Tag: birth story

November Chat with a Dad: Mark of The Adventures of Sonny & Luca

I’ll keep this intro short, since this is a bit of a long interview but so worth the read!  For this month’s November Chat with a Dad, let me introduce you to Mark. He is the man behind the funny, fresh and very candid blog: The Tales of Sonny and Luca.  This blog, btw belongs to my top blogs written by a Dad.  If this blog isn’t on your list yet, I suggest you add this to yours too.

Tell us something about yourself.

My name’s Mark and I live with my partner Janet and our two boys Sonny (4) and Luca (3) in South Manchester.

I used to masquerade as a Sales Rep but was fortunately offered voluntary redundancy before they discovered I was a truly terrible salesman. In hindsight it was a blessing as Janet really wanted to return to work whilst I felt I was missing out on so much of our boys early years because of the long hours I was working.

Financially it was very difficult and we’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices but thankfully Janet found herself a great job as a Researcher which she really enjoys, and this allowed me to become a full-time stay at home dad, which is what I still am today.

 What was your little ones birth stories like?

Sonny’s was relatively straight forward and dare I say easy (only a man could say that!)

Labour was short and without complication, and Janet being the woman she is took everything in her stride. Unfortunately some of those strides were on a tennis court with her nephew when she was 8 months pregnant, much to my contempt. She strained a muscle, or rather a few muscles, and we ended up in A&E with her being lambasted by the doctors. I said nothing. I didn’t need to, she knew in my head I was saying “I told you so!”

Luca’s on the other hand was traumatic from the very start. She fell pregnant only three months after Sonny was born. Three months later she was pretty much bedridden for the remainder of the pregnancy with high blood pressure and severe gestational diabetes. From five months we were at the hospital two or three times a week for a multitude of tests, and were never more than a couple of days away from the prospect of an emergency c-section. During this time I was under the constant threat of redundancy, struggling financially, had a newborn to look after, and a house move to organise. With Janet needing to be stress free I hid most of the problems from her, then not long after Luca was born I suffered a mental breakdown. With hindsight it’s not surprising and I should have shared the burden with others but being a typical bloke I assumed I’d cope. Clearly I didn’t but that’s a whole other story.

 Thankfully Janet somehow managed to make it to full term and Luca was born a healthy yet small 6lbs; exactly the same as his brother.

 After both births I went to the toilet in the delivery room and inadvertently pulled the emergency chord thinking it was the toilet flush handle. On both occasions I caused untold panic in the Maternity ward!

What you wish you knew about being a dad before becoming one?

So much. To fully appreciate every opportunity of sleep. That sometimes there is no fathomable reason for them crying. That every involvement you have no matter how insignificant it may seem at the time is priceless. That powdered milk and nappies are bloody expensive.

How do you balance your time between work and fatherhood?

 Luckily it’s not an issue for me now as a stay at home dad. If anything I have too much time with them, weekends can sometimes feel like unpaid overtime! With Janet working I try and make sure we all eat together at night and I take care of the dishes etc so she can spend what time she has in the evening playing with them.

How do you manage to arrange child-free time with your wife/partner? Do you have date-nights?

Until recently we’ve managed it very badly. A few months ago we both realised how little time we were spending together without the kids so decided to do something about it. Thanks to a very helpful Granny we’re now trying to have at least one or two date-nights a month, whether it be going for a meal, the cinema, or seeing a band/comedian etc.

 It’s possibly more important for us as Janet first fell pregnant after we’d only been seeing each other for three months. We’d been going to see bands as ‘mates’ for a few months prior to us becoming a couple but still, our whirlwind of a honeymoon period appears to have included a weekend in Madrid, moving in together, and two babies? It’s a good job we get on!

For the last couple of years we’ve also managed a weekend away for my birthday. Janet’s sister kindly comes down from Edinburgh to look after the boys so we can have a couple of nights away. We only go up the road to Manchester but two tantrum-free nights of full sleep are wonderful. I’m not sure if when Janet’s sister first agreed to take the kids she knew it would become an annual tradition, but then if she had it possibly wouldn’t be.

 Any favourite anecdotes about your little ones?

There’s a few, pretty much all of them on my blog already though. My favourite and most embarrassing ones were Sonny’s fight with a Dyson Hand-dryer and more recently our impromptu R.E. lesson in a lift.  (Click here to read the Dyson Hand-dryer post).

Two weeks ago,  I entered a lift with the delusion of being a religious scholar, and left a broken man.

Here follows the transcript of what broke me….


Sonny:      “Why is that man hiding?”
Me:           “He’s not hiding, and it’s a lady”
Luca:         “I can see you!”
Sonny:      “Is he playing hide and seek?”
Me:            “SHE is not playing hide and seek, you’re being really rude, now quiet please.”


Sonny:       “Is he wearing a costume?”
Luca:         “Like Batman?”
Me:            “No. It’s not a man, and SHE is not wearing a costume. Shush please, we’ll discuss this later.”

(C’mon now, why is this lift stopping, no one is getting in!)

Luca:         “Is she a Power Ranger?”
Sonny:      “Is it Emily?”
Me:            “I’m really sorry! No she’s not a Power Ranger, she’s wearing something called a Burkha, now be quiet PLEASE!”

(Seriously, why is this lift stopping on every floor?)

Luca:         “What’s a Burkha?”
Me:            “It’s something people wear.”
Sonny:      “Can I have a Burkha?”
Me:            “No.”
Luca:         “I want a Burkha too!’
Me:            “You’re not having a Burkha. You’re not a girl, or a Muslim.”


Luca:         “Do you want a Burkha Sonny? I want a Burkha. Daddy, can I have a Burkha?”
Me:            “No one is having a Burkha, now quiet! PLEASE!”
Sonny:      “Burkha’s are silly. What’s a Muslim?”

(Who the hell is pressing the buttons? Every damn floor?)

Me:           “We’ll talk about this later. I’m so sorry!”
Luca:        “I want to be a Muslim”
Me:           “It doesn’t work like that.”
Sonny:     “What’s a Muslim?”
Me:           “Someone who believes in God. ”
Luca:        “Granny likes God!”
Sonny:     “Is Granny a Muslim?”
Me:          “No … do you know what, yes, yes she is!”


Sonny:      “The Wise Old Elf’s a Muslim.”
Me:            “No he’s not.”
Sonny:     “But you said he was!”
Me:           “No I didn’t.  Right, out of the lift boys!”
Sonny:     “This isn’t our floor. You said we were going to the 1st floor!”
Me:           “OUT! NOW!”

Click here to read full post.

What is it about fatherhood you love?

I love watching them grow, develop, and discover new things. The precious moments when they laugh uncontrollably at the strangest of things. When we’re playing on the floor and I’m lost in their weird and warped imaginations. And from a selfish point of view when they assume I know everything and then believe whatever gubbins I tell them.

If there’s anything about fatherhood you dislike about, what would it be?

Lack of sleep! I miss having the time to do my own thing, and the constant feeling that I should probably go to bed when it’s only 9pm. I’ve also had to put a temporary (I hope) halt to my love of discovering new music until I can find time to listen to it. Football! I miss being able to watch a game of football on the TV without the constant barrage of “is it finished yet?”

Wow, more than I realised, I wish you hadn’t asked now!

 Is there anything about being a stay at home dad you like/dislike about?

I feel really grateful to have shared so much of their early years. We’ve been able to have days out when everywhere is wonderfully quiet. We’ve visited the zoo, museums, art galleries, playgroups, parks, the list is endless. I’ve been so lucky to have shared so many of their ‘first’ moments, and to have been able to play such an active role in their development (for better or worse?)

 The only thing I dislike a little is the lack of adult interaction. I say only a little as it’s become quite apparent I’m far happier in the company of children than I am adults. It’s only when I’m offering the builders ‘fizzy pop’ I become aware of how unbalanced my child/adult time has become.

Best advice you’ve ever received about Fatherhood.

I’m not sure I’ve ever received any.

I was asked recently to contribute to a light-hearted open letter to Prince William about fatherhood though, so this is some advice I gave on the subject.

 Sit on the Floor and Play. Eat, drink, and play. Talk, and play. And never forget to PLAY.

If you can give yourself some advice before becoming a dad, what would it be?

 It’s hard to answer this without it being riddled with clichés. Savour every minute you have with them. Don’t spend the first year or so wishing for them to reach the next stage of their development as it’ll come too soon anyway. And sleep when they sleep. NEVER miss an opportunity to sleep!

 There’s clearly a theme running through all my answers and it revolves around the LACK OF SLEEP!

Thanks so much Mark!  

C’mon everyone head off to his blog NOW for more tales from this funny-and ever-so-cool dad.

You can also connect with him through twitter

and don’t forget to like his FB page too!

September Chat with a Mum: Sonya Cisco

I’ve always seen female bass players as the epitome of the word “cool”.  I mean just think of the famous Kims: Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth and Kim Deal of the Pixies/Breeders, two really good bass players (if not two of the best!) in the world right?   Now if someone would ask me why I enjoy reading Sonya Cisco’s blog, The Ramblings of a Formerly Rock & Roll Mum, at the top of my head I would say because she’s real, candid, funny and guess what?  A bass player!  For fifteen years, the lovely woman behind the blog was a bassist of a band who played in festivals around the UK and Europe.  Actually when I first started following her blog, I didn’t even know she was a bass player.  I only found out when I clicked on her about me section, that was really just the icing on the cake.

Tell us something about yourself and your little ones (age & sex)

My name is Sonya Cisco, and I am a 40 year old mother of three. My children are 17, 9 and 2. Quite the age range! I had my first at 23, and my last at 38. And I can safely say each age has its own advantages.

I am much calmer and less anxious as an older parent, but definitely had more  energy and felt the sleepless nights less as a young parent.

What was your child’s birth story(ies) like?

My eldest child and only daughter was induced at 38 weeks, as I had developed pre-eclampsia. During my pregnancy I had some airy fairy ideas about water births and aromatherapy oils. All that went out of the window as I was stuck on a bed attached to several drips, and fairly seriously ill. Luckily the labour iteslf was quick and striaghtforward, taking only 4 hours from when my waters were broken. Unluckily my kidneys and liver were failing so I spent the first night away from my newborn in intensive care. She however was fine, and the following day we were reunited. My subsequent two babies were much more straightforward. My middle one was my only spontaneous labour, and again was born within 4 hours of established contractions. My youngest had to be induced at 13 days overdue. He positively whooshed out, he was born just one hour after my waters were broken. A very painful hour I should add, but I know to those of you who suffered 48 hour labours that is of no comfort!!

What you wish you knew about being a mother, before becoming one:

That it would be without a doubt the highlight of my life. Hard work, lousy pay, and no holiday time. But wonderful nonetheless.

How do you manage your “me-time”?

Sorry?! What is that!? HA! Seriously, at the moment my youngest has only just turned two, has just stopped napping, and I am a stay at home mum. My me-time consists of flumping on the sofa for a couple of hours in the evenings watching terrible TV while hoping nobody wakes up and requires me to move. However the advantage of having older ones is I know this all consuming phase is so short, and I am treasuring it, as he will definitely be my last.

Once your children are older, and at school, it becomes so much easier to find time for yourself. And you must! We all need time to be ourselves in order to be happy, and happy Mum equals happy kids generally!

Do you have a favourite anecdote of your little one(s)?

All of my children are hilarious- intentionally or otherwise. My eldest once terrified a male visitor by making him involved in the following conversation:-

“You are a boy aren’t you” says 3 year old Betsy.

“Yes.” replies my friend.

“That’s because you have a willy. Do you know what I have got?” she responds.

“No?!” replies my friend, with a degree of trepidation.

“An electric toothbrush.” says my small and tangent ridden child.

What is it about Motherhood you absolutely love about?

The love, the laughs, the hugs.

If there’s anything about Motherhood you dislike about, what would it be?

No sick time. Having to do your Mummy job while feeling ill is an awful experience. Thank goodness for DVDs and biscuits on such occasions.

What’s a typical day like for you and your Little One?

In term time the early mornings are the busiest time of the day. Breakfasts, lunches, lost homework, endless shouting at a teenager to get out of bed, frantic dressing. I swear I do more in that first hour than the rest of the day put together. But after the big two are safely out of the house, me and the small chap have a much more relaxed time. We go to several playgroups/activity sessions through the week. Meet friends for coffee. Make the daily hellish visit to the supermarket where I stand dazed in aisles desperately trying to think of what to feed the family for dinner. We currently spend a lot of time with playdoh. Then post school there is homework to nag about, dinner to eat, baths, bedtime, then gin o’clock (also known as kid’s bedtime.)

Best advice you’ve ever received about Motherhood?

I don’t know, I am terrible at listening to advice.

If you could give yourself advice about motherhood before becoming a mother, what would it be?

Nobody is perfect. We are all just doing our best, and you are the best Mum for your child.

How do you manage your time between work/blogging and your little one(s)?

At the moment, badly. It is the school holidays and blogging has taken a huge back seat. If I have time to think of something to write, I can’t actually get to my laptop to write it, as someone else is always on it! But generally, I am lucky, my blog is not a job, it is a hobby, and the only person I have to please is myself. I do it when I have ten minutes, or when I am inspired. I often write blogposts on my phone, still in bed, early in the morning. Then have to correct them when coffee has reinvigorated my ability to spell. I hugely admire those of you that manage to do this parenting lark and work without exploding. Not sure I could! Although having said that, I have always returned to work when my children have started school, and while that is still not easy, life does at least have a more consistent timetable than when you are at home with a tiny human!

Thank you so much Sonya Cisco!

Now head off to the cool Ramblings of a Formerly Rock & Roll Mum this very minute!

You can also connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

July Chat With a Mom: Surprise Mama

Surprise Mama is my second blogger feature in my Chats with Mums and Dads portion. My first blogger and first Dad interview was with The Secret Father. To be honest, I’m having a bit of a hard time finding bloggers to be featured. You see, I’m not very good at approaching bloggers, I’m really shy. However, I’m going to plod on. I think it’s so much worth it, especially when they (the bloggers) say yes and finally email their answers. I absolutely love each and every answers – all of them are heartfelt and so insightful. As a new parent, I learn from all of the answers.

The lovely woman behind Surprise Mama and I have one thing in common, we both had our little ones in our late 30s. I can’t speak for her but for me, it wasn’t really a choice, life just happened that way. Read on to know more about this beautiful Mama’s journey into motherhood.

Tell us something about yourself, your little one (age & sex).

My name is Michelle and I am a first time mom who just turned 40 (my baby girl was born when I was 39). I work full time in the public health field, when I am not working or mommying I like to sing, read, blog, exercise, and spend time outside. I met my husband only 11 months before our baby was born, but meeting him truly made me believe in love at first sight.

What was your child’s Birth Story like?

They say you get the birth story you want not the birth story you planned (or something like that).  My husband and I found out we were pregnant late in 2012.  I had never thought that I was going to be able to have children of my own so finding out that we had conceived was a HUGE surprise.  We kept it a secret for a long time, as I thought that it was not going to “stick” (as I would say to him).  Our intention was to have a natural birth but in the hospital setting.  I had spent weeks with my husband in a Bradley Methods class and I was very adamantly against any type of unnecessary intervention.  Being however, that I was 39 when she was due, I knew that I did not want to have the baby at home or at a birth center, I wanted to have the comfort of a hospital in case anything went wrong.  My pregnancy was very normal and my goal was to wear high heels throughout (which I did).  My water broke at 11:00 pm exactly 1 week before my due date.  I did not have anything ready as I was convinced that I was going to be late.  As soon as my water broke (and I figured out that is what had happened), I had my wonderful husband install the carseat, I started putting up curtains in the babies room, I packed a bag, I folded laundry.  I just wanted to try and remain calm.  Ultimately, we went to the hospital (about 7 hours in) and my contractions stopped completely.  After about 5 hours, they had to give me pitosin (which I was COMPLETELY AGAINST) to get the contractions going in a reasonable way.  I was on the pitosin from about noon to about 7:00 pm before I could not stand the pain any more.  At this point I was only about 3-4 cm dilated.  I had really wanted a drug- free birth, but my body was jus tnot letting go of the little one!  So – I ended up having an epidural (actually 3 because the first two didnt work) and then a little more than 2 hours later, a perfect little girl was born.  We did not know whether we were having a girl or boy at the time so the doctors let my husband call the sex (girl) and we were able to show her off to all the family before the end of visiting hours that night.

What you wish you knew about being a mother, before becoming one:

People who do not have kids do not understand what being a parent is, that you are never able to get it all done, and that down time is okay – it is necessary in order to maintain sanity.

How do you manage your “me-time”?

I have a great husband who loves us both so much and loves spending quality time with the little one.  Whenever I need a little me time, he is highly in favor and usually offers to pay for the pedicure!

Do you have a favourite anecdote of your Little One?

She loves to dance.  She started bopping to music when she was about 4 months old.  No matter what kind of music is playing she will jam.  She keeps a good rhythm and when we sing or play music, she is at her happiest.

What is it about Motherhood you absolutely love about?

I love how my daughter smiles at me when I go to pick her up out of her crib in the morning or after a nap.  I love how she is excited to play independently and then comes back to check in with us to make sure that we are still there, I love that she is social and that she smiles a lot.  I love watching my husband be a father.  I love how soft her baby skin is and I love that right now, I am the most important person in her little world.

If there’s anything about Motherhood you dislike about, what would it be?

 I feel like I am constantly worrying about what is going to happen next.  I feel very confident in handling today, but how am I going to deal with all the stuff that happens as she gets older like: picking a good school, having hard conversations, encouraging her to make good decisions, helping her to avoid drugs, not texting and driving, not drinking too much…AACK – the list of things that I fear might hurt her is overwhelming and it gives me a great deal of anxiety. At the end of the day, I really just want her to be happy and confident (and not addicted to anything) and I don’t want to screw her up too badly!

What’s a typical day like for you and your Little One?

Sadly, I only see her for about 30 minutes in the morning and 2 hours in the evening.  I try to squeeze it all in and I crave the weekend time together.  I love singing and taking walks.  We love to run errands together.  She loves being outside more than just about anything and she is very curious so I try to give her lots of interesting stimulation.  We have lots of friends that want to see her often so we visit people frequently.  She is a very happy baby so we are easily able to tell what she needs when she is unhappy. We are very lucky because she is very predictable so we are able to have a good schedule and accomplish a lot together as a family.

Best advice you’ve ever received about Motherhood?

Keep everything in perspective and be kind and loving with your partner.  When a baby/child sees a kind/loving relationship, they have all the stability that they need.

If you could give yourself advice about motherhood before becoming a mother, what would it be?

As long as you are doing the best that you can to keep your child safe, happy and healthy, you are doing all that is necessary.  It is way too easy to beat ourselves up too much about every decision and every aspect of parenting, but you can only do what you can do.  Love is the most important.

How do you manage your time between work and your Little One?

Managing time between work and parenting is hard.  I basically feel like I am never giving anyone 100%.  Currently my job, though flexible, is not pro-children and so I feel like being a mom is looked down upon.

Thank you so much Michelle!

Don’t forget to say Hi.

You can also connect with her on Twitter.

May Chat with a Mom: Cristina Delakovias

We all have our go-to person, someone who has known us for ages, someone who probably knows us more than we do.  Best friends – that’s what they are called.  And mine is this woman, whom I love dearly like a sister.  In our early twenties, we used to talk about being mothers, how much we wanted to have our children.  But her gynaecologist once told her that it was unlikely that she’d ever have kids of her own and now she’s a mother.  This just goes to show that – don’t accept as gospel everything that someone has told you, even if that someone is a doctor.  You have to keep believing.  You have to have faith.
Meet Loukas, my god son.  My best-friend’s little miracle.
Tell us something about yourself, your little one (age & sex).

I’m originally from the Philippines, came to America 6 years ago in search of a new adventure in my life. In that 6 years I managed to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Animation, my second degree (first one was Fine Arts), get married and have a baby.

I was told by my obgyn a long time ago, that because of my condition, I will never be able to get pregnant naturally, without any medical help.  My Loukas proved her wrong.

So my little one was the biggest surprise in my life….literally big because he was a 9 pound baby. Loukas my son just turned 1.

Your child’s birth story: What was it like?

When I found out I was pregnant I knew exactly what I wanted …. a natural birth with no shots, medicine, especially no epidural. I had two doulas, a midwife and my iPod filed with meditating music and exercises for a hypno-birth. I never dilated enough and after three days of painful labor pains I developed a high fever and my baby’s heart rate went down and had to have a c-section. It was a very exhausting and emotional experience. I will never forget the panic I felt when I didn’t hear him cry after they pulled him out of me. They had to revive him and I was so relieved when he finally gave a little cry. Will never forget that feeling and beautiful experience of meeting my little miracle for the first time.

What you wish you knew about being a Mom before becoming one.

I wish I knew how hard it would be. I’ve always heard mothers say it, but never knew the level of it until now. I’ve learned you have to be prepared physically, emotionally, mentally and most importantly, is to have support from family and friends.

How do you manage “me-time”?

I really don’t have that yet but I don’t mind. My baby is still a year old and it’s only recently that I am able to do house chores while he’s awake. And that’s a big deal to me and makes me happy. And now that he walks, well we go outside to check the mailbox and throw the trash. He still wakes at night many times, so I lose a lot of sleep. So when he takes his naps in the day time I rest or try to sleep too. In time I know I will be able to go back to drawing and painting and doing the things I love to do.

Any favourite anecdote about your little one?

Loukas always makes my day. He is such a happy and silly baby. He doesn’t speak yet, but he sure has a lot to say from the moment he wakes up. One day we went to his doctor for his shot, and when the nurse gave his injection he looked at her and started lecturing her with his serious tone of voice. She just laughed.

I also love how affectionate he his. I call him my hugga-bear. There will be moment where he won’t care for milk, food, to play and not even to watch videos on my computer. He will simply climb up to me and embrace me for a long time. It can last for twenty minutes, and if I try to move he will complain. So we just hang on to each other until he is ready to let go. To me that’s priceless.

What is it about motherhood you love about?

I love that loukas and I have our own language that no one will ever crack or know. We know each other so well without even speaking. We can look at each other and start laughing. His love is so unconditional and he is so sensitive and present that I can have a bad day or when I’m frustrated and tired he will give me a pat on my shoulder and a look that says….”you’re alright mama”. And then I am.

If there’s something about motherhood you dislike, what would it be? 

I dislike the fact that I haven’t slept straight in a year. I miss that. But his cuteness makes up for it and I get over it. What I dislike most are comparisons. When parents ask if your baby has teeth at 6 months or walking by 10 months just like their kids. Honestly, I don’t care and no matter what it may be, I want Loukas to go at his own pace and not ever feel pressured to be on the same page as everyone.

All children are different and that’s what makes them all special.

What’s a typical day for you and your little one like?

Our day starts with morning talks on the bed until we are completely awake and I prepare breakfast for us and we take our time eating and drinking and converse some more. We watch videos of the muppets and sesame street and play with his toys or read books. We go out for a walk in his stroller for hours after for his first nap and I walk until he falls asleep and head back home to rest too or finish some house chores. When he wakes from naps we cuddle and play again. If I need to go outside to throw the trash or check the mailbox I put his shoes on him and he knows what that means and gets excited and helps to put his shoes or jacket if it’s chilly outside. At night we eat dinner, take a bath then play peekaboo or chase the baby and laugh on the bed until Loukas is tired from laughing and we hum songs together and rock on the rocking chair until he falls asleep.

Best advice you’ve received about motherhood?

Just to take it a day at a time and enjoy it because time flies and it really does.

If you could give yourself advice about motherhood, before becoming one, what would it be?

To start a good sleep training early and to immediately let the baby sleep on his own bed. He’s so used to sleeping beside his mama that it’s difficult to break that habit without chaos and cries.

How do you manage your time between work and your little one?

I don’t work at the moment, so I’m able to give Loukas all the attention and time he needs.  I know, once I start working again, I will miss every single moment spent with him.

Thanks Tina!

March Chat with a Mom: Asanempoka

Just like Mariah, I met Asanempoka in Ghana.  She was supposed to be my house-mate.  But as all volunteers know, things don’t exactly pan out as planned.  So she ended up in Bolgatanga, a town located at the upper east region of Ghana and I was left in Tamale (the largest city in the Northern Region).  The distance however, didn’t stop us from visiting each other.  Feeling adventurous, Asanempoka and I travelled from Ghana through Togo to get to Benin where we spent Christmas ’07.  Yes, you could say it was a bit mad for us to travel through two French-speaking countries when neither of us could understand nor speak a word of French.  But we managed.

That was almost six years ago. Today, she is a mother of a beautiful and smart four-year old and I too have my own daughter and the best bit is that we are still friends.

Tell us something about yourself, your little one (age & sex).

I am a teacher and performing artist who is moving into Public Health. I have lived in a small, remote town in northern Australia on and off for 10 years, in between my trips to Africa, specifically now Ghana. My daughter has just turned four. She was born in Ghana, as that is where my husband is from, and lived there for the first 2 years of her life before we all moved to Australia 2 years ago.  We try and return to Ghana every year or two. Both places are our home.  We are a bi-lingual cross-continental family who embrace both cultures but mostly hold Africa in our heart of hearts.

Your child’s birth story: What was it like giving birth away from family and home country?

I chose to give birth in Ghana and wanted a home birth in my husband’s traditional house. When that looked unsuitable I looked at clinics in our town but they were awful blue-tiled, silver metal-bedded rooms with high windows, so I went with my Obgyn in the capital and gave birth at his clinic. We travelled 850km to give birth and stayed in a guest house in the capital until she was a week old before heading back up north. I wanted a natural birth but found out a few days after we arrived she was breech.  I argued with my Obgyn but he explained the layout of Accra and the traffic situation: – ‘I live here, the anaesthetist lives here, and the matron lives here so if there was an emergency it would be problematic’. I caved and said okay and that tomorrow would be good like he’d mentioned.  He said, ‘Nope, I can fit you in today.’

That was the day the President was inaugurated in the capital so imagine the bad traffic times 10!  My husband had about 3 hours to go back to our guest house and return with things for the baby and for me.  He just made it as I was being wheeled into theatre.  I had been about to jump off the bed with my legs crossed.

I had an epidural whilst we all listened to Salsa music and joked about Mugabe.  Then before I knew there she was.  I looked over at her and… I knew her.

(Wow, I’ve never told that story in only 3 paragraphs before =)

What you wish you knew about being a mother before becoming one

To be honest I kind of took it as it came.  I chose to raise her in our town Bolgatanga when she was a baby because I knew that I would be left alone to figure it all myself and if I did need to ask something there were plenty of women around to give me advice which I could take or leave.

If I must choose something I wish I’d known just how much patience I’d require.  I would have practiced a lot more beforehand.

How do you manage your “me-time”?

Hmmm…. What is that?  I don’t really get ‘me-time’.  Well, I didn’t for years.  I took time out when I could see an opportunity and I guess it’s still like that.  I had to work from when my daughter was 8 months and that was extremely difficult.  Since then I took time when we came to Australia and didn’t work for a while to be with her and last year I took a school term at 3 days a week instead of 5 so I could spend time with her before she went off to school this year.

I count special time with my daughter as ‘me-time’.

I don’t look for time off as such.  If I am feeling like I need some space I may go to the café before I pick her from day-care or I may go there on the weekend.  I may go into my room and write or relax.  I usually inform my husband I am going out and he should stay with her. I take time when I can and as she grows older it’s easier because she will engage herself in certain things for longer but can be difficult because at present she is an only child and demands a lot of attention.  I am a homebody and I like my time around my family.  I don’t always want to be alone.

Any favourite anecdote about your child?

My daughter is hilarious! We knew from 5 months of age that she had a sense of humour.  I sometimes have to remember to not cut her off with impatience and let her be funny so she doesn’t lose that carefree spirit.  She is also a story teller and loves to make up stories as if they are fact.  I don’t often correct her on what we all know she is making up because it may squash her creativity and really she is connecting her knowledge and memories in threads that can make sense to her.  She is a child that needs to do that.  She is a very rational creature, always has been.  If she can rationalize it to herself then she can accept it.  I like that about her because she doesn’t just believe anything she hears.

She constantly amazes me, especially on our recent trip to Ghana, how resilient she is, how accepting and open-minded.  She reminds me how to view things simplistically and see them from ‘the mind of a child’.

I think the funniest things are when she says things to me and I realize that she is giving back to me what I give to her.  It totally keeps me in check.

What is it about motherhood you simply love about?

The unconditional love.  The affection. The hugs.  The kisses.  The softness. The gentleness.

I became myself the day I became a mother.  I know it’s not that way for everyone but it was for me.  I found my confidence and I found something worth standing up and fighting for.  I had the family I’d always yearned for.  It was worth waiting until I was a bit older (only 30) so I could appreciate what it is to be single and then what it is to have what I have today.

If there’s something about motherhood you dislike, what would it be?

The constant demands.  I have a book I’ve been writing for over 3 years but with full-time work, part-time study and motherhood… and wifehood, it is the one thing that keeps getting put on the back burner and I wish I could put more time into it.  It’s hard to completely stop and clear my head of the things I have to do so I can re-focus on something else entirely.  Lists of things I must do, want to do, really should do constantly run through my head.  I feel good as I go through them but with a family it is never-ending.

What’s a typical day like for you and your little one?

Workdays and weekends are very different.  Workdays this year are me up at 6.30am getting ready for work.  I will wake my daughter at about 6.45am and she will have breakfast and I’ll make her lunch.  I will go off to work and my husband gets up and takes her to school.  In the afternoon I’ll finish work anywhere from 3.30 to 4.30pm and go and pick her from her day care and come home.  I’ll make dinner and we all have dinner together.  Ideally she is in bed by 7.30pm but this never happens.

On the weekends we get up as we do.  Eat breakfast and hang around, visit friends, do jobs around the house and generally hang about at home all together.  We live in a town that is very transient and a lot of our close friends moved on at the end of last year so the beginning of this year is quiet and family-focused.  It’s nice.

 Best advice you’ve ever received about motherhood or mothering

My mother said when I was young that she always gave me more information than I needed to know when I asked questions.  When my daughter asks me questions I speak honestly and I don’t treat her like a child and have never talked to her like a baby.  As I said she is a rationalist so this suits her.  It can be exhausting though as it does take time and energy but the results are that she really understands things around her – from objects and how they work to people’s relationships to us, where they come from and who they are, etc.

If you could give yourself advice long before you became a mother, what would it be?

Motherhood is a gift and is not a given in life just because you are a woman.

If I’d known this I may not have suffered so much when I miscarried twins last year.  But I know it now because I have one beautiful daughter.  Whatever comes after her I cannot force it to come just because I want it. When it does though I will know what a gift it is and just how blessed I am.  If I could have clicked my fingers for the family I wanted it would look very different to what it is now but life throws things at you in ways you do not expect and when I do step back and look at what I have been given it is wonderful.

 How do you balance your time between work and mothering?

Day by day.

Thank you!

Do check out her blog here.

February Chat with a Mom: Mariah Mambo

There are some people you meet in life and you know right away that they will always be your friend, no matter the distance or the lack of communication.  Mariah is one of them.  We met in Ghana, West Africa, where we both worked as volunteers and instantly hit it off.

Six years later, we are both mothers and despite the distance our friendship still thrives.

Tell us something about yourself, your little ones (age & sex).

I am a lawyer by profession, a mother by choice, a wife through love and divine intervention of course. I live with my husband and two children in Nairobi, Kenya. Apart from these truths my true passion lies in recreating spaces and fictional writing. I intend to pursue the two this year more faithfully.

I have two. Amara my first is a girl four years old, never encountered a more loving, cheeky and smart person. She never ceases to amaze me, she has a great sense of humour, bigger than herself and her age and she always cracks me up. I actually look forward to walks with her and stuff like that when the strangest of things will be uttered and silent moments shared when I know for sure I want to be around her for very long. My son Muriuki is nine months now, speaking of energy ball! He is all over the place at any one given time, never wants to stay still and is generally a very happy person, he is a bit of a mama’s boy but I am not complaining, I love to be needed.

Your child’s birth story(ies): What was it like?

Well, both my babies were born via caesarean section. I was intended to have a normal delivery up till eight months for Amara when I realized reduced foetal movement, I was hospitalised and she was born two weeks before her due date. I remember not being afraid (which is very unlike me considering I have control issues let’s read lightly into this ok?) My options were discussed with me and I opted to have a spinal block (again trying to seize back some of the control I had lost) so I could be awake when I had her. I spoke to my obgyn and anesthesiologist all through the procedure and even managed to crack a few jokes here and there. She never cried when she was delivered and that’s the only point when I really went cold with fear. I remember asking her pediatrician why my baby was silent but she assured me she had it under control. She cried what seemed ages after (could have been not more than 5 minutes, just felt like eons!) and the rest is well a long story.

My OBGYN decided not to allow me to have a normal delivery for my son no matter how much I begged; he presented me with a whole list of medical reasons blah blah blah so I just decided to go with him. I was afraid this time round, I am not sure why honestly. I opted for a spinal block as I did for my daughter; for the same reasons. My husband was with me during this delivery and it really helped calm me done. I will never forget how loud and long Muriuki cried; it was so shocking, just like the movies actually (so much for expecting birth to be close to movies huh, this was as close as it got for me!) He still cries like that sometimes, that piercing wail that brings my heart to a stop sometimes! He really needs to stop that!! His birth was uneventful; we spent a few very long nights at the hospital and we continue to spend long nights together.

What you wish you knew about being a mother before becoming one.

That it would totally change life for me, forever! I knew there would be changes but I did not realize how monumental they would be.

Every possible thing you could think of as a human being changes; say for example sitting through a meal, sleeping seven hours straight, driving in silence, watching a movie to the end in one sitting, listening to the music of your choice whilst driving, some unmentionables, grocery shopping; please don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining it’s just that I never had that ‘aha’ moment until my kids came along (now laughing hysterically) I have embraced my life with all its changes because I cannot envision it without my munchkins!

How do you manage your “me” time?

This I must admit I have not been very good at (blame it on my control issues) It has taken me very long; actually the duration of my daughter’s life to realize that hey, I need to rediscover myself.

I now delegate two days in the week where I consciously drive away from my house and just be me. I have to leave because although my daughter is away at school, my son is always around (hehe). I spend this time doing all sorts of things from just sitting and having a cup of coffee, to meting up with a friend, to window shopping, getting my hair done to even having a solo glass of wine. I have started the year being bolder by even taking a weekend off with my husband, just to reconnect and just be us.

Any favourite anecdote about your child?

My daughter has never had problems with feeding; she does a fantastic job and I know I am truly blessed to have one of those. Well she also believes that the faster she clears all her meals the faster she will grow (she wants to be as big as mama tomorrow please!) so after clearing her breakfast in one fast swoop one Saturday morning she comes to my bedroom and declares ‘Papa, I finished all my food, tomorrow when I am big like mama I will have big boom booms like her’. Safely figure out what big boom booms are…..

What is it about motherhood you simply love about?

Motherhood has changed me for the better. I know what it means to honestly in love and care for someone else regardless of whatever situation I find myself in. It has forced me to slow down and take in life one day at a time, appreciating everything about it. Motherhood has seriously done a number on my spirituality; I witness God and his faithfulness every single day through the lives of my children. I can say that I am a better person because of them.

If there was one thing about motherhood you disliked about, what would it be?

I totally dislike the unsolicited advice! Everyone has a tale; yes a tale on how you should be raising your young ones! ‘If you do this, this is the definite outcome’ ‘It’s too hot for that, too cold for that’: ‘Try this home remedy!’ SO UNSOLICITED!

What’s a typical day like for you and your little one?

Amara is in preschool so our day starts off with breakfast and then a frantic session of getting her into her uniform. She runs around the room, has a story to tell, she can also have a session where she refuses to wear the undies and shoes you picked out for her despite double checking with her the night before. She stays in school until 3.30pm when she returns home. She will often have a play date with my neighbour’s daughter or take a walk to a bridge a few meters away from our house with her nanny and her brother; then it’s time for a shower and dinner and some TV time before bed at 8. Kindly note this is on a good day…things go horribly wrong most of the time! What with tantrums and all!

I have help (thank God) so Muriuki will have his cereal around 8 (he has had a bottle around 6.30) he watches Amara get ready for school; gets kissed goodbye if he is lucky and has a schedule that he mostly adheres to during the day; he takes a nap around 10 for two hours has lunch when he gets up; watches some cartoons or lazes in the garden with toys, takes another nap at around three for 45 min and spends the evening with Amara, myself and his papa until he goes to sleep at 8.

Best advice you’ve ever received about motherhood or mothering.

Was from one of my best friends; considering she knows that I have the urge to be a perfectionist (this will never be a good thing for anyone to suffer from, more so a mother with multiple children) she advised me to just take each day at a time; there are not enough hours in a day to be a mother to two children, a wife to my husband, a great cook, a perfect housekeeper etc, so I have learnt to chill and just go with the flow.

If you could give yourself advice long before you became a mother, what would it be?

I guess I would have to go with Kala on this one. For too long I suffered from this feeling, it never went away and I wish anyone becoming a mother could embrace this FACT and realize it’s ok to feel this way.

How do you manage your time as a freelancer and as a mother?

Sorry to say but I have put too much aside for too long and I am only now seizing back what is rightfully mine, guilt free. I have official assignments on and off and for these I work night and day literally to deliver on deadlines. I am now taking a few hours off each day to start writing again and trying to make a business idea I have a reality. I have realized that I come home; after those hours feeling lighter in the head and heart and ready to deal with ALL the demands that come with being a mama.

Thank you Mariah!

Little T’s Birth Story

My little baby with Mutly the dog, whom we bought on the day we found out that we were pregnant.

My daughter T was born on the 26th of August 2010 at 8:20 a.m after about two days of labour.

One of the mothers from a baby group I attended said to me “When you give birth, you leave your dignity at home”.  She was right.  Legs apart, I felt like an object being prodded and inspected by just about anyone.  I can’t describe the pain, except that it was excruciating.  For me, it was like plummeting into a deep, deep tunnel with no bottom and being hauled back up again, only to experience the same pain again and again.

I have a very low threshold of pain, so I told the midwives to give me all the available drugs in the world.  So I had gas and air and when I was dilated enough they finally gave me anesthesia.

Once the drug had taken effect, I felt like a person again and not a rag doll tossed and about in a sea of endless pain.  I could actually breath easy.

Pam, the young and really pretty midwife said to me, “It might take a bit longer than you expected.  Do sleep, you’ll need your energy later”.  This was early morning, after being in labour for two days with no sleep you have no idea what those words meant to me, I could almost weep.  I sent my poor husband who also lacked sleep and food, down for some breakfast.

Then fell asleep.

The kind of sleep that is so sweet and delicious you could actually taste it.  Then I heard something.  At first I thought I was dreaming and imagining it.  With my eyelids still closed I heard it again, my daughter’s heartbeat was slowing down.  The strong heartbeat that serenaded me all through out my labour like the sound of the djembe drum I brought with me back from Ghana – loud and clear was growing really faint.

I sat up and listened, hoping I was just too drugged and hallucinating things.  But no, it was for real.  I called the midwife.  When she came, she checked the machine and asked me to change positions, explaining that my movements could have caused the wires or tubes that connects the machine to my baby loose or something.

But there was no change.  Her heartbeat was still slowing down.

“I’ve never done this before”, she said.

Before I could ask what she meant, she stepped on a chair to reach the red emergency button on the wall.  Within seconds, it was like a scene straight out of a Grey’s Anatomy episode – doctors and nurses came flooding in.  There must have been a dozen of them.  Then I was quickly wheeled out of the room, if this were a Greys Anatomy episode, you’d hear up sound music, perhaps it would be Ana Nalick’s song “Breathe”  (they seem to love that one) or Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol.  I turned to Pam and said, “I’m scared”.  She said nothing, but held my hand.  Bless her.

The last thing I remember was a pair of really green eyes saying “Breathe into this Mrs. B”.

See that chair?  That was the chair the midwife stepped on to hit the red button.

My husband came back to an empty bed and an empty room with a banana and apple juice in hand.  A staff came in and without any explanation said “I’ll call the midwife”.  Can you imagine what he must have been thinking when he saw the room empty?

After awhile, a midwife came and explained what happened.  My daughter’s umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck, she was slowly being strangled  and that’s why they performed an emergency c section right away.  A single second delay would have caused life-changing damages.  I shudder at the thought.

It took me awhile before I could tell this story without bursting into tears.  Here in England, once you get pregnant, you get assigned to a midwife who will be in charge of you all through-out your pregnancy.  Chris, my midwife was the loveliest woman.  She was like a surrogate mother to me, really helpful and was so patient with answering all my paranoid questions.  When I told her about what Pam said (I’ve never done this before), she was really disapproving and said that she shouldn’t have said that.

Talking about it now still rattles me a bit.  I still wake up in the middle of the night to check my daughter’s breathing, even though she’s two already.  I know it’s normal for moms to do that, but I do it more than once, even when she’s napping during the day.

There is more to tell about my experience with midwives, but I’ll save those for another post.

If you are a parent, reading this, what’s your child’s birth story like?  Do share.

January Chat with a Mom: Kala Barba-Court

I’m really excited about my first feature for my “Interview with a Mother” section. Like I said, I’m jump-starting this little project of mine with people I know, so the first “chat” is with my friend Kala Barba-Court. She is by the way, the coolest Mom I know. In Paris, where she’s based, she watches concerts on her own. And not everyone is brave enough to do that – so in my book, she is the coolest!

Tell us something about yourself, your little one (age and sex).

I’m an artist and web designer, born and raised in Manila, Philippines and moved to France in 2003. Due to my husband’s job we are often sent to other countries, and we’ve lived in Qatar, Rome and Saudi Arabia and return to France in between projects. I’m currently living in Paris with my husband and 3 year old daughter.

Your child’s birth story: What was it like giving birth away from family and home country?

I had a hard pregnancy but a very unremarkable birth story. I was asked to stop working when I was 5 months pregnant and had to lie down for the duration of my pregnancy. When my contractions started, we went to the hospital and gave I birth naturally 2 hours later.

The whole giving-birth and taking-care-of-a-newborn experience was tough, but all new mothers out there, however sleep-deprived and clueless, manage to wing it – with or without extra help from family or friends.

But it definitely helps if you speak the language of the country you’re in. Not everyone speaks English in France, and it could’ve gone horribly wrong if I didn’t understand a word the nurses or doctors were saying.

What you wish you knew about being a mother before becoming one:

I wish I didn’t expect to feel a connection with my baby once I gave birth. They put my daughter in my arms and I kept on waiting to feel something special, but (like other mothers I suppose) I didn’t feel anything. Also, I wish someone had told me that newborns are really ugly. No, seriously. They’re all wrinkly and hairy and splotchy when they come out and that lasts for weeks or even months. Someone commented that she looked “just like me” and I felt insulted.

How do you manage your me-time?

Most weekends are reserved for family stuff, but I always make it a point to go out by myself at least once a week to see an exhibit or a movie, have dinner with friends, or just walk around Paris. I often book a babysitter and take afternoons or evenings off as well. And I don’t do chores during my me time!

Any favourite anecdote about your child?

Having a toddler means every day is anecdotal. I never believed the “They grow up before your eyes” cliché until my kid became a toddler. Six months ago, when she was two and half years old, she came up to me and told me matter-of-factly that she had a “hypothesis that dinosaurs walk on four legs but they make a lot of noise”. I had to stop what I was doing and ask myself, did she just say ‘hypothesis’?

What is it about motherhood you simply love about?

I love the conversations I have with my kid, because it’s all so straightforward and pure and innocent, nothing like conversations with adults. Also, when I pick her up from school, she runs to me with open arms and a huge smile like we’ve been separated for three years instead of three hours. No one is ever that happy to see me, really. So I feel pretty special, when I’m around her.

If there was one thing about motherhood you disliked about, what would it be?

I hated the helpless newborn stage, it really isn’t my thing.

I also dislike the fact that a lot of people judge you on how you raise your child. I didn’t breastfeed, didn’t co-sleep, let her cry it out and I speak to her in English instead of French. I get a lot of unsolicited advice about this.

What’s a typical day like for you and your little one?

Now that she goes to school, the day starts with breakfast, a few minutes of cartoons on TV, and then walking to school. I pick her up at noon and then it’s lunch and she takes a nap. In the afternoon it can go two ways — either we have a good time, or I spend the next few hours putting out tantrums, depending on her mood. I bring her along on errands or we go to the park. During bath time and dinner I place calls to my husband, each call getting more and more frantic, telling him to come home immediately because by the end of the day I’m exhausted from it all.

Best advice you’ve ever received about motherhood:

The best spot-on advice about parenting in general came from a taxi driver. We were living in Rome at that time and were loading the bulky carseat and stroller into the tiny taxi, bitching about how much stuff a 6 month old needed. The driver looked at us in the rearview mirror and said, “You shouldn’t complain, this is the easy part. The smaller they are, the smaller the problems. The bigger they get, the bigger the problems. I have a 15 year old daughter, and she has run away with her boyfriend. For two days she hasn’t come home!” That sobered us up.

If you could give yourself advice long before you became a mother, what would it be?

It’s normal to feel like the world passes you by during the first couple of years with a child. It actually does pass you by. But as time goes by and your child gets older, you eventually get your social life back. Also, never skip date night with your husband!

How do you manage your time as a freelancer and as a mother?

I have a 3 hour window of freedom four times a week when my daughter is in preschool, so I treat these hours like gold. During this time, I don’t clean, cook or do anything chore-related (which I’m pretty bad at doing anyway – so please don’t drop by unannounced at my place).

Instead, I work on projects, personal or professional, while listening to music (because I almost never have time to listen to new albums when my daughter is around). I make a list of priorities every weekend and schedule my “Freedom Hours” accordingly (the meaning of freedom has evolved ever since I had a daughter; it now means being able to work uninterrupted). I make sure to turn off my internet connection while working to avoid surfing distractions and to get the work done faster.

When my daughter is home, I make sure she’s surrounded by activities and explain to her that I have to work. It’s inevitable to take breaks now and then, but it’s still possible to get things done, if you focus. It also helps that I don’t need a lot of sleep, so I work best at night when everyone else is in bed.

Thank you Kala!