Wednesday, June 25, 2014

being a mama - getting home, failing boobs and it really does take a village

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so excited that our most awesomely cool nifty250 prints arrived yesterday! i'm so pumped to frame them up and hang them in bears bedroom for her. our very lovely friend gareth gave lila this super thoughtful gift for her birthday. thanks gareth, they are just so cool.

i wanted to share a bit more of my mama story with you all today. so let's just dive in, yes?

our first night home was terrible. we were so nervous! lila picked up on it, of course, and she cried the entire night... it was terrifying. exhausting. I remember so clearly, in the early hours of the morning, gary and i looking at each other, fear etched on our faces, beyond not saying “what the hell have we done?”… we did. we were so freaked out we spoke those words. aaahahaha! a moment of pure terror.

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we had exactly one hour sleep that night... the photo above is most gorgeously deceptive- gary and lila snuggling the next morning. take the filter off and the glorious truth is revealed… tired, black shadows under her papas eyes. i’m happy to report we found our way through it and if us then could see us know, i swear we wouldn’t have believed it.

as parents we can sit and sprout off all the info and advice in the world but each families experience is unique and if i can give one bit of advice it's that i promise, you'll figure it out some how. you're doing it right! even though it really doesn't feel that way ninety five percent of the time : )

i did not get the baby blues. i didn't even have a teary day. i cried when she was born but that was pure joy. i feel guilty admitting this. isn't it like, a right of passage or something? i know it’s a very real thing for a lot of moms out there and can turn into postpartum depression very quickly. i had even had the talk with gary, warning him about the imminent “attack of the hormones” but they did not come... perhaps they stole through me in the night, i don’t know. maybe i was so high on happiness i didn't notice… the only tears i shed in those first few days were from excruciating pain. they we more precisely not tears, they we’re tinny rivers flooding and crashing down my cheeks. ugly silent flooding and crashing sobs caused from exquisite pain… self-inflicted pain. radiating from my gosh darn nipples.

i over did the nipple cream. in my defense i was only following what we were taught in antenatal classes… nipple cream. nipple cream. nipple cream! i literally made one of the most sensitive parts of my body even more sensitive! the poor girls… i spent two whole days in agony, silently sobbing, face scrunched up in pain through every forty minute feed… my mom walked in and found me sitting on my bed hunched over my baby, tears silently streaming down my face, trying desperately to get through a feed. she sat next me and soft talked me through it, urging me to not concentrate on the pain but instead to try push it aside and find my happy place. once we were done, she took lila from me and gave her to my step mom, she walked me gently to the bathroom and helped me wash and gently massage my aching swollen boobes under soothing warm water. she told me to lay off the nipple cream and try to dry my nipples out - i needed to toughen those bad boys up! i sat after each feed with giant ice cold cabbage leaves over each radiating boob – i had those schmoozie little boob shaped ice packs but the cabbage just did a better job. i also sat topless a lot of the time and even tanned them a bit in a patch of sun on my bed. 

sure, i had knockers to start off with but boy when your milk comes in do those puppies double in size. rock hard, veiny and full of tiny hard lumps that need to be gently massaged out during a hot shower. if i remember correctly my milk came in around the same time i left hospital, around day four.

if there was one thing i wanted to do the natural way (seeing as we opted for a ceasar) it was breastfeed and so i did. lila latched beautifully in hospital and we soon had the hang of it. i loved feeding her. there is such an intimacy about feeding your baby, a bond only the two of you will ever share. all was well and good. one evening i wanted to give the old breast pump a whirl and managed to express a full one hundred and fifty ml bottle in twenty minutes flat. from one boob! i hand an abundance of milk and it was the good nourishing kind. my baby was happy and putting on weight at an amazing rate. i found it incredible how in tune my boobs became with my babies feeding routine. my nipples would tingle and i would feel that unmistakable pull from inside whichever boob she was to feed from and it would start to leak seconds before she would wake. the first time i went to the shop without her, she was about three weeks old, ga and i had just popped to the baby store to get some odds and ends and i was thoroughly looking forward to an outing. what blew my mind was how my boobies behaved the entire forty five min we were away! they pulsed their protest at being separated from their baby! such a strange sensation - who knew? my mom did. but it's so hard to comprehend these kinds of things when you haven't experienced them yourself.

just a warning, when you get out of a hot bath or shower have a breast pad at the ready because they spray. literally. also you have to sleep in a bra. as well as being constantly leaky, he girls are gonna be pretty swollen and sore - you’re gonna want strap ‘em down. i found the most comfy bra to sleep in was this one. no clips, no adjustable straps, just a plain and simple cross over “crop” if you will with pretty lace detail. i also purchase a couple of these for day time and outings.

stock up on button downs, cross over and low v-neck shirts & dresses. it's much easier and more discreet to just unbutton and pop one out rather than having to lift your entire dress/shirt to feed you little.

at about three months i started to notice that lila would cry continuously in the evenings, her little tummy would rumble and her feeds were becoming increasing shorter… the midwife at the clinic assured me that it was quite normal for her to feed for shorter time periods as she grew because she was getting stronger and so better at sucking down her meal. the rumbling tummy was assumed to be wind. and the crying? well we blamed the wind. i dunno, something was off and i could feel it. she was such a chilled little human. it was totally out of character for her to cry. i knew in my gut something was up. i was still on maternity leave so there was no need for me to express and i was exclusively breast feeding her. but the crying persisted. we thought colic? we tried colic drops but nothing? her little tummy continued to grumble all the time. i really watched what i ate encase it was making her windy and drank a lot of water every day. no change. i even took her to see a chiropractor who assured me she was all in alignment. one evening, and i have no idea what spurred me to do it but i sat down on my bed with my breast pump and pumped. i pumped and pumped for two hours and do you know what?  i only got about fifty ml from both breasts... i thought my pump was faulty. turns out it was the old breasticles that were faulty! shock-freaking-horror!!! do you know how guilty i felt? my baby was starving and it was my fault! how could i have not known? why had i not picked this up sooner? thank god i thought to pump? why had it taken me so long to do this? i had failed her. the next morning i rang my doctor and got a script for some pills to help my milk production. i picked them up on the way to the clinic, i needed to know she was okay and that i hadn't done too much damage… 

the mid wife was very sweet and reassuring. lila had lost weight since our last weigh in but she assured me she was fine and as long as i substituted with a bottle while i got my milk production back to where it should be, she would continue to grow and develop. she assured me we would get my milk back and lila exclusively breastfeeding in no time at all. the plan was to express from both breasts, bottle feed her the expressed milk and give the balance of seventy five ml feed in formula. we would increase feeds by twenty five ml per week to allow her tummy time to stretch. i would need to express every three hours, mimicking our routine, until my milk was back to where i needed it to be. i did it and it was exhausting! getting up two – three times a night to feed your newborn is bad enough now i had to spend a good hour or more, sterilizing and then expressing after i had fed her. but i did it. for as long as i could. you see i got so paranoid that she would refuse my boobs after feeding from a bottle, sucking boob is harder work than sucking bottle. i started to feed her first on the boob and top her up with a bottle. it worked for a while but then she started to refuse my boob, which was heart breaking for me. she started to only accept boob at her first feed in the morning, i guess because that’s when my milk was at its highest. i eventually came to terms with a once a day feed – hell, one was better than none.

as more and more time passed the more she would refuse the boob. i remember the feeling of failure, how often i would cry to my mom and ga. i would beg lila to please, just bear with me a little longer, that i was trying. eventually,  i was so exhausted, sad, drained, tired and defeated that i took my mom’s advice and gave up after two months of trying to get it all right. it has, to date, been the hardest decision i’ve ever made. i had my heart so set on a full year of breastfeeding. it’s gotten a bit better as time has passed and i try to focus on the positive things; my baby is well fed and healthy and i am wiser for it. we had 4 months of breastfeeding and bonding. most importantly we still have each other. it doesn't matter that much, does it? i gave it my best shot. i really did. we are happy and healthy, lila is growing and developing and it’s given the other people in her life the chance to feed her too. i so still long for it. i still feel so guilty that i couldn't give her just one year. i still feel that stab of jealousy when i see other mamas feeding their tiny babies from their bosom. it sucks. but there is sweet nothing i can do about it now. i just hope that this post maybe helps another struggling mama. maybe you’ll see some similarities in what you’re going through and i hope it pushes you to express, if only for the “express” (hehe) reason of checking that your milk flow is where it should be. my doctor didn't pick it up, my mid wife didn't pick it up, lila’s pediatrician didn't pick it up and neither did google. i followed my gut in the end. 

if i can just add one last little bit to this post, having my mama's support, guidance, reassurance and encouragement at my disposal was one of the best life experiences i've had. i know some people view having a baby as "their" experience but for me/us it was a family experience. i am just so grateful that my mama and i are so exceptionally close. i adore her and wont make any sort of big decision in life without considering her council. i'm also so grateful that my mama is the woman she is, gentle and wise and internally loving. what can i say, she is the epitome of a mama ; ) even garrels calls her when he needs to talk about something. i just adore how close they are.  as a woman going through a lot of changes, having just given birth via cesarean section (a pretty major operation) for the very first time, it was so great to have her knowing reassurance (having born three of her own children by the same method) and gentle support. my family were all around us really, dad, step mom, brother, uncle, aunts and cousins. i am also so grateful for all of them. all of these incredible people allowed me to lavish in my new baby and cocoon away. we leaned on them and it was most certainly necessary at times. my mom would make me breakfast, lunch and endless cups of tea everyday, take lila after feeds and let me nap. she would advise us when ever we had questions or were unsure. we would sit and gush over our new little person and be all gooey-in love together. it was beautiful and real and profound. you know they say, "it takes a village to raise a child", well i believe.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

dear one year old lila bear

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dear one year old lila bear, i didn't get to writing you a letter as i always do when we reach a milestone so i'm doing it now, ten whole days late! naughty mommy. i know you will forgive me because we've just settled back into some semblance of a routine after our very short but exceptionally busy trip to jozi-town for your first birthday party.

my little love, as you grow so does the love i have for you. if you told me when you were born that i would love you even more than i did then i would have told you to "shut-up!". but it's true. you just get sweeter and braver and more adventurous, inquisitive, expressive and oh so entertaining. we could sell tickets to the lila bear show and be sold out every night.

you have eight teeth, which you love to show off by tipping your head back, squeezing your eyes closed, scrunching up your teeny nose and smiling your biggest, cheekiest smile - as seen in the picture above. it's quite glorious really.

you just started walking. you had been practicing all of your birthday weekend which resulted in two lovely purple bruises on your sweet little face. you took your first non-falling-totally-balanced-steps at your nani and oupa's house the night before we left to come home. i'm so happy that you gave them that special gift because they don't get many special moments with us living so far away. you now penguin walk about the house and it's wonderful!! such a clever little tot.

now that you can stand you shake-shake-shake that sweet little boodie! it's freaking aaaaaasem!

we visited angie the next day at wolves because we were told, in no uncertain terms, that if we left jo'burg without her meeting you we would be in huge trouble. angie has always been one of your biggest fans and said to me that you needed to "win an award or something" for being so darn cute. well ain't it the truth! it was so great to eat some dumplings, twice fried beef and have a good old catch up! angie is pregnant with her first baby and had so many questions. we chatted and ate while garrels ran around after you. boy you're a busy little person and it is impossible for us to sit down and have a meal in peace. one of us always has to be on "patrol". anyway we wish you guys all the very best for the arrival of baby shangie tobias! you're going to be incredible parents!

you adore you nana! you become quite shy when going to new places and meeting "new" faces but not at your nana's. you were out of that little shell the moment we entered the house. i actually think you kinda remember her because it was such a seamless transition for you. i also think little poppet (nana's jack russel) helped an awful lot. you two are obsessed with one another and i was really excited for this trip because i knew there would be a little dogie that would love and play with you. our first few minutes at nana's you had crawled into the entrance hall and sat on the rug, little poppet got the total zoomies (you know when dogs get the wind up their bums and race about like crazy little creatures?)! from the lounge through the entrance hall to the dinning room and back she went. a bazillion times. you fell about with the hysterical laughter as she passed you each time. instant friends! you would hold her ball and offer it to her then hug it to your belly as she came for it (little tease) resulting in more hysterical laughter. you two even engaged in a little game of tug of war when poppet would try pull your shoosha (pacifier) out your mouth! pretty heart warming stuff. i wish we had a poppet at home for you... one day.

you've been able to say "mama", "dada" and "baba" for a while now but you didn't actually know what they meant. i am so thrilled to report that your first official (official in the sense that you fully understand what you you are saying) word is "ma" and that's meee! woooohoooo! haha! can't tell you how chuffed i am about that. it feels like a victory. every time i wander past you and you want my attention you say "ma". it's so grand. your latest word is "no". you fully understand this one too. and so you should because we say it to you often enough. we were sitting on sunday morning, watching mary poppins (you absolute favorite movie) and i offered you some more tea, to which you matter-a-factly replied "no" shaking your head at the same time. well, i couldn't get enough of that so i probably spent a good hour offering you "more tea"... silly mama.

what else, oh! papa is your absolute favorite. when i say that, i mean it. the poor dude can't even get home and change into his comfies without you kicking up a fuss. the minute you hear his voice you go berserk. the other evening i was giving you a bath when he got home and popped his head in the door to say hello. let me give you some context here, bathing is your "piggie-in-pooh". true story. there is nothing you love to do more than bath. you'd play for hours if we let you and getting you out is always a fight. so, papa popped his head round the corner and said hey and that was it, you would have no more of splish-splashing. no siree, mmm-mmm! you stood up, held your hands out to him and screamed your head off. i think he finds it a bit exhausting because you won't even let him pee on his own. if he hasn't managed to sneak past you, you beetle off after him moaning until he picks you up.

you're new little game is teasing people. you will offer to give something to someone and as soon as that person reaches out for the item in hand, you snatch it away and hug whatever you're holding to your belly and giggle. cheeky!

you're brave. too brave. i think most moms will say that about their one year olds because it's how you learn. you have to be brave and have no concept of fear in order to attempt to sit, crawl, stand, walk. if i hold your hand while we walk somewhere you often end up trying to run. little person, you haven't even master walking yet, can we slow it down a tad? i can just hear you saying "no!" in my head when i ask that question - haha!

well little love. i adore you. keep on being awesome, now see?


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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

three hundred and sixty five days of you

last thursday we woke at four thirty in the morning to catch a flight up to jozi-town to celebrate our gorgeous little lila bear's first birthday with our wonderful family and friends. our trip was jam packed but totally worth it. we saw everyone we needed to, threw a sweet first birthday party and crammed in four shoots! the morning of the party was hectic, i had to craft the pants off the decor, with the help of my ever-faithful trusty sidekick, cousin jenna, i chose a black, gold and pink floral theme which complimented our wintry dry and dull surrounds quite nicely. my mama laid out such a spread (as always!) of ribs, sausage rolls, fried olives and chorizo, cheese and fruit platter, cupcakes, kooksiters and doughnuts. it went down a treat and there was sweet nothing left over - thanks mama! the boys ran about doing last minute collections for us and setting up the photobooth... before we knew it, it was one o'clock and our guests were arriving. we had such a chilled wonderful time and it was beyond amazing to see all our friends and family. forty-five minutes in lila started to get the grumbles so my mama took her down to the main house and she proceeded to nap through the entire thing. by the time she woke the sun was setting, we attempted a cake smash but she was just not interested in cake.  we only got a few photo because we were too busy enjoying ourselves. take look:

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after our failed attempt at a cake-smash garrels, brad and gareth (two of the raddest and handsome guys we met through instagram) took bear out into the veld to get some sweet sunset shots. check out gareths blog post for some more amazing photos.

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all in all i think lila adored all the attention and she sure does love all the books she got - my little bookworm. i want to thank everyone who came out to celebrate this amazing occasion with us. we are so truly blessed to have each and every one of you in our lives. bear is deeply loved by you all and i know she adores you all too.

p.s. after practicing all weekend she started walking on monday night!!! such a proud mama. i'll post a video clip later this week.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

being a mama - cesar vs. natural birth

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i know most all of my posts are soppy, love goo dripping off of every word. they are the truth but paint a very one-sided picture of a perfect family and perfect mama experience. nothing is perfect in this world and although i am so very grateful for my beautiful healthy family, my experience has been anything but perfect. as i've mentioned countless times, my biggest dream/aspiration in life was always to be a mama. what can i say, i'm just the mothering kind... i had this idea of it in my mind and for the most part it's been everything and more than i dreamed it ever could be. but i've had my battles, just like every other mother out there, trying, in vain, to find this infamous "balance" - it alludes me at every turn. anyway, i thought it would be cool to do a series of posts about my personal trials as a mother and a wife. shall we start at the beginning?
pregnancy & that huge decision cesar vs. natural birth.
pregnancy was good to me. i really enjoyed it. i suffered exactly 2 weeks of morning sickness and threw-up once. making sure i had something solid in me the minute i woke and sipping puka three ginger tea throughout the day remedied the sickies pretty quick.
i did however experience extreme fatigue, you know the kind when you wake up exhausted after a sixteen hour sleep? yeah... it settled and in my second trimester, i found i had far more energy but still thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon naps - yay for half day jobs!
i have always been a bit overweight and being preggers gave me the opportunity to embrace the belly instead of constantly trying to hide it. i adored it! although the maternity range of clothing available in this country is dismal to say the very least. dresses of any length, leggings and oversized shirts were my staples. i did document week by week here, if you're interested.
one part of being preggers i did not enjoy was peeing every five seconds! oh my life, it annoyed the pants off of me. waking in the middle of the night a bout fifty bazillion times, feeling as though you're going to burst, rushing to the loo and all for five little drops! i am so glad that's over.
my last month of pregnancy was spent nursing my husband. he had a wee bicycle accident, broke his collar bone in two places, fractured 4 ribs and puncture his lung resulting in three surgeries. it must have been rather funny watching the two of us - me rolling around and him hobbling everywhere, the heavily pregnant trying to shower and dress her battered and bruised husband - we made it through as anyone would have faced with the same circumstances - faced with any circumstances come to think of it.
i wanted the natural birth experience and had my heart set on it for the longest time. i had researched and read and dreamed for years. there are pros and cons to both but i wanted natural because i'm a bit of a naturalist and isn’t giving birth what we were made for? i knew it would be hard but my body would reap the benefits in the years to come. in my last trimester we found out that my dad was to leave on a 3 year contract around her due date! this news broke pregnant jess’s heart. what if she came late, as so many first babies do, my dad would miss her! what if she was on time but i labored for longer than 12 hours or, god forbid, something went wrong and they had to cesar me anyway? then i'd have been just plain old pee'd.
and so we seriously started looking at having a cesar. gary was all for it from the get go. he used to try convince me all the time, sighting the pro's of a controlled, scheduled cesarean birth - haha! he was dead chuffed when i showed signs of considering a cesar. i asked a lot of questions, had many discussions with gary and my mom and read up a lot. i went back and froth for a few weeks but eventually lila made the decision for us. at our 37 week check up the gyne confirmed that she had stopped growing and that it was indeed time for her to make an early appearance. you can read our birth experience here. it was so chilled and very surreal but amazingly beautiful. we have a gorgeous baby girl and would do either way we decided to go. my point being that it doesn't actually matter how your little human arrives just as long as they do and safely. ten fingers, ten toes. we stress out so much we loose sight of the end result.
i was so worried about the pain of a cesar and the scar but the pain wasn't bad at all. i'd describe it as a burning pain and it's quite dull because you're taking pills for it anyway. getting up wasn't bad, sure it hurt but it was nothing like the pain i had dreamed up in my head. as for the scar, it's tiny and so low down no one except gary and i will ever see it and in all honesty my stretch marks are far, far worse than the scar. i would gladly be covered in a gazillion cesar scars for my baby! and that’s the honest to god truth. 
i had never been in hospital except to visit friends and family, so it was my very first hospital stay. it was amazing! i got a private room and it made all the difference. ladies, talk to you anesthetist about having your catheter inserted after you have the epidural, that way you wont feel a thing. my best friend bron gave me this little gem if advice. it's just better. apparently having a catheter inserted is painful and uncomfortable and i see no reason for it especially if your having a spinal or epi and will be numb in moments.
i worried so much about being naked in front of strangers. i am an exceptionally private person. let me lay this demon to rest for all you first timers – it’s bigger in your head than it is in real life. and when it comes time, they keep as much of you covered as possible. once you're all laid down on the theater table, they have a screen up in front of you so you don't even notice that you're naked. the doctors and nurses are very professional about it and see it everyday. they aren't there to perv, they're there to get a job done. besides, all you'll be thinking about is your baby and when that little bundle pops out you’re not going to give two hoots about being starkers. it really is a non issue i assure you.
my mom said to me to stay in hospital as long as possible, to enjoy being waited on hand and foot and to soak up all the knowledge i could from the maternity ward nurses. boy did i! i was all wrinkly from my four day long soak. we slept. we fed. we loved. we cuddled. we slept some more.  
the one thing i do want to warn new mamas about is the blood. it gushes from your nether region, flows like the nile river during flood season. no matter how much i had been warned or read or told, nothing prepared me for that experience. i remember one particular occasion in hospital, i needed to get up to pee, gary helped me out of bed and as i stood up, to my utter mortification, it gushed down my legs to the floor… i rang for the nurse in a total panic, she took one look at me and chided, not one, two pads at all times, at least for the next two days. yes, those massive dr whites are so necessary. remember not one two! haha. it does calm a little after a few days and one can resume normal use of pads with wings! god who knew i would worship the invention of wings? haha. tampons were a no go for me. i did try after about three weeks but it was painful so i stuck to pads. doctors will only advocate the use of pads and i get it, you have a whole river of goo and blood that needs be flushed from your system - let it flow homies! 

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Monday, June 2, 2014

taking stock

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making: lists, cloud mobiles for all my preggie friends & party decorations for lila bears first birthday party
cooking: banting, high fat low carb! have you guys heard of the real meal revolution? defo worth a read
drinking: bullet proof coffee and water
reading: the readhead revealed by alice clayton - real chick lit but light & funny as hell
wanting: to make kimono's
looking: at women who run successful businesses and balance family
playing: peek-a-boo - it's lila's fav at the mo
wasting: time - postponing launching a new product because of self-doubt...
wishing: great weather on june fourteenth
enjoying: catherine green, aka @wolfeyebrows, daily illustration project on instagram.
waiting: for one o'clock so i can go home to my baby
liking: that it's overcast today
wondering: how on earth we're going to fit family & friend time, a long overdue hair appointment, a business meeting and drinks, a little girls first birthday party and six photo shoots into our up and coming 7 day trip to jozi town
loving: the face lila pulls when i lay on her changing mat and the way she pushes her tummy out and in
hoping: it all comes together perfectly
marveling: at how mild durban winters are
needing: a pool net
smelling: the remnants of last nights ox tail dinner. my husband sure can cook
wearing: skinny chinos and chiffon blouse, seems to be my staple these days #boring
following: my dreams...
noticing: when things are meant to be, how easily everything fall into place
knowing: everything always turns out just fine in the end
thinking: lila's birthday party and what shots i really want to get from the jozi shoots
bookmarking: photography everything! feather & flower crowns.
opening: nothing at this point in time.
giggling: at lila when she fake laughs along with all of us.
feeling: excited. hopeful. nervous. loved. grateful.
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