It’s another baby girl!

November 20th

Today marks the 12th day since I last went on social media. For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you would probably remember my last post – a picture of our dark snowy drive at 5:55 in the morning to the hospital to have the baby. I know I left you with a cliff hanger there. Some of you sent me messages asking how I was doing… and if we had the baby yet….

I am doing well now (but it wasn’t the case in the beginning), and yes we had the baby on the 8th of November at 8:27AM, and it’s another beautiful and healthy baby girl!

Due to my 4th degree tear with my 3rd baby, I was highly advised to have a C-section. The risk of having another 4DT was too high and the complications could be dangerous and life altering if ever. Still we waited until I was on my 30th week to decide whether we’ll try for another natural birth or if we will take the advice of the 3 doctors we saw and have a C-section. After weighing the pros and cons, we decided to do the latter.

This was my very first scheduled C-section. All my other 3 births were natural without medical interventions. Because I was inexperienced on the matter, I asked several moms that I know went under the knife to find out what their experiences were like. Their stories vary. But it definitely gave me some insight on what I was getting myself into.

I actually hadn’t met the OB-GYN that performed my C-section until the day of my surgery. I was in my hospital gown sitting on the operating table with an IV attached to my right arm when she came in and introduced herself. I met the other OBGYNs on their team, but not her. She had a warm personality. She spoke to me as if we’ve been friends for a long time. She assured me the procedure’s safe and quick, and I’d soon meet my baby.

I burst into tears. Not out of excitement that I can finally get to hold this precious child that I’ve been carrying for months. Nor was it out of fear of dying in case something goes terribly wrong. I do not fear death. However, the thought of leaving 4 little ones behind gripped me. I know too well what that’s like growing up. Some of you know my story. But for some of you who don’t, let me offer you a little back story of where my fear’s coming from. I was the younger of 2. My sister is just a year older than me. We were both born via a C-section. Unfortunately, our mom died of an infection 12 days after giving birth to me. I don’t know the details of what happened. I was still too young to understand it when my dad talked about it. But he too had long been gone so whatever happened that day is now buried in the grave. However, as I was lying on the operating table, that piece of my past came out of the tomb and became more real to me more than ever before.

The spinal anesthesia they gave me was pretty strong. I did not feel any work being done on me nor did I feel any pressure when they took the baby out. I was completely numb from below my breasts down to my toes. Not long after they started the procedure, I felt lightheaded.

When they got the baby out, Dr. Moore told me it was a girl. She lifted her above the blue surgical drape that’s covering the operation from plain view. She looked so tiny compared to our other babies. I was quite surprised about this because during my last ultrasound when I was around 37 weeks, they said the baby was already measuring just above 7 lbs. If it’s true that babies gain a pound a week late in the third trimester, I was expecting a 9 lb baby at least. If I knew she would be in the smaller side I would have went with a natural birth. Mira, our oldest who was 6 ounces bigger than her was my easiest birth. I didn’t have any tearing with her. I went home after giving birth to Mira as if nothing happened. I cooked supper for my family, did laundry and cleaned the house. But what was done is done. There’s really no way of knowing for certain what the outcome would be until we are faced by it.

When the nurse put our baby down on my chest to do a skin-to-skin with me, my husband supported her head with his hand while the nurse held her by her bum. This time, not only was I lightheaded, I was also having a hard time breathing. The heaviness on my chest started to take a toll on me. I kept pushing our baby away from my chest because I was struggling to breathe. The nurse noticed my discomfort and asked me what’s wrong. When I told her what seems to be the matter, she quickly took our baby away and told me that she will be taken at the recovery room with her daddy to do a skin-to-skin with him. They told me I can join them once they are finished closing me up.

They hooked a nasal cannula on my nostrils to help me breathe. I remained fully awake the entire time. I could smell my blood permeating the room. But I could not feel anything. As my body lay dormant on the table, my mind was bursting with thoughts of all sorts. I wondered if my mom somehow came into a realization that she will be leaving a 1 year old and a newborn. Or, maybe she went into sleep and never came out of it, oblivious that she will never get to hold me or see my sister again. My mind was spiraling down that road… I was starting to feel nauseous… I thought to myself “what if this is the end of my journey too?”

The doctor and the nurse kept asking me mundane questions. Somehow those queries about how many kids I have, what were their names, kept pulling me back away from the tunnel I was slowly walking towards to. And then I started picturing my 3 little ones at home. I saw a montage of their faces like I was watching a coloured TV in front of me. I felt tears streamed down the corners of my eyes and into the sides of my face. I was determined more than ever to remain awake. Eventually, I heard the doctor said it was done. They crossed my arms and nestled them on top of my stomach as they transferred me to the stretcher. Without having any sensations from my upper belly down to the tips of my toes, I felt like I was resting my arms on top of a table. The nurse wheeled me to the recovery room where I was reunited with my newborn, who was in her daddy’s arms at the time.

Proud daddy holding his new little princess just less than an hour old.

I was feeling very weak and the light bothered me so I asked them to dim the lights in the room. Ian brought our baby close to me but I didn’t have the strength to hold her on my own. I started to have waves of headache on and off. I remembered feeling itchy all over and very thirsty. I finished a cup of water that Ian gave me. It gave me a bit of relief from my headache. Finally, I was able to look at our daughter. I was inspecting her face with awe and noticed a little dimple on her right cheek when all of a sudden I started to feel nauseous again. I asked Ian to take the baby away. Next thing I knew I was throwing up in a bed pan the nurse gave me.

The nurse handed me a piece of toast and ginger aisle hoping to calm my stomach. Eating plain toasted bread usually does the trick when my stomach’s upset. But it didn’t work this time. I find myself throwing up some more. We stayed at the recovery room until later that afternoon. Finally, a room became available and we were transferred there until I was discharged the third day.

They continue to give me the IV fluids since I couldn’t eat anything nor could I drink water without throwing up. The nurse also mentioned that the anesthesia can sometimes cause itchiness but there’s a drug that they can give me through my IV to take the itchiness away. And so they did. I was also given antibiotics intravenously, and was administered meds after meds to treat the pain, the nausea, the itchiness. The cocktail of medication I took that day made me so drowsy. I would be awake and talking, only to be falling asleep mid-conversation with someone. I just felt so weak and tired.

They hooked a catheter to me before the sensation on my lower body came back. I was thankful for that as it felt weird having it removed the next day when the numbness was gone. I felt an excruciating pain the first time I stood up. It was horrible and far worst than the pain I felt when I had given birth naturally. They gave me pain medication after another so I can be on top of my pain. They wanted me to move around to avoid blood from clotting. I was given 3 shots of blood thinner. Both arms ended up with bruises where the needles went through.

The next day, I was able to eat. I was famished! I inhaled my breakfast and asked my husband for more food. No more vomiting, which was a relief. I felt better and was able to get up, but still with difficulty. They umped the dosage of my Oxycodone to 2 tablets every 4 hours. On top of that I was also taking 2 tablets of Naproxen every 12 hours and Tylenol every 6 hours for pain management. I went for walks up and down the hallways.

When I thought I was getting better, other issues arose. I had neck, shoulder and back pain. There was also a burning sensation when I peed. My hands and feet swelled up. I had abdominal cramping. And eventually when my milk came in, I got engorged, which led to sore and cracked nipples. I had to pump my milk until the bleeding stopped. This drove me to tears. I was in so much pain. And now I can’t even hold my baby to nurse.

It was on the 5th day after our daughter was born when I decided to wean myself off of the pain meds I was asked to take. I was so tired feeling awful. I had enough! It was only then when I noticed a very drastic change happened in me. The nausea and lightheartedness started to get less and less. The abdominal cramping went away. I started to feel better… physically, emotionally, and mentally. I learned quickly that most of my issues were my body’s negative reaction to the spinal anesthesia and the drugs given to me to manage the pain. Once my body started flushing out the chemicals that were introduced to it, I felt better! Day after day, I felt stronger. On the 9th day, we all went to church including our new baby girl. And shortly after the church service, I went to my best friend’s bridal shower with our 2 older girls. When we got home that night, we had supper and movie night with our kids. It’s been days since I have taken any pain meds, and I still feel better without them.

I survived the 12th day mark. I’m here still… with my kids… where I’m supposed to be. I wish that would have been the case for my mom too. It would also be nice if my dad’s still around. I’m sure they would have been thrilled to meet our new precious little daughter – Joanna Marie.

Joanna Marie Olson. Born on Nov. 8th at 8:27am. 7 lbs 6 oz. 20 1/4 inches long.

❤ Zhi

P.S.

Here are some pictures of our 3 little ones excited to finally meet and hold their baby sister!

Mira, Diane, Edward, and baby Joanna.

P.P.S.

While we were at the hospital, Joanna had some family and friends who came and visited her.

From L-R: My bestfriend Bobbi who came to the hospital at 6:30am to see me just before my surgery; Auntie Sadie who came on the 5th to look after our kids while my husband and I were at the hospital; the Catto family: Sarah, Lewis, Emily, Margaret, and Katie who visited us just before we were discharged.

P.P.P.S.

And lastly, here’s a picture of my husband’s relatives who blessed our family with their time when we got back home.

From L-R: Uncle Ira holding Edward (he came for an overnight visit and drove back to Ottawa the next day); Auntie Sadie sitting beside Mira (she flew from Manitoba on the 5th and stayed with us till the 17th to help look after our little ones and continue homeschooling with the girls when I couldn’t); Grandpa Olson holding Diane and Grandma Olson with baby Joanna in her arms (they flew from Manitoba on the 12th and stayed with us till the 17th and tirelessly read books and played with our kids, did some household chores, and offered Ian and I encouragement).

To all of you who sent prayers, support and encouragement our way, thank you very much! We are so generously blessed with so much love!!! Joanna is now back to her birth weight and thriving really well! She is a happy and content baby and fits just right into our growing family. ❤

Joanna at 8 days old.

My birthday!

(This post has been sitting on my draft box for weeks. I might as well publish it before our newborn joins our family. Here’s to another year God has blessed me!).

October 11. Friday.

It was a beautiful day! Quite warm for a fall day actually. The sun was out and you can definitely walk in shirt, shorts, and flip flops if you want to.

A bunch of lovely ladies came to my house today to throw me a baby shower! And what a wonderful coincidence that my birthday happened to be today as well! 😉 I was in the kitchen cooking some of my favourite Filipino dishes when my dear friend Sybil walked in the front door with a birthday heart balloon and a gift bag on one hand, and some decorative tissue paper pom poms on the other. She placed them down on the brown bench in the foyer and went back out to grab some food out of her car.

When she came back in, my 3 little ones excitedly greeted her as she climbed up the stairs to our living room. Next thing I know, Sherry walked in the house with some food in her hands as well. The 3 of us chatted as I finished preparing lunch. Soon after, Cherry came in the door and walked into the kitchen bearing food as well!

My plan to just have a quiet birthday with my family feasting on my favourite food turned out to be a fun-filled afternoon with this crazy bunch! 😆 We had a good feast! And we all had a blast! 🤣🤣🤣

Since the day was warm, we moved our little party to my backyard. What a gorgeous afternoon! The sun remained our company. With some gentle cool breeze, the weather was just perfect to be outdoors. The ladies set the table outside for our appetizers and desserts while I made us my special hot chocolate-espresso, topped with homemade whipped cream and ground cinnamon! It was a hit! ❤

We were just about to start eating our desserts when Annie, who came straight from work, walked into my backyard. It was a lovely surprise! While we chatted and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon, the kids roam free, picked some apples from our apple tree, and played in the dirt.

Just before everyone left, we played a pin-the-pacifier-to-the-baby’s-mouth game that Cherry made. The objective of the game was simple – to stick the pacifier into the baby’s mouth. We mounted a cardboard baby onto my garden shed and then we each took a turn of being blind-folded, spun around thrice while holding a cut-out pacifier in our hand.

Mira, my oldest daughter, was the only one who got the pacifier right on the spot! Some of us got it on the baby’s mouth, shoulder, nose, and even on the baby’s toes. It was hilarious! 🤣🤣🤣

Eventually, everyone had to leave and my 2 younger kids went for their much needed naps. I took advantage of the warm, gorgeous day and raked our front lawn. 🍁🍂 Mira decided to stay up and helped me with raking. 

We were just about done when daddy pulled in the driveway. He handed Mira a bouquet of red flowers to give to me. Mira happily obliged and gave me the flowers. I asked her to bring them in the house, which she immediately did.

Ian grabbed the other rake and helped me finish the last leaf pile at the end of our lawn. And then we attacked the thick blanket of fallen leaves piling up in Al’s lawn until we ran out of leaf bags. 🍁🍂🍁 Our neighbor Al lives by himself and hasn’t been feeling well these past couple of years so we have been raking his leaves for him whenever possible.

When Ian took the leaf bags to the compost in Southampton, I warmed up some left overs for dinner. We were planning to watch a movie with the kids after supper but it was getting pretty late so we just put on the Mighty Pups for them. We all cuddled in the couch and let Ryder and his pups entertained us all.

When our kids were finally tucked in bed, he handed me a birthday card sealed in a pink envelope. I quickly opened it and soon found myself wiping tears off my eyes. One thing most people don’t know about my husband is that… drum roll please… He actually writes beautiful love letters! For someone who hates writing, and typically a man of few words, he’s pretty thoughtful and emotionally expressive when he writes me a letter. Hence, I started calling him ‘Sweets’.

I took out 2 wine glasses of chocolate mousse from the fridge after reading my birthday card. Ian has been making me this decadent dessert since we have been courting. After he found out how much I love this cake he’s been making it for my birthday every year! (Another reason why I call him Sweets! Because he can be the sweetest guy ever!).

We spent the rest of our evening enjoying our desserts while watching a movie and then reminiscing special memories and dreaming of the future. What a perfect way to end my special day! 🥰 I couldn’t have asked for more! ❤

❤ Zhi

I’m back with an exciting news!

So I took a little break… Okay maybe, it’s more than just a little. I’ve been on a hiatus from blogging since May. And let me tell you, I’ve been aching to sit down, shut the world behind me, and come back here again.

But, when you have 3 little ones, doing some deck reno on the side, travelling to see family from distant miles, crafting, and homeschooling… carving a time to sit down and write has been pushed further and further down the bottom of my to-do list.

Today, I wish to change that.

Because I have an amazing news I’ve been yearning to share with you guys.

We are about to have our fourth baby soon! Yay!!! Even our kids are excited!

Some people are rooting for another baby boy to level the playing field for Edward since he already has 2 big sisters bossing him around and smothering him with too much hugs and kisses.

I know the thought of not knowing can be overwhelming sometimes. I get that there are some perks to finding out the gender of your baby in terms of preparation and all. But, there is also beauty in not knowing and just fully trusting that whatever God gives you will fit perfectly into your growing family. So I am choosing to wait (again!) and not spoil one of the best surprises in life.

It won’t be long…

Soon, I’ll get to meet this little person growing inside me and get to tell him/her that he/she is wonderfully made and incredibly loved!

❤ Zhi

The Best Carrot Cake!

Last year, a good friend of mine asked me to make her her wedding cake. I was honoured and thrilled about her request! I have braved making my own wedding cake the day before my wedding, so I thought, I can handle somebody else’s wedding cake too, especially now that I have more experience in baking and decorating cakes. When she told me what cake she wanted, I almost wanted to back out, or at least try to convince her to change it into something else… something that I have done before. But I did nothing of sort. I kept my worries to myself.

After I had let myself panicked at the thought that the wedding cake would turn out disastrous (of which of course I have not mentioned to her even till now!), I went on Google, Youtube, and Pinterest on a hunt for a carrot cake recipe! You see, I have not made a carrot cake EVER prior to her request. I’ve eaten carrot cake twice in my life and they were delicious, but it was never my favourite, so I dared not baking one myself, until a couple of months prior to my friend’s big day!

After much research, I found 3 carrot cake recipes online that I liked and started experimenting. After many (failed and so-so) attempts of making a fluffy carrot cake with just the right amount of spices, and the right combination of icing that is not cheeky sweet, I think I nailed it. I made the ultimate carrot cake for any occasion! I’ve made this exact carrot cake (in varying sizes, height, and decoration with great success!) about 9 times already just this year alone, and we are only in April. I’ve also used the same recipe to make carrot cupcakes (mini and regular sizes), and they turned out amazing!

Dangerous Journey (The Story of Pilgrims Progress), A Must Read!

I started re-introducing the book the Dangerous Journey to our girls last night. This is a retelling of John Bunyan’s 17th-century classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress, geared for a younger audience. Universally known for its simplicity, vigor, and beauty of language, The Pilgrim’s Progress remains one of the most widely read books in English literature. Often rated nearly as important as the Bible as a Christian document, this famous story of man’s progress through life in search of salvation continues to be one of the most entertaining allegories of faith ever written.

Oliver Hunkin used the original words of Bunyan in this abridged version of the timeless classic to present a riveting story of the pilgrim’s trials and temptations as he set on a long and perilous journey to the Celestial City, a City founded higher than the clouds, to escape his hometown’s inevitable doom. Along a road filled with monsters and spiritual terrors, the pilgrim named Christian, who was weighed down by a literal burden on his back, seeks deliverance, and confronts such emblematic characters as Worldly Wiseman, Superstition, Mr Blindman, Giant Despair, Ignorance, and the demons of the Valley of the Shadow of Death. But he is also joined by Faithful and Hopeful who are a great encouragement for him along his harrowing journey to safety.

I had read a couple of pages of this book to our oldest daughter a while back but clearly she wasn’t ready for it. The vocabulary, the concept, and the storyline of this book is quite advance even for her age now. My oldest is only 4 and her sister is not even 3 yet. But I thought I give it another try. So I included this book into our Read-Aloud basket among other books. For our Read-Aloud basket, I gather up a combination of chapter books, board books, reference books, and early reader books that my eldest reads aloud with me. By the end of the week, I put these books back in our shelves and restock our basket with a new set.

Last night, I read 2 chapters of Dangerous Journey to our girls before bedtime. The First Chapter of the book reads…

I
The Slough of Despond
As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place and laid me down to sleep; and as I slept, I dreamed a dream.
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Repurposing Antique Dresser

Many moons ago, I blogged about our buffet table that I repurposed from an antique dresser. You can read that post here. I was 5 months pregnant at the time with our 3rd baby and this was one of the many DIY “nesting” projects I’ve made. I wanted to write about my journey in repurposing this dresser, in the hopes of helping others, who, like me, had not done anything like this before. I wrote a draft. Unfortunately, that draft sat in my inbox of unpublished posts for over a year. I am finally revisiting it, and would like to share my experience with you.

Here it goes…

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Unicorn Birthday Party

March 5, 2019

It’s March already and yet we are still experiencing snow… lots of it! It’s minus 10 tonight but it feels like minus 17 with the windchill factor. We were out the door early this morning for Edward and Mira’s immunization shots. It was cold and snowy. The visibility wasn’t very good in some parts. But we made it to our appointment early and had the shots done with very little tears. My husband and I couldn’t be prouder of how brave they were.

During our visit to the doctor, Mira mentioned about her birthday party that she had yesterday. Our oldest daughter and our son share the same birthday month (February). Our schedule last month made it a little bit tricky to coordinate a birthday party with their church friends. So we just did something with our family on their birthdays and I baked some cupcakes for a treat. However, Mira never forgot about our plans to throw her a unicorn birthday party with a unicorn carrot cake. She had her mind set on this since December. And finally, after scheduling back and forth with some of the families from our church, we picked a date that worked for everyone. We did miss one family that ended up not making it because their boys got sick. Still everyone had a great time. They played well together and also played hard.

Mira wanted me to make palabok for her birthday. Palabok is a rice noodle dish staple during special occasions in the Philippines. It has most of her favourite food – noodles, eggs, shrimp and pork rinds. And since palabok is one of my favoutite Filipino dishes, I gladly obliged to her request. We also ended up having fried rice, vegetable spring rolls, a good variety of fruits, rolled up cold cuts, and other Filipino pastries like pande-ube (purple yam bread), poppy seed buns, and coconut rolls.

I made 2 different cakes. A unicorn carrot cake with cream cheese frosting for Mira; and a chocolate cake with cream cheese and peanut butter frosting for Edward. I’m pretty sure our son, who just turned 1, wouldn’t mind sharing a cake with his sister. But if you know me, you’d know I am a big chocolate fan! So to satisfy my chocolate desires, I made 2 dozens mini chocolate cupcakes and a small chocolate cake for Edward. I was quite pleased with how the cakes turned out and our guests enjoyed them too!

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