What the hell, baby?!

(Spoiler alert: The true story you’re about to read contains a lot of poo and pee.)

Once upon a time, there was a married couple who went camping with their three children. On one of the mornings, pretty much like any other morning, the mother grabbed a cover, some wet wipes and a nappy in order to change their baby boy. Since the space in the campervan was limited, she always changed the boy on their bed. 

Her experienced nose could already tell that there was some poo in his nappy. Opening the nappy confirmed her suspicion. Not only was there poo inside, there was an unbelievable amount of poo. 

“Ooooh, baby!” cried the mother trying to wipe him clean. “What have you done? This is a horrific amount of poo!” Little did she know what horrors were yet to come.

Just as she was opening a clean nappy, more poo started coming out of the tiny human. She watched in shock as the liquidy poo spilled over the cover. 

“It was lucky I put this cover down first,” the mother thought. She cleaned the baby again and pulled out the soiled cover from underneath him, so that she could put a clean nappy on. 

At that exact moment, the baby started pooing again. This time, there was no cover underneath him, just a white sheet, which was now white no more. 

“Nooooo, baby!” screamed the mother. “That’s horrible!” 

As she struggled to move the baby to the other side of the bed without getting the rest of the sheet, the baby or herself covered in poo, she felt something warm on her leg. “What is this?” she jumped, surprised. 

What it was, was the baby peeing on the sheet, the bed, the mother and on himself. 

“Noooo!” the desperate mother screamed again. 

She wiped the baby yet again, about to put the clean nappy on, before taking the baby for a shower. 

She wasn’t quick enough, though. The baby was going for it again, peeing all over the place, and the mother found herself instinctively and unsuccessfully trying to stop the stream with some wet wipes. It only ended up with pee on her hands. 

The mother looked at the baby, depleted. Surrounded by a poopy nappy, poopy cover, poopy wet wipes and a poopy sheet (which also had pee on it now), the baby was lying there, smiling happily, kicking his chubby little legs, glistening with pee. 

The mother looked at the mayhem around her, at her own pee-covered legs and hands, and then back at her angel and said: “What the hell, baby? Not cool! Not cool at all.” 

But she was sure that the baby thought it was at least a little bit cool. 

The end. 

Breastfeeding – I know what I’m doing

My third baby is three months old and he’s my first breastfed one. Even though I always had a feeling I’d be excellent at breastfeeding (because I’m excellent at most things, obviously), for various reasons it never worked out with my first two.

Thirteen weeks after having given birth, I can finally say that I got a hang of it and that I now know what I’m doing. I’m hoping my experience can help someone who might be struggling.

***

Here are my thoughts and advice on breastfeeding, as they randomly cross my mind:

  • You have to learn how to do it! Surprisingly, breastfeeding does not come naturally. It’s a skill that needs to be learned and practised. I read about various feeding positions, I watched youtube videos, I practised the right way for my baby to latch over and over again. I was fully committed to making it work. It was a glorious moment when I heard the baby loudly swallow for the first time.
    All this being said, I did the same with the first one and it didn’t work out. So go figure.
  • Your nipples will hurt like hell. For the first couple of weeks, my nipples were sore and cracked and bruised, and I literally cried at the thought of having to feed my baby. Who would’ve thought that a toothless baby can actually pierce your nipple? Both milk and blood were coming out of holes which, I’m pretty sure, weren’t supposed to be there. I could only take a shower with my back turned to the water. Creams and ointments helped. But time passing helped the most.
    Spoiler alert: It gets better (I promise)!
  • Your breasts will hurt, like, a lot. When the milk first comes in, your breasts will be very painfully engorged for a few days. One night, when I must’ve been in pain but too tired to wake up, I dreamt I was breastfeeding a six-year-old child to get some relief (Yes, it was a weird dream, but sorry not sorry – I have no control over my unconscious mind).
    A few times I literally had to wake my precious sleeping baby up and beg him to feed to relieve the pain (Surprisingly, he wasn’t too happy about it).
    Spoiler alert: This too gets better (I promise)!
  • It’s exhausting. For the first few weeks, you’ll feel like you’re only feeding and feeding and sleeping and feeding. You’ll feel that way because it’s true. You’ll get absolutely nothing done – so you might as well make peace with it. Turn your bed into a comfortable space, have snacks, water, books and films around and just relax. It could be worse.
    Spoiler alert: Unfortunately, you won’t necessarily lose weight just because you’re breastfeeding. Especially not if you spend all your free time eating chips and spoonfuls of Nutella. I did some research for you, so you don’t have to. That being said, losing weight should be the last thing on your list of things to worry about at this moment.
  • You will worry. A lot. My baby wasn’t gaining enough weight for a couple of weeks after he was born. This made me worry about his health, but I also felt like I was failing him, not being able to provide enough food. I found not having an overview of how much he was actually eating very stressful.
    To make myself feel better I downloaded an app where I tracked when I fed and how long for. This gave me some sense of control. I also found out that if you can hear the baby swallowing and if for the first few weeks s/he has about six wet nappies and two poopy nappies a day – s/he’s getting enough food.
    I’m not worried about any of this anymore but I still track my feeds because I enjoy looking at statistics as a fun activity.
    (In March, I spent 5056 minutes breastfeeding! In May it was down to 3287. Fun, right?)
  • Your breasts will change size about ten times a day. You’ll wake up with enormous, painful balls for breasts and go to sleep looking like all life has been sucked out of your poor boobs. You’ll go through that process several times a day.
  • You will leak. You might wake up wearing soaking wet pyjamas, sleeping on a wet sheet. Also, your body might leak out of the blue, when it decides that it’s time to feed. Or it might leak when you take a hot shower. Or when you briefly look at your sleeping baby and think about how cute he is. Guess what? Walking around with wet patches on one’s T-shirt doesn’t make one feel extra-confident.
    Pro hint: Don’t forget to wear your bra pads.
  • Quite a few situations will make you laugh or cringe with embarrassment or both. Like, baby unlatching and your breastmilk spraying all over McDonald’s? Yes, that happened. That was the day I learned my baby doesn’t like it when I use his head as a nipple cap.
  • Breastfeeding gives you some quiet time. Yes, you can lie down in the dark with your baby to quietly recharge. But you can also disappear at random times to “breastfeed” and no-one will ask any questions. Just remember to bring the baby with you.
    All that being said, no-one else can take over when you need a complete break from the baby which kind of sucks.
  • It’s a no-hassle. Since I bottle-fed the first two I know how complicated it is to drag all the bottles, water and powder with you and then having to find a way of warming it all up to the right temperature. When breastfeeding, you always have your breasts with you so it’s one less thing to worry about.
    Just as a side note: I felt very self-conscious about breastfeeding in public until I realised no one looks at a breastfeeding lady – it makes them uncomfortable. Also, you only have to dress in the right way (pull the undershirt down, lift the shirt up) and your precious boobs will stay hidden. If you want them to.
  • It gets better. It does get a lot better after a few weeks, I promise. I went from absolutely hating it to mostly enjoying the quiet time with the baby. I found a whole new appreciation for my body and for what it can do. And Oskar can now pull my nipples like chewing gum and I won’t even wince (Yes, I’m saying it like it’s a good thing).

***

Breastfeeding can be stressful, frustrating and painful at the start – at least it was for me. My hope is that this post helps those who are struggling to survive those first couple of awful weeks.

It’s important to keep in mind that the most essential thing is staying sane, stable and mentally healthy, so if you feel overwhelmed and like it’s all too much for you to handle, read here about how I dealt with bottle-feeding my first two.

Whichever way you decide to do it, just don’t forget to feed your baby and it will all be fine. You got this.

Loneliness that is a miscarriage

People are advised to keep their pregnancy a secret for the first three months. Safety reasons. In case the pregnancy doesn’t work out, you don’t want to have to go back and announce to everyone that you’re now not pregnant anymore.

My first two pregnancies were easy and my little embryos grew to be healthy and happy babies. I waited for about 10 weeks before I made it public, but waiting was tough.

Why was it tough? The first three months of pregnancy are generally awful. You have to understand that you’re pregnant first. Then let it sink in. Then allow for your perspective of the world to slowly change, with your due date becoming the central point and the future baby turning into the main focus. You’re equally worried and excited. You’re also nauseated, irritable, exhausted – you’re not your normal self. You want to murder everyone, cry about it, lay down and sleep next to a toilet bowl.

Sounds overwhelming and exhausting? Wait, there’s more. While you’re dealing with all these newly discovered emotions AND physical discomfort, you have to keep it all a secret and pretend like everything’s fine (aka lie to everyone).

And then, in some cases, the pregnancy doesn’t work out. When that happens to you, your reality dramatically changes yet again, although no one is aware. You told no one that you were pregnant, you can’t tell anyone that you aren’t pregnant anymore. You’re angry, sad, confused, disappointed, lost, or all of it at once, depending on the time of the day. And still, you can’t mention it when people casually ask you how you’re doing. You’re left to deal with it all pretty much on your own.

***

In the eighth week of pregnancy, we found out that the embryo wasn’t developing properly. Since there was an indication of a heartbeat, it was difficult to make any definite statements. We were told to come back a week later for a checkup.

I barely survived the week. For seven neverending days, I was going back and forth between optimism and deep sadness, with a cloud of worry constantly blurring my mind. I couldn’t focus on anything else. I googled “eight weeks pregnant weak heartbeat”, “eight weeks pregnant embryo too small”, “late implementation”, “miscarriage”.  I read every possible article I could find online. I desperately clung to the positive stories, even though, deep inside, I knew what the outcome of our next appointment was going to be.

A week later the ultrasound showed there was no heartbeat anymore. The embryo had stopped growing. I accepted the news calmly, focused on the formalities: What next? We decided to wait for my body to recognise the pregnancy as not viable and to reject the embryo. In other words, we were waiting for me to miscarry naturally.

That didn’t happen. My body had no idea what was going on. My breasts were still painful and growing. I was suffering from nausea. I gained weight. My belly looked pregnant. I found it mind-boggling how out of sync my brain and my body were.

My brain was trying to convince me that there was a positive side to the situation: “We’re about to move. Moving house will be so much easier without a newborn around” / “There are so many different projects to work on at moment, not being pregnant gives me more time”  / “I’m able to drink again. I can use this time to go out with all of my friends” / …

All the while – my body still believed I was pregnant. It wasn’t letting go. This was, I found out, a missed miscarriage. My body missed the fact that it was supposed to miscarry.

***

Sixteen days after the last appointment, we scheduled a D&C, a surgical procedure.  It was performed under a full anaesthesia so I was unaware of what was going on. I was brave (or numb?) before the procedure. I felt weak and confused upon waking up. I bled a lot and slept a lot for a couple of days. They told me to rest for two weeks. My brain told me to get up and go. Two days after the procedure, the bleeding almost stopped and I acted as if nothing had happened. I decided not to think about it anymore, now that it was all finished. No point in crying.

Blocking the sadness and trying to forget didn’t work, though. You can only force yourself to feel nothing for this long. About three weeks after my D&C, I broke down. Sadness and emptiness jumped at me and caught me off guard. I ended up sobbing loudly for a long time, equally confused and relieved at what I was (finally) feeling.

I realised I never allowed myself to mourn properly. And I needed to. Not only to mourn the baby who wasn’t meant to be but even more importantly, to mourn my happy, excited and pregnant self who lived in a different reality for a while and who seized to exist unexpectedly.

***

I would’ve been 16 weeks pregnant today and I’m allowing myself to recognise the sadness and the loss. Going through it left me feeling very lonely, more than anything. It wasn’t because I felt like I couldn’t / shouldn’t talk to anyone about it. It was because I had no idea how to talk about it. I also didn’t know how to cope on my own with this deeply personal and intimate pain.

I wish it wasn’t socially acceptable (and encouraged) to pretend in front of everyone, myself included, that everything is all right just to save us all from feeling uncomfortable for a bit. There are more women than you know going through exactly the same horror story and it would be amazing to be able to share and get support.

It would’ve been helpful for me to be able to tell people when they ask me how I was doing: “I’m feeling horrible. For a while I was pregnant and happy and excited and I’m not pregnant anymore” and for them just to nod and say “I’m sorry you had to go through it, that really sucks”. That would’ve been enough.

Growing, part I.

For Molly, on her fifth birthday.
Mama

We decided to sell our campervan by the end of the month. We were sure selling was a right decision: the van was old, it was falling apart and it was costing us a fortune to repair it each time something broke. Which happened often. Besides, we felt that we needed to move on: we needed to grow up, be more serious, more responsible and stable.

We chose France as a destination for our last trip. It was safe, familiar and civilised and that seemed appropriate. Knowing that was our last time in the campervan made the trip far less enjoyable, though. There was a lot of pressure to get the best out of our holiday and that unavoidably left us feeling unhappy with each passing day. We rarely said it out loud, but both of us silently feared that the adventurous, spontaneous travelers in us were being replaced by boring tourists. At the start of the week, we’d take turns convincing each other how important it was not to set our expectations too high. “We’re not as young as we used to be,” “We need to live a calmer and healthier life,” “We should just take it easy, relax and enjoy ourselves”. We were trying hard to make ourselves believe that sitting on a sunny terrace of a touristy café can be as fulfilling as getting drunk with locals in dark bars. We just had to find a way to enjoy doing nothing.

I felt the change in us in the second week of our holiday. By then we completely embraced our slower pace of travel. We started sleeping in comfortable campsites instead of camping wild, we were enjoying getting up early feeling refreshed instead of hung-over, we spent time sitting in front of the van reading or just watching people walk past. The atmosphere between us changed as well: we spent more time focused on each other, instead of trying to find people to hang out with.

It was a Tuesday in April and we had been driving down a long, straight country road for a while. We were both lost in thought, completely silent, listening to the music on the radio muffled by the loud noise of our campervan engine. I was taking in the calming view of the green meadows and tall trees while feeling the warmth of the sun on my bare feet on the dashboard. There was nothing in the distance apart from more road and more meadows and more trees. I was at peace and content.

Suddenly I felt a strange sensation, unlike anything I ever felt before. Was it a pop? Or a tickle? I wasn’t able to define it but I immediately knew what it was. It was you. You moved. I placed my hand on my belly and looked over at your Dad: his eyes were focused on the road and he was quietly singing along to the music on the radio, getting all the lyrics wrong. Feeling me watching him, he looked back at me and smiled.

I wanted to tell him that I felt you move, that now finally everything’s starting to make sense, but I stopped myself as I was about to open my mouth. I decided to wait until we pulled over. I wanted you just to myself for a bit first.
„Isn’t this nice?“ said your Dad with a happy grin on his face.
„Very nice“, I thought.
I still wasn’t sure what we were doing, but at that moment I understood why we were doing it. You finally started feeling real.

Beauty’s in the eye of the beholder

Today I’m sick. That means I have a stuffy nose, my throat aches, my head aches and I’m feeling feverish. It also means I’m very irritable and hate the world and myself. Today’s one of those days when I’m aware of how pale I am, how awful my skin looks, how flabby my stomach is, how much weight I need to lose… I feel so disgusting today that I have absolutely no energy to make an effort while dressing in the morning.

I grab whatever’s in front of me. Literally. This leaves me taking kids to the daycare in a dark-blue and white stripey skirt, a black and grey spotty cardigan and a T-shirt with a cartoon character on it (which is never appropriate if you’re 34, I don’t really know why I have it in my closet anyway). My hair’s up in a ponytail which is a not-so-secret code for “dirty”. I desperately need a shower. I smell. I’m all gross. Still, I spend the day without doing anything about it, except complaining to the baby about how lazy I am and how I should go jogging. And then I feel even more miserable and have some chocolate instead.

The day passes between the waves of self-pity and self-loathing and it’s already evening.
As I put Molly into bed and give her a sweaty hug, I have already decided to call it a day and curl up in bed. Then she stretches lazily, all cute and cuddly in her night-dress and kisses me back while running her always-so-sticky fingers through my greasy hair and says: “Lijepa mama” (“Pretty mama”). And I almost cry.
This was an hour ago. In the meantime, I took a long shower, washed my hair, did my eyebrows and already chose clothes for tomorrow.
I promise myself I’ll do my best to look the way my sweet daughter sees me. Most of the days at least.

Dealing with a minor hysterical breakdown

I dropped Molly off at the daycare and was on my way to register our new camper van when I got stuck in traffic. Which would have been annoying but bearable if Benny had been asleep but he was wide awake and complaining.

Groaning turned into whining turned into screaming. For a full hour and a half, I was trying to sing, shhh Benny and every now and then shove a dummy in his mouth and keep it there. All the while I was driving slowly enough that I was able to attend to Benny in the back seat, but fast enough that I don’t get beeped at. For a full hour and a half Benny was upset and after a while, I was emotionally exhausted.

Five minutes later it was difficult to tell which one of us was crying more loudly. Having a minor hysterical breakdown was my cue to pull over (sobbing while driving across two lanes full of very angry drivers to the only empty parking space I’ve seen for ages) and treat myself to some nice breakfast (or any food, actually!).

The second I took him out of the car, Benny was in a great, smiley mood which made me feel a lot better but it also made me re-think my life philosophy: I realised that we were healthy, we were about to have some tasty food, it was a very sunny day and there was actually absolutely nothing to be stressed about. Everything else could wait. So I forced myself to breathe deeply and enjoy my unexpected moment for myself.
As we were about to get back in the car of course I was hoping for a fast, tear-free and enjoyable drive.

But I knew it was OK to just pull over and find something else to do if either of us got too stressed. And honestly – both options sounded good.

Breast is the best. Except when it’s not.

I find never ending discussions about breastfeeding and its alternatives really unnecessary and annoying. Let me explain: First of all, I find the biological side of breastfeeding puzzling. It’s supposed to be the most natural thing in the world, still majority of my friends struggle with it.

So I do understand discussions about breastfeeding in sense of reaching out for help. Online forums can be extremely helpful in those situations and it’s great to hear experts’ advice and encouraging stories from women who went through something similar to us. What I don’t understand is the need to discuss it over and over and over again – because there’s a lot of passive-aggression, judging and, consequently, feelings of guilt.

I read tons of online articles and forum discussions on how to properly breastfeed and why breast is the best and then even more of apologetic articles written by women who couldn’t breastfeed and who felt guilty about it. Aside from usual statements on how breastfeeding is healthier, cheaper and better for bonding, many, many other questions arise, the ones we fear to ask aloud, scared that someone might think that we have no clue what we’re doing: Am I really a better mum if I breastfeed? If so, how long should I breastfeed for to be considered a good mum? Is six months enough or should my six year old also get some breast milk in the morning before a hard day at school? Is just breastfeeding enough? Do I have to stare deeply into my baby’s eyes to form that special bond? How long do I have to look at him for while I feed? Am I a bad mum if I just watch TV while he does his thing?
Am I a failure if I can’t breastfeed? How long do I have to keep trying for it to work before I can give up? Am I selfish if I consciously decide not to breastfeed without even trying? 

It gets even more complicated because women are not just divided into those who breastfeed and those who don’t. There are those women who don’t have a lot of milk so they have to breastfeed, pump and also feed their baby from a bottle. And then there’s a whole world of mums who exclusively pump because their bodies produce lots of milk but for some reason their babies can’t drink from the breast.

After having two kids and struggling with my own insecurities, I consider myself somewhat of an expert. On not breastfeeding.

With my first child I fit into the last category. My daughter, for some reason, couldn’t or wouldn’t drink from the breast and, because breast milk is the best and I wasn’t going to be a bad mum, I spent twenty five minutes every two and half hours, day and night, attached to a milk pump and then feeding my daughter expressed milk. I did this for ten weeks. It made going anywhere impossible – I only had a window of two hours to get us ready, to go out and to come back before I had to attach myself to the pump again to save my breasts from exploding. I was also scared that if I didn’t pump regularly, my milk production would stop and at that point, nothing seemed worse than the idea of my baby drinking horrible, evil, poisonous formula. This meant that I also barely slept. I had to be up every two and half hours and more often than not, Molly was awake between the pumping sessions. This also meant that when Molly was crying or wanted to be held, I wasn’t able to pick her up because I was pumping milk which was supposed to keep her healthy and allergy free.

Due to some complications at birth, I only got to see my second baby a day and a half after he was born. At the hospital they immediately brought in the pump and told me to wake up every three hours and pump for twenty minutes. I was groggy from the anaesthetic, weak from the operation, sad for not having seen my child and worried if he was healthy but still I obediently attached myself to the pump again. When it was time to wake up again at 3 a.m., I already feared I wasn’t going to keep it up. My body shut down and it wasn’t producing any milk. I kept having flashbacks to all the stress with Molly and no guarantee that the breastfeeding was going to work out this time when I finally do get to hold my baby. Then I visited him in NICU where I tried to breastfeed but it was impossible – he was crying hysterically, making me want to cry myself. The second time I visited, I was told it was better to not even try breastfeeding at that moment because Benny was hungry and was already used to drinking 50ml from the bottle – since I had no milk, putting him on the breast was only going to upset him and tire him out. Weak and hormonal, it took a lot of self control to stop myself from falling apart, but that was when I finally made my decision – I will not attempt to breastfeed any more this time and I definitely won’t exclusively pump. I will gather my energy and strength until he’s released from the intensive care and then I’ll give him all the attention, warmth and love I have. And a bottle. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but once I made it, I felt a sense of relief.

I weighed my options, I thought about what works best for me and the baby and decided to stick with it. There wasn’t as much guilt connected to it as with the first baby, probably because I was more self-assured, but instead came anger at all the women who judge those who can’t breastfeed and sympathy for those who keep up with it out of guilt even though it’s driving them insane.

Ironically, even this post is written out of sense of need to explain the reasons behind my decision not to breastfeed. Even though I’m sure my decision was the right one for us, deep inside me I hope that who ever reads this understands me and agrees with me. And there’s so much wrong with that.

I needed to write all of this down as a message to all the new mothers out there – it’s something I wanted to hear two and a half years ago, but didn’t have anyone to tell me: We’re all very well informed about the benefits of breastfeeding and we all agree it’s the best when it works out the way it’s supposed to, so if someone decides against it, be sure that they had a very good reason for it. There’s no need to discuss it, to question it or to judge it. Sadly, there’ll always be people to judge our way of raising our children and (not) breastfeeding is just the beginning. But I strongly believe that as long as I do my own personal best, I can be proud of myself and that’s what’s important.
We all have the same doubts and feelings of guilt. Be brave enough to do whatever feels right for you and your baby and don’t worry about what people around you think. If you want to / can breastfeed, take that boob out proudly! If you don’t want to / can’t, know that you’re not the only one and that you’re a great mum nevertheless.
Simple exercise: Next time when you’re out on the street, take a look around you and see if you can guess who was breastfed and who was not. You can’t? Strange. What if they gave you a history of their illnesses and told you about their relationship with their mums? Still impossible? Right. Go and enjoy being a guilt-free mum.

And if you think whatever you’re doing is the best and the right way to do it and you’re really great at this being-a-mum thing, keep it to yourself. No one wants to hear you brag about it. There’s always someone doing it completely differently and that’s fine. Also – none of your business.

Does the perfect birth exist?

I never dreamed of having a “perfect” birthing experience – I didn’t come up with a birthing plan, I never sat around imagining what it was going to be like.

I pushed it out of my mind because I knew that a) eventually it had to happen one way or another and that b) whoever’s in the delivery room with me (nurses, doctors) will know a lot more about giving birth than me, so they’ll be able to advise me on what to do if needed, not the other way around. Also, giving birth to Molly was relatively straightforward and confirmed my idea that the best way to think about giving birth was just letting nature do its thing. I thought I would just be happy to hold my healthy baby, regardless of how he arrived on Earth.

That’s why the emotions I felt after giving birth to our (spoiler alert: healthy and perfect) baby boy on the first day of the year – sadness, disappointment, grieving – took me by surprise. It took me almost three weeks to work through what I was feeling and to get my mind to stop rewinding what happened that night.

And what happened was a perfect birthing experience turned completely unexpectedly into the scariest birthing experience before I could even grasp what was going on.

Long story short, after only 45 minutes of painful contractions (and a couple of hours of not very painful ones), we were in the hospital and in a great mood. I was already 9 centimeters dilated, “our” midwife (who we had known for two years, liked and trusted) broke my water, I started to push, thinking how great this was and how it was going to be the quickest birth ever and I was going to be the boss of births. Birthing queen. OK, I was also in a huge amount of pain and freaking out, completely forgetting to breathe properly, but I knew this was the last stage, the shortest one and everything was going to be over soon. And then I heard the midwife shout “Shit! The umbilical cord!” as she pushed the emergency button.

In a second, there were six people around me. I was told they had to perform a C-section right away, one of the doctors literally pushed the baby back inside me and had her fist up there while they were wheeling me into the surgery. Jay had to stay where he was and neither of us knew what was going on. Honestly, I was relieved at that point because I knew I was going to be knocked out. I was too scared to stay awake for whatever was about to happen.

What actually happened was the umbilical cord prolapse. Not to scare anyone, it happens so rarely that our midwife only knew about it in theory and hasn’t experienced it once in eight years of working at the hospital – according to Wikipedia, it happens in 1% of the cases. I guess we have to consider ourselves special. It basically means that the umbilical cord comes out before the baby (in our case it probably happened because I had a lot of amniotic fluid and the baby’s head wasn’t completely engaged yet). If the woman continues to push the baby out, the pressure on the cord from the baby stops the oxygen flow which can cause brain damage. Or worse.

Surviving the next couple of days is a separate topic and deserve its own blog post (or doesn’t).

Fast forward to me being home and, in addition to my hormones going crazy anyway, having constant flashbacks to that night. The picture that kept coming back to me was Jay’s smiling face as he changed my shirt and dressed me in my new pajamas with buttons which I bought specially for the occasion. That was right after we found out I was 9 centimeters dilated and right before the midwife broke my waters. It was a perfect moment in which I was completely connected to my wonderful husband and felt a strong sense of love for him, for our daughter and for our son who we were about to meet. I woke up an hour later with all the buttons on my new shirt ripped because no one had time to fiddle with them to attach me to all different sorts of machines.

It wasn’t the fact that I needed a C-section that made me feel bad, it was the sudden change from happy and excited to horrified and alone that left me in a state of shock. It left me with a feeling of having been robbed of the “perfect birthing experience” even though I didn’t have an idea of one to start with. Three weeks later I threw away the ripped shirt and finally managed to vocalise all the sadness I felt when I thought back to us being happy in that little room. It felt cathartic – I talked at lengths about it with Jay, we cried a lot and came out of it “renewed and restored”.

In the end, I guess every birth that ends with a healthy and happy baby should be considered a perfect birthing experience.
With some, it just takes longer for that feeling to sink in…

Every day is your birthday

We celebrated Molly’s second birthday two weeks ago. Her Granny and Grampa came from England for a week and on Sunday, which was Molly’s actual birthday, we opened all the presents together, sang “Happy birthday” and went for breakfast to our favourite breakfast place in the whole world – McDonald’s. (You read that right.)

After Molly’s nap, a proper party started. There was a cake (I baked the whole previous evening and was terrified of poisoning our guests, taking my non-existent baking powers into the account), there was a birthday candle (the one from last year, in the shape of the number one, because I forgot to buy a candle this year. Plus, Molly can’t read or count yet so why bother) and since three of her little friends came over, there were even more presents to open. Little neighbour from downstairs brought Molly a home-made birthday crown which she wore proudly for the whole two minutes and there was even more of “Happy birthday” singing.

 Today, two weeks later, Molly was getting ready to go to the daycare when she noticed the crown on the shelf and quickly put it on her head. Then she announced: “Molly birthday” and started singing Happy birthday to herself. The crown stayed on all the way to the car. More singing. The crown was on in the car, more singing and demanding that “Mama also sings!” I tried explaining that it wasn’t actually her birthday and that we could sing a different song but was turned down with the best possible argument (“No”), followed by a loud version of “Happy birthday, dear Molly”, sung to Molly by Molly.

While I was getting Molly out of the car, I noticed that the crown fell off her head and I quickly hid it under the car seat while distracting her by pointing out a very interesting rock on the ground. Not having to explain to the daycare staff that it wasn’t actually her birthday again but that she would appreciate it if they sang along made my morning a lot easier.

Honestly, mostly because I would have probably felt upset if I had found out that they refused to sing and treat my birthday girl with all the attention she needed on her special day.
Even if it was her second birthday second time this year.

Letter to my daughter in expectation of her little brother

MokicaMy dear Molly,

Waiting for your brother to arrive and change our lives completely once again, leaves me with all sorts of mixed emotions.

The concept of mixed emotions might be a little bit difficult for you to grasp because I’m struggling with explaining it as well. So far you can only name three emotions: happy, sad and “asleep” (“spawa”), which I know isn’t an emotion, but you don’t. You also feel anger and frustration a lot and I’ve been trying to encourage you to name that as well, but you’re too angry to listen to me at those moments.

I don’t feel sad or happy or “asleep” but I do feel lots of different emotions which I find difficult to pin down and name. For your sake, I’ll keep it basic.

Waiting for your brother makes me a little bit sad.

I’m fully aware of the fact that the time when there were just the three of us (I’m leaving Klara out of this emotional mess, she’s literally asleep, by the way) existed in our special little world, is about to end. I have to admit something: after you were born, I cried a lot. I felt lost and confused. It felt like waking up in a parallel universe, where most of the things looked the same but functioned in a different way. And no one told me the rules of the new world. All I had were some contradictory guidelines which I wasn’t sure if and how to follow. So I cried, wishing your dad and me had our old life back, in which we were allowed to be as irresponsible as we wanted. I was looking at you and thought you were cute, but I had no idea what to do with you. 

That slowly started changing, though. Your Dad and I started spending our evenings looking at your photos and talking about how adorable you were in every way and how much we missed you after you fall asleep even though we were grateful you weren’t awake anymore. Soon we couldn’t remember what our lives were like before and what it was that we actually missed. At the moment the three of us exist and enjoy our little bubble, with our intern jokes, and you are definitely our equal. We went from being a couple to being a family of three.

It makes me a bit sad to think that this phase will come to an end. That we will never again be a family of three and you will never again be the only baby we focus on. It makes me sad to think that your brother won’t just be changing your Dad and me, this time your little world will be rocked and turned upside down as well and you’re so tiny and confused as is already.

At the same time, I’m happy. You changed our lives for better, and I know that your brother will do the same. And it will be lovely to experience all of the first smiles, laughs, rolling over, attempts at sitting up, attempts to walk, to speak, to trick us into staying up just a bit longer once again… We learned from you how amazing all of that is and this time you’ll be with us to experience it all and comment on it. The three of us, the “older” ones, can sit together and comment on how silly the baby’s being. I’m excited about your brother learning to say your name more than I’m excited about him calling me “Mama”.

I’m happy that you’ll get to be someone’s big sister because you’re amazing and you have so much to teach him. You thought us so much when we thought we knew everything already! You showed us how not to rush places but instead to stop every now and then and collect some rocks and sticks (maybe smell the flowers while we’re at it), how to put Lego blocks together to make a garage which fits nothing at all but has some animals on the roof and how to resist the urge to build that said garage “properly”, how to demand more of what we enjoy because there’s no reason we should stop kissing just because it’s bath time. And your brother will know nothing to start with. What a great tiny blank canvas for you to paint on with your cute little dirty fingers.

I’m also happy because I can tell that you’re growing into a great little girl which means that your Dad and I are doing a good job, even though we were so confused and scared at the start. It makes me braver when I think about your little baby brother and our future lives together.

In addition to all of this, I’m starting to understand what to feel “asleep” (“spawa”) might mean. We can consider it an emotion because I could now describe it as a feeling of complete calm that resurfaces when you’re lying in bed, thinking about your baby girl who’s growing into a proper girl and her baby brother who’ll we’ll get to meet soon. “Asleep” means enjoying your present life, feeling happy and fulfilled reflecting on the past and excitedly looking forward to the future. That is how your mama feels. A little bit sad, but mostly happy and definitely “spawa”.

Volim te.
Mama