My mother-in-law had been doing an English course at the local Volkshochschule, and as soon as summer hit, there weren’t enough participants for the course to continue until September. She persuaded the teacher to privately tutor a bunch of them in her garden – great plan! Until he cancelled last minute. She asked me if I could do it, I agreed because .. well, what else can you do? I had to bring LG along of course, since Peter was working, and it ended up with an exhausted Mama and an even more exhausted baby rolling home after 8pm.
What have I learnt?
1. BABIES WILL NOT SLEEP WHEN YOU WANT THEM TO. I genuinely believe they can smell your desperation. I tried so hard in the 15 minutes before the ‘lesson’ started to get him down and nothing worked.
2. BEING IN A GARDEN DOESN’T NECESSARILY RELAX YOU. I think my mother-in-law thought it would be this wonderful chilled out, informal chat-fest. Nope. Her ‘co-student’ was still overwhelmed at the prospect of speaking English, and still relied on the archetypal classroom structure to make him speak.
3. ALWAYS COME PREPARED. Even when you’re told not to. I should’ve trusted my instincts and brought some worksheets to fill the awkward silences.
4. WORK IS WORK NO MATTER HOW IT’S SOLD TO YOU. The end.
5. YOU CANNOT BE THAT COOL WORKING MUM TEACHING WITH A BABY IN HER ARMS. My brain simply would not allow me to do both – comfort my fussy baby and ask questions to get people talking.
Yes he can …. !
– Hold his head up for at least 10 seconds whilst lying on his tummy
– Smile and laugh at things (he’s not just smiling in his sleep anymore)
– Burp! Like a trouper. This is a big deal. Less gas = happier baby.
– Sleep 6 hours straight. From 7.30pm to 1.30am – he’d only go to bed at 7.30pm if he was super tired.
– Be soothed by a wooden rattle ….
– Make bubbles (cute)
These days it’s a lot easier carrying him because he feels a lot less delicate that his first month. All that chub chub makes him seem ‘sturdier’ and I’m comfortable carrying him over my shoulder, or even slightly on my hip because he can support his head relatively well. This is a game changer, really. It still hurts my back but not as much as when I carter him around the apartment in the crook of my arm.
And me? I’m feeling better than even in my new mumma role. The weather is so good at the moment it gives me that burst of energy I need to look at things in a positive light and get out there and do stuff. I’ve got my head around the broken sleep (even though only waking to feed twice, or three times, is pretty good going) and if the day starts at 5a.m, so be it. I just need to have an extra nap in the morning, or afternoon, or both. There are still days when LG has a bad day, and the screaming/crying goes right through to my core, and there’s just no way to comfort him. I’ll willingly admit that I was so exhausted after an hour of it the other day that I just put my face in the mattress, fingers in my ears, and counted out breaths while he raged in the background. Sure enough he stopped 10 minutes later and fell asleep to some white noise (thank you YouTube).
Trollby is a great secondhand shop near Eisenacher Strasse u-bahn in Schöneberg. I’ve been there a few times, my first time being when I was around 5 or 6 months pregnant. I remember walking in and immediately being impressed by the sheer colourful assortment of clothes and to my surprise, a table set up with jugs of water, biscuits and haribo. This is literally a shop that offers you water and snacks whilst you browse around. Within 5 minutes of arriving, they had offered me a cup of coffee, and were constantly on hand to help me reach things on high shelves and offer advice (I had no idea what to buy at this point).
If you sign up for their newsletter, you’ll receive a €5 voucher, and as the months go buy the newsletter keeps you informed of special offers, Sundays when they open (i.e around bank holidays) and the occasional €5 voucher (I was too slow to act on my May one).
I went there again with Peter and LG last Friday, and they were just as nice and helpful as my visit as a pregnant lady. They encouraged us to ask questions and not only set up the changing table for us to change LG before we left, but also directed me to a small room at the back with a ‘comfy chair’ (quote) to breastfeed him. The shop assistant even gave me a glass of water to drink whilst I fed him!
There is a good selection of clothes (mostly secondhand C&A), toys (for all ages), maternity wear, along with practical baby things e.g baby baths, breastfeeding pumps, changing mats etc. Reasonable prices, but it depends what you buy – the secondhand ErgoBaby carriers are still very pricey, even secondhand (around €60+).
Can’t recommend this place enough, happy shopping!
I thought I’d nailed the whole ‘heat’ problem. I had … for my baby. The thing is, Mamas need to drink a) to keep themselves hydrated b) to keep their milk supply up, and in summer you can add c) because it’s summer and it’s freaking hot. One Saturday I decided to trek to Neukölln (I have a voucher for DM), taking care to walk in the shade etc. I forget to bring any food for myself, didn’t drink and ended up frazzled & stressed outside Peter’s office, feeding LG and realising I couldn’t manouevre the pram into a späti for a drink. I ended up having to walk another 20mins to some bio supermarket where I spent far too much on a piece of quiche I inhaled and some fancy water. Then I had to drag my exhausted self home (another 30 mins).
Okay that wasn’t really a shortened account, oops.
What have I learnt?
1. ALWAYS PUT A BOTTLE OF WATER IN THE PRAM. Or two, that would be even better.
2. SECRET SNACKS. Biscuits, crackers, whatever. Put them in a small tub or zip-lock bag in the changing bag.
3. SUNCREAM YOURSELF UP. When you suncream your baby, suncream yourself. If baby wears a hat, you wear a hat.
4. TAKE BREAKS. Sounds like common sense but bear with me. You’re pushing a pram in the heat, which is pretty strenuous even if you don’t realise it. Stop every 15 mins and just sit on a bench/wall in the shade and sip some of that water.
5. BRING DEODORANT. To counteract all that sweat.
6. THINK YOUR JOURNEY/ ROUTE THROUGH. I should’ve realised that my walk would take over 2 hours, pushing me into midday heat. Next time, I’ll take the bus there and walk back.
Sometimes, sometimes, some good karma is thrown your way.
When I was pregnant, I didn’t always feel Berliners were so forthcoming in helping me out, particularly when it came to public transportation – even at 9 months it was so hard to get a seat! Before 8 months it was virtually impossible, and in my last 3/4 weeks the situation improved, but I’d still have to wait 3 stops on the u-bahn before someone stood up. There were some nice exceptions however. Shout out to the 3 bus drivers who let me travel for free, or the lady on the u-bahn who physically escorted me to her (then, my) seat, or the strangers in the cafe who clamoured to pick up my loose coins when they spilled all over the floor.
Today I headed to Mitte with a friend, and LG in the pram of course, to pick up German drivers licence. Immediately the concierge/receptionist was really friendly, making some small talk and directing us to the service lift since the regular one was broken.
Once upstairs, despite arriving only 20 mins after the place had opened, we joined a rather long queue. There seemed to be some confusion amongst others standing in the queue as to whether this was indeed just for picking up documents… Anyway. We stood for about 15 minutes, and then naturally LG started to get a little fussy, just some light grumbling that warranted me taking him out of the pram and walking a little.
LOW AND BEHOLD A MIRACLE HAPPENED.
The man in front of us smiled and politely gestured us forward. My first thought, “That’s really nice mate but to be honest, jumping one person ahead isn’t going to save us a lot of time” until I realised everyone was looking at us, and the clerk behind the counter was beckoning us forward and smiling. He explained that it’s better that we are served now and don’t hang around too long (on account of the baby). The funny thing was, the people in the queue seemed totally fine! No huffing, puffing etc. In fact the guy at the front of the queue was positively beaming at me. We were told to head to room 7, where my friend stood outside with the pram and I headed inside, with LG still in my arms. I was met with sighs and smiles from the very Berlin employee telling me to take a seat, even calling over to her colleague to have a look. She asked me questions about him, and was super fast processing my paperwork, even offering to pack all the papers away into the plastic wallet and open the door for me. Naturally, as with is all older ladies, she gave me some (unrequested) advice regarding his feet and how he needs to wear socks (it was over 25 degrees outside) because “Boys’ feet get really cold.”
LG gave her a little smile over my shoulder, she held his hand and said bye, and that was that.
Myself and Anne left totally gobsmacked (not before feeding him and changing him first) at how nice and helpful and accomodating everyone had been. This is not how people at various German Ämter behave (normally)!
We rewarded our success with Starbucks and baby cuddles.
My Dad (aka Grandpop) was visiting. One of the first ‘summer like’ days of the year. We decided to walk to Treptower Park. En route, chaos ensued. *
What have I learnt?
1) WALK IN THE SHADE. This will involve constantly switching sides of the road, and your whole journey will take longer, but the pram won’t overheat (as fast)
2) BABIES GET THIRSTY. FEED OFTEN. Sounds obvious, but I just didn’t think logically. Of course babies get thirsty in the heat! They are tiny humans after all. Regardless of whether your breastfeeding or formula feeding, get that baby something to drink. More often than normal; since the Treptower Park day I aim for hourly around midday which works out well.
3) BLACK PRAMS GET HOT. Cover the hood with a white muslin (that drapes over the front too as a sun protector) and take of the lower cover (where there feet are) but make sure their feet/legs are shielded.
4) CHANGE THEIR CLOTHES. If they get damp and sweaty, get them changed asap because a warm/cool breeze when you take them out for a cuddle will do them no good.
5) AVOID THE HOURS BETWEEN 11 – 3PM. Again, sounds obvious. My bad.
6) BE PREPARED TO STRIP THEM DOWN TO THEIR NAPPY. Then add clothes when the sun goes away for half an hour .. then take the layers off when the sun comes back … then ..
*I ended up with a wailing (and very warm) LG, at the edge of a roadside. I had to strip him down to his nappy, sit on a bollard in the shade, and feed him as bemused/puzzled onlookers drove by. Don’t be like me, be smart!
Because it’s important to remember all the good times.
26th May, 2017
A gloriously sunny Friday in May.
Newborns, toddlers and young children galore.
Bunting and balloons in the trees.
A whole loads of Mums and Dads for me to talk to.
– LG was fed and changed just before we left at 1pm. He only got cranky as we approached the group sitting in the park (because he was hungry) and I fed him immediately.
– We took the bus, which was a little crowded, but hey at least the bus driver left a good distance between the bus and kerb. Plus a guy in a wheelchair was helpful about co-ordinating all the prams, and insisted I use the disabled access ramp too (along with him) when he exited the bus.
– On the way to the bus I’d stopped off at Edeka, and like the classy woman that I am, bought two packs of strawberries then transferred them into a bowl (in the supermarket) I’d brought with me and got rid of the packaging (read: evidence).
– Coming home, I put him in the baby wrap to guarantee he’d sleep (he needed to sleep by 4pm) and I walked all the way from Gleisdreick to Prinzenstrasse before transferring him to the pram, and then continuing home. Naturally he had a meltdown 10 mins from the apartment. Ah, growth spurts. Love ’em.
The picnic itself As is my way now (apparently), I dived (not literally) in the middle of all the blankets, and immediately got stuck into my classic small talk. This involves commenting on other babies size in comparison to LG and asking how old they are etc. Turns out LG was the youngest there, and people were a) rather impressed I was out of the house at 6 weeks b) vaguely concerned their toddlers were going to trample him if I laid him down (legit concern). I got chatting with two really nice ladies next to me (can’t remember their names), one of whom told me she had a portion of her breastmilk made into a ring?! Gotta look into this. They were both really down to earth, and quite self-deprecating, which was fun. I recognised the couple opposite me from the First Aid Course for Babies I did back in Feb with Peter and that was a good springboard for conversation. LG was really well behaved, and I was pretty darn relaxed the whole time. These social events are getting easier and easier, and I feel my self-confidence growing! Just before I left I got chatting to two women behind me who also had young babies (8 weeks) – both seemed nice, but the partner of one of them had an interesting sense of humour which I wasn’t sure how to take. I think he was just an awkward turtle, and I’m glad I only met him 15 minutes before I was going to leave anyway ….
Sudden realisation: I should’ve photographed my changing bag and all the items inside. Ah damnit, who has the time for that?
Before I had LG I spent a (slightly excessive) amount of time on YouTube watching videos about what you need to buy for a newborn, what to pack in your changing bag, what to pack for hospital etc. Now I’m on the other side of childbirth, I thought I’d put together a couple of these posts in the hope they might be useful to someone, somewhere … *
*Peter, if you’re reading this, please consult this list when I’m on holiday in the future.
What’s in my (probably overprepared) changing bag
1. Nappies, of course – two important tips, remember to “update” your bag as your baby grows and their nappy size changes. You don’t want to be there with a nappy for a 3.5kg baby … when your baby is now over 5kg. Second tip, for the love of God remember to replace the nappies when you’ve used them – we once got stuck at Peter’s mother’s garden on a Sunday (shops closed) with no fresh nappies. Nightmare.
2. Baby wetwipes – slim/small pack; takes up less space.
3. Normal size muslin – the size of a small t-shirt I guess. This is for all the spit up, sick etc.
4. LARGE muslin . useful as a “sun protector” over the pram, or a ‘light’ blanket to cover the baby when it’s too hot for a fleece blanket but too breezy not to have anything. Also good for lying your baby on in the pram. Seems to make LG sweat less in the heat.
5. Small toy – a rattle/something colourful that makes noise/distracts
6. Plastic bags – you know the small, annoying kind that you get when you buy a small gift somewhere and never know what to do with it after you’ve come home? Or alternatively, zip lock bags. These are for soiled clothes, or nappies (if there’s nowhere to dispose of them)
7. Thick blanket – good for cushioning the pram, making the baby comfortable whilst feeding, covering them if the temperature drops … the list is endless.
8. Clothes – vest, long sleeved body, trousers (with feet), hat, scratch mits. I normally have a sleepsuit in there too. It’s good to have two sets of spare clothing, as I found out the other day. Whilst at a friend’s (who luckily has a baby girl), LG soiled his outfit, then threw up on his spare outfit. We ended up taking him home in a very pink, girly sleepsuit …. he loved it.
9. Changing mat – one of those handy compact ones. IKEA does a good one that wipes down and folds up neatly.
10. Hospital changing mat – so we kind of stole one of these … Basically it’s just a green disposable sheet that they encourage you to use for sanitary reasons in hospital. It’s been handy when I’ve needed to change LG in the pram and wanted to cover as much surface area as possible …
11. Nappy rash cream – I have a small tin of Penaten
12. Lipbalm, hand cream, hairbrush and deodrant for me – Mums get gross too.
13. Small tube of factor 50 suncream – essential for babies in summer
14. Purse – this purse has some loose coins in it. In Germany you often have to pay/tip the toilet attendant and I’m never sure if it’s free if you just want to change your baby ….
First off, this story does have a positive outcome and is meant to be observational rather than completely jumping to conclusions. It was just a weird experience, and I wanted to write about it.
Let’s rewind for a minute. So in previous posts I mentioned really ‘putting myself out there,’ shamelessly messaging anyone interested in meeting up with babies. One such thread popped up on Facebook – a woman with a 4 month old looking for some mamas and playmates in the Kreuzberg area. Hmm, I thought – I’m a Mama, I have a baby and I live in Kreuzberg. I commented on the thread (as had some other women), okay .. I commented twice (hey, I’m keen), and was subsequently added to a Facebook message thread with 4 others.
This was the opening message (my name has been blurred out):
My first thoughts:
1) This doesn’t sound very welcoming … I thought there was like a Mamas sisterhood in Berlin and everyone was super friendly?
2) I didn’t realise there were age requirements to go to a coffee morning ..
3) Should I still push this?
As it happens, I couldn’t attend the first meet up because LG had his third check-up. I endeavoured to attend the next rendezvous. Pictures were posted of the first meet up, and arrangements were excitedly made for the next catch up at Brammibals in Kreuzberg. No one addressed me in the thread, so I asked again if I could attend, despite the seemingly (just my feeling) unsuitability of LG’s age (6 weeks this Friday). My reply was read by all, and one piped up saying I was welcome.
The morning came and I dragged (okay, slight exaggeration) myself and LG up to Kreuzkölln. It was a 10.30am gathering in a place I knew wasn’t child friendly, so I had LH in a wrap, and swapped the bassinet for a maxi cosy in the pram, and pushed that one handed. Pushing a pram one handed from Heinrich Heine U-Bahn to Maybachufer is tiring. In the end I met two (and briefly, a third) nice Mamas, and had some nice chats about babies and motherhood. LG was on top form. It didn’t have quite the easy going nature of my home-grown Tuesday meet up, but I’m still glad I went. I’ll try another fortnight or so, and see what happens.
Even though I had a nice enough time today, I still can’t shake the cliquey feeling from the first message. It has only now dawned on me that many women have specific goals about the other mothers they want to meet. I have always gone into this open minded, happy to meet anyone. Of course it’ll be more convenient down the line if LG is playing with children of a similar age, but hey, I’m a while away from that. Was I right to be a little taken aback? Or should I get with the programme and realise that socialising norms doesn’t totally change with having children, rules apply and groups are formed?
Breastfeeding. The act of a woman nourishing her child through her body, with no interventions from modern medicine. An age old tradition. The embodiment of motherhood and a crucial element to the bonding experience with one’s baby.
… alright guys, a bit intense?
This was and still to an extent remains my attitude towards breastfeeding. Maybe it’s my age, my personality, or just my general approach to motherhood, but I’ve never really fully ‘got’ the romanticised version of breastfeeding.
Fact: I am glad that I can breastfeed. I am grateful that I can breastfeed and that I have a good supply. I appreciate the convenience of being able to feed my baby whenever, wherever.
That said, breastfeeding is demanding, often exhausting, and sometimes really frustrating, and I don’t see why I shouldn’t talk about that. As I was saying to Peter the other day, just because breastfeeding works for me and I have no problems, doesn’t mean I can’t complain about it. I’m tired of being confronted with a ‘other women have it so much worse than you so be grateful’ kind of attitude.
Fact: Cluster feeding is exhausting. An often hunched back is painful. Not being able to go off for 2 hours alone is frustrating. Being on demand 24/7 is not liberating. Remembering to drink and eat enough to keep up your supply is damn near impossible on tough days.
I often believe that midwives expect us new mothers to be there all day in bed, breasts out, nursing our baby, waxing lyrical about the beauty of motherhood and how wonderful it feels to nourish a tiny human from our bosom. I am not an earth mother. I do not enjoy being called all the time to sit and feed.
That said. I am proud of myself and LG for making a success of this, and it is a satisfying feeling to be able to do this after already going through pregnancy and birth. My body is badass.
This post is a bit rambling, oops. Basically, I feel that it’s okay to either not enjoy breastfeeding all the time, or simply not enjoy breastfeeding at all. There’s lots of discussion of the ‘medical’ difficulties of breastfeeding (latching, mastitis, blocked glands, lack of milk) but not enough discussion of the everyday annoyances, which is a shame!
Breastfeeding in public is such a pain in the ass. To organise my thoughts, I’m going to answer a few simple questions in this blog that have been raised in my first 6 weeks with LG.
Do people actually care when you breastfeed? Do they stare?
Should I cover up? Is it indecent otherwise?
What’s a worst case scenario with breastfeeding in public?
Can you prepare yourself, to make it easier?
What are some useful tips?
Why would it be considered ‘a faff’?
Do people actually care when you breastfeed? Do they stare? In my experience, no, people don’t care. People do look, or rather, glance in your direction – but I guess that’s kind of normal, although breastfeeding is normal and thousands (?) of women across the city do it everyday, you don’t see it everday necessarily. You look when there’s a commotion on the street, you look when someone is put in an ambulance, you look when someone drops a plate in a restaurant, you look when someone’s breastfeeding. No one judges, no one stares. Berlin is pretty liberal, and I’m quite sure no-one would say anything at the risk of a social justice warrior materialising out of thin air and reading them the riot act on #normalisebreastfeeding.
Should I cover up? Is it indecent otherwise? Tricky question. Every time, it’s a judgement call. I’ve gotten pretty good at lifting up my top and positioning it so that the edge/hem of the t-shirt is touching his lips – in effect, you can’t see breast/skin/nipple, but you can see a latched baby, and the feeding is pretty obvious. This is how I’ve fed LG in parks, at Markt Halle IX, at home in front of family, and other open spaces. I have used a muslin cloth to cover myself in cafes and restaurants – more at Peter’s request that mine, his impression this is something you ‘do’ at proper eating establishments. I would argue that there’s no need to hide your baby under a muslin, but you should do your best to keep things kind of discreet. At the end of the day, 99% of people are probably cool with breastfeeding but still end up feeling uncomfortable at the sight of someone’s boob & nipple out in plain view – this is how I was at least, before I had LG. I never knew where to look! P.s bollocks is it indecent, next question!
What’s a worst case scenario with breastfeeding in public?
You’re trying to juggle a baby on one arm, and position them correctly, whilst at the same time cover yourself with a muslin. Baby latches, then unlatches – wailing everytime they unlatch. You’ve got loads of milk that gets everywhere – all over your baby’s face, your clothes, their clothes … You manage position them correctly but at the cost of hunching your back in a super uncomfortable way. To onlookers you are frazzled stress and not at all at ease.
… this was my second experience! LG was 4 weeks old and we were at Veganz cafe in Bergmannkiez. Nightmare!
Can you prepare yourself, to make it easier? If possible, get someone to hold your baby whilst you unclip your bra, grab your muslin and gets your arms (or in my case, legs) ready to rest your baby. Otherwise, do all these things before you take the baby out the pram (assuming they’re in a pram…).
What are some useful tips?
First focus on getting that baby latched and in position as quickly as possible, then worry about the tactfully covering up. Don’t try and do both at the same time.
Why would it be considered ‘a faff’? For all the reasons mentioned above!
Sometimes, our baby does not fulfill the ‘perfect’ label that he or she has so kindly been given. I am sure every single parent has been told at some point in the first days or weeks that their baby is ‘perfect’. Maybe it’s their perfect eyes, or smile, or the way they are gaining weight as they should, or feeding regularly, or latching …
LG for me, is a little bundle of wonder. He had a great birth (for me and for him), has taken to breastfeeding like a trouper, is hitting those developmental milestones, and is growing more handsome every day. He means everything to me, but I’m not going to label him ‘perfect’, and I want to explain why.
Every time my midwife visited across the first three weeks, she would always describe him or our situation as ‘perfect.’ My family, as heads over heels with LG as I am, also described him as perfect (more based upon his cuteness I think). Subtly, sneakily, this created an image in my mind: the mythical perfect baby. So when LG had a very bad week (his 4th week) it felt all the more terrible, because it was as if he fell of a very high pedestal.
Why is crying so relentlessly in the afternoon?
Why is he struggling with digestion so much?
Our midwife said he was perfect, and now he’s so distressed, is it something in my milk? What am I eating that’s causing him so much discomfort?
So-called perfect babies don’t wake up thrashing about trying to get painful gas out of themselves? Poor LG! What can I do?
It was just a phase – it lasted (at it’s peak awfulness) Monday – Thursday. I was left exhausted, distressed, with my eyes sore from staring at computer screens filled with Google search results. We’d had a smooth first 2/3 weeks and now we were hit with LG’s bloating, cramps and general digestion issues, and it was hard. No one wants to hear their baby crying in pain and discomfort. I went for coffee with another Mama on the Wednesday, and prayed silently he would sleep a good 2 hours and not wake up whilst we were in the cafe. He did, briefly, and thrashed about and wailed, and then fell asleep again. “Does E get cranky because of gas and wind quite often?” I asked hopefully, “Mm, not really” was the answer I got. Yes, I compared myself and LG, yes I felt shit as a result.
No more of that.
LG is back on top form this week. He’s having a good week. He still cries each day over something, in fact, I can hear him wailing in the bedroom with Peter. He might be tired or bloated, but hey, he’s a baby.
He’s not a perfect baby – he’s wonderful, he’s handsome, but ultimately he’s a growing, newborn baby, and the word ‘perfect’ just isn’t an adjective that I’m going to use. Have your good days, have your bad days LG, you do you!
Never ever take your pram somewhere that requires public transportation without typing the start/destination into http://www.bvg.de and selecting Barrierefreie Verbindung. Now all the results will show you stations where there’s a lift, or if that’s not possible, a feasible bus route.
I’m 4 weeks in, and this Wednesday morning was a noteworthy challenge. LG’s bad episode this morning knocked me for six, because I thought we had some kind of routine going, and I thought I knew my baby fairly well and I thought I could rely on his established patterns. Wrong, wrong, wrong! You drop your guards, and shit gets real.
Our usually super sleeper decided that instead of going back to sleep at 3.30am for about 3 hours, he was going to wake again for feeding at 4.30am … then stay away until 9.30am. It was a hideous 5 hour cycle of feeding, grumbling/wailing through digestive problems, not sleeping, feeding … and so on and so forth. I tried everything from my previous blog to ease his discomfort but to no avail. I was exhausted, he was exhausted.
On top of that, I had plans to meet another mama (from my birth preparation course) at 12pm. 11am rolled around – LG was waking up from a 40 minute nap, and I had managed to put on half my make up and pants. Not in that order. As I picked up a wailing LG, I suddenly realised that I was going to have to cancel last minute. “I should just throw in the towel for today, screw the routine, you and me are going to sit this one out at home,” I thought. Motherhood changes you, I know, but as I reflected on my thoughts I realised that I had never been a defeatist before and it was one change I was going to embrace lightly. I am stubborn and resilient, and that’s what I want my son to see in me.
I raced at top speed (in between cries) around the bedroom and apartment, I gave myself a wet-wipe wash (my 3rd this week) and drenched myself in Chanel to give the allure of being clean and put together. A quick location change, and I was out the door at 11.30am. Walked 20 mins to the bus stop – fantastic! I just missed one! I knew for a fact I was going to be 10mins+ late … and my phone didn’t have any battery, credit or data to get in contact with my friend. I decided to walk the bus route for a few stops to ensure LG stayed asleep. Exhausted, slightly sweaty and annoyed about not being pünktlich, I waited in the bus stop. I eventually arrived at 12.30pm, instead of the rearranged 12.15pm, but you know what?
I had a really nice time, and I enjoyed that coffee more than any other coffee I’ve drunk this past week. Yes, I was constantly checking on LG and rocking the bassinet to calm his crankiness, but it didn’t matter because I hadn’t been defeated by my own baby (who seems to have inherited the stubborn streak), I maintained The Routine, and little LG got a nap in. Winning all round.
Shame he woke up on the bus home and had fits of howling because he was hungry. Damnit.
It would seem that LG has moved on from that tranquil newborn state into a more cranky-very-cranky kind of newborn state, and it’s all the result of our ultimate nemesis wind. Oh and poop. But mostly wind. This has led myself and Peter of a quest of sorts, with the holy grail being the relief of all discomfort for tiny LG. As a mother, you go through phases of feeling incredibly sorry for your baby, as you watch them wriggling, scrunching up their face, kicking their legs and generally being very distressed, to then feeling just as sorry for yourself as you realise you’ve had near 3 hours of this digestive merry-go-round.
Having come across so many suggestions to ease the discomfort, from others mums, our midwife and the good ‘old Internet, it seems mean not to share.
1. Cycle those legs, baby – it’ll be good practice for when you enter them for the Tour de France. There’s a few videos, but this one is pretty accurate (maybe go easy on the pushing phase mind you, just an idea…)
2. Sage/aniseed/fennel tea – (Salbei/Anis in German) Half a teaspoon or a whole teaspoon after feeding, 5 times a day. It’s meant to easy digestion.
3. Hot water bottle or ‘cherry stone cushion’ – I’ve found that this method can relax your baby, even if it can’t speed up the process of getting that air or poop out.
4. ‘Tummy time’ – lying them on their belly (which is good to strengthen those neck muscles anyway) can put just enough pressure on their stomach and abdomen to help them burp (at either end…)
5. Drum circle – Lie them across your lap (face down like tummy time) and gently drum on the lower part of their back. My midwife chanted “Wir sind die Mongolei” … whatever floats your boat.
6. Sun and moon massage – Although this didn’t help little LG, it’s still useful to know. You need to have a baby that doesn’t wriggle around too much! Click here for instructions.
7. Superman! – Hold your baby on your forearm, their head in your palm (face turned either right or left), arms and legs dangling either side. Sometimes this can release pressure, but at the very least it relaxes the baby enough for them to stop grumbling.
After last Friday’s ‘Eastside meetup’ I felt galvanized to do more. I came home on Friday hobbling along with the pram as my pelvic floor screamed at me from below, and my little LG angrily thrashing about in the pram in hunger BUT I felt a sense of achievement. Small milestones for a first time Mama – scheduling, getting him changed & fed on time, navigating the u-bahn, calming him (in public) when he was restless, breastfeeding in public … so many things.
Anyway, this popped up the other afternoon:
All sense of playing it cool and waiting in the wings seemingly went out the window the day LG was born. I am going to put myself out there shamelessly. So yeah, I was the first to reply with a cheerful (and slightly desperate?) “I’ll PM you 🙂 “. However, I didn’t stop there oh no. Another woman replied J’s post, inviting her to a Mums meetup in Kreuzkölln. Did I jump on that bandwagon and start enquiring how to find this group on Facebook? Of course I did. I just knew that if LG could express himself beyond farm animal noises and gurgles he would say “Mum, I’m destined to be a social butterfly, let’s do stuff with people all the time! Fill up my calendar, pronto!”
In the end, J & I arranged to meet on Tuesday at Markt Halle IX in Kreuzberg, and I extended the invite to everyone else in the thread – the more the merrier! Have I just formed a new Mums group? Probably not, there were only 3 of us there on the day, but it’s a start!
Whilst I was pregnant and getting jittery about the switch from busy freelancer to stay-at-home Mum, a friend offered some wise words of reassurance “If you were busy before you had the baby, you’ll still find ways to be busy with the baby.” Simple, but words that have really stuck in my head. I’m happy when I’m busy, which is why I’m endeavouring to go to things, get to know other Mums, discover new places and generally be social and ward off the feared loneliness.
Today, I put my best foot forward and went to a meet-up for Mums (and Dads) living in east Berlin. I didn’t know anyone there (or so I thought), it was at an awkward time (3-5pm), not in my district and required me to take public transportation – but goddamnit none of that mattered because I was determined to do this!
The ‘Eastside Meet-up’ was held at Raum Schwalbe in Prenzlauer Berg. I approached the door with trepidation struggling to navigate the pram up the big step and nervously shuffled to the group of women. I smiled, and was greeted with smiles in return, but it was clear I was going to have to dive in becaus no-one was going to come over and introduce themselves.
It was at this moment I noticed a woman from another meet-up group – long story short, I went along to a ‘Mums, bumps and babies’ group from 5-9 months and made a big effort to talk to the other Mums, although I sometimes felt awkward being without child but a massive belly instead. Anyway, I greeted her like you would an old friend (I was just so damn relieved to recognise someone), and as I did so, I saw out of the corner of my eye a Polish woman who I (and my Mum) had shared breakfast with in the hospital.
“Oh my god,” I thought “I actually know people.” Okay, two people, but that was a big deal.
After chatting with the Finnish mum, I literally bulldozed myself into the conversation with the Polish mum and a very nice French lady with a cute 2 month old son. The next hour passed by, and I threw all my enthusiasm into small talk, and it felt good. Possibly made too many self-depricating jokes about myself and LG, but if I don’t laugh about crying over missing breakfast, I will be a very sad lady indeed.
I left after an hour since LG clearly hadn’t got the memo that he was supposed to sleep once we got there, and instead decided to a) be awake, wide-eyed and cute (great move) b) force his Mama to awkwardly breastfeed him 4 times (this was only my second time nursing him outside home) resulting in milk seemingly everywhere (not a great move).
Anyway, we did it, LG. It doesn’t matter than you then cried so much outside that I made a regetably stupid decision to walk you home to soothe you resulting in my pelvic floor and insides hating me (I’m currently in bed with my legs up on a cushion whilst he snoozes next to me). Why? Because we did it. Our first baby meet up.
I’m not entirely sure if this is a controversial topic. When I googled ‘typical routine for a newborn’ there were plenty of results, implying this is something people are looking into and ultimately following up on, yet talking to other mothers and my midwife, I get the impression it’s a bit taboo.
I think there’s a good demographic of people who think that, for lack of a better expression, babies should be free spirits. Let them come into this world and just, be. Feed when they want, sleep when they want – Mum and Dad should just go with the flow. This is a nice idea in practice, and maybe those with a less of a disposition to constant organisation than myself could do it. But for me, no, just no.
To clarify, with breastfeeding (which as I’m frequently reminded ‘isn’t established til the 6th week’) you do have to be on demand, which sometimes sucks. It’s incredibly important that you baby feeds and feeds, growing bigger and stronger everyday. There will be growth spurts when you have to feed more and with shorter intervals, and besides this, I wouldn’t be able to watch my 3 week old baby crying with hunger as I deprive them milk for the sake of a routine.
That said, after just a few short weeks I’ve become a big believer in developing some semblance of a routine – not for LG, but for Peter and I. Parenting is work, and work has routine, schedules and appointments. I don’t think I’ve ever been a person who can just sit back and ‘go with the flow’, and I’m certainly not going to change now!
At the moment, a few things are established for us as a family.
1) Since day 5 : Bedtime starts at 9.45pm. Even if he’s snoozing, LG will have his nappy changed, get put into his pjs and then have his first feed of the ‘night shift’. We aim to have him asleep somewhere between 10.15pm and 11pm. Sometimes he’s asleep at 10.20pm, sometimes he’s restless until midnight. God help us all if he is, hello sleep deprivation!
2) Since the start of week 2 : Pram adventure at 11am. LG is fed and changed around 10.45am, then off we go! Once in the pram (his happy place), he’ll sleep until 1.30pm. Fresh air for Mama & LG, and a welcome party at the end of a shift for Papa 🙂
3) Since the end of week 2 : Evening nap between roughly 8pm and 9.45pm. Our theory is he needs a little snooze before bedtime, since he’s quite often awake between 6 and 8pm. Timing is quite important here since if he had his evening nap at 7pm, he’d be awake at 9pm and potentially hard to get to sleep, or alternatively, he’d fall into a deep sleep too early and we’ve got a looooong night ahead of us.
4) Since the start of week 3 : Bathtime at 7.30pm. He looks so cute in the bath, probably one of the highlights of my day ❤ We started this today, who knows how it’ll work out ….
Even typing up all these things gives me a sense of calm, which only serves to reinforce the idea that this Mama couldn’t live without her routines, and Baby LG is going to learn to love his schedule!
Excuse me, can you get the manager over here? Yes, yes, your manager. This’ll be the youngest customer you’ve ever had here! Two weeks old!
To say I was sceptical would be an understatement. When my visiting grandparents & aunt suggested we all go for dinner at Block House on their last evening, I desperately tried to wriggle out of it.
All my excuses were relatively legit, and based up genuine fears that I was going to be dealing with a wailing newborn and a cold, half-eaten piece of €20 meat as I comforted the former. Not sure which of those eventualities is worse. Maybe the steak.
Seemingly worn down by Peter’s optimism (read: desperation for steak) and my aunt’s reassurance that everything would be on our terms (time, location), I caved. A table was booked for 6.30pm, and just to compare here is the preparation need before and after having a baby.
Refresh make-up & make sure I’ve got my wallet and phone. No need to get changed into anything fancy, it’s only Block House.
1. Work backwards. Ensure LG has been changed and fed as close to 6pm as possible, this means he’ll be good for 2-2.5hours. Based up what little we know of his sleep patterns, he shouldn’t wake up hungry until 8.30pm.
2. Find appropriate breastfeeding outfit that will also cover up the post-steak dinner, just in case LG wakes up and needs feeding mid-meal.
3. Debate whether to take the bassinet or maxi-cosi for convenience in the restaurant.
4. Debate whether to call the restaurant to see if they have changing facilities or room for a pram. Decide to wing it.
5. Google drinking and breastfeeding to ensure that the planned one glass of red wine is approved by The Internet.
6. Print screen restaurant’s menu and WhatsApp orders to my aunt to maximise efficiency in case we’re late (we are walking there after all)
7. Refresh make-up, check I’ve got my wallet & phone, then wrestle a cranky LG into the pram, where he quickly falls asleep.
The meal itself was a success. Baby slept and Mama managed to enjoy a medium rare steak and a glass of wine – such luxuries that hadn’t been enjoyed since before I was pregnant. If fact I was so preoccupied with checking LG (convinced he was going to wake up) and talking to my family that I didn’t savour my first glass of red wine in 10 months. I realised this on the way home and was genuinely annoyed. 10 months! Ah well, I guess I have other priorities now 🙂
I was probably more excited than I should’ve been when I discovered this.
DM at Hackescher Markt has a changing table and play area in their store with free nappies, wipes, cream etc.
….. How great is that?! Now I know not to panic when I’m in that area – quiet, judgement free place to breastfeed? Check. Somewhere to change the baby? Check. Stock up on nappies and toiletries? Check, check.
For the first week, you will stay in bed. No, I don’t mean in your room, I mean in bed. You will stay there and your only task is to nurse and bond with your baby. You can leave to go to the toilet, but that’s it. People will come to you. In the second week, you can move around your bedroom …
Katharina, midwife from my birth preparation course.
What is the ‘Wochenbett’? Why does one need to survive it? Would I rather push out a baby again than plod through another ‘Wochenbett’? Okay, I clearly have a flair for the dramatic. It’s hard not to be though, when you translate Wochenbett into English and get ‘confinement’ (although most midwives refer to it as the ‘lying-in time’).
Basically, it’s Germany’s way of describing the postpartum period – a week to a month. For me, I’ve always thought of it as the immediate week after giving birth, since I figured that’s the most intense period of recovery. I got completely spooked during the antenatal course when the midwife gave the above quote. As someone who loves walking, being outdoors, just doing stuff I wasn’t sure how I was going to mentally deal with it.
The Good Pampering! LG was born on Friday and I spent the weekend in hospital. For the following weekdays I didn’t literally stay in my bed, bollocks to that. I did, however, stay in the apartment. My Mum & Peter were there, and it was quite nice being waited on hand and foot. My Mum was like super-nutritious food queen and prepared me breakfasts packed with fruit, deluxe salad lunches and delicious protein-carby goodness for dinner. The was shining, and got to hang out with my baby – but still have time to sit in the bath for 30mins, or take a nap because there were two people around to keep an eye on LG.
Boredom. At some point, you get these dead hours where you’re not sure what to do. I mean, you’re not supposed to exert yourself – exerting yourself can be standing for too long chatting as I found out – so that rules out tidying or sorting things out (a.k.a my favourite indoor pastimes) and it feels uncomfortably indulgent just to watch yet another episode of Germany’s Next Model. Or scroll through Instagram, again.
The Ugly Physical recovery and breastfeeding. Well, I did just push out a baby … It’s pretty achey down there (although I had it pretty good compared to others), and somedays you feel like Moses parting the red sea, and it’s plain annoying to need to sit down for ages. OH, and my milk came in within 48hrs of birth and that wasn’t a fun time for a few days (I’ll do a separate post on this). PLUS, we were all working out a sleep routine, and how best to get LG to sleep.
On Thursday, my cabin fever peaked and I was dying to go outside – so I did!. I walked 10 minutes down the road for a coffee with my Mum, only to return 90 minutes later to see Peter a shadow of his former self, broken by the tears of a hungry baby. My first experience of Mum guilt!
On Friday, a week after the birth, we ventured out as a family for the first time. Admittedly, my insides felt like they were going to fall out on the walk back (30 mins there, 30 mins back), but mentally, I felt on top of the world out with the pram in the sunshine.
I do understand the point of the Wochenbett. You’ve just gone through a 9 month marathon with a gruelling sprint at the end – your body needs to recover, if it’s going to continue to perform in future. However, being confined to your apartment for a fortnight (I just did a week) can have a negative impact on your mental health, and if you believe in the strong connection between mind and body, well, you get the idea. It’s cliche, but every woman needs to work out what’s best for them, and what needs to be prioritised.
What just happened 10 minutes ago sums up my life at this very moment.
Baby goes to sleep at 3.30pm, and based upon some clever assumption that my baby now has a routine at less than two weeks old, I guess I have until 5.30pm to create a blog and write the first post. WRONG. It takes me 30 minutes to think of a blog title, and just as I sit down and write “Hey, mama!”, out of the corner of my eye, I see someone else’s eyes slowly opening… It’s like he knows. A quick 10 minute feed and he’s softly snoring again, and I’m trying to remember what I was going to write in the first place.
Mummy blogs seem to be all the rage at the moment, and as a new mother myself, I wouldn’t want to be getting behind with the time now, would I? In just the first two weeks of having a baby, I’ve realised there are these ‘lost’ hours in the day where you find yourself at a loose end for 30 minutes or more – up to now, I’ve filled that with YouTube and taking photos of my sleeping infant. I was sure there was a more productive solution on the horizon.
It’s going to be quite the steep learning curve for me and Baby across the next 12 months, and I’m looking forward to every minute of it. So here’s to me trying to make a success of the first year of motherhood!