Friday, April 11, 2014

Year One.

Mashallah and Alhamdullilah. It has been a year since your Abah and I migrated to Melbourne. We arrived on the 1st of April 2013 and as I write this, it's the 9th of April 2014. It's been a crazy year, a year full of laughter, tears, joy and more tears. Last week I posted this on my Instagram:

Almost exactly a year ago, on the 31st of March 2013, @faiqazim and I left the country where we grew up, have families, made friends, and had jobs in. We left for Melbourne, with nearly nothing in the bank, no home, no job and a 4 month old baby in my tummy. It was crazy and unthinkable now that I look back on it, but we left in search of a better life. Now on the 30th of March 2014, Alhamdulillah I can say with some degree of certainty that we do have a better life, maybe not 'better' in the materialistic sense of the word, but we'll get there Inshallah. Now we have a home, Faiq has a stable job and pay, and we both have a 7 month old baby who is actually the primary reason we migrated. So, happy one year anniversary of our migration Faiq! This one is for Ayra Zahra.

I really have been wanting to write about our experience here, and how it has been like. But of course as my usual excuse is, I have been way too pre-occupied. With YOU! You are one very demanding baby, sayang. You're too smart for me, that's your problem and your gift Alhamdulillah. But I love you, I love you with every drop of blood in my veins.

The first month your Abah and I arrived here, we didn't have our own house, but Alhamdulillah we had a place to stay. My Aunty Fauziah (Atok Bruce's eldest sister) was kind enough to allow us to stay in her spare bedroom, while we looked for a house and for a job. She lives alone in a small, 2 bedroom unit, so she had an extra room for us. It was a small room, not even big enough to fit a double bed. There was a single bed, and an air mattress on the floor. I was almost 5 months pregnant with you at the time, but your Abah and I took turns sleeping on the air mattress (I didn't mind it at all, dia yang tak boleh tidur lena on it so tukar2 la. I ok je, berdengkur lagi).

Your Abah in front of the units where we stayed for a month. Rumah my Aunty kat belakang.

Your Abah posing with Atok Bruce's Ford Falcon, which he lent to us.

Masa itu, syukur kita ada kereta boleh guna pergi sana sini. Your Atok had bought a 2nd hand car a few months before that but since masa tu dia belum pindah, he lent it to your Abah and I to use first. We loved that car! Tapi rumah Aunty Fauziah was about 400 metres from the train station so we took the train alot.

Getting a job here, is HARD. Super hard. Our qualifications as lawyers are not recognized here, if we were to practice or even get a job in the legal field we would have to be assessed by the bar council, study balik a few subjects, sit for exam, pay expensive fees, etc... memang hassle sangat, so we're not going to do anything law-related for now, but in the future, Inshallah. 

What we did the first month: send out hundreds, maybe even thousands of our resumes. Every job that was available, tak kira kerja McDonalds ke, kerja supermarket ke, retail ke... we applied for. Everything. Anything. Dalam satu hari, I sent hundreds of resumes online in response to job advertisements. At that time, kita concentrate dapatkan kerja untuk your Abah je sebab I was pregnant, takut takde orang nak hire coz soon after dah kene maternity leave pulak kan. So most of the resumes I sent was for your Abah. 

Some days, we went into the city. Naik train. We printed out resumes, walked past shops looking for people to hire. Kasi resume by hand. Every single day that passed, we prayed so hard that we would at least get a phone call from someone for an interview. Maybe out of a hundred jobs we applied for, we would get one or two calls back. THAT is how hard it is.

First day keluar mencari rezeki

I remember after weeks and weeks of job hunting, and still nothing. Your Abah and I never felt so low. Some nights he cried, some nights I cried. But we never gave up, because the motivation we had to keep going was you. You were coming in a few months, and we needed to get income asap and get our own home to welcome you in. Allah je tau, how low we felt sometimes.

Malas nak cerita panjang, but your Abah worked a few odd jobs before he finally, Alhamdulillah, landed a permanent job. One of the jobs he had was when he worked for an energy company. Over here, electricity and gas is privatized so there are many companies competing to supply electricity and gas. So what your Abah did was, he was sent to a different suburb everyday. From 9am - 6pm, he had to go around knocking on people's doors, trying to get them to switch to the energy company which he was working for. Kira jadi salesman jugak la. It was winter, the weather was so cold, some days it rained, but your Abah couldn't stop or rest outside of his working hours. He had to keep going, keep knocking the doors to make a sale. The job didn't last very long, but it was a humbling experience which he and I will both remember forever. May Allah reward your Abah for his hardship.

In his uniform when he went knocking on doors

For the first six months, even when you were already born, there was an extra worry and stress at the back of our minds: will today be his last day at work? Will we have money next week? For almost 5 months your Abah worked in a week-to-week contract, so he could be let go any week without notice. 

Finally after 6 whole months, Alhamdulillah, your Abah landed a permanent, stable job. The relief and gratitude we both felt, Subhanallah, Allah je yang tau. Just being able to pay rent was good enough for us. At least there is a roof over our heads, over your tiny head. It was you, baby girl. You yang bawak rezeki untuk Mak and Abah. Thank you so much.

Looking for a house was another story altogether. Sini nak sewa rumah, generally kene go through real estate agent. Agent tu post online kalau ada rumah untuk sewa, and bila hari dia buat macam open house untuk buat inspection. So, whoever is interested in renting the house can go during the inspection time to see the house. Lepas tu, kene submit application to the agent. Kene bagi referal, bank statement, etc. The owner of the house will then choose who they think is most suitable and most financially stable to rent the house.

The first month we were here, we went to SO many house inspections. Some, after inspecting, were not suitable for us, some we applied but didn't get chosen. On top of looking for a job, getting a house was another huge problem and stress because we didn't have any referals here from previous renting history and our bank statement pulak memang showed no money and no income coming in. Who would want to choose us?

More tears, more prayers, again more tears and nothing but faith in God got us through those long few weeks. In between everything, I still had to go for checkups and appointments every month (sometimes every 2 weeks) at the clinic or hospital. Some days when your Abah kerja, and I had no one to teman me, I went alone. Park at the train station, 40 minute train ride to the city, take a tram pulak to the hospital. But it was alright because everyone treated me like a queen with my huge belly going everywhere hehe. 

We got a house about 5 weeks after. Your Atok Bruce helped almost single handedly in securing the house, sampai bila2 we might not be able to balas jasa dia. Syukur sangat. At that time your Tok Bah, Nani and Pak Su were here too and they helped us move into the new house. So many people had helped, so many people we owe much to.

Here is your first house, baby girl!

A place to call home

Abah in front of the house

Me in front of the house, with you 6 months inside my tummy!

So that was our journey, the first two months or so. It was challenging, but it taught us that no matter how hard things get and how bleak the future looks, Allah is always there to help. And He always delivered. Sometimes help came much later, or it would come when we least expected it, but it always came. When you have nothing else and no one else to turn to, get on all fours and pray. Alhamdulillah, we are humbled and grateful for everything.

Fast forward a year later, we are doing alright. :) We have a roof over our heads, we have a car to go places, your Abah has a steady job which pays for rent, necessities and more than often, for the little luxuries which make us appreciate life even more. We have you, and we have never not had enough to buy you what you need and more. Alhamdulillah. I really cannot be more grateful than I am. Bring on year two!

You're the reason for everything sayang <3

Saturday, January 4, 2014

My Labor Story. Part III

The midwife told me to push with the contractions. She said it would be easier. Yeah right time contraction tu lah yg tengah sakit gila nak mampos and I'm supposed to concentrate and push out the baby? However, I found that the midwife was right. My body automatically felt like pushing whenever a contraction came, and with each push I can feel the baby moving further down the birth canal.

So it was too late to get the epidural after all. My labor was too fast and I was too far along to be prepped for an epi. I realized that my mum and the midwives memang pakat nak lambatkan the epi supaya I memang tak boleh dapat epi pun. I had no choice but to keep going, without any pain reliever whatsoever. Just natural, pure childbirth the way nature intended it - plus the bone-breaking pain.

I felt like I was pushing for hours. But it was only like 30-40 minutes, I think. My mum got so excited when she started to see the baby's hair, she said she could see about the size of a 50 cent coin. Baru sikit tu?? Rasa macam nak explode dah bawah tu, kepala baby baru nampak sikit tu?! Faiq wanted to see the baby crowning but I didn't allow him. I demanded that he stayed with me at the head of the bed. I didn't want him to see me all bloody, stretched and gross.

At one point I was just so tired and so in pain that I wanted to give up and make them cut me up or something, but the midwife kept encouraging me.

"You're doing so good sweetheart!" 

"Just a bit more love, you're so strong!"

"You're gonna see your little girl very soon!"


Just when I wanted to give up, I mentally screamed at myself that I have waited far too long and went through far too much pain to stop now, so I grit my teeth and gave it one, last, strong push...

...and then I felt a heavenly release from the pain, like a switch had been pressed from "on" to "off". Just like that, all the pain was gone. I was free, and suddenly they were placing this small, slimy baby on my chest, the most beautiful baby I have ever seen. She had a full head of black hair, which were sticking to her by the blood and vernix. Her eyes were big and alert, her lips red and searching for milk. She opened her mouth and made a sound which were music to my ears... she started to cry.



"Assalamualaikum baby girl... happy birthday." I whispered to her.

Everything else after that was a blur. I had to get stitches because I had a 2nd degree tear (ouch) but I was too busy attempting to breastfeed my baby to pay much attention. She was good at latching on, Mashallah, and was sucking away in no time. But I did realize at the corner of the room, Faiq was conked out exhausted:


And so, Alhamdullillah, with Allah's grace and blessing, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl weighing 3.328kg on the 12th of August 2013 at 8:35am. We named her, Ayra Zahra Azim. Some photos of her just a few minutes old:


Meet our baby girl everyone! Please pray for her and for us, may Allah protect her and may she be means for us to enter Jannah, Inshallah. :)



p/s: In my discharge report, my total observed labour was 3 hours 47 minutes! It felt like 30 hours though.  -_-  Alhamdulillah.

Monday, September 9, 2013

My Labor Story. Part II

Just before going into the labor ward, the nurse asked if I need help with the pain. I just pandang dia, biar betul minah ni OF COURSE I need help!  So she gave me Ethonox. What it is:
Ethonox, or more commonly known as laughing gas is a gas that is used to give temporary pain relief during labour. It is a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen. 
Ethonox is inhaled either through a mouth piece or a mask while the mother is having contractions. Ethonox eases the labour pains but does not take the pain away completely. You can have gas/air anytime you want in labour. All you need to do is bring the mask up to your face or put the mouthpiece between your lips and teeth. Keep it there as you breathe deeply and evenly. Continue to breathe deeply until you start to feel a little light headed and then take the mouthpiece/mask away from your face. It takes at least 30 seconds of breathing for ethonox to give you any benefit. Start breathing it in the second you feel a contraction start. If you wait till you are deep in contractions, the gas will take effect in between contractions. 
Ethonox has no side effects on the baby. It is also compatible with other drugs and there is no residual effect to hamper other methods of pain relief. [Source]

Let me tell you I was NOT laughing. Ethonox is such a scam, takde beza langsung! I might just have been inhaling pure oxygen because it had no effect on me whatsoever, I didn't even feel light headed or pening2! I guess it might work for some people, but not on me. It just made me angry.

Ok I have a confession to make. When I was pregnant, I decided I would have an all-natural childbirth. No drugs, no pain relief, nothing. Just childbirth the way nature intended it to be.

Yeah right Mawar.

Tak sampai berapa minit sampai hospital I was already asking the nurse for an Epidural. Yes I shamefully admit, I asked for an Epi. I have read about the risks, I read about how many women who get an Epidural end up delivering via C-sect, the back pain and headaches post-delivery, etc etc. Walaupun dah tabahkan diri sebelum labor untuk tak nak ambik apa2 pain relief pun, sepandai2 tupai melompat akhirnya jatuh ke tanah juga. Ye saya lah tupai itu.

So the nurse told me, okay, kalau nak Epidural kene tunggu the anesthesiologist. He was busy at the moment, so they would have to page him to come and administer the drug. So I pun tunggu lah. Continue menahan sakit. They sat me down on a wheelchair and wheeled me into the labor room.

The labor room was big, and it was private. Not just anyone boleh masuk keluar, even my family members  nak masuk the midwives would check with me first whether I was comfortable to have them in. I really appreciated that. I didn't want just anyone, even family, to see me at my most vulnerable moments. The room had its own private toilet/bathroom, it was big and had a big tub macam jacuzzi untuk water birth. I did ask for a water birth but I was already too far into labor to have it. Oh well, next time maybe.

At first it was just me, Faiq and my MIL. My mum belum sampai hospital lagi masa tu. So it was the two of them who helped me through that stage of labor. The midwives recorded every contraction I had. Everytime a contraction hit me, I would put my arms around Faiq's shoulders and just let my body split into pieces (that's what it felt like anyway) and he would hold me up. Kadang2 tukar buat dekat my MIL pulak. This happened every 4 minutes, and soon every 3 minutes. It means that every 4 or 3 minutes I was asking the midwives can I please have the Epidural now?? The answer was always the same, that they have called the anesthesiologist and he would come as soon as he was done with another patient.

Masa tu tak baring atas katil pun. Berdiri atau berjalan je. I rasa macam baring lagi sakit and susah je. Ada two sofas at the side of the room so sometimes I used the sofas to sit/stand/squat in many awkward positons. I came to the hospital wearing a long sleeved shirt, but the midwives suggested I pakai short sleeve tshirt sebab senang nak cucuk ubat ke apa. I didn't bring a tshirt with me, so Faiq took off the one he was wearing and gave it to me to wear. Dia pakai jacket je. So throughout labor I wore a Marvel Avengers tshirt. Haha!

At around 6am ish my mum arrived and joined me in the labor room. I was so relieved to see her. I cried a little while I hugged her through one of my contractions. I kept telling her over and over that I'm sorry because it breaks my heart to know that she went through this pain for me, 26 years ago. This bone-shattering, body-splitting pain was the price she paid to have me, a price I will spend the rest of my life never being able to pay back.

Please appreciate your mums. No matter how crazy she might make you or no matter how you don't get along with her. Tolonglah. Hargai dan sayangi ibu anda, because nothing, absolutely nothing, can compare to the pain she went through for you, and yet she will choose to go through it a million times more if she had to, just to bring you to life.

I told Mak, I need that Epidural Mak. Kaklong tak tahan sangat2. She looked at me with a face that was trying not to look judgmental because she knew she had to be supportive of me, but I know her too well. She was totally judging me for asking for an Epi. Takpe ah biar la Mak nak fikir apa, janji this pain would go away. Tunggu lagi. Still no anesthesiologist.

Soon after that the midwives asked me to get on the bed. Bukan untuk baring. Kepala katil tu dinaikkan, so I was in a position where I was on my knees on the bed and holding on to the bar at the head of the bed. So pusing pandang dinding belakang katil. I don't know if you can imagine it or not. It felt weird at first but it really helped pushing during a contraction, in that position.

My water bag burst not long after that. What I felt after that was MORE intense pressure on my cervix (if that was even possible, after everything that I was already feeling down there). Rasa macam nak kene teran sangat dah. One of the midwives gently asked me, "Feel like you're ready to push yet, love?".

With one hand holding on to the bed bar, and the other on Faiq's reassuring hand, I begin to push.

(continued in Part III)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

My Labor Story. Part I

Sunday. 11 August 2013. 

It was a few days after Raya. 4th day of Syawal, actually. 2 days before my estimated due date. My in laws were in Melbourne to celebrate Raya with us, and also to see the baby. Only, the baby didn't seem to be in a rush to see anyone. My in laws were due to fly back to Malaysia tomorrow, yet still no baby... diorang redha kalau tak dapat jumpa yet, nak buat macam mana kan? Tapi still sedih la, tak dapat jumpa cucu lagi until tak tau bila they would be in Melbourne next.

At this point I was like, "Ahh sure overdue one, but at least I get to choose a date to be induced right?". So that day while Faiq brought his parents and brother to the city for some last minute shopping, I went out for a heavy lunch with my parents and grandparents. Siap makan steak kalau tak salah.

That night, Faiq slept early as usual, sebab dia kerja the next day. I went to sleep about 11pm, after watching Prison Break online. Haha. Time ni both Faiq and I were on Prison Break marathons, almost every night tengok a new episode. We both love that show no matter how many times we've watched it. 

Monday. 12 August 2013.

Anyway, around 1:00am I terbangun, sakit perut nak gi toilet. After that, went back to bed. About 10 or 15 minutes later, sakit perut lagi. Pergi toilet lagi. Geram je rasa, sebab baru 2 jam tidur. In my head I was like, "Mesti the food that I ate masa lunch, menyesal sangat. Kan dah cirit birit." Lepas 4 kali pergi balik toilet macam tu, the pain got a bit worse. Then baru terfikir, OMG contractions kot? Kejut Faiq.

"Yang. Sakit perut lah. Dah 4 kali gi toilet buang air besar."

Mata dia still tutup. "You makan apa tengah hari tadi?"

"Steak. But I don't think ni sakit perut food poisoning la.. I think I'm getting contractions."

Terus mata dia terbeliak. "You sure? Nak gi hospital now tak?"

"Tak tau lah. Sakit perut lain macam. Call hospital dulu lah, see what they say."

He called the hospital, they have a 24 hour maternal healthcare emergency line where you can ask anything at all about your pregnancy or labor. He told the nurse, I think my wife's in labor. She asked how many minutes apart and if it is my first pregnancy. He said they're about 10 - 11 minutes apart, and yes first baby. 

Nurse tu suruh relax dulu kat rumah (RELAX?! That is the worst advice to give a woman in labor!) because baru 10 minutes apart, first baby would take HOURS of labour, maybe 10 hours or more, try get some rest dulu, take a warm bath, walk around. Come to the hospital only when contractions are 4 minutes apart or less. He said ok, thank you, while I tried to imagine 10 hours of being in constant pain. 

I told Faiq that we should time the contractions. So I whipped out my phone and opened up the Baby Bump app (used this throughout my 9 months, I just love this app) where there is a contraction timer. I tried to go to sleep, because if I really am in labor I need to restore some energy for later. After closing my eyes for a few minutes, it became imminent that sleep would be impossible. The pain that hit me every few minutes was too great to ignore while asleep.

I told Faiq to sleep, but he wanted to keep me company while I timed the contractions. Setiap kali datang sakit, tekan screen phone. Habis sakit, tekan balik. Masa awal2 start timing, it was about 12 minutes apart and lasting for 1 and a half minutes. Very quickly it became 7 minutes apart. Then 6 minutes. Then pergi toilet lagi, baru realized that my underwear was a bit bloody. The mucus plug had come out (this is what is called the "bloody show", literally). Okayyyy, I definitely was gonna have this baby soon.

At one point, I felt sooo nauseous. Loya teramat sangat, cepat2 pergi toilet and muntah. I've never muntah like that in my life, man. Even masa pregnant tak muntah macam tu. It was alot and it was all over the toilet. My sweet, sweet, husband cleaned it all up after I was done, even though I know the smell and sight of it made him nak termuntah jugak. Lepas tu I sempat Google, 'is vomiting a sign of labor?'. Yes it is. (I Google almost everything just to give myself peace of mind)

All I felt was pain. Sakit. Sakit gila. The pain makes me want to rebah my whole body on the ground, but at the same time rasa macam nak buang air besar. I stood up and walked around the room. I leaned on the wardrobe. Baring. Duduk. Diri balik. No matter what position I was in, every time a contraction hit, the pain was intense and I could not even open my eyes while it came.

At 3:50am, the contractions were coming almost every 4 minutes. I told Faiq, I tak tahan dah, we got to go to the hospital NOW. Faiq was in panic mode, he tried to keep it together but he was so gelabah... putting my hospital bag in the car pun dia macam blurr gila. By this time his parents and brother pun dah bangun and anxious. Sempat ke tak nak jumpa cucu and niece ni? Padahal they had to be at the airport at 11:00am. I didn't plan what to wear to the hospital, I just wore what I wore to bed. Sarung tudung bibik je. Selalunya Faiq sangat menyampah when I wear that tudung but this time he didn't even blink. I got in the car, and my MIL pun ikut sekali.

We reached the hospital about 4:45am. Sampai2 the emergency department, we had to wait like 5 minutes for the triage nurse to attend to me. I got upset, because whaddehell its the emergency department kenapa takde orang dekat counter?? 5 minutes felt like 5 hours to me, because my contractions were so bad and so near. I had a hard time standing up. When the nurse finally showed up, I went in and she checked my blood pressure while contraction after contraction hit me. She made me lie down to check my dilation and effacement. I was 4cm dilated, and fully effaced.

After checking baby's heartbeat with the fetal monitor, I was soon wheeled into the labor room.

(continued in Part II)

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