Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Name

Meet Madison Edelle Low. The first name was easily decided upon as this is a name that both of us really liked and that subset is really small (only two names in it). The meaning of the name Madison, derived from its Hebrew heritage, is "Gift from the Lord" and this is the same meaning as Elijah's middle name (Chinese name). The name Madison also reflects her birth place and her mother's hometown, Madison, WI, a city named after one of the most admired founding father of America, James Madison, who was also the fourth President of the United States and is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” for being the primary author of the United States Constitution and the author of the United States Bill of Rights.

Her middle name was really challenging because we wanted a name that means "nobel," and it has to be at least two syllables long as our last name is only one syllable. For those with a last name that is one syllable you will understand that having a one syllable middle or first name doesn't work because most people will pronounce both names as one word. For example, if we used a name like "Bee", most people will pronounce that name together with the last name and in our case, it will sound like  "Be-low." We also wanted a middle name that started with the initial "E" so that the initials of her name will be MEL. It was fantastic that we found a German name, "Edelle" meaning "nobel" and having a German name also reflects part of her heritage as Sarah is half German.

Checking on the popularity of the name suggest that it is one of the most popular names in the US and in the top 20% in Australia. However, it is very uncommon in other countries and so in a way she will have the best of both worlds. She will have a unique name globally but still have a popular name when she is in two countries - US and Australia.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Knowledge

This article is the last bit of wisdom we wish to share with the world. After this, everything revolves around Madison!

You will find so much advice out there that it can be overwhelming. Below are things i've found to be most helpful during the pregnancy and it may be different for other women. There is so much more advice to give but what is below is relevant to every woman in her child-bearing years, whether you are a first time mom or veteran!

1. Take Vitamins! - You are not superwomen and your body needs help. You are creating a new life and should respect that brand new life as though it were your own. Never take your pregnancy lightly, start with vitamins as soon as you begin planning or know that you are pregnant. God certainly didn't take any shortcuts when he made you and me, so don't do it to your baby.

2. Watch your weight gain! - Studies show a mothers weight gain during pregnancy will affect the fetus. Too much or too little weight gain by the mother can hurt the child causing problems in later life, such as high blood pressure and increased chances for a number of heart complications. Your weight gain should be based on your BMI at the start of your pregnancy (do not follow the average).

3. Exercise! - 2 kinds of exercise are important. One is the general walking and staying active. Moving around and keeping your stamina high is important at each new trimester, do lots of walking but avoid running you are not a runner to begin with. The second kind of exercise is the specific type where you focus on movements that strengthen the back and pelvic floor. Both of these kinds of exercise come in handy when delivering the baby and pushing that huge head thru your birth canal!

4. Read! - Always be aware of what is happening at each stage in the pregnancy (preferably before it happens). This is important for preparing you mentally and your body will react better - its the power of the mind! Give your mind a little information and watch it cope and do amazing things! Don't be one of those women that just rely on their doctor for information. There is so much you can learn on your own, this is a journey. I'm not asking you to write a paper or thesis on your pregnancy but do the basic reading at least for your baby's sake! You will feel empowered during the pregnancy and gain a deeper connection with the baby as well.

5. Ask a million questions! Ask your doctor, even if you know the answer because you consulted your best friend Google and every pregnancy website out there. Your doctor has seen more pregnancies and deliveries than you will see in your lifetime (unless you happen to be an OBGYN). He/She does have good information to offer and can explain things in a way that the internet failed. However, if the doctor does say something that goes agains your values or beliefs, just take it with a grain of salt and move on. Remember, combining information from your doctor AND other resources will be the best because your doctor will not tell you everything, firstly because there is too much to tell and secondly because he/she would not know what is specifically important or relevant to you.

6. Don't over google! In addition to point 4, be very carful to take in only enough information. There is a way to over do it (believe me I know). Remember, there are plenty of conflicting arguments out there for different things, talking about different research and so on. What is important is to look at the source and year of publication. Make sure what you are reading is up to date with the times. But at the end of the day, make decisions are that comfortable for you, the baby and your spouse, even if it is different from what your friends say (keeping in mind every pregnancy is different).

7. Share Everything!
Some women think that because they are carrying the baby, their spouse has no role to play. This could not be farther from the truth. From the beginning, your spouse should be involved in the joy, research, decision making and even attend doctor visits! You may think you can do it alone but there comes a point in the pregnancy where you will need support. Hence the reason God made the pleasure of baby making to involve 2 people :) In fact, pregnancy can bring you and your spouse together to a whole new level making you a stronger couple. Just remember, that although sometimes he may not show interest (a trait men lack) does not mean he doesn't care.

8. Join an Online Community!
I couldn't have imagined going through this pregnancy without other women who were also pregnant and going thru the same thing. Even more importantly, join a group of women who are due in the same month as you. Even though you may have slightly different experiences or symptoms, you are still at the same stage as them and can relate. Joining an online community of pregnant women also means you will get a good combination of first time mothers and women with children already. The benefit to having first time mothers in the group is that they will ask questions you forget to ask or are to shy to ask. With experienced mothers in the group they can share previous experiences and have lots of good information to offer (including baby brands that are good or stretch mark cream that doesn't work)!

9. Stay positive!
This is easier said than done some days, but it is probably the most crucial. If you can maintain a healthy, positive attitude about your pregnancy no matter how challenging the changes and symptoms become, you will have an easier pregnancy altogether. Things to do to stay positive are joining an online community of pregnant women, involving your husband for support and understanding the changes as they occur. Remember, when you think things are bad, they can still  get worse, so be thankful for your situation!

10. Rinse and Repeat! You may not fully master all these skills or understand this information right away but it will slowly come to you as you progress thru your pregnancy. This is your journey. Take note of the things you liked and disliked and share your experiences with other as you have heard other share with you.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Madison WI OBGYN

Our search for the best OBGYN in Madison, WI was interesting. We were transferring from another country in the last trimester of the pregnancy and we needed a doctor who could quickly get up to speed and possibly fill in the blanks if there are differences in the way medicine was practice between the countries. For most people, finding the best doctor is more like match making and they try to find a doctor they can feel comfortable with. This is a good approach for most people, however, our rationale and methodology for finding the best OBGYN was a bit different. First the rationale for finding the best doctor -- according to Steven Levitt, one of the top researchers who graduated from both Harvard and MIT, the skill level is approximately 10 years difference between a newly graduated doctor from a good school is as skilled as a doctor from an average school with 10 years experience, and in the unlikely event of a life threatening situation, you will have 20% higher chance of surviving if your doctor came from one of the top schools. Considering the our out of pocket cost is the same no matter which doctor we chose, it makes sense to choose the best doctor one can find because the cost is the same but the quality is drastically different (as measured by one's survival chance if something goes wrong).

So our methodology went something like this:

A. Check the ranking of the top medical schools from US News and they were rank as follows:
1. Harvard University
2. University of Pennsylvania
3. Johns Hopkins University

Full ranking is HERE.

B. Check with our insurance company, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, on which hospitals they cover and found out that in Madison, they only cover 2 hospitals (Meriter and UW Health).

C. Next was the check the listing of the doctors in both hospitals and looked at their educational background to see which of the doctors attended the top 3 schools. Our search yielded only one doctor : Cynthia K. Anderson, MD. She completed her medical training at Johns Hopkins University and is now an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin in addition to her practice at Meriter Hospital.

Well, that was the plan. Here is the reality -- it was a bit challenging getting Sarah to be Dr. Anderson's patient because she was in the midst of transfer and wasn't accepting any new patents. However, a combination of pleading and perseverance with the doctor and her administrative staff an arrangement was formed where Dr. Anderson at UW Health would see Sarah until her last two weeks when Dr. Anderson would be transferred to Meriter Hospital. At that point Sarah would still be with UW Health and will see two other doctors as a transition. Sarah would give birth at Meriter Hospital where Dr. Anderson is one of the 5 doctors on duty for the delivery of babies. So, there is a 1/5 chance that Dr. Anderson would deliver the baby. The actual doctor that delivers the baby will depend on who is on duty at the time Sarah goes into labor.

Below is an introductory video of Dr. Cynthia K. Anderson that we watched as part of the evaluation process.

This blog post is dedicated to all the new parents looking for the best doctor in their town. Looking at the statistics of our blog, we realize that one of the highest number of people visiting our website from a google search was searching for the terms "best obgyn" or equivalent and hopefully this post will help them on their journey.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Precognition

As this pregnancy draws to a close, I find some things getting easier as I learn to live with the changes and yet some things become more difficult as even more changes occur. Below are things I wish people (or at least my research) would have told me.

1. Relaxin creates a love-hate relationship! This hormone is responsible for preparing the pelvic floor to push a baby's head and body thru the birth canal. Sounds simple enough. As the name implies, Relaxin relaxes the joints in the pelvis, however it cause 'abnormal motion' in many other joints also! With the increase in the body's creation of the hormone Relaxin, there is and increasing amount of pelvic pain and lower back pain in the last month (although there are increased levels of Relaxin already present as early as 20 weeks, it is less noticeable as the weight of the uterus and belly have yet to grow to full size). So what am I saying? I feel as though someone took my legs and stretched them to the side, forcing me to do the splits!!! And my back is burning from the pain as if someone pierced a rod thru the lower portion connecting my spine and pelvic bone. Explained another way, it is like holding a house together with rubber bands. Other than that I'm good!

In future:
So no one mentioned this although my research did occasionally say to expect lower back pain in the last weeks to become worse. They just didn't tell me how bad it would be! If you just told me that Relaxin increases by 10 times its normal concentration during pregnancy, I would have caught on and done something about it. So, while I remained active and exercised, what I lacked was the right kind of exercise to handle this hormone. It is important to do specific exercises to strengthen the back and pelvic floor so the 9th month is easier and less painful.

2. From all the stories I heard and all the research I did I was ready for any and all symptoms. Mostly I thought I would have all the symptoms mentioned! So for example at week 7, I thought I would develop a full list of symptoms and have to live with them… and each week or trimester would be different. Little did I know, that not all the symptoms are present for every woman in every pregnancy. Those are just common symptoms women may experience.

In future: It can be totally normal to not have the major symptoms mentioned by all the online resources and books out there. Each pregnancy is different and each body is different and reacts differently from the changes. Finally half way through the pregnancy I realized there was nothing wrong with me and that I truly was pregnant, but in a way my body handled it! From that point on, when people told me their stories, I managed to keep my head on straight by repeating to myself "Every pregnancy is different!"

3. My personality is such that when there is something new to me or something I don't know, I must find out more about it… in detail. The problem comes in when you live in the 21st century and everyone's best friend happens to be Google! Today there is a risk of information overload that threatens us at every click. Early on in the pregnancy I knew everything there was to know about that stage and I was like a live, walking, talking wikipedia. The problem was it did me no good. In fact, it began to overwhelm me because I had so much information and sometimes the information was controversial and conflicted based on different views! So all that information became useless and frustrating to me.

In future: Thanks to my personality, I quickly learned to adjust how I went about doing my research. Start the trimester and each week with a general read up of what is happening to your body and baby as the pregnancy develops. Be aware (but only vaguely) of the possible symptoms you may encounter or changes that can happen. Finally, as you experience certain symptoms that concern you or that you don't understand, research just those and find out ways to cope and understand your body better. There is no point in learning about every single symptom if it doesn't apply to you. It will only turn you into a worry wart and possibly implode that fuzzy little brain of yours.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Wait

We've finished all the classes, all the preparations, and all the last minute errands. Now the wait begins. It could be a matter of days at this point.

There are no more doctor appointments before she is due to arrive. But I have one scheduled after her due date on the 28th, just in case. She has always had her own plans and she clearly has a mind of her own, so she will decide when it is time and no one can convince her otherwise!

God has been so good to me during this pregnancy. I've had so many different doctors see me over the last few weeks and each one has pointed out that i've had a very straightforward pregnancy. How true. It has been easy. Despite the changes in my body, which I thought would be a problem, God has really had His hand on this pregnancy and has prepared me each step of the way. The biggest thing He has done for me is prepared me mentally to be a mom. At each major change and transition in the last 9 months, He has kept me calm and relaxed. Decisions never became too overwhelming to handle.

A lot of guys have said to me that there is nothing to prepare for and when the baby finally arrives nothing else matters. But what guys don't understand is that the process of becoming a mom starts from the moment of conception. It is a change not only physically but mentally as well. Pregnancy is something guys can never understand as they can never experience it, except from a distance. It can be scary, overwhelming, and very emotional at times. Having said this, I must also say that I've been blessed with such a good husband, who went out of his way to understand me at every stage and change and never made light of what I was going through. His involvement and support during this pregnancy has made it easy for me to adjust and I couldn't have made it this far without him!

With all this time on my hands now, my mind could potentially go into over drive trying to understand the journey and how I got this far. What I think is important now is to wait patiently for God's timing, for it won't be long! Who knows, maybe this will be my last blog post before she arrives!!!

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Online Hospital Visit

We are blessed to have many friends around the world and we know that some of you would have loved to visit us in the hospital when our baby is born. However, we have yet to have access to a star trek transporter technology so we would have to do things the old fashion way and provide an online visit when the baby is born. This is how we hope it will work - when the baby is born, we will send out an email invitation to all those who would like to visit the baby and you can visit the baby online through your computer while we are still in the hospital. As we have no idea what day the baby will be born, we can only set the time at:
8:30am : Central Time - CST
2:30pm : London Time
9:30pm : Malaysia & Singapore Time
11:30pm : Melbourne & Sydney Time (Sorry, but someone had to get the late shift)

Please indicate which days you can make it for the online hospital visit, so that we know who to invite to the online visit. Please fill up this online form :

When the baby is born, we will email all those who have indicated they are available for an online hospital visit and you will receive an email with the invitation. It will be a live video conference where we will have the baby present and will be able to talk to you.

We will also be posting updates on facebook when Sarah goes into labor. To receive updates, please make sure you are a friend of Sarah on facebook.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Hospital Tour

Our first impression of the Meriter Hospital's birthing room was, "Wow." I was expecting a hospital room type feel to it but instead was surprised with what looked like a hotel room. On one side of the wall was a glass partition that leads into a bathroom with a whirlpool / jacuzzi. The room has a large flat screen TV with build in DVD player and other multimedia options for entertainment. The tour guide starts the tour with, "When you arrive please pull up at the front so that our valet can take care of your car. This is free." I was impressed and it just got better after that. On the floor of the birthing room is a kitchen providing free food and if that is not sufficient, they have a menu that looked like something from a restaurant. The birthing room itself is fully self contained, meaning that during the delivery of the baby they won't be bringing in any medical equipment as all the equipment is already in the room -- but here is the kicker, you can't see medical equipment because they are all concealed and only taken out of their hiding place as needed. Even the surgical lights are recessed into the ceiling and the lights follow a remote control that the doctor holds in his hand. The tour guide talked about some major changes in the hospital customs due to recent research including the baby now sleeps in the same room with the mother at all times (the nursery is usually empty), the mother is able to deliver the baby at any posture (the bed is specially designed to accommodate any position including squatting), comfort of the mother is placed at the highest priority and all sort of bouncy balls, hydrotherapy or acupuncture (if requested) is made available. Clearly delivering a baby will be painful and uncomfortable but our hospital really goes to incredible lengths to provide support and comfort.

Some of the freebies we get in addition to all the special treatment include:
  • Professional photographer paid for by the hospital
  • Swaddle blanket
  • Thermometer and a few baby first aid items
  • Hand knitted beanie