Congratulations, You’re Pregnant! So What’s Next?


So you’re having a baby. Isn’t that wonderful? I know exactly how unreal that feels! But once you and your husband or partner are done jumping up and down for joy, you may need to sit down and start the ‘family’ talk – if you haven’t done already. Being pregnant is just the beginning of a lifetime commitment to put someone else’s needs, wants, convenience, happiness well ahead of yours. As a first time soon-to-be parent like me, you may also be wondering what exactly needs to be done next. Well, besides getting your husband/partner involved every step of the way, here are some of the most important things to tick-off your pregnancy checklist.

Before Getting Pregnant

1. Get a comprehensive health insurance. Actually, this is something that you and your partner should have already planned for even before getting pregnant. If possible, get one that covers pre-natal, delivery, and post-natal in full – especially if you live in an expensive country like Singapore. Hubby and I decided to go for Bupa Health Coverage, on the advice of some friends, sometime in July/August last year. At that time, the holding period was only around 10 months and any pregnancy-related expenses, including delivery, and post-natal, after the 10th month will be covered 100%. Shortly after we took the policy, the maturity period was changed to 24 months, so it really was a good call when get insured at the time that we did. Bupa has an excellent health coverage program and even if you have to pay a slightly higher premium, you know that you will not be left out cold when you need it the most – especially when the bills start piling up during the course of your pregnancy.

2. Find a great OB-Gyne with whom you can entrust your body and your baby. Just like in number 1, it would have been ideal if you already have an OB for your regular non-pregnancy related check-ups even before getting pregnant. In my case, I had to find an OB shortly after moving to Singapore because of my polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which needs to be monitored regularly. And once Hubby and I decided to get pregnant and I had to get off the hormonal pills I was taking, he was also the one we consulted about it.

During Pregnancy

3. Keep fit and healthy. If you’ve been living a healthy lifestyle even before deciding to get pregnant, then props to you! Making sure that your body is getting enough vitamins and minerals for yourself and your growing baby is a very important task. Start with having more vegetables, fruits and meat/fish in your diet. Also, ask your OB about prenatal multivitamin supplements as these can help fill in the nutritional gaps in your diet.

When it comes to fitness, continue with whatever workout regimen you already have prior to pregnancy, but make sure to adjust the intensity according to the stage of your pregnancy. Remember, we are not created equal – so whatever works for other pregnant women may not necessarily be your cup of tea. In my case, I was doing a lot of running and yoga before I got pregnant, but I had to stop running at some stage and I also switched to prenatal yoga when I entered the second month of my pregnancy. In large part due to my age-related paranoia that I might end up causing harm to my growing bub if I get too intense with any of my workouts. Instead of running, I have been doing a lot of walking these days, averaging about 8,000 steps daily.

4. Get a good anti-stretchmark cream. Trust me, your body will thank you later for it. I started using this product called Elancyl, which I discovered when I Googled “Top anti-stretchmark creams for pregnant women” days after I found out that I’m pregnant. I started applying the product on my 8th week, even before the bump became pronounced. It is essential to keep the skin around your tummy, thighs, buttocks and breasts supple and elastic especially when they start expanding and stretching to accommodate the growing baby in your belly.

An amazing product like Elancyl will help keep those stretchies at bay.
An amazing product like Elancyl will help keep those stretchies at bay.

Another product that has mothers raving about is Bio Oil, which is a much cheaper alternative to the branded stretchmark creams available in the market. In order to stretch the life of the slightly pricey Elancyl, what I normally do is alternate the use of both. I apply a generous quantity of Bio Oil on prescribed areas at night before bed time, and use Elancyl during daytime, after my morning shower.

Another alternative is the ubiquitous Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Anti-Stretchmarks Massage Cream. Slightly more expensive than Bio Oil but cheaper than Elancyl or Clarins, this product is also endorsed by a lot of pregnant women. I forgot to bring my Elancyl when we left for Bangkok and for some weird reason, we couldn’t find it in Boots or Watson’s so I bought Palmer’s instead. I love the buttery scent of the cream but I still prefer Elancyl. Will definitely stock up on the latter when we’re back in Singapore.

Palmer's Cocoa Butter Anti-stretchmarks cream
Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Anti-stretchmarks cream

5. Get educated. Read up on pregnancy but try not to get so obsessive about it that it causes you to be super scared and paranoid about your condition. I tend to fall prey to Googling weird stuff about pregnancy that I sometimes get so scared of stepping out of the house for fear that I might harm my baby. There are books and resource materials aplenty but in my case, I have found some of the best tips and information from this book called What To Expect When You’re Expecting, which was loaned to me by Yats, and this goldmine of a novel by an American writer living in Paris called Bringing Up Bébé, which essentially extolls the virtues of raising your children the French way.

Expect the best and the worst.:)
Expect the best, prepare for the worst.:)
Explore the joys of French parenting
Explore the joys of French parenting.

6. Pamper Yourself. As our body goes through a plethora of hormonal changes, so does our mood. Pregnant women tend to become overly sensitive, not only about their surroundings but especially about their bodies. At the beginning, I was also a bit alarmed by the weight gain, the appearance of cellulites on my thighs, the thickening of my arms and thighs, etc. And if you are every bit as vain as the woman sitting next to you, it’s not very difficult to feel fat or unkempt. But it shouldn’t have to be that way. By all means, get a haircut, a Brazilian wax (a word of caution: Your skin actually becomes more sensitive especially around the pubic area so if you can’t take the pain of getting the hair pulled, then feel free to skip this), mani-pedi treatment, antenatal massage, etc. You may be losing your hourglass shape, but that doesn’t mean you need to let go completely.

First thing I did when we arrived in Bangkok was to get a haircut, hair treatment,  gel mani-pedi, and a foot massage.
First thing I did when we arrived in Bangkok was to get a haircut, hair treatment, gel mani-pedi, and a foot massage.

7. Invest in fashionable yet durable maternity clothes. But don’t go on a rampage when you’re not even showing yet. I suggest you start buying only during your second trimester when your bump is already visible. And even then, go for pants or skirts that have elastic waistbands or those beautiful tunic dresses that you can keep until the the last trimester. Maternity clothes are not the easiest to find, I know, and are often more expensive than normal casual clothes, but with a little bit of patience in going through online shopping websites, you’ll soon be turning heads with your radiant pregnant look.

Can you believe that I found this dress online for only 20 SGD?!
Can you believe that I found this dress online for only sgd 20?!

8. Schedule maternity visits and pick your hospital (for delivery) soon. In a way, I feel very lucky to be living in Singapore for a multitude of reasons, including having so many great maternity hospitals to choose from. From Mount Elizabeth, Mount Alvernia, Thomson Medical, Gleneagles, KK Hospital, etc., you can have your pick of a great hospital to deliver your baby. Deciding on the hospital early is very important as it will also help you and your partner to figure out the finances. Having a baby in Singapore is such an expensive business which is why, I cannot emphasise more on the importance of securing a top-of-the-line insurance coverage earlier on.

9. Get your husband/partner involved. Always remember that it’s not only you who’s probably scared and overwhelmed about having a baby. Make it a point to have regular open and sincere discussions about the baby and starting a family as this will also bring both of you closer than ever. Discuss parenting decisions, religious faith, child education, etc. all throughout this magical journey so you are both on the same page and the foundation of marriage and family life is more fortified than ever before.

10. Embrace the journey. The next nine months and the years after that are going to change your life in ways that you’ve probably never imagined. My husband and I are still befuddled by the changes and the coming responsibilities but we both love where we are now and where we’re headed for. That, to me, is just as important as all the other tips I have shared. There must be, first and foremost, an overflowing supply of love and respect in the home for you wouldn’t want to bring forth a child in a chaotic, stressful environment. Make time, as a couple, to sit back, relax and just bask in the joys of pregnancy even as you get ready for the next phase of becoming les parents.

Aye, The Stork Has Landed!


Today, I take a break from travel writing (Okay, let’s get real here. I am far from a celebrated travel writer/blogger. I just happen to travel quite a bit and occasionally write about my trips.) to talk about something personal, yet incredibly magical. The proverbial stork has paid our home a visit and I am now 17 weeks and 4 days into my pregnancy. I have been meaning to blog about it since the day we found out five weeks into my pregnancy, but Hubby and I decided we would wait until we’ve done the First Trimester Pregnancy Test (FTPT) and are assured of our baby’s health and normal development. Weeks have gone by and somehow, I can’t seem to find the right words to describe just how unrestrainedly excited I am – WE ARE – for the coming of our baby.

What I’m about to say is totalement cliché but I will say it anyway: What I am experiencing now is simply too beautiful for words. That pregnancy in itself is a life-altering event in a woman’s life – especially this woman – is a universally-accepted truth, but nothing could have prepared me for the overwhelming joy and occasional bouts of trepidation (Am I really ready to become a mother? Am I going to be a great Mom? What’s going to happen to my career after this? Will I be able to get rid of my pregnancy weight and how soon?) of actually going though it myself. The physical changes that my body goes through week after week is just one thing. The mental and emotional tumult (in a good way), is another.

It’s not because Hubby and I are worried for any particular reason. Deep in our hearts we know that we are both ready for the big picture responsibility of parenthood. Although we have been a couple for more than seven years (married for nearly three years out of those seven), we mutually-agreed at the beginning that we will not be rushing into parenthood for a handful of reasons. Some of those, I admit, were decidedly selfish but necessary in the way that they helped us become more prepared for what’s to come. Not to say that we already know exactly what to do – no one can possibly be that deluded – but we are trying and learning day by day. Do we regret having a baby quite late as opposed to getting right down to it at the early stage of our relationship? Not really, no. There are merits to spending a good amount of time as husband and wife, first, considering we spent much of our boyfriend-girlfriend years trying to make our long distance relationship work. We took time in nurturing our relationship and now that we have built a pretty solid foundation, we both felt it was time to bring in a new member to love and care for as much as we have done for each other all these years. Or perhaps even more. For isn’t it that children can bring out the selflessness you never even knew existed in you?

It was late last year when we started having serious baby talks and I won’t lie to you: I was starting to worry about my ovaries ageing faster than I could even perfect a pincha mayurasana (which I still haven’t learned to do unassisted, by the way) pose. I am 35 and I am not one to age-shame, but that sounds pretty advanced to me. Unfortunately for us women, our ovaries simply don’t decide to stop ageing at 21. Besides that, there’s also the late pregnancy risks to consider, i.e., the increased risk of Down’s Syndrome for the baby and also the potential risk on the mother’s wellbeing – if the mother is not very healthy to begin with. Thankfully, I have been living a somewhat healthy lifestyle for many years now. Yes, I do binge occasionally like any other human being with natural urges, but I try to compensate for it with a lot of weird exercises and then some.

To make things a little bit more compliqué, I had been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, which means, my hormones are completely out of whack and I’ve been told that getting pregnant may not be as easy as boiling eggs on a kettle with a timer. And because of my hormonal imbalance, I had to take hormonal pills for several years. So when we decided to have a baby, I prayed that I won’t have wait too long because, again, ageing ovaries, and well, we thought it would be really lovely to deliver our baby in Singapore, just as the nation celebrates its 50th year. After all, we did get married in Singapore on 12-12-12. Why not take the number play a notch higher and go for a Jubilee baby as well? LOL.

We may have been over enthusiastic about the whole let’s-start-a-family thing when we were in Europe last February (oh yes!) that I had the highest hopes of seeing those two blue lines when we got back from our winter holiday. But instead of two, I saw only one blue line, and I could feel myself slowly sinking into the abyss of sadness, that gnawing feeling of inadequacy, and aching worry. Weeks passed and my period still hasn’t come but at the same time, I was feeling these weird symptoms that were terrifying me because they were raising my hopes so far up – and I was afraid of crashing down in a pile of rubble. Hubby saw how distraught I was with the result of the first HPT and it was affecting him, too. The week before my second appointment with my OB, I took one of those HPTs and again, no two lines. By this time, I was oscillating from sadness to frustration and some other wild emotions in between, that it was pretty hard to play catch-up with my mood swings. Poor Hubby.

Finally, I went to see my doctor, primarily to complain about my period taking an extended break and the two happy lines not showing meanwhile. It turns out, I got false negatives on my HPTs! I was alone at that time as Hubby had a meeting he couldn’t get out of and anyway, we didn’t really expect anything different other than the singular line during that particular visit, so I didn’t really push him to go with me. So when I called him immediately after I stepped out of the clinic to break the news of my pregnancy, we were both so overcome with joy that’s unlike anything we’ve ever felt before. So freakin’ intense! I mean, if I thought having raclette and an undisclosed amount of wine up in the snowy French Alps in winter with was pure bliss, knowing that I have this beautiful seed blossoming into life inside of me is about a million times blissful! God has heard our prayers and we are going to become parents!

So for the last few weeks, Hubby and I have been quite busy making all the preparations for the little one’s arrival. And since I will most likely be blogging about pregnancy, motherhood, and the whole shebang far more frequently in the coming weeks, I should probably end my post right about here. On my next post, I will have tips and funny stories to share, so I hope you’ll stick around for that as well.:)

Oh, did I tell you that we are having a baby boy? Mais oui, c’est un garçon!

xoxox

My 17-week old bumpie.
My 17-week old bumpie.

I Do.


I Do.

Christophe, I promise to love and care for you and I will try in every way to be worthy of your love, trust, and respect. I will always be honest with you, kind, patient, supportive, understanding and forgiving. Yes, even when sometimes being all of that is in itself a challenge. But most of all, I promise to be a true and loyal friend to you. I will love you through good and the bad, through joy and the sorrow, the ugly and the beautiful. Maybe not so much the ugly…kidding! I want to face all of life’s experiences and share beautiful dreams and goals with you. I promise to be your equal partner in a loving, honest, and nurturing marriage, for as long as we both shall live. Je t’aime enormement, mon mari.

P.S.: I will even learn to speak your native language to save you the trouble of translating each time we are in the company of French people.:)

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Venue: Alila Villas Uluwatu

Photo by: Noel Abelardo
Gown by: Nikolai Jude Hernandez
Suit by: Cho Vittorio Iago Orlanes
HMU: Bali Makeup and Hair
Videography: Point One Designs

The One With Random Updates On Married Life


I had just finished typing my last email with 33% battery life still left on my laptop, so thought of posting a quick one on my blog, which, upon checking the last update, might as well be a quarterly journal of heaping nonsense. My kind of nonsense.

If I could encompass these past few months that I have been sort of away, I could only think of a word: Wife. Married for four months now, I would have to say the new role suits me just fine – in a way that a person can never go wrong with a tailored suit or dress. It’s like playing house with a carefully-chosen housemate, only better, because you actually get to share a lot of intimate stuff and find delight in each and every moment. Of course there would be the occasional fights, mostly when I would lose my marbles for no reason (and let me tell you, I am pretty adept at that), but what’s marriage without excitement, right? I cannot be in a state of perpetual bliss 24/7. I need to lose it every now and then to feel alive. Thankfully, my husband loves me enough to understand and embrace my weirdness. But perhaps I shouldn’t push the envelope too far, ya?

So in between work and constant travel, I try to spend as much time learning how to fit into this wifey role – which I must admit, was perplexing at the beginning because I had been so used to just looking after myself and my own needs and now, I have a husband to cherish and look after. Suddenly, it is no longer just me or about me. I am now 50% of a life partnership and the more emotionally, mentally, and spiritually prepared I am, the better the journey will be.

A husband and this…

Image

… horticulture type of things, which I might be getting a little too obsessed with these days. You know how old folks would say you gotta try your hand at caring for a plant or a pet first before you even make an attempt to bring forth a child in this big, bad world? I guess it’s safe to say that I’m presently at that stage. Oh, have you met Perpetua my perpetually sleeping petit chat, yet?

Perpetua

So there you go, big fat checks on both plants and a pet. I am sooo ready to become a Mom, yey! LOL.

And then there’s also this…

Image

I have been spending some time in the kitchen on weekends (when I’m not downward dog-ging on the yoga mat or cycling and running around SG, that is) and I would sometimes surprise myself – and C – with the delightful dishes I would come up with in quick minutes. I’m no Nigella that’s for sure, but I don’t think I am entirely useless around the kitchen either. Ask C and I bet you he’d say without a hint or sliver of bias that my sinigangadobo, and four cheese pasta are the best he’s ever tasted! Haha.

All things considered, I would actually recommend marriage. But make sure to pick the right partner or life could be a lot more complicated than you would have cared to prepare for. But don’t tell anyone I said that — I (still) have a reputation to protect. LOL.

Goodnight Loves!

TOTAL FITNESS: Why LOVE is good for your health


NOTE: Published in this month’s TOTAL FITNESS Magazine. Grab a copy today!

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Love, it seems, has immense therapeutic potential that inspires professionals to continue exploring ways in which to channel its benefits in promoting good health, longevity, and a fulfilled life. Where there is love, intimacy cannot be too far behind. And these two, put together, often bring healing, joy, and meaning to human lives.

1.  Being in a healthy relationship keeps you fit. Literally.

But before that, a caveat: Just because you consider yourself (finally) off-the-market on account of a relationship, it doesn’t mean that you have earned the right to let go as some men/women tend to do. Being in a healthy relationship means looking after each other’s needs and in doses that are non-detrimental. Keeping it to the physical aspect of romantic relationship: Did you know that the simple act of kissing can burn up to 28 calories, while up to 30 minutes of sexual activity can burn 85 calories – the equivalent of a small glass of red wine. This might not sound like much but a vigorous session can burn up to 200 calories, which is about the same as running for 15 minutes. Sex also works the core muscles in your legs, pelvis, bottom and abdomen and can boost levels of testosterone, which leads to stronger bones and muscles. So, next time you feel like opening that bag of Cheetos, grab your beau instead.

2.  Love is a potent stress-buster

Relationships – and especially marriages – might traditionally be seen as sources of stress but supportive, long-term relationship brings mental health and physical health benefits to both the man and the woman.  To prove this point, a study published recently by researchers at the University of Chicago found that men and women in happy relationships or marriage had lower levels of stress hormone cortisol in their bodies, indicating they had reacted less to the stress. In addition, happy and fulfilling relationships have also been linked to improvements in mental and physical health and longer life expectancy.

3.  Healthy relationships promote better immune system and can help reduce pain

It has been found that optimism and positive attitude boost immunity and people who are in love and cared for in return are naturally optimistic. Going further, some studies indicate that having (safe) sex once or twice a week lead to higher levels of an infection-fighting antibody called immunoglobulin A, or IgA. Having physical contact with another person, whether kissing, cuddling or having sex, promotes the release of the hormone called oxytocin – dubbed the “love hormone”. Aside from its relaxing effect on the body, oxytocin can also reduce anxiety and help numb pain by releasing endorphins.  To demonstrate this, scientists at Stanford University School of Medicine, launched a trial whereby patients suffering from chronic headaches were given a dose of oxytocin in the form of a nasal spray. Around half of the patients administered oxytocin said their headache pain had been reduced by half and a further 27% reported no pain after four hours.

4.  Healthy sexual relationships promote longevity

On the subject of longevity, many scientists believe that good sex and orgasm may be linked to higher life expectancy. In 1997 British Medical Journal, there was a study published which reported that men who had at least two orgasms a week had less than half the risk of dying from various causes over 10 years of follow-up than those with a lower frequency of orgasm. Meanwhile, other studies have suggested that sexual dissatisfaction is a predictor of the onset of cardiovascular disease.

5.  Love and marriage alleviate depression

It’s quite common to hear people complain about their significant others driving them crazy on many occasions, but what most people don’t know is that companionship actually tends to be good for mental health—especially for women. This is particularly true when it comes to depression, which is roughly twice as common in women. According to experts, depression is a very female expression of psychological distress and the benefit of marriage shows up in women in lower levels of depression. Marriage also appears to be a stabilizing force in women with bipolar disorder. Married bipolar women have fewer and milder depressive episodes than their never-married counterparts, but the same trend is somehow absent in bipolar men.

6. Financial Stability and insurance

Believe it or not, married people are more financially stable than their single counterparts.  By recognizing the fact that they now form part of a partnership, couples tend to become more conscious of their expenses, savings, and the pursuit of a comprehensive insurance for their family in the future. While worrying less about money certainly helps reduce stress and anxiety, financial stability also impacts health in a more concrete way, via access to health care. Marriage is associated with a hearty increase in the likelihood of having health insurance for both parties.

So, are love, relationship, and marriage good for your health? In general, as research and studies suggest, YES. People who are in happy and fulfilling relationships tend to live longer, have better access to insurance and health care, enjoy a more satisfying and exciting sex life, experience less stress, live a healthier lifestyle, and have lower rates of serious illnesses and depression compared to their single counterparts. Now, if you happen to be in a relationship and you don’t see or feel any of these, then it’s time to evaluate the situation and work on changing the course.

Total Fitness: SPICE UP YOUR ROMANCE


Jan - Feb 2012 issue

The word romance evokes a cornucopia of images and emotions – from flowers, candlelit dinners, silk sheets to perfume, movies, art, intimate moments, or perhaps a particular language like French or Italian. Things that fascinate the heart and perhaps fill the soul with wonderment, such that it turns people into poets and musicians overnight.

But more often, the blissful state lasts no more than several months to maybe a few years, and keeping the fire as hot and burning as before becomes such a challenge. How then do you keep the excitement on the up and up when there are so many things out there fighting for your time and attention? Compound that with what your partner is also going through and you have an arduous task of keeping the romance alive, ahead of you.

Tip no.1: Adventure

The two of you must make a conscious decision to embrace adventure and revel in it. Not everyone is born with a daring streak and perhaps you or your partner falls into this category – but this is not an excuse for you to let things remain in status quo. It need not be something so daring it can shock you to the core. You and your partner can find adventure even in something as simple as taking walks on the beach, parks, or the market place. Another thing you can do is trying a new restaurant every month, scary park rides, or a new sport. Whatever you do, make sure you leave some room for your lover to experience adventure with you. It will make your bond stronger.

Tip no. 2: Mystery

Keeping the mystery alive in a relationship is as important as sharing intimate moments together. As a lover, I take pride in my natural ability to be mysterious. As much as I am very transparent about my emotions sometimes, I also know how to mask them at certain moments. By being mysterious, I keep my lover in a state of wonderment so that he is always looking forward to what kind of surprise I will pull off next. Just because you are a couple, it doesn’t mean that you abdicate your own identity and personal space.  You are still your own person and it will be to your relationship’s growth to remind him every now and then of the spirited woman he fell in love with.

Tip no. 3: Love

Cultivate and spread reminders of love in your home. It can be small love notes posted on the mirror or next to the mug of coffee you lovingly prepared for him. Call him in the middle of the day just to say I love you and how your life has been made more colorful by his presence alone. Do random acts of love such as cooking his favorite meal, giving him a massage when he’s all stressed out at work, or running a warm bath that the two of you can share. Go out on dates like when you were just starting out in your relationship as a couple. Hold hands in public and always be mindful of your partner’s needs.

 Tip no. 4: Fascination

Surround yourself and your lover with concepts, ideas, and people that inspire and fascinate. By cultivating fascination, we view the world in a seemingly brand new pair of polarized sunglasses and colors are highlighted and experiences are magnified. Just by learning something new – pottery, cooking, samba, etc – we become fascinated, therefore, make it part of your long-term agenda to take classes of any discipline that interests you. Pay more attention to each other’s body when making love and be fascinated over and over again by the energy that flows between your bodies.

When we cultivate love, fascination, adventure and mystery into our daily lives, we become extraordinarily passionate people and we experience extraordinary events. We see things as we have never seen them before. We appreciate ourselves and our special and individual gifts and talents – as well as those of others. Our world moves more deliberately and the beauty of it all is allowed to caress us with its wonder.

But more importantly, appreciate the fact that the cultivation of romance into daily life is never contingent on whether or not you have a lover. The cultivation of romance is about self-discovery, self-preservation, and self-appreciation. Ensuring that no matter what happens in our journey through life, we have a foundation that nurtures inspires and encourages our success. And this is a foundation that WE ourselves build, and one that is not heavily dependent on another person for its strengths and endurance.