Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Yoga for Pregnancy by Doriel Hall

In my fourth month of pregnancy, I came across this book, which advocated the principles of gentle yoga i.e.:
“the safe and gentle way to prepare your body and mind for birth, in step-by-step sequences caught my attention".
Practising yoga since 2002, I was happy to see that yoga applies during pregnancy too and while I miss my yoga instructor, I found this manual a good companion. "Yoga for Pregnancy: The Safe and Gentle Way to Prepare your Body and Mind for Birth" has a sound introduction to yoga (its basic concepts, breathing methods, practice and benefits) clearly illustrated in step-by-step sequence.

There are also colour drawings of the human anatomy to further explain the position of the baby in the womb and how our posture and movements affect him. Each section concludes with a box of frequently asked questions.

The next section focuses on a Healthy Conception. As with ethical yoga practices, the book does not prescribe ‘miracles’ and is careful to stress that yoga will help you to reduce your stress levels and balance all systems. This, in turn, benefits your body and helps achieve the optimum conditions to have a baby.

The following sections are dedicated to each trimester of a pregnancy, each with suitable poses and stretches for each week. The clear instructions and accompanying photos helped me to follow the various exercises suggested and thoroughly enjoyed the stretching and relaxation poses.

I also found the section on Changing Positions in Pregnancy really useful for women in the second trimester onwards. With a growing belly and lax joints, photographs are used to show how you can safely and gently:
  • stand up from a sitting position;
  • roll out of bed and
  • stand up from a lying down position.
The lead author, Doriel Hall, is a yogi trained in India and is keen to share the physical and mental benefits of yoga without favouring any particular stream of yoga. One of the strengths I find in this book is the stress she places on being careful not to overstretch yourself and to ensure correct posture at all times.

As a long-term yoga practitioner, I am familiar with the breathing and proper posture required for the best of yoga. I will recommend this book to readers who are familiar and who have attended a proper yoga class.

For the complete beginner (especially a pregnant one), it is really best that you attend a class with a trained and certified instructor experienced with such advanced postures.
Buy the book or check out some DVDs:

Friday, 23 November 2007

First scary night

Culture Shock

I'm just beginning to settle down in this new country and my new role as a housewife (aka stay-at-home Mom) when he vomited - twice - tonight.

At around 7 pm, we'd just returned from another major shopping trip from Walmart. On our first time there, he was pretty good and even fell asleep in the stroller.

This time around, he was very cranky on our way out of the noisy, crowded mall and just cried, screamed and kicked until I picked him up and held him all the way home. This stupid Mummy didn't realize that he was already feeling out of sorts...

Falling Sick

He was supposed to take his dinner but I guessed he wouldn't be keen since he was so tired. I prepared his usual bedtime bottle but he finished only 3/4 of it and passed it back to me, with Hubby sitting nearby chatting.

Horror of horrors - lying on a pillow, he started vomiting the milk and his lunch. I quickly set him to a seating position and tried to remain calm as my little boy continued gushing like a volcano. Poor guy!

He was quite shocked too and looked at me in fear but I soothed him with, "Ok...ok..." until he finally stopped. Hubby ran to turn on the water heater while I heaved him gently to the bathroom to clean him up. He didn't cry but was whimpering a bit but luckily, the bathroom routine settled him.

He busied himself with the plastic toys while I stripped him piece-by-piece and hosed him down. He got over the fright and went back into his supervisory/commanding role of pointing to me bits of vomit I had to spray away (he does that too when I wash his butt).

He kept on pointing to me with frequent loud "Ohh! Ohh!" and I said, "Yeah,'s your vomit.
Ok, it's going down the drain...the floor is clean again."

Hubby cleaned the sheets as best he could (we need another spare set) and I quickly put on a fresh set of clothes on the kid. He was subdued but sprang back to life when he saw his half-finished bottle of milk.

He demanded that I top it up and we all went into the hall, where he also asked for his Sesame Street VCD. I decided to give in just this once and he quietly laid on the couch to finish the milk. I was hesitant about giving milk to him so soon after the heave but I guess he knows his own body better.

After he finished it, the naughty fella decided to romp around - to the extent of arching his back across my lap. I scolded him and told him to sit up. Too late - he sat up and vomited the milk all over the sofa this time.

As it's pretty cold tonight, I didn't want to expose him to water again but quickly changed him out of the soiled suit. This time, he knew that he was wrong and even pointed to himself for the mess.

Vomit once, I can handle. Vomit twice, I need to panic. I quickly called my Mum, who's out of town visiting relatives and was thankful that she picked up the phone.

I was confused as to whether I should give him another bottle of milk or boil some bland porridge instead.

Mum said to let him rest 30-60 minutes or so before he takes anything again. He was sitting on my lap and was happy to hear Grandma's voice =)

He was quite tired out from the ordeal that I brought him back to bed and turned out the lights though it was only 8.00 pm.

Since my side of the bed was a sodding mess, I shifted the pillow to the foot of the bed. The little fella decided to join me and also shifted his pillow right next to mine!

Grabbing his bolster, he scooted very near to me and did his usual routine of first touching my nose, hair, forehead, eyes, chin and neck and then his while I name each part.

I patted him gently and in a few minutes, he dozed off. I'm waiting for him to wake up anytime now for his milk since his tummy is quite empty now. I pray that he'll be alright tomorrow. What a first experience! Huge, heavy sigh.

Updates He had watery diarrhea twice this morning and vomited again at 2 pm. I'm monitoring him closely now to determine if it's food poisoning or a stomach flu.

Gave him diluted apple juice to prevent dehydration until I read the links below about NOT giving him apple juice. His appetite is still good so I'm feeding him bits of mashed potato and carrot from my chicken soup. He's eating half a banana now. Will call his paed tomorrow if things get worse. Thank God for the internet, Skype and doctors who pick up their phones!

Notes: SMECTA - Adults - 3 envelopes per day (in acute diarrhea the dose may be doubled at the beginning of the treatment). The powder is diluted in ½ glass of water. In medicamentous enemas - 1-3 envelopes in 50-100 ml of water 1-3 enemas per day.

Children less than 1year - 1 envelope per day diluted in a feeding bottle with 50 ml water and is distributed during the day. It may be mixed with other liquid food too (broth, juice atc.),

1-2 years - 1-2 envelopes per day,

over 2 years - 2-3 envelopes per day. The drug is administrated after meals if oesophagitis and before meals in other cases. Links:

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Farm Animals by Luana Rinaldo and Louisa Sladen

Synopsis: Come to the farm and meet all sorts of animals: a cow, a pig, a horse, and a rooster. Pull the tab to see their colours magically appear.

I stumbled upon this cased board book for my toddler while browsing for books that will amuse him and hold his attention. Did it do the trick? You bet!

This is a wonderfully creative book that features bold, colour illustrations of a farm backdrop. One by one, the farm animals are introduced until the last page when they gathered together.

The “magical” part of the book is a tab on each page that transforms the individual farm animal from a black-and-white marker pen outline into its unique colours.

For example, you first see a black outline of a cow amidst a farm backdrop – the text reads,
“Here is Cow. Can you guess what colours she is?”
Pull the tab and the monochrome cow assumes a pink jaw and its Jersey appearance. Text above the cow reads,
“Cow is a bold black and white!”
The book delights my son each time I read it with him:
• At 9 months, he’d giggle gleefully when we pull the tab;
• At 1 and a half years, he could point out the individual animals when I named them;
• At 2 years, he could say the names of the animals and pull the tabs himself.

The book is great for introducing farm animals and basic colours to babies and toddlers. I also use it to teach numbers because each progressive page features the animal before the current one. At the end of the book, the child sees all the farm animals in full colour.

Children will also learn about the animals’ homes and I appreciate the fact that the author alternated between “he” and “she” when describing each farm animal.

On the down side, I find the binding flimsy and the book rather poorly constructed to withstand a toddler’s rough handling (ours have been taped all over!).

The colours of the animal on the “magic” tab are also a shade lighter than the illustrations, which causes some arguments between my toddler and I when I read out the accompanying text :)

In any case, this is one of our favourite books!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

If book awards are given for value-for-money, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" will certainly win it. I'm not surprised then to know that this American classic published in 1969 has been translated into over 50 languages!

Reading this book, young children will learn:
  1. the metamorphosis/life cycle of an egg --> larva (caterpillar) --> pupa (cocoon) --> butterfly
  2. days of the week
  3. numbers 1-5
  4. different types of fruits and snacks
The richly illustrated book also encourages interaction with holes punched through each page, showing that the caterpillar has eaten its way through the types of food.

Another useful lesson is the stomachache the caterpillar gets after eating too many snacks on Saturday morning!

Buy "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" and other books by Eric Carle:

Initially, my son (at about 20 months old) wasn't interested in the book until I asked him
"Where's the caterpillar?"
That jumpstarted an eagerness to trace the caterpillar's path from page to page. After reading each page, I'll ask the above question and he eagerly points out the caterpillar emerging.

To encourage him to speak, I'll prompt:


Sometimes, he's lazy to point to the page and will only lift a little finger. I'll ask in a puzzled voice,

"Where? Where's the caterpillar? Show Mummy..."
He'll say, "There!" and puts his little finger on the page :)
He also loves the Saturday page with all the colourful foods, which is the ONLY page I have cause for complaint as it's got all the tempting, junk food found in American culture: a lollipop, a chocolate cake, cupcakes.

Oh, well, I've taken it as an opportunity to teach him about good nutrition, emphasizing that these are snacks to be eaten once in a while!

And also what happens if you indulge in too many snacks :D

Friday, 27 July 2007

The medical check-up...seizure? MRI scan?

We brought the baby to see his paed who did a thorough physical check-up i.e.
- weight, head measurements
- general eyesight and trailing of moving objects
- hearing
- reflexes - tapping of knees, elbows
- locomotion - on his tummy and back
- gross motor skills - he's been pulling himself up on his feet since the 5th month (he can't wait to walk!)
- fine motor skills - he grabs objects eagerly and can also rake objects towards him.

He demonstrated good, timely development on all of the above, which puzzled her. One theory is that his nervous system is still immature, though it's unusual for a baby going onto 6 months. To be sure, she recommended a blood test to check his calcium and magnesium levels, an EEG and aCAT/MRI scan.

We agreed to the blood test but after seeing the stress and the 2 pricks he got from them, I kind of regret putting him through it. I was asked to step out as she said it's difficult but on hindsight, I should have been there to calm him down.

Hubby said he's wrapped with a cloth to prevent him from moving and the minute they did that, he started yelling. Because he's chubby, she warned that it could be tough finding his veins. The yelling went on and on that I got really anxious and asked if it was done. They probably couldn't hear me amidst the pandemonium and I got more anxious that I knocked on the door, asking if I could go in.

Call me a drama queen but how do you expect me to react when I see 2 ladies holding down my baby and using syringes etc on him while he's yelling his head off and his Dad trying hard to calm him down?

Even before going in, I was already holding back tears imagining his pain as his yells became louder and stronger that I immediately broke down when I went in. He doesn't listen to anyone (except me) when he starts screaming so when I held his face and kissed him, he immediately opened his eyes and calmed down.

Paed assured me that he wasn't screaming from pain since she sprayed a local anaesthetic over the area but he was probably not happy from being pinned down. They couldn't get any blood from the prick in his hand but thankfully, they got what they needed from his ankle area.

If they didn't, I'd probably call off the whole thing than have him get pricked again! I'm very anti-syringes since I was admitted to hospital once and was used as a pin cushion by some stupid trainee nurse who still couldn't get the IV needle in even after the 4th jab!

After they were done, I gave him a drink of water and carried him to the shop to see some stuff. Soon, he was smiling again but I think he was quite stressed up over it. As I suspected, both tests came back normal.

The paed is worried that the tremors/shakes we observed are mild fits/seizures. I asked if she suspected a growth/tumor but she said it's less of that but more of abnormal brain activity e.g. epilepsy. She did ask us to be very, very sure of what we are seeing.

As it's a gap of 3 months since I last saw it and also I was napping with him when I saw it last week, hubby commented that my observation is not 100% accurate and that it could be pee shivers. I do agree with him on this but the thing that bothers me is that he was turning over and his arm was in the air - I saw his arm, his head and his body shaking as he did that, which lasted a few seconds. Was I seeing things???

We are not that keen to bring him for the MRI scan since there is no history of epilepsy in either of our families and more importantly, his shakes do not occur in such a frequency that would warrant immediate attention. My parents and a lot of the older folks advise us to have a 'wait-and-see' approach first.

I also heard and read that there are babies out there who outgrow this, which is why we don't want to jump the gun. But we will definitely bring him in again if we see a repeat episode.

For now, he is back to his bouncy self and we pray that he will continue to be so. Anyone out there with a similar experience? Do share...


Kittycat, if it’s a form of epilepsy (and there’s a number of causes and many physical presentations) your child may well develop quite normally both physically and intellectually. There does not need to be a family history for epilepsy to occur in a person. I do MRI scans and see many people and know others personally who live well and are happy. Trust you instincts as to whether or not what you saw was real and trust your doctor, but also be prepared to ask for second opinions and explanations if you are not in agreement or do not understand something. I’ll check back in a few days if you want some more infomratin about MRI scans.

MRI scans are one of the most effective means of examining the brain (and rest of the body) without surgery. They provide both anatomic and physiologic information using strong magnetic fields and radiowaves. No x-rays or other forms of ionising radiation are used. The biolobigical effects of the magnetic field and the RF are generally considered to be the safest of all the imaging scans available.
Brain scans take up to 30 minutes. For this reason, an MRI scan on an infant or toddler would most likely involve a general anaesthetic, they need to remain quite still. Depending on the strength of the scanner used, it may be very noisy, so hearing protection in the form of ear plugs or muffs would be used. A series of scans in different planes (angles) and with different criteria are taken. The result is several sets of images, each displaying different characteristics. Sometimes, an injection of a contrast medium (gadolinium) may also be given into a vein to highlight areas of increased or decreased blood flow. The combination of all the images, all the data, provides a large volume of information that assists in the assessment of developmental anatomy, pathology and physiology.
When the scan is complete, your child would be taken to a recovery area, where Lucas would be brought out of the anaesthetic and monitored to ensure he’s OK. In most cases, the child is not required to remain in hospital overnight, although you would need to check on the particular hospital’s protocol.
During the procedure, you would likely be asked to wait in a separate area. The reasons are numerous, but basically the scan area is a tightly controlled environment, for the safety of both patients and staff. The magnet commands respect. There will be a number of people involved in your child’s scan – it can be busy and crowded. There’s also the privacy of other patients to consider. Their private details will no doubt be somewhere in the vicinity and often several cases are at being managed at once, as they are at different stages in the examination process. Very often, two staff handle different cases at the same time, to keep the workflow going.
The staff are all highly trained and there for each patients’ safety and best treatment. An MRI would give more information than a CT scan.
Hope this helps.

Sunday, 7 January 2007

REVIEW: Me, a tai tai? by Agnes Sng

The subtitle "Expatriate Wives Don't Always Have It Good" and the 50% off discount sticker on this book caught my eye at the Popular bookstore. Of course, the hot pink cover and the cute caricature of a modern day queen sitting on the throne created a lot of visual interest too!

Having worked with expatriates for a number of years, I'm as guilty as anyone who thinks that being an expat (or an expat wife) means that one has finally arrived. However, Singaporean lawyer turned writer Agnes Ng dispels all the myths related to the expat wife (which she uses as chapter titles).

Covering aspects of daily life, living arrangements, social activities, exotic cultures, shopping, travel and returning to the home country, she relates her own experiences as the "trailing spouse" of her German husband across Bulgaria, Egypt, Germany and Romania.

I really appreciate Agnes's frank, brusque and "tell-it-as-it-is" style of acknowledging some of the pleasures she enjoyed e.g. visiting some of the cities she'd NEVER thought she would, meeting some truly colourful characters and appreciating the basic things in life after seeing how little the poorer parts of the world had. The unburdening of all the pains and sufferings she endured (yes, that's right, not enjoyed) as an expat wife is so "in-your-face" that I suspect readers who believed in those myths may be cynical (or even disbelieving) about what she shares...

Thus, I can understand the author's unrecognizable photo on the inner bookflap. With such a "no holds barred" approach, I think Agnes is prepared for a barrage of brickbats against her - even though she's telling the truth. For one who's been there, I could relate to Agnes's
- dislike for packing and unpacking,
- bewilderment at struggling to perform the most mundane of activities e.g. shopping for groceries in a completely different environment using a completely foreign language;
- isolation and loss of identity when she gave up her professional status as a lawyer to become a housewife (or stay-at-home Mother);
- experiences of racial discrimination being an Asian / Chinese and being treated as a minority of the lesser kind at home or on foreign land (as opposed to the preferential treatment her German husband enjoyed all the time)
- difficulty in explaining to the international community that Singapore is a developed country with Asians who CAN speak and understand English!

I truly admire Agnes for her strength of character and sense of humour despite everything. Ultimately, I salute her determination to be accepted and treated in her own right as a Singaporean Chinese woman, not as the Asian wife of a German man.

If I had a chance to meet Agnes, I'd certainly enjoy trading war stories and other experiences with this logical and level-headed lady. Get a copy and read about her adventures yourself :D