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Sleep Deprived Parents

On Sunday afternoon, Theodore woke up from his nap screaming inconsolably. It shocked the both of us because he stopped crying that way after he got used to nappy changing as a newborn. Little did we know that that was the start of our sleepless nights.IMG_7742.JPG

It was pretty bad on Sunday night. Instead of waking up twice (at 2am and 5.30am) for feeds, he was waking up every hour. Most of the time he wasn’t nursing; he just wanted to latch on to suckle. That would send him back to lalaland in minutes. But once he was off the breast, he would be upset again.

We concluded that it was just a bad night and coincidentally, he had ringworm infection on his cheeks. So pissed off at whoever who passed it to him, be it human or animals. We know it’s not Dan or myself since we’re both perfectly fine. ANNOYED!

Much to our dismay, the sleepless nights continued. It isn’t getting any better. I’m utterly useless when I don’t get sufficient rest. Dan’s been tagged in to help out and he’s been brilliant for trying so hard, but I feel so bad since he needs to focus at work. There are so many tips online on how to deal with sleep deprivation and I’m going to discuss with Dan to see which will suit us best. One tip, however, was “hilarious”. It suggested hiring a night time nurse/ nanny. WHAT?!?! That must be THE tip for the royal family, surely?

Theodore turned 12 weeks old last Friday and this could very well be a mental leap/ growth spurt. He’s definitely grown physically. The sleepsuit that fitted well last week is now a little snug. Poor boy isn’t getting much sleep himself and I know he must feel horrible too. At the same time, I’m pretty much in a daze myself, unable to focus and my eyelids are so heavy! On two separate occasions I’ve put the bar on incorrectly for him and forgot to put it back on after changing him! Geez!!! Guess what a mess I was in when I realised I didn’t do his bar right?

Every mum I met tells me all will be better after 3 months. He turns 3 months this Saturday. Will it get better? I do hope so.

In the meantime, I’m going to try the “nap while your baby sleeps” tip.

I’ve Got Designer Bags

Yes, I’ve got myself two designer bags. They are close to being black so that I can match them with anything I wear. I must say they’re pretty heavy to carry around though. I doubt I’ll ever get rid of them even if I don’t particularly love them. However much I try to conceal them from the public they love standing out in the crowd.

Oh, my designer bags! There you are!!!

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Illustration by Jeff Hamada

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Instilling Fear In Our Children

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As a parent, do find yourself instilling fear in your child?

As a child, did your parents instil fear in you?

This is a topic I often think about. In fact, it’s a struggle for me. I have an illogical fear of heights. I don’t like using overhead bridges, going on ferris wheels, roller coasters rides etc for instance. Generally, I hate anything that doesn’t allow my feet to be in contact with the solid ground.

I wasn’t born with the phobia, obviously. Prior to my first trip to Australia when I was 9, I was eager and excited about the rides in Dream World and Universal Studios. How cool it must be to go upside down on a high-speed rollar coaster, I thought. However, I vividly remember my dad telling me NOT to try any of those rides before the holiday. Apparently, I couldn’t and shouldn’t trust the safety bars to hold me in the roller coaster, and I could fall off and die. Coincidentally there were newspaper cuttings of such incidences in America on my study table to back up my dad’s argument.

I learnt to ice-skate from an early age. It was almost a weekly routine that my cousins and I would be skating together. Much to my parents’ dismay though. They were worried that I would get hurt on the ice or someone would knock me over and I would suffer from a concussion (and die). Somewhere along those lines. There were often news of teenagers getting injured on ice rinks because they were reckless. One of the things that could happen to me, according to my dad, was that if I fell, someone else coming from behind might skate over my fingers! If you know what skating shoes look like, you’d know how painful that could be. Whenever such news was on TV, rest assured they were brought to my attention. That was the end of my skating “career” (I was darn good, alright!).

As a young child, I loved hanging myself upside down on the monkey bars at school. I was even capable of doing flips! However I got into a mini accident one day. A friend accidentally hit me in my face while doing a flip and my front tooth fell out. That was the end of my monkey business days because my folks felt that it was too dangerous for me. They didn’t like me having blisters on my hands from grabbing the bars too.

Now that I’m a parent, I struggle internally when we visit playgrounds. I read the signs of danger EVERYWHERE. In contrast, Daniel sees the fun in all playgrounds. We’ll have conversations like this:

Me: OMG! The gaps are huge!
Dan: No, it’s fine. Kids can balance really well.
Me: Really? Even I can just fall right through.

Logically, I know I shouldn’t and wouldn’t want to instil unnecessary fear in Theodore. Yet at the same time I foresee myself sticking to him like an old chewing gum just so I can be right there should he fall. But if I’m always there to catch him, he’ll never learn to fall and pick himself up. It’s a constant struggle because where do I strike a balance?

Whenever we’re back in Singapore, Dan is quick to point out that many parents hold on to their kids at the parks and playgrounds as though they’re holding on to their dear lives. He wondered why my nieces (9 and 11 back then) weren’t allowed to go to the playground by themselves or arrange a play date with their friends. To put it simply, I told him “we just don’t do that”. Singapore kids probably have too much homework to do to arrange play dates!!!

So, how do I ensure that my child plays safely without installing fear in him? I don’t want to be threatening him or scaring him on purpose just so he doesn’t get a scratch on his knees. As much as I believe that he needs to learn to negotiate the risks he encounters in order for him to become a confident child, I am not eager to make a dash to A&E with a broken arm or leg.

One thing for sure, I do not want to use fear to manipulate and control my child. Looking at myself, I believe the fear I grew up with turned into anxiety now that I’m an adult. Parenting…I have so much to learn.

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5 Things I Do With My Baby Everyday

No two days are exactly the same with Theodore. Some days he’s as happy as a lark, flaunting his captivating smile. On other days he’s like a leech that sucks energy instead of blood out of me. Be it a good or bad day, here are 5 things which I do with him everyday.

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1. Sing to him
From nursery rhymes to Chinese pop music, we have a huge repertoire. He finds it amusing when I dance (I don’t really dance per se) to the music or do hand actions. The more dramatic I am, the bigger his smiles are.

2. Play with him
At times I leave him to play with his toys while I observe him. Those moments are important because I think he needs to learn to be independent. However, it is also important for me to spend time playing together with him. I would use soft toys and role-play (I’m pretty good at creating conversations!) for instance. Shake his rattles, tickle him and make weird noises etc.

3. Read to him
Reading was like a daily activity for me when I was growing up. I went almost everywhere with a book in hand. I don’t expect Theo to read at an exceptionally young age, however I would like to cultivate a good reading habit. Reading should, oh well hopefully, be a natural activity that he would like to engage in when he’s older.

4. Talk to him
I’m a chatter-box. I can talk non-stop about all sorts of rubbish. But what would you say to a baby who doesn’t understand (or respond in words) you? I tend to describe EVERYTHING I do to Theodore. That means saying stuff like “Mama’s opening the drawer to get a spoon. Here’s the spoon. Oh! It’s made of metal! Can you see your reflection? Wow!!! Who’s that we see in the spoon?” If you’re crazy enough, you wouldn’t have a problem with this.

5. Tell him I love him
I can’t stop telling Theodore I love him. I’ll admit that I’m biased, but I still ask myself what I’ve done to deserve such a beautiful, cheerful and brave boy. I’m sure all parents think their own kids are the best and that’s a wonderful feeling!

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My Favourite Season is…

Singapore is located just north of the equator. It has a hot and humid tropical climate. We are a tiny red dot on the world map.
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Anyone capable of map reading will now know Singapore isn’t China even though majority of our population is Chinese.

When I was living in Singapore, it was a dream come true to visit other countries in Spring, Autumn or Winter. The chance to wear knee high boots and thick coats is a novelty. Not having to sweat under the blistering hot sun was deemed a luxury.

Weather forecast for Singapore in September.

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Humidity levels are so high in Singapore that you’d feel as though you need another shower when you’ve just came out of one. I used to think “I might as well just shower in my own sweat!” We’re all sticky and hot, no wonder tempers flare easily on that island.

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It has been more than 4 years since I left Singapore. After experiencing all 4 seasons in the last 4 years, I don’t think I like them THAT much afterall.

Weather forecast for Frankfurt in September.

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Fellow Singaporeans must think I’m crazy. I used to think Dan was crazy when he told me he hated winter and loved the hot weather in Singapore. He slept in the heat without turning on the fan or air-con! Madness!!!

If I had to choose, I would like most days to be like early/end summer. Those days are the best. They are usually sunny but yet not too hot. Mid-twenties temperatures are the best for me. Warm enough to be in t-shirt and shorts, and cool enough to not make me feel like I’m dying in the Sahara dessert.

As we’re slowly creeping into autumn (yeah, red maple leaves on the ground may look kinda cool)…hang on, what autumn? I swear autumn doesn’t exists in Germany. Maybe a week or two and then the temperatures plunge real low.

We’ve been really lucky with the weather this summer so I didn’t have to wrap Theo up like a dumpling. He enjoys his morning and afternoon walks (ie. nap time) in his pram and I’m happy to push him around with the cool breeze blowing against my skin. It helps wake any sleep-deprived mum up. I’ll have to get used to bringing him out daily (if he still fancies!) when the weather gets cold. Bbrrrrggg….I’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

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One-Pan Salmon with New Potatoes and Peppers

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Words such as “one-pan” and “salmon” are enough to make me check out a new recipe. I love fish and wish I could afford to eat them daily. One-pan basically suggests less washing up. Excellent!

This recipe is an improvised version of that found on BBC Good Food. The original recipe asks for asparagus but unfortunately, I can’t find them in German supermarkets as the season is over. If any of you know where to get them in Frankfurt, please let me know!

This dish is simple and delicious. It’s a winner if you want a quick, tasty and healthy weekday dinner. I’ll definitely be serving this again with carrots, onions and courgettes!

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Time Management

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I was fortunate that Dan had 1 month Parental Leave after Theo was born to help us out at home. However when he had to go back to work, I found it exceptionally hard to cope alone. I couldn’t go to the loo as and when needed, neither did I have time to make myself lunch or cook dinner at my ideal time. Basically, my life revolved around Theodore. In the first week when Dan was back at work, there were days I couldn’t pop into the shower without the baby screaming the house down. That was when I decided we needed to reorganise our lives and manage our time better.

1. Start a Routine
This only worked because Theo is usually clockwork. It doesn’t necessarily mean I wake up or go to sleep at the same time each day. However, daily tasks such as having a slow shower in the morning after feeding Theodore before Dan gets to work is better than having to rush through it. After a shower (and the satisfied baby is looked after by his half asleep papa), I then make breakfast for both of us to start the day. Breakfast is my must have meal of the day. Without it, I cannot function. It is having a rhythm to the day that makes it less stressful.

2. Be Flexible
While I have a routine, I also expect my schedule to change. Knowing that my routine can be thrown out of the window because of a major poop incident or Theo being a merlion (ie. pukes milk) takes the stress out of my daily life. It means dinner is no longer served by the time Dan gets home; we sometimes only eat at 9pm! I’ve also learnt that it is tough to be punctual for appointments. I do try to be on time and not be more than 15 mins late for any appointments though.

3. Simplification
I used to look up BBC Good Food for fanciful recipes to cook for dinner. Who cares if dinner takes 3 hours to cook when you’ve got no baby to look after? And you’re not exhausted? These days, pasta, risotto, baked fish, soups for instance, are just some examples of simple yet healthy meals we have.

4. Prioritise
I hate leaving dishes in the sink after a meal but in the evenings, we’re both just too tired to do chores, hence we leave them till the morning. They’re easier to wash after being soaked in soapy water too! Also, I don’t clean the apartment as often as I used to anymore. Ironic, isn’t it? You would think that I should make sure that the place is dirt free now that we have a baby! Well, I think a moderate exposure to germs is ok. I can’t go round sanitising the whole place!!! Some chores can be left till later. It doesn’t mean we’re lazy. It’s just more important to attend to the needs of the baby and spend time together.

5. Multitasking
While Theo sleeps either on his rocker or pram in the mornings, most afternoons are spent in his wrap. That’s when I can FaceTime/ Skype others (yes, Mama needs to socialise too!), sort out letters (I hate them!), surf the internet and BLOG! That’s how I find time to blog! Theo falls asleep whenever I bring him out in his pram, so I only do my shopping during his nap time. A quiet sleeping baby means I get to shop in peace. Stress free!

I am still learning how to manage my time better to include other activities like meeting up with other mums & babies, reading and doing some light exercises. However, I’m in no rush. It took me more than 2 months to be comfortable with our daily routine today! Just like my boy, Mama’s gotta take baby steps too.

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Competitive Motherhood

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As a silent member of a few online mums’ groups, I noticed that mothers can get very competitive and judgemental. In fact, it all starts before the little ones make their appearance.

Being totally unfamiliar with nappies available in the German market, I thought I would ask the group if Brand X nappies were any good. While I expected yes-no answers and perhaps a few kind souls to recommend me other brands, a few mums asked if I “ever thought of using reusables because they are more environmentally friendly”. Ermmm, yes but the white goods provided in my apartment are probably Grades B and C so washing and drying would probably use more energy and harm the environment?

When shopping for a baby carrier, I was torn between the Ergobaby and Manduca (both given the thumbs up at my Prental class). Of course, I was treated with the “Did you know that those carriers are blah blah blah and you should use ORGANIC cotton da dee da dee da”.

Long story short: I can’t afford to buy ORGANIC cotton for my boy’s entire wardrobe.

Actually these mums aren’t bad at all because what they’re trying to do is help a new mum, like myself, know that there are alternatives.

Here’s the type of mum I find most annoying. The conversation usually starts off like this – “Can your son grab his toys yet?” Or “Is he smiling already?” As proud as a mum I am about my boy, I’m not particularly fond of getting into discussions about baby milestones. Why? Simply because every baby is unique, and develop at their own pace. There’s no need to check if all our babies are developing at a similar pace. If I had a concern, I would rather be checking with our paediatrician. I would hate to sit in a cafe talking about our kids’ developmental milestones.

Then there are two groups of mums – breastfeeding vs bottle feeding (be it formula or breast milk) mums. It is as though these two groups are mutually exclusive. Breastfeeding campaigns are so successful these days that they make mothers who DON’T feel so darn bloody guilty. I fell for it badly. So badly that my newborn baby boy would be crying in hunger and I would still refuse to feed him formula milk even though I didn’t have enough breastmilk for him. Daniel had to put his foot down at that point so Theodore got fed and I had some rest. I remember feeling so stressed out over breastfeeding because everyone around me did it and I felt like I had to do it too. Now, I’m glad Daniel and my midwife supported me through that rough patch and allowed me to take my time to get used to breastfeeding. They helped me realise that being a good mum isn’t just about breastfeeding. If I need to top up with formula, I can and I should for the benefit of my son.

I don’t necessarily think breast milk is the best (whatever experts or other mums claim). Neither do I think formula milk is better. Mums AND dads will have to do what is best for the situation their families are in. And this applies in all situations.

Did you know that there are sub-clubs in the motherhood club? One that I noticed is the “dummy/pacifier” club. I noticed that it’s always mums whose babies don’t use a dummy who ask other mums if theirs do. Seriously, I was asked by a mum looking at Theo sleeping with his dummy if he sucked a dummy. “What do you think he’s sucking on,” I thought. I replied, “Yes, he does” to which she immediately said “oh, my boy doesn’t take the dummy.” This has happened 3 times! I’m not pro or anti- dummy. I use it if my boy needs to soothe himself. At times he’s happier with sucking all 5 fingers, then so be it. Are non-dummy sucking babies smarter or what?

Mums can be so judgemental too (Ironic right? Since I’m basically judging judgemental and competitive mums! Hahaha). I must admit I do that too especially when I see a mum/dad smoking next to their child. To me that’s just so irresponsible. Everyday I’m judged by others who claim that I’m spoiling my boy when I carry him. He turned 11 weeks yesterday and can’t walk yet. What am I supposed to do?

Today a mum admittedly said she thought I was preventing Theodore from moving around too much by putting a bar on his legs. Obviously she thought I was insane so I had to explain that he had clubfoot.

To all mums out there, we’re all learning. You may be a new mum like myself or an experienced mum with 5 kids, we’re all learning about our little ones. Often, I remind myself not to judge other mothers. I’m not you so you’re very well entitled to have your reasons to doing things your way. Till date, I’ve not compared Theodore to other babies (eg. Checking milestones etc) because he is unique to me. Apart from referring to The Wonder Weeks book occasionally to see how I can help him through a rough time, I don’t really read up about milestones he should achieve at a particular age.

I watch and play with my boy everyday, and I want to enjoy this motherhood journey with him. I have good days and bad days with him. On both types of days, I try my best to become a better mum for him.

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Yoyo Does Yoga

When I was pregnant, I knew my body would change and inevitably ache. After all it has to accommodate my not very tiny baby (Theodore ended up more than 550g bigger than his estimated birth weight based on his ultrasound).
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Gosh! Looked like I was going to explode!!! Thank goodness it was mostly baby weight. Phew…

Little did I expect to continue aching after the birth! Yes, the joints are still loose, the muscles are flabby etc but the aches I experience feel like I’ve been working out in the gym non-stop. That’s kind of true. I never had good arm/ lower back strength, hence carrying Theodore is my workout. Heaven knows why I have a gym membership to reactivate in January 2015!

To ease my discomfort, here’s a chart that I’ve been referring to. Yoga!

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I tried it when I was in Singapore and I fell asleep in class. On hindsight, it was such a shame to not continue with Yoga classes. My movements are so restricted and my muscles are so tight that I swear they could snap anytime!

Starting a new workout requires new outfits. Duh… How else can I be motivated, right? I’ll have to share with you my new outfit when it arrives. I’ve been eagerly waiting for the postman each day (since I know the parcel’s already in Germany!!!). One thing for sure, the outfit is BOLD. Gathering my guts to wear it!!!

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Herby Salmon and Couscous

Couscous is my latest favourite food. Believe it or not, I only discovered it last December at a Turkish restaurant. Not only is it really easy to cook (basically instant!), it’s so versatile too.

After looking online for salmon with couscous recipes, I’ve once again relied on BBC Good Food for their recipes. Tadahhhh!!! Herby Salmon with Couscous!
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Although it was meant to be a quick and easy dinner to prepare, our “vintage” oven wasn’t reliable enough and the cooking time took longer than expected. I didn’t do the recipe any justice by getting Ja! Wild Salmon Fillets from Rewe supermarket either. I’ll have to redo this recipe with better quality salmon!

It was overall a good and healthy recipe (fish = healthy, right?) but I think it’s really important to get proper salmon so that the dish tastes fresh. Frozen fish often tastes funny for me. The downside of living in the middle of a huge continent.

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Easy Chocolate Molten Cake

Dan’s birthday this year was a simple affair. I couldn’t find time to organise a themed birthday like last year since Theodore takes up all of my waking hours. However, I still wanted to do something special for my best friend (aka husband) simply because he deserves it.

So, I baked him a Chocolate Molten Cake!
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When it comes to puddings, Dan loves chocolates. I knew I didn’t have time to stand around in the kitchen hence it had to be a quick and easy recipe from BBC Good Food.

I used 75% Cocoa Lindt chocolate for this recipe. It turned out to be a decadent chocolate cake! It was so rich and chocolatey. The middle section was oozing chocolate lava when I cut into it. I had a hard time holding myself back from licking the knife!

Most importantly, the birthday boy was very pleased with his cake.

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8 Weeks to Go to Part-time Brace

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Time does fly by with a baby. Theodore turned 10 weeks old last Friday. The first week he spent in Intensive Care was the toughest, slowest and most intense period of my life. However once we brought him home, time slips through my fingers each day.

I wouldn’t lie to you. Motherhood, though lovely, is exhausting. At times, I think it’s testing my patience which I admit isn’t my forte. And I do miss couple time together!!! Thankfully he’s one cheerful baby (most of the time). He allows us to experience a new sort of joy that we wouldn’t have experienced just being a couple.

In exactly 8 weeks’ time Theodore will be having his checkup with the Orthopedist to evaluate the condition of his feet. It will also be the day when we’ll find out if he can stop wearing the brace 23/7 and just wear it on a part-time basis.

We’re really excited for the brace to be removed during the day. It means we can take him swimming, use our Manduca carrier, wear sleepsuits and most importantly, play with his cutesy toes!

Fortunately for us, Theodore hasn’t been too difficult on us on this clubfoot journey. More often than not, it was me not getting used to the changes he had to go through that made the situation look a lot worse than it actually was. The casts didn’t bother him. The brace bothered him for 1.5days but he soon learned to move his legs about without any difficulty. Initially, he appeared a little insecure whenever I removed his brace and shoes. It was as though he wasn’t used to being able to move both legs independently. But baby massage and us constantly assuring him that all is good helped him. He no longer fears having his feet bare!

I’ve been rather obsessed about his feet, naturally. As he needs to be recast if blisters appear on his feet, I spend a good amount of time massaging them each day with nappy cream. This is done to ensure blood circulation is well on both feet and it allows me to check the condition of his skin too. Thankfully, we’ve managed to avoid sores thus far and I need to make sure that sores NEVER appear on his feet.

We’re definitely looking forward to the 30th September when we move on to part-time brace wear. I reckon that’s when I’ll feel so truly happy for my very brave boy!

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Long Time No See, Hauptwache

It has been a while since we popped into town. We avoid it on Saturdays as it gets far too crowded for our liking. We only made a short trip on Saturday as Daniel was desperate for a haircut.

I investigated the nursing room at Galeria and was pleased to find the rocking/ arm chair that the hospital had. I locked myself in the room (only one room, unfortunately) to nurse Theodore, wishing I could have that chair at home too.

Daniel decided to pamper himself. Instead of having JUST a haircut, he had his face shaved and eye brows trimmed at Ginza Matsunaga too. That explains why Theodore and I waited more than an hour for him. Oh well, I reckon he deserves a little pampering. Now, I’m looking forward to my own pampering time!

As I was waiting (and Theodore was sound asleep), I took some photos of the less crowded area of town.

St. Katharinen Church: I love how this picture turns out to look like it’s from a vintage print.
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Check out the spiral patterns on cobbled street.

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Wondering why the street was so empty? It’s where all the branded goods are. Not my cup of tea – I can’t afford, and can’t appreciate.

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I love the sound of water flowing at the fountain. For obvious reasons, fountains are dry in winter.

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Conclusion: I don’t enjoy the crowd (and smoke) in town. Sticking to the south side of the river in Frankfurt!

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Happy Friday – Take a Break

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I’m not quite sure if any of the 50 ways to take a break illustrated above is applicable to my new lifestyle. The only one that’s highly possible could be “take a walk in the park”.

I used to think that I won’t know the difference between weekdays and weekends after having Theodore. It’s a 24/7, 7 days a week “job”, isn’t it? However, I still look forward to the weekends when Daniel’s home with us. Love watching their Papa and son time together and the mischief they get up to.

Happy Friday everyone and have a great weekend!

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20 minutes Beef in Red Wine

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I’m no super Mama so easy and quick meals are the norm in our household now. We still don’t own a microwave in this day and age, so cheaty-heaties are out of the question for us.

What I really missed is cooking with red wine. Though I don’t drink wine, I love to use wine in my cooking as it adds flavour. Fortunately, I found the 20 minutes Beef in Red Wine recipe on BBC Good Food and had a shot at it.

I got really self conscious when I bought the bottle of wine. Picture this – crying baby in one arm, pushing pram which had a bottle of wine in the bottle holder with the other hand. Bet I looked like a stressed out mum ready to drown myself with some cheap red wine.

The recipe was easy to follow and didn’t require a long cooking time. That was brilliant especially with a ticking time bomb (ie. Theodore). Despite the short cooking time, the beef absorbed the sauce very well. The sauce was also of the right texture – not too watery. I served it with fresh fettuccine pasta and yummy it was!

These days, eating is a luxury. I give myself a pat on my back for even stepping into the kitchen!

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Happy Weekend – Staying Strong

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For the past 7 weeks I’ve been asking myself this question “Why is my son born with clubfeet?” Even though his feet have been corrected by a series of casts, I find it hard to talk about his treatment.

Every aspect of my life seemed so perfect and worry-free till I saw his feet. I felt like my world had crumbled, utterly helpless as to what I could do. I should be a really happy new mum with such a lovely boy. However I was also terribly upset that he was simply born this way. Logically speaking, I knew it wasn’t my fault and it wasn’t within my control; yet I felt guilty for not “giving” him what others would call “normal feet”.

All the crying I did wasn’t helping in any way apart from worrying Daniel. Thankfully he’s a really supportive, loving and patient husband. Each time I crumble and break into pieces, he would pick me up and fix me.

Although the orthopedist warned us that Theodore could be upset for a few days when he moved on to have the bar and brace on, I wasn’t prepared for it. Who knew that it would take my smiley, easy-going boy away?
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However 1.5 days later, Theodore was soon back to his normal self! He even started being as narcissistic as me – looking in the mirror and smiling to himself!

To help him cope with the changes, I tell him that Alfa the Bear (the brace is known as the Alfa Flex Brace which has a bear on it) is our friend who will help Theodore fly him to the moon. In order to accomplish that, Mama has to fix the bar to his shoes. And we’ll not shed a tear in the process because Alfa is here to help him get better. It could be coincidence that Theodore just so happened to have adapted to the changes, but I would like to think that the story helps.

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To help him feel safe, my midwife kindly lent me a Hoppediz wrap to carry Theodore. Unfortunately with the brace, we can’t use the Manduca till he only wears the bar at night. The wrap does take getting used to on my part but Theodore seemed to enjoy being close to me.

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I reckon my boy is a lot stronger than I think he is. I could keep asking myself why this has to happen to him, why it has to happen to our family, however, I now know why. My boy had a tough start in life with the birth but he survived. He’s given this path in life because he is strong enough to live it.

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Our Clubfoot Journey: Bracing On

Yesterday morning Theodore had his final set of casts removed. I was so happy to see and feel his legs again. He was then fitted with bar and brace to ensure he won’t suffer a relapse.20140709-111450-40490137.jpg
Just when I thought the casting phase was difficult, the first day in bar and brace was HELL. Nothing I could have done to brace myself for what we have to go through.

1. Discomfort (pain?)
The shoes are tied down really snug. As if that’s not enough, Theodore can no longer move his legs individually. Neither is he able to lift both legs because the bar weighs a tonne.

Yes, babies learn and adapt really quickly. The whole world tells me the obvious. But when my baby boy can’t do what he usually enjoys (kicking in excitement), his Mama feels the pain. I try to help ease the weight of the bar by placing cushions under his feet and “teach” him some exercises, but all these take time. In the meanwhile, my darling boy can only cry.

2. It does get better
The most dreadful words from well-meaning people. It jolly well get better. Given the amount of research I’ve done since he was a day old in the hospital, I know clubfoot is treatable. Still, no amount of research mentally prepares any parent from what you have to practically do each day.

It is only with practice that we will get better. However I shall be truthful and tell you that reality sucks. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with me “wishing” my boy didn’t have to go through this. It’s what any normal parent would wish for. But yes, 4 years down the road and when I read back on this post, I’m sure I’ll tell you it does get better because we would have survived it.

“It does get better” should only be said by parents who had to struggle to unbuckle those bloody shoes and put them back on without breaking their babies’ legs. Tried it last night without the confidence of NOT causing more pain.

When it DOES get better for us, I’m sure to let you know. I’m confident it will get better too.

3. What is sleep?
Some babies are pretty good with accepting the bar and brace. Unfortunately not Theodore. He hasn’t had a proper sleep since he got his shoes and bar. Unlike him, he would now sleep for maximum 30 minutes on me before screaming. He did that the entire night. He was never a clingy baby but now he just needs all the comfort we can provide him at the expense of our sleep. Walking zombies we are.

It’s a vicious cycle since the lack of sleep makes me more emotionally vulnerable. Theoretically it’s so easy to say I should be calm. Now, 2 hours of light sleep with constant screaming, clingy and crying baby – you ought to have received enlightenment to still be calm.

Still, I do try and make bracing a “fun” experience for him by singing and playing with his feet. He hasn’t found it fun yet so Mama has to put in more effort.

4. Where is my boy?
He’s physically sleeping on me as I blog but at the same time, he’s not quite the usual Theodore – smiley, cheerful and playful.

Every waking moment now is him realising he’s in discomfort and being upset. He just gazes into space and look absolutely listless.

I am well aware that he’ll adapt and he’ll be back to his usual self in no time. However at this point in time, I’m missing my boy. I’m looking forward to having him back.

So, Day One of bar and brace isn’t exactly all rosy! We totally can understand why some parents didn’t comply with the 23/7 rule and removed the bars and shoes. While they’re there to prevent a relapse, our actions seem to put our babies in more discomfort. However, to ensure that his treatment will be a success, we’ll need to be firm on NOT getting rid of the bar and brace prematurely.

I hope that by blogging about our experience with caring for a clubfoot child, it will help me:

1. Deal with the treatment that requires hell a lot of determination

2. Document Theodore’s amazing progress (he has already improved so much!)

I can only hope that my boy overcomes the new experience real soon so we can have some sort of “normality” again.

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Our Clubfoot Journey: Casting Phase

Theodore’s legs have been in casts since he was 3 days old. He is being treated with the Ponseti method. The casts cover his tiny feet and half way up his thighs. We call the casts “astronaut trousers”.
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I was devastated when I learnt about his clubfoot condition. No matter how many times doctors reassured me that the treatment will produce excellent results and that Theodore will be no different from other children, I was heartbroken.

Every week we had to bring him to the Orthopedist to change his casts. Each week, his feet were bent at a certain angle. And each week he cried his heart out when his casts were changed. Doctors told me that the treatment wasn’t painful; just uncomfortable for Theodore.

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Thankfully, his condition wasn’t too bad so he needed only 4 sets of casts to correct his feet. I used every opportunity during casts changing days to feel and kiss his legs. I don’t think anyone whose babies were born with normal feet understands what it’s like for me to carry my son and being able to only feel the warmth from the top half of his body. It is not simply a strange feeling. It’s heart wrenching for me and I’m constantly being reminded of it.

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At 3 weeks and 3 days old, he underwent a tenotomy surgery to remove his tendons so that they will regrow to the right length. He then had to have the casts on again for 21 days.

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Theodore was a very brave boy. Apparently he didn’t cry during the operation (maybe he did but the doctors didn’t want to worry me, especially when they probably knew that Mama is a cry-baby!). We had to stay one night at the hospital to ensure that he didn’t develop an infection.

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A countless amount of tears has been shed since his birth. Just the sight of other babies’ chubby thighs and feet at our Monday Baby Massage class was enough to make me fight back tears. However, Theodore doesn’t seem too bothered.

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He definitely lives up to his middle name, “Isaac”, which means “He smiles”. While I worry about him being in pain/ discomfort, he’s usually smiling away. He kicks around forcefully and playfully even with the casts on.

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As his Mama, I think it’s only natural for me to worry about the future, his development (although doctors say he won’t be slower than other kids when it comes to crawling and walking). At the back of my mind I’m always thinking about the treatment and praying that it WILL work and how I can prevent any relapse.

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However, his cheerful personality, which is slowly shining through, brightens up my day. It is perhaps his way of reassuring me that he’s progressing really well and that I don’t have to worry.

Next Tuesday, his final casts will be taken off (Hello feet!!!). I’m excited but nervous at the same time. We’ll be moving on to the bars and braces stage which requires full compliance on the part of the parents. Goodbye casting phase…

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Good job Theodore for coping so well! Papa and Mama are very proud of you!

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One Month Old

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Whenever I look at Theo, I still find it hard to believe that I’ve got a son.

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He was that little black dot that developed into (in my opinion) the most perfect being that stole my heart.

Here’s what I’ve learnt about parenthood in the past month.

1. 24/7 job: Babies don’t come with on-off buttons. They demand your attention all the time. It’s an exhausting “job” which doesn’t get enough recognition and credit. The responsibility is so huge that I can understand why some people decide to not have kids to not be tied down by the commitment. At the same time, it’s one of the most rewarding “jobs” and hence I can totally see why many go on to have more kids despite the hard work.

2. Love knows no boundaries: Little did I know I had that much capacity to love our little boy. Strange isn’t it? I barely know him and I already adore him.

3. Worst heartaches EVER: When I saw Theodore in Intensive Care and then had to have casts on his legs, my heart broke. I felt a part of me died. The pain I felt for what he had to go through made whatever failed romance so trivial.

4. Team spirit: Daniel, Theodore and I have to work as a team to make things work. Having said that, Theodore can be rather uncooperative at times. It’s important to communicate between ourselves (Dan and I) to know what roles we need to play and tasks to do. Sharing responsibilities is vital to keep each other sane.

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Cantina Mescal Mexican Restaurant, Frankfurt

Ever since Theodore was born, we live by his schedule. Gone are the days (for now) where we decide in advance that lunch/ dinner is at a specific time. These days meal times often coincide with fussing time, nappy changing time or feeding time. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I’m just saying life is a lot easier with a newborn if you’re prepared to leave your past habits behind temporarily.

Prior to his birth, dinners were served between 6 and 730pm the latest. I would dread it so much if we had dinner too late. Nowadays, dinners can be as late as 9pm because a little new being can demand so much of two adults that we simply have to give him 110% of our attention.

Since it’s Fathers’ Day this Sunday, we decided to take the opportunity to have a nice meal outside (after Theodore’s feed, of course). Initially we were worried about bringing Theodore out in case he screams in public. However, what can you expect of a 3 week old? I’m not hiding at home for fear of my baby crying in public. Hence, we chose to have lunch at Cantina Mescal, a Mexican restaurant near us.
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We ordered a Quesadilla Grande each. It’s basically crunchy tortilla flour wrap with minced beef, jalepenoes and melted cheese served with sour cream and tomato salsa on the side. Yummiliious it was!

Lunch was a quick affair as the weather was heating up real quickly for Theodore. It’s Dan’s first Fathers’ Day but I’ve not done anything for him. I feel bad about it since it’s meant to be a special event for him. However we’re both dead tired due to sleep deprivation to thoroughly enjoy ourselves anyway.

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Anyone with a newborn (or been through the newborn phase) will agree that the above picture is a common sight.

A blog on my three greatest loves – family, food & travels

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