Her Birth Day

I would love to lie and say the past year has been nothing short of perfection and that motherhood met my expectations. 

But the truth is, while there have been great times, it’s also been hard. A year ago, I could never have imagined the change a child could bring to not only my life, but to me as a person. There have been times this year, I have felt like a stranger losing so much of myself to give to this small human, and to still feel it’s not enough. I sit here tonight, and I wonder how I managed those first few days, weeks even. I wonder how on earth I knew what to do. I don’t recall preparing for it. I don’t think you can really. They said it, but until it happens you can’t understand it. I can barely understand it now. 

Your natural instinct of mothering. 

And you just DO. You look after, care for, and love this small person more than anything in the world and you just do. I feel overwhelmed by that. That natural instinct of love. It catches you a little off guard. 

Elle fell asleep in my arms tonight, something she doesn’t do often (she takes after me that way – not a big cuddler), and I held her. I held her because now she is one. She has already lived a full year of life. A year we’ll never get back. She’ll never be smaller than she is right now again. And while it was so tough, this first year, and she challenged me, it was also insurmountably special. It was everything I never knew it would be. It went fast. It also went slowly. But now it’s gone. And she’s one and no longer a baby. 

She wore skinny jeans and a grey jumper today and I saw her as a little girl, my little girl, but a little girl and not my baby. It makes me both happy and sad. It’s not likely I’ll have another baby, and while I don’t want to press pause or any other cliche, I just want to be. 

So I held her as she slept, this little one year old of mine. This special miracle. This disruptor, challenger, feisty dancer. I held her because I still can. And I treasured her heart beating against mine as it is my greatest gift – her Birth Day. 

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What’s in a name?

That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet?

Yes yes, I’m a big fan of Shakespeare (‘s tragedy) but really let’s talk about names.

Elle Charlotte.

My daughter’s name was originally going to be Emma. 6 years ago when we thought having a baby would be nice and Mrs M fell pregnant and planned for the arrival of Emily, we discussed how it would work…. Emma… and Emily. And decided they’d be friends and it could. So Emma Jane would be her name.

But time passed and Emily arrived safely and started to grow up a bit. And Emma, over time and pending her arrival became Olivia. Inspired by our favourite show of the time, Fringe (my ringtone was also inspired by it for a while) and there weren’t a lot of Olivias around.

Until there were.

It became fashionable and people we knew started naming their daughters Olivia, but I held onto the name because I liked it a lot, and I was reassured by friends that it’d be ok. When Olivia arrived she’d be my Olivia and it didn’t matter that it had now become a popular name.

Olivia Jane was her name.

And we waited.

But Olivia, Liv, became our IVF baby. She became the blood tests, the waiting, the tears and the emptiness. And still we waited. And so, when I fell pregnant by accident and surprise, our baby was no longer Olivia.

Jane was the constant, as you can guess. Named after two very important people. Samantha Jane, my late cousin who we tragically lost when she was 16, and my mom Rejane (pronounced Ra-jean, so only the Jane in the spelling really).

Elle. Or Al (in pronunciation if I’m honest). It started way before Emma.

In 2007, we got engaged and I also started working in an Asset Management firm – SSGA. I worked for guy, Arron, who little did I know at the time would not only share my birthday, but his wife would inspire my child’s name. As is the case within an open plan office, or maybe just a quiet office of finance ops nerds –  I overheard phone calls to his wife, Al. Short for Alison. Or Alice. But over the phone, he called her Al  (cue: Paul Simon hum).

I liked the name a lot. But I didn’t like Alice. Or Alison. And so Elle became. In 2007, before I was even married, my future girl child would be Elle.

Elle Jane.

Elle Jane.

L Jane

L J – isn’t that a rapper? (ok, ok… LL Cool J)

Elle Jane was just never going to work. But I needed it to.

And then my mom delivered her pearler: “I never liked the name Jane. Plain Jane.” (err.. mom, the name is your namesake). But nope, she was not a fan even with this tug on her heart.

And so with just a few days before the imminent arrival of a baby who we weren’t sure was a girl or a boy yet, we learnt an interesting fact. My mom’s mom, a grandmother I never knew, the real name she never went by, was Charlotte.

And so Elle Charlotte suddenly became our miracle baby daughter’s name. That by the time I went into labour, we were still convinced was a boy. By “we” – I mean Mark. I always knew (dating back to 2007 ofcourse) that my first born would be a girl.

And while I fend off the stupids who ask if Elle/Al, is short for Alistair or Allan, and I smile sweetly (eye roll them) while pointing out that she’s a girl and her name is Elle – like the magazine, or you know, the international supermodel, I know that this child is more unique than just her name. She chose to arrive when she did, against the odds, to a name that was planned well before her time but only came to us at the last moment.

Elle Charlotte Hawkins. My miracle baby girl.

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I’m now a mom-car owner

Cars. I’m one of those girls who love them. Probably not as much as some guys, but more than a lot of girls. I like driving. I like diesel. I like cars with a bit of power (even if I don’t like speed). I’m a fan of torque and I know my KW. (sorta. Don’t test me on that).

I also love my golf. Have always loved my golf(s). I’ve driven a citi, a 4, 5, 5 tdi and now my 6 tdi. But… I always pegged getting a bigger mom car on when i became a… Ahem… Mom (fancy that?)

So it’s time. Now that I’m a mom. Now that that box is officially ticked. It’s time.

There are plenty of mom cars… Or SUVs… to choose from. They look good. All of them. Even previous cars that you’d swear were just for farmers now look stylish enough to park in Constantia village. But how do they driiiive? I needed to find out before commencing the search on getting a good deal (oh did I mention this change of car needed to be cost effective in order to fulfil other things that a mom has. Or hasn’t. Like money).

We started here. Because great days start with (who am I kidding?… ALL days start with) a coffee. Also, who knew bootleggers were in Tokai? They’re slowly taking over the world… or Cape Town at least!
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First stop: Nissan (we are driven).

The new xtrail. It’s less of a box than the old one… and honestly the one I had my heart most set on.

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It has 7 seats, and weirdly doesn’t sound like a tractor. Personally I think its fairly good looking. But… the 2 litre doesn’t come in diesel and the diesel doesn’t come in automatic and basically, I’m not driving another manual car in traffic again. Have you seen my left thigh from all that clutch control?

We drove along main road (where else can you find every single one of the dealerships in South Africa in a single stretch), our next stop was at Kia.

Sportage 2014, 2016, 2017. We drove them all.

Well, I didn’t drive the 2017. But I looked at it. Personally – I think its a bit Porche looking, but not in a good way. But look, I didn’t like the look of the Golf 5 when it came out and I was all about that 4. That clearly changed, so I’m sure my feelings on the new Sportage will change in time too.

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2014, or the 2016 model. They’re the same.
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The porsche wanna be. Or the 2017 Model.

The 2016 and the 2014 both drove well (…well enough for my standards anyway). They were nice, and I could see myself in them (especially the 2016 model. Except that it was blue. And I don’t do blue cars. Its a weird me thing. We could’ve found it in another colour though).

After KIA, a detour (or the realisation that not everything is in main road) saw us at the Ford dealership in town. Where, before the fires and the now zero worth vehicles became a thing, a sales lady put me off the KUGA for life. I couldn’t even consider it past her rude, snotty behaviour towards us. And I’m so glad she was rude otherwise… 😐

Interestingly the Kuga was also blue. I really do have a thing against blue.

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Its LIT

We kinda then by accident popped in to Land Rover. Just to.. you know, see.

And kinda sat in one of these and dreamt a little dream. The boot was too small… otherwise….!!!!

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One day when I’m no longer a mom to a baby in a pram

Tried to find out about one of these

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which are apparently like hens teeth… so….: no.

The Toyota showroom has some steelcapped boots photographed on the wall. It should’ve told us everything, but yet we still drove the Rav4. Unlike the nissan x-trail that’s changed its shape and has become a bit more luxe, the RAV4 is made like a bakkie and still feels like a bakkie.

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The facelift, is just a facelift

Next we test drove the surprisingly gorgeous CX-5. Surprising, because the last Mazda I knew was a 3-2-3, and this was a far cry from that. It was very… Mercedez-ish. Without that pricetag (we drove the Mercedez A-series as well and thank heavens for its tiny boot otherwise… )

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The surprise contender

The extras on the Mazda is what killed it for me (and what pushed the price up). Leather, diesel, automatic. But then some weird limitations – like if you have a diesel automatic, you don’t have PDC (or reverse camera or one of those anyway). Either way it sounded like a bum deal.

We also visited Subaru and drove the outlander. No wait, the Forrester. Agg… we drove something that was big and I was getting a bit over it.

Our shortlist was the KIA. And possibly the Mazda.We didn’t even get to the Tucson, or IX35. Or the Tiguan (even though I’m all VW for life and all). We also never got to Jeeps or Volvos (because… ka-ching).

But none of it mattered as we drove in Durbanville one weekend and literally and unintentionally looked in at a no-name-brand dealership on Durban road. We eyed a beautiful beast. One that we (I) had never, and thought I would never, consider.

And then we bought it.

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Because: German Engineering

I’m now the owner of a Mom-car. An Audi Q5. His name is Tendai. The Beast.

**None of these images are the actual cars we looked at because I’m not weird and up for photographing at every dealership we visit. 
** disclaimer. The decision making to finally get this car took about 3 months. I like cars. I don’t like decisions. 

Those memories

Someone once called me an elephant. Apparently, he wasn’t calling me it in reference to my size or weight (although me and those damn body issues), apparently it was to do with my memory. Apparently he had a point.

Those damn memories.

I’m not talking about the good ones – you know; the i do’s or Foo fighters concerts. I’m talking about those other ones. The ones that manifest as flashes. The haunting ones. 

The grand entrance you make at some boy you fancy’s res at 2am after lots of tequila, the dance off at your year end party, the inappropriate text message or phone call that you can’t take back, the time you drove drunk through a road block, the moment you hear your baby may not be healthy. The spine tingle, the overwhelming nausea that those memories, those haunting memories deliver in an instant. The ones you cant seem to rid yourself of – even after it’s been years. All it takes is one song, one picture, one drive by, and you’re right there in the memory that haunts you.

One year has passed now, I still get that small chill when I think of how different things may have been, and I thank God for how are they are. 

But those memories… never seem to leave the backs of my eyelids. 

I’m eating carbs. Ask me how many fucks I give

Zero. I give zero fucks about my carbs.
I also haven’t gone to gym in 6 weeks. Zero fucks.

This is the most bizarre feeling in the world. I’ve never felt this way. Ever. I’m the girl who admitted to weighing myself twice a day, every damn day. And now. Now I’m eating carbs. I’m eating sugar. And I’m doing it and I actually couldn’t care. Life right now, is challenging. I’m working again, I’m wife-ing, I’m mom-ming and yes I know countless women before me have done these things simultaneously and had possibly more on their plate, but this is the first time I’m doing them and it’s fucking hard. So I actually don’t need to add being painful about what I eat to that mix. 

Liberated? No, I don’t feel freedom about not being ridiculously strict about my food consumption but I don’t feel guilty either. I’m trying to be the best I can be right now which means that having the energy to be on play mode for two hours when I get home after sitting in traffic for an hour after a full and long day at the office means that I may just need to have a slice of toast or an easy to snack on rusk. Cramming a full day into two hours less at the office, just to be able to leave in time to sit on M3 for fekking ages to get home in time for nanny, means that if lunch can be made quickly and consumed even quicker if it’s made of carbs, I’m not gonna be fussy. And if this means that my mombod is going to take me into 2017, then so be it because right now… Zero fucks given. 

My new title: Working mom

I went back to work this week. Well last week really, but my weeks all still roll into one along with my days, and actually… where has 2016 gone? On Tuesday and all week, I had messages of support from friends around the world, on twitter, facebook and every other way people could contact me flood in. Everyone sent me ‘strongs’ – which itself begs the question when did we invent new verbs? – but they sent me those, and wished me well on my first day back to work. They said I’d cry, and that I’d be ok. That it’d be over in no time and I can be back with my baby.

And how was my first day back?

It was freaking awesome.

Mothers everywhere are rolling their eyes (or, perhaps they’re silently nodding to themselves, while avoiding eye contact with anyone else at the risk of being judged). Well judge me all you want. My first day, and first week back at work was amazing. It could have been the heels, the dress and the makeup, (it certainly wasn’t the traffic) but I’m going to pretend I’m a little deeper than that and say it was the coffee.

I didn’t cry (back at it with that Ice Queen label) and I only checked our cameras (yes, we have cameras) twice the whole day (don’t ask me about the rest of the week). The worst part of the day was driving in horrendous traffic. That part about my old life I didn’t miss.

Am I cold? How could I possibly have enjoyed being away from my little girl?

Come come. Lets be real. Its not about enjoying not being with her, but rather – enjoying being me again. I’m not a mother at work. I’m just me. I don’t forget about my baby girl in the same way I don’t forget about my husband while I’m at work. I’m just doing what I’ve done for many years. I work. I do it because I enjoy it (and it pays the bills, except when you’re on unpaid maternity leave, then it doesn’t pay the bills that well. A great idea at the time. At the time).

And so no, my answer is no to all the people who asked me ‘was it hard?’ No. It wasn’t hard to go back to work. I like work and I like working. And mothering is sometimes a damn lot harder than work is. But don’t get me wrong, its not easier to be at work than it is to be at home. They’re both full time (full on) roles. And I think all mothers will agree that if we could be two versions of ourselves, we would be. One that could stay at home, and one that could be at work. One that could be me, for me. And one that could be me, dedicated purely to my girl and my husband. I want to be both but I also want a money tree, and a 36 hour day with at least 12 hours of straight uninterrupted sleep. But we can’t have all that we want so for now we have to be ok with a little bit of balance, and a whole lot of team work. We’re going to do the best we can, to offer Elle the best of us both, while ensuring we both remain true to ourselves.

Raise your eyebrows, and subtly suggest again that I stop working, or talk amongst yourselves about how I love my day job, or how surprised you are that I wanted to be a mom so much, but now I’m working on my career again. My love for my little girl and desire to be the best mom I can doesn’t end because I work. In fact, it amplifies the morals and values that I want to teach her about money, respect and success as a woman, while also making those three hours a day with her (yes, I know its so little) so so important. And yes, the novelty of heels and meetings may wear off and I’m sure I’m in for some challenging days ahead as I try to balance a career and a child, but for now… Damn it feels good in heels.

A night at the Light House Boutique Suites

My sister works in luxury travel. Shame.

She also has impeccable taste. So when she decided on a beautiful boutique hotel over my house for her 40th birthday party – it wasn’t so much of a surprise. I mean, I aim to make my house nice and all – but a guesthouse will always win. In December last year, we celebrated her big birthday and spent the night in one of the most beautiful boutique hotels I’ve ever been in.

The Light House Boutique Suites, contrary to its name, is in Paarl and nowhere near a lighthouse. It’s a beautiful guesthouse that reminds me of the Hamptons – had I ever visited the Hamptons. The house was renovated and tastefully decorated with special attention given to absolutely every last detail. It rivals the pages of a decor magazine and has the warmth of a loving home thanks to its hosts. It is a peaceful, luxurious sanctuary with immaculate gardens and a beautiful pool, thoughtfully and uniquely decorated rooms (yes, I spied them all) and opulent finishes throughout the sitting, reading and lounging spots in the house.

We stayed in the Mayfair room – ornate and luxuriously decorated, it boasted a giant king size bed (or just a normal king sized bed, but its such a luxury I have to say giant), a small settee, arm chairs and beautiful views. We could’ve just hung out in our room all day. At 16 weeks pregnant, I was very tempted.

Every detail is thoughtfully chosen and paired to make the room unique and gorgeous with no costs spared on ensuring the finishes are to a high standard. 

Even the towels come wrapped like a present!

I love a turndown! In fact, I actually get excited by my turndown (and disappointed when there isn’t one. Honestly, I’ve been known to judge – silently – when there isn’t a turndown). The Light House has set the bar so high on the turndown experience for us – their turn down is hardly just a mint on the pillow and dimmed lights. Along with the standard, and the not standard turndown items –  the highlight is a whole box dedicated especially to you! Filled with special treats, and tastefully presented. The thought that goes into every part of your experience in a stay here is exceptional.

We were there for a party – and while what a party it was (sober and all) – the day after (hangover free and all) delivered one of the most delicious breakfasts a girl could ask for when she can’t ask for eggs Benedict (those damn raw eggs).

Served outdoors beneath giant umbrellas, by the warmest hosts, we drank champagne (well…. you know), had platters of fruits and then a cooked-to-perfection hot breakfast.

While I could’ve stayed all day, or all weekend really with no intention of leaving, we sadly had to bid farewell to the most gorgeous guesthouse (and hosts) in Paarl with promises to return in the future for a longer stay. While some may say that holidaying local shouldn’t require 5 star overnights in towns an hour’s drive from your own, I really beg to differ. I’d also recommend booking in to the Light House with no intention to leave all weekend. Not to wine taste. Not to eat. Just stay here in this little oasis of luxury and soak it all in. It is… that good.