Thursday, November 11, 2010


Elsie makes the cutest awhoo when she thinks she has to sneeze... and then doesn't. When she actually sneezes, both arms pop up so her fists are round her ears.

When upset or annoyed, Elsie starts crying, sticks out her bottom lip and stretches her body to its full length.

Elsie produces the loudest burps and farts I have ever heard. Ever.

If she gets really pissed off, Elsie turns purple and screams. She puts so much effort into it that she builds up to a point where she seems to take a moment too long to catch her breath and scares those around her. She always takes another breath, and  is usually so worn out by the screaming that she soon goes to sleep.

Elsie has long fingers, a cute button nose and big grey-blue eyes.

Elsie took over three weeks to learn how to breastfeed. When she feeds she squeaks. And on occasion glugs the milk as if from a bottle.

Elsie was born with a head of dark hair that grows sideways at the back, like her mum's.

Elsie's great grandmother was an Elsie too. But everyone knew her as Nan.

Elsie has held her head up almost from the beginning and has an amazing strength in her arms and legs.

Elsie was 4.65kg when she was born but lost so much weight over the first week that it took her a month to get back to her birth weight.

Elsie went to the osteopath three times in her first month of life.

Although they say it must be wind, Elsie smiles at us and means it.

Elsie is the most beautiful baby in the world. Fact.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A month ago

As the contraction took hold, I clung to Marek trying to breathe, trying to 'go with it', trying not to let my body rip itself apart as I was sure it was about to. I'd been in labour all day, tied to drips, in and out of bed as I adopted different positions: positions to persuade the baby to turn, positions to ease the pain, positions to move things along.

When the doctor came back I asked about an epidural. I'd not felt the need earlier but there was barely a break between the contractions now and they were so strong... he examined me and once it was clear I was still not fully dilated, that the little lady was still back to front and that such a big baby might not fit through in any case, we saw there was no real option.

I walked down the corridor to the operating room, stopping half way as a contraction took hold. The doctor said they would reduce now I'd been taken off the drip that had been driving them on, and the relief I felt holding on to that knowledge was immense.

The anaesthetic was administered and Marek was let in, dressed in his mask and hospital gown. I didn't even feel nervous; just exhausted and ready to finally meet this little person who refused to come out the traditional way.

I stayed conscious throughout and although there was no pain, felt everything. There was cutting and pulling, twisting and tugging and finally an outraged cry, that instantly brought tears to my eyes as I heard my daughter come into the world.

She was handed to Marek who brought her round to me to hold before she was whisked off for tests and checks. As I was wheeled down the corridor to be taken to the recovery room she was given to me again but I had to hand her back to Marek almost immediately so they could monitor my reaction to the operation. I stayed an hour until they let me go back and properly meet my baby, wrapped up in my husband's arms.

A month has passed and we are getting to know the little lady. We've seen her grow and develop; she's made us laugh and cry and life has been transformed from tidy time chunks into loose hours between feeds. We're stumbling through the days, learning as we go and sleeping when we can. Nobody is really ready for the changes a baby brings, but we are enjoying her more with each day that passes. Welcome to the world little girl.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

D-Day + 2

'This one's a nice colour' I say, holding it out for mum to see. 'I'll ask if we can buy packs or we have to get them individually.'

There's a queue at the cash desk, but the man in front lets me go first. I smile gratefully and ask my question. The lady says packs are available and goes off to the storeroom to find them. When she returns she has half the quantity I asked for, 'but I can order some more right away'. Seeing my face drop, she adds 'well, it's not like you're going to give birth tomorrow right?'

'Actually, she was due two days ago' I admit. She pulled a drawer open and finds the rest of the birth announcement cards I'm after. 'Perfect' I thank her.

I hope I do give birth tomorrow.

D-Day + 1

We walk in and I'm happy to see there are empty tables between those occupied by Sunday evening drinkers, keen to put off the beginning of the new week as long as possible. Last time we were here we couldn't get a seat.

We take our places towards the middle of the room and I try to ignore the stares. All too soon, they will be gone, my stomach deflated, novelty value worn off, or so I hope.

The beer comes for him; warm milk for me, with a chocolate and indulgent smile from the waitress. We talk about the coming days, weeks, years... speculate, laugh, admit our ignorance.

When it's time to leave, the waitress acknowledges the tip and asks when the baby is due.

'Er, yesterday actually' I smile, and her eyes widen as the girl on the table next to me gasps. She takes a step back to let me pass and I can't help feel it's also to move her into the safety zone, away from the potential explosion that could result from this dangerous character in her bar.

'Well, all my congratulations' she says, enthusiastically. I see relief in her eyes as I make it through the door and into the night, arm in arm with my giggling husband.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

La Rentrée

The timing of my maternity leave seems all wrong. It is misplaced, out of synch with the rest of this city's schedule, where roads have filled up again and shops are stocked to the ceiling with school supplies.

As kids pass through the streets, with loaded backpacks of fresh notebooks and shiny new pencil cases, I plod on. Pulling my cardigan as far around my bump as it will go to protect us against the autumnal wind, I slow down as everyone else gets back into their routine.

My diary thins out as others are filled with meeting times and appointments; my legs carry me increasingly slowly, as others, tanned from summer sun, speed up, jogging to be on time; my thoughts turn to new challenges, the storm that will follow this calm, just as others are plunging into new lessons or next year's priorities.

They have all started, launched themselves head-first into their new cycle. We are still waiting. Waiting to be launched into a new world we can't even imagine but that will change everything.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lying scoundrels

They all said it; the doctor, friends who have gone through the process, books, everyone. Enjoy the middle of pregnancy because as it gets towards the end, time drags. You are bigger, heavier, time slows down as you do and you get frustrated waiting for the birth itself. You are impatient to meet your baby, bored of your increasingly small and bland wardrobe, and tired of lugging the extra kilos around not to mention dealing with all the little inconveniences of late pregnancy.

Well, they lied. Sure, I'm excited that next month we should be meeting a new little creature that we brought into existence. Sure, my back aches and peeing every two hours is not on my list of fun ways to pass the time, but hell! I am still being thrust towards this life-changing event at a speed that makes me clutch my bump to me and hold out a hand to steady me with. This is not slowed down time, this is normal life speed that has me looking around with a dazed expression thinking 'what? 35 weeks? ALREADY? but that's just five weeks before my due date! I have so much to do before then...'

We celebrated a year of marriage last week and thinking back to that incredible weekend of sun and laughter, it seems like just a few weeks ago. Time does pass fast and it is useless fighting something you can't change. Even more reason for the world, please, to hold back from offering me such tempting promises as boredom only for me to discover it's just not true.

Friday, July 9, 2010

pregnant episodes

I eyed the packed bus warily, and joined the queue to get on. The heat was unrelenting and I felt a trickle of sweat down my back as I stepped onto the bus. The card reader beeped me through and I greeted the bus driver. 'Do you want to sit down Madame?' he asked, and I laughed as I looked at the crowd in front of me. 'I'd love to, but...' He got to his feet and turned his head to face down the bus.
'OK, who else can give us their sit for Madame, who is pregnant?' People shifted in their seats and avoided eye contact, unwilling to join the hovering mass. I felt my face, already red from the sun, blush deeply and as a man towards the middle of the bus stood up and nodded at me, I pushed gently through the people, gratefully sinking into the sit provided for me.


As I adjusted my skirt, a van blasting music approached from behind. A whistle and shout from the front seat drew an exasperated sigh from me, and I turned my head as the van drew parallel. The guy in the front seat called out again and as the van passed me I couldn't help but smile as he broke eye contact to take in the bump. His facial expression changed from cocky pride to humble shame in the time it took to drive 200m down the road.


I'm alternatively grateful, amused and annoyed by the way the bump is altering the way people treat me. It's altered my identity without my permission and our unborn daughter is already setting the rules for my new role. I have a little over 10 more weeks to work on acceptance.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Daddy's girl already

Every so often I am woken by a thud in the bed next to me as M launches himself into the air, spins a neat 180 degrees and lands on his other side, sleeping all the while. Most people roll over, my husband flies.

From the belly shudders and pokes that are growing in intensity every day, I'm guessing that our daughter is already perfecting the art of the mid-air rollover. Earlier this week a work seminar was brightened quite considerably by a small lump bulging out of the bump twice in quick succession. It's getting cosy in there and Baby J is stretching her limbs, making her presence felt even before we see her face or choose her name.

25 weeks gone.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Those magpies know a thing or two...

I hoisted up my dress and the doctor tucked the paper towel into my underwear before squirting a thick layer of gel onto my protruding belly.

The nurse operating the scanning equipment smiled at me and placed the transducer (yes, I looked that up) in the middle of the gel. As the picture came up on the screen in front of me, I caught M's eye and we smiled as our baby moved about, the nurse showing us the whole body, from top to toe.

As the doctor did his job, counting fingers and measuring heartbeats and internal organs, we marvelled at the technology. The changing colours highlighting structures, the speakers letting us hear the heartbeat, the clarity of the images of our little bean; a real little baby in there.

I felt a movement and saw it reflected in the image. The baby yawned, a small hand hovering by the head as the mouth widened and then settled back. Incredible.

Our baby bean is a girl. We're going to have a daughter.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

20 weeks down, 20 to go

'Can you feel it yet? Can you feel it moving?'

For the past couple of weeks this has been the question on everyone's lips. The answer at first was 'no, it's a bit early yet' followed by 'no! it's so annoying!' and then 'I don't think so...'

Mum says it feels like a funny swooshing kind of movement, and the doc tells me he's heard it's a bit like butterflies fluttering around. Other women have continuously told me 'bubbles! it's like bubbles in there.'

The thing is when I think of bubbles, I think of clusters of small airy bubbles, dancing about, floating in the breeze. I don't think of big gassy bubbles slowly seeping up through thick layers of mud, suddenly popping at the top and splattering drops of gloopy ooze all around. Which, to be honest, is more like the kind of thing I'm feeling in there.

We saw three magpies in the park today. Ten days and we'll know if they were right... or maybe the scan will just confirm that my increasingly prominent bump is simply full of thick gassy mud...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Niedziela Palmowa

The church was full, and not just Polish-church full but Polish-church-on-an-important-day-like-Palm-Sunday full. Every seat of the cavernous church was taken and crowds had filled every available space beside the pews and in the little alcoves to the side. We found a space to stand in, and I settled in for the long haul.

As the mass proceeded, I tuned out the priest's monotone and looked around me at the families and kids holding tightly to their brightly coloured palms. I'm always amazed by the ability of Poles to recreate Poland in Brussels. Someone's doing a good trade in palemki at any rate.

I'm reading the God Delusion at the moment, and have always been a bit on the fence when it comes to the God stuff, but Polish religion has always struck me as such a fundamental part of the nationality, the culture, that philosphical debates about the imponderables of religion tend to seem irrelevant. I have a soft spot for the music and a problem with the intolerance but this is not the time or place to get into that...

We got the bus back and as we turned into our road, a couple of men were just knocking at a door, two children by their sides and hands full of leaflets.

As we approached, one of the men nudged a boy towards us. He came up and thrust a leaflet into my hand. 'Good afternoon Madame,' he said a little nervously. 'here's an invitation, about Jesus Christ' he turned back to his father, who smiled encouragingly. 'Would you like it?' he asked, eyes wide with innocence.

I took the paper and looked at the boy. 'You're wasting your time with us little boy. We've just come back from church. I don't believe the bible word for word, and I believe religion has been responsible for some of the most atrocious parts of the world's history, but overall I have some sympathy for the basic values. My husband here is a full-blown Catholic. I have a problem with Jehovah's Witnesses because they would rather let their children die than make use of modern medical technology, don't believe in celebrating birthdays and don't care about disturbing people in their own homes on Sundays to thrust their views down other people's throats...'

No I didn't.

I took the paper and looked at the boy. 'Do you enjoy this? Would you not prefer to be home with your brothers and sisters playing? Do you believe all this? All this stuff your family tells you about being the chosen ones? If you are the chosen ones, why are you trying to convert more? Don't you lot believe in a certain number of spaces for those who will be saved when judgement day comes? Isn't that you? I can't quite remember everything from my GCSE religious education classes...'

No, I didn't.

I took the paper and looked at the boy. 'Thank you. We can have a look at what it says.' He grinned and skipped back to his father, excited at his success. 'Have a good Sunday' his father called after us as we walked away.

I sighed and we went home.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

psychic or crazy...

As we neared the shop door, I noticed the woman coming towards us, leaning heavily on her crutch as she approached. I pushed open the door and she spoke: 'I was here first, you sped up, just because I can't walk fast...' my jaw dropped and I held the door open for her.

'Just joking!' she laughed, 'it was just a joke. Your face was a picture.' I smiled, bemused.

I moved into the shop and waited for Marek to choose his beer.

'You believe everything everyone says?' she asked, from across the shop floor. But before I had a chance to answer, she pose her next question. 'What star sign are you?'

'Scorpio' I answered, an eyebrow raised, fascinated by this strange woman.

She fixed her eye on me. 'Now that's surprising. I wouldn't have guessed that.'

'Really?' I smiled.

'Maybe you were just not expecting a joke. Maybe your mind was elsewhere.' I moved towards Marek and asked if he was almost done.

'Aha!' she cried, handing over her money to the shopkeeper and picking up her shopping. 'I know why, you're in love!'

'Got it in one.' I smiled at her again. I couldn't figure out whether this conversation was a result of drink, drugs or just plain old personality.

'What star sign's he?' she asked, pointing at Marek. When I told her virgo, he fixed me with another intent stare.

'Keep hold of him. He's for life.'

I laughed. 'Just as well, he's my husband.'

'You're married?!' she asked. Clearly another thing she hadn't expected. 'Well, don't listen to your friends, hold on to him. He's for life.'

She moved towards the door and a man held it open for her. Then another thought struck. 'You have any kids?' the man sighed, and slid past her to get out.

'Not yet' I said.

'Well, get ready, they're on their way' she said, a twinkle in her eye.

'September' I confirmed, patting my rounded belly.

'Ah, you see. I could feel it!'

Yes, she certainly has a talent.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

As easy as 1, 2, 3...

Day one we found the flat.

Day two we signed the contract.

Day three the test was positive.

Then it all began... the trousers getting tighter, the scans moving from bean to peanut to a baby-shaped mass of dancing limbs and waving hands, the gasps and smiles as we told people. It's a very strange thing when you realise you are responsible for what will be a new life; a new human being. Strange and ultimately terrifying when you consider the responsibility you have taken on; the amount of worrying and learning you have committed yourself to and the thrilling open horizon of what your life will become.

We're excited. Let the next stage of our lives begin.