Things I liked today

I guess it’s time to say (or well past the time to say, but never mind) that there will be another little munchkin around here in less than three months. I’m 29 weeks, and the little one is prodding at the computer on my lap as I write. It feels exciting but a little unreal. What is not unreal is the fact that bending over, putting on shoes, and picking things up from the floor are all becoming a lot more challenging.

Things that happened today that make me smile when I think back on them:

  • after some reluctance and a heartfelt explanation from myself about the difficulties of tidying up on my own, the kids very sweetly and whole-heartedly got involved. They even did a team job of wiping down the stairs!
  • it’s very sweet the way they can co-operate and work together at times – Felix explains patiently what to do, and Antonia says ‘ok!’ and complies (they do wind each other up at other times, of course)
  • Felix had a very cute moment with my friend’s one year old – passing him a glow-worm doll to play with, and patting him gently on the back
  • Felix hacking into parsnips and carrots with hair-raising enthusiasm, and passing them to Antonia to put in the pot for the soup
  • Antonia gleefully dipping her asparagus and cucumber sticks into her soft boiled egg at dinner time
  • Antonia deciding that Felix could play with her wooden rocket after all, once she understood how sad he was about it. She’s quite good at this – you just have to talk to her about how people are feeling and give her a minute to process it
  • Felix managing to swim backstroke (slowly and hesitantly) in a straight line at his swimming lesson for the first time
  • Felix managing to swim freestyle across the pool without stopping to take a breath (the instructor had asked them to go as far as they could, and then breathe if they needed, and he decided that he just had to make it all the way. He loves diving under the water so he’s had a bit of practice. It was the fastest I’ve seen him swim. Normally when he swims freestyle he takes far too many breaths which slow him right down. The instructor wasn’t watching properly and I don’t think she believed him when he said he made it the entire way across, but he did – you should have seen him puffing when he finally came up for air.)
  • reading Pippi Longstocking to both kids before bed. They liked it a bit too much and Felix decided that when I told him to got to sleep, he would, like Pippi, put his feet on the pillow and his head under the covers
  • Antonia cuddling up in bed with the pink hobbyhorse she only decided yesterday that she liked. She kept getting distressed if the horse’s pole wasn’t tucked in properly!

And not related directly to the two of them:

  • the soup itself (yum)
  • the snow swirling all day outside our windows (it was definitely an *inside* snow day – so windy!)
  • hanging out with my friends
  • reading for an hour after the kids fell asleep at 8

All that talk of books to read to Felix got me thinking about what I was reading – I hadn’t been able to find anything that was quite right. Then I found Elizabeth Strout’s latest – My Name is Lucy Barton – in our college library, and I just adored it. I’ve just finished Amy and Isabelle on my kindle, and I’m grateful that I think there are another three novels of hers I have yet to read. (I read Olive Kitteridge a few years ago on the urging of a friend, and loved it, but hadn’t tried any of her others till last week.) If any of you know of anything else I might get into – let me know!

The other thing I want to note down is that last weekend Antonia started drawing figures! Faces with arms and legs! She draws them over and over again, and today drew some dinner for them too, and a house. So far she’s been drawing with her left hand.

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.

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Six weeks with my Mum

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Mum left yesterday. It is always sad to say goodbye. Felix says, paraphrasing one of his favourite books: ‘we are sad when the dawn comes and we have to part. But we can meet again.’ The book, which is about the friendship of a duck and a mushroom creature who lives deep within the earth, goes on to point out that even when we are far apart, sometimes just thinking of each other makes us happy. Thinking about my Mum makes me happy.

We had the most gorgeous six and a bit weeks together. Two weeks before Antonia was born of long evening walks, playing with Felix, visiting Stromstad and Fredriskstad, and frequenting of coffee shops. And then an whole month following Antonia’s birth, involving baby cuddles, more playing with Felix, picnics in the forest and by lakes, adventures at the fortress, clothes shopping for us and the children (how much fun it is to buy baby girl clothes!), returning to Stromstad and Fredrikstad with our babe, and many, many more coffee shops. Mum also helped with cooking. washing, waking up early with Felix nearly every day, and completely sorted out some very messy patches of our garden, taking away a dead bush, planting trees, shrubs, and spreading pine bark.

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A second baby does not enable the same quiet cocooning that I experienced with my first. Everyone told me a second baby is easier, and this is true and not true – yes I already knew how to look after a newborn, but looking after a newborn AND and an exhuberant, curious three year old at the same time is a new adventure. Adding to the excitement, Felix had not one but four medical emergencies during Antonia’s first month home! Two asthma incidents requiring ventolin inhalations at the emergency department in the middle of the night, one tick bite behind his ear which got infected and neede two weeks of strong antibiotics, and to top it all off, a pea getting stuck up his nose. The whole family (apart from Antonia and me, thankfully) also had terrible colds for the first two weeks of Antonia’s life, so energy levels suffered. The lowest point was two days after we returned from my hospital, just as my milk was coming in. I was exhausted, in pain (those who told me breastfeeding wouldn’t hurt a second time were wrong indeed), Mum and Michael were sick and Felix was coughing up a storm and getting more and more distressed. I sat on the toilet sobbing, while Michael took care of Felix. Mum asked if I was ok. ‘No!’ I said. ‘Everyone’s sick. I’m going to get sick, and Antonia’s going to get sick, and I’m going to get mastitis.’ ‘It will be ok,’ said Mum, ‘just remember it’s your hormones talking.’ I had a shower, and felt better. Antonia and I didn’t get sick, I didn’t get mastitis, and the cold going around was just a cold (despite Felix’s asthma), not some lethal virus which could hurt my baby.

Two nights before Mum’s departure Felix’s asthma saga reoccured (he gets it every time he has a cold). Michael was away for the week. We had two trips to the emergency department over night (first Mum, then me), then at 9 in the morning Felix was still in terrible form so I took him to his normal doctor who sent us on to the hospital. Luckily he stabilized on the way over, but we still spent the day there, having tests done and getting another inhalation for him. I was so, so pleased Mum was with me. As Felix sat in his bath after we got home that evening, he said – ‘but we didn’t have an adventure!’ ‘Oh’, said Mum and I, ‘I think we did.’

But the rest of the time was truly lovely. It was wonderful having Mum with us during the first weeks of Antonia’s life. Four weeks is long enough for a little personality to emerge. Rare smiles and long serious stares and little ‘hnnnnn hnnnn’s. Long enough for a baby to grow round and soft. Antonia squeaks with delight as she lies on her change mat and looks across at the picture of the baby on the pack of diapers. Over the past week, she has been genuinely pleased every time she sees my Mum – she smiles, and looks intently, purses her little lips, and coos.

In less than three months we’ll be in Australia for an extended holiday, so Felix is right when he says ‘we can meet again’. But I’ll always remember this special, special time of Mum being with us as we became a family of four. A time, after all, of quietness, love and adventures. As Mum’s stay drew to a close, we found ourselves consciously repeating things we’d done before, to close out the circle. On Tuesday, on Antonia’s one month birthday, we went back to the very same cafe in Gamlebyen where we had eaten lunch the day of my overdue control, just hours before Antonia’s birth. And yesterday, we took Felix back to the cafe in the harbour where we had taken Mum the day she had arrived, and then we all walked her across to the train station together. I cried. I feel so very looked after.

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The birth of Antonia Elinor Celeste

pregnancy-birth-9Warning: Long post. And, in Michael’s words, ‘men might not want to read it’ (a couple of gory details not left out). But when he got to the end he said he liked it very much. Here’s a link to Felix’s birth story.

In the months leading up to the birth of my daughter, I walked. For most of the summer, the days were oppressively hot, but the evenings were long and light. Every night, once Felix had gone to sleep, I walked roads and paths and winding loops. Neighbours I had never spoken to greeted me from their gardens and tracked my progress. ‘Not long now,’ they would say. I walked past lawns and trampolines and inflatable pools. Once I saw a tiny deer. Once I walked to the forest, but it was the sky I wanted the most – the sweeps of pink and orange cloud, the watery blue, sunsets that would last an hour. And the moon, which grew and thinned and grew again. I remember looking up at a perfect full moon and thinking – maybe by the next time it’s full, she will be here.

The best place to look at the sky was walking by the wheat field. There is a lovely undulating wheat field not far from our house that catches all the colours of the sun. I found a little path along its far edge so I could look at it for longer.

As with Felix, I had to wait and wait for Antonia to come. I got to 40 weeks. I got to 41 weeks. Nothing. My midwife booked me in for an overdue ‘control’ at the hospital.

pregnancy-birth-4At the overdue appointment they gave me a CTG and an ultrasound to check heart rate, the placenta and umbilical cord, the amniotic fluid and the size and position of the baby. Everything was perfect. The doctor estimated the baby would be between 3.8 and 3.9kg. She examined me internally and found I was already 3cm dilated, giving me a prolonged poke while she was at it. It might be uncomfortable, she said, but it would be nice if we can get this to start on its own. Afterwards I felt crampy and washed out. She booked me in for an induction on Tuesday, when I would be 42 weeks, but said she expected I wouldn’t need it.

Mum was with me. I felt quite weak after the appointment so I let her drive, and we went across to the old town for lunch and apple cake. I had a couple of stray contractions accompanied by back pain. I did not think it would be long. When we got back home I fell into bed and had a much needed two hour nap.

Early that evening, utterly appropriately, we went across to my friend Margrethe’s house for brownies. It was her son’s first birthday. We had visited them for brownies and waffles the night before Felix was born, and the day before she had gone into labour with her daughter, we had been out for chocolate cake together. (This time I had tried to pre-empt things by inviting them over for brownies the night before my due date, to no avail.) We sat on their deck in the sun and it was lovely. Linnea rode her scooter, Felix snuggled with us as he was tired, and the birthday boy crawled proudly around the deck, pulling himself to his feet on their umbrella. I walked back home.

As I read Felix his bedtime stories around eight o’clock that night, I felt the beginnings of more regular contractions. I was glad. I snuggled him on my lap as I read, and lay opposite him as he cuddled up in bed. ‘Mummy loves you so so very much’, I told him. I watched my beautiful boy fall asleep, thinking of the hundreds of times I had done this over the past three years. My baby, my firstborn, my little boy. I lay for half an hour after he fell asleep, feeling the quiet waves of contractions and watching him breathe.

Downstairs I drank a glass of milk and ate some cherries. ‘Is the babbie coming tonight?’ asked Michael. ‘No,’ I lied. I didn’t feel like saying anything yet.

I went for a walk with Mum, as we did every night. We walked towards the wheat field. ‘Shall we try this little path through the trees?’ asked Mum. ‘No,’ I said, ‘I want to go past the field.’ We walked past the field and I looked at the light in the wheat. I looked at the huge moon, just one day from being full. I looked at the tiny orange and white berries on the trees. I sometimes had to alter my pace a little when the contractions came, but Mum didn’t notice. In my head, I counted through them. They would get stronger and dip away again when I reached 26 or so. I guessed they were coming every three to four minutes.

When we got back Michael was watching the end of a Dr Who Christmas special on TV, so I sat on the fit ball and joined him. When it finished I told them. ‘I think the babby’s coming tonight.’ ‘What – when do we have to leave?’ ‘A couple of hours, I think.’ It was ten o’clock. Michael raced off upstairs to finish something he had to write for work. Later he said it normally would have taken a whole day but he did it in half an hour.

I rocked around on the fit ball and wrote some messages to friends on facebook. Mum timed the contractions for a little while and they were coming every 3-5 minutes. They were still quite manageable but I remember thinking at the start of some of them – ‘I really don’t want to do this.’ Don’t be silly, I told myself, you need to stay positive. I had a shower. It was nearly 11 at this point and I was feeling a bit tired so decided to try to lie down for a while. I also wanted to make sure Michael got some rest as he’d been at work all day and I was anticipating we’d be up all night. We lay in bed and stroked our black cat Mermos. The space between contractions lengthened slightly but their intensity didn’t. After a while they started feeling a little too sharp for my liking, so I got up. ‘I’m going downstairs to call the hospital’, I said.

I paced around while on the telephone and they told me it was up to me whether I wanted to come in yet or not. ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I’m coming.’

They were relatively strong and frequent now, I felt I had to brace myself against a doorway and flex my legs to manage them. I wrote a note for Felix and got out a chocolate egg for him. Mum packed us some cheese sandwiches and a hot water bottle. I felt so much more lucid, alert, and nervous than I had during Felix’s birth. I must have been doing a good job projecting calm because Michael didn’t realize for a while that we had to leave now, but soon enough, just after midnight, we were off.

At this point I was panicking slightly about how I would manage the 45 minute drive. But I turned the classical radio station on and that calmed me a lot. I found if I slapped my thighs hard in time to the music through the contractions, I could manage quite well. I listened to the sound it made. If the pain got worse, I slapped louder. I was grateful that I had read Juju Sundin’s Birth Skills in the lead-up to labour, as she talks about the efficacy of techniques like this – anything to distract your brain from the heart of the pain. I think sitting in the car also slowed the rate of the contractions, which helped a bit. ‘Tell me if I should be driving faster,’ said Michael. ‘No,’ I said, ‘there’s no hurry. I’ll probably be in a bit of pain, but there’s no danger.’ I explained about my weird tapping/slapping pain-management technique.

All the same, I was glad when we arrived. I staggered out of the car. Being upright again increased the pace and intensity of the contractions. It was hard to relax between them because I had the most terrible heartburn. I braced myself against the hospital walls and sign-posts during the contractions, and paced about quickly between them, as Michael got the parking ticket. 12.52am. I vomited into the hospital garden. Once I had collected myself a little, we went inside.

Huffing and panting through the corridors, we eventually found the right spot (the normal birthing wards were closed for the summer). I could barely speak to the midwives. They ushered us into a tiny room and our midwife fussed around for a while trying to attach the heart-beat monitor. I insisted on standing while she did it. The baby’s heartbeat was all good, so she made me climb up on the bed for a moment to check my dilation. 6cm already! I hopped down again immediately. I thought – I don’t want to do this. I can’t take hours of this. This time I just want an epidural and to lie quietly on the bed and relax. Of course I didn’t have time to say any of this, because the contractions kept coming and coming. Just do it, Mel, I told myself, don’t be scared, meet the contractions head on. There wasn’t time to think. During contractions I bent over, clutched the little side table, swayed my hips and groaned loudly. The noise helped a lot. The sounds I made were very, very low, I could feel the vibrations. In the short breaks between contractions I perched on the edge of the little bed, panting, clutching my legs just above my knees.

Last time the contractions had felt like a twisting, snarling dragon; this time they felt like a quick-rising sea of pain. I groaned and sang at them. I made different shapes with my mouth and listened to the different tones it made. I spared half a thought for poor Michael having to listen to it all but put it out of my head. I needed to focus. When the pain worsened I bellowed louder and louder. Not screaming, roaring. Michael said they would have been able to hear me on the other side of the river. And all of a sudden the sounds I was making changed slightly and I found my legs wide apart and something pressing down between them.

The midwife looked up from the computer screen on the other side of the bed. You need to climb up on the bed now, she said. Michael helped me up. I did not like being on the bed at all. I felt panicky. I need to check you, she said. I need to do a poo! I yelled. She needs to do a poo! said Michael. It’s the baby, she said.

Suddenly there were about four midwives crowding around the end of the bed. They fussed around trying to get my legs in the right position. Eventually we ascertained they wanted me to hook my hands under my knees and hold them up that way. This wasn’t particularly comfortable. I tried to rest one of my legs on Michael.

Don’t push! They said. Are you joking? I thought. Don’t push, said Michael. Ok, I thought. I remembered the book I had read. If they tell you not to push, you need to pant, lots of short little breaths. I panted loudly. I didn’t push but my body pushed a little on its own, I couldn’t stop it. This was new to me, it hadn’t happened at all with Felix. That’s great, they said, fantastic. Breathe normally!!! They told me once the contraction had finished. As in Felix’s birth, it was getting a little difficult to tell when I was having a contraction.

Eventually they said, ok, when the next contraction comes, then you can push. A big baby wedged inside your birth canal is uncomfortable. I don’t like this! I thought. But I thought – I need to work as hard and as cleverly as I can so that this is over as quickly as possible. I clenched a wet face-cloth with my teeth. I held my breath and pushed, three times per contraction. Is everything ok? Michael asked the midwives. Yes, they said, everything is perfect. This was reassuring, as it all felt very strange and very quiet. Only a few contractions later, she was coming out. Wait, they said, wait… ok, push. I felt a large, lumpy thing sliding through. She was out. She was quiet for a few long seconds, and then I heard her grizzling, and then she was flopping on my belly and I held my child.

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pregnancy-birth-29I was stunned. 1.47am. It had been less than half an hour since I was 6cm dilated. Less than an hour since we drove into the hospital car park. And I felt – fine. At Felix’s birth I had been so dazed and exhausted, but now I just felt normal. But here was our baby! Better than an epidural – it was already over. Michael kissed me.

antonia-1-1After what felt like far too long they finally let us transfer to the recovery room. Antonia curled up on my chest and I held my daughter for hours as the sun came up on her very first day.

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A walk

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Last weekend we had the most gorgeous picnic and walk around a little lake. It was so sweet watching Michael and Felix race ahead of me, ‘discovering’ engines trapped in the ‘mines’ under the big rocks, and ringing the rescue service to come and save them.

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I’m 37 weeks in this photo, but you can’t see much cos of what I’m wearing.

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It was a truly perfect outing, topped off by plenty of blueberries.

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Summer holidays

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It’s really hot here at the moment and Felix and I have had the most gorgeous time this week – mostly down at the lake. The past two days I’ve even been swimming myself in the freezing water. And I don’t have a lot of time or energy to write much now but I wanted to write something, before it evaporates. Most evenings I’ve been going for long walks alone along the dusky summer streets (it’s light till 11). It’s my favourite part of the day. I’m pretty active chasing after Felix all day, but there’s something so incredibly lovely about being able to walk at your own pace.

Today in the kitchen, Felix said – ‘The baby is very round, Mummy. Will it be round when it comes out?’

And yesterday, stark naked astride his bicycle in our lounge-room, he said: ‘Some people speak Norwegian. Mummy speaks English. Daddy speaks German. But I only speak… nonsense!’ Which, given the exuberant mood he’s been in for the past two weeks, is about right.

Though today he offered to put sunscreen on my back for me. ‘I may not be as fast as you,’ he said, ‘but I’m very strong.’ That’s a quote from Thomas the Tank Engine, but incredibly sweet. ‘Do you ever run out of steam, Mummy? What happens if you run out of steam at the shops? I could pull you.’

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Nesting

I guess there is no better word, but the image of a bird fluffing her feathers and pecking at sticks doesn’t quite convey the fierce wellsprings of energy I feel right now to clear surfaces, overhaul cupboard space, throw away old clothes and broken toys, sort, streamline… Everything I look at has to be fixed now.

Felix woke up at four this morning (can’t blame him, by four there has been full daylight for ages), and I could still hear him shuffling around in his bed after five, so I lay on the sofa in his room for a while to help him back to sleep. Yesterday I bought him a light-up kid’s globe of the earth (have been meaning to get him something like that for ages as he loves maps and always talks about Grandma in Australia and Opa in Germany and the Mooxies in Africa and the Huut at the North Pole). Last night I installed it on his recently rearranged shelves and moved his playmobile pirate ship up from the loungeroom to put next to it. They look awesome together. But as I lay on the sofa at 5am trying to breath calmly to convince him to sleep, the missing sails on the pirate ship that his friends pulled off at his party in February started to bug me and I thought – I must locate them immediately and insist that Michael attach them again. And I had to laugh at myself, and flick the book on my kindle from ‘Birth Skills’ (way too exciting) to a history of Britain in a vain hope to trick myself into going back to sleep as well. Felix’s breathing slowed, but I realised it wasn’t going to happen for me, so I came downstairs, my subconscious in no way convinced that properly attached pirate ship sails were not of the upmost importance.

On Monday we got back from a long weekend in Berlin (it was lovely, photos soon). Though of course it had its challenges (exacerbated by our stroller breaking down the morning we left, resulting in Michael having to carry the boy around a lot), it was lovely being able to focus on activities for Felix – he is at an age now when it pays off.

Now Felix has three weeks holiday from the barnehage and I am enjoying the rhythm of being home with him every day, playing and reading and walking between my tidying frenzies…

Oh no! I was sure the boy would sleep in after being awake in the night but 6.30 it is… We have already built a train track and a town and found some coffee beans for Douglas to transport at Felix’s very specific request. Another day.

By the way

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Did I tell you I got a new job? It is so momentous (and took such a long time to be confirmed) that when it finally happened (well over a month ago now) I couldn’t quite bring myself to write about it. But, there it is – I have a permanent job as Associate Professor of English Literature at my local University College. The start date is August 1. August 1 also happens to be the due date of my baby. Norway is one of the very few places in the world in which this isn’t a problem – I can take parental leave, and begin work next year.

It will involve the type of teaching I’ve already been doing (though slightly less of it), plus research and admin responsibilities. Even now, it feels a little too wonderful to write down. It is truly my dream job, which I’d almost abandoned hope of ever getting, in my dream location (a five minute drive from our house), with excellent colleagues and lovely students. And I will be able to get into research again, and there will be a point to it, and it will be supported.

It does feel a little strange that I won’t be able to start right away (currently I’m working there under a temporary contract, which will carry me through to the end of the exams period). Right now my head and my heart feel pulled in two directions – I’m 29 weeks already – can you believe it? I’m getting to the point at which I need to pull Felix’s baby things down from the loft before I’m too heavy to do so, and preferably clear some cupboard space for them first. The kicks I’m feeling are more solid, slow, persistent, and the baby blanket I’m knitting is growing. Third trimester tiredness and discomfort are catching up with me. But the fact that the job is waiting for me is a wonderful thing indeed.

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Before I was Felix I missed you

This evening I sat outside with Felix for half an hour before bedtime. I sat on the steps and knitted a baby blanket. He sped around riding his tricycle on the deck. It was pretty cold – I had to swap to my winter coat, but it was nowhere near dark. Michael had taken him outside to drive the remote control car, and then Felix asked for his bike, and we swapped. Felix is pretty good at pedalling now – he’s been practicing in the barnehage. He’s very proud of himself. He would ride up to me, stop, then say ‘goodbye Mummy, see you later!’ and do another round. It was one of those perfect moments – the grey-gold light between the still bare trees and the houses and the green green lawns, the tiny beginnings of new leaves on the hedges, the first rows of the baby blanket under my fingers, and Felix coasting around and around, chatting as he passed. And he said: ‘Mummy, before I was Felix I missed you soooooo many time’.

And it seemed as if time was centred in this moment, everything before and after pointed to now.

We have been talking a fair bit lately about where people come from, and about things that happened before Felix was born (he always says, but where was I?). He says, ‘When I was a baby…’ And he says, ‘When you were a baby…’ He says, ‘Who’s tummy was Daddy inside?’ He says, ‘how do you make a Felix?’ (Ask your father.) Once in the car he said: ‘When you were a little guy… Are you going to be little again?’ ‘No, I’ll never be little again.’ ‘But I want you to be small like me!’ ‘But I can’t be small because then I couldn’t look after you.’ ‘I want you to look after me.’

When we first started talking about the baby, he said, ‘There’s a baby in your tummy? And it’s not me?’ And later, we were walking by a busy road, and I said ‘be careful Felix and listen to Mummy otherwise a car might crash into you and there won’t be any more Felix.’ ‘Yes there will,’ he said, ‘in your tummy.’

He talks about the baby nearly every day. Last night we all sat on the sofa. He pointed at my leg. ‘One,’ he said. Then at Michael’s leg – ‘two.’ Then at himself – ‘three’, and then at my belly – ‘four’.

Truly his curiosity has been one of the nicest things about this pregnancy so far. It is a pregnancy I have longed for for more than two years, since Felix was a baby himself. I was not sure it would happen again, and I feel so utterly lucky. It is strange to think that the probability is very high now indeed that I will have a baby at the end of this. Things will change. And I am trying, in these last three months in which there are only three of us, to soak my little boy in, to listen to him, to be present for him.

As he rode around he talked to himself and to me. ‘The baby doesn’t like to sykler?’ he said. ‘No, it’s not so safe. But I’ll ride again later when the baby has come out.’ ‘When the baby’s bigger…’ He rode some more. ‘Do more stitches!’ He demanded, when I paused to look up over the trees. (A welcome change from his customary demands that I stop.) ‘I’m going to take care of you,’ he said. ‘And Daddy. And the baby.’ And then he told me he missed me before he was born.

Brother

I am dozing on a row of empty seats on the plane. Felix pads up to me and touches my arm.

‘How you making a baby, Mummy?’

‘Erm… Very well, thank you!’

‘Your body is good at that?’

I hesitate. After three losses, it doesn’t feel like it. ‘Yes’, I say. ‘Yes it is.’

 

We are walking back to the car after a morning in town.

‘What does the baby say?’

‘Erm… Blob blob blob!’

‘Noooooooooo!’

‘Ok, what does the baby say?’

‘Beep beep beep beep beep!’

 

‘There’s a baby in Mummy’s tummy.’ He likes to say. He gives it a pat. He comes with me to a couple of doctor’s appointments and listens to the heartbeat.

‘What they put on you Mummy?’

‘Jelly, so the machine can listen.’

‘I don’t want jelly to get on the baby!’

 

One morning as we snuggle on the couch, he says – ‘I like the baby.’ He repeats all the things he knows. ‘When I was a baby, I was inside Mummy’s tummy. It was warm in there. And when I came out you were very pleased to see me and you gave me a big hug.’ ‘I just eat with my mouth but the baby has a tube! And it says beep beep beep! And when it comes out it has blood on it. And it says Waa waa waa. And it can’t walk.’ ‘When I was inside Mummy’s tummy…’ he pauses… ‘When I came out, I drank milk from Mummy’s boobies!’ ‘Who else is having a baby? I want there to be lots of babies. Sooooo many.’

 

‘Do you think it will be a boy or a girl?’ I ask him.

He looks confused.

‘You’re a boy, and Linnea’s a girl. It might be a boy like you, or a girl like Linnea.’

‘I think it will just be a baby.’

 

At the scan, two weeks ago, we discover it will be a girl. I buy some baby clothes with roses on them. I show them to Felix and Michael on the weekend. ‘Put them away!’ says Felix. ‘I don’t like them!’

That evening, he says carefully – ‘Mummy, which house the baby going to live in?’

2010: The Honeymoon Christmas

To celebrate the five year anniversary of my blog, for five days I am reposting one of my favourite posts from each year.

If 2009 was big, 2010 was bigger, although it passed in such a blur. As I summarized here, in 2010: I made the saddest and most careful decision of my life, we moved into our very own house, I taught at the University in Oslo, I got pregnant again, our cats entered the story, and to top it all off, out of the blue, we got married.

But my favourite post has got to be this one.
                                                                                                                

2010: The honeymoon Christmas

For once we didn’t go anywhere. This was our seventh Christmas together, but our first Christmas alone together. Our first Christmas in our very own house with our very own tree. Our first Christmas with our very entertaining cats. Our first Christmas married. Our first Christmas in Norway. My very first white Christmas.

On Christmas Eve we tidied up a bit then settled down for presents about 4pm (Michael having ascertained in advance that we would do German presents rather than Australian ones so he wouldn’t have to wait till tomorrow). The kittens were most excited with their toy mice, Michael loved his huge warm grey dressing-gown, I put my early Christmas present of an ipod touch to good use providing some quality Christmas music, and we emptied the Christmas stockings of an over-abundance of Swedish chocolate I had purchased to make up for already having eaten the Australian chocolate Mum had sent me. (We still have some German Christmas goodies left cos Michael’s Mum sent over four boxes of them!) We then called Michael’s folks, had a yummy dinner of roast carrots, parsnips, garlic, red onions, falafels and brussell sprouts, and capped off the evening by watching ‘Let the Right One In’ – brutal and poetic and heart-warming all at once.

The 25th continued in much the same way – our favourite food, a crackling fire, novels on the sofa, a walk in the snow, skype calls to family, and Michael practicing taking photos of lights. Some new friends, a Japanese family, came over for dinner, and their little daughter proved what a good kindergarten teacher I’ve been for the last few months by giving us spirited renditions of ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’.

I thought some more about how much I like that Norwegian advent poem – how joy and hope are there, but longing too. The last verse goes:

We light four candles this evening,
and let them burn down,
for longing, joy, hope and peace,
but most of all
for peace on this small earth
where people live.

My Nanna said that Christmas wasn’t the same this year without Irene, my Dad’s twin sister who died earlier this year. And I must admit, looking at several of my friends’ Christmas photos on facebook of their six month old babies, I felt a little twinge for our lost little one whom we will never meet. But then I felt an even bigger twinge from the very present little one kicking and wriggling inside me, and I smiled. We should meet him very soon. But I like that poem very much because those who are absent can be with us too, they are not shut out.

I love Christmas. I love Christmas in Australia with my family and the sunshine, and I love Christmas in Germany with Michael’s family and the perfectly wonderful German Christmas markets. But this year, this quiet, happy, snow-filled Christmas was exactly what we needed, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Aussie babes

We met Felix’s second cousin Mala today for the first time. Caitlin and I reminisced about the days they were born, just over ten months ago, on opposite sides of the globe. I was still in hospital when I heard Mala was born; Caitlin was in the early stages of a protracted labour when she heard about Felix. We had announced our pregnancies to our families on the very same day last year, and met up in Berlin when we were both about 20 weeks. It was so sweet to finally see the little ones together.

The babes were oblivious to the significance of the occasion, but were very happy munching their vegemite toast.

Happy and sad

Felix and I have been alone in Salt Lake City for a couple of days, while Michael flew to Chicago and back. We have done some errands and visited coffee shops, gardens and parks. Last night I took Felix out to dinner at our favourite Noodles & Co. I had a glass of wine with my meal. It was possibly the first time I had ordered a glass of wine for myself when no one else was drinking (I was going to say when dining alone, but I wasn’t). I felt the warmth of the wine tingle down my shoulders. Felix was blissed out. He sat in the highchair, holding onto the front of it, looking around at everyone and up at the lights, doing a slow happy jiggle, opening his mouth distractedly every now and again for me to spoon more food in. He’d already eaten up a good portion of the ciabatta roll, crumb by crumb. When I put some of his rice puffs on the table in front of him he pounced on them with delight. Felix, I said, I love you so.

But I have been feeling sad, too. Recently, three of my good friends lost much wanted pregnancies, one right at the end of the first trimester, and two into the second trimester. It is heartbreaking.

Tonight, at another Noodles & Co (there are plenty), ‘Are we human, or are we dancer’ came on the radio. It tunneled me back a few years, when it was one of the songs played in my yoga class at the gym. I would listen to it, and the other songs, and think of my friend Kate, who died for no good reason, when a truck ploughed into her bike. And here it was again.

I thought of Kate, who will never have a child. I thought of my friends. I thought of the little lost ones who lived such a short time and couldn’t get beyond life’s beginnings. I thought of the frail marks they leave on the world. The hearts they re-arrange. The beautiful name of my friend’s son, stillborn at 20 weeks. And my own little one, with no name but only a clutch of poems.

Outside the late autumn light flared in the trees.

Felix knew the answer to the song. He smiled and wriggle-jiggled and kicked his legs and danced.

Birth Story

Warning: this is a very long post. Also, if you’re not interested in the gory details, you might not want to read on.

On Saturday night, just over two weeks ago, we walked over to our friends’ place for waffles. I was bored, frustrated, more than a week overdue and tired of waiting. Waffles were just the trick. I brought some brownies too. Our friends live only five minutes away, and I insisted on walking, trundling my heavy form through the thick snow and biting cold. (The funny thing is, my friend was nearly two weeks overdue just over a year ago, and the day we went out for chocolate cake together was the day her labour started.) It was a nice evening. We walked home slowly through the cold and went to bed.

At one I woke with a dull ache in my legs. This had happened before and not meant anything. I went to the bathroom and back to bed. At two I woke again with what I soon realized were waves of pain in my lower back. Terribly excited, I crept downstairs without waking Michael. The contractions were coming every two and half minutes. If I walked up and down when they came I felt ok. After half an hour or so Mum came down. Other nights she’d come to check on me but I had just been coping with bad cases of heartburn. Tonight was different. ‘Is it anything?’ she asked. ‘Yes’, I said, ‘yes, I think so.’

Continue reading

Just in case you were wondering if no news was good news

It’s not. It’s just no news.

Still, we’re doing ok. And the week is flying past. The hospital is meant to ring me tomorrow to organize some sort of ‘overdue’ ultrasound, but it will drive me crazy waiting for a call all day so I think I will ring them. Yesterday I did all the vacuuming and made delicious apricot and marmalade flapjacks. They are all gone. Today it snowed all day. Mum and I braved the weather on an arctic expedition to buy milk.

41 weeks

Getting a bit tired of waiting. Felt quite irritable today. Feel better tonight after a bean and lentil ‘shepherd’s pie’. Michael is even more impatient. He spent hours on the weekend breaking up ice on the driveway. Everyone says to enjoy the peace and quiet but it is difficult. Perhaps I should resign myself to it taking another whole week but I really don’t want to! Bubs is oblivious to our increasing impatience and is happily doing jigs in there. Michael says when he comes out he’s going to give him a big cuddle. He’s also jealous of the kicks and wriggles I feel, and says he’d like to be pregnant next time! And he says if the baby doesn’t arrive by tomorrow he’s going to the gym. Come on babbie!!! We want to meet you!

Forty weeks

I have been meaning to write this post for a while but have been a little distracted. But I want to record what this past week or so has felt like before it all becomes distant history! So… last week it finally began to sink in that there’s going to be a baby around here pretty soon. I got really excited. And realised there was still a couple of things I needed, which prompted a shopping spree. So I bought some bedlinen, for me and for him (thought I’d better get myself a single duvet in case he comes into bed with me and I don’t want to smother him – recently we’ve been using a double duvet each). I bought a chest of drawers. I bought cloths to use on the changing-mat, and some blankets. And then I saw a couple of cute cute cute suits in rainbow colours with lions and mooses and mushrooms on them, and we didn’t need any more clothes but I couldn’t help but buy them. I restrained myself from buying the light-brown furry coat with bear ears. And then I regretted my restraint and went back to get it anyway. I gave it a hug.

I had some friends over on Friday night and made home-made pizza. It was delicious.

Then, over the weekend, the spring-cleaning bug set in. I did loads and loads of washing. I put all his clothes away in the chest of drawers. I moved most of my books from my office to the spare room. I threw stuff away. On Monday I tidied the spare room for mum. I made up the bed for her. I thoroughly cleaned and re-arranged the bathroom. Today I finished the vacuuming and hid in the cupboards everything I couldn’t work out how to throw away. I had a midwife appointment then picked up Mum from the station. So nice to see her. She arrived with a bag stuffed full of gifts from Australia, including the most gorgeous teddybear from my brother and his girlfriend. (And we love all the other presents too!) So, yeah, still pretty excited.

Mostly I feel very healthy, although my belly is starting to feel like a balloon fit to burst.

Michael says waiting and waiting is the most boring thing in the world. He has been fixing door handles and rehanging the fridge door and moving the kitchen light-switch from the hall to the kitchen.

The midwife says everything looks perfect. She says to rest and to eat. So tomorrow, I will try to quell the excitement and get some rest, just in case he comes sooner rather than later. Who knows?

Confinement

Such an old-fashioned term. But at the moment it’s just about right. It was a lovely day today, really. Plus 3 degrees, which feels so, so warm. It had rained over night, and the trees were rinsed of their frost. The sun shone through hazy blue patches of sky and the bare tree-tops reminded me of England. But as soon as Michael got to work, he sent me an email entitled ‘ice’, which read: ‘Don’t go out under any circumstances. It’s too slippery even for crampons.’ Which was fair enough, as these three-day forays into the positives only succeed in turning our sloping driveway into an ice-rink. And all the footpaths, too.

So I washed the floors, and baked rosinboller. (My recipe wasn’t as fancy as that one. I got it straight off the sultana pack. But check out that blog! She lives in a much prettier part of Norway than I do. And has a cute baby boy. And I think I might be clicking back over there to try out some of her other recipes…) Over the weekend I had a serious craving for hot-cross-buns, so I bought some yeast and sultanas on Saturday morning. When I got home, though, I discovered it would take several hours to make them, so I made scones instead. (Which were amazing, by the way.) Anyway, today, having the whole day to myself, I thought I would have a go at the boller. It’s the first time I’ve tried cooking with yeast on my own. (When I was a kid, Mum and I would do it all the time.) And it worked! They rose! The living room smelled all warm and yeasty as they sat in the windowsill. They were very nice, though next time I’ll have to add more spices. I ate four of them straight out of the oven. Michael liked them but said the scones were better. But now I’m thinking of all the other things you can do with yeast…

I’m pleased with the photo I took today. I’m getting quite fond of this bump of mine. It is nice to feel round and full of life. (Also if you’re planning on getting pregnant I recommend being extremely tall. You get much less squashed.) 38 weeks tomorrow. When I see photos of myself not pregnant it feels like that’s not really me. Right now, this is me, and I am grateful for these few last weeks. I like that I am looking out of the window, and that the windows are full of light but that you can’t see through them. I like the crib stacked in the corner behind me, with my maternity bag inside it and a box of baby things. And for me, the photo is strange, because the room is reflected in the mirror, and it is all the wrong way round. Everything is stilled in the strange light. It captures perfectly this deep breath, this pause, this readiness. This quiet, hopeful time of looking straight in the face of a future I cannot yet clearly discern, and saying, despite this, yes. Yes.

In other news…

This is me a whole week ago when I was nearly 36 weeks. Now I’m nearly 37 weeks. And feeling pretty good really. I think bubs tried to engage about two weeks ago which was quite uncomfortable, but he jumped out again cos he likes wriggling around so much. At my GP appointment last week she said he was still really high up, and she would have liked to see him lower by now. Anyway. I feel him rumbling around and sticking little bits of fist and foot out at me and I can tell just by stroking him whether he’s lying on my left side or my right (he likes to swap around). At least he’s head down. My only real complaint is heartburn which seems to be exacerbated by his wriggling…

But it’s getting a bit boring just waiting and waiting. Today I did a couple of loads of washing, and the clothes horse is now full of little white suits and hats and socks all ready to go. Also my grandma knitted me the most gorgeous hat and jumper and booty set. The hat has a pompom! It is the sweetest thing in the world. I can’t wait to put it on him.

And yep the snow does make getting around a little difficult. Not too difficult, because Norway is used to such conditions, but reversing out of our driveway is a challenge. Actually last night it started to rain and we kept waking to the sound of great thuds of snow crashing down from the roof. Today our driveway resembled an ice-rink. We tried to go for a walk this afternoon but after teetering down the first little hill with our crampons on we gave up and tiptoed back. Can’t really afford to stack it on the ice at this point. The snow’s going to keep melting for a day or two and then it will all come back again.

Baby dreams

I dream about the baby. I dream we can look at him whenever we want. I dream he opens his eyes and we see his sepia-toned face looking back at us.

I dream about breastfeeding. In my dream the kittens want a go and I am frightened of all their little sharp teeth so I express instead and milk goes everywhere.

I dream about labour. I dream I lie on a bed in hospital and nothing happens and eventually the midwife says go away and come back in two months.

Thank you Nanna!

My Nanna (my Dad’s Mum) reads this blog, and when she read what I wrote about not knowing what to get for the baby, she promptly sent over some cardigans and booties she has knitted for him! We love them. They will be perfect to keep him warm. And I love the little pearl buttons. I remember when I was a little girl I loved little pearl buttons. I miss you Nanna. We both send our love.

For anyone wondering, here’s the bump in progress, at almost 30 weeks. I get a shock whenever I glimpse myself from the side. It looks much bigger that way than it does from above. He is starting to feel like a bit of a lump in there. Last night he decided he wanted to lie sideways for a while and kick and poke me, which wasn’t much fun. But sort of amusing all the same.

Aside from that, it has been cold. The forecast says cold and colder. I’ve been struggling with the November blues the past week, not to mention the never ending head-cold which developed into a nasty sinus infection. It’s hard knowing that just about now it’s sunshiny and gorgeous in Australia.

Here’s the frost on the balustrade of our deck. These crystals cover everything, every morning. Well, until it started snowing yesterday. I took these frosty pictures on Friday morning, but I haven’t raced out to photograph the snow yet. When you know it will be a pretty constant companion for the next five months or so, you lose the sense of urgency…

The frosty mornings are beautiful though. It’s hard to capture on camera the puffy yellow clouds of the sunrise shining through the iced branches of the trees. And things are coming together. We’ve spent the weekend snuggling in front of the fire, eating soup, figuring out how to better insulate our loft. My doctor prescribed me some antibiotics on Wednesday, and I’m starting to feel a little more human. And I have my winter boots.

28 Weeks

That makes me third trimester, right? I’m quite pleased about that, as it feels I’ve been pregnant forever. Spring, summer, autumn… And winter arrived with a thud this week. Yesterday there was a veritable snow storm, complete with howling winds. The snow needed clearing from the driveway this morning. Today it was calm, but still snowed most of the day. The kittens are intrigued. At least black cats are very visible in all that white!

It’s a good thing I took a photo of our bright yellow beech tree last week, as now it’s pretty much lost all its needles and reverted into a very spindly miserable brown thing indeed.

I have had a head cold for what also feels like forever. At least eight weeks. It took a turn for the worse last weekend. I was nearly ready to call the doctor in my frustration, but I worked out it’s probably not one cold but at least three overlapping ones (the cost of working in a kindergarten), so I don’t suppose there’ll be much she can do. My voice has been AWOL since Sunday and I’ve been hacking my lungs out, but I feel marginally better this afternoon. They’ve reduced my hours by 50% at work – the benefits of living in a highly taxed but family (and pregnancy) friendly place like Norway – so hopefully that will help me recover. I’ve been exhausted.

Michael has gone to Germany so I have the place to myself for a few days. I lit the fire this evening. We bought a reverse cycle air-conditioning unit a couple of months back, and it’s been a life-saver, but for once the place wasn’t heating up to my liking. At least we have plenty of wood! It still feels a little strange to live in a place like this where surviving the winter has a whole different meaning. As I got the fire going (very easily thanks to Michael’s foresight in ordering and stacking the wood, collecting bags of kindling, and chopping some of the logs into little bits for fire-starters), I couldn’t help but think back over the generations of Norwegians who have survived here. The families who have lived in this house over the past ninety years. And even before that. Imagine living in Norway during the Middle Ages! The whole summer must have been one careful preparation… And I live in the south, where it’s pretty mild. I shudder to think about how they survived up north.

Meanwhile, in the kindergarten, we bundle the babbies up in hats and scarves and blankets and gloves and woolen suits, and put them out in their prams to sleep in the snow. Even the little eight month old. I still can’t quite believe it but they don’t seem to mind.

Speaking of preparation… Twelve weeks until my due date doesn’t feel like very long at all. It’s funny to think that the little creature who whacks me from the inside occasionally but aside from that hardly makes his presence felt and seems pretty happy in there will all of a sudden require a lot more attention. And stuff. Like clothes to wear and nappies and blankets and somewhere to sleep. And very warm clothes in case we ever need to take it outside (or upstairs for that matter). We really haven’t got very much ready yet. We ordered a pram a couple of weeks ago, so that should be ready soon. One of my colleagues says I can go through her baby stuff and borrow a car seat and some other things, so I need to do that shortly.

And then I suppose we need to work out exactly what else we need and start getting hold of it. I had a bit of a look in a baby shop yesterday. It frustrates me that all the boy’s clothes are blue. But despite my best intentions, I find it hard to come at buying the suit with the pink squirrels on it. (Why shouldn’t he have pink squirrels?) Besides, I haven’t met the little creature yet, how do I know what will suit him? Michael’s mum gave me a very cute little pair of overalls with owls on it, but I’m afraid it will probably be too small. It says 0-1 month, but it’s size 46, and I think European baby sizes are basically how big the baby is meant to be in centimetres. Given that the average new born baby is 50cm, and Michael and I are both in the 95th percentile for height, I think it’s unlikely that we’ll get a little one… The smallest clothes I saw in the shop yesterday were 56, which is probably a safer bet… Advice anyone?

Anyway, I guess we’ll work it out! There’s lots of little things I want to get done around the house too over the next couple of months. I think I need a list. The fire is lovely, by the way.

New template

What do you think? I moved across to wordpress from blogger about two and a half years ago, when I moved to Norway from the UK, with only nine months left of my thesis to write. It felt like a new home deserved a new configuration of my online space. I’ve used the same template since then. I like the old template a lot, but what I don’t like is how it navigated the archives. This template is much better for browsing past entries and photographs…

In other news… We have new curtains!!! (Thanks grandma!) I’ll take a photo when we’ve got them all up. We put up the first set on the weekend. I ironed them first. I’ve never ironed curtains before. That was an eye opener. After ironing what felt like forever I was only a third of the way through. I love them though. I can’t wait to get the rest of them done.

About ten days ago it was freezing for a whole week, a couple of days not climbing about minus five before lunch time. And then it snowed, just when we’d planned to drive up to Oslo for the day. The journey was impossible on our summer tyres, and all the garages were booked out because everyone suddenly wanted their tyres changed, so Michael had a go at them. It was going great until one of the screw heads broke off. Which meant we were stranded for a week until we managed to get a garage to fix it. As soon as we got it back the temperature climbed to ten degrees and it’s rained ever since. At least we’re ready for winter when he decides to show up again.

We did make it up to Oslo in the end, a week after we had first planned. It was quite stressful but strangely entertaining. I’ll tell you about it another time.

Over the Halloween weekend we were inundated with little Norwegian witches and goblins who made off with all our chocolate. A sad thing, I’m telling you. We should have got Mermos to scare them away.

The belly is getting bigger and bigger, and the little monster kicks frequently, which is most reassuring. I’ve managed to reduce my hours at work thanks to the generosity of the Norwegian system, which is very lovely indeed. My eleven weeks left of work suddenly feels a lot less daunting. I dragged myself off to the pool tonight for the first time in weeks and felt like a very slow very heavy fish.

In-between

I’ve always been bad at in-betweens. You know, when you are waiting for something to happen, or something to become clear. When you hesitate to put down roots in your situation, because you don’t know what’s coming next, and you aren’t sure if any investment you make now will be worth it. The effect these in-betweens have on me is stultifying. I sit and look at all the things I could be doing and don’t do any of them.

You can see it in this blog, these in-between times. It becomes harder to write, harder to think, even, so I post less frequently, or stick to photos rather than words. Like the early months of pregnancy, when I can think of little else but don’t want to write about it yet. And like now.

This has been a rather long in-between. In between finishing my PhD and …. I don’t know. A baby? What else?

We are planning on staying in Norway for the next three or four years, so in order to make that profitable for me I need to either get a research grant or learn Norwegian so I can get a more interesting job. Or both. We are also thinking of  going to the US for nine months or so while I am on maternity leave. It’s not set in stone but is a distinct possibility. I was ambivalent about it at first but now am quite excited about it. Of course it complicates the whole learning Norwegian thing. But I can make that work. I’ve got to stop thinking like that.

I guess what I am trying to say is I am trying to live richly and purposefully in this in-between time. I want to kick the inertia so that I can do that. I want to start learning Norwegian properly now, although there are only three months left until the baby is due. I want to complete some writing projects, and repaint some scruffy walls in the house. Although I’m not sure where the writing will get me, and although we might not be spending much time in this house next year. Because if I don’t do anything, it won’t get me anywhere at all.

Although I find in-betweens uncomfortable, I don’t do much to avoid them, because I don’t like to rush things. At some level, strangely, I am not afraid of them. After my undergraduate degree, I had two and a half years off, during which time I worked as a home-care worker for people with disabilities, I wrote part of a novel, and after deciding that I did want to continue with English literature after all, I secured funding to do a Masters in medieval literature at York. After the masters I had another year off, during which I finished my novel (with a little financial help from the South Australian government), and managed to get funding for my PhD.

So in retrospect, those in-betweens were quite productive. It is easy to think the past ten years have left me with not much. A couple of dusty manuscripts, and a rarified education that doesn’t count for a great deal in the real world. But those two dusty manuscripts are quite nice, even if I do say so myself. They deserve to be reshaped into forms in which they can go out and meet the world. I need to be brave enough to do this. And we shall see where it takes me.

Beautiful Berlin

It was a weekend more reminiscent of the gorgeous sunny visit to my brother last September than the rainy but lovely couple of days we spent there this May. Sigh. I would love to live in Berlin. I have thought so for ten years, and every time I visit I think it even more.

We went to our favourite pizza place twice, ate many falafels, waffles, and seriously good slow breakfasts.

We did one day of touristy things with my aunt, before deciding to leave them to it and sticking to the cafes, parks and flea markets.

Michael took lots of pictures. I didn’t take any.

I found an amazing fabric shop and bought fabric covered in fairytale characters, mushrooms, dinosaurs and birds. Now I’m not sure what to do with it – I just chose the ones I liked and didn’t really think about whether they would go together…

This is me gazing wistfully through the locked door on Sunday – I had hoped against hope that I could go in for a second look. (But now I have found the online shop! Hmmm…)

My aunt was super excited – about seeing us, but especially about seeing her son and his wife, who she hadn’t seen for over a year, and who are expecting a baby the same week I am. Here we all are comparing baby bumps:

I’m not sure what Joseph is brewing in this one:

The leaves were just about to turn.

Lots more photos here.

20 weeks

All’s well. Just starting to get a belly that doesn’t disappear in the mornings. The jeans I bought at ten weeks are still too loose though. I’m hopeless at buying jeans.

Last week we had an ultrasound. He (yep, he) is beautiful. We saw him stretch his arms above his head, and cross his legs, and hug his chest, and kick his legs like a swimmer and burrow into my side, and curl up like a kitten with his toes above his nose. We saw his sharp white bones and his startling face. We looked at him and we loved him.

I haven’t felt much movement yet, but they tell me I have an anterior placenta which means I probably won’t feel anything for a while.

Berlin was lovely. Sunshine and parks and long slow breakfasts. And it was so nice to see my aunt and my cousins.

Michael is now in Paris but the kittens are keeping me company. They are such social little things and are both snoozing on the desk as I type. (They would snooze on the keyboard if I let them.)

When I get home from work all I want to do is lie on the couch for hours. I really need to find a job that utilizes my skills more effectively. Still. It’s all part of the plan. And it is not a bad job really. (And I am getting lots of practice I suppose!)

Words seem quiet and elusive right now. But I will try to spend more time with them, to coax them back into my garden. (Funny sentence I know, but that’s sort of what it feels like when I try to write – like I’m sitting in an empty garden waiting for the birds to come back.)

It feels like it has taken forever to get to 20 weeks, and that it will take forever to get to 40. But it won’t, I know. This is the tipping point.

Quiet Saturday Morning

Last night I stayed up till midnight, for the first time in nearly four months. I did feel like crawling into bed around 10, and I was slightly ill with tiredness by the time I got there, but still – midnight! We had some of Michael’s international work colleagues over for dinner. I made roast tomato and carrot soup (yum), and then we had falafels, homemade hummus (I think I’m perfecting the recipe, and topped it with toasted sesame seeds), fried halloumi, roasted peppers, tzaziki, olives, sundried tomatoes, pita bread, potatoes, and a green salad with lettuce, cucumber and avocado. (It was fun expanding the cheese horizons of the Americans – one of our guests had never tasted Halloumi before, and I also gave her some Norwegian brown cheese to try, which she was pleasantly surprised by.) Then at Michael’s insistence (and after a decent pause), I made my childhood favourite: chocolate self-saucing pudding, which was appreciated by all. The kitties were the stars of the show, and enjoyed trying out the different laps, and cavorting with a toy mouse in front of an audience.

This morning Michael’s off at yet another meeting. I’m deciding whether to head off to the shops in Sweden (to be sucked in by a sale at my beloved Iittala outlet), or just to bug down here. Most of all I’d like to go for a coffee with one of my Adelaide friends, or cousins, or Aunts, or my Mum or Dad or brother. I wish there was a fairy who could whisk up our house and our lives and plonk them down somewhere in the Adelaide hills.

My Grandma had a knee replacement operation this Wednesday, and she is recovering well to our great relief. It was a really annoying operation, as she had it done a few years ago, but they discovered they had put in a faulty part that was shedding bits of metal into her knee, so had to take it out and do it again. The first time she had a quite a scare with clotting problems, but this time they were keeping an eye on that from the outset, so it’s all going well. I send her and Granddad all my love and I’m so glad it’s all going smoothly. (In true G&G style, they spent the two weeks before the operation on a bus tour of outback Queensland!)

And two more of my dear Adelaide friends have had a daughter! My poet friend and his wife now have a little Beatrice! (So four of my best friends have, between them, a Beatrix and a Beatrice, born only a couple of weeks apart.) I know my poet friend really loves the Paradiso, and listened to it on audio-book when he was recovering from his stroke. Beatrice is a lovely name – all light and hope and exploration.

So most of all I’d like to see my Grandma, and meet the little Beatrices, but there will be time enough for that next year. In a couple of weeks I get to meet my cousins and my Aunt for a weekend in Berlin, and the Michael’s parents are visiting, and in October I’m zipping across to the UK for a weekend to see my Leeds friends. And my family are with me here, even in the food I cook: Mum’s and Grandma’s chocolate pudding, Dad’s hummus, and the roasted peppers that my cousin Sal learnt how to make when she worked in a cafe.

This week Autumn has arrived – a chill in the air, a smell of apples and woodsmoke, and torrential, flooding rains. I’m loving our little house at the moment – I’ll post some ‘after’ pictures of all the work we’ve done soon. In other news, I’m 17 weeks now, and I don’t feel pregnant at all! In fact I feel better than I did before I got pregnant… We have another scan in a week – it will be nice to confirm that the little thing is still in there! Love to all. xxx

Swimming

I’ve started to show a little bit this week. Not much, but my colleagues are gleefully pointing to any evidence. They are very excited for me. (But the new lady, who didn’t know, was surprised when she was told, so I think if you weren’t looking for it, you wouldn’t see much.) Anyway, this was accompanied on Monday by some rather alarming back pain in my lower back. Nothing debilitating, I suppose, but I am not accustomed to back pain and I don’t like it! And this is only fifteen (well, nearly sixteen now) weeks! I haven’t even gained weight yet! It’s got to be downhill from here. So I dragged myself off to the pool.

It’s a pretty small pool, but it’s only a fifteen minute walk from the house. On Monday I managed fifteen laps, today twenty-five. My back still felt pretty dodgy on Tuesday, but it’s better now. So I think I’d better keep this up. Mermos doesn’t like it because it makes my skin smell funny.

I never used to be terribly good at swimming, but then I discovered goggles, and the swimming cap. Without a swimming cap, all the water gets caught in my hair and drips down into my mouth when I’m trying to breathe. I polished my swimming skills in Adelaide, before I moved to the UK seven (gasp) years ago. I thought it would be a grounding, calming thing to do. It was.

In York I used to swim a kilometre twice or three times a week. I would walk to the pool – an old, fifty metre monstrosity – with my housemate and fellow masters student Neil, early in the morning before our day of writing our dissertation. It kept us sane, and the thought that a friend was waiting for us ensured we dragged ourselves out of bed. I kept it up for another year or so after I moved in with Michael, riding my bike there to break up afternoons of writing and thinking. But after a while the chlorine made me sniffly, and I joined a fancy new gym, where we just used the pool to boat around in after a workout, and that was that.

But I think it’s good for backs. And I love the smooth, cool rhythm of it. And this little pool is more than enough for me in my current state! Tonight I even managed to walk down. It’s still light until about 9pm. There are trees bulging with green apples blushing pink in many of the gardens. It rained heavily this afternoon and this evening the sky was still grey though it’s pretty warm. The ground is clean and shiny.

I arrived home to Michael furiously sanding our kitchen and our lounge room door, to the strains of a rather groovy playlist. The amount of work he’s put into these doors is staggering. (After Dad re-istalled one of them). Stripping and sanding and filling holes. And painting and sanding and painting again. Michael calls it the circle of life. But they’re nearly done now. Just have to get hold of some proper oil paint for the final coat. Anyway, will stop rambling now. Good night!

Day by day

Well, I had another scan at the end of last week in Oslo, and everything is looking good! We saw it bouncing around. And the doctor had a very close look and said everything looks perfectly, absolutely normal. I’m starting to relax now. It feels like such a gift. I was really really hoping it would be ok this time because I couldn’t face the thought of having to go through three first trimesters in a row. Two was enough! Just over fourteen weeks now and the yuckness and tiredness are starting to ease off a little. (Well, I say that now, but I have the early early shift tomorrow which means waking up at 5.30, so we’ll see how I feel then…)

My parents left this morning and it was sad to see them go. We shared such a lovely holiday with them! And I cannot believe the number of little niggling problems with the house we managed to sort out. But that deserves (yet) another post, including ‘after’ pictures once we’ve got the place tidied up a bit more.

We went for a long walk in the forest this evening and are sitting out on the deck as it’s still pretty warm. The kittens are bouncing around. Life is so much better with kittens.

The main thing

Ok now this is the main thing. On Monday we drove to Fredrikstad for a scan. I was terrified. On Saturday I was so nervous that I felt nauseous all day. But this time, Michael was with me. He lent me his iphone and I played Stoneloops of Jurassica in the waiting room, which so successful at distracting me that I didn’t even hear them calling my number. Then we went in for the ultrasound. And there’s a little one in there! It’s alive! It doesn’t seem to have the same problem as last time.

I was so relieved I went out of the hospital and I cried. For the little one who will never be born, and the little one who in all likelihood will.

And then we met my parents for coffee and cake in the old town.

***

After lunch I called my Grandma. Eventually I managed to interrupt the flow of family news.

‘I’ve got some news for you too’, I said. ‘I’m pregnant again!’

‘Oh!’ she said. ‘Someone else is pregnant too!’

Not exactly the response I expected, but anyway… ‘Who?’

‘Well, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to tell you, but Caitlin rang this evening and she had her scan this morning and she’s twelve weeks!’

‘Wow!’

‘How – where are you…’

‘I had my scan this morning and I’m twelve weeks!’

Many breathless phonecalls ensued. Caitlin is the wife of my cousin Joseph. They are living in London at the moment. All going well, these babies will be the first great-grandchildren on this side of the family. My Mum and her sister will become grandmothers together. Everyone is ecstatic. Apparently my Grandma was so excited she gave herself a migraine.

***

I had the scan on Monday. Wednesday was the estimated due date of my previous pregnancy. And on Friday, two of my closest friends in Adelaide had a baby girl. So, for me, it is slightly bittersweet. Yesterday and this morning I felt this piercing, heavy sadness. This new story is wonderful, but it is coloured by the old one. And it feels so unreal. In my (very limited) experience, pregnancy doesn’t mean a baby. My parents have driven off for a few days holiday in the mountains. They will be back next weekend, but then they head back to Australia. I think I also feel sad about that. About living so very far away. But I have learnt, too, that sadness passes. That it is like a thick mist, damp and cold, touching and clouding everything. But it lifts. Already I feel a little better. I made some rather strange but fairly tasty brownies this afternoon, and I go back to work tomorrow. I am looking forward to getting into routines again. I feel rested. I am looking forward to writing and thinking on my Fridays off. And we are looking forward to our new stories, to all their colours.

***

What happened

Just over two weeks ago, I was twelve weeks pregnant. I was so looking forward to telling you all. We were so ridiculously happy. And we’d just had the most beautiful month’s holiday in summery Australia, including Christmas at Port MacDonnell, and a week at the beach in Portland with my parents, and paragliding in Bright (my GP told me in her opinion paragliding in early pregnancy was perfectly fine, and I nearly hugged her. When I told my Grandma I had doctor’s approval to jump off mountains she wasn’t quite so impressed!) After our paragliding adventure, Michael left for two weeks work in Texas, and I headed back to Adelaide for some teaching preparation and a conference in Wollongong. And my twelve week scan.

My mum came with me. We thought we’d go out for lunch afterwards and do some shopping. We saw the little thing dancing and leaping around and it was amazing. But after prodding me for hours in two different ultrasound clinics, they told me that it had a diaphramatic hernia, its stomach was displacing its heart, and its lungs probably wouldn’t be able to develop properly. They said it’s a completely random defect that affects about one in 2500. There is a chance of survival with surgical intervention, but the stats aren’t good.

I had two weeks of further tests, and meetings with specialists, and tears and deliberations, and pouring over medical reports and statistics, and hours on skype to Michael. (In the midst of all this I managed to pull myself together enough to attend my conference, which was wonderful, and deserves a post of its own.) They told us if we wanted clearer information on the prognosis we’d have to wait till nineteen weeks.

We decided not to. We decided it really didn’t look good. We decided we didn’t want to take those risks for us, or our child. So on Wednesday, at fourteen weeks, I went to the hospital and ended my pregnancy.

I knew as soon as they told me what was wrong, that we’d have to make a decision. That I’d have to make a decision. (As much as I hoped we’d do it together, I knew legally and ultimately it would be down to me.) There was no way out of making a decision, and living with the consequences. One of my friends suggested that I wait and see what would happen, and get out of making a decision that way. But that would be a decision in itself. My friend suggested that we weren’t supposed to be in positions like this. But we are in these positions. I wonder if it’s one thing that sets us apart as humans that we put ourselves in situations like this, and then act within them.

I knew it was a decision we’d have to make with our eyes and hearts open. And we did. It was terribly painful. But we made the best decision we could, and we are happy with that. We will be ok. The poems I wrote are here. They say everything I deeply need to say.