What brothers do….

I have 2 brothers – one older and one younger. I am the middle child. Being the only girl sandwiched between 2 boys, I turned out more boyish than most girls.  That’s another story to tell.

Key thing I recalled is that we don’t really squabble much in our younger days. My mum confirmed it; saying that she never really need to break us up from any fights. You won’t see my brother pulling my hair or me giving my brother a slap on the face.

What’s with kids these days!??

Yes – that scene I just portrayed was enacted in my very own household between my 2 boys every other day. Hair pulling, elbows jerks, (attempt to) slaps on the head or face, hits on the fingers : all these became common episodes between Xi En and Eizac.

I started from being depressed to sad to frustrated to annoyed to “ZEN” or rather my mind just goes “Hummmmmm……”. Let me explain the progression.

When I knew I was pregnant with no.2 Eizac, we take effort to prepare Xi En for baby brother. From hugging him (in my womb) to buying him a present from Di Di; we did all the textbook stuff. When Eizac was born, he came to the hospital to visit; tried holding Di Di and hug him. Everything seemed “on track”.

The real test came when relatives/friends came baby visiting at home. Everyone’s first attention was on Eizac; everyone was going goo goo ga ga over little baby brother.

And then I saw it: It was my first time witnessing the disappointment and sadness in Xi En’s eyes and face. He ran into the room to hide from the visitors. I walked in and hugged him and told him that it’s alright. He didn’t say much; but I knew how he felt. From the only child to sharing the limelight, he needed time to adjust. I felt sorry for my big boy.

Fast forward 1 year on, Xi En got used to having Eizac around. He knew Di Di is here to stay; he can’t get rid of him; he can’t gift him to someone else or send him to another house (yes, he tried asking). We continued to educate him about having siblings; about sharing and caring and loving each other. I read many books to him about having a little brother. But we slowly became a broken record….

Eizac started modelling after from his older brother.

He scream; I scream (louder)

He hit; I hit (harder)

He slap; I slap (tighter)

He bite; I bite (with my gums)

Maybe it’s a little exaggerated but it’s possibly a close representation of what these 2 brothers do at home.

Me – I go “hummmmm” and do nothing.

Ermmm… Not quite.

I mediate and tear away fights before they even start. By now, we can recognise a potential storm brewing and try to stop it before it turn into a hair-pulling, fingers-pinching and tears-flowing typhoon.

That is my best strategy – *** prevention is better than cure*** .

But then again I constantly hope and pray that these pair of brothers will get along well and be a pillar of support for each other in years ahead.

I am no parenting-guru but I found these little reminders worked for me (at least in this initial phase of introducing a new sibling). Just to share Smile :

1) Prepare but manage your expectations

It’s good to prep the older one of the siblings’ arrival. All the little works of buying presents for each other is good but even if the older one frown at the younger one’s arrival; that’s fine. They will grow up.

I repeat: They will grow up. And of course hopefully learn to get along after some tugs and knocks.

Day 1 of not getting along; Day 2 of a first fight; Day 3 of a first blue-black “medal” earned. Maybe Day 4 you will get the hand over the shoulder and have them singing “We know we are brothers….”

Manage your own expectations. Stories of friends’ kids getting along perfectly well with hugs and kisses for each other might not work the same way in your house. There is just more “action” in mine. Smile

2) Shower the older one with even more attention when the younger one came along

I was probably a little ill-prepared for this. I was very hands on with No.1 and wanted to do the same for No.2. Only when a good friend told me that she passed most baby duties to caregiver and spend even more time with her No. 1 (reading books, talking, playing, anything basically) during her confinement month; I realised I should do the same too. This will lessen the new-baby-syndrome in No.1 and that mummy/daddy are still there for him. This is the best time to spend with No. 1 since No. 2 is either sleeping or feeding.

3) Stop naysayers (including myself!)

Well-meaning older folks like to make statements such as: “If you don’t listen, I will give it to Di Di and not you” or “Look, Di Di is such a good boy; you must be like him” or “I bring Di Di home, ok?”. We try to stop the comparison and/or well-meaning “reserve psychology”. Every child is unique and to us and comparison between the siblings won’t help the relationship. Maybe due to the environment I was brought up in, I do have to consciously bite my tongue to remind myself not to make comparison statements in front of the boys too.

4) Fights are just part of self defence and growing up process

That’s how I am seeing it these days and telling myself that. With so much testosterone at home, it is not surprising for them to practice self defence and ruffle some feathers when the other gets in the way of his toys. Having said that, we do not condone fights. Depending on who’s in the wrong, they have their “thinking corners” and “time-out” sessions. Eizac is too young for such discipline; but he does understand his Daddy’s “I-mean-it and NO stare”.

5) Breathe in and Breathe out

It’s a mantra I tell myself. To keep my sanity, I think of the positive in each child and remind myself that no matter how bad the fights are, they are brothers.

Blood brothers. For life. Nothing will change that relationship.

Slowly, they will grow accustomed to each other’s quirks and learn how to live in harmony. I pray so.

For now, I breathe in and out while keeping my hair intact. There are good and bad days. On the bad ones – keep some emergency Cadbury stash in the fridge. Open them and eat. It worked for me. Smile

What worked for you? Please do share more tips with me especially if you have at least 2 active boys!

Linking up with Talkative Thursday:

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Why I breastfed for 9 months (and 12 months)

When one of the mummies – Madeline – in my blog community (SMB) mooted the idea of a blog train on breastfeeding, I thought it was a good idea to join the choo choo train to share a little on my breastfeeding journey which I never really document so on this blog.

Xi En – my eldest – was breastfed for 9 months. But his story was a little unique. As most who follow my blog will know his story, Xi En was born almost 10 weeks premature and had a really tough time in my womb due to my water bag bursting way too early (21 weeks of gestation). As a result, I had no baby to latch on directly when he was delivered. During my last few weeks of bed rest in the hospital, I was reluctant to read up on breastfeeding because I wasn’t sure if I will have my baby in hand to hold and feed. And being confined early on bed, I didn’t make any purchases of a breast pump or anything baby for that matter. It was one whirlwind of a mess I remembered. Totally unprepared, I had given birth. Breastfeeding was the last thing on my mind. But the very first thing that nurses and doctors reminded me to concentrate on.

Yes; for mummies with preemies (especially early preemies), the best thing you can do is to concentrate on getting the milk flow. Being a new mother, I was desperate beyond words. No antenatal classes, no research, no clue how to fix the breast pump! Thankfully, most hospital has breast pumps on loan and helpful nurses who can teach you techniques; which is what I learnt and practiced diligently. Milk didn’t flow on the first day, 2nd day and finally 3rd night; some colostrum came along! It was pure joy which I recalled pressing the nurse call light at 5am to get someone to deliver the precious few drops to my baby who was in NICU.

I learnt patience. Even if milk flow doesn’t come in immediately; as long as you keep trying diligently – it’s good enough.

Subsequently when milk actually starts building up, I realised I definitely need a machine at home! That’s when my good friend came to the rescue and bought me a dual electric Ameda pump and delivered it to my house on the day I was discharged. A personal preference and note: dual electric breast pump is the way to go if you want to invest in breast milk. I have never used manual versions before. But for any working mothers, I will strongly recommend a dual electric pump as you achieve result in half the time.

If your baby needs to be warded in the hospital (like mine), a breast pump will be your best friend. For 2 months, I pump consistently and the supportive spouse delivered milk without fail daily to the hospital. The interesting part came when Xi En was ready to be discharged. For premature babies, they have to master bottle feeding before they can be discharged. Being a new mum, I was worried about what nipple vs teat confusion. I was worried that Xi En will not want to latch on thereafter. A thousand worries. All to null I realised thereafter. There was no need to worry too much about what the textbooks say. Take the lead from your baby.  When Xi En was able to maintain his breathing better and not turning blue, we tried a few rounds of direct latching on at the hospital. The nurses were helpful and you can request for a lactation nurse to be around to guide you especially since the baby is still fragile and might have tubes/ wires fixed up.

Xi En went home in the end without a feeding tube which is really great news. By then he and us are comfortable with him being bottle fed. To ease him in back home, I continued with expressing milk and bottle feeding him. When he settled down after a few weeks, we tried latching on at home. It wasn’t smooth sailing as I was really worried that I might just suffocate him! But by trial and error, we found the most comfortable position which is the cradle hold position with a few pillows for support due to a slow recovery for my caesarean wound. It was fuzzy bonding time to be able to breastfeed my baby directly. But even if Xi En didn’t learn how to latch on, I knew that I wasn’t going to cry bucket of tears either. By then, I realised that it is more important that my baby is growing well and healthy. Latch on or off, as long as he gets the nutrients, I am happy.

And for the records, Xi En started out on formula milk since he was in the hospital! He had to be on special fortified milk and thus special formula milk. I started Xi En on regular formula milk at home by 6th to 7th month when I was returning to the workforce then. Though I was expressing enough milk for his daily intake, I decided to stop by the 9th month because of 2 key reasons:

1) Change of job. I decided to quit my 9-6 job to take on a flexible hours sales job which requires me to be on the go mostly. Partly self-induced stress for a job change and partly I wasn’t comfortable to express milk on the go, I decided the best way is to stop.

2) I was tired of watching what I eat and drink which will affect more than me alone. More because I hate to hear these when I reached home “Baby is not drinking your milk today” or “Baby is having diarrhoea today; what did you eat?” For a breastfeeding mother, nutrients are important. Yes I know that. But it does get on one’s nerves when she is already trying her best to continue breastfeeding despite working full time. Breastfeeding mummies can be just that little winny bit sensitive hey. Smile with tongue out

And so that kind of summed up my first breastfeeding journey of 9 months.

For No.2 Kai En, I was more well-informed and knew that milk takes a while to come in for me at least. I was comfortable to allow the nurses to give formula milk right from the start in the hospital since my boobs were taking time. I knew that giving formula milk doesn’t mean that baby will not want breast milk thereafter and I didn’t want baby to go hungry just waiting for breast milk.

Kai En was also separated from me after birth (he was in the special care nursery for observation) and thus we didn’t had a chance to practice latching on till much later. Fast forward the story, I was thankful that Kai En switches between the breast, the bottle, breast milk and formula milk with little fuss. I was a more confident breastfeeding mum 2nd time round and knew that as long as I have done what I could, it is good enough for my boy. Stopping at 12 months this round was a personal choice because of health reasons and I wanted my life back to norm again and not on clock work of 3 to 4 hour milking shifts.

Breastfeeding, it ain’t easy I will admit. It takes patience, sacrifice and determination to continue on. But to me as long as I have given my best, giving my sons a mixture of formula milk doesn’t make me a lousier mother either. 

So to all who are reading this breastfeeding blog train, I hope to have contributed a little insight from my perspective and experience. Happy breastfeeding if you are still at it! Smile

Tomorrow, Zhenzhu who blogs at www.stayathomemumof3.com will be sharing her story. Find out why she stopped breastfeeding her two sons at ten months old, and why she is still breastfeeding her 11-month-old daughter!

This post is part of a Blog Train hosted by Madeline at MadPsychMum. Head on over to read the other breastfeeding stories by Singapore Mom Bloggers!

Istana Visit

The last time I visited the Istana was when I was about 6 to 7 years old. That’s a few decades ago! Memories were still vivid till now as I recalled it was a Chinese New Year Day. I wore a yellow and white long jumpsuit and a little sun hat. Ok – I can’t remember that well. It’s more because my parents kept photos. Smile with tongue out

After having kids, one of the places I had always wanted to let my boys experience is The Istana – “Palace” – in Malay. On the 2nd day of Chinese New Year, we were not required to do any house visits and thus thronged out early in the morning to pay a visit to The President. Turned out, he was not at “home” but we had a good time running around the huge lawns and turning cartwheels on the green green grass.

As described on it’s official website, The Istana is a “green lung amid the arteries of metropolitan bustle”. Located at Orchard Road, one cannot imagine it’s vastness till you really stepped in for a visit yourself.

Thankfully we arrived early and fitted into 2 categories (young infant below 3 years old and elderly above 60 years old) – thus we joined the express Q and didn’t need to wait too long in the sun.

Tip: If you are planning a visit during any of the open house days (especially CNY), it’s best to be early. When we left around 12+pm, both queues (regular and express) were snaking towards the mall. I am probably not one who enjoy being in a queue under the sun with tired kids. Do remember to bring along your identification cards too! Singaporeans and PRs enter free; others pay $1 entry fee.

Upon entering the premise, one of the first few sights that greeted us were The Swan Pond. This is the largest ponds in the grounds.

The swans were a little shy with all eyes peering at them.

The most impressive part of The Istana to me is not the iconic architectures but the spacious and luxurious greenery. This is the first year a new Nature Guided Walk led by National Parks Board is conducted at the Istana. Believed they might bring this initiative back for future open houses due to it’s popularity.

Tip: If you are a nature lover and keen to hear the flora stories of the Istana; do go early and purchase the tickets. We heard that the tickets were sold out by the afternoon.

My kids were not too interested to hear the flora stories and history. Instead they were more interested in this:

I am not sure if the playground is a permanent display at The Istana. But it is definitely a delight to the young ones to enjoy some swinging fun while we take a breather on the grass patch.

Of course, besides the extensive greenery, there is the iconic The Istana Main Building which is sited on top of a hill. This is a restricted place where we can’t take any photos of the interior. We paid $2 per adult to enter and viewed the ground floor which hosted many foreign diplomats. This is also the place where The State Room is located; it is commonly used for official presentations and ceremonial purposes such as swearing-in. On display at the same time were collections of gifts which were presented by foreign countries to Singapore. It is definitely worth the $2 (which goes to charity by the way) to tour the building. Probably the only few chances commoners can enter and view the building (you will recognise the familiar scenes from the news channel!).

Hang around the gardens for a while and you will get a chance to see the guards marching for change in shifts.

We were happy that we made this excursion for the kids and for ourselves! I am not sure if it might be another few decades before we head back for another Open House.

More photos for the album and memories:

If you are thinking of going by for one of the Open Houses, do check out The Istana website for updates.

For Year 2014, it is open to public on these dates:

1. Chinese New Year (2nd Day): 1st Feb 2014

2. Labour Day (Actual Day): 1st May 2014

3. Hari Raya Puasa & National Day: 2nd Aug 2014

4. Deepavali (Actual Day): 23rd Oct 2014

Book in your calendar and bring your kids/parents/friends/visitors for an experience!