Monday, September 21, 2009

The importance of FOOD

After Rosabelle recovered from her 39.8 degrees high fever (upper respiratory tract infection) upon coming back from our Zhengzhou trip last month, we were thankful that she recovered in time to make the trip back to Singapore. However, there was that nagging thought of the anemia problem hanging over our heads, so when we received yet another anemia report at the KKH check-up on the first day in Singapore, my mum embarked on a mission to make sure Rosabelle had good foods and meats/spinach at every meal. She also very nicely prepared nice foods and fish soup for me to keep up the quality of my milk, heh.

But alas, it could be due to the few hectic days, the inadequate rest from the plane trips, or simply the fact that she had not fully recovered from the previous bout of fever, our dear Rosabelle fell ill again from 10 September, when she woke up with eye goo (signs of 'poo juak' - being heaty - as my mum says, and she still believes the chicken soup I had the day before caused it), and I felt she was slightly feverish. She was already on medication from the first day in Singapore, for her nagging runny nose and cough.

We then started her on fever medication and still went ahead to Vivo City for a shopping trip (canned the Sentosa leg) and my father's birthday celebration dinner at Dragon Gate restaurant at Harbourfront. I bought loads of stuff for her, like English storybooks, shoes, peripherals like cookie cutters. stroller hooks, and soup oil filters etc at Daiso (the SGD$2 store at Vivo City). Despite having a low-grade fever, she was in relatively high spirits the whole day.
However, the next day, her fever still persisted, and I guess the last straw was when my silly father thought he was doing Rosabelle a 'favor' by bringing her down to 'enjoy the aircon at the basement carpark' in her holey singlet and shorts, successfully making her alternate between extreme temperatures in her thin clothing, and she came back even more feverish (can die!). This high temperature ding-donging went on for a few days till about 13 September, with her fever going up a few hours after medication and reaching a high of 39.4 degrees. I was very tempted to go to KKH to get her adequately checked, but my brother-in-law advised that such viral fevers are normal.

In between, we had to give her two doses of suppository, and did two times of upper-body cold towel on her. She of course cried at the latter, and once even cried herself to sleep when she was so tired. She was a very good girl throughout, not struggling, and even playing with the toys set out in front of her to distract her, putting items into the pouch when I asked her to. My mum even resorted to the old grandmother's practice of boiling an egg and putting it inside a handkerchief before rubbing Rosabelle's chest and back with it (supposed to dissipate the fever, though our poor girl cried and had reddish skin after...)
The few days were just rest days for her, and my mum made soupy foods for her, and I did not dare to bring her out in case she again caught a cold. She had her naps in the well-ventilated bouncy nets, strapped in for fear of her clambering out. At night, she would sleep next to me on the big bed, and she had a habit of snuggling up to me for me to pat her, heh!
However, I guess she must have felt frustrated staying at home, especially when we were going out so much the few days prior, so we took her out on the second day to my sister's place to play with the kids during dinner (we shifted back to my mum's at SimsVille on the fourth day). She had fun and enjoyed herself in spite of her fever.
I only brought her out again the next day, and only for a quick walk downstairs to catch some fresh air. I caught her looking morose, or perhaps deep in thought as she stared out the living room window, probably pining to go outside, heh. Her last trip out was to Parkway Parade on 15 September, after she got much better, since I had a dental check-up due there in the morning. According to my sister, she enjoyed the Malay music playing at the supermarket so much she raised her arms up in the air and jived whilst sitting in the trolley, haha!
After her fever subsided, she had reddish spots (not raised) on her front and back torso, leading my mum to believe that she might have a outbreak of German measles, not contagious/dangerous/itchy but highly dangerous for unvaccinated pregnant women, so thank goodness we did not get to meet up with my ex-colleague Pauline, who is expecting right now. We were not sure about the diagnosis, but it's better safe than never, and according to Wayne who read it in a book, babies under the age of one will catch such high fevers, and develop such a rash after the fever subsides before fully recovering.

I also heard her grinding her teeth and checked during bath time - her two upper teeth were coming out, and when we came back to Beijing, the nanny told me to look closely, Rosabelle's four upper teeth were coming out at the same time. Gosh, that must explain the high fever and the crankiness... (These few days, whenever she starts wailing for no reason, I will use a Combi Xylitol wet wipe - meant especially for cleaning teeth with - to gently massage her upper gums, and she will go quiet and enjoy the comfort.)

Whatever the cause of her fever, I'm really glad that it's over, and must work doubly hard to have her gain back all the energy and weight she could have lost, poor thing!
Mainly it's through her foods... and in Singapore, we borrowed an Ikea high chair from my brother-in-law's place for her meal times.
Most of the times, she will sit obediently in the chair and finish her meal, of course getting distracted by all the on-goings around her and wanting to hold/play with things whilst eating. This trip to Singapore, she tried so many new foods/fruits - mee sua, chee cheong fun, mee tai mak, tang hoon, Honey Stars cereal, cheese, unsalted butter, waffles, yogurt, cake, garlic, long beans, yam, lotus root, corn, threadfin, Australian green pear, guava, longan, plum, soya bean curd+milk, ginkgo nut, and yellow bean. Phew!

She enjoys cheese and bread/butter alot, and my mum decided to give her more variety for breakfast than just steamed egg everyday, so she had soya bean curd+milk at times too. Now back in Beijing, I am also working with the nanny to vary the styles of egg given, and the types of breakfast given, so that Rosabelle will not get sick of steamed egg.

I must admit it was tiring at times for me as I would have to feed her for up to an hour before eating my own meal (multiply that by 3 meals a day!), and at times it was a test of patience as she would turn her head away to look at other things than focus on eating. We had to resort to sitting her with Simon and Marianne on the floor at the coffee table during the last few days and even chase her around with food, yikes! Thank goodness my sister's domestic help, Riza, was around to help with some of the feeding, and my sis and mum were on hand to help with bath/changing times, as well as having my Dad, brother-in-law, and the kids playing with her.

Another bad habit she picked up in Singapore was to have me feed her using my hands. Maybe she did not like her usual metal spoon because she was teething, but she would open her mouth if I used my hand, and only opened her mouth wide enough for soups. We are now feeding her soups using a large soup spoon as I realize that it does not drip as easily as a teaspoon, and I could add small bits of foods in it for her to 'drink' in, and she can drink more from it.

Thank goodness the nanny has now weaned her off the bad habits of eating from our hands and needing to sit elsewhere other than her high chair during meal times.
However, Rosabelle has also picked up good habits - I gave her bigger pieces to chew on when feeding, and she had learnt to chew better. I also kept her hands occupied with finger foods like bread/waffle pieces, and these days back home, she being addicted to bread, will always point at our breakfast loaf, leaving us with no choice but to give her a few pieces. She can very accurately pick up the pieces and put them into her mouth now. She is also very sweet, learning to even take the food and reach out to us to try and feed us, clapping for herself at times when she successfully feeds herself/us.

Some of the days in Singapore, we went out for our meals, so it was the first time that I exposed Rosabelle to eating 'outside'/'restaurant' food. There was once when I brought milk cereal and banana and she took only two spoonfuls before deciding she wanted the food on our table instead...grrr. And so she had about three restuarant meals during our stay there, each time I will ask for a bowl of hot water and 'wash' the food in it to clear it of as much oil and seasoning as possible before cutting it up and feeding it to her. My sister still travels with a pair of food scissors for her kids, so that came in handy, but it was a messy affair for me to wade my fingers into the bowl to dish out the pieces to hand-feed her. Ewww. Rosabelle must have enjoyed the extra tasty food, from the food seasoning, not my fingers. (I wanted to also get a similar pair of scissors back in Beijing for such days, but guess what, at Carrefour today, the lady told me the government has banned the sale of all knives, scissors etc till after the upcoming National Day holidays, in wake of the recent attacks by Xinjiang folks in Beijing - GULP.)
As for me, I had the chance to pig out on yummy hawker fare - we wanted to celebrate my birthday early on 13 September, before my brother headed to the airport for his flight, but in wake of Rosabelle's recovering condition, we stayed at home and feasted on Old Airport Road food.
And my dear daughter very heartily clapped for me as everybody else sang me an early birthday song.
And then treated herself to desert as Mummy went to eat her dinner... this is the only photo of Rosabelle with my brother.
She took keen interest in the tray of prunes set out in front of her by screaming and patting them (she actually enjoyed eating guava alot whilst there, pity we don't get this fruit much in Beijing, when it's full of Vitamin C goodness).
She set out to touch each single prune and even throw the whole tray off the table.
She then went further and took a bite of every single one of them, effectively leaving her mark on the fruits, heh!
Back in Beijing, I realised to my utter shock and horror and disbelief and disgust yesterday that the reason for her anemia could likely be due to the fact that our nanny misinterpreted me when I asked her to ensure Rosabelle has enough meats/vegetables. I told her 'at least two tablespoons of meat/fish, and at least six teaspoons of green leafy vegetables per day', and she used to tell me 'oh definitely, she has more than that'. Many a time, when I see the quantity, I would ask her again, and she would reply in the affirmative. Only yesterday, when we fed Rosabelle a slice of pig liver for the first time (supposed to have more iron than chicken liver), and I asked her to give her two slices instead of just one, did I realise that the nanny thought I was referring to the quantity of food when it's RAW!

That means - she thought her two stalks of RAW spinach more than fill up six teaspoons, and her small block of RAW fish more than fill up two tablespoons. My goodness, it effectively means that our dear daughter has been eating about half her required amount for the past few months! No wonder I found her having eye bags at times since 8 months of age, where I really should have trusted my motherly instincts and sent her for a check-up so we could have traced the low nutrition level two months into her weaning stage.

Now, four months has passed since she started solid foods, so I'm praying that there are no side effects of such anemia, or I am going to go into a hissing fit with my nanny! I quickly sat her down and went through the table with her to ensure we are now all on the same page, and I told her I'd rather she made more for Rosabelle, where I can eat the left-overs, than not make enough. I'd also rather she eat more meat/vegetables than a whole bowl of porridge, right? I seriously had to bite my tongue yesterday and stop myself from rolling my eyes - you really cannot assume the intelligence of these Chinese nannies, no matter how good they make themselves out to be.

I can only hope that such 'malnutrition' is the cause of her anemia, and with Rosabelle's increased appetite, and the correct amounts of foods these days, that she spring back to health quickly. Sigh, I can only blame myself for not knowing how to cook, or I would have known that that small block of uncooked chicken/fish is not sufficient quantity when cooked. Sheesh.

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