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.

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.

The rewards are great!

Amateur Mommies: the rewards of parenthood

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.

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.

Who’s your daddy?

Since Fletcher was born, many of our friends and family have asked us questions like “was the dad tall?” or “what colour were the dad’s eyes?” Harmless questions asked with nothing but good intentions. Cognisant of the fact that no-one has ever meant any harm by any of these questions, we’ve always responded as diplomatically as possible – “the donor had blue eyes” or “the donor was over 6 foot,” but the fact remains that Fletcher doesn’t have a dad. For better or worse, he has two mommies.

Some people might think that statement is completely ludicrous – how can he not have a dad? Surely, it takes a mom and a dad to make a baby? Yes and no. Yes, it takes genetic material from both a man and a woman to make a baby. But no, you don’t need a “mom” and a “dad”. “Moms” and “dads” raise children. They kiss boo-boos and patch up skinned knees. They do school runs and plan pirate-princess themed birthday parties. They lie awake at night agonising over which school to enrol their kids at, or how they’re going to pay for college. They beam like Cheshire cats at graduation day and snap a thousand photos a minute. Moms and dads raise children.

It may sound trivial, but if I have learned from my time at my current employer, it’s that language matters. Words define meaning and meaning defines experience. If someone describes a delicious meal to you using only bland and benign descriptors, your experience of that meal is tainted. You might go to a “hairdresser” for a boring old cut, but you’d go to “stylist” for something funky and cutting edge. You’d go to a “clothing retailer” for your everyday wear, but you’d go to a “boutique” for that drop-dead-gorgeous, one-of-a-kind, stop-you-in-your-tracks, knockout dress.

So no, Fletcher doesn’t have a “dad”, but he has two moms who love him more with each day, who will dote on him throughout his life.

To feed or not to feed

For many expectant mothers breastfeeding is a daunting prospect – will I produce enough milk to keep him satisfied? Will he be able to latch? Will he be – heaven forbid – allergic to my milk? What if I absolutely hate it? These are real fears for new moms and ones that can, ultimately, make or break your breastfeeding experience.

All through my pregnancy I was adamant that I wanted to do things as close to naturally as possible. My birth “plan” had a heavy focus on the natural – a midwife over a gynae, a vaginal over Caesarean delivery, no pain management over an epidural, etc. – but we don’t always get what we want in life, and especially in childbirth.

Similarly, I wanted to exclusively breastfeed as far as possible. Although, knowing the physical and emotional burden breastfeeding places on a new mom, we had agreed I would express as well so that Becs could help out with night feeds. But when Fletcher went straight to the NICU after birth instead of straight onto my breast, things changed and we had to roll with it.

When the NICU nurse came into our room on that first morning and told me my child was starving panic set in. One of the nurses helped me to express a whopping 1ml, at which point Becs signed the consent to give Fletcher formula. Although the nurses continued to stress the importance of breast milk, if I could get any, and praised the delivery of those “drops of gold”, it had taken something meant to be a beautiful and intimate bonding moment between me and my baby and made it something clinical.

When Fletcher came off the CPAP and I was able to try and latch him to feed, it was still a beautiful moment for me – despite the wires and tubes still attached to my two-day-old baby. But it quickly became clear it wasn’t happening fast enough for him. Having become accustomed to the delivery speed of, first the feeding tube and then the bottle, the breast simply took too long and required too much effort. Still, we persevered.

I expressed three or four times a day while he was in the NICU and when he came home we tried relentlessly to get him to feed. But as time went on, and his daily need increased, he ended up getting more bottle than breast. I simply wasn’t producing enough milk to satisfy his hunger – despite the Eglonyl.

I began to dread feeding time. He’d be what we call screaming sad mad (which is exactly what it sounds like), and I’d be desperately trying to aim his wailing mouth at my breast, hoping he’d get a good latch. He’d latch briefly, suck a few times before realizing it was going to require maximum effort on his part. Then he’d start screaming again. And this cycle would continue for up to an hour before I’d give in and ask Becs to prepare a bottle. Some days were better than others, mind you. Sometimes I’d get him onto the breast before he realized how hungry he was and so he’d be sucking before he got “screaming sad mad”, so he’d be OK with putting the extra effort in. But even on those days, he’d need a bottle afterward.

After a month of trying I decided the emotional tug-of-war I experienced every time I tried to breastfeed was just too much. He was gaining weight nicely on the formula and was anything but malnourished, so why was I torturing myself? Guilt. I felt guilty at the thought of giving up because “breast is best” and “they don’t get antibodies from formula” but I just couldn’t do it anymore. My distress at seeing him so frustrated and upset every time I tried to feed him began to outweigh my guilt.

I discussed my feelings with Becs, who was wonderfully supportive and told me all the things I needed to hear – “he gets so frustrated” and “you did your best babe” – but despite all that, it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve made as a mother and I do still feel guilty about it. But every time I see him calmly have a bottle before drifting into that contented sleep that only comes from having a full belly, my guilt is somewhat assuaged.

Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do it. I’ve spoken to moms who diligently breastfed and they all agree, it was the hardest, most physically and emotionally draining thing they’ve ever done. If you get it right, power to you, but if you don’t do not feel guilty. No one has ever been asked at a job interview if they were breast or bottle fed. As long as they’re getting the nutrients they need and they are loved, what more could you want?

“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.)