Nine months in, Nine months out… a reflexion

35wekeI have carried our beautiful little boy for about 18 months now. The first 9 months he was underneath my heart, safely tucked away in my uterus, and the last 9 months he was in my arms, snuggled against my chest. It has been my favourite adventure in life thus far, but definitely also the most challenging. I used to thrive on stressful situations like exams and emergency situations in my job, coping through sleepless nights without needing any supplements (other than jelly-beans and pasta).    I felt almost invincible… but then I became responsible for another tiny human being 24/7 and I became fragile and unsure about myself. I realised that I am just as dependant on God as this baby is on me, because I cannot do it in my own strength. When I look back on the last 9 months, I am thankful to see how much I have grown as a child of God, as a wife, and as a mother. I would like to document and share some of the things I have learned in this process: to remind myself in difficult times to come, and maybe to motivate or help you too.

 

  • It is just a phase

When baby is having a difficult day, crying and clingy, has cramps or he wakes up every hour of the night, or he refuses to eat his food remember… it is just a phase! This too shall pass. Every baby goes through many developmental and physical growth spurts that upset them, but that is just the thing, they go THROUGH them. So next time you are in the middle of a tantrum / sleepless night just remind yourself that it will get better!

  • Treasure each moment

That first gurgling sounds, the first smile, the cuddles, the smell of his newborn skin, the sparkle in his eyes when he looks at you, the first time he rolls over / sits / crawls… there are too many to name! So take a moment and cherish that moment. Be present, put down your phone and just take a mental snapshot of his face, his laugh, the feel of his hand on your face.  Record as much as you can, because when you look back it all becomes a blur. I am thankful that I took weekly photos for the first 12 weeks, and thereafter monthly photos . Babies change and learn so much in the beginning, I am glad I had a plan to record it all.

  • It takes a village

Surround yourself with other moms! I always felt better after a visit with the moms who have babies of around the same age as mine. We talked about dirty nappies, feeding-times and naps without boring or irritating each other. We learned from each other and the “me-too” conversations answered many of my questions.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:  If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” Eccl 4:9-10

  • Teamwork

My husband has carried me through the last 18 months! He is my hero! He cooked for us, did night shifts for baby and for work, encouraged and spoiled me, read up on important issues and remained the voice of reason when my emotions were out of hand. He loves our son soooo much, and that makes me love him so much more! It is such a privilege to share the good and the bad of this journey with him. I understand why God said it is not good for man to be alone!

  • It is a marathon

Unlike cramming for an exam, motherhood is not something that is “over” once your baby is born / is 6 weeks old / a year old… so pace yourself! Make sure there is someone to look after you while you look after your little one. Decide what is really important for you and your family and focus on that. It is so easy to get carried away by all the ideas on Pinterest or to try and look Instagram-worthy all the time!

“So get your breath back. Parenting is about decades, not days.” Kevin Leman, First-time Mom.

  • Information overload!

The world wide web is a dangerous place at 2am! Choose a few good sources (parenting guides, blogs, websites or family members), and stick with them. You will find a lot of contradicting facts and support for almost any approach to parenting, and this will only confuse your already tired mind! I love the Pregnancy Sense, Baby Sense and Weaning Sense books as they are written by professionals with a lot of experience, always explains their facts in a scientific way and have easy-to-follow plans. Even if I do not follow their schedules 100%, it helped me to have a practical guideline to fall back on.

  • I am not in control

I can try my best to keep to all the rules and awake times / meal times / make the right food / buy the best baby-gear but in the end our little baby will grow and develop at his own rate. Teeth will come on- or off-schedule and poo will surprise you time and again! When I realised I could let go and let God, a huge burden dropped from my shoulders. Yes, I will do my utmost to be the best mom I can be, but I have to surrender our son and his future into God’s hands where the things that I have no control over will be safe.

 

9months outI am so grateful for every lesson I have learned as a mother! (These are only the tip of the iceberg; it was a steep learning curve even for me who was supposed to know everything about children. Unfortunately we are taught very little about healthy babies when training to become a pediatrician). Reading up, experiencing things first hand and talking to other mothers have enabled me to improve as a mother and as a pediatrician!  I have so much more empathy and answers for the mothers I see in my practise.

My prayer is that I will continue to grow closer to God as I continue to learn and grow as a mother, and that I will be able to raise this little boy to become a man who loves and chooses to walk with Him. I look forward to the next 18 years of learning and loving and laughing!

 

*** This is not a sponsored post. See the links below to the books I spoke about above:

Pregnancy Sense

Baby Sense

Weaning Sense

** Pictures taken by my husband!

Choices, choices… the Birth Plan (Part 2)

“In the end that was the choice you made, and it doesn’t matter how hard it was to make it. It matters that you did.” Cassandra Clare, City of Glass

grass-1209945_1280

In my previous post I wrote about the advantages of a NVD (Normal Vaginal Delivery) for your baby. I was set on delivering my baby via NVD as I was so excited to give him all of these benefits! In preparation for the birth I attended ante-natal classes at a beautiful Women’s clinic in Bloemfontein. Estherea is run by passionate women who want to give you the best birth experience.

Initially I thought that my husband and I will probably not learn so much at these classes, because we have witnessed and treated so many births and babies. Little did we know that there is another world out there when it comes to pregnancy and delivery! We were introduced to a softer, more natural way that is in such a complete contrast to the medicated ways we were used to. The classes were also good conversation starters at home, and we could work through some issues about raising a child before it turned into a war with a screaming baby in the middle. We met a few other couples at these classes that became friends we could walk this road with, and I am so thankful to have them in my “village”. So in short, if you have the opportunity to attend ante-natal classes, GO! It prepares you in so many ways for the life-changing moments ahead!

The staff at Estherea consists mostly of Midwives, Doulas and Lactation consultants. After reading up on the advantages of having a Doula, we booked one to assist us with the birth of our boy. We met with her a few weeks before and worked through a checklist so that she knew what our “labour-day-preferences” were. All your choices can be summarised and presented to your health care workers as your “Birth Plan”.

“May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” Ps 20:4

Did you know you have sooo many choices?! It was a bit overwhelming for us, and I was so thankful to our doula for helping us make some of these decisions. Many of these choices are made for you “by default” by the nurses and doctors, but you actually do have a say. Let me look at some of the options with you:
.

During your labour do you want to play some music, dim the lights, wear your own clothes, bring your own snacks, have a photographer? Who do you want in the room with you, and who should rather stay away? Do you want to stay mobile for as long as possible, take a bath or a shower? (Ok, now it may become a bit graphic…) Do you want an enema? Do you want your pubic area to be shaved? Do you want a urinary catheter?

The enema has become standard practise in the labour ward for many reasons. It was thought to create maximal space in the pelvis, keep the delivery clean and decrease the duration of labour to a certain extent. However the latest research shows that there is not really a significant advantage and it is thus no longer recommended. But you do have the choice. 1

You can decide whether and how you would like to augment your labour, which pain relief you want (you are not only limited to an epidural, there are many other options to try), in which position you want to labour and deliver, and if you want to see your baby’s head crown with a mirror! Some of these options are a bit unconventional, but I think it is good to at least know about them and make up your own mind.

You can also specify what should happen immediately after baby is born. This part is very important for baby,  bonding and initiation of breastfeeding, and these choices can be made to a certain extent whether baby is born via NVD or C-section.

umbilical cord.jpg

Cutting of the umbilical cord – in the fast-paced world we live in, the cutting of the umbilical cord has become just another task to complete before moving on to the next patient and as such is done almost immediately after the baby is delivered. However unless the baby is in need of urgent resuscitation, this procedure should be delayed as much as possible. The umbilical cord is attached to the placenta which contains almost half of the baby’s blood volume as this is where the exchange of nutrients, oxygen and toxins take place. If the cutting of the cord can be delayed, most of this blood is pumped back into the baby’s body. This means that the baby gets more of the precious stem-cells and more red-blood cells (which prevents anemia later on). It can even help to prevent brain bleeds and gastro-intestinal problems in premature babies. The only possible negative effect is that the baby has a higher risk of being jaundiced after a few days. A delay of minimum 30-60seconds is recommended. 2

Do you want to store stem cells? This is a new field that is rapidly evolving. It is still quite expensive to store the cells, and if the cold-chain is broken at all the cells are useless. Currently the stem cells can only be used as treatment for a few rare cancers, but there is a lot of hope that it can be used for a multitude of diseases one day.

The WHO and UNICEF both recommend that all healthy mothers and babies, regardless of feeding preference or method of birth, should have uninterrupted skin-to-skin care from immediately after birth for at least an hour.3 Unfortunately this is not standard practice in all units yet. Usually the baby is taken to a warmed resuscitation-corner just after birth to be dried, weighed and immunized. You can ask for this to be done differently. He can be put on your chest immediately, skin-to-skin. Did you know your chest wall-temperature will regulate according to the temperature your baby needs? Baby can also smell you, hear your heartbeat, and is close enough to see your face and this makes him feel safe. It also stimulates oxytocin production in the mother and the baby, which reduces stress, helps with bonding, breastfeeding and prevents post-partum bleeding in the mother.  All routine procedures can either be done in this position, or can be delayed until after the first feed.  If there is any complications with mom, dad can give some skin-to-skin love to keep baby warm and safe.

You should also communicate your feeding choice and whether you want to bath your baby on the first day. I will elaborate more on these options in a later blog.

Discuss all these options with your healthcare workers. They may not be able to grant all your wishes, but you do have some control. Unfortunately there is still a lot of red tape in both state and private hospitals to get around. Doctors and Sisters have gotten so used to certain ways of doing things that it is sometimes difficult to make births more baby-friendly. Nothing will change if we do not keep on asking and pressing for change, so go ahead… ask!

Wow, what a lot to think about! I will give you some time to contemplate, and then I will share my birth story (and what I ended up choosing / getting) in the final part of this trilogy.  There are many examples of “Birth plans” available on the internet to use as a template, this is the one we worked from : https://www.thebump.com/a/tool-birth-plan

 

 

  1. Reveiz L, Gaitan HG, Cuervo LG; Enemas during labour; Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group; 31 May 2013
  2. Argyridis S; Delayed cord clamping; Journal of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Reproductive Medicine; November 2017; Volume 27; Issue 11; Pages 352-353
  3. Crenshaw JT; Healthy Birth Practice #6: Keep Mother and Baby Together – It’s Best for Mother, Baby and Breastfeeding; J Perinat Educ; 2014 Fall; 23(4): 211-217

** Photo credits to Pixabay and Mercury Press (Emma Jean Photography)

Longing

IMG_4758k

“The feelings that hurt most, the emotions that sting most, are those that are absurd – The longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are.” 
― Fernando Pessoa

Today, exactly a year ago, I was very very disappointed…

But let me start a few years earlier to paint a more detailed picture. Like I said in my previous post, I have always loved kids and I always knew that I want children of my own. However, the timing of said children was a bit of a problem. After getting married I had to do my two Internship years, a time filled with long work-days, many many after-hour calls and adapting to the emotional roller coaster of being a doctor. Then followed my Community Service year. I had more time, but I knew I wanted to specialize soon after, thus I kept busy with studying for my primaries and getting as much experience as possible. After that, my time as a Registrar in Pediatrics started with a bang! Four years that made Internship look like child’s play.

During this time most of my friends and even some of my colleagues started families of their own. I loved meeting the new bundles of joy and was really happy for the brand new moms. I relished sharing in their journey, but especially in the last few years it was always with a tinge of jealousy. I recall a number of times that I was in tears, ready to quit specializing and to just have a baby! It almost made it harder that I was standing in my own way… I was longing for a baby of my own, but I was also faithfully drinking my contraception daily! Isn’t it ironic…

I realized that longing for something you don’t have (yet) can make you very unhappy with your life. For all practical purposes I should have been very happy… I had a loving, amazing husband, good health, my dream-job. And yet I was only longing for a baby!

IMG_4757k

My loving, amazing husband sat me down and told me that I needed to decide. He would not stand in my way if I wanted to quit, he did not want to see me so unhappy. Around the same time I went through a very difficult situation at work, and this forced me to sit down and think things through. Spending time with God made it clear that I still needed to learn a few things! He knows the plans He has for me, and I knew that becoming a pediatrician was one of them. I could not back out now.

 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

I learned to be grateful for what I have. To be content with who I am as a child of God, a wife and a doctor. This was hard, but the more I practiced it, the easier it became. It also helped that I had to write a major exam in my last year of studies (distraction does wonders for longing and impatience). 🙂

And yet, after learning all of these life lessons the hard way, I was still disappointed!

IMG_4766k

Fast forward to the 11th of December 2016. My husband and I was on holiday in the Eastern Cape. We have been trying for a few months to fall pregnant, and I was hoping to surprise him with the good news on the 12th for our wedding anniversary. But God had other plans, and I had to again remind myself that He knew best!  *

All the longing and waiting and learning was fully rewarded when the pregnancy test showed two stripes on the 13th of January 2017! My moment of disappointment turned into the date used to calculate our baby’s due date, and everything fell into place so perfectly, that I can only praise God for His perfect timing and plan.

So I want to encourage you… if you are longing for something, take heart. God knows what He is doing. He has plans to prosper you! Go through your time of waiting, learn the hard lessons and grow closer to Him in doing so, for the reward is sweet!

I pray that God will give you all the desires of your heart, in His time!

‘Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart!’ Psalm 37:4 

 

IMG_4772k

* I have to take a moment to say that waiting for a baby was hard for me, but it was my choice and we were blessed to fall pregnant within a few months of stopping the contraception. I cannot even begin to imagine how hard it must be for couples who struggle with infertility. There were also some of my colleagues who had babies during their specialization time, and I salute them for that. This was a choice my husband and I made after a lot of prayer. We were both specializing at the same time and knew that we would have neglected something if we tried to do it all. This is just to share our journey, and I hope it can encourage someone to keep going, to learn from the hard times and to enjoy the good times!

** Photo’s taken at Chintsa beach, Eastern Cape, South Africa