This is Easter

This is Easter
This is Easter

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter. We did! After a long week alone with the kiddos while the Bear traveled, I was thrilled to have everyone back in place for a long weekend. We had a fun time splitting Swedish and American Easter traditions. For the Swedish side we had a Sandwich Cake and spent the afternoon at an IKEA. For the American side we colored eggs, baked a Banana Cream Pie and ate too much. No dressing up here. Most time was spent in pajamas. Babatwo took his first bites (pumpkin). You get the idea.

This is Easter. Last week while driving (driving!) along, I heard from the back seat, “This is Momma. This is babatwo. This is Bababoo”. What?! Bababoo’s first sentences. While she has lots of nouns and verbs, it was somehow so striking to hear a full sentence. So in honor of that sentiment, this is Easter. Enjoy.

My garden
My garden
First bites
First bites
OK, as long as he doesn't eat MY food
OK, as long as he doesn’t eat MY food
Pie in process
Pie in process
Chocolate lover #1
Chocolate lover #1
Cooking assistant #1
Cooking assistant #1
Ahh sweet bed
Ahh sweet bed
The Bear family
The Bear family
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Things to do with a family in Brussels: Blue bells are ringing!

Everything's coming up bluebells (thank you iPhone)
Everything’s coming up bluebells (thank you iPhone)

We got a car. Woot! That means even more fun things to do with little ones and families in and around Brussels. After four years of carlessness, we have a full roster of unseen awesome things and today we checked one off the list, taking in the bluebells at Hallerbos. After doing some reading, I was not holding my breathe on catching them this late in April. With the early spring, I assumed we missed them. I was very happily wrong!

Located about 15 minutes outside of Brussels, Hallerbos is a beautiful forest tucked between small, typical Belgian villages. When you are there, it is impossible to guess you are just minutes from a thriving metropolis. Lots of parking along a country road and several route options depending on the length of your little person’s legs also would be suitable for prams. We had such a fabulous time looking at the blue bells that carpet the forest floor. You can’t help feeling that there is some magic in the air. We played with sticks, looked at bugs and generally took in the outdoorsy-ness of it all. It made me realize that no matter how much time we spend in parks, it is no replacement for the real thing and I have sworn to get my citified kids out in the wilderness much more.

I would say the flowers have no more than a week left in them so get thee to Hallerbos and enjoy the magic show.

 

You’re Two!

 

 

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The look

My, my how time flies. My little darling bababoo is TWO. She amazes me every day with her fun spirit, artistic flare, commitment to yellow and pink clothes. She is my joy, my inspiration and the giver of all my future grey hairs. Here are some snaps to celebrate her second birthday. Love you dear!

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Everything is coming up tulips
zoe 2-4
I ordered roses…
zoe 2-3
Blooms
zoe 2-2
Lets get out of here
zoe 2
Seated
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Where the looks come from

Shadow Games

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Shadow games

Back from holiday and back to reality. Its a tad on the soggy side and though we were well intentioned to hit Baboes or the Baby Gym today, instead we played and practiced our colors in the studio. That was when Zoe sparked the fabulous idea of playing in the window. The photographer side of my brain couldn’t resist grabbing my camera. The result was magical. Here is our Friday!

Finger tips
Finger tips
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Heavenly things
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Tippy Toes
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Mischief managed!

Life these days

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A walk in the leaves

The holidays are here. Somehow this year it is a mix of the familiar and the totally new. The year beats a rhythm, and I love to dance. Now the lights, the smells, the cookies, good cheer…all of it feels like a warm hug but somehow I am seeing it now with new eyes. That in fact it is part of a rhythm, a dance, a banner that smooths the ups and downs and somehow brings us closer. As a mother of two amazing babies, wife and world explorer I have turned a new page. Some fear or dislike growing older but feeling now the passage of time, I feel emboldened, more present than ever, loved and loving. I hope this holiday, you take each moment for the gift it is. The ripening of promise and the comfort of familiarity.

Please enjoy these snapshots of a blooming of Christmas cheer. Ho ho!

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Dusk
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Kisses for Nona
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Older and wiser
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Fair isle
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Comfort call
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Diva
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The prince
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Siblings
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Life these days

 

Giving birth at St Luc Hospital: My story

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All worth it

Here is one I have been meaning to write forever! When I was preparing for Zoe’s arrival, I was desperately searching for any information online about what it is like to give birth at St Luc Hospital (Cliniques universitaires Saint-Luc) in Brussels (Woluwe-Saint-Lambert). It was almost impossible to find even the smallest scrap of information to set my mind at ease. Funny thing about being pregnant out here is that people tend to ask you, “Oh what hospital are you giving birth at?” My reply, “St Luc Hospital, have you heard anything?” “Err, no…”

So here it is, my two cents about the up’s, down’s and experience.

First came picking a doctor. I originally picked a female doctor who was on a list of English-speaking doctors. After a first appointment, it turned out that her English was not quite so good and she referred me to Dr. Graham Hutchings at St Luc.

Dr. Hutchings is a British transplant and father of four of his own. When we first met him, I felt very comfortable. He has a very nice manner, calm and clear, even funny at times. So you might say the choice of hospital was more a choice of Doctor since he works only there.

**Note that as of January 1, 2014, Dr Hutchings is working at Edith Cavell. **

St Luc is a teaching hospital which never bothered me or caused any issues. I actually like the students there. They are never in charge of your care but sometimes they will repeat an exam for practice. Also nice to hear the doctors explain what they are doing. In this way, I get to learn too! At the actual birth, students were present at the different checks, etc. but they always introduced themselves and asked if it was ok for them to observe. So no issue there.

Practically, when you have your first appointment, just make sure to register on the ground floor to get a hospital ID. They use this when you come in for future appointments. All exams are done at the -1 level and for the most part were done on time.

What can you expect in terms of appointments? Here is a schedule I received early on.

  • Week 7 – 8: First appointment for scan, blood and urine test
  • Week 11 – 14: Triple test for Down Syndrome, scan and blood test
  • Week 16: Check in and listen to heartbeat
  • Week 21 – 22: Detailed ultrasound to look at all anatomy and find out boy or girl!
  • Week 25 – 26: Diabetes Test
  • Week 30: Listen to heart bear and blood test for antibodies
  • Week 34: Scan to check size and position. Blood test for anemia and clotting.
  • Week 36: Swab test for group B Streptococcus
  • Week 38+: Weekly checks for signs of getting ready for labour.

All this is a little more hands off than the American system but I think that is just the way it is here!

A couple of weeks before your due date you can take a tour of the labor ward (available in English). Nice that Dr. Hutchings actually did this for us so we could ask specific questions.

There is one room that can be requested if you want to try for a natural birth. It has a birthing pool and lots of space to move around. It is a first come, first serve deal so if someone is already in there when you arrive then you would go to a different room until it is free again.

One thing that the doctor emphasized in our tour is that he is happy to let us try some less traditional techniques if you like. For example, if you want to push in a position other than on your back, no problem! Also if you don’t want to cut the cord immediately, this is also fine. I think this is different for each doctor.

When it came time for Bababoo to make her entrance into the world, it was about 4:00 am on February 20. 2.5 weeks early! My water broke and so we grabbed the suitcase and jumped in a cab. It was our big moment!

When they arrived, I was put on monitoring and examined. No dilation yet and unfortunately, things did not go exactly according to plan from there.  90% of women go into labor within 24 hours of their water breaking. I am not in this 90%! Despite my best efforts, stretching, walking all around, when the day dawned on February 21, there were still no contractions.

During this first period, I was in a room that was sometimes just me and sometimes shared with one other person. There was a curtain between us so it was pretty much ok. A little disheartening when she was taken on to the delivery room and I was still reading my book and bouncing on the exercise ball with no sign of contractions. :-p

The threat of infection grows by the hour when your water has broken so despite getting antibiotics, the next morning it was time to induce labor. They put me on pitocin, which did indeed get things moving, in a serious way. I wanted to try to avoid an epidural for as long as possible. For two hours, I had intense contractions every 90 seconds. Thank god for the Bear taking desperate orders for where to rub my back and for my little pink exercise ball I could use to relieve some of the tension.

After two hours, it was time to check my progress. Exactly 0 cm dilated. What?!! All that work and no progress?! I have to admit, at that point my will broke and I started crying…for my mom. Knowing I could not take much more, I asked for an epidural, like, STAT. Unfortunately, there was only one anesthesiologist and she was in a C-section. It took 90 minutes. 90 excruciating and unproductive minutes until she could come.

During this time the Bear and the nurses where very supportive. Holding my hand, rubbing my back. I am grateful for that!

Finally some relief! I immediately fell asleep and was out for a couple of hours. When I finally came to, Dr. Hutchings came to examine me. Now it was around 2pm and the grim truth was that although my body was working very hard, there was no progress at all. It was clear that a C-Section was the only option.

So I was prepped directly. Given more pain relief via epidural made everything surreal. I won’t go into the details here but it was not much fun. I heard a cry and my little one had finally made her debut! They held her up so I could see her but did not give her to me to hold. I was too medicated and shaking like a leaf.

I am used to seeing that even after a c-section, you can hold your baby and have that magical skin to skin contact that stabilizes the heartbeat and starts bonding. That is not the process here. I was taken away to a recovery room and a very worried Bjorn handed his newborn daughter after her examination. I understand that they went to another room and watched football. I am sure I will never know the contents of that conversation.

Two hours later, I woke from my drug haze in a basement room. Asking if I could leave and how was my baby, they replied I could not leave until I could feel my stomach which was still totally numb. It took almost an hour of asking before they allowed Bear and Bababoo to come see me. About 30 minutes later, I finally got to leave. This was by far, the worst part of the whole experience.

I have since talked with Dr. Hutchings about this and he encouraged me to write to the head of the department to give my opinion. He has also been working for years to have this policy of seperating mothers and babies changed. I really hope that they do. I have also asked why I was so drugged. They do use an opiate based pain killer in the epidural (I believe this is the standard). Many people are ok with this but it seems I am extra sensitive to the opiates. It is possible to meet with the anesthesiologist in advance to request a lighter epidural.

The care we received afterwards was great. No complaints. Bababoo got to stay in our room the whole time except for some blessed hours in the deep of night when the nurse took her so I could sleep. This was very appreciated. We were lucky to have a private room which was paid for by our hospitalization insurance at DKV. If you don’t have this then it is typical to share a room.

Why is this top of mind now? I am now only seven weeks away from my due date with #2! I chose to stay with Dr. Hutchings because I like his care and understand the system now. I really hope that I don’t again need a c-section and have to be taken away to recover but hopefully meeting the anesthesiologist in advance will mean that I am able to be much more present.

The verdict: I would recommend St Luc.  Overall it was a good experience! Just be prepared in the case of c-section. Hey, it might be the same in all Brussels hospitals. If anyone knows, please share. Also if you have a review of the hospital you gave birth at, let me know. Happy to have a guest post!

Good luck mommas. 🙂

Spring lovin’

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Buongiorno bellissima

Boy oh boy, is it nice out today!! Being a native Californian, my spring buzzer starts going nuts around the beginning of March. What starts as an annoying jingle soon becomes an all out four alarm fire of must have sun now-ness.  It is with great relief that the snooze button has been pushed by this lovely respite of kind weather.

That brings me to the nice park day I had with Bababoo today. Let me be honest by saying that the Bear and I are already anticipating a teenagehood on high alert. Zoe is tall, blond,  and with her nordic good looks (not from her momma, sadly), lets just say Bjorn is currently investigating gun laws in Belgium. Add to that her sparkling personality and appreciation of older boys and we have a real doozy on our hands.

Today is a perfect example. We were minding our own business, eating blueberries and breadsticks, when a older (maybe 2?) hazel-eyed Italian had to come over to say hi (buongiorno) to Zoe. Well, naturally she was all smiles and a terribley sweet baby flirtation ensued. Luckily I travel nowhere without my trusty Canon so here is the replay. Ahh sweet spring love!

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Oh, why, hello handsome!
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Ummm, Is that your mom?
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Better kiss and run!
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Good bye my prince

The most wonderful year

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Hello my pretty…

It is hard to believe but it is one year ago today that our little angel came into the world. It really has been the most wonderful year. Bababoo has an amazing happy spirit and fills each day with light. She is my most beautiful adventure. Happy birthday Zoe!

So how do we celebrate such a momentous day? The only way we know how, by shoving chocolate cupcakes into our mouth. Behold, the cake smash.

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Oh my!
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Nom
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I can stop at any time, I swear
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My precious
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It wasn’t me
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Sugar rush!

Zoe’s World

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Waahoo, I love books!

Oi, feeling down with a never ending cold has got us stuck at home. Besides munching on some oh so delicious Chocolate Sables and playing with newly rented toys, there is nothing Bababoo loves more than throwing each and every book in her considerable collection on the floor. Huzza!

I present the evidence for your review. It is Zoe’s world and we are all just living in it.

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Eenie, meenie, miny, mo
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My world
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Can we read this one?
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Yes!