The city has for a while been full of reminders that Irish Mother’s Day is coming up next week.
So happy early Mother’s Day Ireland!
1// Remember who you are
This is what my own mom would say every day when we left for school. Remember who you are is still a phrase that I give a lot of thought to as an adult. Remember that you are loved. Remember that you are valued. Remember your principles. Remember your talents. Remember where you come from. Remember your dreams.
It meant a lot to me that my mother thought it important that I keep all those things in mind throughout even the most regular boring days. I think that it is during the uneventful unchallenging times of our life that our true selves are revealed. (more…)
I was just reading through my old weekly pregnancy updates – Ugh! I love that this blog allows me to easily rewind to and study past events, it’s seriously a bigger help than I thought! – and I realized that I’d documented my daughter’s development for almost 2 years, and then I just stopped 3 months ago.
So here’s another update to catch you up – and for my future self to laugh about.
I remember being so addicted to studying up on every tiny milestone she should be reaching during her first months that it seemed like she wasn’t changing at all. I can’t say the same for the first months of her second year. I’ve probably lost my Pinterest-addiction a little but she’s definitely changing every single day. I’m so amazed at how quickly she picks up on things – and especially the things that I’m not by any means trying to teach her.
If we’re watching a show or if Marcus and I are having a conversation she’ll just randomly repeat sounds or words she hears. She mimics my workout exercises and especially my exasperated exhales. She always, – and this one almost freaks me out – always knows when to start waving bye-bye even before she’s encouraged. After close observation however I have a hunch that she might pick up on key phrases like “I love you”, “I miss you” or “see you soon” that indicate that a conversation is coming to a close. Genius!
Another thing that surprises me is how feminine she is already now. I haven’t really encouraged this either, mainly because I thought she was too young to pick up on it. But she looooves dressing up! In pretty much whatever she can find. A typical “outfit” right now is her winter boots (she’ll bring her boots to me about 3-4 times a day exclaiming “tsch!” (shoes), hand them to me with a smile, neatly sit down in my lap and lift one of her feet), a kui kui nut lei we brought home from Hawaii, and her Halloween pumpkin bucket (and she doesn’t just hold it in her hand, she wears it on her elbow with her hand and fingers strutting up in the air). She’ll walk around like that, maybe swapping the necklace for a random clothing item she finds, like her father’s tie or one of her onesies, and stop and admire herself in the mirror. Like.. is she really old enough for this??
She is pretty strong-willed, but I guess we’ve suspected that for a while. It used to just be cute and we’d just laugh and shake our heads when she’d scream a high-pitched squeal when she didn’t get her way or she demanded assistance. But I’ll admit I’m starting to find it a little embarrassing. I want her to know that’s not a way to communicate. And soon!
More than anything she’s growing so fast physically. She can reach more and more things and unfortunately also climb up on more and more things. It’s not uncommon for me to turn a corner, tear through the room to barely grab her hand as she’s falling off one of the chairs with a move so swift that Spiderman’s jaw would drop through the floor.
Being the mother of a toddler feels strangely empowering as opposed to having a small baby, I think. I’m getting a glimpse of what it’ll be like to teach her manners, morals and standards and it’s forcing me to set higher standards for myself too. It’s making me really curious how being a mother is going to change me as a person.
And now I’ve made myself miss her so much I just want to run to the bedroom and wake her up even though it’s 11pm!
My life is very ordinary now. I’m a stay at home mom like so many before me. I do laundry, clean up toys, change diapers and clean the bathroom. It’s a never ending job and I’ll probably be doing it for a long long time.
But once in a while, when it’s quiet and I can take a break. Like right now, sitting here in the corner. I can take a good look around my cluttered little apartment and realize that I have woken up in a life-size version of a fantasy I imagined over and over again as a kid. I’m playing house.
And I’m the mom.
I managed to get the role I always dreamed of. I have a husband who goes to work, a baby who needs comforting and a home that needs making. This now magical little apartment is my kingdom, and I’m in charge. I’m the mom.
My white stained couch, the dirty dishes on the counter and the full laundry baskets are colorful little opportunities for me to beautify my realm. They’re my responsibility and I will do them justice. I have the power to make my home as radiant as I want.
It’s also my responsibility to prepare dinner. I can cook whatever I decide. Or maybe I can make something my husband would like. Something that would make him happy after a long day at work. Cause he’s the dad. He’s my husband, he loves me and he’s the dad. I chose a good one to play that role.
My baby girl is crying, she wants me. And I know how to comfort her, because I’m her mom. We can read books, she likes that. Soon when she is older I will teach her to read and write herself. I will teach her good manners and how to be kind and friendly to others. I will teach her to be a good daughter. That’s her role.
Thinking about this makes me smile, I almost feel silly. Because this is my life and it’s not make believe. It’s real and it’s exactly what I wanted – what I always dreamed of. It’s like the floor sparkles a little more when I scrub it, like glitter falls when I dust the shelves. I can see the magic. It comes from living your dream. I got it. I have other dreams now, but none will ever be as big or meaningful as this one. I’m just feeling extremely grateful I guess. Grateful for everything I have, that my dream came true. But especially grateful that I have learned to see the magic even when the dream has become ordinary.
I was just telling Marcus the other day, “I used to dream of the day we’d have a dishwasher. Now we have one and I just complain that it smells funny.”
We’ve moved around a lot and throughout the course of our marriage we’ve experienced a few different humble living situations. We’ve scraped, we’ve bought and sold. And I feel I’ve really come to learn the truth of the principle that gratitude equals happiness.
But like I said, I think the hardest times to be grateful have actually been during the times when we’ve had a little more. Marcus got a solid job, and it got hard not to complain about working conditions and salaries. We got our own nice apartment with a dishwasher and washing machine, and it got hard not to complain about it not being ship shape all the time. We had a baby, and it got hard not to complain about lack of sleep and lack of time.
I saw this in my Facebook feed the other day and I’m so grateful to the woman who shared it. When I was done reading through it I’d completely forgotten about my complaints and I felt how it actively allowed me the space for a little more happiness.
I made it! We made it! My four weeks of working full-time are over!
Almost two months ago we moved our family back to Stockholm, Sweden where we were married and began our life together. Marcus had just gotten his first post-college job, we had gotten an apartment and we were facing a few months of the hard transitioning from student loans and practically backpacking to finally settling down. It doesn’t sound that hard. But what with moving costs, deposit, buying furniture and all the extra knick-knack such as dishwasher salt, toilet brushes and the likes, it slowly amounts to quite a lot.
So evidently and inevitably, I needed to take a job to help balance our economy. And I wasn’t too excited about it. It’s not that I hate working, but I really had a hard time accepting that I’d have to turn over my baby to someone else during the day, even though it would only have to be for a short period.
I applied for and got a short-term local cleaning job. It was close and it was only four weeks. It was perfect. We worked it out with Marcus’ family to help babysit. We were all set.
The first day was not fun but after that it was surprisingly easy. I left Baby in the morning and came back home, and Baby didn’t really seem to care too much. I really came to like my job and my colleagues. It became a routine. And the month went by quickly.
And yet I hope I’ll never ever have to do it again.
It has definitely been refreshing to have more time to myself and I’m sure if you turn it some certain way you could argue that it’s been healthy for Baby too. But these four weeks have only motivated me to work even harder to avoid ever having to leave my child for a job ever again.
Can I be bold and share some of my reasons?
I took her for granted
The first thing I noticed that was different after I’d started working was how accustomed I’d become to the fact that I only had to take care of my daughter for a few hours every day. On weekends I noticed that I got impatient with her and caught myself counting how many hours were left before I could put her in bed. I’d become used to someone else dealing with the annoying things. Changing her stinky diapers, feeding her when she didn’t want to eat, making her fall asleep and even just giving her my full attention when really I had other things to do. It made me feel really sad that I was considering her a chore rather than a privilege.
And I didn’t really, but subconsciously something had changed.
It scared me once I realized. I don’t want to give myself reason to be annoyed with my kids – especially when it’s not at all their fault.
Frankly, I’m in awe at how so many mothers can work full-time, be the mother of multiple kids and run a home at the same time. The other day I cleaned the bathroom after work. Between having dinner, putting Baby in bed and cleaning up after dinner. I felt so accomplished!
For two years now we’ve moved from one sublet to another. None of the furniture was ours and even when we cleaned it up really nice it still didn’t feel like home. It’s my dream to be able to be in charge of making our apartment feel like home for my family. To make sure it’s nice and clean with dinner on the table when Marcus gets home. Creating a space where it’s easy for my family to feel happy. I think everyone deserves a home like that – and I realize now that it takes a lot of time and energy. If I can provide that service for my family, I’d consider it one of my most prestigious duties.
It didn’t make sense
Probably the weirdest part in all of this was figuring out the babysitting. It seemed so silly to me that I was handing over my full-time job (Baby) to someone else so I could go do a different less meaningful full-time job. I was looking for someone to do a job for me that no one in the world could do as good as I could. I was getting a job because I needed money, but I’d have to pay some of that money to have someone else take care of my child. My child, my first priority and most important job.
I don’t know. It just felt weird. And pointless.
It just felt unnatural
Last but not least, I just wanted to be with my baby. The night before my first day I cried myself to sleep. I kept picturing her confused face as I turned around and walked out the door. I truly truly did not want to leave her.
Although I completely trusted my babysitters, it hurt to know that someone else was rocking her to sleep, feeding her, practicing walking with her, playing with her. That I wasn’t there.
And isn’t that enough? Isn’t simply wanting to a good enough reason to stay at home?
I know that some people don’t have a choice. They just need two incomes. I completely understand – that’s why I just took a job. And I’m just counting my lucky stars now that I don’t need to work full-time right now. I may need to again in the future. But boy, am I gonna try my best to avoid it. Working from home, lowering our costs – anything.
And I really like my job and my colleagues – I’m happy that I can still work evening shifts. I just felt like I was in the wrong place. That I was needed way more in my home. That I could even contribute more to society in my home. By raising a strong family. It weirded me out that somehow someone might think I was being lazy for wanting to work full-time. For choosing my family over a job or a career.
And am I lazy? For wanting to be a stay-at-home-mom? For wanting to be the one who teaches my kids their first words, teaches them to walk. For wanting to be there when they come home from school. For wanting to raise my kids by example and not by theory. For wanting to provide a home where my kids can always find me. Can I be a little cheesy and add, where my kids can come home to the smell of freshly baked bread and private piano lessons by their mom? Is that really too weird?
I’m a real stay at home mom now. I am a mom. And I stay at home. From work at least. Our life has changed a bit since Marcus started working. We are no longer stay at home parents. Now I’m a stay at home mom.
Marcus’ alarm goes off at 6.30. Mine goes off at 6.35, just in case. We’ve calculated 10-15 minutes to lay in bed and talk. We haven’t quite shaken that habit yet. It’s nice. Marcus whispers ’good morning’ in Baby’s ear. She smiles in her sleep but doesn’t open her eyes. It’s too early. She rolls over. Face down. We laugh.
We talk over today’s plans. Marcus should be home by 7. In the meantime I’ll watch the baby. Our life is pretty simple. Marcus tickles Baby’s nose. ’Wake up!’ She starts whimpering. I give Marcus a pleading look. He leaves to take a shower.
I lie back on my pillow. I’m still pretty sleepy.
Marcus opens the door. I must’ve dozed off for 10 minutes. Baby is awake too. She’s already pulling herself up on her wobbly legs and grabbing the headboard tight. Her diaper looks pretty heavy. I grab her around her waist and kiss her chubby neck. She giggles.
On the changing table she really starts to wake up. I let her hold a pack of baby wipes to keep her occupied while I slap on a clean diaper. I put her back in her PJs, the day hasn’t quite started yet.
Marcus emerges from the bedroom. He can’t decide on a tie. I say the blue one. I prefer solid colors. By the way, he has time to have breakfast together if I want. I agree, one thing less to have to do alone with the baby.
It’s bright in the kitchen. I put Baby in her high chair and she happily slaps her fat hands on the table. Marcus gets out some dark bread. I’ll have that too. I can’t really reach the cereal anyway. Milk? Yes please.
Marcus is almost finished with his food when I sit down. He’s actually in a hurry, the train leaves in 20 minutes. I take a couple of quick bites out of my sandwich and get up to kiss him goodbye. I hug him tight. Five more seconds. Baby gets a kiss too but whips around in her chair when he leaves the room. She starts to cry. I pull her out of her chair. Marcus jumps back into the room. ’It’s okay, Baby!’ He’s surprised that she got sad. We walk into the hall and I ask Marcus when he thinks he’ll be home. Still 7. Another quick kiss before the door closes behind him.
I hoist Baby up higher on my hip and walk to the window. We watch him walk down the street for a few quiet seconds before he turns the corner and is gone.
I turn to Baby. ’It’s gonna be a fun day! Are you excited?’ She grabs my nose. ’But first, we sleep another hour’.
Random selfies that we send to Marcus during the day when we miss him.
Being a survivor of getting pregnant, morning sickness, evolving into a whale, contractions, labor and then the whole dewhaling process, I have experienced many things that have left me thinking, “why didn’t anyone tell me this??”.
Breastfeeding is on that list.
I’ve always known that I wanted to breastfeed, that wasn’t a big decision for me. Throughout my childhood I’ve watched my mom breastfeed my four younger siblings and heard her speak of what a wonderful thing it was. So, naturally, I wanted to do it too.
I say that there were things that I wish someone had told me. I wish I’d known or at least to some extent been more prepared for how hard breastfeeding would be. Having said that, I don’t think my mother lied to me or tried to keep the truth from me. But I really think that mothers are designed to focus on the beautiful things and to forget a little about just how hard the hard times were (thank goodness for that!).
So, I’m writing it all down – putting it all out there while it’s still fresh in my memory, to any expecting mama out there who wants to read a true story.
Here is my true breastfeeding story.
I think the first question I asked after I became a mom was to my mother just a few minutes after giving birth, “should I just try to feed her right away?”. It wasn’t asking permission so much as asking for a confirmation that my instinct was correct. Our newborn baby seemed to latch on pretty perfectly right away, and I leaned back, exhausted, and soaked up that first real moment of motherhood.
Other than bringing on a bit of pain in my healing abdomen, breastfeeding proceeded quite effortlessly the next couple of days. In the evening of the third day we were having take-out with both of our parents and I started noticing that my breasts were hurting a bit. After they left we went to bed and one of the hardest nights of my life began. My milk was coming in – fast! My breasts were swelling to the size of melons and they were so sore that I couldn’t even lie on my side. By morning they looked like balloons that had been blow up way more than they were supposed to and they just hurt so bad. I quickly found out that the nipples were stretched so tight that the baby was having a hard time getting it far enough into her mouth to eat.
That and the next couple of days I had to call my mom and midwives several times to help me feed my baby. After trying several techniques, the best one we found required me to use both of my hands to squeeze the tip of my boob into a more pointy shape, and someone else to jam the baby’s open mouth onto the nipple until she latched. Once she had latched, all there was to do was keep her on there and endure the burning pain from my now bleeding nipples. – I’m very sorry for being so bold and illustrative, but it really hurt so bad that I shut my eyes, let the tears run down my face and rocked backwards and forwards rapidly to keep from crying out.
It was really bad like that for about two weeks. Then it was only bad. After about a month it was painless.
Those first weeks were tough. I don’t think I hardly wore a bra – or a shirt. I remember getting out of bed at night when the baby woke up and doing the two-man breastfeeding maneuver on the couch in the livingroom where there was more light. I would always wake up in a puddle of milk – nursing pads are pretty useless when you leak about a cup of milk at night, I slept wrapped in a cloth diaper. I felt pretty weak in those days and there was only so much I could do to not start crying or knock someone silly when they said, “make sure to enjoy these first weeks!”.
Then it got better. Do not underestimate nipple butter, or the element of time. And for goodness sakes, trust the annoying women who keep telling you that it’ll get easier than breathing if you just hang in there!
Because they’re right. A good month after giving birth it was over. And painless.
Then came all the figuring out how to integrate breastfeeding in my daily routines. I had to make sure to have a cloth diaper on me at all times, and a blanket to cover up, I had to wear practical clothes (which meant no dresses in church) and develop a skill for locating corners and secluded areas in public places.
I really tried to enjoy breastfeeding. But I realize now that I was a bit traumatized from those first weeks. Breastfeeding wasn’t fun, it was a chore. About a month in, our doctor informed us that Baby hadn’t put on enough weight in here first month and suggested that I supplement with formula until she gained her weight back. It was a little discouraging. I’d slaved for weeks to get food into this child and now it seemed it hadn’t been enough. I wasn’t about to give up though. I asked the doctor if we could have another week to try to get her weight up on my own. She said that was okay and we scheduled a weigh in the week after. For that next week I felt like I fed her more than not. When in doubt of what to do, feed the baby. Up until then I’d been bad at keeping her on the boob for very long at a time due to pain, so I did my best to keep her on for as long as possible to make sure she got the fat milk. Also, I’m not a huge fan of feeding schedules. If I learned anything back then it was that newborns don’t have routines. If she wanted food, I fed her.
The week after she was back to a normal weight and we haven’t had any major problems since.
We started her on solids about two months ago and I’m still figuring out how to balance that with breastfeeding. My plan is to keep breastfeeding till her first birthday. Since she turned 6 months I’ve started to dread that day. When I won’t be nursing anymore. Because yes, now I love breastfeeding. I think I just had to learn to enjoy it despite all the hard times. I realize it’s probably like that with many things with your first baby. I expect that things will be much more enjoyable with the second when I know what is coming and how I and my body will react.
These days I actually mostly breastfeed lying down when possible. I find that Baby can better relax and get comfortable that way? She often puts a hand on my face or squeezes one of my fingers while she eats. I love it. I feel like those are our own little special moments just for us.
I’m not gonna lie. There have been so many times when I’ve wished I had chosen to bottle-feed instead. The freedom of leaving her with someone else for more than a couple of hours or even letting Marcus feed her for a change. It would certainly have made my first month less dramatic. But now that I’m on the other side I can truly say that I’m glad I hung in there. Glad that I don’t have to drag bottles and formula around everywhere I go. I’m also really thankful that I haven’t had trouble lactating or had any major latching problems.
I’m sorry for rambling on for so long, and if you made it to this part I’m truly thankful that you let me finish. Breastfeeding is a wonderful thing and I just wish to encourage anyone who wants to or is struggling to stick with it.
I often wonder if our marriage will keep having as many planning sessions as it does now in these early years. I hope it will. At least I hope that life won’t teach me that I’m naive if I think I can plan it. That I’ll have to do it the way everyone else does it and that the current is too strong to fight.
So here’s our plan: We want for Marcus to be ableto someday work from home. We want for me to be at home with our kids. Why? Because we want to be with our family. We want to put our family first. That’s why we decided to have one. So essentially our plan is to have the happiest family possible. And that’s the way we think we can best achieve that.
Is that naive? Is that dream a tiny bit too big?
Because it scares me that most people around me are doing it differently. I’ve already had people give me a weird look for saying that I don’t intend to put my daughter in daycare if I can avoid it. Does that mean my plan won’t work? Or does it just mean that we all have different paths to make our families happy? Because I guess we do. I’m just not sure I’m willing to let that fact crush my plan. And what about the government? It seems that most often it makes life a little easier for people who aren’t trying to follow a plan like mine. I’ll just have to live with that though. I don’t really think benefits are more valuable than our plan.
I’ve always known I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. My mom fought the current and did it and I knew that someday I would do the same. Because I loved having her there growing up. It’s taught and prepared me for being a mother and quite frankly I think it’s prepared her to be a better grandmother and to help and support her children establishing their own homes. So I always knew this was what I wanted to do. But it hurts me a little to think that a lot of people might think I’m lazy for it. Like I could do more in my life. Or like I could be a better citizen, be more beneficial to society. But I think the best thing I can do for my community is to raise a happy family. A happy, ambitious, hard-working, kind family.
And I know my plan might be a lot to plan for. I may be naive. And for many people this sort of plan just might not be an option. But I like to think that it is an option for me. To live life the way I want. Because I planned it that way. And we may be poor in the beginning. Heck! We may be poor for a very very long time. But, again, I don’t think the dog, the car, the yearly summer vacation, the new clothes every month, etc. are more valuable. I became a mom because I want to be a mom. And I think I should be able to do it the way that I think is best for my family.
For the last few days I’ve been thinking about the phrase, “I’m sorry but do you have children” that is so often used on TV by concerned parents. It has always confused me a little. It didn’t seem very powerful, and surely anyone whether parents or not can relate to and have feelings for small children. Nevertheless, the people on TV always seemed to instantly understand that that phrase ended the argument.
It fascinates me how quickly you can get feelings like that for someone. It hit me the first time when I was dating Marcus, and even more so after we got married, that I had developed such deep feelings for a person that I hadn’t known existed a year earlier. I realized that learning to love someone truly comes through hard work and effort. Those feelings had come from actively spending time together, trying to see one another from our best sides, living together, learning to overlook faults and going through difficulties and solving problems together.
Again this September I experienced this. I gave birth to a tiny little baby who cried a lot, kept me awake at night and gave me a lot of nasty diapers to change. But still I found that I loved her so much. The difference was that I had already gone through a lot of the hard work with her – nine hard months of pregnancy, not to mention labor itself.
Since then every day has brought more hard work and difficulties, only teaching me to love her more and more.
Today we took Baby to the doctor to have two shots. And I got to feel just how much I loved her! She had had one shot before – the day she was born – but back then I mainly remember being exhausted and Baby didn’t seem to mind much. Today was slightly different.
The nurse was very very nice and made us all feel very comfortable. I undressed Baby, who got really happy and excited – loves being naked! When I was done, the nurse asked me, “Are you the one who will be holding her?”. I said that I was, but her question suddenly made me realize that the situation might be about to get unpleasant. She informed us that she was going to give Baby two shots and that she would do the one that stung the most last. We took our positions. I started rubbing Baby’s tummy, Marcus started talking to her and stroking her face, and the nurse raised the needle and pierced my baby’s skin. For a few seconds there was silence and Baby didn’t even blink. Then she closed her eyes, took the deepest breath that seemed to last hours and let out the loudest scream she could muster.
It was the saddest sound I had ever heard. And there was nothing I could do. Marcus and I both burst out, “It’s okay, Baby” “You’re alright”, “It’s almost over”. I looked up just in time to see the second needle disappear into my baby’s leg. This time the reaction was instant. Baby jumped a foot into the air and tears rolled down her cheeks as she screamed, if possible, even louder. It hurt my very soul. All of my instincts were yelling at me to pull out a boob and pull her close and never let go. Marcus seemed to be feeling the same cause he snatched her up as soon as the nurse had slapped on the band-aids.
A couple of minutes later the nurse held open the door for our traumatized little family.
The nurse said the next vaccinations are in two months. I was seriously considering not showing up. That I’d rather take my chances with measles and polio than go through that again.
Hi! How are you holding up? I’d bet your feet hurt, you feel heavy and that all you can think about is how much easier life will be if you can just survive labor.
Well… Yes and no…
First of all, you WILL survive labor. Yes, it will be hard and definitely the most physically painfully traumatic experience of your life, but seriously, trust me, you will survive it. You will be completely amazed at what your body can actually do, and though it’ll hurt like heck, you will never again feel as cool.
Oh and just wait for that first meal after it’s over. Seriously, best meal of your life!
You may be constantly on your toes wondering if it’s time every time a small contraction comes, maybe even worrying what will happen if you don’t notice labor starting and you don’t make it to the hospital (who am I kidding, I know you are worrying exactly that!) but don’t worry, you will notice. And seriously just trust your body. It knows what it’s doing. Even if you may not.
As for all the baby stuff. Don’t worry about that either. By then you will know exactly what to do, even if your body won’t.
Something you do want to be thinking about is breast feeding – I know you want you. And you need to keep reminding yourself of that, because it’s not as easy as it looks in the beginning. You really need to make that decision now and stick to it!
Also, I suggest you hurry on down to the store and buy a big package of the thickest pads you can find (or send your husband- I know how he loves buying stuff like that!). You’ll need them. Big time.
Also please don’t expect to feel amazing all at once after the baby is out and you aren’t pregnant anymore. Give that a couple of weeks. In fact, just expect the first two weeks to be pretty crappy – except for having the baby, really try to enjoy all the cuteness and try to forget about everything else if you can.
And… Don’t listen to all your single friends and your newlywed friends who say it’ll be hard and that you’ll probably miss just being the two of you. You will definitely have those moments once every rare while, but all in all you will love that baby so much that to some extent you will forget that there was ever a time where she (or he) wasn’t there. You won’t sigh and look forward to the day when your last kid moves out and you can go back to being alone. You will on the other hand look forward to every single milestone your baby will go through. You will actually Google every single week what new things your baby is learning every time she (or he) turns another week or month.
So just relax… Go on a date, and buy an extra ice cream while looking fat is still okay. Life will go on after the day you give birth, and it will be a rich and exciting whole new world.