Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Delinquent" Days

There are lazy days too, believe it or not. These are days when I just refuse to rush and just go with the flow. 2pm lunches, Gabbie bathing at 330pm, extended playtime, going out for leisurely walks while the house is in disarray…you know what I mean. I feel really grateful to be able to enjoy such days and feel that there’s nothing to be guilty about.

Back in my corporate days, I was an efficient machine, all geared up to get several things running and delivered on time. I hated being late and I was always working. I also missed out on quality time with loved ones and on daylight (since I was in the office all day plus overtime). I was tired all the time and never allowed myself some quiet time.

Thank God that season is over! And what perfect timing too, now that I am married and I have a baby. Everyday spent with them is truly a cause for celebration because it could easily be another nine-hour stretch of time spent behind a cold, cluttered desk. I know a different season may arrive sometime soon—one that may see me busier and possibly more involved elsewhere besides homemaking. But things are different now. It is no longer I who navigate my life, it is the Lord. I choose it to be His responsibility now. Clearly, He’s way better at it. His timing is perfect and His ways far wiser.

For everything there is a season,
 a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
 A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
 A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
 A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
 A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
 A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
 A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
 A time to love and a time to hate.
  A time for war and a time for peace.
 What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11)
11 am: Taking fun shots
2 pm: Playing with Gabbie during lunch prep
5 pm: Eating faux banana cream pie from bananas, whipped cream and raisin cookies

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What’s To Be Grateful For On An Exhausting Day?

It’s 7:45 PM and I was looking at a stack of unpacked groceries on the floor and a sink full of dishes since breakfast. With an addition of dinner to prepare and nine kilos of fresh laundry to put away, I was looking at a busy night ahead. It’s one of those nights where exhaustion has gotten the better of me and there’s just so much more to do. To top it all off, Gabbie was in one of his “carry-only” moods. With no way to get started on anything, I started to trudge back to the bedroom with him, too tired to even try.  My hubby Mike was in the other room, working. I knew he was busy, but I had to ask.

“I need help”, I said bleakly.

After a few minutes, he got Gabbie and I was face to face again with my daunting kitchen.  45 minutes later, I had dinner all prepared and the dishes washed. I was starving. Gabbie was still in a cranky mood and squirmed in my arms. My husband, God bless him, took our baby and just let me eat. Oh, what joy! To eat peacefully with two of my hands. After dinner, my husband said the sweetest thing.

“I’ll take care of the dishes.”

He even mopped the floors, wiped the stovetop and cleaned the rice cooker (it was begging for it).

So back to my title. I’ll give you one guess J

That day is over, and I know I’ll have one of those again sometime. What is worth noting, however, is that I’m not alone in my homemaking tasks. I’m blessed to have a husband who has a heart to help around the house (and who doesn't give me a hard time when lunch is served at 2 PM already). Praise the Lord! J

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

No Maid? No Problem!

We have been living in a “maid-less” household for about three weeks now, and with a baby who refuses to be put down, things can get pretty challenging. I know foreign society might laugh at my little predicament but this is the Philippines and the norm is to have maids in practically every household’s employment. Being “help-less” can easily take away a lot of the joys of being a wife and mom—three meals to cook a day, mounting dishes on the sink, dirty floors, stinky reusable diapers, and a baby who just refuses to separate from his mother’s arms.  So tempting as it may be to complain, I think it’s time to take ownership of my household. To those who may be in a similar situation as I am, here are some helpful reminders to keep things in perspective, and to help keep the household clean and running (well, as much as possible):
Cooking while feeding Gabbie
Clutter and cute baby. I choose to focus on the latter :)
  • ·      Choose one or two of baby’s sleeping time to get some work done – ever heard the good ol’ advice to ‘sleep when the baby’s asleep’? Well, I couldn’t follow that. At least not all the time. I use Gabbie’s short nap times to do as much as dishes as I can, iron, chop ingredients. I do a big chunk of chores like cleaning the bathroom or kitchen at night when Gabbie’s asleep. If I have some writing or editing work to do, I just put him in a sling during the afternoon and let him nap in my arms (sleeping in my arms equates to longer, uninterrupted sleep for him). BUT I try to join in one of his afternoon naps so I don’t get all burned out.
  • ·      Adjusting my standards. – I can live with a little mess now. Unmade bed, cluttered dining table, chaotic kitchen…it doesn’t mean I’ll never attend to them. But if Gabbie needs me or if I need to prepare lunch right now, then those chores would to wait. The most important lesson I have learned when I had a baby was FLEXIBILITY. Not everything will go according to my plan and schedule but all can be graceful and even enjoyable.
  • ·      Wear a baby sling – for moms with babies who just refuse to be put down for one reason or another, a baby sling is a lifesaver. I use mine when I have to do some editing, wipe tables, wash dishes or whatever else that require my two hands. I use a SaYa SSK
  • ·      Use rubber gloves for quicker, more efficient washing AND less germs – I don’t have much time on my hands to I make sure I protect them so they can work faster. It makes dishwashing or diaper-rinsing so much more bearable and easier to do. Plus, since I’m one who prepares the food around the house, my hands are kept cleaner. I use a regular Ansell pair, bought for about P80 at the grocery.
  • ·      Cook in bigger batches – More chances of leftovers for the next meal. I do this for our and baby’s food. I blend, mix and mash a good meal for Gabbie, put the leftovers in his own ice cube tray and freeze them. I thaw and heat a few cubes for meals thereafter.
  • ·      Involve baby when I can during chores – I count the laundry with him, make him eat his food as I finish up the cooking (of course I make sure the cooking dish isn’t spewing out hot oil or anything like that—just stirring soups or sauces and the like), dance as I wash the dishes, do whatever it takes J
  • ·      Thank God that I have a husband, a cute baby, and a home to look after every single day. The everyday tasks are just to-do’s, they’ll get done sooner or later. But what I have are priceless and the joy of being with them should never be lost.
  • ·      Depend on God fully and completely – it needs to be said that I can try to be a super mom and do everything I can for my family day in and day out, but without the grace of God that is fresh and new everyday, I will accomplish nothing. I’m a first-time wife and mom and I have no prior experience at this, but the reason this household is blissfully joyful is because God is faithful in answering our prayers to lead us in our marriage, in parenting, and in our work.

 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. “ James 1:5

Don’t get me wrong. There are days when things are extra challenging and I wish I’m be a better homemaker, wife or mom. But I rest in confidence that it is not I who will carry out my tasks for me to fruition.  “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philipians 1:6

So really, having no helper is of no consequence to the Cabardo household. There is joy in our hearts especially with these easily-missed benefits of having no maid:
  • ·      I get to cook again and my husband enjoys it.
  • ·      We save on cooking oil and rice, which our helper did not use sparingly
  • ·      Privacy in our condo
  • ·      Enjoying service like no other from my husband who shares dishwashing and cleaning chores with me J

What is your maid-less experience like?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Breastfeeding is Godsent

   When I started this blog, I knew that one of my posts would definitely be about breastfeeding. It’s been one of the many blessings I thank God for everyday, and has been a healthy reminder of His design and how that is always the best course to take. As I mentioned in my previous post, my son Gabbie was born prematurely and when he was born, he was fed through a tube that went straight to his gut. Seeing him so small and fragile, I knew instinctively, even without prior knowledge to the immense benefits of breastmilk at that time, that my milk would help him, and that cow’s milk would hurt his premature digestive tract more. (True enough, one fellow mom at the hospital shared her story of how she was unable to produce enough milk and so had to feed her baby Nan. Her baby would only poop once every three to four days and would strain hard just to do so. Her baby was as small as Gabbie at that time—barely 2 Kgs). I do believe that every mother CAN produce breastmilk, but not every mother knows or believes she can. With the lack of knowledge and support, coupled with the aggressive marketing of infant formula manufacturing companies that make formula feeding seem so much easier, breastfeeding is just deemed too hard or even impossible. But believe me, it is neither. Allow me to share my personal experience with breastfeeding:

  • ·      Breastmilk contains antibodies that boost my baby’s immunity from many kinds of infections and viruses. That’s the kind of panatag that I enjoyed especially since my baby was born prematurely hence, more susceptible to viruses and diseases.
  • ·      Optimum nutrition. Gabbie was born barely three pounds. Now, his weight is right where it should be for his adjusted age. He’s healthy, strong and heavy!
  • ·      Matchless bonding sessions. I missed my baby for more than a month after I delivered him. Breastfeeding sessions were exactly what we both needed to feel the love, warmth and provision.
  • ·      Forced rest for me. We have a new baby, we don’t have household help, and my to-do’s just keep on coming. But with Gabbie asking to nurse every two hours (Yes, every two hours still!), I’m forced to sit, rest, hold him close and spend some quiet time, read, watch TV, or go online.
  • ·      Sleep-inducer for baby. When Gabbie is sleepy or fussy, breast is the answer. It comforts him and calms him.
  • ·      I have a happy baby. The moment he opens his eyes in the morning, he smiles. He smiles at people, he shrieks in delight at Gigglebellies videos, he babbles and giggles when talked to. I do believe breastfeeding has not only given him food for survival, it helped him thrive.

    Why do I believe that every mother can produce breastmilk? It’s simple. If God gave you a baby, wouldn’t He also give you the provision for your little one?

    Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Matthew 6:26

     And when God gives, it is good, pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:2). Read about breastfeeding benefits in a nutshell and see just how mom’s milk was created to be the best for baby:

The happy breastfeeding pair

    From my experience, research and support were very essential in helping me persevere. Two of the most important things to take care of first and foremost are to establish milk supply and for baby to develop or maintain a good latch. I had to work on both since my baby was not with me for the first several weeks. So I had to pump milk every two hours, as if he was with me already, and gave the supply to the hospital. This helped me set up a good supply in time for Gabbie’s most-awaited arrival. However, when I finally got to nurse him, it took awhile since he was used to being fed effortlessly through a tube. His latch was wrong and was painful for me. This is where support is very much needed. Hubby was great and our friend, certified lactation counselor Abbie Venida Yabut (0917-8292268)of La Leche League helped baby with his latch, and other BF issues.  I also went to see a lactation specialist medical doctor, Dr. Pat Kho (0917-8505872) at Makati Medical City. There are also many support groups online and mommy blogs (I follow Chronicles of A Nursing Mom) to help moms gain more knowledge and support.

   Motherhood may be challenging but breastfeeding really helped me enjoy my nurturing instincts as a mom—to be able to provide nourishment, comfort, security and love to our baby. And I realize those are the very things that God provide for me too as His child. Indeed, parenthood is one of the best perspectives in understanding God and His heart, and breastfeeding has been one of His instruments in helping me act out what I now understand. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

How My Preemie is A Blessing

I woke up with a start that fateful day at 5 am. I rushed to the bathroom because I was leaking. And when I saw that it was clear and water-like, I knew something was wrong. But little did I know it would be the beginning of a heart-wrenching journey for our family. It turned out I was leaking amniotic fluid, and I was only 30 weeks pregnant. We stayed in the hospital, and I bed-ridden, for the next five days to try to get the leaking to stop. But by my third ultrasound on the fifth day, I knew I was going to deliver my baby. I wept in guilt, thinking over and over that it was my fault. I was so scared, so afraid for my baby. He was only 30 weeks! He was two months short, and I know that every single day inside the womb was crucial for a developing baby. My husband and I prayed. Family, friends and our spiritual family stood in prayer with us, supporting us.

I delivered Juan Gabriel, or Gabbie for short, early afternoon on a Thursday. He weighed only 2.96 pounds, but he had a strong, little cry when he was gently pulled out my belly. He was a small, chinky-eyed baby angel. The next day, I forced myself to sit up to be able to visit him at the NICU. Seeing him so small and fragile inside the incubator really, truly broke my heart. I fought back tears as I wanted to sound strong for my little one as I spoke gently from the incubator window so he could hear my familiar voice telling him that I love him.
Just arrived!

What was especially painful, and I would surmise that every mother of a preemie would be able to relate with me on this one, was that it felt like he was “stolen” away from me, being that a premature birth is always unexpected, and that the baby is always kept inside the incubator after delivery. I longed to hold him, sing to him, and hold him close but I couldn’t.

Gabbie stayed inside the NICU for about 40 days after delivery. Though small, he adjusted to his world outside the womb pretty well. He was off the breathing tubes by the first week, gaining weight steadily, and did not have any complications brought about by a premature birth. God was so faithful to us, and I felt His hand personally caring for my little one.

Doing Kangaroo Care at NICU

Even while pregnant, my husband and I were adamant on breastfeeding our baby. And when he was born prematurely, I was even more determined to give him nothing else. Since he wasn’t allowed to latch on to me (since he had to be put inside the incubator right away), I wasn’t sure I had milk (I’m sure other moms had this “doubt” too). But the day after I gave birth, I pumped and there was colostrum! Precious liquid gold for my premature baby. I remember that we didn’t have the resources nor the time yet to purchase a good, dependable breastpump at the time when our  friend, and lactation consultant Abbie Venida-Yabut lent me a sturdy Philips Avent dual electric pump, and taught me the basics of breastfeeding. As for our very, very unexpected huge hospital bill both for baby and I, we sought the help of family. Gabbie’s hospital was also very considerate with the payment terms. God was intent on involving a lot of people in blessing us indeed and our hearts swelled in gratitude.

It’s been eight months since I gave birth to Gabbie, and seven since we took him out of the hospital. Gabbie has grown to be a happy, healthy, very spirited baby. He’s healthy and strong, and has contracted his first-ever case of colds and cough only recently, due to the rainy weather. He’s on his way to healing now. The first thing he does when he wakes is smile, and that’s pretty much what he does all day—smile at people. Now, at eight months (six months adjusted age), he’s beginning to sit up, crawl and he loves eating his solid food, and breastfeeding every two hours.

Gabbie at 4 months (2 months adjusted age)

I love sharing his story and seeing people's reactions when they find out that he’s a preemie. They simply couldn’t believe it. He looks, and is very healthy. Thanks to the breastmilk that has been provided generously for him. Though he’ll always be considered a “preemie”, he’s simply just ‘my precious baby’ to me.

Now, when I carry him and nurse him to sleep, I can’t help but remember the nights I spent missing him and dreaming of doing exactly this. As I see him gazing lovingly at me and smiling at me, I can’t help but feel incredibly thankful to be given such a wonderful gift. Everyday has been made even more beautiful by my little mister sunshine!

Gabbie at 7 months (5 months adjusted age)

Juan – God is gracious
Gabriel – God is my might