PictureNot all Aussies are legends.
Megan and Ava are now safe and sound back in Australia, and enjoying all the benefits of being back home - safe roads, good groceries, high prices...

I will be joining them in just a few hours, and as I loiter in the airport lounge, I can't help but be frustrated.  Not so much that I'm here & they're there, nor that they've had to fend for themselves for the past day, but that they're back in a society in which people think that their opinions matter. 

While checking in to my flight, Megan called me from outside a supermarket.  She'd just pulled over to feed Ava and do some shopping, and Ava was doing some fussing, as she is inclined to do.  Out of nowhere, some woman comes up to her and snidely says "you need to feed your baby".  I don't need to tell you how condescending that must have sounded to a new mother - any mother - let alone one with an already sick baby, and who is doing her absolute best to keep that baby healthy. 

Instantly I wanted to get my Papa grizzly bear hatred on, but that wouldn't have helped anything - not in an airport.  Then I was overcome with a feeling of helplessness, that there was absolutely nothing I could do to make her feel better about this idiot woman who had taken it upon herself to ruin Meg's day.  I can't fathom how her interjection could be perceived as beneficial to anyone. 

Anyway, as much as I'd like to meet with that woman myself, nothing will change.  She won't become any less of a moron, and it won't stop others from feeling as though their opinions on our baby are something we want to hear.  As much as I love my country and miss everything about it, this incident makes me value how much people seem to adore our little white unicorn baby here. 

 
 
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Well, we got her there, but it wasn't easy... 

We left the house with happy little smiles on our faces, prepared for a quick little jaunt across the South China Sea.  What eventuated was not that... 

We decided to take some old, out-of-date advice and hope for the best, and not take some reliable advice from one of our mates here that Exit Clearances for little expat babies could be obtained at the airport (it's something to do with people smuggling).  As it turns out, our obsolete information was just that, and our mate's new information was spot on the money.  Obviously trying to get the Exit Clearance at the airport was much less effort than the three day process to get it at the Bureau of Immigration, and we paid for our laziness. 

Initially, the Immigration officials refused to let us take her out of the country, arguing that the process had to be followed.  After about an hour of negotiating, they allowed us through because of the medical necessity of our trip.  We got through, and escorted by an airline rep, were hurried through security & down to our gate to board.  It would've been even better if our flight wasn't delayed 90 minutes....  So with a hungry, screechy baby on her first trip, we waited in the departure lounge, then on the plane at the gate, then on the tarmac. 

Once we got airborne, though, it was a different story.  Ava was a complete angel!  Take-offs and landings always gave me the most intense pain in my ears as a kid, but she handled it like a champ!  It goes some way to prove my theory that babies who fly a lot in utero handle flying much better when they're out utero.  Also I know that's not a word.

The rest of the trip I'll write about later, but if her first plane ride is anything to go by, Ava's going to be more of a jetsetter as both of her parents combined!

 
 
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Finally we have Ava's passport!  She's now a fully-fledged person of the world and ready to travel.  Like her parents, and her parents' parents, her new passport will be full before we know it, and the first stop?  Singapore! 

It's a fairly quick trial trip for her big homecoming before Christmas.  Only three nights, so not too long to be away from home for the poor little thing.  Hopefully it'll be a good way to iron out any kinks in our travel plans. 
We've got almost everything we need packed - I think...  We've probably packed way too much, as usual, but it'll be a good way to find out what we need & what we don't.

Our final hurdle will be getting an exit clearance for her as she currently doesn't have a visa to be in the Philippines.  We'll keep you updated as to how that process goes... 

Until then, it's Singapore Slings at the Long Bar in Raffles and some clean(er) air! 

 
 
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This weekend was one of ups and downs.  Unfortunately, most notable were the downs.  Our little darling had to have a blood test to confirm her allergy to milk protein and to eliminate the possibility of her being anaemic. 

The poor little lamb hasn't been putting on weight as we'd have liked, despite our best efforts at breastfeeding and well regulated formula top-ups.  We even started importing formula from Australia as a local alternative wasn't available.  This was obviously hugely expensive, and we wanted to be certain that we were doing the right thing.  Fortunately on Saturday we were able to see a paediatric allergy specialist and went to take some blood. 

Our doctor had recommended someone at the hospital who she trusted with taking blood from an infant, but, of course, she wasn't working that day and we had to deal with the regular staff.  Now I'm certain that the nurses are perfectly capable of taking blood samples from grown humans, but when it came to our baby and her tiny little veins, they were at a loss. 

We had specifically requested that someone senior, preferably with this kind of experience, do the draw.  Of course, we were met with the typical "yes sir/ma'am" and the vacant stare of the nurse who could've been 12 years old.  Of course, no one with this experience came and the nurses that were there tried to withdraw her blood (and a few who just wanted to check out the white baby, like she's some sort of unicorn).  What resulted was three unusable vials of haemolysed blood, a crying mum, and one very, very upset baby.  I've never heard such screaming - the haunting type that you'd expect from some horrendously violent crime that scars all who hear it.  Of course we weren't told that the sample was useless until well after we'd left the hospital and were trying hard to forget her blood-curdling cries.  We had to go back the next day. 

On Sunday, it wasn't much better.  We were already mad that they'd messed up the first sample and they weren't doing anything to help themselves out a second time.  Again we demanded that someone competent be there to draw blood, and again, we were told that the pre-pubescent nurse before us was the most senior person in the building.  Eventually someone in a lab coat turned up, who at least looked credible.  She and her team went about searching for veins in our baby's little arms, and again, looked at us as if to say "where did you put them?".  Less than impressed, I helped to hold her down and Meg tried to escape her terrible wail.  I don't know why it takes three people to restrain a two month old baby, but it did, and again, a vein couldn't be properly located.  Instead of starting again, the nurse began to move the needle around in the hope of literally landing a 'stab in the dark'.  Eventually, after another nurse had a crack at our little ball of agony, they worked out that the sample again couldn't be used.  They went on to tell us that her screaming had affected the sample, but they'd be willing to try again after a few minutes... 

I don't get mad very often at all, but when a doctor finally turned up and told us that they'd do the exact same thing again, and anticipated a different result, I almost lost it.  My inner Hulk was beginning to rear his rabid green head.  Eventually they conceded that it could've been a lack of skill from the nurse that was affecting the sample, our baby didn't have haemolysed blood running through her veins, and that the sample was sufficient to complete some of the tests we'd paid for, just not all.  My rage was subsiding, but it wasn't going to disappear.  Not without a lot of wine. 

In the end we got her out of there and met some friends for lunch (and lots of wine).  With little cotton balls taped to her junkie-like elbows, Ava slept like I've never seen.  She must've been exhausted by the experience, and was probably doing her best to delete the whole weekend from her very limited bank of memories. 

Already a few friends have shared with me their very similar horror stories.  Although it doesn't make me feel any better, it's always good to know that we're not alone in this.  It also gave us a great indication as to what to expect in the future...  It does inspire me to dust off my old medical books though.  I'd much rather do it myself than have that experience ever again! 

 
 
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Further to our last post about surviving with toddlers, yesterday we got a bit of a peek into the life of kid's birthdays: we'd scored an invite to a party for one of our friends' sons party.  I'd never really been to a child's party before - there had been some others, but this was my first with a child of my own, so I was paying a lot more attention. 

There were kids ranging from two weeks to about 5 years old, and although there weren't many, it seemed like there were hundreds.  All laughing, running, playing, squealing, splashing; they were having the time of their lives!  It was amazing to see so many kids enjoying themselves so much. 

And the parents were extremely well catered for, too.  The other expats sure know how to entertain a crowd.  I'm not ashamed to say that I got in on the mini hot dogs & sausage rolls, as well as a good dose of ice cream...  All in all, it was an incredibly well orchestrated event - they certainly set the bar high, following it up will be a tough act! 

Little Ava handled it all incredibly well, she had her fair share of attention, with many parents stopping in to reminisce about when their little one was her age...  So quiet & immobile...  it made us appreciate so much how tiny she was, but also how much she has ahead of her.  How she'll have friends like those kids, she'll play & run & laugh, and how much we can't wait until she grows up to be a pretty little girl joining in on all that fun! 

 
 
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Recently we've had the opportunity to babysit a newborn for some friends of ours, as well as our 5 year old nephew (not at the same time, thankfully).  The experience was nothing short of eye-opening...

Our friends' baby is an awesome kid, as is our nephew, but having two at a time is definitely not something that we're keen to get into for a long time...  At least until we've forgotten how much work a newborn is! 

We found out pretty quickly how much work it was with the 3-week-old.  Pushing two strollers and trying to eat breakfast was a bit more than we were ready for - lots of swapping hands, waiting for each other to finish so we can change hands, and amusingly, lots of telling people that they weren't twins...

With the 5-year-old, it was a similar yet completely different story.  While he was amazingly gentle around her, the amount of energy required to keep up with him was staggering!  Always wanting to play, to talk, to eat...  While all we wanted to do was to keep our baby satisfied, it was impossible to balance the two.   While we do want a second child, at some stage, it was a good way to work out just how difficult it would be.  To those parents who have lots of little children around the same age, well done!  You've done better than we will! 

I think we're both fully convinced that our second will be a few years away, only when overwhelmed with a toddler will we think "newborns are so easy, we should have another one of them".