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My Experience of Confinement and Hand Pulled Noodles/Mee Hoon Kuey

It’s nearly week 4 of my confinement. I am very blessed. Having my parents and grandmother travel from Singapore to help out as we get used to having a baby. My very generous mother took time off work and as a family, we decided that they will be spending 2+ months with us. It’s a big deal, as not only does little Asher has a chance to know his grandparents and great-grandmother, we have not stayed together under one roof since I was 16 for such a long period of time.

Confinement, as the name suggests, indicate that I am confined to at home during the first month of Asher’s life or post delivery. While many would say confinement is like “jail at home”, I begged to differ. For most of it, I agree with the concept. This month is used more for recovery and getting used to parenthood to a new infant with help from women who have been through it. Not to mention, I enjoy the confinement food;which is meant to restore energy and nourishment to the body.

I did break a few rules of course. Traditionally, I’m not allowed to wash my hair. Well, rest assured, I did wash my hair but probably every few days. Given that it is winter and I’m not in humid Singapore, that does not bother me. Grandma explained I have to keep my body warm to prevent any future illnesses. Well, I guess I did listen by showering and washing my hair in hot water and blow drying it immediately.

Then of course, there is this myth that one should not drink water as that causes water retention. As I am breastfeeding, I need to keep the hydration up so I drank a combination of water and the warm logan/red date/ginger drink. My poor mother has to keep reminding me to drink it to the point she would give me a mug of it while I breastfeed.

Usually the baby is looked after by the confinement lady (which in this case, my whole family) to provide maximum rest for the new mother. Asher is sleeping with us though, and most of his needs are taken care by us. While it is tiring, my mother understood that it is important for breastfeeding reasons. My family stepped in to look after Asher, so that I can take a nap or shower during the day.

Confinement means I am not allowed out. Well, I broke that twice. Once when I needed some documents signed so it was a quick 30 mins trip, whereas the other time, I could not resist and headed to a children and baby expo that was held once a year. My mother went with me and we had a great time being out. The expo was indoors though and we kept it fairly short.

My mum prepared most of the food, with many of it ginger based. Due to my surgery, Mum lessen the amount of ginger as it was said that to much “heat producing” food might cause infections. Nevertheless, I enjoyed all the meals for numerous reasons. While I love cooking, it’s really lovely having mum looking after me (!) and it is one less thing I need to worry about while I get to know Asher better.

As the month ends, I will be glad to be able to go out for walks (I’m very eager to shed the baby weight), and run errands. I’m glad that while my family is pro-confinement, they also respect our wishes and allowed me to wash my hair, look after Asher and looked after all the other necessities! It’s a luxury and one that I am basked in the love and sacrifice of my family.

 I’m still quite behind in blogging my adventures of cooking before I delivered. In actual fact, I have bookmarked quite a few things I want to do when I am not working. Hubby commented that he really enjoyed me being a “housewife/domestic engineer” during that period of time!

Hand Torn Noodles or Mee Hoon Kuey is one of it. In theory, it is a really simple hawker dish to make. However, it requires time to do it. I chose it because I recall the happy memories that went with it. It was a dish of choice when I hang out with my dearest of friends. Three girls, sharing two bowls. One would prefer the meat, the other likes the vegetables in it. I’m the one who benefited the most- I like everything in the bowl of mee hoon kuey with extra chill.

There are many recipes out there for Mee Hoon Kuey, but I quite like this one. I added soya beans to the dried anchovies broth which I believe imparts a sweeter flavour. The other thing I changed, was to microwave some anchovies to make it crispy- rather than frying it in oil. The negative about it is that I couldn’t keep it crisp for a long time. I burnt two batches of it before getting the timing of the microwave right too.

The dough can’t be kept so this dish is best eaten fresh.

Next post- Asher’s full month celebration!

Hand Torn Noodles or Mee Hoon Kuey (Serves 2)
2 cups of flour
1 egg
1 tsp of oil
1/2 cup of water

1/2 cup of dried anchovies
1/4 cup of soya bean
2 litres of water

handful of anchovies
mince pork marinated with soy, pepper and sesame oil
a bunch of choy sum

To make the broth- boil everything for a hour or so

Start with the noodles- In a mixer with a dough hook, make a well in the flour. Add egg, salt and oil. Turn beater on and mix. Once it comes together, continue the beater till it becomes soft and springy. You can also do this by hand. Rest dough in a clean bowl for an hour.

Meanwhile, crisp the anchovies in the microwave by placing them on a plate. Microwave high for 30 seconds first. If they are crisp, great! If not, try for another 30 seconds.

Cook mince meat in a pan by heating some oil and frying it. Set it aside.

Once dough is ready, roll it out. Tear them into pieces.

Re boil the broth. Add dough in and cook till it floats up. Add choy sum and cook till done (That will take 30 seconds). Crack an egg in a small bowl and pour it in. Quickly dish the broth, hand pulled noodles, egg and veges into your serving bowl. The egg should be lightly poached. Top noodles with crisp anchovies, mince meat and chill.

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The Aftermath of Delivery- and Sweet potato and Coconut Balls

What a whirlwind three weeks. The promotion of a “parent” means we hardly have any sleep. They say sleep deprivation is the worse kind of torture and I think I understand why!

Many of my friends ask me if it was true that when a mum sees her baby, the pain is forgotten.  My answer to that is….. no. Contraction pain is like cramps, except it grows in intensity and later on, frequency. It is also called labour for a reason- pushing really takes energy and technique. The pushing pain is very different to contraction pains, since the theory is that we are working with the contractions to push. It takes stamina and strength. I was sweating buckets. Hubby told me after that the room was cool but all I recall was feeling really hot and sweaty.

The pain that I remember most is the recovery. Coming back from theatre, I had to wear special socks to prevent DVT. I have a borderline blood disorder that makes me slightly more susceptible to clots, plus the heavy duty epidural for the surgery means this risk has increased. The socks were uncomfortable and it came with a pump which is suppose to increase blood flow. I felt stuck to bed. Once the epidural starts wearing off, slowly and surely, I begin to feel the soreness and tenderness. One good thing is after delivery,the hospital staff is very willing to provide pain relief and at that point, I had to take some.

Holding Asher was difficult but I managed to later that afternoon and breast feeding began. It wasn’t ideal as I couldn’t begin breast feeding soon after he is born. Luckily though, Asher was keen and a few days later, my milk came in.

Within 6 hours, I managed to get out of bed and walked a couple of steps. The next day, I managed to shower. I still couldn’t move smoothly and needed the midwife or hubby’s help to carry baby to me. The pain in day 3 appears to be the worst, and I was tired easily even though all I did was to feed Asher , eat, sleep and walk around my room! However, by the end of week 1, while I was still waddling and feeling weak, I could get out of the bed smoothly.

Fortunately, physiotherapists at the ward provided ultrasound services which helped quicken recovery for tears. I stayed in hospital for 6 days (as Asher had jaundice) and I received physio treatment for 5 days. That, ice and pelvic floor exercises helped. Oh and a soft cushion on a hard chair!

While I did not forget the pain, I did not forget the joy either. I’m still a little in disbelief that we have a son. Or the amazement that he was in me just a mere 3 weeks ago. While I’m still not fully recovered, and goodness know when I can return to the gym, at least I can walk and move better now.

 To change the topic drastically, I wanted to share this recipe before I delivered. I made this in a week before Asher was born. When I was on leave, have plenty of sleep and had a big tummy. These sweet little things are kuehs. Kuehs are not really a dessert but a tea time treat. In all honesty, I have never had this kueh before. I saw it in the recipe book by Andrew Koh “Nonya Kueh Passions”. I think it is probably a modern version of ondeh ondeh.

Chewy on the outside and a sweet red bean paste on the inside, I was pleased with the outcome. The recipe did not state how many one can made. It reckon I made 80 of them!! Hubby had to take them to work and I was giving them away to other friends.

Sweet Potato and Coconut Balls (Made 80)
500 grams glutinous rice flour
50 grams sugar
450 ml water
350 grams mashed sweet potato
100 grams butter

100 grams wheat flour
150ml warm water

100 grams desiccated coconut
pinch of salt
500 grams red bean paste

Mix desiccated coconut with salt. Set aside.

Steam or microwave the red bean paste so it is slightly warm and soft. Mine was a pre packaged from the fridge.

Mix wheat flour and warm water together till it form a cooked dough. Place this dough with rice flour, sugar, water, sweet potato and butter together. Blend till a dough is formed.

Divide dough into tablespoons. Wrap a tsp of red bean paste in the dough. Cook the dough in a pot of boiling water. It will float up when it is done. Coat it with desiccated coconut.

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Birth Story of Asher

 Asher-fresh out of the oven

Hello! The two weeks absence probably indicate to you that we have welcomed our little bundle of joy into our lives. He arrived on the Wednesday 24th of July- a day before his due date. I’m a little biased but I do think he is very adorable.

It started in the morning of Tuesday the 23rd of July (you might noticed that was the last posting date as well!). I experienced a little spotting and mild cramping- nothing to worry about, but I rang the hospital anyway. I was scheduled to see my obstetrician at mid day so they advised that i keep to that appointment instead of going into the hospital for a check. Doc said my body is getting ready for labour and it could happen anytime now.

After the appointment, hubby and I took my mum out for lunch, and even headed to down to do some shopping. Mum wanted more herbs to prepare herbal soups for me and I willingly obliged. I recall asking my mum to slow down as I could feel the cramps, and she laughed saying that for a heavily pregnant woman, i was already walking fast.

Asher 3 days young

The rest of the evening was uneventful. I helped mum prepare dinner and as a family, we sat down for a meal. For some reason, by 9:30pm, the rest of my family decided to head to bed. Hubby and I sat in our living room and decided to watch some television. He joked that perhaps he should start timing my “cramps” just for a trial run. By 10pm, I said, probably a good idea to time the cramps. That was a good move, because by 11pm, those “cramps” were getting stronger. Perhaps I was in denial because I still did not think those were contractions. That continued till hubby informed me they were around 3-4 minutes apart with some being 2 minutes apart. We called the hospital who informed us that it would be good if we could stay at home, but they will be ready for us whenever we want to come in. I managed to wait till it was 1am, when the contractions were steadily increasingly in frequency and intensity and decided to take the drive to the hospital. Speaking of which, no one in my family knew we were in hospital till the next day.

Now, during this whole period of time, hubby tried his best to offer me massages, TENS machine, hot shower but all I wanted was to bend down at the peak of the contractions, and throw up. You know those back rub videos that you may see for women at labour? Well, I didn’t want any of those! I just wanted to hold his hand or his clothes to get through that pain.

At the hospital, I was quickly wheeled to the delivery suite when the nurses at the Emergency rooms learned that my contractions were only 3 mins apart and growing in intensity. They said usually women are there when it is 10 mins, not 4 mins! I got changed and was hooked up to a machine to check the contractions and heart rate. An internal (which even that I needed gas for!) revealed I was 4-5cm dilated already. She said, I am definitely not going home now. Well, all the walking in the afternoon probably worked!

I opted for epidural and had one done quite quickly and painlessly by 3am.  Gas just didn’t seem to be effective and I did not want pethidine. The midwife informed me that I was lucky that one of the best anaesthetist was on duty that day. Phew- someone with a steady hand I hope! God is good though, and Dr Alan put me at ease immediately.

One thing I noted was epidural made me shiver like crazy! Soon after, I was able to rest and napped till morning. A new mid wife greeted me at 7am and said I will see my baby today. Helene was her name. Soon after at around 9am, I was throwing up again. She thought that could indicate I was in transition. A quick check and it revealed I was 8 cm dilated.

My doc arrived at 10:30am and broke my waters. Things seem to happen quite quickly after that and I recall Helene told me I was fully dilated by 11:30 and ready to push. My epidural was also wearing off, but I was informed it would be better for me not to top it up at that time. I agreed. The pushing was probably the most tiring bit- I felt that I was pushing none stop through that time. Helene and hubby guided me, encouraging me, giving me cold towels and sips of water. I vaguely remembered other midwives trying to call my doctor but nobody could contact him for a while.

By 12:30, I was exhausted. My doctor finally arrived. I recall him seeing me push and told me that I was so close. Later, hubby informed me that bub’s head was nearly crowning but for some reason, the last few pushes did not seem to progress. Doc came to me and said “Daphne, remember what we discussed about using a little suction cup, I’m going to help you with that”. So I had a little cut, the vacuum was applied and I pushed. Asher was born just before 1pm. His screams could be heard nearly immediately and the doctor and midwife laughed and said we have a feisty one in our hands.

He was placed on me and all I could think of is that “Oh my, he has a head full of hair and is chubbier than what I thought!”. At 3.35 kg or 7.6 pounds, 49 cm long, he is sturdy.

Asher-6days young

Unfortunately, despite my doctor’s best intentions, Asher’s head bear down in his hurry to greet us. The doctor tried his best to patch me back, but eventually I was told that I needed to “head down to a room with better lights so that he could stitch me up properly as I have 3rd degree tears”. Which was translated to I needed surgery. Before I knew it, I was in theatre with a heavy dose of epidural and being stitched up. I managed to avoid the catheter throughout the labour process and now I needed one for surgery!  Hubby stayed with Asher in our room.

I returned back to the maternity ward at 2:30pm. All I wanted was to carry my little baby boy in my arms.

While the recovery from a 3rd degree tear wasn’t pleasant. I was pleased that at least I managed a delivery without any inducement drugs (since it is quite common to have it with epidural). I had a fabulous midwife- Helene who kept my spirits up and a doctor who came to me afterwards and said “you did what most would say is one of the hardest thing a woman has done- you should be proud of yourself” No doubt he probably said it to most women who delivered, but it certainly made me feel better about the process.

I have nothing by admiration for hubby. He witnessed the whole birth and was not scarred by the process (so he told me). He cuddled and looked after Asher by himself when I was in theatre. This is the man who made babies cry at supermarkets and dared not hold a new born infant. Now at home, I can say he changed diapers quicker than myself and could soothe Asher whenever it was needed. He hugged me and said he is very proud of me and our newborn. When I couldn’t get out of bed fast enough (due to the tears), he carried bub to me.

After the birth, we had to stay in the hospital for 6 days due to my “battle wounds” as doc puts it and Asher’s jaundice. While I was well looked after at the hospital, nothing beats being at home!!!

Glancing at our peacefully sleeping newborn (although at 3am in the morning, he wasn’t as peaceful!!) now, life will never be the same again. Yet somehow, we have a sense of pride that our little miracle has arrived. The miracle that we were told we will never going to have. He is testament to faith and love. Parenthood has started with its challenges already but we rather have that than not to experience it.

Asher’s name means blessed and happy. It is from the old testament of the Bible where Asher is the 8th son of Jacob.

While I am still waddling, and managing the best I can with my wounds- with prayers that there will be no long term damage, I’m taking motherhood all in.

I’m in confinement now but will definitely be posting during this period of time whenever I can!

asher-8days young

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