An incomplete post…

I found this incomplete blogpost in my archives… never published. Written when Little Foot was about a year old.

Everyone around me knows, I didn’t want children.

As a Catholic,  it was a real struggle… from the time we went through Engaged Encounter, this question repeatedly haunted me. Soon after marriage that tiresome question of “when are you having a baby?” Would keep cropping up in conversations.  And then the horrified “whyyy? !!!!” would follow when I said no kids.  Rude/insensitive people would actually tell me in my face, “then you get married for what?”. Yet I was very clear I didn’t want to be a parent. I was happy to play with my niece and nephew and then return them to their parents when i was tired of playing. Why make life difficult?

Two years into the marriage, Pico, our dearest dog passed away… he was already a senior,  and we knew it was a matter of time… but not amount of prepping yourself every makes you quite ready to face death when it comes.

Devastated, I reflected a lot on our childless marriage. I thought about how if either of us were to leave this world,  the one left behind would have nothing real to hold on to the memory of the one who passed on. Photos were just photos…. I know how inadequate photos were.  I wanted to smell him, touch him, hear him… and I know if I died, I hoped my husband would be able to see glimpses of me still here on this earth.

And so I opened my heart and prayed. After 2 years of confessions over and over for being unable to keep the vows I made on my wedding day that I would welcome the children that God blesses me, I finally opened my heart and prayed. I still remember what I told Him. “Father, I am ready if You are”. I prayed after we had a false alarm when we started trying after our Switzerland trip.

And a month later, I tested positive. A simple prayer, yet so powerful to me… it was my reconciliation. And He breathed life into my prayer.

The transition from “no kids” to “ok, let’s have 1 child” was a long road of struggles. I could list down the reasons why I didn’t want children : it’s going to change my lifestyle, and i like my dates with husband on friday nights, traveling 3 times a year, drinking leisurely and meeting friends when I felt like it…weekend cafe hopping, why have a kid to make life so complicated? Furthermore, I always felt children were one of the most sure – lose investments. You pour love, time, money into your child. You get heartaches, and a kid that would grow up to be angsty teen who find you troublesome, naggy, old fashioned…..  (I was relating to the me in my youth).

Yet once the Little Foot started growing in my tummy, all these “rational” stuff that I used to believe in just became irrelevant.  I spent my pregnancy loving this baby… I sang to her at night, I talked to her unabashedly while I walked home each evening, I prayed a lot, and I let Him lead the way. No need to be afraid,  this is the child that God gave me. I started seeing life very differently. My footsteps slowed down and I started to be at peace with myself.
Giving birth to Little Foot, via emergency Caesarean, I thought I could deal with whatever came my way. Yet it was so trying at times, I do ask myself the rhetoric question of “who ask you to have a child?” on trying days.

Yet, when I see her smile, giggle, yawn, stretch her arms…. made O shape with her mouth, sleep soundly…. even her cries…all these stupid questions become irrelevant.

I surprised many people when I insisted on persevering with breastfeeding.  I further surprised many people when I decided to take time off work and be a stay-at-home mum until Little Foot was nearly 11 mths old.

I don’t have time to think about my old lifestyle…. on some occasions I think about how Friday nights were so chillax. And then I move on. The present was more important. There was always something to do.

 

Revisiting this train of thought, I am reminded of the very small Little Foot made such a big change in our lives, and the power of believing. When you threw caution to the wind, and leave things to the Almighty, a new door of happiness, hope, adventure and opportunity opens.

I am also reminded of how the little bubs has grown…. when was the last time I saw her made O shape with her little mouth?

Frankly, where was I heading with this post? I couldn’t quite recall.

Perhaps I wanted to write about how we were happy to be a one-child only family. No apologies, no shame.

Perhaps I wanted to reflect on how a death had opened an impossible door for me.

Who knows…

Today,  as work takes me away from my feisty toddler more and more, it does make me think of my days as a SAHM. I know Little Foot misses me a lot these days.  So do I. Such an irony, to work so that we could enjoy all the comforts that life can give, but what the little one really asks for is my time and affection.

What she would give to plaster to me 24/7.

So a year on, did this incomplete blog make any sense to the present me? Yes, still very much so. Parenthood is an irrational decision, and an investment that doesn’t make sense in all practical terms. However it is the priceless moments and memories build as a family that makes it worth its while.

All the things money can’t buy.

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My thoughts on that breastfeeding photo

Some friends asked me how I felt about the photo circulating around on social media, of a lady breastfeeding openly on the mrt train. And then her subsequent facebook post declaring that she was not affected by the photo going around AND standing firm that there is nothing wrong with it. 

Well, before I start, congratulations on making it to the news and raising awareness on breastfeeding. 

My personal views on this episode? 

First, as a breastfeeding mother, I  feel the difficulties. Many times over the last 2 years,  Little Foot wants milk at the most inappropriate moments. And she wasn’t going to guai guai keep quiet if I didn’t let her get to the tap. And nope, she wasn’t going to wait till we reach the next private spot. 
Sometime before her 1st birthday, she also started to protest about the nursing cover. So I would run. Literally carry her and run to find a nursing room or sit in the car (oh yes, the luxury of having the mobile space). So we will not be nursing in full view of others. 

Then I started to educate her. Logic + nagging. Because I got tired of the situation!

“Do you want other babies to drink milk milk?” …”do you want uncles to see mummy milk?” . She got the idea somewhere along the way. And so we reached a nice compromise. She goes into the carrier and she would say “cover cover!” and nurse. Only in the car or when we have a room of sorts can she nurse without restriction. Fair deal.
So that’s us.  

Second, we all have rights. Your rights don’t overshadow mine and vice versa. I feel that perhaps all parties need not be self-entitled/ overly self-righteous.
It was not right for the busybody person to take the photo and post it online. That person ought to be ashamed of him/herself for doing it. 

Yet I also wonder if it was a little much to demand that a cabin full of folks who are not used to such a sight be made to watch in discomfort or “just look away” as the lady puts it. Just because “#proudbreastfeedingmama #useplasticbagtocoveryourselfwhenyoueat#nowrong #mybabywillalwayscomefirst #breastservingdifferentpurposes #notjustsex“?

 (so many hashtags…#fierce)

No babies are the same. Some prefer bottles, some want to directly latch, some reject milk. Some are feisty, some are gentle. So are adults. No two persons comfort level are the same. 

Personally, I respect that breastfeeding may make others uncomfortable. I have been there. I respect Papa Long’s discomfort at letting other men view what he felt they weren’t entitled to. 

And I respect our community’s awkwardness at what they feel is too much while some mothers, especially those who champion breastfeeding, challenge that it is a natural thing to do.

I also understand that there are girls and women who haven’t gotten to my stage and will be uncomfortable at the sight. I remember declaring how I was “scarred for life” when I witnessed my elder sister expressed milk some 10 years ago. And I almost never got round to accepting that I will do it one day because that is a natural thing to do. 

Today, people are actually awkward when I mention that I am still breastfeeding. Some of the elders frown discreetly. Some tell me in my face “够了” (enough already). I take it in my stride. Imagine me getting all riled up, whipping out my boob and breastfeeding in front of them just to make a stand. A bit much isn’t it? 

As an early Gen Yer, I watch how people from Gen X and older complain about us and the millenials saying we have a false sense of entitlement. Perhaps they are not too far from the truth? 

The lady challenged naysayers to try eating and drinking under covers.likely adapted from  arguments of “if you wouldn’t eat your lunch in the toilet, don’t ask my baby to.”

Telling people this is common space. Not happy you look away also hint of that sense of self-entitlement. 

Well…. if it was me, perhaps I would have gotten off the train and searched for a quiet corner to nurse. Maybe on days when I have more resolve, I may have tried to promote delayed gratification (a necessary lifeskill that parents today are stuggling to help their children learn because of or “instant” society and indulgent ways, and which Papa Long nags me about) and told Little Foot to wait or she can cry till we reach our destination (woe betide the other commuters). I would definitely have first offered alternatives like milk bottle (is it still no milk bottle drinking policy on trains?) or tried other distraction techniques. 

Still, who am I to say or judge? Because her comfort levels, views on this subject, and circumstances are not the same as mine. 

So I will reserve my judgement on this. 

And I wish her well on her motherhood journey. 

Meantime, I prefer that people don’t make sweeping statements about breastfeeding mums. 

We are have something in common, but that’s almost as good as just saying we are all humans. 

What I write may rile us some in the breastfeeding, but well, it is my personal stance. No offence. 
Peace. Out. 

Little Foot noticed !

Got home unexpectedly early this evening. 

As I approached our unit, I called out “Baby, Babyyyyy!!!” as usual and was greeted with the ever-enthusiastic “Mameeeeee!!!!”

She gleefully informed me,  “I cut the cake!! You see? Birthday Cake!!” Referring to the toy birthday cake she was playing with. Then when I walked through the door she stunned me with the next question. 

Little Foot: “You change bag?” 

Me: *floored* ummm yes. I changed my bag. 

Little Foot: Why!!?

Me: because the other bag too small for my laptop. 

Little Foot: Why!!? 

Me: Because I have to bring laptop home.  This bag is bigger, the other one cannot fit the laptop. 

Little Foot: Mummy change bag? Yes!

And then she moved on to the next line of questioning (about my top and my pants).

The thing is…I have a lot of bags and I change them ever so often. Who would have known that my daughter would notice the mustard laptop bag was different from the Jujube bag I carried out? 

W.O.W. Still overwhelmed with amazement. 

Looks like she’s gonna grow up to be a bag addict like me. 

Tissue Paper Sellers

If you are living in Singapore and you commute daily by public transportation, the usual sight that would greet you each morning would be tissue paper sellers – old ladies or disabled people who stand at walkways, underpasses, at the exits of train stations and bus interchanges, holding out tissue packets.

This morning, I counted on my way to work, 1 old lady, 2 old men selling tissue. And the rather famous old man who plays the harmonica for your spare change. The blind couple who usually sits where I enter the MRT station were not at their position this morning. So my usual route to work would see me walk past six elder or disabled folks either selling tissue or busking for a living.

The heaviness of a Monday morning is made worse when you meet them. Not because I loathe them or they irk me. Because they present the existence of people who have been left behind by society, and have benefited little or nothing from this nation’s progress.

 

Over the last 10 years, Long had reminded me on occasions that if we (actually more me than him) are not careful with our money and savings, we could well end up there.

He said seeing the old people selling tissue papers, collecting empty cardboard boxes and empty cans for a pittance always affects him. He is right. it affects me too, but somehow it didn’t quite stop me whenever I feel like “rewarding myself”.

Over the years, as an adult, I have been very careless with my spending… I like pretty things. I get swayed easily when something is “in”, and I want it too.  I like a good cup of coffee. I like eating at hipster cafes and Japanese food. I forget to pause when Little Foot takes a mount of things in the toy store or grabs yet another Barney toy at NTUC and I would just pay for them without thinking. I forgot about the days when I had $50 left in my bank account when my pay was pathetic.

The presences of tissue paper sellers all over Singapore weigh heavily on me, and I’m sure on other Singaporeans too.

The sight of them –  some with resignation on their faces, some with a slight embarrassment on their faces, some just exhausted with life, some missing a limb – it tugs at something deep inside.

Fear.  That we could end up there (because I have squandered).

Embarrassment.  That I think twice each day, wondering to give or not to give (I usually give a $2 note and take 1 pack of tissue so as not to embarassed the seller). That I hold back when I walk past these poor folks each day, but I had not held back when there is a new Ju-Ju-Be range to be released, or when I walked into a boutique and buy myself a new pair of shoes or an expensive bag. Or when I carelessly cart and checkout pretty clothes and cute things for Little Foot.

Questions in my head.

How far can the money I hand out help them?  I wonder whether the Uncle or Aunty who gets the $2 from me occasionally has a good meal from it, or if the money goes to medicine, or pays for some necessities at home.

What did they use to do? Was life always so hard for them? Where are their children (or maybe they do not have any)?

 

And the biggest question of all — why is it that their presence are such a common sight in Singapore and yet, government bodies, volunteer welfare organisations and whoever should be doing something, are not able to do something for them.

Life is never fair we say. So cliche, but so true.

Nobody in his or her 70s or 80s deserve to be out there, exposed to the weather, swallowing their pride, and holding out a hand hoping that people who walk past will stop and buy a pack of tissue paper.

That’s not how anyone’s life story should end.

What will our old age be like? It really is a depressing and sobering thought.

It is the season to curb spending. Better late than never.

 

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