With Harley now seven months old, I have enough distance from those early weeks and months to look back with some perspective. I’ve written about how traumatic her birth experience was, but even then I didn’t realize how traumatic it was and how hard it was going to make things with her. I was sick, she was so very premature, and we had quite a road ahead of us. I struggled to bond with her, I felt like everything was just so hard, and I was even resenting her. It was NOT good.
Luckily, while still pregnant, I had already decided that I wanted to try and find a nice mommy and baby class to attend once she was born. There are so many out there, so I wasn’t quite sure which one I’d go for. But I chatted to Geoff, my editor at Lazygamer, and his wife used to own a TOPTOTS franchise, so I decided to give them a whirl. It turns out, that was one of the best decisions I’ve made in the first six months of Harley’s life.
I spoke to Koren, the owner of the Broadacres / Fourways branch. I just wanted to know when classes would start for babies – I figured that she’d have to be three or even six months old, plus with being premature I didn’t know about adjusted age and all the rest. She was so understanding and advised me to start that next week with Harley being eight weeks old, which meant that she was adjusted to being a newborn. There was a massage class starting for small babies and she thought that would be the best since Harley was so premature. Massage has so many benefits, especially for premature babies, so it sounded like a good idea.
TOPTOTS Broadacres / Fourways is set on a beautiful farm academy. Driving to the building feels like an escape from the busy Joburg life, a chance to get away from that constant busy feeling. And the TOPTOTS room itself is just so lovely. I love the fact that we take off our shoes, sit with bean bags, let our tiny ones relax on custom blankets. The room is filled with color and interesting things to look at for a baby, but it’s not too overwhelming, either.
Starting from that first class, I learned so much and felt so much better. Debbie was our fantastic teacher who showed me and the other mom how to massage our tiny ones, how to move their bodies, how to help them relax. I learned so much from the massage course, but it was more than that. I finally had things to do with Harley other than attend to her most basic needs. I had ways to play with her that made sense to me, that were actually DOING something. Plus, the teacher and the other mom were so very encouraging. They saw Harley when she was ridiculously tiny, and cheered for every success she experienced. They raved when Harley could hold her head up, exclaiming that she had great neck control. I didn’t even know that was something to be proud of, and yet I was filled with joy for my little one. Seeing her through their eyes, I could see just how much of a fighter Harley really was.
Now, we are into full swing with the TOPTOTS class. Every week we do something new, play with new textures, try out new activities. But we also continue to sing the same songs, and there’s such a nice routine to the classes – greeting Tom-E, playing on the adorable pilates ball, shaking rattles and rainmakers; it adds such a nice amount of predictability to the classes while still stimulating Harley in new and interesting ways. Plus, by doing the same things in new ways, I can see the way she grows. She now can hold the rattles herself, or move her head to react to sounds, or follow what’s going on, going so far as turning her head to keep looking at something. It’s exhilarating to see her growth, and to watch the other babies in the class develop. Koren has also been excited by the developments, saying:
I have been privileged to follow Harley’s development from the very beginning. Reassuring Zoe that she was doing a phenomenal job by persevering and letting Harley discover new movements and experiences on her own, meeting all her milestones; it has been wonderful to watch them both grow together. Harley is on par with the other babies of her age – no one would ever guess that she was a preemie! What an amazing journey, and I’m so glad to have witnessed it.
The moms and I have also started to really get to know each other, sharing our stories and commiserating over the struggles of being moms of babies who are around the same age. It’s such a lovely, organic way to meet new friends, to grow solid relationships with a consistency of knowing that we will see each other each week. Maybe one day soon I’ll feel comfy enough to invite the ladies for coffee outside of class, to get to know each other even more. It feels like these are women (and babies) who I will know forever.
Seven months down the line, I am just so grateful for the experiences that I’ve had with my TOPTOTS. Harley is thriving – her development is pretty much on par with where she should be at this point, which is incredible considering that she was eight weeks premature. She is so strong, so determined, and so adorable. I have fallen so madly in love with her. We’ve bonded so much, and I also feel like I am helping to enrich her development at each step, each phase.
So yes, mommy and baby classes are amazing. And even more, TOPTOTS was the one that I found to help me and Harley so very much. I cannot recommend them enough. So if you live near Fourways or Broadacres in Joburg, get in touch with them. There are branches all over the country for those interested, but it’s my branch that I can vouch for as being beyond excellent. Getting in touch with Koren and starting classes when my princess was so very tiny was one of the best decisions I’ve made since being Harley’s mommy.
Full disclosure: this is a sponsored post, but if you can’t already tell, I feel really strongly about the importance this class has had for me and for Harley.