Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cabaran Ramadhan

At my conversion ceremony in March 2008.

2010 is my third year as a Muslimah and it was also meant to be my sixth year of fasting during Ramadhan. Since 2005, I'd done my best to never miss fasting during this holy month, because I had just started learning about Islam, and fasting along with my Muslim friends seemed like the right thing to do.

After taking the plunge and converting to Islam in 2008, fasting began to take on a whole new meaning for me, because unlike before, when I was just testing my personal limits and accompanying my friends, now going a whole month without food and water during the day suddenly became a spiritual experience - a time to be grateful for finding love, peace, and most importantly, God. 

During Ramadhan that year, I was still basking in the glow of marriage, finding my footing within my new extended family, and little did I realise, also carrying just-conceived twins! Fasting was so easy and joyful, and by the time Raya came, it hadnt even felt like a month had passed! 

When Ramadhan 2009 rolled by, so much had happened in my life, including losing the twins and thankfully, conceiving again, that there was so much more to be insaf about and grateful for. Unfortunately, because I was about 4-5 months pregnant at the time, and so ill and dehydrated from terrible morning sickness, I had to skip fasting on the doctor's advice.

Come August 2010. I am the proud new mother of a lovely little girl, and on all accounts, raring to get my fasting record back on track. Then, by the fourth day of Ramadhan, my milk supply dropped so drastically that the doctor recommended stopping my fast so that I could take medication to bring the supply back up. And since Zara was still around 5-6 months old at the time, she still required sufficient amounts of breastmilk to complement her semi-solid diet. So... that was that. Another Ramadhan gone to waste.

Some of my friends were surprised that I had even attempted to fast while breastfeeding, insisting that in Islam, it is acceptable for a breastfeeding mother as long as you pay fidyah. Still, I felt terribly guilty about not being able to fast for the second year in a row, and at the back of my mind, I also worried about having to replace a WHOLE lot of fasting days before the next Ramadhan!

On top of that, I had to endure a lot of snide remarks from other women about not fasting, ranging from "I fasted while breastfeeding, why cant you?" to "E'elek... it's not like you're gravely ill that you cant fast!", and even "Zara will survive lah, my kid did!" It made me doubt myself constantly and I wasn't sure whether I was doing the right thing.

Until today, I still look back at my Ramadhan, think about my many wasted opportunities to redeem myself in the eyes of Allah and wonder if I could have continued on. But... the month has come and gone, and I now have no choice but to wait until the next Ramadhan comes along.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Daddy's Little Girl!

Found this picture in my laptop today, and blimey... will you look at that? Our Zara is a spitting image of her Abah!

Naz, aged 2 years, with his kakak, Nora

Now let's just hope she didnt also inherit her Abah's generous nose hehehe...

Still Sleepless?

Lacking sleep at night, poor baby would be
so exhausted during the day that she'd collapse onto
my tummy and knock out instantly.

And... there I go again.... AWOL for almost two whole months!

Although there are a lot of reasons for this (and some lame excuses too), the main one is that I've really been soooooo tired! *Yawn*

Yes, the Ramadhan and Raya frenzy did play a part in the exhaustion, but the truth is, I just havent been getting enough sleep since Ms Zara Aaliyah (The Boss) decided at 5.5months to stop sleeping so beautifully through the night.

Smart-a** Mummy and Abah thought we had moved past those pesky sleep issues when The Boss turned two months old. I had learnt from a dear friend that 4-5oz of either breastmilk or formula presented in a bottle could miraculously knock out a baby until 6, maybe even 7am, if you were lucky. We got even luckier: for 3.5 blissful months, The Boss slept from 10am right through to 8.30am every night! Needless to say, Mummy and Abah were very happy (thanks Yan!), and even managed to get some quality time together after 10pm *wink wink*

And then... as all things are with The Boss, everything went to sh*t and she decided to shake us out of our complacent reverie, waking up not once or twice but sometimes four to five times a night!

Now I know some parents out there are suffering far worse than I am (one poor lady shared with me on Facebook that she endured sleepless nights for TWO years... as a working mum too!) - so to these seasoned sleep"less"ers, my complaint is really peanuts. 

But as new parents experiencing real sleep issues for the first time, we really went bonkers. After a couple of weeks of sleeplessness, and seeing my husband conduct his morning show in what looked like a drunken stupor, I knew something had to be done... and fast!  

So I rushed out to the bookstore and invested in a few books on sleeping to see what the experts were recommending. From the feedback I received, Gina Ford sounded great, but when I read her solutions, I knew instantly that I (like many Asian parents) would not have the stomach to pull off most of her sleeping methods, particularly "Crying Down", which made me want to cry instead.

Jo Ryan of "Baby Bliss" fame also recommended a few ideas, which we tried but didnt seem to work for us. Internet searches revealed few practical solutions, with many other mothers offering sympathy and recommending just waiting it out patiently.

Finally, I read feverishly through my "What to Expect in The First Year" handbook (God's Gift to all new parents!) and chanced upon a name I had also seen mentioned in several other books (including Ford's and Ryan's). That magic word was "Ferber".

I had originally skimmed over that word in my previous research because at first glance, I didnt feel I could deal with crying of any sort (and Ferberization does involve quite a bit of crying, though not as much as the "Crying Down" method). But as I continued to read up on what it entailed, it began to look more and more do-able.

So the hubby and I set aside a week to begin sleep-training The Boss, with the agreement that since he had to work, I would be the one responsible for comforting Zara through the night.

That was over a month ago. And for the last two weeks, Zara has slept comfortably from 10am until 6am, when she takes a feed and continues her sleep with us in our bed, sometimes until 9 or 10am. 

There have been stops and starts though, such as when we had to move back to my in-laws for Raya, and when we went for a short holiday to Penang, which upset Zara's sleep routine a little and resulted in her waking up once or twice.

But overall, The Boss has finally learnt:

1) that a diaper change, a 5oz bottle and a dark room means that it's sleepy time
2) how to fall asleep on her own,
3) how to return to sleep after waking in the middle of the night, 
4) not to expect milk, patting, rocking or lullabies if she wakes in the middle of the night,
5) that Mummy will only pick her up for a feed at around 6am (and she is like clockwork, most of the time)
6) and... how to sleep in any cot anywhere, as long as the sleepy time routine stays the same.

Yes, Zara does still have her moments every now and then, where she'll wake at about 4 or 5am and cry for an hour (or two), so we revert back to Ferber and the next night she's usually ok again.

On the whole though, the experience has shown results, and as evidenced by my return to blogging, I am no longer fearful of bedtime because I know I will get at least 5 hours of solid sleep (yay!).

So here's hoping that Zara's good sleep continues, and that Mummy will finally be able to rest well enough to be able to stay awake and blog!

UPDATED @ 11:15pm, 27 September 2010:
Since posting this piece, I found an article on the net that is serious food for thought. The Ferber method may not be for everybody and it has its fair share of supporters and critics, so if you're planning to try any form of sleep-training, please make sure you read this opinion first.

I wish I had read this sooner; it may have greatly altered my approach to Zara's sleep issues, which I plan to start addressing a little differently from tonight onwards. Good luck to sleepless mothers everywhere!