36.4 Weeks: That’s What it Feels Like?

I never understood the 36.4 weeks (What is the 0.4? Is it 36 weeks and 2.5 days?). Anyway, let’s just say that technology is very advanced these days. For that, I am grateful. 

Contractions

Ever since my 34th week, I have to do a test where I have to listen to the baby’s heartbeat and press a button whenever he moved. It’s two metal circles strapped to my belly (Kind of looks like the picture below). The test lasts about 20 minutes. 

GetImage

Image Credit: hopkinsmedicine.org

The first time we took the test, my baby was quiet and he didn’t move as much. This time, he’s grown much bigger and have been kicking and nudging. Maybe the straps weren’t that comfy. So I kept pressing the “fetal movement” button. 

Ten minutes into the test, the technician came back and said, “Oh, you had a contraction, did you feel it?” 

Really? A contraction? I was a bit confused, so I asked her, “Really? When was that? What was I supposed to feel?”

“A tightening and hardening in your womb.” 

Hmm…so I watched for the next one. And in about 10 minutes, I did feel a tightening, but it wasn’t painful. So I told the technician that I felt it again and she confirmed that yes, there was a contraction. 

That’s how it feels like! At least early contractions was just a bit of muscle tightening. I always thought that it was the baby moving, but it was a legit contraction!

The doctor asked me to watch for contraction timings. She thinks the baby could be due in a week or two. That’s a bit earlier than I was expecting since my Expected Delivery Date is in another 3.5 weeks. 

To my surprise, I am more excited by this new development than nervous! Yes, I still need to pack my hospital bag and post-natal center bag. Then, we’ve got Chinese New Year coming up next week. But amidst all the things we need to do, all’s well. Everything’s going as it should and right now, I am happily waiting for whatever will happen to happen. 

Eating All My Food

On the weight side, from the last check up two weeks ago, my baby has grown a whopping 600 grams! He is now some 2800 grams! He has been eating everything that’s coming in! By the way, I have a huge appetite these days and it doesn’t help that before Chinese New Year is always a time packed full of weddings and end-of-the-year parties in Taiwan. I even baked a chocolate cake yesterday, just because I wanted to eat one. Of course, I only did have a slice, but it’ll be there whenever I need another one. Ahh…food seems so much more delicious these days. 

Baby, we are all happy to meet you soon (but not too soon!) 

34.4 Weeks: Getting BIG!

Well into my third trimester of pregnancy, I am glad to share that baby’s healthy and mommy’s feeling great! 

GROW! GROW! GROW!

A little over a month left till the due date, my baby is using all his energy growing. He is absorbing more nutrients and putting on pounds fast. On my last check-up, about two weeks ago, he steadily grew 100 grams each week. 

To my surprise, at the check-up yesterday he had grown 400 grams in these two weeks! Now at an estimated 2277 grams (34 weeks) and with 6 more weeks to go, I am praying for a good birthweight. Not too big for delivery, but fully developed. 

Go Baby! 

Mighty KICKS

Baby’s muscles and bones are growing stronger by the day. As room in the womb is becoming crowded, his kicks are getting intense. 

He also favors kicking my right abdomen. Some days it could actually be a bit painful, but as long as he moves, I’m happy. 

When I was driving today and listening to music, I felt him dance for the first time. Yes, he was on beat and wiggling, waving his arms and moving his legs to the song! That was quite a new experience! I hope he has some musical or rhythmic talent as mommy and daddy are definitely lacking in that department. 

Exercising

In the third trimester, my belly is expanding like a hot air balloon. The extra weight is an added burden for my body. I walk slower, have a harder time putting on pants and get tired more often. 

The only way to beat the tiredness is to keep exercising and moving. My strategy is to stay on my toes, take long walks (and breaks when walking gets difficult) and YouTube prenatal workout videos. I now have my favorite workout videos and make sure to do at least one video a day. (I will share those videos in another post)

Emotional Strength

To be honest, I had my worries in previous months – Am I prepared to be a mother? Is the baby healthy? Have I prepared everything for delivery? Will delivery hurt a lot? What will my life be like after the baby’s here? How about our marriage? And so on… 

However, I have come to realize an amazing truth. None of these worries matter. If God has chosen to bless us with a child, He has a special plan and protection for the child and for our family. God would not give us children to increase our sorrows. And so while pregnancy, delivery, raising up a child are nevertheless challenging jobs, they are meant to be a joyful blessing. I could choose to enjoy the process or focus on everything that is uncertain, imperfect and “not the way I wanted it.” Parenting is not meant to be perfect, but to be healthy and nurturing. 

I am done with what “others” say about my life. Even good suggestions are meant as a reference. They are not applicable to our lives. We choose our own happiness. 

What really helped me find emotional steadiness and able to tell off the “negativities” is reading God’s Word (aka The Bible). There is so much comfort in the truth. So while I still face anxious thoughts here and there, I can choose not to let it run my life. Why be so stressed?

Psalm 34:4-7 New Living Translation (NLT)

I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles.
For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him.

Challenging Myself for 2015

LANDSCAPES - PORTRAITS - BLACK & WHITE -

Every new year rings in new plans and hopes. 2015 is not an exception. 

After reading, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth: Live Them and Reach Your Potential by John C. Maxwell, I was inspired to invest in my personal growth. He’s one of the great men who intentionally grows himself, seeking not to waste any second of his life. 

New year’s resolutions are hard to make and easy to break. At the beginning of the year, we all start off with ample faith and determination, then somewhere in between, we wonder where did they go? Nevertheless, you’ve got to start somewhere. 

Here are my personal challenges for 2015:

Challenge 1: Keep At It

While I love trying all different things, the hardest part for me is to continue faithfully in it. It is easy for me to become interested in a hobby for a few months, then completely drop it. I pick up activities quickly and lose interest or leave them halfway through. 

This year, I would like to establish a routine that needs a lot of SELF-DISCIPLINE to finish what I have started. My goal is to create a good pace so I am not pushing myself too much or lagging off. 

These are my routine goals:

1. Spiritual: Get to know my God better through daily time of worship, prayer and Bible reading. 

2. Spiritual: Memorize 1 Bible verse a day. 

3. Health: Exercise at least 3 times a week for at least 30 minutes. During pregnancy, my goal is to exercise every single day so I could have a good labor and delivery! (cross my fingers on the pain part) 

4. Marriage: Date night at least once a week. It is now very simple to do, but I hope to continue it once the baby will be born. 

5. Blog: Put out a blog at least once week on Jensafari. Since this blog is personal and I am writing for interest (and I love to blog too) and not for a paycheck, I am often met with a “oh I’ll just do it tomorrow” attitude. Everyday I have dozens of topics popping up and formulating in my mind, but not all of them makes it to the web due to that attitude. One thing I learned from John’s book is to brainwash myself with the “Do it Now” mentality. Laziness be gone! 

I try to keep my goals simple so they are achievable. Other projects include translating my first book from Chinese to English, reading a book (from beginning to end) every 2 months, calling my mom and mother-in-law at least once a week, and establishing a steady stream of part-time income after the baby’s birth. 

Challenge 2:Try Something New

My goal is to try something new at least once a week. To keep track of all the new things I have done, I started a “Try Something New” journal. The purpose here is to continuously encourage myself to step out of my comfort zone and be challenged. There is a great sense of accomplishment when I go back to read the list every so often. 

How are you growing yourself this year? 

To Homeschool or Not to Homeschool?

While my hubby, my handyman is in the high DIY spirit and assembling our new bookcase, chest of drawers and organizer for the new baby, I decided to write this post about homeschooling. There’s only one electric drill anyway, so I’ll just let him be Angus the Constructor. When I was still single, I used to assemble the furnitures myself. Now that I have him, I have so much more time on my hands! (Admiring hubby) 

Ok, back to the subject. Homeschool. 

Ever since I have been in Taiwan and was surprised to see junior high students still going to class in the summer, I’ve decided that my kids should enjoy summer and being young. 

Another point is that I would like to have a bilingual (Chinese and English) environment for the children. While there are still good bilingual options in Taiwan, I still need to look into them. 

On the other hand, Taiwanese kindergarden and some elementary schools are pretty impressive and would give the children a good educational experience without compromising their childhood.

Good news is that I have some 4-5 years to think about it. Being curious me, I attended a “Homeschool Seminar” organized by the Tainan Education Department. 

Homeschooling in Taiwan

Unlike homeschooling in Canada or the states, teaching kids at home is still a relatively new (maybe around 15 years) concept. More families are getting involved in homeschooling and the government is putting frameworks in place to help make this work. 

In Taiwan, the government is responsible for every child’s education from 6-15 years old. So, if your child is past 6 years old and not attending school, the government’s in trouble, and so are you. Therefore, all children have to be registered for some kind of education. 

Homeschool cases are supervised by the Department of Education for each county. Every family who wishes to homeschool must write a proposal and apply to the government. 

Homeschool Proposal

The proposal itself is quite extensive. It includes sections on “Education Theory” and proposed education plan, curriculum and schedule for the period that the parent intends to homeschool their child. Some people apply every year as they change their curriculum on the way. Others might write a proposal for the 9 years of homeschool. However, if changes are made, the proposal need to be modified and re-submitted. 

Proposals could be submitted in two time slots for Tainan, one for fall/winter semester and another for winter/spring semester. 

Parents are allowed to be quite flexible and free with what they decide to teach their children. 

Local School Resources

When the proposal is passed, each case is paired with a teacher from the local school and the child is registered under that school. The child is also part of a class of his age. 

What I like about this system is that the school is a resource for parents. Parents can choose to let their children participate in classes, school events, competitions or school insurance programs. For example, if the parent wants the child to only participate in physical education classes, then he will be a regular for those classes for the semester. The schedule and level of involvement at the local school could be discussed with the teachers and principal. The school is also responsible for informing parents on any school events and activities. 

At this point, only about 10% of schools are dealing with homeschooling families. Most likely, your child will be the first case the school would have dealt with. However, the government has an intensive training and supervision program for new schools with homeschool cases. 

Grading

Basically, the parent(s) would grade their children according to their curriculum. They then need to translate their grade or scores to the format used by the local school. Of course, the Department of Education trusts that all parents would be fair and not give their children straight As. Parents grade according to their child’s efforts and realistic strengths and weaknesses in the study area. 

How About Getting into College?

One of the main concerns for homeschooled kids and parents is whether or not their curriculum would be sufficient for the child to qualify for higher education. In Taiwan, it’s a yes and no. Basically, in Taiwan, there is probably no university that has a special enrolment procedure or requirements for homeschooled students. The criteria for university entrance are based on Taiwanese curriculum and test scores. Students would still need to undertake the gruelling national examinations like other high schoolers.

In Canada and the States, most schools have spots for homeschooled students. Schools could ask students to take certain exams, such as SATs in the US or other validating credentials. There are also online colleges that do not require a high school diploma. Apart from high school grades, the emphasis is on personal development, self-learning abilities and involvement extra-curricular activities, which are in the favor of homeschoolers. 

Who knows, maybe in a decade, the system in Taiwan might be more accommodating to students who choose to have alternative education. This would be a giant step forward for the education system.  

Helpful Resources

Here are a few resources about homeschooling in Taiwan and the application process.

HSLDA: Taiwan – Advocates for Homeschooling (English)

Taiwan Homeschool Advocates (Chinese)

Taiwan Homeschool Laws by the Chen-Wernik Family (Chinese)

Mujen – Christian Homeschoolers Resources (Chinese)

Tainan Non-School Experimental Education Website (Department of Education Tainan in Chinese)

OK, so what did I actually learn from the homeschool seminar? I’ll write this in the Part II of this post, which will be out in a couple of days. Until then, have an amazing, out-of-this-world week!

25.6 Weeks: Oral Glucose Tolerance Test

Today, I had to take my second trimester glucose tolerance test and draw blood to test for Hepatitis B. 

Glucose tolerance test is used to measure gestational (or pregnancy) diabetes. According to BabyCenter, “Between 2 and 5 percent of expectant mothers develop this condition, making it one of the most common health problems during pregnancy.” Apparently, often the condition goes without any symptoms and testing is the only way to know.

What is gestational diabetes? 

Gestational diabetes is a condition when pregnant women have higher than normal blood glucose levels. Since pregnancy causes dramatic changes in the mother’s metabolism, the pancreas’ secretion of insulin and regulation of sugars in the body can sometimes function improperly, thus causing this condition. 

According to American Diabetes Association, blood glucose levels are considered normal or healthy if levels are:

  • Before a meal (fasting blood glucose): 95 mg/dl or less
  • 1-hour after a meal: 140 mg/dl or less
  • 2-hours after a meal: 120 mg/dl or less

How does gestational diabetes affect the mother and the baby?

The immediate risk of gestational diabetes is having “fat” babies, or babies born overweight. This is caused by the excess blood glucose that are stored as fat in the baby’s body. An overweight baby could also be at risk of becoming an overweight or diabetic adult. Furthermore, the large size of the baby could cause difficult birth for the mother.

Mothers with gestational diabetes can often give birth to perfectly healthy babies. However, if gestational diabetes is not treated with weight management, proper exercise and a healthy diet, mothers may need to take medicine to control the diabetes. After childbirth, if the mother’s blood glucose levels remain high, she could be at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. 

My glucose test experience

In my mind, I have never had any high blood glucose problems and am pretty confident that I’d strike clear for the test. So, I came into the hospital expecting the sugar water to taste awful and nothing else. 

My test was the 1 hour glucose tolerance test. It involved me drinking 50g of sugar mixed with water and waiting exactly an hour before drawing blood. 

oralglucoseBasically, I had to pour into my cup FIVE of these vials of pure glucose (pictured above), then filling the cup 80% full with water. Then, I gulped the whole thing down and placed a timer on my cell phone – 1 hour to be exact. 

The sugar water, to my surprise did not taste as evil as people describe them to me. When I got the glucose vials from the pharmacist, she remarked to me how disgusting and “too sugary” this drink is. 

What bothered me was not the taste, but the aftermath. The effects of the high glucose was felt within 5 minutes of taking the drink. I had a light-hearted dizzy feeling and was a bit sick. For the next hour, I read a book and kept yawning as if I’m not getting enough oxygen. 

Finally, the hour was up and I had my blood drawn. The nurse said that some people vomit or even have hot flashes and felt terrible all over from the sugar. I guess I did well. 

For the rest of the day, I just felt pooped and tired. Although I did do a few loads of laundry (side note: I received my cloth diapers and are so happy washing them. They are just the cutest little things!), met with a friend and cooked dinner, I felt my energy was just not there.

The other effect of the glucose was super active baby! This whole day, he was kicking, flipping, hiccuping about 3-4 times more than usual.

It will be another 4 weeks till my next check-up and I will find out the results then. 

From this experience, I swear that being sugar high is one of the grossest feelings. I will try not to dunk my baby in coke and chocolate for all our sake! 

Encouragement for New Beginnings

Sunflowers Road by Jean Marc Janiaczyk

Each one of us encounter new beginnings as long as we eat, sleep, breathe, live. Walking on this trail called life, there are crossroads, split paths, rocks, rivers, and mountains of challenges along the way. The path is not always smooth and paved, but then again it may be the roughness that makes this trek worth the adventure. 

As I face my own new beginning, I do one of two things: jump full into it or watch and wait for signs that says, “Go.” I have usually taken the first option. At times, I was confident and everything turned out fine. Other times, after the leap, I found myself in a completely different situation from what I initially pictured. These days, I have been more careful and quietly waiting for a clear sign or a gush of fateful wind pushing me ahead. Thinking about it, I have chosen the passive route. 

My goal, however is neither of the two. I would rather be pro-active, yet steadily pacing myself to have time to reflect and strategize on how to reach where I would want to end up. 

Experiencing a career change and the new role of being a mom, uncertainties are butterflies fluttering in my heart. They could unmask into crippling fears or pleasant surprises and blessings. 

Here I am once again in a new place and I realize that I am not alone. I could feel a gentle and firm hand guiding me and reassuring me. Still in awe that the God of the universe would care to communicate with my tiny soul, I am completely humbled. Everyday, I am met with words of encouragements addressed specifically to me and my current situation. 

I jotted down a few encouragements this week and hope they could continue inspire:

Encouragement 1: Listening to music on a YouTube playlist, one random video was not a song, but a person (Kris Valloton to be exact) telling his story of stepping out in faith when he felt least confident in a completely new career path. He talked about how a lot of people have been waiting and watching for the right season to start something new. Perhaps, the season is here and rather than watching from the sidelines, it is time to step out. He prayed for faith and confidence for those in this situation. That was what I needed.

Encouragement 2: I received a weekly newsletter and this week’s topic was titled, “Why You Need to Quit Your Job”. This article came in a time when pursuing a new career is a financially difficult choice for me. Although my decision to finish my current job was already made, I needed someone to say, “You’re not crazy.” 

Encouragement 3: Every morning I read from Stormie Omartian’s “The Power of Praying”, this morning’s excerpt reads,

“God is always wanting to take you to a new place in your life, and you will keep Him from doing that if you are hanging on to the way things have always been done. He will never allow you to rest on past success. If you rely on the way things have always been done, you aren’t relying on Him. And that’s the whole point. No matter how old you are, God has something new He wants to do in your life.” 

Encouragement 4: My dad was visiting me this week. After writing his memoir every night after work for the past 1.5 years, he published his novel last week. This is definitely an amazing accomplishment! He told me that he thought writing a book would be hard, but when he started and finally finished, he found out that it wasn’t nearly as hard as he thought. For me, changing a career or parenting seem like Everest at this point. Once I start the climb, it won’t be nearly as hard as I imagined. 

These little signs could just be tidbits, but they have been immensely helpful to me. Maybe you are facing a difficult decision, unexpected circumstances, or like me, a new beginning. Are there any small tidbits in your life that can encourage you in a time when you most need it? 

Image Credit: Sunflowers Road by Jean Marc Janiaczyk

21 Weeks: 4D Ultrasound

Last week, for the first time, we went for a 4D ultrasound. I had no idea what I was in for. 

Cross-Sections

Walk in the sonographer and a medical student who politely asked if he can join the session for educational purposes. Yeah, why not. 

Within a minute, we knew our sonographer was an experienced professional passionate about scanning babies. After about 10 minutes in and feeling that we were all pretty interactive people, she began explaining her theory on scanning. She loved martial arts movies and said her job is like Chinese martial art.

“It is the balance between strong and soft pressures in order to see clearly all the organs and body parts.”  Mmm… interesting lady. 

It took me awhile to realize that the beginning shots were in detailed 2D cross-sections. Yes, cross-sections. If you took a knife and sliced a part of your body like bread, then that would be a cross-section.

So, who in the world pictures a cross-section of a body on a daily basis? It’s more like looking at a contemporary art piece, one of Dali or Picasso’s. Without our sonographer curator, we wouldn’t have a clue. 

“See, that’s the lungs.” Where?

Lungs

Apparently, those are the lungs in the big circle. The small bubble on the right is the umbilical cord.

 

3D and 4D Real-Time

Once she had taken all the measurements of the body parts and I had counted how many toes my baby had, she announced, “Ready for 3D imaging?” 

She clicked something and within seconds, the face of our baby came on the screen. At first, the face was somewhat blocked by his hands and a thick umbilical cord. Our baby was shy. 

Elijah_shy_3D

No photos, please!

Sonographer lady poked my tummy a few times to get him to lower his arms. The second he did, we got a beautiful shot of his face! 

At only 21 weeks, our baby had defining facial features. He clearly has is dad’s full lips and v-shaped chin. Chuckling, this one will look like him. 

Elijah_face_3D

Here he is in real-time. Beautifully and wonderfully made. 

Basically a 4D ultrasound is when the 3D picture is moving in real-time. Unfortunately, I don’t have any videos of the 4D. 

Big Surprise!

We didn’t expect the sonographer to tell us right off the bat, but in the first minute of the scan, she said, “Oh, here’s his birdy. It’s a boy!” 

What? I didn’t catch that. She later showed us again many times and confirmed that we are having a boy!

When I first got pregnant, I had a very strong feeling that we’re having a boy. Although we are happy with both baby boy or girl, I just had a weird hunch. Well, mothers’ intuitions are proven to be very accurate.

Listen to your mothers. 

Halfway There 

While I looked forward to check-ups every month and seeing how my baby’s growing, I feel a sense of relief afterward. The baby is healthy, the weight gain is good, amniotic fluids are plenty, blood sugar levels are fine. Check, check, check. Sometimes I feel like I’m back in grade school taking an exam. I’ve passed the test, this time. 

Now halfway through my pregnancy, I have come into grips with the good and bad days. 90% of the time I am enjoying it, but I am still confronted with the 10% of worries and anxieties. Unnecessarily, I overthink into the future, “How will I raise a boy?” 

The best remedy is telling myself that no one is perfect and just chillax. Enjoy the ride!

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear – 1 John 4:18a

At times like this, my favorite Bible verse always comes to the rescue. And it is so true, in love I should not fear whatever may or may not happen. You are in good hands, baby boy. 

Ultrasounds

This is what we got to take home at the end of the day. A roll of abstract art!

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