the twins · thoughts

5 things to note when hiring a confinement nanny

When we found out that we were expecting twins, one of the first things I did was to source for and book a confinement nanny. I will use the term ‘nanny’ for the purpose of this entry. Good nannies are booked up way in advance and to find one that can manage twins is twice as difficult.

With Elliott, we did not have a nanny. We were staying with my parents and my mum was helping me with the confinement food, etc. However, even though she offered, I did all the night feeds on my own as I did not want to tire her out. It was brutal, to say the least. And I was constantly exhausted. This is also the reason why I knew that we had to have a nanny for the twins for sanity’s sake.

I remember that I started my search for one the moment we cleared the first trimester and I must have spoken to no less than 6-7 nannies. They were either booked for the period that I needed their service, or were unwilling to care for twins. For the record, I chose not to engage a nanny through a confinement nanny centre even though they exist because there were a ton of negative reviews.

Finally, I found my nanny through a friend of a friend. Let’s call her Aunty P.

As with most (if not all) nannies, Aunty P is from Malaysia. She sounded affable and pretty normal over the phone. After a quick discussion with the boy, I bit the bullet and transferred a deposit of S$300 to secure our date.

Aunty P did share that she has never cared for twins before but because time was running out, I wasn’t left with much choice. I knew that we’d be pretty hands-on in the caring of the babies so I didn’t think it would be much of a problem.

We ended up having Aunty P for 56 days (28 days x 2). Having experienced the services of a nanny, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts:

1. Book your nanny early. As early as possible!

This is a no-brainer. I know of ladies who booked a nanny the moment their pregnancy test strips turn positive. Somehow, getting a good nanny is not easy and the good ones get booked up way in advance. And if you are expecting twins/multiples, the search becomes doubly difficult because not all nannies are keen to care for them.

2. Be prepared to pay, especially for multiples 

Aunty P was considered “cheap” as it was her first time caring for twins. She charged us S$3XXX as compared to “experienced” nannies. A friend recommended her nanny who cared for her twins and it was going to cost us S$4XXX! And this price is for 28 days. If you wish to extend their stay, just multiply accordingly. That is A LOT of money.

Also, you have to remember that other than this ‘service’ cost, you have to remember that your household will have 1 more person. Your food and utilities bill (aircon, water, electricity) will go up when the nanny is staying with you.

It is also customary to give the nanny an ang pow when she arrives and when she leaves. There is no ‘set amount’ to give but I remember reading that some nannies expect a minimum amount of S$50 per ang pow!

3. Stranger in the home

Having a nanny means that you will have a virtual stranger live in your home for a period of time. This stranger will come into contact with your babies and will also see you at your rawest state.

I sit in the living room to pump milk which meant that I was in a state of undress in front of Aunty P (and our helper) most of the time. With Elliott, I was more conscious of covering up when I nursed or pumped but when you have twins and you’re exhausted pretty much all the time, modesty goes out of the window.

4. Different habits and standards

Even though Aunty P is Chinese and from Malaysia, we had pretty different habits and standards.

Example 1 – Our household rarely snacks. At least I don’t. We eat 3 square meals a day and we are done with it. However, Aunty P eats small meals throughout the day which meant that on usual days, she would have eaten at least 3 times before noon. She would also snack (a few times) between lunch and dinner.

This meant that the food supply in our home depleted really quickly which honestly, was a bit of a shock to my system. The boy would buy bread from the bakery (5-6 pieces each time) and in less than 3 days, our bread basket would be empty again. Wow.

Example 2 – Because we told Aunty P to ‘treat our home as her own’ and to ‘help herself’ if she needed anything (e.g. food), she took it literally. We buy kiwis for Elliott but before we could get to them, she would have eaten 2. Food was disappearing from my fridge faster than I expected because she’d help herself to them without asking. That is because she took our word literally to ‘help herself’ even though we said it out of politeness and thought that she would ask before taking (nope).

Example 3 – I happened to walk into the kitchen one afternoon and saw that Aunty P was slicing raw pork to prepare for dinner. After she was done, she rinsed the knife with running water and placed it back on the knife rack. To say that I was horrified is an understatement. I quickly told her that we must always wash used utensils with detergent. To prevent such incidents throughout her stay, I told her to leave all the washing up to our helper who have been briefed thoroughly on her first day that hygiene and cleanliness is of utmost importance in our household.

On hindsight, to prevent misunderstandings and unhappiness, I should have listed down all my expectations at the start. Aunty P shared that some households expected  her to sanitise her hand after washing while some others expected her to take a shower every single time she held the babies (which can be up to 6 times a day). So yep, good to make your expectations clear from Day 1.

5. Got helper or not?

One of the first questions Aunty P asked was whether we have a domestic helper. From my understanding after many chats with nannies, they need a helper if they are going to be taking care of twins. This is because the nanny can concentrate on caring for the twins and leave all the washing-up to the helper.

Usually, a nanny will do the cooking, washing (because new mothers cannot come into contact with water), etc. However, caring for the twins (feeding, burping, changing, cleaning) is literally a full time job. At any one point, someone will need to get his soiled diaper changed, or a milk feed.

I can also assure you that with twins, there is A LOT of washing to do – clothes, swaddles, milk bottles…multiplied by 2. I’m not even talking about hand washing the clothes. Even if you use the washing machine, there is still loads to wash!

This is not counting washing up after cooking and general household chores like mopping the floor, changing bedsheets, etc. Even with our helper, Aunty P rarely gets time to rest and can only get small snatches of sleep in the day when the twins nap.

All said and done, Aunty P did a good job of caring for the twins. She genuinely cared for them and showed concern if they were uncomfortable. She always ensured that they had clean and dry diapers – she was religious about changing wet/soiled diapers, as well as applying anti-rash cream at each change.

She was also systematic when she gave them their baths, ensuring that they wouldn’t catch a cold and that they are clean and fresh before noon each day.

Speaking of systematic, because she is old school, she religiously recorded all the milk intake and timings in an exercise book. She also took note of how often they pee and pooped. This simple but effective way of record-keeping was very helpful as this meant that we did not have to rely on pure memory power (which is sorely lacking in my head these days).

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What I really appreciated was how she was encouraging and listened to how we wanted things to be done, instead of insisting that things be on her terms or taking the ‘easy way out’. She did not insist that we feed the twins with formula milk at night ‘so that they will sleep longer’ or make careless remarks about breastfeeding.

At the start, before breastfeeding was properly established, she painstakingly used a syringe to feed the twins, as per our request. This takes up a lot of time but she did it because we said so.

In the beginning, as this was her first time with twins, she would wake me for the night feeds if both twins cried at the same time. As time went by, she became more confident and on most nights, she managed the twins on her own and that allowed me to sleep undisturbed for a couple of hours (i.e. 4-5 hours) – at least until I had to wake to pump milk. That, to me, was the most important thing about having a nanny. Because when I do not get enough sleep, I go quite mad and cannot function.

In case you’re wondering, we made sure that our helper had her full 8 hours of undisturbed sleep so that she is able to handle the chores, as well as to help with the babies in the day when required.

Since we spent so much time together in the house, we would chat and Aunty P  would share ‘best practices’. I learnt quite a bit about baby-caring from her even though I wasn’t a first-time mum. For example, I learnt that when a baby’s forehead is cold to the touch, this meant that he is having tummy problems. I also learnt to place a piece of tissue over a very soiled diaper before cleaning their dirty bum bums so that our hands don’t get dirty accidentally.

She was also patient with the babies (and me). Throughout her stint with us, I never saw her lose her temper at the babies. Can’t say the same about myself!

Aunty P was with us for 56 days (28 days x 2) and we are immensely grateful for her help. She will be leaving on Wednesday – 9 August (National Day!) so please wish us A LOT OF LUCK! 🍀

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elliott · family · lil' things that make me happy · moments · thoughts

The little yellow ball

A few days back, Elliott received a small yellow rubber ball as part of his classmate’s birthday gift pack. He has been playing with it and this evening, he asked if I can play ball with him. It was time for bed and I was a little hesitant but what the heck, let’s play ball for a while.

He sat on the bed, rolled the ball towards me, and I’d roll it back to him. Sometimes, the ball rolled off the bed and he’d get excited because he was afraid that it’d roll under the bed and he can’t get it out.

Throughout our ball throwing/rolling session, he kept squealing with excitement and broke out in fits of giggles. One time, I hit his head with my throw (what are the chances, right?) and we both shrieked with laughter. I found myself wondering: Roll ball also so happy ah?

It reminded me once again that a child finds joy in the simplest of things, and it made me happy that I was part of that joyful experience. 🎈

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moments · thoughts

4.30 am

It is 4.30 am.

I had to wake because my boobs told me that it is time to pump and wouldn’t allow me to fall back to sleep because it was too uncomfortable. I contemplate for a second that I continue to sleep and ignore the discomfort but common sense prevailed – I had to get up or I can’t get back to sleep. More importantly, my babies need the milk.

I stumble groggily into the living room, extract the various pump parts from the steriliser and plonk myself on the sofa. I turn on the familiar machine and it whirs to life, extracting precious mama milk, drop by drop. It is pretty hypnotic. The sound from the machine, that is. I try not to fall asleep because a split second is all it takes to spill all that precious milk.

I get about 110 ml. For one newborn, it may be enough. For twins, it disappears in the next feed. But it’s ok. Some breast milk is better than none. Formula milk won’t kill them, I tell myself. 

I am thankful that this time round, we have a confinement nanny who takes the night feeds and I can sleep a decent amount of hours. I am talking 3-4 hours at a stretch, sometimes even 5 on a good night.

But you know what? I am still tired. Exhausted on some days. Some days, I sit stoically by their rocker as they cry their lungs out. Their little faces red from all that crying and I just sit and stare

The truth is, it gets a little…overwhelming. Despite having help, on some days (especially when I lack sleep), I am too exhausted and mentally spent to…care. I just wish they’d stop crying and sleep because I want to sleep. No, scratch that. I am usually too exhausted to sleep. My brain is trying its best to be awake and present but my body is too tired to react. Which is why I just sit and stare at my crying babies. I don’t even cry because crying takes too much effort. 

You know how you read about mothers who cry when they meet their babies for the first time? Or how emotionally attached they are the moment their babies exit the womb? 

Well. I don’t quite feel this way. On some days at least. On those sort of days, my brain does not register that these squawking babies came out of me. That I carried them in my womb for 37 weeks. I stare at their cherubic faces and instead of mad gushing love pouring out of my heart, I feel…exhaustion. And on really bad days, I feel like I don’t deserve them because I dont think I am doing a good enough job as a mother. As their mother. 

I should have more breastmilk for them.

I should cuddle and hold them more often.

I should be feeling overwhelming love that mothers feel for their child(ren).

Perhaps it’s the hormones (and exhaustion) talking and when the fog lifts, I will look back at this entry and wonder what the hell I was rambling on about. But right now, at almost 5 am this early Sunday morning, it is all very real. 

funnies · the journey · the twins · thoughts

The 5-letter word called sleep.

After sharing our news on social media, we have been overwhelmed with loads of kinds words and congratulatory messages. miss ene and the boy would like to say a big thank you to all of you who have shown nothing but grace and kindness towards our parenting journey.

It is nice to finally talk about the pregnancy openly on this blog! First up, let’s talk about sleep. Or rather, the lack of it. Many have reminded me to ‘sleep as much as you can before the babies come’ which comes from a good place because yes, I am fully aware that when newborns (TWO THIS TIME!) arrive, sleep goes out of the window very quickly.

However, sleep has not come easy to me, especially in this last trimester. Let me count the 5 ways:

Reason #1 – the need to pee

I need to pee. Many many times. New mothers gush and tell me to relish pregnancy because you’d miss the kicks and movements but all I remember from pregnancy (with Elliott) is the need to pee CONSTANTLY. And of course, that’s happening now with the twins.

I’d get into a comfortable position to sleep and when I almost doze off, I’d need to pee NOW NOW NOW. Forget about trying to ignore it because it cannot be ignored. You just need to get right up and head to the toilet.

And when I say “get right up”, I don’t mean bouncing out of bed (I wish). I am talking about moving from horizontal to vertical like an overweight sloth (i.e. very very slowly) while using one hand to support myself so that I don’t fall over from the giant belly. I then shuffle slowly and carefully to the bathroom to pee about 5 drops (8 if I’m lucky) before shuffling back to bed to try and get comfortable again. Repeat process x 10,572 times a night.

Reason #2 – Baby, it’s hot

I do vaguely remember feeling hot when I was pregnant with Elliott but this time round, perhaps due to the fact that there’s two baking inside, this heat thing is real. And please, I’m not talking sexy hot. I’m talking sweat dripping down your back, face, and everywhere, and looking like I just ran a half-marathon in 35 degrees heat with a wool pullover, complete with sweat-soaked messy hair.

We usually sleep in an air-conditioned room but these days, even in the 23 degrees celcius room with the ceiling fan turned on, I CAN’T SLEEP BECAUSE I AM FEELING VERY HOT. The boy, who is usually the one who hates the heat, ends up cowering under the duvet because the room is so darn cold (to him). Me? I’ve kicked off the duvet and trying to sleep while beads of sweat trickle down my forehead. Or I’d fall asleep finally but wake up to a sweaty head because yep, I’m feeling hot.

Reason #3 – My (almost) broken ribs

This is something I don’t remember from Elliott’s days. I honestly don’t remember my poor ribs being shoved, prodded, pushed and punched when I was pregnant with him. Either that or I have mumnesia. I have, on many occassions, been rudely jolted awake by intense pain in my ribs. It started with my right ribs which I thought were due to the fact that Twin B’s legs are right there. However, these days, my left ribs hurt as well, probably from Twin A’s legs as apparently, both of them are head-down.

So imagine this: You have 4 legs kicking and pushing against your ribs at odd hours of the night, like someone sucker-punched you when you weren’t looking. I’ve never bruised my ribs before (I don’t get into fights, thank you very much) so at first, I wasn’t sure if it was just my imagination that my ribs were hurting.

On some nights, I thought I was dreaming about the pain and wake up with a shock but I have concluded that the pain is very very real. I literally wake up going “owwww” and have to soothe the aching ribs by massaging them. How to sleep like that?

Reason #4 – Internal kungfu fighting

Assuming all of the above 3 reasons do not exist, there are the internal “fights” that go on inside of my belly. Ok, I’m not sure if the twins are fighting per se but I’m pretty sure with each passing day, space is becoming a precious commodity and they are fighting for space to move.

Twin A (the girl) is the more active of the two – surprise, surprise. So much for girls being “easier”, “more docile” and “gentle”. She is the one with the kungfu fly kicks and somersaults. Even at scans, she moves a lot. We saw her shake her head (!) and let out a huge lazy yawn, like it is such blardy hard work being a baby in-utero. Twin B moves less. So much lesser than I find myself going into Google-mad mode and asking on forums if this is normal and if I should press the panic button and see the gynae NOW NOW NOW.

Yes, it is wonderful to feel their kicks and moves (isn’t that the beauty of pregnancy, everyone asks) but when both of them kick up a storm or engage in an in-utero fist-fight at 3am, I get shocked awake. At last week’s check, they were 1.6 kg each so when they move or get excited, their movements are pretty darn acute.

Reason #5 – One very giant belly

I’ve been getting loads of “your belly is very small for twins leh” comments. To that, I punch them in the head mentally smile and say it’s really heavy for me already. I have a rather small frame so carrying twins feel like quite a load for me. My gynae has never said that the twins are small or not growing well. In fact, she has said that she is very pleased at my weight gain and progress so far.

At the moment, this “small belly” that everyone talks about is getting really hard to heave around. I get breathless just walking for short distances. Getting from a sitting position to a standing one just to get a drink of water from the kitchen takes a mammoth effort. I get achy if I sit/stand/lie for too long.

This translates to bad sleep or a complete lack of sleep at night. There is no comfortable position. Experts say we should lie on the left side for better blood flow but Twin A is there and she kicks up a storm when I do that. So I spend a considerably amount of effort turning from left to right. I manage to settle into a comfortable position on my right and then I’d…need to pee.

I get back to bed and lie facing-up but have to prop both legs into an inverted v-shaped position because lying flat kills my lower back. Sometimes, this is the ‘jackpot’ position and I finally fall asleep.

On other bad nights, I get a stuffy nose from pregnancy rhinitis which is another blog entry for another day. I’d then have to grab the other pillow from the boy and prop my head up to try and sleep. Sometimes, this helps as it clears my nose but I’ve woken up a few times with a ‘dead’ arm and a stiff neck because of the awkward position the extra pillow puts my upper body in.

There you go. 5 reasons why sleep is pretty elusive in my world right now.

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the journey · thoughts · us

Something’s brewing.

When Elliott turned 2 years old, the perennial question of “So when is number 2?” intensified. In fact, the moment he was almost a year old, this question was thrown at us whenever we met up with friends, family, etc. Don’t wait too long, they’d say. Good to have siblings, they’d quip. I always wanted to punch their faces smiled and just mumbled something incoherently, something along the lines of how Elliott is already a lot of work so siblings can wait.

Like I wrote about it here, my heart always broke a little whenever I get that question because if you have been following this blog, you will know that Elliott is our tiny miracle (ok, not so tiny now but still miracle). Dare we hope for….a second child?

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Last year, I turned 40. It was like the big four-zero. The boy and I got married late (I was 33) and we spent a good 4 years trying to get that bun in the oven. There was no big surprise party or huge fanfare when I turned 40. I honestly cannot remember what we did. But the fact is, I am now 40 years old. If – and that is a big fat if – we were to consider a sibling for Elliott, this would almost be the ‘last’ year before it gets a bit too late. I know there are tons of older mothers out there, think Fann Wong, Janet Jackson, blah blah blah. But realistically speaking, I cannot imagine having a child at 45 years old (or later). Even running after Elliott now takes the wind out of me most of the time and I cannot imagine having to care for a newborn as I get older.

So the boy and I sat down to seriously consider this sibling business. Basically, it was now or never. As he aptly puts, if we are successful, Elliott gets a sibling. Hooray! And if we fail, it is ok as well because we already have Elliott. In other words, it wouldn’t be as ‘stressful’ as trying to get a bun in the oven now as compared to the first time when odds were a lot higher. It was with a bit of trepidation, a bagful of hope and slight fear (of failure yet again) that we started on the journey for our second child.

And in October 2016, we found ourselves pregnant.

As usual, the early weeks were nerve-wrecking as we weren’t sure if the pregnancy was going to be viable. Call me paranoid but after trying for so many years, it is hard to relax and be joyful when we find ourselves pregnant. In fact, we were slightly jittery and only shared the news with our closest family and friends.

But nothing quite prepared us for the news at the week 7 scan. This was the scan to see the heartbeat and as always, I had my heart in my mouth. What happened at the scan threw us all slightly off-course.

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Instead of 1 heartbeat, we saw….2. There were two teeny tiny heartbeats. We were having…twins? I was floored. I was happy to have one strong heartbeat and there it was, two heartbeats thumping away. The boy seemed very cool at the news and until today, I am not quite sure how he felt at that moment of truth because you know, men. Strong and silent types.

Except for the first trimester when I was hungry every 3 seconds (no kidding) and was nauseous all the freakin’ time, it has been smooth-sailing. And for that, we will always be thankful. Being pregnant with twins come with its fair share of complications and I am always reminded to take it easy. I am also blessed with a very understanding reporting officer and boss who tells me that the pregnancy takes precedence over work and to rest as much as I can.

Did I mention that my dad is part of a twin? He and his brother are fraternal twins and they don’t quite look alike. I am looking forward to the day when our twins are born and my dad and uncle hold them for a posterity picture.

And in case you’re wondering, we are expecting a boy and a girl. Many have expressed joy at this wonderful combination (if I get a dollar for every single time I hear the term 龙凤胎 uttered, I would have enough money – or more – to buy a month’s supply of diapers). As cliche as it sounds, the health and proper development of the twins are more important than their gender but I must admit that I was secretly relieved that I wouldn’t have to parent 3 boys.

We went from wanting a sibling for Elliott to having two siblings. This means our little family is growing from a one-child family to (gulp) three-children, plus 1 furry one. I don’t know if we’d ever be fully prepared for the arrival of the twins but we will take one day at a time. I never ever thought that one day, I’d be a mother of three but I guess that’s life. Always something unexpected at every turn.

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