Living, Learning & Loving La Vida Nueva

Friday, October 30, 2015

Sadie Kate's Birth Story

Early last week we learned of some paperwork hassles we weren’t expecting to encounter.  It’s the story of life when living abroad.  After many attempts to call and get information from the US Consulate in Durban, I finally got through to someone and she explained the process we would need to complete to obtain Sadie Kate’s passport and Report of Birth Abroad.  She also informed us that we would be unable to cross back in to Lesotho without these things.  That was major news to us, because we had crossed back in with Ellee without those documents, just her South African birth certificate.  But South Africa changed the laws this January, requiring parents to show their children’s passports as well as their unabridged birth certificates when crossing the border.  We were intending to drive from Durban to Maseru after the birth and apply in Maseru at that Consulate this time, too.  Having to stay in Durban to apply and wait for the paperwork meant still being on our South African visas which run out on November 14th.  Thus, we were looking at a serious time crunch on business days to complete things, get her passport back and get out of South Africa with our baby before we had overstayed our visas.

At my doctor appointment last Friday, the day before my due date, we set an induction date for Tuesday, Oct 27.  I did not want to be induced - I have never wanted to be induced - but we really had no choice except to try to get Sadie to come so she could have a birth date and a passport picture taken.  Then we could submit her application.  The doctor did an internal check that morning and said he didn’t really think I was prime for labor at that point, so we agreed that Tuesday was the longest we could give my body to prepare naturally while still allowing enough business days to wait for her documents to come back.  I really appreciated that the doctor also wasn’t keen to induce because medically everything was fine, but, of course, recognized our predicament.  He explained how the process would go and said because she was my third, it would probably be relatively simple and my body would take the hint.  

The rest of Friday and Saturday came and went without any signs of labor.  On the recommendation of a few friends, I decided to try drinking some castor oil on Sunday afternoon.  I was really afraid to do it, not knowing how it would affect my system, but was desperate to not have to do an induction.  I read hundreds of testimonials online of women who had tried castor oil for induction.  Some were quite comical, for some it had done the trick and for others it had been an absolute nightmare.  I was so nervous to try it I couldn’t eat any lunch, so instead I ate a bowl of ice-cream with a ton of sprinkles.  I said a prayer and took the glug.  The afternoon progressed without any difficulty, just a couple trips to the bathroom and no pain or discomfort whatsoever.  Around suppertime I took another glug and still nothing by 10:45 when I climbed into bed.

I hadn’t fallen asleep before the first contraction came.  It was mild, just barely notable.  I hung out in the bed for nearly an hour and probably had five or six more contractions.  Because the kids were in the room and Kyle was beside me in the bed, I decided to get up and move to the couch as they were getting slightly more intense and it wasn’t as easy to stay quiet and still through them.  Around midnight, I plunked down on the couch and told Jonathan I’d had a few contractions and that it was going to be a long night.  I had read so many castor oil testimonies that said they had experienced some contractions but it never led to anything.  I was still thinking it could be a fluke and thought I’d probably just end up missing a few hours of sleep over nothing.  Nevertheless I alerted my sister in law that I was having some contractions and asked her to call and let my mom know.  On a scale of 1-10 I ranked them at about a 4 and about 20 minutes and a few contractions later, decided I’d start to time them.  Within the next 20 or so minutes, I had six more contractions and they grew significantly in intensity.  

By then I thought I ought to try to write out instructions for the guest house owner, Wendy, who had agreed to come and sleep on the couch if I went in labor during the night.  Why I didn’t write those dumb instructions out before the day after my due date, I don’t know.  I guess I just really believed labor would be slow and boring at first and I’d do it then.   I struggled to write out details for breakfast and lunch and Ellee’s nap time and hoped that would be enough.  I had no idea how long we would be gone.  Jonathan got dressed and started getting things together while I struggled through more rapid contractions.  He called Wendy and let her know we were leaving soon for the hospital.  I waited until a contraction had just finished to rush into the bedroom where the kids were and try to get dressed before another hit.  Wendy came up and I didn’t really want her to see me having contractions, so I ran to the bathroom for the next one.  Then I hurried out to try to talk through the few notes I’d written out and rushed back to the bathroom for another contraction.  By the time I came back out, Jonathan had everything together and we got out the door.  I had to stop for another contraction before we could even get to the car.  It was just after 1AM.

The drive from the guest house to the hospital is about 20 minutes.  I was dreading all the speed bumps we’d have to cross and Jonathan was thoroughly enjoying running all the reds lights.  He said he’d always wanted to be able to do it and that it was apparently genuine cause for breaking the law if you had a laboring woman in the car with you.  The contractions were coming hard and fast, but I was still wondering if they would just stop out of no where.  I had about four or five minutes between them at one point and thought to myself, “great, what if they’ve stopped.”  Wrong.  They kept coming.  I had read in the testimonies that castor oil could make relatively quick labors.  It had not even crossed my mind that I could possibly be very far dilated, though, because my other two labors were relatively long and slow.  And things had just started.  The contractions I experienced with both Kyle and Ellee at 2-3cm were nearly as intense as what I was experiencing in the car.  We parked at the hospital and I realized I didn’t know where I had put the phone.  We looked in the car and in my bags and were struggling to find it.  The phone had the SIM card which we would use for internet to contact our families.  I thought about sending Jonathan back to the guest house to get it.  We kept looking for it while I kept having contractions and finally found it in a side pocket of my hospital bag.  It was about 1:30.

We walked into the hospital and I had to stop to have a contraction before I could speak to the nurse.  They offered me a wheelchair, which I readily accepted, and hurried me down the hall to Labor and Delivery.  They initially started taking me to a labor room when the midwife came and took over.  She wheeled me straight to the delivery room, asking when the contractions had started.  By this time I was pretty much just having one big contraction and was struggling to talk much.  We waited for a slight lull so she could stand me up and without any warning at all, she stripped my clothes right off me.  I was trying to tell her I needed to pee so badly but she told me it didn’t matter, she had to check to see how far dilated I was and I could pee on her if I wanted.  She was a feisty little English woman probably in her fifties.  She checked and checked again and boy, did that hurt, and then said, “yeah I figured.  About 7-8.  What’s your name?”  Jonathan answered for me.  I was shocked.  And I was terrified.  I knew that meant no drugs, and the reality of delivery without any drugs was just absolutely terrifying in that moment.  Both my other deliveries, with epidurals, had been awfully painful.  Sheer panic set in at the reality of having to do it without any meds.  I cried, hard, and must’ve said ten times over that I couldn’t do it.  I probably said it a hundred more times over the next half hour.

The midwife immediately called my Doctor, who naturally was sleeping at 1:45 on a Monday morning, and he said he would be over immediately.  She started throwing the room together for delivery while I kept having miserable contractions and struggling to even catch my breath.  Until we got into the hospital, I was able to at least breathe between the contractions and was trying to breathe well through them.  By this point, I could hardly see straight and I just couldn’t catch my breath.  And my mouth was so dry.  I asked for some water which Jonathan got for me and I sucked a bunch of it down.  I asked if there was anything at all she could give me for the pain and she said, “gas.”  I didn’t like the sound of that.  I asked if it would make me loopy and she said a little but as soon as you stop breathing it, it wears off.  I didn’t want to be loopy for the delivery, but I thought I’d give it a go at least to try to catch my breath at that point.  I sucked and sucked on that stupid gas and it didn’t do a darn thing.  She kept saying you have to breath through the mouth and I was trying but it wasn’t helping.  Nevertheless, Jonathan shoved it in my mouth a few more times with the contractions and it gave me something to focus on other than the incredible pain.

My body started involuntarily pushing and I was (not so quietly) telling the midwife that I needed to deliver the baby.  She was adamant that I needed to wait for the doctor to arrive and I was just as adamant that I couldn’t help it.  She kept checking and said the head wasn’t quite there yet, but my body didn’t care and kept pushing her down anyway.  So involuntary.  So incredibly intense.  So painful.  I was thankful I knew I was the only person in the delivery area (which was entirely separate from the labor and recovery rooms) because I was so loud.  I absolutely could not help it, even though I was trying my hardest to be nice.  Everything I said and did came out so loud!  It was chaotic but I wasn’t trying to be.  I was still just shocked I was so close to fully dilated and I couldn’t wrap my head around what was going on.  And I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

The midwife had gloves on at this point so she could be messing with me, and she kept asking Jonathan to do things so she could keep her gloves clean.  He was opening things and getting her hair out of her eyes for her.  She was sweating profusely.  The bell rang for the door and she told Jonathan to run open it for the doctor.  He later said his wife was parked behind him in the driveway so he decided to take her car, but his access keys were left in his car.  He ran in and also started making requests of Jonathan.  Neither of us understand why another nurse didn’t come in to help that poor midwife, but we figure it might be that it was an otherwise quiet Sunday night and they had sent people home.  We don’t know.  But, I guess it was good that Jonathan had something to do to help, because goodness knows there wasn’t a thing he could do to help me.  He was trying and I was trying to be nice but I couldn’t handle anything touching me.  Although I know I kept grabbing his arm and the midwife’s arm when they were close and I didn’t know why I was doing it but I couldn’t not.  Jonathan swung the spot light around and got it situated while the doctor pulled on his gloves and tried to get ready.  The doctor was so calm and collected and I was so out of control.  I really was.  My body was doing it and I couldn’t help what all it was doing.

With the next contraction, from somewhere deep within, in a place I didn’t know I had, I managed an enormous push.  One single push and she crowned.  And it hurt.  Then I had to wait what felt like an eternity but was probably only about 45 seconds for the next contraction so I could push her shoulders out.  Another enormous push!  Goodnight this girl has broad shoulders, that was the first time I’d ever had to try to push the shoulders out!  And she was born.  It was 2:07.  With Kyle and Ellee, I felt an intense sense of relief when I knew I was done.  This time I didn’t feel that immediately.  I was shocked.  It couldn’t sink in.  She was here.  A couple hours ago I had been climbing into my bed with no signs of labor and there I was with my baby on the chest.

She was here.  Sadie Kate.  The girl who had put me on such a rough and wild ride straight from the start of pregnancy to the delivery.  I checked to make sure she was a girl.  They just left her there, warm and slippery, on my chest.  I was still wearing my regular clothes on top.  Her skin was clean, like Kyle’s had been, and she cried immediately.  Because Ellee was so early, she was covered in vernix and she didn’t breathe well right at first.  I was relieved that Sadie was breathing and crying.  She was big, strong and healthy and I was so thankful to be touching her.  The rest of the stuff the doctor was doing hurt, too, and I wasn’t happy about it.  Incredibly I didn’t need any stitches.  Within a few minutes he left me alone and soon he was headed home to go back to bed.

The midwife asked Jonathan to go check me in to the hospital so she could proceed with identifying me and the baby and handle paperwork.  We hadn’t even signed in on our way through the emergency reception.  While he was gone, I got in touch with my mom to tell her Sadie was born and when he got back he called his parents.  After the paperwork was completed, the midwife suggested I take a shower in the enormous and weirdly beautiful shower in the delivery room bathroom.  I wasn’t sure I could stand up yet but she put a chair in the shower and I managed.  Jonathan held Sadie Kate and sang to her while I sat under the warm water trying to grasp what had just happened.  When I got out and was ready to be wheeled to a recovery room, I was finally able to hold her and just cry.  She was here.  I couldn’t believe it but I was so, so relieved.  

She is a sweet baby.  She likes to snuggle and she loves milk.  Kyle and Ellee are smitten with her and she seems to enjoy them, too.  At least as much as a four day old baby enjoys anything.  She closes her eyes when we kiss her.    She looks a lot like Ellee did as a baby but I also see plenty of Kyle faces, too.  I certainly don’t think she looks a world different from either of them.  Sort of a mix of both.  I’m in love all over again.  

It was hard.  All of it was hard.  But she was worth it.  Every bit of it.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

City Life

The first Saturday we were here, we just happened to go to a nearby mall and find Minnie and Mickey dressed up and walking around to greet the children.  My kids are huge Minnie and Mickey fans and they were absolutely giddy to find the characters!  They’d never seen anything like that.  I found a sign in the mall and read that they were going to have a “special guest” around the mall each Saturday morning this month.  So I noted them and we’ve visited all of them.  The next week we found a Minion and last week we found Spiderman.

When I told them that it was going to be Spiderman, Kyle was absolutely beside himself.  Because all plans are sort of up in the air based on what Sadie girl may or may not do, I haven’t told them who it would be until Friday night.  Kyle was dressed and ready to meet Spiderman by before 7 on Saturday morning.  I then had to try to explain that Spiderman wasn’t coming to the mall until 11am.  So I told them Spiderman was lazy and sleeping in, then he was going to have to wake up and take his shower and eat his breakfast before coming to the mall.  They were okay with that, although we fielded questions all morning about how much longer until Spiderman was going to finish his breakfast.  

The entire time Kyle was in Spiderman’s presence, he was bouncing up and down uncontrollably.  Sheer delight.  The kids wanted to hug him and give him lots of high fives.  It was a banner day in the life of a four year old boy.

On Sunday we tried to go to church but were unable to get there.  Durban had a big bike marathon going on and they had closed down one of the main thoroughfares required for us to get to church.  We tried to figure out how to navigate without using that main highway but we didn’t get anywhere.  Durban reminds me a lot of Atlanta as it has so many suburbs but it’s all basically considered one place.  So imagine shutting down 285 and watching non-locals navigate without it.  Thus, after driving in circles for a while, we decided to change plans.  The kids were disappointed they weren’t going to get to attend Children’s church, as it’s been a novelty for them during our stay here.  Children’s church isn’t a thing in Mokhotlong.  

A friend had mentioned a local coffee shop called Piggly Wiggly and said we needed to check it out.  So we plugged that into the GPS and managed to find it without using the closed road.  I was glad it was open on a Sunday morning.  It was such a beautiful setting, we ate outside while the kids played on the big play gym under the trees.  Jonathan ordered a beef, egg and cheese toast meal and the kids and I split two scones with butter and strawberry jam.  I got an iced decaf coffee which was out of this world and I ordered the kids a freshly squeezed orange juice.  It was lovely, a real treat.  Then the kids saw that there was a small putt putt course nearby and upon inspection, we learned it was only $2 to play 9 holes.  So after we finished our late breakfast, we wandered over to the putt putt place and Kyle and Jonathan enjoyed a quick round.  Kyle had never done any such thing and he was pretty excited to be playing golf like his Pops.  Plus he was wearing a collared shirt for church and we told him it made him look just like a golfer.  He giggled.

My watching buddy

Waiting isn’t one of my strong points, and it sort of feels like we’ve been waiting forever and there is no end in sight.  It’s weird that Ellee came so early, leaving us no choice but to come out of Mokhotlong early just in case.  And now we’ve been waiting for three weeks with no signs of change.  These kids, they keep us guessing from the start!  At least it’s a nice place to wait and we can find special things to do to pass the time.  But I’m more than ready to have this baby and move on the the next phase of waiting….. paperwork.

If only I could sleep as soundly as this one, with the Christmas decoration she borrowed from the landlord's house.... (???) 


Tuesday, October 13, 2015


I found this place to stay for our baby-waiting-month on a website I use often to find accommodation all around South Africa.  I booked it in May for a few nights when my parents flew in for their visit and, after seeing it, approached the owner about renting it for the entire month of October.  Having one late baby and one early baby, I figured we needed to just plan to settle in for multiple weeks surrounding my due date.  We also knew we needed to find something that had a kitchen so we could cook for ourselves.  Where we stayed in Bloem when Ellee was born was not equipped with a kitchen, and while we made it work, doing dishes in the bathtub wasn’t ideal.  Of course, we knew renting any place for a month wouldn’t be cheap, but we didn’t really have a choice.  So I was pleased when the owner got back to me.  We agreed on a reduced nightly rate (about 60% of her normal rate) for us and secured our booking.

We are staying in a suburb of Durban, about a 35 minute drive to the coast, 15 minute drive to the hospital and 5 minute drive to the grocery.  The 5 minute drive to the grocery has me tickled pink (or should I say green?).  I am in fresh food heaven.  The guest house is on the owner’s property, situated above their garage and office.  It has one bedroom, a beautiful and spacious bathroom with a separate shower and tub (which I am so, so enjoying!!!!), a kitchen and bar for eating, and a living area.  We have Kyle sleeping on the couch and Ellee in her pack & play in the bedroom with us.  The porch is also very spacious and has a fancy gas grill and a big table, boasting lovely views of the hills.  The yard is impeccably kept with tropical flowers and a water fountain and they have a pool, trampoline and play gym for the kids to use.  Thankfully, as neither of my kids can swim, the pool has a very secure cover which is kept on at all times when it is not in use.  The apartment has two air conditioning units, which are so divinely wonderful for cooling the warm and moist Durban air at night.  I’m afraid we are spoiled by Mokhotlong’s cool and dry evenings year round!  

Porch view 

Little Swimmers

Chilly water on a blazing hot day

"Look, Mom, no hands!"

Jonathan is thoroughly enjoying having the sports channels on the TV, I am loving the hot water which runs freely out of the tap, and the kids think having a trampoline in the backyard is the best thing they’ve ever encountered.  We decided because we’ve never had the luxury of a gas grill, we would take advantage of grilling a lot!  Although we do have a small coal grill, we typically try to avoid grilling much in Mokhotlong because we know to our neighbors, meat is considered to be something that is very special and saved for rare occasions (because of it’s cost).  So, we’re grilling right and left down here and enjoying the rapid speed of lighting a gas grill and throwing the meat on!  And I don’t mind dishes a bit with free flowing hot water!

Kyle's special big boy movie date

Since the beach is a decent drive from here, I figure we’ll only try to go once a week until we leave.  Monday morning last week we got up and headed that way bright and early.  It was windy but pleasant and the kids had a great time building sand castles.  I didn’t pull the camera out at the beach but I did manage to capture their post-beach snooze on the drive home.  Sun and sand are always sure to wear a couple of kiddos out!

Building sand castles is exhausting

We found a nearby park on a creek the other day and enjoyed playing there for a while.  I think we’ll venture back over there tomorrow.  Naturally, I’m feeling somewhat stir crazy and anxious about the upcoming labor and delivery.  I am constantly trying to do things to keep myself occupied.  So I think a morning at the park and then ice cream are in the cards for us tomorrow…..

I see the Doctor again on Friday.  Hopefully Sadie Kate will decide to exit before then and I won't make my appointment.  :)  11 days till Due Date and counting....


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Where There is No Hospital

This girl.  I deeply love her already and I have yet to even hold her.  She has put me on the wildest, toughest, most stressful pregnancy journey imaginable.  At least it feels that way.  I can’t wait to meet her and weep with joy that this miserable pregnancy is over!

I had hoped that the super-sicks would let up on me and give me a solid break before the super-aches kicked in.  It hasn’t happened that way at all.  As the nausea let up in the late teen and early twenty weeks, the serious acid reflux and various aches and pains took its place.  I'm still battling nausea at times, but I think it’s been about twelve weeks since I actually lost anything out of my belly.  For that I am thankful!  A number of foods still sound pretty disgusting, but at least my sweet tooth is back.  Because my body is in extreme famine recovery mode, I am having to watch everything I put in my mouth or the scale will win this battle.  Thankfully I really, really like salad.  

We can recap my weight fluctuations over the past months — I lost 8 pounds being sick between 6 and 18 weeks (a miracle really that I didn’t lose more).  Then I have put those 8 back on plus 11 more over the course of the past 18 weeks (yes, that’s more than a pound a week…. yikes).  I have a goal to not gain more than 4 more pounds over my remaining 4 weeks, which I think is doable with lots of discipline and determination.  The most amazing part is that the Doctor says that SK is right on track or even a little big for her gestation.  It’s a miracle she even survived the first half of this pregnancy, incredible that she seems to have grown just fine in spite of it all!

Five weeks ago I started having some minor contractions in the middle of the day.  I have never had a bit of contraction pain with my other two pregnancies until the day or two before delivery, so I knew it wasn’t a good sign.  I hung out in the bed for the whole afternoon, trying to determine if they would subside.  They weren’t very rhythmic, actually more constant and directly connected to the insane number of Braxton Hicks contractions I was experiencing.  By late afternoon it was obvious they weren’t letting up and we were trying to determine what to do.  I was 30 weeks along and there was no real possibility of a good outcome had labor really started and I delivered here in Mokhotlong.  As one might imagine, there is no NICU at the Mokhotlong clinic, and I do not believe they have any oxygen or warming equipment.  I called my OB in South Africa to discuss what I was feeling.  Of course his recommendation was to get checked by someone who could determine if I was actually trying to go into labor.  He said that the window of time to stop labor is quite short and if I got past that window, it would be nearly impossible to do anything.  The closest border closes at 6pm, which we were too late to catch, so we decided to head out a different border about 3.5 hours from here, plus another hour to the hospital.  To say it was a stressful afternoon would be a huge understatement.  There truly is no easy way out of here, especially late in the day.  It was like a nightmare trying to rapidly throw things together to make it to the other border before it closed at 10pm, all while trying to not stress myself out and cause my body more difficulty.  We got out of here by quarter to 6 and made it to the hospital by a little after 10.  I made peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches in the car before the sun set completely, as there is positively no where to get any food between here and the hospital.  And I did so thinking, “is this real life?"

A urine culture showed a bladder infection which they determined to be the cause of the contractions.  An hour or so after the first dose of antibiotics the contractions subsided.  They admitted me to monitor things overnight and so I could see an OB in the morning and make sure everything was okay on the inside.  There isn’t any sleep quite like that of a night in the hospital…. as in, there isn’t any sleep on a night in the hospital.  I think I’ll never understand why they need a person’s blood pressure at 5am.  But anyway, everything checked out okay.  I have had a few more minor episodes of contractions since then, which doesn’t make a ton of sense, but I was prescribed a uterine relaxer which I have taken twice since being back in Mok and it has stopped things.  Before this episode, I was trying to walk regularly to rebuild some of the strength I lost during my sick months.  Now I will just have to wait to try to rebuild strength after SK is out.  We live at about 9,000ft elevation and even walking around here is hard on our bodies.  So I’m stuck being super lazy for a few more weeks.

We spent the past week in Maseru (5.5 hours from Mokhotlong) awaiting extended visas for South Africa.  It wasn’t exactly a simple process, but it worked out fine and we now have a visa which will allow us enough days to await the birth.  We typically only receive a 7-day visa stamp when we cross the border, and now we have 45 days.

I am scheduled to see my OB again on Sept 30.  So in one week, we’ll be headed out to await the birth!  I’m so relieved after talking to the owner of the guest house we have booked, as she offered to be on-call to watch our other kids when labor hits.  I will be indescribably happy to get down and know we are close to the hospital and won’t be coming back here until we have a baby in our care.  We are tentatively booked from Sept 30-Nov 6th, understanding that if SK comes way early, we will leave early.  It is a relief to know that we have a place to just stay and wait and not have to worry about being far from the hospital.  That gives her 3 weeks to come early and 2 weeks to come late!  Please don’t let it be the latter!  

We are all so excited and eager to meet this girl.  It's obvious already that she's feisty and has a mind of her own, I can't help but wonder who she'll be.  I'm busy cleaning and nesting and packing for our month away from home.  I keep asking myself, "when did I get three kids I have to pack for?"  It doesn't really seem possible.  But Jonathan and I are ready to be outnumbered!  Bring it on!

6 months

8 months (35.5 weeks)


Friday, August 28, 2015

A Collision of Two Cultures

In recent days my kids have been enjoying pulling all of Sadie Kate’s things out of her drawer and carrying them around the house in anticipation of her arrival.  They are quite fond of her newborn sleepers, her little lamb from my grandmother, and the nursing cover.  Ellee thinks it’s her cape.

One day recently my house-helper and friend, MaMopeli, was here cleaning.  As I was picking up things in the living room, I held up the nursing cover and said, “Mme, this is how makhoa (white people) feed their babies.  Under one of these.”  She looked at me with a most quizzical and puzzled look, as if I had grown a second head.  She asked, “Are you serious?”  Then she laughed, because that’s what she does most of the time anyway, and shook her head.  I explained that generally white people (I use the term loosely, not because I am racist, but because that is how foreigners are distinguished from Basotho here) are uncomfortable with breast feeding in public and this is their way of making it acceptable — to cover the baby and the breast with a tent and attempt to feed anyway….  Certainly she was confused.  She went on to say what I already know to be true, a Masotho isn’t worried a bit about covering herself or the baby in order to nourish her child.  If the baby is hungry, the baby gets fed, regardless of where Mama is or who is around.

Generally Basotho are quite modest people.  The women here cover their waists and rear-ends with blankets and scarves, they would not be caught dead in a bathing suit or shorts, and they typically keep their top halves fully covered.  Men do not wear shorts.  There are, of course, some traditional clothes, or lack-there-of, which in western culture would be considered immodest, but they are not a common thing.  However, Basotho aren’t the slightest bit reserved when it comes to feeding their babies.  When discussing this topic with our close friend, it was likened to an elbow or ankle showing when a woman is feeding her child.  

White people, on the other hand, at least Americans, tend to be relatively immodest people in comparison.  Our women wear pants, shorts, bikinis… You get the picture.  Our men have no problem wearing shorts either, or skipping a shirt to take a jog.  These things are all commonly accepted in our culture and not the least bit looked down upon.  However, it is commonly unacceptable for a woman to feed her baby in a public place without a nursing cover, and often even seen as unacceptable for her to do so with a cover!  No one, and I mean no one, could dispute the fact that way more skin is showing in a bikini than when a woman is feeding her baby on a park bench or (gasp) in a church pew!

I spend a decent amount of time thinking about this topic, because I have found myself in a collision of two cultures.  I didn’t own a nursing cover when I was nursing Kyle.  I can count on one hand the number of times I fed that boy in a public place, and only ever did so highly self-consciously and fully covered with a blanket.  My life revolved around trying to time his feeds when I was going to be in a private place or making sure I had pumped a bottle so that I wasn’t stuck somewhere with a hungry baby and no viable options for feeding him.  It was highly stressful and and constricting.  Then I moved to Africa and Ellee was born.  I resolved very early on with Ellee that I just wasn’t going to bother trying to time her feedings or drape us both with a tent in order to feed her.  If the child needed to eat, the child was going to be fed.  I couldn’t count or name all the public places Ellee ate her meals.  She breastfed exclusively for eight months.  

The opinions and articles on this matter are not few.  I see it constantly on Facebook and blog posts.  Makhoa, white people, Americans, westerners are so determined that "breast feeding is best, but it has it’s place.”  I see comment after comment after comment about the indecency and immodesty of feeding a baby in public.  I can hardly stomach the hypocrisy!  A stroll down the beach or through a mall will certainly expose one to more indecency than sitting nearby a woman simply trying to feed her child!

I’ve become immune to the sight of a woman sitting on the side of the road, fully exposed, feeding her infant.  It is common for women here to feed their babies in church, on the stoop in front of a shop, or on a bus.  I’ve read and heard it said that we, westerners, are more advanced than the majority of world cultures, thus our women have more decency…. Wait, what?  I beg to differ!  We have it all wrong!  We don’t have any more decency than these cultures who accept that it is completely natural for a woman to feed her child!  Rather we have twisted and perverted the beautiful design of breastfeeding into something sexual and thus something that should be done in private or under cover because it is shameful.  I cannot for a second understand how we got to where we are, and neither can our Basotho friends.  They just laugh at us, rightfully so, and say it’s really no big deal.  It shouldn’t be a big deal.  And while I realize that Rome wasn’t built in a day, so neither will it be torn down in one.  Something has got to change.  Maybe, just maybe, if we could shift our thinking to believing that nursing babies is actually a completely acceptable and respectable thing to do with breasts, we could take a step towards shifting our extremely over-sexualized culture for the better!

So when Sadie Kate comes along in a few weeks, Ellee will get to keep her cape.  If the baby is hungry, she’s gonna be fed, whether we are in Africa or America.  And if someone has any objection, I’ll do my best to keep a pillow case in the diaper bag so they can drape their head while I continue feeding my child.


Friday, June 12, 2015

Home Assignment

This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for months but just haven’t had the mental energy to put together.  Now that I am feeling mostly better, I am having to seriously begin thinking about our home assignment plans for 2016.  A number of people have asked about our home assignment and what it will entail exactly.  Since this will be our first ever home assignment, we can’t be sure of precisely how it will all unfold, but our general understanding is as follows:

We left for Africa in January of 2013 and embarked on our first three-year assignment with Africa Inland Mission.  With AIM, missionaries receive home assignment time which is based on the length of their overseas assignment.  So for us, three years in Africa means eight months on home assignment.  Home assignment, also known as furlough, will begin for us in January of 2016.  We will spend our 8 months visiting supporters, supporting churches, family and friends, attending conferences and occasionally being AIM representatives if there have been requests for AIM personnel in nearby churches.  During the spring of 2016, Jonathan plans to finish his Masters’ degree with Liberty Online and we will attend his graduation in Lynchburg, VA sometime in May.  We also plan to visit our dear friends in Mexico during our home assignment.  We have about 50 supporters and five supporting churches which spread across the whole country.  It is our goal to visit as many of our supporters as we possibly can, as we truly believe they are our partners in ministry.  With the addition of our new daughter, we will have some additional support to try to raise during our time home.  And lastly, for the first time since our honeymoon, Jono and I hope to take an anniversary trip alone sometime next summer.

For traveling around the US, visiting churches, supporters, etc, we have a home assignment fund that is being funneled into each month.  It pays for our tickets home, our travel, our tickets back to Africa.  We will still live on support for our normal life expenses during all our traveling.  Our plan is to base ourselves in Aiken, which is where we have the most family nearby and where the majority of our supporters live.  Also, three of our supporting churches are in the Southeast.  Because our sending church is in Illinois, we will travel and spend significant time there, probably around the time of their missions conference.  Another of our supporting churches is in Missouri where Jonathan’s parents are living, so we will spend time there as well.  Our goal is to maintain some level of normal life for our family, so we hope to use Aiken as a home base and do the majority of our travels leaving from and returning there.  Any of our supporters who would enjoy coming to us, we will gladly try to host in Aiken.

Currently our two major needs are a place to stay while in Aiken, as well as a vehicle.  In order to keep our house in Africa, AIM will continue to pay rent for us throughout our time in the States.  Thus, our available funds for trying to actually rent a home or apartment in Aiken are insufficient, besides the fact that we have no furniture.  We are certainly willing to pay what we can and we are praying something will present itself to us.  If you know of someone who has a place where we could stay or rent, please send me an email or a Facebook message.  Understanding that eight months is a long time and that five people are quite a lot, we are willing to move around some if we have a few options.  My parents have a van we can use which will hold all our carseats.  But that will leave my mom carless.  So, if you have or someone you know has a car my parents could borrow, then we will primarily use my parents' van.  We appreciate prayers in both of these areas.

The future plan, although not written in stone yet, is to come back to Africa in Aug of ’16 for a follow-up 2-year assignment.  We have approval from our local leadership, it only needs to be confirmed by our US AIM office. We’d like to come right back to Mokhotlong, spend two years trying to establish TEE in various outlying villages and establishing leadership for those groups.  Eager interest by pastors and church people in two nearby villages has recently necessitated Jonathan starting a new group. The interest and desire for TEE in this area is widespread. We will need to turn all groups over to local leadership before we can depart for good, or TEE won’t continue without us.  The main issue with the local leadership is transportation.  While many local pastors who will graduate from the first TEE class (should graduate before we leave in Dec) would be willing to lead a group in an outlying village, they don’t have cars.  So getting to and from is a serious issue.  That will be our main objective when returning- trying to establish a system so that those groups can perpetuate themselves.

It is sort of hard to believe that we’re halfway through our third year already.  It has been great and long and hard and fun.  I’m so excited, though, to be home for a while.  I believe we all need it.  I think Kyle will be able to actually remember America after those months, and I think he needs that for establishing his little identity.  I also think it will help him to bond with his grandparents and cousins and feel like a part of a bigger family.  The other day I asked him if he was an American boy.  Almost in defense, he replied, “No, I’m an African boy.”  And I’m glad that he feels confident here.  But he also needs to know that he is American and has those roots as well.

I’m looking forward to being nearby friends, my sisters and sisters in law- to feel like I’ve got girlfriends again.  I’m looking forward to being able to drive!!!  I’m looking forward to dressing Ellee up pretty and taking her out just the two of us.  I’m looking forward to celebrating the kids' birthdays with family!  I’m looking forward to church in my own language and nursery, getting to sing and listen and enjoy a service without my kids at my feet.  I’m looking forward to eating chicken salad from about ten different places.  I’m looking forward to making some crafty things!  I’m looking forward to hugging my brother, Ryan.  It will have been three years, which feels like a very long time.  I’m looking forward to visiting all my grandparents, whom I miss terribly.  I’m looking forward to seeing so many familiar faces and places which are so dear to my heart.  I’m looking forward to our whole family getting to meet Sadie while she is still a baby!

My kids are not going to believe we'll be 10 minutes rather than 4 hours from McDonalds!


Friday, March 20, 2015

Where There Is No Doctor (Baby #3)

Mokhotlong is a beautiful place to live.  The people are friendly and welcoming, the mountains are majestic and awe-inspiring, the days are slow and quiet.  It is known for cold winters and mild summers.  We really feel at home here in our corner of Lesotho.  Really one of the only drawbacks to living in such a delightfully secluded place is the lack of medical care.

With Baby #3 on the way, I already find myself worrying about it.  What if I get stuck on Sani Pass giving birth in the back-a-Rocky?  It’s a genuine concern.  While the back-a-Rocky does tend to provide us with a variety services, a delivery table isn’t one I’m looking to add to the list.  Immediately when we found out were expecting, we began discussing our various options for prenatal check ups and where to deliver.

Having been pregnant in three different countries, I’ve seen my share of doctors.  My first doctor experience in Mexico was unnerving to say the least.  Thankfully my second doctor experience in Mexico redeemed things significantly.  I delivered Kyle in the US with my favorite Doctor but I couldn’t talk her into coming with me to Africa to deliver Ellee.

Arriving to South Africa/Lesotho late in my pregnancy with Ellee, I really just had to take the luck of the draw with a doctor.  I ended up recommended by a general practitioner to an OB-GYN that I absolutely loved.  He was laid back, conservative, calming and easy to talk to.  He was perfectly willing to work with our situation of living in Lesotho but traveling to South Africa for check ups and delivery.  We were living about two hours away from Bloemfontein, where Ellee was born, and traveling back and forth a number of times before we went to stay for her birth.  

Now in Mokhotlong, we are a solid four hours drive to the nearest private hospital in South Africa, five hours drive from where I plan to see a doctor and deliver Baby #3.  Unfortunately, seeing my Doctor in Bloemfontein is out of the question, as the drive now from Mokhotlong is 7-8 hours.  So, I’m taking the recommendation of a friend and hoping and praying I am pleased with my new doctor the way I was with my Ellee doctor.  We leave this weekend for my first appointment on Monday.

Throughout my pregnancy, we will travel back and forth to Durban for check ups.  I anticipate seeing the doctor every 4-6 weeks early on, until maybe August or September, when we’ll have to go more regularly to check things like blood pressure, etc.  Hopefully after my first appointment, we’ll have a good idea on what the doctor is thinking and we can proceed from there.

Another serious concern for our accessibility to medical care is the border gate.  The nearest border to South Africa is closed from 6pm-6am daily.  The only border which is open 24 hours is the border at the capital city, which is 5-6 hours drive from here.  Using that boarder would send us to Bloemfontein.  

Thus our only real option is to head out significantly before the baby is due and await the birth.  We anticipate spending the month of October waiting for Baby in Durban.  Because Ellee came two weeks early and Kyle came five days late, it is totally impossible to know what this baby may or may not do.  It is, of course, our hope that Baby will come a bit early so we aren’t waiting for what feels like forever away from home.  But only God knows if that will happen.  

Right now all I can really think about is how miserably sick I am.  I’m not sick quite like I was with Ellee, less vomiting this time.  But goodness am I sick and my family is sick of me.  I’m not coping very well.  I am so eager to get past these awful weeks and enjoy being pregnant and feel like I have a better handle on life.

It won't be such a bad place to have a baby.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Happy Tuesday (Give-Away)!

Personally, I like Mondays.  Mondays around here mean a clean house, washed laundry and date night with my husband.  However, I’ve noticed a lot of people who down Monday.  Sometimes I feel bad for Monday.  And honestly, I meant to post this yesterday on Monday but it got away from me and now I find myself in Tuesday.  Thus, Happy Tuesday!

When my mom came a few months ago, she brought me four coasters as my birthday present.  I always struggle trying to figure out what to request as a special occasion gift.  Christmas and birthdays and anniversaries are fun, but I always find I don’t need a single thing.  A little thoughtful gift is more satisfying to me than anything expensive or extravagant.  Unless it was a trip to an exotic island, then I’d be totally game.  If someone wants to give me one of those, please go right ahead.  But I digress.  When I saw the photos she picked for these, I couldn’t help but tear up.  My favorite places from home all of which I miss and can’t wait to visit again.  

The first is the most beautiful street in my home town.  I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love this road.  It’s also where we had some of our wedding party pictures taken.  Gorgeous!

The second is the view from the porch of my grandparents' beach condo.  All my life I have enjoyed visiting their NC beach.  It is quiet, calm and relaxing.  As a kid, I used to watch my grandmother fish and we used to beg my granddad to take us to the hot tub.  I remember watching my granddad prepare the freshly caught fish and enjoying it home fried by my grandmother.  I have such fond memories of visiting there.

The third is a beautiful photo from our family vacation in Blue Ridge.  We have gone twice now to a cabin as a giant family.  Autumn is my favorite season.  The rainbow of changing leaves and the smell of bonfires is something I truly miss here.  Our third visit is already scheduled for early next year.  With a family as big as ours, we need a giant place to all stay under one roof.  Being together is such a special thing.  We enjoy cooking, game playing and sightseeing together.  

The last is a photo of my grandparents’ house in North Georgia.  I always look forward to going to their house and swinging on the front porch swing.  I know their 50 acres well from countless walks through the woods.  When we were kids, we used to climb trees, play hide and seek, and have three-legged races in the yard.  Their log cabin is homey and welcoming and I love visiting there.

I use my coasters for tea time.  Whenever I set my mug down, I decide where I’m going to have tea that day.  The beach?  The mountains?  At home?  My new favorite tea is this chai rooibos my mom found while she was here.  I’ve always enjoyed the smell of chai tea but I had never had it because I don’t drink caffeinated drinks.  However, the rooibos chai is decaf!  It is great with a bit of milk and sugar.

If you’d like to receive some chai rooibos along with some genuine english toffees, just comment on the blog or on the link and tell me your favorite place to relax.  The beach?  The mountains?  With family?  At home?  I’ll do a random drawing and post the winner soon.  Then I’ll walk to the Mokhotlong post office and mail out your package.  We’ll cross our fingers that it will have a safe and successful journey across the pond!  Happy tea time!


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Vacation Plan B

Months ago while in Durban, Jonathan picked up a pamphlet for a set of holiday cottages on a lake about three hours from Mokhotlong.  Upon inquiring about prices, we decided we would go for a vacation after peak season ended.  After spending Christmas and New Years without our extended family in the US, we felt it would be nice to have something special to look forward to as a family.

A couple weeks before we were booked to go, we started throwing around the idea of asking our neighbors to join us.  We had gathered that they also wanted to take a vacation during the school break and thought we could enjoy some time away together.  Because of the school schedule, we had to adjust our dates and plans a bit but we were able to settle on four nights in side-by-side cottages.  Each cottage came with a row boat and we decided to grill out every night for dinner.  We were all so excited!

And we're off!

So early one morning we packed up and set off.  When we arrived at the top of Sani Pass, the mountain road we use to get out of Mokhotlong to the east, we were informed that the pass had washed away.  At first I thought it was a joke.  How could it just fall off?  It is unpaved and even in good conditions it isn't a pleasant road to drive.  However, heavy rains and hail created a serious land slide.  We went down the first two curves and were stopped by all the taxis which had pulled over.  We got out and peered over.  Sure enough, there was no road.  Because it was still raining and foggy, we couldn't photograph it.  There were people walking down on foot with their belongings to catch another taxi at the bottom.  That wasn't an option for us.  So we turned around and started the one and a half hours back home.  We were all so deflated!

I was most disappointed for Kyle and Joy (our neighbors' daughter).  Kyle kept saying, "I am so sad we can't go to our boat vacation."  Joy, who had chattered excitedly the whole way to the pass, barely said a word all the way back to Mokhotlong.  From the looks of it, we were sure it would take at least a few days, if not longer, to fix the road.  As we drove back, I started pondering our options for going towards the west using the other road out of Mokhotlong.  We already knew of a few places we might be able to stay, if they had availability, about four/five hours from here.  After running the idea by our friends, we inquired about a place I found online and booked for that night!


....Are we there yet?"

We got back in the car and drove the five hours down to our new vacation destination.  What a long day that was!  We finally arrived and my kids were absolute troopers in the car all eight hours of traveling.  What was meant to be a quick, three hour drive down to our closest town turned into an eight hour tour of half the country.  Our vacation began at the grocery to pick up things we can't get in Mokhotlong.  Then we crept along an extremely dark highway trying to find the place.  Finally we succeeded.  And we all crashed for the night!

"See, Mom, I got out of the tree all by myself!"

Studying under the willow tree

Ellee is completely smitten with Ntate and Mme Mosoang.  

We ended up on a quiet farm in the lowlands, each family with our own cottage.  We grilled our dinners every night and had fun playing some football (soccer) in the yard around the farm. There were two ponies and a donkey for the kids to visit just outside our front door!  The kids enjoyed splashing in the pool and we did a little shopping and sightseeing in the small towns nearby.  Our days were spent relaxing mostly, napping and just playing with the kids.  Although it wasn't exactly the lakeside holiday we had been looking forward to, it was still delightful.  And because this place was cheaper, we stayed five nights instead of four.

Beautiful patio overlooking the South African countryside.

"Look, Mom!"

This child was almost to the top of the ladder before we realized she had gone anywhere.  A monkey!

One morning we went to a tourist site only about ten minutes from where we were staying.  It is the end of a gigantic underground tunnel which stretches 90 km from high in the Lesotho mountains down to the lowlands in Orange Free State.  The tunnel was drilled for the purpose of exporting water from Lesotho to South Africa.  Dams are being built within Lesotho to further direct water sources to export tunnels.  I was completely fascinated by the size of the tunnel and the amount of water rushing out!

A piece of the tunnel to give you an idea of the size.  There was a plaque that said three people had died during the drilling and placement of it.  

Having our friends with us was such a treat.  It was just like we'd hoped.  Company for meal times and board games but also totally laid back and relaxed.  I think they really enjoyed the time away from the day-in-day-out life of Mokhotlong.  We all joked that it was nice just to not have anyone knocking at our doors for one reason or the other (a common occurrence here morning, noon and night).  As we were leaving, they suggested as long as we are in Lesotho, it must now be a tradition that we plan at least one family holiday together per year.  We agreed.