Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Breastfeeding Advocacy Journey

When I learned that I was pregnant...I didn't really fuss about it. I wasn't too focused on what would happen once D was born and what I would do in terms of feeding him. I've seen my Mum and a lot of my Titas breastfeed and pump milk...I thought that was what I needed before I would give birth. I didn't think that it required a lot of preparation on my part, even for L.

I've read a few articles, a few e-books...but nothing really struck me. It wasn't until I attended a mommy meet-up at The POD under Alex Hao that sparked my interest and got me into actually researching and studying about breastfeeding. I learned about the Milk Code or Executive Order 51. I then found myself being very passionate about it. Learning that my siblings and I grew up on breastmilk taught me that I had a support system in place.

So, the day arrived and having given birth to D...our breastfeeding journey had a pretty rocky start. Had to go through an emergency C-section, and D was separated from me for about 10-12 hours...naturally, I was panicking that the struggle was more real and I was holding my baby for the first time in my entire life. When we got home, the struggle became more apparent for me...though I thought that we were getting the hang of it, uncertainty and myths plagued me and I started to question everything that I was doing. Naturally, hormones played a huge part of and I was still kicking myself in the butt for having that C-section.

Breastfeeding, like any skill, has to be learnt and what makes this learning more unique and sometimes challenging is that there are two people involved, the baby and the mother. I had to learn to relax and be calm while feeding D and he had to learn how to deal with my letdown. I had to correct his latch and learn how to transfer milk to him so that he gets the amount that he needs without fuss. It took us about 2-3 weeks to really get the hang of it and I could feed him lying down.

Fast forward to 2 years and about 2 weeks...I'm still breastfeeding D. It's been an emotional ride with lots of learnings and ups & downs. It's an everyday decision to keep on going. Honestly, there are moments that I wanna throw in the towel and say, "I'm done...I've done my part..." but I know that he still wants to breastfeed and finds comfort in it. Who am I to restrict that from him? Yes, I'm leaving it up to him and right now, it doesn't look like weaning is in the picture.

I've been quite involved in this advocacy since the start of the year, having attended the Arugaan Breastfeeding Peer Counselors' Training under Velvet last January. Then the first LATCH Breastfeeding Peer Counselors' Training last April.

We've just concluded the biggest event of the year for LATCH, we were able to bring Dr. Jack Newman (yes, the breastfeeding rockstar) back to the Philippines for a 3-city event. With fundraising activities and talks on the side, I'm so lucky and blessed to have a group of like-minded mothers who are as committed and as passionate, if not more, about this cause.

I am, in no way, against formula milk. I believe that it does have a place in society. But what I am against is its unethical marketing strategies by making the public believe that it is as good, if not better than, breastmilk. This is where we put ourselves in and inform everyone what they should know.

As challenging as this journey has been for me and my group of mom friends, I've also learned that it's a beautiful thing to be with such strong and passionate moms. It makes this uphill battle so much more fun and worthwhile.

And now the Breastfeeding Awareness Week has come to a close and Dr. Jack Newman's 3-city tour has ended...I hope and truly pray that more people have been made aware of the the risks of artificial feeding and how this is truly a public health issue for both mom and baby.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Working From Home: The Real Deal

Technology these days has made the world a lot smaller than it really is. Home-based jobs are on the rise and people, who might not be as familiar with it, would think that it's easier because you're just at home and you call your own time...well, that's true and false at the same's the real deal.

I got hooked with a home-based gig when I was around 6 months pregnant with D. A former colleague of mine recommended me to replace her in her teaching gig since she took a job in one of the premier malls in the city. I was more than happy to take it since I could still earn on the side and just stay home. Of course, it's a teaching gig so Skype has been my best friend ever since. I was tasked to teach English to Korean elementary students in an English academy. The materials would be provided so I just need to study and browse through them. When I gave birth to D until he was around 9 months, I had to put it aside to take care of him. But as soon as we got Yaya W, I was back to teaching. But due to my primary plan to go back to the corporate world, I stopped teaching by the end of 2013.

The downside to my schedule for the Korean academy was that I was teaching in the afternoon, from 12:30 till 5:00pm and I felt that the schedule wasn't really followed because there were instances that the students would be late and we would need to compensate for that and that would mean delaying our schedule at home as well. Students were assigned to me so I couldn't really choose the time but had to follow the schedule given. It worked for me until I noticed that the students, especially the last few, would be late for more than 30 minutes and I needed to pump milk that time or at least spend time with D long enough before he sleeps for the night. My Korean boss was nice enough to understand my dilemma and some of the other teachers that I work with (one happens to be a next-door neighbor) shared the same sentiment with me.

The first challenge I faced was the time difference because it slipped my mind during the first day of my stint that there was an hour time difference. I was almost late for my classes. Second challenge was I couldn't really rest whenever I wanted to because the classes would almost be back to back. There were days in the week that were a little more loose but over all, I had an average of 8 classes (25-minutes lessons) everyday.

Then early March of this year, I got the chance to teach online again. But this time, I'll be teaching Japanese business people and the topics will vary but focuses more on the business side of English. The pay's great and I like the idea because the hours are "off-peak" so I can still do things during the day and be with D. Their working hours are 5-8am and 5pm-12mn on weekdays, 8-11am and 5pm-12mn on holidays and weekends. This time, slots were chosen by the students and we were informed via email if our opened slots were booked. I liked it because I could control when I could teach. My teaching hours are 5-8am and 9-12mn on weekdays, 8-11am and 9-12mn on holidays and weekends but I rarely open slots for Sundays as I make sure that I get to spend enough time with my boys.

Third challenge was the internet connection, no matter which service provider you have in the PH, our web connection in the country is really below par with the demand of the home-based jobs that people do. I felt the impact of the connection more on my second gig because our evaluations called for our internet connection. Not easy when you know that PH has one of the worst connections all over the world. Boo!

Mondays to Fridays are pretty much like clockwork for me in the house, I wake up at 4AM (I AVOID the snooze button as much as I can) to be able to prepare for the classes. There are instances when I am fully-booked (all 6 slots are booked) and there are times when I barely have two classes (one at 5AM and the other at 7:30AM...). But I make it a discipline to wake up and get my lesson files ready. I find it easier to wake up earlier than cram. Then at night, I make sure that D is asleep and I get down as early as 8pm to prep for my lessons.

Are there instances where I don't wanna teach? OF COURSE! But if I've got classes booked, I make it a point to really teach them. Cancelling classes would be against my evaluations and my rate as well so I grin and bear it.

Working home-based is basically being paid for the work that you actually do. It's a lot different than working in an office and you have down time. The down time I have is when I am in between slots and I wasn't booked, but that rarely happens. But I've learned that working home-based is never as easy as it looks. It's just like working in an office as you have to schedule your events around it, especially children's birthday parties, wedding anniversaries and gatherings. But in the end, you still spend hours away from your family and focus completely on your work.

Upside to all of this: I can stay home and yes, wear my ordinary clothes. I just throw on my blazer (rule of the company) and then teach away.


Friday, March 14, 2014

The Value of Liquid Gold

I've been a strong advocate for breastfeeding since I got pregnant and have (and still am) armed myself with enough knowledge and skills. It is the best start for the baby and it does have its benefits for the mother as well. But the bottom line of the value of liquid gold is that THERE IS NO PRICE for it. You cannot put a price on it.

It's frustrating to hear and also breaks my heart when uninformed mothers, fathers, relatives run to The POD with the intention to purchase breastmilk. Such information would come from the nurses from hospitals and as to where they get the idea that we sell breastmilk is beyond me.

Breastfeeding moms who have extra stash give their milk wholeheartedly without the expectation of being paid. We are currently helping out Baby Pilar in Manila and have been sending her breastmilk and because of the recent natural calamities hitting our country, the group of moms that I have been actively and tirelessly involved in have pooled in resources in order to collect breastmilk to share. The collected breastmilk is hand carried to Manila (about 2 hours by plane) and pasteurized in one of only two pasteurization milk banks then shared to the babies and mothers affected by the calamities. However, this is just a stop-gap method. This is not sustainable. Instead, breastfeeding groups such as Arugaan and L.A.T.C.H. go to these disaster-stricken areas and make sure that the breastfeeding mothers and babies are getting the nutrition they need but also to bring the babies back to the breast. If it's anything, that's their main goal: to bring the babies back to the breast.

Our group, HM4HB-Davao is not a network where selling of breastmilk happens. It is a network for moms, dads, relatives of babies who are in need of breastmilk can ask for donations and moms who have the extra stash can offer their breastmilk. Usually they just ask to have the breastmilk storage bags replaced so that they can continue pumping their milk and sharing it but that's where it stops. They do not ask for money in exchange for their milk.

If you happen to know anybody who says that The POD or HM4HB-Davao is selling breastmilk or is a milk bank where you can purchase breastmilk, please be aware that this is not the correct information. We would like to dispel such information as it gives false hope and the wrong start for the mother and the baby. We are open to donations and are able to share milk as long as there is enough stash. But there is no need to pay for such.

I hope that more people will be able to read this blog post as it should be known that breastmilk is not a commodity to be bought but a blessing to share.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Potty Training: Our Own Way, Our Own Terms

After D's circumcision, I thought that we'd have a short vacation from using our stash of cloth diapers (and when I say stash, I mean his 60++ cloth diapers). Since the surgeon advised open dressing, he was basically "bottom"-less during his recovery stage...the first two weeks anyway. So, naturally, we just stayed home and didn't go to any social events or mall trips. The scabbing became more and more evident when we were on Days 10 and forward of his recovery which meant that his wound is healing just fine. I'm sure it was itchy because during the night he would be scratching it while sleeping. And yes, that meant bed wetting as well because of the "bottom"-less deal.

We already noticed from the beginning of his recovery that he was able to hold his pee for a longer period of time, let's say an hour to an hour and a half, before he would go. Out came the towels and rags to wipe off the mess but I was slowly keeping a cycle of how he would pee. During the third week of his recovery stage, he was a little braver in a sense that he would pick on his scabs. I think he also noticed that part of his anatomy more because he had no bottoms on. His first obvious signal to us was that he would cry and it did take us some time to get the message during that week. Also, we noticed that as long as he would pee before he'd sleep and right after he'd wake up...we would have dry nights.

We also noticed during the third week of his recovery that he HATED wearing bottoms! Well, he hated his cloth diapers and he certainly hated being dressed up! Two weeks at home and that's what happens! After a battle royale, we did get some clothes on him and managed to attend our weekly playgroup. I was careful and made sure to change his pull-ups every hour, when Yaya Wilma and I changed his pull-ups, it was actually dry and he peed on the sink! We were then aware that he didn't want to pee in his pull-ups or bottoms and would rather pee in the bathroom.

Now, it's been a month and a week since his circumcision. His wound is all healed and he's all well, though there's still his VCUG pending (I still hope this is unnecessary and can be cancelled). He signals that he wants to go by pointing at the bathroom door and calling out to us. Before he sleeps at night, we make it a point to head on over to the bathroom and pee (no matter how small the amount of the pee) and I am rest assured that he can hold his bladder until early morning. Or, if he stirs in the night and would start crying and holding his groin, L carries him to the bathroom and he pees. Of course, as soon as he is beside me...he goes back to the breast for a quick drink and then snores back to dreamland.

He hasn't stopped his night feedings and I know that he's not ready for that. But I am quite proud that he has the ability to control his bladder at 19 months. That was a journey that I hope to not experience anymore (we're crossing our fingers that his urinalysis would be clear) and we have learned a lot. I understand that circumcision is a choice of a parents especially when the child is not aware and I know we have made the best decision for him because it was for his health.

Did we actually potty train him? I'd say not. Are we still potty training him? Yes, we are. We look at his signs and cues from him, and we keep a schedule in such a way that we head to the bathroom once every hour and a half or two hours so that he can empty his bladder.

I'd say that we did the "potty training" in our own way and our own terms. Do we have a goal that he be potty trained when he reaches a certain age? Weird as it may sound, no. I'd say that we're taking it all in stride and what amazes me is that we leave it all up to D.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Child Safety Harness: To Use or Not To Use?

A couple of days ago, I was looking through my Facebook newsfeed and noticed a former trainee of mine with a status about a toddler who is missing. My heart quickly skipped a couple of beats and looked through her timeline and found out that her niece was abducted from a local mall a few hours ago and still no updates. My heart sank further as I looked back at my newsfeed yesterday, it's been 24 hours since the toddler was lost and still no news. I posted the photo in the page that I'm managing for our playgroup and all the other local groups that I can think of.

It's every parent's nightmare, losing their child. One cannot imagine the pain and guilt that a parent or caretaker feels when it is their sole job to take care of the child. I shudder to think of the day that I would personally know the child...because my heart is already breaking for the situation at hand, and I don't know the child personally. I then looked at the possibility of a group centering at abducting children and what they would do with the children. Child trafficking has been a common thing but never in this city...Davao City is known is to be safe, and yet...this happened!

I told L last night about the situation and he, himself, was worried. He told me that D was not to go to any public places in the next few weeks, unless he is there with us. I looked at the calendar and checked D's social far, the only place we go to weekly is at The POD for the playgroup, and he's gonna be absent for two weeks because he's still recovering from his circumcision. So, no mall trips for the next week or so.

I then got to thinking, I've been seeing parents use the child safety harness on their toddlers. Yes, I will admit, I am one of those people who swore that they will not be saying things like "Because I said so..." or who will be using such harnesses because I didn't feel the need for it. Well, I'm contemplating of purchasing one for D. Now, I could really care less about stares and side comments from people because I care more about D's safety. And to be honest, it is quite helpful especially if the toddler doesn't like to be strapped in the stroller or who doesn't want to hold one's hand when they enter the mall. It gives them a certain freedom but knowing that the parent or caretaker still has a hold on them.

Of course, the downside would be if the harness is used as a leash and dragging the toddler somewhere or pulling them because they're not following instructions. I've learned that in order to understand D, I need to communicate with him at his level. I would get down to his eye level and talk to him, he may answer in babbles and mumbles that would take me forever to understand but we're communicating. I'm not dictating or just telling him because I'm the parent. I've fully understood that D is a human being who wants things and wants to be understood and as the parent, I need to be more open to that than just telling him to do things because it needs to be done. Trust me, I'm not as patient as other people but I have managed to stretch whatever patience I have since becoming a mother.

So...what are your thoughts about using a child safety harness?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Early Circumcision: An Important Health Choice

In our culture, circumcision is deemed a rite of passage to any boy who would like to be taken more seriously, or at least not teased in school. Ask any father who has gone through it and they will always say it was a choice that they needed to do because it was how the norm was. It is usually done during the summer season so that the recovery time would be longer and it's usually the "season" for such rituals.

When I gave birth to D, or when we found out that we were having a boy, I was quite aware of newborn circumcision and was hoping to have it done. L told me that he would want D to go through the process of making the decision as to when it will be done so that he, too, will have the rite of passage into manhood. I was supportive and agreed with him though I wasn't as aware as to how such would be done. I have a younger sister and my brother's 8 years older than me so when I was born, he's done with his rite of passage.

When D was diagnosed with phimosis, early circumcision was needed to prevent his UTI from recurring. So, we made the decision to have him undergo the procedure as soon as possible. I wasn't as nervous because I've gone through several operations myself, being born cleft and palate, and was aware of how operations would go. And since it was going to be a short procedure, D's pedia (Doc Monna) and our family friend and anesthesiologist (Doc Jean) were nice enough to assure us that it will be quick. Since D is 18 months when the procedure is done, topical anesthesia cannot be done since he will be very mobile so he will be under general anesthesia during the quick procedure. We got Doc Jean to recommend a surgeon to do the procedure.

L and I talked about who was going to be with D in the OR during the procedure. Honestly, it would be my first time in the OR (where I'm not the patient) and it will be L's second time, after my CS, for him. He told me that I should be the one with D so that I would be aware as to how circumcision is done. Yes, I'm not really aware as to how it's done...I've seen videos and diagrams but actual is not something I would like to see but yes, he has a point. If we have another son then it would be ideal that I also be aware so that we can make the necessary decision of newborn circumcision since phimosis could be genetic. If D was born with it and he'd have a younger brother, he might have it as well.

D went through the usual pre-op labs (CBC platelet and chest x-ray), we even had a difficult time getting the results because we had to wait for a few hours and then we would miss out on the clinic hours of the surgeon. It was postponed until D's x-ray findings were clear (first reading was right basal pneumonia, second reading was all clear). I went to Dr. Monteverde's clinic last Monday (February 3) to meet him and explain the situation at hand. He looks such a calm and cool surgeon and that made me more at ease with the upcoming procedure. What took my by surprise was that D wouldn't be under general anesthesia (like what the pedia explained it was going to be) but just a plain circumcision where he will be wide awake. I was a little hesitant because I knew the strength that D has, imagine the Incredible Hulk but cuter. Dr. Tom was very casual and told me that it'll be fine and it'll be done more quickly. I texted Dr. Jean and she said she'll be on standby in case of an SOS. So, the schedule was February 4 at 10AM at the outpatient department of Brokenshire.

The procedure was quick and easy and I appreciated that Dr. Tom was able to explain to us each step that he would take. It was also great that he was teaching an ER doctor (who hasn't done a phimotic circumcision on a toddler) how to do it as well. D was (naturally) screaming and crying during the duration because he was being pinned down, but halfway through the procedure he fell asleep and we were all able to relax our grip on him. L had to step out about 10 minutes into the procedure because he couldn't take D's crying and screams. I wasn't aware about it until we had dinner last night and I asked him where he went. I guess when you have gone through the same procedure and you hear your own son crying, it's never the easiest on the dads.

Now that it's been more than 24 hours since the procedure, I don't think there's any pain though he was prescribed to take mefenamic for 5 days. He is quite aware that he's got something healing below the belt and yes, it was hastened the potty training for the family.

Did I have second thoughts about letting D go through such a procedure at 18 months? No.

Would I do it to my second son, if we were given another boy? Well, newborn circumcision is something that L and I feel strongly about especially if he is phimotic.

We decided on early circumcision on D because it was an important health choice. Amidst the norm and culture that we hold in our society, it is something that L and I needed to decide on instead of given D the free reign. But yes, I would do it again in a heartbeat...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Antics and Shenanigans

18 months for D is just around the corner and boy, has he grown up!

He's not only a mix of L and I but he has a whole side of him that we can only wonder where he got! Weekends are pure of fun and play as I make it a point to spend as much time as I can with him, and L always makes the effort of doing so on his only day off (Sundays). Yes, he's more than a handful but we won't have it any other way.

In terms of development stages...I've already learned to turn a blind eye to what "experts" say because I can only imagine the type of pressure that would put on me and L as we try to make a checklist of what D should be able to do at this stage. 18 months, yes...there are milestones that these toddlers should be hitting but I'd rather D hit it because he wants to and not because we feel like it's a list he needs to achieve. Blabbers and mumbles, yes...he's the perfect example for that. 2-syllable words? Maybe, depends if I catch it myself or Yaya W. Heck, I'm sure he can hold a conversation with me without me knowing. But as long as we're both having fun and he's learning along the way...that's all that matters.

Thankfully, his pedia has seen what he can do and agrees with me...there's no need for a checklist especially when he's thriving so well. And since I'm still breastfeeding him at 17 months and 22 days strong...I'd say that the IQ points that experts are saying will quantify once he's already in his elementary and high school years. Besides, we are all different and we all have different learning styles. I have yet to discover how he exactly learns but he is a sponge, this little man of mine. I can only hope for so much but I know that it's all up to him.

His latest antic is when he mimics L and I when we talk on the mobile phone. We use the speaker when talking and he grabs the remote control and starts talking random blabbers and looks at us as if we need to respond to him. Yes, he's cool like that. We sometimes joke that he'll be following our footsteps and be bossing people around but I shudder to think of such future! LOL! He's not as patient, he's a toddler so patience is still a learning curve, especially when his stack of building blocks fall.

He loves writing...nope, not on the walls...but on the sheets and the rubber mats on the floor instead! He uses crayons, pens, pencils...anything he can get his hands on that he knows is drawing material...expect it to be his. One can only imagine my reaction when I realize that my daily mommy planner has all his doodles...I don't mind, it's something that I'll treasure so much! I'd always tell myself...more doodles, please!

Tantrums? Of course, he's a toddler! We make it a point that he doesn't cry out as much so that there would be a communication between whoever is handling him and himself. We let him cry so that he could let his feelings out but we don't let him cry it out. He's just like any other toddler who throws tantrums especially when he doesn't get what he wants or when we don't understand what he's trying to say. It's a rollercoaster ride with him but it's view's totally worth it.

I still can't believe that we're about to hit 18's been such a quick ride, in the blink of the eye...who knows where D will find himself. Antics and shenanigans about, he's the one person who will always have a place in my heart...of course, because he knows how it feels from the inside.