Why he is the best dad

We were recently back in South Africa for a visit and we were having breakfast at a lovely cafe in the shopping mall, when Emily said she needed to go to the toilet. Before I could even say anything, Matthew was up and taking Emily to the bathroom. My Aunt “mum” turned to me and said “Sjoe!… Cands, he is such a hands on daddy!”

I am acutely aware of how hands on Matthew is with Em but it was one of those little aha! moments. Realising how much he does for her and most importantly, with her! So, I thought in light of Father’s Day coming up this weekend, I would dedicate this post to Matthew because, he really is the best dad.

When we found out we were pregnant, I remember Matthew did a little “whoop!” in the bathroom and patted himself on the back. I laughed because I knew then that he was so up for this job and that we were both ready. To be honest, it has been a roller coaster ride since then. The first night we were home with Emily, she had not latched on properly yet and was not feeding well. She pretty much cried the entire night. We both just looked at each other with a look that screams “help me!”. We had no idea what we were doing! However, when I look back on that night, there is one thing that stands out… Matthew was by my side the entire time. If I wasn’t sleeping, neither was he. We were in this together and we would figure it out as a team.

This is very indicative of how our parenting style has developed over the years. Constantly walking around with the look on our faces that says “I have no idea what I am doing half the time” but I now look at Matthew and I know that whatever stage we are dealing with, we are in it together.

I never really had a stable father figure as a child. My Aunt and Uncle took my sister and I in when I was 14 (this is whole other story for a different day). My uncle is the most wonderful man you will ever meet. He became my rock and my inspiration and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to be moulded and guided by him at such an impressionable time in my life. When I look at Matthew and Emily, I see their relationship going from strength to strength (just like my my relationship with my uncle has grown) and I feel secure in the knowledge that the 2 of them will remain close. Daddy’s girl, as they say!

I love the fact that he WANTS to spend time with Emily. He lets her tie his hair in a hair band, they play tea party and Matthew is the Lego master. She delights in the incredible objects he creates with those little blocks. They love to be in the garden together planting flowers and watching the garden grow. Emily adores the beach and building sand castle is her favourite thing to do with her dad. And as Emily gets older, I can just see Matthew sitting in Emily’s room, looking like a clown with all the make-up she has applied to his face and the both of them screaming with laughter!

Both Emily and I are lucky to have him and we couldn’t imagine life without him so, thanks babe for all the love! And to all the dads out there, Happy Father’s Day!

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I wish I knew THAT before I had my baby

For mums by mums

So, I sent a little message round to some of my mummy friends to find out some of the things that they know now that they wish they knew before their bub arrived and this is what they had to say…

London mum of one (Me!!)
The pressure of breastfeeding – 
Every mum to a newborn has felt it! In the UK, you are expected to have a good latch before you leave the hospital. If you haven’t got it right yet you will have a midwife that will visit you the following day at home and explain the importance of breastfeeding and how you need to get it right (As though you have never heard this lecture before). Can I just point out that a lot of new mums DO NOT get the breastfeeding thing right immediately. Needless to say, Emily and I were “one of those” problematic patients that really struggled. Emily, my boob and I were then slightly manhandled to get her to latch on which left Emily screaming and me in tears and my confidence completely shattered! It took 2 weeks for us to get the hang of it when I finally found a lovely lactation expert who was gentle and calming. I was speaking to a mum this past weekend who had the same experience and we both agreed that we would never allow anyone to treat us this way again. We would certainly speak up! Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. Luckily Emily and I both got great pleasure from breastfeeding once we both knew what we were doing. It can be a wonderful bonding experience if you have the right people supporting you. And if it doesn’t work out… IT IS OK… don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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Early weaning (Wait till baby is ready) – So many of my friends were weaning their baby’s early (4 months onwards) and I felt so compelled to do the same. It created such problems! Emily was not ready and with me pushing her she went on a feeding strike and refused to eat. I also tried to follow all of the “weaning guru” books and reduced her milk and expected Emily to be eating 3 meals a day pretty early on. I quickly realised that a baby’s milk is vital during their first year and that they will drop feeds on their own and eat as much as they want. Once I decided to be led by Emily, the process was so much easier. No more sobbing in the corner at feeding time (that was me by the way… I kid you not!)

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London mum of two
Breastfeeding – It can be hard work. Especially if you suffer from infections like mastitis. These infections are incredibly painful and leave you feeling very ill. It is OK to stop when it feels like it is not working for you any more.

Milestones – Don’t worry about when kids reach their milestones (especially if you are comparing your first child with your second). They will reach them when they are good and ready. Every child is different.

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Fatigue – It is a game changer and can make a difficult job even harder! Make sure you take some time to yourself and accept help when it is offered to you. Don’t be shy to ask for help too. If you feel like you need a break, reach out!

Difficult stages – Always remember that This-Too-Shall-Pass… All difficult stages are exactly that, a stage. From teething to fussy eating to tantrums.

South African mum of one
Sleeping routines – This mum read a number of books during her pregnancy and began to stress about small things like a sleep routine so, when baby arrived this was her stressor. Do not feel like a failure if you cannot get your baby down for their allotted naps. All baby’s are different which means their sleep cycles will be slightly different. Also some babies sleep well and others not so well. It is beneficial to get your baby into a routine early but be led by your baby rather than clock watching. They will naturally fall into a routine themselves. Be kind to yourself if things don’t go according to your plans as baby’s have a way of changing the game no matter how prepared you think you are! This mum has found her baby adapts to new environments really well because she is more relaxed.

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South African mum of two
This mum also picked up on the breastfeeding issue and getting the right support.

Antenatal classes – Generally, these only prepare you for the birth which is such a small part of parenting. It would be good if these classes focused on getting through the first few weeks with a newborn as well. She found it a waste of time. I will say that the NCT classes in the UK are also very birth focused but we did cover the first week and the friends that we made, we saw regularly and I have kept in contact with a couple of them so for me, it was great! Look around to find a class that suits you (if you decide it is worth your time and money)

Post natal depression – It is of course easier the second time round but you are so vulnerable when you have your first baby. With nurses/midwives/family members expressing their concerns with your breastfeeding, sleep routines, or simply the way you hold your baby can knock the small amount of confidence you do have. Keep an eye on yourself and how you are feeling. If you are struggling at any point, speak to someone (hubby or a nurse) who can help you. Your physical and mental health are just as important as your baby’s. As they say: “A happy mum makes a happy baby” and I think this could not be more true!!

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I hope this is of some help to you new mums out there!! Do you have anything to add to this list? I’d love to hear your experiences and how hindsight has changed your view on various aspects of birth and parenting.

*Please note that these are the opinions of mums who have gone through their own experiences. These opinions are NOT all my own and that other people’s experience may be different*