Chapter 2: The C-word

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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?

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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

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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

Are You Lonesome Today?

My wife’s been on maternity leave for a week now. It takes some getting used to, even though I still get to see her when I go home.

Our life at work is a little different form other couples working together in the same office. I first introduced her into the company before I even joined a year later, and that may have contributed to the (mostly) smoothsailing working relationship we have. Also, we set down some rules for ourselves as well as the people around us early on so boundaries are not overstepped, yet we are still very comfortable talking about our jobs both at work and outside of it.

Now that she’s on maternity leave though, I find myself a little more isolated from the rest of the office. Her absence has made me realise how dependent I am on her for social fulfillment. This whole time, I’ve been hving lunch with her, or buying lunch in for her. We crack jokes with each other, and even when I’m engaging in small talk or idle conversation with other people, she’s always involved one way or another, which is a great comfort to me, becaus eI wouldn’t really know how to hold my own with the people in the office.

I think the thing I’m missing the most is doing everything with her around. I’d be sitting in my cubicle, comfortable with the fact that she’s just a few cubicles from me. I’d look forward to sitting in the car with her, riding to and from work, and planning the rest of the evening with her, whether it be for dinner, or shopping, or family visits, or just which channel to idle in front of the TV with.

I’m now looking at about 3-4 months of not being able to do all these things with her while she is resting at home waiting for Xander to appear. Thanks to the new enhanced baby bonus scheme, she now has more time to spend with the kid and recuperate from the delivery, while I work off the payments I have to make for my various new purchases in anticipation for the biggest change in our lives (the unapproved $1000 bike included). Maybe it might not have felt so bad if we were working in separate corporations; maybe I wouldn’t have been so dependent on her for my emotional fulfillment at work. But if you ask me, working with my wife in the same office has been what’s keeping me happy (and what’s kept me i this job) since I started work here, and

Your Daddy's a Useless Bum

I spoke to the gynae, my mum and dad, even my happily married sister with three children, not to mention the handful of friends that have gone through the same thing I am going through now, and they all say the same thing.

Husbands are pretty useless during a woman’s pregnancy.

When a guy gets a girl pregnant, it can mean a number of things (sometimes all at the same time): he’s going to be a father, and/or his parents are going to kill him, and/or he’s gonna need to think seriously about marrying the girl. Fortunately I got that marriage thing out of the way, and my parents have been really supportive (I think). The only real issue right now though, is what do I do?

Our first ob/gyn visit, I was already warned by the doctor (it was the way she said it rather than what she said) that as a husband, the only real thing I can do is offer my support and understanding as my wife goes through the various stages of pregnancy. My own sister, being slightly more direct, has imparted to me on a number of occasions this wonderfully wise one-liner: “Frankly, there’s nothing much you can do.” But my very good friend for 19 years and almost-neighbour says it best as he drills down all that has been said about fathers-to-be into 5 concise words: “What to do? Drink lor.”

In the beginning, it was quite hard to comprehend; the mood swings, the moments where you were expected to do something but didn’t, the moments when you did something you shouldn’t have… that’s really tough, and it really emphasises the uselessness factor at an early stage of the man’s pregnancy. The thing women need to understand at the end of the day, is that men don’t. We’re not carrying a baby to term. We’re not having hormonal changes. Most importantly, we’re not Matt Parkman, and even he didn’t do so well with his wife either. This all leads to one very time-honoured fact, made apparent in the last 40 years since the advent of women’s lib, and even more apparent when pregnancy arises; women are a mystery, and men are the perpetual idiots who think they can solve that mystery. Well, I’ve also been told umpteen times (one way or another) by female friends, including my wife, that men should not attempt to understand women. It’s a failed venture that will likely not have a good ending. So we just have to grit our teeth and go along with it. Pfffft.

Thankfully, the husband’s job scope starts to get a little more obvious as his wife’s pregnancy becomes more obvious. Help out around the house. Help her up the stairs, or even better, clear the way to the elevator for her. Help her out of the couch, out of the bed, out of wherever it is that she’s sitting or lying on. Cheer her up, keep her happy, make her laugh, and enjoy the pregnancy with her. It took the last 3 months of my wife’s first pregnancy for me to learn how to be a pregnant husband, but I guess the learning process is compulsory, because no amount of advice anyone can give you is going to amount to much unless you experience it for yourself.

There are some lessons no one can teach you, because life’s always different for someone else. But from a father-to-be to another, I do have this to say. If you’re planning to get your wife pregnant, be prepared. The single most important use I’ve found for myself as a father-to-be is that even though the wife is the one bearing the child, the husband is the one bearing the love for both of them.

Remember when… ?

I remember a time when my first thought after buying a $500 Ibanez electric guitar was how to break the purchase to my parents.

Nowadays my first thought after buying a $1000 folding bike was how to break the purchase to my wife.

The more some things change, the more they remain the same.

Mama Mia!

As much as I’ve been talking about my mother-to-be wife, this post happens to be about her mother-in-law, a.k.a. my mother.

Since I got married and moved out, my mother has been sort of on my case about everything. Over the last 2 years, she’s been calling me at the weirdest times, over the tritest of issues. My also-married sister, and even my wife, have said this is her way of keeping her son hers. I just think it bugs me, but before I get lambasted for being an unfilial son, I do have a legit psychological reason. Just bear with me for a paragraph or two.

I think my wife will be a lot clearer about when my mother’s possessive behaviour began, but I’ll just go through some of the weird things that she has done, most of which had to do with phone calls. She’d call me up in the middle of the day while I am in the middle of a crucial website programming bugfix or writing a stern email to someone, and tell me about what she saw in the news (that isn’t even produced in this country) that day, or telling me to not get into credit card debt (which caused a flock of question marks flying around my office cubicle tht afternoon), or telling me my sister had brought a load of baby stuff to her place, and detailing every single thing and what she was planning to do with them before I took them home with me (or not). That last phone call happened Monday night, just after I had spent the whole weekend cleaning the house, so the tiredness in my voice as I stayed on the phone with her did nto translate well.

I know, I know, she’s being Mom, and I’m being a prat. I don’t deny I dread these calls from her.In fact, I fear them. Sometimes I see her number on my phone, I have half a mind to reject the call. Not because I hate my mother, and not because I’m unfilial. I’m afraid of these phone calls because I know what they’re really all about. My mother just wants to connect to a son that suddenly disappeared form her household after almost 30 years of me making noise under her roof. I react adversely because I don’t want to acknowledge that our separation justifies the real reason why she’s calling. I don’t want to admit that we’re drifting apart (I’ve always been a recluse in her home, by the way). And I think she’s having trouble accepting the fact that I’m out here now starting my own family, and she’s being kind of left out of the whole family-starting process (though I think all parties should agree mothers should not participate in the baby-making process, no matter what the situation).

The worst thing is, when we do meet face-to-face once every week or so, she has almost nothing to say to me. She’s too busy cooking, or she’s chasing after my nieces and nephews, or she’s doing this, or she’s doing that. The last few times I’ve been home have been better though; once the kids have gone home, my sisters retreat back into their abodes, and I’m left in my parent’s house with both my parents, we have long talks about what’s to come in my life, and what’s been happening in theirs. But as long as I’ve lived in my mother’s care, I think the both of us know we can’t hold a conversation when it’s just the 2 of us, and we both sort of realise this mother and son have very little in common.

I love my mom, I do. And I know my mom loves me too. I just don’t know how we can love each other in terms that the other can understand. And now I’m wondering what I’ll think if Xander becomes the same prat I am when it comes to his parents.