Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Well That Was A First...

Last night turned out to be a rather unusual one for us, and one I'd rather not repeat. Ever.

Being a Tuesday, Andel was off for the morning so we had scheduled Sam an appointment with the paediatrician for his vaccinations. None of my boys have ever experienced vaccination side effects (other than perhaps enjoying a good nap after) so I thought it would be a relatively easy afternoon still. Not quite.

Sam was a trooper at the doctor. He laughed through his first injection, and only realised on the second one that he was in some pain. After a two minute sniffle in the waiting room, we left and he was happy. He even fell asleep in the car on the way home. Zac was equally well behaved, and also napped.

Then Andel went to work, and it appears all hell broke lose after that.

Sam woke from his nap in a terrible mood, and proceeded to spend most of the afternoon screaming at me from his cot/playmat/chair. No matter what I tried, he would just not be comforted. In an attempt to get a change of scenery (and maintain a measure of sanity) I decided to go to the Waterfront with some of the family to watch the carols (it also happened to be the night my aunt and uncle were performing).

Now I generally struggle with Christmas in SA. It just doesn't feel like Christmas when it's so hot and sunny. And I know that's not what it's really about, I just think after last year, I've not really been feeling the Christmas spirit. But then, as I sat in the sunset, singing along to the good music, watching my kids - Sam on Yaya's lap and Zac sitting next to Nana - I was getting to it.

And then the next moment, Zac threw up. In the amphitheatre. All over himself. And me.

Zac has thrown up, maybe, once in his life, that I can remember - when we were on the cruise - so when I realised that he and I were both covered in vomit into our shoes, I did wonder for a moment if I was dreaming. No such luck. It was definitely a case of just putting one foot in front of the other and getting things done. I got Zac out of most of his clothes and shoes (thank heaven we'd had a spare top packed in), then Nana and the kind lady who was sitting next to us helped me clean up, first the area around us, then myself.

As tends to happen when we go to malls, at this point Yaya was MIA. So while Papu tried to locate her, Zac and I (only partially dressed and smelling rather sour) enjoyed the music until we could go home.

I wish I could say that was the end. Unfortunately for us, we've had much of the same overnight, and I have done three rounds of washing. But thank goodness, Sam has been cooperating, and Zac, although still very weak and lethargic, says he's done spitting for now.

As I write this, both boys are having a nap. Funny how the peace and quiet I so desperately craved just doesn't feel worth it now...


Monday, 14 December 2015

Zac's Orientation to Big School

Two weeks ago Andel, Zac and I spent the morning at his big school's Orientation Day. To say that we had mixed feelings and expectations is an understatement!

I took Zac to school with me while Andel took Sam to daycare, and I very quickly realised how different school-Zac could be, and how little about him I knew. I suddenly wasn't sure what he'd want to play with, or how he could react to being formally separated from us in a new place. Turns out I was right - and wrong - to worry.

When we got there, a little before the programme was due to start, Zac headed straight for the playground. He wasn't at all bothered by the fact that there were very few other kids around, or that he was the only one in the sandpit. He happily went about building his sandcastle and I breathed a (premature) sigh of relief.



Then Andel arrived for the official start, and we all had to head inside. And Zac was having none of it. We ended up dragging him into the school hall. Much to our horror, while the Head tried to organise all the new students, he screamed in protest, and hid under the coffee and snacks table.

But then they were asked to go to their classes. We decided I would go with Zac and try calm him down. As we walked, one small hand in my only slightly bigger hand, I got a quick case of the feels as I realised I was walking my child down to his classroom. As soon as we got there, the teacher invited all the children to listen to a story, and that was the end: Zac let go of my hand, planted himself on the mat, and I left.

Truthfully, we didn't leave it there. In between trying to arrange uniform and mingling with other new parents, Andel spent some time standing at the window spying on Zac (just checking that he was ok, of course). And later, when the kids were allowed outside for break, we spent some more time watching from a distance. We marveled together at the little independent boy we saw before us. And our hearts nearly burst with pride.






On the ride back, we were excited to get Zac's take on things, and were shooting questions at him - to no response. After a morning filled with adventure and excitement, he was fast asleep!

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

The Time I Went To Swimming With Zac

I love to swim. It's my favourite form of physical activity, and I couldn't be more comfortable in the water if I were born in it. But I don't remember learning to swim. I don't recall who taught me or how old I was. And I'm pretty sure I wasn't as young as three.

For the past year and a half Zac has been going to swim school. Granted, initially it was just water safety and getting used to having water in his face. Just last week, after a shortened school day courtesy of exams, I was invited to accompany him to his lesson, and I was amazed by the progress he is making.

Here are some pics...

Zac with Teacher Neelia

Practising his kicking

Swimming is some serious business!

Blowing bubbles into the water

Zac's backstroke is still VERY chilled

My super swimmer

Monday, 23 November 2015

The Week That Was

Last week was unusually eventful - and not without its fair share of stress!

First we had the situation with Sam's tumble off the bed. I don't want to talk about it. Thinking about it makes my insides knot up, so let's just leave it at that (you can read about it here if you really want to).

The very next day, Sam cut his first tooth. At last! My poor baby has had a rough time with this teething business. Where some babies seem to cut teeth without any effort at all, Sam seems to have had everything happen to him: he's had fevers high enough to land him up in hospital, diarrhoea, rashes and a cough. And he's been suffering with these symptoms on and off for four months! So you can imagine my joy when he promptly followed with a second tooth the day after cutting the first. Two for the cost of one. And I see the top two are pushing through as well.

In another series of firsts, on Friday Andel and I attended my first ISCT 6th Form Farewell (in other words, matric dance). Before Sam was born I was all for dressing up and going to a fancy dinner, however, when I returned to work a mere 2kg lighter than my full-term weight, I was in two minds. I literally tried to get out of it until Thursday morning. When I was unable to (bring myself to) get rid of my tickets, as you can well imagine, Project Cinderella went into top gear as I somehow had to find something appropriate (that could actually fit!) to wear, with accompanying accessories, a face and a hairdo! Thank God for sisters, that's all I'm saying. Anyway, despite my lack of confidence required to pull off the outfit (and lipstick), Andel and I had a good time on our first proper, fancy, alone date in about a year!

Friday night's Photobooth

And it's a good thing too, because on Saturday, it was our 6th Wedding Anniversary, and in keeping with our custom of celebrating with traditionally-symbolic gifts, the 6th Form Farewell doubled up as our Iron (it was on a golf estate) and Candy (we exchanged chocolates) experience.

Way back in the day...

Follow this all up with an overnight trip to Grabouw, and we've had a good weekend. I'm grateful to have had some time off of my usual responsibilities (like not having to cook), and even had the boys let me sleep in until 10h00 yesterday (interrupted, but still - it's something I don't think I've done in 10 years!).

Life is good at the moment. Busy. Crazy. Stressful. Good. I'm just counting down the days to school holidays now. Two weeks. Hallelujah!

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Sam Takes a Tumble

The title of this post sounds happier than it should - at least if how I'm feeling has anything to do with it.

At some point during the night - I can't tell you exactly when or how because I can't remember much about it - Sam rolled out of the bed. There was a quick cry, an even quicker reaction from me (too bad it was too late to avoid the accident in the first place), and then some healing cuddles and prayer. I felt - still do feel - absolutely terrible.

Since then I cannot shake the desire - the need - to post about it. Mostly, because, surely, this must happen to most, if not all, parents? And yet no one speaks about it! I know it's not post-worthy in the greater scheme of portraying our parental prowess, still, the feelings of absolutely incompetence, loneliness and guilt are not ones I think should be experienced alone.

This is not the first time it's happened to me. Zac took his first tumble almost exactly 3 years ago. For some reason I posted about it then, and thank goodness I did, because if no one else is going to come clean, I did. And when I read that post just now, it was just what I needed to hear to know that I will be ok.

So to the Mom whose baby has taken a tumble...

You are not alone. We have all had these accidents, and that's exactly what they are: accidents. I know that you were probably tired/distracted/multi-tasking, and you most likely usually take all the necessary precautions to avoid these things. It's alright.

I know you feel incredibly guilty. Don't feel condemned. God's grace covers and sustains us. Don't believe the lie that you are not good enough. You have been created for this, and especially selected to parent your child/ren. There isn't anyone, anywhere who can do a better job for them than what you can do.

Pick yourself up. Wipe away those tears. One day this will be a distant memory for both of you.
Embrace the gift of the present. Don't give up. Be at peace.
"Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way" 2 Thess 3:16

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Family Photoshoot Sneak Peek

I'm pretty excited. We got some pics from the nearly disastrous shoot we did two weeks ago, and guess what?! The images aren't half as bad as I expected.  

In case you didn't read the post about the shoot, please let me clarify that it was the subjects, not the photographer, that we were concerned about. Naomi Bolton's images are beautiful. Here are a few of them...






If you looked at these pics and thought "I'd like some of those", and you happen to find yourself in the Cape Town/Helderberg area, please do contact Naomi Bolton via Helderberg Photography.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The Gift of Giving

For anyone who has not yet been part of the Santa's Shoebox Project, please do consider doing it this year.


Santa's Shoebox Project is a fantastic initiative of Kidz2Kidz Trust, providing Christmas boxes for children in need - many of whom have never, ever received a Christmas gift. And there's something in it for you too: you're practically guaranteed to feel really good about doing good.

Our local Life Group did this for the first time last year, and it really was a wonderful experience. It was humbling to put together this box of fairly simple things knowing how greatly it would impact a little person's life. It was also pretty amazing to watch our own little people get involved in this process with such love and excitement, from picking out what went into the box, to writing in the card and decorating everything.

Putting together a box is really easy. Here's what you need to do:

Get an empty shoe-box. It can be the one with the separate lid, or a hinge box that opens from one side. A medium sized box is ideal. And if you don't have a shoe-box a clear plastic container of similar size will do just as well.

Decorate the box. This can be done by wrapping it (be certain it can still open), painting on it, using stickers - be as creative as you like.

Decide on the gender and age of the child for whom you're preparing the box.

Fill the box with new and age appropriate goodies including the following:
  • Toothpaste
  • Tooth brush
  • Bar of soap
  • Wash cloth
  • An outfit of clothing
  • Educational supplies
  • Sweets
  • A toy
Ensure that there is no perishable or allergy based foods (e.g. nuts), medicines, glass or other sharp objects or religious/political/weapon-type items (e.g. toy guns or swords) included in the box. The Trust reserves the right to remove any of these prohibited items. Also, remember put any liquid items - or anything that could spill/mess - in a ziploc bag before putting it into the box.

Once you have the contents of the box, write a short letter to the recipient of the box, wishing them well, and letting you know that every item purchased has been done so with them in mind. The idea is to make them feel super special and spread some love.

Finally, drop off the completed box at your local drop off. There are different spots and deadlines all over the country with different dates, so if you've missed the local ones, be sure to get to the next closest place! You can check out the website www.santashoebox.co.za.



Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Family Photo Shoot: Take Two

This past weekend, after managing to land a pretty sweet deal, Andel and I took the boys for our first family-of-four photo shoot. I think it's safe to say that we're not really photo people. Between my lack of grooming and Zac's "no photos please" we tend to stay behind the lens rather than in front of it. Anyway, because we had done a family photo shoot with Zac when he was six months old, we decided to do the same with Sam.

Now unless the years have made my memory a little hazy, I seem to recall that things went pretty smoothly with Zac. It was a lovely afternoon, he was super cooperative, and we got some great pics. Not quite like this time...

When we arrived at the photographer's house both boys were asleep. Usually we welcome a well-timed corporate nap, but considering it was 10h00 in the morning, we had not planned for this one. Zac in particular is a very sensitive riser and does not like to be woken up, so when I carried him inside and he continued sleeping, I was getting worried. Thankfully, after some gentle rousing, he opened his eyes without any tears or tantrums. However, he was still in no mood to take photos.

So we spent the first half of the shoot taking pics of Sam who was all too happy to show his dimples off. Naomi has some great props and ideas, and a few times I found myself sitting back and 'taking pictures with my eyes', trying to etch the images into my memory.

And that was the end of the peace, because after that Zac decided he wanted in on the action, and proceeded to terrorise the poor photographer. When we'd ask him to hold Sam, he'd put him in a neck lock. When we'd ask him to pose on the rocking horse, he'd go all Bucking Bronco on us. When Naomi asked Andel to blow some bubbles around Sam, Zac jumped into every shot trying to catch them. It was tiring, to say the least.

Still, I guess we had fun anyway. We've started really enjoying these little adventures we find ourselves in, just the four of us, and we're learning that, with two independent and thrill-seeking boys, if nothing else, life will never be boring!

We're due to see some pics over the next two weeks. Hopefully there's something print-worthy in the lot!


Friday, 16 October 2015

Pause


I have been so super, crazy busy lately. I think since returning to work life has resumed its fast-paced, activity filled madness, and in truth, we get used to it. It becomes the norm. So when I say activity-filled I don't refer to dates, parties, outings etc. What I actually mean is there are around two hundred actions that are our routine, that keeps us sane - or at least moving - from day to day.

By definition, a pause is a temporary stop in action or speech, and as you can tell, I have not done so long enough to blog. So let's do just that: Pause. And catch up a bit.

I'm thinking about...
How to better my marriage. Seriously. I've never been one to sugar coat marriage. For me it is - and will always be - hard work. And not because of Andel. Marriage is work in the sense that it's deliberate and purposeful; both partners have to be equally and fully engaged; and there are a number of other factors that challenge the harmony every day - one of which would be kids. So, Andel and I are taking a Date Night challenge to go on three dates in three weeks, and then one date a month thereafter. Watch this space.


I'm watching...
I have not read or watched TV in ages (although Andel says I just have to start Code Black), so I guess I've been watching my boys mostly. I'd love to be watching the back of my eyelids instead, but we're on the back end of a terrible week as far as nights are concerned. Both Zac and Sam have chesty coughs and runny noses courtesy of the blustery wind and increasing amounts of pollen in the air. If I've managed four hours of uninterrupted sleep, it's been a good night.

I'm listening to...
Different versions of the Days of the Week, because that is what Zac is singing. All day. Every day. I am looking forward to getting Swing City's Well Swung album though. They're a local swing band consisting of well known individual frontmen/performers of which my good friend Nathan Ro (of Project Fame days) is one. They are fantastic live, and I can't wait to hear all they've done on this, their first studio album.

The Swing City boys: Loyiso, Nathan & Graeme

I'm loving...
The fact that Paaper Bites have made a reappearance. When I was at school, the shop on the corner sold these, and we'd buy them probably every other day. I still remember: Secret Flavour and Bombay Chili were my favourite. I know they aren't very healthy, but I love them, and I enjoy the nostalgia that accompanies it.


I'm busy...
Trying to find family holiday options for a long weekend in December. This is no easy feat - it's high season, and we can only do weekends as Andel may not take any leave in December. I'm pretty determined though, so hopefully we find something suitable, somewhere, soon.

Our last (first) family getaway

I'm going to...
A21 Campaign's Walk for Freedom tomorrow morning. The organisation is doing fantastic work world wide and I'm glad I can be a small part of it locally. It's just a 5km walk on the Promenade, but I'm hoping it'll also kick start us into some form of exercise heading into Summer.

I'm battling with...
Not being in good shape. I've been feeling run down for a while, and if you add that I've not lost any baby weight, I've not exercised in years, and I'm getting very little sleep - I'm a bit of a mess, to be honest. And Sam is teething. Enough said.

I'm resolving to...
Be more disciplined. For me, part of the reason I'm all over the place (mentally) is because I'm all over the place (literally), so I'm going to start erecting some boundaries, do a little prioritising, organise my life and hopefully have a little more room to pause (and date).

Thursday, 17 September 2015

A Better Mama

I'm having a rough week. Nothing really bad has happened. I'm just really I-could-fall-asleep-at-my-desk burnt out! I get like this sometimes, and it usually results in my being on a general downer. So, a lot of the time, I find myself having to tell myself not to be down, despite how I am feeling.

So you imagine my surprise when last night, in the midst of this exhaustion, not a single thing was getting me down...

It was 18h30, there was no sign of dinner (we had forgotten to take something out of the freezer) or of Andel (he was at a late training workshop). Zac was doing a puzzle on the floor, singing on the top of his voice (as he does when he does puzzles), stopping only to ask me to see what a good job he was doing. Sam was peacefully feeding, gazing at me with those bright eyes. I don't know if it's that there's less than a week left of term, or that after a year I finally managed to get my hair washed and trimmed (by a professional), but once I managed to bring the boys and all our bags into the house, I sat on the couch, and I was content.

The truth is: we've got it good. I'm not going to cite all the statistics about the world's wealth distribution, because I don't believe it's about that at all. While we are better off financially than most in our country, what made me feel full was the fact that I was spending time, doing absolutely nothing, with my kids.

I once heard someone say that while her first child had made her a mother, her second child had made her a better mother. I remember thinking: doesn't she have this backwards? Aren't subsequent children always complaining about all the things their parents did with their older siblings that they didn't do with them? But I didn't have more than one child then. Now I'm beginning to think she might have been onto something.

When Zac was born I think I may actually have had a not-so-mild case of PND. His birth, plus my inadequacy, and the all day, every day loneliness made me pretty miserable. So leading up to Sam's birth, I was tormented by how I was going to handle, care for, and love another child. And the first six weeks were hard. Really hard. If you can imagine being dragged a mile under a bus that has just run you over - that's pretty much how it felt for me. But then we started to get into a groove (and not just because Sam is a placid baby). I decided to do some things that I thought would make life a little more comfortable and enjoyable, for all of us:

I relax more - because then my family can relax more.

I go out and do stuff (hell, I even spend money sometimes) - because that's what memories are made of.

I let the kids get dirty - because they're boys, and even exhaust dirt comes out with soap and water.

I let the house get dirty too (and sometimes stay dirty more longer than is generally acceptable) - because it's lived in, for heaven's sake, and we'll get around to cleaning eventually.

I stress less - because it's bad for my health and affects my milk supply. And I cry more - because it's ok to not have it together, to make a mistake, to be emotional, and to treasure the moments that slip by too fast.

I work less (seriously, the career change to a simple, less stimulating option was deliberate) - because I don't want to bring work home into sacred family space and time.

I hug and kiss Andel more, in front of the kids - because I want the kids to know what love and happiness looks like.

I really watch and listen to what my family does and says - because they are watching and learning from me.

I let Zac have treats and fall asleep with unbrushed teeth and an iPad in his hands (sometimes) - because it can't just be about rules without reward all the time.

I let Sam be carried - because one day too soon he'll be too big and too heavy to be carried anymore.

I laugh more - because I'm prettier that way.

And I cut myself some slack - because I'm not perfect; I'm getting better.


Monday, 14 September 2015

No Kisses Mommy

Those were Zac's parting words to me as I left for work this morning.

When he started along the lines of "kiss Sammy, not me" last week, I truly thought he was taking the mick. I mean isn't cuddling and kissing their mommies one of the things baby boys like best? But then he's not a baby anymore, is he? It was like one day we were all wrapped up in each other, with multiple lingering goodbye hugs and kisses, and the next day he was over it.

So I sit here asking myself: When did Zac grow up that much? Are we really here, already?
I knew having a second child would mean Zac would suddenly seem big, still I must admit, I've not been prepared for all the growth and development that's taken place.

Of my two boys Zac was definitely the more affectionate, simply because I'm pretty sure his love language is Physical Touch. He would snuggle up next to me, nestle his freezing cold feet between my thighs (what do you know - big thighs are good for something), and navigate his hands all over my face and neck as if to memorise every one of my features. When he struggled to go to sleep as a toddler he would grab my hand, place it on his naked belly and say, "tickle Mommy" - and  I would tickle until he fell asleep. These days though, the bear hugs and sloppy kisses seem to have been replaced with big boy requests. I now have to tackle/be tackled (I blame Andel for teaching him that from birth) or chase him up and down the passage as he laughs and shouts "catch me Mommy".

He is also boasting a growing vocabulary. Never mind that he is trying to speak Afrikaans and Spanish (courtesy of Duolingo - check it out, it's free), his reasoning in conversation is something else. Just last night he accompanied Andel to make a quick delivery. Apparently as they stopped at the shop on the way home to buy me a treat Andel realised he'd forgotten his wallet at home and told Zac they'd have to come back another time. Do you know what Zac said? He said, "don't worry Anno. I got money in my room. We fetch it then we come back." And when he got home - much to his father's surprise - he found a 10c on the floor in his room, ran back to the car and shouted, "come Anno, we go now".

Between playing Mary Had A Little Lamb on the piano (I kid you not - we nearly fainted), and starting to read sign posts, there's no doubt that this boy is growing up. Fast. It excites me, this new adventure. And it makes my heart swell with pride and affection.

I sure will miss those morning kisses though...

Sunday, 2 August 2015

When Having More Than One Kid Sucks

When it comes to children, I’m the mother who thinks “the more the merrier”. I have always wanted four kids, and genuinely believed (still believe?) that it would be awesome to have multiples. However, I have to admit that since becoming a mother of two I have also noticed how life is not always designed with more than one in mind.

Like cars. No regular five-seater sedan can fit anything more into it when there are two car seats in the back. Even when Andel is driving I end up sitting in the passenger seat, knees pushing towards my chin as I try to balance my feet on at least two bags.

And don’t even get my started on going to the shop! A simple trip to buy a week’s worth of groceries has become a mission requiring intensive tactical and technical training. Whether I’m alone or not, I still end up having the small child in the carry chair in the trolley, and the big child hanging precariously over the front trolley (from inside or outside). Or I am chasing the big child (with the small child in the trolley) trying to get him to hold my hand while I push the trolley with the other. Needless to say, in the best case scenario, when they are both in the trolley, there is no room for the groceries, and I inevitably need a basket or, alas, another trolley.

But by far, the suckiest thing about having more than one child is when one of them lands up in hospital.

As I write this, Zac is in hospital following a bit of an asthma attack this morning. This (being admitted to hospital) has happened twice before in his short life, and you can usually find me keeping vigil at his bedside – all day and all night (the first time it was five days and four nights). I basically move into the space next to the bed, and camp out until it’s over. I administer the neb, give the medication, and monitor vital signs to feedback to the doctor each morning... 
This time, however, I am at home. 
Because I have Sam.

It’s not Sam’s fault, you know. He’s a baby, and really, it’s right that he should not be allowed near all the germs floating around in that paediatric unit. What’s not right is that (most) hospitals don’t cater for Moms who have small babies that need to be breastfed while their older siblings are hospitalised. How there cannot be a single room or space available for me to be near enough to see to both Zac and Sam - even if Andel and I have to tag-team in and out of Zac's room - is beyond me. What if I were a single mother? What if they were twins and both feeding?

And so, I had to choose between my kids. Well, that what is feels like anyway. And it sucks balls!

So, to my Zac, who has my heart with him tonight:
I’m sorry you have to be in the hospital, and I’m sorry that this time I couldn’t stay. I’m sorry that I made you so sad that you cried, and I had to leave while you were asleep. I'm sorry that when you wake you won’t find me wrapped all over you and singing in your ear. You are so brave, and you are such a wonderful, loving big brother. Tonight I’m comforted knowing that, even when having a growing family is tough, Sam – and whoever else may still come – will have the incredible blessing of having you.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

A Photo Story

Four months ago today, we met our beautiful Sam Blake, and had the privilege of having Kim van Wyk, a budding birth photographer, capture the most special moments of his birth.

I meant to post this - or something like it - ages ago already, but I'm really retarded with these video making apps, so it took a while.

It's still not done (I've yet to figure out how exactly to edit this), but I thought it was time to share some of it at least. Not only is it a precious reminder of a miracle occasion, it's also a great opportunity to showcase Kim's work.

Thank you Kim for the gift of these pictures. To the rest of you: watch and enjoy xx

(Music: "The Father's Song" by Matt Redman)

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Six of the Best - Baby Shower Gift Ideas

Like 2012, 2015 is turning out to be another "year of the baby" with more and more people we know having given birth or fallen pregnant this year. As if Sam's arrival hadn't already turned my brain to mush. all these pending arrivals have pushed me even further into the land of all things baby.

Coupled with the fact that I have boxes (literally) of unused, still-in-the-package-new baby things that I've been encouraging baby-shower-goers to purchase from me (at a reduced rate, of course), I thought I'd make a list of my best baby shower gift ideas.


1. Meal Roster
This is, by far, my all time favourite. While this gift is not specifically for the baby, it is i.n.v.a.l.u.a.b.l.e. to the parents, and they will love you forever for it. It's really simple: you get as many friends and family to take part (you can do it alone, although that could become tiring and/or boring), and have everyone take a turn or two to provide dinner for the new family once Mom and Baby have returned from hospital. I had this done for me for nearly three weeks after Zac was born, and I would take it over most other gifts every time!



2. Mini Medical Kit
In my opinion, this is a handy little tool kit all parents should have. Most suppliers produce a kit that contains a medicine measure/dropper/syringe, an oral or axillary thermometer, a nasal aspirator, a pair of scissors, a nail-clipper and some grooming products. Neatly packaged in a compact zip case, the kit can easily fit into the changing bag, or be kept in the car.



3. Unscented Toiletries
With Zac, I had a stash so large, I didn't have to buy toiletries for a year. Seriously. A seemingly endless supply of wipes, aqueous cream (this can double up as bath soap and hair shampoo too), bum cream and diapers (naturally) can do wonders to help an already tight budget, and keeping everything unscented means there are no potentially nose and skin irritating ingredients. The only toiletries item that you won't really need, in spite of its popularity, is powder. There are some safety concerns regarding aspiration of the powder dust, and really, you can get away without it.



4. Baby Carrier
As this can be quite a pricey item, this is really nice to get as a gift. There are a good couple different options here from sling to woven wrap. My personal preference is a wrap. although Andel would say that a carrier is more unisex and easier to put on (and he's probably right). Either way, when there's a new baby in the house, the first six weeks at least, Mom is at Baby's beck and call, and there will be many days it seems like nothing bar feeding and carrying can be done. This is where baby-wearing is a lifesaver. It's the happy marriage of Mommy having her hands free, and Baby in his/her favourite place - even while feeding. And this product is versatile enough to cater for newborn baby as well as a growing toddler.



5. Body Vests
This may seem strange, but I have found this product to be grossly underrated - both for new and older babies (I used these on Zac until he turned three - which was last month). Body vests (the ones that clip at the bottom) are multi-purpose for me: not only do they serve as warm undergarments and cool outer garments, they also help to keep the diaper and everything else in place without the repeated tucking of tops into trousers. The reason they make it onto this list though is because, if my kids are anything to go by, these vests will be pooped into at least twice a week, and they can only take so much of that abuse before there's a permanent yellow tinge around the edges, so you'll need lots! Get them in long-sleeve, short-sleeve and no-sleeve. Also, get in all the sizes (babies grow super fast, and buying them a size or three up isn't going to go to waste), and get in as many colours as possible (they work great under t-shirts in older kids too).



6. Something for Mom
So often, the baby shower is all about the baby (which I do understand, is the point). Still, it's really nice, and super thoughtful, to give Mom something pampering - or practical - as well. My favourite pampers include a mani, pedi, facial or hair appointment (if you can have this done before baby arrives, it's especially well received), while practically, feeding bras/tops, nipple creams, breast pads, birth snack pack or just someone to come around the help clean the house, come out tops. Vouchers - most likely to be used on any of the above - also work.



Truthfully, baby-showers can be much like weddings (and funerals) in the sense that there's a lot of hype and help on the day, and often nothing after that. So while gifts are great, be sure to remember that sometimes the best present is a continual, supportive presence.

ps. Don't worry, you'll still get the baby clothes. Everyone buys baby clothes as well :)

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Three May Well Be Easier...

Over the last three months I've done my fair share of reading about growing families, dealing with two kids, adjusting to life with a new baby again etc. and one comment/sentiment that seemed to come up a lot is that, apparently, two is the most difficult; the more kids you have the easier it gets.

Now I'm not one that needs any encouragement in this department. I've lived my entire adult life wanting four children. However, I don't know where this number came from, and because it is not a popular one in today's modern parenting culture, it's safe to say that I've seen every shell-shocked look and heard every (misplaced, I think) comment about this apparent insanity.

And when Sam arrived, I knew just what everyone was talking bout. The blur of madness that ensued those first few weeks was enough for me to swear of any more kids forever. I don't need to explain. Whatever you can imagine - it was worse than that!

And then it started to get better. I even did a whole week looking after both my boys and my three year old nephew, and while I was tired (okay, I was knackered!) I was actually fine. I didn't have a nervous breakdown. The kids didn't starve or get hurt. I didn't spend all day in my pajamas. We went to the park. We did a play-date. The kids even napped. Every day. And did I mention that while this was happening there were carpenters building cupboards in my room? (So perhaps I was so deep in busyness, I had no choice but to survive - it still counts).

So when I compare last week - when my cousin who's here from the UK stayed home with both boys and me one day, and Zac ran bloody circles around us - with today - when we had a productive and incident free morning, despite having two toddlers, a baby and a grandma to babysit - another kid or two can't be that bad. Can it?

Surely not. And perhaps my kids agree, because as I write this, both of them are asleep. Yes, you read right: both kids, sleeping, together, at the same time! Boom.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Mommy Guilt is Real

The other night after frantically rushing around in a last minute attempt to prepare for Zac's birthday and non-party, it hit me, hard: Mommy Guilt is real.

It was late, and although Andel was home to help, the scene (and by scene I mean mess) that was my home still looked something like this: My kitchen was an explosion of baking paraphernalia, including a  flopped drum cake. I was covered in icing sugar and black food colouring - which, by the way, turned the icing purple, not black - that would not wash off, and simultaneously trying to keep track of a delayed flight, on a phone that kept crashing. Zac was watching the end of a 60-minute Disney Youtube video. Sam was screaming his head off, fiercely resisting any attempt by Andel to get him to sleep.

When I took Sam from Andel and cradled him in my dirty arms I suddenly just wanted to cry: I had totally neglected my infant to try create a confectionary masterpiece (more like mistake) for my toddler. And why? Just so I could say that I'd done it myself? Why did I feel the need to do that? (it's not even like it's that much cheaper than buying it from someone who could do it properly). As we dozed off together I comforted myself with the thought that perhaps I was over-emotional about it because I was tired and stressed. It made me feel a little bit better. Until the next morning.

Zac woke the next morning - his birthday - and looked at me with those doe eyes and wide smile, only to ask me for his beloved beebee. It just happened that, due to a bout of oral thrush I'd begun weaning him, and he hadn't drank for nearly a week. I battled with the temptation to let him feed one last time, and as I tried to convince him that as a newly three year old he no longer needed his beebee, my heart broke - and not for the only time that day. Later as I held him in my arms, his chest heaving with every strained breath, I could not stop thinking of the healing qualities of breast milk.
Damn that Mommy Guilt!

It's not that I didn't experience some guilt with one child, but since having two, it's becoming a daily thing. And I realize that I'll never win: being the imperfect, paranoid, proud person that I am, I'm always going to feel bad about something that I know I'm not doing well enough. It sucks, but is there really anything I can do to avoid it?

All I have is the present. I need to remember to take time every day to appreciate where I am right now; to savour every moment with my kids - even the tiring and tense ones - because I won't know it's the last one until it's done. And now that my big boy is three, I'm pretty sure there'll be plenty last ones - and plenty new ones - I need to make sure I don't miss...

Thank goodness for the perfect three year gap between my boys. If it weren't for the fact that I have a newborn to kiss and cuddle and love, all the emotion of Zac growing up and letting go would undo me completely.

 

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Three Year Old Zac

Considering that you're completely into ABCs at the moment, I thought this year I'll use the letters of the alphabet to tell you about your current self.


A is for Afrikaans
You recently started repeating the things we say in Afrikaans. I've also heard you say your grace in Afrikaans. Of course, we don't know if you understand a word of what you're saying. Still, your little Afrikaaner accent is awfully cute!


B is for Big Brother
You really have taken to this new role. You adore Sam, and the first thing you do every morning (sometimes before you've even properly opened your eyes) is share some cuddles with him. You especially like to read him stories, and seem to be looking forward to all the mischief I'm sure you'll get up to together someday.


C is for Commitment
You don't do anything half-heartedly. You're intense and focused, and while this often leads to frustration when you can't get things right, your dedication and determination will stand you in good stead as you grow up.


D is for Drums
I genuinely thought you may be over this obsession by this birthday. Apparently not. You are more into this than ever before. You play drums on an app on my ipad, you play drums with your cutlery on the dinner table, you even play drums on your father and brother's heads. As a result we have given in and started saving for your first drum kit.

And Donuts. You love syrup donuts! When I was asking you about birthday cakes last week you said "no thank you. Just get door-nuts".


E is for Ethan
I suppose we always knew, being born just three months apart, that you two were going to hit it off. You two can have some pretty physical encounters (a punch for a punch and all that), but you'd be lost without each other. I so enjoy listening to your interesting conversations, and see you hug and high five each other at the end of every school day.


F is for Fish
I'm thrilled to announce that you seem to be over this phase. I did not have to make a single sea-themed anything for this year's celebrations, and Nemo is finally getting some rest out of the dvd player.


G is for Grown Up
You're growing up so fast. You're so independent, just this morning you said "you don't need to hold me Mommy", and I realized my time babying you is over. You're making your own decisions (including what to wear which is why you sometimes look a little mismatched), attempting challenges on your own, and going to school next year. Where has the time gone?


H is for Health
This year has probably been your best in terms of health. You've been growing well (you've finally outgrown your 18 - 24 month clothing), and your chest seems to have eased up a lot. I'm so grateful for your life and health, and am so happy to see you enjoying it to the full.


I is for Intelligence
You are seriously smart. I know everyone is going to think I'm bias because I'm your mother, but really: I don't know any other child who at two years old could identify a hexagon! You're particularly into ABCs, numbers, shapes and colours at the moment, and have recently learnt to write your name.


J is for Jet-Setter
Ok, not really, but you've done a little bit of traveling this last year - including a trip to the UK - and you were super fantastic at it! You're a great flyer, and that in itself is a gift to any parent!


K is for Kwaai
This word. Annie taught it to you, and much to my horror, you love it. Someone will show or tell you something, and if you like what you've seen/heard, you give them a thumbs up and say "kw-aai".


L is for Laugh
You've always had a pretty infectious laugh, and I'm happy to say that you still do. Your eyes scrunch up as you throw your head back, mouth wide open, and chuckle. It's one of my favourite sounds in the world.


M is for Memory
You seem to have a very good memory, and a lot of what you know, you have learnt using it. You're at a stage where you can remember large chunks of information. Currently you are able to recite the full armour of God and the end of Psalm 23. I love that (a) my speaking this over you has been ingrained into your memory, and (b) that you are now able to speak it over yourself.


N is for Naughty
I suppose all boys are naughty, so I won't make too big a thing of this. At the moment it can be cute (sometimes), but I certainly hope the terribly twos are nearing its end...


O is for Outdoors
You love to play outside. You ride your bike, pick up leaves, bring sand into the house (I'm still learning not to freak out about that all the time). You love to play sport, and happily run around laughing until your chest (literally) hurts. And you love the ocean. You still happily run straight from the car into the water - clothes and all!


P is for Particular
There's no denying, you're a strong-willed child. I see it every day in everything you do. You like things done a certain way, and have no problem making a point of it until things are done to your liking. You do your toast in triangles, your sarmies in squares; you eat butter on your Weetbix, and peanut butter off a spoon; you have your own seat at the table and drink milk (in a waterbottle) with your meals. Right now this particular trait is quite tiring, but secretly I like that you know what you want.


Q is for Questions
I suppose this comes with an enquiring mind, still, you ask a lot of questions. The word I've heard most often from you this past year must be "why?". And you don't accept any old answer. If you want more information you keep asking until your curiosity has been satisfied. Of course when the tables are turned and I ask you "why?" you simply tell me, "because."...


R is for Romantic
Okay, so maybe I'm projecting a little, but surely there's no way someone as loving and affectionate as you could not turn out to be a romantic? You're all about hugs and kisses...


S is for Singing
You love to sing and pretend to play an array of musical instruments. You have a seriously good musical ear, and coupled with your exceptional memory, you can easily repeat a song you've heard only one or two times. You regularly serenade us at home with your sweet voice, often running from one worship song to the next, but you never sing in public. I'm not sure what the story with that is.


T is for Tantrum
Boy can you throw a tantrum! You don't care where we are, or who we're with, if you feel you need to get my attention - or don't like the specific attention I have given you - you can jump straight into a full-blown meltdown: a dramatic collapse, accompanied by open-mouth crying and large crocodile tears! I have noticed that, lately, you are more able to verbalise your frustrations, and so I'm hoping that these tantrums will subside.


U is for Underpants
At two and a half you decided you were ready to be toilet trained. I say 'you decided' because that's exactly how it went down. We got back from Ireland, and you potty trained in three days - without me pushing for it. As a result you now wear the cutest, tiniest little undies.


V is for Vroom
You're a boy's boy, alright. You're all into cars and planes and trains and buses. It's one of the things I enjoy about being a boy-mama. You still regularly sit on Anno's lap and pull the cars into the driveway. To think you've been doing this since the night before your first birthday... Maybe next year Anno will let you try it alone ;)


W is for Weaning
Unbeknown to many, you only stopped nursing for a while when I was pregnant and had no milk. However, just before Sam's arrival you just wanted to comfort 'feed', and I wanted to avoid sore, cracked nipples, so I allowed it. Anyway, tandem feeding was not something I ever wanted to - or thought I would ever need to - do. As it turns out though, some oral thrush from Sam has meant you can't feed at the moment, and so it appears that perhaps, as you turn three, you'll no longer need or want your beloved "beebee".


X is for XX (as opposed to XY)
I'll never forget the day I came home from hospital with Sam: you sat next to me on the bed, looking adoringly at Sam, and randomly asked "and where's my sister". And you've not let up since then. If you're serious about this one, you're going to have to speak to Anno.


Y is for YouTube
Imagine you had been a nineties baby - or even early twenty-first century - you would have a lot more difficulty getting to all those videos and songs you like. But, you have been born in the age of the internet, and so you're savvy with all things technological. You know the different apps, their different functions, and are able to type in "abc" to get to the songs you want. The one thing you don't yet fully get is wifi: and so when you're watching something and we leave a wifi zone, you sometimes proceed to throw one of those above-mentioned tantrums.


Z is for Zac
You are so unique. You are this crazy blend of Anno and me, and while there certainly are a few things from my side that I wish you didn't inherit/pick up, I see so much life and adventure and potential in you. There isn't anything about you that isn't there for a purpose, and I can't wait to see that purpose unfold.


I looked at you this morning: my big boy, not a trace of baby left, and I could not be prouder to be called your Mama...

Happy Birthday x

Thursday, 11 June 2015

31 Random Things about Me


A few years back something like this was going around on social media, and I really enjoyed reading about my friends. So I thought a post like this would be a good way for you to catch up with me, and see how well you really know me...
  1. I can't sleep with dirty feet or teeth. At the very least I have to clean them (my feet) with a wet wipe, and swirl some mouthwash in my mouth before I get into bed.
  2. While pregnant with Sam I started eating red meat for the first time in 15 years.
  3. I hate toilet spray that smells of food stuff. Strawberries and Cream is my worst!
  4. When I was 13 years old I led worship with Matt Redman while he was on tour in Cape Town.
  5. I'm not a very good cook, but I do enjoy baking and decorating.
  6. If I had the chance, I would totally do school/uni over again (I'm a bit of a nerd like that).
  7. I am an avid Man United fan, and once, when I was in the UK, was invited to a training session. Sadly I couldn't go as it was in another city the day before my flight back to SA (we tried changing my ticket and everything).
  8. I always knew I'd marry an "Andy". Granted, for a while there I was hoping for Andy Roddick...
  9. I've witnessed a miracle healing on a bus back to Cape Town from Youth Week in Magaliesberg. It was amazing!
  10. I have an eidetic memory.
  11. I reckon I'm borderline OCD. I order my clothes (and laundry) in ROYGBIV, with all hangers in one colour, all facing the same direction.
  12. I love to read, and when I start a book usually finish it in a day or two.
  13. I only sleep on the left side of a bed - even if I'm alone in it.
  14. I was once in a reality tv show. I lasted 5 out of 10 weeks. It was a mix between Idols and Big Brother. I couldn't sing in public for a while after that.
  15. I'm a 'Grammar Nazi'.
  16. I love hotels. I think it's the pillows.
  17. My toenails are always painted, and they never clash with my finger nails. They're either painted the same colour, or they're nude/French manicured. And I do them myself - partly because I do a pretty decent job, and partly because I struggle to pay for it (probably because I can do a decent job).
  18. I change into pajamas when I get home from work/church - even if I'm going back out later.
  19. I fall asleep rubbing one foot over the other.
  20. At 16 years old while visiting a friend in the UK, to save money we slept on York train station one night.
  21. I have trichotillomania: an anxiety disorder characterized by pulling out strands of hair.
  22. I seriously love the sweet, sweaty smell of breastfed-baby poo.
  23. I play the piano and tin-whistle, despite not being able to sight read any music.
  24. I've always wanted four children: boy, boy, girl, boy.
  25. I have two degrees - one in Sport Science and one in Education - but I really wanted to be a doctor.
  26. If I had the finances and opportunity, I would be traveling the world with my family. I love a good holiday balance of relaxation and adventure.
  27. I'm terrible with grooming (it may be a result of a very sporty background) and really wish I could do my hair, apply make up, go for facials etc. 
  28. I always choose vanilla over chocolate.
  29. I love being pregnant, and have been blessed with two super easy and enjoyable pregnancies so far.
  30. My family is very close. I spend a lot of time with my siblings and their families, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
  31. There probably isn't anything random about this list. I think I'm incapable of doing anything random.

Have a good day all!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Adjusting to Life with a Baby... Again

I was recently telling someone how my life has become this series of one clothe-washing/nappy-changing/dish-cleaning/breast-feeding activity after the other. And so, while it's not that I haven't had anything to say these past few weeks, I simply have not got round to jotting it down here. Is it not the craziest thing that while I was working full time, I had more time to blog than I do since being home all day, every day?

So, I think we're slowly getting into the swing of things since Sam's arrival. At least, I'm able to make it out of bed, shower (most days), and even get out of the house when I need to. We haven't gone hungry (yet), and somehow, despite the mess, we can still navigate our way around the house. One would think that, second time around, I wouldn't find the adjustment quite so disarming (or at least be better prepared for it), but the truth is, we forget.

In no particular order here are some of the best (and worst) baby adjustments I'd forgotten about:

Baby poo. Specifically breastfed-baby poo. That sweet, sweaty smell may be the death of me, I love it that much. Except when it's stained everything, including clothing, bedding and changing mat, yellow. Then I don't like it as much.

Personal hygiene. I'm the kind who can't go to bed with dirty feet. Just two weeks ago as I was coming down with some hectic infection one night, I got out of bed and into the shower because my hair felt too dirty to sleep in. And yet, having a newborn inevitably means that you will wash less. Ironic that it's probably one of the times you want to wash more (in case you forget about the things your body goes through post birth, you can refresh you memory here), and yet, you simply get used to having the smell of spit up milk linger on you.

Nappy Changing. I'll shamefully admit that because I last changed nappies at the end of last year, with 6 hour intervals, Sam may have worn his nappies a little too long those first few days. Just so you know, babies need an average of 6 - 8 nappy changes per day, and I'm back onto that.

Sleep! This may seem like a no-brainer, but I'm not going to comment on the lack of sleep. I have actually been extremely fortunate to have a baby who only wakes once during the night, so I'm not going to complain. However, I have not always been able to nap with Sam during the day as I should (I blame having a husband and a toddler), and so when I've been exhausted, I have on more than one occasion, slept sitting up.

Bags. Who knew you need so many?! It's impossible for me to leave the house without at least two. And then some days I also have lunchbox cooler bag, carseat and carrycot too!

Psychosis. In the best way. I can waste HOURS looking at a sleeping Sam or Zac. I marvel at their tiny (or in Zac's case: not so tiny) features, breathe in their unique scent, and find comfort in the slow rise and fall of their chests.


The truth is: adjusting to life as a mom of two kids has been probably the most challenging thing I've done to date (I'm told that having subsequent children is easier, and I'm counting on that to persuade Andel to have some more of these monkeys). Two kids are double the responsibility with half the time. But they are also exponentially more love and laughter.

So yes, I'm constantly exhausted and hungry, walking around in my pyjamas, and in desperate need of some serious grooming. And still, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, 4 May 2015

My Problem with Social Media



For all the good that is intended - and achieved - by all the fancy apps and gadgets that accompany this digital age, it's reached the point of becoming pretty dangerous for me. And I don't mean like stranger danger (although as a wannabe blogger and real parent, that is valid, unfortunately). These are some of my problems with it:

1. It's addictive. While I have not posted on here in almost a month, not a day has gone by without me using my iPad and phone. Numerous times. All through the day and night. And I don't even think I'm that bad - when my phone died suddenly and unexpectedly before Sam was born, I happily went phoneless for two weeks (of course, I did still have the internet on my desktop, but to be fair, my access was much more limited). Still, I know of people who sleep with their phones, document every minute of their lives, and would find it absolutely normal to play CandyCrush or Clash of the Clans while driving home from work.

2. It's not real. You can look at anyone's Facebook timeline, and I can pretty much guarantee that if not paying tribute to someone, or highlighting the plight of something else, there isn't anything negative on their wall. All you see are smiling faces of perfectly dolled up people at parties or on perpetual holidays, accompanied by pictures and statements of only loving relationships and perfect children. No one really lives like that, do they? Certainly I don't. And I realize that perhaps, like me, people don't want the negative splashed all over the world wide web. Still, it's becoming increasingly obvious that people are aspiring to this life on screen, and I just don't know that it's a realistic expectation at all.

3. It's seriously narcissistic. Andel often jokes that, "if no one's going to pull your chain, then you have to do it yourself". Social media has taken this to another level. Why do we think that every living breath needs to be documented in selfies and tweets? At times, the rate at which some people's status are updated leaves me wondering whether that's all they do all day. The truth is: we have become a pretty vain and egotistic bunch who measure our worth, and rely on affirmation, in the number of likes we get on our Instagram posts.

4. It's made us socially awkward. People are unable to communicate with each face to face anymore. Even the telephone is becoming redundant. We'll happily text, tweet, comment and like, but we find one-on-one interaction intimidating. We can't sit through meals or meetings with others without needing to check our phones or update our statuses. We can spend hours online but struggle through a family get-together. We've become weird, and the only reason no one is pointing us out for it, is because everyone else is on the same ride.

I don't know where this post came from (I was enjoying a perfectly normal afternoon with Sam), except that this problem is as much mine as it is anyone else's. I don't know how to fix it globally, but I know I have to fix it personally, because unless we are able to curb and correct this, we are going to remain self-absorbed, insecure, unproductive and delusional. And there's enough of that going around already.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

10 Things You Should Know About Having a C-Section

You'll have to forgive the overflow of baby-related posts for the next while. That's pretty much all I can think about, and considering the number of times I've Googled looking for these kinds of posts, I reckon it may come in handy for someone else in future.


One of the really contentious things about pregnancy right now, is how these moms-to-be choose to deliver their babies into the world. The serious arguments I have heard regarding natural vs. C-section births could leave any mother very confused, and often, misinformed. It's easy enough to read the physiology about what happens, but often, the real story as experienced by the average Jane, is not heard. This is particularly true, I find, of C-section deliveries. So, not that I consider myself any kind of expert on this topic, and only based on having been in labour and having had a C-section, let me share ten things I found people forgot to mention regarding having a C-section delivery.

1. You'll be shaved.
This may seem like an obvious thing, but I feel the need to mention (probably for vanity's sake more than anything else) that unless you do it properly, yourself, beforehand, this is not going to be a spa-standard experience. Understandably the place where the incision will be made needs to be hair free. I thought I would save the nurses some time and effort and clean things up myself. However, there are a few problems with that, starting with the fact that, definitely by the time you are preparing for deliver, you can't see a darn thing down there. (Just as a side note: I would not recommend you ask your husband/partner to assist you here. This is not the same as shaving your head with a Wahl.)
In addition to this, as it turns out, no matter how much clean space you make for your incision, the hospital won't think it's enough, and so they'll do a 'proper' job - soapless with a Minora blade - and leave you with pretty much nothing. But don't worry: once you finally get the dressing removed, and if you survive the itchy regrowth, it'll be back to normal eventually.

2. You'll have some serious shakes.
The anesthetic is not optional. Obviously. But for your sake, I hope that you do not have to have it after an epidural. (When this happens, there is a chance that it won't take and you'll end up getting numbed from the neck down. Not fun. Much more pleasant is the good ol' regular spinal - numb from the waist down.) Still, whatever anesthetic you get, there is one universal side effect. The shakes.
It's unavoidable. You can clench your teeth until your jaw hurts, you will still have this involuntary, full-body shiver session that you cannot stop. You don't feel cold (that's a different side effect altogether), you just can't keep your body still. It's particularly scary when you are holding your newborn (your husband/partner will be sick of you asking if they're holding baby tight enough), but it passes pretty soon after delivery.

3. Your pics will be graphic.
Perhaps you don't want birth pics. That's ok. I, on the other hand, am a scientist in the field of the human body. I live for these pictures. And yet even I was a little surprise by all the detail - the gaping wound, layers of adipose tissue, blood and somewhere in between, a baby. The point I'm trying to make is that this is seriously invasive surgery. If your husband/partner is a little queasy, I suggest you make arrangements for them to sit to the side, somewhere close to your head, and just look up when the doctor announces your baby has arrived.

4. Your bladder will take strain.
The bladder is precariously close to the uterus, and given that you'll have a catheter (inserted under anesthesia, thank goodness, but unfortunately removed without), post operatively there will be some collateral damage. Mostly it just becomes a little difficult to pass urine, but this passes in a day or two. Interestingly though, UTI is the second most common infection following a C-section, so ensure that you drink litres and litres of water, and that you go to the toilet regularly so not to place any additional pressure on your bladder.

5. You'll have gas.
If I didn't put this on this list, you'd be sitting there post operatively feeling very embarrassed by something that is completely normal. After all the pulling and prodding done during surgery, your digestive system will be very sluggish, and coupled with the effects of your painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication, you will feel a little constipated and very gassy. This is meant to pass in a couple of days, but in case you want to help the process along, the answer is peppermint tea! That, and getting moving around will help improve circulation and speed up digestion, and you should be (almost) good as new.

6. You'll still bleed. A lot.
Regardless of how your baby comes out, the fact that both the baby and placenta are removed means that there's a bit of cleaning out that needs to be done in your uterus. This means that you will bleed (heavily at first, and then less and less until it's just discharge). This can last up to six weeks, but given that it tapers off, it's not nearly as bad as it sounds. What you do need to be prepared for are the humongous pads and granny panties. The pads are not the most flattering or convenient, but the granny-pants are super comfy and support your belly!

7. You will need help.
When you're tied up to a drip and a catheter for at least a day after surgery, you're going to be bed bound. This means that when these are removed, and you're finally allowed to roam free, you're going to feel like a new-born Bambi trying to walk for the first time. Do not try it alone. Also, you have stitches in your abdomen, so you're unlikely to even be able to stand up straight. Make sure you have someone on hand to help steady you before you hobble off on your own. The more you walk around, the easier it'll get, but take it slow!

8. You need all six weeks to fully recover.
A C-section is serious abdominal surgery. There is skin, tissue, organ and muscle damage that is no joke to repair. The reason the recommended rest period is six weeks is because that's the amount of time needed (the uterine scar itself doesn't heal completely for 12 months after surgery). Don't think you can accelerate that too much. While it's important that you do get walking around, there are very strict guidelines as to how much you can exert yourself. Included in the list of things not to do without doctor's clearance is: drive, lift anything heavier than your baby, housework, exercise (including climbing stairs and nooky). Even laughing, coughing and sneezing will be uncomfortable (even painful) and require additional support. There are some pretty nasty things that can happen when your body doesn't heal properly - it's just not worth the risk.

9. You may be judged. Quite possibly by yourself as well.
This is a sad truth. Whether your C-section was elected, suggested, or an emergency, there are going to be people (usually who haven't had a C-section themselves) who are going to have a lot to say about it. Try not to let it get to you. This can be difficult as, very often, we judge ourselves too. One of the most resentful things about the C-section is the long recovery, and in the midst of the frustration of it, it's easy to wish that things had not happened the way they had. Try to remember the grace that brings each child into the world, and the miracle you are holding as a result. In the greater scheme of things, six weeks is only a drop in the ocean of a lifetime of weeks you'll share with your children. Years later, the only reminder you'll have is a small, faded scar above your bikini line.

10. You will still have a very beautiful birth experience.
Despite all the things I've told you, this is still a precious, extremely personal and (dare I say) pleasant birth option. It's pain free (in the moment, anyway) and allows you to be fully present while your child is being delivered. You can still see them, hold them, immediately nurse them, and practise kangaroo care - all while you get stitched up. Your heart will still swell when you catch the first glimpse of your miracle. Your breath will still catch in your throat when they open their lungs and cry a sound that you will be able to identify amidst dozens of others as your baby's cry. You will still dote on them in awe and wonder, and forget every moment of pain and discomfort you ever felt while birthing them. You will not care how or why you brought them into the world the way you did, and just be grateful for the gift that they are.

A Promise Fulfilled

Last Monday, 30th March 2015, was a significant day. It was a long day, with a very early start - 04h30, to be exact. It had been preceded by a restless night - and if I'm to be perfectly honest, rather anxious night -  in which I got no more than three hours of broken sleep, and waited and planned for, for weeks. It marked the start of the next chapter in the current miracle situation in our lives (if you don't know the background, you can read it here): it was the day that the baby we were told we wouldn't be able to have was born.

I would by lying if I said that not once during this pregnancy did I doubt or question God's faithfulness. Somehow, being in the midst of a miracle does not make you immune to these human things. It was particularly trying the last few weeks. After having some serious labour symptoms from 32 weeks, it had become the norm for me to bargain with God, pleading that He let me last just until Button was full term at 37 weeks. He did. During that time I also had two cases of chickenpox at my school (potentially very dangerous depending on how long after exposure you go into labour) including one student in my class. And finally: low and leaking amniotic fluid, which I suspect eventually led to Button's birth. Thank goodness for friends and family who regularly reminded me of God's plan for Button - even though we don't know the details of it all, we know that it's to prosper and not to harm him.

So after nine months of waiting (it's funny how that feels shorter the second time around), on Monday morning at 08h07 at the sound of a newborn baby's cry - my newborn baby's cry - my heart burst open and doubled in size. It was amazing. I think Andel and I saw him at the same time, and almost simultaneously said "he looks just like Zac". He was beautiful and small in his pale, wrinkled skin, exercising some serious lung power for a 3.2kg, 52cm newborn, and surprised us with his immediate latch and impressive suction.

Choosing a name is always such a consequential thing for us. Before we had kids, we had a list of names we loved. Then other people used some of the names for their kids. Or we met a child - or adult - that turned us off one of two of the names. Or, when we finally were pregnant, it just didn't seem right anymore. Zac was a bit of a last minute choice, albeit deliberate and significant, and at the time we had no idea how it would influence names thereafter. Suddenly this time we had to find something that went with Zac - also short and sweet (or at least cute), also significant, also meaningful. And so, after countless names narrowed down to eight, and then three, we settled on Sam Blake Klaasen. Sam like the prophet Samuel whose name means "God has heard", and in memory of a cousin we never got to know. And Blake after a family that is so much more than family to us.

Since Sam's birth we have had a pretty fiery baptism into this new normal as a family of four. The first night home from hospital was particularly trying. But, despite the occasional battle between tag-teaming children and equally exhausted parents, we are finding our rhythm. And Zac adores Sam - constantly wanting to kiss and hold and feed and change and play with him - which is the most any parent can hope for.

Welcome to the world, sweet Sam Blake Klaasen. Oh, the plans God must have for you... We eagerly await its unfolding.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Button Beckons...

... and I don't feel nearly ready.

In conversation with second time moms (and dads), this seems to be a common problem. Apparently, the arrival of a second (and third, fourth etc.) baby brings with it an increasing sense of (false) confidence and familiarity that inevitably leaves everyone less prepared than they were with the baby before. And this is definitely the case with me.

Here we are, less than three weeks away from D-day, and never mind being packed, I don't even have a hospital bag! We also have not unpacked all the boxes since moving into our new house three weeks ago, so Button's things are somewhere in the mix waiting to be washed. We haven't moved Button's cot in yet. In fact, this week is particularly crazy because Andel is away in Johannesburg on business for three days, leaving me on solo duty with Zac, plus there's a Michael Buble concert I fully intend on attending, and the final lecture in a course I'm delivering on Saturday. And did I mention I'm still a week and a half away from the start of my maternity leave? How did I get so busy? I'm pretty sure that this time last time, I was just sitting around (im)patiently waiting for my Peanut.

Having said all this though, I do believe there are some benefits to having gone through this at least once before - for example:

I am definitely more relaxed about the pending events. I am not as nervous or afraid. And at least I know what labour feels like, so I won't have to wonder if it's starting every time I get a cramp! I also know - with 100% certainty - that there are some things I really don't need. All the frills and pretty nice-to-haves are no longer on the list of things to get, and thanks to the inexplicable belief that I'd be having two boys first, I have a whole box of things from Zac that I kept and can reuse.

Still, probably the best thing is that I'm not in such a rush to bring this cutie into the world. With Zac I got so impatient so fast, by the time he was born (which was nearly a week early anyway), I was pretty miserable about still being pregnant. This time, I'm enjoying the last of this belly time with Button - and of my alone time with my big boy Zac.

Zac using Button as a pillow while he still can...

I know that this next chapter in my life is going to be one of great change and challenge (and not only because every single mother I meet tells me so), so even though Button is certainly on his way, and I am not quite ready, my goal is to go into this a little more open to taking things as they come, and dealing with them as well as I can, where I am, with what I have.

I probably should pack that hospital bag though...