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Milky Cuddles: May 2017

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Why We Said No To Visitors at the Hospital

The thing I love about the first few days with a brand new baby in hospital is that it allows the world to stop. For that time in the hospital there is nothing else – nowhere you need to be, nothing you need to do. It is just about you, and your baby, and breastfeeding and bonding and healing. I needed this time so much.

We asked for no visitors at the hospital (with the exception of my firstborn and my parents who brought her). We told people in advance if we had the opportunity to throw it into conversation (this is important if you want to avoid the friendly pop-ins), but we also had to tell people who texted us asking to come. We decided just to be really honest, to not feel guilty and to remember that this time was not about anyone else, and though it may sound selfish, it really was all about us. 

Here’s why not having visitors at the hospital was good for us:

  • We really needed the time to get to know our newest family member, to hold her without having to pass her around, to stare at her sleeping face without being distracted by our toddler.
  • We needed to rest and sleep during the day. Nine months of pregnancy is exhausting, birth is exhausting and breastfeeding around the clock is exhausting. Did I mention I needed sleep??
  • I needed to focus on breastfeeding. It is much easier to establish breastfeeding when you have quiet time alone with your baby, when you can try different positions and work on the latch without having to hold a conversation or have someone watching you. I am a big advocate for breastfeeding anytime, anywhere and I have no problem breastfeeding in front of people. But in those first few days I just needed some time to discover how to do it (this was especially true with my first, but also true with my second as every baby feeds and latches differently).
  • The time in hospital is busy. There’s the midwives checking in, breastfeeding, the physio class, hearing test, first bath, immunisations, full newborn check, lactation consultant, professional photos etc. Even without visitors we had very little time to rest!
  • The first few days with a newborn are a special time and with your second, it is the only time that the world stops for you, where there is your new baby and nothing else. We’d waited 9 months to meet our little one, I knew others could wait a few more days.
It is likely you wont know what you want until the time comes. With my first I also thought we didn’t want visitors at the hospital, but in the end I was just so thrilled she was here that I couldn’t wait to show her off. But it was different with my first because we had more rest and recovery time at home. This time around as soon as we left the hospital, we were back to a life of toddler chaos. So it was the right decision for us.

I'm inspired by mums who manage to rest properly post birth. I have never managed to do that properly. But if you are looking for tips I love this piece, How to Postpartum Like a Boss

"I look at that one week postpartum as a little sacred space that I will never get back. It's a space where, for the most part, it's just that brand new baby and me. And I'm selfish about it. And not sorry. Life will keep plummeting forward rapidly and I wont ever stop it. But I can have a week with a floppy new baby on my chest in my bed and I'll take it. And I'll protect it". 

Exactly, I couldn't say it better! 

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Thursday, 25 May 2017

How Yoga Helped Me Through Pregnancy

When I was 15 weeks pregnant I left my one year old at home and ventured out to a pregnancy yoga class. It was my third attempt in as many weeks to take my I-could-vomit-at-any-moment sick self to class. Until this point every moment of every day since we’d conceived had been about surviving (more on that here), so this yoga class was my first attempt to focus on the pregnancy in a positive way, connect with the baby in my womb and do something for my own health. And though I missed a few classes due to the sickness, most of the time it became my weekly retreat.

I’ve done yoga when I’m not pregnant, but I particularly like doing it when I am pregnant (especially seeing as exercise options become limited, and it is one practice that is safe and very beneficial). Over two pregnancies I have done two different pre-natal classes, two different mums and babes classes and a post-natal class. 

The thing I love about yoga is it focuses on health holistically, and it is as much about mental health as it is about physical health. As mums, whose worlds have completely changed, who make a thousand tiny decisions every day, and who are entirely responsible for the wellbeing of little people, our mental health is both vulnerable and vitally important.

Physically it has great benefits too (we all know yoga is good for us, right?) You could probably do any yoga class and the instructor would modify the poses for you but I would recommend doing a pregnancy specific class. That way you get to learn techniques to deal with all those niggling pregnancy symptoms (like how to prevent night time leg cramps and what to do if you wake up in the night with a searing cramp in your calf. And no, the answer is not to punch your calf over and over until it goes away…) And even if you don’t have any niggling pregnancy symptoms, pregnancy changes everything about every part of your body and with the right instructor you can learn so much about what is happening to your body, what to do and what to expect. Oh, and you’ll find yourself in a room full of pregnant women – the information and connections you can gain from this is invaluable (but don’t go to make friends as you might be disappointed…)

Now, let's talk about pelvic floor. You know the poor muscles that get stretched and pulled and damaged in pregnancy and birth? If you've given birth in an Australian public hospital recently you'll know they offer you a session with the physio who teaches you to isolate those muscles and pull them 'in and up'. It's a half hour session, and then you’re on your own with only the daily exercises prescribed to you and a black and white hand out with instructions. And these exercises are BORING. They are the epitome of boring. They are so easy to forget or not do properly. But they are so important. Enter pre/post-natal yoga. The instructor will talk you through a pelvic floor segment and teach you that there are actually many ways to strengthen your pelvic floor and many exercises you can do. And if you're lacking motivation to do them, at least you'll know that once a week in your yoga class your pelvic floor will get a good work out (I am not endorsing only doing pelvic floor exercises once a week, you should do them daily like the hospital tells you to, I’m just saying that if you don’t at least you know that you will at your yoga class.) These pelvic floor exercises are important before and after birth, which is one of the reasons I am currently doing post-natal yoga rather than a normal yoga class.

When my firstborn was a few months old we started mums and babes yoga. And I thought it was the best thing ever. At this stage I was absolutely attached to my firstborn, I didn’t want or need space from her, I saw it as a lovely thing that we could do together. She would lie on the floor and look up at me with big eyes, she looked very happy and interested, so I felt it was lovely for her too. We continued doing yoga together until she started crawling, when it got too hard to keep her in one spot.

Last week I went to a mums and babes yoga class, with my second baby, but I felt completely differently. Yes, it was a lovely thing to do with her (and we did baby massage and some movement just for her), but right now my entire life is about doing lovely things for my baby and toddler. It is always about them. Yoga is the one thing, the one hour every week, that is not about my little people. Yoga is about me. And I find we do a lot more actual yoga in a yoga class than in a mums and babes yoga class where I need to break to feed my daughter, settle her etc. So this time around I’m not continuing with the mums and babes class, instead I’m doing the post-natal class on a Saturday morning.

What surprised me though is how differently I feel about mums and babes yoga between my first and second child. I’m sure this is a second time mum thing, a symptom of caring for children around the clock and having been doing so for nearly two years now. I have a need for my own personal space and for me time that I didn’t have when my firstborn was small. Motherhood has seasons, and this showed me that I am in a very different season the second time around. 

So, where do I go to do this yoga that I’m harping on about?
Here I'd like to shout out to two of my favourite yoga places, Blissful Bellies in Durban and Kula Yoga in Melbourne. I've done pre and post-natal and mums and babes yoga at both. Both are so different but each was my favourite time of the week.

The first one is Isabel at Blissful Bellies in Durban, South Africa. She runs this yoga from the garage of her home. Her classes are small and intimate, she knows each of her students and their children. Her classes are casual – there’s always time for a chat before class and there’s a WhatsApp group for everyone to communicate throughout the week. As well as being an awesome practice it also became a little pregnant community for me – women I could message throughout the week to chat about all things pregnancy. It was lovely to regularly be in a room full of pregnant women and share what was going on for us. And it was even more lovely to see the birth announcements rolling in on the WhatsApp group as the months passed.

In Australia, I’ve been going to Kula Yoga in Hawthorn East and though it feels completely different I love it there too! The pre and post-natal classes are taught by Andi and Steph who have clearly been trained in this area and you get a lot of information about changes in your body and different poses that can help. And Steph and Andi say lovely things to help you visualise and connect with your baby, reminding you to acknowledge the divine feminine, the natural mother inside you. I leave the studio, feeling great physically and also with a sense of calm. The main downfall of the Kula class is that it is only on once a week, which means that if you miss it, it's two weeks between classes.

So, did yoga help me with birth?
I thought yoga might help me with birth. In pre-natal yoga we talk a lot about positions for labour, hip openers and breathing through discomfort. I thought it was great preparation for birth. But I’m going to be honest and say I don’t think it helped me in the delivery room. Birth is such an overwhelming experience (you can read Zara’s birth story here) that I forgot everything I knew and had practiced and the pain was so intense that nothing could ease it. But it did help me feel confident in the lead up to the birth and in my body’s ability to give birth. And I do believe that if my doula (who is also a yoga teacher) had made it to our birth she may have been able to guide me through some breathing and positions to help.

It is recommended that women wait six weeks after delivery before they return to exercise. Luckily yoga is one of the first exercises that you can return to. I really missed my weekly practice in those six weeks. But now I’m back on the mat. And the best thing about starting yoga again postpartum is that all of the sudden all the poses and sequences are so much easier and you can do them without dragging your huge, heavy, pregnant body from one position to another and feeling like your squashed lungs just can’t get enough air to move. Ah, the bliss of being able to move again!

Life is busy and it’s hard to find time for myself with two kids. So don’t invite me anywhere on a Saturday morning. You’ll find me on my mat. 


Saturday, 13 May 2017

To the Mother who has Lost – on Mother’s Day

Three years ago it was my first Mother’s Day. And by that I mean the first Mother’s Day since I had carried a child inside me. I didn’t look like a mother. I didn’t have a child in my arms. I didn’t even have a child in my belly. The world didn’t think I was a mother. But I wanted to be a mother so bad. I wanted to join what felt like a special club that I wasn’t in.

On this day, I found myself in church. I wondered what my church was going to do for Mothers Day. They tend to make a big deal of honoring the mothers in the church. The year before they had given them all gifts. But this time, they said they also wanted to honor those who Mother’s Day was difficult for – those facing infertility, miscarriage, infant loss, the death of a child or their mother. It was us who the church wanted to pray for. The ones who are nearly always forgotten on the day of floral arrangements and handmade crafts and lunches with mum. It was like they were speaking right into my heart. How did they know?

You see, that was the first Mother’s Day since I had lost a pregnancy at 12 weeks (more on that here). Everyone had moved on from this little incident, but I had not forgotten. Mothers don’t forget. We hold all our children in our hearts, whether they are here or not.

I was recently reading a book by a mum who lost her infant baby. She describes her first Mother’s Day in church, when all the mums were asked to stand for prayer. She records her conundrum writing, ‘Do I stand up? Do I sit?’ It reminded me of the confusion and grief that Mother’s Day brings to so many women. Those who were a mum, who wanted to be, who almost were, or are trying to be.

After I miscarried, I suddenly heard of so many others who had. I joined a group of women, that no one wants to be part of. I became the one others would whisper to in the workplace kitchen - telling me that last week they were pregnant and now they are not. And my heart broke every single time, because I knew the emptiness they felt, the enormity of their heartache, the loneliness of the grief that only a mother’s heart can feel. Because I had told people when we lost our baby, it gave others permission to tell me. And now I realise the world is missing so many babies.

That first Mother’s Day was a trigger for me. It was a reminder that I was supposed to be celebrating my first Mother’s Day, but that I had nothing to celebrate. I didn’t feel that I could consider myself a mum. The day showed me that because I didn’t have a baby on my hip my baby didn’t exist. Mother’s Day was not for me. Not that year. Not until I became a ‘real’ mum.

The prayer at church acknowledged that I was a mum, that this day was also about me. It gave me permission to grieve on this day. It reminded the congregation that, when there is a lot to celebrate there is also often a lot of pain. I appreciated this prayer so much.

I know many have lost much more than I have. Some will have had multiple losses, some an early loss, some a baby or child who had been born, some will be waiting, some will be experiencing this day for the first time, some will have living children as well, some will be celebrating, some will be grieving, some will do both.

My message to mums facing this, is as simple as the message I so wanted to hear – Your child is important. Just because he / she isn’t here, doesn’t mean that he / she is not your child and doesn’t exist. And you didn’t stop being a mother the day your child went to heaven. Mother’s Day, even if it brings you tears, even if no-one buys you flowers, is for you too.

Sometimes (actually, almost all the time) as women we have to take responsibility for looking after ourselves. Though it would be wonderful for others to remember the life you carried and acknowledge it on this day they most likely will not. My only advice would be to take some time to do whatever it is that you need, that makes you feel good. For me, that thing has always been writing. For you, it might be buying the flower that reminds you of your baby, it might be a special prayer, a walk in the bush with your partner. Give yourself that. You most definitely are a mother, and Mother's Day is for you too. 


Thursday, 4 May 2017


‘What is this?’ ‘That’s a charger / crumb / pirate / apple seed / (insert noun here)’. ‘That’s a penguin, it does look like a duck, they are a bit similar’. These are the conversations on repeat in my house, as we label every single item over and over. This, I have discovered, is how children learn language. One word at a time. Imagine, learning the whole English language this way. We all did. Yet, now I get to observe this, I get to be the teacher, I get to see that learning language is actually a full time occupation. My daughter never takes a break. It amazes me the way she stores these words up. Day by day, her vocabulary expanding exponentially.

We never taught her the sentence ‘what is this?’, we don’t know where she learnt it, what a useful sentence it is! She can use this sentence to learn and learn and learn! Apparently, the average 20 month old can learn 10 or more words a day.

Now, at this age, I can see the magic of books. I can see just how much my daughter learns from looking at books and pointing to each item on the page and either labeling it or asking ‘what is this?’. The stories are not important right now. It is all about the pictures and their names.

“Harry, Harry, Harry”, she says as she points to the red frog on the playmat. She is remembering the frog called Harry, who looks nothing like the frog on the playmat, in the book Hungry Harry. A book that we haven’t read for a while. Her memory astounds me.

I have a newborn who makes a few gurgles and sounds and I realise how far my first born has come, how over time her sounds have slowly developed, first into her own language and now into words we can understand.

As her language develops I am getting a better insight into the depth of thought in my daughter’s head.

A few weeks ago, out of nowhere, she said to me ‘where is Gogo (granny)?’ This question might seem simple enough, but it amazed me and saddened me in equal measure. She hadn’t seen her Gogo since we left South Africa four before. It occurred to me that she’s probably been wondering this the whole time but just didn’t have the words to ask. How wonderful language is, that she can finally be heard and express some of the things inside her head. How much this question made me realise that I must explain things to her over and over, even if she doesn’t ask. Every time she sees a mobile phone she picks it up and says ‘Gogo’ because she knows we talk to Gogo on the phone. How wonderful that now, finally, she can talk back to Gogo. How cute it is to hear her say enthusiastically, ‘hello, hello, hello’. How smart she seems when she looks at her baby sister and says ‘ra-ra (Zara) shleeps (sleeps)’, or when she sees me making dinner and she says ‘cook, cook’. It shows me she knows exactly what is going on.  

To me, few things are as adorable as her voice, her mispronounced words, her insistence, the effort she puts in to being understood. She is trying so hard. She is learning that some words get her what she wants and some don't. She runs around the house saying, 'Katie, Katie, Katie', because she hears others calling me that. And, after a while when I haven't responded, in her loudest possible voice, 'M U M M Y'.


Monday, 1 May 2017

I miss life before kids.

I miss life before kids.
I miss not being exhausted and sleeping all night.
I miss relaxing weekends and owning my time.
I miss making plans without having to think of babysitting.
I miss date nights and nothing being more important than my marriage.
I miss my husband and the time and energy we had for each other.
I miss intimacy without sleeping kids in the bedroom.


I miss leaving the house clean in the morning and finding it clean when I get home from work at night.
I miss the gym and healthy eating and having the time to invest in these things.
I miss study and learning and being able to invest in me.
I miss work and productivity and performance reviews that told me I was doing well.
I miss new projects and morning coffees and colleagues to call on on tough days.
I miss days off and sick leave and annual leave and work-from-home-with-no-distraction days.

Getting stuff done with some of my former work colleagues.
I miss weekend plans without having to be home for nap time.
I miss wearing any clothes I want without worrying whether I can breastfeed in them.
I miss leaving the house with just myself and a small handbag.
I miss travel and adventures and holidays without needing to pack two cots, a double pram, a highchair and bags of toys.
I miss freedom and my life being all about me.
I miss having capacity, making progress, achieving and getting things done.
I miss going to the hairdresser without needing help and having to justify why I am leaving the house alone.
I miss dinner without food on the floor.
I miss home being a quiet place, an easy place, an escape where nothing is expected of me.

The lounge room in the first house we lived in after we got married.

There, I've said it, I miss life before kids.
And it's important to say this because so often we focus only on what is gained when we start a family and not what is lost.
But life is full and when something is added, especially something as wonderful as children, other things have to move to make space.

I shared this with my husband and he said, 'no, I love that we have kids, we've always wanted kids, life is way better with them, they give us and our marriage direction, we are so blessed'. And life IS better with them, that I know, and they DO give us direction and make our lives full. But I'm also allowed to miss sleeping all night and having a tidy house. It's important we talk about this because postnatal depression rates are high, the mental health of parents matters, and only sharing the rosy moments doesn't create space for parents to admit it can be hard too. Becoming a mum made me a new person and a better person. But it's ok to miss the old me sometimes too.

And just as I'm missing the old me, my daughter does something hilarious, and I remember that never before has my life been filled with so much laughter...