Cameron’s first birthday

Today is Cameron’s first birthday. He woke at 5:50 and after his feed we had a lovely family snuggle as usual. But when Mom and Dad burst into song, he started looking very wary about this change in routine and he was tentative about opening his presents. We only provided two to unwrap, which judging by his response was a good call. Any more would have been a bit much I think! He seems to be finding birthdays quite overwhelming so far and has passed out for a morning nap.

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For my part (and Colin’s to a lesser degree) I am finding it an emotional experience. In fact, I’ve been emotional all weekend and have spent a lot of time thinking back to where we were a year ago. Yesterday evening was especially poignant, but then the unexpected timing of Cam’s birth was rather stressful. I now understand why my mom always used to make a big deal over the time I was born, at 17:23 yesterday evening I couldn’t help thinking back to that moment when I saw Cam for the first time. Col and I have spent a lot of time reminiscing and are so grateful for how far we’ve come and for our happy, bouncing little boy.

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There is also a part of me that is suddenly feeling a little panicky about the phase we are entering. I’ve gotten to grips with caring for a baby, but Cam is no longer a baby. He is a pretoddler, and judging from the book I’m reading (On Becoming Pre-Toddlerwise), that’s a whole other creature. Take this paragraph for example:

Ah yes, the mobile pretoddler. There is no question that a pretoddler’s mom is a tired mom, and for good reason. The emotional and physical energy needed to supervise an energy-packed tot can take down even the most physically-fit mom. If your pretoddler happens to be a boy, add fifty percent more energy into the equation. Yes, is it true, never so beautiful does this child look to his weary parents as he does when he closes his eyes at night in sleep.

At which point my eyes steadfastly refused to close and I spent a few hours thinking over all manner of challenges that are about to rear their strong-willed heads. But then I remembered how utterly overwhelming bringing Cameron home was and how much I’ve grown as a mom in the last year. Just yesterday, on our way back from the zoo, Colin and I were remarking on how comfortable we are taking Cam out now. It’s really no big deal but those first few outings we did with him certainly were! Parents, we have learned, are amazingly adaptive creatures.

About a month ago I was struggling with the fact that Cameron is at the end of his baby phase. In some ways it’s gone so fast and one can never get that time back again. But as I’ve been preparing for his party, I started to get excited (bunting and baking will do that to this creative spirit). The next phase is going to be filled with mind-boggling change and development and it’s going to be exciting to watch. Exhausting yes, but exciting too. Bring it on!

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Cam’s first trip to the zoo

In celebration of Cameron’s first birthday, which is tomorrow, today we took him to the zoo for the first time. The Pretoria Zoo is the biggest in South Africa and I was pretty impressed really. For a start, it’s huge! We strolled for three hours and didn’t cover it all. They have a much bigger selection of animals than I thought they would and the whole place seems to be well maintained. The only criticism I have is that human snacks and beverages were hard to come by. You are allowed to take your own food in, which I think most people do, and so the kiosks and cafes aren’t well stocked at all. But next time we’ll just take our own picnic and that will solve that problem.

Cameron seemed to enjoy the experience but it must be said that he was more interested in the people than the animals. Second favorites were the birds and then the Gibbon monkeys, although he may just have been feeding off his dad’s enthusiasm for the latter! He loved the aquarium too.

It was a happy morning out and Col and I had a lovely time reminiscing over the last year while we walked around. But more on that tomorrow …

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Eight tips for tough mommy moments

Any mom will tell you that motherhood is a full-time job, and lately I’ve been putting in some overtime. For the last two weeks I’ve been on Cam-duty with very little relief. Firstly, my husband has been sick so to ease his load I haven’t been relying on him for help in the evenings. Secondly, my weekly relief – my mom-in-law on Monday afternoons and sister-in-law on Thursday afternoons – have both been incredibly busy and unable to take Cam for a few hours. Thirdly, over the last two weekends I’ve done trips with Cameron, but without my husband. While on both weekends I did have people to help me, I have realised that no one is quite the same as my hubby, and because of that I couldn’t completely disengage at any point the way I can if Colin is around. To further strain my resources, Cam has woken up before six almost every morning during this time. Six I can handle – 5:15 is pushing it!

On Sunday it all suddenly became overwhelming. I just ran out of steam, became very tearful and my thoughts morphed into nasty, negative creatures. All I wanted was time to myself – to drink tea at leisure, to do something that would recharge my energy levels, to get through a day with clean clothes and no nursing bra. Instead, I sat on my friend’s patio, with a wriggling baby smearing food into my hair, and dug deep for an extra reserve of energy and patience (although on the way to finding it I did shed a tear or two and have a good vent).

I’ve been fighting this feeling ever since and have developed a few coping mechanisms. So for any parent out there who is having a rough day, here are my eight tips for surviving tough mommy moments:

  1. Put the kettle on. I double, if not triple, my tea ration on tough days. The English are onto something – it really does help!
  2. Eat for energy. On good days this looks like trail mix, fruit and cheese on crackers, but on bad days it becomes a slice of cake, cookies, a chocolate or a bowl of ice-cream. And I savour every mouthful!
  3. Say yes. I have taught myself to accept offers of help without hesitation. My control-freak tendencies have made this a tough lesson but I’m getting better. I also find that I often reject help because I perceive that people don’t have time to give it. Rubbish! They wouldn’t offer if they didn’t have or weren’t willing to make the time.
  4. Do something for someone else. Making someone happy somehow makes me happy. So if I’m struggling, I’ll pop by a friend’s home or office and drop off a small gift. Often I bake cookies and give half the batch away (this ties in nicely with point 2).
  5. Sit and wine. I try not to vent. I find that it only gives negative emotions more power and makes it harder to get out of my funk. Instead when Cam is down for the night I pour myself a glass of wine and lose myself in a book.
  6. Gratitude and grace. When Cam goes down for a nap I neglect my to-do list and spend some time with God. Thanking him for all the amazing things in my life really helps put things into perspective. I also remind myself that God’s grace will override my frustrated failings of today.
  7. Laugh. Instead of getting frustrated that Cam is eating his Rice Crispies one by one, or has again unpacked something I only just cleaned up, I force myself to laugh with him. Sometimes my laughter starts out slightly hysterically, but it soon morphs into something more genuine.
  8. Nap. One of my challenges is fitting all I need to do into Cam’s nap times, but on tough days nothing is more important than my sanity so I close my eyes and sleep too. Even a 20 minutes snooze is amazingly restorative.

We all have our own methods of coping and in the interest of mutual support, share yours as a comment below. And let’s remember that no matter how isolated we sometimes feel, in this marvellous digital age we are never alone!

The godfather

We are coming up to Cam’s first birthday and naturally enough, I’m spending a fair amount of time thinking back to where we were a year ago. I’ve also remembered one or two incidents that I wanted to blog about then but didn’t, and now seems like the perfect time to capture them. One of those was the first time Cameron met his godfather. This is how it went down …

One of the difficult things for me to deal with when Cam was born was the fact that my parents, who drove all the way from Tzaneen, couldn’t see their grandchild. This was because Cameron was in ICU and the hospital policy was that only parents were allowed inside. I made a few timid appeals to the ICU nurses, but they were to no avail and my folks had to make do with videos I took on my Dad’s iPad.

The next day Cameron’s godparents came to visit. Now Stef and Sophia are two of our dearest friends, but it must be said that Stef is a law unto himself. There is simply no stopping the man when he wants something and as far as he is concerned the rules just don’t apply to him. So when he arrived and was told that he couldn’t see Cameron he muttered something to the effect of, ‘We’ll see about that’ and disappeared in the direction of the ICU. 

A while later he duly returned and heartily congratulated us on our beautiful boy. Colin looked at him in disbelief and only when Stef produced a cellphone video of Cam did we realise that he’d succeeded where my parents failed. It should of course be noted that he didn’t ask permission – merely sauntered in as if he owned the place. I doubt he even abided by the golden ICU rule of washing his hands! Furthermore the very fact that Stef thought to capture some proof on his phone gives you an indication of how often he does things like this, and how disbelieving we always are.

I’ll admit that at the time I was really upset by this (I had a lot going on and let’s not forget those pesky hormones) but knowing and loving Stef as I do, I can now laugh about it. So this little anecdote will be added to the ever-growing tome dedicated to the exploits of Cameron’s godfather. And we are sure that our son will discover, as we have numerous times, that there are benefits to having such an overconfident guy in your corner. Capeesh?

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Eleven month update

We are rapidly approaching Cameron’s first birthday, but so much has happened since the nine month post that I didn’t want to wait until the end of the month for my next instalment.

Right now every day is a delight! Cam is a wonderfully happy and contented little chap, bestowing smiles upon anyone he sees and giggling gleefully at the slightest excuse. He’ll often happily gurgle to himself, flapping his arms and pointing at nothing in particular, which seems to amuse him no end. He loves music and starts bopping whenever he hears a song or one of his musical toys is provided as a playmate.

Excitingly, we are pretty sure Cam has said his first word! He’s charmingly vocal and, among others, has been making various ‘mama’ noises lately, ranging from ‘mamama’ to a very British ‘mum’. But in the last few days he seems to have connected these sounds with me which just melts my already squishy heart.

He is getting around with serious speed. In June I took him to an OT friend of mine as he was still doing his creeping caterpillar thing. She did a few exercises with him and the very next day he was off on all fours. He’s now moved on to crawling on his hands and feet which is even faster but he does look a bit like a spider monkey as he scuttles around. He is standing and cruising and has once or twice tried to balance on his own which has resulted in some spectacular falls but fortunately no serious bumps. He is attempting the stairs and yesterday climbed the whole flight. He can only go up though, and efforts to teach him to go down have yet to yield results. This means that a devoted parent must patiently climb the stairs too! He is incredibly strong and the only really challenging part of my day is trying to change his nappy or clothes. He wriggles desperately as he tries to flip over, while I, with equal desperation, try to hold him down with one arm and put on the offending garment with the other.

Cam is certainly enjoying this food exploration phase. I am fortunate to have a baby who just loves to eat, and he makes sure I know when the next meal time is approaching. He will eat as much as I’m prepared to give him and has delightfully pudgy thighs and a substantial tummy. I am just hoping the paediatrician won’t chastise me when I take Cam for his one-year check-up! The other challenge we are having is eating in front of him. Even if he’s just had a meal, he’ll want whatever it is that we have and his insistent demands are incredibly hard to repel.

Our baby is now really looking like a little boy and we are starting to see signs of the next phase. Cam has started displaying a strong will and I can see that bucket loads of patience and consistency will be required as we move into the toddler phase. But all in all I am an incredibly blessed mom! I have a happy, healthy little boy, who sleeps and eats well. His little laugh is simply the best sound in all the wide world and I am just loving being his ‘mumma’.
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