Wednesday, 17 April 2013

My Hypnobirth Teacher: Ms Di Bustamante

This is the second part of my previous post “Why Hypno-birthing Works”, featuring my hypno-birth teacher, friend and mentor Ms Di Bustamante, owner and director of Parent Link. 

Di, Owner and Director of ParentLink

Meeting Di for the first time at her lovely home one Saturday afternoon in September 2011, I have to admit that I was intimidated at hello.
  She spoke with calm certainty – not the I-know-it-all sort of way but reminiscent of people driven by deep convictions.  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one.  On the way home, my husband also expressed concern that we might feel ‘pressured’ with great birth expectations and would be up for disappointment if things don’t go according to plans. 

This initial apprehension however, quickly went away as soon as we started our first class.  She could have not stressed enough on giving back the power to women on how they desire to birth, of knowing one’s comfort level when it comes to medical intervention based on informed decision, of making sure the husband is actively involved every step of the way, and of building our confidence (understanding how our bodies work) in a very loving and affirmative way. Her passion to support expecting mothers achieve empowering and peaceful births that they dream of (and deserve!) is undeniable.  I had a very good feeling then that she will become more than just a hypno-birth teacher to me.

Di teaching our husbands how to do light massage

I was absolutely right!  A year and a half later after giving successful natural birth to my second daughter, she continues to be an inspiration as I advocate natural birth, breastfeeding and natural parenting.  In fact, one of the most profound things I have learned about parenting comes from her when she shared, “If you want to change something in your child, change yourself first”.   This stuck to me and constantly reminds me that whenever I see something in my girls that need changing, I need to look at myself first.

Her life story also resonates well to a professional turned work-at-home mom like me.  After spending twenty years in administrative management with ROLM Corporation, IBM and Siemens, she made a drastic career change after the birth of her daughter.  She had spent her pregnancies on bed rest and when she arrived in Singapore as a trailing spouse, she had time to research what had happened.  The knowledge propelled her to complete a training and certification as a doula and childbirth educator with Childbirth International.  Now, she is a Regional Liaison and faculty member of Hypnobirthing Institute.

I had the privilege of catching up with her and she shares her thoughts on hypno-birthing and natural birth:

1.       Can you tell us more about ParentLink and Hypnobirthing? 

ParentLink has been around since 1998, the first independent childbirth education centre and doula support organisation in Singapore.  

We currently offer classes in: 
Preconception Planning, Childbirth Preparation, HypnoBirthing, First Aid, Yoga, Infant Massage, Dunstan Baby Language, Conscious Parenting, and Professional Training: Infant Massage, HypnoBirthing, Water Birth

Our services include:
Doula support, Breastfeeding counselling, Pre and post natal massage including Jamu, Birth Pool rental and sales, Birthing Stool rental, Hypnotherapy, and free gatherings for parents for sharing of information and socialising

HypnoBirthing is a philosophy as well as techniques for parents to create a birth experience their baby would want.  5 classes of 2 1/2 hours each including the book by Marie Mongan, HypnoBirthing, 2 relaxation CDs and course handouts. Parents using HypnoBirthing techniques average 5 hours of labour, without the course the average is 12 hours.

2.       Why should moms go for natural birth? What are the benefits of natural birth?

In my classes, I request parents to reflect on the beliefs about pregnancy, labour and birth.  Rarely does anyone mention the baby.  The focus is on the mother's experience.  The baby is aware inside the womb - they are hiccoughing at 9 weeks, constantly tasting the amniotic fluid, seeing by 24 weeks, hearing by 20 weeks, babies are born with all 5 senses.  Human babies are born prematurely in brain development compared to other mammals.  The next two years a lot of connections are being made, synapses are firing.  How we treat babies at birth, how they are born, will cause different connections to be made.  Either fore brain connections (loving connections) or hind brain (survival connections).  

At birth, after the baby emerges from her body, there is a cocktail of love hormones secreted so baby is drawn to the mother and mothering instincts kick in.  That rush of hormones can only be described as euphoria.  If there is an epidural or caesarean birth, this reaction is inhibited.   

3.       How do you best prepare for a natural birth?

I think the most important is to learn to trust your body to what is was designed to do, birth easily without peril or extreme pain - like all our other body functions.  Mothers need to learn to relax and let go.  Fathers need to learn how to support the mother.

4.       Caesarean section births are on the rise world-wide, why do you think this is so?

There are many reasons for this.  Electronic Fetal Monitoring is done routinely in many hospitals and this is only 40% accurate.  That means that 60% of the caesareans due to fetal distress were not required.  Unfortunately, there are still some doctors that schedule caesareans due to their holiday schedule or desire to be home for dinner or not to have to wake up in the middle of the night.  Some mothers do not understand the challenges they will face after surgery - having a newborn that will need to feed every 1 1/2 to 2 hours whilst they are trying to recover.  The WHO states that only 12 -15% of all labours require interventions.  That includes all interventions, not caesareans.  In Singapore the public hospital section rate is 33%.  Way over the recommendations. Private hospitals no longer publish their statistics.  

5.       What do you think are the common myths/ misconceptions on birthing?

That it is so traumatic and dramatic that women must be anesthetized to get through it.  That hospitals are safer than home births. 

6.       My doctor’s nurse actually told me that Epidural (anesthesia, most popular form of pain relief during labor) must be one of the greatest inventions of the 21st century.  What is your take on that?

In some cases this is true - usually women that have had their labours induced or augmented.  However, doctors fail to inform parents of the risks involved and women routinely think this is a normal, natural birth.  Labour is powerful, yes, but it is the only physiological function we have that requires us to be drugged.  Animals are not drugged - what is it that makes us so different?  Women are duped into believing our entire lives that childbirth is something to be dreaded and feared.  Many women are now trying to take back their body and is ability to labour without peril or extreme pain.  We need to educate our daughters and sons that this is a normal, lovely, empowering experience - bringing a baby into the world. AND, I find it very entertaining that women are told throughout their pregnancy to stay away from drugs and the moment they head into hospital to birth they are asked - are you ready to be drugged now?

7.       Induction of labour is commonly done nowadays when pregnancy goes beyond 4 days from EDD (estimated due date).   What advice do you have for mothers who are confronted with such proposal?

With Di at a Small Business Group Workshop
Seek a second opinion from a doctor that does not routinely induce.  As long as mother and baby are fine, leave it alone.  Inductions lead to more interventions including drugs, suction, forceps and caesarean births.

8.       If you have to define birthing in one sentence, what would it be?

Birth is a normal, physiological event that women's bodies were designed to do; it is glorious and amazing.

What a great way to look at birth!  We are so blessed to have Di around!  Thanks Di!

Crossing paths at a Small Business Group Workshop

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Learning Kindness From Pain

I was ‘attempting’ to sort out my burgeoning inbox.  I think each time Yahoo! increases mailbox capacity, they thought of users like me who rarely deletes messages and believes that the search box is the most important organizational tool.  So while I was going through my files, I came across an email I sent out to my closest friends four years ago.

It occurred to me that despite having shared so many things about my pregnancy and labor in my blog, I have never shared this ONE thing.  Maybe that’s the thing, we are fast to share happy and glorious events of our lives but are reluctant for the non-glorious ones.  Who wants to remember them anyway?  

Until I read my letter again and I felt humbled…  and a certain kind of pride and of understated strength.  We are our experience.  Each line on our face speaks stories of our lives.  So after much deliberation of whether I should post a personal letter of mine, I realized that the reason why I started this blog in the first place was to inform, better yet inspire even at least a single soul.  I am grateful others have shared their stories, I am passing it on.

Coincidentally too (some would refute that there is no such thing as coincidence, such the book as Celestine Prophecy), a cousin’s wife just had a similar experience as mine.  I am reminded that we have more similarities than differences than we’d like to think.  After all, we are all part of this journey together. 

22 May 2008
(At home in Singapore)

Hi Everyone!

I have some sad news for you guys this time. I would say sad instead of bad for the reason that bad only means bad if nothing good can come out of it. At least, that's how I choose to look at it.

I have always believed in intuition, especially in a woman's intuition. It was intuition that led me to believe that I might be pregnant just one week after our Italy trip. It was also the same intuition that gave me the suspicion that the absence of associated symptoms like morning sickness, nausea or vomiting was just too good to be true. Either I'm in the most tiptop shape of my life or something was just not right.

My suspicion was confirmed when my husband and I visited our doctor last Tuesday, 20th of May for our regular ultrasound check-up. The moment I looked up at the screen expecting to see an 8-week pregnancy stage, (pictures still vivid from the many books we have studied) and finding something else staring back at us, I knew something was definitely wrong. The placenta, yoke or sac has not grown in size at all after two weeks. It just suddenly ceased to develop and there was no sign of an embryo.

The inevitable was to happen. The doctor had to do an operation called "evacuation of the uterus" or "wash" and was to be done immediately to prevent progressing into an emergency case. That was the last sentence that registered in my mind even when she kept explaining why the operation had to be done blah blah… I was suddenly speaking incoherently, cutting her in mid-sentences and asking questions like "was it because I continue to be very busy at work, etc..?". It's the first thing any mother (or mom-to-be in my case) would ask. She reassured me however that the problem most likely started at the very beginning. It might have been a response to soothe a distressed lady but what's done is done and you make sense of it as you go along.

I would like to think that one of the strengths that my husband and I both share is a rational mind. With just the two of us in Singapore, making big decisions on our own have prepared us to meet challenges on a daily basis. No one ever does the decision alone. We would stay up late at night debating pros and cons till the obvious surfaces. Somehow this time however, the rational mind only helped us as far as accepting that there is nothing that we can do and that's the most painful thing.

The operation happened the following day, 21st of May at 12:30pm. I was to fast 6-7 hours before the operation so I ate my breakfast at 5:30am in the morning. I was very tired. I had to force food down my throat as I barely slept that night, tossing and turning, sobbing, thinking, reflecting, questioning, surrendering… and finally accepting with a  heavy heart.

As I was lying on the mobile bed being wheeled towards the operating room, I was surprised to find myself busy looking at the details of the hospital design, the warm beige paint on the wall, the unique way of how the bright lights were mounted sideways on the walls instead at the usual ceiling. From a distance, I observed the nurses scurrying around for their schedules wearing bright Crocs footwear (my sister is the Crocs distributor in our hometown). The architectural training of attention to details I had for so many years have kept my mind free from worry and my heart from ache.

This is when I realized that everything will be okay. It's all part of the human experience. You expand your heart and breathe it in. You open yourself to a wave of profound emotions and let it take you where it leads you. I remember on our wedding day, my dad in his speech gave this message to us "Be kind to everyone, everything else will follow. And if you try to understand everything in the grand scheme of things, kindness will follow". I have never fully understood the depth of those words till now.

Speaking of parents, hubby and I are always lucky when it comes to perfect timing. Everything about us is perfect timing, from the serendipity of our similar flight from Davao to Manila, to our settlement here in Singapore. So when this fateful event happened in our lives, timing again was on our side. My parents were in town visiting us and are still here to help me recuperate. After hearing the news, my dad despite busy schedule in Davao did not hesitate to extend for another week to accompany my mom and me. They just do everything together for as long as I can remember.

Alfred and I have grown closer than ever. I am truly blessed with such an intelligent and kind man. After the operation, he looked more haggard than I was. I could not forget when I woke up, he was at my side, held my hand and said "thank you". I was puzzled at first at his words, but somehow I knew what he meant. Now, we are excited to plan our next holiday trip in 2 months’ time. Spain and Portugal? Australia? States? UK? The list goes on…

I sometimes ask myself, maybe I should have waited after 1st trimester to announce the news. That would have saved me a lot of trouble explaining. But if I didn't, I would not have the chance to share a sad yet poignant story - a story of human experience that we share to one another, to learn from one another, and ultimately to become a person of empathy and kindness. I am indeed grateful that I have my friends. Thank you for sharing with me the happy and sad events of my life. The story of our lives continues hehehe...

Regards to everyone.


 Afternote:  UK WON!  Sharing some random pics of our 2-week trip =)
Overlooking Edinburgh, Scotland
Traveled miles and miles to get to the middle of nowhere, Scottish Highlands
View of our Country Inn, Scottish Highlands
Enjoying ice cream one fine cold afternoon, Lake District England
Remaining positive through it all - buying Peter Rabbit books (for future children) at Beatrix Potter hometown
At the famous London Tower

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Why HypnoBirthing Works

I knew about HypnoBirthing from an unexpected source.  My colleague and I were pregnant at the same time.  She was seriously considering elective caesarean, traumatized by a graphic birth video back in school of a laboring woman screaming in extreme agony.  I was already blogging about natural birth at that time and of course I tried to impart the opposite.  I reassured her that a woman’s body was designed intuitively to give birth and  has the capacity to manage pain.  If that did not work, I outlined how studies have shown anything but good.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I received a call from her one day saying she was going for natural birth.  Knowledge is indeed power!  She did her own research and was convinced that drug-free is the best and safest way to give birth to her baby.  To help her prepare, she is taking HypnoBirthing® classes at ParentLink.  It is a method that helps create a relaxed, safer and easier birthing using hypnosis techniques.

That certainly perked my interest.  I was not a stranger to hypnosis.  Back in college, I was suffering from chronic migraines triggered by endless and sleepless nights that architecture is notoriously known for.   Worried from taking regular painkillers (with dosage getting stronger by the day), I was very eager to try an alternative when I chanced upon a book entitled “The Complete Book of Self-Hypnosis” by John M. Yates, M.D., and Elizabeth S. Wallace, which has this to offer:

“Learn how to make your body and mind work for you and not against you. Free yourself of those nagging ailments, fears, and problems that take up too much time and pain in your life.”

While some might be skeptic about self-hypnosis, which conjures an unsuspecting patient being manipulated by a hypnotist, I was not.  Contrary to popular belief, all hypnosis are SELF-hypnosis.  Hypnosis can only work with the person’s consent.  In short, it is self-induced.  You need to be able to concentrate and visualize well in order to be effective.  And thank goodness for that, I survived those mind throbbing and throwing up days.

Although I already gave drug-free birth to our firstborn, I really felt I could improve on the pain management part.  To be honest, I was sort of dreading the labor again now that I knew what to expect.  So to learn about hypnosis on birthing is like a prodigal daughter returning to her place of comfort.  Why did I never think of that?!

My savior in college.
HypnoBirthing at ParentLink runs 5 classes of 2 hours each for S$495, about the same cost of getting an epidural at Mt. Alvernia or more at other hospitals.  But of course, you get much more out of natural birth.  Nothing can ever replace the empowering, adrenaline-rush, raw and a miracle beyond words when you and your baby are fully alert and can instantly bond - face to face, skin to skin, smell to smell, mouth to a nipple and spend night to day.
The classes were taught by a lovely teacher, Ms. Di Bustamante.  She will be featured separately though as that alone is enough to cover another post =)  Anyway,  I have to say that I was initially disappointed since I expected the classes to focus on hypnosis techniques and drills after drills.  Instead, only half of the time was spent on that while approximately half of the other time, we were watching birth videos and getting into the inner workings of a body in labor.

What I didn’t realize then that conditioning of the mind is more important than knowing a skill.  What the mind thinks pretty much dictate how the body reacts.  And when fear of pain knocks and the mind accommodates, as I would know from experience, all breathing and visualization practice go out the window.  And that is why HypnoBirthing®  - The Mongan Method is as much a philosophy as it is a technique.

They delivered as promised when they say on their website:

“You will gain an understanding of how the birthing muscles work in perfect harmony - as they were designed to--when your body is sufficiently relaxed. You will learn how to achieve this kind of relaxation, free of the resistance that fear creates, and you will learn to use your natural birthing instincts for a calm, serene and comfortable birthing”

A book that will change how you think about birthing.

Indeed, the absence of fear could have not been emphasized more in class.  Coupled with the book “HypnoBirthing®  - The Mongan Method” to read and the relaxation CD to practice positive imagery at home - have truly prepared me mentally and watching all those women giving peaceful and natural births have engaged me emotionally.   So much so that I was actually looking forward to giving birth again.
Enough said, a picture paints a thousand words.  This is how I labored with my firstborn at 6-7cm dilation (deliberating if I should post this photo - for the sake of illustrating a point):
Yes, I also think my hubby is so mean to take this photo when I am clearly in pain.

And this is how I was on my second labor at 7-8cm dilation, deep in hypnosis:
So much the better!
It is also worthy to note that there were five (including my colleague) of us who were pregnant almost at the same time.  Three took Hypnobirthing class and went to give successful natural births while the other two who didn’t end up birthing under the knife.  Is there a correlation or purely coincidence?

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

From SAHM to WAHM!

We are one month shy away from Ally’s 1st birthday - which means, it’s been almost a year since I stopped work as an Architect and turned stay-at-home mom.  This brings to recall a recent conversation I overheard in a coffee shop between two corporate-dressed women. “Can you believe it?  She’s taking care of her baby day in and day out.  I could not imagine it!” I almost choked sipping my decaf latte.  They could be talking about me for all I know!

Stopping work may seem implausible for some career-oriented moms.  Well, it is not completely unfounded.  Giving up or putting on hold years of hard work and not to mention a big cut on household salary are not easy decisions.  When I had my first baby, I also could not bear the thought of staying home and losing the “outside” world.  Part-time work was a good compromise between a career and family life - albeit frustrations of juggling both.  But still it worked.  

Then came baby number two.  The part-time set-up would have worked too if we were not living abroad and far from family support.  With just one caretaker who doubled as household help and daycare being not a solution for us, staying at home became inevitable.  But honestly speaking, I was already looking forward to the change.  I knew deep inside that I would end up hating my profession if it takes too much of my time away from my girls.  And Architecture, fraught with impossible deadlines and endless meetings is going to do just that. 

The priority is the girls.  Once I have established that, all else revolves around it.  I guess I am lucky in a way that I have always BELIEVED that things will work out by themselves when you MAKE that important decision.  I KNEW what I wanted – to set up my own business so I can look after my girls at the same time.  Many work-at-home moms have successfully done it, so why can’t I?  Yes, I believed it when Paulo Coelho in his book, The Alchemist, said “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”

I did not know when it will happen and what business it would be but I was OPEN.  I was open to ideas, to my new life as a stay-at-home mom, open to just enjoying lazy days with my girls, open to what life has in store for me and basically - open to CHANGE.  And that’s the thing that still amazes me till know.  Like finding the right person - it naturally happens.  Nothing feels contrite or forced.  A light bulb flickers, something clicks inside and you have your AHA! moment.

One serendipitous vacation back to our hometown in Davao City, Philippines, I visited my sister’s developmental toy store Oak & Acorn, and I noticed a new shop - Human Nature opened beside it.  So of course I checked it out.  I was so happy to find all natural products that were so affordable!  I was already using natural and organic products for my girls because of Ava’s sensitive skin and I was feeding them organic food since day one. Our grocery bills almost doubled but after learning about harmful chemicals found in our daily products and food, there is simply no going back.   I bought the baby and kids care line as well as shampoos to bring back to Singapore with us.

So there I was, looking at the back label while showering and giving the kids their baths every day.  Ava did not get any dry skin like she usually does from new products and her hair really shone.  Ally too smelled good and her skin soft.  My husband and I also liked how our hair felt so silky from the shampoos.  This prompted us to take a closer look and check out the website.  Knowing about the advocacy behind Human Nature – the commitment to help the poor farmers and communities together with Gawad Kalinga (a world renowned foundation on converting slums to sustainable communities) sealed the deal. This is exactly what we have been looking for.

After a month of email correspondences with Human Nature, we flew to Manila with the girls (thanks to my parents who flew from Davao to Manila to look after them in the hotel) and met with Dylan Wilk, one of Human Nature’s founders.  It’s amazing how you always believe in something and someone comes along believing the same principles and values and putting it into ACTION effortlessly.  Just look him up in Google and you will find out how inspiring and trailblazing his story is.  Anyway, we could not secure the exclusive distributorship just yet (with many others interested in getting it too) but we came out from that meeting even more charged and wanting it more.

Only with Human Nature's Dylan Wilk can you probably bring a baby to an important meeting!

We worked day in and day out, set up an online shop, designed and printed thousands of fliers and drafted a 40-page business plan when the girls were asleep at night.  On a second trip back to Manila, we got it!  And here I am – a bona fide work-at-home-mom!   Though I have dark circles around my eyes now (when sleep is the solution and Human Nature’s bestselling Sunflower Beauty Oil could not fix anymore), have lost more than 10 kilos, dropped to a 25-inch waistline (a good thing right?) and basically have lost “me” time altogether, I knew and expected it.  This is what I had envisioned – a business I can run at home, a product that I really love and most importantly, it has a purpose of helping the less fortunate.  It could not get better than that.

A friend who wanted to quit work for the longest time said to me “Now you have a business and can spend time with your girls… You are so lucky”.  Oprah Winfrey best defined luck as “preparation meets opportunity”.  I made that BIG LEAP to stop work (having no idea where to get the extra income), opened myself to CHANGE, on the LOOKOUT and sent my ENERGY to the universe, and guess what?  The right opportunity came at the right time when I was prepared =)

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

On Being A Mom

It’s always nice to hear from my readers.  So I was really glad when a journalist found my blog engaging and emailed me some questions for her upcoming book “The Global Parenting”, which will be published soon.  I will definitely be on the look-out for it!  So sharing with you my thoughts...

1.  What do you think is most challenging being a mother in modern times?

I think the most challenging on being a modern mom is finding the elusive balance between work and quality family time.  Since women actively joined the workforce in the 1960’s, moms have been juggling pregnancies, raising kids, running a household, kindling a married life and pursuing a successful career. So much so that this generation has coined the term supermom - proving that the modern mom wants to have her cake and eat it too.
From an urban designer’s point of view, the physical divide between the public and private realms, between work and home, has long disappeared.   Technology definitely has allowed us that.  No longer confined to the office desks, tele-conferences and emails can be accessed via blackberrys and iPhones - from virtually anywhere.  Stay-at-home-moms are now work-at-home-moms and mom-preneurs are doing global business online.  
This is where the challenge I believe becomes more pronounced.  As a stay-at-home mom myself trying to set up my own business, working at home means no “office hours” and can easily get out of hand (and the frustration of accomplishing so little from multi-tasking).  That is why prioritizing my girls is a continuous and deliberate decision I have to make everyday.

2.  How would you define your parenting style?
Basically, my husband and I believe in positive parenting and we don’t spank our kids.  Attachment parenting comes naturally to me.  In fact, I have been practicing its principles long before I have read about it.  Although attachment parenting is known for advocating breastfeeding, baby-wearing and co-sleeping, these are just some of the many tools for fostering a closer bond between mom and baby.  More to it are the everyday little things that we do - communicating with positive language, nurturing love and trust, that makes all the difference.
One of the more challenging ways is using positive discipline to our strong-willed and defiant toddler (aren’t they all?).  It’s very tempting to resort to bribery or punishment to get her to follow but we believe it is not healthy in the long run.  Not to mention that you can only do it for a limited time.  The best way we avoid disciplining is by preventing situations that are catalysts for misbehavior in the first place.  
One example is giving her advance notice of the things to come and managing her expectations.  Like when she wakes up in the morning, I would excitedly tell her that after we eat our breakfast, we will have Little Gym class and we can go buy a book afterwards, eat lunch and come back home so she could play more.  It’s a lot manageable if the stage is set too by making sure she had a good night’s rest and giving her plenty of time to eat.  Rushing would mean pressuring her to chew faster and getting all frustrated when she wants to play at the same time.  This is a sure recipe for a meltdown!  
Distraction and substitution or giving choices are other creative ways of getting her to cooperate.  I genuinely believe children inherently would like to please mommy and daddy, but easily get sidetracked out of pure curiosity and the quest for independence on their part (as oppose to believing they are always up to mischief).  Getting their attention in playful manner is equally if not more effective than reprimanding.  
It’s a lot of work I know but scolding and threatening are also stressful, aside from creating a gloomy environment where everyone is up on their toes.  And because mommy gets angry only once in awhile, it definitely gets her attention and knows it is not to be trifled with.

3.  What do you think is a good mother?
This is a tough one.  For one thing, we know that there isn’t a parenting manual on how to raise our kids.  Yes, there are a lot of parenting styles and ways to guide us but for the most part, we learn and make up things as we go.  
After a lot of thinking and stripping things to bare essentials, personally, I think a good mother is someone who really listens.  The value of listening certainly goes beyond the premise of motherhood, but it becomes more imperative for children to be heard - since they are still trying to comprehend the world around them.  Not just listening and answering when they ask their 1001 questions everyday, but most especially when they are upset. 
I have actually been to a preschool where a child was crying and the teacher assured me not to mind him as he was just trying to get attention.  Yes, maybe he was but still that didn’t solve the root cause of why he was crying in the first place.  Crying is communication and I do not believe children have enough experience to use it for manipulation as others would paint it to be.  Even if he was (for discussion sake), the more I thought he needed to be heard.  
I think listening starts on day one when babies are in our wombs.  As an advocate of natural birth, letting labor start on its own means listening when the baby is ready to come out.  That’s why I am a skeptic when it comes to induced labor of any kind especially when the reason is highly debatable (e.g. past estimated date of delivery, low amniotic fluid, etc.).  When the baby is ready, the body is ready and everything works in harmony.  Having this mindset, breastfeeding and keeping baby close (vs leaving them in the hospital nursery) naturally happens.  I truly believe that if newborns could talk and we listen, these are the things they hold dear the most.
Now that my girls are growing and distinct personalities emerge, I try my best to listen (in fact I pray for it every night) and tailor my parenting styles individually.  What works for Ava might not work for Ally and it is a continuous learning everyday.  And really listening to them is actually closely linked to how I feel about myself.  Being aware when I am tired or stressed means I won't be taking out my frustration on them.  So taking good care of myself - proper nutrition and enough rest, equate to patience and listening more =)

I am reminded of a quote that my sister have posted on Facebook:

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

A Father's Day Thank You Letter

As a mom to two girls, one of my biggest concerns is that when they become adults they will find a man who knows what it means to love.  If I had to pick a quote on men, one of my all-time favorites comes from the late Randy Pausch, former professor at Carnegie Mellon and Dad to 3 kids.   He was given a terminal diagnosis of pancreatic cancer with 3-6 months of good health left.  He gave an upbeat lecture titled Last Lecture: Achieving your Childhood Dreams, which went viral on YouTube and his advice to his baby girl when she grows up was:

“When it comes to men who are romantically interested in you, it’s really simple. Just ignore everything they say and only pay attention to what they do.”

This pretty much sums up my husband and dad to our two young girls.  He is not big on words and over the top romantic gestures, but he more than makes up for it on things that truly matter.  Every morning and when he comes home from work, he sweeps his girls in his arms, dances with them, plays hide-and-seek and peek-a-boo, kisses every booboos, cuddles them to sleep, drops whatever he is doing at one call, and basically, spoils them to a fault. 

He is a hands-on Dad for sure. He knows Ava well enough that milk and reading books are things that make her tick.  I think his 4-step regimen with her before bedtime is absolutely brilliant!  Step 1: Drink milk.  Step 2: Brush teeth.  Step 3: Change diaper.  Step 4: Read books.  By slotting in the unfavorables in between the first and the last, everything finishes in a zip.  It is so effective that I’m doing it before our afternoon naps too! 

Another idea of his, feeding Ava while letting her watch video.  This time, I’m still figuring out if it’s another stroke of genius (since we can stuff her with as much vegetables as we can without her complaining) or just plain bribery at work.  Or probably both!  One thing for sure, he does his piece of the pie in day-to-day rearing.  In fact, my multi-tasking skills have seemed to rub off on him.  He now ‘babywears’ baby Ally for a walk around the neighborhood to get some exercise and buys some groceries while he is at it too!  The girls, without a doubt, feel the love.

Ready for a walk around the neighborhood

Most important above all, he loves their mommy like a true gentleman would.  Not because I still get the best seat in the house, the remote control and the last word (haha!), but in calm, consistent and reassuring ways.  His strength is not the proud, protective, I’m-the-man-of-this-house type, but as a sturdy guidepost that quietly says “I will always be here no matter what”.  

So on this Father's month of June, thank you Daddy for giving us a hundred and one reasons to smile!  Here are some random thank you’s more from the top of my head:

-  Thank you for giving up golf games over going to the parks and zoos.  Ava especially loves your shoulder rides to catch a better glimpse of the lion. 

Where's the lion Daddy?

-  Thank you for trading your sumptuous meal with me.  I don’t know why I always end up ordering the wrong dish and you would have the more appetizing one. 

-  Thank you for reading the humongous 1,336-page pulitzer-prized book “The Powerbroker” and doing my report when I was already overwhelmed with too many assignments getting my Master’s Degree (oops, sorry professor!).  I guess reading birth and nursing books after THAT become easy-peasy.

-  Thank you for knowing that being a stay-at-home mom is difficult too.  It is indeed the hardest job of all.  You enthusiastically take over when you get home from work and bonds with them every night.

-  Thank you for refusing to eat shark’s fin soup - to the amusement of your colleagues, knowing how deeply I feel against it.  We had the last laugh, now that Singapore has banned it from all supermarkets.

-  Thank you for being a don’t-need-to-fix-it-all Martian, for patiently listening to a Venus who just wants to rant and lets out air, even if most of it probably sounded gibberish to you.

-  Thank you for passing your good-looking genes (which have been mistaken for Malay, Indian, Japanese, Italian, except Chinese!) to our beautiful girls (at least half of it! hahaha!).

-  Thank you for being my birth doula.  For reminding me that I don’t need epidural when I thought I could not make it on my first labor.  You knew me well enough that I would have regretted it afterwards.

-  Thank you for not letting me win on our chess and tennis matches, even when I would not quit and dragged us both to mental and physical exhaustion.  I know I am such a sore loser but I would have hated winning anyway if I knew you just let me. 

-  Thank you for continuously giving me intellectual stimulation all these years.  Our skin may wrinkle and sag, but I hope our minds will be at least half as sharp as Lee Kuan Yew when we reach 89.

-  Last but not the least, thank you for being that kind of man - of honest convictions and a believer of great love. 

They say girls draw conclusions about what men are like from the men in their life.  The father becomes her role model for what to expect of men and what to expect of men’s attitude toward women.  Then I guess it should not come as a surprise why I ended up with a good man.  My dad definitely set the bar high! (I shall write a separate father’s day article on him) and maybe I should not worry too much on my girls too.  After all, they have a good Dad to look up to =)  

Happy father’s day to all dads!  We live in a great time when fathers are getting more and more involved, not just in birthing, but in raising our kids too.

Daddy with her girls =)

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