32 Lessons, 32 Years

I have waited 20+ years to say this… I am 32 flavours and then some. Gah! Do you remember that song? I do!

I feel so old but at the same time feel like I still know nothing. Well, not nothing. But also not at the stage I thought I would be at 32, that I imagined when I was 12. I thought 32 was so old. SO. OLD. But now that I’m here, I am realising more and more that age is really just a number. It is not an indicator of wisdom or even meaningful experience. You earn wisdom and meaningful experience when you go through the years with an open and curious mind, ready to process the lessons that life throws at you!

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Looking back, 2016 (31 years old) was not too bad!

Speaking of lessons, I decided to “celebrate” my birthday yesterday with a list (I LOVE lists!) of 32 things I have learned in 32 years. Of course, I probably learned a lot more than 32 lessons. haha At least I hope I did! But I was so sleepy when I was typing this on my phone the night before my birthday so I just listed the first 32 lessons that I thought of. Which probably means something right? Right!

32 lessons, 32 years:

1) Progress, not perfection
2) Moisturise!!!
3) When people disagree with you freely but respectfully, it is a good thing. It means you have created a safe space for discourse
4) You can be firm and strict and still be compassionate
5) Being compassionate is not equal to being complicit
6) Back up all your files and photos on the cloud
7) When you don’t know something, it is a good chance to learn something
8) Don’t read the comments section. Ever.
9) You don’t need to be a conformist or non-conformist. You like what you like and that’s okay

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UM. HELLO!

10) Always choose zero % sugar when ordering milk tea
11) Huwag tanungin kung mahirap, tanungin kung mahalaga – Fr. Roque Ferriols S.J.
12) “Accept me for who I am” is not an excuse to continue or justify a bad attitude
13) Always write things down. You tell yourself you don’t have to because your memory is excellent but it is not, and you will forget! haha
14) Fear and Anger will creep up on you. Acknowledge them, work on them, but don’t feed them
15) Be honest and upfront, and yet kind and considerate
16) Don’t wear light flow-y skirts or dresses in Rockwell
17) Listen to podcasts (currently making a list and will publish this here soon!) & read articles, while stuck in traffic. That way, only your car is stuck in traffic, not you

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GUYS!!! One of the best podcasts about business!

18) While you strived to give great answers when you were younger, strive this time to ask enlightening questions
19) Make difficult decisions with love and compassion. But make them.
20) Saying sorry is not proof of weakness. It is one of the most raw and vulnerable kind of bravery
21) Empathy is messy and complicated. Empathize anyway.
22) You won’t be great at some things (accounting, etc) but that does not mean you can’t learn them
23) Most of the time, the most elegant and high-impact solution is the simplest one
24) Write on your journal as often as possible even when you don’t feel like it, even if you don’t feel articulate
25) Your imagination is not the limit, your confidence is
26) The mustard thing beside your Katsu meal, is not mustard

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27) Having a baby is not like how it looks like in commercials/shows. It is crazy (esp. the first weeks!), messy, and disorienting. But it is a different kind of joy and meaning – the kind you rediscover every single day

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I mean, look at him!!!!

28) There really are things outside your control. And that’s okay. Breathe! Seriously, that’s okay. haha
29) Character is built when you decide to keep your values, good attitude, and good outlook even through difficult and disheartening times
30) Character is more important than intelligence
31) Practice thinking 5-10 consequences ahead of a decision
32) You will make mistakes and at times, compromise values. The way forward is not to justify them but to admit that they are wrong, learn from them, and move forward

Okay, this won’t be a yearly tradition of X things I learned in my X years on earth. haha But truly grateful for this life full of adventure, experiences, moments, and yes, lessons. While I’m always hungry (breastfeeding mom problems), my heart is full. 

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I did not think it would happen to me: Post Partum Blues

Today is October 23, even if I’m probably going to publish this a few weeks or months in the future. My little baby Miguel is blissfully sleeping, my husband is taking a nap, and I’m typing away on the laptop that I haven’t turned on for what seems like forever. It has only been 11 days and I already feel a few years older (and like 10,000 x uglier). Don’t get me wrong though! I know that I am happy and proud that I gave birth to a healthy little boy! BUT, maybe it’s just too deep in my heart right now that I sometimes (or often) could not unearth it.

The past few days have been a blur of breastfeeding, waking up in the middle of the night to pump and regularise my supply of breast milk, crying for no reason, crying for different reasons, crying because of anxiety, and repeat.

Why am I such a ball of negative energy? It seems like there is no reason to be. First of all, my baby is well (and in my opinion, super cute). Second, my husband and our yaya were there to help with the burping, diaper changes, washing clothes, etc. I am so fortunate to have such a compassionate and hands-on husband. I am also so blessed with our helper who was as excited as we were about the baby!

So when I look at our set up from a far, there is seemingly nothing to cry about or feel stressed about. In fact, it seems like I am getting all the help possible especially while still healing from my C-section. But deep inside, I felt (and still feel) sad, trapped, and alone. And because I could not beat myself up badly enough, I also felt (and still feel) guilty for feeling sad, trapped, and alone. And there were days when I knew why, there were days when I did not know why. I was told by our friends and doctors that I may be going through a very common (but rarely talked about) condition known as the Post Partum Blues (different from Post Partum Depression).

See, I have always been an achiever and go-getter. I am SUPER competitive and demand so much from myself. So when my body would just not heal fast enough for my standards, I felt helpless. And I’m not used to feeling helpless. I am used to being the empowered and empowering person who has a plan for everything. So far, my pregnancy and birth plan all went according to… plan. I did not have morning sickness, dizziness, sensitivities, excessive weight gain, or any discomfort that I often hear about. Haha okay, I did not exactly plan not to have all the discomfort but I thought I did. When it all worked out, I thought it was because my plan worked out. While my baby decided to come around 5 days ahead of schedule (still full-term though), that turned out to be a great thing! And my plans, back up plans, back up to the back up plans, all worked out.

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I mean, look! I was able to even take a selfie with the guard who wheeled me in! And I was already in labor then! This was the face of someone who was clueless about what’s about to happen.

But I did not plan to have the post partum blues. I did not even consider the possibility. I thought I have everything figured out and that I was super strong and chill. I was not prepared for it (who would be anyway?) and I felt really bad that it hit me.

Before I knew it though, we are on day 11 and things are a lot brighter and better – but really, I’m coming from a low base. And I promised myself that I would write about this while it is still fresh, even when it is probably not yet over. I hope somehow, my journey will help someone out there who needs some encouragement and inspiration.

Here are the things I learned when dealing and recovering from the Post Partum Blues:

1.) Don’t compare your journey to others

My condition was probably aggravated by my being VERY competitive. Competitive people like me like to look around and compare (so we can compete better), and I did just that. I compared myself to super hands-on moms who look so pretty and effortless on Instagram and Facebook. I compared myself to moms who seem so happy and blissful about their newborn and they could not wait to breastfeed 24/7. I compared myself to the moms who have the resources to hire all the helpers possible to help them take care of their babies. I compared myself to the moms who chose to take care of their newborns themselves without any help. I compared myself to every single mother I know or I encounter even online.

Thanks to really supportive and understanding mommy friends that I have, I was able to process my thoughts and feelings. One of the best pieces of advice that almost immediately made me feel better: Focus on your own story. I can draw inspiration and learn from other people’s experiences, but my story is my own and it is far from over. I am writing it every single day.

2.) Remember that taking care of yourself is good for yourself, your family, and your baby

Thinking about your happiness does not mean that you are selfish, especially if being happier will make you a better person and a better mother.

For me, I knew that sleep was the one thing that could make me happy and sane. I knew  (and experienced!) that I needed at least 5 hours straight or I won’t be able to function in the morning or at all. The “sleep while the baby sleeps” did not work for me as I am always on edge and anticipating Miguel’s cries. I knew I needed help when I started dreading the cries of my baby. It was a miserable feeling because I knew that I have to take care of my little son who I love so much but at the same time, I was dreading it and many times, wanted to hide or run away. To make things worse (this was a major factor), I was still recovering from my operation and could not move about well (or even lie down, change positions while lying down, sit up immediately, etc.) or even carry the baby for a prolonged period of time. I felt like a failure and a selfish person.

Mark and I found a way to help me sleep straight for a night at least, but it entailed introducing a bottle of breastmilk to my son for the night. And of course, because I was on “beat-myself-up” and “I’m-such-a-bad-mother” mode, I googled “nipple confusion” like crazy (as in CRAZY! The folks from Google were probably worried already) and felt bad for not trying harder, not enduring the pain of my incision, and sleeping for more than 3 hours. While my son did not get “nipple confused” and we have been successfully doing latching and bottle feeding without any issues, I was still beating myself up for a good number of days.

Then eventually, I stopped feeling bad. This was because 1.) I was able to sleep a bit better and because of this, healed faster – which was made possible by my amazing husband who took care of me and found ways to help me sleep more and recover, and 2.) I had conversations with lots of moms who had to make choices for their children and themselves too – and these choices were different for each mom, but all fuelled by their desire to do be the best people and mothers they can be to their children

Each mother is unique. We are built differently and we have different needs. Some could endure long sleepless nights and still be able to function well. Others are sick or recovering and may not be able to care for their child immediately. But regardless of how we are built, we all have so much love to give. And we can and will give this love not just for the first few days of our child’s life, but for the rest of his/her life and our lives. There will always be do-overs and every new day is a new beginning. We’ll be more effective in showing this love when we nurture and nourish ourselves as well. My son deserves the happiest and healthiest mother I can be.

3.) Acknowledge your fears and feelings, process them and try not to feed them

Easier said than done. I spent a few days just being afraid of absolutely anything and crying about anything and everything I could think of. I had a couple of panic attacks too. I thought of all possible scenarios of our lives with Miguel, even the highly unlikely ones. I drove myself to crying spells with these thoughts and then felt guilty afterwards for letting myself get down the rabbit hole too deep.

What helped me climb out from the rabbit hole slowly were 1) Going out for a drive with the husband even for 30 minutes – being outside and seeing streets, traffic (yes, even traffic!), other people, birds, leaves, falling leaves, fallen leaves, absolutely anything – taking a break puts things into perspective., 2) Putting on lipstick – seriously! It made me feel a little bit like myself again, 3) Writing down my fears and “talking” to myself (and people I trust) about not living in fear. I told myself that if these fears happen, and I spend now until then just being afraid, then I missed time and opportunity to enjoy the moment and just be with my family. If they don’t happen and I spend now until then just being afraid, then being afraid will be my default and I will always be anticipating the events that I’m afraid of. I might as well be actually living in them.

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October 23, 2016 – We drove around Ateneo and I felt a little bit like myself again – but a version of myself who was overly excited to stick my head outside the window, take photos of everything, and just breathe the air outside our house. haha

4.) Surround yourself with people who can support and help you – and don’t be afraid to ask!

As an independent woman, I am used to doing things by myself and for myself. But motherhood made me realise that I could be independent without carrying the weight of the world. In fact, if I don’t carry the weight of the world, I could be more caring, nurtured, and nurturing.

5.) Find your mommy pegs – the ones with philosophies and lifestyles that you actually want to live (don’t compare yourself but find bits and pieces of advice that you can adapt)

Moms have been around for forever. I mean, that’s common sense but I think for the past few days, I forgot that mothers have been doing this for centuries! There is no shortage of role model mothers out there with different parenting styles and lifestyles that I could draw inspiration from.

I am so fortunate to have a group of friends who are moms too, who replied to my frantic FB messenger/Viber/Whatsapp messages for the past few days.These mommy pegs were able to raise their children well while nurturing themselves and their craft/work/career/vocation. They shared their own stories, techniques, tips, and tools that made me feel a lot less alone and a lot more equipped.

Regardless of their choices though, they encouraged me and told me that I should do what feels right for me and not compare (again) my journey to others.

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I have a new found deeper respect for all parents out there and promised myself to withhold judgment, be kinder, be more compassionate, and share what has been so generously shared with me.

So if you are an anxious new mom, feel free to reach out. I don’t have all the answers and I’m new to this too but it helps to know that you are not alone. Even if we have different journeys and stories, we are in this together.

SUPER IMPORTANT: There is no shame in seeking for professional help as well (especially when you are having thoughts of hurting yourself and others). Remember that you are not alone in what you are going through!

You may call the contact numbers from the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation (click this link) or visit/call your doctor (you would probably be surprised, as I was, that they are have encountered the blues and depression in their patients many times) for recommendations.

For family and friends of mothers (or anyone really) who are going through this tough time, they don’t need the “it’s just in your mind”, “be thankful for what you have”, or “change your mindset” advice. Some of you may not have gone through this, but it does not mean that it doesn’t exist. Try to understand, show your support, be there for them, and encourage them to seek help. The world will be better if we show  and share more love (less judgement) to each other.:)

Dear Miguel

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Dear Miguel,

I am so excited to meet you in a few weeks! I sometimes still could not believe that by Christmas, we’ll already have you with us and we can carry you around, play with you, and introduce you to our family and friends!

There are so many things I want to tell you and stories I want to share with you, so expect a lot of letters, emails, and messages from me that will keep you reading for a long time. And if these are not enough, we’ll also talk for hours!

For now, I want to share with you some things about you, me, your daddy, your Titos and Titas who already love you so much, and some bits and pieces about how life with us is going to be like.

1.) First of all, I want to let you know that we’ll be trying our best to be the best parents for you. We’ll fail once in a while (or a lot) and there may be days when we won’t be our best selves for ourselves or for you. But no matter what happens, we won’t give up on trying and we won’t give up on you. In this family, no one gets left behind or forgotten (you’ll get that reference soon enough)

2.) You have a really cool (and sometimes weird) family – your grandmas, grandpas, Titos, Titas, cousins, and more! You also have Titos and Titas who are friends and colleagues of your mommy and daddy. They are all very excited to meet you!

3.) I listened to the Hamilton soundtrack for maybe about 3 months straight. Those were our first 3 months together (with you in my tummy). So if you can rap Guns and Ships easily, you can thank me later. But no pressure son. haha

4.) You will grow up with friends from all walks of life and backgrounds. Sure, we will attend those big and fancy birthday parties too, but we’ll also go to different communities and celebrate with them in simple and meaningful ways! We’ll do the things we love with the people we love the most.

5.) We will speak to you in English, Tagalog, and Bisaya (and we wanted to add more languages except… we don’t know them, so) from the very beginning! You won’t be an English-speaking kid who can’t understand or speak Tagalog in your own country. It is really not hard to learn 3 languages at the same time. You can do it my love!

6.) We will teach you how to pay bills, ride public transportation (not in an “immersion” kind of way, but actually learn how to go places – but your mommy and daddy are clingy, so we’ll go with you), open your own bank account, cook your own food (shoot, that means I have to learn this too, but we can do it Anak), get your own water, wash the dishes, do the laundry, clean your room, clean some areas of the house, and all the possible life skills that you need to learn to survive! These things are fun too!

7.) We’ll definitely do our very best to teach you the right values from the very beginning, but we won’t do this in a vacuum. See, you are part of a bigger world! This world is a big one. We are all figuring things out in this world and your mommy and daddy are blessed to have good people in this journey. We will all hang out together! This community will teach you empathy, compassion, kindness, and openness (which means you’ll get to know people with very different beliefs and backgrounds too). They will also help you realise that discourse, disagreements, and differences are not causes for divisiveness.

8.) We will not make your assignments, projects, talk to your teachers to boost your grades, or badger everyone we know to “like” your projects on Facebook. You’ll do all these (and more) yourself, with our loving guidance and support. We will trust you to fight your own battles, hustle your way through life, go through your own disappointments, and rise up again and again from falling or failing.

9.) We are big believers in “I love yous”. Your daddy and I say I love you to each other all the time. We say it before ending a conversation, before going to sleep, upon waking up, and any and every chance we get. And we mean it every single time. Welcome to the I Love You Club, buddy!

10) We love you for who you are and we accept your journey. You won’t be an extension of ourselves or our dreams for ourselves. You are not here in this world to take care of us when we get older. You are here because of love and out of love. You are here in this world to love, make your own path, make your own difference, and search for your own meaning. We’ll challenge you and encourage you to go outside of your comfort zone, but we’ll be patient with your process and support you in that delicate balance of hustling and being patient with yourself too.

(1)8rPF+DF Fernandez-Ruiz, Reese_4416

 

6 Preggy Tips for the first 6 Months

I sometimes still can’t believe that I’m 6 months pregnant! This is my first time so I’m definitely not an expert in anything. Being the control freak that I am (yes, I admit it), I was very uncomfortable with not knowing things. HUHUBELLS.

I am thankful to my mommy friends who messaged me, answered my weird questions, and just supported me through this very confusing yet exciting time in my life.

So compiling the tips from my mommy friends + my measly 6 months experience, I have put together 6 things I have learned so far so that 1.) I don’t forget for my next pregnancy, 2.) I could possibly help other moms-to-be who are as clueless as I am (or as I was), 3.) My son could read this in the future and appreciate me even more (haha Hi Miguel Joaquin!)

1.) Choosing an OB GYN – this was more tricky for me than I expected. I have NEVER visited an OB in my life. It was part of my “challenge list” last year especially when we started planning for a baby towards the end of last year but I never got to it because a.) I was scared, b.) I was scared so I made myself believe I was too busy.

See, I’m not afraid of many things. I am not afraid of heights, snakes, spiders, the dark, cramped spaces, repeating patterns, eating alone, strangers, public speaking, etc. But I have (had! More on that next time) a debilitating (and borderline irrational) fear of needles and medical procedures.

So when I was looking around for an OB, I asked my friends these very specific questions: “Will she inject me?”, “Will she do pap smear right away?”, “Do I really need trans vaginal ultrasound?”. I did say my fears were irrational!

When I met my first OB, she was a bit dismissive of my fears and was really no-nonsense. I’m sure that works for a lot of people, but it did not make me feel at ease. My second OB was the complete opposite! She acknowledged my fears but thoroughly explained why I needed to go through all the medical procedures for my baby. She was patient, kind, but also very direct. I found my OB soulmate!

When choosing an OB, I realised how important it is to be confident and comfortable with the doctor, and not just to have an OB for the sake of needing one. Pregnancy and giving birth, especially for first time moms, could be overwhelming and scary. It really helps that the doctor you see every month is someone you look forward to seeing, who can answer your questions, acknowledge your fears, and could patiently explain things to you.

2.) To Maternity Clothes or not to Maternity Clothes – thanks to Bianca Gonzalez-Intal’s blog post on Pregnancy Must-Haves, I was a bit more informed and confident about my choice to not get any Maternity clothes. I also arrived at that decision because I really really dislike waste and things that don’t last a long time (like maternity clothes that I’ll only be wearing for a few months in my life – yes, even through multiple pregnancies if ever). Even before pregnancy, I maintained a very streamlined closet of pieces I absolutely love. I only have a few pieces on rotation and they all come together well. I don’t waste time staring at a closet full of clothes and say “I have nothing to wear”.

But the reality was that my tummy was growing, so of course, not all of those clothes (um, like crop tops) could stand the test of the next few months. I had to set aside budget and strategically shop for clothes that will fit my growing belly and will still fit and look great after giving birth.

Luckily, I found great brands that I LOVE! My criteria – 1.) I could dress them up or down, 2.) They are comfy and could fit and even flatter my baby bump, 3.) They could be used when breastfeeding, 4.) I could still wear them with joy and pride after giving birth and getting back in shape, 5.) Great quality and workmanship, 6.) BONUS (we need more options!) if they are made using sustainable materials, support causes, adheres to fair trade standards.

A few of the brands I love (price range for most of the blouses and dresses PHP 900 – PHP 4000):

Elin.ph – they specialise in Maternity and Nursing clothes that are stylish and flexible enough to be worn even after pregnancy! My must-have here is the foldover leggings. I got them and wore them during my first trimester (so hardly any bump yet) and they really look like your ordinary leggings. Now that my bump has grown, these leggings are still my best friends (I got a few pairs). I could wear them with tunics or long blouses without looking frumpy.

Anika – this talented young designer (Anika Martirez) designs and makes clothes that are easy, breezy, and light. She does not specifically design for pregnant women but this pregnant woman (and the baby) LOVES her pieces!

Uniqlo – I love the straight cut dresses with pockets and the midi dresses that I could wear with or without a belt depending on my bump!

Harlan + Holden – So I just recently found out that this is a Filipino company! If I knew that earlier, I would have shopped there already! At least I know now. Their pieces are easy to match, easy to wear, and still very stylish. And it seems like a lot of their pieces could fit the bump too!

3.) Mommy Snacks – I love snacking. When I got pregnant though, snacking was no longer just a nice-to-have, it became a requirement. And because I kind of grew up eating a lot of the bad stuff (cup noodles, high MSG snacks, dirty ice cream, street food), I found it really hard to eat the healthier stuff. As in I feel deprived and sad every time I choose a banana over cup noodles. But I choose the healthier alternatives anyway because of my baby. So when I got introduced to Mommy Treats through The Parenting Emporium, I felt like I won the lottery! Their snacks are REALLY good, and not the “It tastes good for a healthy product” token kind of good. They are really delicious! AND, they are calorie controlled and have ingredients that could help increase milk supply.

If you have more tips and brands for healthy (but delicious, please consider delicious) snacks for moms and moms-to-be, do comment below or message me through social media (any, except Twitter, I still can’t get the hang of that).

4.) Traveling while pregnant – I am really lucky to have a relatively easy pregnancy. No recurring morning sickness, no cravings, no headaches, and no dizziness. Even before we found out that we were having a baby, I already had 2 US trips scheduled. Mark and I were very cautious so we visited our OB to get clearance for the trips. Both OBs we visited were not concerned about the trips after examining me and the location of the baby in my womb (among other things that I can’t explain as well as they did).

The first US trip was okay because I was with Mark and a few other entrepreneurs, thanks to our PLDT Be the Boss Award (R2R was a finalist for social entrepreneurship). But the second trip was a bit concerning as I was going to travel alone.

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No jumping for me!

I gathered all the tips I could from mommy friends like Patty Laurel-Filart, who I bombarded with lots of travel questions (thanks Patty!). Here are a few tips for those who plan to travel while pregnant:

  • Get clearance from your doctor! Better be safe especially when you have a more delicate pregnancy
  • Wear comfy clothes and comfy shoes that you could easily move around in
  • Choose an aisle seat – very important since you’ll be making frequent trips to the restroom
  • Bring snacks! If you don’t like airline snacks, bring comfort snacks that are healthy and delicious (yup, very important to me)
  • Ask for help, especially when traveling alone. Even when my bump was not yet too obvious then, I would ask strangers to help me with my bags. People are generally more protective and caring when they find out you are pregnant. =)
  • Don’t forget to bring all your vitamins + just-in-case prescription from your OB in case you get sick abroad

5.) Eating for two – Don’t eat for 2 full sized human beings! haha I know it goes without saying but lots of people around you might remind you that it’s okay to eat more (a lot more) because you are eating for 2! My OB reminded me that while it’s true that I’m eating for two, the other one I’m eating for is very small. My son does not need that extra rice. I also don’t need that extra rice. You don’t want a super big baby that is hard to push out and you don’t want to gain the extra pounds that will be harder to lose after the baby comes out (not to mention the other health considerations when gaining too much)

6.) Handling advice (solicited and unsolicited) – Another tough one! Lots of well-meaning people will be giving you advice once they find out that you are expecting. It means that they care for you and there were things that worked for them that they want to share with you. It is easy to get overwhelmed, guilty, and anxious with the deluge of well-meaning tips (like this blog entry for example!). But when all is said and done, it is still your pregnancy, your journey. You could listen to advice, read all the books, attend all the seminars, and google everything (another tip: google does not have all the answers), but if you feel inadequate or anxious because of all the standards you feel you have to reach as a new mom, your journey will be a tougher one. And it may not be good for you or your baby. So make sure that you follow the advice that makes you feel at peace, happy, and at ease! Listen to your body and your baby! You guys are in this together after all. =)

Good luck to all of us!