Dedication: A Mother’s Love

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!  Let the love fest and PDA obsession take over today’s social media feed.  Everyone will express their form of love towards their significant other, families, friends, whoever it may be.  Although Valentine’s Day has become a superficial holiday where societal expectations include flowers, chocolates and a nice meal, today feels a bit different than any other day.  Today I get to enjoy Valentine’s Day with 2 children who I brought into the world.  Two children who have a roof over their head and food on the table.  Two children who have different wants and needs since one is 8 years old and the other is 9 months old.

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My loves, Angelina Jade and Brandon Erikson (iPhone 6+ photo quality)

Love was a fickle word to me.  I was told to love people, but never understood how to feel it.  I would say “I love you” to my family and it would have no meaning behind it.  The movies made love look easy to find when you’re looking or not.  Love was something that had to be discovered and understood in order to feel it.  I didn’t know what love was until I met my husband.  In 2008, I attended a spiritual 3-day retreat in Upstate New York  where I faced my fears and anxieties including my out of wedlock pregnancy.  I felt ashamed and carried a big burden on my shoulders assuming my boyfriend (now husband) wasn’t going to stick around as a parent.  At the end of the 3-day retreat, I received a nice basket of love letters with praises of love and courage for the path I was walking on.  Before I opened any letters, I saw a big green envelope with my boyfriend’s handwriting on it.  Right then and there, my heart sank and I started to cry like a big baby.  I discovered love.

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Watching Sebastian Maniscalco at NJPAC (iPhone 6+ photo quality)
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Brandon’s baptism (iPhone 6+ photo quality)

Love has many faces and transforms itself over time.  Love is expressed in different ways that may or may not make sense.  Love is pure, honest, and transcends above anything.  Love has been tested many times in my life.  The biggest and greatest test of love has been bringing my children into the world.  Both pregnancies had different paths and challenges, but the end result was the same.  I have never loved another person so much as I love my children.  Their innocent expressions and smiles make my heart jump all the time.  Their laughs and giggles make me want to freeze time so I can hold onto their sounds for a few seconds more.  My children have brought a lot of happiness into my life.  They have challenged me to discover another level of love.  Even though one talks like a teenager and the other talks with single syllable sounds, I know how they say “I love you”. When my daughter is rewarded after doing well at school or home, she gives the best bear hugs and says, “You’re the best mom”.  When my son wakes up from a nap, he has the biggest smile when he sees me enter the room.  When I wrestle with my kids and attack them with tickles, their laughter and excitement brings joy to my heart.  Without my kids, my life wouldn’t be the same.  They complete my married life and have the best features of my husband and me.

To my kids, you are the greatest gifts that life could ever give me.  I will face more (parenting) challenges as you grow up.  I will be by your side with all your accomplishments and victories.  I will carry you when you fall and help guide you to whatever dreams you strive to.  But for now, I will squeeze you both in my arms and enjoy these precious times while you’re both little.  I love you my little babies.

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Let’s Look Like a Human

These past 8 months have been solely focused on Brandon’s development which is naturally expected.  With all the weight gain and lost, highs and lows of cystic acne, and unpredictability of when the next shower will be, I have been feeling and looking like a zombie.  I sometimes walk out of the house with no bra on, food spit up on my shirt or in my hair, or without the care of brushing my hair.  Again- zombie status.

When Brandon started getting bigger, I started to make the effort of looking like a decent human being.  I no longer have to be at Brandon’s beck and call.  He shows more interest in his surroundings especially his toys and Sesame Street.  I make sure to distract him whenever I need “me” time.  When Brandon’s not looking or focusing on me, I rush up the stairs into the shower or put on some makeup to feel some type of normalcy.  I recently did a huge purge of my makeup collection.  I found (unused) items that I’ve been holding onto for 3-4 years and others have been long expired.  It took me 2 days to go through these items, prioritize what I need versus what I want, and discard the expired/unused.

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Current makeup collection since 2012 (iPhone 6+ photo quality)

After sifting through this enormous pile, I realized there are certain makeup products that are a necessity to making me look like a human.  These items are a mix of drugstore and high end.  It takes me about 20 minutes to do a full beauty look: my complexion is balanced, brows and eyes are defined, cheeks are contoured and colored, and the complete look is topped with a nice lip color.

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Products that help me look like me (iPhone 6+ photo quality)

Items in the picture are as follows (from left to right):  Maybelline Dream Cushion foundation (#30), NARS Velvet Lip Glide (Bound), Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray, Kevyn Auction Contour Duo On The Go, Make Up For Ever (MUFE) HD Cream Blush (#215), Maybelline Dream Matte Powder (medium), MUFE Aqua Matic (S-52), Charlotte Tilbury Rock ‘N’ Kohl (Barbarella Brown), Lash Star Beauty Full Control Mascara, MUFE Brow Seal, MUFE Pro Sculpting Brow (#40), Shiseido eyelash curler, MUFE Skin Equalizers (nourishing & redness correcting primer)

I uploaded a tutorial creating this makeup look on my Youtube channel.  Go ahead and check it out.  My mission for 2017 is to get back on track with creating more content for this blog and my Youtube channel.  Thanks for not abandoning me since the last time I posted here.  If I start to drift away, don’t be afraid to remind me.  A little reminder helps when you’re occupied with 2 kids.

 

Sleeping for the Past 4 Weeks

Oh man, I feel so guilty about falling behind on this blog.  For the past month, I’ve had every intention to post updates and pictures about my growing little guy.  But that’s what the “newborn baby” stage is all about.  Everything becomes secondary and gets pushed to the back as baby takes priority and sucks up every minute of your day.  Even though I’m not employed nor on maternity leave, every minute of my day is taken up by either nursing or catching up on sleep.

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Brandon Erikson – 1 month old (iPhone 6+ photo quality)

In these past 4 weeks, my body has been (and still is) through a roller coaster ride of needs for my growing baby.  Brandon doesn’t have a sleeping pattern yet, but his feeding schedule is every 2 hours during the day and 3 hours at night.  He has gas issues (typical of newborns) so he’s constantly crying in pain in order to pass gas at either ends of his tiny body.  There was a point after his birth that he was eating every 30 minutes.  We thought he was sick or becoming a colic baby, but it turned out he was going through a growth spurt.  And he definitely did!  At his one month checkup with the pediatrician, he gained 3 pounds since we left the hospital 4 weeks prior.  I think the doctor was impressed with his growth even with his cheeks, thighs and arms showing signs of his chunkiness.  People who meet Brandon can tell he’s a big boy and is definitely eating enough based on his chunkiness.  I can’t get enough of his cheeks, thighs and arms- I nibble on them when he’s awake and I stroke his soft skin when he’s asleep.  Not to sound like a creepy mommy, but I think every parent (and person) can’t get enough of soft baby skin.

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Father’s Day 2016 (iPhone 6+ photo quality)
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Brandon Erikson – 6 weeks old (iPhone 6+ photo quality)

I’ve become nocturnal since Brandon has been home.  All I do is care for him at every moan and cry he makes.  I don’t think I remember the last time I had a full night of sleep.  I barely eat a solid 3 meals a day; I don’t change my outfits nor do I shower and/or wash my hair every other day.  Since I broke out with cystic acne along my jawline by week 2 postnatal, I haven’t worn a full face of makeup.  I don’t even think I’ve had my eyebrows threaded since the day before he was born.  BUT, I have lost half my pregnancy weight since his birth and am cleared by the doctor to do physical activities.  At my 6 week postnatal checkup with my gynecologist, I weighed in at under 200 pounds now (192 to be exact where I’ve lost 23 pounds so far).  My blood pressure is still high but wasn’t a big concern to the doctor.

Overall, my road to recovery has been pretty smooth where no health issues have come up.  I need to motivate myself to get out the door and soak up the beautiful sun.  Now that school is over and summer is officially here, I can enjoy being outdoors and take Brandon out wherever I have to go.  He’s my newest accessory that I’m ready to show off to the world.

2 Weeks Childbirth Postpartum Recovery

 

It’s been 2 weeks since my world has changed with the birth of my little baby boy.  Since we’ve been home, there’s been a lot of adjustment and reintroduction to “newborn” mode.  Luckily, we’ve had a lot of help from my parents and sister who’ve been constantly checking up on us.  It’s been really nice to be and feel like a complete family of 4.  I sometimes catch my husband with a thousand yard stare with his realization of “we’re 4 people now”.  In light of all this happy family feelings, I know I’m not 100% recovered from the delivery.  I remember a lactation specialist came to my room on the day Brandon and I were being discharged.  She asked me if I had any breastfeeding questions and/or concerns.  During her speech, she said this: “Remember you housed your baby for 9 months; it can take 9 months for you to feel like yourself again.”  I’ve never heard anyone put childbirth recovery in that perspective which makes me reflect on what I’ve been through these past 2 weeks.

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My little family of 4 (iPhone 6+ photo quality)

I had an induced vaginal delivery with Brandon which was scheduled at the beginning of the month.  There were no complications during the delivery and Brandon came into the world breathing on his own with no signs of stress.  Thankfully I had no tearing that would require an episiotomy (which I had with my first born), but the doctor did have to stitch me up for some interior tearing.  The pain medicine that I was taking at the hospital made me drowsy and lightheaded, but it helped ease the pain of sitting and standing.  The maintenance and proper care of my area down there was not easy.  It’s like going through your period that’s on steroids; the cramping and bleeding exists even after childbirth.  The ease of going to and from the bathroom, the constant “diaper” pad changing and spritz of Sensi Care (or perineal/skin cleanser) was a routine that I continued at home.  I relied on a couple of perineal cleanser sprays to help relieve the pain whenever I went to the bathroom where it was really uncomfortable to pee for a while.  It’s been 2 weeks and the pain has definitely gone away.  I still wear pads and have Sensi Care in my bathroom as backup, but the cramps and pain are no longer there.  Even though the swelling and pain is gone within 2 weeks, it can take up to 6 weeks for my area down there (especially vagina) to completely heal.

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4 days old, hello cheeks! (iPhone  6+ photo quality)

For the first week of being home, I had no idea what daylight was.  Days blended with each other and I had no concept of time except for when is Brandon’s next feeding.  During the first couple of days of him being home, I thought I had it easy with his feeding schedule because it was consistent.  But, there was one night where he was on my breast every 30-60 minutes.  Whether he was actually sucking or not, I felt truly exhausted by the time my daughter was getting ready for school.  I felt like my soul was sucked out of me since I practically pulled an all nighter. When I have nights like these, it’s nice to have a little help from my husband.  Even though he can’t provide milk, it’s relieving to catch little Z’s while he changes his diaper or cradles him back to sleep.

During the day, it’s nice to hear my husband’s positive affirmations of what I’m doing for Brandon.  He says things like “you’re starting to lose weight in your face/stomach/body/etc” to cheer me up.  He even praises my perky chest whenever I’m feeding Brandon.  I tell him, “Enjoy them now; they might not last long.”  Other physical changes that I noticed once I got home from the hospital included my feet and ankles swelling up like sausages.  Oh it was so painful to walk!  I propped my feet on top of pillows for a week straight to relieve the puffiness.  Thank goodness that’s gone, but I was worried it was a medical condition since I dealt with high blood pressure throughout my pregnancy.  Another change I noticed was my hair and nails growing stronger and faster.  They didn’t change in texture, but I noticed a difference.  One change I wish didn’t have to happen was my acne.  My skin was mostly clear throughout my pregnancy and pretty good for the first week I was home.  But all of a sudden, I started breaking out around my jawline and chin early this week.  I have heavy duty zits where some are clustered on both sides of my chin.  This is a typical area for my hormonal acne pre-pregnancy so maybe this is a sign that I’ll be getting my period soon (?).

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9 days old (iPhone 6+ photo quality)

Breastfeeding has not been a stroll through the park, but an empowering feeling to provide sustenance for my son.  I signed up for a Breastfeeding class at my local Babies ‘R Us before having Brandon’s delivery date changed.  As I settled with the group, the instructor asked me if I was pregnant with my first.  I respond with, “Oh, I just delivered my second child last week.”  To her surprise, it made the group dynamic more interactive since I was able to provide some feedback of my (minimal) breastfeeding experience thus far.  Overall, it’s an interesting feeling when breastfeeding.  I wear different nursing pads (still testing to see which I like best) to keep myself from leaking throughout the day and night.  I have a few nursing shirts that are of different styles to suit how I feed Brandon (so far, the pull down shirts are in the lead).  I use nipple creams after every feeding because they get a bit sore after every feeding.  And, my iPhone has become my best friend during the middle of the night feedings.  I check my Facebook feed, retweet any beauty tweets on Twitter, and collect my resources on Clash of Clans.  I even chat with my uncle who’s from the Philippines (time zone is 12 hours ahead of EST).  I openly breastfeed Brandon in the house where my husband and daughter are not surprised to walk into a room and see a little head on my exposed breast.  I do cover him when my parents come over (yet, I can feed him openly when my sister is here).  When I first fed Brandon in front of my daughter, she asked me questions like, “is that the same milk that I drink?” or “are you going to feed him your other boob?” and “does he like cookies?”  She’s been receptive to all the new things she’s been learning about her baby brother.  Her newborn brother has had a positive influence to her especially in school.  Every morning, she storms into our room saying “good morning brother.”  She’s by his side every time he cries, kisses him whenever he’s awake, and calls him “little fella”.  Despite their age difference, she’s already becoming a protective big sister who’s loving and willing to do anything for him.

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10 days old (iPhone 6+ photo quality)

These past 2 weeks have been a big learning curve for everyone in my household.  It hasn’t been easy, but I think we’re doing a pretty good job.  I know that I still have a long road ahead of me to finally feel like me.  But for now, I’m enjoying every minute watching my little Brandon grow.

My Family of 3 Just Became 4

Last Sunday I had my parents, sister, and mother and brother-in-law gather together at my house to celebrate Mother’s Day before the baby made his world debut.  The time between Sunday and Wednesday felt like forever, but I kept myself busy with household chores and last minute errands.  We were fortunate enough to have family stay over to take care of my daughter while my husband and I were at the hospital.  By Wednesday lunchtime, the world became a bit better and brighter because my little man entered my life.  I’m still on Cloud 9 as I float through the clouds every time I stare into his eyes and he takes in the world.  All I’ve been wanting throughout this pregnancy is to deliver a healthy baby boy and he’s finally here.

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Hospital selfie with my husband (iPhone 6+ photo quality)

I woke up Wednesday morning ready to deliver this baby with basic knowledge of an induced labor procedure.  Once my husband and I settled into the hospital, my doctor informed me that I was already 3-4 cm dilated, 85% effaced, and will most likely deliver by 12pm.  To my surprise, that was a mere 4.5 hours away!  The doctor induced me by breaking my water which was a strange feeling.  It didn’t feel like I was intentionally peeing.  Rather I was involuntarily draining out fluids via the doctor pushing down on my pregnant belly.  I received an epidural which wasn’t painful as anticipated (I didn’t see the needle) until they had to redo it (FYI- the epidural is aligned with your spine and if you feel it towards the right or left side, then they have to redo it).  Unfortunately, the epidural wasn’t effective (in my opinion) because I felt all the pain and pressure in my lower abdomin up to the final push.  Side note: I guess I have a high pain tolerance because I didn’t have an epidural or any pain medication when I delivered my firstborn.  My husband stepped out of the room for some fresh air as my sister came to visit me right around 12pm.  Simultaneous, my doctor and nurse were finalizing the room and whatever was left for them to prep themselves with.  My contractions were frequent and the pain was unbearable which was the signal that baby is ready to come out.  I did a practice push with the doctor and nurse which pretty much jumped my body into active labor mode.  My husband barely made it back into the room as I started my first push.

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Ready for baby to arrive! (iPhone 6+ photo quality)

Holy hell, pushing this baby felt harder and longer compared to my firstborn.  It felt like forever for him to go through the birth canal.  Everyone in the room kept telling me to keep pushing because his head was right there.  (In my head, it sounded like they were filthy liars but that may have been the adrenaline rushing through me…)  It felt like my legs were giving out at every push, my arms started to lose strength in holding up my legs, and my body slowly going into shut down mode.  Slowly but surely my little boy eventually came out and all the pain disappeared.  Well, almost disappeared because the doctor had to clean me out which was painful (stitches in your vaginal area is the worst feeling ever!).  I was in a daze as the nurse placed my naked baby on my chest; my husband still in shock with what just happened; the doctor doing whatever he was doing down there; and I was coming down from my adrenaline high.  In the end, I delivered a perfectly healthy boy less than 3 weeks before his due date.

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My boys (iPhone 6+ photo quality)

Brandon Erikson Hughes was born on Wednesday, May 11 at 12:44pm weighing 7 lbs 3 oz and 19 inches long.  His first cry brought relief into my life.  Our eyes setting on each other made my heart skip a beat.  My heart flutters every time I say and realize that I have 2 kids.  My road of medical concerns and worries led up to my reality coming alive with my healthy baby boy.  My daughter loves her baby brother and she fulfills her “little mommy” role of the house quite well.  She tends to his every cry, likes to count his little fingers and toes, and insists to hold him any chance she can get.  She loves giving him kisses and saying “hey there brother”.  We’ve only been a family of 4 for a few short days, but it feels complete as our little man makes our family whole.

Welcome to the world Brandon- the world is your oyster!

Mother’s Day Reflection

To my Mom, you have brought me into this world, taught me everything I know and continue to teach me how to be the best mom to my kid(s).

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Rounding out at 37 weeks pregnant (iPhone 6+ photo quality)

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and everyone in the world was showing an abundant amount of love for their mom.  Besides being mushy and gushy with my mom, she has always been there for me during the good and bad times.  She has shaped me into the woman I am today and has influenced me to always give back to society.  Whether I hold the door for someone behind me, give up my seat for an elderly person or volunteer at a soup kitchen or nursing home, she engraved the mentality of putting others before myself.  It’s very selfless to put yourself second in life, but what you reap is what you sow.  You put all your hard work of being a mom/parent/friend/worker at the beginning of life and your reward is to do whatever you want to do later in life.  That’s what my mom is doing- she’s traveling the world with my dad and is enjoying the fact that she will have another grandchild to spoil.

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3 generations of ladies (iPhone 6s plus photo quality from my sister)

I was reflecting on all the mother figures in my life who have influenced me while growing up.  The ladies who come to mind are my grandmothers.  My father’s mom, whom everyone called “Lola” which means “grandma” in Filipino, practically raised me, my sister and all my cousins when she moved to the United States in the early ’80s.  One by one, she took care of all her grandchildren by living in our homes for a certain amount of years until the next baby was born.  While my parents were at work, she made sure my sister and I ate our meals, completed our homework and practiced our piano lessons.  She was a very simple, humble woman who prayed the rosary a lot.  Her passing in early 2001 was devastating to the entire family.  She left behind her husband (who shortly died right after her), 6 sons, 5 daughter in laws and 14 grandchildren.  We were all too young to be married at the time, but if she was still alive, she’d be a happy Lola to her 23 grandchildren (including spouses) and 12 great-grandchildren.  On my mother’s side, she was raised by her biological mom (named Lola Ganda where Ganda means “pretty” in Filipino) and her aunt (named Mommy Oh).  Both ladies raised my mom at different stages of her life, but were very much involved in shaping my mom into the woman she is today.  Both ladies live in the Philippines and are still kicking it in their mid 80s.  The last time I saw my 2 grandmothers was in 2012 where they met my husband and daughter for the first time.  Lola Ganda was gushing over my daughter while Mommy Oh was confused as to my husband is pale.  Both ladies have been proud of my accomplishments in life and take a special place in my heart for what they have sacrificed for their families.  I hope both these ladies have it in them to stick around a bit longer to meet my son in the future.

Overall, Mother’s Day went very well yesterday.  Reflecting on my mom and the moms before her makes me appreciate the joys of motherhood.  No one said it was easy, but it’s a job worth having for a lifetime.

4 Week Countdown Begins!

“It’s Gonna Be May”…”May the 4th/Schwartz Be With You”… Such classic phrases to start the month of May even though it doesn’t feel like it with the cold rainy days we’ve been having.  Among other things, my countdown to baby’s arrival is less than 30 days!  I can’t believe this 9 month journey has led me to this month where yesterday marked 4 weeks till his arrival.  It’s a very nostalgic feeling where I’m not afraid or worried about his health or mine because he’s made it this far.  I’ve followed every doctors’ order since January and have been honest with my feelings and concerns throughout this entire period.  I’ve let go of my worries due to my history of premature delivery and have accepted the fact that everything happens for a reason.  My husband and I have had our relationship tested with our first born and it will be tested again with our second one.  We can’t wait for him to come in 4 weeks… well, we can’t wait for him to come next week!!!

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I went to my doctor’s office yesterday for my weekly check up where I had my husband join me.  My pregnancy weight has officially topped off at 212 pounds (I’ve gained a total of 37 pounds) and the baby’s weight is around 6.5 pounds.  Every time I see the ultrasound technician, she has a difficult time seeing the baby’s face.  All of his vitals, organs and limbs are doing well, but she can never get a view of his face and head for measurement purposes.  Yesterday’s visit wasn’t any different, but was a concern (a good concern) because the baby is already head down.  But he’s way down in my uterus to the point of already being in the birth canal.  My doctor did a vaginal routine to make sure I wasn’t dilating in which I wasn’t.  I haven’t been experiencing any contractions, but I’ve been having a hard time sleeping at night with the nonstop movement and spurts of cramping.  Everything seemed fine except for my high blood pressure which has been an issue for me since day one.

The doctor had a game plan that was reassuring to both me and my husband.  He told me to schedule a labor induction for next week where I’ll be 37 weeks pregnant.  He doesn’t see the need for the baby to make it to 40 weeks if he’s already low in my uterus and I’ve been having issues with my blood pressure.  He also wanted me to make a follow up appointment before the weekend.  If I go into labor, I go into labor.  If the baby doesn’t come out after being induced, then he doesn’t come out.  All in all, this baby is ready to make his debut.  My husband and I had the biggest smiles on our faces hearing this news.  We are thrilled to know we don’t have to wait any longer for our little man to arrive.  Though my blood pressure is a continuous issue, the doctor did send me to the hospital for some monitoring.  After 4 hours of bedrest at the hospital, my blood pressure was an average 117/96 for which I was sent home.  Overall, I can’t believe my little man will be here soon.  Of all the waiting periods during this pregnancy, now till next week will be the biggest one to anticipate.  I’m so excited!