With a key member of the family often away for long periods of time, here Lydia talks about the challenges and happiness she’s discovered while raising her son Henry…
"My husband's IT jobs have always involved a lot of travel. A couple of years into our marriage he would be away for weeks at a time.
"I still remember the first time he came home from a work trip - that split second felt like an eternity, feeling he was a stranger. Then he opened his mouth and in a flash it felt like my husband was home.
"During my pregnancy and my son's first year were the worst. I always knew that I would be having a C-section at 37 weeks as I had a low-lying placenta. A couple of weeks prior to this, I was washing up late at night and had a slight bleed. This was one of the first times that I have been scared to death. I was on my own and my husband was in the States on business.
"I didn't know how to get an ambulance reliably as we had moved to be near my office. Getting a taxi was impossible so I drove myself to Mediclinic City Hospital, which was only 10 minutes away. I knew instinctively I was the best person to get our baby to safety.
"Once I was admitted and given medicine to develop the baby's lungs, I went white as a sheet and the nurse thought something was wrong. It was just the relief we were no longer alone and in safe hands.
"A few weeks later, I had a perfect delivery. But this perfectness was short-lived. The medication started wearing off and I had never felt pain like it. I managed to get to the sitting position before receiving more drugs. Once the medication kicked in, I went to sleep.
"When I woke up my son was already in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU.) The terror of not knowing he had become ill will never leave me. I never expected a baby who weighed over 3.5kg to need to be in the NICU for six weeks. I knew he was in the best place, but only another NICU mother will know the sadness of leaving hospital without your baby.
"Thankfully my husband's work trips have slightly reduced, which has enabled my husband to build a good relationship with Henry and allowed him to be around to comfort me when needed. Also, I can now get a lie-in at the weekend and run errands for a couple of hours which is bliss and so good.
The lengths a mum goes to
"Now, my day revolves around taking Henry for daily physiotherapy sessions to build his muscle as he suffers from hypertonia. I think you find the strength from the sleepless nights. Your love gives you the energy to get through anything.
"My friend said once that she could not afford financially to be sick. I totally understand this - as the main carer, I can't be sick. Even when we try to plan important stuff for when my husband is here, something can change. This happened when we arranged Henry's MRI scan but my husband had to travel at the last minute. It was so hard having to wait alone... all I needed was some physical comfort. Having two general anaesthetics took a toll on Henry too and made him need more comfort and attention for months, even affecting his physio sessions.
"Going to the NICU every day and staying for 12 hours, pumping milk, trying to find the time to rest... Then, when we finally came home, I slept on a chair in Henry's room for two months due to his colic and reflux. It was the only way that he could rest.
"My body still needs to recover from all of this. I go to baby-friendly salons and can see that soon I will be able to do more things for myself as he gets stronger. One time, I was having a facial and he wanted attention, so he rested on my tummy while I had the facial. I have done this for other treatments as well... it's not ideal but this way we both get what we need.
"It sounds like parenting is all about self-sacrifice. We all love our babies but it's also important that we make time for ourselves. This is my hardest lesson, which I am still learning. Also, whatever situation you are in, there are fellow mothers in a similar situation. You can reach out on Facebook for like-minded groups.
"Even with all of the joy, motherhood can be lonely and isolating. I would say to other mothers, don't beat yourself up. We all have bad days and worse. Tell your husband, or family, that you need some free time. Resting, or doing something for yourself - there is no better feeling when you know your little one is being looked after to your standard.
"At the same time, it's a feeling that is indescribable - for me, his cuddles are legendary. Plus seeing how inquisitive and curious he is and how he is always trying to do more than his strength allows... I can't wait to enjoy each milestone and have an input into shaping him to be a perfect gentleman. It is the hardest and most rewarding role I will ever have. I miss working professionally, but I know at the moment there is nothing more important than my position as a mother."
Photos by Aiza Castillo-Domingo