#PREMBABIES: 7 THINGS I WISH PEOPLE KNEW

#PREMBABIES: 7 THINGS I WISH PEOPLE KNEW

Four years ago, prematurity struck our family. Out of the blue, it hit us. Looking back, there are lots of things I would love to tell myself now – accept help, take it one day at a time, buy more concealer and waterproof mascara. But, in honor of World Prematurity Day, (which is coming up on the 17th of November) I also wish people knew these seven things about the harsh reality of having a baby born before 37 weeks.

1 – The NICU/ hospital stay? Yeah, that’s the “easy” part for me. When Zoe was born, we received scores of emails and texts from friends and family offering to help. But after discharge, we were largely on our own. Everyone thought that because we had survived the hospital and she did not end up in NICU (which were a wonder in itself as she was born a “blue baby”), that we just picked right back up where all the other parents who brought babies home did. We were “normal”- whatever the hell that means. Never mind endless pediatrician visits, worries over stupid things like the flu, frustrating phone calls (so many I lost count) with Medihelp to at least pay some of the bills. For the first 12 months, I would be honest- it almost broke us. It almost broke me. My spirit. My heart. The countless blood tests and doctors’ visits and ER trips- that’s just the beginning.

2 – My kid may not “catch up” as quickly as you think, or ever. At first the well-meaning comments of “Oh, Zoe is super tiny, she will catch up in no time,” didn’t bother me. I just smiled politely and walked away. They didn’t know she threw up at every meal and multiple times in between due to bad reflux and that breastfeeding her turned into literally a full-time job. They didn’t know how much I cried in the pediatrician’s parking lot after another round of “we not entirely sure”. They didn’t know how I stayed up late nights wondering how we were going to pay for these medical bills. They didn’t know. But their words still stung. You see, nobody knows for certain what my preemie will do. What she will achieve. Maybe she will catch up in a year, or five. Or never. All I know is that preemies are on their own schedule for development. I just have to love her through them. Oftentimes that’s the only thing I do well is Love Her.

3 – It’s serious. A cold or quick illness to your kid may be a major setback or a trip to the ER for mine. I stopped calling people back that quipped, “Can I come over? It’s just allergies!” No, no it’s not. Because when you sneeze, all I see are those thousands of germ particles flying toward my child’s face. And then I know that surely means a month of recovery. All I wished for is people not to judge when I wrap her in so nothing can get to her. All I was trying to do to survive and keep my preemie healthy.

4 – It’s expensive. But, just because we had thousands of Rands in medical debt doesn’t mean we can’t live our lives. Please don’t judge. It likely took tons of planning, a delicate balance of maneuvering (driving instead of flying) and kids’ medication schedules. It might be the one thing that year that saves my sanity. Or, maybe we sprung for family photos. I know we took them as soon as possible because I had this rational/irrational fear that I will lose her. Looking back on those newly snapped photos reminds me of just how far we’ve really come. We’re just trying to capture life, in all its beauty and failures.

5 – It’s likely crappy luck. More than likely, nothing I did caused my daughter’s prematurity. The specialists called it an anomaly. I have a different, non-family friendly name for it. It wasn’t the yoga I tried, the coffee and tea I drank, food I ate or the run around at work. It just happened. And, trust me. Shaking that guilt is the single hardest thing I do every day.

6 – It’s complicated. Please don’t ask if we’re having more children (the answer is no- this experience scared the living daylight out of me) or if it could happen again. Both are intensely personal questions. Maybe we’ll have more, maybe we won’t. But no matter what is decided I’m fairly certain I’ve prayed more about it than you may ever know. My husband and I understand the seriousness of that decision and there are so many factors for us to consider. And, when I opt out of a playdate or an outing, it probably isn’t because I don’t like you. Nope, more likely it’s that the ordeal of getting out is well, an ordeal. Some days I just can’t do it, but please don’t stop the invitations.

7 – There’s no contest to win. In fact, I wouldn’t wish this experience on my worst enemy. Nobody wins the “worst prematurity story” because, quite honestly, it’s the hardest thing for every family it hits. We all cope differently. Me? Mine was a mix of wine, counseling, spiritual direction, great friends and medication.

Sometimes heavy on the wine, other times heavy on the spirituality. Every day I look in my little Zoe’s eyes and it is a good day.

Power to the preemies. And their moms and dads.

 

#MOMDIARIES: WHEN BEING A MOM IS HARD

#MOMDIARIES: WHEN BEING A MOM IS HARD

#MOMDIARIES: When being a mom is HARD. Before I was Kiki’s mom, I was the PERFECT mom. I used to say how I would never do this or that. How I was going to breastfeed until she self-weans, how my child will never eat Purity and how I will co-sleep. Ja, right!

Then one day after more than a year of trying I found myself pregnant. People told me just how much my life would change. How I will have to change my spending habits, how I will be tired… I think my grandmother tried the hardest to warn me. Whatever, I was ready for it.

Last year we had my best friends baby shower at my house. It was a grand affair attended by over 80 people.  I was with other moms making jokes about being tired, sleep deprived and just the general pregnancy stuff like cravings and aches. They all had their favourite story and their favourite brand of nappies, bum cream, baby soap and blankets. But under all the “oh my goodness, this is such a cute outfit/ gift” was the realness of being a mom- behind our pearl earrings and pretty make up faces we all had experienced the same thing- the sleep deprivation, the hurt when your baby is sick, the crying in the bath after a long day when being a mom just became too much. But that is of course not what we as moms portray- we paint a picture of newborn bliss, of toddler milestones and little kid dreams. But I know by now that it is not all that. It could mean post-natal depression, giving up on breastfeeding 4 weeks into it because you just don’t want to anymore and the guilt of not being the happy mom.

I wanted to shield her from all of that. And I prayed that she would not ever get to experience the ugly side of it all.

Once upon a time, I was the happy pregnant woman, bright eyes and full of dreams. I literally had everything- the trendy camping cot that could sing, vibrate and play music. The pram, the baby bassinette, the cupboard full of pretty little outfits. I had everything planned. I was going to be super mom. I was going to be great. How could I not be? I read all the books, I bought all the things I could possibly need.

And on the 7thof May 2012, the day was finally here. She was tiny and beautiful with her dad’s big brown eyes. I could not believe my luck.

They handed her to me.

And I realised that I don’t know how to do this.

 

Fast forward three weeks in:

I am so so tired.

I don’t want her to need me this much.

I want my old life back- I miss the magazine so much

I don’t want to be covered in milk anymore.

I want to go back to work, but my work clothes don’t fit me.

 

But if I can tell any new mom something, it will be this:

  1. It is okay not to bond with your baby the moment you see them. It is a new person. Get to know them. And the love that you will eventually feel for them compares to nothing in this world. It is a powerful force.
  2. You will have long and tiring days. Days where you look at yourself in the mirror and ask where you have gone. Where are you old me? Are you still in there somewhere.
  3. You might not be able to tell the difference between just being super tired and being depressed. Just that robbed me of so much joy and I missed so much of Kiki being a happy little baby. Because I was way too proud to ask for help and also because I was scared of what “other people” might think or say.
  4. Babies sleep, cry and poop a lot. Especially the crying part. I can’t remember how many times I dragged the poor child to the paediatrician because she would cry. And it is normal. Very soon you will figure out what each cry means- promise!
  5. Babies go through growth spurts that will make you hate life. It is normal.
  6. You will feel alone and look at all your friends on social media having a blast on a Friday while you are breastfeeding/ changing a nappy/ sit with a sick child/ colicky baby.
  7. Mom guilt is a THING. You will feel that you not measuring up. That all your friends/ other people have the mothering thing down, but you are struggling. You can’t cope. But it is not true- some people just hide the realness of motherhood better than others. (I’m bad at hiding it and I have no desire to hide it anyways.)

But the good outweighs the bad:

  1. One day your baby will smile at you. It will melt your heart. The smile will turn into a laugh. And that is my favourite sound.
  2. One day they will stop crying so much. Just as the colic started, it WILL pass. Promise you that.
  3. One day you will be able to wear black again (for me it took 4 years. I’m not back on white- yet!)
  4. The super unhappy and fussy baby will turn into a curious happy toddler exploring the world one marvel at a time.
  5. You will know what it feels like to love someone more than yourself. And that their happiness is your happiness.
  6. You will drink hot tea/ coffee again.
  7. You will get the hang of being a mom and being you. And you might even start to like the new you more than the old you.

You will survive it. I know right now you don’t feel like it.

You are perfect

You are enough

You can do this.

 

#MOMDIARIES: WHEN BEING A MOM IS HARD

#DOULADIARIES YOU KNOW YOU ARE A DOULA WHEN…

#DOULADIARIES YOU KNOW YOU ARE A DOULA WHEN…

You know you are a doula when…

  1. Your kids actually know where babies come from AND how they get out.
  2. Your kids know what a uterus is and where it is located.
  3. They know what a placenta is and what it does. (You have had a placenta in your house at some time in your life).
  4. You get a call and leaves the house in the middle of the night, just like batman and no one asks questions. Even the dogs don’t wake up anymore.
  5. Your kids know where you keep your doula bag and know that they can find snacks inside.
  6. They know how to use essential oils safely and can blend roller bottles for themselves.
  7. Your know what breasts are for and they know the benefits of breastfeeding.
  8. They notice all the pregnant women in store and ask if I will be there when the women have her baby.
  9. They are good massagers and practice on each other.
  10. They know that peppermint oil in a diffuser helps for nausea.

You know you are a doula when… You read this and smiled

#DOULADIARIES HAVING A ND?

#DOULADIARIES HAVING A ND?

Having a natural delivery?

(Disclaimer: This blog is representative of my experiences as a doula. I have come to realize that every single birth is unique and different. There is no blog post that can cover all the different variations. Just like there are billions of different women out there, there are billions of different births.)

Am I in Labour? First thing’s first. When are you considered to be in labour? Your healthcare provider will discuss the signs of labour and when you should go into hospital. Usually, the general advice is that if your contractions are less than 5 minutes apart and lasting 45 seconds to one minute, you are in labour. A lot of women come in too early and end up being sent home again. Travelling while in pain will not be pleasant for you, so try to be sure before you make the groot trek to the hospital. If you’re not sure, call your midwife and she will advise.

Some women can be in early labour for days, this is called the latent phase. Find ways to cope with the contractions at home and try to rest. You will know it’s early labour because the contractions will not be regular, and might even stop. If you’re not sure, call your midwife. Every scenario is different. Sometimes you need to go to the hospital right away.

Going to The Hospital/ Birthing unit :

Depending on what stage of labour you are in, here are a few scenarios that might happen when you arrive at the hospital. You might be:

-sent back home and told to return when your contractions are more regular.

-asked to walk around close to the unit to get your contractions more regular and strong.

-admitted to a labour and delivery room!

If you’d like to avoid medical interventions such as an IV, epidural or medications to speed up your labour, you should try to stay home as long as you can. Of course, this isn’t feasible all the time, so if you are unsure call the hospital. Labour is different for every woman. Some feel very strong contractions right from the beginning, others have milder contractions but are still in active labour. It will all depend on your health care team and you.

Triage – Obstetrical Assessment: 

This is mostly applicable when you birth in a hospital setting. Sometimes, you will be asked to go to the maternity ward from the get go and all assessments will be done there. BUT if not, when you come into triage, the nurse will ask you questions to do a quick assessment. For example, you’ll be asked whether your water has broken or if you are bleeding. The nurse will gather some general information about your medical health and pregnancy. In addition, your contractions and baby’s heart rate will be monitored, depending on the hospital’s policies.

Most often a doctor/midwife will assess you as well and examine your cervix. Get ready to answer the same question multiple times.  If no doctor is available and you are in active labour, the nurse might perform the examination. If you are having a midwife- led birth, she will do all the assessments. Based on that assessment, you will either be admitted to the labour and delivery ward or sent home and asked to come back.

Everything You Need to Know About The Cervix: 

The cervix’s function is to hold your baby in the uterus until birth. During pregnancy, it is long and closed but once you go into labour it starts to thin and open up, this is called effacement. Picture it like a tube. Once it starts to thin out it will start to open as well. The way the cervix is measured is in centimetres. Before you go into labour it is closed. When you are fully dilated, the cervix is ten centimetres open. The doctor or nurse will perform a vaginal exam to check your cervix. It can be uncomfortable but it doesn’t take very long. Your cervix needs to thin out and open up.

Usually, one exam every 4-5 hours is the best way to determine whether you are in labour or not. If you are having regular contractions and your cervix is changing, Congratulations! You are in labour!

I am in Labour! Now What? 

What comes next is highly individualized depending on your wishes and the hospital’s policies and practices. You may or may not want an epidural. You may want to be involved in your care or leave it mostly up to the healthcare team. Your doula will be with you to assist in breathing, pain relieve techniques and she will also keep you hydrated and keep the sacred space for you.

Birth Plan: 

It is important that you, your birthing partner or doula make your wishes and birth plan very clear from the beginning. Once you are in active labour, it might be hard for you to articulate what you want. Some women like to write out a birth plan that explains their plan for labour and delivery in as much detail as possible. This can be written beforehand and websites have templates that can simplify the process. Your doula is there to support and advocate for you, so utilise her expertise and discuss your wishes.

General Information:

If this is your first baby be prepared for a labour. The average is about 12 hours. That is why it’s important to stay in a comfortable environment for most of it, like your home or another familiar place. There is evidence that a comfortable space will help ease the pain and progress your labour. Once you’re fully dilated you will deliver the baby. So you’ll need lots of energy

There is no way to know exactly how long it will be until your baby is born. You probably want to ask, but neither the doctor nor the nurse knows the exact answer. Try to be patient. (Easier said than done!)

Have a small meal before going to the hospital. I also find like snacking during labour helps a lot to keep your energy levels up.

 

I’M JUST A DOULA

I’M JUST A DOULA

I’m just a doula. I’m not a witch doctor or miracle worker. But for the past six weeks life as I know it came to a standstill at the Midwives Obstetrics Unit that I am a volunteer at in Hillbrow.

It started on Friday when our supplies came… Late as usual but by this time I don’t expect it to be on time anymore. As they unpacked we realized that we did not get maternity pads or linen savers. The sister on duty explained that it might be late, or it will be arriving shortly. We went on with our usual at the MOU, some of us in the first stage labour room assisting moms in labour and I went on my merry little way to post-natal. I wanted to check up on my mom who delivered an hour earlier.

I went home, not in the least worried about the supplies that did not arrive. Until the following week Friday. Still no linen savers. Still no pads. This time no cord clamps.

Now any person with some knowledge of a maternity unit would know that you can’t run a facility without the basics. Linen savers, pads, examination gloves and cord clamps are essentials. It is not luxuries at all.

I managed to get a box of cord clamps from my lecturer a while back. She said that I should keep it for an emergency. I never gave it much thought as we always seem to have those in stock. But those little blue clamps helped us through two very long weeks. And then we ran out again.

Week after week no linen savers. Sometimes we get pads. Sometimes not. No examination gloves anymore. Just surgical gloves.

A week later we ran out of ARV’s. On Sunday, as it was quiet, a fellow doula and I decided to stock and pack the examination and the transfer room for the midwives as they hardly get time for any of that. And that was the day we realized we are out of antibiotics, ARV’s and pretty much everything.

I went there again today to drop off a donation from a friend of mine in Switzerland. 35 packs of linen savers. The head of the maternity unit was literally in tears… Because (in her own words) “I did not think people cared anymore”

How in this day and age is it possible for a government to give up on the mothers of a nation like this?

But what I am thankful for today:
1. Being able to take 35 packs of linen savers to Hillbrow.
2. Assisting on 5 deliveries in literally 1.5 hours.
3. Putting a smile on patients and the midwives faces.
4. Being able to help.