Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Three Months of Motherhood

I thought Nate would never come out - June 18, 2014

When I gave birth to Nathan, I received a lot of advice and words of experience from people who had gone through parenthood. As a new mom, although they mean well, I felt that it was a bit too much to receive advice on what to do and what not to do to my new born baby. Different thoughts and opinions were given here and there. And it was exhausting and overwhelming. It became irritating and annoying that I didn’t want to be disturbed for the next few weeks. One of the lessons I’ve learned is not to accept visitors on the first day. I think they will understand. 

The first month was a tough one as expected. Long before I got married, I want to breastfeed my baby. I even attended a breastfeeding talk twice. (I'm very thankful John's cousin invited me to go). But when the baby came out, I didn't know what to do. I was clueless about breastfeeding. I was worried and frantic about it. It came to a point that I shrugged off Nate's pediatrician's prescription to feed him every two hours. I did but I didn't feed him enough with my breast milk. Nate was admitted to the hospital 4 days after I gave birth when his blood tests showed that his bilirubin was high. My sisters who surprised me for a visit that day told me that Nate's color is yellow. I didn't notice because I was in our bedroom all the time. We're using yellow lighting and the sun is not enough to brighten up the atmosphere.

Nate went through a lot of blood tests, which means, he experienced a lot of needle pain. If I could count it correctly, they took around 8 blood tests of Nate just to be certain. Whenever the doctors requested me to sit down for awhile because I may not stand looking at Nate crying because of the needles, I said no, I'll stay. Aside from the needles, Nate has to go through photo-therapy. John and I thought that we're only staying for a day or two. We stayed at the hospital for 6 days. And the most stressful news that we've heard is that Nate might go through blood transfusion and John signed the papers already. But God answered our prayers. Nate didn't have to go through blood transfusion anymore.

We decided to give Nate formula as per doctor’s advice after we ran out of expressed breast milk. I was still breastfeeding Nate all the way through in addition to the formula. But with all the stress and also the "advice" I've mentioned earlier, I felt really exhausted that I wanted to go home.

Nate got better and we took care of him at home. But for some reason, we stopped giving him formula and breastfed Nate for 1 week before our doctor's visit. I know there was something wrong with Nate but I didn't tell John until the day of our visit. Doctor scolded us for not feeding him well. Nate didn't gain weight on his third week and asked why we are so resistant in giving him formula. I didn't answer but right at that moment, I wanted to blame my husband and most especially myself.

As the weeks went by, I was still struggling with my breast milk supply. I would nurse Nate and give formula afterwards 24/7. I was exhausted. Nate would nurse for an hour and still crying hungry. Until I told John that I will just nurse Nate during the day and give formula at night. I started pumping and reduced my time breastfeeding Nate. Today, I gave Nate my pumped milk and formula.

The usual question that people ask me is if I’m breastfeeding Nate. I said, Nate is mixed fed. One day, my husband and I decided to eat out for dinner at the Japanese restaurant with Nate. The woman beside us asked us that question. When she learned that Nate is not purely breastfed, she explained the benefits of the colostrum and started lecturing me that I should be drinking a lot of soup, etc, etc, etc. Right there and then, I wanted to tell her “Hey lady, my family and I went through a lot just to breastfeed our baby. Don’t you think we didn’t even try?” I would always remember what John told me whenever I get lectures from other people: “They don’t know what you know.” But then, I would still sulk because he doesn't understand how I feel. It happens all the time that people would start giving you unsolicited advice and lectures as if I know nothing at all. And it humbles me that I don’t know everything and it teaches me how to respond and react. And I’m still learning. 

With too much information, a mother could get confused. But today, I am happy with my decision. Whether Nate is breastfed or formula fed, I surrendered that God is the one who is in control of his health and life. Nate gained weight and he is happy and content. Aside from that, I have more time to take care of my husband and the house. Of course, breastfeeding is superior but it's not for everyone. Breastfeeding worked for others but it didn’t work for me. I may not have persevered as much as other people or I didn’t even sacrifice everything just for the health of Nate. But it doesn’t connote that I didn’t develop any relationship with him just because I didn’t continue breastfeeding. And it also doesn’t indicate that I love Nate any less because I didn't give him the best nourishment. I commend you if you’re a mom and you’re still breastfeeding. And thank you if you respect my decision. Whatever feeding you choose, whether breast feeding or formula feeding is up to you. I just did what is right for Nate and just sharing what I've experienced. My case is closed. 

The challenge doesn’t end there. This is just the beginning. There were moments that I was really tired of putting Nate to sleep at night and I questioned God, why did I ever have a baby. Let’s be honest here. Not all moments are “it’s all worth it moments”. I have down moments too. But I'll always remember that it is not by my own strength, but only through God’s power and grace. 

Feeding Nate on time and training him how to sleep on his own is also a decision John and I talked about. At first, I want to make all the sacrifices for Nate. Feed on demand and rock him every time he goes to sleep. I was tired all the time. I have to wake up John so he could help me put Nate to sleep when I couldn't control his crying anymore. But then, I thought, I have to make wise sacrifices also. And I’m not a martyr. I can’t sacrifice everything like my time and effort without taking care of myself. I have to sleep well too so I can take care of my family. And that’s why we’re sleep training Nate as early as possible. So far, for the past week, he slept through the night. Because he’s sleeping through the night, Nate wakes up happy while John and I are more rested. 

I decided not to work for while because I want to be there for Nate. I want to be intentional. One of our godfather from our wedding made a bold statement that I carried that baby for nine months; will you just leave him to a nanny the whole day while you work? Of course, it’s a personal decision. Not everyone can afford to stay at home. But not working at all is also a huge risk for us. But that’s also the reason why we’re praying for a home-based business for extra income. Whatever it is, I know that God will always be faithful. 

I’m learning a lot of things every day. I didn't enjoy motherhood at first. But as the days go by, it’s a bittersweet journey that brings you joy and contentment. We've only just begun and I know there are more challenges to come. But God gave us Nate to be his stewards and with God as our anchor, I know that everything’s going to be okay. 

Happy 3rd month Nate. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

On Juicing

J and I are experiencing colds at the same time. We woke up yesterday morning not feeling well and we’re worried that Baby Nate might get sick also. I haven’t been eating so healthy ever since I gave birth. I don’t eat that much junk food but I felt that I need to eat more fruits and vegetables. It’s not easy cooking for one but it’s not also easy cooking for other people who are carnivores. I’m not a vegan or a vegetarian but I always believe that there’s room for plant-based foods. I see and hear people go on a diet for the wrong reason and wrong motives. Whenever they eat a lot for the past few days, they would go on a diet the following week. It doesn't work that way. People do need health and nutrition education the practical way. In addition to that, I need to lose the excess pregnancy weight I gained for the past few months. I wonder if that's possible with the holidays coming. My clothes are a bit tight. It's either I shrink a bit or I need a whole new wardrobe. :)

When Heather, the community coordinator on behalf of Williams-Sonoma sent me questions about my juicing journey, I would love to share my struggles and victories.

J bought the juicer before we got married. We used it a few times a week but we’re not consistent with it. The thing about juicing is that it takes time to make it. It’s easier to drink it than to make it. But sometimes our bodies need a reboot just like our cars need a tune up. The juicer has been sitting in our countertop for quite awhile. It has been used once for the past two weeks and that it. Last Saturday, we visited a market near our place. Some produce are organic, some are not but it’s a good way to start juicing again.

When J finished the one week fast, he felt lighter. Obviously, that’s the end result. But he felt his skin smoother and cleaner after the juice fast. He told me once that he doesn’t want to eat heavy dinner again. He felt great after the juice fast. Aside from investing your time in making juice, you have to invest money on it. Juicing is not cheap. But I’m starting to incorporate juice into his diet slowly. It’s workable and negotiable.

Carrot, orange, ginger 

I noticed that the green juice that you make for J. Many hesitate over the color of a green juice. We'd love to know what made you try the ingredient combinations that you used? Do you look to other bloggers or magazines for inspiration, or do you create as you go? 

The combination of the juice that I’ve made was based on my experience. I used to drink juice while I was still living with my family and when my father was diagnosed with cancer, my cousin suggest 5 greens which is composed of green apple, celery, green bell pepper, bittergourd and cucumber . There are no measurements to follow but from a culinary perspective, when we combine ingredients, I make sure that the bitterness doesn’t overpower the sweetness and the sweetness doesn’t overpower the sourness. Although recipes are good to follow for different combinations of flavor, we have to follow our senses when it comes to the taste of the juice. John likes his juice a little bit sour because if the juice is just purely sweet, it becomes monotonous and boring. 

Recently, green juice has been the mainstream in health and nutrition because of the power of leafy greens such as kale and spinach. Again, I combine them with other ingredients with different flavor profile to make it interesting. I browse through other bloggers and websites for inspiration but in the end, I just create juices based on whatever is available in the market. It makes my life easier and simpler. I start with simple flavor combinations and build from there. 

Seems that green juices have become more popular. Do you think green juices are the best for someone who is doing a juice cleanse? What are a few benefits green juices have to offer over any other juices? 

Green apple, cucumber, celery, cilantro, ginger 

There are two questions that we need to ask ourselves before we do a juice cleanse? First, do I have the budget for it? Second, do I have the time to do the juice cleanse. Both require commitment. If the answer is yes to both then doing a juice cleanse would benefit one’s health and wellness. Juicing can be expensive for some people and it requires time to make it. Another factor to consider is why should I do the juice cleanse in the first place? There should be a good and valid reason for it. A reason like “because everyone is doing it” is not good enough.

Green juices are beneficial because of its high chlorophyll content which is cleansing and detoxifying for the body. A juice made of 70-80% vegetable and 20-30% fruit is a good ratio. It has a lot of healing properties coming from the vegetables and enough sweetness to the fruit. Although green juice is good for you, but if it doesn't taste good, then you won’t enjoy it. Adding some leafy greens are beneficial because they are alkaline which helps in the healing process.The nutrients are extracted and they're absorb quickly into your cells without the need for digestion. We need the fiber but sometimes our digestive system needs a rest. A green juice can help jump start your digestive system with a clean slate. Start slowly and enjoy the process.

There are many different types/brands of juicers, and each juicer will make your juice taste differently with the same ingredients. How did you decide which juicer best fits your tastes? 

Choosing a juicer is as difficult just like choosing a mobile phone. Sometimes you get frustrated that once you bought one already, they will release a new model after a year. Just like an iPhone. Back home in Manila, we used to have a juicer. My late father was into juicing but not purposely for health purposes. When J and I started going out, he mentioned that he wanted to do a juice fasting during our prayer and fasting week. But we didn’t have a juicer at that time. I considered different brands such as the Omega, the Matstone and the Hurom. My sister in law mentioned that when they juice fruits and vegetables using the Omega, the juice is still cold. But that juicer came from the States and it was a gift to them. Whatever juicer I would choose, I make sure that it is a slow juicer. I’ve used the Matstone before and it produces good result. But I chose the Hurom because I find it’s easier to use. But it’s a personal preference. Whatever is convenient for me might not be convenient for other people. I need to cut fruits and vegetables into smaller pieces but it wasn't a big issue for me.

I'm satisfied with the juicer but if there were more selections to choose from, I know I would have been more confused. I'm happy with it and I'm satisfied with the results. Juicing is a decision to make. It's either you do or you don't. It's either for health or for pleasure or both.

Happy Juicing!!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Quintessential Breakfast

How many of you are eating breakfast? If so, what do you eat? I rarely eat breakfast when I was in elementary and high school or even in college. Even if I did, I never seemed to enjoy it. But when my family and I do eat out for breakfast, that's the time I savored the moment. I still remember during holidays, J would wake up early in the morning to pick me up so we could have a long, slow breakfast that would lasts for hours. I appreciate it when mornings are slow and you get to take pleasure in the conversation with your loved ones without any gadgets on hand.

My usual breakfast in school (if there's kitchen operation) is omelette or overeasy eggs, toast bread with butter or rice,  type of processed meat, usually bacon and some fruit. Sometimes, with waffles with blueberry preserved, whipped cream and pancake syrup. When I'm hungry, I eat everything and even if i'm not that hungry, most of the time I end up feeling sleepy and lethargic. But I would eat the same thing over again the following day.

My breakfast at home is not like the one in school. I don't have the luxury of time to prepare that kind of meal everyday. We did have eggs, bacon, corned beef, pancakes, bread and rice but on different days. Sometimes, I would serve leftover food from dinner for breakfast. J wakes up early in the morning so he would usually have his hot chocolate and if there's fruit in the chiller, he would eat that too. If there's leftover granola, he would also indulge with it. I also love those nutritious and nourishing granola but I want to eat something different.

My cravings every morning are eclectic. Sometimes I don't know what to eat because I used to feel nauseous. So, I eat crackers. But there were mornings that I would eat something unhealthy like luncheon meat or bacon and fried rice and I would feel bad afterwards. There were days that I only eat in small portions like boiled egg with salt, bananas or just chicken broth.

I'm taking advantage of my slow mornings while I'm on leave from work. I felt my body responds differently these days so I'm taking it easy. I will reward myself with a breakfast platter consists of medium boiled egg, asparagus, some feta cheese (I actually prefer goat's cheese), olives, white beans in tomato sauce and crusty bread. Some prosciutto and smoked salmon would be nice too when I'm allowed to eat them already. And if there's avocado, the breakfast platter would have been perfect.

My Breakfast Platter
The idea for this breakfast is to assemble them on a plate. There's no exact amount for this recipe. I can always change it depending on my cravings but the asparagus, the egg and (a different type of) bread will always be there. It's a refreshing change from my usual breakfast.

I wonder what my next breakfast would be. But for now this is my quintessential breakfast. What's yours?