• The highs and lows of preemie parenthood (aka when all your plans go out the window!)

    He just couldn’t wait a moment longer. And when your baby decides it’s time to join the world, there’s not a lot you can do about it!

    Our son’s changed our lives irrevocably and I don’t think I’ve quite adjusted to the fact that this is my new reality.

    And now here we are, tasked with spending the rest of our lives keeping this little guy alive. Crazy.

    An exorcism (the birth story)

    It all started on a Monday evening…

    We were walking the dogs after dinner when I thought I felt my first Braxton Hicks (an assumption based on being 36 weeks). They kept coming once we got home and eventually I started timing – 5-7 mins apart, almost like clockwork.

    There was no sleep for me that night as they started to get a bit stronger; I muddled through with some Birthful podcast episodes I hadn’t got to yet, and one from Michelle is Money Hungry 😉 – all while rotating through tons of positions. Lying, standing, kneeling, sitting, with and without cushions, etc. At one point I went rooting around the house for paracetamol, and though I finally found some, it did crap all for the pain.

    Tuesday morning came at last…

    And with it, what looked like my bloody show. At that point it really started to sink in that this was likely real labour, and I started to get scared.

    Doubly so an hour or so later, when I started bleeding a bit and called my midwife. I’d texted her earlier and she’s said it could still be a few days, and to try to relax – that hopefully we could make it to 37 weeks! But a photo of my bloody pad was enough to convince her it was time to go in. Being so early, no birthing centre for me 😥 instead, it was off to the hospital.

    A little old lady volunteer popped me in a wheelchair and took me to maternity, where my midwife turned up shortly after and set me up in a room. It was nothing like I’d envisioned birth, though of course I knew better than to fixate on anything about this whole process. Still, I never really imagined I’d be on a bed, hooked up to a baby heartbeat monitor and also an IV.

    A doctor came in to examine me and Spud was fine, luckily, but labour wasn’t really progressing (contractions not speeding up, dilation stuck around 4cm) so eventually they broke my waters on the bed.

    That sped things up, and I got on the gas not long after. We prepared for an epidural as well since we were in hospital but I was still keen to try get through without.

    I got off the bed and was sitting backwards on a chair, with the gas basically putting me to sleep between contractions (a welcome relief to super sleep deprived me). At some point it all intensified and I knew I had to change positions as it was getting unbearable … like the most epic bouts of constipation ever.

    That’s when I hopped back on the bed, hanging on to the raised back for dear life. I hadn’t got round to creating a birthing playlist, so my Happy playlist had to get me through. At some point I kind of lost consciousness, retreating into myself as each wave came faster. I couldn’t focus on active birthing techniques anymore, only sucking on the gas to get through, sliding down the bed every time.

    What if I can’t do this? I wondered. I might need something more.

    The next level up would be morphine, they said, but it could slow things down (which I definitely did not want). They knew I was close, I guess, and kept encouraging me through.

    Pushing on my lower back helped with the pain, and cold flannels on my face and neck were a big relief. I was sweating buckets, not helped by whatever they were doing in the background to get ready for Spud that apparently included heating the room. I could hear a flurry of activity around and behind me, and that was reassuring – I didn’t have the energy to speak and ask but figured they must be setting up for the final stage.

    Someone else came in to help and introduced herself just as I hit a big one and all I greeted her with was a scream. Likewise, the person bringing in my dinner tray (seriously, a little preoccupied right now!).

    I remember my midwife commenting on the giant backpack we brought, which led to them talking about our RTW trip. If I’d had the capacity I would have yelled shut the fuck up why are you talking about travel right now when I’m dying?!

    I think I pushed for less than an hour – though at the time it seemed eternal. Making progress and then regressing, never ending and disheartening. Screaming bloody murder.

    By the time he came out at 6.59pm, 24 hours after those first contractions, I was SHATTERED and had zero interest in this weird dirty bundle. But they put him on me, and after taking a few minutes to recover and come back to the present, I was ready to marvel at him.

    Although they used a local anaesthetic to stitch me up I could still feel them somewhat – and frankly the injections and the stitches were about on par with each other… He came out with one hand up which apparently is what caused the tearing (thanks dude).

    As we wound things up, I could hear another woman somewhere else in the ward shouting I can’t do this!

    I wanted to yell back you can and you will. Cheesy as it sounds, that day and every one since, has hammered home just how much strength lies within us.

    I may not have gotten the birthing pool, the walking around, or any of that, but it all worked out in the end.

    Highs

    Feeling like a badass for getting through labour!

    Luckily I didn’t experience the ring of fire, and going to the toilet post partum wasn’t too bad.

    Surviving my first diaper change, tarry black poop and all.

    All the well wishes and support from everyone. I swear, anyone I’ve ever known has reached out, and everyone one I even vaguely know with kids has offered advice and congratulations. It’s like we’ve been inducted into this secret club, in a way. This week has definitely been social media at its best 🙂

    T organising a brief escape on Saturday morning – I needed that respite. We just went home to hang out with the animals, enjoy some normalcy for an hour and so I could see all the work he’d done to get the house ready.

    Coming home on Sunday. Nuff said!

    Lows

    Spending 5 nights in hospital. Playing the waiting game every day, not knowing if we would get discharged or not. First it was concerns about his weight and whether he was producing enough wet diapers, then it was jaundice.

    T telling me how hard it was for him to leave us every day after visiting and how it made him sadder each time. Broke my heart.

    Pumping (they got me onto pumping after the second night) and having the lactation consultant all over my boobs (yes I know it’s her job). Particularly at night – the feed, burp, change cycle was manageable but adding a pumping session with all the logistics after every feed as well – ugh. Trying to soothe him while hooked up to the machine at 4am was a major low.

    Nights 3 and 4 by myself in the hospital. See above. Wrangling everything was so hard and lonely and depressing. (Partners can’t stay overnight in hospital. That said, we were in a private room the last two nights, because of the jaundice / UV lights, and kinda smuggled him in on the last night. While it didn’t take as much off the load as I’d hoped, just not being alone with baby helped immensely.)

  • You don’t have to optimise EVERY minute of your life

    you dont have to optimise every minute

     

    First trimester exhaustion is no joke.

    Probably not helping was what I’m pretty sure was a light spell of flu or a terrible cold around the second month thrown in there.

    However much was due to my growing a human vs legit illness, I spent literally weeks out of action beyond making it to work and home again (and not even that, some days). Evenings and weekends, the only place you’d find me was flat on my back in bed. And even now, my (never great) energy levels aren’t what they used to be, so I need even more rest and sleep than normal. On top of that, the occasional dizzy spell likes to come out of  nowhere, relegating me to the nearest seat (or better, bed) to recover.

    I had to get over my guilt about doing nothing pretty quick smart, and embrace marathoning Jane the Virgin.

    A happiness hack

    Separately, I’d already been working for a while on reframing how I think about the nonproductive hours in my week.

    I guess you could even spin it as optimising my time, though maybe not in the traditional way.

    The things is, I hate waiting. Seriously hate it.

    But instead of resenting the commute, I’m starting to enjoy it (maybe even look forward to it sometimes) as it’s often the only time I can carve out to decompress and meditate.

    And now that the days are getting shorter and it’s dark earlier, I’m switching it up. Normally I bus to the train station in the morning, and walk home from the train in the evening; these days I’m walking in the morning (bonus: it warms me up for the day, gets the blood flowing on wintry mornings!) and bus back from the station home.

    The same with walking the dogs. It’s gotta be done. Sometimes it can be doubled up as a run for me, but not every walk can be a run – and these days I’m just not up for running at all, to be honest. Some walks need to be training walks, and some need to be relaxing sniffy walks where they can just be dogs – walks when I can let my mind roam free and work on visualisations and mantras.

    Rather than impatiently waiting for these ‘unproductive’ times to end, I’m trying to use them in better ways. Repurposing them from hours to be endured with the help of Spotify and podcasts, to precious flow and meditation time.

     

     

     

  • Big news: life’s about to change (and there’s no going back)

    Baby fever/biological clock, whatever you want to call it, hit me hard in the past couple of years. It just crept up.

    But I have always been acutely aware of the pressure that being the breadwinner places on me. What if health issues meant I had to stop work early? What if I went into labour prematurely (as happened to a coworker at my last job, whose waters broke at the office weeks early)? or what if my own, or the kid’s health, stopped me returning to work as planned?

    I’m really lucky to currently have an employer that provides good benefits, including paid parental leave over and above the (pretty pathetic) legal requirements. I won’t lie, this was a big draw for me. Which brings me to my point…

    I’m growing a human!

    Terrifying, but exciting.

    Which means … I’ve survived the first trimester, and you’ll get to hear all about my experiences with the maternity system, gripes about gender and societal stuff, and the financial side too. I Have Thoughts. And I will be sharing them.

    But for now, all I have to say is: carbs are life. The aversions and appetite changes/ups and downs are no joke. I’m living for super plain food (cereal/toast etc) … or curry (what can I say, Malaysian/Indian is my comfort food). And lemonade – so much lemonade.

     

  • Selfish is not a swear word. Embrace it! #WomenRockMoney

    Selfish is not a dirty word. Look out for your finances first!

    Being selfless is good. Selfish is a dirty word. Right?!

    Nay, my friends. On the contrary. Learning to be selfish is the single best thing you can do for your finances. (And life in general.) If there’s one thing I’ve learned over and over in my 20s, it is the importance of putting myself squarely first.

    It is the key to making more money, to hanging on to your money, and that is what will enable you to build the life you want – and ultimately, give back consciously and deliberately in ways that are meaningful for you.

    It’s particularly important for women, I think. We tend to struggle more with self-confidence, imposter syndrome and negotiating; bad relationships tend to be more financially devastating for us. And that is where selfishness comes into play.

    Here are my best tips for stepping up your game, based off my personal experiences and observations of others around me.

    Be an advocate for yourself

    Let’s face it, nobody else will. No one else will put your best financial interests first. Your employer does not exist to help you make money. It’s up to you to learn to track your accomplishments, trot them out, and use that to ask for raises or negotiate higher salaries. Those who don’t ask, don’t get.

    (Well, generally. Some will do the right thing – when I applied for my first non-journalism job, I secretly wanted to make $60k but I couldn’t, deep down, fathom anyone paying me that much. It just seemed outrageous. So on the application form, I wrote $58k in the desired salary field. They offered me $65k – a full 12% more. But it would be a mistake to count on any employer ever doing that again!)

    Listen to your mentors

    Okay, so maybe you need an external nudge? Hopefully, you have senior people to give you a reality check! Take their advice. 

    One told me to ask for a raise. I didn’t. I was planning to go travelling soon, which would either mean taking extended leave or resigning, and it seemed like bad faith to ask for more money right before that. Plus, I had terrible imposter syndrome and suspected I was overpaid. Ugh.

    Another told me to quote high on some freelance work. I took that on board, and as a result, for the first time ever, charged $50 an hour. A preposterous sum of money to me, probably a fair professional rate in their view.

    Do not give too much away

    You work hard for the money. Don’t let it trickle away with lax boundaries.

    I’m talking about giving too much to the people closest to you. You might feel obligated to help them out with money, or they might actually outright pressure you into it.

    Don’t do it. You must put your own financial security first. That has to be your top priority. You will know when you can afford to be generous, and in most cases, this is not that time.

    Get over your mental blocks

    Easier said than done, I know.

    There are so many messy messages wrapped up with money. You might think making money means selling out. There’s nobility in being a struggling artist. Rich people are assholes. Liking money makes you greedy or a bad person somehow.

    If you stop to really reflect on your most deep-rooted perceptions around money, and wheel them out for inspection in broad daylight, you start to realise how unfounded and illogical many of them are.

    There is nothing wrong with earning or enjoying money. Sure, if you were a tosser before, you’ll still be a tosser – having money won’t change that. But if you’re a decent human being, having money won’t change that either. If you’re starting from a reasonable baseline, then you’re good. You’ll still be you. Promise.

    And selfishly? If you’re anything like me, you have dreams and those dreams ain’t free.

    I’m a frugal person naturally. It’s my default mode.

    But you know what I hate? Being constrained financially. Being FORCED into frugality, into cutting costs and pinching pennies. I never want to be limited by money. Particularly as we live in a capitalist society, where inflation ensures life only gets more (not less) expensive.

    There’s no use feeling guilty about your financial situation, either. So lots of people do much harder jobs for lower pay; so some people struggle. The answer does not lie with you. If you were to earn less, this would not magically level the field for everyone. You having more does not mean someone else automatically has less. Your success does not take anything away from others. If anything, you could argue it’s your responsibility to reach your maximum earning potential so that you can use that money to give back.

    Go get it.


    After more inspiration? Head over here this International Women’s Day and have a read of all the other awesome #WomenRockMoney content.

     

     

     

  • Hope for the best, plan for the worst: On balancing a positive mindset with our pesky mate Murphy

    Why you should hope for the best but plan for the worst

    I’m a big believer in Murphy’s law. A bit of a pessimist that way. Particularly when it comes to finances.

    I’m also a more recent convert to positive thinking, the power of mindset and yeah, maybe even manifestation to an extent.

    Which leaves me struggling a bit to reconcile the two approaches. They seem at odds, right?

    A few years ago I made the conscious choice to try and shift my thinking on the regular, and make an effort to switch up my default state.

    Amazingly … it made a difference. I wouldn’t say it changed my core personality – I’m definitely still a realist, with the same sarcastic tongue and sense of humour – but it actually did wonders for my state of mind and made me a more pleasant person to be around.

    Last year I really started to delve more into mindset, with books like Think and Grow Rich, You Are a Badass at Making Money, Secrets of Six-Figure Women.

    Hell, I even changed my passwords like some say to do, so that your goal is front of mind each time you type it in.

    Is it helping? Can’t hurt, I figure … there’s nothing to lose. At the very least, it reminds me of my goals multiple times a day.

    Of course, not everything is within our control and shit happens. Positive thinking doesn’t mean burying your head in the sand and blinding yourself to reality.

    But it can definitely shore up your ability to cope with setbacks and manage stress. I’ve found that opening up my mind like this has led to me to see more possibilities and think differently in order to succeed.

    Balancing these viewpoints, I’ve come to realise that this is something I’ve basically always proclaimed to aspire to:

    Live for today, save for tomorrow.

    Hope for the best, but also, plan for the worst.

    What would yours be?

  • Productive worrying vs pointless spiralling: How I stop myself from freaking out about money

    how to stop worrying about money

     

    $&@*!!!!

    That was my reaction a few weeks ago when the first pay day of the year arrived … and I hadn’t been paid.

    My mind immediately went into overdrive.

    Where was the money?
    Was it just delayed due to the New Year public holidays?
    Had it not been processed by the finance team?
    What if I wasn’t going to get paid at all?
    What would this mean for cashflow for the next week, and the week after, and the week after, and the week after? I’d have to tap into savings, maybe take some from the house renovation fund …

    And so on and so forth. Straight into the worst case scenario and all the disastrous consequences.

    It’s so easy to spiral – but I managed to take a deep breath before spinning totally out of control and reassess.

    I had enough in that account to pay the mortgage – priority numero uno.

    Cash savings elsewhere would tide me over for all the other expenses.

    And that was all I truly needed to think about right then and there.

    No use immediately jumping to catastrophic conclusions and getting lost down the paths of endless what ifs.

    Worrying isn’t always a bad thing, if you know when to stop

    There’s the productive kind that leads to making contingency plans.

    But then there’s needless stressing. It’s like picking a scab.

    It serves no purpose whatsoever – aside, perhaps, from giving your mind something to do. And the only possible result is that you make yourself feel worse and worse as it drives you into a frenzy of fear and self pity (you know exactly what I’m talking about).

    That’s unhelpful, unhealthy, and it’s something I’ve worked hard to cut out.

    It doesn’t sound like much, but I was super proud of myself for catching myself in the act and nipping it in the bud.

    Because as it turns out, my biggest downfall is my own hyperactive mind. Some might abuse substances, or food; my destructive behaviour manifests as compulsive, obsessive stressing.

    Happy ending! The money came through sometime between then and the next time I checked back – which I refrained from doing until the next day. All that fretting would have been for nothing.

    The urge to scratch that itch was strong, but every time I stamp it down it gets a little easier.

    Rewiring your mind

    Another example: several months ago I got a letter from the owner/landlord of the neighbouring property. They wanted to put up a new fence … and their estimate was over $6,000, or $3,000 for my half.

    Now, a new fence is on the roadmap for us, and it’s something we wanted to get done anyway. But not just yet (the kitchen comes first) and certainly not at that price. $3k for a fence was not in the budget any time soon.

    I stressed out majorly about this. Raged, worried, spent ages researching the law and our obligations. Wrote back outlining my viewpoint and countering their proposal (which boiled down to, we do not currently have the funds or desire to do this right now).

    Then it was just a matter of waiting. Time enough for me to review the situation with a clearer mind and reassure myself that even if this were to go ahead, I could absorb the expense. Sure, it would make a massive dent in my savings and postpone our kitchen project for who knows how long … but it wouldn’t ruin me.

    Time passed and no response came, so: crisis averted. We can tackle the fence later when we’re in a position to do so.

    And that was a huge exercise in resetting my emotional reactions, and a big leap forward for me. In fact, I think it was my biggest breakthrough in terms of stopping the spiral before it went too far.

    Breaking the cycle

    Since then, I’ve taught myself to allow less and less time to freak the fuck out, and more quickly move on to considering the options, and accepting the possible outcomes.

    Overwriting that thought pattern takes time, just like building any muscle or habit. Developing the self awareness and self control so that you can catch yourself before the worrying stops being productive and crosses over into self flagellation.

    You’ve got to be able to recognise when you’re heading down that path, and make the choice to break the cycle right there.

    It’ll do wonders for your happiness. Seriously, learning to not let my scarcity mindset drag me down is probably my favourite life hack ever.

  • Do the right thing, dammit (even if it’s not the easy thing)

    WHY IT PAYS TO DO THE RIGHT THING

    The right thing and the easy thing are never the same.

    Ain’t that the truth?

     

    Thing is, taking the easy way out will often backfire. Laziness, procrastination, whatever you want to call it … sometimes it comes back to bite you square on the butt.

    And I don’t know about you, but very few things annoy me quite as much as putting things off for later only for it to come back and cost me later.

    How laziness can be expensive, in two case studies:

    Example A: The oil leak

    Our car boot has been home to a spear (as in spearfishing) for awhile – it’s just been kicking around in there since a mate left it there.

    Then we bought some oil for the car, since it’s about due for a service. Left that in the boot too, until a few days later when T went to retrieve it …

    Cue oil leak. The dang spear pierced the bottom of the oil bottle and about 80% of the contents leaked, seeping into the boot carpeting and down into the spare tyre alcove (at least the cap didn’t come off, a gushing flood would have been SO much worse).

    To add insult to injury, we have a protective rubber liner that usually lives on the boot floor but had been putting off putting it back in after taking it out for a cleaning ages ago. If that had been in place, it would have been much tidier and made cleaning up a cinch.

    The damage: about $50 in oil and the subsequent cleanup.

    Example B: The water leak

    We took out part of a wall over the holidays, as part of the kitchen project. We did get an absolute steal on the labour because we know the guys, but they are legit building professionals.

    Afterward, they apparently swept a bunch of the detritus straight through the hole in the floor, under the house. I learned this too late, and was wringing my hands about it (“what about the dogs?! You KNOW they like to wander underneath the house sometimes, and they could get hurt!”)

    Alas, what was done was done.

    And then a few days later I suspected a leak. Sure enough, we have a tiny little rubber water hose running below the house – it connects the main tap to our fridge (our new fridge has a cold water dispenser built in) and in their willy nilly dumping of crap through the floor instead of disposing of it properly, must have punctured the hose.

    The damage: TBC. I’m hoping it won’t have majorly impacted our water bill, given how small the hose is and the size of the hole/leak. And I doubt that amount of water will have done much damage to the house itself. But I’m still majorly annoyed about it .

    (The fix: I faced my claustrophobia and crawled under the house to snip the hose off before the leak and cap it there to stop the flow. It SUCKED but at least now I know I can handle it, dirt and all. I still, however, refuse to try to get up into the roof … that involves putting a chair in our tiny hall closet and then squeezing through an even smaller hole to reach the roof space.)

    Laziness costs money, guys.

    Ever taken the easy route and wound up regretting it?

  • A short, sweet, 2017 highlights reel

    2017 review

    Most people did their 2017 reviews in, er, 2017. Oops.

    December was a month of two halves for me: a manic first half, and then a super chilled second half in which I had zero desire to write! Hence this extremely late recap

    Work & Money

    • Delivered some cool projects
    • Joined a nonprofit board
    • Landed a new job
    • Got great feedback 4 months in
    • Reached a milestone net worth goal

    Home (er, credit mostly to T)

    • Got the veggie garden fenced off
    • Built dog kennels
    • Finished printing and framing photos for the wall
    • Began kitchen renovation

    Fitness

    • Started using the Seven app (lightning quick workouts you can do at home)
    • Experimented with fitness tracking – testing out app + watch device for a friend’s startup employer
    • Played Frisbee for the spring season (it’s, surprisingly, freaking good exercise)
    • Played touch rugby (though  not for the full season)

    Personal

    • Continued to work on Leila’s dog-dog reactivity
    • Had several fun doggy dates
    • Went to two weddings
    • Met two friends’ new babies
    • Actually picked up my guitar a few times
    • Did a LOT of inner work on mindset, stress management, etc

    I’m impatient to see what 2018 has in store for me – I can’t wait! And I may finally be coming out of the blogging dry spell I’ve been in … for the first time in months, I’ve got ideas for new posts brewing. Happy new year indeed.

  • Ever feel like you don’t deserve your good fortune?

    When you feel like you don't deserve your good fortune

    For all the work I’ve been doing on money and mindset recently, I still struggle sometimes with it all.

    The last few years have been awesome for my income growth  and financial security.

    And yet the thought keeps rearing its head: I don’t deserve this. How long can this last?

    What I’m doing to counter these doubts:

    Reminding myself there is room to grow

    I know it’s possible to do so. Salary surveys and job listings out there prove it. As do people I’ve worked with who earn more. (Of course, this leads to another dangerous path that lies in the complete opposite direction – why don’t I already make that much?)

    Remembering that me having less doesn’t make the world a better place somehow

    The starving artist, nobility is poverty mindset dies hard, I guess. And it’s ridiculous. Me struggling would do nobody any good. I try to remember to give back by donating every month, as well as trying to somewhat regularly give blood, meet up with my mentee, and I’ve also recently joined a local nonprofit board. (Another trigger for imposter syndrome right there!)

    Reviewing how far I’ve come

    I’m horrible at tracking my accomplishments. But I recently updated my CV and LinkedIn (you don’t even want to know how long that took me) and when I’m feeling down on myself professionally, I look back at some of the stuff I’ve done for reassurance.

    How do you cope when you feel like you don’t deserve what you’ve got?

     

  • You can’t always force things to happen on your timeline

    You can't force life to happen on your timeline

    All in good time.

    Things happen when they’re meant to.

    Make a plan, the universe laughs.

    Looking back, Big Life Things have happened for me when I least expected them. Often, when I’d given up entirely on them.

    Not when I was pushing, pushing, pushing.

    Not when I was fixated on them.

    Not when I was desperate.

    Much like with writing, which for me flows best not when I try to force it; but when I relax, when I’m in the right frame of mind, when the environment and circumstances are right.

    And likewise, life is funny that way. It’s always worked itself out, just not necessarily in the ways I imagined or within the timeframe I anticipated.

    It sounds woo-woo – but I’m getting more and more into the realm of woo, and liking it, with age. I’m appreciating the power of mindset, and the importance of getting into flow and alignment wherever possible.

    So this is a public commitment to myself.

    I have established my goal; now I must stop obsessing, and let it come to me when the time and circumstances are right. I’ve done my part, laid the foundations, and will continue to do my thing to make sure I’m worthy of it, and ready to identify and receive it when it appears.

    Patience, humility, and a whole lot more patience.