Month 4 transitions

Some days, it feels like there’s hardly a moment to pause, breathe and even eat (!) with the constant juggling between work and family matters. But I’m thankful that at least I get to see both boys every day — something I could not do in years because of work travel.

Being home more and anticipating the leaps after reading the Wonder Weeks book, I started noticing bigger changes with #2 around 11 weeks on. From how he moves and corrects his hands/feet from one position to the next, to how he no longer bats at items but deliberately tracks and then reaches out to grasp them, to how he focuses on details and delights in surveying the world around him. I’m also thankful that he is growing so well. We followed his cues for eating, waking and sleeping in the first three months, rather than adhering to any formula milk labels or baby sleep schedules. At last week’s visit to get the second dose of 5-in-1 and oral rotavirus, he came in at 7.6 kg and 65 cm tall. This places him at around 75% of his age group … very similar to #1 at the same age, even though big bro was mostly breastfed!

Here’s what little bro has been up to:

  • Still mouths everything. Fabric, teethers, rattles, this bunny that my sis gave him with safe stitched on features… anything that’s easy to grip with his hands really! But his ultimate favourite is still his thumb and wash towel. Because of all that drool and me being away at work, my OCD has kicked in and I’ve created two separate ziplock bags by theme: Each with a set of fabric books, teethers and rattles so that we can alternate them each day while the other set is in the wash. I also finger wipe out his mouth every couple of days, and may introduce his trainer toothbrush soon.
  • Plays for longer. Sometimes he repeatedly does the same things again and again — pulling on his favourite bee/butterfly in the play gym, passing items back and forth between his hands, looking at the bright colours on his wall paper, staring out at the plants in the balcony, splashing with his bath ball. Playtime is more fun now, after weeks of just tummy time and activity bars on his bouncer. Another plus is he is distracted (or focused?) enough when he plays, that I can cut his nails now when he’s awake 👌
  • Curious about other activities. When we read, he now grabs the books to look closer (and of course, the pages usually end up in his mouth). I take him out in the stroller when I’m shopping and for our weekly outdoor walks at Botanic Gardens and nearby parks. He laughs a lot, esp. when we play a simple version of peek-a-boo with his wash towel or swaddle, and when he looks into the mirror. Since we got him the easily adjustable Oribel Cocoon chair, he’s been quite chatty with us during mealtimes. How time flies, we’ll be trying out solids in the next month!
  • Briefly sits up. Last month, he could only prop himself for a few seconds before toppling over. He’s getting more stable now, sitting up tripod style and balancing himself for a few minutes at a time, as well as leaning forward in his stroller, car seat and high chair. We keep encouraging him to sit by reading and playing together side by side; to not be afraid and laught it off if he rolls and falls, and to make sure those seat belts are on — at all times! When he’s on his tummy, we’ll put him under the play gym with hanging mobiles, or dangle objects and make faces above him so he looks up and strengthens his neck muscles even more.
  • Getting stronger. He loves it when we hold him up to stand or feel different textures with his feet (mattress, piano keys, wooden bars, sofa/bed headboard). Good luck trying to take his towel or wet wipe away when he grips them super hard, so now I just let him hold them in his hand and take out another new one during nappy changes and bottle feeding. He raises his hands and kicks his legs out to scoot forward (on his tummy) and backwards (while on his back) in order to move … but no luck yet, and he screams when he’s frustrated 😆 He turns to look for people, esp. when we call each one by name for “good night kisses” before bedtime 😘
  • Sleeps much better (!) Although J is blessed with many different hands during the day, we’ve kept a steady evening routine as parents, and try to spend as much time with both boys on weekends. Routines do help. After bath time with daddy, J then joins all of us at the dining table while we eat, mama takes over after to read, give him his last milk feed and a massage while listening to our bedtime playlist 😴 Lately, he falls asleep by 8pm-ish, may wake briefly at 4/5am for a quick feed, and gets up proper by 8am. As work can at times be always-on, I try to sleep early (by midnight latest) and start my work day super early if needed, so I can get at least 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep. This is bliss compared to those early months, plus, there’s no need to pump every 3 hours like I did while on full EBF with #1.
  • Recognises and responds to familiar sounds. He looks at me and then laughs when either of us sneezes, and I say “bless you!” He perks up when I do action songs with him like Round the Garden, Itsy-Bitsy Spider, This Little Piggy, Daddy Finger, etc. Our little babbler is also experimenting with blowing bubbles, vocalising and recognising words. While the family speaks mostly English, I alternate between English and Chinese, and our wonderful helper speaks and sings in Malay, so we’re having a little bet as to which familiar words J will say first. It’s anyone’s guess really whether it’s “Ma” or “Da” or “Kor” or “Kong” or “Bao” or “Hi” or “Bye” or “Kiss” …. We shall see!

Month 3 milestones and fourth trimester reflections

Baby J turns three months today! The end of this “fourth trimester” also means mama is gradually returning to work. Maternity leave was brief but gave me precious time “off” to rest and bond, and settle the remaining adoption interviews and legal documentation. Yet it is bitter sweet to not be available or at home to focus on and respond to J. I have to learn as before with B, to trust others to care for his needs and be OK with variations in care and routine. It is also extra tiring whenever he regresses during those wonder weeks and growth spurts, as mama is still on night shift duty, and repeated night wakings are always tough! Especially now in my 40s! Old liao.

Meanwhile, little boss is thriving! We look forward to next week’s doctors visit to find out how much he’s grown 🥰. So far, he can:

  • Blow saliva bubbles and drool lots 🤣
  • Wriggle and lift his bum during nappy changes
  • Twist and turn his head side to side, esp. when we play nursery rhyme sound books during tummy time
  • Roll from tummy to back (this happened accidentally, only on one side!)
  • Push off with his feet from my lap / mat / bed
  • Grab and hold objects with both hands, playfully covering his eyes as if he’s doing a peekaboo. Favourite objects include his muslin blankets, dream pillows and bolster, wash towels, milk bottles, soft toys
  • Study and fiddle with his hands for a long time
  • Study and explore faces and textures with hands
  • Stroke his own head and cheek
  • Babble using loud / soft / low / high sounds, tell continuous “stories” after a nap or before bedtime
  • Behave differently with people. He’s always delighted to see mama come home 😝
  • Enjoy interactive songs: 10 Little Indians, Round and Round the Garden and my made-up songs in bad Chinese. I’ve even created a playlist to match his baby books 😉
  • Enjoy movement games: With mama – Pendulum, nibbling, riding the horse. With daddy – Airplane, slide, climbing the mountain
  • Sleep generally well during the day with 3-4 naps for a total 6+ hours. His last evening nap is getting quite short, at times he skips it, so we’re encouraging him to drink more to reduce evening fussiness and have upgraded his teat to a medium flow (3 months +)
  • Stay alert and awake ~1.5 hours between naps, which is when if we’re WFH, we try to interact with him more. Though he does whine to show boredom if we do the same things too often!
  • But… his night sleep is still erratic from 8p to 6a. Sometimes he wakes 1-3x not so much to drink but more to be held. Sometimes he’s great and self soothes (sucking his fingers, clutching his loveys) back to sleep and/or sleeps through the night! We’re tweaking his bedtime routine as he develops, and trying to get a consistent evening wind down. It’s more tricky with #2 as we have seven people (and their noise and stimulation) at home! But as with B, I don’t sleep train by crying it out, so will just observe, adapt and pray for better sleep ahead…. 😴

Letters to my son

It’s been 12 weeks since B graduated to big bro status and is no longer the center of attention at home after 8.5 years, for better or worse….

B, we are blessed by your generous spirit. You readily embraced little J, giving up your room and time to him. You always kiss and cuddle him, want to read and play with him, even if you are often too loud! It tickles me to see you mimic how I talk to and care for him. Someone has been watching 😆

B, you still share your heart with mama though our time alone is limited to occasional lunch dates and car chats. You will always have my ear — be it to complain about compo, rejoice in a hard-won tennis match, share your latest diep.io and Minecraft discovery, “inform” me about virtual play dates, or reluctantly confess what you did in class! 🙄

B, you are also more mindful of your ADHD lately. I see you try very hard to focus better and be less hyper especially as expectations increase. I’m proud that you want to give your best — no excuses, no exceptions. I’m also thankful for teachers who care and give us constructive feedback. We are all in this together, son! And I promise (to try) not to be such a kiasu tiger mom with you. 😉

Though I feel you’ve grown so fast, and the days and nights are different now, you will always be my baby, my firstborn, the child who made me a mom. 😘

Month 2 milestones

J turns 2 months today!

He can:

  • Be comforted by our touch and familiar faces
  • Be quite the social butterfly with gurgles, ooohs, aaahs, ohhhs, awwws, even smiles
  • Actively engage in “conversation” and books, cooing and moving arms and legs in response
  • Suck his fists to soothe himself, at times spending minutes just discovering his fingers
  • Lift his shoulders briefly during tummy time
  • Lift his head briefly while seated (supported)
  • Stare intently, reaching out to bat or kick objects
  • Speaking of kicks, his legs are straightening out. He loves to lift them up in the air when he wakes from naps, during diaper changes and bath time! (I’m sure he’ll love the bigger 🛁 once he can sit up)
  • Nap well during the day and sleep a tad better overnight (4-6 hours longest stretch so far, but it’s still inconsistent)
  • Get quite fussy late evenings! So we’re slowly introducing a bedtime routine with lots of TLC

Month 1 milestones

J turns one month today!

He can:
Lift head briefly at tummy time
Focus on faces and objects within arms length
Bring hands to face, swat away things
Respond to loud noises (哥哥 at home and the MRT construction outside!)
Coo, gurgle, louder cries (from 😴 to 😫)
Move head and rotate body 180
Recognise familiar voices, curious about new ones
Calm down with the 5S’s – swaddling, singing, gentle shushing, swinging (Read Harvey Karp’s approach in “The Happiest Baby On the Block” if you’re curious to know more, it worked for both our boys!)
Sleep for 2-3 hours, but sometimes wants to drink every hour given his low birth weight (mama hopes he will catch up soon…!)

Meanwhile, the cycle continues 😭🥺🍼💩😚😴

Take courage

This Mother’s Day, I want to encourage all caregivers that “God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Behind those happy moments we post on social media, are the hours and hours of blood, sweat and tears, the tiredness, guilt, disappointment, anxiety, bitterness and hurt. But let’s take courage, and know that we are not alone.  Take the time (not just today, but it’s a start!) to anchor our faith deep in God. The Holy Spirit will fuel us up — let’s not run on fumes!

Slow down, take time
Breathe in He said
He’d reveal what’s to come
The thoughts in His mind
Always higher than mine
He’ll reveal all to come

Take courage my heart
Stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting
He’s in the waiting
Hold onto your hope
As your triumph unfolds
He’s never failing
He’s never failing

Sing praise my soul
Find strength in joy
Let His Words lead you on
Do not forget His great faithfulness
He’ll finish all He’s begun

And You who hold the stars
Who call them each by name
Will surely keep Your promise to me
That I will rise in Your victory!

Lyrics from Take Courage. Published by Bethel Music, written by Kristen DiMarco, Jeremy Riddle and Joel Taylor.

Praying over Psalm 139 as our new journey begins

It’s been almost four years since my last entry, but I’m blogging (a little) again because today, hubby and I committed our intent to adopt a baby!  “For this child, I have prayed and the Lord has granted the desires of my heart.” (1 Samuel 1:27)

We certainly didn’t know it but God has prepared us for this child — through the years of losses, us maturing as parents, and the unique circumstances which led to this adoption opportunity. When we received the call from the social worker, we knew that there was no answer but “YES” even though we are agreeing to accept this child before s/he is actually born, without knowing what the gender is or what state the baby will be in. We walk by faith, and not by sight!

LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!

You made all the delicate, inner parts of the baby’s body and knit him together in his mother’s womb. Thank you for making him so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvellous—how well I know it. You watched him as he was being formed in utter seclusion, as he was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw him before he was born. Every day of his life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

Search us and know our hearts; test us and know our anxious thoughts. Point out anything in us that offends you, and lead us along the path of everlasting life.”

Adapted from Psalms‬ ‭139:1-6, 13-16, 23-24‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Even loss is a new beginning

And so concludes our journey of Trying To Conceive for #2. There was so much I’d hoped to share and dared to dream for the past eight years.  Alas, another natural birth was just not meant to be.

2018 ended with three consecutive failed Frozen Embryo Transfers.  No more two week wait, rounds of egg collections and blood tests, four times daily self-injections on the go, letters from the doctor explaining to airport immigration why this cooler bag I’m carrying around is full of medicine and needles…

Momentos from my IVF days

2016 started with my third (confirmed) miscarriage. The last time, I didn’t tell a soul at the first positive test.  After confirming positive every week for three weeks over the holidays, the dreaded spotting came.  We never made it to the end of the first trimester.

I didn’t expect to feel so anguished at all these losses given my history of secondary infertility.  I thought I was mentally prepared but while my body once again reset, readjusted and stopped sending out “phantom” symptoms, my emotions were in a state of turmoil:

Frustration that this keeps happening to me despite loving kids, wanting a bigger family, and being ready and able to support them.

Guilt that I wanted more after having our (first) son, and the added attention needed with him after he was diagnosed with mild ADHD.

Anger at the specialist for not looking further into why I’ve had recurring pregnancy loss when we approached him years ago.

Resentment that time is not on my side….

After the grief dulled, and I could even broach the subject of babies again with the hubby, we decided to stop trying for our own.  Thankfully life was full between work and caregiving for the older folk as well as being more intentional with our rather hyper kiddo.

For years, we focused on adding a child to our family but from 2018 on, we had a series of divine encounters with adoptive friends and their stories. I hadn’t even known that several pastors in our church had also adopted children as well! After discussing, reading, praying and reflecting on whether fostering and adoption is for us, we completed the mandatory MSF interviews and workshops, and received a favourable Home Study Report in late 2019.

God renewed our hearts and minds throughout this process.  It dawned on us — with all that we have been blessed with, “why not provide a child with a family instead?” So we are now embarking on a new journey.

Create in me a clean, clean heart

Create in me a work of art

Create in me a miracle

Something real, something beautiful

You’re not finished with me yet

You’re not finished with me yet

By Your power I can change, I can change

‘Cause You’re not finished with me yet

– Psalm 103 (adapted) 

Travelling without kids

I’ve been travelling a lot for work this year, with a particularly intense past few months.  The person most interested in my trips is B, who peppers me with questions – besides just “When are you coming back, mama?!” So I decided to transform my work trips to mini-lessons in geography and history.  It’s become such a regular occurrence that B looks forward to these “special projects” with mom on free weekends when I’m home!

We started by reviewing the continents and oceans, and have been covering regions, e.g. North America, Southeast Asia and South Asia depending on where mummy travels to.

We’ve been working through a lovely colouring book country by country, supplementing the maps with library books and internet searches to make it more interesting and interactive.  I too learnt something new as we saw highlights of the India-Pakistan cricket matches, the tough life of elephants in Thailand, the history of junk boats in Vietnam, and so on.

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I also try to get souvenirs for folks back home and sometimes the best things are free too!  For example, B loves activity books at this age, and luckily many hotels have good fun ones they’re usually happy to pass to “your little one waiting back home.”

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B has always loved working with his hands and solving puzzles, so activities like these 3D puzzles or LEGO blocks are also a hit.  It amazes me how he’s able to sit down, and painstakingly put these together (with help as needed) – some times for 1 hour or more!  Now that B reads decently well, he also enjoys discovering information on his own, and likes to cite (sometimes random) facts about popular places and people.

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Did you know?  The Taj Mahal is a World Heritage Site in the city of Agra in north India, built by Emperor Shah Jahan for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died at the age of 39. “That’s too young,” says B!

So if you’re travelling, and wish you could but can’t bring your kids along, try these.  They’ll feel involved, learn about the world, and can perhaps view your trips in a positive way by looking forward to these moments. We know it’s hard to be apart – so check out the video for a little something to cheer you up 🙂

For more, follow Finallymama on Instagram.

How many ways can you play-doh?

Which kid doesn’t love science?  It satisfies their natural curiosity, especially at the age when they don’t stop asking “why” and also devour anything they can read (or be read to). It’s also – simply put, pretty darn cool.  Lately, B has gotten rather obsessed with space.  He’s watched the Magic School Bus Lost In Space episode at least 20 times – I caught him at it again with Netflix on my iPad early this morning when I woke up!  He creates LEGO rockets and launches them on a journey through the planets.  He loves to show the Solar Walk 2 app on our Apple TV to anyone who visits our home. He talks about being an astronaut when he grows up, staying on the ISS (after we read about the historic year in space), travelling to Pluto which he insists IS a planet, a “dwarf planet.”  He’s also been asking to go to a planetarium – but as the observatory at the Science Center isn’t terribly kid-friendly or that exciting (sorry), I told him we’ll try to visit California or Houston one day.

This weekend, we decided to use PLAY-DOH to build a model of the solar system. B was fully engaged for 1.5 hours, even pausing to check out facts on my iPhone like where’s the asteroid belt, which planets have rings, what’s the right comparative size and colour!

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PLAY-DOH has been a staple at our home – and we continue to find creative ways to use it. When B was younger, we’d set tubs out during play dates as it usually kept the toddlers occupied for a while, plus, it’s not that messy and super easy to clean up. When B struggled to write and draw well, his teachers recommended PLAY-DOH to strengthen his fine motor skills in a fun way.  These days, we take it out to support creative play at home with some fun hands-on experiments and imaginative story telling on a range of topics like natural disasters, dinosaurs, and geography.

On that note, if you’re looking for something to do with the kids over the school break, check out PLAY-DOH’s 60th Anniversary Celebration from June 6-12 (12-9p daily) at Waterway Point, Village Square Level 1 (West Wing). There’ll be a variety of birthday activities including the attempt to enter the Singapore Book of Records with the largest cupcake tower, workshops, story telling and photo ops with mascots by Da Little Arts School, among other fringe activities. On top of that, the first 1000 to contribute their cupcake creations will also receive a free Hasbro goodie bag.

For updates, reviews and more, follow Finally Mama on Instagram.