Friday, August 16, 2013

The truth about being a Stay-At-Home-Mom

When Linmari was only 3 weeks old, I decided that I want to be a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM).  It's a heart desire which did not disappear as time went by.  It actually grew stronger and stronger, to the point that my husband wrote my resignation letter and told me I had better go and resign.

I felt guilty, having to balance my career and motherhood.  I felt overwhelmed by my situation - get to work and feeling like I'm not able to completely focus because Linmari is always at the back of my mind.  Get home and not being able to pay 100% to Linmari because I have work that still has to be completed.  Plus, the housework was getting to me...  I just could not give my 100% to anything any longer.

I've now been a full-time SAHM for the past week (well, since Tuesday, really, since I was helping out at a friend's practice on Monday afternoon).  And I can now really tell you, this is NOT easy.  Am I regretting the fact that I quit my job?  NO!  It's one less thing to stress about in my life.  Am I still overwhelmed?  YES!  The amount of sorting out and cleaning my tiny house requires is insane.  I used to do the necessary to make sure it was livable.  To ensure I didn't completely lose the plot.  But now that I'm here 24/7, it seems like there is just SO.MUCH to sort out!  As for Linmari?  I love my child, I do.  It just seems that she chose this week to have a go at poor eating habits and even worse sleeping habits (read: NO SLEEP).  If I walk away from where she's sleeping, she wakes up within 10 seconds.  So I can't even do my housework whilst she's asleep.

Okay, it sounds like I'm moaning (and to certain degree, I am) but I'm actually VERY grateful that I can spend all this time with my daughter.  She does cute and funny little things which delights me - like figuring out how to open her own sand pit and then saying "oooohhhhh" with this gorgeous little over-emphasized rounded mouth.  SOOO cute!  Yes, she enjoys doing weird things (like eating soap whilst I'm hand washing her clothes) but she also makes me laugh (when she uses ANYTHING as a 'cellphone', holding it against her ear).  I'm also finding it very difficult to just play with Linmari.  I'm VERY sorry to all the parents I've told over the past 6 years that I've practiced as an Occupational Therapist that they should just 'play with their children'.  Turns out it's not as easy as 'just playing' with my child.  I have a daily programme to follow (I bought it out of desperation and because I can't think about activities for every single day) because I'm scared that I won't stimulate this child enough and our day does not necessarily always allow me to follow the programme as stipulated (I'm a stickler for rules...imagine how this makes me feel).  I NOW feel guilty that I'm not constantly stimulating her, like she'll lag behind because of me having to quickly do the dishes, make dinner, clean-up the lounge or do a load of washing.

So, dear friends, be warned.  By the end of a day I am drained.  I just want some 'me-time'.  I want to just sort out a bit of my kitchen without having to give my full attention to Linmari 100% of the time.  That's why I also look forward to my husband coming home.  It's a break for both Linmari and myself from each other.

And please don't think that being a SAHM is like being on holiday the whole time.  Far from it.  (Someone said that to me this week...Really?!?!)  I do not have a domestic worker whom I can delegate the housework to.  Plus, I would feel guilty, since our house really is not all that big.  But I wish I was less fussy about stains on clothing (then I wouldn't be hand washing all Linmari's clothing, followed by machine washing it!), to name but one pet peeve in my life.

As I'm typing this, I'm sitting next to Linmari on the bed because dare I move, she'll surely wake up.  So, I was moping about my situation when I suddenly realised, hey, I can write a blog post about this!  Writing always makes me feel better.  My dad says it's because it is a way to purge your thoughts and feelings.  It's more for my sake than for others' that I'm writing this post.  And then I also thought about the fact that I get to see my child grow up.  Now I just have to learn to be more present in spirit instead of only in body.  This is my chance to make a difference in my child's life.  I better use it while it's mine for the taking!

To top off this crazy long-winded post, here are a few pictures from our photo shoot on Sunday (to celebrate Thinus and Linmari's birthdays).

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Hubby and Baby celebrate their Birthdays!!!!

Today Thinus and Linmari are celebrating their birthdays.  Last year this time, I was in quite a bit of pain, not really thinking about the fact that Thinus would be sharing his birthday with our child.  Never in a MILLION years did I think that would happen!

To celebrate this wonderful day, we went for a family shoot, complete with the grandparents!  We'll be getting the photo's on Thursday.  I CAN'T WAIT!  In the meanwhile, here are only a few pictures I took tonight to celebrate my beautiful family.

I feel like I should just add that it's really late at night (for Linmari, in any case) and she's not all that willing to pose for pictures any longer ;-P  I will shortly post some more pictures of their party that we had yesterday.  But for now, we're going to crawl into bed (because we're absolutely exhausted!), watch October Baby, and have a good night's rest.

Thank YOU, LORD, for these beautiful people that I can call my very own family!!!!!  Thank YOU for watching over them!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

World Breastfeeding Week: Family and Social Network, Healthcare Systems, Response to Crisis or Emergency

As the title mentions, I'll be touching on Family and Social Networks, Healthcare Systems, and Response to Crisis or Emergency.  The reason I decided to group these together (apart from running out of time during World Breastfeeding week) is that I feel they are so closely linked together.

When one decides to breastfeed, your family really does make up a huge part of your decision.  You might not think about this, but subconsciously one does wonder about their reaction to breastfeeding, whether or not they are pro-breast milk or pro-formula OR pro-whatever-makes-your-baby-grow!  One also tends to wonder how they will react to you breastfeeding in front of them.  Be it with or without a breastfeeding cover.  From personal experience I can tell you that I am very at ease to feed without my cover, but I always ask whether the person with me is comfortable with it.  That being said, I choose to only feed without a cover in front of other women, girls or my husband.  For the rest I use a breastfeeding cover, simply because I am also private in that way.  BUT I don't exclude myself from conversations, and that's why I am at ease to breastfeed (with a cover) in mixed company.  Breastfeeding is not an illness or disease that has to be isolated.  The sooner we accept this truth, the sooner we'll be more at ease to share this time with others.  I read a very nice article by Nicki Hesken from BellaOnline regarding Family and Criticism while Breastfeeding in which she explains how you can prepare for family gatherings and also basically 'desensitize' family to you breastfeeding in their presence.  A good read, I'd say. 

Furthermore, people's reaction to learning that you're breastfeeding through social media may also either encourage or discourage you.  I have been fortunate enough to be part of an amazing group on Facebook that one of my friends started to encourage support between mothers.  We're a mixed group of new-mothers and mothers who're on their 2nd or 3rd child.  There I found a platform where I could openly ask questions about breastfeeding and get honest answers from women in the know.  My doula and friend, Melissa Jacobs, is also a great advocate for breastfeeding.  I often check out links that she posts on her Facebook profile regarding breastfeeding.  Just another way that Social Networking allows me to stay connected with current trends.  So, in this day and age, where we've got the internet and social media literally at our fingertips, shouldn't this be a place to look for support?  As well as a place to voice concerns and advocate breastfeeding in public?  An article on grabbed my attention, titled "My Favourite Online Breastfeeding Lifelines" - go check it out for some pointers in the right direction.

At times I feel like Healthcare Systems are to blame for poor breastfeeding performance amongst new moms.  I have a friend who is very much pro-breastfeeding and made her husband follow their baby everywhere in the hospital after her birth to make sure she was not fed a single drop of formula.  Yet, she told me that at that very same hospital her baby was born at, she did not really receive support with regards to breastfeeding, latching and all the other intricacies thereof.  I found that so, so sad!  I was very fortunate that at Genesis Clinic the staff are pro-breastfeeding and are more than willing to sit with you and help you until your baby latches well.  I found that so encouraging and motivating, just knowing that I could ask for help and they'd come running.  My husband called one of the midwives at 03h00 AM to help me with breastfeeding.  She sat with us for nearly an hour, if I recall correctly, guiding me and encouraging me, never putting me down or making me feel stupid.  I also know that at the Witbank Hospital (Public Sector), they are adamant in the Neonatal / Paediatric wards that babies that are born prematurely or cannot yet (for whatever reason) breastfeed, be fed ONLY using a cup, NOT bottles.  How wonderful!  Plus, they have a breast milk bank with donated breast milk to provide for their in-hospital babies in need. WOW for the public sector, now when will the private sector catch onto best practice?  I really feel that nursing staff and other health care providers should be careful in what they say, lest they discourage mommies from breastfeeding!  Please, provide a bridge, not a hurdle!  I read about the Cayuga County Women, Infants and Children Program, where they encourage breastfeeding as well as education to mommies-to-be and other healthcare professionals.  THIS is how you get breastfeeding rates up!  With proper support!

Finally, Response to Crisis or Emergency.  It is so important to make sure that there are support structures in place in the case of an emergency.  I remember my sister-in-law telling me about how a whole community of nursing mothers provided breast milk to a new born baby whose mother had died during / after childbirth due to complications.  They did this in an effort to ensure that this baby would get the best advantage in life, even though he no longer had his mother.  This community supported the baby, but also, by proxy, his father, who had to deal with the death of his wife, mother to his 7 children, and having to take her body to Israel for burial.  These women stood by the husband, his other children and his new born baby.  How many communities can tell these stories?  Are we supporting women / families in crisis?  We really have to think about this!  It's not a good time to set protocols in place when emergencies become reality.  We have to be proactive!

I am passionate about breastfeeding, I will always be! I didn't take to it like a duck to water, I had to learn through trial and error, enduring pain for a very long time (or so it felt at the time).  I didn't stop breastfeeding just because Linmari cut her first tooth and bit me (it was inevitable!) or because she started eating solids?  I am in emotional turmoil with regards to when she should be weaned, and as long as I am in this state, I will not stop breastfeeding.  I want to shout it from the rooftops: "Get the necessary support to see you through breastfeeding, pledge that you won't give up before at LEAST six weeks of nursing, be proud of the fact that you are breastfeeding!".  Mommies, and Daddies, it truly is VERY important to continue for as  long as possible!  Daddies, you are there to support the mother of your children in her breastfeeding ventures!  Don't give up, PLEASE!  Go read this post on the 10 things you were never told regarding breastfeeding.

To every single woman out there, breastfeeding or not, NOW is your chance to make your decision that could influence the rest of your life, but also your child's life!  Breastfeeding creates a wonderful bond and is the best source of nutrition for your child!  Believe in your body's ability to provide in your child's nutritional needs.  GOD designed a woman's body to produce this liquid gold.  Now go out and be an advocate for breastfeeding! 

Until we meet again for World Breastfeeding Week 2014!

Monday, August 5, 2013

The First Day of the Rest of My Life!

Good day, all!  What a beautiful morning this has already turned out to be. 

For the first time EVER I could sleep late during a 'normal working day', because I am now a STAY AT HOME MOMMY!!!!  Linmari and I slowly awakened with the day.  We took our time getting up and prepping for our outings (which are now not going to happen as planned).  I had the time to quickly whip together beautiful Banana and Oatmeal cookies, dress my daughter and myself and hang some diapers on the line.

On the Banana and Oatmeal cookie front.  People, this is the BEST cookie EVER to give your child.  No funny additives, no extra sugar, no salt.  Just pure banana and oatmeal goodness! I found the recipe on Facebook / online last week Wednesday.  It leaves plenty of room for playing around and improvising.  But the best thing about it, I don't feel bad giving this cookie to my daughter!  Here's the recipe:
Quick and Easy Banana and Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup of rolled oats (or any oats, I would imagine)
2 ripe and soft bananas
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius / 356 degrees Fahrenheit.
Spray an oven baking tray with some Spray-and-Cook.
Cut up and mash the bananas to a pulp.
Add the cup of oats and mix all well together.
Dish out tablespoonful amounts onto the pre-sprayed baking tray.
Pop it into the oven for 15 minutes.
TADA!  Wonderful, tasty and wholesome cookies!
Optional:  You can add chopped up nuts, raisins, choc-chips, dried fruit to the mixture.
I really want to try this recipe with some chopped-up dried mango pieces.
You can also add a pinch of salt if this tastes 'weird' to you.  I prefer it without salt, you soon grow used to the taste in anyway!
Okay, so Linmari just woke up from her midmorning nap and I better get going to my husband.  What a treat!!!  Oh, and then it's off to the ENT for Linmari's post-op check-up.  At least I'll be able to brag about the fact that she can now WALK!  (As if I had anything to do with it  ;-P ) Whoohoo!!!  A good day to you all!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

World Breastfeeding Week: Workplace and Employment

Breastfeeding / Expressing at work can be rather cumbersome and not very well supported.  The Circles of Support for Mothers and Children shows that 'Workplace and Employment' makes up one of the circles.  It is with good reason, since this could be one of the areas which could almost 'force Mom's hand' to supplement-feed or stop breastfeeding altogether.

I was VERY fortunate when I returned to work to be able to express when necessary.  Plus, because I work at a school, I was able to use the lunch breaks on top of the given time to express.  Furthermore, we have a fridge in our department that I could use the freezer compartment to store my expressed milk.  I could not ask for greater support. 

When wanting to express at work it is very important to consider the following:
  1. Double electric breastpumps makes the expressing process faster with greater amounts of milk.
    1. Important to note: Is your electric breastpump solely dependent on being plugged in or can it be battery operated in the case of a power failure?  Secondly, do you have batteries with you in the case of a power failure? (Yes, this IS necessary to ask!)
  2. Having a safe place (cooler box / fridge / freezer) to store your expressed milk.
  3. Having an ample supply of containers for expressed milk.
  4. Having a steam sterilizer at work to sterilize your breastpump accessories in.
  5. Where will you express?  Is it clean, private and (yes, this is important) somewhat isolated on an auditory level?  My breastpump's motor was not all that silent, so if you walked past my closed office, you could hear it!
  6. Do you have enough time everyday to express?  Remember, it's important to express to keep your milk supply up, not only to have milk for your baby for tomorrow.
  7. Consider getting a manual pump for travelling purposes - this has been a saving grace for me during sport-events that I had to attend as an official for our school.  I would then express in the back of my car (there are shade socks over both back windows) with my breastfeeding cover intact.  No one even knew and if they did, they never said so.
I read an interesting article today on legislation regarding breastfeeding and expressing at work in South Africa.  Do yourself a favour and go and read it!  It made me realise just HOW fortunate I was.  I turns out that according to our law, my employer only has to give me expressing breaks (2 breaks of 30 minutes each) for the first 6 months of my child's life.

I went back to work when Linmari was 5 months old and I officially stopped working yesterday, Linmari being 11 months and 22 days old.  I was still expressing nearly everyday at work.  WOW, how grateful I am for my work setup which allowed me to continue expressing.  (I plan to breastfeed until Linmari can go over to cow or goat milk, and then still continue with nap-time and dinner-feeds.)

Don't let your workplace be the reason for NOT breastfeeding!  You have rights in South Africa, KNOW them, make sure your employer adheres to legislation.  Remember, they have to reasonably accommodate you.  And you can be creative about expressing!  I remember reading how Ashley from used to express in her car when she was a Barista at Starbucks.

Happy breastfeeding and expressing, Mommies!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

World Breastfeeding Week 2013 (1-7 August)

This year's theme for World Breastfeeding Week is BREASTFEEDING SUPPORT: CLOSE TO MOTHERSYou can go read more on the mission statement at this link.  

I thought I'd like to share a bit of information everyday for the duration of this World Breastfeeding Week.  I am very grateful for the GREAT theme that they chose!  I have seen first-hand what a difference it can make to have a good support-structure in place, to help you and guide you when you don't know what else to do.

NOTHING could prepare me for breastfeeding!  All I remember was making my husband promise me that he'll not allow me to stop breastfeeding before Linmari is 6 weeks old.  The reason?  Sometime, somewhere I read that it can take up to 6 weeks to establish a good breastfeeding routine.  Thinus very nearly gave up on that promise when he realised just HOW painful breastfeeding was for first.  But I reminded him of his promise and he had renewed vigour to MAKE it work!  I wanted what was best for my daugther and I knew I could give it to her.  

Here are a few things that helped me to stick to my decision:
  1. My midwife (Karen van der Merwe) was a staunch advocate of breastfeeding, talking over possible reasons why I was experiencing such pain when Linmari was feeding and ways to overcome the pain / treat the pain.  She also helped a lot with regards to possible positions to prevent Linmari from suffering too much at my hectically fast let-down.
  2. My doula (Melissa Jacobs) told me within the first few hours "NEVER accept a bad latch, Ronél.  NEVER!"  Very wise words from a very wise woman and Mama!  Plus she followed-up on my breastfeeding 'career' to make sure I understood all the ins and outs of this game, understanding my struggles and encouraging me all the way.
  3. My mother (Petra Kahl), also a midwife, helped me with latching and possible positions.  She's still such an amazing help and reminds me how wonderful it is that I could make it past six months and still breastfeed.
  4. My husband.  Yes, he realised that even though this was painful, initially, and did not come so 'naturally' to me, it was what I wanted, what Linmari wanted, and what both of us needed.  He supported me wholeheartedly in this decision and for THAT I cannot thank him enough!
  5. Knowing that financially it just made more sense to breastfeed - come ON!  The stuff is FREE and for the taking.  Who WOULDN'T want to take advantage of that situation?
  6. Amazing websites that taught me a lot that I had to know about things like expressing at work and exactly how to make expressing work for you - - Peeps, this is an AWESOME website!  Go check it out!
  7. Inner motivation to wanting to offer my child the best that I had.  Linmari did not cope well with solid food at 4 months (the new age at which solids are supposed to be introduced) and I realised it's FINE to exclusively breastfeed until 6 months.  My child's body could handle other food so much better at 6 months!
  8. Friends at work!!!  I have several friends at work who are also all about breastfeeding your child and expressing milk to ensure that baby gets the best.  They really helped with the logistics of how you express at work, when you find the time and what you store the milk in.  AWESOME peeps!

I suppose what I wanted to explain to you here is that it really is important to have good support from all those around you.  And if you don't find support in your immediate surroundings, go LOOK for it on the internet.  Seek it out at your local baby wellness clinic.  Find yourself a lactation consultant!  But good breastfeeding habits start with a good support system!

Happy breastfeeding, Mommies!