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Friday, January 25, 2019

Month #1 - Confinement, impetigo, breastfeeding and baby blues.

The first month is, I shit you not, a fearful month - the month of major transition and sacrifice. After the bouts of our loved ones visiting and sending their heartfelt congratulations to us, a sudden loss of what to do engulfs us. Back at Thomson Medical, nurses were serving us 24/7, arriving just seconds after a button’s press. If not for the presence of our confinement nanny (thank God she was already at our place on the day of discharge), I wouldn’t even want to fathom the lives we were going to live for the first month.

Sitting the month.
And so we entered an ancient Chinese tradition of the confinement period or 坐月 (zuo yue) which literally means sitting the month. So, if you are unaware of this ching chong practice, whereby the mother does only two things - (1) restore her body and (2) feed the baby. There are a lot of don'ts. Don't get out of bed. Don't read or use your phone. Don't cry. Don't wash your hair (my wife lasted 15 days). The confinement nanny should be an adept for this, gorging your body (and your husband's) with all the herbs and tonics which are supposed to restore your yang energy. Herbal soup, chicken cooked in Chinese wine, and the confinement classic, pig trotters in black vinegar. It's hard not to get fat.

Impetigo what?
Nearing 1.5 weeks, a small blister grew on Olivia’s chin, then it grew bigger and even spread to other areas on her chin. We tried to find out possible sources, was it the feeding cup? Was it how the nanny handled her? Was it because of abrasion from the clothes? We started to google for possible sickness and stumbled on “impetigo” - a highly contagious skin infection. Blisters and rashes, checked. Honey-coloured crust, checked. Spreading of rashes, checked.

One day it's on her chin, the next day, another pus-filled blister appeared just below her nose. We sought advice from family and friends, with vastly differing views. Although 80% suggested to wait and observe, there's a tendency inclined to the worst case scenario. We visited the family clinic and was prescribed an antiseptic cream - Silvin, which we googled and found out that it's unsuitable for newborns. Okay, what the heck. The next day, we brought her back to Thomson Medical for another check-up. The third time we are visiting a clinic for the week. Dr Eugene Han cleared our doubts and clarified that it's not impetigo. Phew. He further explained that perhaps research on Silvin was not well-established for newborns, so it is labelled "unsuitable", not that it's toxic.

Insufficient breastmilk.
The process of giving birth to the baby would make your pregnancy seems like a breeze, while the process of breastfeeding would make giving birth seems like a piece of cake. Look, giving birth is just a matter of hours. Breastfeeding is for weeks, months and even years. Your job is less than 1% done when the baby is out. No one told us that breastfeeding is difficult, especially when the baby wakes up irregularly at night and when the supply is really low. We tried a heck lot of method, drinking soup, taking supplements like molithium and fenugreek, breast massage, and what not. Maternal stress kicks in and your anxiety tells you that you are not a good mother, and not supplying enough for your baby, the baby is not getting any antibodies from your breastmilk.

Wait, naw nawh nawhhh. 
Sister, the devil is messing with your head! 

Let me pose you a question.
Have you tried your best?

If you know you did and your answer is "yes", then that's enough. Let me reassure you, your best is enough. There's no need to put pressure or blame yourself. Doing so will evitably cause additional stress, which will further decrease your milk supply. Like many others, my brother and I have not had a single drop of breastmilk when we were young. We are formula babies, but so what? We still love our mother and still grew up strong and healthy.

About breast pumps.
Breastfeeding journey is tough, no shit Sherlocks. Let me share with you something, we collected breastmilk from a 10ml syringe during the first few days and only managed to fill up 1ml every time. With all the insta-mummies boasting their 100ml+ produce, Lady M started to feel desperate. But! Don't worry, with time, practice and the right equipment (that is, your breast pump), it's going to get easier. 
During one of the baby fairs, we bought an Ardo Calypso+ for about $230 because we decided not to be mainstream and the reviews seem good. For my wife, she used to pump 30 minutes on one side, which was a HECK LOT of time. Imagine pumping for 1 hour, 8 times a day. Jesus. Christ. One day, our friend came over and my wife tried the Spectra S1+. Job done in 30 minutes for both sides. That day, we went mainstream and got the Spectra S1+ for $140. Another boon is that you can get additional (first-hand) parts easily on Carousell, simply because it's mainstream.

Disclaimer: Different pumps work for different boobies.

Baby blues.
Because of the blisters, insufficient supply of breastmilk, lack of sleep, and mainly my seemingly relaxed reactions (I'm with the "wait and observe" group) toward this, we quarreled a hell lot during the few days. Okay, I am going to be careful of what I typed here now if not I’m sleeping on the floor - My wife, who was going through hormonal changes, was understandably more anxious because she is a caring mother. On the other spectrum, I think that babies are just fragile but their survivability is strong and rashes are just part of the process. This caused us to have differing views.

My wife was adamant that the way that our nanny was handling the baby has caused the blisters, while I thought there could be other possibilities. For days, my wife was crying, which she wasn't supposed to because she was still in her confinement period. It's bad for the eyes, they said. She had an uneasy relationship with the nanny, and the nanny even offered to leave because she rather not give unwanted stress to my wife. But you know what? At the end of the confinement period, and when it's time for the nanny to leave, tears rolled down my wife's cheeks.

Nevertheless, I thank God for our church leaders who checked and visited us often during this period. There was one day I could not bear the stress any further, I called my cell leader and cried for a good 30 minutes over the phone. After the call, I made the decision to patch with my wife. I remembered the two of us hugging and sobbing together, while milk was dripping from her breasts. What a scene. A grown man crying, but you know what?

Let it all out, brother.

I had the wrong perception that I must be strong, supporting my wife and child while bottling up all the stress. Parenting, especially for a new parent, is REAL STRESS. But hey, you are not alone, billions of parents have gone through this (including your parents!), and if they can do it, so can you.
1-month celebratory photo

As a closing note, let me share the wisdom as imparted by my pastor: Side with your wife. No matter what. Do not argue. Logic makes no sense. She is always right.

That's right. Give all the support she needs. Now that you have an additional factor, Happy child = Happy wife = happy life.