The story of Naomi's name

It's been a 3-year hiatus from blogging at length. My last entry was when I was on maternity leave after having Sam. Life then was a lot more relaxed even with a new baby, and I could find pockets of time to jot some thoughts. (Of course, I didn't think of it this way back in 2013.)

Now with another new baby and a 3-year-old active toddler, my 3-month maternity leave just whizzed past so quickly. I almost forgot that I was going back to work next week!

The thought of documenting the origin of Naomi's name was nagging on my mind since her birth. I recalled blogging about Sam's name, and wanted to do the same for Naomi (to be fair). But juggling the 2 kids got the better of me, and now I sit here on the last day of my maternity leave wondering where my time went to.

The story behind Naomi's name was totally the opposite from Sam's story. I have always felt that a person's name is extremely important and should tell a story of how he/she came to be.

Flashback to a youth encounter camp in 2015, where Ps Steven Teo prayed for Jon at the end of the night service. Somehow during his prayer, he mentioned about Jon and his 2 children. Jon doesn't recall this as much as I recall text messages from a few girls asking me if I was expecting then (and I wasn't). That incident came back to mind when I found out I was pregnant towards the end of 2015 and hence it was with this thought that I wanted Naomi's name to have an element of "prophecy".

But you wouldn't know how difficult it is to find a female name that had that meaning until you search through so many baby name websites, and realise that may be there just wasn't one. And so thankfully I could flip it over to the Chinese name and used the word "预" from 预言 (as in "prophecy, or to foretell the future), though this character is not commonly used for names. Taking the 恩 (grace) from Sam's name, so that there is some similarity between the siblings, we pieced it together to be 陈预恩.

May she always remember that God had foretold her life before she came into being, and may her life be filled with His grace!

So back to her Christian name, I am a stickler for names from the Bible (as opposed to variations of Biblical names), just because I feel that it is more timeless. And if you have ever googled "female names in the Bible", you would know that it is far less than male names. Take away all the "bad characters" (think Bathsheba), names that are difficult to pronounce (can you imagine Hephzibah?) and names of close friends (and their kids), there was only a handful left to choose from.

Jon had wanted a girl (even before we had Sam), and so this daughter was like an answered prayer for him. So as we went through the names, it wasn't long before we decided on Naomi, which meant "my joy" or "my bliss", as a testament to the "pleasantness of Jehovah".

And there you have it, Naomi Tan Yu En!


Confinement myths and truths

I don't know how many of the stuff I did during my confinement was really going to have a long-term effect on my body (as the old Chinese grandmothers believe), but I thought it would be fun to list some of them down for memory's sake.

Do share your take on them as well!

1. No washing of hair for at least one week.
Seriously? In Singapore's hot and humid weather? Despite me thinking it is crazy to go along with that, my confinement nanny manage to convince me to wait out for a week (plus Jon supported her too). Her selling point - "you already spent 3 days in the hospital. Just another 4 days to go, and you can stay in aircon as well." Apparently, washing my hair (even with warm water) will give me headaches when I get older because "the wind gets into the head". By the 5th day post-delivery, I was wrapping my hair up in a towel. And when it was D-Day, you can imagine how elated I was and took extra long in the shower to wash and condition my hair! (Can't imagine how my friend is holding it out for 2 weeks! *salutes*)

2. No plain water. Only longan-red date drink.
I was never told why I couldn't drink plain water, even if it was warm water. I forgot to ask as well. Anyway, I like things sweet and I was pretty happy drinking the longan-red date drink for almost a month. Yes, there were occasions when I sneaked into the kitchen to grab a cup of warm water just to get a different taste. But I wouldn't mind drinking it on and off even now that I'm out of confinement.

3. No cold drinks/food, or else your baby will get tummy ache.
I don't knew the rationale behind this. I've never heard of it until my nanny told me. So she ruled out ice, cold drinks, ice cream... Even my Yakult had to sit out on the table for a while before I could drink it. It's said that if I drank cold stuff, it would cause colic in the baby. By hey, I sneaked some cool water without my nanny's knowledge and babysam is still a-ok. He didn't get the "3 hours, 3 times a week for 3 weeks" kind of colic. Of course, he cried longer than usual sometimes and was fussy/cranky. But which baby doesn't go through phases like that??!

4. Bathing in that herbal leaf water.
That herbal leaf (also known as 大风叶) was boiled every day before I took my bath and has a distinct herbal smell to it. Thankfully it was not foul-smelling and is suppose to "dispel the air from my body". How the air got in, I have no idea. And I didn't have a helper who could chop ginger and lemongrass for me every day (that's what my cousin-in-law did because she liked the spa smell better.) So as long as I could take my bath every day, I'm more than happy.

5. Ginger. In every meal.
But it was only after Sam's jaundice level went down. It was said that breastfeeding mums shouldn't take ginger if their babies have jaundice so that it will not aggravate the situation. So after the 8th day, the nanny went all out to get ginger into my meals. And because I don't eat ginger as it is (sliced, pounded or whatever), she even went to the extent to cook a sliced ginger omelette so that I couldn't pick it out of my food. It definitely dispelled the air from my body. Let's just say babysam and I farted quite a bit.

6. The feet must be covered. The legs must be covered.
I was told that I've gotta wear socks or bedroom slippers at home to prevent the chills from entering my body through my soles. Since I was having my Jamu massages and didn't want to walk around the house with oily feet, I dutifully wore bedroom slippers during my confinement. But oh, the gasps I got when my nanny (and some friends who came to visit) saw me in shorts. Apparently, I should be wearing long pants and have my feet covered as well. Seriously??! In this weather? I obviously didn't go ahead with that and continues to wear my shorts throughout the confinement period. And I was still feeling hot (as in temperature, not attractiveness) in them!

7. Everytime I eat or drink, I should be sitting down.
It's got something to do with gravity and the womb being pulled downwards. Or something like that. I didn't know this until I was drinking a bottle of bird's nest standing up (how long does it take to gulp that small bottle right?), and my nanny came and said that I should drink it sitting down. Weird logic, but I didn't want to sweat the small stuff. So I just went along with what she said.

8. No peanuts, shellfish and dark soy sauce.
Mainly because I was nursing a wound. And like all old Chinese grandmothers believe, these foods should be avoided to prevent infection of the wound. Because my meals were dependent on my nanny, I just whatever she cooked and I didn't get shellfish or dark soy in my meals for the month. And I don't know where she kept the peanut butter in my kitchen. (Chunky peanut butter is one of my favourite spreads with bread.)

So anyway, this was my experience during the one month of confinement. On hindsight, some are pretty funny too!


The story of Sam's Chinese name

As I wrote previously, Sam's Christian name was decided way before we knew of his existence. There was a story behind the meaning of the name ("God has heard") and we went ahead with it.

But for his Chinese name, it was a totally different story.

We didn't know where to start. We didn't have a 家谱 (family book which list the generational names so at least the middle character is provided) as a guide. My full-bred ACS husband who "eats potatoes" (chinese slang for westernized, but we literally prefer potatoes to rice) can't be of much help. My parents took malay as their second language. And my friends gave me a queer look when I told them that I will probably search the largest collection of Chinese names easily available - obituary pages in the Chinese newspapers. I didn't get down to doing that, but hey, isn't it true??!

The thought of finding a Chinese name for Sam was lingering on my mind for the last few months of my pregnancy when we confirmed that it was going to be a boy.

One day, the phrase 权柄 (God's authority) rang in my head. I don't know how it came about. I thought it might have come from my limited range of Chinese worship songs, but whatever the case, I quite liked the sound of the characters.

I shared that with Jon and told him I wanted 柄 (as opposed to the more common 炳) in Sam's name. And after some deliberation, Jon contributed the last character 恩 (grace) because while we want Sam to have God's authority, he must learn to exercise it with grace.

And so that's how it came about... 陈柄恩.


8 things about postpartum that no one ever told me

I meant to write this entry weeks ago, but I think mummies would know that time is not on our side with a newborn. I have truly been at babysam's mercy (and schedule) in the last month. So while the spirit is willing (to do a lot of things), the flesh is weak (and would rather lie/stone in bed or on the sofa).

Just a disclaimer before you go further, some may consider what I'm going to write as TMI (for the uninitiated, it means too much information).. So read on at your own risk.

Strange things happen to our bodies after giving birth to a baby. And i was never warned of some of these things beforehand. Of course there's the usual, "it will take time for your body to recover", "expect to bleed for a month or so" (it's like your body making up for all the missed periods!), "you may never get back to your original size", and all the other confinement truths and myths dished out by well-meaning friends/family/acquaintances/strangers.

But during the first 2 weeks of post-pregnancy, google was my go-to source (other than whatsapp-ing friends) whenever I didn't know if what I was going through was normal. And so I figured I'll just list a few of these experiences in case this entry makes it on some search result for future concerned new mummies out there.

1. I was amazed how fast my gigantic tummy suddenly deflated after delivery. Keyword - deflated. It was seriously like a balloon that ran out of air. But with it comes the sagging of skin and new discovery of stretch marks that I never knew were there. (More like they were hidden from view, so "out of sight, out of mind".) But what I really didn't expect was the size of my belly button! It stretched so much that even I was disgusted by the gapping hole that was left. And yes, I have joked with Jon about getting it cosmetically reduced. But no, I will not waste my money on something so frivolous.

2. You would think that peeing is quite a natural action. However, the first day after delivery, somehow I just couldn't get myself to pee. I remember the nurses giving me a deadline to pee before they had to insert a catheter. I just didn't have the urge despite drinking lots of water, so they had no choice but to insert a catheter in me. And boy was that uncomfortable! I recall that I only peed on my own the following day after sitting in the bathroom for almost 15-20 mins and listening to the sound of running water. (On top of that, I had to endure a slight stinging/burning sensation every time I peed for the following week or so.)

3. How wrong was I to think that pregnancy constipation would not be an issue after the baby arrives. It continued to bug me and was literally a pain for quite a while. (All this was despite religiously taking the stool softener 3 times a day.) On hindsight, I think it was the fear of pain and risk of the stitches tearing that kept me away from the toilet for a couple of days. Even if I sat in the toilet for more than 15 mins. But I was also concerned that I was not moving my bowels. So imagine the relief (pun intended) when I finally got things moving.

4. We have been warned that babies only have one form of communication - crying. And although there are many websites and advice that provides a checklist of sorts to soothe a crying baby (dirty diaper, hungry, too cold/warm, etc), it felt like there were 500 reasons why the baby is crying. Even trying to carry him in the correct position (read: his preferred way) was a challenge. Compounded by the fatigue and other stressors, no wonder most women slip into some degree of postpartum depression.

5. One of the major stressors was the persistence to breastfeed. Yes, the nurses and friends have said that it would take a while for the milk supply to kick in. But no one told me that wait could be pretty emotional (especially when my poor husband had to go to the 24-hour NTUC at 2am to buy formula milk for an inconsolable crying baby despite nursing every 10mins). We did not expect that coming and so imagine the meltdown I had after babysam was put to bed after drinking the formula milk that first night home. But I thank God that it didn't take more than 2 days for my milk supply to start and the tin of formula was left to collect dust after that.

6. "It's all in the poop" was the main message from the antenatal classes and nurses in the ward when it comes to monitoring how the baby is progressing. The number of occurrences, colour, texture... I thought it was pretty straightforward. Until the second day we brought babysam home and we realised that he has been peeing a lot but no poop. That got us worried. I turned to google. I almost called the ward nurses for advice. Then that evening he pooped, and Jon and I cheered simultaneously. Wow. I never knew how elated new parents would be at the sight of a poopy diaper, until that day.

7. The speed a newborn (think: under a week) nurses and falls asleep can make time extremely long-drawn. For someone who is used to be on the move and thinking at least 2 steps ahead, the time spent nursing and waking the little one was a real test of my patience. Of course I'm grateful that he has no problems latching and my colostrum started very quickly after delivery, but watching him suckle for a minute and falls asleep shortly after made the 20-30 minutes (as advised by the nurses) crawl at snail's pace. Not to mention all the funny things parents do to try to wake their sleeping baby - tickle their feet, flick their ears, move the chin, fiddle their hands......

8. Everyone speaks about the benefits of breastfeeding, but no one told me how tired, thirsty and hungry it makes the nursing mum. I was eating 5 meals a day, and found myself searching for water in the middle of the night. It is not so much about the lack of sleep but i just felt drained. I'm not complaining because along with it came the fact that I lost 14kg since the day before I delivered. And I am about 4kg from my pre-pregnancy weight and 6kg from my desired weight. Being able to fit back into one of my pre-pregnancy shorts was also the highlight to mark the end of my confinement. Now, let's see when I can fit back into my favourite skinny jeans.

So, here are some of the things that brought me on the roller-coaster ride after giving birth to babysam. But I thank God for Jon's support that I kept my sanity through this new experience called motherhood. But I have many more experiences to go through (like growth spurts, teething, etc)... And am still praying that God will give me the wisdom along the way.


The birth of Sam

(To give some context to the first sentence... I started writing this entry last thursday (8 august), but only managed to finish it today.)

Today marks exactly 2 weeks since the little boy entered this world, and I thought I should pen down his birth story before I forget (though every mother who had been through labour would know that there are certain things you will never forget).

The ultimatum given by my gynae was for me to be induced by 25 July should the baby show no signs of making his own way out. And so we waited patiently until that day and we knew we had to serve Sam the "eviction notice". I kept wondering when the usual signs of labour i learnt in the prenatal classes would suddenly happen... But as it was, no water bag bursting, no contractions and no "show". What a disappointment.

So on the evening of 24 July, Jon and I came home knowing that our lives will change completely the next day. We took a short nap, had a late dinner, took my time to have a good warm shower and double-checked the hospital bag to make sure we brought everything. We left the house slightly before 2am and slowly made our way to the hospital.

Once we got to the hospital and got our admissions sorted out, I was immediately asked into the delivery suite and my first dose of prostin tablet to kickstart my contractions at 3am. Once they monitored and made sure everything was going on fine, I was brought up to the ward at 5.45am to rest and wait. And so we power napped again to conserve energy for what is to come.

The nurse had told me that my gynae asked for me to be given the second dose at 10am, but by 6ish, I started getting slight contractions. And by 8ish, I was told I'm 3cm dilated with contractions about 10 minutes apart and ready to go down to the labour ward. It seems that the little one just needed some nudging to start his journey out.

Down in the labour ward, I figured that the contractions were quite manageable and since my mum could give birth to my brother and I drug-free, I wanted to see if I could do the same. And so all I depended on was the laughing gas (that wouldn't make anyone laugh!) until I was told that if I wanted the epidural, I needed to let the nurses know early because the anaesthetist will take at least half an hour. 5 hours with the laughing gas was all I could handle before I thought to myself that I should just ask for epidural. After all, I was about 5-6cm dilated and would probably have a few more hours to go.

Just as the anaesthetist turned up and prepped the epidural, my body went into panic mode, I curled up into a ball with one of the worst contractions I ever felt (I later realised that the intensity of the contraction was lower than some I've had earlier) and I started getting drenched in sweat because of the pain. I mustered up enough strength to sit still for the anaesthetist to do his thing, while I hung on to the gas mask to ensure that I did not get another bout of painful contractions during the insertion of the epidural catheter.

My gynae popped in to check on me an hour later (he has earlier told me not to take the epidural because he thinks I can handle the pain), and found I was fully dilated. (It seems that the doctor who checked me out before my epidural measured my dilation wrongly.) So he gave orders for my epidural to be reduced so that I would feel some contractions to push the baby out. Somehow, even reducing the epidural to the lowest dosage, it still took me about 2 hours to get the sensation and around 3pm, the action began.

The next hour plus was just a series of pushes until I was told that Sam's head was "almost out" and "2 more pushes will get him out". But that last 2 pushes didn't seem to do the trick. The gynae called in 2 more junior doctors whose primary role was to press my tummy to help the baby get out. I did 2 more pushes which almost made me run out of breath and blue in the face, and the gynae realised that the baby's head was not going to coming out. He made the decision to use the smallest forceps to aid the delivery and within a minute or two, pop came the little one! What a relief!

The first question I asked when I saw the gynae carry the baby out was "why is he not crying?". All the shows I've watched had the baby crying the moment they breathed their first breath, but mine was quiet for a few seconds. And just as I asked, Sam started to wail and the gynae joked that the baby was waiting for me to ask.

I looked at the frenzy happening around the room. I looked at the nurses trying to clean up my baby. I looked at the gynae trying to draw the cord blood which I was donating to the Singapore cord blood bank. I looked at Jon as he smiled back at me (and I saw how equally tired he was from being with me throughout the whole process). This is what we waited 9 months for.

(Sidenote: the nurses in KKH's delivery suite are all so friendly and attentive. We had such a great experience during the 8 hours because the nurses were very assuring every step throughout the process. They made all the difference!)

I reminded Jon to take photos of Sam and the nurses apologised that they wrapped my son in a pink blanket because the blue one was dirty. (Those photos were never sent to anyone to avoid confusing people if my baby was a boy or a girl.) We stayed in the delivery room for about 2 hours before I was brought up to my ward where our families were waiting. I gave my mum a hug as I told her I can't imagine how she went through the pain drug-free twice. I had a newfound respect for all the women I know who delivered their babies that way too.

Back in the ward, everyone was excited to see the baby and here was our first family photo together...

Sam was born at 1649hrs, weighing in at 3.558kg, at a length of 54cm (97th percentile for newborns!) and 36cm head circumference. (That's why he was stuck and I couldn't push him out towards the end.)

The birth is only an event to mark the end of the 9-month wait. Now, the real journey begins... And I'm so glad I have my best friend to walk this experience with me. Just looks at him beam with daddy pride as he carried Sam for the first time. (And yes, he was inducting Sam into supporting liverpool at the same time.)


A divine reminder

Just as this waiting game gets a bit lengthy and unbearable, i get this timely devotional in my email from Max Lucado.

"God knows more about life than we do! ... When God doesn’t do what we want, it’s not easy. Never has been. Never will be. But faith is the conviction that God knows more than we do about this life and He will get us through it. We need to hear that God is in control..."

Once again, I am reminded that we should be anxious for nothing. To know that God knows what He is doing and such things (like the birth of a baby) is beyond our control.

So for now, as we prep for our visit to the gyane this afternoon, I leave the arrival of babysam in God's hands.

Just for the record, having spicy food, grass jelly and coconut water (of course not all together) do not bring about labour. Been there, done that.


The waiting game

And so my EDD came and went yesterday, and there was no sign of babysam popping out into the world.

Life is such a contradiction sometimes. 2 weeks ago, I was telling everyone that I hope babysam would stay in for a little while longer because I was not prepared for him to pop out just yet. (At that point in time, I was still busy prepping my handover, trying to clear my backlog at work and just too busy working.) Then I made it to my scheduled last working day (where I literally cleared out my whole workstation in 2 hours) and continued clearing emails over the weekend. It was so tough to just switch my mind off work. I was even joking with my boss that I was contemplating if I should disable the email access in my phone during my maternity leave. But after 3 mins, I figured that I can't bring myself to do that and would need to know what is going on to keep my sanity.

Then i started on my one week of leave for the past week in anticipation of babysam's arrival (just in case he decided to come earlier), and the break was more than welcome after a month of handover at work. But after a few days of staying at home and going out for brunches/lunches, I'm starting to feel a little edgy.

With no feelings of contractions at all (or at least not that I was aware of) and my last gynae visit yesterday showed that I was not even dilated, I'm starting to wonder of all the decisions we'll have to make. With my next appointment scheduled on this Wednesday, I'll have to decide if I would like him to be induced that night or wait it out a little longer.

Perhaps babysam is like me. According to my mum, I too popped out a day before the "ultimatum" date because I was also too comfortable in her tummy. Same thing for my cousins as well. But for now, we're praying that God will bring him out at the right time (within the next couple of days) safely and healthily.

While the UK and worldwide media wait for the royal baby to arrive (and no one actually knows whether he/she is overdue or not), I'll be here waiting for my little prince to make his appearance as well.

Like a wise friend said, "the baby will come when the baby is ready".


What I never knew about pregnancy

I've been meaning to write this entry in a while to remember my first pregnancy experience, especially in the weeks leading up to the final days.

I have not been the hardworking mum-to-be who read books, forums or articles to prepare for the baby. What I know is mostly from the pregnancy app or google, or experiences from friends and family.

And so I stumbled along my pregnancy days, thankfully with no surprises or health concerns. God has given me a pretty much smooth-sailing pregnancy journey, and for that I'm very grateful.

But there were a few things that I never knew, until now, that comes with pregnancy.

1. Water retention is such a pain, literally. As I entered my third trimester, I started having elephant feet from water retention. I don't know if the cause is because I don't drink enough water (but it was tiring to make so many trips to the bathroom), walk a lot to attend meetings or stand too much (as noticed by my colleagues). But whatever it is, I can't wait for my ankles to resurface and my feet to get back to normal. And I am thankful for the loving husband who rubs my feet almost every night so I get some relief from the expansion.

2. Water retention goes into your fingers as well. I woke up one day with numb fingers and got the answer from google. This was something very new to me. It made holding a pen or pair of chopsticks pretty challenging, and made me irritated with my untidy handwriting due to the lack of control. But I'm still glad it's nothing more serious, like carpal tunnel syndrome that some pregnant women suffer from.

3. Sleeping positions matter to the little one inside. He likes me to sleep on my left more than my right. When I spend too long on my right, he gets uncomfy and starts to wriggle. When I am propped up on my back, he takes the chance to stretch either into my bladder or ribcage. He has his personal preference and he makes it known. And if I want a comfortable night, I have to do his bidding.

4. Bathroom runs in the night are annoying. For someone who usually goes into a deep sleep, waking up more than 3-4 times a night to go to the bathroom was such a bother. Even if the bathroom is less than 10 steps from the bed. And in this last week, every bathroom visit had been filled with "what if it was my water bag breaking?" thoughts.

5. The constant worry at the back of my mind when the baby doesn't move for an extended period of time. He could just be sleeping, but the weirdest thoughts will cross my mind and I'll try to move him about to see if he is okay. And when he gets really active, I start telling him to calm down so that it is less uncomfy for me. The irony of life.


It takes a village to prep for a baby!

We are so thankful to have family around to help us, especially since I'm too heavy now to do much. (Let's not talk about the 15kg weight gain to date!)

Much of the heavy lifting, moving and fixing of things have been left to the men in my home - Jon, my dad and my 2 brothers.

Such a blessing to have strong-bodied men around, and it is such a change for me since I'm so used to being independent and getting things done on my own.

The other day, I watched the 3 men in my life build a cabinet for the little guy who is coming soon (plus my mum who was the overall supervisor).

Jon's family has been a huge support as well. With his hectic traveling schedule until mid June, they have been instrumental in running around the country with us to get stuff prepped in time (as I prayed that babysam will not come out too early because we haven't gotten most of the stuff then).

So much going on just for this little 3.5kg baby. Furniture around the house have been moved/removed. Half the store room is filled with toys and clothes for him. We made space in our walk-in wardrobe for his towels, clothes and what-nots. We have separate pails, laundry bags, detergent, toiletries... All for the little prince to arrive.

Now, as I slipped into the 39th week (and the first day of my maternity leave), everything feels so surreal. It's now a waiting game. Babysam should be ready to see the world anytime this week, so let's see what the gynae says this evening.


The countdown begins

Like I've told some of my friends, fertility is in the air in my office (or perhaps there is something in the water!). There are 8 babies (out of about 40 staff) due in 2013 alone. And we received news that baby #4 was born on Sunday morning. Now babysam is #5, I'm 17 days to my EDD and so the countdown begins...

The last couple of weekends since Jon got back from Seoul have been such a frenzy for us. Buying baby necessities (figuring out what we need and what we don't), getting additional furniture, rearranging stuff, washing baby clothes (little socks and mittens are so tricky to hang!), etc. The nesting instinct kicked in furiously (more for the husband than for me) and he started throwing out stuff pretty ruthlessly (albeit being sentimental about some of them).

On the work front, I am still struggling to clear my backlog. I was still planning my handover. I am quite sure that I have missed some stuff out. While I know that work is not everything, but I feel guilty for not starting my planning early enough.

But last Sunday night, a short bout of panic hit me. Suddenly, the thought about babysam deciding to see the world the next day crossed my mind. I thought to myself that I'm not ready. Absolutely not ready for that to happen. (I blame it on my first coconut since I started the pregnancy journey.) and I prayed that I'll be given a little more time.

So when I saw the doc yesterday, he confirmed that babysam's head is engaged but I'm definitely not dilated yet. And I just bought myself at least another week of time. We're trying to get most of the things done by this weekend and hopefully everything will fall into place at the right time.