




16 jan 2006, 1640 hours

my beautiful baby, aka the bean, arrived 4.5 weeks early and 3kg heavy. not bad for a premmie. she was swaddled in the hospital's receiving blanket all washed and clean with a backcomb looking like elvis.