|August 2010: Project I.N.F.A.N.T. in its final incubation stages|
In a time when it is fairly common for folks to make mountains out of molehills, I daresay that motherhood is one of biggest life-changing experiences I have ever had. From the moment I learned that a life was growing in my womb, my outlook and priorities in life shifted drastically. I see my parents in a new light. Already I'm imagining the kind of headaches and heartaches this precious bundle of joy will give me during those angst-ridden teen years.
When is it ever a good time to have a baby? Most women probably wonder about this at different stages of their life. As a teen, I had NO business thinking of babies. There were exams to sit for, ambitions to pursue and projects to run. Even though I was in serious relationships in my 20s, I had trouble figuring out the logistics and politics of getting married let alone raising a kid. But as I approached my 30s and having attended my younger brother's wedding, there was a miserable moment of panic about my single status. For a while I thought of myself as the cool aunt when my nephew was born. Eventually I wanted my own family.
Yeah, I had a cool job and a wonderful boyfriend even though he was half the world away. Could a woman really have everything? Something's gotta give. Okay, gave up the cool job, moved closer to boyfriend who then proposed. We were legally married but lived in different states but hey, at least we were on the same continent. There was a lot of hemming and hawing about the next move and then one day, after another frustrating day at work, I asked myself, "Life is short. What are you waiting for?"
So I quit the job, planned the ceremonial part of the wedding and prepared for life as a domestic engineer. Then it occurred to us that as I became "domesticated" (not that I was that wild to begin with; even when living alone I had Martha Stewart tendencies), starting a family made sense. But we weren't going to kid ourselves about being successful on the first try. I'm a little past my prime reproductively speaking and he was stressed and fatigued from working very hard. Imagine our pleasant surprise when we learned that I was 5 weeks pregnant shortly after our honeymoon (whoops, I drank cocktails and ate pineapples with abandon in Krabi).
The folks here seem to like pregnant women. Random strangers would talk to me and ask me friendly questions about the pregnancy: how far along are you; do you know if the baby's a boy or a girl; are you going to breastfeed? Whoa, I didn't know that baby bumps were licenses for asking personal questions! Still, their intentions were good and their kind attention meant a lot to a reserved person like me.
Some strange things happened during the 10 long months. Typically I was given to flighty behaviour almost monthly (a.k.a PMS) but apparently with the abundance of hormones during pregnancy it was as though I was on Prozac. I was calm most of the time. However, I developed peculiar cravings: warm milk savored on sleepless nights; ice-cream when it was still snowing outside; milk powder and Milo (eaten, not made into a warm beverage).
My baby bump was small. At 5 months under baggy clothes most people couldn't tell that I was pregnant. A friend lent me maternity clothes that I didn't put on until I was over 7 months pregnant. By then, we started playing a game with family and friends where we try to predict the sex of the baby by looking at the shape of the bump.
I was also very restless. I started a vegetable patch, painted the garage door, mowed the lawn and other interesting house projects. Imagine my chagrin when my well-meaning parents-in-law tried to make me sit down and rest as I approached my due date.
On September 20, my water broke at 3 a.m. I was thrilled because I was more than ready to have the baby. But nearly 12 hours later, there was still no contractions. To reduce the risk of infection, the doctor recommended an augmentation where I was given Pitocin...to prod my body along into having contractions. I was aiming to have the good old-fashioned natural birth but hubby had been suggesting accepting an epidural. It wasn't until the contractions were making me curl like a fried shrimp that I waved the white flag. Fortunately, the epidural wore off in time for me to feel my legs and the urge to push the baby out. The doctor kept saying, "Good job, you're close. And on the next breath, give me another good push." But it was only after about 100 pushes for nearly two hours that our beautiful baby girl Zoe Reika Cheong was born.
As the nurse laid Zoe on my chest, I watched in amusement as my usually tough husband shed tears of joy. It was ironic because I am the emotional type who weeps when watching touching commercials or movies. Yet I was the one who was dry-eyed at the most incredible thing that has happened to me...my own little family.