Confessions of an Expat Mom

Confessions of an Expat Mom

…or should I say “mum”.  Five months ago, my family relocated back to Singapore.  It’s been two years since we’ve lived here.  This time around, things are different.  We have a baby.  So I am officially an expat mum.

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It’s been far too long since I’ve written anything on the blog, let alone something relating to Pilates or fitness.  My time for the past five months has been devoted to James, our now eight month old son, and setting up our new life in Singapore.

Yes, I flew 10,000 miles alone with my 3 month old baby.

It all started with a 26 hour journey half way around the world.  Alone, with a three month old baby, I put on a happy face as I entered the first class cabin of Singapore Airlines.  I know, I know, first class seems a bit much.  But it was the deal I cut with my husband; if I fly alone with James, I have to fly in first.  Deep down though, despite the luxurious accommodations, I was terrified.  Terrified to be bringing a baby into first class, spending the entire flight on edge that at any moment this little monster would start screaming.

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James was an angel and slept almost the entire journey.  The flight attendants even set up an entire bed just for him.  Gotta love a cabin that only has two of the eight seats occupied.  Word of advice for mammas traveling on a long haul flight with a baby?  Cash in all of your airline and credit card points for a business or first class seat.

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Landing in Singapore, I finally took that deep breath I had been waiting for since we left the US.  Steve greeted us at amazing Changi Airport and our new life began.

The dreaded move in day.

Our container arrived about three weeks after James and I arrived.  Yes, that meant we were all living out of a suitcase (or 7) in temporary housing for 19 days.  Most of which were without Steve, who was traveling for work.  It was the worst 19 days of my life.  So I will not elaborate.

The day came that I’m sure Steve was dreading; showing me our new house that weeks before I arrived, he had picked out.  Good news is I loved it.  Bad news is I was going to have to manage move in day alone; Steve would be in China.

The truck arrived and as one would hope the team unloaded faster than I could keep up.  One would hope; not me.  I had no idea where anything was going.  So before I could even decide where I wanted the toaster oven that we couldn’t even use due to its American voltage, we had dozens of other appliances stacking up.  The result? A whole house literally dumped into the rooms of our new home.

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Home is where all of our furniture is.

After probably 2 weeks everything was in its place.  Our high rise Tanjong Pagar condo was now beginning to feel like home.  This so far has been the biggest difference between Singapore 1.0 and Singapore 2.0.  (1.0 refers to the first time Steve and I lived in Singapore, 2012 – 2014.  2.0 refers to our current stint).  The first time around we were in a tiny furnished apartment; it felt more like a hotel.  We were both always itching to leave the island and go on an adventure.  Now, I look forward to our weekends home, lounging on our Pottery Barn sofa.  We have the space to host guests, to let James run free, and even a few outdoor patios!

Don’t get me wrong.  One of the major advantages to living in Singapore is the travel we get to experience.  And to have James along with us is something that I am so grateful for.  James has already banked stamps in his passport from Thailand, Vietnam, and Australia, and will soon get some from the Maldives and Indonesia.  After all, this is exactly what being an expat is all about.

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The true confessions of being an expat mom. 

When news first came out that we were moving to Singapore with our new baby, the first question out of everyone’s mouth was “…but your family will be so far away! Do you have any idea what it’s like to not have any support system?”  Well, yes, actually I do.  Living in California, our family was still on the other side of the country.  So what was another ocean, right?

But I will be blunt now; in Singapore we have a live in “helper”.  A good helper can do it all.  She is a maid, a nanny, a dog walker, a cook, a shopper.  I will not hide it; I will be completely honest.  Beth, our helper, is the glue that holds our house together.  I will not lie and say I am the glue.  I do not do it all.  Far from it actually.  In fact, I am a better mother because of Beth.  I am amazed when I look at friends and family back home, and they do do it all.  They are superheroes.  I may be selling myself short, but I really don’t think I could do it.  Not without Beth.

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Since James, I have put my full time career on hold.  You probably have noticed a lack of Pilates and fitness inspired posts, a very slim teaching schedule, and more and more photos of James.  So why the need for Beth?  Well, like I mentioned earlier, to help me be the best mum I can be.  I am happier, healthier and stronger because of the help she gives us.   We can go out with friends, without thinking about a babysitter.  I can workout without feeling guilty.  I can have some alone time to enjoy a long shower.  And I can go out to teach a few classes.  The time I then spend with James (and let’s not get confused or the wrong idea, I am with him most of the day) it is more cherished because I don’t feel like I am being put on the back burner.  I will never be ashamed of admitting I have help.  I never forget how lucky we are to have the opportunity to live in Singapore, where we can have this help.  I also think about how hard it is going to be when we do eventually repatriate back to the US.  Which is why we must stay in Singapore until James can take care of himself…so at 5 years old, right? They are pretty self sufficient by then, aren’t they?

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Adventures with a baby; not so adventurous. 

There are some pretty crazy places to go in this part of the world.  Tree houses in the jungle, beach chalets with no locks on the doors, dusty temples in the equatorial sun, and endless hours snorkeling the world’s best reefs.  Well, we quickly realized after our first trip to Phuket with James, that these trips are few and far between.  When the simple task of washing a bottle becomes a 20 minute endeavor, you think twice about where you want to travel.

Kid club? Check.  Shady beach and pool cabanas that shield you from the sun? Double check.  Overpriced big name resort that purifies its own water? Jackpot!  All things that we would have run away from in the past are now at the top of our list.

The ultimate expat mum adventure? Bringing your helper on your holiday.  Now that sounds like a plan.

There is no place like home.

Every now and then I think about home, and what we are missing, and what James is missing.  He doesn’t get to grow up with his cousins, or his grandparents.  There are no Sunday dinners with all of them.  His only perception right now of them is on a screen.  We don’t get to keep a car seat permanently installed in a car, let alone drive him to soccer practice.  And I do miss that.  I am so grateful for everything we have here in Singapore, especially Beth, and the time that I get to spend with him, not working full time.  But I do look forward to the new experiences we will have as a family back on the homeland.

We will see you this summer!  James and I will be back Stateside on June 30th. We will spend a week out in NY on Long Island with my family, and then a few weeks in Houston, and will finish the trip in Boston in August where we will be reunited with Steve!

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Coming Soon, Baby Lampert!

Coming Soon, Baby Lampert!

I promised myself I was going to blog about our exciting announcement as soon as we began telling people.  But naturally life got in the way.  Believe it or not, Steve and I are expecting our first baby in just 2 weeks.  August 14th to be exact.  I look back at these past 9 months and am kicking myself for not sharing stories, feelings, cravings, and all the things that come along with growing a human inside of me.  But, I will try to condense into one story.

The Day We Found Out…

It all starts back in December, like most pregnancy stories begin; peeing on a stick.  My timing is, as always, impeccable.  Steve is getting ready for work and I just go for it.  He waits the 3 minutes it takes for the stick to tell us our lives are about to change forever.  And there it is.  +, clear as day.  Neither of us speak a word; we are speechless.  The feeling at this moment can hardly be explained.  Excited, scared, terrified, overjoyed, denial, are only a few words to explain.  Before all these emotions completely took over, we think we should try again, just to be sure.  And sure enough, not one but two additional tests later, it is certain.  We are going to be parents.

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I break the rule and immediately call my mom who was in Australia visiting my brother and sister in law who coincidentally just had a baby on that same day I find out we are going to have a baby.  I don’t want to take away from their big news, but I may have.  We decide to only tell our parents at this point because it is still so early.  In fact, we decide to wait until March to tell everyone outside of our close friends and family.

First Pregger Trip

Two weeks after finding out the news, we are off to Mexico with the family to celebrate Christmas.  Luckily I am not suffering from any morning sickness, but I never did feel 100%, so the thought of rice and beans and drowning in sun while my husband and his family enjoy ice cold cervesas did not excite me, as it normally would.  Do you know how much I love Mexican food?  And Margaritas? Yea, well I definitely kiss those goodbye.  For some reason, all the food completely turns me off.  Maybe I am subconsciously remembering all the stories from people who would get so sick when traveling to Mexico, and I didn’t want to risk it.  So I enjoy the week eating pasta, toast and crackers.  Awesome.  However I will say it is so wonderful being able to spend this exciting time with family and to share all of our excitement.

Daily Advice

Every week we watch a new video, to see how big our baby is, what is developing, how my body is changing, and the best part….what fruit it is!  I don’t know why, but they always compare the size of your baby to fruit.  When we first found out it was a blueberry. It then became a raspberry, a prune, a peach, a large banana, and so on. It is always a fun surprise as to what it will be next.  Our favorite app to get our weekly updates is What to Expect.  In addition to the weekly fruit update you get daily tips and advice.

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The First Look

Surprisingly when you find out you’re pregnant, you actually don’t go to the doctor for a few weeks.  It was week 10 (the size of a prune) when we have our first doctor visit.  This is the moment every girl thinks about; seeing your little peanut on the screen and hearing its little heartbeat.  But what you don’t necessarily know or think about is how uncomfortable getting an ultrasound is.  You have to have a full bladder going into it, so they tell you around 32oz of water prior to the visit.  For some reason, I hear 60oz.  That’s right.  On the way to the doctor, I drink 2 big bottles of Smart Water in preparation for this moment I have been waiting for.  Within 20 minutes I am not only incredibly full from drinking water, but have to pee more than I ever had to before.  All I can think about while in the waiting room filling out endless paperwork (yay for being a new patient!) is going to the bathroom.  They finally call my name and I can barely stand up.   I am also so excited/nervous I can’t stop shaking.  I get up on the bed and in so much pain lay myself down.  As the technician does her thing, all I want to do is leave and relieve myself.  She can’t see anything because my bladder is so full.  Wait, what? I thought it’s supposed to be!  She asked, “how much water did you drink?!”  She allowed me to use the restroom.  OH THANK GOD!!!!!!

I get back and she tries again, and in a much more comfortable position we see it; our little blob that we created.  And I can actually make out the features; it is amazing.  The heartbeat comes in at 165 beats per minute.  How is this thing living inside of me? It is all very real now.  We are given an estimated due date of August 14th.  It seems like ages away.

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Boy or Girl?!

My husband and I decide to do some prenatal testing early on.  We think it is important to prepare ourselves if need be, and also just want a bit of peace of mind.  One of the tests we did actually looks at our baby’s DNA.  You know what that means, don’t you?  Boy or girl?!  We could have obviously elected to not find out this soon, and wait for the anatomy ultrasound, but we thought, why not? I receive the phone call while I am in the presales office at Equinox.  I step outside and my heart feels like it skipped a beat.  First, the nurse explains all the tests came back clear, and our baby is, so far at this point, healthy.  She then asks if I want to hear the sex.  I hesitate for a moment as this one word will change everything.  I say yes, and she says “you’re having a boy.”  For some reason this is so much more emotional than seeing our baby at that first appointment.  I wasn’t hoping for a boy or a girl, but knowing makes everything so different.  “It” is now a “he”.  Our son.

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I immediately call Steve to tell him the news.  I can feel his excitement when I tell him.  “Can we name him _________?!” is his first sentence.  I kept that out because we are keeping his name a secret.  And although Steve’s original reaction was our first choice for a name then, we have decided to go a different route.   Stay tuned!

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Zika

Steve and I have a long weekend trip planned with our friends and their new baby to Cabo for February, when I am just starting my second trimester.  However, Zika is in full force and travel advisories are popping up all over Mexico.  We decide to play it safe and cancel our trip.  We do get to change our flight, so long as we travel during the same time, and on the same airline.  We decide to go to Maui, since it is the only other tropical place Alaskan Airlines flies that does not have a Zika threat.  We have a lovely time, despite the fact that I am still in the place where people have no idea I am pregnant; I just look chubby.  Not a good feeling when you are in a swim suit all day.

Ugh, My Aching Back!

Now fully in to my second trimester and I feel great.  Except for one thing.  Back pain.  Sciatica to be exact.  Very common for this to hit at about this point.  I have never experienced back pain before and holy cow, it’s debilitating.  I cannot put any weight onto my right leg at times.  I am longing for my chiropractor back in San Francisco, Dr. Nick!  In fact, I actually have a trip planned to see some friends in San Francisco, and make sure to stop by and see him.  As soon as I return to San Diego I find a chiropractor, Dr. Robinson, and see him twice a week for a small adjustment that seem to make it a bit better and more manageable.  I also start prenatal massage every other week which helps even more.  And yes, you guessed it; I also get myself an obscenely big pregnancy pillow.  The Snoogle. It is great, until I wake up in the middle of the night and need to use the bathroom or change positions.  I have to literally snake myself out of it.  Still, highly recommend one.

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The Preggo at the Bachelorette Party

Another highly anticipated trip pops up; one that has been in the works for about a year.  My sister’s bachelorette party will take me just outside Austin, TX to Texas Wine Country.  Yes, that is correct; a weekend of wine tastings.  Temptation at its finest.  I proved to have incredible self control.

When You Find Out You Are Not in Control of Everything

At week 20 we go in for our big anatomy ultrasound.  This is when you would typically find out boy or girl.  But we already know, so the excitement for this one is to see our baby boy again and to make sure he has all 10 fingers and toes.  The technician points everything out; the head, the nose, the leg bone, the kidneys, and the boy parts! There it is!  Definitely a boy!

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As she continues with the ultrasound, she stops pointing things out.  Maybe it’s because it’s nothing too exciting.  But I sense something else; and I immediately have a bad feeling.  When she is finished she tells me the baby looks great, and the Dr. Nelson will be contacting me in the next day or two.  There is was.  Something was not right.

Steve assures me everything is fine, and that is is probably just common practice, since she is just the technician and it’s not her job to go over the results.  The next day I get the call from the doctor.  She happily tells me the baby looks great and from what they can tell is perfectly healthy.  She then goes on to tell me that I have what is called a velamentous cord insertion, or VCI.  In the simplest explanation, it is when the umbilical cord does not properly insert into the placenta.

“What did I do? How did this happen?” These are the first thoughts that go through my head.  My doctor assures me it is purely by chance that this happens.  Nothing I did, or can do, will make it better or worse.  It turns out the biggest concern with VCI is that the baby doesn’t get the nutrients it needs.  Based on the anatomy ultrasound at 20 weeks, our baby was measuring in the 86th percentile, so clearly the baby is growing.  Going forward I will just need to be monitored with a few more growth ultrasounds to make sure baby is growing, and later on, go in for frequent fetal monitoring.  You never want to hear that something is not right, especially when it comes to your baby, and the possibility of not being able to give him what he needs.

Back to Work! 

In the midst of my second trimester, Equinox finally opens, and I am back at work.  I’ve never felt better, and more like myself.  I love telling clients and students that I am expecting, and being an example of how Pilates can help you feel amazing when pregnant. In fact, a member almost brings me to tears a bit later on when she stops me in the locker room to tell me how inspiring I am.  She had seen me and my big belly working out with a trainer and wanted to thank me for being an inspiration to her and all women!  Is this a joke, I thought?  And when I see her sincerity, I almost break down.  Maybe it’s the hormones, but it’s a pretty cool feeling.

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Child Birth Class….hee hee hee who.

Steve and I decide to take a child birth class.  We thought it may be a good idea to get a sense of what to expect and how to prepare ourselves as best we can.  The class runs for 4 weeks, every Wednesday night from 6:30 – 9pm.  Although long, the class is extremely helpful.  Taught by a doula, we learn all the stages of labor and different breathing and relaxation techniques to get through it.  We also learn about all the different birth scenarios that can occur during labor and how to prepare for them.  I highly recommend the class for all new mommies out there.

Breastfeeding Class

We also decide to take a breastfeeding class.  And yes, Steve joins in on this.  Only one night, we learn the importance of breast feeding and how it’s harder than you will ever imagine.  I had no idea how many positions there were to hold your baby while feeding.  Also, the importance of a good latch is key!  Steve once asked me what I was most excited and most nervous about.  And I told him I was most excited about the prospect of being able to breast feed, but also most nervous about it too.   I can’t wait to have that bonding time where I can look down and see him looking right back at me.  But at the same time I am also pretty nervous about the whole thing.  The class put me at a bit of ease, and knowing that there is help from specialized lactation consultants and support groups is comforting to know.

Babymoon!  and Pop Goes the Belly…

Week 32 or so hits and I have officially popped.  People weren’t kidding when they would tell me it happens over night.  Not only do I really look pregnant, but I am feeling more and more pressure in my low belly.  Walking around I feel comfort in holding it up.  Now I understand why I would always see pregnant women holding their bellies.  It feels so much better!  We also decide to take an official Baby Moon to Palm Springs.  I know, I know.  Palm Springs in the summer? Are we crazy?  The answer is yes.  Absolutely.  I do not recommend it to anyone, especially if you are pregnant!  It tops out at 119 degrees.  All we can do is sit in the pool.  Thank God we are in a peaceful, gorgeous hotel, the Korakia Pensione.  It is perfect.  I would just go back maybe in October.

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Twice Weekly Doctor’s Appointments

At week 34 I begin twice weekly doctor appointments and get to know the receptionists and nurses all too well.  Monday is AFI and NST and Thursday is AFI, NST and a visit with my doctor.  AFI is a quick ultrasound that measures my amniotic fluid, plus I get to maybe catch a glimpse of the little guy.  NST is when I get to sit in a nice comfy reclining chair and listen to his heartbeat and watch my contractions for at least 20 minutes.  I grow to actually enjoy this time; no cell phones, just me and my baby’s heart beat.  They look for a certain amount of activity within the 20 minutes, so we want to get him moving to elevate that heart rate several times during my visit.  Ice cold water or apple juice usually does the trick.  Otherwise he tries to just nap; he takes after me.

On Thursdays I see my doctor and she goes over the results of the tests, checks in with how I am feeling and will also begin checking to see if I am dialed.  To be honest, I love the attention and knowing that baby and me are doing just fine.

Another Move

Week 36 rolls around, and naturally we are moving.  Luckily we are only moving 2 miles away, but nothing is ever as easy as you expect.  We, and by “we” I mean my amazing husband, do a lot of the packing prior to the movers arriving, so most of our things are already in boxes.  Well, leave it to highly articulate movers to take 4 hours to load our 750 square foot apartment into the truck.  I make myself unavailable for most of it; sitting by the pool, interviewing pediatricians, and hanging out with Paya and her BFF Molly at Molly’s highly air-conditioned apartment watching old episodes of Law and Order.  It’s lovely.  Still, it is now approaching 6pm and they are just finishing up.

Being only 2 miles away, the movers should have been to our new house in no time.  30 minutes go by.  Then an hour.  No movers.  Steve is convinced they stopped somewhere for dinner.  Now it’s been over an hour and we call the moving company.  They assure us they are 5 minutes away.  Now it’s 8PM.  No movers.  They somehow went to the wrong house.  How? Where?  Mexico??  They finally arrive after 8PM and begin to unload frantically.  Long story short, they finish by 11PM.  Typically I am the type who cannot go to sleep until everything is put in its proper place.  Not tonight.  I wake up the next morning to a house full of boxes.  And because I have the world’s best husband, I go off to teach a few clients, and he unpacks.  By that evening, we are settled.

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We Made it! The Countdown Begins

Week 37 comes and goes and I am officially 1 cm dilated.  It’s happening!  This is real.  This naturally puts me in “go time” mode and the nursery is complete, the car seat is installed and breast feeding accessories purchased.  I am ready!

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We are currently in week 38 and I have started my maternity leave.  Steve’s parents arrive next week, and then my parents arrive just a few days after.  In a perfect world, baby Lampert will be patient and wait until everyone is here to make his grand entrance.  I cannot wait to share the rest of this journey with you, and join the amazing club we call motherhood.

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