You will never be this loved again

A small snapshot of my Valentine’s Day evening.

A few weeks ago, I came across a piece of writing about toddlers. The sentence that has sat with me since is: ‘You will never be this loved ever again.’ How strikingly, heart-tuggingly true. Toddlers love unconditionally, wholeheartedly. They haven’t yet learnt that their parents are fallible. Toddler love is an all-encompassing, fierce love that says, ‘Me me me! I am the only important thing.’ But also, ‘You you you. You are my only important thing.’

On the evening of 14 February, we spoke about taking off his wet T-shirt and putting on a dry one. Then, in front of the open cupboard, we established that the only garment he wanted to wear was a fleece hoodie with a polar bear on the front. I pointed out how hot he would be. He agreed. ‘Hot!’ he said, pointing to the polar bear. But still, the possibility of a T-shirt was out. He was going with the bear or he was going bare. Fair enough.

Car fun

Outside, he wanted me to push him around the garden on his car, an arduous activity I do not love. I’d only just managed to put him down, after carrying him around the house for 20 minutes. (We are also going through a big ‘Up! Up! Up!’ phase. In truth, this ‘phase’ has been going on for close to two years now.)

Using my mad mom motivation skills, I managed to convince him that he could push himself around much better than I could. (‘Look at you! You have power feet! You’re doing that so well by yourself!’) Phew.

Later, we ran relays (‘Touch the purple flower! Touch the fence!’), drew a picture, played the piano, blew bubbles and read a book, all before bedtime.

Parenthood requires endless enthusiasm. But if we’re there to give it, we receive endless enthusiasm back.

You will never be this loved again.

What’s so hard about breastfeeding?

When I was pregnant, I remember filling in a form for my midwife. ‘Do you plan to breastfeed?’ she asked. ‘I’m going to try,’ was my answer. I’d been warned by people: Breastfeeding is actually quite hard. You’d think it comes naturally but it’s actually harder than you think. Don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work out. And so I thought it best to be (what I thought was) realistic. It was like planning to cook a fancy dinner for friends but hey, if it was a flop, I could always hit Woolworths. I’ll give it a go, I thought, but I wasn’t too bothered either way.

Then I birthed a baby. Hello, hormones. If you think that hormonal stuff is hard during pregnancy, wait till Day 3 postpartum when your milk comes in. (All the emotions. All of them.) Birth changes you, in numerous and nuanced ways, and motherhood, it turns out, is a mindfuck.

Things that didn’t seem that important pre-baby were now everything. One of these things for me was breastfeeding.

With the right advice and support, breastfeeding is possible for most women, but I’m not going to downplay how hard breastfeeding was for me at first. It was hard. There was lots of crying (from both Reid and me).Thankfully, I didn’t suffer from cracked and bleeding nipples (a common horror), though I did experience nipple blanching due to vasospasm, which I don’t wish on anyone.

I did hate breastfeeding actually. I hated it – everything about it – for three full months, until one day, something changed and I started to feel it: that bonding experience everyone had been telling me about. I was battling with postnatal anxiety and initially, I’d actually thought breastfeeding was making bonding with my baby harder, because breastfeeding itself was so hard and frustrating. But after three months?

Breastfeeding was the best.

So yes, the early days were tough, physically and emotionally, and ‘giving it a go’ with breastfeeding turned out to involve a lot more perseverance than my pregnant self thought would be necessary.

But as it turned out, that wasn’t the only difficult thing about breastfeeding.

One of the hardest things about breastfeeding for me – and not one person warned me about this part when I was pregnant – was other people.

The judgy, uptight, unsupportive people who think that breastfeeding in public has more to do with them than it does a hungry baby who just happens to be hungry right here, right now. Motherhood is really hard enough without having to worry about offending strangers (who, hey, can just look away) when your starving baby is screaming.

The misinformed people who tell you your baby will sleep through if you stop breastfeeding. (Some quick research will tell you that this theory has been debunked.)

The misguided people who ask you when you’re going to stop being a cow. (Um, I have never been a cow. I am a mammal; a cow is also a mammal.)

The nosy people (strangers, sometimes!*) who ask you if you’re breastfeeding your newborn, like it’s any of their business, and nod approvingly when you say yes; often the same people who, a few months later, will note again and again that you are still breastfeeding, not in a ‘You go, Mama!’ kinda way, but like this is new information to you, like you hadn’t realised, and now that they’ve pointed it out to you, you will surely start weaning.

[*When Reid was a few weeks old, a complete stranger in the pharmacy not only asked me if I was breastfeeding, but if I’d had a natural birth. I was too sleep-deprived to point out her rudeness, but as I walked back to the car, I did wonder in amazement what she would have said if I’d said no. Why do people think it’s okay to be so intrusive?]

This week is World Breastfeeding Week. We need World Breastfeeding Week because breastfeeding is not easy.

When I was breastfeeding, I was lucky to get good advice and a lot of support. I attended a breastfeeding support group every single Wednesday for three full months. One Saturday, with stinging nipples and a screaming infant, I was really ready to give up. I emailed my lactation consultant, who responded (on a weekend! What a lovely woman) with encouragement and a sign-off that still sticks with me: ‘Lactationally yours, Laura’. It implied: ‘I’m here to help you breastfeed your baby. You’ve got this.’ I went on to breastfeed for another year because of that email.

Sometimes all we need is a little support. And that’s why we need World Breastfeeding Week.

But while World Breastfeeding Week does a lot to educate moms about breastfeeding and offers valuable support, World Breastfeeding Week is not just for moms. Oh no, it’s for everyone.

It’s about normalising breastfeeding. It’s about showing dads and grandparents and siblings and even strangers not only how to be supportive, but why it’s important to be supportive. (And yes, sometimes ‘being supportive’ means not imposing personal opinions but letting moms develop their own personal breastfeeding relationships with their babies.)

I’m no longer breastfeeding, but the breastfeeding relationship I had with Reid remains one of the most special experiences of my life. I’m grateful that I received encouragement when I needed it. I’m also glad I was able to (mostly) ignore the unsolicited ‘advice’ and unhelpful opinions, although it wasn’t always easy.

So mom friends, wherever you want to breastfeed, whenever you want to breastfeed and for however long you want to breastfeed, you won’t hear a peep from me. Reach out if you need to, but remember, breastfeeding is about you and your baby. You’ve got this.

Breastfeeding

I am not a fridge

During the week, Reid spends most of his days with a wonderful nanny named Leah. Finding someone you trust to look after your child is not easy, and we were very lucky to find Leah. She not only has years and years of experience working with babies and small children, but she is, undoubtedly, one of the most patient, loving people I have ever met.

Along with making sure that Reid’s physical and emotional needs are met while Mom and Dad are working, Leah does a lot to develop Reid’s understanding of the world. She taught Reid how to clap. She taught Reid how to use a straw cup. Recently, she showed him how to blow onto a hot beverage to cool it down.

Leah and Reid love to sing together, and her repertoire of nursery rhymes is impressively extensive – even if she doesn’t always know all the words. Her mondegreens cause much chuckling from my home-office, where I overhear lyrics like:

If you happy and you know it, clap your hands! If you happy and you know it, clap your hands! If you happy and you know it and dodadodumdo show it, if you happy and you know it turn around!

Boom boom black sheep! Any any wool? Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Three bags full. One for the master, one for the dame, one for the little boy who lives down the road!

Sometimes I wonder if I should be more concerned that Reid may be learning the wrong words to well-known songs. But I’ve reassured myself that once he reaches pre-school, he’ll pick this up from his teachers and peers. And of course, I sing the correct rhymes to him when I can (although truthfully, I prefer to sing Mary Poppins songs than boring ol’ nursery rhymes).

But what was much more concerning to me than Reid learning incorrect lyrics, was Reid learning that ‘mommy’ = the fridge.

On our refrigerator, we keep a few literature- and music-related magnets, as well as magnets from places Ryan and I have travelled to together (Europe, India, Mauritius …), plus a few pics. There are two or three wedding pictures, a photograph of the two of us outside the Red Fort in Delhi, and some photobooth snaps from friends’ weddings and end-of-year office parties.

Leah, with the best of intentions, used these photographs of me to try to teach Reid the word ‘mommy’. She’d say, ‘Where’s Mommy?’ and then point to a picture of me on the fridge. Soon Reid was pointing too, saying, ‘Der!’ in reply to her question. It was all very cute, until I was standing on the other side of the kitchen and when Leah asked Reid, ‘Where’s Mommy?’ he pointed to the fridge and not to me. (Queue mom-sob.) I told Leah she’d better cut the fridge from her curriculum.

And then this week, I was making tea and Leah said to Reid, ‘Where’s Mommy?’ Smiling shyly, he lifted his fat little hand and sent that adorable index finger in my direction. ‘I’m not the fridge any more!’ I burst out.

Leah and I were busting with laughter (because haha, Mom’s a person and not an appliance now!). But as I took my tea back to my desk, I was bursting with joy – because this was one of those parenting moments. You know the ones? The moments when your child starts smiling, starts sitting unsupported (yay, we can give you solids now!), starts crawling, starts walking, starts acknowledging who you are. As incidental as they may seem to some, these moments are significant. They are moments to be soaked up and celebrated.

 

On parenting pooches

I wrote this piece back in 2013 for another blog. I’m re-publishing it here, as I think it’s an important part of my parenting journey and a good introduction to my happy hounds, Jack and Meg.


For someone who’s not a parent, I find myself reading mommy blogs quite often. Perhaps it’s some instinctual need to garner important information before I (one day) enter that world of Babygros, birth, maternity wear and mastitis. Perhaps it’s simply that there are a fair number of mommy blogs out there, and, y’know, they’re pretty well written. Whatever the reason, I recently found myself relating to those moms when I brought two hooligans home.

When my husband and I moved into our house – and when (most of) the boxes were unpacked – I went in pursuit of pets. We’d lived years without pets, impeded by our one-bedroom flat, and I did not want to wait any longer. My husband is highly allergic to cats, so we decided on dogs. After much research and trawling of animal websites, I came into contact with the Labrador Retriever Kennel Club, who work to rehome labs in need.

One day, I saw a message on their Facebook page: ‘We are awaiting information on 10 young Labradors rejected / dismissed from the police force. Who will be looking for homes – Gauteng area. Any preliminary interests can email us …’

Jack and Meg
Jack and Meg

Convinced that ex-police dogs would be perfect (they would have received basic training, right?), we headed off to the Vereeniging SPCA, picked out two pooches and brought them home the next week. I naively believed they would love our big garden, would go for swims in our pool, would play with all the toys I got them, would keep me company as I worked, would sleep soundly on their comfy bed … They would love their new lives.

They did. But I did not. We named them Meg and Jack – after The White Stripes, because they looked like white stripes as they dashed down the road whenever the gate opened. Having never lived in a domestic environment before, they were not housetrained. In fact, Jack had spent so long in the confines of a kennel that he sometimes peed while lying down! We were continually cleaning and we couldn’t leave them unattended lest they destroy something.

Everything was new to them, so they didn’t know what they were not allowed to chew. They chewed everything. They jumped up on my car and took off my back windscreen wiper. They ran off with the HTH bottle. They found a bag of coal near the braai and littered it all over the garden. They ripped a pipe off the outside of our house. One morning, they chewed through the wire for the freezer. They had pulled the plug out the wall first, and I joked that they were obviously taught to be safety conscious when they worked at the police.

But the situation did not feel funny at all. Whatever training they’d received at the police force was more harmful than helpful. An animal behaviouralist I spoke to explained that the police often train dogs using force, trying to ‘beat the aggression into them’. The fact is that Labradors are simply not aggressive dogs and we now had two troubled, troublesome pooches.

Of course, I knew that things would get better but at the time I felt overwhelmed, doubting whether I was cut out for this, wondering whether we’d made the right choice. I thought about what new mothers must feel like and I started to question whether I could ever handle children if I couldn’t even cope with canines.

Thankfully, things did improve. Meg and Jack are no longer tornadoes of destruction – partly because they’ve calmed down, partly because we’ve now learnt how to puppy-proof the house and garden. They’re also no longer skittish and scared. They’ve learnt not to run away when the gate opens and, after many treats, they’ve finally learnt to sit on command.

Most importantly, they’re now part of the family. They make us laugh every day and they display endless devotion to their new parents. We recently went away on a short holiday and we missed them terribly. I simply cannot imagine my home without these happy hounds.

As for human babies … Well, that’ll be a while. In the meantime, I’ll keep reading those mommy blogs.

 

Talking about postnatal depression and anxiety

When Belinda Mountain asked if I would write a guest post for her blog, Making Mountains (one of my favourite, favourite mommy blogs – I read every article!), I had a lot of ideas. In the end, I decided to write a piece on postnatal depression and anxiety.

It took a long time to write, as I wanted it to be personal and true, without being overly dramatic. I also knew I’d be putting this very personal experience into a very public space. This wasn’t just an account typed quickly into a Facebook forum, soon forgotten about amongst all the other questions and comments. No. Belinda’s blog has a well-established readership, and between her social media following and mine, we would drive even more traffic to the post.

Eeesh. Yes, it felt quite strange publishing these details online. I am quite a private person when it comes to these things. But it is because of what I’ve experienced that I feel it is so important that we start talking about mental illness. I feel more strongly about this than I do about my own privacy.

When Belinda published the post, the responses reaffirmed this for me. Some people left public comments; some messaged me privately:

  • Hi Kels – you’re brave and wonderful. I am actually crying with relief… xxx Can’t say much now, hot tears 🙁 🙁
  • You are so so not alone.
  • I have read your blog post three times now. I wanted to say how 1) brave you are – not only for sharing your story of PND with the world (I know it’s not easy), but for just being damn brave. 2) it was wonderfully written and it shocked me, because as friend with many moms you ‘forget’ about the mother – it is always the ‘how is the baby?’ and ‘they are so cute’; it then turns to ‘how are you coping?’ and not really listening because the baby is just too adorable. So yeah, that’s pretty much what I wanted to say.
  • Well done on the courage to tell and own your truth lady- very inspiring!
  • Your honesty is empowering and inspiring.
  • I went through the same thing and felt so alone at the time, you are very brave to write about it.
  • I read your blog. I take my hat off to you and salute your bravery. We all have dark parts that we hide from the world, and I can only hope to ever be as brave and honest as you were.

I was struck by how many people used words like ‘brave’ to describe my account. This is exactly why I decided to do this – because it shouldn’t have to be brave. It shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that someone you know experienced this.

We need to talk about this more. It’s important.

Here’s the piece:


I grew up around mental illness. I’ve lived in a house where visitors weren’t allowed because socialising was too hard. I’ve played along with hallucinations to get a relative to calm down (the worst one: worms coming out of the skin). I’ve hidden sharp objects and strong medication from self-harming, suicidal family members before.

So I knew that postnatal depression and/or anxiety may be a risk for me, genetically. But when I was pregnant and getting all those PND/PPD flyers thrown at me during antenatal classes and doctor’s appointments and clinic open days, I thought that my family history would actually make things easier: unlike someone unfamiliar with mental illness, I knew the signs, the symptoms. I would be able to recognise it. Surely.

That’s not what happened.

There were days, months into motherhood, when I would still just cry and cry and cry. On those days, I admitted that I needed help. But then the next day, I’d feel a bit better and I wasn’t crying uncontrollably, so getting help didn’t seem … justified. I was used to seeing the extreme side of mental illness, you see. I didn’t think what I was experiencing was bad enough to seek treatment.

But it was pretty bad actually, and I only realised how bad when I started feeling better. In the beginning, I chalked a lot of what I felt up to exhaustion. The sleep deprivation was pretty intense, and I’d underestimated the physical recovery that even a natural birth would require. As the months rolled on, I measured my mental health by how much I was crying or not crying, but it went much deeper than that: the sadness was intermittent; the anxiety and anger were what affected me every day.

I was paralysed with worry. Everything was so hard. Too hard. I entered survival mode. I carried on with work and I socialised when I had commitments, but the thought of going out filled me with dread. There were just too many things to think about, to worry about.

I was also hyper-vigilant and felt immense pressure to do things ‘right’. My anxiety about everything meant I had thought through every little, tiny detail about how best to change a nappy, pick a baby outfit, pack the cupboard, run through the bath routine … I was surviving through systems. If anyone else deviated from what I had worked out as ‘the best way’ (in my mind, also the only way) to do things, I would get upset and angry. And I wasn’t just a little cross. I was so often filled with rage – a hot rage that boiled up and shook inside me – over something small and stupid, like my husband dressing the baby in a different outfit than I’d planned. I tried to control it and I didn’t always explode with fury, but I still reacted by being cold and mean.

I didn’t recognise myself. I believe I am an inherently kind, fair person, and mom-me was a horrible mess – a shell of my former self; it felt like there was no me left. One morning, I told a friend that I didn’t know how to be a mom and also be a wife, friend, and business owner. I couldn’t do it. Motherhood had swallowed me up and spat out a person whose sole drive was to get through the day without falling apart. That’s all there was for me. That had become my life.

Thankfully, I did start to feel better and I did start to enjoy motherhood. And I even started enjoying other parts of my life again. The past few months have felt like the whole world has opened up to me again, where before I was stuck behind a glass window, looking out in wonder and bewilderment.

So how do you get yourself or your loved one out from behind that sheet of glass? Here’s my quick guide:

  1. If you know your wife/daughter/daughter-in-law/sister/friend is battling, call up a counsellor and/or doctor, put her in the car and take her to the appointment. Honestly, while I was often oblivious to just how bad things had become, there were days when I did recognise that I needed help but I still didn’t follow through because it was too hard for me to do it myself. As independent as I am, what I needed was someone to take control of the situation and take care of me.
  2. If you’re wondering if what you’re experiencing is legitimately bad enough to seek treatment, it probably is. I spent a lot of time googling ‘postnatal depression signs’ and seeing how many symptoms I could tick off. The fact is that the way this illness presents itself is different for everyone. You are allowed to ask for help. No medical professional is going to tell you to go back home because what you’re experiencing isn’t badenough. If you think something is wrong, it probably is.

So many people don’t speak about these things. Sometimes it’s stigma. Sometimes it’s just that it’s not really anyone else’s business. And I agree – it isn’t. But I also think it’s important that we start to talk about it more … so we know we’re not alone, so we know how to help each other, so we know how to help ourselves.

Facebook groups for South African moms

When I was pregnant, some of my lovely mom friends added me to a few baby-related groups on Facebook. At the time, I didn’t think they would be particularly important, but I thought, hey, I’ll stick around and see if they’re useful when the baby comes. And a lot of them were.

Here’s my list of some of the most popular Facebook groups for South African moms. Note that this is by no means an exhaustive list. I know I’ve left off groups from other parts of the country, and I’m sure there are support groups for c-section moms, preemie parents, and NICU parents. Please leave a comment below with the details of any other groups you can recommend or contact me and I’ll update this post.

Birthing

  • Natural Birthing South Africa: One of my favourite groups. In a country with such a high c-section rate, a group like this is a great resource and a good place to start finding out the facts and the misconceptions around natural birth. ‘This is a group for women seeking to have a normal vaginal delivery (NVD), or needing more info regarding NVD. Feel free to ask questions, ask for advice, give support and share your resources. We would like this to be a safe space where we can discuss our fears regarding NVD, any problems experienced, share our positive experiences and resources and information.’
  • VBAC in SA: I’m not a member of this group, but here is the info for others. ‘This group focuses on mammas who want to or might have had a vaginal birth after they have experienced a c-section. Everyone is welcome to chat and talk and share info regarding VBACs. We also want to dispel the wrong info that after one c-section you HAVE to have another c-section.’

Breastfeeding

  • La Leche League South Africa: Breastfeeding support and information from La Leche League Leaders as well as other boobin’ moms. ‘The mission of La Leche League International is to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and the mother.’
  • Breastfeeding RSA: Another breastfeeding support group, but quite a lot smaller than the LLL group (perhaps a bit more personal?). ‘Breastfeeding RSA was started as we hope to create a breastfeeding friendly community in South Africa, uniting breastfeeding consultants, midwives, doulas, doctors, paediatricians, breastfeeding moms, friends and family, everyone who comes in contact with breastfeeding mothers.’
  • Exclusive Pumpers South Africa: I’m not a member of this group but here is the link for those who don’t hate pumping as much as I did. ‘A support structure for Exclusive Pumpers and mothers who have to pump for baby while working as well as those transitioning from EPing to breast and vice versa.’

Formula-feeding

  • Formula feeding mommies SA: A non-judgy group where moms can share info on formula and bottle-feeding (it’s more complicated than you think). ‘Feel free post any and all questions on formulas, bottles, feeding and burping techniques, as well share stories of your bonding experiences with your babies and success stories of your child’s development on formula.’

Babywearing

  • Babywearing b\s\t and chat South Africa: When Reid was born I didn’t have a wrap. Madness. By the second week, I’d secured myself a mei tai and my life changed. There’s plenty of info about wraps, carriers and slings on this group, as well as where to buy them (they are so difficult to find in the shops!). ‘Welcome to the place to buy, sell, and trade your wraps, slings and carriers and babywearing accessoires, ask questions or just have a chat.’
  • NINO Babywearing South Africa: ‘NINO South Africa, is a non-profit group dedicated to continue the vision of NINO International, by promoting babywearing through education and advocacy in South Africa.’

Starting solids

  • Baby Led Weaning – A place for Local Moms practicing BLW to connect: A South African group for parents who have chosen to introduce solids using the baby-led weaning (BLW) method. Don’t mention purées here! ‘This is a group for parents to learn about the Baby-Led Weaning method of introduction solid foods. BLW is ONE method of introducing solids. There are other methods; BLW may or may not be a suitable choice for you and your baby. Our aim is to provide information about the BLW method so that parents can make an informed decision about how and when they introduce solids. We also aim to provide a safe and respectful space where we can ask questions and share our experiences without fear of judgement.’
  • Official Baby Purée And Solids Page: A general group about introducing solids. ‘A safe place to share any fears concerns and questions on solids! Be it purée or BLW etc – share ideas, share anything!’
  • Little Munchkins Recipes: ‘This is for mommies to share their recipes to make lunches, dinners and snack time easier…’

Buying and selling second-hand baby and toddler goods

Getting confident about cloth nappies

  • South African cloth nappy users: This is a superb resource if you’re considering cloth diapers. There are plenty of helpful documents in the group’s files section and the moms on this group are ready to answer all questions. The lingo can be a bit intimidating at first, but once you get going, cloth nappies are really not as complicated as they look. ‘This group was created for South African parents whose children wear cloth nappies. It’s a space to ask questions, share experiences and create awareness.’
  • South African Cloth Diaper Businesses: ‘This page is a platform for cloth diaper retailers (businesses and WAHMs) to advertise, promote and sell their products.’
  • South African Flat and Prefold Diapers: ‘A group to help with troubleshooting, learning new folds, and to just celebrate the simplicity of the humble flat.’
  • South African Cloth diaper Buy/Sell/Trade: ‘This group is for buying and selling of mostly second hand baby cloth diapers and related accessories.’
  • South African Cloth Group Buys: ‘This group’s aim is to get the best prices on bulk buying by combining orders on baby and mamma related items.’
  • South african Cloth Bums B/S/T -SACB: ‘This page is for moms or retailers to sell their new used faulty once-offs.’

Being a parent

  • Body-Positive Parenting – with  Casey Blake: ‘A parent’s group to talk about “The Talks” and get input from fellow parents and Casey Blake. The focus is on empowering parents to have open and honest discussions with their children, in age appropriate ways.’ 
  • Mamahood South Africa: Mamahood South Africa, through its Facebook groups, is probably the biggest and fastest growing mom network in the country. The Mamahood groups are divided into provinces, from MAMAHOOD GAUTENG to MAMAHOOD CAPE TOWN. More here.
  • Mom to Mom Gauteng Business: ‘This is a networking group to help moms support each other in their business endeavours.’
  • Baby Product Specials Gauteng: ‘Here you can post and share specials on baby necessities like nappies etc with the shop and area information. Together we can all save some money.’
  • South African Multiple Birth Association: ‘SAMBA is an organization made up of volunteers that offers support to parents of multiples. This page has been set up for parents and families of twins and higher multiples who are paid up SAMBA members to network and share stories, triumphs and challenges. Multiples themselves are also welcome to join to share their advice, views and experiences to others.’

Have I left any great groups off this list? Please leave a comment below or contact me and I’ll update this post. Thank you!

 

 

Sickness and sleeplessness

I started this year in full January-cliche mode – energetic, full of ideas for the new year, excited about all the plans I had. I wrote here about our marvellous Mauritius trip and how I’d returned feeling ‘rejuvenated’.

What a reckless word to use. The thing is, when you’re a parent, you just can’t use words like ‘rejuvenated’, ‘revitalised’ or ‘energised’. Either you’re already lying to yourself, or it won’t last long.

We got back from Mauritius and the next day, Reid was a bit out of sorts. At first, I thought it was the adjustment to being home and the late night he’d had the night before. (Our plane landed in the evening and after the whole passports-luggage-customs thing, we screeched into our driveway after 9 pm with Reid screaming in the back. Yes, Reid can handle new environments, but late nights – no.) Then later that day he sprouted a tooth, and we could see another tooth right under the gum. Ah, teething! More explanations for grumpiness.

But then he got a runny tummy that wasn’t going away and a fever that went away but then came back. He vomited all over me at 2 am, and stayed awake most of the night, not really crying, but just moaning for hours and hours in Mom’s arms. My baby who eats everything (except butternut, of all things) now wouldn’t eat at all. So while the nanny and the rest of the family kept telling me it just looked like bad teething symptoms, I still carted him off to the doctor.

Of course, the moment we arrived in the doc’s waiting rooms, Reid acted like he was cured, turning on the charm for the receptionists and giggling at their fish tank. The doctor ran some tests regardless, and we continued to monitor his symptoms during our no-sleep week.

The test results came back a few days later. Reid not only had salmonella but also E.coli bacteria! I was shocked and horrified. The doc said he likely caught something on the plane – possibly from food he ate, but it could have been something he touched (which had also been touched by someone who hadn’t washed their hands). And Reid touches everything. On top of this, he got two new teeth in the same week. The poor kid.

Sadly (but also thankfully, because yay for medicine), he had to go on his first course of antibiotics. Previously, I’d been so pleased that our fairly healthy baby had avoided antibiotics. But here we were, scratching off another baby first. The medicine’s packaging depicted a grinning dinosaur and stated ‘tasty banana flavour’ so at least there was that.

I’ve tried not to dwell too much on the helplessness I felt – helpless that I couldn’t have protected him from getting sick (short of staying home and not going anywhere, ever); helpless that hugs and boobs and bum-patting were not enough to cure him. But I guess I’m glad that my instincts were right – that I knew it was more than just teething and I took him to the doc – and that despite my own exhaustion, I made it through the horrid week somewhat sane and still conscious enough to comfort him.

Reid is feeling much better now and we have had a bit more sleep this week. I don’t think I’ll be saying I feel ‘rejuvenated’ any time soon, but I can say, without hesitation, that I feel very grateful for my healthy, happy baby. And of course, for the extra zzzs.

 

Sometimes they surprise you

We’ve just returned from a trip to Mauritius. It’s been a week of sunshine, snoozing, swimming, and sipping on pina coladas. I’ve returned feeling rejuvenated and ready to tackle the year – unsurprising, given the week of fun, family (nine of us) and food (this place has the biggest, most elaborate buffet I have ever seen). What was surprising, though, was my child.

When my lovely mother-in-law first booked this holiday, I was, of course, unbelievably excited … so excited that I sent her and the rest of the family all the emojis. Well, not ALL the emojis, but the grinning face, the sun, the bikini, the splash of water, the octopus, the dolphin, the tropical fish, the tropical drink, the cocktail glass, the grapes, the watermelon, the pineapple, the aeroplane, the swimmer, the dancer and the party popper.

But while I was evidently very excited, I was also a tad concerned. A baby (!) plus airports, aeroplanes, time differences, new environments … eek. How would Reid react? I manage many of my worries through planning and problem-solving, so I spent months thinking and thinking and thinking about all the worst-case baby-travel scenarios (mostly involving screaming) and how we’d handle them. Thankfully, by the time we left, I’d realised that parenting doesn’t allow for much upfront planning and problem-solving … so after all that thinking, I’d resolved to roll with it.

But guess who, it turns out, can roll with it even better than me? Reid.

He didn’t mind moving from cot to car at 5.30 am. He didn’t mind drinking his milk at the international departures drop-off zone. He gobbled up his breakfast in the check-in queue while giggling at his grandmother and looking around in awe and excitement. He smiled charmingly throughout boarding and then promptly fell asleep on take-off. Later, he passed out on the bus! Without any fuss. And the whole holiday mostly went just like that: cool kid Reid, holidaying happily and not giving two hoots about being away from home.

And if that wasn’t impressive enough, he started sleeping better at night too. Our Reid has never been a good sleeper, so I’d imagined we were going to battle getting our zzzs in a new room with a new cot. But Reid slept better in the hotel’s bright pink camp cot than ever before.

So I’m feeling so proud of this little person – our laughing beach boy in board shorts, our smiling baby in a swimsuit, our sticky child in a high chair, our crawling man on the move, our great globetrotter, our love.

 

 

Nappy bag checklist

While spare nappies should always be at the top of your ‘to pack’ list when venturing out the house, nappy bags, it turns out, are not just for nappies. I’ve compiled a full list of what to pack (below) but here’s a little disclaimer: you don’t really need all this stuff.  Not really really. You need nappies, wipes, a spare outfit and food/milk. You will survive without the rest.

But if, like me, you’re too exhausted to remember what you need, or you pride yourself on being a Prepared Parent (laughing at myself right now), here’s a handy checklist:

  • Nappies. Take at least two more than you think you need for the outing.
  • Changing mat. I like Cherubs Care Mats. They’re soft, disposable, absorbent, and waterproof. (I’ve also used one of these as a make-shift playmat on the floor of the doctor’s waiting room.)
  • Scented nappy sacks. You need somewhere to put the dirty nappy and wipes when you’re on the move. Dischem’s Baby Thing’s Nappy Bags are great value for money. If you’re using cloth diapers, remember to pack your wetbag or a sealable plastic bag for dirty diapers.
  • Bum cream. I use Sudocrem when we use disposables, and coconut oil (or nothing) with cloth nappies.
  • Wipes (for the bum). For nappy changes, I like Cherubs or Pigeon baby wipes.
  • Hand and mouth (and all-over) wipes. Essential for older babies, particularly if your baby has started solids and/or is crawling. I love the Pigeon Hand & Mouth Baby Wipes and Stikki Fingers Family Wipes.
  • Spare baby outfit(s). Spit-ups, poopsplosions, food messes, changes in weather … There are many reasons to take a change of clothes. Don’t forget socks and/or a hat, depending on the season.
  • Spare parent outfit. Reid once peed all over me while we were out. Pack an extra T-shirt for yourself, just in case.
  • Blanket. You may need an extra blanket in cold weather. Also handy as a make-shift playmat.
  • Dummy/ pacifier.
  • Bibs. Pack enough dribble bibs, plastic-backed bibs and/or sleeved bibs, depending on your requirements. I love love love Mum 2 Mum’s Wonder Bibs.
  • Burp cloths. When I was pregnant, I thought I could get away with only owning two burp cloths. Hahahaha.
  • Formula. Pre-measure the scoops into a formula dispenser. I like ClevaMama’s Travel Container, particularly because the sections are big enough to hold seven scoops of formula easily.
  • Bottles and pre-boiled water. If you need to keep water warm, there are plenty of insulated bottle holders on the market. I’d advise getting the same brand as the bottles you’re using.
  • Sippy cup and water. For babies who have started drinking water.
  • Food and utensils. For babies who have started solids.
  • Snacks for Mom. In my early days of breastfeeding, I was ravenous all the time. A few times, I popped out the house, thinking I’d survive an hour without food (surely?), and then nearly collapsed from starvation on the drive. Buy a bunch of snack bars for a quick blood-glucose fix and leave them in the nappy bag for emergencies.
  • Toys and teethers.
  • Medicines. Which medicines you take with you depends on you and your baby (eg if your baby is sick or teething). Lately, I’ve just been packing Allergex, as I don’t know what relatives are going to stuff into Reid’s little mouth when I’m not watching, and I’d rather be safe.
  • Sunblock. Bennetts Sunblock comes as a roll-on, which is handy for wriggly babies. Eucerin Kids Sun Lotion (for children over one year) is also highly recommended.

 

What do you always pack in your nappy bag? Have I left anything off the list? Let me know in the comments below!

Insights for (and from) a new mom

I’m nearly nine months into motherhood. Very soon, my baby will have spent more time on the outside than inside.

There’s been lots of learning in that time – his and mine. But while he’s shoving shoes in his mouth and rolling around in his sleep, I’m still reeling from several sleep-deprived, hormonal, hazy months. This time has been as delightful as it’s been difficult …

As my journey through motherhood continues, I’m going to be writing about my anecdotes, epiphanies, insights and inspirations. For now, I’ll share a few things I’ve learnt so far:

  1. There are many ways to do this parenting thing. Read the books and online articles, listen to all the advice – and then do what feels right to you.
  2. You’re allowed to change your mind. Maybe you researched something thoroughly and chose a route that made sense and seemed sound, but then when you tried it, it didn’t work for you and/or your baby. Good parenting is about flexibility. Have the courage to try things differently if you have to.
  3. You don’t have to love every minute. Babies are like cakes – they’re sweet and everyone loves them, but if you’ve been eating cake non-stop, you will want a break. That’s okay.
  4. Don’t compare your baby to others. Every child is different. Rather, compare him/her to himself/herself a week ago, a month ago …
  5. There are no shortcuts. Whether you’re putting your baby to sleep or feeding your baby or trying to leave the house with a newborn, trying to speed things up is often futile, if not disastrous. It takes as long as it takes.
  6. Babies are not robots. They have good days and bad days, just like the rest of us. If every day is different, your baby isn’t impossible. Your baby is – surprise! – human.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about parenthood, it’s that the lessons keep coming. I look forward to navigating this often-overwhelming labyrinth, one step at a time, with you.