By Jill Alexa du Preez of JillAlexa.com
After reading Laurens’ wonderful article on Motherhood, I want to add my pennies worth. Of course to me it is not pennies worth at all but some memories of early motherhood.
Forgive me, my children, if I don’t remember everything you said or did, it was rather a long time ago. The reason I have called this “Count Your Blessings – Name Them One by One” is that we were told by doctors and specialists that it would be most unlikely for me ever to bear a child and I did have medical issues which caused miscarriages. I won’t bore you with the details.
It was quite a shock to me to hear my children called PK’s (Preacher’s Kids) as the only PK’s I had heard of in my life until then, were pikinini khayas, which are outside toilets in Zimbabwe and probably other African countires. Well I am extremely proud of my PKs as they are all loving, caring and empathetic young people.
Having spent most or in the case of the last two children, all, of their lives living in Church manses and learning to accept everyone they have come in contact with in the church and their opinions. They also had grandparents sharing their home for twenty years and often had to bite their tongues when being told off or criticized in any way. I admire them greatly as it wasn’t always easy.
Oh, Happy days
Let us start a bit further back now. My beloved sister ,Gaye, who was married quite a few years after we were, discovered she was pregnant and when she first told me, naturally I was thrilled for her but hurting inside as I so longed to be a mother.
The first miracle was I found to my surprise that I was also expecting and we had our first children six days apart. Gaye was able to have natural home births with all four of her children whilst I ended up with three caesarian births. Never mind, it was just such a joy to have children and they were all perfect.
Warwick, our firstborn, was almost born in the church as I went into early labour during a congregation meeting (it figures). Matthew wasn’t yet in the Ministry but we were both very involved in our local church. Our car was giving us trouble and a dear friend rushed us up to the local hospital.
It was then that I was informed that would have to have caesarian section. It was a disappointment as I had been going to birthing classes etc. but never-the-less was grateful when I woke up to find I had this wonderful baby boy. When I looked down at this tiny mortal being, I was filled with love and awe that someone so tiny could be so perfect. Naturally, Matt and I checked every last bit of him. Amazing!
This child was born to talk. He absolutely had a love for people and befriended everyone he met. I was soon to become known as “Warwicks’ Mom”. No longer just Jill. He was a chatterbox of note and had an imaginary friend which was pretty useful, as when he wasn’t talking my ear off, he chatted away to his friend. The downside of this was that I had to prepare food for the friend too.
Accepting the call
Matthew had the call to the Ministry early but eventually accepted it when Warwick was just over a year old. Off we went to Grahamstown for him to study at Rhodes University. Great changes in our lives.
Hey ho!hey ho! its back to work I go
Sadly I had to leave my dear little chap in the capable care of a nanny and went off to work.
Warwick, often strapped to the back of his nanny, was taken all over Grahamstown and chatted to all and sundry thus becoming very well-known to all the passing parade. He loved to sit on the wide windowsill outside our lounge which was right on the pavement, and chat to everyone. As he grew older and went to school, no surprise, he was nicknamed “Chirpy” .
We couldn’t watch a movie without having a running commentary on what was happening and why, given by our son. This was quite irritating but we had to learn to accept it as it wasn’t going to change, and never did.
My Mom, although she loved all her grandchildren dearly, wasn’t a very patient granny and didn’t offer readily to babysit. I think she felt she had done her bit, bringing up four children of her own. She also worked and was probably pretty tired after a long working day.
One day however, Matt and I had to go into town for something and she offered to look after Warwick. He was probably about three at that time. Mom went into the kitchen to make tea and when she went back into the lounge where she had left Warwick. He said to her, Granny, can you smell something burning? She could and they both gazed out of the window to see what it could be. Then Mom looked down and saw to her horror a drift of smoke coming from under an armchair. She moved it and saw a hole burning in her newly laid carpet. Where Warwick found the matches, who knows, what I do know is that my poor Mom was as mad as a snake and didn’t offer to babysit again. Can’t say I blamed her.
Making New Friends
We arrived in Port Elizabeth when Warwick was around eight years old. Matthew had been called to St. Columbas Church. On our first Sunday I was surprised by a young woman coming up to me and thanking me for the invitation to tea. Warwick had met her son and said that his parents wanted him and his family to come to tea. We had such a laugh, come to tea they did and we have remained the firmest of friends to this day.
The Faith of a Child
It shouldn’t but it does surprise me what wonderful faith children have. When Warwick was in High School he developed two very painful plantars warts under his foot. He could barely walk and so I made an appointment with our doctor to have these beastly things cut out.
On the day this was to be done, Warwick came through to me in the kitchen as I was preparing breakfast and said, ” Mom, I had the worst pain I have ever felt, last night but I prayed about it and you don’t have to take me to Dr. Harle, my foot is healed.” I thought he was just afraid of the procedure but he said, “Mom, believe me, just look at my foot,” I looked and the plantars warts were no longer there and his foot was totally smooth. It actually made me come out in goose bumps recalling this incident. God really does work in mysterious ways, as my darling Mother-in-law always said.
Our second son, Gregory or Greg as he is commonly called, was born in Grahamstown. He was also a premature baby and the smallest of my three children. On the second day after his birth I went to fetch him from the nursery for his feed. As I lifted the blanket all I could see was blood everywhere. This poor little baby was bleeding from his umbilical cord. What a shock it was. He was bundled up and taken by ambulance to Port Elizabeth Hospital and Matt and I drove behind wondering if our little baby would survive. It was a terrible experience. When we were allowed to see him, he was in an incubator with his fringes of beautiful black hair shaved off and tubes coming out of his head.
We had very good friends living quite close to the hospital who very kindly took me in so that I could be there to carry on feeding my little son. Matthew had to return to Grahamstown to study and also look after Warwick. Gregory was in hospital for over a week and I had to make sure I had enough milk to take to the hospital to feed him. I don’t know if it was this dramatic start to his life but when he was about two he fell in the kitchen. He stopped breathing and we had to revive him by giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. This was while we served the Krugersdorp church which was Matts’ first call.
Greg was just over four when we arrived in Port Elizabeth and when he had another of these episodes where he stopped breathing we were advised by our doctor to have him tested at the hospital. We spent a day with them doing all sorts of tests and it was decided at the end of all of this that he had a very rare form of epilepsy. He was put onto phenobarbitone, which I learned years later was totally the wrong thing to do. What did I know? We believed everything the doctors and specialists told us in those days. Have learned not to be so gullible and question everything now.
This medication caused Greg to battle through his early school life.as he felt sleepy a lot of the time. He also had stomach pain every morning, whether that was the medicine or the fear of school, who can tell? Probably a bit of both.
Time to Shine
Greg has tremendous ball sense and I can remember going to watch him play in his first cricket match. He was standing as though in a complete dream, then his arm shot out and caught the ball. All of a sudden all the little boys and the teacher ran towards Greg and patted him on the back, he had caught the ball and didn’t even realize it. He had just been standing behind the stumps, dreaming and unconsciously put out his hand and caught the ball. He was more surprised than anyone else. He now plays league tennis.
Like most mothers, I knew when things were too quiet, something was up. Can recall, very distinctly, the day I went looking for Greg only to find him with a very happy and proud face with my sewing machine in pieces. He had carefully unscrewed everything he could on the machine and some of the parts we didn’t ever find. Hope he didn’t swallow them. This machine had been a 21st birthday gift from my parents, so could cheerfully have strangled him. He was two at the time. Had to restrain myself.
Another incident that comes to mind is when I was playing tennis and when I came to leave found that the windscreen wiper blades had been taken off the car. After a long search we eventually found them under the mat in the back of the car. Very frustrating.
Greg was an escape artist of note and I received a call from a friend asking if I had seen Greg. As she also has a son Greg I assumed it was her son she was looking for. Oh no, she said, my Greg was there. He had ridden around in his peddle car. I didn’t even know he was missing. What a wake-up call that was.
Lost and Found
On another occasion, with friends and family members, we were all on holiday at Kenton-on-Sea and after a long day playing on the beach and in the river and sea, it was time to make our way home. The women wearily packed up all the necessary beach paraphernalia and marshalled the children, in readiness to go back to the cottage while the men went to collect wood for the braai,(barbeque).
Some of the older boys went off with the men and we women and little ones started up the hill back to the cottage. At the last moment, Gregory decided he wanted to be with the men and off he went. The problem was that he didn’t find them and I thought he was safely with his father.
After a long time, the men came back and began to get the braai (barbeque) ready for cooking the meat. I asked Matt where Gregory was but he didn’t know. he thought all along that he was with me.
The panic set in and the hunt was on for our lost little boy. He couldn’t have been more than four. Everyone went in different directions and eventually the police were called and at last we found him.
He was trudging along, his little face was ashen and the tears were rolling down his cheeks. As I put him on my lap in the car, his little body was shuddering with suppressed sobs. It was truly heartbreaking and as a mother I will never forget how I lost my little boy. It all turned out well in the end but it could have been so different.
Our third, and last child is Lauren. She was born just before Greg turned two and just three months after we arrived in Krugersdorp which was Matt’s first charge. After two little boys being born with a shock of black hair, they presented me when I awoke after the anaesthetic with this dear little bundle and she was almost bald. We thought at first the nurse had brought the wrong baby but we were assured it definitely was our baby and she was absolutely gorgeous.
She was a very self-possessed little girl and certainly knew her own mind. She hated the colour pink and I soon learned that she liked to pick out her own outfits to wear. It made life much simpler to just place a few outfits where she could reach them and she would sort out what she wanted to wear that day. The outfits might not have been what I would have chosen but they made her happy.
This was definitely my artistic child and she loved playing the piano, writing poetry and stories. Collecting soaps and papers. She would spend hours entertaining herself and then present me with her writings or pictures, I still have a number of them in my treasure box. In all Lauren’s years at school, I never had to remind her to do homework or practice the piano. It was such a change from her brothers, as it was always amazing that they passed their exams at the end of each year, without studying very hard.
Mom Playing Truant
When we moved to Port Elizabeth she was three-and-a-half and she went to nursery school. It was lovely to be able to go straight from nursery school down to the beach and play in the surf and sand. Once I forgot to attend a large Women’s meeting at our Church and only remembered it when we were on our way home from the beach. I wasn’t very popular but boy did we have fun. Thank goodness I wasn’t running the meeting, that would have been unforgivable, I guess.
Stealing the limelight
Lauren was asked to be flower girl to one of the members of the congregation. She was so excited about it and I made the dress for her (not pink) and she couldn’t wait for the big day.
She was coached on how to walk down the aisle behind the bride and bridesmaid and to wait and be still while the wedding was taking place and all went well until it came time to walk out of the church. She hadn’t had any instruction on that part and first of all she picked up her skirt to show the congregation her white stockings and then skipped the whole way down the long aisle behind the happy couple.
One can often tell when children have been brought up in a manse as their conversation differs from other families. I was busy in the kitchen one day and as I looked out of the window saw Gregory and Lauren playing near the wash line. The window was open and as I watched them I saw Greg with a spade and he started digging a hole and there was Lauren standing with large pair of scissors and when I asked them what they were doing, Greg said “I am digging up the devil” and Lauren chirped in “and I am going to cut him up into little pieces.”
When Matthew was still at university he was given a holiday job working at Frere Road Presbyterian Church. The Minister and his family were going on holiday, so we stayed in the manse. This was a new experience for us. Warwick was at the stage of saying his prayers, Loved to answer the phone and also learning to say grace at the table. Matthew was out making a pastoral calls and Warwick and I were happily splashing around in his paddling pool. The phone rang and Warwick was out of the pool like a shot, ran to the phone and picking it up , he said, “For what we are about to receive.” I often wonder what the person on the other end of the line thought. I was convulsed with laughter. He was so very proud of himself.
Warwick and Greg were in the bath one evening and as I passed the bathroom door I overheard Warwick say to Greg,” you know Jesus and God are the same person” Greg was very puzzled and then Warwick with all the worldly wisdom of an eight-year-old said, “Yes, and his surname is Spirit.” There was a long pause then he said, “you know Greg, Jesus is everywhere, even in the bath with us.”. ” Well” says Greg, “If I give him a karate chop, do you think he will say ouch?”
Pity the Poor Teachers
We, as a family, had many lovely road trips and the children all talk often of the holidays we had. These were mostly spent with family and friends all over the country. The only drawback was that Lauren had a problem with car sickness. It was quite embarrassing for me to return the reports to the schools after one holiday after Lauren unfortunately was sick into my open handbag. I did clean the reports off as best I could but they still didn’t look too great, or smell too good either.
Seeing the Light
One evening, when we lived in Vryheid , in Northen Natal., we were driving out to visit Matt’s brother Lionel. Each Easter it is customary for the Town Council to put a star, in lights, on Vryheid Hill. We were discussing how lovely it looked when Lauren piped up, “That’s not lights, its a star in the sky.” It was quite a shock to us that she could not distinguish between lights on the hill and a real star in the sky. We realized then that she would need her eyes tested. This meant long journeys down to Durban. Car sickness and all the testing and then the poor child then ending up with her first spectacles. Since I had to wear spectacles from an early age, I knew the difficulties this entailed. My heart bled for her.
There are likely many more stories I can tell you about my beloved “blessings”, am sure they will be pleased if I stop now. What I do want to say is that I am a very proud and happy mother and I know that their father (although he can’t say much anymore) is equally proud of them. We see each other as often as possible.
Every week I am with Lauren, Dan and Ben on Wednesday, sleep over and go back home on Thursday afternoon. This precious time is spent working with Lauren on Wealthy Affiliate, playing with my youngest grandson, and getting closer to my son-in-law. I am in the enviable position of having wonderfully close relationships with all of my children and their respective spouses and my beloved grandchildren.
Tell me the Old, Old Story
Dear readers, I am sure you all have wonderful stories to tell of your children. If you choose to tell us about them, I do hope you enjoy the experience of looking back and remembering your dear children as they were, and still are miracles and blessings.