Sunday, May 27, 2018

.::. TCM Baby Massage @ Yuguo .::.

As much as there's so much that I would like to write about since Motherhood happened, time is a limited commodity these days.  But! Since Yuguo is probably the second best thing that I've done for Jaime (apart from exclusively breastfeeding her), I think I need to put this down.

My experience with Yuguo started when Jaime was about 2 months old.  She sounded like she had plenty of phlegm and mucus, but Illidain and Steimar didn't help enough.  I tried to find out what were the available solutions and finally found Yuguo, since Pds prescribe the same nose drops and spray and wouldn't prescribe medication anyway (medication loads baby's liver and should be avoided unless absolutely necessary).  To be honest, I was skeptical but went to try it out anyway since it wouldn't do any harm.  Not like there were many other options

Yuguo is famous for children massage and treat many common baby issues without (oral) medication.  They're packed with babies and children every single day and queues are 1-2 hours long.  I usually spend about 2 hours there each time; 1 hour on good days.  You've to go to the counter for a number, wait for your turn at Room 7 to see the doctor before waiting at the massage area to be massaged.  Massages usually last about 20 minutes or so.  What they basically do is stroke their hands, back and face lightly.  Most strokes are done on their hands.

At her first session, I was chatting with the doctor doing her massage.  She was just gently stroking her hands and 5 minutes into the massage, Jaime puked a blob of phlegm out.  She was facing the doctor and I didn't see it, I was somewhat shocked when the doctor passed me a piece of tissue to wipe her.  Throughout that first session, she puked another blob out.

We were given a cloth belt with pouches of herbs to place at her belly button after that session.  The phlegm would be either puked out or come out through her shit.  After the massage, she slept more than usual and she did indeed puke some phlegm out after her milk feeds.  She also cleared her bowels fully after it.  Being her main caregiver, I witnessed the results and obviously became a convert.

After the initial 3 days in-a-row session, I went back weekly for the next 6 weeks or so during my maternity leave.  We stay in the West, and the journey to Kembagan isn't short, yet I truly felt that it's worth the effort as it benefits her immune system.  She always slept more and cleared her bowels after her massages.

Fast forward to now, she has been in infant care since she's 3.5 months old and has never had fever the past 8 months.  There was only once when she had lots of phlegm and mucus, we brought her to a PD to help suck them out (it was stuck in her cleft).  Other than that, she's a happy baby and hasn't really fell sick.  I haven't brought her to Yuguo ever since I started work, BUT, I went for their massage class and have been massaging her often at home!  I've got to say that I am a believer and it has worked wonders for her.

Child massage or tuina is gaining popularity rapidly, in Singapore and also in China.  What used to cost very little is now pretty expensive in China.  Yuguo has also been treating children for a very long time, and the long queues daily is testament of their effectiveness - which parent wants to bring their sick child there and queue for hours if they didn't see the results right?  Child massage is most effective for children below 3 and works up to 12 year-olds; I suppose due to body mass. 

I'm really thankful to have found this for Jaime, and I would recommend learning it and massaging your babies yourself at home daily - it would do wonders for their immune systems and helps with bonding.  Like Yuguo says, babies who are massaged often does not fall sick.  Even if they do fall sick, they recover quickly.  It's not magic and requires consistent effort over time; I do it in conjunction with essential oils and fully breastfeeding her.  I can't tell if she has a strong immune system to begin with or if these help her, but it seems that babies who do not frequent PDs and fall sick often are rare nowadays - especially when they're placed in childcare centers from young.

Monday, March 26, 2018

.::. Moving On .::.

Moving on is hard. Those darkest moments still haunt me.  I acknowledge them and try to work with the dread and negativity that envelops me now and then. You would think that time can dull the pain and make things better, but sometimes the wound is just held together and waiting to burst apart again.  It doesn't help that the wound is constantly tugged at.  

One can forgive, but trying to forget might take a lifetime of effort. Two people who can have some sort of relationship has to be based on basic respect and communication, otherwise it'll just be dreadful.

Would you constantly tell a vegetarian how delicious meat is and that they should eat it?  You wouldn't if you respect their beliefs and want to build a relationship with them right?  Doesn't matter if you truly think that meat tastes good and just want to share what you believe is good.

So now, why is it alright for a Christian to constantly evangelize and talk about God this and that and ask you to pray to God all the time?  Would one still do that if they truly respect another's religion and their beliefs and is serious about building a relationship?  My stomach turns, hands go cold and heartbeat hastens whenever the evangelizing starts, and I truly don't understand why it's so difficult to you know, leave me alone, stop trying to evangelize like a persistent salesman.  It's truly dreadful to go through this again and again, not being able to escape.  And it's impossible to have a proper conversation, much less a proper relationship with someone who takes every chance to evangelize and bring God into the picture.

Enough is enough. 

“To heal a wound, you need to stop touching it.”

I want and need to move on.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

.::. My Breastfeeding Journey - 6 months! .::.

We made it to 6 months of exclusively breastfeeding!

I’m going to share my an ‘alternative view’ on breastfeeding since I took the unconventional path and still managed to successfully fully breast-fed my girl for 6 months (and counting!).  People always say that exclusively pumping is tough, but it has been a pretty smooth journey, though still hard work.  Before starting on my breastfeeding journey, I have actually done lots of reading over the past few years and joined many support groups. I have been fascinated by how amazing breastmilk is, and how amazing the human body is.  I don't think humans have fully uncovered how our body works.  Currently, I'm still making almost double of her intake and donating regularly to children with muscle atrophy and a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy among others.  Through my breastmilk donations and reading up out of curiosity, I'm in awe of what breastmilk can do given live cells present, antibodies and easy absorption by the human body.

[Disclaimer] Of course, breastfeeding is a personal choice (like almost everything in life is duhz!), but I wonder if people would make different choices if they had more knowledge about the benefits of breastmilk or had more support and accurate information.  It’s only through education and knowledge that more people can reap the benefits of breastmilk.  Without any judgement, but as a factual statement supported by research, breastmilk is still the best for baby.  Fed is best, but as a matter of fact, feeding breastmilk is definitely better than processed cow milk powder.

I have been exclusively pumping, not by choice but by circumstances of her birth.  First few days were dark, but being able to provide for my girl became the focus and the beacon of light that I walked towards.  Initial days, I spent almost an hour ‘hand-expressing’ into a syringe and rested for 2 hours, repeated the cycle till my milk came in.  I was so tired and in pain, but also very determined.  It was painful at first, but it got exponentially better and the journey has been smooth ever since milk came in.  There’s no secret to get the milk in, it’s simply supply and demand, and giving your body enough fuel to make milk – from sufficient rest, water and food.

No, it’s not possible to want more milk without sacrificing your sleep to latch/pump at least 8 times a day during the initial days.  It’s a choice you have to make, a choice that might be easier knowing how amazing breastmilk was.  Some people have milk coming in later, some make more milk than others, it’s all normal and we can only keep going.

- Pump/latch as often as possible at least 8x a day
- Drink enough water, at least 3L and more if possible.
- Eat enough nutritious food, soups, vegetables, proteins, carbs.
- Have enough sleep and rest (as much as possible anyway)
- Do not stress, do not think and just keep going.

It’s important to do these and latch/pump religiously during the first days.  Those are the days that truly make a difference, and it’s a lot easier to establish milk supply in the first weeks and month.  It’s possible to increase supply after, but it becomes an (even tougher) uphill climb.

From an exclusively pumping mum perspective, I feel that there’s a lot more things to learn and handle with latching.  Basically, what I did was simply to get a good pump and flanges that fit and kept pumping to a schedule.  Milk came in, baby drank from bottle and can be fed by anyone, and I didn’t have to worry about getting a right latch, different feeding positions, choosing sides to feed, managing let-downs, nipple confusion nor bottle rejection nor the logistics after going back to work.  Many struggle and stress about going back to work as baby is used to latching.

My pumping schedule over the past 6 months:
First weeks: 9pm 12am 3am 6am 9am 12pm 3pm 6pm
Week 3-4: 9pm 12am 5am 8am 12pm 3pm 6pm
1 month: 12am 5am 8am 12pm 4pm 8pm
2 months: 1am 7am 11am 3pm 8pm
2.5  months: 12am 7am 2pm 8pm
3 months onwards: 10pm 7am 3pm

I started with 8 pumps a day, then dragged my night pump till I’m awakened by either baby or my boobs, but still pumped every 3 hours in the day during confinement.  I further dropped pumps as I have no help after confinement and had to take care of baby myself.  Every individual is different when trying to drop pumps, but it’s important to massage and empty the boobs after every pump to prevent blockage – I spend at least 15minutes massaging the boobs as I pump.  And with dragging pumps, I lengthened my pump sessions from initial 15 minutes to 30 minutes (or more as needed) each session now.  I also take Sunflower Lecithin from iherb for maintenance to prevent blocks, spend more time massaging and increase intake of lecithin when I feel that breast wasn’t emptied.  It's usually better to drag pump intervals slowly and monitor supply closely while ensuring that breast does not become blocked.

For sustainable breastfeeding, I don’t think it’s possible to do 8ppd long-term, especially when looking after baby yourself and after going back to work.  Ideally, maintaining 4-5ppd schedule (perhaps with a power pump session at night if needed) or maximum 6ppd could be sustainable in the long-run.  I realized that most breastfeeding groups advocate pumping 8 times a day to maintain supply, but that stems from traditional breastfeeding to mimic baby’s feeding every 3 hours.  I don’t think there’s enough experience or knowledge-sharing about exclusively pumping, and it’s just not realistic to pump 8 times a day for most mummies!  Asking mummies to pump 8x a day 'to maintain supply' is almost asking them to accomplish mission impossible and  many become discouraged and eventually give up breastfeeding. My supply peaked after 2mpp, it slowly increased despite dropping pumps and maintained even when I slowly dropped to 3ppd.  My supply did however dropped 30% after I went back to work (while maintaining the same schedule), and eventually stabilized at 4mpp.  Supply doesn't always drop when you drop pumps, but there's a threshold for each individual and you can only trial and error, lengthen pump intervals slowly and monitor output, adjust accordingly.  Boobs capacity would also increase slightly over time.  I used to wake up with hard painful and leaking boobs every morning after an 8 hour interval, but over-time, the pain and leaks went away despite pumping almost the same amount out in the morning.

Here's from my opinion as an exclusively pumping mum.

Pros of exclusively pumping:
  • Being able to delegate feeding and focus on pumping and resting.  This is a huge plus for me, for all I focused on was to pump every 3 hours during the initial days.  I took the night shift and take over after her 9/10pm feed till daybreak.  I wanted to make sure that she gets what she needs and feel secure, worried that other caretakers may fall asleep and do not respond quickly.  It's important to let baby feel secure! I fed her and pumped around midnight, then set an alarm to pump at 3am and 6am (and feed her).  By the second week I did not set an alarm after the midnight session, and waited for her to wake up naturally before I pumped.  By 3rd week, she slept from midnight till 5am (STTN! Yay!) and slowly dragged till around 7am by the 4th week.  I usually pump while the husband feeds, and I get weekend mornings off to the gym or massage! 
  • Less painful nipples.  With a good hospital grade pump, the correct flange size and suction strength, pumping should not be painful.  This may be easier to control than establishing a good latch every feed.  Poor latch is painful, and when baby grows older, they'll start turning and pulling or even biting.  Ask mums who are bitten or have babies turning around with a nipple in their mouth.  Pumping for 30 minutes is not painful, less sore than latching for hours on end anyway.
  • No such thing as bottle rejection.  Bottle-fed babies adapt very well and usually have no issues with other caretakers.  Bottle rejection can be a big problem for some as babies only want to be latched and refused all bottles.  It can be difficult when Mums have to go back to work (hello, most need to earn the dough nowadays!).  Some mums tell me that their babies mostly sleep during the day and latch throughout the night, it's unimaginable for me for we've been sleeping through the night ever since her first weeks.
  • Less time spent feeding, no comfort latch.  Bottle-feeding is faster and easier, that’s why some babies refuse to latch and suck after being bottle-fed.  Bottle-feeding takes 15-20mins during early days and 10mins or so now.  Total time spent feeding a day is an hour or two, plus another 30 minutes spent washing.  This can make a big difference if you've other babies to look after.  Babies who are latched directly usually spend more time feeding or sucking on the breast for comfort, then wants to be cuddled to sleep.  At some point, some babies spend hours latching everyday and render the mum confined to the bed.  Bonding, of course, but well, many mums seem to complain about this.  We usually bottle feed, then burp, and put her down right after, so she's used to falling asleep by herself.
  • Babies sleep better, I believe so.  From what I've heard from fellow cleft-mummies and read in sleep training groups.  This seem to be the case, though it's not absolute (obviously!).  It's easy to be full and go to sleep with bottle-feeding.  Babies who latch may fall asleep before they are full (takes more effort to latch) and end up waking up to be latched again, and again.  Cleft mummies who used to breastfeed directly and then exclusively pump shared that their cleft babies slept through the night much earlier compared to their direct latch babies.  I think the crucial part is trying to put baby down when they're drowsy (and full) after feeding instead of cuddling till they fall asleep and it's just easier to do that with bottle-feeding. Fed babies who have their needs fulfilled would be secure and happy.
  • Easier transition for working mothers, which is another big fat plus.  Most of us will eventually go back to work and would need to pump, while babies need to take bottles and be taken care by others.  SAHM especially without another child to look after would probably prefer direct latching all the way, since there's zero washing and all you need to do is lie in bed and latch as much as baby demands.  For other mums, eventually, you'll need to schedule pumps between latching and managing your milk supply.  No change for exclusively pumping mums like me, since we're just used to this whole pumping, scheduling, storage and feeding thing.

Cons of exclusively pumping:
  • One big fat minus is being deprived of the bonding experience that breastfeeding gives.  I have never experienced this but have read and heard enough to imagine how special this can be, and it’s only the mum who could ever experience this.
  • A lot to wash and sterilize.  This is inevitable, but I bought MANY bottles and 3 pump sets with a UV sterilizer so that I only need to wash like twice a day.  I wash everything after my first pump in the morning, so I start the day with 3 pump sets when I was on maternity leave.  I leave everything in a tub of soapy water and the husband washes them when he gets back from work. 
  • Breastmilk changes less to baby's needs.  Breastmilk's composition changes when baby latches through saliva, and that is the most direct feedback.  While breastmilk also evolves for exclusively pumping mothers through daily contact, the feedback is less direct and research seem to find evidence that the composition doesn't change as much.  However, it still does evolve based on baby's age and from skin-to-skin like kissing etc.
When we go out, I usually pump fresh and bring the bottle out for the next feed, so I wouldn't need to bring any ice bags nor hot water.  Freshly pumped breast milk can last easily 4-6 hours at room temperature depending on which guideline you refer to.  We're quite lax with milk as time went by as breastmilk is actually anti-bacterial by itself and it doesn't turn bad so easily.  We usually go to air-conditioned places, so it's really not much of a concern and we can go out for up to 6 hours by just feeding before going out and bringing a bottle.  If I have to be out longer than 6 hours, I will bring my portable pump out, so I can pump when she drinks that bottle.  Some days I bring a manual pump out just-in-case.

Given my experience, I would think that I will still pump for the next baby, so I can free-up more time.  I don't quite agree when people say that exclusively pumping is more difficult, because having to spend hours feeding and not able to do anything else sounds more difficult to me.  But that's me, shaped by my personal experience.  Things like washing can be easily delegated, but not if baby requires hours of feeding at the breast.  Latching on the go doesn't seem easier too, having to handle nursing covers and getting breastfeeding friendly clothes or finding a nursing room.  We usually time it well and feed her before we go out, so we've 3 hours and can have a good meal without having to feed or change her.

The husband asked if I would breastfeed from the breast or pump like now if we've another baby.  I told him that I would like to experience latching and latch at least for the first few days before milk comes in but would probably pump mostly too.  Time and delegation would be important with the second child.  The husband thinks that pumping is better, since we can know how much baby drinks and will know that baby is not hungry or did not have enough milk when they fuss (can rule out one reason).  He also insist that bonding is not an issue since he's bonding so well with Jaime by bottle-feeding.  Hah, I'm sure it's different latching!

People ask me how long do I intend to breastfeed.  Honestly, my initial goal was 6 months and anything more is a bonus.  But now, I'm hoping to go at least 12 months till she can take fresh milk, and see how things go from there, maybe 18 months would be great till she finishes infant care.  It has become a very manageable routine now as I pump 3x a day and my office has an awesome lactation room.  It's still a good 2-3 hours a day that I can earn back if I stop breastfeeding though.

For mums who are breastfeeding, I really encourage them to do whatever they can - it doesn't have to be all or nothing.  Feed whatever you can, do whatever works for you.  Pump, latch, squeeze, whatever!  If you can't fully breastfeed or fit in enough number of pumps a day, work on a schedule that is bearable and sustainable over a longer period of time.  Seek help from lactation consultants when needed, read up, ask fellow mummies and accept help from people around you.  Any amount of breastmilk is good for baby!

I have come to the realization that motherhood is a marathon, not a sprint.  It's a long journey and it's important to recharge on the way so that we have the stamina to run on. 

Sustainability is a big word in motherhood.

Monday, January 8, 2018

.::. The Forth Trimester .::.

Jaime has past 3 months old, I started this post after sending her to infant care the first day 2nd January 2018, sitting at Coffeebean and feeling really emotional while revisiting the past 3 months.  It feels as if my life was on hold and I spent all my time and effort on her.  She's growing well and always smiling.  People say that I have an 'easy baby' because she is an independent sleeper and sleeps alot.  I suppose we had it relatively easy, but I would like to believe that it's partly due to how we chose to care for her right from the beginning.

Jaime began sleeping for 5 hours from the third week, which is what people considers 'sttn' or sleep-through-the-night.  Before the 3rd week, I woke up to pump at 3am everynight and dream-feed her.  By the 10th week, she was able to sleep 11 hours and consistently slept on average 9-11 hours every night.  She was sleeping in the cacoona baby ever since she came back from hospital and wasn't swaddled most of the time (till colic kicked in at Week 5).  We always put her down when she's milk drunk after burping her to let her fall asleep herself.  Some days she fussed, but we usually do not pick her up unless she was crying hysterically.  If she does, we comfort her and put her down again and repeat it as many times as needed.  We also do not walk around carrying her nor pat her nor rock her.  I honestly felt that such consistent 'training' since birth helped her to become a good sleeper.  I was her main care-giver right from the start and took all the night shifts, always stood-by when it was about time to feed.  A baby who feels secured and always in the mother's company would be less needy and sticky.  I somehow think that it also helps that Jaime doesn't latch, so she wouldn't comfort latch to bed or want to be latched often.  I also watched her like a hawk to catch sleepy cues and put her down to sleep on time to avoid over-tiredness and a cranky baby.  Did you know that infants should not stay wake for more than an hour or so?  I think I would do these again for my second one since these worked well for us.

On wanting an easy baby, I think many mummies do themselves in right from the start.  Very often, mummies hire confinement ladies to help take care of babies, especially during the night while they recuperate.  If breastfeeding, confinement ladies will bring the baby to the mother whenever the baby needs to be fed.  Babies are very smart and crave to be near their mother.  It's easy to learn to cry and latch for long periods just to be near their mothers.  Confinement ladies often build in bad habits too (like patting, rocking, carrying 24/7) , and many babies become so attached to the confinement ladies that days after they leave are often difficult.  That's why, I would prefer to have baby attached to me right from the start and help to build good lasting habits, making life easier in future.  What's the point of resting well for a month and have a fussy needy baby after that?  I usually nap my mornings away while my CL/mum take one feed and bathe the baby.  I sometimes take a nap in the afternoon too, when baby sleeps.  I was on the fence about taking night shifts although Wong BB strongly advised during her classes, but I'm glad I actually did!  I would seriously encourage the same too.

Although Jaime sleeps well, looking after an infant isn't exactly a bed of roses.  Some days were terrible, there was a night when she cried 3am to 8am.  Between Week 4-6 were evenings that I dread since she cried incessantly.  Ridwind and swaddling helped, but she still fusses and cries for an hour or so.  Then she had alot of congestion and mucus, and I brought her to Yuguo for TCM massage that worked wonders.

The weeks pass me by so quickly and life was lived in 3 hour blocks.  There weren't day and nights, weren't weekdays and weekends.  After feeding, burping and putting her to sleep, there's a window of time to feed myself, go to the toilet, do washing and pump milk.  I ordered tingkat for lunch and cooked dinner for us.  Luckily the husband is very hands-on and helps to take over when he's home and during weekends.  I'm really thankful for that and realised that many men are still, well, terrible fathers (and husbands).

Babies grow up so quickly, and I've thoroughly enjoyed the time with her, witnessing how she has grown.  It's with a heavy heart that I'm sending her to infant care, although I know it's better for her and for us.  I do believe that babies learn more social skills and develop faster in infant care setting with peer pressure and mimicking their peers.  They may fall sick more often, but mama gets to work and afford a better lifestyle for the family.  Most importantly, we can parent her and avoid a spoilt child.

22nd September 2017.  After one of the night feeds.  I usually woke up to pump at 3am and dream feed her.

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24th September 2017.  The bff came to visit with a cake that says 'Best Parents Ever'.  I secretly teared. *sobs*

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26th September 2017.  The first day I took care of her myself after CL left.

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27th September 2017.  Such a smiley baby.

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28th September 2017

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29th September 2017

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1st October 2017.  Her first photoshoot with Orange Studios.

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3rd October 2017

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4th October 2017.  ENT @ KKH Hearing Test, cried the place down whenever anyone tried to put anything near her ear.  Thankfully passed her hearing test.

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7th October

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13th October

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14th October.  Her first time in baby carrier.

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17th October.  Mummy got her hair done while Daddy took care of Jaime, and we went to meet up with friends for HDL.

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18th October

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20th October.  Falling asleep after fussing.

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21st October.  Dinner at Morganfields

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22nd October

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24th October

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25th October.  The night she cried from 3am to 8am.

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26th October.  Meet up with Naomi jiejie and Ju yiyi.  First bus ride.

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28th October. Daddy took care of Jaime while Mummy went to the gym.  Came home to a sleeping baby, fed and happy.

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29th October

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5th November

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9th November

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10th November

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11th November

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14th November

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17th November

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19th Nov

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23rd Nov

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25th Nov.  First trip to Orchard Road to see Christmas Lights.

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1st Dec

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2nd Dec

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7th Dec

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8th December

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First Friday date night baby happened and first time Jaime went to pick Daddy up from work.

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Dec 9th.  Presents from the 100 day bash with September mummies.

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Dec 10th. Family photoshoot to commemorate our 13th anniversary.  Really loved how the photos turned out with Natsuki Photography! Very reasonable rates, highly recommended.  In fact, I loved the pictures so much that I pre-booked her for Jaime's 1st birthday.

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12th December.  First walk to Botanic Gardens

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15th Dec. JPot

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16th Dec.  It was one of those Sunday mornings when I go to the gym while he takes care of Jaime.  She usually sleeps through and I buy lunch home.  But that afternoon, he was supposed to cook steak.  I started on household chores since the bedroom door was closed, thinking that Jaime was still sleeping.  Who knows, I found an empty bedroom with no hubby nor baby in sight.  Strange, I called him and he asked if I wanted to pick him up at Holland Village.  That was the picture I took when I saw him.  He baby carried Jaime and hung her Ju-Ju-Be Be Quick diaper bag on the Tula.  It was quite the sight and we had ice-cream waffles at 2pm since I'm famished after gym and the steak was still uncooked at home!

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18th Dec.  Our 13th Anniversary.  He made me this.

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19th Dec

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23rd Dec.  My loves.

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25th Dec.  Jaime's first Christmas.

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That concludes 2017 and the first 3 months of Jaime's life.  How time flies and how quickly did she grow.  I'm really thankful and hope that she can continue to be this happy and smiley.  Mummy loves you darling.