Aiden’s nine month update

Our hopscotchy, bunk-doodling, splendiferous, wondercrump, whoopsey-splunkers, phiz-whizzing, whipple-scrumptious ickle grunion is now nine-months old. The physical transformation I described in my last post is now going toe-to-toe with the emergence of a delightful personality. Somewhere in the last two months our solemn baby has transformed into a cheerful little cherub. His vocal range is much in evidence and we’re finding ticklish spots that never fail to elicit a heart-warming chuckle.  Aiden’s social side is becoming more evident. The time Colin has put in with Aidy lately is really showing dividends, and our boy always has a smile for his daddy, even if he is mid-howl when Col walks through the door. It’s quite funny to watch this crying child stop, assess, smile, and then go right on crying again! 

As far as the brothers go, there’s a simply beautiful relationship developing. Aiden really has eyes for Cam and will endure an surprising amount of abuse at his hands. Being whacked on the head with a variety of objects doesn’t seem to bother him if his brother is doing the whacking! (Obviously we don’t encourage the head-whacking and are trying to promote gentler interactions!) Cam is great at imitating the noises Aiden makes, which Aiden simply loves. He’s also building up a reportoire of tricks that always get a smile or giggle from his adoring younger brother.  We have been a bit worried about Aiden’s development as there are a few milestones he hasn’t reached yet – like sitting on his own and reaching for his toes. So earlier this week we took him to an OT friend of ours for an assessment. She said that there’s nothing to worry about. He is behind in some areas, but ahead in others, which is quite normal for a prem baby. Developmentally, he’s about the same as a seven-month old and she’s told us not to expect more. It’s amazing how big the difference is from being born those few days earlier than Cam was, even though he was also prem. We’ve got some exercises to do now to help Aiden catch up and I’m sure it will come right soon. 

I’ve seen a marked difference in the past two months in terms of my ability to cope. Having two little ones is becoming much more manageable with every month that Aiden gets older. It gives me hope that our plan of having the boys close together wasn’t so foolhardy after all!   

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How I survived my first six months with a toddler and a tiny baby 

A letter to an expecting mom who already has a toddler. 

Dear mommy-friend

In my previous life (you know, the one where I actually used to sleep) I was a bit of an adrenaline junkie. Ever since my parents took us to Disney World when I was 14, I have loved roller coasters. There’s nothing quite like that moment of anticipation when you have climbed ever so slowly up, up, up and are now braced and waiting for that first stomach-churning plunge. You wait on the precipice, totally committed and hugely excited, yet a small part of you is shouting ‘This is madness! Get me out of here!’ And then it begins, and you just have to go with it. A barrage of swirling, twisting, turning, flashing that leaves you breathless with laughter and flushed with excitement. It’s over before you know it, and that moment of apprehension is forgotten in the tidal wave of adrenaline and the relief of solid ground beneath your feet once more. Continue reading

The tiny people days

There’s a song on the radio at the moment called ‘The Days’ by Avicii. It’s one of those upbeat summer anthem types, yet I can’t listen to it without getting choked up. Because while the carefree lyrics are, I think, aimed at those in their halcyon university years, somehow they have come to carry a much more substantial meaning to me. While I have found various lines that are applicable to me for weird, personal reasons, it’s really the chorus that gets me:

These are the days we’ve been waiting for
And days like these who couldn’t ask for more
Keep them coming
Cause we’re not done yet
These are the days we won’t regret
These are the days we won’t forget

On good days, these words feed into my joy. On bad days, they become a bit of a mantra, helping me regain a bit of perspective and reminding me of the value of the time I’m investing in my tiny people.

Colin and I often talk about the paradox of the toddler years. They are so fundamental to who we become, yet we don’t remember them. As children we don’t remember how cute we were, or all the games and outings we had. But as parents, once the trauma of sleep deprivation has passed, I think they become golden years. Already I know we are going to miss these days and look back on them with nostalgic fondness. And isn’t that the strange thing about time? Because right now, the average day is pretty hard!

The exhausting days
At two months old, Aiden is now such a part of our family that it’s hard to imagine a time without him. But wow, it is exhausting! Cameron is an absolute whirlwind, always on the go and perpetually bursting with energy. When that force (and believe me, it is a force) is combined with the energy depleting nature of breastfeeding and broken nights, it’s a deadly cocktail. And so the exhausting days have a number of spin offs including the ‘forgetful’ days, the ‘impatient’ days and the ‘what were we thinking having another kiddie so soon’ days.

One of my challenges at the moment is that my reserves have been depleted by a long and tough year. So I reach that tired, emotional breakdown point, where everything feels overwhelming, much more frequently that I did when Cam was a newborn. As Col is also suffering from burnout we are having to regularly call in the grandmother reinforcements. We are just so grateful to have both our moms near by and available.

The ‘just say no’ days
I am finding that if I keep my social and personal engagements to a bare minimum, and focus my energy on Cameron and Aiden, then life can be really pleasant. But the problem with this strategy is that it doesn’t leave any time for Colin or myself, and after a while I start to crave something other than finger painting, playing dinos, reading stories and rocking Aiden to sleep. But the moment I let my expectations include something not toddler or baby friendly, tension immediately arises because Cam wants to be involved or Aiden refuses to sleep and I quickly find myself frustrated and impatient.

So right now I am just trying to say no. It’s especially hard at this time of year when there is so much going on socially, and there are so many little traditions that I love but need to shelve (like making fudge – a truly risky undertaking when one is at the mercy of temperamental nap times).

The rapidly changing days
The equilibrium of peace and merriment in our house can change in an instant. We go from playing happily outside, with Aiden gurgling away under a tree, to Cameron hurting himself and throwing all his resources into fighting off my Savlon wielding hands. By the time Cam is sorted, Aiden in inevitably crying and my half drunk tea is stone cold. Next thing I know I am utterly drained and wondering bemusedly how twenty minutes ago I was feeling so energetic.

The thankful days
One of my coping strategies at the moment is my Happier app. I try to end off each day by sharing three things I am grateful for. Even on tough days there are usually far more than three. Because Cameron is just so delightful, coming up with the cutest statements and antics. Because our house and garden is a blessing and is full of unexpected wonders if you have the time to look for them. (For example, two days ago we saw a pair of hoopoes mating!) Because Aiden is growing before our very eyes and is starting to give us glimpses of his personality. So back to Avicii:

These are the days we’ve been waiting for
Neither of us knows what’s in store
You just roll your window down and place your bets
These are the days we won’t regret
These are the days we’ll never forget

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Day three update

Just a quick post to update you on Aiden’s progress today. His blood tests showed that the infection has gone so the doctor has stopped the antibiotics. He has also started to digest the breastmilk and is up to 5ml every 3 hours now. This is a huge relief for us and for him – the isotech (nutrients given intravenously) is providing all he needs but not filling his tummy so the poor boy was hungry and unhappy this morning. At least now his tummy is being filled up, even if he isn’t able to taste the milk as its being given through a feeding tube. Odd to think he’s three days old and hasn’t tasted anything yet!

He has developed jaundice and his bilirubin level is 187 (should be below 160). So he’s been under the UV lights since 15:00 this afternoon and will remain so until tomorrow morning. The downside of this is that we can’t hold him so Col missed out on his afternoon cuddle. Fortunately I had lovely cuddles this morning and a two hour kangaroo mother care (KMC, skin to skin) stint from 09:00-11:00. Lots to be grateful for today!

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Daddy and his two boyz

Between working on Cameron’s baby book and the arrival of my nephew last week, I am all babied up at the moment. I’m glad to see it’s not just me, and that my husband, Colin, is just as excited about our growing family …

Although I often feel the urge to write, I have normally talked myself out of it by the time Cam goes down for the night. I have heard that myth about men and women – you know the one about how women have thousands of words a day and men are supposed to have three. That rule definitely does not apply to me! In our house the roles are reversed. Lucy runs out of words long before I have even warmed up. (At least when I am in court, I am being paid to talk.)

Cam is about to turn two and he is like a human parrot. He tries to repeat any word he hears. This means I have to be extra careful not to curse or scream at the ref in front of him. I think the upcoming birthday and the fact that Number Two’s literal birthday is coming up has made me pause and reflect.

The last year has been challenging for me on the work and financial front but in my personal life I have never been happier. Cameron has blossomed and I am so proud of him! He has a wonderful disposition and I know he is going to grow up to be a good guy, full of love and affection.

I also know that he is going to be great older brother. I am so excited about the idea of my ‘Boyz’. I am of course nervous about being able to give the next one the same love and attention but I know from experience with Cam that there is a part of my heart already reserved for Number Two and that upon his arrival it will explode like an empty field after the dry season.

The major difference with Cam between the ages of 0-1 and 1-2 can be explained by the difference in my reaction to him crying and a little man calling, ‘Daddy!’ I’ve gotten pretty good at tuning out the crying, but a call for ‘Daddy’ will get me out of bed no matter what time it is. The first year was hard work and Cam was not a good sleeper. The second year has in comparison been a breeze. It is so rewarding when after teaching and showing Cam how to hug and kiss and say, ‘I love you’, he does those things of his own accord.

Cam’s first cousin has arrived, little Caleb, and seeing that tiny baby and becoming an uncle has just made me even more excited for the arrival of our new baby. Visions of backyard cricket, camping out, golf, swimming, running, jumping and wrestling swarm before me.

Everyone keeps asking me if we will try for a full fourball but I tell them that with Lucy we will already be one. Maybe we’ll change our minds about this, I don’t know. What I do know is that I can see in Cam the effort , love and attention Lucy has put in. I also can see the wonderful cumulative effect of our support structure that includes grandparents, friends and other family.

There are some things in life that you know will be awesome before you have even experienced them, like playing golf at St Andrews or the Springboks winning the World Cup. I am so grateful that having a family is one of those things.

What weekends are made of

When I think back on my childhood there are certain events that stand out – family holidays, birthdays and Christmases. But filling in the gaps in between are countless afternoons and evenings spent at the homes of friends of my parents. These are vague recollections, featuring various other children. My brother and I would spend hours tearing around the garden, taking breaks for sustenance in between, before passing out exhausted on a handy couch or bed. These memories represent uneventful weekends over a period years. They are extraordinary ordinary moments.

Last night we had a few friends over for a braai (barbeque for non- South African readers). Of the five couples, four have children and the fifth is expecting their first next year. The ten kids ranged from nine years to five months and for a few splendid hours our garden rang with shouts of delight (and the occasional and inevitable screams of protest).

There’s always a lot to do when one is hosting people and I spent a fair bit of time running around. But in the midst of getting dinner ready I had a realization – our house is going to feature in the childhood memories of this next generation. And that’s kind of awesome!

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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!