Pre-Global Pandemic Birthdays

As it is my birthday month, I decided that my next blog should be about the last birthday bash that we were able to host. Let’s go back to about four or five months ago, imagine, you’ve been planning your sons first birthday party for months and suddenly there is global panic because a virus of pandemic proportions is about to ravage the world. I am sure your first thought would be “oh no, my party” like it was your birthday party you had been fantasizing about for months.

I am sure many parents have this idea of what their baby’s first birthday would be like. I always wondered why parents had this extreme need to have these large blowout type parties for babies who will have no recollection of the event. It was not until we reached my sons 6-month mark that I was in full birthday planning mode – in my mind of course. The week leading up to 21 September 2019, I was Pinterest-ing ideas to mark the 6-month milestone with something special. A few days into my search, I realised that I had been taking this 6 month birthday celebration too far, so I reigned myself in and on the last moment settled on baking him a half cake to represent his half year on this earth.
Unfortunately, little man was only allowed to get his hands all full of chocolate and was not able to fully indulge as we were only planning on allowing luxuries once he turned one years old.

Once mom and dad had devoured the half-cake, the real planning began, and my mind was abuzz with theme ideas and plans for the main event. Now, one thing to note about moms is that we have a lot going on in our minds. We are constantly planning, considering, then we do some more research and have me-to-me meetings with ourselves about what we think will work best. Moreover, in my case, I tend to over think everything and consider every possible scenario, which is not always ideal as it adds a large stress factor to whatever I am planning.

Growing up, birthday parties had a big impact in my life. I was fortunate enough to have a birthday party of some sort (big or small) every year. Some might say having a birthday party every year was my parents spoiling me, but what they don’t realise is that from the age of three, my brother and I have shared a birthday party every single year. For those who do not know, my mother had given birth to my brother just 5 days before my third birthday. For many years, I was disappointed that the birthday present I received from my parents was a brother instead of like a doll or something. Every year since the birth of my brother, we had a shared birthday. It would always end up being a medium to large celebration as we would have all our family and friends over, have one celebration, two different themed cakes but it would always be the best time.

My fondest memories for the week leading up to our birthday, was my mother doing all the shopping for the party supplies and my father waiting at home after the shopping haul asking mom “how big is this party going to be”, which she would ignore and carry on doing her thing. My mother is very creative, she always had this way of making things happen. When it came to the night before our birthdays, my mom and I would be in the kitchen baking a large cake or cupcakes, decorating them, making little marshmallow cone treats, making our own moulded chocolates so that we could take our class some birthday treats. My mom would always bake and decorate a special themed cake for us, which was always the highlight of the party for me. I remember I had a Barney cake once with matching Barney chocolates and I was so proud of my mother creations… other kids were definitely very jealous. The best part of having sharing your birthday party with your brother is that your chances of receiving gifts increases. The last official birthday party my brother and I had shared was about 7 years ago, I had turned 21 and he had turned 18. I will admit, I was not always happy with the sharing arrangement, and I often questioned why I could not have my own party or whatever, but over the years, I have come to be more and more grateful for the gift of his life and have realised that sharing our milestones together has made our birthdays even more special.

When I was planning my son’s birthday, I could not help but reminisce on all those wonderful birthday memories and decided that those are the same kind of memories I want my son to have going through his life. So I had this idea that I would do like a DIY party the way my mom would of done. This DIY birthday idea would include me doing all the décor, snacks and eats, party packs as well as the set-up and all the other smaller details. Being an excellent planner, I was like, sure this is easy enough, I mean I have planned many event by myself, I even basically planned my own wedding (credit to mom for an amazing PA for the wedding plans).

I started brain storming possible themes and considered the kind of vibe we wanted to have and how many people we would invite. I began to develop a solid plan as to what I wanted, I discussed the ideas with my husband and we agreed. Then December came, and we had gone travelling so I put the plans on the back burner until we returned in January, also so that we could lick my wounds from all the Christmas spending. Upon our return from our holiday, I started looking more seriously at my different options. I drew up a budget and showed my husband. Then what I did not expect was that he had changed his mind and said that my DIY party idea would be too much effort on our part. I was devastated, I mean, I had been planning this for months – in my mind, and like he agreed just a short while ago. After discussions, I had abandoned most of the plan and we looked for alternatives.

Now, I have heard that kid parties cost a lot, but when looking at prices of what people were offering I was very shocked. During this party process, I had comes to terms with understanding that birthday parties are not like what they were when we were young (the 90’s). Back in the day, you would have a hand full of kids, some cake, sweets with artificial colours, mix-on cool drinks and a jumping castle or some yard games, and everyone would be happy. When it was time to leave, you and your friends would be all sweaty from playing and no one would want to go home.

We had then set out to find a baby-friendly venue to host the birthday party, which could provide all the basics – tables, chairs, some décor, shaded areas and a play area for small children. My husband had found a preschool in the area that fitted the criteria. To be honest, I was not completely sold on the idea because I was trying to be as low-key as possible, and stay with my DIY vibe, but I caved and thought, ok, I still have snacks, cake and party boxes to organise. We decided on a circus theme, as the colours and décor would be quite easy to do. Again, Pinterest is your best friend. I found a site where I could create my own invites that we would send out electronically to all our guests. This site also allowed me to explore my creative side, as I also created a milestone poster as well as the stickers for the party boxes.

I will not deny that I can be over the top when it comes to catering, like my mother; my fatal flaw is making sure that there is always enough food, which usually ends in there being too much food. For snacks, I decided on to just do one main table with two small cheese boards and crackers, chips, some sweets and cupcakes. I had also ordered some candyfloss from a vendor and we had borrowed a popcorn machine for the day, this all complemented the theme quite well. We also had customised t-shirts made – I made the design on the site I mentioned. I had designed a milestone poster that we would put up to brag a little about all our boy’s “achievements” thus far. And then for the children’s party boxes, I was very aware that there would be young babies, around my son’s age, in attendance, so keeping the snacks easy for all to consume was a little challenging. I had Flings, a lollipop, fruit juice and a fruit snack in the party box.

There was just another big project that I was excited for the most; the birthday cake. As I am a keen baker, I decided that I would create the cake myself. At first, it felt like a daunting task, and being a working mom; my time was very limited. I needed to find an easy way to do it whilst still accomplishing my goal of having the coolest cake. I wanted people to look at the cake and ask whom I ordered from; just so that I could tell them, it was I. I have previously worked with fondant, but I would say I am definitely on the beginner level. I definitely spent a lot of time at the bakeshop, and had to buy many utensils to make my cake dreams come true. I also decided that I would outsource the cake toppers, as I did not want to embarrass myself. Overall, it took a lot of research, Pinterest ideas and YouTube videos but mostly prayers, and I was quite satisfied with the outcome. I also planned to bake about 50 cupcakes for the event.

Two or three weeks before the event, Covid-19 started popping up on South African shores. I know by now, we have all seen how devastating the virus has been for the world, and I’m sorry to say that when we had those first two cases here, I was like, “ag no big deal, just let me have this party I have been planning all this time”. Those two weeks before the party started becoming increasing stressful. With our event hanging in the balance, we decided that we would have a one year old shoot to commemorate his birthday even if we were unable to have a birthday party. Luckily I was able to book the photographer who shot our maternity and new born shoots, so we knew we would be in good hands. We were very excited to do the photoshoot, that it almost did not matter whether we went through with the party or not. We called our venue to find out what would happen if we go into lock down, and if it happens when we will be able to have the party. It was also a very difficult decision to decide whether we were to continue to have the party because of concern for our safety and the safety and health of our guests. Ultimately, we decided to go ahead with the party. The venue had assured us that the place and the equipment (the kiddies’ ball pit), would be cleaned and sanitised prior to our arrival; and there would be sanitisers available, they had also provided sufficient crockery and cutlery, so no sharing of utensils. The most unfortunate part however, is that we had guest travelling from other provinces and another country, but because of the travel risk at the time, they were unable to attend.

Four months later, I look back now and think that I am happy that we made the decision to go forward with our plans. I realised, the reason we tend to have these big celebrations for our smallest family members is that we are celebrating the year that past, all the highs and lows, all the firsts and all the new experiences, and on the day of the party, I felt this relief, like “yes! I made it a whole year and I haven’t lost the plot”. There is so much to celebrate and to feel grateful for. A week later, we went into a hard lockdown, where we were confined to our homes for an undisclosed amount of time and we had to adapt to what we are calling now “the new normal”. For the past 4 months, we had not been able to have any social gatherings; we have been permitted to only buy essentials and still, at this point are not allowed to visit our loved ones. My husband celebrated his birthday during the lockdown, and it seems I will too. My son’s birthday was our last celebration with those closest to us and it was such a memorable day. Luka had the best time. He had so much fun with his family and friends and he had his first real taste of sweets and cake. He basically had to drag him into the car to go home.

I do not do this often, but I will admit, my husband was right and I have to give him kudos for deciding on a venue instead of having it at home. Having a set party time ensured the kids got tired, we did not have to spend hour’s set-up then taking down and cleaning up, there was also so much more space for all of our guests.

As I approach my birthday (shout out to my fellow Leo’s), except for feeling so much older already, this lockdown has been teaching me how much we took our “normal” for granted, and that we should embrace the various challenges life throws at us and enjoy the moments that we are given. In addition, if I cannot celebrate my birthday, I am staying 27 for another year.

Site used to create printables: https://www.canva.com

Photographer including props for cake smash: https://www.facebook.com/mishprattphotography/

Event Planner: https://www.facebook.com/chalkevents/

– R

My True Moment of Realisation

Where I am at

I have just returned to work after working from home for the past two and half months due to the current global pandemic, Covid-19. I returned to work, with a kick in my step, ready to tackle all my projects and motivated to complete what I have already started. You may note that the last time I posted a blog was a whole nine months ago. Since my last blog post, there has been so much happening in my life, but with that being said; I did not feel like what I was going through was interesting enough to write about. In hindsight, this may not be entirely true, because if even just one person could take away something positive from my experience, then that would be worth it.

Over the past few months, I have been dedicating my time to my job, trying to make headway with my studies whilst trying to be a supportive wife and a loving mother, as well as complete my household chores. I felt as if “this is what life is” and it was going good, we had a good rhythm, I was living the idea of a good life – a happy family, a cosy home and a fulfilling career. However, I have not been inspired or motivated to do what I enjoy doing, being creative. Lately, I have been feeling myself again, I feel creative, I see opportunities and I am feeling motivated to “do more”. I have been feeling like I am bursting with idea’s and I am motivated to write blog posts.

I took the first step; I started writing out my ideas for my blog posts, and started writing them. Suddenly I found myself having writers block, so I started doing my small home projects I had been wanting to do, and I would come back to my blog drafts and I didn’t couldn’t move forward with the writing, it was like there was something missing. I decided okay, let me try the next topic and then hit the same writers block. Eventually I found myself trying to write three different blog posts over the past few weeks, but not feeling like they were actually saying anything, just words on a Word Document. I felt even worse when my friend started her blog and had already posted more reads that are interesting in two weeks than what I had done in all these months. Then I started feeling like, maybe I should write about why I have not been writing. This was even worse than three draft blogs. I was all over the place and there was just no flow. Then, yesterday, I was looking at my latest draft, confused and disappointed. I really wanted to write again, but it was as if, I did not know how to conceptualise my ideas.

How the universe works

I am of the belief that everything happens for a reason, when I was younger, I could never understand why things would happen, or I would pray and hope for X but instead have Y happen. As I got older, I started to realise that all those times, when I did not necessarily get what I wanted, I was given what I needed to get to where I am today, and I can honestly say that I have had a good life. It is however comical, how things happen to fall so seamlessly into place, like nothing is random but rather happened as it should to lead you to where you need to be. We could even call it a series of fortunate events.

As I said above, I have been struggling with my writing recently. It is as if I know what I want to write but I do not know how, or I have a plan but am stuck with the execution, and actually, it is not just this blog, but in my personal life as well. I have so many plans and ideas but I am feeling stuck, or as if I was being held back. Hence the culmination of how I was feeling yesterday in relation to my writing.

Where it gets weird


I have always experienced very vivid dreams (and then later memories of dreams), to the point where I cannot tell whether what am I am seeing or experiencing is happening is real or just a dream. Sometimes, I have memories and am not sure, if they are what really happened or if I imagined it. Talking to my family or close friends, you will find out that a weird realistic dream is quite common with me, as I enjoy sharing my dream experiences. Last night was no different. I had these dreams, and without going into the dream details, after a quick browse of the internet’s dream interpretation websites, I found the following interpretations:

Dream 1: “represent the surging of your emotions in a situation where you feel overwhelmed or unprepared to cope with what is occurring in life, where you may be procrastinating, or not facing up to your true feelings about something”

Dream 2: “…may reflect you telling yourself that something is a good idea. Your receptiveness to experimentation or exploration of new ideas or new ways of thinking”

I spent the whole drive to work trying to figure out what it could possibly mean or what is the symbolism. I got to my office and started checking my emails, getting ready for the day’s work, when I decided to scroll through Instagram for a little. I came to an Instagram story post of someone who had posted a blog, and I decided to read it. Now, this may sound strange, but within a minute of reading the blog, I started feeling as if it I was the author and it had almost described what I had been feeling without me knowing that I had felt that way. It was a blog about “Coming off the Pill” by Le’Chelle Aldridge (link to blog at end). It was the first time I had seen or read her blogs, but this one spoke to me, as I to have been through a similar experience in recent times. It was as if reading her message made me realise that I was stuck because I had not come to understand what I was feeling. The dreams were trying to tell me that I have been stuck and procrastinating but something new was coming to help me. There the help was, in the form of another woman’s experience.

Since January this year, I felt like I was struggling a little with my body and my mental state. I was feeling tired, exhausted, bloated and uninspired. I was also due to renew my contraceptive. After doing research on different method and reading up on the experiences of other woman, I decided that maybe it was time for a change. I had spoken to health care professional and decided to make the change from the injection to the pill. Within a week, I was feeling sick and nauseous every day and I had major stomach abdominal pain. I then returned to the health care professional but decided to get a second opinion. Where I got the pill, I had been taking for the years prior to having my son. It went well for the first few weeks, but then I could start feeling the difference in my energy levels as well as my mental well-being; I started feeling bloated, paranoid and overly emotional. I then made the decision to quit the contraceptive and try to get my body back to its natural groove. Very soon after I decided to nix the pill, by body showed me that my natural groove was a heavy, painful and unpredictable menstrual cycle. With all the new changes, I had not considered all the positive changes that I was going through; no bloating, more energy, I was able to focus more – it really feels like I am feeling how I should be feeling. After reading that blog this morning, I realised that my body needed the break, to get to some form of normal, and now that I know that this is how I feel, I really feel more positive and inspired to continue to feel as good as I felt today.

I guess the point of it all is that, sometimes we feel stuck and are trying to find meaning and purpose, and we often find what we need when we’re not really looking. With all my experiences so far I found that I learnt more the experiences of others, when I felt like I was the only one, there was someone who went through the same experience, when I didn’t know how I was feeling, there was someone else going through the same emotions, which helped me put my feeling into perspective. My hope is that many more people will share their experiences so that others may learn and gain knowledge too.

I hope I’ll have the stamina to keep writing from now on.

Link for blog post mentioned: http://taylormde.com/coming-off-the-pill-fire-nipples-mental-clarity/

– R

5 months, 3 weeks

5 months and 3 weeks; is how long I have been a mother, and it truly is the hardest job in the world.

 

Being a woman, I am used to over thinking, planning, forecasting the outcome of situations and dealing with the general stresses of life. I have also heard all the stories about how motherhood changes a woman and how much more stress and anxiety mothers deal with, which I totally understand, I mean it is expected. Not until last week this time did I know what real mom-stress is, but before I get into that…

 

I have had to return to work from my maternity leave, and I can’t believe the lifestyle adjustment that I’ve been going through. Especially when it comes to time; you think you have it, but you really don’t.  I have been writing this blog post for just over a month, this is probably my 5th draft, and to be honest, I really did not think it would be this hard.

 

To think, last July, I was celebrating my 26th birthday, living my “best life” and the next week there was a positive pregnancy test. It all feels like it happened just yesterday, but at the same time, it feels like this all happened a lifetime ago.

 

The past two months have been very difficult, as my worlds were colliding – my professional life meeting my new personal life that includes a then 3 month old baby. I knew my return to work was imminent, and I needed to prepare myself mentally and physically. As I was planning to return to work, I also had to plan for child care. Unfortunately, in South Africa, there are very few companies who offer some relief for child care, thus you are left with very limited options, which each have their own pro’s and con’s. For me, these were:

 

Quit my job and become a stay-at-home mom

  • Pros: You are able to bond with your baby for longer
  • Cons: One less income at home, can we afford it (especially with the added costs of baby), you will have no down-time from baby

 

Find an Au pair or nanny to look after the baby in the comfort of your home

  • Pros: Ideal option, offers flexibility, the baby will be in the comfort of their own home / their safe space, convenient as they come to you , you won’t have to pack bags and prepare feeds everyday – this saves you a lot of time
  • Cons: Salary demands can exceed your budget, may create an increased cost in your household, employees can be unreliable – if they are late, you are late; if they can’t make it to work, and you will have to make last minute plans.

 

Find a crèche or day-care centre

  • Pros: Can be less costly compared to an Au Pair / Nanny, there will always be someone available to care for your baby, can be convenient, just drop –off and pick-up, good opening and closing times, so you don’t always have to rush.
  • Cons: Can be costly, there can sometimes be many children, you don’t always know what is going on at crèche – you have to have trust,  your child is exposed to other children that may of been exposed to germs/bacteria /viruses.

 

The commonality of these options is money. Ideally, we don’t want to choose an option just because of the cost, but it does play a large part of the decision making. Ultimately you as a parent want to do your best for your child, but also we have to consider what will be best for us. Making a choice that could have major affects on your household budget should not be taken lightly.  

 

When considering my options, I also realise that I need to be realistic about the situation. I would of loved to become a stay at home mom, and dedicate all my time and energy to my son, but I do realise that even though I think I take care of him better than anyone else; am I equipped enough and do I have the necessary resources to help my baby’s growth and development – I mean, I have a degree in Food Science and Technology, I could probably make him some power snacks and innovate some new baby foods for him, but I don’t know how good I will be at stimulating his mind.

 

Finding an Au Pair or Nanny would be a generally be a good option, but how do I know that I am choosing the right person. Whoever you choose, they will have to be reliable, trustworthy, and skilled enough to care for your baby.  Skills are discretionary, but I look at my general work place, there are generally many people coming in late, those who have had emergencies in the morning, car trouble, issues with public transport etc. This makes me wonder how if people I work with are sometimes late, will my employee be late to get to my house to look after my son, will they arrive on time so that I can leave on time thus arrive early at work, or will my attendance record be tarnished.

 

My husband and I decided to go with the crèche option, it is not the best or the ideal option, and not one we took lightly. We have heard the stories and seen the videos on social media about what happens at these day care centres and crèches. We know about all the germs and sicknesses that get passed around at these places, but in reality, there are so many other places they can be infected too. We did our rounds at the crèches in our area, and decided on a crèche that made us feel the most comfortable, and luckily, they were (kind of) within our budget. We started off by sending our son to spend some half days at the crèche to make sure that he was comfortable too.

 

Now, I know for most mothers, leaving your child for the first time with a stranger or even if it’s someone you know, it can be a very emotional experience and there are many tears being shed. It is almost like you’re abandoning your baby, and won’t get to see them for few hours. Well, I must probably be broken, because the minute I got back to the car after dropping him off, I felt such relief and then a rush of excitement came over me – “I get to spend a couple of hours doing anything I want”. I went to do some errands in town had sushi with a view for brunch, stopped at the mall, met up with a friend for coffee and got to pick up my on-line order, all before I had to fetch my son. On my way to pick him up, I started feeling that “mom-guilt”. I felt guilty that I had enjoyed myself so much without him, guilty that I didn’t check up on him, guilty that I didn’t feel guilty earlier. I walked into that crèche feeling like a bad mom, thinking that I need to take my son home and shower him with even more love and attention than the usual. That feeling of guilt quickly disappeared when i walked into the baby room at the crèche. I have never felt such utter disappointment like I did at that moment. I saw my son, walked up to him, flashed him my biggest smile and showed him how happy I was to see him. His reaction was not to be desired; he basically just looked at me and nuzzled up to his caregiver a little more. I was so shocked, I couldn’t believe he wasn’t even a little excited to see me, but I was also so grateful to see that he was so comfortable in his caregiver’s arms.

 

Sending him to crèche was a very difficult decision to make, but I am glad that it has worked out for us so far. There have been many days when I get there to pick him up, and I have to pull him his caregivers so we can go home, but I suppose that’s a good sign.

With all these new and additional costs when it comes to child-rearing, it can take a strain on ones finances. A new budget has to be drawn up to include the crèche fees and the cost of diapers and formula, and not to forget all the clothes for a growing little boy. As a parent with new responsibilities, you realise you need to make some sacrifices and changes in your own life to pay for all these new and ever arising expenses. I then decided that I need to make some changes so that I can contribute more to my son when I return to work. When I say contribute more to him, I mean, even though I am giving so much of my time and efforts to work, I want to be able to be there for him, give him what he needs – attention, love, my time and any other material or in-material item that I think he needs. But I can only do this for him I make a change, and the change I decided to make, was to find another job that offers me a little less work hours so that I can spend a little more time at home and also a little extra cash so that I can afford all the additional expenses.

Changing jobs was an incredibly difficult decision for me, I was in a position where I was comfortable, I had made my mark and I know I was doing my job very well. But if I did not make this big decision to change now, I don’t think I would feel the peace that I’m currently enjoying. Leaving my colleagues that I have grown to care for, and have gone through so much with, is also difficult, it’s like saying good bye to your friends / family. Of course a new job comes with new challenges and having a young baby at home doesn’t make it any easier. It is difficult when you’re in a new place and need to find your feet and settle into your new role with it’s own new challenges.

 

I had been at my new job for just about 3 weeks when I experienced my first challenge of the “clash of personal and professional life”. My son was not feeling well. I always thought I was not going to be one of those super stressed out mom’s who over-react and panic, so at first, I thought, “okay, it was just some throw up, there’s no fever, he will be fine”. We decided that just to be safe, off to the doctors we went, and he was found to be perfectly fine. Nothing could have prepared me for what came next. We sent him to crèche the next – I mean the doctor said he was fine. I received a call from the crèche, immediately when I see the name on the screen, I start panicking, the lady on the phone tells me they were changing him and noticed some spots on his body. This news, regardless of how small or even insignificant sent me into full on panic and stress mode. I called my husband, and just telling him about the news made me want to cry. All I wanted to do was bolt out of my chair and sprint out to my car to go and pick my son up. Then another stressful idea popped into my head – I’ve been at my new job for 2 and a half weeks and I am already being an inconvenient employee, “how will leaving affect my image” is what I began to think. Fortunately, I was able to leave and go and fetch my son from crèche. Long story short – 2 doctors and a paediatrician visit later, we were sent home with some Panado.

 

My son being ill was one of the most stressful situations I have been in, in the past few months. The last time I felt that amount of stress was during my epidural before having my c-section. It really makes you realise that even though you thought you would be a cool, calm and collected mom, just a hint that your child is hurting can throw you into the panic zone. For me, that was the first time I realised that  nothing else really matters; except maybe in another sense keeping my job so that I can feed that little boy. Seeing my baby become himself again after his short bout of not feeling well is really heart warming. I’m going to use this experience as training for if something more serious ever happens to happen. Making decisions as a mother is very difficult; there are always so many variables to consider. Even when the decisions you make for yourself, your professional career and what you do in your downtime (if there is even such a thing when you’re a parent).  I can only hope I am making the best decisions for my family and me.
-R

#MomLife

I’ve often heard that being a mom is the hardest ‘job’ anyone can have. It’s not that I didn’t want to believe that it was that hard, but you never truly know the truth something until you experience it yourself.

This week, my baby and I both had our 6 week check-ups. And in preparation for our check-ups, I realised that there has been so many lifestyle changes, challenges and new experiences that we’ve been through as a parent and child in the past 6 weeks.

In my last post I discussed some of the challenges I’ve been dealing with, but I’d like to elaborate on some of the other challenges I’ve been dealing with as a new mom.

We all know that new babies don’t have uninterrupted sleep. And like many new babies, mine would spend more hours asleep during the day than at night. During the day we were at 3 to 4 hours of sleep and at night only 1.5 to 2.5 hours. The saying “sleep when the baby sleeps” is the worst piece of advice anyone can give a new mom. If we’re sleeping when the baby is asleep, when do we get to get anything else done?

It is very difficult to sleep every time your baby is sleeping. There is always so much for a mom to do at home. There are so many household chores that need to be done. Even though my husband insists on doing all the chores, so that I can give all my attention to our baby; it’s hard to see that pile of dirty laundry and not feel compelled to want to wash them. It’s even more difficult to see a sink full of dirty dishes and not feel the urge to clean them.

You will never get used to waking up every few hours during the night. For me, I’m most tired between 3am and 5am. During that time, it is incredibly difficult to keep my eyes open and find the patience to deal with a crying baby and changing a very smelly nappy.

Regardless of time, my morning starts with baby and I getting up and out of bed, then I do the usual routine that involves changing, feeding, putting him to sleep and then cleaning up after him. Then, while he is sleeping, I have just enough time to choose to do one of the following:

  • Eat breakfast / brunch
  • Shower (only)
  • Put on clean clothes
  • Brush my teeth
  • Brush my hair

By the time I’ve chosen one and completed it, or gotten half-way through completing one of the above, there will be a noise or a cry coming from the bassinet. As a new mom, nothing gets you more quickly out the shower than wondering or worrying if the noise from the bassinet is your baby choking or suffocating. You then spend some time just making sure that there is nothing wrong, or putting baby back to sleep. Once everything is fine, I then get an opportunity to choose another option on the above list. There are not many days where I find myself showered, “teethbrushed” and adequately fed. In all honesty, if my husband did not make breakfast for me and leave it for me on the night stand before he leaves for work; the possibility of me having any food before midday is very low. Another challenge when trying to feed yourself whilst looking after your baby, is that as young as they are, they know exactly just when you’ve started making yourself a meal or have just sat down to eat your meal – this is the exact time when they start crying or fussing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started preparing my food or had just put the prepared food into the pot/pan to start cooking it – when a cry-session would begin, which then takes 20 or more minutes before the calm and quiet returns so that the cooking can commence.

Another challenge a new mom faces, is the new wardrobe choices one has to make. In my previous post, I wrote about how my post-natal body is all frumpy and shapeless and how my clothes don’t fit the way they used to. Clothing not fitting is not as bad as not liking any of your clothes. I’m sure all new moms imagine themselves dressing up every day, bring well groomed with make-up and their signature scent everyday. Whereas in reality, you end up wearing ALL your comfy clothes: baggy t-shirts, yoga pants, tracksuit pants, socks and slippers. The baggy t-shirt is required for the loose fitting bra to assist in breastfeeding, bearing in mind that the t-shirt will indeed be covered in throw-up by the end of the day. My comfortable clothing choices are sometimes challenged by me then having to consider if I can breastfeed with this top on, which can make the outfit choice slightly cringy. I have also noticed that there aren’t many plus size options for nursing clothes or even nursing bra’s for that matter. I get very jealous when checking out new moms on Instagram and how they seem to have it all – the post-birth model figures, fashionable outfits and social lives.

Other challenges new moms have to deal with include the discomfort of wearing maternity pads for weeks, as no one tells you how long you bleed post-natal. And depending on your choice of birth control, there might even be more bleeding which can be up to 2 weeks. The next challenge is remembering to put breast pads into your bra every day, so that you won’t experience your breast leaking right through your t-shirt. This has to be done even at night unless you want to wake up with a t-shirt that’s as wet as a t-shirt from a wet t-shirt contest.

As a new mom, apart from feeling like you’re looking like a physical mess, you’re probably feeling like a mental mess. Being at home to be with your baby is such a blessing. But being at home, with an infant all day everyday can be such a challenge. After being at home for a few weeks, you begin to forget that there is a world outside. A world outside where people work and socialize. Spending time with my new baby, learning about him and watching all his cuteness (also binge watching all my favourite shows on Netflix) is amazing, don’t get me wrong, but I will admit that I am jealous that my husband gets to go out, work, drive around and speak to people. Also, being at home, day in and day out, changing diapers, feeding and soothing the whole day can become too much, and when husband dearest comes home, all I want is to hand baby to his father for some alone/quiet/me time. This alone time is typically just me sitting on the far end of the couch so that I can have my hands free for a little while.

For the past 6 weeks, I’ve spent most of my days at home with my baby except for some doctor’s visits, and a few trips to the mall with my favourite mom-friend. It has been very difficult to let go of the old me. The old me who was so used to being independent, driving myself around, socialising, shopping alone and doing some household chores by myself. All this changed when I was admitted to hospital. I’ve had to hand over some of what I’ve been doing to my husband. Fortunately for me, my husband is willing and capable of taking over from me, which felt like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Then after a while, it starts to feel like there is something missing. And yes, you can miss doing the laundry or just simply going to buy groceries. I took my first solo trip to the mall two days ago, and it felt liberating. Just being able to leave your child at home, getting into the car and driving yourself where you want to be can do so much for your self-esteem.

One of my favourite hobbies is going shopping, even just window-shopping. Before baby, I was free to run to the mall after work, or early on a Saturday morning. I could spend hours just browsing through my favourite stores. Now that I’m a mom, I have extra motivation to shop. How many moms can go to the shop and not buy anything for their baby. But going shopping or doing anything means that I now have a plus one. A plus one who comes with baggage. My plus one is my baby, and he comes with a stroller and baby bag. And when shopping with an infant, there is so much to think about, such as:

  • Are there enough nappies in the bag?
  • Have I packed enough extra clothes in case of emergencies?
  • Is there a pacifier close by for when needed?
  • Are there adequate baby changing areas available?
  • Will I be getting urinated on or thrown up on during the outing?
  • How much can I carry while shopping with a stroller?

This can make going out anywhere a little complicated. When you’re out with your baby, it can be stressful and practice is needed until you can go out confidently and not worry about all the small things. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to go out alone with my baby, as I’ve always had my mom-friend or my husband to be of assistance when going out. But sooner or later, I’m going to have to learn to be confident when going out with my baby so that we don’t run into any complications.

On the subject of having a helping husband… I often hear that I am “lucky” to have a husband who not only cooks and cleans but also does his share of dirty nappy changes, feeds and so many other baby-related responsibilities. I have also heard many men say that they have never changed a nappy or refuse to do household chores because those are “women responsibilities”. I think that society has allowed men to get away with not doing tasks or having responsibilities that have been previously completed by women. Times have changed, men should be becoming more domestically apt as women are continuously proving that we are far superior to men when it comes to all the tasks we have taken on through the ages.

Being a new mom is difficult, there is so much to do, think about and consider. There will be a lot of experiences I will have to deal with and situations to navigate through. Hopefully, as time goes by, I will learn how to deal with the challenges that come my way. I’m just happy I won’t be going through it alone, as I have to support of my husband and other new-parent friends. I also hope that my baby boy will stay the sweet and quiet boy that he is.

– R

We made it: One month postnatal

We made it! Finally, we are one month postnatal…

Pregnancy is really nothing compared to the postnatal life. I described in earlier posts about my pregnancy journey, the challenges and survival. But there is so much more I wish I knew going into pregnancy and childbirth. There is really such a wealth of information and books written about pregnancy, child birth and child rearing; but it seems that this material has been written with the idea of ensuring that it is seen in a positive way so that women are not deterred from reproducing, this does not mean that the real experiences are negative per say, but it didn’t all feel as easy as the texts suggests.

I don’t think all the antenatal classes in the world prepares you fully for the birthing experience. The advice / information you get from others is:

  • It’s so painful
  • Take the drugs
  • I’ll never give natural birth again
  • A C-section is the worst kind of pain
  • You just deal with the pain
  • Labour and labour pains can last more than 24 hours – be prepared

Yet, no one tells you what it’s really like. No one tells you what the pain sensation is really like, or what you’ll feel when getting pain relief.

I was “prepared” for a natural birth. When I say prepared I mean: I’ve made peace with the fact that I will have to be ready to push a 3kg+ baby out my nether-region. I had also heard all the complications that is associated with natural birth. Naturally, I kept my expectations low and I tried not to imagine what the birth experience would be like. By keeping the expectations low, I was also trying to keep myself naive about the whole experience. This being said, a C-section is always a possibility, but one never wants to think about what is essentially major abdominal surgery.

Unfortunately due to complications, I was told we would have to have the C-section. In a way I was relieved, because the thinking I’d be pushing this baby out for hours was haunting me, but then again I was anxious not knowing what surgery would be like.

The morning of the C-section, I didn’t feel too worried about the outcome, I knew I was good hands (the prayers were flowing). The doctor and the anaesthetist were in to explain the process, everyone was calm, I tried to take in all the information so that I would have a better understanding of what would be happening. Everything was going well. The anxiety set in when I was wheeled into the operating room. Honestly, being in that room, getting the epidural, and having all these people around your body, as the drugs are setting in to keep you numb and drowsy, is the absolute scariest thing I’ve ever experienced. I think that my anxiety was spilling over to the rest of the room even.

Laying in the surgery room, as the doctors and nurses are tugging and pulling at my abdomen to free my baby from the uterus he called home for 38 weeks. There was no pain, but the anxiety was very present. When my baby was eventually out, they show him to you before they have h cleaned up and checked out – the pain relief medication was so intense, I don’t recall if I really looked at my baby but I can clearly remember thinking “I hope he doesn’t have an annoying cry”. Once they cleaned him, weighed him and my husband cut the umbilical cord, they handed me this very small baby and I honestly didn’t know what to think or how to feel. Some people say it’s a magical feeling, or you feel this instant love and joy. This was not true, the first thing I felt was fear and panic. My baby was finally here, on my chest, enjoying skin to skin and I had no idea what I was going to do with little boy who’s life I was now responsible for. The look of pride and excitement on my husband’s face was some solace, because atleast I knew I was not in it alone.

The first few nights in the hospital were not too bad, my pain was adequately managed, it was so good to have food delivered on time, the nurses were real helpful at all times and offered amazing support, especially with baby. The hardest part of the hospital stay was the pain and discomfort of the scar was still very real, and then you have this fresh newborn you have to care for and breast feed. It was quite difficult, as movement is restricted and your nipples become nackered from your first few attempts at breastfeeding, and when you get to go home, I can promise you it doesn’t get easier.

Coming home from the hospital, starts a whole new chapter of the postnatal journey. At the beginning, it felt like I was just on a cloud, just trying to get through looking after this baby and looking after myself.

The one thing I was not prepared for, was the flood of emotions that basically attack you when you least expect it. Being flushed with emotions when your body is healing, your body looks and feels physically different, you have a new small baby relying on you for literally everything. It can really take a toll on one’s emotional state.

The most painful experience of having a newborn baby, is the breastfeeding. Yes, breastfeeding is the best way to feed your new baby, but what they don’t tell you is that breastfeeding can be the hardest part of having a new baby. A week after giving birth, and breastfeeding my baby, my nipples were totally chewed up. The pain can be described as steak knives stabbed through the nipples with every attempt. It is utterly depressing when your baby is struggling to latch, he’s hungry and grumpy because he thinks you’re teasing him with his food, next thing the baby is crying, you’re crying and you’re husband is getting frustrated because he doesn’t understand how can breastfeeding be that difficult. For me, even laser treatment can heal the damage your newborns gums have done. Sadly, by day 9, I physically could not take the pain of breastfeeding anymore, I couldn’t even use a breast pump. This is when I realised, that if I can’t heal and look after myself, how would I be able to adequately look after and feed my baby. Breast may be best, but a fed & healthy baby should be the goal. Thank goodness for infant formula, because 2 days of formula = 2 days of healing. The formula feeding was the best decision, not only did my breasts heal, but having baby on the bottle for those two days, actually helped us with latching, and ever since, breastfeeding has really become so much easier (thank you Tommee Tippee).

Luckily, having support in the form of a husband, and two sets of new grandparents can make the home-life with a newborn much easier. Especially when you can hand the baby to them at 5am so that you can get a couple of hours of un-interupted sleep, are able to shower, brush your teeth and eat before missing your bundle joy (or until they need a feed or a change). Having support can however be difficult when you realise that you can’t use the support as a crutch and you need to figure out your new life as a mom, your home that’s now got an extra occupant and less space.

This last month has been difficult in a sense that my whole life has literally changed and I’m a whole new person. I’m trying to navigate a new life that includes my baby (and of course a lack of sleep). I don’t think people really understand how difficult it is to adjust to the new life. You literally go from a “normal” life before you were pregnant, to being pregnant and then being a new parent. The life stage transitions are not the only things that is difficult, because your body literally goes from being what you’re comfortable with, to having a bump and being confident, and now I’m feeling lighter but frumpy and it feels like nothing in my wardrobe fits me anymore, from my favourite t-shirt to my almost every single pair of shoes. All these changes make me wish that the stages came with a budget for a new wardrobe / make-over.

It’s only been a month and we are still trying to adjust to the new addition to our family. We’re just starting to get into a routine and finding what works and what doesn’t work for us. We are though having the most fun just staring at our little boy and watching him grow. Together as this small family learns to live together, we’re growing and healing together, transitioning through the stages as a collective. I can’t wait for what the future has in store for us! ☺️

– R

Maternity leave plans

Like with many pregnant women, I had made these extravagant plans for my last couple of days being baby-free. I had even drafted a blog post re: all the home projects and chores I was going to complete during my maternity leave (this draft is now deleted).

Technically, maternity leave starts at 36 weeks. For many third trimester prego’s, this means you spending 4 weeks at home to prepare, then baby comes and you have about 3 months to spend with your baby. I tried, as much as I was able to, to stay at work for as long as possible, so that I would have more time post birth to spend with my baby. But alas, not all plans work out.

At 36 weeks, I was completing my last few work tasks and projects and starting to organise my office so that my replacement would not be totally lost in what I like to call my “organised chaos”. In preparation for my maternity leave, I had gone to the plastic store to get some organisational plastic containers to help with the home projects. My husband and I had just re-arranged the our guest room and my dressing room to make space for a baby room, which was about 80% complete.

At the beginning of 37 weeks, I had made plans for the week that would help me prepare for the arrival of my baby. I had an appointment with my gynae, a nail appointment, had planned to re-organise my wardrobe and needed to pack my hospital bag. I was feeling good, and felt ready to tackle all these tasks. Unfortunately, my day did not go as planned. I had gone to my gynae/obst for my check-up, and that’s where my plans were all cancelled. My blood pressure was high, this was worrisome, as an early labour could be on the cards if it did not normalise soon.

An early labour for me, meant:

  • The baby room isn’t ready.
  • I haven’t packed my hospital bag.
  • My wardrobe is still a mess.
  • All my home projects and chores won’t be done.
  • I’ll miss my nail appointment and have raggedy nails when my baby arrives.

I realised that in this uncertain time of ones pregnancy, maybe I should have been more prepared – mentally and physically. I don’t think I was ready – ready to be in the hospital, ready to give birth or ready to be a parent. When I tell people this, I often get the response “you will be ready when the time comes”, and I get it, it makes sense, but it doesn’t take the away any of the anxiety that comes with it.

The truth is, we all think we are as prepared as we want we to be, but that is not always the case. Everyone will have a different experience, and it is difficult to prepare for the unknown. We can only prepare for as much as we can. if anything, this experience has taught me to be more patient and plan to prepare a little better than I have this time.

When I was younger and into my adulthood, I would always make these handwritten lists. There would be a list for everything, but during my pregnancy , I have minimised these lists as I thought that my multitasking skills were superior than my “preggie-brain”, but the “preggie-brain” has shown me once again, that it should not be underestimated.

One day, in the far future, if I get the opportunity to give my little one a sibling, I think I will try a different strategy when planning and preparing. Next time, before the 36 weeks comes, I will do more to prepare sooner and rest more once the 36 weeks arrives. Antennal classes can only help you so much.

IMG_8493 (2)

The 3rd Generation Baker

Those who know me, will know that my life basically revolves around food. Food Technologist by day, and self-proclaimed master-chef at night. I have always enjoyed cooking and baking, but the scientist in me took it a little further hence, I studied Food Technology.

For those wondering – No, Food Technology doesn’t mean I am a chef. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a chef, I sometimes dream about what my life would have been like if I had chosen that path. Food Technology is basically the science and technology behind producing, packaging and distributing foods that are wholesome and safe for consumers. It also includes the physical, microbiological and chemical analysis of food, as well as development of food products and the safety of food products. It sounds like a lot, because it is. Food Technologists carry very heavy duties to ensure consumers are getting good quality food products. I have always wanted to do something food related, and I think that my upbringing and my parent’s allowed me to continue in life with something I am passionate about.

My first experiences with food was with my mother in the kitchen. My mother was always cooking and baking something. I can remember sitting on the kitchen counter top of my childhood home, watching my mother bake a chocolate cake and waiting eagerly to help her mix and then diving into the bowl once she had placed the batter into the oven. My mother has always been super creative and not just in the kitchen. My mother taught me how to sew and knit, we even did a couple of fabric paints together and the odd arts and crafts. I am also lucky, that I get to work in an industry that supplies most of it’s products to large and small-scale bakeries. I get to see and learn so much about how people are making fats and oils work for them in their products and different ways to apply ingredients to create all sorts of wonderful baked goods.

My mothers skills were also taught to her, by her mother. I do not remember much of my grandmother, as she passed away when I was about 6 years old (almost 20 years now). There are so many people who all have the similar amazing stories to tell about her, her big heart and love for baking. I can only imagine the fun the three of us (me, my mom and grandmother) would have had in the kitchen. If only I could have found the pictures of the amazing cakes my mother and grandmother would bake for me as a child.

Recently, my grandmother has been on my mind plenty, almost every day since I found out that I was expecting. I can’t explain how it felt when the doctor told me that I am due on the 1st of April – my grandmothers birthday. What are the chances? What are the odd’s? It was definitely a sign from the heavens, or a very early April Fools prank. As a tribute to my mother and my grandmother, I thought it fit to share something that has been shared with me.

Since I can remember my mother has had this Cape Malay cook book that has been used in her home for the longest time. It was first my grandmothers book, who then gave it to my mother, and now that I am starting my own family, my mother has passed it down to me. The cookbook is called the Cape Malay Cookbook by Faldela Williams. In this book, there is a very easy sponge cake recipe called “Klop en Gebak”. My mother and I have been making this recipe for years, it is easy, versatile and always a crowd-pleaser.

It is very easy to see that this book has been through the generations, it is very well used. There are so many traditional recipes of Cape Malay style in this book. I do hope that I will be able to promote a love of cooking and baking in my little one to carry on the tradition. I am truly blessed to have been taught such wonderful skills that have travelled down the generations. It would have been nice to of shared my skills with my grandmother to show her that her teachings have indeed has shaped more lives than the daughters she has brought into the world, but also her daughter’s daughter.

Probably in one of my future post’s I will discuss some of my own heritage and why this book is such a good book to describe culture.

Continue reading “The 3rd Generation Baker”

28 Weeks and the #waddle is real

This week I enter into the third trimester, and as my tummy is growing, so is my anxiety. And, YES, I know, everyone will say “don’t be anxious, there is nothing to worry about… don’t stress, it’s bad for the baby”. But how can one not feel anxious, when you’re about to bring a whole person into this world in less than 85 days. I have previously blogged about my stay in “Denial-ville”, and as much as I am still coming to terms, I am reminded with every kick by the tiny body in my tummy, that pretty soon, I will be responsible for a whole human being, and that… that is scary!

Recently, I have been feeling annoyed with most people. Understandably, there is a lot of people who have advice regarding pregnancy, labour and child-rearing. It is also nice to hear some stories, and I also find myself only having baby things to talk about with others. The baby talk is inevitable though as it has become more than apparent that I have a treasure chest under my shirt. with this though, it is annoying that many people cannot really relate to how I am feeling, and I find myself wanting to explain myself to get that understanding, but we all know that once someone has made their mind up about something, there is no point in trying to change it.

I honestly feel like during such a sensitive time of pregnancy and the planning of your families future, it can be hard to articulate your feelings and express your plans without feeling judged by those around you, especially if they have been through it already. With this body that I’ve had for 26 years, I have become comfortable and I (hope) I know what goes on with it, but recently, it has been betraying me. Pregnancy is really such an adjustment especially physically. I mean, I will opening admit that I know I have not been the healthiest or the fittest, but nothing will make you feel worse about your body than a walking, attending your favourite shopping mall and having to sit down to rest after visiting 3 stores. I have even been getting the look of pity because I’ve now started waddling with a little hint of a limp that I have from sitting, standing, walking or anything-ing too long. And don’t even get me started on the heartburn and indigestion from hell!

During my first and second trimester, I would say, I have had it kinda easy; no morning sickness, random ailments, absurd food cravings or other common pregnancy symptoms – my husband was probably more excited about this than I was. Then coming into the third trimester, I can definitely feel the changes much more than I could before. This baby is getting heavy, he is chilling up against my bladder, holding onto my lungs as balloons and gets so excited while I’m eating, he makes it hard for me to finish a meal. Now, I’ve learnt that in a conversation, one should not think that one can bring up these items that are ailing you, as you will not find much sympathy or support, but rather find yourself in a competition you never signed up for because they have had way worse experiences than what you’ve had, thus making you feel like your qualms are invalid. What ever happened to talking, listening and trying to see from another perspective instead of having to make comments about how their this was worse or better, and maybe even offering some helpful advise. It is also not that I need my ailments validated, but you asked how I was feeling, how I am doing or how the pregnancy is treating me so far, you didn’t invite me to the Olympics of pregnancy symptoms.

Then there is the issue of future plans, how you will be setting up your home to accommodate the little one and what your plans for child-rearing are. With any of these topics, many people will never agree. But If you are interesting in hearing what someones idea’s are, don’t tell them they are wrong if you disagree with their thoughts on the subject, especially during such a vulnerable time. I too am guilty of disagreeing with people during certain topics of discussion, but when it comes to baby planning – we all have our views, and I will listen and consider what you’re telling me and maybe then disagree with you in my mind. Some might think that you are being foolish by having these lavish plans, or that you are being too basic when keeping it simple, but at the end of the day, if it works for that person, then it was right for them.

As an almost parent, I have so much on my mind generally… Trying to keep my life together during the last trimester, getting through my day job so that I still have an income, being responsible with my finances so that I can afford diapers and baby food when the baby arrives, keeping myself healthy and in a good state of mind, etc… It is such a heavy load to carry (physically and mentally), trying to please those around me cannot be something that weighs on my mind too. And to be honest I haven’t even gotten this “being an adult” thing down to an art yet. I haven’t even gotten to do any of the home tasks that I had set-out for completion in the December holidays (you know, it was all about ke’Dezemba boss). The one good thing about the holidays though, I was able to explore and enjoy my home town (Port Elizabeth), as well visit some family and friends that I haven’t seen in a while, I was even surprised with a 2 mini-baby showers. It was super cute, it is really amazing to feel all the love and support.

baby shower

Hopefully, my next post will be how I’ve progressed in getting a space ready for the baby, but don’t hold me to it as I already forgot to post about my Christmas lunch menu that had me in the kitchen for almost 2 days, but it was definitely worth the effort!

#imgoingtobeamother #imhavingababy #imhavingaboy #levelup

– R

23 Weeks and Counting…

One of the reason why I started this blog was to write about my experiences. I have previously written about my experience with re-modelling my kitchen, but what I failed to include in all the kitchen planning and designing, was that the day that I had finalised the design and paid the deposits to the contractor, did I find myself having to suddenly plan for a baby as well.

At the moment. I’m at the 23 week pregnancy mark, and it has taken me a while to feel ready enough to open up about it. I have been very reluctant to share my experience, partially out of fear for the comments and questions, but mostly because many people do not know about boundaries when it comes to an expectant mother. I also did not want people to question my priorities, when I decided to continue with the kitchen re-model I had been dreaming about.

Now that the dust has settled and my husband and I are enjoying our kitchen and the added space it provided, have we decided to start openly sharing the news about our pregnancy to our greater audience of friends, colleagues and social media. I also felt that waiting a little longer would give me an opportunity to try to hold onto some privacy, but this privacy was getting slightly (a lot) more difficult to hide with an ever-growing bump.

It’s been a long journey this far, but I will admit that most of my 23 weeks of pregnancy, was spent in a small village called “Denial”. Denial offered some great comforts, but my stay there was abruptly interrupted, which I guess I should explain…

The weekend of my 26th Birthday, I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of the building materials for my kitchen project but also patiently awaiting the arrival of my menstruation cycle. The building materials arrived on time, but the menstruation cycle,  he was late (yes, my cycle is male – unpredictable and sometimes unreliable). At first, I wasn’t too concerned about the tardiness, as I had just been through hell-week at work, where I had probably had about 5 mental breakdowns accompanied by thoughts of ‘do I really need a job?’. I mean stress can do that to a person, right? A week and a half passed and I had realised that I should not be as confident about the cycle arriving as I was about it a week ago. This was my first time really considering that I could be with child, and honestly I was scared out of my mind. I did not know what to think or how to feel. But then I  realised I had to put on my big girl pants and send my husband to the pharmacy to purchase the tests.

Well, 3 positive tests later, my husband was exploding with excitement, it was pretty hard to believe and come to terms with, and that was when I found myself on the bus to Denial Ville. I kept telling myself, all three tests were duds, until a few days later, as if the universe was trying to bring me back to reality, I was hit with a cold, but not like an average head cold, a tornado cold! I was feeling awful, my throat had closed, I couldn’t swallow and I had nasal congestion – this  forced to seek medical attention. My cold was so obvious, the doctor was ready to prescribe me all the medications that would swiftly take the cold away, but I had to break the news of my 3 positive tests to him. The doctor then sent me home with some Panado’s and a home remedy – the cold lasted 10 solid days;  and the weather in Denial Ville probably didn’t help much anyway. It wasn’t long after my doctors visit, that I was able to meet with my OBGYN to confirm that there was indeed a little bud growing who was about 7 weeks young.

The news had me pretty shook, and even 16 weeks later, I find that I am still in a bubble of disbelief. It is so true that “life is busy happening while you are making plans. Laying in the doctor’s office, I wasn’t sure if I was scared or excited. The first thought that came to mind was “oh well, there goes the plans that I had made”, and then “why didn’t I enjoy that last tray of sushi like I should have”; but I couldn’t wait to call my husband and tell him the news. It goes without saying, that my husband has been walking around with the biggest smile on his face ever since.

We decided to wait till the 12 week mark before we shared the news with our parents – the soon to be grandparents, and then share the news with the closer circle after the NIPT scan (14 weeks).

I have had a very positive journey and been very lucky to not experience many of the side effects some expectant mothers experience. The worst for me was probably having slight sensitivities toward smells and textures of food, and at one point all I wanted to eat was potatoes – any shape and style. For many people who I’ve spoken to about, about my pregnancy always ask about the symptoms and found that, when I do tell them about my good fortune, they express signs disappointment, almost like they were hoping to hear me complain about my experience or hear negative feedback.

I do not regret my decision to wait as long as I did to make a more public announcement about my pregnancy. I feel that I have allowed myself some time to come to terms, get more excited, plan a future and prepare for my new future. The period of prolonged privacy has also given me a chance to enjoy moments that would have been spoilt by constant conversations with people offering me unsolicited advice and hearing unending stories about their experiences and how utterly miserable they were but how “it was such an amazing experience”.

In some ways, now that the news is out there, I am starting to feel like I should have kept it a little longer. I’m finding it difficult to relate to people or have them relate to me if they haven’t experienced pregnancy before. I always tried to lend my ear and offer whatever comfort a friend in my situation required, but now that I’m experiencing it, it doesn’t feel as if others know how to respond. I also think that people who have not experienced pregnancy themselves, do not know the boundaries of a pregnant woman. Like for example, I have no problem with people placing their hand over my belly to embrace the size that it is now growing towards, or people asking to see the photo’s from the scans – those are normal and expected things. What is considered inappropriate though, is trying to tickle my stretched and sensitive tummy skin or asking me particulars about my baby’s health and movements and wanting to compare that to the health and movements of other in utero’s. There are just some things that are absolutely uncomfortable, and with that being said, it is also very difficult to establish and set boundaries with those we are close to or come into contact with.

What has been a blessing, is that I am lucky enough to have a friend who is about 11 weeks ahead of me (+- 34 weeks). She has honestly been a saving grace. Having someone who understands how you feel because she is feeling the exact same, makes me feel so much better. I am also learning so much from her and her experience as well.

I have heard that I’m still in for a bumpy ride to the end of the 9 months, and then it just goes off-road from there. I am excited, I’m feeling positive and I hope I will have more to share in the coming months.

#BabyWitbooi #ComingSoon #AprilBaby

baby witbooi

Listeria Outbreak: What’s the fuss?

Early 2017, South Africa was plagued by an outbreak of Listeria. Since the outbreak occurred, the Department of health in SA has found the source and has established measures to control and eliminate the bacteria. The outbreak has however affected how people view and consume ready-to-eat and processed meat products. In March 2018, there were still some cases of Listeriosis affecting some consumers. At the time I wrote an article regarding the outbreak, but did not publish it. I have decided to publish it on the blog as there has been news over the weekend of a Salmonella outbreak in Durban, South Africa. I will wrote a separate blog regarding the Salmonella outbreak as it tackles a different issue than that of the Listeria Outbreak of 2017. I have inserted the article I wrote regarding the Listeria Outbreak below.

The purpose of this article, is to inform consumers about listeria without all the scientific terms, understand how ready-to-eat meats are manufactured, the significance of ready-to-eat meats in South African culture.

In recent news, South Africa has been affected by a bacterial outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes, that has claimed the lives of at least 180 people and further infected almost 1000 people since the outbreak was discovered in January 2017. The Department of Health (DoH) in South Africa has announced that Enterprise Meats and Rainbow Chicken manufacturing plants have been identified as the source of the outbreak, and has instigated a nationwide recall on all ready-to-eat processed meats produced by these companies. It did not take long for the retailers to follow suite and recall all the ready-to-eat processed meat products on their shelves as well. And as one could imagine, many consumers are panicked as they fear for their health and the health of their family members who may have consumed possibly contaminated product. On the other hand, we have consumers who are nonchalant about the recall and who believe that that may not get infected, as they have not gotten sick yet; as a Food Technologist I am deeply concerned with the consumers on both ends of this recall.

Ready-to-eat processed meat products are significant in South Africa, their significance can be attributed to their low cost, versatility, shelf-life and availability on the market. Usually vienna’s and polonies have a low-cost point and are seen to versatile in that they can be eaten as is, put on bread or rolls, fried etc. Street food vendors or fast food / take-away shops often add vienna’s, polony or Russian sausage to dishes such as the “kota” and “gatsby” which are often very affordable and filling. For those who don’t know, a ‘kota’ is a quarter loaf of bread that has been hallowed out and then filled with a combination of slap chips, eggs, cheese or atchar and topped with Vienna, polony or Russian sausage (Ndabezitha, 2016). A ‘gatsby’ is foot long roll that is cut opened, filled with slap chips, sauce/atchar and topped with polony, Vienna or Russian sausage (other meats may also be used), this is usually cut and divided between 2- 4 people (Morris, 2017).

Consumers may be wondering how this outbreak could occur and what the manufacturers could have done to prevent it. In the food industry throughout the world, food safety is a major topic. In South Africa, the DoH has set out minimum requirements for food manufacturers and have various laws and regulations in place to guide food manufacturers with regard to producing safe product for South African consumers. These guidelines include information and limits for micro-organisms. Retailers may also have their own food safety standards that they apply to food manufacturers to ensure that they sell safe food products to their customers. These standards are usually adopted from world recognised standards; third party certified auditing bodies are then selected to audit the food manufacturer to ensure that the standards and requirements are met (Gardner, 1993).

Typically outbreaks of this nature are to poor implementation of the standards or lack of effectiveness of implemented standard. In a food manufacturing plant there is a cleaning and sanitation programme as well as a microbiological control and monitoring programme. These programmes go hand-in-hand. The cleaning and sanitation programme includes personal hygiene, personal protective equipment and cleaning and sanitation of the facility and equipment (Grinstead, 2006). The microbiological programme monitors the effectiveness of the cleaning programme (example: is the cleaning protocol effective in removing physical dirt as well as removal or elimination of micro-organisms).

Listeriosis is food poisoning that occurs due to the contamination of the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. L. monocytogenes is a bacterium that is found throughout the environment, this includes sand/soil, air, water, vegetation and sewage. As it is found in the environment animal products such as meats and dairy products are often most affected by this bacterium. Listeria was discovered in the 1800’s, so it’s been around. It is found to be a Gram-positive bacterium which is typical of a pathogen (they have strong cell walls and can cause disease). They usually grow in anaerobic condition (no oxygen required for survival), grow at temperatures of 0- 45˚C, this includes refrigeration temperatures and room-temperature. Listeria has a pH tolerance of 4.5 – 9.4 (acid to neutral), can grow in low water activity area’s and are not scared of salty conditions. These conditions basically describe most food products (Nations, 2004). L. monocytogenes is a resilient bacterium that affects those with weakened immune systems (the elderly and young children).

Listeria usually contaminates food post-processing or during handling but poor processing conditions or poor heat treatment can also lead to contamination. Poor hygiene condition of the manufacturing facility and equipment or poor hygiene practises by staff may also lead to contamination. Contamination of L. monocytogenes can also occur during preparation of food products in the household if surfaces and equipment is not adequately clean or the food handler has not washed their hands after coming in contact with the bacteria. When a food product is contaminated by Listeria, there is no difference in the smell, taste or appearance of the food product (Grinstead, 2006).

Ready-to-eat processed meats like polony, vienna’s or Russian sausages may be more prone to contamination by L. monocytogenes as it is manufactured using various meat products that could come from different sources. The ingredients in processed meats usually contain similar ingredients which includes:

  • Mechanically de-boned meat (chicken, pork or beef)
  • Water
  • Vegetable Protein (textured or powdered Soya)
  • Starch
  • Salt
  • Wheat Gluten
  • Sugar
  • Phosphates
  • Maltodextrin
  • MSG (Monosodium glutamate)
  • Spice
  • Sodium erythorbate (for colour)
  • Sodium Nitrite (preservative)
  • Sodium Nitrate (preservative)

Except the meat ingredients the other ingredients are usually used for bulking, emulsification and flavour. The ingredients are usually grinded, minced or bowl cut together to create a thick paste like emulsion. The emulsion is then automatically filled into casings, clipped and then either steamed, smoked or steam smoked (smoking can add to colour and flavour) (Tauber, 1984). The whole manufacturing process of these processed meats includes a handling process and transfer from one machine to the next. Any un-clean or contaminated item may come into contact with the product at any time.

As consumers we need to be aware of what is happening in the food industry and how we can be “food safe” in our own homes or where we consume food. Consumers are also to follow directives regarding the product recall by the DoH. It is important that any products listed to be recalled is returned to the retailer. It cannot be confirmed that the products you have stored in your refrigerator are contaminated, there is a possibility of contamination. Consumers should not panic; the Listeria outbreak has been active for more than a year now. Hence, we should fuss about this outbreak and the further findings by the DoH, we want to consume safe products and maintain our health. If consumers are concerned that they might be infected, they should seek medical advice. Clearing and cleaning out your refrigerator may help eliminate any cross-contamination. Diluted bleach and warm water, with a clean sponge or cloth are good tools to use for cleaning. Bleach has an antimicrobial effect on micro-organisms, one could also lightly wipe down containers or bottles with diluted bleach and water before returning the items to the refrigerator. It is advisable that food (especially meat products) be thoroughly cooked before serving. Maintaining the cold chain and adequately sealing food products is also important to limit the exposure or growth of micro-organisms. Listeria is motile (can move) at temperatures of 20 – 25˚C, so once cooked food has cooled, best practice is to cover the food and store it in the refrigerator (Nations, 2004).

References

Gardner, S. (1993). Consumers and Food Safety: A Food Industry Perspective. In Food, Nutrition and Agriculture.

Grinstead, D. (2006, 11 12). Retrieved from Food Manufacturing: https://www.foodmanufacturing.com/article/2006/12/fighting-food-manufacturing-fears-how-control-eliminate-listeria

Morris, C. (2017, 05 25). The Gatsby Sandwich. Retrieved from Cape Town Magazine: https://www.capetownmagazine.com/gatsby-sandwich

Nations, F. a. (2004). Risk Assessment of Listeria Monocytogenes in Ready-to-eat Foods:. In F. a. Nations, Risk Assessment of Listeria Monocytogenes in Ready-to-eat Foods: Technical Report. Rome, Italy.

Ndabezitha, T. (2016, 12 02). South African street food: 5 great kotas in Gauteng. Retrieved from Eat Out: http://www.eatout.co.za/article/5-great-kotas-gauteng/

Tauber, A. M. (1984). Processed Meats. In F. T. A.M. Pearson, Processed Meats. Westport, Connecticut: The AVI Publishing Company, inc.