At Baby Hero we believe parenthood is one of the great threads running through society, allowing us to connect across nationalities, languages, and ethnicities. In our Hero Parent series, we'll be interviewing mothers and fathers around the world about their experiences becoming and growing as parents.
Our first Hero Parent is Kate Hareb, mother to Rocky (28 months) and Enzo (9 months). Kate and her husband hail from South Africa and live in Hong Kong with jaunts in London and Singapore in between.
What was the best part about being pregnant?
My two pregnancies were very different. The first one (with Rocky) I benefitted from being in tip top health due to having a an important being growing inside to clean up my diet and spend time meditating and doing gentle yoga. The second time (with Enzo) I loved learning how much I could do despite being pregnant - no chance to spend hours meditating on the new arrival, it was all action stations with a toddler.
What was the worst?
With Rocky's pregnancy it was the constant worry that some choices I might make (eating stinky cheeses, waiting on a polluted road or being in a loud environment) might harm our baby and trying to weigh it all up constantly. The second time it was that I wore myself out chasing a toddler so had 3 months of flu and bronchitis that I struggled to kick up until the birth.
You’ve had two very different births – one at a public hospital and the second at home – tell us a little bit about the two experiences, which you preferred and why?
For both births I wanted the same thing - I wanted to birth at home (or for as long as possible at home) in a safe, calm and loving environment. I wanted my sons to experience their first breath of air in a simple setting, with Dad and Mum and one or two other empowering and trusting birth partners. For Rocky's birth I did all the right things: ate well, kept fit, did my daily affirmations, visualized the birth I wanted, met other natural birthers, co-opted the help of HK's best mobile midwife (Hulda Thorey
), got a birthing pool set up at home etc etc. No detail left to chance. However the birth did not go as I wanted and after my waters broke and I spent more than 24 hours not having consistent contractions at home, we made the tough call to labour at hospital, not comfortable with the increased risk of infection (I was a GBS+) after this point. My husband was just the most amazing birth partner, advocating my wishes with the medical team and tireless for days trying to make my birthing experience as calm as possible. After 50 hours of grueling labour, an agonizing induction in a bossy hospital environment I got what I wanted: a beautiful, perfectly healthy 7 lb baby boy.
For Enzo's birth I knew more than ever that I was not suited to a hospital birth and that I needed to trust my body to get me there this time having done it once before not in my ideal environment. Enzo was 9 days over due and estimated to weigh over 9 lbs. I stood firm about no induction and wanting to wait until he was ready. I had careful monitoring by my OB and Hulda and took all their advice into account in making our home birth decision. I was delighted that my waters broke on their own as I was on my last chances with the home birth plan and my medical team. I had the most exquisite birth experience in my own home - it's to date the most defining experience I've had as a mother. I was allowed to labour in a birth pool in my lounge peacefully for 7 hours, mostly on my own with my wonderful team just providing snacks, unobtrusively checking baby's heartbeat underwater every 45 mins and just letting me birth our baby. At one point I felt like I was in a spa, my favorite tunes playing (thanks dad), my top energy boosting snacks and just the best company I could have asked for. Enzo was delivered shortly after our toddler left for school. He was a large 9 lbs 3 ounces and came out after a few short pushes. I felt the whole time just how marvelous my team was and how clever my body and my baby was to be able to relax and let us be assisted in the final moment. I am not a die hard home-birther, I do think that each pregnancy is different and as parents it's the first hard choice we have to make for our new family member and is our choice alone. My first time it was not meant to be at home, and I've had the pleasure now of knowing both experiences. But for me there is nothing better than birthing a healthy baby in your lounge, and then having shower and climbing into your own bed with the whole family just a few hours later. I'm so grateful for this experience.
How have you changed since you became a parent?
I've taken a few years out to have children and be there for their early years. Before kids I was a career woman running a regional change management team for a multinational insurance company. I was also a Scuba Instructor for fun and loved competing in Triathlons (did two Ironman Swim legs). I loved travel, parties and big challenges. My life looks very different now!
I love being able to slow down and take in the little moments in my kids days, I love being the everyday parent they hug when they fall down, or watching them make a new friend at school or try out a new negotiation tactic with their brother. Before it was all about doing things quicker, more frequently and better. Now I love that rushed and hurried ways of living don't suit little kids, and I'm learning how to set up my life to enjoy the best of them while I'm at home with them. I hope when I go back to work I can bring some of that presence, patience and substance to how I get things done.
What is your biggest struggle as a parent?
Finding time and priority to do things for myself - exercise, healthy eating and some projects of my own. I just had a girls mini-break in Chiang Mai with a best friend leaving Asia. Actually one of the most empowering things was leaving my toddler for 3 nights and trusting that Dad, our helper and friends would take excellent care of him. It actually turned out to be a phenomenal weekend for him and a great realization that I'm not depriving him but actually enriching his life by giving him enough opportunities to explore his independence.
What has been the best part of motherhood for you?
Best part is probably the extra connection I feel to my husband having created little people together that now share our combined gene pool. I love watching them and seeing traits that come from both sides of our families. It's really adds a whole new level of connection to a man I already love really deeply.
Best piece of parenting advice for others?
My advice: follow your own instincts. You will eventually stumble on a parenting approach or fusion of approaches (or invent your own) that suits your families' style and where you will find the support of a community raising kids in a similar way. I have chosen to do tandem breast feeding, baby led weaning, baby signing etc. But for me it was RIE approach that just really captured how I want to raise my children. It also happens that I have a community of friends in HK now who also value parenting by trust and encouraging our kids to express their thoughts and feelings.
Brag a little! Describe Rocky’s personality in 5 words. And Enzo’s.
Rocky is: quirky, spirited, talkative, assertive, lollipop lover and a born performer. Yes, when all these qualities occur at the same time it can be a hellava morning.
Enzo is: quietly confident, content, curious, unstoppable and flexible. And so hours can go by in each other's company without the need to entertain or pacify my son in any way - he just loves to be near me and do his own thing.
You've been an early supporter of Baby Hero, thank you! Tell us why you've connected with the brand?
I've had the luxury of being able to choose hospital or home birth. But both experiences were medically supported with all the right equipment. I absolutely identify with this cause to give women who don't have the option of a birth in a hospital a kit to help with a clean and safer birth. Plus I LOVE the fact that the onesies are such high quality, well-wearing, pure and ethically produced product. So it's win-win from Mama's perspective!