Dear Deh-dy…

Dear Deh-dy,

We overhead Mommy talking to her friends the other day. And she said you’re not like the other dads. 

  • She said that you won’t babysit us.
  • She said that you’re bad at tracking when it’s ‘your turn’ at diapers or cleaning up the kitchen.
  • She said that you don’t read us stories before bed. 
  • She said that you rarely make us dinner at night. 
  • She said that you keep us away from her sometimes and that other times, she’s the one that leaves work to pick us up from school.
  • And she said that you don’t even take us to Daddy & Me play dates.

You do so many things different from the other dads. And Mommy notices. And we notice. And science people notice. They even think that because you treated us different, that we’ll be different from the other kids too. And sometimes that’s just how luck works.

Sometimes you lose, but sometimes you win. And we hit the jackpot!

  • Thank you for spending every minute you can with us as special Dad time; even when Mommy can’t come too. It’s extra cool that “Daddy raining” time has built us a reputation in hot and humid Singapore with our double running stroller!
  • Thank you for teaching us that there’s no need to keep score, that it’s everyone’s job to help out with the house so that we can all play more once the laundry and dishes are done.  
  • Thank you for trying so hard to tuck us in every single night, even though we act like werewolves. We will always love you more for the flying game, though. Don’t worry! It’s just that at bedtime…. Mommy has magic.
  • Thank you for managing all the grocery shopping so our helper can have dinner ready. And for not only making us breakfast every morning, but for taking the time to sit down and enjoy it with us before you go to work. Someday we will back in America with a deck and backyard where you can teach us your grill master skills for dinner too!
  • Thank you for taking Mommy out on dates without us. You always have so much fun and so do we; even getting to watch movies some nights!
  • Thank you for dropping us off at school every. single. day! And even though picking us up is your favourite thing, thanks for letting Mommy do it sometimes too!

And someday, when we’re big and you’re an old grandpa, we hope we can be exactly like you. Except we hope Daddy & Me will actually be a thing so awesome Dads like you don’t have to feel silly with all the Moms. 
Someday, Dad, we’ll be able to tell you how truly thankful we are that you weren’t like the other dads. 

Until then…. Do it “‘gain!” (and don’t forget to remind us about that time we talked with a British accent…..) 

Love you!

“He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” ~Clarence Budington Kelland

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Balinesian Backpacking Babies

Bali; tropical honeymoon destination and island oasis for surfing and yoga retreats.

…or ya know… The bucket list must-do of hiking up an active volcano with a 2 and 22 month old to watch the sunrise! Obviously.

But packing was quite different than what I originally envisioned when I thought of visiting Bali… Obviously making sure we had our passports, flip flops, and sunnies was as expected. But due to delays in life and a healthy dose of Zika floating around SEA (South East Asia), by the time we got around to booking the trip, we swapped out the surf board for trekking poles and the yoga mat for diapers and Peppa Pig pajamas.


And once Nana arrived, it was off to the airport we went for our way-too-fast 48 hr tropical escape from the big city.

Monday was spent lounging at the infinity pool with our much awaited fufu drinks and a few hours exploring the local market. And what a market. Asian markets in general are well worth exploration…. But Let. Me. Tell. You. Nothing says Bali quite like a bouquet of huge wooden……… bottle openers. I’m serious – those things were EVERYWHERE!

After an early bedtime, our day 2 alarm was set for 2am, where we would head off to spend the day with our (highly recommended) private driver and guide for only $150 USD.

We were a bit conflicted as to what to wear for the hike. Because reviews from Singaporeans made you expect something akin to Denali in December, but others did the thing in flip flops??! After doing it ourselves, our attire recommendation is to realise you’re climbing an active volcano for about 3-4km distance and 1000m elevation each way. You’ll slip and fall a lot less with hiking or trail shoes of some kind. As for the temp to workout attire, we were all pretty comfortable in shorts/capris, a short sleeve shirt, and light (read: fall) and wind proof jacket or pullover for at the top. Or when in doubt, a fleece blanket, Crocs and your favourite Peppa jammies will do. (Mom of the Year forgot kid socks though, so her feet also got wrapped in our buffs.)

It was a bit foggy the morning we went up, but still absolutely breathtaking. As was the view from where we had breakfast afterwards (top photo) looking back at the peak. The crater (2 lower photos) is riddled with stray dogs and monkeys ready to dig through your bags or jump on your head during selfies. So we held kids close, smiled quick, and had trekking poles at the ready for batting practice if needed (only once), and let the less informed tourists take their pictures while actually holding or touching the raccoons of Asia. In case no one ever told you…. Macaques are not cute. They’re annoying and disease ridden. 

Total trip was 2:30am – pickup | 4am – start | 6:30am – summit | 7:30am – start decent | 11am – finish! 

Despite having sunlight in our favour, going down was harder and slower than going up. The misty rain made things a bit slippery, had to pause for a few trail side diaper changes, and navigated a detour due to trees down over the original return path. But overall, an excursion well worth it that I’m sure our guide had no expectation of finishing when the 5 of us crawled out of the van that morning.

After breakkie with a view, we made it back to our hotel, found some rendang for lunch, and headed off to the airport for home. Of all the places we’ve visited in three years so far, Bali is up there on the must-do-again-before-we-leave list. What a fun and fast few days. And all the better to spend it with my mom, better half, and two munchkins. 😍

“My father considered a walk among the mountains as the equivalent of churchgoing.” ~Aldous Huxley

Life in Zikapore

I didn’t truly understand what a major life choice was until I lived in Singapore. During the Zika outbreak. While 6 months pregnant.

Miami, according to the news, was basically on lockdown after 49 cases in as many months. Whereas, Singapore springs up  242 cases in the first week and some people were still very “meh – the symptoms seem mild” or “I’m not worried because dengue is worse, you could die.”

What?!?

I mean, I hope they’re right. I hope when the science finally catches up and we’re looking back on this in a decade that we laugh at how much we overreacted. And that the one article about Brazilian pesticides or Asia being a different strain were actually spot on. But so far, it’s not *proven* that this bug doesn’t cause severe brain defects. And I’m not about to bet my kid’s life on that one.

So why not just go back to the US like some women are doing? Well…. Because I have a job. And so does my Husband. And we are supporting – and growing – a family. 

“Just going home” for 3 months really means

  • Relocation, not vacation, back home
  • New job for me, potentially no job for him
  • Expat status and benefits gone
  • US lack of mat leave means no pay and only a few months to financially figure out a new house, car, life, etc…

Not a fantastic plan A.

So since the little shits haven’t officially reached our neighbourhood yet (or even close), we have opted for plan B where I morph into Rapunzel (or Fiona, depending on your fairy tale of choice) and stay locked away in my tower for a trimester. Only difference is that my tower is surrounded by tiny little disease filled dragons and I can’t kiss my prince to make them go away…

Bring on the prevention!

First, most bug stuff in Singapore is citronella based… Which, newsflash, doesn’t work when you’re looking to use it outside! Wait … What?!? Yes, you heard me. Citronella doesn’t actually repel bugs, it just camouflages your smell for a certain radius. So a light breeze will blow it away. And the radius is about this big…


So for everything other than my left shin, and to accompany my essential oil stuff so I can be out for longer than an hour, I had a special care package of Picaridin and DEET flown in from a dear friend (ironically who lives in Miami) who was tuned in on what a miserable quarantine I was in for.

Picaridin and EOs for me and #1 | DEET for him


A typical day means

  • Checking websites and newspapers for new reports of cases in case we needed to venture out – is it by our neighbourhood? Is it by day care? Or his work? Or our 1 place of refuge – the CrossFit gym?
  • Going outside means my new favourite perfume – Eau du bug stuff – and long pants/sleeves.
  • The office was next to a dengue red zone, and I wasn’t about to be the first Zika casualty for that area. So immediately started working from home (thankfully had a very supportive boss!) and went in on a few key days for meetings, but it was taxi driven to the front door, and no more walking between buildings a block apart.

The reprieve

  • You can order in anything and have it delivered in this city; dinner, groceries, massages… Anything!
  • I could still go for runs along the Marina. The concrete jungle that was downtown was pretty skito-free with the nice breeze we have!
  • I should be safe 61 stories up with zero plants on my balcony because I can’t grow them to save my life!
  • My desk chair at home is a yoga ball – which made the last month of emails a lot more comfortable. 
  • I got to spend more lunch and breakfast dates with #1 when I would’ve otherwise been at an office. 🙂

This also meant cancelling a few vacations though – buhbye Bali and Vietnam – as it probably wasn’t a great idea to go hangout in an actual jungle for a few months. But we will make those up.

~*~*~

Fast forward to December… we made it! I stayed sane, kiddo arrived healthy, and I would do it again if I had to. And thankfully for my other still pregnant friends, the cases are almost gone!


Nice try, Zikapore, but I won this round! 

“It’s better to lose one minute in life than to lose life in a minute.” ~Author unknown

Help… errrrrrrr

When I tell one of my western friends about our S$650/month (~$500 USD) live-in helper who’s job is to take care of the cooking, grocery, cleaning, laundry, and childcare, I get one reaction: “Wow. That’s amazing and I wish we had something that great here! You’re so lucky…”

Not so fast……

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a relief to have an affordable option so that we can both work; and I haven’t folded and put away my own underwear for a year. But everything comes with a trade off. And only once those friends have come to visit, and they too get to live with the live in, do they start to understand that it’s not entirely home sweet home.

Once you get past the entire lack of privacy — where some woman you barely know is within earshot of every conversation, story, smooch, phone call, or fight you have — the biggest challenge is picking the right one. All of their resumes are the same; great with kids, can cook any recipe you hand her, and able to complete housework with little direction. But it’s a bit like picking out a new pet. They all look pretty great at the store; already house broken and love kids, but there’s no way to know which one is going to chew holes in the new couch the second you leave the house. So you hope and pray that you’ve laid down the rules and training will stick. (Note: I’m not comparing a helper to a pet. A far better comparison in that regard would be that you instantly have somewhere between a toddler and a teenager depending on her mood that day. And on good days even the grown up comes to work too.)

But after employing, living with, and then having to dismiss our first helper, there’s a lot we’ve learned in the process this past year.

And since the Internet is usually so full of smiles and rainbows and pictures of perfect beach vacations, I figured a small glimpse into some of the hard parts of everyday expat life wouldn’t hurt too much.

And this in only our experience with one helper… Note the reference to the helper lottery below. 



The Good

I have a couple of friends here who basically won the helper lottery. Never had to set rules. Dinner is always cooked brilliantly. Children adore her. And the fridge is always full and garbage always empty. Every expat dreams of this. I too catch myself also using phrases like “Wow. That’s amazing and I wish we had something that great here! You’re so lucky…”

But not everyone wins the lottery.

We thought we’d done ok though; bought a $5 scratch off and made $4. She was, on the spectrum, exceptionally average.

  • She didn’t steal from us.
  • The house was still in order if we left her home alone.
  • She didn’t bring other people into our home – that we know of.
  • She started earlier that I think most do at 6:30/7am.
  • She was honest with money – always was sure to give receipts and change back immediately.
  • She did well with chores as long as they were explicitly scheduled and micromanaged.
  • She cooked a few Indian and Filipino meals (in the beginning) that were fun to try.
  • She would have never hit or hurt our child maliciously like you dread hearing about in the news.
  • Dishes were always done.

Days like this made having a helper an easily brilliant decision.

The Bad

But like I said… Exceptionally average. Thing is, we both work. We don’t always have the time to micromanage everything. And over the course of the year, things started to slip… transitioning from her job, to ours. Her consistency seemed to wane over time and to this day I’m not sure if that was an intentional sneaky trick to avoid the work, or just skill deterioration. My guess is the former.

Because when she left us…

  • I had recently taught [the cleaner] how to use a toilet brush.
  • The cooking was almost entirely done by my husband or I. She would heat up lunch or make the occasional egg for breakfast for the baby.
  • After one too many trips where a request for $2.30/100gm steak came home as $4+ (😩), the groceries shifted to our job; and since we didn’t have the time to always get to the wet markets, this meant grocery stores, which means paying more for groceries. And then when we’d forget to stop at FairPrice, but still needed food, we would have to go to the much closer Four Seasons which is basically Whole Foods on steroids. $$$! Bigger 😩😩…
  • Laundry was officially ours to avoid shrinking or too much soap being used if we let her start the machine.
  • The worst part and her conceivably biggest job was that we couldn’t even let her take the baby out alone. She repeatedly doesn’t look for traffic or wait for the green man to cross when we’re with her, and that one alone was enough for me to lay down the law when you live on a major 5 lane road downtown. So the poor kid, to avoid a chance encounter with a rogue taxi, had to sit indoors all day until mom and dad were done with work to go out and play.

On top of the shifting of work from her to us, there was still plenty of instances where we had to ‘sit down and have a talk’ like I’m sure my parents did with me as a teenager; knives are sharp, don’t be wasteful, be careful what you post on the Internet (ie.. Pictures of my kid! 😡), please don’t hang my underwear half out the window on the 61st floor, and plenty of reminders about what the baby shouldn’t be eating (like whole almonds!) or playing with….. Pens… Necklaces… Bags… Small plastic pi— anything!

And it got to a point where we explicitly outlawed the phrase ‘I forgot’ because it was used so much. Here’s a pen and a notebook… Time to start writing things down!

And the… Uuuuuggggghhhhhhhh?!?


Then, in the last few weeks, life came to a decision point. Her visa was going to expire. So do we renew, transfer her, or send her packing?

Insert many many conversations with friends and the Ministry of Manpower (MoM = government) for advice and to confirm our options. Then add a healthy dose of unnecessary Mommy drama and gossip, instigated and/or fuelled by her… Decision made. It’s time to go.

Which is so much easier said than done.

Because aside from the logistics of doing so in a foreign country, you also have to battle with the emotional hurdle of knowing that you’re at polar opposite ends of the economic food chain – and this is *really* going to suck for her.

But for fear of a mood swing and potential horrible reaction with a child in the house (which fast forward is exactly what happened), and by recommendation of MoM, we decided to smile for a few weeks, buy the plane ticket, send the baby on an adventure with a friend, give her just enough notice to pack before the flight, and have… The talk.

What happened next was the most emotionally trying 24 hours I think I’ve ever been through.

  • 6pm: “Today is your last day. We’ve decided it would be best that it’s time to go home to your child you haven’t seen in 4 years.” Followed by about 90 minutes of yelling, tantrums, threats to run, and a stern warning that God is watching us and we will get our payback. By now I’m sitting on a bench physically in front of our door so she can’t leave.
  • 8pm: The police show up. But since her visa is still technically valid, they can’t enforce anything. They recommend she just stays with us for the night, but they can’t guarantee she won’t run. But if she does, they were kind enough to confirm that we would be fined $2-5k.
  • 9pm-11pm: The most amazing friend in the world comes over and talks her off the ledge. By this point she’s acting like a 6-year old; I’m talking actually putting her fingers in her ears and humming so she can’t hear you. But my friend is an elementary teacher and well versed in these kinds of negotiation strategies.
  • Midnight: Everything so far has been recorded on video. Flight has been rescheduled. We have 15 hours to get her on the next plane. Sleep with the baby in our room and 1 eye open.
  • 7am: She didn’t run. Thank goodness.
  • 9-11am: All three of us head to MoM for some rules clarification. She’s informed that we are cancelling her work pass immediately and that if she doesn’t board the plane, she will be arrested. She still says she won’t go. (What?!?) MoM tells us to call the police again if any problems and they will arrest her on the spot.
  • 12-3pm: Packing, lunch, and a few hours of awkward silence before heading to the airport. Bags checked in. Boarding passes in hand. Escorted to and through immigration without incident. My guess is the extra $300 in cash helped.
  • 6pm: Phone confirmation from airline that she boarded the plane. Deep breath for the first time.

What people don’t usually understand or know about having a helper is that you’re legally responsible for them. We pay her salary and medical bills, provide her housing and food, and until she’s on a plane or gainfully employed by someone else… We are responsible and liable for *everything*.

So while watching her walk through the immigration gate is a solid relief to know that she’s not in your house nor on your payroll anymore, there’s still a punch in the gut to realise that you have no idea what’s going to happen on the other end of that flight for her. And that sucks.

But it’s my family first.

And now that we’ve learned a few things about how to hire and live with a helper, we’re looking forward to starting fresh next month with our new girl.

And in the words of my parents; things are going to change in this house.

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” ~ Lesley P Hartley

I love you biggest.

Gramma,

Today is the 86th anniversary of the day the world was blessed with a you. And that’s pretty damn awesome.

Not everyone has a role model in life that has accomplished so much.

  • You spent tax season with us for 20 years
  • You swam every summer of you life, went tubing at 75, and waterskiied at 60
  • You travelled the world; Tahiti, Australia, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Okinawa, London, Copenhagen, Canada, Mexico, Hawai’i and even came to visit us kids all over the States well into your 80s. Though good thing you didn’t need a passport to get to my graduation in the UP of Michigan…
  • You taught us manners and respect and good Catholic values like giving up watermelon and waterskiing for lent
  • And then a little over a year ago, you even became my tech savvy Gigi; Skypeing with your great grand daughter half way around the world.

You make me proud. You make me dream big. You make me a better person. 

But then this past February you also decided we needed a lesson in never knowing how good you have it until it’s gone.

On February 7th they told us that the cancer was back; and aggressively. Which makes sense, because cancer is as asshole like that. So, as best we knew how, we started bracing for one last summer… one last visit… one last trip back home… one last weekend at Gramma’s. But I suppose with 86 years of experience, you knew how to be ready sooner. 

Way too sooner.

And on February 28th, 21 too short days later, I had to have one last FaceTime call… one last E and Gigi pigeon noise session… and one last ‘I love you biggest’… 

No one told me then that last fall would be the one last time you sat on my lap… and the one last Chalice mushroom sandwich… and the one last time I would get to hug you close…
So I’m going to take your last lesson and do my damnedest to learn from it. I need to make the most of the time with my own parents and family and life. I wasn’t ready for it to be your last anything, so I’m sure as hell not ready for it to be our last anything either. They have way too much Nana and Grandpa-ing to do and we have too much exploring to do.

So right now… today… that means we need to make the most of our remaining time in Asia. And we need to live up to what this blog was started for to begin with — living in the now. Because one of these days will be our…

  • last 61st floor sunrise with a view of 3 different countries
  • last stroll around the Marina
  • last run through MacRitchie or the Botanic Gardens
  • last sunset at the Barrage
  • last quick long weekend to Thailand or Cambodia or Bali

I have no idea when those things will happen, but I know they will. 

 
I can’t imagine what kind of strength it takes to decline treatment and say goodbye like you did; I know they didn’t give me near enough morphine for this past few months. But if I can live and die with even half of the vigour and dignity and courage and gratitude that you have, I will be proud. I will have done something right.

We were beyond blessed to spend as much time as we did with you growing up and spoiled rotten that you stayed so active and able to keep up with us well into your 80s. I know that so many people don’t get to say that. So instead of being sad, I’m going to have to remind myself over and over that the sad only comes from knowing how great we had it.

Thank you for all the joy. I will always love you biggest. 

“I’m going to spend the rest of my life living, not dying.” ~ Phyllis Rothe, 7 Feb 2016

  

Crunchy it is!

Singapore has wet markets. They’re like a farmers market; but trade the frilly signage and promises of organic and grass fed for sweet old ladies that don’t speak a ton of English. **I love it.** And it’s so much better than the “western” grocery stores where you pay out your ears for the comforts of home.

One of those “comforts” we chose to forego was the $5.20/4oz pouches of baby food.   

“The produce manager is more important to my child’s health than the pediatrician.” ~ Meryl Streep

So instead… for $17 and change from our local wet market, I turned this:  

…into this! 

  • 8 ABC
  • 6 Papaya
  • 5 Sweet Potato
  • 4 Mango
  • 4 Applesauce
  • 3 Green Beans & Pears
  • 2 Sweet Potato & Apple
  • and 22 various 1″ (1.5oz) cubes to just use at home

And if my math works, that’s 32 pouches plus another 33 oz of food  … carry the two … Would’ve tipped just past the $200 mark for all those!

“You can do a lot for your diet by eliminating foods with mascots.” ~ Ted Spiker

We had registered for the Infantino Squeeze Station and Pouches. (Which, btw, companies should send you a commission for doing their marketing…) Pretty solid setup, but I ended up ditching most of the station and just used the syringes. 

Tip #1: It works great as long as the purée isn’t too chunky, so you don’t have to force it.

Tip #2: Don’t try to force it. Especially beets. Beets make a huge mess…

Beets, in about any consistency, will also guarantee that your kitchen looks nothing like the cheerful perfect woman in the promo/how to video. I actually kind of wonder what she’s cooking in that video because my kitchen looked less like this…

  *

right before cleanup, and more like this… 

“You will always be your child’s favorite toy.” ~Vicki Lansky

All in all, it wasn’t nearly as time consuming or difficult as I expected. We will be doing it again; already ordered more pouches. Crunchy/frugal mom for the win!

Just hoping her father doesn’t eat them all as snacks before she does…. I can’t blame him too much though, they do taste pretty awesome.

  
~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Fast forward to a few weeks later and so far I highly recommend this kind of set up. These pouches have been awesome! Except for mangos. Apparently kiddo is NOT a fan of mangos. Oh well… More carrots next time.

“As a child, my family’s menu consisted of two items; take it or leave it.” ~ Buddy Hackett

*Photo: Infantino Squeeze Station video on Amazon

A Grand Mummum’s Day

Mom, 

I would have to imagine that the last 32 years of Mother’s Days for you looked something like this:

The most recent decade or so was floral deliveries or cards or maybe a spa treatment if, while we were busy with class and work and life, one of the four of us remembered to send something nice. College kids and 20-somethings have impeccable taste, you know. Unfortunately, I think my brother got the “favorite” award this year because he sent a real card. In the mail. That got there before today. Well played, broseph!

Before that dad maybe helped coordinate a relatively relaxing Sunday for you…. Or atleast hopefully loaded the dishwasher after dinner. And made sure your brood of teenagers signed the card. 

The most thoughtful of years thus far, though, had to have been right before that; where we made macaroni cards at school or were excited to (and insistent on) helping prepare breakfast in bed. Sorry about the egg shells that dad may have missed. I’m sure you smiled through a few of those crunchy suprises without our even realizing it.

But that first year… Before my three siblings showed up… When you were only a few months into this “mom” thing… I want you to know that I get it now. 

Well… Starting to get it now. Not saying I get the whole entire mom thing. No way. (Rumor has it we actually never do.) But I’m now 5 weeks in and getting to experience my first Mother’s Day. So I’m now starting to understand what “mom” means. 

And the first Mother’s Day isn’t about me. It’s about you. 

It’s about realizing how drastically different this last 32 years must have been from your perspective. And how much you sacrificed for us without a second thought. And without our even realizing it. 

In these first weeks I’ve learned…

…What they truly mean by “breast feeding is hard”. That shit hurts and is frustrating as hell when it’s not going well. 

…How depressing it can be when dad gets the fun and flirting time with the baby, while I get looked at as simply the food truck. 

…How exhausting growth spurts can be. Just. Go. To. Sleep. Child. 

…And that my body is no longer my own.

But you’ve always reminded me that I can do anything for a little while. And those reminders have helped me through the hard parts these last few weeks. 

“Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had, and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.” ~Linda Wooten

So I want you to realize that when I look back on the last 5 weeks, what actually stands out is …

…How gratifying it is to finally get the hang of feeding; and how bad ass you feel knowing you’re the sole provider for your kid’s nutrition. ‘Meals to go’ is open for business!

…That some days, I’m the only one (not even dad) that can calm the crying baby just by picking her up. She only wants me!

…How much I can accomplish on just a few short hours of sleep. Chest naps with the kiddo are a new favorite. 

…That it’s pretty miraculously amazing that my body made this unbelievable little person!

And because while she sleeps in my lap, this part never gets old….

 

So thanks for the advice. Thanks for reminding me that I can do anything. And thanks for setting the bar so high. I can only hope she can look at me someday and feel exactly like I do today. 

Happy (Grand)Mummum’s Day! 

ILY.

 

“Call your mother. Tell her you love her. Remember, you’re the only person who knows what her heart sounds like from the inside.” ~Rachel Wolchin



Confiiiiii….don’t think so.

Everyone knows that once you preggo your eggo there are certain new rules you get to live by. Like the obvious no smoking. Be stingy with caffeine and the occasional glass of house red. Or don’t start any new crazy exercise regimen!

But skip across the pond and the whole mess gets……. Messy!

All of the western rules still apply. And then some!

  • First of all – everyone will touch your belly.
  • All Chinese Aunties know that it will be a boy/girl. Don’t bother telling them that you’re not finding out. (btw – all y’all who said boy were wrong!)
  • No cooly foods whatsoever before baby. And only heaty foods after. I’m not sure what makes dates heaty or cheese and eggs cooly…. But they are.
  • Pineapple is for sure cooly and isn’t allowed *at all* as it will bring on labor, even at only 30 wks.
  • Your typical ‘work out’ will get you whispered about by most locals before, during, and after baby. Especially a 10k at 36 wks, CrossFit until 39 wks, or lunges during labor.

But what I wasn’t ready for was that period after delivery, and the mere illusion that the “rules” would go back to normal.

Baby girl showed up bright and early. So after polishing off a good nap and a shower, and having gone 8 months with no coffee, I was ready to walk downstairs (slooowly) and grab a latte and some fresh air. And since she was healthy and the hospital had a nice little outdoor garden, we brought our new favourite person with us.

Whoa.

At first I thought it was so cute that everyone loved staring at my new bundle of awesome. I mean, I did, so obviously they did, right? Nope. Turns out I was breaking some serious Confinement Period rules of the first 30 days.

  • Rule 1: No showering (or for sure at least washing your hair).
  • Rule 2: There will be no going outside the house/room for Mom.
  • Rule 3: Rule 2 applies to baby as well.
  • Rule 4: Though shalt drink confinement tea (made from dates). Not lattes.
  • Rule 5: Confinement tea is meant for her, not him. (he thought it was just really bad coffee…. Whoops?)

Yeah – it was pretty casual to hear that people can’t [come out to play or visit or insert other pretty normal social things] because ‘I’m still in my confinement period.’ It is also pretty standard to hire a confinement nanny or your favourite mother/mother-in-law/aunt/sister/sucker-of-a-best-friend to be on baby duty for the first month. Her job is to bring you the baby for feeds, and then handle all of the other burping, changing, rocking, napping in between. For an entire month! Which seems all well and good until you realise that this other person will be basically living with you. The. Entire. Time.

We decided to go without despite strong suggestion otherwise because… frankly… I already had that person. He is half the reason I’m in this sleepless mess in the first place and sleeps soundly right on the other side of the bed…. He’s hired!

And he nailed it. Best confinement helper ever!

One of the last rules, though, we managed to do. Almost. As any replica child of mine, she showed up basically bald, so I didn’t have to worry about shaving her head at the end of it all! Yes… Final confinement “graduation” ritual is taking a razor to a baby’s head. I am still not entirely sure how you go about shaving a baby’s head. Just seems like an injury waiting to happen. Or at least it would be if I did it!

So while I don’t know that I could personally entertain all of the facets of confinement, it was pretty fascinating to hear about it from my other Mum friends. And it’s ten kinds of endearing to have my Malay-Singaporean cleaner deliver E’s first red packet for her 30 day birthday … and then make sure we bundle up (jacket for me, extra blankes for babe) before heading downstairs for a quick lunch.

“You don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same tune.” ~Doug Floyd

The waiting game

I have been blessed with a very healthy, very active pregnancy. (Up until the last week where I slowed down exponentially…) I can only imagine that this list would be longer for those that were not. Feel free to add more to the comments!


I’ve seen the blog posts about what to do for the new mom and the advice about how we can take advantage of these last weeks as DINKs. (Dual Income No Kids) But I’ve noticed there’s not much out there to help the rest of you through those last few weeks of pregnancy. With you being defined as the multicultural world I now live in; an American abroad in an Asian country that is about 40% expat – so throw in a healthy dose of European influence as well.  

And all y’all have so many different ways to do things. Let. Me. Tell. You. So I won’t even get into the advice about things like my not being allowed to eat pineapple or rubbing it in that the US doesn’t have maternity leave …

I’m sure you think you’re being helpful. And that’s great. But if you’re doing any of these things, chances are, you’re actually probably not. So I’m trying to help you here. Promise. 

Please keep these in mind the next time you talk to a woman about to give birth. 

Things NOT to say in those last few weeks…. Side note: this was majorly written while bouncing on a yoga ball during my four days in mild but long (early) labor, so I do not apologize for nor did I edit much the tone of it. Some of you need to hear it. And some women don’t have the ‘tude to tell you straight. 

  

Me in my pillow fort of support at exactly 40 weeks – about 8 hours before labor started.

~*~

#1: “The baby will come when it’s ready!”

Don’t say that. Ever. We get it. But you’re likely saying this in response to one of two things:

1) you asked when I was due and that date has passed or is fast approaching. 

or 2) I just told you about the weird food concoction I tried because the internet said it can bring on labor. 

Either way, you’re diminishing how I’m managing my exhaustion and frustration and pain. And it’s probably just going to make me want to punch you. 

Newsflash: We’re not in control of really anything right now – including the ability to sneeze without peeing. So the small feeling of forward progress that we get when drinking that tea or eating spicy food or getting acupuncture helps. Or realize that maybe we just like spicy food and those little needles actually do help with the back pain.

Either way, we’re probably uncomfortable as hell right now; I guarantee something is sore and we’re watching our other half sleep soundly through it. So when you try and negate that little bit of relief, you’re kind of just coming off as an ass. 
  
Instead – try optimistically suggesting/lying that “It’ll be here soon!” or just reassuring us that the first minute/week/month/year will make this part all worth it. 

~*~

#2: “It’s going to hurt!” (Or really any reference to how much “pain” I will be in or insistence on how much I will need that epidural.)

No. No. No. Especially if you’re citing references from your favorite movies or your friend’s birth last year. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s painful for a lot of women. And good on you if you opt for the epidural. Your birth, your choice. But birth doesn’t have to be long *or* painful. Mine was neither. I brought a 4.2kg babe into this world without the epi. And I did it in less than 6 hours; only 1 1/2 of them at the hospital. And didn’t even have an IV. So just stop. Especially if it’s a first time mom – there’s no need for you to put that in her head. 

How’d I do it? Hypnobirthing, an amazing doula and partner, and alternative birth positions like kneeling and standing lunges. Yup you read that right; look it up. And then stop insisting that it will be painful. 

  
Instead – really with this one it’s the old saying of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” So say something positive or keep it to yourself. And suggestions or stories are one thing, I can deal with a few of those. But for the love of all that is staying my friend, please don’t *insist* on what I’m going to want or dish out medical advice. That’s between me and my OB. 

~*~

#3: Checking in every day to know if the *baby* is here. 

I’m not talking about sending encouragement here. I’m talking about the direct “Is the baby here yet?” posts. I get it. You’re excited. You’re waiting for the flood of baby pictures that should follow making a human. But did you just make yourself the 8th person to post on some version of *public* social media to ask if my kid is here yet? 

No. No it’s not. And believe me, by this point, I want this kid here exponentially more than you do. 

Remember when I announced pregnancy via social media? I promise I will let you all know when the actual child arrives. Until then, please spare me the 5 week window of regular public check ins on the tiny human arrival. 

  

Instead – if you’re actually concerned, just check in on ME. Via private message. I guarantee I’ll appreciate it way more and will tell you if there’s been a change and the kid is no longer on the inside. You’ll likely even get a more detailed answer/update rather than a sarcastic one.

My favorite was the friend that sent the message; “Since I haven’t seen an announcement I thought I would send encouragement 😊” <insert link to Salt N Pepa ‘Push It’ video> 

Humor is good. 

~*~

Or better yet, for conversation in general, talk about something that isn’t baby related. I’m going crazy waiting and it doesn’t hurt to feel like a normal human again. 


Hypno- whaaaaat?!?

What do you think of when I say Hypnobirthing?

I would imagine at least a good share of people envision a Crunchy Orange County Mom hypnosis technique where some strange fat man swings a plumb bob in your face when labor starts and then you wake up to ‘Oh look… a baby!’ with no recollection of the last 37 hours.

Thankfully my friend Jaime was quick to explain otherwise when she first suggested it to us as a birthing method – far better than the Lamaze classes my parents took.

**Disclaimer: I promise to NOT detail labor here, so feel free to continue**

So anyone who’s ever watched a movie knows that labor and delivery is a stirrup supported cussfest of telling your husband to put down the video camera. But after hearing about my friend’s super short labors for both kids and nothing but pleasant yet unmedicated accounts of the detailed parts, I figured…. Yes, please! I’ll have one of those!

So started my digging and found Four Trimesters here in Singapore and signed us up for 4 hour classes each Saturday for the next 6 weeks. Most men, I would imagine, aren’t in love with 24 hours of birthing instruction, but Steve seemed content enough that all he had to do was show up. Especially since I just spent the last 6 months growing a person for him.


Photo: on our way to class each week

And then school started….

The classes were broken into 3 sections; Mind and Body, Understanding Our Options, and Bringing Baby Home.

In Mind & Body Class 1 we learned about how tension causes pain and that the best thing we can do before the birth is to address any fears we have – both he and I – openly so that we’re not worried about them at all during labor.

For example, After getting woozy at an untrasound of the heartbeat, I was pretty sure he would pass out. So to conquer this, we talked about having a doula as my backup so I knew I was supported 100%.

I would have to imagine, hypnowhatever or not, that this is a solid conversation any new parents should have before the kiddo shows up. Science agrees.

Mind & Body Class 2
was all about physical preparedness. This is where the dad’s got an updated health lesson of what part is connected to other parts and what’s going to stretch, tear, or otherwise change in a few short months with mom’s body. Their reactions and questions were both hilarious and unbelievably reassuring that they wanted to be so involved.

We also got to understand how the baby’s position and our laboring position can make a huge difference in delivery. Like when my doula suggested lunges during contractions while delivery; which worked miracles. Apparently the nurse’s facial expression when from ‘lunges… *scoff* …yeah right’ to ‘holy shit get the doctor!’ pretty quick. Thanks Keidi!!


Photo: Our doula helping us practice our Spinning Babies movements to keep the baby in the best position.

Hypnobirthing isn’t about being ‘natural’ at all costs. It’s about making informed decision about having the empowered birth you want. So Understanding Our Options Class 3 was a big one all about medical intervention and plan B here in Singapore. We talked about everything from what kinds of questions to confirm with your doctor to the differences between the two kinds of epidurals to what medications are commonly used or available upon request in Singapore compared to their U.S. or Brittish alternatives.

This helped us detail Plan B (and C….) with our doctor the steps we preferred should shit hit the fan. So that when the doctor says, ‘it’s time for an intervention’, you knew what was next and had already decided that you’d, for example, prefer to start with small doses of Pitocin rather than being hit with the whole shebang right away.

This came into play when I was in labor for 4 days and then it stopped…. *gah! WHAT?!?* My OB said we could induce today or that he was comfortable waiting up to a week. Thanks to our classes, we knew exactly what kinds of induction I could request and knew that the risks associated with them weren’t necessary yet if we were both still healthy. It took us about 45 second to decide to wait because we knew what exactly what he was talking about.

Understanding Our Options Class 4 got into the ‘hypno’part; mostly knowing when it’s ‘go time’ and what to do get into the right mindset for a relaxed birth. Those 4 hours are probably best summarized to say that I’ll do me and he does absolutely everything else. I breathe and relax and listen to music and my body and he packs the bag and calls the cab and alerts the family that we’re headed in (and tells my mom that I will talk to her later!) and rubs my back during contractions and talks to nurses and makes medical decision and reminds me to breath and move and eat and drink and…. yeah… everything else.

He is and was amazing. End of story.


The nice part was that we had homework; practice relaxing! Tricks I mastered and still use today. And a trick that had us roll up to the hospital making sure to bring my iPad preset to Fourplay Radio.

Side note: This class also solidified our choice to employ the help of an amazing Doula named Keidi; to help him remember to remind me to do all these things and be the calm voice and level head you need through those early morning hours.

This is also the class that really came in handy when touring the baby assembly line that is the hospital system in Singapore. (Where the package includes 12 hours in the delivery room before they start charging a la carte!) And questions about the access to a room with mobile CTG monitoring vs what kind of cable channels or meals are available made me feel like I was a bit more in control of knowing what kind of birth I wanted to have. (Whether I actually was is debatable, but the feeling was nice.)

Then the last two sessions talked about Bringing Baby Home. Class 5 was all about breastfeeding. I’ll spare the details, but 4 hours was well worth the lesson of what to expect…. Almost. Finally Class 6 Parenting 101 let the guys practice things like changing a diaper and helped us all understand a few of the basics of what to expect that first few weeks besides the total lack of sleep.

As far as the classes, I give kudos to all of the men in our class. They are all amazing fathers now (we were all 1st time parents) and have been pretty fantastic and supportive! And our final class was actually on Valentine’s Day – How romantic! HA!

So………. Was it worth it?

Absolutely.

 


Photo: Taken 3 days before delivery after working on relaxation and Spinning Babies movements. Left – Ginny. Right – Keidi

After a short (~12:30am-6:11am) labor and an unmedicated, pain free (yes – it’s possible), not even an IV delivery I can’t recommend Hypnobirthing or having a doula enough.

Because of those classes and their guidance, I knew:

  • when to wake Steve — and had the trust and prep for him take over his share of the duties
  • what stage I was at — only spent about 75 min at the hospital and pushed for a mere 15-20 of those
  • which positions were going to be most comfortable to deliver — the Epi No is brilliant
  • how to keep baby in the right position those last weeks — Doula Ginny Phang is one of the few coaches in the world trained in Spinning Babies
  • what my options were for intervention — declined induction and a VE because I knew I could and they weren’t needed

And then we had Keidi and Ginny by our side before, during and after delivery for support with relaxation techniques, feeding and all of the other little annoying questions as things came up as a new parent!

I have no doubt our little miracle baby arrived here so quickly and so healthy thanks in part to these two women!

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” ~Elizabeth Stone