Thursday, October 30, 2014

Watching him grow & learn: some observations

  • I predicted 2 weeks ago that the sight of a crawling baby would soon disappear in our house. Indeed the week after Kabouter made the switch to trying some steps now and then, to walking by default.  

    The change didn't mean a big change in mobility to us: we already needed to grow some eyes on our back when he was crawling.  The big change to me was his size & silence: all of a sudden there was a head or hand next to my tight! Eeek, where did  you show up from so quickly    (I was used to hear him crawl with loud smacks of the hands on the floor).  Gosh, my little boy was all of a sudden so tall!
  • It has gotten so much easier to get you dressed and undressed.   No more breakable small infant, or a wrestling baby laying down.  No more dressing acrobatics with a baby that managed to roll-over and get up in 1 sec but without the skills yet to stand-alone or understand the depth behind the side of the changing table, all while I was trying to hold him down, secure and (un)dress him at the same time    or close the diaper while he's in fact already crawling away.

    Now he stands up, leans on my shoulders if needed, pushes his own hands through the sleeves or pulls his T-shirt/sweater across his head once his arms have been freed when undressing. Ha, I didn't know a 13 month old would be able to help so well while dressing yet.
  • I was amazed this week to see him race through the daycare on a little toy car.  Whaaaa , what a speed.
  • Since 2 days he insists to try to hold his toothbrush himself and he's actually not doing such a bad job trying to brush a bit his own teeth.    The same is applicable to the hairbrush ...where he also gets a ball trying to brush our own hair.
  • We've taken out the maxi-cosi out of the car and installed a front-facing real child seat...whaa he get's so big.
  • It's amazing how often people applaud on tv (talk shows, quizzes, ...) we know as he enthusiastically claps along each time  :D.   Of course there is also room for applause in the middle of a game, meal, ...
  • More and more he tries to sing along in the car.
  • Since the end of the summer vacation, he is more and more occupied with playing....true playing:  throwing the ball and fetching it again in order to go and throw it again (at himself, other side table or to us)..."reading" books or since 2 weeks some first attempts to make a 2-piece puzzle or carefully deconstruct the building block tower that I repeatedly make for him.
  • When he's waking up, he doesn't start crying non-stop anymore...he cries/yells and then waits a bit before he continues as if he knows by now that we need the time to respond.
  • He cracks up in laughter when we do something out-of-the-ordinary e.g. talk with a funny voice, make giant steps, make funny face...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Made in Belgium: Sandrine

I don't like hyped talent shows that run in global formats like X-factor, Idol, ... and usually I am prejudiced against the winners as well. Well let's face it, in Belgium it seems guaranteed that the winner will be forgotten soon.

In 2004 there was a girl that for the few times that I watched Idol anyway, really impressed me. As Belgians always vote for the underdog, she was kicked out of the competition before the final and rested as 3rd place although clearly more talented than the finalists.  For that reason she managed to get a music contract anyway.

She brought out some pretty good music and I think she has the style & talent to be a star and carry it with some glamour. Unfortunately in the last years we don't hear from her anymore.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Culinary treat and walking

Yab loves good food...that is no secret if you follow her blog.   Once we were talking this winter about the good restaurants in the area nearby us in the Ardennes and so we booked half a year in advance a weekend that they'd come and we'd book a table in the best restaurant of the village.  

Our neighbors were babysitting Kabouter and we spent a fantastic culinary evening together. Mmm! Sometimes you just need to spoil yourself.  And it's quite handy if nobody needs to be the designated driver.  The walk in the pitch-dark streets were a bit challenging however...thankfully all smartphones now have a pocket light app to lead us the way. 

The next day we walked it off at Belgium's highest point which our guests had never seen yet.  Well , not that it is worth seeing, but at least now they have a picture at the silly 6m staircase that allow you to stand at exactly 700m above sea level.  

Friday, October 24, 2014

Kabouter's birth story (part III)

Part I can be found here
Part II can be found here

While Jan and the midwife helped me wrap up and warm up and get on the bed, the anesthetist arrived and managed to apply an epidural in between 2 contractions when my shaking had finally stopped.

I was still cursing at the quit painful needles when the midwife stated abruptly "Wow, you just had a big contraction, you didn't feel that right?"
"huh? what? now?"
"yes, you are in a contraction at the moment"
"What do you mean, I had a contraction, huh, no I don't feel anything"
"yes you had a contraction, look at this graph"  pointing at a peak with her finger.

In fact I could not feel a thing to such a degree that it was creepy.  I can totally see how epidurals freak out people.  I could not move my legs or feel anything below my hips: the anesthetist had just effectively paralyzed me.  Apparently that strong effect would wear off, at least so I hoped. For a moment the thought crossed my mind "what if something went wrong and my feeling doesn't return"?

With the epidural, peace and quiet had entered the room and both Jan and I could recuperate a bit from the previous +24h of contractions.  The graph next to me plotted my contractions dutifully and as of now you could hear this type of conversations in our room
"ha look at that one, that one was big...look, those before were only 40%  but now it was a full 80%"
"wow, Jan, look, I just hit a 90%"
The entire labour process had reduced itself now in reading a graph to check that my contractions were still ongoing.  We tried to rest and snooze a bit but were regularly interrupted by the midwife who was checking in upon us.

"Do you mind if they can measure as well, ...they are in training"  she asked once when she arrived with 2 midwive students.   Ha, the disadvantage of being in one of Belgium's biggest hospitals is the fact that you constantly run into nurses/doctors/specialists in training.
"Oh sure, go ahead" I said without much hesitation.  Hey, the more people measure my cervix dilation, the merrier. Why don't we all have a look and feel inside there? Anyone else who wants to have a try? Bring on the party!  No seriously, don't we all want to have medical practitioners with much practical experience rather than book experience?  So why refuse these students to practise on me while I was totally pain free at the moment? And as a result, I could listen and witness the students feeling...thinking...remaining silent while their colleague was feeling after which they all could bring forward their measurement and I could listen why they had different results/ had to retry and what they had to look for.  Hour after hour however the conclusion remained the same :  4 cm.   Ugh, this was going to be a long night/morning...

In the mean time I was also laying on my side with a leg lifted higher in a brace as apparently our little men was facing forward rather than backward and they hoped he'd still take the initiative to turn himself. Hence probably the lack of progress, as you can't expect these little ones/your own body to multitask too much: descending , turning, ...

After 5 AM, they took the initiative to break my water.  Still totally pain free thanks to the epidural, I did feel (no more 100% paralyzed, hurray) the tsunami that didn't end quickly, also to the amazement of the midwife.  Ha, so a lot of that weight had been water!   But the verdict of the next measurement was barely 5cm.


Early in the morning I got a baxter to enhance the contractions.  All of a sudden the graph showed a lot of 100%'s peak after another. Fortunately I had also already received my first refill of the epidural!  Jan and I stared a bit in amazement to all the activity but then went back to snoozing away, trying to catch all the rest we could still catch.  However all of a sudden I had dilated up to 8 cm in an hour, so we quickly calculated that we'd hold our little boy in our arms by 9 - 10 AM. Wooohooooo.

At 8 AM our snoozing got abruptly interrupted by a medical team marching in. In a waze, I stared to the 10 white coats at my feet who all stared and smiled awkwardly back at me.
"Hello, I'm doctor Somethingso-or-so, I am in charge of this team and we are starting our shift. We'll take care of you in the next hours" .
I threw back a vague sleepy smile and cursed as I had no interest to see our intimate peace and quiet in the room interrupted in order to salute the new troops on roll-call. I'm sure it was done with the best intentions but I had no need for this interruption. In the hall-way I could hear the increased level of activity with sounds: people running around, a woman next door where audibly the labour process progressed quickly and were rewarded with a crying baby, ... At the same time the frequence of the midwife checking in on us reduced....we managed to nap for an hour.
Clearly we weren't going to make our "deadline of 9-10 AM" . Instead we were stuck again at 8cm stagnation while the dosis of the baxter got increased and increased and my little graph was basically non-stop peaking at 100% now.   But the good news was that our little boy had turned itself around and was now nicely positioned in pole-position to advance downward.


By noon, I had already finished 1.5 box of cereal bars.  For all future daddies who might ever read this: don't mock your partner if she's packing loads of snacks to eat in the delivery room!  For all future mommies:  you need plenty of small energy snacks!  Even when resting a bit with an epidural, your body is working very very hard and I was often hungry.

In the mean time my epidural refill was empty too and my senses were clearly coming back.  But since I finally had progressed again , the medical staff wasn't going to give me another refill.  So it looked like I was going to be pushing quite soon without any pain medication.
"We'll be back in half an hour, by then we estimate you'll be ready to push"
Rationally I was happy and relieved that I wasn't going to push with an epidural since I knew I'd be able to rely on my instincts, driven by pain, to do the right thing whereas with an epidural you need to push "upon instructions".


pain sure was coming back.

AAAAUW, ouch.pfffffff

I managed another 15 minutes when I ordered Jan to ring the midwife to come. I was NOT going to last that long anymore.  I was going to push!! Fortunately someone arrived quite quickly and I was told how to start pushing while they'd alert the gynecologist on duty that I was ready.


"Ok, when you feel a contraction coming, now you have...."
"Are you having a contraction?"
"WWAAAAA   yessssssssss"  [ugh, don't ask the obvious]

They insisted that I pushed while pulling my knees and holding my breath, while I had learned from both my physiotherapist and yoga instructor how to potentially breath out during the pushing extractions.  In my mind that seemed much more logic & natural in one big releasing flow downwards.   Much to my frustration they corrected me when I released my breath and they insisted that I had to hold my breath. Argh, old school midwives.  But in the midst of pushing contractions, it's not the moment anymore to discuss much.  So I held my breath for as long as I could but usually released before they wanted and when Jan held my knees as instructed, his hand got quickly slapped away.

There was a lot going on in the other rooms as well and sometimes a nurse came in and discussed something with them at the door.  Well while I can understand that for them it was a daily job to deliver multiple babies, I was rather in the middle of the most important event of my life so far so I would have appreciated it if they kept focussing a bit on the job.
"AAAWRRRLAAAAAAAAH" (while I quickly exhaled since they were not looking anyway)
"Keep your breath, you must keep your breath"  (ha, of course they did notice that)

For over a half hour I made no progress at all and I looked at the clock in dispair in between 2 contractions. When the gynecologist came in, he stated after one glance at me "I'll make a cut"
"no please noo" I grumbled but I had nothing to say in this decision.

They tried to explain and instruct me to push in a different direction...which apparently I did after a while when concentrating on the constipation feeling it all started with.  Jan encouraged me that whatever I did differently, they truly saw the baby move  downward now.

So I tried...and I tried...
I had no more strength, I was out of breath,  the contractions keep coming while the baby wasn't there yet.

"I can't do it"
"Yes you can, you are doing super"  (was the politically correct answer, I got from everyone)
"NO I CAN'T    I can't anymore!!!!"
"2 more pushes and he'll be there"

....ok 2 pushes I could do

And I pushed with all my last strength
And I pushed once again
And he was there  (at 1.20) ...
And I was crying while I heard him crying and was handed him on my breast...

...our little miracle
...our little Kabouter

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

More birthday party pictures

Since you only have once a first birthday (party),   it deserves a second post with some more pictures , don't you think?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Kabouter's birth story (part II)

Part I can be found here

So after being in (pre) labour for 24 hours, we took a last glance at the empty waiting crib in the living room and we left the house to go to the hospital...It was after 22h if I remember well.

Jan had put a plastic bag on the passenger seat as advised to us "in case my water broke" in the car. I really wondered about this "water breaking":  should I imagine some mild leaking or some tsunami happening? For the latter, one simple plastic bag wouldn't quite be effective but this was the last of my worries at the moment.  If my water would break and Jan could deal with his car afterwards and it could be a good story to tell in the future. But luckily for him it remained boring.

I tried to sit with back straight, half pulled up with my hand holding the grip above the door and stared at the street/houses passing by in the dark. We passed a bar near the sports faculty and there was a crowd of youth outside, overflowing half onto the street. At that point I realized that the universities were re-opening this week.  Ha...our baby would be born at the opening of the academic year: would that be an omen?  Other than the students, the streets were almost deserted and I was grateful for the lack of traffic...I had no desire to puff away too many contractions in a traffic jam as in the movies.

After a very short uneventful drive (great to live at almost walking distance from one of Belgium's best hospitals), we entered at the ER where they let us forward to the maternity delivery department. I can't remember at all anymore whether I had heavy contractions during the ride and arrival but I walked and didn't get wheeled in.


After getting welcomed I was quickly attached to a monitor for half an hour so they could get an indication of the level of labour that I was in. hell, laying still on a bed attached to some cables while in full labour without possibility to go and sit/lay/move around according to best comfort:  time ticks slow!! If only my cursing could speed up that clock...

Behind a curtain a bit further was another woman on a monitor: I could hear her moaning.   How annoying to have to listen to someone else's pain when in fact fully absorbed by your own!  How even more annoying to believe the other woman is having way less pain than you have...ha, life is unfair! FML. Fortunately she left after a while and fortunately after about 16 hours or so, my 30 minutes monitoring time were over as well and I got the good report card "you are very well in labour".   Pheww, glad I got that confirmation alright!  The opposite news would have been quite devastating.  

Then the nurse was going to measure the level of cervix dilatation so far in between 2 contractions.   Well...first of all it's a bit difficult to time that well but secondly ...OMG that hurts, aaaaaauwww, no kidding. Thank goodness I could not smack the hell out of her.  Seriously, amazing there's no more aggression in the delivery rooms than there is.

Finally after that rather dreadful welcome routine, I was allowed into our delivery room that would become our little family room for the next coming hours. It was somewhere around 23h. It was a relief to be back in a relative freedom to do as I pleased...ha and that meant I was going to try that big nice bathtub in the middle of the room.

Much to my relief the delivery department wasn't overcrowded at all that night (in fact Jan thought only 2 rooms were in use as far as he could hear when walking up and down the hallway) since not all rooms had a bathtub.  Beforehand we  had joked a lot about these, whether Jan or me could be in it and if he should pack up his swim gear for the hospital etc. So there was no doubt, I was going to take good use of it now I could :). With the help of very nice midwife I climbed into the warm tub, surrounded by some floating pillows and I tried to float as much as I could for as long as I could. The midwife dropped by every now "Let us know when you want to leave the bathtub"  "euh...will I have less pain outside of the water?"  "no, probably you will feel the pain more"  "I guess I'll stay in the water a little longer then".

I managed for about 60-90 minutes but then I requested an epidural. I knew I wasn't going to be able to cope a full night anymore.  I don't have a birth plan mantra that child birth should be "natural", just as much as I don't belief that "dental root canal fixing" should be "natural" either. It was a relief that I could ask for pain relief when I thought I needed it.

When I was helped out of the bath tub again, I was shaking uncontrollably.  Surely the water had already quite cooled off, so I was cold and I was exhausted, but it was a weird sensation to completely loose control of your body.  While Jan and the midwife helped me wrap up and warm up and get on the bed, the anesthetist arrived...and waited until I managed to predict and sit still for a minute in between 2 contractions.  It was around 2 AM if I remember well.

The needles are quite painful moment it itself but hey...what's a bit more at that point....and then...

Thursday, October 16, 2014

San Francisco in the heatwave (part II)

Maybe it is time to finish finally my posts about our vacation, in the mean time 5 months ago, that Jan is already back in San Francisco :D.  So here's the summary of our last day together across the ocean half a year ago.

San Francisco was still hot, but not as much simmering in the heat anymore as the previous days.  We mostly walked up and down the Bay area and enjoyed the views along the water.

Even though Fisherman's wharf and more specifically Pier 39 is a quite tourist actually is really nice one, where it is fun to hang around day and night.  We enjoyed some decently good restaurants,  visited the Acquarium (also a tourist trap (=expensive and small) but hey... I'm a sucker for otters and they have otters, so they win. After all, meeting otters is essential for Kabouter's education).

And then it was time to say good-bye to our loud friends (but only for 5 months for Jan).