I’ve been a bit emotional this week. Since going back to work after maternity leave, I spent almost a year expressing breast milk for Squeak. I recently decided it was time. He’s over a year old, he’s eating pretty well and I’ve just introduced some Rooibos tea and watered down juice during the day to replace his boob juice.

It just feels so weird to not be running on adrenaline all day long. Over the past year, I’ve had to squeeze in a huge workload and as much as three pump sessions a day. In the same breath, I’m so excited to have my lunch breaks back so I can do things like run an errand and well, have lunch with a friend.

I think back to all that I went through during a year of pumping. I mastered pumping – doing it while driving, in my parked car, in rooms with glass doors or unlocked doors and even during syndicate group meetings. I had to learn how to hand express milk when my batteries gave up, found out why lithium batteries are so expensive and figured out the minor differences in flange vs nipple size. I went through the disappointment of producing insufficient milk and the relief of producing more milk than I needed. I missed the tasty tea time snacks and lunch during training sessions. I dealt with judgement from my colleagues and resultant discrimination.

I don’t think I’m going to miss hooking myself up to a breast pump and milking myself dry. Here’s to feeling like a normal employee again!
I read everything. I read about breastfeeding when I was pregnant too but experiencing it was something else. 4 months later, Squeak and I are still going strong but that's not without a lot of support. Here's how I made it work for me and you can too.

You first need to educate yourself. Find out what breastfeeding is all about and the benefits of breast milk on both mommy and baby. It was a no brainer for me to breastfeed purely because it's a natural act. The human race survived and thrived with mother's milk as a foundation. Why would my choice be any different.

Next, create a support group for yourself. I didn't have many mother friends and the few that I had, jumped on the formula wagon pretty early on. Online, I found moms on Twitter that DM'ed advice on preparing for breastfeeding, bloggers who honestly shared their journeys and a La Leche League Facebook group that helped me when I wasn't sure if things were normal. Most importantly, this online circle encouraged me when I was despondent and boosted my confidence as a mother. 

Get help! My baby latched on like a champ but many don't. The nurses at the hospital were so helpful in getting Squeak to latch on in so many different positions. I had a lactation consultant help show me how to make latching easier for him. And because I'm paranoid, I had the nurses at the vaccination clinic check out our booby time and a group of La Leche League ladies at one of their meetings.

Before I went into hospital, one of the online moms advised me to insist on doing immediate skin-to-skin and rooming in with my baby. Keeping your baby as close to you as possible and frequent feeding will boost your milk production and help you both conquer the lactation learning curve.

Once my milk came in, my boobs were all sorts of uncomfortable. I found relief in breast shells and nipple cream. This combination soothed my nipples and kept them from rubbing against my clothing and making it more uncomfortable for me.

I hated night feeds. I was so sleep deprived and getting up to feed a crying baby was painful from my c-section. And then I found out how much easier it was to keep Squeak next to me at night and feed him lying down. Best decision ever for us all to get better sleep.

The Husband was super involved in breastfeeding. He would hand me water and snacks, make me comfortable with cushions and sometimes just sit with me to keep me company. When Squeak wanted boob just as I was about to eat, The Husband would feed me. If your partner is supportive of breastfeeding, you'll be more inclined to see it through.

Three months of doing it and my number 1 tip is to forget about the horror stories. Knowledge is power but don't stress on what might not happen. I didn't get bleeding nipples or breast infections so don't let other people's horror stories deter you from breastfeeding. Each woman's breastfeeding journey is unique. Hopefully my tips will help you succeed. If you have successfully breastfed, what tips do you have to offer?
Squeak's first car ride was when we brought him home from hospital. The scrawny little thing barely fitted in the newborn setting of the car seat but we strapped him in tight. Nervously, The Husband drove off following every precaution to ensure we transported our precious cargo safely.

Soon after that Squeak accompanied me to necessary doctors' visits and for all of those outings, I drove alone with Squeak in the backseat.

I was super prepared, diaper bag and handbag all packed and in the car ahead of time. All I needed was a freshly changed and well fed baby. But the moment I put him in the car, he would wail. The poor baby didn't know where he was or why he was alone. He'd scream for someone to save him.

Four months later, nothing has changed. Some days, he might have a little snooze once we hit the highway. Other days, he'd scream his head off for the entire duration of the car ride until we reached our destination and I rush to the backseat to cuddle him.

I sound so understanding of my baby but it's a stressful drive and every time I get behind the wheel, I can't help but think that driving with a baby should be illegal.

As a new mother, I am not programmed to ignore the sound of my baby crying. From the driver's seat, I try everything to soothe him. I play music while navigating the route, talk to him while waiting for the traffic signal to change, sing while overtaking so I can get home faster. When the screams get louder or there is sudden silence, I try to look back at him wondering if he is not strapped in too tight or whether he stopped breathing. I should be looking ahead at the road!

We have so many rules to ensure road safety. Don't text and drive - one look away from the road could be fatal. Don't hold your cell phone to your ear so you can act quickly when you are not distracted. Take frequent breaks during long trips so you don't fall asleep at the wheel.

Driving alone with the baby brings all these risks and more in one drive. I take my eyes off the road to look at the baby. I am distracted by his constant crying. I am an exhausted sleep deprived new mom.

It's not just people texting and driving, unruly taxi drivers and fatigued truck drivers that we should be wary off. Moms driving alone with their babies are also a hazard on the road.
I'm at Squeak's beck and call. I attend to his cries immediately. I used to take him with me wherever I went because I knew Squeak wouldn't survive without his boobies.

To the outsider, it looks like I'm that mom who never wants to leave her child. And it's true; I don't. But caring for Squeak is also a chore that I've had to do ever since he was born. That chore soon became tasks that I enjoyed doing.

But there are things that I just have to do without Squeak. I've been trying to get him to take a bottle and the easiest way to do that is to have someone else do it. If I'm within seeing or smelling distance, he will refuse the bottle because well, why must he put strange things in his mouth when the breast is right there.

So off I went to Starbucks before he got hungry. When I told some moms the story, they empathised with pity. "Shame you must have been so heartbroken." "I bet you couldn't think of anything other than your child." "You probably couldn't enjoy yourself."

Actually, I was relieved! For the first time in 4 months, I parked on the opposite end of the mall away from the stores I planned on visiting. I didn't need to map my route of things I needed to do based on stroller navigation. I walked up and down levels several times. I took my time in browsing through the menu and even had time to think about opting for a non traditional milk in my mocha latte. I had my coffee and sandwich at leisure and I could Google and tweet without distractions. I was free!

When I got home, Squeak whimpered at me as if to ask why I left him when he needed me the most. I held him so tight and gave him free reign to my bare chest. As he yelled at my boobs and tried to comfort himself, tears welled up in my eyes. How could I find relief in being away from my child whose only need was to be with me?
I found out about cloth diapers online, while I was pregnant. I read quite an informative article about it and did more research. Pretty soon, I was learning more on the cloth diapering Facebook pages and attending all sorts of nappy parties and events in preparation for Squeak. Four months later, I feel so confident with cloth diapers. Just another thing I do outside of my circle of friends because people I know don't understand it so this post is to maybe shed some light on my decision. Here are some of the reasons I choose to cloth diaper.

Cost saving People always talk about how expensive babies are. Actually babies are only expensive if you're constantly buying diapers (and formula). Reusing diapers is the perfect way to cut down on diaper costs. Buy a few reusable nappies upfront that can fit your baby from birth and use them up until your child potty trains. In fact, you can use them until your last child potty trains. People who have done the math estimate that disposable diapers cost R20 000 per child! Compare that to R4 000 for a stash of diapers that can be reused for all your children. Diaper rash is much more prevalent with disposables so with cloth diapers, you also save money on bum creams. 

Environmentally friendly   I'm constantly looking for ways to do my bit to not mess up the planet any more than we have. And what better way than to reuse diapers instead of dumping about 12 diapers a day into landfills. Do you know how long it takes for diapers to decompose! 

Gentle on baby's skin Imagine trading your soft cotton undies for something plastic and paper-like filled with a gel to absorb moisture that lets off heat as the chemical by process. Cotton is so much softer and gentler on skin. We are also so careful to use detergents and products that are natural on our babies' skins yet we put chemicals near their genitalia for the sake of convenience. These chemicals have been linked to all sorts of health problems including male infertility.

Supporting small businesses  
Where feasible, I'd rather support a mom making nappies to support her family than throw my money at the big guys. So the big guys can keep making products cheaper with inferior ingredients that are not properly tested and marketed so well that consumers believe things like its ok to leave your child in a chemical filled diaper for 12 hours! 

Cute little bums

Kids are darn cute but how much better would they look without paper and plastic butts. People go wild with all sorts of cute nappies. My sister-in-law even approves of the Harry Potter prints.

No poonamis The first time it happened, it hit me by surprise. I was innocently changing Squeak at my sister-in-law's place. I took out the disposable, wiped him clean and then realised that further away from his bum was still a yellowy gooey mess. Lo and behold! A trail of newborn shit all the way up to his neck! We've had lots of pretty big poops since. Thankfully, the cloth diapers contained it all.

That's why I use cloth diapers. I'm more than happy to answer any questions you have or chat more about your thoughts on this. Do you use cloth diaper? If so, why? If not, why not?
I read the story of the new mom who seemed so happy with her perfect family life. And then one day, she dropped off her 4 and a half month old daughter at daycare, drove to a secluded area and killed herself. Allison Goldstein wrote a goodbye letter apologising for the pain she could no longer bear from what everyone refers to as her silent battle with postpartum depression.

When I read about Allison, it broke my heart. I cannot imagine what she must have gone through to have to end her life for the pain to go away.

Perhaps I am just well read on postpartum depression but I know how common it is and that all you need to do is ask for help - if you are in the right frame of mind to do so. With a sudden influx of abnormal hormones making you question your own feelings, it's also so important to have support. From the time that The Husband noticed the toll that motherhood took on me, he has kept telling me about the resources available if I felt that I couldn't talk to him.

The silent part of Allison's suffering is so descriptive of all the negative parts of motherhood. Nothing could have prepared me for just how drastically life changed with a newborn. The raging storm of hormones is actually what causes PPD and luckily I didn't have that problem. But I did have feelings of being overwhelmed, feeling worthless and wishing I hadn't taken this step into motherhood. The biggest problem was actually talking about it and realising that no one else feels or has felt that way. And when I encountered that, it was so easy to feel withdrawn and rather tell everyone that everything is ok when they asked.

People want that mother who talks about how her child is a blessing from God. The mother that hides the bags under her eyes with her makeup and makes motherhood seem like a breeze. They don't want me - the mother who steps out of the house without having a shower with tell-tale breastmilk stains on her shirt and talks about how she can't get her baby to stop crying.

And so I write about it hoping someone else who feels this way knows that it's normal. Our version of normal anyway. I was exhausted when Squeak was born. I still am. I don't understand the bundle-of-joy type happiness that people say it is. It's a job - a tiring job that I have to do. I'm convinced mothers lie to themselves about how happy they are. It's a coping mechanism. 

And if you are like me, it's ok. There's no joy in motherhood. Caring for a baby around the clock is exhausting. Sleep deprivation makes me a miserable person. The truth is I hate motherhood. People say it will get better and it has but it doesn't make the tough times easy when you're in it.

Then there is the guilt. Oh the guilt of saying out loud that I hate motherhood.

Not every mother fits that perfect mould we expect her to be in. There are mothers out there fighting their own silent battles. Let's make it easier for them. Let's talk about how bad it is. Let's ask her how she is really feeling. Let's talk about professional help if she needs it. Let's not put mothers in a position where her only option is to take her life.                                                              
Even before I became a mom, I thought that dads were shortchanged when it comes to paternity leave. The Husband's company policy is a generous 3 days; all of which come from his standard annual leave allowance.

The Husband took 2 weeks off from work and the day before he went back to work, I cried wondering how I'd survive alone with Squeak.

By now, you know that I suck at motherhood but it was about a lot more than caring alone for Squeak.

We fight for gender equality every day and every day we keep losing because of our social structures. Parental policies at government and corporate levels say that a woman's place is still to be at home to take care of the children and that a man does not have this responsibility.

But the truth is that child rearing is every bit a dad's desire as it is the mom's. The Husband was more excited than I was when we got news of OUR surprise pregnancy. He was involved throughout the health of OUR pregnancy from gynae visits to emergency hospital stays. He prepared for OUR baby's arrival by maxing out credit cards on baby items that we both researched and decided on. But when OUR baby was born, paternity leave policies dictated that time for dad to bond with the baby was not important. It was mom only that got time off from work to care for the newborn.

Bonding with a newborn is hard for dad. The baby only wants mom. Even though Squeak wasn't interested in anything but boobs, The Husband wanted to bond with him. And there are so many ways he did that and much more that he could have done if he was home for longer. I take on the majority of child rearing duties because he doesn't have the time to get involved enough to be as good at those tasks as I am.

Here are some of the reasons paternity leave is so important:
1. Childbirth is freakin hard man. The Husband took care of me. He changed diapers when I couldn't get out of my hospital bed, bathed Squeak when I couldn't bend from c-section recovery, and made sure I was fed when I was so busy with a baby that wanted to be with me all the time. 

2. I was so sleep deprived in the first few weeks. The Husband also woke up with every scream for a night feed but he went back to sleep easily while I stayed up to breastfeed. We didn't realise just how much this took a toll on him until he started struggling to stay awake for the first few weeks when he was back at work. So he also needed more time to adjust to life with a newborn.

3. Even science thinks dads should have enough paternity leave. Studies have shown that having dads around boosts moms levels of prolactin and oxytocin hormones which stimulates the production of breast milk and letdown. Sharing the tough days with a partner also keeps mommy depression at bay and there are so many benefits for the little ones too like increased vocabulary.

Not providing paternity leave sends the message that it isn't important for men to bond with their kids and that women become the default person for child rearing responsibilities and to take time off work delaying the progression of their careers. Equal parental leave is essential in promoting gender equality. Giving dads time off can help women earn more money in the long term and maintain their careers.

I think parental leave should be equally distributed across both genders. There are questions about how we can afford such a benefit. A quick uneducated perspective is to look at how income tax is being spent so that our corruption budget can be assigned for parental leave through, say, UIF. The private sector could get rewarded for promoting this in the same way that corporates get incentives for improving the country's BEE stats. And before anyone points out that having babies is not the government's problem; oh yes it is. More people of employable age equates to a larger workforce which is what drives our economy. Today's babies will dictate the next generation's economy.

I'd love to know what your thoughts are. Do you think paternity leave is important? How much time should dad be allowed to take? And who should carry the cost? 
Yes I'm thinking about how St Peter, consulting his iPad, might ask about this title whilst hoards of other souls (who have never publicly stated the obvious) walk through the pearly gates; no questions asked.

I'm jumping ahead of myself. Here's why I was so angry with God last night.

Despite my atheist ways, I actually do believe in the existence of God or that God existed at some point. The science even backs it up. The chances that the perfect collection of atoms came together to form earth and life as we know it with perfect precision is slim. Take breastfeeding, for example. It's the perfect food to sustain a baby and so complex that no laboratory has successfully artificially imitated it as yet.

Which brings me to the offspring who was gnawing at my nipples for half an hour straight. Not to feed, no. It was too help with the gas troubles he had. All while The Husband dozed off peacefully unaware.

Unaware that The Big Guy created women to bear the brunt of parenting. We carry the foetus until it's born because we were gifted with a uterus, a vagina that was meant to have life torn through it and breasts from which our lives are sucked out of. And then just for fun, the bastard (oh sorry, Bastard - let's maintain a little respect here, shall we) gave men nipples.

This epiphany came in just before the start of Shravan where I am paying obeisance to the following Gods:
  • There's Shiva who was actually the world's saviour. He drank a poison that was going to end the world. I figure he could have let the world end. Maybe another God could take another go at it and not decree that women be stoned to death every time one of them breathes the way some of our major religions like it. Also, we pray to guy's penis as a symbol of him. How much more patriarchal can you get?
  • The Parvati kinda of patriarchal. This Goddess was created for Shiva. But because she was dark in complexion, Shiva didn't want her. Instead of showing my dark skinned sisters a role model of self respect, she persevered in lusting after him.
  • Krishna is my favorite God because he is oh so playful. But he married eight queens  and my people were up in arms when a playful Bollywood song about his main wife being sexy was released. Yes, the God can be a playboy and the Goddess can be nothing but subservient to him.
So no, patriarchal legion of Gods, you don't get my vegetarian fast as a worship to you when you designed women to physically suffer through life while men get off scot-free. And the reward for our suffering? Subservience to men.
Breast is not best. It's the biological norm. I don't know what happened but at some point, we had to tell people that breast milk was the best food for babies. For me, it goes without saying, after all isn't that what breast milk was designed for?

All animals are created to have the ability to feed their young. With humans, it's milk from the bosom until we can provide babies with normal food. And until recently, normal food was whole food that could be cultivated from the earth and not developed in a lab with secret ingredients like infant formula.

So why then is infant formula the new norm?

Breastfeeding women are chastised in public because boobs are now seen as sexual parts instead of their primary function as vessels that transfer sustenance to helpless babies.

Countless women keep asking me whether I have enough milk. I'm left wondering why I wouldn't have enough milk. Isn't that what my body was designed to do. Sort of like how my body was designed to grow a baby in my uterus.  I did that just fine without having to resort to growing him in a man-made alternative.

Some have asked when I will start supplementing with formula. My response  is when I can no longer feed him from my breasts. I can't understand why someone with no breastfeeding problems will want to limit natural and nutritious mother's milk.

And how shocked was I to hear how many women didn't breastfeed because they didn't have enough milk. I cannot believe that we have not had enough support to teach women about breastfeeding and why they probably did have enough milk and just didn't know it. It's natural. I mean how many other animals say they aren't producing enough milk for their young? None?

Biologically, only a minute amount of women truly cannot breastfeed (experts generously estimate about 5%). So if the majority of us can breastfeed then why did formula become so widespread?

I did a bit of research and found out that it started with developing emergency food for babies who could not get breast milk which then developed into Capitalist greed. Here's a horrifying article on how Nestlé convinced the third world that formula was better and, in the process of taking money from the world's most downtrodden, were the cause of millions of infant death. That could have been avoided if those women hadn't heard of Nestlé and kept on breastfeeding.

Present culture now dictates that mothers should no longer at their babies becks and calls. So it becomes easier to choose formula when mothers aren't around and have to go to work.

Formula is convenient in a world where a mother can't be with her child all the time. It's a lifesaver for infants who can't receive breast milk. But no, breast is not best. It's normal. It's how our bodies are designed and babies are instinctively geared towards seeking out mom's breasts for nutrition.

The more we start embracing the concept that breast feeding is normal, perhaps the more we will start seeing more women trusting their bodies to be enough for their babies without resorting to artificial nutrition as a first choice.

Last week was breastfeeding week and how better to honour that than by normalising breastfeeding. We can only do this by supporting mothers. Help mothers feed their babies by not telling them they shouldn't do it in public. Learn more about the wonderful science of breastfeeding and the benefits of breast milk. The more we see breastfeeding, the more normal it becomes.
I met up with some moms last week and they asked me how my breastfeeding journey was going. I responded with "It's been so hard." So they said I should tell them all about it. And that's when I hit a blank. What was so hard? I couldn't remember. I tried mentally recounting every breastfeeding moment since Squeak was born and I didn't have any incidents to back up my statement that it was hard. I kept wondering whether I imagined it to be hard. Was I just being dramatic cos everything about motherhood is pretty damn hard? Or did I just forget? 

Since then I realised I couldn't remember things in Squeak's life. Why couldn't I rest on Day 1? What was I so busy with? I keep saying Squeak was a handful but I don't remember Squeak being that difficult. 

I remember struggling to reach and pick up Squeak in the early days but I don't remember that pain. I know my c-section scar made it painful but I can no longer remember or conceptualise that pain. 

In such a short space of time, I had experienced that mythical concept mothers speak of that keeps the human race alive. I am slowly forgetting the bad experiences of motherhood and instead I subconsciously focus on the good. 

It's a good thing for Squeak. He might have a sibling some day when I forget just how difficult caring for a newborn is. I won't forget the actual experiences. It's more forgetting how it felt. 

It also gives me a bit of hope. Maybe one day I'll forget the fights with The Husband, the feeling of helplessness when I had no idea what Squeak needed and what sleep deprivation feels like. 

It's amazing how we're made to forget the bad in order to continue to procreate but it's this same forgetfulness that isolates new parents who have no one that relates to them. And one day, I'll become one of them.