Lifestyle

The Unexpected Joys of Motherhood

April 23, 2016

I recently became a first time mother, which has taken me on a wild and amazing rollercoaster ride. Despite going to antenatal classes, listening to endless advice and reading the recommended books, I don’t think anything can truly prepare you for how much your life will change when you have a baby. The baby industry is booming and there is so much information widely available that it can be a bit overwhelming when you want to have a better sense of what to expect – and what not to expect- when you are expecting. I felt so frustrated when people would tell me that old fashioned advice “rest up now before the baby arrives” because anyone who has been pregnant knows it’s almost impossible to sleep well – especially in the third trimester – when you feel like a beached whale. If you’re expecting a little one or plan on having children one day then listen up (!) because here are some surprises I’ve learned first hand about having a baby and being a new mom. I’m still learning something new from my son every day, but these are some tips I wish I had heard before joining the motherhood club:

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Investing in Quality Loungewear

There are going to be days when you won’t leave the house and you will wear your pyjamas all day long. Yes, I am very serious! And no, you’re not going to look nearly as glamorous as this model- it will be a miracle if you even wash your hair in the early days. I wish I had invested in really good loungewear before my son arrived because going to busy shops once you have a new baby in tow seems completely impossible. So, treat yourself in advance while you can and get super soft pyjamas that you really love as you will be wearing them A LOT! The comfortable but super stylish PJ sets from YolkeOlivia Von Halle and Mama Moosh will make you feel like a million bucks and will justify not getting dressed or leaving the house.

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Changes To Your Body

It’s no secret that your body changes once you have a baby but did you know that it’s really common for new mums to lose their hair and even teeth (!!) post baby? I waited my entire pregnancy for thick voluminous Black Lively hair as so many expecting moms suddenly get much more thick and shiny hair thanks to prenatal hormones. I’m afraid I’m still waiting for those extra thick luscious locks to kick in but after hearing from fellow mothers that their hair started to thin and then fall out once they stopped breastfeeding I really panicked! I’ve spent so much money on highlights over the years that the idea of the investment on my head falling out was just not something I wanted to risk. The amazing team at Danilo Hair Boutique in Chelsea recommended Kerastase’s Densifique Hair Density Programme, which I now call “hair crack” as I can really vouch for this leave-in serum. It’s not cheap but it really does make your hair more thick, glossy and healthy.

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My dentist made me feel better about my oral hygiene when he told me that it was very common at one point for women in the UK to lose their teeth after having a baby. How British is that?! I looked into this and apparently if you have poor tooth enamel you can indeed lose a pearly white or two after having a baby as babies get majority of mom’s nutrients (especially iron) from breastfeeding. The NHS offers new moms complimentary dental check ups for the first year post baby to help you hang on to your gnashers. So ladies, if you don’t lose your hair or your teeth after having a baby then you’re really  excelling!  IMG_3327

Becoming Your Child’s PA

I’ve always considered myself a relatively organised person but when you have a baby you are forced to step it up and be above-and-beyond organised 24/7 as the repercussions (screaming unhappy little person) just aren’t worth it. When you aren’t sterilising bottles, putting in yet another load of laundry or changing your baby into their 6th outfit of the day you are accompanying them to their various appointments and researching what to expect next in their development. Hilariously, I thought my days on maternity leave would include lunchtime cocktails, manicures, reading books, personal trainers and dressing my son in adorable outfits. Basically I thought motherhood kind of looked like this:

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Oh, how wrong I was! If I were able to go back in time I would tell my pregnant self that I would soon be becoming a mother but also taking on arguably the hardest job yet-a personal assistant who works all day every day without any days off. Yes, as my son’s PA I now work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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You Don’t Need Everything

The baby industry can be a very scary place when you are buying the essentials for your first baby. My mom and I couldn’t stop laughing when we saw a travel size grape cutter at BabiesRUs for the mom on the go. Then the other day I saw this pregnant belly cast kit at Peter Jones with a girlfriend…no words needed! There are so many baby products on the market that your mommy friends will swear by, so it is easy to get carried away and think you need it all to survive all the challenges of your first baby. Don’t get me wrong, I love shopping for children’s stuff but you really don’t need as many things as you think you do. I have been overwhelmed by the incredible generosity, presents, and the baby kit that I have borrowed from friends and family for my son. In hindsight, my friends and family have been hands down the most valuable asset during a life-changing time. Why did it take having a baby to really realise that?!

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And the plus about being British American like me is you get to celebrate Mother’s Day twice! American readers, don’t forget to spoil your mom on Mother’s Day this year – coming up soon on 8th May.

Feature, Travel

The Abu Herd In Botswana’s Okavango Delta

November 4, 2015

Have you ever had a holiday of a lifetime and then looked back a few months later and wondered if that really happened to you?

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As I put the best snapshots and mementos together to make an overdue scrapbook of our trip to Wilderness Collection’s Abu Camp in Botswana’s Okavango Delta – now 8 months pregnant – I truly don’t recognise myself in pictures. Is that really me jumping in a swimming pool in the African bush or riding an elephant at the crack of dawn?

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I almost have to pinch myself that I was there less than a year ago! Whether you are a seasoned safari buff or have never been anywhere very remote, the ultimate elephant interaction experience is at Abu Camp, a private concession in one of Africa’s prime wildlife-viewing areas. The exquisite six-tented safari camp is also home to the Abu Herd – six resident elephants rescued from the wild, brought in from captivity or born at Abu Camp.

ABU CAMP, Okavango Delta, Botswana

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Shortly after arriving at the camp we were introduced to ‘the herd’ during an afternoon mud bath session. Once you have received the nod of approval from Cathy, the herd’s massive 55-year-old matriarch, then you have permission to meet the rest of the Abu herd – Shireni, Lorato, Paseka, Warona and baby Naledi. I never anticipated what it would feel like to stand next to one of the most powerful mammals on this planet. Despite being a bit nervous at first, I would soon feel so at ease stroking each elephant’s tough rubbery skin and playing with their ever-curious trunk as I had the privilege of getting to know them individually.

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Abu camp is strongly affiliated with conservation partner Elephants Without Borders, so education, conservation and elephant research are firmly at the forefront of the camp. Abu Camp recently announced the exciting news that elephant herd member Lorato is expecting her first calf sometime around October or November 2016 after mating with a wild bull, which will be the first calf born into the Abu herd since 2013; a big mark of success for the camp’s research and elephant preservation programme. I can only sympathise knowing that Lorato has a full 22 months of pregnancy ahead of her!

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What makes this particular camp so special is the incredible daily interactions with the Abu herd with the chance to observe their group dynamic as well as each individual elephant’s behavior. You quickly realise how personable elephants are and that they have really distinct characters.

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One late afternoon we had a tea party in the bush, which the herd decided to join. Baby Naledi thought this was a hilarious opportunity to see whether she too could have an afternoon cuppa and just like a rebellious toddler, she promptly pushed over a table holding an immaculate afternoon tea set-up with a mere touch of her trunk. It’s moments like this when you realise how physically strong these gentle giants are from such a young age and how privileged we are to be amongst their presence in such a relaxed setting.

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For those who are a bit more adventurous and can be lured away from their luxurious tent for the night, you have the option of sleeping adjacent to the herd overlooking the elephant boma in an elevated star bed platform (weather dependent!). Here you will literally fall asleep under the African sky as you are serenaded by the snores of the herd. Mosquito repellent and a strong nightcap are highly recommended!

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Abu Camp also offers stunning day and night-time game drives, birding, boating, and Mokoro excursions not to mention a gorgeous outdoor swimming pool to cool off in and a pampering spa to soothe safari induced aches and pains.

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No matter what activities you fill your days with, the herd inevitably seems to steal your heart. Upon reluctantly departing this spectacular camp we truly felt a very special and emotional connection to the herd. A mere three nights at Abu Camp had utterly transformed our perceptions of elephants and the wilderness – looking through my photographs really brings back what a magical visit we had.

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www.abucamp.com