Royal, One Year Ago

Royal Women’s Hospital, Melbourne

Feb 9, 2017 (Thursday) – Day 1.

I had a few painful contractions yesterday which I ignored thinking they were simply textbook Braxton Hicks (BH). This morning however upon seeing bloody show of 3cm, my level of panic and worry increased exponentially, needless to say. So in between tears, I told my husband that it might be worth talking to the midwives. I immediately phoned them and they wanted me to come for monitoring and assessment right away. So we went in to find out my cervix was soft and I could be 2 to 3 cm dilated and I was having painful labor-like contractions. I could tell the difference between BH and those easily. Did I say I am only 30 weeks pregnant?

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At the birthing suite of the Geelong Hospital, I went in to be monitored by the Maternal Day Assessment Unit (MDAU). I had forgotten that I went there when I was having my first son four years ago but as soon as the kind midwife put on the baby heartbeat monitor as well the TOCO for contraction, the familiarity of it dawned on me.

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The machine and my body agreed that contractions were happening within 5-10 minutes. Dr Maddie, whom husband and I met Monday, saw me and performed a few tests. I had to then take steroids as well as nifedipine tablets to try and stop contractions. They were concerned enough to label what I was going through as “threatened pre-term labour.” Unfortunately, the Geelong Hospital is not happy for me to deliver there at 30 weeks, their cut-off being 31 weeks gestation, which I am annoyingly only a few days shy of. But rules are rules. Between crying and worrying about my toddler and my husband, it’s easy to get more stressed as gadgets and gizmos are attached to me.

Meanwhile, while waiting for Paediatric Infant Perinatal Emergency Retrieval or PIPER to respond, Midwife Mary kindly offered me some cheese and crackers. These small details I have to start writing down in case I forget again.

People’s kindness need to be memorialised.

A first of firsts, I experienced being in an ambulance for the first time ever. Husband and son turned up to say goodbye at that stage. I was beside myself to say the least. Surrounded by the unfamiliar walls of the ambulance, I was calmed down by the kind paramedic, Selina. Her offering me a box of tissue was a sign that she must understand where the tears are coming from. I kept messaging David simply wanting to keep that connection going at a time when I just didn’t want to be anywhere but his and my son’s side.

Selina checked on my contractions, feeling the tightness. She asked me if I was okay and if husband would be okay.

“Oh he’s clueless! He’s used to making big financial decisions when he was with National Australia Bank but the other day while cleaning, he was confounded by what course of actions to take in relation to our son’s ….sticky dinosaurs.

Selina laughed.

I was only kidding about him being clueless because I know that he loves our son with all of him and that is the minimum of what he’ll give our son, his all. Having said that, I worry about him because he might not look after himself enough in the process.

Meanwhile, the ambulance made good time despite it being a rush hour. Soon enough, we were at the Royal Women’s Hospital. The transfer was smooth as my doctor in Geelong had already made phonecalls before and whilst in transit.

Young midwife Elle attended to me first, taking me to a room, putting the monitoring device around my tummy and doing the observation basics (temp, blood pressure, etc).

Shortly after, two female doctors came in to see how baby was positioned via ultrasound. They were happy to know that baby had turned around from being Frank breech to cephalic or head down, which was more ideal for if and when I was to give birth then. The doctor reassured me that she would do everything for me to NOT have a baby, and this made all the difference to me. Simple statements like that offer a level of reassurance that hifalutin, technical statements don’t.

She performed another speculum test on me. As she pulled out the gadget, I saw a bit of blood so I braced myself for some bad news. Surprisingly, she said she could not see that the cervix was even dilated but I did have a “show” which is the mucus plug that blocks my cervix. She also said that bub is high up in the tummy which tells her that it’s not trying to make its way out.

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I asked if I still need to fast because I was told this at the Geelong Hospital and was relieved to find out that I don’t have to. Midwife Elle had arranged for a hot meal for me and it wasn’t long before a pleasant smelling tray of food arrived. I didn’t think I could like hospital food that much. With some privacy now and despite the fact that I was naked from the waist down under the blanket, I had my lunch/dinner. In between bites, I was chatting on viber with my sister. As expected she was shocked and concerned over the very same things that I was shocked and concerned about. I begged her not to tell our mother just yet because I know she’ll panic and might end up having high blood pressure and in hospital herself. So she promised she wouldn’t say a thing.

Soon enough, I heard another knock on the door, Husband and Son were with me again. I feel my muscles relaxing heaps and a smile was back on my face. Pretty soon, I was singing Old McDonald to my son who seemed happy. Husband said he did enjoy the ride to Melbourne as I was sure he did. I was more than glad to see my rock although I did mean it when I said they should just hang back and visit with me in the morning. I understand his stubbornness though. He wanted to be here and deep inside, I needed him more than ever. As the shock of this was slowly creeping on us, I then only had smiles to give my two boys, my heart about to explode with joy. But I knew that they had to leave soon, and so they did with a promise of tomorrow morning’s return.

A few short minutes after they left, another midwife assisted me to the ward in Level 5. Maybe it was the happy hormones from my family’s visit or perhaps the pills, but my contraction had calmed down a lot.

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My bed was beside the window, giving me a beautiful view of Melbourne’s cityscape at night. It’s as if I’m on a holiday hotel, except there’s constant worry that I’m not fully out of the clear.

Day 2

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>>>more side stories coming up from this timeline<<<<

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In memory of my accident

It’s the 9th year anniversary of my car accident yesterday, October 11. I say “my” but I really mean the accident that happened to me and 12 of my colleagues at Lyceum. That we are all alive and well is a blessing that I am forever grateful for. It could have been worse.

Nine years post the accident, the memory is still fresh. I can smell the wet grass and feel the cold breeze as loud cars drove past us in the highway. I can still see the red flesh off Dr. Conrad Dotong’s forehead and the scalp that came off Kuya Fernan’s son’s head. And if I touched my own head, I can remember how warm and wet it was. I remember not feeling anything for many minutes. My body was in shock. I can remember every detail except for two things.

I don’t remember the name and faces of the two men who gave us a ride to the hospital, and the man who helped me get to the side of the road. I want to honor them and pray for them and thank them for as long as I am alive. If there was a way to find out, I would like them to know that day, they were my angels.

Original story written here. 

The Story of Elon’s Birth

Tic-toc. Ten minutes interval between contractions. Breathe. My gut knew somehow I would be having you earlier than my elective caesarian, though I did hope to reach the date if I could.

Eight weeks ago, you wanted to come out early but because you were too small, we had to keep you in me until you were absolutely ready. The doctors gave me steroids so your lungs could mature on the off chance that labor proceeded. Fortunately, you stayed in my tummy for a few more weeks.

Tic-toc. The contractions gradually increased as I went through the first hour of that morning before I decided to wake your father up. Tic-toc. As I measured one scoop too many for your brother’s toddler milk bottle, I knew my mind was being overtaken by the pain I was feeling.

Surely, I shouldn’t be giving birth to you today. For various reasons, I should be ready but I was not mentally prepared. My hospital bags were packed a few days after being discharged from that threatened preterm labor. I wanted to be prepared with everything this time, consulting every parenting forum as well as my own notes from four years ago when I knew nothing about giving birth. I knew you were coming soon but I didn’t expect you to beat the planned caesarian schedule only by three days.

That morning, your dad and brother came along to the hospital at around 7am. As we approached reception, I knew that it was going to be the last time I would come here as a patient and I felt mixed emotions that my journey for this pregnancy was over.

Soon, a red-head came to get us and took us to a room. There, she attached a heartrate and a contraction monitor to my tummy. Tic-toc. Here comes another contraction. I grabbed the edge of my bed, contorting towards my side as I waited for the tightness of my tummy to pass. Tic-toc. I could breathe again. And as the contractions kept coming, each one stronger than the one before, my first thoughts were to the very fact that the labor was not something I wanted to feel anymore, having planned for a caesarian as early as I knew I was pregnant with you. Also, I was worried about your brother Nikolai who needed to go to school that hour as well. Your dad brought him along with us but they had to leave us so he could go to school. I was alone in the hospital for maybe not even 30 minutes in the able hands of the midwives and doctors, though in the context of increasingly painful labor contractions, that 30 minutes seemed like forever.

A young blonde doctor and a student doctor attended to us that day. Perhaps he was curious or just having a conversation but he asked me “What’s your background, Maria? Your English is so good.” I gave the usual Philippines-but-I-was-an-English-teacher-for-10-years reply.

Anyway, the hospital where you were born is called University Hospital for a reason so I knew that inasmuch as this doctor would be all about me, it would be remiss of him if he didn’t speak to his trainee while inspecting me. He seemed surprised to report that I was 5cm dilated. “Can you feel how tight her tummy is right now? Now watch as Maria’s face gets back to normal again.”

Wait, 5cm? Halfway there and I could be pushing. We had to hurry up and go to theatre. I then called your Dad to let him know that he should ask the midwives where to see us once he was back from the school run. I also managed to sneak in a text to my sister so she could tell my parents back home.

A team of workers pushed my bed to a room adjacent to the theatre. Here three anaesthetists prepped me for surgery. Sit here, crouch over, chin to chest, don’t move. I tried not to amidst the labor pains that kept coming stronger and closer together. At first, the younger woman took a bit of time trying to find my spine and couldn’t, so the older, more experienced man stepped in. His voice was loud and confident and his hands more able to find my spine. My legs felt tingly at first, then numb.

It’s go time.

At the operating theatre and under the bright lights of the room, I felt absolutely terrified. I wondered why your dad was taking so long. It was easy to feel small and helpless. But the gods were on our side because they hadn’t even started when one of the doctors told me that your dad was just being prepped and should be there in a few. Whew. Thank God.

There we were, throwing our lives to the hands of the doctors slicing me to get to you. I was here four years ago but back then the atmosphere was filled with panic. Today, I could hear the softest sound and I was minutely aware of every tug and every pull. Though I didn’t want to imagine it, I knew my innards were literally outside of my body but I could not feel any pain. Feeling a bit weak and dizzy, I let my anesthetist know. He immediately injected a chemical through my IV that allowed my blood pressure to increase again. I felt a bit better but soon felt really cold and had an unrelentless itch on my nose.

Now, I don’t know why but out of all the doctors who were in that room, I felt indebted the most to the anaesthetist. His job was to make me feel numb enough to not feel the pain, but alive and awake enough to feel the joy of this birth. He stood just behind my head and kept me updated about what the doctors were doing and how long they could be working on me for. I remember asking at one point if I could sleep. He said yes. I closed my eyes but couldn’t.

Then at 10:17 am on a cold autumn day, you saw your first light. Your father saw you first and proclaimed that we have another son. We had chosen not to find out what gender you were. Dad was asked to cut the umbilical cord. Shortly, I got to see you and while a storm of words was rushing in my head, all I could muster was “Hello baby. I love you.” Then an overwhelming sense of relief washed over me. My son is safe. I am safe. My family of four is finally complete.

Before you came to us, my love for your brother was absolute and I was not sure how other parents can love their children equally. Now I do. I love you in the same breadth and depth as I love your brother. It is not the same, but it also is not different. It comes from this endless pool of love and care overflowing and enveloping you both. I didn’t think it was possible for love to exponentially grow but as I watch you and your brother grow, I know it is.

Today’s Tangle (and a few others)

Everytime I try my hand at something new and exciting, I get obsessed for a couple of days, maybe weeks then leave it. This might be one of those things, but I also don’t want it to be. I’ve written about why I did embark on it here so this post is just to start a few number of past doodles and tangles I’ve made thus far and some explanation of the pieces and the ideas behind them. I do hope to make one tangle daily. The operative word here is hope.

IMG_20170711_102110_812Today’s Tangle is a monotangle, i.e. using only one kind of tangle. This one’s name is paradox. Click here for a tutorial from tanglepattern.com if you are interested to make one yourself.

 

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a tangled feather

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Using official zentangle patterns, I ended up with something that to me looks like an aquarium

 

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My first free hand mandala and not my finest

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A torus yantra created using a compass (a rather flimsy one at that, a few failed drafts below). I was more frustrated than zen here. 🙂

The Reason I Tangle

Sometime ago, I was drawn to the magic that is Zentangle after seeing posts by my artist friends on Instagram. I was just amazed by the calming and mesmerizing effect their doodles had on me. After a few months and seeing their more recent work, I decided to look up what Zentangle is all about and the rest is history.

I am only at the crux of my obsession and while I am tangling daily, I am not sure that I will be able to sustain it so here’s hoping to keeping it up.

So let me share why I do it, how to do it, and why anyone who wants to try can also do it.

Why I do it.

The creators of Zentangle purported for it to be easy to learn, fun and relaxing.
Here’s how they define it on their website:

The Zentangle Method is an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns.Almost anyone can use it to create beautiful images. It increases focus and creativity, provides artistic satisfaction along with an increased sense of personal well being. The Zentangle Method is enjoyed all over this world across a wide range of skills, interests and ages.We believe that life is an art form and that our Zentangle Method is an elegant metaphor for deliberate artistry in life.We invite you to explore our web site and learn more about this wonderful and uplifting method and art form.

E for Elon, my first publicly shared Zentangle inspired Art

So essentially, the reasons mentioned above are the reasons behind my interest but also so much more. I like seeing the finished product and doing it for people I love. The first one I ever did was the letter E for my son Elon, then another for my first born Nikolai, then requests started to come from Facebook friends. Albeit, I’ve only done four letters at this stage, but I am to continue and complete the rest of the alphabet. 🙂

How to do it

You basically need black fineliner pens, paper, and pencil.

If you are going to strictly abide by the Zentangle method, there are no rulers or erasers allowed. However, I do go out of the Zentangle mode a lot so I do use more than the basics.

I call this David Mandala. 🙂

I also follow the patterns from this site which gives you the best directory of official patterns and step-by-step tutorials.

Why you should do it

Because you’ve read this far and for all the reasons stated above. It’s a great way to while away the time and doesn’t need gadgets or wifi. 🙂 So go grab a pen and start drawing.

I, Elon

You are built by a grand design
to have eyes filled with kindness
Like the mechanical gears
that control a machine’s movements
or the sound one hears
at the opening of a chamber
Your mouth is programmed to smile
at your caretaker
But there is no automation
in the daily mothering I perform
Nor motorization involved
in the momentary pause
my heart makes
at the thought of your neck’s weakness
against my unsteady hands
You move, creak, and cry
And I fly, speak, and try
to soothe your soft eyes
begged by a definite Jacobian determinant
And though maternal instincts
may wrap themselves around me
at nights when I my eyelids refuse to flex
this dexterity is a byproduct
of a more abstract notion
that cannot be defined
by the hands of science.

Poems for Daddy’s 70th birthday

1.

I lost my voice, Daddy

The surgeon took it with him

when he took your toes away

These words have escaped the space

where they used to be

I don’t feel capable of giving life to them

across the oceans

And like the pain that you must feel

The inspiration to create

remains a phantom.

Still, I reached out and grappled for

whatever is left

and in the spot I found

Memories of you

With all my courage,

I took a pen and sat down

And here we are.

Happy birthday.

 

2.

Many decades ago

we shared a meal

Just the two of us

sitting in our small dining table

You took two fish

and plated them before us

My bewildered voice asked you

“Is this whole thing mine?”

Of course, you retorted.

And there I saw your generosity

and the disparity between

Mom’s kitchen rules

and yours.

 

3.

I was ten years young

in the sweltering heat

you finally took me

fishing

after my relentless begging

“I’ll be good.”

“Promise you won’t annoy me?”

“Promise not to ask to go home right away?”

“Promise you’ll wait till I’m done?”

Yes, Daddy.

But fifteen minutes into it,

you must have felt my gnawing fear

of the deep water beneath our

rocking boat,

and decided to paddle back.

I kept my promise to be quiet

But you kept a promise

that you didn’t have to make

or even say out loud.

You just did the right thing

and be a father.

 

4.

“Take care of my child.”

These words fall out of your lips

and landed on the groom’s ears.

Your visible tears give away

how much you love me.

Today, I am a bride.

Today, I am happy to witness

you crying

tears of worry

tears of happiness

tears of resignation

But in this moment,

and forever,

I am your child.

 

Romeo + Flora, 44 years and counting

Forty-four years ago, a love that had a certain form of certainty saw two young souls tying the knot. Amidst a hundred pairs of eyes, they, who only had eyes for each other, stood at the altar with hearts passionately and nervously beating out of their chests. His black hair matched his suit, handpicked for this special event. Her gown and headdress embarrassed Cleopatra’s. As he took her by his arm, he promised her the world and she her love and devotion, till death do they part. They didn’t know it then but their union would bring forth a handsome brood of three who would later produce gorgeous children themselves (ahem). After that holy hour, there have been were 385,440 more hours to this very day. They still have eyes only for each other. They’re still together. And they will forever be.

Happy anniversary, Mommy Flora Javier​ and Daddy! We love you! 

Wardrobe

While sorting two big buckets of clothes from four to five years ago, I realize how much my taste has changed. Much of it has colours of pink, purple, teal and blue as well as patterns that tiptoe between loud and subtle. Florals, stripes, even bears. I grabbed a few dresses and tops (that may or not fit me, shhh.. that’s beside the point) and hang them in my wardrobe next to my recent purchases, which are a boring sea of greys, blacks and whites.

It’s as if I was seeing my past self meet my present self. And I’m still unsure what to call this feeling, but it’s an…interesting one to say the least.

Every piece of clothing I have ever owned has a memory attached to it. Some detailed, some vague, but memories regardless. For example, this halter swing dress took me back to my prenuptial photoshoot in the hills of Tagaytay (Philippines) and to feeling nervous and excited about getting married a few days from that point. I remember feeling stressed under the burden of planning my own wedding partly because I was such a frugal control freak. 🙂 My present self would have advised my old self to just take it easy because in the bigger scheme of things, details don’t ultimately matter .

I kept various piles today. One for donation. Another for the bins. Yet another for clothes that fit me now, and another one for clothes that don’t fit me now but are too good to throw away or donate. I am not ready to part with them just yet.

The prospect of wearing old clothes that fit me five years ago is my takeaway from today’s activity. It may be futile, but I’m going to die trying. And if I fail, what’s the worst that can happen? Resorting them will be another trip down memory lane and a welcome one at that.