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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Time out at the Ginkgo Petite Spa at The Andros

The scent in a spa is probably what I love most and as I step into the Ginkgo Spa at the Andros Boutique Hotel, I’m instantly relaxed.

This massage is long overdue. I’m in the final month of my maternity leave now and it’s a little treat for myself I’ve been craving.

I found this little spa, aptly named a Petite spa as it is just that, via the Entertainer. That little app has been a miracle at introducing me to new places and also at getting my toes done at half the price during unpaid maternity leave days. On a corner in Claremont, the Andros Hotel is home to the spa. Unfortunately I didn’t get to trawl or even spy the hotel facilities as the spa is really separate, with its own parking and entrance, which is a pity as I looooove a bit of luxury – even if I’m just walking through the foyer and lusting over the decor.

I booked via email – always a win in my books as although I may love to talk, and love to socialise, I have a problem picking up the phone. My sister would be surprised at this statement as apparently I jeopardised many a relationship in our youth as I hogged the phone deterring her potential boyfriends. Times have changed, and thank heavens for whatsapp, email and twitter now. Any arrangements I can make via these channels trumps.

I was welcomed with a chai tea and biscotti, and that heavenly spa scent. The one that even though I’ve bought every oil at Rain and Body Shop, I just can’t recreate in my own home.

I was shown to my treatment room, just off the reception room, which was also… petite. So petite in fact I didn’t quite know where to put my things. There’s no dressing room locker with gown and those awkward spa slippers here. Unfortunately this petite spa seemed to be a little less day spa than I had imagined for my self-awarded treat. But it didn’t disappoint.

While I may not have had a gown, I’m always pleased when the towels to ‘cover yourself with this towel’ are new, soft, and luxurious which gratefully the Ginkgo was. It is beyond me how some places think stiff, faded and fraying towels are acceptable.

My therapist didnt ask me what pressure I was after but got straight to work and it was perfect. I had opted for the Elixir massage over the Swedish for no reason other than I never understand what exactly a Swedish massage is supposed to be. She explained afterwards that Swedish is more flowing, and the Elixir was more focussed and tailored. *I cast my mind back to Egypt and my first ‘Swedish massage’ and shudder. Another story for another day perhaps*

Music sets the tone for everything in life and so it sometimes surprises me the music that spas and therapists opt for, especially those that don’t play the standard spa tink-alink (you know what I mean) music. Sometimes it’s the same three songs, on repeat. Sometimes it’s famous movie soundtracks, by panpipes. Today was one of those days where I wondered if they bought this cd on a 3 for 2 special. Luckily the massage was really good and distracted me, and in fairness I’d rather have lyrics than the same three songs on repeat.

As the spa is small and the treatment rooms are off the reception room, it also means there’s no chill out room for your tea or water afterwards – a luxury which is exactly that, like the gown, but at least I was still offered water afterwards which is more than some other places.

The experience was restful and the massage fantastic. While I could have happily whiled away my day (or at least another hour) in a spa wearing a gown and slippers, the Petite Gingko isn’t really that kind of place. But what it lacks in spa-ness it really does make up for in polite and well trained therapists and excellent treatments, if my massage was anything to go by, and the overall feeling of being very welcome.

Plus. There’s that whole book by email thing.

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!

Mom guilt

I had a moment today. The house was quiet (Mark was out for a run with our first child) and I sat with our first born, in a pod on our patio, gently swinging and looking out at our garden. I love our home. And I’m so excited that one day Elle (first born) will get to run around with Indie (first child – she’s a dog in case you missed that) in this house and garden.

But as I sat swinging, with my sleeping bebe I realised in two months time I’m going to be paying someone else to sit in this swing with her.

And so the mom guilt set in.

I was warned about mom guilt. From the moment you give birth (by c section, which isn’t a real birth as some say – even referred to as an easy option by those same ‘some’) the mom guilt sets in. Give up breast feeding? Mom guilt. Go back to work? There it is again. Work late? Girls dinners out? Weekend away without kids? Mom guilt written all over those things.

I don’t want to pay someone else to rock my child to sleep and soothe her when she cries. I have waited a long time for my baby, to see her smile, hold her hand, help her take her first step. And I want to be there for those things. But there’s a chance, a good chance, I’m going to miss some things.
Going back to work is a non-negotiable for me. There’s the whole… well, financial thing. Living in this house that I love means that FNB loves monthly payments. But there’s also the whole career thing. I’ve built a career over a the years with some hard work. I studied a degree, I started at the bottom, I read, researched and absorbed (absorb still) all I can from mentors and industry leaders. And when I couldn’t be a mom, I accepted my career as my thing. It, in part, is what I do. Who I am. What I’ve worked hard for for many years. It stimulates me, challenges me and captivates me. It’s not something I want to give up.

As I rocked my baby and imagined the person (that I haven’t hired yet) who will be sitting in my place in two months time I couldn’t help but cry. I don’t want to go back to work just to pay someone else to do this. But I’m not. I’m going back to work to pay for so much more. To give her this home, an education in a good school and also around the world as we travel with our baby girl to beautiful places and show her our favourite cities or discover new ones with her. I’m going back to work so that she can admire her mom for being an equal, contributing to the household, and to teach her that women can succeed in the workplace as much as men can.

Hopefully all that mom guilt is worth it in the long term.

2 June 2016

On the 2nd of June 2016,  after 4 years, 9 months, 40 weeks and 2 days of waiting we welcomed our miracle into the world. A baby girl – Elle Charlotte Hawkins.

I’ve wanted to write about that incredible day since it happened, but not only has life been a bit busy these past 12 weeks, its also pretty hard to describe the day and all the days since.

A year ago (almost to the day as I write this) I finally bid farewell to a child I may never know. We had struggled to fall pregnant, had tested our relationship with each other and with others. We had drawn apart and had some difficult conversations and had drawn back together again. We had closed the door (to an extent. It was more like a sliding door) on a future that had little people in it. And then, by spontaneous surprise, we fell pregnant.

On 1 June I spent 2 hours at Pick n Pay aimlessly wondering around aisles buying ingredients. I had a scone for lunch at Woolies and went home and baked a chocolate cake. I sealed my fate if you are to believe old wives’ tales. At 2.30am, on the morning of 2 June 2016 our little baby decided it was time. Of course, not immediately. We only went to hospital around 7.30 (after first stopping in at O’ways for a coffee/hot chocolate) and that hospital bag that had been packed (except for my slippers) since 36 weeks almost didn’t come with us – I was so sure we’d be sent home to wait.

With a dropping heart rate and a baby that didn’t fancy engaging, an unplanned and somewhat unprepared for (especially on my part) transfer to an operating theatre commenced. I’ve never seen people move so fast, prepping me (and Mark) for surgery. All the while I still hadn’t quite wrapped my head around the fact that we’d be parents by lunchtime.

I think I entered a trance somewhere around the point where they said the c-section had been booked for 10.20. I remember it all – being wheeled to the theatre, the room, the view (the fact that it had one way glass). My doctor gently guiding me through what would happen, Mark – waiting in the corner with his camera ready to photograph it all, while looking a little emotional. The anaesthetist, the pain of the needle, losing feeling in my legs and… smiling. I remember smiling to know that I finally would no longer be pregnant, and we’d finally have a baby. I remember it, but its equally a blur.

The details of the surgery are ours, but the moment they held our baby up was simply breathtaking. Our doctor told us our baby was a girl and Mark whispered in my ear  “its a girl Kimmie. Its our daughter”. For all the drugs and the emotion of the day (and there were plenty), this moment is crystal. Its a moment I hope that I can remember forever. Its the exact moment we really became mom and dad. We had a baby girl.

3 days in hospital passed in a blur. It was a quiet, relaxing time in a way. We limited guests and were mostly just the three of us (except for the 16 nurses that came in every half an hour to inject/blood pressure/feed/check baby/check me). We even had sushi and champagne. (We’ve had a lot of sushi and champagne in the past 12 weeks).

12 weeks since that day have also passed in a blur. She has grown. She smiles. She coos and ‘talks’ and plays with toys. But in the same way as the day she was born, when seeing her face took my breath away and Mark’s words ‘its our daughter’ brought me to tears, I’m often found with a child in my arms and those same tears streaming down my face at how lucky I am. How I had given up on ever having this moment, or all the moments, and now here it is.

On 2 June 2016, we were blessed with the greatest gift you can get as a couple. In years to come we may be celebrating her birthday, but it is Mark and I that will celebrate the gift we received. Our marriage was tried, tested and solidified in preparation for our future as mom and dad. She waited until the timing was just right to come to us. She held on when the doctors didn’t think she would. She truly is a miracle. And what a wonderful miracle she is.

 

 

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.

 

How to baby

I’m writing this post for you, dear reader (from Canada, Australia, the UK and SA – yes, I see my stats and know who you are!) but mostly for myself. If I’m lucky (crazy/stupid) enough to fall pregnant again and survive those (hellishly long) 9 months before welcoming a small pink baby human into the world again, there are some things I need to make a note of to recall when the time comes.

How to baby:
Firstly – you will lose your shit. At yourself, your husband, even your new baby. It’ll be a moment. Or many moments. Your sanity returns… to a degree.

What happens in the night, stays in the night. Words spoken, thoughts thunk. We’re all tired and all go a bit loopy at 5am when we haven’t yet slept.

At some point in those early days at home you will cry.
Cry because the miracle is here, and that it’s yours. Cry because it’s yours for the rest of your life and that is a massive responsibility. Cry because it’s your problem to try and settle it and you don’t think you can. Cry. Without a because.

If the baby doesn’t want to feed – tickle his/her cheek, massage his/her hands or undress the baby. This undressing technique may land up in tears (baby’s) so approach with caution.

Nappies. You will change more nappies than you can ever imagine. You will be an expert nappy changer. Stock up with more nappies than you think you’ll need. It probably still won’t be enough.

You will smell like milk. Your baby will smell like milk. The couch will smell like milk.
You may also smell like curry. I’m not sure why.

The White noise app. Just keep it downloaded on your phone.

Infacol, Apollo-kol, Colic Calm, Telemant. Whatever you use, the winding in the first few weeks is a bitch. Remember the tap is light, slightly to their side and on the nappy line. It will eventually come out. When they’re like 10 weeks old… just keep tapping.

Give them the damn Bennetts. Every new mom battles the Bennetts guilt battle. But.. Happy baby, happy mom. Start again tomorrow. Give them the Bennetts tonight.

Nipple cream. You don’t (contrary to what you think on day 4) need to keep a tube of nipple cream in every room of the house. You do stop needing it. But before you stop, you will cry from pain. It too, shall pass.
Blooms nipple cream is the only one. You too shall promote it to any listening new mom as it is that miraculous.

Nighttime feeds. A valuable nugget of advice I received about 5 weeks into this (but that has since changed my life!) is – don’t change their nappy at the night time feeds!
A) it’ll wake them up. Then you have to settle them again. (some basic logic in that one I guess.. and that I clearly was lacking between week 0 and week 5) – unless ofcourse you need to wake them to feed them and 2) They eventually learn not to poop in the night so its a bit of training too.

These three tips compliments of my paediatrician.

3, 6, 9, 12 – day or night. Feed them on these hours. Just until they’re back at their birth weight again.
Feed for 10 minutes a side. Burp in between.
It is not an open buffet. Their sleep is as important as their feeds. If they fuss, or spit up, they miss out. They need to go back to sleep until they’re at their birth weight.

Limit your guests. It’ll save you from exhaustion. It’ll save your baby from overstimulation.

Let your baby sleep in its own cot from as early as possible. (Preparing for onslaught of co-sleeping moms here. I guess its personal choice).

You are not a human pacifier. If you behave like one, you’ll need nipple cream in every room!
Just give them a dummy. You know you’re going to land up doing it in a few weeks anyway. Leave it too long they may never take it. Then you’ll be more sorry than if you’d given it to them in the early days. You seldom see a 6 year old running around with a dummy. You’ll wean them off it. Eventually. (Theory yet to be proven)

A Nurture One cushion will be the best purchase you make. Just trust any mom who has owned one. (this tip isn’t sponsored)

Purchases – do them all pre-baby. I am 10 weeks down and still don’t have a cot mobile or a nappy bag. There is NO time nor headspace once the baby arrives to buy things. Unless they’re online.

Online shopping. Download the apps, and get comfortable with shopping online. A pram, no matter how fancy, doesn’t make grocery shopping an easy task.

Freezer Meals. Just do it. Make them yourself, order them in. Arrange it before you have the baby. You don’t need more baby clothes or flowers from friends. You need food. (ok, you do actually need flowers. More on that later).

Finally. The antenatal whatsapp group. Handy sometimes, annoying most times. Every baby is different and comparison will be the thief of any joy you have.