Friday, December 29, 2017

Our First Days at Home

I titled this post nearly two weeks ago but now that the post has been delayed so many times we are closer to reaching another milestone - Lola's first month and the end of my confinement (Hallelujah)!

We came home from the hospital to some beautiful flowers - a pink little potted flower plant from our helper, Jovielyn, to Lola, and a big bouquet of lilies from Michael, to me.

We also received some really sweet gift baskets and thoughtful gift packages from friends and colleagues near and far.  Our friends in Singapore sent Lola a few of their favorite Skiphop toys, and we got a beautiful soft elephant from Michael's coworkers, and a pretty pink gift basket with baby bath products from my office.

Since then, it has been a non-stop blur of feeding, burping, diaper changing, swaddling, pumping, feeding and some more burping around here.  I had read not to expect to get much done in the first month except to feed the baby, and I would say that that is pretty much spot-on.  Because I try to sleep when the baby sleeps (with pretty limited success I have to admit), insurance bills remain unclaimed, banking and credit card administration remain postponed, and myriad items for follow up remain neglected.  As someone who loves crossing items off of her list, I would be lying if I said that it didn't bother me that I'm not getting these tasks completed as quickly as I would like.  However, I'm also keen to enjoy this time with Lola and to take things easy as I recover.  This has been a huge physical and mental shift and I think I'm only starting to realize all of the changes that have taken place.  I'm also feeling pretty tired and trying to give myself the grace of rest as I need.

My family has been here on and off this month, which has been really amazing (though also very stressful in other ways) and I've found it a bit difficult at times to manage so many different people along with my heightened post-partum emotions.  Today, though, I bid farewell to my sister and her fiance in the afternoon, and then to my parents in the evening, and am feeling a little bereft as I sit in my suddenly very quiet apartment.
A thrilled first-time grandpa!

Our little girl has already managed to exhibit a very dominant will and forceful personality.  She has gained weight steadily and is clever and strong, but still tiny and cuddly and adorable, and I love when she snuggles into my neck or falls asleep in my arms.  I also love smelling her clean, milky baby smell.  There should be a way to bottle this scent.  Her eyes gleam brightest in the evening when she is at her most alert and awake.  When you see what she manages to communicate with just crying and squirming at her disposal (she likes her zip up swaddle but not the wrapped blankets, she gets hot very easily, she prefers her milk warm but not too warm, she vastly prefers breast milk and will only tolerate formula if she's really hungry, she has a few favorite burping positions), you can't help but marvel at her well-honed survival skills.

Lola had her first pediatrician check up at 10 days old.  It was great to venture out of the house, though a bit nerve-wracking to expose her to all the germs from the toddlers in the doctor's office.  She was very well behaved and got a lot of coos and compliments all around.  She slept through all of these with the world-worn air of a dignitary who could not deign to acknowledge such remarks.  I put her in a flowery onesie for the occasion.  The doctor confirmed that she had regained her birth weight, which was great.

This is her favorite position - cuddled on the chest with her legs in froggy position.  As it is, I've nicknamed her my little tree frog. 

Swaddled and sleeping soundly - is there anything sweeter?
These are pictures from her early days at home - it's amazing to see how much she has grown in just a couple of weeks!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Our Stay At Matilda and Welcome Home

We planned to stay at Matilda hospital for three days, but due to some complications we ended up having to extend our stay to five days instead.

The concern began a few minutes after Lola's birth, when she started having a little bit of trouble breathing and the doctors expressed concern over her oxygen intake.  She had her blood drawn and was shuttled to the special care unit in an incubator where they could give her oxygen and monitor her vitals overnight.  We were very concerned about this and I also worried about my ability to breastfeed and bond with her from the get go, but we weren't given much of a choice.  She was also put on a glucose drip.  Her initial blood markers indicated a slightly elevated CRV level, which the doctor explained indicated an infection, although she wasn't symptomatic.

So the first night Michael and I spent in our hospital room without our little darling.  We did go down to visit her in the SCBU though, and I struggled to keep it together at the sight of her inside the incubator with a huge (in comparison) IV taped to her tiny left hand.  Michael said watching them draw the blood from the heels of her tiny feet was heartbreaking.  However, she was generally such a champ when it came time to actually get her antibiotics - she never cried when they fed it through her IV tube.  

The next morning, her oxygen intake was declared well enough to come up to the regular nursery, and we rolled her into our room to "room in" with us when she wasn't in the nursery with the other babies.
She was in her own little portable rocking bassinet, with her diapers, wet wipes, cream, etc. all stowed away in a handy dresser underneath.

Finally had her in my arms!
Staring into each other's eyes
Or maybe just dad staring at his sleeping baby...
On the second day, we found out that her infection levels were not dropping despite the antibiotics, which was troubling and ensured that Lola got her heels pricked for vials of blood every day.  She's so tiny that you find yourself wondering if she should really be losing so much blood... but again, no choice.

On the third day, we found out that she has a heart murmur, which was loud enough and distinct enough to entail calling a pediatrician cardiologist and getting Lola an EKG.  She was hooked up and pinned down (gently, by us) and given a thorough scan.  It turns out that she has a ventricular septum defect (a very small hole in the muscular wall of the lower two chambers of her heart).  We were told that there was nothing to be done about it now, but that it is, as far as heart murmurs go, in an ideal location where there is a chance the hole will close up on its own as she develops.  We are keeping our fingers crossed and meanwhile, monitoring her breathing and eating.
I couldn't help but get very emotional at the sight of all of these wires

On the fourth day, we found out that her jaundice levels were rising, so that while she didn't need the light treatment, she was close enough to the recommended levels that they suggested giving her a dose of the tanning bed, in order to ensure that she could actually go home on the fifth day.
Lola under the light
As you can imagine, by the end of this we were really hoping that she would be able to be discharged smoothly!
She was finally cleared to go home and on Wednesday morning her IV finally came out of her left hand.
Yay!  Homeward bound
Matilda is known as the baby hospital in Hong Kong, and I think they do a fantastic job for newborns and mothers (and the prices probably reflect that, hah!) - the food is really good for a hospital and delivered piping hot on demand from morning to night, the midwives and nurses show a lot of care and patience (for the most part) and help you with breastfeeding around the clock, and teach you how to swaddle, change a diaper, bathe the baby...

and of course the views from the rooms can't be beaten.
We happened to be in the hospital at the same time with our good friends who also had their baby, two days before us!  We spent one evening hanging out in their room having a little chocolate and wine party (well, the husbands enjoyed the wine).  Party at Matilda...we've come a long way from the bars and clubs.

I managed to get a shot of a silhouette of Michael and Lola out on the balcony on the day we headed home:
and another one of him just kind of staring at her in wonder.  She is all bundled up here for her trip home.
In contrast, I think the pictures he took of me and Lola are slightly less flattering...I mean, just saying...

Here we are on our way home, being chaperoned by my friend who was so generous and let us use her driver.  I was a bit nervous about installing the car seat in a taxi, not to mention dealing with an impatient driver careening down the Peak taking the steep curves like a Nascar racer, so it was really nice to have the luxury of taking our time.
Lola was very sleepy and cooperative in her car seat, and we were giddy (and I slightly aghast) at the fact that they were really allowing us to go home with a five day old human being that we barely knew how to care for!
Dad was very proud to be carting her home.
Here she is, home at last, in her little crib.  Welcome home, little one!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Lola's Debut

So, here is how Lola came into this world!  It's not too dramatic of a story (although isn't every birth dramatic by its nature)?  She ended up arriving 5 days before her projected due date.  It was a pretty healthy natural delivery and I'm so grateful that it ended up going pretty smoothly (as far as births go anyway)!

I jinxed myself on the night of November 30 by telling my friend that I thought I was ready for the baby to just arrive already (the heavy belly and water retention and anticipation was getting to me!) and well, lo and behold, I started getting labor pain around 1 A.M.  It was like she heard me, the blessed little thing.

It took me a while to figure out that this wasn't just pre-labor Braxton Hicks - in fact, around 2 am I googled "does early labor feel like really bad menstrual cramps" and managed to read message boards and articles that were frustratingly vague about how to tell if you're in labor or not.  The ultimate answer seems to be: you may be in labor... or you may not, and there's no way to be certain.  Gee, horoscopes are more accurate than that!

I read for about an hour before concluding that I should try to get some sleep while I could.  Good sleep evaded me though because the cramps had slowly eased their way into somewhat regular contractions (I downloaded a contraction app at 4:30 finally realizing that I might need it) and I eventually got up at 6:30 to shower.  I figured we would see how I felt and, if my water broke, head to the hospital.  At this point I felt rather calm - I think I was in preparation/organization mode, checking my hospital bag, making sure I had everything I needed.  I showered and made sure to wash my hair.  At this point Michael had woken up and realized it was game time.  He was rushing around packing and getting us organized but trying to remain calm... I would say that he only partially succeeded in this endeavour but should get credit for effort!

At 7:05 I felt a very distinct, shuddering kick and then a small gush of water - barely anything but definitely enough for me to exclaim that I was pretty certain my water had broken.  My doctor had given me strict instructions to head to the hospital right when my water broke, so at approximately 7:30 we headed to the Peak.  I think I was probably checked in and in my delivery room by 8ish - my sense of time gets fuzzy after this.

I was on a birthing ball and actually managed to venture out into the hallway for two laps around the nursery (probably horrifying some of the waiting patrons or visitors), bracing myself against Michael and the wall when contractions hit, until the pain got too intense and we hobbled back to my delivery room.  By about noon, the contractions were coming faster and faster, until a particularly bad stretch  when I got three contractions in a row, fast and unrelenting.  Michael and I had been saying that we would wait for my ob/gyn to come around on her second round before I got the epidural, but at this point I realized I probably should have asked for the epidural a little earlier.

This was probably the most Hollywood-esque moment of the day - I felt like clawing Michael's eyes out when he suggested that I try to get through a few more contractions.  I think at one point (whenever I could actually breathe) I shouted at him that I absolutely NEEDED the epidural RIGHT NOW.  As it was, it took another half an hour before the anesthesiologist showed up, at which point I remember I kept moaning that they had LIED to me about his whereabouts and I didn't understand what was taking the doctor SO LONG.  Each minute seemed to drag on as I waited in dread for the next contraction.

I got the epidural (and all of my friends were right - at that point I was eagerly looking forward to the jab in the spine, potential paralysis and whatever fears of needles be damned!) and it was a bit terrifying because my contractions were coming so quickly that I had the strongest urge to push.  After I got the shot, I immediately started shaking uncontrollably (teeth chattering and everything) all over the table.  Michael was horrified and probably thought I was going to slip into cardiac arrest or end up paralyzed or something.  But once the epidural kicked in, I was so much warmer, and sleepier, and more relaxed.  In retrospect, I was probably really close to giving birth at that point and if I'd passed on the epidural I probably could have had the baby three or four hours earlier - but the thought of pushing after all those contractions?  Noooo thank you.

I don't have a "Before the Epidural" picture, but this is definitely the "After the Epidural" picture.
 Here is our hospital delivery room.  I didn't use the shower or the tub (and had no desire to) but did find the birthing ball immensely helpful.

I was able to relax and snooze a bit while waiting for my ob/gyn to show up so that I could push.  It turns out I had gone from 3cm to 8cm effaced in about an hour, which meant I was going through transition around 1 P.M. and explains why I had been losing the will to live right around then.

My doctor showed up around 4:30 and it was game time.  Pushing was terrible and it took me a while to figure out how to do it properly (like 100 minutes worth of learning).  I don't know if it's true but my doctor was saying if we couldn't get the baby out then we might have to do a C-section, at which point I was beyond horrified.  To have gone through the last 17 hours and then have to do a C-section at the last minute!!  If I had the energy I would have cried.  Perhaps it was just a psych-out tactic on my doctor's part, but if it was, it worked, because after the next two pushes (and with some very light help with a vacuum), to my utter shock and surprise Lola popped out like a little fish and was dumped on my chest!  She was so warm and wet and just a little bit bloody.  Her eyes were wide open.

I have to say, Michael was a pretty good birth coach - and he wasn't even as squeamish at the end as we thought he would be.  The only parts I didn't like were when he cajoled me to walk through my contractions, and when he tried to delay my epidural.  Poor guy, I think at one point he was leaning into me coaxing me to breathe, and I was panting so hard I couldn't breathe, and when I finally could breathe all I could utter was, "Shut up, Michael!" and "Stop touching me!"  Haha.
After I got a little cuddle with Lola, she was whisked to the nearby infant bed where she was assessed and got an initial Apgar score of 8, then 10.  Michael got to hold her right after she was cleaned, and as she opened her huge blinkers and stared trustingly into his eyes while he sat in the armchair next to me, everyone could practically hear his heart stutter and expand as he fell head over heels for his precious little girl.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Birth Announcement!

You may have gathered from the lack of posts on the blog that I've given birth! 

We welcomed little Eloisa "Lola" Mae on the evening of Friday, December 1 at Matilda Hospital.
She weighed in at 3.1 kg (6 lb 13 oz) and  47 cm (18.5 in) and had her eyes wide open from the moment she entered the world.  She also has dimples!

This little one definitely already packs a huge personality in a tiny package.

It has been a heady nine days and our lives have taken on a completely different rhythm and focus.
Birth story and our (amazing, wonderful) stay at Matilda Hospital (or more like hotel) to come next.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

39 Weeks (Fully Baked!) and Happy Birthday to Me

It's official, I am 39 weeks today and the baby is still measuring spot on, weighing in at 3.3kg (7.2 lbs) at my Monday appointment and still about average sized across the board, if the scans are accurate enough to be believed.  The head is now in the 80th percentile for size, though, which scares me a little bit (and scares Michael a lot).

I feel like a ticking bomb!  Before our appointment, Michael was worried that the baby would come too soon while we still felt like we had stuff to prepare.  Then during and after the appointment it was like a switch had been flicked - he wanted the baby out before she got too big.  The man is the epitome of anxiety as we near the witching hour. 

To add to our stress, our next door neighbors decided to move out last week, after peacefully residing next to us for nearly two years.  The landlord is making interior repairs and decoration renovations for two months (two MONTHS!), - which is just devastating timing for our newborn.  I've already spoken to the management about it, and our building thankfully does seem very sensitive to noises and its effect on babies (there are a ton of babies in the building) so I am really, really hopeful that they will be as constructive and responsive as they are promising they will be during this process.  They assure me that the decoration and renovation process will take less time, but does anyone actually believe that?

It's also my birthday today!  My goodness, 33 passed quickly.  I was listening to a podcast the other day that casually referenced "Trump's first year in office" and I nearly dropped my phone in shock.  Has it been a year already?

Michael got me more flowers (our apartment smells like lilies all the time now, not a bad thing my friends) and a nifty, very-essential-at-this-moment portable massager that can be used for the lower, middle and upper back as well as the neck and shoulders, legs and thighs.  It comes with a heat setting too - nice!
 Isn't the wrapping on the present beautiful?

And, to my utter surprise and delight, my work still gave me birthday flowers this year!  I thought they would have forgotten all about it now that I'm officially on maternity leave, but nope, I got a nice delivery to my apartment this morning.  How sweet!

So now, the apartment smells like (a lot of fresh) flowers, woodsy pine (our Christmas tree came on Monday - decorations still forthcoming - I've been working on a tree skirt made out of felt) and... apple pie.  Yes, our helper has become completely and utterly enamored with baking (we are not complaining), and today made a beautiful apple pie, adorned with cut slices of apples in the shape of roses...!  The only issue is that the scent of apple and butter and sugar is currently making our entire apartment smell incredible and really not helping with our late night discipline.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Thanksgiving Recap, and Nearly 39 Weeks!

Here are some pictures from our Thanksgiving dinners last week.  As mentioned, I went to one with friends outside at the Blue Butcher, and then we did our own fusion thing at home on Friday.  Both meals were excellent and I felt very satisfied with how they went!

Blue Butcher put out an impressive spread.  We (actually, the husbands) ordered a bunch of appetizers and sides to start.  There was tuna salad, bone marrow, foie gras...and we had sides of corn, stuffing, and carrots and lentils.

Then the big bird showed up, paired with cranberry sauce and gravy and two heads of roasted garlic (yum)!

Dessert was an amazing, out-of-this-world pie.  I have never liked pecan pie and I was pretty reluctant to try this one but now I understand.  Pecan pie does not equal chocolate pecan pie, which does not equal chocolate salted caramel pecan pie.  WOW.  I had my entire slice paired with two scoops of vanilla ice cream and just loved it.  I ate it too quickly to get a picture, heh.

The next day, our fusion Thanksgiving went so well that Michael and I have decided that we are going to do a Peking duck coupled with sides for our next Thanksgiving too.

Action shot of the homemade cranberry sauce!

Here is our table, with Peking duck (one plate of meat, one plate of skin, one plate of cucumbers and spring onions, one plate of the wrappers, and one little tureen of plum sauce), mashed potatoes from scratch, garlic roasted Brussels sprouts (yummmm), stuffing (unashamed to admit this) and the homemade cranberry sauce.
 Michael had gotten me flowers that week and it was the perfect backdrop, along with our candles, to dinner!
 I love Thanksgiving, have I mentioned?  (Oh yeah, these are the dining chairs that we got from Taobao that I love.)
 After that huge dinner, we had a delicious, made from scratch pumpkin pie with a pecan praline topping, paired with almond ice cream.  It was also SO good.
 I attempted discipline and took a slightly smaller slice and only one scoop of ice cream.  I was quite conscious, being at 38.5 weeks (and now as I type this, being one day shy of 39 weeks) that the baby can't be too big to get out!

Finally, I forgot to post that, before I went on leave from work last week, a bunch of my colleagues took me out for lunch.  We went to Commissary in Pacific Place, and went all out on a ton of food.  The rib platter was so impressive that I couldn't resist taking a picture.  In addition to this, we had tacos (pulled pork, Korean grilled beef short ribs, fish, cauliflower), steak, salads, guac and chips, truffle cheese fries, as well as dessert... it was a total (and delicious) pigfest!