Lunes, Disyembre 19, 2011

Lessons from My Infant Daughter

She was conceived just 3 weeks after we prayed for a child. We named her Mishca Jadynn.Mishca means "who is like the Lord" while Jadynn is "God hears or God has heard." It also means "grateful." We like to put it this way: "Who is like the Lord? The God who hears. He has heard our prayer and we're grateful."  

We knew she has a wicked sense of humor when she made me labor on May 1, Labor Day in the Philippines. She came out twenty-four hours later, giving a hearty cry that escalated to a distinct vibrato wail as she was being cleaned up. “Mishca, don't cry. Daddy's here,” my husband Michael consoled her. She stopped crying momentarily and looked to the direction of that familiar voice who talked to her nightly when she was still in the womb.“Wow, she knows her dad, ” the attending nurse exclaimed.

Parents, as they say, are their children's first teachers. Children, however, I am glad to learn as a first-time mom, are great at reminding us adults how life should be lived. Mishca may still be an infant, but she has already brought so much joy to us and some important life lessons.

SMILE. She started smiling on her second day. It was Nurse Irene who alerted us about this. My husband Michael was quick to grab his camera to capture that first social smile. The nurse told us later that our baby also smiled at a group of them while she was being transported from my hospital room to the neo-natal department for her photo-therapy. I took it with a grain of salt, since newborns are supposed to start smiling at one month old and are not supposed to see beyond 12 inches. IOnce we were home, however, we saw that Mishca didn't fit these stereotypes.

Every day since that first smile, Mishca would wake up grinning from ear to ear. It's something I have learned to anticipate every morning. Even if she hasn't have complete sleep, she'll give us a sweet toothless grin--the kind that makes her eyes crinkle into tiny Chinese slits. She tops that with a couple of excited kicks to show you how happy she is to see you. It's certainly a trait she didn't get from me—a night owl who is usually grouchy in the morning. It must be her way of thanking God for bringing her into this world.

I wonder how many of us greet the world with a smile every morning? I want to be like her. I want to always wake up grateful and passionate about life. I realize that smiling is a form of worship, too. And God must be smiling down on Mishca as she lifts her eyes up to heaven and beams.

MOVE. Stretching is one of Mishca's favorite activities. She spends a good five minutes lifting her arms and legs when she wakes up. She makes such a display of this that one day I decided to mimic her moves. And boy, did it feel great! In the busyness of daily life, I've forgotten the pure pleasure stretching can bring. Now I take time to stretch. It saves me spa money, and removes the aches and pains associated with nursing a baby. Our bodies are really meant for movement.

My daughter just loves the heart and flower mobile that came with her play yard. The mobile with its simple “Rock-a-bye Baby” ditty never fails to elicit a smile from her, as her eyes track the revolving objects with delight. When she hit her first month, we noticed that she would kick her legs in time with the music. The moment the song stops, she would also stop moving her limbs until someone re-winds the mobile for her. And so we learned that this is how an infant stays fit even while staying in bed day and night. I don't know if Mishca got this habit because I was doing aerobics exercises from the first month until the day I went into labor. The exercise routine was supposed to help facilitate her birth. Now that life is back to normal and I'm busy taking care of her without a nanny, I have to remind myself to squeeze in some time for exercise so that I can catch with her when she starts running!

EAT WELL. My 6.8-pound baby latched on to me the very moment she was placed on my chest. That was how we were introduced to each other. And she suckled with all her might! I was taught in childbirth class that newborn babes take several minutes to find the breast to take in their first food. Not so with Mishca, who instinctively found my nipples and was so eager to suck that I ended up with sore and bruised nipples the next day. I tried to express milk using an electric breast pump while at the hospital, but instead of milk, blood came out.

I stopped nursing for a few days, resorting to infant formula until I got well. We eventually did mix feeding, supplementing with formula as we waited for my milk supply to catch up. Her pediatrician and my OB GYNE were warning me of nipple confusion, common among infants who are introduced to the bottle before they have mastered breastfeeding. These infants eventually favor the bottle since it takes less effort to express milk from it. Although I was eager to breastfeed Mishca exclusively, the belief that I might not have enough milk to nourish my baby made me continue supplementing with infant formula. Mishca, however, never gave up on me. She kept nursing even if she didn't seem to be getting a lot of milk. She was so patient that it sometimes took us one and a half hours to feed. More so, if given the choice, she would choose my milk over the bottle. There were nights she would cry and reject the formula we offered. Only nursing she quieted her. We noticed that she's calmer and happier when fed with breast milk.

Mishca may be too young to know this but she's already making the right food choices. Breast milk is said to have 100 or so nutrients that are not found in baby formula and cannot be synthesized in a laboratory. Its benefits are too many to count. It is said to curb childhood obesity, gives babies antibodies to fight germs and is an IQ booster. Milk manufacturers simply cannot copy God's natural provision for babies. The cow's milk we fed her during the first month was not only less nutritious, it gave her gas pain. It was excruciating to watch her cry because of tummy trouble.

Upon the pediatrician's advice, we shifted to a soy-based formula. True enough the gas pain was gone but this time she suffered from constipation lasting as long as 3 days. This gave me the determination to continue breastfeeding, expressing milk with a manual pump when my nipples were sore or bruised. When Mishca turned two months old, my milk was already more abundant. In a surprise out-of-town trip on my birthday, all we brought with us, aside from her clothes and diapers, was one bottle filled, not with formula, but with water.

We are now happily nursing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I feel no more pain, just the pure pleasure of being able to nourish and nurture my child. Having her sleep in my arms after feeding is a memory that I'll cherish for a long, long time. As a bonus, it took me less than 3 months to lose 34 lbs. I am now officially back to my pre-pregnancy weight. That was achieved without any vigorous exercise.

I have heard of moms whose babies stopped breastfeeding altogether after being introduced to the bottle. I'm grateful that my daughter stuck by me while I was dilly-dollying because of the pain and the wrong belief that my body was not capable of completely feeding my child.

The whole ordeal has made me realize that my decisions, big or small, directly impacts the future of the child. That sobered me up! It also made me promise to make healthy food choices every day. I need to be more careful about what I put into my mouth, knowing that everything I ingest goes into my baby. It takes just a moment to decide to down that junk food, instead of, say, the more nutritious salad. The momentary pleasure I get from giving in to a sinful craving is not worth the trade off for how will these compounding wrong decisions affect my body and hers in the long run?

TELL. Mishca communicates very well even without the benefit of speech. Early on, she'd tell us if she didn't like something. One thing she doesn't like is having her head covered while sleeping. We tried to put a bonnet on her to keep her warm, but she would remove it. She'd even shout a loud “Aaaaaah. . .” to communicate her displeasure.

In the early days, we became worried when she'd cry immediately after wetting her diaper. Why sometimes she'd even start crying before she wets the diaper! Her dad and I have learned to run for cover whenever that happened. It made her consume more diapers during the first month. We asked her pediatrician if this was normal. Instead of saying that we have an overly sensitive baby, her doctor encouraged us. “It's a good thing. She won't ever get diaper rash. I'd failed to see it from that angle. True enough she has no need for nappy rash cream. Now Michael thanks her whenever she tells us she needs to be changed.

When Mishca turned two months old, she learned to use coos to tell me that she needed to eat. She would look me in the eye and plead like a grown-up, using her voice to stress the urgency of her need. She coupled that with a pained expression on her face. It would become a long litany when I failed to read her cues. If I prolong her agony, that's the time she'd out a cry. The funny thing was I have to let her finish her “sentence” before latching her. She doesn't want to be interrupted when she's telling me something.

In the wee hours, Mishca would stir in her cot to indicate that she needs to eat. When she was a newborn, I was so conscious of her every move that I was able to meet her needs right away. Now that she's bigger, sleep has become deeper for me and so my daughter taught herself how to physically rouse me from sleep. On her third month, she began to pat me on the side to wake me up. Sometimes if we're both fully conscious I am gifted with a sweet smile upon rising and offering milk.

My daughter challenges me to be a better communicator. She has inspired me to be more vocal, to stop assuming that people know or can read my mind. Because of her, I want to be more truthful and transparent —in a positive way. How many times have I kept silent hoping to avoid offending someone only to make the situation worse? And how many times have I withheld words of appreciation from those who deserve it just because I felt embarrassed to express how I truly feel?

Mishca is growing up so fast. I find myself wanting to stop time sometimes. I'm very grateful have this special time with her. I'm savoring every moment of it, and like a good student, trying to learn as much as I can from this precocious little blessing.

My Quest for A Healthy Pregnancy

It all started  when we decided to have a baby. That very day I  raided my toiletry cabinet and found that a lot of the beauty products I was using had this sentence in fine print: Not Suitable for Pregnant Women.

A quick research made me discover that a lot of the ingredients in my lotions, whitening products,  shampoo, deodorant, sunblock and even toothpaste are bad for the health. Some mimic the hormone estrogen and with repeated use can cause tumors and cancer. Some cause endocrinal and reproductive malfunction.   More so, if you use these while you are pregnant, it can affect the development of your unborn child. And so, off to the trash with 3/4 of those products went.

Some of my DREADED Ingredients:

Phthalates--can cause  tumors, infertility and birth defects

Triclosan--endocrinal malfunction, infertility

Parabens--allergenic and causes premature aging

BHT/BHA--can cause tumors and cancer

SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate)-- irritant

I wanted to go all natural so I searched the net for alternatives. I did find plenty of organic substitutes such as honey as  facial wash, lemon to whiten the skin and oats as a natural scrub, but I knew that with my lifestyle, I wouldn't be able to prepare these on a daily basis.

The next solution was to find imported organic products. Not only did they put a big dent on my pocket, but the shampoos I tried gave me frizzy hair. They were just not made for the tropics.

Then,  a friend suggested the local brand Leyende, maker of organic soaps and lotions. I tried their cleverly named facial wash and lotion and instantly fell in love. My husband loved the scent too. Smells like pastry.  

I was ecstatic to discover there were already quite a few local organic brands in the market. And their products can give those imported brands a run for their money.  I found Milea's mineral make-up on Multiply. They also carry a line of bath, beauty and baby products. Their Coffee Body Salt Scrub became my only coffee fix since I'm sensitive to caffeine.  I also love  Ilog Maria's hand-made soaps. And just between us, I use their Ilang-Ilang Massage Oil as perfume. It's the only fragrance I've found that doesn't irritate my skin and nose.

And then there's Human Nature--my best find ever. Created by  Meloto Sisters (daughters of Kawad Kalinga's Tony Meloto), Human Heart Nature offers an inexpensive line of beauty, skin care, bath and baby products with a cause. Every time you buy their products, a portion of the proceeds goes to support local farmers who harvest raw materials for their all-natural ingredients. I am addicted to their shampoo with creamfoam technology, their lip balm, hand sanitizer and handy pocket soap. My husband loves their cocoa butter, goat's milk and guava lotion (Yikes, I don't know if he'll want you to know this!) and their vitamin-infused day and night cream. I can go on and on about their world-class products because they have an ever expanding line and their product formulations just keep getting better.

My baby daughter Mishca was groomed to be a Human Nature baby even before she came out of the womb. Not wanting to have any toxic chemical touch her skin, I brought HN's baby wash to the hospital and asked the nurses to use it for her first bath. 

All these products can be bought online.  Make sure you order from their company's main website to be sure you get your orders. These are established brands that offer secure online shopping.  As a busy mom, I really appreciate the time I save by buying online. Thank God for these healthy alternatives!

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