Category Archives: L.K. Tan 陈颖恩

The Fight

Not sure if it’s the stress that has been unconsciously been adding up inside me or just that I get defensive over the choices I made as a mum or both, but D and I had a “long overdue” disagreement.

A little background:
Basically it started with one of the nurses telling me that I should bring the most recent EBM (no need to freeze, chilled is fine since it can be kept for 2 days), rather than those which are a few days old. She said that this will be more beneficial for our baby, since the milk is fresh and hasn’t lost much of its nutrients. The nurse also suggested that the “older” frozen milk can be used later on when our lil’ one is discharged and back home with us.

I tried to explain to her that there is no space in my mum’s fridge to store the “older” milk; that we aren’t staying at our own place right now (the nurse thought it odd that I store my EBM in my mum’s fridge) and that I will try to bring the freshest frozen EBM the next time.

Neither can I just chill my milk as the middle compartment is filled with foodstuff. Besides I feel the temperature will not be optimal to keep the milk fresh for even those 48 hours, as the fridge door is opened and closed frequently throughout the day. So I decided the best place for now is to store my EBM in the freezer. I reckon a few days’ old frozen milk will still be better than milk that may go bad ‘cos of the constant opening and closing of the fridge door.

Although I express 7 times daily, but in recent weeks, I have to throw away most of the milk and only store the EBM twice a day. In the beginning, TJ would still drink the EBM, but his tastebuds have changed again and he doesn’t like the taste anymore, so I can’t just depend on him to dwindle the milk supply to make more space in the freezer.

While I was busy explaining my situation to her, and she giving me advice on what I should do, D interjected with the “I told you so” remarks that really irritated me. I think I shot him an icy stare at one point but it was hard for the full power of the stare to take effect when I had the mask over half my face.

The Disagreement
I would expect D to understand our current EBM storage situation and just felt irked that he didn’t stand on my side, or at least just keep quiet while I explained to the nurse.

As I explained to D my stand in this matter, things somehow got aggravated. I felt D didn’t exactly give me the credit for making the correct decisions for my child. On the other hand, D thought I was goading him to argue with me, so he felt it was wiser to keep quiet while I ranted. But when he kept so quiet as I tried to get him to see my point of view, I got more irritated ‘cos it seemed to me that D was indifferent to whatever explanation I had. I suppose the whole situation wouldn’t have gotten this silly if he had just said something like “I see your point.”

It is the classic case of misunderstanding and miscommunication. He say, I say. I interpret things in a particular way, and he does it in another. Even after so many years of being together, this sort of thing will still creep up on us and give us a hard time. And of course, I become defensive if people doubt what I do for my children. Maybe I will get a lil’ less uptight when our lil’ one’s situation becomes better.


Today is exactly a month since our lil’ girl was born.

According to Chinese custom, this calls for a celebration. I know of some families which make it a really big deal by having a lunch/dinner at a restaurant and invite relatives and friends. But most normal folks will probably just give out cakes and red eggs (hard boiled eggs soaked in a red dye and symbolise good luck, complete happiness, fertility & prosperity) to relatives and friends.

When TJ turned one month old, we just got gift vouchers from Bengawan Solo and mailed the vouchers to my closest uncles and aunties. It saved us the trip of delivering the boxes of cakes, and my relatives could decide which cake they preferred.

But with our lil’ girl still being in the hospital, we aren’t really in any mood to do that either. My mum, on the other hand, had bought her granddaughter some new clothes to commemorate this occasion. Another Chinese custom but not quite sure the meaning behind it. I remember TJ had his first symbolic haircut when he turned one month old, again another of those Chinese custom that I don’t know about and didn’t bother to find out.

Technically speaking, her corrected age is just 32 weeks old.

Nonetheless, these are just numbers and really it doesn’t matter to us.

I am thinking, when she actually comes home to be with us, we will have something at home for our immediate family and closest friends and relatives too. Maybe by then it will be so close to Xmas, that will make the occasion more meaningful too.

Till then, it’s another day closer to the day when she can come home to us.

One On One

Technically I’m still on confinement, a traditional Chinese custom which requires mothers who had just given birth to strictly adhere to a month’s of total rest and consumption of specially prepared food. The rationale behind it is to help build up the mother’s health after a physically demanding childbirth and the Chinese believe that consumption of “heaty” food such as ginger and rice wine help to rid the body of the toxins and “wind”. Not sure of the “wind” bit, it got very complicated when my mum tried to explain and I wasn’t really listening.

Fortunately my mum isn’t too anal about the other no-nos and so I could bathe and go out daily too. Well, this is a very different 2nd pregnancy afterall. There isn’t any newborn cries for milk in the wee hours of the morning or endless diaper changes. It has been quite surreal and going to the hospital everyday not just gives me a chance to see how my baby is doing but also to remind myself that she is real.

I’ve always imagined how it would be like to introduce the new baby to TJ, his lil’ sister. D and I talked about getting him a little present (another train) on behalf of his sister so that he feels important. We thought how cute it would be to have them together for the first time, wondering what TJ’s reaction would be like. From the very beginning, we have been telling TJ about his 妹妹 and thought maybe by repeating it often, TJ would be used to the concept of another kid in the house. I thought about letting TJ cradle his sister and taking lots of photos and videos of that. But it didn’t turn out that way.

I suppose all that will be a reality later on, just not now.

So for now, I have been making sure I spend lots of time with TJ. We would take bus rides (most days since this is the cheapest mode of transport and he loves his “big big bus” aka the Double Decker ones), walk around the neighbourhood, go to the library, let him loose in the playground, take the cab (“blue car”, “red car” etc, he colour codes them) or the MRT if we are going somewhere slightly further.

It is nice to be spending the couple of hours just with him and getting to know his extremely volatile personality that is developing in this almost 3-year-old boy. He is no longer the baby of the house, not that he knows it now. I am hoping that by spending these precious times with TJ in these few months before his 妹妹 comes home, TJ would be assured and confident that he is still important even when we are fussing over his sister.

Otherwise he would be in for a tough time really… as it is, this boy with his growing temper has to be reprimanded and punished. But we can’t stay angry with him for long ‘cos the boy would turn on his tears so quickly and say his “sorry” quickly in the midst of his painful cries.

I pray for guidance and the wisdom to be good and consistent parents to both kids and that they will know we love them unconditionally.

Our Feisty Fighter – Separate Blogs

I have been thinking I should start a separate blog for my lil’ one who is still in NICU. I reckon it will be a good way to strictly document her “dramatic” entry  to the world, her early days in NICU and how we as parents learn to take care of a preemie.

I mentioned to D the other day that everything we thought we know about being parents to a newborn may not apply to our second kid. I feel odd that my lil’ one isn’t at home, I can’t wait to hold and hug her  and have TJ see and feel his lil’ sister. But intead, we now visit her daily in the hospital between 5-6pm, speak & sing to her through the incubator.

This 3rd week has been even more tiring. I’ve been more sleepy, my tension headache has come back more often and I guess the adrenaline I had during the first week has finally died down. It has been a tough 4weeks, counting from the first time when my waterbag sprung the leak until now. Worries, fears, anguish, normal reactions for mere mortals like us, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel and God has not failed us all these years, so we will chin up and go through this time together.

Every Good News Is A Miracle

Since knowing that we will be having a 2nd child (supposed EDD was to be 25 Oct 10), I’ve always thought the whole process will be business as usual, much like TJ’s back in Sept ’07. Even though TJ came out earlier than expected and D missed the delivery, it was still a normal delivery and we went home as a family of three.

For our second, the first two trimesters were smooth and I felt great. We were chilled being 2nd-time parents and just went through the months without much excitement. I was prepared to deliver in the public system in HK as we reckoned we wouldn’t be going back to S’pore this year, but God answered our prayers and everything fell into place in Jun and Jul, which proved to be quite a busy time for all of us. We had to clear our clutter, pack the stuff we need to ship back and stuff we need to lug back in our luggage. D an I also had to sort out the necessary legal and immigration issues before we took the plane back to Sgp on the 12 Jul 2010.

I didn’t think that soon after we got home, things would change so fast. We were happy to be home, made plans to meet this friend and that; I had thought we have a week of RnR before D went to London for his 11 days training and meetings.

I hoped and prayed that D would be around for the worst-case scenario, i.e. giving birth to our lil’ one way too early. When my waterbag sprung the leak at 25 weeks, we were told that the risk of me going into pre-term labour was high, but I still hoped that perhaps we could counter that risk factor and told my lil’ one not to rush.

And just when I thought things were looking good, D was home, I got my iPhone 4 and we made plans for the weekends, I was warded again and yet, I still hoped we could still hold the birth and give my lil’ one more time.

God’s timing is different from man’s and yet, even when things aren’t looking good, somehow we have something to cheer about.

For one, if this was my first pregnancy, I don’t think I would have been this calm.

Two, D and I are absolutely relieved that all these happened after we returned from HK. Not that HK’s medical system is third world, but there are enough horror stories we had heard about its public system.

Three, TJ is well taken care of by my mum when I had to be in and out of the hospital and that helped D and I to concentrate on our lil’ one. Especially now that she has to be in NICU for at least 2 months, we will be at the hospital every day, 5-6pm and spend some time with her.

Four, we aren’t thinking about the NICU costs too much right now. We had seen the 1st interim bill and if I would to use that as a gauge and extrapolate an estimated costs for a 2-month stay, it’s way too many digits to think about. We had talked to the hospital’s Financial Assistance people and asked about options, and we think the bill will still be large but we will manage it.

Our lil’ one needs the best care, we have an expert Neonatologist Dr Ong Eng Keow and TMC’s NICU is able to take care of her. Originally we thought we could hold the birth and register with KK so that if she has to be born premature, the bill will not be too large. But now it’s kinda late for that, and even though Dr Ong said that we have to option to go to KK’s NICU when our lil’ one’s condition is stable, D and I will not be doing it.

The reasons being, KK will still charge us since we are coming from a private hospital, maybe at least B1 rates; and I don’t think I wanna risk having our lil’ one being moved in an ambulance from TMC to KK even though the 2 hospitals are nearby.  And one other reason, my aunty is a NICU nurse in TMC, she does the night shifts and it’s good to have another family member to watch over the youngest one.

Our lil’ one is still very light, she has lost some weight (was 970g yesterday, down 100g and today 5 Aug, it’s 930g) but that’s normal. She has jaundice and needs phototherapy, also normal. But we are glad she is off the ventilator since Monday morning and breathing pretty much on her own (the 4 painful jabs I had on my butt to mature her lungs prior to her birth helped a great deal). A few of her tubes have been taken out, save for the feeding tube.

When I returned from the hospital on Monday, Dr Ong called in the afternoon to tell me he was going to try to give her milk (it was all glucose water before that) and since I hadn’t produce any breastmilk yet, I told them to give her Enfalac preemie FM first.

I saw the Lactation Consultant before I left the hospital and asked questions regarding breastfeeding preemies. Basically I would need to pump every 3 hours, and have to try to do at least 6 times (best if 8 times). We bought the Medela Pump In Style since my 2nd attempt at breastfeeding isn’t going to be assisted by the baby, I needed a better pump and so far, milk is coming in and I’m just freezing whatever I have and taking bottles of frozen BM to the hospital every day. D just told me that the nurses are going to increase her BM intake from 1 ml every 3 hours to 2 ml every 3 hours, which is a good sign that she is absorbing milk and not having any reflux issue.

But with a young toddler like TJ around, I would also need to spend time with the boy. He had been acting up when I wasn’t around, can’t blame him cos D was also busy with both mum and daughter. Hence I try to spend as much time as I can during the day time, and later in the afternoon, D and I would meet at the NICU and spend an hour with our lil’ one and praying for her before heading home. Now, it’s a lot of time management on my part and just pump like a cow every 3 hours, starting at 6 am each day. 

So this confinement isn’t really a confinement. It feels kinda odd not having to wake up in the middle of the night to take care of a newborn, yet I would rather do that than to have my lil’ one in NICU. Once she starts gaining weight again, I think I can be less stressful but the thing about preemies of this age and size is that things can change so fast and drastically and we are praying hard that everything that is going right for her now will continue.

Our Feisty Fighter Is Here

Birthday: 1 Aug 2010, Sunday night 8.51pm

Birthweight: 1.07 kg

Length: 37 cm 

Head Circumference: 26 cm

Gestation Period: 27 weeks 5 days

Our lil’ one has decided not to wait till 25 October to see the world and even though she is way too young, D and I are blessed and honoured to be her parents.

When my contractions stopped on the 31 Jul, I was really optimistic that we have gotten through another trial and felt that perhaps our lil’ one would reconsider remaining inside me. If not another 2 weeks, perhaps all the way till October. Even my gynae thought I looked good and I asked if I could be discharged the next day. He laughed and said I should stay one more night in the hospital.

So I did, slept well and woke up to a brand new day on the 1 Aug 2010. I was still feeling great, even though I was still having the discharge that I had been having since the 16 Jul and was still on the Ventolin drip.

I was looking forward to having TJ and D visit me at the hospital later in the afternoon, just like the day before, so that we could spend some time together as a family. I missed my son and was really thrilled to have him around on Saturday. Throughout the day, I just mill around and waited for my gynae to come by again for another assessment. I was also very sure I would be going home the next day.

No sooner, I felt some cramps and tried to brush it aside by thinking it was just due to the constant bed rest the last few days. I was watching Channel News Asia at 4 pm and timed my contractions using the onscreen digital clock and my heart kinda sank when the contractions came and went every 6 minutes. It wasn’t as painful as the ones I had on Friday night, but I just knew . When the pain started to be more pronounced, my rational self took over as I text D to tell him not to bring TJ to the hospital, thereaafter I pressed the bell to inform the nurse that I was having contractions again.

I was wheeled into the Labour Ward and D met me there shortly. I asked about TJ and he mentioned something that got my tears flowing. I guess all that strong persona and rationality just got washed away knowing that I missed my son and that I will not be able to keep our daughter any longer inside me. Not that I felt like I was a failure, just that I was afraid for my lil’ one. All the things that the PD said regarding preemies at 27,28 weeks of gestation just came right back to me and it scared me.

D teared a lil’ as he held my hand and told me everything will be fine, God has been watching over us for so long and we will do just fine, come what may. I hate to be a wreck, but that was close enough. My eyes were still red when my gynae rushed in to see me and said that we would try to delay the labour but he reckoned this will be B-Day for my lil’ one. I was also 3 cm dilated, up from the 2 cm on Friday night when I was first warded.

The Ventolin drip was increased gradually from 30 ml per hour to 80 ml per hour, but still the contractions persisted though made bearable ‘cos of the drip. I told D that I would be giving birth tonight and that he should go and have his dinner first.

By 8pm, the senior midwife decided to wheel me into the Delivery Suite, she reckoned I could watch some TV to take my mind off the contractions. However she also said if I still hadn’t given birth and another mum needed to, I would be wheeled back into the Labour Ward.

The senior midwife checked and found that I was already 4 cm dilated and I took the opportunity to ask if I could get an epidural, cos I knew there would be no turning back now. She tried to convince me that I didn’t need epidural, more like throwing out a challenge to me, but she still checked with my gynae. Another nurse passed me the gas mask, which gave me such a high that momentarily, I was relaxed. I remembered asking D why he did not change the TV channel to something else other than the Tamil movie that was on, but he said no one actually bothered to watch. But he didn’t realise the darn Tamil music together with the gas made me think I was in a Trance disco.

Each time the contractions came, I sucked in the gas and fell limp. My gynae gave them the go-ahead to take me off the Ventolin drip and prepare me for the epidural and to let the labour progressed naturally. I remembered lying on my left side, waiting for the anaesthetist, holding on to the gas mask for dear life.

Suddenly I felt the urge to push, and my last words before all hell broke lose were, “I think I want to poop.” The senior midwife began to bark orders  at the other midwives, made me lie on my back. As D held my hand and kept the gas mask over my nose and mouth, I heard the senior midwife said that they would deliver if the doctor didn’t get to the delivery suite in time.

I absolutely blacked out, my mind’s eye just saw things in black and white as I felt my waterbag finally burst and the immense pressure to push our lil’ one out into the world. I also heard my aunty came by, just before her shift at the NICU.

Maybe it’s cos of TJ’s crazy love for trains, but in my blackout state, I saw both my lil’ one and I as two black circles (the larger being me) against a black background zipping down the track as I delivered my daughter. I heard lots of voices around me, and my heart was pounding way too fast that for a while, the senior nurse shouted for me to breathe. When I tried to breathe again, the circles continued moving, much slower this time as if my daugther was stuck somewhere and I hadn’t the strength to push.

Soon, I heard my gynae and he took over from the nurses as he coaxed me to just let my body push my baby out. I knew I aahed into my mask as my lil’ one kinda got stuck halfway outside and I felt another urge to push her out. Someone then told me not to push so that I wouldn’t tear and I stopped almost immediately. I heard D’s voice in the din, but I was just glad to hold his hand.

Before I knew it, the two circles picked up speed, rushed down the track and disappeared. I felt the pressure disappear as soon it started and knew she was born. I didn’t hear her cries but that was also about the same time I heard the PD came in and took over. I was still panting and feeling weak all over, but I saw something pink that was being wiped down and towelled, before being kept in the ventilator and pushed out by the PD and my aunty.

Later on, D told me that the gynae came just in time as our daughter’s head could already be seen. As our lil’ one made her way out, she waved her arms and was very active when the PD and the nurses cleaned and checked her. The PD later on told us that our daugther was “scolding” everyone and my aunty said they had to restrain her as they inserted the various tubes to help her in the initial hours.

Every birth story is different and I didn’t expect my 2nd one to be this dramatic. The actual labour took only about 4 h and 51 minutes and everything progressed so quickly that I wasn’t the least bit prepared.

I would have wanted a normal delivery, that I could hold my baby right after I gave birth, and take her home with me 2 nights later. It feels odd that she is not with me and I visit her at the hospital every evening. But this is something we will have to do for at least 2 months, which makes it somewhat harder at times knowing she needs the time and the expertise of the medical staff to grow.

And what does it mean for us as parents of a preemie? This is something totally new and I have been reading up various literature. We thought we are experienced enough having done a generally decent job with TJ and we sure hope that we will be able to do so with someone who is 13 weeks early.

Slideshow here.

For now, we are just taking things one day at a time. At least her lungs are working fine and she is breathing on her own. But she needs to gain weight and get healthy. In the meantime, we are praying each day that our lil’ one will continue to be the feisty fighter.