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.

Marry someone who…

I didn’t get much boy and dating advice from my Mum, but something she did tell me once was “Marry someone you can have children with”. It seemed a bit cryptic at the time, and I always thought it had something to do with making sure their genetics were good, that they’d make beautiful healthy babies, but I know now what she meant.

She meant to marry someone who will basically keep you alive through over 4 months of debilitating sickness, who will feed you pineapple, crackers and orange juice and rub your back as you throw them up again. Someone who will feed the dogs every day because you can’t bear the smell of the dog food, someone who will hunt for the faintest of smells and get rid of them. Someone who will tell you with the utmost confidence that it will all be ok when you’ve lost all hope and have been crying uncontrollably all day. Someone who will give you endless backrubs and help wash your feet when you can’t reach them anymore.

She meant marry someone who will hold your hand through the pain of delivering that child, and do everything he can to make it more bearable. Someone who will fall instantly in love with that baby, and do anything to make them happy. Someone who will work tirelessly and without complaint to provide for you both, and find such joy in spoiling the child.

She meant marry someone who makes you jungle juice every morning before he leaves for work to help you feed your baby. Someone who passes you the burpcloth, because you forgot it, again. Someone who sits up with you while you’re feeding and changing and feeding again during those long newborn nights. Someone who cleans up the mess you’ve made looking after the baby after a long days work, someone who jumps into the kitchen and cooks for the both of you while you feed and rock and rock and feed that baby to sleep. Someone who calmly, quietly takes the baby from you when you’re about ready to scream in frustration.

She meant marry someone who will love your child possibly more than you do, someone who will delight in their every smile and giggle and squeak, someone who’s face lights up with joy when they hold your baby and radiates with pride whenever someone else admires her. Someone who will have breakfast picnics in the nursery and eat dinner one handed just to spend more time with you both. Someone who will check the cot and the pram and the car seat and the blankets a thousand times over and then just once more for luck.

She meant marry someone who looks at you, all squishy, stripey, scarred and stretched out of shape and says you’re beautiful when when you feel the furthest from it you ever have. Someone who will cuddle and kiss you despite the three day old mascara caked under your eyes and the baby vomit holding your hair in its bun.

I’ve been lucky enough to marry someone I can have children with, and I love you so much more because I now know what that means.

Betrayal…..

Something happened on the weekend that is still irritating me, still making me seethe every time I think of it. In the grander scheme of things, it’s seriously not that big or significant….but it’s really got under my skin.

My husband, baby and I were out for a brunch at a lovely little restaurant, when the little one started the hungry niggles. Now any Mama will tell you the hungry niggles can soon turn into the hungry wails, so it had to be attended to quickly! The restaurant was informal, and there were plenty of young families around with children and toddlers – a family friendly establishment. I whipped on my feeding cover, popped Hannah underneath, and voila – silence…apart from of course her happy glugging. I was completely covered, and to be fair the only thing that gave away the fact that I wasn’t a morbidly obese woman in a poncho and rather a breastfeeding mother were Hannah’s two little feet sticking out.

A few minutes later, a middle aged woman with her daughter (Id say early 30’s) came walking in to a table nearby. They both glared at me, gave me the up and down look and the mother shook her head in disgust, passed a comment to the daughter who looked equally disgusted – and sat down at their table where they continued to glare at me in between berating the poor waitress.

Now I’ve been breastfeeding my baby in all sorts of public situations in her 5 months earthside, and I have always been incredibly modest about it, and completely covered up. Not once have I received a dirty look, a comment, even a second glance from anyone, which has been fantastic!

I’ve always been particularly nervous of feeding around men, babies eating seems to make them look incredibly uncomfortable, but not once has any man ever said anything or even looked awkward. Never ever did I consider that my first run-in (even though it wasn’t really a run-in) with someone over my feeding would be with a woman, and honestly, I feel betrayed.

There’s supposed to be an unspoken support system between women, a circle of trust, a safe haven, a sisterhood, especially when it comes to babies and children. From my experience and that of others, regardless of whether you have five kids, or don’t have any or don’t want them, women bandy together to form a protective huddle against the outside world, but not this time.

This woman and her daughter broke that trust, they looked at me as if I was doing something dirty rather than something essential and beautiful and it cracked my confidence to its core.

I’ve been quite proud of the fact that I am still feeding my baby myself, especially when at 6 weeks both the paed and the nurses told me she was underweight and probably would need formula. Because it was important to me* that my child have breastmilk for as long as possible, I persisted, read a lot of articles, took a lot of supplements, made a lot of lactation cookies, and 4 months later my breastfed baby is happy and healthy and chubby. Breastfeeding to me is both my favourite, and most frustrating time of my day, I love the way my baby needs me, but because of her weight issues early on in life, combined with a bad case of reflux and a highly distractable baby, it’s also incredibly stressful.

It’s amazing how one dirty look can strip away all the joy, all the bonding feelings, and make me feel inadequate and dirty all in an instant. It boggles my mind that this came from a fellow mother, even if her daughter is twenty something years older than mine. The feeling of betrayal might be an overreaction, maybe something to do with the mushy hormone filled mom brain, but it’s still there. Maybe next time I’ll whip the cover off and really give her something to glare at.

*I am a firm believer that Fed is best, and am NOT bashing formula feeding in any way. It was just so important to me that I feed my child as a way to bond and give her as many nutrients and antibodies as possible that I was going to do anything in my power to make that happen.