I-Angel Hipseat Carrier

I received an awesome baby carrier as a gift a few weeks ago. It has an ingenious seat built into it that removes the pressure from a mom’s back and shoulders.

The seat allows Catalina to sit comfortably facing me or looking outwards, or she can ride on my back.

This morning I walked around with Catalina in it. She did great which was surprising because she doesn’t like to be carried all the time. And I don’t like to hold her for too long because she can get heavy and squirmy.

I-Angel is going to come in very handy for taking Catalina out of the house and for our family travels. The only downside is it can be bulky because of the built-in seat. So if you aren’t wearing your baby on it, packing it or lugging it around may be a slight inconvenience. But it is quite lightweight which is nice.

I really like the one I got because the color can be worn by Edric or me and the fabric is very breathable. It’s one of the most comfortable baby carriers I have ever used. I think the built-in seat is so clever!

For more information: I-Angel

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How to Travel Without Your Baby

20140804-175657-64617754.jpgI’m not an advocate of separating a nursing baby and mother for the sake of traveling. But I believe there are occasions when it may be necessary or even beneficial for both to be a part.

For example, your husband really wants you to go on a “honeymooney” vacation with him for 3 days, just the two of you. He wants to revisit couple hood and have you all to himself. If your baby is eating solids and over six months, I would say take the trip and leave your baby at home with your parents (I’m sure they won’t mind!). A trip with your hubby can rekindle romance and intimacy which will make you both better parents!

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The biggest challenge will be keeping up your milk production while you are away and then returning to breastfeeding when you get back. If that’s your fear, then take heart. Perhaps this post will encourage you.

Edric and I were in Brazil for 11 days and we opted NOT to bring Catalina. I vacillated between taking her and leaving her, going over the pros and cons. At first I was dead set on making sure she came with me. When my parents invited us to speak with them in Curutiba, Brazil, I was like, IF WE DO GO, WE HAVE TO BRING CATALINA.

However, two weeks before the event, Edric and I really thought through the decision and we decided not to. I was anxious and relieved at the same time. There really was no perfect scenario, but here were the factors that gave us peace of mind about her staying behind with our four other kids:

  •  At nearly 1 year, she was eating 3 sizeable meals a day.
  • Her intake of breastmilk was down to 14 to 16 ounces a day or 4 to 5 feedings. Her schedule looked something like this: 6 AM, 10 AM, 2 PM, 7 PM, 10 PM.
  • She could drink milk from a cup or glass or bottle.
  • I didn’t have enough milk stored in the freezer to sustain her for 11 days but my friends, Ron and Ivy, donated theirs. Ron, in particular can pump mega amounts of milk! She’s like a beautiful cow. Thankfully, she was generous enough to send me an oversupply of frozen milk.
  • Catalina’s paediatrician, Dr. Joy Ty-Say (the best pedia in the world), advised that she stay. Looking back, I’m glad we listened because Catalina got Roseola three days after we left which means she would have had it in Brazil.
  • Catalina was on a great sleeping schedule at night that would have been shot to heck by the jet lag effect.
  • I had a fantastic nanny to care for her in my absence and my kids would be staying with my in-laws. Edric’s parents (mommy and papa to me) have always been the best people to leave our kids with when we are away.
  • The travel time to our destination and back was going to be uncomfortably long – Almost 30 hours with layovers.
  • Since Edric and I needed to speak and minister to people during this trip, we wanted to be able to focus on doing this.
  • Edric and I were also planning to celebrate our 13th year of marriage.

Even if these reasons made us inclined to go without Catalina it wasn’t an easy decision. It’s always difficult for me to leave any of our children and this was my first time to leave one of my breastfeeding babies. If circumstances were different, I would have preferred that we had waited until next year to take this trip to Brazil. But God made it clear through people, circumstances, and his word that this was a trip he wanted us to go on.

Nevertheless, I parted with Catalina tearfully. It felt unnatural for me to be away from my nursing child for an extended period of time. Eleven days felt like forever. So how did Catalina and I survive without one another and then reunite to continue our breastfeeding relationship?

I had to pump on a regulated schedule, preferably no more than 3 hours in between pumping. It didn’t matter where I was. I found a place to sit down with my nursing cover and pump. This was a challenge. I brought a hand pump! On the one hand it was super easy to carry along and quiet. But on the other hand, I probably didn’t get as much out of me as I could have with an electric or battery operated pump. However, my Avent pump worked just fine to keep my supply going.

On the 6th day my milk decreased a little. But this was related to emotional stress and lack of water in take. My emotional stress was connected to having to give a very personal testimony about a tragic experience in my life. As for the water, it was hard to come by in Brazil. We had to keep buying mineral water and I didn’t like spending for it. Eventually, I just drank out of the tap in our hotel room. When my mom suggested that I try it since she had been doing it without getting stomach problems, I guzzled down glasses of it! (My mom has a stomach of steel. She “trained” it by drinking tap water all around the world. I’m not as brave as she is and I’m not recommending this!)

Pumping on a schedule meant doing so even during the conference sessions and while touring. But I didn’t care and nobody did either. One time, I had to stand up with my not so pretty nursing cover because Edric and I were introduced to the audience. That was a little awkward. I had one hand under the cover holding my hand pump and the other one waving. On other occasions I pumped while riding in tour buses or taxis, while eating a meal, in the mall, etc.

Unlike some of my friends who stored every ounce of milk they pumped during their travels, I dumped mine. I’m not proud of this but it was the simplest way to keep my milk production operation going. I didn’t bring a sterilizer for my pump because it would have complicated my pumping “system.”

It was hard to throw away my milk. Everytime I poured it down a sink, I felt sad. I tried to convince Edric to drink it so that someone could benefit from it. He agreed to if it was cold. But, when the cream rose to the top after I kept milk for him in the refrigerator, it was asking too much. I agreed. It didn’t look very appetizing. I couldn’t bring myself to drink it either. So I pumped and dumped.

One of my friends, Kim, took along an ice chest with her when she traveled with her husband, and she was able to keep all her milk frozen. Amazing! She paid a lot of money for excess baggage and threw out clothes she didn’t care about so she could bring home her milk!

I favored the practicality of dumping it, but there was emotional aspect to doing this. It felt wasteful. So depending on the situation, a mother has to decide what is important to her. Go through the trouble of sterilizing a pump and storing milk while traveling or pour it out after each pumping session. It’s not a moral choice but some people have very strong convictions about breastmilk. I have friends who donate their milk to babies who are in need so it would be difficult for me to say that pumping and dumping is the best way to go.

Besides pumping regularly, I kept taking my Life Oil pills (Malunggay) which I had been using for months. Two capsules a day, plus all my other vitamins and minerals. I learned a new word from my friend, Kim, who stored her breastmilk and took it home. GALACTAGOGUE.

Take a galactagogue to increase milk supply (ex. Fenugreek, oatmeal, Malunggay, Motilium). Malunggay capsules were the most familiar to me because I usually take them when I am breastfeeding. I also knew about Motilium which I had used for my children’s stomach problems in the past. When I read up on it, I found out it was safe for nursing mothers to take but I never did try it to increase milk supply. Kim told me she had tried it and it didn’t impeded her intestinal functions. Motilium comes in suspension or tablet form. Both Life Oil and Motilium are available at Mercury Drug. Both of these can be pricey. There are other brands of Malunggay capsules sold in Mercury Drug and generic drug stores like Generics Pharmacy.

When taking a trip away from a nursing baby, I wouldn’t recommend going over a week. Eleven days was pushing it for me. I would have preferred a 5 or 7 day trip if we had not attended a conference. Since we wanted to maximize our time in Brazil, we added two side trips – Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Sao Paulo was not worth it but Rio was. Sao Paulo is a massive city. There isn’t much to see in terms of tourist spots. It’s like a bigger version of Makati and way more expensive. As Brazil’s financial capital, it’s more of a business destination. As for Rio, this was our “honeymoon” part of the trip. We added this so we could celebrate our anniversary.

Most people don’t need to combine a conference and vacation in one trip. In fact, I would advise that a nursing mother focus on just one. The commitment of pumping and the emotional difficulty of being away will take its toll. At a certain point it was hard for me to Face Time with the kids and see Catalina. During one of our calls, she said “Mama” and pointed to my face on the screen and cried. That was tough!

As for the pumping, I got a plugged duct the day we left which was massively painful. At first I thought it might lead to mastitis but Edric and I prayed and 12 hours later, I was able to get rid of it. With a plugged duct, the best way to alleviate it is to keep nursing or pumping. I couldn’t do the former so I did the latter. Even if it hurt like heck, I forced myself to pump. Right after the duct unclogged itself, the pain dissipated. That was a happy moment. Previously, lifting my arm was painful!

I thought the biggest challenge of all would be returning to my breastfeeding relationship with Catalina. (That’s why I don’t recommend taking too many days away from a nursing baby.) I prayed about being able to nurse Catalina again, committing the final outcome to the Lord. Worse case, I was willing to stop breastfeeding. But that would have broken my heart. I gave my concern to the Lord and tried my best when I got back home.

My plan for reintroducing Catalina to the breast was to hold her first and be physically accessible. I was planning to try but I prepared myself to be rejected. If she turned me down then I was going to wait for her to remember that I was her milk source and pump in the meantime.

God was so good! When I got home, she expressed interest in latching on and she nursed right away! I was so happy. I thanked the Lord for affirming the decision to leave her. Since Thursday evening when we arrived, Catalina has returned to her nursing routine. Praise God!

Like I said at the beginning, I’m not saying that all mothers should leave their nursing babies and go away on a trip. But if you are put in a predicament where you need to or have to be away for a couple of days then here’s what you can do:

1. Pump enough milk two months before to store in the freezer so your baby can stay on breastmilk while you are away. Depending on the age of your baby, store enough ounces to cover your absence.

2. Have one person train your baby in advance to take breastmilk from a bottle or cup. I usually introduce a bottle to my babies when they are about a month old. Breastfeeding advocates often recommend later. But I’ve found that letting them try the bottle even two weeks after giving birth doesn’t cause confusion if the bottle isn’t given habitually. I don’t ever give the bottle myself. I have the nanny do it. But bottle feeding is always a last resort. I always prefer to breastfeed directly.

3.  Start taking a galactagogue if you feel you need to increase milk supply. Some women don’t need this and sometimes galactagogues don’t really affect milk production positively. But it’s worth trying a few weeks before you leave for your trip.

4. Avoid being away from your baby before the trip happens. It was hard not to do errands during the last few days prior to our Brazil trip, so I took Catalina with me as often as possible. This ensured that she was breastfeeding until the last possible moment.

5. Train your baby’s nanny to defrost and prepare breastmilk in the bottle so she is confident about giving it when you are gone. I taught Catalina’s nanny how to use the very simple Safety 1st Babypro Bottle Warmer.

6. Leave your baby with someone you trust. Grandparents are always a great option!

7. Pump every 2 to 3 hours when you are away. You can take a 6 hour break at night when you are sleeping so you get enough rest. But if you want to be super diligent about pumping, you can wake up once to pump. I used Philips Avent Manual Comfort Breast Pump, but I also recommend the one my sister uses which is very efficient, lightweight, quiet, and portable. She bought hers at Rustan’s: Medela Swing BreastpumpMedela Moms is very helpful if you want to consult them before buying a pump.

8. If you pump and dump, bring a bottle to store your pumped milk in until you find a place to pour it out. I went to the restrooms so I could wash out my pump and bottle each time. Since I wasn’t sterilising, I just used whatever soap was available.

9. If you want to store all your milk, bring milk storage bags, ice packs, a portable cooler (your breast pump may already come with one), a larger cooler than you can check-in, and a steriliser for your pump and bottles. Use the portable cooler and ice packs when you pump on the go. And the larger one to transport milk storage bags from one place to another. Keep the ice packs frozen by using the hotel refrigerator. If you check in your milk with frozen ice packs, they should be okay for 24 hours. It’s rare to be on a plane trip for longer than that, unless you are traveling to Brazil! According to my friend, Kim, airlines are pretty accommodating about checking in breastmilk. But, if you go over your allotted baggage weight limit, you will have to pay.

10. When you get back home, pump before you see your baby just in case she doesn’t latch on right away. If she doesn’t, stay on the bed with her and have skin to skin contact. She will most likely remember. If she is awkward about sucking at first, don’t worry. Be accessible and Lord willing, you will get back to your breastfeeding groove soon enough!

 

 

At 11 months

Catalina is nearly 1 year old. Has it passed that quickly? It’s been 11 months of loving my baby through sleepless nights and soiled diapers.

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At the same time last year I was stressing out about the realities of giving birth to a fifth child. I got through that and then came the challenge of her first month. Confined twice, once for an unknown bacterial infection and then for pneumonia a month later. But now look at her. I am amazed at how God makes all things beautiful in his time. For all the heartaches and pains he allows in our lives, there is a season of rejoicing that follows when we hope in him.

It was this hope that kept me afloat when I was lost in the darkness of uncertainty, when I was a mother gripped by anguish at the sight of her sickly child. Had it not been for hope’s warm light illuminating the tunnel of my consciousness, I would have given in to the blackening despair.

I was the saddest I had ever been, looking listlessly at white walls, past the point of tears. Edric feared that I was disappearing, emotionally speaking. But my Savior, my harbinger of hope, in a hospital room where I thought myself alone in sorrow, broke through my night with the affirmation of his presence.

It happened in an instant, while I watched my baby wearing her tubes and monitors lying quietly in her plastic crib. I said in my heart, “Surely now you are here with me as you have promised that you would always be. I believe it and I claim it.” And then I knew he was. There was no apparition. But I was convinced that he was watching it all unfold, his eyes upon me through the tempest. They were upon my sleeping child. We were the fixed mark of his love.

Then a peace and a calm that only he could bring entered into the arena with me. I had a fighting chance against the oppressive grief. In time, those dark days ebbed away. On the hope of his presence, I survived. As the weeks became months, the joy returned. His joy.

Sometimes on the path to joy, we must pass through the pain, the loneliness, and the darkness. It is during those shadowed moments when humanity’s weighted sorrows feel larger than us that we tend to reach for God. And finding Him we find the answer to our questions, the calm to our fears, the balm to our wounds, the satisfaction to our longings, the hope to our despair, the heaven to our hell.

I do not know the rest of my child’s story. But I am enjoying where it’s at right now. This page of her history declares that God is good and faithful. His doings are often mysterious to my finite mind but they are directed towards the same end — that I should know him, obey him, love him, and serve him, and lead others to do the same.

For all its turns, valleys and precipices, its narrow ways and indiscernible paths, I would not trade this life for any other as long as God is with me. He is the Lover of my soul, my all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present Savior, Redeemer and Friend. To know him is to know joy, and in him is a life of joy!

O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD,
Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the LORD is a great God
And a great King above all gods,
In whose hand are the depths of the earth,
The peaks of the mountains are His also.
The sea is His, for it was He who made it,
And His hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts
… (‭Psalms‬ ‭95‬:‭1-8‬ NASB)

Consider Wearing and Using “Belly Armor”

I wish I had known about Belly Armor by RadiaShield while I was pregnant, especially since I was on electronic devices quite often, using my IPad and IPhone to write entries. Thankfully Catalina can still use the Belly Armor blanket and I can cover myself when “working” on my gadgets too. But it’s most beneficial for pregnant women who don’t need to give their babies unnecessary radiation exposure. The biggest plus is having peace of mind that you did your best to protect your unborn child from radiation. Why do I find out about cool stuff like this after the fact?!

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RadiaShield carries light-weight and luxe blankets for mommies and babies:

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Tees:

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Belly bands:

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For more information check out: Belly Armor Learn about the hazards of exposing your family to radiation from electronic devices and how you can protect those who are most susceptible — babies and children.

Here’s my little Catalina playing around in her Belly Armor blanket. Thanks Jem Perez for this very thoughtful gift! Love it!

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Homemaking is Not Boring

As a homemaker, I never seem to be bored. Well, I do have five kids so that keeps me busy. But I am talking about not running out of fun things to do and learn, too. There is always a new way to cook chicken, a craft project to beautify the home, a skill to add to your repertoire of handy-manny-fixer-upper abilities, a book to read or internet site to visit to get tips on parenting, and for me, there is homeschooling and writing.

I think it helps to have friends and family who enjoy being home-based mothers, too. We feel very fulfilled and happy at home, and we enjoy exchanging stories and parenting adventures. And most of the homemakers I know have some sort of extraordinary ability or talent or even a hobby that they are able to delve into even while they take care of their homes and their children.

My sister-in-law, Jennifer, is one of those women. She recently moved to the Philippines to live. Prior to this she was based in New York. She is an incredible jewelry designer and is into all kinds of crafts. Today, she invited my friend, Marilen, and I over to make hair bows for our daughters. We had such a great time!

Jennifer has collected so much ribbon over the years, I wanted to spend all day making bows. After about an hour and a half, I made three designs. The idea was to bring clothes of our daughters’ to match the bows to.

Jennifer originally does beading classes or parties for adults or kids. Her jewelry line is called Bead Blessed. But she is open to doing bow making classes or parties, too. For p500 to p750 per person/materials included, I think it’s such a great deal. You can come up with unique pieces, and of course it is fellowshipping with other women that makes it so memorable.

Jennifer’s Samples (Bows that she has made for her daughter, Teegan):

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Clothes to match to bows:

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The tools:

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Our healthy snack:

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Our designs:

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Contact Jennifer at (0917) 302 3319
See her bead work as featured in Bride and Breakfast: http://brideandbreakfast.ph/2014/01/16/wed-colorfully-kate-spade-editorial/

Sweet In The Arms Of…

Catalina reached out to me for the first time today. She is five months, going on six. It was a wonderful feeling to be wanted. Her little arms stretched out and she motioned toward me. Moments like these are sweet rewards for being a mom.

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While I was holding her, I thought of the parallels between what it is like to be a mother and the heart of God as our Heavenly Father. When my baby girl extended her arms, lunging forward towards me because she wanted to be held, I didn’t say, “Oh well that’s so cute, keep doing it and maybe I will pick you up.” Of course not! Immediately, I dropped everything to take her in my arms and hug her, whispering tender things in her ear. I was thrilled to pick her up.

If I am like that as a mom, flawed as I am as a human being, then what more the delight of a perfect God when we reach out to him, call out to him and turn to him with all sincerity? If he put in me a desire to be good to my children, then how much greater must his goodness be?

He eagerly waits for us to recognize that he loves us, just like I wait for the point in time when all my kids know that I love them and they can reciprocate. One of my highlights as a mom is hearing my children say, “I love you, mom” for the first time, without being prodded or coerced to.

In the meantime, I do all I can to communicate to them that they are special to me, hoping that one day they will want to have a relationship with me. Similarly, God has done everything to make it possible for us to have a relationship with him.

The Bible tells us “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love –not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10)

Our actions and circumstances do not change who God is. He remains a loving Father even if we reject this truth about him.

So we have to ask ourselves, what keeps us from reaching out to him in faith, with outstretched arms, so that he can be the father he wants to be to us? Is it the disappointments and pains of a fallen world? Is it our refusal to give up sin and follow his design for our lives? Is it our own misconceptions about who he is and our lack of intimacy with him? Is it our busy-ness and the constant striving after personal ambition? Is it the pride of personal success?

If we really knew how deeply, magnanimously, and unconditionally loved we are by the God of the universe, we would all throw our arms up into the air with abandon and say, “Lord, take me. Take all me! I want to be your child.”

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name. (John 1:12 NASB)

Catalina dosed off to sleep in my arms while I held her. (When she is with me, she has everything she needs — company, affection, protection, milk! At least for now…) She looked so peaceful and content. In a small, earth-bound sort of way, this is what it is like to rest in the arms of our Heavenly Father. There is no sweeter experience than to be held by him. But unlike me to Catalina, he is the source of everything we need and will ever need, forever and ever!

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Mommy Matters Makes Magic Mom-wear

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When Mommy Matters asked me to be a brand ambassador for their breastfeeding clothes, I was like, yay, what a privilege! But at the same time, I was like, ack! I just gave birth! I am not feeling too hot about my body right now. Muffin top is not exactly confidence-building. But then I tried on the clothes that Janice and Candice sent me and I was like, hey! These are so comfy and they hide everything you don’t want people to see!

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Mommy Matters clothing is so cleverly designed with strategically placed holes and cuts so you can breastfeed anywhere, anytime. It’s like magic mom-wear. Now you see me, now you don’t.

For those of us moms who know what it is like to have a screaming baby that needs to be fed RIGHT NOW, you absolutely need to be able to give them easy and quick access to your breasts.

My daughter, Catalina, will throw a fit if she isn’t able to get her milk-fix when she wants it. In fact, if I take too long she will continue to cry even after she is able to breastfeed just because she wants to express how upset she is that her “food” didn’t arrive on time!

So it makes sense to wear clothing that understands the needs of a breastfeeding mother. And this is where I give credit to Mommy Matters for being so thoughtful about their designs. Babies will also feel cozy next to the soft fabric (they mostly use knits) when they are being cuddled.

The shoot ended up being a lot of fun, thanks to awesomely petite and talented photographer, Sheila Juan Catilo.

I am so happy Mommy Matters let me pick out several items to keep, too. Here is one I wore the other day…super comfy!

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Maneuverings of God

A friend recently asked if I had any extra breastmilk to spare. It’s very interesting how God works. If Catalina had not gotten sick, I never would have pumped like I have. Although I only pumped once or twice a day (at most), I did have some bags of milk to give her. Our babies aren’t too far apart in age, too.

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With my previous babies, I hardly pumped. I would pump the day I needed to be out — to go shopping, attend a meeting, or go on a date. I didn’t have anything stored in the freezer. Never used storage bags and never even used an electric pump. Pumping seemed like such a hassle to me. Simple was always the way I wanted to go through motherhood. So I just breastfed direct. There was no need to purchase a sterilizer or a bottle warmer either. And I did fine with Philips’ manual pump.

However, my househelp lost the one part of the pump that is most difficult to replace. I had another one coming in from the US but not for several weeks. So when Catalina got pneumonia I had no choice but to buy a new pump. She was not feeding. If I did not pump my supply would decrease.

I was upset at first. I felt like crying because it was another thing to worry about on top of caring for Catalina. Of all the househelp that could have been responsible for the lost part it was the one lady who was forced to resign because she had anger issues. So there was no way of recovering it. Yet once again, this was part of God’s plan.

I went to Mothercare to buy a pump and picked up a single Medela pump that was practically the same price as Philips’ manual one. If this was my first child, I might have considered buying a dual pump. Since Catalina is probably my last, I didn’t want to pay for a dual.

The Medela pump worked very well. It was noisy but that didn’t bother me since I pumped at home. Edric would sometimes say, “shhh” in the mornings but most of the time he was joking.

Because the electric pump was easier to use than my old manual one, I was more motivated to pump. Even though I did not have hundreds of bags of milk (like some of my friends do when they are breastfeeding), I was pretty happy to see the freezer filling up with my milk.

And then my friend asked me if I had any spare and that’s when I realized that God’s hand had orchestrated a series of events for her sake. He got me to start pumping milk when I normally do not and he allowed the part of my manual pump to be lost so I would replace it with a more efficient one.

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I just think its amazing how God works to meet the needs of his children. My friend is going to require more milk for her baby and I don’t know if I can pump enough, but I’m sure God will provide someway somehow, if not through me then another mom.

What we may sometimes perceive as inconveniences to us and detours in our own plans (like Catalina’s hospitalization or losing the vacuum seal on my manual pump), these are part of his bigger plan. If we could step outside our microscopic viewpoint — the one that tends to fixate on problems — we would realize that these are divine maneuverings by an all-knowing God. His intention is to make us more useful for good work, so we can become channels of blessing and love.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 NASB)

Baby Shower for Baby Sisters

I am not an event planner but I really enjoy opening up my home to people. My mom was the same way so I must have learned this from her. Since our house isn’t done yet, I asked my mom if we could have a baby shower for my sister, Carolyn, and sister-in-law, Jenny, in her place. They are both due in December. She suggested we have one for Astrid, too. Astrid is a long time family friend who is a pastor’s kid like me and she is due even sooner than my sisters. My mom’s idea was to invite the pastor’s wives to share with all the preggy moms words of wisdom.

So it was a team effort to put together this baby shower. My mom and I worked very well with one another. We usually do. We have similar tastes and she never gets stressed when it comes to hosting parties and events which is great because I can get frazzled when things go awry. She, on the other hand, just floats around in her happiness and finds creative solutions when something goes wrong.

I took care of the decor and food preparation and she invited the guests and asked them to share their insights on motherhood.

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I thank God that I live in the Philippines because I could hand off Catalina to her yaya when I had to decorate and cook. Here is the pink and blue theme for a baby girl and two baby boys…

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Menu:
- Mixed Green Salad with Mangoes,
Apples and caramelized walnuts.
- Deviled eggs
- Pumpkin Soup
- Pasta Carbonara
- Grilled Rosemary Ranch Chicken on skewers
- Homemade Fruit Tea
- Cupcakes

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The Thoughtful Things Children Do

A few days ago I mentioned to Edan that I would appreciate it if he did not knock on the door when it was closed. He had knocked incessantly and it woke Catalina up. Lately, all my kids have been doing the same thing when they want to ask me a question and the door is locked. I explained to Edan that the door is locked so I can feed Catalina, put her to sleep or rest.

Edan understood and asked “Do you want me to make you some signs?” He wanted to be helpful.

“Sure! That’s a good idea!” I said.

I didn’t think he would remember but earlier today he very thoughtfully made me three signs. He slipped them under the door while I was preoccupied with Catalina.

Allow me to interpret them…

The first one: Mom is putting Catalina to sleep

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The second one: Mom is sleeping with Catalina

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The third one (my favorite): Mommy is feeding Catalina

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Children are such a joy!

RKs

Each time Edric and I have a child, it’s like starting a family all over again. The joy is unparalleled but so is the stress that comes with caring for a baby. It certainly affects the dynamic of our marriage but we put in the effort necessary to preserve our identity as a couple.

The baby-at-the-center-stage lasted only a few weeks with our previous births. After we got a routine going, Edric and I were able to go out on dates and revisit couple-hood.

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With Catalina, it was different from the very beginning. Edric became second priority in my hierarchy of human relationships and I wasn’t as eager to make him first. He was a good sport about it for the first two weeks but after that, he began to say, “I miss you, hon.” I would hear this almost everyday. He said it with a measure of sadness and heartfelt longing.

I would look up from my catatonic breastfeeding position and reciprocate with, “I miss you, too.” I meant it but I expected Edric to understand that Catalina’s needs were more important than his, especially since she had been a hospitalized baby.

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Before giving birth, Edric and I were enjoying a 12-year honeymoon. I felt like I was more in love with him than ever before and he felt the same way. Romance was in full bloom. We were eager to be with one another, always finding excuses to spend time together.

Catalina’s hospitalization changed me. The euphoria I felt when she first arrived was replaced by a gloom that was uncharacteristic of me to have. I had experienced fatigue from lack of sleep in the past. This part wasn’t new…the whole zombified feeling. But I withdrew from everyone – Edric, the kids, family, and friends.

My world became very small – just Catalina and I. I didn’t want to be visited at the hospital or at home, I ignored calls and messages on my phone and emails. I felt overwhelmed by the presence of my four other kids whenever they were around. I also found myself crying at random moments, and I had little inspiration to write.

Edric tried everything to cheer me up and help me recover the spunkiness he missed. There was nothing that he lacked as a husband. He was always there for me. In fact, he was 10 for 10 in terms of being sweet and loving. He abandoned work for many days so he could be by my side. Yet even if I appreciated his company, I felt alone in my struggle to be the mom Catalina needed me to be.

As the weeks went by, I found myself less and less able to share what was going on inside to Edric (partly due to my inability to articulate the state I was in or even recognize what was happening). Inevitably, both of us retreated to our preoccupations. Edric delved back into work and his TV hosting. I dedicated each and everyday to Catalina’s well-being. I entertained myself with online surfing and useless amazon shopping…putting items in my cart and taking them out, sometimes buying them, sometimes making endless wishlists.

It wasn’t until a few days ago that Edric finally sat me down so we could talk more seriously about our relationship and what was happening to it. He invited me to share my feelings and he helped me to process them. He was also honest about his own perspective as a husband. In his usual manner of problem-solving (which I really appreciate), he proposed solutions that would help us reconnect as a couple.

He said we needed to get rid of “Relationship Killers” or “RKs” for short. First, our gadgets. Being on a mobile device was very often my default activity while feeding Catalina…even when Edric was around. I hardly gave him attention. So he would do the equivalent and preoccupy himself with his own phone since I seemed busy and disinterested in talking to him.

The second RK was lack of communication. We stopped telling each other what was going on in our lives.

Edric and I normally communicate on many different levels. There is nothing that we can’t talk about. Whether it be our silliest, most idiotic thoughts, vulnerable feelings, frustrations, embarrassing confessions, mundane happenings, news and views, or deep spiritual insights, we discuss it all.

But lately, I felt like I didn’t have much to share that was exciting or interesting. Everything I did resembled the Groundhog Day movie experience – exactly the same predictable, round the clock breastfeeding and baby care. My mistake was I failed to disclose my emotions. I became introverted and silent, choosing to shut Edric out because I felt like he couldn’t relate to what it was like to be a mom to Catalina.

As for Edric, he realized he needed to keep me updated. I hardly knew what he did everyday and when I would ask him, it was a boring and tiring question for him to answer. So he committed to be more open to let me in on his daily realities. In the past, we were together so often, I knew about all the details, people, and events that filled up his calendar. Since I had become so home-bound, he now had to make the effort to tell me stories. Not a typical man thing to do but he decided he would try harder.

The third RK was the lack of physical intimacy. This went beyond sex, which wasn’t the issue. It was the spontaneous gestures of affection like holding hands, rubbing each other’s backs, hugging, and kissing. Edric missed this. I, on the other hand, had a little baby to cuddle with all the time. My need for physical touch was completely satisfied. Edric’s was depleted.

Of all the solutions we talked about, there was one thing which really got to me. It was the point when Edric looked at me very intently and made an appeal that I had never heard before. He said, “Don’t disappear on me, hon.”

Don’t disappear on me…That’s exactly what was happening and Edric knew it. He could sense that I was pulling away emotionally, retreating to a world of my own, also known as babyland – the world where women go to with all good intention when they become mothers. I was lingering too long and using the excuse that Catalina needed me, only me, to be her everything.

Well, it turned out that a yaya could be there for the other parts like holding Catalina and watching her in between breastfeeding and my own bonding moments with her. It was my pediatrician who first suggested that I get someone who could fill in the gaps for me so I my life didn’t have to revolve around Catalina. For the first month, it made sense for me to be so hands on. But afterwards, when Cataina was introduced to breastmilk in a bottle, I didn’t have to be with her all the time. I had four other kids who needed me and a husband who wanted his bestfriend, conversation-companion, exercise buddy, and lover back.

At first, Edric had not factored a yaya into our budget. But after he saw that he was losing me to motherhood duties he said, “Let’s get one. I will make a way! I will do whatever it takes!” Yay! I love that about my husband. He is committed to keeping us together physically, emotionally, spiritually.

But I need to be committed, too. I have to watch out for the RK’s that I am responsible for.

I’m happy to say that the relationship meter is now on the high side. Going through the adjustment of having another baby has made us closer once again. Thanks to my husband, who made sure this happened, and to the Lord, who brought us back to the right priorities, our connectedness is back.

By God’s grace, Catalina is doing just fine, too. She is developing a routine and likes her yaya. In fact, I enjoy Catalina even more because we have quality time together. I don’t feel like a hostage anymore! When I need a break, I call her yaya, and she takes over so I can homeschool, exercise, hang out with Edric, leave for errands and meetings, or write. Motherhood is more fun in the Philippines!

Edric and I also have a new term that we are starting to use. “Relationship builder” or “RB.” When we do something sweet for one another, we say, “Oh that was an RB!” We’ve sorted out the RK’s so we can focus on the RB’s. Making time to listen to one another, that’s an RB. Going for a walk together in the late afternoons or evenings when we can, that’s another RB. Serving food on to Edric’s plate and arranging it so it looks appetizing, his version of RB. Speaking to me in a positive tone, my version of RB. Affection and physical intimacy, RB! Escaping for a quick movie night, a fun RB. Complimenting and appreciating one another, RB highlighted in bold letters.

There are so many other ways to build our relationship while we work through the new baby stage. We need to remember that it is important to do so. After all the first family – the nucleus – is our marriage. For the rest of our family to be healthy, the marriage has to be a priority for Edric and I. We both have to be committed to guarding, nurturing, and rescuing it when necessary.

From sad hubby to happy hubby…

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An Appetite for Truth

The Kids Recite Psalm 1
The link above shows our kids reciting Psalm 1 during a parenting seminar Edric gave recently. He asked them to do it impromptu so it’s a rough performance but I thought they were so cute, especially Tiana who was copying her brothers.

Edric is really great at getting our kids to memorize bible verses. It’s part of our weekly family tradition. After I gave birth he decided they would memorize an entire chapter. He thought Psalm 1 would be a good one.

I love this Psalm. I memorized it as a child. It speaks of the blessings of following God, using a tree as a beautiful image to depict the fruitfulness of the righteous.

Edric and I have noticed that our kids tend to be better at memorizing scripture when we keep their minds “clutter-free.” We protect them from too much TV or media influence so they can fill their minds with content that favors spiritual health.

It’s interesting how memorizing scripture keeps a person mentally sharp as well. This worked wonders for my sister, Candy, when she was at dental school in San Francisco. She called my mom one day telling her that she was having such a hard time retaining all the information she had to remember for her classes. My mom encouraged her to memorize bible verses and this helped her with studying. It improved her memory. She did really well in dental school. In fact, she was Valedictorian (but this is another story).

There may be some sort of science to explain this but I also believe that God blesses those who treasure his word. I think about the story of Joshua as he was charged by God to lead the people of Israel into the promised land. God gave him the secret of success –

“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” (Joshua 1:8 NASB)

What kind of content is going into the minds and hearts of our children? Is it preparing them for future success?

I pray our children will have an appetite for spiritual truth and fall in love with God’s word, committing it to memory and letting it direct their consciences and decisions. But we have to do our part as parents and start cultivating this desire while they are young.

I praise God for a husband who knows that our own children will become casualties of anti-God philosophies and worldly values if they don’t commit scripture to memory. They may not have memorized a ton of bible verses yet but little by little, we are building upon their knowledge. Our hope is that this will give them a storehouse of truth to refer to as they grow and mature.

Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You. (Psalms 119:11 NASB)

How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. (Psalms 119:9 NASB)