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.
When 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.
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.
Every story has a beginning, and Jamie’s began back in August 2014.
At that point in time, Deric and I had already agreed that we were okay with the idea of having a child, but were not trying to hard to conceive either. I had felt that I might have skipped my period for that month, and that there might be a possibility of a pregnancy, but I didn’t want to presume anything until time had gone by and it was really more than a month since the arrival of my last period.
So I had waited it out, but meanwhile, we had visited a pharmacy to purchase a pregnancy test kit to confirm our suspicions at home when the time came.
The day we chose to use the kit was 31 August 2014, which coincidentally is a public holiday, aka Malaysia’s Merdeka Day. I suggested such a day because it would be give us a more leisurely day to take out the pregnancy kit and deal with whatever eventualities that occurred afterwards.
So, that morning back in 2014, I pulled out a white colour stick and dunk it in a paper cup containing my pee (instead of just peeing directly on it, because me being the paranoid person I sometimes am, I was worried I’d miss altogether). We then waited to see if a purple lines would appear to tell me if a little being was in fact growing in the recesses of my belly.
It didn’t take long, of course, for the results to appear, as I’m sure any of you readers out there who have tried such kits can attest to. And so, within seconds, we found out that there was a possible existence of a tiny embryo in my womb. (Small side note: I kept that stick afterwards, and still have it stashed somewhere in the home up till today).
Yay, we were expecting a baby… or were we?
Me being the cautious person that I am, I didn’t want to take that as 100% confirmed though. I said that we should still visit a doctor just to make sure.
We went first of all to our usual neighbourhood clinic, and the doctor just told us pretty matter-of-factly that home pregnancy test kits are usually very accurate.
“I used to do a scan in the past to see what’s in there, but at such an early stage, you can hardly see anything,” he said. His advice was to wait a bit longer before going off to seek the services of a gynaecologist.
But with such uncertainty hanging in the air, I could barely wait!
Thus began a somewhat scary process of hunting down a suitable hospital and gynae to consult. The decision was a difficult one because we had no idea where to start. It was terribly unsettling. We asked a couple of friends and turned to Google to see which doctors had good or bad reviews.
Let me tell you now that both methods are both useful and yet pointless at the same time. Here’s why…
It’s useful to ask friends and family for their gynae recommendations since it would be a choice arrived at based on the real life experiences of others. At the same time, it’s not enough information for you to base your own decision because, quite frankly, most people will tell you that they are relatively happy with the gynae they consulted. Also, very few would have gone through the trouble of trying out a few gynaes for the same pregnancy, so it’s hard to do any comparisons between one or another, based on their account. Not to mention, of course, the fact that such judgments on the competitiveness of a particular gynae is wholly subjective in nature as it is.
Only in some rare cases would you have a personal contact telling you to avoid a certain gynae due to a really bad experience. So… all in all, it isn’t really helpful to seek their advice after all.
Meanwhile, Googling to find out the names of gynaes that are nearby and in which hospitals isn’t too bad an idea. Most hospital’s websites would feature a section which discloses the obstetricians that are available for consultation on their facilities.
But, unlike other things in life, it’s hard to find an online space that provides accurate and honest reviews about doctors. Even if you do manage to read someone’s account about a particular doctor, you’d likely have to take it with a pinch of salt.
So, as I said earlier, both methods have their insights to offer, but they don’t help at all in getting you closer to an actual decision.
I recall a particular Saturday where we both sat on our queen sized bed at home, utterly exhausted and still pretty much clueless on where to go to see a obstetrician/gynae.
We visited at least two medical centres before deciding. Then mulled on end about whether they were any good and still had no idea which of the doctors that were there were worth seeing.
Well, anyway, just so you know, the gynae that we finally decided on was based on the following reasons:
We had had good experiences in the past at the hospital that this doctor was based in.
The doctor came highly recommended by a neighbour/friend of my mother’s who had gone to see him twice for one past pregnancy and was still seeing him for a current one.
He was, coincidentally, the son of the gynae who delivered me as a baby at the same said hospital.
And he did confirm for us on that first visit that I was indeed pregnant. It was great to know for sure finally. He actually did an ultrasound on that first day, and handed us the first of our many printouts showing Jamie’s growth in my belly.
I was glad that we decided not to wait too long to see the gynae, actually, because we found out that I had some bleeding in my uterus which needed medication in order to prevent us losing the embryo.
In those early days when we hadn’t yet given Jamie his name, I decided on referring to him as my Little Dot since that’s about how big he was at that time. If I recalled correctly, I think I started talking to him relatively early while he was developing in my tummy. It felt odd doing so, but over time, it came more naturally.
On the whole, it was an exciting time, and Deric and I took to the news well. We had only been so-called actively on trial-for-pregnancy mode for a few months, so it didn’t feel like it had been too tiring or too much effort. It was surprising to me how easily I’d gotten pregnant though. Maybe I’d been used to hearing tales of people having trouble conceiving, and thought to myself that it would take a whole lot more trying than it did to actually conceive myself.
Looking back, I’m grateful that pregnancy came my way relatively easily. One thing I should have done in preparation before it all came to be should have been to read up about pregnancy and delivery though. And to start taking vitamin supplements to help the embryo develop during its early days.
Some additional words of advice to anyone out there who’s reading this and is thinking of having a child but has yet to conceive:
Watch your diet if you’re actively trying to conceive. The more balanced your diet, the better it is. Generally, I adopt the Don’t-Worry-Too-Much-But-Take-Precautions-Nevertheless approach to things, so in this case, I’d say be aware of what you take in, but not become obsessed with counting calories and being picky about whatever you pop into your mouth having to be nutritious all the time. In my own case, I didn’t do this because I didn’t want to be overly stressed about conceiving, but perhaps if I were to do it all over again, I might want to do this as it would give me greater confidence that my baby would have a head start to good development (we were blessed enough to have healthy, active fetus like Jamie though so we didn’t have anything to worry about).
About the diet bit, avoiding raw foods is one of the instructions the gynae will give you in the first trimester of pregnancy. So if you’re consciously wanting to conceive, perhaps it’s good to keep this in mind and abstain from foods like this to avoid killing off the embryo or giving it an unwanted disease so early in its formation.
Get your hands on some folic acid supplements. I didn’t know until later that it’s good to take these even before you conceive. But now I do. So for my next pregnancy, I would definitely want to be already consuming these before the baby appears.
The less stressed you are about conceiving, the better. I think it comes easier in general when you aren’t trying so hard. So whatever it takes to get you to be in this state when you are planning for a child, I’d suggest doing it. For us, it meant not counting dates or tracking my period religiously. We just took things in our stride, discarded the use of condoms and I told myself I’d only worry or consider taking further action when I didn’t get my period after more than a month had passed.
If you suspect you’re pregnant, don’t wait to long to see a specialist about it. Like me, there may be medical conditions you would want to know about and to treat as early as possible.
Deric and I have come so far since those early days of discovering Jamie’s existence. I look back on those moments fondly, and am thankful for what God blessed us with.
It’s really another milestone in your marriage to take on childbearing. What helps is to be ready and to be determined to face it together, and help each other along the way with whatever challenges arise.