Things You Have No Idea about until You Become a Mom

There were so many things I had no idea about when it comes to babies and motherhood, I thought maybe there’s somebody else out there like me! 😉 So I figured I should share some inside information with you.

Before doing that, I have to admit that sure, I have seen the occasional anecdotic sequence of pictures depicting how life is over (and in so many ways!) when you have a child, but it’s not that bad (at least for us it isn’t) and so I don’t find it representative. Nobody tells you this other stuff, though.

Picture by Kjersti Hegna
  1. Whereas some women put on a considerable amount of weight during the pregnancy and lose most of it afterwards, others (like me) gain little weight before they give birth, but compensate afterwards. Yesterday I was swinging my bottom in the mirror while saying “Repeat after me: Big is beautiful!”
  2. The mothers jogging with a pram, it’s a myth. I see them everywhere, but I know literally nobody who has the energy for that. So they must be visiting from another planet.
  3. I used to think babies had to be fed, changed, bathed, cuddled with, put to bed. Wrong. Most of the time will be spent trying to guess what the baby wants. The baby is tired, but also hungry and the baby can’t fall asleep because she’s too hungry and won’t eat because she’s too tired. I have no idea how many swear words I invented trying to figure out how this baby thing works. But, as a friend of mine put it, the interior monologue doesn’t count as long as you’re sweet to the baby. Phew!
  4. You spend 40 years yearning for a baby just to get a baby and spend most of our waking hours hoping that she’ll go to sleep.
  5. There is no better smell than a baby. No cheeks more kissable, no toothless mouth more beautiful when it breaks into a smile.
  6. You’ve never known love until a cutie pie comes into your bed in the morning and pulls your nose, your hair and everything else she can grab.
  7. You spend all your time wishing for a break and when she sleeps you start missing her. If she sleeps longer than usual, you’re so happy you’d do a little dance, but also a bit worried, because she might not be waking up any more… Sometimes you can’t stop yourself from checking up on her and end up waking her up and she’ll be cranky and you’ll be mumbling “I’m such a moron!” for the rest of the day. Other times you’ll take a shower, put on some lotion (now that’s what I call a luxury!) and then settle under the blanket with your beloved Mac and a cup of coffee. Next thing you know, the cup is slipping from your hands, coffee is spilling on the Mac and both of them end up on the floor. Hello poverty!
  8. At some point during this journey you realize your parents were people like you and just like you, they probably did their best and you still think it wasn’t enough. And you see yourself dining with your grown-up daughter in 20 years’ time and toasting for better days when she brings up this and that that hurt her, the way you used to do to your parents when you’ve had one too many.
  9. That waking up in the middle of the night for countless times and many months in a row still enables you (somehow) to care for a baby throughout the day.
  10. That it’s getting better by the day, for the ones of you who felt maternity leave was one desert of time and no validation, just know that for each day you’re closer to going back to work, your baby is getting bigger and sweeter and almost (just almost) makes you wish you were a stay home mom. (Just not really) 😉

xxx, Alina

Parenthood

It’s been raining since last night

I heard it when I woke up at 5

To give you the last milk bottle-

Your hands were playful,

But your eyes were still sleepy

I kissed your forehead

And put you back to bed

Between the rabbits and the squid

You reached for the pacifier

And grabbed the squid’s tentacle with your tiny hand.

It was still raining when you woke us up

Just before the alarm started ringing

And I brought you to our bed to cuddle.

You grabbed your father’s nose and reached for my hair

And said something that resembled oh, hi there.

It’s still raining and you’re taking your second nap

I’m all by myself wrapped in my longing cloak

All day I dream of minutes filled with silence

And when you sleep all I can hear is you…

All days are filled with so much of the same,

The uniformity of it all is so draining,

And yet I have so much patience

Where does all this patience come from

I never though I would make a good parent

I never knew how to even be good to myself

Before you came along.

September 2020, Oslo

My Child

You’re 6 months old today, my child-

I thought motherhood would spark

So much creativity,

I imagined you’d be my model

In photography

And my muse in writing.

Instead I’d wake up tired

And long for you to sleep

So I could gather myself

And be something resemblant

the one I used to be.

I’d walk as if on egg shells

And curse the floors for creaking

Hoping not to wake you up

Wishing for one more minute on my own,

But at the same time missing you so much

That my arms ached from your absence.

Oh, the love and terror a newborn baby

Brings to the table..

7th September, 2020

Motherhood Again

So I got a call from a friend just after I wrote the last entry and she told me she’d laughed so hard and asked me if I’d had Madde all over again had I known it was this hard- or maybe I interpreted her question that way, since I’m even more easily offended these days than usual- haha. And so I thought I should clear up any misunderstandings by writing a bit more about the good stuff this time.

First, I just needed to get the other things off my chest. The things you never talk about, the difficult and embarrassing feelings, the shame, the guilt. I hate pretending and smoothing things over, although I’m a badass at that, too, people with my background tend to be. (Eastern Europeans who grew up with their grandma and spent their whole life begging for other people to love them.)

But now that I did all that, I’ll tell you more about the amazing feeling it is to be a mom. Because even if it never stops, even though she’s in bed and you still think you can hear her cry, even though you go to her room to check up on her and end up waking her up and restarting the whole shebang of her trying to lull herself to sleep, even when you’re so tired you hang up half of the laundry just to discover the other half still wet on the table the day after, motherhood is the best feeling ever! Nothing can even come close to having borne a human being inside you (even though I hated being pregnant most of the time and I’d never do it again!), pressed her out of you (the most painful thing there ever was, even with an epidural!), held her in your arms, fed her, soothed her, stroked her skin, smelled her breath.

At night, she wakes up shivering from hunger and she eats with her eyes closed, while we kiss her cheek or stroke her hair. When she had fever from the vaccine, she would cling to us like a bird with a broken wing, save me, do something, make me better. (That’s when the picture is from, she’d been crying for 4 hours straight.) I’ve never had that before. I mean sure, I’ve had pets as long as I can remember and I’ve loved them to death, but it’s not the same. I used to get upset when people said you can’t compare a dog with a child, but it’s true. Sure, you can love the dog to the moon and back (and I do!), buy him all the fancy toys and the best beef jerky and check on him at night to see if he’s still breathing, hold him in your arms when the fireworks or storms are raging outside, but it’s still not the same as having your own baby. Or anyone’s baby, for that matter. (For many years I considered both adoption or foster parenting, but I’m glad I didn’t have to go through all that paper hell, in the end. Plus it’s so much fun to see yourself or your partner in the baby, I have to admit that!)

In the morning, she wakes up happy and wants to play. You could say it’s her job. It’s so funny to see how dedicated she is to discovering the world! Back and forth, from one toy to another, touching, tasting everything, turning around to see what I’m doing- usually I’m boiling feeding bottles, making milk or brewing coffee- haha.

During the day we play, we go out for walks with the pram, we meet friends, sometimes we visit dad at the office, we sit in the shade and clap our hands, we read books with furry animals you can touch. And we play music, all kinds of baby music- from Brahms to silly tunes I never saw myself listening to, let alone humming! 😉 haha!

When she sleeps, I usually research things she needs and order them online or agree to meet with people selling used baby stuff. A baby has all sorts of expensive needs (haha) and the maternity leave payment is around half the money I used to make before. No, not complaining, just doing my best to keep everybody happy, including mommy. ‘Cause mommy loves shopping and in 5 months she’s just been on one “shopping spree”, at Fretex (Salvation Army Shop)! haha! Don’t let yourself be fooled, I chose silk and designer wear there, too! haha! They have pretty amazing stuff if you’re in the mood for searching, which I can be once in a blue moon, if money is tight. 😉

This corona shit messed up our plans of going to Romania and France to show Madeleine to our families. It’s been lonely to raise a child alone, without anybody offering to even take her out for a stroll. Friends tell me the culture is different here, that people are afraid to offer, they’re afraid they might be imposing, that I should be the one asking for help. But I’m different, too, not only culturally different, but on account of my being so messed up, I’d rather cut people off than ask them for a favor, because the fear of being rejected is greater than anything else. And then there’s my pride. I’d rather die than admit to needing help. 😦

My mother was supposed to come for a month and help us out a bit, like minding the baby a couple of hours here and there, but she tripped on a stool and fell and she’s been recovering slowly for the past week. I really hope she didn’t break anything, they’ve been reticent to go to the doctor’s on account of Covid, but she’s having a scan on Monday. So what can I say, not only I don’t have a lot to look forward to in terms of baby sitting, but I worry about her, too. 😦

But I’m sure it’ll get easier. I’ve just bought baby oat meal and she seemed to like it. This might mean she’s going to be fuller and sleep better at night and God knows that would come in handy. Until then, I’m off to play with her on the mat. She seems to be getting bored of entertaining herself.

Cheers, Alina

Madeleine Is 5 Months

So what can I say, besides long time, no see, because time has become a precious commodity and my thoughts feel scattered all over the place, irrelevant or just boring. Most of the time I worry about Madeleine’s sleeping pattern, get annoyed at the fact that she’s discovering her voice-with sheer shrieking all day as a result- and wonder if I’ll ever get the feeling of being myself back. But today we’re celebrating the nothing-less-of-a-miracle called Madde and I’ll be rewarding myself with the long overdue personal space by going out for drinks with a couple of girl friends. (Bring it on, bitches!)

I’ve been meaning to write a stripped down honest review of motherhood for so long, I don’t even know where to start. For 5 months now I’ve been deliriously happy, tired as f*, angry as never before, irrational, apprehensive, anxiety-ridden, disengaged in the world and hateful- towards corona, people who don’t give a damn about my pram, scooters and men, in general.

I’ll start with my body. Good old body that has served me for 40 years and used to do a pretty good job. Suddenly it didn’t feel like mine any more. For the longest time, it was like living in a nightmare. Although I’d only gained 8-9 kg during pregnancy, which I lost right away, the irregular meals and the corona baking transformed my belly into a snail-looking flab. I was so disgusted every time I took a shower, I started eating cottage cheese for breakfast and cutting down on the 10 pm ice-cream bowl. Slowly (and painfully haha), I’m starting to resemble myself again. A pale version of myself, but still.

Then you have the boobs! First, you can’t believe your luck, when the milk is filling them, you look like Pamela Anderson before she removed her silicon. Then, after only one week of trying to breastfeed, they started looking like empty shells. Not to mention they were constantly leaking and they hurt so bad I felt like cutting them off altogether. The doctor didn’t give me medicine and so I had to tie them up with a scarf and I’d sleep like that for 2 weeks. I would stare at them in the mirror, sickened and feeling like covering them up. All of a sudden I was 17 again, powerless and shamed by my own body. Somehow, they seem to have mended themselves, too, in the course of these months. Phew! (I was seriously considering a lift.)

But the worst humiliation was peeing myself every time I sneezed (I still do!), laughed or even turned on the tap. A couple of times it was so bad F fetched a wet wipe and cleaned me up. :-/ One night I was walking Sam, I saw a rat and got so startled I peed my pants. Really peed, not just a little. I came home wet and shameful and hid in the bathroom until I convinced myself it’s not my fault.

And that’s just the body. The lack of sleep is an altogether new story. Simply excruciating. Although you somehow get by, not so much by getting used to it, but rather by knowing you don’t have a choice and that it’s not going to last forever, sleep deprivation makes you ruthless. I could scream to people all day long- bus drivers for not caring to lower the floor, so I can get on board with the pram, F for not choosing his words carefully, older ladies for telling me how much they enjoyed being at home with their babies and making me feel like a horrible person because I sometimes get bored. Because let’s face it- if you’ve been your own person for 40 years, are used to napping during day time just because you can, both your work and your social life are that of a busy bee, staying at home with a baby and tending to its needs all day long can be challenging. First, the change is pretty drastic: Madeleine’s first two months were those of a monkey baby, she only wanted to be on top of me. She slept on my chest and my belly, I carried her around in a baby wrap and the minute I put her down she’d wake up screaming. I could barely shower, I went to the loo with her in the baby wrap, I cooked with her sleeping in the baby wrap, I walked Sam with her in the baby wrap. At 6-7 pm I would wait for F to come back from work so eagerly that, when she didn’t want to be held by him, I’d burst into tears. On a couple of occasions, I threw myself on the floor and sobbed. He was so puzzled that instead of giving me a hug, he started poking me- hey, what’s up with the attitude?

At the other end of the scales, she’s the sweetest thing you’ll ever see. She gives purpose to our life and now we know what we’d be missing if we didn’t have her. She wakes up smiling and although it’s wayyyy too early (somewhere between 4 and 6!), she brightens up our day. When she takes my face in her tiny hands, my fear melts and so does my pain. I still can’t get over the fact that I’m somebody’s mom and that she needs me and loves me more than anyone else in the world. It’s such a blessing. And she’s such a happy baby. No colic, no colds, no fuss.

We’re reading books and we’re singing songs and all the things I thought would be boring, until it’s about her and it’s not boring anymore. Now she turns from her back to her stomach and back and she sometimes screams for help because she rolled on a toy or her own hand. So I sit myself on a sheep’s skin beside her mat and I tend to her needs from there.

As for the personal space, she goes to bed somewhere between 6 and 8pm. So until we fall asleep on the couch, there’s “plenty” of time to gather oneself. I usually don’t know what to do first- cook, eat, have a long shower, have a beer, water the plants, be. When we have Sam, I walk him and ring my mom. When we don’t, I read a couple of pages. Most days I want to do so much I end up “wasting my time texting”.

Almost 10:30 am, need to get ready to hit the city, otherwise we’ll drive each other nuts at home. You see, when I walk her in the pram, she sleeps most of the time! Win-win!

I’ll be back with more soon!

xxx, Alina

Summer 2020

Alina tran 65

On account of this stupid virus and since Madde is so little, we decided not to go anywhere this summer. Instead, we’ve been waiting for the sun to come back and although the hot days of June seem to be gone for now, we’ve done our best with the Scandinavian temperatures of 18-21 degrees. We’ve been meeting friends for coffee or beer, roaming the woods with Sam and Madde (in a pram!) or cooking a better meal at home. And is there anything more summerly than a bottle of bubbles? Sometimes a label catches my eye and this is how we ended up with this cremant– it tasted like unripe apples and the sea.  Continue reading

Being a Mother

Although she’s had ten days of growth spurt when she woke up every other hour at night for milk and the heat prevented her from sleeping well during the day to the point where I felt I had nothing more to give, I still have to pinch myself every time I see her face- I’m a mother! The thing that others take for granted has been such a lifelong dream for me and what do you know, I’ve got the “café baby” I’ve always wanted! At least for now. What I meant to say is that she’s usually in a good mood and puts up with all my socializing without complaints.

Alina tran-2 12 Continue reading

Existential Choices

Hi again! Long time, no see, I hope you’re all doing well! Today I feel like writing, so I’ll grant you my thoughts. 😉

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been in and out of a state of existential anxiety. The one that has to do with my choices in life, my studies and my career. Or the lack of the latter, the arbitrariness of it all, the fact that working as an interpreter is only a way of making money, that it doesn’t lead anywhere. Not that I need a fancy title and an office, but it would be nice to get some acknowledgement. It is an important work and a difficult one, too and the unpredictability of it is both a burden and a blessing. I know I’ve been writing this stuff for the past 6 years, but bear with me. Now it feels different on account of the Corona pandemic and Madeleine. I feel I need to “get my shit together” once and for all.

Alina tran 46

Continue reading

Brunsviger- Danish Breakfast Cake

How did I live for almost 40 years without tasting brunsviger?! So delicious and so easy to “whip” together!

You see, our little girl turned 2 months yesterday and although it was a crappy day (I didn’t get enough sleep and was cranky as hell, Sam had the runs and so on), I did manage to bake a cake, mostly to ease the pain and take my mind off of things- haha. The fact that I could eat it outside in the sun with a glass of Cremant de Jura helped a lot. In the picture you see the cake before it hit the oven, I didn’t have the patience to wait for it to bake in case the baby should wake up. You’ll have to trust me when I say it looked like a pretty focaccia. ❤

Alina tran 15 Continue reading

A Newborn in the House and Baking against Corona Anxiety

These past three weeks have been eventful and strange. Their newness and uncertainty propelled me into one hell of an anxiety carousel. Here I was, heavily pregnant, nesting with a fervor I’d never known before, worried about petty things as the right measure on her bed linen- little did I know she won’t want to sleep in her bed at all- and all of a sudden the world seems to be ending amidst my long awaited happiness.

Skjermbilde 2020-03-27 kl. 16.35.16

Just three weeks ago I was busy complaining about pelvic pains and feeling fedd up with being huge and now I had to find new ways of reassuring myself we won’t all die of starvation if the virus doesn’t get to us first.

She came into our world on the 7th of March, she rushed in 8 days before the due date, almost as if she’d known that if she’d linger any longer, her dad wouldn’t be allowed to see the birth and stay with us in the hospital any longer. The first days were hard, I had the chills 4-5 times a day and she wouldn’t nurse, so we eventually had to feed her formula from a small cup (and it’d take hours!) hoping things would improve when the milk came. It didn’t. (But that’s an entirely other story.)

After an extended stay,  we could finally leave the hospital (after 7 days!), just in time for the Corona quarantine. That evening F shopped for groceries and there was no more toilet paper, nor tomato sauce, nor pasta or rice. Panic! After that, things went back to a sort of normality, at least when it comes to finding food on the shelves. But the longer it dragged on, the more somber the statistics all over the world, the less we saw of friends and family, one day I wasn’t able to control my anxiety at all. Some days it took the best of me and I could only sit there with a huge black hole inside of me. Other days, when the weather was sunny, we ventured outside and realized the world was still there, humanity had not evaporated and I came back lightheaded as though I’d had a pint or three. Today I decided to get back on medication, after spending all yesterday’s hours when Madeleiene didn’t need me either baking bread, baking a cake, washing clothes, all in order to avoid agonizing.

I’m heading to the pharmacy in an hour’s time, but I already feel better. I don’t read the news any more, I try not to think of how “non-essential” people will pay their rent, I ordered some stuff online and I’m doing my best to use all the ingredients we have in the house in a smart way. Meanwhile, I’m kissing my daughter’s chubby legs and sniffing her scalp. And thinking how I’ll start saving money and making room for a pantry when the times are better.

And here’s the recipe for the cake I baked the other day. I used the stuff we had, like 4 overripe plums and apple juice instead of orange juice.

Ingredients

100g walnuts

250 dates ( I had some dates, some dried figs and some dried apricots)

the zest from an orange/lemon

300g flour

1 tea spoon baking powder

1/2 tea spoon cardamom

1/2 tea spoon cinnamon

200 ml orange juice

100g butter

150 g brown sugar (I only had white)

1 egg

(I used 4 plums as well)

Bake the walnuts in the oven on a parchment paper around 15 minutes at 150 degrees C.

Cut the dates (and the other dried fruit plus the plums). Add the walnuts, the orange/lemon zest and one spoon of the flour. Sift the rest of the flour with the baking powder and the spices. Put it aside.

Use a kitchen aid/mixer to “fluff the butter up”. Add the egg and mix them well together. Add the flour, then the orange/apple juice. Then add the walnuts and dates (dried fruit and fruit) into the dough. Pour the dough (it’ll be a bit runny, it’s fine) into a cake form lined with parchment paper and bake at 180 degrees C for 1 h. Sometimes it needs a bit longer, check it with a chopstick. 😉

Bon appetit!

PS. Go for a walk if allowed in your part of the world, here it’s still ok (but we have to keep the distance). With a newborn I don’t get to do it every day, but when I do, I feel sanity rushing back into my veins. Today I even crossed the street to avoid other humans. But since I had to go to the pharmacy, I ran into people after all.

Stay safe and I hope we’ll all make it to the other side. I know, it sounds like something you hear in Sci-fi movies. 😉

xxx, Alina