Thursday, January 6, 2011

Breastfeeding isn't for wimps!

Breastfeeding is hard. More so when you are a wimp like me!

I came across this quotation in one of the writing newsletters I receive weekly. It's from an author named Charles Peguy who said, "A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket." When he wrote that, he was thinking of how some writers can conjure up stories without blinking an eyelid whereas others will have to work through many sleepless nights just to make a paragraph work.

I thought the quote was quite apt in relation to my breastfeeding experience. Yes, it is hard for every nursing mother but a lot of them take it in good stride and can see the big picture clearly (that they are giving the best for their babies) and persevere. For me, I feel that it is like tearing something out of my gut without any anaesthesia. I have tried to make it work and with a lot of support and encouragement, I have managed to breastfeed Little Burpette for almost 4 months despite enduring painful blocked ducts, thrush, lack of milk supply together with emotional and mental turmoil.

So, why throw in the towel now? It's the isolation.

As Little Burpette only nurses well when she lies on my breastfeeding pillow (it's a big rounded boomerang shaped pillow which sits nicely around your waist. Hence, not very travel friendly!) in my room, I don't get to spend time with DH and Osh Osh. Yes, they do come up and sit around with me for a while but Osh Osh gets bored and wants to go and play with his toys or read his books. As for DH, he often needs to do other things around the house as well as keep Osh Osh company and get him ready for bed.

I miss out on dinner time with them. I miss out on play time. I miss out on just relaxing in the hall with them. I miss out on tucking Osh Osh in at nights. I miss out on seeing him leave for school in the mornings. My inlaws come over every evening to help out which is great but it means I am confined to my room when it comes to nursing time. I am just too conservative to whip out my breasts and feed Burpette in front on my inlaws. Nope, can't bring myself to do that.

However, I can't just stop breastfeeding immediately. Burpette is so fond of breastmilk that whenever we give her the formula, she rejects it unless she is starving. I will carry on with breastfeeding this month but will slowly wean her off when I return to work next month. Once she is on formula feeds, I can have more time to spend with DH and Osh Osh because other people can tend to her instead of me. Why stop? Why not give her expressed breastmilk in a bottle? I have tried to express as much milk as I can but somehow, I can't pump enough to meet her needs as opposed to when she is latched on.

The pamphlets promoting the benefits and joys of breastfeeding never tell you how lonely and isolated the nursing mother can feel, how much time it takes you away from the other members of your family, how draining it can be on the mother. Or maybe it's just me...I am a wimp!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

How shall I begin?

I just reread my last post which was written in May 2010. How shall I begin this post given my long silence? So much has changed since I attended that writing seminar by Philip Yancey. Not that I have become an established writer. Rather, it's the opposite as I've stopped taking on writing assignments since April. My writing course has been put on hold. The only writing I do since then is in the form of email messages to friends updating them about my baby.

Yes, I have a baby. She is a happy, healthy baby who is growing well but she also demands all of her mother's time which is expected of a newborn. Osh Osh loves Little Burpette dearly. As far as I can see now, there is no sibling rivalry although there are moments when Osh Osh feels neglected and makes it clearly known to me by saying, "Why don't you play with me anymore? You don't love me?", looking really sad. That puts me on the guilt train and once I'm on that train, it's very hard to jump off it as it will stop for nothing. I do feel stretched and drained and yet, happy and content all at the same time. Is that possible?

Burpette has been very fussy before her bedtime without fail for the past 2 weeks. I couldn't face handling her and tending to Osh Osh alone tonight given that DH is on his night shift. So, tonight is a big "firsts" for all of us. Osh Osh is spending the night at his grandparents. He has never slept anywhere without me and DH. I helped him pack his sleepover bag and got his school bag ready. Burpette was starting to be difficult just as Osh Osh started to have a change of mind. He asked, "Why do I have to go? Can't I stay here tonight?". At that moment, I wanted to shoo him away because I was really getting tired but I knew I had to put myself in his shoes. I calmly explained to him that it will be more fun for him at his grandparents because they can pay more attention to him than I can tonight. It is just for one night and I will see him again after school, I assured him.

He asked if he could pack a snack. He wanted a small box of his favourite breakfast cereal and I said ok. He came into the room several times to give me hugs and kisses, making me promise to call him there once Burpette has settled into a deep sleep, before he eventually left with his grandfather. I thought I would be relieved but in about 5 minutes of his departure, I felt a deep sense of loneliness and sadness. It was as though I would not see him again in a very long time, like he was going overseas to live for a year or something to that effect.

I went to his room after Burpette stopped tossing and turning and seemed to have settled (just peeped at her a minute ago and she's sound asleep) and tidied up his bed, picked up his toys and smelt his pajamas. This pair had just been washed so I was disappointed that I couldn't smell him on it.

I picked up the phone and called him. He said, "Hello, Mummy. Wait, let me play this song for you. You listen, ok?" He played on the organ a tune which I couldn't recognize. He said the title was "Small Yellow Duck, Quack, Quack, Quack". We both laughed and I complimented his performance. We talked a bit more about where he will sleep, what his supper will be and I reminded him that he has to go to school tomorrow so he can't stay up late tonight. I chatted with my father in law for a while then Osh Osh asked for the phone again. "I am excited to be here, Mummy but I miss my home!" He emphasized the last four words, in almost a shout. "I miss you too. Do you know that Mummy feels very sad after you left?"

Ironically, he used my explanation in his reply, 'It's ok, Mummy. It's just for one night and I will see you tomorrow. I love you. Good night."

We hung up. I now feel warm and fuzzy and kind of odd. So, this is what a child can do to you. Just when you think you can't feel more love for them, you do! It may be the first sleepover away from home for him but for me, it's the first time ever since Little Burpette joined our family that I realised my love for Osh Osh has not decreased or stayed the same. It has actually grown as I start to see him in a new light...he's no longer just my little boy. He is his own person. A person I am very honoured to share my life with. I'm going to his room one more time just to look through his stuff, to feel close to him. I know, it's just one night. I didn't say mothers have to act rationally, did I?

Monday, May 17, 2010

What's my Voice?

I recently attended a writing seminar conducted by Philip Yancey. Yes, the Philip Yancey who wrote books like "Where is God when It Hurts?" and "Prayer - Does it Make Any Difference?". His style of writing is different from your typical Christian writer. There are no catchy punchy short sentences like the books by Max Lucado. He does not write lengthy sentences filled with scriptures, theological references and ideology. Rather, he writes from a very realistic viewpoint and dissects the issue as a journalist would because that was his profession before he became a full time writer. He writes not because he's an expert on the topic but rather, his "voice" is of one who asks questions that everyone in the pew is thinking but dare not ask.

He explained that he wrote "Prayer-Does it Make any Difference?" not because he spends 4 hours a day on his knees praying but rather that this is one of his weakest areas in his walk of faith. He said that his purpose for writing each book is for himself. It's a self discovery process where as he writes, he researches the issue until he learns something. He loves interviewing people and finding out their thoughts on the topic. Then he will try to put it all together and make sense of it. However, for his book on prayer, the views of his interviewees were so diverse, he felt that it was better to leave the individuals' thoughts as side-bars in order not to lose the gist of it. It worked because his readers felt a strong connection to the book. They had the "a-ha" moment in that when they read a story or two that touched them about prayer, it made them feel less alone and less inadequate. They felt that they were understood by someone else in this big crazy world.

What stuck with me for days since this writing seminar is when Philip said, "The success to writing comes when you find your voice, your genuine voice of who you really are". He already shared what his "voice" was. One of the attendees shared that she wrote a book on singlehood. So, Philip said, "That's your voice. Just make sure you don't get married until your book sales proceeds reach its first million! Otherwise, you would have lost your voice and would no longer be genuine." Others stood up to share their voices. "I'm a mother coping with a child of special needs." "I'm a manager who wants to improve the corporate structure and morale that I work in." "I'm a happy-go-lucky young adult struggling to keep a deep dark secret hidden." "I'm a pastor who wants to stir the church up into a strong spiritual movement." The list goes on.

I felt inadequate. A lot of the attendees have published books. A lot of them have found their voices. I wanted to shout out, "Yes, I know what my voice is!" but I couldn't. The truth is I don't know what my voice is. Am I supposed to be a working mother who juggles between her role of a corporate employee and loving Mummy? Or am I a faithful and supportive wife to my husband? At one point of time, I had thought my voice was that of one dealing with secondary infertility. However, the recent change of events have taken away that voice but there are no regrets. I'm all too glad to carry this miracle baby inside me.

Am I genuine to myself when I say I'm the voice of a modern Christian woman who struggles to make sense of it all? Is that voice too common? Is it too cliché? I don’t have the answer yet and yes, it does keep me up on certain nights. Amazing, isn't it, that such a thought can nag at you?

Maybe my voice is that of a Christian woman who writes about finding her voice? What do you think? Could that work?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Big thoughts, little thoughts

It has been more than a month since my last post. I realise that it's harder to come back and write something here when I've been away from it for longer than my usual spell. I have many thoughts and experiences over the past month that I am dying to share but it's all bottled up inside and I don't really know how to start. So, I'm just going to write whatever comes to mind, hence the title "Big thoughts, little thoughts".

1. A big change - we have moved house! It was exhilarating, fulfilling and yet extremely stressful. I hope this is a keeper as I don't want to move again…at least not for a few decades! We couldn't have done it without the loving support of both sets of parents. There is a lot of adjustment given the new surroundings. Finding the right light switch in the middle of the night is still challenging! DH asked me the other evening when Osh Osh was happily playing in the nearby playground, "So, is this worth the price we paid for the house?" My reply was "No" and I went on to explain that we now have a big mortgage to pay off. That's the practical "me" talking. I then smiled and DH understood that I agreed with him that it's worth the money to see Osh Osh so happy. The move for us represents the next phase in our lives, leaving the past hurts and ugly memories behind and moving forward to a better life.

2. We survived Chinese New Year and lived to talk about it! Okay, it's not that bad but this is the first Chinese New Year where my inlaws travelled with us to stay at my parents' home for 10 days. That has never happened before and I was worried if it would turn out disastrous. What was I thinking when I asked them to come along with us? Did I suffer a momentary lapse of sanity? Yes, they get along but they get along better when they only see each other once every few months and are only under the same roof for not more than a few hours. 10 days…that's phenomenal. However, DH and I felt that this was the right thing to do. My inlaws needed a break and my parents wanted us to be home for the holidays. We prayed a lot about it and throughout the stay as well. There were moments when it was touch and go and I was thinking, "Oh no! Will everything fall apart?" God blessed our intentions and the stay was without any adverse consequences. I'm not saying that there has been a tremendous improvement in their relationship with each other but it's a good start in the right direction. Nevertheless, I told DH, "Let's think about doing this again…6 years from now!"

3. Bringing up Osh Osh. Osh Osh has grown leaps and bounds in the past few months. His physical stature is that of an older boy beyond his natural age. I can't carry him anymore because it would hurt my back. There are still times when he wants to be carried especially when it's at the end of the day and he's feeling very tired. He understands why I can't carry him and after some persuasion, he will carry on walking on his own without any fuss. If Daddy is there, he will cling to Daddy's leg and not let Daddy walk away without carrying him. Daddy always gives in to him! Osh Osh has a large appetite for learning new things. I have to keep up with him as he asks me new things every day and I sometimes end up saying, " I don't know!" God has blessed him with the love for music. Osh Osh sings and plays tunes on his keyboard every day. Last night, he told me he wanted to teach me a new church song and sang, "Jesus is my Lord, Jesus is my everything" and asked me to sing along with him. It warms my heart to see God at work in his life. I pray that he will continue to grow well in the Lord and touch the lives of others.

4. God is good all the time! This is a phrase which Christians overuse,sometimes flippantly. More often than not, we do not really believe it. At least, not when it's applied to our lives personally. We are happy to wish it to others but when someone tells us that God is good to us all the time, we find that hard to swallow. That's how I viewed it. I went through so many periods of unanswered prayers in my life. The unbearable silence. The endless waiting hours, days, weeks, months, years. A sense of being lost and abandoned. Hopelessness. Despair. Anger. Darkness. Last Sunday's sermon was an incredible eye-opener for me. It was a simple sermon. God answers prayers. The answers may not be what we're expecting but He answers our petitions and cries for help. We have to believe Him, live according to His will and persevere. Do not give up hope. Just keep praying even when you are at your last straw. DH and I keep telling ourselves to pray for our difficult issues…just pray for one more day. When the next day comes, pray again. The pastor was saying, "So, you believe Him and you live and pray according to His will and yet there is silence. What happened?" He explained that he doesn't have all the answers but there may be a lapse of time/hinderance/obstacle in the spiritual world which prevents us from seeing the answers immediately in our present physical world. It doesn't mean that the answer is lost in transmission. It just takes longer to get to us. Once the answer arrives and if it's not the one that we hoped for, it doesn't mean that God is against us. He has other plans or it's not the right time or maybe we are not to know the answer in this life. I don't know but what I do know is that He has answered our prayers and will keep answering them.

5. Spring, summer, autumn or winter? Which season of marriage are we in now? I think we're in the summer stage. We are definitely not in the spring "new love, new hopes and excitement" stage. Neither are we in the winter stage of coldness, bitterness and despair although at one point of our marriage a few years ago, we were in the deepest depths of winter. As for autumn - a season of changes, somewhat cold and uncertain, we were also there before but we have come a long way since then. So why summer? Summer is always a busy time with lots of activities. That succinctly describes our lives now. It's a fun time and that's what we're experiencing in our parenting experience with Osh Osh at the moment. It's also a very busy time for us in our careers. I am aware of the dangers of being so busy. We compromise quality couple time to meet other commitments. We may neglect each other's needs, be less sensitive, more irritable and more prone to take each other for granted. I know that both of us will do what we can to prevent a season change unless of course, it means moving into spring! Do you think that's possible? There is always hope...

And my last thought for this post…

Write till I drop! I've not been writing for at least a month now and each day, I have this feeling that something is missing. I recently submitted 2 articles to the parenting website that I've been writing for these past few months. It's a start but I know it's not enough. What do I really want to write about? That is something I have to dig deep into my soul and patiently listen to its quiet promptings. Muse, I am waiting…speak now!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Welcome to the beginning of the rest of your life!

This sentence struck me as I woke up this morning. The voice in my head wasn't saying it in a nice welcoming way. Rather, it sounded like the voice of Death himself. "The beginning of the rest of my life" at this point of time is akin a dungeon pit to me, filled with darkness and grimly beings and I am in the centre of it all, with my life being slowly sucked out of me in a painfully agonizing manner.

The background to my tale of doom and gloom starts with the resignation of a colleague at work. I had a very difficult meeting with my manager yesterday. It was a one sided conversation with me hitting a brick wall at each and every turn. After the meeting, I felt demoralized. I have been given added responsibilities which promises increased stress at work and longer hours. On top of that, I lack support both from my manager and the rest of the team. I told DH that I am overwhelmed by a deep sense of loneliness. Everyone is looking out for themselves and at my expense. I feel trampled, squashed like a bug.

I asked God what He wants me to do at this stage of my life. Do I stick it out here, do my best at work and trust that He will give me the strength to face the challenges that lie ahead without sacrificing my time with my family? Alternatively, does He want me to trust Him to provide for our needs in particular the new mortgage payments and I will move on to find something less stressful and demanding? I don't have any answers and neither do I have a sense of peace in this matter.

On the flip side, I know God has blessed my family and I with many things. We have developed good friendships with the people in our church cell group. Coincidentally enough, last Saturday's meeting touched on loneliness and how God is still in the midst of our loneliness. Nothing catches Him by surprise. He is holding us in his hands when we go through such dark periods.

I started my writing course in February last year. A year later, I am a regular writer on a local parenting webzine with a large regional readership. I have definitely come a long way since the beginning of my writing course. Unfortunately, the thing I love doing doesn't pay the bills. All the writing books I've read advised me not to give up my day job. Write in the midst of your struggles. Make the bad times work for you. Use them as material for your writing. No time to write? Write whenever you can. In the train, in the bathroom, while waiting for your computer to boot up, when your son is playing with his toys, write within your daily routine and amongst the numerous mundane activities that you do. Just write!

That's what I'm doing now. It keeps me sane even if it doesn't make me rich. Well, maybe it does but not in the material sense. I am richer in that writing frees my soul, allowing me to sing my songs of life and hopefully, touches the souls of others too.