The White Picket Fence Paradox

They often say that things happen for a reason, and while there may be some truth to it, I have come to believe that things happen not because of kismet, but because we make certain choices in our daily life that have direct and indirect consequences.

My life has gone in a direction I would never have expected it to go. Some people would call it luck, some an act of grace or divine intervention, but to me, it is but the direct and indirect result of my hard work, patience and taking the leap when every cell in my body was screaming to hide away.

And while some things have unfolded in ways that I can only describe as fast and furious, the journey to that point took years, maybe even decades. There were many happy days, and not-so happy days. Some bad days in between. Terrible days every now and then. Even unspeakable days. Each deciding moment eventually leading to where I am today.

Five years ago, I would have laughed if someone told me I’d be living in Norway at some point in my life. It was a country I knew little about — well, maybe except for its Vikings and pricey salmon exports — and the fact that I despise the cold, helped to build my case against what would have been an incredulous idea.

Fast forward to 2017, and here I am, unable to imagine a different life. Despite the challenges that a transplant like myself is expected to go through, like adjusting to a different culture, landing a job and ultimately learning how to speak the language, which I haven’t yet mastered after 3 years of night school! (for those who aren’t in the know, the Norwegian language has many, many, many dialects, so much so that if you drive for a good ten minutes in the countryside, people could be speaking a different variant of Norwegian), I can’t complain. I am where I am today because every little thing I’ve done so far has led me to this moment of contentment and yes — gobsmacked disbelief.

Because after all the doubt, anxiety, confusion, pain of loss, and the sheer stress that comes with having to deal with the upheavel of one’s life, I have a loving and devoted husband, who drives me crazy sometimes (not in the good way!) and at other times splendidly scrubs clean the entire apartment inside and out when all I did was hint that the floors could do with a quick mopping; I have a job that is finally permanent and rewarding; a new house we are looking forward to moving into in a year’s time; and a baby on the way, whom we cannot wait to finally meet in a few weeks.

Sometimes, I have to pinch myself because I think I’ve stumbled into a dream; that perhaps, I’m actually lying somewhere else, in a deep deep transe of some kind, and unwilling to wake up. Or I find myself in a panic, thinking that only the worst can possibly happen now, because no one is supposed to have it this good.

Then again, when I really think about it. Think long and hard, it hasn’t been all pixiedust and unicorns. Because my husband and I work hard at our relationship every single day. We have our honeymoon days and days when I just want to bust his butt for one reason or another. Our first year as husband and wife was rocky and eventually led to ultimatums, but we got passed it and although we laugh at it now, it was a tough period in my life.

My job may be rewarding, but everyday, I have to work hard for it. Like really, really hard, because this is probably the only job I’ve had where there is absolutely no room for downtime. You’re up and at it from the moment you clock in, to the moment you clock out.

A new house may be exciting (what with all the possibilities!), but with it, comes a heftier mortgage that my husband and I have to pay for for a good 25 years of our life. So we have to be extra smart with our money just in case  the world goes into a nosedive and we find ourselves jobless and with skyrocketing interest rates.

Finally, a baby. It may perhaps be the singular most fantastic dream of mine, but now that its reality, comes my many founded fears and doubts. Will I be a good parent? First and foremost, is he healthy? What if there are complications? Women have died during childbirth. Babies too. Will I end up drawing the short end of the stick? I may not dwell on these harrowing thoughts, but they have passed my mind and I can only really hope for the best when the day finally arrives.

So, as timely as everything may seem from the outside, it is but a consequence of a series of fortunate and unfortunate opportunities, both seized and unseized, that have led to this very moment. Of choices made and brave leaps taken. I may owe a bit of it to fate and luck, and blessings from above, but ultimately, I’d like to think that I had a hand in making it happen, and for doing a job well done (so far).

via Daily Prompt: Timely

It Takes a Village

When you find yourself fully pregnant and without a mother to dote on you and help you through this life-bringing journey, you find ways to cope.

Ever since I found out I was pregnant, I’ve always wondered how it would have been like had my mum been alive and around to hear the news. She adored babies more than any other woman I’ve known. Every single one of them, down to the snotty, poopy, weepy and whiny ones. And she always went for the feet first; nibbled their tiny toes like they were freshly spun caramel candy.

Her face would have lit up at the thought of becoming a grandmother, probably would have cried even. Like that happy squealing grandma-to-be cry you see on YouTube pregnancy announcement videos.

Then all this would have been an entirely different experience.

Unfortunately, the universe had other plans for my mother, and as strange and sad it is to say, had it not been for her passing I probably would have never found myself pregnant to begin with. It was because she passed away that I moved to the other side of the planet to start anew — and I wouldn’t have met my then would-be-husband at our postgraduate Christmas party on that fateful Saturday night.

Sometimes, I’m actually convinced that my mom had a hand in our meeting since she always had a thing for the blonde and blue-eyed loyal boys-next-door, whilst I, up to that point, went for the dark-haired devilish heartbreaking charmers. She played cupid from her heavenly home, sat back with some her staple bowl of chips and homemade salsa, then watched her magical handiwork unfold and bloom.

So when things get persistently rough and I am reminded of this special mother-daughter experience that I seem to be missing out on, I tell myself that I am not alone. Not alone in the sense that there are other women out there in a similar situation, but that I have a whole legion of strong women — friends, best friends, cousins, aunts, my grandmother, my mother-in-law, and my mother’s own best friends whom I have come to call my adopted mothers — who in their own little way have made this life-affirming adventure just as special. Instead of having just one dote on me, I have a dozen — each one taking on a unique role and helping to fill in the gaps. They say that it takes a village a raise a baby, but it also takes a village of other mothers to support a mother.

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Their much welcomed (un)solicited advice, practical day-to-day tips, and the wisdom they have so generously passed on — I have never felt more supported, more comforted in my single-minded pursuit to becoming the best possible mother I can be. After all, there are no take-backs and as soon as our little jelly bean is born, so will I be too.

I’ve been keeping to heart everything my Village of Mothers has imparted to me and have even started writing them down on the Little Blue Book of Unsolicited Advice that I received at my baby shower. Their insights into birth, motherhood and marriage, all based on their own experiences — of their triumphs and even their regrets — I have listened to and read over and over again with wholehearted intent. Their collective tenacity is something to be greatly admired and yet goes rarely acknowledged, and despite what feels like mammoth fails and mere micro victories, these mothers push on repeatedly with each passing day, fueled solely by their seemingly never-ending supply of unconditional love.

Who could ask for a better substitute?

via Daily Prompt: Tenacious

My Birthing Plan, with No Foam, No Sugar, Soy Milk and Cream on Top

I have always thought that giving birth was a black and white situation. You walk into the hospital and barring any complications, come out with a baby bundled in a soft blanket. Apparently, that’s not the case.

Childbirth has come a long, long way since my grandmothers’ time and much like how people order their coffee these days — single/double/triple shot, nonfat milk, soy, almond, half-and-half, latte, cappuccino, machiatto — there are a lot more different options to choose from: Natural. C-Section. Water Birth. At the hospital. At home. By a doctor. By a midwife. With a doula, and without. Even pain relief comes in a variety of forms these days. Acupressure. Acupuncture. Breathing techniques. Hypnosis. Massage. Meditation. Epidural. Gas. Demerol. Or nothing at all. And did I mention that you can even choose the position in which you would want to deliver? Semi-recline. Squatting. Lying on one’s side. Standing. Leaning on your partner. On your hands and knees.

Has it always been this complicated? This confusing? (If only they offered just as many options when it comes to buying baby stuff — because it’s in this department, where Norway needs greater variety and options).

And the pressure women feel these days to opt for as naturally a birth as possible, foregoing the comfort of anaesthesia, makes planning for our little jelly bean’s birth all the more challenging, more frightening.

Maybe I’m strong enough to go through labor without any medical intervention. I am my grandmother’s granddaughter after all, the Amazonia who directed, choreographed and arranged the birth of her first child whilst in the middle of labor because my grandfather was still attending to his patients (they owned a small hospital and clinic back in the day).

Then again, what if I’m not?

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Ultimately, it’s going to be my decision and people can judge me all they want — but as with everything in life, we have all been given the right and liberty to choose (of course, within certain legal, ethical and moral limits!). So, go jump in the lake if it bothers you when I decide to get pumped up with drugs (they’re there for a reason, otherwise, it wouldn’t be on offer in the first place).

We attended the state-sponsored birthing course a few days ago, hoping that it would help me decide on a birthing plan. I had this image of a Lamaze-type class where everyone would be sitting on the floor and throughout the course of the afternoon, be taught a couple of breathing exercises we could use, on top of the usual “what to expect” information, and maybe the cliche video of a woman giving birth. Instead, we were sat around a conference table and given slide handouts. Then for nearly three hours, we listened to a PowerPoint lecture on things I had already read about at some point, and learned from somewhere or someone about the stages of labor, what to do in each stage, who to call, where to go, etc.

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Scandinavian baby staples. Wooly onesies. Sophie the Giraffe. And free reading goodies from the Health Center.

It didn’t prepare me at all for what’s to come and I was nowhere closer to completing my birth plan — other than the fact that I now know which ward/s I could potentially request to be checked-in to at the Women’s Clinic downtown.

Nevertheless, like all things, the silver lining was that — while I may not have learned anything new, my husband learned a great lot. He knows what to expect now and while he’s terrified out of his mind about what’s going to happen and what could potentially happen during childbirth, he has come to appreciate this epic challenge that we (moreso, I) will have to undergo in six weeks’ time. He has found ways to support me even more than he already has to make the home stretch feel a little less overwhelming, like giving me a 2-hour back massage and head cuddle in the middle of the night, for example, after what can only be desrcibed as an emotionally and psychologically draining day for him at work (he quit his job yesterday for what he hopes is going to be a better one!) — just so that I can sleep better at night. Bless him.

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Whichever the case may be and whatever I do decide to do or what not to do, or what the circumstances ends up dictating (a birthing plan is never bullet-proof!), I am going to try and take this whole childbirth challenge like I would whenever I order a cup of coffee:

Simple and to the point, with perhaps a little frill and just a tad bit of sweetness on top…

…then enjoying every moment of it, when it’s finally handed over to me, all wrapped up in a pretty and delicious little package.

That Sinking Feeling

The rush of preparation and work deadlines have made the last couple of weeks fly by far too quickly for my sleepless brain to handle. In a month’s time, I’m going on my near 1-year-long maternity leave, which means I would have (by then) a little over 3 weeks before the Final Big Push.

And while I’m still terrified of the prospect, a calming feeling is starting to sprout its golden rays of sunshine.

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Surprise! Surprise! Tomato soup, wine (for the guests!), cupcakes and rice cakes are served!

Seeing my friends last night, surprising me at home with a beautiful baby shower (which my husband apparently initiated!), and hearing their stories or the lack of it, about birth and diaper changing and explosive poops in an airport without an extra change of clothes — it was reassuring to know that it’s OK to be unprepared, to feel unaccomplished and still know nothing about babies even when you’re just weeks away from bringing this little creature you made, out into the world.

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Gifts for the jelly bean and a free luxury spa treatment for mama after she’s done pushing jelly bean out.

“Because everything you need to learn will come to you when it finally has to,” is what one of my friends said during the baby shower, and it’s quite possibly the one truth that I am able to process and accept without making me hyperventilate.

It’s learning by doing, and no amount of fact-finding can replace the knowledge I will gain when I’m finally on that hospital bed and then off it with a baby in my hands. The learning curve will be steep but I will get through it, like every other woman that’s had a child over the last several thousand years has — and hopefully, with a little bit of grace and decorum while I’m at it.

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Filipino rice cakes topped with colored coconut flakes, made with love from a Norwegian. It doesn’t get any sweeter and stranger than that.

The love and effort my friends put into my surprise baby shower was overwhelming and it makes me feel proud to know all these amazing women — some with children, some without, and some who are trying. It’s a support system I never thought I’d be lucky enough to have, being so far away from family. They made me feel less unsure about myself, less alone in what I sometimes consider to be my doomsday plight, and just overall happy to be surrounded by a larger community of accomplished women, young and younger alike, who have gone through their own life experiences and have become the better for it.

Their sweet messages, kind and reassuring words, comical commentaries and ignorant quips have helped to fuel the calming fire I will need to get me through the next few weeks. Because labor isn’t going to be like the movies. It’s going to be scary. It’s going to be icky. It’s going to be painful. It’s all going to be very new.

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Baby books all the way from Singapore and Manila, and a future piggy bank for the little jelly bean (papa was very happy to see this!).

But my body was built for this, as my friends told me. I just have to trust it, wholeheartedly, even though I’ve never really put much faith in its capacity to do remarkable things before (yes, I sometimes doubt if my legs are able to get me down a flight of stairs without falling — which is why you can’t make me go hiking without me grumbling about it). I just have to let things take its course and not try to control the situation, like I always do. It would be counterintuitive and in no way help an already difficult situation.

And now that the banner is down and the cupcakes all lapped up down to their last scrumptious morsel, its business as usual. The last stretch is here and the final pages of this chapter in my life is coming to an end… and we’re on to a whole epic new one.