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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Baby Dreams

I don’t know if this is a sign but I had a dream last night. In my dream, I had already given birth and was leaning over a crib, changing Jellybean’s diaper. I was expertly changing the dirty nappy (even if I’ve never really changed one on my own – ever). But the interesting part was seeing Jellybean’s face and finding out that I have a gorgeous and totally sweet baby boy. Yup, it was clear as day, I had a baby boy. And right after that realization, I get sprayed with baby pee (from my gorgeous and totally sweet baby boy). That definitely woke me up from my dream! Anyway, I don’t know how much weight a mom-to-be’s dreams play on predicting a baby’s actual gender, but I’d like to think that maybe it’s a sign =)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Condolences

Last night, we received some sad news. My sister’s mother-in-law, Marcia, had passed away. Marcia was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and had been battling the disease for over two years. It was a very tough battle for her – going through the Whipple procedure (which removes the cancerous part of the pancreas) and undergoing bouts of chemotherapy. In the end, she finally found peace from the relentless cancer and died peacefully surrounded by her family. What makes this event even sadder for me, is the fact that this was the same disease that took my dad away from us. Ironically, my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a few weeks after Marcia. In fact, around that time, another very close family friend of ours (my Uncle Bobby) was also diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Uncle Bobby is still fighting the big fight. He also underwent the Whipple procedure (like Marcia and my dad) and also had numerous bouts of chemotherapy and other types of invasive treatments as well.

Two years ago, cancer (pancreatic or otherwise) was the farthest thing from my mind. Today, it has become such a part of our lives. There are days when I still cannot believe my dad is gone because of it. Sometimes I feel cheated thinking that at least Marcia and Uncle Bobby had two years to keep fighting the disease. My dad had just over 7 months till he was abruptly taken away from us. 7 months is an incredibly short amount of time and even if it felt like forever when we were waiting for results and waiting for dad to get better, in reality, it seems like my dad was gone just like that. Many times, I wish that since dad was diagnosed with cancer, at least he could have had the same amount of time others had (and much, much more) so we, as a family, could still take care of him, could still fight the cancer together, could still hope for a miracle. I would, in a heartbeat, take any additional time I could spend with my dad, even if he was very ill and we had to take care of him round-the-clock. But I know that is being selfish of me. I know that is not the kind of life my dad would want to have. He was always a practical man insisting he didn’t want to be attached to tubes and machines. He didn’t want to be a burden to anyone. That he would rather have a quality life than one purely based on quantity.

Everything happens for a reason. Once my mom and Marcia had a conversation about Marcia’s bouts with chemotherapy. And I remember Marcia distinctly telling my mom that maybe my dad was the lucky one whose battle with cancer ended sooner – and he no longer had to suffer as much. I had never thought of it that way. Of course, I don’t want my dad to suffer and even if it was so hard for me to let him go, in the end, the one thing that made it easier for me was knowing he was in a better place and that he was no longer going through any hardship. I still miss my dad every single day and I still think about him all the time, but in my heart, I know he is still with us in spirit and I do find consolation knowing that he is happy and at peace wherever he is. I wish the same for Marcia (that she is now at peace and no longer in pain) and I also pray that her family finds consolation in that fact.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

13th Week

Okay, I may have jumped the gun a bit last week. I was celebrating the end of my first trimester since I had officially reached 12 weeks. In my mind, 12 weeks equals 3 months, and if women are pregnant for 9 months then the first three months would equal the first trimester, right? Here’s where it gets weird. Even if women are pregnant for 9 months (which would be 36 weeks), it takes 40 weeks to carry a baby to full term. And so 40 weeks divided by 3 (trimesters) equals 13.3 weeks. So technically, I should only be celebrating the end of my first trimester this week (which is my 13th week). Does that make sense? Anyhoo, it’s all a moot point by this point anyway.

So, are there any noticeable changes now that I am in / entering my 2nd trimester? None that are extra significant really. My morning sickness is almost gone (except for a few very minor mishaps). My cravings are down to almost a minimum which is good and bad. Good, because I am no longer very particular or picky about food. But also bad, because I now like eating almost everything and anything (and have to consciously try to eat healthy and balanced meals). Which I can’t say always happens. My sleeping patterns are more normal too – gone are the days where I am a complete sleepyhead (sleeping more than 12 hours a day). These days, it seems 8 hours of sleep is my magic number. I still have to pee a lot which I am told will get worse as the pregnancy progresses. It’s a drag to have to get up sometimes 3-4 times a night to go pee. But it’s not so bad. On a more “personal level” (and those who don’t want too much information can stop reading till the end of this paragraph and can just pick up again in the next paragraph), my breasts are still super tender (it almost hurts when I put on a shirt because of the chafing – but I notice that moisturizing lotion helps. And my pooping is also now on a more regular basis (it was bordering on constipation a few weeks ago). (I did warn you that I would be sharing TMI – too much info!).

Another slight “change” is I’ve noticed that some of my pants and skirts have started to feel slightly more snug. At first, I thought, maybe I was just gaining weight (read the part again where I wrote about now wanting to eat anything and everything!). Plus we’ve just had so many occasions to eat out and entertain this month … it’s been crazy! But Jojo said he didn’t really notice the other parts of my body gaining weight – just the lower part of my belly (and my waist area) seem to be thickening. So I’ve consulted my hoard of baby books and the multitude of pregnancy websites I frequent and they do say that most pregnant women start to experience tummy “growth” towards the third, fourth or fifth month of pregnancy. So, this extra little bulge (not enough to show yet, but certainly enough for me to notice), is just Jellybean making his/her presence felt. How surreal that for the first time in my entire life, I am excited about this extra little bit of flab and the extra 2 pounds that have showed up on my scale this morning! =)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Genetic Counseling

Yesterday was Jojo’s and my initiation into the world of parenthood. We were at the Magella Medical Center for our genetic counseling session. Basically, all parents-to-be are encouraged to attend genetic counseling sessions. But if the mother-to-be is 35 years and older, it is required attendance by the State of California. So, at exactly 9:00 am, Jojo and I were sitting in the waiting room filling out loads of paperwork. About 20 minutes later, we were ushered into the office of Ira, our genetic counselor.

Basically, genetic counseling is where a certified geneticist goes over your family history (in every microscopic detail) and then discusses with you facts, statistics, and loads of information about possible genetic diseases and deformities your baby may be born with. No matter how nice the office is and no matter how genuinely warm our counselor is, there is no sugar-coating some pretty gruesome facts. There are so many possible problems a baby can be born with – Down Syndrome, Muscle Atrophy, Autism, etc, etc. Each one (and there was a lot) was explained in painstaking detail as well as the stats (like how likely, percent-wise, it could happen to us based on our race, family history and age). Throughout most of the session, I was sitting there shell-shocked and imagining the worst.

Ira then discussed the possible tests in order to determine if our baby could have these defects. The basic tests include an ultrasound to measure the baby’s neck size and a couple of blood tests to see if Jojo and I are carriers of certain chromosomes. After that, there are other more invasive tests (that are pretty scary to consider). Also, all of which run the risk of possibly miscarrying the baby. Of course that makes me even more paranoid! I was glad Jojo was there because he is always the rational one and he was the one who decided we would do the two basic tests first and if the tests appeared to be positive for any anomaly then we may consider the more invasive procedures.

Our next step was to go into the ultrasound room to measure Jellybean’s neck size. I was so nervous and praying so hard that the size would be normal. Jojo was seeing Jellybean for the first time and was just excited to see his baby on a giant t.v. screen. As the technician tried to get measurements, she was laughing because Jellybean was so extra active. He/She was dancing around and moving so much we could not get an accurate picture. It was like Jellybean knew we were watching and wanted to put on a good show for us! Normally an ultrasound takes 5-10 minutes, but I was lying there for close to half an hour while the technician tried to get a good shot of Jellybean’s head/neck. I had to lie on my back, shift to the left, then the right, then back again, trying to get Jellybean in position. All this time, I was so anxious to find out if Jellybean’s neck size was within the normal range. Finally, after several attempts (the technician even had to resort to lightly shaking my belly over and over again to move Jellybean around), we got the needed screenshot. Jellybean’s necksize was 1.9 mm. Anything below 3.0 mm is considered normal and above that indicates possible genetic defects. I cried tears of relief. Also, we found out the Jellybean is now exactly 3 inches long from the top of his/her head to the tips of his/her toes. No longer a “jellybean” more like a Gummi Worm =)

I had to get some blood tests done afterwards just to make sure I was not a carrier of certain chromosomes. The results come out in 7 – 10 days. Then Jojo needs to get his tests done. After that, we both need to be re-tested after 6 weeks. And another ultrasound when I am in my 6th month. All these not to mention my regular visits to my OB-GYN plus my regular lab work too. So many tests and procedures!

While the neck size is normal, the blood test results will give us an even clearer picture. So even if I am a little relieved after yesterday, I am still praying the test results come out negative. SIGH. Jojo and I are not even “parents” yet and already we are subjected to worrying and hoping for the best for little Jellybean. This just makes me appreciate everything my own parents have gone through for me!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Second Letter

My dear Jellybean,

Today is the end of my first trimester of pregnancy which makes it the official start of your fourth month. Happy 4th month to you! It’s strange how it seems like time just flew by and at the same time it seems to be dragging on so slowly. Sometimes I can’t believe that a third of my pregnancy is over and that in 6 months I’ll be meeting you in-person! And sometimes I feel it’s taking so long for you to get here and I am so anxious to have you with us already!

The first trimester was an adventure. What a ride! Let me tell you that your dad was incredible through it all. I honestly do not know how I could have gone through it without him. He was exceptionally supportive, understanding and caring. He really went above and beyond the call of duty. I am still amazed at his patience and thoughtfulness in dealing with a first-time, worry-wart, hormonally-crazed mother-to-be who was going through weird cravings, morning sickness and a perpetually cranky mood. God bless him! When you arrive, we must find a way to properly thank him =)

A few days ago I wrote a blog entry regarding how perfect the timing of your arrival is. It’s true. You are such a long-awaited and eagerly-anticipated baby but at the same time your “late” arrival allowed us to prepare for when you do arrive. Sometimes I do wish you had come just a little bit sooner. It would have been perfect if you had the chance to meet your guakong. He would have spoiled you rotten, I’m sure. I can just imagine how great a grandpa he would be (considering what an awesome father he was!). Thinking about how you two won’t meet made me sad, but Jojo reassured me that for sure you and my dad have already met and bonded in heaven. And that it is certain that you are coming with my dad’s blessing and a part of him is already with you. That made me immensely happy.

So your arrival really is perfect timing! Of course there are some things we have to put off now that you are coming. For starters, we were planning to go home to Manila in January for my best friend’s wedding. Then in February, we were suppose to join our friends on their honeymoon. Mid next year, we were planning a visit to some other friends in Vancouver. And late next year, we had a trip to New England planned with the family. Looks like those things are on hold for now. =) No regrets though, Bean, I know that there will be plenty of time for trips and travels when you are old enough. And thankfully our family and friends have been extra understanding.

Last week, I had a visit with Dr. Chen. It was a routine check-up and everything was going well. Dr. Chen asked me if I wanted to listen to your heartbeat and I said “Yes”. He hooked us up to a small, portable machine and tried to find your heartbeat. After a few minutes of just silence, he told me it would be better if I had another ultrasound as we could not hear anything. While I waited for the ultrasound machine to be set up in the next room, I cannot begin to describe to you how nervous I was. In my usual state of “panic-mode worrying”, I started imagining the worst as to why we could not hear your heartbeat. But as soon as Dr. Chen applied the gel and placed the ultrasound machine sensor on my belly, you appeared on the screen. It actually appeared that you were waving at us from the screen. I asked Dr. Chen why we could not hear your heartbeat and he calmly replied that sometimes babies like to play hide-and-seek and that sometimes mom’s belly-fat can also block the sound of a baby’s heartbeat from the machine. Haha! So it’s either you are a playful baby or I have some extra belly-fat (uhm, I think it’s probably a bit of both).

The last few days I’ve been window shopping for your nursery. I have so many ideas and so many things I want to get for you. We are waiting to know if you will be a baby boy or a baby girl though. I was thinking that if you are a boy I would decorate your nursery in light green and tan with a baby jungle animal theme (your dad prefers a blue room with stars, planets and spaceships). And if you are a baby girl, I thought pale yellow and baby pink with lots of bunnies and butterflies (your dad is non-committal as long as it is not “too pink”). We’ve also been coming up with a list of possible names for you. Your dad and I pretty much agree on a few favorites and have not really had to veto each other’s choices. Except one time, I had to put my foot down when your dad wanted your nickname to be “Goku” after a Dragonball-Z character (I think you will thank me for this later!).

Anyway, Bean, we are starting the next phase in our adventure. Second trimester, here we come! I just want to reassure you that we love you and can’t wait to finally meet you. See you in 6 months!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Life Lessons

Lessons I’ve learned (often the hard way) and hope to impart to Jellybean:

1.) Sometimes the things you count on and the people you thought would be there for you are the very things and people that let you down. It may be intentional or not, but it happens. But life goes on and you will always recover.
2.) There are times when life seems unfair and you feel the whole world is out to get you. There are days when nothing seems to be going your way. And even when it seems like you are at your lowest, the fact is , it does get better and there will come a time when you will realize that with every low point comes an equally good high point as well.
3.) There will be instances when things don’t make sense and we have so many unanswered questions. We feel lost and uncertain. We need to hang in there because in the end, things have a way of becoming clearer (and if not, then maybe we were never really meant to know in the first place).
4.) Sometimes we are faced with having to make difficult choices. When all the possibilities seem too good to be true (or too bad to have to consider). It leaves us sometimes so undecided that we lose out on opportunities. Sometimes we just need to think hard, go with our gut, and take a leap of faith.
5.) We will find ourselves having regrets over choices we’ve made or playing the “what if” game. The thing is life is all about moving on and regrets won’t do us any good. Everything happens for a reason (even the mistakes we’ve made in our life have happened to make us better, stronger and wiser).
6.) Heartache, disappointment, frustration and stress are horrible things to experience. But they can help make us stronger. If we choose to let them consume us, it could be our downfall. But we can always choose to make them work for us and help us become better persons.
7.) It is easy to focus on the negative and easy to get consumed by jealousy (always looking at what others have and what you yourself do not). But the key is to train yourself to be focus more on the positive and to realize your blessings and all the good in your own life.
8.) Sometimes the people who love us have to hurt us – and it’s really for our own good. Sometimes we have to hurt those we love – and it’s really for their own good. Loving and caring for someone is not always easy. But it is worth it in the end.
9.) There are instances where we have to make sacrifices in order to get what we want. Life is not always easy and we need to work hard to get the things we really, truly desire. It’s good to remember though that the best things in life are often worth the sacrifice and that good things come to those who wait.
10.) We always find ourselves worrying (it especially runs in our family!). Worrying about every little thing and making mountains out of molehills. One of the best things my mom ever told me is that “worrying is an insult to God” and that we should have faith and trust. We need to consciously let go of our worries because in the end worrying is a futile effort that does us no good.
11.) Treat others the way you want to be treated. It sounds so basic but often many of us need to be reminded.
12.) Don't be too quick to judge, don't say things in anger, and don't hold grudges. These are not easy to do and may be things that you need to work on all your life (I know, I am!). But the effort to become a better person is and should be a life-long endeavor anyway.

And most of all, LOVE YOURSELF (be comfortable being alone with yourself and being in your own skin). The only way to be truly happy and to let go of any insecurities is to realize that you are who you are and that you are the best you can be (anyone who disagrees or puts you down is one less person you need to have in your life anyway).

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Perfect Timing

Last night, I was having some difficulty falling asleep (probably because I took an almost 3-hour nap that afternoon and so I wasn’t that sleepy yet when bedtime came around). As I lay in bed, I thought about the timing of Jellybean’s arrival. Even though, Jojo and I have wanted to start a family for the last three and a half years, it seems that Jellybean’s arrival, although long anticipated, came at the exact right time.

Jojo and I got married on Dec 2004. The first two years of our marriage, we purposely did not try to conceive. Mainly it was because I wanted to make sure everything was settled before we started a family. I wanted to make sure our immigration papers were in order, that financially we would be prepared, and that we would have some time to spend together as a couple before welcoming a new addition to the family. Jojo was very supportive. I think in many ways he wanted to make sure we were both mentally, emotionally and financially stable too.

In 2006, we talked about starting a family but that same year, I also started a new job at a financial institution. It was a very good career move on my end as I was entering the corporate world, getting paid very well, and facing a lot of challenges that made me a stronger person both on a professional and personal level. The next two years we tried to get pregnant but I knew in my heart it probably would not happen given that we were both professionally stressed with work and busy climbing the corporate ladder.

In 2008, I decided to leave that high-paying but equally high-stress job and concentrate on family. Jojo again was extremely supportive. But that same year, my dad was diagnosed with cancer and it was without question that I would drop everything to be there for my dad. I spent a month here in the States, along with my mom and sister, taking care of my dad (driving him to doctor’s appointments, taking him to the hospital, going to the lab for tests, etc). After it was decided that he would receive treatment back in Manila, it was without hesitation and with my husband’s full support, that I flew home to be with my dad and family. I spent the next 7 months in Manila (most of it in the hospital watching over my dad and at home spending time with my mom and siblings). It was a very difficult time for all of us but I would not have traded being there for anything in the world. I was so glad to have the chance to be with my dad and to be there for him during the time he needed us.

In mid-2009, I flew back to the States and spent the next 5 months just taking it easy. Partly it was a time for me to mourn my dad and also for me to move on with my life. I tried looking for work but the timing was never right. It was great though to be able to recharge and relax. I did some part time work and volunteered with local non-profit groups. I also got the chance to work out and take care of myself. The end of 2009, we again flew home to Manila for a month to spend the holidays with family.

In early 2010, I finally found a job where I am happy, challenged (but not stressed) and where I find meaning and purpose in what I do. I’ve slowly settled into my new position and am content. Jojo, likewise, has found a challenging but rewarding career with a new company. It seemed everything is in order for us – financially, emotionally, mentally, physically and personally. Then without much ado, in mid 2010, we conceived Jellybean. This was done naturally, I am proud to say, without the aid of any artificial means.

Doesn’t that timeline make complete sense? Doesn’t the timing seem like things just fell into place? By coming at this time, Jellybean allowed Jojo and I the time to grow together as a couple; to prepare ourselves before starting a family, to have the opportunity to experience a corporate career, to go home and be there for my dad, and later for my mom too. Jellybean’s timing allowed me time to re-energize and find myself. It also allowed Jojo to mellow and be ready to be a dad. It may sometimes seem like Jellybean took his/her time in making his/her appearance (given that Jojo and I are now older and have been married almost 6 years) but at the end of the day, I think Jellybean is coming at the perfect time!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

From the mouth of kids ...

Yesterday we went to Liberty Park for a family picnic. We spent the afternoon eating, playing games, relaxing and just swapping stories. It was a really nice way to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon. During the picnic, I was trying to explain to my nieces and nephews that I was pregnant. They all knew they had a new cousin on the way and were all so excited to see Jellybean when she/he arrives. Of course the girls all wanted another baby girl and the boys all wanted another baby boy. Here are some of their comments that were just too darn cute ...

While I was drinking a cold glass of water, my 5-year old niece, Sydney, puts her hand on my glass and says "Slow down, Ninang Joanne, when you drink so fast like that, Jellybean is getting all wet in your tummy! My 4-year old niece, MJ, chimes in "Jellybean is getting a shower". Which made all the kids burst out laughing!

After lunch we took a walk with the kids, including my 9-year old nephew, Elroy, who was on his bike was pedaling extra slowly beside me. I told him to go on and pedal faster since I saw he was having difficulty balancing at such a slow pace. He turned to me and said "I don't want you to have to run after me cause Jellybean might get too dizzy bouncing around your tummy!". Isn't that sweet?

Sometime that afternoon, my sister-in-law had to change her daughter's diaper and there was a lot of good-natured teasing that soon Jojo and I would have to be on diaper duty too. My 8-year old niece, Meredith turned to me and said seriously "Don't worry, Ninang, I'll change Jellybean's diapers cause you used to do that for me". AWWW!

Later that day, the ice cream truck came our way and of course with 9 nieces and nephews, we had to stop for an ice cream break. I was slow in walking up to the truck but I heard my in-laws yelling to let the little kids go first (meaning my 2-year old niece, Dani). But my 7-year old niece, Maddie, took it literally and immediately ran to me to ask "what kind of ice cream would Jellybean like?" (since Jellybean is technically the youngest one of all).

Here's one more ... while I was cuddling with my 5-year old niece, Faye, she asks me, "Ninang Joanne, when Jellybean comes will you love Jellybean most of all?", And I said "Yes". Then she gets quiet and asks softly "When Jellybean comes will you still love us too?", and I just had to reassure her and say "Absolutely!".

Aren't kids the cutest and sweetest things ever???