Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Does It Ever Get Easier?

8th May 2012 - Today, our little family’s newest member turns a month old. And what a month it will have been! Anyone who ever said it gets easier the second time round has got to be barking mad. Breastfeeding still killed me the first week and a half – throbbing, engorged (and very sore) boobs, cracked bleeding nipples, blebs, yep, the works. You’d think after having breastfed Zara for a year I’d have been able to avoid these potholes, but no one tells you that knowing the correct techniques doesn’t protect your boobs from the shock of a new, very hungry baby. Im glad though that despite the pain I persevered, because feeding the little man has gotten easier.

What hasn’t gotten easier is the sleeplessness! I haven’t been able to figure out a good routine for both the kiddos yet, so working between Zara’s established routine and around Zak’s erratic feeding times is proving tricky. This also means that Mummy’s routine has gone to shit. On top of a strict pantang schedule to follow, this leaves little time for me to catch up on some much needed sleeeeeppppp zzzzzzzzzzzz…. Oops sorry, there I go again.

Yes, well. Zak still wakes up about 4 times a night, with no real pattern emerging, unlike Zara who fell into a 12am-2am-5am-8am pattern pretty early. The result is that most nights I’m left guessing what is to come – will it be a good night, Mr Zak? Or will Mummy stumble out of bed half dead again in the morning? It doesn’t help that the hubby’s workload has increased significantly (rezeki anak, they say), which is both a good and bad thing. It’s good because now we can start paying off our huge new housing loan that will leave us in debt for the rest of our lives. It’s bad because it means he’s hardly ever around these days and I have to manage both kids without him.

Is having 2 kids difficult? Well, it’s still too early to say. My guess is it will likely depend on Zak’s personality and how well I can coax him into a routine. With Zara, the first 6 months were tough. I had set some very rigid rules for myself with her that I intended to follow (exclusive breastfeeding, no bottle, no pacifier, the Gina Ford method, etc) which proved futile and a largely miserable experience. From that, I learnt my biggest parenting lesson – pragmatism. As parents, it’s fine to use ‘methods’ to help us get through tough parenting milestones, but at the end of the day, we must also learn to trust our instincts and balance them with the varied experiences of others. We have to always remember that no two children are the same and so our ‘methods’ must be flexible enough to work with their personalities. Right, so coming back to Zak. Im learning that he and Zara will probably be complete opposites, a little like my brother and I when we were growing up. I was the more headstrong, vocal, rebellious and feisty of the two; he the quiet follower.

Zak seems to be an unobtrusive little fellow; he can lie there quietly, observing the world go by, before softly falling asleep on his own. He doesn’t cry much, only when he’s hungry or his tummy doesn’t feel right (and when that happens, boy does he get red and angry!). He also shits a lot, almost as bad as his kakak, although she will forever hold the record of shooting the most people (4, including me) with her projectile shit (about 3 feet). I swear, sometimes when Zak shits, I worry he will take off like a jet! What’s happening in his diaper usually sounds so explosive you’d think there was a war going on in there. Then you open the diaper and get all disappointed with the tiny yellow splatter he seems fit to have presented you with. He also seems to enjoy shitting in nice fresh diapers. So you remove the diaper with the tiny yellow splatter, thinking he’s done, and right before you seal the new one, another explosion occurs. If you’re not fast enough, you’ll have the good fortune of being shat upon. My mother in law says if we were not Muslim, we could’ve ‘beli nombor’ and struck it big already. Apparently it’s very lucky to be shat on by a newborn. I cant seem to agree with that logic coz it certainly isn’t fun having shit down your front. Especially when you’ve just bathed the offending newborn.

Anyway, I digress. Zak’s so far unobtrusive personality seems to be jiving well with his kakak. From the first time she met him in the hospital, she has been nothing but a loving and very caring big sister. She knows Zak is her ‘adik’ and loves to caress his hair or kiss him on the forehead whenever she gets the chance. She has also taken to jumping up everytime he cries, covering her mouth and saying “Oh no! Baby cry!”. She will then rush over to pat him gently and say “Alolololo shayangggg…” The tricky part now is how to get kakak and adik to sleep at similar or overlapping times so Mummy can steal some sleep!

Zara and Zak with their Uncle Yean

Perhaps when this pantang thingie is over, everything might magically fall into place. I can only hope. But if my experience with Zara has taught me anything, it’s this  - you will operate like a zombie for some time and complain about it, but before you realize it, your kid is a toddler and you wonder where on earth the time went. Funnily enough, you will even wish the time didn’t pass by so fast, sleepless or not. So although I haven’t slept more than 2 hours straight for a month, I will try to appreciate and savour every sleepless moment I have with Zak, before he too grows up, too fast.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Welcome To Our World, Little Zakry!

On April 8th 2012, we welcomed our son Zakry Aiman Nazrudin into this world. At about 3 in the morning, one day after his due date (just like Zara!), I woke up to little sharp pangs low in my abdomen. Every night for a week up until then I had been experiencing the familiar tightening sensations of Braxton-Hicks contractions, wondering whether they were the ‘real thing’. Was this another false alarm? I lay in bed alone, wondering whether to call the hubby who was downstairs with his mates playing ‘Risk’. Nah, I thought, it didn’t feel like the labour I had with Zara, which were closer to Braxton-Hicks but more severe. So back to sleep I went.

At 4am, I woke again to the same pangs. Were they getting stronger or was I just imagining it? I decided to lie awake and time the twinges, to see if there was any pattern or regularity to them. 20 minutes later, and again 20 minutes later, there they were. I called Naz. “Yang, I think Im in labour…’ He bounded up to the room to check on me and then went back downstairs, I assumed, to call off the party. 20 minutes later, after another surge, he still wasn’t back. “Yang,” I called again, “Where are you?” Unbelievably, my darling hubby had resumed his game! “Naz,” I pleaded, “Please ask your friends to go home… I am pretty sure this is it.” Up he bounded again, went over to the dresser and picked up my pregnancy book. Flipping over to the page “Is it real labour?” he began to interview me about my ‘symptoms’. I vaguely remember wanting to kill him. “Ok ok,” he surrendered, “I’ll call it off.”

By 6am, there was very little doubt left what the pangs were. I got out of bed, finished packing my hospital bag and hopped into the shower. Naz had finally come back upstairs and was surprised to see me all packed and showered. I think about then it finally dawned on him that I really hadn’t been kidding. His eyes were like saucers as he gathered his things. In a few hours, our family of 3 would become 4.

0730hrs – We arrived at the hospital and checked in at the A&E where I was immediately wheeled into the Labour and Delivery Ward. By then, the surges were hitting me every 3-4 minutes. After being hooked up to a machine to check the baby’s heart rate, I was examined and told that my cervix was already 5cm dilated. This was fabulous news to me because with Zara’s 20 hour labour it had taken me considerably longer to get that far. Plus, I had already decided that with Zak I was going to attempt a completely drug-free delivery, so 5 cm along would also hopefully mean a shorter labour. Naz had brought along my ‘labour ball’, a gym ball that I’d been told would help ease the pain. I requested the nurses to take me off the monitor and quickly got on my knees before the next surge came. Wiggling my bum while hugging the ball, and with Naz coaxing me along, I managed to get through the next 3 hours of labour without too much difficulty.

Experiencing labour without the help of an epidural (with Zara, I caved after 13 hours) was nothing like I had imagined. I know this sounds strange but I never went for pre-natal classes of any kind – somehow I thought that I could ‘wing it’, and I mean hey, after Zara, how difficult could it be? But labour the way it’s meant to be is no easy feat. Hypnobirthing practitioners will probably be very upset with me for saying this, but the truth is, drug-free labour was the most excruciating pain I have ever felt in my life. When I got to 7cm, my awesome doctor (who has seen me through both a miscarriage and Zara’s birth) recommended breaking my water bag, and as soon as he did, the pain went literally off the charts. Not being able to hug my labour ball anymore at this point and having to lie prone on the bed meant I couldn’t ‘wiggle through’ the pain as I had the previous 3 hours. Naz, exhausted by now without any sleep, had to endure me tearing his shirt and grabbing at his hair as each surge came. At this point, I believe a primal urge sort of came over me – I was no longer really aware of what was happening, and Naz says I was groaning and growling like a wilderbeast. Im sure this cant have been very attractive and Im grateful that despite the bald patches he now has on his head from my hair-pulling, he still thinks I did great.

Barely an hour later, I was 10cm dilated and, as with Zara, I felt an overwhelming need to shit. Except this time, without an epidural, I honestly thought I was going to shit a football. With every surge, I felt my body being turned inside out. Dr Alex strolled in calmly in his scrubs and ‘wet market boots’ just as I yelled that I needed to push NOW.

A few seconds later, in my haze of disorientation, I heard Dr Alex say something about the baby’s umbilical cord and that I needed to stop pushing. Now for anyone who’s ever been in drug-free labour, this is an almost impossible feat. Torn between the unbearable pressure bearing down on my hips and Naz’s voice  screaming out to me to “Focus! Focus on me! The baby’s cord is around his neck… STOP PUSHING!”, I somehow managed to snap out of the haze and pull myself together. Naz said later that he had never seen me so terrified, my eyes so blank and yet so crazed. Looking back on it now, I recall feeling like my soul had left my body briefly before being sucked back suddenly into reality. I remember telling Naz that I had gone to pick up Zak’s soul from heaven to bring back with me. Corny, I know, but that’s really how it seemed to me at the time!

At 10.58am, after what seemed like an eternity as they loosened the cord from his neck, I felt little Zakry slide out of me with a gush of warm liquid. Just like that, the pain was gone. Zak lay on my chest squealing and I managed to hold him for a brief few seconds before he was whisked away for a quick clean. It was then that I was told he was having difficulty breathing and that they would need to rush him to the Neo-Natal High Dependency Unit for more oxygen and further tests. I still hadn’t fully recovered from the drama of the last few minutes and I don’t think it really registered until I was being stitched up. I remember asking over and over “Where’s Zak?”, before it finally hit me that our little boy was not well and it would be a while before we’d get to hold him again.

With my parents and in-laws an hour after delivering Zak.

The next few hours were a bit of a blur. I still didn’t have a clear idea of what was going on with Zak until Naz told me he had gone to see him in the HDU. After hearing that my little man was in a plastic box with tubes sticking out of him, I knew I needed to see my boy and make sure he was OK. I had been under some mistaken impression that delivering without an epidural would mean I’d be able to walk, run and jump around straight after, but I was so very wrong. Truth is, I was so sore my butt felt like it had been hit by a train. Not from the stitches but from the trauma of having a baby squeezed through my pelvis! I couldn’t walk or move without feeling bruised and battered. Despite this, I begged the nurses to please get me a wheelchair so I could go see my baby.

My poor baby boy.

Nothing really prepared me for the sight of seeing little Zak like that. He was so very pale and tiny, half his body in a plastic box, with a tube down his throat (to remove fluid that had gotten into his lungs), an IV poked in his arm (for antibiotics and glucose), and lots of other little wires stuck to him (to monitor his heart rate and temperature). I couldn’t hold him or feed him that day or the day after until the tests showed he was stable. I was told later that had it not been for the quick response from the midwife and nurses on duty that day, Zak might not have made it.  


I finally got to hold my little man 2 days after he was born, and I must admit, being able to smell his mottled wrinkly skin after everything he’d been through, will always rate as one of the simplest but greatest joys of my life (the other being my Zara).

*We owe our heartfelt gratitude to Dato’ Dr Alex Mathews, the midwives and nurses of Gleneagles Hospital for making sure our Zak would be the healthy chubby fellow he is today.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

No Longer a Baby!

'Big Hug' from my Zara.

Tomorrow my baby, Zara Aaliyah turns TWO. I've been pinching myself a lot lately as this date has gotten nearer, wondering how it's possible that two years could have gone by so fast, and how my baby suddenly grew into a little girl without me realising!

But sure enough, here she is dancing in front of the TV to her favourite Sesame Street video ("Elmo's World" - which she chose herself by the way), mimicking the actions, songs and dialogue of all the characters, sometimes even before they appear (yes, she's got it memorised by heart!).

I remember thinking a year ago when she turned one what it might be like when Zara would be able to talk and express herself more clearly. I wondered what she'd be like as a little person - what would she say, what activities would she enjoy, what she'd look like. 

I'm not too far off in my imaginings: At one year, 364 days, Zara has grown into a sweet, caring little girl. She's very independent, very boisterous and can be very very stubborn, but she's also kind to animals (loves cats, though scared of dogs), worries when you look sad (she'll kiss you better, look at you closely and ask, "Better?")and shares all her stuff/food/toys willingly (but will get into a big fight with you if something is taken away from her forcefully). 

Most mornings I'm greeted with "Morning Mummy! Big kiss, big hug!" followed of course by a big kiss and a big hug. And sometimes we'll roll around in bed a little because she'll say "Lie down Mummy", pointing at the pillow and then proceed to cuddle me or stare at me with both hands cradling my face (I call these my 'special moments' because sadly I know they wont last!). There are also mornings when Abah or Mummy will wake up with a foot in our faces, wet diapers on our chests or a good kick in the nuts (oh, and this morning her diaper burst and I got pee down my front). Yes, those arent so great, but more often than not, the experiences are of the former (Thank God!).

When her 'angin' is good, Zara loves to 'sayang' (a cuddle and a pat) her Mummy, and if it's extra good, even Abah will get a sayang, especially if he has a boo-boo and needs a 'big kiss' to make it all 'better!' On these days, she will 'kemas' her toys and put them back in their rightful places, eat her meals all on her own with a fork or spoon (this morning she refused to eat her bread without her fork!), sit quietly in her playpen with a book she's chosen from the book shelf, or take off her clothes and put them in the clothes basket when asked.

When her 'angin' is bad, good luck lah trying to get her to do anything. These days, she wont walk (she will need to be dragged, literally), will throw tantrums on shopping mall floors (thankfully, this was just a brief phase), completely ignore you or do the exact opposite of what you ask. A couple of months ago, Naz and I disappeared for a quick weekend away and returned to find her arm covered in bite marks so bad they were bruised. I was horrified, thinking she must have gotten into a big fight with her cousin, only to find a few hours later that she allthough they were fighting, she was actually biting herself in frustration! She's also pretty good at playing 'tipu', where she'll pretend to cry (very tipu-sounding cry!) or sleep, just so she can block out what you're saying. And I cant count how many times she has tipped over her water or juice, despite me warning her not to, simply because she loves the drama of having to clean it up.

On the activities front, Zara has graduated to more grown up pursuits. She loves 'schwuming', pulling out her swimsuit every now and then to remind you to take her for a 'schwum'. She has just learned how to pedal her tricycle (yay!), and goes nuts around playgrounds (especially ones with 'schides' and 'weeeee' aka swings). 

No surprises here, but Zara is also quite the entertainer, loving to dance and sing for the aunties and uncles on Saturday nights at Tok's house. She will happily perform 'Row Row Row Your Boat', 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star', 'ABCD...' and our favourite 'Proud to be a Cow' song from Sesame Street, and will go around to her audience making sure they clap during or after each song. 

Her vocabulary is not bad at all, she can name most things in her 'Words' book, sometimes in English ('dress') and sometimes in Malay ('baju'). She's pretty good at counting to ten, and will sometimes go up to 13, though sometimes she manages to count only 8 fingers or give me an extra 3 instead LOL.

And I've discovered that despite having mostly boys for cousins, you cant take the 'Ah Moi' out of this one. Zara loves carrying around her little 'handbag', loves being told she's 'pretty' and will tell you so if she think she looks nice, will wiggle her bum-bum when she's wearing a cute frilly skirt, and enjoys role-playing as Mummy with Elmo, feeding him (sometimes even with real food, urgh!), putting him to bed, and 'sayang-ing' him if he's fallen off the table.

Honestly, I have to say that the approach towards the Terrible Two's hasnt been as horrific as Ive expected. Of course, I've still got a whole year to discover what else is in store, but overall, I am truly thankful that in hindsight, Abah and Mummy have really had two wonderful years with a lovely little girl. Hard to believe she's mine (because I was a monster)!

Although I have neglected to update this space in quite a while, being busy with so many things (the business, TV work, planning Zara's party, planning for No 2's arrival) and carrying around an 8.5mth pregnant belly, I couldn't not take this opportunity to wish my little girl a very very happy birthday and to thank her for bringing meaning and joy to my entire existence. 

Yes, No 2 is on the way, and Mummy will soon have her attention divided (which worries me a great deal) but never ever forget, my Zara, that you will always be my baby, even when you're 16, 30, or even 50. I will love you even when you're embarassed to hear it, and will wish for your cuddles years after you no longer want to give them. 

Happy TERRIFIC TWO, darling girl!