3 days…

A lot can happen in three days. Rome was burnt in less than three days.

Three days was all it took to go from being excited at the prospect of being parents, to grieving the loss of pregnancy.

Three days was all it took from having a stereotypically healthy pregnancy to one that was life threatening with zero possibility of a viable infant being born.

Three days was the difference between our daughter being seen as medical waste or a beautiful, worthy baby.

Three days granted her a right between life and death.

Had she been born three days (or more) earlier she would been classified and treated as medical waste, unworthy of a burial on her passing. Our hospital had assured us that if she were born three days (or more) earlier, they would do everything to try and save her. Our medical aid, on the other hand, ensured us that should she be born before 26 weeks she would not qualify for cover.

Three days. 72 hours. 4320 minutes. The difference between life and death.

Every day mothers, fathers and families are faced with similar unspeakable odds stacked against their unborn children. Different countries recognize life as viable as different gestations.  In South African this is somewhat of a grey area. There is no statutory definition of viability in South Africa.  Should one be faced with a situation where your child will be born before 26 weeks, a government hospital has no legal or ethical obligation to save your infant. Should you be fortunate enough to be in the care of a privately funded hospital, your medical aid is under no obligation to cover the cost of care for your newborn. You are left with a choice of paying yourself, or transferring to a government hospital, who will seldom care for an infant born under 26 weeks, weighing less than 1000g or measuring less than 35cm in length.

On a day such as today, 15th October, a day of remembrance for pregnancy and infant loss, I am acutely aware of how uniquely fortunate we are to be able to hold our daughter in our arms.  It’s a gift that isn’t lost on me, for one moment.

Pregnancy loss and infant is merciless, it doesn’t discriminate, you can do everything ‘right’ and still suffer unimaginable loss. 

I lost my first before I even knew that I was expecting. I had no idea how far along I was. I had no idea how to tell my boyfriend what had happened. I was terrified and sought professional, medical guidance.  The response was cold and lacking any form of sympathy.  I was told to come back if the bleeding didn’t subside after a few days. I was told that if I hadn’t planned the pregnancy then I should be relieved that it had ended early. I was told that I’d be ‘a smart girly’ if I went onto contraceptives immediately to prevent any additional unwanted pregnancies. I was lectured about safe sex, the use of contraceptives and birth control as though I were a young teenager, not a women in her twenties. My questions and concerns regarding contraceptives were scoffed and mocked. I had a patch placed on my shoulder without my consent, ‘for your own good’ and less than 30 minutes later I was left with a body full of angry welts and rashes which started at the patch itself. I left feeling shamed and belittled. The experience haunted me for many years.

When I experienced the second loss I couldn’t help recount the disdain and callous attitude I’d been given the first time. After the initial shock of confirming my pregnancy, we were excited at the prospect of becoming parents. When we were given the news that the pregnancy was not viable and required a D&C I was devastated. After our diagnosis, it became a simple business transaction of filling in forms, ensuring pre-admissions were arranged and I was admitted for the procedure. All that was offered in the form of support, guidance or counselling was the recommendation to wait three months before trying again.

Pregnancy and infant loss is something that needs to be openly discussed. It needs to be given the attention it deserves. Mothers, fathers, families need to be given the guidance, care, respect and support that they deserve.

The stigma regarding the topic of publicly speaking about loss is slowly being broken down. Mothers are sharing their stories publicly in the hopes that their journey will help someone else. 

A lot can happen in three days.

You can go from a perfectly healthy and viable pregnancy to an unimaginable loss just as quickly as you can go from hopelessness and despair to hope.

Support loved ones experiencing loss. Speak their childrens names. Recognise that even though they aren’t of this earth any longer, that they were loved, wanted and are mourned, every single day. Embrace them, allow them to grieve and process what has happened. Never put them in a position where they feel as though their loss will inconvenience you or make you feel uncomfortable. It’s not about your discomfort.

Onwards and upwards

fbt

Today was a big day for us! With our beautiful daughter about to turn four years old (how is this even possible!!!!) comes the necessity for a checkup with her paediatrician.

These visits always fill me with trepidation. Will she do well? Where have we fallen short on raising her? Have we done enough? Is she growing? If she isn’t, what are we going to do?

Add to this that we needed to do this in the midst of a worldwide pandemic and see her paediatrician in a hospital currently greating Covic-19 patients, and I was suitably on edge about the whole thing.

It’s been a rocky year so far, for most of us I suspect. None of us saw this pandemic coming, especially not on the scale that it has. We never envisioned the draconian and multitude of seemingly illogical regulations placed upon us by our government (a topic for another day perhaps). We never imagined our lives being uprooted to this extent. But here we are and we’ve all been navigating it as best we can.

The changes for our children are also incredibly stressful, their entire worlds are turned upside down and each child deals with it in their own way. For Charlotte, as always, her control point is food, so when she is stressed, she doesn’t eat, or rather thankfully now, doesn’t eat well. Her weight has fluctuated so much this year, every gram that she gained over the last year was lost, then gained, then lost again. I dreaded the moment we got to having to weigh her.

Let me just say, she was an absolute rock star. We’ve been working on getting her comfortable with the idea of wearing a mask for a few weeks now, for such a situation. And she aced it! With flying colours!

So we arrived for our appointment, hand sanitisers and masks donned and ready for action. After filling out questionnaires and having temperatures checked we were permitted to enter the hospital and make our appointment.

The results of which are thrilling to say the least. I could do a happy dance out in the road right now (if only it were allowed) and shout out some kind of primitive victory cry!

Our little miracle aced her checkup with flying colours! From head circumference, height, brain development, muscle toning and everything in between, she is perfectly healthy and excelling in her growth and development! Sure, her weight is not as expected for a child of her age and stature, but as we learned a long time ago, weight isn’t everything!!!

She is now in the 50th percentile for height! Unbelievable if one considers how slender her frame is and how tiny she was in comparison to her full term peers that she was expected to keep up with!

She is officially declassified as being orally aversive but likely has a form of Neo-phobia (a fear of trying anything new, food in particular for her, as food is her control source). This is a big one for us and her journey, to officially put that chapter of her life behind us is just mind-blowing!

So tonight while she sleeps in her chosen spot (amongst her teddies in their camp-cot) I’ll do my silent celebratory dance (so that I don’t wake up sleeping beauty)

The bigger picture

There is an abundance of information being shared across all forms of social media at the moment. It’s a blur of facts, figures, fact and fiction.

After nearly 5 weeks of lockdown, most South Africans are feeling various levels of emotions, ranging from frustration to fear.

The message from our government and the World Health Organization is that the steps taken have been necessary and are working. With this said though, there appears to be a shift in mindset as people begin to feel the fear of the financial implications of lockdown. Why are we staying in lockdown when the death rate is so low?

What is slowly being forgotten though is the main reason for lock-down. Reducing the amount of fatalities from Covid-19 is one reason yes. But the main reason is to reduce the spread of the virus, in order to allow our medical infrastructure to prepare, upgrade and handle the potential influx of patients arriving on its doorstep requiring medical attention.

Covid-19 is not going to magically be eradicated by the end of April. It’s here for the long haul and as we enter winter, we will be seeing a steep rise in the rate of infections throughout the country.

‘Flattening the curve’ is a term that’s been thrown around a lot. The meaning of this is purely to slow down the rate of infections, not to eradicate it. There is no cure, there is no vaccine. It’s not going anywhere, anytime soon.

If we fixate on the death rate/percentage alone, our figures look reasonable enough one could even say. Reasonable enough to allow a complete ending to lockdown and allow people to go back to their previous life as though nothing were ever wrong.

The reality though is that an abrupt ending to lock-down would result in a drastic rise in the infection rate and as a country we could well find ourselves facing a medical care system that is completely overwhelmed and faced with the very real situation of having to prioritize which patient is more deserving of treatment than another. Is that a situation you would like to find yourself in? 

Gripes about what we may and may not do through lock-down are also becoming an increasing discussion. Comparisons between South Africa and first world countries such as Norway. These comparisons are nonsensical at best, our poverty line is far higher than that of a first world country. Access to basics such as clean water and basic sanitation in South Africa is vastly different to any third world country. A large percentage of our population live in densely populated areas, where staying indoors 247 is simply inhumane and impossible.

I see it in local forums and online. People complaining that being unable to take their dog for a walk or go for a run is ridiculous. Forgetting that allowing these activities in one suburban area, whilst restricting it in others, is not a line we as a nation want to cross. Here in leafy suburbia this could potentially work, in densely populated suburbs, this practice would prove catastrophic for the spread of the virus.

At the end of the day we are all South Africans and like it or not, we are all in this together. Our levels of comfort and security have been tested and pushed to the very edge, to ensure our safety, and that of every other South African living in this beautiful country.

I don’t envy the president for one second. The decisions he has had to make in order to ensure that each South African is best protected has no doubt been an incredibly stressful process. I admire his resolve and determination to put forward systems aimed at keeping us all safe, sure there are loopholes, but he has done a far better job than most leaders of the ‘free world’ and first world nations.

None of what we are experiencing can be considered normal. For families like mine, social distancing, self-isolation and severe hygiene practices is normal, given our unique circumstances. We entered our journey relatively blindly, it felt incredibly isolating, being criticized for being over bearing and paranoid, whilst navigating and figuring out a new way of life that would keep our daughter and family safe. It is heartwarming and heart breaking at the same time to now see the world around us navigating a journey which we took a few short years ago. Heart breaking because of the handful of people who are so incredibly narrow minded that they cannot see the bigger picture. Heartwarming because every single day I see people reaching out to each other, offering support, care, food, clothes, love, guidance, understanding and love.

Life as we knew it has changed. Whether you like it or not. Embrace it, learn from it. South Africans are incredibly resilient, uplifting, resourceful and positive. While things may look different moving forward, I have no doubt that we will make it out the other side, stronger.

Keep safe, keep healthy, rock those beautiful masks, keep your distance of 2 metres in public spaces, wash your hands and remember to let the gas out of your pineapple beer 😉

Keeping the Covid (and other viral critters) at bay

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will be aware that the world as we knew it to be, no longer exists. We don’t know what it will look like in the next few weeks, months or even years, but we can all agree that like it or not, things have changed, dramatically.

Most of us are sitting in our homes, wondering. When will it be over? Will I be able to pay all my bills? Will I still have a job? Will I fall ill with it?  Will a loved one succumb to it? Will I have the same freedoms as before?  The answer for these questions is unknown for most. It is the most terrifying part of an unprecedented, invisible threat. We can’t see it coming. We can’t ensure that we’ve safe guarded ourselves properly. Nothing we have done up until now has ensured our complete safety, from the virus itself, or from the ripple effect it’s having on the world’s economy, financial institutions or job security. While I can’t offer any sage advice on how to secure yourself financially, I can offer some advice on how to keep as safe as possible from contracting a virus, be it Covid-19 or any other virus you may be placed in contact with.

Before I continue I need to say, I am not a medical professional by any measure. I am merely a mother to a formidable young lady who was born extremely premature, had severe lung issues for the first few months of her life with Chronic Lung Disease, had zero immune system at birth and is still classified as high risk for any respiratory illness. The preventative measures I’m listing below are what we as a family practiced religiously for the first year of her life, many we continue to practice to this day.

  1. Social Distancing: This is a term which everyone is suddenly very familiar with. In essence it’s the practice of keeping a safe distance of around 2 metres (6 feet) between yourself and someone in public.  Social distancing also refers to distancing yourself from large gatherings of people, shopping centres, markets, festivals, church ceremonies, etc.
  2. Isolation:  For us this essentially meant that very few people were allowed within our home during high risk seasons.  Those who were permitted had to adhere to very strict rules (which I’ll get into later). Isolation also meant that we were largely home bound, we did not attend parties, braai’s, large gatherings. Outings to shops were highly restricted and limited to essential shopping only, with only one member of the family tending to these errands.
  3. Hygiene:  The rule here is simple in nature. Try to ensure that any exposure to the outside world does not result in personal contamination.  Following on personal contamination is the need to ensure that possible contamination is not brought into your home.

Social distancing is one of the elements of our protocol that we have relaxed with over the years as our daughter has grown, required social stimulation and developed her immune system. We slowly started taking her into public spaces, allowing her to play with other children, going to touch farms, play parks and kids parties, but were always mindful of the season and who we interacted with.

Isolation has also progressively relaxed over the years, again, we are still incredibly mindful of who we allow into our home, our closest friends and families are acutely aware that we will not allow anyone in who is ill or who has been exposed to someone who is ill.  Our daughter is in pre-school, I started working full time, we spend more time in public spaces than we did in her formative years.

Hygiene, or rather sanitization, for me was one of the hardest ones to relax on. Keeping in mind we were on the extreme precautionary end of the spectrum. Up until the pandemic was declared and Covid hit our country, I was still very much trying to keep a level head and maintain a sense of calm over how extreme my measures of prevention were required to be.

When cases started appearing in the country and the spread escalated we discussed removing our daughter from school and going into lockdown with her. The morning after the president announced a date for a nationwide lockdown, our daughter woke up with a fever and immediately we knew her system was further compromised and we set into motion our families lockdown ahead of the nationally mandated one.

The points below are what we follow currently and have done in the past through her first year and through ‘flu seasons’ since.  I hope they assist you in keeping you and your family safe:

  • Stay home as far as is possible. Refrain from unnecessary trips. If you need groceries, arrange home deliveries or ensure that you plan one trip out to get all of your essentials;
  • Plan trips to shops at low peak times, early mornings, late evenings, when most stores are relatively quiet and large crowds are unlikely;
  • Wear sensible, easily washable shoes, they won’t be entering your home and will likely be sanitized, so wear something that you won’t cry over being ruined;
    • Take along a sanitizer spray and/or wipes with you to the store;
    • Wipe/spray the trolley, not just the handle, the entire trolley, the groceries you bring home are resting in that trolley;
    • Wipe/spray each item you pick from a shelf wherever possible before placing it in your trolley. Try not to pick up items unless you intend on purchasing them;
    • Take along a handwritten shopping list instead of your phone, every time you touch your phone you risk contaminating it;
    • Wipe/spray the till counter and ask the teller and bag packer to sanitize their hands before handling your groceries;
    • Wipe/spray your hand before touching the card machine, and after;
    • Try to reduce the need for using physical money, notes and coins are a haven for carrying viruses and bacteria;
    • Wear a suitable mask in public if the need requires it;
    • Don’t touch your face unless you have washed your hands or sanitized them, just don’t do it;
    • Don’t bother with gloves, most of you are using them incorrectly to begin with; wash your hands and/or sanitize correctly, before and after your shopping trip;
    • Spray your grocery bags before placing them in your vehicle;
    • It goes without saying, if you are using disposable masks and gloves, dispose of them safely and suitably in a bin where nobody else will have physical contact with them;
    • Remove your shoes before you enter your home;
    • Remove your clothes, place them into the washing machine immediately and take a nice, long, hot soapy shower before greeting your family;
    • Refrain from physical contact as far as possible, no hugging (I personally loved this as I’m not really a hugger), no handshakes and definitely no kisses on the cheeks or lips;
    • If you are having guests over (out of lockdown period), make it abundantly clear that they are to be freshly showered and clean as well as wearing clothing that has not been exposed to public spaces, they should not have been in recent contact with friends, family or work colleagues who are ill and they themselves should not be ill.

This all may sound like a lot to digest, and you would be spot on there, but when the health and wellbeing of yourself and your loved ones is at stake, it’s a small price to pay. The severity and intensity to which you follow these suggestions is up to you and largely depends on the time of year, for us we follow these far more diligently through autumn and winter when colds and flus are more prevalent.

These protocols were put in place after discussions with our daughter’s specialists and medical professionals, to ensure that we minimized exposure to ourselves as well as her and are largely what we follow currently with the Covid-19 pandemic. 

You may feel that this is all much ado about nothing, but for those of us who understand that a common cold can prove deadly, these protocols are potentially lifesaving.  If you choose to believe it’s all a tad much then I ask one simple favour of you. When you do go out into public, still practice good hygiene, refrain from touching surfaces unnecessarily, refrain from taking your child to the shops when they are sick, and if you have no choice, ensure that they have a mask on and do not touch anything, Covid pandemic or not, we all need to take a little more care of our actions in public spaces.

Here’s also a fantastic video to watch to show you how to correctly use hand sanitizer:

Here’s a video showing the danger of using gloves incorrectly:

Here’s a video to show you how to wash your hands correctly:

I hope the above has helped you. And as always, stay safe!

xx

Some of our supply with a handy small bottle to spray trolleys, bags and groceries and a small spritzer for hands and door handles.

The family photoshoot

This past weekend our little family had a photoshoot with someone incredibly special and who has in her possession an amazing eye for composition and phenomenal photography.  We live in different towns and while we’ve been chatting for absolute ages, but we’d never had the pleasure to meet in person. So when she contacted me to say she was coming to my little town and wanted to do a photoshoot of our family I was blown away!

We’d had phenomenal photographs taken of myself and Charlotte when she came home from the NICU 3 years ago. They were captured by an incredible photographer who also happens to be one of my closest friends and an absolutely phenomenal woman. They meant so much to us at the time, they still do and for so long now I’ve wanted to set a date and get more family photographs. The idea of being in the photo’s myself though had me stalling, for so very long. So when Roxanne contacted me and we set a date I knew there was no turning back!

I was excited at the prospect of this amazing woman and photographer capturing our little family. But I was also apprehensive. I would be in the photo’s… all. Of. Me. Squishy arms, floppy belly and all three of my chins, all the ugliness and areas that made me feel insecure would be in full display for the world to see. 

I love taking photographs of my family, the antics of our delightful toddler, her interactions with her dad and myself, but I’m very select in what angles I use to capture my own moments with her. As I believe many women do.

I didn’t for a moment want my own body issues affecting how our photographs turned out. I didn’t want to sit paralyzed in fear that my every lump and bump would be on display and ruin what should be a memorable outing and memories captured for a lifetime to reflect back on.

I’ve posted before about body weight issues and how I don’t want my insecurities to affect my daughters’ quality of life and memories of me one day. It’s a daily concern for me and one which more often than not has felt too daunting to tackle and easier to hide from.

So when the big day arrived, I was terrified. Concern almost fully consumed me that I wasn’t going to fit into any of the dress options, terrified that my weight would overshadow what should be beautiful images considering the dashing husband I was blessed to fall in love with and our beautiful daughter along with her wispy, wild hair.

When I got the first photo I was blown away at how beautiful my family is. How my daughters light and love is so impeccably captured, our silly grins, the adoration in my husband’s eyes when he is looking at our daughter. The smile of a father who knows that his daughter is the most beautiful creation in this world. How she picked flowers, tried to feed them to dad and he played along. I cried ugly tears at how beautiful it all was.

And then I cried some more because my negative thoughts kept trying to take over and ruin what are truly beautiful photographs of my family.  I couldn’t take my eyes off my waist, my arms, my chins. I felt as though I had ruined the photographs with my extra weight. The feeling of hopelessness threatened to take over and I decided to take a step back and look at them in their entirety.

These photographs, what they represent, the story which they tell. They are filled with love, hope and happiness. They show a family that very nearly wasn’t. A family who fought so many obstacles to get to this point. A family who have loved and lost along the way but haven’t given up and aren’t about to. 

They tell a tale about three survivors and that there is light after darkness. And I’ll be dammed if my three extra chins and chunky arms are going to ruin those memories and reminders.

Roxanne, your talent and gift is one which will be a part of this family and our memories for the rest of our lives. No amount of words in the world could ever convey how thankful we are for these photographs!