Covered in this Article
Entity | Experience | Essential
The Mother | The Father
The Pink Booklet
The Early Weeks
Private | Government
Mommy | Baby | Home
The Hospital Bag
This is NOT click-bait!
Well kinda… I’m still trying to adjust to my new “lifestyle”.
Life has been chaotic the past week or two, but it is much better now, things are more settled down, I understood, learnt, saw the reasons why… and as I share with you this adventure of mine, I sincerely pray and hope that this 3-parts article be helpful to you (certainly hope you’ll share it too).
As I’ve mentioned earlier, 3-parts article (too much to cover in one anyway).
Let’s start with Part 1… Congratulations!
Oh, I wrote something on this earlier but… it didn’t feel right, cause of the emotions that fueled me as I wrote it, so… I’m gonna do it all again…
No, you didn’t win anything .
I hear… “Click-bait!!!” No, no, no… Trust me is not.
The past 9 months or so has been… an amazing adventure for both Christine and I. I guess you can probably tell why by now looking at the “9 months”. Christine was pregnant and, the family grew, two weeks ago.
I’m a father now, though it feels kinda weird, perhaps I’ve not really really sinked into the whole “baby is here” thing yet, or perhaps I’m just tired.
So yes… Congratulations! To you! Especially if you’re expecting, or pregnant (what’s the difference anyway, other than the spelling), or you’ve just been given (can’t say award yet…) a new title of being a mother, or a father (grandmother or grandfather if you wanna push it further, aunty or uncle if you really really really wanna go that way…).
And for those of you who are not, may this prepare you somehow, to expect what is to come… your way…
9-Months and 2 Weeks… Ago
Christine found out that she was pregnant! We were overjoyed. But…
Mixed feelings took over me; I was happy, there comes junior. I was worried, wondering if I would be a good enough father for junior. I was scared, not knowing the waters that I will be sailing into.
This is uncharted waters. I was lost.
Suddenly the whole idea of pregnancy turned from something that’s really, really, really nice… into something that doesn’t give you a peace of mind. Being Abel, I don’t like uncertainty. I gotta find out.
This is when you enter into dangerous waters.
Dangerous? See, when you have no idea what to do, what it is about, you will start to be very resourceful. You will Google, you will ask, you will do all sort of things, even just to have a glimpse of what is it to come. You will be satisfied. But why is it dangerous? It becomes dangerous when, you found out too much, and it some how limits your capacity to experience, or grow, and it might also promote fear into the whole experience.
You will be offered a lot of information, and advice, from not just anybody, but everybody (yea the whole town). Just like how bank promoters in general would offer you low-interest loans, or even credit cards with tax waived.
I told myself this, I have to pen this down so that if you’re expecting (or even looking forward to pregnancy), especially your first, you will be spared from going through some of the unpleasant experiences that I did.
This may or may not apply to you, this part of the article focuses on “What to Keep”. I will be touching on “10 Keeps”, and I hope this helps you one way or another.
Disclaimer: Follow any of the suggested below at your own risk (sounds so sad but… what to do?).
1. Keeping the Necessary
Information is power.
With information, you will be prepared, because you know what it is to come. You can also work out your action plan with the information that you have, you will be able to deploy the best solution, it will be efficient, and to your best knowledge and ability, it will be definitely effective as well… simply because you know.
But what happens when you have too much information?
You’ll get confused.
We appreciate having friends around us, and we thank God for our families as well. The moment they heard Christine was pregnant, they were nice and helpful, offered the both of us much help and advice. Some even prepared us, especially Christine, of what it is to come. What she should be expecting, and what she would be going through.
There were also some who said, “Of course, different people go through different experiences.” After hearing that, where does that leave you? Allow me to share with you 3 “E”s to help you go through this stage.
Entity – Entity as in “who”, or the source. Weigh how credible is the source based on the gender. Imagine a single young man in his mid-30s giving you (a pregnant girl) advice of what you should, and shouldn’t do. You should also look at the role he/she plays, whether he is a father himself, or a mother herself.
Experience – Experience holds water. And it weighs as well. A seasoned parent’s advice would weigh more than one who is not married, just got married, or even a couple who has no children, but a pet dog.
Experience gives you the assurance that this person really knows what he/she is talking about, he/she has been through it, rather than trying to sell you a product based on head knowledge. You might also want to consider… even if the advice was given to you from a parent, was he/she a full-time parent, or was he/she working at that point raising the child up? Was the child self-raised, or was the child sent to a daycare centre, or a nanny?
Perspective is another good platform to work on. Was the advice given based on traditional practices of what their grandparents used to do, or say. Or was the advice given based on sound practice or proven over time effective? Or was the advice given from a medical point of view, or was it by “trial and error” and it somehow worked?
Essentials – There is so much you want to do for your child. Every parent would generally want the best. But truth said and told, there is only so much you can do and, you have to compare apple to apple.
To start with, you are not him/her, the person who gave or is giving you that piece of advice. He/she could have told you a 100 things you should do… even if you can’t do 20 of them, do not be too hard on yourself. For all that’s worth, he/she is seasoned, you’re just a newbie. Remember having head knowledge doesn’t mean you having the experience you need.
Here now, today, isn’t the same as how it was, before. Things could have changed over time. What worked before, may not be as effective as it is today, or… what worked before, still is as effective as today.
Find time to sit down with your partner, and iron-out both (it’s in bold, and it has to go both ways) your standards and expectations.
Christine and I believe that the fundamental rule to a healthy relationship, is communication. Having your partner and yourself being on the same page, promotes not only unified goals, but it also contributes to building strong family values. It will also save you from unnecessary arguments, if not shocks and definitely a lot of “I thought…” or “I assumed” remarks.
What we did…
Christine and I talked… a lot. We talked about many things. We went through checklists, more like a collection of “must“-buys. A friend of ours even lent us a book which touches on the day-to-day pregnancy experience… that helped.
We also Googled on things like “The best breastpump in 2019” (yes, we did) but most of the time they don’t really tell you what you “need” exactly, often promotes what you “want” instead. We went around town as well on weekends, and we tried to fill our minds with options, loads of them.
Naturally, we found ourselves engaged in conversations with family and friends diving into the topic of pregnancy. We sifted through the information and advises given, started to take note on what to observe, and what to ignore from those conversations. Not-so-surprising, we also started to shortlist gynaes in town.
We worked on priorities, the things we need to buy first, the other things we can have later on, or on hold. We also talked about how life would be, the roles we will be playing, and the sacrifices to be made for the family. Will I be working, or on leave. The latter, how long will it be?
Both of us recognized our own unique characters and personalities, we have also accepted how we get things done at home. We respect one another’s opinions, we weigh our options, and we talked about what we want to achieve.
It has begun…
2. Keeping a Balanced Lifestyle
Your world can turn upside-down… if you’re not careful.
I guess this is the part where by, you have to seriously do a little bit of homework on your own, discuss matters over with your partner, and find a balance between “things proven” (medically, scientifically, over time) and “traditions”.
Cause if you don’t, your world will definitely turn upside-down.
Let me give you some examples (T – traditions, P – proven):
T: Now that you’re pregnant, you must go to bed early. If you don’t, next time you’ll have a hard time taking care of your baby awake at odd hours.
P: My child sleeps well after feeding and certainly doesn’t stay awake at odd hours of the day.
T: You’re pregnant? Don’t carry heavy stuffs or you’ll have missed abortion.
P: Our gynae told us, you can even jump, dance, do whatever you want. Once the placenta is secured, it is secured. But… Christine still swept the floor, cleaned surfaces… She continued doing some of the house chores, but not the usual load of it.
There are adjustments that you’ll need to make. There will be times you will be caught in sticky situations (especially matters with families), and you will need to put your feet down, make a stand, for your own family (even if it’s not your nature doing so).
Christine went through quite a bit.
She changed her wardrobe. No longer her work blouses and pants be found fitting. You will be looking at stretchable pants, knee-length dresses, and new additions to your collection of undergarments as well. What you had don’t fit comfortably anymore. And please don’t try to hide the tummy. Christine did most of her shopping online… So convenient nowadays.
She changed her diet. She ate a little bit more than usual. We added noodles to our breakfast. I kinda “supported” her hehehe. We shared. She also had something for tea. She ate at more regular intervals. Yoghurt (Greek, higher protein) somehow helped to balance her diet.
We had more home-cooked meals too, believing it’s healthier and more “controlled”.
Try to do all you can to prevent yourself from falling sick too. Any medication you take, even supplements, gets absorbed by your body and goes to your baby as well. Avoid taking any unnecessary supplements. The “Folic Acid” and the “Pre/Post-Natal Vitamin & Mineral” (the red-colored one) tablets that are given by the Government Health Clinic should be sufficient.
Christine also started drinking milk formula for mothers somewhere between her second/third trimester (to gain weight), and took an additional pill named NeuroGain PB (recommended by our gynae) that introduces DHA into her system for the baby’s brain development.
She changed her lifestyle. She still went to work. She rested more than before. Took short naps in the afternoon, and went to bed slightly earlier than before (it wasn’t easy for her cause by the time we are done with everything, it’s almost midnight). She felt tired easier.
We only go/eat out on weekends. However, we still attended Church, the weekly group meetings we’re attached to, and the prayer support group that she’s in.
We were not confined, nor were we detached from the world.
Your partner will be going through a very difficult stage in life. One that no one else can go through for her, but even if there are people to walk with her through this, she still has to do this, alone.
Therefore, it is crucial that your partner gets all the support that she needs, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. This differs across individuals but, there might be times your partner may be a wee-bit more unreasonable or demanding. When this happens, hold your horses down.
Perhaps, this would be the best time, to test and define, the love that you both share.
I assumed more responsibilities knowing of which, I chose to, I want to, and I believe some… I have to (even if you have a maid).
The role and the presence of the man at home, the image of a father, have a great impact (proven, try looking through some of Dr. James Dobson’s publications) on the family. We pray that you will do your very best for your family.
Cause if you don’t, who else would be found more fitting?
3. Keeping Track on the Growth
The Pink Booklet
The Malaysian Health Ministry is doing a very good job, taking proactive measures in ensuring the growth of both the pregnant mother, and the child. It’s so thorough that there are milestones they put in place (according to weeks), ensuring that the growth of your child, is normal.
It doesn’t matter if you both have decided to get it done with a Private Hospital, we strongly advice you to get your regular check-ups done with the Government Health Clinic (even though the wait can be daunting but, the choice is always yours to start queuing up early, or late).
Once you are in 7-8 weeks of your pregnancy, starting from the day you noticed your period is late, just drop-by the Health Clinic, get yourself registered, and they will start a Pink Booklet (yes it’s pink colored) for you (there will be two Pink Booklets, one for their reference, recording purposes and keeping, while the one for you to take home, and to do your homework as well). They will also take note of your medical history, of any surgeries performed, allergies, etc.
This Pink Booklet can be used as a source of reference by your Gynae too.
There are so many to choose from in the market! There are really cheap ones, there are also very expensive ones. Being expensive doesn’t guarantee effectiveness nor accuracy though.
However, there are also some people (like me), who would have the tendency to think, since this doesn’t happen every other day, it’s OK to spend a little more or… Pricier = Better…
So we bought… you’ll need like only two (like really), and you can get them from Watsons or Guardian, or any other pharmacy you prefer.
We got ours from Watsons (not because of how much cheaper their products are compared to the other), but there’s like a Watsons outlet easily accessible when we need to. I forgot which we bought, but, I remembered it was something like a RM15 package for two (it had a 99% accurate label on it too!).
RM15 and it works!
The Early Weeks
The first 10-12 weeks (1st trimester) of your pregnancy is vital, vital as in to be more conscious of “signs”, simply because it’s still at the “forming stage”.
The signs you would be looking out for would be discharge, or bleeding. Should either one of these happens (throughout your pregnancy), please consult your gynae or drop-by the Health Clinic immediately.
Discharge could be a sign of infection (mind your hygiene) or it could be just, not drinking enough water… Bleeding on the other hand, it’s a tad more serious, which could also be a sign of missed abortion.
Apparently, “missed abortion” is quite common. About 20-25% of pregnant ladies experience it. Though the cause of it is not certain, one of the reasons could be the mismatch of cells… It is not something that we want or hope for, but what we’re telling you is… It could happen to anyone. Some would also add saying how important it is to keep ourselves physically active and healthy (this it is not proven).
On a brighter side of things, you should be able to tell the gender of your baby at week 20 (with the government it’s a bit later, but private yea). You can also choose to opt for a 3D-ultrasound scan with a private gynae (it’s exciting especially when it’s your first). You’ll be able to see glimpses of the face (sometimes the hands are blocking, or the umbilical cord might be in the way) but… it’s nice. While you’re at it, don’t feel shy to take pictures and/or videos of it!
4. Keeping Mothers Close
Girl friends… I’m sure most of you would have yours (I’m not talking about guy’s kinda girl friends but rather… girl’s girl friends).
These individuals, who have been carefully and specially handpicked by you, shared perhaps common interests together, spent sessions of sleep overs together, had endless discussions on the cutest guy in varsity, spoke crying over the telephone until wee hours of the morning, kept the deepest of secrets for one another… No Abel, that’s only in the movies!
I guess what I was trying to say is: a group of girls who you did/do life together at certain stages of your life.
Some of you might have the privilege of keeping the same group of girl friends right up to today, one of them might have even shared on your wedding day (and spoke of things of you that others didn’t know). There are also some of you who might not have such close girl friends anymore, due to life’s demand and/or commitment like… graduated and started working somewhere, or met an amazing guy and settled down in another town.
Similarly when you’re pregnant, you should have your girl friends close to you too! But this time, you’re not going to talk or share about cute guys, what major, study tips, etc. It’ll be focused on the whole pregnancy experience.
You’ll need mothers… at best, those who are around your age group.
Logically thinking, as much as you’re about to start expanding your family, they should be on the same page too, or just flipped that page not so long ago. Their experiences should be still fresh or vivid on their minds (and not trying to pull a dust-covered record out from a file cabinet… metaphorically). Their advises or testimonies should and would make more sense to you (they could be more educated for one, had easier access to information is another, went through the whole works of it as well).
Christine has a group of mother friends, most of them around her age, and they are close. It is such a blessing to have them walking this journey with Christine, and it was so much easier for Christine to pour out her struggles to them, and at the same time to receive the mental, emotional and spiritual support that she needed.
I hope you have at least a group of mother friends too. If you don’t, it’s never too late to start looking for one. It’s easier if you’re attached to a Church, if you’re not, there are also mother groups on Facebook. You can try joining one and passively observe if you’re not too comfortable sharing yet.
5. Keeping Standards and Expectations
It’s quite likely you’ll be pushed around. You’ll be bombarded with the “what to do-s” and “what not to do-s”. You will be trampled with practices or cultures that you have kinda vowed not to bring or even introduce into your family.
You’re both inexperienced. That’s what they think, that’s what they say.
Whose family is it anyway?
There are times you will have to make a stand. There are even times you will need to be firm and stick to your decisions, especially ones that you have made with your partner.
I believe it is good to made it known to those around you, especially your families, what are the standards you want to keep, and what is it expected of them.
One of the many examples:
- I will breastfeed the baby (this is one big issue we came to know of where one party in the family insisted feeding Formula Milk instead).
- Do not kiss the baby.
- Do not slam the doors.
- Turn off the lights, fan, the air-conditioner when you leave the room or area.
- Visiting hours is from this time to this time only (you will need rest, since you’ll be lacking of it, and to recover).
You should be able to come up with more as your due date draws nearer.
6. Keeping Options Open
It’s so much easier to decide whether to go private, or government, looking at your household income. But before we just conclude as such, the way I see it, there are two stages of your pregnancy when you would consider these options differently.
I’ll give you a comparison table between the two options: Private and Government. And the different stages when either one of these two may seem to be a better option compared to the other.
7. Keeping “Help” Defined
There’s a very fine line to how one views “help”. Help can come in many ways, allow me to show you two scenarios: A and B.
It is undeniable if feels nice whenever there’s someone who offers help to us, especially when things are a bit tied on our end. It feels even better when help offered similar to the examples given in Scenario A; a burden got lifted off from our shoulders. Help in Scenario B is not that bad too, it’s just that we still gotta chip in some effort to get the job done.
When it comes to parenthood, especially when you are newbie, help comes quite easily. It is never too early in your pregnancy to start discussing what kind of help you would need in the next few months, or even years to come.
You have to define help.
I believe it is alright to seek help, like the help in Scenario A, in these areas:
- house keeping – the floors, the compound, etc.
- overseeing your business (especially when you run a clinic of your own, you will need to find a locum to stand in during your absence).
For the Chinese, we have this practice after the mother has delivered. The mother would immediately undergo a month’s confinement. Confinement is a period where the mother gets as much rest she needs at home, while her diet is being taken care of by someone called a “Confinement Lady”.
This woman is responsible to take care of the mother’s meals by cooking only food aimed to help the mother recover. The menu would normally consist of dishes utilizing ginger, dates, herbs, wine… all of which aimed to keep the body “warm”.
During the confinement period, the mother is supposed to lie down as much as possible, shield herself from cold breeze/wind, cannot bathe, cannot be in contact with water, cannot even drink water (they drink water boiled with dates instead), food consumed must be hot/warm, etc.
The confinement lady is also responsible in taking care the needs of the newborn baby. Sometimes, it might be just rather convenient to let the Confinement Lady to do everything, so you can concentrate on your healing, feeding and resting.
I believe at the same time the Confinement Lady is doing what she needs to do, we also need to be careful not to abdicate our roles as parents.
No one should, no one would, and no one could replace your role as a mother, or a father. Let not your Confinement Lady, let not your parents, let not your relatives, let not your kakak (maid) replace you.
If adjustments needed to be made to make more time for the child, do it.
Christine and I
Before the child came, even before Christine was pregnant, I told Christine that I have decided to spend more time with my child. I even told her that I’ll help bathe the child, change the nappy, do the laundry, house keeping, groceries, etc.
I thank God that He has given me the opportunity to.
I want to be there for my child.
8. Keeping Money Tight
It’s hard. I know.
It’s hard because no one told you so.
It’s hard because there wasn’t a list you can use or refer to.
It’s hard because information came like puzzle pieces, sometimes as riddles too.
I hope you won’t be inspired like me, bought driven by wants. I hope that you would only buy, because you need.
So keep your money tight. It is easy to find yourself spending. Honestly, you don’t actually need to start buying anything, until you or your partner is in the last trimester and… You might not need to buy “too much” cause there might be people handing-down stuffs to you (if you don’t mind pre-owned items that is).
Tell you what… I’ll give you a list… in fact, three lists… One for mommy, one for baby, and the last one (no not for the daddy) for home. Enjoy!
Note: Do plan when to purchase the items listed below. It’s not so convenient to get them once the mother is admitted, and definitely not when the baby is here.
9. Keeping Yourself Prepared
Abel… You’ve touched on so much… There are more?
Fortunately yes. I hope I didn’t miss out any so you both will actually be prepared.
Last Two… Promise
There are two more things you’ve to look into. But for these two, you can actually start looking into them when you’re at Week 34 or so…
10. Keeping People Away
The whole world rejoices with you and wants to share your happiness and joy. They want to celebrate with you on the birth of your child! (well uh… maybe not the whole world)
People around you will be excited. Your family, your extended family, your relatives, the people groups you’re in, they want to share your happiness and joy.
They’re just nice.
They want to see your child.
Learn to say “No” to them. It’s okay to say, “Now is not a good time, perhaps later?”
They should understand.