Can it be that seven years have passed since the second brain bypass operation and the stroke that accompanied it?
Here are the lessons that I have learned since then.
1. Faith is very important. Faith in God, in myself and in others. Other than my own training as a Psychologist, faith was and is the keeper and sustainer of my life. When the future looks bleak, faith reminds me to hang on just for another day. And faith has not failed me.
2. Opportunities present themselves when one dares to take risks. Since young, I have always been fearful of failure. That has prevented me from taking risks and it perpetuated itself like a vicious cycle.
In 2011 I decided to overcome my fear by embarking on a big project, my happiness project so to speak. I combined two of my loves - sharing and writing and that brought about the birth of Winifred & You: Flourishing Together.
I was filled with terror in the weeks leading up to the launch and the following few months. Putting oneself out there was very hard to do and when I did not get the response that I desired or the statistic showed a super low readership, I was disappointed and doubted myself.
It was truly an exercise of vulnerability; putting myself out there simply because I believe my voice and the messages that I like to share are important.
I persisted. I took it as a lesson in "enjoying failure", a concept that I was reading about. The journey was still hard but it did get better.
Three years on (happy anniversary to me!) the rewards for putting myself out there have been gratifying. I managed to reach out to other Moya Moya Disease patients and offer my help and support, which was my primary goal.
I have also been approached to be a Wizpert. Even though I haven't had much bandwith to update my blog regularly, I still receive emails from readers from time to time. Recently, theasianparent.com offered me the wonderful opportunity to sit on their panel of experts. I feel immense gratitude at the opportunties given to me.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained is absolutely true.
3. Nourish your tribe because they are the people whom you can draw support, love and help from no matter where you are and what life circumstances you may be in. I am thankful that I have always been dilligent in keeping in touch with my friends. In return, I have received so much more.
4. The attitude of gratitude does work if you bother to practice it. The power of positivity should not be undermined. With God's grace I managed to keep my spirit up and I was pretty positive throughout the entire ordeal. I believe that was one reason why I had the presence and clarity of mind to make the necessary decisions even though they were difficult.
5. Man proposes and God disposes and life is full of surprises. We planned and tried for a baby for couple of years and nothing happened. When it did, we were consumed by a myriad of feelings - joy, anxiety, fear of the unknown, hope. On hindsight, we acknowledge that man can only proposes and it is up to God to turn it into reality at the right time and place. This theme has repeated so many times in my life that I have no choice but to be convinced of it.
6. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Truth truth truth! Prior to my brain surgeries, what I feared most was getting a massive stroke. The thing is I did get a stroke (multiple strokes actually) and it was massive enough that it affected my cognitive functioning.
Yes, the rehabilitation was painful and till date, I am still impaired in my right peripheral visual field. It's hard for me to do basic math and calculations and I can't retain new facts very well.
The challenge that I face is that I look perfectly normal outwardly and yet whenever I find myself in situation where I am unable to function, I feel handicapped.
I never expected myself to be a stroke survivor (no one does i guess) but I am proud and thankful of how far I have come.
7. One needs to practice kindness and self-compassion. This is so important because life is full of challenges and we can't always be perfect. When we fail, it is important to learn to forgive and be kind. There are also many situations where we feel helpless as our loved ones go through suffering. In such moments, the only thing that we can do is to extend compassion for the frightened child within us.
8. The world is so so Big! In the 5 plus years where we made United States of America our home, we have travelled extensively, visited so many different places and experienced so much. Our life was enriched by what money cannot buy. It inspires us to pursue our love for travelling and to share it with our daughter.
Happy 7th anniversary to me! All glory and praise be to God.
P.S. As I write this post, my thought turns towards someone who is going through what I did 7 years ago. I hope this piece brings you hope and I wish you all the very best.
To all Moya Moya and/or stroke patients everywhere, you are not alone.
P.S.S. To all my faithful readers, thank you so so much for your support. I hope to get back to writing soon and I'll certainly appreciate your continual support. Come, let's flourish together!
What I have learned:
My dearest darling Olivia,
You are gonna be ONE tomorrow. What a monumental milestone for you and for us.
This has been such a momentous year filled with a myriad of feelings; from being overwhelmed to overjoyed and everything in between.
From the time mama first held you, I have fallen in love with you. Each day as I get to know you better, my love and admiration for you increases.
Mama learns so much from you; how you work really hard at learning new skills and hitting developmental milestones; how sweet and sensitive you are to the people around you; how you always manage to charm and capture the heart of those who meet you for the first time, how resilient and adaptable you are and most of all how curious, open and calm you are by nature.
When you smile or laugh, it is simply infectious. You truly laugh from your heart.
When you manage to learn a new skill, we explode with joy upon seeing that look of accomplishment on your face.
When you struggle and work so hard at perfecting the skill, it reminds mama to also be patient and keep trying and be better as well.
Who would have thought that a baby who is not even one is capable of being such a great teacher?
I thank God for the gift of you every single day. As you turn in for the night, I will spend some time simply looking at your beautiful face sleeping. In the silent of my heart, I whisper a big thank you to God for bring you into our lives. I feel extremely honoured and humbled that God has chosen me to be your mama.
I like to think that I must have done something good in my life that God brought you into my life. Upon deeper reflection, I realise that I was wrong. I haven't done anything to deserve you. God decides that I need you in my life so that I can continue to grow as a person and in particular as your mother.
To be called your mother is my greatest privillege, my darling baby.
To witness the dramatic changes from the teeny baby that you were at birth to the active, joyful and curious baby that you are today is nothing short of amazing.
Yet, there were times when mama felt overwhelmed and failed you. Mama has been impatient and careless and that led you to suffer quite unnecessarily. For that, I am truly sorry.
Still, when you look at me with such deep love I firmly believe that God has chosen you to show me what unconditional love is like.
Thank you baby for loving me so, despite my imperfection and shortcomings.
What a marvelous year this has been. The fond memories from your first year will be forever etched in my heart.
So my darling Olivia, mama's wish for you is that you will never lose your sense of identity as the beloved child of God. Continue to have the courage to explore the world and discover who you are and who you want to be. You have shown yourself to be such a strong fighter and I know there is so much more in you that are still hidden, waiting to be nurtured and honed.
Know that mama and papa will always be here for you through every season of your life. We will walk with you to the highest height and the lowest pit, praying that we will have the wisdom, patience and grace to guide you along the way.
Happy first birthday my sweetest child. May God continue to bless you with good health, wisdom and grace. You are so so loved. Never ever forget how important and precious you are to us.
- Letter to Olivia: Your birth story
- Letter to Olivia: The first three months
- Letter to Olivia: The glorious months
Before 2013 ended, quite by chance we ended up doing a last minute family photo shoot with Kevin's Fotografik Experience. It was casual and fun.
I decided to use this particular shot to wish all of you a very happy and blessed New Year 2014! It captures our baby's spunky and joyful personality and just as it brings a big smile to me, I hope it does to you too.
From our little family to the bigger family of Winifred & You, may this New Year bring great promises, love and opportunities to flourish.
The past year was all about adjusting to being a mother. I didn't have much energy left to do anything else.
This year, I aim to spend a little bit more time doing things that I enjoy; in particular to share my experience, reflections and knowledge through blogging.
So, thank you so much for your ongoing support despite the lack of posts and updates. In due time, I hope to relaunch this website and furnish it with relevant, thoughtful and useful content especially in living a purposeful, positive and flourishing life. I look forward to your fervent support.
Make each day count! Have a blessed year ahead.
My dearest baby,
Another three months have passed with you in our lives. What amazing and joyful time it has been for us. No wonder some people dub the period between four to six month as the golden period. How true. I truly enjoy this stage and cherish every moment.
This is the time when you started to become more aware of your surrounding, you coo, chuckle, squeal and laugh in delight. We try hard every day to amuse you just to get a response out of you. And when you do, mama's heart explodes with indescribable joy and all's right with the world.
Recently, mama did your very first photo book. As I was looking through your newborn pictures, it brought back many fond memories. Noting how much you have grown and changed over the last few months reminds me to savour every moment. From sleeping much of the time, you have morphed into a relatively active baby who is so full of curiosity and life.
You give us your toothless smile (which is oh so cute) in the morning when you wake up. You chuckle and laugh when you're in the mood. You love it when we have visitors and you like to be part of the group. When we sing, dance and perform, you show your delight.
Physically, you have become much stronger. Kicking your legs seem to be one of your favourite activities. Your kick can be quite strong and powerful for someone small like you. You've learned to play with the mobiles on the activity mat and rocker. You no longer just sat there and watch.
Mama is very glad to witness the changes before my eyes each day. Sometimes, it is so subtle and happens so fast that I can't be sure if it's a new skill that you're showing me. That's how rapid your development is.
For a period of time, you enjoy smacking your lip, clicking your tongue and winking. Since birth, you're not one who needs the pacifier to comfort yourself. You'd much rather suck your own fingers. Sometimes you try to stuff your entire fist into your mouth. It's quite cute to watch. These are some of the things that you've learned in your fourth month.
Thanks to you, mama celebrated her first mother's day in May. Becoming a mum is a dream come true. Having a baby as sweet as you is beyond my wildest dream. Mama is so thankful for the gift of motherhood and I just love being your mama.
Just to illustrate how sweet and kind you are, you slept through the night for the very first time a week before Mother's Day! How wondeful to clock in extra sleep.
Within the same month, there were two other highlights.
First, you received your US passport. Yay! Due to some mistake, the application for your passport was delayed and we were concerned that it may not be ready in time for your first trip to Singapore in June.
Secondly, we had another photoshoot for you and you were such a pro. From the start to the end, it took us only 40 minutes with four changes of clothes. The photographer was truly impressed with how easy you were.
Oh yes, in early June you started to laugh and chuckle. It brings such delight to us that we try hard to make you laugh whenever possible. We are not always successful. Yet it did not deter us from trying. Once, you burst out laughing quite randomly. All of us in the room couldn't help but laughed along with you! Your laughter is super infectious, my darling.
Few weeks before our trip to Singapore, mama started to feel anxiety rising. Mama was worried about hundred and one things. Will you be okay on the flight? How are you going to respond to jet lag? How is the trip gonna mess up your schedule? Et cetera, et cetera.
The anxiety was not all bad as it prompted us to prepare ourselves. I started to carry you in the sling more to practise as I foresee that's how I'll be bringing you around. The bonus is it was a great way to get you to nap.
The day arrived and you took your first long haul flight at the grand age of 21 weeks on June 14.
What we noticed was that you seemed to be aware that it was not an ordinary day. You were alert and excited. From the moment we took the cab till we reach the airport, all through the check in and security you were awake. And you didn't fuss! It was only when we were about to board that you started to fuss because you were hungry.
Because you were so hungry and tired, you dozed off after a quick feed just before the take off. Consequently, we didn't manage to get you to suck on the pacifier to equalize. Shortly after, you realised something was not right and woke up crying when we were up in the air. Thankfully you took to the pacifier and that calmed you down. To our surprise, you slept for five to six hours straight after that.
You are a great traveler and we are so very proud of you, baby.
Here's an important lesson that I learn. Whenever I feel worried and anxious about you, I remind myself that I need to assume strength in you rather than weakness. That you can cope and we will be there for you to help soothe and comfort you. The bottomline is you will be fine. Indeed, many of my concerns were unfounded because you're a calm, open and adaptable baby.
When we reached Singapore, you seemed to realise that it is a new place and I saw that curiosity in your eyes again. We made it! Singapore is your home too and there are so many people who have been waiting to meet you in person.
I can see that you enjoyed your time in Singapore tremendously where life was so much more exciting with lots of new faces and people giving you tonnes of attention. We've always known that you're a social baby and truly you're in your element around people. Always generous with your smile, you endear yourself to those who meet you for the first time quite easily.
On hindsight, your first trip to Singapore was most eventful. In the first week that we were there, it was unfortunate that we experienced a terrible haze and the PSI readings hit a record high of more than 400, which is hazardous for health. Thankfully, the situation improved subsequently.
Second incident was we got stuck in the elevator for several minutes at a mall! Of course, you were none the wiser as your aunt and I kept as calm as we could so as not to alarm you. That same day, you showed us how adaptable you were. As we were out, we couldn't find a baby room in time and your milk turned cold. You usually like it warm but in time of need, you adapt! Well done, sweetheart.
The third incident was a huge one. The day we arrived back in the Bay Area was the day when Asiana Crash occurred. We received the news from the captain that the airport was close about 45 minutes before landing. Consequently, we had to reroute and ended up waiting in Sacramento airport for several hours.
Even the adults were getting restless being stuck in a plane, not knowing whether we could get home that day. Also we were running out of milk for you! Thank God, the airport opened and we managed to get home within the day. It was the longest flight ever for us and you were such a trooper that you still managed to smile for mama at the end of the long ordeal.
Couple of weeks before our trip to Singapore, you started to spit up more regularly. This worsened while you were in Singapore and you threw up almost every other day. Your feeding pattern changed as well. You fed poorly and mama couldn't help but be concerned. Still you remained cheerful and unperturbed even when you were throwing up. I supposed it's true that this is more of a laundry problem rather than a real problem. It has improved since we are back but you still spit up several times a week. Hope this won't last too long.
The day after we were back, we noticed that you managed to hold your head up in the car seat. Hurray! You've achieved good head control. Another developmental milestone that we thought you hit was turning from front to back, while you were in Singapore. You managed to do it three times in a row.
However since then, you have not been able to repeat it totally. Papa and mama notice that you try really hard during tummy time to turn and it clearly frustrates you when you can't.
We want to commend you for trying hard, my darling. This is an important trait that we like to nurture in you. There is no hurry for you to turn, crawl or walk. We don't need you to hit the milestones right on target especially since you were born earlier. Take your time and continue to work hard and you will get there eventually.
At your sixth month check up, your doctor was really pleased with your growth and overall health. We are very very pleased too in addition to feeling extremely grateful. You are now a robust, healthy and happy baby, very different from the tiny baby we held in our arms more than six month ago. You look different too. It always warm my heart when I see the same facial expressions that you've had since birth.
My sweet baby, you are such a gift to us. When I look at you, I couldn't help but notice how beautiful and wonderful you are. Even at this young age, you exude so much love. You demonstrate your love openly and these are the moments that I live for.
One incident that I don't want to forget. One particular afternoon, you were hanging out with papa while mama took a nap. When I picked you up after the nap, you looked and smiled at me with so much love as though you're saying, "I've missed you mama and I am so glad to see you."
Yes, motherhood is difficult, physically exhausting and monotonous but when you smile or laugh, you make it worthwhile. You also give me the burst of energy to keep going and do better. There is still so much that mama needs to learn on this journey and I thank you for being so patient with me. Mama prays that she too will be patient with herself and persevere to give her all to you.
Mama also learn to appreciate the moment with you. There were many times when you laughed so heartily that I wanted to take my phone and record it for memory's sake. Interestingly, you were not quite willing to repeat your performances. I learn that I should just enjoy that moment with you instead of capturing it.
Baby girl, each day we thank God for choosing us to be your parents. What a great privilege this is. We look forward to more of you, knowing that you will continue to surprise and amaze us. You are our sunshine and you make the world more wonderful simply by being in it. Continue to grow well and be healthy dear baby.
You are beautiful and stunning just the way you are. Papa and mama love you dearly.
By all accounts, this orchid is ordinary.
Yet, there is a beautiful story behind it.
This pot of orchid was given to me when I gave birth to my daughter. Not one with green finger, the plant died a few weeks after it has blossomed. Or so I thought.
We left the pot at the balcony, intending to clear it when we have the time.
Unknowingly, my nanny has been watering this pot from time to time.
Her effort bore fruit because few days ago she spotted several buds on the branch. Excitedly, she moved the plant indoor. It has been such a pleasure to watch each bud blossoms the past week.
I am impressed by two things and these are lessons that I want to remember and share with you today.
Firstly, the resilient of the flower. While it's not exactly a miracle, I truly did not expect it to bloom again. Especially when it was completely neglected when we were away for about three weeks. Yet, it survived. Correction. It did not only survive but it blooms.
Secondly, my nanny's persistence. She kept on watering the plant for more than five months even when there was no sign to suggest that it will bloom. That kind of endurance is admirable. All credit goes to her that we get to enjoy this gorgeous orchid today.
Perhaps you're in a situation where you feel that your effort is futile. My wish is that you will find hope in this simple story. Sometimes, we just need to do our part consistently. And when we least expect it we receive our sweet rewards. Don't give up.
"Parenting is a kaleidoscope; the picture shifts with each turn of your wrist, with each change of light. What you see depends on how long you linger on a given moment."
The above statements are excellent starting point for my post today. The more I reflect on them, the more convicted I am of its truth in my own parenting journey.
Before I became a mother, the picture that I focused on filled me with self-doubt, fear and anxiety. Even though it has always been a dream of mine to become a mother, I struggled with a deep ambivalence about it for a long time. That's why I thought I might freak out if I found myself to be pregnant. To my surprise, I didn't.
What I had zoomed in was what what I needed to give up and deny myself of when I become a mum. I've heard that parenthood is all about death. Death of the person I used to be, the carefree spirit who had no one else depending on her. It's also the death of leisure time and spontaneity. In short, parenthood means making pretty major sacrifices. Worst of all, it's a commitment that lasts till death do us part. Wow, that's a tall order and I wasn't sure if I was up to it.
Another contributing factor to my fear is the fact that I have always been rather awkward around young children. The background for this is that I am the youngest in both my immediate and extended family. Growing up, I didn't have the chance to interact with other children and I have always been a serious child. I have no idea how to interact with young kids.
On the other hand, I love babies because they are so fascinating and adorable. I can spend a long time watching them and because they don't really need me to interact with them actively, we can hang out silently. Until they cry of course and that's the time to return the babies to their parents.
Yet, there is a voice that tells me in my heart that I am called to married and family life since I was in my early twenties. It took me a while to find my husband and subsequently our journey towards parenthood was filled with challenges after challenges that inevitably I wondered if this vocation would become a reality.
In spite of my uncertainty and ambivalence, I started preparing for motherhood long before I was pregnant. When I turned 30, I started reading parenting and child development books. I even blogged about them even though I was hardly qualified.
Whatever I lacked in natural ability, I hope I could make it up by equipping myself with knowledge. I also searched for a suitable OBGYN who is familiar with Moyamoya Disease and went for various vaccinations and ate healthily in order to prepare my body. I wanted to be ready when the baby decided to pop in. At the same time, I surrounded myself with my friends' children and practised interacting with them.
On hindsight, even though I wasn't absolutely sure if motherhood was for me, it didn't deter me from doing what was necessary to prepare myself for that eventuality. I realised much later that I really did want to be a mother and when our efforts failed so many times, my heart broke.
What a journey this has been and here I am celebrating my very first Mother's Day this weekend. I feel truly honoured that God decided to entrust us with the massive responsibility of raising Olivia. I am also very grateful that He knows best and gave us our daughter when we are ready. The wait for her was definitely worth it.
Motherhood has positively transformed and enlarged my heart. I didn't even know I was capable of loving someone with such a visceral feeling that it continues to astonish me. I also discover that I am willing to transcend previous boundaries and move out of my comfort zone because my daughter needs me to. Whatever fear I had previously about feeling resentful of the burden of my responsibility was unfounded. The truth is when you love, the burden stops being one; rather it becomes a privilege that you cherish.
I finally understood what people meant when they say parenthood is a crucible that not only changes you but also shows you what you're truly capable of handling. It is a phoenix process for sure.
This is not to say that motherhood has been a bed of roses for me. Hardly and I do not expect it to be. It requires deep commitment and the willingness to keep going regardless of the circumstance.
My lifestyle has changed significantly and it's much less exciting than it used to be. One day blends into the next and everyday is much of the same as I chug along. Still, I know this is what I have signed up for when i wanted to become a mother.
What I couldn't see before becoming a mum is the unqualified love and absolute trust that my daughter has in me. Her love is unconditional and she doesn't care if I was experienced or not in caring her. All she cares about is that I respond to her. It touches me when I am able to comfort and put her at ease. That I have the power to do so still blows my mind.
The great thing about parenting that I have discovered is that every now and then, I get a random burst of joy that leaves me breathless. For instance, when I look at my daughter sleeping peacefully. Or when she holds my hand and looks at me with such love and trust. No words are adequate to describe those moments and they make every sacrifice and death worthwhile.
Now that I am a mother, I wish to tell my younger self that the ambivalence that she had was important. As Harriet Lerner says in her book, The Mother Dance, to be a mother is to have profoundly ambivalent feelings. The decision to have children should not be taken haphazardly. Yet, this decision ultimately involves a great leap of faith as there are so many unknown variables that one cannot control.
Parenthood is tedious yet unpredictable, demanding yet ever changing. It is a never-ending journey down the river of love and worry. The most important thing that I have learned is that I need to embrace every part of the experience, the good and the bad in equal measure keeping in mind that this too shall pass.
Happy Mother's Day to all mothers as well as those who are in motherly role. Thank you for your important contribution and sacrifice.
- Letter to Olivia: The birth story
- Letter to Olivia: First three months
- Let's talk about the "B" word
- The Power of Gratitude
- What I have learned from my pregnancy
- What I have learned about happiness
I notice that when you become a mother, there are two questions that people are likely to ask you:
1. Are you breastfeeding?
2. Is your baby sleeping well at night?
In today's post, I am going to tackle the first question and share my breastfeeding experience with you.
This is certainly not a topic that is easy to discuss given that I don't even feel comfortable talking about it with my close friends. What is my motivation in taking this bold step?
I feel that I need to speak up and raise the awareness that there are mothers who are not able to breastfeed their babies totally despite their best intentions and utmost efforts. Support should be given to them, not harsh judgments or patronizing words.
One day, I had a meltdown of sort at the hospital and the pediatrician on duty shared with me that she too couldn't breastfeed her child. That comforted and helped me feel less alienated. I am grateful to her and hope to pay it forward. If you're a mom who desires to breastfeed your baby but can't, I write this with you in mind, dear sister.
My position on breastfeeding
To begin I like to state my position upfront that I am pro-breastfeeding. I believe that "breast is best". Thus, I hoped with all my might that I could give my daughter "the best". At the same time, I do not believe that "formula is poison" either since I grew up perfectly fine and I was a formula-fed baby.
I believe that breastfeeding is not for everyone as I have friends who faced great challenges in breastfeeding their babies and they ended up beating themselves up and suffered greatly. Given my background as a mental health professional, I know that maternal mental health is very important because a stressed out and depressed mother is not good for the baby.
Consequently, I told myself when I was pregnant that I would give my best shot and should I fail, I would accept it gracefully.
Despite having this firm belief, the truth is I beat myself up, felt like a failure, inadequate and ashamed that I couldn't produce sufficient milk for my daughter. More so since she is a preterm baby and would strongly benefit from breast milk. It seems as though I am hardwired to feel this way because I remember feeling super frustrated with myself for beating myself up like that.
The circumstance surrounding the birth of my baby was far from ideal. First, she was born at 32 weeks and I didn't even get to see her when she was born, much less to place her at my breast for her to nurse. Also, she was not able to suckle then. I started pumping several hours after her birth and followed a schedule to the best of my ability. Unfortunately, my own health crises interrupted the schedule as my blood pressure skyrocketted two days after her birth.
Instead of resting and focusing on recovering from the surgery, I was also under tremendous amount of stress and shock as I confronted the reality and implication of my daughter's prematurity. We didn't have much support as none of our family members could come and help out. This resulted in me not eating and resting very well.
After I was discharged from the hospital, we shuttled back and forth from the hospital and home and I could barely keep up with the pumping schedule. Exhausted, I did my best. I tried different types of schedule as well starting with the three-hourly pumping, cluster and power pumping. Nothing worked. When Olivia was ready to suckle, I placed her at the breast but because of the low volume, she got frustrated quickly.
Enter the galactogues
As a guideline for milk production, I was told that milk usually comes in after five days and that after seven days, the estimated amount is about 300 to 500 ml. In my case, after eight days, I only produced a grand total of 2.6 ml (after 7-8 sessions of 20 minute pumping).
Using a syringe, I collected my milk drop by drop. I started with a 1-ml syringe and went up to 5 ml and eventually used the bottle. I couldn't use the bottle initially because the amount was so meager that I felt super demoralised and depressed.
Also, I was using the hospital-grade pump that I rented and I hand-expressed after I have pumped. Each pumping session lasted me about 40 minutes when I was done. One lactation consultant actually told me that I worked too hard when she found out.
I started taking galactogues after a week to help increase the supply. Every morning I had oatmeal for breakfast, drank copious amount of water and lactation tea. The nanny made lots of nutritious soups that have worked for many mothers she knew. She asked me each day if I had more milk and I had to disappoint her each time.
I tried different brands of lactation tea that have received wonderful testimonies of their effectiveness. I was hopeful. After finishing three to four packets of tea, my milk supply did increase but the amount was barely sufficient. The volume increased to 20-30 ml for the entire day. I also finished two bottles of fenugreek and started on several courses of domperidone. The latter did help to increase the supply and I am still taking them today.
I don't know of anyone who won't be demoralised when she looked at the amount produced on the left picture. I couldn't help but cried. It's even worse when I accidentally spilled whatever little amount that I had collected. I had several incidents of meltdown that were related to breast milk and my poor husband became the punching bag. It was ugly.
Still I persist. Instead of pumping 7-8 times, I reduced the number to 6 because I noticed that regardless of the frequency that I pumped, the amount was comparable. I knew then that my problem has a primary cause as it has not responded well to any of the interventions. Still I persist.
On day 90, I was getting more milk (relative to what I had in the beginning) but they were still in the 60-80 ml range in total. That's the amount that I feed my baby everyday, which is about 10 percent of her total feed right now. Hence, I always maintain that my breast milk is the supplement to the formula.
I remember vividly the look of shock and horror on my OBGYN's face when i told her that I only managed to produce 1 ounce of milk after 6 weeks. She breathed easier when I said Olivia is on formula as well.
I am grateful that my daughter has formula to drink. Had she depended on my breast milk alone, she would have starved to death. Some may think that I set myself up for failure when I started Olivia on formula. But what other choices do I have when I only had drops of milk in the first few weeks?
I am still pumping today and it's day 103. Looking back, I am glad that I gave breastfeeding a shot and lasted this long. I have set a date to return the breast pump and I may or may not continue with a hand pump or hand expression. I don't know yet. I am just gonna take one day at a time for now.
This entire episode taught me important lessons. As a high achiever, I always believe in working hard to achieve my goals. I worked hard in this case, yet the outcome is not within my control. It was most humbling. Related to this lesson is that I should not always focus on the quantity. Most lactation consultants have reminded me that whatever amount that I can give to my daughter is better than none.
I am also raised to believe in efficiency. What I was doing was completely inefficient. Imagine spending 25 minutes to produce 10-15 ml of milk each time. That's only half an ounce. I struggled with this a lot and wondered if I could have used my time better. I decided that it was not a waste of time. Here's an encouraging quote from a book I read:
"It is not about how much milk you were able to produce or how long you were able to breastfeed. It is about the commitment you made to give your baby the best start in life and the tremendous effort you put into pursuing that goal."
Because of the indoctrination that breast is best, I lose the perspective that motherhood is much bigger than feeding your child breast milk. While it is true that the bonding derived from breastfeeding is incomparable, I can still bond with my child in many ways. What is of greater importance is that I have the capacity in my heart and head to provide, care, love and respect her. To do that effectively I need to take care of my own wellbeing. No one can do that for me.
I only found out about lactation failure and the condition called Hypoplasia or Insufficient Glandular Tissue recently, which I suspect is what I have. Truthfully, it gave me much relief. It's weird that none of the lactation consultants mentioned this to me. Perhaps they didn't want it to be a discouragement to new mothers.
Given that this condition affects only a minority of women, there is a lack of awareness and knowledge about it. I presume mothers who have successfully breastfed their babies would not be aware of this condition. To mothers who believe that all women can breastfeed, I feel the need to assert that it is not true. When this is the only truth that one preaches, it isolates those who have been afflicted.
Finally, I learn to appreciate my body and give thanks for it. Initially, I felt like my boobs have failed me. But on hindsight, I realise that my breasts and entire body have supported me through this ordeal and I need be grateful. I have subjected my breasts to all sorts of painful manipulation. Also, they did provide some valuable milk for me to offer to my daughter. I am reminded to appreciate and take better care of my body.
In part two of this post, I like to share some of the coping strategies that have helped me. Please do stay tuned for it.
Please share this post with anyone you know who may be struggling with this issue. Sharing is caring. Spread kindness and understanding, not judgment and criticism to all mothers, whether they breastfeed or not.
- The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk
- Is the medical community failing breastfeeding moms?
- Lactation Failure: It happened to me
- The Breastfeeding Conspiracy
- Maternal Mental Health: Figuring out if Breastfeeding works for you and Your Baby.
- Hypoplasia/Insufficient Glandular Tissue
- Stand up for Mothers who Can't or Don't Breastfeed
You have been in our lives for more than three months now. What a privilege it is to watch you grow and be a critical part of that process.
Many things have happened in the short period of time that it feels as though you have been in our lives for much longer than that. Let mama relive some of the important highlights with you.
First month: For one so small you seem so strong
This line from the song, You'll be in my heart describes how I feel about you, my darling. Tipping at 1.55 KG at birth, you deceptively looked fragile. As days went by, papa and mama witnessed what a strong baby you are. When I looked back at your progress in the five weeks that you were at the hospital, we are extremely proud and impressed.
Within the first week of your birth, you were "downgraded" from NICU to Special Care Nursery because you did so well! Hurray! Each week, you hit some kind of a milestone and before we know it, you were ready for home. The time in the hospital passed by quicker than expected. While it was a very trying time for papa and mama, there were many moments of joy as we watched you overcome one hurdle after another.
Because of your prematurity you weren't able to nurse in the beginning. Thus, the highlight for mama each day was the time we spent together during skin-to-skin. Holding you close to my body was such a lovely experience and I looked forward to it everyday. I could tell that you enjoyed it too and that touched me deeply.
When you were ready to suckle, I experienced the indescribable joy of having you at my breast even though it was not spontaneous and we struggled a little at first. Still, what a sweet moment that was for me.
Unfortunately, mama's milk supply was very far from adequate for you. It was so little that you seemed frustrated when you nursed. You were already on formula and despite mama's untiring effort in establishing the supply, we had to let you continue with formula and my breastmilk became your supplement.
We celebrated our first Lunar New Year in the hospital with papa giving a feed on the bottle. Mama couldn't do it because I was sick mostly due to sheer exhaustion, stress and poor rest. Subsequently, I was asked to stay at home and that was so hard and I missed you so much. That was one of the important lessons in motherhood that I learned: that I need to take care of myself first before I could care for you.
Mama knew you were in great hands though as the nurses in the nursery adored you and couldn't wait to hold and cuddle you. Darling, you are irresistible!
Second month: Transition to home
The real deal happened this month and that was having you home with us 24/7. We were simultaneously delighted and apprehensive to have you home. Can we really do it on our own?
Your parents, especially papa, are great planners but for your homecoming we found ourselves scrambling to get things ready. It was a mad rush to say the least. We learned the important lesson of letting go of the perfect and just do what was sensible given the constraints.
On the eve of your discharge, the hospital offered us the option of rooming in with you. That was momentous as it was the first of the countless nights of us together. We officially said goodbye to sleeping through the night. What an experience it was as we learned that you were a noisy sleeper as most preemies are. Even in your sleep, you made noises, gurgled and chuckled. Very intriguing and confusing too! Needless to say we didn't have much sleep that night.
We were warned that some babies have difficulties transitioning from hospital to home. Thank God, you were a trooper and did swimmingly well. You seem to love being home with us and that is such a relief.
Thence, our steep learning curve as parents began as we learn on the job. You are a dream baby, ever so patient with us as we fumble along the way. Your trust and patience in us help us to be patient and trust ourselves too. Thank you, sweetheart. Within a short period of time, you settled in and began to thrive.
Right from the start I knew that there will be numerous moments where I will feel helpless and vulnerable as a mom. Here is one story that illustrates this.
To rule out Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), we needed to have your eyes checked. Eye check is pretty easy for adults as we can follow instructions but for a baby, that's a different story. Consequently, the doctor needed to put eye speculums to keep your eyes opened so that they could be examined.
As expected, you cried your heart out. It was so heartbreaking that mama ended up crying with you. Instinctively, I wanted to take the "bad things" away from you. Yet at the same time I knew it was necessary and you had to go through it yourself. All I could do was to assure you of my presence and support you. Thankfully, you recovered quick enough. Can't say the same for your mama who continued to tear each time she saw your swollen eyes.
I am aware that similar situations will repeat itself a million times over and I need to brace myself for them. I must dare to walk into the arena with you; willilng to be vulnerable, to support and provide a role model for you. Baby, we mustn't resist pain, suffering and negative emotions. They are part of life and we are fully capable in handling them.
That was a tangible lesson for me and I knew I didn't fare well. That's okay. I am sure there will be other opportunities for me to strengthen this particular muscle. You and I are on this lifetime journey together.
Third month: You are my sunshine
My darling baby, you light up the room with your smile. You are a people baby and enjoy being surrounded by people. Even when you're tired and sleepy, you would try to keep awake to listen in to our conversations. What a polite baby you are.
Papa and mama are so grateful that we have endless suppy of you. The joy you have brought us is truly beyond words. Motherhood is surprising because I never thought I would become a mom that gushes over her baby! I have also become someone whose mood is dependent on her baby's. When you're happy, so am I. When you suffer, I suffer too.
Since birth, we noticed that you have many interesting facial expressions that increase your cuteness quotient. I remember standing by your isolette and watching you in the early days and laughed to myself.
You have your dark side as well and boy are you feisty when you don't get what you want. For now, that's milk and being left on your own to sleep. You are verbal about your displeasure and it shows on your little face. The good thing is you return to your sweet self once your goal is achieved.
Speaking of that, we can tell that you are very focussed, goal-directed and persistent. These are all very good characteristics, dear baby. We have started to do tummy time with you. Initially, you hated it and would cry. By and by you get better and even find a way to soothe yourself! It's pretty remarkable and that makes me believe that we human being appreciate challenges. Once we surmount a challenge, it gives us a great sense of achievement and satisfaction.
You have clear preferences as well. For instance, you like your milk warm and it has to be just right, not too hot or cold. You like to have at least one hand out when we swaddle you. Once in a while, you even manage to get both of your hands out from the swaddle! Your papa calls you our little Houdini. You are not fully aware of what you can do with your hands yet. At the moment, you seem to enjoy using them to smack mama's face.
Physically, you have definitely grown and that thrills us to no end. Your weight has almost tripled since birth and it's pretty visible (refer to the pictures in this post). Mama particularly loves how your face has become much chubbier. Cuteness overload!
A highlight of this month is that we did your first photoshoot. Again, you were such a trooper. Even though we messed up your schedule you were pretty cooperative (as cooperative as babies can manage). The outcome of the shoot was awesome. When I saw how gorgeous and beautiful you were during the slide presentation, tears rolled down my cheek. Ya, your mama is sappy. I imagine I'd cry buckets when you graduate or walk down the aisle.
My dearest daughter, you must remember that we love you with all our heart and we will do everything in our power to nurture and raise you to your fullest potential. Please reveal yourself to us and teach us to be good parents to you. Be patient when we are slow to read your cues and remember that your parents are not perfect. All of us wears the L-plate in this incredible journey. Let's enjoy and savour this ride together.
Once again, thank you for giving us this opportunity to be your parents and for being the lovely you.
I read a book recently that expresses a sentiment of mine. It says, "to re-create something in words is like being alive twice." How true.
These letters are written for my daughter to read some day. At the same time, it also allows me to share my thoughts with others, something that I love to do. I am very grateful for the positive response that I have received from the birth story that I wrote. Thank you very much for the encouragement and kind words. Thank you also for reading.
Do you remember the time when we fell in love
Do you remember the time when we first met
(Michael Jackson's song: Do you remember the time)
It turns out that Michael Jackson was on to something important in strengthening a relationship. Remembering or reminiscing how you've started as a couple is important.
Thus, today's bite-size tip is to remember your love story from time to time.
My husband and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary recently. As a sentimentalist, it comes to me naturally to remember how we've started and celebrate how far we've come as a couple. It never fails to bring smiles to my face when I think about the first time we met. What a journey it has been and we have gone through so much from being strangers to lovers and now parents to a sweet baby.
From the practice of reminiscing, I observe the following:
1. It activates the fondness and admiration system, which is important in bringing a couple closer together. In our busy lives, it is too easy to neglect and take each other for granted. When we remember how we have begun and how much effort we used to put in to make each other feel special, hopefully it will motivate us to continue to show more appreciation, kindness and understanding towards our significant other.
2. It promotes "we-ness"
Looking back at how we have created fond memories together through various adventures and activities makes me feel so much closer to my husband. Since he is my best friend, my most wonderful memories always include him.
3. It glorifies the struggle that we have gone. In remembering, I also recall the challenges that my husband and I have overcome in order to be together. He met me before I was diagnosed with Moyamoya Disease and stood by me every step of the way. He certainly proved his love and commitment through his actions. This further cements my commitment to him and I firmly believe that we can surmount any life challenges together.
What can you do to enhance this process of reminiscing? Here are some suggestions:
- Look at your wedding album and/or watch wedding DVD together. This is one sure way to bring back the fond memories. Also, take the time to have a nice long chat about your thoughts and feelings.
- Recently, I changed the profile picture on the Facebook to one that was taken of us on our wedding day. Whenever I open the Facebook, the picture serves as an instant cue to be thankful for the gift of our marriage.
- I also take the time to read the cards that my husband has gifted me over the years. He is not particularly expressive verbally so reading what he wrote touches me deeply.
- Writing is a great way to process your thoughts and feelings. It also helps you to remember and you can always go back and reread what you've written. Personally, I love rereading what I have written in the past.
What do you think of this bite-size tip? Do share your thoughts in the comment.
Please feel free to forward this post to someone whom you think would be interested. Like or share this post if you've enjoyed it. Thank you.
P.S. I am saddened by the news about the Boston Marathon explosions. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Life is unpredictable. Cherish your loved ones always.
Dearest baby girl,
Happy birthday sweetheart! Even though chronologically you are two months old but truly today is your termday as you turn 40 weeks. In many ways, you have exceeded our wildest dream. You brought so much joy and delight to us within this short period of time.
Every day since your birth, mama has learned much from watching you fight and grow courageously. We are so very proud of you. On this special day, I want to tell you a marvelous story – your birth story.
Before you were conceived
Long before your birth, my darling we wanted and desired you. Unfortunately, mama’s medical history complicated matters. Undoubtedly, there was a constant struggle to balance mama’s health and yours, especially during the pregnancy. Certainly, I wish things were different but it is what it is.
When my neurosurgeon gave me the green light to try to conceive in July 2009, we were so excited. To have a safe pregnancy, mama had to stop taking an anti-cholesterol medicine temporarily. With that the waiting game begun.
Sadly, the menses came month after month and mama began to feel discouraged and sad. One year passed. We sought help. We tried again. More challenges came our way and our hope diminished each time we received bad news. Still, with faith as small as a mustard seed we trusted that God had the best plan for us.
Fast forward to 2011. By now, mama had stopped taking the medicine for more than two years. Not surprisingly, my blood cholesterol had crept up to a level that was unfavourable. My doctor expressed his concern. Papa was concerned. We finally decided that we would give ourselves several more months before calling it quit.
In September 2011, mama finally made the decision to restart my medicine. It was one of the hardest things I had to do and I agonized and grieved over it for many months. Watching one’s dream vanished was really painful.
Miracle touched us – discovery of your conception
As they say, miracle happens when you least expect it. Indeed, you came into our lives surreptitiously, little one.
After your grandma and aunt left from their visit in July 2012, I discovered that my period was much later than usual. Protecting myself against disappointment, I kept my expectation low when we bought the home pregnancy test.
God was merciful and we were spared of the torturous wait because within seconds the plus sign appeared on the indicator. We were speechless! Utterly beyond belief!
Your papa was in such disbelief that he read the instructions several times just to be sure that we had followed them correctly. Meanwhile, I was over the moon! God had answered our prayer in His time. He is faithful!
Because I was still taking the medicine when you were conceived, we were concerned. A consult with the physician allayed our fear but there was still a certain amount of anxiety.
Everything felt unreal until we saw and heard your heartbeat for the first time. We were so amazed that at barely eight weeks, your heartbeat was distinct and strong. It was such a magical moment that words failed me.
Yes, we were pregnant and you are our miracle baby!
And you know what was the bonus? You were going to be a March baby just like your mama! In fact, you due date was one day before my birthday. God had intended you to be my most treasured birthday gift. I couldn't be happier.
The pregnancy: a roller-coaster ride
In the first trimester, mama suffered from morning sickness but it was tolerable. What I didn’t expect was the extreme fatigue that I experienced and that’s when realized that making baby is hard work!
Due to my medical history and advanced age, the pregnancy was considered high-risk. Consequently, the doctor referred me to see maternal-fetal specialist at Lucille-Packard Children’s Hospital, where you and I received top-notch care. This in itself was a great blessing and I am so grateful that we chose this hospital.
Following the initial rapture, things started to go downhill after we went for first trimester genetic testing and other tests. First, my result was borderline for gestational diabetes. I had to undergo dietary change and daily finger prick.
The second issue was more serious as the risk of me having a baby with Down syndrome was 1 in 67. We spoke with a genetic counselor and decided to go for the Harmony Test. The results for this took one to two weeks and that waiting period was most agonizing.
During this same time, I also had a threatened miscarriage and bled for two days. It was an extremely stressful period even as we held on tightly to our faith and each other.
The good news was that you are fine (i.e. your risk of having Down Syndrome was less than 1 in 10,000). Incidentally, this result came to me on my fifth anniversary since the brain bypass surgery. To me, it is God’s way of assuring me that He is in control and I need not fear.
Things improved as we approached the second trimester. Together with papa, we went on several trips (Denver, Hawaii, New York City) and the biggest one of all was the babymoon in Europe. Baby, you may not realized this but you have been to Italy, Greece, Turkey and England! Also, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI blessed you at the General Audience in the Vatican City.
What I loved most about the pregnancy was the realization that you were one with me. Literally, you were with me all the time and this filled me with such joy. When I started to feel your kicks, I looked forward to them every single day. I took that as you communicating with me and spent much of my time talking to you.
I have never felt closer to anyone else. This is something very special that only you and I shared, my baby. When the pregnancy was cut short due to preeclampsia, I mourned for this loss for many days. I missed being one with you so much that it hurt.
About a month before your birth, mama's blood pressure started to hit the roof and became erratic. To control, I was prescribed medications but it remained unstable for a long while. Consequently, I was in and out of the hospital several times. In fact, you and I spent our Christmas at the hospital.
After several tests, it was confirmed that I had severe preeclampsia. The doctor decided that I had to remain at the hospital till it was time for you to be delivered in order to monitor me closely. January 9th was the day when this occured and I was at week 30 and 5 days.
I panicked initially because we had done so little in preparation for you. Eventually, I accepted my fate and prayed hard that I could keep you for as long as possible in the womb because that was the best place for you. Yet this had to be managed delicately such that both our safety can be assured.
Nine days later, you were born.
On January 17th, my blood pressure readings spiked for the umpteenth time and I was already at the maximum doses for the medicines that I took. Prior to this day, I had met with numerous specialists, visited the NICU and took the steroid injection, which helped to mature your lungs. Thus, the team came and informed me that we had done all that we could to prepare you for the world and it was time.
I had mixed emotions. On the one hand, I was super excited that we would see you very soon. On the other, I was worried about you surviving outside of my womb.
At around six o’clock, I was transferred to Labor and Delivery. The initial plan was to induce me and try for vaginal birth. This took place around 6.15 pm. I was also given magnesium sulphate at the same time as a preventive measure for seizure since I had preeclampsia. Shortly after that I started to experience contractions and before the pain became unbearable I was administered the epidural at 8:15 pm.
I felt instant relief and managed to nap for several hours. The doctor checked on me every now and then but my progress was very slow. After nine hours I was only one cm dilated. To speed things up, the doctor broke the water at 3.30 am.
From this point on, everything happened in a blur. Despite the intervention, I was not progressing and you seemed to be in distress. The decision was made for a Caesarian Section then. More drugs were given and there was a buzz around me as everyone prepared for the operation before I was moved to the operating theater.
I felt nothing as the incision was made on my belly. It was such a very strange feeling being strapped and I shivered non-stop. Fortunately, the anesthesiologist was kind and assured me that everything was going fine. As I struggled to find a comfortable position, I heard a tiny cry. At that moment I realized that you were born! The baby whom I had been carrying in my womb all this while was here! This happened around 4 AM.
Sadly the neonatologists whisked you away because they had to examine you immediately. Left behind on the table as your papa went with you to NICU, I couldn't quite express my feelings. For one, I was very sad that I didn't get to meet you at all, much less to hold or place you at my breast to suckle.
Yes, I knew the priority was to get you examined and treated but still I mourned the lost opportunity to hold you the moment you were born. I had to leave the operating theater without you my dearest baby and that was so painful.
Meeting you for the first time
Baby, mama only got to see you the day after you were born because I was in no condition to get up. I couldn't wait to see you and had to rely on papa to take pictures of you. Even though you are preterm, you look like an angel.
The first time we met was nothing like what I had expected. I had mixed emotions throughout. You looked so tiny and fragile in the incubator as you were only 1.55 kg. My tears flowed uncontrollably. Yet, you looked so perfect.
I will never forget the gift you gave me when I first held you. At first you cried when the nurse placed you in my arms. However, when I started to talk to you, you calmed down and stared at me intently. You held your gaze on me as though you recognized that I am your mama. It made me so happy that I had such an impact on you. That was such a precious moment and I thank you for that.
I will tell you the rest of the story in detail when you're older. Briefly, you stayed on in the hospital for about 5 weeks. Right from the start, the doctors were optimistic of your prognosis. Still, the early days were challenging and I am so glad that it's behind us now.
You have been home for about three weeks now and we enjoy every moment with you. We are delighted that your weight has increased steadily and you weigh 3.01 kg today!
Once again, happy birthday my darling Olivia. You have completely changed our lives and we are so blessed to be your parents. Thank you for loving us so and we look forward to spending the rest of our lives with you.
We love you so much, baby girl. You are our pride and joy.
Yes, this space has been super quiet because someone has taken over our lives. And we are happy and grateful that she has.
World, meet our daughter, Olivia Grace.
Truly, the greatest lesson in pregnancy and parenting is how little control one has. My baby decided that she is ready for the world and came eight weeks early from her due date. As you can imagine, that totally threw us off course, left us scrambling and living in uncertainty and fear for several weeks.
She is six weeks old now and has been doing really well.
Indeed, each of us is born with greater resilience than we can ever imagine. At such a tender age, my baby demonstrated hers and we are so very thankful for her strong fighting spirit.
I would also like to take the opportunity to thank my tribe for the prayers, support and love shown to us during this challenging time.
As I embrace my role as a new mother, this space will take a backseat. However, because I derive much pleasure and satisfaction from writing, I will make effort to share my thoughts from time to time.
Right now, I am working on her birth story. Please stay tuned.
Thank you for your support.
First of all please allow me to wish you all a very happy and fulfilling New Year 2013! I also like to thank you for your continual support despite the lack of post since we left for our babymoon.
We had an incredible time in Europe and the whole experience has enriched our lives greatly. Ideas had been swirling in my head and I was looking forward to share my thoughts with you but things happened that took away my time and energy.
Ever since I started the practice of writing the gratitude list, it has helped me tremendously in recognising what is going well in my life. This keeps me positive and hopeful especially when the going is tough.
At the start of this New Year, it is timely to look back at the year 2012 and be grateful for the gifts that I have received. I do firmly believe that life is full of surprises and blessings. We just need to pay attention to them.
Here are 12 things that I am grateful for in 2012:
1. The miracle of life
The unexpected pregnancy is definitely what we are most grateful for this year. We feel honoured for this privilege to be parents to our unborn baby. It is a dream comes true. Truthfully, the pregnancy has been difficult and there have been many challenges that tested our faith along the way. I have learned great lessons from the experience and I know the learning is not going to end anytime soon. For once, I am very grateful that I do not have a work commitment and that I can take as much as rest as I need.
2. Good health
As someone who has been given a second chance at life, I do not take my health for granted. It has been five years since my brain bypass operations and I have remained symptom-free. Not only do I reclaim my desired quality of life, I enjoy a much richer one as a result of that decision.
3. Deepening of love and friendship with husband
I am infinitely blessed with a loving and protective husband who continues to impress me. Our marriage is at a very happy place and we look forward to the next stage of our life when the baby arrives. He is my pillar of strength and my best friend. With him by my side, I know we can weather any storm of life.
4. Excellent care providers
With the challenges that I face in the pregnancy, I am very grateful to be under the excellent care of my providers who are not only competent but also compassionate and caring. They help allay the fear and anxiety. It also helps greatly that our insurance coverage is sufficient and we don't have to worry about finances.
5. Family visit
I am really thankful that my mum and sister made that long and arduous trip to the Bay Area to share a piece of our lives here. Couple of months later, mum had a fall that led to a hip fracture. She is in recovery now and this hits home that I really need to cherish all the time we have together because you never know what's going to happen next.
6. Great opportunities for growth and development.
This stint offers me wonderful opportunities for growth and development both in my professional and personal life. Last year, I attended two acclaimed conferences that inspire me to be a better clinician/therapist. I get to do courses at the prestigious Stanford and Berkeley, something that I value greatly. My hunger and love for learning is definitely satiated by the many opportunities that are available here.
7. Strong and supportive tribe
Other than my family, my friends are definitely my tribe. I know I can count on them in good and bad times. They have come through for me with their love and prayers when I first underwent my treatment back in 2004 and then my surgeries in 2007. And now as I go through my pregnancy, they are there ready with words of encouragements, support and prayers. Thank you my dearest friends. You know who you are!
8. Technology and Social Media
Sadly, majority of my tribe resides half way across the globe and you can imagine my gratitude for whatever means that can connect me with them easily. Technology has removed the barrier and distance so to speak and I get connected with family and friends at the touch of a button. Social media has also enabled me to keep abreast of the happenings in the lives of my friends and family. Cool stuff that I am grateful for when you live so far away.
9. Readers of Winifred & You
Yes, I am very grateful for you. You are the reason why I started this blog more than a year ago. My love of reading, sharing and writing found an outlet in this space. Your readership and support has been a great encouragement. Without readers, a blog is meaningless. I write because I have something to say that I hope will make a difference in the lives of others. Thank you for giving me this wonderful opportunity.
10. Extensive travelling
Travelling and good food are the two luxuries that we indulge in. Last year, we had the opportunity to visit many places including Tokyo, the Canadian Rockies, Hawaii and four European countries - Italy, Turkey, Greece and England for our babymoon. Thousands of great memories have been created and while we know that travelling will no longer be the same when the little one arrives, we are extremely grateful for all that we have experienced. We are also grateful that we were kept safe in all our travels especially those that we took during the pregnancy.
11. Strengthening of muscles
I firmly believe that life's struggles help us to strengthen our muscles. Last year, I was challenged to surrender and trust a great deal. There were so many occasions where all that I could do was to remind myself that God is in charge, recognise the moment as a moment of suffering and an exercise to strengthen my muscle. I have tonnes of practice in self-compassion. I also learn to accept the good and the bad in life with equanimity. I have a feeling that the strengthening of these muscles will intensify this year when baby comes.
12. Contentment with life
Most days I feel contented with my life. Sure, life is imperfect and I have my share of frustrations and bad hair day but overall life is pretty awesome. While we are not rich, famous or influential, I have more than I need materially. I may not have a paid job or a successful career to speak of but I am doing what I enjoy on a daily basis. I imagine my current life is the portrayal of my retirement life and that makes me very grateful that I am living it already.
So, thank you 2012 for all the blessings, surprises, joy, pain, struggles and everything in between.
Food for thought: What about you? What are you grateful for in 2012?
Leave me your comment. I love to hear from you.
In several hours, we will be taking an epic adventure on our longest vacation ever. When we planned for this trip, we had no idea that we will be blessed with a baby. Thus, this is an accidental babymoon, which is a bonus.
The fact that it falls within my second trimester, which is known to be the best time to travel, reveals God's divine provision. We are so thankful and will cherish and savour every moment of it. Many have advised us to enjoy this time, as it will not be the same traveling with baby in tow! Trust me, we will!
Transition into parenthood is understood to be a challenging period for couples. Studies have shown that relationship meltdowns happen in two-third of all couples when a baby arrives. Still, I see no reason to be pessimistic because we can focus on the one-third who are successful and learn from them.
From my own training as an educator for Bringing Baby Home program, I recognise the importance of preparing and equipping ourselves with knowledge and tools to ease this process. More importantly, we need to work to strengthen our friendship, increase intimacy and connection between us, share what it means for us to be parents and our dreams for our child.
I also know that I am not the only person who has been transformed by my pregnancy; my husband is too. Thus, I need to keep the communication line open and show interest and openness to how this has affected him. This will also be the perfect time to just focus on each other and cultivate generosity and kindness in the relationship. You can bet we'll be holding hands a lot, which incidentally is my surest source of joy.
We have always enjoyed traveling and in the past few years have been greatly blessed with numerous opportunities to do just that. This will definitely be a memorable one and I am bursting with excitement!
As such, there won't be update on this space for the duration that we are away. Thank you for your continual support and I hope to see you back here when we return in early December.
If you are new to Winifred and You, I like to extend my warmest welcome and thank you for visiting. Please feel free to poke around and you might be interested to check out the List and Archives or the Inspiration page.
To those celebrating Thanksgiving, Happy Thanksgiving in advance! Enjoy and cherish the time spent with your loved ones. Take care everyone!
Continue to flourish. God bless you.
I have recently reached the midpoint of my pregnancy, which brought much relief and comfort. It is true that the second trimester is the most enjoyable stage and I am taking full advantage of my increased level of energy and zest for life.
Being pregnant is such a momentous event that it won't leave you untouched. Today, I like to share with you the key lessons that I have learned in the past few months.
1. Pregnancy is a gift
While it is true that every woman has the potential to get pregnant, I learn that it is not something that one should take for granted. Yet, no one truly gives much thought to this fact until infertility rears its ugly head.
One can have the best-laid plans and put in every effort imaginable and there is still no guarantee that you will get the result that you desire. We can only do our part to increase the likelihood of getting pregnant but we have no control over the outcome. This is the first lesson in vulnerability and helplessness in pregnancy. The waiting game is always painful and there is no easy way to get around it.
The gift becomes that much more precious when you least expect it. For a recovering control freak like myself, this is a huge lesson. I need to trust and surrender and when the time is right, God will intervene. And He did.
2. Pregnancy is a crash course in surrender and vulnerability
There are so many things that could go wrong especially in the early stages of pregnancy and one has little control over it. Worries and anxieties are abound. The only constructive thing that one can do is to take great care of oneself by getting sufficient rest, eating well and exercising. Also, take a leap of faith.
Being of "advanced age", the possibility of having a baby with Down syndrome is real for me. On top of the typical anxieties that come with the territory, every test and investigation stirs up a well of fear and uncertainties. Until the baby is born and certified healthy, we have to deal with uncertainty.
Truly, this is an event that is largely beyond our control and there is no right or wrong way to move through the experience. I learn that the sooner I let go of the fantasy and desire to control the outcome, the better it will be for my sanity. The challenge is to embrace the full experience, good and bad and surrender.
3. Pregnancy is a preview of what parenting is about
The lesson in vulnerability and surrender continues when one becomes a parent. You can practice the best parenting style there is out there and it still doesn't guarantee that your child will turn out the way you envision.
I have seen wonderful parents who work diligently to raise their children the best way they know how with disappointing and painful results. There are so many variables that determine how a person will turn out and the the process is so much more complex than we imagine.
Therefore, I see pregnancy as the starting point for me to embrace the pain and vulnerability that is inherent in raising a child. I am not being pessimistic. No, I am an optimist by nature. However, I want to be realistic and understand my limitations and not set myself up for heartbreak and disappointments in future.
As a mother, I can only do my very best and equip my child with necessary life skills to navigate through the challenges and pain of growing up. I will teach her what my parents had taught me about having faith.
4. A deeper appreciation of human body
This pregnancy reminds me of the miraculous process that is happening in my body every single day. As I look into the mirror and see my growing belly, I marvel at my body and feel tremendous gratitude.
As a biology student, I have a decent understanding and respect for the human body but what you've learned in school pale in comparison to what you experience in real life.
It is mind-boggling how the body knows what to do at what time. The tiny being inside me knows how to grow, feed, multiply and divide itself to form tiny heart, lungs, arms, legs etc. And I have little awareness of this super complex miracle that is happening inside my body! How amazing is that?
I definitely learn that the body is incredibly resilient and it is an adaptive piece of biological machinery. Dramatic changes happen outwardly and internally day-by-day to accommodate the growing baby in my body. It hits home that I must appreciate and take better care of my body that is doing all the work during pregnancy and delivery. My job is to cooperate.
5. Pregnancy is a time of self-discovery
I have always imagined that I will freak out when I discover that I am pregnant (because of the deep ambivalence that I feel about being a mother, which is for another post). But when the home pregnancy test came back positive, I was over the moon and felt so grateful. There was not a shred of panic.
I also didn't expect the surge of strong and protective emotions over my unborn baby. Even at seven weeks, the size of a blueberry, I feel deep attachment and connection to my baby, whom to me is not a mere glob of cells but a real person. I love this baby with an intensity and fierceness that I don't quite recognise.
It just goes to show that I don't really know myself all that well. The other plausible explanation is that having a baby transforms me and that I need to be alert and mindful of the changes that are happening in my mindset, attitudes and behaviours. To me, this is a time a great self-discovery and transformation. I am very excited and look forward to the process.
6. Pregnancy is hard work.
The extreme fatigue that I experienced in the first trimester came as a huge surprise. All I was capable of doing during those period was eat and sleep. Who would have imagined that creating a baby could take so much out of you?
I learn that I need to listen to my body, manage my expectations, prioritize and show self-compassion. I am also learning to be more patient with myself. The pregnancy symptoms can be nasty at times and there is little that I can do to control them. I have to remember put the Serenity Prayer into action constantly.
Instead of feeling guilty for resting so much and being unproductive, I reminded myself constantly that my body is undergoing dramatic and important changes; that I am growing a baby and it IS hard work.
I am positive that there will be more important and great lessons that I will learn along the way. Most of all, I feel extremely blessed to have this amazing opportunity to experience a new life within me. I know having a baby is definitely going to be THE life-changing and turning point in our lives. I pray that I will embrace every aspect of motherhood with courage, faith and grace.
Food for thought: What have you learned from your pregnancy? I'd love to hear from you!
Please feel free to pass this on. Thanks for reading and sharing.
I discover that quotes are helpful to keep me focus. I love collecting quotes that speak to me and when I go through challenging situations, I draw inspiration from them.
One of my favourite cities to visit in America is New York City. After my first trip in April of 2010, I left my heart there. The city that never sleeps offers much in terms of attractions, stimulations and new experiences. Every single trip has been memorable and fabulous, including our most recent one.
We were in NYC last week and came back to the Bay Area on Saturday evening, just a day before Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast. While we feel extremely blessed and grateful to have escaped the horrific storm, our hearts ache for the massive devastation that befell not only NYC but also many neighbouring cities.
Watching the special edition of ABC's 20/20 entitled "The Perfect Storm" yesterday was both surreal and painful. It is just crazy to see the flood inside the subway tunnels when just days ago the subway brought us everywhere.
It certainly hits home to never take anything for granted and to cherish all that we have before it is taken away.
The impact of this calamity is beyond words and it's gonna take a while for the city to rebuild. And rebuild herself she will, I am sure. The city has been through worse and is definitely resilient.
Moreover, it is very heartwarming and inspiring to see the humanity and kindness of people in the wake of such tragedy. Kudos to the first responders and public workers who work tirelessly to ensure the safety of the people. They are our unsung heroes and let's continue to keep them in our thoughts and prayers.
To readers who are affected by this storm in one way or other, my heart goes out to you. You are in my prayers and thoughts. Please continue to keep safe and practice self-compassion during this challenging time.
May you be safe.
May you find comfort in the embrace and support of your loved ones.
May you experience peace in your heart.
I will leave you with the image and beautiful words from the artist, Deborah Koff-Chapin.
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. I love capturing the moment as well as sharing them. Hence every Friday I will showcase the Picture of the Week. Have a great weekend folks!
Anytime Resolution - As the name suggests, it is a resolution that can be taken up anytime when you feel the need and are ready for a change. I hope to provide you with some useful suggestions that will bring you closer to living a more flourishing life in various aspects.
Today's Anytime Resolution is to embrace adversity whenever it happens in order to grow your strength muscle.
As I reflected upon my own life, it occurs to me that I am who I am today because of all the challanges and difficulties that I have gone through in my life.
In the past 15 years, I have gone through the following setbacks and life stressors:
- mum's multiple surgeries ranging from knee surgery to spine decompression. Just last week, she had a fall and had to undergo a hip surgery.
- both dad and elder brother had gone through heart bypass operation.
- death of dad ten years ago.
- going through the treatment for Moyamoya Disease and brain bypass surgeries.
- suffering major stroke and the painful process of rehabilitation.
- dealing with family feud due to severe misunderstanding
- loss of identity and direction when I became a trailing spouse.
- challenges and roadblock in early stages of marriage
- involved in a handful of road traffic accidents, burglary, and stolen purse.
- application to a graduate program was rejected
As a consequence of all these adversities, my muscles in handling and coping with crises had been strengthened over the years. Today, I have full confidence that I can handle all sorts of life challenges because of what I had gone through.
To be sure, I don't actively seek them out. There is no need to do so because no one is spared from the pain and darkness in life. But when adversity presents itself, it's worthwhile to remember that our reaction and response can determine the kind of person we will become.
Just as we can train our muscles to be stronger by exercising consistently at the gym, so can we do the same thing to our character and habits. The following quote expresses this neatly:
"Courage is like a habit, a virtue: you get it by courageous acts. It's like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging."
~ Mary Daly, a theologian from the book, The Gift of Imperfection.
“...neurons that fire together, wire together,” each time you do a practice, it strengthens key neural circuits like building a muscle in the gym.
Truly, there are times when we do not have control over what happens in our life. The good news is we always do have a choice in how we want to respond. The moment that we accept the troubles in our lives, a door will be opened that gives a glimpse of who we really are, what we are capable of doing and being. Deep within, we are all survivors.
Today, I can share this message with full conviction only because I have been through all the different challenges triumphantly. Was it hard and painful? Of course! It is hard too when we try to build stronger muscles. It is the same process.
Therefore, when the next adversity shows up my hope is that you will remember this resolution to embrace adversity, rather than resisting it. Your muscles for affliction will be strengthened and you will be a much stronger person as a result. I know because I speak from experience.
Sharing is caring. Please feel free to share this post with your friends or family especially if you know of someone who is facing trial and tribulation right now. Thank you.
- Treat your spouse as you would your best friend.
- Create your own personal commandments
- Identify and nurture your tribe
- Cultivate and practice self-compassion
- Choose outdoor and nature
- Contact your friend
- Try one thing new and novel
- Savour more
- Aim for 5:1
- Fake it
I discover that quotes are helpful to keep me focus. I love collecting quotes that speak to me and when I go through challenging situations, I draw inspiration from them.
P. S. I wish to express my thanks for the outpouring of love and wishes on this announcement. Much appreciated. xx
Saving the best for last, here is the big announcement that we would love to share with all you good people. This also explains why my promise to resume regular programming was not fulfilled, much to my own disappointment because I have missed writing.
Heartiest congratulations to a handful of my good friends who are also on this amazing journey. What a lovely coincidence and I am grateful to enjoy the support and company :)
One of the common challenges of modern life is the lack of time. Have you heard the following exclamations recently?
"I wish there were more than 24 hours in a day"
"I wish there were two of me so that I can do more"
There is no denying that time is a precious commodity and our challenge is really to manage and use it for what is important to us.
Today's bite-size tip is to put in your schedule what is of consequence to you.
There is a perpetual tension between what's urgent and important in our daily lives. Unfortunately, what is urgent is often more visible and insists on our attention and action. Therefore, the important matters often take a backseat. Yet, these are what contribute to our mission, values, goals and satisfaction in life.
I find that a simple strategy that can be used to ensure that important things get done is by scheduling them in your calendar. Experts have advised couples to schedule a date night or even sex time to make sure that this key component of relationship is not neglected. You might think that it takes the surprise and spontaneity element out of it but the alternative could possibly be "out of sight, out of mind" and nothing gets done.
I have an epic project that I've been sitting on for ages. I really want to complete it within the next couple of months and the first thing that needs to be done is to make sure that it appears on my schedule. It doesn't mean that it needs to be done in one sitting. I just need to get started and work on it regularly.
Do you have important things that you really want to do but haven't found the time to do them yet? You are not alone.
Yet, fretting is not going to get you there. My suggestion is to take a good look at your daily schedule and observe what's on it. Next, make a list of the important things that you want to do and schedule them in one by one. Refrain from being overly ambitious as you may set yourself up for failure. Always start small and do it often.
Here's a good article on ways to stay focused on the important things.
What do you think of this tip? Will you be willing to try it? Do you already practise it? I'd love to hear your experience.
Please click 'Like' or 'Share' if you have enjoyed this post. Word of mouth is the best. Always.
I discover that quotes are helpful to keep me focus. I love collecting quotes that speak to me and when I go through challenging situations, I draw inspiration from them.
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. I love capturing the moment as well as sharing them. Hence every Friday I will showcase the Picture of the Week. Have a great weekend folks!
In my most recent post, I shared about being in the midst of uncertainties and the good news is we received desirable news shortly after that. It was such a huge relief and we are EXTREMELY grateful.
The truth of the matter is this is just one of the many hurdles that we need to overcome. Still, I am hopeful that with the right coping skills, we will be able to surmount all the challenges.
I believe that no one is immune from such circumstance and I wish to share with you some pointers on how to keep our sanity during those moments of uncertainties. Here are eight coping strategies that have helped me tremendously.
1. Stay in the present
Worries and anxieties are always present when the future is unknown. Our thoughts often get ahead of us and we imagine thousand and one negative scenarios and that further increase our worries and anxieties. The most effective way to deal with this demon is to remain the in the present and avoid jumping to conclusion prematurely.
Undeniably, this takes great discipline and the willingness to let go of the obsessive thoughts. Keep repeating to self that the future is not here.
Remind self that I do not know what the outcome is and there is no point in torturing myself by imagining the worst. All that I have is the present moment and I need to cherish it.
This quote rings true: “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
2. Enhance your sense of self-efficacy
What this means is to recall your past struggles and how you have managed to overcome them. One of the most important lessons that I have learned from my illness is that human being is resilient, much more than we can ever imagine. Realise that you have the capacity to deal with the future because you have the knowledge, skills and resources within you. You only have to dig deep.
How can you be certain of this? Refer to your track record, namely your past triumphs. Self-efficacy enables us to have confidence and strength in dealing with known and unknown challenges.
When things are beyond our control, it is important to recognize them as moments of suffering and extend self-compassion. Feeling helpless is a difficult emotion. It is painful and it makes one feel diminished and useless. We feel vulnerable and lost. Bestow patience and kindness instead of judgment during this time and it will help one to cope better.
I found a very useful mantra from the book, Self-Compassion by Dr Kristin Neff. It goes like this:
This is a moment of suffering
Suffering is part of life
May I be kind to myself in this moment
May I give myself what I need
Meditating on this mantra allows me to remember that I am not alone in my suffering because everyone suffers and it is part of life. This awareness connects me to others who suffer and brings about a sense of universality. Very often we feel isolated and disconnected because we feel as though we are the only one who suffers, which is far from the truth.
The mantra also reminds me to give myself what I need in moment of suffering. If what I needed is a good cry, that's what I should do. If I needed a helping hand, I must have the courage to be vulnerable and ask for it.
4. Reach out and get support
This coping strategy has saved me time and again. I am also immensely grateful that I have found my tribe whom I know will be there for me at a moment's notice. Because I believe in the power of prayer, I often activate my prayer warriors to pray for us when we go through trials in life. Their support and prayer give me tremendous comfort and strength to keep going.
I firmly believe that I have not collapsed under all the anxiety and pressures because I know there are many who are praying for us. I count on their faith when mine is weak.
Many people choose to withdraw and isolate themselves when bad things happen. It is understandable because it's extremely hard to be vulnerable and weak. Yet, this is where the danger lies. The more isolated you are, the more likely your negative thoughts supersede the rational ones. Seek a confidante whom you can trust and open up. Bottling up is never a good solution.
5. Strengthen the connection with your spouse/loved ones
Crisis occasionally drives a wedge between couples but it need not be so. You can turn it into a great moment of connection. It is crucial to strengthen the connection and allow the other to know that you are there for him or her. Even when you do not agree on how to deal with the situation, be sure to show your respect and willingness to listen to his or her point of views.
Create an environment that is safe to share your deepest feelings and thoughts. Be generous and show compassion. As much as you can, support each other to the best of your ability and journey together in overcoming the obstacles.
6. Keep your routine
It is very tempting to give up your routine and just spend the time moping and being miserable. Based on my experience this is not only ineffective but a waste of time.
If the waiting period is long, make use of the time to do pleasurable activities. For example, we arranged to meet up with a group of friends for dinner and had such a lovely time that we momentarily forgot about the anxiety. Distraction is an effective tool, which is not only helpful in working with young children but adults too.
7. Count your blessings
I am a firm believer in the power of gratitude and positivity. When crisis presents itself, it is very easy to lose sight of what is going well in our lives. We still have each other and our friends, a roof over our head, good health and numerous blessings. Writing my gratitude list helps me see the bigger picture and fortifies my faith that things are going to be okay no matter what happens. It generates hope and optimism that help one to stay afloat.
The Serenity Prayer continues to be instrumental especially when I am dealing with uncertainties. It enables me to see what are the situations that are within my control and what actions I can take. At the same time, it reminds me that there are things that are beyond my control and I need to learn to trust and surrender.
I hope you will give some considerations to these strategies and give them a shot. You will only know if it is effective when you try it.
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Yet another September 17 is here and once again I am filled with deep gratitude for the blessings that I have received.
This year, the anniversary serves a critical reminder of God's faithfulness as we are in the midst of a difficult situation that involves waiting.
Waiting is never easy. It is even harder when it has the potential to change your life drastically.
My faith enables me to see that it is not a coincidence that this "waiting period" happens during my anniversary week.
...For truly I tell you, if you have the faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, "Move from here to there," and it will move;
and nothing will be impossible for you. Matthew 17:20
All that is needed is faith as small as the size of a mustard seed. Based on my life experience, I know that my faith is bigger than that of the size of a mustard seed.
It is precisely when we are most doubtful that we need to recall the time when God has come through for us in order to regain strength and confidence.
This year's anniversary provides me with just that.
Are you going through a difficult situation yourself? I urge you to recall the time when you have surprised yourself with your own resilience and strength. You can do it again. You only need to have faith....even if it's as miniscule as the mustard seed.
Hello September! Two third of 2012 has passed us by. Has time caught us by surprise? I sure hope not.
In recent years, September has become a very significant month for me and when I saw this beautiful image, I was inspired to write a post on why I love September.
Here are my six reasons:
My most severe stroke happened in September 2007. I have always been fearful of having a stroke. However, having gone through multiple strokes, I learn that I can surmount the challenges through the grace of God and the love and support from family and friends. Knowing that I have the survivor personality gives me great confidence that I will always bounce back no matter what.
I first became a trailing spouse on September 5, 2008. Leaving a familiar territory was highly anxiety-provoking! Yet, what a journey this has been and I have learned so much about myself and life through this stint. I can definitely say that this is a dream come true. To have the wonderful opportunity to sit back and recuperate, travel, pursue my interests and build a strong foundation for our marriage is a precious gift.
In the next week or so we intend to share a major announcement and September will become even more special. Please stay tuned!
Winifred & You was launched in September last year! I am amazed that almost a year has gone by. I still remember vividly the anxiety and pressures that I experienced as I struggled to create the website and its content. What almost killed me was the uncertainty of how it will be received! The best decision I made was to go ahead despite all the apprehension.
Now, I want to thank you for giving me the chance to share my knowledge, skills and passion through this space. Your support means so much and it is the driving force that keeps me going. I will continue to write as long as they are readers.
Lastly, with the arrival of September I know that December (yet another favourite month) is just over three months away. Indeed, time and tide wait for no man so let's cherish the moment and live without regrets.
What's your favourite month if you have one? I love to hear your story!
All of us experience a blue day or an out-of-sort day once in a while. An effective technique that a good friend shared with me a while ago is what I wanna share with you.
Today's bite-size tip is to pull out the wallpaper of your favourite place whenever you are feeling down. This can be a real place that you have been to, a picture that you have seen or an imaginary place.
Oftentimes when we are feeling negative, our thoughts tend to be heading in that direction as well. It is not easy to counter thoughts with thoughts even though you may find success at times.
It is more effective to alter the medium. Instead of thinking, switch to something visual or audio to interrupt your negative thoughts or feelings.
Just last week, my husband and I were in Hawaii enjoying the relaxing and laidback vibes of the gorgeous place. Just looking at our pictures and recalling the memories of our experiences help to distract myself from my own negative emotions.
Try this tip and see if it works for you.