Work and Two Kids!

Balancing between work and family is exponentially more challenging with two young children! First, morning and evening routines are far more harried — and for me, series of unending tasks. It’s also a particularly busy time at work so there really wasn’t much time to settle in slowly despite my part-time work arrangements.

Still, despite the sleepless nights and long days, I tell myself it’s also only just a phase. Things will only get better so fortitude YX!

On the brighter side, I really want to make it a point to take in all that Isaac and Isabel are doing now and not let these moments slip by! So, new developments this week!

Isaac has been very interested in how things stay up. So he’s been asking why mirrors don’t fall off walls, why plates and bowls do not have legs, why buildings don’t fall down, why some structures are stable and some not… and Ning and I came to the conclusion that at some point, he would have to use free body diagrams to explain all these properly. I can’t even explain them at all! So it will be fun learning for me too!

Also, another new sentence construction from Isaac — upon smelling smoke from outside our house, he asked “Why is something being burnt?” Being burnt! And he has recently started to come up with his own words. For example, in response to questions he doesn’t want to answer, he would say “Goo!” which is slightly annoying but also quite adorable.

Isabel is also getting cuter by the day. One afternoon, I saw her watching her own fist intently, opening and closing it, then smiling happily at her fist — possibly at the fact that she could control it. Too cute for words! She seems to be slower than Isaac at her physical development but she’s so much more expressive and communicates her needs so well! She’s also a lot more social and would sometimes complain if she’s brought away from activity. And she clearly clearly adores Isaac — though sadly, the feeling is not mutual yet.

It is a bit hard to split myself between work and family, and then between Isaac and Isabel and it’s always a fear that I’ll end up neglecting Isabel who is far less demanding for now.

Still, we try to do better everyday so here’s to a restful weekend and another busy fulfilling week ahead!

Quiet Evenings

Some time ago, I read an article by Arianna Huffington on the importance of sleep and her incredible and impossible nightly sleep routine. I remember thinking then that I certainly don’t need sound-proof walls or nightly baths and warm milk to sleep well. All I need is the exhaustion that comes from taking care of kids; or conversely to have no kids!

Still, it struck me recently that I’m quite awful at this sleeping business. There were many nights when I would wake to feed Isabel, and then despite feeling absolutely exhausted, would not be able to sleep for another few hours, sometimes until dawn! So in the spirit of better sleep, over the weekend, I started diffusing lavender oil and putting on quiet, soothing music before bedtime. (Also this weekend Ning’s new bed arrived so we now have a massive nine-and-a-half feet, super comfortable bed to accommodate all four of us!)

For Ning, what made the difference was probably switching from a hard mattress to a super luxurious one. Isabel seemed indifferent to it all. I did sleep well but I can’t tell if it’s really the lavender scent and music. But Isaac certainly did sleep the best he did for a while! In fact, he didn’t rouse or wake at all at night!

The best part is, he quietens down a bit better because the music is enough to hold his attention so he doesn’t feel the need to yap on until he tumbles to sleep. And we get to have little chats about music! Initially, I started talking about what the music make me think of, how it made me feel just to get him to lie still. But I realised it was such a lovely conversation — I was telling him how a piece made me think of a green lush garden, the pitter-pat of rain and how each glistening drop would roll off from petal and leaf to the soft wet ground. He asked why the music sounded like rain and I explained it was because of the rhythm of the melody. Then when I asked if he liked music he said no! But later, when I wanted to turn it off he asked for it to be on.

And I realise, just as with speech, listening is perhaps the important aspect of a musical education. Even before playing, even before theory, even before pitch — just to listen and feel the music and learn to love it. Even if Isaac (and Isabel) never learn to play instruments or become technical virtuosos, I hope they would learn to always take a moment to be still and listen and listen and feel.

So more of that tonight! Music and scent also makes for a lovely spa-like atmosphere — always a good way to end the day =)

Breastfeeding, Second Time Around

Breastfeeding, Second Time Around.

I nursed Isaac for 26 months — without really meaning to. I had some vague idea at the start that I would like to breastfeed exclusively for at least three months, maybe six months if possible, but certainly I would stop nursing once he grew teeth.

Of course that didn’t happen. Despite us starting him on the bottle since he was three weeks old, Isaac suddenly rejected bottle feeding at around two and a half months. He steadfastly rejected it ever since, despite us trying every single bottle and teat out there. Even when I returned to work after eight months, he would rather starve for the day, or just take the bare minimum to survive (30 ml? 40 ml?) from SPOON FEEDS rather than take the bottle. So there was no question of feeding him formula milk (though I very optimistically bought a tin when he was six months old) because you can’t feed formula milk from boob.

With Isabel, I was determined that she not reject the bottle. Because I would be returning to work after four months, she would still be too young for solids so she had to be able to take the bottle. So we bottle-fed her quite a bit more, and because she fed well and slept well when bottle fed, we ended up with her taking expressed breastmilk for most of the feeds except for the first morning feed and her one night feed.

But it also meant that it was a lot more stressful for me to keep up my milk supply. I would really like to breastfeed her exclusively for at least a year — but a few times, when I fell ill or when Aunt Flo visited, I found my supply dropping and on the brink of not being able to keep up. Each time, I did all I could — drinking copious amounts of water, eating salmon for every meal, taking all the galactagogues possible, forcing Isabel to latch before every single feed just to stimulate more production…

And it worked. Each time, within a week, the milk supply would return and I could even freeze additional bags of milk for future supply dips.

But this time, I found myself faced thawing my very last bag of frozen milk and knew that it was time. I can eat all the fenugreek and salmon and drink special teas all day but I was returning to work where it would be even tougher to keep up regular pumping, Isabel’s appetite is growing and she needs to be fed.

Still, I felt very sad about it. Ning and I spent ages at the supermarket comparing the tiny print on ingredients, googling whatever term we didn’t know — but I knew in my heart that I wasn’t really that sort of mother. I just wanted to avoid the reality of having to give something other than my own milk to Isabel.

So I was strangely happy that Isabel rejected the formula milk at first! At least she could tell the difference! Still, she finished it eventually. And I try to console myself that there’s nothing bad about formula milk — so many of us grew up on it.

But also, I’m not going to give up! I won’t insist on total breastfeeding just for the sake of it, but I’ll keep pumping and latching for as long as I can, so that she can continue to benefit from breastmilk. Even if it has to be supplemented, some is better than none.

It’s daunting trying to maintain all this pumping while at work, but#nevergiveup YX! Here’s hoping this tin of formula milk would also be wasted in the end!