LOVING, Portraits


    Finally got around to updating the introduction to this space with our latest family portraits. Whether I’ll write or not, I have no idea, but I think I’m going to try.

    Daily updates are on my IG.

    See you around :)

    Alessia, LOVING, Pregnancy

    Alessia’s Birth Story

    So the plan was to spend a nice Christmas with the family and kids. As you know, I LOVE Christmas and was looking forward to sipping on my coffee with the husband while the kids went crazy unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning, the wonderful cinnamon scent wafting across the living room from the Panettoni in the oven. There would also be a huge, rowdy family gathering at my aunt’s in the afternoon that would normally run late into the night.

    I didn’t know how I was going to do it feeling uncomfortable as I was at 36 weeks, but we were going to do it. Then we would allow L one day to do a thorough work handover to his colleague on Boxing Day before inducing on Thursday, 27 December 2018, at 37 weeks.

    Why induction? Well, because when it is your third child, it is just easier to be able to plan logistics and caregiving for the older kids. And because I was so done with pregnancy, what with the aches, limited mobility and incontinence (sigh). And most importantly, because the risk to baby was extremely low and my body was ready.

    Saturday, 21 December 2018

    During our scheduled check-up that morning, I was told that I was already between 3 and 4cm dilated, and my cervix is “completely flat” (which meant labour would be Godspeed). We had two options – one, stick to the plan but risk not having an epidural and/or — worst case but very possible scenario — not making it to the hospital in time OR two, move up our scheduled induction to Christmas Eve.

    L and I weren’t so much concerned about not making it to the hospital as I was about not being able to get an epidural in time because… what are the odds? We deliberated between missing Christmas with the kids (emotional), L not having done his handover (logical), weighing baby’s health risk if we didn’t make it to hospital vs. being induced earlier (logical), me not getting an epidural (critical), and still left the clinic with Plan A because… emotional.

    I still wanted to spend Christmas with Ashleigh and Javier, and I also wanted the husband to do a proper work handover so that he could have the peace of mind to rest and focus on family during his paternity leave. BUT it freaked me out so much that I may potentially go through labour without pain-relief that I cried in the carpark after our appointment.

    After leaving the carpark though, L being the planner that he was, didn’t want to entertain even the remote possibility of not making it to the hospital in time to deliver, and we agreed to move up the induction date. He would send a detailed e-mail handover to his colleague, I would get my epidural and it was just one Christmas we would be missing with the kids. It was the best possible decision given the circumstances. To make up for it, we would bring all their gifts and stockings to the hospital suite. I know. Crazy parents.

    So Christmas Eve, it was!

    Monday, 24 December 2018

    5 a.m. Got up like clockwork to wash up, waddled around getting ready, put on some light make-up and off we went. Was I at all emotional about being pregnant for the (hopefully) last time? Absolutely NOT. I was so ready to evict this baby!

    5.45 a.m. We arrived at the hospital and signed some admissions paperwork. It was all very quick because we had already done the pre-admissions two weeks prior.

    6.11 a.m. We we ushered into the delivery ward and I changed into my floral labour gown. First time around, we got a seasoned midwife who was all, “Sure, wear your own gown and look pretty as long as it makes you feel better.” This time, it was a young trainee nurse who hesitated and asked if the gown had proper openings for the necessary drips/epidural/etc. I had to assure her, “Don’t worry, I’ve done this before. This gown works.”

    6.45 a.m. I was administered the Fleet enema and promptly hooked up onto a glucose and epidural IV. Third time around, still, I couldn’t look. I HATE NEEDLES. The anaesthetist arrived and administered the epidural. We had a small chat and it turns out that he was also an ob-gyn. I requested for the lowest dosage and he obliged. Once the numbness flooded down my legs, I was so relieved. To think I was even risking going through labour without The Best Thing Money Can Buy… I can’t. Don’t kill yourself at childbirth, my friends. Parenting will be painful enough. It’s a marathon.

    7.30 a.m. The oxytocin drip had only just started but we were told my contractions were already consistently 3 to 4 minutes apart. Even without being induced, baby would have also decided to arrive today. Wow.

    At this point, the oxytocin dosage was still low because apparently my ob-gyn had just woken up and needed some time to get to the hospital. She didn’t want the labour to progress too quickly and not be able to make it. Okayyy. LOL.

    8.20 a.m. Contractions were now 2 minutes apart and I was feeling discomfort but was not in pain. That worked for me because I didn’t want to be too numb to feel when I was fully dilated.

    8.30 a.m. The ob-gyn had arrived at the hospital so the nurses increased oxytocin dosage to speed things up.

    8.45 a.m. The ob-gyn arrived at the delivery suite and burst my water bag then left us to allow the labour to progress.

    9.40 a.m. The midwife checked my cervix and I was now 5cm dilated. She also mentioned something about seeing baby’s head pushing down and told me to press the Call button if I felt like “pooping”. I was a tad disappointed as I thought I would be at least 6 to 7cm dilated by now. Didn’t they say the third labour would be very quick?

    9.58 a.m. Ok, yes, that was quick. Less than 18 minutes from the last check and I could feel the urge to push. I called for the midwife and she confirmed that I was fully dilated!

    10.10 a.m. Things started shifting into gear and the labour package was unwrapped to prep the necessary tools for the delivery. I got into position and started some practice pushes with the midwife. After about two pushes, she called for the doctor.

    10.21 a.m. Our ob-gyn arrived and instructed me to push. She asked if I wanted to tear naturally or get a small episiotomy. I opted for the later.

    10.25 a.m. After two or three pushes, the screaming baby was out, weighing a decent 2.85kg and measuring 50cm tall. She was then brought to me for skin-on-skin and latched on like a pro. We were so relived and happy :)

    If you’ve gone through childbirth, you’d know that no matter how many times you go through it, the moment you meet your baby would still be the most magical experience you’ve ever had. No doors were opened and there is another life in the room. God is good.

    Welcome to the world, Alessia.

    We took in all that newborn sweetness again. Her eyes, her nose, her mouth, those jerky movements, that thick black head of hair… how the human heart has the capacity to expand beyond its physical size <3

    We love you so much already, Alessia.



    I must be a perfectionist and procrastinator, through and through. It is the only explanation as to why I’ve taken this long to re-launch my blog, which has been in the works – or in my head, at least – for a year now.

    Writing is by far one of the most therapeutic activities for me, second to reading. It centres me, fuels me, and brings about a whole new level of awareness. It’s a wonder how I haven’t gone stir crazy with the lack of time and energy for both the past two years, but this year… this year I’m making an extra effort. To write. To read. To exercise. To be present.

    I guess looking back, I couldn’t really have done anything more then even as I was compelled to, what with packing, renovating, moving, raising a toddler, popping baby #2, settling into a new routine as four, entertaining, planning celebrations, working, and generally managing the day-to-day running of a household.

    A lot has happened.

    What I’m trying to say is… I’m back. This space matters to me. And I will find time to write; about the important and the frivolous, the happy and sad, the bigs and littles.

    See you around :)

    Javier, LOVING, Pregnancy

    Javier’s Birth Story

    Finally getting around to penning down Javier’s birth story after two weeks of postpartum adjustment and recovery. Am happy to share that in that time, I’ve rested and ate well, my episiotomy wound is almost fully recovered, and I’ve somewhat gotten my waist back (the remaining little paunch will have to wait till I’m cleared to exercise again).

    This time around, while there’s still a level of uncertainty as to how the actual birth will pan out, we already know what to expect for a straightforward delivery. Unlike the first though, there were some planning and logistics involved to ensure Ashleigh has someone to take her to and from school, and have someone care for her should I go into labour.

    Thrown into the mix the week I hit full term was Ashleigh catching a mycoplasma infection, L’s last minute activation to Hong Kong and a cervix that was not yet dilated when I was SO DARNED READY to pop. You see, taking care of a toddler is physically – and dare I say, mentally – exhausting on it’s own. Taking care of a hurricane, clingy toddler when you have a full term belly, aching groin and limited physical abilities (like getting off the floor) is a whole other ball game. I couldn’t wait to get rid of the bump and really wanted to go back to being nimble again.

    Thankfully, at my insistence, we saw the ob-gyn the following Tuesday, just 4 days after she told me my cervix was not ready for induction and what do we know, I had dilated about 2cm! So despite knowing that L was busy at work, I told my ob-gyn I was ready to induce and she made the necessary arrangements for me to be admitted that Thursday.

    * * *

    Thursday, 30 March 2017

    5.30 a.m. My alarm went off and I rolled off the bed – ooof! – to get ready. Our hospital bags have been packed so all that we needed to do were throw in our toiletries and get changed. We needed to be admitted early because it was an induction and I had an anaesthetist booked to get in the epidural before the actual induction. Yes, I’m all for pain-free, thankyouverymuch ;)

    6.30 a.m. We arrived at the hospital and headed directly for the labour ward as we had already done the paperwork for the admissions earlier. We were met by a friendly nurse who ushered us into the delivery suite. Felt a sense of deja vu as we stepped in. L settled himself in while I changed into my birthing gown. Let the labour begin.

    6.50 a.m. A midwife came in and administered the Fleet enema. This was something I was not prepared for as it didn’t happen for Ashleigh. It felt weird and I was told to hold it in for as long as I could before going. It was hard and didn’t help that the husband was reminding me every. single. minute. how much I needed to go (think he had fun taunting me but I’ll let this go). Cleared my bowels sufficiently for a week. After that, I was hooked up onto a glucose IV – ugh, HATE NEEDLES – and put under strict instructions to not consume any food/drink. We were interviewed on my previous delivery, signed some forms, then got comfortable and played with our devices while waiting for the anaesthetist.

    7.40 a.m. The anaesthetist arrived and administered the epidural. I think this was something I was most anxious about because I hate needles. But she was extremely gentle and very pleasant so despite the fear and the dreaded stinging sensation that shot into my spine, I was as relaxed as I could possibly be and the glorious numbness on my lower body kicked in within 15 minutes. Boy, was I relieved. Did I mention that I hate needles?

    8 a.m. The nurse started the induction process by hooking me up to a oxytocin drip. As the epidural started off quite low, I could feel the contractions kicking in hard and fast, so much that I had to actually breathe through each one. Buzzed the nurse to turn up the epidural by a bit so that I could rest. All was good again in ten minutes.

    8.57 a.m. My ob-gyn arrived and did a VE – I was 3cm dilated. She then proceeded to burst the water bag. Before leaving, she also suggested L go for a brunch because she expected all the action to start around noon/early afternoon.

    9.15 a.m. I managed to drift in and out of sleep while L went down to grab himself a bite and a coffee. He was planning on giving me some contraband sips but nurses who saw him return with the cuppa questioned if it was for me and warned him I was under doctor’s strict instructions to fast. LOL.

    10.20 a.m. A catheter was inserted to clear my bladder and another VE was done – 5 to 6cm dilated.

    11.28 a.m. Another nurse came in to check on me and did another VE – 9cm dilated, whoop! The nurses went into a flurry of action and started getting me into position.

    11.45 a.m. Felt strong urge to push with every contraction and started to feel quite excited because we know what that meant – we were going to meet our baby boy very soon!

    12 p.m. My ob-gyn arrived and put on her gear. Baby had already crowned and all I needed to do was to focus my energy and push.

    12.12 p.m. About four mega pushes and our baby boy was out! He was placed on me immediately, all blood and slime, and I was so overwhelmed with happiness and emotion that I teared. After cutting his umbilical cord, he was brought to the warmer to be cleaned up and L commented that he was a good size. Weighing in at 3.305kg and measuring 52cm, he was much bigger than I expected so I was surprised that the actual pushing was so quick, and thought that my ob-gyn had assisted me with vacuum or forceps but she said, “No! You did it all on your own! Well done!”

    12.38 p.m. Baby was brought back to me for some skin-on-skin and I latched him on for the first time. He nursed like a pro from the get-go and drank hungrily for 20 minutes. L and I took in every bit of him – his eyes, his ears, his nose, his complexion – and basked in happiness at welcoming our new baby.

    Welcome to the world, baby boy. We love you so much already.

    * * *

    As this pregnancy had many distractions and taking care of Ashleigh occupied a lot of my free time, I did not have much time to think or imagine a baby in my arms. I know. It sounds silly. While I knew I was pregnant, I did not actually have the free headspace to imagine carrying a baby (as I did countless times while pregnant Ashleigh). So when he was placed on my chest right after birth, it was so surreal and hit me all at once. I was overcome happiness at having a lovely baby, and guilt at not having thought much about him until then.

    We spent the rest of the day catching up on whatever rest we could at the maternity ward, between interviews, menu selection, blood pressure and temperature checks, etc. Baby was brought to me every three hours to nurse and each time, I rehearsed in my mind how Ashleigh would take to her baby brother. I missed her so much already.

    My in-laws picked Ashleigh up from school that evening and brought her to the hospital to visit me. She grinned when she saw me, hopped onto my bed and curiously asked, “Mama, what are you doing?” I think she meant to ask what I was doing there, and we told her I was resting. L went to the nursery to get Javier and pushed him in with presents for his big sister. I must say she was more interested in the presents than her brother. She ripped them open with glee and exclaimed, “Thank you, didi!!!”, then proceeded to check the bassinet again and asked for more presents!

    After putting the gifts away, we asked if she would like to carry her brother, and she did. So we got her into position and placed baby on her. She was apprehensive and smiled shyly. I wouldn’t say it was love but she definitely liked the little human she saw ;)

    My family is complete ♥

    Ashleigh, LOVING, Pregnancy

    Ashleigh’s Birth Story

    The birth is something I’ve long wondered about.

    How would it start? How would it feel? What would the husband be doing? What are contractions like? Would my baby be fine?

    All the usual questions from a first-timer.

    Sometime halfway through the pregnancy, I also watched a few natural childbirth videos on YouTube out of curiosity (backside itchy) and scared myself so much I entertained the thought of an elective c-section. After I calmed down though, I wished for the contractions to start first – instead of bleeding or water bag bursting – because it meant I could labour at home for a bit and we would probably have time to prepare. L and I also talked about it a couple of times and agreed that so many elements had to be in place for a smooth delivery so after we hit full term, we just waited and prayed. If nothing happened before, we were scheduled to be induced on Friday, 8 August 2014, at 39 weeks.

    But baby had other plans :)

    * * *

    Monday, 4 August 2014

    6.30 a.m. Woke up and got ready for work as usual. Felt a bit crampy and thought it was an upset stomach so I parked on the toilet seat for a few good minutes but nothing so I gave up and continued with the usual dress-up and make-up routine.

    7.30 a.m. Told L in the car that I may be having contractions because the crampy sensation happened a few times. But since they were very mild and irregular, I decided to go to work anyway and told him I will keep him updated.

    9.30 a.m. Still getting the cramps between 15 and 45 minutes apart. Fairly irregular and I could still talk through them so no panic yet. I was presenting some slides at a meeting and could still keep a poker face with each wave so all was good. I established that they are indeed contractions but could wait. I started to note the contraction timings in my phone to keep track. They came at 9.33 a.m., 9.55 a.m., 10.14 a.m. and 11 a.m.

    12.30 p.m. Had lunch with colleagues and even though the contractions were stronger, I could still laugh and chat. T’was a hearty lunch at Harry’s.

    4.47 p.m. Felt a stronger contraction which I had to stop talking to get through (but still very bearable) and decided to call it a day. Texted my boss, packed up and cabbed home. My sweet colleagues were so worried about me and offered to walk me to the taxi stand but I told them I was fine. L had work to clear so we decided to just meet at home.

    5.15 p.m. Got home and took a nap. I figured if we were going to have the baby that night, I would need the rest.

    6.30 p.m. Was roused awake by a particularly strong contraction (3 out of 10 on the pain scale) but continued napping for a bit.

    8 p.m. Received an update from L that he’s almost done with work and about to head home. “Waiting for you to go for prata!”, was my reply.

    8.40 p.m. L managed to finish clearing his work and swung by the home after to picked me up for our ‘last hurrah’ meal at Casurina Curry. He told me it was probably the most stressful day of his life, what with having to rush work and knowing his wife was having contractions at home. Haha.

    PRATA! Maggi goreng! And iced Milo! Can you say shiok?

    By this time, the contractions were coming quite frequently, between 5 and 15 minutes apart, and I could no longer talk through them. In fact a few times, I actually had to close my eyes and focus on getting through each wave.

    9.30 p.m. Got home after dinner and took turns with L to pile the last of our stuff into the hospital bag while the other showered.

    10.30 p.m. Contractions were slightly stronger by this time so we decided to give our ob-gyn a call to ask if she’d like us to be admitted. I told her I could monitor at home since they were still bearable but she advised us to head to the hospital. If it was a false alarm, she would send us home.

    10.40 p.m. L and I spent the next hour cuddling in bed and anticipated what was to come. I also said a little prayer for a smooth delivery. At this point, I wasn’t the least bit afraid – all I could think of was to focus on getting past each contraction and having the baby out safely.

    11.40 p.m. Threw our bags into the boot, notified our immediate families and off we went to the hospital!

    11.55 p.m. It was quite a smooth ride to the hospital at this time of the evening. We dropped our admission documents and were ushered into the labour ward.

    Tuesday, 5 August 2014

    12.15 a.m. Arrived at the labour room and was told to wait beside a counter. From where we were waiting, we could hear a very painful birth going on (the mother was giving off a sound that sat somewhere between a moan and a growl, and it was LOUD) and see medical staff rushing in with sterile packs, etc. This was so not the first thing I wanted to hear right before I deliver. I gave L a nervous laugh and he quickly brought me to the other side of the counter to wait. (We later found out that the mother arrived at the hospital 8cm dilated and didn’t have time for pain relief. Yikes.)

    12.30 a.m. At the waiting lounge, a midwife greeted us and asked me how the contractions felt. After I took her through it, she decided to check us into the labour room right away. “Looks like you’re in active labour!”, she declared. I was asked to change into their hospital gown but of course, I requested to wear my own. She very kindly obliged and even complimented the floral prints when I emerged from the bathroom like I was a little girl. Probably to make me feel better thinking I must be nervous.

    Experiencing the baby of contractions and telling L I may not need pain relief (HA HA)

    12.45 a.m. Our ob-gyn arrived and checked my cervix – about 2cm dilated. She then burst my water bag and I could feel warm liquid flowing between my legs. I was promptly hooked up to a glucose drip and vials of blood were taken for cord blood banking. URGH, I HATE NEEDLES. I couldn’t look so L held my hand and I closed my eyes throughout the process. This is the first time in my life being hooked up to a drip and I hate the sensation. But anything for you, baby girl!

    1.30 a.m. After the water bag was ruptured, the contractions grew to 6 out of 10 on the pain scale. I could still bear with the pain and chat with L in between. I always knew I would need the epidural eventually but I wanted to avoid having it too early and risk slowing down the dilation so I continued to labour without.

    2.30 a.m. Contractions were coming on strong and annoyingly frequent at 1 and 3 minutes apart. Each wave saw me clutching onto the rails at the side of the bed in agony and I could no longer smile or talk; I was focusing all my energy on getting through the pain, counting to 30 each time. After a couple of excruciatingly painful waves at one minute apart, I decided it was too draining and given that I was only 2cm dilated 2 hours ago, we were looking at another 7 to 8 hours of labour. I knew I still needed the energy to push later in the morning so I heaved to L and the midwife, “OUCH! EPIDURAL! NOW!”

    2.55 a.m. The anaesthetist arrived and administered the epidural with me curled into a ball and held down by the midwife. I was so afraid of not being able to keep still because I tensed up to fight the contraction that were stubbornly a minute apart. Before I knew it, I felt a cold electric current run down my spine and the pins-and-needles sensation started forming on my legs. Because I lay on my left while the epidural was administered, my right side still felt the contractions so I was rolled over to my right to allow the medication to run through. By now, the contractions were no longer painful even though I could feel my stomach harden with each one. In my sleepy state, I declared to L, “Epidural is awesome! Epidural rocks socks!” He laughed.

    3.15 a.m. The midwife returned to check my cervix – 4cm dilated. She also pressed my tummy and felt a full bladder so a catheter was inserted to empty it. Couldn’t feel a thing.

    4.55 a.m. L and I managed to catch some sleep. The midwife came in again to check my cervix and and I was 5cm dilated. She predicted things would move quite quickly from here because I was charting really strong and regular contractions. “It’s a good sign”, she assured us. From time to time, I could feel some pain because it seemed like the epidural flowed more to my left than my right. I had to lie on my right most of the night to get the medication flowing to the side but because I was numb waist-down, L had to help me adjust my legs a couple of times. I also requested that the epidural be turned on higher so that I could sleep.

    6.45 a.m. We continued to nap but but by this time, with each contraction, I could also feel the urge to push. The midwife checked my cervix again – 8cm dilated. I was very relieved for it meant we could meet our baby soon. My biggest fear was that for some reason or other, I wouldn’t dilate and we would have to go for an emergency c-section. (Blame this on all the horror stories people share when they hear you’re about to pop.) Another catheter was inserted to clear my bladder.

    8.52 a.m. I could no longer sleep because of the urge to push so we spent the an hour or so chatting and resting. Our ob-gyn arrived to check my cervix and announced that I was fully dilated. “It’s now time to do some work”, she said, and left the room. She said she’s headed for her clinic and will be back later. I was a tad confused because wasn’t I supposed to start pushing now and wasn’t she supposed to be present?

    9.15 a.m. Another midwife came in and taught me how to push. She also instructed L to count and showed him how to support my head. She then asked if I wanted to try doing some pushing. This was the real labour. Riding on the urge to push from the waves of contractions (which were coming at 2 minutes apart), I pushed and pushed to guide the baby out. It was quite exhausting so I skipped a few contractions to catch my breadth. With each wave that I tried, I pushed with all my might with L the cheerleader counting me through each push. The midwife was very encouraging and repeatedly assured me I was doing well. Finally, she exclaimed that she could see baby’s hair and went off to call my ob-gyn.

    9.55 a.m. Our ob-gyn arrived and got into her gear. My legs were propped up on the rails and she and took me through two more rounds of pushes before telling me to stop. She then administered a shot of local anaesthesia and did the episiotomy.

    10.11 a.m. With one final wave of contraction, I could feel the baby pushing past and sliding out (I didn’t even have to push). Our baby’s loud wails filled the room and I closed my eyes in exhaustion. L planted a kiss on my forehead and went to take photos of baby in the warmer as she got cleaned up and had her height and weight measured. Meanwhile, I was asked to make one final push to deliver the placenta before I was sewn up. “Does she have hair?”, I asked L. “A lot!” :)

    * * *

    Our baby was brought to me as I had requested for a skin-on-skin and a latch on as soon as possible. She suckled and squirmed. It was so surreal. I couldn’t believe this baby came out of me. I placed her on my chest and stroked her little wet head. We took some family photos as we were waiting to be transferred to the maternity ward. She was alert throughout and looked around curiously at the bright lights and surroundings. L and I mused to each other about her looks – her double eyelids, her ears, her chubby cheeks. Already, she was the cutest thing on the planet to us.

    I honestly can’t quite describe how I felt. There was a mixture of happiness, relieve, hope and love. I cannot forget the look of love and exhaustion on L’s face, the warmth of our baby’s skin on me, the relieve that our baby is safe in our arms. At that moment, I could only see and feel my husband and daughter and no one else. It was a magical morning.

    It was the calm and intimate birth I prayed for and in that moment of quiet, I thanked God for his blessings.

    Welcome to the world, baby girl