Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Confinement Period

When I was pregnant, I dreaded the forthcoming Chinese confinement period that I would have to go through once I gave birth to my baby. Back then, I discussed my Mother-in-Law many times that I didn't want to observe strict Chinese confinement practices but she seemed to be so adamant about the whole traditional post-natal confinement concept, commonly practised by Chinese women in Malaysia. Hence, I was so stressed out thinking about how I'd survive my confinement period long before I had to do it and my husband needed to bring this topic up to my Gynae during one of my antenatal visits.

I was lucky that my Gynae gave my husband and I clear understanding that a new mother doesn't have to go through strict traditional confinement practices that she is not comfortable practising. She emphasized that it is  paramount important to stay mentally and physically well after labour by eating healthily as per normal, maintaining a hygienic lifestyle as usual and having enough rest. In addition, my Gynae explained that not practising strict traditional confinement rules, in medical logic, would not result in mother's health problems when she gets older nor issues in conceiving another baby. However, in order to avoid clashes with the confinement nanny, which in this case is usually the Mother-in-Law, the husband has to take more active role in bridging any differences between his wife and Mom so both ladies are happy during the confinement period. In principle, the new mother has to enjoy her confinement period while recuperating from childbirth.

The next day after I gave birth to my baby, my parents from Indonesia came to see us. My mother acted as my main confinement nanny for 10 days until she left Malaysia. When she was around, I ate home cooked Indonesian food that my Mom prepared. She did not allow me eating shrimps and anchovies as she worried that my episiotomy wound would be itchy if I ate those food. This theory is not scientifically proven but I did it anyway.

During my early confinement days, my Mother-in-Law tried to cook some gingery confinement dish for me but every time I had to eat it, it took me almost one hour to eat the food and I had to ask my husband to help me finish it. In the end, I could not finish the food and my Mother-in-Law was not so happy with it. Moving forward, I politely told her that perhaps it's best if I could just eat normal food so I can eat more. I try to plant the idea in her mind that if I eat more, I'd recover from post-natal pains faster and the more food I eat may give me more breast milk. She understood and quit forcing me to eat confinement food.

 Can't imagine eating this plain gingery dish for breakfast for a month!

After my Mom went back to Indonesia, I ate the usual home-cooked food that were also enjoyed by other family members at home for the rest of my confinement period. I barely consumed any 'heaty' traditional Chinese confinement diet which usually is heavy in ginger, Chinese herbs and alcohol simply because I didn't like the taste plus this food may affect my breast milk's content, thus cause jaundice on my baby.

The only thing that I continuously consumed for a month was red dateswolfberries and longan tea that my Mother-in-Law diligently brewed every morning. Other than that, occasionally I also drank some traditional Chinese decoction and herbal chicken soup that my Mother-in-Law cooked for me, as long as I could bear the taste.

Strangely, after being so resistant in eating herbal chicken soup, 
I found this one quite acceptable.

Also, being an Indonesian, my Mom brought post-partum abdominal cloth binder and traditional Indonesian herbal medicine for post-natal care to be put on my tummy to avoid flabby stomach. She applied the medicines and put the binder on my tummy every single day when she was in Malaysia and taught me how to continue applying the medicines and wearing the binder on my tummy myself. However, after she went home, I only managed to continue wearing the binder for few days as I got too tired and busy looking after my newborn during the day.

The traditional Indonesian herbal medicine for my tummy skin 
before diluted with hot water.

During confinement period, pyjamas were my daily uniform 
to wear day and night.

Next, when it comes to other old-fashioned Chinese confinement taboos and restrictions such as no shower, no washing hair, no going out, no air-conditioner or fan in the room and bathing only with water specially infused herbs for a whole month - I gave them all resounding pass. For obvious hygiene reasons, I showered every day and washed my hair once every two days. In fact, the moment I arrived home from hospital, I immediately gave myself a good shower and hair wash. However, when my Mother-in-Law found out, she scolded me while my parents were all cool with what I just did. I also turned the air-conditioner in my room on because Seremban's hot climate was just too unbearable for me. The temperature here is not as hot as in the Gobi desert but it's hot enough to make me sweat like a pig without room air conditioner. Bored being cooped up in the house for way too long, I sneaked out to supermarket and McDonald's with my husband around 3 weeks after I gave birth while my Mother-in-Law looked after my baby for a couple hours. As a matter of choice, since I had my baby, I think I am naturally and automatically confined at home because it's simply hard to leave my newborn at home and not possible to frequently take her out of the house. Thus, lately I mostly stay at home, even on weekends.

New life as a parent: Saturday night at home watching over my baby.

On the bright side, the good thing about confinement period is the feeling of being spoilt by some family members. My husband and Mother-in-Law were so kind in preparing and delivering my meals to my room upstairs every day. On top of that, they took over some of the household chores like washing and drying my clothes, cleaning dirty dishes in the kitchen, and so on for almost a month.

In summary, the way I did my confinement period here may be a bit unorthodox for the Chinese community in Asia and may not work for some people. I did what I personally think best for me because I didn't want to give myself extra 'emotional' burden when I was trying to cope with my new life, especially when I was physically drained recovering from childbirth and taking care of a newborn. For me, adhering to some traditional confinement rules that I didn't entirely believe would make me upset and give me unnecessary stress. My main goal after my labour was preventing post-natal depression so I tried my best to enjoy my new bundle of joy's presence and keep my sanity intact during the first month after I had my baby by not going through too strict confinement period.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Naomi: 1 Month Old

Naomi is one-month old already! Those who learn about this would normally say, "Ah, so fast... your baby is one month old now! Time flies, huh?" I would reply, "Mmm, yes.. But sometimes I do feel that time ticks away real slowly too." 

Fast forward, my husband and I have been waking up once every 3 hours at night for a little over one month by now and yes, we both are severely sleep deprived. Every morning I wake up with fatigues all over my body and literally crave long afternoon naps or good night sleep plus a really nice body massage all the time (which unfortunately I can't get...)! Still, I am trying to enjoy Naomi's newborn-hood as much as possible as lots of people say 0-3 months old babies are the easiest to take care of. We'll see.

This may sound a bit bias, but I think my girl is cute!

Naomi now can smile, happily move her hands and feet or look at the person who sweetly calls her name or talks to her in high pitch. She can also see objects that I hold in my hand. These days, whenever I try to take photos of her using my iPhone, her eye balls move following the movement of my black iPhone in my hand. Sometimes she still cries when I bathe her. I still feed her with formula milk and my breast milk. During the day, she normally asks for milk every 2 hours or so. Past midnight, she can sleep for 3 to 3.5 hours straight before the next feeding (is this counted as a milestone because she may now be able to differentiate day and night?). However, before she falls asleep, she would ask us to cradle her. This girl really loves to be cradled in adults' arms to make her fall into a deep sleep and in split second, she can tell if the person who cradles her is sitting down or standing up! As for me, on some bad days or nights her cradle-me-in-your-arms-all-the-time habit can really get into my nerves because it is really exhaustive and indeed one feat that tests my patience and stamina.

By the way, Naomi had her second immunization earlier today. It was my husband's and my first experience sending her to clinic for immunization and actually witnessing her tiny thigh poked with a small needle. She cried for few seconds when the nurse jabbed her. I was so paranoid already thinking that she would feel so much pain from the injection and cry for hours after that!

I love my poster girl!

In conclusion, after parenting my child for a month plus, I learnt that being a parent is a tough job and this role should not be underrated at all! It is really stressful at times and definitely more tiring than any office job and OTs I've ever done. There's just no holiday for my husband and I!" Say 'Amen' to this, unless you ask somebody else to take care of your baby and see him or her once a week. Nonetheless, I feel so very blessed with the privilege of having her presence in my life. Every time I look at her smile, being very active, getting chubbier and cuter every single day, I proudly tell myself that raising her is just simply worth all the pains that I am going through now.

Grow fast, but not too fast, my girl.

** Health record:
Current weight: 5.1 kg.
Current height: 58 cm.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Sad Loss

On Saturday morning, exactly on Naomi's one-month old anniversary day, I received a truly sad news from Indonesia. My sister broke the news that our family had just lost our uncle who had been battling cancer for the past year. We've lost the artistic, friendly and kind soul in the family, forever.

In loving memory: My husband receiving the horse painting from my uncle.
Farewell, Encek. Earth has lost a beautiful soul but Heaven has gained an angel. 

The last time I saw my uncle, he gave my husband and I three of the paintings that he painted when he felt healthier. I thought my husband and I could see him again when we go to Indonesia some time early next year because when we met him at his house during my last visit to Indonesia, he himself told us that he was getting better and may not need to go to China so often for his cancer treatments again.

Who knew that cancer didn't spare him any mercy and finally took him away last weekend? Gosh.. I still vividly remember his voice and smiles when he talked to us.... I am just saddened beyond belief to learn that he is no longer with us.

I hope that he is now given the best place in Heaven and may God provide his wife and children the mighty strength they need to cope with my uncle's demise.

RIP, Encek. You are sorely missed.

Naomi's Full Moon

Over the weekend, we celebrated Naomi's one-month old anniversary. Based on Lunar calendar, Naomi's first full moon fell on the day before her Gregorian calendar's one-month old anniversary and on that day, we did the Chinese (Taoist) ceremony traditions in celebrating her first month of life.

That morning, my Mother-in-Law and husband prepared ang ku kueh and red eggs that symbolise luck and blessings. Later on, we were going to distribute those to relatives and friends and bring some of those to my husband's grandparents' house in Muar for the Chinese (Taoist) rituals that my husband's family does for years, which is introducing the new family member to the late ancestors. Before we went to Muar, my Mother-in-Law trimmed a little bit of Naomi's hair to symbolise the shedding of the birth hair. We purposely didn't shave her head because I just don't have the heart to do so. I adore my baby's luscious hair to bits!

 My Mother-in-Law cutting Naomi's hair.

Naomi's lock of first hair cut.

After bathing and feeding Naomi, my husband, parents-in-Law, Naomi and I were ready to go to Muar and this trip marked Naomi's first long road trip ever. I was so grateful that this little girl didn't cry so much in the car and in fact, slept soundly throughout the trip, except when she was hungry.

Naomi and I, on our way to Muar.

After 拜拜, My husband and Naomi in his grandparent's house in Muar.

In the evening, when we were back to Seremban, my parents-in-law and husband distributed some small cakes, ang ku kueh and red eggs to relatives and close friends in town to formally announce our baby's arrival.

On the next day, which was Naomi's one-month old anniversary according to the Gregorian calendar, my husband's friends came over to our house to see Naomi for the first time. She was all smiles when she was surrounded by so many guests who teased and talked to her all the time.

Take 1: Sweet smile.
Photo credit by Wong Seng Teck.

 Take 2: Smiling while stretching
Photo credit by Wong Seng Teck.

 Take 3: Laughing baby.
Photo credit by Wong Seng Teck.

On the same day, my parents in Indonesia also distributed baby full moon gifts to some relatives and close friends to announce the birth of their first grand-child.

Here in Malaysia, my husband and I didn't do any lavish baby full moon celebration for Naomi so we decided to buy a cake and enjoy it with my in-laws, nephews and nieces when they came over on Sunday afternoon.

Naomi's baby full moon cake for family consumption.

Happy one-month old anniversary, Naomi. Be healthy and happy! You are God's best gift and it is such a blessing to have you with us.

Friday, October 12, 2012

One of Those Days

Yesterday, I just had one of the longest days and nights in my life. Ever.

Naomi literally refused to sleep right after she woke up at 9am until 10pm or so. This was not normal as by right, infants should sleep a lot.

Since morning, after I made her sleep in my arms or fed her with formula milk or breastfed her until she fell asleep; she always opened her eyes again whenever I put her in her baby cot. My 3 weeks old only stayed quiet for a few minutes after I put her down and then she started crying. If I didn't hold her or pick her up from her baby cot; she’d cry, cry and cry hysterically until her whole body turned all red, almost purple in fact, and tears trickled down her cheeks. This drama went on and on for more than 12 hours non-stop and to make things worse, I had to deal with her alone. My husband was out of town for work until late at night. My Mother-in-Law was too busy taking care of my sick nephew and niece downstairs (and obviously, I didn't want to bring Naomi near them for the sake of her well-being).

Mommysays: "You don't want to sleep. Thus, I can't sleep either.. 
But I forgive you anyway..." 

I was at my wits end. I was drop dead tired. My brain and ears were half numb. My left arm and wrist were sore beyond words because I had to hold my baby for long hours (I didn't have any baby sling carrier just yet because I thought I would not need it this early but maybe I was wrong, again). My neck and back ached badly because I did not have the chance to lie down. At one point, I was so desperate and texted my parents in Indonesia to come to Malaysia again and help me take care of my baby. However, they said they can’t come over again this soon.

As much as I want my baby to give me a break, each time I saw my baby crying, my heart ached too. I knew she was very tired but she just could not shut her eyes. I wished I could ask her, “Which part of your body hurts?” “Is your tummy gassy? Let me rub this baby medicated oil on your stomach.” “Are you hungry again? I just fed you…” “Tell me why you feel so uncomfortable?” What’s wrong with your baby cot?” “Do you have colic?”"Is the room too hot for you?" "Do you feel cold?" “Is your nose stuck?” “Do you want to pass motion again?” “Should you see a doctor?” … But she cannot speak! She only replied me with more screams and cries. All my efforts in comforting and soothing her only worked when I cradled her in my arms. When I returned her to her baby cot, the whole inconsolable crying spells happened again. Every time I just crawled into my bed for a nap or rest my back, I heard my baby make noises almost immediately and I knew it was the time for me to hold her again. The entire ordeals were just so traumatizing. 

I just can't leave her alone.

Some friends told me to try 'abandon' my crying baby in her cot to make her understand that she needs to sleep in her cot and Mommy is not supposed to hold her all the time but heck, I didn't have the heart to do so.

At 9pm, when my Mother-in-Law was somewhat free and noticed that my baby was still crying and I was exhausted already, she helped me calm my child. She managed to make Naomi sleep until my husband came home at 10pm something. I was so relieved to see her finally sleeping because I was worried sick that my baby barely slept at all during the day.

During the wee hours, while my husband took turn in feeding and putting our baby to sleep, Naomi still screamed and cried when he tried to put her in her cot. I had to wake up again to help him. I cannot remember how many times I woke up last night. I don’t recollect how many hours I slept last night. I don’t recall how I made it through last night. As long as my baby could sleep for at least 2 hours in between her feeding time, I was happy enough.

Like my friend said, maybe yesterday I just had ‘one of those (bad) days’.

I hope today is a better day.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Breastfeeding: The Challenges and What to Expect

When I was pregnant, I educated myself with so much information on pregnancy and birth. So much that I was so prepared and well-equipped on what to expect on being pregnant for 40 weeks and the baby delivery processes; and so much that I neglected the fact that I had to educate myself with 'baby and taking care of a baby' information and this includes the breastfeeding topic as well.

I underestimated the importance of breastfeeding's preparation and theoretical learning on its techniques to the point that I regret it now. I thought I should apply the 'one-step-at-a-time' rule and could learn the breastfeeding A to Z when my time 'comes'. However, when my time indeed came, it was too late. When I had to start to breastfeed my baby, I was so clueless and encountered tons of breastfeeding challenges without knowing much on how to overcome those issues. On top of that, when I was discharged from the (private) hospital after delivering my baby, no staff from that hospital equipped me with the breastfeeding techniques. I went home with zero knowledge on how to breastfeed my baby or what to anticipate from my breasts in the next couple of post-partum days. In summary, my baby now relies 90% on formula milk. The other 10% of her daily feed is my breast milk. Very little, I know. That's how much I could offer the goodness of breast milk to her for the time being.

Before I experienced breastfeeding, I always had the impression that breastfeeding is one of the most natural things in this world and it should come easy just like breathing air. Simply put the mother's nipple into the baby's mouth and the baby feeding frenzy starts! In addition, when I saw some mothers show off their fridge or freezer full of their bagged or bottled breast milk supply on their Facebook's page, I always thought that I would be one of them and was ready to request a new fridge from my husband just for my breast milk supply. I was that confident! Duh! I was so wrong. Seemingly, breastfeeding is way more complex than just putting the mother's nipple into the baby's mouth and who knew that I would face low milk supply until to date, thus unable to exclusively breastfeed my child.

Naomi-chan trying to hold her milk bottle by herself.

Just to share with other expecting or currently struggling-on-breastfeeding Moms, here are some of the overall challenges of breastfeeding that I have and didn't expect any of these before.

1. Latching-on and positioning are difficult to master. Properly positioning the hungry baby and latching his/her mouth on our breast for breastfeeding are not easy. In the beginning, I always had sore and bleeding nipples too just because I didn't know how to position my baby and latch her on my breast correctly. In the end, I had to get myself some fast-track learnings on breastfeeding skills from YouTube and other on-line reading sources. Moreover, I found it more beneficial and practical to learn breastfeeding techniques directly from the local government's clinic and hospital's lactation consultants and get breastfeeding tips from my friends. Until today, I must confess that starting a breastfeeding session with my baby is equivalent to starting a battle between the two of us. I have to scream "Aargh! Ugh! Ouch! What are you doing? You bit me with your gum again? Why did you do this to me?" many times and my baby has to cry her lungs out first before we both finally settle in a good breastfeeding position and start the breastfeeding session peacefully. Stressful, yes? Clearly my baby and I still need more practices on this department. By the way, if you have extra budget, perhaps you might want to consider purchasing a nursing pillow. It is a great support for breastfeeding and helps a lot in creating a more comfortable breastfeeding experience for both mother and baby.

2. Expressing breast milk is time consuming and not painless either! For me, one session of expressing breast milk using electric breast pump can easily take 45 minutes of my time. This said, get ready for a good time management plan for resting, expressing milk and doing other chores when the baby is asleep. Also, I discover that the process and the aftermaths from expressing breast milk are definitely not pain free. When I first started expressing my breast milk using electric breast pump, I was so shocked with the pains that came from this machine and the amount of breast milk that I could produce from expressing my breast milk. At that time, after almost half an hour of expressing breast milk, I could only produce one teaspoon of breast milk but I fed that one teaspoon of breast milk to my baby anyway because it took me so much pains and efforts to get that amount of breast milk, however little it was. Do you know that breast milk is like liquid gold, so don't waste or lose a single drop of it?

3. Breast engorgement, what's that? Engorged breasts are hard (as a stone!), swollen, lumpy, painful and uncomfortably full breasts as a result of not nursing the baby frequent enough. On some worst cases, which I experience often, being too lazy to drain my breasts would give me symptoms of mild fever. During the day, when I feel that my breasts are 'too full'; I would breastfeed my baby directly or just express the breast milk using breast pump. At night, I am the kind who would rather sleep, whenever I don't have to attend my crying baby, than expressing breast milk just because ideally I have to breastfeed or express milk every 2-3 hours or so to prevent breast engorgement. However, these days, the pains from my breast engorgement are so very great and they are powerful enough to get me out of my bed at 2am or 4am and start expressing my breast milk with eyes half open to relieve my breast pains.

4. Nipple shield doesn't entirely fix your breastfeeding problems! Recently, I invested on silicone nipple shields to protect my inverted and cracked nipple during breastfeeding. I thought they would help me a lot. But no, the immense pains were still there when my baby sucked the nipple shield. Anyhow, maybe I didn't know how to use it correctly.

At the moment, as a new Mom, I could only lay out all the current challenges that I face from breastfeeding, without sharing much on the concrete breastfeeding solutions since I have not solved my breastfeeding problems just yet. If you are expecting a baby and plan to breastfeed when he or she arrives, please learn from my lessons here. Go get some information on breastfeeding from the internet, join a breastfeeding forum/support group, get a contact of a lactation consultant or ask around few friends and/or relatives with breastfeeding experience before your baby is born so you can breastfeed your baby successfully later on.

Last but not least, here's some wisdom on breastfeeding that I want to share: Breastfeeding requires good techniques, patience, determination and lots of practice. This line may sound so simple but these are the four things that I currently try to improve to slowly breastfeed my baby as much and often as possible.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Two Weeks Old!

Naomi is two weeks old today!

Isn't she pretty?

My two-weeks old darling with her killer smile.

Since my baby came into my life, my days are felt like going by really, really, really fast. My morning, afternoon and night activities are now so routine and run in short cycles. In every 2 or 3 hours, I have to be able to feed my hungry (and screaming) baby, burp her, change her diaper, cradle her to sleep, express milk (if any!), clean and sterilise her bottles. Bathing her, giving myself a descent morning shower (plus hair wash) and doing her laundry are best done before 12 noon or else, my afternoon schedules would be even more hectic. These days I gorge my food very quickly so I can attend to my baby as soon as possible or do my other chores in waiting. Squeezing an hour afternoon nap in a day is a must (otherwise, I won't have the super power to transform myself into an owl past midnight) but pretty hard to do; and being able to nap for two hours is a luxury that I don't get to enjoy every day. Getting an ideal 8-hour beauty sleep at night is a distant memory.

But you see, seeing her grow and get chubbier each day is priceless. Oh, the joy of motherhood...

Anyway, veteran mothers claim that a new-born is much easier to take care than older baby or a toddler. Do you agree?

OK, that's all for today's quick blog update. Got to go!