Saturday, December 27, 2014

Behind the Scenes...

Recently I had the privilege of travelling with Tutapona up into North Uganda on the border of South Sudan. There, Tutapona is working alongside the UN, LWF and Samaritans Purse to bring healing and hope to the 92,000 refugees that currently call the camp home. When the war in South Sudan broke out in early December 2013 thousands fled to Adjumani. Tim and I arrived there about a month after the conflict had erupted and walked into a scene that looked like the movie Blood Diamond. Almost one year on, I went back to see how things have progressed and to hear the testimonies of those receiving trauma counselling. This is what I saw this time around.

Adjumani Food Gathering area BEFORE
Adjumani Food Gathering area AFTER

Arrival area BEFORE
Arrival area AFTER
Adjumani Reception Center BEFORE
Adjumani Reception Center AFTER

South Sudanese refugees listen to the Tutapona staff running 'Empower'  - a trauma counselling program for victims of war

South Sudanese refugees listen to the Tutapona staff running 'Empower'  - a trauma counselling program for victims of war
"My name is Sophie and I don’t know how old I am. I think I am around 60 or 70. I am from South Sudan. I’ve seen a lot in my life. I have lived through two wars, I’ve seen people been killed solely based on their ethnic background, I’ve seen people starving and crying every day. Hunger, sickness and the effects of war on children with no parents.

 Our livelihood was based on cows and I had cattle.  It was a good life for me as I could cultivate using my hands. However this was all taken by the bandits and raiders after they shot me in late 2013. My husband was also killed in 2012 from the rebels when they came to our village. This hurt me deeply as I no longer had anybody near me.
After I was shot I moved onto my knees and went into a hiding place in the bush. It was disturbing to see a lot of people on the ground and people so confused by what had just happened. I had three children at that time but one died.  I moved to this refugee settlement in March 2014.

For me, trauma is a past event like the death of your husband or children. Personally I thought about  suicide but that lessened after Tutapona came. What Tutapona is doing for us is helping us to have emotional strength and to be able to forgive those who hurt us. I have allowed in my heart to forgive those that hurt me. The program started by asking our personal stories, then after that it went on to tell us what is trauma and then they taught us different ways of overcoming it.  The Tutapona team taught us is it best to divert attention by doing things like playing cards with friends. It is a worthy program. If there is a way to support this program, I advocate for it to be supported to reach more people.

Since Tutapona came to us I’ve noticed a difference. We were so depressed and we felt so heavy. Personally after the program I felt light and free. Before the program I was feeling lonely, and after that I felt comforted. Too many people like me exist and they need the same help. If the Tutapona team can come back a lot of people are still in need of that. I would like to tell the people of the world to extend their hand to those that are suffering. 

You can donate to the work that Tutapona does by visiting
A $50 donation will enable someone like Sophie to go through a trauma counselling course.

Helen xo

Monday, December 22, 2014

End of year Update from the Mansons

Dear blog readers,

We hope you have some exciting plans for the holiday season.
We'll be spending Christmas at our 'home' here in Uganda before heading to our other 'home', New Zealand for some time.

Thank you for being interested in what we’re doing over here and for praying for us this past year. We both think the year has been a success and that our time here with Tutapona has been worthwhile. We have felt so privileged to be part of an organisation that is helping psychologically traumatised people heal from their pasts and regain hope for the future. The scale of the organisation has more than doubled since January, largely because of two new partnerships we've entered into. We’ve gone from 6 staff to 18 staff in 1 year!  About 5,000 people have been through our trauma counselling program across the four locations. These attendees have come from some of the most brutal conflicts in modern history such as the ongoing wars in the DRC and South Sudan and past conflicts in Rwanda (1994) and Northern Uganda (1987-2007). 
We look forward to seeing how God will strengthen the bonds we have with this organisation in the years to come!

Helen has also had the privilege of continuing her relationship with her beloved TEAR Fund/Compassion and has been to South Africa and Ethiopia for them on photography trips as well as working with them on projects throughout the year as a contractor. 

Of course thrown into the mix has been the arrival of our beautiful daughter Hope and we couldn't be more grateful for her. She has turned a busy year into a chaotic one but we wouldn't have it any other way. Trying to adopt in a third world country has been the biggest challenge we've faced in our lives to date and we are beyond excited to introduce her to you when we get back. The full process is a three year one and one that we are absolutely committed to seeing through to it's final completion here in Uganda. 

Once again, thank you so much for caring about us and being part of Tutapona’s work in helping some of the world’s most traumatised people.

Love Tim, Helen and Hope

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Why missionaries can never go home again...

Read this blog the other day - it resonated well.

Refugee boys watch the sun set whilst flying kites together in Nakivale Refugee Settlement

When a new missionary first gets to the mission field, it is obvious where home is. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

“My name is Beatrice and I am 22 years old. One night when I was five years old my five siblings and parents were killed inside our house in Burundi as I hid under the bed. In the morning the rebels heard I was still alive and came searching for me. I ran to a banana plantation and the people paid the rebels a goat so they wouldn’t kill me. I remember so clearly running away into the bush and finding my Uncle’s dead body being eaten by dogs. A lady helped me hide in the bush for a week. We dug a pit and buried ourselves in soil with just enough air to breathe. After a week went to a refugee camp where I was handed over to a woman who made me suffer by not giving me food like the other children. In 2003 I fled to Rwanda and spent three years there in a refugee camp until they kicked us out in 2006 and I came to Uganda. I arrived here when I was 17 and faced ethnic violence threats. People told me that I would be killed because I come from a certain tribe that had testified against the rebels and so I went to see the camp commander and he gave me a small house and guards to protect me for 8 months.  One day I was poisoned and had to spend a couple weeks in hospital. As I was heading back to the camp I was raped. Shortly after I gave birth to the baby I started to feel like my problems were too high and I abandoned that child. But as I went back home my heart thought of that baby and I went back and picked her up.  A few years later I was co-erced into marrying a man and becoming his second wife. While I was in hospital giving birth to my second child I missed an important interview for resettlement overseas.  I don’t think I have any hopes for the future. The moment you brought your Tutapona program it started scratching my wound and it became fresh again. I have trusted many people and they have all disappointed me. I am a Christian but I hate people so much I struggle to even greet them. I love my children but I am unable to plan for their future because I have nothing.”

Sadly, our program doesn’t work for every person, every time. We believe that the Bible teaches that some are called to plant the seed, others to water and others to harvest. In this case our prayer is for the seed planted to one day bear great fruit. Until then, pray with us for her!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

10 Fascinating Insights into raising 6 children in 6 very different countries.

Have you ever wondered what it might be like to raise a child in Asia, The Middle East, Europe, Africa, The Pacific or America?
I have.
So that's why I decided to interview six incredible mothers from six very different countries to gain a fascinating insight into that very question.
For comparison sake I've chosen to interview young mothers with young girls.

Do we have similar joys? Similar struggles?
You decide.

The Pacific Africa Middle East North America Asia Europe
Who and Where Sarah & Aubrey (1) Australia
Ruth & Aubriel (1) Uganda
Kristen & Ava (4) Dubai
Natalie & Sophie (1) California
Jenny & her  girls
Hong Kong
Camilla &  Katia (5) Paris
As a mother I'm. Calm Unstructured Affectionate Loving
Nurturing Loving Hands-on creative Deliberate Flexible Playful Loving
Easy going Playful Devoted
My child is... Joyous
Compassionate Caring Imaginative Happy Aware Determined Active
Energetic Sociable Sensitive
Describe an average day It's Groundhog Day everyday- but would I change it? Nope! It's full of fun/cuddles/kisses/food/play and watching Aubrey learn new things. Up at 7am and at work by 8:30am as a househelper. My daughter comes with me every day to work as I cook, clean and wash for an American family. At 5pm we go home and I bathe her, do some washing and cook dinner. I finish off the day by reading my Bible and go to sleep at about 8:30pm. Bright early mornings (Ava still wakes with the sunrise mosque calls) getting ready for school routines. My husband or I then walk with her to class as we are both teachers at her school. We both work all day and then come home to make dinner as a family, "play house", go to the grocery store or go to the beach. We might do arts and crafts and finish off with her night time routine of bath, books, a show, and Jon and I singing Ava to sleep! Then we usually have an hour to hang out as a couple, watch a show etc and off to bed until the next bright early morning! Eat, explore, sleep, repeat. I keep her fed and I (try to) keep her out of mischief! If the weather is nice, we go for a walk before dinner. Up early to prepare breakfast and a lunch box for them before they jump on the school bus. I do sports, housework and enjoy time with friends until they finish school.  Drop daughter off at school, go to work, pick daughter up from after school care, cook dinner, put daughter to bed, do odd jobs then study/relax in front of TV/ with a book. Weekends are usually taken up with birthday parties, cleaning, shopping and church. If we have the time and energy we'll also try to catch up with friends.

Something unique about where your child lives? Even though we live in the sububs we can often smell and see the smoke from the bushfires. In Uganda we see goats and guns every day. We don't have malls or good roads. We live a simple life but we are happy. We watch TV rarely. In Dubai we really only have one season - and that is hot and sunny. The older Ava gets the more she's realizing it's just not like her cousins/ grandparents. She loves the Skype dates where she can see the snow at Grammas. In California, kids can play outside every day, here, because we have such sunny weather year-round. Here in HongKong it is very international. We have the opportunity to make lots of different choices about our lifestyle.  Kids start school very young (between 2.5 and 3.5), but school can be interrupted or cancelled at any time because of the french love of industrial action. Having to deal with kids in an apartment during long wet winters is not ideal.
Biggest challenge each day? I have made a challenge for myself everyday. When Aubrey was about 3mths I found myself just being "complacent" about being a stay at home mum and "forgot" what a privilege that is.. So I challenged myself to find "Joy" in EVERYday- whether that be Aubrey smiling, learning something new, getting her to sleep quickly or having fun playing! I'm a single mother raising a 1 year old. Each day I have to take her to work and if she is sick or fussy or crawling around that can jeapordise how well I do my job and that stresses me out. I feel guilty about that. Wanting to know that I'm doing a good job, being a good mom. Making sure I'm making the right choices for my family. I find it a challenge to not be too hard on myself and the decisions I make for my family. It's a lot of responsibility! My children are always doing the same mistakes everyday, even after I tell them lots of times. I need a lot of patience. Finding the time and energy every day to be the mum I want to be (especially at the moment being pregnant as well). I definitely don't always manage!
Best thing about being a Mum? Knowing that Aubrey is a piece of my husband and I is a miracle! Learning more about myself as a person and and my abilities to deal with things and getting big sloppy kisses all the time! Having company all the time That feeling you get when your child gives you the biggest hug, smile, acknowledgment- and you know that the unconditional love you have is shared. Discovering the world with her. It is more vibrant and colorful than I remember, and much more exciting. Growing and learning with them together. I am like a big sister. My daughter! Watching her budding personality and her discovery of the world.
The one thing that's surprised you about motherhood? I'm surprised that motherhood can be quite "lonely" at times- and I think we as mothers don't like to talk about this (when really we should!) cause we don't want to seem "incapable" or less than strong. Also, I was so afraid becoming a mum would change (in a negative way) my relationship with my husband. It has changed in that we can't just drop everything to go on a date or we don't have as much alone time, BUT we have become creative in finding special moments during the day or once Aubrey is asleep to enrich our relationship just that bit more! My day to day life completely changed. Before when I wanted to go out I would just take my purse and go. Now I have to take a big bag  - and its all full of her stuff! That as a mom you really do adapt and change and the things you thought you would do aren't always the way that works for you and your family...and that's ok! If you thought you were flexible before, you weren't. I know that my children can feel my love now. They are also at an age where they appreciate what I do for them. I think that before becoming a parent we have a lot of ideas about how we will raise our children, the boundaries we'll set etc. I was surprised by how much my ideas of parenting changed when I had to actually do it myself.
Best thing about growing up in your country? She has every opportunity to develop into a strong, passionate, inclusive and educated woman- where women are seen as overall equal to men. She also gets to grow up in a stunning country too! She has great communities, schools, healthcare etc at her fingertips. This is her motherland, she gets to know her culture and her people. She speaks two languages as both English and the local language are readily spoken. And she has a rich culture to be proud of.  The multi-cultural lifestyle she gets to experience everyday. Her friends, our friends, her teachers - she gets to interact with people from all over the world. I think she is so fortunate to be exposed to so much so little. Ava at 3 has already been on over 30 flights and visited 5 countries! In America my daughter has access to endless opportunity In Hong Kong everything is very convenient. They can learn different languages and different instruments easily here.  We live in the outskirts of Paris in an incredibly multicultural area. My daughter is of mixed race and I love how colour-blind she and all her friends are. I hope that she'll be able to find out who she is as a person before she has to worry about the labels others might put on her. (Having the chance to learn another language is also an advantage:)
Favourite quote about motherhood "You will never have this day with your children again. Tomorrow, they will be a little older than they were today. This day is a gift, breathe and notice, smell and touch them; study their faces and little feet and pay attention. Relish the charms of the present. Enjoy today Mama, it will be over before you know it" Jen Hatmaker "When you have a child you cannot ever really die for you will never be forgotten"
African proverb
The best advice I have received was not in words but in actions. My mother was and is still the this day the best role model there is. I would love for Ava to grow up feeling as loved as I did. "The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow. So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep! I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep." - Ruth Hulburt Hamilton n/a n/a
Best advice you've ever recieved? "Do what works for you and your baby". "Know that you are raising up the next generation and what a privilege that is!". "You can only do what you can do", "Trust your mama instinct!" "Raise a child God's way. Dont make her do what you want her to do or what you want others to see her doing." "Strive everyday to be caring, and nurturing, crafty and creative, and to open your doors to as many people and opportunities as you can." "You set the schedule, not baby. Baby will follow your lead." "As mothers we all need our own free social time." Also, "Consider the fact that you are also growing with your children." "Do whatever allows you to get the most sleep!"

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Things I guest blogger Caroline Smellie

My friend Carolyn Smellie in Mbarara recently wrote a blog about what she misses while living here in Uganda.
I think it's a clever, funny round up that applies to us too! You can see more of her blogs here...

I Miss...

Everyone who moves to the mission field experiences some sense of loss. There are things that we all miss and give up to be here. Some things are more significant, like the birth, death, or marriage of a family member or close friend. Having your children grow up near their cousins. Participating in family reunions. Other things are much more trivial. It's not unusual for people to move to Uganda and crave things like Chick-fil-A and Dr. Pepper. Some miss the fast internet speeds and unlimited downloads. 

At this point, my list of things that I miss looks a little different:

One stop shops... specifically, Target. Yes, Uganda has some very creative convenience combinations, like a car wash with your dinner or a pedicure at the gas station, but it's just not the same. On average, it takes three locations, two phone calls, and one boda ride to get all my shopping done for the week.
Being anonymous. This is a big one for me. I miss being able to blend in and go unnoticed. As soon as I step out of my compound gate, I have to be "on" and aware of the fact that I'm always being watched, often being singled out, and sometimes being followed. How do I cope? It involves a combination of sunglasses to give me a sense of privacy, an ipod playing to drown out the comments, and an umbrella to block the stares.

Sidewalks. I appreciate the pedestrian culture in Uganda, but there are no official provisions made for it in Mbarara. Sidewalks can only be found in town, and even then, you have to watch out for the bodas that drive up and down or park in the middle of them.

City noise ordinances. There's a sports stadium (a.k.a. grassy field with a set of bleachers), a large boys' boarding school, various bars with huge loud speakers, and an event grounds right at the bottom of our hill. Because of science and the incredible amphitheater effect, we get all sorts of music blasted right up the hill and into our apartment building all hours of the day and night.  And then there are the neighbor dogs... I listen to this soundtrack on repeat every day.

    Customer service. Now, this can be deceiving on first appearances. In your average grocery store, there's usually a 1:1 ratio of workers to aisles. They sit on a stool in the aisle or walk behind you, at close range, as you shop. It does seem like it could be helpful to have so many employees just hanging around waiting to help. Sometimes I can't find the product I need, and sometimes I ask an employee if they know where it is, and I alwaysregret this. 
    The truth is, though the employees are more than willing to help, they don't usually know what it is they're looking for. To their credit, they've probably never tried or heard of many products the store stocks, and the stock is constantly changing. Since many of the products are imported from China and Dubai, the purchaser will bring over a few of each item to see how they sell. This means a constantly changing and always random assortment of products that don't have an official spot in the store or known use to the employees. So when I ask for "ginger ale" or "brown rice," they'll make a valiant effort to search the whole store. But if I couldn't find it on my own, it's not there.

    Seasons marking time. While I don't particularly miss scraping ice off windshields or the suffocating humidity, I do miss the changing of season and how they help mark the passage of time. Is it July or December? It all feels and looks the same here!
    Outdoor baptism in December? Why not!
    4th of July picnic

    Systems and structures that allow for productivity. I don't tend to think about things like road maintenance, quality control, law enforcement, and general organization until something goes wrong. I didn't realize how much predictability and comfort these systems and structures provide for the average citizen until they were severely lacking. Apart from high school government classes, I'd never spent much time thinking about what it would be like to establish a country, create and enforce laws, build and maintain infrastructure that serves its citizens, and ensure that everything flows well and makes sense in the bigger picture. And then I moved to Uganda and starting thinking about it all the time.  

    A vehicle and the freedom it brings. Though driving here brings its own set of stresses (see "systems and structures," or lack thereof) it's great to be able to pop into town or over to the grocery store without too much hassle (see "being anonymous"). On rare occasions, I get to ride in a friend's air-conditioned vehicle and put all my shopping bags in the trunk rather than walking in the hot sun and then calling a boda to help carry my things home. Those rare occasions are a real treat!

    In Luke 14, Jesus tells his disciples to count the cost of following him. He describes our Kingdom work as being like building and battle. He says, "Sit down and see if you can afford to follow me." Living in Uganda has certainly caused me to count the costs of following Jesus numerous times, yet it always comes down to this: He Is Worth It.

    Monday, October 20, 2014

    Introducing Rwanwanja

    Last week on Uganda’s Independence Day I had the privilege of driving a brand new team of Tutapona staff out to Rwamwanja refugee settlement in western Uganda. 

    I’d never driven this road before and was pleasantly surprised by the scenery as we headed due north from Mbarara. I could have been driving through NZ’s King country with the steep, lowly populated hills except for the lack of sheep. The settlement itself is made up of 51,000 Congolese refugees and is two and a half years old. The inhabitants have fled from the very complex and violent war that started in the eastern DRC in 1996 and is still going today. Needless to say there is a lot of need there for trauma rehabilitation work.

    Our new team is led by David who has spear-headed many of our new initiatives at Tutapona, including some work in South Sudan a couple of years back. The other two men are new staff, Doddy and Silas. Doddy is a talented musician who has produced a number of hit singles.  You can have a look at a one of them here.

    While he’s singing in Luganda you can still get a good sense of the quality of his voice. Needless to say the Tutapona morning devotions in Rwamwanja are exceptionally melodious! Up until now Silas has been volunteering with us at another refugee settlement and has shown a high level of commitment to the work. All three of these guys are passionate about helping traumatised people with our Empower programme.

    This new team is the result of a partnership Tutapona has just entered into with Samaritan’s Purse. SP are now supporting us to run our Empower trauma rehabilitation courses in Rwamwanja and two other refugee settlements. This is an exciting development as it has allowed us to expand our staff and to reach people in new places.

    As I drove south again I was extremely conscious that these guys (and our other staff around the country) live and work in some quite challenging places. Please pray for David and the team as they get settled into this new and remote settlement and as they begin their work. I’m confident that God will work through them to bring hope to people in great need of it.


    Monday, September 22, 2014

    An Open Letter to a First Time Mother (from a first time mother seven and a half months in)

    Many of you have kindly been asking how I’ve found motherhood so far! Well friend, unlike many mothers given nine months to prepare, I was given a mere nine minutes before I met my daughter to be. With not even so much as a bottle, diaper, book or toy to my name, it’s safe to say I was thrown into the deep end. So here’s my feeble attempt at trying to describe it through an ‘Open letter to a first time mother’ (from a first time mother seven and a half months in.)

    Dear First Time Mother,
     Well, here you are. On the cusp of something magnificent. With a little bit of hope and a dash of trepidation mixed into a cocktail full of surprises. Don’t worry friend, I’ve got your back. Whether you’ve come to this juncture of an impending arrival by a carefully laid plan, accident, a complete shock or whatever doesn’t really matter. What matters is that soon your baby will be arriving and someone needs to give you the real down low on what to expect. Let’s get on with the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

         1.       You’ll probably have no idea what you’re doing.
    Despite the fact that I’d grown up around an army of children, babysat for years and had some pretty strong opinions about how I’d be when I was a mother when it came to taking care of my own kid I had no idea what to do. It’s different when it’s your baby screaming in your face, different when your babies the one with a cold. I remember one day thinking to myself, Oh. My. Word. I’m it.  I cannot hand my child back. The proverbial buck stops with me. If I can’t get her to calm down - who will? This thought was at once satisfying and terrifying at the same time. Instead of the normal sound advice I’d usually think or give out, I had nothing. It’s like your brain just goes blank and you question even the most normal things. I often text my girlfriends around the world to find out simple answers to my ridiculous questions (they all seem to be in the know). Whether it’s about a baby toothbrush, if you can ‘pop’ a child by giving them too much to eat or if it’s normal for my child to poo four times a day, I had (and still have) no idea. I have NEVER spent more time searching Google for answers to questions in my entire life. Side note: many searches are done in the twilight hours. I’ve even been known to listen to a variety of sound bites of cough noises so I could accurately assess what kind of cough my daughter had.

    2.       You’ll probably be NOTHING like what you expected to be as a Mother
    From the outside looking in, motherhood looks pretty simple. Sleep, feed, burp, change, play, repeat. As one of the last girls in my group of girlfriends to become a Mum I’d developed some pretty strong opinions (read: judgemental/hypercritical of others) around how I’d be doing things. I thought I’d be extremely strict, have a rigid schedule, believe in letting kids cry themselves to sleep and never pandering to my child. Reality check. I am a complete melting moment of a Mother. When my child cries I can’t stand it! It sounds like nails on a chalkboard to me. Speaking of which, if you’re anything like me you may hear you child’s ‘cry’ in everything from a fan to a bird outside. It’s all part of being on high alert as a first time mother. I also find cheeky things she does funny not naughty. Terrible, I know. Sure, I’m still the same organised person but I’ve learnt quickly to be flexible to keep sane. Part of that is the very nature of living and raising your child in Africa and part of it is just releasing ‘control’.  

    3.       You’ll probably freak out over perfectly normal things.
    It’s fair to say that for those first few weeks I was certainly on ‘high alert’.  Like really high. In fact I slept between 15-30 minutes the first few nights because I was convinced those little rustling noises, sighs and deep breaths were signs she was dying in my care and under my watch. We didn’t have anything for her to sleep in during those days so instead she slept in bed with me (something I would not recommend for the light sleeper/first time anxious mother). Imagine us in bed, her (and Tim) peacefully sleeping, me looking like an owl on a caffeine binge just staring at her closed eyelids. Even today, seven safe months in, I still find myself constantly checking on her to see if she’s breathing. Then there was the time she got a cold at 8 weeks old. I panicked. Completely stressed out about her sneezing and runny nose I literally blamed almost everyone and anyone that knew her for infecting my innocent daughter and proceeded to initiate Operation Lock Down. I’ve since read that it’s perfectly normal for babies to get 6 colds in the first year and so with four down and five months to go, I’m feeling much more relaxed. And it sounds ridiculous to say it now, but I remember when Hope did her first hiccup. I was so concerned I text best friend in the middle of her night for advice. ‘Is it normal for a newborn to hiccup for ten minutes’? Apparently yes. Yes, it is.

         4.       You’ll probably make mistakes
    I remember the first time I took Hope for a walk, she was four weeks old. We’d been loaned an awesome Jeep pram by our friends with all the bells and whistles required for taking her on the rock like terrain that is Uganda. I felt so happy and proud to be taking my little girl out into the big wide world for a first-hand look. As we arrived back into our compound and I went to close the gate I saw out of the corner of my eye Hope and her pram rolling down a small hill and to my absolute shock and horror it tipped carrying my precious tiny bundle onto our gravel driveway. Worst mother ever! I had forgotten prams had brakes and that you should put them on whenever you’re not touching the pram. Suffice to say she was miraculously resilient, and was shielded by the bull bar type shape of the pram with no injuries. I on the other hand was completely mortified and quickly looked around to see if anyone was looking.

    5.       You’ll probably uncover your selfish side
    I can’t even begin to tell you how many midnight prayers have been whispered to heaven that she’d stop crying  and go back to sleep.  I don’t want to get up.  Also often times I don’t want to read the same book over and over for the seventh time today. And don’t even get me started on how little free time I have. Before I had a baby if I wanted to go to a pool, sunbathe and read my magazine - I could! For hours, and hours. Those days of sleeping in, whipping out to the mall and watching movies late into the night are on hold. Nowdays, If I want to do that I need to arrange it about a month in advance, prepare all the necessary things Hope will need for the afternoon, sweet talk my husband into my plan and then spend the two or three hours I have to myself at said pool thinking about how on earth he’s washing the bottles out.

    6.       You’ll probably be overwhelmed by love
    The word overwhelmed really sums it up for me. No one can prepare you for how much you’ll love your child. It’s a different love to how I feel for my husband or even my own family members. It comes from a place so deep I can’t bear to describe it. No 26 letters could ever describe how I feel about her. I’ve found it comes in surges. Sometimes I look at her from a distance or put her to bed at night and it hits me like a thousand electric volts. On another note, no-one can prepare you for how much others will love your child. Family mainly, but friends too. People everywhere overwhelm you with their generosity, kindness and thoughtfulness. My best friend sent me 4kgs worth of everything a little girl born in Uganda could ever want. For a shopaholic like myself, it was the second best day of 2014 (next to Hope being born).

    7.       You’ll probably feel guilty
    When I was a teenager I remember reading in magazines about mothers that felt guilty and never understanding that. What on earth do they have to feel guilty about? Now I don’t know if it’s a first time insecure mother thing but I constantly find myself feeling guilty. Guilty for not spending enough time with my daughter. Guilty for not reading every relevant baby website on the internet to find out the best foods/books/clothes/sleeping positions etc to make her healthier/smarter/happier. Guilty for being a working mother and not spending every waking hour together. I’m working through this. I’ve got no solutions yet.

       8.       You’ll probably stop judging
    I don’t judge other mothers anymore. Ever. Every single mother I personally know is a good one. And we’re all just trying our hardest to do the best we can. Regardless or not of whether we do things exactly the same doesn’t matter. What does is being kind, open minded and understanding.

       9.       You’ll probably be really thankful
    Like all the time. Personally, I thank God but regardless if you’re into him or not, I’ve found thankfullness to be the hallmark of motherhood. I am beyond thankful to be a mother. Hand on my heart not a day has gone by in seven months where I have taken her for granted or not thanked God for her.

    First Time Mother – get ready for one hilarious adventure of discovery and delight. You’re going to LOVE it.

    A first time mother seven and a half months in (the half’s count)