Archive for December, 2009

Week 6: Growing Fusspot Alert

December 30, 2009

We brought him to a PD on Monday. He gained 500g in the 10 days since he came home. I’m really glad to see that he is thriving, at least that means we are probably doing something right. He seems to be doing fine but will need to continue with his checkups at the hospital – eye examination and cranial ultrasound because he had some bleeding in his brain when they did the first scan. I really hope he will turn out to be perfectly normal. We can’t help but worry about him all the time and I especially feel the guilt piling on that I gave him all these troubles because I wasn’t able to carry him to term. I guess most parents will worry about their children, no matter their circumstances.

He has become more and more demanding lately, fussing when he’s awake to get cuddles. He also hasn’t adjusted to sleeping at night yet so he’s actually most awake when we both want to sleep. It’s been a tiring few days when he just won’t go back to sleep after feeding in the middle of the night and just wants to be carried around. We tried laying him next to us but that just doesn’t satisfy the little fusspot at all. He just has to be carried and rocked around. Guess we must have spoiled him but I can’t really bear to hear his cries. I’ve started to become a great power napper. It’s definitely a skill that mummies with high need babies should have. Now I can lay down for snatches of 10-20 minute naps while baby Calvin is actually sound asleep. Hopefully this phase will be over soon, but I’m guessing it will probably continue for quite a few months to come.

I need my “Me” Time

December 28, 2009

On days when I feel more depressed, I’d feel like I’m nothing more than an overqualified milk dispenser and diaper changer. I’m sure it’s a phase that will pass but right now, there just isn’t much time between feeding and changing diapers every 3 hrs and expressing milk every two hours (after the 2 day fever, which I suspect is due to mastitis, my supply dropped significantly so I’m trying to build it back). Just trying to go out of the house can be a big logistic problem.

There’s also the worry that he’ll catch something if we go outside because he’s so small and weak. The other day when Johnny wasn’t feeling well, I caught myself wondering if I should try to catch his sickness so I can pass the antibodies to baby Calvin through the breastmilk. So far we’ve managed one trip to the grocery store with him strapped to the Ergo carrier and one short walk around our neighborhood. I think I really need at least one trip out a week to keep my sanity. It gets a bit lonely with no one to talk to the whole day except baby, as cute as he looks. In the evening when Johnny is back, I have nothing to tell him except baby stuff anyway. I really can’t wait for Calvin to grow up a little so I can at least go out and get things done if I want to. Or does that never happen at all? I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Week 5: Baby’s Home

December 26, 2009

So it’s only been one week since Calvin came home. It sure feels like a long time. We’ve been busy feeding, bathing, changing him and I was also struck by fever for two days. Not sure if it was because of mastitis or exhaustion or just a combination of both. Even Johnny was having a case of snufflies yesterday from lack of sleep.

The story is that Calvin was discharged on Friday, 18 Dec09. Finally, I get to put him in something other than the hospital outfit. But now we will be fully responsible for taking care of him.

On Feeding

He’s been on a 3 hourly feed in the hospital (thank goodness for that) but even then, that’s still two feeding sessions in the middle of the night – 2am and then 5am.  Johnny helps me with the 2am feed so I can have a longer period of uninterrupted sleep. I’m lucky that he’s an involved father. How do those women who have no help cope by themselves? As it is, I still feel sleep deprived.

As Calvin is still unable to breathe and feed at the same time, we have to pace his drinking by pulling out the teat after every 5-6 sucks. At the beginning, this made the feeds take really long because he would pout and refuse to take the teat in. Sometimes Johnny will take an hour to finish the feed after which they are both exhausted. I think we were just too concerned about him finishing his milk especially after fretting about his weight gain for a whole month. Now I’ve decided to take a more laissez faire approach – if baby falls asleep while drinking, we’ll let him sleep and then finish the feed later if possible. If not, we’ll try make up for it in the next feed. This way, both baby and us are much happier and stress-free.

It’s once again time for his next feed. Will check on both of them who are napping together at the moment. I’ll leave you with a picture of today’s happy baby.

Shika Shika

December 16, 2009

Got Milk?

I’ve always wanted my baby to be fed breast milk and to be on a total breast milk diet for as long as possible, mainly for the health benefits it provides to the baby (of course, the prospect of quicker weight loss is an additional bonus). During pregnancy, I read about the ordeals and horror stories of mothers who tried to breastfeed — mums who pumped till their nipples bled, were so stressed out by their lack of breast milk that they suffered post natal depression and gave up eventually, had painful blocked ducts and mastitis (inflammation of the breast tissue).  So I knew full well that breastfeeding wasn’t really as simple as putting your baby to your breast and voila, you are done.

It was a good thing I did all the reading up. When Calvin prematurely came into being, I knew I would have a harder time producing milk for him since I did not have the benefit of stimulation from baby’s suckling. At any rate, in the first few days, mothers produce only colostrum which comes in very small amounts. It is usually around the 3rd day or so when breast milk will be produced in more significant quantities.

While KKH claims to be pro-breastfeeding, I was not spared some rather disparaging remarks about my lack of breast milk in the first two days when I was still hospitalized. I can imagine that a new mum who didn’t know any better would be discouraged and even stressed out, thinking that she is incapable of producing breast milk for her child. The ironic thing is that stress actually reduces the amount of milk the lactating mother produces, which in turn causes more stress. So the cycle continues ad nauseum until some give up on breastfeeding altogether.

Even knowing that it was normal for me not to have milk at that point, I was still upset when one of the nurses passed off-hand comments about the one drop of colostrum I managed to eke out and wanted me to toss it instead of bringing it down to the NICU to be mixed with the feed they are giving little Calvin.

1st Day at the NICU. He had a drip and a respiratory device hooked up.

Thinking back, it must have looked ridiculous but I’m convinced that it might help him just a wee bit because colostrum is supposed to be loaded with antibodies.

After being discharged from the hospital, I purchased a breast pump which I initially thought might not be necessary if I latched him directly. I stuck religiously to a 2 hourly pumping schedule  , except I try to get a longer period of undisturbed sleep from 12 midnight to 4 or 5 am. Each pumping session was taking about 45mins to 1 hour. By the 3rd/4th day, I was producing only just enough for 1 of 12 of his feeding sessions.

I decided to take the herbal supplement fenugreek that’s supposed to increase breast milk. Unknowingly, the oatmeal I eat for breakfast every morning was beneficial as well. By the 5th day, I managed to provide enough for 11 of his 12 feeds. At that time, he was given about 150ml a day so it wasn’t exactly a great feat but I was overjoyed because this was the only thing I could do for him. Even during the hour that we get to see him everyday, he was always sleeping.

It was tiring work pumping breast milk. I was spending about 8 hours everyday pumping, 7 hours sleeping and the remaining hours were divided between eating, washing and sterilizing the pump parts and a little time in between all that for myself. Slowly but surely, my supply of milk has been increasing. Though Calvin is no where near consuming that amount, I still stick religiously to my pumping schedule. Who knows, he might go through a growth spurt 🙂 Plus, it’s much easier to slow down production than it is to ramp up.

The prospect of keeping up with exclusive pumping is tiring though. Imagine doing this for more than a year, day in day out. Now that I’m producing enough for him, maybe I can cut down on the number of times I pump in a day. Maybe I should first try cutting out the amount of fenugreek I’m taking. I think it gives me a funny odor. It’s supposed to make you (or is it the breast milk) smell like maple syrup?!?

Week 3

December 13, 2009

Baby Calvin is growing much faster than we had dared hoped for. After 2 days of no weight gain at all, he suddenly put on about 200g in the last 3 days. As of this afternoon, his weight is 2.01 kg and has passed the 2 kg weight target! He grows in such spurts that I wonder if it’s a measurement error on the 2 days where he registered no weight gain at all. He’ll still have to wait at least another week to hit the 35th gestation week but it looks like he will definitely be coming home end of next week!

Meanwhile, the nurses in KK have been introducing him to bottle feeding. Previously, he was tube fed which is a tube that is inserted through the mouth or nose and leads directly into his stomach. At the beginning, he was rather slow at feeding from the bottle. Perhaps it was partly due to the tube that was strapped to his mouth, preventing his tongue from closing properly on the bottle. He would bottle for about half his feed before tiring out completely and the rest would be fed through the tube. After they shifted his tube from the mouth to the nose, he improved greatly and was finally able to finish most of his meals from the bottle.

So today, they finally removed his tube completely so looks all normal again! I’m starting to worry a little about taking care of him by myself at home. We have a maid, but I really won’t trust Calvin to anyone. But all I need to do should be feed, bathe and change his diapers right? How hard can that be? It might take the whole day and I’d be completely exhausted but it doesn’t sound like something I can’t cope with.

I tried latching Calvin directly today at the hospital with a little success. I’m hoping he will be able to continue feeding directly. Bonding aside, I’m thinking more of  saving myself some time an energy. Otherwise, I’d have to first express the breastmilk, transfer it to a bottle, then bottlefeed him and have to clean and sterilize bottles and the pump all the time. Much better prospect if he can go right to the production line and cut out the middle man. I’ll keep my fingers crossed and keep trying. If nothing else, I guess I can always be his human pacifier…

Weight Gain, Weight Loss

December 10, 2009

Baby Calvin has been putting on weight very well  recently. At this rate, he will hit the 2 kg target in 2 weeks. But his suckling is still really weak and he can’t even finish one feed via bottle. Hopefully, as he grows bigger and stronger, he will have the stamina to finish all his feeds via the bottle. Once I bring him home, I’ll try to latch him on directly though I think he may not take to the breast any more after he’s been trained to drink from a bottle. I still feel so un-ready to have him home. Then again, I probably will never ever feel ready so any time is as good as any other. As Johnny likes to say “Babies are tough”.

After giving birth, I’ve slowly lost weight in the first week. Initially, my tummy was so flabby and I even saw some cat-claw like stretch marks which was rather dismaying. Somehow it managed to shrink as well and I can’t see the stretch marks any more after I religiously rubbed Vit E oil on them. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that they are gone for good though actually I’m fine living with them. It’s not like I go around showing with my tummy showing anyway. So far, I’ve lost 7kg of the 10kg I’ve put on during pregnancy but the last 3 kg is stubbornly clinging on. It doesn’t help that I’ve been eating a lot more recently. I’m reluctant to cut down on what I eat though in case it affects the milk production so I guess it’ll have to come down to exercising once we get settled in with baby Calvin.

Now if only I could transfer a few of those extra kgs to Calvin instead. The next pregnancy if I ever decide to go through with it, I’ll definitely try to put on more weight. That way, even if baby is premature, at least he’ll be well developed already. Ah, the things mothers go through for their baby. On the other hand,  I should probably just stop obsessing about all these weight numbers.


December 9, 2009

Ever since I gave birth, my appetite has been ravenous. Ironically, I’m eating much more than when I was pregnant. Perhaps again, it is because the food is cooked in a way that I enjoy — light and with little oil. The people is this household seem to enjoy everything deep fried. Even those who have a history of high cholesterol. Every meal time, the oily fumes will permeate the house and as I was extra sensitive to the smell during my pregnancy, it meant I didn’t have much appetite left by dinner time. It also didn’t help that the insensitive people would cook food that I am unable to eat such as a whole meal of crab despite me saying repeatedly that I can’t take any seafood. The same people would later lament that I’m very picky with my food. Gee, I wonder why. Anyway, enough of my griping.

As I was saying, I seem to be eating a whole lot more. Apart from the food being more palatable, the extra energy spent in producing breast milk probably have something to do with it as well.  Even then, I can’t help but feel I’m eating too much. It doesn’t help that firstly, the meat that we buy in the market doesn’t come in smaller portions and secondly, the maid seems to feel that if there’s food in the fridge, she has to cook them all.

Here’s a sample of what I eat during a typical day.

1. Breakfast:

  • One bowl of milk with oatmeal
  • Two slices whole meal bread with peanut butter and jelly

2. Lunch:

  • Rice (Small qty)
  • Fish/meat (2+ serving)
  • Vegetable (1 serving)

3. Dinner:

  • Rice
  • Herbal Soup + Chicken thigh/drumstick in the soup
  • More meat?!? (2 servings)
  • Vegetable (1 serving)

So much for a balanced diet… I’ve been trying to tell the maid to control the portions. Especially dinner when she habitually serves me 4 servings of meat. But I have a hard time getting the message through to her. I really look forward to having my own kitchen in the future. Sure, I’ll actually have to do the cooking myself but at least the portions come out the way I want. Plus I can cook in peace without someone perpetually breathing down my neck and “supervising” what I do.

It’s All Worth It

December 8, 2009

I think all parents find their babies simply adorable. This is supposed to be because they resemble ourselves. I was slightly worried during pregnancy that I would even find our baby bothersome since I was never the type to go gaga over other people’s babies. A not so long time back, I thought I would never want to have kids. But luckily, as evolution would have it, my maternal instincts kick in as I look at our little one grow stronger and more active by the day. And all I have to go through and possibly have to give up, all seem worth it.  Though of course, I’m still not going to play Mozart music, show flash cards or send him to some montessori school.

But if you ask me now if I’ll have kid #2, I’m not so sure what my answer will be. Right after labor, I actually thought it wasn’t as bad as I imagined, considering I had no pain relief apart from the gas thingy. After a day or so, when the shock from going into labor had worn off, recollection of the pain, esp from the jabs and the episiotomy, really put me off. And by now, time has somewhat dulled the memory of it all.

Anyway, it’s still a decision we’ll be making further down the road. We won’t be having another child in the next 2 years as I’m more likely to have another premature baby if I do. The strain of having your baby in the hospital is also something I would hope not to have to go through again. Everyday, I would obsess over how much weight Calvin has gained. For instance, there was a period when he gained only 6g per day. Imagine going down to essentially the weight of one sheet of A4 paper. I was starting to think he’d be staying at KKH for an extra month…  But recently he’s been putting on weight well after they fortified the expressed breast milk he’s drinking. Last week alone, he put on about 150g.

I find myself also dreading the initial moments of stepping into the NICU/ Special Care Nursery, in case the nurse informs me that Calvin had developed some complications/had gotten worse or I see new tubes attached to him.  Not that it has actually happened but I’m paranoid that way.

Just realized that I haven’t been taking as many pictures of him lately. Every time I’m there, I’m too eager to hold him in my arms. It’s very reassuring to see him smiling contentedly when he is held. The picture below is one of the few we have with his eyes opened. We still can’t decide who he looks like though we definitely agree he has the same button nose that I have.

29Nov09@Special Care Nursery


December 7, 2009

I was initially not planning to follow any confinement practices. Most of them sound rather preposterous — not bathing because wind might enter your pores; not drinking plain water because it causes water retention (in fact, you should actually drink more fluids/water if you have water retention as it is exacerbated by dehydration); etc. I’m sure they made sense in the olden days when people had no access to clean, sanitary water, nor the luxury of heated water for bathing.

As it turned out, my mom’s nagging got to the better of me. She flew in together with my (elder) sister a few days after I was discharged, bringing with her all these chinese herbs and stuff. I know her intentions are good so I just played along. It saves me a lot of endless nagging and I didn’t want her to go back to Malaysia still worried about me. Most of her concerns were with my diet anyway, which I’m flexible to change since the normal meals here aren’t that fantastic to begin with — I ended up drinking up the longan with red date water and eating lots of steamed fish with ginger and herbal chicken soup. I have to say it was much better food, both in terms of taste and quality, than I had eaten for years since moving in with the in-laws, so it was a great relief to me. Mummy definitely knows me best =)

Anyway, I did end up compromising partly on the confinement practices.

  • I’m drinking the longan red date water but I also still drink plain drinking water.
  • I’ve tried my best not to bathe as often. Thankfully, the weather is cool enough for that to be possible. But I definitely shower as per normal, not with ginger or packs of herbs and what not. I’m busy enough as it is without having to get the maid to cook up buckets of strange water and bring up to the 3rd floor whenever I need a bath.
  • I definitely had to break the confinement rule about not going out since I’m visiting Calvin every day. I even went out to the mall in the first week coz I had to buy a cooler to bring milk to the hospital.

I don’t remember any other rules about confinement but I guess whatever they are, I probably broke them =)

2 Weeks Old

December 6, 2009

It seems like a long time has passed but it has only been 2 weeks since baby Calvin was born. He’s still in the Special Care Nursery and will be there for at least another 2 weeks though probably longer. KKH’s policy is that they will discharge their preemie patients when (1) they hit 35 weeks gestation,  (2) they are 2kg in weight and (3) is able to be bottle fed completely.

Calvin on 5th Dec 09

Calvin was born 1.63kg. After birth, he lost about 100g or 6% of his weight  which is normal for both full term and pre-term babies. Right now, his weight is about 1.71kg so unless he’s going to have a growth spurt, he’ll most likely be home after another 3 weeks. So far, He did not exhibit any of the common preterm symptoms like apnea (stop breathing temporarily), ROP (poor development of the retina),  chronic lung disease etc and hopefully will continue to be free of the common problems that plague preemies. So far, he seems to be doing fine. My only gripe is that he’s not growing fast enough for me to being him home sooner! They recently introduced the bottle to him. He was sucking quite well on it though he gets tired from the exertion.

As for me, I recovered rapidly from childbirth (read about Calvin’s birth story here) and was discharged from the hospital after 2 days. Thereafter, my main duty is to provide milk for Calvin. It was really tiring initially, I was spending about 8 hours every day pumping, including in the middle of the night. It was pretty much a 8 hour work day everyday except there is no concept of weekends to look forward to. So 8 hours of work, 7 hours of sleep, 2 hrs to go visit Calvin and the remaining 7 hours for eating, washing and sterilizing, random daily ablutions etc. I felt like I was in some military camp, following a strict schedule of work, sleep and little time for myself. After 2 weeks, I’ve adjusted to this life after 2 weeks though I’m still a slave to the 2hr pumping schedule. I can imagine that if baby was at home with me, I’d probably be exhausted and stressed out. On the bright side of things, because baby Calvin is at the hospital, I actually got some reprieve to recover and get adjusted to the new life style without having a demanding baby around.

It looks like our lives from now on will revolve around little baby Calvin but I’m actually really looking forward to that.