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!