The Firsts…

I’m Relebogile Mabotja. I wear many hats such as TV presenter, radio host, and executive producer to name a few. My latest and favourite role is that of Mom. I’m excited to be your guest editor this month. The past year as a first-time mother has been the most beautiful journey. It’s been challenging yet rewarding and I’m honoured to give you a glimpse into this new chapter in my life. Let’s chat about my “not so wonderful” firsts.

The firsts are the best. First time smiling, first time rolling over, first time sitting up…all of it. The amazing milestones that happen that we expect and anticipate huge celebrations over. We know them. The books tell us all about them. So do the other mothers and parenting support. They are exciting and fun and such a moment to cherish. But few people mention the first difficult stuff on this parenting journey with the little one.

The First time baby gets sickThe first time baby gets hurt…The first time baby falls…The first time baby is not ok. We seldom speak of these firsts. Probably because they are hard and daunting and we hope they don’t happen at all to be honest. But they do. In the case of little Motlotlegi, it was discovering there was something wrong in his groin area. A bulge of sorts that didn’t make sense. Of all the parenting books I had read, resources I had access to and information at my fingertips via the web and my mommy network, no one had mentioned this. After consulting with a paediatrician, turned out the little guy had a hernia. At only a few weeks old, we discovered that he would need an operation if it didn’t solve itself after the age of 1. Over the next 2 months, the hernia got worse. Pressing against his genitals and hurting him. He would scream in agony and the little trick the doctor showed us to pop it back in no longer worked. We were later referred to a paediatrician surgeon who recommended a procedure to close it up as it was bad. So baby Motlotlegi was booked in for his very first procedure a week after that.

After all the relevant covid tests were done and some tears (okay many…of mine), we made our way into the operating room at Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital where for another first, I left my unconscious 4-month-old with a group of strangers to be cut open and operated on. My heart was in tatters and I prayed throughout for the team to be under God’s guidance. As soon as he was out, I was there to greet my confused little cub who had a drip in his arm and lots of meds in his system. But that evening he was smiling and playing again like the little adorable baby we know and love. My little champ survived his first procedure! And Mom survived her very First hospital stay with her baby

What I learned most about this part of the journey was that while there are amazing medical professionals with a ton of knowledge I may never understand, no one knows your baby as you do. Ensuring he was tended to, contrary to the first doctor’s recommendations, was the First experience of me acknowledging that I am a great mother who was able to advocate for her child. At a year old, Motlotlegi has an almost invisible scar (he will definitely enjoy showing it off later), zero discomforts and pain from the hernia and a huge champ badge for doing so well in recovery. It is in these Firsts that we are challenged as parents, but also in these firsts that we get to celebrate a different kind of milestone.

So here’s to all of those Firsts we don’t often speak of but bravely overcome as Parents! Through fear, doubt and tears, these too are moments to admire and celebrate especially when we make it to the other side stronger and wiser.

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