Birth Story: Hello Candace (Part 2)

15.6.15

What a neat date to meet our baby.

Well. Her arrival turned out to be far from neat.

We were briefed to admit ourselves at Mount Alvernia at 11.30pm the night before the scheduled delivery. We packed our suitcase(*) for the hospital and spent the whole of Sunday just taking things easy and lounging around. The girls had the rare opportunity to have free reign on the iPads as I wanted to be calm, centred and well-rested for the birth – and NOT exhausted from any outings or yelling at them to limit their screen time NOW.

(*We had learnt from experience that while our clothes could fit nicely into one duffel bag when heading to the hospital, it is grossly insufficient for containing all the baby’s stuff that the hospital and visitors bestow upon you e.g. freebies, samples, brochures, diapers, wipes, etc. Not to forget those mountainous chicken essence hampers. The poor husband usually ends up making multiple trips, arms laden with paper bags, to load it all into the car. He got smart the third time around and packed a large bag with lots of empty space and wheels.)

We kissed the girls goodnight and told them that they would be coming to visit me and baby Candace at the hospital the next day. At 11pm, we took a quiet, leisurely drive in the darkness of the night – nervous, but excited.

We were brought into the delivery suite, and I was hooked up to belts and wires to have the baby’s heartbeat monitored while Dan went to settle the administration procedures. At about 12.30am, the nurse inserted a suppository to soften the cervix. Dr C, when explaining the induction procedure earlier on, had said that if that alone did not make the cervix dilate sufficiently for delivery by the next morning, Pitocin would be administered via a drip to do the job.

“Try to sleep,” the nurse said, smiling kindly. Try as I did, I was too excited to sleep. The husband made himself comfortable in the lazy boy and immersed himself in the 4th book of the Games of Thrones saga.

At 3am, the contractions started coming on. Having delivered my first baby with the aid of an epidural and the second without, I had been wavering on whether to have one for the third. It only took me 45 minutes to decide that I wanted one! Haha! The anaesthetist bustled in in a burst of cheeriness (how does she do that at 4am?!), deftly administered the epidural and swaggered out, pro as could be. Because I had requested for the epidural before the contractions got too strong, I felt the biting pinpricks of the needles and wriggled uncomfortably, unlike my first delivery where the intense pain of the contraction surpassed everything else!

Pain relieved, I drifted off into a broken sleep while the husband snored away next to me, with his book fallen on its side.

At 7.30am, the nurse checked for dilation. Her face registered a look of surprise. “Wow, 9cm” she said, “Very fast! I’ll call for your doctor.”

She felt around somemore. Pop. “Oh, water bag burst. You wait awhile ah….” And out she went.

A while later, the machine monitoring the baby’s heartbeat started beeping loudly. The nurse rushed back in. “Baby’s heartbeat falling below 100,” she announced, handing me an oxygen mask. “Here, take this and breathe hard, try to get as much oxygen to the baby as possible.”

The commotion woke the husband and he clambered sleepily to my side. “It’s almost time,” I told him nervously.

The machine beeped on and off. Each time a frantic bout of beeping occurred, the nurse urged me to take deeper breaths from the oxygen mask. “I’ve called Dr C. She’s on her way,” she kept repeating rather anxiously.

This went on for awhile until the nurse said:

“I NEED YOU TO PUSH.”

Wait, what? Push? Now? Where’s my doctor? Why is this nurse here alone? Where’s everybody else? What’s going on? My mind struggled to comprehend the situation, although I didn’t exactly feel much panic, given that Claire had been delivered by a midwife and not my previous gynae.

I obediently pushed. After a few rounds, the nurse said, “Ok. Good. That’s enough. We wait for Dr C to come.”

At about 8am, a rather hectic looking Dr C burst through the drapes. On her instructions, I closed my eyes and pushed hard as the husband stood on my right with arms around my shoulders in support until…

…. POP! I felt the baby slide out.

I opened my eyes.

At that moment, I saw the nurse wince as blood sprayed her in the face and hair. My gaze moved to Dr C, who was splattered in blood. I saw her lift a slippery, wet, blood-covered baby upwards towards the bright lights and carefully place her into an incubator to my right, dripping a trail of blood onto the floor. I saw blood to my left too, far-reaching trails that miraculously missed the Games of Thrones book that lay open on the lazy boy. It was only then that I remembered to look for the husband. He was standing, still as a statue, in shock – with nary a drop of blood on him. Looks like somebody chose the right spot to stand in!

The paediatrician’s face appeared from behind the drapes. “Be careful, there’s blood on the floor!” called out Dr C and the PD gingerly crossed the room with carefully-placed strides.

It finally dawned on me that this wasn’t normal to have SO much blood from a delivery.

“Er. Why’s there so much blood?” I asked Dr C as she sewed me up.

“Part of the placenta detached from the uterine wall during labour and because the water bag had broken, the blood entered the amniotic sac,” came Dr C’s calm reply. “It’s a good thing you were already fully dilated and were ready to push the baby out quickly before she swallowed any of the blood mixture. If not, we would have had an emergency C-section. Dr Ng is suctioning fluids from her mouth and nose now, she’ll be alright.”

Oh. Well, it’s a good thing I had obediently removed the shiny new polish from my recent pedicure since I nearly ended up in the operating theatre! These babies of mine. Why do they have to compete for the most dramatic birth? Girls! Tsk.

Because of the urgency to attend to Candace, I didn’t get to experience skin-to-skin contact immediately after delivery, unlike how Coco and Claire were placed like wet, naked mice on my chest at KKH. Still, as I held the gaze of the tiny face peeking out amidst the folds of shiny foil and cloth, I felt my heart surge with love. Skin contact or none, it wouldn’t make a difference – the intense adoration was mutual. She studied me intently, unaware of the drama she had caused by her arrival.

“Hello, you. Painting the town red already huh? You cheeky thing.”

Hello, Candace. You came to us so quietly, so unassumingly and burst into our lives with your dramatic entrance. We’re going to love having you in our family.

Welcome, our littlest one.

Candace Birth_1

Birth Story: Hello Candace (Part 1)

My baby turned 4 months old last week, marking the inevitable end of what has been an immensely enjoyable and fulfilling period of maternity leave.

I thought that this would be an opportune moment to document Candace’s birth story here on Bubsicles. It’s now or never.

I took 3 weeks to journal Coco’s arrival back in 2011 and less than 2 weeks to blog about Claire’s in 2013. It’s taken me far too long to get down to translating the memory of Candace’s birth into writing and it’s fast losing its vividness as fresh, new memories – each one as precious as the last – jostle for space in my head.

Candace was estimated to arrive on 19 June. Give how Claire had unceremoniously shot out in 2.5 hours at 38 weeks, everyone joked about how we had better be prepared for an unexpected home birth or to receive our baby in the car en route to the hospital. I planned for my maternity leave to start on 11 June – partly because I expected Candace to have arrived by then and if she hadn’t, I envisioned myself enjoying a leisurely time at home lounging in air-conditioned comfort while waiting for the baby to arrive (an experience I was robbed of twice when both previous babies arrived early.)

I didn’t expect to end up cutting short the wait. When reporting to my gynae that there was still no sign of the baby arriving, I decided to have my labour induced on 15 June should it not have commenced naturally by then.

When people asked about my choice to induce, I would joke that I got bored – nothing to do at home while waiting.

The truth is that I felt really anxious to meet my baby. To hold her in my arms.

The anxiety seems almost silly, given that this is our third child and not our first. I hadn’t felt the same pressing need to see the first two and left the decision on when they wanted to arrive to them. In fact, I was rather horrified when the previous gynae asked if we would consider inducing Claire’s birth and thought “Why would I want to forcibly evict my baby from the comfort of her home?”

I can’t quite put a finger on the exact reason why I wanted so strongly to hold this baby so soon.

Maybe because having 2 kids under 3 kept me on my feet all day, leaving me little opportunity to track the baby’s movements in utero. I would sink drowsily into bed at the end of a long, tiring day and startle in panic when I suddenly tried to recall whether I had felt any kicks that day. Too few kicks, I would think, as stories of still births ran amok in my tired mind. I would drop off into an uneasy, nervous sleep, fervently praying that she was alright.

Maybe it was because I had grown accustomed to not having time to myself over these years. I couldn’t just sit around and wait. Busy mamas simply do not wait. I had to do something and I grew impatient for the birth to happen.

But as I dig deeper into my heart, I find what could be the most plausible explanation for my intense anxiety and eagerness to have my baby arrive. NOW. Candace is our surprise baby. Our hugely unexpected never-in-our-lifetime dream come true. After 3 rounds of IVF that yielded 2 precious bundles of joy, we had written off all chances of conceiving naturally. Then came the bizarre onset of epilepsy that, which each devastating seizure, repeatedly killed the possibility of embarking on our much-awaited frozen cycle. My hope of seeing baby no.3 anytime soon ebbed with time. When we found out in October last year that I was pregnant, it seemed unbelievable. Unreal. How could this be? What did we do to deserve this gift – this baby who chose to come to us just like that? With IVF, we had to work hard to earn our babies. To have been able to conceive naturally seemed too good to be true. My memory of the pregnancy is dreamlike. Every visit to the gynae was the proof that I needed that this baby was real. I needed to believe that she was really coming to us. As I grew more and more emotionally attached to the baby inside me, I also became increasingly nervous that she could be taken away – as easily as she came.

That was why I had to have her – to see, feel and believe that she was real. Our real live baby.

And 15 June 2015 was our chosen date to meet her.

BUMP

(To be continued…)

Review: QuickGrab Fragranced Nappy Disposal Bags

Being out and about with 3 kids aged 4 and under means that we’ve under the continuous onslaught of dirty diapers for… just about the past 4 years. This never-ending poop factory translates into us needing a constant stream of plastic bags to contain and dispose of the done deeds.

For this gallant purpose, the common protective plastic wraps that magazines and brochures arrive in through the post come in handy. I bag each clean diaper individually before storing it into the baby bag and later use the same bag to contain the used diaper before disposing of it in the bin. The slim bag means less extra plastic rustling messily in the (already messy) diaper bag; it’s easy to spot the diaper when wrapped in clear plastic (so that you don’t hurriedly grab what you think is a clean diaper, only to realise that the bag contained the toddler’s half-eaten sandwich) and the adhesive opening seals in the used diaper neatly. Plus, it feels good to reuse all that plastic that comes through the mail.

Unfortunately, not all plastic wraps are made equal. Sometimes they’re too big for that tiny newborn diaper. Some come without the adhesive strip, leaving you no way of sealing in offensive smells. Some have such a sticky strip that the process of unwrapping the publication inevitably ruins the whole bag. So while our method of disposing of smelly diapers works okaaaaaaay, it has – in the words of my favourite drinks uncle at Maxwell Food Centre regarding his competitor’s teh-si – “no standard”.

Then, I came to know about QuickGrab Fragranced Nappy Disposal Bags. Toting around the pack of 125 bags means that we’d always have a ready supply of standard disposal bags that are sized for nappies; come with handles so that the bag can be tied closed and smells sealed in; and best of all, fragranced with the pleasant scent of baby powder.

Quickgrab

I tend to dismiss the need to fragrance certain items. One such item is, er, panty liners. It’s quite a cringe-worthy thought to smell floral or forest-fresh down there. With the nappy disposal bags, I also thought “Fragrance for what? Use already quickly throw away, can already right?”

Well, motherhood presents you all sorts of opportunities to eat your words.

But first, it never fails to present you with the chance to change (yet another) diaper when you’re out with the baby and at your busiest. (Everybody say “Hooray!”) One Sunday, I was changing Candace out of her wet diaper in the living room of the girls’ music teachers’ home while the 2 older kids were having their lesson. Just as I bagged the use diaper in a QuickGrab Fragranced Nappy Disposal Bag, class ended – bringing with it an exodus of toddlers and parents. As the room filled with people, I scooped up the screaming infant, distractedly stuffed the bagged diaper into the baby bag and hustled all 3 kids out of the house.

Fast forward to the next Sunday. I was packing the baby bag in preparation for music class when my hand touched a mysterious spongy item at the bottom of the bag. I yanked it out and found myself staring at the familiar dark green of a QuickGrab Fragranced Nappy Disposal Bag – containing A WEEK-OLD WET DIAPER.

THE HORROR.

I quickly (and most reluctantly) sniffed the inside of the baby bag for nasty smells. Amazingly, there weren’t any. No stale pee odour. Not a whiff. I heaved a sigh of relief and continued packing the bag (nope, didn’t bother to air it).

That said, I’m not sure if the scent is sufficiently powder-ful to neutralise the unbearable odour of Number Twos for an entire week… and I’m not about to experiment. Not intentionally, at least.

QuickGrab Fragranced Nappy Disposal Bags are now a regular item to have in our baby bag and in the car. I suggested to the supplier to package the bags in smaller quantities, say 30 or 40 bags. I find the 125-bag pack, while compact, rather hefty to tote around given that it would take forever to use up all hundred over bags since we only go out with the kids on the weekend.

Also, look closely for the perforated line that says “Tear Here” on the front of the bag. When used correctly, the individual bags, true to their QuickGrab claim, slide out easily with a gentle tug. The opening wasn’t obvious to me and I hastily ripped open the top of the bag, and had to fumble with a mess of bags. Okay, okay, maybe it was just me being unobservant. But you know lah, even if mothers had 8 eyes, all eyes would still be on their kids and their antics, and dotted lines can be easily overlooked!

If you’re unsure about using new bags (versus reusing old plastic bags) to dispose of poop in, be comforted that QuickGrab Fragranced Nappy Disposal Bags are biodegradable.

QuickGrab Fragranced Nappy Disposal Bags retail at $4.50 for a 125-bag pack and can be purchased from any of the retailers listed here.

If you have little humans that produce big bad smells, do give these nappy disposal bags a go. 

Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary pack of QuickGrab Fragranced Nappy Disposal Bags with no obligation to write a review. The fact that I like them enough to want to write about them is assurance that all opinions reflected here are my own 🙂

Review: Baby K’tan

My first memory of babywearing was back in 1983.

I was 4 years old, so clearly, it wasn’t me who was doing the carrying. Our helper then was a motherly lady from the Philippines who had joined our family that year my sister was born. She would gather my sister in an ordinary bed sheet, lift her onto her back, knot the ends of the sheet in front of her chest and set about doing the housework with baby on board. It was simple, fuss-free, efficient and cost next to nothing.

How times have changed. 28 years later when I had my first daughter, I faced a confusing array of babywearing options: cloth pouches, ring slings, wraps, soft structured carriers… how was a new mother to know what would work best for her and her baby?

Through trial and error, of course.

3 carriers and 3 babies on, I was no closer to finding the perfect carrier:

The cloth pouch made the baby bend awkwardly. It didn’t help that the pouch, made from non-stretchy material, came in fixed sizes so my ‘L’ sized buy hung too loosely away from my body once I lost the pregnancy weight.

The seemingly-simple ring sling turned out to be fussy with its long and wide swath of cloth. Just last month, I was struggling to get daughter no.3 comfortably settled into the sling with help from my mum, who commented that I looked like an inexperienced new mother bringing her firstborn out for the first time. Humph. Plus, bearing the baby’s weight on one shoulder felt unbalanced and uncomfortable – as if my poor mum-bod wasn’t aching enough as it is.

The padded soft structured carrier was too hot to don comfortably in our tropical weather. The 2 older girls and I sweated buckets in it each time. Gross. In any case, it wasn’t suitable for carrying newborns in unless we padded it up further with an infant insert – which would have made us even hotter. Also, it was awfully bulky. With 3 kids, your arms are clearly insufficient to carry the carrier when its not in use and I don’t even dare toy with the idea of stuffing it into the already overstuffed diaper bag that is threatening to vomit its contents onto the sidewalk.

Wraps – never had the guts to try them. They looked awfully hot to wear and the complicated instructional videos on how to just set up the wrap even before putting the baby in made my eyes glaze over by like, step 3 (out of many, many steps).

And c’mon, let’s admit it – toting your infant around town in a bed sheet is not very fashionable.

In summary, after close to 4 years in this motherhood gig, I was still a noob at babywearing  – something that should be as natural as how our helper went about it in the early ’80s. And yet, with 2 rambunctious older (but still very young) kids, I needed to master babywearing more than ever. Being able to carry a third kid hands-free so that I could hold on to the other 2 would be, well, handy.

Baby K’tan

I was mulling over shelling out $300 for a semi-padded cloth carrier that came highly-recommended by friends when Bubsicles was invited by Happy Coast Kids to experience the Baby K’tan (pronounced ker-tahn).

I tried the Baby K’tan for a couple of weeks and here’s what I love about it:
(more…)

Filling The Gaps

During the recent pregnancy, I took advantage of the medical leave issued by the gynae after each check-up to catch up on sleep and get down to doing the long list of outstanding errands that had built up since… I dunno, 3 years ago?

One of the items on my To Do list that had been screaming for attention (but lost out drastically to the combined high-pitched demands from a 3 year old and 2 year old) was to sort and store the mounting wad of printouts from Candace’s ultrasound scans that had been carelessly chucked into… some box.

Back in 2010, I started a scrapbook to store the prints from Coco’s ultrasound scans, complete with the date, her weight and little anecdotes of each visit to the gynae. In 2013, when I was pregnant with Claire, I added the prints from her scans to the book. I wanted to do the same for Candace.

Flipping through the book, I came across 2 pages that had been dated 31 Aug 2012 and 21 Sep 2012 – but with gaping blanks where the ultrasound prints should have been stuck. Chucked between the last page and the back cover of the book, I found loose sheets of the missing images.

31 Aug 2012 was when we first found out that we were expecting twins.

21 Sep 2012 was when we lost a child. A mere 3.0 cm squiggle of a foetus. But nonetheless, our child.

5 Oct 2012 marked the next entry – complete with a picture of one baby – with no mention of the other.

13 May 2015 was when I was once again able to look reality in the eye – something that I had been too heartbroken to do 2 and a half years ago – and fill the empty black pages with pictures of Twin B.

Our twins at 6 weeks

Our twins at 6 weeks

Our twins at 10 weeks - when Twin B was diagnosed with no heartbeat

At 10 weeks – when Twin B was diagnosed with no heartbeat

Life works in funny ways. We lost a baby and yet, when we least expected it, we were blessed with another.

I sometimes wonder what our lives would be like if Twin B had lived. Would we still have had Candace – since she had come to us as a complete surprise? Making us a family of six? I can’t imagine how we would be coping with 4 kids aged 3 and under now!

One thing’s for sure – there are no gaps left. Not that we’ve written Twin B out of our lives – he or she is still very much loved and remembered. But there are no more empty pages now.

They have been filled – with love.

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