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.

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 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.

Actually, I can wait

Amateur Mommies: Actually, I can wait

Over the years, I’ve heard so many moms and dads throw out the phrase, “I can’t wait for…” or “I can’t wait until he/she can…” I’ve done it, too. I remember saying how I couldn’t wait until he could smile, or until he could go down for a nap without having to be winded. And of course, those milestones are so special when you reach them. I can clearly remember the first time Fletch smiled at us, and how glad I was that we were together for it. He was on his changing mat and at first we both thought it was gas, but we smiled and cooed at him nonetheless, and were pleasantly surprised when he returned our smiles with another dashing, gummy smile of his own. Instant. Melted. Hearts. Everywhere. Needless to say, we were over the moon about him reaching the milestone, but I wouldn’t trade the five or six smile-free weeks leading up to it for anything in the world.

Since then, I’ve been purposeful about not wishing his precious little life away with “can’t waits” because actually, I can wait! He’s only little for such a short time and that time is so precious. Every day when I get home from work, I swear he’s changed. Every morning when I peer over the edge of his cot at him and his little face bursts into a gummy smile with arms and legs flailing frantically to be picked up, I swear he’s grown. I look back at photos and videos on my phone and think, “ah remember that outfit” and “look how big it was on him.” Then I remember that we’ve already handed that outfit down to friends, or packed it away incase baby number 2 is a boy, and I marvel at how time has flown.

I know, I know, it’s such a cliché, but time really does fly! We get so caught up in the day-to-day. We focus on getting through the week and cramming the weekends with as many activities as possible, seeing as many people as we can, that we forget to stop and enjoy the moment we’re in – right now. When I get home from work, the afternoons and evenings are a whirlwind of cuddles, suppertime, tummy time (which Fletcher hates more than anything), bath time and the bedtime routine. I’m often so focused on what the clock says that I miss the moments happening all around me. I miss the fact that Fletcher has started recognizing our cat, and has completely fallen in love with him (much to Toothless’s disgust). I miss that he is suddenly interested in everything and anything – from your teacup, to the spice rack and curtains blowing in the wind. I miss the fact that he’s pretty much sitting unsupported (albeit a bit unsteadily sometimes). I miss the fact that he has now mastered rolling from his tummy to his back in both directions. I miss things – we all do – every single day because we’re so focused on the next thing we have to do, that we overlook the beauty of the thing we’re doing right now. 

When you become a parent, you are totally inundated with (mostly unsolicited) advice, but if you only take one piece of advice from me, please let it be this: stop wishing away your journey with “can’t waits” and “I wishes”. Enjoy the moments you’re in when you’re in them, because I promise you one thing, you will never be in those moments again – they are so fleeting. Take all the midnight wakings and chalk them up to a few extra precious moments with your tiny human. Force yourself to actively participate in every activity. Put your phone down, that text can wait, and put yourself in that moment! And enjoy it.

A solid start in life

Amateur Mommies: starting solids baby food

For those who don’t know us and Fletcher personally, let me inform you that we have a very solid little man. He is tall and big and strong, and since he wasn’t sleeping very well, we decided to start the journey onto solid foods just after he was 4 months old. The baby-led-weaning sounds great – to just give them a piece of whatever you’re eating to hold and nibble on and they will fit in with your eating habits and choose what they like and don’t like – if you are brave enough for the mess it creates and aren’t terrified of them choking. Baby-led-weaning also doesn’t really allow you to track how much your little one is taking in as a lot will go all over his face and on the floor. We decided to go a with the old school approach of home-made purees, starting with veggies for a few days, then adding fruit and finally introducing proteins in week 3. It really is much easier to monitor how much they are consuming when you are in control of the spoon and our little man has proved to be a veritable vacuum, eating just about anything we give him and almost always finishing what was put in his bowl. It sounds like we could be giving him more, but not according to his weight gain over the last 6 weeks – he is still putting on 220 or so grams a week, which is the highest weight gain allowance in the newborn scale. From 6 months on, he should only be putting on between 80 and 140 grams a week, so we have to go back for a check-up in a month to make sure our giant baby isn’t putting on too much weight too quickly.

We started with good old butternut and had the camera rolling for the obligatory 21st video clip of “ahh this was your first food”.  He didn’t seem too impressed but didn’t spit it out either and now butternut is a staple that we always have on hand. After the first three weeks of weaning (first week veggies, second week fruit and veggies and third week protein, fruit and veggies) we started getting a bit more adventurous with what we gave him. We wanted to get the allergy tests – which he passed with flying colours – out the way early on, so we have given him peanuts, fish and eggs.

Wanting to give him the healthiest option and introduce him, right from the start, to good food choices, we have made all of is meals at home with fresh ingredients. Barbs and I love cooking and eating together, and being in the kitchen preparing a meal is more of a fun family activity than a chore. We want Fletcher to have this love for preparing good food and choosing healthy but tasty options right from the get go. That way we’ll have a child who makes good food choices and turns into an adult who, in turn, makes good food choices.

Here are some of his favourite meals so far:

  • Apples, pear and yoghurt
  • Paw paw, apple, pear and yoghurt
  • Rolled oats, apple, yoghurt and peanut butter
  • Brown lentils, butternut and sweet potato
  • Carrots and cinnamon
  • Roast chicken, butternut and kiri cheese
  • Cauliflower, broccoli and kiri cheese
  • Baby Bolognese, butternut and sweet potato
  • Hake and veggies

If you’d like the recipes for any of Fletcher’s favorites, we’ve included them here.

Fletcher’s Menu

Amateur Mommies: some of Fletcher's favourites

Apples, pear and yoghurt

  • For one portion: 1 tbs apple and pear mix, 2 tsp full fat plain yoghurt
  • Peel and chop 3 ripe pears and 3 apples (any colour), and steam for 10 minutes or until tender. Blitz for 5-10 seconds in the Nutribullet (if you have one, else a good old potato masher will do the trick) and keep in the fridge to use as necessary.
  • This makes a tasty and easy breakfast or anytime snack

Paw-paw, apple, pear and yoghurt

  • For one portion: 2 tsp paw-paw, 2 tsp apple and pear mix, 2 tsp full fat plain yoghurt
  • Cut a paw-paw in half and take the seeds out of one half, cover the other half in clingwrap and keep in the fridge. Cut the paw-paw into small pieces and mash with a fork to add to your apple and pear mix as above. Add some full fat plain yoghurt (no sugar or flavourings) for another great breakfast meal.

Rolled oats, apple, yoghurt and peanut butter

  • For one portion: 2 tsp rolled oats, 2 tsp apple (or apple and pear mix), 2 tsp full fat yoghurt and half a tsp of organic peanut butter.
  • Simmer the plain rolled oats until soft (10 minutes) and blitz or mash them up (they will still be grainy but this is good to introduce some different textures).
  • Add to your apple puree and yoghurt. Introduce some organic peanut butter (ingredients on the tub should only list peanuts, no preservatives etc.) as a nice flavour alternative and to check for peanut allergies. Watch your little one for signs of a rash or difficulty breathing the first time you give them peanut butter.

Brown lentils, butternut and sweet potato

  • For one portion: 2 tsp brown lentils, 3-4 tsp butternut and sweet potato mix
  • Cook the brown lentils (one cup lentils and 2-3 cups of water) until very soft (approximately 25 minutes). Mash or blitz until smooth – you may have to add some water as the lentils can be quite thick.
  • Peel and cut your butternut and sweet potato into similar sized chunks and steam for 10-15 minutes or until soft. These can be mashed or blitzed until smooth.
  • Add lentils when you are introducing protein or just give your little one the butternut and sweet potato mix, they usually love it just as it is.

Carrots and cinnamon

  • For one portion: 1 tbs carrots and cinnamon mix
  • Peel and chop a few carrots and steam until soft. Carrots are a bit tougher than other veggies so they might need a bit longer in the steamer. Mash or blitz them until you reach your desired consistency and add a few sprinkles of cinnamon for another exciting flavour for your little one to try.

Roast chicken, butternut and kiri cheese

  • For one portion: 1 tsp chicken, 3 tsp butternut, 1 tsp kiri cheese (full fat cream cheese)
  • After a roast chicken dinner take a few pieces of the softer breast and thigh meat and blitz with a hand-held blender until smooth. Add some of your butternut puree and chicken gravy to help with the blending. Add more butternut and cream cheese for a nice filling suppertime meal. We find that Fletcher sleeps well after a heavier dinner including animal protein.

Cauliflower, broccoli and kiri cheese

  • For one portion: 1 tbs cauliflower and broccoli mix, 1 tsp kiri cheese
  • Take a few cauliflower and broccoli heads and remove the stalks. Steam for a few minutes until tender and mash or blitz.
  • Add your cream cheese for some protein and give for lunch or dinner.

Baby Bolognese, butternut and sweet potato

  • For one portion: 1 tsp baby Bolognese, 3-4 tsp butternut and sweet potato mix
  • Fry around 4 tbs of lean beef mince in a pan until cooked through. Add 30-40ml of chopped tomato or tomato and onion mix and simmer for another 10 minutes. Blitz with the hand-held blender until smooth or slightly chunky. This will be enough for about 5-6 portions of baby Bolognese.
  • Add your butternut and cream cheese to your baby bolognese mixture for a miniature lasagne effect, your little one should love it. It makes them nice and full so also a good supper time option.

Hake and veggies

  • For one portion: 1 tsp hake, 3-4 tsp of your baby’s favourite veggies
  • Steam one piece of hake until cooked through. Flake off a few pieces (approximately 30g and use the hand-held blender until you reach a consistency your little one will tolerate. This will be enough for 4-5 portions when added to the veggies.
  • Add your little one’s favourite vegetables for a tasty meal, but watch for any signs of allergy the first time you give them fish (preferable to do it at lunch time so you can monitor them throughout the afternoon).

NOTES:

  • Keep the water from simmering your veggies in case you need to add some liquid to your blended mix if it is too chunky.
  • Use an ice-tray to freeze individual portions.
  • Mix and match these recipes to keep baby interested (variety is the spice of life).
  • Increase or decrease the portion sizes to suite your little one’s appetite.
  • Let baby sit in the kitchen with you in a pram so you can wheel him around as you move from chopping board to pot to blender – he loves to get a good look at the action and all the smells and noises are exciting.
  • I am no dietician, just a mom on a mission to give her baby a good solid start in life and wanting to share her ideas with other moms on the same mission. This post in no way constitutes medical advice. If your child shows any signs of food allergies, please consult your caregiver immediately.

Has it been 6 months already?!

Amateur Mommies: 6 months in

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.

Sleep, what’s that?

amateur mommies: to swaddle or not to swaddle

To the person who told us to swaddle our baby: please high-five yourself. In the face. Now I know what you’re thinking, everyone swaddles their babies, it’s totally normal so why are you ticked off at the person who advised you to swaddle your baby? The answer is simple: because now we’re screwed.

Fletcher is at the age when it’s advised that you stop swaddling, but we can’t stop swaddling him, because he doesn’t know how to self-soothe. It also doesn’t help that I gave birth to a miniature Houdini! What this means in the real world is that, if he manages to wriggle one or (gods help us) both arms free, he will wake up at least every 45 minutes to an hour wearing his swaddle blankie like a scarf and need to be helped back to lala land. This comes in a range of forms from giving him back his dummy (which he inevitably spits out ±30 seconds after falling asleep) to giving him a bottle, or taking him out of the cot and rocking him back to sleep. Ok, so we keep swaddling him a bit longer and try to slowly ween him off the swaddle. Cool.

Enter the second part of this compound problem. Lately, he wakes up pretty much every hour, at best every two hours whether he’s swaddled or not. Initially, we thought he was waking because he was hungry. So this weekend we took the decision to introduce solids to his daily meal plan. At his last check-up Sr Liesel gave us the talk about introducing solids, explaining that rice cereal is now taboo – empty calories and all – and that one should start with veggies. Cool, no problem.

On Friday night I steamed about half a metric ton of butternut, mashed it up, divvied it into an empty ice tray, ready to be thawed in perfect little portion-sized batches. On Saturday morning we excitedly heated a teaspoon of butternut, put Fletcher into the appropriate protective clothing and began introducing him to the wonders of tepid, unseasoned butternut. He loved it. I mean he didn’t have a clue how to eat it – pushing most of it out of his mouth with his tongue – but he seemed to enjoy the bits that stayed in his mouth. That evening we repeated the process, hoping this would solve our sleep problems. Boy were we wrong.

Saturday night saw us rising every one to two hours throughout the night with the ritual culminating in a 30 minute screaming match at 5am. Becs eventually managed to settle him again, but his new-found allergy to sleeping meant that by 07:00 he was now ready to face the day. Bleary-eyed, we stumbled from bed to heat round two of the butternut extravaganza. Part of me – ok, all of me – hoped that the second day would reinforce everything and that Sunday night he’d really sleep well. Negative Ghost Rider.

Sunday night was even worse. During the day on Sunday, Fletcher had been a terrorist, getting in about three or four 30-minute cat-naps but otherwise not sleeping. Consequently, he was exhausted by 5pm. While I prepared supper, Becs gave Fletcher a bath and put him down nice and early. He settled pretty well, so we were cautiously optimistic. He niggled a few times over the next two hours and we settled him with bottles, meaning that by 7pm he’d smashed another 180ml and would (theoretically) be down for anywhere between four and six hours. Exhausted from our sleepless weekend and two weeks of having a sick baby (that’s a story for another day), we crashed at 9pm. One hour later, the monitor crackled. Drat.

I got up, gave him a bottle and he settled pretty quickly. One hour later, the monitor crackled. Ugh. I got up, put his dummy back in and he settled again. One hour later, the monitor crackled… and so it went, every hour from 10pm until 3am, when I eventually pulled him into our bed and we managed to sleep from 03:20 to 05:25 – five minutes before my alarm was due to go off.

I don’t know if it’s this “four month sleep regression” thing everyone keeps talking about or if he’s just being otherwise, but I really hope he gets over his sudden aversion to sleep soon, because damn son, we are tired! Just a side note on this four month sleep regression thing: I didn’t even know that such a thing existed until a few of our friends who have kids around Fletcher’s age started commenting that their little whipper-snappers were regressing. I joked, saying that Fletcher had never progressed beyond four-hour stretches so there was no progress to regress on. Incorrect. Just because he hadn’t progressed, didn’t mean he couldn’t go backwards. You know how they say there’s rock bottom? Well we weren’t there yet it seems.

Pray for us. That is all.