Lucas Turns 2: 5 Baby Things I Miss (and 5 Things I Don’t)

Lucas turned two last March. It was also his second birthday in quarantine (let me rephrase that he has never had a “normal” birthday!). Again, it was just us, his ate, and some of our guys who were bubbled in our compound. We had a simple Pinoy celebration, complete with a sorbetes cart, pancit, lumpia, and Goldilocks cake. The little fella ran around while eating ice cream. He was so happy.

For dinner, we dressed up the house a bit for a Cars-themed meal. The boy loves Disney’s Cars now and adores Lightning McQueen. He also likes seeing fireworks (he calls “toktok” for paputok) so I bought mini sparklers for his cake and Dragon fireworks which we lit up after dinner. He was so happy.

This birthday is different. I’m sure Lucas still doesn’t understand the concept of birthdays, but I think he knew we were celebrating something that day. Only means that we don’t have a baby anymore. You know when moms say, “please don’t grow up too fast?” I don’t say that. I want Lucas to grow up at the right pace. Sometimes, I’m even guilty of wishing him to grow up faster, to hit milestones sooner. I check myself, but it’s really because I’m excited to see all the amazing things I know he’ll do one day. Mama’s here, I always tell him. I’ll always be here to watch and silently applaud and encourage him.

But today, I choose to reminisce the moments I’ve had with him as a baby. Before I officially close that chapter of my life, I want to put into words those precious memories I’ll never get back. Because the boy is growing up too fast, and it’s alright.

Here are 5 things I miss about having baby:

  1. Baby Smell. Ahh. This. Babies smell like a warm glass of vanilla-flavored milk on a cold, rainy afternoon. I wish I could bottle his baby scent to remind me of new mommy bliss. Now, my toddler smells like a real boy!
  2. Breastfeeding. I’ve missed this since he was 5 months old, when he just stopped and refused my milk. We tried re-lactating, but we weren’t successful. While having him weaned early does have its perks, I sometimes yearn for that special bonding only I can have with my son. SOMETIMES. ;-)
  3. Bath Time. Bath time used to be a relaxing routine. I put him on the tub’s net, we’d with bubbles, and then I’d dry him off with his towel. And then I’d massage him with honey-scented baby oil. Sometimes I’d sing him a tune. Now, bath time is a constant tug of war. Lucas hates bath time. He hates water. I think he takes after a cat! So now that he’s mobile, he’d refuse bath times until I get frustrated, and when he finally concedes, he’d be so scared of the water that he would thrash around and get me wet!
  4. Being able to hold him all the time. Sure, I’m happy Lucas is now walking and slowly becoming his own person. But sometimes, I miss that first few months when I was all he ever needed, for everything. I often marvel at how much he’s grown, and distinctly remember that I used to be able to carry him in one arm. Now I think he’s grown four times his newborn size!
  5. Waiting for the first words. And all the small firsts. The first time he said “Mama,” the first time he sat up, the first roll over, the first crawl, the first step. All these firsts are so precious. I hope I won’t ever forget them.

I’ve already packed and given away Lucas’ baby clothes. I may have kept a few for the sake of nostalgia, but I’m also really glad that the infant part is over. Maybe I’d be more sentimental if I’m younger, but I’m a middle-aged first-time mom. I’m so glad to call it a wrap!

Here are 5 things I definitely DON’T miss about having a baby:

  1. All that puke. The only time a baby doesn’t smell like an angel is when he’s covered in puke. And boy, Lucas was a puker. At one point, he vomited with so much projectile that I panicked and took him to the ER!
  2. All that heavy carrying. Going back to what I said about missing the feeling of holding him all the time–OKAY, maybe not all the time. He’s gotten so huge and heavy that I’m so relieved he’s now walking on his own!
  3. Waking up every 2 hours at night to feed. This may be the most challenging struggle I ever faced as a first-time mother. Late-night feedings, waking up every two hours in the middle of the night. I seriously thought it would go on forever. For moms still in this stage, hang in there. It will be over. Not before you know it, but soon.
  4. Wet poop and excessive diaper changes. We’re still not fully potty trained, but we’re getting there. We’ve definitely lessened our baby wipes consumption, and I can’t wait for the time when I don’t have to spend for diapers anymore!
  5. Baffling cries. I’m glad Lucas is also more expressive and communicative now. He says dede when he wants milk, poo-poo when he needs a diaper change, and he identifies what he wants. He can also effectively say if something’s ouchie, and WHY it’s ouchie. Bump head, bump knee, bump toe…Things are no longer a guessing game for us and we are less frustrated. I think he was most frustrated around 16 months, when he was already starting to want things but couldn’t say them. As a result, he would have tantrum bouts and I was always at my wit’s end. I am so relieved we passed this stage!

Hug them extra tight tonight, Mamas. They really do grow up too fast. As they should. But we could always have the memories. <3

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My 2020: Losing Our Jobs, Starting a New Business, and Getting COVID-19

Hey. I’m still here.

I’m still here. How powerful it is to see that line these days. 2020 has been a year of losses for many of us, a year of empty chairs and empty tables. Surviving that hellish year, being alive, breathing well, standing still, being here–what a miracle.

I write my end-of-the-year review today, March 15–exactly one year since our government announced that it was imposing a strict ECQ. I remember that day so vividly. We’d been wary of this new “Wuhan Virus” for a while, and my husband has warned me many times to stock up on essentials. I was in denial and thought it wasn’t going to be a serious threat here. By March 15, 2020, it was apparent that COVID-19 was a serious global threat. I queued in the grocery for three hours. I thought it was so surreal to be living through a real pandemic, experiencing a lockdown I’d only seen on games and movies. Still, I was hopeful that this community quarantine would only last for a couple of weeks to a few months at most.

There were many things going on in our lives, so many things to be excited about. The husband’s work in the live events industry was picking up, and he had big projects lined up. We also planned to start the construction of our home and even paid in full for the digging to begin. What I thought would be a short pause would turn out to be one whole, grueling year.

mom blog ph
Strong Start: Celebrating my birthday at Sofitel, Lucas’ first haircut, construction of our future home, and traveling to La Union.

Losing our Livelihood & Starting a New Business

When the ECQ was announced, it was clear to us that we would lose our main livelihood. Concerts, exhibits, and events were the first to go and we knew that they’d be the last to resume. What little savings we had would slowly, but surely, be spent up. My gigs as a freelance writer could keep us afloat, but we also had to think of Enzo’s crew who were quarantining with us.

By May, as we entered the third month of the lockdown, Enzo, who is an avid leathercrafter, decided to train his men on the craft. These were painters, carpenters, and artists to begin with and they picked up the skill pretty well. As soon as our suppliers resumed business, we decided to launch a small online brand.

Attique ph

Attique, our passion project, was born on May 27, 2020. We started selling leather masks and other handcrafted leather accessories. Starting a business with actual employees is not an easy feat, especially during a pandemic. We definitely had a few hiccups along the way and learned a trove of lessons. It’s been almost 10 months and we’re still here, trudging along. We’ve gone beyond selling on Facebook and Instagram and invested on an actual website, started catering to international clients, and even got featured on Philippine Tatler! What I am most proud about, however, is the fact that we are able to give jobs to our crew as their livelihood is put on hold. This purpose keeps me going, even during points of low sales.

Testing Positive for COVID-19

As if the year hasn’t been harsh enough, we received another shock just as 2020 was about to end. Yes, I tested positive for COVID-19. On December 10, I was exposed to someone who I didn’t know had the virus. By Dec. 14, I had a sudden 38C fever and got tested on the 15th. Sure enough, I had it.

It was a shock, yes, and reading the word “positive” gave me cold, nervous shivers for a few minutes. But really, it’s a miracle how our family has managed to avoid the virus this long. While I initially thought the coronavirus wasn’t going to be a serious threat, I now believe that it’s here to stay and we’re all gonna get it at some point. It still sucked, especially because my 14-day isolation meant that I’d be spending Christmas away from my husband and 20-month-old son.

COVID-19 positive
Our 2020 Christmas Card. Celebrating Christmas Eve via Facetime.

Because I got sick, my husband lost a couple of projects just as his job was slowly reviving. By extension, he was a person of interest so he had to quarantine as well. Christmas was a truly depressing time. We had lost so much throughout the year. It felt like we drowning and couldn’t rise to take even just one gulp of air.

Ironically, when 2020 began, I chose the word HEAL to be my inspiration for the year. To heal from past hurts and mistakes, to heal from physical and emotional pain. I never thought I’d be claiming this word literally.

Despite all that I’ve lost last year, my gains by far outweighed them all. I shall remember 2020 as the year when we lost all our savings, our house, our job, and stability. It was also the year when the Lord has come through for us. He has healed my mom of cancer, protected me from COVID-19’s severe symptoms, and held our families closer despite the physical distance. 2020 was the year when my perspective on life has shifted on what’s truly meaningful, lasting, and essential.

All in a year: Lucas turned one, my mom got cured of Stage 3 cancer, we launched a brand (!), my family is well and complete, and I’m raising a son in the new normal.

I’m tempted to say that it was a good year for the sake of optimism. But I won’t, because I don’t want to negate the bad and all the hardships people had to face. Because if there’s one more thing 2020 has taught me, it was to be sensitive to other people’s plight, feelings, and coping mechanisms. So I’ll just say thank you, 2020. Next.

 

Lucas’ 1st Birthday: Camp Quarantine

We decided to push through with our planned camping trip for the boy’s birthday. With the community quarantine strictly enforced though, we just had to camp at home! Sharing with you how we celebrated our son’s special day. Like his conception and birth, his first birthday is one for the books!

Enzo and I woke up early to prepare. We didn’t have guests, but we wanted it to still look festive. After all, Lucas is at the stage where he’s amused with everything that he sees–lights, hanging stuff, trees, animals, etc. I was able to buy a dinosaur “happy birthday” banner right before the quarantine announcement. We hung it above our dining table and it became our theme for lunch. Enzo got a few banana leaves which we used as a table runner to make it look more, er, Jurassic? :)

dinosaur themed birthday

I cooked spaghetti and hotdogs on sticks. Very Pinoy birthday.

And the cake! I ran out of cocoa powder and I couldn’t find any at our nearest mini-grocery. Good thing they sold boxed chocolate cakes! This one’s from Magnolia, and it’s actually good! I still had chocolate bars in my pantry so I made ganache for the frosting. We topped with a used candle (good thing I hoard stuff!) and a Godzilla toy. Because I insist that Godzilla is a dinosaur, lol.

As for the gifts, I re-wrapped (using old magazine pages) some of Lucas’ favorite toys and books so he could open presents. I got the idea from a Montessori mama that I follow on Instagram. I agree that at Lucas’ age, he doesn’t need new toys and he won’t appreciate them anyway. But I do want him to have the sensory experience of opening and tearing wrapping paper. Lucas was thrilled!

Enzo pitched a tent in the boy’s room and we stayed there after dinner. It was missing stars, trees, and real grass but it was a special memory for us as new parents. Wow, has it been a year? Raising a child is not easy, now more than ever. The world is changing right before our eyes. What challenges will we still face, what hurdles will we encounter? Many more, I am sure. But this boy, our wonderful boy, is a reminder that there is beauty after every battle and that whatever it is, this too shall pass. <3

Lucas’ Simple Dedication and Thanksgiving Party

Wow, we’re two months into 2020 and it feels ages since I opened this little space. Last year was a roller coaster of highs and lows. Battled APAS, gave birth, started a new job, lost that job, dealt with family shakeups and a major illness–all in one year. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. When I count my blessings, however, the biggest one remains this boy.

“Lucas,” we named him without knowing that he literally was the light we turned to when the night was darkest.

So on Dec. 21, right before 2019 ended, we gathered our closest friends and immediate family members for a simple and intimate dedication and thanksgiving party. This post is two months late, but I’m sharing some snippets of that wonderful day because I want to remember being so, so grateful. Grateful for friends and relatives who have tirelessly and generously supported our journey to parenthood. For my family, for their unwavering love, prayers, and sacrifices. Despite all the hardships we faced last year–from Lucas’ birth to family issues–we came out victorious. Indeed, the Lord’s mercies are new every morning.

We held the party at Marita Restaurant at the Grand Cobo Events Place. We love that restaurant for its tasteful interiors and spacious al fresco dining area. While we really just wanted a nice afternoon merienda with friends and family, we ended up sprucing the place a little and went with a Hundred Acre Wood theme. For one, I have a lot of Winnie the Pooh stuffed toys from my childhood. And then, the husband had a set of life-sized Pooh, Piglet, and Tigger statues lying around in his shop (they made it for a previous event). Also, Lucas loves his two Heffalump stuffed buddies and he’s always clutching and chewing on their trunks.

We set up a photo wall with a neon sign of Lucas’ name, rented out ice cream and taho carts for the kids, and called it a party. 

My dad sharing about the purpose of baptism in our faith

Pastor Andy Javier, our old friend from college, and Lucas’ ninongs and ninangs.

It took me three full days to make this simple, 8″ cake. Without a yaya, I could only sneak in baking while the boy is napping. It was a struggle, but I’ve baked countless cakes for other kids before and I always dreamed to make a cake for my own child one day.

We DIYed most of the details, including the invitations, decor, cake, and souvenirs. For the godparents, we gave out leather valet trays made by Enzo’s mom and scented soy candles that I made. My mother-in-law also made elephant keychains out of scrap leather for our guests.

The weather was good and the place was beautiful–kids ate ice cream and ran around while the adults got to eat and talk.  Best of all, Lucas was a real trooper. He didn’t make a fuss, napped for a few minutes, and enjoyed the company of people. It really was a perfectly laidback day, just like how Enzo and I are. We hope Lucas will grow up to enjoy simple and meaningful moments in life like good food, sunshine, and great conversations. <3

*****

Lucas’ Dedication & Thanksgiving Party details

Venue & Food: Marita Restaurant at the Grand Cobo Events Place

Ice Cream & Taho Carts: Party Food Cart Rentals

Set-up & Decor: Nikko Metal Works

Cake & Giveaways: DIY

My Post C-Section Essentials

It’s been exactly four months since I gave birth. Four months! Many moms in my shoes may have totally adjusted by now, but here I am–still in my jammies, my hair’s tied in a messy bun, my nails are chipped, and I am running on a three-hour sleep.

But the baby is fine. He’s more than fine! He’s healthy and happy, and strong, and bright. He’s smiling all the time (except when he’s hungry), and he’s starting to babble too! I look at him and I know that my new normal means his happiness precedes mine.

Don’t get me wrong, I may look tired and messy all the time and I still have to shed the excess baby weight–but I am taking good care of myself!

These days, I’m relying on these essentials to keep me up and running and feeling well inside and out:

Mamaway Binder

Image from https://www.mamaway.com/nano-bamboo-postnatal-recovery-support-belly-band

 

 

I super relied on my Mamaway Binder after giving birth. I got mine from Baby Company for I think P3,000+. It’s not cheap, but definitely worth it!

Because I gave birth via Cesarean, I wasn’t very mobile right after. This made it easier for me to sit up and eventually stand and then walk. I wore this for a whole month postpartum!

 

 

 

 

Essential Oils

I know I’ve had a truly difficult pregnancy, but all that is nothing compared to taking care of a newborn! Lucas is an easy baby and he hardly ever fusses but when he does, oh my! And the sleepless nights! I guess that’s why every mother feels so attached to their children, even when they become adults. “I birthed you! I took care of you!”

I’ve been oiling since before I got pregnant, and essential oils are definitely in my postpartum arsenal! I use mostly Plant Therapy oils which I order from the U.S. The ones in Healthy Options are good, too. I mainly use these oils topically and diffuse whenever the baby’s not in the room. I still haven’t read up on which oils are baby-safe!

Whenever I need a boost of energy to stay up, I rub a bit of the Energy blend on my wrists and pulse points. When I want to sleep, I use Relax. Muscle Aid is my most-used oil because I feel like an old person now–every part of my body seems to be aching! I put this on my ankles, shoulders, neck, and even wrists (that baby is heavy!).

Four months after my C-section, my external wound has completely healed already. But my tummy still feels a bit numb and some days I can feel a bit of discomfort inside. I rub the Balance blend over my cut whenever I feel uneasy. This and a bit of rest really works!

Barley

I have a new morning routine. I drink young barley grass juice every morning, the first thing I do after getting up. Barley is a powerhouse grass. Read up on it and you’ll see its amazing benefits. It’s packed with calcium, iron, folate, and lots of vitamins. It boosts one’s energy, increases immunity, controls blood sugar levels and cholesterol, and renews cells.

I’ve been drinking it daily for a month now and it’s truly a lifesaver. Even though I’m always sleep-deprived, I’m not a zombie throughout the day anymore unlike Lucas’ first two months. I know I’m tired, yes, but I’m more alert and energetic. It’s also protected me from viral colds and flu! I get my barley stock from I Am Worldwide. I believe in the product so much that I even signed up to be a distributor! Yes, I’m selling these–message me if you want to try it!

So there, my three post-CS essentials. What are yours? Need recos, mommas!

 

APAS FAQs: Tests, Meds, and Expenses

Ever since my blog post about my pregnancy was picked up by Smart Parenting, I’d been getting a lot of queries regarding my whole experience. Every week, I get PM’s from different women telling me about how they’ve been trying to conceive for years or how they’ve suffered recurrent miscarriages. They ask about my condition, how I found out, where I got tested, who my doctors are, and how much did I spend to sustain my pregnancy.

I know I’ve already written a lengthy and detailed post about APAS, but here I will consolidate all questions I’m being asked for the sake of those who want to know–those who are afraid that they may have the same condition; those who are daunted by the thought of spending a huge bulk of their savings just to get a shot at a successful pregnancy; and those who are clinging on to the hope of having a child.

As long as I can help, I will never stop sharing my story. So, here are 10 frequently asked questions* about my APAS journey:

1. What is APAS?

According to medicine.net: The Antiphospholipid Syndrome (APAS) is a disorder of the immune system that is characterized by excessive clotting of blood and/or certain complications of pregnancy(premature miscarriages, unexplained fetal death, or premature birth) and the presence of antiphospholipid antibodies (such as anti-cardiolipin or lupus anticoagulant antibodies) in the blood.

To put simply, my blood was too thick. And because a baby gets nutrients from his mother through the blood, if it’s too thick then the baby might not get enough nutrition to sustain it inside the womb.

It is interesting to note that APAS is just one of the five Reproductive-Immunological Disorder (RID) categories. Other women test positive in two or more categories.

2. Does it have symptoms? How did you know you had it?

The main symptom is difficulty conceiving and sustaining a pregnancy. After my second miscarriage in 2016, my OB brought up the term APAS but I shrugged it off because I truly did not want to try to conceive anymore. In July 2018, I was shocked to see two pink lines on a pregnancy test–and went straight to the lab to get tested for APAS.

According to some medical websites, there may be symptoms of APAS unrelated to pregnancy such as migraines and blood clots in the legs. But personally, I’ve never had any inkling I had it except for my recurrent miscarriages. 

3. Where did you get tested for it?

I had the test done in Hi-Precision. But for the other RID categories, I did it at St. Luke’s Global.

4. How much were the lab tests?

I paid around P5,000 for the APAS panel at Hi-Precision. The other test I had done was to check my Natural Killer Cells–and if I remember it correctly, it was around P9,000 at St. Luke’s.

5. Do I go straight to an immunologist, or shall I consult with my OB first?

I went to an OB first. She was the one who referred me to an immunologist.

6. Who are your doctors?

My OB-GYNE is Dr. Jocelyn Bambalan. She’s also a perinatologist (one who specializes in high-risk pregnancies) and sonologist so she conducts my ultrasounds as well. My immunologist is Dr. CJ Gloria. Both of them have clinics St. Luke’s Global.

7. What medicines did you have to take during your pregnancy?

Aside from the prenatal vitamins, these meds were prescribed to me to manage my APAS and sustain my pregnancy:

-aspirin, daily until 32nd week

-Heparin injection, daily until 35th week

-Prednisone (steroids) for a month during my first trimester

-two brands of probiotics everyday

-progesterone, both oral and vaginal suppository

-monthly intralipid infusion (done through IV)

8. If I have APAS, does that mean my pregnancy will be as complicated as yours?

I don’t think so. Personally, I know some women who have APAS and other RIDs and have had very smooth pregnancies. They even were able to travel while pregnant! 

Although my immunologist did comment at one point that the complications I had were a way of my body trying to reject the pregnancy due to my APAS. Still, I think that what happened to me was just purely coincidental.

9. If I am pregnant and have APAS, must I undergo a C-section?

Pregnant women with RIDs are automatically branded as having high-risk pregnancies. This goes into your medical chart so resident doctors and nurses know how best to deal with your case. But personally, my OB encouraged me to try for a vaginal birth even up to the last minute.

10. How much did your medicines and treatments cost?

Sorry, I forgot the exact amount of the medicines I took; but these were the ones that stood out, mainly because they were the most expensive ones!

-Heparin: a pre-filled heparin syringe cost around P470. The vials were much cheaper and they were less painful to inject, too! Tip: if you have a senior citizen in the family, ask your doctor to make the prescription under his name so you can avail of the discount.

-Probiotics: My doctor prescribed two brands. The one I got from Healthy Options, and the other is Culturelle. It is not being sold in the country but there are many resellers online. Beware though, and make sure what you’re buying is the real thing. I got mine from my immunologist’s clinic. It was around P1,000++ per box (good for one month).

-Intralipid Infusion: this is to help my baby grow in the womb. APAS babies tend to be smaller and have a very high chance of premature birth. This costs P15,000 per session at St. Luke’s Global.

*Please note that my answers are all based on MY own experience. As each pregnancy is different, your doctor may instruct you to do things differently.

If you have trouble getting pregnant or have had multiple miscarriages, I strongly encourage you to consult with a specialist. I always say this: having APAS may be difficult and expensive to manage, but it is better than being in the dark.

As they say, baby dust to all you moms-in-waiting! I am believing with you for your own rainbows. <3