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Mama, what you doin’?

Yesterday evening, when I got home from work, Becs and Fletcher were in the kitchen. Fletch was perched up on the counter and Becs was standing next to him, giving him his vitamins. I came over to say hi, and gave Becs a kiss hello, at which point we heard a determined little voice saying, “Mama! What you doin’? Why you kiss?” Both of us packed up laughing at the statement, and the vehement nature of its delivery. He looked at us, happily enough, but had certainly decided that those moments should be kept until after he had gone to bed. I gave him a kiss on his chin (because his face was nice and sticky from his vitamin), plonked him down on the floor and the two of us proceeded to race and down the passage for the next 30 minutes, occasionally pausing to “jump” at the kitchen step. 


Standing in our bedroom one morning, trying to quickly respond to a WhatsApp message from a colleague, I was loudly chastised from the bedroom door by our not-quite-two-year-old. “Mama! What you doin’?”
“Replying to a message,” I responded. At which point I received a terse, “no!” Fletcher ran into the room, grabbed my free hand and said, “walk!” And that was that, my response would have to wait, and rightly so. There was no time-sensitivity to the response, no reason that I should prioritise responding to a meme over spending time with my child – who would most likely only be awake for another hour or so. Sometimes, it takes a small, albeit firm, voice to remind us of what’s really important. I can’t remember exactly how we occupied the time that followed, but we were together and he was laughing, and that is the most important thing. 


As Fletcher has grown and his grasp of language has developed, we’ve been amazed at some of the things that have come out of his mouth. He’s not even two yet, but every day, he finds a way to remind me that the important things in life are not always the things I think are important. Watching the news is not important. Replying to texts is not important. Reading magazines is not important. Even cooking supper is not so important that it can’t wait until I’ve done a lap or two of the passage race track, or kicked the ball over the balcony a few times. 

What’s important are the memories we’re making, they experiences we’re giving our son that are shaping the person he will grow up to be. The way we respond to situations, to people, will inform the way he responds one day. Today in the car, on the way to school, we were driving along behind another car, and – to my surprise – I heard Fletcher from behind me saying, “move!” pointing to the car in front of us. It made me stop for a second and wonder how many times I’d unconsciously moaned about the cars on the road around me (or more specifically their drivers). It made me wonder what else I’d done unconsciously that he was picking up on, learning from. 

All I can hope is that the majority of his experiences of the world with us, through us and, sometimes, in spite of us are positive and that the human being those experiences forge is a good one. So far, all signs point to a great little guy growing into a wonderful, kind, caring and empathetic human one day. Fingers crossed it stays that way. 

An emotional melting pot

Emotions run wild when your child is in hospital. Here's an amateur mommies account.

Sitting tucked away at a quiet table, in the corner of the hospital coffee shop, trying to catch up on some urgent work items, I’m struck by breadth of emotions around me. To my left, excited extended family celebrates a new addition, surrounded by “It’s a boy!” balloons and blue teddy bears. To my right, an elderly couple stare quietly at each other, the husband wears a pained expression as he looks worriedly at his wife, who sits motionless in her nightgown, an ominous drip-stand at her side. In the reception area, an anxious-looking teenager, asks her mom a thousand-and-one questions about the surgery she is being admitted for. Behind me, a huddled family, silently mourn the loss of their matriarch.

As I sip my coffee, I begin to consider my own fatigue, concern and stress, all underwritten by cautious optimism. My not-yet-two-year-old son is lying in the paediatric ward with his “another mama”. He’s got some sort of demon bug that only responds to IV antibiotics and comes with relentless, unbreakable fevers. He’s been here less than 24-hours and is already showing significant improvements. He’s doing better than so many of the other kids in the ward and for that I am so grateful. There’s a little girl a few beds down who has the same thing Fletcher has, but she’s been here for three days already and is likely to be here for another three. I’m filled with gratitude at the robustness of our boy, suddenly glad for his insatiable appetite and the way he burns through clothes, for his skimmed knees and all-around toughness. He’s like the Hilux of toddlers.

It’s inevitable, in a hospital, that you start chatting with the people around you – finding out their stories. There are surgical cases – bones that need setting, burns that need dressing – pneumonia cases and mystery viruses – all manner of things bring people together in hospitals. People who you would never otherwise speak to are suddenly your closest confidants. You confide in them. You share with them. You open up to them as you would your nearest and dearest friends. You are bound to them by an invisible thread – your sick or injured kids. You’ll probably never see these people again, and if you do, the chances that you’ll recognise them are slim because they’re out of context. The invisible thread that bound you will be gone – your sick or injured kids will no longer be sick or injured, and suddenly any potential future interactions seem awkward and forced. 

Our two night stint in the paediatric ward was blessedly brief and our thug is recovering well at home. But many of our new confidants were left behind as we hastily bid farewell to the nurses and hospital staff, as we rushed for the door. The overriding emotion for both of us as we made our way to the car was relief. Relief that Fletcher was on the mend. Relief that it was over. Relief that we were all going home, together. Relief that we were all going home. I looked around the coffee shop as we walked out, silently considering the emotions of the people around us. There was laughter – some of it born of stress, some genuine – there was anxiety, there was joy, sadness, grief, elation, relief, resignation and acceptance…

Hospitals are a melting pot of emotion and it is our emotion, in each situation, that shapes our experience of the place. Three and a bit years ago, I was in this same hospital, crying into my coffee as we bid farewell to my beloved grandmother. That day, I hated the place. Last year, around this time, we were there with Fletcher. He had pneumonia and was in a bad way for the first two nights of our stay, but by the end of our stint, I had grown to love the hospital and the people who worked there. This time, I felt like an old hand, experienced, calm, ready to face it all. I hope never to have to be back there, but if I do have to go back, I hope not to experience the darker emotions, the ones that leave you cold.

For now, I’ll take my relief (and my son) and we’ll head home, together.

NBR: Comrades Marathon 2018

When Fletcher was born I didn’t have any major aspirations from a running perspective – I’d been a runner before, having completed a Two Oceans Marathon in 2015, but I didn’t have any particular lofty aspirations once Fletch was born. Until the first time I stood on a scale postpartum. After that, I definitely had some running-related aspirations.

When Fletch was about 6 weeks old, I joined the gym and started running on the treadmill three or four times a week, alternating with swimming and strength training. When I went back to work, when Fletch was four months old, I started running with our club again two mornings a week and once on weekends. I was slowly getting back into it. We’d roped a few unsuspecting friends into doing the Two Oceans again with us (which happened in March of this year, when Fletcher was 15 months old) and we were all training together. Becs was going to do the 21km and I was going to the 56km ultramarathon.

Our year of training passed by in the blink of an eye, mixed in with milestones, teething, learning to sit, crawl and walk, and before we knew it the big day had arrived. On 31 March 2018, we left Fletcher with his aunt and Becs and I completed our Two Oceans journeys. But it wasn’t over… About 6 months before that, I’d (somewhat sneakily, although in consultation with Becs) entered the Comrades Marathon. For those of you who (a) aren’t South African or (b) aren’t runners, the Comrades is grueling (and many will – rightly – say downright stupid) road running race that takes place every year on the ±90kms stretch of road between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, each year alternating in directions. This year, was a down run, with the start in Pietermaritzburg and the finish in the Moses Mabida stadium in Durban.

So, after our Two Oceans journeys were complete, the real work started. The two months between Oceans and Comrades were a whirlwind of super early mornings, double-header weekends (which basically means running on both Saturday and Sunday morning), hills, hills and more hills. Becs was essentially a single parent in April and May, giving me the nights off when I was running the next morning (which was almost every morning). As winter got into its stride and temperatures dropped (I know some of you still consider 3ºC balmy, but for us “tropical people” that is flipping cold), running became harder to get up for, but there was a promise that it would all be over soon and our lives could return to normal.

I’m sure Becs has a different perspective on the last two and half months, but for me, it was both very difficult and very conflicting. It didn’t help that my Comrades training was coming to a head at the same time as two big projects at work, meaning I was working late and leaving home early. During May, I felt like Becs and I were ships in the night and Fletcher was a veritable stranger. I’d notice him doing something for the first time and comment on it and Becs would respond, “oh ja, he’s been doing that for a while,” and I’d feel like the worst mother. I didn’t even know my kid anymore. I didn’t know that he could blow bubbles in the bath because I always missed bath time. I didn’t know how many times he woke up during the night or whether he still had two bottles or only one now (I know he doesn’t need a bottle at night anymore, but trust me, it’s easier to give it to him than fight with him – but that is a post for another day). I felt like I was missing out on my son’s life. I felt like I was abandoning my wife, leaving her to do it all on her own. I felt like I was failing them in my pursuit of some achievement, some accolade for myself, but one I desperately wanted.

A week before Comrades, two kids in Becs’s class were booked off with Swine Flu (*face palm* right). Now, ask any Comrades runner and they’ll tell you, there are two things they dread in the final weeks leading up to the race – getting injured and getting sick. Ask any supporter of a Comrades runner and there is only one thing they dread – being the reason their runner gets sick because they’re unlikely to ever hear the end of it. With that in mind, the Tuesday before Comrades, Becs moved into the lounge. So now, not only was she a single parent, she was also sleeping on the couch – wife of the year, right? In my defense, I did offer to take the couch, her response (as always) was, “I’m not the one running 90kms on the weekend.”

On the Friday before the race, Fletch, Chet (Fletcher’s “bestie” and one of our running friends) and I set off in the car to drive down to Durbs. Becs had to work so she’d be flying that evening. When she arrived in Durban, I could see she was in a bad way. She had a fever of 39ºC – ask yourself, as an adult, when have you ever had a fever? – she looked like she was about to pass out. She was pale, pallid and really not herself. Despite how crappy she was feeling, she slept in the room with Fletcher and was on duty – insisting that I needed to get a good night’s sleep. On race night, Fletch went to stay with my folks and Becs (who was feeling moderately better and had at least managed to shake her fever) moved back into the room with me as Chet had moved into what had been Fletcher’s room the night before.

Race morning dawned – OK, no, I’m lying. We got up loooong before dawn. 01:30 actually. We had to be on a bus to the start by 02:30 and our supporters had to get ahead of the road closures to meet us in Cato Ridge – some 30kms into the race. We dressed, we liberally applied bum cream to areas that were likely to experience chaff, and many others that you wouldn’t think of, and we headed to the bus stop.

Arriving in Pietermaritzburg at 04:00, an hour an a half before the start, we began making our way through the streets, following the ±20,000 other runners heading towards the start pens. The atmosphere was electric – abuzz with nervous energy and excitement. We found our start pen and settled in for the long wait, snacking on our sandwiches and bananas while we waited.

Around 05:00, we discarded our Pick ‘n Pay packets of goodies outside the start pens (so as not to become a tripping hazard for other runners) and started shuffling forward with the crowd. Bunched together like that, the 3ºC weather didn’t feel all that cold. As the South African national anthem, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, boomed through the sound system, I took off my cap, closed my eyes and sang along. We continued to shuffle forward as Shosholoza pumped through the speakers, followed closely by Chariots of Fire. With tears streaming down our cheeks, we waited for the cock crow and the sound of the gun that marked the official start of the 2018 Comrades Marathon.

BOOM! The gun sounded like a cannon – I nearly peed myself, but fortunately my instinctive jump was all I needed to start my watch and we were off. Shuffling towards the start line, shoulder to shoulder with our ‘comrades’. The first 30kms passed in a haze, I remember snippets – chatting to one or two people as they passed us, seeing a few familiar faces and almost watching from outside my body as we moved from ‘Martizburg to Cato Ridge. When we saw the black and white balloons that signaled our people, our hearts swelled with happiness! Seeing Becs’s face, everything I’d been thinking and meaning to tell her up to this point went flying out my head. It was now sometime around 09:00, we’d been running for about three and a half hours and if I tell you I remember about 20 minutes of it, it’s a lot.

We set off again, not knowing exactly when we’d see our people again, but knowing that there would be a table set up by our running club close to the halfway mark in Drummond. We chatted happily as we clipped along through the sugar cane plantations, past the chicken farms and dairy farms, and past the porta-loos that smelt like dairy farms. Approaching Drummond, one runs through what is called the Valley of a Thousand Hills – it’s beautiful, with sweeping green hills as far as the eye can see, but it’s tough as nails to run through. We reached Drummond largely without incident, found the Jeppe table and gratefully accepted the goodies they had to offer us (including the advice). Somewhere between Drummond and the infamous Inchanga, we lost my brother, who dropped back to walk off a cramp and I didn’t hear him call out to me. Before I knew it, he was gone. Lost in the sea of pained faces around us. 50kms and almost six hours into the race, our party of three was now a party of two.

Not long after that, I lost Chet. I was now a party of one and I was a party of one who was nauseous and battling a running tummy. Not ideal at all. I popped a Valoid and an Immodium and had some watered-down Coke at the next water table – hoping that would settle the nausea. It didn’t. The 10kms from that point to the next Jeppe table where the longest 10kms of my life. When I reached that table, I was pale and deep in the hurt locker. Jo – one of the volunteers – told me Chet was just ahead and that she would wait for me at 67kms where we were expecting to see Becs and the rest of our supporters again.

In the seven kays that followed, I tried to keep myself moving forward, reminding myself every time I wanted to walk, that the more I walked now, the less time I could spend with Becs when I saw her. I fell into an uncomfortable rhythm. My uterus felt like it was trying to climb out through my Caesar scar. My ovaries felt like they were burrowing backwards into my kidneys. My nausea was horrific and the pain in my legs was searing. I began chanting a mantra to myself of things to get from Becs when I saw her – anti-nausea tablet, pain killer, deep heat spray for my legs, anti-nausea tab, pain killer, deep heat spray… on and on for 8kms. When I eventually spotted Becs and her balloons towards the bottom of Fields Hill, I have never been so happy to see anyone. I instinctively sped up, racing towards her before my legs remembered that it actually hurt to go faster.

I was so happy to see her, I almost forgot my mantra – anti-nausea, pain killer, spray. I’d had pain killers with me the whole time, but was too scared to take it in case I vomited again. I needed the anti-nausea pill first. While I was there, I changed my socks, which made the world of difference. While retying my shoelaces, my stomach muscle cramped – that is a feeling I won’t soon forget! I also got some reassuring news about my brother – he was ticking on nicely, not too far behind us. Grateful that he was OK and knowing he’d see our support bus soon, Chet and I set off again.

The next 34kms were very difficult, my nausea had not fully abated and I hadn’t managed to eat anything since halfway, meaning I was running dangerously low on fuel. At 75kms I had a quarter of a Marmite sarmie, which was like swallowing a clump of sand, my mouth was so dry. I was drinking watered-down Energade or watered-down Coke and vomiting every ±10kms. The last 2kms were killer and I was very grateful to Chet for keeping me going (and for stopping so many times, despite how difficult it was for her to start up again).

After 11 hours and 13 minutes on the road, we ran into the stadium, with our backs straight and our heads held high. We powered across the finish line, hand in hand with our arms raised above our heads in triumph. We had completed the “Ultimate Human Race” in a time of 11:13:37, a race run well above my pay-grade. Gareth came in at 11:40:56, having run almost half of the race on his own. He battled his demons and emerged victorious!

Next year we return to do it all again, this time in reverse (although Gareth is still, at this point, undecided).

On the way home, Fletcher spiked a 40º temperature, we had to stop on the side of the highway to give him an Emperped suppository. His temperature has normalised, but he’s still not a happy camper – coughing and generally miserable. To compound matters, he’s cutting his eye teeth. So with my 2018 Comrades journey behind me, Becs and I continue our parenting journey. Raising a boy obsessed with typical “boy” things – cars, wheels, bikes – the noisier, the better. He’s a climber and a character, strong-willed and headstrong (wonder where he gets that from) with a sense of humour and a loving personality. He’s destined for great things, for big things, bigger and better than anything I’ve achieved. Next year, through my training, I hope to miss less. I hope to be more present, to be a more supportive partner to Becs and a more patient parent to Fletcher. It’s tough when you’re tired and stressed to remember to be present, but next year, I hope to do it better. We can always do it better.

How easy it is to lose your temper with someone so small and innocent…

This tiny human that we have been blessed to parent is one of the most trying and difficult things in the world. We cannot control it, we cannot keep it in the same place (good luck once your little ones are mobile, parents), and we cannot make it listen no matter how loud we shout. Since our little man started walking we have been on a constant marathon of madness around the house. He is SO busy! The cat food, the toilet, the glass cabinet, the T.V remotes, the underwear drawer, the detergents cupboard and all the plugs, and light switches are constantly under attack. And boy, is he on a mission to be a one-man demolition team. The speed at which he manages his destruction mission is also unbelievable! One of us is hovering around him at all times, picking up bits and pieces, stopping him from bumping his head and generally damage controlling as much as we can while the other one of us is doing all the other “mom things” that need to get done – cooking, cleaning, washing bottles, etc. When he finally goes to sleep we are absolutely knackered!

The newfound freedom his walking has bestowed on him, and his curiosity for absolutely everything is awesome! It means we have a little man who is growing and learning and becoming independent and we couldn’t be more proud! But, it also means the frustrations he has in being confined (like when we have to change a nappy or put him in his high chair) are world-shattering for him. For such a little thing, his temper tantrums are huge! The tears turn on, the lip drops, and the pitch of his cry reaches an ear-splitting crescendo. It takes just a moment for him to get to the point of no return when he doesn’t get his way (like when we won’t let him eat the toilet block straight out of the toilet) and it takes me just a moment to absolutely lose it with him. Although we’re not big on hidings, we quickly realised that smacking has absolutely no effect on him. He is already crying and now he doesn’t understand why the person he loves more than anything in the world is hurting him. To say nothing of the fact that he doesn’t understand why he can’t eat the toilet block in the first place, because he’s only 15 months old and logic and reason are far from his mind.

It’s in this moment that you have to take a step back, take a big breath and remember that you are the adult, here to teach your little human the ways of the world and, in order to do that, you will need all the patience in the world (and some wine chilling in the fridge for later). We have found distraction to be the most
effective method of dealing with his tantrums – changing his mind set and getting him engaged in a more suitable activity, away from the “danger zone”. But it takes a lot of self-control not to lose your temper, raise your voice and turn into a dragon. We explain to him why he can’t do it and we know he understands a
lot. They are like little sponges absorbing everything around them at a rapid speed so it’s critical that he absorb the right things – and hitting people is not on the list of things that are “right”. The list of words in his vocabulary increases all the time and soon we will have a little being we can effectively communicate with. But, until then, it’s one baby step at a time, one big breath at a time and one big glass of wine at a time.

When it all becomes too much

I’m crying as I write this. Not ugly crying (yet), just soft, silent tears rolling down my cheeks. Fletcher’s amazing nanny, whom we love dearly & is absolutely part of the family, had her 3rd set of seizures in under a year yesterday. Fortunately, she had already left for the day and was at home with her family – a safe place. It could just as easily have happened while she was walking home from work or somewhere where she was surrounded by strangers with no idea how to help her.

Last year, the day before I was due to go back to work, we called her to ask if she could come in a little earlier than normal and her 16-year old son answered the phone and delivered the devastating news – she’s had a severe seizure in her sleep, one that had necessitated CPR. She was off work for two weeks that time, while the doctors at various government hospitals shunted her from pillar to post before assuring us the seizure had been caused by an asthma attack in her sleep, which had deprived her brain of oxygen, forcing it to take drastic measures to alert someone to its plight. We bought it. It sounded plausible.

A few months later, she had another seizure, also in her sleep, but fortunately not as severe as the first one. This time, we went with her to the hospital to try and get to the bottom of things because this clearly wasn’t a one-off thing. After a variety of queues and who knows how long at the Germiston Hospital, Becs finally accompanied Fletcher’s “Gogo” in to see the doctor. He was shocked that the other doctors hadn’t put her onto meds after the first seizure because that’s what you do! He prescribed Epilem and she was to come back monthly for a check-up. After 3 months of monthly check-ups, he was happy with her progress and cleared her to only come back every 3 months. Now this.

We’re caught in such a terrible situation. We love her, she is fantastic with Fletcher, she’s a wonderful human being, she’s honest and reliable (if a little lacking in the punctuality department, but let’s be real, if that’s her only flaw, we’ll take it!). We definitely don’t want to lose her, but we’re caught between the devil and the deep blue sea at the moment. If she were to have another seizure while she was alone at home – even if we could put Fletcher into school now, to take that responsibility off her plate and ease her load a bit – she could die. She’s needed CPR after a seizure before and if no-one is there to know she’s had a seizure… we’d only find her when we get home, possibly hours later. Anything could happen. If Fletcher is still at home and something like that happens, anything could happen to him. He’s fully mobile now, he climbs stairs like nobody’s business, he walks, he runs, he stands up without holding onto things. If she were to have a seizure and lose consciousness, literally anything could happen to him. (I’m too terrified to even articulate any of the gut-wrenching potential outcomes of that scenario.)

So what do we do? We can’t just let her go, she’s part of the family. Could we try and find her another post where she’s not responsible for children – absolutely. But that job would need to be one where someone is around all day because otherwise, the potential risks to her health are still there. Could we try and work out a situation where she’d have “supervision” during the day – sure, we could try that, I don’t know what that would look like, but at this stage, I’m willing to try anything. Could we send Fletch to school and keep her on… Not really, I’m afraid. At this stage, I don’t think we could afford to keep her on and pay school fees for full-day and that still doesn’t negate the potential risks to her health if something were to happen to her when no-one is home.

This is possibly the worst situation we’ve faced in our almost 5 years together. We have no idea what to do and no idea where to turn. So, my question to you is, what do you do when it all becomes too much?

The trouble is, you think you have time

The last time I wrote a blog post was sometime before Christmas, which seems hard to believe as now the Valentine’s Day cards are already all over the shops (bleegh). We hope you all had a fantastic festive season! Our festive season was an exciting one, we took our tiny human to the beach over our holidays where he devoured some sand, ate his first soft-serve ice cream, and explored the rock pools on our little beach. Bliss! He is also starting to master the art of walking (quite a lot of the ”bear walk” happening, with the occasional “drunk, old man stumble” too). He says a bunch of words which we can understand (boat, car, cat, dog, mama, go, bye, bath) and
some we can’t, but he’s trying so damn hard to talk and it’s just too cute! These milestones that our precious boy seem to be flying through are making us so happy and so proud, but at the same time SO terrified! My tiny, sleepy baby who could fit lengthways in one of my arms is long gone, and now we have a full blown little destroyer on a mission.

Father Time is cruel. I remember other parents saying, “enjoy him while he is so small, the time goes by so quickly!” How right they were. When you are pacing the passage for the 5th hour on a long and sleepless night, with a crying, new born, you can’t wish it away fast enough. Before you know it, that time will be so far gone you can’t even remember those damn awful midnight pyjama parade hours. Savour every second you have with them. The dishes in the sink can wait. Your unread emails can definitely wait. The television show that will probably be repeated a bunch of times should not be your priority either. If you have even just a moment spare, spend it with your child. Your family will never again be as young as it is right now. They grow every single day, and if you can try and catch the little moments as they happen before they pass you by, it will give you the most intense happiness. Explore with them, be curious with them and grow with them. I know it’s easier said than done and we have all jobs to do and supper to cook and traffic to battle through. But all the chores and the loads of life will feel a lot lighter if you and your child have had a little laugh, a little cuddle, read a story, picked a flower, drawn a picture or just sat together for a moment. There are only so many tomorrows.

A note from Barbs

When we went back to work in January, Becs had started a new role at work and I had taken on a big project at the office that was proving to be an absolute monster. We both had to be out of the house in the morning by 07:00 and when we got back in the afternoon, time was tight to get done everything we need to do.

I found myself looking down at the tiny hands grasping desperately at my pants leg and saying, “not now boy, I don’t have time.” Or, “just a minute Beans, mommy’s busy.” When I realised what I was saying, I wanted to cry. Here I was telling my one-year-old I was too busy for him. Who does that?? The answer, sadly, is most likely “all of us”. We’ve all said – or at least thought – I just don’t have time for that or I’d love to, but I’m just too busy.

Bull shit.

You absolutely have time. If you think you don’t, make time. There is always time for the things we prioritise. Last year someone at work was telling me they still hadn’t finished unpacking their house, 9 months after they moved in. He cited not having time as the reason and then he caught himself, saying, “Well, that’s not entirely true. I mean, I had enough time to go fishing with my son and I went to my daughter’s “Dads and Daughters” weekend away with her school, but the house just hasn’t been a priority for us.” I though to myself, this guy has his priorities straight. Your family comes first. Everything else is background noise and you choose what you turn the volume up on.

Next time you find yourself telling your little one you’re too busy or don’t have time, stop for a second and think about it, maybe you do actually have time.

It’s like Billy Joel said…

Amateur Mommies you're only human

“You’re only human after all.” Wise words from a brilliant man. We tend to forget this when we become parents. We put so much pressure on ourselves to be the perfect mom or dad, to be the biggest supporter and best advocate for our children. We read thousands of blog posts that tell us what to say, what not to say, how to hold our babies, how not to hold our babies, when to change their nappies / formula / daily routines… We try to push so much information into our heads that it often feels like they’re going to explode. But at the end of the day, we are only human and we are going to make mistakes, we’re going to have melt-downs, we’re going to want to kill our kids (probably daily), but we won’t because we do actually love them (deep, deep down).

Since our stint in the hospital, we’ve struggled to get back into our routine with Fletcher, especially our nighttime routine. I suppose he got so used to being held and rocked in the hospital that since we’ve been home, we have struggled to settle him without rocking. So much for sleep training. We were back at square one. Actually, we were somewhere about 25 squares backwards of ‘square one’ because, thrown in with Fletcher’s sudden insistence on being rocked, was a 10-month sleep regression. He also seemed to be making up for lost time (or rather missed meals) and was back to at least two feeds during the night (that’s over and above his bedtime and breakfast bottles).

This meant we’d fight with him from 6:30pm until anywhere between 7:30 and 8:30pm to get him down, then he’d wake between 11:00 and midnight for his first bottle and again between 3:00 and 4:00am for his second bottle, then he’d most likely be awake – like a-bloody-wake – from 5:00am! This meant that we were getting a grand total of about 4 hours sleep a night, if we were lucky. Although it has been steadily, if slowly, improving, this has been our status quo for almost a month and last night, I cracked.

I was up at around 2:00am to give Fletcher a bottle and when he woke up again at 4:00am, I couldn’t believe that he wanted another bottle, but sure enough giving him back his dummy did nothing to settle him – in fact, it seemed to piss him off! He flung my hand away and began screaming in, what can only be described as an aggressive tone. He was mad as hell. I raced to the kitchen (tripping over the dog in the process) to make (and warm) another bottle (because his highness no longer drinks them at room temperature). By the time I got back to his room he was virtually inconsolable. Every time I tried to get the bottle in his mouth, he’d push my hand away. I eventually got the bottle in his mouth and he immediately began to calm down. Until he exploded again and screamed blue murder.

Then I caught a whiff of something and thought, Ok, so that’s why he was so PO’d, he’s got a poo nappy. I whisked him out of his cot and over to his changing mat as only a practiced professional can, ripped open the poppers, pulled open his nappy… Nothing. And then more screaming. That’s when I lost it. I gave him my reply in the same manner he was delivering his – at full volume, “but what is your problem?” I yelled.

At that moment, Becs appeared, bleary-eyed in the doorway with a look of what on the gods’ earth is going on? on her face. I explained he didn’t want his dummy. Or his bottle. Or his nappy changed. And now I was out of answers. She took him from me and held him. Almost immediately, he began to settle. Oh, I thought, a cuddle, that’s what he wants. Why didn’t I think of that? Becs walked across the passage to our room and I searched for his discarded dummy in the carnage that was his cot.

By the time I returned, silently sobbing, to our room, Becs was sitting serenely on the edge of our bed, bouncing with our giant son in her arms. I apologised for my irrational outburst, feeling terribly guilty for having dragged Becs from bed on her night ‘off’ (because she was meant to run this morning – my bad).

The more I thought about my reaction, the angrier I got with myself. Why had I flown off the handle like that? Why had I lost control so completely? And then it struck me. Exhaustion. Did you know, a human being can live longer without food or water than they can without sleep. Ja, I’ll give that a minute to sink in. Once more, you need sleep more than you need food and, as new parents (or parents of sleep-regressing babies/toddlers/kids), we’re getting way less sleep than we’re used to (and probably less than we really need).

I don’t really have a moral for this story, other than perhaps to say: rely on each other – take turns and get a night off, if you can, so you can be a better parent and partner. Also, it’s important to remember that you are actually only human. Cut yourself some slack.

It never rains…

Amateur Mommies stint in hospital

As the age-old saying goes, “it never rains, but it pours.” That saying has never been more true than when applied to kids. If your kid has a runny nose, chances are he’s also taken a spill and bumped his head or scraped his knee. In our case, it’s the combination of cutting teeth and getting sick.

Fletcher’s first tooth was cut in the midsts of a bad bout of bronchitis, so we weren’t sure which symptoms were teeth-related and which were caused by being sick. But let me tell you, that kid had such a time of it! 40º fevers, vomiting, wouldn’t eat or drink anything, terrible lethargy… it was terrifying for us, and I’m sure even more so for him. At least we had the benefit of rationalisation. We’d strip him down to his nappy, put cold facecloths and towels on him, while he screamed blue murder – as if we were pouring boiling oil on him – give him some Calpol or Tensopain for the fever and wait, taking his temperature every 5 minutes and slowly watching the digits creep down.

About three weeks after that, Fletcher started with a nasty cough on the Wednesday evening. As we still had some Pulmicort from his bronchitis, we immediately started nebulising him. On Thursday, his cough was a little better and we thought, yay! Winning! On Thursday afternoon, I got a call from the nanny to say he felt very hot, I asked her to take his temperature and call me back. When she called back to say the temperature was 34º, we knew it had to be a faulty reading and Becs rushed home.

40º.

When I got home about an hour later, his fever had come down to about 38.5º but he’d already vomited and the lethargy had set in. We eventually broke his fever an hour or so later and things returned vaguely to normal. He wouldn’t drink his bottles, but he’d eat. We, once again, relied on rationalisation, the bottle was making him cough, so it’s no wonder he doesn’t want to drink, he’s drinking water though, so I’m sure it’s fine.

Fortunately, Becs was on half-term, so she could stay with him the following day. She kept me updated on his fevers throughout the course of the day, his continued lethargy and his refusal to eat anything, which had now escalated to include not wanting to eat food. But, on the up side, his cough had subsided so we were now fully convinced he was cutting another tooth and he just had supremely shitty teething symptoms.

Saturday gave us a bit of hope – no more fevers, drinking rooibos tea, drinking water and eating little bits of food, he was also displaying signs of having a bit more energy. He slept a lot, but that was to be expected – the kid hadn’t eaten properly in days – but at least he wasn’t in any danger of dehydrating now that he was eating and drinking a bit. We spoke with a range of other parents, who all assured us that we were doing all we could and he’d no doubt be on the mend the next day.

Wrong.

The lethargy was worse on Sunday – no more signs of energy from our normally rambunctious and busy little boy. All he did was whine and cry, never quite happy with where he was. By lunchtime on Sunday we were in the casualty at the local hospital, where we were seen by a lovely doctor who assured us that we had been doing everything right. Well, that’s a relief, at least! The last thing you want to hear is that you’ve been negligent in not bringing your kid in sooner. But at the same time, as a first time parent, you’re weary of over-reacting and rushing to the emergency room at the first sign of a sniffle. Fortunately for us, our paed was on call and already at the hospital, seeing a patient in the paediatric ward. The casualty doctor sent us straight through to see her where she immediately admitted him. With double pneumonia. Worst moms ever!

Our poor little guy was put onto a drip and given a range of antibiotics, antihistamines, anti-every-bloody-thing-you-can-imagine! (So much for the appointment we’d made with the homeopath for the following week.) That evening, the physio came past and gave him a thorough thumping and suctioned the grossness out of his chest (an action that was “rinsed and repeated” throughout our stay). But, the next day, our boy was showing signs of his normal personality. Eating again, although still not interested in bottles, he definitely had more energy, he was giggling and even flirting with the nurses.

By Tuesday morning he was off the drip (in part because he’d pulled it out by mistake). He was eating like Tom Hanks in Castaway but still not keen on his bottles, although Becs had managed to get about 70mls of formula into him during the night. During the day, we continued to try with the bottles and he had a bit more. Often we had to coax him by putting his formula in a cup, rather than a bottle. I suppose it’s the novelty of it that ultimately won out, but he was drinking a far more substantial amount and by Wednesday morning, he’d been discharged.

In the midst of all this, he absolutely did cut his second tooth – like I said, it never rains…

Fletcher is fully recovered and destroying the house once again – crawling around like a speed demon, terrorising the poor cat and running us and the nanny ragged! I think it’s time we strapped those fluffy broom / mop type things to his knees so his manic crawling can, at least, help to get things done around the house.

Sick kids are no joke, but as a parent, you’d be surprised at just how good your instincts are. Back yourself. If you think your kid needs a doctor, take him. If you think he’s OK and it’s just a bit of sinus aggravation / teething / allergies / whatever you think it is, back yourself. But, be reasonable. If it’s been five days and he’s still not showing enough signs of recovery, it’s time to call in the cavalry.

What to pack: Hospital essentials list

Amateur Mommies: what to pack hospital list

When we were getting ready for Fletcher’s arrival, there were so many things to consider. As first-time moms, we didn’t have a clue what we’d need in the hospital – or even how long we’d be there. I read a number of posts across the broad and wide internet about what to pack in our hospital bags, but it was only through trial (and in some cases error) that we found the mix of things that worked for us. What worked for us, might not work for you, but it might inspire a couple of light-bulb moments for you.

Essentials for baby:

  • Cotton buds and surgical spirits for cleaning baby’s cord: we used the baby cotton buds, makes it easier to get in under and around that gross cord stump
  • Size 0 nappies: unless you know for a fact that your little one is a giant or on the petite side, I’d recommend a bag of size 0 nappies. Even though Fletcher was a good sized baby, he was in size 0s for a good week or two after birth
  • Newborn onesies: we packed 3 of each type of onesie in newborn size (vest with short sleeves, vest with long sleeves, full onesie), but we ended up having to go home and get some extras because Fletcher was in NICU for a few days
  • Beanies / hats for baby: we had a couple of hats for our little guy, even though he was born in the height of summer, newborns aren’t able to regulate their body temperatures the way we can, so you need to keep your little one nice and warm
  • Vaseline for baby’s bum: Vaseline makes those first couple of sticky poos a hell of a lot easier to clean
  • Cotton balls / cotton pads: we used (and still use) these with some warm water for Fletcher’s bum – it’s a lot easier on their skin than even the mildest wet wipes (confession: we only use cotton balls for wee nappies these days and we’re a bit slack about keeping the water warm, but he’s 8 months old now, and a real toughie)
  • Fleece blankets, muslin blankets, swaddle blankets, face cloths and / or toweling nappies or “burpie lappies” (aim for at least one of each per day, you never know if your little one will be a tinkler or a refluxy baby that needs a few changes per day)

Essentials for mom:

  • Maternity pads and maternity panties (the sexiest thing you’ll ever wear)
  • If you’re hoping to breastfeed, I’d recommend having a batch of jungle juice on stand-by for the hospital. Just remember you’ll need to keep the bulk of it refrigerated, so if you don’t have a fridge in your room, you might need to arrange for someone to bring it to you each day
  • Rescue Remedy!!!!! I may have been groggy from all the meds they gave me during the birth, but Becs was downing this stuff like nobodies business
  • A few sets of clean PJs – hospital gowns are sexy, but there is nothing better than getting into your own clothes after the birth experience (post-shower obviously)
  • A couple of pairs of comfy pants (with elastic waistbands) and tops (preferably something you can get off without too much drama when baby is a hungry-bungry)
  • Slippers: ain’t nobody got time for real shoes after childbirth!
  • Feeding bras: There are a lot of cheaper options on the market, but I strongly recommend the Carriwell feeding bras, they are by far the most comfortable and the best-fitting feeding bras that I found and are absolutely worth the extra dosh. I’d recommend having 3 feeding bras (one on, one in the wash and one back-up)
  • Toiletries: face wash (nothing has ever felt better), moisturizer, body lotion, shower gel, sponge / shower poof, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush and toothpaste, hair brush and hair ties (if your hair is long enough, clips if it’s not), make-up (if you really fell that way inclined, I did not)
  • Hairdryer – if you’re feeling that way inclined (again, I did not)
  • Your own towel. Some of the hospitals are great, but others give you a hand towel and expect you to be able to dry your whole body with it
  • Copy of your birth plan (but remember, it’s more of a birth “wish list”): you might want to have this on hand to remind your caregivers, other half (and maybe yourself) of what you had in mind

Essentials for dad / other mom:

  • Rescue remedy (trust me, you can never have too much of this stuff)
  • Copies of the important papers you’ll need to register baby’s birth (certified copies of both IDs, marriage certificate, medical aid details, etc.)
  • Black pen for filling in all those legal forms
  • Find out what the process is to register the baby’s birth and to get him / her onto your medical aid and have everything you need to do that
  • If dad / other mom is staying over, don’t forget to have your bag packed too – clothes, PJs (trust me, the nurses don’t need to see you sleeping in your birthday suit), slippers, toiletries, etc.
  • Make sure the car seat is in the car and ready for the return journey home
  • Cash for the hospital coffee shop (sometimes everybody just needs a break from hospital food)

If there is anything else you think should be added to this list, please let us know by commenting below.

Some more of Fletcher’s favourites

recipes on Amateur Mommies

A few weeks ago, we shared some insights into our journey with solids. As part of that, we shared some of Fletcher’s favourite meals. Since then, we’ve had so many requests for a follow up with more recipes so, here are a few more yummy additions for your DIY baby purees and snacks. We try and keep it interesting for our growing boy, but he mostly enjoys anything we give him, which we are so thankful for. We are trying to keep the flavours varied so he develops a love for different kinds of foods and we aren’t stuck with a toddler who will only eat microwave noodles and crackers. Here’s hoping… 🙂

Coconut oil roasted butternut/pumpkin:

  • Try roasting your butternut chunks in a bit of coconut oil before mashing them for baby. The coconut brings out the sweetness in the butternut and the roasting keeps the butternut a but firmer than steaming. This does mean that the mashed/pureed finished product is a bit thicker and we found that the texture was not as smooth as steamed butternut, so Fletcher took a few spoons to get used to it, but just add a few teaspoons of water to your puree to thin it out. It really is yum!

Pears and plums:

  • Simple and delicious. If you have very juicy, ripe pears you might not need to steam them at all before your puree them, but if they’re a bit harder then try steaming for 3-5 minutes in very little water because they can become watery if you are freezing and defrosting portions (ice cube trays are amazing for this).
  • I chose dark red plums which I kept until very ripe and then did not steam them at all before blitzing up with the pears (five part pears to one part plum – this can be done in bulk and frozen). The dark red plums made for a fun, bright colour when mixed with the pears.

Apples and strawberries:

  • Also simple and delicious. Apples, unlike the pears and plums, do still need steaming, but only until they’re tender (when pureed they make for a chunkier mix if not over cooked and it’s good for baby to introduce different textures).
  • Strawberries, if very ripe also don’t need steaming (they also lose their colour if you steam them, which is a bit sad so try use them fresh). They can be added to apple mix before blitzing, the seeds seem to disappear and you’re left which another bright mix to freeze or use immediately. I also used about five parts apples and one part strawberries but try and vary the quantities so baby gets used to all the flavours and combos.

Baby hummus with carrot and cucumber sticks

  • Finger foods can be fun and exciting for baby and also for you. Teething rusks are great for little hands to grasp and gums to munch on but for something with a bit more flavour try some carrot and cucumber sticks dipped in homemade hummus. The carrot and cucumber sticks (skin on) will be hard enough for baby to munch on without taking off big chunks to choke on. But still keep an eye on them regardless and don’t cut the sticks too thin, like Julienne vegetables, rather leave them a but chunkier – about the width of your thumb.
  • For the hummus use half a can of chick peas (drain away the liquid) and mash or puree them along with one teaspoon of organic peanut butter (don’t use ordinary store-bought brands as these contain sugar), a squeeze of lemon juice, a teaspoon of olive oil and a pinch of cumin. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also add a small amount of garlic. If your mix is a bit too chunky, you might need to add some water to thin it out. Dip your veggie sticks in your baby friendly hummus and watch your little one enjoy some fun finger foods.

What do you feed your little one? Why not share your recipes and meal ideas with us in the comments section, or email them through to submissions@wearethejoys.com, and we’ll put together a menu of favourites from our readers.