Week 4: What a Month Can Do To You

It’s been a whirlwind month, with no lack of drama (in the interests of self-censorship and sensitivities to our families’ privacy, I can only say hormonal changes and our mothers do not a peaceful confinement month make) and changing habits.

But more importantly, t’s funny how a 1-month-old person can take hold of your life; schedules change, sleep patterns change, daily rituals change, philosophies change, diapers change (Xander’s upgraded from Newborn size to S size)… things have changed so much, I might as well be on Obama’s staff too.

For the first time since I left school 3 1/2 years ago (I was a late bloomer), I found myself waking up at 6.30am today to get ready for work. That has to be the single most significant change I’m going through, since my wife and I are well-known for not being morning people. But of course, because it’s the holiday season, nobody thought to bring the office keys, so I ended up getting into the office at 10.30am anyway.

We’re also trying to catch Xander’s feeding patterns so we can feed him more adequately and be able to rest properly on a more predictable time belt. We saw the paediatrician yesterday, who taught us a formula to calculate how much to feed our kid, which goes something like this:

150ml x Baby’s weight = Amount per feed

No. of feeds over a 24-hour period

At 4.75kg, our kid’s feed works out to be 90ml every 3 hours. At night, we try to stretch it out little so we can cop an extra hour of sleep before his wonderfully lung-squeezing cries wake everyone in a 3-unit radius around our apartment.

But the real reason why we went to the paediatrician last night was because we thought our kid had acne.

Yes, zits. On his face. Like a teenager undergoing hormonal imbalance and wondering why everyone in school is avoiding him.

As it turns out though, he’s got a family heirloom passed down from generation to generation from my father’s side to me, and now, to him. My son has eczema. So now he’s sensitive to perspiration (no necessarily his own), tears (the rashes form quite nicely to show where his stream of tears run down when he’s cried) and possibly the baby formula he’s been so happily sucking up. All this time we thought it was normal and will go away in time (which the paediatrician also said it would), and now our kid looks like a miniature Chinese version of Seal.

Otherwise, things are slowly getting back on track. Despite the economic gloom, I’m hopeful for a good year.

Oh yeah, Xander’s got a corporate logo (or something like that, at least; my father-in-law asked for something he could silkscreen on a pillow case as a gift to Xander). And I got another video coming. And we’re planning GRAPHICS for Xander’s room soon!

Xander Tay - Drool Here
Xander Tay - Drool Here

Week 3: Watch a Good Movie Lately?

As promised, videos. I only wonder what Xander’s going to say when he sees this once he turns 12.

Note: Do turn the volume all the way up to experience the videos to its fullest potential. You might also want to let the video load up fully first; the annotations on the first vid can be a bit buggy initially.

First up, here’s something we took on the second day at the in-laws. I do so love Youtube’s Annotations function.

This one was taken a couple of days ago. We’ve been trying to capture Xander’s crying for some time now, and so far this footage has yielded the best results for us. Xander’s infamous cry has been described in many different variations and analysed at length within my wife’s family household. Again, watch the annotations; they’re pretty good indications of what we think of his beautiful wails.

Nice change from the 2000-word essays I usually put out, isn’t it?The annotations might not work

Week 2: Blurry Days, Sleepless Nights

At some point in a new father’s life, one might come to the conclusion that newborn babies are in fact a Samsonian test of strength. Who would think a 4kg bundle of flesh and cuteness could wreak such havoc with his parents’ biological clock to the point where one barely knows what day of the week it is (my wife has already given up keeping track).

It’s the end of Week 2, and Xander’s appetite has increased overnight. What used to be 60ml of milk a feed every 2 hours has shot up to 120ml of milk or more in 3 hours. And if you’re wondering where it all goes, last night I had the answer sitting in my hand after another sleepless night deciphering my baby son’s cries of complaint; at about 5am this morning, I had removed and disposed of what I believe to be the heaviest diaper load in the history of diaper changes. If I weren’t so sleepy, I’d have had it weighed and submitted into the Guinness Book of World Records. Instead all I can do now is open a can of Guinness and celebrate my victory of having learnt to change diapers properly without my son peeing all over himself and me. And I don’t even like Guinness.

You’d think I’d have gotten used to it by now, and I thought so too, but the sudden increase in appetite threw the entire house off-guard, even though I was pre-empted 3 days before the 2-week mark from the instructions printed on our (largely unused) can of S26 that from the second week onwards, baby feed will be increased from 60ml to 120ml, with slightly less frequent feeds per day. Slightly less frequent feeds? It feels like Day 1 after the hospital all over again, except this time, my mother-in-law had trusted me enough to run my own show for the night. Either that, or she was too bushed to wake up from my boy’s screaming.

My wife is also having a hard time keeping up with the total breastfeed program. She is now breastfeeding a lot more often, and pumping out reserves a lot less, because dear little Xander has seemingly inherited the Tay family appetite, and someone must have taught him not to waste a single morsel of food that’s served to him, so he’s sucking my wife dry every time. And when I take over to burp him after a feed, he tries to latch on to my boobs too (kudos to Xander for not discriminating). If he weren’t so darn cute, he’d be a fictional alien offspring with a voracious appetite for nipples in a B-grade bisexual softcore horror movie.

So, on Week 2, I have learned:

  • When newborns cry, it can only mean one of 3 things; either he’s hungry, or he’s soiled his diaper, or he’s in pain. If only adult life were so uncomplicated.
  • I am proficient enough with burping babies to be awarded with a certification. My big hands seem to scare the air out of my son the moment I sit him up and start swinging him around all Indian dance-like (video coming soon). nobody else in the house seems to know how to get him to burp, without lack of trying.
  • Diaper changes require quick thinking and pre-planning. Wet wipes, powder, nappy rash cream on a sterile cotton ball at the ready, and a fresh diaper positioned for optimum switching with soiled one. I haven’t timed it yet, but if I did, I might get a job swapping tires in the F1 pit with the Honda team.
  • Breastmilk poo is greenish-yellow, runny and has curds. I can no longer look at feta cheese the same way again.
  • When baby takes a shit, timing is essential. You got to wait for him to complete the transaction first (usually takes another push or three, and is usually punctuated at the end with a glorious fountain of pee if you’re not careful (a huge warning sign is if his pee-pee goes to 12 o’clock position, but by then it’ll be too late and you’re gonna need another shower).
  • Newborn baby farts are as dangerous, if not more, as fountains of pee.
  • Nappy rash hurts. Just ask Xander.
  • Hiccuping, though disturbing at times, needs to be accepted as a newborn’s routine, so there’s really nothing to worry about, and nothing much you can do. At first we tried everything from burping to feeding water, but now we just stand at his cot and laugh at how cute he is when he’s vibrating.
  • Just when you think you got the hang of it, your kid will pull out new surprises to keep your days a blur and your nights sleepless. Patience is key, and shift duties are essential for the sanity of any newborn’s household.
  • Being there to father your son and husband your wife is the best gift you can give to your family at this time, and especially to yourself. So don’t run away from those diapers and take it like a man. Your child will hiccup to thank you.

Week 1: Searching For The Joy of Parenthood

I’ve been reading through some other blogs on the topic of post-natal confinement, and it seems that while people are lauding over the joys of pregnancy, few people actually speak of the aftermath of giving birth. In fact, the most I’ve gotten about the subject prior to Xander’s birth were either a very sympathetic “Good luck, bro” or a very solemn “Welcome to parenthood. Try to stick with it.”

It really isn’t until you’re in the thick of it that you realise exactly why these responses sound the way they do. And even then, they don’t even begin to describe the ordeal you have to go through, regardless of whether you are the father or mother.

Take my wife (not literally). Having been through the pains of the 3 major types of delivery in one sitting (normal, assisted and C-section), one can only imagine the pain she must be going through during the recovery process. Add breastfeeding (proof that big boobs does not necessarily a happy husband make), a strict regiment of confinement foods (and very little else), perpetual house arrest, an overbearing parent, and of course a baby that cries for milk, a change of diapers or colic relief every hour without fail, and you start to wonder if it’s really hormonal changes that’s affecting her mood or just emotional retaliation to the conditions she has to go through. Whatever the case, from the day Xander was born, my love and respect for her has grown to such a level no words or actions are enough to justify its worth.

The baby, too, seems to be having a tough time. Jaundice is common among newborns, requiring a short stint in the morning sun at a specific time frame so you don’t overcook him. And since he’s only a week old, one cannot expect the kid to tell you he needs to pee or poop, though he has learnt since day 4 (to my knowledge anyway) to make known to the entire household when he’s made a bowel movement or bladder clearing (sometimes he emphasises the point some more by peeing over everything within 2 feet of his cot halfway through a diaper change). Our first night we had to pile on wet wipe after wet wipe over his poo, resulting in a sculptural masterpiece on his soiled diaper that resembled a half-serving of lasagna. And just like any offspring of mine would, he has a voracious appetite, further laying claim that he is my son by loving every minute of his face being immersed in my wife’s bosom (he’s luckier though; he gets to do it at least twice a day, while I get nada). But it is his cry that really gets to you; my wife once quipped with such terms of endearment that his crying carries such sadness with it. I can best describe it as a sudden sucking of air, followed by small whimper that grows a little in volume until it trails off into a high-pitched whisper as his lungs run out of air before he lets out a big blast of a wail that’s guaranteed to wake the other side of the estate. You got to hear it to understand how heart-piercing it is.

Being the new addition to the family, he is also showered with attention by my mother-in-law (commander-in-chief of the Great Confinement Period), her trusty maid (sometimes second-in-command) and me (the blur recruit). At some points during middle-of-the-night diaper changes (and some daytime changes), my son gets molested all over by 6 hands trying to make sense of his soiled buttocks, the diaper his clothing and his swaddle all at the same time. I’ve since learned to back off during this kind of situation. You have to trust your mother-in-law knows what she’s doing; she did bring up your wife, after all.

After all this, I cannot possibly lay claim to having the toughest job of all. over the past week, I have taken on the task of night-time nanny, allowing my wife to rest while I took care of Xander, with some help from Commander-in-Chief and her trusty sidekick and when they wake up to the sounds of Xander’s crying and think he’s complaining about me. The past week I have been clocking 2-4 hours of sleep a night – none of those hours consecutive – forcing me to retreat like a beaten dog back to my Sengkang flat as soon as the night is over to assume the foetal position in my bed and suck my thumb. I am lucky on 2 counts; that it is the holiday season (so most of the time I don’t have to work in the day), and that I got my driving license (so I can get home in 20 minutes as opposed to the 1-hour public transport option).

To all mothers (including my wife, my wife’s mother and my own), I take my hat off. If my hair weren’t so short and ugly right now, I’d take that off too. And if I didn’t need my skullcap to protect my brain, I’d take that off too.

To all new fathers, … Good luck, bro.

Chapter 2: The C-word

Read the previous chapters here:

We went into labour fully expecting to get Xander out through normal means. Throughout the 30-hour ordeal, we went from induced normal delivery plan, to assisted delivery, to C-section. The one thing that’s consistent about the way me and my wife do things – be it cable TV channels to buffet lines, and even now in labour – is that we have to try EVERYTHING. And so we managed to do it again this time, even if it was not intended.

But both our hearts dropped when we heard the doctor say the C-word ever so solemnly in the middle of the night. The look of disappointment mixed in with fear washed over my wife’s face, and for me, the thought of a C-section after all the effort we put through trying to keep the delivery normal sent my mind reeling into a tailspin. They prepped my wife for the surgery, and I was ushered out of the room hastily as my wife signed the consent form for the procedure.

The doctor did, however, tell me I could go into the operating theatre to watch. It wasn’t so much of giving permission though, as it was insistence. It seemed after being by my wife’s side the entire time, this is more of an entitlement than a privilege. But it was an entitlement I sort of wished could be handled a bit more subtly.

They got me into a surgical space suit, but I was too tall and broke the zipper, so they had to tape up the front of my suit. Then they brought me into the theatre, and I saw the surgical assistant and our gynae, ready to start, together with the anaesthetist over my wife’s head, and my wife – awake.

My God, she was awake.

During the surgery, I realised she was awake by choice, because she kept refusing the anaesthetist during the surgery whenever he offered to put her under (he asked her about 4-5 times). She wanted to make sure the baby came out all right, and wanted to be conscious when the baby made his first cry. I cannot go into detail about how excruciating the whole process went, but I will say this for all fathers who are likely to go through the same thing as I did; no amount of love will be enough to express how much you feel for your wife after seeing the sacrifices she will go through to bring a life you both created into the world.

After it was all done, I went back to the ward with my son, and after seeing him wheeled into the nursery, the only thought I had in my mind was whether my wife was all right. 45 minutes later, my wife was wheeled into the ward. As she was moved into her bed and I was allowed back into her room, I sat down next to her, held her hand, and cried.

It marked the end of an ordeal, and the beginning of a new story.

Chapter 1: Here Goes Nothing?

Read the other chapters here:

The title is, of course, the understatement of the century, seeing as “nothing” has made me a father, my wife a mother, and our lives for the next 2 years or so potentially a sleepless tirade of midnight feedings, soothing baby crying sessions, takign turns at eating while the other is bobbing the baby to do whatever it has to do, and everything else tied to the joys of parenthood.

But the title symbolises the deep breath I am now taking as I type out one of the most dramatic 13 hours my wife and I have ever experienced in our lives, and trying very hard not to take anything vital away from every detail of every defining moment of our life-giving exercise.

I’ll start off where I left off. Soon after I finished the last post, I headed back to the labour ward and went to look for my wife. I get directed to the bed where my wife is resting, having had an induction pill inserted into her a few minutes before. And there we waited. My wife told me to go home and catch some Zzzs. So I drove home (oh yeah, I got my license, woohoo) and ended up doing the laundry at 5am because I simply could not sleep. I left the house at 6.30am once the laundry was done and all hung up, and headed back up to the hospital.

By the time I got there, the induction pill was supposed to have taken effect, failing which a second pill would need to be used, and a second 8-hour period to see if it worked would ensue. The pill hadn’t taken effect; though there were contractions, they were too weak nd far between to bear any significance. So we tried again.

At 4.30pm (still on Christmas Day), the CTG still didn’t detect any real sign that labour would be under way any time soon, so the doctor checked. The good news was, baby’s head had lowered to its desired 3cm mark down the cervix, and we could proceed into labour. We were told to wait again while the second phase of the labour progressed, which was to see the baby’s head lowered to 10cm, and thus commence the birthing process.

8.30pm. A check was done again, and baby’s head had moved a grand total of… half a cm. We get moved to a delivery room. Another 2 hours later, and my wife was gradually feeling stronger contractions. We were still hopeful at this point, though the more experienced staff nurses knew better; baby’s head would move at an average rate of 1cm per hour, which meant that if estimates were to be trusted, Xander would only be out about 2.30am, Boxing Day. My wife’s disappointment grew as the minutes passed; seeing her like that broke my heart. Eventually we would both just comfort each other with the fact that at least the kid’s still doing well and his heartbeat’s still healthy.

2.30am, Boxing Day. We do another check, and the boy is now at the 8cm mark. We commence pushing exercises, and continue to do so for the next hour and a half. During this time, I get to see the top of Xander’s head through my wife’s cervix – disturbing, and amazing at the same time. But for the best of my wife’s efforts at pushing, huffing, and puffing, that would be all anyone would see in the delivery room. at 3.45am, our gynae gets called in, and after reviewing the situation, she calls for forceps. When the forceps is inserted, and my wife is asked to push one more time, the good doctor decides after one push, “It’s not working. Sorry, we’ll have to go for a Ceasarian.”

To be continued

Chapter 0: Live from the Labour Ward

Read the other chapters here:

It’s past midnight. My wife and I had just come out of a Christmas family dinner at my sister-in-law’s place, and we’ve made our way to the hospital as planned with our gynae.

I can say this much. As much planning as you can do, even right down to choosing your own kid’s birthday, nothing can prepare you for the anxiety attack that comes with realising that in a few hours’ time, you’re going to be a father.

Yet, in spite of this very common feeling, particularly for first-time fathers, the hospital will stil unceremoniously quick you in a family waiting lounge (where I am presently writing this slowly but surely with my trusty companion of the moment, my cell phone), while my wife is preparing for my son’s big debut in the labour ward. I am now no doubt feeling what my sister-in-law is feeling; a more-than-mild irritation of not being able to get in the thick of the labour process with her dear little sis, my wife.

While I was initially a little stifled with my sister-in-law’s incessant fussing about keeping her in the loop of every step, every movement and every little squeeze of my wife’s contractions (including catching everything on video), i completely understand what she’s talking about, particularly since I have suddenly been put into the exact situation she is currently in; away from her dear little sis, my wife.

I’m going to be driving home shortly to fetch some other stuff we forgot we planned to bring to the hospital, but for now, this is as much of a first update as i have for our very first step into parenthood – which, quite frankly, isn’t very much now, is it?

Xander Claus Is Coming To Town…

My mother-in-law came up with that one, with a little editing help from my 2nd sister-in-law.

But the real reason why that above lyric seems so poignant now is because we decided to break Xander out of jail on Christmas Day. Yes, if nothing happens between now and Christmas, we’re going to induce.

What does that mean for our little one? For now, we can only think of the positive more than the negative. For one, the world will pretty much be celebrating his birthday together with him, even though they think it’s in honour of Someone Else entirely. Parties with countdowns to Christmas will have an entirely new meaning to him, and for that matter, parties on his birthday are ripe for his picking. (As parents who have, at one time or another, participated in nighttime activities involving dancing, drinking and drunken flirting, we like to plan ahead for our child’s future.)

Secondly, he will get double the amount of presents anyone else gets. Okay, that may be cheating, but it makes for double the joy doesn’t it? But knowing Singapore society, he might just end up getting one present as a Xmas-B’day combo (because people are cheap like that), in which case, me and my wife have taken a vow that we will never scrimp on quantity when it comes to his birthday and Christmas. Most of the time.

Third, his birthday on Christmas. That must be the most easily remembered birth date anyone can have. I personally would have preferred New Years’ Day, but the doctor says waiting that long carries a risk of the placenta aging and potentially adds complications to the birth. So Christmas it is. Let’s just hope he turns out to have as high an IQ as I do, but with faster processing so he doesn’t lose out to classmates that are almost a year ahead of him in brain development time. (On an aside, someone told me children born on New Year’s Day have a choice to start primary school on either the year he turns 6 or the year he turns 5. Can someone verify that?)

My wife’s been packing for her trip to the hospital. Come the 24th, she might not be seeing our flat for about a month or so after we leave for her eldest sister’s Christmas party, because we’re getting admitted straight after. For that matter, I’m probably not going to get a proper night’s sleep again for another 4 years (I’m optimistic). And that’s IF we’re not trying for another one in the next 2 years.

Maharaja's Palace – Best Prata in Town!

Some prata house, eh?
Some prata house, eh?

My wonderfully supportive sister has just given her feedback on my interpretation of what will be the master plan of her brand spanking Indian dollhouse, called rather unassumingly, the Maharaja’s Palace.

I did the whole 3D imaging on a whim after reading her “Day 6” post. I sent her some JPEGs of what I did, and, according to her, blew her away.

Truth is, I didn’t read that much into her post before I set forth into Onion Dome Hell. She mentionedrequiring 10 rooms; a Durbar Hall, a Sheesh Mahal, 4 bedrooms, a kitchen, a living area, a library and a Grand Bath. After going through the post, I had in my mind 10 rooms; 4 bedrooms, 1 kitchen, one library, one living area, one Turkish bath, one Durian Hall, and one shish kebab. One building term we did agree on, though was calling the dome roof an onion. I think that’s as low as my sister will go with me in terms of “low-brow” humour.

My other sister has sworn off reading the Dollhouse Diaries because “she writes like she’s conducting a history lesson. I will go Zzzz…” Such sibling love, as my wife would say.

***

By the way, if anyone is in the market for a custom-made dollhouse, let me know. If I get 2 orders or more, I’ll quit my job and go into it full-time for sure.

Introducing My Sister's New Real Estate Agent?

So my sister’s been going through this new phase in her life, and I inadvertently got pulled into it. It used to be collector’s handbags. Anything with a handle that can be got for under $200 on eBay and can hold no more than five $10 bills, a cellphone and a stick of gum, she’s got. But last week, after a housemate invited her to design the interior of a 1:12 scale 3-storey house, it has become her new obsession; dollhouses. It got so bad, she even started a blog. Okay, hang on. Make that two(!).

This new hobby of hers has taught me two things; one, that I am actually interested in the world of dollhouse and miniature making, and two, I have a passive-aggressive relationship with my sisters that, depending on the sister involved, can be very productive, or very unproductive.

I’ve been talking my eldest sister (the one who has this affliction for the 1:12 scale) through this whole dollhouse issue, and I have to be honest, I started out skeptical. Why would a lawyer suddenly be interested, no, passionately interested, in a frivolous activity such as making and decorating dollhouses? 2 days into our rather rude MSN debates, it slowly dawned on me that this may well be a transition from her bag phase, and looking at what came out of that bag phase, this one might be pretty serious, rather intellectually challenging, and potentially… profitable.

I decided amidst all the arguing about whose blog is funny and whose writing skills sucked, that I would help her out a bit with this new project she was dreaming up. Thinking about it now, I wonder if I may have bitten off more than I can chew, but I did tell her if the end-product turns out to be anything near as justified as the enthusiasm, research and effort we’re going to put into it, I might just switch careers.

If you’re interested, her blog is at