If you read my post on An International Pregnancy, you'll know that I'd been riding the pregnancy roller coaster this year. I'm delighted to say that I've now come out the other side. After a difficult pregnancy beset by hyperemesis gravidarum (extreme sickness) I am now the proud mother of a beautiful four week old baby girl.
It's funny, becoming a mum for the second time - on the one hand so many things are easier: You breezily deal with those fiddly bits on nappies, don't panic at the words 'infant acne' and (to some degree, anyway) appreciate that sleepless nights really won't last forever. On the other hand, baby number two is still an entity unto him/herself and I'm afraid this one didn't come equipped with a manual either.
Mister Three was born in the UK. I'm no more British than you, dear reader, are a fish, but culturally speaking, the gap to bridge in the UK was somewhat smaller. That said, I'm loving being a new mum here in Malaysia. Here are some of my reflections on the process, from antenatal to postnatal...
|Brand new siblings|
We registered with an obstetrician at Gleneagles Hospital on the advice of several friends. We found the level of medical care to be excellent. I spent nine days of my pregnancy as an inpatient, staring at a surreal modernist painting on the wall while throwing up countless times each day. The staff worked tirelessly (and with welcome good humour) to find a solution to help me control the problem. We were lucky enough to be able to use a private service, but I'd be interested to hear from other mums about their experiences of using public hospitals too.
I must admit the pregnancy experience was a lot more 'medical' for us this time around. This was undoubtedly due in part to the severity of my hyperemesis (there's potential for a VERY long post on that one day, when I can bear to relive the experience) but also perhaps because of the vast volume of information we received. A straightforward UK NHS pregnancy typically involves two scans, a number of midwife visits and no consultations with an obstetrician. Our private patient experience in Malaysia meant more scans, detailed growth forecasts and routine visits with our obstetrician. For some it might feel overwhelming, but if you are like me and of the 'you can never have too much information' mindset you'll probably find it very reassuring. And if you like talking about yourself, you'll love it...
Both my labours were precipitate (fast!) and Little Miss arrived in record speed with an active labour of just 34 minutes. The experience was incredibly intense and shocking (just ask my husband, who looked remarkably pale for an Indian man), but handled with aplomb by the excellent midwives and our obstetrician. Again, it was a considerably more 'medical' experience. In my UK labour I planned to give birth in a birthing centre in a birthing pool (the reality was that I gave birth in the hallway just as the midwives had begun to fill up the tub). That wasn't an option here and I ended up giving birth on a bed on a labour ward. That said, our obstetrician was very supportive of my interest in hypnobirthing (if only I'd had time to use it!) and reminded me to use my yoga breathing techniques when she needed me to slow things down.
There seems to be less of a feeling that healthy mums and bubs should be turned around at breakneck speed and I thoroughly appreciated our overnight stay at the hospital in contrast to our six hour check out in the UK. We found that the staff took on considerably more of the baby's care than we had expected. In fact, if baby dirtied a nappy, we just had to press a button and a midwife would pop in to change it for us. But I must admit we were both a bit miffed when we were told 'Mothers only' in the nursery when they bathed our Little Miss. Still, no one kicked up a fuss when my husband decided to pretend he hadn't heard them.
The hospital recommended that we use Jenlia Maternity Services after I was discharged and I'm so glad we went with this tip. Unfortunately it's not free, but we felt the cost was worth the peace of mind of having routine visits at home to weigh baby, help with breastfeeding and any other concerns.
Out and about with a newborn
My lovely midwife offered me the following words of wisdom about making public appearances with a newborn in Malaysia: 'People will tell you not to take a newborn baby out. It's not done here. But medically speaking there is absolutely no reason not to leave the house.' Welcome words to a fidgety mum.
I've breastfed in public a few times now. I was apprehensive at first. But it's not as if you have to go for full-frontal nudity when feeding; with the aid of a brilliant feeding cover I've had no issues at all. I'd be keen to hear of other mothers' experiences though.
One more observation on taking baby out in public is the obsession with what baby wears. I don't think this is in any way unique to Malaysia. I can remember flying from Dubai with Mister Three at four months and being told by the woman next to me that I absolutely must put a hat on his sweaty, clammy little head as it was clear he was 'far too cold'. Why is it that the warmer the climate, the more people seem to think that babies should be rugged up in numerous layers?
The last comment I'll make today is a word of warning about planning your moves. I've been priding myself on getting out and about more on four wheels lately. So it was with a degree of smugness that I single-handedly got Mister Three and Little Miss to KLCC the other day. Inwardly glowing at what a super mum I was, I planned my departure at 4.15 before KL's notorious rush hour set in, dozily took the wrong exit, and began a hideous series of circuits around central KL as I battled with our GPS. Eventually, having taken a scenic route through the city centre several times we ended up on one of KL's most congested roads in, you guessed it, rush hour. I can assure you that the one hour we spent sitting in the traffic with a hungry baby and a bored three-year-old was not pretty. Lesson learnt. I've no doubt there will be plenty more things to learn over the coming months.
[Author's note: This post was written in three minute increments between feeds, nappy changes, burping, rocking and singing out-of-tune lullabies. Any typos are solely attributed to sleep deprivation.]