The Big One

“Did anything change?” or “May changes ba?”
That’s the question my best friend would always ask me whenever I enter a new season in my life. She asked me this when I got a boyfriend, when I got engaged, and after I got married. My reply would always sound boring because life, by God’s grace, has been smooth sailing. I was never taken by surprise in the different transitions I had involving career and relationships.

So you can imagine how shocked I was when I found myself crying almost every day during the first 2 weeks after giving birth! There were mornings when I’d cry before Paul left for work, and there were nights I’d cry before falling asleep. It was the first time I had a completely different answer when she asked me again during her visit to see my baby. With complete facial expression and exaggerated enunciation, I answered her, “SOBRAAA! (A LOT!!!!) BIG CHANGE!”

I was really blessed to have an easy pregnancy and easy labor via normal delivery. I can do pregnancy and delivery all over again (with epidural, of course!) and I don’t even mind the ugly stretchmarks. That, my friends, was the easy part (for me, at least).

After 5 hours of labor, I was injected with epidural, then in an hour, I gave birth!

We stayed in the hospital for 2 nights. Haniah breastfed pretty much on demand. Even if I didn’t see any milk coming out, they said the baby just needed very little (a newborn’s stomach is the size of a calamansi).

When we finally got back to our place, that’s when we realized how difficult it was without the nurses around to help us! Nothing actually prepares you for parenting more than experience itself.

What made it hard?

  • Sleepless nights – for someone who LOVES sleep, this was a major adjustment. During the first month, I had to wake up every 1-2 hours throughout the night to breastfeed. We have no helper and baby latches directly, so no one could help me with this. For the next 2 years, I bid farewell to my affair with 8hour sleep. waaah! haha
  • Breastfeeding – Once we were back home, my nipples started to crack. I would cringe every time because the initial latch was painful. On the 4th day, I still couldn’t see any milk coming out so she probably wasn’t getting enough. This caused her to turn yellow due to mild jaundice. This was when the stress really got to me—both physically (pain of breastfeeding and not getting enough sleep) and emotionally (getting worried and feeling guilty for not producing enough milk for my newborn who’s turning yellow because of me). Thankfully, on day 5, a friend referred a lactation consultant to unclog my milk ducts. After that massage, my milk supply increased, and so did her urine output. Everything happened in God’s perfect time.
  • My new schedule – My day starts and ends with breastfeeding. For the first 3 weeks, she fed every 60-90 minutes. Each feeding session lasted for ~ 20-35 minutes, sometimes even longer. After burping her and putting her to sleep, it won’t be long before her next feed. I basically couldn’t do anything else except attend to her 24/7.

Everything just felt draining when I realized this was going to be my new normal. For days, I felt stuck in this part of my life that revolved around taking care of a newborn. I love our baby but the first few weeks were really tough. They kept saying it was worth it, but while I was still in week 2, it didn’t feel so much like it was worth it. I guess the physical and emotional stress took a toll on me. And I think that’s normal. I read somewhere that things get better after every 2 weeks. Thankfully, it does. 😊

So I just did it one day at a time — zooming in on the little progress both baby and I are making. Before I knew it, we were already a month old!

I think I started to really enjoy the journey at week 4-5 onwards. By week 5-6, her eye contact was more consistent. She gazed at me frequently and started to smile. I’ve been meaning to post this when she turned 2 months old, but I had no time! So, I’m sharing this now that Niah is 3 months old! HOW TIME FLIES! I still feed her on demand but it’s now every 2-4 hours. Another blessing is that she can now sleep for 5-6 hours straight at night!

So, I want to encourage those who just gave birth. Hold on. It’s going to get much harder before it gets easier, but trust me, it will get better. I promise! 🙂 I’m only 3 months ahead and I’m still learning, but things are much better now than how they were 2 months ago! hehe

I thank God for this BIG CHANGE in our lives because this change made me a mom. My activities are still limited since I breastfeed directly and that means she has to go wherever I go, but I am very grateful to have my husband’s help. Our parents have been nothing but generous and supportive.

As I finish this entry (finally), I’m watching her sleep soundly in our bed. She used to sleep in my arms and couldn’t be put down because she would cry. Slowly, she is now learning to sleep on her crib and on our bed. When she’s cranky and nothing seems to appease her, letting her latch on to my breasts never fails to work. At this stage, I’m learning to respond to her needs by offering her what God has already equipped in me. It’s amazing how the human body works and how moms are designed to have an intimate relationship with her baby through breastfeeding, laying him/her close to the chest, having skin-to-skin contact, singing to him/her…

My role as a mom will not always be like this. The time will come when she will no longer need me to breastfeed her, when she will no longer need to be soothed and rocked, when she will no longer wear diapers, when she will no longer need me to cut her nails, when she will no longer want to be carried, when she will no longer need my 100% attention. Her needs will change as she grows, and I will have to learn to adjust so I can respond to her and care for her the right way. So while I’m at this stage where my back always hurts from feeding her and carrying her, where my relationship with my breasts seem complicated due to milk blisters or engorgement, where my productivity to do other things has slowed down 65%, where my body doesn’t get taken care of because I sometimes choose sleep over hygiene (LOL)…while I’m at this stage, I will treasure every moment, because it won’t last.

At first, it was comforting to know that the difficult days won’t last, but as weeks turned into months, I realize that I’d rather Time stop so that perfect moments could last forever. But as they say, time waits for no man. I can only hope to capture as many perfect moments as I can in my heart. Mere snapshots won’t do justice, but when I’m old and gray, they would have to be enough as I relive the past and remember how our lives became much more beautiful when we met our daughter.

Thank You, Father, for our precious little girl.

When a Season Ends

In 2 months’ time, I am due to give birth to our first daughter. Just saying it still sounds surreal! I am excited to finally meet the little human inside me. I am so curious to see what she looks like. I am eager to hold her and hear her voice.

taken during my 28th week

As I anticipate this inevitable new chapter, I think about the season that I must bid goodbye to. I have mixed emotions that are hard to put into words. It’s not sadness. I have this mental countdown telling me that I am running out of time. What I feel now is not the fear of beginning a new journey. I worry that I won’t be able to end this season strongly.

Right now, I’m at this point where I can be the wife that gives 100% attention to my husband without having to breastfeed or change diapers. Am I giving him my attention? I can still go out with family and friends and enjoy the time spent together without constantly checking on my newborn baby. Am I making time for them? I still have 4-6 weeks to meet my students for speech therapy before I go on maternity leave (for who knows how long). Am I still making a difference? I have projects that I want to finish before June. Will I have enough time? I can meet people to have intimate conversations about life without feeling haggard or tired. Am I available…or should we just schedule it 7 months from now?

I have about 65 days left before I take on the role of being a mother. I know I should be busy preparing for that, and I have been reading up on several books on parenting, breastfeeding, teaching infants to sleep etc. etc. etc.!

In all those books, however, only one gave me the best advice. It was during my Bible-reading several weeks ago that I found myself reflecting on this passage written by the apostle Paul. He said in 2 Timothy 4: 7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” He wrote this knowing his death was imminent and he was challenging Timothy to remain faithful in the christian walk.

It must sound absurd that my perspective focuses on the end when I am literally expecting our baby to arrive in 2 months! Our life’s race comes in different stages and I’m trying to view my time on earth in shorter segments—maybe in phases based on my current roles and responsibilities. I believe it helps when we think this way because we wouldn’t be planning too far ahead, all the while assuming that we have unlimited time on earth.

We’ve all heard of stories where someone unexpectedly departs this world—a newborn baby, a father, a mother, a young student, a grandparent, an aunt, a teacher, a security guard, a pastor, a friend—leaving loved ones in so much pain. Recently, I am learning to live life with the end in mind, reminding myself that the end is not when I’m 80 years old. The end could mean next week, or next month, or next year. Paul’s words reminded me to focus my time and my energy on completing the race God has called me to run TODAY.

It applies to whatever stage we are in. Whether we’re studying, working, looking for better job opportunities, waiting for the right person to come along, preparing for marriage, expecting children, raising a family, coping with sickness, experiencing loss… the list goes on and on. Many times, we envision the next chapter to be better. We plan and pray to make sure it is. But in doing so, we put less emphasis on where we are and focus instead on where we want to go. The next chapter won’t be as exciting if there was no grand season finale. So, here’s what I think. Let’s embrace the season where we are in and be all in. This has been my prayer:

“Father, help me to finish this season of my life well.”

Before I give birth to my daughter, I want to be able to say with confidence that I have completed the mission assigned to me, that I have been faithful with the work and the people He has entrusted me. Then and only then can I look forward with a steady heart knowing I have done my best, I have kept the faith, and I have finished the first 27 years of my life well.

“I will live this day as if it is my last. And if it is not, I shall fall to my knees and give
thanks.” -Og Mandino, The Greatest Salesman In The World