Posted in bloggers, family, Parenting, women

Blabbaholic and Baby

For the first time in my life I finally had a productive Valentine’s Day this year; not in the romantic sense unfortunately but at least its the first year since hitting puberty that I’ve not been sat at home moaning about the state of my love life.

No, this year I agreed to babysit one of my closest friend’s beautiful baby boy so that she can take her mum to Cirque de Soleil. Let me tell you, I was terrified as hell. When she asked if anyone was available, I agreed without hesitation AND without giving full thought to what I was actually agreeing to do.

Now its not like babies hate me. I’m not as bad as others who make babies cry if they so much as stand within 3 feet of them. I get on well with babies and I’m a nurse for crying out loud, I’ve spent numerous shifts earlier in my career in the neonatal and paeds unit (not voluntarily, always because I had no choice but hey, I did it). Its just that no one has ever shown so much faith and trust in my ability to care for another individual before.

Fortunately, my friend Cat also agreed to be my partner in crime for the night so I at least had back-up. And it turned out alright – he was the most behaved baby boy in the world – but I have to say I now have so much more respect for mothers the world over and my own mum. These people should be sainted, given awards, lauded, recognised for their silent contribution to humanity for more than just that one day a year.

Anyway, I just wanted to share some of the few things I learned while babysitting.

Babies are heavy.

I don’t know why I’m just realising this now when part of our responsibilities as nurses in the delivery room is to weigh the cute tiny humans. They weigh something like 8-10 lbs when they’re born and they become exponentially heavier as the months pass. And when they cry, carrying and rocking them is just about the only thing that will calm them down – apart from feeding them of course. I truly felt like I had a workout the day after.

I can change diapers like a champ.

This totally surprised me. I was amazed at myself. I changed the baby’s nappies for a grand total time of 5 minutes and I only had to take a second to figure out which way was up. And really, I don’t know how or why but babies just don’t smell. Even when they should. Babies have world-class pheromones.

I can feed myself but apparently not babies

I had a moment of panic an hour into babysitting duties. My friend was running late and I had to take care of Caleb on my own for the first hour or so. I was feeling so smug because I got him to sleep and I was just sitting there chilling and watching The Night We Met on Netflix (predictable but fun, no need for brain cells – perfect for babysitting night lol). And then inevitably the baby becomes hungry and I had to feed him with the expressed breastmilk his mum so helpfully prepared before she left.

And he wouldn’t suck.

I couldn’t believe it. I must be the only person in the world who can’t feed a baby. I tried everything, every position I knew, but he just wouldn’t take the milk. He was crying and I wanted to cry because I was feeling like such an idiot. I knew instinctively that he was hungry but I didn’t know how to get him to take the milk. Thankfully, my friend Cat arrived just in time. I buzzed her in and handed the baby over in record time and she had him drinking in minutes. Clap, clap, clap, CLAP.

It takes a village.

On the heels of the feeding incident I now realise how difficult it must be to do that on your own, raising kids I mean. We only babysat for three hours but Cat and I knew that we couldn’t have done it without the other. Forget about the fact that we needed to take turns carrying and feeding the baby so that the other can have dinner or a bit of a rest, I think that goes without saying. But no, I think its just the comfort that comes with knowing that there’s another person in the room, another pair of eyes, someone else to help you make the important decisions; it’s a big comfort to simply know you’re not alone.

I now understand why couples with babies will think carefully about where they want to settle; some will probably move closer to home because you really need that support system. If I’m ever blessed with a child, I’ll also be adopting my mum who is a champ at all things babies. I now have so much more respect for single mothers – they truly are unsung heroes. Kudos to you guys.

Babies will make you realise your capacity to care for another individual

I don’t know if it was just because it was V-day and I was feeling more maudlin than usual, but caring for Caleb that night genuinely made me feel like there was nothing I wouldn’t do for this baby. And whenever he smiled because I was putting Aveeno cream on his cute little face, I felt like I hung the moon on the sky. I guess that’s why I always think that having a baby is a big decision and you have to be sure you’re ready and you’re at the right state of mind for it. Because having one means losing your right (and desire) to only think about yourself. There’s lots of challenges, lots of sacrifices, but the rewards must be amazing.

Anyway, it was an awesome night. Thanks Katie for trusting me with your beautiful baby boy. As I said, I’m available for babysitting duties anytime. And I promise to get better at the feeding thing.

Now I’m going to call my mum and tell her how much I love her.

Posted in family, Filipino, relationships

Goodbye, Lolo.

Yesterday was the 3rd death anniversary of my grandfather. I remember so distinctly the moment I found out that he had passed away. I was on leave from London for the first time since getting my work permit. My father’s side of the family was having a reunion in one of the beach resorts in Cebu and we had just finished a scrumptious breakfast buffet.

I was trying to burn a few calories by doing my own version of swimming in the ocean (I can’t swim to save my life) when my uncle hailed us to come back to shore. I thought he was telling us we needed to check out soonish, but then he said that my grandfather (Lolo) had died that morning.

I went up to our suite to find my mother barely keeping it together. Being the eldest child, I knew I had to travel with them back to Samar (another island in the Philippines) so we can lay my Lolo to rest. I had a moment of self-absorption to be honest, because I had my holiday all planned out and that changed everything. But all my plans paled in comparison to the fact that my mum needed my support.

I did not have a great relationship with my grandfather. Because they live in such a remote area of the country I rarely had time to visit them when I started college. I was also quite a spoiled, judgmental teenager who could not wait to go back to the city every time we visited.

His drinking, and the attitude that came with it, really rubbed me the wrong way. I think I was 16 when I first started making it clear that I did not approve of it and I started to pull away. I might, in a fit of adolescent tantrum, have even said all this to his face.

I didn’t realise the value of family until I was much older and living in a city where I didn’t have them. Its only now that I know enough to be ashamed of my actions and to regret never cultivating a better relationship with my Lolo.

When I was 16 all I could see was the drinking and the person he became when he was drunk; I’d forgotten about how, when we were younger and could visit for much longer, he would make every effort to make sure we enjoyed our stay.

He’d catch fish for us, slaughter his chicken and pigs for us (sorry, I know this is crude), introduce us to everyone in the small town and tell everyone how smart we were; he’d sing karaoke with us, take us swimming in the nearby river and watch out for us. Back when we were young and able to appreciate the simple things in life more, we were able to appreciate him more.

My brother and sister were better with him than I was. You see, I went through a phase when I was so full of my own hubris that I thought I was better than everyone else. I had a holier-than-thou attitude that makes me cringe when I think about it now. London has been good for me in so many ways and in a way, living independently has made me more grounded and more appreciative of my family.

I never got to say goodbye. I thought I would have more time. We always think we have more time until we don’t. I can’t even remember when I saw him last (it must have been in 2011 shortly before I left the country), what I said, whether I was able to say I loved him or able to apologise for my shitty attitude towards him growing up, or to tell him that I understand about the drinking.

I visited his grave with my mum, my sister and my aunt and uncle yesterday. We organised a mass for him and said our prayers. It was raining and I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes but I was determined not to complain and to see it through. We then visited our grandma afterwards and we sat around while my uncle reminisced about his last day. It was a sort of catharsis for them all to relive it and to be relieved that he went so peacefully.

He inspired devotion in his children, despite everything. I’m sure they also found him challenging but they loved him so much that they’d travel from afar every year, even after his death, just to visit. He took care of them and made sure that they had good lives and a good future. That’s the minimum that you can ask of a parent and I’ve seen enough of the world to know that not everyone is so lucky.

He was a good man.

There’s no one on earth who can say that they’ve lived a life with no regrets; this is one of mine. I can’t go back and change the past but I can be better and do right by my remaining family in the future.

I think this is one of the reasons why I’m home this month rather than off exploring the world. You never really know how much time you have with the people you love. With my sister also home on leave, we’re a complete family for the first time in 3 years. That’s more important to me than climbing Machu Pichu.

Its ironic but I don’t actually come from a family where its easy to express words of affection. Words are wind anyway, its our actions that speak volumes. I will try to be a better person than I was to my grandfather but I also just wanted to write this blog as a love letter to tell him the things I never said and to say goodbye.

Rest in peace, Lolo.

Posted in Books, relationships, Reviews, romance

Life Lessons from A Man Called Ove

Ove and Romance

Maybe he didn’t write her poems or serenade her with songs or came home with expensive gifts. But no other boy had gone the wrong way on a train for hours every day just because he liked sitting next to her while she spoke.

 

 

People said Ove saw the world in black and white but she was color. All the colour he had.

Ove and True Love

Loving someone is like moving into a house. At first you fall in love with all the new things, amazed every morning that all this belongs to you…then over the years the walls become weathered, the wood splinters here and there, and you start to love the house not so much because of all its perfection, but rather its imperfections.

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Ove and Being a Man

Men like Ove and Rune were from a generation in which one was what one did, not what one talked about.

 

They say the best men are born out of their faults and that they improve later on, more than if they’d never done anything wrong.

Ove and Making Time for the Things That Matter

…all people at root are time optimists. We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like ‘if’.

 

Ove and Loss

Death is a strange thing…we fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take away someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.

 

Ove and Destiny

She always said all roads lead to something you were predestined to do. And for her perhaps it was something, but for Ove, it was someone.

 

Ove and Life

He went through life with his hands firmly shoved into his pockets. She danced.

 

One of the most painful moments in a person’s life probably comes with the insight that an age has been reached when there is more to look back on than ahead. And when time no longer lies ahead of one, other things have to be lived for. Memories, perhaps.

 

And just as a bonus, because this is also one of my favourite things in the world…

Of all the imaginable things he misses most about her, the thing he really wishes he could do again was hold her hand in his.

 

Sigh. You will fall in love with this book. Buy it now!

 

Cheers, bookworms! 😘

Posted in Careers, Nursing

Blood is thicker than water: things I learned from mentoring my sister

18 months ago, my sister moved to London to work at the same hospital as I do and I could not have been more chuffed. In the months before she arrived, all I could talk about was my sister and how excited I was for her to join us. And when she did arrive, I went around introducing Arlene to anyone and everyone. For weeks every time I see someone the first words out of my mouth would be “have you met my sister?” Now that would be fine if Arlene loved being the center of attention (like her big sister lol) but she’s not: she’s a bit shy and reserved when it comes to people she doesn’t know well and she doesn’t let people in easily (unlike me, who’s Ms Congeniality). Although we share the same interests, we are as different as two people could be.

I’ve been teaching my sister as far back as when she was still studying at uni. I started my teaching career as a clinical instructor in the Philippines and my sister was one of my students. It was awkward as hell, but also a lot of fun. Of course I had to be careful to be professional and impartial, and for the most part I achieved that. It was also good that my sister was not a problem student; in fact I think that while academically I got better grades, skills-wise and clinical-wise my sister is the better nurse. 

But that was school, where I had authority and she HAD to listen to me. Things are not quite the same when you’re colleagues. 

A couple of months ago, we were so short of practitioners for my speciality that it became imperative for me to train and develop a couple of people who had potential, my sister included. Arlene didn’t think she could do orthopaedics and left to her own devices I don’t think she would have made that choice voluntarily. However, I was always of the opinion that my sister doesn’t give herself enough credit; she is capable of anything if she puts her mind to it, all she needs is confidence. And practice. And perhaps someone to nudge her (some people would say I push but WHATEVER). And so started her career in orthopaedics, which, as everyone knows is my second all-consuming passion (career-wise anyway).

Its been an experience mentoring Arlene in orthopaedics. It felt a lot like supporting a child through a piano recital or something. There’s a reason why they call the operating room a “theatre” because it has all the elements of a performance. The surgeons and the scrub nurses put on gowns, gloves and mask (costumes!), there’s music in the background, and for me even after all these years I find it so exciting. I’m lucky enough to be in a speciality that I genuinely love. And I want my sister to love it as much as I do so I guess sometimes I get a little bit overeager. Here are some of the things that I’ve realised over the past couple of weeks working with Arlene.

There will be arguments.

This is unavoidable. Arlene is the quieter of the two of us but don’t let that deceive you. She’s strong willed and she’s got a mind of her own. So when two really strong personalities come together, clashes are inevitable. Yesterday just in the amount of time it takes to prepare for the surgery, at least three arguments and one semi-shouting match may or may not have occured in the prep room. 

I will become a stage mother.

Like I said, its like watching your kid do a piano recital. You get so anxious, and every time they miss something you feel it. You take criticisms against them personally. I have to watch myself constantly from putting too much pressure on my sister. I constantly have to readjust my expectations so that I don’t get too frustrated. Or you know, try to leave her training to someone else and not get too involved because there is NO WAY I can be detached or impartial if its a combination of Arlene and orthopaedics.

Teaching requires commitment. And you gotta love it. 

This is true of anyone I teach, regardless of whether I’m related to them or not. People don’t realise how much of myself I give when I decide to teach or train someone. Sometimes during my free time I find myself thinking of creative ways to get people to learn, or when I see something on the telly or read something from a book I immediately think about whether its something I can apply as an educator. You spend two hours every day on a one-to-one basis with these people trying to support them, giving them feedback and encouragement, helping them improve…it takes a lot out of you. But I can’t really see myself doing anything else. I’ve always loved to teach. That lightbulb moment when someone finally gets it is worth everything to me.

It will be worth it.

This week my sister scrubbed for a total hip replacement on her own for the first time, and she did marvelously. One month ago she was struggling to even understand the concept; as recently as two weeks ago she could barely muster up enthusiasm for the speciality. Last night she was enthusiastic and excited about it; it was the most animated I’ve seen her since we started this. It felt great to be sharing something that I love doing with someone I love.

At the end of the day, we will still be sisters.


There is something to be said for having a colleague who’s also family. You can always rely on unconditional love from a family member, they’re obligated to love you even when you annoy them to death. Blood is always thicker than water. 

To Arlene, I am so proud of everything you’ve achieved and everything you’re still trying to achieve. Love you shob, please continue to cook me dinner. Lol