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!

Getting my house in order

My dad was a hoarder. Now, I know you hear ‘hoarder’ and you think, Ah, we all hold on to stuff we don’t need, don’t we? Most of us have a bit of a hoarding problem. But no. No. My dad was a real hoarder. He kept everything.

Once, I was on my way to the rubbish bin to throw out a badly chipped glass – so badly chipped, it was unusable … or so most people would think. But I was intercepted.

‘How could you think about throwing that away?’ His voice reached a higher pitch. He was astonished and anxious. After all, what would have happened if we’d lost the opportunity to repurpose that glass, to use it to store something?

My mom once tackled his cupboard and found 13 (thirteeeeeen) pairs of jeans that no longer fitted him. This included three pairs of bellbottoms from the 1970s. Even if they did eventually come back into fashion, my dad hadn’t been that size since before I was born.

And that’s what this really comes down to for me. Those jeans, and genes.

I, too, battle to throw things away but – ever aware of my inherited idiosyncrasies – I try to keep this in check. Although my instinct is to hold on to things in case I need them later, I have a system: I ask myself if this item is something my dad would have kept in his cupboard for 20 years. If it is, it gets tossed.

A week before I went into labour, I was struck by the nesting instinct. Feeling like a pregnancy cliche, but driven by a hormonal force beyond my control, I cleared up cupboards and decluttered drawers in a tidying frenzy. My theory about the nesting instinct is that the pregnant mother naturally understands that there will be zero time to tidy up once there’s a burbling, babbling, bawling baby in the house, so she tackles the task beforehand … and then collapses in an achy, sweaty heap on the bed, because, y’know, pregnancy means being hot and sore.

This theory is certainly how things panned out in the N-Y household. Nine months: the age of our child, and also the time it has been since we tidied properly. Don’t misunderstand – our house has been kept clean and liveable, but it is astounding how much stuff a small family can stockpile in such a short time. The kipple has reproduced itself.

And so we are addressing the mess. I’m finding it both a conflicting and liberating process. Using the Dad’s Jeans Test, I have managed to ignore my instincts and cast away a whole range of potentially useful but ultimately useless items. It feels like a detox for my house.

What I’m really feeling at the moment, though, is like I’m going through a process of clearing out the mind; a casting-aside of thought patterns that don’t serve me. A centering. In new-parent survival mode, it was hard not to hoard up information, not to hold on to advice and expectations and anxiety. It’s felt frenetic and unsettling.

Now, as we slow down and saunter towards the end of an eventful year, I’m making space … for family, for friends, for good foundations – stuff that never goes out of fashion and doesn’t clutter up the cupboards.

Despite himself, I think my dad would have been proud.

 

Photo by Viktor Hanacek via Picjumbo.com

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.