Last night Kit muttered “soap” in her sleep.

I know why that four letter word accompanies others in the middle of the night. Others like “Mama”, after which I whisper, “Mama loves you”. Words like “Momo”, after which I tell her, “I’m here”.


I hear “soap”and smile in the dark. It’s from a game we play, inspired by a slug sighting… In the bath we pretend the soap is so slippery that we cannot grasp it in our hands. It evades us. It slips out of our fingers into the milky water and disappears. “Where’s that slippery soap gone?

She laughs.

We find it by feel alone, searching the bottom of the tub, and then we lose it again. It’s so slippery, that soap!

When I take her out the bath, I pretend Kit is the slippery soap; pretend to drop her and the towel she’s wrapped in like she’s too slippery to grab hold of.

A month or two ago, a slug made its way across a lounge tile, headed for the crack at the bottom of the backdoor, hoping to be reunited with the damp soil outside. I called Kit to look at it. A slug. Kit perched between the armrests of two coaches, a meter short of it, and decided, “no”.

She would not go closer.

For days and days after the sighting though, when I asked her about the slippery slimy slug – of its whereabouts – she’d run to that nook and point to the terracotta floor and say, “there”. “There”. “There”.

On the soft carpet of the spare bedroom we would pretend to be slippery slimy slugs ourselves, worming our way along. Kit would often run to the scene of the slug sighting, pointing, asking, “where”?

One day a shongololo came. Not to that same corner but near another door, curled into itself. “Shongi,” I said. “Shongololo”. I picked it up gently, holding it in the palm of my hand to show Kit. “Shongi”. Shongi. I said it enough that she began to say it too.



After a while we started looking for them.

The rain would start and stop and then, in her rainbow wellies that light up when she walks, we’d venture in the wet garden. Squashing mud under our shoes, lifting tiles and rocks. Searching for Shongies. Sometimes we’d find four, or five little ones, huddled together. Under other rocks – none.

Kit took to looking for shongis everywhere: Knees bent, eyes to the ground, hands wide with palms to the floor as if using them as a viewfinder –  stalking for shongis. She has been looking for them for weeks now. In the garden, of course; in the house; and – my favourite – in the waterfront in the passage between Willoughbys, stopping foot traffic suddenly to search intently near the patron’s shashimi … for shongis.

It’s not only slugs and shongis, she’s watching out for.

Just the other day, from the vantage of her car seat at a robbot, Kit double-waved out the window, saying, “hi”, “hi”. I looked to see who she was waving at but it was a “what” not a “who” – two big fig trees. Big, impressive. Worthy of greeting.

On another day, this time in Plett, we walked along my favourite path on Robberg and Kit stopped often to pick up rocks. She wanted to hold them in her hands while navigating the trail but then she fell, hands full of rocks, so my mom persuaded her to rather give the them to her. We went slowly – Kit picking up rocks and pebbles along the way. Us, convincing her to hand them over. Us convincing her that we’d keep them for her. On about the tenth rock she gave me, which I was meant to hand to her, “Gaga”, I opened my hand, letting the rock fall back to the ground when Kit wasn’t looking. My mom picked it up saying that Kit would notice. I’m not so sure that Kit would have noticed but there’s a beauty there – that her Gaga will carry, and keep, the rocks – all of them – whether she would notice one was missing or not. Reaching the Gap (a viewpoint), we sat on two benches across from each other – my wife, my mom, Kit and Magret, Kit’s nanny, and we sipped juice. “Juice,” Kit said. “Juice.”

After our juice I walked with Kit, her holding my hand on the walkway, and we found a spot of sand to return her rocks to the ground. Our family has a strong feelings about shells’ and rocks’ autonomy. They belong with each other – where wind and rain and spray – and if they’re really lucky, the sea itself – changes them but only “slowly, slowly” as Kit often says when climbing down stairs. Very very slowly. When I told Kit it was time to say goodbye to her collection of rocks, she took it well, as she usually does, waving to them before returning to the benches and the juice.

I’m not sure what things will stick with Kit. I know that soon enough the search for shongis will give way to other hunts. I hope that her love of rocks will stay though. Rocks have held her attention for a good portion of her short life. If she asks me when she’s older what she loved as a very little girl, rocks will be high on the list. I am sure juice will having lasting power, too. It’s delicious stuff. Juice.

As she grows, and learns, there are things I’m prepared to (and must) correct Kit on – even when I love those parts of her so much that I am tempted not to. I am prepared to say “I do” – when she answers my questions of “Do you want to go to the park?” or “Are you hungry?” – with “I did”. I am prepared to say, gently, “I do” even though I love the error of tense.

There are  some things I’m not prepared to correct, perhaps because I’m not sure they are incorrect. I am not going to tell her that the trees are whats not whos or that Tashas is not a target rich environment for shongis or that rocks – even ones you have held for a short time – don’t hear her when she says, “bye”.

Two weeks ago, Jess and I were walking in the burbs of Plett, Kit with us in the pram and an old woman – and a rather hip looking one I might add – called out to us from across the street. “Who’s the mother?”

Jess and I glanced at each other, deciding who would broach the subject.

“We both are,” I said.

The woman looked at us, perplexed, and we stood there for a few awkward long seconds waiting for understanding to land. It didn’t so I said, “This is my wife”.

Still no understanding crossed her face.

“We’re gay,” I added, spelling it carefully out. “This is our daughter. We’re a family”.

I expected her, in all honesty, to be embarrassed for not arriving at the conclusion herself. She wasn’t. She came back with: “Bulldust”.


I looked again at Jess, asking in silence, what else does this woman need me to explain. How do I make it clearer?

And then the woman asked, “Who gave birth to the baby?”

Another pause.

“I did,” Jess said, and then she added, “but we’re both her mother”.

The woman looked at us a little longer and then said she would remember that when she saw us next time.

Jess and I managed to hold off from laughing for a few meters down the road. We laughed and laughed.

Bulldust?! Who says bulldust anymore?

And when we finished laughing, we spoke about what the woman meant in asking who gave birth to the baby and we agreed that, in the way she asked, she was trying to determine who the actual mother was – who Kit belonged to. And then we spoke about how we could handle such conversations next time. Because there will be many next times. For us, and for Kit.


Our Kit.

Kit belongs to me as much as anyone can belong to anyone else. And that is, probably, not at all.

Kit is little for a little while (this is from a song I used to play to her when she was really really little), and while she is so little, Kit belongs with me (and to me) as much as anyone can belong to another. When I typed these words, in the early hours of the morning, still dark, I felt her deep breathing against my back. The inhales and exhales of her life force. She woke so many times last night. Sometimes for a sip of bottle. Sometimes to kaula me. Sometimes for reasons I couldn’t work out. So, perhaps, it is truer to say that I belong to her as much as anyone can belong to anyone. Which is to say not at all but, also, wholly. And also, holy.

So there I was, 5 in the morning, writing, after one month of not writing even though I said I’d write every day for a year. I skipped a month. I skipped a month when, before, I wouldn’t have even skipped a day. To be honest, I’m not sure if I should start from day one of 365 or pick up from my five month stint and keep going, pretending that this hiatus never happened. I’m also not sure (due to lack of sleep whether my tenses are right throughout this piece – though I have experienced that the misuse can be cute). I don’t think it actually matters whether I start over or continue. But, somehow, despite the lag, the writing still seems to. Matter, that is. I just needed a bit of time.

In May there were lots of days during which I didn’t write (all of them?) but I did sometimes notice happenings worthy of writing about). Here is one: I handed Kit a dandelion for her to blow and send her wishes to the wind. She ate it instead – seeds all over her tongue.

Among the many things Kit has given me to cherish, here is only one: A reminder that I belong, like the rocks and shells and the sand, to the earth. That I should not, for too long, be away from it; that there are rocks worth collecting but also too precious to keep; that tiny moths can find their way into bedrooms get all aflutter about lights that are not the moon; that if you look carefully you may just find something truly alive, even if you’re searching on the restaurant floor in the middle of a shopping centre. And here is another one: That our belonging is not bulldust but stardust. That it is not from birthing but does involve birth. That is did not arrive suddenly on seeing her arrive in the world. It grew. Slowly. Slowly.

Here I am, writing, and it’s at 9am rather than at 9pm. Now to figure out is what to say? Let me start with something easy: I just finished my second cup of coffee. The mug now sits empty on the window sill. It’s a blue mug and beyond the pane you can see the lighter blue of the plumbagos against the green shrub. I love the word plumbagos. I love the word a bit more than I love the actual flowers. I mean, they’re pretty. They’re pretty until they drop off the scrub, do an army roll, find purchase on our Schnautzers’ fur and then make a new home on our carpets.

But back to the coffee …  I had my first cup with Jess. Usually we have it in bed together but today I slept in by mistake. Jess opened the door of the spare room at 7:30am with Kit on her hip. After I got my bearings, I made coffee and climbed the stairs with a tray: The French press, two mugs and a jug of milk (no rusks because we can’t risk rusks and our duvet with Kit). As I appeared with the tray at the top of the stairs, Jess joked, “What’s this bitch doing sleeping in on a Thursday when I did the night?” Apparently it was a NIGHT! I say apparently, because I was sleeping soundly downstairs. I won’t get into to it – the night, the nights – because it is seen as an invitation for sleep trainers to make suggestions and I’m really tired of suggestions. And I’m also just tired. What I will say, rather – and on a completely different topic – is that Jess and I find the word bitch funny no matter how many times we use it. Call it a flaw. I nearly wrote “call it a floor” there. Sherbs. Dire straits these are.

So, I “shared” the first cup of coffee with Jess while she got ready, and while she got ready and I sipped my coffee and Kit, Kit ran around the room picking things up and naming them; Kit, Kit sat on the potty for a second; Kit, Kit tried to reach the blind’s pull-up cord (which we have tucked into the trelladoor because sometimes Kit tries to loop it around her like a necklace and that makes us nervous).

My second cup of coffee accompanied me sitting down in our ‘office’. I write office like that because it used to be a cupboard. It’s small. It’s really beautiful though – the kind of space that makes you feel inspired to write. I need that. There are also the plumbagos. They’re pretty.

Anyway … by the time I poured my second cup of coffee, the coffee was cold. I had a choice: I could drink it cold or I could go downstairs and pop it in the microwave. The latter options seems the obvious choice but there’s a catch. Going downstairs means that Kit will see me and that often means Kit will want to come to me and want to be picked up and once my coffee is hot, Kit will cry when I have to hand her back to Magret and come back upstairs. She has some separation anixety. So there is a price of hot coffee. I took a sip of the cold coffee, testing it out, and then I decided that what this is about – this writing in the morning; this slowing down – is giving myself time for hot coffee.

The ‘mission’ for hot coffee proved to be fine. When I appeared Kit who sat at the dinning room table eating breakfast said ‘mom’ which made me grin because ‘mom’ is new. For some time we weren’t sure what to call ourselves. We landed on Mama for Jess; and Momo for me. Well, Momo evolved. At first we decided on Mom but a younger Kit didn’t seem to pick up on that so we went with Momo as a more distinct name from Mama. As of this week, Kit has all but dropped Mama and Momo, in favor of Mom. She calls Jess Mom. She calls me Mom. Not so complicated is it? We’re not sure what sparked the change but Jess thinks it was my mom visiting, and me saying, “mom”, a fair amount, and Kit deciding, hey, I like that better.

Okay. I have a lot more to write but I think I’ll stop there. Sometimes all this … the writing about my life … feels very indulgent. A break down of my two coffees this morning – riveting stuff. And sometimes the more confident side of me thinks, yes, this is important. I’m not sure why but it is.

On my daily musing, I so often write sleep well. Or goodnight. Or, I’m so tired. Today, I’m so glad to write, ‘Good morning’ instead. (Jess would maybe say, “Bitch, how can you be tired, you didn’t do the night?!”). She’s right there. I didn’t do the night and I had two cups of coffee (but you know that now). The day is young and I have energy.

Also, one last thing, yesterday I sat in a cafe called Starlings in Claremont, editing photographs from an elopement, eating poached eggs and drinking Rooibos tea, waiting for the groomers to be done with our dogs (where are the good groomers in town, I ask you? Really, I’m asking… where are they?) So I sat there a while, editing and ordering things occasionally to warrant my continued presence and I did a fair amount of eavesdropping, and one thing stands out to me. An older woman with her friend asked the waiter, “How wrappy is your wrap?” And then she laughed a little and said, “Do you know what I mean?”


I don’t.

Do you?

Photograph of the day: Today we had an elopement in Stellenbosch. Kyle (a fellow photographer that I often work with) and I drove together. Kyle drove my car (he drives a motorbike). He drove because I had a rough night’s sleep (or lack of it) so I thought it would be safer (it was, this is not foreshadowing). When got to my home, Blanche (our Polo) was on our curb close to the house and another car had taken the pavement opposite. We were deciding where to park when a car came up behind us. There is nothing quite as annoying as a car tailing you when you want to make a u-turn or just need a moment to idle. The driver was impatient so Kyle decided to drive up the cup-de-sac and turn around at the top. On the way up, I saw the crescent moon. That was just an excuse to say crescent moon – I like the phrase so much and I like the phase too. When we got to the block of flats at the top of the hill, I asked Kyle to wait a moment while I jumped out the car to take a photo on my phone. They’re building a very big fancy estate up there called the Ridge. Since it’s big and fancy it has a solid fence and an electric wire. I had to go onto my tiptoes to clear the fence and then balance to slide through the electric wire (I didn’t want anything cutting through my photo, even if it is a blurry cityscape). Kyle asked me if I didn’t have a stack of photos I could pull from and post, and I told him that I had to take the photo on the actual day. So here it is. 23.02.2023. A good looking date. A below average photo but it’s here and I took it today and the evening and the city lay, still, beneath us.

Jess and I decided to skip AI. Not artificial intelligence – artificial insemination. I always think of a turkey baster when I think of AI. I don’t even really know what a turkey baster looks like, to be honest. But I imagine some version of one. I know that in reality AI is far more sophisticated and controlled than the turkey baster (when done in a fertility clinic – there are some couples that undertake to do it at home, and kudos to them. I’m sure they don’t use a turkey baster either. I think I should stop mentioning turkey baster. Turkey baster. Okay, I’m done).

At first I thought AI might be a good option for us. AI has a number of advantages: It’s a lot cheaper than IVF. It’s also far less invasive. (There will be a lot of gaps in my knowledge around talking about fertility for a number of reasons – most obvious among them: I’m not a fertility specialist. Another reason: It feels like we discussed the various fertility options a long time ago. Last but not least, I’m quite sleep deprived and everything feels more difficult when you’re short on sleep, including remembering details. So back to that gap in knowledge…) AI is less invasive than IVF as it doesn’t involve any operations. I can’t remember if there’s a non-hormone option and a hormone option. I think there is but I can’t be sure since Jess and I never went down this route. We also didn’t shy away from hormones (a personal choice). We were quite the opposite: We told our doctor – give us whatever hormones you need to give us the best possible chance of a healthy pregnancy.

I thought AI would be a good option for us because I’m a very optimistic person. The stories of AI working first or second time are wonderful (and easy, if easy can ever be associated with fertility). But there are a fair amount of stories of couples or individuals trying 5 or 6 times. When you have experienced the long (read excruciating) wait until you can do a pregnancy test with each AI/IVF cycle, you will understand that going through that 5 or 6 times would be horrendous. Jess and I knew couples in both categories: The “lucky” first-timers and those that had to go through AI 6 times before switching to IVF.

One of the main reasons we opted for IVF is because we decided to use a sperm donor from a USA sperm bank. This meant that each vial cost a lot (exchange rate, shipping it here and so on). Although AI is a lot cheaper than IVF, the expensive vials had to be taken into account. Then there’s the success rates. IVF has a much higher success rate than IVF. I won’t go into percentages here because I don’t know them and if I Google them, the figures may not be accurate as there are so many variables. Another reason we skipped AI and went straight to IVF (that sounds like monopoly): with IVF we could ‘bulk’ fertilise eggs. That is, one vial could be used to fertilise 15 retrieved eggs, for example. This, as compared to AI where you use a vial every time you make an attempt. Our vials cost a lot. We couldn’t be willy nilly (pun intended) with them. If we had free healthy sperm (like some heterosexual couples) we would have definitely given AI quite a few goes before moving on to IVF.

Oh and another reason we went right to IVF: Our ideal scenario would have been reciprocal IVF, which means I wanted to carry a baby genetically linked to Jess. From the way I phrased that sentence you probably picked up that that is not what happened. That’s another thing about fertility ‘journeys’. They don’t often play out the way you imagine they will. We were fortunate enough to get that advice before we began our journey. My dad happened to have a school friend that became a fertility doctor in the states and he was kind enough to have a video call with us. He told us that couples often have a very precise plan about how things are going to unfold and they learn that they have to adapt along the way. That is certainly true for us and our idea of reciprocal IVF.

I thought of another reason. (You see, this is the thing with fertility, there are so many considerations to factor in). We knew we wanted at least two children. We could maybe ‘get away’ with AI for our first but by the time we tried for our second, we’d be older and our fertility would’ve followed the graph downhill and so we thought the safest option for us was to freeze embryoes. That way, we wouldn’t be relying on our future selves to produce good quality eggs – we’d go get them ‘now’ and use them later.

But I think I’m getting ahead of myself… Let’s go back to the beginning. And I suppose the true beginning is that Jess has always wanted to have children. And I have always wanted to have children. We established that very early on. When I say early on, I mean that we established this even before we met. How? Over WhatsApp. You see Jess and I were set up and Jess cancelled on me 6 times before we finally met (a whole other story). Months passed before we actually met in person, and in those days and weeks, Jess and I got to chatting. Slowly at first and then frequently, and then we chatted on most days. One of the things that came up: Do you want children? Not in a ‘do you want to have my children’ kind of a way, but as an independent question: In your life, do you want to have children. We both did. (I remember having this discussion (unrelated to Jess) with a friend of mine. How do you approach the topic of children when you’re dating at a certain age and don’t really want to invest in someone who doesn’t want children. You just straight up ask, my friend said. And we did (Jess and I). We asked. And the answer was a strong yes.

Cut to our fertility doctor’s room. I still remember one of the first things our doctor said to us. She said that she meets so many women that wait for everything to have lined up before trying for a baby. They wait to find the ideal partner and that great job and the house and to be financially stable, and when all this finally lines up, they start trying to have children and they’re 41 and for some, it’s too late. I use 41 arbitrarily. Some women fall pregnant at 41 easily. My cousin just had twins at 45. But she is the exception. Women’s fertility generally takes a downturn at 35 and continues that way. When we heard this (or confirmation of this because, of course, we knew this on some level but I don’t think either of us had ever seen it represented on a graph), Jess was 36 and I was 35. We decided right there in that appointment that we didn’t want to wait any longer. At that stage we hadn’t chosen a donor. What could we do in the interim? Egg retrievals. Jess went first. She’s a year and a half older than I am and though that age difference is so minimal, in fertility terms it counts.

I’m going to end there for tonight. I’ve covered a lot of bases, I feel. I’ll talk about egg retrievals next (not necessarily tomorrow or the next day, but soon). I’ll talk about how each of those retrievals played out for us.

For now, goodnight.

Photograph of the day: Kit and Jess, backlit, walking through sunbeams.

A month or so ago I married a couple in my courtyard. In the lead up to the legal signing, the bride and I had been emailing each other for a while. In one of her emails she told me she was about to undergo IVF treatment. On the morning of the signing she sent a mail to me to say that her friends didn’t know that they were doing IVF.

For gay couples embarking on fertility treatment there are rarely such secrets. I don’t mean that as a criticism – I mean that as a fact. Lesbian couples are unconventional and the ways that they have children (whether they choose to carry or adopt) are also unconventional. When the bride told me her friends didn’t know about the IVF, I felt so much for her. I thought about how lonely that must be. So I thought I’d share our IVF journey here in the hope that maybe one person will read it and feel less alone.

People often refer to link IVF and journey together, but I once heard someone talk about how it’s more like a trek. Another friend refers to it as a game since there are so many stages where you can get knocked out: Egg retrieval, fertilization, blastocysts, transfer, the first pregnancy test, the second pregnancy test…

I’ll talk retrospectively about our IVF trek to Kit and pretty soon I’ll write about our IVF stroll (being positive here) to our next child. At some point in the ‘journey’ I may decide that I don’t want to share everything here, and that’s okay, too. I hope I won’t get there but I will leave that possibility open. IVF takes a toll. It’s so full of hope and so often full of heartache.

Today I emailed our fertility doctor, Dr Oosthuzien who I cannot recommend highly enough. True to form, she took all of 12 minutes to reply. The subject of the email: Trying for our second.

Jess and I have embryoes on ice. That means, essentially, we’ve already done egg retrievals and fertilized those eggs and those zygotes became blastocysts and then they froze them for future use.

One thing that may be obvious already: I’m no doctor. My intention in writing about our IVF experience is not to give technical advice (speak to Lizle for that) but to speak about the emotional (and physical) journey we took as a couple and the decisions we made in the lead up to it.

That’s all for tonight. I’m very tired and need to sleep, but oh so badly.

Photograph of the day: The courtyard.

Snippets of today:

Watermelon and cling peach for breakfast;

Jess overheard a mother at the tidal pool say, “I hate it when people come up to us at the beach and want our kids to play – we’re here for family time not to socialise with strangers”;

We bought sushi from the Vredehoek spar (a whole big platter for R150). We took turns eating it at De Waal park, Jess ate first while I helped Kit climb the jungle gym, and then we switched so I could enjoy sushi).

I officially married a couple in my courtyard who had their wedding celebration in 2018 – the long-awaitedness made even the formalities really beautiful;

An afternoon nap;

I lifted Kit up on my feet for the first time, playing airplane, she thought it was the funniest, funnest thing – even better than watching her delight above me: Watching her nod her head very enthusiastically when I ask if she wants to do it again;

A woman asked me to watch her belongings for her as she went into the freezing sea to snorkel. I asked if she swam there a lot and she said they’d recently discovered it. (I’m being vague on location here on purpose. Actually, whom I kidding? It’s not like this blog is going to cause a sudden rush to the spot. I’m grateful to have you reading here. If you go to Clifton 4th, there’s a third parking lot which not a lot of people know about. If you continue to walk towards the houses from there, and keep walking down a path through the houses, you’ll come out onto these magnificent huge boulders above. You can drop down onto a shelly beach and there’s a rock pool, open to the sea, on the left. Whenever I see anyone swimming there, I have such a strong sense that they’re really living.)

I haven’t yet finished my book. I’m going to get back to it now.

Photographs of the day: Taken on my phone at said secret spot.



Today felt like an exhale for our little family – a long awaited one. This evening when Jess and I were celebrating that exhale, we spoke about a Cheryl Strayed quote where she refers to sister lives. For today’s piece of writing, I’m going to be lazy and I’m going copy and paste. It’s been a tough two weeks and I’m going to give myself a little breathing room (also, to be honest, I’m so book befogged right now – nearing the end of Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow – that I can’t hardly help myself. Also, I’m driving to Pat Busch in Robertson tomorrow – it’s far and I need to sleep).

The last time I went to Pat Busch, Kit was 6 weeks old. 6 weeks old and colicky. That ‘ky’ at the end of ‘colic’ makes it seem small but there is nothing small about colic. It’s loud and it’s unrelenting and it takes up the whole room.

Jess and I had decided that since we were on maternity leave, we should take advantage of it and spend a chunk of time with our parents, first in Plett and then in St Francis. Since we were going to be away for a while, we thought – you know what would help us? – Airbandbing our home. We were right. That financial injection did help us. Getting the house ready though? That nearly broke us. I’m not sure how we thought – with a colicky baby – we were in a position to go to the shops never mind open up our house to paying guests.

On the morning of our guests’ arrival and our departure for Pat Busch, I said to Jess, in desperation, that she needed to put a screaming Kit down because “we weren’t going to make it”. “It” being having the house in immaculate condition (whom I kidding – not immaculate – in good condition).

We almost didn’t make it. Five minutes before our guests arrived, Jess let me know that she couldn’t get Blanche (our Polo) into reverse. She couldn’t get her into reverse because the car was so full of stuff (mostly baby stuff – prams and carriers and formula and and and). I told Jess that we didn’t need reverse. We could push the car out of the garage and she could roll down the hill so they were out of sight for the ‘welcome’ and then we’d figure something out. So that’s what we did. Jess and a screaming Kit stayed in the car while I handed over the keys.

Onwards (and not upwards) to Robertson… before we got onto Kloof New, we figured out how to get the wheels to disconnect from the body of the pram, freeing up Blanche’s gear box to allow reverse (because reverse is actually important when you think about).

Sigh. We were on our way.

Jess had booked accommodation down the road from Pat Busch. The plan: I’d lead the ceremony and then we’d spend a lovely night in Robertson before carrying on to Plett. It didn’t make sense to backtrack to Cape Town and then to Plett – so Robertson it was.

The trip to Pat Busch happened to be Kit’s longest ever car ride. She made it known that she did not enjoy it. She screamed. She SCREAMED. A scream that’ll cut right through your whole being. In an attempt to ease her discomfort I mixed a bottle in the car. Hot water from the flask spilt on my jeans. I then managed to get formula all over the back seat and also on my clothes.

At one point in the journey I said to Jess, “When we get to the venue, you’re going to have to help me look half decent“.

Jess eyed me in the review mirror and burst out laughing. (This from a woman who usually tells me – even when I know I’m looking a bit worse for wear – that I’m so beautiful. I knew when she laughed that there was no hope for me.)

We had to stop the car a number of times to try soothe Kit but we had lost time getting the house ready and so after a few stops en route, we could no longer afford to pull over. “We’ll be late for the wedding!”

We nearly were late for the wedding. We arrived, I stumbled out of the car, looking like I had weed in my pants while sniffing a lot of cocaine. I changed into a dress and had one minute to put some makeup on in the bathroom mirror and then I walked through the beautiful venue to the forest area. “Welcome, friends, family…”

Jess went to our accommodation to try settle Kit.

When I next looked at my phone, I had a lot of messages from Jess. Escalating messages that culminated in her telling me that we were no longer staying in Robertson. We had to push on. Kit was unhappy. She hadn’t stopped screaming for two hours. We needed to get to Plett. We needed to drive through the night if we had to. Anything to stop her screaming.

Arriving at the guesthouse, the host told us that we were the only ones staying there and they really didn’t mind the noise. We minded.

We minded.

We packed the car again and hit the road.

Kit fell asleep quickly this time and she mostly stayed that way until we drove into my parents’ driveway.

Okay, so I started by saying I wouldn’t write much and now I’ve recounted the whole story about the last trip to Pat Busch. Suffice to say, it’ll be a smoother ride tomorrow. I may even pack a cozzie in the hope of a little river swim somewhere.

Sleep well when you do. I’ll still put Cheryl’s Dear Sugar letter and answer below because it’s beautiful and it came up today and maybe some of you haven’t read it before. If you haven’t, you’re in for a treat. Even if you have – it’s a treat, again.

Photograph of the day today: Kit and the pears.

Dear Sugar,

For those of us who aren’t lucky enough to “just know,” how is a person to decide if he or she wants to have a child?

I’m a forty-one-year-old man and have been able thus far to postpone that decision while I got all the other pieces of my life in order. Generally speaking, I’ve enjoyed myself as a solo (or partnered) human. I’ve always had a hunch that as I continued on my path my feelings about parenthood would coalesce one way or the other and I would follow that where it took me. Well, my path has taken me here, to the point where all of my peers are having children and expounding on the wonders (and of course, trials) of their new lives, while I keep enjoying the same life.

I love my life. I love having the things that I know will be in shorter supply if I become a parent. Things like quiet, free time, spontaneous travel, pockets of non-obligation. I really value them. I’m sure that everyone does, but on the grand gradient of the human condition, I feel I sit farther to one end than most. To be blunt, I’m afraid to give that up. Afraid that if I become a parent, I will miss my “old” life.

As a male, I know that I have a little more leeway in terms of the biological clock, but my partner, who is now 40, does not. She is also on the fence about a child, and while the finer points of our specific concerns on the subject may differ, we are largely both grappling with the same questions. At this point, we’re trying to tease out the signal from the noise: do we want a child because we really want a child or are we thinking about having one because we’re afraid we will regret not having one later? We both now accept that the time for deferment is coming to a close and we need to step up and figure it out.

When I try to imagine myself as a father, I often think back to my two wonderful cats that I had from the age of twenty-two until I buried them in the back yard almost two years ago. They were born prematurely to a mother that was too sick to care for them. I bottle fed them, woke up in the middle of the night to wipe their bottoms, was there for every stage of their growth from kitten to cat and basically loved the be-jeezus out of them for their entire lives. I raised them to be trusting, loving creatures. And I did it consciously, even thinking at the time that it was great training for the day I had a child if that felt like the right thing. I really was their dad. And I loved it. Yet I also loved it that I could put an extra bowl of food and water on the floor and split town for a three-day weekend. I’m truly torn.

I was speaking yesterday to one of my closest friends who at forty just had his first child. While talking with him, I made the connection that I believe I am one of those people who could be perfectly happy without having children, and yet that doesn’t necessarily mean that I wouldn’t also be perfectly happy with children. He knows me well and as I said this, something clicked for us both.

So here I am now exploring this. Exploring it for real and deeply. Sugar, help me.



Dear Undecided,

There’s a poem I love by Tomas Tranströmer called “The Blue House.” I think of it every time I ponder questions such as yours about the irrevocable choices we make. The poem is narrated by a man who is standing in the woods near his house. When he looks at his house from this vantage point, he observes that it’s “as if I had just died and was seeing the house from a new angle.” It’s a wonderful image—that man among the trees—and it’s an instructive one too. There is a transformative power in seeing the familiar from a new, more distant perspective. It’s in this stance that Tranströmer’s narrator is capable of seeing his life for what it is while also acknowledging the lives he might have had. “The sketches,” Tranströmer writes, “all of them, want to become real.” The poem strikes a chord in me because it’s so very sadly and joyfully and devastatingly true. Every life, Tranströmer writes, “has a sister ship,” one that follows “quite another route” than the one we ended up taking. We want it to be otherwise, but it cannot be: the people we might have been live a different, phantom life than the people we are.

And so the question, sweet pea, is who do you intend to be. As you’ve stated in your letter, you believe you could be happy in either scenario—becoming a father or remaining childless. You wrote to me because you want clarity about which course to take, but perhaps you should let that go. Instead, take a figurative step into the forest like that man in the poem and simply gaze for a while at your blue house. I think if you did, you’d see what I see: that there will likely be no clarity, at least at the outset; there will only be the choice you make and the sure knowledge that either one will contain some loss.

We’re contemporaries. I’m forty-two. I have two children, whom I birthed in close succession in my mid-thirties. If a magic baby fairy had come to me when I was childless and 34 and promised to grant me another ten years of fertility and good knees so I could live a while longer in the serene, feline-focused, fabulously unfettered life I had, I’d have taken it in a flash. I, too, had spent my adult years assuming that someday, when it came to becoming a mother, I’d “just know.” I, too, placed myself on the leave-me-the-fuck-alone end on the “grand gradient of the human condition.” I decided to become pregnant when I did because I was nearing the final years of my fertility and because my desire to do this thing that everyone said was so profound was just barely stronger than my doubts about it were.

So I got knocked up. With a total lack of clarity. On this, Mr. Sugar and I were in complete accord. Though we were generally pleased to be having a baby, we were also deeply alarmed. We liked to have sex and ramble around foreign countries in decidedly un-baby-safe ways and spend hours reading in silence on two couches that faced each other across the living room. We liked to work for days without interruption on our respective art forms and take unscheduled naps with our cats and spend weeks backpacking in the wilderness. We did not, throughout my pregnancy, have many conversations about how awesome it was going to be once our baby was born and doing these things would become either indisputably or close to impossible. Mostly, we had ambivalent, mildly sickening talks about how we sure as shit hoped we hadn’t made a dreadful mistake. What if we love the baby but not as much as everyone says we will? I’d ask him every couple of weeks. What if the baby bores us or annoys us or grosses us out? What if we want to ride our bicycles across Iceland or hike around Mongolia? Fuck. We do want to ride our bicycles across Iceland or hike around Mongolia!

My point is not that you should have a baby, Undecided. It’s that possibly you expect to have a feeling about wanting to have a baby that will never come and so the clear desire for a baby isn’t an accurate gauge for you when you’re trying to decide whether or not you should have one. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true.

So what then, is an accurate gauge?

You say that you and your partner don’t want to make the choice to become parents simply because you’re afraid you “will regret not having one later,” but I encourage you to reexamine that. Thinking deeply about your choices and actions from the stance of your future self can serve as both a motivational and a corrective force. It can help you stay true to who you really are as well as inspire you to leverage your desires against your fears.

Not regretting it later is the reason I’ve done at least three quarters of the best things in my life. It’s the reason I got pregnant with my first child, even though I’d have appreciated another decade from the magic baby fairy, and it’s also the reason I got pregnant with my second child, even though I was already overwhelmed by the first. Because you are content in your current childless life, attempting to determine what you might regret later strikes me as the best way for you to meaningfully explore if having a child is important to you. So much so, that I suspect that whether you’ll regret it later is the only question you must answer. It is the very one that will tell you what to do.

You already know the answers to everything else. You know you’re open to becoming a father and that you’re also open to remaining childless. You know you’ve gotten pleasure and satisfaction from nurturing the lives of others (in the form of your dear cats) and also that you get deep satisfaction from the freedom and independence a child-free life allows.

What don’t you know? Make a list. Write down everything you don’t know about your future life—which is everything, of course—but use your imagination. What are the thoughts and images that come to mind when you picture yourself at twice the age you are now? What springs forth if you imagine the 82 year-old self who opted to “keep enjoying the same life” and what when you picture the 82 year-old self with a thirty-nine year old son or daughter? Write down “same life” and “son or daughter” and underneath each make another list of the things you think those experiences would give to and take from you and then ponder which entries on your list might cancel each other out. Would the temporary loss of a considerable portion your personal freedom in middle age be significantly neutralized by the experience of loving someone more powerfully than you ever have? Would the achy uncertainty of never having been anyone’s father be defused by the glorious reality that you got to live your life relatively unconstrained by the needs of another? What is a good life? Write “good life” and list everything that you associate with a good life then rank them in order of importance. Have the most meaningful things in your life come to you as a result of ease or struggle? What scares you about sacrifice? What scares you about not sacrificing?

So there you are on the floor, your gigantic white piece of paper with things written all over it like a ship’s sail, and maybe you don’t have clarity still, maybe you don’t know what to do, but you feel something, don’t you? The sketches of your real life and your sister life are right there before you and you get to decide what to do. One is the life you’ll have, the other is the one you won’t. Switch them around in your head and see how it feels. Which affects you on a visceral level? Which won’t let you go? Which is ruled by fear? Which is ruled by desire? Which makes you want to close your eyes and jump and which makes you want to turn and run?

In spite of my fears, I didn’t regret having a baby. My son’s body against mine was the clarity I never had. The first few weeks of his life, I felt honestly rattled by the knowledge of how close I’d come to opting to live my life without him. It was a penetrating, relentless, unalterable thing, to be his mother, my life ending and beginning at once.

If I could go back in time I’d make the same choice in a snap. And yet, there remains my sister life. All the other things I could have done instead. I wouldn’t know what I couldn’t know until I became a mom, and so I’m certain there are things I don’t know because I can’t know because I did. Who would I have nurtured had I not been nurturing my two children over these past seven years? In what creative and practical forces would my love have been gathered up? What didn’t I write because I was catching my children at the bottoms of slides and spotting them as they balanced along the tops of low brick walls and pushing them endlessly in swings? What did I write because I did? Would I be happier and more intelligent and prettier if I had been free all this time to read in silence on a couch that sat opposite of Mr. Sugar’s? Would I complain less? Has sleep deprivation and the consumption of an exorbitant number of Annie’s Homegrown Organic Cheddar Bunniestaken years off of my life or added years onto it? Who would I have met if I had bicycled across Iceland and hiked around Mongolia and what would I have experienced and where would that have taken me?

I’ll never know and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.


This evening I sat on the one end of our lounge on a green velvet couch and Jess sat on the opposite side on a poof near the fireplace.

Across the distance I said, “I love you” and then I asked, “what are you thinking?”

“Very little.”

Same. Not much is coming to me tonight in terms of writing. Except this: Earlier today my wife sent me a message saying, among other things, “you need to have a ring of fire around what you are willing to take on emotionally.”

I’m working on that ring of fire.

P.S I married well.

Photograph of the day: The blur after bath time.

Last year sometime I listened to a podcast (and I can’t remember which one – it may have been Tim Ferris but I’m not sure of the guest). Anyway, in the episode the guest spoke about an aspect of Stoicism that helps him. He said that when he struggles with something, he tries to think about how, one day, there will be a last time and how that thought can reveal the beauty in even really hard things. He then used an example that is close to home for me. He said that on nights when it was really hard to get his baby to sleep, when the baby cried and cried, and wouldn’t give in to rest, he would think about the fact that one day his baby wouldn’t want to be held or rocked to sleep. One day it would be the last time he would hold his baby in his arms as she falls asleep. One day but he wouldn’t know which day it would be.

When you think of it like that, even the hard nights (and some of them are really hard) become very precious. I don’t manage it every night but on some nights, with Kit in my arms, I sing to her and watch the shadow of the leaves dance against the triangler window in our tiny study and I feel how exquisite it is to have her so close to me. I feel the anticipatory loss of what it may feel like to not have that one day. On those nights, I am nowhere but there, with her.

With tears in my eyes, goodnight and sleep well.

Photograph of the day: Another day, another visit to the Acquarium and even though I’ve gone many times, today was the first day I saw these feathered (I think that’s what they’re called) anemones. Taken on my phone.

As I write this, I’m in the dark (not only because it’s late and my daughter is sleeping right next to me) but because, at this moment in time, my home’s power is off. Note that I didn’t call it loadshedding. I didn’t call it that because I don’t think it is loadshedding. I do not hear my neighbor’s generator. I think this power cut is particular to us. As soon as I press publish, I’ll go top up our meter. At least on this occasion I realize that it’s our meter and not loadshedding. I cannot say that we have not sat without power for more than an hour, only to discover, hey, why are the school’s lights on?

A couple of weeks ago, I did a wedding and one of the guests said to me that language matters and expressed her opinion that loadshedding was a euphemism for blackouts. She went on to say that before she was chatting to me she was talking to a scientist and that when she expressed this same opinion about loadshedding, he said, well, actually, loadshedding is accurate because it is a scheduled and controlled cut of power to protect the power grid whereas a blackout is unplanned and uncontrolled.

This is all to say that my home is having a blackout right now. My alarm is beeping. I must go.

Photograph of the day: A beautiful nook of Johannesdal in Stellenbosch. Every nook in Johannesdal is beautiful though. This is where I did the signing for Sabine and Michael this afternoon. If you look closely you’ll see a mirror above the china plates. In it, you will see me (or my fringe).