Saturday, December 28, 2013

Fashionista Mommy Adventures: Hypnobirthing Class

Motherhood has indeed opened my eyes to a whole new world and as a newbie, I am definitely excited to learn new things. Having planned for a vaginal birth and ended up with a caesarian (you can read all about my giving birth story here), I am definitely apprehensive for my second one (no, I am not pregnant yet but it's never too early to start preparations for birth, especially when I am planning for a VBAC).

So imagine how excited I am when I learnt of a hypnobirthing course that was to be conducted in Kuching and despite me having given birth just seven months ago and am advised by the doctor to plan for another one at least a year and a half after the previous birth, I decided to enrol for the course. I believe as part of my effort in ensuring the success of a VBAC, I need to take a proactive role in getting to learn what are the risks involved, toning and exercising my body so that it is strong and able to perform a VBAC, taking care of the food that I eat (I am well known for my happy food choices instead of healthy food *blush*) and of course at the end of the day it all depends on what God has in plan for us, I do believe my first caesarian is the best birthing experience for me and Alexa (I had prayed for the best birth for both of us) and if I've tried my all and still have to do a caesarian, maybe God has planned it that way. But, that (fate) does not stop me from trying.

I learnt about the course from a support group that I joined in Facebook (you can look up the group here), made my payment and waited for the day to come. It's a two-day intensive course with loads of open discussions, video presentations and hands-on breathing exercises. The program starts at 9.30 in the morning and ends at 5 pm. In between we have a lunch break from 12.30 pm until 2.15 pm.


The hypnobirthing book.

Upon registration, I was given a file filled with handouts, hypnobirthing book (attached with its own CD) and another relaxation CD, plopped myself on a very comfortable sofa and waited for the session to start. There were only five other people in the room, Mellona (who's about 34 weeks pregnant) and her husband (it's supposed to be a couples course but hubs couldn't make it as he wasn't able to leave work), Latifah (not pregnant), Lilian (currently expecting her third child), yours truly (not pregnant) and Nadine (our speaker/ facilitator, and I actually did manage to ask her whether she's expecting *hehe*). You might notice that it's such a small number of participants for an intensive course, but the good thing is, we get to share our stories and experiences with each other and the course felt as if it's very personalised and the best part is, Nadine get to teach and also let us practice each breathing techniques and exercises individually, and with each other.

This is kinda how the course was conducted. And if you're wondering about those mats, yes we did get a chance to roll on them *haha*.

There's Mellona, her husband and Latifah, rapt attention focused on Nadine.

During one of the hands-on activity session, Nadine and Latifah.

Chris presenting a cake to Nadine by the end of the course. Yummylicious! Thank you Chris for the cake!

I'm not going to share much about the course here as I do believe that the best way for you to gain information on hypnobirthing is by attending the course. However, I've come to the conclusion that:

1.  Should I have attended this course before the birth of Alexa, I could have prevented an induction, ethanol and epidural pain relief, even possibly experience a vaginal birth simply by practicing the exercise and breathing techniques that was taught during the course. Note to self: am getting the birth ball soon.

2. I would have known more on deliveries, especially those related to the natural birthing process and water birth (we were shown plenty of videos on those and surprisingly I wasn't squeamish by all of it).

3. I would most probably have felt calmer during my giving birth experience (truth be told, one of the things that terrified me was the possibility of getting an episiotomy).

The course taught me that it is possible to experience and embrace a natural birth and I would have to say among all the things I have done relating to pregnancy and giving birth, this course would have to be the best investment in ensuring the possibility of a gentle birth a reality (I'll definitely share on my second birth experience when I get my second one in the future). I really recommend this course for first-time mothers (or even second, third, fourth time mothers), medical practitioners (so that they know gentle birth does not necessary mean home birth) and also to fathers as well (as they would be the ones in the labor room supporting their wife through the birthing experience).

Interested to know more? You can look up Nadine's website on gentle birth [here]. Seriously, the best investment you could ever make is an investment in yourself and this is one investment you should not miss. If you're wondering about the cost, we paid for about RM800 for the two day course and early birds get to pay only RM780.

Looking forward to a better birthing experience, not only to me but to all mothers out there.

xoxo Mrs Fashionista

Fashionista Mommy Adventures: Six Months Later

Or should I say almost seven months later...

This is definitely one of my favorite shots, a photo of me, hubs and Alexa at Normah Medical Specialist taken by Farhah. Thank you for sharing the photo with us. Alexa's about three days old then. 

This is what I've learnt so far as a mommy:

1. To be patient

Alexa getting her head shaved when she was about three and a half months old. She does have her tantrums once in a while and usually I'd tell her, "Yes, Alexa, I know that it's very, very tough being a little person and unable to convey a message on what's wrong but if it makes you feel better, then cry you must. Let mummy give you a hug to make you feel better."

This is a MUST! Being a mommy is definitely a challenge, as one of my old schoolmates, Alex mentioned during our mini reunion dinner (only five turned up for this mini reunion), raising a child is challenging but it'll get better sooner or later. I've learnt that it takes awhile to get used to the oh so many things in mommyhood i.e. the fussing, crying (though normally I do find that Alexa is one of the most unfussy baby ever!), whimpering (usually when she's sleepy) and especially when you're in a hurry and there's like a million things to settle. So I've learnt to take a deep breath, smile and laugh and take it as one of the experiences that I'm sure I'm going to miss when she's older.

2. To be alert

One of the things that I didn't know before motherhood is that there's plenty of cues that a baby can send out to alert mommies of the many things that they need/ want and if you're alert of those signals, it really makes it easier for you meet the needs and wants of the baby before they need to cry/ wail to get your attention.

Alexa at about five days old. During the early days I couldn't sleep well for fear that I wouldn't hear her crying (when she needed to feed etc). She used to wake up every one and a half or two hours for a feed then. Those days are long past now and I am extremely confident in my ability to wake up at her slightest whimper (although I have caught myself waking up to Alexa lying on me due to me falling asleep soon as she's latched on to feed). 

In Alexa's case, usually she'd stare at my boobies (she is breastfed after all) to hint that she'd like to breastfeed (because if she's full she would be preoccupied with playing and exploring her surroundings). If staring doesn't alert me, then she'd let out a whimper (and if she's in my arms, usually she'd bang her head at my boobies). Usually by that time I'd be ready to feed her so she does not have to resort to crying/ wailing to get me to feed her. 

Me nursing Alexa at Dubai Restaurant in Itaewon, Seoul. A nursing cover/ poncho is definitely a must-bring item for us. It's not only useful for times like these, it also doubles as a blanket for Alexa or a shoulder wrap for me when it's cold. 

3. I can't DO everything

Although I do breastfeed Alexa, she has stopped exclusive breastfeeding since she's about five months old. And since then she has to be supplemented with formula (during the day) although she's breastfed whenever she's with me (i.e. during the night or weekends and public holidays when I'm with her). I find it to be rather challenging to find a suitable time to pump (I am in the teaching line therefore it is definitely not possible for me to pump when teaching in class) and sometimes due to work demands and lack of time at most I can pump a maximum of three times a day and minimum of once a day (and on some days when it's really hectic, I can't even find the time to pump at all). Initially I was really, really stressed out by the fact that my supply has dropped (due to stress, failing to pump on schedule and dehydration) and I can't supply enough to Alexa but now I've rather accepted the fact that sometimes I can't pump and sometimes I can. I reckon it's better to enjoy the moment as it is and breastfeed as long as possible.

4. Make the most out of what I have

There's too many things to do in life and sometimes we do feel as if we're in a rush (this semester is one of the most stressful semester I've ever experienced due to a heavy teaching load i.e. 20 hours of teaching and updates in the syllabus due to changes in the current financial environment in Malaysia) so on busier days I actually spend only ONE HOUR with Alexa (excluding her sleeping hours) and this makes me really disappointed but then again, I try to make the most of the time that I have with her and ensure that she gets my full attention within the time that we're able to spend together.

In case you're wondering, that ONE HOUR period consists of 30 MINUTES in the morning where I'd wake her up to give her a bath (this is usually where I'd sing or talk to her) followed by grooming where I'd give her a little massage while putting some baby oil (on her head/ hair), baby lotion (all over her body), baby balm (on her bum) and aromatic oil (minyak telon/ minyak yuyi or minyak kayu putih) for her tummy and back. The other 30 MINUTES usually happens when I come back late from work (she's already bathed by the maid then) and we spend time playing together (usually she'd be on her tummy and I'd either be on my tummy too or sometimes she'd be sitting in my lap and I'd be reading a book to her).

Another one of my favorite moments is when Alexa got to accompany us for Eid-ul Adh prayers. She's about five months old then. Am trying to slot in more times for me to recite the Quran with her on my lap, Inshaa Allah.

5. Be thankful

This is us with Alexa on the ERL back from Kuala Lumpur when she was 4 months old. 

This is among the things that I constantly remind myself about. I am definitely thankful for what Allah has given to me, Alexa is an absolutely wonderful gift (despite the hectic schedule, lack of sleep, waking up several times in the middle of night for feeding during her first month or so, lack of rest etc.) I definitely cherish this moment and if possible would like to treasure for as long as I can.

6. Having a good support system is important

Hubs and Alexa during breakfast at Hilton Hotel, Kuching. We decided to check in to the hotel to join in the fun during Regatta (an annual boat race event in Kuching). Alexa is about 3 months and a week old then. 

Having people to help out is really, really important as it can get taxing (especially if you're a first time mom or maybe more so when you have more children later on) so having people around you to help out is definitely useful. We do have a maid at home that helps out with the cooking and cleaning and my grandma, my mom and in laws (sometimes) do help out in looking after Alexa during the day (and the night when we need to attend dinner functions or simply go out for a date night). This enables us to take time off from the baby and focus on what is most important in the family, us. I do believe that in order for a family to be strong the parents (or parent if you're a single mother or father) must be able to show love, patience, strength and stability to the child.

If you need support in bringing up your child or maybe there's a question that's on your mind, you can join this amazing mummy support group that I joined on Facebook, click [here]. There's plenty of questions, discussions even sales and purchase made in the group and the best part is, they're all trying their best to cope with motherhood too.

The great-grandmother and her great-granddaughter. Alexa is about six months and three weeks old when this photo was taken. Granny (with the help of our maid of course) looks after her during the day when I'm at work. 

As a mom of an almost seven months old baby, this are the things that I have found out:

1. Preparing for a baby is definitely a good thing

Having the nine months to prepare for the baby's arrival and reading books on What to Expect When You're Expecting (this one helped me during my pregnancy), French Children don't Throw Food and Brain Rules for Baby really helped me handle certain things with Alexa.

Among the things that I learnt from the book is on training her to sleep. What we did was to train her brain to recognize day and night (this training started right after we came back from the hospital). When she sleeps during the day I'd make sure that the room is bright and when it's night time we'd switch off the lights at around 8.30 pm and just relied on a night light. Even when she wakes up for her night feeds, the room is still in darkness (except for the night light). So now whenever we want her to sleep, usually between 8.30 pm to 10 pm (sometimes we do get home late and Alexa is a light sleeper so she'd wake up when we carry her to bed) we'd put her under the covers and switch off the lights. The best part is, she'd be out in minutes after switching off the lights! However, I do have to remind myself that consistency is the key to success therefore I must make sure that she's in bed latest by 10 pm and if I want to settle some work/ chores, I have to do them in the dark with the help of the night light or should I need some light I do the work in the living room or dining room instead.

2. Babies are a blank canvas

A baby develops the habits that you impart to them therefore it is good to teach them good habits. Like when teaching Alexa to use the car seat, it took us a good two weeks to get her used to being in a car seat when she's in the car. This training started when she's about two months old (about a month before I had to start work). We'd put her in the car seat and I'd send hubs to work (about 10 - 15 minutes drive away). When she was first in the car seat, she cried her eyes out and wailed so loudly that I had to stop by the side of the road and calm her down before continuing to drive back home. This occurred for several days (her crying and me having to stop by the side of the road). About a week later she did kinda get used to having to sit in the car seat but not for long (usually for about 10 minutes or so before starting to cry). However the crying was not as loud as when we first started training her in the car seat therefore we decided to just drive back home (and at the same time talk to her/ hold her hand etc). We succeeded almost two weeks later and from then on she's in the car seat whenever we're in the car.

Hubs putting Alexa in the car seat. She's almost two months old here. The uneven patch of hair is due to her mom (that's me) shaving her hair unevenly when she was about a month old. 

Here she is peacefully sleeping during one of the car rides. She's about two months and a half here. 

Here's Alexa at six months old all relaxed in the car seat. This was not taken in the car but actually at a restaurant where we decided to bring the car seat out and let her sit in it while we have breakfast. 

3. Baby gadgets/ gears are a good thing

Among the things that I've bought in helping me out are a sterilizer, bottle warmer and now a steamer and blender (all from Philips). I am still using the sterilizer especially for my breast pump and milk storage bottles a few times a week and the bottle warmer is now used for warming her food daily (her food is prepared twice a week and refrigerated). I recently bought the steamer and blender after she turned six months and am using it several times a week to prepare her food (I have to be honest here that it's not me using it but the maid). I've stopped using the manual pump and have since replaced it with an electric double pump which I've been bringing to work daily.

Here's Alexa at six months in a bumbo seat (it was given to her as a present by my cousins during my confinement) complete with a washable plastic bib getting ready for her solids. The bumbo seat has been really great (she hated it first but got used to it later) in helping us during her meal times and we even let her join us in the kitchen (where we plop the bumbo seat on the kitchen table) when I cook and during our mealtimes. 

The stroller, diaper bag and car seat (we have two car seats so we haven't really used the one that we bought but am using another that was given as a gift to us) is permanently left/ installed in the car and we use it whenever we're out. I'll post a review on all those later as my blogging time is rather limited now due to me having to juggle between work and focusing on the baby (and also spending time with hubs). Hubs did mention that he's grateful we did not get an expensive diaper bag (and I agree with what he says) because the diaper bag is among one of the most well used (hint: abused) items in my baby gear.

Alexa sleeping in the stroller when she was about three weeks old. One of the features on the stroller that we feel is very important is its ability to fully recline and so far we're really happy with the performance of this Esprit Sun Plus 11 stroller.

4. Be prepared to change/ adapt to circumstances

Alexa at six months and three weeks in the shopping trolley. Oh how time flies when you're having fun!

There are some things that goes on as we planned (like using the car seat and stroller whenever we're out) and some did not happened as planned. Among one of them is the baby cot (we bought Graco Pack n Play as Alexa's baby cot and later play pen) which we did not use as much as we hoped to. Although we initially planned on Alexa sleeping in the playpen, which we did practice in the early days (she slept in the bassinet in the first month or so because she's super tiny and we're afraid that we might accidentally squish her), however we find that we enjoyed co-sleeping with her more than letting her sleep in her own cot. Therefore she's co-sleeping with us (for now) and is only left in the playpen when we're in the shower/ toilet (so she does use the playpen daily, just not for sleep though).

Here's Alexa at six months and a half during one of the rare afternoons when I'm at home. So I let her in the baby cot while I try to complete marking my students' papers. 

She complained (cried) about an hour and a half later so I decided to let her join me and play next to me instead. And no, I did not get much work done that afternoon. But I did enjoy having her as company. 

5. Don't sweat the small stuff
You know that a baby's development (weight and size) are plotted on a graph whenever you go the clinic right? Don't worry if your baby is less or more than the national average. Alexa is petite for her age, currently (at seven months) she's only weighing roughly about 7 kilos (she was born weighing 3.05 kilos) and a lot of people have commenting how small she is. As Dr. Jack Newman (and Alexa's pediatrician) mentioned, as long as she's feeding well, pooping and peeing (for breastfeeding mommies who are unsure of how much milk they're producing, wet diapers = plenty of milk) well, despite the lack of weight gain or size, as long as she's well fed, she's alright. However, should you notice frequent than usual poops, increase in temperature (fever), lack of interest in eating, or anything of concern, bring her to the doctor immediately.
So motherhood is all about being flexible and being able to do it in your own way and imprinting to your young ones the habits and experiences that they'll bring with them when they're older. Yes I do have people coming up to me and commenting (negatively) on certain things that I do (specifically bringing a three-month old baby to Seoul and also letting a six-month old sit in the trolley). Those comments I do take with a pinch of salt. If needed, I'll amend my actions accordingly (like taking her out of the trolley about a minute later). I do have moments where I need some space, and I do take a breather once in a while (same thing applies to hubs too) but what I find to be most important is to cherish the moments as and when they come (like enjoying having Alexa next to me when I sleep or getting to play with her and get her up in giggles).

Looking forward to her seventh-month birthday tomorrow and many more future birthdays to come.

To love and positivity.
xoxo Mrs Fashionista

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Food in Borneo: Bella Italia

Note: This was supposed to be posted last month, but I totally forgot that to post this entry after writing it.
A few days ago a friend of ours, Qana had posted some photos of her dinner at Bella Italia which prompted hubs to ask me on the place since he'd never been here. I've been here a couple of times and I do love their selection of Italian food (it is an Italian restaurant after all) so we decided to stop by for lunch. 

The restaurant's interior

The restaurant's interior

And here are some of the food that we ordered:
Appetizer: Bruschetta

Main: Fettucine salmon

Dessert: Tiramisu

All in all our food costs about RM49. Not bad eh? We absolutely adore the bruschetta and tiramisu. The fettucine salmon was quite okay but the bruschetta and tiramisu was heavenly!

So if you're craving for Italian food, Bella Italia might be the best place to go to satisfy your craving. Although I must admit I've never been to Italy before and have never tasted authentic Italian food, so for those who have done so, your experience dining here might differ from mine. Bella Italian is located among the row of shops opposite of Four Points by Sheraton, Kuching. It's about less than a minute walking distance to the hotel. 

To glorious food. 

xoxo Mrs Fashionista