Saturday, July 19, 2014

They don't drink water

My family in Malaysia emphasis a lot in drinking water. Since the weather is hot and humid there, we need to make sure we drink enough to keep ourselves hydrated. By drinking water I mean pure lukewarm water, not soda or fruit juices. Kids bring their own bottle to school. Some adults have a bottle in the car. The water has to be boiled or filtered before drinking though.

Things are very different in France. I know of some people who do not drink pure water. They drink coffees, tea, soft drinks, juices or wines. And they insist that these are sufficient. Some also think that lukewarm water is not healthy for the body, so they drink cold water.

I didn't know that we could get by water. In my city we could drink water directly from the tap, so it is easy and convenient. In cities where it is not advisable to drink directly from the tap, people buy mineral water, they are quite cheap in general.

Here is a bottle of water provided by the maternity ward, targeting at new mother. I got one everyday (1.5L).

Thursday, July 10, 2014

She will be retired at 42 in France, and us?

One day a friend told me that one of her acquaintances will be retired next year, when she turns 42 years old. I was like, how is it possible? She is only several years older than me, but she will be retiring next year, whereas for me in 30 years?

Well, retirement is a sensitive topic in France, so my friend is not going to ask this person how does she manage to get off so early, but instead we analyse the situation and come out with three facts that would entitle her to early retirement:

1. Working in one of the x-government control companies (eg SNCF, France Telecom, EDF, La Poste...). These companies used to own by the government and since then have been privatized, but the government still own important shares and controls in them. They have one common point : good benefits for their employees such as earlier retirement than other public and private companies.

2. She has three kids. During my MIL's time, each kid entitles the women to get off 2 years earlier for retirement. So having three kids entitles her to get off 6 years earlier, and the fact that she works with x-government own company may amplifier this entitlement.

3. She used to work in the nuclear industry. Since it is considered as high risk industry, each trimester she worked may account for more, for example 1 trimester = 1 year.

We don't know if our analysis are close to the reality, but just to point out that retirement is not always a fair game in France. It really depends on which company, which industry and which benefit package you are enjoying. I once read a Brit's blog, he started working in France in his 40s, so he said by the time he retires, he would be working for 20++ years in France, and the fact that he needs to work 40++ years to get full retirement, he will eventually get nothing. Yes, the more working trimesters you owe, the more percentage your pension gets deducted.

The national motto of France is Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood. Sometimes I wonder which equality are we talking about. Equality for the poor? The rich? Or just for certain group of people?

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Crow's beak 乌鸦嘴

I'm usually not superstitious but there is one thing I do believe is the existence of crow's beak in Chinese culture, equivalent to jinx in English.

Crow's beak, or  乌鸦嘴 in Mandarin refers to someone who says something bad and that bad thing would happen, or in my case, someone who says nice thing about something, but thing turns out bad.

I remember my mother told me a scene when my sister was born. She was a crying baby, she cried so much that everyone was so tired of her cries. One day, unexpectedly, she was quiet and just played peacefully in her sarong cradle. Someone came and commented : "Look at her, she doesn't cry today, she is such a nice girl!" And that ended the peaceful moment. She was even crankier than before.

I have told hubby many times about this superstitious. Of course he doesn't believe it. He continues to make comment about how nice Aelig behaves or how nice things turn out. I usually keep my mouth shut. Sometimes things turned out bad but sometimes not.

The first few days when Awena was in the maternity ward, he made those kind of comments again.
"Look, she sleeps the whole day! She is a lot easier than Aelig!"
"See, she is sleeping again!"
"Ah, we hardly hear her!" Then he proceeded to pick up the baby as when he was there she was sleeping most of the time.

I sealed my lips and didn't want to response. It sounded stupid, but if you had baby like Aelig, you would wish to not repeat the same sleeping drama for your second kid.

So how does Awena turn out?
Starting from the second or third night she was a crying baby.
The first night she was home, she slept in our room. Husband's reply the second morning after my question of how was your night : hell.
Yes, she has set up her own rule : no nipple = no sleeping at night. The second day she was home I thought about giving up breastfeeding.
Sometimes I just let her cry after making sure that she is fed, her diaper is clean, she burped. She could cry from her hung for a good 30 minutes.

So, don't blame me if I don't praise your kids or just shut up when you ask me how my kids behave. I would prefer to look stupid than extending the sleeping deprived phase.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Her first school kermesse

Last year, we were in Malaysia when the school's annual Kermesse was held. Kermesse is a yearly fun raising event which involves students performing on the stage and some stands to provide food and games to kids and parents. Hubby reiterated that Kermesse is an event that every kid loves and he has such a good memories on them from his childhood. So basically, missing it is a big no no.

Kids from every grade had had training since March with a dancing teacher. Aelig looked forward to Monday when they had their weekly rehearsal. 

This year they dressed as little cat. Photo shows Aelig and her playmate. She was showing her playmate where hubby was standing.

She really likes this boy. They are in the same group so they sit around the same table every school day. They kiss on the mouth every morning they meet. She mentions him a million time at home.

Since Kermesse is a fund raising event, the school sold us coupon, which we were happily sold to her grandparents. We then used the coupon to buy foods and drinks and entrance to games (sponsored by parents & stands handled by volunteers). Photo shows both grandparents were busy taking photos of Aelig.

It could have been a real fun event but it was raining throughout the whole afternoon. Some dancing involved sitting and rolling on the stage, so students had to alter some dances to prevent themselves from getting wet or falling down. It was also the first public outing for Awena to crowded place, the whole time being tied to a scalf against hubby's chest.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Challenges during my second pregnancy

I didn't announce my second pregnancy publicly because it was a more complicated one, with some challenges along the way.

Getting pregnant:
We know we would like to have another kid. I went to see my doctor to get ready for my second pregnancy. I had to first take some medicine to regularize my menstrual cycle. At one point, I was blocked mentally as I was afraid that by having second kid we would neglect Aelig. She couldn't stand me holding a baby, so I knew she was not ready. And then I was transferred back to my city, I told myself that it was not a good time to get pregnant since I only got into the team. By the time I was ready job wise, Aelig gave us green light for a brother or a sister. I thought we could finally go on full speed but once again it was put off since my doctor insisted that I got vaccinated against chicken pox before hand. That took 4 months. Then I was diagnosed with cervix polyps which led to long menstrual bleeding. An operation was scheduled but I got pregnant right before it. Basically, we tried on and off during two years.  I still remember having those low moments in the toilets after taking pregnancy test with negative results shown.

First trimester:
The day I got the double stripes on the pregnancy kit, I couldn't believe it. Each month before taking the test, I thought the moment would come, but when it did come, my feelings went numb. I put the kit on hubby's desk, when he saw it, he asked me what was it. We concluded that we shouldn't be too happy about it until the first ultrasound.

So we held on to the joy, but still feel obligated to inform our family.

Photo shows hubby teaching his parents what does "a bun in the oven" mean in English. He put a bun in the oven, everyone gathered in the kitchen, then his parents checked online the meaning. They were thrilled of course.

During the first ultrasound in December 2013 (13 weeks), we finally met the baby. It looked real this time. So did the monthly urine and blood test and all that jazz as I was not immunized against Toxoplasmosis. By the way, testing for Toxoplasmosis was mandatory in France, but not in Malaysia as Malaysians do not eat as much raw foods as French. We informed some friends but I still feel unease. I was very confident on my first pregnancy but not this one. I felt that I could lose it anytime. The nausea was less severe though.

Then I got challenged by the gestational diabetes. Me? Diabetes? I was in shock as I'm not someone with sweet tooth. If you let me choose between a fruit and a cake, I would choose fruit anytime. Mentally, I couldn't accept that I have diabetes. I had to prick myself 6 times per day to check my glucose level, during Christmas. That continued for a week, my glucose level was too high after some meals, so the dietitian asked me to continue for another week. I was in tears. The pricking eventually lasted throughout the whole pregnancy.

My glucose monitor kit.

Second trimester:
Moving into the second trimester, my diabetes was under control with some adjustments to my diet. No more sushi and raw food to prevent having Toxoplasmosis virus.

But then we got hit by another challenge: baby's gallbladder (vésicule biliaire) was not visible during the second ultrasound (22 weeks). One week later I went back for another ultrasound and it was still not visible. At that point, we got panic as we didn't know what it really meant for someone to not have gallbladder. My OB instructed us to perform a blood test to analyse if me and hubby carry genetically disorder of cystic fibrosis (mucoviscidose). Kids with this disease do not live long. I spent hours searching on internet about it. Two weeks later we got the result : both were negative. The sonologist told us not to worry, it happened to some babies that gallbladder not visible during pre-natal ultrasound but visible during post-natal ultrasound. My OB also consoled us that some people got their gallbladder removed and they live without problem.

Third trimester:
Gallbladder still not visible during the last ultrasound (32 weeks).
Gestational diabetes lost control. My body couldn't even digest the French baguette (contains gluten). I called my dietitian to know if I have to go through induction as my OB stated that it would be too dangerous for the baby to stay in. We decided to observe for another week, I only ate food that I could digest well. The glucose level was back to under control, we voted against induction, but the baby popped out earlier than the due date anyway. Sleeping wise, it was difficult to sleep with the huge stomach, and I was snoring like hell.

Pre-natal maternity leaves:
In France, for the second kid,  it is recommended to take 6 weeks of pre-natal maternity leaves before the baby arrives. It is possible to push it to 3 weeks before birth and add the 3 weeks pre-natal to the 10 weeks post-natal leaves. I opted for this, but job wise my boss had pushed me to transfer all my tasks to my coworkers. His concern being that I would leave earlier due to unforeseen circumstances. So starting from April, I was on support mode so I got bored. My OB has wanted me to stop working as she sensed that I was tired (I was not and I loved my job). With the boredom at work, my OB suggestion that I could take off anytime, I decided to be on pre-natal maternity leaves 7 weeks before my due date (6 weeks of pre-natal + 4 days of pathology leaves). I have to say that I did enjoy those quiet moments.

Post-natal follow up:
Gallbladder ultrasound was performed after the baby is born. Yes, she has one, but relatively small.
I was afraid that my diabetes would affect the baby in anyway. The nurse took her sugar level 3 times before feeding (from her feet), then 24 hours, 36 hours and 48 hours (from her back palm) after she is born. For the last test, they took the blood sample for lab analysis, and everything went well. I was so glad to hear that my diabetes has no impact on my baby.

It was a tough pregnancy with many issues to worry about. We are glad that all those are over and the baby is healthy. That's the most important.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Speedy Delivery Process

I know second labor tend to be faster than the first one, but I thought it would still take two to three hours. Instead, we were at the hospital around 12:25 am, and the baby was born around 30 minutes later. Yeah, I didn't expect a speedy delivery process like this! Aelig was born after 15 hours of labor!

A week before the labor, my OB told me that I was already 2cm diluted, but she didn't know when the baby would arrive, she even prescribed me the regular urine test on 20th of June. So, I thought I still have time.

Friday night, I had my first contraction around 10:40 pm. I didn't pay much attention until I noticed that it was regular, like every six minutes. I told hubby, we decided to wait for one hour to make sure it was not a false alarm. I thought the contractions would ease away, just like what happened for my first pregnancy. But it persisted, by the time we left home, it was so painful that I had to stop walking.

We were in the car at 12 am sharp. We sent Aelig to a friend's house, then rush to the clinic. When I entered the delivery room, the contractions became so unbearable that I didn't even manage to take off my clothes. The midwife instructed me to go directly to the delivery bed, at that moment I sensed a splash of water leaked out. Oh, my water just broke! The midwife quickly checked on me and announced that I was fully dilated at 10 cm, so no time for epidural. Oh no, I was hoping to have epidural right away to ease the pain.

I was on panic mood. I never expected that I have to deliver without epidural. The midwife told me that the harder I push, the quicker the pain will be over. She asked me to push right away while she was preparing for the delivery. At that point, I can really feel the contractions, there were so much pain that I felt I can't handle it. The delivery team consisted of the midwife, a doctor and a nurse. They urged me to start pushing right away. They repeated several times that I'm the only one that could make the suffering stops as they can't help me. I tried hard but it was not enough. I couldn't concentrate, my body was fighting the pain, instead of using it. I had several successful pushes but each time I stopped to take my breath but the team kept asking me to continue. I told hubby I can't do it and I was screaming out of my lung. I even asked him to help me. The doctor was tough on me, he asked me to cooperate seriously as there was no kidding anymore. I did try but I think I failed. I had not enough breath for continue pushes.

After 25 minutes of pushing, the doctor decided to use a spatula to guide the baby out. He did that because the baby's heart beat was deteriorating. I thought I could relax when the baby was out, but the whole sewing process was killing me. It lasted forever and the midwife kept pressing my stomach. I had never had so much pain in my life. Because of my failure in pushing, my perineum was severely torn.

Every labor is different, now I know. I don't know if I would prefer the first delivery experience, but for sure I need a break.

Here the proud hubby presenting his daughter : Awena. She is in good health, I think that's the most important after all.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

His father's day gifts

Hubby received two father's day gifts this year.

Just like Mother's day, Aelig's school taught the class to prepare a craft work, and wrapped it with gift paper. She handed the craft and a poem to hubby on Friday after school. 

And God sent hubby his long awaited gift : his second daughter. Born on Saturday after a short labor. Hubby is really proud of his girls.