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Archive for the ‘Family Affairs’ Category

For many reasons, I wasn’t able to breastfeed the Babii beyond a week after her birth. Because of that experience, I tried very hard to breast feed our little BooBoo Bear. It wasn’t easy, because I was literally starting from scratch and in the beginning it was. Just. So. Hard.

I know I often belly ache about how hard it is to be so far from home and family, and giving birth in a far away land with no family is certainly one of the factors that make it so difficult. The hospital system is different. The hospital culture is different.

One thing that I really appreciated, though, is the emphasis that our hospital placed on breastfeeding. The babies stay with their mommies during the day and return to the nursery only at night. During this time, the mothers are expected to breast feed their babies, but formula is also available upon request.

I started off breastfeeding BooBoo Bear, but it seemed that she was always hungry and we could go at it for hours and hours because she would cry once I put her down. To top it off, my nipples started chafing until it came to the point when they started bleeding.

Ewww. TMI.

Apparently, even when a mother’s nipples start bleeding she should continue breastfeeding. It’s quite disconcerting, because aside from the physical pain that the mother feels, the baby spits up the blood. And in my hormone-anesthesia-pain killer induced haze, it looked a lot like I had a little vampire baby.

At that point I was just ready to throw in the towel and have a good cry. Googling for answers didn’t help, because all of these websites had mothers cooing about how wonderful breastfeeding was and how they bonded with their babies and how everything was sunshine and rainbows and unicorns. None of them seemed to have encountered any problems so why was I different? (Answer: It’s a breastfeeding conspiracy!!!!)

On our last day at the hospital I had taken to giving the BooBoo bear formula most of the time because I just couldn’t take the sight of the blood and the thought that she was drinking all that (I have issues). The night nurse had looked at my chart and came over to ask me why I wasn’t breastfeeding. When I explained to her why, she took a look at my breasts and let out an “Ayayay!” because they were so swollen.

“Get your baby. I will help you.”

So in the middle of the night I took the BooBoo Bear from the nursery and the night nurse stayed with me to make sure she was latching properly.

She was a big help that night and she kept me going when I was ready to give up. I wish I could say that we lived happily ever after, but there will always be glitches because that’s just the way life is.

The supply of breast milk was never enough, and I know websites say to just keep going because you will eventually get there, but I doubt the website would be of much help in the middle of the night when the baby is hungry and angry, and the boobies have released all the juice it could possible release at that point.

I’ve never been a fundie or a purist and I don’t have any issues about “exclusive breastfeeding.” Some mothers can supply all the breast milk their babies need and still have left overs to freeze and/or donate to charity. I am not one of those mothers. So I supplemented with formula and saved my sanity.

Now that I am back at work I am glad I made that decision, because there are just times when I can’t pump on schedule or don’t get to drink enough fluids.

It was hard enough to actually just get started on the breastfeeding and harder to maintain it given everything else that is going on in our lives without being anal about exclusivity. As long as my daughter is healthy and happy, I won’t waste my time worrying over it. I just wish I didn’t allow those websites to influence my own experience of breastfeeding the BooBoo Bear and make me feel inadequate about being a mother.

When we started out, I set myself a goal of six months. I didn’t think I would even last the week, but I did. We are now in the middle of our fourth month, and I wonder if I will have the heart to stop at six. But I will take it as I promised myself that night in the hospital: one day at a time.

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Levan restaurant

Like a true Negrense, I love food. Food is sacred and not something to be dealt with haphazardly. And because we are the sugar capital of the Philippines, we know desserts like the backs of our hands. Yup, we know the good life, and when life comes collecting, we have to pay.

Our family has lived with diabetes for as long as I can remember. My grandfather had it, and early in our childhood we were accustomed to seeing him use Equal instead of sugar in his coffee. Ironic, since he was in the sugar business.

His son, our uncle, also had diabetes early on. He dealt with it by exercising, cutting down on carbohydrates in his diet, and taking a daily dose of insulin.

My brother does not have diabetes, but has a rather strange blood sugar disorder (I am not quite sure how to call it, so doctors, feel free to correct me). He is not allowed to miss meals, because his blood sugar level will drop and he could faint or fall asleep and not wake up.

Bar Gurion Chocolate SouffleMy Independence Day souffle

When I found out I was pregnant with the BooBoo Bear, I became more cautious with the food I ate. Then I had my sugar test at around 20 weeks and it was (tadaaaa!!!!) normal.

At this point one would think that an intelligent creature would maintain what it was that they were doing to keep their blood sugar levels down.

Apparently I am not an intelligent creature because, despite my family history, I went to town on the Nutella and all things chocolate.

Brewhouse dessertMy blood sugar is high but my EQ is low

So at around 30+ weeks I looked like I was lugging around a giant watermelon and my body was threatening to go into labor. Needless to say, my doctor was NOT very happy.

Gestational diabetes only occurs when a person is pregnant, but once there, it raises their risk of having the actual thing later on in life. It also increases the baby’s risk of becoming obese and developing diabetes.

The solution was going cold turkey. I was placed on a horrible, horrible diet that threatened to drive me mad. I was in a foul mood for days until my body finally adjusted to the diet.

The dietician called it the “Mediterranean Diet.” I don’t recommend it to anyone, because it has to take certain things into consideration such as your body mass index, general health, nutritional requirements and such things. But for more than a month I subsisted on a few slices of (diabetic-friendly) bread a day, one egg, some 5% cheese, quinoa or brown rice, a small slab of meat, yogurt, fruits and veggies. Lots and lots of veggies.

Diet

Good thing I like veggies.

What surprised me the most was that I actually survived living on very basic food. Who knew the human body, a pregnant one at that, needed so little in order to survive and function?

I didn’t think I would make it to the finish line. I did. Eventually. But now I understand why my grandfather was so recalcitrant and would dip his fingers into some cake and ice cream when no one was looking.

I can’t even begin to imagine what life is like for people who have the full blown disease. At least in my case, I knew that once I gave birth it would all be over. I know I still need to take care with what I eat though, so no more midnight excursions for dessert. No more full course meals (except maybe after a day of fasting?). No more ice cream marathons (yes, I’ve been naughty!).

Everyday is still a challenge. I’ve set my limits and, thankfully, I’ve kept to them. For now. Crossing my fingers.

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Twins

Gabii and Sophie

Our babies, exact physical replicas of each other born ten years apart. And that’s as far as the resemblance goes.

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I am so ready for the new year.

As one can easily glean from my lack of blog posts, the second half of 2012 occupied me in ways other than blogging.

It started out in January, when our yaya MJ decided to move on and pursue her own plans. I am all for pursuing dreams, so I gave her my blessing and I buckled down to take on the household tasks that she used to handle. Having grown up in a household without maids, I knew what had to be done.

It wasn’t that difficult since the Babii is now ten years old and there were only the three of us (and three piggies), but when our little Boo Boo Bear started growing larger and developing her own personality in utero, physical exertions became harder and harder. Add to that gestational diabetes, work-related stress and rampaging hormones, and you basically have a recipe for disaster.

But there is a silver lining in any cloud. The Babii coincidentally started moving across that great divide between childhood and adolescence. It meant a lot of angst, mood swings and pimples, but it also came with an eagerness to be more involved in our day to day life (read: chores) and a certain level of maturity which has always been beyond her years.

The eventual arrival of our Boo Boo Bear and the transformation of our little team of three into a little gang of four is an epic story in itself which deserves its own series of posts.

For now, I look back at 2012 with relief that it is over, amazement that I actually pulled through it in one piece, and gratefulness that we continue to be blessed despite my whining and blubbering (I blame the hormones).

We have a lot of plans for this year. We look forward to seeing family again. We are excited to experience firsts again: first words, first steps, first trip to the beach. And I am eagerly awaiting good news (no, not another pregnancy!) which I will reveal in due time.

Yes, it’s definitely time to move on.

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Shuk HaCarmel fruits and veggies

When I was a kid, every Saturday morning my Dad would get up at the crack of dawn to go to market. Yup, he was was the official cook of the family. He would return about an hour later laden with all sorts of goodies: prawns still jumping around in the basket, mud crabs snapping their claws, and squid so fresh you could see their spots blinking on and off like Christmas lights (they truly do that!).

He would then rouse us kids from bed and start designating tasks — that’s how we all learned to cook. By the time eight o’clock came around, steaming dishes would be making their way from the kitchen to the dining table, one after another like a grand lauriat feast. Saturday breakfast was always a grand affair in our family, as was Sunday lunch, but that’s a whole other story.

My dad took me to market with him only once or twice, but it was a lesson I never forgot. We always got our food from the wet market; fresh, cheap, and from sources we knew (suki). Buying meat and vegetables from supermarkets was an alien concept that came much, much later in adulthood.

That lesson has served us well here…. There are plenty of supermarkets that can make shopping so much easier and more…er…. sanitary, I suppose. But buying from the wet market always costs less, and it pays to know the people who sell your food. It also helps, of course, if the market is a tourist attraction.

Shuk HaCarmel (literally: The Carmel Market) is one such market. R and I buy our groceries there at least once a month (I used to do it weekly, until I just didn’t have the time).

A few of our local friends are surprised when we say we do our groceries there. They say the place is dirty. Well, dirty is relative. Apparently they’ve never been to Central Market or Burgos Market.

Shuk HaCarmel garden nursery

This is my favorite garden store. Staying a few minutes here is like going to the bookstore…. It never ends well for my wallet. This is where we bought the herbs and vegetables in our garden. We still go back for soil, planter boxes, and the occasional splurging on plants. R always tries to distract me whenever we walk by this store.

Shuk HaCarmel Mushrooms

We call the owner of this store “the mushroom guy” because this is where we get our fresh mushrooms and some veggies. He always has 80s and 90s rock music playing and likes to sing while handing us our change.

Shuk HaCarmel Maganda and Gwapo stall

This stall’s owner always calls us “gwapo” and “maganda” (handsome and beautiful, respectively), words he learned from his Filipino friends. Vanity! He sells us great olives and olive oil from his own farm. He also has good smoked fish (smoked salmon, tinapa, and something that looks like smoked sardines) and honey.

Shuk HaCarmel Candy Store

If you have a sweet tooth, have no fear. The assortment of candies in this place will make your head swim. Oops! That’s my brother buying swiss chocolates for the wifey.

Shuk HaCarmel Candy Store

Gummy worms, anyone?

Shuk HaCarmel Cheese Store

And of course, one of our favorite stores, the cheese store! All sorts of cheese you’ve ever dreamed of, and more cheese that you never knew existed. I can honestly say that my cheese vocabulary has increased fourfold since I’ve been here.

Shuk HaCarmel Meat

This is our regular meat store, manned by Yossi. So many of the people we know in the market are named Yossi, so he is known as “Yossi buto-buto,” because every time he sees us he goes: “Buto-buto, buto-buto!” (Beef ribs) Again, more words picked up from Filipino friends.

Shuk HaCarmel spices

Doesn’t this make you want to just dip your hands and run the spices through your fingers? (Probably not a good idea unless you want to be chased out by an irate shopkeeper and banned from the market.)

Shuk HaCarmel Dead Sea Products

Of course, what respectable local market would be without Dead Sea products? Here you can get all sorts of muds, lotions, salts and whatnot at dirt cheap prices. Pun not intended.

Shuk HaCarmel clothes

If you’re not too particular about the brand of your clothes, you can also find everything here. Shirts, pants, socks, underwear, belly dancing outfits, shoes, etc.

Since the Babii is growing so fast and spending mindless amounts of money on clothes that she would wear only for a a maximum of three months just doesn’t make sense, this is where we buy her socks, tights, house clothes and pajamas (thank goodness for school uniforms!).

Shuk HaCarmel artist

If you stay a little later in the day, you can watch some street performers entertain the pedestrians.

Shuk HaCarmel artist

Sadly, I just don’t seem to have the time anymore.

R and I go to market early, around eight o’clock, to avoid the weekend rush. Come at ten and you’ll be jostling with tourists armed with heavy duty cameras and families rushing to finish their groceries in time for Shabbat dinner.

There are a host of other stores we frequent that I have not mentioned…. There is a pretty comprehensive Asian store, a long alley for chickens, another for fish. There are also various stores selling all sorts of cleaning and household products and (yes!) the ever elusive pork, bacon, ham and salami. When I say you can find everything here, I mean you can find everything here. (Light bulbs, anyone?)

For tourists who want to visit this market (and who wouldn’t?), here are a few tips:

1. Come on a weekday. The stores open a bit later (around 9 or 10 am), but you will avoid most of the serious shoppers. Those looking for the requisite keychains, shirts and Dead Sea lotions for souvenirs will find that prices here are significantly cheaper than prices at the mall or other tourist traps.

2. For those actually looking to buy food, prices are a bit cheaper in stores at the far end (near the bus terminal) and in the inner alleys. But it’s a long walk and not everyone has the stamina. I don’t, but we enter through the terminal and only go halfway up the market, so it’s easier on my limbs.

3. If you get hungry in the middle of all that shopping, there are quite a few restaurants (small and quaint, very touristy) in the market. There are also juice stands. Just keep your eyes peeled.

4. Always weigh the quality of the product against its price and don’t be cheap. Remember, you get what you pay for.

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soap and tomatoes

I have a penchant for eating tomatoes; uncooked, with a little salt and vinegar. It is something that I learned from my mother at an early age, and I’ve carried it into adulthood. Unfortunately, the Babii does not seem to have inherited this penchant for tomatoes and vinegar, even though I ate them a lot when I was pregnant with her.

My mother taught me to always wash the tomatoes with soap and water, but it never registered fully until I started doing my own groceries.

R and I go to a local farmers’ market at least once a month. The food there is cheaper, although it takes a little more effort to go through each stall, walking the entire length of the street where the market is located, and picking out the meat, poultry, fish, etc.

There I saw fruits and vegetables falling off stands, rolling on the ground, and put back onto their shelves for customers to buy.

So now I more conscientious about washing my food. Again, it takes a little more effort. But a few extra minutes spent at the sink is waaaaaay better than a few hours spent in the emergency room for food poisoning (trust me, I’ve been there).

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Maybe it’s because of Mother’s Day, maybe it is just the natural progression of things, but these days there is more and more talk (debate?) about parents and what constitutes good parenting.

I am not in a position to judge people. We all have our own circumstances and we deal with them the best way we can. But I would like to relate my own experience with breastfeeding.

This was ten years ago, and the campaign for breastfeeding had yet to gain steam in the Philippines. I would like to note that we, as in most countries, have a strong pharmaceutical lobby which includes baby formula.

When I had the Babii, I specifically noted in the hospital form that I filled out that I intended to breast feed. Some things being beyond our control, however, it was decided at the last minute that I needed a C-section. That meant (at least at that time, to me) that I would not be able to care for the Babii during the first twenty fours (or more) after delivery, so we decided against having her in the same room as me and opted for her to stay at the nursery. I was assured by the hospital staff that I could still breastfeed.

Fast forward to delivery and recovery. After twenty-four hours, I could already stand and walk, albeit with some difficulty. I called the nursery to ask about the Babii. She was still sleeping, they told me. They promised to call me when she woke up so I could start breast feeding.

Hours passed. I called again. Oh, they fed her already. This went on for the next few days and, if I had not put my foot down and staked out the nursery, I would never have been able to breast feed my child.

It’s difficult to speculate on people’s motives ten years after the fact, but at that time I felt truly frustrated that my preferences/requests/instructions were not being followed by the hospital staff. We stayed at the hospital for five days, and all that time I staked out the nursery. Sometimes I was able to catch the Babii’s feeding time. Most times, I could not due to nursery visiting hours.

I was thankful when we finally went home, thinking that my breastfeeding issues would soon be over. I was wrong.

I was taking antibiotics for the operation, but I was assured by my OB-Gyne that it would not affect the baby if I breastfed. At home, however, I noticed that after each feeding, the Babii would have a wet bowel movement.

People (including doctors) have told me that it was not possible for a baby to have LBM from breast milk, but how can I argue with reality? Off to the pediatrician we went.

In the end, I decided to take the Babii off breast milk and put her on baby formula. The doctor prescribed a non-lactose formula for two weeks, and the Babii’s bowels became normal.

Was it the antibiotics? Had my daughter become used to formula from the nursery? Where was the problem?

I admit, I was dealing with a lot of things at that time and probably did not handle the entire thing as well as I could have. Next time around, I intend to go to the hospital better informed about my options and, yes, more assertive about how hospital staff handle me and my daughter.

Will things be better? Will I truly breastfeed this time around? I don’t know. But I would definitely try.

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