Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My mom, my back ache, and how it's all related

I had intended to write a post about my mother one the one-year anniversary of her death, November 19.  But for several reasons (one being that it was emotionally not easy to write such a post), I didn’t get to it until now.

When I was composing the post in my head at the time, it was mainly about what my mom’s death had brought us. Besides the tremendous sadness of losing her, I also wanted to share that somehow, her death (and the fact that my dad found a new partner rather quickly and wasn’t a bundle of loneliness and misery we had to go and take care of) gave my sister and me a kind of liberty. Of course we would never say that we favored this liberty over having our mother, but – at least to me – it did offer some peace of mind. The umbilical chord had finally been completely cut. Let me explain: ever since we’d been living abroad, and even more so since the birth of our son, I always had this urge to move back to Holland. Not immediately, but someday in the not too far future. I wanted to be close to my mom, to have her around to babysit my child(ren), to be my reliable source to fall back on when I was in doubt. To have that person close to you whom you don’t need to explain anything to, she already knows. This feeling made me restless – always wanting to leave, even though hubby had no desire to move back to the lowlands any time soon. However, when she had died, this feeling was almost immediately gone. I wanted to stay where I was. I had good and affordable childcare for my son, we had built some nice friendships with local and international people, I liked this city, I even got some more interesting work projects. It was as if I finally was able to appreciate this and value it for what it was. In a way, I think a similar thing happened to my sister. She lives in the US and talks at least once a year about moving back to Holland, about wanting her kids to grow up with their Dutch cousins, etc. However, just before my mom got her death sentence, they had sold their house in a very uninspiring town, to move to a town close to a big city, with all the cultural offerings they were missing so much. They briefly thought about abandoning that move and moving straight back to Holland, but luckily they didn’t do so. My mom got to experience the positive change it made for my sister, but also the rest of her family – and even when she was sick mentioned to me once that moving to that town was the best decision my sister had made. Then my mom died, and my sister had the urge to stay in Holland to take care of my dad. But they were getting into each other’s space, and not much later, my dad met someone new (something my sister had a lot more trouble with than I, but that’s a separate story). A year after they had rented their new home, they got the news that the owners wanted to get rid of it. So it was move or buy. Again there were discussions about family in Holland, etc. etc.  But in the meantime my sister had also obtained her US citizenship (my brother-in-law had done it a few years before – having to give up his Dutch citizenship, but my sister could keep dual, the kids already had dual citizenship since birth). They bought.

So something along this line would have been my initial thought for a post. I didn’t dwell daily on missing my mom. I was even glad that the tensions that were there sometimes between us and my parents (mainly because of stuff my mom did that irritated the hell out of my hubby) were now gone. I did miss that I couldn’t call her regarding my pregnancy, talking to my dad about it was just not the same. But since we lived far away, she hadn’t been present much in daily life, so that just continued. If I stopped and reflected, I could get very sad (and still can) about the memory that is gone. My mom remembered everything, my dad remembers hardly anything, She was a better listener, or at least made an effort to register things from our daily lives –my birthday was almost two weeks ago, on a Friday, of course my dad called when I was at the pool for my prenatal swimming that I’ve been doing every week since September – and I cried when I heard his voicemail, knowing that if my mom still had been alive, she would have remembered, and they would have called early, to catch me before I left.

For the first anniversary of her death we went to Paris with my dad and his girlfriend (I didn’t want to drive all the way up to Holland and wasn’t sure airlines would still allow me to fly). I had mentioned to my dad a few weeks earlier that I wanted to light a candle for my mom at the Notre Dame cathedral. We would also take a walk at the Père Lachaise cemetery. My dad’s girlfriend would be there, but she had already indicated that there would be enough opportunity for my dad and me to take some time apart and mourn. It all seemed to be a good plan and we were enjoying the weekend and the fact that we were spending time together. The day we arrived we took the walk at the cemetery (beautiful views over Paris), I saw a grave of an artists we’d been to an exhibit of once when we were vacationing in France. He made a lot of (crazy) paintings with violins, which I really liked and I had tried to get (a reproduction of) one of his works, but to no avail. I made a photo of the grave. I asked my dad if he’d seen it, he said he did, but he didn’t remember the vacation story. I emailed the photo to my sister. She didn’t remember either. My mom would have.

The next day, November 19, we went to Notre Dame in the morning. When we arrived there it seemed my dad wanted to split up – but not the way we had talked about, but him staying with the girlfriend. He was nervous. I told him I wanted to light the candle with him, what the girlfriend and my hubby wanted to do was up to them, if someone could take the toddler, that would be good. So finally my dad asked his girlfriend to walk around with our toddler, while he and I lit a candle and hubby was there too to take a picture. Then when we had taken our moment, my dad asked me to give the girlfriend a hug later, because this was difficult for her too. I didn’t really react at first, but when I was outside again I screamed “No” in my head. This was our moment. If someone needed to be comforted it was me not her!

Then a few days later, when we were all back home, my dad called me and told me he and the girlfriend had had an argument. Apparently she had first said she didn’t even want to come to Paris, because it was too hard. Then she still came, but had said she didn’t want to come to Notre Dame with us, but in the end she did. I was mad. I told him she could have opened her mouth at breakfast, when we were discussing what to do that day. But maybe it was also my dad, because he always wants to have everyone around him and do everything together, so maybe she did suggest she would go do something else and meet up with us later, and he convinced her to come along anyway. I don’t know. I told him they should find a way to deal with it. I understand it is difficult, but my dad clearly still doesn’t know how to manage dealing with mourning my mom and having a girlfriend, but it doesn’t work this way – we now cannot talk about my mom when his girlfriend is there, so even though when we see each other we all have a nice time, and I don’t blame him for having found someone new (yes, it was soon, but these things sometimes just happen, that’s life), but we can’t shut out my mom. The girlfriend should not see my mom as competition. They are incomparable anyway.

That was the anniversary weekend. A month later it was my birthday, a week later it was Christmas, and I entered the final month of pregnancy. On Friday I made a very ordinary but apparently completely wrong movement and pulled my lower back. It hurt the entire weekend, I couldn’t bend, walking was difficult, etc. Thanks to some stretching and massaging I started feeling a little better on Sunday afternoon. On Monday evening the osteopath thankfully had time to see me. These are the to-go to specialists in France for muscle aches, back pain etc, but I always forget that they are part shrinks (they work from the ‘cranio-sacral’ standpoint, I’m more used to physical therapists or chiropractors who massage or ‘crack’ you and give you exercises), so there I was, lying on the table and then the question came, if something had happened recently. So I first said no, and then I said well, maybe I’m missing my mom a bit more around the Holidays and the nearing end of the pregnancy, and oh, there was this thing that happened around the anniversary of her death… So while he was working on me, my back pain went from a 5-6 to an 8  - which the osteopath said was perfectly normal, because I need to release it all, it will start to feel better soon and disappear in a few days.

The hour on the massage table made me reflect again. On how I have lost an anchor place with my mom’s passing, on how difficult it can be that that one person, who knew everything about me, is just no longer there. And I thought about the text again that was on a condolence card someone sent us last year. It’s part of a poem by a Dutch (Christian oriented) poet:

Zeven maal om de aarde te gaan, (to go around the earth seven times)
als het zou moeten op handen en voeten; (if necessary on all fours)
zeven maal, om die ene te groeten (seven times, just to greet that one person)
die daar lachend te wachten zou staan. (who would be waiting there, smiling)
Zeven maal om de aarde te gaan. (to go around the earth seven times)

Sometimes the urge to just wanting to see her, touch her, one more time, smiling, like she used to be, before she got sick, can hurt so much. And I wish her grave wasn’t 900 km away, and I could go visit it often,  and just sit there, and be with her in spirit.

(and yes, my back is already starting to feel better…)

Thanks for reading all the way to the end. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Feeling sorry for myself

I'm not having the best morning. Yesterday when taking the breakfast stuff from the dining table back to the kitchen I pulled my back. Even lying down an entire night didn't do anything to relieve the pain and turning was almost impossible and caused two bouts of leg cramps. So of course I didn't sleep well. Our toddler was at our bedside at 6:30 am and after 15 minutes in our bed wanted to get up and I had to join him (as usual).

Hubby has been absorbed in work unhappiness for weeks so is no fun to be around let alond that I should expect him to get up and entertain our son so I could get some more rest. Instead we closed the bedroom door so he can sleep for at least another hour.

Tonight we'll put the Christmas presents under the tree (earlier would only result in the toddler unwrapping everything). I had a lot of fun buying presents for our son and my hubby. I know there'll be one present for me, that hubby and I bought together, but I think that's it. Maybe I'll relabel the CD I bought hubby and give it to myself. How pathetic is that.

Boo. Time to get myself in the holiday spirit...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

33w5d belly pic

I realize I officially suck at taking and posting belly pics, but here's one anyway, taken late last night...

Saturday, December 10, 2011


I assume what I've been doing in the past week / days has something to do with nesting, and not just my usual sense of organization (and my apparent lack of common sense, when it comes to some actions, but more on that later).

Ever since the conference I was working on has happened and my workload has significantly decreased, I've been catching up on things around the house that were patiently waiting for me to have more time, but there was a definite tug from the baby department, calling me to start preparing for the arrival of baby #2.

First, I'd been having my eye on a very cool design co-sleeper - something I'd like to have as I don't want to repeat the first six months we had with son #1 (and of course this baby's sleep habits might be completely different, but I want to be better prepared this time in case they are similar to #1), i.e. getting up every 1.5-2hrs at night for 4 months in a row until I was so exhausted that I had completely lost myself (both mentally and physically - I lost way too much weight). However, as is always the case with a cool design, it came with a heavy price tag and it wasn't in stock for a long time. When I told hubby about it he thought I was completely nuts  - why spent so much money on it if you're only going to use it for about six months. I knew he was right, and though I had planned to ask it as a gift from my always very generous grandmother, I was wondering if I wasn't overstepping it. So... to make a long story short, I started browsing the lovely interweb and found a very suitable alternative, available here in France, with a much friendlier price tag and grandma was OK with paying for it. So I immediately ordered it because I had a 15% discount coupon (but of course the next day I received a 30% discount coupon from the same store, which made me a little mad) and a few days later it arrived at our doorstep and of course I immediately had to assemble it.

In co-sleeper mode, with one side down

In bassinet mode, with all sides up
Next to our bed, with the veil my mom made for the crib #1 slept in (and #2 will use too when it outgrows this one)
It is still standing in our bedroom, but of course not directly next to the bed. When our toddler saw it for the first time, he wanted to know what it was, so I said it was a little bed for the new baby. The next day he walks into our bedroom, he sees the bassinet and he says "shh, baby's asleep".

Then, as we only have a 2BR apartment, both kids will have to share a bedroom once the baby has got some sleep routine going. Our toddler's room still contains some office elements (a desk, which we never use anymore, except to put piles of bills on to be filed away and a few books for evening story time; and a file cabinet) which have to be moved out (desk to be put away in storage, file cabinet to our bedroom) so there will be room for the baby's crib and a second chest for a combination of toys (a system from the well-known blue and yellow Swedish superstore) and clothes for our toddler. The lower part (a three-drawer chest) is currently in the living room, but will have to make room for the play pen which we're going to set up again, and then we'll put a taller unit on top of it with wire baskets and a clothes rail).

So for the past two weeks I'd been composing my shopping list on the Swedish superstore's website, I also added a bar stool for myself, so I don't always have to stand when preparing meals, step stools so the toddler can brush his teeth without me having to pull him up to the vanity, underbed storage boxes (for more toys) etc. Last Thursday the store near our city finally had everything in stock what I needed, so off I went, with toddler in tow and my shopping list all printed out (which very handily listed where in the warehouse part of the store various items could be found). It all started out great, still had toddler contained in the shopping cart when passing through the Christmas ornaments (and of course buying them too), but then I needed a second cart for the bigger items. And then he stood up in the other cart, wanted to be on the flatbed cart - started running through the warehouse aisles, and oh my.... I was sweating and cursing myself for doing this (but at the same time I really get a kick of going to this store and being able to check everything off my list, even when eight months pregnant, just the toddler-chasing did me in). Then we arrived at the checkout and there were huge lines, also for the priority (ie pregnant women) checkout lanes. I never feel comfortable cutting in front of a lot of people just because I'm pregnant, but a woman waiting in line in front of me took one of the carts and brought me right up to the checkout, I gave an apologetic look to the lady who was first in line, and she graciously let me pass (and then looked at my carts and I could see her think "this woman is nuts").

All in all the trip went well, despite having to change shirts once home (and yes, I left the heavy items in the car for hubby to take out when he gets back) but this trip, in combination with the broken nights I've been having because our toddler is abusing the fact that daddy hasn't been home for the past week (so he wakes up in the middle of the night, wanting to sleep with mommy in the big bed. I'm mostly too tired to try to keep him in his own bed, but he takes a while before falling back to sleep if at all) really got to me yesterday evening. Of course our toddler isn't getting the sleep he needs either, so he's crying and throwing tantrums, while I try not to lose my temper (not always successfully) or cry myself, while my whole body hurts and tells me to just please lie down. It only got better this evening, after we'd both had a good long nap and we just stayed home and cooked dinner instead of running errands or trying to see friends.

Three more sleeps until hubby's back home. Hopefully our toddler will come back to his senses when it comes to his nighttime sleeping then too.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pretty stupid

So in yesterday's post I wrote a little bit about the various meds I'm taking. The magnesium tablets however were giving me a hard time, in that they are pretty impossible to swallow. I was already breaking them in two or three pieces, but even then it remained a challenge. So this morning I had a look at the box to see what was actually in them (various homeopathic forms of magnesium) so I could go to the pharmacy and buy those ingredients as granules.

Then my eyes wandered over to the directions: three times a day (OK was doing that, as the pharmacist had told me so), preferably not during mealtime (oops, had taken them at mealtime, as that's the easiest way for me to remember), by breaking them and then letting them dissolve under your tongue.

Right... no wonder they were hard to swallow! Today's tablets have been a lot easier to take...

And then partly in response to Valery's question whether they were doing anything against my leg cramps. Yes, I do think so, even when I swallowed them... (but as a rule with all homeopathic medicine, you have to believe!)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

8-month checkup

Just a quick update on my checkup of this afternoon at 33w2d. Everything still going great! Doc said the baby is still very high so I shouldn't worry about anything this month. The little one is super active, which is a joy to feel each and every time.

The stats:
Weight: +1.5 kg since last month
BP: 110/60
Fundal height: perfect (didn't get the measurement)
Cervix: Long and closed
Belly/Uterus: Soft
Fetal HR: good (didn't get reading)

Currently (still) on the following meds:
2 iron tablets a day
1 baby aspirin a day (which I can stop at 35w0d)
1 stool softener a day
2-3 magnesium tablets a day (this was not prescribed by my OB, but the midwife whom I'm taking the birthing classes with advised me to take them when I mentioned my leg cramps)
3x 3 9ch granules of cuprum metallicum (homeopathic medicine) a day (self medication, also for leg cramps)
1 prenatal vitamin a day (self medication)

Got my blood work done right after seeing the OB so that'll be ready for my consult with the anesthesiologist coming Monday.

Am planning to write a few more thoughtful posts than these easy stats and updates, but have to find a time of day to do that when I'm less tired.