WHAT SURPRISED ME MOST ABOUT MOTHERHOOD

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Motherhood, that’s what surprised me most. I could not recognize the person I was after the birth of our daughter. This was not in a bad way but in the best way possible. The minute I held our child in my hands, my life changed. It was immediately enhanced. I found another reason to live and discovered my higher purpose as a woman. I sobbed like a baby when my baby landed on earth. If you haven’t had a chance to see the video, please click on the link below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPb1sE2Zw7w

She was the most beautiful tiny human being I had ever seen and we were her parents. God had entrusted us with the life of a human being. I kept questioning why God would trust us with such a big mission until the moment I held her in my arms. What surprised me was how quickly the fear and doubt about motherhood just went out the window. My motherly instinct instantly kicked in and it all started to make sense.

After 3 nights at the hospital, we went home, and man-oh-man was I met with one surprise after the other. Let me tell you about them:

Paranoia level 1000

I cannot tell you how many times I had to check if she was breathing. Some nights we would co-sleep, and some nights she would be in her cot. Regardless of where she slept, I would put my ear close to her nose just to feel that tiny breath against my skin. I calmed down when I learned that this is very common amongst new moms. Newborns are generally erratic breathers. This is called ‘periodic breathing’, which happens when the infant has pauses in breathing for a few seconds. This is followed by a series of rapid, shallow breaths then the breathing returns to normal. As normal as it is, it is quite nerve wrecking. Especially if you aren’t aware of this during your first few days at home with your newborn. Your main prayer becomes: “I hope I don’t kill her, amen”. One other thing that alarmed me was her constipation. She would only poop once or twice a week and a lot of sources informed me that this was abnormal. Turns out it was not. We live and learn.

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When baby T turned 2-months old, I was shocked at how different she was starting to look. I even made comparison pictures and my mind was blown. It felt like it was only yesterday when she was a newborn and could not hold her head up. I still look at her newborn pictures today because I tend to be quite nostalgic. My advice, enjoy the newborn phase. Hold her, smell her, keep her on your chest. Because before you know it, she will be 8 months old. She’ll be so busy moving around like a little bunny that she won’t be interested in laying quietly on your chest.

Silver stripes and empty baby bump

I’ve always been the skinny girl with a sexy figure and a flat tummy. The perfect summer body. I was unfortunately not one of those women that snap right back after pregnancy. You get your Beyonce’s that don’t look like they just gave birth, and then you have us, that have the tummy flap and stretch marks as evidence that childbirth happened. I was so hard on myself for the first few months after birth. I’ve had to learn to fall in love with myself again. I’ve had to change my terminology. They weren’t “stretch marks”, they were “love marks”. These love marks will forever be a reminder that I was blessed with the strength to carry a life. So if you are a new mom or you’re expecting, I say: YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!!

Girl, Bye!

A random woman came up to me to ask me if I am formula feeding our girl when she was about 3 months old. When I said no, she attempted shoving her child’s bottle in my daughter’s mouth “just to see”. I rudely jumped in and blocked that from happening. I made a decision that I would exclusively breastfeed T for as long as possible, and I had no idea who this woman is, or what right she has to “just see”. My biggest problem is that certain moms have a way of making new or first-time moms feel like they are doing a crappy job. So many moms told me that my baby isn’t sleeping because I’m starving her. How would I starve my own child??

In hindsight, it is always encouraging to have positive moms who would check in with me now and again and ask how “their” baby is doing. If I was having a tough time, they would give positive advice. Parenting is difficult, and we learn from experience. I have therefore established a healthy network of good friends that I can contact if I need some advice.

Therefore, prepare yourself. Women will be constantly giving you unsolicited advice, like the lady that approached a mom in Woolworths to tell her to stop putting shoes on her daughter’s feet because it will delay her walking. It’s a reality I have had to deal with. How do I deal with it? Just smile and wave honey, smile, and wave.

Time to say goodbye.

Truth is, your world changes, and so do your priorities. The friends you went jolling with every weekend aren’t interested in listening to your stories about how many times your daughter pooped, or how her sleeping habits are changing. You lose those friends, and you’re okay with it. Anyone that knows me knows how easy it is for me to connect with people and make friends. It’s become equally as easy for me to acknowledge that we are now journeying through different paths in life.

I never knew love.

I’ve loved a number of people in my life. I love my family, I love my friends and I love my life partner. I thought that only one form of love existed, until motherhood. I experienced love in its purest form when Tshimo was born. I was usually a nonbeliever in unconditional love between humans. Only God loves unconditionally. Human beings come with terms and conditions. Romantic love, particularly, has a lot of conditions. I will love my partner forever on the CONDITION that he respects me, remains faithful to me and treats me like I mean the world to him. God? God loves us- flaws, sins, blemishes and all. No conditions! I became likened to a god. I loved unconditionally. She kept me up for about 20 hours a day, but still, I loved her. She cried and I had no idea why, but I still I loved her. One day she will probably throw a tantrum in a shopping mall, and I will love her. She will also have a “do-not-enter” sign on her door in my house, but I will still love her. I would give a limb for her. The thought of anything bad happening to her, or someone harming her makes me sick. I discovered a pure version of love. And I love it 🙂

Thank you for sharing this journey with me 🙂

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First Father’s Day

 

 

Today, I celebrate a man I have been with for almost 8 years. 7 years into our relationship, God saw it fit to bless us with child. Today, we have an 8-month-old beautiful daughter that keeps growing and flourishing daily. Would all this be possible if her father was not here? I strongly doubt it. We both, unfortunately, weren’t raised by both our parents, and we saw what it can do to a child. We, therefore, both swore that we will try our best to be conscious about maintaining a healthy relationship and raising our child to be the best version of herself.

Sadly, we don’t have a point of reference for healthy parenting. We do, however, have God and the church and they remind us daily on how we can grow as a family.

Daddy, I am so proud of the man you have become. I am even more proud of the father that you are to our girl. You are the ultimate hands-on-dad who enjoys bath time. You don’t enjoy diaper change time but you do it anyway because it has to be done, and I respect that about you.

Our lives had to change drastically after finding out we were pregnant, but you’ve embraced this journey so much, and that has kept me going.

To many more 🙂

Thank you for sharing this journey with me 🙂

Is breastfeeding bad for you?

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I have only been a mother for 6 months, which makes me no expert on the subject. But I think I speak for almost all mothers when I ask: Why is something so natural so difficult? I remember an hour after birth I went to take a shower and I returned to our recovery room I had to feed the baby. At this point, the breasts only produce pre-milk called colostrum. I remember not having the faintest clue about what to do, or how to even hold her. Then came the latching- we had to get this right. I remember talking to some mothers before I gave birth and they had faced some serious challenges with breastfeeding. So needless to say, I was very worried. Luckily, her latch was perfect. She latched on and sucked for about an hour.

I want to address 3 important questions I was asked regarding breastfeeding:

  1. I hear it is painful, is this true? What can I do to make it better?

Yes, it is quite a painful experience. I am not going to beat around the bush. The first few times I was feeding her I had to use a heat pack for my lower abdomen because I was in pain. I was experiencing period like pain. This was due to my uterus contracting. As uncomfortable as that was, I was advised it was for a good purpose. This was helping my uterus contract back to its original place. A lot happens after delivery. You can read about my delivery story here: What they don’t tell you about a Natural Vaginal Delivery (NVD)

Engorgement is another painful experience of breastfeeding. Engorgement is the overproduction of breast milk. This, according to some research, is due to habitual pumping. I was not pumping any milk during the first few weeks, but my breasts were still engorged. I relieved this by using cabbage leaves and hot, wet towels. They helped a lot but smelling like cabbage is not fancy. I could bear the pain of the overproduction but what I could not bear was the spontaneous let down of milk that used to choke the baby. The milk would overwhelm her so much that I had to set a timer every time I fed her. I would feed her for 30 seconds, remove her from the breast then latch her back on. It was very tedious, but it was worth it.

Have you ever had painful nipples? I did. It is both excruciating and uncomfortable. I used nipple cream for the longest time, but I don’t need it anymore. According to moms, I might need it again when she starts teething cause biting my nipple will be an experimental experience for her, ha-ha. At my 6th-week postpartum, my midwife informed why my nipples were sore. It was due to an incorrect latch. Proper latching is the key to a successful and pain-free breastfeeding experience. The first key point is getting into a comfortable sitting position. Make sure your back is supported by using your feeding pillow, or any other comfortable pillow. Hold your baby in your arms, make sure their nose is directly facing your nipple. This is a very comfortable position for them.

Rub your nipple on their upper lip to make sure that the baby opens their mouth properly. Ensure that you do not lean into the baby, but rather bring the baby towards you. If you do lean, you will inflict some pain on your back and neck, plus that position gets uncomfortable. Once the baby’s mouth is wide open, put the nipple in. Make sure she gets part of the areola (dark area around the nipple). If the baby has latched on to the areola, their top and bottom lips will be shaped like fish lips- then you know he/she is doing it right.

Honestly, this takes some time. It took me months to build the right confidence to enjoy feeding time. Once we got it right, feeding times became the best ways to bond with my little one. Now, I can’t wait to get home and feed her cause she gently latches on and looks right into my eyes. Priceless 🙂

  1. What was your biggest challenge? How did you overcome it?

Our girl, unfortunately, had reflux. A lot of moms told me that a lot of kids go through it and that she would outgrow it. Nothing frustrated me more than hearing that she would outgrow it. ‘Outgrow’ became my worst word. Baby Tshimo would spit up her milk after every feed. She used to feed every 3 hours, so every 3 hours I knew, like clockwork, that she would bring food back up. It became a bigger challenge when she used to reflux through her nose and mouth at the same time. This meant that she could not breathe. The sight of my daughter choking was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. I tried all the traditional suggestions: elevate her head after a feed, sit baby upright, burp often and give her small but frequent feedings. My biggest weapon against the reflux was making sure that I burp her often. This, however, would be a challenge. She would feed 3 times during the night and this means I can’t lazily feed. Lazy feeding is using the side-lying position. The biggest reason I could not lazily feed is that food would immediately come out from one nostril. I had to invest some real time, sit up properly and burp her. There are several ways you can burp a newborn. The widely used technique is placing her on your shoulder and tapping her back.

Our last resort was putting her on medication. We medicated her for a couple of weeks. It did not get rid of the reflux completely, but it really helped. The pediatrician suggested we get her on solids at 4 months to help her with the reflux. I started her on light porridge at 4 months and that got rid of the reflux. It was either the porridge or she outgrew it (ha-ha)

Here is a link to a very educational article on baby reflux: https://www.livingandloving.co.za/baby-blog/cope-babys-acid-reflux

  1. How long do you want to breastfeed for?

The answer is twofold. 1: For as long as my body allows it. 2: A year. Prior to going back to work, I never experienced issues with milk supply, but now I am, or at least I thought I was. I’d usually pump about 400-500 ml in one sitting. Now I only pump about 300 ml per sitting when I’m at in the office. I’ve come to understand that stress affects lactation tremendously. I learned this after a few of my colleagues celebrated getting 50 ml of milk in one sitting. I’m just glad that I don’t have supply issues.

The female body gets to a point where it does not produce milk anymore. If I wake up tomorrow and my body decides that today is that day, then I will not be hard on myself. I’ve done an amazing job breastfeeding my little one and I should be proud of myself, although my goal is 12 months.

The reason I want to exclusively breastfeed for 12 months is that breastmilk has some amazing benefits over and above just feeding and hydrating her.

Here are a few:

  • Pour a few drops into baby’s nose to unblock it.
  • Pour some into the baby’s bath to soothe any skin irritations.
  • Make her an ice-lolly for teething.
  • Apply some on your nipples to alleviate pain.
  • Helps with circumcision-related pain or minor abrasions.
  • Helps with nappy rash.

As beneficial as it is, I had to stop a few things for the benefit of my daughter:

  • Watch my alcohol intake- We’ve seen mom’s pick up a glass of wine after giving birth. This makes sense since we’ve had to stop consuming alcohol during pregnancy. The reality is that you still have to stop consuming alcohol while breastfeeding. If you do want an occasional drink, you will have to pump-and-dump. If you are not in the business of wasting breastmilk, then no wine for you 😦
  • Watch my diet- I am a huge fan of eggs, which had to change when I discovered that eggs make her fart smell really bad. I wasn’t aware until another mom told me it might be something I eat. And yes, it was the eggs.
  • Stop eating sweets- You know what sugar does to babies, right? It has the same effect for my baby. So since I love my sleep, Its a sacrifice I am willing to make.

It is important to note that I am a huge advocate of the concept of using your motherly instinct. We all have different preferences and there is absolutely nothing wrong with formula feeding your child. We all do what we think and feel is best for our children. If your baby is growing and flourishing, then whatever you are doing is right. Keep doing it.

In conclusion, for me, breast is truly best.

Thank you for sharing this journey with me 🙂

The schedule of a new mom

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A lot of moms kept giving me advice about how being a mother does not come with a handbook. You just do what you can and it works. I did what I could but it was not working. My daughter was very ‘colicky’, reflux was the bane of our existence, and she just did not want to sleep. I was using a pregnancy and parenting app at that time and it noted the importance of physically noting what time your baby eats, sleep, wakes up and bath.

From the 13th of November 2017, I started jotting down what time she wakes and eats and does all the other things a person her age does. It is important to note that at this point she was only 2-3 weeks old. This is the point in motherhood where nothing made sense. On some days, I cried more than she did (this is an exaggeration because no one cries more than a newborn). I cried mostly because I was sleep deprived and I had no idea what I was doing. Yep, no clue. That is the thing about being a new mom, you just wing it. I stayed with my mother-in-law for the first 2 weeks, then I was alone. This was a really challenging time for us. So I took the app’s advice and this is what I came up with.

13 November baby schedule:

22:30   Wake up

23:00   Feed

01:00   Sleep

03:00   Wake up and feed

05:30   Feed

06:30   Sleep

08:00   Feed

09:30   Sleep

11:00   Feed then sleep

14:00   Feed

14:30   Sleep

16:00   Wake up

17:00   Feed

In essence, a newborn baby just eats and sleeps (adult goals hahaha). The reason my schedule starts at night is because her night was day. Babies cannot make that distinction. Several moms advised me to “sleep when she does”, but this is impractical. It’s a lie! I am yet to meet a mom that was actually able to sleep between 9am and 6pm. I tried doing it and it never worked. It was either too hot to sleep or I needed to fulfill adult duties. Duties such as eating, cooking, cleaning, doing the baby’s washing or any other adult chores. I was lucky because her dad helped with some of these, like cooking and cleaning. He has been a superstar; I even wrote him a letter- An open letter to dad.

My biggest issue was that Tshimo slept in my arms in the afternoon and would wake up when I placed her on the bed. So, please explain how I could ‘sleep when she does’ when she was sleeping in my arms. It was impossible for me to do. Plus, I’d be scared that I would actually fall asleep then drop her.

Another big lie is the famous phrase ‘I slept like a baby’. If sleeping like a baby means you woke up every 1-2 hours for no reason or to feed or change a diaper, then yes, you definitely slept like a baby. I used to use the phrase all the time- lesson learned. A day has 24 hours and an adult is required to sleep for about 8 hours a day. However, a new mom would be lucky to get three or four hours.

The biggest lesson from this experience was to ask for help. I was surrounded by people that love and care for us, but there was always a little voice that would whisper, “don’t bother these people, they did not get you pregnant”. My breaking point was when I felt like throwing her out the window. I love her too much to even think about throwing her out of anything. I immediately picked up the phone and called a friend who was there in a jiffy. Again, lesson learned.

In conclusion, we learn as we go. It really does get better over time.

Thank you for sharing this journey with me.

A letter to my unborn child

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On the 20th week of our pregnancy, I sat in the church hall, took out a pen and paper and wrote exactly what I was feeling. Here goes:

It remains a difficult reality to adjust to- the reality of motherhood. Mother– the true carrier and nurturer of humanity as we know it. Human– male and female, wandering the earth in all its splendor. Before their very perfection, we- their mothers, carried then birthed them. For 40 weeks they literally form part of us, existing only through us. They are because we are. Blessed with the physical ability to carry two heartbeats. In other circumstances, we can carry up to 10 heartbeats. All in a single body, the body of a mother.

Tshimo, you exist because I exist. The very breath you take is the result of a blessing immeasurable by man. God thought I was worthy. Worthy to carry the heartbeat of the very person who will one day refer to me as ‘mom’. Right now, you are my entire reason to be. One day you will be a grown woman and I’ll be your entire reason to be.

We hit our halfway mark today. In 20 more weeks (or as I thought), we will officially meet. I will most probably cry like I’ve never cried before because I wouldn’t have experienced the depth of love that strong. A product of true, unbiased and selfless love. I will cry even more when I hear you cry. And as I welcome our Genesis into the world, I will exhale deeply from anticipation because I have been waiting for you for 33 weeks because for 7 weeks you were a mystery to me.

You will know me immediately because for months on end you and I were joined as one. You will love me because in my eyes you will see what true love is. You will learn humanity from the breasts that will feed you. You will have your father’s eyes and your mother’s smile. You will be perfectly made with unconditional love. Love founded on God and nothing else. Love that learned humility from the darkest place. Love that refused to break.

You will feel the warmth of this world in your father’s arms. You will not feel the degree of that safety anywhere else. Only in the arms of your father will you know, with no uncertainty, that you are a blessing like no other. Mom will teach you to speak your truth for nothing else will set you free. Dad will remind you that you are his princess, but God loves you even more. He will teach you to love God above all else, and your neighbor as yourself. Mom and Dad will tell you every day how beautiful you are. Your beautiful eyes are going to tell a story.

20 more weeks my beautiful Tshimo. 20 weeks of floating in that amniotic fluid with zero worries. 20 more weeks of kicking your 1st first friend- mom. Lord knows I cannot wait to meet you. I hope you are as eager to meet me.

See you in 20.

Love, Mom ❤

 

Thank you for sharing this journey with me 🙂

It’s her smile

We would sometimes wake up at 1AM and she just wants to chill. Who chooses to chill at this wicked hour? A newborn baby. I’d be sleep deprived and almost going insane. And then she hits me with a non-intentional, reflex, probably fart induced smile, and all of sudden the idea of playing at 1AM is not that bad. ‭‬

What they don’t tell you about a Natural Vaginal Delivery (NVD)

IMG_6161 I am purposely emphasizing the word ‘vaginal’ because I believe every labour is natural, whether your baby came through the birthing canal or by c-section.

We have probably all heard that vaginal delivery is totally amazing due to the quick recovery time. The not so amazing part (as we have also heard) is that your vagina will never be the same again., This means that your sex life will suffer. Which means you’ll end up co-parenting while your child has a new stepmom…you get the point. But seriously, people aren’t always honest about delivery. We see incredible pictures on the internet, and read up on the interesting facts and benefits of NVD, but what happens postpartum? Well, let me tell you what happens but be warned – TMI!

Labour pains: You can read more about this in my previous blog – Bun comes out of the oven. It’s a long, but very interesting and beautiful story. Do you remember the last time you experienced intense pain? It’s nothing compared to what you feel when your little one is making their way into this earth. This is the one thing mothers ALWAYS talk about; how traumatizing their labour was- and they aren’t lying. It’s a painful but beautiful experience. I could do it again- but only in a couple of years! The honest to God truth is that every woman has a different labour experience. Some women hardly feel the pain and some only push thrice and their baby is out. My sister, for instance, said her labour was just “uncomfortable”. She just felt a bit of pressure when she was pushing my niece out. So, she had an awesome labour experience.

Exhaustion: I cannot remember the last time I felt that exhausted. It reminded me of my first ever 11.5 KM hike. I was as beat. I think it also had to with the constant lack of sleep prior to deliver day. I struggled to sleep, mostly due to the physical discomfort of pregnancy and the regular urge to pee. To put it into perspective, I was up around seven am on October 24th and I was up until six am on October 25th. That means I was up for about 23 hours. I love my sleep, so that was torture. Besides being up for that long and going through the labour process takes its physical toll on you. Therefore, one needs to be physically and mentally prepared it.

Placenta delivery: We have all heard that once you deliver the baby you are home free. Well, not really. My pains were completely gone after Tshimo made it out. Then, the midwife delivered some disappointing news. She had to administer oxytocin, a hormone that is produced in the hypothalamus for the purpose of producing contractions.This would induce more labour pains so that my body can get rid of the placenta. After delivering the placenta, the midwife put her hand into my vagina to make sure that the placenta was completely out. I just pushed out an entire human being, can I not have anything going in there for a while?

Tearing: Baby Tshimo came two weeks early. I can only assume that she was excited to get here. She was so excited that she threw her hands in the air a little too early. She threw them up right before she completely exited the birth canal. Evidence of this was the 2nd degree tear between my vagina and anus, which required stitches. First, the midwife injected me to make me numb. No, not on my bum or my arm, but on my vagina. It is called a local anesthetic. The only thing that distracted me while I was getting stitched was the amazing skin-to-skin session I was having with my bundle of joy who was lying on my chest. I am not too sure when the stitches fell off, but it took a little over two weeks to stop feeling any form of discomfort around that area. I had to use a water bottle filled with water and coarse salt every time I peed, to help with the pain.

Bleeding: Not bleeding for 9 months is amazing. Non-stop bleeding for 2-3 weeks or more is downright unconstitutional. I’m sure we all know this. They’ve made special sanitary pads for postpartum bleeding. You’d think: “Do I really need such big pads”? The answer is: “Yes, you need several big pads!” I went through the first packet in two days. I was a walking, talking, bottom-less tap of blood. Luckily, my awesome sister-in-law, Salma, advised that I pack a few black leggings, and that’s exactly what I did. Unfortunately, daddy only managed to bring those to the hospital in the afternoon. Meanwhile, I wore loose black track pants. As I attempted to walk to the bathroom, there was a huge gush of blood on the floor. Messy! I was literally standing in a pool of blood.

Still pregnant: I looked like I was six months pregnant after delivery. This has the potential of crushing every woman’s dream of getting their old body back after giving birth. It definitely crushed mine. The good news is that you gradually loose the big belly, but don’t expect to “snap back” in two days.

Incontinence: Incontinence refers to involuntary urination. This is caused by weakened pelvic floor muscles. These muscles are made weak by your growing baby resting on them for a couple of months. I didn’t experience a bad case of incontinence, thanks to my midwife who advised to do regular pelvic floor muscle exercises which can be found on YouTube. So yes, you will most probably pee on yourself after labour.

Hemorrhoids: I had hemorrhoids coupled with a horrible case of constipation for about 6-7 weeks postpartum. I was advised to get some stool softeners, but I did not get the chance to. I just tried eating a lot of fibre, which did not help much. The hemorrhoids went away after a couple of weeks of using a local cream, but the constipation lasted much longer. So, don’t be like me. Get stool softeners. You cannot begin to fathom the excruciating pain of struggling to take a poo.

What helped me through journey was speaking to a lot of mothers, baring in mind that you need to be very selective on what could work for you. Some moms will absolutely terrify you with a lot of negativity. Like I said, we all don’t have a good birthing experience. A lot of women told me that they will never do it again, which is okay for them, although the last thing you need to hear when you’re pregnant is how horrifying labour is.

For me? I felt the aches and pains and went through it all, and today I sit with the very reason for those pains and she makes it all worth it.

Thank you for sharing this journey with me 🙂