Nine months later

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It’s nearly nine months since Antonia was born – we are nearly at the point that she has spent more of her life outside of me than inside. Tonight the long spring evening was calling my name and I snuck out for a walk, as I did nearly every night for the last four months of my pregnancy. I could not stay out long – Antonia is a notoriously bad sleeper and I didn’t want to leave Michael with an inconsolable baby. Though, touch wood, the evenings are improving slightly at the moment and pretty soon I think there’ll be a two hour window when she doesn’t need me, so hopefully more evening walks are in my future. They are just utterly lovely – quiet, glassy, cool, the sky strewn with pastel clouds, and no small creatures asking me to play, or for another drink, or why can’t they have jelly for breakfast, or MAYBE they can have a new toy, just MAYBE, or even snuggling or sucking or crying, or crawling under coffee tables. Just the pale sky and the tiny leaves on the hedges.

Thanks in part to how wretchedly sick I was about a month ago, I now fit comfortably into all the clothes I wore before I got pregnant. I no longer need to roll over sideways to sit up in bed. The ability to sit up directly from lying down still impresses me – it took nearly half a year to return. I’ve been wearing my old favourite pair of jeans, and it’s funny to think about the point at which they got too tight, the small firm lump I never tired of checking was still there, that grew and grew. Before bed I would look at myself in the mirror, with wonder.

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A pregnancy draws your attention inside, within. I found it ridiculously difficult to concentrate on work in my last trimester. To the point at which I delayed and delayed finishing an article that I ended up having to write in Australia, and to which I am still adding the finishing touches. It would have been easier then. But I just couldn’t.

I had waited so long for this pregnancy. In June 2013 I sat on the sofa for two weeks, knitting. I had just been through surgery to take care of my third consecutive miscarriage, at close to ten weeks. The first two had been much earlier but so sad all the same, and now I didn’t know if it would ever work for me again. It seemed extra cruel that my latest miscarriage happened around the due date of the first one. So I ordered some thick, soft organic cotton, and made a baby blanket. My head and my heart didn’t believe at that point that I would ever have another baby, but my fingers did. I let myself imagine a baby lying on the blanket on the floor. I had no idea how much of Antonia’s early life would be spent wrapped up in it. I called it the magic blanket: it soothed her and me perfectly every time.

For by the end of November I was pregnant. I suspected before I even took the test, because things smelled different. And within a couple of days of knowing, I was sure it was a girl. I remember pushing Felix on the swing in Stirling, Australia, feeling revoltingly nauseous, around nine weeks pregnant, saying to Mum – ‘It’s definitely a girl. I’m just saying this to you now so later you believe me when I tell you I knew all along.’ ‘Don’t be so sure!’ she said. But I was.

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Of course, for the first twelve weeks or so, I was very nervous. And unspeakably tired. And pretty sick – much sicker than I had been with Felix. Not as awful as many women have it, but not pleasant. I was in Australia for the second half of the first trimester, and I told my parents and grandparents what was happening, but few others. I hit twelve weeks just as we left, but I didn’t want to say anything publicly before another scan. I’d had two scans in Australia – one around seven and one at ten weeks – and the little flickering heartbeat was the most beautiful thing in the world. We had a lovely radiologist doing the second scan, and she moved us to another machine so she could print us out a picture. ‘The most important thing’, she joked. ‘No,’ I said, staring in relief at the tiny, persistent heartbeat, ‘that’s the most important thing.’

I remember up to around 20 weeks, or maybe more, looping a hair-tie around the button of my jeans so I could keep wearing them. I had to let work know around 16 weeks, because it was getting obvious, at least to the most discerning of my colleagues.

I am writing all this down now while it is still a recent memory so I don’t forget. The nicest things about that pregnancy were: my chats with Felix, such as those I recorded here and here; my long evening walks; the gorgeous summer weeks I spent with Felix at the lake; and feeling Antonia’s little kicks while I was at work. I interviewed for my dream job when I was about twenty weeks pregnant, and I got it, because Norway is amazing like that. And when they told me I’d won my job, I went downstairs to the little cafe, and sat with a coffee and the article I was reading, as Antonia prodded me gently, feeling like the luckiest person on earth. And all the time, it was you.

Saturday-11

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Felix: his latest creation: squares inside cubes. These magnet shapes were his birthday present from my Grandma, and he has played with them so much.

Antonia: crawling at great speed across the hallway, curly as anything after her bath.

Today was Michael’s birthday and we invited some friends over and had a lovely but busy time eating marzipan cake and ANZAC biscuits. I’ve been finding it hard to keep up the photographs recently, so I snapped these just before bedtime this evening (a bit like last week). But I don’t mind the very ordinary moments they capture  – the kids’ scatty energy at 6.30pm, the open dishwasher, the hallway. We won’t always live here, I guess, and I do love this house – its squareness, its snugness, its windows. Antonia is so very pleased that she can open the door from the lounge to the hall herself, and crawl all the way across it and into the bathroom. And Felix, these days, is a non-stop creator – rockets and balls out of magnet shapes, drawings of trees and flags, geometric patterns with his little plastic beads.

Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week in 2015.

And I couldn’t resist a couple of extra shots of the curls.

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Happy birthday Mum

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This week I bought myself some baggy terracotta coloured pants, and wearing them I feel a little as though I am channeling my Mum, as she was about 30 years ago, when she was young(er), when she had small children. I’m sure she had pants a bit like them. She’s told me many times that the happiest years of her life were those when her children were little. I don’t feel she’s dismissing other times in her life when she says this, but little children are so grounding, you need to be so present with them, it is special. And uncomplicated in a way, although certainly challenging.

Mum always says she loved being 30; she felt when she turned 30 she had it all sorted out. Of course, she adds, shortly after that it all came crumbling down. But I admire the way she sorts it out after all, again and again. (Mostly by realising it doesn’t need to be all sorted out, I think, but loving and trusting and being present anyway.)

Anyway, I was walking into town the other day, feeling a bit like my Mum and trying to remember what she was like when she was my age, and younger than my age – she was only 25 when I was born, but I was 35 when Antonia was born. I remember her wearing autumnal colours and knitting herself a jumper with llamas on it, and talking to me from the kitchen as I drew at the table. And she would buy huge blocks of real clay for us to make things with. And all the time she was piecing together the beginnings of a new career, having decided not to go back to teaching history in high schools.

She will still do anything in the world for me, without it seeming an imposition. She’s happy to mend my clothes, listen without judgement, come for late night walks with me, chat on skype whenever the fancy takes me, play endlessly with Felix, change Antonia’s diapers, travel across the world to be with me when my babies are born. All this and work full time and be similarly grounding and reflective for our whole extended family, the children and young adults she counsels, the psychologists and social workers she manages and mentors, and pretty much anyone else who needs her. Even Antonia adores her, beaming already as soon as I turn on skype.

Her best friend, her sister, her parents and my dad are all having (or have had) dinner with her, so my birthday wish for Mum is a walk in the sun, nowhere special to be, no problems to solve for anyone, a moment to breathe, like the one I had on Wednesday, walking into town in the shiny spring sunshine, daydreaming in my terracotta pants.

Sending you so much love from all of us – we can’t wait to see you in July. xxx

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Eight months

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I’ve written this post in my head so many times, but I’d better get something down before my dear munchkin is nine months! This month, dear girl, you have been on the move. You mastered crawling (and cut your two top teeth) the week we got back from Germany, so just before you turned eight months. And you have picked up speed ever since. You love doors, swinging them back and forth and then crawling through the doorway, especially the door between the hallway and the lounge. Right next to it is our wood oven, which is also very popular (we’re not lighting it at the moment) and you’ve even managed to open it a couple of times.

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When you’ve had enough exploring you always crawl back to me, cling on to my legs, saying mmmmm mmmmmm mmmmm. When I pick you up you hug me tight, pulling my face towards you and sucking my cheek, or burying your head in my chest. It’s pretty fantastic.

It just about makes up for our (very) fragmented nights, when you need me so.

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At exactly eight months, you weighed 11.65kg, and were 75.5cm.

You have just now, and eight and a half months, started actually swallowing a bit more food. Broccoli and strawberries are still popular, you’re getting good at eating fish, and you’re quite partial to a hot chip. (Not the best idea I know, better start avoiding that…) Plain yoghurt is one of your favourite things ever, and you also love cheese. When we all sit down to eat, you say quietly ‘nom nom nom!’ and it is truly adorable.

You and your brother are quite a team.

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The last couple of days it’s been warm enough to play outside in the afternoon and evening and you have loved it – you giggle your head off if we bounce you on the trampoline, and you love to cruise the grass, sampling grass and twigs, looking for baby pinecones (which I promptly confiscate).

I feel so ridiculously lucky. I love you so.

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A room of my own

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I braved a solo trip to IKEA last week, Antonia in tow, to buy a carpet and an armchair I’ve been coveting for two years. I wasn’t sure the chair would fit in the car, and it nearly didn’t. After fifteen minutes pushing and heaving and repositioning in the drizzling rain, Antonia perched obligingly on the front seat, I was just about to give up when I finally managed to shut the car boot. I raised my arms in triumph and a passing couple cheered. ‘Super mama!’ they said.

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I’m a bit in love with the chair and the rug, and am certain they will be conducive to writing and reading, once I work out what to do with the very lightly sleeping baby in the adjoining room…

The week before I took both kids and we got a bed for Felix.

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He’s very pleased with it, and pleased as well with the little mouse he talked me into buying for him, which has slept with him every night since. He named it Antonia Elinor Celeste.

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Felix: chilling out on a Sunday evening after a busy weekend of baking, socialising, and bouncing in the sun.

Antonia: doing the same.

Often there’s a sweet spot after dinner in which the kids are happy enough to bumble around for a while and we can even drink a cup of tea. This evening Felix was a little overwrought after a full afternoon playing with Michael and our visitors – he was still demanding loudly that we play with him,  but we all needed quiet, so Thomas the Tank Engine and pita bread pizza came to the rescue. There is quite a lot of satisfaction in giving your kid exactly what they need when they need it. Antonia had more energy to play after a big drink of milk. Now both munchkins are asleep (for the moment at least) and we are savouring the quiet. Happy Sunday evening to you all. x

Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week in 2015.

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Today we went to the Inspiria Science Center for the birthday party of one of Felix’s classmates. Felix could not get enough. He was still scampering around, testing out the various exhibits four hours after we arrived, when everyone else had gone home. His favourite was a magnetic parachute launcher, but these giant amber coloured beads gave me the best photo. Antonia enjoyed herself as well – after a long nap in the ergo she was pretty excited to clamber all the way to the end of this tunnel and out again.

Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children every week in 2015.

More fun below.

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Happy Easter!

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We normally go away for Easter, and so, for that matter, do most of our friends. This time, we all stayed put, and it has been so nice. I’ve made hot cross buns (twice), done Easter crafts with Felix, lit candles, chilled out with the family, dressed Antonia up like a little bunny, and taken the kids on a walk to look for beavers. And today we went around to our friend’s house for an Easter egg hunt – four little boys careering round the garden collecting their sweets were a sight to behold. Happy Easter!

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Felix, sporting a new crooked haircut (it always takes me a few days to straighten up the ends), lets me take photos of him in the window of the harbour cafe as he gleefully repeats some nonsense phrase that appeals to him for some reason or another, probably concerning planes or cars. He immediately wants to look at the pictures of him saying whatever it was. We’ve just been to the dentist, next door, and are having a coffee (me) and a bun (him) before I take him back to barnehage. I have a fever (and will be so very unwell for most of the week) but it is a nice morning all the same.

Antonia, unapologetic, has crawled into the centre of Felix’s train track. Felix has tried a variety of strategies to thwart her efforts, such as barricades of toys and chairs, but nothing works. ‘Mummy! Watch her! She’s getting there! Stop her!’ Luckily she’s not so destructive as she was during her first few successful encounters with it, now she’s explored it thoroughly already.

It’s been so enchanting watching the little crawling bundle exploring her space. I watched her realise she could crawl round corners. ‘Heh! Hah!’ puff puff puff ‘Dadadadada!’ as she engines along towards Felix’s play kitchen. I plopped her in the kitchen the other day when I was making breakfast, so she would stay away from the aforementioned train track. She bumbled around a little bit, and then she noticed the doorway. She looked through the doorway, to Felix playing. Norwegian doorways all have a bit of raised wood that you need to step over to go through them (I’m not really sure why, maybe something to do with heat retention), and up till now it had visually contained her within a room. But I could see her thinking – hang on, I could get over that. ‘Hah!’ she said, ‘heh!’ And then ‘maaaaeh!’, when after five minutes it still didn’t work. To begin with she couldn’t get her knees over, but later in the day she mastered it, spending a good half an hour crawling back and forth over it once she’d figured it out. I’m so proud of my clambering explorer, and I dearly wish I could let her loose in my Grandma’s kitchen.

Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week in 2015.

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A long way away

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Thinking of my cousin Hannah and her husband Lochie today, and the loss, too sad for words, of their daughter Chelsea Anne, who died mere days before she was meant to be born, for no good reason. As I go to bed in Norway, a new day starts in Australia, and it is her funeral. We wish it did not have to be. We wish we could all wake up into any other world.

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