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First Time Parenting … Not For The Faint Hearted!

Being a first time parent is hard. I can honestly say that being a hands-on parent to an alert and very ‘busy’ baby is harder than I ever imagined. For the first 2 months both LH and I had moments when we just wished there was an ‘OFF’ button that we could press for an hour a day. Those moments were typically in between 3 hourly feeds at the deadly hour of about 2am in the morning, when Alec would be in the throws of windy colic and no matter what we did, there was just no calming or soothing him. Any attempt to put him in his cot, would be met with flailing arms, arched back and screams of protest. The only way to lull him to sleep was by cradling him in our arms in the colic hold and taking turns to walk him for hours up and down … up and down … up and down our room …. until the sun would eventually be peaking over the horizon, at which point LH would shower and shoot off to the office and I would be left staring vacantly at a chirpy, well-rested, alert, bubbly bundle that was looking to be entertained all day and only take 3 half hour naps. Yes, that’s what I said … 3 naps of just 30 minutes each. The age old advice of ‘sleep when baby sleeps’ didn’t quite work so well for me! Everyone also kept telling us about the magic number – 12 weeks. That it would all magically get better after 12 weeks. Well, they lied and it didn’t get better after 12 weeks. After 8 weeks, we settled into the zombie-like routine, by 12 weeks we were used to it and into the swing of things – well, kind of anyway. Realistically though, you really only start stepping out of zombie land at around 7 months.

Then there’s the reflux, or in layman’s terms – vomit. Had there been a Reflux Olympics, I’m sure we would have had a wall full of gold medals by now. Who would have thought that such a tiny, cute little cherub could giggle one moment and without any warning, spontaneously projectile vomit what seems like at least half the contents of his bottle all the way across the room? Those books and guides that give you a list of how many vests, onesies, etc you need, don’t tell you about reflux babies. We ended up with double the number of just about everything, including socks – it was either that or spend what few hours were left of my nights washing and drying clothes, in between the 3 hourly feeds and colic bouts. Oh … did I mention that feeds would take over an hour? Feeding a reflux baby is somewhat different to feeding a non-reflux baby we quickly learnt. There’s lots of burping, cleaning and writhing in between actual feeding. Thankfully the reflux has abated considerably and we’re seeing less and less of it, which means Alec’s wardrobe can now start to resemble that of a non-pukey baby – although as an adventurous baby, we seem to have as many changes of clothes during the day as before, but for different reasons! The books also don’t tell you to pack spare changes of clothing for yourself. By the end of each day, what ever I was wearing for the day would have an array of multi-coloured patches and smell like what I would call … “You’re The Reflux” – a mixture of Issey Miyaki and sour milk!

On the subject of bodily fluids, I could write an entire book on the subject of poop. Green-poop, brown-poop, mustard-poop, granular-poop, runny-poop, buck-like-pellet-poop, streaky-poop, acidic-poop, explosive-poop, bulging-eyes-poop, 4-poops-a-day-poops, 1-poop-in-4-days-poop and what it all means. Decoding poops is a fine art and is often a topic of conversation among mothers over coffee.

It may sound like I’m having a good old moan, but I’m not. I’ve come to realise that the only thing that remains constant when it comes to parenting, is change. It’s really quite amazing, watching Alec’s daily progress and transformation! With each day our emotions grow stronger than we ever thought possible. The absolute joy we experience, the immeasurable pride we have, the intense love we feel for our beautiful son Alec has made every bit of our tough journey and crash course into parenting so incredibly worthwhile. And if you thought that the early days were enough to scare us off doing this again … We are a family of 3, hoping to become a family of 4 (or perhaps 5 if twins) through either surrogacy (we still have our 6 embryos from donor eggs on ice) or through adoption again. What the future holds for us – only time will reveal. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t want too big an age gap between Alec and his sibling(s). The reality however is that we don’t live in an ideal world and our situation leaves us much at the mercy and in the hands of others when it comes to growing our little family. As always however we live in hope and I don’t give up easily!

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First Time Parenting … Who Would Have Guessed?

If someone … anyone … had said in July last year … “This time next year you will be a changed woman … you will be witnessing your 9 month old son’s first words and start thinking about his first Birthday” … I would have said something along the lines of … “No way! Are you on drugs or something?? Have you read my blog?”

Well … I now know for a fact that dreams do come true. If you put your mind to it, you can actually make your dreams come true. The pieces might not fall into place quite the way you think they should or as planned, but somehow the universe has a way of saying … “OK, we’ve dished you up a whole heap of crappy heartache and enough tears to sink a battleship in the last 5 years, so now lets bring you some sunshine.”

And sunshine is what LH and I got. Our bundle of pure joy who turned our lives upside down overnight. Who showed me what it’s like to love someone with such intensity that my heart stops at just the thought of him not being in our lives. A little being who has totally consumed my thoughts – day and night. A beautiful baby boy, who is all too soon rapidly becoming a toddler with a twinkle in his eye.

Time to start putting the wheels in motion for number 2 … no easy task for us, but one I’m ready than ever to take on.

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First Time Parenting … Mother’s Day Eve

It feels kind of surreal knowing that tomorrow is Mother’s Day. For the first time since we lost our daughter Stella and I lost my uterus 4 years ago (after a very long struggle to conceive), I’m not dreading the day. This time last year … who would have known that within the year I would at long last become a mother. A mother to the most wonderful little boy. I’ll be celebrating tomorrow being mother to my gorgeous and most precious son Alec.

My message to all women who may be reading this and who’s desire for a family has not yet been fulfilled … Don’t give up on your hopes, your dreams, your yearning for a family of your own. I know that tomorrow is probably going to be a bit of a crappy one for you. Just know that things may not be working out the way you had initially planned, but with determination, inner strength and an open mind to stepping out of norm, you can make your dreams come true. I know this having walked a long and very painful journey … but I refused to give up. As I listen to the sound of my son’s breathing from his cot, I now know that anything is possible.

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First Time Parenting … At 40+

With all of our milestones (60 and 90 days) behind us, the bottle of Dom Perinon popped, and with our adoption papers submitted to the courts, I’m starting to really get into the flow of motherhood. Up until the lapse of the 90 days, my title of “mom” hung in the balance, as it could have been stripped from me at any moment … but no more. It’s now officially official … I’m a mother! Mother to the most beautiful and delicious little boy in the world … at the ripe age of 41 … going on 42 years old.

For someone who swore to never be an older mother and to have completed her family in her 30′s … I can safely say that starting a family later than most has it’s challenges and it’s benefits. The challenges are minor in that one tends to be set in one’s ways and perhaps a little selfish when reaching 40 with no little feet in tow. Enter newborn cherub … and your life is instantly turned on it’s head, but all in a magical and strangely wonderful way. I’ve found the benefits of being an ‘older’ mother to be enormous. Perhaps it’s my life experiences that have made me a calmer and more confident mother? As one of the ‘older’ mothers in a mommies group I’m part of, I notice a lot of anxiety and uncertainty with some of the younger moms, who are often second guessing themselves instead of following their instincts. Perhaps my hours and long nights of nursing sick and ailing rescued kittens and puppies over the years, non of whom could ‘speak’ for themselves, tapped into my inner voice which told me to listen to my instincts and given me better insight when ‘listening’ to my son’s needs? … Or perhaps I just don’t get it and have missed the plot completely! Maybe I’m the one who’s back is turned towards the erupting volcano and can’t quite understand what all the panic around me is about. LOL!! Who knows? What I do know is that I’m thoroughly enjoying being a mother and would do this all over again in a heartbeat given another chance or opportunity, despite the lack of sleep and it taking me 3 days to do something simple like paint my toenails! ROFL!!!

With Alec’s half year birthday coming up on 20th, it seems like just yesterday that he was a tiny little bundle. Time has flown by so incredibly quickly and he’s growing so fast. I’m glad I’ve documented and continue to document almost everything in photos. I’m a little paparazzi crazy … but then who could blame me?

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Chosen Ones … Part 4: The Numbers 60 and 90

Being chosen and having our beautiful son Alec at home with us is something I’m still pinching myself about. Is it all real? Can this be true? I often find myself staring into his gorgeous face, taking in every tiny detail … and if I’m not staring lovingly at him, I’m photographing him, or kissing him. Call me an obsessive mother :-) , but then again I think I’ve paid my dues, so I should be allowed my idiosyncrasies!
The reality is that close of business (courts) on 25th November was a HUGE milestone for us as it marked the end of the 60 day period during which time our baby’s Birth Mom (BM) could change her mind and claim our son Alec back. In terms of the South African law, we (LH and I) would have had to comply and hand him over.

How does one deal with that looming over you for a period of 60 days? A number of people commented on how it must interfere with the bonding process. The truth is it can … but only if you allow it to. We were given the option of waiting the 60 days, during which Alec would have been in foster care, or taking the plunge. LH and I decided to take the plunge as we didn’t want to miss out on 2 months of our son’s life. So when it came to the 60 days LH and I chose to (try) ignore it … not think about it. We chose to ‘bury our heads in sand’ when it came to those 60 days, whilst glancing at the calendar to see ‘if we were there yet’. Obsessing about it would have driven us insane with worry, which would have potentially stood in the way of us being able to wholeheartedly throw ourselves into parenthood and loving our son Alec unconditionally from the moment we knew about him. This was our only and best option, firstly for our son’s benefit and also for our own sanity. So my big girl broekies got a lot of wear and tear during those 60 days, all whilst our son received more love than he could ever imagine from both LH and I!!

Truth be told, I hadn’t realised how heavily those 60 days were weighing on me, until the evening of 25th November, when I confirmed with our social worker that we were indeed in the clear with our BM. The tears of joy, as that weight which I had been unknowingly carrying lifted from my shoulders and pushed away from my subconscious, flowed freely … It was one of my uglier cries, but in a good way :-) … an awesome way. LH’s face beamed with absolute joy, pride and love as he popped a bottle of bubbly in celebration, whilst our son slept on peacefully, completely and blissfully oblivious of the significance of that day.

… But we’re not out of the woods just yet. We’re saving the really big celebration (and extra special bottle of bubbly) for close of business (courts) on 10th January, as that marks the end of the 90 days from placement of the advertisement for the Birth Father (BF) to come forward. Despite his giving consent verbally over the phone, because he was a no show at all of the meetings, he didn’t get to sign any consent papers. In terms of the law, the BF is therefore considered ‘unknown’, but still needs to be given the opportunity to step forward. An advert was therefore placed in the newspaper by our social workers and he has 90 days from placement of that advert to step forward … which is up until 10th January.

So till then, we will continue to stick our heads in the sand and carry on with our lives as normal – planning ahead – with our gorgeous son Alec, who brings us so much joy each and every day with his dazzling smiles and delicious giggles.

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Chosen Ones … Part 3: Our Son Alec :-)

What an honour and a privilege it is to be a mother :-) … a chosen mother of a beautiful and amazing baby boy!! There is a reason I’ve been quiet. I’ve spent the last month bonding with my son Alec. My son who has the most amazingly brave Birth Mother (BM). My son who has a doting and completely love struck mother and father being LH and I. My son who is the most incredible little human being I’ve ever known. I’ve been totally and completely immersed in him since his arrival.

At the time of writing my last blog entry, little did I know that Alec had already been born. We met with our BM on 19th September. Later that very same day, in the evening, she went into labour. Our son Alec was born in the early hours of Friday 20th September. Over that weekend we gleefully went shopping for our son and sent text messages to our social worker asking if there was any news. No news was the feedback. Tuesday 24th, the public holiday and the day of our son’s expected birth date, we again sent messages whilst shopping for essential items and short-listing others, as only the best would do for our expected bundle, but we had so much to learn in such a short period of time! Wednesday 25th September, whilst I was waiting patiently for our dog Bruno who was at his weekly swimming and physio appointment for his gammy legs, I received a call from our social worker at 11:34. Was I sitting down? “Yes! … Is BM in labour?” … Even better … your son was born early hours of Friday 20th September, he’s healthy, he’s gorgeous, he’s been in ‘kangaroo care’ since then and you can hear him crying in the background … BM is ready to do the hand over as per her wishes … today at 1pm.

To say my heart skipped a beat and then started racing is an understatement. As my eyes welled up with tears of joy, I nervously said my excited goodbyes on the phone. With my hands shaking, I called LH to share the news. At the time my call came through, his office were in the process of throwing a baby shower for him. I raced home, running through the list of things we still had to get before fetching our son. A crib / cot was one of the essential items we had short listed but not purchased as yet. As I pulled into the driveway with an oblivious, but contented pooch in the back seat, LH pulled in behind me with a boot full of presents for our son we were going to meet in just less than an hour.

Meeting our son for the first time was the most incredible experience of my life. Receiving him from his BM was a deeply emotional moment for all of us. I held her hand and hugged her deeply, promising from the depths of my heart to love, adore, cherish and do my best for the little baby boy, a part of her, she was entrusting us with.

We drove home with crib and other essentials in the boot of the car and our son Alec in his car seat – our family … 5 years after our journey had begun.

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Chosen Ones … Part 2: Due Dates and Diaries

I’ve been glued to my phone since our meeting with our Birth Mom (BM).

Normally one has 9 months to plan for a baby’s arrival … we have just short of 2 weeks – LOL!! A challenge I’m tackling head on – with LOTS of shopping! All this time however I’m thinking about our son … his well-being … and our Birth Mom (BM). With our son’s birth imminent, what is her state of mind? How is she coping? How ready is she for the emotions she’s going to feel? For her transition back to her life?

Why should I care you may be asking? Because we mattered enough to her – she chose us. Because she is entrusting us with her baby. Because she’s giving us the best gift in life … that of a family of our own for which I cannot thank her enough … and then there is the dreaded 60 Days ahead of us.

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Chosen Ones … Part 1: We Were Chosen!!!

OMG!!! I got THE phone call on Tuesday … late afternoon … from a number I didn’t recognise. Mom had popped in as she was in the neighbourhood, so we were chatting idly, having the wine or coffee debate, when my phone rang. Glancing at the number, I assumed that it was an adoption enquiry for one of the kittens we have available for adoption, through the rescue organisation I’m part of. I didn’t recognize the number. For a brief moment I contemplated not answering and getting back to them later, but my inner voice said, “Answer the phone!!”. It was 4:45pm, Tues 17th September 2013.

Chantal’s voice was on the other end, our social worker’s assistant and right hand person, who’s mobile number I don’t have stored on my phone. Just a few nights before I had spoken with Wilna (our social worker) about getting our Police Clearance Certificate and Form 30 (a clearance to say you’re not registered as a child offender) from her for another adoption agency we were talking to so that we could broaden our search. I therefore automatically assumed it was about the forms … but it was THE phone call!!! The one telling us that we were put forward to a matched birth mom and SHE CHOSE US!!!! With my mind reeling I asked a bunch of questions about her and the birth father. Could this be true??? Could this be happening??? Chantal’s voice was filled with excitement on the other side of the phone, mirroring the excitement I was feeling. Next step a meeting with the birth mom … to be scheduled on Thursday, as she wanted to meet us.

When our conversation ended, I looked at my mom with disbelief and my heart pounding so loudly in my chest, that I thought I was going to faint. What we had been waiting for. Baby boy due soon … very soon … the details kind of buzzed around in my head senselessly. I had to tell LH!! Do I tell him over the phone? …. No I would tell him in person when I went to fetch him from the office … His car has been in for repair after a minor accident. The look on LH’s face when I told him was happiness, fear, excitement all in one. Everything I was feeling.

Thursday’s meeting with our birth mom was nothing I expected and oddly everything LH expected. Cape Town was being lashed with a real icy winter storm, as we drove through to Somerset West. Dashing out of the cold and the relentless rain into Wilna’s warm offices in anticipation of what was to come, we were terrified! What if the meeting didn’t go well? What if she didn’t like us?? After a chat with our social worker Wilna and Chantal, affirming our wishes, the moment had come to meet our birth mom. With the roads flooded, the meeting almost didn’t take place, but Chantal was determined to find a way. As our birth mom walked into the room and we said our hello’s, then she let out a nervous sigh as she eased herself into the chair and said “I’m terrified”, at which point we laughed nervously telling her we were just as terrified and the ice was broken. Here was a young lady, making the hardest and bravest decision of her life – that of entrusting us with her baby. With her belly protruding out in front of her, she bravely explained to us why she had chosen our profile and why she was making this decision. I sat there with complete admiration for her courage. My heart went out to her for the decision she is making because of her life circumstances. With no family support, an ex-boyfriend who shirks responsibility and want to distance himself from the situation, she is alone with only the support of social workers. It was a magical meeting where fear, laughter, tears, hope and love filled the room.

Our baby boy is due on 24th September 2013 … just 3 days from now … or any time now. We’re waiting for the call to tell us our Birth Mom is in labour.

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Where To … Part 9: Appreciation and Sharp Reminders

I’m married to the most remarkable man I know. You’re probably thinking “Duh … that’s why you married him!” … and yes whilst that’s true, at the time we got married, I can honestly say that I had absolutely no idea just how remarkable he was and would turn out to be. Lets not kid ourselves our relationship has been put to the test many times in the 3.5 years we’ve been married, with our journey to hopefully having a family of our own. On this note, I’d like to congratulate LH for making it to the summit of Kilimanjaro last month! Proud of you Babe!

As part of my voluntary work in animal welfare, a little 7 day old kitten (Johnny Bravo) entered our home last week Thu – rescued as an orphan from Khaylitsha (a poverty stricken township near Cape Town International airport). The last time I bottle fed and cared for an orphan this young was in November 2010 with our ‘twins’ who remained with us as “failed fosters” and are turning 3 in October. It was during those dark and desperate weeks and months following the loss of our beautiful daughter Stella that the ‘twins’ came into my life and literally saved me by giving me purpose – that of saving their lives.

Having Johnny Bravo in the house, is a reminder of how we would dearly love to have a family of our own, of how prepared we have been to take this next step in our lives for some time now and the anguish we feel of not being able to do so. LH generally tends to steer clear of the fosters that come and go, because he gets too emotionally invested and has difficulty letting go when they leave for their adoptive homes at 9 weeks of age or older. As the caretaker of our fosters, I’ve learnt to cope emotionally with saying goodbye, with the knowledge that we are able to help the next lot coming through our door. Recently I’ve been asked a number of times how many we’ve fostered up until now … I’ve yet to count, but I think it’s quite a number. So it was unusual to be able to photograph LH tenderly holding little Johnny Bravo whilst I was sorting out a hot water bottle for the little guy over the weekend. Little did I know the emotions that this photo would evoke within me … If LH, as a 6ft2inch man, can be so tender and loving with a tiny kitten that’s barely bigger than a mouse in his hands, just imagine how amazing he would be with a baby of our own. Knowing that I can never give LH the son or daughter he so desires really tears at my soul and is nothing short of excruciating. Being at the mercy of strangers in the hopes that one day we may have a baby is simply soul destroying, but we continue to live in hope.

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Where To … Part 8: Adventures & Outcomes

We started with 20 eggs, 13 fertilized, 6 embryos developed, of which 1 embryo stopped growing, 1 embryo was of too poor quality to freeze, which has left us with 4 embryos to send off on their ski holiday in the freezer.

One has to wonder how the human race keeps multiplying with these kinds of statistics. Be that as it may, we’re happy that we have 4 embryos who will have to wait patiently until we find a suitable surrogate mother – whenever that may be.

The criteria to be a surrogate in South Africa is:
1. have to have had children before
2. uncomplicated pregnancies and live births to healthy babies
3. preferably have completed own family
4. have altruistic intentions and not be looking for financial gain

In return, they get:
1. the honour of being an incubator for 9 months.
2. a whole new (albeit maternity) wardrobe.
3. pampered by the commissioning parents (and poked a few times by the doctors) for 9 months.
4. the privilege of giving the ultimate gift one could ever give to anyone – the gift of a baby … the gift of a family.
5. the possibility of a gift once the contract term is complete, although this would vary depending upon the commissioning parents

So basically I’m still looking for my special angel who loves having a pregnant belly and looks forward to being able to dress in maternity clothing – which lets be honest, most maternity clothing is frumpy as all hell! Just because a woman is pregnant, full of hormones and therefore sometimes can’t remember her own name (I speak from experience from my brief 5 month pregnancy with Stella), doesn’t mean that her sense of style and fashion has to be forfeited! But that’s a topic for another day …

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Stella who we lost suddenly 5 months into my pregnancy in 2010. What she would have looked like today … her personality … her giggle … her smile … the twinkle in her eyes. The image of her face and tiny hands and feet are still imprinted on my mind and will be forever. Her photographs, hand prints and foot prints stowed away safely. I sometimes wonder whether we shouldn’t have named our son, who we never got to meet. Perhaps we’re in denial. Perhaps because in some ways I was still dealing with the emotions of watching my son on a screen in someone else’s tummy, when tragedy struck at 13 weeks. Perhaps it was the guilt I felt because our surrogate mother had to go through a traumatic experience on my behalf. I’m really not sure. So much to work through and so much to think about even though it was a year ago … almost to the day.

Be safe on your adventure LH. Wish I was there with you.

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