To all the men that love my daughter

I feel like this week has dealt South African’s – especially parents, mothers,  a gut-punch, followed by a kick in the ribs. Monday morning the news of a young girl, basically abducted by four men out of her mothers arms outside her school broke. At the same time, the country was mourning the loss of a young woman, murdered on her way to the post office.  Two incidents, the straw that broke the camel’s back – soon social media was flooded with faces and names, countless women whose stories may or may not have been told. Victims of abuse, murder, torture, kidnapping, rape. The bile rises in my throat every time I scroll through my feed – knowing that this is just the tip of the ice-berg, and I, like so many others start thinking – am I next, is my daughter next?

These atrocities – mostly committed by men, gave rise to the #menaretrash movement – and yes…I’ll agree, in general…South African men ARE trash.  Don’t argue, the numbers prove you wrong – something is broken in the psyche of the males of this country, something is twisted, sick, perverted. If a man approaches me in a public place, my first thought is never about what a good father/brother/son he is, but rather where my car keys are, where my nearest escape route is, whether I’m showing too much boob. My heart breaks for my little girl, if she learns from my example she will grow up with an inherent fear of men she does not know.

But this is where you come in – the men that love my daughter- and she is thankfully surrounded by a horde of you.  I am so grateful for you, for being in our lives, to show her what it means to be good men. I can’t put into words how glad I am that Hannah surrounded by the best of men, fathers, uncles, grandfathers, guncles, friends. It’s going to make raising her a lot easier, but I’m going to need your help.

I need you to know that she is always watching, always listening – whether it’s your interactions with your partners or sisters or mothers – or the woman at the store, or on the side of the road, she is seeing how you treat women and forming her own view of what respect is, and what is acceptable and what is not.  Set a good example.

I need you to protect her. Protect her from the outside world for as long as possible. Let her be a princess, a fairy or a gnome. Feed her imagination, play with her, let her run wild. Help her believe in Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy and the Easter bunny. I need you to protect her from your fellow man, and not just her. Those jokes, catcalls and “harmless comments” from the guys at the pub may not be directed at her, or about her – but what if they were? I need you to make them stop.

I need you to respect her. Respect her opinions and what she has to say. Show her early on that she can share her views so that one day she can take over a boardroom, or a courtroom, or an operating theater. Respect her space, let her know that she is a person of her own who can go and do what she wants.  Respect her body. Heck, respect all women’s bodies! Don’t make those comments, she doesn’t need to hear how fat/good looking/skinny/tall/big/small that lady walking past is. Keep it to yourself.

I need you to raise good sons.  Sons who follow your example. Sons who will be as loving and respectful towards girls and women as you are. Sons who will one day probably break her heart, but will at least let her down with her dignity and self worth intact.

I need you to hear her. Hear her stories, listen. Let her feel that she is worth your time, that she is worthy of any man’s time.  I need you to hear if she says no. No to hugs, no to tickles, no to kisses. Consent is learnt early, and I need you to teach her that when she says no, people listen.

I need you to carry on loving her, and everyone else you love – show her that men are capable of love. In this country filled with so much hate, show her that those pathetic excuses for men are the odd ones out. Show her that your arms can be a safe haven, somewhere she can run to if she needs help.  Show her that love comes in many shapes and forms, and doesn’t always look like the movies.

But most of all, I need you to be there for those around you.  Show her that men are dependable, when their loved ones need it the most.  Support your partners, your family your friends, build them up, compliment them, celebrate them.

I love you all – the men who love my daughter. It may sound like I’m angry and desperate, and I am, but not at you.  Thank you for being in her life.

Tomorrow you’ll be one

My dearest Hannah bear,

Tomorrow you’ll be one, one whole year old. One whole year of knowing your face, your cry, your smile, you. How can it be a only a year? I feel that it’s been eternity, I’ve known every facet of you forever. How can it be a year? It feels like yesterday you were born.

My precious girl this year has been the best year of my life. 365 days of holding you, loving you, watching you grow and learn. Oh I loved those early days, hours spent curled up on the couch in the afternoon sun watching your sweet little lips twitch as you dreamt. I loved the firsts, first smile, first laugh, first roll, first crawl, and so so many more, etched into my memory as clear as day. I’ve (mostly) loved our night time cuddles, midnight feeds where it’s just you and me. I’ve loved how my body responded to your needs – nourishing you with exactly what you needed. I’ve loved holding you close, and dancing round the room. I’ve loved our adventures, big and small.

It’s also been the hardest year of my life. I’ve felt like a complete failure, a total wreck, a stranger to myself. I’ve felt total isolation, complete frustration, utter exhaustion. There have been times where I’ve yelled and sworn and cried. Times where I wished I was somewhere else entirely. I’ve hated what’s happened to my body, couldn’t bear to look in the mirror. I’ve resented those around me for their sleep filled, relaxed lives. There are days where I wondered if I’d made a mistake. I’m not telling you this to make you feel bad, unwanted, unloved. I want you to know how good it was, that even through all these hard and awful feelings, I have never been happier.

If I could slow down and rewind time I would my darling girl, relive it all over – even the three days of labour and the nights with barely any sleep. But it doesn’t work that way, I have to hold on to what we’ve already had, cherish the memories in my heart.

Tonight I’ll hold you a little longer, drink in those long lashes and sweet, twitching dreaming lips. Burn the memory of your weight in my arms into my mind, try to remember the sound of your little snores. I’ll try to hold on to this moment for as long as I can. Tomorrow you’ll be one.

Mommy

Mommy, I miss you especially today. The day you left us. 9 years already, the pain feels as if it were yesterday.

Mommy, you have a granddaughter – we named her after you. Daddy calls her Hannah-B, and it makes me think of you every time. People say she has my eyes which means she has your eyes Mom.

I hope that you can see her, I pray that you are watching. I hope that you can see her grow, how beautiful she is. She loves her other Grandma, squeals and giggles when she sees her, I wish that she could do the same for you – it hurts so much to know she never will.

She’s not a great sleeper, I’m up so many times a night. I wish I had you to tell me she’d outgrow it, that you survived this three times over and still loved us after it all. I wish that you were here to hold her while I napped, to come shopping with us and sit and watch her play on the grass. I wish that you were here to teach her to dance as soon as she can walk, and to tell me it’s ok if she doesn’t crawl.

Mom I want to tell you a million things about her every day. I want to show you every little thing that she does, and I know you’d be just as excited as I am over the small things. I want to ask you if you think she’s teething, I want you to help me cut her nails.

I want to tell you how I only know now how much you must have loved us, how each of the sacrifices you made were gladly done, how now I understand when you said the hidings hurt you more than me.

She has such a precious laugh Mom, I’d give anything for you to hear it. Such a sense of humour, everything’s a game.

I know it’s useless wishing, and wallowing it what could be. But on this day especially I can’t help it. I’m angry at whoever is out there with their sick and twisted plan that took you from us. Who robbed us of our mother, deprived my daughter of her granny. It isn’t fair, it isn’t right. But we push on all the same.

I’ll tell her all about you, when she’s old enough to understandshe’ll hear all the stories, see all the pictures, know which recipes are yours. She may not get to know you, but she’ll know you would have loved her, the Granny with her name.

I miss you Mommy.

C-section Awareness Month

April is Caesarean Section awareness month – and aims to raise awareness of and educate people about C-sections.

The origins of the procedure are hazy, it is rumored that it is so named because the famous Julius Caesar was cut from his mothers womb. The fact that she lived well into his adulthood probably falsifies that myth. It is a well documented phenomenon though that during those times midwives would surgically remove babies from mothers who had died in childbirth, or were about to die.  C-sections were performed all over the world, from Ancient Rome to Ancient China, relics depict babies being born this way, but it was never clear, and probably highly unlikely that the mothers survived. Right up until the early 1800’s more than half of the women who underwent a Caesar died.  These days, in the private sector in South Africa, it’s almost become more commonplace to have your baby via C-Section than natural birth, and the mortality rate for babies and mothers is very very low. With the now high rate of caesars, there’s also a very strong anti-caesar sentiment that’s growing, and has an especially strong presence on social media. It’s hit me hard, and left me feeling incredibly guilty for the way that my child was born.

Early on in my pregnancy I started researching birth. Somehow this tiny human being inside of me was going to have to get out! Almost everything that I read bashed Caesars, berated them as the “easy way out”, and lambasted doctors for pushing mothers into “unnecessary” surgical procedures.  All of the advice I sought from friends and midwives and pre-natal courses did the same, and soon, instead of viewing the C-section as the life saving procedure that it can be – I was seeing it as a swear word, something evil, something the big bad medical corporation was going to bully me into, something that would hinder my child’s development and potentially stunt her growth.

I threw myself into preparing for a natural delivery, I read every article I could, and learnt about every natural pain remedy that I could, there was no way I was letting anyone pump me or my baby full of terrible chemicals. I had prepared my labour bag and packed it full of things Pinterest deemed necessary for enduring and recovering from a natural delivery.  Then the big day arrived!  Labour started.

I laboured at home for almost a full day before I went into the hospital – absolutely sure that I was minutes away from being told I could push.  I wasn’t. I was sent home.  Another day passed….I survived off heat pads, warm water, backrubs and calming candles before heading to the hospital again, sure this time that I was leaving with a baby. I didn’t. I was sent home again.  Day three dawned with me not having slept more than six minutes at a time for two consecutive nights – Contractions were coming strong and fast, surely this baby was coming soon! We went to the hospital…this time I told them I wasn’t leaving without a baby.

Finally! We were admitted to the labour ward, I had the gown on, the monitors were hooked up – it was really happening. Only it wasn’t. Despite strong regular contractions, I wasn’t dilating, my body wasn’t responding the way it was supposed to.  I was confused and sad and most of all exhausted – the articles I’d read and classes I’d been to told me my body would know what to do and all I had to do was endure it. I hung in there, waited for my body to respond. Baby’s heart rate dropped and then became static. A bad sign. She too was exhausted by three days of stress. My doctor started to worry. My waters were broken – and were full of meconium, baby poop – a sign that the baby is in severe distress.

Less than half an hour later, I lay on a theatre table, a host of medical staff hovering over me. I felt extreme pain as they cut and tore and pulled my baby out of me. There was silence – no cry. They held her up over the curtain, and then whisked her off, and all I could hear was “oxygen” and “suction” and tension in voices…until finally she let out a wail.  Her initial APGAR was only 3.

Without that emergency intervention, if I had pushed through for any longer, I may not be watching a perfect 7 month old bouncing in her jumperoo. Without that emergency intervention, I might not have been sitting here writing this either.  The first few months of my daughters life I was devastated by the delivery that I had.  I felt that I had been robbed of the birth experience that I wanted. I felt that I had failed at the first hurdle as a woman and a mother – and all because of what I read and the advice that I was given in preparing me for the birth of my child.

I don’t deny that there are definite biological advantages to children being born the good old fashion way, and I don’t deny that there are doctors out there that will push a Mommy to cut before she’s had her chance to at least try the natural route. What I have a huge problem with is the culture out there that bashes and denigrates the life saving procedure that delivered my daughter into the world.

What I have a problem with are midwives and doulas and absolute strangers who can make you feel like you “chose” the supposed easy way out, were “too posh to push”.  My problem is with the thousands of hippie-natural-crunchy-granola-pseudo-blogger-doctor-instagram-moms who think that they know best, and will tell you, oh but you should have tried hanging upside down with a crystal around your belly. I’ve had enough of being ashamed of the fact that my child was a Caesar baby. My amazing doctor saved her life and mine. We went through 3 days of terrifying stress together, and lived to tell the tale, because of the advances of modern medicine.

And so this April, this C-section awareness month, I want to talk to all the other C-Section Mommies, who felt the same as me. I want to raise awareness for those of us who feel like we endured a trauma. I want to tell them that it’s OK, you did not fail! You brought your child into the world under scary circumstances, you endured massive abdominal surgery and still cared for a newborn.  Your baby will still excel at school and sport and life and love, they’ll still roll and crawl and speak and run.  If you’re staring at a newborn and feeling like you’ve lost a connection because you didn’t push them into this world….I promise that connection will come, give it time (and maybe some Eglonyl – that stuff’s amazing). Don’t waste time in those precious early days crying over your delivery – you got pregnant to have a baby, not for a specific birth. Spend that fleeting time staring at those perfect fingers, that pouty precious little mouth and the wonder of those fluttering eyelashes. You grew a human, You’re doing great mama.

 

 

 

There’s so much to do

It’s 5pm on a Sunday, there’s so much to do before I leave you again tomorrow morning. So much to cram into a few short hours before I get in the car and play in traffic, sit in an office away from you, my heart all the while calling out for you, my arms wishing they could be holding you.

I need to tidy your nursery, fold and pack away your clothes…but your eyes have closed and your cheek rests against my chest.

I need to cook your food, so healthy and wholesome, but your breath has slowed and quietened and calmed.

I need to sterilize and clean and expresss and sterilize again, but your tiny hand has curled tight around my hair.

I need to bath you and change you, but your little legs have tucked up into the crook of my arm.

There’s so much to do my sweet Hannah bear, but you lie here asleep, contented and calm. There’s so much to do, but I need to tell you before I leave again tomorrow how much I love you, you need to know how every second I get to cuddle you while you’re asleep makes my heart sing. I need to let you know that I will always be here for you to rest on, a safe, cosy squishy place for you to sleep.

There’s so much to do, but this is more important. Watching you breathe in, breathe out…your lips twitching in a smile as you dream – I hope you remember those happy dreams.

There’s so much to do, but all that can wait.

This body

I stand in front of the mirror, trying to figure out who I’m looking at. It’s not me. She has some of my facial features and what sort of look like my hands, and that birth mark is mine…but that’s not the me I know. That’s not the me I recognize. It’s a body that I think was mine once upon a time.

The face is rounder, softer – in fact everything is. The body is marked and stretched and scarred and battered, not a hint of muscle anywhere. It’s hiding in a sack of vomit covered clothing, ashamed and scared to be exposed.

Despite being told it couldn’t and wouldn’t, this body grew a baby, this body didn’t die of morning sickness, this body went through 3 days of excruciating labour, this body was cut open on a table and sewn back up again, just to be walking and caring for another human a few hours later, this body feeds another human being, and survives on minimal sleep and no caffeine. This body of mine has done me so proud, and all I can do is hate it and shame it and tear it down.

That needs to stop.

Mourning

Today I had a meltdown. A meltdown of massive proportions. The realization that these precious precious days of maternity leave are almost over hit me like a ton of bricks. I will never ever again have this beautiful time with my daughter again. Somewhere in the midst of ugly crying and trying to keep the baby entertained, I realized that with all the joy of motherhood, there are moments of mourning too.

To start at the very beginning – you have this amazing bundle of new pink gorgeous baby, but nobody told me how much I would miss having her part of me. I’m in mourning for the little stretches and kicks and flutters- she’ll never be so much “mine” ever again. From that moment of birth she became her own little person and the “us” of it all died as my husband cut her cord.

I had to have an emergency c section, after 3 days of labour Hannah went into major distress, and we were rushed to theatre. Although it was a procedure that saved both our lives and gave me my precious daughter, I mourn the fact that I didn’t have the birth I wanted, I didn’t get to birth my child and deliver her into this world, she was pulled from me by a skilled surgeon and somehow I feel that she was the one to give her life, not me.

I mourn the tiny tiny baby that she was. Those beautiful little pouty lips and clenched fists resting against my chest, curled up like a little tree frog, asleep, oblivious to the world around her. I celebrate her growth every day, but oh if I could just hold my tiny tiny baby once more.

I mourn her total reliance on me for nourishment. I love watching her taste new things and start to build a love for food, but inside my heart has broken a little that she doesn’t need just me anymore.

The worst of it all is that I’m already mourning the loss of our time together. I’ve been blessed to have almost 7 months of uninterrupted time with her, but it’s really starting to sink in that in a few short days that will be over. Never ever again will I have the luxury of just us two with no outside interruptions or responsibilities. And I know life must go on, but I want to stay in this happy limbo, this time with just us and time to play and nap and just sit and watch the dogs and clouds.

Nobody prepared me for the love I feel for this little being, nobody could have. Nobody prepared me for the utter heartbreak I’m feeling at the prospect of us being apart.