Posted in Speaking from experience

The perks of having a baby (bureaucracy edition)

paperwork1

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.

I digress!

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.

Mama M x

Posted in Speaking from experience

Baby cliques

clique2
Now now ladies ….

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):

convo
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?

clique

Mama M x

Posted in Speaking from experience

Testing my mettle

run
Not actually allowed to start running again yet …

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?

Sod.it.all.

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.

Mama M x

Posted in Speaking from experience

Being social: I’m not desperate, honest!

Hayley
A very sound piece of advice given whilst I was still pregnant

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:

Facebookpost
J’s initial post

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!

Mama M x

Posted in Speaking from experience

Being social: my first baby meet up

kindercafe
Alas, there was no sandpit

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.

Mama M x

Posted in Speaking from experience

Steak & Baby

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!

Grandpa RG

steak
But where is the wine?!

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.

Before
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.

After
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 🙂

Mama M x