Pregnancy, Newborn and Family Photography: Bear and Dragon

The excitement of finding out that your family will grow and getting this momentous occasion captured in timeless pictures. Documenting the arrival of your very own miracle with a newborn photo shoot showcasing the awe & wonder of this new chapter. Seize the (family) day with memories of apple blossoms, bluebells or autumn leaves as you enjoy a family photo-shoot.

I am a firm believer in taking photographs and printing them out regularly! I used to make an annual photo album printed book for each year that I had lived in Europe and the adventures that I had experienced. My walls have always been covered with photo frames of memories and the photos inside these would change every couple of years.

One of the difficulties of being a parent is that you are rarely able to capture every single wonderful moment and rarely do you find yourself on the front side of the lens. If you do, it is probably unplanned, selfie or on your smart phone. (Please note – this is not me complaining, it is called “setting the scene/explaining”)

But, when I was pregnant in 2015 – I had the absolute pleasure of finding Nicole of Bear & Dragon Photography (via the website called The Village for pregnancy, birth & beyond in Belgium). Not only is she an absolutely wonderful, warm, fun & caring person but she takes such amazing photographs and makes you feel so relaxed and at home during the entire process! She is based just outside of Brussels (at the time, she was based IN Brussels) and offers indoor/outdoor sessions.

We signed up for the Seeds & Buds photoshoot => which allows for a 1hr pregnancy photo shoot followed up with a 3hr newborn photoshoot within 1-2weeks of their birth. 400€ & 30 images in total – but of course, you can select more images from the portfolio that you would like to have re-touched as well (at a cost of 10€ per image).

Our pregnancy session was full of love and Nicole would ask us to explain why we loved each other (helping to make our eyes shine with happiness) and also helped to relax us both. Considering that I had seriously swollen feet (and my fingers more so than usual) – I loved every image and it was difficult to only choose a few! It also allowed for us to get to know Nicole and for her to get to know us – meaning that it was essentially an ice-breaker for the newborn shoot.

The newborn shoot provided a very warm environment (to help monkey sleep and be comfortable half naked) and was more than long enough to allow for feeding, nappy changes, etc. She slept through most of it and Nicole had a tickle trunk of blankets, baskets, nappy covers, flowers, headbands etc – we didn’t need to worry about props at all! When the proofs were available for us to view – we struggled to choose – so we didn’t limit ourselves and purchased all the ones that we loved!

But the fun definitely doesn’t end there! With mini sessions offered during the course of the year – we knew that we would definitely be signing up for (at least) one each year. From Apple Blossoms to Bluebells to Harvest time to Sunflowers or Christmas trees – there is a season and an offering for everyone! 150€ for 30min and 10 images.

We signed up for the Bluebell session in the Hallerbos Forest, something that I had never yet been to see and I was in awe of the spectacular field of blue flowers. It was surreal… And 30minutes was a perfect amount of time to get a good selection of images. Monkey did not want to be held – she wanted to run & explore which is why some of these images are the perfect reflection of the independent, confident and outgoing gal that she is!

It might sound like a pricey investment but trust me, when I look back on these images (and the experiences along with it) – I am overwhelmed by the fact that these moments were captured!! And smile each time I open our front door as I have some of the newborn & bluebell images in photo frames right there! It has also made it easier to share beautiful printed images (gifts) with family abroad.

I highly recommend checking out the rest of the 2017 mini-sessions that Nicole is offering here or check out her website http://www.bearanddragonphotography.com

PS – I use the online photo service http://www.smartphoto.be to have the images printed out.

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Why moms can’t have a social life..

Or they can if they have a good enough support base. Unfortunately for most expat parents, there is no grandparent or aunt/uncle that you can ask to help out at short notice. Of course there is the option of babysitters, but even that depends on availability and it doesn’t come free.

And of course they can if there is a bit of give/take in terms of what is and what isn’t possible… but the fact remains that life is now different… so here is my open letter to you, my friend to help you understand…

Dearest Friend,

I promised myself before I had a child that my life would not change that much when I was a parent. That I would still make time for my husband (date nights), my friends (girls nights) and quality time for myself. I would NOT be THAT parent who cites *routine* and *bedtime* as reasons for not going out to have fun. But sadly, I am exactly that parent. With a 21month old I realize that messing with a toddlers sleeping routine does not only affect that particular day/night but can leave you feeling like a zombie for days afterwards. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule and we try really hard to be good spouses, good parents & good friends… but sometimes, something has to give. And more often than not, the priority & needs of the family exceeds the want of *me* & fun time. I am now responsible for raising a new generation and I believe that the early years are formative in their development (that means that I need to be there and be present in a day & age when I also have to work full time) – that requires time management juggling skills that rival some cirque du soleil acts!

Venue:

  • I invite you to our place because the thought of having to police every single move that the toddler makes while we are at your place is exhausting. I don’t want them to put their greasy dirty paws on your furniture or take an intensive interest in your decorative crystal figurines. They will want to explore the new surroundings, generally with some kind of food item in their hand, which means I can’t sit down on the couch and chat with you because I am concerned about what they might destroy if I don’t keep one eye on them at all times. Plus I place more value on your belongings than ours J
  • If we go to a café/bar/restaurant – it needs to be early enough that they don’t start bucking the high chair because they are tired, bored and want to explore. At some point, I will have to pick them up out of the high chair and attempt to restrain them in my lap while I continue to keep eye contact with you over their bouncy head. Because putting them down on the floor to explore will mean that I will need to leave the table to follow them and ensure that they don’t create a trail of destruction in their wake. Eventually citing *bedtime* I will need to make a hasty retreat before other diners get irritated with toddler noises coming from our neck of the woods. The moment we leave the venue, the monkey will calm down in their stroller and the walk home might be in silence. They might even nod off to sleep. The ultimate F*** you from them for changing the routine.
  • In their own surroundings, they are more likely to play with their own toys allowing us time to sip on wine and chat. They will also be more pliant when it is bedtime (between 7-7.30pm) as they are aware of the routine in their own home. This means that from 7.30pm onwards, I am ALL yours. Sure, it isn’t some hip happening joint, and it does require you travelling to us – but it would be 100% one-on-one time between us.

Planning:

  • Our situation is unique as HIM works Mon-Fri nights (6pm to 1am(ish)) and I work weekdays (8am to 5pm) – meaning that I don’t have many alternatives during the week and our weekends are often family quality time (balanced with all the household drudgery & chores of adulthood). Therefore planning in our household is paramount.
  • Having a mini-me around requires planning. We can no longer be spontaneous about going for a drink directly after work or changing agreed plans just a few days before a meet up. The list of *to do’s* increases exponentially as the family grows – with items like food preparation to packing an entire overnight bag just for a few hours for their little highness. It is tiring to say the least.
  • If we agreed to do something – please, lets keep the plans in place. Once babysitters are booked or spouses have agreed to handle the bath/bed routine – we are ready to go. We might not last very long, especially if we have been up multiple times the night before or if our daily wake up time is 5am (and by wake up – I mean “ripped from a deep slumber by the sound of a crying infant”) – but we are there. (Unless the plan changes because offspring are sick… this is unavoidable and we are most probably more disappointed than you are – trust me)
  • We require a certain amount of compromise & understanding from our friends – as a parent, we are no longer a priority in our own time management or even just life in general. We all know of the statement “You can’t pour from an empty vessel” – but most parents exist as zombies for years without ever having more than a moment of *me* quality time. I rarely have the opportunity to even pee in peace – so if we ask you to compromise plans/venue/ etc – it is because we are trying to find a solution to spend time with you because we want to see you.

Babysitters:

  • We use a babysitter once every 2 months. Either for a date night or if we are meeting friends for dinner. We try to ensure that Monkey is in bed before they start & that we are home at a decent enough hour to allow the babysitter the opportunity to still take public transport home. That means that we are essentially utilising her services for 3hours (from 7pm-10pm)… give or take an hour
  • The going rate in our area is 10€/hour… plus if it is closer to 11pm, we offer to pay the taxi (another 10€) – meaning that over and above a night out, we need to shell out a further 30-50€. For that amount, we can definitely host a great night in J
  • And finally – we have 2 contacts to look after our darling little one when we need it… two people that we trust in our home and with the life of our offspring. Your offer of a random stranger (who is not a stranger to you, but to us) is very sweet & thoughtful and we truly appreciate the effort. But entrusting the most precious thing in our life to an unknown in order to have a jolly doesn’t sit right in my gut. I am sorry to say, but I only take babysitter recommendations from people who have used that person to look after their own children. (i.e. I am not going to recommend a dentist for root canal to you, if they have never worked on my own teeth … )

I am sorry that my life is no longer in sync in with yours – and as much as I love spending time with you, I know that having to compromise to my lifestyle change is frustrating for you. You want quality girl time without interruptions. I want to be able to go to the bathroom without an audience. But the fact of the matter is that my life has an appendage now – something I can not (and will not) change. My #1 priority is my family. But I promise, as the tykes gets older, life will be easier for us to manage and we will get more time together again.

I still love you & value our friendship…. So please don’t give up on me yet.

Patience, compromise & wine…

xxxx

Top 5 : Travelling on a plane with a 21 months old

Monkey is now 21 months old – fully mobile and the thought of plane travel with her was daunting – especially after our disastrous long haul flight to South Africa when she was one years old and how she refused to sleep and refused to stay in her car seat – not to mention the screaming. Both HIM and I were scarred …

How was I going to keep her occupied for a 2.5hr flight between Brussels (Belgium) & Lisbon (Portugal)???

So I did what I do best… I google-boxed it. Most suggestions were for toddlers who are definitely more open to communication and/or older. Colouring in books, aquadoodle, etc… These suggestions were not going to help.

This is what we found worked best on our recent flights (keeping in mind that I did also pack some puffy large stickers; a sticker/colouring-in book, baby’s first colour pens, etc  and none of these were of any real interest to her)

Top 5 Entertainment items: Plane travel with a 21month old

  1. Buckle Toy Buddy Backpack: I ordered ours from amazon.co.uk and I can honestly say that during the niggly periods of take-off & landing, she was distracted with opening & closing each of the buckles. I could also add a few snacks and smaller items into the backpack portion and she was even happy to wear it for a while (probably because one of us was also wearing a backpack)
  2. Word Party : I downloaded a few episodes of Word Party from Netflix onto my iPad, which she loved (it is her favourite tv show and the only one that she will sit down for 10-13minutes to watch… which is as long as each episode). We had purchased a child pair of headphones which the sales lady was very reluctant to sell us as they were aged 3+ and she was concerned about safety & the wires. But in the end I didn’t even use the headphones, as the sound of the show was drowned out by the noise of plane engines and it wasn’t that distracting for other passengers. In terms of screen time, normally I am not a huge fan of extended periods of time, but this was a life saving distraction (for her, for us and for the other passengers) and I figure 3 episodes on a plane isn’t too bad (~30min total)
  3. Wind up toy: I got this silly little wind up monkey toy from Hema  which definitely provided about 5-10minutes of giggles as it walked from one side of the tray-table to the other and then she would grab it & pass it to one of us to wind up again.
  4. Wooden puzzle: I also purchased this item from Hema as it was small enough to pop into my backpack but something that provided sufficient distraction/entertainment for monkey. As it is still a new toy – she is only able to get the triangle pieces on/off the wooden base but I am sure that with time, the other 2 shapes will also provide fun.
  5. Snacks: this sounds like a silly addition but when children are munching away, time also seems to pass (which is probably why the airlines still offer food/drink!). On the way to Portugal, I packed a banana, some corn/rice cakes,some boudoir biscuits and a puree food sachet from Ella’s Kitchen (be careful when opening it on the flight as the air pressure might cause it already spill out),

Over and above this – I had the required baby bag with extra nappies, wet wipes, empty bottles, additional pacifier, change of clothes, jersey, etc which are the things that are permanently in her changing bag for whenever we leave the house.

Our next plane travel trip is next month between Israel & Belgium which is 4.5hr so I am already starting to think up new options… Do you have any other suggestions???

Strawberry Picking at Marie’s Garden in Overijse

The weather in Brussels has been HOT HOT HOT these last few weeks (>30degrees) and getting out of the house has only been enjoyable when the air conditioning has been on full blast in the car. But I had been itching to head out to Marie’s Garden in Overijse for ages (even prior to Monkey’s arrival)… and now I had a good enough excuse….

Strawberry picking!! They grow it – you pick it!

Monkey is 20months old, walking (running) and following instructions (sometimes), so I thought that taking her along would be ok.

About a 25minutes drive from our place in Brussels to the farm in Overijse and I was happy to see that there was sufficient parking. They opened at 10am and although it was only 10.30am, there more than a handful of cars & families with the same idea as us!

We parked the car, put on our hats, lathered up with sunscreen and walked towards the entrance, where we were greeted by staff members who explained the rules of picking =>

  • do not eat the fruits before they are weighed & paid for
  • do not discard fruits that have been picked and don’t look perfect
  • do not pick unripe fruit
  • stay in the designated “open to pick” areas
  • Ensure that children are not left unattended

Plastic containers were available which would take approx. 500g of strawberries. Cost per kg was 8€ which is somewhat more expensive then the local grocer, but the price was definitely worth the experience and the opportunity to select each strawberry yourself! There was also wheelbarrows available (as well as mini ones for children and little bikes for them to ride on). Not only this – but there is a small area at the entrance where you can sit down and enjoy the fruit of your picking labours.

We only spent half an hour actually picking strawberries and obviously going with a small toddler meant that a good portion of time was spent making sure that she didn’t walk in the plants, or eat the strawberries. I made sure that the adults did the picking and would then pass the individual strawberry to her so that she could then place it in the plastic container.

Confession time – she did take a bite of ONE strawberry, which we quickly confiscated and managed to distract her before a full blown meltdown occurred…

In total, we picked 5 containers worth of strawberries between 2 households (3 of which went home with us) that were :

a) washed and eaten as is (Monkey loved them… but I rationed her to 3 strawberries a day)
b) turned into a strawberry jam
c) tuned into strawberry panna cotta desserts (recipe soon to be posted on my food blog Why I am Not Skinny)

In general – I would say that this is a great family outing and something that I would recommend! Check out their website or FB page to double check on what is available and their opening times prior to heading out there!

Also – bring bottled water & other snacks with you if you are coming with small children. Although they do sell some bottle water there, there is no guarantee that they will always have. And also think about how you will be transporting these plastic containers home in your car… do you have a box or crate in the boot of your car?

I know that we are planning on heading back when the raspberries & blackberries are available for picking!! Will we see you there?

Other Mommy blogs that make me feel normal…

Social Media and any other portrayals of parenting showcase perfectly coiffed mom’s with pre-pregnancy figures doing it all – working, being a wife, mother and still having time to meet up with friends over coffee, etc. Not to mention, toddlers who look clean, happy and well behaved.

Where did I go wrong?

I have no clue and don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining…. (much) I am eternally grateful to be a mother and wife and an employee and and and… but sometimes I do my make up at work at my desk (as this is the first opportunity without a toddler hanging off me) or I eat cheesy toast with a glass (or two or three) of wine (and chocolate) for dinner after putting afore mentioned toddler to bed because I couldn’t be arsed to actually cook something nutritious for myself.

And the monkey… oh vie… I realize how inexperienced I am at parenting. For example: when I get her dressed for the day and then hand her a piece of nutella toast for breakfast – how did I not realize that after the first bite, the rest of the nutella would be smeared across her white t-shirt, matted in her hair and sticking to her little hands? And no, my child doesn’t sleep as well as others … it took more than a year for her to “sleep through” the night (which still means getting up at 5.30/6am); she throws monster-proportion tantrums in public and eating a meal has been an ongoing battle in our household.

But I wouldn’t swap her for anyone else children (or at least … not yet :))

What does make me smile is that there are some other mommy bloggers out there that make me feel normal… Whose blog posts have me smiling and nodding in agreement. Parenting isn’t easy, so it is great to read these stories… and feel like I could happily share a cup of coffee or BIG glass of wine with anyone of them while commiserating over similar stories!

Renegade Mothering

Written by Janelle, an American mom of 4 who is currently writing her first book and offers writing courses. Her tag line is “Join me in the fight against helpful parenting advice” – need I say more?  Her blog is honest, sarcastic (in a good way), full of swearing and she often voices the thoughts that are in my head but I am too scared to say out loud. http://www.renegademothering.com

Apples under my Bed

Heidi is a dietician and nutritionist, based in Melbourne in Australia who had her baby girl, Joan, about 2.5 months before our own Monkey entered the world. Her blog is a bit like a diary, filled with delicious looking food (those salad bowls!) and stories about their life and daily activities. She helped me understand the concept of BLW (Baby Led Weaning) through her own experiences with Joan, and highlighted the fact that each family needs to find their own balance regarding sleeping (co-sleeping, Cry-it-out methods, etc). An honest, wholesome, feel good kind of mommy blog. http://www.applesundermybed.com

Part-Time working mummy

UK based Rachaele who is engaged to policeman & avid bird watcher Josh and mom to 3 daughters & step mom to his 2 sons provides me with a good giggle at least once a week (I follow & read via her Facebook page).  She is also an amazing advocate for woman who are in need (domestic violence, etc) and often puts out a call for action request on FB to her PTWM crew to help out. Honest, funny, tongue in cheek candid online rants about their daily trials & tribulations.  http://www.parttimeworkingmummy.com

Like a queen

Australian mom of  3, Constance Hall has taken the world by storm with her book “Like a Queen” & its recent UK book tour.  She encourages woman to support each other with a hippy free-love-everyone kind of attitude and calls all us moms “Queens” . Her blog (and book) provide a very raw and honest account of her own personal struggles as a mother, wife (now separated) and queen. http://www.likeaqueen.com

Hurray for Gin

I prefer wine, but that is ok – because Katie, mom to two lively boys provides a humorous cartoon portrayal of real life parenting. Raising 2 toddlers isn’t a bed of roses, so having a good giggle over the same experiences is liberating, especially when they are drawn as stick men/women/children with speech bubbles. Did I mention funny? I read the book in one evening (part of which was while drinking wine in the bath tub) and can highly recommend it. PLUS her 2nd book is being released in October 2017.  www.hurrayforgin.com

Who else would you recommend?

We survived Chicken Pox

Almost 2months ago, we were “blessed” with the experience of having a small child sick with one of the so called “childhood illnesses”, which include mumps, measles, chicken pox, Rubella, scarlet fever, etc…

One particular Tuesday, I woke up at 6am to our 17month olds normal morning cries and went into her room to take her out of her pajama’s & sleeping bag and get her dressed for the day – when I noticed a small pink dot which was quite prominent on her chin… thinking “Surely, she is too young to get pimples??”, I didn’t really give it much more thought.

After I had showered and got dressed and was feeding her breakfast, I noticed that she had a few more spots appearing on her neck and arms, so HIM & I made the executive decision not to take her to crèche but to rather keep her at home & monitor her to see if anything further bumps developed. At this stage, she didn’t have a fever but she was a bit grumpy about eating (something that definitely isn’t new in our house).

Guess what… it went from about 2 spots at 6am to about 5 spots at 7am and around 30 spots by 10.30am, which is when we were sitting in the Doctors rooms. The Doc confirmed what I had guessed… “Chicken Pox”. Thankfully, both HIM and I had had chicken pox as children, so were essentially immune to catching it again.

We were lucky as Monkey only developed a fever later that day and it was a mild one at that. However that first night was pure hell – as she was SO uncomfortable that sleeping was almost impossible. I had done the normal bedtime routine of bath/bottle & bed around 7pm… she slept until 10.30pm (which incidentally was JUST when I had turned my own bedside lamp off) and was then inconsolable. She would only settle if she was in my arms being rocked and having her back lightly stroked. She eventually fell asleep (without being attached to me) at 1.30am until 3am. A short lived relief for us all. HIM, I and Monkey spent the Wednesday in a sleep deprived fog. Of our entire 17months with her – this was by far the worst evening of “no” sleep that I had encountered.

In terms of treatment: We used the *Diaseptyl” spray to start (a disinfectant spray used twice a day), and after the bumps starting to change and fill with fluid, we used *cytelium* spray to dry the spots out (again – only twice a day). Along with this, we were prescribed anti-histamine drops called *Fenistil* (10 drops 3 times a day) and to be honest, I do believe that these helped a lot! Plus paracetemol usage… Over and above this, one of our Mommy friends kindly dropped off *Calamine Lotion* which is what I remember having as a child. So we were definitely well-armed to handle this as best as we could.

There were ongoing debates about bathing – a fair number of articles that I had read indicated that warm baths could aid in the relief of itching, while one of my Mommy friends advised that this could prolong the process of drying any open blisters which could easily get infected (especially if drying with a towel was too “rough”). We opted for a combination – not our normal routine of a daily bath before bed – but rather each alternate day.

Another recommendation was putting socks on her hands while she slept – but this just made me laugh…and laugh…and laugh. The Monkey is unable to keep anything on her head for more than 2seconds… and I have tried winter gloves only once with her before realizing that she gets quite agitated and this is something I can live without.

We did keep her clothing loose and routinely checked the status of her bumps/lumps/scabs… but we were lucky! She was as happy as could be during the day and somewhat more unhappy than usual at night – but within a week, she was back at crèche with the last of the dots as dry mini scabs and her demeanor unchanged.

The upside of her getting this at the age of 17months old is that she should (?) now be immune to the same virus and not get chicken pox again, plus the younger they contract it, the easier it is for them (so they say!).

What they didn’t tell you would happen AFTER you gave birth….

I avoided the truth when I was pregnant. I was one of the lucky few who glowed and loved the feeling of growing new life inside. If I was tired or my feet were swollen or my back ached, I would come home, settle myself comfortably on the couch (or at least as comfortably as my belly would allow) while binge watching Netflix shows or reading my book until it was time to eat/sleep/pee (in no particular order).

After birth – I realized how unprepared I was for the real world of parenting and just living in general….

7 and half months

Here are a few things that THEY don’t tell you will happen after you give birth:

  • Going to the toilet after giving birth will require a jug of water… even if you just went to pee. Trust me – it helps, pouring water is far better than rubbing toilet paper anywhere near the area that *just pushed an entire 3.3kg baby out*.
  • You will walk funny for the first few weeks.. now, I only have the experience of natural birth – but it seems that for the first weeks after giving birth, I had embraced my inner duck.. yes, I was waddling. But not only that – I was leading each step with my hips forward and my feet outwards. Bring on the Charlie Chaplin top hat & cane please! Oh and lets not even start the topic of hemorrhoids…
  • Black tar like poop … Babies… not yours! But it’s true, the first poop from baby might be black and tar like (called meconium) and is completely normal! And talking about poop, some ladies struggle for their first one after childbirth.
  • Buy Sanitary pads in bulk… after months of not needing them, you will suddenly require doubling up in the first few days. You might even want to invest in disposable panties or cotton ones that you are willing to toss away… as those first few days after birth are like a flood!
  • Worrying about breaking Baby….I remember trying to put clothes on Monkey the very first time and the fear of breaking her arm as I tried to put it through one of those dinky sleeves. For the first few weeks, I only used the clothing that had buttons down one side in fear that I might hurt my child while trying to dress her. Things have changed since then….
  • Breastfeeding…those that can & do will experience cracked nipples, pain, engorgement and discomfort. Not to mention the topic of doing it in public while trying to smother/cover babies head and the “offending” breast from the gaze that may or may not settle there. Those that can’t and don’t will experience a level of guilt that is hard to define. Sure, it sounds easy enough just popping in a bottle of formula, except that you have to test out different types to see what works best and is actually accepted, getting the whole sterilizing process in play and buying bottled water in bulk.
  • They are noisy when they sleep… I don’t remember all the sounds Monkey made when we first brought her home, but I do remember thinking that this kid was noisy when she slept!
  • A proper nights sleep will elude you… as per above, you either don’t sleep well because there is this foreign noise in your bedroom or they are so quiet that you can’t sleep for fear of sudden infant cot death. And just when you think they are sleeping through the night… they wont and you will watch 2/3/4am and reconsider your entire life and its purpose for existence. And by sleeping through the night, I mean they don’t require your intervention in the middle of the night, but might wake up and have a conversation with the teddy bear on the window sill or decided to throw their pacifier as far from their cot as possible or… And of course, 5.30am is a perfectly acceptable wake up time if you went to bed at 6.30pm. And they call this “sleeping through”.
  • Bathroom activities will now have an audience… ha ha… you laugh. But seriously, if you are home alone with baby and you need the bathroom, what do you do? If you need to shower? Poop? Pee? You take them with you – thus starting the future trend of having a little face staring up at you as you partake in your morning ablutions. I can honestly say that I no longer have performance issues… or very much dignity left.
  • Getting sick is never the same again…pre-baby getting a cold or flu meant that you felt like sh*t, but you could lounge around on the couch or in bed taking copious amounts of drugs, liquids and feeling sorry for yourself. You might watch an entire season of *Bones* or read 2 books… but you were sick. Post-baby getting a cold or flu means that you need to continue with life as if you don’t have these germs invading your body, still get up at 5.30am to change nappies, give bottles, cook food & feed child, do laundry (because if you are sick… there is a good chance that they are too) and provide some level of entertainment for the offspring. I know this because this past weekend, I lay on cushions in Monkeys room while the game she had spontaneously invented involved moving all her toys from her toy box to on top of me while I moaned/groaned occasionally. Much to her delight… the more grunts I emitted, the harder she threw the toys at me.

it sounds like I am moaning… which I am not, because I wouldn’t change my life for anything… I just wasn’t as prepared as I thought I would be, especially when it comes to:

  • Feeling love… although there are moments where I can lose my temper and have zero patience in the blink of an eye, there is also this level of love that I didn’t know that I was even capable of. Watching HIM take care or engaging in a game with her makes me love him even more than I thought was possible. And no mother can disagree that the love that you feel for your offspring when they are fast asleep & angelic looking far outweighs the drama of any day!
  • Finding joy in the simple things… suddenly the things that I would have just ignored are now making my Monkey smile and laugh (rain on the window, how a ball rolls, smiling and waving at a stranger & watching them smile & wave back) and if they make her happy, then I too should learn to slow down. I had to release my inner OCD self (but only a little) to sit down for 10minutes for a cuddle or to roll the ball, rather than jumping up to hang the washing because the laundry is finished and the machine is now beeping.
  • Priorities… spending money on new shoes for me versus getting a super cute pair of baby shoes for Monkey? No contest! Spending a morning at the hairdresser/salon/spa versus time with my family? No contest! Sleeping in versus morning cuddles? No contest – however it should be noted that on the latter item, I don’t really have much of a choice as sleeping in is now a distant memory!

There is no denying that our lives have changed and there is so much that nobody told us about this new stage in our life!

Is there something you found out about after giving birth that you weren’t prepared for?

Why I wont be winning Mother of the Year…

14months old and you can already drive me to melting point. How is that possible? I love you with every single cell in my body and when you smile or giggle, my heart absolutely melts. But when you whine for 2 straight hours like a broken siren and nothing can get you to stop, I want to smash my own head against the wall in the hopes that I might lose my hearing. (Monkey was not sick she just hadn’t had her afternoon nap… so was over-tired).

I can’t imagine my life without you and when you fall sleep at night, I gaze upon your angelic face and marvel at God’s divine grace and count my blessings to have you. But when you wake up at 4am and wont go back to sleep – the constant talking (you really need to learn to take a breath, child!) & the banging of toys/doors/walls/anything as loudly as possible, I start asking myself why people think it is a good idea to have children. Especially those people who have one already and want to have another….

I found myself losing my cool last night. You screamed when I tried to put you into the bath because you didn’t want to… then realized how much fun splashing was and suddenly being in the bath was the best thing EVER. After attempting to wash your hair, soap suds I am sure got into your poor little eyes with all the thrashing and wriggling you did – I tried to take you out of the bath. Bad idea… Again you screamed…. You didn’t want to get out of the bath. Using whatever I could get my hands on as distraction “toys” to get you to calm down finally worked so that I could dry you off until you decided that lying down was no longer part of your plan and ninja kicking me with all your strength in the gut while I attempted to place a nappy on you was far more fun. As I tried to wrestle you into your pajama’s, you were rubbing your eyes and moaning and all I could think was “yes, child, me too….”. I managed to get you into your sleeping bag as you writhed and cried and raised my voice with “ENOUGH now”. And only when you were firmly ensconced in my arms sucking on your bottle with very sleepy eyes did we both truly relax.

And then I realised that I wasn’t going to be winning any Mother of the Year awards – not that this is the goal, but we all try so hard to be the best parent that we possibly can. And I had failed. I had failed in patience. I had let the little things eat away at me and I had raised my voice to a child who had zero understanding. I can only hope that she remembers our loving cuddle before she headed off to the land of nod and not my red angry face as we struggled a few minutes before that.

Being an adult in general is difficult… but add the title of Parent to it and suddenly life hits a whole new level. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change my situation for all the tea in China but sometimes I feel like I just need to stop the ride and sit on the floor for 5minutes to catch my breath.

So today… I start the day off with a little prayer to ask God for patience and strength. And I will do everything possible to be a better mom today and not lose my cool or raise my voice. And maybe, just maybe you can consider sleeping a little longer tomorrow morning?

Debunking “New Mommy” Advice

Everyone loves giving advice… solicited or not and sometimes you just have to smile & nod and take it, because it is given well-meaning & with love, care, support or in the hopes that these pearls of wisdom will actually help you. Those that give them often don’t realize that sometimes the concept “in theory” sounds great, but in reality they just don’t work the way that they were meant!

debunking-mommy-advice

“Sleep when the baby sleeps” – especially in the early days! This is joke right?? In the beginning, the baby sleeps an hour or so before walking for a feed, nappy change, cuddle, etc.. In those quiet moments when they are sleeping (and not actually physically ON your body) – there is a small window of opportunity to take a shower, put on clean clothes, brush your teeth (and maybe even your hair), make a cup of tea, put in a load of laundry and maybe even just sit down … the last point is normally when the baby starts to stir. Sure, your partner can look after the baby while you nap… but every mother feels a certain pang of guilt for *palming* off their child. Plus, everyone wants to visit in the beginning. When the baby gets older, the naps do get longer but it is also the time when your life starts to return to normalcy and your friends/family have gone back to their own lives as well. Now you get to include grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc and possibly even returning to work full time – which leaves the only feasible option for getting enough sleep as “go to bed by 10pm latest”.

“Make sure you get some exercise” – firstly, exercise release endorphins and helps get your post-baby body back into shape. But my questions are “When? Where? How?”. I barely have time to put my make up on at home before work (sometimes I actually only apply it once I am seated at my desk) and by the time I get home after 5pm, the next chapter begins with dinnertime for Monkey, bath & bed routine and then I can start thinking about dinner for me/us, laundry, etc etc. For those fit mothers who manage to squeeze in 50 squats while doing a load of laundry before 9am, I say *kudo’s* to you – I barely have enough energy to lift the full laundry basket after being awake since 5am & working a full day at the office. The only feasible option for me is going for a walk on the weekend while pushing the stroller (and this is weather dependent) – but that is a start, right?.

“Take time for yourself/Look after yourself” – Maybe it is just me, but I hit a whole new level of guilt when I sit on the couch reading a magazine while the husband does the bath/bed routine by himself (especially when I know he works just as hard as I do outside of the home and definitely pulls his own weight when it comes to looking after monkey (every weekday from 12.30-5.30pm, he is daddy day-care) plus sharing household chores). “My time” is when monkey is finally asleep (8pm latest) – which is also the time that I normally start doing laundry, cook a meal (rarely during the week), tidy up, catch up on communication with friends/family, blogging.. .so suddenly it is 10pm and I am sitting on the couch too tired to lift the remote control to change channels and also too tired to get my lazy bum off to bed. But sometimes just sitting down is actually looking after yourself… and sometimes watching 3 consecutive episodes of “The Good wife” with a glass of wine is taking time, while the laundry waits until tomorrow. (These are my feasible options and I am sticking to them ;))

“Share the load” – as already mentioned, HIM already does pull his weight in terms of our family and the responsibilities involved. We both work full time jobs (his is at night and weekends while mine is a more conventional 8-5 desk job). We both do chores around the house – washing dishes, washing laundry, folding & packing it away, cooking, etc. We both get up when she cries in the middle of the night or is sick. The thing is – having a child definitely increases the amount of work required to keep a family home running effectively (more laundry, more cooking, more washing up, more running around and definitely more tidying up and cleaning!). The only feasible option is that we keep things easier by ordering our groceries online  and making use of dinner delivery services on the nights that we just can’t be arsed to cook (see my post here).

“Talk to someone” – seriously, nobody (except my mother) wants to hear me moaning about how tired I am, how the baby slept or about the colour/consistency of the poop nappies (amongst other things). Also, people tend to “misunderstand” venting for not being happy. I am happy… I am deliriously happy and in love with life, my husband, my baby girl and I would not change our life for anything. But sometimes, it is really (really, really) difficult – not getting enough sleep, consistently having spit up or snot on your clothes, not getting any alone time with your significant other or even with yourself, having to decline invitations, etc . The only feasible option is to have a few mom friends who smile & nod when you roll your eyes and talk about how difficult it is to try to feed monkey now that she is at the age that she wants to feed herself (even though the food goes everywhere) and how you want to scream *Go to Sleep* at 3am… and they also understand how much you love this little person… Thank God for moms, partners and mommy friends (plus the handful of non-mommy friends that I have, who also sit, listen & understand! Not to mention Whatsapp mommy groups!)

What other advice have you been given that has made you laugh as a mother??

Happy 1st birthday

Dearest Monkey,

It’s your first birthday… where did the year go??

1-year-old

I remember giving birth to you as if it was yesterday (read the story here)…

And now you crawl & cruise around the apartment as if you own it – which you probably do, considering that the ratio of adult to baby material is slowly shifting in your favour. And although we tidy up at the end of each day (and sometimes during the day) – you still manage to distribute all your toys across the lounge, dining room and kitchen within minutes of entering the room, creating a minefield of obstacles for your parents to maneuver. I am also starting to realize that although we put your books on the shelf each evening, you prefer pulling them off the shelf, littering them across the floor (and under the couch) which obviously makes it much easier for you to lick the pages….

HIM (Papa) will continue to try to encourage you to walk … but I realize that this is probably only going to happen when YOU are ready and no amount of encouragement from our side is going to have any affect. But your standing and walking while holding onto something continues to improve in leaps & bounds. So we will learn to be a bit more patient, I promise. When you are ready… we will be there.

You love feeding yourself rice cakes and I can always coax you to eat if I offer a yoghurt. But you refuse to hold the bottle of milk when it is time to drink. Cooked food can sometimes be a hit or miss affair… But you are always interested in whatever we might be putting into our mouth… especially croissants, which might not be on the baby approved list of foods.

You have 4 teeth!! The experience for all of us on the bottom 2 making their appearance was truly hellish… but the top 2 were somewhat “easier” and proud to say that they are half way out! So soon you can start gnawing on more food options!

Your entire face lights up when you see me or Papa after a period of separation. And let’s not forget how much you love the crèche owner, whose arms you can’t wait to get into each morning when I drop you off. It doesn’t matter how rough my day has been at work, the moment that I walk through the front door and see your HUGE semi-toothless grin which is JUST FOR ME, all my problems seem to melt away.

You already know what “NO!” means, especially when we say this as you try to climb the stairs. Your reaction is to sit down on the floor, screw your little face up and cry (real tears) for about 2minutes before your attention moves onto something else. It takes every ounce of will power for me not to comfort your crocodile tears OR not to laugh! So far, you seem ok with that.

You have started sleeping longer stretches at night although I must confess that a full night of sleep would be a real treat to us. 4am is still silly-o’clock… I can handle 6am…but 7am would be even better. So I suggest we start working towards this, ok?

I love watching you as you spend more and more time in solo play – “reading” your books (or mine) or banging anything against anything (Noise is KING!) or just “exploring” (I especially love watching you investigate something like a piece of fabric with your eyes, fingers and eventually, like everything else… your mouth!). You still come to me or look for me every once in a while to “check in”… but I am also grateful to be able to get a few more things done around the house as opposed to be on full-time baby handling duty during your waking hours.

Your giggles are the best sound in the world. The BEST…. when Papa tickles your tummy or blows kisses into your cuddly neck… and your laughter comes straight from your belly… I just want to melt.

I was totally unprepared for the past year. Who knew that being a parent was so mentally draining? I expected the physical and emotional turmoil – but I never realized how much I would second guess myself! We questioned if we were doing the right things? Feeding you too much or too little? If your cries were from hunger or pain or ? We second guessed every action… but Papa and I learned how to manage, how to support each other and through it all, became *parents*, or at least tried our best. We are still unprepared for what the future might hold… but a little bit more confident that we could handle things, especially together.

Plus, I must mention that through this entire year, our love for you grew each and every day… as did our love for each other.

And I can’t wait to see what the next year holds in store for you (and for us)

All my love, now and always
xxxx