My baby’s heart

I’m having a cup of tea. I’m having a rusk. I’m trying very very hard not to cry. We have a doctors appointment tomorrow with the paediatric cardiologist. Another appointment. The first, was 12 weeks ago following a rather unexpected and extremely emotional turn of events at her 6 week checkup. A simple Friday afternoon appointment landed up in a trip to Blouberg hospital and a fairly large bill (after a lot of tears. A LOT of uncontrollable tears).

They detected a murmur. And on scanning, they also detected a hole in my baby’s heart. This is in addition to the aberrant subclavian artery they detected at our 13 week scan. You know – when we were given a 50/50 chance of a healthy baby.

Something hasn’t been sitting right, and although Dr P, the paediatric cardiologist we saw that dreadful Friday afternoon, said it was mild and we should come back at 6 months for another check up (side note: if you ever into going to a hospital thats super inconveniently located to Souther Suburbs dwellers but you don’t mind the drive – choose Blouberg Hotel, I mean Hospital. Stunning!) – this week I’ve been keeping an eye on Elle’s shortness of breath, her sweat across her brow while feeding and the fact that she likes to sleep, more than other babies on my antenatal whatsapp group, and I rang my paed who suggested going back to Dr P for an immediate checkup. I don’t react well when a doctor does an automatic referral like that. I panicked. And then panicked some more when I rang the cardiologist and explained and got an immediate appointment.

Panic overdrive means google works even harder on my iPhone at 3am.

Because being a mom has brought out all the worst versions of me. I have become the world’s worst worrier. I’ve moved from realist to pessimist and I cry about things that haven’t even been confirmed. I google far too much. I read reams of forums (even ones from 2009) and I self-diagnose. But mostly I cry. A LOT.

The idea that my baby’s heart isn’t perfect, and that it could be causing her discomfort, that it could possibly be stopping blood from reaching her organs, gives me shivers. Falling pregnant was hard enough. Staying pregnant was scary. And now this. Wanting more than anything for my baby girl to be strong and healthy to grow up and lead a full and healthy life. I just want the best for her. I love watching her develop every day. From smile to giggle (she keeps those to a minimum still. Mostly reserved for when her foot goes into her mouth. Good girl. Laugh at yourself when you put your foot in it!). From swiping at toys to grabbing hold of them now (those too go into her mouth). She actually pushes away her bottle when she’s done (Clever girl. Lets just hope she keeps that up and becomes a lady who knows her champagne limit – unlike her muma from time to time).

All I want is for her to be healthy. I don’t want her to become a pro tennis star (likely with Mark’s history. Unlikely with mine) or a scientist (although, that could be kinda cool. Cue Bill Nye the science guy music. You’re too young if you need to google that). I just want her to be ok. Ok? Lets just pray (hope, send good vibes into the airwaves – whatever your vibe is) that she is ok.

Incase you wondered: The aberrant subclavian artery is an anomaly. Not an abnormality (according to Dr P). This means that while it is very rare (less than 2% of the population), and in cases where there are other chromosomal abnormalities it can lead to issues with eating etc, Elle’s heart, while built a little differently, works just fine.

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The 50/50 chance

As today is Throwback Thursday, a social media made actual thing, it’s natural for me to think back… or as the name instructs – throwback. So I throwback to last year. It was around this time in 2015 that I fell pregnant. Apparently a little weekend off the grid can do wonders.

But as my little miracle lies sleeping this afternoon at exactly 14 weeks old, my throwback today is actually a sad one. Maybe its today’s not so sunny weather. Maybe its because she was around 14 weeks in my tummy when it happened, but today, and often, I can’t help but think of the day that she was given a 50/50 chance.

Discovering I was pregnant was truly overwhelming. We had given up even imagining that it would actually happen. But when it did, we told a few close friends and family in excitement and did the required and waited for our big scan before we made the ‘big announcement’. I had baked cookies, muffins and a cake for the office. I had planned the group whatsapp message to our friends. All we needed was the ok from the doc. We had had 6 scans already – weekly from 6 weeks due to our fertility history, so we were fairly confident week 13’s scan would be fine.

Instead… that doctor gave us a 50/50 chance of a healthy baby. That’s a 1 in 2 chance that she’d be unhealthy. She prepared us for the very worst as she ran additional tests and checked, and rechecked our baby’s heart. Recalling that day, what was to be our big announcement day, my body goes a little numb and I feel lightheaded. My heart aches and my eyes sting again. It truly was the worst day of our lives. So much excitement turned into so much gut-wrenching disappointment in anticipation of a horrible outcome.

When I talk of Elle as a little miracle, she is in so many ways. Odds of 1 in 2, really aren’t favourable but after three days of what can only be described as an emotional hell while we waited, we received a call that told us the opposite of what we’d been preparing for. She was going to be ok.

And while Elle has a special heart that may look (and perhaps work?) a little differently to yours or mine – she is here. She is perfect. And she kicked those crappy odds’ butt.

I wouldn’t say the 6 months that followed that phone call were easy and that the health of my baby wasn’t on my mind every single day.  The day she was born and also her 6 week checkup have all been challenging with this tiny baby and her tiny little organs, but she is here. She is smiling. She is our daughter.

Elle Charlotte, you are destined for great things my baby girl. You were strong enough to hold on when the others didn’t. Strong enough to defy odds, even before you were born. I’m so excited to see how you’re going to be strong enough to tackle the adventures of life!

Yes, we did another shoot

So, when I was around 34 weeks pregnant (about a million years ago) Mark and I did a maternity shoot which I posted about here. It was a no-brainer that we’d do a shoot once our little miracle arrived in the world too. This stuff needs to be recorded as it may only happen once afterall!

Unlike the maternity shoot where I had time to go and have makeup done, my hair blowdried and take a leisurely drive out to Stellenbosch, our newborn shoot took a full day of coordination of timing feeds and sleeps (for everyone in the household) to look mildly presentable (even though there were no shoes on two of us!)

A newborn shoot springs to mind pictures of little babies posed in teacups or the name Anne Geddes or as I like to say ‘the most un Kim & Mark thing ever’, but… like the whole being pregnant thing, I wanted to document our tiny baby in a beautiful way and that just can’t be done by iPhone.

Cheryl Mcewan is an old school friend and was, without a doubt, the only person we were going to feel the most relaxed around in our home and with our new baby given that we were ten days in and had little idea what we were doing (side note: we’re now 11 weeks in and still have little idea what we’re doing).

While trying to figure out what to dress in when 10 days before you had a soccer ball for a tummy and you’re hardly feeling your best self, all I knew was that I wasn’t about to let our baby don a tutu, a headband, or any pink just yet.  Cheryl managed to capture our beautiful miracle perfectly and ensure sleep deprived mom and dad didn’t look too bad either. She’s pretty damn talented.

Here are some of our pics – randomly selected as they’re all stunning! See more on Cheryl’s website.

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A little punt about Cheryl – I have never known a person more hardworking and passionate about her chosen profession. Years ago she loved taking photos of her travels with her normal point and shoot camera. So, while keeping other jobs and building a career in the travel industry, she built up her skill and profession as a wedding photographer abroad. She moved back to SA and invested herself full time into her business. She’s a lifestyle photographer now, weddings, families, friends etc. Check out her website for more stunning photos.

 

What I’ve learnt so far about parenting

I’m a week into this parenting thing – actually hold on, I’m 10 days into it (I get to count in days because when days are broken down into three hour bursts, they’re really really long!) and I’ve learnt a lot about parenting, or perhaps I’ve learnt about myself.

Number 1. No one actually knows what the hell the answer is.
So you’re on the “antenatal whatsapp group” but you’ve remained silent as others had their babies and discussed weight gain, feeding, formula and vaccinations. Of course besides the necessary congrats that you send as each person announces their safe arrival, gender, name and weight with appropriate picture (some also not so appropriate. No one…No one EVER wants to see the baby covered in the muck. Maybe you want to see it. Its a great memory – except is it? – but no one outside you and your husband, potentially your mother if thats what works for you guys, want to see the muck picture really).
Then its your turn. Ta dah! Here’s our baby. She’s a she. She weighs x. We’re in love and so happy. And so the messages of congrats come in and finally you feel like you’re actually ‘part of the group’ now. That you can participate now. You have arrived as a parent.

Then you send your first question – a baby that gulps down her milk and lands up coughing and spluttering. Surely these ladies, who’ve been doing it for almost 6 weeks already know what I’m doing wrong (am I doing anything wrong?).

Silence. At first. Then the answers are sporadic, random and really inconclusive. The conversation digresses onto baby carriers, or someone else’s arrival announcement. And you’re left with 19% battery life, google and WebMD to turn to.

When in doubt (any doubt at all), ask someone who is trained to answer it. Stay off the antenatal chat. They don’t actually know any more than you do (or that google will reveal. Chances are, they just googled the answer and posted it rather than having any idea. I’m almost certain of this).
Call the Paed. Call your doctor. Call the lady at the Baby Clinic who deals with hundreds of babies and is a trained midwife with a husband who is also a paed (bonus). They know the answers to your questions. First time moms – don’t.

I’ve learnt that Paed, stands for paediatrician (wasn’t rocket science I admit and I did actually know that already. I just didn’t know how many times I’d use the word in conversation post having a baby). And that gynaes make a shit load of money for delivering babies (and even just scanning for them) and that if my daughter excels at science or biology, I’m putting a career of medicine in front of her (oh the poor choices I made in 1999. BComm? Really??)

I’ve learnt that the worry, paranoia and love I have for the little miracle baby that finally found us will likely just escalate over the years. And that I’m also likely to freak out about a number of things. I finally understand that my parents weren’t mean, strict, or ‘old-school’. They too tried hard to have me, and they loved me, wanted to protect me and keep me healthy.

I’ve learnt that I’m private and over-protective… and sensitive to pictures of my child being taken, and shared.
My sister asked me before she changed her profile picture to a photo of her holding our baby. I felt truly respected in that moment and that my baby’s privacy was also respected. I didn’t know I’d feel this way, until I did.

It made me think about how many photos I’ve taken of my godchild or other new babies and posted to instagram or facebook without ever asking if it was ok. The love of parent is unique – and everyone has their own set of boundaries. Not everyone will get mine, but they’re mine (so basically eff off. Oh, I also may have some additional teary hormones going on. So don’t challenge me right now.)

I’ve learnt the word perseverance is the motto to parenting (and to pregnancy)

I want to quit sometimes.
I wanted to quit the pregnancy at 34 weeks when I basically gave my doctor permission to do a c-section that day to end my discomfort. My doctor laughed. And oh, how right she was as week 37, 38, and 39 were proper hell on week 34. Damn know it all Doctors.
Everything about having a baby and being a new parent is about perseverance. Just keep trying.

Mostly I’ve learnt that its effing cold to get out of your bed that has a hungarian goose down duvet (I mention the duvet as it really was a sound investment and I highly recommend the mortgage we took out to buy it) in winter. Getting out of bed for gym is hard. For work it’s also hard. You know when it’s not hard? When there is a crying baby in the room next to you. Then you’ll never see two adult humans move so quickly.  I’ve learnt that wall heaters really don’t take that much ‘nip out of the air’ as you’d like to think and that I just used the word nip while not referring to nipple. Which in itself is a word I’ve said far too often in the past 10 days. And not in a positive way (is there a positive way to discuss nipples? Breasts maybe…). Because new parents can talk for ours about nipples. The answer to ‘how are things going?’ include a breakdown of how your nipples are feeling that day – even to unsuspecting non parents who probably wanted the answer ‘good/ok/well/fine’. Anything other than an update on my nipples.  

40 weeks of pregnancy

Remember when your mom told you that if you made that face and the wind changed direction, it’d stay that way forever? That’s what being 40 weeks pregnant is like. 

I am stuck like this forever.

I know that’s irrational and highly unlikely, but unless you have been pregnant for 40 weeks, you have no idea how the perpetual cycle of day-by-day feels.

It is insanely intense.

Everybody is messaging you, every day asking you how you are? Or any news? How many different ways can I answer – I’m hanging in there (I’ve cried twice and its only 10am), I’m tired (I’m pretty sure I may have cut someone off in a roundabout earlier and may have caused and accident), I feel like I’m going to pop (literally can hear the fibres of my once toned ish stomach ripping apart). The only positive out of this whole carrying-to-term experience is that I’ve been giving my previous body credit for being more toned and in shape than I ever actually saw while I had it. The ‘I’m so fat woes’ really should never have been and I’ve made many a silent promise into the mirror that should I not have fucked my stomach muscles forever and return to the state I was in before I will never disrespect my body with negative thoughts and comments as I did for most of my adult existence to date. (Not including varsity days as clearly then I gave zero fucks.)

40 full weeks of being pregnant. 

The longest pregnancy of my life (obviously as it’s the only one) and the most pregnant I’ve ever been (again – an obvious statement).

I have never been more ready for the baby to come than right now. 

Maternity holiday… ahem, leave

What even is work? What are meetings? What are deadlines? What is traffic?

Yes! Desired outcome accomplished. Now what?

I went on maternity leave at 37 weeks. It wasn’t to have a holiday, even though some may think it was. It was due to discomfort and lack of wardrobe options in my life. There was also traffic, work pressure and baby’s growth (or lack thereof). Mostly it was because I was convinced that baby would arrive early, and I desperately wanted to get my toes done, my hair done, and the baby’s room finished… to be ‘ready’. Officially.  There was also some wanting to get emotionally and mentally ready for this whole ‘becoming a mom’ thing. But it was more about the pedicure.

So…  my toes are done, my hair is done and the baby’s room (like a lot of our house) is ‘almost’ done.

And now… I’m waiting. 39 weeks and waiting.

Maternity leave, the pre-baby part which I suppose to most of my office (and friends and family) is seen as a holiday, is however, far from holiday. I mean sure yes – I’m doing… nothing. I’m sleeping in, watching series and shopping at Cavendish… so it sounds like a holiday. It sounds like paid leave to sit around, not think about work and chill. In essence, it would be a really divine holiday. If, you know, I wasn’t a waddling whale with sore hips, painful braxton hicks contractions and if I had something to wear every day (in black).

Getting out of bed, which as I’m sure you’re all aware someone at 39 weeks pregnant does about 7 times a night, is – exhausting. Walking between the parking lot (via a lift) and Cavendish, is – exhausting. Carrying a somewhat rather light basket around the food section of Woolies – you guessed it, effing exhausting. Yesterday, after sitting with foils in for 20 mins (chilled), I needed to ‘make my way to the basin’ where I looked at the reclined chair in despair. How was I supposed to ease myself backwards into that chair? Or worse still – how was I going to get out of it? This maternity holiday, is – exhausting.

And I know, new moms (and old moms) will tell me that this part is the easy part because once baby arrives, my life will be upside down and I’ll be surviving on so little sleep I won’t know what day of the week it is, but really. For now – shut up because anything must be better than this!

I’m waiting for my baby’s arrival. Every movement, every moment, I’m wondering if its the start of labour. I’m trying to be patient about it, while I keep eating blocks of chocolate to ensure baby keeps moving (and because I like chocolate and I’m on holiday and I’m already a whale so let me eat the damn chocolate, ok?). I’m trying to remember that the longer they’re inside, the healthier they’ll be outside (but by the stories it sounds like no matter whether they come at 37 or 41 weeks – either way it isn’t easy!!). I’m trying to ‘enjoy this time out’ with no work, no baby, no husband around.

Besides waddling around, only getting out of bed past 9am and eating Milo cereal for lunch, I am grateful for the time off. The me-time. The time to look at the pile of ‘paper I need to file’ and sit down at my laptop and skype my work-wife instead.
The time to create headspace for our miracle baby. The headspace that really bounces between two thoughts – ‘Get this baba out of me’ and ‘I’m not ready yet’. Also includes ‘I’m so screwed’ and ‘when last did baby move’. In fact ‘when last did baby move’ tops the pile of (four) thoughts.

Thoughts. Thinking. Which in itself is exhausting, the constructing of sentences I mean – I’ve actually just opted out of talking lately or if I do engage in a conversation, I take a nap afterwards.

Or perhaps its just the exhaustion from walking from Seattle Coffee to Woolies.

 

Yes, I did a Maternity Shoot

When you spend 5 years on the sidelines of life, praying for the day that you too may be able to relish in the joys of falling pregnant – you can’t help but think about the things you’ll do, or won’t do, during your 9 months if it ever arrives.

Upload ultrasound pics to facebook – no chance.
Cheesy (or very creative) way to announce that you’re expecting – absolutely.
Status updates that include bump pictures showing the growth of my belly to everyone I have ever encountered and is now my fb buddy – preferably not.
Not moan, still socialise, wear heels, not lose focus on my career, not pig out on chocolates, eat sensibly, exercise – yes yes, all of the above.

So, being pregnant hasn’t really gone according to my preconceived ideas. I’ve gained weight, eaten an insane amount of chocolate, and the reality is – every day I moan… to anyone who will listen.

But, while I may be all aches and pains and what am I going to wear today – this is our miracle pregnancy, and while it has also thrown all sorts of unexpected curve balls at us, we may only get to do it once! So I want to do EVERYTHING to remember it and to be present in it.

With this thought, documenting it was, and has been, important to us. The weekly bump picture (not shared anywhere as mostly taken in my knickers) is the most I actually managed (keeping a diary just didn’t happen). I also figured I’d do preggie bellies, but I still haven’t started that. And with two weeks to go – it is unlikely.

But one thing I knew I wanted to do was a Maternity photo shoot.

Ok, not this kind of maternity shoot.

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Drapes. WHY?
Or this kind of shoot.

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Too much naked.Too much studio. Too much black and white. WHY?
So basically, I just wanted some photos  where I happen to be pregnant and not in a wedding dress. Not that I was ever pregnant AND in a wedding dress. (Calm down mom!) But the last set of photos we had together – I was a) skinny AF b) in a white dress and c) it was our wedding day.

A maternity shoot may be cheesy, (see above), and may be costly (hello money-making market of having a baby – similar to weddings, but different) but while I didn’t upload any of those 4D scan type pics to fb, and only really sent them to people when asked – something about being able to capture a moment of baby inside, before baby is outside – always appealed to me.

Finding a photographer isn’t difficult – there are so many in Cape Town who do ‘couple shoots’ – deciding between them is the challenge, as the prices and quality can vary. As do the styles.

I was making no progress and running out of available weekends before I was too huge to fit into anything (current state!) and then it was decided for us. We won an Instagram competition (simply like, comment and tag a friend) from my brother-in-law and his wife’s wedding photographer – Maree at Natural Light Photography. A unique opportunity to be photographed in film (really, who film photos these days? Its an art!) and as a prize – meaning without needing to choose between it, and the baby monitor (which I still haven’t bought!)

While we felt as awkward as we did on our wedding day – with whispers between us of “What are we supposed to be doing?” – the photos are a beautiful reminder that we have a real baby human on its way. One that is all miracle and all timing. While there is a lot to moan about during pregnancy – the photos will always be a reminder of everything we’ve been through. All the tears, all the joys, the entire journey to this point. That we made it, despite never thinking we would. Knowing our life is about to change, after accepting that it wouldn’t.

And as cheesy as maternity pics may be – this time in our life was totally worth capturing.

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So while I didn’t wear a grecian dress with a flower crown, and half way through realised that I look like I need the loo the way I keep holding the bottom of my bump so changed into a colour blocked tight dress, which wasn’t entirely thought through given I’m no Chrissy Teigan, and unless you are – you shouldn’t be in tight anything of colour when you’re pregnant – it is what it is. Indie played her part in the pics – mostly running around looking for squirrels.

And thanks to Maree, we have these pics to be grateful for.