The best part about becoming a second-time mom? Learning that your heart is endlessly expansive, says actress Gail Mabalane. By Lisa Witepski
Gail Mabalane, who is best know for her roles in Generations and, more recently, The Imposter, says she isn’t entirely sure what made her decide it was time for a second baby. “There’s never really a right time to do it. We just felt readier when Zoe turned two,” she says, noting that she and her husband, Kabelo, had always wanted their children to be as close in age as possible.
Her precious time with her toddler daughter had taught her, if there’s one thing you can count on as a parent, it’s that you’ll learn new lessons daily. Not all of those lessons are about your child − many of them are opportunities for personal growth. The most important of these, she says, is learning to let go and understand that although she is blessed to be a mother and guide her children through life, ultimately, they are on their own journey. This means putting aside whatever ideas she has for them and allowing them to just “be”.
Perhaps it’s thanks to this pragmatic, laid-back approach that both her pregnancies were physically comfortable and free from drama. Because she enjoyed her pregnancy with Zoe under the guidance of a midwife, she decided to follow the same approach when she found out about Khumo’s imminent arrival.
Her midwife also played a role in ensuring Zoe had a joyful introduction to her little brother. “She guided us on how to handle the situation. Her advice set the tone for the rest of their relationship,” Gail says. Zoe spent Khumo’s birthday at school, and was taken to the hospital by her granny. She walked into Gail’s ward to find her little brother fast asleep − a boon, because it meant Gail had her arms free to give her first-born “the biggest hug ever” rather than looking as though she would be dedicating all her time to the new baby from now on. She finally noticed Khumo, but not before she spied a gigantic box of sweets and a cuddly pink flamingo, which she was told he had especially picked out for her. “She loved him from that moment on. She thinks he’s the best baby brother!” Gail says.
Like many moms about to have their second child, she felt a little guilty and selfish for bringing about a massive change in her daughter’s life, and worried she might feel a bit neglected after the birth. She also worried that she wouldn’t have enough love for both her children. But, as she discovered, “It’s the most amazing thing to have this overwhelming love for these little humans. As moms, we just never run out.”
Khumo’s personality is starting to emerge, and Gail finds it fascinating to see how he differs from his sister. “One of the things our midwife helped us with is understanding that Khumo is an individual and must be seen in this light. This meant we were able to manage expectations. From the get-go, I was open to whatever he brought that would be different from Zoe.” Those differences are mostly in temperament: Zoe was a more relaxed baby, Gail says, although she has become more feisty with every birthday, so Gail has not ruled out the chance that Khumo might mellow as he gets older.
As for the experience of motherhood itself, Gail says she has allowed herself to ask for help this time and realises there’s no need to feel guilty about it. “I’m not as critical of myself as a mother this time,” she says.
Being able to go easy on yourself is an essential skill for mothers. “Children are a blessing I’m extremely grateful for, but they’re also hard work,” Gail says. She admits she hasn’t yet perfected the juggling act required from mothers by society; in fact, Khumo’s birth meant she had to readjust. What she does know, though, is it’s important to prioritise: keep the first things first, because the next job or the next deadline will always come along, but you can’t get back those precious moments.
Of course, it helps to have a reliable support system. “I always tell moms they mustn’t feel bad for putting themselves first from time to time. You can’t pour from an empty cup; you have to take care of yourself. I find that I’m a much better mom, wife, friend, sister and woman when I take care of myself and keep sight of the things that fulfil me most.”
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.