Has it been 6 months already?!

It’s hard to believe, but our little man is six months old already. Six months ago on Friday, Fletcher was born. As we went through our busy weekend routine this past weekend, thoughts kept popping to my head, like: six months ago, we were sitting in the NICU counting the hours until Christmas, hoping against hope that our little boy would be home for his first Christmas. And six months ago we were going home, leaving Fletcher in the NICU.

Six months ago today, Fletcher came home, so we have officially been full-time parents for six months today. It’s one of those paradoxes of time – “has it only been six months?” but at the same time, “woah, it’s been six months already?!” In that time, so many things have happened. Our little boy has grown and changed in unimaginable ways. When we look back at the photos of that time in the NICU and those first few days at home, it’s hard to believe it’s the same little guy. He’s grown into this absolute thug of a human – way above average in height and weight and strong and sturdy! A real rugby forward in the making (or ballerina, or scientist, or whatever he wants to be!).

Over the last six months, Becs and I have come along in leaps and bounds too. Six months and five days ago, I’d never changed a poo nappy, and now I’ve changed two just this morning! Six months ago, I thought I’d still be breastfeeding him when he was six months old, and we all know how that worked out. Six months ago, we were floundering along, with little-to-no clue what we were doing, and now we’re bounding along with a moderate clue that maybe we’re doing OK. Motherhood is a tricky thing, you never know at the time if what you’re doing is right – I mean we thought we were doing the right thing in swaddling him, and that worked out dismally. But, when you do get something right (and we must be getting something right, because Fletcher is a rockstar of a human), it is so gratifying, so rewarding, to know that you are (at least in part) responsible for shaping the awesome little being in front of you.

Six months down the line, I’d hardly call myself an expert. I still question every decision we make a thousand different ways. I still look to Becs and ask, “do you think I should…” instead of confidently saying, “I’m going to…” almost every time because I want the reassurance that her agreeing with me brings. We both lean on each other through difficult times and we both fall down some times, but at the end of the day, it’s all been such an incredible experience and one I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

The rewards are great!

So I don’t want you all to think that there is no sunshine and there no roses when it comes to this whole Mommyhood thing, there are. Really. Ya ok so at the moment our theme song is one from the legend Billy Joel and the words are “in the middle of the night… I go walking in my sleep”, because some nights we are up every other hour with our tiny human but the joy he brings to our lives and the little things that he does daily are so rewarding.

The first few months are terrifying that’s for sure. And as cute as they are when they can fit all snuggled up onto your chest, you get very little in the way of interaction from your tiny being in the first few months of their lives. You’re up all night with them, washing and sterilising bottles and breast pump apparatus all day, doing loads of laundry (how something so tiny can produce so much washing is extraordinary), changing nappies, giving bottles, burping, rocking to sleep and repeating every 4 hours, and somewhere in all that you are trying to remember that you are married to that other ship passing by you in the night, and fitting in visits from all the aunties and actually your tiny bundle does nothing more that lie there and be a tiny bundle. A tiny, pooping, crying bundle.

6 months down the line we have a strapping baby boy who smiles and giggles when we do the silliest things. He thinks his mamas are the most amazing people in the world! It’s the grandest feeling when you are rewarded after a long sleepless night with a big gummy smile from inside the cot and out stretched little arms, and the little face almost saying “pick me up mama, I love you and I want to give you a sloppy kiss.” Everyday his little eyes see more and he learns and grows more. He tries new foods and reacts to his favourite toys, giggles when he splashes water on himself from his wild kicking in the bathtub, discovers new noises that he can make and is very happy to show them off to us. We have a little wonder being growing up in our home, and it is a privilege to be able to grow with him on this journey. You feel much more like a mother when your little person starts reacting to you and giving you soul food.

For those who are in the early stages with your bubs, enjoy them being so tiny, don’t wish away a single moment, they really do fly by! But hang in there when you feel a little down, your tiny human will start feeding your soul in the most  nourishing and heart-warming way so soon, and all hard times will be forgotten. Otherwise parents would never move on to baby number 2.

SA Mom Blogs Guest Post

amateur mommies on sa moms blog

Between training for an ultramarathon, a full-time job and being a mom to a rambunctious 6-month old, my days are pretty full. Most days start at 04:30, either because I need to be at running at 05:00 or because our little bundle of joy has decided that’s a good time to wake up (often for the 5th time). My wife and I are both keen runners (although she’s a lot more sane than I am and has no desire to run further than 21kms – yet), so we take turns, running on alternate mornings and on our early mornings “off”, we’re on mom-duty. We’re blessed to have a wonderful nanny who looks after our son while we’re keeping the economy ticking over. When I get home it’s a whirlwind of playtime, suppertime, bath time, bedtime and getting dinner ready for us. Once our little man is down for the night, my wife and I are purposeful about connecting as a couple – talking through our day, chatting about ideas we’ve had to grow our “empire-in-the-making” and sitting down to a meal together. Read the full post here.

The tipping point

Weight gain during pregnancy is totally normal and expected. If you’re one of the really lucky ones, you might only gain a few extra kilos. If you’re one of the normal ones, you’ll likely gain somewhere between 5 and 7 extra kilos (that’s over and above baby, etc.). But if you’re anything like me, you’ll pack those extra pounds on.

I was really good in the beginning, through my first and second trimester I was pretty much bang-on with how much weight I should’ve gained, but something went terribly wrong between month six and month nine. All of a sudden I was gaining way too much weight (in my opinion) each week. My midwife was pretty unconcerned, citing the fact that every mom and each pregnancy is different, which of course it is, but that didn’t comfort me.

All in all, I gained around 19 or 20kgs (it’s all a bit of a rough guess because I don’t actually know what I weighed when I fell pregnant). Three days before Fletcher was born I tipped the scales at 88.8kgs. I was moderately comforted by the fact that ±3kgs were Fletcher, another 1kg for the placenta, ±1kg for the extra blood and at least another one for the amniotic fluid, a few hundred grams at least in water weight… So I expected that, after all those things were out of my body (i.e. moments after giving birth) I could expect to be about 7 or 8kgs down, right? Wrong!

Doctors and midwives counsel against expecting weight loss to happen too quickly, reminding us that “it took nine months to gain the weight, give yourself nine months to lose it.” But I – like so many other women – thought that at least some of the weight would magically disappear after the birth. You hear stories of women leaving the hospital in their pre-pregnancy jeans and you think that’s the norm, well I’m here to tell you, it isn’t.

Look, don’t get me wrong, every mom and each pregnancy is different and I’m absolutely not telling you to diet during pregnancy if you feel you’re gaining too quickly. Most people say they’ll worry about the extra weight when baby is out and that really is the best approach. You can’t put your child’s life at risk because you’re worried about how your body will look when you leave the hospital. All I’m saying is that it takes time, it’s not as instant as you might think. Just because a good percentage of those kilos were removed from your body with baby, doesn’t mean they’re gone when you step on the scale (don’t ask me how – water weight maybe – but through some evil sorcery they’re still there).

For about the first two months of Fletcher’s life, the only pants that fitted me, fitted when I was nine months pregnant. I’d look longingly at my other (neglected) clothes, desperately willing the weight to leave me so I could wear something other than maternity pants! Slowly but surely the pile of things that I can squeeze into (with varying degrees of wriggling and squirming) is growing, but it’s a long, slow road and I’m still miles from my destination.

The big thing to remember is that it takes time, but discipline and dedication will get you there. When Fletcher was about a month old, I signed up at the gym. I started out nice and slow, knowing that my fitness was somewhere left of the u-bend in the toilet. Cycling for 20 minutes damn near killed me, my muscles were weak and my lungs felt like they’d been swapped with a 90+ year-old chain smoker’s. But by week two, that 20 minute cycle wasn’t as taxing as it had been and so I started running on the treadmill. That first day I ran 4kms and was beyond dead when I stumbled off the treadmill 31 minutes later. The next day, in the same amount of time, I ran 4.5kms and already I could feel the difference – my muscles were remembering. The following week I ran 4.7kms, then 4.9kms and by the end of the month 7,7kms. Slowly I was building up my fitness again.

Currently, I alternate my running with either cycling, swimming, indoor rowing, or circuit or strength training and I’m getting there. I still weigh a lot more than I did when I fell pregnant and more still than I want to, but through a combination of good eating and balanced cardio and strength training, I’m starting to see results. Because I’ve never been one to listen to medical professionals, I’ve given myself six months to lose the baby weight – half way in and I’m half way there, so I think I’m well-placed.

The biggest lesson for me was that gaining the weight was a hell of a lot easier than losing it has been, but don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t get your body back, or that “only young moms get their bodies back”. It’s total BS – anyone can do it, you just have to give it time, and you have to want it badly enough.

“Undocumented”

Our son is a month and one day old and the poor, little soul is undocumented, that is to say he still doesn’t have a birth certificate. “Why?” you may ask. Well, quite simply bureaucracy and systems that haven’t kept up with the times.

Fletcher was born during the festive season, meaning that Home Affairs was closed until January. This meant that we had to come back to the hospital early in January to register his birth and apply for his birth certificate, or go to Home Affairs ourselves. Anyone who’s ever been to Home Affairs knows that would just have been silly – taking a newborn baby to stand in the queues at Home Affairs for hours on end. So we opted to come back in January.

Armed with all our paperwork, we arrived at the hospital to meet the Home Affairs rep on 9 January. Two certified ID copies, one certified marriage certificate copy, a letter from the doctor who performed the IVF to say that the donor (or “father” as they like to call him) was anonymous and therefore unknown to us “in terms of the National Tissue Act”, all the necessary forms, signed and stamped by our gynae, the hospital and the nurse who completed the form, as well as the completed official registration of birth form from Home Affairs. We thought we were totally sorted. And so did the Home Affairs rep, who optimistically told us we would be able to collect his birth certificate the next day.

When Becs arrived the next day to collect the certificate, however, she was greeted with a look of incomprehension from the Home Affairs rep, who simply said, “Didn’t they call you?” When Becs responded in the negative, the Home Affairs rep went on to explain that someone from “head office” was supposed to have phoned us to tell us that the birth certificate wasn’t ready. But no one had. (And incidentally no one did.)

When we enquired as to why it wasn’t ready, the Home Affairs rep told us that when they put the second ID number onto the birth certificate and it registers that the second parent is also a woman, it breaks the system. And there is only one person at head office who can manually override said system, to change “father” to “parent B”. And she is on leave for another two weeks. WHAT? Are you flipping kidding me?

In a country where same sex marriage has been legal for over a decade are you seriously trying to tell me that the system cannot handle an exception to “mother” and “father”? Ludicrous! But there you have it. Our wonderfully antiquated system cannot compute a same sex relationship, even in today’s day and age. Basically, “computer says ‘no’.”

So, the moral of the story is, if you are a same sex couple, expecting a child, (a) make sure you’re married first or your partner will have to legally adopt the child (which requires social worker visits and a shitload more paperwork) and (b) make sure you have some time before you need the birth certificate for anything. (Oh, on the off-chance that your child has to be admitted to the NICU, as ours did, and you need to submit a claim through medical aid for said NICU visit, there is a way around this birth certificate debacle. After over an hour on the phone with Discovery, I was finally able to register Fletcher on the medical aid as “Baby” until such time as we get his birth certificate, which means they are at least able to process the NICU claim.)

So you’re ready now, are you?

are-you-ready-to-have-a-baby

The short answer for that is no. No, we are not ready. How can we possibly ready for sleepless nights and a December holiday waiting with baited breath for baby to arrive and turn our whole world upside down? Not to mention finding extra money each month just to get through. No. Not ready. Excited and terrified, yes!

We have now finished our 6-week long antenatal class, along with 7 other first-time parents-to-be, and apparently we now have all the information we will need to go out into the world and be great Moms. Well shucks, I can hardly remember what we learned in the first week of class and now I’m supposedly ‘ready’. We were given various pamphlets at each class, had a talk from a paediatrician, a psychologist, a nurse and safety official, a pilates instructor and an occupational therapist, all to arm us with all the info we need. We learned about breastfeeding and the various birthing methods, how to bath and care for a newborn and watched some scary videos. But none of this is any good to anyone until the baby is actually born. And how this little baby is going to enter the world is out of our control. We can plan all we like for a natural birth but if he doesn’t turn head down this ain’t gonna happen.  How we are going to feed him (bottle or breast) and whether we will get him to sleep in his own cot from the very beginning is also out of our control. We don’t know if he will need OT, if we will be at the paed every week or if we will both end up with postnatal depression. With the vast amount of information we received during antenatal classes, from the amazing baby apps on Barbs phone, baby books and advice from friends and family, we still have no clue how we will be as parents.

But there are some things I do know. I do know that we are each others’ world. I do know that we want this little baby so much and he is already so loved. I do know that we will try our very best to be exactly what he needs and exactly what each other needs, every day. We will do it our way. Maybe not the best way, but “our way” works for me. Sure, you may come and visit us and the dishes might not be done, and we might both look like the Wreck of the Hesperus and have had nothing to eat but lasagne for two days, but we will be happy. A happy little trio. That much I do know. Ok, so maybe we are ready 🙂

The big reveal

Sometime before we did the embryo implantation my sister-in-law had taken a picture of her kids each holding up a sign. My nephew’s said “oldest”, my niece’s had the word “youngest” crossed out and the word “middle” added underneath. We thought this would be a nice fun way to tell the grandparents.

Having emerged from the stressful test day with a positive result, we decided we’d share the news with our immediate family, as part of my mom’s birthday present. I called my mom and offered to fetch them for dinner, so we’d be able to tell the family in private at home. But, when we arrived to fetch my folks, they quickly piled themselves into car, anxious to get going.

My parents have an alarm sensor on their gate, which means you have to wait until the gate closes before you can set the alarm. While we were waiting for the gate to close, we handed my mom her card and told her she had to open it before we left. While she read her card, which contained the picture of my niece and nephew holding their signs, my dad was patiently waiting for the gate to close, not really paying any attention to us, or the card my mom was holding.

By the time my mom had fully digested the implications of the picture, the gate had closed and my dad was trying to listen for the whoop of the alarm, signalling it was armed. But all he heard was the whoop of my mom. Because he hadn’t been paying any attention to us he didn’t know why my mom was suddenly making all this racket. “Shush man, I’m trying to listen to the alarm!” he exclaimed to my mom, who by now had tears streaming down her cheeks. But my mom continued her celebrations unperturbed by his outburst, whooping and crying like a crazy person.

By this stage, my dad was getting pretty agitated about not knowing if the alarm had set or not. Fortunately, I pointed out, there is a handy little indicator light on the alarm remote, which flashes a closed lock when it’s armed. Only then did he calm down and ask what was going on.

With the alarm armed, and my dad up to speed and sufficiently excited, we set off for the restaurant. “Now mom,” I said warningly, “you can’t tell anyone else. We’ll tell the rest of the family quietly at dinner, but you can’t tell anyone else until we’re passed 12-weeks.” She was – to say the least – horrified! How was she supposed to keep this a secret? How could she possibly be expected to contain her excitement? “Well you just have to.” I said, not willing to entertain a discussion about it.

We arrived at the restaurant and, as I hugged my brother I dropped the bomb, “Don’t say anything because we aren’t telling people yet, but I’m pregnant.” I could immediately feel his excitement. I looked around for my sister-in-law, who was away from the table in the kids’ play area. We made my way over to her, followed by my brother, to share the good news. We gave them the basic run-down – the test was positive, but we have to go for another test on Sunday to make sure the levels have doubled and then we’ll know for sure, but yay! They were both suitably excited and much easier to convince to keep it to themselves than my mom had been.

The best and worst day

During the agonising two weeks that followed the embryo implantation, we had a number of ups and downs. Having committed to being positive and trusting in the universe to bring our little bundle of joy to us, we tried not to focus on the downs, but sometimes that was easier said than done.

I had occasional sharp pains – similar to period pains – which caused panicked moments for both of us. We consulted a number of blogs and forums, absorbed every bit of information we could find, hoping to find solace in knowledge. A lot of the blogs and forums said post-implantation pain was totally normal and that it could be the embryo burrowing its way into the lining of the uterus, creating a more permanent home for itself. We took this to be a good sign and tried to keep ourselves distracted with our day-to-day lives.

Twelve days after the embryo implantation date – the day we’d been told to go for the blood test – happened to be my mom’s birthday. Wouldn’t that be an awesome birthday present for my mom?! I had a series of meetings in the morning, which meant I’d only be able to go for the test at lunchtime. Knowing we’d likely to die of anticipation if we had to wait until the afternoon to find out, Becs had bought a stock-standard pee-test for the morning before we left for work.

As you would on the day you’re due to leave for holiday, I woke up early, thanks to the excitement the day promised, and could barely contain myself. At about 05:30, I decided I couldn’t wait anymore and Becs woke up to the sound of me scratching in the medicine cupboard for the pee-test. She immediately knew what I was up to and eagerly perched herself on the edge of the bed to wait for the results.

In case you were wondering, peeing on a 1cm wide piece of plastic in near-dark with half-open eyes is no mean feat, but I managed. I placed the stick on a piece of toilet paper on the bathroom counter, washed my hands and went to wait the instructed 5 minutes. Let me tell you, that was the longest 5 minutes of my life!

Becs and I read and re-read the instructions and eventually, unable to contain ourselves, went back to the bathroom to check the results. Negative. What? My world crashed down around me. We consulted the instructions again to make sure we’d read the results correctly. How could it be? We’d been so sure this was it. We were totally convinced this was our time to get it right, so how could the test be negative? But there is was, as clear as day, only one little red line. We were devastated. We crawled back into bed, curled into one another and cried in each other’s arms until the alarm went off.

The rest of the day passed in a blur, the tears never far from my eyes. I sat through my meetings, adding little-to-no value, barely managing to keep it together. But, the doctor still needed a blood test to confirm the results – after all, she hadn’t seen the pee-stick. So at lunch time I got into my car and drove to the hospital.

I walked into the hospital, across the reception and down the stairs to the pathology labs in a total daze. I walked in, half greeted the sister and handed her my form. She called me through almost immediately. Sensing my apathy towards the process (and possibly seeing my puffy red eyes), she didn’t make the usual friendly banter with me. Having filled the vials, I thanked her and walked out, up the stairs, across the reception and out to my car. I don’t even remember the drive back to the office, I was on some other planet.

About two hours later, my phone rang. It was the receptionist from the doctor’s office to give me the results. Worried I’d burst into tears again; I went into a private meeting room to take the call. Dejectedly, I answered, “Hello?”

“Barbara, it’s Muneerah from Dr Patel’s office. Your results have come back and it’s positive. The reading should be more than seven and yours is 103, so it’s definitely a positive.” It took a while for her words to wash over me, to sink through the blur of my heart-broken psyche and into my consciousness. When they eventually did, I sat straight up.

“Pardon Muneerah, could you please repeat that?” I asked, barely willing to believe my ears.

“It’s positive – congratulations! Now you need to go for another test in 48-72 hours to check the levels have doubled, but it’s definitely a positive.”

I thanked her emphatically and immediately dialled Becs’s number. She answered in much the same way I had answered Muneerah’s call – half-heartedly and with a tone of abject dejection. I asked her how her day had been. “Terrible,” she replied. When I asked her if I could make it better, she hardly perked up, the possibilities unlikely to have even crossed her mind. “Sure,” she said, “you can try.”

“Muneerah just called, the blood tests results are positive – we’re pregnant!” She was silent for a second before almost screaming down the phone, “I knew it! I knew that stupid pee-test was wrong!”

The rest of the afternoon passed in a blur of who-knows-what. We were pregnant, nothing else mattered to either of us! That night we were going to be able to give my mom the best birthday present ever!

How many did you say?

After a series of scans to make sure everything was “just so”, we scheduled the embryo implantation day, which happened to be over a weekend (guess that’s why we pay these doctors the big bucks, hey!). On Sunday, April 10th, we arrived at the clinic ready to welcome, what we hoped would be, the newest addition to our family.

Our doctor was (as most doctors are) notoriously late for everything and, true to form, she arrived late for the implant appointment. But to be fair, we did drag her and her staff away from home on a Sunday, so we couldn’t really be upset with her, and it’s not like we had anything else planned for the day. When she arrived, we followed her into the procedure room, where she briefed us on the process.

Her assistant would hold the ultrasound wand on my tummy, allowing the doctor to see where the implanting needle and tube were, to make sure she implanted the embryo in the right place. Once everything was in place, she’d tap on the little window in the wall, and the umpa lumpa behind the one-way glass would open a hatch and pass our embryos through. She would then implant the little guys and we should look out for a “flash of light” on the ultrasound screen, which would signal they were in. Awesome sauce. We were ready.

“Just one other thing…” she began tentatively, “we froze the four embryos that successfully fertilized last month and, when we thawed them, one didn’t survive the process.” OK, I thought, not a train smash, we’ve still got three, right? Right. The embryos had been thawed two days previously to enable them to continue to develop into 5-day embryos, or blastocysts, which statistically have a better chance of implanting. She continued explaining, “One of the embryos has developed perfectly and is exactly on track, the second one is a bit sluggish, but not far behind. But the last one is a little further behind and won’t survive being refrozen. So, either we implant all three, or we lose the last one.” Becs and I looked at each other with worried faces. Ummmmm…

We asked for the room and started discussing the pros and cons of implanting three embryos.

Pros:

  • If we don’t implant the third one, what if that’s the one and we effectively chuck it down the drain?

Cons:

  • THREE BABIES!

“Let’s play rock, paper, scissors?” I said. Cool. “I’ll be three, you be two.” I said to Becs, assuming the position, with my clenched fist behind my head. We played, best of three rounds. I won. Almost simultaneously we said, “No ways, only two, three is just madness.”

We called the doctor back in, told her our decision and the rest of the implantation went off without a hitch. We watched our little flash of light on the screen as we cried like little girls, clutching each other’s hands. I lay there for about 20 minutes after the procedure before I dared to move. We spoke about our miracle as if it was a sure thing – we knew, this was going to work, no doubt in our minds.

We headed home and I spent the rest of the afternoon lounging in my hammock while Becs gardened around me. The next day was business as usual, we both went off to work and carried on our days as if nothing extraordinary had happened in the previous 24 hours. When people at work asked how our weekend had been, we nonchalantly responded, “chilled, thanks. Yours?” All that was left was the waiting game…

The back-up plan

The two weeks that followed that eventful day passed by in something of a blur. Our doctor had called to say it wasn’t necessary to continue the various medicinal protocols they had put me on immediately after the egg harvest. Without question, we accepted her advice and I stopped all meds – not really thinking about the maybe-fertilised eggs that were now floating around in my uterus.

The days stretched on and soon it was the magical window 12-14 days post-insemination window – time for the dreaded test. During my lunch break, I printed off the form the doctor had provided me with and dashed off to the hospital for the blood test.

Feeling like an old hand at this, I quickly passed through reception and went down the stairs to the pathology labs. For whatever reason, although we knew this attempt had as much chance as any of the others of success, we weren’t putting too much stock in it. We were so much more comfortable with a potential negative than before. Maybe it was because we knew, deep down, this wasn’t Plan A – it was the back-up plan – so it didn’t really matter too much if it didn’t come off.

Coming out of my reverie as the nurse called my name, I handed her the form and followed her into the little cubicle, already rolling my sleeve up and beginning to tighten my fist. A few minutes later I was done, taking the stairs two-at-a-time and heading out the automatic doors at the hospital’s reception back to the office.

A few hours later I received the call that a huge part of me had been expecting since the 10th of February – the results had come back negative, I wasn’t pregnant. Our doctor said I should wait until I started my period and then call and make an appointment for a scan so we could plan the next steps in the process. I thanked her, hung up and called Becs to let her know.

We weren’t heart-broken, in fact we were hardly affected at all. It was as if we’d been expecting this all along. When my period started a few days later, I called our doctor as instructed and made an appointment for a follow up appointment and scan.

At the appointment, she outlined the medicinal protocol I’d be going onto in the next few days and gave me the relevant prescriptions. Pills to thicken the lining of my uterus, injections to help with that, more injections to stop my body producing an egg, other pills to tell my body it had produced an egg when in actual fact it hadn’t… She went on to explain that, of the 11 egg sacks they’d harvested, they had managed to take four embryos to day-3 maturity before freezing them for future use.

Over the next two weeks I followed the protocol of daily injections and tablets and, when the lining of my uterus was deemed to be a suitable thickness to welcome an embryo, we scheduled Plan A – the embryo implantation.