That 1 year mark

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Jamie’s Hulk Smash Cake ceremony, which sadly turned into a bawling session. Oh well.

It’s been awhile since anyone has posted on this blog, and for that, I do feel a bit guilty. There’s so much that I’d like to talk about and share with you guys, but I guess we’ve just been so awfully tired keeping up with Mr Hyper over here.

These days, a simple outing or an extended play session at home isn’t enough to tire him out. We’ve had nights where he almost didn’t sleep at all, others where he would wake up each time we lowered him into his cot, and some where he would only hunker down for a snooze around midnight or closer to 1am.

Most recently, our Little Explorer turned one. It was such a flurry of activity that went on over the past 7 days or so as a result of us planning and preparing for his big birthday bash. I’m not one for large gatherings, but somehow I felt it was important to Deric (and Jamie too, of course) that there would be some kind of huge buzz over him reaching the 1 year mark. So, we set out to put together a party with a guest list of close to 70 people. And yes, I agree, that’s a whole lot of people.

We decided on a superhero themed party, since we’ve kept that going from the early days of Jamie’s existence (ie the baby shower) right up till now. Besides, his Papa is mighty fond of comics about superheroes and what with all the superhero movies that have been cropping up over the past few years, it just seemed like a cool theme to go with.

But that wasn’t all. Due to our budget concerns, we opted to DIY the entire party. Plenty of inspiration came from Pinterest, of course: food recipes, decor, etc. The pitfall of that is that most Pinterest party ideas are catered for small scale parties, which is apparently what many Western families like to organise. This, however, is different when it comes to an Asian context where it’s common to invite the whole world and his dog to just about every social event we stage (case in point: Chinese wedding dinners aargh).

Anyway, thankfully we managed to nail it for most of the items on our menu (except for the strange apple and carrot salad that we just had to have for reasons of wanting to be different), although for everything else, it was a huge mess. Not a complete failure kind of mess, but sloppy and half baked (for example, more than half of the decor items I prepared were never used).

All in all, we enjoyed the process though, and despite feeling my usual reservations about big scale events, it felt great having so many friends and family members around us to commemorate this important milestone in Jamie’s life. (The after-party present opening time was golden too. And I think Deric and I were probably more excited about the toys Jamie received than he himself was haha).

So yay for us, we actually survived a year of parenthood, in all its messy, clumsy glory. As Jamie makes his transition from baby to toddler, I can’t help but beam with pride at how far he’s come and how much he’s achieved over just a span of 12 months. It’s amazing that this little creature that I once bore in the recesses of my belly has survived all this while. Hehe.

We’ve learned so much in this past one year, and I feel terrible that I didn’t get to share it live with you as it unfolded over time (which was what my original intention for this blog was). But anyway, I’ll try my best to close the gaps for the things that we’ve been through (and which I think might be useful for any new parents out there reading this) while also spilling the beans on our latest endeavours and challenges in the hopes that it will be helpful in some ways to you.

Before I go, I heed the advice of one of the editors I work for by providing you with something useful to take away from my post. Here are some lessons we learned from our first time experience of organising a child’s birthday party:

1. It’s possible to put together a DIY party, but if you want it to be something you’ll look back on with pride, you’ll need to be willing to get really thorough about every single aspect of the party. It’s a lot of effort, but when you’ve pulled it off, you’ll feel so very good about yourself despite all the madness. And you’ll likely want to try doing it again.

2. There are so many online resources available out there that even if you lack confidence about the brilliance of your own ideas, there’s lots of good suggestions you can pick up on from other people out there. From there, you’ll just need to adapt it to suit your purposes and you’ll be all set.

3. Yes, it’s a DIY project, but it doesn’t mean it needs to be executed by you and you alone. More realistically, it should involve your spouse and some of your immediate and/or extended family members, because it’s just really impossible to do everything by yourself. Trust me on this one. You’ll be thankful for the extra heads to brainstorm and the helpful hands to get things done when crunch time comes.

4. The earlier you plan and prepare, the better it is on your sanity. Last minute miracles do happen, but only if you’re prepared to forego sleep the night before and to work round the clock (something we more or less did, to my regret).

5. Go for finger food and light refreshments when planning your menu rather than attempting to provide full blown meals. For us, we like the tea time slot best (we did a high tea wedding reception as well back in the day) and this is what we did for Jamie’s first birthday too. It takes pressure off the food preparation bit, and lowers the expectations of guests (thus preventing too much disappointments, if any do surface).

6. Baking a homemade cake for the smash cake ritual was golden. I felt super happy that my son’s first taste of cake was something relatively tasty and which had ingredients list that I was absolutely comfortable with (no funky preservatives or artificial colouring). Here’s the cake recipe we used and the one for the frosting, in case you want to try replicating it. Deric really wanted it to be a Hulk Smash thing, so we added natural green colouring extracted from pandan leaves. We also whipped up our own batch of cupcakes for the adults to enjoy in lieu of the traditional birthday cake (standing at the food table to slice out 70+ piece of cake for consumption isn’t ideal in my books).

7. It’s easy to get carried away when deciding on how to do the decorations, especially when those overachieving parents on Pinterest post up all those photos of their accomplishments and make it feel as if it’s all so super easy to do. No problem if you want to start off with ambitious schemes, just be prepared to scale it down last minute if you find that you have constraints in the form of time or other resources.

8. Remember not to get too caught up in the party details that you forget to look after the baby. Deric took leave from work for 2 days prior to the party and we were doing lots of running around and cooking and baking then. A lot of the time we had to leave Jamie to entertain himself with his toys in his play area. He does this much better now that he’s older and can be left alone for considerable stretches of time, but in my opinion, this shouldn’t be taken for granted. Babies only have a certain amount of patience and can endure only brief separations from their primary caregivers. It’s no point throwing a perfect party only to have its honorary guest down in the dumps. It’s a fine balance, and one which we treaded on very dangerously. Do keep this in mind throughout your planning-preparation-execution process.

9. If you have a theme for the party, try to stick to it and to show it in as many ways as possible to make it count. Tiny details like food presentation and room decorations make a difference. Games, photo booths and other manners of fun things are great too and help guests to get into the spirit of things. However, where we come from (ie Malaysia), the general public isn’t always very sporting when it comes to observing a themed dress code so we stopped short of imposing that on them. You’ll have to judge for yourself how applicable this is to your own crowd. If they will follow it, why not?

10. Don’t forget to have fun! It’s no point going through all the fuss of organising a DIY party only to be sour faced and to be bickering endlessly with loved ones while at it. Remember to pick up your little cutie pie for a tiny kissy, cuddly fest in between your busyness of planning his/her party. Laugh at the silly antics of your spouse as he clumsily tries to ice the cake. Shrug your shoulders and refuse to be miffed when things don’t go exactly as planned. Take tons of photos. Make beautiful memories.

That’s all for now, folks. And I’ll be back soon. Fingers crossed.

Day by day

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Me and my little companion 🙂

 

So many of our friends are having babies lately. Some have just delivered, while others have one on the way. It’s a really exciting time.

I just spoke to one such couple who are that the 32nd week of pregnancy. During our conversation, some of their concerns surfaced:

“Is labour painful? Does it take long? How was yours?”

“We’ve bought some baby stuff already but I don’t feel prepared.”

“Does the baby get up often at night? How often does yours do this? How long does it go on for?”

It’s funny how things look like on the other side i.e. once you’ve transitioned from being a married person to becoming a parent.

Just 7 or 8 months ago, I was in the same position they were in.

Fretting about the delivery of the baby. About whether I’d be able to remain sane while having to work the required night shifts of feeding, changing and soothing a crying infant.

Well, looking back, I guess Deric and I haven’t done too badly. Our 7+ month old baby is doing well. He’s happy most of the time, and he tells us so through his frequent smiles and laughter (which occur even in his sleep!). He’s gained weight and stretched taller. He’s pooping and peeing all the time.

We have a pretty good understanding of what Jamie wants by now. We recognise what we call his Pangsai Face as well as his sleepy and feeding cues.

We have a rough bedtime routine that mostly works (though there are, of course, those nights where Jamie is wide eyed and nothing in the whole wide world can make him fall asleep until he’s ready).

We know now what our weekly routine looks like, feels like and what we need to do to get through a typical day as a family.

We are also able to take Jamie out for trips out on the town, mostly without incident. Yet we also remained unfazed to keep doing so even when we are faced with disastrous events like a diaper blowout or a complete meltdown crying episode.

Are we perfect parents? Not in the least. But we ARE parents, and we ARE making it through. And we’re finding out that while there are challenges to raising a baby, they aren’t always all that bad.

If any parents-to-be were to ask me about how they should prepare for parenthood, I’d tell them this: There is no way you can possibly be 100% prepared for what’s ahead of you.

That’s because you cannot really fathom what it involves until you’ve got yourself fully immersed in the experience of parenthood itself.

So while you do what you can to get ready, there should be a part of you that says, “I won’t worry too much about this big challenge called parenthood that’s in front of me. God has graciously blessed me with a child, and He will just as surely grant me the strength to raise him/her.”

As for the pains of labour or the possible complications that might eventuate during delivery, it’s pretty much the same deal.

You can read up about pain relief, and how to recognise contractions (something that nobody seems to be able to describe properly to a first time parent, much to my frustration back then).

You  can draw up a birth plan of ideals. Discuss concerns with your obstetrician/gynaecologist.

But it is only on the actual day itself, as things unfold, that you’ll learn what works best for you as you make those split second decisions while the baby descends and makes its journey out into the world.

There are some bits of advice that I could give regarding delivery and coping with the early days of parenthood, but I’ll save that for another post, another day.

For now, what I’d like to put out there is this:

If you have a child on the way, if this is your first time, if you’ve got a ton of worries clouding your head and heart… I just want you to know that you CAN do this.

You don’t have to be perfect to parent your child. In fact, you’ll soon realise that your baby is much more accepting and forgiving of you than you probably are towards yourself.

Arm yourself with information wherever necessary. But more than that, learn to rest in the assurance that you have what it takes. You’ve gotten this far into the pregnancy. You’ve put in the best of your efforts to lovingly prepare your home to welcome a new family member.

You’re all set. Really, you are.

Just determine to parent with all the love you can muster in your heart. The rest of it will come with ease.

See you soon on the other side.

Hosanna on #flashbackFriday: When we first found out

#FlashbackFriday is a series where both Susanna and Hosanna offer parallel reflections on what they’ve been through in their motherhood journey in the not-so-distant past.

This time around, they revisit the experience of discovering for the first time that they are pregnant. This post details Hosanna’s account.

To read Susanna’s story, click here.

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12179049_10153394580868863_2046223561_nWhen D and I suspected that I could be pregnant, we had a running joke where one of us would ask the other (wearing a mock terrified facial expression), “what if we’re really pregnant?”

Inevitably, the other one of us would answer the question with, “then we’ll become parents”.

I’m sure there are many people who calculate the exact financial costs, plan parenting/ caregiving roles, or have every hypothetical scenario figured out before they even start trying to conceive. That was not us.

Looking back, we were really naive and underestimated the whole process (hey, it was only  4 months after the wedding). You betcha, finding out freaked us me out.

Here’s my first #flashbackFriday post on my initial reactions (physical/ mental/ emotional) towards pregnancy.

I was hungry hangry all the time

It didn’t help that I fell pregnant in the middle of the annual NECF 40-day Prayer and Fasting period. No wonder I was doubly hungry! And I mean, the vicious, raw, eat-food-straight-from-the-pot, “Give Me Food And Nobody Gets Hurt” kind of hungry. My fingers would literally shake from hunger, and I would literally experience light-headedness during those “hangry” spells.

The world didn’t stop turning, but my stomach didn’t stop churning either… I later found out that the sudden “crash” I experienced was actually a drop in blood glucose levels attributed to gestational diabetes (GD). On the bright side, I got to eat anything I wanted (before the GD diagnosis) without feeling guilty.

I couldn’t accept all the weird things happening to my body!

Forget pregnancy glow. Pregnancy felt like a second puberty to me – a time of body changes, confusion, and lots of “what is happening to me?!” moments. For the most part, it is an uncomfortable, at times excruciating process! Pregnancy’s potent hormone cocktail – while necessary for growing a tiny human- also bestows some “wonderful” side effects. These differ for each pregnancy/ woman.

While I didn’t get the vomiting that many women have, I got the “basketball tummy”, temporary skin disfigurement, amazing expanding mole (don’t ask), and an unholy trinity of stretch marks in other places besides my tummy (please, don’t ask).

Oh, and my gestational diabetes was diagnosed a week before Chinese New Year. Fantastic. Thanks to the “Eliminate Sugar and Carbs” diet that my tormentor gynae helpfully prescribed, I sat at the reunion dinner with all D’s relatives eating only veggies and soup. “Miserable” doesn’t begin to describe it.

Body issues/ insecurity

I put on a lot of pregnancy weight. A LOT. As in, in my first trimester, people were already asking if I was carrying twins. It didn’t help that most of my pregnant friends were petite, with bumps that hardly showed. (I’m looking at you, Su!) 

In fact, I had to stifle my reaction when one day Susanna happily told me, “today, someone finally noticed my baby bump and asked if I’m pregnant!” Grrr… I couldn’t help feeling a tad ugly and insecure at my swollen, watermelon-sized tummy that outgrew a new underwear size every month. That was the same week several people asked if my delivery date was soon… although I was only in the second trimester.

Shopping was depressing, because nothing could fit, and the ones that did, let’s just say they looked very…motherly (no offence). Sleeping took effort, with the huge belly pressing on me, I could hardly breathe properly! Waking up several times at night to pee became de rigeur, little did I know it was  a foreshadow of things to come. Oh, and don’t get me started on walking. At some point in my ballooning growth, left thigh met right thigh…and they became inseparable. Sigh. I began to realise why pregnant women seemed self-absorbed and grumpy all the time.

Irrational fears

If you’ve ever had a horror movie scene stuck in your head that you couldn’t erase, multiply that by twenty and basically that were the kind of irrational worries swimming around in my pregnant head. All sorts of worst case scenarios that you could imagine, would play in my thoughts. When I was walking over the concrete drain covers, I would be afraid that they would crack and I would fall down. When I was bathing, I would worry about being electrocuted in the shower, especially if it was raining.

One night, I was sitting in the car when D went to bungkus a Ramli burger. He didn’t lock the door. My huge belly prevented me from leaning over to do it. I sat frozen in the passenger’s seat and watched my surroundings like a hawk, paralysed at the thought that some passer by would carjack the 10-year-old Myvi, complete with visions of dramatic screeching tires and D throwing himself in front of the car, while I bumped my head and lost consciousness. Yes, I’m a dramatic person.

Of course, none of my fears ever came to pass…

Live update: Assignment day

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Lately, I’ve started accepting freelance work as part and parcel of kickstarting my new WAHM (Work At Home Mum) career status.

What this means is that Jamie would need to be babysat by my Mum should I need to go out for assignments, which would likely be the case for journalism related work.

Unfortunately, Jamie is still adapting to bottle feeding and hence, my husband, Deric and I have been delaying my acceptance of any such assignments that involve going out.

However, it would not be possible to let this continue to go on and the day has come that I accepted a feature story writing gig which requires me to conduct a (media) interview. That day was yesterday.

It’s the day of the interview today, and it’ll be the first time that Jamie will be away from me for a good hour or so. This has not happened before as he has always been around me since his birth. (With the exception of my disappearances of a few minutes here and there, that is).

So, as a form of compromise, my mother has agreed to come along with me for the assignment and care for Jamie while I take care of my interview.

I thought it might be interesting to give you, our readers, an insight into how the day unfolds so I’m going to put up live updates to this blog post from now till we get home from my assignment.

I’ll do my best to post as often as I can. Do follow along and I hope you’ll have as much fun and excitement as I will have 😉

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10:27: Jamie is asleep. I’m finishing up the remains of my breakfast which is in a plastic bag because he fussed halfway during breakfast and I had to carry him (the plastic bag makes it possible to eat with one hand). Deric has gone off to work.

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10:32: Oh no! He got up!

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10:40: Tried reading to Jamie to keep him occupied. It worked for awhile, but now he’s starting to fuss 😦

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10:51: Nursing time.

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11:00: Interrupted by poo poo time… How to find time to prepare for assignment?

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11:35: That’s us zooming around in a ring sling. Why won’t he sleep?

12:01: Yay. He’s asleep. Now to get ready to go out…

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12:43: Mum is here. Quick lunch, then we’re outta here.

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13:15: And we’re off!

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14:08: Some kind girls named Boo (left) and Chloe (not in pic) help us to carry Jamie’s stroller up the stairs. There is no lift from car park. But that is to be expected since this is a campus where you wouldn’t expect to find kids. We arrived so much later than expected due to me having trouble getting the stroller to fit into the car boot. Sigh. If we ever buy a new stroller, I will consider paying extra just so I can have something that’s lighter and easier to fold up and carry around.

14:20: We arrive at the interview room early. Mum decides to stick close by my interview room with Jamie. It’s not very conducive. We manage to befriend some people they who let us sit at a spot inside their office space where there’s air conditioning. Manage to nurse Jamie a little before anything starts. Brought the wrong nursing cover which doesn’t work well for my outfit as it’s the apron type which doesn’t cover my back and I have to lift my shirt to nurse. I make do by covering the exposed part of my back with a scarf.

14:30: Interview delayed due to one of the interviewees arriving late.

14:40: Photographer arrives and we do the photo shoot first as she’s in a hurry to cover another assignment. Meanwhile, the missing interviewee arrives.

Approx. 15:24: Jamie is wailing outside with my Mum carrying him while I’m still doing the interview. I can hear him and it’s hard to concentrate. I figure I should let my Mum handle it and decide not to intervene. Some minutes pass and he’s still crying. I excuse myself from the interview to go and see if i can comfort Jamie. Notice that my Mum is trying to bottle feed him but everything’s a mess and it’s not going well. Jamie’s head is wet with sweat and I feel sorry for him. I carry him for a bit and try to help with the warming of the expressed breast milk. I decide to insist on my Mum and Jamie coming into the interview room which is cooler in temperature for Jamie. Some kind staff voluntarily carry him and help my Mum with managing him. I resume my interview.

15:38: Interview ends, but there’s still some other stuff to take care off before I leave. I’ve got my fingers crossed that my Mum will be able to keep Jamie happy meantime.

Approx 16:20: We are DONE! I find out that Jamie didn’t finish his bottle feed. Decide to nurse him a little before we leave. He is very anxious to nurse. Thankfully he is calm once I put him back into my baby carrier and we head off back to the car park.

17:00 We leave the interview venue after having located a lift (so there is one after all!) where we can go straight down to the car park so I wouldn’t have to singlehandedly carry the stroller down the stairs. I can’t believe how LONG we’ve spent here. Had hoped we could have been done earlier. I’m feeling terribly dehydrated as I had not taken my bottle of water with me to the interview.

18:48: About an hour after arriving home, Jamie finally falls asleep, having nursed and had his diaper changed.

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Observations and lesssons learned

It is very hard to blend your professional life and your domestic life all into one neat little package. I did not really enjoy the interview today, although I’m proud to say we got there on time and things had been off to a good start initially.

However, the nature of journalism requires you to take as long as you need to get the information required during an interview so that you can write a good story. That means that at times an interview may stretch longer than you expect. And that is not a good secnario to be facing with a baby in tow.

It is also extremely hard to concentrate on conducting an interview when you hear your baby crying in the background. I managed it today, but don’t think I conducted my best interview in the process.

To be honest, I’m not sure that I can do this again in the near future. Perhaps I should consider other types of writing gigs.

My mother, despite all her earnest efforts, had difficulty coping with Jamie. It’s a wrong assumption that we tend to make that our parents will automatically know how to handle babysitting their grandchildren just because they had raised use in years long past.

Personally, I also was not happy that the people I met for work today were aware of the presence of my child and mother nearby. It is comforting for me that this is so, but others might think of it as being unprofessional.

All in all though, I’m glad that Jamie was not as badly behaved as expected. He was also really friendly with whomever he met today and smiled warmly at them. He even made friends with some university students on the campus who kept trying to interact with him while we were waiting for the same lift.

Tougher days 

I’ve not been able to write anything new here for awhile thanks to being so busy with Jamie. He’s been having a fussy week or two, and has been rearing his grumpy side at home more than usual.

In general, Jamie is mostly a fuss free baby, so it’s a bit surprising for me to see him behaving the way he has lately. Initially, I chalked it down to the after effects of his last round of vaccinations, since I noted that the fussy spells started to happen more often after he recovered from a bout of fever after getting his shots.

But then again, it could just be him reaching another growth milestone. I’ve read that babies tend to become a bit more on the fussy side on growth spurt days. What made this round more unbearable, however, was the fact that I was experiencing Growth Spurt Week rather than just a couple of Growth Spurt Days like how it had been in the transition period between the first and second month of Jamie’s life.

Now, in his third (and soon reaching his fourth, in fact), his overall behaviour seems to have drastically shifted gears.

Not only is he more active, he is more likely to display drastic mood swings where he can be really happy one moment and terribly grouchy in the next. He is also more likely to get distracted during feeding times, much to my dismay.

Whenever he fusses, it is hard to figure out what he really wants and even when I do, it’s disheartening to realise that what he’s asking for is to be constantly carried around the home. If I try to put him down in the cot or bouncer or anywhere at all, he will make lots of noise to make sure I know he disapproves.

Some days, he naps really little in the daytime. He also has greater trouble falling asleep at night. And although he can now sleep through the night on certain days, on other nights he wakes up for at least two feeds (thus confusing my poor boobs who continue to produce milk faithfully every night regardless of whether Jamie is there to lap it up or not. Sigh).

He also has this terrible habit of grabbing bits of my hair in his fists and not letting go.

But at the same time, Jamie is more expressive and vocal, which are things that have been wonderfully amusing to experience with him. That also means though that when he is upset or seeking attention, he will not hesitate to tell us so. Something that I don’t always enjoy at times, as he can now complain really loudly. Never mind that I cannot understand what he is saying, the sheer noise he makes is enough to compel you enough to want to pick him up just so he will quieten down).

In addition to dealing with his fussiness, I am almost always fretting about whether anything Jamie does or his appearance is an indication that he is unwell. Most times, it’s just me being paranoid, but presently, Jamie really is sick and is down with a flu.

The worst part of it all is that I’m pretty sure I was the one who passed the bug to him since I myself had been similarly unwell a little earlier in the week.

But as unsettling, tiring and inconvenient as it is to take care of Jamie in times like these, there are still redeeming factors to keep me going. His smiles and the way he always looks around the room for me (even when others are carrying him) are certainly among them.

While going through this slightly more difficult season with Jamie, I got round to re-examining why we want certain things as parents.

Most parents of infants just can’t wait for their little one to start doing certain things. Stuff like sleeping through the night, feeding from a bottle (as opposed to directly latching onto the breast), taking longer naps and being able to sit up on their own and hold their head upright.

If we dig deeper into why we want our babies to achieve these abilities, we’ll often find that one of the underlying reasons is that it will ultimately make our lives easier. That’s nice and all, but didn’t we sign up for parenthood knowing all along that it would be hard at times? Why do we then keep wishing for the easy way out?

Well, I’ll admit that it’s good for the baby himself too in the long run if he is able to achieve these things. But what I’m questioning here is more of why we are always wishing for our child to be something else other than what they are right now. The danger here being that we may focus too much on wishing for the day when they are less troublesome to us to the point that we miss out on cherishing who they are at present.

Jamie can’t sit up on a high chair yet. He still doesn’t really like drinking from the bottle so I have to feed him by letting him latch on directly to my breasts for all of his meals. He wants to be found in my arms and to suckle at the breast every night before he falls asleep. He interrupts nearly every meal I have each day so he can have his feeds and also delays my trips to the toilet for the same reason.

I can’t say that these inconveniences do not irk me at times, but I’m learning to appreciate who he is in spite of these challenges. Some day he’ll grow up and be so independent that he’ll not need to live in the same home as I do or even relate to me anymore to get by. And when that time comes, I want to make sure I have no regrets.