Then There Were Four

Guys, I had another baby! And my heart is so full – I have two beautiful little girls. I am so happy, that amazing, peaceful, contented kind of happy.

If you don’t like birth stories, look away now. I promise to try not to make it too graphic.

On Wednesday morning, we visited the midwife for a check up, and ended up having a Stretch and Sweep. For 3 weeks now, the fundus (basically my baby-carrying sack) hadn’t grown, and Karen was worried that baby was running out of room. So, stretch and sweep time (and let’s-move-baby’s-arm-from-its-head-internally time – that was comfortable!).

We went home for the rest of the day to wait for (hopefully) labour to kick in. Poor Pete – he was so impatient to meet his child, he couldn’t sit still. In hindsight, I should’ve sent him to the pub.

My mum also came straight back from my sister’s on hearing about the ‘sweep’ – I really needed this baby to come today, otherwise everyone’s hopes would be up high for nothing!

Thankfully, like clockwork, my labour started as I fed Stevie her bedtime booby (nipple stimulation, especially towards the end, I known for releasing oxytocin – the labour hormone. Interestingly, oxytocin is released 3 times naturally in a woman – during orgasm, during labour, and during breastfeeding. The human body is fascinating – it’s all connected to making babies!). Quarter past 8, I was feeling intense pressure and let Karen know.

Luckily for me, my doula was Karen’s daughter-in-law, Bianca – I have a history of short labour, and this meant they could get to me, together, nice and quickly.

And of course, my history of fast labour repeated itself. Karen and Bianca got to the house (and assisted Pete with the birthing pool) just in time for my contractions to start with a real bang – I was told the day after, that on my first check after arrival I was between 5 and 6cm dilated already.

When watching period dramas involving labour, I always wondered about the towels and pots of boiling water that they ask the husband for every time – it turns out, keeping a birthing pool hot is hard work! I don’t think Pete has boiled so much water in his life – because of course the geyser ran out after a while!

Anyway – the pool was run in perfect time and in I hopped (I did not hop anywhere, of course – hopping whilst 39 weeks pregnant and in labour is not an option). Water birth was the best decision I ever made. I went from 5-6cm to the full 10cm in about 40 minutes, so I have very intense labours and the water really helped with supporting me. It was still bloody sore, but I didn’t worry so much about finding the perfect position, as the water balanced my body.

Active labour started at round about 9pm. Karen kept me informed all the way through that my waters still hadn’t broken, and that she was reluctant to break them for me while I was progressing nicely – which I was thankful for. En caul births are rare – so of course I wanted one!

In the end, my water sack actually broke shortly after contact with the water. I got to feel it though, which was different. It felt like a very rough, papery water balloon. Then came the head, and a strange, primal moment where I tuned out everybody in the room and pushed – Karen said she even saw the change. My body, knowing what to do from last time, took over of its own accord. I tilted my pelvis, let out some kind of weird noise and the biggest push I have ever known had her out, pretty much in one fluid movement.

Looking down into the pool and seeing this little, tiny creature floating in the water will go down as one of the most surreal, and amazing, moments of my life.

But wait – what I haven’t even mentioned yet is that Stevie was in the room for half of the process, and got to physically see her little sister being born! My mum brought her through and talked her through the entire thing, and she thought it was fascinating. As I lifted our new baby onto my chest, Karen called Stevie over and asked her to to be the first to see what sex her new sibling was. It was such a special moment.

I know, I my new-mum, baby-brain muddle I will have missed something out of this birth story – probably something really vital, like how Pete was with me in the pool the whole time, or how important perineal massage is. But this is just how I remember it now, 3 days after the event. Birth is beautiful, and painful, and overwhelming, and the best thing I have ever done now – twice! Even if there was a small moment on the last contraction before her head crowned where I wondered why I’d ever put myself through this again.

Home birth isn’t for everyone – as stated, I have a history of quick labour, I had a textbook, complication-free pregnancy, and I don’t like hospitals, so home birth with a midwife was ideal for me. If you feel as though this sounds like you, and something you’d like to do, then I highly recommend it. I got to labour and birth in the comfort of my own home – I got to use my own towels, tandem feed my kids for the first time in my own bed, and wash off in my own bathtub. Plus, I now know how to clean off a murder scene – always handy, no?

My midwife was Karen van der Merwe, who also works as a private midwife at Genesis Clinic in Rosebank, if the whole home birth thing seems a bit much. To contact her re a home birth: karenvdm61@gmail.com

0823357731

My doula was Bianca van der Merwe. A doula is a birth assistant, who can be hired for both natural and assisted births, and also c-section. Bianca also offers pregnancy massage and reflexology.

https://www.facebook.com/SimplyBinx/

binxycastle@gmail.com

0615467020

Writer’s Block

This past couple of weeks have gone so fast. Somehow, I’m 39 weeks pregnant today, and I’ve had the world’s worst writer’s block.

I also can’t read, or concentrate on anything. I remember this stage from being pregnant with Stevie – hopefully it means the end is near!

All I’m concentrating on, right now, is waiting for this baby to arrive. My sister has a book going – r20 per person to guess a day, winner takes the whole pot. Stevie lost out yesterday, Pete’s guessed today and I’ve got a loose bet (no money) on tomorrow. But of course, really, it’ll probably come on Xmas day.

Goodbye, toes

So we’re here trying to look forward to Christmas, without thinking too much about the baby. It’ll come when it comes, and there’s actually nothing I can do about it.

My friend Alésia bought me this from Cotton On – will baby get to wear it?

Hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas! See you all on the flip side (hopefully with a brand new baby).

Baby’s room is ready – wall decals from Kikki and Franki

Late Pregnancy and a Black Tie Do (or two)

I love a good wedding. I love a bad wedding, too, but then I don’t really believe there are bad weddings. But weddings are great.

Not so great (read: nerve-wracking) is dressing for a wedding at 6.5 months pregnant. And then again, and 8 months pregnant (my sister gave me a get-out-of-jail-free card with hers, with an infinity bridesmaid dress – more on that later).

What does one wear to a black tie do when you’ve got a giant, bowling ball of a bump protruding from your midriff?

Well, here were my thought processes, and eventual outfits.

First of all – consider the weather. Both weddings were well above the 28 degree range, so definitely height of summer. No clingy, jersey fabrics for the bump this time – flattering as they are, I’d rather not Invite sweat to drop down my forehead more than it already has to. Also, sweaty bump equals itchy bump. Not nice. And riding-up-the-sweaty-legs never did anybody any favours.

So it needed to be floaty. That cancelled out half of my pregnancy wardrobe, so that was easy. My next problem was my legs.

I work hard on my legs. When I’m not pregnant, these little old legs of mine are a mark of pride. I run for miles, squat and lunge and box jump for days on end, just to keep these little leggies of mine toned and cellulite free. Pregnant me still squats, even now at 36 weeks, but, hello, water rentention, welcome, cellulite. I don’t feel at all comfortable showing off my legs when I know there’ll be a camera and plenty of leggy ladies around. So the dress needed to be long.

I didn’t want to buy a maternity dress that I’d never wear again, so I found myself at the Stuttafords closing down sale (RIP, Stuttafords, you will be very sorely missed by me) and staring at a brightly patterned, slightly-too-big, Banana Republic tent dress. Perfect – the pattern would flatter the belly nicely, it was nice and floaty, and – bonus – I will be able to wear it cinched in with a nice belt, once the bump has turned into a baby. Result!The biggest bonus of this dress turned out to be the weather – it was unseasonably hot in Michigan for the time of year, and my tent dress saved me from heatstroke. I felt pretty, cool(ish) and comfortable. We danced the night away until 9pm ish, when Stevie fell asleep on the dance floor in my arms, to the sounds of Jay Z. What a wedding.The second wedding was my sister’s, where I was a bridesmaid. I was picked to be said bridesmaid way before I fell pregnant again. There was a brief worry that my sister would disown me – just joking. Thankfully, she chose custom made infinity dresses. Saviour! A gazillion different ways to tie the straps, empire line before my ribs stretched, and, again, cool and floaty and comfortable. The best thing about infinity dresses is that you don’t have to be the bridesmaid to wear one. One of my best friends wore a beautiful purple one to my wedding years ago. If you’re ever pregnant and concerned, and can’t find a Banana Republic tent dress, go for the infinity dress. You will wear it again! Just make sure to take nipple pasties (thanks to my other sister and sister in law) and no-show knickers. If you’re that way inclined, pregnancy spanks will work, too.There are countless ways on Pinterest on how to tie an infinity dress, but we just went for it on the day. And, trust me, I was super comfortable. If you’re the type of pregnant lady who feels confident in everything when carrying a baby, or who doesn’t get cellulite-y legs, then you can probably ignore my advice and go for what you fancy. But this worked for me. Comfort is always key. Good luck!Unfortunately for us here in South Africa, now that Stuttafords has permanently closed, there seems to be nowhere else to buy Banana Republic other than their website Banana Republic. Hopefully this will change, soon.

Your Pregnancy Magazine

As a blog reader will already know, I recently shot Your Pregnancy magazine with the lovely Aubrey Jonsson. The pics have now been published! I am so happy to have more memories to show my children.

Look how small the bump is! Your Pregnancy magazine is currently on shelves in South African shops.

Less-Common Pregnancy Fears

This is my second pregnancy. You’d think, because of this, I’m familiar with pregnancy safety, and keeping myself healthy and comfortable, right?

Well, mainly, you’d be right. But every pregnancy is different. Oh, I remember the heaviness at this stage, and the tiredness and the restless legs. But this baby is carrying totally differently – meaning I feel ultra heavy, so much so that I have no appetite, feeling as though my stomach is so small, nothing will fit. Trust me when I say, I did not have this problem last time (thank you, all the world’s food, for my excessive weight gain). Right now, I’m eating 6-7 small meals/large snacks a day to keep myself going. Sounds like a great diet trick – until you realise this is not good when you’re carrying an extra, precious parcel.

My current favourite place in the whole world.

But the lack of appetite I can deal with. The food poisoning I got earlier on the week? Not so much.

Nowadays, the majority of women have heard that the old-wives’-practice of taking castor oil to bring on labour is unsafe. The contractions/cramps brought on from the effects of the oil can cause major contractions (similar to being induced) and can also cause said previous parcel (the foetus) to suffer the same, releasing meconium (poo) into the water and making baby go into distress.

In a similar way, food poisoning and diarrhoea can also bring contractions along with the tummy cramps. Fun, isn’t it? There’s something I never had to deal with in my first pregnancy. Never again will I eat suspect sausages, blaming the funky taste on pregnancy sensitivity. I spoke to my doula after I first started suffering, so I felt comfortable knowing my ‘team’ were informed (my midwife and doula are mother-and-daughter-in-law). But I was warned to keep an eye on those pesky stomach cramps, and to call if I started vomiting (another fun thing – dehydration can also cause pre-term labour. Vomiting may have required a quick trip to hospital to be put on a drip).

Factor 50 loaded…

The second thing I’ve learned this week, thankfully before it was too late, is a funny fact about sunburn. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have to Google this information, so go ahead.

Sunburn releases prostaglandin – one of the ‘labour’ hormones. In very extreme cases, my midwife said, extreme sunburn can cause premature labour. She herself has had 2 cases so far. Now, 2 cases in 25 years doesn’t sound so bad – but I really, really want my unmedicated home birth, so I’ll be doing everything in my power to not get this baby out before 37 weeks. No pool time (the only place I’m comfortable) without factor 50 cream. No dodgy meat. No bending over – okay, so that one’s not about keeping the baby in, just about keeping my food where it’s supposed to be!

The best way to enjoy pregnancy…

Pregnancy’s great. Some people really enjoy it. I just can’t wait to get to the baby at the end!

Baby Brain

I hold up my hands, here. I’m struggling big time with the dreaded baby brain.

In a 2014 study by the University of London, evidence showed that Baby Brain is a real thing, brought on by pregnant women automatically using the right side (the emotional side) of their brains more than their left, in order to prepare for bonding with their newborn.

I don’t care about the reason, really – all I know is I have a foggy brain and can barely remember what day it is.

Last week, I had a list in my head of three blog posts to write. I wrote one of them, and I can honestly say I’ve forgotten what the other two were!

All I can focus on is keeping Stevie happy, and this small being inside me that sometimes looks and feels like it’s trying to escape like something from Alien.

So I apologise in advance about what I imagine will be a completely erratic blog from now on.

Now, what day is it, again?

Pregnancy photo shoots

It’s weird being pregnant and being a model. My entire life is made up of photo shoot after photo shoot, contorting my body in ways to make myself look even more lithe and long than I already am, in order to make a more appealling picture.

But being pregnant and modelling is completely different. Firstly, there aren’t as many pregnancy shoots as everyone thinks. Sure, I modeled up until 16 weeks, but then once I started showing I had to stop for a while. I’ve done two shoots for Your Pregnancy magazine, which were great, but this time, unlike with Stevie, I decided to try something different. I actually did a real pregnancy shoot with my friend Tahlecia.

Last time I shot with Tahlecia, it was a hair job and I was about 9 weeks pregnant. So normal business. This time was different and strange, but so lovely. This time it was just Tahlecia and I, so she did my hair and make up and just the two of us got me set up in her amazing home studio.

We’d already shared inspiration pictures, so we knew exactly what look we were going for – think of all the Victoria’s Secret models when they do pregnancy shoots: sleek, natural and just nice. No excessive make up and hair, or overdone outfits. Just me, the bump, a pair of baggy Acne jeans and my favourite, white H&M shirt.

Mega pregnancy inspiration right there – thanks, Behati!

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, but they took us about 45 mins to shoot and I’m so happy I did them. I’m not one of those people who loves being pregnant, but neither am I the girl who hates it. I’m kind of indifferent, but I do feel as though I’ll have some very valuable memories to last me from this pregnancy.

The Most Magical Place in the World

I’ve been to both DisneyLand and DisneyWorld, but nothing can prepare you to seeing Disney through the eyes of a child.

Disney in Florida is separated into multiple parks, but the ‘main’ park, the one we all think of a DisneyWorld, is the Magic Kingdom. Called ‘the Most Magical Place on Earth,’ it’s where a giant Sleeping Beauty castle sits centre stage, surrounded by leaping water fountains, performing dancers and rides – all the rides, for all ages (but sadly not many for pregnant women).

Yes, they have badges

There was a small faff on entry, so Stevie and I were waved through on our own. She gazed around in wonderment as she took it all in – the music pipes non-stop and there are people everywhere. Then she spotted Pluto. Her little face beamed and we decided to get in line, autograph in hand, to see the ‘Woo Woo,’ as she calls him. My little heart broke – she was so excited. But then she saw the end of the parade while we were waiting in line, and there were Mickey and Minnie Mouse. For two whole weeks leading up to this holiday, all Stevie had wanted to do was see Minnie Mouse. And here she was. Well, my hormonal, pregnant self couldn’t take it. I burst into tears as she shouted ‘MINNIE MOUSE!’ I was finished. Then Pete wandered over and burst out laughing, as I had tears of sheer happiness streaming down my face. I’m not usually one to gush, but it was pretty magical. Disney through the eyes of a child is AMAZING!

We spent the rest of the day running in and out of water displays and going on rides – well I didn’t go on rides, but Stevie certainly did. She definitely takes after Mummy and Daddy, enjoying the Rocky Mountain Railroad (a mini rollercoaster) so much that she asked for a second go. Yes, Disney is expensive and there tend to be massive queues (we were lucky, though, in that we went just out of peak season). Then we actually met Stevie’s idol – Minnie herself. She was made up, and she hasn’t stopped talking about it since. She also got to watch a show with Anna and Elsa, her second favourites, and met Buzz Lightyear.

I trudged around like a good little tourist Mummy, having an absolute ball – BUT I would not recommend doing Disney at 7 months pregnant. There’s a lot of walking around and it’s very hot – I definitely don’t regret it, but I was exhausted for days.

To round off the day, we went for an amazing dinner at the California Grill, an amazing fine dining restaurant at the top of the Contemporary Resort, one of Disney’s flagship hotels. Eating dinner whilst watching the sun set over the lake was lovely! Our meals were beautiful, and my word were we ready for them, but the highlight was the children’s menu. For context, when eating out we usually order Stevie the smallest fillet steak, medium rare, and we finish what she doesn’t. Therefore, no wastage – and there are always doggy bags! But here, Stevie had a wedge salad starter (two lettuce quarters – perfect for our leaf-lover!) and then a kiddy fillet steak which was a perfect, mini version of Daddy’s. The pictures don’t do it justice.

If, unlike us, you don’t have a small child who needs sleep by latest 9 o’clock, then guests are permitted on the balconies to watch the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT fireworks after dark.

Magic Kingdom entry prices are $113 per adult for one day entry into this park only, and $108 for a child. However, for a ‘park hopper’ pass (including all parks in one day) it’s $173 for adults and $167 per child.

A special thank you to our friends at The Crown and Crest in EPCoT, who helped with our entry into Magic Kingdom. They do family crests on a plaque while you wait! Always worth a visit – ask for Pete or Bev and tell them where you heard about them!

Toddler on the Beach

I love the beach. I always have done – I’m not saying for a second that I’ll turn down a day relaxing by the pool, but I will JUMP at the chance to go to the beach.

When we were planning this trip to Florida, Pete and I spoke about trying to cram in a day on Clearwater beach. Stevie could run around and go crazy in the sand, Mummy would get to relax for a bit and Daddy could be ‘cool dad’ in the sea. However, since we’re with family, they decided that the two-hour drive was too long for a day, and FIL very kindly booked us all in for a night at our regular hotel, the Sheraton. Pete and I had our ‘babymoon’ here (when I was pregnant with Monks, funnily enough) and we love it.

So off we trotted. For anyone who doesn’t know, Clearwater is a barrier island with 4km (told you the beach was big) of white, sandy beach. They’ve regularly been voted as one of the top beaches in the US, and with good reason. The waters are warm and clear, and dolphins and stingrays are common (we even saw a couple of fins on our first day – not shark fins, but dolphins coming up for air!).

We unpacked and had the entire afternoon, from 11.30am until about 3pm, relaxing in the sand. The usual Florida wind and rain picked up then, so we retreated to the pool area and spent the next hour and a half there. The Sheraton is amazing for kids – they have private beach rental and wifi on the beach for hotel guests, a golf cart to take people the 300m to and from the sea, and the pool is directly on the beach itself. There is one huge main pool, with pool floats and noodles, a kids pool 30cm deep, and a hot tub. There’s also a naughty little tiki bar – of course this time I only had the mocktails, but I can speak from past experience that the piña coladas are out of this world.

For dinner, we trekked across to the mainland (Clearwater, as opposed to Clearwater Beach) to the Island Way Grill. Pete and I have eaten here every time we’ve visited, and I have never had a bad meal. They have a full kiddies’ menu and bring pencils and colouring paper to the table, which is always a bonus! Stevie had what was probably her fourth fillet steak (medium rare) in a row and was satisfied.

We had a beach morning again the next morning, then headed back to Orlando. I wish our beach trip could’ve been longer – but then I always do! But for anyone wondering or worrying about a decent holiday with a toddler – try not to overthink it, and book a simple room or Airbnb on a nice, wide beach (we have lots in SA) and let the beach entertain the family.

The Clearwater Tourist Board has lots of information about the best places to stay and be entertained in the area.

We always stay at the Sheraton Sand Key on Clearwater Beach, where a standard room is available from $267 per night at current rates.