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Selah is looking more and more like a toddler. I don’t really notice the changes until I compare them to what she looked like as a newborn. Her hair is a lot longer now and that’s the most obvious time marker. She’s twice her height and weight from birth. It’s only a matter of days or weeks until she outgrows her day napper. She’s also eight months old today, wow.

When she turned 6 months, there were so many magical milestones during that period. She learned how to pull herself up and how to sit herself up. A few weeks later, she learned how to crawl. Soon after, she learned how to safely disembark from our mattress. She also started eating solids! She has four teeth now! Four!

She also responds to songs and her favorite thing to look at is her reflection (she takes after her dad). I can’t get enough of hugging her and burying my face in hers. I can do more aggressive affection with her now and it’s awesome. She knows who I am and I know I’m her special person.

1 BABY CARRIER, BOBA
Baby-wearing is a godsend. Read more about it here. It’s very handy especially when you’re going to crowded areas with limited stroller space. We place Selah in it when we do the groceries and go to tight spaces like art fairs. She usually ends up passed out and that’s a testament to how comfortable and secure she feels. Baby carriers tend to be expensive but Boba is one of the more affordable brands we trust. It can get bulky and hot though, so for short jaunts out, I also recommend the Saya carrier. A friend lent hers and it takes some practice getting the hang of it. Once you’ve mastered it though,  it becomes second nature putting it on and it’s easy to stash in your bag.

2 BODY SUITS, MOTHERCARE
We’re all about the onesies (those envelope folds are not decorative, guys!). Selah hates being bundled up. The only time we ever put her in full-on pajama getup was when we first brought her home and when we took her up to Baguio. At the same time, we also hate having to yank bottoms down to change her diapers. Now that she’s 8 months old, I’m happy to be singing praises about Mothercare’s body suits. They’re what Selah wears in the house. The 6 month size is what she’s worn from birth up to now! She’ll be outgrowing it soon but the quality and stretch of Mothercare onesies are hard to beat.

3 BABY FOOD MAKING SET, BABY BULLET
I prepared for the inevitability of making purees if baby-led weaning didn’t work out for us. Selah likes holding her food, but only if they aren’t sticky or slimy (except for pasta and cheese). This limits what I can give her and I wanted her to be able to try a lot of tastes. Pureeing allows me to combine fun and interesting flavors and Selah takes to it well. I enjoy making Selah’s food. She hasn’t eaten any commercial rice cereal or jarred food at all. My friend lent me her Baby Bullet and it makes the food making process a lot easier. If you’re interested in making your own baby food, read more about it here.

4 FEEDING SPOONS, PIGEON
This isn’t a must-have but this was a good buy when I was so anxious feeding Selah for the first time. These spoons are so affordable and they have these shapes that prevent the baby from swallowing them. The design also makes sure that food doesn’t get pushed all the way out when the baby tries to reject it. I don’t use them anymore when Selah got accustomed to a regular plastic spoon but this was a good transition tool.

5 RICE RUSKS, BABY MUM-MUM
This was Selah’s first foray into solid food! Baby Mum-Mums are like rice cracker snacks and they’re great for exploratory eating and teething. It’s a fun way for Selah to practice holding and gripping. The rusks dissolve in your mouth so it’s also a good way to discover textures. This is a nice accompaniment to whatever you choose to feed your kid.

6 SPOON & BOWL SET, NUBY
This to me is the perfect spoon and bowl set ever. The spoon can be stored on the lid and the bowl has a suction underneath. It’s so handy to travel with and it’s easy to clean. Now if only it came in cooler colors!

7 TRIPP TRAPP CHAIR, STOKKE
I have been salivating over this chair even before I got pregnant. You can even check my Pinterest boards. When I finally got my hands on it, I kept hugging it. I haven’t seen any convertible high chair as beautifully designed as this one. The chair ages with your child. I even sit on it and it’s comfy! I have a booster seat as well but the Tripp Trapp allows baby to start getting used to eating at the dinner table with us.

8 STACK ‘N STOW CUPS, PLAYSKOOL
Sadly, babies do get sick of toys easily. I followed a friend’s suggestion by hiding most of it (we don’t have a lot) and then rotating what’s in her playpen so I can trick Selah into thinking she has new toys all the time. She has yet to form attachments to stuffed animals at her age though. Luckily there’s one toy that’s been able to hold her attention. These stack cups are a gift from one of my mom friends. They store flat in this cute lion case. I need to start researching more on toys. Joel wants to outfit Selah with a toy chest but I want to make sure they’ll be filled with stuff she’ll actually play with. It seems like we’re in the right direction with building toys.

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Find Me on Preen

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Most of my writing energy has been directed at my column at Preen. I’ve had offers to write for other publications but I felt I fit with the Preen brand the most. It’s one of many women-oriented websites but this one targets a younger demographic who grew up with the internet. It’s a demographic that prefers their content smart and funny — plus points if it speaks the language of meme and .gif’s. I don’t relate to most parenting and motherhood brands out there but that’s the curse of the millennial parent. We’re here to usher in a new generation of thought and provocation.

 

I Suck at Breastfeeding, But That Doesn’t Mean I’m a Bad Mom
My first article was lifted from one of my blog entries. I hope I can still maintain some writing in Darwin Dispatch. I plan to keep my more personal and lighter stuff in here.

My Baby Is Much Braver Than I Am
Here I talk about my anxieties as a new mom bringing my daughter out to interact with the world. In a way, this was also mirroring my struggle finding my voice as a parenthood columnist. I was summoning the courage to speak from my heart.

The Feminist Mommy’s Manifesto on Teaching My Kid to be a Better Person
There we have it. I finally found my stride when I started seeing the big picture. Feminist theory is a big part of my life and it occurred to me that it’s going to be a big part of Selah’s, too. My existence is this world is motivated by a desire to figure out how to leave it better. I found my voice in feminism and it continues to be one of the backbones of my belief system.

Why I Am Not Comforting My Child When She Cries
In the spirit of setting fires and provoking thought, I talk about crying it out in the context of road trips. By this time I realized that if my writing doesn’t push people to think, there’s no point in my writing. (By the way, we don’t cry it out at home. We co-sleep.)

4 Ways to Prepare for Work-From-Home Motherhood
More and more people I know work from home or are making the transition. It’s one of my favorite advocacies. Because of that, I wanted to paint a picture of how it looks like when you toss a baby into the mix. It will take for an amazing career opportunity to yank me out of the house, so for now, my life is really about balancing work, life, self, child, and marriage under the same roof.

Why I Am Letting My Daughter Choose Her Religion
Back to incendiary topics, I go! This post attracted the most trolls and the most affirmation. I wanted to shed light on another thing that means a lot to me. A lot of millennial and Gen X friends resonated with this. I’m a Christian but the way I see it, if you’re only in it because your parents are and have no intention to figure out faith for yourself, then don’t bother. It will be a shallow conviction.

What Happens to Your Marriage When You Have a Baby?
I wanted to take a break from trolls so I brought back the discussion to something everyone could relate to. So many mommy bloggers seem to be afraid to breech the topic of their marriages but it’s a huge foundation to family life. I for one, was so afraid of what would happen to Joel and me when we got pregnant.

 

I’m so thankful for Preen giving me this privilege. I’m committed to deliver the best that I can but writing like this is something I want to be doing all my life. I love having a column. The creative outlet and discipline are so good for my soul but it also enables me to have communion with people. I’m so grateful.

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Lazy Mom Essentials (3 Months)

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So the “Fourth Trimester” is over. It’s amazing how much has happened in the last three months. I’m a full-fledged breastfeeding mama. All the pain and suffering I experienced in the early weeks feels like a distant memory now. I can’t imagine feeding Selah any other way and we’ve been able to feed at every place we find ourselves in. We have a daily routine now, how about that? Her yaya comes in at 8 am 6 days a week, and she takes care of her until 4 pm. Selah has one morning nap and one afternoon nap usually.

She’ll go down to bed between 8-10 pm and will wake up 2-3 times before she finally wakes up for realz at 6 am. I don’t have one those miracle babies who sleep through the whole night, but we’re doing ok. Sometimes we’ll get a fluke night and she decides to bless us for a 6 hour stretch or more.

I can go on and on about Selah departing the newborn stage but I think the items in my latest Lazy Mom list will help explain her milestones.

1 CHANGING MAT, THE FIRST YEARS
This is another beloved hand-me-down from my former boss. We don’t have a changing table so this mat comes in handle for the nappy changes we do on the dining table (which we will have to cease once Selah starts rolling over and she’s getting there!) or on the bed. Well basically it’s handy for diaper changes ANYWHERE. It’s a staple in our baby bag.

2 BATH TUB, STOKKE
The Stokke Flexi Bath is a godsend for families who live in itty bitty apartments! Before a friend gave this to us, we were used to bathing Selah in a big basin. We’d store it in our shower stall and it was such a pain in the ass avoiding it over whenever it was our turn to bathe. This Stokke Flexi Bath tub folds flat and we get to stow it in our car easily whenever we need to travel with it.

3 ALL-PURPOSE OINTMENT, LUCAS PAPAW
I worship at the altar of multi-purpose products. Before Selah, I used Lucas Papaw for all my skin irritations, from chapped cuticles to minor cuts. I’m discovering now that I can use this with Selah as well. It makes for a fine diaper rash cream and an even better healing balm for whenever she scratches her face.

4 BABY BOTTLE, MUNCHKIN
THE HOLY GRAIL OF BABY BOTTLES! Some breastfed babies are known to have some difficulties transitioning to bottles. I used to use a different brand and Selah would chug my expressed milk (7 oz. for my work day!) in two quick sittings. That’s just way too fast and with ordinary nipples, the milk had a tendency to dribble down her chin at every feeding. These Munchkin Latch bottles have vents that reduce airflow and these special nipples that slow the flow of milk. Milk will only come out if the baby suckles to mimic the way she does it with breastfeeding.

5 BABY COLOGNE, DENENES
We only started using baby cologne after Selah’s baths when she turned 3 months old. I didn’t want her exposed to alcohol so early. Selah has a head thick full of hair and this poor baby accumulates so much sweat everyday. Sometimes she’ll smell so sour (haha, sorry, baby) and I was excited to finally get her to smell fresher. I grew up with Spanish baby cologne and no other scent can compare. I hate saccharine smells. Denenes cologne just smells so pure.

6 RATTLE, BRIGHT STARTS
I’m not the sort of parent who drowns her kid in toys. I firmly believe that a baby’s favorite toy is you but it’s fascinating to see how a toy can be the only thing that will calm your kid down at certain situations. The first time we brought Selah to church, I was so afraid of her freaking out. I was prepared to feed her and Joel was ready to take her out of there should there be any “incidents.” As she was about to fuss, I brought out this rattle my cousin gave me and Selah was mesmerized for the remainder of the service. Selah likes things with friendly faces on them. I like this rattle because it gives off a soft shake shake sound — as opposed to a loud, clacky one that could drive me insane.

7 ZIP BAGS, BAGGU
I love Baggu. I use their reusable bags for dirty clothes when we’re out. I’d buy out their entire inventory if I could for their simple designs and fun colors and patterns. Their zip bags are handy to compartmentalize your things in your baby bag. They use parachute material so it’s sturdy and lightweight. I put my breast pump in one of these whenever I need to pump outside of the house.

8 PLUSH TOY, KENANA CRITTERS
I have a bunch of animal toys on me (including well-loved Sophie the Giraffe) but Selah never singled out any of them until this knitted lion toy that was given to us. We named him Lionel (because he has the same hairdo as Lionel Richie) and Selah adores him (the toy, not the singer, but we’ll see). I mentioned earlier that she likes toys with faces and I guess she’s drawn to a simple stitched design. I use his soft, knitted arms to poke her cheeks and nose. When I’m too tired to entertain her, I hold up Lionel and Selah is smitten.

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To Selah’s Daddy on His 30th Birthday

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We always tell each other that we wish we met in high school and got together then. We’ll go down this imaginary scenario every time we hear some Alice in Chains or Tool song playing on the radio. We always start with, “I love this song” complete with me warbling the lyrics and you violently tapping on the steering wheel as a makeshift drum kit. Some songs bring us back to 2002, 2003, 2004, and we can’t help but laugh and remember what we were like. Then either you or me will say, “I wish I knew you then. I would have fallen so hard for you.”

It’s our little flirting game that never ever gets old.

We do this all the time because it’s our way of saying, “I wish we didn’t have to wait so long to find each other.” We know it’s silly. We got together when we were 24. It’s not like we’re also asking to erase all the stupid things and heartaches we went through because as the adage goes, we wouldn’t be who we are without it.

From where I stand, it’s me trying to tell you that I wish I can rewrite history because it feels so empty imagining times without you in it. Or that some moments would’ve been a hundred times better if you were there.

I can picture loving a 14 year old you, or a 21 year old you, a 40 year old you, a 53 year old you. Though today you are 30 and I just want you to know that I love you for who you were, who you are now, and who you will be.

Happy Birthday, Joel. Thank you for being you.

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Lazy Mom Essentials (Newborn)

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Well, it was inevitable for me to come out with my first “mom” themed essentials list. As always, I believe in buying only what you need but allowing some wiggle room for the things that make your life a million times easier. I’ll admit, one of the biggest things that frightened me about parenthood was shelling out a ton of money to outfit a child. Raising kids is expensive, but it’s so true when people say that everyone in your life will rally and help you out in whatever way they can.

I’m not saying you should expect dole outs. We didn’t. Joel and I were prepared to go about it with whatever meager amount of money (freelance life, yo) we had and were just hoping for the best. You’d be surprised though at how much the people in your life love children and we got some help gearing up for baby. This made it all the more important to choose wisely and make sure we got a lot of wear from the things we were getting.

It’s not just the material help that was amazing. During our first week with Selah (we still didn’t have our stay-out yaya at this point), we never had to worry about our food situation because friends and family kept dropping off hot meals for us. It’s also my friends who came to the rescue when I had breastfeeding struggles. Our moms would drop by as well and offer to relieve us of baby duty.

One of Joel’s daddy friends (another first time father, with a daughter who is only a month older than ours) warned us that the first month is really all about survival.

We took that to heart. Joel has been able to squeeze a trip to the barber and has resumed some semblance of normalcy when he goes to work. He’s drinking beer again and he’s been able to squeeze some moments of quality time with the guys. What a jerk!

I, on the other hand, still look hideous. I’m a 24/7 feeding machine and it drains everything out of me. There are times where it takes me three hours to put Selah down just for her to wake up in an hour or less. Joel shares in this misery too, we take shifts and he’s a crazy good diaper changer and master burper. So he’s not such a jerk — he’s a sexy stud for doing all of this. I’m really lucky.

Joel thinks about soldiers in active duty when we’re sleep deprived and going crazy. I think about my doctor friends who are on their feet for hours on end without any sleep.

Having Selah has showed us how delicate and fragile we were before her. In a way, all the chaos exists for us to rise up to be the parents she deserves to have. Parenthood forces you to be stronger and more selfless than you ever were and as difficult it is to admit, we’re grateful.

1 BREASTFEEDING PILLOW, HAND-ME-DOWN
My former boss let us go through a box of her sons’ old baby things when she found out I was expecting. At the bottom of the pile was this breastfeeding pillow. I almost didn’t want to take it because I found it bulky (plus I was still VERY ignorant about breastfeeding at this point). I ended up taking it to me to Shiphrah and it has never left my side. I was completely dependent on it when I was learning how to feed Selah. I even nicknamed it my new appendage. I don’t use it as much anymore at home because I assembled a pillow fort in my couch, but it comes with me every time we leave the house. Selah also fits nice and snuggly in it when we put her to sleep on beds.

2 ROCKER NAPPER, TINY LOVe
This rocker napper is everything (a gift from Joel’s mom’s girl gang). I don’t know how to describe our sleeping situation. Everyone has a different approach. Since I feed on demand and discovered that the aforementioned pillow fort in the couch is the best area for getting it on, I made it easier on me to have Selah sleep close to it, hence this rocker napper. Since we live in a 37 sqm. apartment, the “living room” is two steps away from our bedroom and in a way, it’s sort of a co-sleeper situation. We have an actual co-sleeper beside our mattress but we still don’t have a bed frame. I’ll save that ridiculous story for another time.

3 BREAST PUMP, SPECTRA m1 DOUBLE ELECTRIC PUMP
I ordered mine online through Babymama.ph (kudos to the excellent customer service and next day delivery!) upon the recommendation of one of my lactation consultants. It’s cheaper than Medela but it’s just as good or even better. I’m so happy with this little portable pump. It has an added massage feature that stimulates the let down reflex and I love how it looks! On a good day (early in the morning and if Selah sleeps through the night), I can get 6 oz. in one session from both breasts. Not bad for noob mommy.

4 VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS, RAINBOW LIGHT & NORDIC NATURALS
These are courtesy of Dr. Martin Manahan, my OB. These were the supplements (prenatal vitamins and omega oil) I was taking during the last weeks of my pregnancy. I carried on taking them until now. Whenever I make the idiot mistake of forgetting to take them, I really pay for it the next day. I am useless and lethargic without these supplements. The number one enemy of taking care of a newborn is a lack of energy and thank God I have these. Doc, if you’re reading this, I’m going to come back for more when I run out!

5 SWADDLE CLOTHS, HAND-ME-DOWN
I’m actually using the swaddle cloths my own mother used on me and my siblings from almost thirty years ago. The ones I have are light and breathable with a high thread count. Swaddling is an art form that I surprisingly picked up well, which is great because we don’t have it in our budget to spend on those fancy sleep sacks. Until Selah learns how to roll over and take full control of her limbs, I am the master of her with my swaddling skills. When I’m especially furious at her refusing to sleep, I take some sadistic joy in straightjacketing her shut while singing “YOU CAN RUN YOU CAN HIDE BUT YOU CAN ESCAPE MY LOOOOVE.” She hates it but boy, oh boy, she sleeps so well once she becomes a baby burrito. It’s the only way I can keep her arms from flailing and waking her up.

6 DIAPER BAG, KANKEN
I am a tomboy. I couldn’t find diaper bags that matched my clothes and I wanted a bag that wouldn’t emasculate Joel. Factor in how I suffer from scoliosis and if I had to lug a bag filled with baby things, I’m better off distributing the weight on both shoulders. Enter the Kanken! I always wanted to own one. They’re well-loved in Scandinavia (and anywhere with a hipster population). They can withstand anything and the bags are so sturdy and roomy. Plus that fox logo is adorable. I’m already plotting to get a matching mini one for Selah.

7 STROLLER, APRICA
I wanted to invest in a good stroller. I was worried if we were going to be able to afford this but luckily Joel’s grandma funded this as a present for her great-granddaughter. Among the tons of strollers Joel and I checked out, the Aprica Karoon model was our showstopper. Weighing at only 3.6 kg, it’s the lightest thing ever and you need only to press on one button to fold it upright. It’s compact enough to fit in our tiny car and it’s been painless setting it up and getting Selah into it.

8 NURSING BRA, MAMAWAY
A good bra will always be found on my essentials list. I got this as a gift and it’s the only kind of bra I was able to wear when my boobs were injured. The fabric is sleek, smooth, and breathable. It gives enough support even without any wiring. It’s also easy to pop the boobs out when it’s time to feed. This is the training bra for breastfeeding moms and it’s a mighty fine one. When I feel like myself again and want to wear other tops (the collar bone baring ones), I’ll probably get the sexier ones from this brand as well.

 

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On Breastfeeding

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Jane Birkin, 1967 (still my motherhood style peg)
Photo from Jane & Serge: A Family Album via Into the Gloss

I didn’t prepare for breastfeeding. I was one of those people who assumed that breastfeeding would be this natural thing that came to mothers easily. I was formula-fed as a baby so my mom wasn’t able to impart any knowledge on the matter. I believe in the benefits of breastfeeding and I knew that I wanted to do it for my baby (I also wanted to save money). I was able to hold Selah to my chest seconds after she was born and she instinctively latched onto me like it was nothing soon after.

I remember when Selah was three days old and I was starting to feel my breasts become hard and heavy. We just came from a postpartum checkup in Shiphrah and Ate Lornie was already commenting on how my milk was ready to drop anytime. That night, I naively put a muslin cloth underneath my pillow to prepare for my milk. I was routinely feeding Selah my colostrum and figured that when the milk will start pooling in.. tada! Breastfeeding!

It was more of “Hello, engorgement!” and thus began the most painful weeks of my whole life. I am not exaggerating and this is coming from someone who had an unmedicated birth. Selah is 6 weeks old and I’m at a point where I survived enough to tell the tale.

If you’re a mother who had no problems whatsover with feeding, please don’t bother reading. I offer you my congratulations (with no sarcasm, I swear) but my experience and feelings might feel ridiculous to you.

For the moms who feel or felt like failures and idiots, welcome! You’re safe here and to you, I offer hugs and not a single mention of your latching skills.

  1. I’m of those people who want to do away with the notion “if breastfeeding hurts, then you’re doing something wrong.” To a sensitive, hormonal woman, that’s the worst thing you can hear from anyone, simply because the implication is, no matter how hard you’re trying, YOU FAILED SOMEWHERE. That kind of language is not encouraging or supportive.
  2. I got in touch with two lactation consultants and a bunch of breastfeeding moms — and after all the advice, the pain wasn’t going away. I was dreading every single feed with Selah. I felt like a bad mommy and each wince and sob that came out of me reminded me of that.
  3. Perfect breastfeeding is just that, perfect. Aiming for perfection is great but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t attain it. Imperfection is the human condition. Trying to get breastfeeding right activated this dormant insecurity I never thought I had. I’m usually good at filtering information, but because becoming a mother was something that overwhelmed me,  I just fell apart.
  4. Even after the sessions with the lactation consultants, I watched a ton of tutorials on Youtube, read everything on Kellymom.com, and practiced every single way to latch properly. It still hurt. I suspect now that the damage I incurred before asking for help (cracked nipple, bruises, blisters) played a big factor in getting better, but my baby also has a tiny mouth and she kept blissfully ignoring my pleas to open wider.
  5. And hey, since we’re talking about my boobs already, I should mention that they’ve always been my prime erogenous zone. Maybe the heightened sensitivity has a correlation with my nipple pain threshold, who knows? Point: everyone has a different relationship with pain and don’t let anyone make you feel weak about it.
  6. I just felt so rotten during those first weeks. I felt incompetent and stupid. A big part of picking myself up is emptying all the judgmental thoughts in my head and replacing them with undeniable facts. Namely: A) Breastfeeding is a learned skill similar to learning how to swing a baseball bat or how to ballroom dance (I suck magnificently at those too) and B) Breastfeeding is a relationship — mommy and baby are both learning. Since Selah chomps and clamps hard like there’s no tomorrow, it felt like I was the one lagging behind skillwise.
  7. Once you take your power back, that’s when mothering happens. After crying during Selah’s second doctor’s appointment, our pediatrician Dr. Dolli told me that I was doing a great job and that I alone know what’s good for Selah and no one else. It’s something I always knew all along, that you cannot impose templates on people, even on little people-to-be.
  8. When a huge blister erupted on the boob with the cracked nipple, I was found myself on my last nerve. I was already on the road to healing with that one (attained through using the football hold on that side) and it frustrated me that I had another injury to replace it. I needed to give that boob a break and I finally caved and bought a breast pump and defied the purist advice of waiting until 6 weeks before I start pumping. Pumping on the bad boob finally allowed it to heal completely because Selah didn’t have a chance to mangle it with her mouth anymore.
  9. I also started doing 100% Natural Breastfeeding at home. This means always reclining on my back and having Selah use her instincts to feed off me instead of me shoving my breasts down her throat. I didn’t ask for any advice on this matter, I finally went with my intuition and this is the move that finally ended the reign of terror.
  10. Things started feeling better in week 5. My breasts are still perpetually sore but it’s a discomfort I can handle. I’m friends now with breastfeeding. I won’t be doing any celebratory shimmies just yet but it’s good to know that my stubbornness and intuition gets me places.

Thank you to everyone who rushed to my aid and who kept praying for me. It’s breastfeeding that finally made me understand the idea of a village and that every mom shouldn’t have to go through motherhood alone. And if you find yourself ending your breastfeeding journey for whatever reason, don’t beat yourself up over it. We’re all trying our best.

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Hey Baby!

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Selah Rose, 09/20/15

It seems like Selah is settling down from the crazy growth spurt from last week. It lasted several days and it was during those moments that I badly wanted to pull my hair out. Growth spurts typically happen 5-6 times during the first year of a baby’s life. What happens is their bodies send cues to eat and eat and EAT. The absolute worst was when Selah kept wanting to be fed every 30 minutes. After a while I realized she was already as miserable as we were. The poor thing just wanted to rest and sleep but her body won’t let her. This made for a really cranky and upset baby.

This is my favorite picture of newborn Selah. She was two weeks old here and this was when I was about to feed her. She just looked so sweet and content to be with me. Her face is still changing but some features look like they’re there to stay. My family says she has my eyes and Joel’s nose. She definitely got my lean legs. She also has very long and delicate fingers and toes, all from me! She has Joel’s ears… and his drunk derpy face. Her rosy white skin is a mystery though and so is her wavy hair. It’s fun trying to figure out what physical features she inherited from the other members of her family. Staring into a baby feels like mapping your family tree.

She’s fast asleep right now behind me in her napper. I’m finally able to squeeze in some work. Last Saturday, I got to have my first dinner away from her with my high school friends. Joel then picked me up with Selah in her stroller. It was a mix of our old normal and our new normal coming together. We’re still taking it very slow but it’s nice to get a preview of what it will be like in the future when we build our confidence to move around as a family.

I may have broken down so many times but I marvel at how much of a good baby Selah is. She feeds really well (I nicknamed her Porky Pie during this last growth spurt) and will give us long stretches of sleep every now and then. She has a very gentle disposition. She still can’t see or hear much but she’s been giving us these radiant smiles. Over time, I’m seeing now that it isn’t so much about her becoming a better baby, it’s about us becoming better parents.

 

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Breaking the Girl

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Meiday! Meiday!, 2008
Photo by Brendan Goco

My daughter Selah turned a month old last weekend. The last month has been a haze and it’s been difficult to get a grip on myself. The first few weeks with a newborn is a forced quarantine. Even if we got the go signal to emerge out of hiding from our pediatrician, I’m still terrified to face the outside world. Selah is exclusively breastfed and fed on demand. It’s a major understatement to say that I wasn’t prepared for breastfeeding and getting mother and baby to pick up the skill took up all my energy and sanity. With whatever free time I have, I would rather sleep or lurk on the internet.

My baby also spends 95% of her time sleeping, feeding, and crying. The remaining 5% is what I assume everyone is excited to see: her smiling face and her sweet eyes. I’d rather wait until the percentage of her being cute and sociable ups some. I still fear having to manage my screaming baby in public. Oh, but how I love this girl.

I guess that’s how I can put words to the situation. I’m no longer the girl in the family, Selah is. Somewhere in that last month, the girl in me had to die in order for the mother to emerge. It’s the biggest thing I’m learning about motherhood so far — that I had to be ready to be stripped of everything I based my identity on. When I take care of Selah, she couldn’t care less that mommy does graphic design, likes to write, and has a penchant for striped bateau shirts.

It forces me to deal with what’s left. I have had many moments where I keep questioning my worth as a mother. It turns out that this is normal but it doesn’t make things any easier. This is what the books and Google searches don’t tell you, that you’ll have to learn where your grit will be coming from. I thought I had a lot of faith but I haven’t been tested like this ever.

Selah is going through her second growth spurt and I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve spent the last two days stuck in my couch alternating my breasts for feeds and not being able to do anything else. All sense of bodily modesty is gone. I’ve let my body hair grow all out — I’ve done away with personal hygiene. I don’t step out of my apartment. I don’t know what it’s like to have a leisurely meal anymore. I feel like a shell of a person and that my mind has left my body.

There have been ugly nights where I pretend to smother Selah with a throw pillow. I have fantasized running out the door and abandoning my family. Or giving my baby girl away to someone else who could be a better mother than me. I’ve cried out of despair and frustration when nothing I did could stop Selah’s wailing.

I look at my old photos and I see the girl I used to be. There used to be a time where all I wanted was to travel impulsively, look pretty, and be free. I like her a lot but I’m wondering if the slowing down in the last couple of years was a long, drawn out goodbye.

I’ve been afraid of womanhood, to be honest. I was never comfortable with being called a woman. The idea of womanhood has always been a huge mystery to me. I never resonated with being maternal or coming to terms with my body. It’s an unknown I was always afraid of.

I knew I wanted to have a baby and it was my brain that nudged my heart to open up to it. I wanted to learn how to love and to give myself up for something other than myself. I didn’t want my life to pass me by without ever understanding firsthand what that was all about. Many people approach it in different ways and I’ve been yearning to find out what my path would be. I believe that’s what you call a dangerous prayer.

I’m learning that you can choose to fill yourself with love when you don’t know what else you’re left with. “Show me what I’m made of, God,” I said. It’s the season of dangerous prayers.

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Birth Story

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Photos by Isabell Steinert
(see her original photo set here)

Inside all of us is a Wild Thing.
– Maurice Sendak

I don’t know where to begin. My daughter’s birth story spans several dimensions and I would like to lay them all out one by one.

We can start on the Thursday before D-Day. I was getting annoyed at the lightning pain cramps I was experiencing on my right thigh during those last couple of days. It would sometimes shoot all the way down to my leg and it would strike at the most random times of the day. It even happened while I was waddling down the mall carrying two big shopping bags and I had to stop in the middle of the walkway because the pain was unbearable.

I finally got in touch with a hilot (traditional birth attendant/masseuse) my doula recommended me. Ate Aida came over after dinner and examined my 39 week pregnant tummy. What I thought was mere cramping was a result of my baby’s head pushing down on the right side of my pelvis, hitting some of the nerves there. I’ve known for a couple of weeks already that my baby was in a cephalic position (meaning the head is already facing downwards) and I was just hoping it was in a good enough place for an easier delivery.

Ate Aida swaddled my belly by slipping a towel underneath my back and rocked my tummy from side to side. Then after she massaged my limbs, she already warned me to look out for three dates: September 5 (the coming weekend!), September 10 (my due date according to my first ultrasound), and September 15 (according to her, the last possible date my baby could come out). After she left, Joel and I were in awe at how quick the baby descended. The area below my bosom softened significantly and I was feeling more pressure down below.

The next day, a Friday (September 4!), we went about our day like nothing happened. We even had a late night dessert run to Wild Flour (I badly wanted their strawberry shortcake, it deserves a mention in this story) with my cousin and my sister and her boyfriend. The only noteworthy thing about Friday was that I was starting to shed my mucus plug. Since I wasn’t feeling any contractions, we figured we still had some time.

Come Saturday (September 5!), we only made plans to hang out in my grandmother’s house for a despidida lunch for the aforementioned cousin who was visiting from Australia. We spent the whole afternoon there hanging out and then we made our way back to Makati for dinner with some friends. During this time, I was my usual waddling self, peeing every thirty minutes and struggling walking from one place to another. We didn’t notice anything unusual and we were relaxed knowing that the car had a tank full of gas and the trunk was stuffed with all our birthing gear already should anything happen. We had been on standby since week 38.

Joel and I got ready for bed at around 11 pm and were ready to pass out after the whole day of schmoozing.

Then at midnight, I finally felt the first real contraction. I’ve been having false labor pains for weeks already but those were pains were brief and uneventful. This midnight one was PAINFUL. It felt like a really awful menstrual cramp and it was the kind of pain that I needed to work myself through. I shook Joel awake and told him to start timing the contractions already, and to text Betty, our doula, to let her know that we were starting early labor. As that was happening, I started crying. I haven’t had any real fear up to that moment when it was finally there. I was clutching my pillow and whimpering to Joel, “I can’t do this.”

Joel let me cry it out for a bit, then after a while, I took a deep breath and told him that I was ready.

Betty told us to try to relax and go back to sleep. She told us to start texting Ate Lornie, our midwife, so that we know when to start heading up to Shiphrah Birthing Center in Taytay. Ate Lornie was in the middle of a birth when we texted so she was wide awake. She told us to text her when my contractions were consistently five minutes apart and one minute long.

My contractions were still irregular but they kept on coming. We tried to go back to sleep but I’d get up on all fours to move my hips each time a contraction hit and Joel kept timing everything. Then sometime when the contractions were 7-10 minutes apart, Joel and I showered and got dressed already. At 3:30 am, while I was working on another contraction in bed, I felt a “POP!” and Joel heard it!

I stood up and the minute I steadied my legs, a strong gush of water cascaded down my legs! That, folks, was my bag of waters breaking. I read enough literature explaining that the breaking of waters didn’t really happen the way they did in the movies (like a balloon bursting) and to expect it to be more like trickles down your leg. But boy, look who got her movie moment.

We checked the contraction app and saw that we were clocking steady 5 minute intervals so Joel called up Ate Lornie. Joel hung up and then told me that it was time. We got in touch with Betty again and alerted our photographer Isabell.

So in the morning of September 6, a Sunday, our little baby was kind and considerate enough to make its debut on a day with no traffic. This was Joel’s biggest fear, that we wouldn’t be able to make the trip from Makati to Taytay. I already felt God’s hand protecting us as we made that realization. That was a big, big answered prayer.

Makati at 4:30 am was gloriously peaceful and cool. We made a pitstop at the Family Mart near our apartment to load up on snacks and drinks for our cooler. At this point, my contractions were getting stronger and I remember having one while Joel was in the convenience store. It kept on going while we got on EDSA then on C5. I even had to tell him to ease up when the road got bumpy but everything was pretty manageable. I just needed to curl my toes and grip my right hand on something. It didn’t occur to us until much later that we did most of our early labor on our own.

Joel and I big believers in signs and as we trekked to Taytay, we were graced with a beautiful view of the sky. We never wake up at that time anymore and we were awestruck at the pretty lavenders and cotton candy pinks the sky was casting over us. It was going to be a wonderful day, we just knew it.

As we pulled into Shiphrah’s subdivision, we saw Betty’s husband Manny on the way down from bringing her. He waved at us and wished us luck. We got to Shiprah in 30 minutes. It would usually take us an hour or an hour and a half whenever we went over there for my checkups on the weekends.

We parked the car outside the center and stayed inside for a little bit more. We got in touch with our families then took a deep breath once more and prayed.

We entered the center at around 6 am. We were greeted by Betty and Ate Lornie’s smiling faces. The other women in the house were also excited. The energy in the place was electric because there were FOUR other mommies delivering babies that day!

Since Ate Lornie is the only midwife who knew how to do water births, I was the lucky momma who had the one water birthing “suite” all to herself. We checked out the room and put down all our things. We had so many bags on us — my bags, Joel’s bags, baby bag, and a bag filled with towels, giant gauze pads, etc. Betty told me that I should seize this time to snack on something. I didn’t really feel like eating but I managed to walk outside chomping a banana and loading up on coconut water.

By that time contractions were getting intense and we decided to take our mind of it by walking outside. It was still early in the morning and we ran into some people doing their routine jogs. Betty is big on letting couples have their private moments so Joel and I paced up and down the road chatting with my occasional collapsing into his arms as each contraction swept over me.

We passed by The Little Children’s home nearby and we heard the kids milling about inside. Joel broke out into a smile when he saw baby clothes hanging on a clothesline outside.

We turned to walk back to the direction of the center and Betty joined us. We lingered at the small chapel down the road and used its front steps as my next laboring location. I made some Rocky jokes while going up and down the steps, but soon I couldn’t crack any more laughs after that because the pain was really getting uncomfortable.

I began my active labor in my birthing room and Betty was trying to figure out what positions would work for me. Earlier on in the game, we already established that labouring on my back was too excruciating. I couldn’t handle the pressure on my tailbone and if I had to stay in that position, I would have asked for an epidural (and the center doesn’t have any, haha). The sweet spot was me on all fours resting on a peanut shaped exercise ball. The next 2-3 hours were all about me switching positions from all fours, to sitting on a round exercise ball, to sitting on a chair reverse (so I could rest on the backseat), to squatting on a birthing stool (which was surprisingly so comfy!). The trick was to keep myself moving and distracted. This phase was all blurry to me already because my energy was running low and my head was already somewhere else trying to maneuver through all the waves of contractions.

Just as everything was intensifying, Ate Lornie popped in to give me an internal exam (they only do it once in Shiphrah, thank God — if I was subjected to several of them, I would have been so pissed). With that one and only examination, she saw that I was already 7 cm dilated! The baby still needed to descend some more but upon hearing my laboring got me that far gave me extra motivation to keep trying.

The use of the birth pool is the last stage in birthing. We were to use up as much contractions as we can outside of it so that I only use the water when I was already transitioning. I wasn’t there yet but I was in a lot of pain already so I got into the pool. The water was kept warm by a heater the whole time so I felt instant relief getting in there. But there was still a lot to go and I even had to step out to switch positions because I already wanted to pass out. The strongest memory I have during this time was me resting my head on the side of the pool and crying all over again to Joel. I told him again that I couldn’t do it. I looked at Betty and told her that all I wanted to do was sleep.

By the second time I got into the pool, I finally understood what transitioning felt like. All the pain that led up to transition was NOTHING compared to the pressure I was feeling down in my nether regions. I finally understood all those silly metaphors — the ring of fire, shitting out a bowling ball covered in hot sauce, etc. Thankfully there were respites in between those brutal contractions. I didn’t even need everyone to tell me that I was only to push if I felt the pressure. I was too tired and whether I wanted to or not, my body was intent on pushing as each contraction hit anyway.

I was too tired and in too much pain to talk so Joel and Betty had no idea what was going on with me. I didn’t even tell them that I already felt the baby crowning and none of them were able to notice because I was doing the final stretch in a kneeling position. Even if I badly wanted to push the baby all the way out, Betty was warning me to slow down so that I wouldn’t tear. I remembered that with every push outward, the baby retracts — for every three steps forward, anticipate a step back. So I struggled with all my might to pause whenever I can and to breathe as hard as I could. I felt like I didn’t know how to breathe anymore and each exhalation was a long, drawn out gasp. Ate Lornie would check the baby’s heart beat with the doppler every now and then and would tell me that I was almost there. I kept gripping Joel’s arms and he begged me to just keep looking at him. Both he and Betty were trying so hard to contain my breathing.

That whole time felt like forever. Then when the pressure was getting too much for me to bear, I pushed as hard as I could finally (after pausing and restraining every breath), and my baby shot out of my body. I knew she was already going to come out, it was just a matter of when. Thankfully my body knew which push would get all of her out and it’s a feeling I will always remember. Once her head was out, the rest of her body followed. I still remember the feeling of her shoulders and limbs. Ate Lornie caught her behind me then I quickly flipped over and she was placed on my chest. Selah Rose Darwin came into the world at 11:02 am. What felt like an eternity pushing only took one hour, according to the clock.

I looked up and I saw Joel across me crying. Originally we wanted him to be in the pool with me, but as I remember the meditations I had while I was pregnant, I knew the task of fetching my baby was all on me. I saw an island with limestone cliffs and at the shore was a line of white sand underneath a canopy of trees. In my dreams, I waded out into the water to pick her up and bring her back with me. Before that day, I remember gently placing her back into the water and telling her that I’ll be back when it was time.

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Lazy Girl Pregnancy Heroes

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I could give birth anytime now. I’m about to hit 39 weeks and I’m hoping this baby makes its way out around week 40 or week 41. The third trimester didn’t really have me feeling too nauseated but all the aches and pains of pregnancy showed up during this time! Foot pain, back pain, pelvic pain, leg pain! Now that I’m experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions (false labor pains), the desire to get comfy as much as I can amplified tenfold.

It’s the nerves around my legs that feel most of the lightning-like pain and I couldn’t be bothered with leggings or pants during the last trimester. I’m proud to report that I bought zero maternity wear throughout this pregnancy. I’m pretty fortunate that the weight I gained (all 35 pounds!) just concentrated itself on my tummy. Most of my wardrobe struggles involved hiding my stomach (Joel started calling me Violet Beauregard for a while and kept joking about rolling me). The two clothing pieces in this lazy girl uniform were stuff I wore before I got pregnant and adjusted quite nicely to my increasing size.

For the mommies trying to get their money’s worth in pregnancy clothing that can be used postpartum, go for stretchy jersey material. They’re not as polished as other fabrics, but they’re hard workers and are very versatile. I got a lot of compliments from family and friends about how I still remained chic and cute (yay, thank you!), but truth be told, it was only a matter of studying what works for my body and accessorizing well. Hope this little list helps!

1 SANDALS, BIRKENSTOCK
I wear mine almost everyday. I’ve been a fan of Birkenstock since high school and I find that it’s the only sandal that gives amazing arch support. My main exercise is walking and when you have swelling feet, sneakers can be a bit too much. These sandals have been having a fashion resurgence lately (with no signs of dying, ha) and they’re a nice update for us folks who are always decked out in basics.

2 MINI DRESS, OLD NAVY
I love this dress so much! People won’t be able to tell you’re pregnant in the first few months because of how the skirt flares from your upper waist. Then when the belly gets too big to hide, the flared skirt shows it off in a cute way.  I’m pretty proud of my arms so the sleeveless styles are the ones I get.

3 CROPPED DENIM JACKET, ABERCROMBIE & FITCH
To prevent myself from looking frumpy, I used a denim jacket as my primary coverup this year. It gives a structured form to balance all the flowy fabric underneath. And denim goes with everything!

4 BUCKET HAT, UNIQLO
One of the unexpected beauty perks you get from the pregnancy hormones is shiny, thick hair! Unfortunately for me, the new texture confounded me and I gave up all efforts trying to style it (my favorite go-to is dyeing my hair brown but hair dye = bad.) If my hair isn’t in a ponytail or in a long bob, I tuck it under a bucket hat. It makes my hair look neat with a few behaved strands peeking out. Bucket hats are also very light weight and I just keep it stuffed in my bag for my bad hair days.

5 LIPSTICK/LIP GLOSS, NARS/CLINIQUE
Like a true lazy girl, I’m very lazy with my makeup. On days that I feel like trying, I just use BB creme, eyeliner, eyebrow pencil, and lipstick. If I don’t feel like trying, it’s already enough for me to just do my lips. It’s the easiest pick-me-up when I’m feeling yucky. I’m a red lipstick girl and my go-to is Mac Ruby Woo. Mac matte lipsticks can feel overwhelming and cakey for everyday use though, so my lazy alternative is NARS Cruella. It still gives me that cheerful, cheeky red without the heavy feeling. It applies effortlessly and the pencil style allows me to line my lips properly. If I’m not in red, I love a light plum and my choice is ’90s favorite Clinique Black Honey.

6 MINI SKIRT, H&M
I bought this skirt three years ago on a whim and barely wore it. I like my bottoms looking tailored so this skirt sat in the back of my cabinet for the longest time. Now I wear it all the freaking time. It’s stretchy so it grew with me as my waist line broke the 40 inch marker. I pair slouchy sweaters, oversized t-shirts, and chambray button downs over this thing.

7 SNEAKERS, SUPERGA
This Converse girl had to mature somewhat and I bought my first pair of Supergas a few years back. It’s one the chicer sneaker brands out there. It also happens to have good arch support and believe me, it’s all a pregnant lady could ever want when her feet feel like they weigh a hundred pounds each.

8 WIRELESS BRA, DEBENHAMS
You can believe me or not, but before getting pregnant, I was wearing an E Cup bra. I’m a girl that needs support and my attempts to stay at one consistent size during this pregnancy was futile (read: goodbye, my wired lacy bras!). I loaded up on wireless bras and they have been such a blessing. The ones I got from Debenhams have wired bands so I was still able to get some support somewhat. These bras also yank down easily and can be used as nursing bras eventually. Another bra hack: buy extenders if it’s only the bands of your old bras that got too small. They’re insanely cheap in department stores.

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