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Snippets: Two years into SAHMotherhood

20 Apr

A month ago, our little one (LO) turned two. That means it’s also been two years since I became a mother. Two years of motherhood bliss. Wow! It’s been quite a journey. Because motherhood is bliss. Yep, bliss. Pure bliss.

Hahahahaha!!!

Allow me to share how my journey into this motherhood thing has been, so far…

Motherhood is hard and exhausting. Do I even have to say that?

Wait, I need to make a disclaimer. This post is NOT a rant. There.

Anyway…

Even when I wasn’t married yet, I knew parenting would be hard. But… it’s different when you’re actually there. The difficulty and exhaustion are way too different than what you could prepare for. Or expect. The physical demands are, yes, taxing and something I more or less expected but the psychological and emotional demands are things nobody told me to prepare for (I heard they are kept secret from new moms).

You get the hang of child care and doing the house chores. But I think I will never get the hang of the ‘mental load’ or the ’emotional labor’ of motherhood. Google the terms. You don’t get any respite from it. Ever. You can have a break from the chores if you choose to (e.g., sit down or go on a vacation) but you will never ever escape the mental load. Lying down, while taking a bath, while in a cab, while waiting in line, the ‘mental load’ haunts and will haunt you.

When I had a corporate job, I looked forward to 5 PMs, to weekends, to holidays, to vacations. I get respites from the stress of work. Now, there are no breaks to look forward to. You can’t sleep in even on a Saturday. Holidays are still work days. And vacations aren’t really vacations. They’re just taking care of your kid(s) somewhere else.

And probably the most difficult thing is that quitting is not an option. You can’t tender a resignation because… You just can’t.

It gets harder each day. I didn’t have a difficult time transitioning into parenthood. The newborn days (up until our firstborn’s third month) were a bliss. Honest. (Okay, my mother-in-law was with us then and she did the kitchen so we had help then). I readily eased into the breastfeed-sleep-change diaper routine. Breastfeeding made my nights bearable since I can feed my baby while sleeping. And our little one (LO) wasn’t a fussy baby. I had it easy. Or so I thought.

When our LO turned four months, her sleeping and feeding patterns changed. She woke up more frequently and nursed less frequently. She became aware of her surroundings and fought sleep. Then she learned to roll-over, then crawl. Can’t leave the baby alone anymore. Then she started solids. Then learned to walk, then talk. And talk some more. And more. And she napped less, and less. And… you get the picture?

The challenges just add up. With each challenge a little more difficult than the previous one. So much for thinking I had it easy. Well, at least at the start I did.

The prognosis isn’t very encouraging, too. According to more experienced parents, it doesn’t really get easier as kids grow older. They say the challenges just change, but it doesn’t get any easier.

Breastfeeding is hard, but harder to stop. Even if I’ve been doing it for two years. (I even know someone who said it’s harder than childbirth). Learning to breastfeed at the start is so painful. I suffered from sore nipples, engorgement, fever, and leaking breasts. But when your milk supply is already established and you find the rhythm in breastfeeding, it’s a breeze. And while the baby is still small (you can still carry her with one arm), you master the art of doing everything with one hand. I’ve breastfed while eating, walking, while grocery shopping. Basically anywhere and everywhere whenever I need to. It is convenient, in one hand.

A breastfeeding mom’s gotta do what a breastfeeding mom’s gotta do. I find it a hassle to unstrap her from her car seat to feed her for just a short time before going so I just helped myself to feed her. And no, the car isn’t moving. Photo by Rajsh Velasques.

But while our LO nursed less and less as she grows, she nursed naman in different positions, doing acrobatics, which makes breastfeeding still hard even if you’ve been doing it for years. Your breasts gets pulled in different directions. And even if I’ve been breastfeeding for two years already, I still, sometimes, couldn’t find a comfortable position to feed at night. I’ve come to accept my perpetual backache as part of motherhood.

But it is difficult to stop. There are times when I want to wean my LO already. Sometimes, I find it inconvenient to stop doing what I am doing when she asks to be fed. But knowing that I am giving the best for her health and knowing that breastfeeing is more than just feeding, that it’s also a relationship, that makes it harder to wean her.

Quitting my corporate job to be a SAHM was the most difficult decision I have made. I prayed and cried over it a lot. I was afraid to lose my income, not for personal reasons, but for the practical reason that we needed it to run the household.

It was a step of faith. One that I was very afraid and hesitant to take. I had a lot of doubts. And I consciously had to make a lot of sacrifices. We moved to a house which was cheaper to rent but farther than my husband’s workplace. I gave up travelling, movies, material things. It was difficult. And it is still difficult. Because money is still tight. But by God’s grace, we are fine. He has been good and faithful to provide for our needs. I couldn’t be more thankful.

I had a lot of down moments whenever our LO was sick. Our LO hardly got sick before she turned a year old. But when she was 10.5 months old, she had pneumonia and needed to be confined in a hospital. After a month, she got confined again for pneumonia. And after three months she got confined, for the third time, again for pneumonia. After a month, she got pneumonia again but thankfully, she didn’t need to be confined for it. After three months, she had another incident of rapid breathing (hingal), the most telling symptom she had in all her pneumonia incidents, that I thought she had pneumonia again. Thankfully, it was not pneumonia but just the common cough-cold. She had a few more sniffles after but thankfully they were just that, sniffles.

All these happened in just a span of one year. Suffice to say, those moments when our LO was sick were trying moments for us. She was actually diagnosed with primary complex (tuberculosis) after her third bout of pneumonia and we had to go through six months of medical treatment for it. I also consulted four different pediatric pulmonologist to know what was wrong with my LO and to know why does she always gets sick with pneumonia.

The nebulizer has been our best friend. At the first day of the slightest cough or a cold, I nebulize right away with a saline solution.

I am just so thankful that I have a God I could lean on and who saw me through all those difficult times. And a husband who is ever-present for us.

Our LO still gets sick. But not as sick or bad as before where she needed to be rushed to the ER. (I lost track how many times we’ve been to the ER. Suking-suki na kami ng Medical City). I really hope she wouldn’t get seriously sick anymore. It’s so heartbreaking to see her in pain.

I hardly take pictures/selfies. I’m a mom who hardly takes pictures and videos of my LO nor take selfies. Bilang na bilang mga picture ni baby na kuha ko. I think this is something I will regret later on. Actually, I’m starting to regret this when I recently looked at her pictures and I was trying to find pictures when she was newborn. Shocks! I only had a few and then the next pictures I had she was already big na. Well, tamad talaga ako mag-picture eh. Kaya pasalamat ako sa mga taong nag-pi-picture sa anak ko. Hehe. (The downside of this is that her pictures are getting exposed to social media, something that I wanted to avoid sana. But then).

One of the recent very few selfies I’m able to take. People say she looks like her Tatay but my sister said she looks exactly like me when I was her age.

Sometimes I wonder, masama ba akong ina dahil hindi ako mahilig kuhanan ng litrato ang anak ko? Hehe.

I dread mealtimes. Between feeding my LO and washing her poop-laden bottom, I’d rather do the latter. It’s less stressful than feeding her. She is such a picky and messy eater.

The messy part I totally understand and wholeheartedly accept. It’s a normal part of toddlerhood.

The picky part? Sigh.

Well, they say it’s normal, too. But…

Let me say it this way…

I’m a fairly healthy eater. I eat lots of fruits and vegetables. I hardly buy junk foods at all (if you see some in our house they were given as presents). I do occassionally eat junk foods, usually when out and served by someone else. I ate healthily when I was pregnant. And I breastfeed. The first foods I offered my LO were fruits and veggies. And until now I always, every meal, offer her veggies. I avoid giving her sweets and crackers.

So I cannot understand why she’s such a picky eater. I must admit that I get envious when I see kids her age who eats without any fuss, especially when she was younger. And would eat anything served to them. It took a while for our LO to learn to eat. She was already more than a year old when she learned to eat solids decently. I was at the brink of consulting specialists to see if something was wrong with my daughter because she doesn’t want to eat. Her poor eating skills before honestly made me depressed. I felt like a failure then.

And the thing that baffles me most? She turns down food just by the mere sight of it. I would understand if she would reject a food after touching, smelling, or tasting it but, no, even if it’s her first time to encounter it, even if she hasn’t touched, smelled, or tasted it, she would turn it down. Hindi ko ma-gets.

As if being a picky and messy eater isn’t stressful enough, my stress is multiplied by the need to feed my LO four times a day. That’s every three hours. Right now I limit the length of our mealtimes. But when she was younger she would eat for so long. She would eat for one hour. The cleaning-up would take me another hour. Then just after an hour I would need to feed her again! And I would have to repeat that four times throughout the day. It shouldn’t be a wonder why I find mealtimes stressful and dreadful.

Video above: An example of what I have to endure during mealtimes.

Side note: I’ve drafted this post a long time ago (months ago) and so I’d like to say that right now, our mealtimes are better (but I still dread them). Our LO’s appetite and eating habits have improved. She’s not as messy as before. She still eats little vegetables. But she loves fruits. (I continue to offer her vegetables every meal).

I went through a season of depression. I don’t think it was post-partum depression, per se. But there was a season in my motherhood life where I felt depressed for days (there are still those days, sometimes). I think it was due to the transition to being alone and the only person who does everything at home. You see, up until our LO turned one, my mother-in-law lived with us. And she helped us a lot. She did the cooking and the dishes and looked after our LO when I did the other household chores. But she went home to the province soon after our LO turned one. I then found myself alone at home (of course with a baby) during the day. Not to mention I had to do every chore (cooking, dishes, laundry, the baby, etc.) single-handedly. The change caught me off guard. Especially the part on being alone. It was mentally and emotionally challenging. I cried for days.

During those times, I would savor every moment I was out of the house and with the company of friends. There were even times when I didn’t want to go home. Home then was a different place. It became a place of unrest. It wasn’t the place of refuge it was supposed to be. It was a place of unending chores done without breaks and a lonely place. It felt like a prison. And I hated to be in that place. What is something that I always looked forward to, going home at the end of the day, became a thing I dreaded to happen when we were out. Home was not home for me then.

This was after attending a wedding where hubby and I served as secondary sponsors. I’m posting this picture because it was during this time when I was going through a really depressing season. Here I am dressed in a gown, made-up, and smiling but inside I felt so down. After the wedding, I didn’t want to go home, so badly that we even hungout at the newlyweds’ hotel after. Imagine that. Instead of giving them the privacy to start their honeymoon. I also still wanted to hangout after in a coffee shop even if it was already midnight, with a baby in tow, because I dreaded going home.

I found very little support for what I went through. The people I’ve tried to reach out to would just find a reason for what I’m going through by saying, “Sa bahay ka lang kasi,” “Wala ka kasing ibang ginagawa,” or they would try to fix me by saying, “Kelangan mo ng day-off,” “Kelangan kasi may iba kang ginagawa.”

But I am thankful because there were also a few people who understood, who listened, and who empathized for what I was feeling. Those people were God-sent.

That was for a time. I’d like to believe I have now adjusted pretty well with the kind of life I have. As they say, I got the hang of it/got used to it. By God’s grace. One day at a time. Though I have to admit there are still days when I feel down and a little blue.

I look forward to going out of the house. Probably because I went through a season of depression (which might have been traumatic for me), going out seems like a treat. To the church, to the mall, out of town for a retreat, a pedia visit. Wherever it will be, even if it is just to have a quick meal in Jollibee, every time I leave the house is heaven for me.

Judgements/Criticisms are part of motherhood. I am trying to learn how to deal with this. Hopefully, soon. Maybe because I’m still a young/new mom so those who’ve been way farther along the way feel they have every right to judge me.

But let me get something straight first. I receive a lot of words from fellow moms. How do I differentiate between an unoffensive advice or comment and a judgement? The tone of their voice/the manner how a person says it. As I said, a lot of moms give me unsolicited advice/comments. Most of them I find unoffensive. Because they say it in a tone that communicates genuine concern.

But there are a few moms who constantly criticize me and give advise in a very condescending tone kulang na lang sabihin nila na hindi ako mabuting ina.

Pakainin mo, gutom.” (But I just fed her).

Inaantok, patuligin mo.” (Kagigising lang po).

Disiplinahin mo anak mo.”

Mga anak ko hindi nagkakasakit tulad ng anak mo.”

Ang payat/liit ng anak mo.”

Etc, etc.

Again, it’s the tone of their voice that I find irritating and offensive. If it was said in a different manner, I wouldn’t be defensive. But I guess judgements and criticisms are part of motherhood. I just have to bear with it and learn to brush it off so as not to affect me.

Peer pressure is still real. At my age and at this point in my life, I thought I would have graduated or at least have learned how to handle peer pressure. Sadly, I still struggle from it.

I am particularly referring to the difficulty I experience when I try to turn down offers of biscuits, crackers, sweets, etc. to my LO. I appreciate those who ask before giving my LO snacks. And I appreciate the offer. And I honestly understand the joy people have when they give foods to kids. And I don’t mean to offend them. But I find it annoying when some people insist that I feed her the food they offered (and say, “Konti/Isa lang,” “Sige na,” Bakit?”) after I’ve declined or refused (which doesn’t happen all the time, depends if mealtime is just a few minutes away). I sometimes give in. Peer pressure.

Call me maarte, KJ, strict, a crunchy mom, or whatever. I am trying to develop good and healthy eating habits for my LO. The age she is in is the foundational age where she will either learn (or not learn) how to eat healthily and her eating habits now will influence her eating habits and health later in life. It’s a make or break age for her. And I honestly feel that people who give my LO junk foods are pulling me away from my goal. Not only that, some people don’t realize that some foods are outrightly dangerous to kids. I wanted to get mad to the person who gave my LO a hard, round candy. It’s good that I saw it when she put it in her mouth (so I was able to take it out right away). A marble-sized and -shaped candy is a choking hazard! For heaven’s sake!

We find fat kids cute but wonder at ourselves why we don’t have the discipline when it comes to food. Go figure. Nutritionists actually advise against toddlers snacking all throughout the day. Also, there will come a time when I won’t be able to supervise what she eats anymore and I’m sure she’ll choose to eat things I taught her not to. Until that time comes, I will have the say what she eats or not. 🙂

And, can I just say… As a mother, I make sure my child is well-fed throughout the day. I feed her regularly and try as much as I can to keep her mealtimes on-time when out of the house. So any sugary snack in between meals really ruins her next meal. I really find it difficult to feed her when she’s had a snack just before a scheduled mealtime. And studies have shown that sugars affect children’s behavior. They make them more cranky. So I’m also trying to avoid unnecessary tantrums. And sugar weakens their immune system.

There are just some people who give my LO food as if I don’t feed my child anything at all. Just because my LO is small. I’m not depriving my child of sugary treats. I do feed her biscuits and crackers, just not regularly. Usually when I don’t have a ready snack at home. Or when we go out and I wasn’t able to prepare a snack. Or when we travel and I know that the next mealtime would be delayed. (And, of course, you know, for bribes). I compromise, too, more than I would want to, actually.

The thing most people don’t realize? By insisting to give my LO foods after I’ve declined them, they are undermining the discipline I am trying to instill to my LO and my authority as a parent. (That’s why parenting is hard. Other people make it harder).

There are days when I feel lazy to do anything. It’s usually when I don’t feel like cooking (or when we haven’t gone to the market or grocery yet so there’s nothing to cook). Cooking is the house chore I least like to do (and doing the market and grocery). So when I wake up and feel lazy to cook or do anything else, I go with my husband to his office and hangout there. Sometimes I feel guilty for being lazy. But those times are the only break I get.

I love Sundays. I always look forward to going to Church on Sundays. I get to be out of the house for a whole day. Around with people to talk with. No chores to do. And friends who are more than willing to babysit our LO.

I still dread Mondays. And the day after arriving back home from an out-of-town trip or a vacation. Or the following day after having visitors at home (which are usually Mondays).

Because I spend my Sundays with the company of friends, I’m usually in high spirits on Sundays. But the moment we go home I start wishing for the day not to end. Because I dread the following day, Monday. And the loneliness I will feel when I wake up the following day. It’s back to my daily grind. Alone. I thought I would ‘graduate’ from hating Mondays when I resigned from my corporate work. Apparently, hindi pala. Haha. Sometimes, I feel like the emotional shifts are too much to bear. (Or sometimes I feel I’m not just emotionally strong or mature enough to handle such). I sometimes even ask myself if it is worth feeling happy for a whole day when I know I would just feel the opposite the following day.

The same is true when coming home from a trip. Or when we have friends come over to our house. It’s a joy to have friends come over. But the moment they leave the house the atmosphere suddenly becomes eerily lonely.

I love long drives. (I don’t drive, hubby does). Because of hubby’s work, we get to travel for retreats and other ministries to nearby towns like Tagaytay and Laguna. We also frequent Batangas since it’s my hometown and I visit my family there. Sometimes we travel farther like when we traveled to Baguio or Bataan or Baler (hey, they all start with the letter B).

She used to fuss when I strap her in the car seat. Not anymore. Well, she would still do, sometimes, but only for a few minutes. She’ll try to get away from it. Once she’s strapped she’ll realize there’s no sense crying anymore. The secret to stress-free travelling. I always say I use car seats not only for safety purposes but for my sanity’s sake.

When we need to travel to a far place, I look forward to it. Because it’s a time where I get to get my hands off the baby without worrying where she might wander or what her hands might get in to and I get to sit beside my hubby undistracted with a phone in his hand. I think it’s a win-win for all of us. Our LO is used to being strapped in her car seat so she doesn’t make a fuss of it anymore. Freedom!

I’m so grateful to friends in Church who willingly looks after my LO when I’m there. And this is another reason why I sometimes want to hangout in Church. Because people there love our LO so much they willingly play with her and look after her and I get to have a break. Such moments are the only break I have. So I savor them. And I am so grateful to all of them.

Titas of GCF. These are some of the staff/MAs in GCF who I always ask to look after my LO when I’m there. I am very much indebted to them. Sorry wala akong makitang picture na kasama yung ibang MA. ‘Wag magtampo. Photo by Jirah Endoso.

It is a joy to be a mother. In spite of the difficulties and exhaustion that is part and parcel of motherhood, it is a very fulfilling and rewarding vocation to be in. It is the greatest responsibility I have ever taken upon myself which I know I could never live up to. No matter how hard I try, I know I will always fall short of being the mother I wish I could and supposed to be. I always fail. And I know I will do so. Every day. There is something I wish I did or did not do. But I also know that I am blessed by God to experience motherhood. And I am thankful. Because there is a certain kind of joy that comes only with motherhood.

Taken in a rice field in Nueva Ecija en route to Baler last March. Photo by Eugene.

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Dear Carissa,

Happy birthday!

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The highlights of our family’s past year. We praise and honor God for the grace that saw us through.

Read our 2016 year in review here. Continue reading

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Our little one turns 1

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We praise God we were able to pull off a party as our Little One (LO) turned one. I don’t have skills to host a party so organizing one was by the grace of God. We also praise God because we were able to celebrate our daughter’s first birthday and dedication in a special way.

Eugene giving his testimony on how we have been ministered to by Shiphrah.

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Baby’s becoming a suki of The Medical City.

That may sound funny but, seriously, a recurrent pneumonia and another round of hospital confinement just after a month is really not funny at all. (Read about the first time here). Continue reading

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Baby

It’s been more than a week since Baby Carissa and Eugene got discharged from the hospital. Yes, both of them almost at the same time got confined for pneumonia. Continue reading