Monday, July 30, 2012

36 Weeks: what a swell time.

My firstborn came as a complete surprise.
Actually, it was more like a rude shock, which is an understatement. Andy & I were planning wedding venues & dates and I didn't even suspect I was knocked up. One morning, I just felt really exhausted & even threw up my sardine curry puffs. The company doctor diagnosed me as having "Gastroenteritis" and sent me home on 2 days' MC plus medication.
The first thing that crossed my mind was - Shit, I missed my period for 2 months and we DIDNT suspect that?! I took a pregnancy test to be sure, and in denial, I took another test.
It was sure as taxes and death.
I called up Andy & my galfriend crying. A baby was the last thing I hoped for. My married life is over before it even began.
I wasn't a child-person. In fact, I loved my freedom and shopping so much and was just about to venture into a new chapter called Marriage with the man I've been dating for 6yrs.
Having a baby certainly wasn't on my Married Life list. Not yet anyway. But it happened. And we were going to be parents *gulp*
Andy took the news better than I did. He was overjoyed and made an appointment for us to see a Obgyn. We went for the 1st scan and heard the heartbeat.
From then on, there was no turning back. Fast forward 3 yrs.

For Baby #2, it was a planned pregnancy. Andy was sure he wanted a 2nd baby but I kept putting it off and cited my part-time Nursing Degree as the excuse (remember I'm not so much a child-person & I was perfectly contented with the financial stability & undivided love that we could shower on Adam).
Alas I finally graduated from my 2-year course, armed with a Degree, a better job offer & fatter paycheck, (and plus the fact that I secretly yearned to smell a newborn again because I missed Adam's infancy), I caved in to Andy's wish to conceive again. It was perfect timing & all planned.


We recently went for my Week 36 checkup & my good Doctor passed me my admission letter to Mt Alvernia & asked if I've packed my hospital bag, and have we decided our birth plan - To try VBAC or Csect? Andy & I looked at eachother gobsmacked. I think I'll huff & I'll puff and I'll squeeze the baby out, does it sound like a solid birth plan??

Then I realized the hard truth - no amount of planning could ever prepare you for parenthood.

Parenthood is scary.
- It's about sleepless nights.
- Worrying about adequate milk supply/ proper latching techniques.
- Worrying about pooping too much/ too little.
- Putting someone else's fears & feelings before your own.
- Giving up buying that pair of Chanel shoes just so you can pay for something child-related, like Enrichment classes or a whole month's worth of milk powder & groceries.
- Cleaning up puke & curdled milk, and changing bedsheets at 2am because of a sick child and still struggling to work by 8am.
- Praying for peace and quiet but yet worrying when there's actual peace and quiet because your kid might be jamming his fingers in the sockets or busy doodling on your work documents.
- Going insane with that Barney song playing over and over on DVD.
- Getting extremely horrified at the wild toddler in the supermart who unfortunately belongs to you (I sometimes pretend I'm the Big Sister until I'm addressed as Mummy by that misbehaving toddler).

Suddenly, EVERYONE has an opinion on your pregnancy and child-rearing ways.
You know how those nosy pokers are ?
- If you're married they wanna know when you'll have a baby.
- When you have a baby they wanna know when you're having the next baby.
- And they also wanna know the genders & names.
- They offer you lots of unsolicited advice, even though the last time they were pregnant was at least 40 years ago.
- "If you have 2 boys nevermind can try for a girl for Number 3" (are you insane Aunty?!)
- "Are you going to breastfeed?" (What is it any of your business anyway unless you wanna help me breastfeed?)
- "You are so skinny and your Breastmilk looks diluted, are you sure you're feeding the baby enough?" That was what my MIL said to me. I simply asked her - did you breastfeed your 2 sons? To which she replied a 'No' & thankfully took the cue to shut the F up.
- "Why are you so insistent on breastfeeding? All 3 of you were formula-fed and still went to University." This came from my Mum and honestly if she weren't my mum, I would have stabbed her mouth with a fork. And stabbed her some more.
- "You should let the baby cry it out." This is the most Bullshit advice I ever heard. Babies want their basic needs met and crying is only communication they know. I can never cuddle my baby enough, and now he's a whooping 3 yr old who much prefers running around to cuddling in my arms. I'm glad I didn't buy that stupid advice. Whoever says that to me with Baby No 2 is gonna have me scream in their face.
- "You should let your child get used to eating some junk instead of organic food to build the immune system." So I have my own beliefs which may differ from yours and I really appreciate your kind advice but I think we are doing fine thankyouverymuch .

Of course there are the moments when my stinky 3 yr old promises to be good (even if only for a grand total of 5 min), and tells me he loves me, and the way he brushes hair off my face mimicking the way I do to his, telling me stories about how his day went at school at bedtime, and those precious moments that no amount of $$ can buy that only a parent could understand.
Makes me suffer selective memory-loss about the whole scary parenting affair.
I love you Adam Tan Tian Kai. Even if it's an emotional roller coaster ride every single day. You have no idea.

Our Maid agency

source: Google images

I received a few enquiries through the Blog comments and also from Facebook asking me maid-related questions, eg. which Agency I got my maid from, how much did we pay etc etc. so I decided to do a blog post on the Agency we chose, so as to minimise the inconvenience of readers having to email or private-message me on FB.

Before I go on, I would like to clarify that this post is not about advocating or lobbying for/against SAHMs/ FTWMs with helpers etc.

It was by chance and lots of Googling that I came across:
A. Pratama Employment Agency
Who to look for: Demond / Susan

Tel: 6297 6913
Office: Bukit Timah Shopping Centre (next to Beauty World) #02-45, 170 Upper Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 588179.
they open by appointment only as they are a husband-and-wife team, so please call to fix an appointment before you head down.
They do not advertise and prefer referrals by word-of-mouth so you may say Veron recommended you.

Our review:
Before we approached Desmond & Susan, I had called up several Big-name Maid agencies.
Most of them charged atrocious agency fees, and their maids came with loans of 6-8 months.

If you do the math, for eg. Agency fee $488 (cheapest I was quoted) + $400 (fresh maid w/o experience, 1 with experience could fetch $450) x 6 months upfront loan (the shortest loan quoted) = $2888 cash upfront to the Agency.
This is considering the cheapest possible option. Of course there are agencies who charged higher agent fees and/or longer maid loans. The longer the maid loan, the longer the maid has to work for you without a salary. Imagine working 8 months without getting paid.
And the amount above is only the Agency fee + maid loan.

Other costs incurred:
- Online Employer Orientation Program: a short course with quiz which is mandatory for all new first-time employers. $30.
- Maid insurance: Depending on the Insurance provider and the coverage, ranging from $280 - $310.

Total: easily $3300.

For us, we couldn't afford to pay the agency few thousands of dollars cash upfront before the maid even arrived in Singapore. Well we could, but we didn't want to. It just sounded like a big risky business and the agencies gave us the impression they were only interested in getting our $$.
Just think about it - What if we need to terminate her employment while still having an outstanding loan?!
So after finding out about Desmond & Susan, I called them and told them our situation - we have a 3 yr old and expecting another child soon, we need a helper to do mostly household chores & some babysitting when required.
Susan told us they deal mostly with Indonesian Transfer maids (who are mostly abused/ ran away from home/ worked for more than 1 household and found out by authorities/ rejected for whatever reasons) and asked me our requirements, which I stated as follows:
- Need to like working with children
- Responsible and mature, preferably already married with kid(s)
- Be able to speak both Bahasa & English (my MIL is Indonesian-Chinese but I can speak no Bahasa)
- Help with mainly housework and some babysitting
- We have a big dog who doesn't bite and she doesn't need to look after the dog

I called them on a Wednesday evening and our appointment was made that coming Saturday noon.
By Friday evening, Susan already SMSed me saying she has selected a few suitable candidates for us to interview when we go down. We were very impressed with her fast & prompt service.

When we went down, Desmond spent close to 2 hours explaining to us page-by-page the MOM requirements and the necessary 'admin' because Andy & I were first-timers and very blur. But they never lost their patience with us and made sure we understood what was expected.
In fact, we went down twice, a seperate time with my Mom and Adam to make sure they were both Ok with our shortlisted candidate. On both occasions, Desmond & Susan were very accomodating and Desmond even repeated all the T&C to my Mom.

Bottomline: Because our helper was a transfer maid with only 1-mth loan (out of goodwill to Desmond & Susan for helping her find re-employment), we only spent less than $1.5k in total for the Agency fee, Dwi's loan, Insurance etc, ie. Everything done under $1.5k and we got ourselves an experienced maid already available in Singapore ready to work for us and were provided excellent responsible service.

A further search revealed some reviews as follows:
source: KiasuParents forum


** Disclaimer: I will not hesitate to recommend Desmond & Susan to friends , relatives or anyone who asked me, but Maid agencies are like match-making companies. They help you find your "partner" but whether the "marriage" lasts is totally up to good faith and lots of luck.
Therefore, I wish you Best of luck if you're considering hiring help!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bye bye work. See you in December!

I'm officially not working as of last week. Been given Hospitalisation leave till I deliver, so basically everyday I'm just sitting around waiting for "it" to happen. I'm currently 35-weeks. If Baby #2 decides to come on Week 37 like Adam, then it won't be long from now. *jitters*

Meanwhile, it feels terrific having the housework taken care of by our helper. I feel less tired and happier, having more time to rest and simply do nothing since I've been working full-time all the way up till recently, and having to deal with an active 3 year-old.

We should be mostly settled for now. Andy decided last minute to get a playpen instead of fixing up Adam's old cot because our bedroom is obviously too tiny, so we went out to buy a Graco Pack & Play Barcelona bluegrass. We haven't got down to fixing it up yet but I reckon it's rather easy peasy.

I guess I'll just enjoy the good times before having to deal with night-feeds and diaper-changing all over again.

P.S. Last night, as Andy & I were preparing to leave for dinner, Adam suddenly declared that he was tired and wanted to sleep. What surprised me was that that was actually the 1st time he said he wants to sleep because all along using the Zzzz word is like taboo to him. We need to go through a routine of watching 1 or 2 iPad movies, drink milk then followed by sleep. So yesterday was like skipping 2 steps and going straight to bed. Makes me feel that my boy is all grown up now, having a mind of his own and deciding things for himself.
I'm proud of him but at the same time sad to let his baby side go!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Toys for ma boys

My boys bought new toys over the past week. For Adam, it's a Mini Cooper remote control car.
He's generally not known to be careful with toys. I certainly hope he will treat it with TLC and not let it perform stunts from heights - table tops, bay windows, sofa.

For Daddy A, it's an Osim Uphoria massager because he has been complaining of tired feet.
I wonder who's the pregnant one?

On a side note.... here's Mr Busybody helping me to lay out the SkipHop floor mat. Kids and dogs have a thing in common - they like to inspect any new purchases in your home.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Update: 2 weeks of having live-in help

So far, our entire household has been enjoying the help of a helper.
Life with a helper has become almost like a luxury. We wake up to a clean house, breakfast, and I have someone keeping tabs on the perishable supplies in the fridge.
We also recently had some friends over for a bbq & compared to the last BBQ we had, this time was such a breeze because we had extra help - with the food preparation, serving, scrubbing of grease etc.
As for all the horror stories we hear about maids, well, nobody is perfect. Dwi is not a Superwoman. She makes mistakes here & there , for eg. She didn't clip the Laundry with pegs & during a heavy rain some lightweight clothes got blown off onto our aircon latch. And some other things, but nothing too major that I can't live with.
As for the little master? He's still not taking to her, but it's not bothering me much because the extra pair of hands around the house frees up lots of quality time for me & Adam. No more wishing he could sleep/nap so that I can sneak in time for chores. I can now concentrate more of my time on playing or reading to Adam. It's a win-win.

Here're some tips I gathered from friends & colleagues which I thought might be useful for Moms considering hiring helpers:
- Provide specific & detailed House rules from the 1st day eg. No kissing & sharing food with children? No using of hp during work hours? What are work hours? In my home it's 6am - 10pm (if she finishes her chores fast she can retire to her room earlier) with rest breaks during the day.

- Color code your cloths. This is important so she knows not to mix the toilet-cleaning ones with dish washing ones.

- Be prepared to demonstrate and ask her to return-demo or repeat your instructions for the 1st time doing something. Eg making milk or using washing machine.

- Give her a daily, weekly & 2-weekly schedule so she knows what is expected of her

- I don't allow her to open my wardrobes. Instead, I ask her to keep the laundry in & I'll put them back myself. I don't want to have a chance to ever suspect her. It's to protect the interests of both parties.

- I keep her passport in a seperate home (with my Aunt LY) becos my ex-supervisor had a maid who took off to her own home country after stealing her own passport & $10k worth of jewelry

So far so good, Dwi hasn't resigned yet, which is a good sign I suppose.
And frankly, I can't be bothered to worry anymore. I'll just enjoy the happy moment while it lasts!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Last leg of pregnancy

I'm 32W+ now, and I'm feeling more tired than ever. I am on leave this week due to the arrival of the new maid, so I spend most of my time sleeping and just resting in bed.
My back and pelvis are in immense pain, to the point where sometimes when I'm getting up it just catches me by surprise, the kind of paralysing pain which makes me feel like my lower body and upper body are gonna fall apart.

I've not been very mobile, I can't walk too much now, and even walking from Tampines Interchange to Century Square requires so much effort and I feel the constant need to sit down.

As for preparation for the baby's coming, well I've been far more relaxed this time. Or is it because my mind is willing but the body is not? I haven't packed my hospital bag yet, but good news is I managed to buy Adam's present (from his sibling), and also a button-down night dress for the hospital stay.

How's the Hubby prepared for the birth? I would say he's feeling very "pregnant" as well. These days he is always complaining of tiredness and goes to bed early.
And he's not talking coherently at times. For example we were discussing about Adam's birth and he asked me "Was Adam induced?" I was like "Are you nuts? He broke the water bag and when we reached hospital, they inserted a urine catheter for me and wheeled me off to OT already. Where were you?? Abducted by aliens?"

Ok. That's it for now. I'm feeling tired. Again. I need to go take a power-nap before picking Adam up from school. Ciao.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Maid updates

After growing up without a maid, Adam is still not used to the idea of live-in help yet.
Initial few days, he would ask me at bedtime, "Where is Aunty sleeping?", "Where is Aunty's home?" and I have to explain she's sleeping in his Play Room because she has no home and she needs a room to sleep, otherwise she will be very poor thing sleeping in the streets.

Another issue is, he's very annoyed with Dwi following him everywhere.
There are times when he prefers to play alone, but she'll be following closely behind him, which pisses him off.
She's making alot of effort trying to get Adam to accept her and play with her, but I pity Dwi, this boy of mine isn't one to suffer any fools.
He will growl at her (I think he learned the growling from Maverick), and if she doesn't back off, he will cry and shout for Mommeeeeee!!!!
On one hand, here's a 3 year-old who wants to explore independence and autonomy, and on the other hand, I have a helper who's trying so hard to win her new charge over. It sure is tough.

I have to constantly assure her to leave him alone to play on his own, even if he falls he has to learn how to get back on his own feet.
I certainly hope she gets the idea one day.
I see many maids chasing after running children these days - at parties, in malls, in general public - a far cry from the "children should be seen, not heard" generation I grew up in. If my brothers or I ever ran amock in public I think my Mum would have given us a good spanking and dragged us home immediately.
Maybe that's why the maids' mentalities nowadays is to follow their little charges everywhere, because God forbid these precious children suffer a scratch?
Classic scenario - Adam is playing with his helicopter, Dwi takes his aeroplanes and initiates play with Adam. Adam gets angry and asks her not to touch his planes and accuses her of "spoiling" his game because apparently it is about Helicopter and not Planes. If she doesn't back off, he cries for me. So far I've been the "referee" to their saga.
He scolds her "I don't want you, I want Mommy!" and things like "Go away!", "Don't touch my toys!", which makes me extremely mortified that my child is being so rude!!
I always explain to him that Aunty has no toys, she doesn't know how to play with toys, can you please share and teach her how to play??
It doesn't work all the time though. When he's already in the midst of his crying and tantrum, it's hard to get anything across his little mind.

** I need to work harder on this Adam vs Dwi issue.

Other than this, Dwi has been quite a good help in our household.
She finishes her cleaning and mopping early in the mornings, and by 7.15am she helps me in getting Adam changed to go to my MIL's (I change his clothes and remove his diaper, she helps me dispose diaper and takes clothes to be washed, since Adam won't let her touch him).
I also taught her how to use the Nespresso, so every morning Andy enjoys a mug of Nespresso and kaya bread.
She uses diluted Dettol to mop the floors, and I'm pleased that the house is so clean everyday that I can not bother about Adam rolling on the floor. In the past, nearing the day where my PT helper comes in every week, the floor would've been littered with hair and some dust.

It's still early days yet. I still have my fingers crossed everyday.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Andy's Grandma is 88!

Andy's Grandma turned 88 on Sunday and being the favourite great-grandson, Adam had the honor of blowing out all 8-big and 8-small candles on the shou tao (longevity peach) cake.
He was so enthusiastic about the birthday song and candle-blowing that he blew with all his might, sending saliva spraying everywhere. Hahas.

Created with Gifboom courtesy of Andy's cousin Florence

I love family get-togethers!