About jennnfur

I'm a writer, and even though I really like sad music, I'm a pretty happy person.

Birth and Beyond

This post isn’t meant to be contraceptive. It’s not my intention to gird your loins or dull your ardour, but if that’s a secondary response to reading on, so be it. Hey, you may remember me fondly one day, as you gaze over glittering waters from the deck of your 20-foot yacht.

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Two-and-a-half-months into my daughter’s life and I’m ready to make peace with how she came into the world. On many levels my head is still all over the place but, day-by-day, I can feel myself moving on.

Part of moving on involves accepting certain new realities. Having a child is a thing. Having two is another thing entirely, and when your kids are less than 2 years apart, it’s a massive gnarly compound thing. Or at least it is for me.

*pause to comfort baby*

one day later

My new realities range from having a toddler watch me poop (privacy is a thing of the past), to embracing interesting new diets (read: I mostly eat out of my handbag). In fact, as I type, I’m inhaling a bowl of banana milkshake flavoured Oatees (somehow plain banana didn’t make the cut). I’m hoping to boost the old energy levels before the toddler wakes up.

Full disclosure: I’ll probably wash it down with another bowl of lumo yellow cereal, and maybe some Provita with hummus dippy dip dip. And gin.

Add to this pre-apocalyptic world of parenting a toddler who’s just discovered how to climb out of his cot, and a nanny who never returned from holiday. It accurately summarises the funky spice mix of my current life jambalaya.

*half-asleep toddler marches into lounge making demands*

two days later

Right. After spending 20 minutes wailing for the cot, then the bed, then the cot, then the bed again, toddler is finally asleep on the floor. Newborn is swaddled like a Cuban cigar, and hopefully she’ll also nap long enough for me to write a few full sentences.

Once both childers are down in the evening, hubby and I stagger into the kitchen with the intention of throwing something nutritious together. More often than not, we chase a cheese sandwich with a glass or two of wine and sit gently on the couch, feeling fragile and depleted. Then it’s off to bed where we reset for another day of relentless mayhem. I handle the nocturnal baby feeds, and hubber tackles the pre-dawn waking toddler.

It’s an endless cycle of fatigue, frustration and inimitable joy, and some days it’s worth it. Others, not so much.

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On my darkest days I indulge myself, allowing my thoughts to dart back to that moment in the labour ward when the gynae told me, as I rested between contractions, that if we wanted to save the baby I’d have to have an emergency c-section. On my darkest days I buckle under the weight of disappointment that 9 months preparation cannot bear.

My feelings are not unique. Birth rarely goes according to plan, and many moms feel like they were robbed of an experience that they’d hoped would become part of their tapestry.

To be clear, this is not a tirade against elective caesarean births. Oh hell no. It’s just an honest account of how I feel having had to undergo surgery when it was the last thing I expected. I mean that literally. If you’d told me that we were having sextuplets with webbed toes I could have taken that in my stride. I’d given birth naturally before (albeit with some assistance), so a c-section wasn’t even on my radar.

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As I write this, I find that the specific elements I’ve been pointedly ignoring are dissolving. They’ve been menacing shadows, black dogging my thoughts for the last few months, but now they’re becoming non-issues.

Writing it out, actively recalling specific moments… this exercise is cathartic. It’s more for me than for you that I let myself remember.

The Things:

The hasty plastic razor pube shave? Meh.

Trying to get into the gown between contractions? Ok that one sucked.

Contractions? The worst. Not just because of the pain, but because they were useless. I was finally in labour. Three days of stop and start contractions and now it was go time, for reals. But the sensations I’d been preparing to own, to surrender to and push through were pointless. That’s when I started feeling the loss. With every new wave of pain I gave into the fear. I felt myself sink lower and lower until I was a gibbering wreck.

The uncontrollable shaking as I entered the surgery with my soft white underbelly exposed? Probably the most fearful moment of my life. I’d been ready to give birth to this girl using my body for the very purpose it was formed. Naked and primal. Instead, I was prone and shivering on a gurney, in a polycotton frock.

Crouching for the aenethetist between contractions? A low point. Basically anything to do with contractions is still a sore point. Hah.

Fretfully informing the doctors that I could still feel things? One of my greatest fears. Don’t start yet guys. We’ve all seen Alien.

Feeling like the handbag in which the gynae was trying to find her keys? Not great.

Looking up at my hubby in his scrubs? Now that’s a happy memory. That’s some glitter in the turd. He looked like a sheik in his disposable hospital hairnet, and his beard provided some absurd kind of comfort. It’s funny, even though it was an ordeal for me, and even though we didn’t get to use the exercises we’d practised, we were uniquely, incredibly connected in the experience. More so, even, than in Finn’s birth.

Hearing the gynae exclaim with increasing amazement as she evicted our daughter through a cut in my belly, “Cord’s around her neck, one, two, three, FOUR times!”

Not hearing the plaintive wail. Not hearing the cry. Asking for my baby. Where’s my baby? Where’s my baby?

A moment of nothing, like the silence after a lighting strike.

Then the thunder. As a piping hot, feather-light body is placed onto my chest. Hearing it mew. Feeling it pulse.

And Breathe.

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The rest is a Pollock painting of morphine, painkillers and learning how to live with a toddler and a newborn. Which brings us up to date, give or take a few months.

It’s a good thing time doesn’t stand still, because for every dewy eyed couple knee deep in love there’s a new parent on the brink. Fortunately, after a few months, the horrific chaos peters out and settles into your garden-variety pandemonium.

Over time, my body has healed, and our lives have adjusted to accommodate our new reality.

Sleep patterns, social lives, housekeeping standards and bank balances all change, but so too does the heart. In addition to nurturing a grim sense of humour, I’m becoming more compassionate, patient and am able to put up with a phenomenal amount of toddler bullshit.

Will I do it again? Oh hell no. Hubby has booked his vasectomy, and wants to announce that it’s last rounds on his baby making juice, should anyone desperately want to get their hands on a sample – in a sterile, strictly business kind of way.

 

 

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Oona, pooping as I finish the final read through.

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How to Install a Water Feature in your Kitchen

You might think that your kitchen is fine as it is, but you couldn’t be more wrong. There’s something whimsical about having an unexpected fountain in the heart of your home. It’s a conversation starter. It represents your state of mind. It’s a great story to tell the kids one day.

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The most important thing to remember before we get going, and I really can’t stress this enough, is to rely on the Rhythm Method of contraception. As my GP put it: “The worst thing that can happen is that you fall pregnant”.

“Hahaha!” I reply, feeling groovy on my new meds.

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Ha. Ha. Ha.

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Along with the element of surprise, here’s what else you’ll need:

  • A really small house or apartment
  • A nimble toddler/spider monkey
  • A sink full of all the dishes. Because even though one of you only drinks from a sippy cup, it’s somehow necessary to ensure that every other container has been used in the last 24 hours. Bonus points if the dirt has hardened to a crust.
  • A rainy day
  • At least two pets lying uneasily in the corner as the aforementioned toddler/spider monkey brandishes an ice tray their way.

And combine…

In my case, our renovations begin when I foolishly let my mind wonder, and my child wander. With the news of our unexpected second pregnancy still fresh enough to freeze, I’m a mess as I stack dishes into the sink.

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My thoughts are all over the place. Probably because I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in a week. Gotta love that pregnant feeling. Still, I subconsciously make sure that the big plates go at the bottom, side plates above them and bowls on the top. Muscle memory or a desperate attempt to order my chaotic life? Hmmmm. I turn on the hot tap.

“How are we going to afford this? I wonder if it’s a boy or a girl. I like the name Otto, and I also like Oona. But Lizet said Oona sounds like Poonani, so that’s out. Dammit Lizet. I really liked that one. What happens if it’s a girl and she hates me? The broccoli in the fridge is going limp, I’m gonna have to cook it tonight. I guess we can have it with fish. Oh yay. Again. Maybe I’ll make cauli-mash. Finn likes that. I can tell by the way he rubs it into my hair. I wonder what he’s doing now. Haven’t heard him in a while…”

“Oh crap oh crap oh crap. I left the bathroom door open.”

I dash out of the kitchen, mismatched dishwashing gloves slapping wetly on the floor behind me, and start checking for my boy. It’s easier to understand my urgency if you know that my fearless and adventurous son is part mountain goat. This ibex child has been known to scale great heights without any assistance from other humans – usually using rickety surfaces as his base.

If it’s sharp, breakable or incendiary, he’ll make a plan to reach it.

I see him.

N’awwww. He’s sitting in the empty bathtub, surrounded by books. My eyes go all soft and crinkly as I contemplate this dear little thing. And then I see his dad’s razor resting on his knee.

It’s also around this time that I notice a trickling sound. As I move to quickly remove the razor, while still trying to seem nonchalant (so as to not Cause Alarm and thus Reinforce The Undesired Behaviour) I think, “Gee, I must have left a window open, the rain sounds loud.” At the speed of mom I whisk the razor out of sight, and tousle my kiddo’s hair. He looks up briefly, shrugs away from my affectionate touch and commences scrutinising the book of farm animals, which he’s holding upside down.

Bless.

I walk back to the kitchen, thinking that maybe he’ll be an OK big brother. Maybe – with a few more shelves placed high up on the walls – we can make this work. Feeling a bit more optimistic, I look down for my dishwashing gloves and notice the slowly spreading puddle on the floor. Already I know what’s happened, but my eyes resist my brain’s smug insistence, and before I believe it I check every window latch. All firmly fastened. And the water noise gets louder.

As I splash over to the tap, a part of me laughs at the sight of dishwater slopping down the cupboard. Only a very small part. Most of me wants to cry and call my mom. Which I do.

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Ma tells me all too happily about how she had my eldest brother when she was only 21, while my dad was away in Zimbabwe, in the army. She takes a certain grim pride in mentioning how they’d just moved to Durban, that she didn’t know anyone, and had to learn how to care for a new-born baby completely on her own. Also cloth nappies.

Thanks for that one Ma. As I gaze around our cosy abode, I give myself a sisterly slap – which is TOTALLY a thing you can do if you only have brothers – and grab the mop. Finn comes toddling in, not believing his luck at the watery floor, and starts pulling cushions off the couch.

But it’s not as bad as it sounds.

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The Company of Other Women

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I remember sitting on a balcony in Cape Town back in 2006, overhearing a conversation between two women. The one mused, with all the sage wisdom of a 21-year old, “I get on way better with guys than with girls.” And the other – an ancient gal on the cusp of 30 – gave a brusque reply that resonated with me: “Yah, most women do. It’s a competition thing.”

It made me think, “Oh, so it’s not just me.” And for a long time that was how I thought about friendships with other women. I took it for granted that girls just didn’t really like each other.

My friends were mostly guys, and at the time I thought it was because I was a tomboy; one of the boys, up for whatever and not hung up on being ladylike. If I’m horribly honest with myself though, I think it was more because I was really insecure and I needed the approval of men to make myself feel good. I was a slutty drunk, I was usually stoned and I had a gross streak of always wanting to be with other people’s boyfriends.

Understandably I didn’t have a group of girlfriends, I had one or two individual friends who were left-field enough to put up with me.

Why am I telling you all this?

Well, maybe it’s just my stage of life, but I’ve been reflecting a lot recently. It took me a long time to grow up and out of my bad habits, and having a hubby and a baby have been central to that process. So now, when I look back with the clarity and perspective of time I see how insecure I was, and I’m amazed at how I got through life without the company of other women.

Today my female friends are rocks. They are blessings. Their wisdom and companionship means so much to me – I’d be seriously lost without it. I think the realisation really started hitting home when I fell pregnant and, since then, the truth of it has become a major encouragement in my life.

I discovered that I had something in common with other women, something that I really didn’t have with men. I guess that many people just grow up with an innate sense of their self worth, and have healthy friendships from the get-go. But for me, I think I finally started to step into the confidence I have now when hubby hit a home run.

When I hang out with my ladies, there’s no competition. There’s just understanding. There’s peace in our camaraderie, and a total acceptance of the chaos that comes with being a mother.

Nowadays, the company of other women is something I look forward to; something I cherish. I love this season of my life, and the ruckus it brings. I love that I survived my 20s and I love that there’s such hope in new starts and new life.

Booyah.

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Not Pinterested

I’m kinda writing this after the fact, because I made the shocking realisation a few months ago: mine is not a Pinterest baby. Heck he’s not even a reddit baby. And that’s ok, because I’m not really a Pinterest mom.

Here are some areas in which young sir excels in doing exactly the opposite of what the glossies do:

Sophie la Giraffe

I know I’m not alone in this one. So you know that rubber giraffe that looks like a dog toy* but costs about 300 bucks? Yep, Finn was more interested in the packaging. No amount of squeaking, strategic placement or even Telament drops could get him to take to her. She’s still lying in all her natural rubber glory at the bottom of the toy drawer.

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*interestingly, our niece’s bull terrier got hold of her Sophie and with a few enthusiastic canine alterations, turned her into a more ergonomnomnomically correct “Sophie de Milo”

Affection

I used to think he was the cuddliest kiddo in all the world, but it turns out he just wasn’t that good at gross motor control. Now that he’s able to push me away, he does. Usually while screeching. When we’re out, the other tots sit on mom’s lap, or gently rest a hand on her knee. Not mine. He’s off sticking his hand in the toilet.

When his dad’s in the room, however, up go the pudgy little arms for a prolonged nestle-in-the-beard. No biggie. I spend the time I’d use to feel sorry for myself coming up with embarrassing things to say when he’s a teenager. Also when he does give me some love out of nowhere it means 10 x more.

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Co-napping

*pauses to wipe away tears of mirth* Those pictures of babies sleeping next to their mom and dad? We don’t have any. This is because we’re a family that likes their space. We’ve tried to have those delicious lazy morning naps with him, but our attempts have been traumatic for all of us.

Now that he’s mobile, we’ve had to let that dream drift away as he’s swapped uncomfortable rolling, writhing  and kicking in the tenders for full-barrelled charging around the bed. It’s hard to drift off while your one-year old is exploring your nostrils or trying to leap to his doom.

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Pictures

When he was little, every day was Blue Steel day. The camera loved him. I could snap away and they’d all be in focus. But nowadays (and he can’t even walk yet) he’s basically just a food-covered blur. Only once every 1000 frames does he sit still. In fact, if it weren’t for my cellphone’s sports setting, and cheap data storage, we’d have an approximation of Nyan cat’s tail as the only proof he exists.

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Dog Cuddles

Whatever. Our dogs both adore him, and he’s fascinated by them but there’re no nestling up to Maxx or Trousers for late-afternoon naps in the sun for our boy. I don’t know about your dogs, but our hounds lick their genitals, eat poo and they shed. So we’re not wild about them being in beds or on couches.

This doesn’t stop him from sharing their water bowl or chewing their food dishes. Obviously. He cares not a jot for smelliness or filth.

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It’s funny, now that we’re over the first year we have a new perspective on expectations and where we place importance. Despite the fact that we were misled by the internet (imagine the shock) and actually share our lives with a perpetually cruising, fiercely independent, cardboard-chewing child, we take a certain joy in how otherwise he is.

He’s scrappy, determined, surprising, and usually dirty; we vote him most likely to survive a nuclear holocaust and we couldn’t be prouder.

 

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The Baby Paradox

Babies are a paradox.  They’re perplexing, disarming, frustrating creatures that can change your cooos to curses in split seconds, and then back again.

Those hands that yank your hair so hard you kick the dog are the same hands that gently stroke your cheek when you least expect it.

But then again, the voice that sweetly murmurs sounds that could be your name (I swear this time it was with MEANING) is the same voice that screeches with rage when you take away the wetwipes.

The science diagram below attempts to explain the inner workings of your average 10-month-old puppetmaster.

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As you can see, the tricky thing with babies is that the very appendages that show you love, or at least a cat-like acknowledgement of your necessity, are the same things that vex you the most.

It seems that they’re made pretty perfectly. In the image of God even. That ideal balance exists, and it’s practically a survival tactic.

For every rancid poop you get on your thumb there’s a pristine flank of unsurpassed squidginess that needs to be smooshed. It’s science.

My boy kissed me for the first time yesterday. I was lying on the ground when he 4×4’d over to me, dabbed his open mouth on my cheek and then lurched away. It was clumsy and perfect and I was the queen of the world.

Made me forget that he’d woken at 5am, breezed through two nap times and got asparagus in his ear.

Babies are cool that way.

For every sleepless night, for every tantrum, there’s a moment when they see into your eyes and recognise you as pack, as blood, as theirs.

For Your Aural Displeasure

If you’re a new mom, the chances are that you’ve experienced the horror of taking your baba to the mall. It’s bad enough with the bright lights and overpowering fast-food smells, but when you walk into a shop and the music is aggressively loud, it’s the absolute worst.

Anyway, my awesome mom friend had a gross experience at Mr Price the other day, so she wrote to them about it. This is her letter. As yet she’s had no reply.

MrP Letter

Anyone else feel this? Fistbumps to you. And earplugs.

The Mombod – Six Months On

Now that Finn’s hit the six-month mark it seems as good a time as any for some honest reflection.

Here’s a brief rundown of the past six months, according to my mombod:

The Belly

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It’s January and Finn is already a week overdue. I have a friend with a diamond mind and she says the baby just doesn’t want to leave my uterus because it’s a pudding-filled Jacuzzi .

All around me my preggy friends are delivering early, and I feel like a disgusting, sweaty, insomniac meatball. I’m also damn curious to know if it’s a boy or a girl, so the the wait is agonising.

I’m loving my silhouette though 🙂

The Birth

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Egad. I am in no way prepared for the pain. Mom, you lied. Admit it.

From the get-go I’m freaked out, and 8 hours into the tough stuff I opt for the epidural. 4 hours later Finn is born with the help of a vacuum thingie. He wiggles out covered in blood and poop, we discover he’s a boy and he has a nom on my breast.

(I will share my birth story at some point, but this is not that post.)

((You know the whole “throwing a sausage down a hallway” vibe? It’s bollocks))

The Boobs

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Such was the flatness of my chest that, growing up, my brothers called me Surfboard, Mosquito Bites,  Bee stings, and when they were feeling particularly kind: Noombies. Understandably, I’ve been looking forward to having impractically large breasts.

But, when my milk comes in they’re hard as rocks and my hub and I are genuinely concerned that they’ll explode. I do enjoy admiring them from all angles though when I have time to shower. (Shower time is sacrosanct; a post-birth ritual that I totally took for granted before I had a baby)

The Blade

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Alas, my boobal magnificence is short lived. My superhero chesticles are not long for this world. I am doomed to be oddly racked.

 When Finn is a month-and-a-half old I have emergency surgery to remove a gigantic abscess. As a result, I’m left with one weird shrunken Frankenboob, while the other side picks up the slack, turning into Superboob; one boob to rule them all. I am so lopsided that I walk in circles when I don’t concentrate.

On the bright side, I can keep breastfeeding on the super side and my little man gets rounder and squishier every day.

The Bleakness

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Two months in and I’m just worn down. My body feels weak after the birth, the episiotomy and the breast surgery. My emotions are ALL over the place, I miss my mom and I’m not coping. I feel like a failure because I had an epidural, and because I’ve not taken to motherhood like some people do.

Sometimes I think that if Finn dies in his sleep it’ll be for the best.

It’s not a good place to be and I know I need help.

The Bettering

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After seeing a doctor, and then getting a second opinion, I’ve decided to go on a course of SSRIs. This decision in itself is pretty tough because I’ve always been conflicted about anti-depressants. But right now I need to keep it together; I need to take care of this little life.

I am so grateful for the help.

And now that I’m not brought to tears at the sight of my freak-show breasts, now that I can make simple decisions like “Coffee or tea?” without losing it, I’m starting to see how awesome my child is. Damn, he’s so freaking awesome.

Sometimes, at night, the hubber and I joke about going into his room and waking him up just so that we can all hang out together.

 In fact I like him so much I even have a list of my favourite moments:

  • When I check to see that he’s still breathing, and he is
  • When he smiles at his dad
  • When I go to fetch him after a nap and he grins up at me like a gummy Cheshire cat
  • When I pick him up and he latches onto my chin
  • When he’s done feeding and pops off my breast with a happy sigh
  • When he falls asleep in my arms
  • When he giggles
  • When he lies awake making fart noises instead of napping

This list grows every day.

It’s taken me months to get used to being a mom, and now I’m loving it so much that I don’t want to do anything else.

For a while it was difficult to get used to the change in pace. Going from managing a team at a busy marketing agency to stay-at-home momming has been a major shift. But, I tells ya, I get more satisfaction from seeing my boy smile at Incy Wincey Spider than I ever did from nailing a client brief.

In fact, as I type this Finn’s doing pushups and making pterodactyl noises, and I’ve never been more content in my life.

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