Letters: 30 weeks

My little Wriggler,

I’ve been thinking a lot about the journey we have ahead of us.  In truth, we’re already quite some way into it and are slowly approaching the next stage.  I like to refer to this next stage as your “hatching” – the German term “Schlupfen” sounds far more fitting to me than the English.  Your Papa’s language can be so very descriptive and poetic.

I have rushes of excitement when I wonder what you’ll look like and the thought that soon, I shall get to meet you.  It’ll make a change from having exchanges through the wall of your current home; watching ripples and twitches with bewilderment and feeling quite enchanted that you are already quite your own person, waiting for your moment to arrive.  I’m so insanely curious to get to know you and watch you develop and grow.

I’m beginning to find it tricky to put socks on now.  I wouldn’t say you’re a particularly big baby (yet), or that your current pod is over-sized.  I’d like to think I was fairly slim in stature to begin with.  When we need to get up in the morning these days, I have to either roll or slowly heave myself up.  You tend to nestle in your favourite corner over night, making those first movements each morning a slightly delicate affair.

One morning this week you were so firmly nestled in your corner, I had a lop-sided bump and despite my gentle coaxing you point-blank refused to move.  I definitely adopted a waddle that morning as I moved about the flat for the first 5-10 minutes.

Lop-sided bump
Nope, not budging.

The following morning a strange sensation roused me from my deeper sleep, and half-awake, I watched a suspiciously foot-shaped protrusion make its way from just under the right-hand side of my rib-cage over to the left; a bizarre dorsal fin of sorts that pushed back when I touched it gently.

Soon I will need to pack us a bag for your debut; you’re becoming increasingly active and I’m almost constantly watching you shift, twist and kick.  Did you know that your feet already reach quite some way underneath my ribs?  You seem to prefer the right-hand side, for some reason, although you did recently discover that you can park your tiny feet perfectly in the spot where my ribs part.

You also appear to be nesting quite low; almost a tad impatient, I’d say.  At the last check up we couldn’t do any 3D imaging of your face for your Papa because you were nestled so tightly against the stage exit.  You’ve got a while still to go, my little lion heart.  Patience is going to be an important thing for you to learn, I feel.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about becoming a mother and what that means.  Like all parents-to-be I have my concerns, my fears, my wishes.  And as is to be expected, I want to give you the best start in life I can possibly offer; even if that isn’t that much compared to those more financially stable than us.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading and talking to women who have already made this first intimidating leap into motherhood – what they found useful, what was a waste of time, and what they would change were they to do it all again.

Time and time again the theme of putting my well-being as your mother and (initially) main care-giver first comes up.  “Solange es der Mutter gut geht, geht es dem Kind auch gut”, said the obstetrician to your Papa at the last appointment.  You will thrive if I do.  We will thrive together.  I look at our current circumstances and we are in the unusually privileged situation where we can choose between two countries.  It doesn’t feel like a blessing at times because I feel incredibly torn, but when it comes down to it, we do have a choice.

Here in your Papa’s country, we have his support for the first few weeks – although I’m not entirely sure what that constitutes of at the minute – and a high quality of medical care.  But there will come a point when he goes and continues living his life, and I will need to care for us both; learning to stand on my own two feet and ensure that I am capable of nurturing you as you need me.  This isn’t entirely impossible, but it is in no doubt a sizeable mountain to climb.

The alternative would be to temporarily return to my country.  The healthcare system there is quite different – not necessarily worse – and it would mean that your Papa will likely not be present for your hatching, which does sadden me if I’m honest, but the love and support you would be born into simply eclipses the surroundings we would find ourselves in were we to remain here.  You have no idea of the number of people who are curious, excited and nervous to meet you.

It’s hard to describe the feelings you evoke in others simply by just being there.  If ever you find yourself having a dark or bleak moment, I want you to remember that there are people on this planet who have grinned with joy, emptied a few bottles of wine, and have been even moved to tears at learning of your existence.

I question of course whether or not this is the right decision; I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer to this and I do not doubt that you may question my actions later on when you are older and begin to understand the world we live in.  Your Papa was understandably quite wounded when I mentioned I was considering moving us back to the island for your hatching, and said some quite hurtful things, as is to be predicted.  I understand his pain, and this is not a decision I make lightly; I have talked the ears off of several donkeys on this and Lord knows I have driven people absolutely mad agonising over what to do.  I have to follow my gut instinct – the same one that told me that carrying you was perhaps the best decision I’ve made so far.

This is just another leap we have to make, you and I.  We’ve made it this far – we can keep going.

 

 

 

 

…but I’d be grateful if you could stop punching my cervix.

Love,

Mama x

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Inane Whittering #Eleventy-Twelve: Kitchens and Bump

Before you begin to read this and find yourself thinking “dear Lord, here we go again with either cats, knitting or whinging”, I’d like to warn you that this entry has been lovingly handcrafted by the spellbinding combination of what I can only describe as pregnancy rage; a healthy dose of frustration and a dollop of cultural perplexity.

First the elephants in the room:

Yes I’m having a baby.  Surprised me too, funnily enough.  Yes I’m doing this on my own.  Little wriggler is due to make his first on-stage appearance in the summer.  So that means a sober birthday in addition to Christmas just gone.  The size of that first gin and tonic will be a whopper, I’m telling you.

Next surprise: I’m back in the land of beer and salami.  Neither of which I’m supposed to consume, given current circumstances.  This time, I’m in the West dealing with corporate types as opposed to the Bildungselite in the East like the last time.

Right, on to the topic that’s driven me to type this afternoon whilst my inhabitant decides to do his afternoon yoga and test whether my organs make for good cushions: Germans and their bizarre kitchen fascination.

As it currently stands, I sub-let a room in a flat share until the end of April; this was agreed from the word go when I originally moved in.  This deadline was always on the horizon; then came the revelation that I will soon have a human kitten and the search for a new place to live in became that little more complex.

I should add that personal circumstances are incredibly fluid in nature at the best of times, and things haven’t always been quite this…precarious, as it may come across.  Sometimes you genuinely cannot foresee the things that are thrown at you.

So here I am, looking for a flat (and a midwife, and a hospital, and childcare) in the Frankfurt area, and for those of you vaguely familiar with the city will already be spitting out your tea/coffee/gin as this is quite the mountain to climb.

The rental market here is, quite simply put, ludicrous.  The little that is on the market is priced extortionately, and is snapped up before you can say “bugger me”.  Secondly, the moment you look like you’re expecting and appear to be on your own, be prepared to be rejected – cue baggy jumpers and coats with strategically placed scarves and pray he doesn’t start a yoga routine mid-viewing.

And this is where the kitchens come in.  In the UK, it is quite common to move into an unfurnished flat and to have to provide maybe the fridge, or the cooker and the washing machine.  Dishwasher too, if you’re feeling flush.

The Germans appear to be quite attached to their kitchens, and take the damn things with them when they move out.

All of it.  Cupboards, work surfaces, appliances, sinks, the lot.

So not only do you have to consider the deposit, and the fact that you will have to pay more than the rent advertised as it won’t include bills, you also have to mentally brace yourself for the installation of a darn kitchen should you not have one spare.

Out of fairness, there are the odd instances where tenants quite understandably do the normal sensible thing and leave the kitchen behind in exchange for a price; these offers however are not particularly commonplace, nor do they hang around for long.

I do not have a car here, so need to be close to public transport for work; close enough to a hospital that’ll take me so I can get myself there when my little dude decides he’s ready; and it needs to be affordable with the maternity pay* that’s available: these criteria restrict things somewhat.  Throw in the soon to be not-so-secret baby and the required childcare and you can imagine the fun we’re having with the search.

It’s enough to make you question the logic of staying in a country that technically is foreign to me – even if my employer were accepting and supportive of the development, and Brexit wasn’t on the horizon, this would still be a challenge; I am not about to lie to myself on the challenges of motherhood.

Brexit may seem a weird one to throw in seemingly without reason, but based on current work permit frameworks, these are fairly easy to obtain if you earn over a threshold of ca. 48,000 EUR per annum.  Needless to say I do not meet that threshold.

It’s almost enough to drive you spare.

Sadly I have no immediate solutions to any of this, save for continuing to spam every estate agent and flat advert I can find and going to viewings.

Despite all of this, I would make the same decision again, given the chance.  Whilst he’s currently dancing away and practising his kung fu with his umbilical cord, my tiny dancer and I have already experienced quite a bit.  Little does he know.

Right, time to go munch something before I start getting complaints.  Then it’s on to complete the best dinosaur jacket you’ve ever seen.

Oh, and German obstetricians are an experience and a half.  Mine is an absolute Powerfrau and a diamond.  More on that later.

*I should add here that I am aware that German law is incredibly comprehensive and the support offered to single parents is, based on what I have read, very well thought-out; there are safeguards in place to ensure that one parent does not leave the other without.  However I need to be realistic whilst the paperwork is sorted out and I am absolutely certain that there will be unexpected costs that I will need to be able to cover, thus the worst-case scenario planning.

Musings #5

I said that the next thing I’d ramble on about would be being commitment-phobe. I lied. Don’t hate me.

I decided not to ramble on about the difference between being emotionally claustrophobic and being a commitment-phobe because I had an Archimedes moment. It was one of those moments when you’re in the bath contemplating life, the universe and everything and you suddenly have the most amazing, splendiferous notion as to why things are the way they are and you then have the urge to share it with everyone. Except in my case, I decided to finish having my bath first before trying to write anything down; ended up having dinner and now I want to write my marvellous idea.. it’s all a bit hazy.

So, please, dear reader, be gentle.

I’ll start from the beginning (not half way through this time) and try to explain from where this fragment of lunacy emerged. Yesterday I managed to sort out a flat to live in for my year abroad working in the ceiling-mines of Munich. Which has left me to do a fair bit of pondering (and thus give me a reason to completely ignore all my work sitting in front of me). So, thinking about the whole “going-abroad-to-pretend-to-be-a-real-adult-who-can-look-after-themselves-and-be-completely-normal-and-boring” thing can make you a tad.. sentimental? Anyway, I suddenly came to the conclusion that there are certain roles that people play in our lives, and wherever you go, you should be able to find someone else to fulfil that role.

The first one that came to mind was The Comforter. This is often a parent figure or another mother-substitute. (Please note substitutes and supplements should be used as part of a balanced diet) This person is the rock in your life who keeps you from doing anything outrageously stupid (like ringing your boss/ex and giving them a damn good piece of your mind) and who you can’t imagine being without. This is often the hardest role to find a substitute/supplement for, yet it is perhaps one of the most looked-for.

Then there’s The Fellow Loon. The Fellow Loon is someone with who you feel completely at home with and appearances don’t matter. You can let go and let it all hang out with your Fellow Loon. The only proviso is that you’re both as bat-shit crazy as the other.

Fellow Loon
hjskcm;uamkufzsxyxnfawfuw BOOM

The Wet Blanket. The Eeyore in your life, always pointing out the perhaps inconvenient repercussions of your wonderful ideas and hi-jinks – can often lack self-confidence. (This person is generally also quite cuddly, but may need help in reattaching their tail.)

The Distraction – the on-off boyfriend/girlfriend where you’re not sure what you feel for them, but when things are a bit boring, you feel the urge to get back in contact to spice things up a bit with a smattering of drama.

The Brother Substitute – the fraternal role sometimes played by someone with whom you thought you had a spark, only to realise that it wasn’t /that/ kind of spark. These are the guys who insist on walking you home every time you meet, who stand up for you and get annoyed on your behalf. They’d probably also go to the ends of the earth and back if you asked them. Oh, and they’ll always insist on buying the drink. These are perhaps the most difficult people to find – the sincere, the honest, the respectful, and the ones who can talk about guns and WW2 until the cows come home (though that last part’s not required).

The Sister – the sisterly influence in your life where you commiserate about boys/men, work and generally talk clothes, make-up and all kinds of weird and wonderful things. This sounds similar to the Fellow Loon in a way, and I suppose it is because of the silliness involved and the level of comfort that both of you will draw from each other. But the support/strength that you get from each other is different. Trust me. Oh, and most likely one of you’ll steal the other’s shoes/makeup and you’ll argue. Then you’ll realise it’s all too stupid, make up, and then do each other’s hair.

The Diva – everything in their life is the worst/best thing ever and they demand your attention and affection. They often serve to make you appreciate the simplicity in your own life and to be appreciative of the small things. Often things can be about look and status and this can help remind you that life is simply too short. However, only so much time can be spent with these people before you go crazy. The bad crazy. Where you turn into one yourself. The Diva is also incredibly flamboyant.

divas
Faaabulous, darling

The Understated Companion – the person who you don’t really acknowledge enough, if at all. They do all the little things in the background to try to make things easier for you and they often manage to do it with such subtlety that you remain blissfully ignorant.

The Quiet One – always watch the quiet one. You never know quite what they’re thinking.

The Token Ginge – much loved, much teased and generally an okay person. Often considerably geeky, although may be slightly touchy on the subject of hair colour.

The Insufferable Optimist – the ever happy, bouncing, eager, puppy-like person in your life. They can be ever so slightly annoying when things are stressful, and if left unattended for long enough, may start shredding toilet paper. Also loves to be scratched behind the ears and playing fetch.

Happy puppy
EEEEEEEE!! YOU'RE AWAKE

The Bad Influence – the inner devil. The person responsible for all those times when you announced that you had work to do and that you’d stay in that evening, only to be persuaded to go out “just for one drink”. Five hours later and you stagger back through the front door having had a good time, but sadly your essay’s not written itself, so you end up drinking numerous cups of tea to sober up to try and finish the work. Good in moderation.

The French One – also known as the Immaculately Dressed. This is the person who’s always dressed and coiffed perfectly for the occasion; always with the perfect figure, generally wears scarves and always looks chic – often with that effortless “I-got-ready-in-10-minutes” air. Will typically like good food and drink (wine, not ribena) and can be quite the romantic. I’m not talking about the stereotype; these people DO exist. In fact, they do these things so effortlessly, you feel like a tramp.

tramp
Gizz'a kiss

This list is by no means finished – I might continue it at a later date, but for the meantime:

Sleepy red panda
I shleepz now. Kthnxbai

Musings #4

My friend pointed out to me today that my rabbits and horses theory doesn’t work. Her reasoning was that she knew people who she thought were cats.

It’s a fair point: cats like to be independent for the most part, and act aloof like nothing really matters, only to then come back to you either for food or to steal your bed for the best part of the day. Then there’s the school of thought that says that the Egyptians once worshipped cats as gods and that cats certainly haven’t forgotten.

Except I’m not quite sure that there are cats in life – I mean, sure, there are those who are independent, sleep a lot, like staying clean, aren’t too keen on water and like being scratched behind the ears; yet deep down, they are dependent on other people, and that trust or dependency will take a while to grow.

So in that respect, they’re both a rabbit and a cat. I found this a tad confusing to begin with, until I came up with a solution:

cabbits.

Cabbits are those who appear to be independent and distant. (And a little bit bitey at times..) They’re also generally quite cute and furry; often found with a tail. They act aloof and have that kind of regal air about them, and they like you to come to them, rather than seek you out. But at the same time, they’re secretly dependent on you – far more than you could possibly imagine; unless of course, you yourself are a cabbit, in which case you’ll know exactly what I mean.

To the untrained eye, a cabbit can be difficult to handle: how do you live with a creature that on the surface appears to be so cool and distant, yet scratch him behind the ears in the right place and he’ll roll over onto his back and let you stroke his tummy? (Tickle on pain of death/loss of hand.)

To be honest, it depends on the cabbit. Some are more open to change than others. The thing is, you need to give the cabbit the space he needs: the moment a cabbit feels trapped, back into the rabbit warren he goes, yet not enough interest and it may seem that you don’t care; something which cabbits find most painful.

If you find yourself with a cabbit, give him time to get used to spending time with you – coax him out of his defensive cat state and encourage him to be more rabbit-like. However it should be said that a) be prepared to have the odd stand-off with your cabbit, they often tend to want everything done their way (and to steal your bed) and b) you may need a large supply of feathers, carrots, soft cushions and catnip.

Warning: use catnip with caution – may cause lots of purring, silliness and munchies:

Cat with catnip toy looking guilty
Ah. You're back early. This isn't what it looks like, promise.

Musings #3

Today I realised that we’re all caterpillars. Now, before you jump to the conclusion that 1) I’ve been taking those funky tablets that call out to you or 2) this is a rather poor attempt to emulate my success with rabbits and horses, hear me out.

It struck me that the world is a strange place and is rather scary at times. (Well done, Sherlock. You better watch this one, she’s quick..) Okay, it’s scary a lot of the time and every now and then, it’s all rather overwhelming – what with all the goodbyes and strange new places and people we meet. I certainly have been feeling the overwhelming thing a lot recently, particularly when it comes to the year abroad. Quite frankly, the idea of spending a whole year in Munich, like some kind of responsible adult (pffffffffftt!), staying out of trouble and learning an entirely different language and culture seems rather… well, daunting. And that’s not including the days where I’m incapable of getting out of bed:

Zonked raccoon
Not gonna happen.

But then I suppose there will always be things like that, no matter your age or experience. Before, I’ve thought of life as a game, full of challenges horses that life sets you – sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Sometimes it’s a draw. But it’s down to you as to what you take from it – which is royal pain in the arse if you’re that scared that you’ve regressed to the age of 3, quite frankly just want Mama and for it all to just go away.

So, going back to my realisation that we’re all caterpillars: if life is game whereby you’ve got to give each challenge your all, the challenges will result you transmogrifying into something new. Except the catch is that you don’t know what it is you’ll turn into, and because you don’t know, it’s scary. Anyway, I think it’s safe to say that we start off as caterpillars; they’re fairly harmless little creatures.

The first challenge, I would say, for most caterpillars is university. Now, this first stage I have to admit is something my father said to me, (in one of his more… coherent moments) when I was trying to explain why a part of me didn’t want to go to university: if I’m honest, I was scared and didn’t know how I was going to manage. He said to me that at that moment, I was a caterpillar, and when I went to university, I would go into my cocoon. Yet by graduation, I would have fully become the butterfly that I’m meant to be. But I don’t think that it applies to just me, it applies to everybody.

We’re not all the same, however; we’re all individuals. Some become the rabbits or horses in life – or worse, squirrels. Some become the bravest of lions; others the meekest of mice; some become the most loyal companions you’ll ever know; some incredibly vain and pampered; and then there are those who don’t know how to deal with the weird and wonderful things in front of them and become ostriches, burying their heads in the sand – able to run from their problems, but never free to fly away.

I suppose we all have potential, it just depends on whether we choose to tap into it or not. Or rather, it’s not what life gives us, but what we make from it. I know, I know, this whole post is turning into one humungous cliché.

But if you do anything, make sure 1) you sure as hell enjoy it and make the most of it, and 2) you don’t end up drawing the short straw and become one of life’s spiders. The poor buggers get such bad press.

Lovable spider
Image found on the hilarious "Hyperbole and a half" (click image for link)

Musings #2

I came to the conclusion today that everything we want in life is either a rabbit or a horse. This epiphany struck me whilst I was chatting with a friend about how she wanted things in her life to go in one direction, yet they seemed to be doing quite the opposite. What I found most intriguing was her use of the word “should”.

I’ve noticed this a lot, recently; it seems to be a sort of trend. I realise now, that I go through phases of “should”. For some reason, it’s ever so difficult to realise that when it comes to us as individuals and how we feel, and therefore, what we do, there is no “should”. It simply does not exist. You are who you are.

Which is actually a lot more difficult to wrap your head around than it first seems.

The classic case is generally when talking about relationships and what we “should” be doing at a certain age, or what we “should” be feeling. I made the point to my friend that we have the saying “good things come to those who wait” for a reason. She then asked what the point was in having the saying “seek and thou shall find”. Touché.

And this is when the rabbits and horses hit me.

I realised that you need to know the difference between a rabbit and a horse. Laugh as you may, but it’s not as easy as you may think. Life’s rabbits are shy timid creatures whose trust you need to earn. You need patience, time and a lot of carrots. Emotions, I tend to find, belong more to this category. You need to leave time for things to settle down, get used to their new, somewhat scary and unfamiliar surroundings before approaching them. Some rabbits find it easier to settle down and adapt than others. But perhaps most importantly, you can’t force it. Think of the saying “you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”.

Which leads me quite nicely onto the horses in life. These are no ordinary horses. These ones are wild and need to be tamed. With life’s horses, you first need to find them, and then have enough strength to win the battle of wills that follows. Oh, and you might need a supply of sugar cubes. Eventually you will end up with a loyal steed to accompany you through life – and you’ll be able to jump nicely over hedges.

The trouble is working out when life’s given you a rabbit, or a horse. I suppose the most frustrating thing is the time a rabbit can take to be coaxed out of its warren. Sometimes, all you want is that relationship that everybody else seems to have; that feeling of being loved by somebody else; or simply the knowledge that that person has decided to be there for you regardless – even when you’re not wearing any make-up, feel like the world is out to get you with a sharp pointy stick and you’re having the crappiest hair day ever:

Bad hair day
A-ttractive.

The worst thing about it is that you’re impatient: you don’t want to wait however many years it’s going to take, you want it NOW. Yet, in trying to reach that stage of comfort, affection and security, you’ve startled the rabbit so much that he’s retreated even further into his warren; to the point where sometimes you think he’s disappeared altogether.

Yet with horses life can seem like a constant struggle, and if you’re someone who’s easily discouraged, horses are the last thing that you need. They can be opinionated and haughty; yet at the same time graceful and somewhat imposing.

So the next time you’re faced with a situation where you’re not sure what to do, ask yourself: Rabbit or horse?

Rabbit