Viewing: motherhood

Happy birthday, Mom

The two most important women in my life were born one after the other. Yesterday we celebrated Tala; today I celebrate my mom.

Mom and me in labor

One year ago, this was me in labor at home. My mom was right there, cradling my head in her lap and stroking my hair, being a mom at the moment I was about to become one. It wasn’t all beautiful and black-and-white; in the hospital I shouted “Don’t touch me!” at her when she tried to rearrange my legs on the bed.

But she was there all throughout my labor, swallowed her many anxieties and opinions (of which Marlon got an earful while I was knocked out on general anesthesia), and trusted me to do things my way at this pivotal moment in my life. Though she said she often felt useless, I didn’t need her to do anything except just be there. And she was.

After Marlon, she was the second person who got to hold Tala even before I did. I wouldn’t have chosen any differently.

Mom holding Tala at birth

The last year has made me understand my mom in a profound way. I wrote her a letter last Christmas saying, in about nine handwritten pages, something to that effect. Here’s an excerpt from that letter:

As a (new) parent, I am quickly learning that all parents are just doing the best we can with what we are given. You did spectacularly well with the situation life gave you. I don’t know how you did it, but I am so thankful that you did.

Looking at everything you did for Ate and me all by yourself, I don’t know if I could ever do the same. If Marlon and I are able to give Tala even half of what you were able to give Ate and me, I will be so happy and proud.

You and I may do the day-to-day things differently, but when it comes the big picture, you are my inspiration. Everything you have done for me shapes the way I am raising my daughter.

Happy birthday, Mom! I hope to always make you proud. I love you.

Tala’s first year in hairdos

My baby turns one year old this week, and there’s a storm of emotions brewing in me. I’ll write about all that later, when it’s a little quieter inside.

For now? To mark her first birthday, as my mom did with me, I’m planning to take Tala for her first haircut. And that makes me just want to write silly things about her hair.

1 Baby Mohawk by Melody Rae

Photo by Melody Rae.

At our 30-week ultrasound, the echographist made a most unusual pronouncement: “She has hair!”

“No, really?” I asked. “How can you tell?”

“See that fuzzy line on her head?” I squinted at the screen; indeed, there it was. “That’s hair.”

From the moment it popped up onscreen in that 30th week, it was clear that Tala’s hair would be a major presence in her life. Strangers, mostly mothers of bald Dutch babies, would stop in the street and exclaim over it, carpet fluff and snot would become entangled in it, and her mama—that’s me!—would spend many hours wrestling with her in many attempts to create cuteness out of the chaos. I’ve joked that Tala’s hair needs its own Instagram account, because it often seems to have a life of its own.

My daughter’s long black hair makes her unique. Someday, I’m going to have to explain why other girls are golden-haired and she isn’t, and tell her that even if she’s outnumbered by blondes, dark hair is beautiful too.

For now? I’m just going to have fun with it. As this post shows, that’s exactly what I’ve done in the first year of her life.

[Read more...]

Time, choices & goals: Lessons from 2013

The first week of 2014 sure went fast! I spent most of it hurting from jetlag, functioning on zombie mode and wanting to give my timezone-confused child away to complete strangers, which is why my first post of the year comes so late.

I wanted to post my personal goals for the year. Before I do, I realized that 2013—and becoming a mother—taught me a few useful things about myself, time and making choices. These lessons helped me formulate my goals in a way that I’ve never thought about before.

Have you set your goals for the year? Maybe my 2013 lessons will give you a couple of things to think about. It’s a long post, but I hope you’ll find something that resonates with you.

[Read more...]

Nine months!

This is a bit late, but… Tala turned nine months old in the Philippines. Yay! She’s now spent as much time in the great wide world as she did inside my womb.

Tala 9 Months Old

As you can see, I’ve been having fun with her hair. This is my favorite hairdo: the baby Bjork.

[Read more...]

Eight months!

Guess who’s eight months old?

Tala 8 Months

My little teether, that’s who!

Teeth soon

Tala’s top two front teeth are lurking under the surface, turning a little more white and a little less pink each day, adding “fffff” and “tttthhh” to her growing repertoire of babble. Those same two teeth are waking her up at night, crying until one of us pops a cold pacifier straight from the freezer into her waiting mouth. Or she’ll wake up at 6am ready to party.

Every morning, I gently nudge the corners of her mouth into a little smile (which never stays little!), hoping that today’s the day! But so far that day hasn’t come. Until they decide to show up, we have some tough nights and early mornings ahead of us. Hang in there, little teether.

[Read more...]

Six months!

Tala turned six months old yesterday. Half a year feels like a big deal!

Tala 6 Months

This picture doesn’t seem so different from her at four months, does it? Physically, she’s mostly the same except she’s longer now, and of course, has longer hair. I think most of the milk I produce goes directly to that hair.


Windblown in Greece

I don’t know many six month-old babies whose growth milestones involve hair. This month, Tala wore her first ponytail…

My first ponytail

…and her first pigtails. Tying baby hair is harder than you think—I clapped and hopped around like a giddy schoolgirl after successfully managing the tiniest, most adorable pair of pigtails ever.

My first pigtails

At the rate her hair is growing, I’d better start learning how to braid!

[Read more...]

Five months!

Tala is five months old. Yay!

Tala 5 Months

Can I confess that this has seemed like the longest month so far? It’s because Tala has gotten really active (as you can tell from the pic above)! I was spoiled in her newborn days when she slept like a champion, leaving me with long, blissful stretches of time to myself—to rest and recover from the birth, but also to get a lot of things done.

Now that I’m back to my old self (plus a few kilos), Tala has decreed that there will be no more of that. Our days are filled with long stretches of awake time… and she’s decided she likes active playtime! Sometimes she will be content to play by herself on a sheepskin or in the playpen. But it’s not long until she cries and demands something more physically engaging. Even when we’re out and she’s lying in the bassinet of her stroller, she gets impatient and demands to be carried upright.


Play! Play! Play!

Notorious walk-hater that I am, I’ve started taking her on long walks at least three times a week. I’ve also come up with a few funny games to get her moving and make her laugh. She giggles like mad when I pull up her arms and sniff her armpits—it must be the strange genetic Filipino obsession with armpits kicking in. It helps that the Filipino word for armpit sounds funny too. Kili-kili!

Tala kili-kili game

The kili-kili game. Sorry for the image quality, this is a screenshot from video.

As a mom, I think I’m fairly calm and easygoing. But this month, I’ve gotten to the point where things start to get confusing, and anxiety has crept into my life. Should she be sleeping through the night and am I doing something wrong because she isn’t? Is two bottles of formula a day too many? Should I start introducing solid food or wait until six months as per official advise from the World Health Organization? Is starting solids really the best thing for her or do I only want to do it to be free from breastfeeding?

Tala banana

Executive decision: food is only for playing, not for eating. For now.

Everyone will say “trust your mother’s instincts,” but it’s easier said than done. My motherly instincts need time to be shaped, tested and trusted. I’m sure I’m not the only new mom who looks around at other mothers and babies to see how they do things… which can get even more confusing. Let’s not even get started on all the information you can drown in on the Internet.

So many decisions and questions. And I know this is only the beginning!

Four months!

Tala is four months old today, and it’s been a big month.

Tala 4 Months

She outgrew her bassinet, so after returning from Berlin we had to assemble the next stage of the Stokke Sleepi crib. Since there isn’t any space in our bedroom for the crib, we had to move her into the nursery.

Confession: every time we discussed moving her out of our bedroom, I cried. I don’t know why! Tears would just well up and I couldn’t stop them. “She’ll just be in the next room,” Marlon said, trying to reassure me. “I know, but… but…” I blubbered irrationally. It was the kind of moment that makes you wonder “What has happened to me? Why am I like this?” Oh yeah, I became a mother.

[Read more...]

Tala’s first flight, my first giveaway!

A baby’s life is full of firsts, and my daughter’s first flight was one that I was both nervous and excited about. Tala and I joined Marlon on a five-day business trip to Berlin last week. I was thrilled to finally put that hard-won passport and return visa to good use. But you know what? Nobody even looked at her passport! That’s flying within the Schengen states for you.

First time flying with baby

Having flown once with an infant doesn’t make me an expert, but I learned a lot from this trip. Here are some of the things Marlon and I did that really, really worked for us.

1) Ease into it. Our travel history is full of crazy transfers and photo finishes, but you don’t want baby’s first trip to be The Amazing Race. Flying time to Berlin was just one hour, no transfers, making it an easy first flight. We also chose a 12 noon departure for ample time to do our morning routines (for three now!) without rushing.

2) Plan your mode of baby transport around your itinerary. I didn’t have the time to plot out a day-to-day itinerary as I used to, but I had a general idea of what I wanted to do in Berlin. I brought the stroller because I wanted to go shopping and be able to put Tala down somewhere while fitting clothes; a (borrowed) car seat instead of the bassinet because we planned a weekend drive out of town; and the Ergobaby carrier as backup for situations where I might not be able to use the stroller.

Traveling with car seat, stroller and baby carrier

3) Factor in lots of time. We were at Schiphol a little over two hours in advance, and it helped us go through the airport at a relaxed pace. There will always be a need for feeding, changing and minor disasters.

4) Know that you can’t anticipate everything, so be ready to roll with the punches. Pre-baby, I would’ve put on my Google ninja suit and researched what to expect from the airline and airports. Now, I just don’t have the time. I only knew in advance that KLM allows strollers to be checked in free of charge. Beyond that, we had to improvise.

For example, we were allowed to take the stroller all the way through Schiphol and check it in right before boarding the plane. But at Berlin Tegel, we had to dismantle it, wrap both parts in huge plastic bags, and drop them off at a separate bulky baggage terminal prior to security. This is where factoring in lots of pre-departure time makes a huge difference.

5) Nurse at takeoff. The only hiccup was that on our flight home, we were made to take Tala out of her nice, secure baby carrier—where she was sleeping peacefully—and sit her on my lap, facing forward, with an infant extension belt around her waist.

Wow, that was awful. Not only did she wail miserably throughout takeoff and landing, but those flimsy belts don’t stay on (not even for a minute!), and are even banned in the US and Canada! Why the EU still enforces their use is truly beyond me.

It was definitely better on the flight out, when I had Tala on the boob. She had wriggled out of the belt, but at least she was quiet and calm. I’m definitely doing that again next time.

6) Document the flight! Doing all of the above should help make flying with a baby easier, but documenting the flight will make it special.

Tala and the Captain

Marlon and I made sure to deplane last so that we could take Tala’s picture with the pilot, who was super nice and friendly. But that’s not all!

We documented Tala’s first trip with a fun and cool souvenir that I want to share. So here comes my very first blog giveaway!

[Read more...]

Three months!

Tala is three months old!

Tala 3 Months

She turned three months over the weekend, while we were in Germany, so I didn’t have my usual white onesie and star-print blanket with me. As you can see, I had to improvise with a hotel duvet and the nicest outfit in her vacation wardrobe. But I like it, she looks like a little lady here!

This past month, Tala has become much more active. She’s no longer content to stare at things… now she’s beginning to really go after them with her hands or feet. I bought her a couple of baby gyms (second-hand goodies, can’t live without them) to give her more things to do during her awake time. It’s fun to see her interact with them, and I can see that there’s more intention behind her movements these days.

Tala and her baby gym

She loves to look at her surroundings, and I love to see the curiosity in her eyes.

Tala and Rogue

Also this past month, summer finally arrived in Amsterdam. This was perfect for enjoying lovely lazy afternoons in Westerpark, hanging out with friends or just spending some mother-daughter time together. Tala can sleep for hours when we’re at the park—her record was a little over five hours. Five hours of uninterrupted me time, woohoo! They say never wake a sleeping baby, but I got a little freaked out and woke her anyway.

Tala at Westerpark-June

The most wonderful development of the past month has been laughter.

Happy with Daddy

It’s a little more like squealing, sometimes it’s almost soundless, but it expresses joy and excitement just the way laughter should. And when I hear it, I can’t help but laugh too.

Excited in Berlin

I think it’s safe to say that things have gotten a little easier. She feeds six times during the day (like me when I was pregnant!) and sleeps for longer stretches now. She’s able to self-soothe (not all the time, but often) by sticking her hands in her mouth, or even just staring at them before falling asleep. I managed to take care of her all by myself for three days while Marlon was away on business—without extra help from a babysitter, something I couldn’t do the first time he traveled for work. I even managed to go on my first girls’ night out!

And of course, this month also marks her first flight! But I’ll save that for another post… along with a few stories and snaps from Berlin.