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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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.

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!

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.

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.