Saturday, February 18, 2017

Comprehensive financial cost from pregnancy to birth - Part 3

Finally received the final bill from NUH, so that I can properly blog about the cost of the entire pregnancy and delivery. To be honest, NUH billing is so complex and it's not immediate intuitive to know what the costs are. I received a total of 3 billings, one while in the hospital, one after I've discharged and the last one about 2-3 weeks after we discharged. Why so many bills? I've no idea. From what I observed, the first bill is to let us know the rough figures while the second bill is for us to foot a deposit in cash, because there is a limit to claim from medisave and so the rest had to be footed in cash. Lastly, the final bill received post discharge is after all the medisave claim had been sent, approved (they might not grant you the full medisave claim) and we had to pay the remaining amount due by credit or cheque.


3 STAGES OF PREGNANCY JOURNEY

To understand the bills, one would have to understand the events leading to the delivery. There are 3 major stages:

1. Antenatal charges

This is related to the checkups, from the 1st trimester to the 3rd trimester, and includes stuff like consultation with the gynecologist, laboratory screening (for genetical defects etc), ultrasound scanning and swab test. There is also a range of supplements, like essential vitamins, iron, calcium, fish oil and folic acid, to ensure that the mother is well nourished so that the foetus can grow healthily. For new parents, there could be antenatal classes conducted by various hospitals to teach the parents how to prepare for the delivery and also the care taking part.

2. Delivery charges

This is related to the actual delivery cost. Generally there are two ways - natural (or normal) delivery or cesarean delivery, with the latter being much costlier because besides the gynecologist, there is also an anesthetist (that's two doctor fees for you). It takes a longer time for the wound to heal too, so the standard hospital staying duration is 3 days, as opposed to just 1 day or 2 days for normal delivery. Lastly, there are a lot more medications and drugs so there will be more charges on this aspect as well. During antenatal check ups, there is a GSB (group B strep) swap test. If it's tested positive, there will be a need to IV drip antibiotics during delivery. All the charges are also tagged to ward category, but if the father wants to bunk in overnight, it has to be A wards (single bedder).

3. Nursery and laboratory charges

These are charges for the newborn baby to stay at the nursery. On top of that, there is a screening for NENS (I don't know what's that), Galactosemia and Cystic Fibrosis, plus vaccinations (BCG, Hep B etc). There will be daily pediatrician visits to check on the baby too.


OUR BILL

It's really hard to make a good judgement of the cost without telling people what we had in the first place. So, here's what we had:

Antenatal:
1. 4 consultations with a senior consultant + 1st trimester antenatal screening
2. Antenatal package covering 8 consultations with the doctor and some screening
3. GBS screening
4. Supplements
5. No antenatal classes (about $200)

NUH antenatal package. We opt for the senior consultant, highlighted above

Delivery:
1. Natural birth
2. 1 day hospital stay at A1 ward (single bedder)
3. No painkillers like epidural
4. GBS positive - so antibiotics given
5. 18 hours labour

NUH delivery package. We have a normal delivery @ 1 bedder ward, highlighted above

Nursery and lab:
1. No jaundice
2. All standard vaccinations
3. All screening test (NENS, Galactosemia, Cystic Fibrosis)
3. 2 day nursery

I'll present the final bills here:



The total bill works out to be $6,500.34. Of the Antenatal and delivery charges, $2100 can be claimed under CPF Medisave account (MA), while the entire sum of $457.97 under the Nursery and lab charges can be claimed under MA. In other words, we paid $3,946.37 in cash. But that's just the final sum after all the claims had been done. What's more important is the cash out flow i.e exactly when do you have to pay this or that fees?

Here's my hand drawn time schedule of all the cash payment:

My hand drawn diagram of the cash outlay schedule. I would like to do this digitally, but nah, time is precious to me these days. Essence is more important than form.

Antenatal charges is spread over the entire pregnancy over 3 trimesters. The entire $2,090.29 is paid by us first, then we can claim from MA after delivery. Supplements is paid throughout the entire 9 months. The first 4 consultations and 1st trimester test (B+C) amounting to $800.70 is paid over 2 trimesters. Thereafter, once the antenatal package of $898.80 is paid in advance, there's not much money to be paid for check ups anymore other than the supplements and some minor tests.

Delivery charges is first paid on the day of discharge. They will calculate how much you paid for the antenatal charges, add in the delivery fees and minus off the medisave claimable amount. You pay in cash/credit immediately. That is $1855.55 straight away for us.

Nursery and lab charges are claimable from medisave straight away, so there's no need for any cash outlay for that one.

After 3-4 weeks, when the final bill is in, we owe them $0.50 (you did not read wrongly). So, either a cheque or a credit card bill statement had to be sent back to them and that will be all.


LAST THOUGHTS

Is it costly to give birth in Singapore? I think a lot depends on our expectations. With the baby bonus of $14k, $8k of which is paid out in cash over several months, this will more than offset the cash outlay of the entire pregnancy journey. I'm showing both the final bill and the actual cash outlay schedule hoping to reassure new parents that it's not a shocking bill at the end of the whole thing. You'll have 9 months to save up, and even then, all can be paid for by the baby bonus. Of course, care-taking is another big tap where money gets drained out fast.

That is another story, another day. In the meantime, I have a baby boy to cuddle and love :)


Part 1: My fatherhood journey
Part 2: Her motherhood journey



My notes on Tools of Titans

I just finished the big tome of a book, titled "Tools of Titans" by Tim Ferriss. If you're into self help books, you cannot avoid reading his books. This book is a series of summary from all his 200+ podcasts (each 2 hrs+ long) condensed into one big compendium, divided into 3 broad sections of health, wealth and wise. As a financial blogger, you might think I'll dive straight into the wealth part, but I read it from cover to cover. I think I do take in a lot of tips and pointers from the health section, and am currently practicing some of them.




This is the first time I did two rounds of reading plus note taking, because there's so much new information inside that you not only have to read it, but study it. So after every section, I'll re-read again while taking notes. The following are my notes. I'm sharing not because you don't have to read the book, but more to interest and perhaps excite you to read that book for yourself.

I highlighted the ones that resonate with me more strongly. I really really like the last highlight.


Healthy:

1. "I can think, I can wait and I can fast" ~ Siddhartha

2. "I'm not the strongest. I'm not the fastest. But I'm really good at suffering". Using sauna training as a replacement for high altitude simulation tents. 4 times a week - Amelia Boone

3. "When in doubt, work on the deficiencies you're most embarrassed by". Having one single decision to commit yourself to a long term goal and not a series of smaller intermediate goals. Just show up, do the work and go home - blue collar work ethic married to indomitable will. - Christopher Sommer

4. Ketosis for health and longevity, fasting (5-day) 2 to 3 times a year for purging precancerous cells - Dominic D'Agostino

5. Cold is a great purifying force - Wim Hof

6. Don't eat breakfast. Be careful of blood test results as they are snapshots in time. If over 40 and don't smoke, there is 80% chance you'll still die from the major 4: heart disease, strokes, cancer and neurodegenerative disease. High intensity heavy strength training is the way to losing weight, not running. - Peter Attia

7. "A good strength coach should get a female, no matter what her body fat is, to be able to do 12 chin ups in 12 weeks. Do increase pull up numbers, start doing half the reps you're capable of in repeated sets throughout the day. Accumulate reps with 15 min between sets. For maximal strength training, do not exceed 5 reps per set. "Calm is contagious" - Charles Poliquin

8. Practice going first - once you start, others will reciprocate, but be the first. Exercise with a group because a lonely place is an unmotivated place. Find your own tribe to exercise. Weighing sacrifices based on individual - the same thing can be a 80% cost to one, yet a 35% cost to another. - Gabby Reece

9. Almost all that you need to know about psychedelic is here - James Fadiman

10. Use of flotation isolation tank as a meditation substitute. Taking Ayahuasca without proper guidance can be like playing psychological Russian roulette. Ibogaine is one of the few psychedelics that can kill you. - Dan Engle

11. For men, whether you have morning boner can be a simple but excellent indicator of sleep quality, hormonal health, circadian rhythm timing and more. Campfire squat test - squatting all the way down to the ground with your feet and knees together - can be an indicator of whether you have full hip/ankle range of motion. Go 'Zero drop' for you kids - meaning get shoes that are flat for them, like kids Vans, Chuck Taylors - so that you don't systematically shorten your kids' heel cords with bad shoes - Kelly Starrett

12. "Kids don't do what you say. They do what they see. How you live your life is their example". To overcome jet lag, do some exercise for 15 mins at any time when you get to the hotel. Dream or a goal - questions to see if you have a plan to convert your dreams to goals. "To develop foresight, you need to practice hindsight."  - Paul Levesque (Triple H)

13. Playing Tetris for 10 mins can help in overwriting negative visualisation, like onset insomnia, flashbacks or post traumatic stress disorder. Never publicly criticise others, or you'll rule out future allies. - Jane McGonigal

14. He hires people based on what gets them excited in the morning, rather than a list of resume check boxes. Adam Gazzaley

15. 5 tools to sleep better - 1) Decompress the spine, 2) Chilipad, 3) Honey + apple cider vinegar, 4) visual overwriting using Tetris (10 min) or short uplifting episodic tv like Escape to river cottage season 1, 5) using sleep mask and white noise machine. 5 morning rituals to help win the day - 1) Make your bed, 2) meditate, 3) Do 5 to 10 reps of something, 4) preparing tea, 5) Gratitude exercise. Meditation - 1) use an app like headspace or calm, 2) transcendental meditation. Need to commit to at least a 7 day cycle of daily meditation with about 10 mins minimally. 99% of meditation time is letting the mud settle, only 1% matters - Tim Ferriss

16. 3 meditation tips: 1) Do it with a buddy, 2) Do less than you can so that it will not be a burden (do 3 mins if you can do 5), 3) Take one mindful breath a day. Two important exercises - "Just note gone" (be aware of something being gone and mentally note that it had gone) and "Joy of loving-kindness" (wishing random people to be happy) - Chade-Meng Tan

Wealthy:

1. When the going gets tough, say to yourself that "tonight, I will be in my bed". Cultivate a beginner's mind. Focus on the story, not just the numbers. - Chris Sacca

2. Charge a higher price for your products/services, then work hard to provide that value. Don't fetishize failure. To see your passion, ask yourself what you do in your free time - aka "Nerds at night" test. Set up a 'red team' to argue for the other side of any proposal. Have strong views, but hold them loosely - contradictory statement but the idea is to change when the facts change. Two rules to live by: be so good they can't ignore you and smart people should make things. People who are on pedestals are just like us, don't overestimate them. - Marc Andreesen

3. Don't be there to compete, be there to win. In negotiation, he who cares the least wins. Never audition, create your own unique niche and start your own category - Arnold Schwarzenegger

4. To thrive in an unknowable future, choose the plan with the most options and one that allows you to change your plans. When you start out, say yes to everything, because you never know when the next big break will come from. After you have some success, if it's not a 'hell, yes!', then it's a 'no'. If you're busy, you're out of control. Don't use 100% effort to gain 100% gains at the expense of a more stressful journey. Instead, working at 80% effort makes the journey less stressful, more enjoyable and maybe get 80% of the gains. The extra 20% gains is not worth it. Personalise your website and email and stand out among the rest of the people with bureaucratic and 'professional' responses. - Derek Sivers

5. The bar is set so low that if you give a lot of damns, you'll stand out. Let silence do the work when expressing skepticism - Alexis Ohanian

6. "The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you're walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That's the moment you may be starting to get it right." - by Neil Gaiman.

7. Busyness is a form of laziness. Being busy is often using as a front to avoid a few important and uncomfortable actions. - Tim Ferriss

8. One push up rule for exercise. Set the bar so low that there's no excuse not to do it. Oftentimes, you'll exceed it - a 'system' way of looking, instead of 'process' based. - Matt Mullengweg

9. Quality of your life is the quality of your questions - questions determine your focus. Too much focus on 'me' results in suffering. State -> story -> strategy: If you're not in prime state, you'll focus on problems not solutions. Prime your state by doing 4-10 push ups or getting 20 mins of sun exposure, or just some more sleep. Sometimes the way out is just to fix your biochemistry, aka changing your state. - Tony Robbins

10. When in doubt about your next creative project, follow what angers you. “You realize that you will never be the best-looking person in the room. You’ll never be the smartest person in the room. You’ll never be the most educated, the most well-versed. You can never compete on those levels. But what you can always compete on, the true egalitarian aspect to success, is hard work. You can always work harder than the next guy.” The ultimate quantification of success is not how much time you spend doing what you love, but how little time you spend doing what you hate. - Casey Neistat

11. You can't be afraid to show your scars, because that's who you are and you have to stay true to that - Morgan Spurlock

12. "The limits of my language mean the limits of my world" - Ludwig Wittgenstein. Give the mind an overnight task and let your subconscious work on a problem. To move fast, expect an error rate of 10 to 20%. If you need more time to think and decide, then it should be a better decision by 10 to 20%. Seek a single good reason for doing something, rather than a blended reasons. If there is one single good reason, all the other reasons can fit in between the good one - Reid Hoffman

13. There is no need to wait: if you have a 10 year plan, ask yourself why you can't do it in 6 months. Failure is massively over-rated and failure is always a tragedy. Competition can take you away from actually being successful because you're so mired in the daily fight that you didn't improve on what can bring you to your own success. Don't win the competition but lose your fight. - Peter Thiel

14. Be a meaningful specific rather than a wandering generality - be sure to say no if it doesn't align with your mission. If you get enough bad ideas, then some good ones will have to show you. Don't always look for something to push uphill, even if you can do it. Look for something to push downhill, and you'll use less effort for greater results.- Seth Godin

15. If you can't get 10 good ideas, get 20 ideas. Avoid newspaper - many productive people also do that. You don't owe an explanation to everyone when you say no - James Altucher

16. How to create a real world MBA by deconstructing it first principle - Tim Ferriss

17. 6 elements of humor - 1) Naughty, 2) Clever, 3) Cute, 4) Bizarre, 5) Mean and 6) Recognizable. You need at least 2 dimensions to succeed. Focus on systems not goals. Systems thinking means you're thinking of what skills or relationships you can develop that is transferable. Goals thinking is binary pass/fail with no consolation prize. Practice affirmations, it works. To be extraordinary, either become the best at one specific thing or become very good at two or more things. The latter is easier because not a lot of people have that rare combination of skills. - Scott Adams

18. Saying yes can sometimes lead to wildly unexpected doors to huge payout - Shaun White

19. In the world of ideas, if you can name an issue, you get to own the issue - that's the Law of Category. Create your own category and own that unique niche - Tim Ferriss

20. Creativity is infinite resource - the more you spend the more you have. If someone ever says yes quickly, you didn't ask for enough. Go for premium straight away. Amplify your strengths rather than fixing your weakness. “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” by Heinlein - Chase Jarvis

21. Don't be afraid to do what you're not qualified to do. - Dan Carlin

22. Have 1000 true fans who would buy anything you make - they are your source of income and also your chief marketing force. If you understand principles you can create tactics. Give away 98% of your materials for free, but charge 10 to 100 times on ultra premium stuff and over deliver. Ramit Sethi

23. How to raise $100k in 10 day in kickstarter - Tim Ferriss

24. Asking the dumb question can be the smartest thing you can do. How to interview someone properly. - Alex Blumberg

25. What artist do is that they learn to see - Ed Catmull

26. When you complain, nobody wants to help you because you become a source of destruction rather than a source of growth for people. Pick the right audience to suck in front of, so that you can practice for the really important one. We just need 1 good break - Tracy Dinunzio

27. Rule of 3 and 10: everything thing starts to break down every time you triple in size. You start with 1, then at 3, it starts to break down. You adjust and when you grow up to 10, things break down again at 30,then 100, then 300 and so on. - Phil Libin

28. Take the coffee challenge - just ask for 10% off for your next few coffees as a training to put yourself out there and ask for things. Don't find time, schedule time. - Noah Kagan

29. Canvas strategy -Be an anteambulo and clear path for the people above you and you will eventually create a path for yourself. Finding the direction that someone successful had already intended to head and help them to pack , freeing them up to focus on their strengths. Make them look better than they are. Be lesser, do more. Don't let your ego prevent you from being humble. Be the canvas that shapes the painting. - Tim Ferriss

30. First edit for yourself, then edit for your fans, and lastly edit for your haters. In interviews, be vulnerable first to get vulnerability from your subjects. - Neil Strauss

31. ‘Inspiration is for amateurs—the rest of us just show up and get to work' by Chuck Close.

32. When 99% of people doubt you, you're either gravely wrong or about to make history. The best way to become a billionaire is to help a billion people. When 'no' simply means begin again at a higher level. - Peter Diamandis

33. If you find that you are telling yourself you are making so much money, then it's a warning sign that you're doing the wrong thing. Being in a good mood is essential for creative work. - B.J. Novak

34. How to say 'no' when it matters most and overcoming fear of missing out. "The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials" - Lin Yutang. - Tim Ferriss

Wise:

1. "There is no way to happiness - happiness is the way" - Thich Nhat Hanh

2. Stargazing as a therapy - when you're struggling with anything, just look up and ponder the night sky for a minute. Sometimes we don't need to give advice, people just want to know that you're listening empathically to them. Knowing that you're listening is good enough. - BJ Miller

3. Choose what to focus on. "The really efficient laborer will be found not to crowd his day with work, but will saunter to his task surrounded by a wide halo of ease and leisure. He is only earnest to secure the kernels of time and does not exaggerate the value of the husk" - Henry David Thoreau. Do not mistake signs of productivity, like a full schedule or being busy, with actual work produced. "Write to please just one person" - Kurt Vonnegut.  - Maria Popova

4. Discipline equals freedom. If you want to be tougher, be tougher - you just immediately make the decision to be tougher. Take extreme ownership. - Jocko Willink

5. There is a calming effect in acting instead of waiting. Disaster though causes casualties and much hurt, can be unifying as well. It flattens and makes men equal. Ask yourself: what would you die for? - Sebastian Junger

6. Creating a 'red' team - ask people who are not wedded to a plan and ask them how they would disrupt and defeat the plan. Always have 3 people you're always watching - one more senior to you that you want to emulate, another is a peer who you think is better than you, and the last is a subordinate doing a better job that you did in the past. This accelerates your learning process. - General Stanley McChrystal and Chris Fussell

7. Work will work when nothing else will work. Memento mori - always remember that you are going to die. -  Shay Carl

8. Don't follow your passion - that's bad advice. The biggest predictor o job satisfaction is mentally engaging, meaningful work. We have 80,000 work hours in our life. Spending 5% - about 2 working years - to think about what we want to do is worth it. - WIll Macaskill

9. Dickens process - a way to examine limiting beliefs. Write down top 2 to 3 limiting beliefs across each tense. What has each belief cost you and your loved ones in the past? What is each belief costing you and your loved ones in the present? What will it cost you and your loved ones in the next 1,3,5 and 10 years? Use affirmations to re-wire beliefs. -  Tim Ferriss

10. Don't care about what the world thinks, then you shift all the weight of the world away from your shoulders to everyone else. They will be the one who will be worried, but no longer you. If you care what the world thinks of you, you are the one who is worried, not them. Then you'll truly be free. - Kevin Costner

11. When talking to people about the future, ask if they have children. The fate of civilisation in the abstract is harder than worrying about what sorts of experiences your children are going to have in the future. Important of self transcendence. - Sam Harriss

12. Pride can be a tool - fear of failure (leading to humiliation and disappointment) can be greater than the fear of doing things. Injury is not that bad; to not do something because of the possibility of getting injured is a terrible excuse -  Caroline Paul

13. To conquer your fear, first define it. Then realise that it is at best temporary. The outcome is permanent but the setbacks is temporary, so the risk reward is in your favour. What we fear doing most is what we most need to do. - Tim Ferriss

14. Sit, sit. Walk, walk. Don't wobble. In a world of distraction, single-tasking is a superpower. Don't get ideas first then write - you write in order to think. Don't always measure productivity - think in terms of extreme performance or extreme satisfaction. - Kevin Kelly

15. “Our life is frittered away by detail. . . . Simplify, simplify. . . . A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” — Henry David Thoreau, Walden. Live a day in the worst case possible, in order to realise that the worst is nothing to fear about. There is freedom from practicing poverty. Suffer a little regularly and you often cease to suffer - Tim Ferriss.

16. Perfectionism leads to procrastination, which leads to paralysis. Don't aim to please all people, and don't be afraid of people not liking you. Bad decisions make good stories - so look for silver linings. Comedians become comedians so they can control why people laugh at them. Being on stage, the material you had is only 10% - the rest is just how comfortable you are. - Whitney Cummings

17. Don't attribute to malice that which can be explained otherwise. A successful person must ultimately be at peace as well. Learn to appreciate every day that goes by without a major disaster. - Alain De Botton

18. Make lazy your manifesto! Don't let busyness serve as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness. Don't let it cover up some fear or let you excuse yourself for living a meaningful life. Saying you're busy makes you feel important and sought-after. Idleness is indispensable to the brain - for making unexpected connections. Life is too short to be busy - Tim Kreider

19. Aim for the heart, not the head. Once you get the heart, you can go to the head. Once you have both the heart and the head, you gain a pathway to the soul. 'The good shit sticks'. - Cal Fussman

20. Alternating sauna and ice bath works wonder. 20 mins of sun in the morning is good. To get unstuck, make your task laughably small, like write one word in the song by tmr. If you can do one small task, it builds up - so the point is to start. The beginning is 'heart work', not 'head work'. - Rick Rubin

21. To handle procrastination, make yourself feel guilty, then start and never stop. Even if you don't feel inspired, just have the discipline to move on. When writing, you're not there to show how cultivated or intelligent you are. You're writing to show your heart, your soul and to tell your fans and readers that you're not alone - Paulo Coelho

22. Every writer begins with a blank page. There is a bullet list of questions to begin writing something - Cheryl Strayed

23. Just take on the pain and wear it as a shirt. To resolve conflict, just say less.- Amanda Palmer

24. Focus on 2000 to 3000 people - general fame is overrated, you just need to be famous to the 2000 to 3000 people you handpicked. In general, consensus is how we bully people into pretending there's nothing to see. If you change your words, you change your world - come up with your own words and let pop culture catch up to you. Be a high agency person - someone who will get around whoever it is that told you that you can't do something. When doing deep creative work, use a string of vulgarities as a mantra. The theory is that when you say something that is prohibited to us (like spewing vulgarities), your brain goes into a different mode of inhabiting unsafe space, making you  more creative and 'different'. We only talk about learning disabilities, but we have to wonder about teaching disabilities also. - Eric Weinstein

25. Blind belief in yourself - Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg

26. Life is a full contact sport. Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity. 8 ways here to deal with haters - Tim Ferriss

27. Find out why someone would disrupt you. Be curious. Ask questions about them to understand. "Those who are offended easily should be offended more often" - Mae West - Margaret Cho

28. Be yourself - it's much less work just to be so. Hot chillies, shallots and lemon - his 3 building blocks to have in his kitchen. To look for recipes, choose the one that describes even things to the most minute of details - those are the doers, people who had actually gone through it. - Andrew Zimmern

29. Cynicism is a disease that robs people of the gift of life. Believe in yourself and dream bigger. - Rainn Wilson

30. Happiness is a choice you make and a skill you develop. Work at it - it's like muscles. First rule of handling conflict is not to hang around with people who are constantly engaging in conflict. Sooner or later they will come to you. You always have 3 options in life for any situations - change it, accept it or leave it. Do not wish you would change but not change it, wish you would leave but not leave it etc.  5 chimps theory - you can predict the mood and behaviour of any chimps by looking at the 5 chimps they hang out with. Honest is a core foundational value. Tell people what you want to achieve, and be embarrassed into doing it. Enlightenment is the space between your thoughts - be enlightened from moment to moment. All the real benefits in life come from compound interest. Praise specifically, criticize generally. “What you choose to work on, and who you choose to work with, are far more important than how hard you work.” “Free education is abundant, all over the Internet. It’s the desire to learn that’s scarce.” “My one repeated learning in life: ‘There are no adults.’ Everyone’s making it up as they go along. Figure it out yourself, and do it.” - Naval Ravikant

31. Be willing to fail or succeed on who you really are. Don't ever try to be anything else. Know what your principles are, not your interest. Even if the world goes over the cliff, you're not going to change your principles. - Glen Beck

32. Inviting Mara to tea - a way to recognise negative emotions and inviting them in, by saying 'I see you', instead of suppressing them away. - Tara Brach

33. 2 rules for the kitchen and life : 1) Set a high standard on everything - don't serve things you wouldn't want to eat. 2) When things get busy, instead of plowing ahead, step back and come up with a plan.. The difference between home cooks and pro is acidity level. Add a bit of lemon and everything is elevated. Passion is over-rated. Passion comes from a combination of being open and curious, and of really going all in when you find something that you're interested in. - Sam Kass

34. If you want to be taken seriously, then take things seriously.- Edward Norton

35. Don't work for the awards, let the awards work for you. Love yourself before you can love others. - Richard Betts

36. In Art, everyone is equal, but in life, they are completely unequal (Art is socialism but life is capitalism). Only emotion endures. When questioning people for answers, sometimes the silence speaks louder than words.  When interviewing people, ask questions that throws them off - ask questions that people are not expecting. Don't bow to the gatekeepers because there are no gatekeepers - you are the gatekeepers. Don't waste time on marketing, just try to get better. - Mike Birbiglia

37. The jar of awesomeness - whenever something good or exciting or joyful happens, jot it down on a slip of paper, and put into a physical jar. You thought you will remember all the good things that happened to you, but you won't. Good for cultivating gratefulness. - Tim Ferriss

38. To start a book or chapter, start in the middle. Once you don't start at the beginning, your life just gets so much simpler. Have zero intellectual insecurities - keep asking dumb questions. - Malcolm Gladwell

39. Don't be afraid to try because you're intimidated or scared - the world cares less about you than you think they do. - Stephen J. Dubner

40. Empty space is a way of life for creative process. Learning the macro from the micro - focus on very small part to internalise powerful macro principles that apply everywhere. Share all the details and don't be afraid of letting your competitors know your secrets - if you're studying my game, you’re entering my game and I'll be better at it than you. Why? It's rarely a zero sum game, and the more you help people with details, the more detailed help you get. Plus, your attention to detail will scare off 50% of people who tried, 40% of those who tried will be worse than me, and 10% will try and be better than me, but they will return and teach you what they've learnt out of gratitude. End training sessions on a good 'rep' and leave your writing sessions half way mid sentence so that you always know where to start and end the session with confidence. Do interval trainings and meditations together to cultivate the art of turning it off and on. Embrace your eccentricity and build on it. For the steepest learning growth, pick the top competitors and learn from your failure. The importance of language - don't have unproductive language about whether something is good or bad before we can do certain things. Otherwise we'll be reliant on external conditions to be perfect in order to work. You can have a beautiful rainy day to work on too - Josh Waitzkin

41. Have a deloading phase - a phase where there is a planned reduction in volume or intensity when exercising so that it prepares the body for increased demand in the future. Works for life as well. Deloading blocks must be scheduled and defended more strongly than your business commitments! Create slack, because no one will give it to you. - Tim Ferriss

42. A person's success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversation he is willing to have. Ask yourself: when i had the opportunity, did I choose courage over comfort? To be trusted, be vulnerable first. - Brene Brown

43. To be jaded is almost like being dead. Nothing impresses you anymore. Be a skeptic, don't be a cynic - Jason SIlva

44. 17 questions that changed your life. Worth a re-read again - Tim Ferriss

45. There's nothing on the other side of fear, so don't be nervous for no reason. You are either great or you don't exist. - Jamie Foxx

46. When you start something new, ask yourself if it's an itch or a burn? If it's just an itch, it's not sufficient. You really have to want it badly for it to work. Beware of self limiting beliefs that is preventing you from getting the things you want, which is just outside your comfort zone. - Bryan Johnson

47. You don't find time, you make time. If it's truly important, schedule it. If it's not in your calendar, it isn't real. -  Brian Koppelman

48. "They tried to bury us. They didn't know we were seeds". Practical notes on suicide. - Tim Ferriss

49. Treat everything like an experiment, do it like nobody is ever going to see it. You might free yourself from limitations. Turns weakness into strengths and bugs into features. In the ashes of failure, there is always some lessons you can apply to make your future success, so failure is not durable. Your present failure might be your future success. You don't need to know, but trust that you can perform when you're there. At your best performance, you really don't know what happened. Even the pros don't know. Never be upset about anything, because if you have a positive attitude, you'll ask what you can learn from this set back. If something didn't go according to plan, it might be for a good reason - Robert Rodriguez

50. If bad things happen, say 'Good'. You'll accept the reality and focus on the solution instead of dwelling on the problem. If you can still say 'good', you're still alive and breathing, so get up, recalibrate and re-engage. -  Tim Ferriss

51. You must want to be a butterfly so badly, you are willing to give up being a caterpillar. - Sekou Andrews

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What I learnt from 14 years of tutoring

I was filling up some forms for baby bonus and all the other paper work, when I realised that I had worked as a tutor for 14 years! That represents so much of my life, so I think I should reflect and think about some of the things I've seen and learnt from my students and their relationships with their parents and school in general. It'll be a good thing to do less of the wrong stuff and do more of the right stuff. Here it goes:

1. Daddies are mostly absent

Throughout my entire career as a tutor, daddies are mostly absent. I dare to guesstimate that the actual percentage of dads who care is less than 10%. They are not around to fetch their kids, or ask about their homework. I think the ideal stereotypical father is someone who is there to dispense out money or to be a disciplinarian. Some of my students don't even know what their father do for a living. Being a father now, I should also think about the kind of father I want to become. It helps that I'm working at home and I deeply appreciate the sheer amount of time I had with my baby boy. I want to be there around with him to observe all his 'firsts', and not to leave home when he's asleep and come back home to see him sleeping again. That's a promise from me to him.

2. The years that matters are the years before you start formal schooling

I've taught older students and I wondered why their learning abilities and motivational levels are so different. When I taught secondary school students, I thought primary school makes all the different. When I taught primary school, I thought pre school makes all the difference. When I taught pre school, I realised the environment at home makes all the difference. Any thing beyond that will be genetic influences already. If you want to make a difference, spend more time before your kid goes to formal school. Cultivate the right values and the right habits. It'll create a world of difference when he begins formal schooling. It also helps that when kids are younger, they will listen to you. Once they are in secondary school, good luck to you if they listen to whatever you ask them to do.

3. Give your kids responsibilities and duties befitting their age and maturity

I've seen upper secondary school students having their school bags packed by their mothers. I've seen JC students still asking their parents what their schedule is like for the week. I think we should all watch Diana Ser's programme on TV, with the title translated as Child Labour, in mandarin. I watched it today and there's this 10 years old kid from Thailand who has to work as a Muay Thai fighter to win prize money to feed his family. Diana Ser wisely brought his boy along to observe and film it. I think his kid is going to treasure his life back in Singapore. Are we creating chances like that for our kids to empathise and learn not to take things for granted? I think if we hand over the reins to our kids, we shouldn't expect perfections. It's all the little screw ups that will let the kid grow and mature.

I remember a parent whose child is in sec 4 but she always have to chase her child all over the place in order to arrange the child's tuition. I told her that she has to let go and let the child handle it alone. So she agreed and tried it out. For the first few times, the child forgot that we have scheduled lessons and missed it entirely. The mum, in anger, wanted to revert back to the original arrangement but I told her to have faith in the whole process. It's important to screw up and learn to move on from there. So one day, after yet another major screw up, the child finally realised the mistake and apologised to me and her mum. Such incidents dropped to zero afterwards.

I guess if you don't let the child make and own his own mistakes, you will forever be chasing after him. So, let go.

4. A good school might not be good for your child

Most people I know are very anxious when it comes to primary school selection. Some of them even moved to a good prime location near to a prestigious school so that their kids can have a good headstart in life. I haven't even talked about volunteering at the primary school yet. I've seen my fair share of students who went to a supposedly good school, but because they can't handle the stress, they ended up doing very very badly. There are others who strive in neighborhood schools and because of the good conducive environment, grew in confidence and did pretty well in the end.

I think the point is that there are two ways in which children handle stress. They either crumble or they rise to the challenge. It's important not to force a child into a good school. Afterall, a good school is good because of the students who went in, not because of some special geographical location or special syllabus. I do understand the need for parents wanting their child to socialise and mix in with people from better backgrounds so that they have a good network from young. But let's leave this until much much later, perhaps in university or JC.




5. How you do anything is how you do everything

I tend to nag students on little things, like writing the wavy lines underneath a letter when denoting vectors, or putting in the degree symbol after the numbers and so on. Some students obviously find it frustrating, so they will tell me that they would remember do such things only during exams. It doesn't work that way. There are only 4 major exams in a year, but there are countless practice sessions. If you are going to do the right things only during exams, I'll bet that you won't remember to do it during exams as well. It's about the attitude to do the right thing every time also. If you don't practice during peace time, you don't do it during war times. I really think that discipline is the thing that gets you to places, not motivation. Motivation is that single moment where you feel like doing something for the first time, and thereafter you have to reply on just discipline to get you there.

6. Set high standards 

I usually give worksheets that are way harder than what the students perceive themselves capable of. If they are in combined science, I'll give them pure science questions. If they are in NA level, I'll give them combined science questions. This is like wearing iron weights during practice runs, and when the weights are removed, they will literally fly. When done properly, they will experience immediate small success in school based exams and hopefully their confidence and desire for more success will form the next level of motivation to bring them greater success. It's a way to get them 'hooked' with success, hence providing that intrinsic motivation to want to do better.

7. Hardwork beats talent anytime, unless talent becomes hardworking

There are students who grasp new concepts immediately, while others I'll have to explain in a variety of ways. Some students are just more talented in doing math or science. But if I have to bet who will have greater academic success, I'll bet on the kid who is more hardworking. I've seen countless examples of students who beat talented ones through sheer hardwork. Of course, if they are competing against students who are hardworking and have talent, it's not going to be that easy anymore. The good thing about hardwork is that we can always strive to be more hardworking. You just can't say I'm born this way, so it places the blame solely on yourself. This fits in with the growth mindset - that our abilities are like muscles and will grow when we practice more, instead of a fixed mindset where our abilities are based squarely on the roll of the dice on our genes.

8. Be the example that you want your kid to become

I've seen children whose parents wanted them to stop using their handphones, but they themselves uses it all the time. I think children are smart enough to detect double standards, and they will follow what you do instead of what you said. If you want children to do their work, you have to show them how you do yours. If you want children to have a reading habit, you have to show them how you read all the time too. I think children is really just a reflection of yourself. I'm sure your children will hold you to the same standards just like how you exert yours on them.

9. Listen more, judge less. 

This is a reminder to myself. Sometimes we live in the world, we become proficient in the ways of the world, and then forgot that our children are pretty new to it. We tend to judge them using our own yardstick. I'm guilty of getting irritated by my students when I've said the same things over and over again. To them, maybe they had heard it for the first time, but for me, I've said the same things probably a thousand times. I think it's important to listen to what they think, and don't judge prematurely. Don't think about a response while your child talking. Listen actively.

10. In the end, show love

This is also a reminder to myself that no matter how irritated or frustrated I am, at the end of the day, show love. We can't get so absorbed by our own anger and frustrations that it becomes self feeding, treating every little wrong behavior or mistakes done by the child as if it's a big mistake that feeds the anger and frustration even more. I think parenting is the same. There will be times when you feel negative emotions towards the child. Remember to show more love at the end of the day. It can be a little apology to explain why you are so frustrated and show some encouragement. It can be a little pat on the back or a hug, just to tell the child that we still love them.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Her motherhood journey - Part 2

This is the second part of our pregnancy journey. The first part is from my perspective as a father to be, titled aptly My fatherhood journey. This is wholly the work of my wife, who had taken time in between rest and her care duties to our son, to write out her reflections to chronicle this milestone event. After reading for the first time in order to post this, I feel that I need to provide a little background information.

The name of our son is Zef, and his chinese character has a 𦊊 inside. It's pronounced as tian1, same as 天. Now that character is so old schooled that the common dictionary does not have it, and it's quite hard to type it out in chinese. Now imagine we face the same issues when registering for the birth certificate at ICA. First, I was told that they couldn't type it in. The very nice officer hinted to me that perhaps I might want to change it to the more commonplace 天, but I firmly refused. Before our son was born, we actually went to the National library at Bugis, reference section, to check out the character. We took pictures of it, and I thought that would be good enough, but it wasn't. The officer went back and fro to consult her supervisors, and I was told that they need to have a cover of the dictionary, as well as the page with the character, in order for them to input that character into their system to process the birth certificate. And so I have to travel to the library again, photocopy the required dictionary cover (thankfully I still remember which!) and go back to ICA again. The officer accepted it, but made no promises that they can input the character into their system.

A few days later, I received a call from them and got the good news that I want. Sometimes in life, we just need to push through the difficulties. Everything is negotiable, and I'm definitely not going to let a little inconvenience get into the way of what I want.

Here's the letter from a mother to her son:


Newborn babies are always photographed either sleeping or smiling. Why should photographs always be about happy memories? Both the good and bad are good memories to have. And so I'm going to take a photo of him crying 


Dear Zef,

In order to know who we are, and who we might be, it is essential to know how we came about into this world. Everyone has an ‘origin myth’, a tale of trials, tribulations and transformation. Before the myth gets muddled by the passing of time, I am going to tell you the legend of Zef, how you came into existence, and what meanings you might infer from it in the future.


You had been a great blessing right from the start. Your father and I had planned for a baby at the beginning of 2016, and we went for a health check to ascertain that we are both healthy and are able to start a family. The interesting thing is, during the health check, the doctor who was examining me advised me to have a child soon due to my age, and said that she’s seen many women who faced difficulties in conceiving. Her words affirmed my conviction, and your father and I began to try for a child. I was fully aware of that natural conception isn’t easy, and was entertaining all sorts of possibilities – ranging from IVF to adoption – if our attempt at natural conception was unsuccessful. However, much to our relief and pleasant surprise, you came along and responded to the ‘vacancy’ and was conceived ‘spontaneously’ without any medical interventions.


Since then, I’ve established a firm belief in the ‘natural’ ways, and when I was expecting, your father and I decided to have a ‘natural’ childbirth – a childbirth that involves minimum medical interventions. However, I soon discovered that the ‘natural’ childbirth that I had envisioned was deemed ‘unnatural’, even radical, in our modern society. In fact, childbirth had been ‘medicalised’, and the ‘medicalisation of childbirth’ was apparent in many aspects – from the ‘experts’ we can consult with, to the processes involved. For instance, I had to go to an obstetrician (OB) instead of a midwife, and that medical interventions pervaded all aspects of the delivery. Also, the delivery ward differs drastically from what is intended in nature. Animals seek out a closed, cosy and dark place to birth their young in seclusion. If you ever step into a delivery ward, you’ll notice that it is not the cosy and comfortable place intended by Nature. Instead, it is a clean, cold, and clinical venue that is marked by constant interference from the medical professionals. At one point in time, the nurse that was attending to me was walking in and out of the room nonchalantly during my contractions to get supplies, and I had to remind her to respect my privacy and knock before coming in. Thus from the very start, it was a battle to have the kind of ‘natural’ childbirth that we envisioned, which consists of the following 6 tenets:


1) Let Labor Begin On Its Own
2) Walk, Move, and Change Positions
3) Have Continuous Support
4) Avoid Unnecessary Interventions
5) Get Upright and Follow Urges to Push
6) Keep Your Baby With You After Birth


The first tenet of ‘natural’ childbirth is to ‘let labour begin on its own’. However, our plan for that was nearly thwarted because you were considered ‘overdue’ by the OB based on the estimated delivery date (EDD) of 24/01/2017, and he suggested that we induced the labour on the 31/01/2017 at 8am. I was rather distressed by the decision, and had even planned to resist it by skipping the appointment. Your father was very supportive of the rebellion, and pointed out that the given EDD is arbitrary, as the original was on the 27/01/2017, but had been revised to 24/01/2017. He even joked that if you don’t arrive on time, you’ll be ‘evicted’ on the 31/01/2017. Thankfully, you did not let us down, and decided to beat the doctor’s timing and announce your impending arrival by breaking the water bag at 6 am on the 31/01/2017. So you have decided that you’ll rather move on your own, than be induced by the OB.


The second tenet is to ‘walk, move, and change positions’. However, once we check into the delivery suite, mobility and movement is heavily restricted. For instance, once we are in the suite, we are not allowed to leave until you are born. So when we went in at 7 am, we were confined to that small space till you came out at 11 pm. Also, the focus of the room is the delivery bed, and is the central piece of equipment for the delivery. The labouring mother is expected to lie in the bed throughout the labour process and her movements are further restrained by the use of foetal and contractions monitoring pads. I had requested that I be allowed to move freely during the labour process and wanted the wireless monitoring pads so that I don’t have to be bed bound. After some difficulties I was finally given the wireless version. I also asked for a birthing ball to help me ease the pain in my birth plan. To my horror, they couldn’t find the copy of my birth plan, and said that they don’t provide the birthing ball due to hygiene. I was flabbergasted, as I’ve been practicing pain relieving techniques on a birthing ball during my entire pregnancy, and now when it’s time to tap on my practice, the key prop is missing! Eventually, I had use the doctor’s stool as a substitute for the birthing ball, and spent most of my time walking around the room, standing up and leaning over the bed and cabinet tops, and rolling from side to side on the stool. I was hardly on the bed throughout the whole process.


The third tenet is to ‘have continuous support’, and in fact this is one of the most crucial point. The irony is that the ‘expert’ I’ve engaged for the delivery was hardly there. The OB only appeared twice during the entire labour: when I first arrived to do a vaginal examination to determine my dilation, and when you are ‘crowning’. In between, I only have the constant support of your father, who was so committed that he even refused to leave my side and go for lunch. He was there all the time, feeding me snippets of snacks (nuts, bread and cream crackers) that we smuggled in and giving me sips of water in between the contractions. It is only when his hunger threatens to overwhelm him that he left for a short while to grab a sandwich and Milo at 4pm from the vending machine outside. Other than that, I have the intermittent support of the nurses that were on shift. I had three nurses due to the duration of the labour, and the last one was extremely supportive. I can still recall her confidence in me – “You can make it”.


The fourth tenet is to ‘avoid unnecessary interventions’, and this is one of the tenets which is the hardest to abide by. The medical interventions are pervasive – and they range from something as innocuous as placing the IV port on my left hand to facilitate the intravenous injection of medication when necessary to the use of ‘oxytocin’ to ‘augment’ the labour by making the contractions faster and harder and even the use of epidural to numb the pain of contractions. I refused to succumb to the use of epidural because I am wary of the impact that it has on you – the greater stress that you have to go through when the contractions becomes artificially stronger and longer. Both of us share the same sensations of the contracting uterus, albeit from different sides – you on the inside, and I on the outside. Although I can escape the pain by opting for epidural, I am determined to stand by you and go through the same discomfort that you have to experience. I will not escape the pain and leave you to face it alone. However, a medical officer came in during the later stage of my labour and attempted to persuade to opt for the epidural by dangling a deadline – the epidural can only be prescribed before the dilation has proceeded too far. Once the dilation reaches 9 cm, I’ll not be able to ask for the epidural. At that point in time when the offer was made, I was already delirious and weakened from the pain of contractions. It was your father, who affirmed my wishes, and declined the use of the epidural on my behalf.


The fifth tenet which is to ‘get upright and follow urges to push’ is also another challenge I’ve to face in the labour process. For instance, in order to have a more reliable reading of the foetal heart rate, I eventually had to swap the wireless monitoring pads for the wired ones, and this curtailed my movements and confined me to the bed. Also, the medical staff advised me against pushing, and wanted me to control the urge till I am fully dilated. However, the waves of contractions become increasing excruciating, and eventually I gave in to my instincts and followed my body’s cue to push. At one point in time, I even have to call the attending doctor to come in before the appointed time to examine me and to ascertain the dilation. However, the doctor was away for an emergency C Section, and it was the nurse who had to do the vaginal examination for me.


The last tenet was the only one which was fulfilled. When you were born, you were placed on my chest for a while before you were whisked away for a battery of tests like the Apgar score and cleaned up. The nurse also started to assist me to breastfeed you, and since then, I’ve been breastfeeding you all the while without the use of any formula milk.


So this is how you came into the world. So what meanings can you infer from such an arduous journey? The first important lesson is this: although there were trials and tribulations, we can overcome any adversities once we were certain of our convictions and made our stand. Once we were convinced that the ‘natural’ childbirth was what we wanted for you, we managed to persist and achieve our aim. Secondly, there will always be at least two people in the world, who loved you more than anything else, and is willing to go through thick and thin with you. When you were still in my belly, your father would often whisper this mantra to you:

“𦊊𦊊, 你还没出世, 但世上已有两个很喜欢你的人喔: 你的爸爸和妈妈!”

When I was in labour, I was determined to go through the pain so that we can go through the furnace together and forge a strong bond. I am honoured to have shared this wonderful journey with worthy companions like your father and you. Lastly, remember that you are a great blessing, and you are a strong boy who can stand by your mother stoically and endure an 18 hour long labour and did not cave in to the countless contractions. There may be pain, but there need not be fear, and I’m happy that you have proven yourself to be pro-bravery.  You rose up to the test and managed to take the stresses and did not develop any signs of foetal distress like meconium in the amniotic fluid or a decrease in the heart rate, for if you do show such signs, then the only viable option would be an emergency C Section. Thank you for standing up to the struggles with me, and if you fight alongside with me, I will fight for you.


So the legend goes:

“Men become warriors through death and destruction; 
Women become warriors through birth and creation.” 

Well met, S/O (mother’s name). Welcome to the world, Zef.


Part 3: Comprehensive financial cost from pregnancy to birth 

Sunday, February 05, 2017

My fatherhood journey - Part 1

2017 is such a significant year for me. There are different stages in one’s life and this year is going to be one of the biggest milestone in my life because I’m a father now! My baby was born on the 31st of Jan 2017, same as B's baby. I thought it’ll be interesting to hear about the birth of the baby from the father’s perspective, so I’ll share it here. I will talk about the financial cost of the whole journey, but I don’t want it to be the first thing to come to mind when discussing about having a child. Hence, I’m going to share the entire journey right from the start.


Our little 'buddha' baby - babies truly live in the present. They don't live in the past nor the future. If uncomfortable, they cry. If hungry, they eat. If sleepy, they sleep. Once satisfied, they stop crying. There's a lot to learn from them.


Pre-pregnancy and Maternity check-up

I think we’re quite blessed in the sense that everything comes very smoothly for the pregnancy. I think earlier in 2016, both of us went for a major health check-up to ensure that all of us are healthy. After that, it took maybe 3 to 4 months before it happened. My wife’s breast started feeling very tender and sensitive (that’s usually the first signs) so we bought some pregnancy test kits to check it out. How I came to know of her pregnancy is more interesting. One day, I think I was doing some work when my wife popped in and showed me the results of the pregnancy test kit. I was actually quite stunned by it because I don’t know what it means. We scrambled to read the instruction manual and that’s when we knew we’re going to be parents soon.

Throughout the whole pregnancy, my wife don’t have the usual pregnancy symptoms like back aches or morning sickness, so it’s a relatively enjoyable journey for her. As her belly gets bigger, more and more stranger started to rub her belly. If we could charge a penny for the rubbing, we could probably be financially free by now. I did my fair share of feeling the baby’s movement by touching the belly at different points, feeling all the flutters, the rolls, the twist and the turns, the murmurs, the wave, the pops and the kicks. I love talking to the belly, reminding my son inside that there are two people in the world who will always love him, and telling him we’ll meet him soon and please not to cause so much pain to his mother.

But there’s a ton of things to worry about, like choosing between a private and public hospital, which gynecologist, what kind of birth and so on. So we dive in and did our literature research about the various options and realised what deep shit we got ourselves into! Lol!

We went around ‘shopping’ for hospitals by visiting the various maternity wards of public and private hospitals. Our initial decision of going to private hospitals eventually changed to public hospitals, after hearing horror stories of babies being premature and have to be warded In neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and having to pay a few thousands per night. It can amount to a fifth of a million dollars if something bad happens. This becomes the beginning of what I call a fear based pregnancy journey. It seems that everything is based on fear.

Ultimately we settled for NUH under a senior consultant (Prof Biswas, if you want to know his name), thinking that the cost can be kept affordable should there be a need to go NICU, by downgrading to a lower class ward. It’s quite far from our home and it takes about an hour ride in general, but we treated the check-ups like going on a date. We knew each other in NUS way back when we’re still studying (I’m in Engineering and she’s in Arts). We like Indian food so we always go back to the Engineering faculty’s canteen for their cheap and delicious Indian food. In fact, that’s the part that we most like about the whole check-up routine, plus the fact that we have weird stares from students as my wife’s pregnancy started to become more obvious. I think both of us look like students except for her ballooning belly. Since there’s a discount for staff, the stall owner selling drinks had been giving some slight discount for my wife whenever she bought drinks. A student can’t be pregnant right? Haha!

But the whole check-up is just waiting and waiting and more waiting. It’s a little like army – you rush to wait and then you wait to be rushed. The consultation takes maybe 10 minutes tops, while the waiting can be up to 2 hours if you’re unlucky. Since both of us are self-employed, I often wondered how people manage to take so many leave from work to attend all these check-ups. Due to the nature of my job, it’s good to be able to accompany my wife on such check-up dates, so we re-framed the whole waiting game altogether – instead of wasting time waiting for our turns, we are spending our time together.

During the visits to the gynecologist, there’s usually an ultrasound scan too to see the baby’s development. Here, we can take black and white ‘pictures’ of our son at different stages of the pregnancy and also hear his heartbeat. The first time I heard his heart beat, it was such a magical experience. That little ‘alien’ is actually alive and is living inside my wife! But it always sounded the same, and I wondered aloud to my wife if there’s a stock video and stock heart beat soundtrack that they play to all mothers every time. Hmm… that conspiracy theory remains to be tested.

Test for genetic defects

I’m not young anymore, and so is my wife. Though there are a lot of celebrities’ couple having birth in their 40s and 50s, I knew that the chances of genetic defects are higher due to poor egg and sperm quality. That’s why I was quite worried about all the major developmental test during the maternity check-up. I think I told my wife back then that we have to remember this moment in our lives, especially when our son failed his exams or committed some mistakes. Why? Because once upon a time, we were contented and overjoyed with him just by being healthy and fine.

Contentment is a relative thing.

Parenting is a journey full of worries. I think it’s good to experience this. I guess on a broader level, our parents must have felt the same way towards us too. Being a parent makes me more appreciative of all parents, particularly my own.


Tiny little fingers. You never know great joy until you had held a soft living thing who trusted you so much that he fell asleep in your arms.


Birth plan

We started watching a lot of you-tube on the birthing process. Most of it was found by my wife as she prepares for the birth mentally. We learnt of the continuum concept (there’s a book on that) which strikes a resonating chord in both of us. It’s amazing how a little research can do wonders in preparing ourselves for the actual event. It was also the first time I read books about pregnancy and how a husband can support a wife during the actual birthing. Tons of material are out there, and we both decided to skip the antenatal classes because we think it’s a rip off after looking through the slides shared by Frugal Daddy.

We had a birth plan, jotting all the points that we want and do not want. We presented it to the gynecologist during one of the consultations and he signed on it. It was supposed to be scanned and sent to the records, but apparently on the day it wasn’t found. Thankfully, the birth plan was easy summarised by one principle - LESS MEDICAL INTERVENTION. All the rest of the points are just the details.

For me, it’s good because I know what my wife wants after our discussions, and I’m willing to guide her and give the necessary instructions to everyone in the fog of birth.

Labour

I was drooling in my sleep when my wife woke me up at 6am on 31st of Jan. It was the 4th day of the Chinese New Year and just the night before, we went to my in-law’s place for a good dinner. We could not have known that in another few hours, we will be having my epic journey to meet our son.

I think my water just broke.” my wife said calmly.

I was rubbing the sleepiness off me while trying to process what the strings of sound means. My wife showed me the extent of the ‘damage’ while I took some kitchen towels to clean up a little. She told me she that she had been feeling really terrible throughout the night with the contractions, but she didn’t tell me about it. She had also been walking around to ease off the pain while I slept through all that like a baby. Oops :)

She called the hotline given by the hospital and was advised by them to head to the hospital once we’re ready. I told her to take a shower and go wash her hair while I packed our bug out bag to get ready to the hospital. Our bags had been lying on the table for nearly a week, while we waited anxiously for the expected due date to arrive on 28th of Jan. But it was a non-event, literally a no show. You cannot begin to imagine how anxious it was waiting for her labour to start. But I guess our baby will arrive not early nor late but exactly as he wishes to.

Thankfully the traffic was fine, and we reached the hospital in about 30 mins, because we hit the roads before the morning peak hour traffic began. My wife was squirming every now and then, but it’s still bearable enough for her to walk and act normally. I think most people have the idea that once contraction hits, we have to call the ambulance and be rushed straight to hospital immediately, but the truth is far from it. It’s a long drawn out process and technically we can eat a good hearty breakfast before going in to the hospital.

For those not in the know, the magic number is 10. What’s that? Once the cervix dilation reaches 10 cm, the gynecologist can come to deliver. Before that, you just have to endure the labour and contractions until it reaches 10 cm. When my wife came in at 730am, it was 3 cm. We’re admitted to the delivery suite at about 845 am. At 1130 am, it was 5 cm. Time flies for me while I’m there, but I’m sure my wife will experience time dilation because she was living moment to moment in between the regular contractions. I was massaging my wife’s back all the time, providing sips of water to her and giving all the support that I can give while she’s on her toughest journey of her life. That’s the least I can do.

At 330pm, the dilation was still at 3cm and we have to make a decision to inject oxytocin, a drug that augments the labour by making the contraction stronger. So far the pain was bearable but the labour process was still slow. There’s a timeline to rush because the water bag had burst and the baby might get into trouble after a long period (about 18 hours). We’re afraid that the use of such drugs will make the labour much more painful. This has the potential effect of creating a cascade of medical intervention. Oxytocin leads to more pain, leading to the use of epidural that will dull the pain and make it harder to time when pushing, which will then lead to foetal distress because of the prolonged and high intensity contraction and ultimately leading to c-section. That is an end scenario we do not want.

In the end, we opted for oxytocin, and within 30 mins, the pain level went up drastically. There are many medical professionals coming in asking if my wife wanted epidural or laughing gas, but I think she can take it and firmly rejected their offer. At the same time, I had to constantly caress and comfort my wife as the contractions get more intense, longer and more frequent. After about 1030pm, the pain level really shot up a lot and my wife experienced the final thrall of the labour process. It really pains my heart to see my wife in agony and pain. While we might not be able to avoid pain, we can certainly avoid suffering. Suffering comes when there is no meaning to the pain we’re taking, so I constantly encouraged her, held her hands tightly while she goes through her waves of labour, and reminded her that each pain will bring us closer to seeing our son. Once the meaning is understood, there is great capacity for us to withstand pain with meaning and without suffering.

The nurse checked that it’s about 9 cm dilation now and called the doctor, who came in around 11pm. And in about 30 mins, our son was out hearing his first cry to the world! It was such a surreal experience, and I’m very relieved to hear that my wife and son are fine.

Ending note

That ends the first part of our pregnancy journey. I hope that reading this will give strength and courage to would be fathers. In the next post, I’ll let my wife share her experiences, before the last post about the financial cost of all this leading to the birth. Hopefully this would put the financial cost in the right perspective.