In The Palm Of His Hand

My parents were on holiday in Tokyo when it happened. They were in the middle of their twelve-day trip which was planned from 20 March to 31 March.

Here’s a timeline of everything that followed.

And even though we do not understand why Dad’s plans for the year had to be put on hold for the time being, we can clearly see God’s graciousness, faithfulness, and Hand of Protection on his life – even in the darkest of moments.

Monday, 25 March

Dad and Mum were on the stairs outside the Tokyo Imperial Palace when Dad missed a step and fell. (It was about 2.30pm there.) He landed hard on his left knee. A stone bench stopped him from rolling down further.

Thankful for: Passersby who helped call the ambulance and assisted in English-Japanese translation.

Paramedics from the ambulance had to call several hospitals before the fourth hospital, Tokyo Medical And Dental University Hospital, agreed to take on Dad’s case. An X-Ray taken confirmed that he had fractured his left patella (kneecap). He was fitted with a knee brace, purchased a crutch to improve mobility, and was sent away with painkillers. This was because the hospital could not operate on him due to its policies.

Thankful that: Dad and Mum managed to make it back to their hotel via taxi, even with Dad unable to move much.

While frantically packing back at the hotel, Dad noticed his eyes getting smaller and his vision getting poorer – he had an allergic reaction to the painkillers taken earlier that afternoon. (We later found out he is allergic to NSAIDS.) They had to leave for the airport at 10pm, so we could only pray hard that his breathing would not be affected by the allergy.

Thankful that: God answered our prayers, and the allergy only caused puffy eyes, which subsided in due time.

As a family, we decided to fly them both back on the next available flight. After about 1.5 hours negotiating on the phone with SIA, Kevin managed to get them rebooked on a 2.30am flight the next morning, with them flying out from Haneda Airport instead of Narita International Airport.

Thankful that: SIA allowed us to rebook the flights at no extra charge, and that there was ground assistance (wheelchair all the way) at both ends that made the impossible, possible. Both Dad and Mum were also given 3 seats each, across the aisle from each other – Dad needed the seats to stretch his left leg out, while Mum could rest after a harrowing 12 hours since the fall – as the flight was not fully booked.

Tuesday, 26 March

They landed in Singapore at 9am, and we rushed Dad to TTSH A&E.

Thankful for: Paramedics and nurses who helped us move Dad straight out of the car and onto a gurney. I later found out from the Triage staff that this isn’t normal protocol as the gurneys near the drop-off point are for ambulance use.

Dad was given IV painkillers and his left leg was put into a cast that immobilised him from thigh to foot. We wanted to push for admission due to his pain and discomfort, but we found out it was hospital policy not to admit “simple” fractures. We purchased a walking frame so that he could still move around, albeit a lot slower, and went home with an appointment to see an orthopaedic specialist the next day.

Wednesday, 27 March

Dad was seen at the outpatient clinic. We were given two options. One, we could do nothing and cast the leg for three months, thus allowing the patella to heal naturally (there’s a risk of future arthritis). Two, surgery to insert wires and screws into the patella. Dad chose option two, as surgery will speed up the healing process. However, as his knee was still red and inflamed due to impact of the fall, it was recommended that the swelling subside before surgery commenced. Hence, surgery was scheduled for the following Tuesday.

Tuesday, 2 April

Dad was operated on at about 3pm.

Thankful that: The surgery was a success, and that there were no complications from the anaesthesia.

He was in the recovery ward overnight and discharged the following day. He was advised to change dressing every two days at the nearest polyclinic.

That said, the pain was very bad post-surgery, with Dad rating the pain 9 out of 10.

Friday, 5 April

At the polyclinic for his first wound dressing post-surgery, it was discovered that the surgical site was red, inflamed, lumpy and oozed discharge when squeezed. Dad was also running a slight fever of 37.8℃. We were advised to bring him back to TTSH A&E immediately, as post-surgery infections are serious. Dad was warded for cellulitis, but discharged on Monday.

Thankful that: The painkillers were stopped after one night as the pain got more and more bearable, and Dad felt a lot better.

Thursday, 11 April

At around 11.45pm, Mum helped Dad up from the bed to the dining table to eat something before his midnight dose of medication. As he approached the dining table, he suddenly exclaimed “pain, pain, pain”! Dad then, to the utter surprise of Mum, brisk walked back to the bed, threw himself down, and began gasping for air like a fish out of water. His face turned ashen and his eyes were blank. He kept gasping and struggling and turning to his side in an attempt to breathe. While slapping his face, Mum yelled at Eunice – who was fast asleep in her room – to call the ambulance. In a state of shock and panic, Eunice dialled 991, 911, and then finally the correct number, 995.

In the ambulance, paramedics kept Dad conscious by fact finding. They also called for the resuscitation team to standby. Upon arriving at TTSH, two doctors met him before rushing him into the resuscitation room.

We were told that Dad was in a very critical condition and there was a 50% chance he could die. There was a chance of survival, though, because he was brought into hospital promptly, and was relatively young. The medical team suspected blood clots in his lungs and needed to scan him immediately to confirm this.

Praying against: The contrast dye (which had to be injected into his blood for the scan) affecting his kidneys.

After the scan was done, it was confirmed that Dad had multiple blood clots in both sides of his lungs, with the right side being almost 100% blocked. His heart was also severely swollen due to the blood clots in his lungs. This condition is known as Pulmonary Embolism, or PE for short. He was transferred to the Medical ICU (Intensive Care Unit) for treatment.

Thankful for: God’s divine timing and intervention that this episode happened right before Mum’s eyes. I dare not imagine what things would have been like if this had happened in the afternoon when Mum was at work and Eunice fast asleep in her room; or if it had happened in the middle of the night when Mum was in deep sleep. Also, it happened on the bed, and Dad did not crumple on the floor (which would have hurt his knee further).

Thankful that: Dad got medical attention promptly, and that God preserved his life.

Thankful that: Dad’s condition improved drastically – with just an oxygen mask – and did not end up needing to be intubated, despite what we were told earlier.

Friday, 12 April

In the ICU, Dad was started on blood thinners as the clots in his lungs needed to be broken up. We were told that side effects include internal bleeding, but that was our only option and it was a risk we needed to take to save his life.

Praying against: Bleeding in the brain.

Dad was also hooked up with multiple lines, one of which went straight to the heart to administer blood thinners (the clots were in the artery between the heart and lungs). His right thigh, the entry site into his femoral artery (the line to his heart), bled out though. Bleeding had to be stemmed immediately as his body’s clotting ability had been greatly reduced due to the strong blood thinners he was getting intravenously. Blood test results also showed that there was bacteria in his blood.

Thankful that: Dad crossed the 24-hour mark! It was really critical and touch-and-go.

Thankful for: Extended family support (Dad’s siblings really rallied around us) and prayerful encouragement from our various circles through the entire ordeal.

With our families, friends, and churches all lifting Dad up in prayer, Mum was led to declare Psalm 91 over Dad.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Psalm 91 (NIV)

Saturday, 13 April

Due to the bacteria in his blood, Dad ran a fever of 38.3℃. Source of infection was still unknown at this point in time and he was thus prescribed a wide spectrum of IV antibiotics. Side effects of blood thinners could be seen – right hand was swollen and bruised, and urine was bloodied. The strength of blood thinners given to Dad was reduced as well (from direct line to IV), a positive indication that he was getting better!

Because his need for life support was no longer present, Dad was transferred to the HDU (High Dependency Unit) that afternoon. An Echocardiogram done before he left the ICU also indicated that the size of his heart has gone back to normal.

Thankful that: The blood thinners managed to reduce the size and amount of clots in Dad’s system – with no internal bleeding – and his heart was no longer swollen.

Sunday, 14 April

(First photo taken of him since admission.)

The bacteria causing his fever was identified as pseudomonas, and targeted antibiotics were given to fight the infection. The administration of blood thinners progressed from IV to a painful injection into his abdomen.

Monday, 15 April

Due to his bacteria infection, Dad’s medical team arranged a scan of his chest to check if there were any colonies of bacteria amassed there.

Because he did not need the close monitoring of the HDU anymore, he was transferred to a general ward.

Thankful that: Scan of his chest showed no abnormal masses of bacteria or clots present.

Thankful that: Dad is recovering slowly but surely. He has come a long way; from ICU to HDU and now, to a general ward.

Tuesday, 16 April

A scan showed that the blood thinners caused some bleeding in his gluteal muscles, but we will rely on his body’s natural mechanism to break up the clot.

Thankful that: The bleeding was in the muscle because the blood wouldn’t be able to travel and clot; as compared to if the bleed were in the arteries or veins or worse, brain.

The General Medicine team decided to stop the thinners for now due to the bleed. A scan will be done after seven days, and if bleeding has stopped, they hope to restart thinners. Meanwhile, the Orthopaedic team has not allowed Dad to walk yet. To minimise further risk of bleeding, he has to wear compression socks plus do light exercises on the bed to strengthen his muscles.

Praying against: Anymore internal bleeding during these seven days without blood thinners in his system.

Thursday, 18 April

His right wrist has been swollen since ICU days, so a scan was arranged to check if the artery has been enlarged.

Thankful that: Dad finally managed to get out of bed after being bedridden for 6 days from 12 April. He could walk to the washroom to shower and brush his teeth after not doing so since admission. He also sat on a geriatric chair to eat lunch, instead of eating in bed; and was wheeled down to the Atrium for a SCO lunchtime concert.

(Sidebar: That evening, Valerie had three febrile seizures within four hours, with the last two only 10 minutes apart. We called the ambulance and she was warded for two nights.)

Mum had a dream of me that night. She saw me crossing some stairways with a gap between them. I slipped, and family and friends pulled me up to safety. But in the gap, Mum saw the palm of God’s hand. And knew right there and then that God was trying to remind us that, even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He holds us securely in His palm.

Friday, 19 April (Good Friday)

Thankful that: Drip was finally removed, and that the wrist scan done the previous day showed no abnormality.

Monday, 22 April

Remember the bleed in his gluteal muscles (caused by the blood thinners) on 16 April? It was confirmed that Dad’s system is sensitive to them and his medical team will have to take this into serious consideration moving forward.

Thankful that: The bacteria in his blood was clearing.

Thankful that: Dad’s kidney function is back to normal. (Remember the contrast dye that had to be injected into him for the emergency lung scan done upon admission to A&E on 11 April?)

Tuesday, 23 April

A CT scan was arranged to check if the bleed in his gluteal muscles and clots in his lung have been resolved. Plan would be to resume blood thinners if bleeding / clots have reduced significantly.

Wednesday, 24 April

Results of the scan done the previous day came back and the bleeding in his gluteal muscles has stopped, the clot is not moving, and has reduced in size. What is of concern, however, is that there are still some blood clots – though markedly reduced – left in Dad’s lungs. As the presence of clots in the lungs cannot be monitored, blood thinners will have to dissolve the clots. This will hopefully and prayerfully prevent another life-threatening PE episode.

Dad’s medical team decided to start Dad on Clexane (40mg) – a blood thinner – administered subcutaneously via injection, twice a day. He will be monitored closely, with a blood count done after six doses.

Thankful that: The bleeding in his gluteal muscles has stopped.

Thankful that: The blood clots in his lungs have reduced in size and amount.

Praying against: Anymore internal bleeding as Dad’s system is sensitive to the blood thinners.

Thursday, 25 April

With Dad being slightly more mobile, physiotherapy commenced. His leg brace was adjusted to 60 degrees.

Monday, 29 April

Blood test done to test the effect of Clexane on his system was normal. His medical team will monitor for a few days and if there is no bleeding or bruising, Dad will finally be able to go home by mid-week!

Thankful that: The re-administration of blood thinners (after 8 days without it) did not cause any bleeding nor bruising.

That said, his blood pressure remained consistently low. As a precautionary measure, he was put on an IV drip to prevent his blood pressure from crashing.

Tuesday, 30 April

Thankful that: Blood pressure returned back to normal.

Thankful that: Dad’s left knee wound is healing well and he’s making good progress with physiotherapy (leg brace was re-adjusted to 90 degrees).

Thankful that: Clexane has been doing a good job of breaking up the blood clots without bleeding or bruising.

Wednesday, 1 May

After 20 days (and 37 days since his fall), Dad was discharged from the hospital!

Wednesday, 8 May

Thankful that: Dad’s full blood count has returned to normal and has been cleared to leave the home!

Two months on… We give thanks for God’s faithfulness and healing. Dad can now walk without his knee brace at home, and can walk to the MRT with his walking frame unaccompanied. Physiotherapy at TTSH has intensified as well, and Dad will resume teaching soon. To God be the glory!

God Is The Keeper Of Our Family

2018 was crazy with a capital C. And we are approaching the end of Q1 2019 soon!

Time flies, yet it doesn’t, sometimes. (Case in point – this post has been sitting in my Drafts since October last year.)

Here’s a not-so-quick recap of how my 2018 went – it’s been my hardest year thus far!

The beginning of 2018 saw me go through 14 hours of labour to deliver Isaac. He was born at 37W6D weighing a healthy 3.338kg and measuring 49cm on 20 January! Had post-delivery complications (stress urinary incontinence because bladder overstretched during labour) after his birth though, and was re-admitted into the hospital for 5 more days. Was discharged with a catheter that I had to wear about during confinement. Horrid experience. Honestly feel that I didn’t do a proper confinement because of the multiple trips to and from the hospital because of that darn urine bag… But oh well – things were way out of my control.

Confinement ended, CNY came and went, and we collected our home keys on 28 February! With Kevin needing to work, all the research for our new home fell squarely and solely on my shoulders… And I recall actually latching a newborn in one arm, pumping milk with one hand, and frantically sourcing around for furniture, planning our future living space, getting quotes from vendors, and handling all the logistics (with our earthly belongings in three places, you can imagine the headache) with my phone in my free hand. Our renovation process was documented here. It was one heck of a journey! We packed up, moved out of my in-laws’ place, and into our own home on 25 May.

Three days before that on 22 May, we welcomed another member into our family – Anita, our trusty helper. Yes, we see her as family and we are thankful and grateful that she loves our children and protects them like her own.

After we moved, I literally spent the second half of 2018 unpacking, organising and decluttering our new home. Yes, “I”. My biggest accomplishment to date would be singlehandedly making our house into a home. For 6 months, I was a night owl and would organise, plan and find new systems that worked for me since I run the operations at home 24/7 – Anita is my second-in-command as Kevin is barely around – and I needed to put in routines that were efficient and effective!

I had two low periods of downtime in July and November though (was warded twice for postpartum depression), but I think it was a built-up from the overwhelming pressure that I faced daily… And I did a quick count. 2018 saw my little family admitted to the hospital a whopping 10 times, with me responsible for 50% of the admissions. There were 2 surgeries – my brave (then) 23-month-old Valerie had an operation on her left arm, while Kevin had an operation on his back. Both surgeries were to remove abscesses that had become infected. Also, Isaac had his first episode of febrile seizures at 9 months in October (as compared to Valerie’s first onset at 19 months), and that – to date – was the scariest experience of my life as I thought I lost him forever.

Things started to pick up for me only in December when I started feeling better and less overwhelmed. I thrive with routine and organization (part of my “C” personality), and with everything working like clockwork and everything more or less in its rightful place… Things were good, and I was in a much better place mentally and emotionally. I started going out more, began picking up hobbies like embroidery, cooking and baking, and enjoyed studying the Bible again. I found myself again.

My personal goal for 2019 is to be an intentional parent. And I have found that having this goal has changed my outlook and pushed me to be a better version of myself every single day. Sure, there are still days where I feel like I can’t get out of bed, or days where I just feel lousy about everything, or days where I crawl back into darkness. But there have been a lot more days where the kids enjoy my meal creations, days where we have fun running around the playground and/or park, and days filled with joy and laughter.

Those are the days I live for. And I am thankful, so thankful, for those days.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

Making Choices

This is my family.

Valerie is now almost 2 years and 7 months, while Isaac turned 9 months young a week ago. Kevin holds a full-time corporate job and is the main breadwinner of the family.

I work from home. I have my own General Insurance business, while helping my husband with the administrative aspects of his work baby – Affinity.

I resigned from the first position I held post-graduation in September 2015, after 2 years 3 months. I was in my first trimester with Valerie then.

My resignation was planned, and I had actually decided to leave prior to finding out I was pregnant. Fun fact: my resignation letter was rejected by my superiors two times before they finally accepted my decision to leave.

I took up a part-time position in October that same year but I left after a month because I was constantly nauseated and dizzy, all thanks to pregnancy hormones.

And I’ve not been back to the corporate world since.

That said, I wouldn’t say I stumbled into the role of a stay-home parent as I could have easily gone back to work a few months after Valerie’s birth. (I did have a promising job offer from Gleneagles Hospital.) Becoming a SAHM was a deliberate choice by Kevin and I.

In my two mummy groups, I have shared countless times about my experience as a stay-home parent, the reasons why we are doing what we are doing, and the sacrifices we chose to make just so that Valerie and Isaac will always have their mum around through their growing up years.

I am documenting my various thought processes here, in the hopes that – when the going gets tough, and when the routines get mundane – I will always remember why I chose the road less travelled.

I am thankful that Kevin and I have always been on the same page about this since day one. I wouldn’t be able to thrive as a stay-home parent if it weren’t for his unconditional love and support.

With that in mind, our preference for having at least one parent be with our children at any one time is different.

For Kevin, having his spouse be the primary caregiver for his children has been a long-time desire of his. He was a latchkey kid and his parents were always busy working. He rarely spent time with them, and yearned for some form of parental guidance as he grew older. That’s when he promised himself that if he ever had the privilege of becoming a father, he would very much prefer his children to be brought up by their own mother.

For me, the choice to be a SAHM was a no-brainer. Those who know me would know why. My mum herself was a SAHM for 15 years. She quit her 9-year job when I was born, and only went back to working full-time when I was in Upper Secondary. When I was young, I took her presence for granted (because what did I know – I thought everyone’s mum stayed home too). But as I grew older – especially as a mother myself now, ironically – I started appreciating her being around for my sister and I all the time. Whenever we needed her, she was there. Rain or shine, she was there. And this continues to this day. What a powerful impact it had on my life; and I wanted to be able to do the same for my own children.

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I will not lie to you. Having one parent stay home and not hold a stable full-time corporate position is really not easy. It involves deliberate lifestyle changes and choices.

Here are some truth bombs that I would like to share.

1) We have a tighter budget, obviously.

I have not bought anything I’ve wanted for myself since I quit my job. That’s three whole years of adding things to my cart and then not carting out because I have zero financial independence. Though Kevin allows me to buy things without consulting him, I just don’t because I rather save that money for stuff we need instead of stuff I want. 100% of the things I now buy is for the house, for the children, or for our meals (ie: groceries and/or wet marketing). And… I used to be a shopaholic, once spending $400+ just on makeup during the Christmas period in 2014.

2) We will not vacation further than Malaysia for the time being.

We have decided not to go for family holidays further than Malaysia when the children are young. Firstly, do you have any idea how tiring it is to travel with young children? I won’t want to take flights with them – as much as I can help it – until they are both in primary school, capable of walking on their own and willing to follow our instruction. Maybe I will consider flying with them if we have extra helping hands on board… But we will decide if and when the opportunity presents itself. Next consideration is of course, cost – holidaying in Malaysia stretches our dollar! And lastly, beach holidays will suffice for our family for now. After all, our children are still young. All they will want is just the sand, the pool, the bathtub, and US. They don’t care where they are; they just want to be in our presence. Plus we have their teen years to take them to see the world anyway… For now, shrewd financial planning and building up our savings come first.

3) We eat in all the time.

Yup, you read that right. We don’t eat out. Except Kevin when he’s out on the field working, though I’m already making plans to pack him meals daily from our kitchen. (Healthier + saves money… Win-win!) We don’t have brunch in cafes, or coffees at Starbucks. I consider even a meal at Sun Plaza’s Kopitiam a luxury because someone else prepared it and I didn’t have to shop for the ingredients nor meal plan! Bubble tea? I have it like once in two months… And it does taste like heaven.

4) Stay-home mum depression is real.

This is a real struggle of mine. I wrote a little about it here, you can jump over to that post if you’d like. To many, being a SAHM might be the dream. And shouldn’t I be happy that I get to spend all day with my children?

Well. While I am truly honoured that Kevin has given me the chance to be a full-time mum, life can get extremely routine after awhile. And man, is it emotionally draining! In case you were wondering, my job scope includes…

Constant attention, constant vigilance, constant scrutiny, constant touch, constant use of my voice, constant relegation of my needs to the second tier. It’s needing an hour to do what takes others 15 minutes. It’s doing all this while concurrently teaching virtually everything – language, manners, safety, resourcefulness, competency, discipline, curiosity, creativity, empathy, and everything else in between.

This space is as real as I’m going to get, and I will be the first in line to tell you that being a mum is not easy. I have struggled, heck, I’m still struggling!

And yes, I am also here to tell you that SAHM depression is a thing.

And no, it is not because we hate our “job”. It is because sometimes, just sometimes, the overwhelming mental load of motherhood is simply too much.

5) There’s absolutely no shame in admitting we need extra help.

I have a helper. Her name is Anita. She started working for us in May this year, a mere three days before we moved.

This begets a whole lot of questions because the assumption is housewife plus helper equates to rich housewife. Firstly, that is a load of bollocks. Secondly, with two children under the age of three and with my physical and mental health not doing so well recently, having an extra pair of hands to help out around the house has been a huge blessing and I am thankful we took a leap of faith and decided to engage her at the recommendation of a friend.

Yes, no doubt a helper increases our cost substantially… But we engaged her precisely because we saw a need.

Anita now does the physical work of running our household (cooking, chores, grocery shopping, errand-running), while I focus on the children and on expanding our side businesses.

These are the choices I have made for my family.

What choices will you make for your family today?

No, I Am Not Making A Mountain Out Of A Molehill

I have felt emotionally invalidated by my husband for a very very long time now, and I struggle to understand, on a daily basis, why he can never understand why I feel the way I do.

I told him exactly this… And his text reply to me was “How am I invalidating you? I’m saying you (are) not talking logically. It’s all emotionally-charged words.”

Firstly, yes you are. Secondly, no they are not.

I figured that he had absolutely no idea what emotional invalidation meant (as with most things that involve feelings – not to stereotype, but is it just a man thing?), and so I did some simple Googling so that I could find the simplest definition for him.

Here’s what I got:

Emotional invalidation occurs when one’s thoughts and feelings are diminished, ignored, rejected.

And I have felt the invalidation so deeply for so long because it has been communicated to me, ever so often, that my emotions, thoughts and feelings are unreasonable or irrational – by the very person who claims to love me.

Double whammy.

Sidebar: I have noticed it in his parenting style too, but how can I bring it up? My only choice is to write this post, in the hopes that he will read it and do something about it. I went through similar invalidation when I was growing up, probably due to the sheer stress of parenthood (plus I was not an easy child to bring up) – and that is why I feel so strongly about this.

Anyway, something happened last night that led to me feeling so small and unimportant. I won’t recount it here because it’s unnecessary, but I told Kevin how I felt about the series of events.

Once again, I was told that I was “making a big fuss”. What was new there?

I was angry. And in my signature style, started to formulate my argument about him downplaying every single emotion I feel.

So I did some research, and stumbled across an article about how HSP (Highly Sensitive Persons) are affected a lot more when it comes to invalidation.

Now my life makes sense. How have I not known about this term before?

I’m not about to regurgitate entire articles that start with the title “signs that you are a Highly Sensitive Person” because as I type, there is a very clingy 9-month-old boy clawing at me, imploring me with those big beautiful eyes of his to pick him up and cuddle him.

But if I were to pick the symptom that led me to truly believe I identify with other HSPs, it would be the fact that I am extremely sensitive about my environment.

Here are just some of them.

Time pressure really throws me off my game. This is why I hate doing anything last minute. I used to hand up my essays six weeks in advance, no kidding.

Sudden loud noises startle me way more than it should. Especially thunder. I’m usually the one cowering under the covers while my 2-year-old toddler exclaims, “mummy no scared”.

Change is extremely extremely upsetting for me (I can’t emphasise this enough), and this year was full of change. I gave birth to Isaac, was hospitalised for post-delivery complications immediately after childbirth, went through confinement, collected keys to my first home, Valerie went for surgery, supervised renovation, packed our lives out, moved home, unpacked our lives again, got used to having a helper and running my own household. In between I got hospitalised twice in the same month because I burnt out. And you wonder why. It’s just been… Insanely tough.

Apart from all of the above, I am very sensitive to changes in blood sugar levels, caffeine, alcohol, large public crowds, bright lights, fast traffic, and too many things occurring simultaneously. I also feel physically ill during conflict and from the lack of sleep (now how do I fix this since I am a mum and I have two young children under my care?).

I used to think these physical symptoms were due to my vertigo… But now there’s another reason? Sometimes I wonder why my body was created to be so special.

Alright, enough moping around. I need to prepare for my dad’s birthday dinner tomorrow.

If you’re interested to know more about HSPs, Google can be your best friend too.

Just thought I’d write this out since I had some time on hand.

Peace.

Credit: x, x

Battling Depression & Anxiety As A SAHM

Life is like a fruit basket. When you keep putting fruits in – one at a time, or several at once – sooner or later, you won’t be able to put anymore fruits in without any rolling off.

Quote from an old friend, Dr. H.

These past few months have been tough. In front of my friends and especially my family, I act like I have it all together. I act like I’m elated. Like I’m excited. Like I’m bursting with happiness! New home, new chapter right? This is what I have wanted and waited for – for a good three years. But little did anyone know that I was crumbling to pieces within. In my new home, I felt numb. I felt desolate. I felt hopeless. I felt… Helpless.

So it happened about two months back. I slid down the pit that I fought so hard to climb out of for more times than I care to remember. I retreated. I neglected my children (I’m not proud of that). I almost decided that the pain inside was too bad to continue. I almost wanted to end it all.

Almost.

But Kevin spotted the signs. He made an urgent appointment for me to see my regular doctor because he knew that I had been secretly missing my sessions. On the day of the appointment, I went into one of my modes again and my husband had to half-carry me out of the door, with the help of my 2-year-old.

The medical team decided that admission was best – just so that I could have some uninterrupted rest and a break from being on-call 24/7. I was warded for 5 nights. I wouldn’t say I walked out of hospital completely 100% renewed, but the break did help somewhat. It’s amazing what naps can do for a severely sleep-deprived person.

Some people, being human, would have wondered why I burnt out even though I engaged a helper the minute I moved into my new home. I don’t blame them for doing so, and I know I do not owe anyone an explanation, but I just need to get this off my chest – hence the title of this post – so bear with me.

My helper, Anita, has been great. Why? Because she helps me with the physical work of running my household – and we decided to engage her precisely because I need help physically. Due to my history with vestibular issues, there are limitations to what I can and cannot do – and I’m not ashamed to admit that. Unbeknownst to many, I struggle with simple everyday things, and it’s definitely not due to the lack of trying… But that’s a story for another day.

I certainly am grateful that Kevin has given me a chance to be a SAHM, even though we made this decision KNOWING FULL WELL that it will not come without challenges. But it was a choice we made together, and it has worked out so far – all thanks to the One above for His limitless provision.

As a SAHM, I get to live out my calling in this season of life every single day. And I do love being with my children, please don’t get me wrong. We have really good days and we have good days.

And then there are days where I just do not want to face them. These are days which are dark, where I struggle with my thoughts and with my emotions and with my innermost desires to end this fight to live.

I will be honest here. As much as I’m appreciative that I get to stay home and watch my children grow, it is literally all that I have become. Who am I? What do I do all day? The answer is one and the same. I am a mum. I am a mum all day, everyday. The hours fade into days, which fade into weeks, which in turn fade into months. And just like that – I’ve been a full-time mum for exactly three years.

Many times, the isolation is real. And it’s easy to sink into depression (even for those who aren’t already struggling with this) when the only people you face day in and day out are your children – who, being children, are self-centred and self-serving. And to be constantly expected to give of yourself, is an almost impossible task when you are running on empty. That’s exactly what happened to me.

My love tank emptied.

The thoughts overtook.

Emotions overwhelmed me.

Everything came crashing down.

My two arch enemies, depression and anxiety, took over.

Since my relapse, I’ve been pretty much on an emotional roller coaster ride – and my patient husband and innocent children have taken the brunt of it. I have been overbearing, paranoid, angry, impatient, irrational, and basically a pain to be around. But they have been constantly loving on me though I don’t deserve it.

I want to be better. I want to get better. For them. For myself.

So I’m trying to be better. Damn, I’m trying. No doubt I still have my bad days… But I’m trying.

Our Renovation Journey

It’s been a longtime dream of mine to write about building our home… And this dream is finally coming to fruition!

Caution: This post will be an extremely long one, as I have consolidated ALL information and photos here. Will probably work on a mini home tour post next, but we’ll see.

So we finally collected our keys after almost 3 years!

If anyone’s interested, here’s why we waited so long even though we bought our home via HDB’s SBF exercise:

26 May 2016. Applied for flat online.

12 Aug 2016. Got a ballot number of “210”. There were 378 flats on offer so we were in the queue.

21 Dec 2016. Selected our flat of choice.

24 May 2017. Signed the “Agreement of Lease” and paid 5% of flat value as downpayment.

28 Feb 2018. Collected keys, got our combined CPF wiped out, and got ourselves indebted to HDB for a long while!!!

Anyway, our search for an ID / contractor started from September 2017. We spoke to 8 people in all – 4 IDs and 4 contractors – and finally settled on engaging Uncle Alan at the recommendation of a church friend. He’s a contractor and the most experienced one of the lot.

After two rounds of minor defects checking, and several back and forths with our estate’s BSC, we were ready to put together our very first home.

We started renovation works on 20 April 2018, though the initial plan was to start a few days earlier on the 16th. We had a tight deadline to work with because we had to move in by end May as the lease on our storage unit was ending. Thankfully, Uncle Alan only needed 4 weeks to do up our home.

We engaged him as our main contractor to do the carpentry for our kitchen, MBR, and living room; as well as the electrical, plumbing and painting works. On the side, we had another subcontractor do the flooring for us; as well as hack the kitchen wall, flush the living room wall and make good both areas.

TIMELINE OF WORKS DONE

20 April – Kitchen half-wall hacked.

23 April – Concrete sink support constructed. Our sink is a double bowl stainless steel undermount sink from Rubine.

25 April – Tiles from Lian Seng Hin arrived. Likewise for the powder needed for cement screeding, as well as bags and bags of prepacked cement.

27 April – Cement screeding done, tiles stacked into the respective rooms, kitchen entrance reduced from 1.2m to 0.9m, and aircon system from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries installed.

30 April – Over the weekend, living and dining tiles were installed!

5 May – Aluminium grills installed. Living room wall flushed. Kitchen entrance made good. Selected carpentry laminates and paint colours together with Uncle Alan as well.

Kitchen + household shelter carpentry laminate: Wonderful Knit (code: SWL-6873-MT)

MBR carpentry laminate: Desert Pearl Oak (code: SWL-8302-T)

Nippon paint colour codes: Base – Whispering White (code: NPOW1001P) • Living / dining feature walls – Lush (code: NPBGG1605T) • Children’s / study feature walls – Sunlight (code: 1190) • MBR feature wall – Millenia (code: NPPB1444P)

7 MayCity Gas piping installed.

10 May – All paint work by Nippon completed! The first round of acid washing was also done.

18 May – Uni-Arm installed in matte black to match our decor. Moving plans finally settled too after one month of logistical planning with Kevin and Moving Star Express, the moving company that we engaged!

19 May – Finished packing at my parents’ place!

20 May – Our friend from Bangladesh, Arshad, helped us install our many many LED lights from Starworld Lighting, ceiling fans from Fanz, and wall fans from KDK.

23 May – Our helper, Anita, helped to wash the entire home.

24 May – Second round of washing! Our carpentry was finally constructed offsite and brought up to our home after a bit of delay.

25 May – The big move, which took 7 whole hours and 7 men (4 locations in total, and a total of 49 man hours); as well as the installation of carpentry! Amazing how we managed to survive the day with little to no sleep the night before. Thank You Jesus!!!

26 May – Kevin stayed overnight alone to complete the kids’ wardrobes and chest of drawers. Carpentry installation continued in the morning.

30 May – Our 585L Samsung fridge was finally delivered!

31 May – Almost a week after moving in, our kitchen countertop was installed, along with our semi-integrated hood and gas hob from Mayer, and our tap from Hansgrohe. So our sink was functional, but our hood and hob weren’t because our City Gas installation was only scheduled a week later. An oversight on our part, but no big deal.

4 June – Our alkaline water dispenser and air purifier from Novita were delivered! No more need to boil water because our machine can dispense hot, warm, and cold water yay.

7 June – Our half-leather sofa from Teck Seng Furniture crossed the causeway safely!

8 June – Second appointment with City Gas! First time cooking a meal on our stove via gas, instead of on our induction cooker via electricity. No more living like we were camping! Hahaha. Was really quite an experience surviving without a functional kitchen for two weeks.

WhatsApp Image 2018-07-16 at 5.48.15 PM

9 June – Tempered glass installation for kitchen and MBR toilet. Also, our dining table from Island Marble Works arrived!

12 June – Curtains from NST Curtains were installed. And. Our. Home. Is. Done!!!

Planning for our home began immediately right after my confinement ended in February. It has been one heck of a ride – with meetings after meetings to attend, and errands after errands to run. As we decided to engage a contractor instead of an ID, most of the liaising fell on our shoulders. With Kevin busy with work, and me busy with both kids plus attempting to recover from childbirth (I didn’t, and couldn’t, but more on that in future posts), managing so many things all at once was really really tough. Only by God’s grace and limitless provision did we get through this season of life with 2 young children to care for, and a family of 4 thriving (not just surviving) on a single income. We are forever grateful, and immensely thankful.

Valerie’s Surgery

My brave toddler went for surgery to remove an abscess from her left forearm just 11 days before her second birthday. Such a brave warrior!

The timeline went like this:

10 March: She gets bitten by a mosquito and starts to scratch the bite. The skin around the bite starts to thin and even bleeds a few times as she’d unconsciously scratch the bite at night.

15 March: We notice that the wound(s) where the bite was started to harden and swell up. Kevin even managed to drain a bit of pus from the area before dropping her off in school that day. When we picked her up, the area had already swelled up considerably – it was hard, red and felt warm to the touch. We rushed her to the GP that night and she was diagnosed with cellulitis and given Augmentin to fight off the bacteria infection.

18 March: The swell only got bigger, and harder. We decided to bring her to KKH A&E to get it checked out because it was worrying as the oral antibiotics we had been giving her religiously didn’t seem to be working. The doctors immediately suggested admission so that Valerie could be put on IV antibiotics as soon as possible. I then asked if there was any other oral antibiotic that we could try first because I wanted to avoid anything too invasive. The doctors agreed, but asked to mark out the swell so that we will know if it had grown, or not. So we left with another oral antibiotic (Cephalexin) that was seemingly stronger, and an appointment to see the specialist in two days.

20 March: The night before we were due to see the specialist, we had already decided to admit Valerie for surgery as the swell GREW despite changing antibiotics. The surgeons who saw her in the outpatient clinic agreed surgery was necessary too. And so with a heavy heart, we had to do what was necessary to rid our dear girl of this horrible bacteria infection.

This was how bad the swell was upon admission. Notice how the skin was stretched thin already due to the amount of pus in her arm.

(Bad photo because it was a really quick shot. I barely used my phone that day as I wanted to focus on her 100%.)

So the swell suddenly burst open while I was playing with her and sticky pus flowed out. Nurses didn’t do anything but cover it with gauze as she was due for surgery soon.

Napping before going down to the OT. She was scheduled to have surgery at 5pm but the porter came to take us down at 4pm.

After what seemed like an hour-long briefing that had me signing a gazillion forms, we were finally gowned up! So thankful I was able to accompany Valerie ALL the way until she was put under GA.

Note: Extremely impressed and immensely grateful for the compassion of KKH’s OT nurses who were not only a calming presence for my two-year-old, but for me too.

1. They were always smiling and cheerful, from the moment they greeted us, till I was wheeled up to the ward with her lying on me.

2. The waiting room we waited in for about 15 minutes while the OT was being prepped was a HUGE playroom. I did not expect this one bit, but Valerie waltzed in and made herself right at home. There were cars she could sit in, toys she could play with, and cartoons she could watch. She was so happy and relaxed! I started to relax too. (Thank you thank you thank you KKH, for being patient-centric.)

3. My first impression of the OT was it being a cold scary place. Heck, it was my very first time being in one! But the nurses were reassuring and played with Valerie while they were setting her up (she was sitting on my lap). They were even blowing bubbles at and with her! Then… She was slowly given the chocolate-scented GA mask and gently drifted off. The nurses carried her off me and I (reluctantly) left the OT.

My heart shattered, but I had to be strong and not breakdown.

I can’t begin to describe the worry and anxiety that almost suffocated me while she was in surgery. I could barely eat and my legs felt like led. I was drenched in cold sweat and trembled from head to toe. I only got through it with God’s supernatural strength. Thankfully, she was out in around 45 minutes.

Poor babe had difficulty waking up from the GA, though she tried her best. I sat there, all gowned up, rocking her and singing to her for about 1 hour post-surgery. In the end, I carried her and was wheeled up to the ward.

(Quick shot for memory’s sake.)

She was very groggy upon waking up. Drank a little milo, though she threw most of it up. Went back to sleep shortly after.

But after a 2 hour nap, she was back to her chirpy self and enjoyed (read: gobbled) the pandan chiffon mini cakes I bought for her from Prima Deli. Oh, how my heart sang with joy at seeing her be her cheeky self again!

21 March: My brave trooper was discharged from hospital after the first dressing of her wound!!

It was such a journey. But she walked out of the hospital with a testimony to tell of the goodness of God, and so do all of us. Praise God for His limitless strength and unconditional grace!