Miracle Birth Story – Born in a Car at 34 weeks (Part 2)

In the delivery suite, Elijah was cleaned up, weighed (2.4kg. not bad!) and measured. A pediatrician came to see him as well. Elijah was breathing on his own, but he was breathing rapidly and it looked like it was a struggle. The doctor gave him oxygen through a mask, and they had to take him to the NICU.

I was relieved that we had reached the hospital and Elijah was in good hands. The gynae came soon after, and was also shocked that I had given birth barely 2 hours after she had seen me and said that I should just “rest at home”. I was also her first patient who delivered in a car! She did some checks, stitched up the minor tears, and I was soon allowed to go to the ward. I was discharged the following day.

Elijah’s adventure lasted much longer than mine.

He was under observation for his breathing, because although he could do it on his own without any assistance, it was getting more and more difficult. The pediatrician felt it was going to leave him completely exhausted. So they started giving oxygen.

Over the next day or so, the medical team tried to reduce Elijah’s dependence on the oxygen that the machines provided, but his SpO2 (the amount of oxygen in his blood) would drop each time, and there was little progress.

Since Elijah was in the NICU, there were very strict visiting hours. EJ and I would visit him a few times a day, going back and forth from the hospital to home, in between work. I was also busy expressing milk to establish a good supply. All of the milk had to be frozen because Elijah could only be fed milk once his breathing was stabilised.

It was heartbreaking to see such a little human being connected to so many tubes and machines. We could see his chest heaving, as he tried to breathe. He was such an amazing fighter.

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The team of doctors decided that progress was too slow, and Elijah’s lungs needed a little jumpstart to start working as they should. He was given 2 doses of lung surfactant, which finally eased his breathing and started him on the road to being discharged. Lung surfactant is derived from calf lung surfactant extract. So, Elijah will be as strong as a bull!

Finally, after about 4 days of just being on an IV drip, he was given some milk by tube feeding- a measly 3ml! But the amount rapidly increased as the days went on. And he got stronger, and started to breathe with less help.

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No more oxygen tubes. Take me home, mummy!

Every morning and evening, EJ and I would wait for a phone call from the doctor, giving us updates about what procedures had been done, and how Elijah was progressing. When he could drink from a milk bottle on day 7, we knew he would be home soon.

Elijah was discharged after 9 days in NICU.

In the past decade, the national rate of preterm births has gone up, from 7.2 per cent to 9.5 per cent, despite low birth rates over the same period.  Reasons are not always known. There are now support groups at NUH, KKH and SGH for parents of preemies. There are Facebook groups like this one as well. The good news is that, with early nutrition and enrichment through physical and intellectual stimulation in the home environment, most preemies show little evidence of their bumpy start to life. It is advisable for us parents of preemies to monitor our child’s development and make sure they are meeting the appropriate milestones.

Elijah still has to go for check ups every 6-9 months for some minor issues that require follow up. Even these should be coming to an end by the time he is about 2 years old.

Today, Elijah is a happy 7.5 month old. He is an absolute angel baby. He sleeps well, feeds well, and is always ready to smile – even when he was having a bout of flu recently! I’ve been incredibly blessed. Grow up strong and healthy, wise and kind, my little one!

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Mother’s Day 2016, at the Singapore Botanic Gardens SSO Concert

 

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Miracle Birth Story – Born in a Car at 34 weeks (Part 1)

I’ve been blessed with very smooth pregnancies. With #2, I had mild morning sickness and tiredness, but overall I felt good, and kept active with occasional workouts and running around with my toddler.

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Swimming with Ethan 1 month before Elijah was born

EJ and I always choose not to find out our baby’s gender. So we could only make guesses, and have others use a cocktail of old wives tales to tell us what they thought. About 80% were guessing it was a girl. Even the delivery man! (because Ethan has inverted nipples???)

Ethan’s birth was pretty fast, so we were expecting the 2nd one to also come quite quickly. We even joked about giving birth at home, and I read up about what to do during an unplanned home birth. I started packing my hospital bag at 32 weeks, and we went for the hospital tour so we would know what to do when I was in labour. EJ and I were in discussions with our doctor about how he could film the birth, because there’s a lot of red tape in hospitals. EJ also had to decide whether to take a job that required him to travel the week after my due date. We were still expecting our baby to be born at full term, since everything was progressing normally.

Then when I just hit 34 weeks (on 29 September 2015), we were due for our gynae appointment. That morning, I started having contractions, which I thought were braxton hicks. They were quite mild-moderate but not regular, so I attributed it to overexerting myself the previous day. And I had my appointment at 11am anyway, so I could just check with the doctor then.

Here’s what happened…

11am. As usual, we took Ethan along for the appointment. I told the doctor that I was having contractions. She did the ultrasound, and also did an internal check. All looked good, and she said Baby was going to stay in there for a few more weeks. We talked about medication to ease the contractions, but agreed that we could wait and see if they got more severe. I don’t like taking any kind of medication when I’m pregnant and breastfeeding, because of the risk that it might affect the child.

12pm. We went to my mum’s place, which is where I do most of my work while she helps to take care of Ethan. The contractions became worse and EJ called the clinic to ask if we should come back and get the medication. The doctor said that it may have become worse because of the internal check, and I should just rest at home for a while. EJ almost left to do some errands because I told him that everything would be ok and I just needed to rest. Thankfully he didn’t listen to me and decided to hang around, because that’s when it became like a scene from the movies.

1230pm. I went to the toilet, and out came the mucous plug. That’s when I said we HAD TO GET TO THE HOSPITAL. I asked my mum to get a towel, because I didn’t want to get the car dirty if my water bag burst. She gave me 1 towel (If you are ever in that situation, bring 10 towels!!) In between contractions, I managed to clamber up into the backseat of the Toyota Fortuner. My mum went to get changed so she could come along, but as we waited in the car, things were escalating and I said we really had to go, and we drove off without telling my mum!

Traffic was heavy, and we slowly moved along, trying to get onto the highway. I had very strong urges to push, and told (well, yelled at…) EJ that I didn’t think we could make it! He asked “can you hold it in??” erm. No.

He turned around and saw the baby crowning.

1245pm-ish. I gave a push, and felt a gush of liquid coming out. And, together with the liquid and blood, came a little baby. He kind of slid out. It was incredible. I didn’t really believe what was happening. I hit Baby on the back a few times (like a true ER fan), and baby started to cry. *sighs of relief that he was breathing*

EJ pulled over to the side road, and we looked around to see if there were any neighbourhood clinics nearby. There were none. And there were actually hardly any people on the road! I wrapped the baby in an extra t-shirt that EJ kept in his car, but before that, I took a peek… we had a BOY!

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EJ pulled over into Geylang East Central

EJ tried to call the ambulance, but couldn’t get through (!!). He called his dad, to help us contact the hospital and alert them that we were coming. EJ then got through to the police, who redirected us to the paramedics. I had to hold my newborn son, while also holding the phone and answering many questions about the baby’s appearance, and the pregnancy.

We got to the hospital, and there was a nurse waiting for us. She cut the umbilical cord, took the baby, and an assistant helped me into a wheelchair and we made our way to the delivery suite…

Finally holding my baby again, after they did the initial checks. It would be many more days before I could hold him again.
Finally holding my baby, after they did the initial checks. It would be many more days before I could hold him again.

In Part 2, I’ll tell you more about what happened after that.

But here are some FAQs that people have when they find out about the birth:

Who delivered the baby?

I did! I was the only one at the backseat. Thankfully, Ethan was at my mum’s place. I can’t imagine what he would have done if he was in the car too! I was sitting slightly sideways, so when the baby came out, I could guide him onto the seat and then into my arms.

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Just after Elijah was born in the car

Was the car bloody?

Yes. VERY. EJ spent the afternoon cleaning it up. And even today we sometimes find a few spots of blood which had gone unnoticed.

Why was he born premature?

Since the gynae wasn’t there at the birth, she is not 100% sure. But because of the amount of blood that came out, and also because the placenta came out at the same time as the baby, she thinks it may have been due to placenta abruption, where the placenta lining separates from the uterus. This often causes bleeding and pain before the birth, but I didn’t experience either, so we really don’t know.

After reading up more, I realised this is actually quite a dangerous condition, especially if there are no signs. My baby could have just died from lack of oxygen and nutrients, without me even realising it! Thank God that he came out early so he could get help.

What does his birth certificate say?

Place of birth: “Junction of Paya Lebar Road and Geylang East Central”

You saved a lot on hospital fees!

We saved on doctor’s fees, and I was discharged the next day. Unfortunately, Baby’s lungs were not well developed, and he had other issues. So he had to stay for 9 days in the NICU.

Do you know of an unusual birth story? 

This lady gave birth on Jetstar Airlines… and named her baby Jet Star!! 

 

 

Book Review: The Berenstain Bears – Computer Trouble

I have fond memories of reading The Berenstain Bears series when I was a kid. It has cute and cuddly characters, and teaches values based on Christian principles.

So when it was becoming a challenge to pry Ethan from watching endless Youtube videos or games on the laptop or handphone, I was happy to find that The Berenstain Bears have kept up with the times, and there was a book titled ‘Computer Trouble‘.

I’ve been reading it with Ethan for a few weeks now, and he loves it! He identifies with the story, and about how the bears spend all their time on the computer. When the bears try to think about activities that they can do instead of being on the computer, Ethan gets excited because he does those things too – play with sand, go to the playground, play football…

I relate the story back to him when he insists on watching yet ANOTHER video, and I’ve had mixed success. Sometimes he readily accepts another activity. Other times, the crying and tantrums still ensue.

The only thing about the storyline is that all the alternate activities are outdoors. In Singapore, it’s a little hard to always channel the kids outdoors because it is either too hot or rainy for most of the day! We make the most of the magical hour between 5pm-6pm, where the kids can run around in the playground and work off some of that energy. As they get older, they are starting to appreciate some tabletop games as well, like jigsaw puzzles. I’m all for non-screentime activities, and I’m always looking for new things to do with them.

What are your child’s favourite indoor activities? I’d love to hear from you and try it out!

 

What to say to a Manchester United Fan

Manchester United lost their game last night.

This is the team that EJ calls ‘family’, and one that he is a diehard, get-on-your-knees-and-pray-at-the-89th-minute type of fan.

Manchester United haven’t had a good season in a while, and their recent loss means they are out of the Champions League – which is a big deal, apparently.

I’ve played sports for my school, and recreationally. But I don’t come close to understanding what this kind of loss feels like, and I don’t know how to comfort EJ, who is downcast, muttering to himself, shaking his head, not eating well, can’t concentrate on his work… basically, the symptoms of mild depression.

So, attempting to be more empathetic, I asked him what a person should say, or shouldn’t say to him, in moments like these. Here’s his suggestions.

Do NOT say…

“They will do better next time.”

“They’re still in the top 5.”

and especially do NOT say… “It’s good that you didn’t stay up to watch the game until 4am then.”

DO say…

“What do you think went wrong?”

“What can they do better next time?”

This gives him the chance to air his grievances, and also show his analytical skills and knowledge of the game and the players. And talking it out makes it seem like there are things that can be done about the situation, and satisfies his need to be a problem solver.

But, if everything else fails to bring him out of depression, a heavy dose of silence while watching Youtube videos of Manchester United’s best goals might do the trick!

 

Twin Stroller – My best investment

It was a Saturday, and EJ was working. His mum was at a retreat and his dad suddenly made plans to be out as well. So it was just me and the kids, going solo!

I used to think I could get by with a single stroller for Ethan and putting Elijah in a carrier. But that proved to be too difficult to manage when I needed to be fully hands on for Ethan – during diaper changes, tantrums and when he just wanted to be carried.

So, the number one thing that I’ve found useful in solo outings is the twin stroller. I’ve tried a few.

  1. Merricart ($399) (Similar to Kinderwagon $299)

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This was the first one I bought, and I used it for my nephews before Elijah came along. It is a tandem stroller, and weighs less than 10kg. The back seat reclines to about 160 degrees.

Pros:

  • Easily get through all doors, because it is very narrow
  • Large canopy
  • Lightweight
  • I liked that it was stadium seating, so both children get a nice view. (Although, it also led to some hair-pulling when the kid at the back started to get a little bored)
  • Zipper at the side of the storage basket. This was great for easy access.

Cons:

  • Only the back seat reclines. The front seat barely reclines so only one child can sleep properly.
  • The seat depth is quite shallow. This is ok for small infants, but even when Ethan was less than 2 years old, he would start to slip off if he wasn’t sitting completely upright.
  • The front bumper bar is not removable. With the shallow seat depth and bumper bar, it became quite a task to take Ethan out of the front seat

2. Seebaby double stroller

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Pros:

  • Very easy for the kid at the back to get in and out. And they seemed to enjoy the “freedom” of being less constrained
  • Compact
  • Lightweight (10.3kg)

Cons:

  • The folding mechanism is a little bit of a hassle, and requires both hands
  • When the front seat is fully reclined, the back passenger can’t even stand
  • The back seat is only usable if the front seat is fully upright. If the front seat is slightly reclined, the back passenger will need to stand

So finally, I’ve found a stroller that I LOVE.

3. Maclaren Twin Techno

I bought a second hand one a few weeks ago from Carousell. It is a side-by-side stroller, which initially was a turn off. But I found that it fits through narrow doors and HDB lifts, and the physics of it (just a single row of seats) makes it easier to turn as compared to the front/back strollers that I’ve tried before.

But the best thing is that both seats individually recline, so both kids can sleep (although it is rare to have both sleeping at the same time!). And, without the bumper bar, Ethan can get in and out by himself, which gives him more independence, and is easier for me because he is getting to be quite a weight!

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Both boys are asleep!

It’s a one hand folding mechanism, and collapses into a compact umbrella fold with a convenient carry handle. So, although it weighs in at 12.2kg, it is very manageable.

Cons:

  • The canopies are not big, so it doesn’t block the sun very well, which has caused the kids to wake up from their nap on a few occasions, especially with the recent heat wave we’ve been having
  • It’s difficult to access the storage baskets when the seats are reclined
  • An additional middle handle would be useful when one-handed steering is needed

Overall, it has been one of my best investments. I’ve gone on solo trips on the train, to Gardens by the Bay, to the library, and to Sentosa. I’m looking forward to expanding that list because there’s just something special about hanging out – just me and my boys.

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A Village of Mums

It takes a village to raise a child. And it takes a village to raise a mum.

On my first Mother’s Day a few years ago, I received text messages and greetings of “Happy Mother’s Day” and it made me cringe a little. It was almost unreal.

“Mother”? That’s a title belonging to my own mum, or grandmother, or some other strong and capable woman. Or Mother Theresa…Surely, not…me?

I felt so defeated. I often cried because breastfeeding was a painful, bloody experience. I mourned my loss of independence, freedom and being with friends. I resented becoming invisible to some, who wouldn’t even bother to look at me and immediately just took my baby out of my arms.

Then, I received a WhatsApp message from my mum, also wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day, and with the message, came a link to a video about Derek Redmond. It showed the semi-finals of the 400m race at the 1992 Olympic Games, where his hamstring snapped about halfway through the race. In his moment of pain and disappointment, his father barged past security, and, together with Derek, hobbled to the finish line and completed the race.

The video was meant to encourage me to be a like Derek’s dad – a parent who would pick their child up when they were down. But at that moment, I felt more like Derek – so discouraged, and the race ahead looked so difficult and painful. I needed the support of women like my mum and other mothers, who lived positive lives, breathing life and love into their children and husbands.

With the video (and Josh Groban’s ‘You Raised me Up’ playing in the background), it brought a sense of solidarity and strength. We’re in this together. It takes a village to raise a child. And it takes a village to raise a mum.

Happy Mother’s Day.