Category Archives: Girl Talk

A Letter to the Discontent – Is it Ever Enough?

 

I’m sorry this is an almost photoless post, my friends. But I have made it a point to write more frequently here so that I can put out more regular content for you all. And also to return back to my first love of writing.

So on that note. Here we go :)

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There is so much hate on social media lately.

I know this is a rather strange topic to ‘return’ to this blog to be writing about, but it’s been a matter that has been circulating in and out of my mind for months. And the more and more people I talk to, or rather, the more people that talk to me about it, the more I realise there is a growing culture of discontent breeding and permeating the current generation of us who spend a large portion of our time online – which lets face it… is most of us.

So many of ‘us’ are unhappy or never truly satisfied. Just when we think, YES, I think I am ok, we are hit with another wave of restlessness. We want more. Or become jealous over those who have what we seemingly think makes up the life we wish we had.

…. Why?

It is because we are the person who looks at that someone’s never ending load of ‘free stuff’ and wonder why we don’t get the same things. We are the person who sees another’s perfect relationship online and then questions ‘why doesn’t my partner love me like that’. We are the mother who sees another’s child and feels crummy when they are celebrating their baby sleeping through the night when you are still waking up 3 times a night and questioning if your baby will ever do the same. We are that person who looks at the other person’s followers and goes – why aren’t I more famous? We are that person working 9-5 every day slugging it to make ends meet and looking at a friend who gets to travel the world and buy designer goods and you wonder, why is it so hard? We are the person who looks at another woman’s body and wonders why our own legs are not as long, or our abs only have 2 packs instead of 6, or why their eyes and nose are perfect when yours are small and crooked. You are the woman who cannot get pregnant after 8 years of trying and see what seems like the 50th pregnancy announcement on instagram this year and question, what is wrong with me? The list goes on and on people. I could keep typing for many more hours. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

And why is it like this?

It is because SO MUCH OF OUR LIVES is online these days. SO MUCH.

I know I am sounding like somewhat of a hypocrite writing out these words, considering I run two brands that heavily uses social media as part of its business.

But hear me out.

Just 6 years ago, facebook and instagram were still baby platforms. I hopped on the bandwagon when using the in program filters was considered cool, I had to sign up an account for my husband because he didn’t see what the big deal was, and back then it was not about curating the perfect looking feed. It was simply a means to see what your friends were up to. Just 6 years ago, my friends! Before that, I was using the traditional methods of a website and a blog to put out my work and my writing. People didn’t know what was going on in another person’s life unless you actually met up with them and talked to them face to face over coffee or on the phone and really just ‘caught up’ (that, or gossip. But for the purpose of this post, we won’t go into this latter. Maybe at another time, ok? ). People also didn’t check their phones as the first and last things they did in the day.

Today? Nowadays, our eyes and our minds are completely SATURATED with content. Daily. Hourly. Maybe even by the minute.

What others are doing, buying, eating, where they are, how they are feeling, are literally thrown at us even if we aren’t searching for it (anyone seen the explore feed on Instagram? See my point?).

It is no wonder so many of us are not content with our lives.

In all honesty, I also question myself daily – am I using social media right? Do I use it too much? Am I being an ambassador that inspires and encourages? Or do I also breed and add to this culture of discontent and secret jealousy? I will also admit that I have caved into the whole envy wave and have been caught grumbling and wondering a number of ‘whys’  – my husband will attest to that. Its a cycle I have fought over and over.

Anyway… this post isn’t to jab. Not at all. I just wanted to raise the issue. Because I felt sad for a number of people I’ve spoken to who feel like they dont have enough. Sometimes they aren’t even aware they are doing it. But when I read the things they say online in jest, or when I sat down and looked at their lives in totality, they are INCREDIBLY BLESSED. I kept thinking – don’t you realise SO MANY PEOPLE out there don’t even have half of what you have. You have it good, girl.

So I guess, the purpose of this post apart from raising the issue, was also to hopefully encourage more of you out there to do two things.

1) Be aware of what you put out. Be sensitive. Think about those who may not get to enjoy whatever it is you are possibly going to gush about, and be wise about your captions appropriately.

And

2) For those who are feeling like they are on the losing end, or that their life isn’t enough….Remember that the things you have now, were once things you didn’t have before. Or perhaps they were things you wished for previously. And for my brothers and sisters in christ, I want to share with you something a friend of mine shared recently that encouraged me in this area immensely:

She shared:

“Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.” Psalm 63:3

Did you read that? Did you look really carefully? BETTER THAN LIFE. Thats right people, God’s steadfast faithful and unfailing love is BETTER THAN LIFE itself.

We are cheated into thinking all the time that there is a better job, or a new life we should be living, or a more suitable spouse, a bigger house, nicer clothes and shoes, more friends, more followers an fans, that will satisfy this never ending thirst we have… but ever realise that once you have it, your mind wants more? I’ll let you in on a secret… it is because we weren’t designed for a life chasing purely after pleasures. They are good things to have and enjoy, but they should never be the basis of our happiness or contentment. I was reminded (again) of this recently.

I know we can keep looking towards ourselves (which is good! I’m not asking you to not do this. We should always keep working on a better version of ourselves) – but we humans are inherently flawed. And sinful at the core. So, because our flesh fails us, it reminds me we constantly need to look to the cross and our Saviour who promised complete fulfilment of our souls in Him. Only Christ can truly satisfy. He says so time and time again in His faithful word.

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)

We can have all the fame, riches, perfect marriage and kids in the world, and keep feeding our hearts with pleasures, and I can bet your bottoms that it will never be ‘enough’. There is ALWAYS something else next. It is a tireless pursuit to look for completeness in things and people… because people inevitably also fail us, and possessions cannot love us back. And lets be honest, sometimes even love disappoints.

Now, before this post gets depressing, hear me out for a little longer. It will end on a good note (I hope! :D).

I just want to say first and foremost (before you roll your eyes at me in judgement thinking I’m some martyr), I don’t claim to be good at this. I have failed many times. So I’m also writing this post for me. To remind myself to be grateful. To pursue the right things. To remember that pleasures like money, clothes, holidays and so on are good things that God gives us to enjoy, but they should never become the benchmark for our definition of success or happiness. I am reminding myself to drink the water that completely satisfies from the well of life Himself. I am hoping this post reminds you of the same things.

To my non christian friends reading this, I know what I just said sounds weird. But if you take anything from this, I hope you take encouragement to spend less time comparing. And appreciate what you do have in the present. Spend less time online scrolling, and spend more of those minutes and hours of yours cultivating real relationships with those around you. And to remember to always be grateful for the small and the big things you have been given for there are always people out there who have less or nothing :) . The grass is not greener on the other side. It is green where you water it.

Alright… Tuesday night reflections are over. And it’s time to put the baby to sleep. Til my next post. Yes, my friends, I am trying harder to write more often.. Shorter posts, but more frequently. Hopefully ;)

ps: Enjoy the little graphic I designed below. It’s there for anyone who wants to save it and print it to keep as a reminder on your phone, your desk or wall or journals :)

Jenny Signoff
yoursteadfastlove

Happy One Year Sienna


I hear my baby crying.

I look to the clock and realize it’s late. The weight of fatigue is aching in my bones and my body sighs with the familiar tiredness that comes with the ushering of another evening. Another 24 hours past. Yes, it is late. But it is her usual hour of the night where she seems to sleep a little lighter than the other hours of the evening, and she becomes more unsettled.

Usually, I’d quickly run over and attend to her. Pat her back gently over and over again until she calms down and slowly drifts back into whatever dreamland she was in before what I like to call her ‘witching hour’ began. It almost always works. And within a few short minutes, she is sleeping soundly again and I will go about the rest of my night whether it is prepping her food for the next day, replying client emails, editing photos, or just spending time with my husband catching up on our day and relaxing in front of the TV.

However this evening, she was a little more restless than usual. So I decided to pick her up and cradle her in my arms.

For some reason, tonight, I felt an intense need to just hold her.

It is the eve of her first birthday. Yup, we made it to a year.

364 whole days.

My, how far we have come since those early newborn days when the rawness of motherhood weighed on my shoulders so heavily it bore tears on my back from the burden of trying to ‘get it all right’ and the uncertainty of how things would pan out with raising a high-needs baby. Would this ever end? Why didn’t anyone tell me it would be this hard? When will this get better? Will I ever love my child? Why can’t I breastfeed? Am I abnormal? Why doesn’t my baby eat like other babies? Why can’t my child sleep better? Am I ever going to feel like myself again? Those were just some of the haunting questions from the beginning that plagued those fragile few months. Questions that now, thankfully, are just mere shadows. Remnants of another time.

Motherhood seemed so scary in those days. So terrifyingly alone despite being surrounded by so many people. However, a year of motherhood has somehow slowly forged a strength and a wisdom that continues to grow as I navigate through this season of life with Sienna. Don’t get me wrong, I am still learning. Every day in fact. But I am no longer that frightened woman who had all the baby preparation checklists crossed off, yet felt so naked under the buckling pressure that comes with the birth of your first child.

And then, while I was hugging her little frame in the bend of my arms, I realized that I had been holding on to the thought that my little girl would not look like how she does in this very moment much longer. Her baby features such as those incredibly round full cheeks we have become so familiar with, her little double chin, the folds of skin in between her arms and legs that I’ve come to love and adore so much, will soon be changing as she rapidly grows into toddlerhood… and then childhood… and then the teen years… and…. You get the picture. They grow up :(

How does time pass by SO quickly? Especially when at the beginning, it crawled so painfully by and the minutes would seem like hours, stretched between more hours.

I wasn’t ready for her to grow up.

And I guess that’s why I was holding on to her more these days. Because I don’t know for how much longer she will let me do this. You know, to just carry her. Sleep in my embrace. Or have my arms still be the most comfortable and easiest place to slumber away those tired eyes.

The irony of all this is, I used to resent that she would need me so much. Everyone around me commented that my child was crazy clingy. Overly so. They still do. It used to make me annoyed. Resentful. Bitter at times. Crave independence. And be jealous of those mothers who could push their baby in prams, or sleep in their own cot, or be able to go out on date nights with their husbands when I was stuck with a child who seemed forever chained to my side and constantly cried. Who never slept anywhere but my arms, and whom I could hardly bring outside because she would always wail, and would never sit in the stroller that her daddy so carefully handpicked just for her before she even inhaled her first breath.

Then something funny happened. One day, I started to like her more. She started to smile. Then I began to love her. She learned to respond to my voice. And then, we got to 1 year and now I cant bear the thought of putting her down because I know one day, I wont be able to hold her like I do now. She will get too heavy. And physically my bones will not be able to bear her flourishing weight. And of course, she will eventually prefer her friends over her mama.

So when she crawls towards me in her usual fierce stealth and proceeds to lift her hands upwards motioning to be picked up, I will pick her up. And I will scoop her into the cove of my elbow when she cries at night. Because I know it’s her mama she is crying for. It is me she wants. And I am telling myself every time it’s okay because with everything in regards to kids, it is only temporary. It passes with the pages of time. So I will embrace it. Celebrate it. Love it. For it doesn’t last forever, and one day I know we will miss these days with a piercing ache, when our babes needed us this much. Craved us so intensely.

She is not the easiest baby, and I am definitely so far from being the most perfect mother. But we love each other imperfectly, and in that irony that is what makes us perfect for each other.

So, as the last page of her first year of life makes a slow turn, I think about what kind of girl I want her to grow up to be… and these are the letters and words that form in my heart before this mamma of hers gets too old to remember. This letter is for her…

My dear baby girl,

The world is a big and scary place. But your mother knows that you will grow up to be all sorts of wonderful. However before you get there, you will come upon crossroads, and questions, and people who will tell you many things.

Of all those things, your mama just wants you to remember a few…..

First, remember that you are always beautiful. Whatever size, shape, or height you grow up to be, know that God made you that way purposefully and with intention. You don’t ever need to fix anything about your appearance. Remember that physical beauty is not everything. The world will tell you otherwise, and that you need to have perfectly symmetrical features. That your eyes should be a certain width and size. That your nose needs to be of a particular height and thinness. That the dresses you’re wearing are too large and that the gap in between your thighs is not wide enough. That you should be eating lettuce and starving your body to be beautiful. That you are less than amazing because you lack those very things.

Please know they are lying.

The truth is, beauty is seen in how you treat people. It is translated when you love those smaller and lesser than yourself with grace and abundance. And it is felt when you are friends with someone not because they have 150 thousand followers on their instagram account, but because you genuinely love their presence and care about what makes them happy or sad.

And you are incredible not because of the clothes you wear or how small the numbers on a scale say you are, but because your eyes can tell a thousand and one different shades of color and can see better than the best camera that exists today, because your voice has the capability to speak multiple languages and sing lilting or off key notes, because your hands have the nimbleness to hold a needle and thread the smallest of loops yet also carry the weight of a sack of rice from the car to the kitchen for your daddy one day, and also because your mind…your beautiful mind, is so intelligent because it has the potential to compute a million mathematical puzzles yet paint a rich tapestry of hues and shapes on a canvas. Just knowing those connective nerves in your brain are already teaching you how to form your first spoken words now as I type this letter to you amazes me.

Next, work hard and be responsible with all that you are given. But don’t ever get too busy chasing after money that you lose time making memories and doing life with those whom you love. Life and youth disappears faster than the next beat of your heart and no bank account you build is large enough to replace what time robs you of. Before you know it, you are old or loved ones have departed this life, or people have forgotten you.

Lastly, my baby, I want you to chase your dreams…. Yes, go after them… But don’t be fooled by the pursuit for fame or the ‘glamorous life’ to the point where you lose sight of the bigger picture or forget the more important things on this side of heaven and the other. It is an exhausting and often empty deceptive quest. They will tell you that it is all about how many people behind a screen follow you. But I will tell you my dear, that the only numbers that matter are the ones on your phone whom you have dialed and called up today to ask how their day has been. And how many people you have prayed for. And how many friends whom you can trust with your very life. Remember that popularity is not how many people whom you can gather on a computer to say they love you – that, my babe is a hollow representation of what a real leader should be. The secret is that people will be drawn to you instead by the hope you shine when you show them you are strong. And kind. And compassionate. And loving. And humble. And genuine. You don’t ever have to pretend you are perfect to earn the respect of those around you. Instead, shower your path with humility, and dignity, and be real about your flaws and imperfections because people are not looking for another plastic unattainable figurehead. Instead, they are looking for someone whom they can see as a sister, a friend, and find a fragment of themselves in, a trusted confidant. Hold yourself to a standard of grace and love always. And seek, relentlessly and steadfastly seek, to be that proverbs 31 woman that her children call blessed to have as their mother. And whose husband is proud to call his own. And whose friends are honored to call their sister. This is the kind of woman that God adores. And if the God of the universe says that is what pleases Him, we listen :)

Love,

Your mama.

…..

Happy One year old, my dear Sienna Rose :) Your daddy and I love you so very much.

Thank you to my sister in law, Bertha, who not only decorated the whole little family affair we had, but also made this beautiful and sweet birthday cake (in fabulous Red Velvet *shrieks*) for Sienna! Massive Love.

Motherhood: An 11 month Journal

 

**WARNING: Long post ahead**

familyphoto

Apologies for all the non ‘professional’ photos that you will see in this post and the ones related to it, but most of my personal life has been captured in the moment. Usually from our phones. So while the photos aren’t pretty, I hope you can appreciate that they are real instead hehe :)

Also, If you’re wondering why I have taken so long to write a post about motherhood, and all its pitfalls, joys, and battlescars, I somehow feel like I come up short with the right words. But I’ll try.. here goes my heart for the last 11 months.

Continue reading

 

It’s late. She’s finally asleep. And I’m sitting here on my bed, with her inside her cot, next to me.

I hear the sound of cars in the distance, and the buzzing of her white noise machine whirring away on the bedside table as usual, and I catch myself realizing it has been almost one year since she came into our lives.

Crazy.

I don’t often get much time to pause and think these days (I’m sure most mothers can attest to this) as sleep usually wins in terms of needs on our list of things to do. However, this one makes me stop.

I can’t believe she is already 11 months old…” I say to myself.

It almost takes my breath away knowing that time has somehow escaped our grasp this quickly, like a wild running waterfall that spills over the biggest of cliffs. It certainly hasn’t felt like a year. “More like a mere few months at most?”.

When sienna was brand new, a lot of the mothers that spoke to me and shared their words of wisdom, often told me “the days are long, but the years are short”.

I always found the saying really strange. A paradox that I just could not reconcile in my mind. I couldn’t quite understand it’s meaning in my newly minted mother-status. But I do now.

As a mum, each day is tiring. Some days are joys and wins. And others are battles. The rest, just fall in between the middle-of-the-road normal of fighting to stay awake, endless nappy changes, puke stains on newly washed clothes, while making sure our child gets all her sleep, her nutrients, her milk, her liquids, and stays clean enough to not get herself sick. Let’s not mention if we even get time to have a meal or a shower uninterrupted. I remember in the newborn fog, those things were luxuries, optional ones at that.

It varies between mother to mother, but we all share the same sentiment: The days, can feel very very stretched. Especially for those mothers out there who do it completely alone. I salute these women. They’re tough. They’re independent. They’re strong and resourceful. These are totally badass women and I love everything about what they can handle. These mothers manage an entire household, look after their babies, their husbands (to those who are single mothers or fathers, you’re at the top of my respect list), and still have to find a way to eat, work, shower, and sleep. Typing that very paragraph already makes me tired. To live this each and everyday as a reality? RESPECT. I have the blessing of family, my husband, and help, with my little sienna when I am working or travelling, and I am already exhausted, so trust me when I say I think these women who do it alone are incredible.

I look back at Sienna’s resting face this evening, and her small little frame, wrapped up in her floral nighttime onesie. I can’t help but study her round cuddly features from time to time….Yes, it’s a weird thing we parents like to do… look at our kids while they’re sleeping. Its an extremely peaceful and calming sight, and even despite the worst of days, when they return to their beds, and their eyes lids close from heaviness, we love them again with an overflowing soul crushing kind of love. The kind of love that wants to burst through the walls from its weight and might. It is a phenomenon that happens every night. A renewing of sorts.

11 months in, I understand why mothers say their children drive them crazy, but they love them so much it hurts. We live with this paradox everyday.

The irony of all this is… We mothers love it. We wouldn’t trade this thing called parenthood for the world. Call us crazy, but children do that to you. I have never thought of myself as very maternal or clucky, but having a little person who is my very own has taught me so much about self sacrifice, patience, forgiveness, letting go, slowing down, being present in the moment, perspectives of the bigger picture, and knowing what are the right battles to pick. But lessons mainly about love. So so so much about love. I’ll need another post for that alone. And I know I am still learning. Forever a student.

It is at this moment I notice her eyelashes… it’s always her eyelashes first. They’re so long. It kind of surprises me each time, even though they don’t really change. I sometimes wonder where she gets them from because Ju and I definitely haven’t been blessed with such a pretty attribute. Then my thoughts always drift to, “who does she look more like? Ju? Me?” . People often say she resembles her daddy. And I will admit, she has so much of her father in her. Both the physical and the personality traits. Yet, at the same time, when I study her more and more, I realize she is a rather equal balance of the both of us. I don’t know if any one thing about her is truly Ju, or me.

For example, her eyes. Her eyes have single eyelids, but the size of the eyes are like mine. Or her lips for instance… They are small in size like mine, but the shape? They are pouty like her father’s. And then, there is her character. Her giant character. She can be all sorts of happy and funny and joyful… but at the same time she is also superbly stubborn, and feisty, and knows exactly what she wants when she wants it. Just thinking over that makes me laugh…. She has SO much personality. It literally bursts through every day and she wears it through her entire body. It makes me chuckle every single time.

But Jenny, you stil havent told us what has motherhood been like these past 11 months? ” I hear you asking.

I don’t know if any one word would aptly describe it… busy? tiring? challenging? rewarding? joyful? complete…?

One thing is for sure though… I have lived a much quieter life since Sienna came into this world. Quieter, not in the sense of literal noise. For she is one LOUD and noisy baby, and definitely has a good set of lungs on her. But quiet in the sense that my life has been a lot slower since she came about. That doesn’t mean I am no longer busy. It just means being a mother has forced me to be in the moment alot more. I used to be SO SO busy with work. And my mind was in a million and one places at a time. I was constantly on the go. And while I got more sleep then, vs now, I felt like I was never settled. I was always flying, and living out of a suitcase.

Don’t get me wrong, the work was good and I will never complain about the blessing of being able to earn, especially in this economy today. I just always felt adrift and no place was really home. It drove me crazy at times. So let me say, it has been marvelous…wonderfully fulfilling in fact, to be planted in one place. And living what I like to call it the ‘quiet life’. I know a lot of people out there are chasing the glamour and the fame and the money, and there is nothing wrong with that. But let me tell you, that this quiet-life is so underrated. People should try it more often. It is so beautiful. After 9 years of crazy, I’ve finally had time to stop and rekindle friendships. To actually BE with people. To Live life WITH them. And that in turn, has brought around so much joy and fulfillment. There really is no life, without people to live and love with :)

Anyway, before this becomes a book, I just wanted to say, motherhood in the last 11 months? Has been all kinds of wonderful and terrible. But mostly under the wonderful umbrella :) The start was rough. Very rough (you can read more about it in the 0-3 month section below)…I felt so lost under the waves of anxiety of whether I was doing things right, or if I would ever survive being a parent and feel human again. I swore I would never want another kid. I cried. I wondered what was wrong with my child. I wondered what was wrong with me. Then one day, the fog slowly began to clear, and things started to seem less painful. Either I was getting used to things, or Sienna was getting used to things.

I realized, actually it was both :)

And it was then that I realised it takes time to love someone. I expected to be head over heels in love with my baby as soon as she was born and just adore being a mother…. but Just like any other relationship, you need time to know the other person, be with them, bond with them, and learn about them inside out to reach the falling in love stage. Anyway, at least we got there in the end….it took longer than I expected, but happened. And that’s all that matters :) More importantly, the love grows with each and every day.

Since then, she has grown up to be such a wonderful little baby girl. I look forward to her cuddles and her cheeky mischievous nature every day when our eyelids first wake from the haze of a night’s sleep. Thinking about it, makes me realise I’m going to miss calling her a baby, and I don’t think I am quite ready to accept that she will technically be termed a toddler in less than a month, but I’ll continue to cling tight to her tiny round clumsy limbs, and press my face against her beautiful soft round cheeks, because soon they will become framed cheekbones, and long and lean and able arms and feet. So I will hold onto these days as much as I can. For they fleet away from us much too fast. I will score them on my heart, and hope my older self remembers fondly of how glorious they were. And what an amazing blessing it was to raise her in this most fragile and vulnerable period of her life.

So, I sit here at the end of this post admitting to you that despite being 11 months in, I am still new to this whole motherhood thing. While I know for myself that I have gotten the hang of some of it, there is still a long road ahead and many years to walk through, and that children are always changing. But one thing is for sure, I love being Sienna’s mother. She may be altogether overwhelming, but she is also a total joy at the same time. And she may have endless (and I mean ENDLESS) bounds of energy that can literally consume me some days, however I am certain she is all worth it. I know you mammas out there know what I am talking about… I can’t quite explain it. And for those that aren’t mammas or pappas, I hope you have appreciated my story so far, regardless :) Thank you for taking the time to read, and follow me on this season of my life.

To end… I just want to share here again, exactly one part of what I wrote in my 0-3 months after birth post (link below) to encourage any mothers out there who are really feeling overwhelmed or finding it difficult to embrace their new role in life… that ‘this too shall pass‘.

I heard this phrase ALL the time when Sienna was first around. Back in those days, I will admit that it annoyed me to no end, because when you are desperate for time to pass and stuck in what seems and feels like an endless tunnel of when things will change with your baby, its hard to believe other mothers who say that IT WILL PASS. But sitting here at 11 months on, I know it to be true. A difficult, and a long truth to understand, but truth none the less. Which means there is hope. It means it only gets better. Yes ladies, it really does :) Trust it coming from a mother of a high needs baby! :)

So if you are finding it hard, tough, unbearable. Hang in there. You will eventually fall in love with your baby. Trust me you will. Don’t compare your journey with anyone else’s. Your babe will eventually learn how to eat. She will eventually learn how to sleep. In time she is even going to smile at you. And respond to your words. And before you know it, you will have a little human being in your lives that you just cannot bear to imagine life without. I promise you that you won’t even remember what your existence felt like before she came. It will be but a distant memory and you will think to yourself, the tears were worth it. It was all so very worth THIS.

Sienna and I, today :) 11 Months old.

Sienna and I, today :) 11 Months old.

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For those of you who are wondering about the finer details of my journey with Sienna, which will talk more about the practical side of things like breastfeeding, skin care, weight loss, body image, and so on, you can read on further in the following links. I have taken the liberty to break it down into smaller sections for all of you, so that you wouldn’t have to read and scroll through an entire literary saga in this post. I’ve started by releasing the 0-3 month post, with the rest to be published shortly after (didn’t want to overwhelm you all with everything all in one go :P). Hopefully in between all these, I can write little journals or updates on current life with Sienna so you don’t always get furnished with a novel each time I blog ;)

Birth – 3 months (available for reading now)

3-6 months (to be published by the end of this weekend)

6-11 months (to be published sometime hopefully early next week)

 

Jenny Signoff

Motherhood: Birth to 3 Months

Hello friends!

Welcome to my Birth to 3 Months diary of sorts!

meholdingsienna_newborn

While this wont be a journal/story like my 11-month post, it will be much more practical and hopefully more detailed in nature so you have an idea what this period of my life was like! I don’t profess to know everything, and I am in no way an expert, so what I write here is just to share what went on, and if anything you take from here encourages you, that’s wonderful! If not, I just want to thank you here first for reading anyway :)

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The Pregnancy

Before I go on, I should probably quickly summarize my pregnancy.

While you can read in more detail what my pregnancy was like here and here, I can quickly recap and let you know my 1st trimester – was honestly horrible for me. I never felt more sick in my life, and I swear I it was like I was in a constant state of vertigo and motion sickness the entire time. Thankfully the 2nd trimester got better, and while I never really felt a full 100% for the remainder of my pregnancy, I could at least function like a human being without feeling like all the cells in my body wanted to hurl. It was also around this time, I stopped looking like I had eaten too much, and my baby bump decided to show.

Also, I missed exercising (I was super active before I got pregnant ) but it just got too hard with limited energy and just not being agile enough due to the growing belly weight and the strain it put on my joints and back. The plus side though, is that we took a last minute trip to the Maldives for our babymoon (I have so many photos which I will eventually share) which was the most relaxing trip we have ever done…. And then by the time I knew it, I was already seeing out my 3rd trimester and finally completing the nursery with just a couple of weeks to spare :)

From 18 weeks to 38 weeks. Click photo for full sized image.

From 18 weeks to 38 weeks. Click photo above for full sized image.

Sienna's nursery :)

Sienna’s nursery :)

People often say to me, don’t I miss being pregnant? And in all honesty, while I respect all the women out there who had a glorious 9 months baking a bun in their oven, from my own personal experience (and I know it is very subjective from person to person), I don’t miss pregnancy much. I will say though, one thing was very special. It was feeling Sienna move inside. It was something only I, myself, could feel when she kicked, rolled, and hiccupped. And while Ju, could ‘see’ the movements from the outside, there was just something quite indescribably special and soul-tied about knowing those sensations intimately from the inside. I know only mothers will understand this strange yet wonderful miracle, so mammas/mamma-to-be ladies out there, I hope you know what I am talking about :)

The Birth Onwards

You can read the birth in full detail here, and see some photos that were taken by the husband as well of the moment Sienna came into our lives, while I try to wrap my head around what happened these first 3 months. In all honesty, a lot of it was a blur. I thought I was somewhat prepared for what newborn life would be like, and while in my head I knew it would require sacrifice, change, lack of sleep, and challenges, I don’t think anything really got me ready for the runaway train of a wreck that these few raw and new months were truly like. Most of the time, I felt so lost and overwhelmed, and worried. Always worrying. I know most mothers will tell you that as a parent, you will forever worry about your child, but I think these few months as virgins in the land of parenthood, everything freaked me out and I was constantly wondering if I was doing the right thing. What was wrong with my child? Why is she ALWAYS crying. It really did a number on us.

You see, Sienna was a very very unsettled baby.

Breastfeeding/Pumping Vs Formula:

She never learned to latch or breastfeed despite so so many attempts and help from friends, family and trained medical professionals alike  (so I pumped all my milk every few hours which honestly drove me crazy because by the time I was done, she would want to feed again… and the washing/sterilizing! Don’t even get me started…so for my sanity, I eventually weaned my breastmilk off at around the 3 month mark and slowly introduced formula which was one of the best decisions I made in this period as it meant I got more sleep, and the time I wasn’t washing/sterilizing meant I could actually spend it with Sienna. I could finally actually bond and learn to appreciate her. It also meant anyone could now feed her and I didn’t have to worry about pumping at a job/meeting, or when I travelled for work, etc). I know everyone has their own choices and preferences, which I completely respect… this was just mine.

Then she was never really a good feeder so there was a phase where she refused to drink any of her milk for stretches as long as 12-14 hours a day, every day, for weeks. It drove me crazy… but eventually with the persuasion of the Dr, I decided to just go with the flow… slowly but surely, she began to drink her milk again, and by her 4th month she was consuming the stuff regularly and in a fairly predictable routine :) We some how hit a crazy phase by month 7 or 8, but more on that later.

Sienna’s Skin issues:

On top of all this, she had reflux. And really bad cradle cap (which thankfully, went away with use of Detinox for cradle cap and using QV Bath Oil in her daily bath to bathe her instead of shampoo/soap). And last but not least, she had really bad eczema. Her skin got so bad, people looked at us and wondered what we were doing to our child. It ended up getting blistered, oozing out with liquid. I sobbed as I looked at my baby’s face and felt so damn helpless. People were offering their opinions for this everywhere, and believe me we tried EVERYTHING. We even had her blood tested for any allergies – she had none. In the end, while I know it isn’t the most natural of routes, and probably the least desirable, at around the 2.5 to 3 month mark we put Sienna on a course of steroid cream on Dr’s advice, in hopes that her body’s immune system would keep growing stronger while we used the cream so that in time, we could depend on it less and less.

Slowly, but surely, the redness that was all over face and body, slowly faded away. She still gets small flare ups now and again (Mainly on her face) but its well and truly better than what it used to be, and its so much easier to control now. People even commented over time how beautiful her complexion was (if only they knew the early days!). I know there is a really big taboo on the use of steroids and so on, and trust me, as a mother all I wanted was natural natural natural stuff all the way too, but when you child is screaming because she can’t sleep, because she is itchy everywhere, because she is in so much discomfort, I felt, the best thing for her and my family was to treat it quickly and ease her pain. Today, we rarely even use the cream, and her skin is beautiful and glowing just like any other child’s. So mothers who are fighting this, don’t feel like this isn’t an option. Decide what is best for your child at the end of the day and don’t listen to anyone out there telling you otherwise.

Sienna’s sleeping habits:

Let me tell you, my baby girl was (and in some ways, still is) a terrible sleeper. I don’t even remember what it is like to sleep through the night in one stretch haha. She is alot better now (sleeps from about 8pm to 730am, and wakes up maybe once, but is easy to settle back if we pat her back to sleep).

As a newborn in this stage of her life, she had to be swaddled (and this remained until she was 6 month old or so). In addition, Sienna refused to be put down when sleeping which meant that we co-slept with her, and I slept with her in my arms the whole night. On top of that, she only settled into sleep when we rocked/carried her. So it made each day a living nightmare for me because it meant I felt constantly chained to her (we all know how much babies sleep). And the nights were the worst. Because that is when I felt the most alone. I literally had a sick feeling in my stomach (the kind when you know you’re expecting a terrible FAIL result for a massive exam, or a big job interview return phone call) as the hours and minutes drew closer and closer to the evening. I knew that the part of the day where I’d be most exhausted but had to keep my body up every hour was arriving… again.

*cue all the parenting advice, good and bad, that got thrown at us from all sorts of directions at this point from here*

Believe me, we heard it ALL. Don’t carry your baby so much, you will spoil her. Don’t rock her to sleep, she will get used to it. Just leave her there and cry. But what they didn’t see were the nights we left her crying endlessly, to the point where she was choking on her own sobbing and only getting worse. They didnt see that I got more sleep holding her than putting her down. They didn’t see that sienna slept better (and was therefore happier during her awake hours) when I had her in my arms while she was slumbering. At the end of the day, for sanity and peace sake, I eventually decided to turn off the internet, to stop reading mummy forums, and to take all parenting advice given to us with a pinch of salt, and to ultimately decide for our own family what was best.

I realize everyone meant well, but what they do not tell you is that, in the throws of trying to figure out your own body that continues to be ravaged by hormones and lack of sleep, trying to figure out your baby, and trying to figure out how your entire life fits in and around this new human being, most parents are already quite….fragile.

People often looked at me and sienna, with pity and alarm as they saw everything that was going on with her and I, and I probably also drove my Dr crazy with the number of visits we ended up having in this period. But I hope what people learn about new parents is, we are doing our best. While we are physically drained, we are already doing our utmost best. Really. Even though on the surface it may seem like a bit of a mess.

Sometimes being told we shouldn’t do things certain ways, or asked why haven’t we tried this yet makes us feel kind of like a failure of sorts. And it hurts our already tired and frazzled egos. Rationally, we know people don’t mean any harm, but I always feel it is best to leave parents to do their thing. Trust me when I say they are already doing everything possible for their babe in the given situation they are in… and they have probably already tried everything. And, when they have the breath, depth, and energy to resurface from this rollercoaster of a season, if they need the help, they will ask :) They will. So don’t worry. So I usually say to people, the best thing they can do for new parents is just ask if there is anything they can do to help, if not, just smile and say they’re baby looks so cute, and that they are doing a mighty fine job. Makes us feel a whole lot better and you look like amazing friends :)

Baby Milestones + Notes:

  • Sienna could lift her own head by 1 month
  • She was doing tummy time by about the same time. Not that she really liked it. She always preferred to be held upright. To this day, this trait of hers, has not changed.
  • She hated the stroller. Still does to this day. Thank goodness for carriers. We used an Ergo performance carrier at first, but then switched to a Pognae HipSeat Forward facing carrier when she was about 6 months (about the time she was able to sit up herself). I’ve heard good things about the Ergo 360 cool air though – something for mummies to check out if they were looking for such a thing.
  • We saw her first real smile probably at the 2.5 month mark :)
  • One of the things I learned over time, was that Sienna was definitely NOT a textbook baby. She never followed any of the things that textbooks and websites said. While it was utterly frustrating and one of the things that made me feel so very helpless (and hence extremely extremely stressed), it also taught me to eventually go with the flow. That what people said was best for her, was not always ‘the’ way with her. In the end, we took the approach of doing what was best for our family and our baby as a whole unit. For example, if co-sleeping meant everyone got more sleep, we chose co-sleeping :) Or if feeding her formula meant she actually got fed without the screaming and the tears, then we went with formula.

Mummy notes during this time:

Emotional state – Fragile and frazzled. I have to say, for most of this period, I was kind of a wreck. I lived from day to day on survival mode, and felt like I had no idea what I was doing most of the time. I had a few bouts where I would find myself crying in the shower, for no real specific reason. It was just all overall overwhelming, and I was always wishing I was either more in control of my life, more in control of my baby, or just wishing for a break. In time it got better though, and thanks to some mothers from a mother’s group I was part of during that period, I managed. Their words, visits, and advice really got me through the crazy.

Also, Ju (my husband), besides being as hands on as he possibly knew during the time, he did whatever he could to alleviate the stress, and make things easier. One of those things, was to get me out of the house for a couple of hours each day. This was a saving grace as it meant I had something to look forward to each evening to get me through those rough nights, and it also meant my life didn’t feel like it revolved 100% around nappies, crying, puke, solving skin issues, sleep issues, and feeding issues. While it didn’t make the pain of dealing with all of the above literally easier, it did help the day to day crawling of time pass by. And that really helped me come back more refreshed and charged to take on the rest of the mum-duties when I got back.

Self-care – Much like other new mothers out there, there isn’t much time to do anything outside of looking after our babies. Much less looking after ourselves. I think I looked (and felt) the worst I ever have in my entire life during this period which included my diet, my hair, my skin, and my body. I remember my skin literally flaking off my face, and my hair falling out in chunks in the shower, not having the mental space or energy to think about eating healthy, none of my regular clothes fitting and still having to wear maternity wear for another couple of months.  I think I disappeared from the face of the planet for most of this period and only my immediate family and closest of friends knew what was going on in my life in this period. Life eventually eased up enough, and Sienna settled into to somewhat of a routine enough to let me start figuring those things out one by one, but more on that in my 3-6months after birth post :)

Weight Loss – So, the weight gain by the end of my pregnancy was 16KG. It was easily 4kg over what I hoped would be the maximum I would put while Sienna was growing inside. And while after the birth, I lost 5 immediately, the remaining 11 was hard hard work. I know as mums we aren’t supposed to be hard on ourselves as it took 9 months to gain all that weight, and we literally grew a human being inside us, but when you’re battling body image issues on a daily basis, and feeling yucky about yourself, you do think about the extra weight hanging around. But much like self-care, I didn’t have time to work on this until Sienna was a little older –  of which I’ll be writing about in my 3-6 and my 6-11 month post :)

Lastly just some advice:

Practical talk – To any mammas out there who are expecting your first child, just a heads up that your milk will come in about 3 -4 days after the birth. No one told me. And for some reason, all the birth prep documents and articles never mentioned it. So what happened was that I got severe engorgement because I let my milk stay inside for almost 8-9 hours without letting it out. Thankfully I did not get mastitis (which is a horrible fever and infection of the milk ducts) but it did mean I had to be extremely diligent and hard working to massage all that milk out and start a regular pumping schedule (as Sienna never directly latched on). Yup, I unwisely didn’t bring a breast pump so all of it was done by hand. So pregnant ladies, do pack one! Even if it is a borrowed one from a friend into your hospital bad :)

This too shall pass – I heard this phrase ALL the time when Sienna was first around. Back in those days, I will admit that it annoyed me to no end, because when you are desperate for time to pass and stuck in what seems and feels like an endless tunnel of when things will change with your baby, its hard to believe other mothers who say that IT WILL PASS. But sitting here at 11 months on, I know it to be true. A difficult, and a long truth to understand, but truth none the less. Which means there is hope. It means it only gets better. Yes ladies, it really does :) Trust it coming from a mother of a high needs baby! :)

So if you are finding it hard, tough, unbearable. Hang in there. You will eventually fall in love with your baby. Trust me you will. Don’t compare your journey with anyone else’s. Your babe will eventually learn how to eat. She will eventually learn how to sleep. In time she is even going to smile at you. And respond to your words. And before you know it, you will have a little human being in your lives that you just cannot bear to imagine life without. I promise you that you won’t even remember what your existence felt like before she came. It will be but a distant memory and you will think to yourself, the tears were worth it. It was all so very worth THIS.

Anyway, I thought to end, to share some moments we managed to capture on camera during this time. We didn’t get a chance to take pretty newborn photos, but all that is here is 100% real :)

Sienna - From birth to 3 months :) Click photo above to see the full sized version :)

Sienna – From birth to 3 months :) Click photo above to see the full sized version :)

Jenny Signoff

Pregnancy: Our Maternity Shoot

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Hello Friends!

This post has been meaning to go up since our week 34 bump shoot, but as I mentioned in my previous post, I developed a serious case of carpel tunnel syndrome, so alot of things got held back, and weren’t able to be completed as a result of not being able to bend my fingers and my hands going numb. And then I gave birth, which threw me into a whole new loop of challenges inclusive of sleep deprivation and a baby that will not settle unless she is held.

So it has taken me 6 weeks of ‘settling’ (haha, I say this with a slight tone of irony in my breath as we all know newborns don’t really settle at this stage :P ) post birth to finally find some time (and a method to do things ‘baby-free’ – ie. babywearing. More on that in another post :P) to share these special images :)

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I kind of smile wryly looking back at these images… mainly because I almost didn’t want to do one. Why? Mainly because I felt fat, and unattractive, and the last thing you want to do at that stage is to be in front of a camera. But strangely enough, my husband (who is usually the one who is anti-photoshoots haha), encouraged me to do this together with him so we could look back during this time in our lives. And glad I listened. I got my friends to all help and be part of this, so this little afternoon adventure together ended up being really enjoyable and memorable (albeit tiring – it was my first time wearing heels since getting pregnant, and I had to keep them on for a couple of hours haha). So thank you to my friends Sherly (from Tie The Knot) for the flowers and simple decor, to Angie (from Angie Hair and Makeup) for making me look SO much better than I actually do for the shoot, to Kel and Nigel (from Nigel Sia Visual Storytelling) for the behind the scenes and just keeping us company, and finally to Joshua (from Inlight Photos) for the beautiful frames that so sweetly matched what we wanted – you have been my team member and friend since I began JSP so you know just how much I adore simplicity and stripped back frames, so I was so happy with the way these photos turned out.

Dresses:

  1. White dress: From For Love and Lemons
  2. Blush/Pink dress: From Celest Thoi (thank you so much to my dear friend, Celest, for designing this special piece for me. I wanted something completely different to my other dress, and she made me look like a magical forest mamma in it :D )

I hope you all enjoy looking at these frames as much as we have :)

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Jenny Signoff