The Rain

It is never easy sending your child to the operating theatre. Though it is just going to be a simple examination under anesthesia (EUA) and mold creation for her prosthetic eye, she will still have to undergo General Anesthesia. This will be her third time in 3 months. 🙁 I’ve asked both the surgeons if the procedure can be done under sedation but they told me that sedation would not be sufficient as the process of creating the mold is uncomfortable. It would be more traumatising for her if she wakes up halfway instead.

Tomorrow’s procedure is considered low-risk so I hope everything goes smoothly. I still remember when the nurses were waiting for her to recover from anesthesia in the holding area after her enucleation. Her non-eye was covered with an eye patch and blood was seeping through. 🙁 She likely will not need to be warded tomorrow. After Chinese New Year, we will need to visit the hospital for 3 consecutive days for the construction and fitting of her prosthetic eye. On the first day, they will see if the mold fits. On the second day, they will commence on hand painting the acrylic customised eye. On the third day, the eye will be ready and we’ll be taught how to insert and maintain the prosthesis.

As with every procedure requiring anesthesia, she will need to fast. The deadline is 12 midnight for solids and all sorts of milk and 4 am for water, glucose water or honey water. She’s currently knocked out but I managed to feed her some milk. She won’t be able to consume anything until after the operation ends. Hopefully, it won’t be too taxing for her. We have the earliest slot so we’ll need to wake up extra early to cab over.

It has been raining heavily for days on end. The laundry takes forever to air dry and we have been confined to the neighbourhood for the past week. It’s like free air conditioning and the weather is the closest it gets to “winter” in Singapore. The downside is that the coldness just makes me want to curl up under the comforter and hibernate the day away. There’s also the immense boredom of being cooped up at home…

Elise turned 15 months a few days ago. Ever since she was born, breast milk has been her main source of milk. She was nursed exclusively for 6 months and has been latching daily up till now. I’m not sure if the problem lies with my supply, but I find myself becoming increasingly annoyed when she wakes up to latch in the middle of the night. She’ll climb over me, change sides, switch positions all while chomping down onto my boob, refusing to let go until I pry open her mouth with my fingers. I chided her and commanded her to “stop it” and it wasn’t a good feeling for either of us.

That’s why I made her a bottle of formula milk this evening from a sample tin of Gain IQ which I received earlier. She drank all 120ml of it in one go. I still believe that breast milk is best as it’s customised for the child but knowing that she is receptive to formula as well as a range of other types of milk (oat milk, fresh milk, thawed frozen breast milk) is comforting because it provides a back-up solution for when I need to rest. Formula is overpriced and it doesn’t make sense to rely entirely on it when it’s not essential for growth. Besides, she has such a voracious appetite, her nutrient requirements can easily be met through solids. Normally, she doesn’t pay much attention to her father but when he is eating, she’ll toddle up to him and act coy. She’ll sit on his lap and say “AH-MM!!!”.

I’m quite sure I’ll feel bittersweet when she weans but such is life. For every beginning, there will be an end.

 

 

My New Life as a SAHM

A few weeks ago, I visited my friend from secondary school who gave birth recently. Both her and her husband were all-rounded model students (smart, school councilors, leadership roles in their CCAs) and nurtured their young love for over a decade before getting married. I wasn’t close to them and didn’t keep in touch after graduation, so our only connection was Facebook.

She messaged me over Facebook after reading about Elise and told me about her newborn son having to undergo an emergency operation due to a congenital birth defect. Thankfully, her son is now healthy and thriving. After Elise’s swelling subsided, I made arrangements to visit them. My friend’s nephew was also there so both of them played together. When the kids got restless, I followed my friends mother-in-law for a stroll to the nearby reservoir.

There, I told her that I stopped working full-time and am now physically around Elise 24/7. Recently retired after having worked as a nurse for more than 30 years, she emphasized the importance of a woman needing to earn her own money. “Men respect women who earn their own money, even a little. It gives you a voice”. I agree with that actually, because having to depend on another person entirely for finances makes you a bit vulnerable and dependent. She also shared with me her child-rearing tactics, claiming that she never needed to use a cane.

“I understand that your maternal instincts are strong, especially when she’s still young. However, she’ll need you lesser when she starts school full-time and you may find it challenging to get re-employed with a gap. Moreover, working outside makes you creative which helps in educating her”. 

It’s been about 2 months. Weekday mornings used to be immensely rushed. I had to prepare lunch for her, get ready for work, latch her and express out some milk for her all in an hour. Commuting to work took an hour. Including travel time, I was away from Elise for at least 10 hours. Now that I have the luxury of spending the entire day with her, I get to bring her for impromptu meetups with her baby friends.

On the housewife front, I’m still getting nagged at by my husband for not doing the laundry properly or keeping the house clean enough. He’s the one who picks up stray hair strands, sets a timer for the laundry so he can “save water” and vacuums the floor. What kind of chores am I doing at home? Cooking, washing the dishes, dumping the clothes in the machine on “Quick” mode (“You didn’t use softener right? There’s no fragrance!”) and haphazardly draping them onto the laundry line (“NO! Look at those crumpled clothes! You need to fling the water off the clothes before you hang them up! 야! 뺄래를 탁탁 털어야지!”). His best line is “너 근대에 한번 갔다와야돼” or “You need to go to the army”.

We should really hire a part-time helper.

For 2017, I should make some plans for my personal growth as well.

  1. Appearance
    Restart my skincare routine in order to prevent myself from morphing into a frumpy, unkempt housewife. There’s obviously nothing wrong in prioritising family. It’s just that I am still holding onto a glimmer of hope that I can still look presentable years down the road and not stare in the mirror feeling crappy about myself.
  2. Studies
    Brush up on my Korean, pick up a new language, learn new skills. 2016 was a stagnant year in terms of learning.
  3. Career
    Or lack of. I know a number of capable supermoms who have started and grown their business whilst maintaining their family. How do they do it?!

Meanwhile, I’m just going to enjoy whatever time I have as a housewife.

Here’s Elise and Matty at the Botanic Gardens – one of our impromptu playdates where we brought the babies to a water park without towels or spare clothes. Thankfully, the babies were air-dried quickly due to the toasty air. We managed to get them to hold hands! Hehehehe.

Elise spent Christmas Eve with Snorlax at a close friend’s house.

On Boxing Day, we met new friends. We joined a group of Singapore-based wives with Korean boyfriends and spouses. The location of the meetup had an amazing view of the CBD. We exchanged presents, the kids chased each other around and my husband finally got to enjoy some beers and pour out his sorrows to people who get him.

The men created their own chat group too. Now he can feel like he belongs~. My husband was extremely reluctant to accompany us at first. He was already all dressed up, sitting in front of the computer and asking “Do I really have to go? Why don’t you go alone with Elise?”. He ended up enjoying himself tremendously. See? You may be right, but your wife is never wrong.

At the bus stop near our house, a little girl came over to tickle Elise’s chin out of nowhere. Superstarrrrr. This was the day we went to the hospital for her check-up. We saw Dr Ganga again and he stressed on the importance of genetic testing, especially if we are intending to expand our family. This test is not covered by insurance and costs approximately S$3,500 because the specimen and blood samples have to be flown to Canada. Genetic testing for Retinoblastoma will show if it is an inherited condition (if it is, the risk of siblings developing Retinoblastoma is much higher). Dr Ganga asked us to crowdfund if necessary, but I don’t feel comfortable sticking my hand out to ask for money from strangers.

From the articles we’ve read online, it doesn’t seem likely that it will recur. Retinoblastoma metastasis generally occurs within the 1st year of diagnosis. 15% of unilateral retinoblastoma cases develop tumours in the other eye. A good thing is that her optic nerve was cancer free and recurrences usually occur with tumours which touch the optic nerve. Is this money worth spending? I’m really not sure. My father suggested that the hospital should use her case as research and pay for the genetic testing since Retinoblastoma is so rare in Singapore.

On the 25th, Elise will undergo another Examination Under Anasthesia (EUA). It’ll be the third time since November that she’ll be under GA. I’ve read about decreased intelligence in children who have underwent GA compared to those who have not undergone anasthesia. 🙁 I’ve asked the doctors but GA is their preferred method as they will also be creating a mold for her prosthetic eye and they don’t want to risk her waking up during the procedure. 🙁 This won’t be the last EUA as Elise will need to be under surveillance to monitor for recurrence.

Dr Ganga mentioned adjuvant/preventive chemotherapy (chemotherapy that is done after surgery to eliminate cancer which may not have been physically excised) that I am not keen on. It’s like a repeat of my cancer situation where the physical tumour was removed with surgery and adjuvant chemotherapy was declined. Let’s just hope that it is truly gone and doesn’t metastasize elsewhere years later.

In other news, look who had her very first professional haircut! I’ve only snipped her fringe twice with blunt scissors. My husband booked an appointment for all of us with Edward, his new friend, who happened to work at Dusol Beauty. I used to frequent the salon years ago. Edward was incredulous that I didn’t recognise him because he worked there longer than my hairstylist.

My head feels much lighter. The last haircut was months ago at a dodgy $4.90 place. Being pampered with a shampoo and head massage sure was heavenly. We had mall vouchers so the total cost was very affordable!

Getting her to stay still was a challenge.

I am Elise, hear me roar! Straight bangs to look like a little boy. We all had new haircuts for the new year. 🙂

 

The Results

What a difference a day makes. This photo was taken a day before we received the lab results from the hospital. I brought Elise downstairs for a walk around our neighbourhood. She has just began to walk unassisted and still very much prefers us to hold her hand.

“You come here, momma”

On Friday, we went to NUH to collect our lab results. Dr Ganga wasn’t in so we met Dr May who told us that the lab results were in and that there’s no evidence of remaining cancer which requires systemic chemotherapy. This is excellent news because it means that Elise doesn’t need to be hooked up to a machine to receive a 6 dose toxic cocktail which may cause long-term effects. We sort of knew already, because if the lab results showed a negative result, the doctor would have called us in much earlier to start treatment because cancer waits for no man.

I’m feeling a little incredulous. What are the odds that both Elise and I developed extremely rare cancers with an extremely high survival rate which only required surgery to cure? Both our cancers were contained and easily removed. I was advised to do systemic chemotherapy with a 30% possible relapse rate but I didn’t and it has been more than 5 years since my surgery.

When I had surgery, my surgeon passed me photos of the tumours. I briefly wondered where the photos were for Elise’s tumour then realised that it’s better that I not look at a photograph of my baby’s gouged out eyeball. 🙁

Would it be alright to say that both of us are lucky and got off relatively unscathed? I have a battle scar which resembles a C-section scar but my ovaries were saved and I conceived Elise. Elise lost an eye but she is already considered fortunate; children have lost their lives to Retinoblastoma. Elise will require constant check-ups to see if the cancer reoccurs in her good eye or elsewhere (oh my god, choy, touch all sorts of wood) but otherwise, she’s a-okay for now.

The nurse at Dr Ganga’s clinic has a daughter who got her prosthetic eye done at NUH and she explained the procedure to me. It sounds FREAKING painful. She says something will be injected into Elise’s remaining eye in order to create a mould for her prostheses. I’d better ask Dr Ganga what the exact procedure is like. Poor baby. ㅠ_ㅠ

The moment I received the news, I told the October moms and they were so so so happy. Some of us brought our babies for an impromptu play date at Gardens by the Bay. I packed sunglasses and dressed her in overalls because I thought it would be sweltering. The Flower Dome was entirely air conditioned and protected from the harsh elements. It’s basically like being in a ginormous terrarium.

The Christmas Wonderland theme is up. My eyes were on Elise so I couldn’t fully appreciate the environment. Actually, neither of us 5 mummies managed to do so because we were all chasing our bubs everywhere. Getting them to take a photo together was a test of skills. They sat still for a grand total of 2 seconds before crawling or walking away.

Elise walks with her hands up to balance herself. If she is distracted, she can walk many steps unassisted but when she is fully aware, she whines for me to pick her up and waddles like a robot.

It’s not that visible from this photograph, but her right eye has been fitted with a conformer. It has a black circle in the middle so if you stare carefully, it looks like she has a red eye. It’s actually her eye muscle behind the conformer. It does look obvious but works well as a temporary fit. Dr Ganga specially put in this conformer rather than the standard transparent conformer in. This way, we can all look at her in the face without having our hearts stabbed with pain each time.

“What’s that?”

The babies were fascinated with this kaleidoscope feature.

“OH NOOOOOOO!!!!!!! FIRE!!!!!!! RUN AWAY!!!!!!!!!!”

Noah noticed that Elise was more comfortable crawling around, so being a little gentleman, he dropped down and crawled around with her. Yes, we let our babies crawl on the dirty tiles and all we did after that was clean their hands and knees with wet wipes.

The current fascination of our 13/14 month olds: Wet wipes, tissue paper and cleaning surfaces.

“You have to reach your hand all the way to get to the dirty spots”

The past month has been traumatising for Elise. She’s blessed to have a bunch of friends who genuinely care about her health and well-being! 🙂 Buddies since womb service.