One step forward, two steps back

The past few weeks have been rough as baby fell sick for the first time (which was inevitable) but had a rollercoaster recovery (which challenged us in unique ways as adoptive working parents). Plus, we are not so young anymore in our mid-late 40s!

We had started him at infant care just before CNY break, but he caught a cold a few days later either from his new friends at pre-school or some of the visitors and family at home. Having gone through baby colds before with big bro, I just rolled with it at first, using essential oils and OTC meds, adjusting his diet and naps, as needed. In my mind I thought — that worked fine with #1, who hardly got sick in his first 6 years, it should too for #2!

But unlike his big bro, baby didn’t recover within the week, and his runny nose got progressively worse with prolonged diarrhoea, fever, phlegmy cough, wheezing lungs… He lost his appetite completely, would vomit out his milk and what little he ate, and would wake every 2-4 hours overnight crying, struggling to breathe and arching his back in pain / hunger. It was tough to see him suffer like this — far from his cheerful, robust self 😭 (who had been eating like a champ and sleeping 11-12 hours through the night till this). The doctor confirmed that his little lungs were indeed infected, the pulse oximeter measured low blood oxygen levels, and the sputum test revealed mild mycoplasma pneumonia, essentially a nasty chest cold that could also be a sign of future childhood asthma. She mentioned hospitalisation, but we didn’t want that, so we committed to a 24/7 round the clock schedule of 4-hourly nebulisers, nasal sprays/suction and stronger meds including antibiotics (which will need to be followed by a month’s worth of probiotics to help restore the healthy bacteria in his gut).

Baby’s lungs finally cleared this weekend, leaving just a stubborn cough to deal with. After this tsunami of emotions (worry, guilt, tiredness) and stress (juggling a hyper 9-year old boy and sick 9 month old boy, household matters, keeping up with work), I am able to rest a bit and recover, yet also reflect on some new questions that I’m wrestling with: Should I have sourced breast milk for him, which maybe could provide natural immunity like #1 had? What is #2’s actual medical history? Does it even matter, or is it linked to eczema like some friends have shared? Should he take the flu vaccine to help future infections (but that would take another month)? Do we stop or pause infant care if so? How do I make adjustments to my work schedule to accommodate this? Unlike my time with #1, we both work in jobs that don’t easily lend themselves to part/flexi time, and unfortunately my elderly parents are no longer in the prime of health to mind a very active baby all day.

All of this is happening during Lent, a season often associated with new beginnings. And so I am also reminded to take captive my anxieties, conflicts and distractions, to create space in the midst of life’s responsibilities, to appreciate God’s presence with and intimate knowledge of each one of us. God alone knows if baby J does have a chronic respiratory or health condition, but as adoptive parents, we have embraced him fully into our lives, and all we can do is love and trust and wait, running with endurance the race ahead by “looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

PS – A good outcome from the doc visit is that we got to track his height and weight again. Thankfully chubby baby had built up good reserves (haha) so despite being sick for several weeks, he measured a solid 73.5 cm and 10.2 kg at 8.5 months. Other developmental milestones are also on track. He turns 1 year in June, and will be walking and talking soon!

PPS – Big bro was left to fend for himself during his first term exams (CA1) and March school break. Having little bro around has forced him to be more independent, more accountable (not an easy thing for mama to let him “bear the consequences”) and also more nurturing. I was worried that #1 would feel neglected or jealous, but instead, he truly adores #2 and is more willing to help with the baby than with household chores or homework 😂 — in feeding, diaper changing, soothing, entertaining, even picking up the toys all over the house to be washed out every evening. So grateful to see this side of him emerge! ❤️

Last month at home

J is 7 months today! 👶🏻 🥰

After weeks of 🤤, his two bottom front teeth finally emerged! He’s eating semi solids and baby finger food like a champ 😋. He now combines strings of babble together, seems to understand common words like “妈妈, 抱抱, 公公, 洗手洗口, poo-poo, milk, bath, up.” He’s also super active — flips confidently, crawls in all directions, and even pulls up to stand … leading to a few scares lately! 😳

Above all, I’m blessed that he’s such a 开心果 as a friend affectionally calls him 😊. Though lately I’ve noticed some separation anxiety especially when our time together is limited to an early morning 😘 before I head to work. At bedtime, I still try to leave him drowsy but awake in the cot, but we snuggle just a little bit longer, and I linger in the room so that he knows I’m around…. So far thankfully, he is still able to self soothe and 😴 well overnight🤞.

He starts infant care very soon, and my heart is breaking a bit that we have to do this 😔. But it gives him the full time care needed and me flexibility and support in this season of work and family life 🙏

Happy half birthday!

“All I want for Christmas is you…”

Baby J turned 6 months on Christmas Eve. We are so thankful to finally complete the adoption order and register his new birth certificate earlier this week! We were told this was a fast turnaround time, even though it felt like such a long process. Our thoughts and prayers are with all the other waiting and hopeful adoptive couples on this journey — we feel you, dear friends! ❤️

Other highlights:

  • He’s been loving the explosion of new tastes so far as we introduce solids 3x a day
  • He drinks milk and some water from his sippy cup
  • He comforts himself with an assortment of teethers, towels, his trusty thumbs, and oddly, wet wipes
  • He enjoys his sound books, playing peekaboo, finger songs and balls
  • His babbles are sounding more like speech, and he says a very clear and loud “MAAAAA!” when he’s really needy (hungry or wants to be held 😂 )
  • He rolls both ways, pulls up on his cot sides, scoots backwards … I see an active few months ahead!
  • He’s now 90% in height and weight at 68 cm and 9.05 kg 💪

We love you so much darling J! 💕

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 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 😭🥺🍼💩😚😴

Anticipating the moment (part 2)

Since we said yes, we have been very blessed with getting fortnightly calls from the social worker — a very unusual yet welcome update as the adoptive parents. So far, we learnt more about the family’s background and situation, and are encouraged adoption is still the best course for all. The latest ultrasound results also show that birth mom and baby are doing well, health and weight are tracking normally. Knowing their situation, we also offered to pay for the birth mom’s hospital expenses plus confinement food. It wasn’t required of course, but just something more we wanted to do to thank her, and ensure she takes care of herself post-delivery. But the biggest news we received today was … it’s a boy!

Thankful for friends who reached out to pass on newborn essentials like a cot, stroller, bath tub, swaddles, towels, newborn onesies, mitts and socks. With this adoption case, we had less than a month to prepare, and still face uncertainty about the final outcome. So we will only determine what else is needed to borrow, buy and/or change around at home in the actual first few weeks. It’s hard to contain the excitement but we are trying to be pragmatic (as advised) since adoption cases aren’t 100% confirmed until everything is legally signed. This can take up to a year due to court paperwork and sometimes, the birth family changes their minds…. And also in our case, the baby is not yet born.

I started exploring infant care centers near to home, office and #1’s primary school. This will also help inform my thinking about the transition ahead. Back then, I had only sent #1 for nursery the year he turned 3, but our home situation is a bit different now. I did have doubts, but feel slightly more assured after reading up more and speaking to moms that have done this before. Good infant care can support our little ones and are a Godsend for working moms in sandwiched generation families like ours. Praying for opportunities to visit and meet the staff in person, and that there will be the right place at the right time for #2.

Last but not least, we have also landed on a name for this yet-to-be-son. Hubby and #1 had plenty of wacky ideas, but we all agreed on the one that truly speaks to the little one’s circumstances and is grounded biblically as well. Despite being rejected in the womb, the baby will be received by us (his adoptive parents) straight from the hospital to a loving home, God willing! “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe in Me as well. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:1-2).

Jesus is referencing his coming death, resurrection and eternal life in that passage, yet somehow these words seem relevant to our situation too as we prepare our hearts and home amidst the unique circumstances and uncertainties of this adoption process. Dear baby boy, do not worry, you are precious to God — who holds you close in His hands and has prepared a home for you, both in this world and in the life to come. We look forward to see you soon! Love, Mom.

Anticipating the moment (part 1)

How do you anticipate the birth of a baby that you’re not carrying, but who would eventually be yours?   I’ve decided to journal down my thoughts, prayers and decisions leading up to the moment, when God willing, this baby joins our family.

The moment I heard the news from the case worker, my heart leapt. For hubby and I, the decision was clear. We had been prepared for delays in the adoption process due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and social distancing. But God did the unexpected for us, and in a way that said: “My child, I know you. I see you. I remember you. I hear you.” (Exodus 2:23-25).

So within 24 hours after we received the call, we made the decision to adopt this particular unborn baby. Though so many questions lie ahead, the most important thing to do at this time is pray. With a few who have journeyed with us since the process started, we are covering the health of the baby and birth mom in prayer, for God to guard the hearts of all the individuals involved, for wisdom as we begin to share this news to others, and discernment on the way forward, step by step. “A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9).

I also started looking up what my leave entitlement was at work, and thinking through the eventual communication and timing of any transitions with colleagues and my team at work. I used a friend’s pregnancy books to guide my thoughts as it is quite a different experience to anticipate the birth without actually being pregnant yourself physically — What to Expect when You’re Expecting, Praying for Your Unborn Child, and The Miraculous World of Your Unborn Baby.

Children are born with earthly parents, and this special child will be blessed with a birth mom and a forever mom. It’s hard to wrap our heads around this — no matter how many books, workshops and chats I’ve had! There are so many what-ifs but I claim the peace and purpose knowing that this is a child of God. As I read months ago from a mom speaking to their adopted child, “I may not have given you the gift of life, life gave me the gift of you.” Dear baby-to-come, we are waiting for you! Love, Mom.