Day 3 

Today’s the 3rd day managing things mostly on our own and surprisingly, we’re fine. Maybe because it’s only day 3 but as tiring as it is trying to squeeze in some household chores, food prep and email clearing when Nat naps, I am quite happy doing it. These few days also made me realize how much I need and value my time alone to get things done, the way I want them to be. 

Our day in summary… 

AM: Nat’s usual morning routine

  • 630am rise and shine.
  • 7am milk, followed by 8am breakfast (fruits and yogurt combo).
  • Storybook + playmat time to crawl and tire himself out before his morning nap at around 930am. 
  • Once he slept, I prepped his lunch porridge before taking a nap too. 
  • After Nat woke up around 11am, I bathed him and we waited for my mom to pick us up to go for lunch. 

LUNCH: @ Waterway Point today 

  • We walked around a bit after lunch and did a quick grocery run before heading home.
  • As per our norm, we only head out in-between his AM & PM naps and ensure we make it back home in time for his 2nd nap. 
  • If he’s not tired yet like what happened this afternoon, I’ll give him more floormat and/or playpen time.
  • Now at 9 months, Nat can stay awake for 3-3.5hours and needs to be sufficiently tired enough to be ready for a nap. 
  • The moment he sleeps, it’s time to steam his fruits for tea and his post-dinner dessert. This is also the only opportunity to cook his evening porridge. 
  • If I’m lucky, he will sleep for at least 1.5 hours (like today yay!) and I get to fit in some work.

DINNER: @ my mom’s place  

  • Once Nat woke up and his meal cooked, my mum came by again to bring us over. 
  • I wanted to pram him and walk (she lives just 1.5km away) but it was too sunny. 
  • HJ joined us for dinner after work and we brought Nat back around 8pm. 

Actually, this is pretty much what I do on those days I don’t go into office so nothing was drastically different or more challenging. 

I think I will miss this once I return to work full-time. So even if can’t really slack around and binge on Netflix because there’s more household chores and baby-related prep to be done, I’m glad that I can do all these for him. 

– CK 

Work & Guilt 

So we’re off again! This is our 2nd trip without Nat, and it won’t be the last for the year since the mister prefers not to travel with a baby until he’s toddler age. Then having this time away from home made me realize something – it made me think about what will happen once I return to work full time in a few months. This was when I started to feel some guilt for wanting to work but I can’t not work either. Hence, I will just have to accept and adjust to the fact that I won’t be his de facto caretaker anymore and I need to be okay with that. 

The Nat, having his morning playground routine when I’m in the office

 
This is not to say that I am unhappy with the current childcare arrangements. In fact, they could not have been better. Both HJ and I can leave for work in peace knowing that Nat is well taken care of by my mom and helper. 

His general daily routine when we go to work is as such; 

  • 730am – pick up from my place 
  • 8am – visit to the playground 
  • 830am – breakfast 
  • 9am – nap 1 
  • 1130am – outing to run errands or deliver lunch to my Grandpa
  • 12pm – lunch 
  • 2pm – nap 2
  • 3/4pm – tea break 
  • 545pm – dinner 
  • 6pm – I come home and take over 

There’s also reading and regulated TV time in his routine as well. Regulated TV time is because he only watches The Numtums at either 11am or 2pm. They are basically animals with numbers on their tummies haha! 

So I have no qualms with my current work-babycare arrangements. In fact, I am considering going back to office 4x a week instead of 3x a week starting from October onwards since all is well at home. 

Moreover, the norm that I will return to in 2018 is that I’ll be going office every weekday. As it is, I know being able to take a part-time scheme is a privilege – not everyone has alternative babycare arrangements and not everyone can afford to take a pay cut for a prolonged period. 

However, being away from home and Nat during this short trip just made me realize how independent and easygoing he is

Nat does not have attachment issues to anyone? He is able to be taken care of by almost everyone as long as he is familiar with their faces. 

A lot of people have told me that this is a good thing but some days I also wonder whether does he really know we are his parents? Perhaps we don’t refer to ourselves as his ‘Papa’ and ‘Mama’ often? We really cannot stand talking in the third-person haha but maybe we have to start somewhere. 

The only consolation is that at least his de facto caretaker and the person he will be closer will be my mom, not the infant care personnel or any other non-family member.

On this note, I came across an article that is so so apt… 

I know the fatigue that sets in when all you feel is guilty: guilty that you like going to work, guilty that you want to go home early to be with your baby. Guilty when you miss a milestone or guilty when you have to stay late to catch up on a project. Guilty when you forget about an upcoming meeting or guilty that you have to leave early because the baby got sick. Guilty that it’s been three months back at work and shouldn’t this feel normal by now?

I know that am very blessed that I did not really have any big struggles returning to work. 

I also look forward to work because it helps me to focus, it drowns out any baby or household-related issues that I may be feeling sian about, it gives me a sense of purpose and of course, financial security. 

I won’t and can’t give up my work so I guess I will just have to adapt and try not to give myself so high expectations on both fronts. Like HJ said, I can’t be a good worker and still want to be there all the time for Nat. I simply can’t. 

– CK 

Hungry or Habit

My take is that for Nat, at this current age, any MOTN awakening is due to habit. This is also considering how he was able to sleep through before. For 4 nights last week, Nat woke up randomly ard 2 or 3 or 4am, and HJ offered him some milk. Worried that it might form a new habit, I subjected Nat & myself to another round of sleep training i.e. trying to soothe him back to sleep w/o feeding. So far, we’ve had 5 days of relatively peace, thank God.

I hope this regression phase is over. His 8th month did not come with easy nights.

  • Week 1: Nat had 2 more teeth sprouting out so that made napping and sleeping uncomfortable
  • Week 2: Randomly standing up in pitch darkness when it’s time to sleep
  • Week 3: Waking up in the wee hours of the morning (which is fine) but we chose the quickest fix of offering some milk when we don’t really know if Nat is drinking out of habit or hunger?

To answer the question whether it’s out of habit or hunger is a hard one…

Previously when Nat was a younger baby (under 6 months), if he woke up in the motn, we would assess based on his cries whether he’s hungry.

How to tell if it’s hunger? A hunger cry won’t be placated despite any method of soothing. You can pat him, rock him or carry him and the fussing continues – that’s how we determine if it’s real hunger. If it is, we would feed a small amount (usually 30-40ml) to help him last until 630am.

However, since Nat is considered an ‘old baby’ (above 6 months), I know for a fact that he has tanked up sufficient calories in the day so being hungry in the motn should technically not be the case. He eats 4 solid meals a day with milk feeds in-between so his daily milk intake averages around 500ml.

That was when I started to consider other reasons for his random awakenings and fussing. This article was very helpful in corroborating what I already suspected.

Our friend falls into the 1st category of being dependent on a sleep prop.

The official name is “sleep association” but these are more widely known as “sleep props” or “crutches.” This is something your baby “needs” (using that term loosely) in order to sleep.

For Nat, his sleep props are:

  1. The bottle – he gets drowsy after drinking some milk (40-60ml) so it always gets him in the mood to sleep
  2. Hand patting – he sleeps the fastest after getting consistent pats on his butt from us

As a result, I highly suspect that when he wakes up randomly in the motn, he fusses or cries because he is trying to get back to sleep but is finding it hard to on his own.

I think the confirmation for this is that when I resisted giving him any milk until it was the last resort, he was able to go back to sleep after some patting. If Nat was genuinely hungry, the above would not have been possible. Waking up randomly is not the issue, since babies have a different sleep cycle from adults so I guess what is more crucial is actually knowing how to get back to sleep independently after one wakes up in the motn.

This is also not to say that one must not give any top-up milk at all, but instead, to make the assessment based on baby cues and what you know to be true for your baby.

If hungry, feed. It’s only when you suspect it’s not hunger, then one can proceed to eliminate other plausible reasons.

It’s really not easy. That’s why for a few nights, HJ just gave some milk top-up because it would instantly calm him down and he would fall back asleep. However, a new habit may form out of that. So faced with not much choice, I had to try and sleep by 11pm, in order to standby at 4 or 5am to soothe Nat should he wake up. Any sleep training was of course easier during maternity leave when there was no need to wake up for work but it just has to be done, for the sake of the long term and for continuous sleep! This may also push back my initial plans to shift Nat out into his own room because getting up to soothe him back to bed if and when he wakes up is much easier if the crib is just next to my bed.

I guess now we’ll hopefully get a short break before the next milestone?

– CK

Fighting Sleep

Ever since Nat turned 8 months, his naps have been quite a mess. Some days he manages to take 3 naps, if not he will do 2 fairly long ones. Some days he’ll only clock 2 hours+, and then sleep before 8pm+ because he’s tired. Then for the past week, he will wake up at least 1x in the night when his previous “norm” is to sleep through until 630am. I have no idea what exactly is going on but we’ll just have to try and maintain a routine while being flexible in responding to his changing body/needs. 

So yes, I am back to reading up on sleep articles but this time, for 8 month babies who resist sleep such as this.

I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand babies and baby sleep – they’re clearly tired but still want to sit/stand/play then once they cross that fine thin line of overtiredness, all hell breaks loose. 

Other times when he’s not doing all of the above, he will get peckish early in the morning before 6am. Long ago, he needed 160ml for his last feed in order to sleep through. Then it kept dropping to 120ml, 90ml, 60ml and 40ml but he was still able to last until 6am? Now it’s back up to 60-90ml but he will get peckish around 430/530am. 

Let’s hope we this ‘8-10’ month regression phase will come to pass, if it is even that in the first place? Or you know, it could be teething-related since he has 4 emerging at the same time, next to the 4 he already has. 

The picture, courtesy of my mom is a bit blur but it really captures his antics and his 4 teeth. Yes, this is my happy-go-lucky and mischievous kiddo 🙂

– CK 

8 months ppt

From the start, I knew that I’m not the sort of person who can somehow return back to their pre-pregger state within a span of 3 months. I also knew that it would require a lot of discipline to get back into shape. As it took 9 months to grow a baby and put on +16kg, I gave myself 9 months to lose it and try and fit back into all my pre-pregger clothes. Finally, after 8 months, the scale has returned to the pre-Nat figure in 2016 and am now aiming for my pre-wedding state in 2014 (-2kg more) haha. I’ll set a realistic goal for the end of the year because if we travel again, it always ruins my diet/exercise plans. 

As I didn’t chart my pregnancy and post-pregnancy journey, I only have these to reference how many kilos I had to lose

I also hate to say this but HJ was right in asking me to at least document some “bellypics” i.e. to basically witness it expand and then shrink back. Owell, maybe next time but by then, it would be much harder to maintain I’m sure. 

As it is, going back to work has somewhat slowed down my frequency of exercise, which shouldn’t be the case. Actually, it was  a bout of sickness in May and a fall right after I recovered that started the whole retardation process. 

Even two days ago, just doing some arm workouts at the gym is enough to make my right shoulder feel wonky again. So I have to hold off the weights until after I get my shoulder fixed this Thursday, with a deknotting massage. 

Besides the return to my norm, having a regular exercise routine be it jogging, gyming or swimming really makes a difference in terms of overall wellbeing. Whenever I feel crappy, I need to at least have an estate run. 

Whatever it is, I am just glad the toughest part is over i.e. shedding the last few kilos when I have the freedom to eat and drink anything I want. 

However, alcohol is still hard because of the sheer calories that beer has. Everything in moderation it shall be then. It’s like for every bottle I consume, I have to go and jog it off haha. 

– CK 

Let them…

The part that resonated the most was the 2nd last line – let them sleep in the middle. Some nights, like yday, Nat would wake up crying ard 515am. As it’s the fastest to soothe him back to sleep in our bed, that’s just what HJ did. Babies are also very quick to see a pattern because once Nat was inbetween our pillows, he went silent and went back to sleep. He also naps the longest when he’s snoozing in adult beds -_-

So that short episode this AM got me thinking… as much as I wish I wasn’t so groggy at 515am such that I could get up to soothe him back to sleep in his crib, I also don’t mind having him in our bed for they are only going to be this way for a while.

I think the first year’s the best.

Am not looking forward to the toddler stage and beyond.

– CK

Long Weekends

This pretty much sums up how our weekend went 🙂 As we don’t plan to travel with Nat anytime soon, one form of pseudo-vacations with him are staycations (only when there’s good deals of course). It also gives me a chance to escape, which is what I find myself doing quite often these days. Escape from what? I can’t exactly pinpoint. Maybe just the usual weekend routines that aren’t relaxing most of the time.

How shall I make sense of this…

Weekends with a baby are not really different from weekdays. Most of it is because of the choices we make but for valid and good reasons.

1. There are essentially no more late sleep-in weekends.

  • Nat would be hungry by 7am (if we’re lucky). On normal days, he would wake up around 630am.
  • We choose to keep to the same routine on weekends as per weekdays because our work requires us to be out of the house by 710am.
  • It is also much easier to just begin his day ard 7am and then schedule his breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner from there.

2. Weekends are also now characterised by bits of negotiation and lots of planning.

  • We try to bring Nat to visit his paternal and maternal grandparents and occasionally, his Great-Grandfather.
  • I’ve learnt that there can never be absolute parity so we just try to let everyone spend pockets of time with Nat.
  • More often than not, it happens at our own physical expense because it can be very tiring. It is the right thing to do but still, really tiring.
  • Strangely, the most relaxing Sunday we had thus far was when we left Nat to finish his afternoon nap at my mom’s place after lunch and both of us just went home. We didn’t plan for such an arrangement, it just happened naturally since it was time for his nap after lunch. It was relaxing because we simply rotted at home doing our usual brainless stuff, and the best part was that we could do nothing!

I guess these are some reasons why I look forward to the times where I can just get away and be alone i.e. at work, on vacation with HJ and/or during staycations with the kiddo. Sometimes it feels good to just be detached and in my own bubble.

Some days, all I’d really like to do is to chill on my balcony with a bottle of beer. Then I think about the calories and I get a bit more depressed.

But heck, the pull of the baileys irish cream is too strong. I’ll deal with the calories another day.

– CK

Traveling Without Baby

After the success of our ‘pilot’ trip to Hanoi, we’re definitely tempted (and more confident) to take more trips in the future where it’s just the two of us. Of course the biggest and most difficult decision i.e. whether you are okay traveling without baby has to be made way in advance but once that decision has been made, everything else comes pretty easy. HJ is very easygoing – he is okay traveling with or without the baby though he is aware that the latter would entail adjusting our itinerary. I, on the other hand, took a longer time to make up my mind but in my gut, I knew that I would prefer to travel without having to think about “baby logistics” and that was how our first couple trip since March 2016 came to be.

So here’s a sneak peek into the whole operation – yes, operation because a lot of planning and ‘rehearsing’ was involved.
1. Find a caretaker arrangement that puts your heart and mind at ease

I will be honest about this. There is no other person in this world that I would trust more to take care of Nat than my mom, with our helper to assist. So having her be the main caretaker while we were overseas made the decision to just go a very straightforward one.

2. Have caretaker(s) understand and experience baby’s daily routine

Knowing is one thing but nothing beats them experiencing the baby’s routine itself. So for us, we gave my mom and helper a rough schedule for Nat based on his daily eat/wake/sleep patterns. Nat is also over at my mom’s place on the days when I go to office so she gets to experience how his morning to evening routines are like. Then on some Sundays when we go to the movies, she gets to experience his bedtime routine until 10pm.

So if family member(s) are looking after baby when you travel, having them actually experience the routine helps prepare them for the days/nights that you are away.

3. Condition baby to sleep in various locations

This is more applicable if baby is going to be bunking over at the caretaker’s home as opposed to having the caretaker sleep over in your house.

For my mom, she is more comfortable in her own place so Nat and my helper slept over at my mom’s place while we were overseas. This meant that we had to start getting Nat used to the idea of taking naps at various locations, other than our own home. Even then, it took some trial and error experiments to figure out which room he prefers to nap in.

  • For instance, my mom’s room gets the morning sun so Nat could not nap very long in there whereas my sister’s room doesn’t get the morning or afternoon sun so it’s a darker and better environment for his naps. Verdict: my sister’s room is the best place for Nat to snooze.

4. Prepare for all scenarios especially if baby were to fall sick

Other than packing the usual baby clothes and accessories e.g. food, toys, bath items, we also packed his medicine for fever, nasal congestion and cough with instructions on how to administer each of them should he fall sick. The only thing we forgot to pass my mom was his health booklet, should they need to bring him to the PD!

Thankfully, everyone was prepared because Nat did come down with a slight cough 1-2 days before our trip because HJ and I took turns to fall sick so Nat also got some of our germs. We had also prepared for another more morbid scenario in the event that anything should happen to both of us.

I guess with that, we managed to travel with peace in our hearts and minds.

– CK

 

Weekly Adjustments 

Sometimes I feel that my part-time arrangement requires more adjustment? Weeks are divided into 2 and I find myself having to recover from a long weekend syndrome every week. Then I read this article on mom’s returning to work and I guess the main takeaway is – “it’s important to remember sometimes you just can’t do it all, and that’s okay.” 

Things at work will never be the same as they were before Nat. There’s a new office, new colleagues, new pieces of work and my new work arrangement. 

Things at home will also never be the same as they were while I was on leave – I was at home daily and everything related to Nat (his feeding/sleeping/waketime schedules) was managed by me. 

This was probably why in the first 1-2 weeks, it felt like I didn’t much control over things and that made me want to control even more. In particular, Nat’s daytime naps because if not structured properly, his nighttime sleep may be affected. 

This made is quite difficult for my mom and helper too because they were the main caretakers on the days I’m at the office but I found it impossible to just let go 100% because once it’s 7pm, we are the ones that go home with Nat and take over from there. 

In the end, we arrived at a consensus to monitor/structure it such that he doesn’t nap longer than 4 hours. Technically, babies around Nat’s age (7 months) need around 3 hours of naps but in view of how he has greater sleep needs, we’ll use 3-4 hours as a gauge. 

Anyhow, back to the weekly ‘bipolar’ struggle. It’s getting better but still feels strange. Maybe it’s just me. Every Friday I hit a low because I know that it will be 4 days before I go back to office. Then I want Mondays and Tuesdays to pass by faster so that I can get out of the house. 

To be honest, there’s also not much guilt, which the article points out that more often than not, it’s self-imposed. In fact, there’s no reason why there should be any guilt. Some people prefer to stay home but others, would rather not. I guess I am more like the latter. 

– CK 

Escapism 

I could do with such a life, just lounging by the pool. Now with Nat, we take turns to do laps while one of us accompanies him. What’s missing, that I’ll try to remember for our next staycate is some booze and a book.  Anyhow, I think where this all stems from is possibly my need to escape. Escapism – the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities… 

So yes, after 6 months of maternity and childcare leave, I am going back to work tomorrow.

In retrospect, I think 5 months away from the office is the sweet spot. 6 months may be a tad too long?

It was a little frustrating in the last few weeks – because I was facing a baby, helper and dog daily.

I’ll be honest, the initial months after Nat was born were really about coping and just staying on top of things with regard to ensuring baby eats, sleeps and poops well. Thereafter, once our helper arrived in February to assist with the household chores and some aspects of babycare, I think I got bored. Nat was also on a routine that required minor tweaks as the months went by but things were predominantly the same. This is going to sound crazy but I look back on the first 3 months fondly, where it was just the two of us, coping and eventually getting the hang of caring for a newborn.

So fast forward a few months, I guess the more irritated I got staying home all day, the more I wanted to escape at any chance I could. Lunch/dinner meet ups, grocery runs, massages to fix my right neck & shoulder, jogs around the estate, going to the gym, doing laps in the pool… I just had to get out of the house.

Maybe after going back to work, and only being home on Mondays and Tuesdays, this feelings will become less pronounced and I may yearn to just be at home more.

People are like that. I guess I’m like that.

The grass always seems greener when you’re on the other side of the fence.

T-1.

– CK