Further father musings

Well, D-day draws ever nearer. Or B-day, I should say. And our pregnancy has been largely uncomplicated it seems (likely because I keep watching extreme pregnancy shows like 29 Cats, 13 Dogs, 27 Kids and Counting My Secret Pregnancy Fat Body).

There have been some worries: we found out that our baby has an abnormal heartbeat this week, for example (it beats like a speeded-up waltz—sort of) but the doc says that this is normal—it will right itself and is nothing to be worried about (I still worry).

Then there’s my concern that I’m somehow not planning properly, or that I’m not pre-bonding, or that I’m not supporting Rebecca enough. Again, this is common for dads-to-be, apparently (so says the pregnancy bible, What to Expect When You’re Expecting) and nothing to be worried about (I still worry).

Apropos of this, the latter fear is a little like a recurring nightmare I used to have: I’d find myself at school (possibly in my dinosaur pajamas or naked) only to find that I have an important exam that day, and have done absolutely no preparation. This, I’ve been led to believe, is also common for insecure people. (And nothing to worry about, nor, ironically, to be insecure about.)

So I do hope I’m baby-prepared; I do know that I am somewhat baby-competent already, having helped a few friends baby-sit here and there over the past 20 years.

So, tick tock: time moves ever onwards, such is its nature. These last fleeting weeks of being just a couple have been increasingly precious. We planned to do so much (the canceled Bali pre-babymoon, for example), but in the end, it’s just being together that counts, be it slumped in bed watching gloomy, clunky US cop shows, or slumped in Starbucks, post-shopping.

I only hope the increase in slumping conserves the time and energy needed for the post-baby chaos.

And on this point, for me there’s been an ongoing and very necessary readjustment of some deeply ingrained personality traits. I am a neatness and routine freak to the point of being obsessive-compulsive. I have my bedtime routine, my waking routine (and more), and a very strong need to be in control of what I am doing, and in my surroundings.

This can lead to antisocial behavior and attitudes: I don’t like people coming into the apartment and neither do I like being in large crowds. I am a man of few friends. I am at my happiest staying in with Rebecca and a cup of tea and a good movie. I turn my phone off at every opportunity and only reluctantly check email.

(How much of this is a converse reaction to some very-hard-partying in my 20s is arguable, and best argued with a shrink or pharmacologist. That said, I do swim and sunbathe and work out: I’m not a hermit, just a loner.)

So having a baby, with all the baby baggage, thousand-strong relatives, chaos, sick and poo and wee, and sleepless nights… All will require some considerable effort on my part—and so it should.

But I am making great strides already, I’m happy to report, at ease as I am now around Rebecca’s family with much-improved language and social skills, and with a sunnier disposition than I’ve had for many a year. I’m also enjoying talking to Rebecca’s tummy.

I am going to miss my “me time,” of course, and we will miss our “us time.” But in April there will only be “we time” for forever more. A daunting thought, but hey: just how hard can it be to be a parent?

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Wedding Planning (the sequel)

This week, a year ago, Matthew and I were in massive stress. We were in the middle of a big art exhibition that we were both working on. His company, which held the event, hired my company to manage the media coverage. ALSO, we were at D-4 of our own engagement dinner, which means we had Matthew’s parents coming down from the UK that week. And this is all happening while I was still living in Bali and Matthew just recently moved to Jakarta.

We never (before and since) experience that level of stress and that jam-packed of a schedule. That one only confirmed my decision to quit my job and move to Jakarta, both of which were not desirable at all.

I landed in Jakarta two days before Christmas 2011 and I immediately dived into organizing our destination wedding that was scheduled in 3 months. With the help of three teams of wedding planner (from the chapel, the reception venue, and Bella Donna, bride’s professional little helpers), the party of 200 was a success. Everything went beautifully despite my sudden onset of severe urticaria.

And guess what, this week, I am doing it all over again: destination-wedding planning amidst business trips and events!

“But why? What for?” some of you ask just like my parents and friends did. Well, Matthew’s parents attended the engagement party but had to miss the wedding due to being elderly and frail. They also had to be on stand-by for Matthew’s 95 year-old grandmother since Matthew’s sister and her son will be travelling to Bali with us. So, to be fair to both sides of the family, we decided to do another wedding in Hampshire, UK, next month.

Half of Matthew's entire family!

Half of Matthew’s entire family!

Funny thing is, three of my friends get married these weeks, which means busy weekends for us on top of church activities leading up to Christmas. Also, two of my closest friends recently got engaged and are constantly calling me to consult about their 2013 wedding. So basically, I cannot run away from the whole wedding business.
Again, this wedding is a destination wedding. I am choosing and checking venues, menu, etc. from a far. My in-laws help, of course.

So far I have the church and reception venue booked. We’re going to have the blessing at Romsey Abbey, followed by lunch at The White Horse hotel.

Romsey Abbey exterior

Romsey Abbey exterior

The White Horse Hotel exterior

The White Horse Hotel exterior

My custom-made dress (for pregnant bride) is being made as we speak. The satin white gloves I bought from Amazon arrived at my in-laws house last week.

I will do hair and face myself. (I decided that Caucasian make up artist will not know what to do with my mixed Asian face and complexion)

The photographer is booked and we will just buy the hand bouquet at a local florist. What did I miss?

Oh, right! I need a long thick coat because this is going to be my first proper winter and I am not going to be my own “something blue” 😛

Thoughts on impending fatherhood

Rebecca said something unexpected to me the other night as we settled down at our somewhat geriatric bedtime of 8pm. She said that she feared I was not or would not bond with our April arrival.

Neither is true, I hope, but detachment is something a lot of to-be fathers feel, as I’ve found out in my extensive Internet studies into the matter (done in between researching ailments, conspiracies and news about cats).

Despite appearances, I’m not detached, though. What Rebecca sees in me is, to some extent, the classic English reserve. To another extent it’s that I somehow don’t believe it and/or my mind is mashed from all those stellar days at the office from Mondays to Fridays.

Actually, I’m over the moon; I just don’t shout it from the rooftops. But it has brought on a number of odd realizations and feelings, and it’s these I’d like to share. Well, if they weren’t odd, you wouldn’t want to read them, would you? Hmmm. As I thought.

1. Mirrors reflecting mirrors
Ever stood in a mirrored lift and seen your reflection going backwards right on to infinity? You can achieve the same effect with a handheld mirror and a wall-mounted mirror, but it’s awkward and somewhat rubbish.

So I see my future now, in a forward arc of smaller “me’s”, but getting less like me as time goes on and my genetic information is diluted. Behind me, my father, my grandfathers, and so on and so forth ad infinitum, only getting less like me. The result is a feeling of humility but also one of dwindling importance overall.

To illustrate some of the above, Rebecca will take a snapshot of her with our unborn child in the same pose / dress as one of my mum, with me inside, from 1969 before I even tasted the April 1970 daylight.

2. The biological imperative
So, for better or worse, I’ve now done what drives us humans to have sex (if it wasn’t fun, we wouldn’t do it, and no children would be born). I’ve passed on my genetic material to a new generation. This has essentially made me a useful human being when it comes to population growth, and it means—at least to me—that I’ve done the thing I was meant to do. Which begs the question: what next? Fatherhood, I suppose.

3. Memories of my parents: am I too old / young?
My dad was 30 when I was born. My mum was 26. I am now 42 and remember being 12 (and 11, 10, 9, 8 … 4). This means I was 12 when my dad was as old as I am now. Back then, he was juggling a job he hated, as well as the family. Mum worked, too, and I clearly remember them being stressed out. Sometimes I was the cause. Still am, from time to time.

Now without getting all psychoanalytic on this point, I don’t feel 42. I don’t even feel grown up sometimes (Rebecca would concur that I am not, I’m sure). It’s not that I feel young, young at heart or any other clichés. I just don’t feel that I’ve reached the point where I can say, while beating my chest: I am man.

At the other end of this is the feeling that I’m somewhat late in this particular game. When our child is 42, I will be 84. And that really is old.

4. Repeating past mistakes
Are we doomed to repeat the same mistakes our parents made? Philip Larkin certainly thought so in this rather rude poem (not for kids). Kate Bush also had some thoughts:

Just look at your father
And you’ll see how you took after him.
Me, I’m just another
Like my brothers
Of my mother’s genes.

The whims that we’re weeping for
Our parents would be beaten for
Leave the breast
And then the nest
And then regret you ever left.

All we’re ever looking for
Is another open door.
All we ever look for–another womb.
All we ever look for–our own tomb.
All we ever look for–ooh, la lune.
All we ever look for–a little bit of you, too.
All we ever look for,
But we never do score.

Kate’s rather perceptive in a screwy sort of way. But we love her for it.

I do remember my dad telling me more than once that he hoped I wouldn’t end up like him, working in the media (he was in advertising). And here I am, helping to run a publishing company and it causes me a little bit of anguish from time to time (though it is successful and so on). I’ve also made some quite misjudged life choices in the past, oooh, 30 years. And while I may not be the man I am today had I not made those choices, I’d have done one or two (or 10) things differently.

There again, we’re the product of our histories, striding blindly into the future. There is no past: only an ever-folding succession of presents.

Anyhoo. Just some musings while waiting for Rebecca to come back and talk at me. I hope you’ve found them interesting. At least worth reading anyway.

Sweet Seventeen (weeks old)

I kind of realized that in my last post I wasn’t painting a pretty picture of my pregnancy. You must understand: for someone who lives in a fast-paced and carefully planned life, a sudden addition to the family could be overwhelming. If you ask Matthew and I, “If you could redo it, would you still want to delay the pregnancy?” we both would say “Yes!”

However, when we think about the many people we personally know who are having trouble conceiving or who have lost their babies, we could not be thankful enough for this. We conceived on our first “try.” Thus far, we’ve sailed through this pregnancy without any serious complication.

Would you look at that spine!

The lowest point by far was probably what happened a couple of weeks ago. Matthew and I woke up at 6am, which is incredibly early for us, feeling like going to the gym. I had been going back to the gym on a weekly basis since I regained my strength past the first trimester mark. Then I had rice for breakfast at 7am. Then we went to church for a council meeting. Six hours later we went and had kebab for lunch. I only had a few bites and urged to go home. A few minutes down the road, I vomited my entire breakfast up. It was still in food form — that is, not digested at all.

At home, Matthew gave me banana milkshake as I couldn’t and didn’t want to eat anything. At 7pm I was still weak, so we walked to the nearest Emergency Room (or, as Matthew considers it, a swanky hotel for Jakarta mosquitoes). I was given an anti-nausea tablet, which I vomited back up five minutes later along with the banana milkshake I had drunk three hours before. I then decided that I have to take both nutrition and medication intravenously.

We rushed by taxi (which took forever to arrive) to Brawijaya Women and Children’s Hospital, where I normally go for routine check-ups. On the way, I booked myself a room by phone. But lo and behold, they were fully booked.

Then I thought: no vacant taxis and no vacant room in a Women’s hospital? Of course! It’s November 10th, i.e. 10-11-12. It’s THE day people want to get married and give birth. Oh, Asians and your obsession with numbers… T_T

I then said goodbye to my money and got me a “presidential” suite at that hospital. It’s actually bigger than my old Bali apartment; it had a bathtub and a shower, as well as a sofa bed for dear husband, a living room with flat-screen cable TV, and a dining room. Eighty percent of total cost of this hospitalization was the room charge.

I could live here if only there were no crying babies next door.

Anyway, the nurses and doctors were surprised and a bit confused as to why someone who’s 17 weeks along could be throwing up. And there was really nothing wrong with me. No symptom of virus or bacteria or toxic or allergy reaction. My digestive system was just out of order and I needed an IV drip to stabilize.

I was discharged two days later. The following morning, my fetus turned 18 weeks and it was the first time I felt it kicking and punching in my tummy. Amazingly, I didn’t feel like throwing up 🙂

First trimester is a b*tch

*) And so am I!

I am typing this after wiping my own barf from my husband’s bathroom sink.
[Aside: we have separate bathrooms to keep us together. This was a sound advice from Meryl Streep whose Hollywood marriage lasts for more than 40 years.]

It would have been two seconds too late to throw up in the toilet bowl. And after I saw the damage all over my neat-freak husband’s sink, I panicked. I then scraped my half-digested pizza/leftover breakfast out from the sink and into the trash bin. It was my new personal low as far as vomiting goes. Because: 1) I was not hung over after a night of partying⎯something a girl in her twenties would feasibly do⎯and 2) I’m pregnant and I had pizza for breakfast!

Yeah, even my stomach was like: “What the hell are you trying to feed your growing baby? You should be ashamed of yourself, woman!”

Seriously, it wasn’t even morning sickness. I am in my second trimester, for crying out loud. I was just being irresponsible and my body put my mind to shame. While others glow in the second trimester, I’m just making it an extension to my first trimester, which sucked.

I should probably tell you that this pregnancy was, in a way, an accident. Due to my business travel schedule and wish to have an extended honeymoon period, Matthew and I planned to wait till December ’12 to even try. But a bad reaction to birth control pill put me off it. And like dumb love struck teenagers, we didn’t use any form of protection or preventative measures. Within a week after being off birth control, we conceived. Of course.

(Let this be a warning to you dummies who think that you can’t get pregnant if you only have unprotected sex once. Quick biology lesson: one time is all it takes.)

And I knew we conceived before the next page of the calendar. All I was feeling those weeks was best summed as: not well.
These are things I experienced weeks before the stick finally turns blue.
1. I couldn’t sleep well.
2. All I wanted and could do was curl up in the sofa.
3. I wanted to eat but couldn’t really enjoy it.
4. I only had the energy of an 80-year-old grandmother.
5. I could only run for 15 minutes before feeling like I’ve just finished a marathon.
6. My stomach was a bit plump, hard and tight.
7. My breasts hurt.
8. I need to pee all the time.
9. I need to sleep all the time.
10. I wept at the slightest touching scene on television.

But no, four home pregnancy tests said I wasn’t pregnant.

Matthew insisted that I was just having an epic PMS due to coming off birth control pill mid-cycle. It makes sense. Some research does say that I could have been experiencing that. But I refused to believe it despite an ultrasound that said my uterus line was thickened but there’s nothing else there.

Aug 4, 2012., the screen says nothing.

Matthew and I got our blood tested. Mine: to detect the smallest trace of human chorionic gonadotropin, if there is any. His: to check his blood type and group to determine whether or not there’s a possibility of conceiving a baby with negative rhesus blood group since I am a B+.

[Aside: Matthew’s lack of knowledge in his own blood is so inconsistent with the fact that he’s a hypochondriac. Oh, and his parents also forgot his blood type.]

The result: Matthew is an A+ and I had 2.56 hCG, which is half the amount for a woman to be considered pregnant. My doctor said that I did conceive but the pregnancy may not “take” so I should expect a natural miscarriage in form of heavy period within the week.

I thought, at least I was right: we did conceive. But, I didn’t want to lose this pregnancy, especially as I had all the symptoms! I didn’t want to suffer for nothing. Yes, I’m a selfish bitch.

Two weeks later, still no period or bleeding, I was scheduled to fly. Matthew insisted I should retry peeing on the stick. It was a faint positive! Wow! Then I wanted to make sure that I was not endangering my baby and inconvenience fellow passengers, so I got another ultrasound.

The doctor saw the prominent gestational sac and that I was healthy and strong. He explained that we had what’s called a delayed conception. My ovulation day was postponed by a week due to the whole birth control saga.

Aug 14, 2012: there’s the little black dot that is the gestational sac, where my baby claims residency for a while.

He said, “Congratulations on the success of your first try. Here’s your flying permit.”

Yep. Have bump. Will travel.

My first travel picture as a 4-week pregnant woman!

Sigh… First-world problems

This morning I found myself suffering from increased anxiety on the way to work (as opposed to my usual background anxiety), because the music compilation CD I had made featured some rather indulgent prog rock excesses. (If you must know, it was Yes’s early-seventies masterpiece Close to the Edge. And yeah, yeah, yeah: I’ve heard all the comments before. Don’t even start.)

The cause of the anxiety? That my Indonesian driver would think I have weird tastes, since the music is somewhat annoying to many (most) people. Twenty-minute symphonic rock masterpieces with complex time signatures, tight harmonies and monophonic Moog synths don’t always span cultural differences I’ve found.

So there I was, worried that my driver will think less of me because of my eclectic tastes. Then the CD started jumping and it also became a battle of wits and wills as to whether I tell him to turn it off, or he tried to move it to the next track, and who’d do which first.

All in all, these trips are quite eventful for me in terms of mentally grappling with in-car entertainment choices, among other things (like do I open the sunroof today?). But this is, of course, what we term a “first world problem.” And it got me thinking about other such issues Rebecca and I regularly encounter in our somewhat cosseted life here in Jakarta.

One example would be my almost continual battle with the staff at our serviced apartment over the number of fresh towels they give us. I need at least two: one for my regular swims in the adjoining huge swimming pool, and one for post-shower, plus a small one for my face.

Most times they leave only one big one, leading me to curse and mutter under my breath about inadequate towelage and how-complicated-can-it-be comments to anyone in earshot (that means Rebecca, who normally filters these sorts of things out).

And the staff always, always leave free soap and shampoo when we don’t need any, since we always take the free amenities at all the five-star hotels we visit. It’s something of a chore to collect up all the freebies and redistribute them to family and friends. Elsewhere in our serviced apartment, a faulty humidifier occasionally means the air in the bedroom is dry and gives us sore throats and sneezes.

There are more. To list them all would be exhaustive (and I’m already drained from having to lift to my mouth the cup of hot tea that the office maid brings to my desk every hour), but they include: really chilly shopping malls as well as over-zealous salespeople with no product knowledge. There’s also the loud housekeeping service every morning; a (free in the room) washing machine that makes annoying beeping noises; and the perennial problem of the fact that our apartment lifts often take a little bit too long to arrive.

Of course, reading the above would make you think we’re a couple of whining ingrates, which we are from time to time, I will freely admit. And though much of it was written with tongue firmly in cheek, all the examples are real in that we’ve both moaned about them (and when I say “both” I mean mostly me).

As to my driver? He supports a large family on a fraction of my salary, and works very long days with a smile and with humility, even through the mind-bending tedium of a lengthy Pink Floyd epic at 5:30pm in gridlocked traffic. I learn a lot from observing him. And more often than not these days, I simply don’t ask him to put the music on to save us both. It’s the kindest thing for both our sakes.

 

My secretary forgot to change my amusing cat calendar date. Now I have to do it myself. Tis a hard life to be sure.

Two years later…

There’s something about heading towards your 30’s. It makes you think about your 20’s. I have to say, though, I did not enjoy my early 20’s. From 20 to 24, I was under pressure to succeed: graduate on time with honours (√) and get my name on the masthead of a national publication (√).

After I got a job, I worked hard both to lose weight and get a promotion, which means working 9 to 9 and be at the gym for an hour everyday. Again, I achieved both and still unhappy. I didn’t know what it was; I thought it was just a quarter-life crisis. So before my 25th birthday in September 2008, I made a conscious decision to live my life carefree. (See the irony there? I planned to be more spontaneous.)

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Slingshot ride to celebrate 25th birthday

I quit my job in August 2008, joined a new company and after 8 months, accepted another job offer in June 2009. I still have the piles of old business cards in mint condition! I couldn’t (be bothered to) file my tax form because I had three jobs in one year.

I remember being miserable at 2009 New Year’s Eve party because I had nothing to look forward to. That’s what I said to my best friend that night. Especially that I wasn’t really happy with my new job I felt had nothing exciting waiting for me that year. Boy, could I be more wrong?

I made my biggest career move to Bali by mid 2009 and subsequently broke up a short-lived relationship that was not right anyway.

I finally learned that one really couldn’t plan one’s future. With that thought, I refused to buy a car or a house in Bali despite people’s advice. I couldn’t even commit to a year-advance airline promotion because my job required me to be able to travel in short notice.

One of those business trips was to Singapore, attending a trade event. The event is regular, but I didn’t know if I was gonna go and how long I was gonna be there because there’s a black-tie event in Jakarta that I also had to attend.

Little that I knew that it was THE trip that changed my life.

If you don’t know me, I should tell you that I lived my life like a Samantha Jones of Sex and The City. True to form: I was a PR pro who refused to settle down and saw men as interchangeable parts of a woman’s life.

So I went to Singapore with my “Samantha Jones” costumes lined up, along with the attitude *snaps*. That was without knowing that it was going to be my last stint as a carefree single woman.

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That night! (Notice how we sort of wanted to get closer to each other?)

It was the party where crème de la crème of Asian travel industry gathered where I met Matthew, the man of the evening and who eventually made an honest woman out of me. (Didn’t know it was possible!)

And just after Matthew and I recently mapped out our Q3 and Q4 travel plans, including my monthly business trip to Bali, my birthday celebration in London, and Christmas vacation in Hanoi, we were again being laughed at by fate.

Yup, mere two years after our first encounter at the coffee stand of Suntec Convention Centre Singapore, we found out: we’re pregnant.

Happy anniversary, honey! All I want for anniversary present is a good back rub and foot massage please 🙂