THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY: Aiden’s Birth Story

So in the last few posts, I’ve talked about how I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and the tools I have used to cope with it. Today, I want to share my birth story, mainly because it was so different from how I imagined it, thanks to my diagnosis.

If I hadn’t mentioned it before, one of the things that we had to do after I was put on insulin was to have weekly ultrasounds. The extra insulin in my body, even though it won’t be absorbed by the placenta, can speed up the growth of my baby. These ultrasounds measure how big my baby is, and if s/he does get too big, I would have to be induced.

Each ultrasound is breathtaking, even though after the second week it was more like routine. The question just hangs over my head: is our baby okay? And then on the fifth ultrasound, something came up. I’m almost out of fluid.

After confirming with my wonderful OB, we went straight to the hospital from the lab, where I was welcomed by the sweetest staff. Because I am to be induced, every single nurse was basically saying LOAD UP ON FOOD, EAT, but I was hesitant because I knew that pushing a kid out activates the same muscles as you would when you poop. Then one of them said it: inductions can last up to 48 hours. That’s 48 hours of no solid food.

I ate so much. I had a couple of sandwiches, a salad bowl, fruits plate, etc. By the time they started me on pitocin, I was ready. At least my mind was.

The resident popped my bag of waters, in hopes of triggering contractions, but the baby was comfy and was staying put. The nurses got to work and started my lines. One arm has two: pitocin and hydration. The other arm, two lines too: insulin and antibiotic. Soon, I had my epidural put in; they had to redo it coz I was still left with some feeling on my right leg. Then my catheter went in, and because baby was comfy, another catheter to my uterus was put in to supplement the lost fluid. I sincerely felt like I was in one of those pods from The Matrix.

The Matrix: Welcome to the Machine - The American Society of  Cinematographers
Scene from The Matrix/Source

Contractions didn’t start till 10pm, and it was pain. Pain was just everywhere, even with the epidural. After a couple of hours, we called in the anesthesiologist for an extra boost, so it wasn’t until midnight did I feel true relief. Hours passed, and soon enough, I started shaking all over. Think full body twerk kind of shake. Apparently it’s a side effect of the epidural. By 2:30 AM, I felt it: I was ready to push.

And push I did. My entire team was encouraging and supportive. I could not have asked for a better team to be with me at this time: my husband, my sister, my doctors, my nurses, all of them were stellar.

Then all of a sudden, after the crowning, the contractions completely stopped. We waited five minutes… then it became ten. I noticed that more people came in, and my doctor explained that because it’s been a while, she called in the NICU team along with the neonatologist. Surprisingly, I wasn’t scared. Seeing the entire team of say 12 people comforted me (even though each one of them is in full view of my vagina).

My sister and my nurses started massaging my ankles, because my OB suggested that accupressure has shown effects of inducing contractions. When she said nipple stimulation works best, I must have whipped out my tits so fast and my husband went to work. I remember my OB just being impressed with the lengths I am willing to expose myself just to get my baby out.

Soon enough, I felt another contraction, and I felt the baby come out. “It’s a boy!” my sister screamed. My husband’s resounding “YES!” followed soon after, and then two seconds of nothing from my doctors and nurses. They didn’t hold him up, they took him straight to be weighed and cleaned. Five seconds later, I heard him cry. Then the relief came. And then the joy.

Our First Family Photo, Aiden Lucas, 10 seconds old

I am still in disbelief that an entire year has passed since that day. There is more to my motherhood journey that I would like to share, all in due time. With a pandemic at the backdrop of civil unrest, a tumultuous election year, environmental challenges, and a sudden surge for internal dialogue, this year flew way too fast for my liking. I wish I can go back to last year and relive this day, no matter how difficult, so I can relive his entire year all over again.

Momma and Aiden

Hold your babies tight and often because they’re never small for that long. Don’t believe what they say, that doing so will spoil them early on. There’s no such thing. Carry them as much as they want, as long as you can, as long as they’ll let you. They’re only this small just this once. I’m glad my body is as tired as it is; I take it as a sign that I have carried him — and will continue to — as much as I can while he still lets me.

Happy first birthday, Aiden. I wrote this blog for your birthday. When you’re old enough, I’ll wake you at the time you were born so we can read this together. And we’ll do this every year, as long as you let me.

SELF-CARE: My Morning Skincare Routine

There’s something about starting the day caring for yourself that just feels right. I know to some that might sound vain, but in all honesty, if I don’t feel like myself, everyone and everything else around me do not get my best. And I’m not in the business of half-assing my day.

This is not a new thing for me to talk about. Since moving to NJ, I’ve been on the prowl for something that works. For some reason, my Philippine skincare routine didn’t work for me here. After some time, I have found that this combination has been working well! At least for the summer.

(And I mean for the summer because fall is around the corner and I’m pretty sure my skin would be like LET ME THROW YOU A WRENCH AND COMPLETELY CHANGE THINGS AROUND, so until then, I’ll go ahead and enjoy this for now.)

Side note: Some links below are affiliate links. I earn a small commission for each purchase made thru that link. It will not cost you any extra fees whatsoever. It’s just a little something to help me keep creating content for this site. No pressure to use these links, they’re just there for your convenience. Thank you.

My Morning Routine

First and foremost, I would like to give a special shoutout to Susan Yara, James Welsh and Lab Muffin Beauty Science (among others). Because of them, I’ve also learned to explore other resources (I’m looking at you, Paula’s Choice) and make a more educated decision for my routine.

Mornings for me are a bit of a rush ever since I gave birth. I’ve learned that mornings are focused on protection, even if I have been working from home for the longest time now.

Step 1: Water cleanse. Nothing else, just a splash of water. If I’m feeling extra clogged, I dampen a reusable cotton round with tepid water and swipe across the face gently.

Step 2: Rehydrate with Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner (Sokoglam, Amazon). I particularly love this toner because it’s just cool and slightly fat. A few drops on my palms, and I pat it on to my skin.

Step 3: A little pamper with Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate (Kiehl’s, Sephora, Nordstrom) as my Vitamin C and Naturium’s Niacinamide Serum 12% plus Zinc 2% (Naturium, Amazon). I’ve recently been enjoying this combination even though in the past I have avoided mixing the two. In the past, I’ve had a reaction BECAUSE I DIDN’T READ THE INSTRUCTIONS CORRECTLY (yes, I mixed The Ordinary’s niacinamide and Vitamin C in one routine, and yes, it destroyed my skin for a good two months). I’ve only upped my Vitamin C concentration after using Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin C drop for at least 6 months. Naturium is also a recent discovery and unlike The Ordinary, it has a much better texture and dries down with a slight dewy finish.

Heads up though: the Kiehl’s concentrate is a bit warm when applied and has fragrance. If you have reactive skin or sensitive skin (or both), it might be best to look for an alternative.

Step 4: Moisturize with The Ordinary’s Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA (Deciem, Sephora, Ulta). I love this product. When I feel extra dry, it’s easy to layer it on. Plus, it doesn’t just sit on top of my skin. My skin actually likes this formulation and just gobbles it up. It’s a good bang for my buck too!

Step 5: Protect with Missha Soft Finish Sun Milk SPF 50+ PA+++ (Missha, Amazon). This is probably my third favorite sunscreen because it doesn’t give a white cast on my face and dries down matte, so I look a little more collected than I actually am. It layers nicely with my moisturizer too.

So yeah, I know no one asked (LOL) but I’ve been giving myself a little extra love since getting pregnant and so far, it’s been paying off.

How about you? How do you kick off your morning?

RANDOM RAMBLE #1

Just a few things off the top of my head that I’ve been itching to unload. If the Pensieve was real, best believe I would have owned one.

***

#SendMoreMail2020 has been such a release for me. While it’s still my way of showing support for USPS and their exceptional service, I find that it has nothing to do with me being a wife, a mom, or an employee. It’s just something that I do for me and that realization brought so much light in my heart.

Don’t get me wrong; I do put a lot of thought in the postcards I mail out. I even started taking photos so I would know how to continue the “stories,” mostly for my nephews, nieces and friends’ kids. But it’s just nice to know that I’m doing something that’s attached to me being me.

You know what I mean.

***

Does anyone else have a pen obsession? Or is it just me? I am sooo in love with this Muji pen but I haven’t found it anywhere else but Amazon.

Welp, I spoke too soon. It is now out of stock and no news of a restock. Ugh. Why oh why didn’t I buy more of this!? It literally glides on paper. Which paper you ask? Well, any kind of paper, my friend! It makes everything better and now, I have to ration that last two pens remaining.

This is me hoping my cousin who currently works in Japan reads this post and looks for it in Muji stores there. Come on, Bal.

***

I saw a bunch of people complaining about the Vanity Fair cover featuring Breonna Taylor. Some were saying that it’s making her image a commodity, that the magazine is cashing in on her popularity.

There have also been tweets (I need to cleanup my timeline) berating sports for boycotting games last night in the wake of Jacob Blake’s shooting. People were saying they should “do their jobs” and not meddle with politics.

I don’t know, man. When you have the platform, isn’t it just right to raise awareness about causes that plague your nation —- nay, causes that are dear to your humanity? When they don’t say anything, people shame them for their silence. But when they express themselves in their language, people say “no, not like that.” I mean really shaking my head here.

What about you? What do you use your platform for?

***

Low key reminder that Colin Kapernick’s protests began four years ago.

Image from NPR.org

Not familiar with their names and stories? Here’s where you can find out more about them.

***

End ramble.

TALK TUESDAY: #SendMoreMail2020

I don’t think I have verbalized it enough on this blog, but I’ll say it right now, out loud: I absolutely love the USPS.

Coming from the Philippines where we don’t even have mailboxes for mail drop off, the USPS for me is a breath of fresh air. I would choose it over private mail carriers; they’re just far more affordable that I would’ve expected.

I first experienced the beauty of the USPS when I ordered a few of our wedding souvenirs from Etsy. I think every single order I’ve made was fulfilled by USPS, within the timeframe committed and quite affordable too. I’ve been in love ever since.

And if you’ve been here long enough, I’ve talked about how much I love snail mail. Because I really do! They’re much better souvenirs for travels and trips, and far more affordable too. I’ve converted a few friends into the habit of writing mail, and I’ve been enjoying it.

I do admit that recent life events have made me slow down in my letter writing, but now that the USPS is threatened by certain powers in office, I can’t help but get back into the habit of sending mail.

It’s a simple thing, really, and maybe I won’t even make a dent in helping this valuable service to survive — yes, the same service that provides banking services to those who need it (though postal money orders) — but it just breaks my heart to see it suffering the way it is.

The USPS has served my family in so many ways: from my father-in-law being a retiree to driver’s licenses and immigration paperwork to filing taxes and even to sending in votes. It has never failed us. There may have been a hiccup or two — like a missed delivery or a lost piece of mail recovered 18 days later — but for the most part, it has been a joy with them.

So from now on, I am instituting Mail Mondays in support of #SendMoreMail2020. I will keep going as long as I can. If you’re interested in receiving a motivational postcard or a letter with a random trivia or perhaps to start a penpal relationship, I am more than happy to. Just send me a message on my Facebook page or through my Instagram and the rest will be mail history.

I’ve asked my friends on Facebook whoever is interested in some good snail mail, and in the last 5 days alone, I’ve mailed out 7 international and 7 local letters and postcards. Believe me, I’m the real letter writing deal. :)

To know more about the struggles of the USPS, I recommend the following resources:

I will also start posting “receipts” of my mail activity on my Instagram stories, so feel free to follow me there if you’d like to see how many I’ve sent so far. I try to be as creative as possible with my mail, particularly for kids, but I am more keen on sending out good vibes.

<3 You know it.

#SendMoreMail2020 #SaveUSPS

TALK THURSDAY: My GD Survival Kit

In the previous post, I had spoken about the lessons I learned as I navigated my way through gestational diabetes.  Today, I’m going to talk about the tools I used (and was given to me) to manage it.

The Meal Plan

Like I said in my previous post, meal planning was the highlight of this journey.  I believe I got very lucky with my provider.  My nurse truly took the time to learn what I eat regularly, my preferences and indulgences, and constructed my meals according to it.  Because of that, it was easy to follow and adhere to.

My initial meal plan started out like this. We adjusted and substituted once a trend started showing in my glucose readings.

Another thing that helped tons is My Plate.  For the days when my food options are limited, My Plate presented a plethora of substitutes for my meal requirement of the day.  It’s also available online, but my old soul really loved the booklet my nurse provided.

Glucometer

This is covered by my insurance, thanks to my OB’s prescription.  Surprisingly, my nurse also provided me with one, so I had one reader for the house and another in the bag I would bring whenever we would go out.

There are a lot of options out there but my insurance only covered AccuChek.  I ended up getting the AccuChek Guide.  It’s pretty easy to operate and quite compact.  It came with a carrying case that can house lancets and strips, as well as alcohol pads.

Apps

I downloaded two apps specifically for monitoring my glucose levels:  Glucose — Blood Sugar Tracker and See How You Eat.  I know AccuChek has their own app, but I liked that one better.

With this glucose tracker, I was able to set reminders when to take my readings.  I was also able to generate reports of my numbers that I would send to my nurse every week.

SHYE is to make sure that I am eating right.  It was something that my nurse looked forward to because she loved seeing how I plated my meals.  Because portions were very much controlled for me, I made sure to make eating a treat.  Seeing photos of my food also gave my nurse an idea of what I actually eat, allowing her to adjust my meal plan accordingly, removing my triggers and reducing my sugar spikes.

For both apps, you will have to pay for a premium subscription to keep all your data.

Insulin Pen

Unfortunately, even with my diet and 30 minutes of daily speed walking, my fasting number wasn’t going down.  It was the one number we cannot control through diet and I was referred to another maternal diabetes specialist, who decided to put me on Levemir.

I looooved this pre-filled pen.  I mean, it’s not like I was so happy to be put on it; I prefer pricking myself less thank you very much.  But push came to shove and it was the best thing for our baby at the time.  I would inject this in my belly at night, and it helps bring down my fasting blood sugar significantly.

Cold Pack

I’m not as brave as I make myself out to be, and the first few weeks of being on insulin, I was still scared to inject myself.  I had The Husband do it, and I can tell he was as nervous as me.  The cold pack helped numb the injection site for a bit, but I do have to emphasize that the needle is very short and thin.  After a while, I didn’t need the ice pack anymore, but it was nice to have it handy for the nights when I feel extra sensitive.

More Scans and Tests

Because of the insulin, my entire healthcare team has put me on close monitoring.  I would report once a week for an ultrasound to check the baby’s growth (if he’s growing too fast, I will have to be induced to deliver early), and some days I would go straight to a non-stress test for the baby.  I would also go in every couple of weeks for a biophysical profile.  Then another visit to the OB to check on my well-being.  I must have seen a doctor/nurse at least 3 times a week.

When I said in my previous post that I felt so safe, I was not kidding.  Every step of the way, I was monitored (and well poked and prodded within reason), making sure that the baby and I are safe and within the normal limits.  Because of this, they were able to catch my amniotic fluid levels on time, leading up to the delivery…

Which is another story for another time :)

How about you?  How did you manage your GD?